Android nostalgia: 20 once-essential apps you've probably long forgotten

Get ready to see some dear old friends you haven't thought about in ages.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps
JR Raphael

Ah, memories. With the frenetic pace at which Android has evolved over the past decade, the experience of using the platform today is pretty darn different from the Android-using adventure of even just a few years ago.

And it's not just the operating system itself that's changed. As mobile tech in general has matured and Android's native features have bit by bit expanded, the types of apps we rely on have also shifted considerably. Priorities have shuffled, standards have changed, and developers have come and gone. As a result, some of the most popular titles from Android's earlier days are now mere memories — and pretty fuzzy ones, at that.

As part of our jog down memory lane this week, it's time to look back at some of the apps that once defined Android but have since slipped out of the spotlight — or even out of existence entirely.

Let the reunion begin!

1. ADW Launcher

Before there was Nova Launcher, before there was Action Launcher, there was ADW — the de facto canvas for customizing your home screen back in the Android 2.x era. The app was chock full of options for taking control of your Android phone's interface and making it look and work the way you wanted.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: ADW Launcher JR

This was my own personal home screen in 2010, courtesy of ADW, on my original Moto Droid (yes, really!)

ADW's creator, Ander Webbs, actually resumed development on the app some years back after an extended hiatus (caused by an acquisition attempt gone awry — long story), but for most of us, the era of ADW will forever be associated with the green-tinted days of Gingerbread.

2. LauncherPro

Alongside ADW was the other custom launcher of the Gingerbread days: Federico Carnales' LauncherPro. The fizzling out of Launcher Pro is still a bit of a mystery today; the app just stopped getting updated, and its developer essentially disappeared.

3. Advanced Task Manager

Used to be folks loved manually killing apps from Android's active memory, despite any counsel against the practice. So for some time, apps like Advanced Task Manager topped the charts of the Android Market — as it was then known — and the minds of many an Android fan.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: Advanced Task Manager INFOLIFE/Google Play

4. My Backup Pro

Android's built-in backup mechanisms weren't always so spiffy. Back in the platform's earlier days, power users would turn to apps like Rerware's My Backup Pro to back up data like photos, music, messages, contacts, and even applications. You'd have to save the data to your local storage first, of course, and then manually copy it to somewhere like Dropbox.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: My Backup Pro Rerware/Google Play

Amazingly, My Backup Pro still exists and is still being updated — even if it doesn't look like it (and even if its raison d'être in 2017 is somewhat unclear).

5. Car Locator

Edward Kim's Car Locator was the business for years — the hot, must-have app that'd save your parking location and then help you get back to it later. At the time, such sorcery seemed downright magical.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: Car Locator Edward Kim/Google Play

These days, that same function is built right into Google Maps — though Car Locator does still exist in the Play Store, with its last update in mid-2014.

6. PdaNet

'Twas a time when tethering was an act that made you feel like a rebel outlaw, at least for a little while. Way before carriers started embracing tethering (and the now-far-more common Wi-Fi hotspot function that followed), Android users had to find ways to fly under the radar in order share a phone's data connection with other devices (at least, until the carriers started playing dirty right back).

The biggest name in the Android tethering game was PdaNet, which used a combination of an Android app and a desktop app — along with some insanely complicated settings, by today's tethering standards — to get the job done.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: Pdanet JR

PdaNet is still in the Play Store and receiving updates.

7. Astro File Manager

When you needed to manage files on your phone in Android's early days, Astro File Manager was where you turned.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: Astro File Manager JR

The app is still actively developed, but it hasn't fallen on many must-have lists in many a year.

8. App2SD

Two things to know about early Android devices: One, internal storage was never enough. And two, external storage was often an option.

Consequently, apps like the aptly named App2SD came into popularity as a way for folks to manually move apps off of a phone's internal storage and onto its SD card to free up space.

(And yes, in case you're wondering, remembering the days when something like that was relevant is one of those things that's gonna make us all seem unfathomably old one day soon.)

9. Dolphin Browser (HD, Mini)

Before all the big-name browsers made their way onto Android — including, yes, Google's own Chrome — Dolphin Browser was the app to have for users in the know. Its various incarnations offered then-advanced (and tough to find!) features like tabbed browsing, gesture-based navigation, and multitouch support (which, believe it or not, wasn't available natively at the time).

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: Dolphin Browser JR

Dolphin's still around and going strong, but with players like Chrome, Firefox, and now even Microsoft's new Edge browser available on Android, the days of a small indie developer dominating the dojo are but a distant memory.

10. Extended Controls

Android didn't always have a Quick Settings panel with easy access to common system functions. Instead, apps like Extended Controls let you build your own custom "Android power widget," as we'd call 'em, and put whatever toggles you wanted right on your home screen.

Android Nostalgia - Forgotten Apps: Extended Controls JR

Hey, we can chuckle now, but back in the digital Stone Age of 2010, it was downright revolutionary.

NEXT PAGE: WidgetLocker, Juice Defender, and eight other forgotten apps

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