Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Android has a problem. The Play Store is filled with apps that are notorious for invasive permissions, and many apps keep running in the background even when not in use, draining your device’s battery.
The culprits are some of the biggest and most popular apps out there. Facebook is definitely ruining your Android. Snapchat, Google+, and others constantly work in the background even if you’ve shut the app, silently guzzling battery.
A Lite App for Anything
Hermit is essentially a browser, much like Chrome or Firefox. Its job is to take any website you point it to and turn the website into an app that resides on your homescreen.
When you want to create a new lite app, Hermit will show you its entire inventory of popular apps, which include categories like social (Facebook, WhatsApp, Google+, Instagram, etc.), news (BBC, Time, NYT, etc.), entertainment (IMDB, YouTube, Plex, etc.), and several more. You’ll almost certainly get what you want. If you don’t find it, just type in the URL of a site and Hermit will turn it into a standalone app on your homescreen.
Of course, the site might not always be functional enough for you to use it as a replacement for an app. For example, the Instagram website doesn’t let you upload images. So if you don’t post photos and only browse awesome Instagram feeds, making a lite app of the website is sensible. But if you post images regularly to Instagram, then forget about this.
On the other hand, making a lite app for Facebook or BBC would be much better than using their official apps, since their mobile websites are perfectly functional. The native Android apps instead end up using too much battery.
Why Hermit Over Chrome
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, even Google Chrome lets me make apps out of sites, so what do I need this Hermit for?” Well, as awesome as Chrome for Android is, there are a few important factors that make Hermit better.
The biggest difference is that Hermit Lite Apps function as actual apps. On the other hand, when you create a shortcut to a website with Chrome, it functions as a browser tab.
What this means is that when you tap a Chrome bookmark icon, it will open a Chrome tab with that website; heck, if you have the site open, it’ll still start a new tab for it. It’s annoying!
With Hermit, when you tap a Lite App’s icon, it will start that Lite App as its own browser. If the app is already open, it won’t be reloaded, it will just be shown to you immediately.
The entire approach is that Hermit’s Lite Apps are “individual” apps, while Chrome’s lite apps are part of Chrome itself. What this means is that Hermit apps can be customized individually, with different settings for different apps, while Chrome-based lite apps will all follow the same rules that your Chrome browser has.
Customize Your Lite App
Hermit has both universal and individual settings. So in the main Hermit app, you can choose to apply a few settings like allowing notifications from RSS feeds for any app you create. But apart from that, each lite app you make can be customized with its own set of rules.
So for example, you could whitelist MakeUseOf in the built-in ad-blocker, but still use it for a site with too many annoying ads like Forbes. Here’s a list of all the things you can customize:
- Open app as full-screen
- Open app in frameless mode
- Pull from top to refresh
- Add a “Scroll to Top” button
- Block ads
- Load images automatically or stop images from loading
- Open links in the Lite app or in your default third-party browser
- Toggle “Do Not Track” to stop sites tracking your movements
- Always open as Desktop site
- Enable Data Saver mode to save mobile data on Android
- Allow or deny location permissions
- Allow or deny access to photos, videos, and files
- Allow or deny access to camera and microphone
- Set a custom theme
- Set a custom icon
With such a wide choice in settings, you will be able to better customize just how you want some site to appear, without applying those rules to other sites. For example, if you want a fast Facebook experience, switch on Data Saver, block ads, and disallow images.
Hermit also becomes a cheat app for certain uses. Let’s say you want to access your phone’s WhatsApp messages on your tablet. WhatsApp Web is great, but it only works on desktop browsers. With Hermit, you can create a WhatsApp Web lite app on your Android tablet, and sync it with your phone.
Hermit Premium and Lollipop
The Hermit app works best with Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer versions. On Android KitKat, Hermit Lite Apps are all bunched up into one window in the multi-tasking Recent Apps screen, instead of appearing as individual native apps.
Also, the free version of Hermit restricts users to two Lite Apps only. If you want to create a third Lite App or more, you will have to pay $4.99.
The free version is fully functional, of course, so it makes sense to download Hermit and try it out first with two resource-hungry apps you want to replace. Start with Facebook and Google+, and you’ll see a huge improvement in your phone’s performance and battery life.
If you like the app, you can spring for the premium version to make more than two Lite Apps.
Download: Hermit for Android (Free | $4.99 for Premium)
Have You Gone Lite?
As someone who uninstalled Facebook and went with a lite third-party app instead, I have seen a major boost in battery life. With Hermit too, I’ve removed the dying Google+ app and seen more improvements since. Have you tried installing a lite app on your Android phone? What are your thoughts?