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.
There are things you can do to filter the winners from the wannabes. Google builds a list of apps it recommends for you based on your previous downloads, so that’s often a good place to start.
You can also filter by new releases if you just want to see the latest things to hit the store. Or, if you want something similar to an app you already have, search for that app and see what comes up.
And of course using user reviews and ratings is an essential part of ensuring the apps you download are high quality. But the easiest (and best) way to find top quality apps is to have someone else do the searching for you.
- 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 revolutionize 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 that 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.
Free + IAP
Keeping up to date with what’s new on Netflix isn’t always that easy, and being aware of what’s about to get removed from the service is near impossible without outside help.
Which is what is. You pick your Netflix region and it will then show you two lists – one with new additions to the service, and the other with those about to leave, and in both cases sorted by the date that they were added or that they will be leaving.
But you get more than just names of titles. You can also see their IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores at a glance, and if you tap on a title you can see a synopsis, view trailers, or follow links to its Netflix or IMDB page.
You can also opt to get push notifications when new content is added, and there’s a ‘Roulette’ feature built in as well, letting you pick a genre and minimum Netflix, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, then be presented with a film or show that meets them.
There are some limitations – it would be nice for example if the Roulette feature was expanded into a proper search tool, so you could see all the titles with a specific rating, rather than just one at random, and there are adverts unless you pay $1/£0.99 to get rid of them, but as a mostly free tool Upflix is indispensable to anyone with a Netflix account.
Free + IAP
Certain apps and keyboards have built-in spellcheckers, but for grammar you’re largely on your own. At least, you were until GrammarPal came along.
The app makes a little floating bubble appear any time you start entering text. Tap on it and it will tell you how many (if any) errors there are. Tap again to highlight the errors and see suggested fixes.
Errors are color coded so you can see at a glance whether it’s a style issue, a spelling mistake or something else, and you can create an ignore list or a custom dictionary if you don’t want certain things to be flagged.
You can also change the position of the bubble, change the language, alter the way errors are marked (either highlighting or underlining them) and change the theme, so it’s possible to customize the app to your liking. However it’s also very unobtrusive, so most of the time all you’ll see is that floating bubble and it’s small enough to ignore.
For $1.99/£1.89 you can get the GrammarPal Pro upgrade, which lets you backup and restore your dictionary, undo changes and further personalize the app, but the free version has all the core features.
Staying focused throughout the work day can be challenging, especially with the internet ever-ready to distract us, but there are time management techniques to help, and makes use of one of the most famous.
Known as the Pomodoro Technique, this involves working for roughly 25 minutes, then taking a roughly 5-minute break, then after 4 work periods getting a longer break of at least 15 minutes.
Tide lets you customize the exact lengths of work and break periods, then essentially works as an elegant timer, with a soothing appearance and optionally nature sounds to help you get into the work zone.
It sounds an alarm after each work or break period, but waits for you to tap to start the next one rather than automatically transitioning, which is handy, since you might not be at an ideal stopping point. It also gives you the option to skip a break altogether.
We found the app gives you all the controls you might want, but importantly the technique itself is effective, as it seems a lot easier to focus and avoid distractions when you know a break is never more than 25 minutes away.
Free + monthly subscription
But it’s the exercise that’s the focus, and the workouts within the app are almost all designed to be done at home or outdoors with minimal equipment, so you don’t need to go to the gym.
For free you can pick from a handful of basic workout courses, which give you a guided workout each day. You can also view animations of every exercise in the app, split into categories based on which body part they exercise, which is handy for learning new exercises.
Each animation uses a 3D model of a person that you can zoom into and rotate, giving you a clearer look at the exercise than a video would, and making them a great tool for checking that you’re doing an exercise right.
But to get the most out of Fitonomy you might want to subscribe to one of its premium plans. These cost different amounts depending on the plan and how long you commit to, but they start at $4.99/£4.49 per month.
There are a range of plans with different focuses, but they all include workouts that get more intense each time, along with daily recipe suggestions, making for an experience that’s a bit like having a personal trainer in your pocket.
Free + various IAP
Words are then dragged into sentences, and the words, sentences and even individual letters are vocalized when tapped on.
As words and sentences are built, you’re rewarded with cute animations featuring an assortment of colorful creatures, making it as fun and engaging for little minds as it is educational.
For free you get access to a handful of words, but you’ll quickly hit a paywall, with new words (covering the entire alphabet and three different difficulty levels) costing between $5.99/£5.49 for around 25 more words and $29.99/£28.49 for all 315 extra words.
That might sound steep, but it works well on both phones and tablets, and the art, sound and animations are sure to keep your kids entertained – and learning – for a long time.
No matter how good your smartphone camera is your images can still be ruined by unwanted additions, be it people in the background, a trash can in your landscape or blemishes on your own face.
There are additional tools to clone or mirror parts of the image, and video tutorials to help you get more out of the app – though most of the features are fairly self-explanatory.
Results aren’t always perfect, with the app trying but not always entirely succeeding to hide the seams when you cut someone out, but you don’t have to save any changes you’re unhappy with and it generally does a surprisingly good job, all with only a few taps from you.
It’s a good-looking app, as you can see in the images above, but more importantly it’s a very powerful app, primarily because of the amount of control it gives you.
You can choose between three different themes, selecting the colors, fonts and timestamp style and even the line spacing. The app supports home screen widgets too, which are similarly customizable, and the control it gives you doesn’t end at the aesthetics.
Talon also lets you create up to eight home pages that you can swipe across to get to different parts of your Twitter account – be it mentions, direct messages, tweets from users that you’ve favorited, or a number of other things.
Talon for Twitter also includes a night mode and a do not disturb option, so you won’t be bombarded with notifications when want to be slumbering.
We found Talon is great when you get down to the core activities of reading and posting. GIFs and videos can be viewed directly from your timeline, images can be rotated and cropped before you post them, users can be muted or favorited, you can be signed in to two accounts at once, and if you use Twitter on multiple devices you can use ‘TweetMarker’ to sync your timeline position.
