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Tech review: 4 must-have apps for your new Android phone 

The Signal Private Messenger, which offers end-to-end encryption,

The Signal Private Messenger, which offers end-to-end encryption, has been growing in popularity. Credit: Newsday/Signal Foundation

Get a new Android phone over the holidays? The preloaded apps on your device may be all you need. But if you want to supercharge your phone, these four apps add productivity and privacy features your device doesn’t have. Next week: four must-have apps for iPhones.

Signal Private Messenger

(iOS, Android; free)

Signal Private Messenger takes privacy to the extreme with its trademarked Signal Protocol end-to-end encryption. Signal, which also includes video-calling capability, has been growing in popularity from people moving up from stock messaging apps or switching from Facebook-owned WhatsApp because of concerns over Facebook’s privacy and data-collection policies. It is currently the No. 1 free app for both Android and iOS.

Solid Explorer File Manager

(Android; free)

One of the best utilities available for Android (and one that makes iPhone users envious), Solid Explorer helps you find everything not only on your phone but on your cloud storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox and your desktop PC, and it includes a powerful encryption feature to lock your files. For the geek-inclined, Solid Explorer can be set up as an FTP server to stream videos from wherever you save your files.

Your Phone Companion

(Android; free)

The Windows and Android operating systems have learned to play better together, and this app from Microsoft brings them even closer. Your Phone Companion, a perennial Android top-10 productivity app, lets you link your phone and your Windows PC so you can see notifications and transfer files. It is useful for work-from-homers who keep their phone at the ready while they work from their PC.

OfficeSuite Pro

(iOS, Android; $19.99)

This venerable suite of productivity apps keeps getting better. You can access and edit Microsoft Word and Excel docs and it includes a powerful PDF viewer and converter. Yes, you can use the mobile version of Microsoft Office instead, but OfficeSuite allows you to edit your Microsoft Word files on Google Drive, something not easy to do with Microsoft Office mobile. The price is hefty for a mobile app, but for many it is more than worth it.

Delivery scams surged in 2020

A bad year for many was a good year for cybercriminals. Public records aggregator BeenVerified says phony delivery alerts supposedly from FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers embedded with malicious links were the No. 1 text message scam of 2020. BeenVerified says with many people sheltering in home and expecting packages ordered online, “scammers found it to be a perfect playbook during the pandemic.”


Party on even with parties off

People rang in the New Year with friends — but from afar. Facebook said its WhatsApp messaging app logged 1.4 billion voice and video calls on New Year’s Eve, an increase of 50 percent from New Year’s Eve 2019 and the most calls ever on a single day. Facebook said it saw surges in video chatting on New Year’s Eve across its portfolio of services, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram.


YouTube partners on COVID videos

YouTube will partner with health organizations to create medical videos for its platform, trying to counter a scourge of online misinformation about COVID-19. Cleveland Clinic, the American Public Health Association, The Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health and Mayo Clinic are among participating organizations. This is a departure for YouTube, which prefers to be an ad-supported platform that only hosts — and is not responsible for — content.


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