Slow Android? How to fix the lag of your Android phone or tablet

Has your Android phone or tablet become really unresponsive lately? Has your once breezy device recently slowed down to a crawl? As we (ab)use our phones for many hours every day, we really push them to their limits. Occasionally, one of the consequence is a notable drop of their performance, which luckily can can be resolved most of the times. See below for 3 ways to fix the dreaded Android lag.

Clean up storage

A nearly full storage might slow down your Android phone. To reclaim disk space, you can either do it manually, removing apps, pictures or music you don’t need anymore, or you can use an app such as Clean Master (APK directly available on the website) that will delete cache, residual files and junk files. Clean Master claims the average cleaning deletes 300 MB of pure junk so there’s probably more storage space on your phone you can claim back than you think.

Uninstall apps running in background

If you’re not too careful when installing APK from various sources, you might end up with a lot of useless apps running permanently in the background. Not all these apps are malicious, but for sure they help slow down your phone. Discover what apps are running permanently in the background (hint: they’re using precious RAM even though you haven’t launched them for weeks) by using a tool such as Memory Booster (APK directly available on the website, also on SlideME). If you reckon those apps are not super important to you, just get rid of them – no mercy for resource hogging apps. Ironically, Memory Booster is one of those applications that keep running in the background, so after using it for a few days to identify the troublemaking apps, you might want to uninstall it.

Format or change your SD card

Finally, a common cause for slowdowns on Android devices is the use of a low quality and/or old SD card. Back it up (see below for details), format it and it might speed things up a bit. Even better, get a new SD card from the likes of Sandisk, Kingston or Samsung that tend to use much higher quality components in their products compared to generic “no name” SD cards. The faster models (30 MB/s and above) are recommended, as the extra speed will make a massive difference when using your phone. Prices are always going down, so there’s a good chance you can buy a bigger, better quality SD card for the same price than the one you bought only last year.


 

How to back up your Android SD card?

  1. Leave your current SD card inside your Android device and connect it to your PC with a regular USB cable.
  2. On your phone, select “USB connection” in the notification area (swipe down from the top of the screen), then choose “USB Mass Storage“. Press OK.
  3. A new drive or a “Removable Disk”  will appear on your PC. That’s your SD card. Open it up, and copy all the files inside to a empty folder on your PC. For extra safety you can make a copy of those files on a USB stick or CD-R.
  4. Disconnect your Android device from the PC, turn it off and replace the SD card in your phone or tablet with the new one. If it’s empty, format it as this will confirm it’s working properly.
  5. Connect your Android device to your PC again. Copy all the files that you saved earlier on your PC to your phone or tablet.

Best Android antivirus: 360 Security

360_Security_header

If you often install apps from outside Google Play (and you well might if you’re browsing a website dedicated to alternative Android app stores!), you should consider getting a security app on your Android device. The risk of getting malevolent software is relatively low if you’re cautious about the kind of apps you install, but as the saying goes – better safe than sorry!

There are many popular options for free antivirus software on Android, many of which are offered by companies long established on the PC market, such as AVG, Avast, Norton or Kaspersky, to name a few. So many options make it hard to know which one to pick.

What’s the best antivirus app for Android, then?

At Papidroid we’re particularly fond of one Android antivirus in particular: 360 Security from Beijing-based company Qihoo. In the west, Qihoo is still a newcomer, but in China it’s more or less a household name when it comes to computer security. It’s been around for nearly 10 years in the Middle Kingdom, and their products are used monthly by over 496 million users on PC and 641 million users on mobile devices (source). Since last year the company has expanded overseas, localizing its antivirus software in English, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, German, French and Korean.

360 Security is a true Swiss army knife for your Android phone or tablet. It obviously protects you from viral attacks and monitors against malware, system vulnerabilities and privacy risks, but it also helps keep the performance of your phone optimal by removing from memory apps that are not needed any more and deleting useless junk files. There are a few additional features, like a call and SMS blocker (to keep those creepy people at bay) or an app manager that lets you uninstall apps easily.

