More than incremental improvements
I am a strong advocate of not upgrading software, unless it has to do with security patches or significant improvements that benefit me. In the Google store app on my Android, I have auto-update turned off, and so I have 48 apps waiting with updates. They can continue to wait.
A decade after the iPhone launched the full-screen touch-with-finger paradigm, the app market is mature. Most apps do what we need them to do. There rarely are breakthrough apps anymore. I am more likely to get a new phone than a new app.
But once in a while, I hear about a new app that sounds interesting (and then end up not using it most times anyhow), or I get frustrated with the capabilities of an existing one and so go searching for a better replacement (which is not easy).
The biggest change I made in the last year was to replace the K-9 email app with AquaMail. The new one has a nicer interface and this killer feature: when attaching a picture to an email, AcquaMail asks how small you want to make it -- so no need to resize before attaching it. Another nice function: swipe to hide messages but keep them on the server. This declutters the list of emails on the phone without erasing them unnecessarily.
The drawback: AcquaMail has a ton of options. It took me months to find the option to automatically BCC: to self. (From AquaMail support: "This is a per-account option, so long press your account, choose Options and Folders, then Extended mode, finally scroll down to see it.") Even that Swipe-to-Hide function took me a while to discover and implement.
My Primary Apps
Here are the primary apps I'm using these days. Remember to pay developers. App prices are cheap, and programmers need the income.
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Home screen and launcher: KK Launcher, but I use an old one that is no longer available (another reason to not update). My most-used apps are on the home screen, with lesser used ones on the left and right screens.
Home screen with Tasks To Do dominating; background image by my daughter, professional photographer Katrina Grabowski
Task manager -- Tasks To Do (displayed as a widget and the most important app on my phone)
Email -- Aquamail
Browser -- Opera (ad killer!) with search set to Bing (to avoid Google)
Twitter -- Plume Pro (Twitter ads? What Twitter ads?)
RSS Reader -- gReader Pro
Texting -- ChompSMS (allows me to send cell phone texts at a future date and time) plus WhatsApp, Instagram, and BlackBerry Messenger to be compatible with my kids
File manager -- FC File Commander and Dropbox (for remote file transfer)
Photo viewing -- QuickPic
Photo resizing -- Photo Resizer (don't need it as much now that Aquamail resizes)
Tides -- Tide Prediction for our cabin by the ocean ( and scientific proof that sea levels are not rising precipitously)
Music player -- Neutron (the best sound of any music player, but horrible interface)
Movie player -- MX Player Pro (love that I can change the brightness, volume, and place in the movie just by dragging on the screen)
Office documents -- OfficeSuite (to avoid using Google as much as possible). The exception is Google Sheets, because OfficeSuite's spreadsheet doesn't zoom properly on small screens.
Travel -- apps from each airline I commonly fly with and railroad I travel on; I especially like that United's app now reports the location of checked bags.
Date in Status Bar -- does what it says, but does not work on all Android devices
My Data Manager -- tells me how much of my monthly cell data plan I've used; priceless! In the figure below, the (very short) dark blue bar tells me how much I've used so far in this month's cycle; the lighter blue shows how much I could have used, based on dividing the monthly 500MB allowance by 30 days.
Wigetsoid -- to add the most-used functions to the notification bar, such as 10/30/100% brightness, flashlight, and orientation
Gas Buddy -- tells me which gas station has the lowest price in the area
TeamViewer -- to access my desktop computers visually
Mobile Passport (USA) and eDeclaration (Canada) -- to skip long lineups at US/Canada border crossings at airports
MCW -- to display the monthly calendar as a widget
In rare cases, I revert to the apps native to the phone. My current phone is the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom, an unsung phone if there ever was one. (It has a 5000mAHr battery, 2.3x optical zoom, screen grabs jsut by holding down the Recents button, etc.) I reverted to using its apps for Camera, Contacts, and Phone, as ASUS beefed them up to be good enough for my needs.
When out of country, I put $5 on Skype to phone home for cheap.