These are the best apps for your Android device — period
Make your Android app experience a good one.
Our phones are pocket-sized supercomputers with professional-grade cameras and battery for days, but without the apps to take advantage of it, what would be the point? There are millions upon millions of Android apps that transform our phones from shiny glass slabs into productivity powerhouses, and over the last year, these are the apps that have seized the day and made our lives easier, faster, and better.
Work smarter, not harder
Who needs a personal assistant when you have services like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa available wherever you go? These types of apps aim to help alleviate the stresses and pressures of your day-to-day life to make things easier. From automation to smart home products, and everything in between, these apps allow you to get work done with some help.
With you everywhere
From Assistant Routines in Google Clock to the vast expansion of Assistant-compatible smart home devices, to the overhaul of visual responses, it has been a busy year for Google Assistant. It feels like a century ago when Android Auto added Google Assistant, but that simple addition made millions of drivers safer, especially during these long, frustrating holiday drives.
Tasker stagnated a bit in previous years, but since new owner João Dias — maker of the AutoApps plugin suite and Tasker's most ardent fan — took over, the automation app has seen a UI overhaul and major updates. With TaskerNet and improved export/importing, it's never been easier to share, tweak, and create amazing profiles and tasks for Android (and beyond).
Alexa by your side
Amazon is no longer the top place to go for just your online shopping needs, as the company continues to expand its grasp on the world. With Alexa, you get a personalized assistant in your pocket, along with integration with Echo devices and the ability to stay connected wherever you go. You can even make calls or send messages to other Alexa-enabled devices without paying a dime.
Have you ever wanted to know the type of flower you see while on a hike? Well, with Google Lens you can find out quickly just by holding your camera up to the flower. Lens will even translate foreign languages or save business cards to a contact faster than ever before.
Use the recipes
IFTTT gives you the power to create various automations between apps and services that are not already available. With more than 630 different integrations, you can create your own "recipe" and get an alert when that item on your Amazon wishlist finally goes on sale, for example. If you don't want to create your own, there is a community and library of different recipes to choose from and set up.
A smarter home
Whether you need to control your lights, smart plugs, thermostats, or Assistant speakers/displays from the warmth of bed or the farthest corners of the globe, the new Home View in the Google Home app makes it easy. Being able to add Home members to use what you've already set up is a huge step forward for making smart homes more accessible for all skill levels.
Type faster, quicker, and easier
The keyboard on your smartphone is one of the most-used apps daily. It's the first thing to pop up when your friend sends you a message, if you need to reply to an email, or if you just need to get your thoughts out. But the great thing is that there's a keyboard app that works for everyone, regardless of what something basic, or if you want to go to the extremes of customization.
Gboard's keyboard continues to dominate the market with an ever-expanding array of features on Android, iOS, and soon on Chromebooks. Some of this year's additions, which include options like making your emoji pack or gifs, may seem trivial, but Gboard has also added support for dozens of new languages, as well as the recent floating keyboard mode that makes filling out forms a breeze.
Instead of dealing with the basic stock themes on your keyboard, Chrooma gives you a keyboard with so many customization options that your head will spin. This is in addition to featuring smart AI to provide vastly improved contextual predictions when compared to the competition. You'll also get the added benefits of the gestures that you already know and love.
Tried and true
SwiftKey is creeping on the four million download mile-marker and for good reason; this custom keyboard gives you complete control. The app itself sports more than 100 different themes and you can even create your own theme with a picture that you took or downloaded as the background. SwiftKey also includes support for more than 300 languages and you can enable up to five different languages at once.
Surf the web
While the Google app makes it easy to quickly search something, your mobile browser handles much of the heavy lifting. Some of these mobile browsers have become so powerful that you can install extensions, while others provide the most private browsing experience possible. And hey, one of our picks even gives its users the ability to make some dough while surfing.
