The best free Android apps of 2019
It has been over ten years since Android was first outed by Google, and back then it was hard to imagine the sheer number of apps we’d have today.
There are apps for everything, and many of them are completely free, meaning you’re just a few downloads away from supercharging your smartphone at no extra cost.
Admittedly, the huge quantity of apps doesn’t mean they’re all quality – far from it in fact, and finding the good ones can be tough.
- What’s the best phone of 2019?
There are tools and techniques to help, with various lists in the Play Store providing you with Editor’s Picks across a range of categories, new releases and even apps that are specifically recommended for you based on your previous installs.
You can also hunt out apps that are similar to your favorites by searching for an app you have and seeing what else comes up.
And checking out user reviews and ratings can save you from downloading a dud of an app.
But even with all that, the sheer number of apps on Google Play means many of the best can often get lost, while weaker ones sometimes rise to the top.
So to make sure you never install a duff app here’s our selection of the best you should install right now – each one carefully chosen to ensure you’ll have a whole suite of fun, engaging and, dammit, useful apps on your phone or tablet.
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We’ve sorted them into categories so you can more easily find what you’re looking for. But make sure to check back weekly for our free Android apps of the week, which you’ll find below.
Best free Android apps of the week
Each week we add two apps to this list and you’ll find these two latest additions below.
YouTube Kids has been around for a while, and in that time it’s gradually improved to the point where it’s potentially the only video app your children will need.
You can create a profile for each of your kids and set what age range of content you want them to be able to access (with a choice of four and under, five to seven, or eight to 12). Alternatively, you can approve which content they can access manually.
You can also block specific videos and channels, choose whether to allow them to cast content to a larger screen, see what content they’ve previously watched, and set a timer if you want to limit how long they watch things for.
It’s a slick app that should make web videos safe and fun for children, though note that not all of the content is manually reviewed by YouTube Kids.
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.
Our favorite free Android apps for painting, drawing, sketching, design and animation.
If you’re looking for tattoo inspiration then Tattoodo is a great place to start. The app has an enormous number of tattoo images, which you can browse, or you can follow tattooists to see their designs, or search for a specific style or image.
Tattoos that you like can be saved so you can easily find the image again, and Tattoodo also lets you find nearby tattoo shops, upload images of your own tattoos, book appointments and request consultations.
That’s just half the app though – albeit the half that most people will probably be interested in. But Tattoodo also lets you set up an artist account, which allows tattooists to add their tattoo studio and portfolio to the app and makes them visible to numerous potential customers.
Google Arts & Culture
We’ve written about Google Arts & Culture before, but it’s worth highlighting again, as the app has been steadily updated with new content and features.
In fact, there’s an almost overwhelming amount of content tucked away inside this free app. You can, for example, view high-quality versions of famous artworks and zoom in close for a better look at them. You can also see 360-degree videos and – with the help of a VR headset – virtual reality tours of museums and other attractions.
You can also tour many of these sites using Street View, with both exteriors and interiors covered. There are also articles, information on local events and exhibits, the ability to save favorite artworks to easily return to later, and lots more.
And if you make it to an exhibit in the real world, you can also use Google Arts & Culture to learn more about artworks, simply by pointing your phone’s camera at them. If you have even a passing interest in art or culture, this is an essential download.
Over could be the app to take your social media game to the next level, as it has all the tools you need to create stylish designs full of photos, images and text, fit for Instagram, Facebook and most other social sites or even for use on posters and flyers.
The app lets you select from a range of canvas sizes, many of which exactly line up with the sizes used by popular social sites, then lets you add images and text to them, with various options available, including a range of fonts, the ability to adjust colors and positioning, and more.
Over also includes plenty of pre-made graphics to spice up your projects, and when you’re done creating you can easily share your design to other apps or save it as a JPG or PNG.
The basic tools are mostly free, but power users might want to pay for the Pro subscription, as this gives you access to more of everything: more fonts, more graphics, plus a database of templates, so you don’t have to build up your designs from scratch.
Redecorating or improving your home can be a daunting prospect, but Houzz could make it a little bit more manageable.
It could do that by inspiring you through its library of millions of photos, showing exteriors and interiors of various styles.
It could also do that by giving you a single storefront to find and buy all the furniture and other items you need, even going so far as to let you see products in your home, using augmented reality.
And it can do that by helping you find experts – such as architects and builders – to do the hard work for you.
If you’re planning to take on the task yourself then there are also plenty of articles on hand to help, as well as the ability to ask the Houzz community for advice.
If you use WhatsApp, you’re probably aware that the service has finally added support for stickers, so as well as emojis and GIFs you can now send larger emoji-like images. But while there are plenty of sticker packs to choose from there’s also – thanks to Sticker Maker – the option to make your own.
The app first has you create a new ‘sticker pack’ which you can name, then simply load up an image on your phone and cut out the part of the image that you want to use as a sticker. You can do this freehand or use tools in the app to cut a perfect square or circle.
You can also rotate the image if you want and then save it to your pack when you’re happy. Packs can contain up to 30 stickers, but need at least three. Once you’ve made at least three you’ll be able to send the pack to WhatsApp, where you can use your custom stickers just like any others.
If you later want to add or remove stickers from the pack, you can do that. You can also make additional packs if you have more than 30 sticker ideas or just want to keep the packs themed.
Sticker Maker is a slick app, and a useful one for anyone who likes WhatsApp stickers but just wishes they were more personalized.
Pexels is a database of photos that you can use for free for any purpose, including commercial uses, with no attribution needed (though it notes that attributions are still appreciated).
You can search using keywords or browse trending images, while tapping the photographer behind a photo will show you their other work on Pexels and let you follow them, so you never miss anything new that they upload.
You can also ‘like’ and collect photos within Pexels and if you want to take them outside the app you can easily share them with Instagram or other apps, save them as your wallpaper, or simply download them.
But Pexels also lets you become one of the photographers, as you can upload any of your own photos to the app for other people to use. However you choose to use Pexels though, it’s a slick, beautiful app.
SketchBook isn’t a new app, but while many of the features used to cost money, it’s now completely free, making it worth revisiting.
The features that are now free include more than 130 brush presets, customizable canvas sizes, various rulers, high quality image imports and more.
And that’s on top of all the basic tools that were already free, such as a layer editor and pen mode, all of which combine to make this one of the most generous free sketching apps available on Android.
Coming from Autodesk, the power of SketchBook should come as no surprise, but it’s an app that seemed worth the money previously and is now utterly essential if you’ve even toyed with the idea of digital sketching.
Ever wanted your own custom emoji and stickers that star you, rather than a generic face? Then you should definitely download Bitmoji.
This lets you recreate your likeness in cartoon form, with loads of tools available to make the look as perfect as possible. Then you can choose an outfit and get access to dozens if not hundreds of stickers, each of which feature you.
These can be shared to various chat and social apps, but Bitmoji has deeper integration with Gboard, letting you share its stickers direct from the keyboard. It can also be linked to your Snapchat account, making your Bitmoji your Snapchat avatar.
You can alter the look of your Bitmoji at any time, so if you change your own hairstyle you can change theirs to match, or just give them a new outfit, and new stickers and customization options are being added over time, so you shouldn’t get bored.
Canva was a hit on iOS and now it’s arrived on Android, giving you a simple yet powerful way to create posters, collages, flyers, cards, Instagram posts, banners and headers for blogs or other social media, and more.
It’s a graphic design app, and one that’s intuitive from the moment you launch it. Start by choosing the type of content you want to design, then take your pick from a wide selection of ready-made templates (or search for something specific). Once that’s done, you’re ready to get editing.
You can tap on any part of a template to change it with context-sensitive tools. Tap on text, for example, and you can write something new, or change the font, size, color and spacing.
Select an image to change the color, add a filter, adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, or switch it for a different picture altogether – either one of the many in Canva or one from your gallery.
