Now that the Nexus 5 is finally out we can expect the Android user base to continue to grow rapidly. Since the price is so affordable and the device is so popular, we can expect a lot of first time Android users to be joining our ranks. Let’s be real, a Nexus device is definitely free of any bloat and even though Google offers a lot of their own great apps, there are still quite a few missing to make your Android experience complete.
That’s why I thought it would be nice to make a list of Must-have apps for Android first timers or maybe some people who are still looking for a replacement for some of the stock apps. They will be placed in categories and there will always be at least one alternative app, each with a small explanation, so let’s start…
You don’t necessarily need a file explorer on Android but I think every Android user should really have at least one to have the ability to organize his/her files. Since Google still doesn’t really offer a real one, here are my favorite.
Solid Explorer (trial/paid)
Since Solid Explorer was released, it quickly gained huge popularity and for a good reason. It’s beautifully designed, very comfortable to use but still very powerful and offers lots of customization options. This is definitely my file explorer of choice and I’m constantly using it. You can also check out our review here
ES File Explorer (free)
The alternative to Solid would be ES file Explorer. It’s definitely a good, free alternative even though I still prefer the design and functionality of Solid Explorer. Otherwise ES file Explorer offers you all you need, even if I don’t think the new holo designed version of it is really convenient to use.
If you don’t like the stock Google music player or just want another one maybe with more options and customization you should give the following ones a chance…
Player Pro (trial/paid)
Again I’m starting with my personal player of choice, Player Pro. It follows the holo guidelines, has tons of options and is very customizable. It offers a DSP manager, a rather simple but still powerful equalizer and also a nice variety of themes to download. Besides that it does deliver everything you would possibly expect of a really good audio player.
The alternative that seems to be even more popular is PowerAmp, this one offers even more settings to accustom the sound to your preferences and mostly does all the same Player Pro does. Both are about equally powerful and it’s more of everyone’s personal taste which one to go for.
The default Android player mostly gets the basic job done but if you really want to watch a lot of videos in all different sorts of formats you should definitely go for a 3rd party solution
In this case I don’t really have a go-to player. I would recommend both and put them on the same level. Both players are very similar in function and only differ slightly in navigation and design. The 2 player are both able to play a huge variety of formats, support subtitles and a lot more. You can’t really go wrong with either one.
Chrome comes as the default browser on Android and has become quite a usable browser lately, I have to admit. But personally I still only use it from time to time as my alternative browser.
Why? Just because the webkit based browsers are still slightly faster, smoother and use less ram But for me they also offer superior navigation and controls. Sure Chrome is definitely good enough, but if you at least want to try some alternatives, here they are..
Naked Browser (free/paid)
Yes, this one is still my favorite browser and this won’t change any time soon. It may not be the prettiest one but therefore it offers a super fast and smooth browsing experience offering tons and tons of useful options like the recently introduced gestures (pro version-only) and much more. You can find a review here and a video showing off the gesture capabilities can be found here
If you are looking for a nicer designed browser you should try Dolphin. It offers a really nice holo design, it’s about as fast and smooth as Naked browser but it doesn’t really offer that much customization but therefore it has quite a nice amount of add ons to add some nice little things to improve the experience.
I know there are a lot of people out there that love the stock Android keyboard and I’m not saying it isn’t good but I never gotten really warm with it. Especially if you often write in more than one language you will see why and that there are better options that make multi-lingual typing so much more pleasant
This is in my opinion by far THE BEST keyboard available for Android. It offers a lot of different themes, awesome suggestions and predictions that often let you feel Swiftkey could read your mind. There are a lot of other customization options so you can adjust it to fit your needs. It also has a swype-like typing method called flow. But besides the mind-reading suggestions/predictions it also offers by far the best multi-lingual support. You can type in up to 3 languages at once better than with any other one. I really tried A LOT other keyboards available but this is the sector it outclasses the competition so extremely I almost have pity with the other ones.
Touchpal X (free)
If you mostly write in one language I can also highly recommend you to try Touchpal X. It offers dual language typing but it’s not close to being as precise and advanced as Swiftkey. It also offers themes, a swiping type method and even one advanced swiping method that is quite similar to Blackberry’s latest BB10 keyboard. It works very good but also can be overwhelming and seems confusing from time to time. The suggestions and predictions especially in english are on a very high level even though they can’t quite hold up to Swiftkey, especially the error correction while typing is way better on Swiftkey. Touchpal needs a longer learning curve to get accustomed to your typing style
If you mostly want a swiping keyboard Swype is definitely also worth taking a look at.
I assume Twitter is still pretty popular and of course there is an official app available that’s quite nice but if you are looking for more options and advanced features you should look for a 3rd party app to be safe.
I think Robird is pretty unknown but I’m using it since its first beta version and I still didn’t really find out that is really better in anything. It has a lot of extra features like different photo hosting methods, tweetmarker and one I especially like, tweetlonger. Of course it also gives you a nice amount of other stuff like 3 different themes (dark, light and black) and a lot of advanced options.
Falcon Pro (free)
The very popular Falcon Pro is a great alternative. The amount of options and features is close to Robird. It even offers things like an in-app browser and some other nice options.
There are a lot more others available but I didn’t really use any of them for long enough to be able to really recommend of them.
Yes the stock launcher is better than ever but it still doesn’t really allow the level of customization Android is so well-known for. If you want more flexibility and advanced theming capabilities you definitely need a good 3rd party launcher.
Nova Launcher (free/paid)
Nova Launcher is the most popular launcher in my opinion, for a good reason. It is extremely customizable and offers all sorts of options really allowing everyone to achieve his personal Android experience. If you can think of something to change there’s most probably an option for that. Of course it offers things like an adjustable grid size, icon pack support and much more.
Apex Launcher (free/paid)
Apex is pretty similar to Nova in every possible way. It’s more of a personal taste which one you prefer. Both are more the traditional old-school launchers not like the newer ones like Aviate and Themer (article here) that do most of the theming and customizing for you but are way more limited therefore.
Another pretty popular alternative would be Action Launcher Pro (paid) but it’s not quite my style.
If you like to read news feeds on your Android device there are a lot of choices available here
Since the stock Google Reader is gone, a lot of people were desperately looking for a new one to replace it with. Feedly stands out the most I think and I personally use it as my main news feed reader. It is easy to set up, the UI is very pleasant, controls are fast and easy. It doesn’t really do anything wrong and is one of the best out there for sure.
By far less popular but still quite nice is Taptu. It was my default news feed reader before I made the switch to Feedly. I mostly left it because of perfomance issues and Feedly was just more convenient to use.
Sure, there are tons of other good ones out there but it would blow the proportions of this article to cover all of them. I think Feedly should be more than good enough to please the majority of users here, especially new Android users who look for something easy and clean to follow the news.
The stock Clock on Android has come quite a way since it’s prior version and is definitely on the level were it doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced anymore but if you are open to try something else, give the 2 following ones a chance.
Timely, once even considered as the most beautiful designed app for some people is a really nice clock app with an alarm clock, timer and stopwatch function. A lot of theming options and a nice new way to set up an alarm. It’s a freemium app and you have to pay for unlocking all the available options. I think it’s a bit drastic to charge for something basic as an alarm clock but being as it be try it and decide for yourself.
A free alternative that also offers a quite untraditional way to set up an alarm is CircleAlarm. It’s my default alarm clock since ages because it’s convenient to use and kept very simple not bloated in any way. Therefore it’s only an alarm clock, nothing more.
Okay, I think I covered most of the basic apps every Android user should have on his Android device. I hope it was of any help for you. If I missed any category just let me know in the comments.