At first, Snapchat was a little dangerous, popular with the hip and the young, and utterly baffling to everyone else. With Snapchat, you quickly snap and exchange photos with one or several friends. The app also supports video snaps, as well as voice and video calling. The catch is that whatever you send will vanish after a few seconds. It's just a fun and ephemeral way to share the world around you. New updates make the service much easier to use, let you save old snaps, and build ongoing public stories. The more things change, the more they just turn into Facebook.
Though there isn’t much we could do to fight the scrolling lag in each thread, the customization options provided by YAATA were basically able to control the things we didn’t like about how message threads were displayed. Though customizing chat isn’t quite as intuitive as we’ve seen on apps like Textra, disabling or changing everything we didn’t like about the app was pretty simple, controlled through a list by checking or unchecking boxes. Overwide chat messages? Easily disabled. The tail that made the message bubble seem straight out of 2013? Turned off. Those giant emoji inside of the chat? Switched back to their normal size. And again, this is all based on our own personal preferences, not necessarily something that you have to change if you like these visual flourishes inside of YAATA.

Let’s start by looking at the options under “Customize Look,” which allow you change basically everything within the app outside of the inbox layout (and to be fair, what else would you change about it?). Textra uses a theme engine to allow you to pick the main color of your app, along with a secondary accent color. You can match these colors as you see fit, with your bubble colors designed to match them. There are an endless amount of possibilities to choose from here, and the same goes for choosing the combination of your sent and received bubble colors (which, of course, you can set to match your theme). Each contact thread can be customized as well, but the easiest option to auto-shuffle the colors of your friends is to enable auto-theming contacts.


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.
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.
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.
There are a lot of apps out there that pay lip service to security and privacy, but Signal was built from the ground up with the goal of letting people easily communicate without having to worry about being overheard. The Signal app is a complete phone and SMS client replacement (though it works just fine as a standalone app, too) for sending and receiving encrypted calls and messages. A recent update has greatly improved the app's look and feel, proving that security and usability don't have to be at odds. Android App
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. Droid Apps
It’s an audacious plan, but a year later, Google has yet to really make RCS a reality. Though all four carriers have made some moves in order to actually support RCS, it’s been incredibly limited, especially from the two biggest carriers in the US, Verizon and AT&T. The former has rolled out Universal Profile support to exactly two phones—the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL—while AT&T has yet to roll out Universal Profile support to any devices at all, instead only using their in-house advanced messaging service. T-Mobile and Sprint haven’t done much better, although the former has most Samsung phones updated to support the platform. Android App
Everyone needs to file their taxes every year. Most people will probably have an easier time using dedicated tax software (and some might still enjoy preparing them by hand), but more ambitions filers or those with simple tax returns can get away with using a mobile app. Intuit's TurboTax Tax Return App is the best one we reviewed this year. Among its top features are an excellent user interface, support for all major tax forms, and innovative help options. If you get stuck at any point, you can just open up the Virtual Assistant, which keeps a running dialogue of the help topics you searched for, or use SmartLook to connect to a tax expert via video chat. Droid Apps

YAATA, like invi, has an odd name that might be recognizable when you’re scrolling through a list of SMS apps on Google Play. Unlike Pulse or invi, YAATA isn’t promising to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, the app offers an easy way to send basic texts and photo messages with a fairly simple and clean design. The inbox for your text messages is fairly clean, offering something similar to Pulse’s layout of organizing message threads from today, yesterday, this week, and so forth. It’s accomplished a bit more subtly than what we’ve seen from Pulse, closer in line with Textra’s circular photo icons on the left. All in all, it’s a clean, basic inbox that feel easy to use. A sliding menu to the left of your messages offers some additional options as well, including a night mode shortcut and the options for settings, notifications, and customization. Droid 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.
The first thing you’ll notice about Textra is how clean the design is. A colored banner runs along the top portion of your screen, highlighting both the Textra label, the menu icons, and your status bar. Below, you’ll find your inbox, displayed in standard reverse chronological order. Circular photos for your contacts run along the side of the app, presenting you with the option to select a conversation from your inbox along the side of the display. It’s a good layout for a messaging app, but at first glance, it definitely makes Textra seem like less than the fully-customizable messaging app promised by the development team.
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. New Droid Apps
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. Droid App
Uber certainly has its problems. Between its questionable business tactics and its bad press, it's understandable to be suspicious. But the truth is that if you're looking for a way to get a ride, regardless of what city you're in, Uber will be there. You can even use it to order food in some areas. A great feature: You can request a wheelchair-accessible vehicle through Uber.

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!


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
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. Android App

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.
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.