Fast and private
Brave Privacy Browser
While ads help keep the lights on for some, they can be a real nuisance when you're just trying to check out the latest article. With a browser like Brave, you are guaranteed to get the best Adblock browser, while getting a fast and secure browsing experience. There's also the added benefit of Brave paying you to browse the web at your pace and how you want to.
Improve with extensions
Samsung Internet Browser
Samsung's browser finally made its Play Store debut a few years back and is much more robust than almost anything else you'll find. In addition to built-in privacy features, Samsung also allows you to download third-party applications that act as extensions. And if you already have a Samsung device and are using this browser, you'll get even more features not available elsewhere, such as integration with Gear VR and more.
Google Chrome is the de-facto choice for many and for good reason: it just simply works. Google has worked tirelessly to bring new features to the app, along with keeping a fresh and crisp design. When using Chrome, you'll get almost all the same features as the app on your computer, including sync capabilities so you can start reading something on your phone and pick it up on your PC.
Protect yourself while browsing
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are used for an array of reasons, including giving you the ability to hide your online identity. Another popular use for a VPN is to stream some TV shows while you are traveling abroad. These apps are all free, but there are subscriptions to consider if you want to securely browse everywhere.
With over 3,000 different servers in more than 90 countries, it's easy to understand why ExpressVPN provides a great experience. It's easy to get started and then all of your web browsing is encrypted and you can surf safely. After signing up for the service, there is no cap to the number of devices that can be connected, and it will even protect your text and instant messages.
Fast and secure
NordVPN is one of the best in the business due to the way that it handles your data. The data passes through the initial server, and then send the same encrypted data to a second server for an added layer of protection. Plus, there are more than 5,500 servers spread across more than 50 countries.
VPN's made easy
Surfshark excels with speed and because it can be used with an unlimited number of servers at the same time. It will be great for just about everything that you would want to do with your devices, but you won't be able to use Surfshark with streaming apps since it is located outside of the U.S.
Keep your files organized
Although many of us have changed the way we use our phones, there's one thing that will never change — we download a lot of things. I'm not just talking about applications, but also music files, documents, PDFs, or even new wallpapers. It's important to keep your files organized so you know where everything is or get rid of those stale memes.
Keep it simple
Simple File Manager Pro
If you tend to download a boatload of files to your smartphone, you'll need Simple File Manager Pro to keep them organized. This app offers an intuitive experience to access your root files while giving access to microSD cards or USB devices. Plus, there are plenty of customization options to create a theme that suits your desires.
Turn it up a notch
X-Plore File Manager
Some want a simplistic file manager, but for those who want something a bit more complex, X-Plore File Manager is perfect. This app has an "old-school" Windows look and feel while giving you all the features you could want. You can even set the app up to access and manage the files on your Android phone from your computer's web browser.
Smart file organization
Files by Google
Files by Google started out as an experimental app, but it's turned into a lightweight way to keep your storage from getting filled up. With features like Smart Recommendations, Files will suggest "junk files" that you can download and get rid of with ease.
Social media is great... when tailored
Social media is a fickle sister. It can be a great source of news and information and an easy way to keep in contact with your friends, but it's also frustrating when the latest trends and memes clog up your timelines. Luckily, there are many different platforms to share your voice with like-minded people or create an awesome community.
Front page of the net
I've been a third-party Reddit lurker for years, but this year the official Reddit app breezed past Relay, Boost, and the rest for the top app option. Reddit's new website look has been a source of a lot of small debate, but I've rather enjoyed both the new website look at the continued improvements on the Android app. Now if only /r/Writing Prompts didn't suck up all of my dinner breaks...
Share your pics
Instagram's popularity continues to rise and it seems that there's simply nothing that any competitors can do to stop it. This app is one of the best and easiest ways to share your favorite photos, whether you're tracking your life or just like editing goofy pictures. Plus, you'll get features like IGTV from some of your favorite creators, and the app makes it easy to find even more people/brands to follow.
