Congratulations on your new Android device! After going through all the legalese to set up your Google account and services (and probably doing the same with your phone manufacturer and carrier), you’re finally ready to make your phone or tablet your own. As you populate your email app with new emails and purge useless apps from your device, now is the time to install some better apps that will improve your life. Here are nine Android apps that made me happier and more organized, without being overly demanding of my user data or annoying with ads.
ColorNote Notepad Notes
My home is full of post-it notes strategically placed on multiple surfaces: my desk, boxes, and even the cutting board. And they all serve different purposes: some are shopping lists, some are reminders to return an item, and some are just my to-do lists. The ColorNote app is basically a digital version of my sticky note addiction but organized into a single screen. You can create either a text note or a checklist and customize its color to help you differentiate one from another. The app has a calendar where you can note important dates, share individual notes with your friends and family, or even sync your notes across multiple devices.
It’s handy to have a robust note-taking app on your phone: this way, you can jot down detailed notes, include relevant photos from your work meeting, and keep a journal, all on the same device. The free Notebook app from Zoho organizes your notes into digital notebooks with gorgeous digital covers and provides powerful tools to help you document anything and everything. You can embed multimedia elements like sketches, photos, and even audio files into your written notes to add context and can add as many pages as you need. Your data is stored locally, but you can sync your notebooks across multiple devices (including Windows, macOS, and iOS) if you have a Zoho account.
Finch: Self-Care Widget Pet
We’re coming up to year two of the pandemic, and everyone is feeling various degrees of isolation and exhaustion. Good thing Finch, the self-care pet penguin, is here to guide us to take better care of our mental health. He lives inside the app and prompts you to practice self-care each day: he’ll check in on your mood and will tell you to stretch and set goals periodically, which will earn energy points to help him on his adventures. There is plenty to do in the free version, but you can upgrade to Finch Plus for more self-care exercises; it costs $39.99 for a one-year subscription.
If you rather track your mental wellness without the gamification of Finch, the CBT Companion app (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) is a more pragmatic alternative. It offers a safe (and free) space to document your thoughts and provide exercises to practice your CBT skills, whether you’re working with a clinician or not. You can also pay $9.99 per month or $49.99 every six months to access additional exercises and content.
AfterShip Package Tracker
Given how brazen porch pirates are these days, it’s more important than ever to know the delivery status of all the packages you’re expecting — whether they’re gifts for friends and family or groceries that need to be refrigerated as soon as possible. AfterShip lets you manually enter each package you’re expecting (rather than demand access to all your emails like other apps) — you just have to provide the tracking number and name the courier delivering the package, and the app can figure out the rest. It’ll show you where each package is on a map, as well as its current status (I usually have to tap on the name of the courier to see the latest update). This way, you’ll know when to expect a package to arrive, so you can grab it before a porch pirate can.
Ever since Google announced that it will be shutting down Hangouts, a chat app that my parents know and love, I’ve been on the hunt for another easy-to-use up chat app. Discord, the platform beloved by gamers, might just be the one. First, I like that you only need to provide your email address to sign up for an account, and you can invite specific people to join your server or room. Within your own private space, you can chat with your friends and family using text or GIFs or have the option to start a video or voice call, whether they have the app or use the web interface.
I got so fed up with the algorithmically generated news on the Chrome web browser’s homepage that I started using the Firefox mobile browser on my phone instead. Like the desktop version, the mobile Firefox browser can block trackers and scripts such as social media trackers, cross-site cookie trackers, cryptominers, and fingerprinters. Without these sneaky little things following you around, you can just surf the web as usual, though some sites might break without being able to collect data on you. You can even customize your browser by changing it to Dark Mode or moving the search bar to the bottom of the screen to make it easier to use on the phone.
Paprika Recipe Manager 3
My current recipe management is a hot mess: I keep too many web browser tabs opened with recipes I want to find quickly, all on my phone. With Paprika, I can download the contents of my favorite recipes (as long as they’re available online and searchable by Google) and save the ingredients and instructions inside this little app. You can even tweak the recipe you import in case you have any tips or changes you’d like to make to the original. The app includes an editable grocery shopping list, pantry list, and menu, as well as a meal planning calendar to keep your kitchen organized. Although the free version only lets you store a maximum of 50 recipes, you can upgrade to the paid version that enables syncing between devices and storage of an unlimited number of recipes for $4.99.
Weather & Widget — Weawow
Ever since IBM bought The Weather Company and, with it, Weather Underground — a site I swore by but whose app experience has seen better days — I’ve been on the hunt for a new weather app that is similarly respectful of users’ privacy. The Weawow weather app is that unicorn. It asks you to enter your location rather than demand continuous access to all your GPS data, lets you opt out of sharing your location data with third parties, and doesn’t serve ads along with its forecasts. I appreciate that this app makes it easy to change the units of measurement for those of us who need to, has a swipe-friendly interface, and lets me add it as a widget to my home screen with lots of options for customization.