The apps is very nicely presented, with beautiful full-screen colourful menus showing the information in a very clear way and letting you access the 4 main features: virus scan, junk cleaner, memory booster and anti-theft. A multifunctional tool bar permanently resides in the notification area and gives you instant access to some of the most useful features of your phone: alarms, recent apps and a torchlight. A tiny floating icon is also present on the desktop and tapping on it opens a small panel that lets you clean your device’s memory with a single tap and doubles as a convenient control panel for your Android device, where you can toggle wifi, Bluetooth, data, GPS, airplane mode, screen luminosity mode, auto-rotate mode, vibration, sound, etc.

Qihoo_360_Security_Toolbar

In a welcome move we’d like to see generalized to all Android developers, Qihoo is very transparent about the permissions their app requires, and details the reason behind them on its website.

Best of all, and true to Papidroid’s philosophy, 360 Security is available outside of Google Play, directly from the official website, meaning you will always get the latest version from a location you can trust.

360_security_icon

Alternative Android app store: Mobile9

mobile9 logo (free Android apps)

Mobile9 is first and foremost a platform to download content for your mobile phone: wallpapers, icons, ringtones (remember when that was all the rage?), etc. Besides this, they also offer a selection of Android apps to download directly on their website, which can be handy in case your device cannot access Google Play.

Based on our estimation there are around 15,000 Android apps available on the Mobile9 app store (all free, no paid apps), with roughly half of them being games. One can find a lot of popular apps (Snapchat, Viber, Dropbox, UC Browser, BBM, …) but the app store is particularly disorganized, making it hard to discover anything you don’t know the name of.

The application pages themselves are decent, with a good amount of details: large screenshots, detailed description, file size, number of downloads, Android version requirements… Unfortunately the layout is made confusing due to the high number of ads.

Mobile9 Android APKOne caveat is that it seems anyone can upload files on Mobile9 even if they’re not the author, provided the app is free. While in a perfect world, that’s a great way to quickly offer a large choice of apps, in practice it means the website can also be used by malevolent people to spread malware or infected software, if Mobile9 is not closely monitoring what’s going on there. Make sure you have an antivirus installed on your device (for instance Avast Mobile Security) and pay a close attention to the permissions requested by the apps you install.

Registering on the website is strongly advised: as an unregistered guest, you will have to put up with a 30-second delay before the download of any APK can start. In any case, the community seems to be quite big and active. We understand Mobile9 is based in Malaysia, and from the United Kingdom, where Papidroid is located, download speed seems extremely slow. No doubt you’ll get a better speed if you’re in Asia.

Overall, despite the presence of some popular Android apps, it’s hard to recommend Mobile9 as an everyday store, due to the lack of decent curating and the dubious origin of some of the apps. It’s a good place to search for a specific app that might be hard to find somewhere else and grab it if it’s available, but not an app store you want to be checking on a regular basis, hoping to discover a hidden gem.

Click here for our full list of alternative Android app stores where you can download apps without Google Play, in a safe and legal way.

Mobile9 Android app store

Discover FaceQ (MYOTee Lianmeng), China’s hottest mobile app!

MYOTee Lianmeng custom manga avatarChina has lately been in a frenzy for MYOTee脸萌 (MYOTee Lianmeng), an Android and iPhone app that lets you create your own custom avatar. It’s been topping the Chinese charts in June and has now been downloaded over 36 million times. Besides the Middle Kingdom, it has also proven very popular in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and has even found a large audience in the USA and Australia.

The app originated from the artwork of Hong Kong T-shirt artist Peter Lee who started creating those designs in 2007 and has been using them for personalized garments since then. You can actually still use the original web-based avatar creator application to create your own cute avatar (and maybe even order a T-shirt!).

On the mobile app, you start by choosing either a male avatar, a female avatar or a couple. You can then customize all the details like shape of the face, colour of the skin and hair, type of the eyes, type of clothing, type of hat, etc. by choosing from the many templates provided. You can give it a final touch by choosing a background and an optional speech bubble.

The results show a strong inspiration from Japanese manga or anime and the avatars tend to be in the kawaii style (cute). With a bit of patience and experimentation, it’s possible to create avatars that are instantly recognizable versions of actual people.

Once you’re satisfied with your creation, you can save the completed mini-me to your device’s internal memory and use it as your custom profile picture in Facebook, Twitter or any social network or instant messaging app.

