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The best apps you didn’t know you needed for your new Android phone

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James Bareham

Happy Holidays, and congrats on your brand new Android phone! If you’re here, you’re probably new to the platform. You may have just picked up a new Pixel, Galaxy S7 Edge, or even a One Plus 3, so we compliment you on your excellent taste. But look: if you’ve used a smartphone at any point in the last several years, you already know what apps you want and need. Good news! They’re, for the most part, all here! The big ones like Netflix and Facebook are obvious and cross-platform. But what about newer apps that you may not have heard of that you absolutely need? Here’s what you need to get:

We've rounded up our favorite and most-used apps and utilities for the technology we use every day. Check out our other picks for iPhones, PCs, and Macs. We've also listed our favorite games for iOS and Android from this year.


Signal has been around for years, but never has it felt more necessary. Developed by Open Whisper Systems, this messaging app secures not only text messages with end-to-end encryption but keeps phone calls safe from prying eyes and ears. It’s also super easy to make it your default SMS app. There are plenty of apps that have secure features, but Signal is by far the most popular and the one you’ll want to get.

Google Trips

Google Trips

Trips is Google’s new app that serves as a great trip planner and travel guide for wherever you’re heading next. The app pulls in travel data — so flight and hotel information — from your Google accounts, and provides a grid for your itinerary, things you’ll need to know about your destination, and of course things to do when you arrive. This app competes with apps like TripIt, but it’s so easy to use, you won’t want to switch back.



Having a password storage solution is a must going into 2016, and the best out there right now are 1Password and LastPass. Both let you create and store strong passwords for all your accounts, so you can finally stop using the same password for both your email and banking accounts. And if you have a fingerprint reader, both let you sign in with just the press of a finger.


Plex is a great service that lets you stream the music and movies you have stored on your computer directly to just about all the screens in your life. You’ll need an always-on computer to serve as your Plex server, but if you’re willing to part with $4.99 a month for a Plex Pass subscription (in addition to $59.99 per year for an Amazon Drive subscription), you can store all your content in the cloud to watch whenever you want.


500px is known as a high-end Instagram, serving as a portfolio service and marketplace for professional photographers. But one reason for the average smartphone photog to give it a look is its search feature, which lets you make rough sketches a la MS Paint and discover gorgeous photos. If you’re looking to get more serious about photography, this is probably the most fun way to find inspiration.

Dark Sky

If you had an iPhone before, you’re probably familiar with Dark Sky. It’s easily one of the best weather apps on iOS, which for too long meant that Android users were left out in the cold. Luckily, the app finally went cross-platform this year, which means you’ll get the all the precise weather updates you’ll ever want. You can download it for free, but it’s more than worth the $2.99 per year subscription fee for notifications and even homescreen widgets.


Snow will take your selfie game to the next level. (If your selfies are in dire need of crazy stickers.) Snow is an Snapchat clone, and it knows it. It rips off all the major features you can think of, even the dog lens. But it adds even more lens and filters, letting you put a Pomeranian on your head of sing with your own legion of fans. The best part is it lets you download your selfies to upload to Facebook, Instagram, and, yes, Snapchat.


Google Now Launcher

If you’re looking for a more stock android look (and you’re not using a Pixel or Nexus), the Google Now Launcher is a must. It’s simple and straightforward, but also features Google Now, which provides updates on your commute, travel info, and news you care about.