Do Android phones finally have better apps than the iPhone? The iTunes App Store has historically been the first choice for developers, but things are changing. There is now a large number of Android-exclusive apps that will make any iPhone owner jealous.
The Google Play Store and the Android developer community is growing faster than Apple’s ecosystem now, ending 2014 with 1.43 million apps compared to iOS’s 1.21 million, according to a recent report. And these aren’t just fluffy numbers full of unwanted apps. Android increasingly has quality software you won’t find on iOS.
It’s a web-based client for your phone, so anywhere you are, you can fire up AirDroid in a browser and access your phone’s contents, copy-paste files, reply to texts, and do almost everything you’d want to do. If you have a rooted phone (how to root any phone), you can even mirror your Android’s screen to your Windows or Mac. It’s just brilliant.
Google Keep (Free)
To-do lists are a dime a dozen, but Google Keep sets itself apart by how smart it is and how easy it is to add items. Keep works with Google Now to let you add notes on the go by talking, and couples it with reminders based on time or location. Plus, you can colour-code these notes and lists to make them easy to identify.
Closest iOS Equivalent: TurboNote is an unofficial iOS client for Google Keep, but it’s still not as good as the real thing.
Unclouded (Free | $1.99 for Premium)
In the simplest terms, Unclouded is a disk space analyzer for your cloud storage. Sign in with your Google Drive or Dropbox and it will figure out how much space you have used, whether you have duplicate files, where the space is getting filled (like Google Photos or Gmail), and so on.
It’s a dashboard of how you are using your cloud storage, so that you can finally start cleaning it up.
Closest iOS Equivalent: We didn’t find anything like this app on iOS, but if you know of any, drop a line in the comments!
DashClock Widget (Free) [No Longer Available]
There are some things Android users take for granted that iPhone users just can’t do. Customization is at the top of that list, especially in how your homescreen and your lock screen looks. More than just a lockscreen replacement for Android, DashClock is the best app for any lockscreen.
It’s a widget that works with most lockscreens, serving up notifications from your phone in a beautiful, yet functional way. DashClock extensions let it hook up with most of the popular apps out there, letting you interact with them in meaningful ways without ever unlocking your phone.
Closest iOS Equivalent: Nothing. You can’t customize the lockscreen in iOS.
SwipePad (Free) [No Longer Available]
SwipePad is probably the longest-lasting app on my phones. It’s the fastest way to multi-task and launch apps on Android. Mark any side of your phone as a trigger point, and when you swipe inwards from there, you’ll see a grid of your favourite apps.
All of this is done without removing your thumb from the screen, which makes it quick and convenient. There are other such quick launchers, but nothing like SwipePad.
Closest iOS Equivalent: You can only multitask in the default manner on iOS, i.e., by double-tapping the Home button.
Yahoo Aviate Launcher (Free) [No Longer Available]
Changing your home screen is one of the best Android tweaks without rooting, and Aviate Launcher is one of the best home screen replacements out there. Aviate intelligently recommends apps depending on your needs, and lets you categorize them for easy access. It takes a little getting used to, but about a week into it, you’ll fall in love.
While Aviate is great, it might not be for everyone. The Google Play Store has such a wide variety of options, you should figure out which Android launcher is best for you.
Closest iOS Equivalent: Nothing. You can’t customize the home screen in iOS
ES File Explorer (Free) [No Longer Available]
Yet another thing the iPhone can’t do, unless it is jailbroken, is let you browse around its file system. No such problems on Google’s OS, and ES File Explorer is the best file manager for Android.
You can do almost anything that any file manager on Windows or other operating systems will let you. In fact, you can also link cloud-based drives like Dropbox, letting you run multiple Dropbox accounts on the same phone.
Closest iOS Equivalent: There are plenty of apps for jailbroken iPhones, but there are compelling security reasons not to jailbreak in the first place.
Zikk (Free) [No Longer Available]
You probably know someone who needs help with their phone. Zikk makes remote assistance easy. Just install the app on both phones and the expert can access the novice’s essential settings.
You can control the other’s WiFi settings, display settings, location services, contacts, and even remotely remove or install apps. It’s a game-changer for those who are used to getting a tech-help call from family or friends.
Closest iOS Equivalent: There is nothing like Zikk on iOS.
Link Bubble [No Longer Available]
When you are scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, you probably see a lot of interesting links. But tapping usually means being taken away from your timeline to a browser. It’s a silly system, but Link Bubble makes it better. Tap a link and it will open in a floating browser, collapsed into a floating icon.
This icon has a loading bar to let you know when you the page is done loading. This way, you can return to your timeline, keep scrolling, and go back to links when you’re done or when the pages are done loading.
Closest iOS Equivalent: We couldn’t find any similar app on iOS, but if you know of any, drop a line in the comments!
Press ($2.99) [No Longer Available]
Anyone who thinks the most beautiful apps are always on iOS needs to take a look at Press. This Android-exclusive app is the most beautiful RSS reader we have seen, and it has gotten better since we last reviewed it. It imports data from Feedly, Feedbin, Feed Wrangler and Fever, and puts it all in an interface that is easy on the eyes. The focus here is minimalism and readability, along with gestures for easy actions.
There are plenty of other cool RSS readers on Android too, several of them also on iOS.
Closest iOS Equivalent: There are some beautiful RSS readers on iOS too, like Unread [No longer available]. But Press still tops it.
Bonus: Tasker ($2.99) [Root Required]
Root access lets users do things on Android that are impossible on iOS. The best app to explore all the possibilities is Tasker, which lets you set up if-this-then-that rules for almost anything on your phone
For example, triple-clicking your power button can activate Silent mode, or you can set your phone to start your calendar app as soon as it connects to your office WiFi. The possibilities are endless. In fact, you can pair it with IFTTT for the perfect automation duo.
If Tasker isn’t your scene, there are other automation apps like Llama. The Play Store is full of such options.
Closest iOS Equivalent: Workflow is a similar app for iOS, but it still doesn’t do half the things Tasker will let you.
What’s Your Android-Exclusive Favourite?
This is not a comprehensive list by any yardstick. So tell us, if there is one app that makes you choose Android over iPhone, which one is it?