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Best free Android apps

It's been ten years since Android was first outed by Google, and back then it was hard to imagine the sheer number of apps we'd have today.

There are apps for everything, and many of them are completely free, meaning you're just a few downloads away from supercharging your smartphone at no extra cost.

  • What's the best phone of 2018?

Admittedly, the huge quantity of apps doesn't mean they're all quality - far from it in fact, and finding the good ones can be tough. 

There are tools and techniques to help, with various lists in the Play Store providing you with Editor's Picks across a range of categories, new releases and even apps that are specifically recommended for you based on your previous installs.

You can also hunt out apps that are similar to your favorites by searching for an app you have and seeing what else comes up.

And checking out user reviews and ratings can save you from downloading a dud of an app.

But even with all that, the sheer number of apps on Google Play means many of the best can often get lost, while weaker ones sometimes rise to the top.

So 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.

New this week: Loffee

If you like to have relaxed background music on while working, reading or anything else, then Loffee is definitely worth a download.

The app contains a handful of curated playlists, all featuring lo-fi music that’s ideal for relaxing to or having on while you do something else.

To our mind, the music choices are great, as well as often featuring little known bands and artists, so you’re sure to find things that you like and haven’t heard before.

If you do, you can follow links to the artist’s Facebook, SoundCloud, Twitter and Instagram pages, while other tools in the app include a timer (which shuts the music off when it finishes counting down), and the ability to listen to songs offline.

The Loffee app itself is also something you’ll want to spend time in, as each playlist has a custom illustration that’s almost as soothing as the music. You can’t cast music to other devices and the actual selection of songs is small, so this won’t replace your main music apps, but it could definitely complement them.

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New this week: Google Lens

Your phone might already have Google Lens built in, but if not you can now download it from the Play Store, and that’s worth doing.

Once you’ve launched the app you can point your camera at almost anything and get information on it. Point it at a book and it will give you links to reviews of the book and places to buy it. Other products also produce store links, or if Google Lens can’t definitively identify something it will suggest similar products.

You can also point it at a landmark to get information on it, at foreign text to translate it or at an event to add it to your calendar. You can even point it at plants or animals to identify them.

The results aren’t perfect. In our experience Google Lens will regularly incorrectly identify something or fail to come up with any suggestions for what something might be, especially with more unusual items, but it works often enough to be genuinely useful, especially once you get used to the kinds of things it’s likely to work with – so you know whether to even bother booting it up.

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Starling Bank

Starling Bank is more than just an app. In fact, it’s a bank account, but it’s a modern one that’s entirely app-based. That means there are no branches and there’s no web access.

That could sound daunting, if the prospect of changing bank account isn’t already off-putting enough, but in fact having everything in an app keeps things simple, and there are some powerful tools here not offered by most conventional banks.

For example, it has zero ATM withdrawal fees or transaction fees when using your card abroad, it lets you temporarily or permanently lock your card in-app, and you can enable or disable contactless payments, ATM withdrawals and online payments, for extra security.

You can also send in-app requests to friends and family who owe you money (and who don’t need Starling themselves to pay you back), receive instant notifications for income and outgoings, and a whole lot more.

As for changing your bank to take advantage of all this, well, you don’t necessarily have to. After all, there’s no real downside to having two bank accounts, but if you do decide you want to go all-in with Starling Bank that’s simple too, as there’s an account switching service that does all the hard work for you.

This one’s for UK users only, but there are similar app-based banks elsewhere, such as Simple in the US.

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Today in History

Today in History is exactly what it says on the tin, telling you what happened today in history, and as it turns out there’s usually a lot that happened.

The Today in History app will tell you about events, births, deaths, holidays and just about everything else significant that ever happened on the current day, and it includes pictures, text and links to Wikipedia articles (which is where it pulls its data from).

It’s an attractive app and even better if you use the widget, which shows you events from this day in history on your home screen.

Today in History also lets you download content for offline use, get notifications and – for anyone who’s not a native English speaker – switch to one of 50 different languages, a switch which cleverly will also affect the events you see, with those relevant to the culture associated with that language being prioritized.

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Google News

Google News replaces Google Play Newsstand, and it’s a strong substitute. Throughout the day it will highlight the top five current stories that it thinks you’ll care about, based on the sources and topics that you tell the app you like, but if you keep scrolling down you can also see other news.

The best bit about Google News though, might be the option to see ‘perspectives and context’. It’s a little button next to stories, which when tapped shows the same story as reported by various different sites and inevitably from various different perspectives, including some that you might never find on your own.

As such it can give you a more rounded look at the news than you’d get if you’re always just using your preferred news source.

Other features of Google News include the ability to filter headlines by subject or source, and subscribe to paid news sources with a single tap.

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Pet’s Diary

Pet’s Diary is a fairly simple but potentially very useful app for keeping track of when your pet needs feeding, cleaning, walking or whatever else.

Essentially, it’s like a calendar or to-do list, where you can set up events and reminders, but they’re all focused on your pet, and if you have more than one pet you can set up individual profiles for each, where you can see every upcoming event and reminder, as well as previous ones.

You can also add comments to each reminder, as well as assigning a category, such as ‘food’ or ‘veterinary care’.

Pet’s Diary is probably most useful if you have a high-maintenance pet or multiple pets with their own schedules and needs, but if you ever find yourself putting pet-related things in your calendar, or forgetting to do them, then it’s definitely worth having.

The core app is free, but for US.99/£3.99 you can unlock the pro version, which removes adverts and lets you create an unlimited number of pet profiles, among other things.

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Bring! Grocery Shopping List

If more than one person in your household buys groceries, then Bring! is an app that you should really look into.

It’s a grocery list app, as you might have surmised, but it lets you share and collaborate on lists, so everyone who might buy something can see the current list, and anyone else in the household can see it and add to it. Whenever someone does buy things from the list they can tick them off with a tap, so there’s no danger of the same thing being bought twice.

Bring! also lets you add photos to each entry, which is handy if you want to add something very specific, such as a certain brand of item, or if you just want to add some color to the list. But Bring! also has its own database, with images for hundreds of items.

You can create and share multiple lists if, for example, you have a general grocery list and another one for a party. There’s even a recipe section, designed to inspire you to cook, and making it easy to add all the ingredients to your shopping list.

Technically there’s no reason you couldn’t use Bring! for other types of shopping lists as well, or even for to-do lists, but it’s designed for – and excels at – groceries.

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Signal Private Messenger

Privacy is increasingly hard to come by, especially if you live much of your life online, but Signal Private Messenger can at least ensure no one snoops on your messages.

The app uses your normal phone number and address book, so as with WhatsApp, you don’t need to set up a separate account or anything, making it convenient to use.

Signal is more secure than WhatsApp or most other messaging apps. Not only does it use advanced end-to-end encryption, but it’s also open source, meaning anyone can audit the code to verify how secure it is.

Signal lets you set messages to delete anywhere from five seconds to one week after they’ve been seen – or you can have them remain forever if you’d prefer.

The app also promises that its server never has access to your messages or any other data, plus it offers password or fingerprint protection and it’s not light on general messaging features, as it also supports group chats, voice calls and attachments.

In all, it’s a decent enough messaging app that it could be a strong choice even if privacy and security are only of secondary concern.

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Steam Link

Steam Link allows you to stream your Steam games from your PC to your Android phone or tablet, so you can play them from anywhere in your house.

You are limited to your house though, as your computer needs to be on and using the same Wi-Fi network as your Android device for this to work. No Steam streaming on the train, then, but it’s quite freeing if you’re usually tethered to a desk.

You also need a fairly fast and stable internet connection and most games will need you to pair your phone with a Bluetooth controller, though some simpler ones can be controlled purely touchscreen.

Still, if you’re big on gaming but wish you could play your ‘proper’ PC games from the couch, bed or bath, then Steam Link is well worth trying.

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Neverthink

Neverthink is an app that aims to give you interesting things to watch, without you ever having to think or decide on them for yourself.

All you actually have to decide is the general category of content you’re in the mood for, be it learning something new, comedy, news, food videos, or one of dozens of other categories.

Once you’ve selected one a relevant video starts playing. These are sourced from the internet and it’s all subscription-free stuff that you could find yourself, except now you don’t have to.

There’s Chromecast support, and if you see something you like you can favorite it to return to later, and that’s about it.

It’s worth noting also that the content is all hand-picked by actual people. There aren’t any algorithms here, and Neverthink promises that hours of new content is added every day, so there should always be so  mething to watch.

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Ventusky: Weather Maps

There’s a lot more to the weather than you’ll generally see in a typical forecast, and it can be a lot more interesting – and beautiful – than a simple temperature reading.

Ventusky knows this, as it makes forecasts more engaging by including an attractive weather map and wind animation, complete with the current temperature shown on the map, so you can see exactly which areas are what temperature at a glance.

Hourly forecasts let you see how the weather will change over the day and tapping on any hour or day will adjust the weather map accordingly.

You can also view weekly charts of the temperature, precipitation and wind, so you can see how much it varies over time.

Sunrise and sunset times are also available, so there’s a lot to sink your teeth into, but really Ventusky is all about that weather map and wind animation, which shows the motion and direction of the wind in a mesmerizing way.

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ChefsFeed

From the name you might think ChefsFeed is a recipe app, or maybe a social network for chefs, but while there’s an element of both it’s so much more than that.

ChefsFeed, really, is for anyone who loves food. It has articles and videos about food and restaurants, and yes, some recipes, but most of it’s not so much about cooking your own dishes as it is about food culture, with articles titled ‘why restaurants are a refuge for the restless’, and ‘sourcing sustainably is a way of life’, for example.

The app also helps you find new places to dine out, with a section highlighting interesting and recommended restaurants near you, complete with their opening hours and contact details.

You can filter these suggestions by price, distance and type of food, among other things, and save your favorites, so you’ll never forget a place you planned to try.

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SketchBook

SketchBook isn’t a new app, but while many of the features used to cost money, it’s now completely free, making it worth revisiting.

The features that are now free include more than 130 brush presets, customizable canvas sizes, various rulers, high quality image imports and more.

And that’s on top of all the basic tools that were already free, such as a layer editor and pen mode, all of which combine to make this one of the most generous free sketching apps available on Android.

Coming from Autodesk, the power of SketchBook should come as no surprise, but it’s an app that seemed worth the money previously and is now utterly essential if you’ve even toyed with the idea of digital sketching.

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Facebook Local

Facebook Local is all about finding events and attractions nearby. It links to your Facebook account then shows a bunch of events listed on Facebook that are near your current or home location, or another place of your choice.

Some of these will be from friends and pages that you follow, but it will also dig up other local public events, so you’re likely to discover things that you wouldn’t have found on your main Facebook feed.

