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Google releases so many new software and updates that it’s difficult to keep track. Not all of it is awesome or useful either. So here’s a quick list of the best Google apps, tools, and updates that you can make use of.
Naturally, the internet giant focuses more on Android apps and websites, but there are a few cross-platform tools too. There are cultural experiments, items that focus on health and well-being, and even some quirky and artsy programs.
1. Digital Well-Being for Families (Web): Navigating Technology as a Family
Google created a mini-portal guide for families to figure out how to interact with technology in a healthy way, as part of its Digital Well-Being initiative. The Family Conversation Guide has six elements, each primed to ensure technology doesn’t disrupt your happy home.
- Decide when and how to use devices: As a family, this will ensure family time is kept separate, with also a special family-time box.
- Find positive content: In a world of bad news and negativity, work as a collective to find, discuss, and enact on the good stuff.
- Determine when your kids are ready for a device: Have the tough-but-fair conversation with your children, and make them present their case too.
- Use social media meaningfully and responsibly: While kids will obviously benefit from this, so will the parents.
- Make gaming a positive experience: Video games are great and inevitable, and they could be better if you discussed their harmful sides and positive aspects.
- Balance offline and online activities: This is a tough act for any family, but Google has a few ideas on making it happen.
The Family Conversation Guide is a great tool to learn more about how to balance digital and personal lives. If you’re looking for apps to fight smartphone addiction, Google has also created a few Digital Well-Being Experiments for Android.
2. Unlock Clock (Android): How Often Do You Look at Your Phone?
Unlock Clock is a Live Wallpaper app for Android phones. Every time you unlock the phone from a screen-off phase, it will update the counter. It’s big, it’s in-your-face, and after that number gets too high, Google is hoping you’ll start feeling guilty.
The clock resets every day. It also has the current date and weather information, as well as the Google Assistant bar for quick search.
Download: Unlock Clock for Android (Free)
3. We Flip (Android): Be More Social When Meeting Friends
Do you or your friends spend too much time on their phones when meeting together? Try the We Flip game to find out who is the worst smartphone addict among you.
When you meet, switch on We Flip on all your phones and “flip the switch” to begin a session. When someone unlocks their phone, the session ends. We Flip also knows whenever a person’s screen was active without unlocking, counting those as peeks.
At the end of your meeting, switch off the flip and see how you did. Psst, make the worst addict pay the bill!
Download: We Flip for Android (Free)
4. Post Box (Android): Delayed Notifications in Batches
Out of all the new Digital Well-Being experiments by Google, Post Box shows the most potential. We have talked about how notifications can be major distractions and disrupt productivity. Instead of instant notifications, Post Box sends them all at once in batches.
It works exactly as you’d expect it to, but there is one significant problem. Right now, you can choose only four predetermined time slots in a day. Hopefully in a future update, Post Box will let you delay notifications to 15-minute or half-hour updates, which would make it tremendously useful.
Download: Post Box for Android (Free)
5. Morph (Android): Get Apps Based on What You’re Doing
Morph is a fancy version of creating profiles for your phone. In each profile, you set a few apps that are useful. You also add either a time slot or a GPS location for each profile.
When you reach that place or the clock strikes, Morph will then automatically give you only those apps you set in your profile. That way, you avoid distractions like checking social media at work.
Download: Morph for Android (Free)
6. Desert Island (Android): A Personal Challenge for Smartphone Addicts
You claim you aren’t addicted to your phone, but you’ll be surprised how much time you are wasting on it. Don’t believe us? Try the Desert Island challenge for smartphone addicts.
The app forces you to choose only seven essential apps and locks everything else away for 24 hours. Those apps will be on your home screen. You can still access other apps if needed, but it’s an honor-based personal challenge. You get to decide if you failed or succeeded. Are you brave enough?
Download: Desert Island for Android (Free)
7. Rivet (Android, iOS) and Bolo (Android): Help Kids Learn to Read
Google is building two new apps to help teach children how to read better. Google’s experimental team at Area 120 is developing Rivet, while Bolo focuses on Indian children, but should work for anyone.
Both apps feature a large library of illustrated books with built-in speech recognition. If the kid is stuck at any point, they can tap the word to hear it aloud. Plus the apps work offline and don’t show any ads.
These are among the best Google apps to play and learn for young children.
Download: Bolo for Android (Free)
8. Touring Bird (Web): New Sightseeing and Tourism App for City Guides
Many users were disappointed when Google shut down Google Trips. While that’s a done deal, there is still some hope for those who love to travel. Check out Touring Bird, the new venture from Area 120 that is now moving to Google full-time.
Touring Bird is a city guide that tells a tourist anything and everything they’d want to know. There is a price comparison for tours, tickets, and activities, which usually takes a lot of planning and research. The guide also includes off-beat activities and curated recommendations from writers and experts.
It currently has information for the most popular travel destinations in the world. Over time, Google hopes to add more, making this a comprehensive one-stop resource when you are visiting any of these major cities.
9. You Asked, Art Answered (Web): Google and BBC Answer Life’s Greatest Questions
Google’s Arts & Culture Lab is always doing something cool and quirky. This time, they teamed up with BBC to get artists and creative thinkers to answer some of the most Googled questions by everyday people. Naturally, the answers are a bit different than what you’d expect.
For example, choreographer Jamiel Lawrence tackles the question, “Do I have free will?” Artist Andy Holden’s cartoon ponders the eternal question “What is love?” through popular music. And if you’re from jolly old England, you’re going to love Sarah Maple’s “What does it mean to be British?”
Get the New Google Apps and Tools
On one hand, Google is doing great things at the cutting edge of innovation, such as leading the way in the field of quantum computing. On the other, it continues to promote quirky new apps and tools that are pure fun or useful for everyday tasks. They come in so frequently, that’s you can miss stuff. For instance, how many of these fun Google-made apps have you tried so far?