Let’s be honest: Android in 2011 was ugly. I know it’s easy to say it know, six years later, but let’s exercise our honesty again, Android today is a pretty OS and yes, not everything is aesthetics: it also works better. In these six years that we’ve used as reference, everything has changed a lot: system updates whit more features, apps and services that have appeared and disappeared… Also, there’s still some problems, like the fragmentation.
Today we bring you what Americans call a blast from the past and that in Spanish has a pretty difficult literal translation. Let’s say that they are things from the past that we suddenly remember existed and surprises us. Whit this post we want to make a compilation of the apps that you used a few years ago and now see and think: It’s true! I didn’t remember that app.
It was one of the first task managers in Android and It was an application that worked very well. Simple, with a rather ugly interface but suitable with the design canons of that time, it fulfilled its commitment and it was the most used productivity application. Nevertheless, it had a little sad final.
The application got acquired by Yahoo! In May 2013. With more than 4 millions users, the task manager which many of us remember because of its octopus pet, the company that used to make the application was being absorbed. Luckily for the developers, who cashed out, unfortunately for the service that ended up not being used.
What happened to Astrid? Nowadays it is missing from Google Play and what is left are just heiress applications of this one and with a renewed design. On the other hand, some others tools have been appearing such as Todoist,Trello, Asana, Google´s reminders…I do not miss it but I recognize that it was one of the first apps that I used in my Nexus one.
Rovio was ready to conquer the world of mobile games. Angry Birds was the most popular game in 2011, a phenomenon everybody was talking about, which exemplified Android’s successs. Its story is quite curious, actually: the game was launched after the release of approximately 50 other unsuccesful titles, and the birds were the ones who managed to bring fame upon this nordic studio.
Rovio had its golden years, but they were not able to keep up with this tradition and, in just a few years, they began to deflate. Further game releases did not go well, and other enterprises such as King and Supercell started to take over the throne. Its games are still available on Google Play, but, currently, Rovio only represents a page (an important one, though) in the history of smartphones.
Advanced Task Killer
I’ve always been shocked by the intererst in Android task managers. They are apps that are not nearly as effective as they claim to be. Yes, they do eliminate processes, but Amdroid’s RAM has been filling automatically for years so the memory space can be efficiently managed.
Back then, Advanced Task Killer was killing the game: any Android enthusiast would use it to keep at bay secondary processes and fully optimize battery. We acknowledge that this healthy obsession with squeezing autonomy to its fullest is still present, even the manufacturers have joined the club by creating their own solutions.
Advanced Task Killer is just another painting in the museum of the history of smartphones. Useful (sort of) back in the moment, but currently forgotten due to the improvements made by Android, Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, Motorola, and Xiaomi.
Saving articles for later has been trending for the past six years. Truth is, this is quite useful, because it’s not uncommon to spot interesting articles when you have no time to read them carefully or, simply, just wanting to reserve them for your “me time”.
Back then, Instapaper and Read It Later were taking over the market. This was a fierce fight that ruined Instapaper and ended with Read It Later’s (now named Pocket) success. Instapaper was lead to failiure because it wasn’t a free service, and also Pinboard entered the competition; the prices have been recalculated, but this didn’t translate into any major possitive changes for the app. It’s still available on Google Play, in case you’re feeling curious.
To keep articles to be read later became a common habit six years ago. The truth is that it was, and still is very useful, because man times we saw a very interresting article but did not have time to read it with the attention it deserved, or we simply wanted to reserve it for a disconnection moment.
By those years, the fight was starred by Instapaper and Read it later. A fierce fight in which Instapaper ended forgotten and Read it later, renamed later as Pocket, succeeded in winning the fight. The fact that it was a paid service, weigh against the first one, and that Pinboard started to make presence in the market. They held back the payments, but it did not do any good. It is still available in Google Play, if you want to see it.
What we have before us is, basically, a corpse… a dead, dead corpse. Internet mourned the closure of Google Reader, a decision that was hard to accept by many; not only was it a useful service, it was also brilliantly layed out. Luckily, some alternatives have been provided for the data junkies, such as Feedly.
