Reddit's Top Android Apps Of 2014 In GIFs
It's December again, and you know what that means: 'tis the season for Best Of The Year lists, and reddit is no exception. Dismayed by the lackluster choices from Google (Buzzfeed? really?), r/Android's currently quibbling over its own favorite apps of 2014 in a thread from cameronbates1.
General tendencies include lightweight/minimalist functionality, material design, and a rejection of any cajoling from the big boys (Apple/Google).
Here's the top voted apps thus far in no particular order, most of 'em in GIF format because yes. Updates as they happen.
One big caveat: plenty of the apps in this list were released before 2014.
To be honest with you, I've never been much into launchers. The stock Google launcher that comes with the Nexus has always seemed clean and balanced to me. Then I installed Nova Launcher, and I haven't been able to stop flicking back and forth through my screens ever since.
It's a stock-like launcher, meaning it conserves all the good aspects of the standard setup (no learning a new system from scratch), plus includes way more clever gestures and customization options. Even just the ability to decide how to arrange icons on the screen feels worth giving it a go.
Note that the general consensus has it that Nova Launcher Prime is worth shelling out for. One cool difference: you can set swiping up on an app icon (rather than tapping it) to directly result in an action, meaning that each icon has two immediate functions right on your homescreen.
Pocket Casts is the best looking podcast app, bar none. It's beautiful, responsive, and chock-full of shows that make you yearn for a longer commute (... maybe). Everything functions just like you want it to - automatic downloads of your favorites, discovery by trends/category, crisp and clear sound quality - plus the support team is top-notch.
The three heads of Cerberus turn out to be better than one after all - this all-in-one anti-theft app is still considered the best on the market. Set the app to snap a photo whenever a wrong unlock code is entered or a user dismisses a Cerberus message. Keep track of the phone's location history. One of the coolest features: control Cerberus remotely via SMS, allowing you to wipe the device clean if it's ever lifted.
Trying out the app for a week is free. After that, you'll have to pay 2.99€ just once for a lifetime licence.
If you're less than thrilled with the Google photo gallery being the new default in Lollipop, QuickPic is your solution. A minimalist photo organization app that offers clean browsing options so that you can find the photos you want, fast. A small editor (resizing, cropping, rotating) is included. Light as a feather, too.
Timely Alarm Clock
As far as I'm concerned, Timely Alarm Clock is the end-all be-all of clock apps. Duh, it's beautiful, but it's also incredibly well designed, including small brilliant details (like shrinking snooze duration) that you quickly won't be able to do without.
Reddit News preserves the community feel of the web version, making it easy to get lost for countless hours within your preferred weirdo subreddits (r/youtubehaiku is my own personal kryptonite). It's super simple to flip between content and comments. Parent comments stay visible, meaning you have more of a context for the conversation. Plus, the material design UI is top-notch; it's comfortable and fast to navigate.
A gripe: it hasn't been updated in well over six months. But hey, it works smoothly for just about everyone.
Duet came in a respectable number 18 on Reddit's Top 25 Favorite Android Games for Summer 2014. Here's what I wrote about it then:
One of the major perks of this job is coming across games like Duet. I couldn't stop trying to describe the experience to friends: "It's like, you're controlling a circle with two dots, okay? They're always equidistant from each other, and you can only rotate the circle clockwise and counterclockwise. And the circle is always moving upwards towards oncoming obstacles, so you have to think about circular motion and precise timing in order not to splat against the walls. If you do splat, then you'll splash paint all over, which stays there and accumulates as you fail again and again. And there's a ladybot voice that soothingly provides you non-instructions, also. And the evolving electronic beats perfectly straddle the line between zen and high-stress. And it's the most amazing simple concept I've seen in a long time."
A better way to describe Duet: I constantly smiled IRL. It's charmingly elegant and unlike anything else I've ever seen.
Waze is a crowdsourced traffic and navigation app. Waze users appear in realtime on the map, and anyone can post public alerts of traffic conditions, speed cameras, construction work, you name it. I've got some UI complaints, and it'll only be useful in areas where plenty of others are using it, but the idea is solid.
There's speculation that it might be up for integration into Google Maps in 2015.
