The best Android apps are getting harder to find in the increasingly crowded Android Market. We’re here to help as we test and rank the top applications available for Android phones.
When T-Mobile launched the very first Android-powered handset – the G1 – back in 2008, the app library to go along with it looked like a minimart beside Apple’s Walmart. But the past few years have been kind to Google. The steady release of high-profile, high-power Android handsets have turned that initial drizzle of apps into a torrent. Though it used to be called the Android Market, the Google Play store offers applications for just about everything. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up what we think are the best Android apps in several different categories. We’ll continue to update this list periodically. Multiple members of the Digital Trends staff contributed to this compilation.
Apps that can save you money are always welcome and GasBuddy is the best app for finding cheap gas. Wherever you happen to be in the U.S. or Canada, you can fire up this app and it will provide you with a list of the gas stations in your vicinity in list or map view. All you have to do is choose the cheapest one. The app relies on an active community of users who earn points by reporting the latest prices. You can use points to win prizes like free gas.
When it comes to speed, Dolphin is comparable to Chrome. The popular Dolphin Browser has just been updated and it offers Sonar, Gesture, and Add-on support. Sonar enables you to search, share, bookmark, and navigate with voice commands. You can create gestures to access specific websites and there are 60 add-ons to choose from. It’s a solid browser with a lot to offer.
Need a fast and reliable app discovery tool? Best Apps Market is free and it features hand-picked lists and tools to organize your downloads. You’ll find independent reviews, money saving options, and easy to use filters. The Game Genome Project is set to roll into the app soon and it offers you a way to search for apps using a wide variety of filters so you can find your perfect game.
Widgetsoid allows you to create your own widgets for various phone functions. You can create a widget that will allow you to toggle your 4G antenna on and off, or create your own clock widget that can display whatever phone information you want, from battery charge to phone temperature. It’s pretty useful. There is a free and a paid version, which has some added functionality.
Created by doctors, this app is designed to give users quick and easy access to medical info as well as nearby treatment facilities. With just a few clicks, users can find the nearest medical facility based on need (emergency, urgent care, pharmacy, etc.) and quickly use built-in Google Maps to navigate to the destination. The app also features a symptom-checker, doctor directory, and information about diseases and procedures.
The default Android Web browser is fine, but if you’re on an Android 4.0 phone (or tablet), you can now download a fully operational version of Google Chrome. Simply put, it’s the best mobile browser we’ve used, with robust tab management, private browsing, and the ability to sync your tabs from your browser with your phone.
This free app is a great reader for those who like to get their daily dose of news or gossip on their Android device. Pulse lets users select up to 30 online sources to pull from, and then creates clean, magazine-like pages that feature thumbnail photos and headlines from each source. Most articles or blogs can be easily read within the app, and the sources update in a flash. It’s the perfect substitute for your morning or evening Internet scan. Add sources like CNN, Gawker, Salon, Wet Paint, MSNBC, and Mashable.
SwiftKey 3 Keyboard ($3.99)
It’s pretty universally accepted that mobile devices, while great tools for plenty of tasks, are not built for extended typing sessions. SwiftKey 3 Keyboard challenges this belief and gives the classic keyboard a run for its money. Rather than just focus on spelling or or the word that you’re currently typing, SwiftKey 3 Keyboard looks at the context of your full message and puts together the most logical predictions and corrections. Miss a space, spell a word wrong, or type the wrong usage and this app will fix it for you on the fly.
If you want a glimpse of the future with location-based push notifications then you need to check out Google’s Field Trip. It serves a stream of real-time alerts based on your current location and it pulls the information from a group of connected services. You might get historical snippets from Historvius, a restaurant recommendation from TimeOut, or a heads-up on some local music from Songkick. There are various categories and the app learns about you over time as you give the suggestion cards a thumbs up or down. It’s a great way to find out what’s going on around you, but, as with all these kinds of services, some areas are better served than others.
Calling all Xbox 360 owners — this app gives you direct control over your console from your Android smartphone. You can select content, type through your phone, and browse the web. It also allows you to use your phone as a full remote control for playing music or movies. A small selection of content offers a second screen experience so you can interact through your phone and Microsoft expects that side of it to grow as more entertainment makers see the potential.