And these are just some of the highlights of Talon, there’s too much to detail here, but suffice to say if it’s something you realistically wish a Twitter client could do, Talon probably can.
Free + $2.99/£2.79 IAP
Timer apps tend to assume we only have one thing to do (or time) at once, yet, for us at least, that’s often not true.
If, like us, you want to be able to set multiple timers at once, could be for you. It’s not unique in allowing this, but it does seem to be in the minority, and it also does a whole lot more to help it stand out above the rest.
Among other things it lets you save multiple timers too, which we’ve found far more useful than it sounds. So, if for example you regularly exercise for a set amount of time, or run the washing machine for the same duration, you can have permanent named timers for each of these activities.
You can also give each timer a custom sound, and add widgets to your home screen for even easier access. Plus, you can have timers within timers, allowing you to sound an alert after a certain duration prior to the timer coming to an end.
As the name suggests, Multi Timer StopWatch also has a stopwatch component, and there are all sorts of other things you can tweak and configure, such as the layout of the app itself and whether to show individual notifications for each active timer, or just a notification for the next one that’s going to go off.
The app’s more functional than stylish, and if you don’t want to see adverts across the bottom you will have to pay $2.99/£2.79 to get rid of them (a fee which also unlocks a dark theme), but otherwise you get the whole app for the generous price of zero dollars.
Free + IAP
We know it’s important to exercise our bodies, but our minds sometimes get neglected, and that’s where brain training apps come in.
The app first asks you what your goal is – for example to remember things better or stay focused – and then creates a training plan around that, consisting of a number of activities and games which you’re tasked with carrying out.
These are generally well-designed and enjoyable and the selection changes from day to day, so repetition shouldn’t set in.
You also level up over time and there’s a leaderboard where you can compare your scores in the games with your friends and people worldwide, all of which can help keep you motivated.
How much it actually trains your brain is questionable, but the backing by educational institutions is encouraging, and it would make sense that using your brain in various ways would improve its function.
The core app is free, but to unlock 19 additional exercises and a personalized plan you have to subscribe at a cost of £4.99/$5.99/AU$7.99 per month (or less if you subscribe for 6 or 12 months).
Free + $9.99/£9.49 IAP
It monitors your phone usage, providing daily reports with that information, along with how many minutes you’ve spent using your phone, the places you’ve been, and estimates of how long you’ve slept, based on the motion (or lack thereof) of your handset at night. Plus, it can link up with Google Fit to track your steps.
In and of itself the information can be interesting and surprising, giving a history of not just your smartphone use but – with location and step tracking – the rest of your life too.
But you can also set a daily usage goal if you want to cut down on your phone use, with reminders to help you stick to it, and for more in depth information you can upgrade to pro with a one-off $9.99/£9.49 IAP (or pay monthly) and get a complete history of your app usage, along with detailed weekly reports and the ability to back your data up to the cloud.
If you plan to use Instant to limit your phone or app use this could be worth paying for, but if you’re just curious about how many hundreds of times you’ve unlocked your phone today and how many minutes you’ve wasted on Facebook the free version will do the trick.
There are any number of apps and websites dedicated to testing your current data speeds, but for the most part that’s all they do. aims to add context, not only telling you your download speed, upload speed and ping, but also telling you the implications of that for the apps you use.
Meteor will tell you the overall performance you can expect from YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Waze, Google Maps, Skype, Amazon, Dropbox, Chrome, Flipboard, Gmail, Instagram, Google Street View, Twitter, Uber and WhatsApp based on your current results.
It can assign ‘awesome’, ‘very good’, ‘OK’, or ‘poor’ ratings to each app, and also gives one of those scores to the overall speeds you’re getting.
But if you want more detail you can tap on an app and see the same ratings for individual activities. For example, if you tap on YouTube you’ll see separate ratings for different streaming qualities.
The ratings are all color coded too, so you can see them at a glance, and the app is attractively laid out, with separate tabs for your test history.
The only small fault we can see is that the number of apps it can provide performance information for isn’t larger, and that, for some reason, you can only choose to see information for six of the current selection at any given time.
But Meteor has only just launched, so it’s likely to improve over time.
Free + various IAP
There’s no shortage of mapping apps on Android, but most of these are aimed at motorists or at the very least at mapping proper streets. on the other hand focuses on the tracks and trails people love to hike.
It offers maps for much of the world, including the US and UK, with data coming from a range of sources, such as Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap and Topo Map.
As well as providing maps of the world’s wilderness, it also lets you create or follow trails, view your heading, bearing, latitude, longitude and altitude, and download maps for offline use.
But perhaps the best feature is Skyline, which uses your phone’s camera to deliver an augmented view of the world, with the name, direction and distance of various locations, landmarks and waypoints overlaid on the landscape.
The only bad thing about ViewRanger is that it’s not free. You can download the app itself free of charge, but (with few exceptions) the actual maps within cost money, and depending on how big and detailed a map you want, you can spend anywhere from a couple of dollars/pounds to hundreds if you’re looking to map the whole world.
Despite all the curated playlists, recommendations and radio stations we have at our fingertips, finding new music that we actually like – and are currently in the mood for – can sometimes feel like a chore.
We won’t pretend that completely solves the problem, but it does help, letting you choose a genre, followed by one or more moods or settings, such as ‘happy’ or ‘morning’. It’s this which really helps SoundR Music stand out, as most alternatives limit you to a single mood or other keyword.
Once you’ve dug down into what you’re in the mood for, you’re then presented with a selection of playlists that the app reckons you’ll be into, and you can stream these free of charge, favoriting any you particularly like, so you can easily return to them later.
Add in a colorful interface that’s more polished than you’d often find in such a new app, and the fact that it’s completely free with no adverts, and it’s easy to recommend.
It’s light on battery use thanks to its power saving mode, which, like the power saving modes on most phones, restricts performance and some functionality to conserve juice.
And it’s light on resources thanks to its ‘web refiner’, which filters out adverts. Pyrope Browser is also optimized for Snapdragon chipsets (which many smartphones use) and promises 10% – 40% performance increases if run on a device with a Snapdragon chip.