You can filter events and attraction by type, date, location or time, view them on a map and add them to your Facebook calendar, so it’s simple to control what you see and keep track of what you’re interested in. You can also add your phone calendar to the app, so you can see and manage everything in one place.

More or less all of this stuff can be found on Facebook itself, but Facebook Local is a much more focused way to find out what’s going on around you, without all of Facebook’s many distractions, so it’s worth having on your phone even if you already have the main Facebook app.

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Bitmoji

Ever wanted your own custom emoji and stickers that star you, rather than a generic face? Then you should definitely download Bitmoji .

This lets you recreate your likeness in cartoon form, with loads of tools available to make the look as perfect as possible. Then you can choose an outfit and get access to dozens if not hundreds of stickers, each of which feature you.

These can be shared to various chat and social apps, but Bitmoji has deeper integration with Gboard, letting you share its stickers direct from the keyboard. It can also be linked to your Snapchat account, making your Bitmoji your Snapchat avatar.

You can alter the look of your Bitmoji at any time, so if you change your own hairstyle you can change theirs to match, or just give them a new outfit, and new stickers and customization options are being added over time, so you shouldn’t get bored.

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Opera Touch

Opera Touch is a browser that’s designed to be used with one hand, with a ‘Fast Action Button’ that’s always visible and easy to reach at the bottom of the screen. Tapping it launches you straight into a web search, where you can type or speak your query.

There’s even a barcode scanner here, so you can quickly look items up online without having to type their names.

Gesture controls ensure you can navigate the rest of the interface with one hand, letting you switch to recent tabs, reload or close the current page or send it to your computer.

That last one is powered by Opera Flow, which lets you share links, videos and the like between your phone and computer with a single tap or click – though of course to enable this you’ll also need to be running Opera on your PC.

Opera Touch is also fairly secure, with features such as an ad blocker and even cryptocurrency mining protection, which reduces the risk of malicious sites using your phone to mine cryptocurrency in the background – an act that can drain your battery or even cause your phone to overheat.

There are some missing features, most notably private browsing and a desktop mode. Hopefully they’ll be added at some point, but considering Touch’s focus on simplicity, they might not.

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Grasshopper

Learning to code isn’t easy, but learning the basics is easier in recent years than it ever used to be, and that’s partially because apps like Grasshopper exist, guiding you through the first steps (of JavaScript, in this case) with exercises and quizzes.

The exercises are often presented a bit like puzzles. For example, very early examples task you with completing flags of countries by selecting the right code in the right order. This can feel almost like a game, and is engaging and enjoyable as a result.

Achievements can be gained to further motivate you, and while the app will never make you an expert it does aim to leave you with fundamental JavaScript skills, so you’re ready to take on something more advanced.

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Ecosia Browser

You probably didn’t realize that you can save the world while browsing the net, but you can make a small difference by using Ecosia Browser , which uses its ad revenue to plant trees.

Ecosia has already planted over 26 million trees thanks to its users, and for roughly every 45 searches you make another one will be planted.

Beyond its environmental credentials, Ecosia is also a very competent browser. It’s based on Chromium so the look and feel is a lot like that of Google Chrome, meaning it’s likely to be familiar to you.

It supports tabs, private browsing and bookmarks, lets you view your history, allows autofill of forms and has various privacy controls, so you don’t have to sacrifice a feature-packed browsing experience to help the Earth.

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PhotoDirector

PhotoDirector is one of the more powerful and polished photo editing apps available on Android. It’s got you covered for fun filters, frames and effects, but it gives you more control than some of its peers. For example, you can adjust the strength of effects and choose to apply them globally or selectively.

You get a lot of control over the core image too, as you can adjust the white balance, saturation, hue, sharpness, tone and more.

You can also rotate, crop or mirror the image, cut out sections, adjust the perspective, and if you’ve taken a portrait remove red-eye. There’s more here, too much to list, but suffice it to say, PhotoDirector is a comprehensive app.

You’re not limited to just editing photos you’ve already taken either; there’s also a camera component, allowing you to take new shots and see how effects and filters will look before you’ve even taken a picture.

PhotoDirector is free to download and use. There’s an optional subscription for £2.59 (around US.70) per month if you want to unlock additional tools, remove adverts and improve the output quality, but the core app is already far more generous than most free offerings.

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Seven – 7 Minute Workout Training Challenge

Seven – 7 Minute Workout Training Challenge promises to get you fit in just seven minutes a day, and while a longer workout might do you more good, we can’t deny that this got our hearts racing.

There’s a wide variety of exercises and workouts, with an animated man or woman showing you how to do each one, along with an optional text explanation.

So far, so standard, but Seven also doles out achievements, lets you add friends for some friendly competition and has specific training plans for different goals. For example, if you tell the app you want to lose weight, it will give you different workouts to if you want to increase your mobility.

The exercises in Seven don’t require any equipment, so you can do them from home or even your office if you have a bit of space, and you can create your own workouts too if there are specific exercises that you like.

Seven is partially free, but there’s an optional US.99/£9.99 monthly subscription which unlocks additional workouts, exercises and personalized workout plans. If you like the free version, it could be worth considering.

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ESPN

ESPN has all the sporting news and scores you need (probably) all in one place. While not all sports are covered by the app, many are, including soccer, golf, tennis, basketball, F1, baseball and loads more, and you can select your favorite teams and leagues to have them highlighted by the app.

You can see the latest scores, any breaking news, and drill down into more detailed stats for specific players, teams and games.

There’s also video content, usually surrounding the latest news and results, which you can cast to a big screen.

You can get push notifications sent to your device too, so you’re always up to date on the latest goals and wins.

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Drum Pads – Beat Maker Go

Drum Pads – Beat Maker Go is a drum machine which lets you easily make beats on the go. There are numerous sound packs split across various genres, such as dubstep, EDM and hip-hop, and once you select one you can get tapping on the drum pad.

There are various effects that you can apply to your track, such as distortion and delay, you can create loops and save your finished pieces, then share them with friends.

Drum Pads is accessible enough that beginners should be able to have fun with it (though some trial and error will be required), but there’s enough here to appeal to more advanced users too.

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Otter Voice Notes

Otter Voice Notes is a voice recorder, but that’s just the beginning. It also uses AI to automatically turn the recordings into written text so you can read them back rather than having to listen to them.

The app also lets you search for keywords, so you can find exactly the piece of information you’re looking for in seconds, even in long recordings. This all makes it a great tool for recording meetings, lectures and the like, especially since Otter can be trained to recognize voices and you can tag who’s talking, so that even in text form you can see the true flow of a conversation.

You can also create groups with other Otter users if you want to share recordings, and all of your recordings are saved in the cloud so you can access them anywhere and don’t have to store them on your Android device.

The text transcription isn’t perfect (though Otter claims it will get better over time if it’s you talking, as it gets to know your voice better), but it’s reasonably accurate in our experience and you can always go in and make changes to the text manually.

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Just a Line

Just a Line is a simple example of the creative potential offered by AR (augmented reality). It lets you view the world through your phone camera and draw on scenes by touching the screen.

You can see your drawings from multiple angles as you move the phone around, and you can film your creations to save them or share them with others.

There’s not a whole lot more to it than that, and Google (which built the app) describes Just a Line as an experiment, so you should go in expecting a curiosity rather than a full-featured app, but it’s a fun introduction to AR that can be enjoyed by all ages.

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Facebook Lite

If your phone battery isn’t lasting as long as you’d like then deleting Facebook could help, as the app tends to use a lot of life, but what to do if you also want to keep using Facebook on your phone? Get Facebook Lite .

This is a lightweight version of the Facebook app, with most of the core features, including your timeline, the ability to post status updates and photos, comments, events, notifications and more, but it uses a lot less power and a lot less data.

Facebook Lite also works even if you only have a 2G connection, so you’ll be able to use Facebook in places that you wouldn’t have been able to before, and it takes up less space on your phone.

The main downside to it is that the interface is much less attractive than on the standard Facebook app, but if you can get used to that it could be a worthy replacement.

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RememBear

RememBear is a simple, surprisingly cute password manager full of bears. Simply add all your passwords to it, lock them behind a master password or fingerprint, and RememBear can auto-fill login forms with them so you never have to remember them or type them again.

RememBear can also generate new secure passwords, so you won’t have to think them up, and the data is synced across devices, so if you don’t have your phone to hand you can access your logins from a computer or other device.

You can also store credit card details, there’s end-to-end encryption and there’s a built-in browser for secure web browsing.

RememBear lacks some features offered by rivals like LastPass, such as favorites, but more features are likely to be added over time. It’s also free to use on a single device, though there’s a paid version that you’ll have to upgrade to for .99/£30.49 per year if you want to access your account on multiple devices.

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Ringtone Maker & Music Editor

It’s probably fair to say that most ringtones that come with phones aren’t very exciting, and while you can easily set a locally stored song as your ringtone, you won’t necessarily want the whole thing. That’s where Ringtone Maker & Music Editor comes in.

First, you can get this app to scan your device for any stored audio files, sort them by track, album or artist, then select the one that you want to turn into a ringtone and you’ll be able to choose a start and end point – handy for cutting boring intros.

You can type out exactly what point in the music you want to start and end the ringtone down to the millisecond, and you can also cut parts of the music, copy and paste parts, or even meld multiple audio files together. There’s also a basic recording feature built in, so you can record your own ringtones and then edit them.

Once done, you can save your ringtone and assign it either system-wide or to a specific contact.

Ringtone Maker is easy to use and supports various file types, including MP3, FLAC, OGG, WAV, AAC, M4A, MP4 and 3GPP/AMR, and the only real issue it has is the number of adverts, but there’s a pro version that gets rid of them for US.99/£3.29.

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Moovit

Moovit is the only app you need to navigate public transport wherever you might be in the world.

Simply enter a destination and it will tell you how to get there from your current location (or you can set a different start point).

Moovit will give you various route options using different forms of transport by default, but you can tell it to only include certain kinds of public transport, or to minimize walking or transfers.

Select a route to see full step by step instructions or get live navigation. The app will tell you exactly where to go and even alert you when you’re nearing your stop so you don’t need to stare at your phone screen the entire journey.

There are also timetables for buses and trains and you can save your favorite destinations or transit lines to quickly get directions and timetables in future.

Moovit also has widgets, offline maps, and transport information for thousands of cities in over 80 countries. We weren’t kidding when we said it’s the only public transport app you’ll need.

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Trips by Lonely Planet

Trips by Lonely Planet is a visually beautiful way to share your travel experiences or view those shared by others.

It’s essentially a journaling app designed for globetrotters. Create a new trip in the app, give it a title, subtitle and cover photo, then add your choice of photos, text and maps.

