Earlier today, I got my head stuck between two boards on the deck here at PCMag, and I thought to myself, "I wish there was an Android app that could help with this." It turns out there isn't, and the developer community should really get on that. But there are lots of other stellar apps for reading comics, editing files on the go, browsing the Web, and so many other categories.
But considering that Google Play currently encompasses nearly 1.5 million apps, finding the best can be a challenge. Especially when your head is wedged between two two-by-fours and you can't reach your phone. That's why we've put together this list of the best Android apps. Here, you'll find a little bit of everything: finance, storage, photo editing, and digital security.
You won't find any games in this hallowed hall of Android perfection. That's not because we don't like mobile games. Quite the contrary. We love mobile games so much we went and made a separate list for the best Android games .
Well, maybe this doesn't include the absolute best. Or at least not all of the best Android apps. Google Play is simply too dynamic and vibrant a marketplace for us to list every single great app. Think of this as more of a snapshot. This is a look at what we think are the best right now based off our reviews and hands-on experience with Android apps.
To my mind, the best Android apps excel in two areas: excellence and elegance. An excellent app provides something that no other app can. It's the only way to search photos, or find out where your personal information is going. An elegant app may not be the most original app, but the way it accomplishes something makes it a joy to use.
VIEW ALL PHOTOS IN GALLERY
This App Is Stale
Though 100 apps are far more manageable than the entirety of the Google Play store, it's still a challenge to keep current. We update the list frequently to keep it from being overrun with broken and unhip apps. Hopefully, the next time you read this, there will be some new gems for you to discover.
This time around, we take a closer look at some streaming video apps like Hulu and Netflix .
With this list, we also strive to give you choice. There are, for example, at least three excellent services for storing your files on the cloud that we include in this list. But each has different pricing, features, and appearance. You're sure to find something that works for you from our list.
Hey, You Missed Something!
We know a lot about apps, but we're still merely human. There's simply no way we could possibly comprehend the maddening totality of Google Play and hope to survive. So we rely on our humble judgment, our instincts, and feedback from you, our readers.
If we missed something, or you have a recommendation, be sure to drop us a line in the comment section. If you're looking for something more specific, we've got you covered. Perhaps you'd enjoy the best free Android apps , or the best messaging apps , or maybe the top Android antivirus apps .
And now, without further adieu, I present the main event: PCMag's 100 best Android apps!
Communication and Social
Plain ol' SMS and voice calls just don't cut it anymore. These apps help you keep in touch with the most important people in your life, all from your handy Android.
Circle of 6
Free This unique app is for those dangerous situations when you need to quickly (and discreetly) get help from your friends. Two quick taps sends one of three pre-written text messages to as many as six of your contacts. One message sends your GPS location and a request to be picked up, while another asks your friends to quickly get in touch with you. The app also includes links to the RAINN and Love is Respect hotlines.
Free The problem with most mobile messengers is convincing your friends to sign up. But odds are, most people you know are already on Facebook. Which is handy, because the Facebook Messenger app is fantastic. Simple, clean, and capable of sending video, it's a great little messenger. And stickers. Don't forget the amazing stickers.
Free Google Talk is dead, long live Google Hangouts! This app can not only send instant messages to other Google users, but it can also do video chatting for free. Users lucky enough to have Android 4.4 can also use it manage their SMS messages, and Google+ users can enjoy video conference calls with up to 12 participants.
Plume for Twitter
Free Sure, there are plenty of ways to fire off a 140-character Tweet, but users looking for more control should consider Plume. This powerful Android Twitter client lets you change all sorts of settings, right down to the LED color used to alert you of a message. My favorite feature is muting, which lets you suppress users, and even specific words, from your timeline.
Free The companion to TextSecure, this handy app lets you make encrypted calls over the developer's secure VoIP network to other TextSecure users. I particularly like that it works with your existing dialer and phone number, alerting you when another RedPhone user is on the line and the call can be encrypted. If all those PRISM and NSA headlines have you worried, be sure to give this app a try.