Friggin' Tasker is like IFTTT on some kind of superfuture steroids. If you're willing to take on the high learning curve, get ready to automate your entire life. Build the craziest if-then statements your nerdy little heart can dream of, based on any conditions your device can detect.
You'll note from my GIF that I don't quite have the hang of it, but there's a wiki and tons of YouTube tutorials that can show you what's up much better than me. A super powerful tool with tons of potential.
Pushbullet could alternatively be called Never Email Yourself Ever Again. It's the simplest, most ingenious little concept: push files between your mobile and your desktop, whether text, media, or otherwise. A notification will show up on your destination device instantly, and you'll be able to access the files.
Inbox by Gmail
Inbox by Gmail was hailed as Email, Revamped. The new and shiny email solution that was gonna change the way you dealt with incoming notifications, forever. Your inbox ends up being a giant hydra of a to-do list, and the tools in Inbox propose to make that a lot easier to deal with. See key information within a message appear directly on the homepage. Automatically group messages regarding travel, purchases, and the like. Snooze messages so you can deal with them in a later context.
It's all pretty neat, in theory. However, plenty of folks (myself included) find that it doesn't offer enough of a distinct advantage over Gmail to make the switch. There are also constant complaints that the delete button's hidden deep within menus.
As of the publication of this article, you still need an invite to download Inbox (although it's pretty simple to find them floating around the internet, including on Reddit). You can also only use it with @gmail.com addresses - a shame for biz folks using the client.
Moon Plus Reader
Turn your Android into a Kindle (or Nook, or whatever) with Moon Reader. It'll tackle just about any file type you like (epub, pdf, mobi, chm, cbr, cbz, umd, fb2, txt, html, rar, zip, and OPDS), and the display is completely customizable (font size, screen brightness, auto-scroll, etc). There's an ad in the free version, but that only seems fair. Lightweight and smooth sailing, even on older devices.
The UI is rather dated, but the dev reports that a Material Design update is in the works.
Citymapper has all the solutions that you already know Google Maps lacks, plus plenty of surprises that you'll find indispensable as soon as you use 'em. Want a rain safe travel option? What about a quiet route for bike commutes? Wanna know how many calçots you'll burn if you walk instead? Yup, even the calorie counter is localized to the regional cuisine.
All sorts of less flashy stuff is here too, like route calculation based on which metro lines are down and weather information at your destination. And the UI is just lovely.
The bummer: since putting something like this together requires intimate knowledge of an area, it's only available for certain cities. As of publication, these are 1) US: New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston, 2) INTERNATIONAL: London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, and Mexico City.
Sleep As Android
The gyroscope in your device lets you use it as a sleep tracker, a fact that I think makes everyone super excited when they first hear about it. Forget wearing silicone bracelets to bed; Sleep As Android is an easy-to-use, comprehensive option. It's a highly customizable alarm that you can sync to your sleep phases, prompting it to rouse you at the optimum point in your cycle.
The app tracks damn near everything you could imagine, so you can observe data such as your sleep debt over time plus trends in the quality of your sleep.
It's free to try for two weeks, then costs a one-time fee of $4.49.
Auralux made my own list of 8 Beautiful, Elegant Minimalist Games this summer, plus The 6 Most Beautiful Games Ever To Grace The Screen Of Your Android before then. Here's what I've said about it before:
The pace is slow, the beats constant, and the strategizing fast and furious. Auralux is that gorgeous, innovative real-time strategy game you’ve been looking for. Prepare to become completely engrossed by a series of circles and dots. The constant background beats manage to be at once calm and driving, and the musical notes that result from clashes with the AI are practically ethereal. It’s a perfect pairing with the soothing, attractive graphics.
Plus, it's made by a redditor. Woop woop!
House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, True Detective... when did television get cool again? SeriesGuide is the way to keep track of what you've seen and what's coming up next. A movie search engine comes built in, too, but the strength here are the tv season rundowns.
Keeps stats on your watch time, too, so you can assess just how much of a binge problem you really have.
Teamviewer lets you remotely control any desktop with the companion app installed. Yes, folks, we truly are living in the modern age. Interface is slightly clunky, but, c'mon, you're converting a mouse-and-keyboard interface into a little teeny touchscreen.
