Best Android apps – introduction
The Google Play store has exploded in recent years, with a proliferation of apps that can cater to your every need. The problem is: there are just too many of them, even with Editor’s Picks, Featured and Best Selling, Top Paid and Top Free categories there to help
What’s the best phone of 2016?
And that’s why we made this list. Like you we want the best apps for our Android phones. The apps that are going to revolutionise functionality or, at the very least, offer something so great that it becomes one of the must-have apps that has to be downloaded whenever you get a new handset.
The following apps will be constantly updated and are a mixture of paid and free ones and have been chosen by our Android experts. So, even if you do dip into actual cash for one of these apps, you are safe in the knowledge that it is a worthwhile purchase.
New this week: Fluenty
We’re still waiting for Google Allo to automate our conversations, but in the meantime there’s Fluenty with smart replies of its own.
Unlike Allo it’s not a messaging platform; instead it works with existing services like SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Hangouts, so wherever you choose to talk to your friends Fluenty will be there. Well, assuming you choose to talk to your friends on one of the above services or KakaoTalk.
But like Allo it suggests responses to the messages you get, saving you having to type one out. Fluenty uses an AI engine which has apparently been trained on more than 700 million public conversations and it shows, with the app usually doing a decent job of offering relevant replies.
But if you’re not happy with the options it’s giving you it’s also possible to set up a custom reply list full of the types of phrases you’re likely to use frequently, or just type out a response the old fashioned way.
ASAP Launcher is a home screen replacement which packs in some of our favorite features from other apps and launchers.
As the name suggests it’s all about getting where you need to be quickly. If where you need to be is an app you can swipe the left edge to bring up an alphabetical app drawer, with a search bar at the top, or swipe up from the dock to display your most frequently used apps.
It you want to toggle a setting a swipe from the right edge will bring up a small panel full of shortcuts and toggles, a bit like the edge screen found on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Samsung’s others curved-screen handsets.
If it’s contacts, calendar events, your to-do list or the weather forecast that you want to find all of them can be reached by swiping left or right from the center of the screen.
The downside to all this is that you only get one real home screen to fill with apps, but with so many shortcuts one is likely to be enough and it helps ensure your phone never feels too cluttered.
Pi Music Player
There are a few music players that stand head and shoulders above the rest and Pi Music Player is one of them.
It has a simple layout with a stylish Material Design-influenced look, complete with three different themes, so you can skin it to your own tastes, but easy as it is to navigate this is far from a simple player, as it includes a 5-band equalizer, a sleep timer, gesture controls, widgets and a tool to help you cut down tracks into ringtones.
That’s on top of all the basics you’d expect, like lock screen controls, playlists and album artwork. Remarkably it’s completely free too, with no adverts.
£0.62/US$0.99 (around AU$1.33)
Smartphone cameras are getting better all the time, but there’s one annoyance suffered by most, and that’s the sometimes awkward nature of the shutter button.
Few handsets have dedicated shutter keys, which generally means you’re left either tapping on the screen, which can obscure the viewfinder, or using the volume keys, which aren’t always ideally positioned and the act of pressing them can sometimes shake the phone, leaving your shot out of focus.
Dactyl allows you to use your phone’s fingerprint scanner to take a picture, which means you don’t have to press a button, so the phone won’t shake. You also won’t obscure the viewfinder and you have one more option to use for taking photos, if you don’t like the position of any of the usual buttons.
It’s a surprisingly intuitive option once you start using it, though it does have a few limitations. Firstly, obviously you need a fingerprint scanner on your phone and secondly it doesn’t work with all camera apps, but many are supported, including popular ones like Google Camera, Retrica, Z Camera and Open Camera, with more likely to be added over time.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words then Dango‘s worth a million, as it puts a massive library of GIFs, emojis and stickers at your fingertips.
The trouble then could potentially be finding relevant ones, but Dango solves that by analyzing any messages you send or receive from any app and suggesting an emoji or GIF to suit. As an obvious example if you type ‘bye’ it will bring up an assortment of people and animals waving, but it works even with more unusual words.
It works with any keyboard too and doesn’t get in the way – if you don’t want to add some visuals to your message the Dango icon will just sit quietly above the keyboard, only springing into action when you tap on it.
Sleep as Android
Free + IAP for all features
Our phones might be smart but for the most part our clocks aren’t yet and even most alarm clock apps are disappointingly basic, but Sleep as Android proves that there’s a lot more an alarm clock can do than just wake someone up.
You can set it to wake you up after just 15 or 30 minutes if you want a short nap, record any noises so you’ll know if you snore or talk in your sleep, drift off to soothing sounds, have a voice remind you that you’re sleeping to potentially allow for lucid dreaming, wake up to songs on Spotify, make sure you get up on time by having to solve a problem to turn off the alarm and a whole lot more.
Many of these features are free, but stump up for a single IAP and you also get access to sleep cycle tracking, allowing you to put your phone on your mattress so that the app can track the duration and quality of your sleep, as well as helping you wake up at the optimal point in your sleep cycle.
