Max Eddy is a Software Analyst, taking a critical eye to the Android OS and security services. He's also PCMag's foremost authority on weather stations and digital scrapbooking software. He spends much of his time polishing his tinfoil hat and plumbing the depths of the Dark Web. Prior to PCMag, Max wrote for the International Digital Times, The... See Full Bio

There are many more alternative Android app stores out there, but most of them have small user bases. For developers, it’s always worth trying to widen the net and offer your apps in as many places as possible, but some of the smaller options might not be worth the time and effort. For users seeking apps, the apps available on the stores beyond those discussed above are limited. If a store doesn’t offer some unique hook to pull you in, then it’s tough to see why you’d bother.
Google Opinion Rewards is appropriately named. Google sends you surveys that ask you about places you've visited recently and you get Google Play Store credit for your participation. Polls don't come in very often, but you can increase your chances of receiving more, by enabling your location and answering surveys quickly and honestly when they do arrive. It's not going to earn you a ton of store credit, but it's enough to purchase an app or an album every so often. To add some perspective, one of our editors has earned about $64 since installing the app in late 2013.
SwiftKey Keyboard is one of the most powerful and customizable third-party keyboards available. It hit the market several years ago with a predictive engine unlike anything any other keyboard had and the app has grown a lot of over the years. It’s a free download and you can purchase themes for it if you want to. Other features include a dedicated number row, SwiftKey Flow which allows for gesture typing, multiple language support, cross-device syncing of your library and much more. It’s about as good as it gets in the keyboard space. It’s true that Microsoft now owns SwiftKey, but so far they have managed not to mess it up. Gboard, Google’s keyboard app, is also exceptionally good and is an excruciatingly close second place here. New Droid Apps
There is probably a greater enticement for developers because Slide ME offers the chance to target a wider international audience. Apps are also more likely to be discovered, thanks to the search filter options. Developers can set prices and choose to offer their apps for free. There is also a Slide ME ad network, and it is even possible to get a greater percentage of the revenue generated by your app with Slide ME — potentially more than the standard 70 percent you’ll get through most other app stores.