Your trips can be kept private or shared publicly, you can edit them after posting, and of course you can view and favorite other people’s.

There’s a slight social element in that you can follow other users, so you’ll always see any new trips they post, but mostly this is just about seeing the world from your phone and sharing your own trips with the world.

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TouchPal Keyboard

TouchPal is a truly feature-packed keyboard, and an enormously customizable one at that. Not only can you select from thousands of free themes, you can also create your own, picking a key color and adding a background image or color.

All the usual settings are also available, letting you customize the keyboard height and width, change the key layout, enable or disable auto-correct and much more.

There’s also a ‘Curve’ mode, which lets you swipe across keys to select them rather than tapping, and more uniquely a ‘Wave’ setting that builds on predictive text by putting AI-driven next word suggestions under the keys as you type.

You can also access various emoji and GIFs from the keyboard, bring up a Google search and use voice typing. None of that would matter if TouchPal was slow or inaccurate, but in our tests it works well – just as long as you take the time to get it set up how you want it.

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Bandcamp

Bandcamp is a service that highlights and sells music from numerous artists, mostly of the independent variety, and with the Bandcamp app you can access all of its content from your phone.

As well as buying music, you can stream or download music you already own, and in many cases stream songs that you haven’t yet bought.

You also get access to a weekly podcast that highlights music you might not have come across before, so it’s a good way to discover your next favorite musician.

You can also search, browse, add things to your wishlist and comment on releases, sharing your thoughts with the wider Bandcamp community.

It’s a handy app if you’re into music (and who isn’t?) and a great way to support up and coming artists.

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Zomato

Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) is probably all you’ll ever need to find and choose restaurants. From the main screen you can see a list of nearby restaurants, each of which has a user rating out of five. You can also search using filters, such as whether you can book, whether the place is currently open and whether it has Wi-Fi, then sort the results by distance, cost, rating or popularity.

There’s also a tab for viewing collections, which are restaurants sorted into categories such as ‘newly opened’ or ‘romantic’.

Tap on a restaurant and you can see photos and reviews added by other users, along with details about what it costs, opening times, an address and map and in many cases menus and lists of pros and cons. From here you can also call the restaurant or add your own photos or review. In some cases you can even book a table direct from the Zomato app.

You can also bookmark your favorite restaurants and follow other users, so you can see where they’ve been and what they like.

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THRIVE

If you’re reading this then chances are you could probably stand to spend less time on your phone – we know we could. If so, THRIVE could be just what you need to stay focused and in the moment.

The app lets you block all apps, notifications, calls and texts for a set duration, though you can set up a VIP list of people whose calls and texts will still get through, and you’ll always be able to call emergency numbers.

That’s the default mode in THRIVE, though you can deactivate it if you decide you need to use your phone after all.

If you really want help staying off your phone there’s also a ‘Super Thrive Mode’, which – short of rebooting your phone – can’t be deactivated before the allotted time runs out.

If anyone tries to contact you while you’re using one of these modes, you can set an auto-reply message that will let them know when you’ll be available again.

There’s also an App Blocking mode, which will block access to apps of your choice after you’ve used them for an amount of time that you can set. So, for example, it might block Facebook after you’ve used it for 30 minutes. You then can’t access it again until 12am the next day.

THRIVE isn’t the only app designed to keep you off your handset but it could be one of the most useful, as while most try to incentivize you, THRIVE simply stops you.

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Backing Track Play Music

If you play an instrument then you probably sometimes need backing tracks, and Backing Track Play Music can provide them.

It has thousands of backing tracks designed for guitarists, bassists, drummers, keyboardists and singers, and you can filter by instrument, genre, artist, or just perform a general search.

The selection is decent and varied, covering many big hits from artists of various genres. You’ll also find lyrics and tablature for many songs, and the app claims new backing tracks are added every day.

The core app is free, but if you want to get rid of adverts and be able to download backing tracks for offline use, you can grab Backing Track Play Music Pro for .49/£1.29.

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Microsoft Launcher

Your phone is probably your most used device, so it’s understandable if you get a bit bored of it sometimes and want a change. Rather than buying a whole new handset you could just change your launcher, and Microsoft Launcher is one of the best around.

Formerly known as Arrow Launcher, it’s been around for a while and it keeps improving, most recently thanks to the addition of Cortana, which you can activate by tapping an icon or long-pressing the home button. Cortana isn’t any better than Google Assistant (or arguably even as good), but it’s a change and you can still use Google Assistant as well.

The rest of the app has a lot to offer, including loads of customizable gesture controls. For example, you can open the app drawer with a two-finger swipe up, but if you’d rather that gesture launched your favorite app, you can set it to do that instead.

You can also make Microsoft Launcher your own by customizing the theme, icons and accent colors, and if you’re not feeling inspired when it comes to wallpaper then you can set it to automatically change daily.

Got your old home screen exactly how you like it? Then when setting up Microsoft Launcher you can choose to import the old layout, bringing all your folders with you.

There’s also a clever unified search bar on your home screen that can search both the contents of your phone and the web. For the latter it uses Bing of course, but you can’t have everything.

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Yummly Recipes & Shopping List

Yummly is a super customizable recipe app for picky eaters and cooks. It’s packed with over a million recipes, and you can add various filters to dictate which ones you see.

These include basic dietary and allergy options, such as vegetarian, pescatarian and gluten-free, but you can also add specific disliked ingredients that you want to avoid, filter by taste such as sweet or bitter, choose the nutritional values you’re interested in (such as low-carb), and pick which cuisines you do or don’t want to see.

There are also filters for prep time and techniques required, such as baking or blending, so you can tweak the requirements exactly to your liking, or those of your guests.

All that aside, Yummly has many of the same features as other recipe apps, including a built-in shopping list, personalized recommendations, the ability to save favorites, and videos that teach you cooking techniques.

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Cake Web Browser

Most Android users probably opt for Chrome as their web browser, and it’s a solid choice, but there are more interesting – if not necessarily better – options, such as Cake Web Browser .

This attractive browser will instantly load the most relevant result when you search for something, which can save precious time if what it’s loaded is useful or slow things down if it isn’t.

From that first page you can swipe left to get to the search results and pick a different site, or swipe right to instantly load the next result, then keep swiping right to keep moving through the results.

You can customize and reorder the sources it uses for web, video, image, news and shopping searches to improve the accuracy of its search results, but this is otherwise a fairly basic browser – you can open multiple tabs, view your history, bookmark pages and the like, but if you want things like desktop sites or privacy and accessibility controls you should look elsewhere.

Still, if you want a refreshingly different, stripped back browsing experience then Cake Web Browser is well worth a look.

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ProtonVPN

Two of the main reasons for using a VPN are accessing geo-restricted content and maintaining your privacy and security online.

ProtonVPN can help with both of those, and costs a lot less than most rivals. In fact, the core service is totally free, and there are no bandwidth restrictions, so you can use it as much as you want.

There are no ads either, because it’s fully funded by optional paid subscriptions (starting at around /£3.50 per month). These unlock higher speeds, VPN servers in more countries and the ability to use ProtonVPN on more than one device.

But for free you still get access to VPNs in three countries, and a whole lot more security than you’ll have without a VPN, as your activity will be encrypted and protected by Swiss privacy laws, and it won’t be logged.

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Letterboxd

If you’re a movie lover then you might already know about Letterboxd , and if you don’t you should. It lets you keep track of movies you’ve watched, add them to your list with a single tap, review them, give them a star rating, and say when you watched them.

It also lets you keep track of what you want to watch, thanks to a comprehensive film database and the ability to add films to a watch list – again with a single tap.

Letterboxd helps you discover films by highlighting what’s currently popular, and offering thousands of lists created by users of the app. These lists all have a theme, and while that’s sometimes as simple as someone’s favorite movies, usually it’s a lot more interesting than that, for example one list is titled “They aren’t films, they’re experiences”.

Of course, you can also make lists of your own, and Letterboxd is a bit of a social network too, letting you follow other users and comment on their lists.

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Amazon Alexa

If you have an Amazon Echo then you’re probably familiar with the Amazon Alexa app. It’s where you can set up skills for the device, check back on previous queries, look at your shopping list, manage other smart devices and get more information on certain things you’ve asked Alexa about.

Even if you don’t have an Amazon Echo, you can use the Alexa voice assistant from within the app itself. That means you can tap a button and talk to Alexa, asking her to control smart devices, look things up online, play music and more.

Most of this stuff can already be done by Google Assistant, which you probably have on your phone, but Alexa makes a nice change and you may even find you prefer it if you can get over the extra step of having to launch the app first.

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Remindee

Your calendar can already create reminders, but you need to be in the calendar to make them. With Remindee you can create a reminder from within almost any app, and not just within an app, but with the reminder itself linked to the content you’re viewing.

For example, if you’re on a web page and want to read something later, you can use Remindee to remind you about it at a more convenient time. Or if you want to watch a YouTube or Netflix video when you get home, you can do the same for that.

Hit the share button, select Remindee and a box pops up letting you set a time and date when you want to be reminded. The box is automatically populated with a link to the content you were viewing, but you can add additional details if you want.

Head into Remindee itself and you can see upcoming and past reminders, and if you plan to use it a lot you can add a persistent Remindee option to the notifications dropdown.

It’s a simple idea, but a useful one. Achieving the same with your calendar would mean first opening it and then copying the link across manually, so if your reminders tend to be content-focused then Remindee could be a slick alternative to whatever you’re using now.

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LightX Photo Editor

There are loads of filter apps and photo fixers on Android, but LightX Photo Editor is one of a much smaller number of comprehensive editing apps.

It has plenty of filters, as well as tools for sharpening images and removing blemishes, and much more besides.

You can tweak the hue, saturation and tone, adjust the focus, add a frame, sticker or text, merge images, create collages, flip, crop and rotate, draw on pictures and change the perspective.

All of that is free, though there’s an optional .99/£1.79 IAP to remove adverts and add a few extra features.

Whether you opt for the free or paid version, LightX is a powerful, feature-packed app that should suit most mobile photo-editing needs.

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Nwsty

Keeping up with the news can be hard work, but Nwsty aims to make it easier – and faster.

The app uses AI to choose between six and ten of the day’s biggest stories and present them in a concise, digestible manner.

Each story is only around a paragraph long, which is usually enough to get the key details, but means you can read them all in the time it would take to read one full-length story. If you want extra information, each snippet includes a link to a longer version of the article on the web.

There’s not much else to Nwsty. You can share stories on social media and scroll back to previous days to catch up on older news, but that’s about it. It’s a great way to stay in the loop and only takes a couple of minutes.

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Selfissimo

A camera app from Google, Selfissimo makes it easy to take lots of selfies without having to hit the shutter button every time.

