This time around, we have some real gems for you, but there are thousands of other apps out there that might fit the bill. Feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a note on Twitter if you know a good app that should be featured in this series.
In the meantime, here are five great Android apps you should check out right away.
Most users don’t realize this, but the lock screen is one of Android’s greatest and most powerful assets.
On the iPhone, the lock screen displays a phone, the time, the date and a list of notifications. All of that information is useful, of course, but what if there is other information that might be even more useful to some users?
That’s the beauty of Android.
Maybe I want to see recent tweets on my lock screen. Maybe you want shortcuts to certain apps. Maybe your friend Billy wants his Facebook news feed. Maybe Billy’s sister Molly wants her friends’ Flickr photos.
The lock screen is the first thing you see each time you turn your phone on, and it should display exactly what you want it to display.
There are a number of Android apps that give users more control over their lock screens, and one of my favorites is Start.
Start is a complete reimagining of the lock screen, rather than a widget or a skin. It transforms the start screen on your device from a simple lock screen to a hub with up to 24 app shortcuts and a wide range of data from services like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and plenty more.
Here’s a quick feature list:
Enjoy excellent performance with no delays
Easily launch up to 24 apps of your choice or just let our smart algorithm set it automatically for you
On Screen quick access configuration with a long press
Stream your social media feeds with a single swipe
Launch the camera and any related app
Call/text/email your friends and family without unlocking your phone
Get your favorite content from hundreds of sources
Select your favorite theme or use your own personal picture as a background
Chose and configure our widgets e.g. date, time and battery meter
Switch between ring/vibrate/mute and unlock your phone with cool sliders
Start is completely free in Google’s Play store. Of note, the image at the top of this post shows an upcoming new version of Start that is currently in closed beta.
Dragon Mobile Assistant
Siri is a great service for many users, but what if there’s an even better option out there?
There are a few other voice assistant services out there for iOS devices, but they’re all just normal apps. If you want to use one, you have to launch the app. It can do a few things in the background in order to enhance your experience, but not to the extent that Siri can.
On Android, it’s a different story.
Google Now is wonderful, but what if there’s something even more wonderful available? Well, on Android, you can install the voice assistant of your choice and it can take over your phone and offer functionality that is just as versatile as Google Now.
One voice assistant app worth checking out is Dragon Mobile Assistant.
Created by Nuance Communications, one of the many companies Apple partnered with to create Siri, Dragon Mobile Assistant is a similar personal assistant that can answer questions and do your bidding.
Best of all, it can replace Google Now on your phone so it’s always running and always available. Just swipe up from the bottom of your screen and instead of getting Google Now, you’ll open Dragon.
Here’s a quick video that shows off some key features:
Dragon Mobile Assistant is a free download from the Google Play store.
Ahh, widgets. Android has them, iOS doesn’t.
Widgets have an upside and a downside, the former being limitless functionality enhancements and the latter being battery drain. Ask most Android users and they’ll tell you that the pros far outweigh the cons.
HD Widgets is a fantastic example of an app that adds wonderfully designed widgets to your smartphone or tablet that are fully customizable and very flexible. In fact, you can even download additional add-ons and themes for HD Widgets from the Play store.
As-is, however, HD Widgets makes more than 100 gorgeous widgets available on your device that display the time, date, current weather, forecast, utility controls and plenty more. There are also tons of different designs and sizes available.
HD Widgets costs $1.99 on Google Play, and there are plenty of free add-ons to enhance it.
Agent is an app that features functionality every smartphone should have right out of the box.
In a nutshell, Agent is a great app that makes your smartphone smarter. The software features five different “agents” that are designed to automate and improve various aspects of your smartphone experience.
From the app’s description:
★ Drive Agent is triggered by bluetooth and motion sensing (activity detection). It can be configured to read SMS messages aloud, respond with voice, auto respond to texters and callers to let them know you’re driving (editable message) & only respond to your own hand-picked list
★ Battery Agent triggers at a percentage you choose. It helps conserve battery by giving you the option to turn off bluetooth, dim your screen and reverts back to normal settings automatically when you charge your phone. Will also let you know how much battery it saved you.
★ Parking Agent remembers where you parked, based off your speed or bluetooth connection. Will remember your last five parking spots
★Meeting Agent syncs with your calendar to silence/ put your phone on vibrate when you don’t want to be disturbed. It can be configured to activate for busy events only, gives you the ability to specify your working week so that it only syncs with your calendar on days and times you prefer, works with shared calendars and auto responds to selected contacts during these “busy” events.
★ Sleep Agent will silence your phone automatically when you go to sleep. You can configure sleep times for different days of the week, minutes of inactivity before activating, auto response to selected callers and texters during your sleeping hours, list of contacts that can wake you & Bluetooth, autosync, wifi and mobile data deactivation.
The best part? Agent is completely free in the Android app store.
Smart IR Remote
There are 1,000 different remote apps for iOS that let users control 1,000 different devices. How about one app that let’s you control 700,000 different devices?
Smart IR Remote is a terrific app for any android device with a built-in infrared blaster. Examples include what are likely the two best Android phones in the world right now: The Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8).
Once you’ve got the blaster, you’re good to go. Smart IR Remote can control any device in its data base, which includes more than 700,000 devices. It also supports air gestures, macros, widgets, combining remotes, “floating remotes” that can can remain available on every screen when the app is closed, and plenty more.
And with the HTC One (M8) and some other devices, there is also a learning function that allows you to program custom buttons (or completely custom remotes).
Smart IR Remote is $6.99 in the Google Play store, which is much cheaper than any universal remote on the market.