You can also drag and rotate things, and there’s unlimited undo, so you can go back as many steps as you want if you make a mess of the whole thing.
When you’re done, you can save your creation to your phone or share it online. It’s also saved in the ‘Your designs’ section of the app, which you can access from the web and other devices, so you’ll never lose a design you’ve made.
Our favorite free Android apps for shooting, sorting and editing photos and videos.
Curator claims to be the first gallery app that organizes your photos using AI entirely offline, giving you the search power of something like Google Photos, without compromising on your privacy.
It works well too. The first time you launch the app it will analyze and assign tags to all of your photos (which can take a long time), then if you search using a keyword, such as ‘beach’ or ‘cat’, it will show you every image containing that.
Curator has a nice interface too, with two themes and the ability to view albums, all images, or all of the tags that have been assigned.
Albums can be renamed and favorited, photos can be moved between albums and there are gesture controls, to help you navigate the interface faster. There are also new features on the way, such as private folders and shared albums.
If you don’t care about the added privacy offered by Curator, then Google Photos is still the better app. Not least because it backs up your images and gives you access to them from other devices, but Curator is a strong alternative for those who prefer to keep their online presence to a minimum.
Photo Map is simply a world map that displays your photos over the parts of the world that you took them in.
Zoom out and you’ll likely just see a single thumbnail of one of your images over each country that you’ve snapped shots in, but zoom further in and you will see photos grouped into much smaller areas too.
The thumbnails also have a number on them, telling you how many photos are in that gallery. You can easily see them all and enlarge them with a tap.
There are a few options, such as the ability to change the look of the map or add terrain or satellite imagery to it, but mostly it’s just a great and simple idea – a visual way of separating your photos based on where they were taken. This is definitely one for those who like to travel!
Photo Map is free to use, but a one-off $1.49/£1.29 IAP will get rid of adverts.
If you love slathering filters all over your photos then there’s a good chance you’ll love Picai, as it makes the process a lot smarter than most apps.
But this isn’t just a tool for sticking filters on photos you’ve already taken (though you can do that too). Rather, it’s a camera app. Simply point it at something you want to photograph and it will use AI to detect what you’re looking at, even going so far as to provide a text pop-up telling you what it sees.
From there it will automatically choose filters that it thinks would be a good fit and overlay two of them on the viewfinder – one on the left half, the other on the right. That means you can see what a filter will look like before you even take a photo.
If you’re happy with one, you can swipe horizontally across it to select it, or you can swipe up or down to cycle through filters. It’s a clever idea, well implemented and completely free.
Your phone might already have Google Lens built in, but if not you can now download it from the Play Store, and that’s worth doing.
Once you’ve launched the app you can point your camera at almost anything and get information on it. Point it at a book and it will give you links to reviews of the book and places to buy it. Other products also produce store links, or if Google Lens can’t definitively identify something it will suggest similar products.
You can also point it at a landmark to get information on it, at foreign text to translate it or at an event to add it to your calendar. You can even point it at plants or animals to identify them.
The results aren’t perfect. In our experience Google Lens will regularly incorrectly identify something or fail to come up with any suggestions for what something might be, especially with more unusual items, but it works often enough to be genuinely useful, especially once you get used to the kinds of things it’s likely to work with – so you know whether to even bother booting it up.
PhotoDirector is one of the more powerful and polished photo editing apps available on Android. It’s got you covered for fun filters, frames and effects, but it gives you more control than some of its peers. For example, you can adjust the strength of effects and choose to apply them globally or selectively.
You get a lot of control over the core image too, as you can adjust the white balance, saturation, hue, sharpness, tone and more.
You can also rotate, crop or mirror the image, cut out sections, adjust the perspective, and if you’ve taken a portrait remove red-eye. There’s more here, too much to list, but suffice it to say, PhotoDirector is a comprehensive app.
You’re not limited to just editing photos you’ve already taken either; there’s also a camera component, allowing you to take new shots and see how effects and filters will look before you’ve even taken a picture.
PhotoDirector is free to download and use. There’s an optional subscription for £2.59 (around US$3.70) per month if you want to unlock additional tools, remove adverts and improve the output quality, but the core app is already far more generous than most free offerings.
Just a Line
Just a Line is a simple example of the creative potential offered by AR (augmented reality). It lets you view the world through your phone camera and draw on scenes by touching the screen.
You can see your drawings from multiple angles as you move the phone around, and you can film your creations to save them or share them with others.
There’s not a whole lot more to it than that, and Google (which built the app) describes Just a Line as an experiment, so you should go in expecting a curiosity rather than a full-featured app, but it’s a fun introduction to AR that can be enjoyed by all ages.
LightX Photo Editor
There are loads of filter apps and photo fixers on Android, but LightX Photo Editor is one of a much smaller number of comprehensive editing apps.
It has plenty of filters, as well as tools for sharpening images and removing blemishes, and much more besides.
You can tweak the hue, saturation and tone, adjust the focus, add a frame, sticker or text, merge images, create collages, flip, crop and rotate, draw on pictures and change the perspective.
All of that is free, though there’s an optional IAP to remove adverts and add a few extra features.
Whether you opt for the free or paid version, LightX is a powerful, feature-packed app that should suit most mobile photo-editing needs.
It’s not often that Google’s apps come to iOS before Android, but Motion Stills did, as it was designed to stabilize Live Photos, so they’d come out smoother. Now though it’s out on Android too, letting you shoot a short video clip which the app stabilizes.
Clips that you shoot can be saved as a video or a looping GIF and then shared on social media, and Motion Stills also lets you use a ‘Fast Forward’ mode, which will condense up to a minute of footage into a shorter clip. This too is stabilized, to keep it smooth, and you can pick the playback speed.
Motion Stills only works for new footage – so you can’t import and stabilize anything you’ve already shot (though if you just want to turn old footage into a GIF there are plenty of other apps that will do that).
But for anything new you shoot Motion Stills is a great way to make a GIF or short video and ensure footage remains smooth. It’s fast too, as footage is stabilized in real time, so you don’t need to wait for it to process your clip, and it’s completely free.
There are probably hundreds of photo apps around, but Google Photos stands out as it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos, all for free.
That’s reason enough to jump on board, especially as it works not just on Android but on iOS and computers too.
But with basic editing tools and the ability to make collages and albums this is more than just photo and video storage, it aims to be your first and last stop after taking a picture. To achieve that it will need a few more features, but it’s well on its way.
Our favorite free Android apps for learning new things, from history to music to coding and beyond.
If you’ve ever tried using an app to learn a language then you’ve almost certainly come across Duolingo. So why are we highlighting it? Well, it’s very, very good, and its features and language selection have improved vastly over the years, so it’s worth revisiting.
Duolingo has a massive library of languages to choose from, covering everything from French, Spanish and German, to Japanese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Swedish, Hebrew and beyond.
Pick a language that you want to learn, and you’ll then be taken through fun bite-sized lessons that gradually teach it to you. The whole process is colorfully presented and has lots of gamification. This won’t work for everyone, but we find it helps keep us motived, as does the ability to compete with friends. Best of all, Duolingo is almost completely free, though you can pay to remove ads and unlock a few extra features.
Tree ID – British Trees
Tree ID – British Trees is mostly one for UK users, but if you have any interest in trees then it could be worth a download wherever you are.
The main purpose of the app is to help you identify trees. It covers trees that are either native to the UK and common non-native ones, and you can work out which one you’re looking at by answering a series of questions.
Start by picking a feature, such as the leaf, bark or flower, and the app will ask you to describe it, showing you images and descriptions of different possibilities so you can drill down. For example, if you choose to focus on the leaf, you can then pick between ‘needles’, ‘scales’ and several other kinds of leaf, then select the color. After that, the app should be able to tell what tree you’re looking at.
Once it finds the tree, it will show you photos and all sorts of details, such as where it’s typically found, how to identify it, what it’s used for, what threats it faces and even any associated mythology or symbolism.
