Google AndroidThe Google Android platform, for the most part, is open to customization and adaptation. That’s why Google has its “vanilla” or “base” version on which carriers and manufacturers can build upon should they so desire. Depending on the user and their comfort level, further customization is possible. For the rest of us, having more Android control can be achieved through the simple use of some great apps.

Yes, there may be more advanced options available to users who are willing to root their devices, but a greater level of Android control can also be achieved through apps that don’t require root access too. The following apps fill in some of the gaps that are missing from the core Android experience.

Mobiwol: NoRoot Firewall

Fun and fancy uses for mobile firewalls

Fun and fancy uses for mobile firewalls

Download Link: Google Play Store (Free)

From a security perspective, a firewall is supposed to protect your device from the nefarious activities of online bad guys. You probably have a company firewall at work that might block access to certain websites or the use of certain ports, for example. This firewall app comes from the same fundamental philosophy, but there’s one big function here even for people who aren’t terribly interested in security. You can restrict mobile and/or Wi-Fi access on a per-app basis. This means that you can make it so that Facebook only works via mobile data and not on Wi-Fi (or vice versa). This can come in really handy depending on your circumstances.

My Data Manager

Manage your family plan data usage too

Manage your family plan data usage too

Download Link: Google Play Store (Free)

By default, assuming that you have a relatively new version of the platform, Google Android comes with a built-in data usage tracker so that you can know exactly how much mobile data you’ve used within any given billing period. That’s all fine and dandy, but what if you share your data bucket with other devices and other people? This app provides you with better Android control in that you can now manage data usage across your family (or multi-device) plan without having to add up the numbers on each device yourself. There’s also the option to track your historical usage and to set custom usage alarms to avoid nasty overage fees.

Restrict Background Data

Another way to better manage data usage

Another way to better manage data usage

Unlike the other items listed in this article, this item is not an app. Instead, it’s a feature built into Google Android that you may have missed entirely. By default, every app that you install can get itself online by either Wi-Fi or through mobile data. This includes the ability to use background data so it can fetch notifications and new content. Otherwise, you wouldn’t see your new e-mails until you actually open your e-mail app. For some apps, this really isn’t necessary and background data can be a serious drain. When you go into the data usage menu, you can tap on nearly any app on the list and tick the “restrict background data” box. This way, the app can only get data when you actually open it.

Smart AppLock (App Protector)

Better Android control through per-app passwords

Better Android control through per-app passwords

Download Link: Google Play Store (Free)

Everyone knows that it’s a good idea for you to secure your Android smartphone (or tablet) with a lock screen code of some kind. That’s just common sense, but what if you wanted to add an extra layer of security for particularly personal data? With Smart AppLock, you can add an extra lock screen to individual apps. This way, even if someone gets past your main lock screen, they’ll have to enter yet another passcode to get into your online banking, cloud storage, social media, or e-mail apps, for example. What’s more, the “pattern” option can get much larger than the default 3×3 grid too.

Swivel

Locking orientation on individual apps

Locking orientation on individual apps

Download Link: Google Play Store ($0.99)

Have you ever had the frustration of lying down on the couch or in bed, plugging away at an app and then the display automatically rotates to landscape when you wanted to keep it in portrait? Just because you are sideways doesn’t mean that you want your screen to be sideways too. Swivel overcomes this by allowing you to set a specific orientation on a per-app basis. Some apps just work better one way or the other and now you can force them to stay that way.

Image credit: James Whatley / Flickr

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