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The best free Android apps of 2021

Our favorite free Android apps for improving productivity, whether through to-do lists, focus timers or other tools.

WhatWeWant

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WhatWeWant

Some of the best gifts are expensive. That’s just a fact of life. But WhatWeWant provides an easy way for people to split the cost, so a group of friends or family can get a combined gift for someone.

You can start out by uploading information on a gift you’re hoping to raise funds for – whether it’s for you or someone else. This can include an image, description, URL, price, and what occasion the gift is for. Then you can share the listing with anyone you want using a link, or even make it visible to the general public, and from there people can start contributing.

Contributions are held in a secure account and can only be withdrawn once 75% of the gift cost has been raised, and while the focus is on gifts, you can also crowdfund other things, such as holidays and parties.

The app is slick and polished, and the only real downside is that it charges a small fee on each donation, but it has to make its money somewhere.

Arrive – Package Tracker

(Image credit: Shopify Inc.)

Arrive – Package Tracker

If you’re always ordering things online then Arrive – Package Tracker could become one of your favorite Android apps, as it lets you track all of your parcels, all in one place, and it can do so automatically.

Simply connect it to your Gmail account and Arrive will scan your inbox for anything you’ve ordered, adding tracking information to the Arrive app.

You can see more or less as much in the app as you can from a web browser, including live maps if the retailer offers them. You can also get a notification when a parcel has been delivered.

If you don’t have Gmail – or don’t always use it when placing orders – then Arrive is a little less useful, as while you can link other emails to it you have to manually enter tracking numbers for details to show in the app, whereas with Gmail the experience is seamless.

As such while it’s worth a try for any online shopping fanatics, it’s near essential for those who happen to use accounts linked to Gmail for said shopping.

Yelp

(Image credit: Yelp)

Yelp

Yelp can be seen as something of an alternative to Trip Advisor, but with a focus on food, shopping, and services, such as plumbers and hairdressers.

Like Trip Advisor it has been around for a long time, but the free Android app has continually improved, such as with the relatively recent addition of personalization, letting you pick your favorite types of cuisine from a fairly extensive list, along with any other dietary requirements and preferences, such as vegetarian or gluten-free.

This will affect the restaurants that are highlighted on your home screen and in search, but with or without these preferences you’ll be able to see and search for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, petrol stations, shopping, and more in your area.

Each listing includes pictures, user reviews, the address and website link, opening hours, and most other information you might want. You can of course also leave your own reviews and photos. In some cases you can even make reservations or order takeaway straight from the app, making this a great tool whether you plan to eat in or out.

Yahoo Mail

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Yahoo Mail

Yahoo Mail is an email app but it doesn’t require you to use Yahoo’s email service, despite the name. In fact, you can link any other email account to it. If you link multiples you can easily keep them separate and even have different themes for each, and there’s plenty more here to help it stand head and shoulders above most other free email apps.

A real highlight of Yahoo Mail is its filters, letting you just see emails from people (as opposed to companies), or just see mailing lists you’re subscribed to (allowing you to quickly unsubscribe with just one tap), or just see attachments, travel documents, receipts, and other things.

Yahoo Mail also lets you add a PIN or fingerprint security and even customize what if any gesture controls you want active. So whatever you might think of Yahoo email, don’t overlook Yahoo Mail.

Microsoft To Do

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Microsoft To Do

There’s a huge number of free to-do list apps on Google Play, but very few that stand out. Microsoft To Do is one that manages to rise above the rest though.

The company aims to make this better than Wunderlist (which it also owns) and it has arguably achieved that. If not, it’s certainly close.

It took a while to reach this point, but now Microsoft To Do offers a polished, pretty interface that’s easy to navigate and feature-packed.

What sort of features, you ask? You can choose from numerous different sorting options for each list, decide whether or not to hide completed entries, tag important items as, well, important, customize the color scheme of each list individually, collaborate on lists, and more.

If that’s enough to tempt you away from Wunderlist, making the switch is painless as there’s the option to import your Wunderlist content.