There’s also a map of where specific trees are found in the UK, to which you can add your finds. And if you just want to browse British trees, you can do that too, with an A-Z of them built into the app.
SmartPlant is a database of plants, including care information for most of them, such as how much and often to water them and where to place them.
You can search for a plant by name, browse by category, or scan a barcode or snap a picture for the app to identify, then you’re presented with images and details.
You can save plants to a wish list or tell the app that you have the plant already, and if you do the latter then it will add entries to an in-app calendar, telling you the optimal times of the year to do specific things with it, such as when to move it into direct sunlight.
With an optional $3.99/£3.99 monthly subscription you can also message experts to get more specific advice and answers to any plant-related questions you might have, but even the free version of the app is worth having to build up a database of your plants and get basic care instructions.
Big Bang AR
You might have read about the birth of the universe, but with Big Bang AR, you can see it. The app takes you on a journey starting 13.8 billion years ago, covering the Big Bang through to the development of Earth.
It does this with the help of augmented reality, letting you view the universe through your phone and look around by moving your handset. At points you can even do things like hold out your hand and see the Big Bang happen in your palm.
There will also be points where you can tap on things for additional information, and the journey is narrated by Tilda Swinton, so it’s engagingly delivered and it’s well worth experiencing at least once.
St John Ambulance First Aid
The St John Ambulance First Aid app isn’t new, but it is worth highlighting as it could save a life. It includes a selection of situations that you can choose from, such as ‘chest pain’ and ‘choking’, then talks you step by step through what you should do to help a person with these issues.
There are also guides to useful techniques that you might need, such as CPR, and the app – while functional rather than stylish – is easy to navigate.
Whether you ultimately choose St John Ambulance First Aid or not, we’d strongly recommend having at least one first aid app on your device – and this is one of the best.
StudySmarter aims to help you do just that. When you first launch the app, you can pick your area of study from numerous categories, such as law and mathematics, then you get access to various flashcards aimed at teaching you the subject.
But better yet, you can create your own flashcards and optionally share them with the rest of the StudySmarter community. Speaking of the community, there’s also an area where they can ask and answer questions related to subjects.
StudySmarter users can also upload documents related to a subject, ensuring they have access to all their study materials within the app and also giving access to other users, and users can even add their own subjects to the app.
The result is an app with a whole lot of potential, because as the user base grows, so will the number of study aids. Right now, the content is somewhat limited, meaning it’s most useful just as a way to create and use flashcards, but as a free download that’s enough to recommend it and if enough people take to it then StudySmarter could one day be a very smart way to study.
StorySign is designed to help deaf children learn to read, by translating children’s books into sign language.
To do this you need not just the app but supported books too, which at the time of writing in the UK is limited to just Where’s Spot?, but more are expected to be added.
With book in hand, just point your phone’s camera at the page and an animated character in StorySign will read the page in sign language. And children will know which words are being signed as the word will be highlighted. As such they’ll both be able to enjoy the books unsupervised and learn to read in the process.
While the content of StorySign is somewhat limited so far, there’s a lot of talent involved, with Aardman Animations (the company behind Wallace and Gromit) designing it and Huawei AI powering it, while Penguin Random House has partnered with it to supply classic children’s books to the app.
Even in its limited form, StorySign is well worth trying if you have a deaf child young enough to appreciate it, but we expect that this is one app that will just keep getting better as its library grows.
Scripts is a language-learning app focused specifically on learning to write and read in Chinese, Japanese or Korean. These languages are among the trickiest to learn as each one has a unique alphabet, but Scripts gives you a fighting chance.
It does this by showing you letters from the language you choose to learn, and then taking you through short exercises which see you swipe across your screen to draw the letter yourself. Initially you’ll be swiping across an outline of the letter, but it quickly moves on to just showing the letter at the top of the screen or not showing it at all, so you really have to learn to progress.
You’ll repeat the same letter a lot, but the exercises are all bite-sized, and so is your study, as you can only practice for five minutes each day unless you pay.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as everyone should be able to fit in five minutes of learning, but if you do want more you can pay $10.99/£10.49 per month, with discounts if you commit to a year.
That gives you unlimited time, removes adverts, lets you access Scripts offline and gives you full access to Drops. We’ve covered Drops previously but it too is a language learning app, but it’s broader, rather than just being focused on the alphabet.
Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy Kids is packed full of games and activities designed to entertain and educate young children.
From sorting objects based on their color, to selecting the right letter to complete a word, to drawing and a whole lot more, there are apparently thousands of activities in here, and while we haven’t tested that many, the ones we have tested are varied and well put together, with colorful drawings, songs and sound effects.
Most of the interactions use simple tap and swipe gestures, so most children should be able to navigate the app comfortably. A colorful character sits in the corner, and can be tapped whenever help is needed.
There’s a lot here, and Khan Academy Kids should be suitable whether you want something your kid can do on their own, or something they can play through together with you.
There are a lot of language learning apps on Android, but when it comes to languages such as Japanese, Mandarin and Korean, which have different alphabet systems, most apps fall a bit flat in teaching you to read and write in the language.
But that’s where LingoDeer excels, with various exercises designed to teach you the alphabet and grammar, as well as more conventional lessons focused on speaking and hearing the language.
LingoDeer can feel a bit intimidating at times, especially if you’re a complete beginner, as these alphabets can look completely alien, but we’re not sure there’s any way around that. Learning one of these Asian languages is going to be hard, and LingoDeer is a good way to get started.
There are so many words in the English language, including all sorts of weird and wonderful ones that you might never have come across. But how do you come across them? Browsing a dictionary is inefficient, so instead you could try Orphic, an app dedicated to the more unusual and interesting parts of English.
The app contains hundreds of words and will highlight a new one for you every day, even sending you a push notification for it if you want, so you can constantly learn new words.
You can also head into the app and explore its library of language at your own pace. For every word you can see definitions, example sentences and even hear an audio clip, so you can be sure you’re saying it right.
You can also add words to a list of favorites, so you can easily return to them later, and Orphic promises to add new words regularly, so the app should get better over time.
Our favorite free Android apps for having fun on your phone or tablet, through watching videos, reading, socializing and more.
If you often spend as long deciding what to watch on Netflix as you do actually watching things, then Dinggo! could be the app for you.
It’s essentially Tinder for streaming video. Pick the genres and subgenres that you’re interested in and select whether you want a movie or a show. The app then shows you posters for various titles, which you can swipe left on if you aren’t interested, swipe right on to add to your favorites, or tap on to get information and links to watch them.
As well as surfacing films and shows that you might not discover otherwise, Dinggo! can also search through multiple streaming platforms in one place. You can choose to get suggestions from any combination of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
At the moment it’s US-focused, so if you’re using the app elsewhere it might suggest things that aren’t actually available, but that aside it’s a handy way to help with indecision.
If you’re much of a reader then you’ve probably already come across Goodreads, and if you haven’t then you really should.
Goodreads lets you log the books you’ve read and those you want to read, so you’ll never forget about a book.
You can also rate and review books, and read the reviews others have written. There are lots of tools for finding new things to read too, including personalized recommendations based on what you’ve read previously, genres and ‘best of’ lists to browse through.
You can follow friends to see what they’re reading, and take part in reading challenges where you aim to read a certain number of books in a year. Plus there are handy tools, like the ability to scan a book cover to instantly search for the book on Goodreads. There’s a lot here, and it’s well worth digging into.
If you game on PC then chances are you use Steam, and if you use Steam then Steam Chat is sure to be useful.
The app not only lets you chat with your Steam friends, but also see which of them is online and what they’re playing.
You can take part in group chats, add people to your friends list, view people’s profiles, and customize what you’ll get notified about – so you can choose to only receive message notifications or game invites from specific friends, for example.
Steam Chat on mobile isn’t likely to replace the desktop service for most people, but as it’s free, it’s a great additional option.
