Alex app picks

Top ten apps for 2013

Got a new Android device this Christmas? Or maybe you're just looking for great applications for an older phone or tablet? Our regular apps of the week features are a great place to find new and interesting apps for your device -- but with 2013 drawing to a close, we've decided to take things a step further and reflect on our personal top ten apps of the year.

So here are my top recommendations — these are all fantastic apps that have either launched in 2013, or have been updated with significantly awesome new stuff. Head past the break and check them out!

Android p​orts of Sonic 1, Sonic 2 and Sonic CD

Sonic 2

Despite being upwards of two decades old, SEGA and Christian Whitehead’s mobile ports of the classic 16-bit Sonic titles are among my favorite Android games of the year. That’s not just because the console originals have stood the test of time, it’s also due to the care and attention taken to bring all three into the twenty-first century.

Sonic 1, Sonic 2 and Sonic CD for Android feature smooth 60-frames-per-second playback, the ability to save your game and widescreen graphics, so you’re not dealing with any unsightly blank borders. Each game also has some extra surprises for fans — Sonic 1 lets players play as Tails and Knuckles, Sonic 2 includes a hidden level cut from the original, and Sonic CD also adds Tails as a playable character. So there’s a lot to like here if you grew up playing these on your Mega Drive or Genesis.



Veteran iOS title Dots also arrived on Android this year. It’s one of the simplest and yet most addictive puzzle games I’ve played on mobile — connect a line of colored dots to clear them and score points, or complete a loop to clear all dots of that color. In the two main game modes you’re limited either by time or the number of moves you can make, though a recent update to the game added an “endless” to let you keep going forever.

Dots is a great example of a game requiring a potent combination of skill and luck — and importantly for a mobile title, it’s one you can easily dip in and out of when you have a couple of minutes to spare.

DashClock Widget

DashClock Widget

Making a useful, attractive multipurpose Android widget isn't easy, but DashClock Widget manages to nail it. Available as a lock screen and home screen widget, DashClock lets you customize your own digital dashboard, with extensions to show things like unread a Gmail, upcoming calendar appointments and missed calls.

The DashClock widget ecosystem expanded further in 2013 to include support for apps like BBC Weather and Tweedle (see below). And for me, there's no widget that does a better job at summarizing relevant messaging, social and other app info.

BBC Weather


There's a ton of good weather apps available for Android, but I've eventually settled on BBC Weather as my forecaster of choice. The interface is simple and intuitive, quick and easy to navigate and it manages to show a surprising amount of detail without being visually overwhelming. For the UK, too, I find it’s generally more accurate than Google’s own forecasts through Google Now and on the web.

Best of all, it’s a free download, and fully supports DashClock Widget.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer

Another essential for UK-based Android owners, the BBC’s TV and radio streaming app has come a long way in the past twelve months. A visual overhaul has brought an attractive, “Holo”-inspired, tab-based interface to the phone and tablet versions of iPlayer. There’s support for favorites, and crucially, the ability to stream live TV or radio for free (though for the former you’re still technically required to hold a TV license.) A recent update added download support, too.

As with the web-based iPlayer, the Android app only works for users in the UK. Sorry, America.



I hopped on the Feedly bandwagon shortly after Google Reader was put out to pasture earlier in the year. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but the current version of Feedly for phones and tablets is fast, responsive and shows me headlines in a way my brain can easily process. In other words, it’s easy to arrange things into a chronological list that lets me keep track of goings-on throughout the day without too much visual fluff.

Everyone’s news needs are different — for folks who don’t need to keep track of everything right as it’s happening, there are other views that let you discover stores with more serendipity. But for me, nothing beats being able to quickly flip through stories and be caught up on tech news in a matter of seconds.



SwiftKey is my Android keyboard of choice, and the one I end up installing on most devices I own. Right now I’m using SwiftKey 4.5 beta, which introduces Emoji support and an optional number row — great for larger devices. Before that, SwiftKey 4.3 made it easier to type on devices of various sizes by adding two new layout modes, and the ability to scale to five different sizes. And SwiftKey Cloud made it much easier to juggle prediction data across multiple devices, which is extremely handy given the number of phones we’ve handled this year.

As good as stock keyboards are getting — Google Keyboard in particular is pretty slick these days — nothing beats the accuracy of SwiftKey’s predictions and corrections.

Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express

While smartphones cameras are getting better all the time, a phone isn’t always the best device for photo editing. Pixlr Express manages to cram a surprising amount of functionality into its powerful mobile app. Many of the most commonly-used Photoshop tools are there, from curves to color options (hue, saturation, lightness), contrast tweaking, blurring and sharpening. If you’re the kind of mobile photographer who wants to crop and filter, you’ll find a wide array of those kinds of features too, arranged in an expanding grid layout that makes it easy to see all the options available to you.

All in all, Pixlr Express rivals Google’s own Snapseed in terms of feature set and ease of use, and best of all it’s free, too.


