Updated on November 4, 2016!
Users of Google’s Android operating system have access to over 1,000,000 apps on the Google Play Store. With such a huge catalog of applications, it can be difficult for new and veteran Android users alike to discover applications outside of Facebook and Snapchat. I would like to share with you a few of my favorite apps, and simultaneously answer a question I receive from many new Android users: “Which Android apps should I install?”
27 Essential Android Apps
Tools and Utilities
- Apex Launcher – FREE with $3.99 PRO option – Apex is my favorite application launcher. It’s fast, smooth, offers a huge number of customization options, and feature-packed, opposite of many stock launchers that come with Android phones. One of my favorite features of Apex is the ability to assign actions to swipe gestures. For example, I can open my application drawer by swiping up on a homescreen, or launch Facebook Messenger by swiping up on my SMS messenger in the dock.
- Cerberus Anti-Theft – FREE 1-week trial, 2.99€ after that – Cerberus is an anti-theft/”Find My Phone” application. Since Google introduced the Android Device Manager, finding a lost or stolen Android device is easy. Cerberus takes this idea and expands upon it, adding the ability to take a picture of a thief after a failed unlock attempt, the ability to record audio, get a list of sent/received calls, and more.
- Chrome Browser – FREE – Chrome is my favorite browser for desktops, and is also my favorite browser on Android. Its interface is sleek, and its syncing ability between your mobile device and your desktop browser is awesome.
- Dropbox – FREE – You should already be using Dropbox on your desktop, and now you should be using it on your Android device, too. One of this app’s coolest features is “Instant Upload,” which automatically uploads photos you take on your phone to your Dropbox.
- Google Voice – FREE – Google Voice gives you one number for all your phones, an alternative number to give to strangers, and a fantastic voicemail interface. Installing Voice on your Android device lets you listen to voicemail on your desktop, see a transcription of your voicemails, and eliminates the annoying carrier-based intro/outro to your beautiful voicemail greeting.
- LastPass Password Manager – FREE 14-day trial, requires $12/year Premium subscription afterward – LastPass for Android is the wonderful companion app to LastPass on your desktop. I’ve forgotten my online banking password several times while I’m on the go, only to have LastPass rescue me.
- Pushbullet – FREE – Pushbullet is arguably one of the most useful applications for Android. It allows you to quickly “push” URLs, lists, and more between your devices and your friends. It also syncs notifications between devices (including your desktop), and also lets you respond to texts from your computer. It’s incredible, and the developers are constantly updating the app.
- Sleep as Android – FREE with $2.99 PRO option – This is an alarm clock application with a sleep cycle tracker. If you place the phone on your bed before you go to sleep with this app active, it will write to a graph corresponding to your movements while you sleep. If you enable the option, Sleep as Android will wake you up at an ideal time around when your alarm will ring, making you feel more refreshed. If you have trouble avoiding the snooze button, Sleep as Android can also present a challenge to you, like a math problem, before the alarm will shut off.
- SMS Backup+ – FREE – This app automatically backs up incoming and outgoing SMS, MMS, and call log entries to Gmail and Google Calendar. I think it’s fun to look back at SMS conversations I’ve had years ago, and this app lets me do that.
- SwiftKey – FREE – SwiftKey is my favorite Android keyboard. It makes typing faster and easier, with its modifiable layouts and Flow option. It also learns from your typing, presenting surprisingly accurate suggestions for your next word based upon what you’ve typed in the past.
- Unified Remote – FREE with $3.99 PRO option – This is easily the most feature-filled Android-to-PC remote on the Play store. With this app, you can remotely control your Windows PC by moving the cursor, typing, launching applications, and more. I use this when I’m lazily lying on my bed and don’t want to get up to touch the mouse.
- Weather Timeline – $1.49 – The most beautiful and useful weather app for Android.
- Endomondo Sports Tracker – FREE with $4.99 PRO option – I use Endomondo to track my mountain bike rides, climbing sessions, and runs. It has a great web interface, too.
- Fenix for Twitter – $4.49 – Fenix is currently Android’s best Twitter application. It’s gorgeous and super easy to use. It’s a little expensive, but I’m guessing that’s partly because the developer is trying to keep his app from hitting Twitter’s (arbitrary and ridiculous) API token limit.
- Google Play Music – FREE – Google Play Music “makes it easy to discover, play and share the music you love on Android and the web.” You can upload your entire music collection to Google’s servers, then play it back anywhere – all without manually transferring tracks to your phone. Google’s new “All Access” monthly subscription service allows you to listen to Google’s huge (18 million+) library without limitations.
- Moon+ Reader – FREE with $4.99 PRO option – Moon+ Reader isn’t the fastest or lightest E-book reader, but its strength lies in its customization.
- MX Player – FREE with $5.70 PRO option – MX Player will basically play any video you throw at it, and I love its simple interface.
- Pocket – FREE – Pocket gives you the ability to save websites to read later. Your Pocket queue syncs between mobile and desktop, too. Pocket just released version 5.0 of their Android application, and it’s beautiful.
- Relay for Reddit – FREE with $1.99 PRO option – Reddit News is my preferred method of browsing Reddit on my phone and tablet. It’s also a beautiful example of material design done correctly.
- Simple Last.fm Scrobbler – If you’re a Last.fm user, this is the best way to scrobble the tunes you play from your Android device. Last.fm is a fantastic service that lets you keep track of the music you’ve listened to.
- Chronus – FREE with paid PRO option – Chronus is a gorgeous lock screen widget that is hugely extendable, with many addons available on the Play Store.
- Light Grid – FREE with $0.99 PRO option – Light Grid is a live wallpaper which displays a grid of lights. It sounds simple, but the effect is beautiful. The PRO version gives you the ability to heavily customize your light grid.
- Muzei – FREE – Muzei changes your background image every customizable interval, but also applies a blurring and dimming filter over the top. This means you can still see your widgets and icons, no matter the content of your background image.
ROOT Tools and Utilities
NOTE that you must first root your phone to use the following applications.
- AdAway – FREE – AdAway blocks ads all over the web on your Android device, including YouTube ads.
- Titanium Backup – FREE with $6.58 PRO option – Titanium Backup is the best application/settings backup tool on Android. With it, you can backup, restore, and freeze your apps, data, and Play Store links. If you buy the Pro key, you can do all of this with batch actions, making large backups and restores as simple as tapping a single button.
2016-11-04: This is what my existing homescreen looks like. I use a combination of Apex Launcher, Chronus, the Material Cards icon pack, and the Muzei live wallpaper:
Have any essential apps of your own? Leave a comment below and let me know!