Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

The Apps I Installed on My New Phone

You may recall that I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, from a video I posted not long ago about how I was keeping it for a while longer than recommended. Something about it possibly bursting into flames.

The responses to that video were … I’ll just say polarized.

I was waiting for something better / good enough to come along, and I’m happy to say that as of roughly 24 hours ago, my needs appear to have been met. I’m now the proud owner of a Google Pixel XL (32GB version, in black, for those who care about such things).

Perhaps I’ll talk about the phone itself someday, if there’s enough interest, but I decided to share the list of apps I installed first, and perhaps a little bit about why.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

From triple to double digits

When I replaced my original Note 7 with another Note, I was able to just transfer everything from the old phone to the new.

The Pixel is a different phone, with a little less memory than I had before, so I decided to do what on a PC we would call a “reinstall from scratch”. I’d go from the over 150 apps installed on the old phone to (mostly) only what I needed on the new.

The phone came with the OS installed, of course, and a base set of applications, and that’s where the good news actually begins. One of the things the Pixel has going for it is that it doesn’t have a lot of pre-installed applications.1 My carrier, Verizon, typically loads up their phones with a lot of things I don’t need, but not so for the Pixel. It was refreshingly clean.

Apps Pre-installed on my Google PixelSince we’re talking about the Google Pixel, I expected Google to be well represented and pre-installed. However – an experience I’ve never personally experienced before – all the pre-installed applications fit on one screen.

So, I started installing.

30 apps in 24 hours

I’ll list ’em in the order I installed them, but for the most part this isn’t really a reflection of priority – it’s more a reflection of my memory.

DiskUsage – This may seem an odd place to start, but my Note 7 had 64GB of space, and the Pixel has only 32GB. (I elected not to wait over a month or more to get the 128GB version.) While I calculated that 32GB would be sufficient as long as I was willing to rely on connectivity and the cloud, I still wanted to be able to keep an eye on how space was being used.

LastPass – This, on the other hand, should be no surprise at all. This is installed early because it enables easier logging in to many of the apps that follow.

Authy – Authy is a replacement for the Google two-factor authentication application. Normally, moving from device to device is a hassle, requiring that you detach two-factor authorization from each account on which you use it and re-attach it on the new device. Authy preserves the tokens and allows you to move more easily (with its own master password, of course).

Evernote – I use Evernote a lot. I installed it next because I was collecting this very list of applications as a note. :-)

Kindle – I read. A lot. It’s great to have my entire library in my pocket. (Reading is also one of the reasons I’ve come to prefer the larger screens of the Galaxy Note series, and now the Pixel XL.)

Facebook – You know I’m on Facebook, right? In addition to Ask Leo!, I remain in contact with a large number of personal friends and acquaintances there.

Insight Timer – You may not know that I meditate regularly; I have for years. I use a couple of apps, but this is the one I’m currently using most.

Smart Voice Recorder – I frequently take voice memos instead of written notes. The sound quality on the Pixel is actually good enough that I may do some audio recording for Ask Leo! using this application as well.

Remember the Milk – I do a lot, and Remember the Milk is one of the tools I use to try to make sure it all gets done.

Starbucks – Do I really have to explain this one? Or why it would be early on my list? :-)

ES File Explorer Pro – Being the computer guy I am, I feel the need to be able to view the contents of my device like a disk. I want to see the files and folders. ES File Explorer is the free version; Pro removes ads and adds a couple of other things, like customizations.

InstagramAsk Leo! is on Instagram, and I use it a little myself as well.

Buffer is a social media management tool that makes it a little easier to manage my posts to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more.

Audible – I can’t read when I’m driving, so I listen to books instead. A great way to make use of time on the road.

IMDB – I swear, not a day goes by when we’re not sitting in front of the TV watching a show or movie and a question comes up. “Don’t we recognize that person from somewhere?” “Where was this filmed?” “Have we seen all the episodes?” Not a day goes by I don’t reach for IMDB.