Twitter but better
Fenix 2 for Twitter
Let's face it. There are a lot of Twitter apps on the Play Store, and while many of them are pretty good, none of them compete with Fenix 2. From multiple account support to a super-useful mute system, Fenix 2 aims to be the best Twitter client available. That doesn't even count the customization options that allow you to adjust your layout while giving the ability to make a theme that makes Twitter more enjoyable to use.
Take the best pictures possible
After years of potato pictures from mobile devices, we are finally at a point where our smartphones can take better pictures than some DSLR cameras. The Play Store opens the door for many different apps to take, edit, and save these photos which, in some regards, act as a digital memory bank.
ProCam X unlocks the potential of what your smartphone camera is capable of, which is quite a lot nowadays. The app makes it possible to control various aspects of your image by providing professional controls like ISO, white balance, and even geo-tagging. With this app, you can even take RAW photos, which opens up even better image editing after the fact.
Edit like a pro
After you've taken a picture, chances are that you will want to edit it. With Adobe Lightroom, you can make the easy edits, or step things up a notch and edit like a pro, right from your smartphone. Adobe even has a built-in pro-level camera so that Lightroom becomes your all-in-one solution for your mobile photography needs.
Back everything up
For those who care more about backing up their photos and less about "pro-level editing", then the only real choice is Google Photos. The app itself gives users some basic photo editing capabilities, while occasionally giving you "stylized" photos with how Google thinks your photo should look. Plus, you'll get Smart Automatic Albums, Photo Books, and can create shared albums in just seconds.
Customize your phone and make it your own
The biggest benefit of Android, when compared to the competition, is the ability to customize just about every aesthetic aspect of your device. From the widgets that you use to the way your app drawer looks, and even your settings menu, there's a way to customize everything. These are the best apps that you can use to get the exact look that you want on your smartphone.
Best app drawer
Smart Launcher 5
If at the beginning of the year you told me that the launcher I'd use most was Smart Launcher, I would've laughed in your face. Then Smart Launcher 5 arrived and I fell in love. The flexibly-categorized app drawer is better than ever, and with the integration of Icon Pack Studio and a gridless widget system, SL5 makes building and switching themes a breeze.
Clean and lightweight
Lawnchair 2 gives you that Pixel Launcher feeling, with all of the customizations that you would find in other third-party launchers. There is support for Adaptive Icons, along with new Drawer Category features, and much more. You can use Lawnchair to create the most complex, or basic, launcher on your mobile device.
Build the perfect theme
KLWP Live Wallpaper Maker
The big brother of Kustom Widget maker KWGT, Kustom Live Wallpaper's one-stop theming has grown on me considerably this year. While SL5's gridless widgets are nice, nothing beats the pinpoint, edge-to-edge widget and element placement in KLWP. The formulas and menus can be daunting, but KLWP's robust community, especially on Reddit, help make any theme possible.
Your own icons
Icon Pack Studio
It can be frustrating when you have found an icon pack that you love, but there are a few apps that aren't included. Sure, you can submit a request to the developer and wait for the update to come, but there's a better solution. With Icon Pack Studio, you can create your own icon pack while customizing every icon to your liking and it will work with just about any third-party launcher.
Changing wallpapers has been fun for as long as we've been able to do it, and Tapet has been right there with us for quite some time. With Tapet, you can either select a wallpaper on your own or set the app to automatically generate a new one for you every hour or once a day. Additionally, the app will automatically detect the resolution of your smartphone, so that the wallpaper looks crisp and won't stain your home screen.
Flat and simple
Some of us don't have time or want to dive through the thousands of icon packs, but just want something that looks great. Whicons isn't flashy (on the surface), but does the job giving you a good-looking icon pack for your Android phone. There are more than 5,500 custom icons, along with included wallpapers to match, and Dynamic Calendar Icon support so your calendar shows the right date.
