Reviews of Android Apps
Apps I use on my Google Nexus 6P smart phone with Android 8.1.0 (Oreo)
Updated August 2018
- One Bus Away. One of my favorite Android apps is One Bus Away This free app allows you to get real-time arrival info for buses coming to King County Metro bus stops. This app uses the phone GPS to figure out where you are and shows you the bus stops nearest you. It is soooo great to know when your bus is going to arrive, though it does not invariably have accurate real-time info, but most of the time it does.
- Transit. This free app called Transit is similar to One Bus Away in providing real time arrival information for King County Metro buses. It also tells you how long it will take an Uber driver to get to you and provides an immediate link to the Uber driver. And it includes a trip planner. I like having both One Bus Away and Transit and often check one against the other. The Transit user interface is better in showing you instantly and clearly how long before your bus arrives. But the One Bus Away user interface is better for showing where you and nearby bus stops are on a map.
- Trip Planner. This free app is produced by King County Metro and gives you the fastest way to get to your destination via King County Metro buses. It also will show you maps and schedules for all Metro routes. It also has a "Next Departures" feature that will show you upcoming departure times for a particular bus stop you select. Trip Planner gets low ratings in the Play Store, but I haven't had any problems with it.
- Google Maps. If I could have only a single Google app besides gmail on my phone, it would no doubt be Google Maps. This is simply a must-have, because it is indisputably the best map program available and has invaluable functionality. See No. 98 below for more detailed information on this app.
- GasBuddy. This is a very useful free app but with advertising. Not only is GasBuddy great for telling you where the cheapest gas is, but it's helpful just to locate gas stations when you are in an unfamiliar area -- such as when you are returning a rental car to an airport. You have to "join," but to do so is fast. It requires: nickname, password, email address, zip code. Using your phone's GPS, GasBuddy will show you the location of gas stations near you as well as prices being charged. You can sort the list by price. You can also enter zip code or city and state and search for stations that way. It depends upon users to enter current prices when they get gas. I have found the prices shown to be current and accurate. That's probably at least partly because the app makes it really easy to update prices when you're getting gas, so most people probably do it.
- WSDOT. If you get around by motor vehicle in Washington State, you will find this free Washington State Department of Transportation app a must-have: WSDOT gives you traffic maps, mountain pass info, variable toll rates, traffic bulletins, ferry schedules, traffic cameras and Canadian border crossing information in a very clean and easy to use interface.
- Best Parking. This free app lives up to its name. It figures out where you are or where you want to be and shows you a map with all of the nearby parking lots or garages and their cost. I have found the information to be quite accurate and quite helpful. You can plan ahead to figure out the best place to park so that you're not circling around looking for parking and not knowing if the price is reasonable. It has added a feature that allows you to reserve and pay for parking in advance using the app, but I have not tried this feature. The app covers only the downtowns of major urban areas.
- PayByPhone and CallToPark These two apps allow you to pay for parking with your phone and are very convenient, compared to trying to get a machine to process your credit card or, worse, trying to pay with coins or bills. Better yet, they'll send you an alert when your parking time is about to expire and allow you to pay to extend your time without having to return to the car. Which app you use — PayByPhone or CallToPark — depends on which service the parking space or parking lot uses. However, PayByPhone gets much better reviews than CallToPark. In fact, based on the reviews I've read, I probably would not install CallToPark unless there is a compelling reason. Several reviews said that you will still get a parking ticket even though you've paid through the app, and you have to call up customer service to get the ticket cancelled. That's a non-starter if true. I think I've used CallToPark once and did not have a problem.
- iExit. This is another free and very useful app if you are on a highway and looking for a service, such as a rest stop or restaurant or gas station. It's very easy to use and shows you the names of the businesses and services that are available at exits along the highway you're on or highways you select. It even gives you phone numbers for the businesses.
- Ride-hailing Services. I have both Uber and Lyft apps on my phone. I started out using Uber but then shifted to Lyft in response to what I was reading about the dysfunctional and misogynistic culture at Uber. Lyft is good.
TV and Movies
- Movies. The free Flixster app gives you all the info you need (audience and critic ratings, capsule description, cast, reviews, etc.) to figure out which movie you want to see and where and when it is playing. There is a conflict of interest here since Fandango and Warner own Flixster. However, they don't seem to mess with the critic and audience ratings, which is the important thing to me. I've also downloaded the free Cinematics app, which also provides ratings, reviews, casts, trailers, and other info about movies. Cinematics is faster and easier to scan and shows you ratings from THDB, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster and Metacritic. However, Cinematics does not provide showtimes for theaters in your community, which Flixster does. So I really want to have both apps.
- TV Listings. This is a very useful app and it is free. The first time you open TV Listings you are asked to put in your zip code and select your cable provider. It will then show you what programs are on each of your channels. TV Listings has a simple and straight-forward interface. It has search and reminders and also allows you to browse a list of sports shows or movies. You can see programming for today and the next five days.
- Others. Almost all networks or content providers have their own free apps: NBC Live Extra, Xfinity, TiVo, Netflix, ESPN, PBS, local channels such as KCTS-9, the Golf Channel, etc. Many of these allow you to watch live television on your phone, though most cable networks will require you to prove that you have a cable TV plan by selecting your cable company and typing in your password. You also will want to have a good Internet connection if you want to stream video. If you are streaming over your cellular connection, you'll want to have a generous data plan with your cellular provider.
- Podkicker. The podcatcher I use to listen to podcasts is the free app known as Podkicker. One of the best things about Podkicker is that it gives you a very clear choice to either download or stream a podcast. I strongly prefer to download and then listen to the podcast on my own phone. The main reason for preferring download to streaming is that I don't have to worry about whether I will have an Internet connection when I want to listen to a podcast. I like the Podkicker interface, which is very intuitive. I also like that they haven't changed the interface often, so I've gotten quite used to it. Podkicker also allows you to save your podcast subscriptions to an .opml file, which allows you to import your subscriptions to a new phone or computer, saving oodles of time and tediousness required to reenter all of your subscriptions manually.
- Simple Radio. When I feel like listening to music or radio, I open the free Simiple Radio app. Just type the call letters of your favorite radio station into the search box, and almost immediately it will begin playing that station. You've got an AM/FM radio on your phone! In fact, it's better than that because you are no longer bound by geography. I can get a Boston station just as easily as I can get a Seattle station. Wonderful app.
- Open Table. The best thing about the free Open Table app is its "Find a table near you now" feature. The app knows where you are and will show you nearby restaurants with tables available. You can instantly make reservations from the app. The app has gotten better over time with its search and browsing features, and you can now filter restaurants by neighborhood, distance from you, cuisine and ratings. The one downside of this app is that not all restaurants use Open Table, though many do.
- Yelp. When you open the free Yelp app, click on the "Restaurants" icon. The Yelp restaurants section provides reviews and information about local restaurants. The reviews and ratings are by other Yelp users. The app gives you photos, phone number, map, closing time, and the website address of the restaurant plus a cuisine label.
