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

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minimal android appsSoftware 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.

minimal android apps

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.

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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.

minimalist android apps

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.

minimalist android apps

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.

minimalist android apps

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.

minimalist apps for android

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.

minimalist apps for android

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.

minimalist apps for android

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.

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.

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.

minimal android apps

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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Comments (41)
  • tejaswi

    I think “hover browser” is belonged to this group it is a better app I use always …………

    • Kannon Y

      I hadn’t heard of Hover before you recommended it. I’ve been testing it out. It looks like a solid alternative to Javelin and Link Bubble. It may even be better.

  • Márcio Guerra

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

    Cheers!

    Márcio Guerra

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.