Fill Your Phone with Free Apps
You already pay enough for your phone, especially with the price of some Android flagships climbing north of $800. (Or haven't you seen what Samsung's charging you for the Galaxy Note 9 or Galaxy S10 Plus these days?) Throw in a monthly data plan, and it's easy to understand why you'd want to slash spending from your mobile budget.
Why not start with apps? Many of the best options available through the Google Play store are free. The true challenge is sorting the must-downloads from the ones that will just waste space. If you've got a new Android device to load up with apps or you're just looking for new additions to your old phone, here are 40 of our free favorites for Android. (Image Credit: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock)
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Facebook for Android is quite similar to what you'd find on Facebook.com, but catered to smartphones. Share photos from your Android gallery, post updates on your wall, comment on the posts of your Facebook friends, share links and other media, and much more with the free app. The app is under constant tweaking, with the latest update ushering in a new look for the app that puts the emphasis on Groups. Facebook's even rolling out its own dating service this year.
While it's a separate app, the Facebook experience wouldn't be complete without the Facebook Messenger app, which handles Facebook's chat and call features and is getting its own redesign to be faster and take up less space on your phone.
Notion aims to be your personal and team productivity hub, allowing users to create custom private or shared workspaces that they can then add versatile "blocks" that can act like text snippets, bookmarks, images, toggle links, files, code snippets, discussion sections, and more. This allows you to easily customize your workspace, while also making it easy to drag and drop individual blocks of content to where you need them without disrupting an entire document. Whether you're doing notetaking, spreadsheeting, or building a Kanban board, Notion's powerful building blocks make things a snap to set up. The free version of Notion allows you to save and sync up to 1,000 blocks of content, while premium subscription plans remove that content limit and add admin tools, permission settings, and other features.
A Google Play Awards 2019 winner, Canva is a quick, user-riendly photo editing app that's designed with social media use in mind. The app comes with a variety of ready to use templates, filters, fonts, and other tools that you can apply to images in your device's gallery or in Canva's selection of free and premium images, which you can then easily share to your favorite social network or media platform. You can use Canva to quickly set up a cover photo or account avatar for Facebook or create crisp and clean Instagram stories, Twitter banners or the perfect Youtube thumbnails. There's a wealth of free material and templates you can work with, as well as a selection of premium templates, images, and more that you can access with in-app purchases.
PicsArt Photo Studio
If you want something that's better at proper photo editing, consider PicsArt Photo Studio, another Google Play Awards 2019 nominee designed to bring a ton of editing tools straight to the palm of your hand. PicsArt gives you a range of options to work with, from standard editing tools that stretch, distort, and crop images, to filters, beautifying tools, cutout tools, collage makers, double-exposure mixing tools, masking selections, drawing tools, and more. In short, it's a collection of tools that's useful for everything from cleaning up quick snapshots to making a share-worthy social media piece. While you already get a good selection of features for free, a PicsArt Gold premium subscription provides a wider array of tools along with more filters and fonts andvideo editing; the subscription also removes ads.
The old-fashioned pen-pal gets a modern take with Slowly, a social app that's intended for a slower, more deliberate messaging experience. Users set up a simple profile with an avatar, location and a list of interests; Slowly will then match you with users with similar interests. Unlike traditional messaging apps, Slowly adds a time delay element to your messages, encouraging longer-form writing at a more weighty, deliberate pace. In addition, the app has a stamp collection feature, as each message comes with stamps based on the sender's location. There are also special seasonal stamps or premium ones available as in-app purchases. You can share a limited number of photos per day if your pen friend has agreed to receive them.
Woebot channels chatbot technology for good, building on proven principles and techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and dialectical behavior therapy to help with emotional self-care and help you process difficult emotions and life events. While it's no replacement for a good therapist, Woebot is designed to help you self-asses, checking in with you regularly and helping you practice mindfulness exercises to try to help center yourself and improve your mental and emotional well-being.
Transit is a fantastic aid to your commute, helping you plan out the fastest public transport routes to your destination. The app provides routes that combine numerous transportation methods — such as trains, buses, and bike sharing — while also factoring in short walks to each stop and wait times. Transit can provide real-time data on arrival times of your bus or train, compare routes, step-by-step navigation, and notifications for service line disruptions. You can even book an Uber or reserve a car2go from within the app if public transport has failed you.
