When it comes to using software, real digital freedom arises not from avoiding the use of mainstream services provided by the big companies but rather being able to choose between several alternatives. While Google unsurprisingly looks out for number one on Android devices by incorporating its general-purpose apps by default, there are third-party programs that do the same thing, and in certain cases do it even better.
Gmail manages to slip into your system mainly because you have to register your Google user account on Android with its mail service, but that doesn’t mean you have to use the default client. In fact, there are many smoother tools out there when it comes to managing emails from different domains in the same place.
We’ve recently discussed Blue Mail, a universal email manager that, from an appealing interface with touches of iOS, allows you to alternate between different inboxes or even unify all of them into one. But it’s not the only option, as there are many other quality clients like Mailbox, Cloudmagic, or K-9 Mail, for a start. All of these incorporate wizards to add email accounts from other providers and are much more intuitive than Google’s tool. There you go.
There’s a teensy problem with calendar tools, and that is that most of the services and pages integrate features with Google’s own tool when it comes to adding appointments and notes automatically on certain dates. Thus all these alternatives allow you to sync and export all the info from your existing Google Calendar account.
Sunrise Calendar is no more than that: an attractive calendar and appointments manager with a mobile and desktop client that can integrate into Calendar, Exchange and iCloud and that offers an alternative interface along with a few extra features, such as integration with your Trello or Todoist accounts. SolCalendar is another tool along the same lines.
Undoubtedly, however, the app that takes the cake is Cal: Any.do Calendar, a colorful tool developed by the people over at Any.do that lets you manage all your tasks and is practically an extension of the popular tool for note-taking and recording appointments. To its impeccable design are added extended features and social-network integration, allowing you to view the social network profiles of your contacts in your appointments as well as incorporating info from Google Maps.
Image and photo gallery
Although the Google image gallery seems like an integrated and indivisible service, it’s actually no more than an app external to Android that with time has grown even more annoying with the arrival of the “Photos” app to make backup copies. Google+ will never change its spots.
If you need to pick a gallery app, let it be QuickPic for its versatility when it comes to grouping photos and integrating external cloud-storage systems as associated galleries, not to mention its options to hide folders, play animated GIFs, password-protect images, and many other extra features.
With regard to an app for taking photos, it’s actually difficult to rival the simplicity and robustness of the Google’s official Camera app, but there are other interesting ones like Camera360 Ultimate, not to mention apps with more bells and whistles that include extra post-processing effects such as LINE Camera. You obviously need a big fake moustache and hearts floating over your head in your snapshots. Obviously.
There are even alternative tools to manage the contacts associated with your phone. Contacts+ is one of the most interesting, integrating all sorts of messaging services, social networks, and other metadata into each of the entries, while still being very easy to use even with all these extra features. It lets you import information from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, as well as keep a unified list catalogued by groups and favorites.
Normally contact book apps come along with their own dialer or even their own SMS manager, meaning you can modify at a single stroke all the essential features on your phone. Remember the days when phones were actually used to TALK TO PEOPLE?
Your browser might well be the first default program you’ll consider swapping out on your device. Although there are few to rival Chrome, there are indeed products that offer a different experience. It’s not like we haven’t talked about them on this blog before. Among them are CM Browser and the scant 2MB of space it takes up, the cleanness and clarity of Dolphin and the inevitable mobile clients from Firefox and Opera.