AP News is an official app from the Associated Press, serving up a constant stream of news stories from around the world.
If you trust the AP for your news – and as news sources go, it’s arguably one of the most reliable – then the app is well worth having.
Beyond giving you a slick way to access its stories on your phone or tablet, the app doesn’t do much that’s overly exciting, but you can see a feed of the top stories or filter by category, and also choose which categories you do and don’t want to see, for a more customized experience.
You can also watch news videos and access AP Radio through the app, in case you prefer watching or listening to your news to reading it.
There’s no official Disqus app on Android, but this option from Try&Catch does pretty much everything you might expect an official app for the comment hosting service to do.
You get notifications when people reply to you, and can view your comments and their replies in the app. You can also post replies from the app, and follow channels and people. And there are several themes, so you can customize the appearance.
Some things can’t be done in-app – changing your profile for example – but there are links from the app to the Disqus website to do this.
Aside from a few limitations like that, our only issue with this Disqus app is that it seemed slightly unstable in our experience, and crashed while we were using it. It seems to be regularly updated though, so we’d expect it will get more stable over time.
Novel Effect: Read Aloud Books
Novel Effect brings books to life by adding music and sound effects. The app – which is aimed at young children – listens to you reading the book aloud, so that the right sounds are played at the right time.
There’s a small selection of free ebooks included in Novel Effect, including some classics such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but to get the most out of the app you’ll need to buy or supply other books.
Over 200 books and poems are supported with more regularly added, and there are links to buy many of the supported books from Google Play Books. But if you’ve got a physical copy or an ebook in a different format that works too, you just have to tell the app what book you’re going to read and then start reading.
Curated lets you curate a list of the movies, songs, articles, podcasts, books and other content that you come into contact with.
Simply search for the content on the app or add a link, then add a short review and any relevant tags, and other users of the app will be able to read what you think. In turn, you can also see the content other people post and follow people with similar tastes to you, so it’s a way to share and find interesting new content of all kinds.
You can comment on other people’s posts, browse specific tags to find related content, and ‘save’ content that you want to remember to check out another time.
For most things in Curated’s database there will also be relevant information. For example, for a podcasts there will be links to listen to it, and for a film there will be a trailer, cast list and synopsis, so you’re not reliant purely on the comments posted by other users. It’s a good app, and with more people using it Curated could be great.
VLC for Android
VLC isn’t new; in fact, in both Android and PC form, it’s been around a long, long time. It’s also been included on this list before, but continual updates mean it’s worth highlighting again.
The app, in short, is one of the best and most powerful video players for Android. It supports just about every audio and video file format, as well as network streams, DVD ISOs and pretty much anything else you might reasonably want to play.
Subtitles and closed captions are supported, and there are various tools when playing content, including an equalizer, Google Cast support, and numerous aspect ratios. There are also gesture controls for things like volume and brightness, making them easy to adjust without digging into menus.
It’s also completely free, so while VLC isn’t the only video player app for Android, it’s probably the only one you’ll ever need.
Telegram is a popular, powerful messaging app, and Telegram X is that but faster, with better animations and experimental features.
That last point is both a pro and a con, since some of those features won’t be as polished or useful as you might want, but most of them are minor (such as a night mode and some customization options) and can be ignored if you want.
For the most part, Telegram X is just like Telegram, which itself is a lot like WhatsApp, but with some features that help it stand out. You can, for example, create group chats with up to 100,000 participants, and share files with no limits on the size or type.
Telegram claims to be the fastest chat app on the market (other than Telegram X). That’s a tough claim to test, but it certainly seems slick. It also uses encryption, so your chats are secure, and it works on tablets and PCs as well as phones.
The real issue with both Telegram and Telegram X is that they’re only useful if you know other people who use them. If you do, or can get people to start, then they’re well worth exploring, but that could be a tough ask.
For years Pocket has been helping people find the time to read all the articles they find online that would otherwise go ignored.
You know the situation: you’re idly browsing but don’t have much time or should be doing something else, when you happen across an article that looks interesting. Maybe you plan to read it later and then forget, maybe you just resign yourself to the knowledge that it will go unread.
But with Pocket, you can save it to a reading list so it won’t be forgotten, and make it available both offline and on just about any device with an internet connection, so you can read it wherever and whenever.
It’s a great app, but as of recently Pocket has got even better, as now you can also listen to articles you’ve saved, so you don’t even need to read them. Pocket’s look has also been updated in an attempt to make it more pleasant to read from for long periods. So if you’re not already using it there has never been a better time to start.
If you’re a movie lover then you might already know about Letterboxd, and if you don’t you should. It lets you keep track of movies you’ve watched, add them to your list with a single tap, review them, give them a star rating, and say when you watched them.
It also lets you keep track of what you want to watch, thanks to a comprehensive film database and the ability to add films to a watch list – again with a single tap.
Letterboxd helps you discover films by highlighting what’s currently popular, and offering thousands of lists created by users of the app. These lists all have a theme, and while that’s sometimes as simple as someone’s favorite movies, usually it’s a lot more interesting than that, for example one list is titled “They aren’t films, they’re experiences”.
Of course, you can also make lists of your own, and Letterboxd is a bit of a social network too, letting you follow other users and comment on their lists.
Our favorite free Android apps for working out, reducing stress and crafting meals.
In the age of phones and tablets, it can be hard to get young kids out of the house and active. Ironically, a free Android app could be the solution.
Mission Adventure makes going on a walk more fun by giving children a story to follow and even participate in. First an adult sets a route in the app, with a number of markers along the way. Then you set off, following the route, with Mission Adventure chiming in whenever you reach a waypoint.
The app will sometimes ask simple general knowledge questions related to the story. Other times it will ask you to make a decision that affects how the story plays out, and other times still it might ask you to run to the next waypoint, justifying it by saying that you’re chasing someone, or being chased.
For free, this all plays out against the backdrop of a pirate adventure, but there are other story packs that can also be purchased. Each story has three chapters, with each walk forming one chapter. Given that questions can be answered wrong and decisions made differently, there’s a fair bit of replay value too.
Brewtime is a simple app for a simple activity: making coffee. Or, more specifically, making the perfect cup of coffee.
Whether you use a French press, V60, AeroPress, Chemex, Moka pot, vacuum pot or Clever Dripper, Brewtime will guide you through the process step by step, complete with a timer for how long you should spend on each step, and details of the exact amount of coffee, water, and temperature recommended. It will also keep a timeline of all the coffees you’ve made with its timer.
It’s a basic app – you only get one coffee recipe for each preparation method, and not all methods are accounted for. But if yours is, and you like the recipe provided, then this is an easy way to upgrade your morning beverage.
321FIT aims to turn your workout into something closer to a music playlist. Each exercise is the equivalent of a track, and you can either pick a pre-built playlist/workout or create your own, then hit play and the app will tell you what exercise to do and when to move on to the next one.
A timer counts down, so you can see how long you’ve got left, and blocky eight-bit animations paired with a retro music-player look give 321FIT more personality than a typical workout app.
The selection of exercises is perhaps a bit limited, and many require gym equipment, but this is a charming, straightforward app that does things a bit different, and it does more than enough for free.
Lorna Jane Active Living
Lorna Jane Active Living is an all-in-one exercise and healthy living app. It has a variety of free video workouts covering strength, cardio and stretches, plus meditation, recipes and a movement tracker that uses GPS.
You can save recipes and workouts to your favorites to return to later, but you can also build up an in-app calendar of workouts and meals, so you can always know what to cook and what exercise to do.
There are a lot of other handy tools too. Exercises are explained in text form alongside the videos, an in-app shopping list lets you add ingredients that you need to buy, and you can set and track goals.
Lorna Jane is a clothing brand, so there’s also the expected shop section, but you can easily ignore this if you just want the exercises and/or recipes. All in all, this app is surprisingly full-featured and promises to get more so over time, with more exercises set to be added. And while Lorna Jane Active Living is heavily marketed at women, it’s worth a look even for men.