Sleep as Android isn’t the prettiest app, but it puts most other alarm clocks of both the physical and app variety to shame – and it’s so regularly updated with advanced, prototype features that you feel you’re really getting good value if you do upgrade.
Music Maker Jam
Making your own music can be a liberating experience, but getting started can be daunting, especially if you can’t play an instrument and don’t know a synthesizer from a sequencer.
Music Maker Jam keeps things simple with an easy to use 8-channel mixer and a two-minute tutorial which shows you the basics.
From there you can combine samples from hundreds of categories, with thousands of loops to choose from or even record your own vocals. Straightforward controls then let you adjust the volumes, change keys and add effects and it’s surprisingly easy to come up with something that will get stuck in your head.
Once you’re happy with a creation you can save it and, if you’re feeling suitably brave, share it with the Music Maker Jam community. The core app is free and surprisingly generous in its content, but you can buy additional packs of loops if you start feeling constrained.
Flamingo for Twitter
£0.79/US$0.99 (around AU$1.35)
Twitter might be one of the biggest social networks around, but its official app leaves something to be desired. Thankfully there’s a whole world of third party options and Flamingo for Twitter is one of the newest and best.
Despite still being in beta it already feels slick and polished, with a material design inspired interface, which includes pages that are coloured to match any images, for a pleasingly unified look. There’s also a number of visual customization options and if you have multiple accounts you can theme them all individually.
So it looks good, but Flamingo is also enjoyable to use, thanks to thoughtful features like being able to swipe pages to close them and long press on images and profile pages to preview them.
But the best thing about Flamingo is that as good as it is now, the fact that it’s in beta means there’s likely plenty more to come, so this is one app which will hopefully just keep getting better.
If you’ve used a recent Motorola phone you’ve probably come across ‘Moto Actions’, which are essentially gesture controls that allow you to do things like launch the camera with a flick of your wrist.
Gravity Gestures takes this idea and runs with it, not only opening the feature up to non-Motorola handsets, but also giving you more control over what each gesture does, as you can set each one to launch a specific app, shortcut or feature, or even have a gesture assigned to a contact.
Launch the camera with a shake, turn the torch on with a twist or dive into Facebook with a flick, it’s your choice.
The app’s hit rate at responding to gestures is high and it gives you one more way to quickly get where you want to be.
£2.49/US$2.99 (around AU$4.13)
There are only so many ways you can make a keyboard, especially on a smartphone, but WRIO Keyboard manages to be unlike most others, yet somehow still very usable.
It uses a honeycomb layout, with large keys that are easy to hit so you can type quickly and accident-free. The actual layout is similar but not identical to a standard QWERTY keyboard, so it takes some getting used to, but once you do it’s surprisingly fast, especially as it incorporates a number of gesture controls, like swipes to delete or restore text and undo auto-corrections.
WRIO Keyboard is fairly attractive too and with multiple themes you’re bound to find a color scheme you like.
We’ll say it right now: it’s not for everyone and given it takes some getting used to it could have really done with a free version, but give it a chance and it might just become your keyboard of choice (especially if you don’t get on with any of the conventional options).
If you’ve ever used Kickstarter you’ll be immediately at home with Patreon. Like Kickstarter it’s packed full of projects, from categories as diverse as podcasts, games and science, and you can browse and back them to your heart’s content, netting yourself rewards in the process.
Where Patreon differs though is that rather than making a one off payment you make a smaller monthly payment, for ongoing access to projects and extras.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff to be found and the danger of spending a lot of money, but it’s all in the name of helping artists and other creators, so at least it’s going to a good cause.
The app has many of the same features as the website, allowing you to follow creators, view projects and send messages, but now you can do it from the comfort of your couch, or the bus, or anywhere really.
£1.49/US$0.99 (around AU$3)
Whether you’re trying to work or relax background noise can have a significant impact on your ability to. It’s not always easy to tune out conversations or annoying songs, while the sounds in an office or train can be unpredictable, all of which are the enemy of productivity and sleep.
Noisli overcomes these issues by giving you a selection of soothing background sounds that you can play, such as the sounds of rain, a gentle breeze or waves rolling into shore.
You can adjust the volume of the sounds and also create and save combinations, so if you want to be able to hear both the chatter of a coffee shop and a burning log fire at the same time you can.
There’s a timer which you can use if you only want the sounds to play for a certain amount of time and even the interface is soothing, with a selection of relaxing background shades that the app cycles through.
On your way home from work you can trade the noises of a busy train or honking cars for the sounds of night time in nature… but try not to get so relaxed that you miss your stop.
AmpMe is a slick and simple way to create a multi-speaker setup from a handful of smartphones or tablets.
If you and a few friends want to play music at a decent volume but don’t have proper speakers to hand one of you just starts playing a song through AmpMe (which can connect to YouTube, SoundCloud and local storage), then everyone else with the app can join the party and have the song also played through their devices.
That might not be so useful at home where there’s likely to be better options, but if you’re camping or anywhere else without a proper set of speakers it can turn quiet background music into room, tent or field-filling sound.
