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
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.
New this week: Dark Sky
Free + optional £2.99/US$2.99 yearly subscription
Dark Sky has made waves on iOS and it’s now arrived on Android, bringing hyperlocal and incredibly detailed weather forecasts with it.
Not only can you see the weather for today or the coming days for any town or city, but also forecasts for your exact location. As well as being geographically precise it also aims to give you down to the minute forecasts, so you’ll know exactly when that threatening cloud will shower you with rain.
You can see precise forecasts for temperature, wind, humidity, pressure, visibility and UV index too, explore a detailed weather map of the world, set alerts for the specific weather conditions and stick a range of weather widgets on your home screens.
The minimalist black and white interface won’t be for everyone and certain features are locked behind a £2.99/US$2.99 yearly subscription, which is worth taking out if you have more than a passing interest in the weather around you, but even the free version of the app has a competitive number of features.
£1.64/US$1.99 (around AU$2.70)
Yoga is a tremendously versatile form of exercise, helping with everything from strength and flexibility to relaxation and while it can seem impenetrable without taking at least a few classes, Yoga Studio does a good job of standing in for a real teacher.
With detailed advice and instructions for over 280 poses that you can refer to at any time, along with 65 video classes and the ability to create your own by stitching clips together, Yoga Studio is good for both learning and practising.
Classes range from 10 to 60 minutes, so there’s always time to fit one in and you can easily filter them based on length, difficulty, focus or intensity.
Classes can be downloaded too, so you can practice even when there’s no internet connection and it’s something you can do almost anywhere, as all you need is a bit of floor space.
If you take to it you should probably check out an actual class to make sure your technique is up to scratch, but Yoga Studio is a great way to get started or complement any class you’re already taking.
Nova Launcher Prime
£3.99/US$4.99 (around AU$6.79)
Nova Launcher Prime has been around for a long time and thanks to regular updates and a wealth of features it remains one of the very best Android launchers available.
It’s enormously customisable, allowing you to change your phone’s theme and home screen transitions, add a scrollable dock, choose what direction the app drawer scrolls and even add widgets to the dock.
As bloated as it might sound Nova is actually a slick, speedy launcher, which looks a whole lot like stock Android until you start fiddling with it.
There’s a free version available too, just called Nova Launcher, but Nova Launcher Prime gives you access to gesture controls, among other features that aren’t found in the free one, so it’s worth investing in, given that the home screen is one of the things you’ll interact with most on your phone.
Sesame Lock Screen
A number of services offer shortcuts to favourite apps or try and put your most commonly used ones front and centre and Sesame Lock Screen does the same, but it also goes a lot further, with a powerful search tool on your – you guessed it – lock screen.
And despite its name, Sesame Lock Screen is more than just a replacement, as you can optionally access it with a long press of the home button too.
However you choose to access it you’re presented with a list of all your apps, sorted by how commonly used they are. As such the app you’re looking for will very likely be at the top of the screen anyway, but if it’s not there’s also a keyboard which you can use to search for apps.
This is where it goes beyond most similar services, because as well as apps you can also search for subsections of the settings screen, specific contacts (with shortcuts provided to text, call or email them) and playlists and songs from Spotify or other connected apps.
It’s fast too, as the keyboard always sits at the bottom of Sesame Lock Screen, so there are no extra taps required to bring it up. Plus,if you’re looking for something with more than one word you can just type the first letter of each to find it faster. Want to listen to Radiohead on Spotify? Just search ‘sr’.
New this week: App Volume Control Pro
£0.79/$0.99 (around AU$1.32)
We don’t know about you, but we have hundreds of apps and games on our phones and one volume most definitely does not fit all. That’s all the more true depending on whether we’re using the built in speakers, a headset or a Bluetooth connection.
Ultimately, there are a whole lot of variables and App Volume Control Pro does a good job of accounting for them all.
It allows you to set individual volumes for any app, under any usage condition (e.g. headset, Bluetooth etc), as well as the volume that calls and other system sounds should play at while the app is running.
Navigating it is simple, with just an alphabetical list of all your installed apps, along with a toggle to enable or disable custom sound settings for them.
Some amount of fine tuning may still be necessary, particularly when it comes to listening to music, but if you ever regularly find yourself manually adjusting the volume when you fire up certain apps App Volume Control Pro is well worth a download.
Free (premium version needs a subscription)
Spotify is an app which requires no introduction, as one of the first and best streaming music services used by millions of people the world over. It’s no wonder the user base is so large either, what with there being millions of tracks at your fingertips.
For free you can listen to any artist, album or playlist on your phone, but only on shuffle mode and with advert interruptions. Stump up for a premium subscription though and there are no restrictions, just non-stop musical bliss, including an offline mode, so you don’t even need an internet connection to play your favourites.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Strava is a seriously compelling tool for runners and cyclists, letting you create, find and follow routes and track your speed, distance, pace and elevation.
But for many of us running and cycling is at its best when it’s gently competitive, whether that’s trying to top your own records or someone elses and Strave excels there too, with leaderboards, personal records and comparisons to friends and other app users.
Most of the core features are completely free, but you can unlock its full potential by signing up for a premium account. This unlocks filtered leaderboards, daily progress tracking and much, much more.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Evernote is the first and last word in note-taking, or it might as well be anyway. With multiple notebooks to help you keep your thoughts tidy, simple to-do lists, a powerful search tool so you can easily find specific notes and the ability to sync between devices it’s a must have for anyone who ever jots things down. Which we’d wager is just about everyone.
It goes that little bit further than just being a notebook though, as you can also share your notes and collaborate on projects with others, easily track expenses and attach files, all through an attractive, clutter-free interface.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Life is busy and there’s not always time to read that article on bees or that guide to knitting cat jumpers. Pocket solves that by allowing you to easily save web pages and even videos for later, storing them all in one place.
It’s much more than just a bookmarking system though as it also makes them available offline, so you can catch up with things on the tube or any other time you don’t have an internet connection.
It’s free, slick and you can even synchronise your saved articles across every device you’ve installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Pushbullet is all about saving time and not having to dig out your phone every five minutes. Need to get a file or link from your phone to your computer or vice-versa? Pushbullet can do that in a couple of taps.
