10 must have FREE Android apps (part2)

Good news for Android users: this is the first sequel to our recently published article entitled “10 must have FREE Android apps (part 1)”. Like the first article, this one will showcase another 10 terrific Android apps that will rock your world, or, if not, will at least make you a very happy Android user!

As in the first article, we aim to present selections that are not your standard apps that everyone knows about. The aim of this series of articles is to present ‘must-have’ apps that every Android user should use or at least know about. We also strive, as much as possible to pick apps that are ad-free. The list of apps for this article: (1) MyPhoneExplorer, (2) Listen, (3) CloudPipes, (4) Dashlane, (5) FreeNote, (6) ES File Explorer, (7) Vault, (8) TuneIn Radio, (9) FoxFi, and (10) MortRing.

Must Have Android Apps p2

MyPhoneExplorer1. MyPhoneExplorer: manage your contacts, messages, SMS’s etc. and back them up to your PC

MyPhoneExplorer Screenshot1MyPhoneExplorer Screenshot2

Now that we share our data with so many services, all of them are suddenly converging onto our smartphones and trying to populate our contacts list, from Outlook to Skype to your Facebook and Google account(s), to those contacts that may be saved on your phone’ SIM card, etc. If you’ve ever wished that you could manage all of my contacts in one place,  then this app is for you.

MyPhoneExplorer connects your Android with your PC, via a cable connection or wirelessly. It lets you sync, backup and manage your contacts, your calendars and tasks, your SMS messages, your call-lists, your files,

Note that you need to download and install the local PC client as well, which you can get from this page. [Thanks go to Chris, Alex, and other readers of our first article for letting me me know about this software].

listen2. Listen: a stylish, powerful podcasting client

Listen Screenshot1Listen Screenshot2

[UPDATE: it seems that this app is not available in every country; I can tell you that it is downloadable in the US]

One of the things I love the most about having a smartphone is being able to plug it into a speaker (at home or in the car) and to listen to my favorite podcasts. My search for the best free podcasting app has lead me to this app, which is not perfect by any means, but is stylish, ad-free, and powerful.

What I like about ‘Listen’ is that it gives you a lot of options for what, when and how many episodes to download. For example, in the screenshot above/right I set the app to download new podcasts once a day, only when connected to WIFI, only when charging, and to keep 20 podcasts as a maximum.

Listen is a powerful and flexible program, but it’s interface can be made better and simpler, and takes some getting used to. I can see myself replacing it with another program that comes along, although I have so far found it preferable to many that I tested (I also like that is is ad-free, unlike many others). If you know of a good podcasting client, please let me know in the comments section.

cloudpipes3. CloudPipes: sync Dropbox folders with your Android automatically (or any folder on your PC, for that matter)


I’m assuming that you already have Dropbox installed on your Android as a given. Cloudpipes, a free and ad-free Android app is different from Dropbox in that it provides automatic, scheduled, two way syncing with your Android. For example, you could add or download music or video files to a folder on your PC overnight and find that they’ve been downloaded on your device the next morning when you want to watch them on the bus (as opposed having to download manually them on the bus, as with Dropbox).

We’ve written a detailed, step by step tutorial on how to sync any folder with your Android.

Dashlane4. Dashlane: store your passwords securely in the cloud, and access them from anywhere (including your Android, your PC, etc.)

Dashlane Screenshot1Dashlane Screenshot2

The two most well known services for syncing your passwords safely in the cloud are LastPass and Dashlane. The two are very similar in many respects except one: Dashlane provides FREE and ad-free mobile apps to access your passwords, including an Android app (free at the time of this writing at least), while LastPass doesn’t.

I like both but the fact that Dashlane offers a free, ad-free Android app has got me thinking about finally making the switch from LastPass to Dashlane. I also like that it uses your default browser to log you into websites, as opposed to LastPass, which simply provides its own browser altogether. The one thing that Dashlane does that I do not like is that it asks for too many questions about me and wants to fill out a detailed profile – which you can skip and not fill out, btw.

Freenote5. FreeNote: convert on-screen scribbles into tidy, practical notes

FreeNote Screenshot1FreeNote Screenshot2 - on Galaxy Note

Sometimes, when I want to jot down some notes, I just want to scribble them down on the touchscreen and not worry about using a keyboard. FreeNote does this but does it in an interesting way, whereby your scribbles are resized, made smaller, and sorted next to each other.

FreeNote lets you mix and match, combining ‘painted’ elements and illustrations with text. But the one thing that it does that gave it a spot on this list is the way it incorporates handwritten/handpainted elements with the other elements and snapping it into the page. I like this app because I use a stylus-equipped Galaxy note (screenshot to the right, top), and find it very practical.

Ironically, the one flaw that this program has is that it may be a little too complicated, partly because the interface is not as intuitive as it could be, and partly because it may be offering way too many options and functions (e.g. layers, hyperlinks). FreeNote is ad free, but there is a souped up paid version with more functions.

es file explorer6. ES File Explorer: manage your files and your apps quickly and easily, and in batch

ES File Explorer Screenshot1ES File Explorer Screenshot2

One of the things I actually LIKE about Android is that you can access the file system fairly easily, move things around within folders, etc. ES File Explorer is a file management app that makes it easy to dig in, move files from the SD card and back, and do what you need to do. It also looks and feels good.

