Skip to main content

Best apps to download on a new Android phone

If you or someone you know just got their first Android phone, firstly… congratulations! Regardless which make or model you're using, you've got a very capable and customizable device, and it all starts with the apps found in the Google Play Store.

Google includes the full suite of very valuable apps which include Gmail, YouTube, Google Play Music, and Google Photos, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg. We've compiled a list of some of our favorite apps that we think you should consider when you're just starting out.

Authy 2-Factor Authentication

Securing your devices and accounts is very important, and no one does two-factor authentication better than the folks at Authy.

If you're unfamiliar with the process, two-factor authentication adds another layer of security by creating six-digit tokens that expire every 60 seconds. This extra layer of security will keep you safe from hackers and account hijackers and, best of all, Authy is free and supports most major multi-factor authentication accounts including Facebook, Dropbox, Amazon, Gmail, and thousands of other providers.

Download: Authy (Free) (opens in new tab)

Gboard - The Google Keyboard

There are a bunch of great keyboards available for Android, but the best of the best is currently Gboard, Google's own keyboard.

Gboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, and a modest choice of themes.

Gboard employs Google's own speech-to-text engine for voice dictation, and while it might not be the best at predictive text, it does learn from your typed data across Google's apps and services. Gboard has pretty much every feature you'd want from a touch keyboard, including the ability to quickly search Google from virtually anywhere in your phone. It's fast, reliable, and minimalist, with theme options to tweak in the settings.

Download: Gboard - The Google Keyboard (Free) (opens in new tab)

Kindle

Book lovers who have made the switch to digital materials already know about the eponymous e-readers, but Kindle's app for Android lets you access all your favorite books from Amazon's e-book catalogue right from your phone, without having to lug another piece of tech around with you everywhere.

There are millions of titles available via Amazon, which include magazines and newspapers. There are thousands of public domain classics available, and you may even be able to check out e-books from your local library. Take advantage of reading in the digital age and customize your reading experience by adjusting font sizes, screen brightness and background color, while searching and dictionary functions built right into the app are perfect study tools for students working on essays and book reports.

Download: Kindle (Free) (opens in new tab)

Netflix

It's ubiquitous in our culture these days, and an absolute must-have for pretty much any device you own. In short, Netflix has come to exemplify how millions of people unwind and keep themselves entertained.

The Netflix app for Android lets you watch all your favorite shows using your phone data or when connected to Wi-Fi, with a recent update allowing for offline viewing of a large swath of the service's content. You'll also find full compatibility with Chromecast, allowing you to use your phone as a remote to control things while casting your favorite shows and movies to your TV. A subscription is required, but you probably know someone with a login you can borrow if $10 a month is too rich for your blood.

Download: Netflix (Free) (opens in new tab)

Nova Launcher

One of the best parts of using Android is the sheer amount of customization that's available to you — if you're willing to put in a little bit of work to do it. Android phones come with a manufacturer's default launcher pre-installed, but if you're looking for something different, Nova Launcher is a great option for theming and customizing your phone to reflect your personality, or your favorite shows or hobbies.

Nova Launcher lets you change icons, layouts, animations and more to completely tweak almost every aspect of your phone's look and feel to your exact specifications. We've included a link to the free version of Nova Launcher below, but if you're serious about theming, you'll want to check out the paid version (opens in new tab). You'll also want to keep it locked on the Android Central home page, as we frequently post theming how-tos that give you step-by-step instructions for keeping your phone looking fresh and cool, like this recent article on Star Wars themes.

Download: Nova Launcher (Free) (opens in new tab)

Pocket Casts

Podcasts are amazing, and Pocket Casts makes listening to podcasts even better. While you might scoff at paying money for a podcast app when Google Play Music and Spotify do the same for free, the folks behind Pocket Casts have incorporated some really smart features that you need to know about.

For one, they've got this feature that trims out the silence in all the podcasts you listen to, and if you're a heavy listener, that time will really add up fast. Other features include a smart volume boost which increases the volume for voices while keeping background noise to a minimum, full integration with Android Auto and Android Wear, and cloud-based subscriptions and playback, so you can sync your podcasts between your phone and the web service or (more importantly) keep all your subscriptions when you switch over to a new phone.

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

Pushbullet

Pushbullet lets you receive your phone notifications on your computer, so you don't have to constantly check your phone every time you feel the buzz. Anyone who works with a computer for a living knows how distracting checking your phone can be.

Pushbullet not only lets you see who's trying to contact you — via text and phone call, but also supporting popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik and Facebook Messenger — and lets you respond with your computer's keyboard. So, not only will you never miss a notification, you'll be able to quickly respond to the important stuff and dismiss the less-important stuff for later.

