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 Android App
If you use Android, you have a Google Account, and that means you have access to the excellent Google Drive cloud storage service. With Drive, you can easily access synced files across all your devices no matter where you are. With the additional Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Photos apps from Google, Drive is the center of a productivity hub on your Android. Android App
Though its interface is a bit tricky, Stitcher connects you with just about every podcast out there. Podcasts are organized by subject, or you can just search for a familiar title. Shows can, in turn, be organized into playlists for a continuous stream. Once you've exhausted all your favorites, let Stitcher recommend something new. With a special emphasis on sources like NPR, CNN, and ESPN, Stitcher has a little bit of everything.
Ultimately, Mood is a unique package that doesn’t live up to the polish of some of the other applications on this list. It’s a quality app, don’t get us wrong, but there’s some interesting ideas here, including the ability to send your mood within a group chat and the ability to hide a specific thread from your home screen. Mood is also free, without in-app purchases or ads, which may make it a viable alternative to Android Messages. It’s not a perfect application, but it’s innovative, making it an obvious choice for anyone looking to try out something new on their phone. Android App
IFTTT, which stands for "if this, then that," helps you create custom automations between various online services and devices without any coding experience. The mobile app makes it simple to set up these Applets (previously called recipes) on your own or implement any of the community-created ones. IFTTT is particularly great for controlling smart home devices. Droid Apps
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. Android App
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.
There are lots of ways to pay for things with your phone. But Venmo has a smart mixture of clean design, ease of use, and social functions that give it an edge. It doesn't do much, but it does let you easily send and receive payments from friends. And unlike other payment systems, it has momentum. It's usually the app people ask about when the group is splitting up the check. New Droid Apps
File browsing is something everyone inevitably has (or wants) to do, so you might as well do it with a capable, fantastic file browser. Solid Explorer is pretty much as good as it gets in the file explorer apps realm. It features Material Design, archiving support, support for the most popular cloud services, and even some more power user stuff like FTP, SFPT, WebDav, and SMB/CIFS support. It looks great, it’s incredibly stable, and it just works well. There is a 14-day free trial with a $2.99 price tag at the end of it. This is, by far, the best file manager on Android for most people. Droid Apps
Dropbox pioneered the personal cloud service, where all your stuff would be available no matter what device you were using. On Android, it holds its own—even against the highly integrated Google Drive. Dropbox can also act as a seamless backup for your images, automatically uploading every photo to the cloud. It even includes some light image editing tools. If you're the type of person with lots of files already stored in Dropbox, this app is a must-have. Android App
Runtastic is a smartphone staple, with a simple interface that doesn’t sacrifice advanced features. The no-frills app uses your smartphone’s sensors to track metrics, such as your distance and relative pace, as well as calories burned and your heart rate. A few extra features, such as 3D mapping and a workout diary, only complement the app’s wearable integration. New Droid Apps
If you use Android, you have a Google Account, and that means you have access to the excellent Google Drive cloud storage service. With Drive, you can easily access synced files across all your devices no matter where you are. With the additional Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Photos apps from Google, Drive is the center of a productivity hub on your Android.
Tasker is a glorious application if you have the patience to learn how to use the app. What it does is allow users to create custom made commands and then use them in various places. There are many apps out there that have Tasker support and you can even use Tasker to create very complex commands for NFC tags. It’s difficult to truly explain what this app can do because it can do so many things. Between the apps supported, plugins you an add, and the sheer volume of stuff that you can do, there aren’t many apps out there as useful as this one. IFTTT is another excellent automation app. In some cases, it may even be better than Tasker thanks to its simplicity and wide range of uses.
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
What is most impressive about the ESPN Android app is the sheer number of sports it covers. Everything from American football to Brazilian soccer to Indy 500 is available. For those unmissable games, you can set alerts and follow specific matches as they unfold. It also connects you to videos and news headlines, courtesy of the popular sports cable network. Also, check out ESPN's streaming service, ESPN+.
Ultimately, Mood is a unique package that doesn’t live up to the polish of some of the other applications on this list. It’s a quality app, don’t get us wrong, but there’s some interesting ideas here, including the ability to send your mood within a group chat and the ability to hide a specific thread from your home screen. Mood is also free, without in-app purchases or ads, which may make it a viable alternative to Android Messages. It’s not a perfect application, but it’s innovative, making it an obvious choice for anyone looking to try out something new on their phone.
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.
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
IFTTT, which stands for "if this, then that," helps you create custom automations between various online services and devices without any coding experience. The mobile app makes it simple to set up these Applets (previously called recipes) on your own or implement any of the community-created ones. IFTTT is particularly great for controlling smart home devices.
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.
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.
Microsoft Launcher replaces the company's Arrow Launcher and takes on a Windows 10-style transparency. It replaces Google Now with a useful and customizable feed for quick access to recent apps, events, and frequently contacted people. The main app list can be organized horizontally or vertically and includes an elegant alphabetical scrollbar for reaching apps quickly. Performance is just as smooth as the stock Pixel Launcher and it doesn't affect the use of Google Assistant, though of course, Cortana would feel more at home as your voice assistant. New Droid Apps
invi gets a lot right, starting with its visual design. It isn’t quite as striking as apps like Messages, Textra, or QKSMS, but it looks good. The inbox display is clean and clear, using the basic design we saw from both of our top picks, and the conversation display is solid, albeit with two nitpicks. The first is minor; each conversation display has a background with visual elements that, while it doesn’t look bad, is a little busy as far as design goes. You can disable it though, and some of the backdrop choices actually look pretty clean. Ultimately, it’s up for you to decide what you like most in an application.
invi gets a lot right, starting with its visual design. It isn’t quite as striking as apps like Messages, Textra, or QKSMS, but it looks good. The inbox display is clean and clear, using the basic design we saw from both of our top picks, and the conversation display is solid, albeit with two nitpicks. The first is minor; each conversation display has a background with visual elements that, while it doesn’t look bad, is a little busy as far as design goes. You can disable it though, and some of the backdrop choices actually look pretty clean. Ultimately, it’s up for you to decide what you like most in an application. Droid Apps
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.
If you're traveling within a major metropolitan area via either public transportation or personal vehicle, Citymapper can plan all your trip details. It has transit information for dozens of major U.S. cities and international hotspots in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Further, it offers multiple transportation options for each city, so if you feel like taking the ferry to work one morning, there's nothing stopping you. Its top features include Commute, which lets you set up your daily travel to and from work, and an alert system that uses natural language to describe service delays or cancellations. Android App
Starting with the basics, Pulse is an SMS and MMS application that comes from Jake and Luke Klinker, the team behind EvolveSMS, that features an inbox feature similar to what you may see from email. Instead of sorting your messages in a straight line, Pulse separates your messages into columns, featuring “Today,” “Yesterday,” “This Week,” and more. It’s similar to how Google Inbox sorts their messages, right down to the double-check mark icon in the right corner of each list that prompts you to archive older conversations to clear your inbox. The basic thread display inside a conversation looks exactly how you expect it to, with the option to customize primary and accent colors for the app or for each individual thread. The default bubble shape looks a bit dated compared to modern Android, thanks to the jagged edges along the side of the app, but thankfully, you can enable circular bubbles in the settings of the app. New Droid Apps
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.
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
Notifications don’t offer quite the same amount of options for control as the customization options above, but you can still change quite a few settings, especially after the last few updates to the app. The biggest option you can change here comes from the ability to edit the style of notifications that appear on your display when unlocked. You can choose from the traditional Android heads-up style of notification, the Textra style of heads-up notification, or no sliding style at all. Outside of that, you can also change the LED notification color on your device, the vibration pattern when you receive a text message, whether to wake the display on your phone, the notification sound, and how SMS messages are received in a phone call and on the notification screen.
This app is geared toward those who are looking for a real relationship, rather than a quick hookup or short fling. Every day at noon, you get sent a prospective match based on a specific set of criteria. You can Like them or Pass on. If you like them, you’ll be set up with icebreaker questions; if you pass, the app will learn your preferences and try again tomorrow.
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.
This is one seriously powerful app. It also works on most Android devices. You simply download the app and then enable it. From there, you can ask it whatever you want. It also supports a variety of commands. You can control lights, ask about population control, and it can even do simple math problems for you. There are a variety of products like Google, Bose QC II Bluetooth headphones, Home and Chromecast that extent the functionality even further. There is also a second Google Assistant app for those who want a quick launch icon on the home screen. The hardware stuff costs money, but Google Assistant is free. Amazon Alexa is another excellent app in this space, but it doesn’t support Google Android quite as much as we would like, yet. Droid Apps
Most people are probably familiar with LinkedIn as a service only visited in times of desperation; after being laid off or after a day in the office so bad that you're just not going to take it anymore. While that might still be true, the LinkedIn app aims to be a companion to LinkedIn web service that you check every day. Sure there's the all-important profile pages showing off your work experience, and the handy tools for networking, but the service now includes visitor metrics and a newsfeed for a decidedly more social feel. It's also sometimes the only way to chat with a businessperson you're looking to connect with. It's like Facebook for grown-ups.
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).
QKSMS is among the simplest and best SMS apps. It’s open source and that’s always a nice touch. Additionally, the app comes with a bunch of features. Some of them include privacy features such as a blacklist, Android Wear support, and even some nifty accessibility features. Usage is as you would expect. It’s not going to blow your mind, but its simplicity is appreciated considering how heavy some texting apps can get. It’s free with no advertising. There are some optional in-app purchases as donations as well.
Nine is a very reliable email client designed to work with all of your accounts. The clean interface and the optional conversation view make reading and replying to email intuitive. One of the coolest features is the ability to customize the notification actions, including an incredibly useful "Mark as read" option. It isn't cheap, but it's only a one-time $14.99 charge for a much-improved email experience that also integrates calendar, contacts, notes, and tasks functionality.
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
Signing up for Textto is simple. After downloading the application, Textto asks you to login with your Google account, after which you’re asked to accept the required permissions to send and receive texts, sync contacts, and use the phone radio in your device. Following setup, you’re asked by the application to load into the Textto web application. After signing in there with your Google ID (you’ll be asked to enable web notifications), you’ll see your recent messages appear on-screen, with the option to read back the content and to send new messages. Droid App
With NordVPN you can rest assured that no prying eyes will see your internet traffic. This app sports an excellent interface, a handy server selection tool, and hundreds of available VPN servers across the globe. NordVPN's signature feature is its assortment of specialized servers, which are optimized for activities like peer-to-peer downloading, video streaming, and access to Tor. Android App
Having a desktop app is fun because it doesn’t always require your PC browser to be running all the time. You can simply launch the app and keep it running in the background. You will receive messages and you can directly reply to messages from your desktop or laptop computer as you normally would. All the functions are same as that of the Android Messages for Web.
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.
Mood Messenger was new to us when we reviewed it last year, and revisiting it a year later, it becomes obvious that not much has changed since 2017. That might not be a bad thing, however, considering Mood Messenger has a design unique to its own app, with some interesting choices and options available for its users. Mood offers a unique design, something not brought to the table by any of the other SMS apps on this list, and honestly, it’s pretty interesting. The first thing you’ll notice at the top of the display is a large clock, giving the app the feel of being your home screen, not so much your inbox. It’s interesting, but generally speaking, it doesn’t look quite as good as any number of the applications on this list.
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. New Droid Apps
Overall, YAATA is a pretty great alternative to both the messaging app included by default on your device and the apps on this list, especially if the visual design of Textra or QKSMS doesn’t do it for you. There’s a wide variety of options available on the free tier of YAATA, and even the paid tier only runs a cool one-time payment of $3.00. Overall, YAATA wasn’t our pick of the bunch, but it is a solid messaging application on Android. Definitely don’t count this one out. Droid Apps
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
In a world rife with messenger apps, WhatsApp is among the most successful, boasting an enormous and dedicated user base. Add to that an integrated web version that lets users take their chats to the desktop. Recently, this app was bolstered by encrypted messaging provided by the minds behind Signal. It might just be the largest secure messaging service out there. Android App
Overall, we really like Messages. If and when RCS becomes a real standard, it has a solid chance of actually being our top pick for messaging. Unfortunately, it remains a slight hope, one we’ve wanted for a full year now. As usual, carriers continue to slow down progress in this path, making it impossible for RCS to actually become a true feature. Until then, the customization options in Textra put it over the top, but we maintain hope that someday, Messages will be a must-have app on Android. Droid App