Coming up to the release of the new Google Pixel phones I felt like my old Nexus 5 needed a refresher on the off chance the Pixel’s fall short and this phone has to do me for another year. For a €400 euro phone at the time, this thing still has no issues with performance. The battery has always been lacking, but the changes I have made to my home-screen have helped a little in this area. What i have setup is clean, fast, and gives me quick access to my most used apps.

** At the time of writing, Android 7.0 had unofficially been ported to the Nexus 5. I am holding off on flashing this until Xposed become available on Nougat.

Lets breakdown what phone and software I am currently using:
Phone: LG Nexus 5 (2013 | Rooted | Stock kernel)
OS: Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
Xposed: Framework v84
Custom recovery: TWRP
SuperSU: v2.52

Feel free to leave me a comment if you want me to expand on how to install any of these. The XDA forums are my go to for any custom roms or Xposed modules.

The launcher that I am using is the new Nexus Pixel launcher released by Google for the upcoming Pixel & Pixel XL phones. Android Authority have a good article on this as well as a download link for the apk here. There is also several threads about this over on /r/Android. Changing to this launcher I decided to narrow my home screens down to 2, and remove the Google Now app as I was rarely using it. Here is the breakdown:

Main home screen:

screenshot_20160912-131245

For this screen I wanted a few things:

  • A simple weather widget with quick access to my alarm clocks.
  • Another clean widget to control my media, whether it be
    Spotify, PocketCast or a Chrome tab playing audio.
  • Folder support so I can get quick access to the various social media apps I use.
  • And finally, at a row of at least 5 shortcuts in the persistent bottom drawer for the apps I use most. This launcher is ideal as it replaces the open app drawer Icon with a gesture allowing space for another app shortcut.

Here is a list of all the apps shown and why I use them. I have included handy link to the Google Play store.

The app was not found in the store. 🙁
This great little app supplies the weather and clock widget. This has all the info you need at a glance. Tapping the widget will open the Android clock app, or the Weather app depending on where you tap. The app itself is very clean with material design throughout, and provides all the forecast information I need.

Ubiquity Music Widget
Jack’s Music Widget is a highly customisable media widget. It will capture and let you control music or video for almost any app you have installed. There are a number of different styled widgets which you can change to your liking. This was a great find, I use this to control Spotify, PocketCast, Chrome, Shuttle and any other media playing.

Here is the first non-free app on the list. As there are usually decent free alternatives on the Play store, an app has to be great in order to warrant a purchase. This is one of those apps. I discovered this while reading an interview with Roman Nurik, a Google designer and engineer. I bought it to give it a try and I can now say that my podcast listening time has increased 1000%. Material design, virtually any podcast is available. Automatic episode downloads. Even little things like being able to increase playback speed means you get more listened to in less time. Highly recommended if your a podcast fan. Have to recommend Bill Burr’s Monday Morning podcast here too. Dude is hilarious.

Google Photos
Price: Free
Google Photos is the best photo management app on Android I have ever used. Automatic backups to the could with unlimited storage. Shared albums for sharing photos between friends (I have found this feature very useful, especially for holidays). Photo adjustment and automatic object identification. Give this a try if you haven’t already, the web portal is also feature filled: Google Photos.

Chrome is current browser that I am using. In its current state its fast and light enough to run well on this phone. The history syncing across devices is a great feature also. For anyone looking for an alternative I would say try Firefox or Dolphin.

Gmail
Price: Free
Gmail is perfect for my Email usage. It recently added the ability for multiple accounts and non Gmail addresses which makes it even more appealing. With this I can manage all my Email accounts from 1 app with ease. Update: There is a new version being rolled out very soon which will make the app ever better looking. Check out the detail over at Android Authority.

YouTube
Price: Free
Its the Youtube app. You already know what this does if your reading this.

Social/Messaging apps:


WhatsApp Messenger
Price: Free
It took me a while to switch over to WhatsApp, I didn’t think that I needed another messaging app as I already had several. Once I switched over though I found myself getting used to it quickly. The size of the user base guarantees that most people you know use it. The encrypted end to end messages is a nice touch also. This was the messenger I finally replaced Hangouts with, at least until Allo comes out.

Messages
Price: Free
Uninstalling Hangouts also meant switching back to Google’s default messaging app for SMS messages. The number of people using SMS is dropping constantly so this does not see as much use. The app is material design, simple, lightweight, and conversations are clear to read. It does the job it’s intended to and not much else. Give this a try if you are using some bloated third party app for texting.

Another great messaging app from Facebook (WhatsApp is Facebook too). Full of features and dank emojis, this is one of my most used messengers due to the size of the user base. Its a bit of a battery hog but its a price worth paying so I can contact people!

Sync for reddit (Pro)
Price: £3.99+
Reddit Sync is my Reddit app of choice, hence I bought the Pro version purely to support the developer. The free version has tones of features which allow you to browse Reddit any way you like. The app is fast and material designed. There was a little uproar recently about the developer replacing all Amazon links within the app with his own affiliate links. I do not see such a big issue with this myself. It gives him an income stream and allows him to keep the app ad free, which rare these days. Check this out if your looking for a new Reddit app.

