Android Apps: What I Use
No matter what I tried, this retarded Marshmallow performs “Optimizing app 1 of 1” after each reboot–a reboot that’s a bit slow at that. And it’s not a rooted device. So I guess I’ll need to “reset to factory settings,” but first I need to make sure I know what apps to reinstall. You see, I’ve tried thousands of apps, yet I don’t use that many of them. But I need to connect to Play Store using all my 3 Google accounts, because I have commercial apps purchased under each of them. A mess. A nightmare. And all this, in a device that’s supposedly faster than my old one judging by the AnTuTu score or by the CPU alone, but I know for a fact that my old Android 4.2.1 was much faster than this piece of shit of 6.0.1. Obviously, I can’t run the latest Android 7.1, because a smartphone is not like a PC, you cannot run whatever you want on it (how is this even legal in the EU?).
What I can do though is to make a list of the apps that I might want or need to reinstall.
1. Weather: This is a tricky topic, and most people wouldn’t understand my obsession with weather apps and widgets. The short version: they all suck. I’ve written more than once about this, and I deleted a lot of what I wrote. The longer version: there are more aspects to be considered.
—People who live in the US might be happy with a lot of weather apps designed with the US in mind, especially as some such apps have a tendency to prefer weather readings and forecast from airports (METAR). People living in Continental Europe are bound to be disappointed, unless they live very close to a very large city or to an airport.
—Most national weather services have too few weather weather stations, and the apps that use weather sources based only on official weather stations and airports weather stations (e.g. Gismeteo, ForecaWeather, MSN Weather–which uses FORECA) are not “fine-grained” enough (to make things worse, when FORECA doesn’t receive current data from the selected weather station, it will continue to show temperatures that are hours old!).
—The finest granularity stays with apps that believe in the “hyperlocal” approach of using the tens of thousands of independent PWS (Personal Weather Stations), such as Weather Underground and any app that can use it. The problem is that such PWS are of extremely unequal quality: the other day I could find on a radius of 10 km dozens of PWS showing any temperature between -14°C and +12°C! In the official app one can select a different PWS than the one chosen by default for a given location, but in other apps that use WUnderground such thing isn’t possible (it used to be possible in Morecast, now not anymore; it’s also impossible in Weather Timeline); but even if I were to choose, I wouldn’t trust any of the PWS I know of! Instead of 180,000 contradictory and unreliable PWS, a smaller number of trustworthy PWS would be preferable.
—The well-acclaimed Dark Sky, formerly known as Forecast.io and used as a data source by other apps too (Amber Weather, Arcus Weather, Forecaster, and as only one of the sources by Weather Timeline), claims to be “hyperlocal” too, and it might be accurate enough for US and UK, but for the rest of the world it’s the crappiest thing I’ve ever seen!
—There are apps that rely on a smaller set of PWS, typically part of some large private networks (see e.g. WeatherPro–list of weather stations; or Weather & Clock Widget Android when it uses MyWeather2.com instead of Foreca.com), but the results are so-so.
—There are apps or even major data sources for which I can’t tell the exact approach, nor could I identify the exact weather station used for my location. The classical example is The Weather Channel (weather.com, The Weather Company, LLC), which didn’t alter its choice of weather stations not even the acquisition of Weather Underground, Inc. The results are decent enough (the widgets aren’t anywhere near decency!), and its forte is that when there’s snow accumulation it shows detailed forecasts and maps of the snowfall, but they have this idiocy of showing for any given day a pair of temperatures that are not the minimum and maximum temperatures for that day, but the maximum for that day and the minimum temperature for the night that ends in the next day’s morning! How stupid is that? Most people would believe the shown minimum to belong to the early hours or the morning of the respective day, not to the next day! Google News & Weather uses weather.com too, and the widget is quite fine, but I cannot properly read the forecasts, because for any single day I have to look at the previous one’s minimum (you can check the hourly forecasts in the app though).
—The youngest weather app–released in 2017–Weather Wiz, is surprisingly using data from The Weather Channel (“IBM weather data”), but at version 1.0.0 it’s so terribly buggy that most of the time it shows random data for my location (I wrote two detailed e-mails to the developers); refreshing the data in the app doesn’t mean it will display updated data (I’m not even sure it displays the data for the correct location!); also, the widgets need some fixes too.
—An “outsider” is Apalon’s Weather Live, as it claims to be using its own weather network (which is probably a lie; they only make apps!), and only the maps from FORECA. They’re a bit fishy, declaring an address in Dublin, Ireland on Google Play and Minsk, Belarus on their own website. Thankfully, their weather data is quite bogus–and I hate their widgets.
—ILMETEO’s app is pure crap, as most non-major locations are not recognized, and when they are, the data seems phoney.
—The French La Chaîne Météo / Weather Crave is even worse, with zero usability and useless data.
—Finally, the most outrageous “mainstream” weather service and app is AccuWeather (used as a data source by most OEMs), whose Superior Accuracy™ is one of the worst jokes ever, especially as its ridiculous MinuteCast® (“Rain starting in 23 minutes,” “A break in the rain in 1 minute”) is absolutely never correct! I didn’t check lately, but Accuweather used to have one more quirk: their own app wasn’t in sync with their own website (even when just updated), i.e. they were showing different current conditions; 3rd-party apps using Accuweather (probably via a different API or a different server) were showing a third set of current conditions–how pathetic is that?
—Qihoo’s 360 Weather also uses AccuWeather. End of story.
—A number of apps give you the choice of several data sources, but the choice is a false choice: Yr.no (they have an app too, and it used to be acceptable, but with the new design both the widget and the app are less useful; also, it’s so stupid to see at 17:40 “Weather now 22:00-01:00,” when there are still more than 3 hours until 22:00 for which there’s no forecast; apps such as Detailed YR Weather Widget display the forecasts differently, yet they suck too) only gives forecasts outside Norway, not real current conditions; OpenWeatherMap and World Weather Online are crappy as hell; and I’ve discussed Dark Sky aka Forecast.io and Weather Underground; I’ll get to Yahoo! Weather later. To add insult to injury, some apps ask you for an API key to use some of the data sources, because they don’t have one. I’ll dismiss–and not only for these reasons!–the following multi-source apps: Chronus; HD Widgets; Amber Weather (formerly EZ Weather); Transparent Clock & Weather; Weather & Clock Widget Android; Meteogram Weather Forecast; and Sam Ruston’s acclaimed Weather Timeline, which has the insolence of trying to “Forecast up to years in the future” (“Open Time Machine”), when its various data sources can’t decide whether it’s sunny or it rains, or which temperature between -6°C and +2°C would be closer to the reality.
—Note on Meteogram / Meteogram Pro: while carefully designed as an app (and widget), the various forecast sources are highly divergent, so what should one choose? Even the source met.no, which should display the same forecasts as yr.no, doesn’t do that! (I’d rather select Weather Underground).
—Some details on World Weather Online: while the current readings are in many cases for the closest airport (e.g. Stuttgart-Echterdingen), and the website asks for the ZIP, city name or IATA code, the forecasts are computed for the correct location. The official app sucks though, showing the maximum for each day instead of min/max, and the widgets are crappy too. One of the questionable Weather apps that use WWO (with decent graphics though) had the idea of showing on some widgets the average temperature forecasted for each day! The app has huge update bugs for the automatically detected current location (which cannot be deleted), even with manually updates, so I needed to add a small town some 4 km away, and this one would update correctly.
