Our favorite Android apps for learning new things, from history to music to coding and beyond.
Babbel: Language Learning
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
After Duolingo, Babbel is perhaps the most famous language learning app around, and with good reason – this has all the tools you need to learn another language, whether you’re completely new to it or already speak some.
There are 14 languages to choose from and over 60,000 lessons, plus podcasts, flash cards, games and more. Speech recognition means you can practice speaking the language, and you’ll also get to listen to it, read it and write it, so every aspect of language fluency is covered.
Babbel isn’t free, but it has various subscription options available, and it feels more polished and comprehensive than many rival apps, and even goes beyond pre-built lessons to offer live classes that you can participate in. So if you’re serious about learning a language, it’s worth putting some money down and giving Babbel a try.
The Sky by Redshift: Astronomy
Free + $2.99 / £2.99 yearly subscription
The Sky by Redshift: Astronomy is a near essential app for anyone with an interest in our galactic neighbors.
Simply point your smartphone up at the sky, and the app will tell you what planets, stars and constellations are above it. So it’s great for identifying the distant lights you can see, but also highlights those that are too far out to spot without a telescope.
You can tap on each object to learn more about it, see how the sky differs from night to night, view spacecraft, and more, with over 9,000 stars, 88 constellations, and hundreds of moons, asteroids, comets, and deep-sky objects included.
The Sky by Redshift: Astronomy is free to use, but there’s an optional $2.99 / £2.99 yearly subscription that removes adverts and unlocks additional features. To get even more in-depth, grab Redshift Sky Pro for $8.99 / £8.99 – a professional astronomy app with over 100,000 stars included.
Free + various IAPs
Learning a new skill is one of the most satisfying things you can do, and Udemy is an excellent way to do it. With 130,000 video courses it’s safe to say there should be something for everyone here.
Those courses are taught by expert instructors in over 65 different languages, and cover everything from photography and drawing to coding, game development, yoga, nutrition, languages, instruments, and a whole lot more.
The courses vary in length and depth, but they’re competitively priced, and you only have to pay once to get lifetime access – there are no subscriptions here. There are even free courses, so Udemy is worth a look even if you don’t want to spend anything.
Many of the courses also involve assignments, articles and other supplementary materials, and the ability to communicate with the instructors or other people on the course, so it can be a fairly comprehensive learning tool.
Universe in a Nutshell
$2.99 / £3.29
Universe in a Nutshell is a fascinating educational app that shows you the relative size of numerous things in the universe.
Launch the app and you’ll be presented with animated images of a giraffe, the largest elephant, a human, and other creatures, along with a listing of their size. You can tap on any of them for more information, but you can also pinch to zoom in or out and see much bigger or smaller things.
Zoom out and you’ll whiz past creatures, man-made objects, countries, moons, planets, stars and beyond, until you finally reach the entire observable universe as the largest thing included. Zoom in and you eventually get right down to the tiniest particles, and every single one of these things can be tapped on for more information.
The colorful, cartoony presentation makes Universe in a Nutshell look like it’s designed for kids, and they’ll certainly enjoy exploring it, but it’s just as fascinating for adults.
Women Who Changed the World
$2.99 / £2.99
Women often get a raw deal in history, with their achievements less spoken of than those of men, but Women Who Changed the World aims to help change that, by celebrating and educating users about some of the most significant women in history.
These include Rosa Parks, Amelia Earheart, Frida Kahlo, and many, many more, with their lives and achievements detailed through interactive stories, complete with illustrations and narration.
Women Who Changed the world is clearly aimed at young children, with its cute art and basic interactions, but the histories it teaches about could and should be of interest to anyone.
Smartphones have the potential to give us new, more engaging and immersive ways to interact with journalism, and with Time Immersive, Time is exploring that potential.
The Android app contains Time stories that are engagingly narrated and instead of looking at flat photos or videos, you can view the subject of the story in full augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). For the former, all you need is a compatible phone (which many are) and a flat surface, which you can then project – for example – a section of the Amazon rainforest onto.
Viewing it from above, you can rotate your phone and move it closer or further to get a different perspective while listening to the Time story. Then, tap on points of interest for additional spoken content alongside a relevant photo or video.
If you have a Cardboard VR viewer then you can get even more immersed, viewing the area almost as if you were there.
At the time of writing the only available content is focused on the Amazon rainforest and the moon landing, but it’s well made, and more is promised.
Elements of Photography
Free + various IAP
Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a fairly capable and versatile digital camera in our pockets at all times, but many of us won’t know how to get the most out of it.
That’s not necessarily a huge problem – phone cameras are typically designed to work well when you just point and shoot, but if you do want to take your photography to the next level then something like Elements of Photography can help.
This Android app contains a number of tutorials that guide you through the various principles of photography, from basics like shutter speed and composition to more advanced lessons.
Elements of Photography keeps things bite-sized and engaging by using small chunks of text and plenty of images rather than walls of explanation or time-consuming videos.
You also get tips, tools (such as a depth of field calculator) and a quiz, though these, along with many of the tutorials, are hidden behind IAP. Still, unlocking everything only costs $7.99/£5.49, and there’s enough free content that you should be able to decide whether the rest is worth the money.