Wondering who keeps texting but too busy to check your phone? Pushbullet can display the notification on your computer and even lets you interact with the notifications from there.
It’s one of those apps that we wonder how we ever did without now we’ve got it. Hopefully we’ll never have to go back, those were dark days.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Periscope is like the love child of YouTube and Twitter. It lets you post live video streams which your followers can watch and comment on as you broadcast, or view up to 24 hours later if you make it available for replays.
The immediacy and impermanence of each clip has a certain appeal and it’s a slickly laid out app, with nice details, like getting to see hearts flutter up the screen as and when your followers send them.
Even if you don’t want to make your own videos there’s something addictive about viewing other peoples, so embrace your inner voyeur and give Periscope a download. You might lose a lot of time to it, but you won’t regret it.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
WhatsApp is almost more essential than an SMS app, as it’s basically a supercharged, restriction free version of good old text messaging.
It uses a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection so you don’t have to worry about message allowances, you can see when people have received and read your messages, send videos and voice messages and even make calls with it.
You will have to convince your friends and family to download it if they haven’t already, but given that it’s free for the first year there’s really no reason for them not to. Once they do have it the app uses their normal phone number, so there’s no need to add them or find out user names and you’re always logged in, so you’ll never miss messages.
With Timehop you’ll get regular reminders of good times from the past, with the app telling you what you were up to on this day in years past.
It grabs information from your phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare and lets you reminisce about things which might otherwise have been lost to the mists of time, buried beneath years of accumulated photos and posts.
It can backfire a bit if you ever share sad things, but as long as your social media accounts are full of mostly positive updates Timehop is a great way to revisit them.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Instagram is a phenomenon, inspiring the world to document their days in pictures rather than words. With filters and editing tools it’s easy to make your snaps look their best and just like on Twitter you’re never far from updates from your friends or celebrities.
It’s made photographers of all of us and while some shots are better than others encouraging people to take and share more photos can only be a good thing.
As big as Instagram is, you can also easily share your snaps with users of other social networks, sending them to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more with just a few taps.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Google’s camera app has never been one of the best around, but when it comes to editing photos the company’s Snapseed app is in a whole other league.
It’s fast and simple, so anyone can edit their snaps in a matter of seconds and while it’s not as feature-packed as some editing apps that’s mostly because it lacks the gimmicks. All the basics from filters to cropping are present and correct and you can even fine tune your photos with selective edits to specific regions of an image.
Or skip all that and just use the auto correct tool for instant image improvements.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
The big selling point of Google Photos is that it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos. Except it’s not really a selling point, as amazingly the app is free.
Not only does that ensure your photos are automatically backed up, it also allows you to delete them from your device and free up space without losing them.
Add in editing tools, montage and collage creation, easy sharing and Chromecast support and Google Photos is just about the best gallery app around.
It even makes it easy to dig up old images, thanks to a deep search tool that allows you to hunt for shots based on where they were taken or what’s in them.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
If you’re a taxi driver you’re probably not a fan of Uber, but for everyone else it’s great. You can request a ride straight from your smartphone, get arrival and cost estimates and automatically pay via the app.
Drivers are incentivised to provide good service, as customers can leave reviews and it’s generally quicker and more convenient than hunting down a cab. Especially as you can see a map of where your driver is while you wait.
The only real limitation is that you can’t currently use it everywhere, especially outside of cities. But Uber is available in over 50 countries, and it’s rapidly growing, bringing public transport into the modern age.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
Google Maps is the only map you need. Not only does it provide accurate and detailed maps of 220 countries and territories at zero cost, it’s also feature packed.
Its Street View service is a feature which no other map can match, giving you a street level view of places. It also provides traffic information, directions, voice-guided GPS navigation, listings of businesses and other location information and a whole lot more.
Google Maps is also being updated and improved all the time, so if there’s a feature you wish it had there’s a good chance that one day it will.
Citymapper – Bus, Tube, Rail
Google Maps is essential, but Citymapper – Bus, Tube, Rail complements it well, by giving you comprehensive journey planning tools for cities around the world.
It’s handy if you live in a metropolis and even more useful if you’re visiting one and have no idea how to get around. With step-by-step directions for walking, tube services, bus, bike, taxi, train, tram and ferry, plus real time updates and information on disruptions, it will get you where you’re going and get you there fast.
As well as that it’s even got a few fitness smarts, as it can give you an estimate of the calories you’ve burned on your journey.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.
£1.40/$1.69 (around AU$2.30)
For many people avoiding Facebook is near impossible, especially if you want a social life. But the official Facebook app can leave something to be desired: it can be a huge battery hog and requires a separate app for messaging, among other issues.
Metal Pro has none of these problems. It’s not free (though there is an uglier cost-less version) and not quite as slick as the official app, but it’s fully-featured, allowing you to browse your news feed, post status updates and comments, chat to friends and more.
That’s all handled intuitively and comes across like a mashup of the official app and the mobile site.
You’ll still get notifications for things you care about, just like the official app, and while Metal Pro is not quite as stylish it does have a few different themes to choose from, so you can tailor it to your tastes.
Better yet, if you use Twitter too you can access that from the same app thanks to a recent update, so there’s less jumping around.
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
If you watch much local video content on your Android device the basic player which comes with your phone probably won’t cut it. That’s where VLC for Android comes in. It’s not the most attractive of apps, but its functionality is unbeatable, with support for just about every file type, including MKV, MP4, AVI, MOV, Ogg, FLAC, TS, M2TS, Wv and AAC.
VLC doesn’t stop there though, it also supports multi-track audio, subtitles and ISO files. Plus it has gesture controls, so you never need to obscure your content with menu screens. Streaming may be the future, but for as long as we’re still using downloaded content as well VLC will remain an essential app.
The most important thing for a weather app to be is accurate, and MORECAST is certainly that, with data from over 28,000 weather stations and detailed information on conditions.
It also offers global webcams so you can get an accurate view of how the weather really is in various places. Plus if the weather is a factor in where you’re going you can get side-by-side comparisons of the weather in two different destinations. You can even track the weather along your route.
With weather graphs and maps, widgets and an easy to navigate interface MORECAST is one of the most comprehensive and best weather apps available.