—A weather service that uses a limited set of weather stations (e.g. for Leonberg it reads the current weather for Ludwigsburg, at 18 km, while Stuttgart is at 20 km) is the Swiss MeteoNews. Apps using it are made by ID Mobile SA, and the universal one is Weather for the World, as the other 21 “Weather for <country_name>” are simply clones. The unique widget shows the current conditions (or maybe a forecast for the hour?), but the app has the particularity that it only shows forecasts for “morning” and “afternoon” for each day.
—Speaking of forecasts instead of current readings, and of Swiss ones at that, meteoblue (which has a story and can use simultaneously e.g. 14 out of 26 weather models) severely lacks a widget and the app is uninspiring.
—Getting to “my” Germany and regardless of what weather data source is used, a number of local apps have to be mentioned. First, wetter.com, which used to be rather fine, but its widgets can freeze on recent Android versions, and the current readings for my location are computed, not read (this is the difference between a small town and a large one), which can mean everything, from interpolated to forecasted. Then, three apps that use the services of MeteoGroup: (1°) the official one, WeatherPro, whose usability sucks and which declined in quality, not to mention that they now want a subscription even to let you change the icon theme, but somehow it’s well-regarded (the same contents on wetter24.de); (2°) wetter.info, which is promoted by Telekom.de and preferred by some newspapers and media outlets, and which sometimes gives differences of up to 4°C between locations are 4 km away (70839 Gerlingen vs. 71229 Leonberg), or which can have such a lack of new data that it can display the same temperature as 3-4 hours ago; their website reveals that for Leonberg they use the readings from MeteoGroup’s Renningen-Ihinger Hof weather station (some 10 km away), also for forecasts; and (3°) RTL’s Wetter.de, mostly neglected, despite some interesting features, such as the widget showing the chances of rain for the next hour and the forecast for two of the following periods of the day that follow (Mittag, Abend, Nacht, Morgen), and extremely detailed hourly forecasts in the app; RTL’s app can however show slightly different data than the official MeteoGroup, especially for small towns, its “Gefühlt” (Feels like) is definitely different in this app, it’s a bit slow and heavy, and it inherits from MeteoGroup the flaw of failing to provide recent current temperatures for some small towns, making it even worse, with even longer delays–say, current temperatures don’t change for 2-3 hours (the website actually admits it, e.g. by mentioning that the temperature displayed at 20:30 was measured at 19:00). Another German app is shortlisted below.
—For the time being, I am using two weather apps simultaneously, with widgets at that:
- Weather & Radar Pro Ad-Free / WetterOnline Pro (2.99 €), by WetterOnline GmbH (they have a free edition too). Obviously, not always accurate, but decent enough. It tends to be pessimistic in forecasts when it comes to the minimum temperatures in winter and the maximum temperatures in summer; also about the chances of rain. When a widget fails to update, opening the app doesn’t update it right away; the solution is to touch the small gear wheel and reconfirm the location. Hint: in the app, tap on a day or hour for extra info.
- Yahoo! Weather. Funny thing, it happens to be the weather data source for the built-in iPhone app. Unidentified weather data source or weather network (despite weather.yahoo.com showing videos from The Weather Channel, the readings and forecasts are slightly different, and frankly less reliable than those displayed by The Weather Channel), sometimes contradicting most other sources, but at times the only accurate one. It tends to be optimistic about the chances of rain (e.g. showing 35% when others say 60%, or 0% when others say 30%), unless it fails to predict a rain. Either way, the widget icons will show rain starting from a chance of 40%. It’s definitely not suitable for some locations such as Brașov (Romania), for which it seems to toggle between a correct and a wrong data station. When a widget fails to update, the small update symbol works even under Marshmallow. The developer of Chronus complains about the lack of reliability of Yahoo’s weather API, but there are some alternate query choices too.
—Oops, I actually still have installed a third app, out of nostalgia, because I have a long relationship with this one–since 2012: wetter.com. I still can’t make my mind about it. They do have their own network of affiliated PWS, yet it’s by no mean clear how the entire thing works, and they also read the official national (DWD in Germany) weather stations, plus the airports. One of the strange things: some current readings are “measured” (e.g. for Stuttgart), others are “calculated” (e.g. Leonberg, Gerlingen). Even for those that are calculated (does it mean they’re interpolated on a map?), some are including wind information (e.g. Gerlingen), some others don’t (e.g. Leonberg, despite being larger than Gerlingen, and only 4 km away)–the wind info is only shown in the app and in the 4×2 widget.
The current readings are usually different even for small towns that are 4-10 km away, i.e. the following locations are having different readings 71229 Leonberg, 70839 Gerlingen, 71254 Ditzingen*, 71272 Renningen, 72760 Reutlingen; and different from 70173 Stuttgart-Mitte* (which seems to be reading Wetterstation Stuttgart-Schnarrenberg 70376) and 70771 Leinfelden-Echterdingen* (Flughafen Stuttgart STR/EDDS). The names with asterisk are having the temperatures reported with decimals! OK, so wetter.com strives to provide localized readings and forecasts. Most of the times, for Leonberg (Altstadt), the readings for the neighboring Gerlingen seem to be more accurate: are the readings for Leonberg computed or retrieved for its south neighborhood of Eltingen? Either way, it’s sometimes funny to see how the current conditions can toggle every 15-30 minutes between “here it’s raining, 4 km away it’s not” and “here it’s not raining, 4 km away it rains,” while other apps don’t bother to budge:
How about “moderate rain” vs “light rain” using the same icon (“computed” at 18:15), then the moderate rain suddenly stopping altogether (“computed” at 18:30), but the light rain going on? Are these “current conditions” based on forecasted chances of rain instead of actual readings?
Maybe they’re PWS, but affiliated, not own stations. On the website, for all of the above small towns, the following are listed: “Unsere Wetterstation aus 71116 Gärtringen (17.2 km from Ditzingen, 18.8 km from Leonberg, 19.8 km from Gerlingen); Unsere Wetterstation aus 74379 Ingersheim (23.9 km from Ditzingen, 22.5 km from Leonberg, 21.3 km from Gerlingen).” OK, so what are the sources for those current readings? Ditzingen is “measured” (not “computed”), so there must be a PWS there!
But sometimes I feel that the app is cheating. For instance, both Leonberg and Gerlingen are “computed,” yet only Gerlingen gets the current wind speed! By “pure coincidence”–what else?–the direction and speed are always identical to those measured for Stuttgart (Mitte). Probably Gerlingen is considered “close enough”–but not Leonberg. Otherwise, the current sky condition can differ between Gerlingen and Stuttgart (Mitte), only the wind is “borrowed”…
While I’m still using it every now and then, I’m bothered that the widget can still freeze with Marshmallow, even if the app is not “optimized” in the Battery settings. The associated service, mguApi, doesn’t run on its own (at least not in my Marshmallow), it needs to have the main app open, even in the background. While in the background, it can take under 32 MB of RAM if only the service is used, or 120-160 MB as a full app. The problem is that if Android kills it (160 MB out of 1 GB of RAM…) or if I kill all the apps, the widget won’t keep updating… (Hint: hitting the small gear then “Update Weather Data Now” should update the widget without fully opening the app.)
—To illustrate how the PWS readings for Gerlingen are usually more reliable than those for Leonberg, especially for the upper part of Leonberg (Altstadt/Marktplatz, not Eltingen), it’s perhaps worth noting that most of the times WeatherUnderground is defaulting–for my location, close to Marktplatz–to PWS such as IBADENWR213, IGERLING9 or IGERLING56 (the latter hilariously labeled Leonberg) instead of the closer ILEONBER62, ILEONBER10, or ILEONBER3. There must be a reason for that…
Oh, and I noticed that in Yahoo! Weather too the readings for Gerlingen are closer to the reality than those for Leonberg. It’s almost as if it would use the same data sources as wetter.com.
