Though there isn’t much we could do to fight the scrolling lag in each thread, the customization options provided by YAATA were basically able to control the things we didn’t like about how message threads were displayed. Though customizing chat isn’t quite as intuitive as we’ve seen on apps like Textra, disabling or changing everything we didn’t like about the app was pretty simple, controlled through a list by checking or unchecking boxes. Overwide chat messages? Easily disabled. The tail that made the message bubble seem straight out of 2013? Turned off. Those giant emoji inside of the chat? Switched back to their normal size. And again, this is all based on our own personal preferences, not necessarily something that you have to change if you like these visual flourishes inside of YAATA.
Marking one of Apple's first forays into Android development, Apple Music brings the company's impressive musical catalog to Android. The app is built around Apple's subscription-based streaming service, which dishes up all-you-can-listen music for $9.99 per month, or just $4.99 for eligible students. It suffers a bit on Android for being divorced from the Apple ecosystem, however. Droid App
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.
Signal Private Messenger is actually a messaging app much like Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others. The difference is that this one features end-to-end encryption and it’s been a favorite of many people who value security. It also works on a phone number system and if your contact doesn’t have the app then it simply sends a text message. We really liked how seamless that feature is. It’s simple to use, looks great with Material Design, and it is entirely free to use with no in-app purchases. It’s also open source, supports group chats, and it’ll even make phone calls. Droid App
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
GetJar’s clever draw is to offer premium apps to users for free to generate traffic, and then monetize that traffic with advertising dollars. App developers considering GetJar might be tempted by the virtual currency tie-ins, and the option to target new users with different kinds of promotions. Be warned, though, the submission process might take a while.
Last, but certainly not least on our list is Zedge. This is a wallpapers, ringtones, notification tones, and alarm tones app that gives you an unbelievable number of options to customize the most basic parts of your device. On top of having an exhaustive collection of things, Zedge also promotes various items during holiday seasons making it easy to theme your phone up for Christmas, Halloween, and other holidays. It’s not 100% perfect. It does have the occasional bug and some irritating advertisements. Zedge Premium is a new initiative to provide premium content at a reasonable price. You watch ads or fill out surveys to earn Zedge credits. You can buy them as well with in-app purchases. It’s a good way to support the developer and the artists. We also recommend Walli (with an i) for wallpapers.
While the cluster of messaging apps on Android make it easy to message friends while gaining the same benefits iMessage can offer users, like read receipts, advanced messaging options, and larger photos and videos, plenty of Android users still turn to SMS to message their friends and family today, thanks to its implementation as a standard. While SMS may seem a bit dated in 2019, it’s still a key way for users, especially in the United States, to communicate with each other for free, regardless of the operating system our phone uses.
Remember the bad old days of ordering food? You needed takeout menus, knowledge of the terrain ("will they even deliver out here?"), cash, and faith that the person jotting down your order got it right. Seamless takes care of all that, even letting you pay via credit card from your Android. The only drawback? It's not available in every city (or even every state), though it has expanded its range dramatically since it was first included on this list. Android App
QKSMS is among the simplest and best SMS apps. It’s open source and that’s always a nice touch. Additionally, the app comes with a bunch of features. Some of them include privacy features such as a blacklist, Android Wear support, and even some nifty accessibility features. Usage is as you would expect. It’s not going to blow your mind, but its simplicity is appreciated considering how heavy some texting apps can get. It’s free with no advertising. There are some optional in-app purchases as donations as well. Android App
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. Droid App
If you want to record your own podcast, Anchor is likely one of the easiest ways to do it. This app lets you record by yourself or with friends and build out entire podcast episodes entirely from your phone. Anchor even implements some basic audio editing tools for perfecting each clip in the app. Recently, the service announced a monetization program for creators on the platform.
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.