If you’re on a diet or have specific dietary requirements, then finding a restaurant that offers suitable meals can be tricky. CalorieCap can help.
Within the app, you can choose the minimum and/or maximum calories you want a meal to offer, alongside a similar min/max for protein, carbohydrates, fat, sugar and sodium. You can also choose a specific ‘lifestyle’, such as gluten-free or keto.
Fill in as many or as few of these boxes as are relevant, then hit search and CalorieCap will bring up all the suitable meals from a range of popular restaurant chains. Or, if you already know where you want to eat, you can select that restaurant and just search the dishes there.
You can also save suitable meals to a ‘My Meal’ tab on the app, so you won’t have to search for them again in future if you forget what you can eat.
It’s a handy app, with the main downside being the limited selection of restaurants you can choose from. For one thing, it’s very US-focused, so while some chains such as Pizza Hut and KFC will be found elsewhere, the app is by far at its most useful if you’re in the US.
Even then though you’re limited to chains and by no means all of them. It’s understandable that it wouldn’t be possible to have a database of everything, but if you tend to eat out at independent restaurants then you’re on your own.
My Possible Self
My Possible Self aims to improve your mental health and reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety and low moods in as little as eight weeks. We haven’t yet used it for that long, but based on around a week of use it seems like it could make a real difference.
It includes 10 modules dedicated to improving different aspects of mental health. Each module has a number of fairly substantial ‘sessions’, made up of tips, examples and exercises to help you, say, manage stress or build happiness and wellbeing.
On top of that, My Possible Self also includes a mood tracker, letting you fill in how you feel every day and see a graph of your moods over time. Plus you can add ‘moments’, which are a snapshot of how you feel at any given moment, made up of text and optionally a photo.
There are other apps like My Possible Self, but this seems richer in resources than most. Having said that, it’s only currently available in the UK, and many of the modules are hidden behind a paywall of £5.99 (about $8) per month or £59.99 (about $80) per year. It’s not cheap, then, but also no more expensive than many meditation apps that are similarly focused on your wellbeing.
Endomondo is one of the oldest Android fitness apps and it’s still one of the best, thanks in part to regular updates.
It’s packed full of features, letting you track not just running, cycling and walking but also more than 60 other activities -, so if there’s a sport you do, chances are Endomondo has some tools to help you monitor it.
GPS monitoring lets you track statistics such as distance and pace, but you can also manually log indoor workouts or anything else where GPS won’t be much use.
Additionally, Endomondo can be paired with other accounts and wearables, such as the Fitbit app and heart rate monitors, allowing it to sync data with them.
With custom goals, challenges (that in some cases even have prizes) and the ability to compete with friends, there’s a lot to keep you motivated and the app itself is slick and easy to use.
All of these features are free, but you can unlock various extra tools such as personal training plans and advanced statistics if you subscribe to Endomondo Premium, which costs £9.99 (around $13) per month, though it’s only around a third of that price if you commit to a year.
Google’s official health and fitness app, Google Fit has been around for a while, but it’s now been overhauled and is better than ever as a result.
At the heart of the overhaul there’s ‘Move Minutes’ and ‘Heart Points’. The former records your general movement throughout the day and aims to encourage you to make small changes, such as walking up stairs rather than taking the elevator.
Heart Points reward you not just for the amount of time you’re active but for how much you raise your heart rate – a feature which really helps the app stand out.
In line with most fitness apps, the core features are still available; you can track various workouts, monitor and adjust your goals, and even get some basic customized tips and coaching, based on the activity that you do.
Our favorite free Android apps for making music, listening to music, finding podcasts and everything else to do with audio.
Want to listen to music that no one else has heard? With Mubert you can. It uses AI paired with a sample database to generate music to fit various genres and situations. So whether you’re working or trying to sleep, it will create something suitable.
You can also tell Mubert if you particularly like or dislike the music it generates, and it will learn from that, so over time the music it generates becomes more personalized to your tastes.
Anything you want to be able to listen to again you can favorite, but otherwise you’ll be getting a new soundscape every time you load up the app or a stream.
The core features are free, but for $6.99/£8.99 per month (with discounts available for paying yearly) you can get access to a larger and ever-expanding sample base, along with other features, such as the ability to change the intensity of the music. That’s a high price when the core features are free, but could be worth it if you get a lot of use out of the app.
Shazam is far from new, and chances are you already know about it, but it’s worth highlighting as it has been improved over the years.
But first, if you don’t know what it is: Shazam can identify music by listening through your phone’s speaker.
Originally this involved launching the Shazam app and tapping a big button on its main screen, but since launch the developer has added an ‘Auto Shazam’ feature, which allows Shazam to listen for music al all times.
If you don’t want it quite that ever-present then you can instead simply set it to start listening the second you launch the app, so you don’t have to tap any additional buttons.
And most recently ‘Pop-Up Shazam’ was added, which lets you identify music when using other apps without having to jump back to the main Shazam app.
Shazam can now identify music that’s played through headphones on your handset, and can even go beyond music, using visual recognition to identify posters, books and more.
There’s also Wear OS support, and once you’ve identified a track you can access it on Spotify or Apple Music with a link from Shazam.
Spotify Stations is a more streamlined alternative to the main Spotify app, but before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth noting that at the time of writing this one is just for those in the US or Australia (though we imagine it will launch more widely over time).
With that caveat out the way – Spotify Stations lets you listen to playlists (or ‘Stations’), rather than selecting specific songs or albums.
These stations might focus on a genre, or a mood or activity. For example you could get a ‘Relaxing jazz’ station, or a ‘Workout’ one. You can also create stations based around a selection of musicians that you like.
But mostly Spotify Stations seems to be aimed at getting you listening faster, without any typing or searching, and helping you discover new music, something which it gets better at over time, as it learns what sorts of things you like.
A lot of this stuff is in the main Spotify app too, but here it’s front and center, without any distractions.
You need a Spotify account to use Stations, but you don’t need to be a paying member. However, if you are, you’ll be able to skip an unlimited number of tracks, and won’t have to put up with adverts.
Swoot aims to make podcasts social, by sharing what you’re listening to with any friends who also use the app.
This is primarily useful to help you find new podcasts to listen to, especially as there’s also a recommendation feature, which lets you actively recommend a podcast to friends in the app (optionally adding text to explain why you recommend it).
Swoot also has a ‘Trending’ tab, so you can see what’s popular with people who aren’t on your friends list, and beyond all that it’s a basic but competent podcast player, letting you subscribe to podcasts, download episodes so you can listen offline, and change the playback speed.
The interface could use some work – it’s fine but a bit bland in appearance, but otherwise this is a great app if you have friends who are as into podcasts as you.
Endel creates soundscapes to help you relax, help you focus, help you sleep or for when you’re on the go.
Unlike some apps such as TaoMix 2 you can’t customize the sounds, but what Endel can do is access time, location and weather data, and even your heart rate if you have a monitor and give it access to your health data, and it uses this information to tailor the soundscapes to your current situation.
Beyond picking a mode you can also set a timer if you want it to shut off after a certain amount of time, but that’s about all. This is a simple, stripped back app on the surface, that’s doing lots behind the scenes to ensure it’s properly personalized.
It’s also an attractive, easy to navigate app, so whether you want something to drown out the background noise, bring on sleep or motivate you to keep moving, Endel could be a good choice.
Louder.me aims to both help listeners discover new independent music, and musicians get their music out there – and maybe even win cash prizes in the process.
As a listener, you can hear samples of independent songs in the arcade section of the app. If you like what you hear you can heart it and there’s also the option to listen to the full track or add it to a playlist.
But the tournament section is perhaps the most interesting part of Louder.me. This pits the 64 songs with the highest rating in arcade mode against each other.
