Best Android apps - introduction
The Google Play store has exploded in recent years, with a proliferation of apps that can cater to your every need. The problem is: there are just too many of them.
Even with Editor's Picks, Featured and Best Selling, Top Paid and Top Free categories there to help you out with your downloading decision it's still a difficult task finding the best apps around.
And that's why we made this list. Like you we want the best apps for our Android phones. The apps that are going to revolutionise functionality or, at the very least, offer something so great that it becomes one of the must-have apps that has to be downloaded whenever you get a new handset.
The following apps will be constantly updated and are a mixture of paid and free ones and have been chosen by our Android experts. So, even if you do dip into actual cash for one of these apps, you are safe in the knowledge that it is a worthwhile purchase.
Free (premium version needs a subscription)
No, wait. It is free. Sort of. Spotify now comes with a stripped-down playlist/radio combo for users who don't pay for the service but still want to use it on mobile, accompanied by a swish new tablet interface that has much more in common with the free desktop browser player. So yes, it's free. Hobbled a bit, but free.
The premium version drops the annoying adverts, ups the audio quality and provides additional features such as offline play, so it's worth splashing out for the subscription if you use the service often.
Musixmatch music & lyrics
If you're anything like us you'll be hunting out the lyrics as soon as you find a new song you like, but with Musixmatch they're already there. Whether you're listening to music stored on your device or streaming from another app like Spotify or YouTube, Musixmatch will display the lyrics over the top.
Like Shazam it can be used to identify music that's playing too, but unlike Shazam once it tags a song it will instantly start streaming the lyrics. It also works with Chromecast, so you can have lyrics appear on your TV and set up some sort of makeshift karaoke party. If you want.
DoggCatcher Podcast Player
If you're addicted to listening to podcasts on your Android device, then DoggCatcher Podcast Player is by far the best app. The clear and attractive interface makes it a cinch to manage and play your podcasts, and you can set it to automatically download new episodes, so you're never stuck for things to listen to.
What sets DoggCatcher Podcast Player apart from free podcast apps is the wealth of options and customisability. If you have a huge list of podcasts you listen to regularly, then this is the player you need.
VLC for Android
VLC for Android is an incredibly versatile media player that can handle pretty much any file that you can chuck at it, so if you've ever struggled to open and play a media file, then make sure this is installed.
It's recently got a major update which brings bug fixes and new features, such as support for DVD menus from ISO files.
TuneIn Radio Pro
If you never want to run out of things to listen to again, TuneIn Radio Pro is the app for you. It gives you access to over 100,000 radio stations from around the world, so no matter what your favourite genre is, you'll be covered.
The Pro version is pretty expensive for an app, but not only does it remove annoying ads, it brings handy features such as the ability to record shows and listen to them at any time, as well as advanced social tools for finding and sharing new music.
The idea behind Plex is that it assimilates your existing media collection and serves it up, through one standard interface, via the cloud. It's a bit of a struggle to get going as you need a free account on Plex's servers to access your stuff, but once it's all up and running it offers streaming and transcoding of files, meaning everything ought to play everywhere.
It also supports Chromecast too, so if you've bought into Google's own media-managing dream, then you're going to get a lot of use out of this app.
Running is a great way to get fit but it can also be a bit boring, which makes building up the enthusiasm to run a struggle in itself. The unique Zombies, Run! app manages to make running fun by creating an audio adventure game where you run away from zombies in a bid to rescue survivors.
As you run the story unfolds with missions asking you to reach certain distances to bring supplies for your base. Not only is the story entertaining but it makes running fun again, and you'll be getting fit without even noticing it.
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.
There's a good chance that you already have Google Fit installed on your Android device, but if not – and you're serious about getting fit – then it's definitely worth a download.
Google Fit not only tracks your activity, but it brings together information from numerous third party apps and devices to bring you a comprehensive view of your fitness so you don't have to switch from app to app to get an idea of how you're doing.
Endomondo Running Cycling Walk
The popular sports tracker covers every sport you can think of, managing to track your runs, rides, journeys, hill walks and other excursions with ease.
