There are also apps that will completely change how you use Android. Some enhance the user interface, some automate common tasks, and some take popular features in the operating system and make them even better.
Let’s take a look at ten of the best.
Most of us use social media as a way of finding cool stuff to read on the web. But whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or anything else, it’s not handled very efficiently on a phone.
On the desktop, you can open links in their own background tab, queueing up several pages to read when you are ready. In mobile apps you need to open and read one link at a time.
Flynx solves that problem. The app intercepts links and loads them in the background. When you’re ready, each link can pop up on top of your current app so you can read it and dismiss it, with virtually no interruption to what you were doing.
With a Pocket-style save for later feature, Flynx is a revolutionary way of browsing on mobile devices.
Download: Flynx (Free) on the Google Play Store
Widgets are awesome, but they have their limitations. You can only place them on the homescreen, and you can only access them when your homescreen is visible.
flippr makes them accessible everywhere via a small bubble tucked away on the edge of the screen. Tap the bubble and your chosen widgets will open. Want to control your music while typing in a document? No problem. Check the sports scores while playing a fullscreen game? Done.
flippr puts Android devices one step closer to having full multitasking capabilities.
Download: flippr (Free) on the Google Play Store [No longer available]
Android’s notification shade is great for showing you what’s happening in your apps, but you can use it to create notifications for your real life too.
Notif is a twist on the to-do list app, which you use to make lists, reminders, voice notes, and more, and set them as actionable notifications. Tick off items as you complete them, or swipe the notification away when you’re finished with it.
The icon for each notification, placed permanently in the status bar, serves as a kind of digital knot in the handkerchief that constantly reminds you of the jobs you need to complete.
Download: Notif (Free) on the Google Play Store [No longer available]
Take the pain out of the common tasks you perform every day by turning them into macros, a series of commands that happen automatically.
MacroDroid is similar to Tasker, the most famous and loved of Android’s automation apps. But Tasker has an incredibly steep learning curve, and MacroDroid is an app you can install and start using instantly.
The app needs you to configure as few as two settings — just an action that will be prompted by a trigger. So, plugging in your headphones could be the trigger, and the corresponding actions could be the automatic launch of the Spotify app and adjustment of the volume level. Or you could have your phone switch to Airplane Mode (the action) at night (the trigger). Or your text messages could be read aloud when your phone’s in a car dock.
You can add optional constraints to fine-tune the conditions under which your macro can run. This gives the app even more power, and your macros can be as simple or as complex as you need them to be.
If MacroDroid is perfect for on-device automation, then IF does the same for web services. The official IFTTT app enables you to create “recipes” that connect two internet-based services or devices, with your Android phone as the central hub.
The possibilities are almost endless. You can use IF to automatically tweet, to get SMS alerts for your Google Calendar appointments, or to get notifications on price drops for products you’re looking to buy. Once you get it up and running, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.
6. Pie Control
Phone screens are getting bigger, and it’s a mixed blessing. A larger display is great for things like gaming and video consumption, but it makes one-handed control of your phone almost impossible.
Pie Control addresses this fact by placing a pie-shaped control panel at the bottom corner or edge of your screen. It contains buttons for common interface controls, as well as a configurable panel of app icons. It pops up and disappears when you need it, and it places the most used parts of your phone within easy reach of your thumb, just like the old days.
Spend any amount of time sitting at your PC throughout the day, and SMS Text Messaging from MightyText becomes an essential app.
It syncs with your PC, Mac, or Linux computer via a browser extension and gives you full access to your SMS messages on the bigger screen. You can read, reply, or create new messages, and you can also view notifications from all your other apps. You’ll hardly need to pick up your phone again.
8. Universal Copy
Copy and paste on Android is mostly fine, until it doesn’t work. Some things just don’t support it — tweets, for example, or YouTube or Instagram descriptions.
With Universal Copy you can copy and paste almost anything, from any app. It integrates seamlessly with the system — a long press is all you need for the option to copy your chosen text to the clipboard.
9. Better Open With
We love the fact that you can replace the default Android apps with any others of your choosing. But sometimes you want to use more than one app to handle particular types of file and link.
With Better Open With, you can. This app replaces the standard “Open with” screen with something that is more powerful for two reasons. First, you can choose which apps you’ll be offered to open a link with — reducing an often cluttered list to just one or two options.
Second, Better Open With works on a timer. It opens on tapping a link, but switches to the default after a couple of seconds, if you don’t want to make a choice.
10. Nova Launcher
The single best way to customize your Android phone is to install a new launcher. There are a huge number to choose from, the best of which is Nova.
It’s small, fast, very stable, and infinitely customizable. The default settings are perfect, but it also comes packed with extra features that you might not know about. These range from support for icon packs to the ability to resize any widget.
But the built-in gesture controls beat everything. These enable you to assign functions — from activating settings, to navigating the interface, to launching apps — to a series of taps, swipes and pinches.
If you’re a power user, Nova’s gestures will fundamentally change how you interact with your device.
Your Favorite Apps?
Now it’s over to you. Which apps have you found that have changed how you use Android? Join us in the comment section to tell us about the tools, utilities and interface enhancements that you couldn’t live without.