Netflix – I don’t watch a lot of Netflix on my phone. However, for a variety of reasons, I recently started using my phone and “Google Cast” to control what’s being shown on my TV. Like Netflix.

Feedly – I love RSS. It’s how I stay on top of what several different websites publish each day, without having to remember to visit each. Feedly is a RSS reader with both desktop and mobile versions. I use them both every day.

Slack – Slack is a team communication application, and as “Team Leo” continues to grow, it’s something we use occasionally as we coordinate our efforts.

GroupMe – GroupMe is an instant messaging application. I use it heavily when I attend conferences, and when called out on animal rescue operations.

Seattle Times – The local paper.

The Washington Post – The not-so local paper.

My Fitness Pal – Can an app change your life? This one comes close for me. It was (and remains) instrumental to achieving and maintaining my weight loss of a couple of years ago.

Skype – I use Skype to stay in touch with a number of people.

WhatsApp – The instant messaging and communications program I use to stay in touch with my relatives overseas. It was extra handy when I visited Holland a little while back.

Google News – I was actually surprised this wasn’t pre-installed. It’s a handy roundup of headlines and news items from a variety of sources.

Weather Underground – Because everyone needs a weather application, right?

Amazon Music – Some years ago I went “all in” with Amazon Music. It’s where I purchase most of my music2, and where I uploaded my entire collection of several hundred music CDs. The net result: I can listen to anything I own anywhere. (With Prime Music, I can listen to a bunch of things I don’t own as well.)

SnapchatAskLeo! is experimenting with Snapchat.

Life360 – In the beginning, Google had something called “Latitude”. It was a way you could let select people see where you were in semi-real time on Google Maps. Latitude was discontinued, and a crippled, unreliable, not-quite-equivalent feature was placed in Google+. A friend recently turned me on to Life360, and so far, it’s doing a great job. It’s primarily intended to let parents see where their kids are, but my wife and I use it just for each other.

Prey – Speaking of location, Prey is a security app that allows you to locate your phone, as well as do things like lock it remotely and even remote-wipe it in case of theft. (Also works on laptops, and I have it set up for my phone, my wife’s phone, and the laptop with which I travel.)

Those are only the apps I installed in the first 24 hours of having the phone. I expect more will get installed over time as I remember “oh, yeah, I want to do X” a few times.

Hopefully, I won’t reach that 150+ level I did on the Note, but … one never knows.

What’s missing?

Two questions, if you’ve followed along this far:

There’s an entire class of app I’ve not installed. Can you identify it?

And, from your perspective, what am I missing? Any cool apps you’d care to share? I’m constantly amazed at the things I can do with this little pocket computer. Here’s your chance to amaze me a little more.

Let me know in the comments below.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

Podcast audio


Footnotes & references

1: AKA “crapware”.

2: Yes, I still purchase music. You should too. Support the artists.

40 comments on “The Apps I Installed on My New Phone”

  1. Try the Wyndow app. It’s quite new – and still needs more data feeds for some areas – but it’s very cool, especially when travelling.

  2. I used a LOT on a month long trip in Europe. It’s offline, and you just need to download their maps that you want on your phone via wifi. It bookmarks locations, prepares routes, and a lot of other things I haven’t tried yet. It even tells where the closest public restroom is, and can zoom in to show the street numbers of houses. It works off gps, so no data is used. Thanks for all of your valuable info, Leo.

  3. Class that’s missing: games.
    Also: travel apps, Uber, airlines, etc.

    Others to consider:
    Dropbox / Drive / etc.
    Gaia GPS or similar
    App from your credit card provider (most will alert immediately for every charge, good for avoiding fraud)

    • Dropbox is one of my most used apps. I use the paid version, and the app gives me access to every file on my computer. And my Bank of America app let’s me do things that I can’t eve do on their website, for example, deposit checks. Living outside the US, that check deposit app is a money saver.

      • Ain’t technology grand? Whether it’s depositing a cheque from home, navigating your way around an unfamiliar city, finding somewhere good to eat nearby or being able to access all your files anytime, anywhere – life is so much easier with a phone in your hand!

