My Top 20 Gotta-Have, Always-Use Android Apps (Videos Included!)

Image from Video "Use Web Pages Offline with Pocket.."

(from Video “Use Web Pages Offline with Pocket…”)

Did Santa bring you a new tablet? Are you overwhelmed by the mountain of apps available? I’ve had my trusty Asus Transformer for nearly two years and I’ve learned that the phrase “There’s an app for that…” can lead to wasted time and tablet storage space. Yep… apps are often free & easy to get — too easy!

In fact having too many apps can be a real drain on your productivity, since each of them is an attractive little distraction all its own. Worse, if you get too many of them chugging at once in the background, they can slow your tablet to a crawl.

A few months ago my tablet had become so bloated and app-filled that  it was continually slowing down, freezing up and even crashing! That’s when I decided to do a complete factory reset and start all over.  With a fresh, clean slate I resolved to re-install only a handful of the most important apps. And I’m glad I did! Today, my aging Transformer flies quickly from chore to chore and never stalls or crashes.

So which apps did I rate as “top priority?” The list is below, along with links to video overviews of some. And these aren’t all Android-exclusive apps. Most of these have versions that will run on your iPad, iPhone, or not-fully Android device such as a Kindle. Enjoy!


  • Gmail — This is simply the best email manager available. It’s GREAT at keeping out spam, sorting email into categories and handling threaded conversations. I forward all my other email accounts to my Gmail account. And it runs on all tablets, smartphones and computers.
  • Quick Office — Allows you to break out of Microsoft’s Office… and take your documents with you! It allows you to create & edit Microsoft documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.).
  • Google Drive — With Drive you can store anything in your free, 15 GB personal cloud, then access it from anywhere. I often share links to Drive folders or files with colleagues so we can collaborate. Works great with Quick Office & Gmail (above).
  • Evernote — Stash everything important (web pages, images, ideas, etc.) in Evernote’s cloud, then access all your notes on any device. It allows sharing via links & much more. I made these videos to help you learn more about this incredible, top-rated app:

  • Google Voice – You can use your free Google voice account and Google-supplied phone number to send & receive free texts, make free calls from any telephone, receive voice mail from callers and have it translated to email, etc. Pair it with GrooVe IP Lite and you will turn your tablet or smartphone into a wi-fi telephone to make free voice calls.

Personal Productivity

  • Chrome Browser — The best, safest, fastest browser on your computer now runs on all devices and syncs your bookmarks, web history, etc.  The choice of pros!
  • SwiftKey Keyboard — In addition to its original split keyboard, this app now has an “un-dockable” pair of thumb keyboards that you can move anywhere on the screen while you’re typing, so you can get the keyboard out of the way of those blank fields your trying to fill in. You can change themes, keypad sizes, spacing, and more. Behind the scenes, SwiftKey uses advanced AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms to “learn” how you work, what you type, etc. Then it saves you thousands of keystrokes by suggesting whole words you can tap & select as you begin typing any word.
  • Wunderlist — Wunderlist let’s you manage and share any kind of list (to-do, inventory, shopping lists, etc.) with anyone. You can access your lists from any device. My wife and I use it to synchronize our shopping lists and make shopping trips more efficient. The latest version lets you attach files to list items, add images & URLs, set due dates, reminders, and more. Incredible!
  • Package Buddy — Package Buddy is a clean, simple package tracking app. Very fast & accurate updating for postal service, Fed-X, UPS, and all other world-wide package delivery services.
  • Google Maps — Google Maps is simply the best mapping app available. But then you know that, don’t you? If you need convincing, go here for an introduction:

Recreation & Relaxation

  • Kobo and Aldiko readers — These are both excellent e-readers with built-in connections to lots of free e-book collections. I use Kobo for nice looking pages and an smooth reading experience with animations, etc. I use Aldiko for great handling of PDFs, such as bus schedules, technical documents, etc. and for pulling in my own *.epub books from free sources all over the web.
  • FBReader & FBReader TTS Plugin — FBReader with its TTS (text to speech) Plugin uses the soft and soothing voice of my IVONA Kendra TTS engine to read books aloud to me! And the FBReader app is connected to HUGE collections of free books from all over the world. So if I don’t feel like reading (or I’m on a bouncing bus or train… car sickness, anyone?), I just sit back and let FBReader read the book to me through my headphones. Love it! (Note: It can be a bit complicated to set all this up, so I’ll be doing a video on this in the future. Stay tuned!)
  • Pocket — So let’s say your busy working and you stumble across a great web article or web page but don’t have time to read it now. You can stash it in your Pocket and read it later, offline, on your tablet or smartphone. Better yet, you can sit back and have Pocket read the article aloud to you via your headphones! I am so impressed by Pocket that I did a video about it:

  • OverDrive and Zinio — Why buy books, when you can use OverDrive to download them from your public library for a couple of weeks for FREE? And why buy magazines, when you can use Zinio to download them, read them, and even KEEP THEM FOREVER on your tablet or smart phone? The video below shows you how to set up and use both of these powerful apps to get TONS of reading material from one — or many more — free public libraries!

  • Relax and Sleep — This cool little app comes with a whole bunch of relaxing sounds such as crickets, birds, babbling brooks, rain showers, crackling fire, ocean waves, chanting monks, etc. You can mix and match these sounds, adjusting the volume of each individually and then save your custom-mixed collection to play later. I use it to help me meditate in a noisy environment or fall asleep to my own, custom-made peaceful soundscape. Try it. It works!


So there you have it. These are the apps I would fight to keep! And by removing those “always updating” apps, such as weather or news apps, I’ve found my tablet is faster and never freezes.  (Besides, I can get all the news and weather I need by clicking on a bookmarked page on my Chrome browser when I’m ready for it. Who needs an app churning away all the time in the background, sucking bandwidth?)

How about you? What are your top gotta-have, always-use apps?


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