Instead, Selfissimo will automatically take a picture every time you move, which encourages you try out a variety of different poses and angles.

As well as saving the time and effort of hitting a button, it also means your shots are more likely to be in focus, since tapping the screen or a button to take the picture can have the side effect of causing your phone to shake.

Once you’ve snapped enough, just tap the screen and Selfissimo will show you thumbnails of all your images. They probably won’t all be good since not all of your photo-triggering movements will necessarily even have been intentional, but you can tap on any to get a closer look and save or share those you like.

Our only real issue with Selfissimo is the black and white filter it uses. It’s fine, but you can’t turn it off, so if you like your photos in color Selfissimo won’t be for you.

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Day One Journal

While there’s still something to be said for keeping a paper journal, going digital gives you a lot more convenience, security and features, and Day One Journal is one of the best tools for the job.

Having enjoyed years of popularity on iOS, it’s finally arrived on Android, bringing with it a slick interface that lets you see your journal entries by date, as a gallery of attached images, or on a map of the world with pins that take you to an entry made at each location.

Making a new entry is as simple as tapping the big plus or camera icons on the main screen, depending on whether you want to start with a photo or text. Day One Journal adds the time and current weather to each entry automatically.

You can also set reminders to help you get into the journaling habit, star your favorite journal entries to easily return to them, add tags, and get alerts for entries you made on this day in previous years, or at nearby locations.

With optional fingerprint or passcode security, no unauthorized eyes will be able to access your memories.

That’s all free, but there’s also an optional .99/£22.49 yearly subscription that lets you back everything up to the cloud, access your journal on multiple devices, keep multiple journals and more. It’s not cheap, but could be worthwhile if you get really into journaling.

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Winwalk Pedometer

Exercise should be its own reward, but if it’s not then you might want to check out Winwalk Pedometer .

As well as doing the important job of counting your steps, Winwalk also rewards you with a coin for every hundred you take. Save these coins up and you can ultimately cash them in for vouchers at the likes of Tesco and Starbucks.

The rewards – which appear to be UK-only for now – do take a while to earn. You’ll need 9,450 coins for a £5 Starbucks voucher for example, but you can get a scratch card for just 65 coins, and these have a chance of unlocking the same vouchers.

You can also top up your points faster by inviting friends to join Winwalk and completing ‘missions’, which tend to involve installing and using other apps.

Rewards aside, Winwalk is a basic but competent pedometer. You can have it permanently visible on your lock screen or notification shade, showing how many steps you’ve taken and how far you’ve walked, and it will take a stab at estimating how many calories you’ve burned.

Once you’ve used it for a while, Winwalk will also tell you your average seven-day and 30-day step counts, and how many steps you took on your best day.

It seems reasonably accurate, but although you can set your gender, age and weight, you can’t set your stride length, so if it’s mis-measuring yours there’s not much you can do to fix it.

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Record Bird

Record Bird aims to ensure you never miss a release from your favorite musicians. Once you’ve created an account you can select which musicians you want to follow, or simply import your likes from Spotify and Facebook. You’ll then get a feed highlighting all their new and upcoming releases, along with any other news about them.

In many cases there will be links to listen to or buy the music in question, and you can get notifications when news or releases appear and choose to have release dates saved to your calendar.

If you’ve ever had trouble keeping up with musical happenings then Record Bird is the app for you.

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Viewster

One way or another shows and movies usually cost money, but Viewster gives you access to a library of streamed content at no cost.

There is a catch of course, and that catch is adverts, coupled with limited content compared to something like Netflix. If you can look past that, you’ll find a good range of anime series, along with documentaries, old sci-fi movies and shows about games.

Content is added regularly and the app is pleasant to navigate, with options to favorite videos so you don’t lose track of them and subscribe to specific channels to get alerts when they publish new content.

You can’t download videos, so you’ll need internet access to watch them. Viewster’s content also makes it a bit niche, but if you’re into anime or video games then it’s worth having, even if you already have a subscription to a different service.

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Canva

Canva was a hit on iOS and now it’s arrived on Android, giving you a simple yet powerful way to create posters, collages, flyers, cards, Instagram posts, banners and headers for blogs or other social media, and more.

It’s a graphic design app, and one that’s intuitive from the moment you launch it. Start by choosing the type of content you want to design, then take your pick from a wide selection of ready-made templates (or search for something specific). Once that’s done, you’re ready to get editing.

You can tap on any part of a template to change it with context-sensitive tools. Tap on text, for example, and you can write something new, or change the font, size, color and spacing.

Select an image to change the color, add a filter, adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, or switch it for a different picture altogether – either one of the many in Canva or one from your gallery.

You can also drag and rotate things, and there’s unlimited undo, so you can go back as many steps as you want if you make a mess of the whole thing.

When you’re done, you can save your creation to your phone or share it online. It’s also saved in the ‘Your designs’ section of the app, which you can access from the web and other devices, so you’ll never lose a design you’ve made.

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Subcast: Podcast Radio

Need more podcasts to listen to and not sure where to start? You could do a lot worse than Subcast: Podcast Radio .

This is a podcast discovery app with various ‘stations’ of podcasts focused on a particular theme, be it mindfulness, the latest news, entertainment, and many other topics.

These stations work like playlists; rather than just giving you a list of podcasts in each category, it plays one automatically and lets you move to another with a swipe of your finger. You can pause with a tap, and there are options for skipping, changing playback speed. It’s a fairly basic player, but all the essentials are there.

You probably won’t use Subcast as your main podcast app – not least because you can’t actually choose a specific podcast to play – but if you’re open to hearing something new and just aren’t sure what to start with, it can help you find a whole new selection of favorites.

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Datally

Ever wonder where all your mobile data is going? Datally can help answer that. It’s an app made by Google that not only tells you how much mobile data you’ve used over the last day, week or month, but also breaks down which apps are using it and how much they’re consuming.

That’s handy, but it’s something that a lot of other data monitor apps do too. Datally has a few extra features though. For one, there’s a data saver mode, which blocks apps of your choice from using data when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. That’s especially handy if you find one is a big drain and you don’t need constant access to it.

There’s also a list of nearby public Wi-Fi networks. The app shows you how far away they are, pinpoints their position on a map, and tells you whether they’re password-protected, so you can more easily seek out a suitable connection.

Datally is a Google app, so it’s unsurprisingly polished and simple to navigate, all of which makes it a very worthwhile freebie.

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Storyboard

Storyboard is an experiment – or “appsperiment” as Google calls it. It’s very simple, but not quite like any other app we’ve come across.

Simply load a video and Storyboard will turn it into a comic strip by automatically selecting and arranging frames and adding a filter that makes it look more comic-like.

If you don’t like the result you can swipe down to refresh and get a different layout, filter and selection of scenes. Keep doing this until you find one you like, then tap on it to save or share it.

The results are often good – after a few refreshes we usually found a result we were happy with – and it’s very quick and easy to use.

We kind of wish it was a bit less simple and actually gave you control over the layout and filters rather than randomizing it, but maybe one day we’ll get that when it’s less of an appsperiment and more just an app.

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Onetap Glitch

Onetap Glitch is a simple app that does one thing and does it well. In short, it lets you add a glitch effect to your photos… with one tap.

Actually, there’s a bit more to it than that. There’s a handful of different glitch filters to choose from, and you can alter them by adjusting the RGB shift, intensity, brightness, thickness and contrast.

Whatever you do you’re typically left with a quite stylish effect, which you can then save to your gallery or share to other apps.

It works best with pictures of people, and any image that’s overly busy can look too much of a mess. It’s not an effect you’re likely to want to use very often, but it’s a fun one to have on hand.

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Life Hacks

Did you know that the best time to buy a car is at the end of the month, since salespeople have quotas to hit and are more likely to cut you a deal? Or that you can get gum out of hair by dipping it in coke? If you had Life Hacks you would.

This appropriately named app has hundreds of hacks spread across various categories, such as ‘Money Savers’ and ‘Study Boosters’.

Tap on a category and you’ll be shown a selection of cards, each of which has a life hack on it. The bottom of each card also has the option to favorite, copy or share it, so you can easily build up a library of useful hacks or share them with your friends.

New hacks are also regularly added, so you won’t run out of things to learn. Some of the hacks are clearly aimed specifically at US users as they’re related to businesses like Walmart and Wendy’s, but most of them could be useful wherever you are.

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Hitlist

Hitlist is designed to both find cheap flight deals and give you ideas of where to go. You start by selecting your home airport, then you can select a destination and the dates you want to travel, then get results sorted by price.

So far, so familiar, but Hitlist lets you select a range of dates rather than a specific flight day if you’re prepared to be flexible in order to save money, or you can even enter no dates at all if you’re happy to travel at any time.

And that’s just half of the app. The other half is about discovery. Hitlist will highlight various locations and events, such as the best cities for New Year’s Eve, and the best places for photography. Tapping on any of these will let you drill down to specific locations and then look for flights.

If you save a location you can also get alerts from Hitlist whenever the flight prices drop, so there’s a lot here, whether or not you know where you want to go.

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Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind is a meditation app for everyone, and when we say everyone, we really mean it, as there are meditations specifically designed for various age groups and situations, from kids of 7 through to adults, from office workers to athletes, from those new to meditation to those who’ve been doing it for years.

There’s also resources for anyone trying to teach meditation in the classroom, and whatever your age or situation you’ll find meditations of varying lengths, from as little as around one minute, to around half an hour.

The app will also keep track of how many meditations you’ve done, the total duration and on what days, and if you want to share the app you can set up sub profiles, so everyone has their own accounts.

Unlike many meditation apps, Smiling Mind is also completely free. There’s no subscription, no in-app purchases and not even any adverts.

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Smart Wallpaper

Sticking with the same wallpaper for too long can get boring, but if you’re anything like us you rarely bother to change it.

With Smart Wallpaper you can set up a selection of wallpapers to cycle between, so once it’s set up there’s little to no need to ever manually change your wallpaper again.

Smart Wallpaper can change your wallpaper after a set time period, but it can also do it based on the day of the week, the month, the weather or even the Wi-Fi network you’re on.

The app itself has a number of wallpapers to choose from, but they’re not sorted into categories so it’s not the best way to browse for wallpapers.

However, you can also import them from your gallery, so just find a collection you like from whatever source you like and then send them over to Smart Wallpaper, so you’ll never again have to look at the same picture for too long.

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Replika

Replika is a hard app to categorize. It’s an AI that you can talk to, but it’s more than just a gimmick and there’s purpose to the conversations.

It will often ask you things like how your day’s going, how you feel and what the highlight of your day has been, and by answering these questions you can build up a sort of journal, which you can then search through, as there’s a part of the app that sorts your responses by date.