Endomondo Running Cycling Walk along with a premium subscription unlocks more stats and a handy terrain chart, letting you see how steep the hard parts were – and providing a useful excuse for poor performance.
A hefty price, but can you put a price on not dying of obesity at age 52? That fitness promise is what you pay for with the RunTastic Pro. It is able to map you, track you, automatically cheer you on, generate live feedback and more, also covering interval training and letting users create their own regular routes to attack again and again. Serious stuff for competitive people.
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.
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.
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 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.
Evernote is the original and the best note-taking app. It allows you save ideas for that book you are always nearly about to write, syncs across devices and you can also create to-do lists, record voice reminders and capture photos straight from the app. It's a seamless way to organise your probably very messy life.
Pretty much essential for anyone juggling a work PC, home PC, laptop, tablet, phone and internet fridge, Dropbox's key power lies in letting you access any files anywhere.
It can also automatically upload photos taken on your phone to your account, meaning that, after a bit of uploading and downloading, all your shots are *right there* on your desktop without any tedious cable connecting.
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, 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.
If you spend a lot of time at a computer and don't want to dig your phone out every time it vibrates then Pushbullet could be the app for you. Download it to your phone and get the extension for your browser and any notifications that appear on your handset will also appear on your computer screen.
So not only will your calendar reminders pop up but you'll also be able to see who's texting or calling and decide whether it's worth replying before you ever look at your phone. You can even reply to texts from your computer and you can easily mute notifications from apps which you're not interested in seeing.
But Pushbullet is a two way street, because you can also use it to easily send files and links from your computer to your phone. Just tap the icon in your browser, attach the relevant file or information and push it.
IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for "if this then that", concisely summing up what this app does. It's a simple ethos that gives you a huge amount of options for making your Android device do some pretty cool things.
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.
Skype is an excellent app for keeping in contact with friends and family throughout the world via instant messages, voice and video calls. If you're connected to a Wi-Fi network you can make calls to other Skype members absolutely free.
You can also buy Skype credit to make calls to landlines and mobile phones, and it's far cheaper to use Skype than make long distance calls on your mobile network.
If you felt a bit lost and disconnected from the News Borg when Google shut down its Reader RSS aggregator, Feedly will help. It's a more glamorous and swishy-slidy way of getting data from RSS feeds, with numerous ways of displaying site snippets and navigating through your unread pile of possibly interesting things.
Lumi: Smart News
There's so much interesting stuff on the web, but finding it can sometimes feel like swimming through an ocean of cat pictures. Lumi makes it easy and fun. It's basically like Tinder for news- a story pops up on your screen and you can then read it, swipe right to like it, in which case it will be saved to your profile, or swipe left to skip it.
As well as saving what you like for later reading the app also tailors its suggestions based on what you do and don't like and there's a social aspect too, as you can follow other users and see the stories they like.
Not only will it quickly start throwing up stories you're into, but it might also surprise you, presenting stories that you love but would never likely have found on your own.
Vine is 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.
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.
Another must-have for those who want to keep up to date with what's going on in the world in 140 characters or fewer.
Now that Twitter has put the shackles on most of its alternatives, the official app is one of the best to use, with functionality so simple anyone can use it - and seeing some of the hashtags that trend, it looks like anyone does.
Free (for the first year)
The instant messaging behemoth WhatsApp is an essential Android install, especially if you can convince the people you message most frequently to use it too.
The concept is simple - it takes over text messaging on your mobile, routing messages through any Wi-Fi connection instead. Which means no more SMS allowances, no size restrictions, plus images are sent at a decent resolution.
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.
One of those services you might as well start using because everyone's using it. The Instagram Android app took a while to appear, but is now live, looking good and offers a simple way of taking and editing your square photographs of lunch, sunsets, cats etc.
It now has fashionable effect tilt shift for making things look small. Not that that's ever something we've wanted. Quite the opposite, usually.
Layout from Instagram
If you love Instagram you'll probably love Layout. It's a much-wished-for tool, which allows you to create collages in a 1:1 aspect ratio, ready for sharing on Instagram.