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’s attractively designed too and even lets you sync your media for offline viewing, so it’s not always dependent on an internet connection
It 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. With over 200 missions it will keep you running for a long time and not only is the story well-written and entertaining but it makes running fun again, and you’ll be getting fit without even noticing it.
Runtastic Running PRO
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.
Voice coaching keeps you motivated and on track and a leaderboard provides extra incentive to go faster and further. It’s also great for finding new routes to run, as other users can post theirs to the app. It’s serious stuff for competitive people and a seriously good tool for getting or staying in shape.
Pushbullet is one of our favourite Android apps, but a challenger has emerged. Join does many of the same things, allowing you to view your smartphone notifications on your computer and even respond to them without dragging out your phone. Like Pushbullet it also lets you send files and links between devices in a couple of taps or clicks.
But Join also does a couple of things that Pushbullet doesn’t, like letting you set the wallpaper on your handset by right-clicking an image from your computer, or remotely locating your phone by showing it on a map or ringing it loudly.
It also has a slightly different approach to monetisation. Where Pushbullet gives you most of the features for free but requires a subscription to access everything, Join is a premium app, which after its free trial is up asks for a one-time payment to unlock everything.
So if you like the idea of Pushbullet but don’t want to pay every month, Join is a great alternative.
Cover Lock Screen
The lock screen can be a bit of a missed opportunity much of the time, often just displaying the time and notifications, but with minimal interaction potential.
But with apps like Cover Lock Screen you can make it almost as useful as your home screens. Cover Lock Screen aims to give you fast access to the apps you need, at any given time or place. There are separate profiles for home, work, car and out and it learns which apps you most use in each location, putting them on your lock screen so you can get in to them instantly.
It’s been well thought through, with different wallpapers and optionally different ringer volumes for each location, plus the ability to hide apps you never want it to display and peek into apps without fully opening them.
£3.50/$3.99 (around AU$5.66)
Metamorphabet is the alphabet like you’ve never seen before, helping you learn what the letters mean and what they can spell.
Ostensibly designed for children, we have to admit it can be almost as enjoyable for adults. Hands both big and small can tap, swipe and drag the letters of the alphabet, causing them to transform (or metamorphosise) into a variety of things beginning with that letter.
‘B’ for example grows a beard and then a beak, which opens up to let out bugs. It’s a great way to teach children both the alphabet and new words and with gorgeous visuals it’s sure to hold their interest.
The various interactions required to make the letters transform also makes it a great introduction to touchscreens for young children, remaining simple enough that they should never become stuck or frustrated.
Whether you’re a budding journalist or just like the sound of your own voice you might find cause to record audio. If you do, Recordr has got your back.
It’s a free app, but the lack of adverts and wealth of features make it feel like a premium offering. You can choose from various different audio formats and sample rates to record in, supress background noise, remove any silence or echoes, set up different profiles for different situations and pick from 35 different visual themes.
Once you’re done recording the sound of your cat purring/pretending you’re in Star Trek you can save it to your phone, upload it to Google Drive, send it to other devices via Bluetooth or email it to your friends. They might not still be your friends afterwards, but that’s a risk you’ll have to take.
Dropbox is one of the biggest names in cloud storage, letting you access all your photos, documents, videos and other files from any location and any device, just as long as you’ve got an internet connection.
With automatic photo backup, the ability to share large files without attaching them to an email and support for editing Microsoft Office documents straight from the app it’s got some serious productivity smarts.
Other cloud storage solutions tick many of the same boxes, but the popularity of Dropbox means that support for it is baked right into a huge number of apps and services.
IF by IFTTT
IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for “if this then that”, concisely summing up what this app does. It powers up your Android device in all new ways, letting you automate various functions.
You can create simple statements such as “if my location is home, turn on Wi-Fi”, or “if I snap a screenshot email it to me”. As these are all simple two-part statements they’re easy to create and they can also be shared with the wider IF community. That also means there are tons of pre-existing ‘recipes’ to choose from, so you might not even feel the need to create your own.
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.
One downside to it is that unlike WhatsApp you need to create an account to use it, which is one extra hoop to jump through, but the service has been around so long we’d be surprised if you and most people you know don’t already have one.
Arts and Culture
If you live in London or another major city you might be lucky enough to have dozens of galleries and museums on your doorstep. But if you don’t or if you want to broaden your horizons beyond what your city offers Arts and Culture is an easy, engaging way to do that.
This Google app contains artwork and historical items from over 850 museums and other organisations across the world, so there’s a massive amount to absorb.
The works are photographed in high quality and can be zoomed in on, so you can see them in exquisite detail. You can also go on virtual tours around museums and landmarks, learn the stories behind what you’re looking at and easily discover new things, by exploring specific artists, movements or periods.
Arts and Culture isn’t quite the same as seeing these pieces in the flesh, but if your phone has a good screen it’s the next best thing, and you don’t even have to leave the house.
What’s better than a picture? A video, or at least that’s what the makers of Vine presumably believe. The app is a simple recording/stop-motion/animation tool, letting you shoot live video on your phone and share it via social networks.
But even if you’re not feeling creative you can lose hours to it, browsing Vines from others, as the categories and pages mean you can leaf through all the best content like bite-sized TV. If you find something you really love you can then share in to social networks, so all your friends can enjoy it too.
£8.06/$9.99 (roughly AU$13.24)
FiLMiC Pro has been on iOS for a while and it’s so good that it was even used to make the arthouse feature film ‘Tangerine’. Now it’s arrived on Android and it’s every bit as impressive here.
As a premium video camera app it doesn’t come cheap, but it gives you far greater control over your footage than most alternatives.
There are standard, manual and hybrid shooting modes, with options to adjust the temperature, tint, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, focus and more. You can also shoot in slow or fast motion and a variety of different resolutions and aspect ratios, including the likes of Cinemascope and letterbox.
Shooting your film isn’t the end of the fun either, as FiLMiC Pro lets you alter the exposure and saturation after you’ve captured your footage. Then, there are a variety of encoding and sharing options. So you can save it in the quality you want and easily upload it to the cloud and social networks.