AmpMe can also connect to Bluetooth speakers, so even if you do have a better option you could still add smartphones to the mix to beef it up and your iPhone-toting friends won’t be left out as it’s cross-platform.
If you’re anything like us you probably find the idea of trading on the stock market slightly intimidating, but Bux eases you in and alleviates that fear by turning the whole thing into a game, literally.
Rather than trading real money you can start out by using ‘FunBux’ – an in-game currency which you start with 1000 of and can use in place of real money to trade and invest in real stocks, currencies, commodities and indices.
This is the real stock market, so however many FunBux you make or lose is exactly the amount of real money you’d have made or lost.
Bux isn’t the only stocks app to offer virtual currency, but it also simplifies the whole process, with a slick interface and explanations for every screen, so you can easily learn the basics, along with articles written for the app which highlight the latest happenings in the stock market.
It’s fun just to play as a game, but if you’re feeling brave you can graduate to using real currency and try to make your millions. At that point you should probably stop treating it as a game.
Contactless payments are likely to become ever more popular and Android Pay, with its availability on most NFC-enabled Android phones, could soon become synonymous with it.
Not only is it available to a staggering number of people across the US and UK, it’s also simple to use. Just grab the app, add details of one or more cards (which you can do just by holding the camera over them) and get spending at any location that offers contactless terminals, by tapping your phone against the card reader.
You can set a default card to make sure money is being taken from the right place and you can add store and gift cards too.
You have to unlock your phone to spend more than £30/US$30, but that’s enough to buy lunch, pay for the cinema or treat your friends to a round of drinks, though we all know you’re only doing it to show off your fancy new tech.
£4.18/US$5 (around AU$6.73) monthly subscription
Netflix is the king of video streaming subscription services, but it’s not the only option and nor are you limited to other big names like Amazon and Hulu. There are also smaller options that carve out their own niche and IndieFlix is one such service.
Its focus on independent films means you won’t see much crossover with the larger services and rather than getting the big blockbusters you’ll be discovering new things you may never have heard of. There’s also a large selection of shorts, which are handy if you don’t have time for a full movie.
Otherwise it’s a lot like Netflix. You can stream content on a wide variety of devices and while its selection isn’t the largest around, with over 8,000 titles there’s still more than you could get through in a lifetime.
The app is easy to navigate too and while it’s not free you do get a 30-day free trial, so give it a shot if you’re looking for a new addition to your streaming arsenal.
For many people the camera is one of the most important parts of a smartphone and that comes down to both hardware and software.
You’re stuck with the hardware on your phone of choice, unless you plan to invest in certain expensive accessories, but your software choices are far less restrictive and if you’re not happy with your phone’s default camera app you should check out Footej Camera.
It gives you a simple interface that’s light on clutter, so you can focus on framing your shots and while it doesn’t have the wealth of filters and options found on some camera apps it has the most important things covered, with adjustable exposure and white balance, an optional grid and timer, a burst mode and a similar selection of tools for video.
It goes further still, with the ability to shoot video in GIF format or slow motion, a built in gallery and shutter speed controls and if you invest in the £1.49/US$1.99 (around AU$2.69) premium package you can shoot in higher quality.
However, even if you stick with the free version Footej Camera is a joy to use.
Free + optional £2.99/US$2.99 yearly subscription
Dark Sky has made waves on iOS and it’s now arrived on Android, bringing hyperlocal and incredibly detailed weather forecasts with it.
Not only can you see the weather for today or the coming days for any town or city, but also forecasts for your exact location. As well as being geographically precise it also aims to give you down to the minute forecasts, so you’ll know exactly when that threatening cloud will shower you with rain.
You can see precise forecasts for temperature, wind, humidity, pressure, visibility and UV index too, explore a detailed weather map of the world, set alerts for the specific weather conditions and stick a range of weather widgets on your home screens.
The minimalist black and white interface won’t be for everyone and certain features are locked behind a £2.99/US$2.99 yearly subscription, which is worth taking out if you have more than a passing interest in the weather around you, but even the free version of the app has a competitive number of features.
£1.64/US$1.99 (around AU$2.70)
Yoga is a tremendously versatile form of exercise, helping with everything from strength and flexibility to relaxation and while it can seem impenetrable without taking at least a few classes, Yoga Studio does a good job of standing in for a real teacher.
With detailed advice and instructions for over 280 poses that you can refer to at any time, along with 65 video classes and the ability to create your own by stitching clips together, Yoga Studio is good for both learning and practising.
Classes range from 10 to 60 minutes, so there’s always time to fit one in and you can easily filter them based on length, difficulty, focus or intensity.
Classes can be downloaded too, so you can practice even when there’s no internet connection and it’s something you can do almost anywhere, as all you need is a bit of floor space.
If you take to it you should probably check out an actual class to make sure your technique is up to scratch, but Yoga Studio is a great way to get started or complement any class you’re already taking.
Nova Launcher Prime
£3.99/US$4.99 (around AU$6.79)
Nova Launcher Prime has been around for a long time and thanks to regular updates and a wealth of features it remains one of the very best Android launchers available.