Otter Voice Notes
Otter Voice Notes is a freemium transcription app that makes taking voice notes a breeze. Otter can record from your phone's internal mic or through a Bluetooth device; it then automatically transcribes your work nearly in real-time, complete with punctuation, speaker ID, and searchable playback of your recordings. Users can edit transcripts to fix any errors, and transcripts can be exported to text or to other apps, or shared with a group or through public, view-only links. The free plan doesn't even hobble the experience, offering users 600 minutes of transcribed audio every month. A $9.99-per-month subscription ups that to 6,000 minutes.
Initially designed as a hub app for Google's Chromecast device, Google Home has since grown into a handy smart appliance command center, offering compatibility with devices like the Google Home smart speaker, as well as smart lights, internet-connected thermostats, home security devices, smart plugs, and more. Rather than having to continually shuffle between dozens of device-specific apps, you can turn the Google Home app into an all-in-one command center and a true central hub for your smart home.
Adobe Acrobat Reader
While your Android phone probably has some support for the basics of opening and viewing PDF files, if you want anything more capable, you'll want a dedicated PDF reader app, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. The mobile version of Acrobat Reader is a capable reader, with configurable view modes, support for page search, cloud storage, bookmarks and tables of contents. It also includes annotation features for your marginal notes, comments, and even digital signatures. In-app purchases and subscriptions unlock professional and productivity-oriented features.
Born from Microsoft's acquisition of Wunderlist, Microsoft To-Do is a smart, no-nonsense to-do list app that presents a sleek and distraction-free interface, while intelligently suggesting tasks based on long-term patterns, upcoming deadlines, or stuff that you weren't able to see to in the past days. Users can keep task descriptions simple, or add detailed descriptions, color codes, categories, and more. While the app is free, cross-platform, and works perfectly fine on its own, it also plays well with the rest of Microsoft's Office 365 suite of productivity tools.
CamScanner turns your phone camera into a portable document scanner and OCR tool, allowing you to quickly turn photos of your paper documents into JPG or PDF electronic formats, which you can then save into your cloud storage or share through social media or email. Scan quality optimization and smart cropping let you handle everything from receipts to contracts and even office whiteboards with ease. The app is ad-supported, with watermarks on the free tier, while a premium subscription removes ads and the watermark and adds premium features such as OCR editing, auto-upload, expanded collaboration and more.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Adobe Photoshop Sketch is a free app that provides users with a set of expressive drawing tools. Users can choose from utilities that mimic a graphite pencil, ink pen or marker. The app supports a variety of Bluetooth styluses on the market such as those by Wacom and Adonit. Sketch aims to replicate the analog drawing experience, augmented with a few digital flourishes such as a color picker and an undo history. Users can import assets from other Creative Cloud tools such as custom brushes and colors, and your creations can also be exported into Creative Cloud as layered PSDs to Photoshop, or to Illustrator.
Tired of your stock launcher, looking to optimize your home screen performance, or just looking to customize your device's UI? Nova Launcher is among the best modern Android launcher apps, offering loads of cosmetic and utility customizations with minimal performance overhead, letting you set your home screen just right without slowing down your phone. There are a lot of options to work through, from color themes to icon packs, scrollable docks to app drawer customizations, folder settings and infinite scrolling. The Nova team is never content to rest on its laurels, continuously adding new features, such as Sesame Shortcuts, animations, and Oreo improvements. While many customizations are available, others such as gesture controls are gated behind the premium version.
Strava Running and Cycling
In addition to being a top-notch running and cycling tracker, Strava Running and Cycling adds gamified features to give the usual run-tracking recipe a competitive edge. The app records your running speed, distance traveled, time and course taken, but also combines it with leaderboards, achievements and challenges. Strava supports a variety of running trackers, in addition to Android Wear and Apple Watch. A premium subscription improves on the formula with filtered leaderboards, the ability to create exercise goals and view more detailed analytics and more.
Podcasting platform CastBox combines a clean and navigable interface, a good selection of podcasts, and powerful podcast audio searching to deliver an excellent mobile podcatcher. Users can sign in with Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter, and then search and subscribe to podcasts, download episodes for offline listening and sync their subscriptions across multiple devices. You can stream podcasts through Chromecast or Amazon Echo, and a premium tier removes subscription limits, allows for homepage customization, and puts you on priority for customer support and new features.
AccuWeather provides users with timely and detailed weather forecasts, from 15-day outlooks to the hyperlocal MinuteCasts. Forecasts come with animated weather info, radar maps, detailed summaries, and push notifications for extreme weather alerts in the US. Extra features include AccUcast, a system for crowd-sourced warnings on hazardous weather and road conditions, as well as customizable forecast details, weather-related videos, and Android Wear support so that you can get forecast info at a glance on your smartwatch.
