Best Apps of 2016

Apps are becoming the glue that connects all of our mobile experiences together. Messaging apps, productivity tools, and mapping utilities come together to make our Android-powered computers worth using. It's really hard to choose a favorite, but we'll try.

Andrew Martonik — Pocket Casts

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I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I switch devices far more often than is probably advisable, and that's why Pocket Casts has been my favorite app of the year. Not only is the app itself sleek, powerful and easy to use, but its cross-device syncing is a total lifesaver.

I use Pocket Casts every single day across various phones, tablets, computers and Google Cast devices, and everything always syncs and works just as you expect. It's a critical part of my daily routine and one of the apps I always have to have on my devices.

Download Pocket Casts ($3.99) (opens in new tab)

Daniel Bader — NBA

NBA isn't a new app, but in 2016, for the beginning of the new basketball season, it got a serious overhaul, and my goodness is it fantastic. With a League Pass you can watch nearly every game while delving into stats, news, and video clips.

That's all good, but what's really great is the live game-watching experience: multiple feeds, player-specific camera angles and, new for this year, a mobile-friendly feed for nearly every game that zooms in on the action so you can get more of it while watching on a phone or tablet. Great stuff, and a must-have for any NBA fan.

Download NBA (free) (opens in new tab)

Russell Holly — Vysor

Vysor is, more often than not, the first app I install on a phone nowadays. It saves me from physically jumping between multiple phones when I'm testing features or taking screenshots, and it always works.

Download Vysor (free) (opens in new tab)

Alex Dobie — Google Photos

Google Photos ranks as not only my favorite app of the past year, but one of my most-used on whatever happens to be my current phone. It's ensured the mess of pics I end up taking on Android devices, regular cameras — and even the occasional iOS device — are all sorted and together in one place. On phones with minimal internal storage (cough32GBPixelcough) it's a great way to make sure your photos don't eat up too much space, with built-in cloud backup.

Most of all, the best thing about Photos is how easily (and intelligently) it lets you sort through that mess of images, automatically grouping similar faces and intelligently recognizing scenes, locations and objects. (And, thanks to the same AI magic, being smart enough to tell a hamburger from a plain old sandwich.) Throw in occasional gifts like animated GIFs and auto-panoramas from the "Assistant" tab, and you've got one hell of an app.

Download Google Photos (free) (opens in new tab)

Florence Ion — Allo

Give Allo a chance, won't you? I still think it's one of the most compelling app releases of the year, even if it's not very popular, to say the least. Adding text message integration would be a step in the right direction, but until then, I'll keep using Allo to chat exclusively with my husband. It's the one app that lets us both use Google Assistant at the same time and I'm looking forward to how that evolves and manifests when Conversation Actions come into play.

Download Allo (free) (opens in new tab)

Marc Lagace — Duo

The arrival of Google's video calling app Duo came at a time when I was already looking to reconnect with some friends and family living far away. I recommended we skip Skype and try out Duo, and was instantly impressed with how easy and smooth the experience was.

Duo is 1-on-1 video calling done right. Not only is it simple enough for even the most tech-illiterate family members to use, but thanks to Google developing Duo for both Android and iOS devices, there's no platform lock-in to worry about. I like the "knock knock" function that lets you see who's calling you before you accept, and I've found it to be equally reliable whether I'm at home on Wi-Fi or out and about using data. The lack of a desktop version doesn't phase me at all, since I always have my phone on me anyways.

Duo is just downright simple and fun to use, and definitely my go-to voice calling app from now on.

Download Duo (Free) (opens in new tab)

Jen Karner — Ebates

In the last year I've moved from making most of my purchases at brick and mortar locations, to buying most of the things I need online. Between dozens of different stores, I can always find what I'm looking for, but I try to save money wherever I can.

That's where Ebates comes in. By using the app before I check out at a specific store, I can make myself a little bit of money while buying the things I need to get through each day. Different stores have different deals, but in general I can get at least 1% cashback on my purchases, paid out 4 times over the course of the year. For folks who want to pinch pennies, or are on a tight budget, this is a great way to make back some of the money you have to spend on necessities.

Download: Ebates (free) (opens in new tab)

Ara Wagoner — Google Play Music

Change is a-comin'... we hope.

I'm the girl with the headphones, and more often than not, those headphones are pumping Google Play Music into my soundholes. Does Google Play Music need a total overhaul? Absolutely, and we might be seeing the beginnings of it in recent updates. Does Google Play Music need to abolish the ridiculous deauthorization limit that punishes phone-hoppers, klutzes, and technology reviewers? You bet your sweet music it does! Does it need a dark theme? HELL YEAH!