Download: Pushbullet (Free) (opens in new tab)

Spotify

Millions of people have made Spotify their go-to source for all their music, and for good reason. You're able to listen to a shuffled mix of music from nearly any artist or band for free, but the real fun begins when you sign up for Spotify Premium.

Not only does Spotify Premium provide better sound quality, it also removes ads and lets you play any song by any artist when you want across all your devices. You can also build and share playlists with friends and family, along with an option to download music to your device for offline listening. And then there's other smart features like Discover Weekly, which curates a playlist of new music Spotify knows you'll love based on the bands and genres you listen to on the regular.

Download: Spotify (Free) (opens in new tab)

Solid Explorer

You don't have to root your Android phone to conveniently access files on your phone. Solid Explorer lets you do all that and much more, though you'll need to play to unlock the full version.

Solid Explorer lets you organize and manage all your files, including those stored in cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and more. You'll be able to read and extract .zip, .rar, and other compressed file formats, along with options of creating password-protected folders and .zip files within the app. And if you do decide to root your phone, you'll be able to use Solid Explorer to browse your system files with ease.

You can try Solid Explorer on a trial basis for 14 days before having to pony up for the full version.

Download: Solid Explorer (Free Trial) (opens in new tab)

theScore

Sports fans need to know the score at all times, and there's no better sports app out there than theScore. They've got full up-to-the-minute coverage for all the major sports leagues, including NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA Football, NHL, English Premier League, La Liga, Champions League, World Cup and all major sports and competitions. You can personalize your feed to only include the sports and/or teams you're interested in, so you're never bothered by a score for a game you're not interested in.

Pair this with alerts for goals, key moments, final scores and breaking news and with one app you're never more than a quick glance away from the absolute latest, up-to-date information. It bills itself as "real time, all the time" and that's probably the best way to think about it.

Download: theScore (Free) (opens in new tab)

Uber

Uber is taking the world by storm and changing the way people think about getting around. Whether or not you've used Uber seems to depend on it's legal status in your city, or how frequently you travel. The taxicab industry is furious because Uber has jumped in with its ridesharing app and service that makes it way easier to get a ride somewhere.

Simply download the app, plug in your credit card or PayPal details, and you're ready to hail an Uber car to wherever you are. You can determine your fare estimation before requesting a car, and you'll be able to see details about the car and driver coming to get you an watch for their arrival on the app map as you wait. There's also different levels of service, from UberPool in which you share your ride with other riders for a cheaper fair, or UberBlack for a more upscale experience.

Download: Uber (Free) (opens in new tab)

Weather Underground

Weather Underground provides the most accurate hyper-local weather forecasts right on your phone, with interactive radars, satellite maps and severe weather alerts included so you always know what's on the way.

At a glance, you'll be able to view current temperature and conditions from your local weather station include temperature, wind speed & direction, humidity, dew point and visibility. Weather Underground also makes use of crowd reporting, fostering a community of weather enthusiasts who report live data from weather stations in their own backyards, with this crowd-sourced data generates forecasts that are targeted to your precise location. You'll also enjoy the option of customizable widgets, so you don't even need to launch the app to see your local weather conditions.

Download: Weather Underground(Free) (opens in new tab)

What are your suggestions?

These are our picks that would make up our Android app starter pack — what would be in yours? Let us know in the comments!

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.

