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.
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 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
Textra SMS is among the most solid texting apps on the list. This popular and highly stylish SMS app is also one of the highest rated on the list. It comes with a theme picker (you choose the colors yourself), a dark mode, floating notifications, delayed sending, slide to delete, and plenty of other features. It also comes with direct support for Android Wear, Pushbullet, MightyText, and others. You can use most of the features for free. There is a single in-app purchase for $2.99 to unlock the pro version. 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. Android 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.
Textto’s web app is basically just as powerful as what we’ve seen from similar utilities and from your mobile device itself. You can continue a thread that already exists on your device, including single and group texts. You can compose a new text to any of the contacts in your phone as well, by hitting the new conversation button on the left-side panel of the display. Textto supports SMS and MMS, and you can attach photos from your computer by using the clip button in the lower-right hand corner of each conversation thread. Full emoji support is here as well, which means you can send texts as you normally would from your computer. And to reiterate, there’s no need to change away from your current SMS app to something new. Everything here is sent through your existing SMS app, whether it be the standard one included on your phone, Android Messages, or Textra.
Those who enjoy podcasts probably have the easiest decision in regards to which podcast app that should use. The answer to that question is Pocket Casts. This insanely stable and good looking app allows you to download or stream various podcasts for your enjoyment. It features both audio-only and video podcast support so you can catch up on just about anything. There is also a light and dark theme, a sign-in feature so you can sync your podcasts across devices, and a pretty decent recommendations function. It underwent a redesign in 2019 that is a bit polarizing, but it’s still an excellent podcast app.