Free + £7.18/US$9.99/AU$12.85 IAP
Computing skills have never been more vital and being able to program could put you ahead of the game. Javvy probably won’t make you an expert, but it covers the basics and beyond of Java programming in easy and enjoyable bite-sized chunks.
It features over 150 interactive tutorials, to take you from the basics to more advanced things like HashMaps and classes.
You can try it out for free, but if you’re serious about learning Java you’ll want to shell out for more chapters, either a bit at a time or with a single £7.18/US$9.99/AU$12.85 in-app purchase.
There are plenty of photo editing apps, but while most offer filters and effects few allow you to alter the perspective of a photo in the way SKRWT does.
There are no stickers here, no makeup modes and no real effects. Instead there are tools to shift the perspective, change the ratio and correct lens distortion.
You can also flip, rotate, mirror and crop images, but SKRWT isn’t interested so much in modifying photos in unnatural ways, as in making them look exactly as you envisioned when you took them.
It’s a professional tool, but it’s easy to use and you can always undo your changes if you don’t like them.
Miitomo is Nintendo’s first app and it’s got all the charm you’d expect from the creator of Mario. After making a ‘Mii’ avatar, which is meant to represent you but can look completely ridiculous if you’d prefer, you then answer various questions such as what your favourite food is.
Then your Mii will visit your friend’s avatars and share this knowledge with them. So essentially it’s a passive social app. But there’s more to it, as you can also paste your avatar into photos and buy new outfits for them (using currency that can be earned by using the app).
Ultimately it’s quite a basic app, but it’s unlike anything else out there and it’s fun hearing your friend’s answers, especially if they give amusing rather than accurate ones.
PayPal has had an Android app for quite a while, but the current version is a completely different beast to what it once was.
A gorgeous new design makes it an app you’ll want to spend time in, but with the ability to send money to friends and family in just a few taps there’s no need to stick around for long.
You can also withdraw money and manage your personal information direct from the app. Of course security is key when sending and receiving money, but with fingerprint scanner support you don’t have to waste time tapping out passwords.
Plus it now comes with alerts for any account activity you can stay on top of your transactions.
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.
You can backup your files and folders and then view and download them from any device with an internet connection. Any pictures or videos you’ve saved to Google Photos will also be visible and you can choose to share files with people, giving them instant access.
You can even use your device’s camera to scan documents straight into Google Drive, which is one thing many rival cloud storage services don’t offer.
It can be hard for printed media to compete with the wealth of free content online, but issuu does a good job of making magazines desirable again.
The app gives you access to digital versions of over 25 thousand publications and remarkably they’re completely free of charge.
Many of them aren’t new issues, but some are and in most cases it doesn’t really matter if they’re old: interviews are still interesting and the magazines aimed at teaching skills like photography never really go out of date.
If you’re viewing them on a high quality screen they also look gorgeous, as most of the magazines are full of pictures and interesting layouts.
They’re easy to navigate too. You can turn the page with a swipe, zoom with a double tap or a pinch, or zoom all the way out to get an overview of every page, allowing you to quickly jump around.
TapDeck – Wallpaper Magazine
News apps are meant to be an easy, convenient way to keep up with what’s going on in the world wherever you are. Sadly though the requirement to launch them or even just swipe to their homescreen widgets means they’re still not always convenient enough.
But TapDeck in its latest incarnation makes it impossible to ignore the news, because it turns your wallpaper into the story.
As with other news aggregators you can pick which sources and types of content interest you. Then. when your wallpaper morphs into an image you want to learn more about, just swipe across it with two fingers to get the full story.
The images and stories will change on their own, so you’ll always have new things to read and a new wallpaper to stare at.
If you want to have a proper browse through the news you can still launch the TapDeck app, but if you spend a lot of time just browsing your phone having it as the wallpaper should keep you well enough informed.
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. Given that anyone can list their property there’s a wide range of places to stay, from a couch in someone’s living room to a private island.
While there is a website, browsing the app from a phone or tablet is a pleasant experience as it’s attractively designed and easy to navigate.
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. The bite sized nature ensures it’s never overwhelming and the app guides you in such a way that you can keep progressing while reinforcing the basics.
We can’t quite work out how such a slick, feature-packed app manages to be completely free of both cost and adverts, but we’re not complaining.
VR could soon take off, with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR all around the corner, but in the meantime there’s the humble Google Cardboard.
Google’s take on VR also has a major advantage in that it’s really, really cheap, taking the barrier for entry down to almost zero assuming you already have a smartphone.
To make the most of Google Cardboard you’ll want the companion app, Cardboard Camera. This is designed to let you create your own VR content, in the form of panoramic photos. These are more than just static shots, as you can look around them and hear accompanying sounds.
Strapping your phone to your face with a piece of cardboard in order to experience them means they won’t replace standard photos, but they certainly impress.
Animatic by Inkboard
Animatic is a fun little app that lets you make flip book-like animations and export them as a GIF or video.
Essentially it’s a basic drawing app with a small selection of pens, pencils and crayons which you can use with your finger to create illustrations. But rather than just a single image you draw a series of them.
Then the app automatically animates the frames at a speed of your choice and when you’re happy you can export it and share it with people. That’s all there is to it. Animatic is a simple app and you’re not going to create a masterpiece with it, but it’s intuitive, fun and a bit different.
Google Now Launcher
Google Now Launcher brings you closer to stock Android and ensures that Google Now is rarely more than a swipe away.
Just swipe right from your home screen to bring up your Google Now cards. Or if you want to search you can do that from a bar at the top of all your home screens. The Google Now Launcher is not as feature-packed as some launchers, but like stock Android itself it’s clean, minimal, fast and easy to navigate.
It’s an essentail download for any fans of Google Now or anyone who objects to bloat. It also makes finding and launching apps easy, with app suggestions presented at the top of your app drawer.
Free (£8.23/$9.99/around AU$14 in-app purchase for all features)
Unless you’re happy having pieces of paper cluttering your desk with passwords scrawled all over them, or are brave/stupid enough to use the same login for almost everything, there’s really no avoiding password managers.
Not that you should want to avoid them, especially when it comes to 1Password, which doesn’t even require a subscription. In fact, it doesn’t cost anything at all, though if you want it to automatically generate passwords or to be able to fully manage your account from your Android device you will need to shell out for a single in-app purchase.