But while it's an Instagram app you can also save collages to your camera roll and share them to other apps and sites, plus it's slick and simple to use, with intuitive controls and an attractive interface, making it a great collage app whether or not you use Instagram.
Google's free photo editing app Snapseed is one of the best tools you can get for your Android device to edit your photos and make them look better than ever before.
You can manually tweak your images or let Snapseed do all of the hard work with settings such as Auto Correct as well as a number of ready to use filters and effects.
Flickr is an essential app for backing up all of your photos to the internet, and with 100GB 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.
Dolphin Browser for Android
If you use the internet on your Android device a lot for research, or even for day to day browsing, then don't just settle for whatever browser comes preinstalled. Dolphin Browser for Android is an excellent alternative that brings innovative new ways to read your favourite websites.
It's fast and easy to use, so getting to your favourite websites is a piece of cake. Voice and gesture controls are included to make browsing even easier – especially if you're jotting down notes. The customisable home screen is also excellent for putting the most useful websites for study and work right where you need them.
Microsoft Office Mobile
Out of all the companies in the world, you might not have thought Microsoft would be one to release a must have Android app, but that's exactly what it has done with Microsoft Office Mobile.
It lets you view, create and edit Office documents from your mobile device, and the whole interface has been specially designed for devices with smaller screens, such as smartphones.
You're likely to already have the Google Drive app installed on your Android device, but if you don't make sure you download it as it's an incredibly useful tool.
It allows you to view all the files you've saved to the Google Drive cloud storage service, and you can share them all with friends and co-workers as well.
£2.99 ($2.99, $AU5.53)
Tasker is one of the first, and best, task managers for Android. It does it all. Turns stuff on or off depending on location, manages multiple schedules for changing phone state depending on the time of day, even letting users have their phone automatically reply to text messages if it's set to a quiet state. It's complex, vast, and you'll wonder how you lived without it.
Vivino Wine Scanner
Finding a good bottle of wine can be a minefield, especially if you don't know a Beaujolais from a Barolo, but help is at hand from Vivino.
Just use the app to take a picture of any wine label and it will come back with a description, user reviews, ratings, average prices, food pairings and more, so you know whether or not you're buying a good wine at a good price.
There's also a premium subscription service for true connoisseurs, but the free app gives you all the tools you need to pick the right bottle.
Skyscanner - All Flights!
If you're travelling by air then there's one app that you'll need on your Android device: Skyscanner - All Flights. This app has been downloaded over 30 million times and it's easy to see why as it lets you quickly view and compare deals on flights from airlines around the world.
When you plan a trip make sure you fire this app up first, as you could save yourself a pretty penny. The app also allows you to buy tickets direct from your device, and the 'everywhere' search function can give you some much needed inspiration for your next holiday.
A posh B&B listings service designed specifically around mobile app use, the selling point of Airbnb is that it personalises the hosts, so if you really want to stay in Glasgow with a cheery looking alternative lifestyle man called Dave snoring in the next room, it's ideal.
It's also a fantastic way to travel the world and save money with over 450,000 listings in 34,000 cities.
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free
Although for many English speakers it's easy enough for us to communicate with the locals when we're travelling by pointing at things and speaking LOUDLY AND SLOWLY, it's also quite nice to learn a bit of the local lingo before you leave as well, which is where Duolingo: Learn Languages Free comes in.
This excellent app makes learning a second language easy, fun and convenient, with a number of daily challenges and tests to help you learn.
If you don't have the time to learn a new language, then Google Translate will prove very useful. It can translate 90 different languages and can use your voice, keyboard and handwriting to translate.
Even better, it can also use your camera so all you need to do is point your Android device at an unintelligible sign or menu, take a photograph and Google Translate will turn the text into the language of your choice.
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 and you can be kept up to date with any disruptions or cancellations. An essential app for any city-bound traveller.
