- We rely on our smartphones for work and play, and want them to be as smart as they can be.
- Smartphones cost a lot to buy and keep connected, and we'd rather not spend additional money on apps.
- There are plenty of free apps to help us use our phones to their best advantage, and more are available all the time.
At a time when you can easily plunk down a cool $1,000 for a mobile phone, some of the best apps are still available free of charge. Apps with deep feature sets will sometimes seek longevity and technical superiority by charging a flat price or a subscription fee, but there are tons of others that are absolutely free and do everything you could ever want.
It can be a chore to wade through all the choices to decide which one is best – even free apps will cost you time – if not money. We poked around and found five of these free favorites. You may find that for added functionality, you can pay a fee, but often it isn’t necessary.
AirDroid lets you access wirelessly the contents of your Android phone or tablet from any Windows or Mac computer or the web. Paired with a free desktop app, you can receive phone, SMS, email and app notifications. You can also text directly from your computer, access your smartphone apps, and transfer files, photos, documents and music. AirDroid brings all your devices together seamlessly and efficiently. The functionality is great, the user interface is slick, and the advertisements are relatively noninvasive.
If your smartphone serves double-duty as your business phone, using AppLock will make that separation a lot more convenient. AppLock does exactly what its name implies: It locks down any personal app to keep it secure from prying eyes. Use a password, pattern or fingerprint scan to shield specific data like photos and videos as well as apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Gallery, Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, SMS, Contacts, Gmail, and incoming calls. There's also a security and data loss feature that lets you auto-lock or unlock your phone based on location or time of day.
Download on Android
Sharing documents between work and home devices can be challenging. Make the transfer stress free with Google drive. Google’s free cloud storage plan includes 15GB. Even better, you can share files between your iPhone and a Windows PC or Chromebook or send documents to your colleague's Android phone. As a bonus, if you are using the docs and sheets apps for your work, you can view and even edit them from an iOS device.
Small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs typically have a smaller budget and space than larger companies, but with CamScanner, you don't have to worry about purchasing a multifunction printer, as this app effectively turns your phone into a scanner. Scan documents directly into PDF format and then email or send a link from the app. The app's smart cropping and auto-enhancing features ensure your document is clean and readable. It also allows you to secure sensitive documents with passwords, add annotations and print or fax from the app.
Every workday presents a challenge, but having up-to-the-minute insight into what's happening in your industry and around the globe is essential. Feedly lets you connect to and organize your favorite blogs, magazines, newspapers, and YouTube channels for your edification and enjoyment. The app's 40 million feeds let you discover information channels you may never have heard of. As an open RSS-based system, you're free to add any outlet you want to Feedly. The app integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Buffer, OneNote, Pinterest, LinkedIn, IFTTT and Zapier for quick sharing with colleagues and friends.
Say you're traveling for business and you want to find the fastest route to avoid traffic jams and highway incidents. The best source to turn to is Waze, the popular crowdsourced GPS-based traffic monitor and navigation app. Waze not only adjusts your route in response to current traffic conditions, but it gives you an updated ETA and spots where to get the best local gas prices. You can even see and sync up drive times with friends on Facebook. If you drive with Android Auto, you can also view Waze on your car display.
One of the biggest frustrations in my day, and maybe yours as well, is trying to remember passwords, which are required for literally everything, and with varied protocols and requirements for each site. Clearly finding a robust password manager is a must for the sake of sanity. Sticky Password is one of the best free managers available for both Android and iOS, and offers a wealth of features, including autofill, two-factor authentication, and support for biometrics such as fingerprints. Like many other free password vault apps, Sticky Password also comes in a paid version that adds an extra set of features, including cloud backup, cross-device sync, and priority support.
Another common source of angst when working (or playing) on your smartphone is wondering why things are taking so long. If you are in a poor connectivity area, should you use your data minutes, or take a chance on insecure Wi-Fi? One way to make the decision easier is by using the free Speedtest app. It will ping a server near you to determine the available speed for both uploading and downloading. It also has carrier coverage maps you can check out. In addition, the free version of Speedtest offers a VPN you can use for up to 2GB per month of secure transmission (more for a small fee).