ExpressVPN is one of the most trusted, secure brands in the virtual private network industry, and that’s for good reason. It’s super fast and extremely safe, boasting an SSL-secured network with 256-bit encryption and, get this, unlimited bandwidth and speed. ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries (including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and others) in over 145 locations around the world, so there will always be a locatoin near you to give you the best experience possible. What’s more, the service even has stealth servers in Hong Kong. They are to evade the GFW specifically. It doesn’t even look like you’re using a VPN!
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.
Presenting your iOS-diehard friends the same question will likely result in the same amount of varied answers, but more than anything, you’ll likely hear the same word repeated time and time again: iMessage. Apple’s messaging app is exclusive to their own devices running iOS or MacOS, and it’s one of the most popular instant messaging clients in the world today, particularly in North America. While Android has no shortage of messaging clients, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Google’s own Allo chat service, there’s no doubt that iMessage is one of the best messaging experiences you can have on the market today, and people are naturally drawn to the app like a social network.
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
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
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.
Otter is an innovative automatic recording and transcription service that works in real time. Simply hit the record button during a conversation or meeting and Otter will produce a usable transcript a few minutes later. Otter's app is fluid, well-designed, and quick in operation, which makes it ideal for students and professionals who rely on their mobile devices for their work. The app also integrates other top-notch features such as cross-conversation speaker identification, excellent search tools, and in-app editing of transcripts.
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
Microsoft Launcher replaces the company's Arrow Launcher and takes on a Windows 10-style transparency. It replaces Google Now with a useful and customizable feed for quick access to recent apps, events, and frequently contacted people. The main app list can be organized horizontally or vertically and includes an elegant alphabetical scrollbar for reaching apps quickly. Performance is just as smooth as the stock Pixel Launcher and it doesn't affect the use of Google Assistant, though of course, Cortana would feel more at home as your voice assistant.
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.
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.
Pulse isn’t the first application on Android to bill itself as an alternative to iMessage developed for Android. In fact, it’s not even the only application on this list to use “iMessage for Android” as a selling point. It’s also a bit of an unfair comparison, because there is no true iMessage competitor on Android right now. On a technical level, what iMessage offers users on iOS can only be done by companies at the size and scale of Apple, and even Google’s upcoming Chat standard isn’t quite what iMessage is when it comes to security. Putting aside that banner for a moment, Pulse actually is a good SMS application, that may just happen to be overselling itself in the process to make it something it isn’t.
Otter is an innovative automatic recording and transcription service that works in real time. Simply hit the record button during a conversation or meeting and Otter will produce a usable transcript a few minutes later. Otter's app is fluid, well-designed, and quick in operation, which makes it ideal for students and professionals who rely on their mobile devices for their work. The app also integrates other top-notch features such as cross-conversation speaker identification, excellent search tools, and in-app editing of transcripts. Droid App
There are a ton of great SMS apps. However, two stand above the rest. They are Pulse SMS and Android Messages. Pulse SMS features theming, GIF support, password protected conversations, a blacklist for spammers, dual-SIM support, and more. Android Messages is a little more basic but it’s simple and it gets the job done. Both of these apps also offer SMS messaging from your desktop. Pulse charges either a monthly subscription or a single $10.99 charge while Android Messages is free. Pulse SMS uses a server structure while Android Messages live streams your messages. Both methods have their pros and cons, but they’re both still excellent options. These are the SMS apps we’d recommend to everybody. Those who don’t care about texting from a computer can still use these and people seem to like Textra a lot as well.
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
Google Opinion Rewards is appropriately named. Google sends you surveys that ask you about places you've visited recently and you get Google Play Store credit for your participation. Polls don't come in very often, but you can increase your chances of receiving more, by enabling your location and answering surveys quickly and honestly when they do arrive. It's not going to earn you a ton of store credit, but it's enough to purchase an app or an album every so often. To add some perspective, one of our editors has earned about $64 since installing the app in late 2013.
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
Privacy stalwarts rejoice! Tor now has an official (and modern-looking) Android app. The Tor project operates under the principle that "internet users should have private access to an uncensored web." Make sure to read the overview of how Tor works before you start using it, as it addresses specific types of privacy threats (and does so very well). The Tor browser may perform more slowly than other browsers, given its complicated inner workings, but that drawback should be negligible for the users who appreciate and rely on its protections.
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
Still, it’s not perfect. Textto had a few small quirks that made it a bit of a frustrating experience. Like many apps that run in the background, Textto requires a dedicated notification to always run in the background. Annoyingly, this means that you can’t get rid of the notification from your tray. While Android does have the ability to disable notifications on a per app basis, as soon as you trigger this setting, Textto set off the battery monitor on our test Pixel 2 XL, constantly showing a “This app is using battery” notification. It was frustrating, to say the least. Textto also seemed to have a bit of a slow response at some times when texting from the web, taking up to twenty seconds in our tests to send the message. And as with using Google Assistant to send texts, you won’t get any sent receipts from messages sent from the web client on Textto. Android App
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
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. Android App
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. Droid App
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.
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
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
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. Droid Apps
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. Android App
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
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.
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. New Droid Apps
Kaspersky for Android bundles on-demand malware scans and active web protection. Additionally, it implements a host of anti-theft features including remote locate, lock and wipe, as well as the ability to sound an alarm. You can even lock apps behind a PIN as an extra preventative measure in case your phone gets stolen. Although you need a paid Kaspersky Internet Security subscription to use all its features, some basic functionality is available for free. It's a top choice for Android antivirus apps.
invi gets a lot right, starting with its visual design. It isn’t quite as striking as apps like Messages, Textra, or QKSMS, but it looks good. The inbox display is clean and clear, using the basic design we saw from both of our top picks, and the conversation display is solid, albeit with two nitpicks. The first is minor; each conversation display has a background with visual elements that, while it doesn’t look bad, is a little busy as far as design goes. You can disable it though, and some of the backdrop choices actually look pretty clean. Ultimately, it’s up for you to decide what you like most in an application.
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
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