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.
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
Mobogenie has some interesting features, such as a PC client, meaning you can easily transfer files back and forth between your phone, tablet, and computer. The toolkit offers all sorts of phone or tablet management options from your computer, most usefully the option to backup your device content including contacts, messages, apps, music, images, and videos. You can also batch install apps, copy/paste files, and more. Droid App
Google Maps virtually owns the navigation apps scene and it remains of the best Android apps ever. It gets frequent, almost weekly updates that seem to only add to its incredibly generous list of existing features. Aside from the very basics, Google Maps gives you access to places of interest, traffic data, directions to things like rest stops or gas stations, and they even let you have offline maps now (albiet temporarily). If you add to that the Waze experience, which includes tons of its own features, and you won’t need another navigation app. Ever. Google also owns and operates Waze. It’s unique and fun in ways that Google Maps isn’t and we also highly recommend it.
The Google Play Store gets frequent updates, which is great news. The not-so-great news is that it can take weeks, or for some people even longer, to get the latest iteration. The basic functionality never changes so being stuck on an older version isn’t all that bad. However, we understand the urge to get the latest and greatest version on your device.
This calorie counter and exercise tracker aims to help you lose weight the old-fashioned way—expending more calories than you take in. With its smart design and an extensive library of foods, it makes quickly logging the calories you take in and what you burn while exercising a snap. A barcode scanner makes it even easier to log that post-workout snack. This fitness app also plays nice with other such apps, so your data won't be tied up in just one place. MyFitnessPal won't give you a whole workout regimen, but it can make you more aware of your habits. PCMag has a full review of MyFitnessPal for the iPhone.
Signal Private Messenger is actually a messaging app much like Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others. The difference is that this one features end-to-end encryption and it’s been a favorite of many people who value security. It also works on a phone number system and if your contact doesn’t have the app then it simply sends a text message. We really liked how seamless that feature is. It’s simple to use, looks great with Material Design, and it is entirely free to use with no in-app purchases. It’s also open source, supports group chats, and it’ll even make phone calls. Droid App

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

The main idea behind invi is to supplement an iMessage-like experience, offering basic SMS support while allowing users with invi on both ends of the messages to automatically receive messages using data, complete with read receipts and more. It’s a solid effort, but it fails on a few points. First, as far as we can tell, invi doesn’t currently support encryption on their messages. Considering it’s impossible to tell where these messages are going through, that could be concerning. Second, at less than one hundred thousand downloads, you’re probably going to need to convince your friends to download invi before you can take advantage of this. The app obviously doesn’t work with anyone on iOS, and though there have been some promises for features in future updates going forward, as of April 24th, the app hasn’t been updated since October of 2017.


Filled with both up-and-coming and established acts, Bandcamp is one of the most exciting music marketplaces there is. The app was initially built around streaming songs you'd already purchased on Bandcamp, but now it's a one-stop shop for digital and physical band merch. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of music, this is an essential 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. Droid App

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. Droid App

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.
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.

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. Droid Apps
That’s subjective, of course, and thankfully, if you don’t like an aspect of the application, you can change it. The theme engine inside of Mood operates closer to that of Samsung’s own skins and themes on their devices than what we’ve properly seen from apps like Textra or QKSMS. Each theme customizes the clock font and the background behind the app, giving your app a brand-new look that changes the top portion of your home display and the colors of your conversation threads (you can change these outside of themes as well, including the bubble shape and the color of both received and sent). Themes are a cool idea, however, and a unique feature of Mood. Outside of the theme options, you can customize your emoji choice (though unfortunately, the default Android Oreo emojis aren’t available) and

Textto is an app that pairs with the messaging app you already use, whether it’s the one included on your device by default or one installed from the list above. It allows you to type messages to your friends from any device with a web browser, regardless of where you are. Unlike Pulse, however, you won’t have to switch your messaging app to do it. Likewise, while we’ve seen this kind of accessibility from apps like Pushbullet with its own respective web client, Pushbullet limits your ability to send messages without paying to 100 messages per month. Textto is a completely free utility, without ads, in-app purchases, or subscriptions. Being a work in progress, it isn’t perfect—not by a long shot—but it’s a step in the right direction, and one we’re excited to see develop in the future. New Droid Apps


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.
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.
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.

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.
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. Droid Apps
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. Droid Apps
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. 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.
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.
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

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
The main idea behind invi is to supplement an iMessage-like experience, offering basic SMS support while allowing users with invi on both ends of the messages to automatically receive messages using data, complete with read receipts and more. It’s a solid effort, but it fails on a few points. First, as far as we can tell, invi doesn’t currently support encryption on their messages. Considering it’s impossible to tell where these messages are going through, that could be concerning. Second, at less than one hundred thousand downloads, you’re probably going to need to convince your friends to download invi before you can take advantage of this. The app obviously doesn’t work with anyone on iOS, and though there have been some promises for features in future updates going forward, as of April 24th, the app hasn’t been updated since October of 2017.
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.
If you are seeking an alternative app store because you find the Play Store overwhelming and difficult to search, then we have another solution to suggest. You could try an app that’s designed to improve the app discovery process and aid you in finding the content you want, but that still ultimately plugs into the Play Store to download and install apps and games.
Ever feel like there’s just too much news to keep up with? Nwsty might well be the app for you. It’s aimed at those who don’t often read the news, and makes it easy to keep up with the daily headlines without spending too much time on them. Each day, you get six to 10 headlines in your digest that you can quickly and easily read in a matter of only a few minutes.
Pinterest is a social network of stuff, a place to "pin" things that interest you on themed boards. The Android app offers a great way to gather images from around the web for making lists or just collections of stuff that catch your eye. You could use it to help redecorate your living room or even to help you choose a tattoo artist. It easily integrates with your browser for fast pinning, and you can view the pins of others for added inspiration.
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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