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

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.

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.
There are a lot of apps out there that pay lip service to security and privacy, but Signal was built from the ground up with the goal of letting people easily communicate without having to worry about being overheard. The Signal app is a complete phone and SMS client replacement (though it works just fine as a standalone app, too) for sending and receiving encrypted calls and messages. A recent update has greatly improved the app's look and feel, proving that security and usability don't have to be at odds.

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 App
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.
This app is geared toward those who are looking for a real relationship, rather than a quick hookup or short fling. Every day at noon, you get sent a prospective match based on a specific set of criteria. You can Like them or Pass on. If you like them, you’ll be set up with icebreaker questions; if you pass, the app will learn your preferences and try again tomorrow.
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
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.
Android Manager is a one-stop destination that offers you ideal solutions when it comes to managing your entire 'mobile lifestyle'. You will get a multi files manager application, which makes it extremely easy to download, import and export almost anything as well as manage all the apps on your Android device. Moreover, it allows you to backup all essential stuff in your Android device to the computer. In other words, you will have an excitingly simple time when it comes to interacting with your Android device. Droid App
Textto is an app that pairs with the messaging app you already use, whether it’s the one included on your device by default or one installed from the list above. It allows you to type messages to your friends from any device with a web browser, regardless of where you are. Unlike Pulse, however, you won’t have to switch your messaging app to do it. Likewise, while we’ve seen this kind of accessibility from apps like Pushbullet with its own respective web client, Pushbullet limits your ability to send messages without paying to 100 messages per month. Textto is a completely free utility, without ads, in-app purchases, or subscriptions. Being a work in progress, it isn’t perfect—not by a long shot—but it’s a step in the right direction, and one we’re excited to see develop in the future. Android App
It’s an audacious plan, but a year later, Google has yet to really make RCS a reality. Though all four carriers have made some moves in order to actually support RCS, it’s been incredibly limited, especially from the two biggest carriers in the US, Verizon and AT&T. The former has rolled out Universal Profile support to exactly two phones—the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL—while AT&T has yet to roll out Universal Profile support to any devices at all, instead only using their in-house advanced messaging service. T-Mobile and Sprint haven’t done much better, although the former has most Samsung phones updated to support the platform. Android App

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.
Last year, we wrote that one of the best features of QKSMS was its open-source nature, allowing for anyone who wishes to change aspects of the app to do so by diving into the openly-available source code. QKSMS remains open-source, but unlike last year, a new “Plus” tier has been added to the app that adds support for automatic night mode (as mentioned above), a full color slider for picking out literally endless colors, and additional upcoming features promised by the dev, including message backup, delayed sending and scheduled messages, auto-respond and auto-forward, and more. There’s no ads in QKSMS, and most people may find the free tier suitable for their liking, but if you want to upgrade, a lifetime license runs you just $2.99, with a license and donate option for $4.99. Overall, we’re quite impressed by QKSMS, even more so than last year. Definitely check this one out.

Despite ups and downs in the quality of its library, Netflix dominates the world of streaming TV and movies. The service also creates its own—sometimes indispensable—content, including original comedies, cartoons, dramas, and documentaries. Some of the shows have become cultural phenomena, making Netflix a must-have. Shows such as Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and The Crown (the most expensive TV show ever made) are often the conversation topics of the day. You can even download select episodes to watch offline at your leisure. 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.

If you use a Mac or iPad on top of your Android phone, you may be better served with Apple Music over Google Play Music or Spotify. Apple Music offers access to Apple’s massive library of music, as well as Apple’s Beats 1 radio station, which plays both current hits and up-and-coming music. The celebrity DJs and exclusive album streams are just a plus. New Droid Apps
LastPass is one of those must-have Android apps. It’s a password manager that lets you save your login credentials in a safe, secure way. On top of that, it can help generate nearly impossible passwords for you to use on your accounts. It’s all controlled with a master password. It has cross-platform support so you can use it on computers, mobile devices, tablets, or whatever. There are others, but LastPass always feels like it’s one step ahead. Additionally, the premium version is cheap. You can also grab LastPass Authenticator to go along with it for added security. There are other great options like 1Password, Dashlane, Bit Warden, KeepassDroid, and others that are just about as good. However, LastPass feels a little more friendly and secure (usually), especially with its extra authenticator app. Droid 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
You now know how to download Google Play Store to ensure you have the latest version. This method will work on almost any Android device, but there may be slight variances depending on your Android version and OEM. Do keep in mind that this will not work on Amazon Kindle Fire devices. That’s an entirely different process which may also require you to root your device. Droid Apps

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
If you are seeking an alternative app store because you find the Play Store overwhelming and difficult to search, then we have another solution to suggest. You could try an app that’s designed to improve the app discovery process and aid you in finding the content you want, but that still ultimately plugs into the Play Store to download and install apps and games.
Mood Messenger is an above average SMS app. It does all of the usual stuff like texting, MMS, theming, emoji, and the other basics. You also get a dark mode, blacklisting for spam messages, and more. The premium version is a single $10.99 payment or a subscription model. It includes backup and restore, SMS encryption, more themes, and a privacy locker to keep people out. The premium version is bit expensive, but it’s a positive overall experience for most. Droid Apps
Ultimately, Mood is a unique package that doesn’t live up to the polish of some of the other applications on this list. It’s a quality app, don’t get us wrong, but there’s some interesting ideas here, including the ability to send your mood within a group chat and the ability to hide a specific thread from your home screen. Mood is also free, without in-app purchases or ads, which may make it a viable alternative to Android Messages. It’s not a perfect application, but it’s innovative, making it an obvious choice for anyone looking to try out something new on their phone. Android App

Slack has gone from the new hotness, to controversial productivity tool, to essential office tool faster than you can say "hot take." With a familiar, instant messenger feel, it's easy to get started with Slack. But the service became popular because of its wealth of advanced features, like customizable alerts and a Do Not Disturb function. You can even host VoIP calls through Slack with your coworkers. A free account will get you started, but a monthly fee unlocks even better search tools. And be sure to install the Giphy plugin for maximum productivity.
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
If you use a Mac or iPad on top of your Android phone, you may be better served with Apple Music over Google Play Music or Spotify. Apple Music offers access to Apple’s massive library of music, as well as Apple’s Beats 1 radio station, which plays both current hits and up-and-coming music. The celebrity DJs and exclusive album streams are just a plus. New Droid Apps
With its slick, streamlined interface, Flipboard is one of the best apps for reading the news. With it, you browse the articles, videos, podcasts, and other media that matter most to you. The app's signature magazine-style interface lets you explore the day's headlines in a gorgeous environment. The Daily Edition feature gives you the most important news along with themed stories for each day of the week. Flipboard has been one of our top picks for years, and it's easy to see why.
There are many more alternative Android app stores out there, but most of them have small user bases. For developers, it’s always worth trying to widen the net and offer your apps in as many places as possible, but some of the smaller options might not be worth the time and effort. For users seeking apps, the apps available on the stores beyond those discussed above are limited. If a store doesn’t offer some unique hook to pull you in, then it’s tough to see why you’d bother.
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 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 App
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