You’ve got an Android device, either because you didn’t want, or couldn’t afford, an iPhone – and in years past that meant you had to live with substandard apps. Thankfully, those days are well and truly over, with reams of great little programs standing toe to toe with the best Apple’s App Store has to offer.
- What’s the best phone of 2017?
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.
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.
New this week: Adapticons
There are plenty of icon packs available to help you change up your app icons, but what if you want a bit more control, or just want to tweak rather than replacing an icon? That’s where Adapticons comes in.
The app lets you create or adapt your own icons, picking first the icon that you want to customize, then choosing from a variety of shapes and colors, changing the size and rotation and even optionally changing the text displayed under it – which could be handy if for example you know an app by a different name than what it’s listed as.
Although you can get Adapticons for free, you might want to splash out on the $0.99/£0.99 IAP if you plan to customize a lot of icons, as this unlocks loads more shapes, lets you import icons from your gallery, gets rid of adverts and lets you customize more than one icon at a time.
If you’re looking for an incentive to get out and walk more then Street Hunt could be just the thing. Choose a distance from your location and then Street Hunt will give you a target to reach that’s roughly that far away.
The twist is that it doesn’t tell you the address or directions, it simply gives you a Google Street View image of it.
From there you’ve got to either work it out from the photo or simply start walking, at which point Street Hunt will tell you whether you’re getting closer or further away.
You can see approximately how far you are away from the destination using an indicator on your lock screen, so you don’t have to keep opening the app, and you can also get periodic vibration cues – with a single vibration telling you you’re getting closer, while two mean you’re moving further away from your target.
Completing a hunt gets you points, and leaderboards let the competitive among you compare their score with friends or the world at large.
It’s a fun idea, hampered only slightly by the fact that destinations are chosen purely based on distance, and as such may not always be easily accessible, but the developers claim to be working on smarter destination selection.
Like a digital version of a scratch map, Travellite lets you tell the app which countries you’ve been to and then see them highlighted on a map of the world.
There are statistics to go with it, saying what percentage of each continent and the world as a whole you’ve travelled to, and there’s a journal component, so you can log your adventures with text, a date and optionally a photo.
That component doesn’t feel as fully-featured as some other journaling apps, but there’s something appealing about seeing an ever-growing map of the places you’ve been, and the app is easy to use, letting you see a long list of countries and simply tap the ones you’ve been to.
There’s not a huge amount to it, but for free Travellite is well worth a look for anyone who’s seen much of the world, or wants to see more.
One screen timeout duration does not necessarily fit all situations. For example, if you’re reading an article you might want a longer timeout than normal, so you don’t have to keep tapping the screen to stop it going dark.
Yet timeout controls are often hidden away in sub-menus of the settings screen, so regularly changing the duration can be a bit fiddly.
Not with Caffeine though. This app adds a quick settings tile to your notifications pull-down, which you can tap to change the timeout duration. One tap will set it to 5 minutes, a second to 10, a third tap makes the timeout 30 minutes, a fourth disables screen timeout altogether and a fifth disables Caffeine (so that whatever timeout duration you had set outside the app will kick back in).
Caffeine even displays a handy countdown next to its tile of how long until your screen will shut off.
It’s simple. So simple in fact that Caffeine doesn’t even have an app icon. To ‘launch’ it you instead long press on the quick settings tile, but all that gives you is instructions for using it and the option to uninstall.
Much like the drug it’s named after, Caffeine won’t help everyone, but if you’ve ever wished for speedier access to your screen timeout controls this is the app you’ve been waiting for.
Festivals can be sociable places, and Radiate helps facilitate that by putting you in touch with other people going to the same festival as you.
Select the festival you’re attending and you can access a forum dedicated to it, where people chat and arrange meets and lift shares.
There’s also a Tinder-like component where you can swipe over pictures of fellow festival attendees to say whether or not you want to chat with them – and if you both say yes, a private chat opens.
So whether you’re braving a festival on your own or just want to meet some new people while you’re there, Radiate can help, and it’s got a large selection of festivals in both Europe and the US.
Radiate also has festival information, including line-ups and maps, but nothing you won’t find elsewhere. Really it’s all about the social side.
Referred to as the Instagram of text, Boldomatic is a social network of sorts, where you can post a sentence or two and send it out into the world.
These tend to be a mix of original statements and poetry, along with quotes from other people, so it’s more about creativity and inspiration than sharing the sorts of thoughts and feelings you might on Twitter or Whisper. But really you can write whatever you want.
You can stay anonymous or not, get comments on your posts and follow, like and comment on other users posts.
You can also send direct messages, and cross-post your content to other social networks such as Facebook and Tumblr from within the app.
Boldomatic is an app that in some ways is hard to pin down. Some writers aim to offend with their posts, others to make you laugh, or think, but it’s easy to find just the good stuff by filtering by what’s popular.
Or just browse at random and take a deep dive into the regularly weird, sometimes annoying, often inspiring community that’s built up around it.
Offline Survival Manual is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know when you’re in the wilderness. And it’s saved offline, so you’ll actually be able to access it in the middle of the forest / desert / jungle / your garden.
From skills, such as how to start a fire or build a shelter, to helpful advice, such as where to look for water in various environments and which plants are poisonous, it’s all covered.
On top of that is information the things you should take with you in certain places and how to deal with different types of weather or hazards, such as crossing a river – so most things you might want to know are covered.
There’s loads more besides, split into various categories which you can jump between with a tap, and as there’s everything from the basics to more advanced things, Offline Survival Manual is a guide for everyone. It’s also completely free.
There is a lack of polish in some of the presentation – typos and long walls of text for example, with few images to break it up in many sections. Then of course there’s the fact that having a survival manual on a device that can run out of battery may not be the best idea, so you might want to bring a paper guide too.
But you’ll presumably be taking your phone with you on any adventures, and Offline Survival Manual could prove an indispensable addition – who knows, one which might even save your life.
Tubio is a slick, easy way to get video and audio content from your phone to your television. It works a lot like a Chromecast (and indeed you can cast to Chromecast) but sources that don’t officially support big-name streaming services also work with it.
It’s also handy if you’ve got a DLNA/UPnP/AllShare-enabled smart TV that doesn’t work with Google Cast or similar, as this is an easy alternative to buying another piece of hardware.
Tubio can also cast to Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Nexus Player, Android TV, Xbox One and Xbox 360, all with the press of a button – your phone just has to be on the same Wi-Fi network as them.
The app has a built-in web browser for finding content and full playback controls once you start streaming. You can also navigate away from the app and keep using your phone as normal without interrupting the stream.
There’s a pro version for a one-off payment of $2.99/£2.49 which gets rid of adverts and ups the playback quality, but we’d recommend testing out the free version first, to make sure it suits your 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’s a lot more to the rising and setting of the sun than you might have realized. There’s the period this app is named after for one, which is famous among photographers as having particularly soft light.
But there’s also blue hour, nautical twilight, astronomical twilight and others, and this app will tell you the times and duration of all of them, so whether you know all about these periods and want to be able to catch them, or are simply curious to learn more, Golden Hour can help.
Handily, it’s also got a map, which shows you the direction of the sunrise and sunset, so you’ll know which way to look (and this can also help with knowing where to put plants and things in your home, based on where will get the most sun).
You can also set up notifications for upcoming sunrises, sunsets and golden hours, and the app is completely free.
Blackpills is home to various shows which you can stream on your phone or tablet. All of its content is original, and it covers numerous genres, such as comedy, thriller, sci-fi and more.
The quality of the content is generally quite high too, and some things even have big names involved, such as James Franco.
It’s also all short, usually coming in at roughly 10-15 minutes, so you should easily be able to find time to fit an episode in wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
There’s not a huge amount on there yet (13 shows at time of writing), but Blackpills promises to add a new original series every week and a new episode every day. Impressively, it’s also completely free.
There are some missing features: you can’t download content to watch offline, and – by design – it’s only accessible on a phone or tablet, but overall it’s well worth investigating if you’re out of things to watch or like the idea of shorter, snackable content.
Sunburn is avoidable, and yet it happens to so many of us so often, either through carelessness or just not having a clear enough idea of whether we need sunscreen.
UVLens aims to help with that by telling you the UV index currently and throughout the rest of the day, as well as what that means for you.
Using the current conditions combined with information you’ve given it, such as your skin color and gender, the app will tell you how quickly you’re likely to burn and what you should be doing about it – whether putting on sunscreen or just wearing sunglasses.
