10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

android apps1   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard AboutSoftware bloat in the Android software ecosystem causes more problems than any other issue. Poorly written apps, particularly ad-supported apps, constantly draw on your handset’s wireless components, waking the kernel and overall diminishing performance and battery life. Uninstalling bad apps and replacing them with better apps provides the best solution. This article lists ten great apps that provide lightweight alternatives to particularly bad software.

Bad apps, for example, often require GPS/internet permissions and start at boot. Because of this combination, they also have a nasty potential to constantly access the internet, without your knowledge. Not all apps are guilty of this form of excess, although the worst offenders, such as Angry Birds, do so because they generate targeted ads.

In determining the “better” apps, I looked at the various network and GPS permissions required by each program and whether or not an app automatically started itself. Also, none of the ten apps listed showed any appreciable increase in battery drain, according to an analysis by Better Battery Stats.

Permission Explorer

The recently open-sourced Permission Explorer allows users to analyze the various permissions granted to each app. I place this app first, because it allows users to look at apps with potential privacy violations.

process explorer   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

In a nutshell, it helps knowing what permissions your apps require. One that I find particularly troubling is READ_CONTACTS, which allows an app to examine your contacts list.

Naked Browser

Most browsers tend to suffer from over-design and, consequently, bloat.

Aminaked, an XDA developer cognizant of Android’s weight problem, created Naked Browser as a response, stripping away the useless features packed into most Android browsers. As such, Naked ranks among the fastest of web browsers on the mobile platform.

naked browser   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

Aside from its speed, Naked offers outstanding privacy features, unlike my previous favorite browser, Dolphin, which has some disturbingly invasive practices.

It’s also surprisingly feature rich, despite the lack of bloat. It includes such augmentations as one-finger zoom, multiple tabs and a great deal more. Although visually sparse, Naked Browser compares favorably to all its competition. If you download only one of these apps, make sure it’s Naked.

WikiDroyd

As far as offline Wiki readers go, WikiDroyd offers the most efficient experience, with no drawback. It also lacks any start up triggers, meaning it doesn’t automatically open up when the phone boots, or upon any other trigger.

wiki droyd   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

One of WikiDroyd’s best features is its ability to download language-specific Wiki dumps for offline consumption. Make sure your phone has a power source available because the full English language Wiki takes up 6 gigabytes.

While many methods allow for desktop-based offline Wiki use, having the whole of Wikipedia on your phone feels a lot like science fiction.

 Scan Master

Scan Master, aside from being one of the best scanning apps for Android, also offers a remarkably lightweight experience. Although the linked version purportedly includes ads, I have yet to even see a banner or popup.

scanner master1   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

As you can tell from the screenshot, one of my favorite uses for Scan Master is for copying my club cards. It also provides text enhancement and auto-cropping. These features make Scan Master indispensable for students and small businesses.

Zeam Launcher

Zeam Launcher has received many positive reviews on MakeUseOf for its simplicity and speed.

While it seems to over-provision itself with permissions, particularly GPS and internet access, Zeam doesn’t cause any reduction in system performance and battery life.

zeam launcher   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

CraigsList

The official Craigslist app provides seamless browsing, in many ways superior to the browser-based experience. Also, it requests minimal permissions and lacks any start up triggers, so it won’t run without your explicit permission.

craigslist   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

AirCalc

AirCalc is easily one of the best, frill-free calculators in the Android app ecosystem. Unlike similar software, AirCalc simply overlays itself over other apps, so it can function while you use another app.

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I find AirCalc most useful on a tablet, where there’s space to position the overlaid calculator.

Ultimate StopWatch and Timer

While Ovo offers one of the best and most simplistic experiences for Android users seeking a timer or stopwatch, Ultimate StopWatch and Timer exceeds even Ovo’s minimalism, as it lacks any start up triggers. In short, absolutely nothing starts it up except tapping on the app.

ultimate stopwatch   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

Erez Zukerman wrote a fantastic review (which the developer turned into a plaque and framed) on Ovo.

