Many of the best Android apps in the Google Play Store are free, letting you do everything from stream movies on your device, to check in with friends on Facebook, to read books and listen to music. Here are our favorites of all time.
Facebook is huge on mobile devices, and the social networking site has slowly made its standalone Android app better and better. Users can access most anything from the app, including other users' profiles, newsfeeds of photos and status updates from friends, and even the messenger function.The app supports text and voice chat, as well as group conversations.
You'll need a Netflix subscription to enjoy the mobile version of the streaming video service, but if you have one, there's no reason not to download this app on your Android device. With an Internet connection, you can stream all the movies and TV shows the Netflix Instant library has to offer. What's more, the service is always impressive, and it makes bus rides and other potentially boring situations much more bearable.
The cool thing about Android is that you can switch out even basic things, like your device's virtual keyboard. Swiftkey is one such replacement, which prides itself on being an adaptive, super-smart autocorrect machine. The “swift” part comes from the app predicting with high accuracy what you're typing, so you can shortcut it. Swiftkey also supports a thumb layout for your keyboard that can be easier to use on mobile devices.
Streaming music service Spotify made a big splash when it came on the scene in the U.S., but for a long time, you had to pay a subscription fee to use Spotify on your mobile devices. That's not the case anymore, which means you can now stream the ad-supported version of Spotify across your any Internet connection, giving Android users access to millions of music tracks. You can also sync to your computer Spotify account, giving you access to playlists, and you can follow friends to see what they're listening to as well.
Amazon's Kindle app instantly turns any Android device into an e-reader, which is handy for consuming all kinds of different reading material. The app lets you purchase and download e-books from Amazon's service, but you can also use browser plug-ins and computer applets to send documents like PDFs to be read through Kindle as well. The app also supports lots of handy elements, like increasing or decreasing text size and setting your screen to the darker nighttime mode for reading in the dark.
If you want to use your Android device to do work, Google Drive is the app for it. It mixes Google's cloud storage service, which allows you to save documents from your computer in the cloud and access them from various devices (including mobile ones) with a suite of office software. The result is the ability to create things like word processing documents or spreadsheets and save them to the cloud, share them with other users, collaborate on them remotely and more. The app is a must for those productivity minded Android users.
The extremely handy user review site Yelp is even handier as a mobile app. It supplies you with information about local businesses, including the ratings and experiences of other users. You'll know which places to patronize, and which to avoid. What's more, Yelp helps you find those places by providing directions, business contact information, and even extras like menus for restaurants.
One of the more recent waves in popular social apps, Snapchat lets you quickly send a photo with a text caption to other users, either individually or in groups. The trick of Snapchat that sets it apart, however, is that the images don't last forever. Instead, they self-destruct after 24 hours. The app also supports things like filters to give your images a different look or to add data to them, to make your snaps more expressive.
It seems like it's been forever since Instagram was an iOS-exclusive, but the photo-sharing app is just as fun and popular on Android as Apple's devices. It makes photography simple: snap your photo, apply a filter and one or two other effects, and share it with friends. The app doubles as a social network, so you can see, like and comment on other people's photos. Instagram supports sharing to Facebook and other social networks just as easily.
If there's a drawback to being an Android user, it's that the openness of the platform also leaves it more open to security threats. Lookout Mobile helps to minimize those by periodically scanning your device for viruses, malware and spyware. It also provides a “find my phone” function in case you lose your device or it's stolen, as well as a backup of your Google contacts list.