- Zagat. The free Zagat. app's Feed serves up articles with titles such as "Best Restaurants Around Pike Place Market," "Best Outdoor Dining in Seattle," "Hottest Bars in Seattle," and "Best Poke Bowls in Seattle." In fact, it seemingly has a "best of" article for every cuisine, genre, food item or neighborhood (especially near crowd draws such as Seattle Center or Woodland Park Zoo). I use this to figure out where I might like to eat now or at some point in the future.
- Zomato. The free Zomato app is similar to Yelp. It gives you ratings and reviews, a text version of menus, hours, address and phone number, photos, etc. It organizes the restaurants by neighborhood and has a search feature. Like Zagat it has lists of places for certain categories, such as Charcuterie, Iconic Seattle, burgers, late night places, poke, pet-friendly places, gourmet pizza, etc.
- SkyDroid. This is a terrific app for golfers. SkyDroid - Golf GPS is worth many times the $1.99 cost. Using your phone's GPS, this app instantly and accurately tells you the distance from where you are to front, back and center of the green. It often also provides distances to some bunkers, water hazards, trees, and target points. It also allows you to measure the distance of your shots. Heck, this app even phones the pro shop with a simple tap on the screen! The courses, which are "crowdsourced," that is, created by app users, are free to download. The SkyDroid Web site so far has had nearly every course I've looked for. If your course isn't there, you can create it yourself online using the tools on the Web site to do so. There is a short, clear video tutorial telling you how to do it. Recent updates to SkyDroid have added the ability to keep score as you play. This has pluses and minuses. The scoring function also allows you to record whether you hit the fairway or whether you missed left or right and how many putts you had. It's nice not to have to minimize SkyDroid and call up a separate scorekeeping app like the one below ("mScorecard"). However, the one big advantage of mScorecard (below) is that it allows you to e-mail the scorecard to yourself and others after the round. SkyDroid does not have that functionality. Hence, your scores are locked into the SkyDroid app on your cellphone. I'd like to see a way to export that scoring info, either by e-mailing or downloading.
- mScorecard. This free scorekeeping app is pretty easy to use and has a lot of nice features, including a gps function giving you distance to holes. (I haven't used the gps feature.) One problem I have had with mScorecard is that some of the scorecards are out of date and you don't usually discover that until you get to the course. The website allows you to create your own scorecards for a course, so you can update them yourself. A more serious problem is that you need an Internet connection for this app to work. Besides the number of strokes, the app allows you to record number of putts, drives, chips, sand shots and saves on a hole and to record the club you use. Not surprisingly, it allows you to keep score for you and your playing partners and totals the scores, pars, birdies, eagles, bogies, double bogies, and "worse" for each player. It shows the par and handicap for each hole. It allows you to enter comments. It gives you a hole view or a scorecard view. It allows you to indicate whether you are playing a handicap round and to set the handicap. It's intuitive and easy to use. After the round is over, you can email the scorecard or post it to Facebook.
- Tee Times. I use two free apps to reserve tee times: Golf Now and TeeOff. These were not apps I sought out, but rather apps used by golf courses where I wanted to reserve a tee time. I haven't used them recently enough to remember if I had any problems with either of them, but I think they were fine. They both get fairly good ratings in the Play Store.
- Jefferson Park Golf Course. This free app is great for booking a tee time at Jefferson Park Golf Club, a Seattle muni course. The app also occasionally offers discounts. To announce these discounts, the app suddenly comes alive with the sound of a golf ball going in the hole, even if the app isn't open at the time. That sound always makes me smile! The app keeps track of your tee times, emails them, and also allows you to cancel them. The app also has weather, scorekeeping, GHIN, and GPS features, but I haven't tried the latter three yet. The weather feature is fine.
- Rules of Golf. The USGA's Rules of Golf is a straight-forward, well-functioning app that offers you an index and search function to help find the rule you're interested in in addition to the ability to browse through the rules. I paid $3.99 for it, which seems excessive to me, but the money is going to USGA so I guess it's OK.
- LPGA The LPGA is another sports organization that provides its app to fans for free. The LPGA app provides the full leaderboard for current tournaments, the TV schedule, and allows you to select up to 10 "favorites" whose scores it will display. However, many players are missing from the list from which you select. The app doesn't seem to do much else, unlike the PGA app which allows you to bring up a profile, stats and scoring summary of any player you click on.
- PGA Tour. The PGA Tour app, which is also free, provides the full leaderboard for current tournaments for the PGA Tour, the Web.com developmental tour, and the Champions old guys tour. In addition, you can get a profile and stats for each player plus a shot-by-shot account of how that player has played the tournament. At first this app was a little unstable and slow, but with updates, it's improved and now functions OK.
- Mariners Baseball. This free app is pleasingly simple, smooth and fast, and its ads are unobtrusive. It provides box score, live play by play, game stats, standings, MLB player stats, and baseball news.
- theScore. This single app, which is free, provides the scores for all sports from football to golf to lacrosse, both men's and women's, pro and college. What you get varies from sport to sport, but for pro football, you can get scores, schedule, news stories, stats, standings, recaps, and play-by-play descriptions of the game. It's great to be able to get all sports scores in a single app.
- Wikipedia. The free Wikipedia app displays the site better than a browser does -- the print is larger and easier to read and you don't have to scroll horizontally. If you have the app installed, it will automatically display Wikipedia pages that you find via Google searches.
- ColorDict Dictionary. I used to have the Merriam-Webster Dictionary app but uninstalled it in favor of the free Color Dictionary app, which has worked fine for me, though I saw some complaints in reviews in the Google Play Store. I believe I made the switch because ColorDict Dictionary integrates with my Moon Reader app. You have to install dictionary files in addition to this app, which you can also find in the Google Play Store. This app supports any dictionaries in the open source StarDict format. The simplest approach for many people might just be to use the free Merriam-Webster app.
- Gate Guru. I have had several occasions to use the free Gate Guru app and found it useful. Once it helped us locate a restaurant in the Atlanta airport. Another time, it helped me locate an electronics store to buy a spare memory card for my camera. Gate Guru lists all the food outlets, shops, and services in each terminal at an airport and gives ratings and reviews for them plus tips from other users about the terminal.
- Kayak. This free app allows you to search for flights, rental cars, hotels, cruises, and "deals," and to reserve any of these services using the app. But the main thing I use the Kayak app for is to store all my flight, rental car, hotel, and itinerary information for a trip. Its key attraction is that you usually don't have to type in the info yourself. You just forward your confirmation emails for flights, rental cars and hotels to firstname.lastname@example.org and they automatically enter and attractively display in chronological order all the relevant information, such as flight number, seat assignments, departure and arrival time, confirmation code, etc. It's handy to be able to check all your trip information in one place. Importantly, the app does allow you to enter information yourself about events or items during the trip. One downside is that this app works only if you have an Internet connection.