You can also tell it the type of sunscreen you’ve put on, along with the activity you’re going to do, and UVLens will then tell you how soon you’ll need to reapply, and send you a notification when it’s almost time to do so.
Basically, using this app means the next time you get burned you’ve only got yourself to blame.
If you’re using a phone with 16GB of space or less then you’ll probably be an expert at making the most of your storage, but even with 32GB or 64GB it’s easy to eat it all up.
ES Disk Analyzer makes it just easy to claw space back, by identifying apps and other data that you might not need, and getting rid of it.
The app’s simplest space-saving feature is its ability to find and delete duplicate files. You might not think you have many of them, but the first time we ran it hundreds were found.
ES Disk Analyzer can also compress images so they use less data, as well as highlighting specific images you might want to compress, (because they’re particularly big or haven’t been viewed in a long time).
Many apps on your phone will also be creating a cache of files which help them load faster. For example, an app might save images to your device so it won’t have to redownload them every time it opens. ES Disk Analyzer will tell you the cache sizes of your apps and let you delete these too if you’re not bothered about such functionality.
And it will highlight particularly large files, in case any of them are expendable, as well as any apps you rarely or never use.
You can also do a deep dive into the file system and see all the files and folders ordered by size, with the option to delete any you don’t want.
Many of these tools can be found elsewhere, either in a dedicated file explorer or in Android itself, but ES Disk Analyzer puts them all in one place.
As its focus is purely on saving you space everything is presented with that in mind, so you can see at a glance where your storage space is going and do something about it.
GIFs are great, but GIFs with your own voice over the top can be even better – or at least that’s the thinking behind Shabaam.
This free app lets you search or browse through millions of GIFs, then add a short audio recording to one. It uses your phone’s microphone, so you can record the sound of anything around you (but can’t use songs or sound files that are already stored on your phone annoyingly).
Once you’re done you can save it or share, with most social media apps supported for sharing, though in some cases it’s sent as a video rather than a looping GIF.
The audio that you add can only be as long as the GIF itself, for obvious reasons, and with that in mind there’s an ‘Editor’s Pick’ section, which contains a selection of GIFs that the developer thinks are ripe for customization, in many cases because they’re longer.
And if you don’t find anything suitable there, you can also use the ‘Categories’ tab and then filter down. For example, you could select the ‘Nature’ category, then from there select ‘ocean’ to get watery GIFs.
Shabaam is still in beta at the time of writing, so it may not work perfectly, but when it does it’s a lot of fun.
If you want a free, easy to use document scanner which also lets you edit the resulting scan you’ll struggle to beat Adobe Scan.
Scanning is simple, just line up a document under your phone’s camera and the app will highlight the sections it’s going to scan. Once you’ve positioned it so that the whole document (or all the relevant sections) are highlighted, just hold your phone steady for a few seconds and Adobe Scan will do the rest.
Then you’ll have a readable scan, but you can also crop it, rotate it, add additional scans to the file, change the color (for example to ‘Grayscale’ or ‘Whiteboard’), rename it, and then save it as a PDF to Adobe Document Cloud. And once it’s in PDF form you can edit it more substantially – adding, removing, copying or re-ordering text for example.
All your saved scans remain accessible from Adobe Scan (and from any device, since they’re saved to the cloud), but you can also email the file, or share a link or the file itself in a message or on social media, or open it in Adobe Acrobat.
As Acrobat is also an Adobe app and your scans are saved to the cloud, you won’t be surprised to find that everything you’ve scanned into Adobe Scan is also accessible from here, which is especially handy given that Adobe Acrobat is one of the main PDF readers, so however you’ve scanned your document it’s likely that you’ll want to open it in here, using Adobe Scan just makes that a little bit easier.
We all know drinking water is important, but it can be easy to forget to do, especially when you’re busy with other things.
Tech has come to the rescue though, with various apps designed to give you a gentle prod to drink more, and Hydro Coach is a strong option.
You start by entering some basic details like your age, gender and weight, and from this Hydro Coach calculates how much you should be drinking.
You can log your intake with ease, telling the app the size of containers you tend to drink from and then just tapping the relevant one every time you’ve finished a drink, and the app will remind you to drink if you haven’t done so in a while.
You can see at a glance both how much you have drunk today and how much you should drink over the remainder of the day and you can also see weekly and monthly statistics.
You can pick whether to measure your intake in millilitres or fluid ounces, while a Pro version of the app gets rid of adverts and adds more detailed statistics for $4.49/£2.49. But for free, Hydro Coach offers a fast, simple way to monitor your fluid intake, and – more importantly – to actually remind you to drink more.
Apex Launcher isn’t new. In fact it’s been around for a long time, and was once one of the best launchers available. Then the developers stopped supporting it, but they’ve just given the app a big update and a new lease of life.
The changes are largely focused on bringing the look in line with modern versions of Android, as well as generally polishing the app and getting rid of bugs, but the core app remains much as it always was: namely, one of the most powerful and customizable interfaces available for Android.
It will replace whatever UI you have now – be that stock Android or a manufacturer’s skin – and give you far more control than you likely had before.
You can change the home page transition effects, make your dock scrollable, hide elements of the interface, such as the dock or status bar, choose custom icons for folders, choose between various different app drawer styles, hide apps from the drawer, set up customizable gestures and a whole lot more.
In short, if there’s any part of the look or feel of Android that you’re not entirely happy with, there’s a good chance you can change it with Apex Launcher. And almost all the features are completely free, though you can unlock some extras with Apex Launcher Pro for $3.99/£3.09.
There’s a long-standing tradition of adding beautiful text to beautiful images. Whether for a poster, presentation, advert or whatever else, text is often overlaid on an image, and for the most part Times New Roman just doesn’t cut it.
With Font Studio you can choose from over 120 interesting, unusual and generally eye-catching fonts, with more being added all the time. Then, you can change the size, color, orientation and transparency of the font, add shadows and put the result on top of an image.
If you want your text to stand out even more you can also add dozens of shapes, for example putting the text in a circle. These too can be tweaked to your liking, or if you’re lacking inspiration you can start with a pre-created template, combining a font, shapes and even sample text and images.
You can also add any of hundreds of stickers to your creations, and blend or combine images. Overall, Font Studio contains a powerful set of typography tools and it’s all completely free.
That said, while your creations might be beautiful the app itself isn’t. Rather, it’s infested with ads. We’d happily pay a small fee to get rid of them, but sadly that’s not an option.
Face swap apps are nothing new, but Microsoft’s Face Swap goes further than most, because as well as the basics of being able to swap your face with a friend’s or something else in your environment, Face Swap also aims to show you what you’d look like with different hairstyles and in different outfits by swapping your face with appropriate pictures it’s found from the net.
The app automatically finds and swaps faces in images and does a decent job of convincingly swapping your face, by attempting to match head tilt, skin tone and lighting.
And if you don’t like any of the categories it gives you or want to use any of the pictures in your gallery, a built-in image browser lets you search the internet for the right photo.
Ultimately, despite all its photo categories, Face Swap is still more just for fun than genuinely useful, but it’s faster and slicker than most of the competition.
We all spend a lot of time web browsing, so we want it to be as fast and simple as possible, and Firefox Focus achieves that, as well as keeping your data private and secure.
The app, which started life on iOS, gives you a stripped back browser with no add-ons and no tabs, but it loads pages quickly and takes up just 3.5MB of space on your device.
More importantly, it also automatically deletes your history whenever you close it, essentially acting like the private or incognito modes in other browsers, but automatically and at all times. And it goes further, by – for example – not appearing in your list of recent apps.
Firefox Focus lets you block ad trackers, analytic trackers, social trackers and other types of content trackers, as well as web fonts – though any of these can be toggled on or off, if you’d rather not block them.
You can also choose what search engine you want to use and set Firefox Focus as your default browser, so links will automatically open in it.
And that’s it. In use it boils down to a settings screen with a handful of toggles and then a main browser page. Simple. Probably too simple for some users, but if you have a low-power handset, one with little storage space, or just value your privacy, Firefox Focus has most browsers beat.
Take a close look at what you’re spending each day and you might be surprised by what you find: those coffees can really add up, and your Kindle addiction might be out of control.
A few small changes could save you a lot, and that’s one of the goals of a finance tracker like Fortune City, which lets you track and categorize your income and outgoings with just a few taps.
It builds up charts and graphs over time so you can see exactly where your money goes and how much you’re spending.
But unlike most finance trackers, Fortune City turns it into a rather cute city management game, erecting new buildings each time you enter an expense or outgoing, rewarding you with achievements for good spending or tracking habits, and even letting you compete with friends to make the best township.
