India is now the second-largest smartphone market, only behind China. Mainstream availability of 4G and an influx of affordable handsets has led to a meteoric rise in smartphone adoption in the country, and for millions of users, a phone is the only gateway to the internet. As a result, there's a thriving app ecosystem in the country.
If you're traveling to India for the first time or are returning to the country, these are the apps you need to install on your phone.
Google Maps comes bundled with every Android phone, which is a good thing as the service is invaluable in India. Most cities in the country aren't well-planned, and a distinct lack of road signs makes getting to your destination harder than it should be. While you can ask around for directions — English literacy is high in most parts of the country — a better option is to just use Google Maps.
Google has invested significant resources into its Maps program in India, and the service is as reliable as it is in Western markets. You get easy access to live traffic information, along with schedules for public transit, the ability to download areas offline, and turn-by-turn directions. Google also offers features like two-wheeler mode, which made its debut in the Indian market.
If you're heading to a city like Bangalore, where the traffic situation is unpredictable at best and downright horrendous most days, you're going to need Maps.
Public transportation isn't the best way of getting around in India, but there's no dearth of ride-hailing services in the country. India is one of Uber's largest markets, and you're likely to find a cab at any hours of the day in most cities. In the odd instance that you cannot get a cab on Uber, you can rely on Ola, India's local ride-hailing alternative.
Both Uber and Ola let you book a ride in advance. With Uber, you can use the number and credit card account that's already associated with your account, but with Ola you'll have to use a local number. If you don't already have a local number, you can easily get your hands on one. When it comes to payment, you can add your credit card, or use cash.
English literacy is great in most sections of India, but there will be times when you'll run into locales where there's only Hindi or other regional languages. India has over 23 official languages, so a good bet is to have Translate installed. Because India is a major market for Google, the search giant has done a lot of the legwork in translating some of the more commonly used languages in the country.
As such, you'll be able to get on-the-fly translation even if you're in remote sections of India.
Paytm is one of the most useful services in India. The app lets you book local flights, trains, and buses, and offers the easiest way to pay for purchases at most local stores. The service started out as a digital wallet, and most merchants — including restaurants, retail stores, and street vendors — now accept Paytm as a valid form of payment.
To get started, you'll need to have a local SIM card as Paytm relies on a mobile number for sending a OTP (one-time password) during account creation. Once you set up, you can send money by scanning a QR code at an establishment, or via entering the recipient's mobile number.
Zomato is India's version of Yelp. You can easily find a restaurant of your liking based on your cuisine or budget preferences, and it has a curated list that highlights prominent eateries in a particular city. Like Yelp, Zomato has an active community of users that rate restaurants.
If you're going to be in India for a while or are looking to explore local events — there are plenty of gigs every weekend in major cities — you should take a look at BookMyShow. The service is present in most major cities, and gives you a detailed selection of all the events in town.
BookMyShow's user experience has deteriorated over the course of the last year — you'll see ads everywhere — but the service is still great at highlighting events in your city. An alternative to BookMyShow is Insider, which is slowly gaining ground.
If you're not looking to go out, there are several apps that you can use to get food delivered to your location. Swiggy and Zomato Order are two of the leading hyperlocal delivery services, with both apps serving up options around a five-kilometer radius from your location.
Need to get groceries delivered? No problem. BigBasket is the FreshDirect of India, and you'll be able to buy everything from fruits and vegetables to packaged goods and household essentials. The best part is that delivery only costs ₹20 (30 cents), and the service also offers a 90-minute delivery option if you're in a hurry that will set you back just ₹30 ($45 cents).
If you're traveling to Bangalore, you should try out Google's own solution, Aero. The app collates information from several hyperlocal services, giving you a variety of options from a single interface.
- Download Swiggy from the Play Store
- Download Zomato Order from the Play Store
- Download BigBasket from the Play Store
Find My Device
Finally, before you head off on your travels, make sure you have Find My Device installed and set up. Google recently overhauled the user interface, but the core functionality is still intact. Find My Device lets you remotely track, lock, and erase the data on a lost or stolen phone.
- Download Find My Device from the Play Store
- Find My Device: The ultimate guide to finding your lost phone
Got any questions? Let us know in the comments below.
Updated May 2018 with new features added to Google Maps.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.