It pairs them up – so there are 32 pairs of songs – and lets you listen to samples (or the whole song if you’d prefer) and then say which of each pair you preferred. Over a number of rounds and eliminations a winner is ultimately declared, winning $1,000. Of course, even the losers get extra exposure this way.
As a musician you have to use the website to upload your tracks to Louder.me – that functionality isn’t offered in the app, but as a listener the app somewhat gamifies the listening experience, making for a fun twist on music discovery.
Aroundsound Audio Recorder
Aroundsound Audio Recorder is a seemingly simple audio recording app with a surprising amount to it.
It’s designed to allow you to quickly and easily record any sound with a single tap – be it a conversation, the wind in the trees, or anything else.
Recordings are saved automatically, named based on the time of day, and given a location tag. Tapping on a recording then plays it back. Simple.
You can also adjust the recording quality, pause a recording and continue the same recording later, trim a recording or edit out unimportant parts, and share recordings with people or apps as a web link, so there’s no need for others to have the Aroundsound app or to download a file in order to listen to your recordings.
You can also change the names of your recordings and add bookmarks to important points in them, so you can easily find the key parts later. These bookmarks can even have a note attached. Plus, you can back up your recordings to the cloud, so they’ll never get lost.
There’s a lot here, but most of its stays out of the way, so if you want to stick to the basics you won’t find endless buttons and toggles intruding on the experience.
Sound Amplifier is an app from Google designed to enhance audio when using headphones. Well, we say an app, but it won’t appear in your app drawer and you can’t launch it as such. Instead, you’ll find it in the Accessibility section of your phone’s main settings screen, and only when wired headphones are connected.
Once there, you can reduce unwanted sounds, adjust the mic volume and boost or fine tune the audio from one or both sides of your headphones.
The primary purposes of the app are to make sound clearer by increasing quiet sounds without over-boosting loud sounds, and to reduce background noise so you can better focus on the audio.
It did a fairly good job in our tests, but there’s one major issue, namely the need for wired headphones. This of course is a problem for anyone who prefers to go wireless, and even more of a problem on the ever-growing number of phones that lack a 3.5mm headphone port.
The app also seems as though it could really benefit those with hearing issues, yet many such people use wireless hearing aids, which won’t be compatible with it. Hopefully Google will drop the need for wires before too long.
Radio by Deezer
Radio by Deezer is a slick if slightly basic radio player app, and although it comes from Deezer (a company known primarily for its Spotify-like subscription service) it’s free to use.
The app has around 30,000 FM and online radio stations sorted into various categories, such as ‘pop’ and ‘rock’. So you can browse them that way, or search for a specific station.
Stations that you recently played or play the most often will be added to lists on the ‘My Stations’ tab, though in a weird omission there’s no way to manually add stations to your favorites.
You can however favorite songs that are being played, but unless you have a Deezer subscription this will just show you a list of them, rather than actually letting you listen to them again.
It’s an app that needs work, but it looks good, is easy to navigate and makes for a great companion to the main Deezer service.
BBC Sounds brings all of the BBC’s live radio content and podcasts to one app, so you can listen live on your phone, and subscribe to and stream podcasts.
BBC Sounds also lets you pick up where you left off on another device, so if you get halfway through a podcast on your phone, you’ll be able to start from that point on your tablet automatically. It can also recommend content based on what you’ve been listening to, so it’s a good way to discover new things.
It’s basically iPlayer for radio (in fact the plan is for it to ultimately replace BBC iPlayer Radio) and if you listen to a lot of BBC content it’s arguably a smarter, better choice than listening on a radio or using another podcast app.
At the moment the BBC Sounds app is UK-only, but given that the iPlayer Radio app is available globally we wouldn’t be surprised if BBC Sounds is one day too.
SW True-Fi Beta
SW True-Fi Beta aims to maximize the potential of your headphones by tuning sound settings specific to the headphones you have plugged in. You do this by selecting yours from a long list of supported headphones, then True-Fi does the rest.
But you can also adjust the sound according your age and make manual tweaks to aspects of it, such as the bass.
The adjustments only work when playing music through the SW True-Fi Beta app, but that needn’t be a problem, as not only can it play local music files, it can also connect to Spotify and play music from there.
Not all headphones are currently supported, which is the main limitation of the app, but if yours aren’t then you can contact the company to ask them to be added.
Drum Pads – Beat Maker Go
Drum Pads – Beat Maker Go is a drum machine which lets you easily make beats on the go. There are numerous sound packs split across various genres, such as dubstep, EDM and hip-hop, and once you select one you can get tapping on the drum pad.
There are various effects that you can apply to your track, such as distortion and delay, you can create loops and save your finished pieces, then share them with friends.
Drum Pads is accessible enough that beginners should be able to have fun with it (though some trial and error will be required), but there’s enough here to appeal to more advanced users too.
Phonograph Music Player
While many of us have moved to streaming music, there is still a place for locally stored music on Android, and Phonograph is one of the better players.
Phonograph puts aesthetics and ease of use first, so it’s always pleasant to operate. The app has a Material Design look that fits with Google’s vision of Android, but it’s also packed full of album art and color, so there’s never a dull screen.
You can also customize the colors and overall theme and look of the app, while the color of the main ‘now playing’ screen will change based on the album artwork of the current track.
The layout is simple too, with your music library sorted by song, album, artist or playlist, and you can switch between views with a swipe, while most other options are no more than a tap away.
Although not as feature-packed as some players, Phonograph has a number of handy extras and toggles, like gapless playback, information and images pulled automatically from Last.fm, a sleep timer, widgets and lock screen controls.
Our favorite free Android apps for taking notes, writing and editing documents and generally working on the move.
Fleksy is an alternative keyboard for your phone, and has a lot going for it, including the fact that it’s regularly updated with new features.
One recent addition at the time of writing is ‘Fleksyapps’, which lets you use a number of apps – such a Yelp and YouTube – from within the keyboard, so you can check the weather, look up nearby restaurants, watch and share videos, and more, all without moving away from the app that you’re currently typing in.
Fleksy also supports GIFs, gesture controls, and a huge amount of customization, as you can choose between numerous themes and extensions, and change the size of the keyboard.
One major omission at the moment is swipe typing, but Fleksy claims to be working on this. In the meantime, if you’re happy to tap keys the old fashioned way, then Fleksy is a great way to do it.
Email – mail with TypeApp
In the wake of Google killing Inbox there will probably be lots of people looking for a new home for their email. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options. We’ve recently highlighted Spark as one strong alternative and Email – mail with TypeApp is another.
This has been around for a long time, has strong user reviews and is regularly updated, which is reassuring.
Features include quiet hours, read receipts, support for multiple email accounts, a unified inbox, Android Wear support, multiple themes, widgets, an integrated calendar, configurable menus and more.
Email – mail with TypeApp also has a ‘People Switch’ which puts emails from actual people at the top of your inbox, ahead of marketing emails and the like.
We’re not the biggest fans of some parts of the design – while your inboxes look good the settings screens don’t – but for features, this one’s hard to beat.
Google might have discontinued Inbox, but Spark has arrived to fill the gap. Already a hit on iOS, Spark aims to stand out from the email app crowd with handy features like a smart inbox, which puts important emails at the top.
There are lots of features aimed at helping you reach Inbox Zero too, with tools like snooze, send later, quick replies, a smart search, collaboration tools and more.
Despite offering lots of features, Spark is also easy to navigate, with a clean, simple interface that makes interacting with your email as pain-free as possible. Oh, and it’s totally free.
HiHello Contact Exchange
Business cards are a somewhat dated concept but they still serve a purpose, so in an attempt to bring them into the 21st century, HiHello Contact Exchange makes them digital and even easier to share than the physical kind.
The app lets you create multiple different cards containing different information. You might for example have a work card that contains your work email and job title, while a personal card could have your personal email and Facebook link.
Lots of different things can be added to each card though, including your phone number, website, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
To share a card you just launch the HiHello app, tap on the card you want to share, tap the share button to display a QR code and then the person receiving it simply points their phone camera at the QR code to get it.