It’s a simple game, but with enough room for progression to keep your interest, and it makes the whole act of money tracking a lot more fun. If you need an incentive to better manage your finances (beyond the cash it could save you), Fortune City might do the trick.
People tend to show their lives in a positive light on social media, with posts about holidays and nights out but few of the moments in between or the feelings underneath.
Lyf is different, as users post their ‘journeys’ through more serious issues, such as illness, anxiety or depression. You can follow and support other users in their journeys by commenting on or reacting to their posts, or start your own journey in the app and build up a positive group around you.
And while much of Lyf is focused on serious issues, you can also create a journey chronicling your photography, world travels, sports, projects and more.
Each journey from each user is about a specific issue or pursuit, but you can create as many journeys as you want and either share them with the world or make them private, thereby only letting those that you choose follow them.
Cooking a meal is only half the battle. First, you’ve got to actually find recipes for things you’d want to eat, which can be complicated by various dietary requirements.
Mealime aims to simplify the whole process, by having you select from various menu types, be it vegetarian, paleo, low carb, flexitarian, pescetarian or no holds barred, then highlight any allergies or restrictions, and finally any ingredients you dislike.
Choose whether you want a meal to contain two or four servings and you’ll instantly be presented with a menu, consisting of four meals that fit your preferences. Ingredients for them will automatically be added to a built-in grocery list, making the shopping simple, and then all that’s left is to cook.
Of course, Mealime helps with that part too, taking on a more standard recipe app role, with step by step instructions for each dish, and clever features like keeping the screen on while you’re in a recipe and moving on to the next instruction when you hover your hand over the display, so you never need to touch it.
Each week you’ll be presented with a new meal plan, so you won’t be stuck eating the same things all the time – though you can save your favorites – and you can change your preferences and requirements at any time.
Mealime is mostly free, but if you want to view nutritional information, get a wider selection of recipes and add notes to recipes you’ll need to sign up for Mealime Pro at a cost of $5.99/£6.49 per month or $49.99/£51.99 per year. Personally, we’d stick with the free version.
Timbre’s full name is ‘Timbre: Cut, Join, Convert mp3’, and that tells you almost everything you need to know about it: this is an app for cutting, joining and converting files.
But the MP3 bit in the name rather undersells it, because Timbre can also work its magic on WAV, FLAC, M4A, AAC, PCM, AIFF, Ogg, WMA, ALAC, MP4, AVI, FLV, MOV, WebM, MKV and MPEG files.
You can convert from one file type to another, which is handy if, for example, your music or video player doesn’t like a specific file type.
You can also trim down audio and video files, or combine several files into one, which you might want to do if you’re editing together a video with multiple scenes, or making a mixtape.
Those are the headline features of Timbre, but there are also tools to remove audio from a video file, split a single audio file into two parts, and change the bitrate of an audio file.
All of these things are simple to do, with Timbre sporting a clear interface, and it’s completely free as well.
Want to inject some personality into your inbox? Astro is here to do just that, combining a slick interface with an AI chatbot.
The AI (called Astrobot) is never more than a tap away, and if you ever get stuck or can’t find a feature you can just type it into the chat box and get assistance.
As well as telling you what and how you can do things with the app, Astrobot can also suggest things you might want to unsubscribe from or archive, or people you might want to make a ‘VIP’ (and thus have their emails appear at the top of your inbox).
Ultimately, Astrobot is nowhere near as powerful as Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri. Ask it a question unrelated to email and you probably won’t get much of an answer, but as dedicated email assistants go it’s pretty good, and doesn’t have much competition.
Elsewhere, the Astro app is less remarkable, but still very solid. Emails that its judges to be important will hit your Priority inbox, and it gets better at this over time, learning, for example, to prioritize emails from people you communicate with a lot.
It’s also full of handy features, like the ability to schedule emails, set up customizable gesture controls, get notified when an email is opened, and sent reminders when you haven’t replied to important emails.
The biggest limitation right now is that Astro only works with Gmail and Office 365 accounts, but support for others is supposedly coming soon.
Your phone’s wallpaper might well be the image you look at more than any other, as well as being the thing everyone sees any time you pull your phone out, so it’s important to choose something striking.
That means not just choosing one you like, but one which matches the overall aesthetic of your handset, and Wallrox Wallpapers makes that easy, as it’s focussed on offering wallpapers that dovetail with the base look of Android, Material Design.
They’re all original wallpapers, so you won’t find them anywhere else, and there are hundreds to choose from – split into a variety of categories – so you can easily filter them based on what you’re interested in.
They’re also all in QHD or higher resolution, so they should look good even on the biggest, sharpest smartphone screens.
And best of all: they’re completely free!
Like sports? Like music? Then there’s a good chance you’ll like Red Bull TV. The app contains live and on-demand shows, films and documentaries of various lengths, packed full of extreme sports action, as well as live broadcasts of music festivals from around the globe.
A built-in calendar tells you when all the events are coming up, so you won’t miss them live, but there’s also a huge selection of content readily available at all times.
And the quality is generally very high. You get full length events, usually paired with professional commentary, while the documentaries tend be well made and give you a closer look at the sports and culture. The shorter shows are sometimes more throwaway, but still a good time killer.
You can stream content to your phone or tablet, and if you’re lacking data or signal you can choose to drop the quality of the stream.
There’s also Chromecast support, so you can watch Red Bull TV on a big screen too, and if you don’t fancy sports or music there’s also a selection of shows dedicated to other parts of popular culture, such as gaming.
Lenka is a simple and free camera app, designed for taking stylish black and white photos. Contrast and color temperature can be adjusted using a pair of sliders, you can tap to focus or have the app choose the focus point, and handily you can use the volume buttons to take a picture, rather than having to tap the screen.
Lenka doesn’t let you use a flash, but interestingly you can optionally illuminate your subjects with constant light from the LED flash bulb.
There’s not much else to it – we did say this was a simple app – but whether you fiddle with the settings or not Lenka can take quite striking black and white shots, and there’s a basic built-in editor, letting you crop and rotate your photos.
If your kids would rather stare at screens than play outside, then Outdoor Family Fun with Plum could be the answer.
Created by PBS Kids, this app provides daily ‘missions’ that can form the basis of family walks and days out, while teaching your kids about nature and science.
There are over 150 missions, with a handful of different ones provided each day, examples of which include taking selfies with insects or noting the different types of weather you come across.
The app tracks your progress and hands out achievement badges, and it’s all wrapped up in a colorful, cartoonish interface that young kids are sure to love.
Wunderlist is arguably the best to-do list app on Android, but it won’t be for long, as Microsoft has bought it and is planning to ultimately shut it down, in favor of its own To-Do app.
Currently Microsoft To-Do isn’t as full-featured as Wunderlist, but it will be, with Microsoft promising to add the best features of Wunderlist to it, and it’s already a competent alternative.
It heavily customizable for one, as you can sort lists a variety of different ways, such as alphabetically, by creation date, or by due date, as well as changing the color scheme and background images.
You can also choose to display or hide completed items on your lists and you can sync your lists between your phone and computer, so you’re never far from them.
It’s an attractively designed app too, and for Wunderlist users there’s an option to import your lists, which is handy, since that app’s days are numbered.
There are dozens of recipe apps, but few that are both as health focused and deliver the recipes as well as Runtasty.
Coming from the makers of Runtastic it’s no surprise that this has a healthy slant, with all the recipes approved by dietitians and fit for various requirements, whether low-carb, high in protein, low calorie, gluten free, or any number of other things.
Each recipe has icons by its name, indicating its nutritional contents, but you can also filter by a variety of requirements, such as those above, along with preparation time and difficulty.
And once you’re in a recipe you can see its nutritional and dietary information in detail, but you can also see both step-by-step written instructions and a video guide for each and every recipe, which is a combination you won’t find in all apps.
With the ability to create a list of favorites too, and view ‘how-to’ videos for everything from cutting an avocado to preparing the perfect steak, there’s a lot to like here, and while the actual recipe selection can feel a bit sparse it’s a recent app, so we expect more will be added over time.
Finding the best flight search app can sometimes seem as tricky as finding the flights themselves, but Momondo is certainly up there.
Once you’ve picked the relevant airports and dates you can add all sorts of filters, such as how many stops there are, the duration of the flight, the time the flight departs or lands, the ticket class and the airlines.
Customize as much or as little of that as you want, then Momondo will show you all the relevant flights, with the cheapest, quickest, and ‘best’ (which seems to be the best balance of speed and cost) highlighted.
