Android Apps: Frequently used and played hard

You’re the proud new owner of a new Samsung Galaxy S5, or HTC One, or Google Nexus 5, and have become proficient and familiar with the included apps. Now it’s time to explore the more than one million apps offered by the Google Play Store.

Seems a daunting proposition.

Rather than poll the multitude of best app lists available on the Web and regurgitate them, I will tell you the apps I use most frequently on my Android phone and tablet. Not that I haven’t done my research; I’ve scanned these lists, tried many apps both recommended and discovered on my own, and deleted many that are pointless, that duplicate apps I already own, or for which I found no practical use.

I have a mid-level Android phone and a Nexus 7 2013 tablet. I found that a list of the apps I use most frequently on my devices to be the best in their category, and though this may be a very subjective approach, they have served me well.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t venture onto the web to read these lists yourself, but I both work and play hard on these devices, and these are the ones I turn to most often.

I will categorize them, rather loosely, into productivity apps, news aggregator apps, entertainment apps, and must-have utility apps.

Productivity apps


This app is free from the Play Store, included with later model phones.

I use Quickoffice daily. In fact I am writing this article with it. It has three components, a word processor, a spreadsheet program and a presentation creator. All are compatible with their MS Office counterparts. There is a good deal of overlap with Google Drive, but Quickoffice is the more capable. In fact I upload my documents to Drive and download and edit them using MS Office on my PC. It comes preloaded onto devices running Android 4.4, but is available free for download on Google Play. It is in fact a Google product.


A beautiful and highly functional calendar, scheduling and to-do reminder. So much better than the stock calendar, you wonder why Google, with all the creative resources at its command, couldn’t have come up with something more like this than its bland and not-so-intuitive native calendar.

Free from the Play Store

Color Dictionary

A full featured dictionary which integrates into Moon+ Reader and other readers or can be used standalone. The best part is that it doesn’t need a web connection to work. You can download various specialty dictionaries or several languages.
Free from the Play Store

download (9)Evernote

The wildly popular Evernote is an easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Stay organized, save your ideas and improve productivity. Evernote lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.

Key Features:

  • Sync all of your notes across the computers and devices you use
  • Create and edit text notes, to-dos and task lists
  • Add handwriting and sketches to your notes
  • Save, sync and share files
  • Search for text inside images
  • Organize notes by notebooks and tags
  • Email notes and save tweets to your Evernote account
  • Free from the Play Store

Internet browsers


My go-to browser is Chrome, built into Android devices. Not only is it lightning quick, but it can leave open a seemingly endless number of tabs. What’s more, if you’re working on a WiFi connected device, your PC browser synchs to that of your device. There are many plugins which add functionality, and in fact there is a Chrome store which collects these mostly free offerings. Plugins include modules that can handle Flash, Adobe Reader, Windows Media Player, Real Player, Apple’s QuickTime, and Microsoft Silverlight.


This old veteran of the browser wars has aged very well. It comes in two versions, Mini, suitable for phones as it leaves a smaller footprint, without sacrificing any capability I can detect, and Opera standard, suitable for PCs and tablets. I use Opera for the way it handles streaming media, such as movies for my many film apps; it is the recommended browser for this purpose. It is notably slower than Chrome at browsing the Web.
Free from the Play Store

One advantage to Android over iOS is you can use as many browsers as you please, and there are many to choose from. There are at least a dozen of them, some designed for speed, others for compressing data to save your monthly allotment on your contract plan, and some which play Flash natively.

I’ve tried most of them and have settled on just the aforementioned two.


Some people are hooked on utilities, eager to squeeze every last drop of storage space and RAM from their device. Actually, Android handles the background chore of closing unused programs quite well and releasing RAM, but it is not so well behaved when it comes to scattering log and cache files around the device. And for this I recommend a couple of utilities.

Clean_Master_Cleaner_Splash_BannerClean Master

This all in one utility is really everything and all that you need. It is upgraded often with existing features improved and new ones added frequently. It also creates widgets on your home screen that optimize RAM with one touch. It has two levels of cleaning: standard and advanced. Standard goes through your cache files and so-called junk files, displays the number of megabytes you’ll gain if you clean, and deletes the trash at the push of a button. It also has an advanced setting, which collects an even more impressive collection of junk; for instance your cache file for your native Gallery app, which stores thumbnails of all your photos. If you have a lot of photos, this cache file can easily swell to 200 to 300 megabytes. Regular cleaning is recommended.

Advanced cleaning also presents you with a list of media files larger than 10 megabytes, and gives you a check box for those you want to eliminate. It is surprising the number of music videos, large MP3 files, comic books you’ve read and forgotten about, that this program finds. You can often erase up to a couple of gigabytes worth of these files.

It also has a privacy feature, which scans your devices for malware and internet security problems, as well as a full featured program manager which presents you with a list of all your installed programs, the date last used, and a delete function. Do you really need a dozen programs promising free unlimited movies, most of which don’t work well or at all? Delete them.
Free from Google Play

Android-Device-Manager-ShortenedAndroid Manager

This utility duplicates many of Clean Master’s functions, but also presents vital information in pie charts, such as CPU usage, ROM and RAM usage, battery life, and available internal storage. Important information at a glance. It also offers a start up manager, a file manager, and move-to-SD card function, if you’re lucky enough to have an SD card. Not a vital utility, nevertheless I find I refer to it often.
Free from Google Play

File manager

This full featured program comes free with later model Androids, presents your folder structure at a glance and allows you to transfer files one to another. I never use it on my tablet, though I use it often on my phone to transfer downloaded files from internal storage to my SD card frequently.