But what I like most about this program is that it enables you to select a whole bunch of apps and uninstall them in batch, all at once. Add to this that the app is ad-free and you will see that this is a must have app.

Vault7. Vault: encrypt and everything on your Android, from pictures to videos to files, contacts to SMS messages.

Vault Screenshot1Vault Screenshot2

I tried a number of these, and liked Vault the most, for 3 reasons. (1) it is ad-free, (2) it encrypts anything, including SMS messages and contacts not just media files, and (3) it encrypts large files fairly quickly and decrypts them very quickly. Once decrypted, your files play on the default media player(s) on your Android, and disappear once you exit Vault.

The paid version has a number of interesting features, such as stealth mode where the app icon itself is hidden, and a break-in monitor where anyone trying to get access is stealthily photographer by the front camera, and other features.

TuneInRadio8. TuneIn Radio: search and listen to just about any radio station

TuneIn Screenshot1TuneIn Screenshot2

I believe every smartphone should have a radio app, and you can’t go wrong with TuneIn Radio. I know this one from my days as an iPhone owner, and was happy to see it available for Android. It has a nice interface and is generally nicely laid out and user friendly.

With 70,000 radio station and over 2,000,000 on-demand programs, TuneIn Radio is a must have. It does feature ads for the free version, unlike all the other apps in this article, but they are generally unobtrusive, and I highly recommend it.

FoxFi9. FoxFi: turn your unrooted Android into a WIFI hotspot

FoxFi ScreenshotI couldn’t resist adding this app to this list. FoxFi will transform your Android into a WIFI hotspot at the click of a button, without having to have a rooted phone, simply and easily.

A fantastic app, which I discovered after learning that a couple of other apps that I had previously installed for the purpose required rooting.

Needless to say I was pretty thrilled when it worked as intended.


MortRing10. MortRing: assign custom ringtones to specific contacts easily

MortRing Screenshot1MortRing Screenshot2

You already know that you can specify a distinct ringtone for each one of your contacts. You like this in theory but let’s face it: you will never go in and edit individual contacts because you have a feeling it is too labor intensive and probably don’t care much to figure it out.

Well, good news. MortRing makes it extremely easy to take any contact and assign a custom ringtone. Simple and straightforward.

That’s it for now. Let us know what you think. Are there more cool FREE Android apps that everyone must have (or at least know about) that we didn’t mention in these articles? Let us know below.

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  • The Stitcher app is free, and does podcasts and live radio.

    • Samer Kurdi

      Doug. Stitcher is indeed a great app, but it is not a podcast client as such, more like a ‘Pandora’ for Podcasts. It may make it’s way into the next iteration of this post though.

      • Kolby

        BeyondPod or DoggCatcher

  • Andy

    Unfortunately, Google have announced that they are discontinuing Listen. I was a big fan too and was surprised and disappointed when it was announced.

    However, after looking at a large number of (mostly very good) alternatives I have settled on Podkicker. It’s really nicely designed and has been working completely reliably for me. I trialed the free version and was happy to move to the Pro version as it’s very reasonably priced.

    • Samer Kurdi

      Not so sure about Podkicker. I may need to do a comparison post for free Podcasters. Any other recommendations?

      • David

        II really enjoy using Listen Up – it works hard to mimic the now-dead Google Listen app’s functionality.

  • <3 ES File Explorer! It's the best file explorer app out there, IMHO. As far as Dropbox synchronization, there's also DropSpace. Additionally, I use KeePass for Android, since (with the help of DropSpace) I can use the same *.kdbx password database on my PC and my phone.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ haliphax: Keepass with Dropbox is indeed an excellent idea!

  • Joe

    There were two things that kept me from sticking with Listen:

    1. some of my podcasts were garbled from time to time; re-downloading would not make them play correctly
    2. It stores podcasts in some weird format, so you can’t just transfer mp3 files to another device

    For awhile, I just used the Google Reader app, manually downloading each and every podcast I wanted to hear. I now use BeyondPod, which I used and loved way back in ~2006 on a Windows Mobile phone. The free version is fine if you can accept the strong limit on automatic downloads, but I bought the full version when it went on sale for $1.99.

    Verizon customers who have a mobile data plan but don’t pay extra for the “mobile hotspot” capability might be interested to know that FoxFI is unnecessary – you can use any widget app that can turn on the wifi hotspot mode (my favorite is the free Widgetsoid). When Verizon purchased the right to use a certain portion of the broadband spectrum, they were required not to restrict access. If you use the official “mobile hotspot” app, they can route you through their official service that requires the feature; however, any widget that turns on the “wi-fi hotspot” mode gets around this limitation. I haven’t had a reason to try it yet, but I read about it at Lifehacker: http://lifehacker.com/5930111/use-your-android-phone-as-a-wi+fi-hotspot-for-free

    • Joe

      Ugh, never mind about the Verizon tethering. I can’t get it to work!