Ideal Flatmate

(Image credit: Ideal Flatmate / TechRadar)

Ideal Flatmate

Ideal Flatmate is designed as a way to find, well, the ideal flatmate. Part of its appeal is a quiz you can take, answering questions about the type of flatmate you are and what you’re looking for in another flatmate. It will then match you with people who had similar results. In that sense it’s a bit closer to a dating app than a typical rental service.

You can also create a profile, filling in a bit more information about yourself and the sort of flatmate you’re looking for (such as ages and genders).

And if you don’t want to wait for the matches to roll in you can simply browse through available properties and message the landlord or potential flatmate if you’re interested.

You can also list your own property if you already have a place and are looking for a tenant. It seems like you have to do this from the Ideal Flatmate website at the time of writing, but once listed you can manage enquiries from the app.

The big issue with Ideal Flatmate is that it’s UK-only, and right now there’s a reasonable but not enormous number of listings, but now that there’s an app available it’s sure to grow in popularity.

Post-it

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Post-it

Post-it essentially gives Post-it notes a digital upgrade, letting you create boards full of virtual Post-it notes on your Android device.

You can type a note, write one by hand, or sketch on one, give it a color, and add to a board (which you can also name). You can also take a photo of a physical note and add that to a board.

Notes can at any time be edited or moved between boards, making for a colorful to-do list and note-taking app.

Post-it is perhaps a bit fussier than many note-taking apps, but if you’re a fan of real-world Post-its then this is definitely worth a look, either as a replacement or supplement to them.

Google Go

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Google Go

If you ever find yourself running low on data before your monthly allowance refreshes, then Google Go could be for you. This free Android app is a lightweight alternative to Chrome and other browsers. And when we say lightweight, we really mean it – the app comes in at just 7MB in size, and it uses up to 40% less data than searching in other browsers.

It’s also designed to work fast even on slow connections, which could be handy if you’re in an area with poor coverage, or roaming abroad where speeds might not be as fast as at home.

And while it’s lightweight, it doesn’t lack features. You can search for GIFs, search with your voice, and even get information from Google Lens by taking a photo of something – take a photo of text, for example, and you can have it spoken aloud or translated.

Crono

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Crono

If you’re working at a computer then you probably don’t want to be constantly turning to check your phone. And with Crono, you don’t have to.

The Android app - when paired with a Chrome extension - mirrors your phone notifications onto your desktop browser. Not only can you see messages this way, you can also reply to them, with Crono supporting replies from SMS, WhatsApp and supposedly all other chat and email apps (though we haven’t tested absolutely everything).

You can also dismiss phone calls, share your clipboard, and if you clear notifications from Crono on your browser it will also clear them from your phone. Plus, if you misplace your phone you can ring it from your browser.

Crono isn’t the only app of this type, but it works well and doesn’t ask for any money.

Lock My Phone for Study

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Lock My Phone for Study

One of the more interesting features found on the OnePlus 7 Pro is called Zen Mode, a mode which locks your phone for 20 minutes, so you can’t use it even if you reboot it. It’s essentially a nuclear option for keeping you from phone-based distractions, but it’s one that appealed to a lot of people.

If you don’t have a OnePlus handset, you’re not out of luck, as a similar app – dubbed Lock My Phone for Study - has been created for other phones.

This lets you completely lock your phone for a duration of your choice, but handily it also has location-based locks, so you can set your phone to only lock when you’re in the vicinity of a certain location, and recurring locks, so your phone will lock at the same time every day.

You can still access lock screen shortcuts and answer calls though, so you’re not completely cut off from the world.

You can set up one ‘lock’ at a time for free, which should be all most people will need, but for a $1/£1 IAP you unlock the ability to have unlimited locks set up at once, which will be necessary if you want recurring locks, location-based locks and one-off locks all running at the same time.

Splitwise

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Splitwise

If you’re constantly splitting bills with friends, family, housemates, or anyone else, then Splitwise could simplify things. It’s designed for keeping a running total of who owes what. Just tell the app who paid, how much and how the bill should be divided, and the app will log who owes how much and to whom.

