14 useful Google apps you should use on Android

Google has many apps. Perhaps even also many, in certain (ahem) cases.

Amidst all the obvious titles and strangely overlapping offerings, however, Google’s wing of the Play Store holds some really useful treasures – clever creations from the creator of Android that are just waiting to be discovered.

Here are 14 off-the-beaten-path Google apps that help you do all sorts of interesting things with your Android device. Sure, any of them could disappear any day with little or no warning – this is After all, we’re talking about Google – but at least at the moment they’re out there and ready to be taken. And yes, they are all free.

(Some, but not all, are also available for iOS.)

Android has long been unique in letting you control your phone with your voice – even far back to the formal debut of Google Assistant – but with a little help from a remote Google app, you can take your phone’s hands-free potential to whole new heights.

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The app is a bit something called Voice Access. It’s technically an Android accessibility feature, but it can be incredibly useful for almost anyone.

Simple and easy, Voice Access lets you control virtually every part of your phone usage experience by simply talking. When you turn on the system, you can ask your phone to go back, go home, or adjust more or less any element of your phone’s settings. You can ask it to long press an item, scroll in any direction on an item, select or deselect text, and place your cursor anywhere you want. It can even handle text editing and lets you get around apps and websites without ever lifting a single sticky finger.

Google Apps, Android: Voice Access JR

Whether you have a physical need for that kind of control or just think you would benefit from the convenience, it’s a hell of an option to have at your (suspiciously steaming) fingertips.

Speaking of which, a spectacular Google Android app called Sound Amplifier will give you superhero-like hearing power to ensure you never miss a word like someone else says.

The appropriately named audio amplifier lets you eliminate distracting ambient noise and amplify important sounds in your environment – such as the sound of someone talking several meters away, or even the sound of a TV playing across a noisy office.

This too is technically made for accessibility. But it is not difficult to see how it can be beneficial in all possible situations, regardless of abilities.

Google App # 3: Lens

Google Lens, without a doubt Google’s most amazing and at the same time underrated Android app, lets you interact with objects and text in the real world as if they were on your phone.

The list of productivity-enhancing powers that this thing possesses is both powerful and massive. Some election highlights:

  • It allows you to copy text from any physical paper or whiteboard in front of you and then paste it anywhere on your phone, translate it right away or even have it read aloud to you for consumption on the go (mmm, words .. .)
Google Apps, Android: Lens JR
  • It allows you to send real-world text directly to your desktop computer’s clipboard, wirelessly and with around seven seconds of effort
  • It lets you pull text out of any screenshot or image and save it, search for it, or paste it anywhere your precious little heart desires
  • And it works as a code scanner for all purposes – barcodes, QR codes, you name it – without forcing you to keep clumsy third-party software ready for the purpose

The lens is probably already on your phone at the moment, believe it or not – via the camera-like icon in the search bar of the Google app on virtually any Android device and also inside the standard camera app on Pixels – but the standalone download will give you an even easier way to access it with a regular shortcut icon on the home screen or a Google Assistant command (“Hey, Google: Open Lens!”).

Further blurring the boundaries between our physical and virtual worlds is PhotoScan, which allows you to take impressively high-quality photos and glare-free physical images with your phone’s camera and then save them as digital files. PhotoScan guides you through the process of capturing multiple angles on the print and then does all the dirty work of cropping it, straightening it, and generally just making it look good.

It’s like having a full-fledged scanner in your pocket – only, you know, far more convenient to carry.

While we’re considering giving ourselves easier access to things, Google’s Action Blocks app for Android is an app worth digging into.

Action Blocks make it as easy as possible to create your own custom home screen buttons to launch Assistant-related actions or combinations of actions – things like adjusting supposedly smart devices around your home and / or office, jumping directly into specific features within apps or doing just about anything else Google Assistant can manage.

Google Apps, Android: Action Blocks JR

All you have to do is figure out what specific kind of time savings you need.

If you’ve using a phone other than a Pixel, do yourself a big favor and grab the Google Phone app right now.

The phone app’s most advanced calling features may be exclusive to Pixel owners, but the app itself can now actually work on just about any Android device, no matter who made it – and it offers a lot of advantages over the standard calling apps that others manufacturers bake into their software.

Specifically, it has Google’s excellent spam blocking system and in-app placement search smarts built directly into it and easily accessible. It has a simple and minimalist design that also matches the rest of Google’s ecosystem. And critically, that do not do has all sorts of other junk attached – including third-party services that show you ads and do shady things with your personal information.