- TripAdvisor. This free app is really helpful for travelers, providing information and ratings about hotels, restaurants and things to do for any location. TripAdvisor is probably the most well-known of the travel advice services on the web. Very handy.
- Airline Apps. Each of the airlines has its own app, and I have found them worth installing, because you can use the app to check in for flights, keep your flight information and boarding passes there, check on your miles, email your itinerary to anyone, etc. Pretty handy when you're traveling.
- Google Translate. If you are traveling to a country with a language you aren't totally familiar with, the Google Translate app will be very helpful to have. See the write-up below in the Google apps section.
- Hopper. This free app is an airline ticket price prediction tool. Type into Hopper where you are traveling to and from and the dates, and it will show you prices of the flights, predict price trends and tell you how soon to buy and how much the price will rise or fall in coming days. You can also book the flights right from this app.
- Postagram. This free app allows you to upload a photo and have it turned into a postcard that is mailed anywhere in US for $2. The first time I tried to use Postagram, it was a bit of a struggle, mainly because I had trouble figuring out how to enter the addressing information for the recipient. Once I figured that out, it was a breeze and worked as advertised. (This was quite a while ago, so it's likely the interface has been improved since then.) It took about one week for the postcard to arrive in Hawaii, which is where I was sending the postcard from. Postagram kept me informed via e-mail at several points of the progress of the postcard. The postcards themselves are fine: it is easy to read the message, the picture quality is good, and the postcard material is of good quality. I never have been much of a postcard-sender, because of the hassle of buying the card and stamps, knowing the postal rates, mailing the card, etc. when traveling. Postagram is very convenient for mailing postcards during my travels (though it's even easier to just email photos to your friends rather than mess with a postcard.) Oh, and about entering the recipient information. Like many apps these days, Postagram simply wants you to turn over all of your Facebook contacts to them, but since I don't trust Facebook whatsoever, I never let any apps into my Facebook account. Finally, I saw that Postagram had discovered the Google contacts on my phone, so I was able to select recipients from that list. What this means is that to send a Postagram to somebody, you will need to know their e-mail address, add them to your phone contacts, and know their postal address. I suppose this could mean that Postagram can or will spam the people you're sending the postcard to.
- Lonely Planet City Guides. This is a free app that allows you to select and download free Lonely Planet City Guides for numerous major cities around the world. You can also download offline maps. The guides are easy to use and very handy to have on your phone when you're a tourist in a new city. All the city guides you download are accessible within the app and the app also contains a long list of available guides for other cities from which to choose. The guides describe the "must see" places and tours and activities and include videos, pictures, phone numbers, addresses, hours, brief descriptions. They also provide restaurant, lodging, bar and recreation recommendations.
- Google Maps. If I could have only a single Google app besides gmail on my phone, it would no doubt be Google Maps. This is simply a must-have, because it is indisputably the best map program available and has invaluable functionality. See No. 98 below for more detailed information on this app.
- Consumer Reports. The famous consumer advocacy and product-rating magazine Consumer Reports has an app that displays product ratings in a very readable format. This app is available only to All Access or Digital Members of Consumer Reports.
- ShopSavvy. I just installed this free ShopSavvy, price comparison app. Just scan the barcode of any item and the app will show you stores in your area where it is available and the price for the item at each of these stores. I haven't used this app enough to evaluate it.
- Sibley e-Guide to Birds. Some apps are pricey, but still worth it. In that category I place The Sibley eGuide to Birds, which cost me $19.99. This is essentially the Sibley Guide to Birds brought onto your phone, except that it also adds recordings of bird calls and songs. It also allows side-by-side comparison of birds. And the drawings include field marks, which are very helpful. You can get the information whether or not you are connected to the Internet. See the next review for more details and other birding apps.
- Merlin. This is a free app produced by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Merlin is a unique and wonderful app if you've seen a bird and want to identify it. The opening screen provides you with two options: Bird ID and Photo ID. The Bird ID asks you five questions: where did you see the bird, on what date did you see the bird, what size was the bird, what were the main colors, and where was the bird (e.g., tree, ground, bush) or what was it doing (e.g.,at a feeder, flying, swimming). The app makes it easy to answer these questions by supplying you with answers to choose from. The app then presents you with a picture and brief description of the bird it thinks you've seen. If Merlin's guess doesn't seem right to you, then scroll down for the next best guess, then third best. Merlin also provides recordings of the bird's songs and calls and range maps showing where you'd expect to see it during various seasons. The Photo ID option will attempt an ID based on the photo you upload from your phone and the date and place the picture was taken. The Photo ID program is based on training a computer program using thousands upon thousands of photos gathered through Cornell's eBird project, where thousands of birders enter their sightings and pictures every day. As is the case with Audubon and Merlin apps, you have to download "packs" of bird information onto your phone, which could be a problem if you are short on space. On the other hand, it's nice to have them on the phone.
- Audubon Birds. Normally, this app costs $14.99, but there are sales you might watch for. When I bought it May 21, 2012, it had dropped to $2.99. And 10 days later, it was on sale for $1.99. At those prices, Audubon Birds is a true bargain. The company that produces it puts it on sale over three-day holidays such as Memorial Day or Labor Day. A valuable feature recently added to this app is "Find Birds with eBird." This taps into the huge Cornell/Audubon "ebird" database to show you the birds that have recently been seen near where you are and gives you directions on how to get there. That feature alone would be worth $2.99. But in addition to the ebird data, you get a field guide complete with pictures, descriptions, range maps and songs. Though you need an Internet connection for the eBird features, you do not need to be connected to the Internet to use the field guide. The Audubon guide uses photographs, whereas the Sibley uses drawings that point out key identifying field marks. The field marks are a helpful feature that is missing in the Audubon's. Sibley also has a nice feature allowing you to compare species side-by-side and really figure out the differences, though Audubon's has a feature called "Similar" which will show you photos of species it considers similar to the one you're looking at. However, Audubon does not allow for side-by-side comparison. Audubon's also takes up more space (more than half a gigabyte) on your phone. A friend of mine downloaded iBird Pro 2 on her Galaxy SIII and it looks to me like a very good app, so check it out too. At the Google Play Store, it costs $14.99 but was at one point "reduced from $9.99 to $4.99 for a limited time."
- Bird Calls Xeno. This free Bird Calls Xeno app is simple: it has a search box into which you type the name of the bird species or type of bird (e.g. sparrow, thrush, etc.) and up will come recordings of the bird's song or call. You have to have an Internet connection to use this app, because the songs and calls are stored on the http://xeno-canto.org website and not on your phone. You have the choice to stream or download the sounds. If you have a slow Internet connection, it can take a minute or two for the song or call to load and play. This app is not strictly necessary if you have the Sibley, Merlin and Audubon apps, because they also provide bird sound recordings. This app is a supplement to those and will allow you to hear a greater variety of calls and songs for any particular species.
