15 Best Android Exclusive Apps
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.
ADV Screen Recorder
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.
Helium Backup & Restore
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.]
Another type of app you won't see on iOS devices any time soon is a torrent downloader. Flud may not be as well known as bittorrent clients like Vuze or µTorrent, but it's a great torrent app built with mobile in mind. The latest version of Flud sports a clean Material interface, comes with no speed limits for uploads or downloads, and sports staple features such as selective file downloading and prioritization, magnet link support, sequential downloading support and a Wi-Fi-only mode. You can also dig deep into more advanced functions in case fiddling with router port forwarding is your idea of fun. The free version is fully functional, while a paid version removes advertisements.
In our networked, social media-rich present, we've all got a ton of ways to communicate with family, friends and colleagues, ranging from email, SMS, to custom chat applications. Drupe is a new Android contacts management app that aims to bring all that under one roof, not by creating its own social network or chat functions, but by making it easier for you to access the ones you already use by putting them into one place. Drupe displays all your contacts in a list, along with an array of actions on the other side of the screen. Simply drag and drop a contact to an action, and Drupe fires up your default app, handling calls, email, SMS and instant messaging all with equal aplomb. In addition, Drupe comes with a dialer, recent interactions history and an array of other features.
Unclouded is a neat cloud storage management tool that allows users to quickly view details of multiple cloud storage accounts. Users can get quick breakdowns of how much space they're using in each account, as well as how much storage different categories of files (pictures, documents, etc.) take up. Users can search for individual files, identify duplicate files (within the same account only) and download files from the cloud to your phone. The app supports Drive, Dropbox, BOX, MEGA and OneDrive. The free version allows users to manage two accounts. In-app purchases or premium upgrades can provide for unlimited account support, password/PIN protection for the app and a dark theme.
Light Flow Lite
Light Flow can take control of your smartphone's LED notification lights, allowing you to customize alerts for a variety of system and app events. You can set different colors for SMS, MMS and email messages (and even specific colors for particular senders). You also can have your phone flash the LED for low battery warnings or loss of mobile signal. Light Flow also switches between colors when you have multiple notifications. You can configure repeating sounds and vibration patterns for certain notifications or push notifications either to your Pebble smartwatch or your lockscreen with Dashclock. Additional customizations are available in the premium version.
Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus
If you're looking for the best all-in-one mobile antivirus, antimalware, backup and security toolkit out there, Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus is our top recommendation. Avast's tools are remarkably comprehensive, even on the free tier, with antivirus and antimalware scanning, a call and SMS blocker, and a Privacy Advisor tool which highlights the kind of data your apps request, as well as the kinds of ads they run. A premium tier also includes advanced anti-theft features and data backup tools. For more details, check out our in-depth review of Avast! in our Best Android Antivirus Software article.
Tasker is an incredibly versatile and powerful automation app for Android devices. This $2.99 app lets you create your own automatic task scripts based on a variety of triggers and actions. For example, you can automatically turn on your music when you plug in your headphones, power down your device during the evening or turn down your ringer during working hours. Tasker works fine well with off-the-shelf Android phones, but even more triggers and actions can be unlocked if your device is rooted.
Android provides unparalleled interface customization options, and custom launcher apps are one of the best examples of this capability. Nova Launcher provides numerous small interface tweaks to your home screen, such as the option for a scrollable dock, home and app screen scrolling animations, overlapping widgets, icon themes and more. All of these little mods help make your homescreen and UI that much more usable and customized to your exact preferences.
While iOS has begun to apply the widget concept with its Today widgets, they still go nowhere near as far as the many helpful and actionable app widgets available in Android devices. You can even go further on Android, eschewing predefined widget packs to build your own custom widgets with UCCW, or the Ultimate Custom Widget app. UCCW lets you create your own widget from a series of options, styles and features, displaying everything from the time, your calendar events, battery info, or even Tasker variables for automation. Design your very own clock widget, calendar, weather report widgets and more or publish your own into the Google Play marketplace.