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.
Free (premium version costs £4.99/$4.99)
CloudPlayer, as the name suggests, lets you stream music you have stored in the cloud. This of course is something Google Play Music has been successfully doing for years, but with CloudPlayer you can link up your OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts and access all of them in one place.
It also has both Chromecast and AirPlay support and lets you stream files in lossless quality, on top of which it's got all the basics you'd expect from a music player, like a 10-band equalizer and playlists. Some features are free but others require a one-time payment to upgrade to premium.
There are any number of podcast apps for Android but Pocket Casts is easily one of the best. Its slick, colourful interface helps it stand out from the drab designs of many competitors and it's feature packed, with Chromecast support, auto downloads, sleep timers and more.
There are even tools to improve the listening experience of podcasts, such as the ability to remove silent sections to speed them up or toggle video podcasts to audio only. There are cheaper and even free alternatives to Pocket Casts, but you more than get your money's worth with it.
VLC for Android
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.
Sticking to a diet or exercise regime isn't always easy. Tracking the calories that you've consumed and worked off can make it easier to stay on track but that in itself can be a bit of a chore.
Thankfully Lifesum is here to make it as simple as possible, allowing you to add foods and exercises with calorie estimates, work to specific goals and get prompts as to when you should be eating more or less, all with an attractive interface and an intuitive layout.
You get all that for free, but if you subscribe to a gold membership you can get more detailed nutritional information, sync the data with fitness apps and wearables, follow specialist diets and more.
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.
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 4 AM.
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.
Fenix for Twitter
£3.99 ($4.89, around $AU6.32)
The official Twitter client does a pretty good job of things but if you want something a little bit special and are prepared to pay for it you should look to Fenix for Twitter.
With real time updates, an intuitive swipe-friendly interface, a customisable layout and a beautiful design it's Twitter designed from the ground up for use on a smartphone or tablet.
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. 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.
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.
£1.49/$1.99 (around AU$2.58)
Threema might look like any other messaging app, but it's got privacy and security at its heart. It has all the standard features you'd expect, including group chats, the ability to share images, videos and voice messages and even a few extra features like support for QR codes and group polls.
But everything you send and receive, including media, is encrypted and Threema's servers store as little information as possible, with contacts lists managed from your own device and messages deleted from the servers as soon as they've been delivered.
If that's not enough it also allows you to communicate anonymously, for the full experience of feeling like you're in a really boring spy movie.
Smartphones have made communicating easier, but they've also meant there are now hundreds of different ways to get in touch with people, from the humble SMS or phone call to emails and instant messaging.
Jumping between six different apps to message people is no fun and with drupe you don't have to. It combines many popular services, including call, SMS, email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Tango, Voxer, Hangouts, Telegram, Viber, Line, We Chat, Hike, Waze and Facebook's Hello dialler, allowing you to simply drag a contact image onto the one you want to use at any given time.
To make things even easier you can set drupe to always be available with a swipe across a certain part of your screen, making messaging simple again.
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.
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.
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.
Whether you want to learn more about your area or live like a local when away from home Field Trip can help.
With content pulled from numerous publications it will guide you through local history, interesting shops, great restaurants and more. You can browse it of course but you don't even need to do that, as you can set the app to alert you whenever you're near a point of interest, so you never miss out on something when on the move.
There's a surprising amount of content too, with even small towns often proving home to multiple points of interest.
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.
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.
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.