But as you’re probably starting to realize, Pyrope Browser is also packed full of features and modes. As well as those above, there’s a night mode, which inverts colors to strain your eyes less at night, an immersive mode, which cuts away the search bar and buttons, and a background audio mode, which allows audio to keep playing even when you leave the browser.
The stylish look meanwhile is helped by a ‘dynamic notification bar’, which changes the color of your notification bar to match that of whatever website you’re on.
With gesture controls, an incognito mode and more on top of all that, this is a browser that’s easy to love.
It makes sorting and searching your email easy, with messages automatically added to categories such as receipts, packages or travel. It also features a powerful search tool, letting you search by keyword, name or phrase.
You can delete or archive a message with a single swipe, and there’s a dedicated unsubscribe button at the top of messages, plus a whole screen dedicated to managing subscriptions, so you can easily ditch all those mailing lists you’ve found yourself on.
You can also add all your accounts to it, as there’s support for Gmail, Hotmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Outlook, Office/Outlook 365, and AOL mail.
This app is fast, and gives you a chance to undo sent or deleted messages in case you change your mind. And Email by EasilyDo looks great too, with a clean interface seemingly inspired by the Material Design of Android itself.
Free + optional $3.99/£3.99 monthly subscription
Fitness trackers are all the rage, but the abilities of basic ones can largely be replicated by smartphone apps, for little to no money.
It does a pretty accurate job of it too, and you can make it more accurate by adjusting the sensitivity. You can also set goals, and have your step count permanently displayed on the notifications screen, so it’s never more than a glance away.
As well as steps, Pacer also tells you how far you’ve walked, how much active time you’ve had, and makes a stab at estimating how many calories you’ve burned.
You can also track your weight and BMI, connect with friends and motivate one another. That all comes free, and should be enough for most people, but for $3.99/£3.99 per month (or less if you pay for a year upfront) you can also get rid of adverts, join groups and access an AI weight loss coach – the last one being the reason most would pay the subscription for.
That not only gives your creations a very different look to more conventional art apps, but also means you need far less talent to actually use it, as your canvas is a grid and you just tap the squares you want to fill.
This means that although you’ll need to work out which ones to use in order to create an image, you won’t need any actual technique when filling them in.
We don’t want to undersell it though. With canvases going up to 96 x 96 and custom color palettes there’s plenty here for experts, it’s just that Dotpict is welcoming to newbies too.
If you get artist’s block there are also a couple of games built in, for some reason. These are basic, but the art looks like it was made in the app, demonstrating the potential of pixel paintings.
Essentially, if you want to see where somewhere looks right now – be it as vague as a country or as specific as a bar – you can just make the request on the app, and if there are any users in that location they’ll be prompted to send you a photo.
This could be used to see how bad the traffic actually is, how choppy the sea is, how crowded your favorite bar is or whether the supermarket is open, among many other things, but is likely to be used as much just out of curiosity about more exotic locales.
Want to see what the center of Tokyo looks like right now? Request a picture. How about the top of a mountain? You know what to do.
Right now there aren’t anywhere near enough users to reliably get a response, but you can help change that by downloading the app and taking photos that others request.
The app has a mix of exclusive video content – covering news, reviews and guides to games – and video streams from players, taken from Twitch, YouTube and the like, but which you can watch all in one place on Core.
You can also follow streamers that you want to see more from, and while much of the content is available elsewhere it’s worth checking out for the exclusive videos, which are well-presented and a good way to get a look at new games.
As a fairly new app, content is currently quite limited, but more is likely to be added regularly. There’s also Chromecast support, and the team are listening to comments and reviews, so if there’s something you want to see more or less of it’s worth getting in touch.
Free + $0.99/72p IAP
As great as smartphones are, they can become addictive, with all sorts of apps vying for our attention and the urge to check Facebook ever-present. This can be bad for both productivity and relationships, with screen-based distractions interrupting work and quality time.
Specifically, it rewards you by building a virtual forest, with each new bush or tree being completed when you successfully spend a certain amount of time not using your phone. You can set how long you want to stay distraction free and if you fail your tree will wither and die.
The tree, whether alive or dead, will then appear on a patch of ground, alongside any others you grow that day, with each day having a new forest.
Extra incentive to stay off your phone comes from the ability to compete with friends, and to earn coins, which can be spent on new tree designs or even on planting real trees (though that latter feature first requires spending $0.99/72p on a one time IAP, which also removes adverts and lets you compete with global users).
The presence of an app drawer is one of the key ways in which most Android phones stand out from iOS, but not much thought always goes into these drawers, and you’re often presented with just a long, cluttered list of apps.
This app automatically sorts all the rest of your apps into categories, such as communication, utilities, media and games, so you can more easily find the things you’re looking for.
You can also choose whether the apps within each category are listed in order of name, usage or install date, and there’s also a search option if you’d rather just start typing out the name of what you’re looking for.
Extra tools in Smart Drawer let you hide apps, add a PIN to protect them, and customize the look and layout, and while this isn’t the only app drawer replacement it’s one of the few that doesn’t require you to change your whole launcher.
$0.99/£69p (roughly AU$1.30)
is about as simple as a note-taking app gets, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have multiple lists or folders, just one long note, laid out like an SMS conversation, with each new addition getting its own text bubble.
Eventually, of course, you’ll end up with far more notes here than you can easily skim through, but you can search for keywords, or add hashtags and then choose to view only the notes with those tags.
You can add photos and links, as well as text, edit or delete notes with a swipe, and change the font size and background color, but that’s about it. It won’t replace Evernote for power users, but if you just want a simple note taker without the clutter, Pickle is it.
Be aware though that after a 7-day free trial it costs $0.99/69p (roughly AU$1.30) as a one-off IAP.
Anyone with a tiny artist (or future Spielberg) at home should give a try. This Google app might look like a game, but at its heart it’s actually all about drawing, animating and narrating your own cartoons.