Searching for Google Reader on the Internet will only show us the wide amount of alternatives that have been created over the years: gReader, Newsfold, Flipboard, Palabre, Inoreader, and Swype News… this sea has plenty of fish, but none will ever be as great as Google Reader. Joking aside, we just mentioned so many good alternatives, but still, the end of Google Reader was like a stab in the back for so many users.
Google has been working for many years on the artificial vision in all its spread spectrum, from the virtual reality with apps like Google Cardboard to smart recognitions applications such as Google Goggles. A curious name for an app which has been diluting to become a part of the others services of the company.
What did Google Goggles do ? It recognized objects in the images through the camera and used to give us information about it. Did we put it in front of a monument? Afterwards we used to have a record of the mentioned object in the screen of the cell phone. It was a good starting but, as we were saying, it has lost relevance but not all the work that there is behind it, so that they have developed other applications and services. You can download it from Google Play but I warn you that it is practically abandoned. As a matter of fact, the last update was done in 2014.
Adobe Flash Player
Another dead which is really really dead and fortunately for all of us, I add. We have to give Adobe the recognition of the fact that while other technologies such as HTML and Java were evolving in order to offer better solutions for cell phones, Flash did a good job but the moment came when safety and the risk of attacks was so big, that having it installed was dangerous.
There are some of them still left, but few, very few of them that use Flash to work but our advise is that you to look for more updated alternatives and run away from this technology, because all you will find is a lot of problems and a very outdated software. Fortunately it is not available in Google Play and all you will find, if you look for Flash,are applications to convert you cell phone in a flashlight. We will also speak about it later.
Another application which was going to eat the world and in a way it kind of did, because Viber became pretty popular in eastern Europe. What did this app do ? It offered voice calls on IP so that, with WiFi data, we could contact other people without doing any additional expense. The idea was good but in a brief time it became obsolete.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Line, Telegram, Hangouts… Viber had to endure a fierce competition during the last years and at the end its share of users decreased.The service continue to be active, it does, but what started in Spain as a ! this is a really good application to call for free, try it ! And that was it, something anecdotal.
Android, as an operating system, used to have a lot of shortcomings in 2011 and Google, in general, has reacted quickly, by including new features. Concretely with the flashlights, that is, the usage of the flash of the camera to illuminate,has occurred that process of absorption.
What was very popular in 2011, is not anymore nowadays and we have stopped using it. Therefore, if we make some quickly searches in Google Play we will realize that there still are many available options and some of them with a high number of downloads.What is going on ? The most probable thing is that many people who change their old Android smartphone for a new one, will not know that that option has already been integrated to the system then they will go to Google Play. We are creatures of habit.
With a perspective of six years before, maybe you will not remember, but in 2011 there was still a lot of people who did not use WhatsApps. And yes, in Spain the penetration of cell phones market was done faster tan in other regions, but it was a little delayed. Meanwhile, Messenger ( Microsoft´s one, no facebook´s one ) was still a much more used app, and in Android, IM+ was one of the most used options.
By that time, IM+ proposal was very good: To unite different instant messaging services in the same app. It does not always work well with push notifications, but to chat by Messenger with our friends, it worked. Messenger died and we saw, as a matter of a short time, that the messeging became something very oriented to cell phones and, in second instance, to keep the sesión opened at the same time in computers. It is still avaliable, if you want to see them, in Google Play.
Documents to go
A very clear example of how small developers took very good advantage by that time of the lacking of some services from big enterprises. In this case, the office automation, which in the world of the PC had been an Office´s territory. Documents to go allowed us to see and manage files in Word, calculations sheets in Excel, presentations in Power Point.
The app used to be kind of ugly, but it worked well. At the arrival of Microsoft and its apps for cell phones, added to the effort of Google to impulse its office automation suite, many of us jumped into them, because the creators of Documents to go noticed they were not able to compete and offer a service as good as that theirs. It also continue to be available in Google Play. But more than being just an exercise of software archeology, there are better options which also are for free.