1Password remembers all of your passwords no matter which device you’re on. Well, all but one, as the name suggests. You will still need to remember whatever password you use for the app itself. Unless that is you have a fingerprint scanner on your phone, in which case all it needs is a tap.
AES-256 encryption, secure notes and a slick interface with all your logins organised into folders are just the icing on the cake.
Essentially it’s a clean-up app, but it does a number of things. You can get it to clear out your phone’s memory to boost performance and this can be done either manually, or automatically, by setting ‘smart boost’ to run in the background.
Boost+ can also be used to clear your cache and other temporary files, identify apps that you never use or those that are misbehaving and even lock apps to keep them safe from prying eyes.
It’s all laid out in the sort of pleasing, uncluttered manner you’d expect from HTC, though the inclusion of adverts is a bit of a downer.
Guides by Lonely Planet
With maps, city guides and translation apps, packing a smartphone has made travelling a lot less intimidating. They’re a near essential tool for any globe trotter, so it was only a matter of time before Lonely Planet got on board.
The Guides by Lonely Planet app does exactly what it says on the tin, in providing easy access to Lonely Planet’s city guides on your smartphone.
There are 37 cities included already, with more set to be added over time, and each includes all the key things you’re likely to want to know, from where to stay and where to eat, to how much each aspect of your trip is likely to cost and what the must-see sights are.
Navigation is handled by a slick, picture-rich interface, with everything separated into clearly labelled categories, so it’s never hard to find what you’re looking for. After you’ve found something you can save it to your favourites, making it even easier to get back to in future meaning more time exploring and less time on your phone during your travels.
Shuttle+ Music Player
There’s an enormous number of music players to choose from on Android, but Shuttle+ is one of the best.
With an attractive and intuitive Material Design-inspired interface and most of the options you’d hope for from a premium player, including gapless playback, a sleep timer, lots of themes, automatic album artwork downloads, a 6-band equalizer, widgets, Chromecast support and a lot more besides it’s a joy to use.
There’s a free version, but the premium one is only £1.10/US$1.75/AU$1.99 and has far more features, so it’s worth the investment if you play a lot of music on your phone.
Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus
£9.70/US$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.
DoggCatcher Podcast Player
If you’re addicted to listening to podcasts on your Android device, then DoggCatcher Podcast Player is up there with Pocket Casts as one of the best apps. 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, such as multiple themes, variable playback speeds, Chromecast support, widgets and personalised recommendations. If you have a huge list of podcasts you listen to regularly, then this is the player you need.
Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal
Counting your calories is a sure fire way to lose weight, but it’s also a sure fire way to lose your mind, as you total up food after food, day after day.
The Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal app takes a lot of the pain out of this, thanks to a massive database of over 5 million food items. You don’t even have to type the name of an item in, as a barcode scanner means you can jus tpoint your phone at the packaging.
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.
The app can also track activities and exercises, or if you already have a fitness tracker you can link the two up and see your progress alongside your calorie intake.
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, including walking, running and cycling, 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.
With the ability to set goals and see stats and graphs you can really keep track of your progress and being able ot do it all in one place makes it less of a chore, so you’re more likely to keep it up.
Twitter is a must-have for those who want to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world in 140 characters or fewer.
If you’re familiar with the website you know what to expect, as the app has most of the same features, just optimised to work well on a touchscreen. Follow friends and famous people, share photos, videos and Vines, send private messages or just keep up to date on the minute details of stranger’s lives.
There are third party Twitter apps, but the official one is up there with the best and being official you can be confident that it will be regularly updated. #Essential.
Kickstarter has taken a long, long time to get Android – three years longer than the app took to arrive on iOS in fact. But it’s here at last and it was worth the wait.
The app gives you just about all the same tools as you have at your disposal on the desktop site. You can browse projects from categories as diverse as ‘technology’ and ‘dance’ and if something catches your eye you can help it become a reality with a cash injection, often netting yourself exclusive rewards in the process.
You can also check out any starred or previously backed projects and get notifications whenever there’s an update on something you’ve backed – this is the best bit about a Kickstarter app, giving you real time updates on what’s going on with your projects.
But while the app doesn’t do much that the site doesn’t it’s far more at home on Android than on a PC screen. With thousands of projects complete with loads of images and videos it’s built for idly browsing, and that’s much more enjoyable from the comfort of a sofa or bed than a desk chair.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
There’s no one bigger in the world of photo editing than Adobe and when it comes to smartphone apps Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the cream of the crop. Once subscription based it’s now free, so there’s no reason not to have it.
Whether you’re inexperienced at photo editing and just make use of the one-tap presets or want to dive deep with adjustments to exposure, white balance, contrast and temperature, Lightroom has you covered.
There are also tools to reduce noise, improve clarity, add filters and effects and crop and rotate your shots. Plus it’s got a stylish, intuitive interface, as you’d hope for something with such a visual focus.
Dolphin Browser for Android
Chrome is probably the browser of choice for most Android users, but if you want a little more power you should check out Dolphin Browser for Android.
One of its key features is support for Flash, which you don’t get from most other Android browsers. It also has a built in pop-up and advert blocker, so you don’t have to keep tapping away intrusive ads for that lawnmower you looked up once six years ago.
Other features include gesture controls, incognito browsing, voice search and multiple themes, so you can customise Dolphin Browser to your liking. Plus it has all the basics like bookmarks and a choice of search engine.
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.
In many ways it’s like a more powerful and more impenetrable version of IF. If you’re brave enough to learn its ways there’s a lot here, with the promise of total automation by combining triggers such as an app, day or time, with actions, variables and conditions.
Tasker is so powerful it can even be used to create whole new apps. It’s complex, vast, and you’ll wonder how you lived without it.
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, so you can easily see conditions at a glance.
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, but it’s simple and mildly addictive. Should any of them star you back, you’re able to start chatting and… maybe more.
While there was a time when Tinder was little more than a wall of faces it’s now possible to add a few more details to your profile, making it that little bit easier to start a conversation with matches.
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. But with over 1.5 million books available, often low prices and the ability to try before you buy with sample chapters we can’t be too cynical.
