Tech Savvy SA is a series of articles on Gearburn and Memeburn that aim to deliver useful, locally relevant advice to the average South African.
Mobile data isn’t super cheap in South Africa, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp out on quality app downloads though.
We’ve sifted through the Google Play Store, delivering 15 useful Android apps that weigh in at 15MBs or under.
Weighing in at roughly 12MBs, Pocket (formerly Read It later) is arguably the best solution of its kind on the Google Play Store.
The app allows users to save articles for later reading, delivering offline reading functionality in the process. So those at a WiFi hotspot can save desired articles, sync it to Pocket and then read the articles later, without airtime, mobile data or WiFi needed.
On Android, users simply hit the “share” button in Chrome and choose the “add to Pocket” option. PC users need to download a browser add-on to save articles on desktop.
The world’s biggest social network has come under fire in recent years for its mobile app, being quite a resource hog by many accounts.
Fortunately, the company released Facebook Lite, weighing in at 1.3MB and delivering most of the same functionality as the large app.
Facebook has also launched Messenger Lite, for those wanting to ditch the standard Messenger app.
Coming in at just under 15MBs, VLC’s Android port is pretty much the VLC you know and love on desktop.
So that means support for a variety of audio and video formats (including DVD images), subtitle support and network/stream functionality.
In other words, if you want a flexible, no-frills multimedia player, this is the app for you.
It’s relatively tiny, coming in at 3.5MBs, but PushBullet is a great alternative to the “hm, I’ll have to email that link/file to myself” dilemma.
PushBullet allows you to send files, links and notes between your devices (those with PushBullet installed of course). Throw in the ability to view your phone notifications on PC and send text messages from your PC (via the phone) and you’ve got a useful app.
One of the most popular apps for a few years now, Opera Mini offers a relatively solid web browser. But the app prides itself on sipping data, allowing you to make the most of your data allowance.
The app only weighs in at about 4MBs, but it still manages to pack a host of features into the package. There’s the ability to download videos for offline viewing (no YouTube though), data saving features, ad block functionality and smart downloads (you can initiate hefty downloads, but they’ll only take place when you’re back on WiFi).
Smartphones are data-hungry beasts in general but, aside from whitelisting apps, what else can be done? Enter the second Opera app on the list, being just under 10MBs in size.
Opera Max compresses incoming web traffic via its servers before sending it to you, thus reducing the amount of mobile data needed in the first place. In fact, the company claims savings of up to 50%.
The app also works with many popular apps, such as YouTube and Netflix, but secure data (such as Facebook) isn’t touched. Still, it might be worth a download if mobile data usage is a concern for you.
Most phones have a preinstalled notepad app, but Google Keep makes a strong case for being downloaded anyway — it only weighs in at about 7MBs in any event.
The small app manages to offer a variety of features, such as voice memos that can be transcribed, list functionality and collaboration with others.
Of course, Keep also offers cross-platform support, allowing you to start a list on your PC, then add the finishing touches via your phone.
One of the most innovative apps around, IFTTT (IF This Then That) allows you to set up specific automated tasks based on a number of variables.
For instance, you can set the app to automatically post your new Instagram photo to Twitter. Or you can set your phone to message your partner when you get home. There are literally hundreds of predefined tasks already available with the app. Not bad for an app weighing in at roughly 5MBs.
Sure, WhatsApp is the more popular service, but it easily breaches our 15MB limit. So we’re glad to see Telegram make an appearance, being roughly 10MBs in size.
The Android app offers synchronisation for messages (so you can start typing on PC and finish the message on your phone), improved security and explicit support for the “weakest mobile connections”. Telegram also has a web client for PCs, so even if you do leave your beloved Android device at home, you can still access your messages from work.
Learning is power, but free learning is… well… it’s even better. Anyway, the Khan Academy app offers extensive material on hundreds of subjects, including maths, economics, history, science and more.
The app also gives access to 40 000 questions and 10 000 videos/explanations on various topics. And yes, you can save much of the material for offline consumption. Who knew a sub-10MB app would have so much content?
Another educational tool makes the list in the form of the innovative PhotoMath Android app, using your smartphone camera to great effect.
The app allows users to take a photo of a maths problem (be it printed or handwritten), then spits out an answer. But far from being a cheating tool, the app also shows you the steps taken to arrive at the solution.
PhotoMath supports arithmetic, equations and a host of other problems — making it very capable for an app weighing in at just 7MBs.
There are tons of quality photo apps out there, but almost all of them breach the 15MB mark. Fortunately, PicSay comes in at around 2MBs, delivering a decent variety of features.
PicSay offers the usual cropping, contrast, temperature, brightness, resize and distortion tweaks, as well as a few filters. Opt for the paid version (R44) and you get high-resolution image support, the ability to add text, tilt-shift and more options.
Most preinstalled Android camera apps are excellent, but there are still a few brands that leave some functionality to be desired. So it’s worth trying out Open Camera, an open-source camera app that weighs in at under 2MBs.
Open Camera features variable photo/video resolutions, a number of supported framerates, several scene options and even a few manual photo parameters (manual focusing, ISO). So give it a go if you need a little more flexibility.
Not sure about the relevant number to call in an emergency? Need to share your location with others? Then MySOS is a rather practical solution for you, being a 10MB download.
The app delivers the relevant contact information for fires, medical emergencies and more, as well as location-tracking functionality. The app can even be set to automatically notify emergency contacts if your journey timer runs out.
The Amazon Kindle app is a good ebook-reading app for Android, but if you don’t care for the Amazon-related garnishings, you can do far worse than the respected Moon+ Reader.
Weighing in at 8MBs, the app delivers a variety of visual customisations and support for a ton of formats (ePub, mobi, PDF, fb2 etc). In fact, the app has a load of options in general, such as text-to-speech and cloud storage support.
And if you want to splash out on the Pro version (R68), you get an ad-free experience, headset and Bluetooth key control, reading statistics and more.
Featured image: Family O’Abe via Flickr