Pick a setting and a cast of characters (or create your own), and then move them around the environment (dragging them to make them walk), while adding sound effects or dialogue via your phone’s microphone.
You can also interact with the backdrop, tapping on objects to animate them. Then add music from the built-in selection of songs and move on to the next scene.
It’s basic stuff, but that means it’s easy for even the youngest members of the family to make something, and there are enough different characters and environments here to make a wide range of content. It’s also open enough to teach kids to tell stories and create basic artworks of their own.
Once you’re done you can play the animation back and export it to your gallery to share with friends and family. Or just get to work on the sequel.
We wouldn’t say changing the volume on most Android phones is tricky, but it can be a several step process if you want to change the noise level of just a specific type of sound, say alarms, or music – especially if you’re not currently using a relevant app.
makes the task a little bit easier, by placing volume controls on the notification dropdown, and optionally also on the lock screen. Rather than being a global control you can pick which things you want to be able to control the volume of, and add an icon for any or all of them.
Then just tap the icon and you can adjust just the volume for that thing, be it media playback, voice calls, notifications, phone ringer, system sounds or alarms.
Volume Notification is a simple app and may not be one you use much, but if you do tend to tweak the volumes or mute specific sounds on a regular basis (or just need to be sure something isn’t going to blare out in a quiet environment) it makes doing so that much more convenient.
From $5.75 (around £4.75/AU$7.50) per month
You can use it not only on Android, but also Windows, iOS and Mac, all with a single subscription, and the app is nicely designed, with a world map from which you can tap on the country you want to access a server from.
Do that and NordVPN will automatically select the best performing server in that country, but there’s also a list of over 600 servers if you’d rather choose your own.
Further keeping things simple there’s a one-tap toggle to unlock most geo-restricted content, and NordVPN takes your privacy seriously too, with 2048-bit encryption and no logs kept of your activity.
It’s a subscription-based service with no free tier and no easily accessible free trial (you can get three days free, but only from Nord’s website and only if you select to pay with Bitcoin), but it’s cheaper than some VPNs and the cost is often further cut by sales and promotions.
Free + $3.60/£3.80 IAP
This isn’t one for fans of minimalist, simple interfaces as ADW Launcher 2 is all about customization.
You can change the style of the app drawer, the animation when transitioning between home screens, the number of apps shown on each page, the theme, the icons and just about everything else you might ever want to tweak.
As well as making the interface look and animate exactly as you want, ADW Launcher 2 also has some clever features that add whole new functionality. These include the ability to disguise folders as a single app – viewing the contents with a swipe, or launching the first app in the folder with a tap.
There are also various customizable gesture controls letting you launch apps or functions with swipes and pinches. The bulk of the app is completely free, but there’s a single IAP to unlock a larger selection of customization options.
Free + $4.99/£2.99 monthly subscription
The app is built specifically for list making, so it’s not a multi-purpose note taking app like Evernote, but it creates more effective to-do points as a result.
Any list you create automatically has check boxes attached to it, and any item you tick off is automatically removed. That means you can see at a glance what still needs doing, as everything that’s been done already is hidden.
But re-adding completed items to a list is easy too, as your checked off items aren’t deleted, they’re simply a tap away.
That, plus the ability to sort lists into folders (for instance, work and home) and sub-lists (to split your grocery shopping between multiple stores), makes Wunderlist a strong option for most users.
But if you need more power, Wunderlist also lets you share and collaborate on lists, set deadlines and reminders, and attach PDFs, presentations and photos to your lists.
These features are free, but with some limitations. For a $4.99/£2.99 monthly subscription you can unlock unlimited file attachments, unlimited sub lists, assign an unlimited number of tasks to others and get access to a selection of backgrounds.
It’s a handy option for anyone managing their whole life with lists, but most users should be fine with the free offering.
Free + $0.99/89p IAP
Your phone’s screen is one of the biggest drains on a battery, but if your handset has an AMOLED display (like most Samsung handsets and a number of others do) then there are things you can do to minimize the drain.
While LCD screens light up the entire display no matter what you’re viewing, AMOLED screens can turn pixels on and off individually, so when you’re viewing a pure black the pixels don’t need to be lit at all.
That’s handled automatically by your phone, but with you can choose to turn off some of the pixels whatever you’re doing. This makes the screen appear darker and lower resolution than it would otherwise, but it can save battery in the process, and the app lets you control how many pixels you disable and in what arrangement.
It’s unlikely to be something you’ll want on all the time, but if you have a QHD display the visual effect isn’t that huge, and could be handy if you’re trying to conserve battery. In fact, to make things easier there’s even an option to have it automatically enable when your battery falls below a certain level.
Or you can have Pixoff keep the screen black when your phone is in a pocket or face down on a surface, and it avoids burn-in by slightly adjusting the placement of the black pixels at regular intervals.
All of which makes Pixoff a powerful, well thought-out tool. The core app is free, but for denser arrangements of black pixels (which saves more battery life) you’ll have to buy a $0.99/89p IAP.
You probably don’t think about your posture when looking at your phone, but perhaps you should, as according to one study angling your head downwards while using a handset can put up to 60lbs of strain on your neck and spine.
Now think about how much you use your phone. That much strain every time you use it could be very, very bad news.
The alert is unobtrusive, appearing silently in a position of your choice, and you can choose how often you want the app to check your posture and how strict you want it to be.
And that’s really all there is to it. If you already have good posture then you’ll quickly forget you even have the app, but if not it could help you make an important change.
is the new name for Google Keyboard, but this is more than just a rebranding, with numerous new features, most notably the ability to search Google from the keyboard, and get results displayed on the keyboard, so you don’t have to leave the screen you’re on.
If you’ve asked Google a simple question, such as what time the sun sets, the answer will be displayed on the keyboard, while if you get website or map results then tapping on them will paste the URL into the text entry field.
Another new feature is the ability to search for and post GIFs from the keyboard – though currently only into a small number of apps.
