The Google Play app store is a little bit like a galaxy of software. From a distance, the sheer number of apps is staggering, and it’s hard to take them all in at once. But zoom in on any one of those apps, and the distance between them, in terms of features and quality, is vast. Consider: If you looked at an app from Google Play every second, without stopping, it would take more than 40 days to see all 3.5 million of its apps. That’s hardly a good use of time. Instead, you can study our list of the 100 essential apps that you need for every Android phone.
Our apps are divided into 14 categories and then sorted alphabetically, so it’s easy to browse through all of the entries. You’ll find a little bit of everything from productivity and utilities to food and travel, though we didn’t include any games in this hallowed hall of Android excellence. That’s not because we don’t like fun. In fact, we love mobile games so much that we’ve made a separate list of the best Android games.
If this is your first time with an Android device, 100 apps might be too much to deal with right off the bat. In that case, you can start small with our list of 10 must-have Android apps. These are the perfect way to get started with Android and will cover the basics. Or, if your wallet is feeling a little light, you might prefer the best free Android apps.
When we look for apps to add to this list, we’re after those that excel in two areas: uniqueness and elegance. A unique app provides something that no other app can. Take a look at Tasker, which gives you incredible control over your Android device, if you can master its numerous tools. An elegant app may not be the most original app, but the way it accomplishes something makes it a joy to use. Lots of apps let you browse the news, but few do it as stylishly as Flipboard.
We also consider timeliness, design, price, security, and popularity when putting the list together. Each and every app in the list is excellent in its own way. Android 8.0 Oreo is advancing quickly, so the best apps also take advantage of its underlying capabilities. Taken together, they are like a snapshot of the best of the Google Play store at the time of writing. If we missed something, or you have a recommendation, be sure to drop us a line in the comment section below. We update this list periodically throughout the year, so your suggestions may make it into the next update.
A clean, tabbed browser, Dolphin delivers an excellent user experience on Android, almost making you forget that you’re on a mobile device. Dolphin also supports tight integration with services like Evernote and LastPass, as well as robust settings. Our favorite feature is gestures, which might not always be efficient but are definitely cool to use. Dolphin also has integrated ad-blocking and support for Flash. Yes, Flash!
What’s incredible about the Android version of Firefox is that it feels just as mature, if not more so, than the desktop version. It’s also lickety-split fast and has a clean design that is a joy on mobile. However, once some of the Quantum goodness makes its way over, it should be even more impressive. Mozilla also makes a big point about how it doesn’t collect your data, and we are pleased to see that the app comes with a full complement of security settings—including an option to protect your information from advertisers and a private browsing mode. Like the desktop version, Firefox for mobile has a robust selection of plug-ins, excellent tab management, and a dynamic start page for bookmarks and the latest headlines.
Firefox Focus doesn’t track your browsing and deletes your history when you leave the app. It even strips away all the ads and trackers on a site, so pages load very quickly and you can often get around most paywalls and article limits. The minimalist landing page and bright color scheme also make it enjoyable to use. Do yourself a favor and set it as your default if you care about your privacy.
Although it’s not as popular as Chrome and Firefox, Opera is just as capable a browser on Android. With a slick design, it aims to be your gateway to web content with features like a built-in news portal and the Opera mobile apps store. Opera also takes it easy on your data plan with special compression tools and ad-blocking software. If you want to keep your browsing discreet, Opera offers a private browsing mode.
Cookpad connects you with a vibrant array of recipes. Easily add favorite recipes, manage shopping lists, and find new recipes you’ll love based on those you already like. Once you start using it, you’ll have one less excuse to eat out.
Remember the bad old days of ordering food? You needed takeout menus, knowledge of the terrain (“will they even deliver out here?”), cash, and faith that the person jotting down your order got it right. Seamless takes care of all that, even letting you pay via credit card from your Android. The only drawback? It’s not available in every city (or even every state), though it has expanded its range dramatically since it was first included on this list.
This handy app lets you record each brew you try along with a rating and tasting notes. Think of it as Swarm for beer! No more staring at a tap list, trying to remember which ones you’ve had before. The app also has a vibrant community of beer drinkers that can point you toward new discoveries, and an extensive list of beers. It’s also a handy way to find your favorite brew near your current location. While it’s not perfect, it can change the way you think of beer.
It pays to be a little skeptical of crowd-sourced reviews, but Yelp can tell you a lot more than just what people thought of a bar, restaurant, or just about any other place where you spend money. Many locations list hours of operation, contact information, and menus, making it easy to find the perfect spot in your neighborhood or a new city.