Buffer is a handy app for posting content to various social media websites. At the minute I have my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account all integrated so I can quickly and easily post to all 3. It also includes analytics for each post showing the amount of views/likes/upvotes etc. This would be a very useful application for anyone managing a popular account across social media platforms. It also has a web interface which makes it handy to use from the PC.

The Twitch app has come a long way over the past year. It now features most of the functionality that the website has, as well as including an audio or chat only versions of streams for data saving. Twitch.tv is a website where users stream anything from games and live events to arts and crafts. It was recently purchased by Amazon and has only grown since. Check this out if you want to watch some live games on the go.

Duo is Google’s new video chat app. From what I can see, not many people are using this yet (Although it already has 10 million downloads). The app is fast launching and easy to setup. This looks to be Google’s answer to FaceTime. Here’s hoping it takes off. There is a good review Duo over on the Verge for anyone interested.

Steam
Price: Free
The Steam app is another one that had been actively developed and improved upon over the past year. A complete material design rework was completed a few months back, the chat interface and responsiveness had improved, and you can now use it to purchase games while on the go. Lastly; it includes the code generation for 2 factor authentication on Steam. A must have with the number of accounts being compromised lately.

Instagram
Price: Free
I have just recently started using the Instagram app. Not a fan of the design, but its great to keep up with what the bands I follow are doing. Most of my interaction with Instagram is done through the Buffer app I mentioned above.

Snapchat
Price: Free
I hardly ever use Snapchat and was never a fan of the app itself. This goes through periods of not working for me at all when the Snapchat team decide to lock out accounts trying to launch the app with Xposed installed. This is an attempt to keep Snapprefs from working I reckon (and its failing). Either way, its good fun to use with friends sometimes.

Other useful apps:


I find myself using the Adverts app more that I thought. Its very handy for quickly taking a look to see whats on offer, place a bid or ask a question while out and about. You can even post an ad entirely from the app itself now. It is being actively improved and is worth checking out if your an Adverts user.

Google Authenticator
Firstly, I highly recommend that you should be using some kind of 2 factor authentication with your online accounts where possible. Passwords are just not secure enough anymore with the constant data breaches. For gods sake get this setup on your online accounts ASAP. I would recommend a good password manager like LastPass too. This is Google’s authenticator app. There are “better” more advanced apps out there but I have found this one does the job. It is very easy to setup and use.

Spotify is my music streaming service of choice. I have a few nifty Xposed module tricks which allow me to expand on the free features so it is an easy choice. AdAway prevents any ads within the app also so its a great overall listening experience.

There is also a Facebook icon on the home screen. This is just a chrome bookmark which allows me to use the Facebook mobile page. The app itself had become too bloated and hard on the battery. You do not lose much useful functionality by using the site through chrome. I still receive all notifications, only they come from chrome now. There is a great write-up on the benefits of uninstalling over on Android Central.

Home screen 2:

screensho-masked

Over the summer I finally got around to setting up one of my Raspberry Pi’s as a OSMC media server. The Kore app is the official remote application which allows me to control the Pi like a TV remote over the WiFi. This makes it a breeze to select which media to play, and control the video that is currently playing. I am hoping to upload a guide for setting up OSMC on the Pi soon.

Luas at a Glance
Price: Free
This is the app and widget I use to check the Luas times which I use almost daily. Anyone who has used the official Luas app knows how horrible it looks. I was only recently updated to work on Android marshmallow after a number of complaints. Luas at a glance is developed by a friend of mine and is a clean material design app which includes additional features like reminding you to leave before the Luas is due. As a bonus it works on Android wear too! If you use the Luas give this one a go.

Google keep is the app that I use for note taking and remembering stuff! It has has a simple re sizable widget which suits the rest of the screens style. As for features, its packed full. Note syncing across devices, nice web interface, the ability to save photos and set reminders. There is no need for any other note taking app really.

Google Calendar
Price: Free
This is common and usually preinstalled on most Android releases. Overall great calendar app, no reason to change to another.

Fitbit
Price: Free+
This is a must have app if you are the owner of a Fitbit device. The app itself is actually great, giving clear stats and constantly syncing with my Charge HR throughout the day. One of the reasons I decided to go with Fitbit was the great reviews of this accompanying app.

You could argue that Google maps is the only navigation app needed on an Android device. It just works. Quick and easy navigation, alternate route suggested, estimated arrival times. On top of this you can download large areas for offline use. This is really handy when you are travelling and my not have data.

I have spent sometime looking for a decent cross platform RSS reader that would allow me to check feeds while and work and from anywhere. Feedly is the best that I have found. The app and web interface allow easy import and exporting of RSS collections, as well as being highly customisable. I will likely do a standalone post on Feedly itself, along with sharing my top RSS feeds. If you are still using RSS feeds this is definitely one to check out.

 

So there you have it. All the apps that currently occupy my home screen. This post turned out to be way longer than I expected. If you have any recommendations about apps let me know in the comments. Have a good one!

-Dan