Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • The app ecosystem on our mobile phones is huge. There are so many apps in Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store that you'll never be short of options. Many apps directly compete with one another, but it's practically impossible for us to agree on which apps are the absolute best. Nevertheless, we all have our preferences, and that's what this post will be about. I won't try to convince you of which apps in the showdowns I'm about to share are better, I'll just share with you which apps I prefer to use and why. Don't forget to share your own preferences after going through this post. It'll be interesting to see why other people use other apps. We might even learn some tips and tricks for the apps that we use that we never even knew about.

      Navigation: Google Maps vs Waze

      The first showdown is between two Google properties, Maps and Waze. While Maps may be the preferred service for many people in the West, Waze is very popular on this side of the world here in Asia. Especially in Malaysia, where Waze recorded the highest number of users among Asian countries in 2017. I've gone back and forth between these two services over the years. I used to use Maps at first, then I switched to Waze, but now I'm back on Google Maps and I think I'll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future. There are some features of Waze which I miss, like live reports from users about obstacles on the road, speed traps, and cars stopped on the side of the road, but I decided to switch to Maps because it just worked better most of the time. Waze works fine, but just seems less polished compared to Maps and some features were just broken. Also, all the mapping data that Google has in Maps makes it much more informative than Waze, which is great for navigation but not great for exploring the places around you. Ultimately, the entire user experience just feels better on Maps than Waze, which is why I give the win to Google Maps.

      Cloud storage: Google Drive vs Dropbox

      I used Dropbox a long time ago, but once I started using Google Drive I pretty much stopped using Dropbox. I like how Google Drive is integrated with Google's productivity services (Docs, Sheets, Slides), and how the files from these services don't take up storage space. Both services have free tiers and paid tiers which offer more storage, but recently Dropbox shot itself in the foot by introducing a device limit to the free tier, which limits free account holders to just three devices. Ouch. Not to mention that Dropbox's free tier only offers a measly 2GB of storage. That's quite pathetic really. I literally have no reason to use Dropbox any more and I don't see any benefit to using it, so Google Drive gets the easy win from me here.

      Instant messaging: Telegram vs WhatsApp

      This is a showdown that I've been writing about a lot over the past few years. On G+ I'd be promoting Telegram as a better IM platform than WhatsApp, even on Facebook back when I used to post once in a while. I continue to do so now on Twitter too. I got some of my friends and family to join, but many people chose to stick with WhatsApp which I consider inferior. You can read more of my thoughts on this in my other post where I share in more detail why I think Telegram is the winner of this showdown.

      Keyboard: SwiftKey vs Gboard

      Even though iOS users were stuck with the stock keyboard for many years, things changed with iOS 8 when Apple finally allowed users to replace the keyboard on their iPhone with a third-party option. When it comes to keyboards, the main battle is probably between SwiftKey and Google's own Gboard, even though SwiftKey actually had a 6 year lead on Google, releasing its keyboard in 2010 while Google only got involved in 2016. Google's machine learning capabilities and enormous accumulation of data over the years has allowed it to create a very good keyboard in just a short amount of time. However, having used both I still prefer SwiftKey. As someone who usually speaks/texts in two languages at the same time, simultaneous multi-lingual support is crucial, and SwiftKey does it best for me. SwiftKey's predictions and auto-complete are also better than Google's in my experience, which is why I'm giving SwiftKey the win in this showdown.

      Music streaming: Spotify vs ?

      Lastly, I want to do a showdown between music streaming apps. The problem is that I've only used Spotify, so I can't really do a showdown. I'm on a paid subscription (which gets cheaper per person as more family members join the plan) and Spotify has fulfilled my music needs perfectly so I've never felt the need to try anything else. It integrates with Google Maps too (with Waze as well), which makes it even better.

      Of course there are many more apps in each of these categories, and many more categories like internet browsers (I use Chrome), photo galleries (I use Google Photos), and note taking (I use Google Keep), but in the interest of brevity I'll stop here. Have any showdowns of your own or do you use other apps that you'd like to share?

    • Awesome write-up! I agree with most of your picks but at Cake we like DropBox. One reason is we love Paper, their doc solution. DropBox is expensive, though.

      Strange, but I like YouTube music. It’s just uncanny how well it recommends, and I find covers I love.

      I like gmail. Anybody not? I think they nailed it.

      Like Google maps more than Apple maps.