        • Ain’t it, though? I’m already kinda nuts when it comes to this stuff (and getting nuttier – I love living in the future!), but I was particularly enamored when I visited another country a while back (The Netherlands), and my phone was an incredibly convenient, and valuable tool for so many things. I won’t say it was truly indispensable because if true – if I really couldn’t travel without it – well, then I’d be traveling wrong. :-)

          • “I was particularly enamored when I visited another country a while back.” – Indeed. I especially love having the ability to automatically translate non-English menus. Just point your phone’s camera at it, and you have a translation lickety-split. The translations are sometimes hilariously bad, but they’re nearly always good enough to give you a pretty good idea of what you’ll be eating).

            It really amazes me how far technology has come – and the options and convenience it provides us with – inside the space of a few short years.

    • WhatsApp just announced they’re adding video, and end-to-end encryption. So if you’re a head of state, you can have a secret video conference without having to resort to “The Cone of Silence” (kudos to Maxwell Smart)

  4. Some of my go-to apps that I can highly recommend:
    Simple Pomodoro – I use this to make sure I get up for a 2 minute movement break every 20 minutes.
    Snapseed – photo editing
    Flipboard: Your News Magazine
    Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner (for tuning my guitar)
    Duolingo – for language study
    Fast Scanner: Free PDF Scan – I use this whenever I have to share a document with someone over email.
    Google Translate – I use this for language study purposes.
    Pocket Casts – for subscribing and listening to podcasts
    Quizlet Flashcards & Learning – another language study tool
    White Noise Free – helps during daytime naps when it is a little noisy in the neighborhood
    WOOP app – a very useful technique called mental contrasting. Worth checking out if you want a helpful tool for channeling mental obstacles into useful goals.

  5. The wife and I are thinking about replacing our old phones. We’d be interested in your take on the Pixel’s pluses (and minuses).

    • So far I’m very pleased. The fingerprint reader is in an odd place, especially if you have a case. The camera is easy to block with your finger, but something to easily get used to. I was disappointed that there was no 64GB option – only 32GB (available now) and 128GB (next month). But I’m a happy camper so far.

      • I have a Samsung Galaxy S6 and I tried the fingerprint lock and had an enormous amount of trouble getting it to recognize my finger – any thoughts?
        It also has HD voice which I found was a big improvement over previous phones because I do still occasionally talk on the phone – How does the Pixel do?

  6. Apps I wouldn’t be without: RealCalc scientific calculator. Da Tuner Lite guitar (or anything else) tuner. Havos crossword solver. Focus Assistant (lens depth of field). Stellarium. And just for fun – Random Lolcat.

  7. Email My Texts – converts a thread of texts into an email and sends it to your email address. It’s been useful to me 3 times since I bought it.

  8. The entire class of apps I see you missing seems to be security!
    I’m not sure why but I don’t see anything in your list at all.
    Now I’ll try finding if I’m right or not.

  9. I was hoping you might have found a better calendar app than either Google’s or Outlook.
    The latter does a better job of combining my personal and office events but needs a better widget.

    +1 for a review of the Pixel phone please.

  10. Mine is wired to the wall. If you need a cellphone, that’s fine but I don’t have a life to run on a phone. No credit cards, no banking, I stick to my budgeting and plan purchases. You can guess I’m on a fixed income yet I have all the junk I want and too much of it : )

    I also rip my records and tapes and make my own files. (Even 8-tracks). I build up my own computers from donated chassis and parts. Music IS fun.

  11. How many times have you sat in a hotel room (or campground) and there are storm warnings. (or worse) Do you know the county you are in. I use a app called WHERE AM I. Love it.

  12. Scanner Radio is a terrific free app that not only allows you to monitor police and fire channels around the world, but has a customizable alert feature than will notify you when a large number of listeners tune in to a specific channel. We typically learn of breaking news stories first via this app.