Free If you're worried about the NSA or anyone else peeking at your text messages, consider TextSecure. Messages sent to other TextSecure users are encrypted over the air, but the app will also encrypt all of your text messages when they're at rest on your phone to keep them away from prying eyes. We first reviewed the app when it was in Beta, but it's since had a full version release and is ready for prime time.
Free Streaming live video used to be challenging on a desktop computer and dang near impossible on a mobile device. But apps like Meerkat and Periscope changed all that. Periscope has Twitter's blessing, and lets you share video and chat with other users with ease. Best of all, it saves your Periscopes for later viewing.
99 cents per year In a world of messenger apps WhatsApp is among the most successful, boasting an enormous and dedicated user base. Recently, this app got bolstered by encrypted messaging provided by the minds behind TextSecure. Could this be the secure, easy-to-use messenger we've been waiting for? We'll have to bring it into the labs and find out.
FreeSometimes the most secure message is one that simply doesn't exist. That's the thinking behind Wickr, a fully encrypted, secure messaging service that even handles media messages. The twist is that you set a lifespan for each message, ensuring that your private messages stay private. And, if you doubt their security chops, here's what the company's founder told the FBI when they asked for a backdoor.
Keeping your favorite movies, music, and everything else with you at all times.
Free Filled with both up-and-coming and established acts, Bandcamp is one of the most exciting music marketplaces today. Their app is still a bit disappointing, shirking music discovery and purchasing but recently adding a weird social network-ish feature. But it does one cool thing—instant streaming of your Bandcamp purchases. That alone makes this app a keeper.
Free If you're an audio nerd or just prefer to have a lot more control over your music collection, take a look at DeaDBeeF. This sprawling app supports mp3, ogg, aac/mp4, alac/mp4, flac, ape, wv, wav, tta, mpc, sid, mod, s3m, nsf and more. There's also a 10-band equalizer so you can get your tunes sounding just so. Perfect for all of those live recordings of Steely Dan concerts you've been hoarding.
$7.99/monthHulu has long been the king of streaming TV. It's the best choice for when you want to see current shows and not wait until they're collected for sale or streaming on another service. But it also has a deep well of great movies to draw from, most notably the Criterion Collection films. If you need to see Brooklyn 99 on your Nexus 6, then this is the app for you.
$7.99/monthNetflix was the original streaming movie service, and though you can't manage your rental DVDs from the app, it's still essential. While it's fair to complain that content on Netflix will sometimes just disappear, the service has started creating its own content. Original comedies, cartoons, documentaries, and smash-hits like House of Cards make Netflix a must-have.
$20 Have you ever needed (I mean, really needed) to catch your favorite show but found yourself nowhere near a TV? Technology is finally here to solve the problem with Sling TV, an inexpensive service that lets you watch live TV on any Android device. Get ready to cut the cord and kick cable out of your life.
Free, optional subscription Slacker takes a unique twist on the mobile streaming format by offering much more than just music and music discovery. It'll connect you with your favorite tracks, but you can also browse its enormous collection of human-curated playlists for every occasion—like Yacht Rock. It also has an extensive catalog of radio talk shows, sports, and comedy series. Whatever you want to listen to, Slacker probably has it.
Free Songkick is the bridge between the music in your digital collection and concerts in your area. Once installed, Songkick scans your device and lets you see when and where your favorite artists are playing. If you see a show you're interested in, you can also purchase tickets all from within the app. Add multiple locations to Songkick to catch concerts when you're on the road.
Free With its huge inventory of music, Spotify has become a mainstay for free, legal music streaming. A recent pricing shuffle brings free mobile Pandora-esque streaming, and a paid subscription will nab you on-demand service and Led Zepplin. My favorite feature is close ties with artists who release new albums on the service the same day they hit the shelves in record shops. Those still exist, right?
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