It’s enormously customisable, allowing you to change your phone’s theme and home screen transitions, add a scrollable dock, choose what direction the app drawer scrolls and even add widgets to the dock.
As bloated as it might sound Nova is actually a slick, speedy launcher, which looks a whole lot like stock Android until you start fiddling with it.
There’s a free version available too, just called Nova Launcher, but Nova Launcher Prime gives you access to gesture controls, among other features that aren’t found in the free one, so it’s worth investing in, given that the home screen is one of the things you’ll interact with most on your phone.
Sesame Lock Screen
A number of services offer shortcuts to favourite apps or try and put your most commonly used ones front and centre and Sesame Lock Screen does the same, but it also goes a lot further, with a powerful search tool on your – you guessed it – lock screen.
And despite its name, Sesame Lock Screen is more than just a replacement, as you can optionally access it with a long press of the home button too.
However you choose to access it you’re presented with a list of all your apps, sorted by how commonly used they are. As such the app you’re looking for will very likely be at the top of the screen anyway, but if it’s not there’s also a keyboard which you can use to search for apps.
This is where it goes beyond most similar services, because as well as apps you can also search for subsections of the settings screen, specific contacts (with shortcuts provided to text, call or email them) and playlists and songs from Spotify or other connected apps.
It’s fast too, as the keyboard always sits at the bottom of Sesame Lock Screen, so there are no extra taps required to bring it up. Plus,if you’re looking for something with more than one word you can just type the first letter of each to find it faster. Want to listen to Radiohead on Spotify? Just search ‘sr’.
App Volume Control Pro
£0.79/$0.99 (around AU$1.32)
We don’t know about you, but we have hundreds of apps and games on our phones and one volume most definitely does not fit all. That’s all the more true depending on whether we’re using the built in speakers, a headset or a Bluetooth connection.
Ultimately, there are a whole lot of variables and App Volume Control Pro does a good job of accounting for them all.
It allows you to set individual volumes for any app, under any usage condition (e.g. headset, Bluetooth etc), as well as the volume that calls and other system sounds should play at while the app is running.
Navigating it is simple, with just an alphabetical list of all your installed apps, along with a toggle to enable or disable custom sound settings for them.
Some amount of fine tuning may still be necessary, particularly when it comes to listening to music, but if you ever regularly find yourself manually adjusting the volume when you fire up certain apps App Volume Control Pro is well worth a download.
Free (premium version needs a subscription)
Spotify is an app which requires no introduction, as one of the first and best streaming music services used by millions of people the world over. It’s no wonder the user base is so large either, what with there being millions of tracks at your fingertips.
For free you can listen to any artist, album or playlist on your phone, but only on shuffle mode and with advert interruptions. Stump up for a premium subscription though and there are no restrictions, just non-stop musical bliss, including an offline mode, so you don’t even need an internet connection to play your favourites.
Strava is a seriously compelling tool for runners and cyclists, letting you create, find and follow routes and track your speed, distance, pace and elevation.
But for many of us running and cycling is at its best when it’s gently competitive, whether that’s trying to top your own records or someone elses and Strave excels there too, with leaderboards, personal records and comparisons to friends and other app users.
Most of the core features are completely free, but you can unlock its full potential by signing up for a premium account. This unlocks filtered leaderboards, daily progress tracking and much, much more.
Evernote is the first and last word in note-taking, or it might as well be anyway. With multiple notebooks to help you keep your thoughts tidy, simple to-do lists, a powerful search tool so you can easily find specific notes and the ability to sync between devices it’s a must have for anyone who ever jots things down. Which we’d wager is just about everyone.
It goes that little bit further than just being a notebook though, as you can also share your notes and collaborate on projects with others, easily track expenses and attach files, all through an attractive, clutter-free interface.
Life is busy and there’s not always time to read that article on bees or that guide to knitting cat jumpers. Pocket solves that by allowing you to easily save web pages and even videos for later, storing them all in one place.
It’s much more than just a bookmarking system though as it also makes them available offline, so you can catch up with things on the tube or any other time you don’t have an internet connection.
It’s free, slick and you can even synchronise your saved articles across every device you’ve installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading.
Pushbullet is all about saving time and not having to dig out your phone every five minutes. Need to get a file or link from your phone to your computer or vice-versa? Pushbullet can do that in a couple of taps.
Wondering who keeps texting but too busy to check your phone? Pushbullet can display the notification on your computer and even lets you interact with the notifications from there.
It’s one of those apps that we wonder how we ever did without now we’ve got it. Hopefully we’ll never have to go back, those were dark days.
Periscope is like the love child of YouTube and Twitter. It lets you post live video streams which your followers can watch and comment on as you broadcast, or view up to 24 hours later if you make it available for replays.
The immediacy and impermanence of each clip has a certain appeal and it’s a slickly laid out app, with nice details, like getting to see hearts flutter up the screen as and when your followers send them.
Even if you don’t want to make your own videos there’s something addictive about viewing other peoples, so embrace your inner voyeur and give Periscope a download. You might lose a lot of time to it, but you won’t regret it.