Ovo compares quite well to other timer apps. However, despite its superior functionality, I prefer Ultimate StopWatch for its extreme minimalism.

Reddionic

Aside from being one of the best Reddit apps, Reddionic lacks any auto-start or advertising features.

reddionic   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

Erez wrote a quick setup guide for Reddionic, which I highly suggest reading.

SwallowCatcher

SwallowCatcher is probably the most minimal podcatcher available for Android, as well as being open-source. It best combines with Dropbox, as it has no innate podcast search feature. Therefore you must export your podcast player’s playlist to an OPML file, which then can transfer to your phone from Dropbox.

Alternately, it can grab podcasts from QR codes. Just use the “Add a Feed” feature.

Overall, SwallowCatcher provides an extremely barebones and minimal experience.

swallowcatcher   10 Efficient And Minimal Android Apps That You May Not Have Heard About

And Three You’ve Already Heard of…

  1. Barcode Scanner: Danny Stieben did a great write-up on Barcode Scanner.
  2. MX Player: It’s the VLC Player of Android media players.
  3. ES File Manager: ES File Mananger really does offer the best functionality out of all the Android file managers out there.

Conclusion

The ridiculous amount of bloat and adware attached to the average Android app has had a deleterious impact on battery life and performance. Fortunately, there exist many minimal and free alternatives to apps that we commonly use. The 13 apps listed here are by no means the only lean and battery efficient apps on the market, although they make for a good starting point if you seek to slim your phone down.

Out of the 13, my favorite app is Naked Browser. Not only does it compare favorably in terms of speed to other similar apps, it also brings far better security.

Have any favorite, lean and bloat-free Android app? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Robot via MorgueFile.com

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39 Comments -

dandan

Very great article! I will be checking thse out!!!!!!!

HildyJ

I would recommend Ad Network Detecter from Lookout. It’s a stand alone app that scans your other apps when you tell it to and reports which ones are doing things behind your back. It also shows which ad networks are being reported back to (i.e. AbMob). While it has a link to download Lookouts virus scanner, it is not required and it never nags about it.

Slashee the Cow

I don’t know why I subscribe to the MUO RSS feed any more. So many erros in articles. At least this one is a bit technical, and fairly unimportant, but still… I believe in accuracy, and that you shouldn’t be writing something for others to read if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

In this, my problem is you saying that many of these apps require no start up intents. Do you mean that they don’t require the RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED permission so they can’t run automatically when you turn on the phone?

The problem is that with very few exceptions (none of these look like they’d be excepted) all apps (even just a “Hello World” app) require an intent to start, even if it’s just to run them from the launcher – usually android.intent.action.MAIN (as opposed to apps that would run on startup by responding to an android.intent.action.BOOT_COMPLETED intent).

hateknowitalls

That’s the stupidest comment I’ve read in a while. You need a nap or something.

Slashee the Cow

I can tell you’re not a writer.

hateknowitsalls

You can’t tell crap. You’re a stickler for technical jargon and you have a silly way of making it known. Why don’t you rewrite the article with your fixes? Then we’ll see which makes more sense to the layperson. The point is telling a story, not satiating knowitalls.

Slashee the Cow

Rewrite it? Easy. Replace “lacks any start up intents” with “doesn’t automatically start when you turn on your phone”. I’d say that makes plenty of sense to the layperson (who probably doesn’t know what an intent is anyway). I’m not demanding that everything be in tech-speak, just that if it is, it’s accurate.

And as for the writer bit? Writers want to be proud of their work. They want it to be the best it can be. If I wrote something incorrect (even in technical details), I’d like some arrogant person like myself to correct me. Admittedly, I could be nicer when pointing out potential errors, but I’d like to think that any writer proud enough of their work to post it on one of the 1000 most popular sites on the web (according to Alexa) is going to appreciate being able to get the facts straight, if not my tone.

Anonymous

Thanks for the feedback! You make a great point, my terminology is wrong. In all honesty, this kind of comment really helps writers become better at their job. It’s much appreciated. We’ll have this corrected shortly.

