Best free Android apps
You’ve got an Android device, either because you didn’t want, or couldn’t afford, an iPhone – and in years past that meant you had to live with substandard apps. Thankfully, those days are well and truly over, with reams of great little programs standing toe to toe with the best Apple’s App Store has to offer.
Admittedly, the huge quantity of apps doesn’t mean they’re all quality – far from it in fact. To make sure you never install a duff app here’s our selection of the best you should install right now – each one carefully chosen to ensure you’ll have a whole suite of fun, engaging and, dammit, useful apps on your phone or tablet.
New this week: Spaces
Google seems to be taking a strength in numbers approach to messaging apps, so joining Hangouts, Messenger and the soon to be launched Allo and Duo we have Spaces.
Essentially Spaces is for group conversations, but it’s as much about sharing as talking, because you can easily drop links, pictures and videos too, using Chrome and YouTube, both of which are built into the app.
With that in mind each of your spaces is likely to have a specific theme or purpose, rather than just be used for general chatter. Whether you’re planning a group holiday or just dedicating a space to sharing the latest funny memes, Spaces is a good way to do it.
Each post can be commented on by members of the space, which means conversations are split up into mini discussions around each post, so it’s easy to skim through if you’re looking for something or have no interest in a specific post. With built in search tools you can easily find long lost posts too.
New this week: Android Pay
After a lengthy stint in the US, Android Pay is now available in the UK too and by working on all contactless payment machines with any NFC-enabled Android 4.4 or above device it’s open to a huge amount of people.
Paying with your phone is fast, convenient and secure, as it’s contactless and your card number isn’t shared during the transaction.
You can store all of your credit and debit cards on it, along with gift cards, so you almost won’t need a wallet any more.
There are a handful of banks that don’t yet support Android Pay, but assuming yours isn’t one of them there’s little reason not to at least give it a try.
Ever wanted to feel like a hotshot Wall Street trader but not been sure where to start? Well, Bux might be just what you’ve been looking for.
It distils the whole process of playing with stocks, currencies, commodities and indices into a handful of simple screens, with easily digestible information.
And playing is the key word, because you don’t have to risk any of your actual money. Instead, you can use ‘FunBux’ to make investments and trades. Not only is this good for learning the ropes but it’s surprisingly fun in its own right, though when you make a big profit you’ll be kicking yourself for not investing real money.
When you feel ready though you can do exactly that, and with alerts for when stocks rise or fall a certain amount you don’t have to watch the market all day. It’s quite possibly the most entertaining take on the stock market since 1987’s Wall Street and far lower stakes than getting tangled up with a real life Gordon Gekko.
We’re always on the lookout for new launchers, especially those which are a bit different and Lens Launcher is certainly that.
Where most Android phones give you four or five rows of apps spread across a number of home screens, Lens Launcher puts all your apps on a single screen.
It does this regardless of the size of your screen or the number of apps you have, by shrinking the icons down as much as necessary- though you have some control over the amount of shrinkage from it’s settings screen. Then you can just tap an app to launch it as normal.
You might think they’d be hard to find laid out like that, but as they’re listed alphabetically you can quickly home in on the approximate area.
But sometimes you will need more fine control and Lens Launcher has a novel solution there too, as its second trick is a graphical fisheye lens, which you access when you start swiping around the screen. This gives you a zoomed in, distorted view of your apps which you can pan around.
It’s a neat visual trick and ensures that even if there are hundreds of apps onscreen it’s never overwhelming.
If the camera app on your phone isn’t doing the trick there are no shortage of alternatives on Google Play, but many of them suffer from bloated interfaces and gimmicky features. Footej Camera avoids all of that and the majority of its features are free too.
All you get when you boot it up is a viewfinder, with a few small icons along the right edge (or the top if held in landscape) and a big shutter button below. So the interface is simple and the shutter button is easy to hit, while tap to focus ensures the image will come out how you’d planned.
Dive a little deeper and you can tweak the exposure and white balance, turn on grid lines or a timer, switch to the front facing camera or video and even make use of a basic built-in gallery, which houses everything you’ve shot using Footej (which, admittedly, might annoy some who use the camera as a way of getting to all their photos).
But, importantly, all of these things are intuitive to use and out of the way enough that they don’t detract from the core experience of taking photos.
As part of Facebook’s ongoing attempt to bleed into every part of our lives it’s launched an app called Moments, which is designed to make it easier to share photos with friends, especially those that you snapped of them.
It does this by automatically grouping them together into ‘Moments’, based on when they were taken and who was in them and then in a few taps you can share them with a group of friends.
Anyone you’ve shared a Moment with can add their own photos to it, so you can build albums as a group and make sure you have every shot from that night out, to hopefully piece together what happened between leaving the house and waking up in Spain.
Your photos can of course be shared on Facebook, but it also works with Instagram and shots from other people can be saved onto your phone’s camera roll, so it’s not totally reliant on the all-encompassing social network.
Social media is heavily manufactured, with most people carefully selecting and editing the moments they share, to paint a picture of a life that’s often far from real, but Beme aims to bring some authenticity back.
The app allows users to record short video clips using either the front or rear camera and then share them with friends and the wider world. So far so normal, except with Beme the screen goes black so you can’t see what you’re shooting and the footage is automatically and instantly uploaded when you stop recording.
There’s no opportunity to edit, add filters or even confirm that you actually want to share it. It’s not a truly unfiltered view of life, as you can still delete your clips and of course you’re still choosing when to start shooting, but it’s a step in a more honest direction.
Beyond its novel take on media sharing Beme has many of the features you’d expect, including the ability to find and follow other users and in a further attempt to keep things honest the option to ‘react’ to their videos with a short clip of your own face as you watch.
Sesame Lock Screen
With Sesame Lock Screen you might never need to venture into the app drawer again, as it has all the same features and more stuck to your lock screen.
As with the app drawer you can scroll through or search for specific apps, but it also adds contacts into the mix as well as connecting to the likes of YouTube and Spotify, so you can search for specific songs and playlists.
It even features a kind of ‘live widget’ functionality, where you can hook it up to apps like Uber or Lyft and see live car availability without having to launch their apps.