While reading on an ereader is typically preferable to a phone or tablet, the Kindle app makes it as pleasurable as possible, with a simple interface, speedy page turns and the ability to sync your progress in a book, so you can start on your phone and finish on your ereader.
Endomondo – Running & Walking
Endomondo – Running & Walking is a fitness tracking app which also includes cycling and over 40 other sports, making the name a bit misleading.
Get past that though and there’s a lot to like here. It ticks all the fitness app boxes, with personalised goals and training logs so you can look back on your workouts and progress.
After each workout you’ll also get a detailed summary, showing distance, duration, calories burned and more. Endomondo also aims to keep you motivated via audio feedback during workouts and competition with friends. Get really into it and you can even compete for prizes.
Fitness apps tend to work best in tandem with other devices and services though and Endomondo is no exception, as it allows you to link up to wearable devices and your MyFitnessPal account, to view your calories and nutritional intake.
Johnson and Johnson 7 Minute Workout
If you’ve ever struggled to find the time to exercise Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout could be for you, as it gives you a workout in just 7 minutes.
That might not sound like enough, but the exercises are designed so that with regular use they’ll have a real impact, helping you lose weight and stay healthy.
Best of all it’s a body-weight workout, so all you need for it is a wall, a chair and a small amount of floor space That means you can exercise almost anywhere, even at work if you don’t mind getting some weird looks.
There’s over 30 minutes of video at the heart of the app, guiding you through the exercises, and the workouts can be tailored to anyone from couch potatoes to athletes.
Facebook should need no introduction and in all likelihood the Facebook app won’t need one either. This all-conquering social network is used by so many people that it’s almost a surprise when you find someone who isn’t on there.
The app is the best way to use it on your phone or tablet, with an attractive, fast interface and the ability to get notifications sent to your device, so you’re never out of the loop.
If you want to chat to friends you’ll need to download the Messenger app too, but you can post status updates, read your news feed, comment, view profiles and more all from the main Facebook app.
Amazon Music has two sides. On the one hand it’s a music player, allowing you to play locally stored files. But cleverly it also allows you to stream from the cloud any music you’ve bought from Amazon itself.
Music bought elsewhere can also be uploaded to Amazon’s cloud, though while the first 250 songs are free you’ll have to pay to go beyond that.
However, to really get the most out of it you’ll want to be an Amazon Prime subscriber, as then you can also stream over a million songs and hundreds of playlists, making it a lot like Spotify or Apple Music, just with less content.
But as you can combine your own library with Amazon’s you can fill in any content gaps that you care about, which is something you can’t do with the likes of Spotify- if it doesn’t have a song on its servers you can’t play it.
Hangouts hasn’t quite become the SMS replacement app Google seemingly hoped it would, as its overload of features sometimes detracted from the simplicity of texting, but if features are what you want Hangouts is an accomplished option.
Yes, you can text, as well as sending MMS messages, but you can also have group chats with up to 100 people, which sounds exhausting to us.
Video and voice calls are also supported, as are group video calls with up to ten participants. You can communicate the old fashioned way using your minutes and text allowance, or using Wi-Fi or mobile data. Chat with people on iOS and desktop as well as Android, sync conversations between devices, send GIFs and more. It’s an all-in-one communication solution.
Phones get lost and sometimes even stolen, that’s just a fact of life, but with Cerberus they can be a whole lot easier to get back.
The app duplicates many of Google’s Android Device Manager abilities, such as tracking, ringing, locking and erasing a handset. But it goes much, much further too, allowing you to sound an alarm, display a message on the screen, take pictures, videos and screenshots to identify the thief, record audio and a whole lot more.
It’s a comprehensive service and while it comes with a one off cost it will more than pay for itself if you ever need to use it.
Whether you have your own blog or just like reading other people’s the Tumblr app has you covered. You can build, customise and post to your blog right from the app, filling it with whatever your heart desires, which, if you’re anything like the rest of the internet, probably involves cats in some way.
Or if you’re looking for something interesting to read you can search for content or browse through categories. And there is plenty of interesting stuff to read. Tumblr has been around for years and has blogs on art, music, design, news, social commentary, science and just about anything else anyone’s bothered to put online, all of which looks great on a big tablet screen.
There’s a community vibe too, with people commenting on blogs, reposting content, following each other and private messaging. There’s a lot to take in, but don’t be scared, dive in and see what you can find. It’ll probably be cats.
Wikipedia is a near inexhaustible source of information, with entries for everything from digestive biscuits to obscure historical events.
On Android you get full access to its over 32 million articles, all presented in a fashion that’s small screen friendly. But the Wikipedia app also takes advantage of its portable nature, by highlighting entries for nearby places.
With clever features like ‘link previews’, which allow you to see a preview of a linked article without losing your place, it’s a joy to use, whether you’re quickly looking up Julius Ceasar’s birthday or devoting an entire day to the intake of knowledge.
£9.99/US$9.99/AU$11.99 monthly subscription
After a lengthy stint on iOS, Apple Music has finally come to Android, providing Google fans with a new Spotify alternative.
With over 30 million songs, numerous radio stations, curated content, personal recommendations and more it’s a strong offering and it’s only going to get better, with music videos for example coming soon.
It goes beyond just the music itself, with photos and text giving you an insight into artists and their inspirations and coming from Apple it’s no surprise that it’s impeccably stylish.
At £9.99/US$9.99/AU$11.99 per month it costs the same as Spotify, but you can also get a three-month free trial to try it out.
Skyscanner – All Flights!
Flights are often the most expensive part of travel, but with the Skyscanner app you can make sure your airfare is as cheap as possible.
It’s a flight comparison service which allows you to plug in dates and a destination to see all the deals, or if you’re not sure where you want to go you can select ‘Everywhere’ for inspiration.
If you want to go deeper there’s also the ability to filter by price, cabin class, airline and take off and landing times. Because the day you’re planning to travel might not always be the cheapest you can also see flights across the rest of the week or month if you’re flexible, and when you’re ready to book you can do so direct from the app.
theScore – Sports & Scores
If you’re a sports fanatic and need to keep up with the results no matter what sport or team you support, then theScore is an essential app that you’ll want to make sure is installed on your Android device.
