Android might not come with the prestige of iOS, but this poly-manufacturer ecosystem is by far the most popular mobile operating system in the world. Just like Apple products have must-buy apps in the App Store, Android users can get their fair share of winners in the Google Play store. That doesn't mean everything is worth downloading, though.
Free apps are everywhere, but if you're actually looking to make a purchase or two for something worth the price, it can be hard to separate the bloat from the essentials. There are a few paid apps that beat the alternative ad-supported or freemium models. Here are the apps we found to be worth the small price to download in Google Play.
(Apple iOS fans can check out this list.)
The Bouncer app helps you manage the permissions you grant to installed apps. Choose which apps have what permissions and for how long you want to grant them. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Thanks to the Calibre Companion app, you can easily add any ebook from your computer onto your eReader of choice via USB or Wi-Fi. The app also allows you to store books in the cloud for easy access, making it the perfect alternative to Amazon. Try out the free demo version before paying $4.99 for the full app.
Gorogoa, a $5 puzzle game, is completely hand drawn, making it a beautiful artistic experience. There is no text, leaving players to complete puzzles and explore the game all on their own.
For $6.99, you can get the world of Minecraft on your Android device wherever you go. It's a 3D sandbox-building game in which you place blocks made of different kinds of materials to build anything you want. In the survival and hardcore modes, the object is to survive when monsters land on the scene. Meanwhile, creative mode gives the player complete freedom of invention.
In a world filled with server hacks and data breaches, Nine Email does things a little differently. Instead of using a cloud-based service to store all your information, everything gets saved on your device or a server of your own, ensuring your data doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Nine supports Exchange, Outlook, Gmail, and IMAP, integrates with your calendar, contacts, and notes, includes SMS sync features, provides widgets, and offers much more. Download the app for a two-week free trial before purchasing a license for $14.99.
If you're looking to take control of Android, a launcher will let you change the theme and layout of the default operating system. One such app, Nova Launcher, lets you customize the screen display, layout, themes, and gestures. While the basic version is free, the $4.99 upgrade for Nova Launcher Prime allows you to personalize advanced gestures, add custom tabs and folders, hide apps, and more.
Poweramp was created specifically to give music lovers the best possible audio quality available. Enjoy gapless playback, fantastic crossfading, and a powerful equalizer tool. The app also supports many different file formats, including FLAC, WAV, mp4, and more. Buy the full app for $4.99 or download the free version for a 15-day trial.
Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is a $7 card-based strategy board game that has you building your own galactic empire and going up against other players or the game's AI. Make important decisions about how your empire will develop. Research new technology, build settlements, focus on military conquest, or steer yourself in any number of directions.
For weather enthusiasts, the RadarScope app costs $9.99, but it allows you to view high-resolution weather data, track severe weather conditions like tornadoes, thunderstorms, and flash floods, and receive all the latest warnings and information from the US National Weather Service. The app can get data from any Nexrad or TDWR in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, Korea, and Okinawa, Japan, as well as Environment Canada and Australian Bureau of Meteorology radars. RadarScope also has two different subscription plans for the truly dedicated.
Scanner Radio & Fire
There are many free police scanner apps available to keep an eye on the cops. One such app, Scanner Radio, offers over 7,000 fire and police scanners, weather, air traffic, and marine radios, and amateur radio repeaters. It also allows you to browse by location and type, and favorite the scanners you listen to the most. By paying $2.99 for the Scanner Radio Pro version, you knock out the ads and also get access to different app themes, faster push notifications, recording functionality, and widget playback control.
Star Walk 2
Star Walk 2 is an augmented reality app that uses your device's camera to present an overlay on the sky with information about the stars you see—all updated as you move your device in real time. You don't even have to be outside; its view of the sky is based on your location. Wouldn't you pay $2.99 for the solar system?
Your smartphone is a powerful device that fits in your pocket, but you're limited by what Google and your phone's manufacturer will allow you to do—unless you are willing to invest the time in rooting it. That's where an app like Tasker comes in.
For $3.49, Tasker allows you to extend your phone's customization—no coding required. It gives you the ability to specify what types of alerts (e.g. vibrations, Notify LED, pop-ups, sounds) any individual digital action will cause. It makes it a lot easier to sort through your phone's files (including zip/unzip capabilities), and a whole lot more.
Wolfram Alpha is like Google, but centered around data and math. While Google will help you find the best website to tell you about the seafood cuisine of Portugal, Wolfram Alpha will generate a graph comparing the seafood consumption of the Portuguese versus that of Americans, categorized by different type of fish. And now that power is available in a handy $3 app.
While this official Wolfram Alpha app will be a welcome tool to anyone who works in STEM, there's a lot of cool stuff you can do with it, some which don't even require an advanced degree in mathematics.
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