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. Android App
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). New Droid Apps
There are literally hundreds of different messaging platforms to choose from these days. WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. But the one messaging platform that still works on every single phone is SMS/text messaging. The default SMS apps that are pre-loaded on phones are often not very good. You can find a much better alternative in this list of the best text messaging apps for Android. Droid Apps
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.
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
Who needs Uber when so many cities offer world-class public transit? The Transit app shows mass transit options—including buses, ferries, and trains—and the estimated time of arrival in 87 cities in North American, Europe, and Australia. Here in New York, it even tells you how many bikes are parked at local Citi Bike stands. This app keeps you in the know no matter where your travels take you. Droid App
Twitch is the best way to watch people play games or pursue their creative hobbies on your mobile device. From eSports to cooking to music and more, there's likely some content on Twitch that everyone can enjoy. If you are feeling generous, you can also support your favorite creators directly from the app. Twitch Prime members can also claim free games and in-game loot each month.
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. New Droid Apps
Tasker is a glorious application if you have the patience to learn how to use the app. What it does is allow users to create custom made commands and then use them in various places. There are many apps out there that have Tasker support and you can even use Tasker to create very complex commands for NFC tags. It’s difficult to truly explain what this app can do because it can do so many things. Between the apps supported, plugins you an add, and the sheer volume of stuff that you can do, there aren’t many apps out there as useful as this one. IFTTT is another excellent automation app. In some cases, it may even be better than Tasker thanks to its simplicity and wide range of uses.
Network Analyzer makes it easy to view information about all of the Wi-Fi networks nearby. With a few taps, you can see the strength of networks in the area on a dynamic graph and view detailed information about your connection, such as your IPv4 Address, MAC Address, and Default Gateway IP. You can even run a network query from within the app; it lets you Ping an IP/Domain Name or even check the DNS Server settings. It's the perfect companion to our article on how to find your IP address.
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. Android App
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 main idea behind invi is to supplement an iMessage-like experience, offering basic SMS support while allowing users with invi on both ends of the messages to automatically receive messages using data, complete with read receipts and more. It’s a solid effort, but it fails on a few points. First, as far as we can tell, invi doesn’t currently support encryption on their messages. Considering it’s impossible to tell where these messages are going through, that could be concerning. Second, at less than one hundred thousand downloads, you’re probably going to need to convince your friends to download invi before you can take advantage of this. The app obviously doesn’t work with anyone on iOS, and though there have been some promises for features in future updates going forward, as of April 24th, the app hasn’t been updated since October of 2017.
Bouncer was our pick for the best new Android app from 2018. It’s a security app with a unique premise. The app lets you grant temporary permissions to applications. So, for instance, you can let Facebook access your location long enough to check into a place, and Bouncer disables the permission once you leave Facebook. This is a great way to use all of the features of a social media app without digging into your settings to disable those permissions or giving those apps permanent access to your information. The app runs for $0.99 and should work on most (if not all) apps. It’s rumored that this could be an Android Q feature. If that’s true, then even Google really likes this app. Droid Apps
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. Droid Apps
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
It might sound like a long laundry list of features, but ultimately, the options available for changing how your device looks and feels are the true reason to grab Textra over another third-party messaging app. Textra has been our top pick for the last two years, thanks to its routine updates and support, monthly new features, and the speed and fluidity that comes with using the app. Though Google’s own Messages app gives Textra a run for its money in terms of modern Android design (not to mention a web client), the customization options built into Textra keep it as our top pick for now. Droid App