Covering Premier League, Champions League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Europa League, European Championships, World Cup, Formula 1 racing, ATP tennis, MMA, PGA golf, NFL, NCAA Football, MLB, NBA, NHL and every other major sport and competition it’s bound to have all the stats, scores and news you need.
With customisable alerts and Android Wear support you’ll never miss a moment and you can keep track of everything at a glance, all from your personalised ‘MyScore’ stream.
Zedge is a one-stop-shop for customising your Android device’s ringtones, notification sounds, wallpapers and app icons. It lets you easily make your device your own with a huge library of sounds, images and icon packs, which you can search through or view by category.
Digging through them all can be a little overwhelming, but that’s testament to just how many there are and they’re all completely free.
Put some time in and you can get your phone looking and sounding much more to your liking, which we’d say is worth the effort.
When taking your own photos you can edit them and add filters from the Flickr app, then put them in folders, keeping everything organised.
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.
There are podcasts on offer too and you can create a profile, giving you easy access to all your favourited stations.
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 access to over 40,000 audiobooks and advanced social tools for finding and sharing new music.
Using smartphones late at night can have a real impact on your sleep, with the blue hue your phone outputs keeping you awake long after you switch off.
Twilight solves this, 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.
Once you’ve downloaded the app and set it up it simply runs in the background, so you can forget all about it and the change in screen colour isn’t as jarring as you might expect. But there are also tools to adjust the intensity, colour temperature and brightness, so you can get it just right.
Sketchbook Express is better on a tablet than a phone, unless you have a truly monstrous handset. But assuming the canvas is big enough it’s a brilliant drawing tool, with 15 preset brushes, pressure sensitivity, multiple image layers and the ability to add text to your creations.
Surprisingly it’s also free and uses the same paint engine as SketchBook Pro, so while it doesn’t have as many features, what’s there works well.
If you manage to sketch something you’re proud of you can also share it to deviantART straight from the app, so friends and strangers can check it out.
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.
You can avoid expensive data charges while travelling by downloading language packs in advance. The app can also speak translations aloud and you can save translations for future use.
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.
Microsoft Office is the king of office suites on PC and that’s largely the case on Android too. Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all available, letting you create, view and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations to your heart’s content.
The apps are almost as full of features as their desktop counterparts, with the ability to add charts, footnotes, tables, images and more in Word, add formulas to Excel and create beautiful presentations in PowerPoint.
You probably won’t want to do much more than read a document on a phone screen, but these apps really come into their own on a tablet. Be aware though that you do need an Office 365 subscription to get full access to all the features.
Having a password, PIN or fingerprint lock on your phone is just common sense, but what if you want to go further and lock specific apps?
Android doesn’t offer that feature, but there are apps for it, like App Lock, which lets you lock down individual apps with a pattern, PIN, or, perhaps most usefully, a fingerprint.
That last one obviously only helps if you have a scanner on your phone, but if it’s there then it removes the pain of entering a pattern or PIN every time you launch an app.
App Lock itself is fairly barebones. It gives you a list of all your apps and lets you toggle which ones you want to lock. Additional options let you decide how quickly it will re-lock apps, prevent the uninstalling of apps without your PIN and setting it to ask you whether you want to lock newly installed apps.
The bulk of the interaction comes when launching an app which you’ve locked. In which case you’ll be presented with a fairly attractive lockscreen in a colour that matches the app.
Go into WhatsApp, for example, it’s green – and the app is fast, simple and works well. If you want to keep your photos, conversations or anything else private App Lock is essential.
Twickets is kind of like the ebay of ticket sales. If an event has sold out, whether it’s a football match, concert, live comedy, play, festival or anything else, you can check the app to see if anyone’s selling tickets.
That might sound like a recipe for getting ripped off, but tickets can’t be sold for more than face value, so it will simply be people who can’t make the event and want to get some of their money back selling them, rather than opportunists and profiteers.
Sales are securely handled too, with protections in place for both buyers and sellers, so you’re unlikely to get scammed.
Unified Remote Full
£2.99/US$3.99 (around AU$5.10)
Many phones have IR blasters built in, allowing you to control your TV with them. This can be useful, but given that most televisions come with a remote it’s often unnecessary. Being able to control your computer with your phone though can be far more beneficial, especially if you’re using it to watch or listen to something, without being sat right at your desk.
That’s where Unified Remote Full comes in. Using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, with no IR blaster required, it can communicate with your PC or Mac, along with other devices such as a Raspberry Pi.
There are over 90 built in remotes, giving you full control over various pieces of software, so whether you want a full virtual mouse and keyboard or just want a Netflix remote with buttons for playing and pausing content Unified Remote has you covered.
There’s a free version of the app, but most of the content is locked behind a one-time payment, which it’s well worth making if your PC is your primary device for media consumption.
£4.99/US$4.99 (around AU$6.80)
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.
With 72 samples, the ability to record and save your own samples to the app, realistic scratching sounds and more there’s a lot to play with, while an intuitive interface and big buttons make it easy to hit the right notes.
If your scanner isn’t tucked away at the back of the garage, guarded by a particularly angry spider, then you’re in a better position than us. But either way, Tiny Scanner makes for a faster, more modern alternative to conventional scanning.
Just use it to take a picture of a document and then crop out the background and fiddle with the contrast until it’s clear, readable and looks a whole lot like something your scanner would have done, minus the arachnid bites.
It’s a slick, easy to use tool, with options to password protect your documents and upload them to cloud storage. Or grab the Tiny Fax companion app and you can even fax them, if anyone still does that.
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.
It’s fast and simple, but still manages to look good. Just add RSS feeds to your feedly and you’re ready to consume content from your phone. If you’re new to RSS and not sure where to start the app also has a range of topics you can browse through for inspiration.
Call Recorder – ACR
There are any number of reasons you might want to record a call, from having proof of what someone said to simply making sure you can refer back to it in case you miss or forget something.
With Call Recorder – ACR this is simple, as it will record both sides of a conversation and you can set it to start recording automatically or manually.
So if you want you can leave it activated and have every single phone call recorded (although you’ll need to let people know if you are).
Or if you want to be pickier but not to have to manually start it you can tell it just to record calls from non-contacts, selected contacts or other filters.
Once a call has been recorded you can play it back and jump around to different points if there’s a specific part you want to hear.
