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.
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.
And we, in turn, can help guide you to some of our favorite apps. We can't cover everything. But we'll strive to bring you the best of the best. With new apps arriving every day, it may be hard to keep up with the latest and greatest — but not to worry. Here is where we'll keep all of the top apps we come across — from launchers to podcast apps to music players and more — so you'll never have to dig too deep to find the best apps right now. Android App
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
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
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
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.
All that said, Google’s app is smooth, fast, and fluid, and switching to it is by far the fastest we’ve seen when it comes to organizing your SMS messages. Unlike apps like Textra, which must start by categorizing your messages when you open the app after installation, Messages just seems to have this done right away. It makes loading into the app really simple and quick. The input area for your messages allows you to view options to quickly input emojis, though you’ll likely be better off using the emoji option on your phone’s keyboard, as we saw with Textra. There’s also a button that allows you to add stickers, photos, and locations. For gifs and other multimedia, however, you’ll need to turn to Google’s own keyboard app, Gboard. New Droid Apps
There is probably a greater enticement for developers because Slide ME offers the chance to target a wider international audience. Apps are also more likely to be discovered, thanks to the search filter options. Developers can set prices and choose to offer their apps for free. There is also a Slide ME ad network, and it is even possible to get a greater percentage of the revenue generated by your app with Slide ME — potentially more than the standard 70 percent you’ll get through most other app stores.
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. Android App
We don’t typically recommend streaming services to people. Everyone has their preferences and saying that one is better than another is a matter of opinion at this point. Except for this collection of Android apps. There’s more content there than a human person can watch or listen to in several lifetimes. That includes music videos, educational videos, news videos, reviews, video game let’s plays, music (of course), and a whole lot more. YouTube Music should replace Google Play Music eventually. This collection is the best music and video streaming package on mobile as long as they remain tied together. Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal are also great music streaming services, especially if you want better sounding music.
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.
AppsLib was created by Archos, and is the app marketplace for Android devices that couldn’t get Google certification, mainly tablets. It comes pre-installed on a number of devices from smaller manufacturers. There are almost 40,000 apps on offer, and each one has been certified as compatible with specific devices. They are categorized, and there’s even an adult section, which is PIN protected. You can also pay for apps using PayPal. Android App
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. Droid App
Diving into the settings option for a moment, we can take a look at the options and themes available to use here. Like Textra, you can choose from a number of shades of colors, which each color having darker and lighter gradients available to be used within the application. There’s a night mode here, that can be activated indefinitely or turned on automatically after sunset, though this has a catch to this we’ll mention below. Font size can be controlled, and like Textra, QKSMS has its own font and the option to use your phone’s system font. Outside of the customization options, you’ll find some very brief options for notifications and delivery confirmations, an option to resync your messages, and the About page for QKSMS at the bottom of the menu.
Weather Underground combines a slick design with a focus on really useful weather information. We particularly like the ability to report weather conditions in your area and the extremely useful comparative forecasts that deftly show how conditions have changed since yesterday. With an accompanying set of useful widgets, it's the best weather app on Android.
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
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. Droid Apps
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!
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. 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. Android 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.
At its core, Any.do is a list manager. You can quickly create a shopping list and have it synced among your devices and even share the list with others. The app also doubles as a task manager, keeping you on top of what needs to be done. This very capable app sports many features, but we particularly like one called the Any.do Moment, which encourages you to take a second and review your plans for the day. Lists are one thing, but building good productivity habits is quite another. Droid Apps
Handcent, along with Chomp SMS, were the first two really good, really popular third party texting apps available on Android. Much like Chomp SMS, Handcent is a powerful and heavy texting application with a ton of features. Some of them include themes, a privacy box to store private conversations, SMS backup, eCards, emojis, and plenty more. One of the more interesting features is Handcent Anywhere, which lets you text on your computer and tablet if you want. It’s had its ups and downs in terms of bugs, but it’s usually pretty solid.
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
1Weather is arguably the best weather app out there. It features a simple, paginated design that shows you the current weather, forecast for up to 12 weeks, a radar, and other fun stats. Along with that, you’ll get a fairly decent set of lightly customizable widgets and the standard stuff like severe weather notifications and a radar so you can see the storms approaching. Perhaps its best feature is its minimal design which just shows you the weather (and fun facts, if you want). The free version has all of the features. The $1.99 charge removes advertising. Otherwise the two versions work the same way. Most will also likely enjoy the range of weather fun facts as well. Other great weather apps include Dark Sky, Weather Underground, and Today Weather.
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. New Droid Apps
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. Droid App
Mood Messenger was new to us when we reviewed it last year, and revisiting it a year later, it becomes obvious that not much has changed since 2017. That might not be a bad thing, however, considering Mood Messenger has a design unique to its own app, with some interesting choices and options available for its users. Mood offers a unique design, something not brought to the table by any of the other SMS apps on this list, and honestly, it’s pretty interesting. The first thing you’ll notice at the top of the display is a large clock, giving the app the feel of being your home screen, not so much your inbox. It’s interesting, but generally speaking, it doesn’t look quite as good as any number of the applications on this list. 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 Apps
The Amazon-owned ComiXology —the iTunes of digital comics—offers a near-perfect combination of store and comic book reader in its wonderful Comics app. The free app transforms your Android smartphone or tablet into a digital long box that houses and syncs your purchases across multiple devices. Even better, the new Comixology Unlimited service lets you devour an ever-expanding catalog of titles for just $5.99 per month. Once you have the app downloaded, you should make sure to read our feature on digital comic books you should read right now. New Droid Apps
Facebook Messenger Kids might seem like it’s built for kids, but it’s really built for parents. With the app, parents have control over their kids’ contact list, and messages can’t be deleted — meaning that parents can check in to take a look whenever they want. Of course, there are some pretty sweet features for kids, like kid-appropriate stickers, GIFs, emojis, and so on. Droid App
If an event isn't being organized on Facebook, it's probably being done through Eventbrite. This service makes it easy to manage invites, RSVPs, and even ticket purchasing. Attendees get handy reminders about the events they planned to attend, organizers can see guest lists. We particularly like that Eventbrite can generate QR codes, making event check-in a breeze. Droid App