You won’t find in-app purchases here — These titles are more experimental than the typical games one would find on an app store. Many of itch.io’s games come out of game jams — community game development events where game makers create a small game in a short time frame, usually within a theme or concept (like “cyberpunk” or “wizard”). Ranging from free, to just a few dollars, and with everything from puzzle games, to adventure games, first-person shooters, hardcore RPGs, and even dating sims, itch.io’s Android store is great for gamers on the go. Droid Apps
This is one seriously powerful app. It also works on most Android devices. You simply download the app and then enable it. From there, you can ask it whatever you want. It also supports a variety of commands. You can control lights, ask about population control, and it can even do simple math problems for you. There are a variety of products like Google, Bose QC II Bluetooth headphones, Home and Chromecast that extent the functionality even further. There is also a second Google Assistant app for those who want a quick launch icon on the home screen. The hardware stuff costs money, but Google Assistant is free. Amazon Alexa is another excellent app in this space, but it doesn’t support Google Android quite as much as we would like, yet.
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.
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.
Brave Browser offers a host of features aimed at protecting your security and privacy on the web. For instance, it includes built-in blockers for ads, pop-ups, scripts, and third-party cookies. It even implements the HTTPS Everywhere extension, so you can ensure that your connections to sites are secure. The lightweight, minimal design looks great, too.
Pulse isn’t for everyone. It’s a solid application for messaging, and it’s only gotten better in the year since we first tested the app, improving the visual display and becoming less of a side project to Evolve (which we’ve removed from our list in favor of this app) and more like the app that Evolve would always turn into. Even if you aren’t interested in cloud sync, it’s a solid choice to grab as your main messaging application, but in the end, the people who will benefit the most from this application are those who are looking to send messages from multiple devices, like their laptop or tablet. If you do choose Pulse as your new messaging app, just remember that Android Messages may add similar web clients in the near future, natively and for free.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Pinterest is a social network of stuff, a place to "pin" things that interest you on themed boards. The Android app offers a great way to gather images from around the web for making lists or just collections of stuff that catch your eye. You could use it to help redecorate your living room or even to help you choose a tattoo artist. It easily integrates with your browser for fast pinning, and you can view the pins of others for added inspiration. New 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
Pulse isn’t for everyone. It’s a solid application for messaging, and it’s only gotten better in the year since we first tested the app, improving the visual display and becoming less of a side project to Evolve (which we’ve removed from our list in favor of this app) and more like the app that Evolve would always turn into. Even if you aren’t interested in cloud sync, it’s a solid choice to grab as your main messaging application, but in the end, the people who will benefit the most from this application are those who are looking to send messages from multiple devices, like their laptop or tablet. If you do choose Pulse as your new messaging app, just remember that Android Messages may add similar web clients in the near future, natively and for free. Droid Apps
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 Android App
After a major overhaul to this powerful password manager, its appearance finally matches its performance. With LastPass, you can access your saved passwords, secure notes, and filled forms from your Android, and you can also create new ones that sync to all your devices. The new version of the app ingeniously melds the password manager with a built-in browser, putting the app's auto-login features at the forefront. Staying safe has never been easier.
Once you start using Evernote, this note-taking app becomes a powerful tool for organizing just about everything. Notes can be anything—text, images, audio, or a mix—and are organized into notebooks. One of its killer features is optical character recognition, which makes the text in images searchable. Cloud-storage makes it the perfect tool for organizing the little pieces of a project into a finished draft. Droid Apps
Initially, we weren’t going to put any launchers on this list. Nova Launcher seems to be extend beyond what normal launchers are. It’s been around for years, it’s been consistently updated, and thus it’s never not been a great option for a launcher replacement. It comes with a host of features, including the ability to backup and restore your home screen set ups, icon theming for all of your Android apps, tons of customization elements for the home screen and app drawer, and more. You can even make it look like the Pixel Launcher if you want to. If you go premium, you can tack on gesture controls, unread count badges for apps, and icon swipe actions. Those looking for something simpler may want to try Lawnchair Launcher, Hyperion Launcher, and Rootless Launcher as well.
Overall, we really like Messages. If and when RCS becomes a real standard, it has a solid chance of actually being our top pick for messaging. Unfortunately, it remains a slight hope, one we’ve wanted for a full year now. As usual, carriers continue to slow down progress in this path, making it impossible for RCS to actually become a true feature. Until then, the customization options in Textra put it over the top, but we maintain hope that someday, Messages will be a must-have app on Android. Droid App