Android Message is a free texting app by Google. In terms of features, Android Messages keeps it light. You’ll have some light theming options, some organization and backup features, and a decent search function. The design is entirely Material Design. That means it looks good and it’s easy to use. Google also has big plans for this app, including RCS support along with other neat features. This also has a web version for texting on your computer. However, it is a fairly sizable battery drain so it’s a hit-or-miss kind of feature. Android App
Mood has a couple features completely unique to itself, including “Party Mode.” The idea behind Party Mode is simple: once you’ve activated it, you’re unable to send messages with your phone unless you pass a test that requires some functional thinking. The idea behind this is to prevent you from sending messages that may be unwanted by the receiver when you’re inebriated after a long night. You can exclude specific contacts from this test in order to still text your friends or emergency contacts, but ideally, this will stop you from reaching out to your ex again and again. It’s an interesting idea, much like plenty of Mood’s features. New Droid Apps
Feedly takes the RSS feed into the modern age, and it's the easiest way to stay on top of all your favorites sources of news. You can view everything all at once if you want, but Feedly also lets you categorize your sources for focused reading or use its Today tab, which shows you the top stories from each category. Additionally, you can make Feedly look as simple as you wish, with minimalist text-only layouts. It's a great way to keep informed with the days' headlines and it offers useful integrations with other services as well. Droid App
All you need is to hold your Android device close to the source of the song, and after a few seconds, the app will accurately detect the song. Besides, you can also play songs and add them to Spotify playlists, buy songs in Google Play Music with one tap, connect your Facebook account, etc. If you are a musicophile, this Android app is a must-have for you.
Are you curious about the speed of your Internet connection? Ookla's Speedtest app makes it easy to test your latency as well as upload and download speeds. The app also keeps a log of test results so you can compare performance over time. IF you want, you can also export your results for further analysis. PCMag relies on Ookla's tools every year to pick the fastest ISPs. (Note: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag's publisher.) Droid Apps
In addition to all the carrier support, Google has inked deals with eleven Android OEMs, including Asus, Lenovo (the company behind Motorola), Huawei, HTC, LG, and most importantly, Samsung, all agreeing to support RCS. Unfortunately. Samsung won’t be shipping their new phones with Android Messenger, but will be building the support for RCS into their own messaging client (and of course, you can always grab Android Messages from the Play Store). Finally. Microsoft has signed on to support RCS, in addition to Google. leaving Apple the major player outside the game. Android App
Remember Flickr? The venerable photo-sharing service is an Editors' Choice web service, and the Android app has a lot to recommend it, too. It's more about the art of photography than the meme- and selfie-packed Instagram. Offering a well-designed interface and excellent photo and video editing tools, Flickr is more valuable than ever. Plus, the app connects you to the vibrant community of photographers on the service. Best of all, it can automatically back up photos from your phone. Free users can upload up to 1,000 photos and a $50 per year subscription gets you unlimited online photo storage. Android App
Despite ups and downs in the quality of its library, Netflix dominates the world of streaming TV and movies. The service also creates its own—sometimes indispensable—content, including original comedies, cartoons, dramas, and documentaries. Some of the shows have become cultural phenomena, making Netflix a must-have. Shows such as Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and The Crown (the most expensive TV show ever made) are often the conversation topics of the day. You can even download select episodes to watch offline at your leisure. Droid Apps
Faxing isn't dead quite yet, but fax machines can safely be left behind thanks to online fax services. Fax.Plus's app is well designed and easy to use. It notably offers a digital signature tool and a contact manager. We like how mobile fax apps allow users to snap a picture of an attachment, attach a fax cover sheet, and send a fax off to a recipient in a few quick actions. Fax.Plus makes this process seamless.
Firefox is lickety-split fast and has a clean design that is a joy to use. Mozilla makes a big point about how it doesn't collect your data, and we are pleased to see that the app comes with a full complement of security settings—including an option to protect your information from advertisers and a private browsing mode. Like the desktop version, Firefox for mobile has a robust selection of plug-ins, excellent tab management, and a dynamic start page for bookmarks and the latest headlines. You can even sync settings, history, and tabs with the desktop variant
Amazon is the internet's marketplace; the one place where you can buy just about anything—and it's cheap too! On Android, two of our favorite features are the integrated Alexa voice commands and the photo search, which makes it easy to surreptitiously compare Amazon's prices to those of the brick and mortar stores it is killing. Amazon Video-related functionality has been moved over to its own dedicated app, but all of its other consumer services, including Fresh and Restaurants, make an appearance. Prime members rejoice; there's never been a better way to stay connected with your Amazon lifestyle.
Most manufacturers try to entice people to use their apps and services. Some companies, like Sony, with fingers in a lot of pies, want you to commit to their ecosystem of content. As the biggest and most successful Android device manufacturer around, Samsung has been offering a range of its own services and content on all of its devices, and that includes apps. The old app was Samsung Apps, then it became S Suggest, and it was finally re-branded as Galaxy Apps in July 2014. There’s also a website that you can sign into, enabling you to browse apps and send them directly to your device.

The Amazon-owned ComiXology —the iTunes of digital comics—offers a near-perfect combination of store and comic book reader in its wonderful Comics app. The free app transforms your Android smartphone or tablet into a digital long box that houses and syncs your purchases across multiple devices. Even better, the new Comixology Unlimited service lets you devour an ever-expanding catalog of titles for just $5.99 per month. Once you have the app downloaded, you should make sure to read our feature on digital comic books you should read right now. Droid Apps
You won’t find in-app purchases here — These titles are more experimental than the typical games one would find on an app store. Many of itch.io’s games come out of game jams — community game development events where game makers create a small game in a short time frame, usually within a theme or concept (like “cyberpunk” or “wizard”). Ranging from free, to just a few dollars, and with everything from puzzle games, to adventure games, first-person shooters, hardcore RPGs, and even dating sims, itch.io’s Android store is great for gamers on the go. Android App