But Sesame is smart as well, learning what apps you use the most and putting them at the top of the list, so the longer you have it for the less searching is likely to be required and it’s never far away.
You can stick Sesame Lock Screen either on your lock screen (while leaving any security settings intact), or get to it with a long press of the home button from anywhere on your phone to add a little extra sauce to your Android experience.
Quik – Free Video Editor
The Google Play store is full of powerful video editors, but Quik isn’t one of them. That’s not to say it isn’t worth your time though, just that it won’t take up very much of it.
You simply pick out clips or images from your gallery and Quik will automatically add music and transitions.
It can automatically detect faces and colours, so it usually does a good job of framing photos on its own and it cycles through your images and clips in time to the music, so with a few taps you can come away with a competent creation.
But if you want to take more control you can. You can choose from 24 different video styles and dozens of tracks, or add your own music. You can add titles and text overlays, re-order the clips, choose at what point the music should start, change the pace and set the orientation.
That’s all handled through a simple, colourful interface with just a handful of screens and menus, making it as quick as the name suggests.
Cover Lock Screen
Cover Lock Screen makes your lock screen more than just a fancy clock, by populating the left or right edge with apps, so you can launch them without first heading to the home screen.
These aren’t just random apps though, as they’re context sensitive. That means, based on whether you’re at home, at work, out or in the car, Cover Lock Screen will learn what you use where, so they’re usually the apps you’ll want to see.
CLS is one of the better thought-out lock screen apps, with useful features like the ability to hide any apps that you don’t want displayed on your phone and have different wallpapers for different locations.
It also stands out by looking good and uncluttered, as the apps only lie at one side of the screen, so there’s still plenty of room for the clock and wallpaper to shine through.
There’s no shortage of apps that promise to speed up your smartphone or clear up space on it, but Boost+ stands out in a few ways.
For one thing it comes from HTC, so it’s got the backing of a big brand. As such it’s also suitably polished, with a clean, colourful interface that’s easy to navigate and shows you the state of your phone’s storage and memory at a glance.
Head beyond the main screen and there are options to clear out any temporary files to claw space back on your device and find the apps you never use, so you can delete them and get even more MBs.
Boost+ can also be used to free up memory in order to speed your phone up and save battery life, which you can do either as and when you feel like it or set the app to run clean-up duty automatically.
Finally, for some reason, it also lets you lock other apps. That in itself is a useful feature, but feels somewhat unrelated to its core functionality – but hey, privacy is privacy, right?
There are numerous apps to help you learn foreign languages, but Vocabulary Builder aims to strengthen your English skills.
It does this by testing you on the meaning of 1200 words, with definitions, example sentences and audio pronunciations provided for each.
You can work your way through different sections, unlocking new words to learn as you go and the word choices are tricky enough that you’re sure to come across a number of new ones, especially in the advanced sections.
To make things a bit more interesting there’s also a competitive element, allowing you to face off against another user to see which of you knows the most definitions in a twenty question test.
Animatic by Inkboard
If you’ve ever made or used a flip book then you’ll be right at home with Animatic, because that’s what is is, but in digital form.
You use a basic selection of pens, pencils and other drawing tools to create an image, then vary it slightly across multiple frames. For example, changing the position of someone’s legs in each picture, so that once you flip through it you get a basic animation with a sense of movement.
Since this is an app and not a book the flipping is handled by the software, you just pick the speed and then export it as a video or a GIF which you can share on social media or through other apps. Art skills very much not included.
In an alternate universe all the content on this website is just GIFs. Rather than reading this you’re looking at a looping animation of a cat falling in a pool, which explains everything you need to know about GIPHY in a way words just can’t.
But back in this world you’ll just have to trust us that if you’ve ever used or laughed at a GIF then GIPHY is worth downloading. It features the world’s largest library of moving pictures, sorted across various categories, which, along with a search tool, makes it easy to find the perfect one for any situation.
Browsing is fun, but the real appeal of GIPHY is being able to easily share your findings in emails, messages and social media, breathing new life into your reactions and greetings.
Call Recorder – ACR
With Call Recorder – ACR the days of having a pen and paper to hand to write down important information mid-call are over.
The app will record your calls for you, as you can probably guess from the name, and it records both sides of the conversation, so you won’t just be listening to the soothing tones of your own voice.
If you regularly find yourself scrambling for a pen you can set it to start recording every call automatically, but if you want to be a bit pickier that’s easy to do too, with various filters or the option to just start recording manually.
Add in a range of different recording formats, support for cloud storage and a simple system for playing back recordings, which allows you to pause and jump around to different points in them, and Call Recorder – ACR is a full-featured solution. Just remember to tell people you’re recording to stay legal and all that.
Periscope, Twitter’s live video streaming app, has made its way to Android and it’s an essential download for anyone who likes the immediacy of Twitter but craves something more visual.
You can easily create your own live streams or watch other people’s, send comments and hearts in real time and if you miss the action there’s a 24 hour window with which to replay streams.
There are a few other tools, like being able to cherry-pick who can see your broadcast or just send it out to the world at large. But in short it’s simple enough to dive straight into but has enough to it that you’ll keep coming back, whether you’re more creator or viewer.
WhatsApp is one of the most essential apps you can install on your Android device, especially if you have friends and family across the world.
Rather than using up your SMS allowance by sending text messages, WhatsApp lets you send messages over any Wi-Fi or mobile data connection instead. You can also send and receive photos with no size restrictions, send videos, make calls and have group chats. Best of all, if you’re using Wi-Fi (or you have unlimited mobile data) none of this will cost you anything.
Similar to Netflix, Spotify has been pretty quick to establish itself as the top music streaming service, and the Spotify Music app brings some great features to your Android device, turning it in to a pocket jukebox that delivers your favourite tunes no matter where you are.
There are over 30 million songs to choose from, so you’ll never be lacking something to listen to and with various playlists, including an ever changing one tailored to your own tastes, it’s easy to discover new music too.
Even better you can now listen to Spotify music for free on Android, although if you want to download songs for offline listening and without any ads, then a Spotify Premium account is worth investing in.
Evernote is an excellent app for your Android device that lets you stash and sync all your text notes, voice memos and files on your phone and access them through a desktop computer.
It’s a brilliant productivity tool that lets you organise and search your notes so you always have exactly what you need at your fingertips.