The app is completely in Chinese and no translation is available at the moment. It is still perfectly usable even if you don’t understand the language, as most of the interactions needed to create your own personalized avatar are very visual. MYOTee脸萌 requires Android 3.0 or above.

24 August 2014 update: the app is now available in English and is called FaceQ.

myotee-lianmeng-android-icon

How to download Snapchat without Google Play

Snapchat Android without Google Play

Snapchat is a photo messaging application that was first launched in July 2011 under the name “Picaboo”, but was soon renamed Snapchat. The unique feature of Snapchat is the high level of privacy it offers: users set a time limit for how long their photos can be seen by their recipients (a few seconds usually). After that time, the photos are hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from Snapchat’s servers. Of course it’s always possible for the recipient to just take a screenshot :)

Today Snapchat is one of the most popular photo messaging applications on Android and iOS, with over 700 million photos and videos shared per day (May 2014 numbers) and Snapchat stories being viewed over 1 billion times per day (June 2014 numbers). The numbers of actual users is a well kept secret, but it’s been reported roughly 70% of them are women.

If your Android device cannot access Google Play for any reason, the good news is that you can now download the Snapchat APK in the following alternative Android app stores. If you’re looking for top apps like Facebook or Instagram for your Android smartphone or tablet you can download without Google Play, make sure to check our previous article, 10 super popular Android apps you can download without Google Play.

Hill Climb Racing for Android – also available without Google Play

Beware! Here comes one of the most popular mobile games of all time, a small but perfectly formed nugget of pure entertainment originating from Finland, also home of the massive hits Angry Birds and Clash of Clans.

Behind the game we find a small development studio called Fingersoft which first title happened to be Hill Climb Racing (with Android as the original platform, woohoo!) . Hardly a bad start in the startup world! More games have followed after that initial good omen: Benji Bananas and Fail Hard. Unlike Hill Climb Racing, both of those have yet to appear in alternative Android app stores, but we’ll keep looking and keep you posted.

Back to Hill Climb Racing: the goal of the game is simple – go as far as possible driving your vehicle on a hilly terrain. With such a short description it could sound like a run-of-the-mill endless runner, if it wasn’t for one small difference that changes everything: physics, glorious physics, over the top glorious physics. That alone means you must control your cars with utmost precision, juggling with the gas and brake pedals according to the terrain you encounter. Make a wrong decision, even by a small margin, and your car will end up stuck at the bottom of a steep slope, or on the roof after a failed acrobatic attempt, and in both cases you’ll have to start again from the beginning.

As your car bumps up and down the hill, you collect coins which are the only currency on your road to excellence. Those coins will come very handy to upgrade your car with better engine, suspension, tires and 4WD transmission, but also to unlock new wacky vehicles (the ultimate one being a kiddy train!) and new maps. All in all, the game has a ton of content, long enough to keep you busy for a long time. While Hill Climb Racing uses the usual free-to-play monetisation technique, it always feels fair as everything is unlockable using those easy to get coins. It’s just a matter of how much time you’re willing to spend on the game, and never a matter of how good you are. The game is also ad-supported, but the ads definitely remain at an acceptable level and never get obnoxious (making any purchase in the game also disable them).

The controls are extremely responsive and you always feel in total control of your car, meaning that you can never blame the game for a crash, only your lack of judgement or foresight! Driving the car around is a real joy, and soon enough you’ll find yourself performing stunts as you go, from simple jumps to more elaborate flips.

Granted, the visuals won’t make you fire an email to the developers asking just how they could come up with such artistic magic. It looks basic, but it’s very functional and perfectly serves its purpose of keeping everything instantly understandable. Music and sound effects are of the same league – all as perfectly appropriate as they are forgettable.

To sum it up: don’t let the lacklustre presentation turn you down, Hill Climb Racing is a perfectly oiled machine that’s lot of fun and the success it has enjoyed has been perfectly justified. It’s a true gem of pure gaming and without doubt one of the top titles on mobile platforms.

5 stars

Requirements: Android 2.2 and above

Best Android utilities available without Google Play

If you want to get more from your Android smartphone or tablet and consider yourself comfortable with the Android system, you might want to have a look at the following apps that will help you analyze, configure and optimize your device. As usual on Papidroid, all those applications are available outside of Google Play, on trusted Android alternative app stores.

