Menu

Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Micro.blog.

'

The Android apps I use every day

From the time I switched to Android in late-2017 (more here) I’ve been installing and uninstalling apps and services from my phone – trying to find the right mix for me. I expect the apps, preferences, and everything about my mobile experience to continue to change but lately it seems to have settled a little. So I thought I’d share what I’m currently using day-to-day.

My current Android home screen.

Pocket Casts – I have a 25-minute commute to and from work every day so having a podcast app that I like is very important to me. I’m so glad that Pocket Casts exists because Google’s default podcast app, called Google Play Music (for now) is not very good.

Pocket Casts’ Up Next feature is very well done, in that I can create my own playlist using the currently downloaded episodes, or cherry picked episodes, from any podcast I want. I set aside a moment once or twice per week to curate that list and Pocket Casts does the rest.

It also looks very nice in split-screen mode with the other app I use daily while driving Waze.

Waze – I had heard about Waze for years before I tried it in earnest. When I first downloaded it on iOS and tried it I thought it looked like a game. (And, yes, I suppose it is.) But, it turns out to be very useful in many ways. Like Google Maps it can give you directions from A to B, but that isn’t really what Waze is made for. Waze is made to make your morning commute faster and safer. The Waze-using community can report problems like traffic, accidents, police, etc. and anyone behind them can be warned in advance of these things. It has made a huge difference in my morning commute and helped tremendously in longer trips like our trip to Kentucky earlier this year.

Clip Stack – This little utility saves clipboard history and allows you to manage your clipboard. An app like this, on any platform, comes in handy more often than you’d think.

JW Library – My Bible and research/study app for all things biblical. Not only does it have tons of different Bible translations it also allows for notes, highlighting, video/audio, and more. The app has continued to improve since it debuted a few years ago.

Lose It! – I’m on a diet for the rest of my life so I use Lose It! to track my calories every single day. The app is updated often and is improving a lot each time.

Snapseed – It takes a little while to get used to this photo editing app. But I love that I can save my own “Looks” (or sets of photo edits). I use it on my Pixel 2 XL and also on my iPad. Nearly every photo you’ve seen from me since December 2017 has gone through Snapseed.

Flamingo – Unfortunately, if you don’t already have this app you can no longer get it. Flamingo is a sane Twitter app that records your place on the timeline and shows tweets reverse chronologically.

Spotify – I love Spotify. After trying Apple Music for a few months I can say that Spotify’s playlists just absolutely blow Apple’s offering out of the water. There is no comparison. I can understand why iOS users would use Apple Music due to how it is built into everything – but there is no reason to use it otherwise. Spotify is just better.

LaunchBoard – I use this app to quickly launch any app that isn’t on my home screen full time. You tap it, tap the first letter of the app you want, and launch the app. Think of it like using Spotlight on iOS. Same number of gestures too.

WordPress – Short status updates and some of my photo posts are created, and sometimes drafted sometimes published, using the WordPress app. It was unusable on Dreamhost but now that my site is hosted on Digital Ocean the app works great. Something I didn’t realize was that I can use this app without activating the bulky JetPack plugin. So I’ve done that and my site is much happier as a result. In fact, I’ve reduced my site’s footprint dramatically recently and I couldn’t be happier.

Chrome – One of the main reasons I switched to Android was being able to have a desktop and mobile browser of my choice. So I’m able to use Chrome (or any other browser) as my default. I also use Micro.blog via Chrome since that is the only way I can currently.

Messages – Pixel’s default SMS manager is called Messages. It works fine for what I use it for. I’m not looking forward to the updates coming to “Chat” that I’m reading about. These updates feel like HTML email – they are fun, but I don’t need those things. SMS works just fine for me. I wouldn’t mind, however, end-to-end encryption of all messages.

Voice Recorder – I record my audio bits using Voice Recorder. I haven’t be publishing many lately but I’ve been recording them still. This is a great way to capture content and ideas.


A few more apps that I have installed on Android that, while I may not use every single day, are great apps to have:

Wikipedia – I read a lot of information on Wikipedia. Mostly on my iPad. Having an app dedicated to it is very nice to save pages for reading later, doing research on multiple topics, etc.

Inoreader – I generally do not read RSS subscriptions on my phone unless I’m killing time. But, when I do I like having Inoreader on my phone. Feedly would work fine too.

Notable mentions are Microsoft Teams and Slack, Google Pay, Twitter app (for Moments when something happens), Dark Sky (though, I’ve been using this less lately since Google updates me on the weather), Google Photo Scanner, Trello.


Also, an app I use daily but that I didn’t have to install is the Camera. The Camera app is actually quite good for my use.