The paid premium version unlocks offline access and passcode protection, but for free you still get a vast, feature-packed digitial notebook that’s easy to navigate.
For the most part, social media is fleeting, but Timehop is all about digging up precious memories from the past. You link it to whatever social media services you frequent (and your on-device photos) and it shows you what was happening years ago on today’s date.
Inevitably many of the memories will be mundane, but mixed in with them there’ll be key moments from your life and good days you’d almost forgotten. If you don’t have a photographic memory Timehop’s ability to keep the past current makes it more than worth the download.
Boost your productivity with Pushbullet, which lets you view your Android phone’s notifications and messages directly on your desktop PC. It means if you get a text message you can read it there and then without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.
You can also quickly send files from your computer to your phone with only a few clicks, and if you regularly find that you email links to yourself just to open them on your smartphone, then you’ll never have to do that again thanks to Pushbullet’s link sharing features.
Snapseed is Google’s own photo editor that’s been designed from the ground up to make tweaking your snaps as easy and fun as possible on a touchscreen Android device.
Although the interface is simple enough to use with just your fingers, there’s also a lot of depth to this app as well. You use tools to tweak and enhance your photographs to make them look the best they ever have, as well as playing around with fun filters that can transform the photos you’ve taken on your smartphone or tablet.
Instagram is the go-to app for quickly taking photos, adding quirky filters to them and sharing them with the world. Over 300 million people use Instagram and thanks to the social aspects and effortless interface it’s easy to see why it’s such a hit.
You’re not limited to sharing your snaps on Instagram either, as you can easily add your photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more with just a few taps.
Or if you’re not much of a photographer just follow other people and keep up to date with their lives and adventures, one picture at a time.
There are probably hundreds of photo apps around, but Google Photos stands out as it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos, all for free.
That’s reason enough to jump on board, especially as it works not just on Android but on iOS and computers too.
But with basic editing tools and the ability to make collages and albums this is more than just photo and video storage, it aims to be your first and last stop after taking a picture. To achieve that it will need a few more features, but it’s well on its way.
If you’re serious about running or cycling then you should be serious about Strava. As smartphone fitness tools go it’s one of the best, allowing you to track your performance, set goals and see daily progress updates.
There are leaderboards and challenges to give it a competitive edge and if you’re ever not sure where to run or cycle you can find user created routes on the app, or share your own. All of that comes free of charge, while a premium version adds even more tools.
Even in 2015 there are still times and places where we can’t get an internet connection, but this doesn’t have to mean you can’t read websites, however, thanks to the excellent Pocket app. It allows you to save articles, news stories, blog posts, videos and much more, letting you read and watch them offline.
You can also synchronise your saved articles across every device you’ve installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading. With unlimited storage you can build up a whole library of content and the app even makes recommendations of new things it thinks you might like.
Uber is transforming the way we travel. You can quickly and easily request a taxi using the app and get picked up within minutes. You can also compare rates and get quotes, as well as paying with Google Wallet, PayPal or by adding your credit card to a secure Uber account.
The Uber service is available in over 50 countries, and it’s rapidly growing. Give it a try and you’ll never want to hail a taxi the old fashioned way again. It’s fast, convenient and a whole lot more high-tech than taxis have ever been before.
Citymapper – Bus, Tube, Rail
Arriving in a brand new city is always exciting but it can also be a little daunting, especially if you need to get around using public transport. Citymapper – Bus, Tube, Rail is a brilliant app that brings you real-time information on public transport for cities around the world.
You can easily plan your route using all kinds of transport, from buses to ferries, and you can be kept up to date with real-time data, including any disruptions or cancellations. An essential app for any city-bound traveller.
Google Maps is probably already on your phone, but as the best free mapping option around it’s well worth highlighting.
Transit directions, live traffic updates, voice-guided GPS navigation, Street View and more are all included, making this more feature-packed than even most paid options. Importantly it’s detailed and accurate too, with information on millions of places, so you’ll never be late or get lost again.
Whether you’re trying to find your way around or just want to find somewhere new to eat, Google Maps has you covered.
If you’ve used a recent Nintendo console you’ll probably be no stranger to ‘Mii’ avatars. But now, thanks to Miitomo, they’re invading your smartphone.
Despite coming from Nintendo this is no game though, instead it’s a conversational app, where the Mii you create, or import from your My Nintendo account, can communicate with the avatars of your friends.
They share information based on questions you’ve answered, so you can learn more about each other. Or learn that your friend’s favourite food is live ostrich if that’s what they decide to tell their Mii.
Miitomo also allows you to collect new outfits to customise your Mii and paste it into photos, to potentially hilarious effect. It’s obviously great for kids, but if you can convince a few friends to grab it there’s a surprising amount of fun here for adults too.
VR is far from mainstream yet, but with Google Cardboard it is at least affordable. If you’ve got yourself a Google Cardboard viewer (most of which are literally made out of cardboard and cost very little) then you’ll want to check out Cardboard Camera.
This Google app is designed to take panoramic photos, which you can then experience in VR. Images are given real depth, you can look around them as you wish and even hear sounds as they happen if recorded.
It’s a new way to experience photos which brings them to life more than ever before. You’ll look ridiculous wearing the viewer on your head in the process, but it’s worth it to relive embarrassing drunken antics in glorious VR.
A few short years ago if we’d recommended the official Twitter app as the best resource for tweeting from your Android device, we’d have been laughed off the internet.
However a lot of work has since been put into the official app to help it compete and even surpass third party offerings. New features such as being able to embed tweets within tweets for some sort of tweetception shenanigans, as well as uploading GIFs, are all very welcome.
These new features plus a streamlined interface, a lack of superfluous features some of its competitor apps contain and no ads makes this the best app for firing off a quick tweet.
VLC for Android
It might not be quite as glamorous as other media players, but if you want a no-nonsense app that can play pretty much any media file under the sun, then VLC for Android is the app for you.
It spent a long time in beta, but it now delivers a stable, full-featured experience, complete with support for subtitles, multi-track audio, DVD ISOs and network streams.
That’s all packaged in an easy to use player, with widgets and gesture controls. So you don’t need to worry about getting your media to work, you just need to launch VLC and press play. The app will do the rest.