  13. Leo, for anyone who travels much, FlightRadar24 is a must-have. This amazing app has comprehensive flight data, great filters, route search, current airport delay stats plus real-time airline Arrival/Departure boards world-wide (paid version). For example, it’s easy to find the status of the arriving aircraft you expect to fly out on… where it is at the moment. I had a situation where the airport boards showed my flight “Delayed” and FlightRadar24 told me the bird we were waiting for (you even know the tail #) was still on the ground at a previous stop. A quick route search to see options, a phone call armed with that info, and I’m in a much better position than otherwise.

    A binocular view even lets you pull up data on aircraft that you see nearby. For the terminally curious, filters allow you to do things like see the tracks of all aircraft then in the air of a particular airline, or model (e.g., Boeing 787), or given route. Of course you can have too much info: While tracking my daughter’s flight I noticed it was squawking transponder code 7700 (emergency) and descending. It landed OK at the nearest city and she called to let me know it was a medical emergency: A passenger across from her had flat-lined, flight attendants successfully gave CPR in the aisle, and the person was transported to hospital by EMTs who met the flight. Happy ending, thanks to a well-trained crew.

  14. I have a quite different approach to my phone: First of all, it’s a fairphone. It’s a try for a bit more ethical smartphone using a fair supply chain (at least for some parts).
    I use it somtimes as a phone. I have an alarm clock, a calendar, a browser to get emails, an Openstreetmap-app (OsmAnd), apps for local and long-distance traffic, music, radio, weather forcast (rarely used – I often look out of the window…), antivirus and security-app (bitdefender).
    I don’t have
    – facebook
    – WhatsApp
    – Skype
    and many more

    You may say I belong to a minority group and that is true.

  15. You use many of the apps I use. Good to know. Why do you use Smart Recorder instead of Evernote’s voice notes?

    I thought the entire class of apps missing were the ones my 5 year old loves…

  16. I like Out of Milk, Raindar (best Radar for rain in the area and beyond-not for iPhones though), Mobi Calculator Free, Instant Heart Rate, Lookout (anti-virus), BMI Calculator, Decibel Meter, and SMS Backup and Restore.

    I also have a couple of Bird Apps – one by Audubon and one by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology because I feed birds, love to watch them, and photograph them.

  17. You said you have not added antivirus yet. Do you plan to? or is this not necessary? If you do plan to, do you have a recommendation on which to use? I just bought my first Fire Tablet (HD8) and want to protect it.
    Thank you

    • I have not as yet. I don’t have a recommendation either. I do know that some providers do include some basic anti-malware protection, but I’m not sure what Amazon includes. The SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING is to NOT “side-load” apps. Meaning get them only from the official app store.

  18. Thanks Leo, very useful! How about updating the list? In particular, I would like to know what anti-virus and other security apps you have chosen!

    Some apps that I use are Waze (much better than Google Maps), the Power Toggles Widget in order to be able to shut off my GPS quickly, & DuckDuckGo as my search utility: unlike Google, they don’t track your search usage!

    Others are DataVault (I have used DataVault as my password manager since 2008), Sound Profile Pro (switch sound volumes quickly), The Photographer’s Ephemeris (fantastic for outdoor photography), Parkopedia, GasBuddy, LiveDrive (the Android app for my offsite backup utility), DropBox, my VPN app, MightyText (puts SMS messages to my phone on my tablet and PC), Yelp & Trip Advisor, Evernote, FaceBook, LinkedIn, AquaMail (business email), Hello (better SMS app than Hangouts), Bria (Business VOIP client), and 6 or 7 news apps (I’m a news junkie).

    • I’ll update it next time I get a new phone. So far, and perhaps shockingly, no security software. Or, rather, the only security “software” is me.

  19. In your prelude, you mention that you may talk about the phone itself one day. I’m very interested in your thoughts about the phone since you’ve had it well over a year now. Oh, and I really like and use Dropbox a lot! Thank you for all your articles and insight into technology!

    • Very happy with my Pixel. Great phone and doesn’t come with a lot of additional (unwanted) software that my old Samsung did. If I had to buy another, I’d get a Pixel 2 in a heartbeat.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.