Best free Android apps
You’ve got an Android device, either because you didn’t want, or couldn’t afford, an iPhone – and in years past that meant you had to live with substandard apps. Thankfully, those days are well and truly over, with reams of great little programs standing toe to toe with the best Apple’s App Store has to offer.
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Admittedly, the huge quantity of apps doesn’t mean they’re all quality – far from it in fact. To make sure you never install a duff app here’s our selection of the best you should install right now – each one carefully chosen to ensure you’ll have a whole suite of fun, engaging and, dammit, useful apps on your phone or tablet.
Best messenger apps for Android
Studies have shown that smartphone users message each other back and forth much more than they make calls. Users need a good messenger app. It’s a big choice, so here are two of our favorites.
WhatsApp, the ubiquitous chat app, has been installed on over one billion smartphones. And it’s always improving user experience, adding new features and becoming more secure. What makes it number one? Everyone uses it, simple as that. If you already use WhatsApp, then you should check out our favorite WhatsApp tips and tricks.
No messaging app comes close to the number of users WhatsApp has, but there are some great alternatives out there. Telegram is one of them. The free app has end-to-end encryption, does group chats and is a pioneer of chatbots. Unlike some other messengers, you can use it on multiple devices. Read our full review of Telegram.
In light of the turn ES File Explorer has taken, we’ve tested out a few alternatives in search of a replacement. One app we’ve settled on is Solid Explorer. It’s feature-rich and highly accessible thanks to a crisp Material Design UI. It also houses a very handy double-panel display that lets you navigate to two separate folders and drag a file across from one to the other. Integration with cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive, as well as FTP servers, make it a formidable all-in-one solution for managing your files.
Some of its other features include hidden folders, ZIP and RAR archive extraction, and customization through icons, color schemes and themes. The app is free to try out for two weeks, and then you have the option to pay $2, so you’ve nothing to lose by trying it out and seeing what you think.
Amaze File Manager
The Amaze File Manager is free and easy it use. It has all the basic features you’d expect: quick access to files, deleting, copying, moving, etc. Unfortunately, you can’t access data on your MicroSD card through the drop down menu, you must use the file tree. Amaze doesn’t support cloud storage.
When looking in individual folders, you can toggle between list and table view. Amaze can create thumbnails for many file formats, but not for PDFs.
This keyboard is one of the best for fast, accurate typing and it’s our new company favorite. Many of us have adopted Fleksy because it’s big, it’s clever and once you use it for a couple of hours, you realize how useful some of the smaller details are.
For example, most keyboards use a “press and hold delete key” gesture to delete words, Fleksy uses a super-quick backward swipe. Be sure check out some of the extensions like invisible keyboard too — it works surprisingly well. Download it from the Play Store for free now.
Whoever is looking for a very special virtual keyboard for Android will find one here. SwiftKey works wonderfully with tablets, and if you simply want a good Android keyboard, it offers intuitive operation, very good spell check and word recognition.
There are plenty of weather apps available that are more accurate and better looking than the ones that come pre-installed on your Android device.
MORECAST is our current favorite weather app here at AndroidPIT because it has one of the best-looking interfaces, with a clear and sensible layout. It’s also one of the most advanced apps of its kind, featuring such options as side-by-side weather comparisons for two cities, and accurate weather information for a particular route or journey. MORECAST is the right way to make a smartphone weather app, and best of all, it’s free.
Apart from the obvious Google Maps, this is one of the very best. HERE is Nokia’s own map app, which it used on its devices once upon a time. It provides everything you’d expect, including turn-by-turn navigation, search and satellite imagery, but the main draw is its offline feature. You can download maps of entire countries and use them almost exactly as you would online, without wasting precious MBs.
This is really an indispensable app if you travel a lot or frequently find your data usage going over the limit. The only downside is that you have to register to download maps, but it’s totally free, and once you’ve done it, you can go nuts and download the world.
PhotoDirector is the whole package. It has everything you could possibly need to edit your photos. The tools range from simple text bubbles and filters, to more complex things such as HSL and curves, and they’re all heavily adjustable, helping you get the best out of your photos. It’s for messing around on and seeing what you end up with.
The app is developed by CyberLink, a large Taiwanese multimedia software company, so they have the money to splash on an app, and it shows. Highly recommended for novices and pros-on-the-go alike.
