Yesterday, I posted five ways you’re not making the most of your Android device. My posts on some useful apps for lawyers, this one on 5 unknown apps I can’t live without, and my 5 must have apps, are popular landing spots. Now, I want to give you the 12 apps I immediately install on my phone or tablet. This list is ordered most to almost most important. In other words, they’re all good. More importantly, I’m limiting the apps to ones that are universal across my many devices, rather than apps I install on my phone, but not on my tablet (e.g. CallTrack).
Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy the app twice if you want to use it on your tablet or phone. Don’t worry though, having a keyboard app that runs predictive text well is worth the price. Coupled with Android’s awesome speech-to-text recognition, SwiftKey expands your typing power significantly. Also, don’t miss out on the ability to improve and tailor your predictions by syncing with Facebook, Gmail, SMS, or Twitter. The newest update added a swipe to type feature that allows you to drag your finger to keys.
Update: I like Google Keyboard which operates similar to SwiftKey.
2. Cloud Print
I discussed (and here) Cloud Print (free) fairly in-depth, and I’m still a raving fan. I love being able to draft a document on my Chromebook or tablet and send it to my office or home desktop to print. Heck, if their printer’s connected to your Google Cloud Print server, you can even print to a colleague’s printer down the hall, across the city, or even in another state or country. Cloud Print isn’t quite as robust as another favorite, PrinterShare ($12.95), but Cloud Print will handle almost any printing task you throw at it. I’m almost ready to grab a compact printer I can link and use for mobile, emergency situations.
3. Nova Launcher
Nova Launcher ($4.00), and similar apps give you the ability to “skin” your Android device any way you please. I use Nova Launcher to customize the look and feel of my Android phone or tablet. This customization includes the ability to change how app folders appear, modify how the app dock looks and functions, and allows me to layer widgets, which is really cool. There are a ton of customizable settings to add function and form to your usually boring Android interface. Best of all, launchers don’t require any rooting or custom ROM installation, so you’re able to quickly restore back to stock if you don’t like what you’re getting.
Update: Google released the Google Experience Launcher, which incorporates some of the features of the Nexus 5 and makes all of them available to most Android devices.
4. Google Chrome
Chrome (free) continually makes my must-have, first install lists because it’s a robust web browser that works really well. Chrome is the Internet Explorer of our time. Chrome provides a safer browsing experience, since the Chromium team constantly supports efforts to improve Chrome’s security. You’re going to love that you’re able to sync passwords, favorites, and even specific settings, across multiple devices with a password and username. Brilliant.
5. RealCalc Plus
RealCalc Plus ($3.49) is the calculator to challenge all calculators. This is I can’t use half of the functions on this calculator (I’m a communication major, not an engineer), but whenever I have to calculate and store large sums, I’m glad there’s RealCalc. Of course, actually having large sums of money to add, subtract, multiply and divide would be nice.
Sidenote: I should mention this good graphing calculator, in case you’re interested. Remember when these devices costs hundreds of dollars?
6. Drive, Dropbox, Bitcasa
I’m adding Drive, Dropbox, and Bitcasa rather reluctantly, because while they’re “necessary” apps, I also feel like they’re the obligatory go-to apps – the apps bloggers and “experts” throw in their lists to fill space or seem smart.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone necessarily knows about them. In fact, in court recently I overheard a conversation between two older attorneys, one holding an iPad and the other holding an iPhone. One enthusiastically told the other about “a great new app he found called Dropbox.” “The app,” he continued, “allowed him to access his office documents from his tablet.”
Until Google changes its information access policy, I still cannot recommend Google Drive as a file storage platform for confidential client documents. However, it’s perfect for creating pleadings or documents for public consumption and use.
If you’re a music fan, Pandora (free) is perfect. Play the personal party DJ and create a personalize radio station with less talk and more music. I’m digging music on my Ella Fitzgerald station as I write this.
8. ezPDF Reader Multimedia PDF
ezPDF Reader ($3.99) radicalizes the way your read, edit, annotate, and view PDF documents on your Android device. The ezPDF Reader app functions almost like Adobe Acrobat Pro, for a fraction of the cost. The grand takeaway: flattening pages. This feature allows you to permanently fix your annotations and other notes onto the page for delivery. This means that opposing counsel can’t nefariously change your document or remove a signature. The drawback: optical character recognition (OCR) is required to highlight, underline, or redline text, and ezPDF Reader can’t OCR. You’re going to need to OCR the document before viewing on your tablet or phone in order to use those annotation features.
9. OfficeSuite Pro 7 (PDF & HD)
I’ve tried a large number of MS Office wanna-be apps. Too many to count. OfficeSuite Pro 7 ($14.99) gets my continual endorsement. Constant updates add functionality and features that make this app a close contender for a true Office replacement. OfficeSuite Pro works best on large-screen tablets (it’s obviously easier to edit a document on a bigger screen), but the app works fine if you want to read that summary judgment motion on your phone.
10. Google Keep and Evernote
Here are two more Android apps that really don’t belong on any list because of their universal use. Except they do. The fact that many folks don’t know about these apps is hard for early adopters and techno-philes to accept. In reality though, the same two attorneys eagerly shared facts about Evernote (free), as though it was just released.
Google Keep (free) (and here) and Evernote allow users to keep notes and sync them between a number of desktop and mobile devices. I’m not a heavy user of Evernote, though I have my fair share of recipes, LEGO instructions, and user manuals stored in the cloud system. I’m starting to favor Google Keep for short-term storage (contemplating the possibility of Google’s early withdrawal) of notes, and especially to-do lists.
11. Google Apps
Now, I’m not talking about “Google Apps,” Google’s cloud productivity suite for businesses and schools. Rather, I’m talking about Google’s full range of apps, which are more accoutrements to Google’s programs like Gmail, Calendar and search. I’m particularly fond of Gmail (free) and Calendar (free), but with Android 4.1, I can add Voice Search (free) and open the world of Google Now.
12. CamScanner HD
This app probably isn’t on your “must have” radar, but CamScanner HD ($4.99) is a fantastic app that works really well in a variety of situations. This is another app you’ll have to spend some money on to unlock some of the full features, but if you read this post, you’ll know why CamScanner is money well spent.
I’ve found myself using this app on a number of occasions, and saving some significant money. The quality of “scans” depends on the quality of your smartphone or tablet camera. When the camera’s in place, take a quick snapshot of your document and send it to the cloud, a secretary, or a local folder. I love dispensing with far too often lost receipts, in lieu of a PDF file I can link and place into the appropriate system folder. Use this handy app for taking quick snapshots of court documents, settlement releases, or other files.
Update: Don’t forget that you can scan documents in Google Drive using the Drive app.