Download These Overlooked Android Gems
iOS's App Store is no longer the only game in town for mobile app makers. Google Play now offers more than 1 million apps for your Android device, ranging from best-ignored downloads to genuinely useful apps and games. Yet for every popular favorite such as Kindle or YouTube, there are just as many new, underrated, unusually fun, or plain overlooked gems.
Whether you want to fill up a new Android phone with apps or just try out something new like a productivity app, fitness tracker or web browser, check out the apps you're not using but should that can be found in Google Play. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)
Mobile Passport (Free)
If you're going to be spending time abroad, you can breeze through a few lines with the use of Mobile Passport. It's a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-approved app that helps speed you through lengthy immigration lines by letting you submit your passport control and customs declarations from your phone (assuming you've got a U.S. or Canadian passport). By replacing paper forms and providing faster processing in a number of major US airports that support Mobile Passport service is supported, the app will save you a good amount of time in line. Just remember to bring along your paper passport, as this app isn't a replacement for that.
If you're traveling light and looking to save a few bucks, check out Skiplagged, a neat app that can keep your travel costs down by taking advantage of "hidden city flights," where flyers get off at a layover, instead of at the flight's final destination. Users enter their origin and target destination, and Skiplagged will show you the cost of a direct flight, as well as any cheaper "hidden city" flights that have your intended destination as a layover. The caveat? Stick to carry-on luggage, as any checked-in bags will go all the way to the flight's final destination. Skiplagged also allows you to book hotels, including last-minute deals and special offers.
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.
Online TV and movie streaming used to be simple: go to Netflix for almost everything. But as the online video streaming market becomes increasingly fragmented and producers and networks scramble for exclusives to make their own streaming service stand out, it can be a pain keeping track of where to go to watch a particular show or movie series. Enter JustWatch, a service that keeps track of the latest offerings from 37 different streaming services, showing you where and when to watch a particular TV show, covering big names like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime Video. You can search for a particular series or browse through what's new. The app also offers latest movie trailers and showtimes, complete with one-click Fandango bookings for your local cinema.
IDAGIO ($9.99 per month)
IDAGIO is taking on a fairly untapped market — high-quality classical music streaming. IDAGIO subscriptions cost $9.99 per month, and let users stream lossless FLAC audio of new, exclusive and rare recordings of concerts and opera performances, all searchable by composer, soloist, ensemble or orchestra so that you can easily track down and compare recordings and performances. Users can check out curated playlists or create their own, and they can stream music through Chromecast or Sonos, as well as download music for offline play.
Unfold is a clean and easy to use creative tool that focuses on creating slick and polished Instagram Stories-ready presentations, with an arsenal of sleek and elegant templates that you can apply to your photos. It's a no-guff approach that focuses on the simple and stylish, eschewing the wacky for the elegant, with 25 free templates and 5 fonts, applicable on photo and video presentations, with more available as in-app purchases.
Sleep As Android (Free)
If you want a better sense of how you’re sleeping at night, Sleep As Android takes a science-based approach to sleep tracking. The app can combine with the sensors on your Android device and even with other wearables to monitor the quality of your sleep, finding the optimal time to wake you up in the morning. Integrations with other apps let you control supported smart light bulbs or incorporate captchas or music from Spotify into your morning alarms. The app is free to download, but after a two-week trial, you’ll need to pay $6 for the full version.
The old-fashioned pen-pal gets a modern take with Slowly, a social app that's intended for a slower, more deliberate messaging experience that might otherwise get lost in our modern age of instant gratification. 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, with each message coming with stamps based on the sender's location, as well as special seasonal stamps or premium ones available as in-app purchases. You can also share a limited number of photos per day if your pen friend has agreed to receive them.
Triple Agent (Free)
Triple Agent has you and five to nine friends trying to figure out who among you is an agent of the Service or a nefarious VIRUS infiltrator in this quick-playing game of social deduction. Inspired by party classics like Mafia and Werewolf, Triple Agent brilliantly condenses the deduction game into a single round of clues, with the smartphone app taking on the role of facilitator. At the start of each round, players pass around the phone to learn their allegiance to the Service or VIRUS, and then the app provides each player with a single Operation that can reveal clues about other players or change the nature of the game. At the end of the round of deductions, players vote on who to imprison, and once the vote is tallied, that player and their entire team loses the game. The game is free, with an in-app purchase unlocking more expansions and variant rules.
Vuforia Chalk (Free)
One of our favorite AR apps yet, Vuforia Chalk uses augmented reality technology to supercharge tech support for the 21st century. Chalk sets up a video call between two devices, where the person getting advice points their rear camera at whatever they need explained to them, and the other person draws on their own screen as they provide instructions and advice. The person getting the help sees those doodles live, appearing on their screen, falling on the specific buttons, knobs and other parts of whatever they're looking at, in effect providing live, visual annotations that can help solve problems.
Apps like Tasker offer powerful automation options for Android, but they're not always so user-friendly. For something a bit more approachable, consider Automate, which uses a visual, flowchart-based interface for making your own custom-designed scripts. The app boasts more than 320 different task building blocks that can include actions, event triggers, loops and more; you can arrange those blocks in a flowchart style to easily visualize your creations. The app is free, with a $2.99 in-app purchase unlocking a Premium mode for creating scripts that require more than 30 blocks.
Solid Explorer ($1.99)
Android has a glut of free file explorer apps that let you manage your device's external storage, ranging from excellent tools to freemium bloatware. If you're willing to spend a small amount to get an excellent ad-free and bloatware-free app, check out Solid Explorer, a premium file manager that comes packed with features and a clean, hassle-free interface. Drag-and-drop controls, a multi-tab and multi-pane interface, and support for network and cloud storage and compressed archives cover your basics, while more advanced features like a root explorer, plugin support and batch operations are available for power users.