Health and Fitness
Menstruators the world over will rejoice over Clue, a simple app with a beautiful design for tracking your period and predicting when the next will occur. Using the data you enter about your cycle—and other factors—you can use Clue to plan ahead, whether it’s for pregnancy or just to keep ahead of your cycle. Reminders and a handy calendar tool can help take the guesswork out of life. Best of all, it’s totally gender neutral, and not the expected pink.
Eve by Glow
Tracking your period isn’t just about knowing the cycle, but also the other factors surrounding it. Eve by Glow lets you track physical and emotional states, which can lead to some important insights when you take the time to interpret your own data. Eve also boasts a vibrant community and a wealth of information about sexual health built right in.
You might know Fitbit from its popular fitness trackers, but the app that powers those devices works well on its own, too. Using your just your smartphone (assuming you meet the minimum hardware requirements), this fitness app can count steps and log activities to help you achieve daily goals. There are also social features, so you can compete against your friends. It’s a must-have (really, you must have it) for Fitbit users, but also a smart choice for anyone looking to be more active.
My Asics Run Coaching
Most running apps charge you a pretty penny to access training regimens. That’s not the case with My Asics Run Coaching. This app, for both iPhone and Android, has customized plans for 5K, 10K, 5-mile, 10-mile, half-marathon, or marathon runs. It’s also not on a fixed schedule. Instead, the app adjusts your plan based on your running data. This app will get you off the couch and on the road to victory. PCMag has a full review of the iPhone version of My Asics Run Coaching.
This calorie counter and exercise tracker aims to help you lose weight the old-fashioned way—expending more calories than you take in. With its smart design and an extensive library of foods, it makes quickly logging the calories you take in and what you burn while exercising a snap. A barcode scanner makes it even easier to log that post-workout snack. This fitness app also plays nice with other such apps, so your data won’t be tied up in just one place. MyFitnessPal won’t give you a whole workout regimen, but it can make you more aware of your habits. PCMag has a full review of MyFitnessPal for the iPhone.
Runtastic can do much more than just track your favorite running routes. This excellent fitness app keeps track of all sorts of useful data and can return information-rich maps to help you plan future outings. It also features a fully integrated music player, for a seamless workout experience. Use it for cycling, hiking, and walking, too.
Runtastic Six Pack Ab Workout
In today’s lazy-yet-busy world, it’s difficult to find time to get to the gym to truly blast your abs. If you’re trying to build a washboard set, consider Runtastic’s Six Pack Ab Workout app. It lets you create a customized workout to target the specific muscles you want to transform into rock-hard edifices of chiseled humanity. Just follow the avatar on the screen through the moves, and you’ll be the mayor of six-pack city before you know it. PCMag has a full review of Runtastic Six Pack Ab Workout on the iPhone.
Music and Podcasts
Marking one of Apple’s first forays into Android development, Apple Music brings the company’s impressive musical catalog to Android. The app is built around Apple’s subscription-based streaming service, which dishes up all-you-can listen music for $9.99 per month, or just $4.99 for eligible students. It suffers a bit on Android for being divorced from the Apple ecosystem, however.
Filled with both up-and-coming and established acts, Bandcamp is one of the most exciting music marketplaces there is. The app was initially built around streaming songs you’d already purchased on Bandcamp, but now it’s a one-stop shop for digital and physical band merch. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of music, this is an essential app.
Streaming services are all the rage, but if you still keep music locally, BlackPlayer is worth your attention. We particularly like the Discover option, which shuffles through 10-second previews of seldom-played tracks in your library continuously, until you decide on what to listen to next. There’s also a built-in tag editor and a ton of customization options for button styles, fonts, themes, and now playing notifications.
Android has struggled with podcasts (they don’t call ’em “Droidcasts,” after all), but Pocket Casts is here to help. This highly customizable app is great for chilling out with an episode of your favorite casts, and it can also sync among different devices so that you can pick up right where you left off. Time to start listening.
While Pandora may have introduced the world to streaming radio, Slacker Radio has refined it. You can listen to what Slacker thinks you’ll like, or try out one of its human-curated channels and playlists. It also has hyper-specific playlists that appeal to particular tastes and moods, such as Yacht Rock.
Songkick for Concerts
Songkick is the bridge between the music in your digital collection and concerts in your area. Once installed, Songkick scans your device for tunes and then lets you see when and where your favorite artists are playing. If you see a show you’re interested in, you can also purchase tickets all from within the app. Add multiple locations to Songkick to catch concerts when you’re on the road.