Is it still my favorite and most-used app? Yep, and I'm gonna keep poking the Feedback button with a stick to show my love and help make the app better. (pokes) But seriously, give me back a freaking dark theme for my midnight dance sessions.

Download Google Play Music (free) (opens in new tab)

Jerry Hildenbrand — Allo


I originally only installed Allo so I could play with Assistant. But once I got my family to install it, I've found it's a nice way to talk to the wife and kids. It has the same features that you'll find in other apps, but it's really easy to use and Assistant can be pretty handy for things like directions or "Googling" stuff. For people who don't want to dive into Hangouts and all its settings, Allo is pretty slick.

Download Allo (free) (opens in new tab)

Harish Jonnalagadda — WhatsApp


I use WhatsApp extensively. So does my family. And most of my countrymen. The Facebook-owned messaging app is ubiquitous in India, and over the course of the year, it has picked up a lot of new features, notably end-to-end encryption. There's now a desktop client as well, and WhatsApp now offers voice and video calls, effectively going from a messaging app to an all-in-one communications platform. I tried getting my family to install Duo for video calls, but that fight was lost once WhatsApp picked up the feature.

Download WhatsApp (free) (opens in new tab)

Your turn!

What are your favorite apps of 2016? Let us know in the comments and we'll feature them in a future post!