Widgets are the best
In addition to customizing your phone to your heart's content, you can take advantage of widgets to quickly digest various bits of information. Whether you're just looking to see what the weather forecast looks like, or you need to see what's on the agenda for today, there's a widget for everything. Then other apps allow you to create your very own widget with any piece of information you can think of.
Weather with flair
1Weather: Forecasts, Widgets, Snow Alerts & Radar
1Weather is a fantastic weather app by itself, but if you're looking for an even more amazing widget, then this is it. Everything about the widget is customizable while still giving you the important information that you need about what's going on in the weather world.
Clean calendar view
Calendar Widget by Home Agenda
Calendar Widget has been a mainstay for many thanks to how clean it looks on your home screen once it's been set up. You can either create your own custom theme or download one from the community while making it easy to view your calendar at a glance.
Your widgets, your way
KWGT Kustom Widget Maker
When it comes to creating your own widget, there's no choice other than KWGT Kustom Widget Maker. This "app" gives you the ability to create an array of widgets for your phone, ranging from an analog clock to an astronomy widget and much more. That doesn't even cover the different themed widgets and widget packs that you can download from the Reddit community or Play Store.
Protect your passwords at all costs
Absolutely, positively, under no circumstances should you have a note on your smartphone with passwords listed. Hackers are better than ever today and your personal information can be revealed easier than you think. However, if you have a password manager, those passwords can be analyzed and then you will be informed as to whether the password has been compromised. Then the app can help create a safe, secure, and almost unbreakable password so your information doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
Simple and straightforward
1Password - Password Manager and Secure Wallet
1Password has not always been "the best" option on the Play Store, but recent updates have upped the ante and pushed it to the tops of the charts. The service gives you a brief trial period before you'll need to sign up for a subscription. And your "vaults" will stay protected while giving you the ability to keep important personal information safe but at the ready.
Simple and complex
LastPass Password Manager
LastPass does a fantastic job of keeping all of your passwords safe and secure, even if you want to stick to a free account. Then, there are premium options for either a single user or you can get your whole family protected with a specific plan. The service even offers "Security Challenges," which help to keep your passwords updated and secure and out of the hands of the bad guys.
More than you think
Dashlane Password Manager
When it comes to Dashlane, you'll get access to up to 50 passwords saved on a single device with the free version, but Premium gives you even more. With the Premium subscription, users get access to a personalized VPN, along with credit monitoring and identity theft protection. This is all in addition to being a great place to keep your passwords safe and making it easy to update them.
Messaging is the new postcard
Let's be real, messaging is the primary way that just about everyone communicates. Thanks to the various apps and services, it's much easier to shoot your mom a text than to call her and sit on the phone for an hour or more. Not everything requires a phone conversation, and these messaging apps open the doors to easier communication with friends, family, co-workers, and others.
Get on the RCS train
Dark theme! Messages for the web! It's been a big year for Google's SMS app, and while I still miss Mood Messenger and Textra's themes, about the only third-party SMS app that can compete with Messages for web is Pulse's paid SMS-syncing service, which is compatible with more platforms and browsers. Messages' theming might be lacking, but the dark theme is a welcome addition.
Pros and casuals
Android Central has Slacked for years because Slack is one of the best chat apps on the market today, for either business or personal purposes. Threads allow us to get into minutiae without spamming the main chat, and everyone can upload custom slackmoji for added flair. All it needs now is a dark theme so I don't blind my bosses when I ping them at 2 a.m.
SMS Organizer started as a "fun" project from the Microsoft Garage team but has turned into one of the smartest apps you can download. While you can still send SMS and MMS messages, SMS Organizer generates automatic reminders from your conversations, and even makes it easy to pay your friend back for dinner, right from the app. You can even easily block spam messages, along with customizing notifications and setting specific ringtones for your contacts.
Fastest messaging platform
Telegram was already one of the fastest and most popular third-party messaging clients available, but Telegram X turns things up a notch. With the "X" version of the app, interacting with the app is even faste