—A special clarification regarding 3 apps with very similar names. The 1st one, El Tiempo 14 días–translated to Weather 14 Days, Wetter 14 Tage, Météo 14 jours–belongs to Meteored and corresponds to the websites tiempo.com, tempo.pt, daswetter.com, ilmeteo.net, yourweather.co.uk, tameteo.com (there’s a Pro version too for 1.99 €, which was discounted at 0.10 € for a while). I couldn’t identify the weather data source, but the app is forecast-oriented, and I strongly believe that the current conditions are simply the forecast for the hour, and never measured values. This would explain why the app seems at times so accurate and some other times so very wrong (not only for my location; I’ve read many reviews in several languages). This app’s forte is that it has wind forecasts for each hour and every day, however the shown value is the maximum (gusts) one, and it’s highly exaggerated even so (the average wind speed is hidden in the details for each hour). I’d also have preferred to see the probability of rain, not only the expected amount of rain (0 mm of rain expected, but 0% or 35% chances of rain? 1 mm of rain expected, but 40% or 85% chances of rain?).
The 2nd one, El Tiempo por eltiempo.es, belongs to Pelmorex Media Inc., a network that has also a different app–The Weather Network / MétéoMédia–and the websites ElTiempo.es, TheWeatherNetwork.com, MeteoMedia.com, WetterPlus.de, Clima.com. The Spanish “El Tiempo” app is 100% forecast-driven so that, unlike the Canadian “The Weather Network / MétéoMédia,” it won’t read the current conditions from any weather station (in my case the Canadian app was only reading the Stuttgart Airport anyway).
The 3rd one doesn’t even exist for Android, but because of a possible confusion, here it is: tiempo.es is the site, and the iOS app, tiempo.es Universal by wetter.com GmbH, has the exact same UI as the iOS wetter.com app, the same icons being present in the Android wetter.com app as well. It’s no wonder: while being managed by Olivares Media SL, the website tiempo.es belongs to wetter.com GmbH. They just wanted to have two identical iOS apps with different logos.
Remember what I said about the apps that present the idiocy of showing for any given day a pair of temperatures that are not the minimum and maximum temperatures for that day, but the maximum for that day and the minimum temperature for the night that ends in the next day’s morning? In simpler words, it’s as if a day would start at 7 AM and would go through 7 AM of the next day! I just noticed that the list of such apps doesn’t only include The Weather Channel, Google News & Weather, and Weather Wiz, but also… MSN Weather!
As ForecaWeather and MSN Weather use the same data source (FORECA), it’s easy to compare the two widgets with regards to the max/min for each day:
Pay attention how the minimum of -1° for SAT morning (between 2 and 7 AM) moves in the case of MSN Weather to the day of… FRI. The minimum temperature for the current day, which is FRI, is nowhere to be found in that widget (it was +1°C, as per FORECA). Similarly, FORECA says that the following MON the temperatures will range between +1° and +13° for the entire period of 24 hours (0:00 to 23:59:59 military time). MSN prefers to put that +1° information attached to the day of SUN, and MON shows the minimum temperature for the morning of TUE! I simply cannot use such apps designed for morons! Any day starts at 0 AM and ends at 0 AM the next day, full stop! I don’t need “the minimum for the night that ends at 6-7 AM the next morning,” you assholes!
Incidentally, Yahoo! Weather shows the max/min correctly, for the actual day (0-24, not 7-to-7).
Some facts about ForecaWeather. It indeed cannot show measured temperatures for my location, but for an official station some 18 km away. Still, the forecasts are pretty good, and for my exact location (computed from maps, mind you). If the widget shows the wind and the “feels like” for a somewhat distant location, the information is still very useful. Moreover, in the app, in the default “Day Forecast” view, swiping to left allows to see–for each of the next 10 days–hourly forecasts with: weather icon, temperature, chances of rain, wind (average speed, not gusts), “feels like” and humidity. Unparalleled richness of info… except there’s nothing about the forecasted maximum (gust) wind speed! For such info, Weather & Radar / WetterOnline (even the free edition) or wetter.com (which can also show DWD’s weather warnings) are better choices.
While Yahoo! Weather (the dark screen above) doesn’t specify the maximum wind speed, but only the average (the forecast for the day below the “Details” section, and the current wind below the map), its hourly forecasts use a specific icon for the hours with a particularly strong wind–which makes my choice for this pair of weather apps even more justified.
I said that if the weather station for current readings doesn’t come with new data, this app would serve old data, and that sometimes, somehow, MSN Weather manages to work around this, possibly by switching to a different station. Still, at least ForecaWeather shows the exact weather station and the time of the measurement, which is more honest than in most other apps! On the other hand, even when the weather station does serve new data, MSN can have a 30-minute delay in retrieving it, no matter it says it just updated the data–it actually got the same old data from the server! I’d rather stick to FORECA’s official app…
…which is not without bugs. Its Windows 10 (ModernUI) app is much less usable, and it defaults to the wrong station, which cannot be changed. For Leonberg, instead of “Observed at Stuttgart / Schnarrenberg,” (which is reasonably close to Stuttgart-Mitte) the Windows app reads “Observed at Stuttgart-Echterdingen,” which is actually the airport at Leinfeld-Echterdingen (Flughafen Stuttgart). Unacceptable, so I’l stick to the Android app, which is actually newer… and has two bugs on its own. First, when you add the widget, it’ll get stuck with “Waiting for data…”–until you’ll resize it back and forth, which will repaint it. (The 4×2 widget adapts and shows fewer information when resized as 4×1, 3×3, 2×2, 1×2 or even 1×1, just try it!) Second, despite in theory being able to display the units as I wanted them to be (km/h and mmHg), this option displays m/s and mmHg, so I can’t have both km/h and mmHg: either I have mmHg and the wind in m/s (with this 3rd option), either I have km/h and hPa for the pressure (with the 2nd option, which works as declared).
Oh, the nice thing with FORECA is that their “feels like” is most of the time more pessimistic than MSN’s; I guess it computes the “wind chill” effect based not only on wind’s speed, but also on the humidity. More realistic, I’d say.
—I only mentioned that Gismeteo is among the apps that use the Stuttgart Airport readings for Stuttgart and a number of towns around, which is rather unpleasant and worse than FORECA’s use of Stuttgart-Schnarrenberg. Still, Gismeteo has its forecast charts computed for the actual location, not for the airport, so that the 4×2 hourly widget can prove itself useful enough, if one doesn’t want to know with accuracy the current conditions:
Too bad I’m not very satisfied with the forecasts: too eager to put the sunny icon on the entire day when partly cloudy is forecasted by all the other apps, or to put the moderate rain on a day for which no rain is expected at any hour (the second fault is shared though with Yahoo! Weather). And that they never heard of DWD’s weather station Stuttgart-Schnarrenberg. In the “Nearby airports and weather stations” tab, Gismeteo lists 2 airports and 7 DWD stations: Stuttgart Airport 19 km, Reutlingen 35 km, Heilbronn 40 km, Horb am Neckar 46 km, Sinsheim 50 km, Karlsruhe 51 km, Freundenstadt 57 km, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport 68 km, Heidelberg 71 km. (Note that this list can show outdated temperatures, which might suggest that the app is not using the first one–Stuttgart Airport in my case–for current readings, but tapping on each station will show updated values. The website would even show the temperatures with decimals, making even more obvious the “coincidences”…)
—To close the topic and explain in which way I’m unhappy even with my careful selection of 2…4 apps, and what I still miss in the weather apps I’m grudgingly using: consistent wind information (also on the widget); “feels like” aka “wind chill” (also on the widget, but not instead of the actual temperature); air pressure in mmHg; forecast for 3-5 days on the widget (WetterOnline aka Weather&Radar shows 3 days in the 4×2 widget, but it has a bug on some systems: the current temperature is cropped, so I have to use the 4×1 widget). There are apps providing such info, but I don’t find their data sources reliable…
2. Twitter: Since the official Twitter app supports a dark background and includes a number of features not present in any other client app–yes, “In case you missed it…” is a useful feature!–I tend to rely on it, but I have a long history with Twitter clients. My first love was Plume for Twitter (with the Premium unlocker), and I’m still using it every now and then. I liked Seesmic, but Hootsuite killed it. I liked Robird, but the developer decided to abandon it to create Robird Reborn, which is a piece of crap. I never liked Talon, Fenix, TweetCaster and a few other apps, but I found promising the rather buggy Twidere and the non-free derivative Tweetings, but they both have some limitations, and Sam Ruston’s Flamingo has even more quirks. Note that only the official app knows of “Moments”–which I still fail to understand anyway–so maybe I’ll stick to it and to my first love as a backup.