Alternatively you can email or text the card to someone, so unlike a conventional business card they don’t need to be physically present to receive it. And the card can be saved to their phone’s address book, meaning they don’t need the HiHello app themselves.
Notes by Firefox
Notes by Firefox is a very simple note-taking app, ideal if you just want to jot down basic notes without wrestling overbearing interfaces and unwanted options.
The look is minimalist, with a mostly white screen housing all your current notes. You can tap on one to open and edit it, tap the plus button to make a new note, or tap the minus next to a note to delete it. There are a few formatting options – you can create bullet points or numbered lists, add headings and use bold and italics, but that’s about it.
However, Notes by Firefox does have a few tricks up its sleeve, as it syncs between your Android device and the Firefox browser on your desktop, so you can access your notes from multiple devices, and they’re secured with end-to-end encryption.
Other than that, this is a basic app, but if you’re not a power user it should be all you need, and it’s completely free.
Quip is an office suite built for teams, as not only can you create documents and spreadsheets, you can also share them with others and work on them collaboratively.
It supports real-time messaging too and while this app will mostly be of use for teams of people who work together it could also be used for other things, such as shared grocery lists and to-do lists.
You can access it all from your phone, tablet or computer, so you’ll never be far from the work and information you need, and Quip is quite full-featured when it comes to actually creating documents and spreadsheets, as for example it supports over 400 spreadsheet functions.
You probably won’t want to make much use of them from a phone, but if you’re on a tablet then Quip is a great way to work on the move, and even on a phone it can be good for reading, editing and commenting on work.
Otter Voice Notes
Otter Voice Notes is a voice recorder, but that’s just the beginning. It also uses AI to automatically turn the recordings into written text so you can read them back rather than having to listen to them.
The app also lets you search for keywords, so you can find exactly the piece of information you’re looking for in seconds, even in long recordings. This all makes it a great tool for recording meetings, lectures and the like, especially since Otter can be trained to recognize voices and you can tag who’s talking, so that even in text form you can see the true flow of a conversation.
You can also create groups with other Otter users if you want to share recordings, and all of your recordings are saved in the cloud so you can access them anywhere and don’t have to store them on your Android device.
The text transcription isn’t perfect (though Otter claims it will get better over time if it’s you talking, as it gets to know your voice better), but it’s reasonably accurate in our experience and you can always go in and make changes to the text manually.
Files by Google
Chances are you already have some kind of file manager on your phone, but Files by Google is still worthy of attention, as it’s made by Google and has many rivals beat.
There’s two parts to it. First, the ‘Storage’ section which highlights all the ways you might be able to clear space on your device, such as by deleting duplicate or large files, moving files to your SD card and deleting rarely used apps.
Then there’s the ‘Files’ section, which is a file explorer, letting you dive into the folders on your phone so you can find, open, rename, delete or share specific files.
The whole app is colorful and easy to navigate as well, with an interface seemingly inspired by Google Now’s cards.
Our favorite free Android apps for improving productivity, whether through to-do lists, focus timers or other tools.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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 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.
It doesn’t look like much, with a bland, functional rather than stylish design, but what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in features.
These include categories that your list entries can be filed under automatically (with ‘apples’ appearing in the ‘produce’ section of a grocery list, for example). You can also make your own categories and move entries to different ones, or not bother with categories at all.
You can save regularly recurring items to your favorites, so they’re easy to find and add back on to a list whenever you want, hide or display crossed off items, sort items alphabetically or manually, share lists with other people and plenty more besides.
The bulk of the app is free, but for a $9.99/£8.99 yearly subscription you can unlock all sorts of extras, such as passcode protection, cloud backups, the ability to add photos and prices, and a whole lot more. It’s good value for money but even if you stick with the free version of AnyList you’ll find that it’s more feature-packed than most rival apps.
Calendar Notify is designed to make your upcoming calendar entries more visible, so that rather than having to open your calendar you can see them on your status bar, as well as optionally on the lock screen and as a widget on your home screen.
You can customize the look and size of these calendar displays and the app works with your existing Android calendar, so you don’t have to start using something else.
The core Calendar Notify app is free, but for a one-off purchase of £3.39 (around $4.50) you can unlock the Premium Edition, which is packed full of extra features, most notably a range of advanced customization options, giving you near total control over the design and layout.
If you ever have trouble remembering people’s birthdays then Wishlist is for you, as it lets you create a list of important dates for the people you care about. Other apps do this too, but with Wishlist you can set a notification to go off in advance of the date, so you have warning that it’s coming up.
That too can be handled by some other apps, but Wishlist does it automatically. Just set how many days before a date you want a notification and that setting will be applied to all dates in the app. Ideally, we’d like to be able to set multiple notifications – one in advance and one on the date, for example, but this is a good start.
Wishlist isn’t just for dates, either. As the name suggests, it can also be used to build up lists – in this case of present ideas for people – so each contact saved to Wishlist can have their own list of potential presents. That means if you ever see something that you think someone might like, you won’t have to buy it months in advance of their birthday or hope you remember it, you can just add it to a list.
There are fields for not just the name of a gift idea, but also website links, the price, any notes, an image, and a priority rating out of 10.
Beyond all that you can also add a phone number to any contact you add to Wishlist and can then message or call them from the app. The idea is presumably for Wishlist to become your main dialer app, though we’re not convinced you’ll want to make that change right now as the interface is quite bare bones. But for its date and list features it could make a good companion to your existing apps.
InboxIt doesn’t try to do everything. Rather, the app does one thing, but does it very well. That one thing is emailing things to yourself, be it photos, videos, URLs or text.
You might not think that you need a separate app to send yourself an email, but InboxIt speeds up the process. Once you’ve set the app up you simply tap the ‘Share’ icon on the content you want to send, then select InboxIt and the content will automatically be emailed to you. No need to select an email address, type out a subject or anything else.
And if you’re in the habit of emailing yourself reminders, you can do that from InboxIt too. Just launch the app, select ‘New reminder’, type one out and hit ‘Save’.
You can set the free version of InboxIt to send things to a Gmail address, which will probably suit most people just fine. But if you want to use a different email you can pay $0.99/£0.99 to unlock premium features, which also include the ability to use Gmail labels and a custom email subject prefix.
Emma helps you keep a close eye on your money. Link all your bank accounts (including credit cards) and you’ll be able to see all their balances in one place.
But that’s just the beginning. Emma also tells you how much money you have in total across all your accounts, as well as how much debt you have, and how much money you gain or lose in total each month.
It also lists all transactions and has a good stab at putting them into categories, such as shopping, transport or bills. This also means you can see at a glance how much you’re spending in each category, which is a good way to make you more aware of your spending and potentially reduce it.
You can change any miscategorized spends, see a list of recurring payments, get a weekly breakdown of spending and income, and more.
Of course, Emma is secure too. It uses SSL 256-bit encryption, supports fingerprint locking and doesn’t store your banking credentials.
Emma is an essential app if you have accounts with more than one bank, but even if you don’t, chances are that it gives you a lot more insight into your money than your bank does. The only real downside is that it’s UK-only.
Our favorite free Android apps for customizing and improving the security of your device.
Everyday – Calendar Widget
At first glance, Everyday – Calendar Widget might struggle to stand out. It is, after all, simply a pair of widgets for your phone’s calendar, and we’ve seen calendar widgets before.
Where this has a bit of an edge though, is not in functionality so much as customization, because you can completely change the look, choosing your own primary, secondary and background colors, as well as primary and secondary text colors, corner size and background opacity.
You can also choose the starting day of the week, how many days and events to display, whether to show past and declined events, and more besides.
One of the two widgets shows your agenda, so you can see upcoming events from your home screen, while the other gives a more zoomed out view of your calendar, showing two weeks at a time, but not including the actual entries until you tap on a day.