With its huge inventory of music, Spotify has become a mainstay for free, legal music streaming. You can shuffle through smartly selected songs, find your favorite albums, or explore one of the service’s excellent playlists. Close ties with artists means that new tracks are sometimes available the same day they hit the shelves in record shops. Those still exist, right?
Stitcher Radio for Podcasts
Though its interface is a bit tricky, Stitcher connects you with just about every podcast out there. Podcasts are organized by subject, or you can just search for a familiar title. Shows can in turn be organized into playlists for a continuous stream. Once you’ve exhausted all your favorites, let Stitcher recommend something new. With a special emphasis on sources like NPR, CNN, and ESPN, Stitcher has a little bit of everything.
At its core, Any.do is a list manager. You can quickly create a shopping list and have it synced among your devices and even share the list with others. The app also doubles as a task manager, keeping you on top of what needs to be done. This very capable app sports many features, but we particularly like one called the Any.do Moment, which encourages you to take a second and review your plans for the day. Lists are one thing, but building good productivity habits is quite another.
If you’re the forgetful type, EasilyDo is your savior. Once you hook the app up to a slew of supported social and calendar services, it suggests simple actions from a unified dashboard. Did you know it’s Susie’s birthday? EasilyDo will remind you and suggest you send her a message or a gift. It makes the little things easier, and proves its worth with saved time. It covers everything from to-do lists to tracking packages to storing your travel information.
Once you start using it, this note-taking app becomes a powerful tool for organizing just about everything. Notes can be anything—text, images, audio, or a mix—and are organized into notebooks. One of its killer features is optical character recognition, which makes the text in images searchable. Cloud-storage makes it the perfect tool for organizing the little pieces of a project into a finished draft.
Inbox by Gmail
Inbox by Gmail isn’t a tool for email power users. For everyone else, however, it’s fantastic. Google took to heart the lessons of the now-defunct Mailbox and offers a client for Gmail with gestures, reminders, and some of the tricks pioneered by productivity pros. Our favorite features include automatic package tracking, travel document detection, and the bundling of like emails. It also happens to be one of the best-looking material design apps to date.
For passing links, web addresses, or clipboard data between devices, Join is a great option. Setup and customization are easy and Join makes it simple to specify which notifications and actions you want to enable for each device. It even syncs SMS texts to a Chrome browser or the dedicated Windows 10 app. Unlike Pushbullet, it doesn’t require a monthly subscription to use its features to the fullest. Our favorite features are its remote screenshot and screen-capture capabilities.
Mint is a fantastic online service to keep track of your finances, and it really shines on Android. Once you’ve entered all your information, you can easily check up on your finances on the fly. Mint budgets keeps you on track for your goals and a new bill paying feature make sure that you never miss a payment. Be sure to try out the app’s excellent widgets, too.
If you like to keep your life organized with various to-do lists, then you definitely need to download Todoist. This app lets you keep track of the tasks you need to get done; you can assign them different priorities based on their over overall importance or organize them across different projects. It also has a functional, clean design and works across many different platforms. Anyone can get started for free, but seriously organized individuals should upgrade to the $28.99 per year premium plan to set up task labels and reminders, upload files, and view productivity charts.
Adobe Photoshop Express
Photoshop CC is a notorious beast of a desktop application, but Photoshop Express is a svelte app, with powerful tools to make the most of your mobile snapshots. Sure, it’ll do the Instagram-ish filters, but it also lets you make fine adjustments to images with a beautiful, simple interface. It even seamlessly connects to various other services for sharing.
Remember Flickr? The venerable photo-sharing service is an Editors’ Choice web service, and the Android app has a lot to recommend it, too. Offering a free terabyte of photo storage, a truly gorgeous app, and excellent photo and video editing tools, Flickr is more valuable than ever. Plus, the app connects you to the vibrant community of photographers on the service. Best of all, it can automatically back up photos from your phone.
Google Photos puts the search giant’s powerful image-discerning magic into your phone. It can identify faces, even as they age over decades, as well as animals, places, or objects. You can also search for photos from specific dates or locations. The impressive built-in Assistant can detect clutter or even create collages or animations on its own. The app is rounded out with editing tools and unlimited cloud storage if you make some minor compromises on upload quality. Google Photos also extends to photo prints; you can digitize physical photos with the built-in Photoscan or even order a custom photo book. The recently announced Google Lens can even report back information related to your images or photos by scanning them.
It seems like just yesterday that Instagram was adding video. Then direct messaging. Then advanced photo editing put it on par with Photoshop Express for image correction and manipulation. The latest addition is Instagram Stories, which will surely be familiar to fans of Snapchat. With a clean, minimalist interface, Instagram is the king of social photo apps.