That’s useful, but it gets even more so after multiple transactions, as Splitwise will ensure the totals owed by and to each person account for all transactions.

This also means there’s potentially less stress to pay people back immediately – the total is always shown in the app, and if you subsequently pay for something, their share will be deducted from what you previously owed. So you can just keep a running total and settle up as frequently or rarely as you – and the people you’re splitting with – want.

In the US, Splitwise is even better, as you can make payments directly from the app using PayPal and Venmo integrations. Still, whatever country you’re in, it’s worth having.

Firefox Preview

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Firefox Preview

Firefox Preview is for anyone who wants Firefox but faster, and potentially a bit less stable. It’s an early version of Firefox Fenix – a new browser from the company that could one day replace the main Firefox Android browser.

Even in preview form it’s up to two times faster, as well as having a new look and features that help it stand out from the main Firefox app, and most other mobile browsers.

The focus so far seems to be on privacy (with tracking protection enabled by default) and tab management (with a ‘Collections’ tool that lets you create folders full of pages related to a specific theme, project or other grouping).

It’s a good start, and while there might be bugs, Firefox Preview feels more polished than you might expect, so if you want a taste of the browsing future today, this is the way to get it.

Split Screen Launcher

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Split Screen Launcher

Split Screen Launcher is exactly what the name suggests – an app that lets you run two different apps side by side on your phone’s screen.

Of course, some Android devices have this ability built-in, but if yours doesn’t then Split Screen Launcher could be worth having.

To get started, launch the Split Screen Launcher app and select a pair of apps that you want to run in split screen. Split Screen Launcher will then create a home screen icon for that app pair, and tapping on this will launch those two apps.

It feels like a slightly roundabout way of doing things, but if you want to launch the same two apps side by side regularly then having a shortcut to them could be handy, and you can create as many of these shortcuts as you want.

Apps can be split-screened in portrait or landscape orientation, and once you’re running the apps in split screen there’s a bar between them, letting you resize the windows, so if one needs more space it can have it. Otherwise the apps work as normal – you just get to see two of them at once, rather than one.

Firefox ScreenshotGo

Image credit: Mozilla (Image credit: Mozilla)

Firefox ScreenshotGo

If like us you capture a lot of screenshots on your Android device then Firefox ScreenshotGo could be a game-changer.

As well as providing a gallery of all your screenshots, it lets you create folders that you can add them to, so you can sort them to make specific ones easier to find later. Firefox ScreenshotGo will even provide a pop-up every time you take a screenshot, which you can tap to instantly choose which folder to put it in (though you can turn that pop-up off if you’d prefer).

Where Firefox ScreenshotGo gets really clever is that it lets you search for screenshots based on the text found in them. You can also highlight the text in any screenshot, then copy it or search the web for it.

The app gives you new ways to take screenshots too; you can have it display a persistent notification that will take a screenshot when you tap on it, or have a floating icon sit on your screen that will also take a screenshot with a tap.

Even if you only occasionally take screenshots, this is probably worth a download. If you take a lot of them, then it’s pretty close to essential.

Firefox Send

Firefox Send

Firefox Send is a simple but potentially very useful app for sharing files. You can upload files of up to 2.5GB in size and get a link to share them with others. The link opens a webpage that you can download the file from, so the people you’re sharing it with don’t need the Firefox Send app.

So far, so basic, but where Firefox Send goes a bit further than some file sharing apps is in the ability to set how long a file is available for – you can choose to keep the link active for 5 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day or 7 days.

You can also choose how many times it can be downloaded before expiring, with a range of options between 1 and 100 downloads. And if you want you can also set a password, so no one can download it if they happen to stumble across the link.

All of which makes Firefox Send a great option for security and privacy while file sharing, especially as it also uses end-to-end encryption. If there’s a downside it’s that there’s no option to have a file stay up indefinitely, but then we can’t think of many situations where we’d want it to anyway.