There are various other settings too, such as the ability to change the format of recordings and automatically delete very short ones. The best thing about it though is that it just works. Tell it to record a call and it will – which is kind of what you want, right?
£7.95/US$12.95 monthly subscription
Modern life can be hectic and most of us could probably do with some calm. Headspace aims to provide that through numerous guided mediations, ranging from ten minutes to over an hour in length.
There are also a number which are focused on helping you flourish in specific aspects of life, such as relationships or fitness, and they’re all expertly guided by a former Buddhist monk.
You get access to ten short meditations for free, but to get the most out of it and unlock hundreds of others you’ll have to subscribe.
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.
Hermit for Facebook and Twitter
Whether you want to save space or battery life Hermit could be the answer. Often apps take up a surprising amount of space and can eat up battery by running in the background, but Hermit gives you an alternative that it calls ‘lite apps’.
Essentially these are lightweight website wrappers, which you can apply to any site to make them look and operate more like an app, complete with notifications and their own icons on your homescreen. But they typically have a smaller file size and they never run in the background, so battery use is minimal.
Hermit has a library of lite apps built in, including popular services like Facebook and Twitter, but you can create your own for any other site. The free version lets you use any two lite apps, but a one-time in-app purchase of £3.37 (roughly $4.76/AU$6.34) will let you use as many as you want.
Not only are these app alternatives light on battery and storage, they’re also customisable, with numerous themes and optional permissions. Plus, each of them runs in its own sandbox, so you’re protected against viruses.
Free (with optional subscription)
It’s great learning a new skill, but finding the time to do so can be tricky. Skillshare makes that a little bit easier, by breaking down lessons and tutorials into bitesize chunks that you can fit in while you take a coffee break.
As it’s an app it’s always with you, so you can learn on your commute too and there’s a vast variety of courses offered, from film making and photography, to game design, chocolate making and screen printing.
The courses aren’t generally detailed enough to make you an expert, but they’re a great way to get started or hone your skills. Some content is free, but to access the bulk of it or download the videos for offline access you’ll need a $9.99 (roughly £6.96/AU$13.08) monthly subscription.
Adobe Photoshop Mix isn’t quite the full Photoshop experience, but it is a slick photo editing app designed for fast and intuitive use on a smartphone.
You can easily crop and merge images, adjust the colours, add filters and do more fine-tuned editing of a specific segment of a picture.
Importantly you can always return to the original image too, so if you create a monstrosity the photo it was based on isn’t lost and when you’re done creating you can share your pictures in a snap as well.
Slide for Reddit
Reddit is the sort of thing that you just want to sit back and enjoy, at least if you’re more into reading than posting, which makes it a great fit for smartphones and tablets.
Slide for Reddit is one of the most visually pleasing Reddit apps around, making it a joy to use. It’s also customisable, allowing you to change the theme and colours according to your tastes.
But more than that it’s packed full of features, with support for multiple accounts, views for any Reddit content, an intuitive UI and speedy interactions, so you’re never left waiting or forced to tap more than necessary.
SwiftKey is probably the single best keyboard you can get for Android. It was the first to offer to ‘learn’ your writing style and attempt to predict your next word, getting better at predictions over time.
Others have since copied its approach but SwiftKey has stayed ahead, proving faster and more accurate than the competition. It’s also hugely customisable, with over 70 colours, designs and themes.
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.
If there’s one thing that makes us more certain the English language is in trouble than anything else it’s GIFs, and now GIPHY has its own app the days of verbal conversations may really be numbered.
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing, after all… if it’s true that a picture tells a thousand words a GIF must be an entire essay.
With the GIPHY app you can browse through an enormous library of GIFs, sorted into various categories, such as ‘Animals’ and ‘Emotions’. Or if you know what you want to express you can just type in a word or phrase and see what comes up – and some of the results are insane, to say the least.
Then from there you can easily share it across various messaging and social media services and never write out another message again.
No-one likes losing their data, whether that’s call logs and text messages or apps and other data. Whether you’re changing phone, want to factory reset yours or are just worried it could get lost or broken it’s handy to have a backup and Helium gives you that.
It’s not the only app for backing up content, but most others which allow you to create a complete system image require a rooted device, which Helium doesn’t, though if you don’t have a rooted device you will need to install a free counterpart app on your PC.
It lets you back up to and restore from a PC or microSD card and if you upgrade to the premium version you can also sync between two different Android devices and back up your data to cloud storage accounts.
The interface is functional rather than attractive, but then it’s not an app that you’ll spend much time looking at and all the backup options are clearly labelled check boxes, so you just tap on what you want to backup.
When restoring content there’s a separate tab for that. Just select whether you want to restore from local or cloud storage, then once again tap the boxes for the content you want to restore, so you can restore just some things or everything.
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. It’s not designed for reading your books from, but it ensures your library stays organised. A free version is also available, but it is limited to just 20 books.
eBay is probably the biggest online shopping site after Amazon and the app is well worth checking out if you ever buy or sell on it.
You can list items that you want to sell direct from the app, while there’s a simple PIN system that makes paying for your winnings via PayPal much simpler and less convoluted than it is on the full blown web site.
It also makes for an enjoyable way to while away a couple of hours browsing and bidding, followed by a few days where you dread looking at your bank balance.
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.
It matches Android’s Material Design look but has a bunch of bespoke features, allowing you to edit icons and themes, access widgets by swiping over an app and even add cover images to folders.
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, making setup time minimal.
If you spend as much time staring at your phone as us you probably sometimes struggle to get to sleep. But Sleepfulness is here to help.
Latching on to the mindfulness meditation craze, it supplies you with an assortment of ‘tried and tested mindfulness tracks’, aimed at both helping you get to sleep and improving the quality of your sleep.
The very app itself has a calming look and feel, not that you’ll spend much time staring at it, since the idea is to put a track on and then drift off.
Different tracks profess to have different benefits, from simply calming and relaxing you to relieving stress and anxiety, with a soothing voice guiding you to a clearer state of mind.
You get ten included for free, but to get the most out of Sleepfulness you’ll probably want to invest in additional ones, which you can do by either buying specific packs or paying a one-off fee for lifetime access to all current and future content.