- RaptorID. The polished RaptorID app will cost you $9.99. It provides in-depth information, pictures and video, and range maps for each species. It allows for side-by-side comaparison of similar species. The user interface is intuitive and well-designed. I cannot get the sound recordings to work, though. This app should help your raptor identification in the field.
- Washington Wildflowers. This is the free version of the app and covers 32 of the more common species. The full-meal-deal version of Washington Wildflowers costs $7.99 and covers 870 species. The interface is simple and intuitive. You get a picture, a range map and descriptive information about the relative abundance, life cycle, habitat, flowering time, height, etc. You do not need to be connected to the Internet to use it. This was produced by the Burke Museum Herbarium, and a portion of revenues from the app supports conservation and botanical exploration in the region. This is a well-done app and I recommend it. More information about it is available at http://www.burkemuseum.org/info/press_browse/wildflower_app_pr
- Hawaii Forest Birds. If you are going to Hawaii and plan to be in places where you can see Hawaii's dwindling native species, this Hawaii Forest Birds app is very helpful. It provides a simple rundown of 18 native species, giving the scientific name, a description of the bird, an audio clip of the pronunciation of the name (one of the best features), its status (e.g., endangered), song recordings, length, plumage, bill, food, features, and where to see it. The app offers both drawings (small) and photos. The app also provides a quiz and a game.
- Tree Identification. I have two free apps to identify trees. One of them, called Find a Tree, seems to be no longer available in the Play Store, even though it still works on my phone. It asks you a series of questions about the features of the tree and then uses your answers to come up with an identification. I have had trouble answering some of the questions and also have been given some seemingly incorrect IDs. It has no way of filtering for the geographical region you're in. The other app is called Trees PNW , the PNW referring to Pacific Northwest. This app provides pictures and descriptions of bark, leaves, cones, etc. and tells you where (elevation, coastal, westside, eastside) you will find the species. It is helpful for identifying native Pacific Northwest trees; it does not include exotics.
- Video Chat or Calling. I have four different video chat or calling apps on my phone: Skype, Google Hangouts, Imo, and Google Duo. Skype now requires you to have a Microsoft account in order to use it. You can use it either on your desktop/laptop/tablet or your phone. The other three are best used on your phone. Of these four video chat apps, I prefer Duo. Imo is a close second. Both are easy to use and work well. Of course, the person you are video calling must have the app installed on his or her phone.
- SMS to Text. Do you text message almost as often as you e-mail these days? Do you want to keep a record of or back up all those texts? Then SMS to Text might be the ticket for you. This free app saves SMS text messages to a text file on your Android phone's SD card. This is a wonderful app that just does this one simple thing it's supposed to do and does it quickly and flawlessly, so far as I can tell. It has a very clear, simple interface.
- FoxFi. Install FoxFi and it will turn your Android phone into a free wi-fi hotspot. You do not need a tethering plan with your phone company to use this nor do you need root access to your phone. So far I've connected my laptop several times to the FoxFi wi-fi hotspot, and it has worked flawlessly and was even zippy. You in essence are turning the cellular signal to your phone into a wi-fi network for your laptop or other devices. FoxFi, which is free, is simple to use.
- FTP Server Plus. The thing that I most love about the FTP Server Plus app is the user interface. It is about as dead simple and clear as you can get: you open it up and you see three things: a white box at the top that shows you the wifi network address of your phone, a large "off" button and a large "on" button. All the icons are immediately recognizable. This is close to the Platonic ideal for user interface design. I use FTP Server Plus to transfer files between my desktop computer and my phone. On my desktop, I use the popular, free Filezilla program to connect with the phone. If you want to use FTP for transferring files between your computer and phone, FTP Server Plus is the app I would recommend. It's really excellent. So is Filezilla.
- Call Blocker. I don't know if it is true for all phones, but my Google Nexus 6P phone seems to be doing a pretty good job of identifying spam calls, though I'm not sure whether credit goes to Google or t-Mobile (my mobile phone carrier). Because my phone does a good job on spam calls, I no longer really need the Call Blocker app. I have used it in the past and it worked well. It is still installed on my phone and I will probably keep it there in case I do want to block any phone numbers.
- GoToMeeting. I've used this free GoToMeeting videoconferencing app two or three times but not terribly recently. I used it for board meetings where board members were scattered around the state. I recall that it wasn't a cakewalk to get it set up originally but once I did, it was fine. I would imagine that has improved somewhat since I last used it. You can see documents on a remote screen, hear people's voices, and see people's faces if they are using web or phone cams. It helps to have a good Internet connection. An organization I belong to uses GoToMeeting to allow members of the organization from all over the state to "attend" monthly meetings that are held in Seattle. The members are able to hear guest speakers that way. GoToMeeting may be described as a rich form of telephone conference calling.
- Word Hero. This free Boggle-like game called Word Hero is pretty addictive. The key to the addiction is probably that it keeps a bevy of statistics on your performance and compares you to others. There are four levels, with the top one being platinum.
- New York Times Mini Crossword. The New York Times Crossword app offers several different types of crossword. Most of them you must pay to subscribe to. But the mini crossword is free -- at least to those with a basic digital subscription to the NY Times ($15/month) -- and I love playing it every day. You can usually complete it in 1 to 4 minutes, so you are not eating up huge chunks of your days doing a crossword. Lots of fun.
- Str8ts. This $1.99 game known as Str8ts is something like Sudoku and involves filling in numbers that must be consecutive and can't repeat within a row or column. Fun. Takes me about 20-30 minutes to complete.
- 2048. 2048 is a number puzzle that is just mindless enough to play while you're looking for a diversion while doing something else. Numbers -- either a 2 or a 4 -- pop up on a square board. By combining like numbers, you increase the value. For example, if you join two 2s, it turns into a 4. If you join two 4s, it turns into an 8, etc. The goal is to get one of the squares to be 2048. This is a very difficult task, but I have accomplished it several times. Best way to succeed is to keep your high number in the upper left corner and never let it move from there.
- Mahjong. This is the classic Mahjong game and is free. Another somewhat mindless game but still satisfying.
- Color Puzzle. The free Color Puzzle. game is relaxing and anxiety free. Your task is to rearrange color tiles until they match the overall image. You can try doing it intuitively or you can look at the overall image before you start moving the tiles. To view that overall image, you have to watch an ad. There's no timer, but the app does count the number of moves it takes you to get the tiles properly arranged and compares it to a "world average," whatever that is.
Outdoors and Navigation
- GPS Test Plus. I love GPS Test Plus! I use it for three main things: 1) To record lat-long coordinates of my location and then email it to myself or others. 2) To see what my current altitude is. 3) As a compass. Recording my latitude and longitude coordinates is really helpful for knowing where I saw a bird or took a picture or where some other event occurred. The app also can tell you your speed and can show you a map of the world with a nighttime overlay so you can see which regions are currently experiencing nighttime and where the line is between night and day. I originally got the free version GPS Test and then upgraded to GPS Test PLus ($3.99). I can't remember whether I did so out of gratefulness to the developers or because the paid version was ad-free or had some key functionality that the free version didn't. I do know that the free version had all the features I use most.
