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
QKSMS impressed us a year ago with its customization engine and the options delivered by the app’s dev team, and revisiting the app a year later has made it clear: this is a fantastic application, one worthy of being praised right next to Textra in our top selections spot. QKSMS’s design is slick and easy to use, arguably representing one of the most modern appearances on this list outside of Android Messages. The app’s inbox interface looks like a cross between a basic SMS app and an instant messaging application like Facebook Messenger, but once you dive into the app’s conversation display, it looks similar to designs from Google, with bubbles that mesh together. We’re looking at version 3.0 of the app, which has made a lot of changes in terms of the app’s visual appearance, and frankly, we couldn’t be more impressed with the direction this app is going.
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.
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. New Droid Apps
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
Still, it’s not perfect. Textto had a few small quirks that made it a bit of a frustrating experience. Like many apps that run in the background, Textto requires a dedicated notification to always run in the background. Annoyingly, this means that you can’t get rid of the notification from your tray. While Android does have the ability to disable notifications on a per app basis, as soon as you trigger this setting, Textto set off the battery monitor on our test Pixel 2 XL, constantly showing a “This app is using battery” notification. It was frustrating, to say the least. Textto also seemed to have a bit of a slow response at some times when texting from the web, taking up to twenty seconds in our tests to send the message. And as with using Google Assistant to send texts, you won’t get any sent receipts from messages sent from the web client on Textto. Android App
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 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.
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.
Amazon is the internet's marketplace; the one place where you can buy just about anything—and it's cheap too! On Android, two of our favorite features are the integrated Alexa voice commands and the photo search, which makes it easy to surreptitiously compare Amazon's prices to those of the brick and mortar stores it is killing. Amazon Video-related functionality has been moved over to its own dedicated app, but all of its other consumer services, including Fresh and Restaurants, make an appearance. Prime members rejoice; there's never been a better way to stay connected with your Amazon lifestyle.
With its huge inventory of music, Spotify has become a mainstay for free, legal music streaming. You can shuffle through smartly selected songs, find your favorite albums, or explore one of the service's excellent playlists. Close ties with artists means that new tracks are sometimes available the same day they hit the shelves in record shops. Those still exist, right? Spotify also offers a limited free version. Droid App
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. Droid App
Your Gmail inbox is not secure. Use ProtonMail instead. This encrypted email platform offers a range of pricing options, including a free tier, so you have no excuse not to join. Security and privacy features aside, ProtonMail works like any other email app. Make sure to also check out ProtonVPN for securing your network traffic; it's an Editors' Choice for free VPNs.
If you’re a longtime Android user, you’ve probably had friends or family members approach you and ask about why you choose to rock a Pixel 3 XL or a Galaxy S10 over something like the new iPhone XS. Every Android user has their own reason for sticking to Google’s platform, whether it be down to the approach Google’s taken with software design and UI appearances, the modular base of Android, the ability to choose phones from all across the price range and still have a solid experience, or the high-quality camera performance we’ve seen on the likes of recent flagship Android devices. Maybe your reasons are more granular: you like the notification system, or the ability to change home launchers on command for all-new software experiences. Android is a mature operating system; there are thousands of reasons to prefer it over iOS. Droid App