Standard stuff then, but if you like the idea of a calendar widget but need it to look a certain way, then Everyday – Calendar Widget could well do the job.
Abstruct – Wallpapers in 4K
There are loads of wallpaper apps on Google Play, but Abstruct is one of very few that we’ve felt compelled to spend money on – and much of the app is free too.
It’s crafted by the person responsible for the official OnePlus wallpapers, and you’ll find those in this app, but there are also many, many more that he’s made that aren’t used by OnePlus.
They’re all somewhat abstract, but some are altered paintings or landscapes, while others are completely digital creations across a number of themes. There’s quite a lot of variety and many of them look absolutely stunning, especially as they’re delivered in up to 4K quality.
There are over 300 wallpapers in all, and you can get around half of them for free, while the rest are unlocked for just $1.99/£1.99.
LockBox is a simple, secure way to store information that you want to keep handy but don’t want to risk anyone unauthorized getting access to.
The app has a simple interface letting you type out basic text notes and put them in named folders. But these notes are automatically encrypted (using AES-256 bit encryption with PBKDF2 SHA-256 and salted hashes), so they’re more secure than your average note app, and as LockBox stores data in the cloud you can access it anywhere.
The sorts of things the app imagines you storing include passport numbers, social security numbers, credit card information and the like, but you can use it for anything.
The app also requires a password or fingerprint to login to of course, so if someone gets access to your device, they won’t get access to your notes.
Hide Camera Hole
Some phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 now have punch-hole cameras cut into the screen. These eliminate the need for a bezel or notch, but it means there’s a potentially distracting circle in the corner of your phone’s display instead.
Hide Camera Hole is one of several apps that tries to address this by supplying a selection of wallpapers designed to, well, hide the camera hole. In many cases that just means a dark area where the camera is, while others will have a similar circle in the image, positioned to line up with the camera.
You can adjust colors and positioning, ensuring the wallpaper fits perfectly, and the app has wallpapers that account for both single and dual-lens cameras on either the right or left of the display. Indeed, that’s one of the main advantages to this app over some others, which are focused just on the Galaxy S10 range and don’t work with other handsets.
Your Android device likely has all sorts of shortcuts on its notifications screen and you can probably customize which ones are displayed, but what you probably can’t do is add shortcuts to apps.
App Tiles adds that option, letting you create up to six shortcuts to apps of your choice, meaning whatever screen you’re on you’ll always be able to swipe down to display your shortcuts, tap on the relevant app and be taken straight to it. For apps that you use a lot, this could be a real time-saver.
App Tiles is easy to set up – it doesn’t require you to change any settings on your phone, just launch it and assign apps. App Tiles does have adverts, but you’ll only have to put up with them when you’re setting it up. Once the shortcuts are in place you never have to launch the App Tiles app itself again.
Scam callers and other unwanted calls seem to be getting ever more frequent but fortunately there are ways to tackle them, such as Hiya.
This app has a database of numbers, so it’s often able to identify who’s calling, as well as flagging spam calls. There are also tools in the app that let you automatically block ‘scam and fraud calls’, ‘suspected spam calls’ and calls from private numbers.
Hiya can also identify the sender of text messages, and there’s a Call Screener tool, which blocks calls from unidentified numbers and sends them a text message asking them to identify themselves and call back. You can also manually block and look up numbers from within the app.
It’s a handy, easy to use service, and while it’s not the only option (Truecaller which we’ve recommended before does a similar job), it’s a great choice.
There are loads of wallpaper apps, but surprisingly few that will automatically cycle through designs so you can get new wallpapers on your phone without having to lift a finger. And those which do offer that service are often quite limited in terms of content.
Not so with RedPapers. This app lets you pull images from any subreddit and have them set as the wallpaper for your home or lock screen. You simply type the subreddit name, pick how often you want the wallpaper to change (with a range of options from every 10 minutes to every 1 week), pick whether to sort the wallpapers by what’s hot or what’s new, and away you go.
RedPapers itself is just a single screen where you select those options, so there’s not much to the app, and it’s not much of a looker in itself, but it’s really useful if you get bored of staring at the same wallpaper every day.
220.127.116.11: Faster & Safer Internet
If you ever use public Wi-Fi networks, then 18.104.22.168: Faster & Safer Internet is for you. That’s because public Wi-Fi is notoriously lacking in privacy and security. There’s a chance the provider will sell your browsing data and it also allows other people – if they have the skills – to snoop on your browsing data.
But 22.214.171.124 helps stop either of those things from happening by changing your DNS resolver to one managed by Cloudflare (the company that makes this app). It promises never to sell your data or use it to target adverts, and by browsing through Cloudflare you’re also hiding your data from any other potential snoopers.
As an added bonus, you might even get a speed boost, as Cloudflare’s DNS resolver is the fastest public one. The app is also completely free and easy to use – there’s just a single toggle to turn 126.96.36.199 on or off. That’s it.
Two of the main reasons for using a free VPN are accessing geo-restricted content and maintaining your privacy and security online.
ProtonVPN can help with both of those, and costs a lot less than most rivals. In fact, the core service is totally free, and there are no bandwidth restrictions, so you can use it as much as you want.
There are no ads either, because it’s fully funded by optional paid subscriptions (starting at around $5/£3.50 per month). These unlock higher speeds, VPN servers in more countries and the ability to use ProtonVPN on more than one device.
But for free you still get access to VPNs in three countries, and a whole lot more security than you’ll have without a VPN, as your activity will be encrypted and protected by Swiss privacy laws, and it won’t be logged.
Our favorite free Android apps for planning a holiday, checking the weather and getting around without getting lost.
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.
Facebook Local is all about finding events and attractions nearby. It links to your Facebook account then shows a bunch of events listed on Facebook that are near your current or home location, or another place of your choice.
Some of these will be from friends and pages that you follow, but it will also dig up other local public events, so you’re likely to discover things that you wouldn’t have found on your main Facebook feed.
You can filter events and attraction by type, date, location or time, view them on a map and add them to your Facebook calendar, so it’s simple to control what you see and keep track of what you’re interested in. You can also add your phone calendar to the app, so you can see and manage everything in one place.
More or less all of this stuff can be found on Facebook itself, but Facebook Local is a much more focused way to find out what’s going on around you, without all of Facebook’s many distractions, so it’s worth having on your phone even if you already have the main Facebook app.
Moovit is the only app you need to navigate public transport wherever you might be in the world.
Simply enter a destination and it will tell you how to get there from your current location (or you can set a different start point).
Moovit will give you various route options using different forms of transport by default, but you can tell it to only include certain kinds of public transport, or to minimize walking or transfers.
Select a route to see full step by step instructions or get live navigation. The app will tell you exactly where to go and even alert you when you’re nearing your stop so you don’t need to stare at your phone screen the entire journey.
There are also timetables for buses and trains and you can save your favorite destinations or transit lines to quickly get directions and timetables in future.
Moovit also has widgets, offline maps, and transport information for thousands of cities in over 80 countries. We weren’t kidding when we said it’s the only public transport app you’ll need.
Trips by Lonely Planet
Trips by Lonely Planet is a visually beautiful way to share your travel experiences or view those shared by others.
It’s essentially a journaling app designed for globetrotters. Create a new trip in the app, give it a title, subtitle and cover photo, then add your choice of photos, text and maps.
Your trips can be kept private or shared publicly, you can edit them after posting, and of course you can view and favorite other people’s.
There’s a slight social element in that you can follow other users, so you’ll always see any new trips they post, but mostly this is just about seeing the world from your phone and sharing your own trips with the world.
Arriving in a brand new city is always exciting but it can also be a little daunting, especially if you need to get around using public transport. Citymapper is a brilliant app that brings you real-time information on public transport for cities around the world.
You can easily plan your route using all kinds of transport, from buses to ferries, and you can be kept up to date with real-time data, including any disruptions or cancellations. An essential app for any city-bound traveler.