WhatsApp is almost more essential than an SMS app, as it’s basically a supercharged, restriction free version of good old text messaging.
It uses a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection so you don’t have to worry about message allowances, you can see when people have received and read your messages, send videos and voice messages and even make calls with it.
You will have to convince your friends and family to download it if they haven’t already, but given that it’s free for the first year there’s really no reason for them not to. Once they do have it the app uses their normal phone number, so there’s no need to add them or find out user names and you’re always logged in, so you’ll never miss messages.
With Timehop you’ll get regular reminders of good times from the past, with the app telling you what you were up to on this day in years past.
It grabs information from your phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare and lets you reminisce about things which might otherwise have been lost to the mists of time, buried beneath years of accumulated photos and posts.
It can backfire a bit if you ever share sad things, but as long as your social media accounts are full of mostly positive updates Timehop is a great way to revisit them.
Google’s camera app has never been one of the best around, but when it comes to editing photos the company’s Snapseed app is in a whole other league.
It’s fast and simple, so anyone can edit their snaps in a matter of seconds and while it’s not as feature-packed as some editing apps that’s mostly because it lacks the gimmicks. All the basics from filters to cropping are present and correct and you can even fine tune your photos with selective edits to specific regions of an image.
Or skip all that and just use the auto correct tool for instant image improvements.
The big selling point of Google Photos is that it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos. Except it’s not really a selling point, as amazingly the app is free.
Not only does that ensure your photos are automatically backed up, it also allows you to delete them from your device and free up space without losing them.
Add in editing tools, montage and collage creation, easy sharing and Chromecast support and Google Photos is just about the best gallery app around.
It even makes it easy to dig up old images, thanks to a deep search tool that allows you to hunt for shots based on where they were taken or what’s in them.
If you’re a taxi driver you’re probably not a fan of Uber, but for everyone else it’s great. You can request a ride straight from your smartphone, get arrival and cost estimates and automatically pay via the app.
Drivers are incentivised to provide good service, as customers can leave reviews and it’s generally quicker and more convenient than hunting down a cab. Especially as you can see a map of where your driver is while you wait.
The only real limitation is that you can’t currently use it everywhere, especially outside of cities. But Uber is available in over 50 countries, and it’s rapidly growing, bringing public transport into the modern age.
Google Maps is the only map you need. Not only does it provide accurate and detailed maps of 220 countries and territories at zero cost, it’s also feature packed.
Its Street View service is a feature which no other map can match, giving you a street level view of places. It also provides traffic information, directions, voice-guided GPS navigation, listings of businesses and other location information and a whole lot more.
Google Maps is also being updated and improved all the time, so if there’s a feature you wish it had there’s a good chance that one day it will.
Citymapper – Bus, Tube, Rail
Google Maps is essential, but Citymapper – Bus, Tube, Rail complements it well, by giving you comprehensive journey planning tools for cities around the world.
It’s handy if you live in a metropolis and even more useful if you’re visiting one and have no idea how to get around. With step-by-step directions for walking, tube services, bus, bike, taxi, train, tram and ferry, plus real time updates and information on disruptions, it will get you where you’re going and get you there fast.
As well as that it’s even got a few fitness smarts, as it can give you an estimate of the calories you’ve burned on your journey.
There are any number of podcast apps for Android but Pocket Casts is easily one of the best. Its slick, colourful interface helps it stand out from the drab designs of many competitors and it’s feature packed, with Chromecast support, auto downloads, sleep timers and more.
There are even tools to improve the listening experience of podcasts, such as the ability to remove silent sections to speed them up or toggle video podcasts to audio only. There are cheaper and even free alternatives to Pocket Casts, but you more than get your money’s worth with it.
VLC for Android
If you watch much local video content on your Android device the basic player which comes with your phone probably won’t cut it. That’s where VLC for Android comes in. It’s not the most attractive of apps, but its functionality is unbeatable, with support for just about every file type, including MKV, MP4, AVI, MOV, Ogg, FLAC, TS, M2TS, Wv and AAC.
VLC doesn’t stop there though, it also supports multi-track audio, subtitles and ISO files. Plus it has gesture controls, so you never need to obscure your content with menu screens. Streaming may be the future, but for as long as we’re still using downloaded content as well VLC will remain an essential app.
The idea behind Plex is that it assimilates your existing media collection and serves it up, through one standard interface, via the cloud.
It’s a bit of a struggle to get going as you need a free account on Plex’s servers to access your stuff, but once it’s all up and running it offers streaming and transcoding of files, meaning everything ought to play everywhere. It’s attractively designed too and even lets you sync your media for offline viewing, so it’s not always dependent on an internet connection
It supports Chromecast too, so if you’ve bought into Google’s own media-managing dream, then you’re going to get a lot of use out of this app.
Running is a great way to get fit but it can also be a bit boring, which makes building up the enthusiasm to run a struggle in itself. The unique Zombies, Run! app manages to make running fun by creating an audio adventure game where you run away from zombies in a bid to rescue survivors.
