What’s better than to install utility apps on our Android smartphones to improve their functionality? Without utility apps, it can be pretty hard to manage files, minimize RAM usage, surf the internet faster, or even automate simple tasks such as adjusting the screen brightness at a preset time to save battery. With utility apps, you can gain more control over your phone. So without any further ado, let me share my list of the Top 5 Utility Apps that I always make sure to install every time I start using a new phone.
5. ES File Explorer
- Easier navigation. Just swipe to left/right to change directories or panes. You can set the number of panes that are automatically opened once you use the app. It can also change views to set it either List or Icon and sort the items via Name, Modified Date, and Size.
- Wirelessly manage your computer’s files. ES File Explorer has wireless LAN support to manage your computer’s files using your smartphone. You can wirelessly connect your phone to your PC and transfer files between the two. This saves you the effort of connecting your phone to your PC through a USB cable just to archive your vacation pictures and other files. Of course, this is assuming that your PC and phone are connected to the same WiFi network. If you don’t have an available WiFi network, you can use another neat feature called Remote Manager. Just enable it on your phone and it will give you an FTP address to enter on your PC. After that, you can start transferring files to and from your PC.
- Support for cloud storage such as Google drive, DropBox, OneDrive, Box, Amazon Cloud, SugarSync, Yandex and Bitcasa. If you use any of these cloud storage options, this feature will really come in handy.
- Its latest version now supports 7z Compression, in addition to ZIP format.
- Other neat features such as App Manager, SD Card Analyst and Root Explorer for rooted phones.
4. Opera Mini Browser
Let’s admit it — not everyone has a high speed mobile connection, especially in our country where we are ranked as having the slowest (and most expensive) internet speeds in the region. When you just want to browse the news, visit your favorite blogs, or browse Facebook, Opera Mini comes in very handy. Created by a Norwegian company, Opera Software ASA, this app is touted as the world’s fastest mobile browser. Although it lacks features such as incognito and flash support for video (which can be found in other full-packed Opera browsers), Opera Mini is my go-to browser whenever I have a need for speed.
If your phone no longer feels as fast as when you first bought it, you might want to try this app. Greenify can hibernate other apps installed on your phone. You want to hibernate an app for one reason – preventing it from running in the background to save precious RAM and CPU clock cycles, which theoretically results in faster performance.
You might think this is similar to numerous task killers in Play Store, but it isn’t. Task killers basically just kill apps for a moment, but can be invoked later by itself or other apps even if you don’t tap on it, and then run wild in the background again. Greenify, on the other hand, will totally keep it from running in background until you explicitly use it.
I usually freeze apps that don’t need to be running in the background, such as games, tools, browsers, picture-editing and note-taking apps. But there are apps that need to run in the background such as launchers, Go SMS, Handcent, Mr. Number, and Tasker, so be sure not to include them in a list of apps to be frozen. Install Greenify, then compare RAM usage found in Settings > Apps > Running Apps to see it for yourself.
2. Titanium Backup (root needed)
One app that your phone can’t live without is a backup tool. With Titanium Backup, changing phones doesn’t have to be an ordeal since your apps can seamlessly transfer to your new phone. What makes Titanium Backup outstanding from other backup tools is that when it backs up an app, not only will it back-up the app itself, but the data that the app is using as well. This is useful for offline games where you want to save your progress to avoid going back to square one, as well as apps where you have made several changes to its settings that you don’t want to do over again.
Another very useful feature of Titanium Backup that you’ll love is that it can uninstall system apps. Yes, you read it right — it can uninstall system apps. Notice that when you first bought your phone, you will see a lot of bloatware, force-installed by the phone’s manufacturer, often deemed useless by most people because it takes up precious resources. Now you can get rid of them using this app. First, convert the system app you want to remove into a user app, next is to uninstall it once the process is finished. This is why I always root my phone — just to install Titanium Backup so that I can do away with bloatware.
Last but not least, potentially the most powerful app that can be installed on Android — Tasker. It can practically automate everything on your phone like automatically turning the GPS on when opening navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze, lowering the notifications volume when you’re at the office, or automatically replying to a text message when you set yourself as busy during specific times of the day.
You can also set Tasker to say the name of the person who just texted you aloud so you can immediately decide if you want to reply or ignore it if you are too busy doing something else. You can level this up by asking Tasker to read the message to you if an earphone is plugged in.
The list is practically endless. But let me say this, the learning curve of using Tasker is steep and it requires a programmer’s mindset to automate things smoothly. No, you do not have to be a programmer to use Tasker effectively, but you do have to have a similar mindset.
If you can read and follow instructions, are willing to do some search, and don’t get easily frustrated when things don’t work as you expected, automating everything you want using Tasker should soon become second-nature. Once you get the hang of it, you will find yourself automating any repetitive task on your phone such as sending a text message to let your loved ones know that you’re already at the office every morning.
There is so much this app can do and it will require a series of articles to cover the basics and its advanced uses. Perhaps I can go into that some time in the future 🙂
So there you have it guys. If you have a favorite utility app you think is worth mentioning here, feel free to comment below.