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Tech review: Must-have apps for your new Android phone 

The Android-exclusive app Tasker lets users automate repetitive

The Android-exclusive app Tasker lets users automate repetitive tasks. Credit: Newsday/joaomgcd

New smartphones come loaded with all the apps needed to make the device function. But there are other apps that do the job better or add features that will boost productivity. If you just unwrapped a new Android phone, these four apps take it to a higher level. Next week: A look at must-have apps for a new iPhone.

Tasker

(Android; $3.49)

This Android exclusive is one app many iPhone users wish they had. Tasker lets you automate repetitive tasks by putting together “profiles” from more than 350 actions. For example, using Tasker you can tell your phone to perform certain functions when you shake it or hold it upside down. Don’t want to create your own profiles? Choose from hundreds available at the Tasker App Factory.

Android Auto

(Android; free)

A wonderful app, although it is not supported by all carmakers or all app makers. If your car does support it, Android Auto interfaces with your infotainment and navigation systems so you can run an array of hands'-free functions using your voice and Google Assistant. A few examples: You can use Android Auto to set a destination with real-time traffic alerts, play music, answer a phone call or check the news and sports scores.

Messages

(Android; free)

Unlike iPhones, where iMessage is the gold standard of messaging apps, Android is a mess with competing apps Samsung Messages, Verizon Messages and others. This official app from Google is an attempt to clean up the mess, and Messages is indeed superb. In addition to basic texting functions, it has recently added feature-rich RCS chat technology — although you can use RCS only if your carrier supports it.

VLC Player for Android

(Android; free)

The default video player for Android varies depending on the manufacturer of your device, and while all get the job done, none do it very well, especially for those who want to stream from phone to TVs. VLC Player for Android plays and streams virtually every type of video format. Developed by the not-for-profit, open-source VideoLAN, there are versions for iOS, Windows and Mac.

Apple’s Appy New Year

With a lot of shiny new iPhones and iPads unwrapped during the holiday season, users flocked to Apple’s App Store to download programs and games. Apple said consumers spent a record $1.42 billion at the App Store between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, up 16 percent from 2018. On New Year’s Day, users spent $386 million, a new single-day record, Apple said.

— PETER KING

PC sales up as Windows 7 exits

Traditional PCs staged a comeback as users finally moved on from their Windows 7 machines, especially as the year ended. Research firm IDC said PC shipments grew 2.7 percent in 2019 compared with 2018, first year-over-year increase since 2011. The fourth quarter saw the highest shipments of any quarter in four years. Microsoft ended support for the 10-year-old Windows 7 operating system last week.

— PETER KING

TikTok security flaws found

A cybersecurity firm has identified vulnerabilities in TikTok, the popular app where more than a billion, largely young, users share videos. Check Point Software said the flaws could allow hackers to reveal personal data and send text messages from a user’s account. It’s another black eye for the Chinese-owned social media phenom that’s drawn fire from U.S. lawmakers who claim the app represents a national security threat.

— BLOOMBERG NEWS

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