Imgur is an internet sensation and it’s even more at home on mobile than desktop. With the Imgur app you have instant access to millions of user-uploaded images and GIFs, most of which are funny or cute and some of which are just downright weird.
You can browse different categories, up or down vote posts, save your favourites, leave comments and even upload your own images.
There’s not much more to it than that, but it’s a formidable procrastination tool. One minute you’re looking at some cool digital art, then before you know it two hours have passed and you’re knee deep in owl GIFs. As the app description itself warns: ‘time has been known to quicken in this realm’.
Dropbox is probably the best known tool for syncing and sharing your files, photos and videos across all your devices, and its popularity is well earned. Any files that you save to your Dropbox folder on any of your PCs or devices will appear in the Dropbox app.
It took a while for Dropbox to come to Android, and after a shaky start this app is now essential with a number of helpful new features that let you save photos and videos from your device straight to Dropbox. As well as quickly editing your documents from within the app and easily sharing them with other people, or just keeping them safely backed up.
Android allows you to change your ringtones and notification sounds, but unless you’re happy with the selection that comes with your phone you’ll have to get some more onto it, which can be a bit of a pain.
Zedge makes this easy, with a huge library of free ones that you can browse, sample and download. So you can change your ringtone to a dog barking in mere seconds. Or, you know, set it to something good. It also does wallpapers and even icons, allowing you to completely change the look and sound scheme of your handset. It suffers from sometimes intrusive adds, but it’s free and full of content.
If you enjoy watching games as much as playing them you might want to check out YouTube Gaming. The app includes videos and livestreams, covering reviews, speed runs, let’s plays, trailers and more, from both gamers and publishers.
You can chat and comment while watching videos and the app is easy to navigate, with dedicated pages for every game, plus various video categories and the ability to save your favourite games and channels. It’s the next best thing to actually playing a game and it’s a whole lot cheaper.
Recordr is a simple app, as all it really does is record audio using your phone. But it does that one thing well. You can set up multiple custom profiles, choosing the recording quality and output format, as well as other handy options like whether to remove echoes and skip silences.
You can also choose to save recordings to external storage or even upload them straight to Google Drive. For some reason it even gives you a bunch of different themes to choose from, so you can change the look of an app you’ll hardly be looking at.
But if all you want to do is record that couldn’t be simpler. Just hit the big record button on the main screen and start talking or listening. You can pause or end the recording just as easily.
IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for "if this then that" and handily sums up what this app does. It’s a simple ethos that gives you a huge amount of options for making your Android device even smarter.
You can create simple statements such as "if any photo is taken then add them to Dropbox", or "if my location is home, send a text message to my partner saying "I’m home!"" which can also be shared with other IF users. You’ll be amazed how much you can do with such a simple premise.
One of the best things about Android is how customisable it is, and there are loads of apps out there that can help you change the way Android displays and launches apps to suit your preferences.
Out of these Nova Launcher is arguably the best, giving you complete control over your home screen. You can change the icons, themes, colours and layout, completely hide apps that you don’t use, set up gesture controls and add funky affects when navigating your phone.
It might sound bloated but you can use as many or as few of these features as you want, so if you want to keep your Android experience slick and minimalist Nova Launcher can do that too.
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Skype, the excellent voice and video service (with instant messaging thrown in for good measure as well). The Android app integrates brilliantly with your device, making it easy to make and receive calls.
Calls to other Skype users over Wi-Fi are free, but you can also make calls to mobiles and landlines as well. You’ll need Skype credit for this, but you could find yourself saving a small fortune, especially if you’re ringing people in other countries.
If you’re anything like us your scanner is probably boxed up at the back of the shed, where it’s been reclaimed by the elements. But, with a smartphone no-one really needs a scanner any more anyway.
Just download Tiny Scanner and you can use your phone’s camera to snap a picture of any documents, then use the app’s tools to crop them and scan them, so they look less like a photo and more like a traditional scan.
You can change the contrast, scan things in colour, grayscale or black and white and save the results as a PDF or image. So the gremlins at the bottom of the garden can keep your rotten scanner, which still leaks out ink every time you touch it.
If you’re more into the spoken word than music then you’re going to want one good podcast player on your phone and Podcast Addict is among the best, made all the better by the fact that most of its many features are free.
The interface can take some getting used to, but once you do this is a powerful and flexible player, with Chromecast and Android Wear support, widgets, the ability to download or stream content, a car-optimised layout and just but every other feature you might want. Binging on Serial has never been better.
Google Fit is an excellent app for keeping track of your activity and you don’t need any additional fitness trackers; you can just carry your Android phone around with you. If you do have Android Wear-compatible fitness trackers and wearables, then Google Fit gets even better, as it can gather data from them, displaying it all in one place.
Fitness goals for dailys step counts, calories burned, or time or distance of exercise can also be set to help you reach the level of fitness you desire, as well as keeping you motivated.
Map My Fitness Workout Trainer
Map My Fitness Workout Trainer is another great app for keeping tabs on your workout regime. As the name suggests it uses the GPS positioning features of your Android smartphone to log your runs, letting you get an accurate look at your workout regime.
Voice feedback will keep you in the loop even when you’re in the process of working out, giving you information on your pace, the route you’re taking, calories burned and plenty more.
Get friends involved too and you can view each other’s activity, helping you keep each other motivated and take part in a little friendly competition.
Boomerang from Instagram
Think Instagram and you probably think photos, but the company is branching out into videos, or at least a series of photos combined into a short GIF-like clip which loops backwards and forwards endlessly.
Rather than pollute the main Instagram app with this feature the company has launched a new app called Boomerang. You can share your creations on Instagram or other social networks with a tap though, so it’s not totally separate.
If you’re addicted to Instagram Boomerang is a nice way to keep it fresh, but even if you’re not an Instagram fan it’s worth a look. You don’t need an Instagram account and it’s a bit more interesting than just snapping static images.
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free
If you fancy learning a foreign language then make sure you download Duolingo: Learn Languages Free, as it’s one of those rare apps that manages to be both educational and fun, ensuring that you’ll keep coming back for more to brush up on your language skills, with bite-sized, genuinely useful lessons and tests.
Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and English can all be learned, it’s completely free with no ads or hidden fees and it’s one of the best ways you can learn a new language with your Android device.
TapDeck – Wallpaper Magazine
TapDeck both keeps you informed and keeps your wallpaper fresh, by making your phone’s background a carousel of images from the latest news stories.
If you want to know the story behind an image you can do a two-finger swipe to dive in, or if you want a new image you can double tap to change it.
Having a news aggregator take over your wallpaper doesn’t mean you have to be bombarded with pictures of death and destruction though, as you can customise it to show you art, technology and travel stories among other things.
Get it set up to your liking and you’ll always have something new and interesting to look at on your home screen. But perhaps more importantly, you’ll be kept up to date about the things you care about, without having to put any effort in.
Microsoft Office? On Android? Don’t worry, you have read that right; Microsoft’s suite of office applications is now available on Android devices and not only is it free, it’s also really rather good.
Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all included, so you can open and edit your documents no matter where you are.If you’re using a phone you might find the screen is a bit small to do much more than read your documents, but on larger screens this comes into its own and it’s one of the best office suites available for Android.
Given the limited storage available on most phones coupled with the wide availability of internet connections cloud storage is a great fit, and on Android there’s no more natural partner than Google Drive.
You can view all the files you save to the Google Drive cloud storage service, as well as share them with friends and co-workers. You can even edit them from Google Drive itself and use your camera to scan paper documents straight into your cloud storage.
PDFs, photos, videos and much more can be accessed through this handy app.
If you need to quickly and easily find out what something means in another language, then there’s no better way than with Google Translate. You can translate between 90 languages and even converse naturally with speakers of other languages and let Google do the translation.
One of the best features lets you use the camera of your Android device to translate real-world objects such as signposts and posters. Just point, shoot and translate! Couple this with Google Maps and you’ve got all you need to travel the world.
If you want to keep your various accounts and logins secure then it makes sense to have a strong, unique and regularly changed password for each. But unless you have a photographic memory that also means you’ll be hitting the password reset button roughly 6000 times a day.
That’s not ideal and it’s where password managers, such as 1Password, come in. This gives you an online database of all your passwords and automatically fills in login fields, so the only password you need to remember is the one for 1Password itself.
Except now you don’t even need to do that, as the app has added fingerprint support for devices running Android Marshmallow.
1Password is securely encrypted, so your logins are safe and it works across Android, iOS, PC and Mac. The core app is free but to unlock all the features you will need to make a one time in-app purchase.
Arts and Culture
If you have even a passing interesting in, well, arts or culture, then Arts and Culture is an essential app. It has an almost overwhelming amount of content from paintings, to sculptures and historical artefacts, all of which have been photographed in high quality.
They all have text accompanying them too, so you can get insight into what you’re looking at. Or you can dive deeper and go on panoramic tours of museums around the world.
It’s the sort of app that it’s easy to lose hours to, with each image leading to other related ones and a homepage stuffed with ever changing featured content.
It’s a shame there’s no way to save your favourites for easy access later, but you can at least share them on social networks if you think your friends might be interested, or you just want to look cultured.
If you’ve got a huge list of websites and news sources that you like to keep up to date with, then you’ll need to get Feedly. This excellent RSS feed reader collects all the latest news from your favourite sources and brings them together in an elegant interface that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
As the internet’s all about sharing you can also easily spread the stories you read to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and more from the Feedly app.
Amazon’s Kindle app is a great e-reader, which is seamlessly linked with your Amazon account. Support for magazines and newspapers is limited at the moment, with only a handful of niche publications in Android-friendly format.
But for books it’s great, with plenty of screen and text display options to get it looking a way that hurts your eyes the least. Another exciting new way to collect classic novels you’ll probably never get around to reading because there’s the internet now.
If you’ve been getting edge-envy at the sight of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge then Swipedge could be the answer, or at least the closest thing to an answer that doesn’t involve shelling out hundreds on a new phone.
No, it won’t magically curve your screen, but it will give you access to some of the same features as the edge display.
Swipedge puts a bar on the edge of your screen, similar to the one on Samsung’s curved phones and wiping your finger inwards from it will bring up shortcuts to apps of your choosing, along with the ability to change the volume of any media that’s playing.
It’s a little rough around the edges at the moment and not as full-featured as Samsung’s offering, but that’s forgiveable given that it’s still in beta.
The important thing is that it works, even if your screen is as flat as a table. It’s also quite customisable, allowing you to change the size, position, colour and transparency of the bar, or hide it altogether with an upwards swipe.
Tinder is the dating app that’s taken the world by storm, and it’s easy to see why as it lets you view and connect with people nearby, and its simple interface could net you a match made in heaven.
All you need to do is swipe through the photos of people who are using the app nearby and if you like the look of someone swipe right and if not swipe left. If someone likes you back, you’ll be put in contact with them through the app. It’s also compatible with Android Wear devices.
PayPal prides itself on being an easy, secure way to send and receive money and that’s never been more true than in its app.
The Android app has been overhauled to make it as fast and intuitive to use as possible. The main page puts icons for sending and receiving money front and centre and to do so you just tap on one and select one of your contacts, or enter their email or phone number. From there it’s just a few more taps to have it sent or requested.
There are other tools if you need them, including the ability to change your account details, change your currency and even pay for things in store using the app and they’re all easy to navigate as well.
It’s all wrapped up in an incredibly stylish interface and secured with a password or fingerprint, so if someone gets access to your phone they don’t automatically get access to your PayPal account.
Issuu is like Netflix for magazines. Except it’s free. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. The only real catch is that a lot of the magazines are old issues, but with over 25 thousand of them and more added every day you shouldn’t feel lacking for things to read.
Categories include fashion, gaming, business, design, photography and many more, with publications from all around the world, all gorgeously presented and easy to navigate.
As you start reading the app will also start recommending other content that it thinks you might like, so discovering new things is easy too.
Depending on your tastes the (often) old content can be a bit of a downer (who really wants to read a review of a film that came out last year?) But if you stick to things like photography and art, or have a nose through old interviews, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Most people are probably content with just having one account on any given app or service. But whether you’re a secret agent or just like keeping different groups and aspects of your life completely separate there are times when you might want multiple accounts.