Beyond that, this is largely the Google Keyboard of old, but that’s no bad thing, as it’s a polished app that’s packed full of features, including gesture typing (now known as Glide typing), multilingual typing, a one-handed mode, and word suggestions that learn based on your own vocabulary.
Microsoft’s AI assistant, Cortana, has been available on Android for a while, but it only recently launched in the UK, and to mark the occasion Microsoft gave the app an overhaul, with a new, simplified interface.
Much like Google Assistant, Cortana can answer questions by looking things up online, as well as interacting with other apps on your phone, allowing you to check your calendar, send a text, or launch an app, all just by talking to Cortana.
Cortana is also generally good at understanding what you’re asking, but it does have some shortcomings – top among them being a reliance on Bing, and the inability to launch it from your home screen with a voice command (though you can start talking to it with just a single tap).
As such it’s not quite a rival for Google’s assistant, but it’s an interesting alternative and one you might want to check out if you don’t get on with Google’s.
News on mobile is usually presented like an RSS feed, or in some cases with a website or magazine-inspired layout. All these approaches are great for browsing, but they can feel quite impersonal, even once you’ve tailored them to your interests.
aims to address that, by making reading the news more like having a text conversation with a very well informed friend, one who has no interest in talking about anything except the latest happenings in the world.
The app is laid out like an SMS or WhatsApp conversation – right down to speech bubbles and giving you a choice of responses – with new stories being ‘messaged’ to you when you start it up.
These come through one at a time, with a brief synopsis, and you can then choose to hear the full story or move on to the next one.
It’s all very conversational, not just in the layout, but in the fact that stories are littered with emojis, GIFs and images, and the writing is concise and engaging. All in all, it’s an interestingly different take on news delivery, and one that’s worth a look if you find most sources a bit dry.
Free or $3.49/£2.39 for Pro version
Never feel like you have enough storage space on your phone? Then could be for you, as beyond being a file explorer it also has tools to help you identify what’s taking up space and what you can get rid of.
Its ‘CorpseFinder’ tool searches for directories or files that have been left behind by deleted applications, while ‘SystemCleaner’ scans for known file types that can safely be deleted.
‘AppCleaner’ looks for files within applications that can be deleted without causing loss of important data, ‘Duplicates’ looks for duplicate files, and ‘Storage analyzer’ shows which things on your phone are taking up the most space.
Whichever tool you’re using within the app, the first step is simply to identify things that you might want to delete.
Once SD Maid has done that you still have complete control over which, if any, files and folders you actually do delete, so you’ve only got yourself to blame if it erases something important – though in theory nothing it finds should be vital anyway.
The ‘AppCleaner’ and ‘Duplicates’ tools require the Pro upgrade, but most of the rest of the app is free, and it’s a great tool for clearing out files you might never even have found otherwise.
isn’t one of those apps which dubiously claims to extend your battery life by meddling with background processes. Instead it simply aims to provide far more information on your phone’s battery and its health than most handsets offer as standard.
It contains a wealth of stats, including how much power individual apps are using, right down the exact mAh they consume, how often your device is woken from deep sleep, and estimates how long your battery will last based on your habits.
It also claims to be more accurate than Android’s own battery usage estimates, and while we’re not sure that’s true, we can say that its stats – and especially its slightly worrying battery health figures – have changed the way we use and charge our phones, leading to longer-lasting, and hopefully healthier, juice packs.
Free + IAP
Whether you’re learning math for the first time, or you’ve simply forgotten how to do everything beyond basic addition, Photomath can help.
Simply point your phone’s camera at a written-out math problem and Photomath will identify and solve it, saving you the effort of typing it out into a calculator, and effortlessly handling complicated equations.
That would be enough to recommend it, but Photomath also shows working, with a clear step-by-step guide explaining how to reach the answer, making it a brilliant teaching tool too.
There’s also the option to type an equation out on your screen and still get guided solutions, making it a complete learning tool.
For even more detailed instructions, along with tips and tricks, you can subscribe to Photomath+ for $0.99/89p per month, but even the basic app is likely more powerful than your calculator.
is an essential app for anyone with an interest in the night sky. Using your current location, the app will highlight the planets, stars and constellations that should be visible to you, and with a tap you can fly out to them, viewing 3D models of the night sky.
With 100,000 stars, 70,000 deep sky objects, 500 asteroids, 16 comets, 26 moons and all known planets, exploring the whole universe is an unending task with this app.
Using the 3D graphics and animations it’s an enjoyable experience to just tap around and dart between solar systems and stars, but if you want more information the app also has 10 guided tours and links to Wikipedia pages for anything you happen to be looking at.
The app lets you plan and save trips, automatically pulling in any reservations from Gmail, and providing details on attractions, transport, food and drink, as well as need-to-know information about money and medical care.
Many major locations across the world also have pre-constructed day plans if you’re feeling uninspired, and your saved trips are available offline, so you can access all the relevant information even when there’s no internet (or you don’t want to pay for data).
Despite the ‘Pro’ in its name, is actually quite a basic news aggregator, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it puts the stories front and center and doesn’t get overly distracted with customization.
Simply sign in with your email or a social media account and it will present a feed full of content that it thinks you’ll be interested in.
The initial results, at least in our testing, were hit and miss in terms of ‘relevant’ content, but the upside of that is that we were presented with stories that we’d never think of following on our own.
Taking full control of what you see in News Pro isn’t easy, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of this app. Instead it’s aimed at people who want to see news on just about everything and anything, delivering a well-rounded, but not particularly personalized, feed of stories.
You can tweak it though, searching for and following specific topics or telling it you want to see more or less of a specific type of news, or even muting certain sites altogether. You’ll still regularly see stories you would never have looked for, but that’s the point.
Free + IAP
The app has lessons for dozens of languages, including some missing from Duolingo, such as Japanese, and there’s a range of different content, designed to help you read, write and speak your language of choice.
Daily lessons give you something new to learn every day, and there’s also a wide selection of permanent lessons and tests split across numerous categories (such as ‘travel’ and ‘family). There’s even a chat bot, which you can speak to in the language you’re learning to give youb much-needed feedback.