PicsArt Photo Studio
With tons of effects, controls over layers, drawing tools, and collages, PicsArt can contend with Photoshop and is one of the best photo editing apps for Android. If you think it’s just a lowly Instagram clone, you’re wrong. When you’re looking to take your smartphone snapshots to the next level, seek out this app.
If you’ve ever browsed through image-sharing services and wondered where the picture collages came from, Pixlr is a good guess. Although Autodesk sold this app to 123RF this past year, it hasn’t missed a beat. This photo editor can do more than just build mosaics of pictures. It has a host of effects and adjustments that run the gamut from subtly artistic to ridiculously bombastic—perfect for giving your images a touch more pizzazz.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Instagram. But if you want more control than Instagram affords, try Google-owned Snapseed. This app straddles the line between full-fledged image editor and filter app, all in a sleek and attractive package. Best of all is the amount of control it gives you over how filters and effects are applied to your images. It even lets you make non-destructible edits to RAW files and make adjustments to exposure and detail levels.
Reading and News
Calibre is the giant of ebook management, and this app is the perfect (ahem) companion for it. With just a few clicks, you can add any book from your computer to your device over USB or Wi-Fi. You can also store your ebooks on the cloud for easy access from wherever you are. What’s so surprising is how well it works, and how easy it is to use. If you’ve got a lot of ebooks and are ready to cast off the shackles of Amazon, this is the app for you.
The Amazon-owned Comixology—the iTunes of digital comics—offers a near-perfect combination of store and comic book reader in its wonderful Comics app. The free app transforms your Android smartphone or tablet into a digital long box that houses and syncs your purchases across multiple devices. Even better, the new Comixology Unlimited service lets you devour an ever-expanding catalog of titles for just $5.99 per month.
What is mots impressive about the ESPN Android app is the sheer number of sports it covers. Everything from American football to Brazilian soccer to Indy 500 is available. For those unmissable games, you can set alerts and follow specific matches as they unfold. It also connects you to videos and news headlines, courtesy of the popular sports cable network.
Feedly takes the RSS feed into the modern age, and it’s the easiest way to stay on top of all your favorites sources of news. You can view everything all at once if you want, but Feedly also lets you categorize your sources for focused reading or use its Today tab, which shows you the top stories from each category. Additionally, you can make Feedly look as simple as you wish, with minimalist text-only layouts. It’s a great way to keep informed with the days’ headlines and it offers useful integrations with other services as well.
With its slick, streamlined interface, Flipboard is one of the best apps for reading the news. With it, you browse the articles, videos, podcasts, and other media that matter most to you. The app’s signature magazine-style interface lets you explore the day’s headlines in a gorgeous environment. The Daily Edition feature gives you the most important news along with themed stories for each day of the week. Flipboard has been one of our top picks for years, and it’s easy to see why.
The official Amazon Kindle apps puts all of your existing Amazon ebook purchases at the tips of your fingers, and it gives you mobile access to the Kindle ebook store for impulse purchasing. Best of all, it syncs your notes, bookmarks, and where you left off among all your devices.
Libby, by Overdrive
The library is an often-overlooked public resource, but OverDrive brings it back into the fold with the newly redesigned, Libby. Supported by over 30,000 libraries worldwide, the app lets you access your local library’s array of available ebooks and audiobooks. Use it to download titles, place holds on titles not yet available, and consume your borrowed content. The only requirement is a library card (or its digital equivalent).
Your bag of holding for internet content, Pocket saves articles, images, and videos for later reading. We especially like how it reformats articles for more comfortable reading on a mobile device, and how it syncs content to your tablet, phone, and online account. With the close integration between Pocket and the Android sharing tools, you can pocket just about anything from your phone.
reddit is fun
There’s no shortage of Reddit apps on the Google Play store and choosing one over another ultimately comes down to preference, but reddit is fun (RIF) is a great option to try. The default view features a dense, text-heavy layout which puts the best (and worst) of Reddit front and center. There’s both a light and dark theme and tons of layout content customization options to try out, even if you don’t opt for the paid version. Better yet, there are no ads in either version or RIF and its overall performance is extremely quick.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast has the distinction of packing tons of features into an entirely free package. Inside, you’ll find antitheft tools, app management, safe web browsing, a battery manager, and an antivirus engine that receives top marks from independent testing labs. It’s a top choice for Android antivirus apps.
Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus
$14.99 per year
Need Android antivirus? It’s hard to do better than Bitdefender. This app has received perfect scores from two independent research labs, and scans your phone in mere seconds. It also includes excellent phishing protection, powerful antitheft tools, and Android Wear integration.
You’re terrible at passwords. Don’t take it personally! Everyone is terrible at passwords. That’s why we all need apps like Dashlane, which generate, save, and replay login credentials wherever they’re needed. This smart, cross-platform service makes sure that your passwords, payment information, and other vital information is stored securely but never out of reach.
After a major overhaul to this powerful password manager its appearance finally matches its performance. With LastPass, you can access your saved passwords, secure notes, and filled forms from your Android, and you can also create new ones that sync to all your devices. The new version of the app ingeniously melds the password manager with a built-in browser, putting the app’s auto-login features at the forefront. Staying safe has never been easier.
Norton Family Parental Control
When it comes to parental control, it’s hard to do better than Norton family Parental Control. You certainly get what you pay for, as this app sports powerful web filtering, call and text blocking, location tracking, and app management. Best of all, parents can use it to control an unlimited number of devices, so it will suit families of all sizes. The only downside? It doesn’t block anime.
With NordVPN you can rest assured that no prying eyes will see your internet traffic. This app sports an excellent interface, a handy server selection tool, and a hundreds of available VPN servers across the globe. NordVPN’s signature feature is its assortment of specialized servers, which are optimized for activities like peer-to-peer downloading, video streaming, and access to Tor.
Tor is probably more famous for providing access to the so-called Dark Web, but it also provides a useful way to connect to the internet while keeping your movements private. Working with a special browser, Orbot connects you to Tor within seconds. However, we found in testing that it sometimes takes a few attempts to get online.
Private Internet Access VPN
On the desktop, Private Internet Access VPN offers the protection of a virtual private network along with numerous advanced features. The same is true on Android, where you can connect to any of its over 3,000 global servers. This service also has the option to block ads and online trackers, if you so wish. It might not be much to look at, but it’s among the most powerful VPN services available.
Qustodio is an excellent parental control software that makes it easy to manage your child’s mobile activity, especially with its well-designed companion app. Its best features are its browser-independent web content filters and ability to set device usage time limits. Rounding out its capabilities are location tracking, call and SMS logging, and mobile application blocking. Parents will also appreciate the instant device-locking and panic button options.
Amazon is the internet’s marketplace; the one place where you can buy just about anything—and it’s cheap too! On Android, two of our favorite features are the integrated Alexa voice commands and the photo search, which makes it easy to surreptitiously compare Amazon’s prices to those of the brick and mortar stores it is killing. Amazon Video-related functionality has been moved over to its own dedicated app, but all of its other consumer services, including Fresh and Restaurants, make an appearance. Prime members rejoice; there’s never been a better way to stay connected with your Amazon lifestyle.
Google Opinion Rewards
Google Opinion Rewards is appropriately named. Google sends you surveys that ask you about places you’ve visited recently and you get Google Play Store credit for your participation. Polls don’t come in very often, but you can increase your chances of receiving more, by enabling your location and answering surveys quickly and honestly when they do arrive. It’s not going to earn you a ton of store credit, but it’s enough to purchase an app or an album every so often. To add some perspective, one of our editors has earned about $64 since installing the app in late 2013.
Google Wallet has gone through many permutations over the years. Its latest is as a person-to-person payment app, letting you easily send money without pesky cash or credit cards getting in the way. And in that role, it really excels. It’s a strong alternative to our top choice, Venmo.
The original deal locator for mobile, Groupon partners with businesses to offer low prices to a limited number of people for a limited time. While the value of Groupon’s offerings is sometimes debatable, it offers a useful way to try a new restaurant or a totally new activity in your area.
Pinterest is a social network of stuff, a place to “pin” things that interest you on themed boards. The Android app offers a great way to gather images from around the web for making lists or just collections of stuff that catch your eye. You could use it to help redecorate your living room or even to help you choose a tattoo artist. It easily integrates with your browser for fast pinning, and you can view the pins of others for added inspiration.
Here’s the bad news: Samsung Pay only works on a handful of devices and, yes, only Samsung devices at that. But if you can get your hands on a phone with Samsung Pay, the world is your electronic payment oyster. Whether it’s sending money between devices, paying for something on your phone, or using the built-in magnets to trick card-swipe readers into thinking they’ve just read a credit card, Samsung Pay does it all. It’s nothing short of astonishing.
