Mobile users are forever debating the relative merits of iOS and Android. While some developers would say Apple's OS is easier to work within, it's also a much more controlled system. One of Android's major strengths is its openness, which allows app makers more freedom. From fantastic widgets, app launchers and task automators, these Android-exclusive apps showcase the power and flexibility of Google's platform. (Image Credit: Twin Design/Shutterstock.com)
Unlike iOS, Android allows users to organize and manage their device's internal file system, for good or ill. One of the best apps for the job is Solid Explorer, an impressive Android file manager that brings the two-pane interface over to phones and tablets while also rigorously adhering to a clean Material design style. The two independent explorer panes and drag-and-drop support makes copying and moving files a breeze, and you can even set a panel to browse popular cloud storage services, such as Drive, Dropbox and SkyDrive. Solid Explorer also includes support for archived files such as .ZIP, .TAR, and .RAR, an indexed search function, and root explorer mode for rooted users. In addition to its already impressive raft of features, Solid Explorer supports a wide variety of plugins that add new features like USB OTG support, an FTP server plugin, and more.
Tapping on an in-app link to launch your preferred or in-app browser can be a jarring interruption to your workflow, unless you've got a browser like Chromer up and running. Combining elements from "bubble" style browsers like Quickly and LinkBubble with the new Chrome custom tabs feature, Chromer is a light, Chrome-based browser that can preload links that you tap on inside an app, with a WebHead floating bubble to show you the load progress. Tapping on the WebHead brings up the most recent page loaded, and a long press on the WebHead brings up a list of loaded tabs to selectively open, close or share.
Screen recording apps are notably absent from the iOS app ecosystem, with Apple regularly taking down apps that slip through the net. That isn't the case on Android devices, with a variety of apps offering video capture of your phone's screen. Among the most capable out there is ADV Screen Recorder, which comes with a variety of features such as variable capture resolutions and bitrate, customizable orientation, audio recording, overlays for logos, text, or drawing annotations, and video trimming.
Are you plagued with pesky battery hogging apps that run in the background? Greenify them. Greenify puts an app in a state of hibernation, unable to access system resources, bandwidth or run background processes. However, Greenify allows you to run an app normally in the foreground when explicitly called on by the user without any extra fuss. If you've got memory or battery hogs that keep draining resources in the background, don't bother with a task-killer when you can just Greenify it. Just don't do that to your alarm clock, messenger, email app or anything with important notifications unless you want them to stop working.
Live Wallpapers are another feature unique to Android, providing a dynamic background to your homescreen, complete with animations, image shifts and other visual goodies to keep your view from growing stale. Muzei Live Wallpaper turns your Android home screen into a living museum gallery, cycling images of various masterpieces of world art onscreen. The paintings are slightly blurred to keep your icons and widgets in focus, but double tapping the screen brings the work into full focus. You can also choose to have the app cycle through the photos in your device gallery for a more personalized touch.
While many apps might back up your data into the cloud, it's not a universal thing. Android has a slew of backup apps like the excellent Titanium Backup, but many require root address to backup your apps and data. Not so with the excellent Helium - App Sync & Backup. Like the best backup apps, Helium allows users to back up apps, data, contacts, SMS and your call log, but unlike many backup apps, Helium can do all this without needing to root your device. Unrooted users will have to install an extra desktop app to work with the mobile app when plugged in to a PC, while users with a rooted device just run Helium out of the box. A paid premium version offers cloud uploading of backups, backup scheduling and no ads.
MORE: Best Android Backup Apps
Remote command is another place where Android edges out iOS. Like a remote desktop app but for your Android device, AirDroid lets you take remote control of your device from your Web browser. Built around a philosophy of "one less cable, one less screen, one less worry," AirDroid lets you move files to and from your device wirelessly, send SMS messages from your desktop, view notifications, and manage, install and uninstall your apps remotely. The app even lets you remotely locate, lock or (should the need arise) wipe all of your data remotely. [Editors' Note: In December, a security firm reported a vulnerability in AirDroid that could open your phone to attack, but the makers of that app say AirDroid 188.8.131.52 fixes the issue.]