Watching TV and movies
Hulu is an excellent app for watching movies and TV shows on Android. It’s a free service that relies on ads, but there are some great shows available. You need to pay a subscription fee to access all of the content, but there is a range of excellent shows available without subscription, including classic US comedies such as Family Guy, Seinfeld and South Park.
It’s currently restricted to the US, but hopefully we’ll see Hulu appearing in more territories soon.
Downloading free music
Google Play Music is our favorite app for downloading free music right now. Though there are many music download apps available in the Play Store, they are often quickly removed because of their copyright-impinging functionality. Google Play Music provides you with a totally legit, ever-changing list of free tracks from major artists to download.
Spotify has an excellent paid subscription service, and SoundCloud has a multitude of tracks readily available to stream, but for actually downloading tracks to your phone, Google Play Music is as good as you can get.
Alternatively, head to the link below for some less common free music downloading apps.
Best music player
The Walkman and the iPod are as good as dead, because our smartphones have taken over as powerful music players. While the default music apps on your Android device probably do a fine job, if you want to crank up the bass or other aspects of your music, you’ll need something more.
One of the best music player apps for Android is Poweramp. It’s a great way to enjoy your favorite music, with a ton of options and support for almost any type of file. You can’t go wrong with Poweramp.
Manually typing passwords takes a lot of time and remembering them all is difficult. Everybody has forgotten a password or two at some point in their lives. Enter Dashlane, the app which saves all of them so you can easily copy and paste these into online forms when necessary.
A common concern with password manager apps is whether you can trust their security service. Dashlane uses encrypted codes and regularly monitors them to ensure you have peace of mind.
What’s more, Dashlane streamlines and secures other types of data used in online forms, like credit card information. You can save financial details and quickly copy them onto your online shopping portal of choice. And it automatically saves the receipts of all your purchases so you can track your spending.
Best cloud storage app
Obviously, the whole Google Apps suite is essential to office productivity. And, cloud storage is so commonplace now that its name doesn’t sound quite as mystical and ethereal as it did a few years ago. That doesn’t make it any less useful, as storing your personal data online is – for the most part – much safer than keeping it on a fragile old hard drive.
We’re prepared to accept accusations of bias here, as our favorite cloud storage app is Google Drive. It’s baked into most Android devices, Google is always giving extra GBs of storage space away for free, and it’s synced up with the handy Google Docs office suite. It’s the undisputed champ.
Mobile Security & Antivirus from Avast
Android security is a contentious subject and arguments about the safety of the system crop up frequently. If you are in the market for an antivirus app, our current favorite is Mobile Security & Antivirus from Avast.
Mobile Security & Antivirus keeps you safe from malware threats with its excellent virus detection software, which can search through your browser history, microSD card, and internal storage space. What’s more, it employs anti-theft features such as location tracking and remote data wipe, which work even if your device is not currently in your possession.
As far as free mobile security is concerned, Avast’s app is about as comprehensive as it gets.
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Action Launcher 3
Launchers offer a simple way to customize the look and feel of your Android phone. They often combine new icons, a new app drawer layout, a new homescreen and new wallpaper to make your device fit a certain style or theme.
You have to try them out to appreciate how fun they can be and the one we recommend right now is Action Launcher 3. This is an excellent introduction to launchers because it provides clear and intuitive interface changes without adding so many that it becomes off-putting.
With Action Launcher 3 you can perform simple tweaks such as changing the app drawer layout, changing app icons, and even altering the way you use your homescreen folders. It offers genuinely useful interface improvements and it’s free; download it from the link below.
iOS is a fierce rival to Android and offers a range of great apps and features, but it doesn’t offer everything that Android does. Nova Launcher is one of our favorite Android-exclusive apps because, in many ways, it underlines what is so great about Android.
Nova is an alternative launcher compatible with Android 4.1 onward. It lets you customize the entire look and feel of your operating system, from changes to font size, to the number of apps that can appear on the lock screen, to the way in which your app drawer scrolls. Nova Launcher is a prime example of how Android can be molded to suit individual tastes and preferences, in a way that iOS cannot.
If you wish you could make a few simple changes to your current interface, then give the free version of Nova a try. Nova even lets you adopt the look of any other phone – Galaxy, Xperia, HTC, LG, even iOS if that’s your thing.
Next Lock Screen
Lock screen apps are awesome – you can do things on your smartphone or tablet without even having to unlock it. From checking notifications, calendar reminders, music controls, missed calls, Quick Settings and more, Next Lock Screen lets you take control of your locked phone. Next will even suggest apps based on your location.