Of course, you could just use a journaling app, but we found the prompts of the AI and the feeling of having an actual conversation more appealing than just writing things down.

Many of the questions asked will also prompt you to focus on positives, which in turn could help you be more positive.

Replika can also act as a confidant - ‘someone’ you can talk to about anything, at any time.

And the more you talk to Replika, the smarter it gets. It learns your responses and becomes a bit more like you over time, as well as allowing you to upvote or downvote anything it says.

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Files Go

Chances are you already have some kind of file manager on your phone, but Files Go is still worthy of attention, as it’s made by Google and has many rivals beat.

There’s two parts to it. First, the ‘Storage’ section which highlights all the ways you might be able to clear space on your device, such as by deleting duplicate or large files, moving files to your SD card and deleting rarely used apps.

Then there’s the ‘Files’ section, which is a file explorer, letting you dive into the folders on your phone so you can find, open, rename, delete or share specific files.

The whole app is colorful and easy to navigate as well, with an interface seemingly inspired by Google Now’s cards.

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Zyl

Zyl claims to be the first photo gallery managed by an in-app AI. We don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it’s certainly a useful way of managing your photos.

Zyl is especially handy if you want to clear space on your device, or just get rid of rubbish shots, as that AI we mentioned can find and delete blurry shots, as well as duplicate or similar photos, even choosing to keep the one that it thinks is best.

And its judgement is generally quite good, but you get to confirm before deleting anything, and even then photos can be recovered for thirty days in case you change your mind, so there’s no danger of losing your favorite shots.

Other features of Zyl include the ability to create collaborative albums that several people can access and add to, and for Zyl to automatically create albums from your pictures – though this didn’t work very well in our tests, as while some of the suggested pictures were similar, others seemed quite random.

Still, Zyl’s ability to clean up your gallery is enough to make it worth a download if your photo collection is getting out of control.

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Microsoft Edge

Having been around on PC for a while now, Microsoft Edge has finally arrived on Android, albeit in beta.

Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer is surprisingly polished, and especially useful if you run it on both Android and a Windows 10 computer, as you can send content between your phone and your PC.

You first need the Fall Creator’s update on your computer, but then you can simply tap a button at the bottom of each webpage on your phone (or hit ‘Share’ then ‘Continue on PC’) and have the page load on your desktop.

Your favorites and reading list are also automatically synced between devices, giving you further incentive to make Microsoft Edge your one and only browser if you’re going to use it at all.

There are also handy features such as voice search, and a ‘Reading View’ which reorganizes pages to make it easier to focus on the main text.

If you already use Edge on your computer then the Microsoft Edge app is worth having, but if not there’s probably not enough here to convince you to switch browsers.

That said, it’s worth a look if you’re not getting on with your current one - just be aware there might be a few bugs while it’s still in beta.

And yes, you can switch your search engine from Bing to Google.

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Material Islands – Wallpapers

Live wallpapers can look great, but they can also drain your battery and hog your RAM… the good news is Material Islands - Wallpapers does neither.

That’s because rather than being constantly animated it’s just updated several times a day, showing a minimalist island changing from dawn to dusk.

And there’s more than one island in this app. You can choose from the mysterious ‘Isle of Easter’, the frosty ‘Isle of Ice’ and around 10 others, or choose ‘daily random isle’ and get a new one every day.

More islands are likely to be added over time, and you can customize the experience to an extent – choosing the time period during which each version of an island is shown, or just setting a static wallpaper if there’s a particular scene you want at all times.

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WhatTheFont

The world is full of weird and wonderful fonts, but identifying them isn’t always easy. That is, unless you have WhatTheFont .

Then you can simply take a photo of the font you’re curious about, or grab an image from your gallery, and WhatTheFont will analyze it and show you a selection of similar fonts.

The fonts it shows you may or may not include the actual font that you photographed - we’ve had slightly mixed results on that f(r)ont - but all the selections are usually close to it.

You can type out any word or phrase in any of the fonts it comes up with to get a better idea of how they look, and then if you really like them there’s a link to buy.

Other than the fact that WhatTheFont seemingly doesn’t have every single font in its database, our main complaint with it is that it won’t save your previous searches and nor can you favorite fonts to return to later, so if you want to remember one you’ll have to write the name down.

But as a freebie – at least until you succumb to the urge to splash out on the fonts you find – it’s a handy app.

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Messenger Lite

Messenger Lite is designed to minimize the amount of data you use when sending and receiving messages on Facebook.

It’s an official app and likely designed with developing countries in mind, but could be useful anywhere if you have a restrictive data limit or an iffy connection.

Messenger Lite works on all networks, even 2G, and if there’s no signal when you send a message it will automatically be sent as soon as there is one.

It uses less data than the main Facebook Messenger app and also loads faster and takes up less storage space. All this efficiency should also mean it’s lighter on battery usage, and indeed it was in our tests, though the difference is small, yet Messenger Lite has many of the core Messenger features included.

You can send messages, including pictures and stickers, have group chats, see who’s online and make or receive voice calls.

Some features are absent, most notably video calls, but for the basic Facebook messaging experience this should have you covered, and it’s got a less cluttered interface than the main app too.

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Eyecon

Eyecon is a replacement dialer and address book for your phone, and it’s impressively fully featured and good looking.

Contacts are automatically assigned a profile photo if it can find one on social media, such as WhatsApp or Facebook, and you can quickly call anyone with a long press, or access a menu for that contact with a tap.

From the menu you can head to their profile, call or message them, and if you connect other services you’re not limited to just SMS, as it can also provide shortcuts to the likes of your WhatsApp and Skype conversations.

Further speeding up communication, Eyecon also lists your most contacted friends at the top, and after a call with someone who’s not in your address book Eyecon will even suggest a name and photo for them, so you can add them to your contacts with a tap.

Eyecon won’t change the way you use your phone, but it’s a system that’s a lot like how Android used to operate on many phones, especially HTC ones, so if you long for those days it’s worth giving a try.

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Rabbit – Watch Together

Want to watch TV with your friends? Too lazy, busy or spread out to meet in person? Then Rabbit – Watch Together could be for you.

While it can’t quite replicate all squeezing on the same sofa or going to the cinema, it does give you a private chat room for you and your friends to talk in while you all watch a video from YouTube or the web (but not from paid services like iTunes or Netflix).

The video is automatically in sync for everyone, so you don’t have to awkwardly get everyone to hit play at the same time, and you can have up to 100 people in the room – which is one way in which this can top a real-world movie night.

Rabbit also allows for voice and video chat, and you can even make your room public if you’re happy for strangers to join your viewing party.

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Amazon Kindle

If you’re a user of Amazon’s ebook store then you probably already have the Amazon Kindle app, but if not it’s worth getting, especially as it’s just been overhauled to make it slicker than ever.

As before, the app gives you access to your Kindle books on your phone or tablet, as well as access to the store - so you can buy more digi-tomes - but it’s now got a new look, with larger cover art and a re-designed interface that makes it faster to get into your books.

There’s also a new light theme joining the dark one, and the app will soon be improving further, as Goodreads integration is on the way, which will allow you to rate your books and interact with that community from the Kindle app.

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Nextdoor

While we’re ever-more connected online it seems like we’re often less so in person, and many of us have hardly even met our neighbors.

Nextdoor aims to make doing so a lot easier, by creating a social network populated by the people who live around you.

You need to verify your address to even join it, which can be done by either entering your phone number (if the billing address is where you currently live) or by having a code posted to you and then entering that (so the people who it says live nearby really are) and once verified you can post things which will be seen by those who live nearby.

People typically use it to advertise, or to get the word out about missing pets, local crime and the like, but you can also get talking to people you might live close to but never talk to or even see in day to day life.

As everyone uses their real title it’s also a handy way to remember your neighbors’ names if that’s something you struggle with.

Ultimately, Nextdoor makes communities feel closer, smaller, and, well, more like a community, which can only be a good thing.

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Discord

Discord is a voice and text chat app built specifically for gamers. It’s great for communicating in-game, but also houses numerous gaming communities and acts a bit like a huge group chat for them, or rather, a series of group chats, spread across different topics.

You could equally think of it – or at least the messaging part of it – as being like a real-time forum, or to gamers what Slack is to work.

Images and videos can be shared, there’s one-to-one private messaging, plus push notifications for any mentions, so you won’t miss messages directed at you.

You can also show whether or not you’re online and tweak what you’re notified about and the colors of the app, and it’s cross-platform, so you can chat with people who are using Discord on a desktop or iPhone.

Basically, if you use Discord on another platform it’s well worth having the Android app. And if you don’t but you regularly play online games with a group, or just like talking about games, then it’s also worth a look.

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Squid

You probably already have some sort of news aggregator on your device, but if you like sharing interesting stories with other people then Squid could have it beat.

That’s because Squid lets you annotate stories before you share them. You can underline, circle and highlight sections in various colors, add text of your own and even add stickers, then send the story off in an email or social media message.

Other than being able to leave your mark on the stories you find, Squid is fairly conventional, but quite polished.

You can pick from a range of topics that you’re interested in, such as music, lifestyle or politics, then get a constantly updated feed of relevant stories.

You can switch to a topic-specific feed with a swipe, block sources you don’t want to see with a few taps, and switch to a reader mode (which ditches most of an article’s adverts and other unnecessary content) with ease.

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Notin

Notin is a simple app, but a useful one. Simply type out something you want to be reminded of, tap the plus button and it will be sent to your notification shade, so you can always see it on your lock screen or when you swipe down from the top of the screen.

Got more than one thing to remember? Type something else out and hit the plus again to get more than one notification.

That way, rather than having a reminder pop up at what may end up being an inconvenient time, you’ll always just see it when using your phone, so you’ll never again forget that you need to buy milk or get married.

Once you’ve done the thing you need reminding of just swipe the notification away, as you would with any other notification.

There are two potential weaknesses with Notin. One is that it’s entirely too easy to swipe away a reminder without thinking, the other is that if you have lots of things on your to-do list your notifications screen could quickly become cluttered, so Notin is best just for reminding you of one or two important things, while keeping your full list elsewhere.

Still, as a completely free tool Notin is well worth remembering.

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Fever

If you live in a city then chances are there’s a lot going on, and with Fever you have all you need to find the best of those things, and in many cases even get discounted entry prices.

The app, which currently covers London, New York, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Málaga and Bilbao, first asks you which city and what type of events you’re most interested in, then presents you with a curated feed.

Alternatively, you can head to the ‘Discover’ tab to view other event lists, focused on a specific time (for example the weekend) or type (such as dining or family).

Tap on an event and you’ll see full details of it, including a map, and have the option to share it or buy tickets, which are then stored in the Fever app itself.