If you want a bit more snark with your weather report, check out CARROT Weather, which delivers the forecast with a hefty side order of biting commentary. The app pulls data from Dark Sky to provide current, hourly, and 7-day forecasts leavened with sarcastic humor to cushion even the gloomiest outlook. Infographics put useful information in quick reach, with more detailed meteorological data available as you tap and swipe. You can even configure CARROT's sense of humor to be friendly, snarky, or murderous, with the ability to set how political the AI's jokes can get. The app is free, with a Premium Club subscription removing ads and unlocking features like a Weather Time Machine and widgets.
Waze is a godsend to many motorists, providing accurate, time-saving turn-by-turn navigation that takes advantage of traffic data and crowdsourced incident reports. Users select their destination, and then Waze uses mapping data and traffic information pulled from a variety of sources including official data as well as your fellow Waze users to automatically create a recommended route, complete with turn-by-turn directions. The app is remarkably adaptive, automatically adjusting routes based on the latest traffic info, as well as shifting routes on the fly should you miss a turn. In addition, Waze can display crowd-sourced incident reports, the cheapest gas stations along your route and other extras.
If you find yourself wasting a lot of time with repetitive internet tasks, or just want to automate tasks on your phone, try IFTTT. The app comes with a variety of pre-built "applets" that automate tasks like backing up photos to cloud accounts, messaging your roommate or family if you're near the grocery, or having your smart lights turn themselves on when you return home from work. In addition to the pre-built applets, Users can also build custom tasks from these applets and services, combining multiple tasks and triggers in an "If This, Then That" structure (from which the app takes its name).
Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus
Avast's Mobile Security & Antivirus is our favorite mobile security suite for Android devices, offering comprehensive antivirus protection as well as numerous extra features, like Wi-Fi vulnerability protection, malware scanning, call blocking and app locking. Avast's free offering is already feature-packed, but premium subscribers get even more tools such as a privacy advisor, a customizable blacklist and extra tools for rooted Android devices.
Google Photos (which already comes stock on some Android devices) is a fantastic cloud photo storage service, offering unlimited storage space for high quality photos, as well as up to 15GB of original resolution photos in your Google Drive space. In addition to the generous online storage, Google Photos also features a smart search tool for finding familiar objects, places, pets, people and events, as well as an album assistant and basic photo editing tools.
Passwords and login credentials are a peculiarly internet age hassle. Thankfully password managers such as Lastpass can keep that hassle in check, serving as a mobile password vault that encrypts and stores your logins and automatically fills them in when using apps or signing on to websites. In addition to keeping track of your logins, Lastpass can generate strong passwords and store encrypted data; it also supports fingerprint scanners. Cross-platform syncing is free to all users, so you can sync your password vaults between your Android phone or tablet and other devices such as your PC, Mac, or iPhone.
Who knew that you could say so much in 280 characters? Microblogging website Twitter has become an internet phenomenon, used for everything from keeping in touch with friends and family to serving as an online discussion forum and source of breaking news. The official Twitter app lets you post status messages, photos, links, and GIFs, follow other users, and get in touch with your contacts through direct messaging, all in a handy mobile format that lets you take your tweets wherever you go.
If you're on the lookout for something a bit more appealing than the standard emoji that come with your Android smartphone, Bitmoji is the app for you. With Bitmoji's help, you can create your "personal emoji" that look like you and more effectively communicate whatever you might be thinking or feeling. It's a neat and popular app that works in Snapchat or anywhere else you're communicating with others.
An on-demand ride sharing and car booking app, Uber has been a powerfully disruptive force in the public transportation field. Users can easily set up a user account and quickly book anything ranging from a cab, a rideshare or a premium black car service. The fare is automatically calculated and handled through credit card or Paypal.
Mint.com provides one of the most popular personal finance tracking solutions online, and you can take it mobile with this dedicated app. Track, budget, and manage your finances all in one place so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Keep track of your savings, checking accounts, and credit or debit cards, input transactions, and set reminders for things like bill payments to avoid late fees. It might feel a little dry and dull itemizing and tracking your expenses and purchases, but it can make a real difference in your budgeting, and the Mint.com app helps by putting your budget and spending information in clear and readable graphs and charts.
