App developers based in Kenya can now publish premium applications on the Play Store and be paid for them by users after Google recently made it possible to do so. Previously, Kenya-based app developers could only submit to the Play Store free apps. Those who wanted to make money off their hard work had to find workarounds to make that possible.
Like the makers of the popular M-Pesa transactions log app M-Ledger who had us keying in an M-Pesa transaction code in the app after paying Kshs 200 in order to unlock the backup and sync feature back in the day.
As such, there are hardly any premium apps by local developers that I use and that I can recommend. Until things change (hopefully soon), I am happy to recommend apps from developers from other parts of the world that I have been using for quite some time now.
Poweramp is one of the best music player apps of all time on the Android platform. It’s the one application that I have used religiously since my first day with an Android smartphone, almost a decade ago. It’s feature-packed, very customizable (through skins that one can download for free on the Play Store or even buy) and, easy to use.
Since I bought Poweramp for the first time 5 years ago, for a whopping Kshs 500, I’ve flirted with several other more good-looking media players (Poweramp’s user interface is kind of dated but you can get a custom skin to hide the wrinkles) but I keep on coming back home (to Poweramp).
Today, you can buy Poweramp for just over Kshs 100 and it’s worth every penny. It’s underpriced, even. Better yet, the people behind this amazing music player have been testing a redesigned app for quite some time signalling that we’re yet to see the last of the legendary app.
Price: Kshs 104
2. Solid Explorer
Solid Explorer is a, uumm, solid file manager. There is no shortage of decent file manager apps on the Google Play Store that do all manner of things in addition to letting users view the files on their devices.
However, Solid Explorer has managed to stand out from that crowd for a few years now.
That has been mainly because of its impressive feature set. It lets users easily hide files, it has very good archive tools (no need to install a zip app), lets users encrypt and decrypt files as well as access files on their phone on their computer as long as the two are on the same network.
While I’d recommend Solid Explorer any day any time not just because of those features I have listed (and many more that I have not highlighted), you’re probably better off with one of the many other file managers out there. Including Google’s own Files Go. This is because Solid Explorer doesn’t come cheap. It is a free app on the Play Store but, just like Poweramp above, after 2-weeks, you’ve got to pay up to continue using it. Like Poweramp, Solid Explorer used to have a separate unlocker app but that is no longer the case. Today, it uses an in-app purchase mechanism.
Price: Kshs 400 (50% for those that buy it during their trial period)
3. Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts is easily the best podcast app out there. It’s good-looking, it syncs your podcasts across devices as long as you’re signed it (though it won’t remember where you left off the last time like Google Podcasts does) and makes discovery of new podcasts a lot easier (it will even let you bring over your subscriptions from another podcast app/service). Pocket Casts will even let you watch video podcasts so you can subscribe to the TED channel and binge on TED Talks on the go.
I like that I get to choose if podcasts get stored locally on a device or on external storage media. And, just like its name, I can “cast” anything to my TV.
I hate that the streaming option has been removed from the app and now we have to download individual podcasts before going ahead to listen to them (automatic downloading of new episodes can be enabled in the settings) and that I have to part with even more money to be able to play podcasts on the web player but it’s been money well-spent since I got it.
Price: Kshs 300
4. Weather Timeline
Weather Timeline’s price on the Google Play Store has ballooned since I reviewed it last year but that does not take it off my recommendation list. It remains one of the best weather apps out there if not really the best of the best. Else, why do you think I’d even recommend a weather app when you can just ask the Google Assistant all your weather queries?
Here’s what I had to say about Weather Timeline last year:
A big adherent to and one of the best showcases of Google’s Android design guidelines, Material Design, Weather Timeline’s key feature has everything to do with that word: timeline. The app has a feature called Time Machine. Using the Time Machine, one can tell what the weather will be like in a particular location many years from the present, a great way to see what awaits those who will be around when the zombie apocalypse strikes or all those dreadful things The Walking Dead has taught us to anticipate.
That it automatically restricts background data usage is a big plus to my data-conscious countrymen. That it is one of the few weather apps out there that lets its users get the same timely weather alerts on their wrists if they happen to be users of Android Wear is a big plus to many an Android enthusiast.
Price: Kshs 200
5. Nova Launcher Prime
If you buy one of the smartphones we have reviewed this year, except the Xiaomi Mi A1 and the Nokia 7 Plus, then you’ll probably find yourself in need of Nova Launcher or some other third-party Android launcher.
Launchers are a big part of what makes Android exciting: customization. With a launcher, your device, or at least the front of it, can look different from the next person’s, despite them probably being similar models. When it comes to launchers, Nova Launcher is the father and mother of them all. Its design cues are derived from stock Android and it takes a minimalist approach, anticipating that the user will complicate matters on their own volition, something that I and over 50 million other users really appreciate.
Nova Launcher Prime is the unlocker to Nova Launcher’s pro features.
Price: Kshs 500
How to buy them
I had to go to great lengths in order to be able to buy some of these apps over the years. When I started out, I had to queue for hours at my bank’s branch in order to sign the relevant forms to allow my card to be used for online payments. Later on, I found an even simpler solution: I got a prepaid debit card that I could easily deposit money into via M-Pesa and use online.
Fast-forward to 2018 and things have gotten even way easier. The game has changed. You don’t need a card and M-PESA. You just need M-PESA. Here’s how you can go about doing that.
While you’re at it, you also get to earn points in the ongoing #MaishaNIMPESATu promotion and who knows? You may end up winning one of the 5 remaining apartments that are up for grabs. 2 have already been won as of the time of publishing this.