25 Comments
  • If you have a Samsung phone get Samsung Music for local music playback. It's really aesthetically pleasing and has good functionality.
  • If you're a weather nerd, RadarScope: https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.anrdoezrs.net%2F...
    If you like browsing sites but are sick of the 18 ads each article presents (hint hint) AdBlock Browser is a win: https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.anrdoezrs.net%2F...
  • A good password app like ewallet or datavault. A good widget like HD widget or beautiful widgets. For me:
    Datavault
    Dropbox
    Evernote (still rearranging in onenote)
    Acar (interface hasn't been updated in years)
    Poweramp
    Isyncr
    MX Video Player Game:
    Riptide GP2
  • I'm an avid user of Gboard but you'll also want another 3rd party keyboard like Swype or Swiftkey to switch to so you can have predictive text when using any Google apps. Still kills me that Google's own keyboard loses such important functionality in its own apps.
  • I use all but 2 of theses (have uses PB in the past and I use Google Authenticator instead of Authy)...good list.
  • Nova launcher, Tasker, KLWP, Solid Explorer, Chrooma, AutoHue plugin (Tasker), AutoApps & Whatsapp. These are always the first apps I install on a fresh device.
  • There's a small set of apps I download first before all others when setting up a new phone (if they didn't come preinstalled):
    * Nova Launcher (can keep the look/feel consistent across OEM devices)
    * Gboard (because most OEM solutions suck)
    * Google Messenger (because most OEM solutions suck)
    * Google Keep (mainly for shopping lists, easy to setup multiple editors at no extra cost)
    * Pushbullet (for getting notifications on my laptop)
    * #1 Profile (for automatically setting volume based on location - I didn't need the full capability of tasker, and this is simpler to setup)
    * Notification Toggle (which I use exclusively for easy access to third-party apps from the notification area)
    * Wifi Analyzer (for testing Wifi strength)
    * Business Calendar (mainly for the customization of the widget - but also reasonably well featured overall)
    * Snapseed (quick and easy photo or screenshot touch-ups)
    * Google Authenticator (mainly because I'm too lazy to migrate over to Authy - eventually I plan to switch, just too little motivation to make the effort)
    * SplashID (for passwords - again, have been too lazy to switch, but the incentive to migrate to one with more modern features continues to grow)
  • Two other suggestions: 1) Google opinions - short surveys that pay you play store credits to answer surveys. Last year generated $30+ in play store credits.
    2) Android Auto - setup to launch when paired with my car's Bluetooth and provides excellent driving interface on my 6p (large icons, reads SMS,and voice commands).
  • SWYPE
    LastPass
    SimpleNote
    Join
    Weather Timeline
    Audible
    Clever Dialler
  • I like how they recommend Nova Launcher. I'm currently using it on my Nexus 6, but why not try what is currently installed on a phone and see how you like it. Some people actually like what is offered from OEM's. I like pure Android and the Google Now Launcher, but I like to mix it up every once in awhile and reinstall Nova just to change it up when things begin to feel a bit stale.
    I wish you could customize a lot more with the Google Now Launcher like custom icon packs etc. I'm not knocking Nova, but if I just bought a brand new Samsung Galaxy S7, Pixel, or OnePlus 3 I'd think I'd like to try what they have to offer before I would download Nova.
  • No mention of a customization/personalization app so here:
    Tapet.
  • If Google updates Now Launcher with Pixel Launcher then I would surely use it since it also comes with Google Now feeds, then you aren't gonna need any weather app too.
  • For me:
    WhatsApp
    CamScanner
    Adobe Fill & Sign
    Flightradar24
    MS Word
    MS Excel
    MS PowerPoint
    Epson iPrint
    Media Share Wireless
    Rec. screen recorder.
  • Cast Box instead of Pocket Casts - I found it easier to manage play lists. Tidal instead of Spotify but, if you have a V20 with Quad DAC, why wouldn't you get the best sounding streaming service? Dark Sky instead of Weather Underground because, well, better to be looking up. Outlook for Android...and Arrow Launcher - (unread counts on app icons work more dependably).
  • A non root adblocker. Ads are in epidemic proportion now....
  • Funny, you didn't put Android Central on the list.
  • Lol, AC is the worst offender, I wouldn't consider coming here without Adguard on, I don't care is adblockers make them sad or not....
  • That's a good list. For me... Nova
    Weather Timeline or Weather Underground
    CalenGoo
    RadarScope or PYKL3 Radar
    Google Play Music or Spotify
    Twitter - Flamingo or Talon
    Boost
    PocketCast
    Twilight
    eCID - Enhanced Caller ID (reply to texts using your voice)
    Your favorite car dock... Car Dashdroid, Ultimate Car Dock or whatever... Again with these you can reply by voice to texts...
    Textra, invi or Pulse for SMS...
    BlueMail
    AlarmPad
  • I forgot... Last Pass. Password manager - Seamless on the mobile Android platform.
  • I would exchange Pocket Cast for Podcast Addict. Lighter, Faster, free (the paid version just removes the ads), and do the job without ado
  • Finally someone else not drinking the Pocket Casts kool-aid. It was consistently extremely buggy for me, and no other app was as good until I found Podcast Addict. It's not quite as pretty as Pocket Casts, but it is far better in absolutely every other way, plus it's not buggy.
  • Pocket Casts isn't buggy at all for me. I'd recommend that you try it again. As of version 6.1, there are no bugs at all that I've experienced, and it works flawlessly. Podcast Addict is just an awful app and has an ugly user interface. I prefer beautiful UIs to ugly asf ones.
  • Player FM does it all just as well.
  • I would do my list as this Nova Launcher
    GBoard or SwiftKey
    Firefox
    Pushbullet
    Enpass
    QuickPic
    Solid Explorer
    Pocket
    Palabre
    Podcast Addict
    PowerAmp or n7Player or BlackPlayer
    Keep
    Turtl (an opensource alternative for Evernote)
    HD Widgets
    MX Video AND VLC
    Whatsapp, Telegram, all the social networks mumbo-jumbo
  • For those in the UK, the BBC iPlayer and iPlayer radio apps are a must. As is the Guardian app. For me anyway.