invi is a good idea, with a lot of promise assuming future updates are still to happen. Unfortunately, with Google’s recently-announced Chat standard rolling out over the next year, it may also be out of date before the app can even get off the ground. There’s a lot to like about invi—overall, we found the experience of using the app positive, and some of the features promised on the app’s FAQ are exciting, including the ability to disable the “Awesome Bar,” RCS support (which would be great for the future of Android), and more customization options. Sadly, without an update in over six months, it’s unclear what the future of invi holds. It’s still a good SMS and MMS option, but its idea of a invi-to-invi future seems bleak at best.
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.
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
There are a ton of great SMS apps. However, two stand above the rest. They are Pulse SMS and Android Messages. Pulse SMS features theming, GIF support, password protected conversations, a blacklist for spammers, dual-SIM support, and more. Android Messages is a little more basic but it’s simple and it gets the job done. Both of these apps also offer SMS messaging from your desktop. Pulse charges either a monthly subscription or a single $10.99 charge while Android Messages is free. Pulse SMS uses a server structure while Android Messages live streams your messages. Both methods have their pros and cons, but they’re both still excellent options. These are the SMS apps we’d recommend to everybody. Those who don’t care about texting from a computer can still use these and people seem to like Textra a lot 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

Many people fear not being unable to communicate with people from another country while traveling. Google Translate takes a bit of the edge off, quickly translating either written text or spoken words. You can even use the app to do the speaking for you, and input text through your camera or handwriting. The app can translate 103 languages with a data connection and 52 when you're offline. It can't handle Tamarian, but it's sure to be a handy tool here on Earth. It even works on your watch and while using other Android apps! Droid App
You might know Fitbit from its popular fitness trackers, but the app that powers those devices works well on its own, too. Using your just your smartphone (assuming you meet the minimum hardware requirements), this fitness app can count steps and log activities to help you achieve daily goals. There are also social features, so you can compete against your friends. It's a must-have (really, you must have it) for Fitbit users, but also a smart choice for anyone looking to be more active.
All you need is to hold your Android device close to the source of the song, and after a few seconds, the app will accurately detect the song. Besides, you can also play songs and add them to Spotify playlists, buy songs in Google Play Music with one tap, connect your Facebook account, etc. If you are a musicophile, this Android app is a must-have for you.
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.
With NordVPN you can rest assured that no prying eyes will see your internet traffic. This app sports an excellent interface, a handy server selection tool, and hundreds of available VPN servers across the globe. NordVPN's signature feature is its assortment of specialized servers, which are optimized for activities like peer-to-peer downloading, video streaming, and access to Tor. Android App

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
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
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. Android App
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.
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. New Droid Apps
Zocdoc makes it easy to research nearby doctors on your health insurance plan and book appointments from your phone. When you first sign up for the app, you can enter your insurance information manually or scan your card to get started. The app itself looks slick too, with a modern, bright design that makes the experience of scheduling visits less stressful. Zocdoc even saves your history of appointments and makes recommendations for future ones, so you can stay on top of your health history.
invi is a good idea, with a lot of promise assuming future updates are still to happen. Unfortunately, with Google’s recently-announced Chat standard rolling out over the next year, it may also be out of date before the app can even get off the ground. There’s a lot to like about invi—overall, we found the experience of using the app positive, and some of the features promised on the app’s FAQ are exciting, including the ability to disable the “Awesome Bar,” RCS support (which would be great for the future of Android), and more customization options. Sadly, without an update in over six months, it’s unclear what the future of invi holds. It’s still a good SMS and MMS option, but its idea of a invi-to-invi future seems bleak at best.
You might know Fitbit from its popular fitness trackers, but the app that powers those devices works well on its own, too. Using your just your smartphone (assuming you meet the minimum hardware requirements), this fitness app can count steps and log activities to help you achieve daily goals. There are also social features, so you can compete against your friends. It's a must-have (really, you must have it) for Fitbit users, but also a smart choice for anyone looking to be more active.
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.
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
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.
Before we can discuss what we hope Messages becomes by the end of 2019, however, we have to discuss the app as it exists right now. Perhaps the most straightforward messaging client on Android today, Messages currently exists as an SMS client capable of handling your single and group messages, photo messages, and anything else you could need to communicate with your friends and family on this platform. As mentioned in our review of Textra, the overall design of Android Messages right now is very similar to what we’ve come to expect from SMS apps in 2019. The app received a facelift last summer, replacing the older Material design layout with the revised edition and adding a lot more white space to the app.
Ben Moore is an Analyst for PCMag's software team. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Neowin.net, and Tom's Guide. Ben holds a degree in New Media and Digital Design from Fordham University at Lincoln Center, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer, the student-run newspaper. He spends his free time taking photos and reading b... See Full Bio
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
There are a ton of great SMS apps. However, two stand above the rest. They are Pulse SMS and Android Messages. Pulse SMS features theming, GIF support, password protected conversations, a blacklist for spammers, dual-SIM support, and more. Android Messages is a little more basic but it’s simple and it gets the job done. Both of these apps also offer SMS messaging from your desktop. Pulse charges either a monthly subscription or a single $10.99 charge while Android Messages is free. Pulse SMS uses a server structure while Android Messages live streams your messages. Both methods have their pros and cons, but they’re both still excellent options. These are the SMS apps we’d recommend to everybody. Those who don’t care about texting from a computer can still use these and people seem to like Textra a lot as well. New Droid Apps
In addition to all the carrier support, Google has inked deals with eleven Android OEMs, including Asus, Lenovo (the company behind Motorola), Huawei, HTC, LG, and most importantly, Samsung, all agreeing to support RCS. Unfortunately. Samsung won’t be shipping their new phones with Android Messenger, but will be building the support for RCS into their own messaging client (and of course, you can always grab Android Messages from the Play Store). Finally. Microsoft has signed on to support RCS, in addition to Google. leaving Apple the major player outside the game.
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
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. New Droid Apps
In short, here’s the deal: a year ago, The Verge reported that Google had delayed work (and would later go on to outright shutdown) on Allo in order to focus on getting Messages to be the destination for messaging on Android. The plan is surprisingly simple, but relies on a bunch of moving pieces falling into place to get everything right. Google has been building RCS support into Messages for years now, which as mentioned, brings iMessage-style support for advanced messaging over data and even includes a web client to send and read messages from. Unfortunately, carrier support is required for RCS to work properly, but Google has seemingly fixed this. In 2018, Google announced most major companies on board for their plan, including all four US-based carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, with Sprint having already been on board). Droid App
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