- MapFactor GPS Navigation Maps. This is an app I really like to have. MapFactor Navigation Maps aka Navigator has some great pluses and a few minuses. The major pluses for me are that it has excellent maps of trails in addition to roads and that you do not need an Internet connection to use this app, because the maps are on your phone and the app uses GPS, which is not dependent on an Internet connection. The minuses are that the maps take up a lot of space on your phone and the app runs down your battery pretty quickly. Also, exiting the app is a major pain. You have to go through too many screens and clicks to exit. But this app has saved me on two occasions when I was lost on trails. I opened this app and found exactly where I had gone wrong. It has worldwide coverage if you choose to download the maps for other areas.
- Google Maps. If I could have only a single Google app besides gmail on my phone, it would no doubt be Google Maps. This is simply a must-have, because it is indisputably the best map program available and has invaluable functionality. See No.98 below for more detailed information on this app.
- Washington Trails Association Trailblazer. This is an excellent app if you are looking for hikes in Washington State. You can search the WTA's extensive database of hikes or you can touch "Near Me" and you will be shown a list of hikes arranged in order of proximity to your location. This WTA Trailblazer app gives star ratings, description, roundtrip length, elevation gain, highest point, directions to the trailhead, trail features (such as wildflowers, dogs allowed or not, waterfalls, good for kids, etc.) and trip reports from people who have been on the trail recently.
- All Trails. This All Trails app is similar to the WTA Trailblazer app. It shows you a map of the trail so you can get an idea of where it is. In some cases, it will even show an elevational graph. And it gives descriptions, star ratings, user comments, trail features, and directions. You can download maps of trails if you pay $2.50 a month or a $99 one-time fee. And you can record your hike.
- MapMyWalk. I've used the MapMyWalk app once so far and liked it. You open it and you see a green bar saying "Start Workout." Once you tap that, the app starts keeping track of your route, using GPS, and also of elapsed time and calculates a pace. When you are done, it shows you a map of your route and gives you the stats on how long you were walking, distance walked, and how many calories you burned. It has social features, which I haven't used, the ability to upload photos and make comments about the walk, and then save it. You can set goals. However, I mainly am interested in the distance walked and the route. It also will suggest routes in your area, based on routes logged by others. The app is sponsored or produced by UnderArmour, but so far I haven't found any ads to be intrusive.
- Google Earth. Pretty amazing. The Google Earth app works very well on my phone. You can easily and smoothly zoom in and out. The resolution is sharp. There's no lagginess. I can zoom right in on my house or zoom right out and see the whole earth. It offers street view and 3D view. You can take a picture of what's on your screen and email it as a "postcard" to somebody. A truly stunning accomplishment. Highly recommend.
Utilities and Gadgets
- Barcode Scanner. Barcodes and QR codes are ubiquitous. To read these codes, you should have a Barcode Scanner on your phone. Then you just scan the barcode or QR Code and, bingo, you can get the price or reviews of a product, links to Web sites or other information. This free app has performed admirably for me.
- Built-in Utilities. My Google Nexus 6P phone came with several utilities, including a flashlight, calculator, and clock (which includes alarm, timer, and stopwatch). They all work fine, which is good, because you cannot uninstall them, though you can "disable" the calculator and clock.
- My Ruler. This app displays a ruler on the long edge of the screen and allows you to move a red line back and forth along this edge to your preferred distance. It shows you the length in centimeters, millimeters, and inches. On my large phone, I can measure up to a little over 4.5 inches. I can no longer find this app in the Google Play Store, but there are a huge number of similar ruler apps there from which to choose. A ruler app just contributes towards your phone's becoming something like a Swiss Army Knife.
- Find My Device. This Google app is important to have. If you lose your phone, open up this app, type in your Google email password, and the app will offer you several options for recovering or protecting your lost phone. It first will show you on a map where your phone is. (Of course, the phone must be turned on for this to work.) The Find My Device app will also call your phone, allowing you to hear it if it is somewhere nearby. Finally, if you can't find the phone, you can lock it remotely using this app or you can erase your data.
- Audio Recorders. I have two audio recording apps on my phone. One is called Audio Recorder and the second one is called RecForge II Lite to distinguish it from RecForge II Pro, which costs $3.24. I like Audio Recorder because of its simple, relatively intuitive user interface. RecForge II Lite has kind of a confusing user interface, but I like that it has a good sonogram while you are recording and playing back. This is useful when I'm recording bird songs. RecForge appears to be the more sophisticated and feature-complete app. I've had good luck with both apps recording both talks and bird calls and songs. The Play Store has an abundance of audio recording apps, so if you are unhappy with these two, you can always find others to try out.
- Scanner Apps. I have two scanner apps on my phone. The first is called Clear Scan and the second is called Text Scanner [OCR]. Clear Scan will save documents to .pdf or .jpg format. Text Scanner promises you can convert an image of text into actual text that you can copy and paste. I've had mixed results with that. Both apps get high ratings in the Play Store. There are a number of scanning apps in the Play Store if you want to check out others.
- Speedtest. This free Speedtest app does one thing: measure the download and upload speeds of your Internet connection. Given the simplicity of the task, it's not surprising the interface is simple. You open it, it searches for a server and when it shows the server, you tap on the big "Go" inside a circle in the middle of the screen. In about 15 seconds, the app shows your Internet speeds.
News and Weather
- Feedly. This free RSS news reader is excellent. Feedly allows you to organize all the websites and blogs you like to visit into various categories you create, and then shows you the latest stories or posts on those sites all within the Feedly app. That way you can see the latest stuff without traveling around to a slew of individual websites, which most people simply end up not doing. This app allows you to keep on top of everything. It's easy to add sites and assign them to your categories. It normally shows you a few paragraphs of a story or post and then a link to the website if you want to read more. Highly recommend.
- Weather Timeline - Forecast. This $1.49 Weather Timeline - Forecast app focuses its attention on the user interface, on presenting the weather in a legible, attractive way. It allows you to choose between Dark Sky (recommended) and Weather Underground as your "data source." Dark Sky claims to be the most accurate source of hyperlocal weather information and down-to-the-minute forecasts. I chose this app and paid for it specifically to get access to Dark Sky. The initial screen shows you in a small rectangle the current temperature at your current location, the temperature trend (up or down), % chance of precipitation, current time, and an icon indicating sunny-cloudy-partly cloudy-rain-snow. If the sun is out, the rectangle will be yellow-orange. If it's cloudy, it will be gray. You can add rectangles for other locations, so that you can quickly glance at the weather for multiple locations on the initial screen. I like this initial screen because I can get a glimpse of the weather where my siblings and sister-in-law live or where I plan to travel. You can then drill down by tapping on your desired location to get more information for right now, for the next hour, the next 24 hours or the next seven days. I have always assumed that, because the app focuses on being extremely accurate about near-term forecasts, that you might want to consult another weather app for longer-term forecasts, but I haven't really tested out whether this app's long-term forecasts are less accurate than those from other forecasting services. Information covered by this app includes temperature, precipitation, wind speed, UV, sunset and sunrise, moon phases, humidity, dew point, "feels like," barometric pressure, and visibility.