TV Catchup

Another UK-only pick, TVCatchup lets you stream most free-to-air UK TV channels over Wifi, 3G or 4G. Unlike BBC iPlayer it’s ad-supported, as a trade-off you get a much wider range of channels available to peruse. The video quality has gotten pretty good with successive updates, and there’s a built-in TV guide, letting you easily see everything that’s on at a glance.

As you might suspect, TVCatchup is only open to UK-based users, and you’ll need a TV license to remain on the right side of the law while streaming out and about.



Since the official Twitter app for Android started sucking recently I’ve switched to Tweedle, a lightweight yet feature-packed client that’s far better designed than Twitter’s own app. You get a customizable array of tabs at your disposal, with a clean, card-based interface and the option of inline image or website previews. In fact, dig deep and you’ll see a host of advanced options and settings, such as Themes, tweet filters and a built-in webview window for handling tweeted links.

Tweedle is a free download, but you’ll need to pay a small amount (£0.92 in the UK) to disable ads.


Reader comments

Editors' top apps: Alex's picks for 2013


Feedly is pretty awesome especially since its free. Theirs just so many bugs that are hard to overlook, but still, I don't like Press, and I despise pulse so feedly is the best option for me.

Posted via my defective Nexus 7(2013)

When you exit an article that you clicked on on the widget you have to reload everything when you exit the article, freezes a lot, doesn't change to portrait from landscape or vice versa.

Posted via my defective Nexus 7(2013)

It kinda stinks but besides that, it just went public so you really cannot have it be app of the year if most couldn't play it for 10 months of the year.

tv catchup is a bit of a mess right now they've lost most of their channels try myPlayer Pro. has improved greatly over the past couple updates and still has all the +1 channels

Flipboard, Textra, Audible, Doggcatcher, Flixster... All good things!

Posted via Android Central App

I agree. 4 of the apps were UK based. If you are going to make a list, at least make it useful for ALL the readers! This was a waste of a read.

I appreciate that it is frustrating when an article or contest looks interesting but doesn't apply to your country when you read through the details, but the UK is often among the excluded, this article is actually one of the minority among recent ones.

Posted via Android Central App on my Motorola XT890 RAZR i

I am in Canada, let's talk about being excluded! So I know where you are coming from there.

I just read it, I'm from the U.S., it took me 4 minutes to read and I'm going to try out Pixlr and maybe another app. Not a waste at all!

Posted via Android Central App

BBC Weather works EVERYWHERE.

BBC iPlayer granted is UK only.

TVCatchup granted is UK only.

Can't even see a fourth that you'd get confused about?

So 2/10 are UK only, meh. For all the articles on other websites we have to skip about at&t verizon nsa ext. You seem quite delusional when one of the British writers includes some UK only apps. Do you feel entitled to apps he's never tried? How exactly do you think he's meant to recommend replacements to the UK only apps if he doesn't live there and hasn't tried them?

1st comment by the way, been reading this site for a few days and I'm liking it :) Good community and writers.

Thanks buddy, noob question is there any way to see comment replies or new ones in the thread?

Posted via Android Central App on my Nexus 7

What would be your response if us British folk commented the same way you have everytime there's a post that's dedicated to something American only? ;-)

Nice to see a UK relevant piece. Almost boycotted AC earlier this year for all the American junk that was posted

Posted via Android Central App

Besides Tim Berners-Lee what has the UK contributed to tech? I guess there was Alan Turning, the genius that was driven to suicide by the British government for being gay...Smart move that was.

TV John Bernard,computer the colossus, radar Robert Watson, electric motor Michael Faraday should be a good start.

Posted via Android Central App

Nice to see a UK relevant piece. Almost boycotted AC earlier this year for all the American junk that was posted

Posted via Android Central App

Ever since you guys broke away from Canada, you act like you're a real country. What gives?

Posted via Android Central App

I'm sorry, are you talking about us?

The queen is still head of state in Canada btw buddy.

Britain is as much as of a "country" as anyone else, your comment is ridiculous.

Britain... Discovered by the German's in 1904...It literally means "a whale's vagina" when translated... Lighten up...

Posted via Android Central App

The Sonic games are fantastic, especially Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and its immersive mode. The Nexus 7 makes for a fantastic player of these games and, despite their age, I still find them endlessly entertaining.

I don't mind the UK apps. They need love too :)

I've tried Dash Clock Widget on my SG4 three times now and other than it becoming a widget on my fifth screen, it does nothing. Can't make it a lock screen widget, can't add to it, can't customize it. I'm guessing it's me and not the widget, but something that hard just isn't for me. :(

Well, we're two countries separated by a common language and a great big f**king ocean.

Most apps can be used in other countries quite easily, but I'm sure there is far more than twelve my good sir.

SwiftKey is the best keyboard on the planet! No question, period. Best predictive text, best keys, best themes, best layouts, fugedaboutit. It's the best.

bopbop is a close contender to dots IMO

Posted from my "CrackDroid" Nexus 4 via the Android Central App

Better since dots doesn't have play games integration so no achievements.

Posted via Android Central App