Flipboard is one of our favorite iPad apps and has spawned a number of copycats. The basic idea here is to create a magazine-like news experience by aggregating links from your Facebook friends, the people you follow on Twitter, interests you may have (like technology), and other favorite sites, and displaying them in a fun layout where you can flip through pages of new content anytime you want. The Android app has you swipe upward to flip through pages, but the concept translates pretty well to the small screen. Check it out. It’s free.
If you’ve been on Facebook for the last year, you’ve likely seen a ton of retro-looking photos. Either they look faded out, or have any number of other effects on them. This is Instagram and iPhone users have had exclusive rights to it for quite some time. But that has changed. Instagram is now available on Android and its already one of the best looking Android apps. But hey, if you don’t download it no one is going to lose any sleep. Facebook recently bought Instagram for $1 billion.
This app from Google is frankly just really awesome. Using GPS, turn the app on while you are looking at the night sky and it will literally show you what to look for. The app depicts stars, constellations, and planets as you would see them looking directly at the night sky. Wonder what constellation those three bright stars are part of? Point your Android device in that direction and Google Sky Map will give you an answer.
If you’re part of the Pinterest brigade or you’re just curious about the craze for creating pinboards, then you should check out the Android Pinterest app. It allows you to create your own visual concept boards to gather your thoughts and plans on various topics and share them with the world. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, you can browse the creations of others, or you can use the app to organize your own finds from the web.
This simple app is a must for movie lovers, offering a clean user interface and accurate movie listings at nearby theaters, based on your current location, of course. Perhaps the best feature of this app is its integration with online movie critic Mecca Rotten Tomatoes. Users can browse what’s out in theaters, or what’s playing nearby and access the RT reviews in just one click.
Augmented reality hasn’t yet graduated to the point where we’re ready to call it downright useful, but there’s no denying the fun to be had with playing Geordi La Forge from Star Trek with Layar. It layers information in real time over images captured by your phone’s camera, like historical pictures of the city you’re in, nearby landmarks, and superimposed future buildings.
Whether you’re running, cycling, or hiking, Runkeeper is a great way to track your progress via GPS on your Android phone. You’ll get a real-time readout of the distance you’ve covered and your speed and what that means in terms of calories burned. You can also measure your heart rate, set audio cues for specific targets, and listen to music while the app runs. It goes beyond the standard social media integration to hook into more than 70 other apps and services. Forget about hiring an expensive personal trainer; just download Runkeeper.
If you’re looking for a last minute hotel then you’ll find some excellent bargains through this app. It covers most of the major U.S. cities, along with a handful of popular destinations around the world. The whole idea is same-day rooms at drastically reduced prices (up to 70 percent off). You can find detailed reviews and photographs of the hotels and book a room directly through the app. It’s a great option for city-hopping travelers.
he best antivirus and anti-theft app for Android is completely free. Since we took a look at it in our roundup of the best Android security apps, it has actually been improved with a host of new online tools. The detection rate for malware is second to none and the anti-theft tools surpass what you’ll find in many premium apps. You’ll find some peace of mind with this app installed.
There are a lot of task managers and list apps, but Out of Milk seems to be a particularly nice one. It lets you store your lists and to-dos on the net so you can access them from the Web and is especially good for organizing what food items you already have and what you need to buy. The free version of the app has most features, but if you’re willing to cough up a $5, the premium version lets you customize the experience and use the sync features and widgets as well as manage coupons and some other items.
We now have an Android app from one of the best flight-search websites on the web. Just like the website, the app lets you search multiple airlines and deal websites for the best price on a flight. The app also lets you book travel, find hotel or car rental deals, and track the status of your flight. If you’re ever stuck in an airport and just found out your flight was cancelled, this handy app might be the fastest and cheapest way to book a new one.
This app is essentially a mobile version of the online financial planning website Mint, which can keep track of multiple bank accounts or credit cards to help you stay on budget. The app automatically updates information from your accounts and has tools like budgets for different spending categories and alerts that will tell you when you’ve gone over a specified budget for the month. The app has a helpful visual interface that makes dealing with your finances as simple as possible.