We’ll be honest with you. Facebook Messenger isn’t a great app. It uses a ton of battery, storage, and RAM. It also has ads. However, chances are that you have it on your device. Facebook has tons of users and it’s likely you keep this around because you have those loved ones that just won’t switch to something better. If you’re going to have it around, you might as well enable its SMS support. That way you can kind of kill two birds with one stone. It has satisfactory SMS integration if that helps. It’s not the best option when it comes to texting apps. It is among the most convenient, though, and it’ll subtract one app from your app drawer if you already use Facebook Messenger.
And we, in turn, can help guide you to some of our favorite apps. We can't cover everything. But we'll strive to bring you the best of the best. With new apps arriving every day, it may be hard to keep up with the latest and greatest — but not to worry. Here is where we'll keep all of the top apps we come across — from launchers to podcast apps to music players and more — so you'll never have to dig too deep to find the best apps right now. Android App
Marking one of Apple's first forays into Android development, Apple Music brings the company's impressive musical catalog to Android. The app is built around Apple's subscription-based streaming service, which dishes up all-you-can-listen music for $9.99 per month, or just $4.99 for eligible students. It suffers a bit on Android for being divorced from the Apple ecosystem, however. Droid App
Otter is an innovative automatic recording and transcription service that works in real time. Simply hit the record button during a conversation or meeting and Otter will produce a usable transcript a few minutes later. Otter's app is fluid, well-designed, and quick in operation, which makes it ideal for students and professionals who rely on their mobile devices for their work. The app also integrates other top-notch features such as cross-conversation speaker identification, excellent search tools, and in-app editing of transcripts.
There's no shortage of Reddit apps on the Google Play store and choosing one over another ultimately comes down to preference, but reddit is fun (RIF) is a great option to try. The default view features a dense, text-heavy layout which puts the best (and worst) of Reddit front and center. There's both a light and dark theme and tons of layout content customization options to try out, even if you don't opt for the paid version. Better yet, there are no ads in either version or RIF and its overall performance is extremely quick. Android App
Initially, we weren’t going to put any launchers on this list. Nova Launcher seems to be extend beyond what normal launchers are. It’s been around for years, it’s been consistently updated, and thus it’s never not been a great option for a launcher replacement. It comes with a host of features, including the ability to backup and restore your home screen set ups, icon theming for all of your Android apps, tons of customization elements for the home screen and app drawer, and more. You can even make it look like the Pixel Launcher if you want to. If you go premium, you can tack on gesture controls, unread count badges for apps, and icon swipe actions. Those looking for something simpler may want to try Lawnchair Launcher, Hyperion Launcher, and Rootless Launcher as well.
Once you start using Evernote, this note-taking app becomes a powerful tool for organizing just about everything. Notes can be anything—text, images, audio, or a mix—and are organized into notebooks. One of its killer features is optical character recognition, which makes the text in images searchable. Cloud-storage makes it the perfect tool for organizing the little pieces of a project into a finished draft.
Airbnb should be your go-to app for finding rooms, apartments, homes, and other unique accommodations when traveling, if you don't want to go with a traditional hotel. The length of your stay need not be short-term either; some locations let you book a stay for several months, which may appeal to people working temporary jobs in new places. This travel app also highlights other experiences and restaurants, so you can find out about everything a locale offers. New Droid Apps
GetJar’s clever draw is to offer premium apps to users for free to generate traffic, and then monetize that traffic with advertising dollars. App developers considering GetJar might be tempted by the virtual currency tie-ins, and the option to target new users with different kinds of promotions. Be warned, though, the submission process might take a while.
Brave Browser offers a host of features aimed at protecting your security and privacy on the web. For instance, it includes built-in blockers for ads, pop-ups, scripts, and third-party cookies. It even implements the HTTPS Everywhere extension, so you can ensure that your connections to sites are secure. The lightweight, minimal design looks great, too. New Droid Apps
ExpressVPN is one of the most trusted, secure brands in the virtual private network industry, and that’s for good reason. It’s super fast and extremely safe, boasting an SSL-secured network with 256-bit encryption and, get this, unlimited bandwidth and speed. ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries (including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and others) in over 145 locations around the world, so there will always be a locatoin near you to give you the best experience possible. What’s more, the service even has stealth servers in Hong Kong. They are to evade the GFW specifically. It doesn’t even look like you’re using a VPN! Android App
When we choose apps to include in our roundups, we're after those that primarily excel in two areas: function and design. A functional app is either unique in its capabilities or simply works better than others. Apps with great designs are a joy to use. Android 9.0 Pie introduced a good range of app-specific improvements, so we also prioritize those apps that use new system features and reflect the latest visual styles. New Droid Apps