3. Communication: I might be one of the few who are using a smartphone to make voice calls. I could never understand the excitement around WhatsApp Messenger, which was only a text messaging app when launched, then it had a $0.99 fee after the 1st year… then it evolved. Back then, Viber was the best available VoIP app, and multi-platform too! Unfortunately, it tries to hijack regular phone calls to, so I ditched it. Skype is a bit too heavy for a cheap smartphone, I prefer it on a laptop. So I do have WhatsApp installed–merely because everyone else is using it, but I don’t initiate calls. I also have Google’s stupid Hangouts installed–it works, but what a piece of crap! Finally, I’m trying to figure out why Google created Allo and Duo–the first one includes the useless Google Assistant, and the 2nd one only supports video calls.
4. Public transport and travelling:
- HERE WeGo (formerly HERE Maps)–as an alternative to Google Maps. The offline maps are good, but of unequal quality.
Germany, focus on BW:
- DB Navigator. Not only the trains in Germany, but trains for most of Europe; in Germany, also U-Bahn, S-Bahn, buses.
- VVS Mobil–for Stuttgart and surroundings. Duplicates the functionality of SSB Move (formerly Fahrinfo Stuttgart).
- Offi – Journey Planner. While it supports several countries, it’s most useful for DE/AT/CH.
- Qixxit–an interesting new app with amazing graphics!
Should I visit some other countries:
- SNCB/NMBS. Not only the trains in Belgium, but also buses and subway. The bad ratings are for the ticket purchasing system, not for the timetable.
- SNCF. It also knows of RER, buses…
- RATP (a 20 MB offline map can be downloaded, but for real-time info i.e. delays, a connection is needed), plus Next Stop Paris (a RATP app for tourists).
- Citymapper–apparently, the best app for London’s public transport, but it also supports some other major European cities.
- City Maps 2Go Offline Maps, by Ulmon GmbH. Especially for the offline maps. I’m not sure there is a need for the full Premium (5.99 €) edition.
- MAPS.ME – Map & GPS Navigation, by My.com B.V. It’s not that great e.g. for Germany, but it looks like it’s quite good for countries like Cuba, despite its rather small offline map (41 MB for Cuba)–so it’s good to have it at hand while abroad.
- OsmAnd Maps & GPS Navigation, by OsmAnd. Using OpenStreetMap and allowing offline maps (the free edition allows 7 downloads; beyond that, the Plus edition costs 6.99 €). I tested it for locations in Cuba (49 MB map), and it’s great!
5. Audio, Video, Photo: I’m not sure I need any of this added to the default system apps, but still…
- jetAudio HD Music Player, or the much better jetAudio HD Music Player Plus ($3.99 or 4.39 €).
- EZ Folder Player ($0.99)–for those who prefer strictly a folder and stop messing with “libraries” and crap.
- TrackID™ – Music Recognition, by Sony Mobile Communications. A 3rd opinion.
- SoundHound Music Search, or SoundHound ∞ Music Search ($5.99 or 5.49 €; I got it for $0.10)–because I don’t like Shazam.
- Shazam, or the full Shazam Encore ($5.59 or 4.79 €)–only as a backup.
- TrackID™ – Music Recognition, by Sony Mobile Communications. A 3rd opinion.
- Audio Recorder, by Sony Mobile Communications Tools. Better than my phone’s OEM app, and ad-free.
- The above app was my traditional choice, but now there’s a better one: Audio Recorder, “by gitlab.com/axet” (actually by Alexey Kuznetsov), open-sourced.
- Archos Video Player Free, or better Archos Video Player (4.99 €).
- MX Player, or better the ad-free MX Player Pro (6.00 €).
- Almalence’s A Better Camera. No need for A Better Camera Unlocked (now down to $0.99), because I unlocked all the features via IAP long ago.
- High-Speed Camera, or maybe High-Speed Camera Plus ($1.99), by HANTOR. Beware of homonymous apps!
6. E-Book readers: I could not settle for a unique app, because each of them has its pros and cons. Most such apps are stupid, as they want to import the books in their own folder, thus creating copies, instead of reading the file that’s already in the file system! Also, most apps have bad defaults (fonts, colors) and too complex settings. Oh, and not all of them can use the fonts embedded in an ePub. I have tried many other apps, even newer ones, and they suck even more.
- eReader Prestigio: Book Reader, by Prestigio. That’s rather new, but quite good and straightforward.
- PocketBook – PDF, EPUB reader, by Obreey Products. Excellent, with some quirks though.
- Aldiko Book Reader, or Aldiko Book Reader Premium ($4.99 or 5.49 €), by Aldiko Limited. It used to be cheaper ($3.79 or 2.99 €). And I still don’t like it.
- FBReader: Favorite Book Reader, or FBReader Premium – Book Reader (2,99 €), by FBReader.ORG Limited.
- Moon+ Reader, or Moon+ Reader Pro ($4.99 or 5.59 €), by Moon+. I used to like it, now I wonder why.
- Google Play Books, by Google Inc. I suppose one can’t remove the DRM for books purchased from Google, as they cannot be downloaded on PC, right? Still, the app got better.
Also to install:
Let’s add here also apps for comic strips and comic books:
- GoComics, by Andrews McMeel Universal. Everything GoComics. Too bad there’s no app for Comics Kingdom.
- Challenger Comics Viewer, by The Challenger. Because it supports not only CBZ/ZIP, CBR/RAR and PDF, but also reading individual images in a folder.
7. Dictionaries/Languages: This is a tough topic. People who know me well know I used to compare and to actually use dozens of dictionary apps; I’ve however simplified my life lately.
The mandatory English set developed by Antony Lewis, from WordWeb Software, Brighton, UK has a unique set of advantages. Beyond the high usability and lightness of the apps, the X-Ref features allows for a navigation between apps. The entries don’t only include the heading words, but also the idioms, so you don’t have to wonder at what entry to look for an expression (still, sometimes it won’t scroll correctly to the right expression, idiom or word). Also, the thesaurus app actually searches in the contents!
- Dictionary – WordWeb, by WordWeb Software. Uses the database from Princeton’s WordNet 3.1 plus additions from “years of independent development”—unlike other WordNet-based apps, it’s updated with some BrEn meanings (e.g. bedder meaning bedmaker). Some AmEn meanings have been added too (e.g. the prank meaning of wedgie, not present in WordNet). Other expansions are nice too, e.g. WordNet has 3 meanings for stew as a verb, but here we have 6, including the BrEn to brew tea for too long. Check the settings for the hidden powers of this great database (synonyms, antonyms, similar words, type of, part of, region-specific terms or meanings, etc.)! No audio pronunciations in the free edition. Unfortunately, it lacks the etymology database. Still, a must-have!