With leaderboards and charts to track and compare your progress there’s also plenty of incentive to keep using Mondly beyond just the satisfaction of learning a new language.
The app actually has quite a lot of free content, so you can try it out without spending anything, but to get the most out of Mondly you’ll ultimately want to stump up for extra content, which starts at $4.99/£4.99 in one-off payments.
Free + IAP
Currently, aside from a handful of smartphones with clever proximity, motion or screen-tapping features, you have to tap a button to turn on the screen on the majority of handsets, but KinScreen gives you button-free options, allowing you to fire up the display by waving your hand over the proximity sensor or even simply picking the phone up.
There are also options for keeping the screen on when in a call, when the phone is charging, or when it’s held at a certain angle. Some settings require a cheap IAP to unlock, but most of the content is free and makes your phone that little bit smarter.
Beyond the basic features you’d expect from a messaging app, like group chats and sticker packs, there are a few things that make Allo stand out as a method of chatting to your mates.
The biggest of these is Google Assistant, which you can bring into any chat to ask it questions or provide Google search results.
Allo also includes an incognito mode if you want to keep your conversations private, suggested replies if you can’t be bothered to actually talk to your friends and the ability to change the size of the text you send to make a bigger (or smaller) impact.
For some, Allo is likely to really click thanks to the fresh choices of messaging it offers. Others might quickly switch back to WhatsApp or whatever their messaging app of choice is (and where their friends are chatting), but if you get enough buddies involved Allo is well worth a look if you want to freshen up your conversations.
Free + IAP
Once set up, simply swipe down from the top of your screen to view your widgets. This doesn’t interfere with notifications, as you can choose just one section to swipe across when you want to view widgets.
Not only does this mean your home screens are left just for apps and folders (and potentially reduced in number as a result), but also by moving the widgets to a drop-down screen you can access them from anywhere, even from within apps or the lock screen.
Best of all, Snap Swipe Drawer is free for the most part, though there’s a single $2.49/£1.99 IAP to remove adverts and allow for an unlimited number of widgets.
The app contains more features than you’re ever likely to need, showing you which cell tower your phone is connected to, along with every other tower in the area, plus detailed maps and charts to show each network’s coverage and speeds in any given area.
You can also carry out speed tests and see your signal stat history, including what percentage of the time you’ve been on 4G, 3G, 2G, or without a signal if you’re so stat-obsessed.
All the data which isn’t taken from your own phone is collected from other users of the app, and with over 10 million global users its information is impressively detailed. As OpenSignal isn’t affiliated with any mobile network it’s also independent and unbiased.
The app is designed to be simple, by providing you with an uncluttered interface to make it much easier to focus on crafting that essay or novel. In fact, there’s even a Focus Mode, which makes all the writing other than your current sentence fade into a dull gray.
But while many simple apps of this genre lack more varied features, iA Writer is also functionally powerful, with Markdown support, multiple templates, word counts and a night mode available if you want them.
When you’re done with a piece you can export it to plain text, PDF, HTML or Microsoft Word and you can publish your work direct to Medium or WordPress, or upload it to Dropbox or Google Drive.
It’s a simple app that asks you to fill in quick surveys in return for a small cash reward. The surveys never take more than a few minutes and you’ll usually only get a new one once a week, so the app isn’t intrusive…and while you won’t make huge sums with it you can potentially make a few pounds/dollars a month.
Any credit you make can be applied to apps, IAPs, movie rentals, music or anything else you can find on Google Play, so you’ll easily find things to spend it on.
We live in a digital world, but many of us have boxes full of printed photos that don’t exist on a hard drive anywhere, because they were taken before that was possible.
Typically, that makes backing them up or sharing them online a tricky task, but Google has set out to simplify the matter with , a new app that does exactly what it says – simply position your phone’s camera lens over a printed image, move it around following the on-screen instructions, and PhotoScan will create a digital copy.
This does more than just taking a photo of your photo, because it also eliminates glare, automatically crops and enhances the image, and ensures the edges are straight.
You won’t always get perfect results first time, and in some cases a little bit of detail is lost, but this is a quick, easy and generally high-quality way to digitize your photo collection.
As you do so soothing sounds play, and a colored blob gradually grows around the dot. Within a few minutes the app promises to lessen your stress and increase your focus, and though it sounds gimmicky it works in our experience.
Supposedly it’s based on the principles of Tai Chi and mindfulness practice, as well as being scientifically tested and validated with EEG (electroencephalogram) technology. But credentials aside it’s just a great way to find some calm on a busy day.
Free + $9.99/£9.99 monthly subscription
Meditation apps are meant, among other things, to relax and de-stress us, but if you’re anything like us they run the risk of doing the opposite, becoming chores that we feel guilty for neglecting.
Other meditation apps have short sessions too, but there are usually only a few of them, mixed in with longer meditations, while they’re all short in Simple Habit (though we do have to point out some stretch beyond 5 minutes to cater for those that do want a bit more relaxation).
Simple Habit also has a variety of different teachers to guide you, so if you don’t get on with one (or just get bored of their voice) there are plenty of others to choose from.
The rest of the app is as you’d expect, with meditations designed around specific life circumstances, goals or moods, and a simple interface that doesn’t get in the way.
It’s based on Chromium, so the look and layout is very similar to Chrome (you’ll feel right at home if you make the switch) but unlike Chrome it has built-in ad blocking tools (although do think about who you want to whitelist… hint!), along with options to block tracking and third-party cookies.
There are individual toggles for all of these on a per-site basis, so you only have to block the content that bothers you, and doing so can lead to faster, safer browsing than Chrome or most other mobile browsers offer, as well as less of an impact on your phone’s battery life.
But Brave isn’t trying to kill adverts. It realizes that they’re needed to support quality content, so on desktop you can opt to view only unobtrusive adverts, or even pay the sites that you want to support but block the ads on. It’s likely that these features and more will arrive in the mobile version down the line, but for now this is just a simple ad-blocker.
