Overall, Android is a great OS with many powerful capabilities. One of it’s annoyances is what some manufacturers choose to make of it, especially in the bloatware department. But even an essential stock Android despite its elegant simplicity might be just too much on the basic side for most people.
If you’ve never settled for manufacturers bundled apps and custom UIs, but you’d still like a more personalized experience the solution would be to customize your Android yourself. And truth be told, there’s no shortage of options although the most simple method and also accessible to all users regardless of their experience is to use specialized apps.
If you want to refresh your Android device which is definitely a great way to start 2016, then you must take a look at these apps – you may not need all of them, but they do provide clever solutions for day-to-day tasks.
Snowball – Smart Notifications
Snowball is a smart notification center that shows you all notifications and messages in the same place, while also allowing you to take actions on them like replying to messages and opening related apps from a drop down menu.
My favorite thing about this app is it also lets you select apps for which you want to hide messages and mark notifications as “unimportant”, plus it also makes sure the important items are always shown at the top of the screen. These are not the only customizations available in Snowball, but I think they can give you a pretty good idea of why this app can come in handy, especially for heavy smartphone users.
Flow Home is a launcher that redesigns your home screen to make it look like the feed from Pinterest and Flipboard. The result? Instead of the same old icons, the home screen will display news and notifications and this covers app updates like Instagram pics, tweets, Facebook posts and Feedly news among others.
While no app icons are displayed on the home screen you can access your favorite apps from a button placed in the lower-right corner and the app drawer is one “slide left” away. Also, Flow integrates a search function which you can access by tapping the magnifying glass icon shown on top of the app drawer.
With that said, I would also like to mention Flow Home is still in beta and so far it can only display notifications (which are always shown at the top of the feed) and content from Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and Feedly on the home screen.
Focus is an interesting gallery app I’m sure you’ll appreciate if you’re fond of your photo collections. The app is rather new but already comes with a robust set of features and a beautiful interface which lets you easily browse your gallery.
In fact, you can navigate through the thumbnails of a certain photo folder without having to open it in full screen and there’s also a tagging system so you can sort your pics and find them faster whenever you need to.
Focus also includes a private vault where you can secure personal photos (fingerprint unlocking is available for Android Marshmallow) and it lets you lock the screen on a specific photo which is a great way of showing it to someone else without that person being able to snoop inside your gallery. The app is free to use and you can unlock its premium features (custom tags, private vault and a dark theme) via a $2.99 IAP.
Native Clipboard is a clean Material Design clipboard management app that can ease your copy/paste tasks. Any time you select a piece of text and use the “copy” function it will be saved to the Clipboard. By default, the app stores 25 items in the Clipboard (called “clips”) which you can view existing clips, add new ones, paste them into other apps, as well as edit and delete items.
While the purpose of Native Clipboard is straightforward, it does let you customize some of its aspects, such as changing how your clipboard items are displayed (font size, color, layout….etc.), provides sorting options and on Android 5.0 and newer versions users can access it in Chrome via the floating icon.
Most Android users stay in touch with their contacts using multiple apps and Drupe was created to simplify this. The app lets you access your recent/favorite contacts from a drawer and right next to their names you get a list of your calling and messaging apps.
Contacting a specific person is resumed to taping on their icon and dragging it over to the app you want to communicate through. It’s definitely an effortless way of using the myriad messaging apps without getting overwhelmed.
It supports numerous apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Viber, Hangouts, Phone, SMS and many others. Furthermore Drupe offers address book management capabilities, a unified log showing all your recent communications, customizable favorite contacts and communication apps, a contacts search function, themes and other useful features.
Feed reader apps abound these days, with Feedly definitely being one of the most popular ones. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for more, and Palabre makes a good example worthy of your attention.
The app can pull your news from any RSS feed format, but also from Twitter, The Old Reader, Inoreader and via an optional extension Flikr as well. Palabre comes with several layout options, light and dark themes, offline reading, widgets and Android Wear support among others.
The Material Design app has a very attractive interface and you can use it for free, although you will see the occasional add. Even so, if you like Palabre you can remove the adds via a $2.49 in-app purchase.
Price: $1.99 (free 14-days trial)
Solid Explorer is a beautiful Material Design file manager with an impressive set of features. It lets you access your phone’s storage, SD card, various cloud services such as Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive and Sugarsync, but it also supports FTP, SFTP, WebDav and SMB/CIFS clients. You can browse your files in a dual panel view with drag and drop supported inside and between the two panels, find files using the fast indexed search, view comprehensive file info, and gain root access.
There are tons of file management apps and plenty are quite good, but I can definitely say Solid Explorer is among the best, despite the fact it’s still new on the market. The features I mentioned above are not everything the app offers, in fact there’s so much more.
Among other interesting capabilities, you can expand Solid Explorer’s functionality via optional plugins, read and extract various archive formats, as well as create password protected ZIP and 7ZIP archives. And the UI and its animations make file management much more fun that you’d think.