Nexus Media Importer

Did you know your Nexus storage is expandable, with the addition of a four dollar On The Go adapter (available from Amazon) and a USB stick with up to 64 gigabytes of storage? All you need to make it work is this inexpensive program which pops up upon insertion of the cable and mounted storage device (it also reads SD cards with a USB adapter) and you can stream videos, music and view photos stored on the stick. Have all three seasons of Deadwood in e-format on your computer? Transfer them to your USB stick and watch them on your tablet. Unfortunately you can’t write to the external drive from the tablet, but it makes possible the offline storage of huge media files for viewing on your tablet.
$3.99 from Google Play


I have Kindle Reader for Android, and though I don’t buy many books I have over a hundred titles I’ve got for free from two services, Book Pub and Read Now, which email me everyday with books that are temporarily free or heavily discounted. The vast majority are self published, and while I applaud anyone who pours their soul into the writing of a novel, most of these are so poorly written and edited, or blatant ripoffs of best-selling novels, that they are practically unreadable, though there are a few gems which I’ve enjoyed immensely. Look up these services on the web and sign up if you’re interested in building a Kindle library, just be prepared to read a lot of zombie apocalypse novels, in need of a good editor.

Occasionally a best seller makes the cut, such as The Da Vinci Code, which was offered free for one week to drum up interest in author Dan Brown’s upcoming Inferno. And the well known Wool series, by Hugh Howey, was first offered as a self- published novel, which is now available in all five installments for a price in the Kindle Store, and which has been sold to Hollywood to be made into a movie.

Of course you can also purchase books at full price from Amazon’s more than 900,000 titles.
Free from Google Play


Just $7.99 a month for whole seasons of The Walking Dead, the Borgias, Breaking Bad; what’s not to like? Well the top titles from Hollywood rarely make it to Netflix’s streaming service, there is no master list of every title available, making you depend upon its list of films it thinks you might like based on titles previously viewed, there are many straight to DVD releases, and, again, zombie apocalypse films are strangely prevalent. But its strengths are originally pay cable series, regular cable series, and the occasional small or independent film that you discover by accident. Netflix is also getting into original programming, producing the excellent House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. As with the earlier mentioned series, these shows are excellent for binge watching.
Free from the Play Store; $7.99 a month subscription

Moon+ Reader Pro

The best selling native Android book reader is free from Google Play and can read just about any file format you throw at it: txt, HTML, PDF, epub, mobi, umd, fb2, chm, CBR, cbz, far, zip or OPDS. In English, this means you can read any book or comic you purchase, or obtain from many of the free sites available, as it supports most of the online services. There are tens of thousands of books available at these sites, mostly classics but also new, original works as well. These include, Goodreads, Project Gutenberg, and Manybooks, among dozens of others. I like to read on my phone, and between my Kindle Reader app and Moon+Reader I have hundreds of titles from which to choose.

News aggregators


Pulls articles from a wide variety of categories and presents them in news bite formats which link to the web site hosting the entire article. Vast selection of topics.
Free from Play Store

Flip book

This elegant and fun program also lets you choose areas of interest and presents you with full length articles in a flip book format. By far my favorite app for reading news. It’s more like reading a magazine than any of its competitors.
Free from Play Store


Often called the front page of the Internet, this aggregator is a collection of daily headlines and comment threads that changes hourly and is not divided into categories. What it lacks in elegance of design it makes up for in sheer volume. It is indeed possible to while away hours reading one story or comment thread after the next. One thing that recommends it is that it is the site that many journalists turn to first thing in the morning to get the latest important news of the day.
Free from the Play Store.


This amazing program not only contains the latest news and feature stories, it reads them aloud to you. By human beings, not text-to-speech computer programs. Perfect for driving or as an alternative to listening to music.
Free from the Play Store

music-maniac-mp3-downloader-41-0-s-307x512Still more

This is by no means a complete list of most used programs. A quick rundown of unsorted apps I recommend follows:

  • Quickpic. There is simply no better photo viewer available. No matter where your photos reside on your phone or tablet, every folder containing photos is displayed in one view. This is not an editing program, it is simply a quick, flawless viewer.
  • MX Player. A highly flexible movie player, which can play most formats and which is processor-specific, which gives you the best viewing experience for your device. Free.
  • Music Maniac Downloader. Type in a song or artist, and you are presented with a long list of titles. There are many such apps in the Play Store, but this is the best. It has Google’s blessing, it is not illegal, but don’t ask me why not or where the songs come from.


Wealth of riches

More than one million apps are in the Play Store. These are just the ones I use most frequently. You’ll notice I listed no games. There are many brilliant and addictive games in the store, I’m just not a game player. Plus I haven’t mentioned the apps for cable networks like the History Channel or the CW, on which you can view episodes of your favorite shows.

So take a look around. Visit sites that list new or best apps. Apps are after all the whole point of your device.