Your Android phone is a fine device for reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks, and if you know where to go, you don't even need to pay a cent to do so. Libby by Overdrive works with your local library to provide a digital media management platform for borrowing and returning ebooks and audiobooks. Just sign in, connect your library card, and then browse your local library's digital offerings. You can use multiple library cards, sample books, download or stream content, tag titles, and sync data across devices.
MORE: More Top Audiobook Apps
Google Arts & Culture (Free)
Google Arts & Culture gives you a close-up look at the world's great art masterpieces, teaming up with thousands of museums and collections to display artwork, offer VR tours of museums and provide in-depth stories or videos about famous artists, works, and other topics. Users can browse works by artist, time period, or color, as well as explore each museum's virtual offerings. You can also look up museum operating hours and contact details, while finding nearby museums and cultural events. You can even save favorite artists to create a personal collection that you can share with friends and students.
Feeling philanthropic? Dreamlab takes advantage of your smartphone's idle time to help in the fight against cancer. Smartphones pack some impressive computing power in a small package, and when left idle and plugged in, such as when charging in the middle of the night, Dreamlab downloads small chunks of cancer research problems and simulations and uses your phone's idle processing power to help solve these complex mathematical problems, sending results back to the research team. Users can sign up, choose which projects they want to support, view their contributions, and keep up with the latest news about participating projects.
While there are a lot of exercise trackers and personal fitness apps out there, few focus on holistic body and mind improvement. Enter Fabulous, a self-improvement app aimed at upgrading mind and body to help make you feel... well... fabulous. Based on scientific principles and incubated in Duke's Behavioral Economics Lab, Fabulous starts you out with simple goals like trying to lose weight, get better sleep, or improve your concentration; the app helps with simple exercises, scheduled notifications and activities, and other coaching tools designed to build healthy habits for body and mind.
Trusted Contacts (Free)
The iPhone has had Find my Friends for what seems like nearly forever. Google has finally decided to offer its own alternative for those living in the Android universe. Google’s Trusted Contacts works similarly, letting you share your location or see where your contacts are. You can send out or request a real-time location, so you don’t have to share your constant whereabouts. However, Trusted Contacts will automatically send out your location if you’re not able to answer a request, which could be of help in an emergency. An iOS app is coming soon for your iPhone-using friends and family members.
Podcast & Radio Addict (Free)
There are a wealth of good podcast managers or podcatchers out there, but when it comes excellent free options on Android devices, Xavier Guillemane's Podcast & Radio Addict is one of the best options available out there. It covers the basics with automatic episode updates and downloads, as well as automatic deletion features to save space, variable speed playback, silence skip, volume boosting, a sleep timer and other neat features. A podcast search tool allows you to quickly find individual episodes or search through a variety of databases for new podcasts and trending shows. In addition, the app also supports video podcasts, YouTube channels, audiobooks, streaming radio and other media sources.
Period Tracker Clue (Free)
Period Tracker Clue is a useful mobile addition to the tech-savvy woman's reproductive health toolkit. The app serves as an all-in-one period tracker, allowing you to record period dates, flow heaviness, and menstrual products used; you also can log other factors such as sexual activity, birth control use, cervical fluid, and more. With that info, the app provides in-depth info about the menstrual cycle, complete with references. Clue also includes a learning algorithm that can help predict your period cycles, PMS, and related fertility data. To make the most out of that feature, though, you'll need to subscribe to Clue's premium tier, starting at $0.99 per month.
Open Whisper Systems' Signal is a fantastic messaging solution for security conscious mobile users. It is an all-in-one messaging and voice call solution that uses end-to-end military grade encryption. You can send text, voice, group messages, media and attachments. Ease of use and strong, open source, audited encryption makes it a favorite of the security conscious, with accolades from the likes of Edward Snowden and other privacy advocates.
Torrenting apps are another thing you're not likely to see in iOS for a while. In the Android market, Flud is one of the best ones out there. The latest version sports a clean Material interface and comes with no speed limits for uploads or downloads. It sports staple features such as selective file downloading and prioritization, magnet link support, sequential downloading support and a Wi-Fi only mode. You can also dig deep into more advanced functions, in case fiddling with router port forwarding is your idea of fun. The free version is fully functional, while a paid version removes advertisements.
Light Flow (Free)
If your Android phone has an LED light that flashes for notifications, it’s time for you to take total control over how it works. Light Flow lets you pick both the color scheme and types of notifications for text messages, social media alerts and other updates. Developer Reactle recommends you try out the free version to ensure there aren’t any issues with your phone’s software before you upgrade to the $2.49 paid offering if you enjoy the experience.
If you've got an IR blaster mounted inside your smartphone (HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G2), try Anymote. This $4.99 app turns your blaster-equipped smartphone into a universal remote for a wide variety of appliances, from TVs, set top boxes, DVD players or just about any device that accepts IR commands. The app has a lot of cool features, such as the ability to create custom remotes that bring together commands from different devices into a single screen (for example, turning on your TV, DVD player and sound system on with a single tap) and the ability to create custom macros.
The interface for RunPee won’t win any awards, but it will help you avoid those critical scenes when nature calls the next time you’re at the movie theater. The app gives you hints about when you’re safe to sprint to the restroom without missing too many critical plot details. Be sure to grab it before you head out to the cineplex.
Retrogaming emulators allow users to run classic video games by emulating obsolete game consoles and handhelds on modern devices. Instead of having to download a different emulator for each console you want to emulate, RetroArch functions as an all-in-one app that bundles together numerous free and open source emulator software in a single package. If you're hankering to relive the glory days of the NES and SNES, the PSX, or even the Atari 2600, RetroArch has a built-in emulator that'll do the job.