- Chambers Dictionary ($7.99 or 8.49 €; it used to cost as low as £3.99), by WordWeb Software. Initially based on The Chambers Dictionary, 12th Edition. Updated now to the 13th Edition (2014). Unfortunately, WordWeb Software doesn’t offer the so-called Concise edition—actually, Chambers 21st Century Dictionary—which has in print a more practical formatting and a few meanings missing from the “full dictionary”, such as keeper (to mean something worth keeping), lame duck (US meaning: official waiting for the elected successor to replace them). Note that in this dictionary some words are spelled with syllabication, e.g. commando is command’o, lookout is look’out, bedder is bed’der; still, the full word is correctly listed in the index. Special note: avoid at all costs the Chambers apps published by Paragon Software GmbH–read this review to understand why! But why is it that I love so much a “concise” dictionary? Mind you, this “full” Chambers dictionary is still concise in form, without example phrases. Well, for one, it includes many peculiar terms and expressions you won’t find in most other dictionaries. This goes from scientific terms and Latin expressions to whatever ancient spellings and meanings found in the Victorian novels. For other insights, read: Chamber Music; Chambers Dictionary Adds 1,000 ‘Totes Amazeballs’ New Words in Latest Edition; YOLO, Bitcoin and the bedroom tax: Chambers Dictionary adds 1,000 new definitions. Also of interest is the list of missing words (PDF) that was needed as a complement to the initial print of the 13th Edition.
- Chambers Thesaurus ($4.99 or 5.89 €), by WordWeb Software. Updated to Chambers Thesaurus, 5th edition (2015). Concise, but good value, with great notes at some entries. Also, the fact that it really searches into the content (and extremely fast at that!) allows you to find e.g. in the least as a synonym to at all, both being under the heading of any as an adverb. With a thesaurus from Oxford or Collins, you need to know that you must go to “any” to get either of “in the least” or “at all”!
More English (AmEn):
- Dictionary – M-W Premium ($2.99), by Merriam-Webster Inc. Actually “Merriam-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus,” as per the icon. Not the free edition, but fully offline and no ads. The contents is similar to what’s available online at www.m-w.com, namely the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition with–when available, but shown first–additional simpler definitions from an abridged Learner’s Dictionary on a light blue background, then the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, Second Edition; and some word games which I never cared about. Another peculiarity is that a dictionary entry usually has synonyms and antonyms at the end, so that the thesaurus is only useful to get “related words” and “near antonyms.” Not the best dictionary on Earth, but I purchased it for convenience.
Adding some Oxford value: whoever can afford to use an online database doesn’t even need to install the abandoned Oxford Dictionaries – Search app, because there’s a better way: just add a bookmark to en.oxforddictionaries.com and the English, US English and Thesaurus dictionaries will be accessible for free! The online dictionaries are the equivalent of the single-volume ODE (Oxford Dictionary of English; not “the big” OED) and NOAD (New Oxford American Dictionary), and the thesaurus is the concise one. Hint: once in a dictionary definition, make sure you expand the “+ More example sentences” and “+ Synonyms” (where available). Whoever prefers an app with offline databases should read below; the caveat is that the apps below only include “frozen” editions, without the new words that are only available online. Note that one is supposed to choose between an AmEn and a BrEn edition.
- New Oxford American Dictionary, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $14.99 (more expensive in euros). Quite often the definitions, examples and notes from this New Oxford American Dictionary (Third Edition), ©OUP 2010, 2012 are better than those from the British edition. ■ Oxford Dictionary of English, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $19.99 (more expensive in euros). It contains the Oxford Dictionary of English (Third Edition), ©OUP 2010, 2012.
- Concise Oxford American Thesaurus, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $7.49 (more expensive in euros). It features more or better usage notes than the British edition; it contains the excellent Concise Oxford American Thesaurus, ©OUP 2006. ■ Concise Oxford Thesaurus, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $7.49 (more expensive in euros). It contains the excellent Concise Oxford Thesaurus, ©OUP 2007.
- Oxford Dictionary of English and Concise Thesaurus, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $29.99 (more expensive in euros). It bundles the above British dictionary and thesaurus. ■ Note that in this case there isn’t any real AmEn counterpart: Oxford American Dictionary and Concise Thesaurus, by MobiSystems (also a trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $14.99, more expensive in euros), doesn’t bundle the sum of the above American dictionary and thesaurus, but it includes The Oxford American English Dictionary and Thesaurus (Second Edition), ©OUP 2009, which mixes the entries to create a strange product. It’s cheaper, but I don’t like it.
The contender alternative:
- Collins English Dictionary, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $19.99 (more expensive in euros). It includes the excellent Collins English Dictionary Complete & Unabridged 12th Ed., @HarperCollins 2014. Usually clear, straightforward definitions; also well-suited for AmEn. Typically, an entry will have more meanings than in the above Oxford dictionaries, although some of such meanings are so much related to each other that they could be seen as unnecessary; if I want an even larger number of meanings, I can go for Chambers, but I’d miss the examples.
- Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $29.99 (more expensive in euros). To the above dictionary is added the Collins Thesaurus of the English Language 3rd Ed., @HarperCollins 1995, 2002, 2006, 2008. While somewhat less valuable than the Oxford counterpart, this one includes more slang in the list of synonyms, both BrEn and AmEn.
- French Larousse dictionary / Dictionnaire Larousse français (4.99 €), by Editions Larousse. It includes full conjugations. Fully offline, except for the pronunciations (which are read by real humans). The same contents is available online, at Dictionnaire Français en ligne.
- Dictionnaire Le Robert Mobile (4.99 € + VAT), by SEJER. This is not Le Petit Robert, but Le Robert Illustré & Dixel 2015 without the illustrations, and with added language games. It can conjugate the verbs.
- French dictionary TLFi / Dictionnaire de français TLFi (1.59 €), by Samuel De Backer. Abandoned at version 1, it’s worth every single penny, being it only a well-filtered interface to the online “Trésor de la Langue Française Informatisé”. Needs an Internet connection to work. To consult TLFi using your browser, don’t use the primary ATILF link, but rather the more convenient one at CNRTL.fr.
- English-French dictionary (4.99 €), by Editions Larousse. Fully offline, except for the pronunciations (which are read by real humans). The same contents is available online, at Online dictionary English-French, or Dictionnaire Anglais-Français en ligne (there is a button to change the translation direction).
- Oxford French Dictionary, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $19.99 (more expensive in euros). It includes the Oxford Hachette French Dictionary 4th Ed., @OUP & Hachette Livre 2007, 2012. Translations to both BrEn and AmEn.
Note that I don’t recommend any Collins dictionary with French or German: not satisfactory enough.
German-English and German-French dictionaries: Additionally, you could bookmark de.Langenscheidt.com: the dictionaries in free access (somewhat better when paired with French than English) are quite nice.
- dict.cc dictionary, or the ad-free dict.cc+ dictionary (2.99 €), by Paul Hemetsberger. Both work offline! Instead of the app, you could instead access touch.dict.cc. Best paired with English.
- LEO dictionary, by Leo GmbH. Needs an Internet connection to work. Instead of the app, you could as well use the compact web interface at pda.leo.org. Good with both English and French.