- News Apps. I've got content apps for New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Politico, AP Mobile, Seattle Times, KUOW-FM, NPR, PBS, CNN, and Google News.
- Virtual Reality. I have a couple of Virtual Reality apps on my phone. One is called Within, which provides Virtual Reality content that you can use by combining your smart phone and a VR viewer. You can get VR viewers for cheap or expensive. I got my cardboard viewer for free from the New York Times. I also have the New York Times Virtual Reality app, which offers VR content produced by the New York Times.
- Starbucks. I mainly have used this Starbucks app to pay with. I preload it $25 at a time and then just draw it down as I pay for items at Starbucks. Much more convenient than fumbling around with change or bills. Another handy feature of the app is a map showing all the Starbucks locations, which you can filter for features such as wi-fi, mobile order and pay, open 24 hrs, drive-through, and Nitro Cold Brew. You can also use the app to order stuff ahead at a nearby Starbucks, which you then go and pick up. This does not work for me because it doesn't give me the option to order a non-fat decaf latte. The app also keeps track of loyalty points and makes special offers, but I don't really pay any attention to this.
- Duolingo. This free app called Duolingo
is a fun way to brush up on your foreign languages. The game-like format makes it a pain-free way to improve your skills in a foreign language. The languages supported currently are: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Esperanto, Polish, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Hebrew, Welsh, English, Swahili and Romanian.
- Twitter. Though I am a Facebook user, I don't have the Facebook app on my phone. I used to have it but declined an upgrade when it asked permission to send messages to my friends without my knowledge. That was a bridge too far for me. If you're not going to upgrade an app, you really have to uninstall it. I can still get to Facebook just by using the browser to go to facebook.com. I don't Instagram or Snapchat but I do Twitter! I know there is a lot of criticism of Twitter for various reasons, but I am a fan of Twitter. I follow a lot of people, mostly news people, commentators and writers, and enjoy reading their latest Tweets about what is going on in the world. I don't live and die by Twitter by any means nor log on for long stretches. But I check in maybe once a day to find out what's the talk all about at the moment and often find interesting stories to read that are recommended by the people I follow. I sometimes re-Tweet others' Tweets and occasionally even write my own Tweets.
System and Security Apps
- ES File Explorer. The excellent ES File Explorer is a file browsing app that allows you to see and manage the files residing in the folders on your phone. It allows you to call up a file by tapping on it, giving you a list of appropriate programs to choose among for handling the file. You can delete or create folders and move files between folders and copy and paste files. This is an indispensable app for me and I really couldn't use my phone without it.
- KeePassDroid This KeePassDroid app is a password manager. It stores your numerous user names and passwords in a secure database that you open with a single password. There are seemingly gazillions of password managers available in the Google Play store. I chose this one because I use it on my desktop PC and have liked it there. Whether it is better or worse than some of the other password managers, I can't say. It works for me.
- GMail. Gmail is automatically installed on a Google phone. It is your Google identity and thus tied in with many of your other Google apps, such as Google Calendar. Gmail works well on the phone.
- Google Arts and Culture. With Google Arts & Culture you can visit art exhibits, zoom in on artworks in detail and browse thousands of stories, photos, videos, and manuscripts. You can create your own collections. The app also provides guided tours of famous sites and buildings and natural wonders, either on your screen or in VR. Google has collaborated with over 1,200 museums, galleries and institutions in 70 countries for its Arts and Culture app. Use the translate button to read exhibits from around the world in your language. When visiting "select museums," you can point your phone's camera at artworks to learn more about them. I have this app but confess to not using it often. You can browse artworks and filter them by time period or color. The app has a "nearby" feature that allows you to find nearby museums and cultural events.
- Google Assistant. Google's Assistant app is like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Amazon's Alexa. You speak to your phone rather than typing or tapping. You can ask Assistant to answer your questions, to open apps, or to carry out tasks. To activate Assistant, speak "OK Google" to your phone. Here are some examples: "What number president was James Buchanan"? Assistant answers immediately: "James Buchanan was president 15." Example 2: "Send a text message to Randy." The assistant asks which of his two phone numbers I want to send to. When I answer that, she says OK and I start dictating the message. When there is a pause, she says "Do you want me to send or do you want to make changes?" When I say "Send," she says "OK" and sends the text. Example 3: "What's the weather going to be tomorrow in Seattle?" Assistant answers immediately: "Tomorrow's weather will be mostly cloudy with a high of 68 and a low of 54." At the same time, she shows me hourly forecasts from 7am til noon from weather.com. Example 4: "Assistant, please add an item to my calendar for 10am Monday August 27. Coffee with Hal at Caffe Zingaro." Immediately she pops up a form showing the calendar entry ("Coffee with Hal"), the time "10am" and the date. She says "Do you want me to save this?" When I say yes, she does so. I pull up my calendar and there is the entry at the correct time and date. She did not include Caffe Zingaro. I probably should have said "the location is Caffe Zingaro." Final example: "Directions to Fauntleroy Ferry terminal. I will be driving." She immediately responds with a short summary of the best way to get there from the phone's current location and says it will take about 37 minutes. At the same time, she shows me a small map with route shown. When I click on the word "Start," she begins giving me turn-by-turn directions to the ferry. I must say the assistant is much, much faster than opening apps and typing in stuff. I really should use it more often, but out of habit I don't. Also, I sometimes feel self-conscious about talking to my phone.
- Google Calendar. Google Calendar is an incredibly valuable app for me. Both my husband and I can separately put our own activities on our own calendars and then have them show up on each other's calendar. His entries are in red, mine in blue, so that I don't confuse them. It's very easy and quick and intuitive to enter stuff on the calendar. And the calendar on your phone automatically synchs with the one on your desktop or laptop or tablet without your having to do a thing. It has a great search function so that you can locate some event or person very quickly. Highly recommended.
- Google Chrome Browser. Google Chrome browser is what I use on my desktop, so it's what I wanted on my phone. Seems to work great. I also have Mozilla Firefox on my phone, which also works well.
- Google Contacts. Google Contacts is another very helpful app, mainly because you can synch it between your phone and desktop and have access to your contact information everywhere. The app allows you to enter multiple phone and cell numbers, street address, email address, web address, notes and upload a picture of the contact. Google allows you to download your data to your own computer and I download my contact data regularly, so that I have a copy on my own computer in case Google has a problem with its servers or Google and I part ways. I like
- Google Docs. Google Docs is essentially Google's version of Office for the Cloud: a spreadsheet app called Sheets, a writing app called Docs, and a presentation app called Slides. The Docs app can even open and edit Microsoft Word documents. When you write something in Docs, and select "Save As," you are given the option to save as a Word (.docx), PDF (.pdf), OpenDocument Format (.odt), Plain Text (.txt), Rich Text Format (.rtf), Web Page (.html, zipped) or EPUB Publication (.epub).