Any Android apps that I should check out that are not on my list?

Android Excellence on Google Play

Kacey Fahey on the Android Developers Blog just sort of gave out some awards:

Every day developers around the world are hard at work creating high quality apps and games on Android. Striving to deliver amazing experiences for an ever growing diverse user base, we’ve seen a significant increase in the level of polish and quality of apps and games on Google Play.

The list is pretty good. I don’t play games so I wish more apps were listed.

Ben Brooks on Hello Weather

Ben Brooks reviewing Hello Weather:

This app is without a doubt, my favorite weather app. Not just now but of all the apps I’ve tried over the years. Well done.

Ben’s enthusiasm for Hello Weather reminds me of mine for Dark Sky. An app I use every day and gladly paid for. Hello Weather uses the same backend data as Dark Sky so it is no wonder that with its slightly more whimsical aesthetic Ben is pleased with it.

Two needs for deep linking

What are Deep Links? Scott Rosenberg recently wrote a piece on Backchannel on Medium about Deep Links. He wrote:

Deep linking means to bore a wormhole-tunnel that hops you directly from a specific spot in one app to a spot in another, no side trip to a browser or a home screen needed.

You get it. If you have Swarm and Foursquare or Facebook and Messenger installed you get pushed from one application to another all the time. Facebook forces you to send private messages via Messenger and Foursquare forces you to check-in via Swarm. So, if you’re in one app and need to do one of those tasks it “deep links” you from one application to another.

Sort of like a hyperlink on the web goes from one web page to another.

Rosenberg goes on to state why he thinks they’ve failed (so far). Here is my reason:

They aren’t discoverable. They can’t easily be found, written, or shared. You may see one from time-to-time. For example, if you click on a Periscope link on Twitter you will be asked to open Periscope to view the live video stream. This is a “deep link”. And, the URL for the deep link looks sort of familiar but also foreign and weird. It is typically something like pscp://broadcast/2034390

To me that reads; open Periscope to this broadcast.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hand-write some Periscope links to send people to one of my broadcasts? A friend’s broadcast? Or my profile? I asked Periscope about this 3 days ago on Twitter. No response from them.

I think if “deep links” could be more easily written and shared we’d see a huge increase in their usage.

Note: I found Rosenberg’s Medium piece via Jeremy Keith.

Edited for content and clarity on October 11, 2016. Essentially I removed my argument that they are poorly named and focused on the much more important issue with deep links; discoverability.

 

The great unbundling continues

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, recently did a small AMA on Product Hunt. He pointed out this article on Wired about Path breaking apart its mobile apps into other applications. Something I wrote about recently as well. Here is some interesting bits from the article.

All this “unbundling” is a response to multiple market forces in the world of mobile devices, but for Morin, splitting the Path app in two is a way of keeping up with the capriciousness of today’s mobile phone users. “On mobile, we’re starting to see this trend where people try out a social app and everyone flocks to it for a while and then they move on to another one, and this happens at a much faster rate these days,” Morin says. “We wanted to move into a situation where we have a sound foundation but then can release multiple apps on into the future.”

It is hard to argue with this thinking. Just about every week “the masses” switch from one app to the next. Not just in social networking but also camera apps, messaging, etc. So if Path is repeatedly a source of new apps, rather than simply a single app, then perhaps they can be a choice.

But Morin also says that in becoming a “multi-app company,” Path can also take take better advantage of new technologies on mobile phones and even fix mistakes it has made in the past.

He goes on to mention that new phones with new features, sensors, etc. are released all of the time and that new apps from Path can take advantage of these more easily than older, more legacy ridden apps.

However, there is — as always — some caveats.

Like Facebook, Path is completely removing messaging from its existing app. If you want to continue trading quick messages with people in your Path network–something that has driven much the service’s growth in recent times, according to Morin–then you’ll have no choice but to download the new Path Talk app. Some people won’t want to do that, and even if you do make the move, there’s no guarantee that all your online friends will move with you.

To me this is the biggest risk. Why didn’t App.net work out? Wasn’t it’s Alpha service as good if not better than Twitter? That is certainly debatable. But what wasn’t debatable is that there were not enough people using Alpha day-to-day to make the service as valuable or interesting as Twitter is.

Social services are made or broken by their users. If they don’t get millions of users they will not succeed. Camera apps aren’t so tied to popularity. Even a relatively healthy audience per app should be enough to make money on.

For my own personal usage I think Path breaking out messaging and also this new “TalkTo” service they acquired makes complete sense. Because, while I thought Path was gorgeous, I found the limit on friendships to be too limiting for me to use the app regularly. By breaking these new apps out I can give Path a try again in a whole new way.