If you’re looking for a text messaging app that will work on nearly every platform (PC included), Pulse SMS is a great choice. You can use your phone number and text from your PC or tablet (for $0.99 per month). The app also has a conversation back-up tool and the ability to blacklist certain numbers. You can give individual conversations custom themes as well.
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.
Combined with Google Drive, this is an excellent choice for collaboration, especially given how feature-rich the mobile and web apps are. Once you create a document, you can add people to it, so that they can collaborate. Once they accept the invitation, you can create a multitude of documents — similar to what you can do with Microsoft Office — and have your team collaborate in real time.
Like Pulse, invi pushes itself as an iMessage competitor for Android, something that we often look at with a skeptical eye on the Play Store. invi isn’t a clone of Pulse, however, nor is it a direct take off of what iMessage offers users on iOS. Instead, it’s a combination app, offering users SMS and MMS support while also acting as an instant messenger client like Facebook Messenger, giving you plenty of the same markings of iMessage like typing signals, read receipts, and more. invi does a lot here that’s interesting enough to keep it in the conversation, but ultimately falls victim to some bloat and a small user base. Android App
The very specific focus of F-Droid is to offer free and open source software (FOSS) Android apps. It’s basic, but apps on the store are categorized, and the list is searchable. You’ll find a big selection of free apps here, all of which promise no tracking, no ads, and no dependencies. It’s worth checking out for free apps, especially if you support the open source movement. Android App
Microsoft Word is, simply put, the alpha and omega of word processing, and one of the key apps in Microsoft Office 365. You'll find it on every kind of computer in every kind of setting, and now it's available for free on Android. Word plugs into Microsoft's cloud infrastructure to keep your documents in order, but its main selling point is that this really is Word. What you make on your phone will look exactly the same on the desktop. For the worker on the go, it's essential.
Google Photos puts the search giant's powerful (and sometimes creepy) image magic into your phone. It can identify faces, even as they age over decades, as well as animals, places, or objects. You can also search for photos from specific dates or locations. The impressive built-in Assistant can detect clutter or even create collages or animations on its own. The app is rounded out with editing tools and unlimited cloud storage if you make some minor compromises on upload quality. Google Photos also extends to photo prints; you can digitize physical photos with the built-in Photo Scan or even order a custom photo book. The companion Google Lens app can even report back information related to your images or photos by scanning them.
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. New Droid Apps
At its core, Any.do is a list manager. You can quickly create a shopping list and have it synced among your devices and even share the list with others. The app also doubles as a task manager, keeping you on top of what needs to be done. This very capable app sports many features, but we particularly like one called the Any.do Moment, which encourages you to take a second and review your plans for the day. Lists are one thing, but building good productivity habits is quite another.
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 App
Who needs Uber when so many cities offer world-class public transit? The Transit app shows mass transit options—including buses, ferries, and trains—and the estimated time of arrival in 87 cities in North American, Europe, and Australia. Here in New York, it even tells you how many bikes are parked at local Citi Bike stands. This app keeps you in the know no matter where your travels take you.

Let's be honest: Tasker is very intimidating. But we recognize that this is perhaps the most powerful app available in Google Play. With it, you can script basic actions for your Android to perform when specific conditions are met—like flash the LED when you receive a text message. Learning to use something this powerful can be tricky, but the rewards seem worth it.


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
Everyone needs to file their taxes every year. Most people will probably have an easier time using dedicated tax software (and some might still enjoy preparing them by hand), but more ambitions filers or those with simple tax returns can get away with using a mobile app. Intuit's TurboTax Tax Return App is the best one we reviewed this year. Among its top features are an excellent user interface, support for all major tax forms, and innovative help options. If you get stuck at any point, you can just open up the Virtual Assistant, which keeps a running dialogue of the help topics you searched for, or use SmartLook to connect to a tax expert via video chat.

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: New Droid Apps
1Weather is arguably the best weather app out there. It features a simple, paginated design that shows you the current weather, forecast for up to 12 weeks, a radar, and other fun stats. Along with that, you’ll get a fairly decent set of lightly customizable widgets and the standard stuff like severe weather notifications and a radar so you can see the storms approaching. Perhaps its best feature is its minimal design which just shows you the weather (and fun facts, if you want). The free version has all of the features. The $1.99 charge removes advertising. Otherwise the two versions work the same way. Most will also likely enjoy the range of weather fun facts as well. Other great weather apps include Dark Sky, Weather Underground, and Today Weather.
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.
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.
Combined with Google Drive, this is an excellent choice for collaboration, especially given how feature-rich the mobile and web apps are. Once you create a document, you can add people to it, so that they can collaborate. Once they accept the invitation, you can create a multitude of documents — similar to what you can do with Microsoft Office — and have your team collaborate in real time. Droid App
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