Best Android apps, iCloud and Apple Keychain

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. I got my first Android smartphone over the holidays. Which apps do you consider must-haves?

A. Best in class apps for Android are not hard to find. Depending on your phone model, many of them may already be installed. Here is a quick roundup of apps on I think you should consider:

Google Maps. The first and best of its kind, Google Maps will help you find your place in the world. Pair it with Waze for driving directions.

Podcast Addict. There is no shortage of podcast apps. This app is a great place to experience what podcasts have to offer.

YouTube. The internet’s original video network is the best of its kind, and the app is one of Google’s better efforts. YouTube also does music. There is a separate app for that — YouTube Music.

Heynote is a fun little utility app that turns your home screen into a personal note. Excellent for keeping an important thought top-of-mind.

WeatherBug has been around for a very long time. It presents just about every meteorological data point you could wish for.

Zedge is a popular source of custom wallpapers and ringtones.

Q. What is Apple iCloud?

A. iCloud protects different categories of personal data and copies your data to every Apple device you own.

Take photos for example. The iPhone is a great camera, always within reach. But its small screen is not ideal for photo editing. With iCloud Photo Library, the images taken on the phone are automatically transferred to your other iCloud devices. You can use any device to edit your photos, and all the changes are automatically shared with each device.

This process can be repeated with all your iCloud data. Make a grocery list on the iPad, the list automatically appears on your phone. Add a bookmark in Safari, or save a page to Safari’s Reading List, and the changes are mirrored on your other iCloud devices.

There are a few things to watch out for. iCloud works best on newer hardware and software, so tread lightly with older devices. Good network connections are also essential. The free storage allowance is too small except for a single device backup, so figure on about a dollar a month per device.

With any two devices connected to iCloud, your personal data will exist in at least three different places, which creates an unprecedented level of safe data storage and ease of use.

iCloud has the potential to completely change your computing life for the better, even if you only have one device. The sooner you begin exploring all it has to offer, the sooner you will no longer have to worry about how to safeguard your personal data.

Q. What is the Apple Keychain, how well does it work, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?

A. Apple’s Keychain is one of those technologies that does not get enough attention, considering how well it works and how easy it can be to organize and use your passwords.

Each Mac and iOS device has its own Keychain that stores usernames and passwords. There is also an option to share the information between devices using iCloud Keychain.

Keychain works with many apps, most notably Safari. It will prompt you to save a username and password for website accounts, and it will use those same credentials each time you return, making subsequent logins simple.

All of the passwords in a Keychain are protected by a master password, which is usually the same as the password used to unlock the device. On a Mac, Keychain is primarily managed in Safari Preferences. On iPhone and iPad, the passwords have their own section in Settings.

Keychain’s behavior differs with different devices and software versions, which might be confusing at first. But patience pays off. Once set up, Keychain will take care of remembering your site logins, and it will warn you if a password for a specific site is insecure.

Keychain relies on strong cryptography while remaining simple to use. It appears when you need it, and gets out of the way when you are finished.

Wander the web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Khan Academy

Here you can explore and learn subjects as diverse as computers, economics, arts and history. Some parts of the site are tailored toward students, but there is value for curious minds of any age.

The Ultimate Watchlist

This site helps you make sense of the movies and shows debuting and disappearing from various streaming services.

Internet Movie Cars Database

This site takes obscure trivia to a whole new level. A vehicle make and model search engine, cross-referenced with the movies in which they appeared.

Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades and can be contacted at