As you run the story unfolds with missions asking you to reach certain distances to bring supplies for your base. With over 200 missions it will keep you running for a long time and not only is the story well-written and entertaining but it makes running fun again, and you’ll be getting fit without even noticing it.
Runtastic Running PRO
A hefty price, but can you put a price on not dying of obesity at age 52? That fitness promise is what you pay for with the RunTastic Pro. It is able to map you, track you, automatically cheer you on, generate live feedback and more, also covering interval training and letting users create their own regular routes to attack again and again.
Voice coaching keeps you motivated and on track and a leaderboard provides extra incentive to go faster and further. It’s also great for finding new routes to run, as other users can post theirs to the app. It’s serious stuff for competitive people and a seriously good tool for getting or staying in shape.
Pushbullet is one of our favourite Android apps, but a challenger has emerged. Join does many of the same things, allowing you to view your smartphone notifications on your computer and even respond to them without dragging out your phone. Like Pushbullet it also lets you send files and links between devices in a couple of taps or clicks.
But Join also does a couple of things that Pushbullet doesn’t, like letting you set the wallpaper on your handset by right-clicking an image from your computer, or remotely locating your phone by showing it on a map or ringing it loudly.
It also has a slightly different approach to monetisation. Where Pushbullet gives you most of the features for free but requires a subscription to access everything, Join is a premium app, which after its free trial is up asks for a one-time payment to unlock everything.
So if you like the idea of Pushbullet but don’t want to pay every month, Join is a great alternative.
£3.50/$3.99 (around AU$5.66)
Metamorphabet is the alphabet like you’ve never seen before, helping you learn what the letters mean and what they can spell.
Ostensibly designed for children, we have to admit it can be almost as enjoyable for adults. Hands both big and small can tap, swipe and drag the letters of the alphabet, causing them to transform (or metamorphosise) into a variety of things beginning with that letter.
‘B’ for example grows a beard and then a beak, which opens up to let out bugs. It’s a great way to teach children both the alphabet and new words and with gorgeous visuals it’s sure to hold their interest.
The various interactions required to make the letters transform also makes it a great introduction to touchscreens for young children, remaining simple enough that they should never become stuck or frustrated.
Dropbox is one of the biggest names in cloud storage, letting you access all your photos, documents, videos and other files from any location and any device, just as long as you’ve got an internet connection.
With automatic photo backup, the ability to share large files without attaching them to an email and support for editing Microsoft Office documents straight from the app it’s got some serious productivity smarts.
Other cloud storage solutions tick many of the same boxes, but the popularity of Dropbox means that support for it is baked right into a huge number of apps and services.
IF by IFTTT
IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for "if this then that", concisely summing up what this app does. It powers up your Android device in all new ways, letting you automate various functions.
You can create simple statements such as "if my location is home, turn on Wi-Fi", or "if I snap a screenshot email it to me". As these are all simple two-part statements they’re easy to create and they can also be shared with the wider IF community. That also means there are tons of pre-existing ‘recipes’ to choose from, so you might not even feel the need to create your own.
Skype is an excellent app for keeping in contact with friends and family throughout the world via instant messages, voice and video calls. If you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network you can make calls to other Skype members absolutely free.
You can also buy Skype credit to make calls to landlines and mobile phones, and it’s far cheaper to use Skype than make long distance calls on your mobile network.
One downside to it is that unlike WhatsApp you need to create an account to use it, which is one extra hoop to jump through, but the service has been around so long we’d be surprised if you and most people you know don’t already have one.
£8.06/$9.99 (roughly AU$13.24)
FiLMiC Pro has been on iOS for a while and it’s so good that it was even used to make the arthouse feature film ‘Tangerine’. Now it’s arrived on Android and it’s every bit as impressive here.
As a premium video camera app it doesn’t come cheap, but it gives you far greater control over your footage than most alternatives.
There are standard, manual and hybrid shooting modes, with options to adjust the temperature, tint, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, focus and more. You can also shoot in slow or fast motion and a variety of different resolutions and aspect ratios, including the likes of Cinemascope and letterbox.
Shooting your film isn’t the end of the fun either, as FiLMiC Pro lets you alter the exposure and saturation after you’ve captured your footage. Then, there are a variety of encoding and sharing options. So you can save it in the quality you want and easily upload it to the cloud and social networks.
Free + £7.18/US$9.99/AU$12.85 IAP
Computing skills have never been more vital and being able to program could put you ahead of the game. Javvy probably won’t make you an expert, but it covers the basics and beyond of Java programming in easy and enjoyable bite-sized chunks.
It features over 150 interactive tutorials, to take you from the basics to more advanced things like HashMaps and classes.
You can try it out for free, but if you’re serious about learning Java you’ll want to shell out for more chapters, either a bit at a time or with a single £7.18/US$9.99/AU$12.85 in-app purchase.
There are plenty of photo editing apps, but while most offer filters and effects few allow you to alter the perspective of a photo in the way SKRWT does.
There are no stickers here, no makeup modes and no real effects. Instead there are tools to shift the perspective, change the ratio and correct lens distortion.
