If you haven’t been paying attention, you might not know that Android apps have radically improved in 2013. This year, Google finally started offering “Find my phone” services services, but the third party apps have also gotten better. From design to performance to simple availability, the grass is looking greener and greener. After you’ve picked up the usual suspects — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and obviously Dots — the harder choices come in. Will you use Google Keep for your notes or go with Evernote or Simplenote? What’s the best app to wring the most out of the pictures you take on your phone? Will you be reading books on Kindle, articles in Pocket, or news in Flipboard or Press? With Android, you’re not longer left in the lurch looking for options, but that means you need help choosing between them. Fortunately, we’ve collected our favorites here, so get ready to click some links and fill up your home screen.
This year we've picked out some of the very best apps, games, books, and downloads for your new devices. Dig into our top selections for Android apps, Android games, iPhone apps, iPad apps, iOS games, Windows Phone apps, Kindle books, console games, and for your Mac and PC.
Now that Android allows you to put widgets on your lock screen, you could spend hours hunting down the one that shows exactly the information you want. Don't. Just install DashClock, which gives you the time, weather, and customizable notifications.
Pocket Casts makes automatically downloading and organizing podcasts remarkably easy. It's also that rare Android app that doesn't feel like it plays second fiddle to its iOS counterpart. With sync, you can even keep the same data on iOS devices if you switch.
Any.do makes keeping track of your to-do list a little less painful by giving it a beautiful design and easy, quick entry options. The best feature is called "Moment," a daily triage of your tasks that actually manages to feel empowering.
Google Keep is designed for quick, short notes — everything looks like a little Post-it, but you can do a lot in those little boxes. To-do lists, location reminders, and fast searching make it feel full-featured without bogging you down.
There are two big, popular "read it later" apps: Instapaper and Pocket. On Android, at least, Pocket gets the nod for more frequent updates and support for video. Articles are synced automatically and saved offline, with options to adjust the layout to your liking.
As a photo editor, Snapseed moves well beyond basic filters into the kinds of changes usually reserved for the desktop. With a set of simple tools the app makes even complex photo adjustments understandable and accessible.
Dropbox makes it easy to access your files from your phone. But there's another use that might interest you even if you don't think you need it: the service is great for simply getting files from your computer to your phone without a cable.
Slice is a super-clever service that automatically watches your inbox for emails from big-name merchants and shipping companies. Why would you risk giving that access? To get automated package tracking, deal alerts, and price-drop notices. So useful, it's creepy.
Nova and Apex Launcher
All too often the stock home screens on Android phones are terrible. Nova Launcher and Apex Launcher both make it better, with cleaner designs and plenty of customization and theming options. You can pony up for premium versions that offer more features, too.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music is probably already preloaded on your phone, but if you haven't tapped in and looked around recently, you really should. In the past year Google has added free and paid streaming options and improved the interface dramatically. The result is probably the best music app for Android users.
Netflix is another app that you probably don't give a second thought to, but it's made great strides on Android in the past year. Support for Chromecast means that even if you don't watch TV on your phone, it's worth the install.
A longtime favorite on the iPhone, VSCO Cam is finally available on Android and it works really well. You’ll get photo filters that aren’t as heavy-handed as Instagram’s along with the ability to quickly revert the image if you don’t like how it turned out.
RSS may not be as popular as it once was, but if you're still addicted to your news feeds, Press is the best option on Android. Instead of Flipboard's image-heavy layout, you just get a well-designed list of headlines and articles. Sometimes that's all you need.
After years of using third-party apps for syncing notes, an official Simplenote app finally came out on Android this year. It has a barebones design that lets you focus on what Simplenote does best: rapidly entering in and searching for your own words.