If you've got a huge collection of ebooks, then Calibre Companion is definitely worth the asking price. It helps you organise your digital library and displays all of your ebooks in an attractive interface that makes it easy to find what you're looking for.
You can add and remove ebooks via Wi-Fi to ensure you have all the books you need on your portable device. A free version is also available, but it is limited to just 20 books.
Exclusive to Nexus devices since launch, Google Now has been opened up to owners of any Android phone running version 4.1 of the OS or higher.
Install it and you get the experience that is having Google Now fill an entire Home screen, providing a permanent collection of the cards to the left of the existing Home screen setup. These useful cards include weather information, the time it will take to get home, news stories you're interested in and even where you parked your car. The more you use Google Now, the better it gets to know you and the more useful it becomes.
LastPass Password Mgr Premium
£7.77/$12/AU$15.43 a year
If you've got different passwords for different online accounts (and you should) it can sometimes be a difficult and frustrating experience to remember them all when you want to log in. One way of beating this is to have the same password for every account, but that is far from secure.
A much better way is to use LastPass Password Mgr Premium to manage all of your passwords. It makes signing in a piece of cake, while also remaining completely secure. You can also quickly populate forms automatically and check just how secure your passwords are with the LastPass Security Challenge.
Yeah yeah, so iPhone owners get Apple Pay. Big whoop. If you've got an Android device, then you'll want to use Google Wallet which has been doing a lot of what Apple Pay promises for a lot longer.
You can pay using your Android device with Tap and Pay using compatible devices, and you can send and receive money quickly and easily. Best of all it's completely secure with 24 hours a day fraud monitoring and the Google Wallet Fraud Protection Guarantee.
Describes itself as a 'pro' DJ app for people who enjoy nodding along and pumping their fists in the air while someone else's record plays. Cross DJ Pro comes with specialist features such as BPM tracking, pitch shifting and a split audio output for previewing tracks before they're mixed in, with filter effects in here too for adding a bit more oomph to whatever party you're ruining with your rubbish music.
Photoshop Touch for phone
If you want to create digital art, either from photographs or from scratch, on your Android device, then there's really only one choice for the app you need: Photoshop Touch for phone.
It brings many of the features and tools from Adobe's flagship image editing program to mobile devices for a fraction of the cost of the full program. Even better, the interface has been designed to work with small touchscreen devices, and you can start working on a project on your Android device and pick up where you left off instantly on your desktop computer (and vice versa) with Adobe Creative Cloud.
Weather Timeline - Forecast
There are plenty of weather apps available for Android, but what makes Weather Timeline – Forecast worth choosing over them (and spending money on), is its unique focus on delivering weather forecasts in a timeline.
It means you can view the current weather, weather for the next hour, the next 48 hours and next week. It can help you plan your day without any nasty weather surprises. The Weather Time Machine feature also lets you see forecasts for months and years in advance, as well as checking out how the weather was behaving decades ago. It's also Android Wear compatible.
Tinder is a dating app that uses your Facebook account (or a hurriedly created secondary one) and location details to generate a list of other users of the app that are also bored, probably drunk, and nearby.
You then get a list of others to swipe through, starring any you like the look of. It's not a deep process. Should any of them star you back, you're able to start chatting and… maybe more.
Amazon's Kindle app connects seamlessly with its online book shop services, letting account holders send books to the app, sync existing libraries via the cloud, and access books across the many Android phones and tablets people have kicking about the place these days. Of course there's also a shop in it, as flogging you books is the reason Amazon is offering this comprehensive cloud reader for free.
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.
Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus
£9.70/$14.95/AU$19.22 a year
Unfortunately viruses and other malware often target Android owners, and considering we use our devices for important task such as online banking, it's a good idea to make sure your device is free from any nasty programs, which is where the Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus comes in.
It's one of the best tools for keeping your Android handset or tablet free from viruses. However a much bigger threat to your device is it getting lost or stolen, and this is where the app really proves to be worth the money thanks to a suite of anti-theft tools that can help you lock and track your device.
It could help you get it back, but if that fails you can remotely wipe your data to make sure your information doesn't fall into the wrong hands.