You can also flip, rotate, mirror and crop images, but SKRWT isn’t interested so much in modifying photos in unnatural ways, as in making them look exactly as you envisioned when you took them.
It’s a professional tool, but it’s easy to use and you can always undo your changes if you don’t like them.
Miitomo is Nintendo’s first app and it’s got all the charm you’d expect from the creator of Mario. After making a ‘Mii’ avatar, which is meant to represent you but can look completely ridiculous if you’d prefer, you then answer various questions such as what your favourite food is.
Then your Mii will visit your friend’s avatars and share this knowledge with them. So essentially it’s a passive social app. But there’s more to it, as you can also paste your avatar into photos and buy new outfits for them (using currency that can be earned by using the app).
Ultimately it’s quite a basic app, but it’s unlike anything else out there and it’s fun hearing your friend’s answers, especially if they give amusing rather than accurate ones.
You’re likely to already have the Google Drive app installed on your Android device, but if you don’t make sure you download it as it’s an incredibly useful tool.
You can backup your files and folders and then view and download them from any device with an internet connection. Any pictures or videos you’ve saved to Google Photos will also be visible and you can choose to share files with people, giving them instant access.
You can even use your device’s camera to scan documents straight into Google Drive, which is one thing many rival cloud storage services don’t offer.
It can be hard for printed media to compete with the wealth of free content online, but issuu does a good job of making magazines desirable again.
The app gives you access to digital versions of over 25 thousand publications and remarkably they’re completely free of charge.
Many of them aren’t new issues, but some are and in most cases it doesn’t really matter if they’re old: interviews are still interesting and the magazines aimed at teaching skills like photography never really go out of date.
If you’re viewing them on a high quality screen they also look gorgeous, as most of the magazines are full of pictures and interesting layouts.
They’re easy to navigate too. You can turn the page with a swipe, zoom with a double tap or a pinch, or zoom all the way out to get an overview of every page, allowing you to quickly jump around.
TapDeck – Wallpaper Magazine
News apps are meant to be an easy, convenient way to keep up with what’s going on in the world wherever you are. Sadly though the requirement to launch them or even just swipe to their homescreen widgets means they’re still not always convenient enough.
But TapDeck in its latest incarnation makes it impossible to ignore the news, because it turns your wallpaper into the story.
As with other news aggregators you can pick which sources and types of content interest you. Then. when your wallpaper morphs into an image you want to learn more about, just swipe across it with two fingers to get the full story.
The images and stories will change on their own, so you’ll always have new things to read and a new wallpaper to stare at.
If you want to have a proper browse through the news you can still launch the TapDeck app, but if you spend a lot of time just browsing your phone having it as the wallpaper should keep you well enough informed.
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free
Although for many English speakers it’s easy enough for us to communicate with the locals when we’re travelling by pointing at things and speaking LOUDLY AND SLOWLY, it’s also quite nice to learn a bit of the local lingo before you leave as well, which is where Duolingo: Learn Languages Free comes in.
This excellent app makes learning a second language easy, fun and convenient, with a number of daily challenges and tests to help you learn. The bite sized nature ensures it’s never overwhelming and the app guides you in such a way that you can keep progressing while reinforcing the basics.
We can’t quite work out how such a slick, feature-packed app manages to be completely free of both cost and adverts, but we’re not complaining.
VR could soon take off, with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR all around the corner, but in the meantime there’s the humble Google Cardboard.
Google’s take on VR also has a major advantage in that it’s really, really cheap, taking the barrier for entry down to almost zero assuming you already have a smartphone.
To make the most of Google Cardboard you’ll want the companion app, Cardboard Camera. This is designed to let you create your own VR content, in the form of panoramic photos. These are more than just static shots, as you can look around them and hear accompanying sounds.
Strapping your phone to your face with a piece of cardboard in order to experience them means they won’t replace standard photos, but they certainly impress.
Animatic by Inkboard
Animatic is a fun little app that lets you make flip book-like animations and export them as a GIF or video.
Essentially it’s a basic drawing app with a small selection of pens, pencils and crayons which you can use with your finger to create illustrations. But rather than just a single image you draw a series of them.
Then the app automatically animates the frames at a speed of your choice and when you’re happy you can export it and share it with people. That’s all there is to it. Animatic is a simple app and you’re not going to create a masterpiece with it, but it’s intuitive, fun and a bit different.
Google Now Launcher
Google Now Launcher brings you closer to stock Android and ensures that Google Now is rarely more than a swipe away.
Just swipe right from your home screen to bring up your Google Now cards. Or if you want to search you can do that from a bar at the top of all your home screens. The Google Now Launcher is not as feature-packed as some launchers, but like stock Android itself it’s clean, minimal, fast and easy to navigate.
It’s an essentail download for any fans of Google Now or anyone who objects to bloat. It also makes finding and launching apps easy, with app suggestions presented at the top of your app drawer.
Free (£8.23/$9.99/around AU$14 in-app purchase for all features)
Unless you’re happy having pieces of paper cluttering your desk with passwords scrawled all over them, or are brave/stupid enough to use the same login for almost everything, there’s really no avoiding password managers.
