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Apps to enhance your Android phone

The Nova Launcher app enables users to customize

The Nova Launcher app enables users to customize the look and feel of their Android devices. Credit: TeslaCoil

Did you unpack a shiny new Android phone during the holiday season? While the device comes loaded with many great programs, there are several apps that can make your phone or tablet even better. These four apps will take your new device to a higher level. Next week: must-have apps for your new iPhone.


(Android; free)

Every phone has a default text messenger, and while they all do the job, this add-on app from Google can do it better. Messages is a full-featured text messenger with a great added benefit. If you add the free Messages for Web to your Windows-based computer, you can read and send messages from your PC. The PC and phone are synchronized, so if you delete a message on one device it disappears from the other.

Solid Explorer

(Android; $2.99)

Built-in file managers on Android phones can help you find and organize documents and files, but none can compare to the power of Solid Explorer. You can not only organize files on your device, you can also connect with cloud-storage services like GoogleDrive and OneDrive. And you can even find files on your desktop computer when you are using your home Wi-Fi network. Solid Explorer has a free 14-day trial. 

Nova Launcher

(Android; free)

Your device’s “launcher” is at the heart of everything you do — it controls the home screens you see and how they are displayed. Nova Launcher lets you customize the look and feel of your device — everything from the size and shape of icons to screen animations. The free version is excellent, but upgrading to Nova Launcher Prime ($4.99) gives you more customizations and control.

Blue Mail

(iOS, Android; free)

Stock email apps are workmanlike and utilitarian, but you won’t know what you’re missing until you download Blue Mail. You can customize how you see your mail —either by account or all in a unified mailbox. Virtually every email provider and account type is supported, and setting it up is easy. Menus are configurable, and you can decide how and when you receive notifications.

Generation gap

Much has been written about millennials — adults 22-37 — and their love/hate relationship with social media. But what about Gen Z, the generation following them? It’s more love than hate. A study by education publisher Pearson shows 59 percent of Gen Zers said YouTube is their “No. 1 learning method.” About 47 percent said textbooks were No. 1, compared with 60 percent with millennials who turn to textbooks first.  


Apple to wait on 5G phone

Apple plans to hold off until at least 2020 before offering an iPhone that can connect to 5G networks even as rivals such as Samsung prepare to launch the next-generation phones. 5G provides a leap forward in mobile data speeds. Apple will wait as long as a year after the initial deployment of the new networks before its main product gets the capability to access them.


Off the charts

Remember the days when an album had to sell a million copies to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts? The times they are a-changin'. Rapper A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s new album, Hoodie SZN, went to No. 1 last week despite selling only 823 traditional copies. According to Rolling Stone, Hoodie SZN racked up 83 million streams, which are now counted for chart placement.


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