If you’re flexible with dates you can also see a graph showing the prices of flights on each day, so you can home in on the cheapest days at a glance.
And there’s also a section for booking hotels, with its own assortment of filters – including amenities, official star rating, guest rating, price and the type of accommodation it is, so you can book your whole trip from a single app.
Ever find yourself wondering how you’ve used so much data? Or just wondering how much data your individual apps really use? For answers to those questions – and more – there’s GlassWire, an app which tracks all of your phone’s data use, over both Wi-Fi and mobile networks.
It can tell you how much you’ve used in total over various periods of time, as well as how much individual apps are using, and apps are listed by how much they’ve used, so you can see at a glance which ones are using a lot.
You can also view graphs to pinpoint the peaks and troughs of your data use, and set alerts so you’ll know when you’ve used a certain amount or are nearing your monthly limit.
All that and GlassWire is a beautifully designed app too, while costing absolutely nothing.
Almost unavoidably there will be times when you have to hand your phone to someone else, be it to show them some pictures or let them make a call, but what you probably don’t want is the risk of them rummaging through your other apps.
Or, equally, you might not be in the habit of handing out your phone, and not really want to have to unlock it every time you use it either, but still want security for your most sensitive apps.
Either way, Norton App Lock can help, by, well, locking the apps of your choice, behind a PIN, pattern or fingerprint scan.
The app itself is easy to use – just set up the security options you want, then tap the padlock next to any app you want to lock. Once done, you’ll get Norton’s lock screen whenever you (or anyone else) tries to launch the app.
While Norton App Lock isn’t the only option for this it is the best we’ve come across, as it’s fast, loading the instant you tap on a secured app, rather than keeping you waiting. It’s also smart enough not to re-lock an app until you turn the screen off, and it has other handy features too, like one-tap locking of all the apps it thinks you should be securing.
There are all sorts of apps to help you find your phone once it’s lost or stolen, but Pocket Sense aims to thwart a thief’s attempts to steal it in the first place.
The app will sound an alarm any time your phone is taken out of your pocket, so you can catch a thief red-handed.
Similarly, you can set it to sound an alarm if your phone is unplugged from its charger or moved from where you’ve set it down.
The alarm will be cancelled once your phone is unlocked, and you can set a several second delay before it goes off, giving you time to unlock your phone first and thereby avoid alarms every time you grab your phone from your pocket.
But anyone who can’t unlock your phone will be stuck with a siren blaring, even if the phone’s set to silent, so they’re sure to put it down again in a hurry.
Google Earth is nothing new, but it’s been quietly improving over the years and if you haven’t used it in a while it’s well worth revisiting.
Not only can you see the world in full 3D, and even get in for a closer look with Street View, but the Voyager feature lets you get up close and personal with places you might never get a chance to otherwise.
You can explore coral reefs beneath the surface of the ocean, take a trip to the Grand Canyon, wander around museums and more, all without leaving your sofa, using a mix of Street View, information cards, high-quality photos and videos.
Whether you want to be an armchair tourist, plan an actual trip or just learn and be inspired, Google Earth will do the job.
The way news is delivered is starting to feel quite old-fashioned. Sure, we have 24-hour news channels, but we still can’t really pick what we want to hear about and when.
Haystack TV aims to solve that problem by letting you build up a profile with your favorite news sources and topics, and then presenting you with a feed of videos relevant to them, a bit like Flipboard but for video.
It has dozens of news sources, as well as sources focused on video games, tech and entertainment, and you can see all the stories it’s lined up for you at a glance, swiping to remove any you’re not interested in, before hitting play for a completely customized news video.
And you’re not limited to watching this on your phone or tablet, as Haystack TV also has Chromecast support, leaving old school news delivery suddenly feeling even more dated.
New content is added to Netflix every single day, but usually – unless it’s a Netflix original – the service doesn’t do a great job of highlighting it, so you might have no idea a film you’ve been eagerly anticipating has made it to the service.
Perhaps even worse, Netflix makes no real attempt to highlight the films and shows that will be leaving the service soon, leaving you with no idea that you’ve only got several days left to finish binging that sitcom or finally watch that documentary.
But with Upflix you’ll always be in the know. The app provides you with two constantly updated lists – one showing you what’s new, and the other showing you what won’t be around much longer.
You can tell the app your Netflix region (so wherever you are in the world it will have accurate information), you can get push notifications for updates, and each entry is accompanied by the date that it was added or that it will be leaving.
On top of that, you can also view trailers and information on titles, and see their IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores. There are also links to take you straight to their page on Netflix or IMDB, and there are some basic search tools to find titles, genres or scores if you’re looking for something more specific.
GrammarPal is an all-in-one spelling and grammar checker for anything you type into your phone. Whichever app you’re in, a little green circle will appear when you’re entering text and if you tap it the circle will show a number, indicating how many errors it’s spotted in your text.
Tap it again to highlight all the errors, with color-coding showing whether it’s a grammar or spelling mistake, then a tap on any error will suggest changes.
GrammarPal fixes mistakes, but it also tells you why it thinks something is a mistake, and if it regularly picks up on something you disagree with you can create a custom dictionary or rule to make the app ignore it.
You can set the position of the bubble, to make sure it’s always out of the way, and it’s small enough that it should be easy to ignore anyway, yet it’s never more than a tap away from making you a better communicator.
You might think that working solidly for hours on end is the best way to be productive, but many people find that actually taking short regular breaks is better. It’s such a popular idea that an entire technique has been built around it, called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s this that’s at the heart of Tide.
The idea is simple: work for 25 minutes then get a 5-minute break. After 4 work periods you get a longer, 15-minute break.
It’s a technique that you might find works, and is definitely worth trying if you ever struggle to focus, as breaking the day into smaller chunks can make it feel more manageable, and you’ll probably find that you resist opening up Facebook while working when you know you’ll be given a break shortly.
You could just use a normal timer for all this, but Tide automates the process, alerting you after each work or break period has finished, but also giving you some control, allowing you to adjust the work and break durations, or change how many work periods you need before a longer break.
When an alarm goes off you have to tap to start the next work or break period, which is more useful than it sounds, as, for example, you might not be ready to go on break after exactly 25 minutes.
Tide also has a beautifully designed interface and optionally plays relaxing nature sounds while you work. We can live without that part, but if, like us, you’d rather work in silence than to the sounds of rolling waves, you can easily turn it off.
Applying for jobs used to involve filling out lengthy arcane applications only to never hear back and wonder: should that time might have been better spent learning Japanese or solving world hunger?
With LinkedIn Job Search there’s still no guarantee that you’ll hear back from your dream job, but it takes out much of the hassle of applying at least, as many of the jobs on this app let you apply using your LinkedIn profile information, so you can apply in several taps, rather than filling out several pages.
That’s great, but it’s not new – LinkedIn itself has been offering that for a while. What the LinkedIn Job Search app does is get rid of all the LinkedIn fluff, like connections and groups, and leave you with just a simple yet powerful job search tool.
You can search by title or keyword, pick a location, as well as how far from that location you’re prepared to travel, choose how recent the job listings have to be and even search just specific companies if you want.
You can fill out as many or as few of these requirements as you want, then filter the results by either how recent they are or how relevant, and before you even tap on a listing you’ll be able to see whether it lets you apply through LinkedIn or not.
If you’re not ready to apply right now you can save it for later, and you can opt to get alerts on your phone if a saved job is about to expire, or if someone has looked at your application – so while there’s no guarantee you’ll get the job, you’ll at least know your application has been seen.
Android only offers 15 different volume levels as standard, which is generally fine, but can lead to situations where you can’t quite get the exact volume you want.
Precise Volume, as the name suggests, gives you more control, with 100 different volume levels built in. As a free app, that would already be just about enough to recommend it but Precise Volume is also packed full of handy tools and features, like custom volume presets and the ability to set a volume limit when using headphones, to protect your hearing.
Upgrade to pro for a one-off charge of $2.49/£2.49 and you get access to 1,000,000 different volume levels, plus the ability to have the volume automatically change based on the app, Bluetooth device or headphones you’re using.
Those features are useful, but not essential, and even the free app will power up your volume controls in ways that you might find surprisingly significant once you get used to having more fine-grained control.
Privacy seems increasingly hard to come by in the digital age, and our smartphones are partly to blame for that, as we text, browse and even work from them in public.
Inevitably, at some point, someone’s going to look over your shoulder, so you’d better hope you’re not working on something confidential or sending sexy messages to your significant other when it happens.