For those who use Dropbox on their desktops already, this app performs pretty much the same function on your phone. With Dropbox, users can upload or download files to their accounts without carrying around a pesky flash drive at all times. The download and upload speeds are quick on 3G, and the app includes several sharing options for files that you have downloaded. This makes for easy transference of files to and from your computer and your Android device.
Travel is complicated. Between flight confirmation numbers, hotel addresses and phone numbers for all of the above, staying organized can entail a hefty wad of paper in your carryon and a lot of wasted time leafing through it all. TripIt stores all your pertinent trip information in a neatly organized form, and can even generate itineraries automatically by e-mailing it confirmations from different travel organizations.
A simple outstretched hand will do the trick in midtown Manhattan, but if you’re looking for a cab in less frequented places around the world, Cab4Me will bring them to your feet with the press of a button. By locating you with GPS, it only lists cab companies that service the area you’re in, and even shows details like how many cabs they have available and what forms of payment they’ll accept.
Who says that watching TV is a waste of time? With Viggle you can justify all those hours in front of the box because you can earn rewards for checking in while watching TV shows. The app identifies what you’re watching and rewards you with vouchers for brands like Best Buy and Burger King. If you’re feeling generous you can opt to convert them to charitable donations instead. Viggle is also a second screen app with interactive polls, show information, and extra related content.
This app is fantastic and it’s well worth splashing out a buck for the pro version. It offers more than 70,000 radio stations and over 2 million on-demand programs. Whether you want to listen to the big game, tune in to a political debate, or dance to some rock music, you’re covered. The pro version even lets you pause, record, and rewind live radio. You can choose presets, use it as an alarm, and search for a specific song or artist to find a radio station that has what you’re craving right now.
Tracking your favorite TV shows couldn’t be easier with SeriesGuide Show Manager. You can check up on full episode guides and get those all-important updates on when your favorite TV shows are next due to air on U.S. channels. There’s even a nifty widget that lets you check up on upcoming episodes and displays the episode number and name alongside the time and channel that it will be on.
If you don’t have a Netflix account, this app won’t pertain to you much, but since that seems to be a minority of folks these days, we’ve added the movie-and-television giant to our list. Users can manage accounts, add items to a queue, or stream shows or movies that are available via Instant Watch. Streaming can be a bit much for the 3G connection we were working with, but if you have a Wi-Fi connection you shouldn’t have any problems. With a good connection and a device with a good-size screen, you’ll have a pretty solid streaming experience.
If you are an HBO subscriber, the HBO GO app is essential. Not only are you able to watch the latest episodes of your favorite shows, but you can also watch the entire back library of HBO content. You can catch up on your favorite show before the next season premier.
If you don’t have a Kindle, fret not. Amazon would still like to sell you books through your Android device. Download the app and you can browse and buy from over 900,000 books in the store. Perhaps the best feature, however, is that the app will automatically sync your last read page, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across devices. If you do have a Kindle, this means that you can seamlessly transition from your reader to your phone if you want to carry a lighter load that day.
We’ve all had that moment where a song is stuck on repeat in your head but you have no clue what its title is or who sings it. SoundHound is the cure to those infectious unknown jams. Sing into your Android device or tap out the beat and SoundHound will search its huge database to match up the music that is on your mind. From the tip of your tongue to the tip of your finger tips, SoundHound is the ultimate device for identifying music.
Our favorite streaming music app for every platform delivers customizable radio complete with album art and a rating system that lets you fine tune every station to your liking. Unlike the iPhone version, the Android version also lets you multitask while you listen.
Depending on your TV and/or Internet provider, this handy app will let you stream ESPN networks directly through your phone. This app won’t work for everyone, but those who can get it to work will no doubt love being able to stream ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and ESPNU through their Android devices. For it to work, you must have cable with Brighthouse Networks, Time Warner Cable, or Verizon FiOS TV; Comcast is notably not included. If you don’t have TV with those networks but have Verizon FiOS Internet, you’ll have access to ESPN3 only. With access, users can live stream all the important sports games of the year plus watch live analysis on shows like SportsCenter, Mike & Mike, and SportsNation.
The Spofity Android apps allows premium Spotify users to take their streaming experience on the road. You can stream any music from the service including your own playlists, but if you are worried about using up too much data, you can also make them available offline, allowing you to listen to them without needing an Internet connection.