The method that I used to determine startup receivers is Autorun Manager. Autorun Manager’s analysis showed that these apps lack “startup receivers”. As you know, RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETE is just one of many kinds of receivers that can lead to an app firing up. The apps listed here either had irrelevant or nonexistent receivers.

I’ve only recently begun studying Android development. I hope to get better over time – comments like yours help considerably.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

A good way to accept criticism.

Sean Griffin

new things learned today so a good day for me

jtbaum

How does Scan Master compare to Cam Scanner? They sound pretty similar and I’ve always had good results from Cam Scanner.

Kannon Yamada

Cam Scanner has a couple startup “receivers”. It will send usage stats back to the developer, as well as interact with some kind of cloud service. Unless poorly written, apps like Cam Scanner don’t really hit battery life too much, but when twenty of these apps are installed, it can be very bad news for your device.

Scan Master doesn’t use any data unless you actually start the app up yourself.

Anonymous

Is there a version for Samsung Proclaim?

Nevzat Akkaya

Thanks for the list of apps. There were some very useful ones I’ve never heard of before.

grigore marin

Also Evernote is a best app for Android.

Wolfgang Marcos

This list was all about those lightweight and functionality centered apps, I’m an Evernote Premium user and I guess I can say Evernote does not fits on this list (even though this is an awesome app and service)

Márcio Guerra

And also apps that you might have not heard about of… Evernote is a well known app.

Cheers!

Márcio Guerra

Anonymous

looks like the reviews for reddit is fun android app surpass those of the reddonic app described in this article, why is that?

Kannon Yamada

Great question!

Reddit is Fun falls into the category of an autostarting app with full network access – so it starts itself when your phone boots up then just sits there in the background, accessing the internet. Your phone’s data transmission components are very energy hungry – several autostarting apps basically destroy your phone’s battery life. There’s a more detailed explanation here, as well as tips on how to fix these issues.

Autostarters aren’t great for your phone’s battery life or performance. On the other hand, they tend to pack in the features and offer a better user experience.

Reddionic is in my opinion the best minimal reddit app. It offers all the features you might want but doesn’t bog the phone down. Although once you fire it up, it will stay on until the Android system kills it – which is true of most every app.

Chris Hoffman

Actually, VLC is the VLC of Android! https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.videolan.vlc.betav7neon

Says it’s beta, but it works great on my Nexus 7.

Kannon Yamada

Thanks Chris! Out of my six Android devices – MK802II, Nexus 4, Transformer, Moto Triumph, Nook ST, Samsung Intercept – none of them are compatible with VLC!!!! :-(

Techgeek

When I click on your link for VLC and ask it to install, Play tells me it’s incompatible with all of my devices because it’s not available in my country (I’m in the US!). If I search for it on Play from my Nexus 7, it doesn’t come up at all. Glitch today with Play or really not available in the US?

Kannon Yamada

I’m having the same problem. None of my devices are compatible with VLC. I think that’s because VLC elected to program the app in C+. That means the software has to be customized individually for each device that it’s installed on, which means most devices won’t be supported.

Chris Hoffman

Maybe it’s blocked from the US store. Weeeeird.

Wolfgang Marcos

Nice list!
When I think my phone is done with productivity apps somebody always surprises me =]

Rajeeva Srivastava

Its good that we have Permission Explorer recommended at the first place. We got to test the security features of the other apps. And this has revealed one permission that the Naked Browser assumes and I feel that everyone should be concerned about. The Naked Browser has assumed “READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE” permission that is assumed only by my anti-virus program, ie, avast and I feel why it is so? neither the stock browser or the opera-mini that I have on my device have that permission. As I said, only my anti-virus program also has this permission and in my opinion this should be a point of great concern!

Also, MXPlayer has a great interface and features but its a very heavy program along with the codecs included. The arcMedia player Lite version does the same with less than half the space.

Moez bouhlel

nice, thanks for this helpful article

Joe Botha

Wait, what..?