But there are things you can do to minimize the chance of them seeing something they shouldn’t, and one of those things is to use ScreenGuard Lite.
This app will add a pattern or color filter to your screen which makes it a lot harder to make out text and images from a distance.
The strength and color of the filter can be changed and you can choose only to cover a portion of the screen if you’d prefer. You can also quickly and easily enable or disable the filter and change the settings using toggles on the notifications shade, so it’s not too much of a hassle to set up and use.
There’s a separate pro version (not available as an IAP) which adds additional pattern options and lets you set up multiple profiles for $1.58/£1.26, but unless you’re a secret agent the free version should do just fine.
Some podcast players are unintuitive or ugly, but Podcast Go is neither. While it’s not exactly feature-packed, it has all the key tools you’re likely to want.
Searching for and discovering podcasts is easy for a start, with over 300,000 available on the app, sorted into categories (such as entertainment or technology) which you can filter based on what’s popular or trending.
There are also tabs to view any new or unfinished episodes of podcasts you’re subscribed to, making it easy to keep on top of them.
You can also optionally get alerts for new episodes, set new episodes to automatically download, build a playlist, and set podcasts to stop playing after a certain amount of time – ideal if, for example, you like to fall asleep to the soothing voice of your favorite podcaster.
There are all sorts of writing apps, but few address the problem of getting you to start writing in the first place. Actually putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, can be the single biggest hurdle in getting something written, whether that something is the novel you’ve been mulling for years or a piece of work with a looming deadline.
Writeometer helps overcome this problem by giving you daily reminders to work, and a timer to help keep you focused for a set period of time once you start.
The app also lets you track your progress and set targets, allowing you to input a total word or character target, a deadline and a daily word target – or have it automatically calculate how many words you need to do each day in order to hit your deadline.
Over time you’ll see logs and charts of how much progress you’ve made, and the app will reward you with virtual guavas for completing your daily goals.
Why guavas? We’re not sure. But you can create your own treats that you’ll give yourself when you collect a certain number – for example you could decide that you’ll trade in one guava for a cookie, though doing that could set back your health targets… so maybe opt for a different reward.
If your life is a non-stop stream of smartphone messages you might want to know which ones are actually worth your attention before you take the time to pick up your phone, and Converbration aims to help with that.
Using a series of vibrations or sounds it will give you insight into the content of a message. For example, longer messages will have longer alerts, while messages framed as a question will have a different sound at the end of the alert.
And it goes further, also altering notification sounds based on keywords or tone, so you have an idea of whether a message is positive or negative, urgent or work-related.
You can also add your own filters, so that the app will pick up on (or ignore) specific words and phrases, and you can customize the types of alerts you get, opting for long or short vibration patterns, or to use sounds instead.
Converbration is also versatile, working with SMS, WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger, Allo, Google Hangouts, Viber, LINE, Telegram, VKontakte, WeChat, BBM, Kakao Talk, Yahoo Messenger, imo, Tango, GroupMe, hike messenger, and textPlus (with more to come, if you can believe that).
Get it customized how you want it, and get used to what the different alerts sound like, and you’ll never again pick up your phone just to find a generic ‘k’ or ‘lol’ response. The app is free, or you can pay $3.99/£3.79 to get rid of adverts.
You would think that getting a timer right would be easy, yet so many limit you to a single timer at once. We don’t know about you, but our exciting, fast-paced lives often require multiple timers, as we juggle cooking times, laundry and workouts among other thrilling activities.
Multi Timer StopWatch allows for that, and it’s packed full of other features too. Multiple timers can be saved and customized with their own names and durations, which is handy if you use the same timer a lot.
Each timer can also be given its own sound and you can even set up TimerCeption (timers within timers), meaning the app will alert you after a certain amount of time has passed prior to the end of the timer.
There are widgets too, for easy access to the timers, and there’s a built-in stopwatch. Plus, you can turn off a timer just by waving your hand over the screen.
The app isn’t the prettiest we’ve ever seen, and if you want to get rid of adverts you’ll need to pay a one-time $2.99/£2.79 fee, but for free you get one of the most functional and feature-packed timers around.
Whisper is one of many apps that let you broadcast your thoughts and feelings to the world. But it lets you do so completely anonymously, with a username that you can change as often as you want and a profile that – at most – contains your age range, gender and approximate location.
The bulk of the app involves short messages, accompanied by an image (usually one suggested by the app and often more decorative than relevant, though you can upload your own). You can then scroll through these messages, sorting them either by those posted nearby, those in groups you belong to, the latest ones, or the most popular ones.
You can reply to the messages if you wish, or start a private conversation with the author. The app as a whole often feels like a more anonymous and visual version of Twitter, albeit without the big brands and famous faces, and with a lot more venting and secret sharing thanks to the anonymity.
But with its focus on people nearby it can also feel more social – encouraging people to talk and even meet.
That aspect is somewhat at odds with the intended anonymity, but you never have to share more than you want to. If you’d rather be a ghost, posting and replying while never revealing a thing, that’s easily achieved.
Seeing that your current download speed is 18.2Mbps is all well and good, but what does that mean for real world use? That’s a question that most speed test services fail to answer, but not Meteor.
This app not only tests your upload speed, download speed and ping, but also assigns each one a rating, ranging from ‘poor’ to ‘awesome’, so you have a better idea of what it means.
But Meteor goes further than that, by assigning the same rating to a selection of apps, so if for example it gives Google Maps a ‘very good’ rating, that means you can expect smooth and speedy mapping with your current data speeds.
And you can go further still, tapping on an app to get a breakdown of what performance is likely to be for different activities. In Spotify, for example, you can view separate ratings for listening to a song or downloading an album in normal, high or extreme quality.
Meteor isn’t perfect: the selection of apps that it can rate the performance of is currently limited to (deep breath): YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Waze, Google Maps, Skype, Amazon, Dropbox, Chrome, Flipboard, Gmail, Instagram, Google Street View, Twitter, Uber and WhatsApp.
What’s worse is you can only choose six of them at once. But it does far more than most speed test apps to help explain what you’re looking at on your phone and your current data speeds, and it’s got a stylish design and easy to navigate layout too.
Is your current browser of choice just not cutting it anymore? Pyrope Browser could be a strong replacement, whether you’re looking for speed, security or other features.
It can block adverts, keeping speeds high, and if you’re using a device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset Pyrope is even faster, as it’s optimized for those chips – though it should still work fine on other chipsets.
It keeps you secure with an incognito mode, the ability to block pop-ups and cookies, and a ‘LookLock’, which stops other apps from seeing or reading the contents of any sites you’re viewing.
And as for other features, Pyrope is packed full of them. There’s a night mode with inverted colors, a power saving mode, a full-screen immersive mode, background audio, so videos can keep playing sound even when the browser isn’t in the foreground, the ability to save sites for offline reading, and gesture controls.
All that and Pyrope Browser looks pretty swish too, especially if you activate the ‘dynamic notification bar’, which changes the color of your notification bar to match the color of the site you’re on.
We’re used to beauty modes smoothing out our imperfections to usually unconvincing effect, but FaceApp more drastically edits your selfies, letting you add a smile to moody snaps, making you look younger or older, changing your gender, beautifying you or letting you make a collage with four different altered photos.
Obviously these features feel more like gimmicks than must-have features, but it was a hit when it debuted on iOS and it’s not hard to see why. By limiting it to just a few effects, and using neural networks for the heavy lifting, FaceApp works well, with the added smiles in particular being freakishly convincing at times.
It also works with either existing photos in your gallery or new ones which you can snap from the app, though it can be a bit slow at snapping new shots, and struggles to find faces in pictures taken outside the app, so that’s still one thing that needs work.
Still, if you’re the kind of person who lives for Snapchat filters FaceApp is well worth a look, whether you want a believable tweak or a monstrous modification.
You can never have too much music in your life, unless that music is awful, which 80% of it probably is if you’re relying on the lucky dip that is radio for finding new things.
Even recommended songs on Spotify and the like can often seem like a pale imitation of the things you want to be listening to, which is why SoundR Music tries to give you more control.
While you can’t pick and choose specific songs like ‘proper’ streaming services, you can pick a genre, an emotion and an activity or setting, such as ‘party’ or ‘sleep’. So if you’re in the mood for chill techno you can listen to in the summer while you’re running, you can actually search for that.
The more you dig down the fewer results you get of course, but also the more personalized it becomes.
Whatever results emerge come in the form of playlists, rather than individual songs, and you can’t download these, but you can stream them completely free, with no adverts, and if you find something you like you can also favorite it – or, as you’re probably more likely to do, add it to a Spotify/Apple Music playlist.