There are other apps a bit like Fever, but if you’re in one of the cities it covers it’s a slick, all-in-one way to keep on top of what’s happening around you.

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What The Forecast?!!

If you like your weather with a side of humor then you should check out What The Forecast?!! , which provides generally negative (or some would say realistic) commentary on the current weather, in the form of a short humorous sentence.

It’s reminiscent of the iOS app Carrot Weather, but it’s laughing with you, rather than at you, and more importantly is actually available on Android.

Beyond the commentary, which apparently includes over 6,657 phrases, you can get 7-day forecasts and details on humidity, sunrise and sunset times, wind speed, the moon and more.

It’s all fairly standard weather app stuff, but delivered with more personality than usual, and as the actual forecasts are pulled from Dark Sky, What The Forecast?!! should be just as accurate as your current weather app of choice.

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Tinycards

Tinycards , from the makers of Duolingo , has taken a long time making the jump from iOS to Android, but it’s finally arrived, and is set to give you another way to improve your language skills.

Link it up to your Duolingo account and then Tinycards will give you a selection of flash cards based around the words and languages you’re already learning.

These will sometimes take the form of a picture, in which case you have to say what it’s a picture of in the relevant language. Other times the card will show a word or phrase in the language you’re learning, which you’re to translate to English, or the phrase will be shown in English, in which case you’re tasked with translating it to a foreign language.

Like the main Duolingo app answers are sometimes multiple choice, while other times they must be typed, and you can unlock new sets of flashcards as you progress.

It’s essentially a simpler, even more bite-size form of language learning than Duolingo offers and is best used in combination with that app.

But you can also create your own cards and decks if there’s something specific you want more practice at, and interestingly you’re not just limited to languages, as history, maths, science and more all have their own flashcard decks too.

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Phonograph Music Player

While many of us have moved to streaming music, there is still a place for locally stored music on Android, and Phonograph is one of the better players.

Phonograph puts aesthetics and ease of use first, so it’s always pleasant to operate. The app has a Material Design look that fits with Google’s vision of Android, but it’s also packed full of album art and color, so there’s never a dull screen.

You can also customize the colors and overall theme and look of the app, while the color of the main ‘now playing’ screen will change based on the album artwork of the current track.

The layout is simple too, with your music library sorted by song, album, artist or playlist, and you can switch between views with a swipe, while most other options are no more than a tap away.

Although not as feature-packed as some players, Phonograph has a number of handy extras and toggles, like gapless playback, information and images pulled automatically from Last.fm, a sleep timer, widgets and lock screen controls.

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Offline Survival Manual

Offline Survival Manual is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know when you’re in the wilderness. And it’s saved offline, so you’ll actually be able to access it in the middle of the forest / desert / jungle / your garden.

From skills, such as how to start a fire or build a shelter, to helpful advice, such as where to look for water in various environments and which plants are poisonous, it’s all covered.

On top of that is information the things you should take with you in certain places and how to deal with different types of weather or hazards, such as crossing a river - so most things you might want to know are covered.

There’s loads more besides, split into various categories which you can jump between with a tap, and as there’s everything from the basics to more advanced things, Offline Survival Manual is a guide for everyone. It’s also completely free.

There is a lack of polish in some of the presentation – typos and long walls of text for example, with few images to break it up in many sections. Then of course there’s the fact that having a survival manual on a device that can run out of battery may not be the best idea, so you might want to bring a paper guide too.

But you’ll presumably be taking your phone with you on any adventures, and Offline Survival Manual could prove an indispensable addition - who knows, one which might even save your life.

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Motion Stills

It’s not often that Google’s apps come to iOS before Android, but Motion Stills did, as it was designed to stabilize Live Photos, so they’d come out smoother. Now though it’s out on Android too, letting you shoot a short video clip which the app stabilizes.

Clips that you shoot can be saved as a video or a looping GIF and then shared on social media, and Motion Stills also lets you use a ‘Fast Forward’ mode, which will condense up to a minute of footage into a shorter clip. This too is stabilized, to keep it smooth, and you can pick the playback speed.

Motion Stills only works for new footage – so you can’t import and stabilize anything you’ve already shot (though if you just want to turn old footage into a GIF there are plenty of other apps that will do that).

But for anything new you shoot Motion Stills is a great way to make a GIF or short video and ensure footage remains smooth. It’s fast too, as footage is stabilized in real time, so you don’t need to wait for it to process your clip, and it’s completely free.

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Hydro Coach

We all know drinking water is important, but it can be easy to forget to do, especially when you’re busy with other things.

Tech has come to the rescue though, with various apps designed to give you a gentle prod to drink more, and Hydro Coach is a strong option.

You start by entering some basic details like your age, gender and weight, and from this Hydro Coach calculates how much you should be drinking.

You can log your intake with ease, telling the app the size of containers you tend to drink from and then just tapping the relevant one every time you’ve finished a drink, and the app will remind you to drink if you haven’t done so in a while.

You can see at a glance both how much you have drunk today and how much you should drink over the remainder of the day and you can also see weekly and monthly statistics.

You can pick whether to measure your intake in millilitres or fluid ounces, while a Pro version of the app gets rid of adverts and adds more detailed statistics for .49/£2.49. But for free, Hydro Coach offers a fast, simple way to monitor your fluid intake, and – more importantly – to actually remind you to drink more.

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Apex Launcher

Apex Launcher isn’t new. In fact it’s been around for a long time, and was once one of the best launchers available. Then the developers stopped supporting it, but they’ve just given the app a big update and a new lease of life.

The changes are largely focused on bringing the look in line with modern versions of Android, as well as generally polishing the app and getting rid of bugs, but the core app remains much as it always was: namely, one of the most powerful and customizable interfaces available for Android.

It will replace whatever UI you have now – be that stock Android or a manufacturer’s skin – and give you far more control than you likely had before.

You can change the home page transition effects, make your dock scrollable, hide elements of the interface, such as the dock or status bar, choose custom icons for folders, choose between various different app drawer styles, hide apps from the drawer, set up customizable gestures and a whole lot more.

In short, if there’s any part of the look or feel of Android that you’re not entirely happy with, there’s a good chance you can change it with Apex Launcher. And almost all the features are completely free, though you can unlock some extras with Apex Launcher Pro for .99/£3.09.

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Font Studio

There’s a long-standing tradition of adding beautiful text to beautiful images. Whether for a poster, presentation, advert or whatever else, text is often overlaid on an image, and for the most part Times New Roman just doesn’t cut it.

With Font Studio you can choose from over 120 interesting, unusual and generally eye-catching fonts, with more being added all the time. Then, you can change the size, color, orientation and transparency of the font, add shadows and put the result on top of an image.

If you want your text to stand out even more you can also add dozens of shapes, for example putting the text in a circle. These too can be tweaked to your liking, or if you’re lacking inspiration you can start with a pre-created template, combining a font, shapes and even sample text and images.

You can also add any of hundreds of stickers to your creations, and blend or combine images. Overall, Font Studio contains a powerful set of typography tools and it’s all completely free.

That said, while your creations might be beautiful the app itself isn’t. Rather, it’s infested with ads. We’d happily pay a small fee to get rid of them, but sadly that’s not an option.

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Timbre

Timbre ’s full name is ‘Timbre: Cut, Join, Convert mp3’, and that tells you almost everything you need to know about it: this is an app for cutting, joining and converting files.

But the MP3 bit in the name rather undersells it, because Timbre can also work its magic on WAV, FLAC, M4A, AAC, PCM, AIFF, Ogg, WMA, ALAC, MP4, AVI, FLV, MOV, WebM, MKV and MPEG files.

You can convert from one file type to another, which is handy if, for example, your music or video player doesn’t like a specific file type.

You can also trim down audio and video files, or combine several files into one, which you might want to do if you’re editing together a video with multiple scenes, or making a mixtape.

Those are the headline features of Timbre, but there are also tools to remove audio from a video file, split a single audio file into two parts, and change the bitrate of an audio file.

All of these things are simple to do, with Timbre sporting a clear interface, and it’s completely free as well.

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Astro: AI Meets Email

Want to inject some personality into your inbox? Astro is here to do just that, combining a slick interface with an AI chatbot.

The AI (called Astrobot) is never more than a tap away, and if you ever get stuck or can’t find a feature you can just type it into the chat box and get assistance.

As well as telling you what and how you can do things with the app, Astrobot can also suggest things you might want to unsubscribe from or archive, or people you might want to make a ‘VIP’ (and thus have their emails appear at the top of your inbox).

Ultimately, Astrobot is nowhere near as powerful as Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri. Ask it a question unrelated to email and you probably won’t get much of an answer, but as dedicated email assistants go it’s pretty good, and doesn’t have much competition.

Elsewhere, the Astro app is less remarkable, but still very solid. Emails that its judges to be important will hit your Priority inbox, and it gets better at this over time, learning, for example, to prioritize emails from people you communicate with a lot.

It’s also full of handy features, like the ability to schedule emails, set up customizable gesture controls, get notified when an email is opened, and sent reminders when you haven’t replied to important emails.

The biggest limitation right now is that Astro only works with Gmail and Office 365 accounts, but support for others is supposedly coming soon.

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Lenka

Lenka is a simple and free camera app, designed for taking stylish black and white photos. Contrast and color temperature can be adjusted using a pair of sliders, you can tap to focus or have the app choose the focus point, and handily you can use the volume buttons to take a picture, rather than having to tap the screen.

Lenka doesn’t let you use a flash, but interestingly you can optionally illuminate your subjects with constant light from the LED flash bulb.

There’s not much else to it – we did say this was a simple app – but whether you fiddle with the settings or not Lenka can take quite striking black and white shots, and there’s a basic built-in editor, letting you crop and rotate your photos.

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Norton App Lock

Almost unavoidably there will be times when you have to hand your phone to someone else, be it to show them some pictures or let them make a call, but what you probably don’t want is the risk of them rummaging through your other apps.

Or, equally, you might not be in the habit of handing out your phone, and not really want to have to unlock it every time you use it either, but still want security for your most sensitive apps.

Either way, Norton App Lock can help, by, well, locking the apps of your choice, behind a PIN, pattern or fingerprint scan.

The app itself is easy to use – just set up the security options you want, then tap the padlock next to any app you want to lock. Once done, you’ll get Norton’s lock screen whenever you (or anyone else) tries to launch the app.

While Norton App Lock isn’t the only option for this it is the best we’ve come across, as it’s fast, loading the instant you tap on a secured app, rather than keeping you waiting. It’s also smart enough not to re-lock an app until you turn the screen off, and it has other handy features too, like one-tap locking of all the apps it thinks you should be securing.