- Google Drive. Google Drive is Google's cloud storage and collaboration app. It allows you to store documents, presentations, drawings and spreadsheets online so that you can retrieve them no matter where you are or what device you are using. You can set those documents to be accessible only to you or you can share with the world, with specific people or with anybody you give the URL to. You can set not only who has access to a document but the nature of their access: view only, download or edit. The phone app works well. I use Google Drive for free remote backup of some documents on my PC, but I mostly use it to set up spreadsheets on which friends can indicate their availability for getting together. All the friends have to do is type "yes" or "no" for specific dates I've entered on the spreadsheet. It becomes immediately clear which date works for the most people and is a way to avoid a lot of endless and confusing email exchanges. Google Docs and Google Drive work hand-in-glove together. That is, when you go to your online Drive account, you have access there to Google Docs writing, spreadsheet and presentation apps and to all the documents you've created with those apps. And when you use the Docs apps, the documents you create are saved on Drive, though you can download them to your own computer. You can also upload files from your computer to Drive for backup or for sharing with others or to be available to you no matter where you are or what device you're using.
- Google Duo. is a great video calling app. Very easy to use. Of the four video chatting or calling apps I have on my phone Duo is the one I prefer. Video calling or chatting requires you to have the same app that the other person is using, which is why I have four different apps.
- Google Earth. The Google Earth app is excellent. See No. 68 above.
- Google Fit. The Google Fit app keeps track of my physical activity. It measures how many minutes I am active a day, how many miles I walked, how many calories I burned (highly exaggerated and thus not useful) and how many steps I took. It will also show me a map of my route. One thing I like about this app is that it does this automatically without my having to open the app or even think about it. The app is just now getting an interface makeover, which I haven't yet seen, so I can't say how well I will continue to like this app.
- Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts is a video chat app that you can use from within gmail. You can also use it as a messaging app. And you can have group chats with it. I have three other video calling apps (Imo, Duo, and Skype) and use Hangouts only when someone calls me on it. If I want to video chat with someone, I prefer to use Duo, which, confusingly, is also a Google app. Duo is easy to install and use, as is Imo. The people you are chatting with must be on the same app as you are using, so that is why I have four of these video chat apps.
- Google Keep. Google's Keep app is a simple but useful note-taking app that syncs to the cloud so you can access your notes from any device. See No. 112 below for information on this app.
- Google Maps. If I had to choose only a single Google app besides gmail on my phone, it would doubtless be Google Maps. This is the best map program available and has invaluable functionality. It shows you your location on the map. You can zoom in and out on the map. If you tap somewhere on the map, you can get street view of that location (tap on the little rectangle with a photo in it). You can use the search box to ask for "nearby restaurants" (or gas stations, movie theaters, bakeries, hardware stores--whatever) and it will show you their locations and give you a thumbnail description, phone number, address, hours, ratings. Same thing if you simply tap on a park or other place named on the map. Google Maps also provides transit information. Map's most used feature is turn-by-turn navigation to your destination. Google has integrated some of Waze's real-time traffic information into the Maps app. The app will select routes accordingly and also warn you when there is a delay on your route and offer you an alternative route. A feature that is both creepy and wonderful is called "location sharing." In my case, my husband and I share our locations with each other. If I am wondering where he is, I can open up the Maps app and click on location sharing, and it will show me on the map where he is, assuming he has his phone with him. That feature can be turned off at any time. Maps understands and can produce latitude and longitude coordinates. Tap at a spot on the map to "drop a pin" and then click on the "Share" icon. That will allow you to email yourself the coordinates where you dropped the pin. Later you can easily find that exact spot on the map. This is a must-have app.
- Google News. The Google News app is run by computer algorithms. Google has infused the app with artificial intelligence (AI) so that it can show you stories selected for you personally based on what Google knows about your interests. Given how long Google has been invading my privacy, it actually knows quite a bit about my preferences. It shows me national political stories, Seattle news and sports stories, golf stories, tech stories. By and large, I am interested in a lot of the stories it shows me, so the algorithm seems to be doing a pretty good job.
- Google Photos. Google Photos is another app that probably is automatically installed on Google phones. It automatically backs up photos you take with your phone's camera to Google's Photos website. There, it stores the photos chronologically. It will occasionally pick out a photo and apply special effects to it, which is kind of fun. If you take a series of photos in a panorama, Google Photos will automatically stitch them together into a panorama. That's a neat feature. It is also nice to have your phone photos backed up somewhere. However, I generally transfer my phone's photos to my own computer where I 1) select the best ones; 2) enhance them by cropping, sharpening, lightening, etc. if needed; 3) compress them so they are more manageable to be emailed or displayed on a website. I then upload them to my Google Photos website, grouping them in an "album" there and adding captions. I can then share the link with others. Google Photos also offers the ability to create a book of your photos, which it then prints and mails. I did this as a Christmas present for my siblings and was very satisfied with the product. Cost was reasonable and the quality of the paper and photo reproduction was good. The only negative was it was not possible to include captions with the photos, which meant I wasn't even able to include dates and place names for the photos. I had to type up my own information on note paper and include it inside the book. Google really needs to add some kind of caption ability -- perhaps they already have, because it's kind of an obvious need. I keep all my photos on my own PC. The Google Photos website functions only as a way to backup my photos and share them with others. Google has a way of suddenly abandoning or transforming its apps, so I do not like depending on them to store my valued content. I store my own valued content on my PC.
- Google+. Google+ was Google's attempt to compete with Facebook and Twitter. It's a good effort. But the big-time news and political set of people are mostly on Twitter, and my friends, acquaintances and family are mostly on Facebook, so when I am on social media, those two venues are where I spend most of my time (which is not a huge chunk of my time). Google+ is organized around interests or what it calls "communities," so if you have particular interests, this may be your ticket. I do find that there are a lot of ads masquerading as posts in some of these communities. It's too bad Google+ has not become more popular, because I do like the format and features. As is, though, it's kind of a ghosttown or sketchy neighborhood.
