Android

7 slightly obscure Android apps you should be using

If you're looking for a gem of an app for your Android device, Jack Wallen offers up seven slightly obscure apps that will most likely wind up on your regular app rotation.

androidhero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

Head over to the Google Play Store and you'll find it's fairly easy to be overwhelmed with the choices. So inundating is the selection, one might be inclined to abandon the search and use what everyone else is using. When that happens, you run the risk of missing out on some real gems.

That's why I'm here. I wanted to highlight seven slightly obscure Android apps, apps you probably don't even know exist, but will want on your device. And with that said, let's dive into the Play Store and see what's what.

1. Energy Bar

Battery life has always been an Achilles of the mobile device. As users, we must know, at a glance, how much battery we have remaining. The one app I've found that serves this task the best is Energy Bar. Once installed, this app will display a thin line at the top of your Notification Shade (Figure A). As the battery drains, that green line will shrink (to match the percent of battery remaining) and shift colors to indicate the state of battery drain. When you see that line shifting to red, you know you're battery is running low.

Figure A

Figure A

The Energy Bar showing me I have plenty of battery life.

2. Animoto

Part of my marketing involves video. There are so many ways to create video, it's dizzying. But what happens when I'm struck by inspiration on the go? That's when I turn to Animoto. Animoto allows you to use photos on your device (Figure B - or from Google Photos/Drive) to create quick and easy videos that you can then share out to the usual suspects. You won't find an easier way to create quick videos on the go than with Animoto.

Figure B

Figure B

Adding photos to an Animoto video.

3. Snipback

If you're looking for one of the most useful audio recording apps for mobile devices, do not overlook Snipback. Snipback listens in the background and then allows you to recover snippets of time. Tap 30 seconds to recover the last thirty seconds of audio. With this tool (Figure C) you only save the important sections of a lecture, discussion, interview, etc. and lose the bits you don't need. This is one of the smartest recording apps I've ever used.

Figure C

Figure C

The Snipback recording app offers a simple interface.


4. Riot

Riot is a simple collaboration environment that allows you to create rooms and invite people into those rooms for collaboration. With old school chatrooms as a model (Figure D), Riot can easily serve as a means to a collaborative end with you creating a topic-specific room (say a certain team project), adding users to the room (say, your team), and then chatting/sharing about the topic. You can also join any public room to discuss whatever subject the room was built around.

Figure D

Figure D

Riot makes collaboration discussion/sharing simple.

5. Paralign

If you've ever wanted to simply share your thoughts with the public, but were afraid of doing so, Paralign (Figure E) is what you want. This app allows you to share your thoughts and moods and, after a time, will start building clusters of like minds around your posts (the more posts you make, the more reliable this is). It's quite ingenious and avoids so much of the stigma attached to most social media services. It seems this app is really just getting off the ground, but should it survive and thrive, it could be a great addition to the next phase of social media. With Paralign, there is no judgment, just like minds.

Figure E

Figure E

Paralign makes it easy to share your thoughts and moods.

6. Privacy Screen Guard

Being on the go means you will, at some point, be using your device in public while viewing sensitive data. That's where a remarkable little app, called Privacy Screen Guard, comes in handy. With this app you can block out all but a user-defined section of the screen (Figure F). Resize the bar or circle to perfectly fit your needs and dim the screen outside of the defined location all the way to black (if needed). This is an ideal way of preventing spying eyes from seeing information that is intended for you only.

Figure F

Figure F

Privacy Screen Guard in action.

7. Google Handwriting Input

If you're looking for yet another method of inputting text into your device, you might want to check out Google Handwriting Input. This is one of the most accurate handwriting input apps I have ever used. If you happen to find typing on a that virtual keyboard to be an exercise in frustration, this might be the input app for you. One installed and enabled, any time you need to input text, it will pop up (in place of the keyboard), where you can start writing. Don't worry if your handwriting is atrocious (as is mine), the app still does a great job of knowing what you're inputting (Figure G).

Figure G

Figure G

The Google Handwriting Input app is remarkable at knowing what you're writing.

The hits keep coming

There you have it: seven slightly obscure Android apps that could easily be considered as serious hits by nearly any type of user. It takes a bit of digging through the the massive amount of available apps on the Play Store, but there are some real gems to be found. Give one or more of these apps a try and see if they don't wind up on your regular rotation.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox