If you’re like most people, you probably have a phone, and chances are you have either an Android or an iPhone. I have the latter, and thought I’d share the top 10 Google apps I use almost daily. Here they are, in no particular order – all are free to download, and some can connect to multiple Google accounts at the same time.
1. Google App
The Google App is like a portal to all your other things in Google land, as well as the quickest way to search. Recently voice search was enabled, and now it’s as easy as opening the app and starting your query with “OK, Google…” and then telling it what to search for. Yes, I agree – it’s a bit creepy that once the app is launched, it’s actually listening for you, or to you, and who knows what trouble that can get us into? Either way, it works wonders, and it’s simple to use, and returns great results. Sorry, Siri…
One feature that’s especially cool is the cards at the bottom – simply swipe them up and the app tells you stuff about your day, your commute, and so on. I’m not really sure how it knows all this stuff, but I don’t really spend too much time wondering either. It just works, and it’s a bit like magic.
Fig 1. – The Home Screen on the Google App – notice the cards at the bottom ready to tell you the weather, etc. Also, at the top – notice the grid that matches with what you see online in a browser.
Fig 2. – Your other Google apps on display – from here you can quickly access your other Google tools, although they are the browser kind, as clicking Drive for example, will not open the native Google Drive App. Too bad.
The Chrome browser is the only browser for me nowadays, and I’m happy that I have some of the same functionality on my phone. Multiple tabs, Incognito sessions, and even the ability to pull up tabs that are open on other devices, like my laptop or home computer. The mobile browser is fast, keeps your browsing history for recall or frequent visits to the same pages, and auto-suggests spellings and URLs. As for the interface, the mobile version looks and feels like the desktop/laptop version, so the learning curve is minimal.
Fig 3. – Here’s what a normal blog looks like – notice the toolbars in the top right hand corner – just like on your computer.
Fig 4. – Using multiple tabs is easy, and you can quickly change between tabs, or close lots of tabs without too much problem. The tab keeps a cached version of the site, so you can get a good visual of where you’re going, but often reloads when you decide to go there – which is good, since web content changes frequently.
Fig 5. – Here’s switching between tabs by swiping right to left, or vice versa. Probably the simplest way of navigating between two pages or sites.
3. Google Drive
Google Drive is the home for all my documents, and it’s super convenient to be able to get to them, and edit some, on my phone. I’ve started more than a few agendas from my phone which I’ve then continued to work on from my laptop.
While editing documents on a phone is not ideal, it’s handy to be able to reference text, or even spreadsheet data, in a pinch. Maneuvering large documents can be a real task however, and is best left to your laptop or desktop.
Sharing functionality has improved over time, and it’s pretty straightforward to share from an iPhone. However, if you want total control and access to some of the more advanced settings, you’re better off on a non-mobile platform.
Fig 6. – The basic interface of your folders and files. I wish the color scheme from the full version could be replicated – maybe some time in the future?
Fig 7. – The document view, using the Grid View functionality, is awesome for taking a quick look at a document before opening it.
Fig 8. – The editing screen of a document is a bit cramped, but works in a pinch if you need it. Portrait or landscape both work here, but neither is ideal. You’re better off on a laptop, or maybe a tablet, as the next step up.
Google+ is Google social media app / functionality, and I share a lot of stuff with others regarding Google, but also teaching materials, and things that make me laugh. I’ve decided not to engage in Facebook, so I use Google+ and Twitter as my only outlets, though for different purposes. Either way, the Google+ app is easy to use, follows the same functionality as the browser version, and connects to the iPhone’s media quickly and simply. I use the photo backup functionality that Google+ offers as one place out of many where I back up everything I shoot on the phone.
Fig 9. – A post on Google+ – simple to read, simple to interface with and respond to. Also, the core functionality of Google+ (known as +1) is front and center of each post. Once you +1 something you can share it with your circles.
Fig 10. – The editing interface of Google+ on the iPhone is simple, intuitive, and easy to use.
Fig 11. – The Notification bar slides in from the right, and gives you status updates from your circles, keeps track of mentions, and gives you peace of mind regarding your photo backups.
Google Translate is amazing (but hopefully not too threatening to language arts teachers)! I’m not sure how precisely accurate it is for any other language than Swedish, but there I can tell you it’s pretty good. Good to the point that you could easily make your way through a dinner party, or order food at a restaurant, or find a local landmark – all by speaking to your phone, and having Google Translate translate it back, and pronounce it too!
Fig 12. – I’m pretty sure this would help me find some Poutine if I visited the French-speaking parts of Canada.
Fig 13. – The recent languages you use are kept in a quick list at the top for easy retrieval. While it might not be perfect, you could probably travel the world with this app if you had to.
Fig 14. – Google Translate even allows you to manually script with your finger to add words to translate.
YouTube used to a default app on the iPhone when it first came out, and then disappeared with new updates. Now it’s back, and better than ever – especially if you sign in. All the videos and functionality you have online are now in your pocket, and the interface is easy to use.
Fig 15. – Easy to use browsing, with an easy to use interface makes finding the video you want painless.
Fig 16. – YouTube’s use of categories to browse videos makes it easy to triage in the beginning. Nothing beats a solid search query, but sometimes all you want is some easy entertainment.
7. Google Maps
Apple Maps was a catastrophe, and still is, and Google Maps saved me many times from getting lost, especially when away from my GPS in my car. I use it all the time to find things around me, like a pharmacy or convenience store, or the nearest gas station. A quick search, and then swiping through the results make finding the best place easy. Routes work well, and the voice navigation is better than the GPS – and, connects to my car via Bluetooth!
Fig 17. – One of the best features is how easy it is to find stuff around me. If you let Google Maps know where you are, visiting a new place or a big city isn’t nearly as scary as it can be.
Fig 18. – Routing trips follows the same, smooth logic as on a lapop or dekstop. You have options to chnage routes, modify them, and when you’re ready, tap start to begin driving. The voice prompts are smooth, and unobtrusive. I tried mapping from my house back to where I grew up, but no luck with the kayaking across the Atlantic!
Working via mobile phone can be a challenge, especially when stepping away from your desk mid-conversation. With Google Hangouts, you can continue on the go, and even initiate video Hangouts as well. It’s easy to switch between multiple accounts, and if you allow Google Hangouts to send you push notifications, you won’t miss a thing.
Fig 19. – A visual masterpiece, the Hangout screen is simple to follow.
Fig 20. – Making a new connection, or starting a conversation from your mobile device is just as simple as online – just tap and start!
Okay, so here’s one I don’t use, but like nonetheless. Google’s Gmail app mimics the real version, and is especially handy for adding and managing labels while on the go. I use the native mail app on the iPhone since it picks up mail a bit faster for me – I also pick up from 5 other accounts – and I like not having to switch apps for managing email. If you only have a Google email account, consider this app your only choice.
Fig. 20 – If you only have a Google email account, consider the Gmail app on the iPhone the only one you need.
10. Google Voice
Google Voice lets you call for minimal rates. I’ll be brief here, but I call Sweden for $.02 / minute on a regular basis, and have yet to go through my initial $25 balance. So if you call abroad, do yourself a favor and set up your Google Voice account – it really works wonders!
Fig 21. – The Google Voice interface is simple, and lets you keep Quick Dial numbers for frequent contacts, as well as an inbox for voice messages, etc.
While there are plenty of amazing apps for whatever phone you have, I’ve found these free apps from Google to be really exceptional.