Our favorite free Android apps for planning a holiday, checking the weather and getting around without getting lost.
Backdrop - Find Pretty Places
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Backdrop is an app both for travelers and those who want to get more out of their hometown or city, as it highlights pretty places nearby – or in other locations if you look up a specific area.
These include old buildings, cosy restaurants, quirky bars, scenic views, and more, and you’re able to add locations to the app yourself too.
You can also see reviews of the included locations, and create bookmarks and collections to help you plan trips, or just so you don’t forget about a place. You can follow other users too, or specific tags, to get interesting areas from all over the world appearing in your feed.
Backdrop is inevitably a pretty app itself too, since it’s packed full of large images of the places it highlights. At the time of writing it feels a little limited and lightweight, but as it fills out with more users and content it could easily turn into a vibrant travel community.
If you’re a fan of hiking – and particularly if you ever go off the beaten track – then Trail Sense could be for you.
This app has all sorts of tools to help you safely explore the great outdoors, with the most useful perhaps being backtrack – a feature that lets you retrace your steps, so you’ll never get lost.
You can also place beacons that you can then navigate to, view weather information, get alerts before the sun sets, and access various other tools, such as a whistle (which makes a loud whistle-like sound out of your phone), and even a metal detector – albeit one that can only detect magnetic metals.
This is all free and it’s all offline, meaning your phone doesn’t need signal or Wi-Fi for Trail Sense to function. The app is keen to note that you shouldn’t rely on Trail Sense – rather it should be just one of many tools in your camping or hiking arsenal. But it’s certainly a feature-packed one.
We’re a fan of apps that focus on doing one thing well, and that’s exactly what Sunny Side does, as rather than being a full-featured weather app, this is dedicated purely to telling you the UV index, and doing it with style.
Launch the app and you’ll see a big number telling you the current UV index in your current location – or you can search for other locations to view them. The background color varies based on the UV, and below the number you can see icons that can be tapped on for tips and safety recommendations for current conditions.
Underneath that you can see how the UV is set to change at hourly intervals. And that’s about it. There are also a few widgets you can use so you can see the UV index without even launching Sunny Side, but it makes no attempt to show anything other than the UV and related guidance.
So this is limited and perhaps niche, but if UV is of particular concern to you then this is one of the slickest and most aesthetically pleasing ways to keep track of it.
Slopes: Ski Tracker, Resort Maps, Snow Conditions
Slopes: Ski Tracker is one of the most comprehensive ski and snowboard apps available for Android – one that’s useful both at the resort and when planning a trip.
The main feature of Slopes is arguably its run tracking. Hit ‘Go’ and leave the app running in your pocket, and it will track your top speed, average speed, vertical distance, time on the slopes, and build up a map of the runs and lifts you took – complete with lift names for major resorts.
It doesn’t need a phone signal to track you, just a GPS connection, and it’s designed to be light on your phone’s battery, so you can use it all day.
Slopes also lets you compete with friends on private leaderboards, and it has all sorts of resort details, including ski maps, weather forecasts, snow conditions, elevation, trail difficulty, and user-generated stats, such as how much of your day you’re likely to spend on lifts.
Some of this stuff will be useful when deciding what ski resort to go to, and almost all of it will be useful once you’re there. Much of the stuff in Slopes is free too, but for some of the stats, along with offline trail maps and speed heatmaps, you’ll need to upgrade to Slopes Premium – but there are various subscription options available, along with a free trial.
There are all sorts of apps designed for journaling your travels, but Polarsteps can do much of the work automatically.
The app will track where you’ve been and add photos from your travels, giving you a map and gallery of all your trips, simply by having the app running in the background on your phone.
You can make trips manually and add any photos it missed, but creating trips automatically means you’ll have at least a partial record of your adventures without doing anything.
This might sound like it would hammer your phone’s battery, but in fact Polarsteps is designed to only use around 4% each day and it doesn’t even need to be connected to the internet, which is ideal if you’re traveling somewhere where data costs extra.
You can keep your trips private or share them with friends and family, and by following people in the app you can see their journeys as they happen. Polarsteps is also nice to look at, easy to use and completely free, making it near essential for anyone who wants a visual record of their trips.
Overdrop is yet another weather app, but it stands out more for its widgets than its forecasting skills.
It has quite a lot of them, and many are beautifully designed, showing some combination of the weather, time, day, date and battery level. We’d be surprised if you can’t find one you like, and while some are reserved for the paid Overdrop Pro app, many are free.
Beyond that, Overdrop is a perfectly accomplished weather app, with seven-day forecasts, nice animated illustrations, and information on things like cloud cover and humidity.
Ventusky: Weather Maps
There’s a lot more to the weather than you’ll generally see in a typical forecast, and it can be a lot more interesting – and beautiful – than a simple temperature reading.
Ventusky knows this, as it makes forecasts more engaging by including an attractive weather map and wind animation, complete with the current temperature shown on the map, so you can see exactly which areas are what temperature at a glance.
Hourly forecasts let you see how the weather will change over the day and tapping on any hour or day will adjust the weather map accordingly.
You can also view weekly charts of the temperature, precipitation and wind, so you can see how much it varies over time.
Sunrise and sunset times are also available, so there’s a lot to sink your teeth into, but really Ventusky is all about that weather map and wind animation, which shows the motion and direction of the wind in a mesmerizing way.