Android for the Windows Guy: Google Apps to Embrace

Posted on April 10, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 0

Android for the Windows Guy: Google Apps to Embrace

Those who adopt Android as their smart phone platform will need to deal with Google and its apps to some degree. But even if you’re not a fan of the search giant, there are some Google apps for Android that you should embrace.

This is particularly applicable to those who wish to morph Android into a Microsoft environment. Yes, feel free to switch to Microsoft’s Next lock screen, its Arrow launcher, and to fill your home screens with Microsoft’s apps. But even in this Redmond-infused environment, there are a handful of Google apps for Android you simply cannot and should not ignore.

Google Maps

This is the most obvious one, and even those who clung to their aging Windows phones well past the point of common sense will now be thrilled to discover a mapping and navigation app that actually works, that just works. Google Maps is a thing of beauty.


Tip: Google Maps has an icon-sized widget called Driving Mode that launches the app into, yes, Driving Mode. If navigation is all you use Google Maps for, you should pin this widget, and not the normal Google Maps icon, to your home screen.

Google Maps driving mode

Google Maps driving mode

Google Photos

As a Windows guy, you most probably use OneDrive to automatically back up your phone-based photos, and you should continue to do so with Android: OneDrive photo back works great.

But. Google Photos is a much better app, and in addition to providing on-device photo backup capabilities (with unlimited storage, no less) it automatically creates photo albums and collages based on events, has superior search functionality (it is a Google app, after all), and has an amazing “rediscover this day” feature that lets you relive past events.


Point being, there’s no reason you can’t use two cloud photo backup solutions (OneDrive and Google Photos). But you’ll quickly discover that Google Photos makes OneDrive look sickly by comparison.

Tip: The “rediscover this day” bit works particularly well if you take the time—and you should—to upload your entire photo collection to the service using the Windows desktop uploader utility. It’s magic.


One of the best things about switching to Android is that you will finally be using the same superior browser on your Windows desktop as you do on your phone. (And no, Edge most certainly doesn’t qualify as acceptable let alone superior.) In my case, that means Google Chrome. But this would also work with Mozilla Firefox; both are a fine choice and work well across Windows desktop and mobile.


My choice, for a variety of reasons, is Chrome, though it’s often a close call. (Firefox sports a nice built-in reader mode on Windows, for example.) But both work similarly in that your bookmarks, saved passwords, and settings can move between the two environments you actually use every day. Nice.

Tip: If you like to live on the edge, Google also offers Chrome Beta and Chrome Dev apps that provides access to the newest Chrome features first.


There are of course other Google apps you can’t really avoid—the Play Store being an obvious example—and some, like Google Now, which you should seriously investigate as well. (That said, Cortana is improving in leaps and bounds, and the cross-platform interaction between Windows on PCs and Android could put it over the top around the time that the Anniversary update ships this summer.) Which is just another way of saying this: While you don’t need to fully embrace Google to use Android, don’t limit yourself artificially by ignoring Google’s apps. Some of them are quite good, even excellent. You should use what works best for you.