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.
Are you curious about the speed of your Internet connection? Ookla's Speedtest app makes it easy to test your latency as well as upload and download speeds. The app also keeps a log of test results so you can compare performance over time. IF you want, you can also export your results for further analysis. PCMag relies on Ookla's tools every year to pick the fastest ISPs. (Note: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag's publisher.) 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.
It seems like just yesterday that Instagram was adding video. Then direct messaging. Then advanced photo editing put it on par with Photoshop Express for image correction and manipulation. Instagram Stories is now far more popular than Snapchat's similar feature. And anti-bullying features should make it more palatable for some. With a clean, minimalist interface, Instagram is the current king of social photo apps. Droid Apps
It’s the customization options we need to spend the bulk of our review discussing, because they’re plentiful. Customize is split into two subcategories, “Look” and “Notifications,” each of which allow you to change the appearance of your texting experience. You can customize as much or as little as you want, though if you aren’t one to change the appearance of your applications, you might be happier in the long run with our runner-up application.
Mobogenie has some interesting features, such as a PC client, meaning you can easily transfer files back and forth between your phone, tablet, and computer. The toolkit offers all sorts of phone or tablet management options from your computer, most usefully the option to backup your device content including contacts, messages, apps, music, images, and videos. You can also batch install apps, copy/paste files, and more.
That’s subjective, of course, and thankfully, if you don’t like an aspect of the application, you can change it. The theme engine inside of Mood operates closer to that of Samsung’s own skins and themes on their devices than what we’ve properly seen from apps like Textra or QKSMS. Each theme customizes the clock font and the background behind the app, giving your app a brand-new look that changes the top portion of your home display and the colors of your conversation threads (you can change these outside of themes as well, including the bubble shape and the color of both received and sent). Themes are a cool idea, however, and a unique feature of Mood. Outside of the theme options, you can customize your emoji choice (though unfortunately, the default Android Oreo emojis aren’t available) and Droid App
If you're looking to learn another language, Duolingo gamifies language learning with bite-sized lessons and a friendly interface. Starting with simple vocabulary and building from there, Duolingo is your guide to learning a new language or brushing up on one you already know. The more you use the app, the more you unlock and—with practice—the more you learn. This free app currently supports Danish, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. Or more practical choices, like Esperanto and Klingon.
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. Droid Apps
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. New Droid Apps
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
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.

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.
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. Droid App
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.
This alternative Android app store has a global reach and a decent user base. It offers free and premium apps in various categories and they all pass through a quality control process. One of the attractions for users is availability globally and support for various payment options, including PayPal. It’s also easy to filter your searches, and you’ll find good app descriptions.
If you use Android, you have a Google Account, and that means you have access to the excellent Google Drive cloud storage service. With Drive, you can easily access synced files across all your devices no matter where you are. With the additional Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Photos apps from Google, Drive is the center of a productivity hub on your Android.
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.
If you're traveling within a major metropolitan area via either public transportation or personal vehicle, Citymapper can plan all your trip details. It has transit information for dozens of major U.S. cities and international hotspots in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Further, it offers multiple transportation options for each city, so if you feel like taking the ferry to work one morning, there's nothing stopping you. Its top features include Commute, which lets you set up your daily travel to and from work, and an alert system that uses natural language to describe service delays or cancellations.
Microsoft Edge allows you to easily sync web pages, bookmarks, and browsing history between your Android device and the Edge browser on your desktop. Top features of the mobile browser include an integrated reading view, news ratings (handled by NewsGuard), and a content blocker (powered by Adblock Plus). You can search with Bing using your voice or by selecting a photo, as well as earn points via the Microsoft Rewards program. Both Microsoft Edge's dark and light theme look elegant and are easy to navigate. Android App
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.
In addition to all the carrier support, Google has inked deals with eleven Android OEMs, including Asus, Lenovo (the company behind Motorola), Huawei, HTC, LG, and most importantly, Samsung, all agreeing to support RCS. Unfortunately. Samsung won’t be shipping their new phones with Android Messenger, but will be building the support for RCS into their own messaging client (and of course, you can always grab Android Messages from the Play Store). Finally. Microsoft has signed on to support RCS, in addition to Google. leaving Apple the major player outside the game.

For developers, it could be a good source of extra income. That said, some developers have reported huge download numbers off the back of the free app of the day promotion, but no resulting increase in sales once the promotion is over. You are also likely to do better with tablet optimized apps than smartphone apps in general, as Kindle users are the primary customers.
If you’re looking for a text messaging app that will work on nearly every platform (PC included), Pulse SMS is a great choice. You can use your phone number and text from your PC or tablet (for $0.99 per month). The app also has a conversation back-up tool and the ability to blacklist certain numbers. You can give individual conversations custom themes as well. Android App
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.

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.


Textra’s a free download, so there’s really no reason not to give this one a shot. It does feature banner ads at the bottom of the app, with the option to remove them for a one-time fee of $2.99. If you’re looking for a completely free, ad-free application, Textra might not be for you. Speaking as a long-time user of the app, however, the developer (Delicious Inc.) has done such a fantastic job of adding new features and supporting the app—not to mention replying to every user review on Google Play, positive or negative—it’s worth throwing them a few bucks without hesitation. Seriously check this one out.
invi is a good idea, with a lot of promise assuming future updates are still to happen. Unfortunately, with Google’s recently-announced Chat standard rolling out over the next year, it may also be out of date before the app can even get off the ground. There’s a lot to like about invi—overall, we found the experience of using the app positive, and some of the features promised on the app’s FAQ are exciting, including the ability to disable the “Awesome Bar,” RCS support (which would be great for the future of Android), and more customization options. Sadly, without an update in over six months, it’s unclear what the future of invi holds. It’s still a good SMS and MMS option, but its idea of a invi-to-invi future seems bleak at best. 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. New Droid Apps

Developers may find Mobogenie to be a great option for selling their apps. There’s an app review process with a snappy 24 hour turnaround, and the revenue split is an attractive 80/20. Mobogenie was originally developed in India and has a large user base there, but also supports multiple languages and could provide inroads into some markets where the Play Store isn’t so popular.

Want to keep your internet activities on the down-low, or simply don’t like the idea that the government could be spying on your every move? One of the best Android VPN apps is a great way to prevent that. ExpressVPN offers both a virtual private network, and some advanced features — such as the ability to connect to servers in more than 100 locations around the world. New Droid Apps


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
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
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.

Google Maps has been your guide for years, and this excellent app just keeps getting better. With just a few taps, Google Maps tells you exactly how to get to your destination. It even supports walking, bicycle, and mass-transit directions, as well as Uber. The app's road knowledge is so keen that it can tell you which lane to be in while using turn-by-turn directions. And because this is Google, you can easily search for locations nearby.
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. Droid App
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