You honestly believe ES File Manager is better than Ghost Commander? I couldn’t get rid of ES fast enough.

Perhaps I’m missing something. But it would have to be a rather big something :-)

Thanks for the others tho… especially NakedBrowser rocks. Had no idea my beloved Dolphin had a tracking laser mounted to its head.

Kannon Yamada

I live for the moments when readers can show me better software than what I’ve been using. Thanks Joe! I really appreciate the heads up.

ES File Manager is a good, completely free product. It has some eccentric characteristics, but overall can do what’s needed, without a great deal of issues.

On the other hand, I put Ghost Commander through a number of tests and IMO, its UI offers a substantially more intuitive experience than ES. It’s a great file manager. IMO, the best file manager around is Solid Explorer, but Ghost Commander is AT LEAST as good, without startup triggers. The dual-pane file management is what really puts it over the top. Really well designed stuff.

David E

I got excited by your description of WikiDroyd but oddly it doesn’t seem to support external SD cards. Back to Aard Dictionary.

Kannon Yamada

It does support external SD cards. In fact, that’s where it stores files by default.

This might be a configurations error.

Turn on WikiDroyd. Next, go to the settings menu -> database -> database folder.

And then make sure your folder is correctly stated. It uses a Unix type file structure so you should see /mnt/sdcard/WikiDroyd.

mnt is the mount folder. All external storage should show up as a directory in here.

David E

OK, that’s encouraging, I will give it another try.

On mine it defaulted to the internal SD CARD sdcard0 which is about 1.5GB and said I didn’t have enough space. However my external 32GB SD card (sdcard1) 32GB it didn’t see; however it is damaged, that could be why. In fact today, it has taken a turn for the worse, it is prompting me to reformat it (this has happened before, and I was able to wait it out, although I may not be as lucky this time.)

By the way, on my device, /mnt/sdcard is the internal sdcard, I am not even sure it is an sd card at all. I have noticed a lot of Android apps that ignore the external card, even when it was working well, and I get annoyed when they refer to the internal sdcard as “the sd card”.

David E

I gave it another shot. I get a warning that there are no Wikidroyd databases installed under /storage/sdcard0/WikiDroyd (on the internal card). Whether I click OK or Cancel, it doesn’t take me anywhere where there is a setting to change this path. The menu button does nothing, and there is no gear icon or anything like that. If I go to WikiDroyd Library page, it takes me to the same dead end trying to create a folder there.

My version has ads in it, I looked for a paid version that might let me change the setting, but I didn’t see one. I think I will email the author at this point.

Kannon Yamada

My apologies, I should have explained further. Once you get to the “pick a database” menu, you must manually input the SDcard location. Just tap on the file directory and you’ll be able to manually edit the SDcard location.

For some strange reason, internal storage is oftentimes treated as just another SDcard. In your case, the internal card is marked as sdcard0 (i think).

If you use a file manager (try Ghost Commander, someone recc’d it to me and it’s unbelievably good) try peeking around in your mnt folder. It should be able to find the name of the actual sdcard location, which is likely just marked ‘sdcard’ without the zero.

I suspect that if you erase the 0 in the file location, it should begin working, although I’m not entirely sure. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

David E

I gave it another shot. I get a warning that there are no Wikidroyd databases installed under /storage/sdcard0/WikiDroyd (on the internal card). Whether I click OK or Cancel, it doesn’t take me anywhere where there is a setting to change this path. The menu button does nothing, and there is no gear icon or anything like that. If I go to WikiDroyd Library page, it takes me to the same dead end trying to create a folder there.

My version has ads in it, I looked for a paid version that might let me change the setting, but I didn’t see one. I think I will email the author at this point.

Bill Fell

Thank you Kannon for this article. You’ve explained some things to me that I was unaware of re: apps going out to the Internet unbeknownst to me. Good stuff.

Márcio Guerra

Some of them are going to be installed on my mobile! Thank you!

Cheers!

Márcio Guerra