      Photo enhancement apps?

    • I used to have Napster (paid) for many years, and was hard to justify a switch to Spotify because the former's audio quality & sampling rate is better, but eventually I did for two reasons. Mainly the very diverse and usually pleasant way it offers to mix music given a starting "song radio". And second, nearly no connection drops or app hangs vs. Napster - on same exact service network.

      I use Yelp and FourSquare occasionally, haven't used Uber yet! Expedia is useful during road trips. And many specialized apps which aren't probably of general interest. I will say there is one, Radar Alive Pro which got recommended few years back by Motorcycle Consumer News that works with great accuracy to show the exact real time satellite layers views of bad weather, and helped me countless times avoid it!

      I'd like to hear about anyone's geofencing preferred apps, such as when you leave home it arms the alarm system, dims lights, etc. And when you come back it awaits with a nice warm meal. 🤣

    • I didn't realize that Waze is owned by Google!

      I've been using Waze for driving (and sometimes walking) directions for quite a while. Based on your recommendation I guess I should try Google Maps too.

    • Music streaming: Spotify vs ?

      Lastly, I want to do a showdown between music streaming apps. 

      I’ve only ever used Pandora. First on desktop then on smartphone. My oldest created station is from October 2015.

      I pay for the second tier option, no ads, unlimited skips, and ability to replay any song that aired during that day’s session.

      I like the new discoveries: Acoutistic Pop Radio is a great station for discovering new artists.

      Thumbprint Radio is great after you’ve liked or “thumbs up” a couple hundred songs. It plays your best songs and songs with similar genome profiles. I went for a three mile walk after work today and I either skipped a slow song or replayed a recent high energy one to keep my heart rate up.

      A recent discovery is that you can use it to play podcasts. It doesn’t have everything, but the most popular ones from Gimlet Media and NPR are pretty much there: This American Life and The Pitch are favorites.

      Again, I’ve been using Pandora for over four years and never felt the need to try others, so there may be better music apps out there. And the idea of starting from scratch with another app to create a new favorites station is too much friction to seriously consider switching.

    • I guess it goes without saying everyone has gmail.. lol. The way you can find seven year old messages is quite spooky, to be honest. I also use all of their document suite and the drive. I really like the "Notes" it has become my de facto shopping list app - where before I was using a funny one "Out of milk". But Google's notes does much more, and is so easy to use to remember anything from youtube songs to cooking recipes.

    • I use Chrome primarily, but have Firefox focus installed for a search query that seems too silly or for something that I would not want to be associated with my Google profile.

      I was subscribed to Google Play Music for a long time, but jumped ship to Spotify last month as soon as it launched in India. The diverse playlists that they offer seem unparalleled compared to any other app available here.

      I still have Pushbullet installed when I want to push links or images to my phone from my desktop or vice versa. I know I can use the saved messages chat on Telegram for the same but it feels a little counter intuitive to me. With Pushbullet, I can directly tap on the notification to launch my browser or share a funny meme on whatsapp.

      Snapseed for if I ever click something interesting and want to touch it up slightly before posting it to Instagram. The app is extremely simple to use and that makes it a winner in my book.

      Speaking of Telegram, what do you think of their new update which allows you to delete chat conversations not only on your device but on the other person's too?

      I would have loved to link every app to its Play store listing, but unfortunately I am on mobile here.

    • Speaking of Telegram, what do you think of their new update which allows you to delete chat conversations not only on your device but on the other person's too?

      I think it's a very bad move.

    • but have Firefox focus installed for a search query that seems too silly or for something that I would not want to be associated with my Google profile.

      Hmmm, that's quite interesting, I dunno why I didn't think of that. We have a conversation going about Facebook groups for flat earthers and anti-vaxxers, so I was doing quite a few searches about them and wondering what that was doing to my Google search profiles.

      I sometimes wonder if Google ever gets hacked, can our search histories become public?

    • Fair point, although I hope that day never comes. If a behemoth like Google is ever hacked, I don't think I would ever be able to trust any other online service with my data ever again. I have made my peace with the knowledge that Google knows me way too deeply. I may be misinformed, but I feel that Google is slightly more trustworthy than Facebook ever will be. Maybe they have cultivated that public image which reflects in my bias, or with all the good they do with their tech I tend to weigh more positively in their favor. But I think that's a whole other conversation. 🙂