Just plain excellent for helping out your dad.
reddit sync is the Pinterest of reddit clients, minus most of the wedding dresses and rainbow cupcakes. That is to say, its card-based UI with previews of the content within each thread is pretty, making for a comfortable, pleasing browsing experience. A WYSIWYG editor means no more messing with Markup, either.
It doesn't have the same feel as browsing the desktop web, not at all - but if you're willing to invest the time to get used to the difference, you'll be handsomely rewarded (I can't promise gold, though).
Textra is the lightweight SMS solution for anyone freaked out by Google's creep into messaging. The Lollipop update instated Hangouts as the default SMS app; Textra lets you take back the reigns in material designed high style.
I know you can't possibly know how many calendar apps I've reviewed. The answer is LOTS, and Today Calendar is the first one that's finally convinced me to ditch Google Calendar once and for all. It has a much cleaner layout. It's significantly faster to add and modify events. It's more highly customizable. It makes more sense in just about every way. The widget's just as thoughtfully designed, too.
A super cool feature: the app will analyze the sum total of your events, determine your average activity level, and let you know each day just how busy you're going to be compared to your own norm.
A teeny-tiny complaint: I wish you could swap between agenda, day, week, and month views with left and right swipes. It's not that hard to use the hamburger menu, but hey, it's my job to find something wrong.
I'm not the target market for JuiceSSH, but you might be. Preferred by some over ConnectBot for its faster connection time and complete set of features, including a developer-friendly built-in keyboard, external keyboard support, gestures, multi SSH sessions alive in the background, themes, and IPv6 support.
reddit is fun
If you want a reddit client that replicates the feel of the desktop experience, reddit is fun is your boy. It makes up for a lack of polish in the UI with a heaping helping of authenticity. Multireddit and reddit gold support. Editor uses markup.
You can turn ads on and off at will, even in the free version. Up to you to decide to support the dev this way or not.
Cramming your Android full of crap willy-nilly is akin to cramming your face with chimichangas: a deep-fried jalapeño is gonna get lodged in your arteries, and that sweet sweet data won't be able to flow freely. If you're rooted, let Greenify automatically hibernate chosen apps when you're not using them to save battery and processor power. If not, you can go in manually and keep your house tidy with a swift tap of a button.
SwiftKey is a custom keyboard that learns your typing tendencies over time and makes suggestions accordingly. Yes! A typewriter with a higher IQ than your honor student. What'll they come up with next, folks? A sous-vide vacuum cleaner?
Kingdom Rush Origins
Kingdom Rush Origins is tower defense at its finest. What's outstanding here: one of the available buildings is a barracks equipped with soldiers to deploy on to the battlefield, slowing enemies down such that they're more vulnerable to further attack from above. The fully upgraded versions of each tower are also new here, giving seasoned TD players something fresh to work towards.
Quirky humor abounds, and the cartoony graphics are high-quality goofiness.
Shuttle Music Player
Shuttle Music Player is a solid, lightweight music player, much-beloved by those fleeing from iTunes. If you've got your own music collection (as opposed to using streaming radio), give it a spin - it's clean, minimalist, and eminently likable.
Nine - Exchange ActiveSync
If your company uses Exchange and you have to deal with security policies galore in order to access your email, it's worth plopping down tenbux for Nine - Exchange ActiveSync. Instead of having to enact encryption, password lock, or whatever over your entire phone, Nine confines the permissions to within the app. You can still get your email, calendar, tasks, notes, and so forth, but your phone stays yours to protect (or not) as you please.
AirDroid - Android on Computer
AirDroid gives you access to your device data from any web browser. Just make sure both devices are on the same WiFi network, kick the browser into gear, and you'll have access to the guts of your Droid. Transfer files, contacts, and apps - you can even send SMS and access the camera.
I think I can still hear the clunkity-clunk beep whirrrrrrr of my parents' behemoth scanner from back in the '90s. CamScanner is infinitely superior to its whirr-happy predecessor. Take a photo of handwritten notes, receipts, printouts, whatever, and convert it into a high-contrast "scanned" file, ready for sending or saving.
Here's a link back to the live r/Android thread. Hopefully an official contest one will turn up shortly.
What's your take? Any of your own favorites missing? The comments section: it beckons.