  • Bogdan

    How can someone forget the 2 best free apps. Period.
    1. QuickPic
    2. MX Player

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Quickpic is truly great. Thanks for letting me know about it
      As for MX Player, I wasn’t looking for a media player this time around because I posted a similar media player (MobiPlayer) in the first article.

  • Ryan

    ES File Explorer is great but Solid Explorer is also free and has a very nice interface.

    • Samer Kurdi

      Solid Explorer is indeed very nice, and has good integration with Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, GoogleDrive, and FTP, SFTP. But I like the batch uninstall function of ES File Explorer, so I might need to install them both. Thanks for the tip!

      • Wow! Solid Explorer is magnificent!

  • Second on PodKicker. I’ve tried dozens of them, and it’s the simplest that does just what it’s supposed to: allow me to listen to podcasts.

    As for ES File Explorer, I’ve recently replaced it with FolderSync. The features I liked most about ES was management of files in the cloud, with local file management being secondary. FolderSync offers the level of flexibility I need for file management AND allows me to sync any and all folders to the cloud, my local SFTP, where ever.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Toni: what other FREE podcast clients did you alike aside from Podkicker? I am planning a comparison post, thanks.

  • Hmmm…so tough, I’ve tried so many. The one that I had the longest prior to PodKicker was Pocket Casts. I’d gotten it when it was free on Amazon, but they got pissy ’cause they thought they were going to get paid anyway and stopped sending updates to the Amazon App Store. When it got too buggy, I moved on since $5 was far too much for a single-use app. I’ve been happy with PodKicker ever since, though.

    That being said, the iPod app on my old iPhone is about the only thing I miss from that platform. I’ve yet to find one its equal, especially when it comes to playing podcasts. Most important for me was it automatically discerned that an MP3 was an audio book or podcast and gave me the option to play it at 2x speed (it was actually closer to 1.5x, but still). I’d love to find another that does that!

  • Ok, Thanks for sharing these apps. But you sort out the list 0f these apps from all over the internet. I have shared some top level free android apps according to Google’s Play Store. You can check it. I hope you will like that. 🙂

  • Ed Anderson

    My two biggest frustrations with LastPass have been 1) it doesn’t recognize certain types of login screens as such, so I have to open the vault, search for the site, and copypasta my credentials; 2) I have never been able to figure out why some sites get saved as the site URL, while others get saved as “Generated Password for ,” which means I have to peruse two sorted lists of sites to find the one I want, and frequently, the same site is in the vault both by its URL and by its Generated Password entry, and I have to figure out which one has the real password; 3) the recurring fee to use it on my Android devices; and 4) the decidedly mobile-unfriendly website which makes trying to use the website on my smartphone or tablet a sisyphean task. (I could probably also list the 5 reasons I disliked my arithmetic classes, but you can probably guess one of them.) So how awesome is it that, the first time I’ve returned to FreewareGenius after a several month hiatus, the very first article that catches my eye is this one, with your quick writeup of Dashlane?! My wife is going to be irritated with me for switching, but I figure she’ll get over it by Christmas time.

    Also, CloudPipes is going to be seeing extensive use on my tablet. I’ve started using MobilePages, and my biggest irritation in doing so is getting my scanned music from my PC into an accessible location for MobilePages to import them. I’ve tried dropping the images into DropBox, but ES File Explorer doesn’t seem to be able to find them–or more accurately, the places I’ve looked for them have not held all my images–and using the DropBox app to export the images to a visible Documents folder is tedious, as you have to export each individual image one-by-one. I can tether the tablet to the PC, but that wastes a lot of time. I suspect that either CloudPipes or Solid Explorer are going to revolutionize my workflow.


  • zzc

    I am trying out Dashlane. You mentioned that: “I also like that it uses your default browser to log you into websites, as opposed to LastPass, which simply provides its own browser altogether.”

    Maybe I missed something but I was not able to make Dashlane use my default browser. A search for help on their website turned up the following FAQ:

    Start of quote:
    FAQ: “My login & password are not filled on a website when I use the browser on my mobile/smart phone.”
    Last Updated: Oct 10, 2012 10:54AM EDT
    Dashlane works with an integrated browser that allows to fill automatically any field and log you in to any website. The browser is already available on Dashlane for iOS, but not yet on Dashlane for Android.

    Note that Dashlane cannot be used inside other mobile browsers, like the desktop version of Dashlane works. Therefore, you cannot use it with iOS and Android versions of Safari, Firefox and Chrome.

    This integrated browser can be found directly inside the Dashlane app, in the “Internet” section.
    End of quote.

    If I understand the FAQ correctly, Dashlane does not work with common browsers on mobile devices; it only works with its own integrated browser which is only available for iOS at the moment. So for Android users, one has to do copy and paste username and password separately to login to websites (a very tedious procedure). The current version does not live up to what your article seems to imply.

    I hope I am wrong.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ zzc: when I tried it, it opened in the default browser on my phone. I don’t know if the FAQ is outdated, or if the FAQ reflects a change that happened after I wrote this post, or what. But what I wrote above reflects my experience with the program.

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