Not that you should want to avoid them, especially when it comes to 1Password, which doesn’t even require a subscription. In fact, it doesn’t cost anything at all, though if you want it to automatically generate passwords or to be able to fully manage your account from your Android device you will need to shell out for a single in-app purchase.
1Password remembers all of your passwords no matter which device you’re on. Well, all but one, as the name suggests. You will still need to remember whatever password you use for the app itself. Unless that is you have a fingerprint scanner on your phone, in which case all it needs is a tap.
AES-256 encryption, secure notes and a slick interface with all your logins organised into folders are just the icing on the cake.
One of the new features HTC packed into the HTC 10 is an app called Boost+, and, surprisingly, it’s also available from Google Play for non-HTC devices.
Essentially it’s a clean-up app, but it does a number of things. You can get it to clear out your phone’s memory to boost performance and this can be done either manually, or automatically, by setting ‘smart boost’ to run in the background.
Boost+ can also be used to clear your cache and other temporary files, identify apps that you never use or those that are misbehaving and even lock apps to keep them safe from prying eyes.
It’s all laid out in the sort of pleasing, uncluttered manner you’d expect from HTC, though the inclusion of adverts is a bit of a downer.
Shuttle+ Music Player
There’s an enormous number of music players to choose from on Android, but Shuttle+ is one of the best.
With an attractive and intuitive Material Design-inspired interface and most of the options you’d hope for from a premium player, including gapless playback, a sleep timer, lots of themes, automatic album artwork downloads, a 6-band equalizer, widgets, Chromecast support and a lot more besides it’s a joy to use.
There’s a free version, but the premium one is only £1.10/US$1.75/AU$1.99 and has far more features, so it’s worth the investment if you play a lot of music on your phone.
Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus
£9.70/US$14.95/AU$19.22 a year
Unfortunately viruses and other malware often target Android owners, and considering we use our devices for important task such as online banking, it’s a good idea to make sure your device is free from any nasty programs, which is where the Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus comes in.
It’s one of the best tools for keeping your Android handset or tablet free from viruses. However a much bigger threat to your device is it getting lost or stolen, and this is where the app really proves to be worth the money thanks to a suite of anti-theft tools that can help you lock and track your device.
It could help you get it back, but if that fails you can remotely wipe your data to make sure your information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
DoggCatcher Podcast Player
If you’re addicted to listening to podcasts on your Android device, then DoggCatcher Podcast Player is up there with Pocket Casts as one of the best apps. The clear and attractive interface makes it a cinch to manage and play your podcasts, and you can set it to automatically download new episodes, so you’re never stuck for things to listen to.
What sets DoggCatcher Podcast Player apart from free podcast apps is the wealth of options and customisability, such as multiple themes, variable playback speeds, Chromecast support, widgets and personalised recommendations. If you have a huge list of podcasts you listen to regularly, then this is the player you need.
Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal
Counting your calories is a sure fire way to lose weight, but it’s also a sure fire way to lose your mind, as you total up food after food, day after day.
The Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal app takes a lot of the pain out of this, thanks to a massive database of over 5 million food items. You don’t even have to type the name of an item in, as a barcode scanner means you can jus tpoint your phone at the packaging.
Along with calories, the nutritional information of various food and snacks is recorded and you can set goals to help you keep you on track.
The app can also track activities and exercises, or if you already have a fitness tracker you can link the two up and see your progress alongside your calorie intake.
There’s a good chance that you already have Google Fit installed on your Android device, but if not – and you’re serious about getting fit – then it’s definitely worth a download.
Google Fit not only tracks your activity, including walking, running and cycling, but it brings together information from numerous third party apps and devices to bring you a comprehensive view of your fitness so you don’t have to switch from app to app to get an idea of how you’re doing.
With the ability to set goals and see stats and graphs you can really keep track of your progress and being able ot do it all in one place makes it less of a chore, so you’re more likely to keep it up.
Tasker is one of the first, and best, task managers for Android. It does it all. Turns stuff on or off depending on location, manages multiple schedules for changing phone state depending on the time of day, even letting users have their phone automatically reply to text messages if it’s set to a quiet state.
In many ways it’s like a more powerful and more impenetrable version of IF. If you’re brave enough to learn its ways there’s a lot here, with the promise of total automation by combining triggers such as an app, day or time, with actions, variables and conditions.
Tasker is so powerful it can even be used to create whole new apps. It’s complex, vast, and you’ll wonder how you lived without it.
Weather Timeline – Forecast
There are plenty of weather apps available for Android, but what makes Weather Timeline – Forecast worth choosing over them (and spending money on), is its unique focus on delivering weather forecasts in a timeline, so you can easily see conditions at a glance.
It means you can view the current weather, weather for the next hour, the next 48 hours and next week. It can help you plan your day without any nasty weather surprises.
The Weather Time Machine feature also lets you see forecasts for months and years in advance, as well as checking out how the weather was behaving decades ago. It’s also Android Wear compatible.
Tinder is a dating app that