  • UCBrowser: looking for a modern, fast and elegant browser to replace the stock Android web browser? UC Browser is a popular contender, with its trouble-free web browsing, multiple background downloading, add-ons support, incognito browsing, custom themes, night mode and cloud sync between multiple devices. Download it on the official website.
  • Clean Master: Remove useless files on your Android device and free up some space! Cleaning junk and spam files can help improve your phone performance and fix lag problems. With its 100 million users, Clean Master offers you to do this and more (kill tasks, manage apps, antivirus…). Download it from Opera Mobile Store.
  • Avast Mobile Security: if you’re downloading files from sources besides the main trusted Android app stores, it might be a good idea to install an antivirus on your Android device. Avast is one of the most popular antivirus on PC, and the Android version has also proven really popular thanks to its huge amount of features and customization options. Download it on SlideME.
  • ES File Explorer: If you want to do some serious file management on your Android device, look no further than ES File Explorer. Beside the usual file operations (Copy, Paste, Cut/Move, Create, Delete, Rename, Share/Send), you can also manage apps (Install, Uninstall, Backup), compress and decompress ZIP/RAR files, edit text and use it as a FTP client. Download it on SlideME.
  • Permission Friendly Apps: With many apps asking for tons of permissions while installing them, it’s hard to keep track of the ones that are respectful of your personal data and the ones that are suspicious or even downright dangerous. Permission Friendly Apps is a good way to keep an eye on all the permissions and remove any misbehaving app. It’s open-source, does not require any permission and contains no advertising. Download it on F-Droid.
  • DU Battery Saver: if you feel like you’re not getting enough battery from your phone, DU Battery Saver could be a good solution with its pre-set battery power management modes and easy interface to deal with those battery hogging apps and overlooked device settings that shorten your battery life. Download it on Opera Mobile Store.

Lexibook Market review (alternative Android app store)

lexibook-market

Lexibook is a French company that designs and markets a range of leisure electronic products, including Android tablets mostly targeted at children. Those tablets come with their own Android app store preloaded, Lexibook Market, which can also be used on any Android device and is available for download on their website along with a few other Android apps. Note that Lexibook Market is actually designed and curated by Berlin-based AndroidPIT, which might explain the fair number of German apps in the app store.

Quite obviously Lexibook’s own kid apps are predominantly presented in their market app and in all honesty they do seem much better than the average kid’s app on Android (even though that doesn’t say much!), but that quality comes at a price and they’re all fairly expensive. There are many more other apps available (14,306 apps and 5,829 games as that article is being written), both free and paid via Paypal, in categories well beyond kids and education: all kind of games, personalization apps, business and productivity apps, lifestyle apps and basically all that you would expect from a decent Android app store, except understandably anything too violent or too mature. This makes perfect sense with children as the primary users of Lexibook tablets.

The title selection is still relatively limited but a few popular titles are available, such as Candy Crush Saga, Cut The Rope and a lot of Com2Us and Magma Mobile titles on the game side and Skype, Viber, Runtastic or eBay on the app side. A nice feature is that, for some of the apps you can read some very detailed review from AndroidPIT directly in the market app.

The app store presentation is quite standard and boring looking but it’s clear and ad-free. Application pages are quite complete and include a description, screenshots, file size and minimum Android version. All of it seems to be copied straight from Google Play, including all the reviews! That blurry delimitation with Google Play goes a bit further: when doing a keyword-based search or looking at other apps from a specific developer, you are shown all the apps available on Google Play, and you need to look at their details to know whether they are available on Lexibook Market or not (in which case you are redirected to Google Play – which is pointless if you don’t have it in the first place!). It’s all very confusing.

Overall despite its limitations, Lexibook Market can be a good choice for an Android device owned by a child or a young teenager, due to the lack of mature or harmful apps and the fact that you purchase apps with only a Paypal account.