Sadly, most apps don’t make this easy, usually forcing you to log out with one before logging in with another. But Parallel Space bypasses that, letting you run apps independently from within it and keep a second account logged in.
That can be useful if you want different Skype or cloud storage accounts for work and friends for example.
Actually using Parallel Space is slick and simple. The main screen shows all the apps you have secondary accounts for and you just tap to launch that account and use the app as normal.
Creating a second account for an app is just as simple, launching it from within Parallel Space and loggin in with a different account.
There’s a particularly great reason to have the Amazon Appstore on your phone or tablet – free stuff. Amazon is enticing users to stick its alternate Android app store on their devices with the promise of a free app every day, with some classics like Sega’s ChucChu Rocket and World of Goo featuring as previous daily freebies.
The catch is these are unsupported releases, meaning no updates or fixes in the future, but you can’t moan too much about getting some ace freebies every day.
Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal
Counting your calories is a sure fire way to lose weight, but it’s a bit of a faff isn’t it? The Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal app makes watching what you eat easier than ever. A huge database of food is at hand to help you log your meals, and an excellent barcode scanner makes it simple to log your food throughout the day.
Along with calories, the nutritional information of various food and snacks is recorded and you can set goals to help you keep you on track, making it a whole lot easier to choose a clementine over a chocolate bar.
Vine, the movie-making sensation, took a little while to appear on Android, then took a while for the numerous bugs to disappear – but now it’s all good. It’s a simple recording/stop-motion/animation tool, letting you shoot live video on your phone and share it via social networks.
If you’re really lucky your video might go viral and make you the next big internet star, though you might need to do more than just film your cat for that to happen.
The app is also the best way of browsing Vines from others, as the categories and pages mean you can leaf through it like telly, favouriting users.
The world is full of almost unbelievable facts and Daily Curiosity aims to dig out five of the most interesting ones each and every day.
Videos, infographics and key facts give you a variety of ways to take in the information and it’s information that’s worth taking in. Did you know for example that being in cold weather doesn’t increase your chances of getting sick? Or that there are five dwarf planets in the solar system? If you had Daily Curiosity you’d be reeling out those fun facts at parties at will – although whether you’re invited to the next one is another story.
If five daily facts aren’t enough for you it’s possible to scroll back through past content with a swipe, until you get your fill of facts and trivia.
Just don’t become a know-it-all. No-one likes a know-it-all.
Prey Anti Theft
If you’ve just dropped hundreds of pounds/dollars/kwachas on a new smartphone you’ll probably want to protect your investment and Prey Anti Theft helps you do that.
If your phone is lost or stolen you can use your Prey account to find it on a map, take pictures using the front or rear camera, remotely lock it, remotely trigger an alarm even if it’s on silent or display a tailored message on the screen.
That’s all 100% free of charge, but if you upgrade to a pro account you get advanced features like having information sent with SSL encryption.
Endomondo – Running & Walking
Endomondo – Running & Walking bills itself as the only personal trainer you’ll ever need, and it’s a pretty darn accurate claim. No matter what sports or fitness activity you perform, this app will track your progress and give you information on speed, distance, calories burnt and more.
You can keep a training diary to view your progress and set workout goals and challenges to help keep you motivated. Plus social features allow you to share and compete with your friends.
While Endomondo works well on its own it can also be linked up to other apps and wearables, so you can get a complete picture of your progress.
Johnson and Johnson 7 Minute Workout
Finding time in our lives to exercise can be tough, but the Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout can help you fit exercises into even the most hectic of schedules.
The official app of the scientifically proven body-weight workout is designed for all fitness levels and contains over 30 minutes of special videos to help you get fit with a seven minute routine that only needs a wall, chair and a bit of floor space. So not only do you need very little time, but also very little space or equipment. Secretly we hate this app, as it’s killed most of our excuses for being lazy.
Try as you might, there’s very little you can do to avoid Facebook, but thankfully the Facebook app for Android has gone through a number of revisions to make using the social networking website on your Android device easier than ever.
The app is fast and stable, with a simplicity that reminds you of the good old days when using Facebook used to be bearable, though we’re a little annoyed that Facebook has siphoned off its messaging service to its own standalone Messenger app, which you might also want to download.
Amazon Music is a clever little app; tracks that are bought from the retail giant are automatically stored within the company’s "cloud" servers, from where you can instantly stream them back to your Android device. If you’re a Prime member you’ll also get access to over a million streamed songs.
You can buy MP3 tracks direct from Amazon’s website, but if you bought any CDs that have the AutoRip feature, Amazon will automatically include MP3s of the albums in your collection. For building, managing and streaming a legit Amazon music catalogue the Amazon Music app is a great, stylish option.
If you need to talk to member of your team remotely, Google Hangouts is an excellent messaging app that will help you keep in contact through video calls, text messages, photos, GIFs and much more.
Free group calls are great for virtual meetings, and you can connect your Google Voice account for phone number, SMS and voicemail integration. Of course it’s not just a great productivity tool, it’s also perfect for keeping in contact with friends and family as well and it works across Android, iOS and the web, so everyone can use it.
Tumblr, the next-gen blogging format, is present and correct on Android with its custom app coming with support for the multiple blogs of prolific internet kings, built-in messaging, the usual range of text, image and video sharing, plus there’s a really nice landscape layout when using it on a tablet.
All you need is an idea. Photos of biscuits on cats? Fish fingers on a gerbil? Depressing lines of dialogue from your favourite soap? With millions of users there’s bound to be an audience for it too.
The official Wikipedia Android app is very nice to use, presenting a simplified version of the desktop site’s content, plus an ever-useful offline saving option if you need access to pages when out of reception range.
You also get location aware features, making it easy to randomly browse for interesting things in your vicinity and if you’re not in the mood for reading you can just swipe through image galleries.
Skyscanner – All Flights!
Compare millions of flights from airlines around the world with the Skyscanner app and grab yourself a real bargain.
In only a few seconds you’ll be able search and compare flights to find the cheapest ones available, or look for the best deals on specific airlines or cabin classes.
You can book your chosen flight directly from the app while you’re on the go. You can also search for random destinations to give you inspiration for your next holiday.
theScore – Sports & Scores
If you’re a sports fanatic and need to keep up with the results no matter what sport or team you support, then theScore is an essential app that you’ll want to make sure is installed on your Android device.
