Temple Run, Instagram, Flipboard, Vine, Angry Birds...sometimes it seems like all the great apps start on iOS before making their way to Android. But not all apps start their life inside of Apple's walled garden--some have launched on Android first and have yet to make their way to iOS. While iPhone users are often first to experience the latest games, Android users get apps that fully automate their phones and predict what they want to type next.
Here are five apps that Android users can brag about to their iPhone-toting friends.
Tasker helps make your smartphone actually feel smart. The app lets you create profiles that automatically execute certain tasks when specific criteria are met. For instance, you can have your phone automatically launch the music app when you plug in headphones, or have your phone silence itself when you get to the office. There's really no limit to the types of profiles you can create, and there are entire websites dedicated to Tasker profiles if you're not up to the task of creating one yourself.
The app does have a bit of a learning curve, though, so I'd recommend going through the tutorial or looking one up online to get down the basics. There's a lot of trial and error involved when building your first Tasker profile, but there's an unmatched feeling of joy when all your hard work finally pays off.
Sure the idea of automating your phone sounds nerdy, but it's unequivocally cool to have your phone automatically respond to text messages while you sleep.
Astro File Manager (Free)
If you've ever created a file on your iPhone or iPad, you know what a huge pain it can be to move it off of the device. You have to either plug it into iTunes to retrieve it or hope that you have an app installed that works with the app you used to create the file in the first place. It's way more convoluted than it should be.
While I'm not saying Android is any better when it comes to creating documents, it certainly is better at managing them. Astro File Manager gives you access to all of the data stored on your phone. The app lets you move folders and files around your phone's internal memory and SD card, and you can also connect to your Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive accounts to move your files between your phone and the Internet (aka the cloud).
The app even has a memory manager so you can see which apps are taking up the most space on your phone so you can address them accordingly. You can also use Astro File Manager to back up your apps (and their data) to your MicroSD card--handy in case you need to reset your device or switch to a new one.
With AirDroid, you don't even need to touch your phone in order to use it. The app lets you access your phone remotely by going to web.airdroid.com and scanning the QR code on the page. The free version of the service lets you do things like reply to text messages, organize your photos, and play music, while the paid version lets you remotely access your camera and helps you locate a missing or stolen device.
If you're not one to carry a Micro-USB cable everywhere you go, AirDroid also lets you transfer content to and from your phone without ever having to plug it into your computer. (Just make sure you're on Wi-Fi if you're planning on moving over gigabytes of data.)
So why exactly would you want to access your phone on your computer? Aside from all the benefits I listed above, the number one reason to do it would be because you left your phone out of arm's reach and are too lazy to get up to answer a text message. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Say farewell to typos. SwiftKey is a third party keyboard app that adapts to the way you write by learning which words and phrases you use most often, allowing for a better typing experience because your phone isn't constantly autocorrecting "Yo" into "to". After a while, you get to the point where you can mash your thumbs randomly on screen and have SwiftKey predict exactly what you wanted to say, punctuation and all. Neat.
For those of us out there that find typing passé, SwiftKey has a feature called Flow that lets you glide your fingers over keys to form words and sentences (kind of like Swype). SwiftKey also supports multiple languages simultaneously, so you don't have to go into the settings every time you want to switch the keyboard language from English to French, and the app comes with several themes to change how the keyboard appears on screen.
Nova Launcher ($4)
Shouldn't your phone look the way you want it to? With Nova Launcher, you can customize your Android home screen to give it a unique look that'll be the envy of everyone on your block. The app makes it easy to change your app icons, app drawer, and home-screen animations to something more in line with your artistic vision, and there are plenty of premade themes available on the Play Store (if you're feeling lazy).
There are also websites and forums where people post their Android home-screen designs and tell you how you can achieve the same look--handy if you're looking for some inspiration. On my home screen that you can see here, I hid the dock and the notification bar to give my phone a super minimalistic aesthetic. Try doing that on an iPhone.
A new hope?
While it's unlikely that Apple would ever let something like Nova Launcher or Astro File Manager into the App Store, there's still some hope for the rest of these apps. Apple is opening up more of the iOS APIs to developers, so it's possible that we could see a SwiftKey or AirDroid on iPhones sometime in the near future.
Most of these apps don't exactly have mainstream appeal, but they push the boundaries of what your phone can do and can help make your life easier.