- PONS Online Translator, by PONS. Poor name: it’s first and foremost an interface to a set of dictionaries, not a translator! Needs an Internet connection to work. One could as well just add a bookmark to de.PONS.com (it has a nice mobile version). Good with both English and French.
- PONS Wörterbuch Bibliothek / PONS Dictionary Library, by PONS (actually, by Paragon Software GmbH). A unique container for an entire set of 44 dictionaries that can be purchased individually, each of them with trial editions. A few of them are also available as separate apps! The best-value titles are: English-German ADVANCED (24.99 €; it was 19.99 € and I purchased it for 9.99 €), also as a separate app here; and French-German ADVANCED (24.99 €; it was 19.99 €), also as a separate app here. Hint: the option to download the optional audio modules is hidden in each dictionary under Settings, Components (hide the keyboard first).
- Oxford German Dictionary, by MobiSystems. This is the trial app, you’ll purchase the full edition as IAP, for $19.99 (more expensive in euros). It includes the Oxford German Dictionary 3rd Ed., @OUP 2008, 2012.
- Dictionnaire allemand-français (4.99 €), by Editions Larousse. Fully offline, except for the pronunciations (which are read by real humans). It includes the full conjugation of the German verbs! Some hiccups though, e.g. for bezahlen you should look at zahlen; no conjugation for essen, entschließen, glauben; sitzen actually conjugates sitzen lassen; stehen conjugates stehen bleiben; etc. The same contents is available online, at Dictionnaire Allemand-Français en ligne (there is a button to change the translation direction).
- Dictionary Linguee, by Linguee GmbH. With context translations (online), which are its forte, mostly for the German-English pair.
With a pretty good value in learning German, some apps by Compos Apps S.L: 14000 German verbs (with translations in several languages and examples), Deutsche Grammatik. Most similar apps are error-ridden, especially those with exercises and tests.
Other language apps:
- Translator, by Microsoft Corporation. Usually better than Google Translate in many regards.
- hallo.ro Dictionary, by hallo.ro. Interface to hallo.ro: Romanian paired with English, French, German, Spanish, Italian.
- DEX pentru Android, by Adrian Vintu. Interface to dexonline.ro. Also offline.
8. News/Media: I don’t use any RSS readers anymore–I don’t subscribe to any feeds to follow e.g. blogs (I know, this is a bit strange when coming from someone who used to blog a lot in the past…). I take most of my news from Twitter, but when I feel like doing it I still use some “personalized news aggregators” and other news apps.
Personalized news aggregators:
- Flipboard, despite being a mess. I used to prefer an excellent app called Zite, but it was bought and killed by Flipboard. Note that News Republic has become crappy as hell, and News360 got worse too (no matter my phone is in English, it only offers me news in German because I am in Germany!), so what’s left?
- feedly–for choosing from their selection of news sources.
- Inoreader–again, for choosing from their own catalog.
Newspapers and mainstream news sources (I subscribed to Twitter feeds of many newspapers, but I still like a few apps):
- BBC News (this is the International edition; there’s also a UK edition).
- The Washington Post–fabulous app, excellent contents.
- USA TODAY.
- Le Figaro. Great contents.
- Le Monde, plus La Matinale du Monde.
- SZ.de – Nachrichten. Süddeutsche Zeitung online.
- F.A.Z. Der Tag – Nachrichten. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung online.
Most importantly, I need to be able to save the links! Therefore…
- Pocket, by Read It Later–the unavoidable tool!
TV channels–mostly in French:
- FRANCE 24–the pathetic thing is that their stream are hosted by YouTube.
- CNEWS–formerly “i>TELE” (I-Télé). The change of name occurred on Feb. 27, 2017.
- BFMTV : l’info en continu.
- ARTE–this one, not for the news!
9. Internet Radio: This is a very important category to me, as I am a fan of the radio. So there are apps that offer the streams of radio stations that are otherwise available in FM/DAB+, but there are also apps that offer streams of channels that are only available on the Internet (there are stations with one FM channel and several more online-only). And there is more.
- Deezer–not because it’s French, but because I like it much more than the app everyone else is liking!
- Spotify Music–that’s what everyone else is liking…
Online-only (so technically “not radio” either):
- Classical Radio, JAZZ RADIO, Radio Tunes (formerly SKY.FM) and Rock Radio, all by Digitally Imported Inc (formerly AudioAddict Inc). Dozens of channels for each app!
- AccuRadio–last updated mid-2015. I hope it won’t die!
- 1.FM Online Radio.
“Universal apps” that play most of the available streams:
- TuneIn Radio, or TuneIn Radio Pro ($9.99 or 10.79 €; it was $3.99). It doesn’t know all the stations though…
- radio.net (aka radio.de, radio.fr, etc.), or the ad-free radio.net PRIME (2.99 €; it was $0.99 or 0.79 €). The alternative to the above app.
Sui generis apps:
- Les Indés Radio–a great concept! “Le mur du son” permet de visualiser et d’écouter les titres en cours de diffusion sur 132 radios FM indépendantes de France et 200 webradios. This allowed me to discover many non-affiliated French stations (see the SPECIAL NOTES at the end of the Internet Radio section). One design weakness of this app is that if a station has e.g. 1 FM channel and 8 extra (web-only) channels, one has to look in two places–the station section in the web radios will lack the FM channel.
- Allzic Radio and Allzik Radio, both official and from 2015. The second one (Allzik) only shows the original Allzic Radio channels, whereas the “correct” one (Allzic) also add lots of 3rd-party radios, more like the “universal apps” above.
- Radiooooo. Original concept: pick a country, pick a decade, and enjoy… a limited collection of music.
Apps that extend the FM streams sometimes with dozens of channels:
- Jazz Radio (the French one by EG Digital).
- Nostalgie Radios, and Chérie FM Radios, both by NRJ-Audio (France). Over 50 channels!
- Nostalgie–the Belgian one.
- MFM Radio chansons francaises.
- Rouge Music. Rouge FM Suisse–with almost 50 channels! App from 2015, still works fine.
- OÜI FM. A few rock channels.
- franceinfo, a revamped app, now by France Télévisions, but it’s the radio I am interested in.
- Radio France (all channels), with extras in the separate france inter, France Culture, France Musique, FIP, Mouv’ and Radio France Podcast.
- Europe 1.
- Radios Info France–an ugly, yet brilliant app: quick access (12 buttons!) to the live streams and podcasts of 6 stations: France Inter, France Info, France Culture, RTL, Europe 1, RMC.
Focus on (South-West) Germany:
- DLF24–only Deutschlandfunk; for Deutschlandradio Kultur and DRadio Wissen there is Das DRadio, abandoned in March 2015 (which still works though).
- SWR1 BW, SWR2, SWR3, SWR4 BW, SWR Aktuell (the new app for SWRinfo).
- Not in my Land, but I liked the app: WDR (all channels); some nice extras in WDR 2.
- DIE NEUE 107.7 – Radio (the new app, not the old one). Some extra channels.
- antenne 1 (the new app, not the old one). Some extra channels (e.g. 80s, 90s).
- ANTENNE BAYERN and ROCK ANTENNE. Extra channels.
- Klassik Radio (the new one, not the old one).
“Fixes” for a few countries:
- BBC iPlayer Radio. To my surprise, all channels work outside UK too! (BBC’s iPlayer TV channels don’t.)
- UK Radio Streamer. E.g. for Absolute Radio (7 channels)–as the official app can’t be installed outside the UK.