£8.99/$9.99 per month
Fluent Forever is one of a growing number of language apps, but whereas most aim to gamify the learning process, Fluent Forever is rather more serious in its approach.
That might make it feel a bit less accessible, but if you’re serious about learning a language then it could also work better, especially if the likes of Duolingo aren’t doing the trick for you.
There are numerous different exercises in the app, along with explainer videos, but one of its core features is personalized flash cards, which let you select a card with an image of your choice for each word you’re trying to learn.
That, along with pronunciation lessons, and a focus on only the words and grammar that are important to you, could be the trick to making you fluent forever.
At the time of writing, the Android app supports French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. It costs £8.99/$9.99 per month, but there’s a two-week free trial.
Free + $3.99/£3.99 per month
There’s more to looking after many plants than putting them in the sun and giving them the occasional sip of water. Some need watering more often than others, some have different temperature or lighting requirements, some even require pruning or other care and attention.
Knowing exactly what any given plant needs isn’t always easy though and we’re sure we’re not alone in wondering why plants we thought we’d looked after well had died. But with SmartPlant you don’t need to wonder any more, and you’re more likely to keep your plants alive in the first place.
The Android app lets you build a database of any and all plants you own and it will automatically create a calendar for each of them, advising you on what to do at specific points of the year – for example telling you where to place it, when to re-pot it and how much to water it. And if you’re not sure what a plant is called then you can snap a picture of it to have SmartPlant identify it.
The app also has general information on a wide range of plants, such as the type of soil they like and when they bloom.
If you need more, then an optional subscription lets you talk to experts in-app. They can give you advice on general plant care, solving problems or any other plant-related query.
Free + $19.99/£17.99 monthly subscription
Flowkey is an Android app that aims to teach you piano, and can give you feedback on your playing just by listening through your phone’s microphone – no cables are required.
As well as real feedback, Flowkey also offers a large number of video tutorials covering things like ‘Note Value and Rhythm’ and ‘Mastering Key Jumps’, plus a selection of over 1,000 songs that you can learn.
These songs cover a range of genres, including classical, pop, jazz and more, and include famous pieces, such as Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, and Perfect by Ed Sheeran. The selection also includes songs suited for various different skill levels.
There’s a lot here, but most of it isn’t free. There are a handful of free songs and tutorials to get you started, but to get much out of Flowkey you’ll have to invest in a monthly subscription. That’s not cheap, coming in at $19.99/£17.99 per month (albeit with big discounts if you commit for six months or a year).
That could be a tough sell since you’ll probably still want proper lessons too, but you certainly get a lot of content for your money.
Learn Java Pro
Learn Java Pro is one of many apps focused on teaching you to code – in this case in Java, but where most take you through bite-sized exercises, this has both a coding area (where you can practice your Java skills) and an extensive library of tutorials taking you through basic and advanced aspects of Java.
These tutorials aren’t interactive as such; they’re more like a textbook, which is the part of learning that’s missing from many other coding apps. But there’s a shortcut to the coding area at the top right corner of each tutorial, so you’re never more than a tap away from practicing what you’ve learnt.
There’s also a library of practice programs, plus various questions and answers related to all things Java. Learn Java Pro works offline so you can read and practice anywhere, and all of the content is available for the one low price listed above, so while this Android app isn't free, it’s still rather generous and a great learning tool.
Shepard Fairey AR – DAMAGED
We’ve not always been entirely convinced by digital versions of real-world exhibits, but Shepard Fairey AR – DAMAGED is an Android app that does it right.
The app is a digital version of Shepard Fairey’s DAMAGED exhibit and it’s a great option for anyone who can’t make it to the real show in Los Angeles.
The app lets you walk around the exhibit with taps and swipes, or you can set it so that rotating your phone also changes your view in the exhibit. Or go even further and use an augmented reality mode that lets you physically walk around the exhibit, using your phone as a window into it.
It’s not just the exhibit, either – you also get over 100 minutes of narration from Fairey explaining the various artworks, which combined show that the world – and especially the US – is in a state of crisis, but that much of the damage can be repaired.
MasterClass gives you lessons in various skills, from cookery to acting to creative writing and a whole lot more, but how it really stands out is that these lessons are all taught by some of the best in the business.
You can learn cookery from Gordon Ramsay for example, filmmaking from Martin Scorsese, tennis from Serena Williams or photography from Annie Leibovitz.
Of course, this is an app, not a face to face lesson, so you’re not interacting with these people, but they’ve created video lessons and various other materials – such as workbooks – for MasterClass.
This content in this Android app isn’t free; in fact it’s quite expensive, coming in at $89.99/£84.99 for a single course or $179.99/£169.99 for an ‘all access pass’, letting you access every course for a year. That’s steep, but it could be worth it if you’re serious about learning and want some top-class tuition. You can also explore the app and see video previews of any of the courses before paying.
Current page: The best education apps for AndroidPrev Page The best art and design apps for Android Next Page The best entertainment apps for Android
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.