For all our technical savvy and disruptive startups, physical package delivery is still the backbone of ecommerce. The Slice app automatically detects shipping details from your email and then tracks the packages for you. You can watch your precious commodities make their stately way to your doorstep, get alerts when they are delivered, and even receive warnings if they’ve been recalled or the price has dropped. In short, Slice is an online shopper’s best friend.
There are lots of ways to pay for things with your phone. But Venmo has a smart mixture of clean design, ease of use, and social functions that give it an edge. It doesn’t do much, but it does let you easily send and receive payments from friends. And unlike other payment systems, it has momentum. It’s usually the app people ask about when the group is splitting up the check.
If an event isn’t being organized on Facebook, it’s probably being done through Eventbrite. This service makes it easy to manage invites, RSVPs, and even ticket purchasing. Attendees get handy reminders about the events they planned to attend, organizers can see guest lists. We particularly like that Eventbrite can generate QR codes, making event check-in a breeze.
The problem with most mobile messengers is convincing your friends to sign up. But the odds are that most people you know are already on Facebook. This is handy, because the Facebook Messenger app is fantastic. It’s simple, clean, and easily handles voice and video calling. But for me, the best part will always be the gorgeous stickers.
Like Facebook Messenger, nearly everyone you know is probably already using Google Hangouts whether they realize it or not. All you need is a Google Account to send instant messages, images, and even participate in video conference calls with up to 12 other participants. Very few other services come anywhere close, and none offer it for free. Tight integration with Google Voice means that you can also use this app to send and receive voice calls and text messages. For some, it’s the only communication app they need.
Most people are probably familiar with LinkedIn as a service only visited in times of desperation; after being laid off or after a day in the office so bad that you’re just not going to take it anymore. While that might still be true, the LinkedIn app aims to be a companion to LinkedIn web service that you check every day. Sure there’s the all-important profile pages showing off your work experience, and the handy tools for networking, but the service now includes visitor metrics and a newsfeed for a decidedly more social feel. It’s also sometimes the only way to chat with a businessperson you’re looking to connect with. It’s like Facebook for grown-ups.
When Nintendo released Miitomo, we were confused, enthralled, and then obsessed in rapid succession. In this app, you create a cute avatar of yourself (or, as it is heavily implied by the game, another you that is simultaneously you and not you) called a Mii. You answer questions in the game, like “what’s your favorite food?” and then watch as your friends’ Miis spout answers back at you. But the most fun is dressing up your Miis and posing them for bizarre photos. PCMag has a full review of Miitomo on the iPhone.
At first, Snapchat was a little dangerous, popular with the hip and the young, and utterly baffling to everyone else. With Snapchat, you quickly snap and exchange photos with one or several friends. The app also supports video snaps, as well as voice and video calling. The catch is that whatever you send will vanish after a few seconds. Though it’s popularly associated with sexting, it’s also just a fun and ephemeral way to share the world around you. New updates make the service much easier to use, let you save old snaps, and build ongoing public stories. The more things change, the more they just turn into Facebook.
Signal Private Messenger
There are a lot of apps out there that pay lip service to security and privacy, but Signal was built from the ground up with the goal of letting people easily communicate without having to worry about being overheard. The Signal app is a complete phone and SMS client replacement (though it works just fine as a standalone app, too) for sending and receiving encrypted calls and messages. A recent update has greatly improved the app’s look and feel, proving that security and usability don’t have to be at odds.
Streaming live video used to be a real pain, even on a desktop computer. But apps like Meerkat and Periscope changed all that. Periscope has Twitter’s blessing, and it lets you share video and chat with other users with ease. Best of all, it saves your Periscopes for later viewing. Periscope is a lot of fun, but it’s faces stiff competition from the Facebook app’s live video streaming.
In a world rife with messenger apps, WhatsApp is among the most successful, boasting an enormous and dedicated user base. Add to that an integrated web version that lets users take their chats to the desktop. Recently, this app was bolstered by encrypted messaging provided by the minds behind Signal. It might just be the largest secure messaging service out there.
Sometimes the most secure message is one that simply doesn’t exist. That’s the thinking behind Wickr, a fully encrypted secure messaging service that even handles media messages. The twist is that you set a lifespan for each message, ensuring that your private messages stay private, the way Snapchat message do. And, if you doubt their security chops, here’s what the company’s founder told the FBI when they asked for a backdoor.
If you’re traveling within a major metropolitan area via either public transportation or personal vehicle, Citymapper can plan all your trip details. It has transit information for dozens of major U.S. cities and international hotspots in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Further, it offers multiple transportation options for each city, so if you feel like taking the ferry to work one morning, there’s nothing stopping you. Its top features include Commute, which lets you set up your daily travel to and from work, and an alert system that uses natural language to describe service delays or cancellations.
