Sometimes it can seem like our Android phones are stranded on an island. While the Google Play Store is loaded with top-notch apps and utilities to help us get things done, we’re kind of stuck when we want to take that work to another device. There may be a handful of Chromebooks that can run Play Store apps and a couple tablets that aren’t completely terrible, but for the most part, there aren’t any worthy Android companion devices that let you seamlessly move from a mobile app to a desktop one.
But if you find yourself gazing enviously at your Apple friends who can switch between their Mac, iPad, and iPhone with ease, we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to give up your Android phone to replicate the experience. There are any number of apps out there that let you move freely between your phone and PC with the same convenience and flexibility that iCloud affords, and you don’t have to buy any new equipment to do it.
Your Google account is the key to unlocking essential services like email and calendars on your phone, but it also includes a great suite of free office apps that can handle everything from notes to spreadsheet. The great thing is that it’s all cross-platform. Anything that you create in Docs, Sheets, or Slides can be edited on your PC just by logging into your Google account on your favorite browser. With a variety of templates and powerful tools that translate well over the web, Google’s apps are a fantastic way to keep your work in sync.
Google Docs isn’t the only productivity suite in town, however. You’ll have to spend a few bucks to get hooked up with Office 365, but it’s well worth the price of admission. While Microsoft was slow to embrace the mobile realm with its venerable suite of apps, they’ve come on strong. With a 360 subscription for $100 a year or $10 a month, you’ll have the power of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on all of your devices. And it’s not just web apps (although they work very well). Microsoft also lets you download each of the apps to your desktop, and you need only store your files in OneDrive to sync your documents from your phone to your PC. Changes are tracked between devices, and you can share and collaborate with ease.
Chrome’s Smart Lock dutifully saves all of your passwords across all of your devices, letting you quickly log in to banks, social media, and various other sites wherever you are, but if you want access to the rest of your personal and otherwise sensitive information, you’ll need a stronger vault. There are several to choose from, but 1Password and Dashlane are two of the best, offering web and desktop components to compliment the Android app.
Like other password managers, 1Password’s primary function is the safe and secure storage of your many logins, but it’s not just for websites. You can use its digital vault to store anything you may need to access down the road, including account recovery keys, alarm codes, security question answers, and passport numbers, and access them securely over the web or via 1Password’s native desktop app. It’ll cost you $5 a month or around $35 a year for the privilege, but you can’t really put a price on the ability to lock and access your private data wherever you are.
Equally secure is Dashlane, which offers a fingerprint-secured Android app, native Windows and Mac clients, and a locked-down web app that requires a security code sent via email in addition to your password. The interface of the web app isn’t quite as nice as 1Password’s, but that won’t matter when you’re dealing with AES-256 security encryption, automatic password changing, and a dedicated digital wallet. Like 1Password, it’ll cost $40 a year to get the full cross-platform experience, but the peace of mind Dashlane supplies is well worth the cost.
Google offers an excellent cross-platform day-planner and and to-do app in Google Calendar, but if you want a little more control over your events and reminders, Todoist has you covered. With native apps on every platform (and a very nice web component as well), Todoist is one of the best task managers around, with custom filters, location alerts, attachments, and productivity trackers that help you tidy and tackle your tasks without breaking a sweat.
For minimalists, there’s the Any.do and Cal tandem, which strips the interface down to its most essential ingredients and puts the focus squarely on your tasks. There aren’t native Windows or Mac apps, but log into Any.Do on the web and you’ll get the same easy event creation, reminders, and scheduling that’s baked into its Android apps. And even though you won’t be able to enjoy Cal’s elegant calendar interface on your PC, all entries will sync to all three places (web and the two mobile apps), so you won’t lose track of what’s coming up.
Aside from full-featured editors like Word or Google Docs, most of the best writing apps in the Google Play Store don’t have PC or web companions. However, Google offers a great way to take notes in its Keep app. Designed around a neat card system and available in any browser, it uses your account to sync your notes and even integrates well with Google Now and Google Assistant, for those note-taking moments when your hands aren’t free.
Also, if you have a Dropbox account, any text editor can serve as a cross-platform companion to two of the best writing apps in the Play Store: Jotterpad and iA Writer. Since they both use Dropbox as an optional syncing engine, you can open and edit the files using Notepad on your PC or TextEdit on the Mac. And when you save, the changes will be reflected the next time you open the files on your phone.
Those looking for a more powerful experience can check out Evernote. With Windows, Mac, and Android apps, Evernote is a note-taker’s dream, combining web clippings, top-notch organization, and powerful search into a slick experience. There are a whole bunch more features for those who want to pony up for a subscription, but even if you stick with the free tier, Evernote’s excellent syncing engine will put the notes and clips your store on your Android phone right at your fingertips when you sit down with your PC.
And finally there’s Microsoft’s One Note. Geared more toward work-oriented users than casual ones, the cross-platform app and web client lets you capture thoughts and collaborate on ideas whenever they might spring up. Whether you want to scribble, clip, or type your thoughts, One Note will adapt to your preference, syncing across all versions even if you don’t have an Office 365 account. However, while the app is free to use, it integrates quite well with the entire Office suite of apps, so subscribers get an extra layer of value.
But no matter how and where you want to work, don’t think your Android phone is all alone out there. Even without a built-in ecosystem of larger-screened devices, you can still move freely from your Android phone to your PC, without leaving any of your work or important information behind.