Fill Your Phone with Free Apps
You already pay enough for your phone, especially with the price of some Android flagships climbing north of $800. (Or haven’t you seen what Samsung’s charging you for the Galaxy Note 9?) Throw in a monthly data plan, and it’s easy to understand why you’d want to slash spending from your mobile budget. Why not start with apps? Many of the best options available through the Google Play store are free. The true challenge is sorting the must-downloads from the ones that will just waste space. If you’ve got a new Android device to load up with apps or you’re just looking for new additions to your old phone, here are 40 of our free favorites for Android. (Image Credit: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock)
Facebook for Android is quite similar to what you’d find on Facebook.com, but catered to smartphones. Share photos from your Android gallery, post updates on your wall, comment on the posts of your Facebook friends, share links and other media, and much more with the free app. The app is under constant tweaking, with additions such as editing posts and comments continuously being added. The experience wouldn’t be complete without the Facebook Messenger app, which handles Facebook’s chat and call features.
Steam Link (Beta)
Valve’s Steam gaming platform made a big step toward mobile with the beta release of the Steam Link app for Android, which allows you to stream games from your desktop PC to your mobile phone, tablet, or TV, without the need of dedicated hardware. You’ll need a Bluetooth-compatible controller (such as the Steam Controller) and fairly good Wi-Fi (a 5 Ghz network is recommended), and of course your desktop gaming rig. Install the app on Android, pair your controller and PC to the app, and you’re all set. Steam Link aims to bring low-latency, 1080p gaming at 60 FPS streamed to your mobile device, and while it’s still early days as the beta goes live, it’s a promising app for gamers looking to stream games at home.
Adobe Acrobat Reader
While your Android phone probably has some support for the basics of opening and viewing PDF files, if you want anything more capable, you’ll want a dedicated PDF reader app, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. The mobile version of Acrobat Reader is a capable reader, with configurable view modes, support for page search, cloud storage, bookmarks and tables of contents. It also includes annotation features for your marginal notes, comments, and even digital signatures. In-app purchases and subscriptions unlock professional and productivity-oriented features.
Google’s Files Go is less a files management app and more like an assistant that helps you make the most out of your phone’s limited storage space by flagging rarely used apps, files, documents, and large folders, which you can then delete or back up to the cloud. The app also comes with cache clearing, the ability to view files by category, local encrypted file sharing, and backup features that let you throw files to the cloud. A full file manager app would still be helpful if you want to be detailed about organizing your files, but for quick operations like clearing out junk or sharing files with friends, Files Go is a light, resource-friendly option.
The newest addition to Google’s Go line of slimmed down Android apps designed to provide modern features and design to entry-level phones, Gmail Go brings the email giant’s smart categories, filters, and multiple account support to budget devices, while minimizing the app’s storage and mobile data footprint. If you’re already running a fairly beefy device, Gmail Go will be superfluous, but on an aging or low-spec phone, it’s a nice way to reduce storage use without losing out on Gmail’s excellent feature set.
Born from Microsoft’s acquisition of Wunderlist, Microsoft To-Do is a smart, no-nonsense to-do list app that presents a sleek and distraction-free interface, while intelligently suggesting tasks based on long-term patterns, upcoming deadlines, or stuff that you weren’t able to see to in the past days. Users can keep task descriptions simple, or add detailed descriptions, color codes, categories, and more. While the app is free, cross-platform, and works perfectly fine on its own, it also plays well with the rest of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of productivity tools.
For a more whimsical take on the To-Do list, try out Habitica, which gamifies the formation of good habits and rewards you for knocking to-dos off your task list. The app turns to RPG-like elements that reward you for getting things done. You create an avatar, and each time you tick off a task or habit, you take another step toward leveling up your character, unlocking new gear, and customizations like pets and mounts. You can also participate in quests alone or with friends, dealing damage to the boss monster with each task that you tick off or taking damage every time you miss a daily task.
CamScanner turns your phone camera into a portable document scanner and OCR tool, allowing you to quickly turn photos of your paper documents into JPG or PDF electronic formats, which you can then save into your cloud storage or share through social media or email. Scan quality optimization and smart cropping let you handle everything from receipts to contracts and even office whiteboards with ease. The app is ad-supported, with watermarks on the free tier, while a premium subscription removes ads and the watermark and adds premium features such as OCR editing, auto-upload, expanded collaboration and more.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Adobe Photoshop Sketch is a free app that provides users with a set of expressive drawing tools. Users can choose from utilities that mimic a graphite pencil, ink pen or marker. The app supports a variety of Bluetooth styluses on the market such as those by Wacom and Adonit. Sketch aims to replicate the analog drawing experience, augmented with a few digital flourishes such as a color picker and an undo history. Users can import assets from other Creative Cloud tools such as custom brushes and colors, and your creations can also be exported into Creative Cloud as layered PSDs to Photoshop, or to Illustrator.