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

  • Vysor link is pointing to NBA. Thanks for the list :)
  • Fixed! Thank you!
  • Android Central
  • Every time I've installed the Android Central app, I've had to uninstall it. Somehow it grabs wakelocks and eats the battery. Other that that, it's fine ;-)
  • Android central
  • For me, I gotta say Backdrops.
  • Noooooo
  • Why? That is a pretty good wallpaper app
  • Action Launcher 3 it has taken over as my launcher of choice on all my android devices this year.
  • what makes it good?. I am using Nova and have for 5 years. I have Action on my phone but haven't used it...other than playing around with it.
  • Google music for me.
  • Wait, what?! Andrew carries a Priv?! Or is that just a stock pic? (I carry one myself so I'm not picking on you at all, just surprised . . nice to see the device get some love from one of my favorite writers in addition to the decent review Russell gave it)
  • Nova launcher is a must-install app everytime I got a new phone. Best launcher out there.
  • Same m8. Same. I'm in the beta program so I get all the new sexy features 😏
  • Everyone knows the best app of the year is Bottle Flip ;)
  • I have this app... Omg
  • Other than the Nova Launcher (which really isn't an APP per se).....HANGOUTS and Google+ and Map My Run are my main 3. My music player is WinAmp (I know you can't download it anymore, I have migrated it from phone to phone).
  • I highly prefer Poweramp, get the beta version it's so freaking good
  • Pokémon Go. /S
  • I must've been out of the android game for too long, but what's the first phone with the grill? Love my pocket casts btw, it's great across all devices.
  • Blackberry Priv
  • Spotify
  • Now that I was finally able to root/unlock my Verizon Note 4: Xposed, SuperSU, AdAway, Root Explorer, Titanium Backup! :P
  • Twitter - Flamingo - you wouldn't think of Twitter as an up to the minute news feed, but it works very well. Especially for inclement weather, road closures etc. and an active local news source. Flamingo is my favorite app there. And just plug in your favorite tweeters... Android Central... Music -. Google Play Music. - Spotify. Weather - Weather Timeline - Weather Underground. Radar - Radar Scope - PYKL3 Radar - Weather Underground Reddit -. Boost -. Sync Pro - News feed - Palabre Pocket Cast - great manager for pod casts... SMS - Textra -. Does the job well. Allo just isn't in the SMS game and I don't want a group chat app... Password Manager -. Last Pass -. On the mobile Android platform - Last Pass works seamlessly... Twilight - works well late night...
  • For Driving and goings hands free - lately I've been using these two... eCID - Enhanced Caller ID - reads out texts and other apps - respond, reply with voice to texts... Car Dashdroid - supports 'OK Google' hot word...
  • For a calendar app - CalenGoo - I've been through most of the calendar apps and have settled on CalenGoo; Highly configurable and has a multitude of widgets.
  • Why not use Facebook messenger for SMS?
  • File explorer - Solid Explorer
    Music player - BlackPlayer EX
    News feed - feedly
    Definitely Google office applications
  • KinScreen
    Mr Phone
    Track Checker Mobile
    Good Lock (for samsung devices)
    Popup Widgets 3
    Simple text widget (Yogesh Dama)
    App usage
    Loop habit tracker
    Moons reader
  • Greenify! I forgot Greenify. Great app.
  • Trello
    I had Trello lying around my phone for quite a long time. Had installed it after reading about it in a similar "Best Apps List" article. But it was just a few months ago I started using it. I think its AWESOME!!! Its amazing you can do so many things with the app. I use it at work to track tasks, as a wish list for books and movies, to track every day tasks, to maintain a list of things I want to learn(the cards don't seem to move from the ToDo list in that Board). The ways you can use this apps has no limits.
    Pocket is my next favourite app, but then again if you just want to save links to read later you could do just that using the mighty TRELLO!
  • as far as sports content goes, Score has continued to be #1 on Android
  • Ap15 launcher.
  • Yahoo App. I like to share my life with the world. Ha! JK Evernote is good, but I have become a Google Keep fanatic. Surprised it didn't get mentioned. Allo? Yeah, but only really useful if you utilize all of Googles other Apps to go with it. Enpass I would say is one of my most used. So that would be my top Pick. Password and credit card security is step 1 for me. Plus they have a PC version, so no matter where I am at, I can log into everything else. Something everyone should have.
  • Vysor app could have used some description. Its not a well known one. I had to look at the link to figure it out. Tgis made me miss the app of the week articles. I really liked those and made sure to read them each week.
  • Sorry. I couldn't edit it. *This makes me miss...
  • Pocket casts is my most used app, followed by Smart Audiobook Player. Any podcasts recommendations? I'm always on the lookout for new things
  • It depends on your tastes. Lately I have been following the Nosleep Podcast from Reddit.
  • I never get to sync the state of the episodes when installed in a new device, put everything as played.
  • My favorite apps:
    Music- Spotify
    Pictures- Google Photos
    Launcher- Nova
    Weather-Weather Timeline
    Reddit- Reddit Sync
    Twitter- Talon for Twitter
  • Open Camera. I use my camera constantly. I never thought i would, but in my new job it gets used all day every day. I use an S7 and the camera is remarkable. But the app, less so. Open Camera gives me the options I need, from something as simple as various composition lines to exposure compensation and tilt angles. It's awesome and if you've never tried it. why not???? It's FREE, no strings attached.
  • Thanks for the tip on open camera!
  • Allo for sure, Inbox by Gmail would be right behind it
  • How about having a best apps for tablets
  • I'm surprised no one mentioned pulse SMS. What a great app. You can theme it. It's limited a little bit, but still you can theme it. You can get your texts all across your devices from Windows, to Android tablets, from your phone. Just log in with your phone number. That's Pulse SMS.
  • Great list, guys! Just a question. The accompanying photos in the Duo and Google Play Music apps above have wireless headphones. Which ones are those?
  • Kinivo URBNs.
  • Lastpass and Authy
  • Best Apps of the Year 2016? how about we choose apps that actually came out in 2016. What AC has done is the same as picking the best car of all time.. not the best car of 2016. Makes no sense. Sorry
  • To whomever is going to review this message, I accidentally clicked the report button instead of the upvote one. Apologies.
  • Yay
  • +1 for Enpass password manager.
  • Showbox, my favorite app.
  • Allo and Google Music.
  • Android Central app hands down. Updates over the past year have made the app my go to for Android Central news. I rarely use the website these days and love how quick and easy the app is.
  • Pulse SMS.
  • Surprised that Allo is on this list more than once actually. Interesting. For me, Clue (female cycle tracking) and Quartz (news in a snippet). Really liking them a lot. Clue is new to me, but Quartz actually came out this year.
  • I just installed invi as my default SMS/MMS app a couple days ago and I'm really liking it. Use to have Textra but I kept getting that annoying error notification so I had to try something else. Invi is my favorite thus far!
  • I read your comment and just installed it.....I think it might have potential for me to use. Thanks!
  • Glad to help!
  • Google Play Music is no doubt my most used app, I've got music going a few hours a day minimum. Using it right now as I type this. Favorite music app, but I agree it needs a dark theme and overhaul to make it feel up to date with other apps.
  • Absolutely needs an overhaul. Absolutely my most-used app.
  • Pornhub forever 🍂
  • Android Central is the best app for me this year. The app has improved so much after the updates. I no longer have to use the website to read the news. One more app that stands out is the Showbox app ( ) which allows you to watch movies, tv shows, videos on the go.
  • Showbox....
  • Novalauncher and uTorrent. Otherwise, you might as well just carry an iPhone if you're willing to live with whatever stock UI they puke out from the factory. Audible and Kindle for all the vanilla functionality any phone can provide. Googles media players suck, so disabling that garbage and installing something that can handle mp4's, flv's and without having fits is the next thing I do.
  • Daniel Bader, you still rocking a G5 as your daily driver?
  • No one mentioned FlipBoard?? Nor WPS office? Really.?
  • Best app you can plug in all your favorite sites into it for everything in one, Love news and science. Time saver than just using browser or individual apps.
  • How about being able to use youtube and any app with phone locked? No Pause Lock on google play