There are loads of great games on Android, but unearthing them isn’t always easy, with Google Play’s selection of filters and categories helping, but sometimes seeming overwhelming.
If you want more of a curated approach then there’s every chance you’ll love Core, which regularly highlights mobile games with reviews, previews and guides.
And these are in video form, not text, which is also probably for the best, because no amount of words can give you as much sense for a game as simply seeing it in action.
The app also supports Chromecast, so you’re not limited to watching content on a small screen, and as well as videos created for the app it also highlights a number of streams from YouTube, Twitch and Mobcrush, which you can watch without leaving the app.
Basic fitness trackers don’t cost much, but if you already have an Android phone you can get much of the same functionality with just an app, and Pacer Pedometer is among the best of the bunch.
The app is primarily a pedometer, and one which works quite accurately – or rather, if the initial readings aren’t accurate you can adjust the sensitivity until they are.
Like a dedicated fitness tracker it runs permanently, quietly counting your steps, distance travelled and active minutes as you work towards a target of your own creation.
And there are several different modes you can put it in, depending on whether you favor accuracy or conserving battery life more. This is arguably one area where a dedicated tracker has an advantage, as the heavy lifting is done by a device other than your phone, but if you have it permanently paired to your phone and syncing with an app, the drain won’t necessarily be much less than Pacer’s.
As well as daily step targets, Pacer also lets you work towards specific weight or BMI goals, and if you shell out on a $3.99/£3.99 monthly subscription you can get extra tools to help with that, such as an AI coach and access to groups, but the basic option is still impressively full-featured.
Ever wished you could recreate the look of a retro video game? Well, with Dotpict you can, and you don’t even need a huge amount of artistic talent to do it.
The app presents you with a grid, of anywhere from 16 x 16 to 96 x 96, and you just tap a dot to fill it with a color, or tap a pen below the grid to change the color you’re currently using.
You can select from a range of color palettes or create your own, zoom in or out, fill the background with a color, and undo your last action with a tap, but that’s about where the controls and options end.
This keeps things simple, as pixel art should be, and makes it easy for beginners to dive in and experiment, but there’s enough here to keep proficient pixel artists busy too. And once you’re done you can export or share your creation, so the whole world (or at least your whole social circle) can see it.
Most apps increase our smartphone use, but Forest is a rarity in that it pushes you to use your phone less, by having virtual trees grow when you leave your phone alone, and die if you start using it again before a certain amount of time has passed.
As a result you can end up with lush virtual forests if you stay phone-free, or withered husks if you don’t. That may not be much of a motivation to stay off your phone, but with competition against friends and the world, unlockable achievements, plus coins which can be earned too and used to purchase new tree designs, Forest does a good job of turning the avoidance of distraction into a game.
And avoiding distraction, rather than weaning you off your smartphone entirely, is the point of the app, so you can set a tree growing when you want to get some work done or watch a film.
You can also choose to whitelist certain apps, so important things that you need to be able to access won’t kill your tree, and if you spend $0.99/72p on an in-app purchase you even unlock the ability to use the coins you earn on planting real trees around the world.
We all need to-do lists from time to time, and while any number of note taking apps can do the job, they’re often a bit fiddly or basic.
That’s why, even if you never use it for more than your weekly shopping, a dedicated to-do list app is worth having.
Of these, Wunderlist is among the best. Beyond the attractive interface there are lots of little things that make it a firm favorite, such as the fact that once you tick something off it disappears, rather than your list simply getting clogged up with ticked items.
But by contrast, the ease with which you can view and restore previously checked off items when you need to do/buy/make/eat them again is a treat.
Wunderlist also lets you set reminders for deadlines, sort your lists alphabetically, put them into folders and sub lists to keep everything organized, and gives you access to your lists from the cloud on your phone, computer or tablet (perfect so you don’t lose your lists when you drop your phone in the bath).
For most users, that’s probably plenty, but Wunderlist goes even further, allowing you to easily share your lists with colleagues and friends, so you can build lists together or split the work. If needed, you can even attach photos and other files to your lists.
But the best thing about Wunderlist is that all these extra features stay tucked away, leaving you with a clean, clutter-free interface that makes it easy to create and complete lists – which is really the most important thing.
TED isn’t a new app, but it is an enduring and regularly updated favorite. Home to over 2,000 TED Talk videos and episodes of the TED Radio Hour podcast, it has interesting content from inspiring speakers on numerous different subjects, with talks covering everything from “the emotional impact of architecture” to “what a driverless world could look like.”
The talks are usually short – taking no more than 18 minutes, so you can fit one into a coffee break, and they can be streamed, downloaded or sent to a TV via Chromecast, depending on how you like to consume them.
Alternatively they can just be favorited to watch/listen to later, so whether you’re out and about or sat in your living room they’re always accessible.
The whole app is simply laid out with a polished look and lots of images, along with tools to help you find new talks. You can check out one of the curated playlists, search by suggested themes, or just type a term of your own into the search box.
And did we mention all of this is completely free? If only school had been this interesting, we might know as much about science and history as we do about phones.
Your phone probably came with a calculator app, but we can almost guarantee that All-in-One Calculator is better. Not only does it have a basic calculator (which changes to a scientific one when you hold your phone in landscape orientation or swipe in from the right edge), it also has over 50 specialist calculators and unit converters.
These cover everything from solving equations, to converting weights and lengths, to working out percentages, averages, density and more. There’s even a currency converter, which updates to offer the current exchange rates, and a BMI calculator.
Most of these you’ll probably never need to use, but next time you need to calculate or convert anything All-in-One Calculator will ensure the answer is never more than a few taps away.
Photomath, as the name suggests, can do maths from images. Just point your camera at a written out problem (which can be typed or hand-written) and the app will provide you with a solution.
It also has a built-in calculator, so you can type problems into the app if you’d prefer, and whatever method you choose you’ll be given a step-by-step guide to reaching the same conclusion as Photomath, so if you have no idea why X equals 4, the app will teach you.
That takes it beyond just being a clever calculator, and actually makes Photomath a great educational tool as well. The core features are all free, but there’s a $0.99/89p monthly subscription to unlock more in depth explanations and learning tools.
Cortana never quite managed to rival Google Now or Siri, thanks in part to being tied to Windows – an operating system that has proved unpopular on mobile.
But Cortana is a decent voice-based assistant, and you can find it not just on Windows handsets but also Windows computers, iOS and, of course, Android.
If you want just one AI assistant across all your devices that gives Cortana an edge, especially as by having Cortana on multiple devices you can do things like get missed call alerts on your PC, or ask it to send an SMS from your PC, giving you control over phone functions even when you don’t have your phone to hand.
It’s fairly accomplished too. You can start talking to it just by tapping the ‘Cortana Mic’ app icon on your home screen, and it can do many of the same things rival apps can, like make calls, send emails, answer questions and look up information online.
It’s not quite as deeply integrated into Android as Google Now, so you can’t launch it with a voice command for example.
As a Microsoft service it also insists on using Bing rather than Google. But its answers are normally relevant and useful, and its voice is arguably less robotic than Google Now’s, so it’s a strong alternative.
Planning trips can be a messy business, with information and bookings often strewn across multiple websites and services, but Google Trips aims to put everything in one place.
Simply search for a location and the app will provide information on attractions, restaurants and more, which you can save to your trip.
Any bookings you make – be it for flights, accommodation or whatever else – can be added from Gmail, and if you’re struggling to fill a day you can make use of pre-constructed day plans, which factor in the average time spent in locations and how long it takes to get between them.
Best of all, everything is available offline, so you won’t have to rack up roaming charges every time you check your itinerary.
AccuBattery isn’t designed to extend your phone’s between-charge lifespan, so much as it’s aimed at lengthening the overall life of your battery – so that two years from now it’s still staying charged for a longer time.
It does this not by meddling with things behind the scenes, but simply giving you the information you need to make more informed decisions about when and how much to charge your phone.
Regularly charging your battery to 100% can shorten its lifespan, and AccuBattery gives estimates of the effect of charging to different percentages, with recommendations that you generally don’t charge beyond 80%.
To help you manage that it also has a built-in charge alarm, which goes off when the battery reaches the level you want it at, plus a scary battery health figure, which tells us our 8-month-old S7 Edge’s battery is already down to 83% health, with 600mAh gone from its original capacity.
That may not be entirely accurate, but it’s certainly the kind of number that will spur you into action.