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Tide: Stay focused, be peaceful

You might think that working solidly for hours on end is the best way to be productive, but many people find that actually taking short regular breaks is better. It’s such a popular idea that an entire technique has been built around it, called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s this that’s at the heart of Tide .

The idea is simple: work for 25 minutes then get a 5-minute break. After 4 work periods you get a longer, 15-minute break.

It’s a technique that you might find works, and is definitely worth trying if you ever struggle to focus, as breaking the day into smaller chunks can make it feel more manageable, and you’ll probably find that you resist opening up Facebook while working when you know you’ll be given a break shortly.

You could just use a normal timer for all this, but Tide automates the process, alerting you after each work or break period has finished, but also giving you some control, allowing you to adjust the work and break durations, or change how many work periods you need before a longer break.

When an alarm goes off you have to tap to start the next work or break period, which is more useful than it sounds, as, for example, you might not be ready to go on break after exactly 25 minutes.

Tide also has a beautifully designed interface and optionally plays relaxing nature sounds while you work. We can live without that part, but if, like us, you’d rather work in silence than to the sounds of rolling waves, you can easily turn it off.

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TED

TED isn’t a new app, but it is an enduring and regularly updated favorite. Home to over 2,000 TED Talk videos and episodes of the TED Radio Hour podcast, it has interesting content from inspiring speakers on numerous different subjects, with talks covering everything from “the emotional impact of architecture” to “what a driverless world could look like.”

The talks are usually short – taking no more than 18 minutes, so you can fit one into a coffee break, and they can be streamed, downloaded or sent to a TV via Chromecast, depending on how you like to consume them.

Alternatively they can just be favorited to watch/listen to later, so whether you’re out and about or sat in your living room they’re always accessible.

The whole app is simply laid out with a polished look and lots of images, along with tools to help you find new talks. You can check out one of the curated playlists, search by suggested themes, or just type a term of your own into the search box.

And did we mention all of this is completely free? If only school had been this interesting, we might know as much about science and history as we do about phones.

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All-in-One Calculator

Your phone probably came with a calculator app, but we can almost guarantee that All-in-One Calculator is better. Not only does it have a basic calculator (which changes to a scientific one when you hold your phone in landscape orientation or swipe in from the right edge), it also has over 50 specialist calculators and unit converters.

These cover everything from solving equations, to converting weights and lengths, to working out percentages, averages, density and more. There’s even a currency converter, which updates to offer the current exchange rates, and a BMI calculator.

Most of these you’ll probably never need to use, but next time you need to calculate or convert anything All-in-One Calculator will ensure the answer is never more than a few taps away.

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Motion

Ever wanted to bring all your old Warhammer pieces or children's toys to life? Well with Motion you can, or at least to some kind of stop motion life.

The app couldn't be simpler: you just point your phone at whatever you want to animate, press the big yellow button on the screen, then slightly move anything that you want to show in motion. From that, press the button again and continue like that until you've created your masterpiece.

Once all the footage is in place you can play it back, adjust the frame rate if needed and remove any pictures that you forgot to get your hands out of.

You can always go back and add more frames to a project at any point, so you don't need to set aside a whole afternoon to get an intricate animation done in one go. Once you finally are finished you can save it to your phone and send it to your friends/your kids/anyone else who'll still talk to you after seeing your shonky stop motion.

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Prisma

You might never be the next Picasso, but with Prisma you can make your photos look convincingly like an artistic masterpiece.

The app sports dozens of filters, largely based around specific painters or art styles and with a single tap (and a bit if a wait - plus you need to be online) you can apply any of these to any of your photos.

There's no shortage of photo filter apps but these are a bit more inventive than most and actually look convincingly like the art styles they're imitating.

Once you've applied your filter of choice you can lessen the effect with a swipe if it's veered too far from the source image for your liking, then you can save and share your creations with another few taps.

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Evernote

Evernote is an excellent app for your Android device that lets you stash and sync all your text notes, voice memos and files on your phone and access them through a desktop computer.

It's a brilliant productivity tool that lets you organise and search your notes so you always have exactly what you need at your fingertips.

The paid premium version unlocks offline access and passcode protection, but for free you still get a vast, feature-packed digitial notebook that's easy to navigate.

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Pushbullet

Boost your productivity with Pushbullet , which lets you view your Android phone's notifications and messages directly on your desktop PC. It means if you get a text message you can read it there and then without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.

You can also quickly send files from your computer to your phone with only a few clicks, and if you regularly find that you email links to yourself just to open them on your smartphone, then you'll never have to do that again thanks to Pushbullet's link sharing features.

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Google Photos

There are probably hundreds of photo apps around, but Google Photos stands out as it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos, all for free.

That's reason enough to jump on board, especially as it works not just on Android but on iOS and computers too.

But with basic editing tools and the ability to make collages and albums this is more than just photo and video storage, it aims to be your first and last stop after taking a picture. To achieve that it will need a few more features, but it's well on its way.

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Strava

If you're serious about running or cycling then you should be serious about Strava . As smartphone fitness tools go it's one of the best, allowing you to track your performance, set goals and see daily progress updates.

There are leaderboards and challenges to give it a competitive edge and if you're ever not sure where to run or cycle you can find user created routes on the app, or share your own. All of that comes free of charge, while a premium version adds even more tools.

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Pocket

Even in 2015 there are still times and places where we can't get an internet connection, but this doesn't have to mean you can't read websites, however, thanks to the excellent Pocket app. It allows you to save articles, news stories, blog posts, videos and much more, letting you read and watch them offline.

You can also synchronise your saved articles across every device you've installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading. With unlimited storage you can build up a whole library of content and the app even makes recommendations of new things it thinks you might like.

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Citymapper - Bus, Tube, Rail

Arriving in a brand new city is always exciting but it can also be a little daunting, especially if you need to get around using public transport. Citymapper - Bus, Tube, Rail is a brilliant app that brings you real-time information on public transport for cities around the world.

You can easily plan your route using all kinds of transport, from buses to ferries, and you can be kept up to date with real-time data, including any disruptions or cancellations. An essential app for any city-bound traveller.

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VLC for Android

It might not be quite as glamorous as other media players, but if you want a no-nonsense app that can play pretty much any media file under the sun, then VLC for Android is the app for you.

It spent a long time in beta, but it now delivers a stable, full-featured experience, complete with support for subtitles, multi-track audio, DVD ISOs and network streams.

That's all packaged in an easy to use player, with widgets and gesture controls. So you don't need to worry about getting your media to work, you just need to launch VLC and press play. The app will do the rest.

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IF

IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for "if this then that" and handily sums up what this app does. It's a simple ethos that gives you a huge amount of options for making your Android device even smarter.

You can create simple statements such as "if any photo is taken then add them to Dropbox", or "if my location is home, send a text message to my partner saying "I'm home!"" which can also be shared with other IF users. You'll be amazed how much you can do with such a simple premise.

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Nova Launcher

One of the best things about Android is how customisable it is, and there are loads of apps out there that can help you change the way Android displays and launches apps to suit your preferences.

Out of these Nova Launcher is arguably the best, giving you complete control over your home screen. You can change the icons, themes, colours and layout, completely hide apps that you don't use, set up gesture controls and add funky affects when navigating your phone.

It might sound bloated but you can use as many or as few of these features as you want, so if you want to keep your Android experience slick and minimalist Nova Launcher can do that too.

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Duolingo: Learn Languages Free

If you fancy learning a foreign language then make sure you download Duolingo: Learn Languages Free , as it's one of those rare apps that manages to be both educational and fun, ensuring that you'll keep coming back for more to brush up on your language skills, with bite-sized, genuinely useful lessons and tests.

Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and English can all be learned, it's completely free with no ads or hidden fees and it's one of the best ways you can learn a new language with your Android device.

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Endomondo - Running & Walking

Endomondo - Running & Walking bills itself as the only personal trainer you'll ever need, and it's a pretty darn accurate claim. No matter what sports or fitness activity you perform, this app will track your progress and give you information on speed, distance, calories burnt and more.

You can keep a training diary to view your progress and set workout goals and challenges to help keep you motivated. Plus social features allow you to share and compete with your friends.

While Endomondo works well on its own it can also be linked up to other apps and wearables, so you can get a complete picture of your progress.

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Best Spy App for Androids & iPhones

Regardless of whether your target uses an Android or Apple device, mSpy has you covered.  ​It offers all of the basic features including monitoring text messages, instant messages, contacts, call logs, and pinpointing the phone's GPS location.  mSpy also offers some extras that you won't find anywhere else.

Powerful Features Offered by mSpy

GEO-Fencing

This particular function is very clever.  Not only is this app a great tracker when you want to know they're current location, but by using your control panel you can setup zones that are considered safe or unsafe.  The software tracks when the phone enters or leaves one of these areas you are immediately notified. 

Let's say you want to track your child's activity throughout the day.  Simply setup a safe zone around your home and their school.  Any time they leave one of these designated "safe zones" you'll be notified immediately.  This same technology can be used to monitor the activity of an employee (or a spouse if you're so inclined).

Keylogging Tracker

The keylogging feature from mSpy allows you to capture all keystrokes from the target phone.  From here you can see what's being typed in various apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.  It also allows you capture internet searches, usernames, and passwords. 

Control Access to Apps and Websites

Another great feature of the mSpy spyware is it's ability to block specific applications and websites from being accessed.  You specify the apps that are blocked and the user will be unable to open them on their phone.  The same goes for websites you deem inappropriate.

App Activity Tracker

If you're willing to go through the trouble of jailbreaking the target phone mSpy allows for very nearly complete access to everything on the phone.  This includes popular social media apps like Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line, Tinder, and Telegram.  This means no matter how the user chooses to message, you'll be able to monitor it closely.

Customer Support

When it comes to anything technical solid customer support is a must.  As you'll see in our reviews of other apps the functionality of each of these differ only slightly.  What separates mSpy from the others is their highly intuitive interface and their 24/7 customer support.  Yes you pay more to get this level of service, but if you don't enjoy troubleshooting technical issues this can be a Godsend.

Works with iPhones and Androids

Many spy software packages work with only one operating system or another.  mSpy can work with both.  Even if you're looking to monitor both an iPhone and and Android device they've got you covered.  You can quickly switch between phones in your control panel.

3 Available Software Packages

mSpy offers 3 different pricing structures based on the features you need.  Here's a quick rundown of what you'll get with each.

No Jailbreak Tracker Package:  can be installed without jailbreaking the device.   In fact you don't even need physical access to the device if you have the user's iCloud credentials and the phone is setup to perform regular backups.  The mSpy software will simply extract all of the necessary data from the phone's iCloud account and post it to your dashboard to view at your convenience.