Formerly known as SportsCenter, the ESPN app brings users the latest and greatest sporting news and information worldwide. Whether you're looking for updated scoring information, breaking news for various teams and leagues or professional analysis, the ESPN app has got your back. Users can easily customize a list of favorite teams, allowing the app to provide a personalized sports news experience for all the franchises and athletes you care about. A redesign to the app adds more live streaming features, though you'll need a $5-a-month ESPN+ subscription to enjoy those.
Google Maps is an all-around mapping powerhouse, combining powerful mapping features, turn-by-turn navigation, traffic data, commuting directions and location search all into one convenient package. Whether you're out for a stroll, commuting to work, exploring a new town or taking a long road trip, Google Maps has something to offer.
VLC for Android
If you're looking for a versatile, all-in-one media player that'll play just about any file format that you can throw at it, then give VLC for Android a spin. A mobile build for the popular desktop media player, VLC is designed to play just about any file format out of the box, from ubiquitous .mp3 and .mp4 files to more unusual formats such as .mkv and .flac. In addition to playing local files, VLC for Android also supports network streaming and media library organization.
Snapseed 2 revamps the UI and combines the old selective area edits with new one-touch edit tools and filters, transform and brush editing tools and a powerful layer for working on your image edits. The new UI and the loss of the Grunge filter hasn't pleased everyone, but Snapseed 2 is an impressive free mobile photo editing app.
Microsoft Outlook is a mobile productivity powerhouse, bringing your email, attachments, contacts and calendars into easy reach. Outlook's built-in analytic engine automatically surfaces important email (across multiple accounts) based on your communications, and quick swipe controls allow you to easily triage your email. It's a great mobile email app, and works with Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and iCloud email accounts. Check out our in-depth look at Outlook mobile here.
Spotify has become synonymous with online streaming music, thanks to its familiar UI, Facebook integration and massive song library of more than 20 million tracks. The Spotify mobile app has been updated to allow for more free music streaming than ever, and a $9.99 monthly subscription allows you to save an unlimited number of songs for offline listening. Factor in Spotify's artist radio stations and Browse function for finding playlists, and you'll likely be hitting Play on this app for a long time to come.
Contacts+ is an address book replacement that helps organize your contacts and integrates with your social media accounts and communications. The app automatically imports information from linked social networks such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts, allowing you to access them all in one place. Cover pictures can automatically be filled in from Facebook or Google+, and you can view your recent communications from each contact. This means you can keep conversation histories for your friends, family and colleagues.
Remarkably easy setup, automatic syncing with your phone's contacts and a feature-rich, ad-free experience all combine to make WhatsApp a wildly popular mobile messaging app on phones. Users can send text, photos, voice and short video messages to their WhatsApp contacts. WhatsApp has been continuously adding to its formula, with updates adding encrypted messaging and video calls.
With more than 130 million users, Instagram lets you take pictures and apply instant filters that give even the most boring images a little visual kick. You can then share your works of art through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The recent addition of video recording and sharing gives Vine users reasons to switch and stick to a single app.
Amazon's Kindle app is a one-stop marketplace and ebook reader app that lets users access their digital library across all their mobile devices. A highly configurable viewer lets you set font size, background and other features to your liking. Kindle automatically syncs your reading progress across devices, allowing you to open Kindle on another machine and be on the same page, complete with bookmarks and notes. Extra features include a built-in dictionary, as well as Google and Wikipedia searches. Even if you're not inclined to spend a cent in the Kindle marketplace, you can still enjoy a wealth of public domain ebooks and the occasional free ebook promo.
Stuck trying to pick which flick to watch? Letterboxd is the cinefile's diary and social network, and its app enables you to share film reviews and recommendations with friends. Not only can you keep a log of the movies you've seen, complete with ratings, reviews and tags, you can also follow friends, look up cast and crew data for movies and create shareable lists of favorite flicks and actors.
Evernote is one of the premier cross-platform note-taking services, allowing users take and upload notes, pictures, audio and video snippets and organize them into cloud notebooks that can be synced across different devices. Loaded with powerful organization, formatting and sharing options, Evernote is still king even with the rise of competitors such as Catch Notes and Google Keep. The free version lets users upload 60MB worth of content monthly.
Pocket, the rebranded version of the venerable Read It Later service, is a great offline reading tool that allows you to select and save articles, pictures and videos for later viewing. The clean design means you can enjoy content without a lot of the side clutter on the Web. Tagging, cross-device and platform syncing, and many other features make this app an essential tool for news junkies.