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
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.
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.
As one expects from a wallpaper app, the app is easy to use, with all the wallpapers appropriately structured in each category. Additionally, signing up on the application also syncs all the wallpapers over different devices. Of course, there are millions of wallpapers spread across different apps, but this one is definitely the best Android app for wallpapers. 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.
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.
Pulse SMS is one of the most unique texting apps on the list. It’s like any standard SMS app for the most part. However, there is also a back end that will let you text from your PC, tablet, and other devices. Additionally, it also supports dual-sim devices, blacklisting phone numbers, message backup, and more. Here’s how it works. The texting app part of this is completely free. Those who want to also text from PCs, tablets, etc can either pay $0.99 per month or a lifetime fee of $10.99. It’s a good way to kill two birds with one stone. New Droid Apps
Sometimes the most secure message is one that simply doesn't exist. That's the thinking behind Wickr Me, a fully encrypted secure messaging service that even handles media messages. The twist is that you set a lifespan for each message, ensuring that your private messages stay private, the way Snapchat message do. And, if you doubt their security chops, here's what the company's founder told the FBI when they asked for a backdoor.
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
For passing links, web addresses, or clipboard data between devices, Join is a great option. Setup and customization are easy and Join makes it simple to specify which notifications and actions you want to enable for each device. It even syncs SMS texts to a Chrome browser or the dedicated Windows 10 app. Unlike Pushbullet, it doesn't require a monthly subscription to use its features to the fullest. Our favorite features are its remote screenshot and screen-capture capabilities. Android App
Privacy stalwarts rejoice! Tor now has an official (and modern-looking) Android app. The Tor project operates under the principle that "internet users should have private access to an uncensored web." Make sure to read the overview of how Tor works before you start using it, as it addresses specific types of privacy threats (and does so very well). The Tor browser may perform more slowly than other browsers, given its complicated inner workings, but that drawback should be negligible for the users who appreciate and rely on its protections.
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. New Droid Apps
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.
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. Droid 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. Droid App
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.
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
Untappd helps you record each brew you try along with a rating and tasting notes. Think of it as Swarm for beer! No more staring at a tap list, trying to remember which ones you've had before. The app also has a vibrant community of beer drinkers that can point you toward new discoveries and an extensive list of beers. It's also a handy way to find your favorite brew near your current location. While it's not perfect, it can change the way you think of beer.
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.
A lot of people don’t like Facebook, but they do offer one of the best messaging apps. Facebook Messenger has SMS built-in and integrated with internet messaging. That means you can have all your conversations in one app. If you’re not already a Facebook user, this app probably isn’t what you’re looking for. But Facebook users should give it a shot.
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 Apps
So Pulse looks pretty good, but the major feature of Pulse doesn’t come down to appearances or app design. Pulse advertises itself as “iMessage for Android” because of its web sync, the ability to send texts from any device you own, including your web browser, native apps on Windows, MacOS, and Linux, your Android watch, your Android tablet, and even a television running Android TV. The one operating system that can’t send messages through Pulse: iOS, where Apple stopped the app from being published on the App Store (theoretically, the web version could still work). This support doesn’t come free, however. You can try it for seven days free to make sure it works well, but you’ll have to chose one of four payment plans to properly use the app:
Although a weather app's primary function is to give an accurate forecast, the presentation of that data is also important. Overdrop manages to accomplish both feats. The app includes helpful timeline-based graphs of temperature, wind, and rain predictions. Furthermore, you can change the units of measurement that the app displays as well as the weather provider. Your choices are Dark Sky or Weather Bit. New Droid Apps
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
Last year, we wrote that one of the best features of QKSMS was its open-source nature, allowing for anyone who wishes to change aspects of the app to do so by diving into the openly-available source code. QKSMS remains open-source, but unlike last year, a new “Plus” tier has been added to the app that adds support for automatic night mode (as mentioned above), a full color slider for picking out literally endless colors, and additional upcoming features promised by the dev, including message backup, delayed sending and scheduled messages, auto-respond and auto-forward, and more. There’s no ads in QKSMS, and most people may find the free tier suitable for their liking, but if you want to upgrade, a lifetime license runs you just $2.99, with a license and donate option for $4.99. Overall, we’re quite impressed by QKSMS, even more so than last year. Definitely check this one out.
LastPass is one of those must-have Android apps. It’s a password manager that lets you save your login credentials in a safe, secure way. On top of that, it can help generate nearly impossible passwords for you to use on your accounts. It’s all controlled with a master password. It has cross-platform support so you can use it on computers, mobile devices, tablets, or whatever. There are others, but LastPass always feels like it’s one step ahead. Additionally, the premium version is cheap. You can also grab LastPass Authenticator to go along with it for added security. There are other great options like 1Password, Dashlane, Bit Warden, KeepassDroid, and others that are just about as good. However, LastPass feels a little more friendly and secure (usually), especially with its extra authenticator app. Droid Apps
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. New Droid Apps
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.
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
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
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
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.