Free + various IAP
is a great music maker for people who don’t know how to make music. It provides you with a grid of pads (24 on mobile, 48 on phablets and tablets), each of which contains a sample, with different grids fitting a particular style of music.
That second point means that everything broadly fits together, and even tapping the pads at random can produce something aurally pleasing.
But Remixlive is also good software for those who know how to make music, as you can create your own samples, either by recording sounds with your device’s microphone or importing them.
You can control levels, change the tempo and record and export your tracks too, with most of these features are hidden behind IAP, ranging from $0.99/89p to $3.49/£2.69 each, as are most of the pre-built samples.
But if you’re only interested in certain features you shouldn’t have to spend much to get them, and you get three grids included for free, with three more available for no charge via in-app purchase.
Included with Amazon Prime subscription
But calling it same day delivery sells Prime Now short, because you can get things sent to you within two hours with no delivery charge, or within one hour if you pay a bit extra. And the service is available seven days a week, from 8am until midnight.
There are limitations – only Amazon Prime customers can use Prime Now, and there’s a large number of areas where it’s not currently available. You’re also limited to items stocked in nearby Amazon warehouses, so you can’t shop from the full, brain-meltingly huge range of products that the Amazon website stocks.
But when you can get an item delivered to you in potentially less time than it would take to go to a shop and buy it we can forgive a few issues.
A smart home is only as smart as the apps you use to manage it, and you can easily get stuck using different ones for each different device.
It works with loads of different devices from Philips, Lifx, Nest, Sonos, Belkin, Netatmo and more, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to link up your entire smart home and control everything from one place.
And it’s a great place to control them from, with the ability to configure different rooms, so you can easily jump to the right place, and scenarios, which automate aspects of your smart home.
You can also access many of the advanced functions of your connected devices – changing the color of your lights for example, or monitoring your energy spend. The interface isn’t quite as slick as many of the official apps for smart devices, but it’s clearly split into sections, so navigating Gideon is a breeze.
Free with ads or $3.99/£3.49
The complete selection of weather providers that it uses includes AccuWeather, Weather Underground, NOAA, Met Office, Foreca, Dark Sky, SMHI, YR and World Weather Online – though only the most accurate ones for your location will be used.
You can see hourly or ten day forecasts, complete with the likelihood of each being accurate, or you can dig down to the individual forecasts from each weather provider, to see how they vary.
Climendo lacks some of the more detailed information found in other apps – such as humidity and UV index – but if you just want accurate information on whether or not you need an umbrella then this app is up there with the best.
There’s no shortage of apps for digital artists, but is one of the most feature-packed, with dozens of brush presets and the ability to create your own, along with layers, blending, editing tools and more, plus the option to export your images as JPEG, PNG, PSD or ZIP.
But as well as being packed full of features, Infinite Painter also takes the time to show you how they all work, with detailed tutorials and guides, although the interface is so simple that you should be able to muddle your way through most things anyway.
A lot of the features are hidden behind a paywall, with it costing $7.99/£6.26 to unlock everything, but the app includes a free seven-day trial, letting you try everything out before you decide whether you want to put money down, which if you’re a fan of digital art you probably will, because you get a lot for your money.
File managers aren’t exciting, but they are useful, especially if you have a lot stored on your phone. Google Play is full of options, but Solid Explorer File Manager is one of the best for a variety of reasons.
For one thing it’s not limited to just displaying local storage, as you can also link cloud storage accounts to the app, allowing you to view and manage all of your online storage in one place.
It also looks good, with a Material Design-influenced interface that’s easy to navigate. There’s a menu bar permanently visible at the top, which lets you quickly jump between storage sources or ‘collections’ (such as videos, music and photos), and folders are clearly laid out.
It’s not free, but there’s a 14-day trial so you can see what you think before you put any cash down.
Netflix might be known mostly for its video streaming, but to ensure you get fast reliable streamed videos you need to be on a speedy and stable internet connection.
To help you establish just how good your data speed is Netflix also launched the fast.com website, which it’s now turned into an app.
Fast Speed Test isn’t the first or only internet speed test tool, but it is one of the most simple and quick to use. The second you open the app it starts testing your download speed, so there’s no need to press any buttons.
You can watch it fluctuate in front of your eyes before giving you a final reading a few seconds later and that’s really all there is to it. You can hit the refresh button to test again or follow a link to speedtest.net for a second opinion, or, if you’re happy with the results, head straight back to your House of Cards marathon, safe in the knowledge you won’t suddenly lose connection.
Between Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and dozens of other services there are numerous ways to legally watch content that don’t require you to go anywhere near a TV schedule, but with different libraries and different payment models finding the specific things you want can sometimes be a chore.
JustWatch simplifies that process by letting you search for specific shows or films on all the available providers in your country or just those that you filter it by, so you can see exactly how and where you can watch things.
JustWatch also provides an up to date list of new arrivals on your favourite services and of price drops, so you can skip the searching and just watch.
Stop motion clips let you bring worlds to life on zero budget and Motion is a slick, simple way of creating them on an Android device.
All you have to do is line up a shot, then press the shutter button to save it. Rinse and repeat until you’ve built a full clip, then you can view it back, adjust the frame rate and delete any frames that you don’t like.
From there you can save your project and easily add to it any time, so if you’ve got a stop motion epic in mind you don’t have to film it all in one go. But once you are done you can export it to your phone as a video and easily share it with the world.
The simple controls make Motion suitable for kids, but it’s powerful enough to create really good footage too. All you need is an idea and the patience to make tiny adjustments to a scene over and over again.
One of the great things about Android is how customizable it is and icon packs are one of the best examples of that.
The Urmun Icon Pack gives you access to over 3790 high quality icons, each of which offers a stylish alternative to the standard app icons to freshen up your home screens.
It doesn’t work with all launchers, but many, including Nova Launcher, Action Launcher, ADW Launcher, Apex Launcher, Cyanogen and more are supported and you can apply the new icons to them with a single tap.