This alternative Android app store has a global reach and a decent user base. It offers free and premium apps in various categories and they all pass through a quality control process. One of the attractions for users is availability globally and support for various payment options, including PayPal. It’s also easy to filter your searches, and you’ll find good app descriptions.
Whether you want a messaging app that can be customized to your liking, an app that can sync your messages or notifications to your computer or tablet to create a messaging network, or you want an app focused on keeping things slim and fast on your phone, we promise that there’s an app you’ll love on Android. If you’re tired of that old, bloated messaging app designed by your phone’s manufacturer three years ago, it might be time to upgrade to a brand new app. Let’s take a look at some of the best picks. Droid Apps
It seems like just yesterday that Instagram was adding video. Then direct messaging. Then advanced photo editing put it on par with Photoshop Express for image correction and manipulation. Instagram Stories is now far more popular than Snapchat's similar feature. And anti-bullying features should make it more palatable for some. With a clean, minimalist interface, Instagram is the current king of social photo apps.

Tracking your period isn't just about knowing the cycle, but also the other factors surrounding it. Eve by Glow lets you track physical and emotional states, which can lead to some important insights when you take the time to interpret your own data. Eve also boasts a vibrant community and a wealth of information about sexual health built right in. New Droid Apps
Facebook Messenger Kids might seem like it’s built for kids, but it’s really built for parents. With the app, parents have control over their kids’ contact list, and messages can’t be deleted — meaning that parents can check in to take a look whenever they want. Of course, there are some pretty sweet features for kids, like kid-appropriate stickers, GIFs, emojis, and so on. Android App
Are you curious about the speed of your Internet connection? Ookla's Speedtest app makes it easy to test your latency as well as upload and download speeds. The app also keeps a log of test results so you can compare performance over time. IF you want, you can also export your results for further analysis. PCMag relies on Ookla's tools every year to pick the fastest ISPs. (Note: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag's publisher.) Droid Apps

The design can be hit or miss depending on how you feel about Google’s current design trends. We like the revised app rolled out last year, but it removed some of the already-limited design options that came with the app, basically leaving us high and dry when it came to customizing the app. The version of the app we removed last year allowed you to set colors to each contact. This year’s app uses simple blue and grey bubbles in each conversation, even in group chats, with the only splash of color coming from the names of your contacts in groups. It’s unfortunate that the color customization was removed, though two features have been added in the past year that make it hard to pass up: a true dark mode, and a web client that makes it easy to message from any computer using a QR code. Android App
Feedly takes the RSS feed into the modern age, and it's the easiest way to stay on top of all your favorites sources of news. You can view everything all at once if you want, but Feedly also lets you categorize your sources for focused reading or use its Today tab, which shows you the top stories from each category. Additionally, you can make Feedly look as simple as you wish, with minimalist text-only layouts. It's a great way to keep informed with the days' headlines and it offers useful integrations with other services as well.

It might sound like a long laundry list of features, but ultimately, the options available for changing how your device looks and feels are the true reason to grab Textra over another third-party messaging app. Textra has been our top pick for the last two years, thanks to its routine updates and support, monthly new features, and the speed and fluidity that comes with using the app. Though Google’s own Messages app gives Textra a run for its money in terms of modern Android design (not to mention a web client), the customization options built into Textra keep it as our top pick for now.
Mint is a fantastic online service to keep track of your finances, and it really shines on Android. Once you've entered all your information, you can easily check up on your finances on the fly. Mint keeps you on track for your goals and a new bill paying feature make sure that you never miss a payment. Be sure to try out the app's excellent widgets, too. Droid App
It’s a pretty self-explanatory step. The Google Play Store comes in APK format like any other Android app. You can download APKs from websites, tech blogs, and trusted people on forums or other places. However, for now, APKMirror is probably your best bet for trusted Google Play Store APKs. Here is a short tutorial for downloading the Play Store app:
A year ago, we wrote about Google’s efforts to use Messages (formerly both Google Messages and Android Messages) as a way to make implement support for RCS, or rich-communication services, into Android. At the time, we detailed the benefits of RCS—namely, it’s broad openness for support and the fact that RCS essentially works like iMessage between two devices that both feature the standard. We were, nevertheless, hesitant to call it the future of messaging on Android. In April of 2017, RCS was only supported by Sprint, with T-Mobile and AT&T both operating their own non-standard forks of RCS and Verizon sticking to pushing their Messages+ software. Likewise, support for the standard was mixed among Android manufacturers; LG and Motorola both had signed onto the plan, but Samsung had decided against joining the RCS alliance. Android App
AppsLib was created by Archos, and is the app marketplace for Android devices that couldn’t get Google certification, mainly tablets. It comes pre-installed on a number of devices from smaller manufacturers. There are almost 40,000 apps on offer, and each one has been certified as compatible with specific devices. They are categorized, and there’s even an adult section, which is PIN protected. You can also pay for apps using PayPal.
The good news for a lot of people is the best text messaging app is probably already on your phone. Android Messages is Google’s own SMS app and it comes pre-loaded on Pixel devices and several other phones. The app is clean, simple to use, RCS-compliant, and will soon be rebranded and pumped with new features. If you aren’t already using this app, you will in the future.
After a major overhaul to this powerful password manager, its appearance finally matches its performance. With LastPass, you can access your saved passwords, secure notes, and filled forms from your Android, and you can also create new ones that sync to all your devices. The new version of the app ingeniously melds the password manager with a built-in browser, putting the app's auto-login features at the forefront. Staying safe has never been easier.

Despite ups and downs in the quality of its library, Netflix dominates the world of streaming TV and movies. The service also creates its own—sometimes indispensable—content, including original comedies, cartoons, dramas, and documentaries. Some of the shows have become cultural phenomena, making Netflix a must-have. Shows such as Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and The Crown (the most expensive TV show ever made) are often the conversation topics of the day. You can even download select episodes to watch offline at your leisure. Droid Apps
Pulse isn’t for everyone. It’s a solid application for messaging, and it’s only gotten better in the year since we first tested the app, improving the visual display and becoming less of a side project to Evolve (which we’ve removed from our list in favor of this app) and more like the app that Evolve would always turn into. Even if you aren’t interested in cloud sync, it’s a solid choice to grab as your main messaging application, but in the end, the people who will benefit the most from this application are those who are looking to send messages from multiple devices, like their laptop or tablet. If you do choose Pulse as your new messaging app, just remember that Android Messages may add similar web clients in the near future, natively and for free.
Grammarly Keyboard corrects your grammar and spelling errors as you type. This keyboard is useful for everything from writing emails to composing social media posts to editing long-form documents. In use, Grammarly makes it easy to accept changes or access a card-based interface with more in-depth explanations of an error. It also offers a good number of visual customizations, such as a choice between a light or dark theme options and the keyboard height, as well as editing options, such as auto-correction and capitalization preferences. Android App
Of course the official app store of Android, Google Play is the top spot for finding the latest and greatest Android apps (as well as books, movies, music and more) but there are also other third-party app stores on Android as well that advanced users have come to appreciated. For most however, Google Play will have everything you need, and we'll always make sure you know what to download.
Your bag of holding for internet content, Pocket saves articles, images, and videos for later reading. We especially like how it reformats articles for more comfortable reading on a mobile device, and how it syncs content to your tablet, phone, and online account. With the close integration between Pocket and the Android sharing tools, you can pocket just about anything from your phone. Android App
The big risk is malware. In our Android app security basics article, we recommended sticking to Google Play and avoiding third-party app stores. The security policy on different Android app stores will vary; some will perform similar safety checks to Google, while others won’t. If you are going to take the risk, then consider installing one of the top Android security apps first.

In short, here’s the deal: a year ago, The Verge reported that Google had delayed work (and would later go on to outright shutdown) on Allo in order to focus on getting Messages to be the destination for messaging on Android. The plan is surprisingly simple, but relies on a bunch of moving pieces falling into place to get everything right. Google has been building RCS support into Messages for years now, which as mentioned, brings iMessage-style support for advanced messaging over data and even includes a web client to send and read messages from. Unfortunately, carrier support is required for RCS to work properly, but Google has seemingly fixed this. In 2018, Google announced most major companies on board for their plan, including all four US-based carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, with Sprint having already been on board). Droid App
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