These Google Apps are Total Gamechangers in Making Your Life Easier

google apps

When I got my first smartphone junior year, I thought that all I’d use it for was for Internet, music, and texting on a faster keyboard. Instead, it sort of launched me into the world of lifehacking and trying to optimize all of my technological tools and apps to create a more streamlined experience for my life.

With the exception of my 5th generation iPod Nano, I’m a PC/Windows/Android advocate through and through, which I’ve learned after I started using my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. While it’s excellent marketing, I hate the stereotype that Apple=free-thinking innovation & creativity. My anecdotal evidence has found that many people continue to use Apple products out of inertia (because they haven’t considered alternatives) and that the iPhone, while a high-quality product, is technologically behind many of its competitors.

Many people continue to use Apple products out of inertia

It’s ironic that an unchill closed system company can brand itself as the face of non-conformity when Androids and PCs are endlessly customizable and bought by consumers after research and comparison to find the highest-performing device that meets their needs, propagating a purer meritocracy. Of course, I won’t be getting into the libertarian tendencies of the tech world just yet.

I think getting my new highly-functional phone was a lesson in the idea that if something is in my control, I should do everything I can to make even these small experiences optimal because all of this appreciation for this really cool thing that connects to space and back to show me pictures of Rami Malek’s hair builds up over time, and that applies to the rest of life as well.

In fact, I read reviews of a product I get after I buy it sometimes just to feed my confirmation bias. But if you can’t marvel at the perfection of a smoothly-sharpened colored pencil, what do you really have in this world? My approach to all of these Google apps is pretty KonMari. I ask myself “does this spark joy?” and all of these apps do.

google apps

The preferred “read it later” app of Shonda Rhimes, Pocket is a must-have in your app folder for those moments when you just want to have all of your saved articles and webpages all in one place for offline reading. It’s sort of like DVR for articles, recipes, and shopping links.

The app is seamless across multiple platforms; I use it on my smartphone, my Windows PC by clipping through Chrome, and formerly on my iPhone 5C and you can create tags for articles and organize them yourself. Pocket also sends you recommendations based on your previous clippings, so it’s an easy place to find new things to read as well.

My one problem is that Pocket has enabled my link-hoarding tendencies, but it’s just so convenient to know that when I need something, it’s always there! Scrolling through the extensive archives of my Pocket list makes me feel like maybe all this time I spend on the Internet is worth something

Google Keep

Many of my documents live on Google Drive and I’m basically totally committed to the Google consortium by now; Google Keep is a versatile lightweight notekeeping app that can be used across all devices and syncs notes, lists, audio, and pictures with your Google account. It’s not a substitute for heavy hitters like Evernote but a convenient alternative to whatever the native notekeeping app on your phone.

Podcast Addict (Android)

The iTunes Podcasts app for my iPhone had always been sufficient, so when I made the switch to Android, I needed to find a new one. Podcast Addict has got a good amount of functionality for a free app and this brings me joy because it’s a one-stop place for all my podcasts, which are essential when I’m folding laundry or printing out long documents.

Rainbow Unicorn Attack

This game is basically the same concept as the Chrome offline browser dinosaur game except you collect fairies and blue teardrop-shaped objects but it’s got really pretty sparkly graphics. It doesn’t require internet, so it’s good for killing time on the bus while listening to an episode of Comedy Bang Bang.

Nova Launcher (Android)

Nova is a launcher that replaces your home screen with a customizable one for all your widgets and icon packs. It’s high-performing and rarely crashes (unlike other launchers I’ve tried in the past) and it’s very user-friendly. Nova’s widgets just saves me the extra step of having to click on the app icon to find out what’s on my calendar and I can make my app folder purple.

Hoopla/Overdrive/3M Cloud

The numbers are in: millennials are the most frequent users of public libraries. Yeah, man, we READ! Library amenities often extend to digital lending as well, and these apps and sites make it possible for you to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, albums, movies, and episodes of TV. My preferred method of school-assigned summer reading is to follow along with a 2x sped-up version of the novel on audiobook. Most books with expired copyrights can be found on Librivox, but otherwise, you’ll find the sped-up version of Freaknonomics to be sufficient.

Libraries are hecking awesome.


I use a variety of photo-editing apps including Snapseed and VSCO (C1 4 LYFE!), but my favorite for that extra Kawaii factor is April, which is primarily a collage and poster-making app for pictures on your mobile device. It many very cute templates that you can play around with. I wouldn’t say it’s a one-stop photo-editing app, especially if you’re a bit meticulous about your Instagram feed because they don’t have customizable exposure/contrast/saturation tools, but it does have filters, stickers, and most importantly, tasteful and decorative frames.

Forest (free for Android) or Tide or the off-brand Chinese Canal Street version of Forest called FocusNow on iTunes

All of these are timer apps to get you off your phone and focused on your tasks. If you want to curb your phone-checking habit, these apps are a way to stay mindful about the time you spend away from your phone. Tide is a lovely, simple app with a minimalist interface that plays white noise and tracks the time. It’s very zen; there’s no dead trees if you need to quit.

If you’re into the gamification of your productivity, Forest and FocusNow both plant a tree for every bracket of time you complete. When you start, you plant a seed and a tree will have grown by the time the countdown hits zero. Over time, it’s rewarding to see all the different plants you’ve grown in your plot.