As Low As

.65/mo

While it is the most convenient in terms of installation, the no-jailbreak package offers the fewest capabilities in terms of tracking the phone.  Here's what you get.

  • Text messages
  • WhatsApp
  • iMessage
  • Call history & contact list
  • Calendar, notes, & tasks
  • Installed applications
  • Website history
  • 24/7 chat and email support

What you wont get is access to Geo-fencing, apps like Snapchat, Tinder, or Line, keylogging features, or GPS tracking.

Basic Tracker Package:  available with or without jailbreaking the phone.  The Basic package offers many of the same capabilities as the no-jailbreak package. 

That said the functionality increases dramatically if you're willing to jailbreak the device. 

As Low As

.33/mo

You can either do this yourself or you can have a technician at mSpy do it for you remotely for a small additional fee.  Either way you will need to have physical access to the phone.  In addition to the features in the no-jailbreak package you'll get the following features.

  • Keyword alerts
  • Email
  • Browser bookmarks
  • Photos and videos
  • GPS Location
  • Uninstall alerts
  • Installation help
  • 24/7 email support

Premium Tracker Package:  the Premium package basically offers you full access to everything on the phone from your dashboard.  Getting the full feature set from the Premium package does require jailbreaking the device.  As with the basic package you can do this yourself or have an mSpy tech do it for your remotely.

As Low As

.67/mo

Quick video highlighting installation of this tracker app on an iOS device.

This does require having physical access to the target device.  In addition to the features of the basic and no-jailbreak package you'll get the following functionality.

  • Geo-fencing
  • Keylogging
  • App & website blocking
  • Incoming call block
  • Remote device lock & wipe
  • Remote device lock & wipe
  • Snapchat, Tinder, Line, Skype , Telegram, Viber, & Hangouts
  • Facebook Messenger
  • 24/7 chat & email support

Try Before You Buy

mSpy wants you to be completely comfortable with their product before you make your purchase.  They offer a full demo on their website that allows you to see exactly how their tracker app works.  Check it out yourself by going to their website http://www.mspy.com/demo

Pros

  • No Jailbreak required
  • great feature set
  • intuitive dashboard
  • excellent customer support

Cons

  • higher priced
  • No-jailbreak version requires iCloud credentials

Final Thoughts

mSpy is far and away our favorite spy software of the group.  It offers both a non-jailbreak and jailbreak version, simple installation, intuitive control panel, and very competitive pricing. 

While it's feature set for non-jailbroken phones is somewhat limited, the full version offers everything you could possibly want.  GPS tracking, monitoring of SMS messages and all the popular social chat apps. 

While it doesn't offer some of the advanced features of our 2nd choice (call intercept or call recording), this spyware offers the best value overall.

Or check out our in-depth analysis of mSpy

#2 - FlexiSPY - Best Phone Tracker App Without Permission

FlexiSPY is another popular option in the cell phone spy program market.  This app offers all of the features of mSpy as well as a few incredibly powerful features not offered by any other software out there. 

They've been around since 2005 and in that time have set the bar in terms of advanced monitoring and tracking capabilities.

Most Powerful iPhone and Android Tracker

The app will work on a wide variety of phones including the Android, iPhone, iPad, Nokia Symbian, and the Blackberry .  While it is undoubtedly the most powerful app we've covered it is more appropriate for those who are technically savvy.

As with mSpy you'll have the option of either jailbreaking (or rooting in the case of Androids) the phone or not.  To get the advanced features of this cell phone monitoring software jailbreaking or rooting is required.  FlexiSPY also offers a service to jailbreak the device for you for an additional cost.

Once jailbroken and installed this spyware app allows you to track and record activities such as text (SMS) messages, phone calls, voicemails, GPS location, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp messages, emails, all photos and videos (even within apps) contacts, and much more.

All of these capabilities are pretty standard.  Where FleixSPY really shines is in it's advanced feature set.  In fact they read like a list of CIA or NSA hacks for phones that you read about in the news. 

FlexiSPY Spy Software Advanced Feature Set

Track and Intercept Calls

The call intercept feature allows you to listen to incoming and outgoing calls as they happen.  From your dashboard you can setup notifications for calls coming from or going out to specific numbers. 

Once the call is placed your phone will be notified and you will be patched in via 3-way calling.  Neither the user or the phone or the person they're talking with will be aware that you are listening in.  (You will want to mute your phone as your connection is truly that of a 3-way call)

Record Phone Calls

You can also have the app record all incoming and outgoing phone calls allowing you to review them at your convenience.  Each call is stored in your dashboard for easy access.  As with call intercept you can also specify contacts or numbers to automatically record.

Ambient Listen Mode

This handy feature allows you to discretely turn on the microphone of the phone allowing you to listen to the ambient surroundings of the phone.  You can either schedule the recordings based on specific times and have them recorded to your control panel or listen live. 

Remote Camera Control

This feature allows you to enable the camera whenever you like to take a picture of the phone's surroundings.  These pictures are then uploaded to your dashboard for viewing at your convenience.

Additional Features​

​In addition to tracking messages from the largest number of apps FlexiSPY allows you to record and listen to VOIP calls from Skype, SnapChat, and other apps.  It also allows you to use FaceTime to monitor an iPad using the microphone and camera to see and hear all that is going on around the phone.  You can even use SMS text spoofing to send text messages on behalf of the target phone.

Spy on Text Messages

Spoofing of text messages allows you to send texts on behalf of the target phone and is a clever way to get additional information from contacts who will have no idea the text didn't originate from the owner of the phone.

Spy on iPhones, Androids, Nokia, and Blackberrys

In addition to offering the most powerful features, FlexiSPY also works on a wide range of devices.  Spying on iPhones, Androids, Nokia phones, and Blackberry's is all within this software's capabilities.

The FlexiSPY spy software is available in two different packages:  Premium and Extreme.  Let's break down what you get in each package and it's cost.

FlexiSPY Premium:  While you can use FlexiSPY without first jailbreaking or rooting the phone, to get the full functionality you should plan on performing this first step.  There are dozens of sites like this one that lead you through how this is done. 

You can also pay an extra fee to have someone from FleixSPY do it for you remotely.

As Low As

9

 For 12 mo

The Premium package from FlexiSPY offers all of the functionality of mSPY including access to phone call logs, text (SMS) messages, Facebook Messenger, and videos and photos, and a long list of other chat and social media apps. 

Extreme Package:  the Extreme package from FlexiSPY could be compared to the backdoor access the CIA and NSA supposedly have to our phones. 

With this package you can track and record just about everything that happens on and around the phone.  It is ideal for those that are relatively tech savvy and want extremely detailed information.

As Low As

9

 For 12 mo

This includes the following:

  • Call interecept
  • Record incoming & outgoing calls
  • ambient listening mode
  • remote camera control
  • text spoofing

Pros

  • Allows access to just about everything
  • easy to use dashboard
  • invisible on target phone
  • excellent customer support

Cons

  • more expensive
  • requires rooting or jailbreaking

Is FlexiSPY Right for You?

If you're comfortable with technology and are willing to spend a bit more FlexiSPY is a great choice.  It will allow you to keep track of just about everything that happens on the target phone.  The Extreme package offers capabilities that are unmatched.

Or check out our in-depth analysis of FlexiSPY

#3 - Highster Mobile (Top Android Spy App)

Highster Mobile Pro is geared towards monitoring the phones of your children or your employees.  Of course how you use this tracker tool is totally up to you. 

It offers many of the same powerful features as the other apps we're covering.  But because of how easy it is to install and configure Highster is a good solution for those who aren't as technically savvy.  The interface and online dashboard capabilities are very similar to both mSpy and FlexiSPY, but it doesn't have some of their advanced capabilities.

Cheapest Spyware Tracking App

The Mobile Pro Edition from Highster is one of the best values on the market.  It doesn't have as many advanced features as mSpy or FlexiSPY, but it still offers some of the most important capabilities at a much lower price.  If you're looking for a budget tracker, the Highster Mobile pro product is a great choice.

Features of Highster Mobile Pro

GPS Tracking

In real-time you can monitor the location of the target phone from your control panel.  The location of the device will be displayed on a map and is accurate to within 20 meters.

Call Tracking

From your control panel you'll be able to see a log of all incoming and outgoing calls.  This includes time and duration of the call. 

Access Photos & Videos

All photos and videos stored on the target phone will be available for you to view from your control panel.  This allows you to keep tabs on what pictures your kids are looking at and what sorts of videos they're sending and receiving.

View Browsing History

You'll be able to look at the browsing history of the target device.  This helps you keep tabs on what your kids or employees are looking at using their phones.  All of the data is stored remotely on Highster's servers so even if the browsing history of the phone is cleared, you'll still be able to access all the URLs.

Social Media & App Tracking

Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and other popular social media apps are all popular ways for kids to communicate.  Highster allows you to track the usage of these apps as well as viewing the chats themselves.

SMS Text Messages

Like many of the apps in this comparison Highster also allows you to see a log of text messages from the target phone.  Even if the texts have been deleted on the phone you'll still have a record in your control panel.

Phone Camera Control

Want to literally see what's going on around the target phone?  Highster allows you to take pictures at any time and have them sent to your dashboard for viewing. 

While mSpy and FlexiSPY offer the greatest amount of functionality, Highster is designed to be EXTREMELY user friendly.  It works well on wide variety of devices such as iPhones and Androids.  The installation and setup is hassle free. 

On top of that they offer a one-time payment instead of monthly plans.  Yes, it is missing some of the advanced features like call intercept or ambient recording, but it is still a robust spy software package and is worth considering.

Another nice feature that Highster offers is a support package.  For about you get telephone support.  This can be extremely helpful when technical difficulties come up.

Pros

  • Best pricing at lifetime
  • Phone technical support ()
  • Easy installation and setup
  • no jailbreak or root required

Cons

  • no call intercept
  • no ambient noise recording

For more information and pricing check out http://www.highster.com

You can also read our  in depth Highster Mobile review .

4 - Mobile Spy

The Mobile Spy phone tracker from Retina-X Studios is another innovative product for monitoring and tracking an iPhone or Android phone.  Like most of the spy software apps we've covered so far it gives you the ability to view text messages, call logs, social media apps (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp), photos and videos, GPS location, plus some impressive extras.

This app is specifically designed for parents and employers to track everything happening on the phone of their choosing.  They have integrated multi-device support directly into the dashboard allowing you to quickly switch from one phone to the next.

You'll want to verify the device you're looking to monitor is compatible.  This can be done quickly using the compatibility wizard on their website.  Once verified, installation and setup of this tracker app were both quick and painless.  While this phone tracker app will allow you to monitor a phone without permission, that is not it's INTENDED use. 

Of course how you use it is up to you. 

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