Covering all the major sports including football (both real and American), basketball, hockey, golf and much more, you’ll get the latest news and alerts to keep you up to date with any game. Player Card Profiles is a particularly great feature that gives you in-depth stats and analysis of players.
Guides by Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet has long made informative, expert guides for travellers and now it’s got a smart update, with Guides by Lonely Planet bringing its expertise to Android.
The app has guides to 37 different cities across the world, covering everything from New York to Kyoto and Lonely Planet promising that more will be added over time.
Within each guide you’ll find the best sights, hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and more, all sorted by category.
There’s a detailed description of each, complete with a map, opening times and prices. Plus, there’s a currency converter for each country and a guide to tipping etiquette and costs, so you can arrive prepared.
Any locations you’re interested in can be downloaded or saved to your favourites for easy access later and the whole app is great-looking, with high quality photographs and a simple layout.
Flickr is an essential app for backing up all of your photos to the internet, and with 1000GB of free storage included even the most prolific snappers will have plenty of space.
You can easily edit and tweak your photos and organise them into folders. Once uploaded you can then share your snaps with friends and strangers alike through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr’s own friendly community. It’s lost some ground to Instagram, but Flickr is still essential for any social snappers.
TuneIn Radio turns your Android device into a global radio, allowing you to stream over 100,000 radio stations from around the world. No matter what type of music you’re in to, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a radio station somewhere in the world that’s dedicated to that genre. It’s not just music though, there are also podcasts, sports and talk radio.
Forget messing about with knobs, TuneIn Radio’s interface is clear and easy to use on a touchscreen, and you can tune in with just a tap. You can also save your favourites, so it’s easy to get back to that Vietnamese comedy broadcast you discovered at 3AM.
There are a number of homescreen replacements for Android, but Scout Launcher is a new kid on the block and a little different to its rivals. While the majority of launchers stick pretty close to stock Android, albeit with tweaks and additions of their own, Scout Launcher looks and feels altogether different.
It’s a contextual launcher which learns as you use it, grouping apps together into categories, prioritising your notifications and giving you personalised cards with the news, weather and calendar events. It takes a certain amount of control away, but if you trust it to manage your homescreen layout it can prove surprisingly fast and organised.
If you’re a budding digital artist on the go then make sure you download Sketchbook Express, an amazingly powerful and versatile app that can turn your Android phone or tablet into a digital canvas.
This free version of the renowned Sketchbook Pro software features plenty of the tools that come with the paid application, including 15 preset brushes and multi-touch navigation.
Once you’ve finished sketching you can save your creation to your gallery, or share it straight to the community on deviantART.
WhatsApp is arguably the king of instant messaging, but if you’re concerned about security and privacy it doesn’t quite cut it. That’s where Bleep comes in. It’s a new app by the makers of BitTorrent and it’s basically WhatsApp for paranoid people.
Not only are messages fully encrypted but they’re stored locally, so no-one can pull them from the cloud. You can also ‘whisper’ messages which are deleted as soon as they’ve been read and you don’t even need to provide any personal details to register.
Google’s so proud of its Google Keep, its cross-platform note-taking tool, that it’s recently started pre-loading it as part of the core Android feature set.
It comes with a stylish widget, integrates voice dictation for those Alan Partridge moments of creative inspiration and you can attach photos and labels to your memos. Plus if you use Keep on a Chromebook it seamlessly syncs with mobile notes saved there. A great way of coordinating mobile and laptop lives.
Ever wanted to go to a gig but it’s sold out? Rather than turning up at the event and trying to buy tickets at hugely inflated prices from unscrupulous scalpers, use the Twickets app instead.
This puts fans who have missed out in touch with other fans who can’t make it to the event. Sports, comedy, musicals, cinemas, live music and much more are all covered, and the only rule is that no one can post tickets above face value, so you’ll never be ripped off.
If you’re anything like us you’re probably glued to your phone, staring at its bright screen well into the night. If you are then you may also have noticed you have trouble sleeping, as the blue light emitted by your device can keep you awake.
Twilight provides an easy fix, by adapting the display colours to the time of day, filtering the blue light after sunset and in turn helping you get to sleep before 4am. You can customise the colour profile to your liking and set it to automatically turn on and off at the appropriate times, so you don’t need to remember to.
Duolingo is the king of free language learning apps, but Memrise takes a different approach and works well in tandem with it.
It’s mostly free like Duolingo, but relies heavily on ‘mems’, which are visual cues to help you remember words and phrases. These take many forms, from funny pictures that relate to the word, to other words and sentences that sound similar.
Alongside these it has tests, games and explanations just like you’d expect and with daily goals, badges to acquire and friendly competition with other users there’s plenty to keep you motivated.
With dozens of languages to choose from plus other topics like arts and literature there’s a lot here to get stuck into. The bulk of the app is free, but you can subscribe to access more advanced lessons and extra features.
Sometimes locking your phone isn’t enough. Say you want to lend it to a friend or colleague but don’t want to risk them digging up those ill-advised photos you took in Ibiza or that Harry Potter fanfic you’ve got planned out in your notes app.
With App Lock there’s no danger of anyone getting into anything you don’t want them to, as you can use it to lock individual apps with a PIN, pattern or fingerprint.
The app itself is mostly just a long list of your other apps, with toggles for whether you want to lock them or not, so there’s not much to it, but it does what it sets out to without any bloat.
The lockscreens it presents you with look good too, with colours to match the apps they’re locking. But if you’re using a fingerprint scanner you won’t waste too much time looking at them anyway, as you’ll be swiftly in.
Google Photos is probably the best gallery app on Android, but if you don’t get on with it for any reason QuickPic Gallery is a strong alternative.
It’s a powerful app which lets you sort and display your photos in various different ways, choose which folders to include, view photos from online album services and hide or password protect any images that you don’t want just anyone looking at. All that and it’s completely free. Not bad.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has been available on Android for a while, but previously it required a paid subscription to Creative Cloud. Now it’s free, giving you all the tools you need to edit your images through an intuitive interface.
