A funny thing happened the other day. I was setting up a new Android smartphone and started downloading the apps I frequently use. To my surprise, the most represented developer on my phone was Microsoft. When did Microsoft take over my Android?
This should not surprise anyone. After all, Microsoft has already made great apps for Apple’s Mac and iOS, so it’s only natural for the Redmond-based giant to make apps for Android, the world’s largest mobile operating system. The surprising part, I guess, is how good those apps are, often overshadowing those made by other developers or Google itself.
If you haven’t already checked these out, do yourself a favor and download these awesome Android apps by Microsoft.
Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, & Powerpoint
Yup, good old Microsoft Office is available on Android, and it’s completely free. As of July 2015, the old Office for Android has been replaced by individual apps for Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, so if you haven’t upgraded already, get the new apps from the download links below.
The biggest headache with Google Docs, Kingsoft Office, or any other mobile office suite is how the formatting changes so often when viewing and editing the same file on desktop. The Office apps for Android are the closest at retaining the original formatting. Generally, it’s a clean and pleasing office suite to use.
In his epic Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs showdown, Andre summarized it well: “The feeling that best sums up the experience of using Office for Android is one of relief. This is the way that document editing on mobile should be. It’s clean, it’s easy to use, the interface is intuitive, and it’s generally the model of a modern mobile word processor.”
Download: Microsoft Word for Android (Free)
Download: Microsoft Excel for Android (Free)
Download: Microsoft Powerpoint for Android (Free)
In case the apps are incompatible with your phone, then grab the older Office for Android, which is still a great app!
Download: Microsoft Office Mobile for Android (Free) [No longer available]
Keyboard for Excel
Google Android has amazing alternative keyboards for all types of users, including features like swipe-to-type, gesture-based typing, auto-emoji suggestions, and much more. But they forgot about one type of user: the professional who needs to crunch numbers on-the-go.
Microsoft Excel for Android is fantastic, but Android keyboards aren’t exactly suited for working with spreadsheets. So Microsoft solved that problem with a special keyboard for Excel, optimized to work with numbers, including Excel operators. But the big feature is Tab and Enter keys, letting you quickly shift between cells! This one will bring a sigh of relief to anyone who has been frustrated by selecting tiny cells on a touchscreen.
Download: Keyboard for Excel (Free) [No longer available]
The latest Microsoft app for Android caught me by surprise. I honestly didn’t expect to like Arrow Launcher as much as I do; in fact, it has become my default launcher now! So given the great alternative launchers for Android, why did I choose this?
Arrow Launcher makes Android simpler while enhancing the key feature of a launcher: getting you to your apps quicker. By constantly updating your most frequently used and recent apps, as well as your most frequently used and recent contacts, Microsoft reduces the number of taps to start doing stuff. That’s what it’s all about: Arrow Launcher makes you more productive.
There are two ways you can get Arrow Launcher right now.
- Join the Google+ community and get it officially. It’s unclear who they are accepting, but the plus point is that you will get the official app from the Play Store, which means updates are easier.
- Download the Arrow Launcher APK and then manually install it on your Android phone.
Hyperlapse Videos for Android
A while ago, Instagram launched Hyperlapse for iPhones, which speeds up a video you are shooting while stabilizing the images. The end result is a cool effect that looks like time-lapse photography on speed. Unfortunately, Instagram only released this app for iPhones and not for Android. Don’t worry Googlers, Microsoft has your back!
Microsoft’s Hyperlapse Video works on any phone with Android 4.4 Kit Kat or Android 5.0 Lollipop, but we’d also suggest that your phone should have a decent enough processor and at least 1GB of RAM, or the app crashes. With this app, you can shoot or import videos, speed them up (1x to 32x the normal speed), and get rid of shaky images. Of course, you can also share those videos on Instagram later. Our full Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile review has any other details you might need.
Download: Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile for Android (Free)
While not made in-house at Microsoft, the software giant did buy what we reckon is the best cross-platform calendar: Sunrise. Install it, give it access to your Facebook, Twitter, Google Calendar and other apps, and you’ll have a central calendar that keeps all your appointments and events in one place.
Sunrise’s best feature is the sheer number of third-party services it can connect to so that your reminders are centralized. Apart from Google, iCloud, and Microsoft Exchange, it supports Evernote, Asana, Trello, LinkedIn, Google Tasks, and several other apps in which a reminder or a notification is important.
Download: Sunrise Calendar for Android (Free) [No longer available]
In my recent roundup of apps you should install first on your Android, several commenters said OneNote made it to their list of must-have apps. The popular note-taking service is now completely free and cross-platform, so you can access your notes on any other device.
OneNote has several productivity features, including the ability to convert images and audio into text, scanning and managing receipts, and much more. Its new bouquet of features like audio and video search make it a complete note-taking app, able to go toe-to-toe with Evernote and others.
Download: Microsoft OneNote for Android (Free)
If OneNote is too confusing for you but you just want the ability to scan and manage receipts, Office Lens is a good alternative. It is completely free and even uses OCR (optical character recognition) to convert text in images into searchable digital text. That’s a feature that most other such scanners, like Scanbot, charge you a premium for.
From photographing a whiteboard at a meeting to digitizing the business cards you collect in a conference, Office Lens is simple and easy to use. Plus, if you have OneDrive installed, it will automatically save all these to the cloud, keeping you from ever losing an important file.
Download: Office Lens for Android (Free)
Speaking of OneDrive, that’s another app worth having on your Android. Why? Simply because you can get 100GB of online storage for free. And that’s on top of the 15GB you get when you sign up for OneDrive. Throw your documents, your photos and videos, your music, and all your other files in it. Get creative with how you use OneDrive, it’s all in the cloud anyway. Just make sure you don’t set it to download files automatically when you open them.
Download: OneDrive for Android (Free)
Try Other Microsoft Apps
Not everything Microsoft creates is going to be a hit, but that’s okay. The good news is that most of the apps are free, so you can try them out if you feel like it.
For example, take the Next Lock Screen, an alternative lock screen for Android. It’s a decent app, as is its predecessor, Picturesque Lock Screen. While we reckon there are other nifty and free lockscreen apps for Android, Microsoft’s two free apps are pretty nice too.
In fact, the only Microsoft-made app that we would advise against is Microsoft Remote Desktop, currently in beta. It has no customization options, it has problems in connecting to the desktop, and it’s generally a mess. In his review of the best Android remote desktop apps, Guy figured out the target audience for this app: “If you don’t like yourself and prefer to do everything the hard way, then you’ll be contentedly miserable with Microsoft’s app.”
Is Microsoft Making a “Productive Android”?
It seems like Microsoft wants to make apps that form a core part of getting things done on your Android. Apart from a productivity focus with Office and the new Arrow Launcher, the company recently bought Wunderlist, one of our favorite to-do list apps.
Do you think Microsoft can come up with a whole application suite to make Android more productive? Which apps would you want to see next from the Redmond giant? Let us know in the comments!