I do not know if you remember, but in 2011 the 3D was at its best moment. The t.v. makers designed special model of glasses, Nintendo 3DS was taking its first steps, LG was promoting a cell phone with this technology…do not know up to what point it influenced SPB Shell, but six years ago everybody hallucinated with this launcher.
Three dimensional elements, transitions with depth…Some effects we see now ( You have a video up there ) and they result to be hair-raising because of its ugliness. I guess SPB Shell are like the shoulder pads people wore in the eighties, now they look naff but by that time they used to be the best. The closest thing you have nowadays is TSF Launcher but so that there are too many and so god launchers, it is not worth.
Before Chrome got a very impotant position in the market and Firefox followed it, the browser which came with Android used to be pretty limited. By taking advantages of these lacks the Dolphin Browser team designed a very competitive app: A more powerful motor to render HTML5, extensions, voice and gestures control….It was very good and yes, I say it in participle.
As the years passed by the competition became aware of that, starting by Google and the arrival of Chome and Android. Firefox and Opera also won territory, and at the end, taking away the browsers that are included by the makers, a scene similar to one we have with the desk laptops have been left.
Nowadays it is not a bad option so that it continue to be good and has included functions such as AdBlock and a secure Flash reproducer, if it is the case that someone still is consuming any content with this tool.
In 2011 contact managements in Android was not bad but it was really more limited than it is now. Again, it is an opportunity for small developers who even took advantage of our ease to be impressed, in this case with an agenda of widget format where we had our more frequent contacts at hand.
The idea and the execution were good, but through the time and the usage we did of the apps, to have our favorites contacts “closer at hand”did not add any value. The app ended disappeared from Google Play and another clons were emerging for whoever still have that need.
In 2011 there was an app that started to become bigger in iOS and its name, for sure, will sound familiar to you: Flipboard. It was not possible, but until 2012 when we all began to enjoy it in Android and till then the niche of apps with magazine format, fleeing from those hyperfunctional interfaces of Google Reader and company, was not covered. Pulse News tried, but it did not last much.
Pulse news brought us news with a format more similar to paper, something that worked very well, coinciding with the launching of Honeycomb and the first tablets with adapted apps to this screen format. It did not last and in a brief time succumbed to other readers type magazine like Flipboard. Nowadays it is not available in Google Play.
That there had been an obsession in 2011 to personalize Android, even the most acute detail obey to what I was saying from the begining of this article: It was kind of an ugly operating system. Of all of the personalizing apps that there was then, the widgets ones had many followers, Beautiful Widgets was one of the most popular. It worked well and offered options for all types of preferences.
The app, and the enterprise behind it, have hold very well the type. Nowadays it continue to be an app with many users behind it, but it is probable that many of you have stopped using it, or have gone for more advanced personalizing apps. If you like widgets, give them a chance.
As I go on with this review of lacks and errors of 2011 Android, the launchers which came by default were not really fast. I remember when I did root in my Nexus One and I installed in it CyanogenMod, which by that time used to come with ADW Launcher of series. What a difference.
It used to be simple, and it valued first speed than aesthetics and yes, it continue to be active but it has seen how other launchers such as Nova has won the race. As a matter of fact, nowadays it is the very first thing I do everytime I have an Android at hand: To install Nova in it. Beside, the makers has also done their best at it, and the ones they create for their terminals, work pretty good.
Before sending stories with tags or emojis by Instagram or posting our photos in WhatsApp, there was an app named Skitch which did exactly the same: It allowed us to add a space of handwritten annotations and graphics in order to give it a more informal character. The app that first started to become popular in MacOS, did not have too much to do.
The app was good and as one to edit images in a fast way it was good but it was so hard to bear the type, and it is so true that they did not have a natural competitor for a long time, Skitch was bought by Evernote and a little later, in 2015, it was stolen.