Urmun also comes with a range of mostly abstract wallpapers which match the style of the icons, for a cohesive look. Urmun is one of the better examples of icon packs, but if you don’t like the style there are dozens of other options, including more by the same developer, with links to them from within Urmun itself.
Prisma is essentially a photo filter app, but it’s so much more than that suggests, with each of its filters completely reinventing your image in one of dozens of art styles.
There’s pop art, impressionism, gothic, anime and many other styles to choose from and any of them can be applied with just a tap.
As the image is analysed and essentially rebuilt in your style of choice it’s not an instant change; in fact you might find yourself waiting upwards of 30 seconds, but the results are usually worth it, changing boring photos into interesting ones and eye-catching images into masterworks.
It’s an app that does one thing but does it well and simply – other than lessening the effect of a filter by sliding your finger across the image, there’s not much more to it. You can also save and share your photos straight from Prisma, but sadly they’re not really print quality at the end – just for the phone screen and Facebook profile.
Some say print is dead, but with Zinio it can live on in a digital world. The app gives you access to both the latest issues and back issues of thousands of magazines from around the world, letting you buy single issues or subscribe to your favorites.
You can download the magazines to your phone or tablet to read anywhere and with simple pinch and swipe controls you can easily read and navigate a magazine even on smaller screens.
Content on Zinio is also often cheaper than the physical alternative, not to mention less of a waste of paper and space.
It also gives you access to a greater selection of titles than your local corner shop, so really you’ll just need to find the time to read them all.
£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.
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.
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.
£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.
£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).
£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.
£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.
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.
£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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
£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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Endomondo – Running & Walking is a fitness tracking app which also includes cycling and over 40 other sports, making the name a bit misleading.
Get past that though and there’s a lot to like here. It ticks all the fitness app boxes, with personalised goals and training logs so you can look back on your workouts and progress.
After each workout you’ll also get a detailed summary, showing distance, duration, calories burned and more. Endomondo also aims to keep you motivated via audio feedback during workouts and competition with friends. Get really into it and you can even compete for prizes.
Fitness apps tend to work best in tandem with other devices and services though and Endomondo is no exception, as it allows you to link up to wearable devices and your MyFitnessPal account, to view your calories and nutritional intake.
Phones get lost and sometimes even stolen, that’s just a fact of life, but with Cerberus they can be a whole lot easier to get back.
The app duplicates many of Google’s Android Device Manager abilities, such as tracking, ringing, locking and erasing a handset. But it goes much, much further too, allowing you to sound an alarm, display a message on the screen, take pictures, videos and screenshots to identify the thief, record audio and a whole lot more.
It’s a comprehensive service and while it comes with a one off cost it will more than pay for itself if you ever need to use it.
If you never want to run out of things to listen to again, TuneIn Radio Pro is the app for you. It gives you access to over 100,000 radio stations from around the world, so no matter what your favourite genre is, you’ll be covered.
There are podcasts on offer too and you can create a profile, giving you easy access to all your favourited stations.
The Pro version is pretty expensive for an app, but not only does it remove annoying ads, it brings handy features such as the ability to record shows and listen to them at any time, as well as access to over 40,000 audiobooks and advanced social tools for finding and sharing new music.
£2.99/US$3.99 (around AU$5.10)
Many phones have IR blasters built in, allowing you to control your TV with them. This can be useful, but given that most televisions come with a remote it’s often unnecessary. Being able to control your computer with your phone though can be far more beneficial, especially if you’re using it to watch or listen to something, without being sat right at your desk.
That’s where Unified Remote Full comes in. Using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, with no IR blaster required, it can communicate with your PC or Mac, along with other devices such as a Raspberry Pi.
There are over 90 built in remotes, giving you full control over various pieces of software, so whether you want a full virtual mouse and keyboard or just want a Netflix remote with buttons for playing and pausing content Unified Remote has you covered.
There’s a free version of the app, but most of the content is locked behind a one-time payment, which it’s well worth making if your PC is your primary device for media consumption.
£4.99/US$4.99 (around AU$6.80)
Describes itself as a ‘pro’ DJ app for people who enjoy nodding along and pumping their fists in the air while someone else’s record plays. Cross DJ Pro comes with specialist features such as BPM tracking, pitch shifting and a split audio output for previewing tracks before they’re mixed in, with filter effects in here too for adding a bit more oomph to whatever party you’re ruining with your rubbish music.
With 72 samples, the ability to record and save your own samples to the app, realistic scratching sounds and more there’s a lot to play with, while an intuitive interface and big buttons make it easy to hit the right notes.
£7.95/US$12.95 monthly subscription
Modern life can be hectic and most of us could probably do with some calm. Headspace aims to provide that through numerous guided mediations, ranging from ten minutes to over an hour in length.
There are also a number which are focused on helping you flourish in specific aspects of life, such as relationships or fitness, and they’re all expertly guided by a former Buddhist monk.
You get access to ten short meditations for free, but to get the most out of it and unlock hundreds of others you’ll have to subscribe.
Threema might look like any other messaging app, but it’s got privacy and security at its heart. It has all the standard features you’d expect, including group chats, the ability to share images, videos and voice messages and even a few extra features like support for QR codes and group polls.
But everything you send and receive, including media, is encrypted and Threema’s servers store as little information as possible, with contacts lists managed from your own device and messages deleted from the servers as soon as they’ve been delivered.
If that’s not enough it also allows you to communicate anonymously, for the full experience of feeling like you’re in a really boring spy movie.
Free (with optional subscription)
It’s great learning a new skill, but finding the time to do so can be tricky. Skillshare makes that a little bit easier, by breaking down lessons and tutorials into bitesize chunks that you can fit in while you take a coffee break.
As it’s an app it’s always with you, so you can learn on your commute too and there’s a vast variety of courses offered, from film making and photography, to game design, chocolate making and screen printing.
The courses aren’t generally detailed enough to make you an expert, but they’re a great way to get started or hone your skills. Some content is free, but to access the bulk of it or download the videos for offline access you’ll need a $9.99 (roughly £6.96/AU$13.08) monthly subscription.
By James Rogerson
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