You can change the white balance, temperature, contrast, exposure and more. Reduce noise, improve clarity, add filters and effects, crop and rotate your shots. Best of all if you make a mistake you can revert to the previous version of the image with a single tap.
You’ll still need to subscribe to Creative Cloud if you want to use Lightroom on desktop, but this free version is perfect for mobile modders.
With millions of child-friendly videos, YouTube has the potential to be a digital playground for kids, the problem is there’s also a lot of unsuitable content. That’s where YouTube Kids comes in, automatically filtering unsuitable content and providing a simple, colourful interface which your child can easily navigate.
It’s slick and polished, which is no surprise coming Google. It’s not all just entertainment either, as there’s a ‘Learning’ category too, and there are parental controls, allowing you to add a timer or block certain content.
Being automated there’s a chance some unsuitable stuff will still slip through, but if you switch the search option off your child will be limited to the app’s recommendations. This still gives them a lot to watch, while completely cutting them off from the wider world of YouTube.
This one pioneered the concept of the alternative keyboard, with SwiftKey the first to offer to ‘learn’ your writing style and attempt to predict your next word. The hope being that, with practice, it’ll know what phrases you commonly use and might save you quite a bit of fuss in typing a simple message to a friend.
Rivals have sprung up but SwiftKey is still the king, with accurate predictions and a massive number of customisation options.
You used to have to pay for the app, but now you don’t have to spend a penny to give your keyboard a big boost.
Photo Editor PRO
Finding worthwhile photo editing apps amongst the identikit hordes isn’t always easy, but Photo Editor PRO is worth digging up.
It’s feature packed, with both gimmicks like stickers and frames and more useful tools to sharpen shots, adjust the lighting, change the focus, tweak the colours and more. So if the photo you’ve just taken didn’t come out quite how you hoped Photo Editor PRO might be able to fix it.
It’s also simple to use, with all the tools easy to find and control via sliders and if you make a mistake you can undo a change with a swipe.
Stagelight not only lets you create music on your smartphone, through simple and easy loop-style production, it also teaches you how to, with lessons on building a beat, recording instruments, editing audio and more.
The app includes keyboards, a drum machine, effects and thousands of sounds which you can add to your composition if you don’t fancy creating your own. That’s all free, but a built in store lets you add new sounds and features as and when you want them, making for a truly full-featured music production app.
Another app that’s been out there for a while on Android, the eBay tool has also been updated so much that it’s now a credible alternative to the desktop site.
You can list items that you want to sell direct from the app, while there’s a simple PIN system that makes paying for your winnings via PayPal much simpler and less convoluted than it is on the full blown web site. Add that to the comfort of browsing from the sofa or the bed and you might never load up the full website again.
While iOS users have been enjoying the Kickstarter app for years and years, it’s only recently arrived on Android. The long wait seems inexplicable, but at least the finished product is a top tier app.
Budding inventors and entrepreneurs will still have to head to the website to post their own projects, but for browsing and backing the app has you covered.
You can sort projects by category or key in specific search terms, then just sit back and look through whatever it turns up. Whether you fancy supporting the arts, helping a game get developed or injecting cash into a new gadget there’ll be something here for you.
As great as it is helping people achieve their dreams (and getting gifts for it) half the fun is running across ludicrous creations which will likely never get funded. Even if you don’t end up backing anything it’s a great way to pass the time – and doing that from a phone feels more ‘right’ than doing so on the computer.
Action Launcher 3
If you want complete control over the way your Android device looks and behaves, then Action Launcher 3 is a must have app.
Android Widgets can be given a new lease of life with this app, which offers a heavily customisable home screen and has been revamped with support for Android 5.0 Lollipop‘s Material Design look.
If you’ve set up home screens in other interfaces such as Nova, Google Now Launcher and TouchWiz, as well as the default Android interface, you can import all your settings so all of your favourite apps and shortcuts are exactly where you want them.
Allrecipes Dinner Spinner
Lacking inspiration for what to eat? Can’t face another frozen pizza? Then Allrecipes Dinner Spinner is the app for you.
Simply pick an ingredient, a meal type (such as snack or dinner) and a preparation time and Dinner Spinner will throw up a selection of tasty recipes which fit the bill.
Users can leave their own comments and suggestions on each recipe, so you can learn from those who’ve already made it. If you don’t want to make the dish then and there you can stick it in the app’s recipe book and even add the ingredients to a built-in shopping list with a single tap.
Microsoft Translator ensures you’ll always be understood, no matter where you go. You can get a written and spoken translation for any word or short sentence in dozens of languages and it supports both text and speech input.
There are other similar apps, but Microsoft Translator has a slick interface, Android Wear support and most importantly it works well, almost always understanding what you’re saying to it.
Love eating out but hate interacting with strangers? OpenTable can help minimise that by allowing you to make reservations through the app, rather than calling your restaurant of choice.
More importantly it’s also quick and easy, and if you’re looking for somewhere new to eat you can see all the restaurants nearby, along with reviews and their availability. Frequent diners can even collect points to help them save on future meals.
There are plenty of stylish, big-name browsers on Android. Naked Browser isn’t one of them, but what it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for by being lightweight and bloat-free.
As such it uses minimal RAM and is designed to be fast even on low-end devices. The benefits are less noticeable if you’re rocking a flagship phone, but even then if you’ve ever found your browser being slow or hogging resources Naked Browser is well worth a look.
Whether you’re looking for a place to eat, a place to stay or something to do, TripAdvisor should be your first stop. With a comprehensive listing of restaurants, bars, hotels, sights and attractions all over the world, complete with numerous reviews for most of them, you can easily see what’s worthwhile and what’s worth avoiding.
It’s easy to navigate, you can see nearby places with the Near Me Now tool and you can filter places by various categories, such as rating or price range.
Content can be downloaded for offline browsing when abroad and you can upload your own reviews straight from the app.
Snapchat is the messaging app that’s taken the world by storm, or at least taken the teen market by storm. The USP is empowering users to send photo messages that "self-destruct" after being viewed, leaving no evidence of the crime you may have just committed.
Of course, images can be screen-grabbed should someone send you a particularly well-lit image of their little chap, but that’s considered cheating and rather poor form.
Effects add to the fun and you can snap short videos as well as photos if there’s something that just needs to be seen in motion.