Another relevant download, mostly for the non-Pixel-owned people among us, Google’s self-made file manager app – which comes preloaded on current Pixel phones by default – is really the best all-around Android file manager for most business users.

It is clean, simple and comfortable to use, and it makes it painless and almost smooth pleasant to browse your phone’s local storage and find, share, or organize files you’ve downloaded or transferred to your device.

Files has a unique search system that you would expect, and it has an extremely convenient system for analyzing your phone’s local storage and finding quick ‘n’ easy ways to free up space.

Google Apps, Android: Files JR

Files is not as fully equipped as some of the more advanced third-party Android file management apps out there, but it’s pretty useful – and especially if your Android file management needs are relatively basic, it’s a nice little upgrade over the standard file management service that came pre-installed on your unit.

If you pay for extra storage on your Google Account, the Google One app has some valuable extra features that you should not overlook.

The app can help you manage this Google inventory allocation, as well as your device’s backups, for one. But more importantly, it will allow you to enable a free virtual private network, or VPN, to add an extra layer of security to your data connections and ensure that no one else can see or intercept what you are sending.

It’s the kind of security that typically costs quite a bit of coin to enjoy, but if you’re already paying for Google storage, it’s there waiting to be activated on your favorite Android phone.

Little known fact: You can actually track down a missing Android device anyone phone or computer where you are logged in – using nothing but your regular old web browser.

Yes, in fact: Google’s Find My Device system works right in Google Search, and all you have to do is type these three magic words (“find my device”) into any Google search prompt to get started .

However, if you have multiple Android gadgets and want an even easier way to locate your various products, the Android-specific Find My Device app is exactly what you need. It will keep the device search system a single tap away on your home screen or in your app drawer and you will always be able to locate all Android phones, tablets, watches or even certain Android-associated headphones with a few quick steps.

Google App # 10: Snapseed

Google Photos is becoming more and more suitable as an image editing tool, but Google actually has it another app available explicitly for image adjustments on the go – and it’s still one step ahead of Photos in some meaningful ways.

It’s called Snapseed, and it’s a once independent app that Google bought years ago and continues to maintain (at least somewhat) as a completely free option for everyone to use today.

Google apps, Android: Snapseed JR

And despite Photos’ steady progress, it’s still one of the most accessible and effective image enhancement options for any Android phone.

The next one is pretty specific, but if you run your own business – or are responsible for your company’s online presence in any way – Google’s My Business app is definitely worth grabbing. The app gives you a single streamlined portal to check your company’s presence in Google. You can respond to reviews, customize your company profile and even get notifications every time a customer (or potential customer) tries to get in touch with you.

For the smaller business owners among us, it could be invaluable.

I’ve mentioned Opinion Rewards several times over the years, but it’s still something most typical users remain sadly unaware of. If you’re among those who do not yet use it, start now – because it’s basically just a way to get free Google Play Store credit for participating in a quick survey from time to time.

Here’s how it works: The app notifies you when a new survey is available. You answer a handful of questions about a recent shopping experience or your thoughts on some type of video or maybe merchandise, and then the app puts a credit on your Play Store account. It can be for 10 cents, or it can be for a dollar.

Either way, it takes virtually no time to do, and credits increase rapidly – meaning your next app purchase or movie rental can be at home (and yet the developer or creator is still getting paid – win-win!).

Hold on to this for your next boring business travel moment: Google Arts & Culture lets you explore national parks and monuments, zoom in close to famous works of art and even take virtual tours of entire museums directly from your mobile device.

Google Apps, Android: Arts & Culture JR

The app is just crammed with cool views of fascinating things from around the world, and it provides a welcome mental distraction, no matter where your physical body may be.

This last choice is actually the app that controls the wallpaper selection for Google’s own Pixel line of phones, but it’s widely available – and just like with some of the other apps on this list, if you does not have a Pixel device, you can think of it as an easy upgrade from your system’s default wallpaper selection tool.

The aptly named Wallpapers make finding a background for your home screen a fun adventure with options for choosing stunning static or motion-based images in a variety of categories – from landscapes, sea landscapes and planets to art and geometric shapes.

The best part though is the way Wallpapers can automatically change your wallpaper to a new image every day within any category that floats your boat (including, if you are inclined to it, your own personal images of boats floating). It gives a nice little surprise when you move between your various very important work tasks ™.

Google Apps Android - Wallpapers JR

Automatic refresh wallpaper – now, it is refreshing.

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