- Google Play. Google has separate Google Play apps called Google Play Movies and TV, Google Play Books, Google Play Games, and Google Play Music. These apps are for consuming content from Google's cloud. I have used the movies app to rent individual movies (usually $2.99 to $4.99). You can either stream the movies or you can download them to your computer or phone, which is handy of you are traveling somewhere where you won't have Internet access. You generally have something like 48 hours to watch the movie. You can also buy movies (more expensive than renting, obviously). Movie selection is not all that extensive, but perhaps I've been spoiled by Netflix DVDs. You need the Google Play Books app to consume eBooks and audio books that you buy from Google (though some are free). Books can be read on a dedicated Books section on the Google Play website, through the use of this phone app and iOS, through the use of select e-readers that offer support for Adobe Digital Editions, through a web browser and reading via Google Home. Users may also upload up to 1,000 ebooks in the PDF or EPUB file formats. The music app provides free, ad-supported curated "radio" for what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, or what you want to hear. Instantly start radio stations based on songs, artists, or albums, or browse by genre, mood, activity, decade, and more. You can also upload up to 50,000 of your own songs; then listen to them across Android, iOS, and the web, for free. You can also discover and subscribe to podcasts for free using the music app. Subscribe for $9.99/month to get ad-free, on-demand access to millions of songs and download anything to listen even when you’re not connected. Google says it plans to fold Google Play Music into YouTube Music in 2019. I haven't used the games app, which seems aimed at playing online with others.
- Google Play Store. The Google Play Store is where you go to peruse and/or download phone apps, movies, tv programs, music, games, books, news or magazines. While it's not perfect, it's the safest place to download apps and content for your phone.
- Google Search. Google Search is automatically baked into your Google phone and pretty much front and center, which is OK because Google has the best search. However, you can download Bing, DuckDuckGo, WolframAlpha, Yahoo and other search engines to your phone from the Google Play Store, if you wish.
- Google Translate. The Google Translate app is something of a miracle. It has a simple, intuitive interface. It provides a written translation between more than 103 languages and audio pronounciation for many. For most languages, you can speak or type the phrase you want translated. Say you select English as the language you want to translate from and French as the language you want to translate to and you type in a simple word like "buy." This program will give you the translation "acheter" and also give you some other choices for different meanings of the verb "buy" such as "accepter" (accept as in "I buy that idea") and "corrompre" (corrupt as in "buy a legislator"). It also shows a list of two noun forms of buy: "achat" (purchase) and "affaire" (deal or bargain). I typed in a full sentence and got a nice translation of it, though it misunderstood a proper name for a common noun. You can speak into your phone and the app will translate your speech nearly instantly into another language, which makes it possible for you to communicate with someone whose language you do not speak. A relatively recent feature added allows you to point your camera at a sign and get a translation of the sign. As is true of all machine translation, the results are often impressive but not perfect and sometimes embarrassingly off base. A handy, useful app that I recommend.
- Google YouTube. Google's YouTube may be the single most widely used Google app outside of Google Search. Everything from videos on how to repair a toilet to comedy routines to music is available on YouTube. Google is now promoting paid versions of YouTube that will offer ad-free streaming, but the free YouTube offers an incredibly rich and deep reservoir of content, usually with ads. You can put your own home videos up on YouTube and share them with others.
- GPay. Google has changed the names and rules for its payment services many times. It used to be called Google Wallet and then was split into Wallet and Android Pay. Now both of those are gone, and we have GPay. You register credit and debit cards with the app. Then you can pay electronically using either your phone (the GPay app) or your web browser (for desktops or laptops go to https://pay.google.com). Very slick and quick. To send or request money from someone, you just have to fill in their email address and use a debit card and you are done. To buy products or services with Google pay, you can use a debit or credit card, though not all credit cards will work with Gpay.
Readin' and Writin'
- Moon Reader Pro. The paid version ($4.99) of this app is called Moon Reader Pro and it is worth getting the paid version for the added features and the lack of ads. I use Moon Reader for all the material that I don't read using my Barnes & Noble Nook eReader. This includes the free Project Gutenberg books, O'Reilly programming books, instruction manuals, and documents that I convert to .pdfs. The app supports .epub, .pdf, .mobi, .html, .txt and other lesser known formats. It can also read the text to you out loud. It can scroll the text with a line that moves down the page at a speed you select. Touch a word and you get either the dictionary definition or a popup menu allowing you to copy the word, highlight the word, write a note about the word or phrase, get the dictionary definition, search for the word, share it, get the pronunciation, translate it, consult Wikipedia about it, or Google it. The app gives a huge number of options for controlling spacing, font and color and also for controlling the operation of the app, for example, turning pages or paging up and down or returning from a book page to your library. Reading was never so easy!
- feedly. This free feedly app is an rss reader that I have installed to replace Google Reader, now that Google has killed Google Reader. An rss reader allows you to follow all your favorite Web sites and blogs in one place. It is much faster and handier to browse through a list of the latest article headlines (with links to the articles) than using the Web browser to go around visiting individual Web sites one by one. feedly seamlessly and automatically imported all my rss sites from Google Reader. feedly has a better user interface than Google Reader did, but, of course, Google Reader set a rather low bar in that regard. feedly is fairly intuitive and easy to use. All and all, I have been pleased with it.
- Nook. I installed Nook on my phone because I have a Nook ebook reader. The Nook app will synchronize my Nook books such that I can hold my place between my phone and my Nook ebook reader. This is only for Barnes and Noble books, it appears. I've used it a couple of times and it appears to work well.
- Kindle. I do not own a Kindle ebook reader, but I downloaded the Kindle app so that I could read a Kindle book authored by a friend of mine. The app seems to work well but I have not used it much so take my endorsement with a grain of salt.
- Google Keep. Google's Keep app has a very simple interface and is quick and easy to use, but it is a primitive app without a lot of bells and whistles. It used to have hiccups syncing between the phone version and the cloud version, but it seems as if those problems have been solved. I now use Keep as my main note-taking app. It uses plain text, which means the text is highly portable (via copy-and-paste) to other formats and applications. But it also means you have no italic, bold, or underline -- no way to emphasize or set apart any part of your notes. Each individual note has an upper limit on length of text it will allow. Probably not a bad thing, it can take you forever to scroll to the bottom of a long note. I have created notes based on topics, such as Books, Movies and TV, or Restaurants. Then when I hear recommendations for a book or for a movie or a restaurant from a friend or a podcast, I can quickly add them to the ongoing note for that topic. The Keep app gives you an attractive palette of complementary colors that you can choose among for each note. That brightens things up a bit. I can access the notes on my phone and from my desktop or laptop, because Keep on the phone is syncd to Keep in the cloud. If you've got content you want to keep in Keep, you should remember to download your keep content onto your own computer.
- Text Editor. I also use a Text Editor with a few more features than Keep called Text Editor. This app allows me to open, edit and save .txt and .html files. As long as I save a file in .html rather than .txt, I have access to bold, italic and underline and can also align text left, center or right. I can also choose among a selection of font faces. And I can set or change font color. Text Editor can also perform search and replace. I can zoom in or zoom out on the text. It is clear that this app has tons more functionality than the bare bones Keep app. The saved files can be opened in any program that can handle .txt or .html files. And I can copy-and-paste any text into other files or programs. The Google Play store has a huge inventory of text editing apps to choose from, and it's possible there are better apps than this one in the store, but I think this is a good app.