Android had an interesting year. From its best flagship literally exploding to Google dropping a set of new phones and a new digital assistant, there was a lot to keep developers on their toes.
Luckily, the Android community was as reliable as ever at turning out creative, fun and seriously useful apps.
Adobe’s retouching app, Photoshop Fix, brings some of Photoshop’s most useful tools to your phone. It offers a suite of retouching tools to fix imperfections in your photos along with standard editing controls to help you make quick lighting adjustments and other tweaks on the fly.
Think of Anchor as podcasting meets the social network. Record one or two-minute audio clips about any topic and other users can join in the conversation by adding their own recording. The result is a nearly endless stream of surprisingly thought-provoking discussions.
CastBox is the rare podcast client that not only handles all your subscriptions and playlists, but also puts discovery front and center to make it easier for you to find new shows. The app recommends podcasts based on your interests and makes it easy to browse and search for specific titles. And with features like sleep timers, light and dark themes and mood-based playlists, it will make each podcast feel like it was made for you.
Thanks in large part to Snapchat, the face swap craze was real this year. Luckily, Face Changer 2 was there to help make all your ridiculous selfie dreams come true. The app lets you transform any photo on your phone with hundreds of crazy effects. Or you can use the in-app camera to face-swap with friends in real time.
5. Giphy Cam
One of Giphy’s wackier apps, Giphy Cam lets you create delightful mashups of photos, illustrations, filters and other effects and turn them into endlessly shareable GIFs. The results are hilarious and dangerously addictive.
6. Google Allo
We get it — you probably don’t need another messaging app in your life, but Google Allo is worth the extra effort. Yes, it has all the standard messaging features — fun sticker packs, voice messaging, doodling on photos — and then some. For one, Google’s Assistant is built right in so you can get answers to questions you’d normally need a Google search for right in your chats. Better still, on Android you can chat with Google Assistant to get information about what’s on your calendar and more.
7. Google Duo
Due, Google’s answer to Apple’s Face Time, is the dead-simple video calling app Android users have been waiting for. Just find the person you want to call and video calls are one-touch away. The person you’re calling can even see your face before they pick up thanks to the “Knock Knock” feature.
You might know SoundHound for its music recognition app, but this year the company put its voice recognizing powers to new use with this new digital assistant app. Hound is able to answer complex questions and links to other services (like Yelp and Uber) to help with tasks like finding a restaurant or hailing a car. It gets even more useful on Android as you can set Hound as your default search app.
Getting a new credit card pretty much sucks when you have to spend hours updating your information on every service. LifeLock’s Identity keeps track of all your accounts, so when you get a new card or address all you have to do is tell the app which accounts to update. It even connects to your password manager and email so you don’t need to remember what information you need for each account.
Maybe the most addictive puzzle game we played this year, Merged seems simple at first: you match up similar colors to form combos of increasingly higher numbers. Match up three “M” tiles to explode the surrounding pieces. There’s more than meets the eye though as you quickly learn you need to figure out the right strategy to get to a new high score.
11. Opera Free VPN
From the company behind the browser of the same name, Opera VPN is a fast, unlimited and free VPN service. Perfect for getting around location-based content restrictions, the app allows you to choose between five regions — the United States, Canada, Germany, Singapore and the Netherlands — to use as your location.
12. Slash Keyboard
One of the best third-party keyboard apps finally landed on Android with Slash Keyboard. A multitasker’s dream come true, the app allows you to access dozens of services right from your keyboard so you can search Google, share a location or file, and search your contacts without leaving your chats.