If you’re looking to learn another language, Duolingo gamifies language learning with bite-sized lessons and a friendly interface. Starting with simple vocabulary and building from there, Duolingo is your guide to learning a new language or brushing up on one you already know. The more you use the app, the more you unlock and—with practice—the more you learn. This free app currently supports Danish, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. Or more practical choices, like Esperanto and Klingon.
Google Maps has been your guide for years, and this excellent app just keeps getting better. With just a few taps, Google Maps tells you exactly how to get to your destination. It even supports walking, bicycle, and mass-transit directions, as well as Uber. The app’s road knowledge is so keen that it can tell you which lane to be in while using turn-by-turn directions. And because this is Google, you can easily search for locations nearby.
Many people fear not being unable to communicate with people from another country while traveling. Google Translate takes a bit of the edge off, quickly translating either written text or spoken words. You can even use the app to do the speaking for you, and input text through your camera or handwriting. The app can translate 103 languages with a data connection and 52 when you’re offline. It can’t handle Tamarian, but it’s sure to be a handy tool here on Earth. It even works on your watch and while using other Android apps!
Check out the latest redesign of Swarm, if you have an interesting in life-logging. This bright, colorful app is laser-focused on check-ins, making it easy to let your friends know where you are and earn cute badges in the process. Some classic features have returned to Swarm, like leaderboards and mayorships, but these gamification aspects take a back seat to the action. The new timeline view is a great way to remember the places you’ve visited in other cities or even identify your habits.
Who needs Uber when so many cities offer world-class public transit? The Transit app shows mass transit options—including busses, ferries, and trains—and the estimated time of arrival in 87 cities in North American, Europe and Australia. Here in New York, it even tells you how many bikes are parked at local Citi Bike stands. This app keeps you in the know no matter where your travels take you.
Uber certainly has its problems. Between its questionable business tactics and its bad press, it’s understandable to be suspicious. But the truth is that if you’re looking for a way to get a ride, regardless of what city you’re in, Uber will be there. You can even use it to order food in some areas. A great feature: You can request a wheelchair-accessible vehicle through Uber.
Weather Timeline gives you hour-by-hour weather for the day and detailed forecasts for the next week. It also happens to be one of the most elegantly designed apps on this list, with simple lines, vivid colors, and clean animations. Our favorite aspects of this app are its animated weather trend charts and assortment of widgets for the home screen. It’s an excellent alternative to Weather Underground if you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of information, for a seriously good design.
Weather Underground combines a slick design with a focus on really useful weather information. We particularly like the ability to report weather conditions in your area and the extremely useful comparative forecasts that deftly show how conditions have changed since yesterday. With an accompanying set of useful widgets, it’s the best weather app on Android.
Microsoft Launcher replaces the company’s Arrow Launcher and takes on a Windows 10-style transparency. It replaces Google Now with a useful and customizable feed for quick access to recent apps, events, and frequently contacted people. The main app list can be organized horizontally or vertically and includes an elegant alphabetical scrollbar for reaching apps quickly. Performance is just as smooth as the stock Pixel Launcher and it doesn’t affect the use of Google Assistant, though of course, Cortana would feel more at home as your voice assistant.
Network Analyzer makes it easy to view information about all of the Wi-Fi networks nearby. With a few taps, you can see the strength of networks in the area on a dynamic graph and view detailed information about your connection, such as your IPv4 Address, MAC Address, and Default Gateway IP. You can even run a network query from within the app; it lets you Ping an IP/Domain Name or even check the DNS Server settings. It’s the perfect companion to our article on how to find your IP address.
An impressive keyboard replacement, Swiftkey suggests what it thinks is the most likely next word as you type. A pioneer of this technology, SwiftKey can speed up your typing by inserting whole words with a tap. The app also supports Swype-like input, over 100 languages, and 80 colorful themes.
Swype was the first to introduce dragging your finger from letter to letter to input text, which has since appeared in SwiftKey and even Google Keyboard. The developers are not resting on their laurels, however: Their app has numerous input options, including the powerful Dragon Dictation, gestures, handwriting recognition, and SwiftKey-like predictive text. Swype is a sprawling app that makes mobile typing a breeze.
Let’s be honest: Tasker is very intimidating. But we recognize that this is perhaps the most powerful app available in Google Play. With it, you can script basic actions for your Android to perform when specific conditions are met—like flash the LED when you receive a text message. Learning to use something this powerful can be tricky, but the rewards seem worth it.