Download Lexibook Market (user manual)

The best Android Tower Defense games available without Google Play

The Best Tower Defense Games For Android Without Google Play

Tower Defense games have been around for over 7 years now and have become an extremely popular genre. The goal is usually to try to stop enemies from crossing a map by building traps to slow them down and towers which shoot at them as they pass. Enemies and towers have often varied abilities, costs, and upgrade prices. One of the first Tower Defense title available was Flash Element Tower Defense, released in January 2007 and which has now been played over 140 million times! In recent years Tower Defense games have seen a kind of renaissance on smartphones and tablets, as the gameplay is perfectly adapted to both touch controls and short play sessions. You can find below a selection of the best Tower Defense titles for Android available outside of Google Play.

  • Empire Defense 2 (GoodTeam Studio, Android 2.1 and up) is a solid Tower Defense Game originating from China. There are 22 long and challenging levels on the single player campaign and a tonne of content and upgrades (13 generals and 18 soldiers) to unlock along the way. An Arena mode is also provided for multiplayer battles. The graphics and animations are detailed and very nicely done and if you live outside China, the theme will feel fairly original, being based around the 3 Kingdoms universe. The only downside is the lacklustre English translation. Download on Mobango or SlideME.
  • Guns’n’Glory Heroes (Handygames) stands out as an original mix of Tower Defense and Action RPG. You control a party of 3 heroes (a knight, a dwarf and an elf) in their battle against the Orcs. Unlike traditional Tower Defense games you can move them around the map and choose when to use their special attacks. In a RPG fashion, you can improve their combat abilities as they level up. Visually the game looks very neat, with cute cartoon graphics. Download on Opera Mobile Store or Mobango.
  • Xeno Tactic II Lite (Cat Soft, Android 1.5 and more) ticks all the right boxes for a Tower Defense game: lots of units to chose from and upgrade, a large variety of enemies that will put your best tactics to the test and good science-fiction graphics and animations. This is also the only option for older devices which run on less than Android 2.1. Note that this is a demo with only a few maps to play on. Download on SlideME, Opera Mobile Store or Mobango.
  • Radiant Defense (Hexage, Android 2.3 and up) is probably one of the best Tower Defense games ever. It’s brillantly presented with a lot of humour, looks stunning with its vibrant neon graphics and plays perfectly. You can even create your own route for the aliens by placing blocks you can build turrets on. There’s over 400 waves of aliens across 15 missions, so plenty of content. Download on Amazon App Store.
  • Grave Defense HD (Artofbytes, Android 2.1 and up) should be your first choice if you like your Tower Defense slightly gross. This one takes place in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a nuclear war and populated by hordes of zombies hungry for human flesh and other disgusting creatures! There are four difficulty modes, from Casual to Insane to ensure anyone can enjoy the game. As you can see on the screenshots, the game feature really detailed high-res graphics. Download on SlideME, Mobango or Opera Mobile Store.

Open-Source Android App Store: F-Droid

F-Droid - free and Open-source Android software repository

F-Droid stands out amongst the other alternatives to Google Play because it focuses exclusively on Open-source apps. According to Wikipedia, Open-source software is computer software with its source code made available and licensed with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

As such, the choice of applications, for games especially, is quite limited compared to other app stores, but on the other hand everything is 100% free, often without ads, and in theory very safe and secure, as the open source nature of the apps allows any dangerous or non-orthodox behaviour to be easily spotted.

F-Droid offers a large range of system, productivity and internet apps, with a few famous names like Firefox, VLCWordPress and many small, no-nonsense basic apps like flashlights, calculators or file managers. We also found a few nice games like Gloomy Dungeons 3D, a oldschool FPS reminescent of Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, puzzle game 2048, recently very popular, Frozen Bubble, a Bust-A-Move/Puzzle Bobble-type game, BrowserQuest, a small online RPG and quite a few emulators for popular retro Japanese consoles. There’s probably a lot more to be discovered!

You can either browse the apps through their website or use F-Droid’s dedicated app (requires Android 2.0 or newer), which is very light and easy to use. The only downside is the lack of screenshots and requirements both on the website and the app, which makes evaluating apps a bit difficult.

Overall F-Droid is the right choice if you’re after “serious” apps for making you more productive or getting more from your Android device, and if you favour free apps you can genuinely trust. On the other hand, if you’re after an app store where you can download the last trendy game or social networking app, F-Droid won’t be your best option.