And even if you’re already careful about how you charge your phone, AccuBattery could be worth having, as it provides more detailed information on how power-hungry your apps are, and how long your battery will last between charges, than Android itself does.
If Planet Earth 2 isn’t enough Attenborough for you you’re in luck, as the BBC has launched Attenborough’s Story of Life – a slick app that features a collection of over 1000 highlights from his nature documentaries.
These can be streamed over Wi-Fi or mobile data, giving you an almost endless (and very mobile) supply of animal and plant footage, complete with a handful of new clips recorded by Attenborough for the app.
You can search for specific content, filter by category, or simply browse the full selection. You’ll also find ‘featured collections’ which paste together a selection of related clips into a single longer video.
And if you’re feeling creative you can even create your own collection, which you can then name and share on social media.
If you’re on the hunt for a new messaging app you could do worse than Google Allo, which has most of the basics plus a few features that you won’t get elsewhere.
Smart Reply, one of the standout features of Allo, suggests responses to messages and photos, learning how you talk over time, so you can send authentic responses without having to type – though it does seem a little impersonal.
The other big feature is Google Assistant, which works a bit like a text version of OK Google, but one which you can insert into any conversation, asking it questions or getting it to pull up information from the web.
Allo also has an incognito mode, with end-to-end encryption and expiring messages, for anyone who’s particularly security conscious.
As with any new messaging app the big problem with Allo will be convincing your friends to use it, but it’s worth the effort.
There are plenty of podcast apps to choose from, but few that are as full-featured and easy to navigate as Podcast Player, and fewer still that are also free.
Podcast Player helps you discover new shows by having you follow topics, which can be as broad as ‘tech’ or as niche and specific as ‘beekeeping’.
The app is also packed full of other handy features, like auto-downloading the latest episodes of shows you’re subscribed to whenever you’re on Wi-Fi, and the ability to sync across devices, all wrapped up in an attractive, simple interface with absolutely no adverts. Podcast Player is so good you’ll wonder why it’s free.
Got an expensive app habit? Then it’s time you discovered Google Opinion Rewards, an app which gives you Google Play credit for filling out quick surveys.
Most of the questions are multiple choice and there are rarely more than a few questions in each survey, so the app won’t waste your time.
You’ll usually get around one survey a week, so it’s not going to make you rich, but you can earn enough to buy an app or rent a movie every month or two, all for just a few minutes of work.
Prisma will transform your photos into works of art, and now Artisto has arrived to do the same for videos.
Simply select any clip that’s saved to your phone (or shoot a new one straight from the app), and then choose from a number of filters, some of which are inspired by actual art styles, such as art nouveau, and the app will quickly apply the filter to your footage.
Depending on the clip and style you choose the result can range from beautiful to an incomprehensible mess, but it’s fun to play with and, if used with care, can lead to great-looking videos.
Once you’ve applied a filter you can share your creation straight to Instagram, Facebook, or any other compatible app on your phone, or just save it to your handset.
If you’re anything like us you’d probably sooner forget those embarrassing outfits you were wearing in all your old printed photos.
The good news is you can easily hide them away in a box, in a cupboard or at the bottom of the ocean. The bad news is PhotoScan by Google brings them into the digital world, where they’ll never be more than a click away – so please think about your future self when digitizing your images.
Follow some simple instructions, which basically involve moving your phone over an image, so the camera lens can clearly see all the different parts of it, and it will be immortalized in digital form and ready for sharing on social media.
PhotoScan has some clever tricks up its sleeve too, allowing it to enhance images, avoid glare, and crop and straighten shots, so that the finished product really is like a digital photo, rather than just a snapshot of a snapshot.
It’s all very quick and easy, which sadly means there’s no forgetting those baggy jeans and nineties haircuts if you’re hell-bent on documenting your entire drawer of old photos.
We’ve all been there. You’ve decided you want to watch a very specific show or film and now need to hunt through all six billion different streaming sites to see if or where it’s available.
But what if there was another way? What if you could just search once and get back a list of locations where your content can be found?
That’s what JustWatch does, you simply tell it what country you’re in and which sites and services you’re interested in when you first download the app, after which it will bring back every relevant search result from then on.
That’s reason enough for stream fiends to grab it, especially as it’s free, but there’s more here, including lists of the latest releases on all of your subscribed services, so you’ll never miss a new Netflix series again.
Ever wanted to bring all your old Warhammer pieces or children’s toys to life? Well with Motion you can, or at least to some kind of stop motion life.
The app couldn’t be simpler: you just point your phone at whatever you want to animate, press the big yellow button on the screen, then slightly move anything that you want to show in motion. From that, press the button again and continue like that until you’ve created your masterpiece.
Once all the footage is in place you can play it back, adjust the frame rate if needed and remove any pictures that you forgot to get your hands out of.
You can always go back and add more frames to a project at any point, so you don’t need to set aside a whole afternoon to get an intricate animation done in one go. Once you finally are finished you can save it to your phone and send it to your friends/your kids/anyone else who’ll still talk to you after seeing your shonky stop motion.
You might never be the next Picasso, but with Prisma you can make your photos look convincingly like an artistic masterpiece.
The app sports dozens of filters, largely based around specific painters or art styles and with a single tap (and a bit if a wait – plus you need to be online) you can apply any of these to any of your photos.
There’s no shortage of photo filter apps but these are a bit more inventive than most and actually look convincingly like the art styles they’re imitating.
Once you’ve applied your filter of choice you can lessen the effect with a swipe if it’s veered too far from the source image for your liking, then you can save and share your creations with another few taps.
A high-quality, feature-packed, easy to use music player with a stylish aesthetic and no cost. That might sound too good to be true, but somehow Pi Music Player delivers on all fronts.
For one thing it looks great (not that you’ll probably spend too long looking at it once you’ve queued some tracks up), but with album artwork and a classy interface you won’t mind the time you do spend in front of it.
It also has features you won’t find in all players, like a sleep timer which will turn the music off after a set period and a ringtone cutter, allowing you to select the exact point in a song that you want as a ringtone.
But Pi Music Player has the basics covered well too, with an equalizer, several different ways to sort and view your music, multiple themes and easy-to-build playlists.
You’re not likely to compose a masterpiece with Music Maker Jam, but if you want to get started in music creation it’s a simple, approachable tool and even if you’re already an expert it’s fun to fiddle around with.
There’s less to it than something like Caustic 3, but that means you can learn the basics and start making music that actually sounds good in a matter of minutes, by combining up to eight samples and looping and tweaking them until you’re happy.
There are only a few screens you need to worry about and everything is laid out intuitively in a manner that doesn’t feel cluttered on a smartphone screen, plus there’s a short tutorial to get you started.
A bunch of samples are included for free, but you can buy extras or even record your own if you’re really feeling creative.
With Call Recorder – ACR the days of having a pen and paper to hand to write down important information mid-call are over.
The app will record your calls for you, as you can probably guess from the name, and it records both sides of the conversation, so you won’t just be listening to the soothing tones of your own voice.
If you regularly find yourself scrambling for a pen you can set it to start recording every call automatically, but if you want to be a bit pickier that’s easy to do too, with various filters or the option to just start recording manually.
Add in a range of different recording formats, support for cloud storage and a simple system for playing back recordings, which allows you to pause and jump around to different points in them, and Call Recorder – ACR is a full-featured solution. Just remember to tell people you’re recording to stay legal and all that.
WhatsApp is one of the most essential apps you can install on your Android device, especially if you have friends and family across the world.
Rather than using up your SMS allowance by sending text messages, WhatsApp lets you send messages over any Wi-Fi or mobile data connection instead. You can also send and receive photos with no size restrictions, send videos, make calls and have group chats. Best of all, if you’re using Wi-Fi (or you have unlimited mobile data) none of this will cost you anything.
Evernote is an excellent app for your Android device that lets you stash and sync all your text notes, voice memos and files on your phone and access them through a desktop computer.
It’s a brilliant productivity tool that lets you organise and search your notes so you always have exactly what you need at your fingertips.
The paid premium version unlocks offline access and passcode protection, but for free you still get a vast, feature-packed digitial notebook that’s easy to navigate.
Boost your productivity with Pushbullet, which lets you view your Android phone’s notifications and messages directly on your desktop PC. It means if you get a text message you can read it there and then without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.
You can also quickly send files from your computer to your phone with only a few clicks, and if you regularly find that you email links to yourself just to open them on your smartphone, then you’ll never have to do that again thanks to Pushbullet’s link sharing features.
Snapseed is Google’s own photo editor that’s been designed from the ground up to make tweaking your snaps as easy and fun as possible on a touchscreen Android device.