- Swiss Internet Radio. I’m using it mostly for some swissradio.ch channels (Swissradio Classical: Public Domain Classical; Swissradio Jazz&Swing: Public Domain Jazz; Swissradio Modern Jazz), Radio Jazz International, Radio Souvenir…
- Radio Swiss Classic, Radio Swiss Jazz and Radio Swiss Pop, by Swiss Satellite Radio. Actually, if not available in FM, they’re on DAB+ in Switzerland.
- radioplayer.de – Die Radio App. It seems to really include all the radio stations in Germany!
Podcast apps: Not counting those from Radio France (see above), there is a huge informational and cultural value in a great number of US and UK podcasts–if only life were longer… Normally, one shouldn’t need more than one app, but as I don’t spend much time with podcasts, I prefer to explore and discover something else every now and then, and different apps come in useful.
- Podkicker Pro (1.89 €; I got it for 7 SEK, about 0.74 €), and there’s also a free Podkicker Podcast Player. The UI is dated though.
- Podcast Player – Free (the icon reads: Podcast FM). Misleading name, great app!
- Podcast & Radio Addict. Everyone seems to like this app more than I do… I wonder why. It actually has a huge directory of podcasts!
- Pocket Casts (2.99 €). No free edition, but very decent.
SPECIAL NOTES: No “universal app” can know of all the radio stations on Earth, and even if they would, sometimes a dedicated app offers a few extra features or better ergonomics. Also, for Web radios that have 5, 24, 30, or even 1000+ channels, not all such channels are known to 3rd-party apps. Nonetheless, such apps eliminate the need to install stupid apps for individual stations with no extras (such as TSF JAZZ or Radio Classique). As I hinted at one app, the most important virtue of the non-dedicated apps–and especially Les Indés Radio–is that they helped me discover new stations, and they provided a source of streams for stations that have no dedicated app for Android. What I search for in the multi-station apps:
- Niche stations with French oldies, such as: RDL, TFM, RadioSouvenir.com, Radio Montmartre, Radio Douce France, etc.
- Multi-channel French stations that have poor apps or no app at all, such as: Chante France (6 channels), Forum (8 channels), Vibration (9 channels), 100% Radio, M2 (13 channels), etc.
- The fabulous Belgian Classic 21 and its extra Web channels (7, but from the 8 radios, usually 4 are easy to find: Classic 21 RTBF 93.2 FM; Classic 21 60s; Classic 21 70s aka Les classiques; Classic 21 80s).
- The four stations Classic & Jazz, Soul & Funk, Smooth & Relax, Chic & Frenchy.
- The channels of JazzRadio.fr, MFM, OÜI FM, Allzic and some others that have dedicated apps are also available in their entirety in Les Indés Radio.
- The aforementioned swissradio.ch channels (especially Public Domain Classical and Public Domain Jazz).
…and much more, depending on my mood.
10. Games: No, no, no: not that kind of games. On a smartphone, I’d rather use a few logical games, and even then… I’ve tried a lot–and enjoyed some of them–but then I decided I’m not into games anyway, so I prefer to keep installed certain game apps just in case I’ll feel like using them when stranded somewhere or otherwise in need to spend some time this way.
Chess and GO:
- Chess Genius (£3.00), because the free edition has severe limitations.
- Peter Österlund’s DroidFish Chess, for it was the first Android chess app I’ve ever used.
- Mobialia Chess (2.99 €), for the extra features, including chess problems. The free edition has annoying ads.
- AI Factory’s Chess ($0.99), as the free edition has ads.
- Chess, by cnvcs.com. Unknown engine, but playable. 38,000+ chess puzzles.
- Chess – Play & Learn, in the hope I’ll ever have the time to play on Chess.com.
- Asim Pereira’s Follow Chess, for live chess games from international tournaments.
- Andreas Grothe’s Godroid, despite being abandoned. It uses the GNU Go engine.
- AI Factory’s Go ($2.99), as the free edition has ads.
- The most expensive Go-playing app, Crazy Stone Deep Learning (16.99 €), or the cheaper Champion Go ～Crazy Stone～ (3.80 €), both by UNBALANCE Corporation–by Rémi Coulom, actually.
- Tsumego Pro (Go Problems), by LR Studios.
- Hactar Go Lite, or maybe Hactar Go ($2.99 / 3.09 €), by Lauri Paatero. For the problems.
- Igo Kids Problem, by INO. GO problems for beginners, not necessarily kids.
Some logic games and puzzles–the very few I still care about:
- Abandoned, but still working: Unblock Car Free (10 as tutorial, then 1750 puzzles), or the identical-looking, yet more generous Parking Car (10 as tutorial, then 2950 puzzles), by Freedom Recyle. Both read “Car Unblock” on the splash screen. Possibly the best Rush Hour clone. The second one allows you to start from the first puzzle of each set, e.g. you can start at 601, whereas in the first one you should start from the beginning. Ads at the bottom.
- Unblock Car (3000 puzzles), by Mouse Games. Another Rush Hour clone. Even the easy level start rather abruptly. Cars exit through the left, not right!
- Exponenta’s Move the Box (ua.co.cts.sideup) and Move the Box: Continents (com.bitchingames.movethebox)–which has now replaced the discontinued Pro (ua.co.cts.movethebox) edition. Unfortunately, the same 192 puzzles.
- Pyrosphere’s Lazors–an ad-free classic.
- Laser Box – Puzzle, Laser Box – Winter, and Ultimate Laser Box ($2.90), by South-Media.
- Thermometers Puzzles, by Frozax Games.
- Sokoban Garden 3D, by Kivano, for the excellent graphics and puzzles!
- Pinball Deluxe or the ad-free Pinball Deluxe Premium ($2.99), and Pinball Deluxe: Reloaded (Beta), all by GreenCod Apps.
11. Productivity: No Evernote, Wunderlist, Any.do, Out of Milk, or other such crap on my smartphone!
- aCalendar – Android Calendar, or aCalendar+ Calendar & Tasks (3.99 €). The only 3rd-party calendar worth the money! The widget seems to have issues, but the app is top!
- Google Keep. Yes, it’s a fundamental app!
- I’m also syncing my OneNote notes.
- Microsoft Outlook–because I have an Outlook.com account, and I need to access its calendar too. I can read my Yahoo! Mail in the same app.
- Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel–yup, no more of Kingsoft’s WPS Office, no more Polaris Office! As for PDFs, I add Adobe Acrobat Reader (despite having PDF-reading capabilities in e-book readers) because it can reflow the text in the “Reading Mode.”
12. Tools and Utilities: Very few tools, actually; and I couldn’t even make my mind on a calculator, because I like two of them, both having the classic look of a physical one!
- Quartic Software’s excellent RealCalc Scientific Calculator, or maybe RealCalc Plus (2.99 €) for a 12-digit display and greater internal precision. Both support RPN.
- CalcTastic’s Scientific Calculator, or Scientific Calculator Plus ($0.99).
- Unit Converter, or the ad-free Unit Converter Pro (1.50 €), by Smart Tools co. Only the essential everyday units. I couldn’t find a comprehensive converted app with decent usability, so I gave up, after having tried more than a dozen–they’re all full of crap: either too many useless non-conversions (powers of 10), or missing units (e.g. mmHg), and when there are too many categories it takes too much to find what you need.
- One Unit Converter & Currency, by AuxWave. To contradict myself, I just discovered this one, and it looks just fine; too bad there’s no ad-free edition.
- UUCMobile’s Unit Converter or the ad-free Unit Converter Pro (1.50 €) is also a good choice for those who want lots of units.
- Barcode Scanner, by ZXing Team. The original–the first one I’ve ever tried. As a backup though, QR Droid Private™, by DroidLa.
