Mike McBride

Essential Android apps update

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Since last posting about this, there have been a few updates to existing apps on my list and some new apps that have taken the place of previous ones. Let's take a quick look at what's changed and what's new.

Inbox by Gmail - I previously recommended either Mailbox or Gmail as your go-to email app. Inbox is a new app from the folks behind Gmail that incorporates many of the same features as Mailbox. It automatically sorts your emails into "bundles" just like the current Gmail app will sort emails into labels (you know, those four or five tabs across the top - Inbox, Promotions, Updates, Social, Forums). Bundles are similar to that, but there are a few others that Inbox has incorporated. It does an excellent job of sorting into the bundles as well - I've only had to move emails to a different group once, and that was because I wanted better visibility to it. Inbox also has very slick "swipe to act" features. Swiping from left to right will clear a message and swiping left to right on a bundle will clear all messages. It is doing the same as archiving currently does in Gmail. You can also tap and select the delete icon to get rid of it forever. My only qualm so far is that you can't do a long swipe to delete, like Mailbox has, but it seems like Google is going more towards a model of always archiving your emails instead of deleting them, which is fine I guess. They don't show up in your inbox and you can still search for them if you need them. They also implemented a swipe right to left to snooze an email, so it can come back into your inbox at a later time. One of my favorite features of Mailbox, and I'm glad to see it gaining traction. It's important to note that Inbox is not replacing Gmail (so they say... I'm sure it will happen eventually). Inbox and Gmail currently work side-by-side. You need a Gmail account to use Inbox, and it is linked to your Gmail account. Inbox is currently in the invite-only stage, but invites have been going out much quicker as they've started scaling up. I got mine within 3-4 days, and I'd assume that fairly soon they will be out of beta and you can sign up immediately. It's free, and they have apps not only for Android but also iPhone and a web app (though I prefer the Gmail web app, as the Inbox web app is tailored much more for mobile than desktop).

Pushbullet - Pushbullet has replaced Mighty Text for me. Previously the two worked in tandem very well - Pushbullet pushed your Android notifications to your browser as Chrome notifications, so you knew when you got a text message. I'd have MightyText open in a tab, go to the tab, and respond to the message. Then a couple of things happened. Pushbullet created this awesome feature where you could click a "reply" button on the Chrome notification and it would pop open a little window where you could see the text and reply to it from there. You hit enter or send and it would send the message and close the window. Very slick, but it was limited to only being able to reply to messages, so I still had a use for MightyText, but it was smaller. At the same time, MightyText started working on a new SMS app that you installed on your phone as an SMS replacement rather than just a service to send messages from your computer. As far as I can tell, their long term vision is to consolidate these two apps, and I have no interest in switching away from Hangouts as my texting app. But very recently, Pushbullet updated their Chrome extension so that you can not only push a link or a screenshot from the current web page you're on, but you now have another tab in the extension that allows you to initiate a text instead of only replying. Replies still work the same way they used to, but if you need to start a conversation, you can. It's all done very well, and it doesn't require you to constantly have an extra tab open like MightyText does. In my mind, that eliminates the need for MightyText, so I've removed it from Chrome and from my phone and have exclusively been using Pushbullet to text from my laptop. It's wonderful. If you were using the same model I was, or if you're not using any apps that allow you to do this, I would highly suggest checking it out. Aside from notification mirroring and texting, Pushbullet has some other excellent features that I went into in an earlier post on Android apps. It's totally free, so check it out!

Cheers!