Although the interface is simple enough to use with just your fingers, there’s also a lot of depth to this app as well. You use tools to tweak and enhance your photographs to make them look the best they ever have, as well as playing around with fun filters that can transform the photos you’ve taken on your smartphone or tablet.
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.
If you’re serious about running or cycling then you should be serious about Strava. As smartphone fitness tools go it’s one of the best, allowing you to track your performance, set goals and see daily progress updates.
There are leaderboards and challenges to give it a competitive edge and if you’re ever not sure where to run or cycle you can find user created routes on the app, or share your own. All of that comes free of charge, while a premium version adds even more tools.
Even in 2015 there are still times and places where we can’t get an internet connection, but this doesn’t have to mean you can’t read websites, however, thanks to the excellent Pocket app. It allows you to save articles, news stories, blog posts, videos and much more, letting you read and watch them offline.
You can also synchronise your saved articles across every device you’ve installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading. With unlimited storage you can build up a whole library of content and the app even makes recommendations of new things it thinks you might like.
Uber is transforming the way we travel. You can quickly and easily request a taxi using the app and get picked up within minutes. You can also compare rates and get quotes, as well as paying with Google Wallet, PayPal or by adding your credit card to a secure Uber account.
The Uber service is available in over 50 countries, and it’s rapidly growing. Give it a try and you’ll never want to hail a taxi the old fashioned way again. It’s fast, convenient and a whole lot more high-tech than taxis have ever been before.
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 – Bus, Tube, Rail 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 traveller.
Google Maps is probably already on your phone, but as the best free mapping option around it’s well worth highlighting.
Transit directions, live traffic updates, voice-guided GPS navigation, Street View and more are all included, making this more feature-packed than even most paid options. Importantly it’s detailed and accurate too, with information on millions of places, so you’ll never be late or get lost again.
Whether you’re trying to find your way around or just want to find somewhere new to eat, Google Maps has you covered.
It might not be quite as glamorous as other media players, but if you want a no-nonsense app that can play pretty much any media file under the sun, then VLC for Android is the app for you.
It spent a long time in beta, but it now delivers a stable, full-featured experience, complete with support for subtitles, multi-track audio, DVD ISOs and network streams.
That’s all packaged in an easy to use player, with widgets and gesture controls. So you don’t need to worry about getting your media to work, you just need to launch VLC and press play. The app will do the rest.
Dropbox is probably the best known tool for syncing and sharing your files, photos and videos across all your devices, and its popularity is well earned. Any files that you save to your Dropbox folder on any of your PCs or devices will appear in the Dropbox app.
It took a while for Dropbox to come to Android, and after a shaky start this app is now essential with a number of helpful new features that let you save photos and videos from your device straight to Dropbox. As well as quickly editing your documents from within the app and easily sharing them with other people, or just keeping them safely backed up.
IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for “if this then that” and handily sums up what this app does. It’s a simple ethos that gives you a huge amount of options for making your Android device even smarter.
You can create simple statements such as “if any photo is taken then add them to Dropbox”, or “if my location is home, send a text message to my partner saying “I’m home!”” which can also be shared with other IF users. You’ll be amazed how much you can do with such a simple premise.
One of the best things about Android is how customisable it is, and there are loads of apps out there that can help you change the way Android displays and launches apps to suit your preferences.
Out of these Nova Launcher is arguably the best, giving you complete control over your home screen. You can change the icons, themes, colours and layout, completely hide apps that you don’t use, set up gesture controls and add funky affects when navigating your phone.
It might sound bloated but you can use as many or as few of these features as you want, so if you want to keep your Android experience slick and minimalist Nova Launcher can do that too.
Google Fit is an excellent app for keeping track of your activity and you don’t need any additional fitness trackers; you can just carry your Android phone around with you. If you do have Android Wear-compatible fitness trackers and wearables, then Google Fit gets even better, as it can gather data from them, displaying it all in one place.
Fitness goals for dailys step counts, calories burned, or time or distance of exercise can also be set to help you reach the level of fitness you desire, as well as keeping you motivated.
Map My Fitness Workout Trainer is another great app for keeping tabs on your workout regime. As the name suggests it uses the GPS positioning features of your Android smartphone to log your runs, letting you get an accurate look at your workout regime.
Voice feedback will keep you in the loop even when you’re in the process of working out, giving you information on your pace, the route you’re taking, calories burned and plenty more.
Get friends involved too and you can view each other’s activity, helping you keep each other motivated and take part in a little friendly competition.
If you fancy learning a foreign language then make sure you download Duolingo: Learn Languages Free, as it’s one of those rare apps that manages to be both educational and fun, ensuring that you’ll keep coming back for more to brush up on your language skills, with bite-sized, genuinely useful lessons and tests.
Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and English can all be learned, it’s completely free with no ads or hidden fees and it’s one of the best ways you can learn a new language with your Android device.
If you need to quickly and easily find out what something means in another language, then there’s no better way than with Google Translate. You can translate between 90 languages and even converse naturally with speakers of other languages and let Google do the translation.
One of the best features lets you use the camera of your Android device to translate real-world objects such as signposts and posters. Just point, shoot and translate! Couple this with Google Maps and you’ve got all you need to travel the world.
If you want to keep your various accounts and logins secure then it makes sense to have a strong, unique and regularly changed password for each. But unless you have a photographic memory that also means you’ll be hitting the password reset button roughly 6000 times a day.
That’s not ideal and it’s where password managers, such as 1Password, come in. This gives you an online database of all your passwords and automatically fills in login fields, so the only password you need to remember is the one for 1Password itself.
Except now you don’t even need to do that, as the app has added fingerprint support for devices running Android Marshmallow.
1Password is securely encrypted, so your logins are safe and it works across Android, iOS, PC and Mac. The core app is free but to unlock all the features you will need to make a one time in-app purchase.
Counting your calories is a sure fire way to lose weight, but it’s a bit of a faff isn’t it? The Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal app makes watching what you eat easier than ever. A huge database of food is at hand to help you log your meals, and an excellent barcode scanner makes it simple to log your food throughout the day.
Along with calories, the nutritional information of various food and snacks is recorded and you can set goals to help you keep you on track, making it a whole lot easier to choose a clementine over a chocolate bar.
Endomondo – Running & Walking bills itself as the only personal trainer you’ll ever need, and it’s a pretty darn accurate claim. No matter what sports or fitness activity you perform, this app will track your progress and give you information on speed, distance, calories burnt and more.
You can keep a training diary to view your progress and set workout goals and challenges to help keep you motivated. Plus social features allow you to share and compete with your friends.
While Endomondo works well on its own it can also be linked up to other apps and wearables, so you can get a complete picture of your progress.
Finding time in our lives to exercise can be tough, but the Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout can help you fit exercises into even the most hectic of schedules.
The official app of the scientifically proven body-weight workout is designed for all fitness levels and contains over 30 minutes of special videos to help you get fit with a seven minute routine that only needs a wall, chair and a bit of floor space. So not only do you need very little time, but also very little space or equipment. Secretly we hate this app, as it’s killed most of our excuses for being lazy.
Compare millions of flights from airlines around the world with the Skyscanner app and grab yourself a real bargain.
In only a few seconds you’ll be able search and compare flights to find the cheapest ones available, or look for the best deals on specific airlines or cabin classes.
You can book your chosen flight directly from the app while you’re on the go. You can also search for random destinations to give you inspiration for your next holiday.
With millions of child-friendly videos, YouTube has the potential to be a digital playground for kids, the problem is there’s also a lot of unsuitable content. That’s where YouTube Kids comes in, automatically filtering unsuitable content and providing a simple, colourful interface which your child can easily navigate.
It’s slick and polished, which is no surprise coming Google. It’s not all just entertainment either, as there’s a ‘Learning’ category too, and there are parental controls, allowing you to add a timer or block certain content.
Being automated there’s a chance some unsuitable stuff will still slip through, but if you switch the search option off your child will be limited to the app’s recommendations. This still gives them a lot to watch, while completely cutting them off from the wider world of YouTube.
This one pioneered the concept of the alternative keyboard, with SwiftKey the first to offer to ‘learn’ your writing style and attempt to predict your next word. The hope being that, with practice, it’ll know what phrases you commonly use and might save you quite a bit of fuss in typing a simple message to a friend.
Rivals have sprung up but SwiftKey is still the king, with accurate predictions and a massive number of customisation options.
You used to have to pay for the app, but now you don’t have to spend a penny to give your keyboard a big boost.