13. System Utilities: Since I stopped rooting my phones, this section has been reduced to the bare minimum.
Security and cleaning–these are actually two distinct types of software, but the Chinese like to mix them. While the results weren’t that bad some time ago, I feel now fed up with overlapping apps such as Clean Master, CM Security, CM Security Lite, 360 Security, 360 Security Lite. Several other cleaners are pure crap, and so are the various battery utilities. As of 2017 I decided to go for:
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free, as it’s simple and straightforward. I don’t need any extra features, except that I’d like to be able to scan an APK file from a file manager.
- Panda Free Antivirus–despite not being the best AV on Windows, I use it on Android to scan an APK before installing it (I told the file manager to open an APK with Panda instead of Package Installer; Bitdefender wasn’t in the list).
- Darken’s SD Maid – System cleaning tool, with SD Maid Pro – Unlocker (2.96 €). A must-have!
EDIT: Maybe I should have reconsidered my AV choice since AV-Comparatives released their Android Test 2017, in which they tested 110 security apps (many of them being bogus). Against 1,000 malicious APKs, most big names have scored 100.0% (a score which I distrust), and two Chinese are included here (Baidu DU Apps, Cheetah Mobile), while Qihoo 360 only scored 99.8%. Failures include famous names such as: Malwarebytes (96.0%), Panda (95.1%), Lookout (92.2%), Zemana (88.8%), ZONER (83.9%), COMODO (70.6%), Trustlook (61.4%), NQ (48.1%). Their testing procedure included launching the apps, but to my knowledge no Android AV checks an app upon start, but only statically. I am however not satisfied with their extremely limited check against false positives: 50 clean APKs or “popular” apps. I have encountered ridiculous FPs from major names, but I am using many more apps than those from “Top 50” and I also had a few Chinese system apps in Huawei and Wiko… Either way, AV-Comparatives also failed to state which free apps were tested, or whether the “freemium” ones were tested in the free or in the paid version. As I was trying to reconsider a few former preferred free choices, I noticed I don’t have much choice: Avast is slow, bloated, a RAM hog, and it constantly bothers the user with stupid ads, requests to subscribe and to install their other apps; and from the other free apps, I never liked anything much–except maybe for TrustGo (99.8% in this test). Info: while TrustGo is registered in Santa Clara, California, they’re actually Chinese; the founder graduated in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, with a Master at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, and the company’s TOC points to an e-mail at 163.com, which is a Chinese site! Beyond that, it doesn’t offer to scan an APK from a file manager, so…
Here’s AVG falsely flagging two system apps in a Wiko Robby (indeed, AV-Comparatives have no clue on how to test against FPs):
File managers: after having tried too many of them… I still couldn’t settle for a single one!
- File Explorer, by NextApp, Inc., with the Plus Add-On ($1.99 / 2.08 €) unlocker. It includes a text editor.
- Solid Explorer File Manager, by NeatBytes–with IAP unlocking (it’s a 14-day trial); the license is per IMEI.
Cloud storage: because Google Drive is crappy (people have lost files because of the app!)…
- Microsoft OneDrive–I only have 30 GB though.
- Tresorit–a less-known service; I am lucky to have 52.5 GB for free!
Keyboards–I’m still using Google’s keyboad (now called Gboard), despite having used for some time the ones below, for which I paid:
- SwiftKey Keyboard (purchased when it wasn’t free), because it can show predictions from several languages simultaneously. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 3 languages, while I need 4.
- GO Keyboard (I removed the ads at a promotional price), despite not liking anything else from them. Should you want to learn Chinese, this is the keyboard of choice!
- Shawn Q’s Quick System Info PRO, or Quick System Info PRE ($2.99 / 3.34 €).
- Purchased Apps, by azEf. For those who have bought apps using more than one Google account and forgot “which app is in which account”!
- App Backup and Restore, by Apex Apps. Despite the new icon and GUI, this is the original app by Infolife, not an app by Trust Lab which is a ripoff of the old one, with the well-known GUI and icon!
- TeslaCoil’s Nova Launcher, with Nova Launcher Prime (purchased when it was $0.99 / 0.50 €, not $4.99 / 5.25 €) and TeslaUnread.
- GPS Test, by Chartcross Limited Tools–the classic one! Possibly also GPS Status & Toolbox, by MobiWIA.
- Free Adblocker Browser, by Rocketshield, Inc. Yes, it’s Chinese. Yes, it doesn’t block much… but this is the best option for some movie-streaming sites, as in some cases pop-ups need to be displayed before the real link shows up or before a movie can play. Should I use Firefox with Adblock Plus, AbBlock or uBlock Origin, it would block too much. Besides, Firefox for Android is sometimes very slow to open a page. Otherwise, I can use the preinstalled Chrome.
- Is it worth to waste my time with Reddit? I’m not so sure, but while I was playing with several 3rd-party apps, Reddit: The Official App got very much improved.
- TED. Given what has become of TED/TEDx conferences, I’m not sure I still like the unverified claims disseminated by such self-proclaimed illuminati, but still…
- Ina.fr. The app sucks, and I suspect it’s a glorified embedded browser, but I’m using it to explore the archives.
- FilmOn Free Live TV, by FOTV Media Networks Inc. Beware of the identically looking apps; although most of them are released by the same FOTV Media Networks Inc. in order to increase their visibility (e.g. this one is legit and in the same version), some of them might be fake! To make sure you install the latest official one, you can also use the link from their website. Oh, I’m using it to watch the British ITV channels. Not tested with Chromecast or whatever crap are other people using.
- Noisli ($1.99, I’ve got it for 0.10 €). 206 MB in the internal storage! I’m not sure whether this app is better to “improve focus and boost productivity with background noise” or to relax and fall asleep. TaoMix – Focus, sleep, relax is technically much better and with many more sounds to choose from (unlock them via $1.49 or 1.59 € IAP), but the UI annoys me. Then I discovered the free Tide, which is not bad, yet not very customizable and built with the 25-min Pomodoro technique in mind (hint: swipe left to switch between Night, Rain, Forest, Muse and Café).
- While binaural beats are a disputed concept, it can help sometimes. Google Play Store is full of copies of Giorgio Regni’s original Binaural Beats Therapy (because he open-sourced it on github); his note (“*** This is the original open source Binaural Beats Therapy *** All other versions in the market are copies and could be malicious.”) is correct: there are lots of equally ugly apps that only add advertisement, or a price tag, or whatnot; the only other honest app is Binaural Beats “by gitlab.com/axet” (actually by Alexey Kuznetsov), which is also open-sourced on github. This last app features the exact same presets as the original app, in a clean, modern UI. Excellent!
- Although I initially dismissed the “blue light filter” apps, I discovered I got a bit accustomed to my Acer’s Bluelight Shield™ OEM app; some Acer Iconia Tab 10 tablets have a similar app. Beware that non-OEM Android apps don’t work the same way as Acer’s: in Acer’s case, the color alteration happens in the hardware–screenshots are not affected, only your eye sees a more greenish color temperature! When I use Twilight by Urbanoid Team, or Blue Light Filter – Night Mode by Leap Fitness Group, the color temperature is a result of a software overlay filter, and this can conflict with other apps in Android 6.0 (there are specific permissions to be enabled for such “blue light filter” apps in Settings, Accessibility, for they to know when the user interacts with buttons in other apps and automatically disable the screen filter). There are many crappy apps in this category, so I only recommend the above two titles. (And I still don’t understand why Acer protects against blue by using green, while everybody else uses red or orange! I like 2975 K at 20% in Twilight.) As you can see, being at the software level instead of the hardware (IPS-LCD/AMOLED) level, the filter changes the screenshot too: