Game-streaming platforms and subscriptions are all the rage right now, with big-name players such as Apple (Arcade), Google (Stadia), and Microsoft (xCloud) all recently launching some sort of effort. Steam Link (still in beta) allows you to play games from your Steam library directly from your Android phone, with the caveat that both your PC and mobile device must be connected to the same network. Check out our guide on how to stream games on your Android or iOS device.
At the time, it seemed fairly hopeless for RCS to become some kind of iMessage for Android. And our doubts are still in place, but thankfully, we finally have some good news for Messages and the future of RCS, as it seems Google has made one final push for RCS to become the success they foresaw a full year ago. When we recapped our picks for SMS apps in 2018, Google’s plans for the future of messaging on Android became clear. Now a year out from their announcement, Google is slowly but surely making improvements to Messages, along with killing off Allo and building some of its ideas into their new flagship SMS/RCS app. Still, we have a long way to go before Messages finally can compete with the likes of WhatsApp and iMessage.
If you use a Mac or iPad on top of your Android phone, you may be better served with Apple Music over Google Play Music or Spotify. Apple Music offers access to Apple’s massive library of music, as well as Apple’s Beats 1 radio station, which plays both current hits and up-and-coming music. The celebrity DJs and exclusive album streams are just a plus. Droid Apps
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. New Droid Apps
Mood Messenger is an above average SMS app. It does all of the usual stuff like texting, MMS, theming, emoji, and the other basics. You also get a dark mode, blacklisting for spam messages, and more. The premium version is a single $10.99 payment or a subscription model. It includes backup and restore, SMS encryption, more themes, and a privacy locker to keep people out. The premium version is bit expensive, but it’s a positive overall experience for most.
CloudCal offers one of the most unique ways of showing you how busy you are on any given day. The Android exclusive uses a system it calls Magic Circles, which turns the days of the month into clock faces and shows different colored circles, or segments of a circle. We also like that you can attach photos, audio files, and Dropbox files to specific events. New Droid Apps
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.
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
With its slick, streamlined interface, Flipboard is one of the best apps for reading the news. With it, you browse the articles, videos, podcasts, and other media that matter most to you. The app's signature magazine-style interface lets you explore the day's headlines in a gorgeous environment. The Daily Edition feature gives you the most important news along with themed stories for each day of the week. Flipboard has been one of our top picks for years, and it's easy to see why. 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.
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.
The second problem with invi comes with the bottom of the conversation screen, sitting above the keyboard as you type out your messages. Perhaps in an ode to the iMessage composition bar, the app gives you no shortage of options, including an emoji icon, a gallery and camera link, and a sliding menu that loads options for gifs, stickers and more. Known in-app as the “Awesome Bar,” it’s incredibly busy, and because it’s sandwiched between the composition box and the suggestions on the top of your keyboard, it’s also really easy to accidentally trigger. There’s no reason for invi to have so many shortcuts in such an easy-to-access space when they also feature even more multimedia—including, of all things, a meme generator—inside an extended menu, and the app would be better off hiding that content behind its own menu. New Droid Apps
Generally speaking, we were less impressed with the app’s messaging thread display. It doesn’t look bad, but it is a bit dated when compared to most of the other apps on this list. The bubble shapes, in particular, don’t feel designed for 2018, though thankfully these can be customized in the YAATA menu to make them look cleaner and crisper. Sending a text with just emoji makes them increase in size, and scrolling through large group messages caused some display lag that made the app difficult to use. One thing that was pretty great: the backdrops of each messaging thread use alternating shades of grey to designate different days for each message, making it easy to see when specific messages were sent in the thread.
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. Droid App
Nothing has changed our mobile lives more than apps. Applications, that is. And Android apps in particular. With them we can do just about anything. Communicate with friends and family. Pass the time with a game. Record the important moments in our lives, and share those moments almost instantaneously. Apps help us find our way. They help guide us.
Textra is an excellent alternative to Messages on Android. The app includes tons of visual customization options that you won't find with the stock messaging app, including custom contact colors, text bubble styles, and notification icons. Additionally, you get extra features such as text scheduling, the ability to blacklist contacts, and the option to rename group conversations. Textra also has excellent light and dark modes. Droid App