When we wanted to watch anime back in the bad old days, we had to duplicate third-generation VHS tapes of Neon Genesis Evangelion or, God help you, pay some shifty guy for a CD of RealPlayer files. But now, the streaming service Crunchyroll spoils anime fans with choice. Boasting an extensive backlist of popular anime, this app even debuts episodes shortly after they premiere in Japan.
$7.99 per month
Hulu has long been the king of streaming TV. It’s the best choice for when you want to see current shows and not wait until they’re collected for sale or streaming on another service. But it also has a deep well of great movies to draw from, including many obscure gems. If you need to see Brooklyn 99 on your Google Pixel 2, then this is the app for you.
$7.99 per month
Despite ups and downs in the quality of its library, Netflix dominates the world of streaming TV and movies. Although Hulu has more TV and more varied movie offerings, the sheer volume of movies and TV in Netflix is still remarkable. The service also creates its own—sometimes indispensible—content, including original comedies, cartoons, dramas, and documentaries. Some of the shows have become cultural phenomena, making Netflix a must-have. Shows such as Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and The Crown (the most expensive TV show ever made) are often the conversation topics of the day. And now with offline viewing capability in the mobile app, you can download select episodes to watch at your leisure.
Have you ever needed (I mean, really needed) to catch your favorite show but found yourself nowhere near a TV? Technology is finally here to solve the problem with Sling TV, an inexpensive service that lets you watch live TV via the Sling TV web service on any Android device. Get ready to cut the cord and kick cable out of your life.
$9.99 per member per month (basic version is free)
Asana is the 800-pound gorilla of task management for teams, dwarfing other popular services like the capable Trello. Asana is all about workflows and checkbox tasks that can be assigned to individuals. The Android app lets you take your tasks on the go and offline, syncing your progress when you’re back on the network. It’s a powerful tool with an excellent interface, and new features are added regularly.
The hardest part of scheduling a meeting is getting everyone to agree. Jeff is free Monday and Wednesday. Jill is available Monday, but not Tuesday. And the other dozen people have their own schedules to contend with. Doodle lets you suggest times, and then see which work best for everyone. It’s an invaluable planning tool.
Dropbox pioneered the personal cloud service, where all your stuff would be available no matter what device you were using. On Android, it holds its own—even against the highly integrated Google Drive. Dropbox can also act as a seamless backup for your images, automatically uploading every photo to the cloud. It even includes some light image editing tools. If you’re the type of person with lots of files already stored in Dropbox, this app is a must-have.
If you use Android, you have a Google Account, and that means you have access to the excellent Google Drive cloud storage service. With Drive, you can easily access synced files across all your devices no matter where you are. With the additional Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Photos apps from Google, Drive is the center of a productivity hub on your Android.
Microsoft Office Lens
Despite the fact that we are well into the 21st century, paper still persists in offices. But Microsoft Office Lens lets you turn physical documents into digital ones using your Android. It can even capture doodles and notes from a whiteboard. If you want portable document scanning, but aren’t keen on getting an Evernote account, this might be the solution for you.
Microsoft Word is, simply put, the alpha and omega of word processing, and one of the key apps in Microsoft Office 365. You’ll find it on every kind of computer in every kind of setting, and now it’s available for free on Android. Word plugs into Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure to keep your documents in order, but its main selling point is that this really is Word. What you make on your phone will look exactly the same on the desktop. For the worker on the go, it’s essential.
While fax machines might not be as visible as they used to be, they continue to be an important part of how companies and governments do business. Enter MyFax, the service that lets you send and receive faxes without the hassle of a fax machine or a dedicated phone line. All from your Android. You can also use this service to send and receive faxes from your email client of choice. Simple!
Nine Email and Calendar
Nine is a very reliable email client designed to work with all of your accounts. The clean interface and the optional conversation view make reading and replying to email intuitive. One of the coolest features is the ability to customize the notification actions, including an incredibly useful “Mark as read” option. It isn’t cheap, but it’s only a one-time $14.99 charge for a much-improved email experience that also integrates calendar, contacts, notes, and tasks functionality.
Slack has gone from the new hotness, to controversial productivity tool, to essential office tool faster than you can say “hot take.” With a familiar, instant messenger feel, it’s easy to get started with Slack. But the service became popular because of its wealth of advanced features, like customizable alerts and a Do Not Disturb function. You can even host VoIP calls through Slack with your coworkers. A free account will get you started, but a monthly fee unlocks even better search tools. And be sure to install the Giphy plugin for maximum productivity.