The best Android apps of 2014

Your phone just isn't complete if you haven't tried out these apps yet.

apps 2014 lead

The best apps that didn't come already installed on your phone

Android phones come bundled with some of the best apps ever to grace a touchscreen, but what really makes them “smart” is the ecosystem of third-party apps. The Play Store is overflowing with apps—there’s no approval process to slow them down, either. That means a little digging to find the really good stuff, but 2014 had plenty of that. Here is the best of the best from the last year of apps.

(Looking for the best Android games? Go here!)

apps 2014 link bubble

Link Bubble Browser

Have you ever stopped to think about how long you spend staring at a blank browser loading screen? It's probably an embarrassing amount when you add it all up. Link Bubble aims to keep you productive by loading pages in the background, then making them accessible from a floating chat head-like bubble. Just tap it when you’re ready to check the page, and a floating browser window pops up. You can even stack up multiple bubbles with the pro version. Link Bubble could very well change the way you browse the web on Android. The full version will run you $4.

Link Bubble Browser (Free, $4 Pro version available)

apps 2014 today

Today Calendar

Google Calendar is all well and good, but Today Calendar is a fantastic alternative with a very slick interface. This app is based on the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) calendar app, but it's been heavily modified. The main view is a split month and agenda view, but you've also got standard day, week, month, and agenda views. Today Calendar has just the right amount of material design animation with vibrant colors and custom graphics. It's well worth checking out, and reasonably priced.

Today Calendar ($6)

apps 2014 type machine

Type Machine

Sometimes bad things happen to good people—your app crashes, the phone reboots, or you get struck by lightning. The point is, you lost the text you were working on. Type Machine ($2) makes sure that never happens again. Simply enable it as an accessibility service and this app archives everything you type on your device (except for passwords). You can unlock the app, see that post you didn’t finish, and copy it to the clipboard. Before you freak out: Type Machine automatically clears text after a few days, and it lacks the internet access permission, so your stuff isn’t going anywhere.

Type Machine ($2)

apps 2014 muzei

Muzei

Most live wallpapers are a bit distracting, and sometimes hard on the battery. Muzei, on the other hand, looks great and doesn’t make your phone harder to use. This app downloads a new piece of artwork every day to set as the background. Muzei applies a dim and gausian blur effect for a subtle, colorful look that doesn't make your icons hard to see. You can double tap on the home screen to remove the blur effect for a few seconds in order to get a better peek at the image. That alone would be cool, but Muzei also has a plugin framework so other apps can create their own photo collections as backgrounds, and yes, there are a lot of them. Muzei is consistently awesome and free.

Muzei (Free)

apps 2014 afterlight

Afterlight

Afterlight is a powerful little photo editor that made waves on iOS before coming to Android in 2014. It offers all the basics like cropping and rotating, but also more powerful tools for adjusting color temperature, saturation, and levels. For the Instagram crowd, Afterlight offers dozens of filters and frames, and they’re much nicer than the ones you get in the official Instagram app. It’s a steal for $1.

Afterlight ($1)

apps 2014 ifttt

IFTTT

Known by its acronym IFTTT, If This Then That is a cloud-based service that allows you to automate web services and connected devices from a variety of manufacturers. There are channels for Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, Phillips Hue, WeMo, and many more. The introduction of the official Android app in 2014 unlocks a whole new world of functionality. You can now use events on your phone like location, messages, and calls as parts of your IFTTT recipes. Getting into IFTTT can be a life-changing experience, but there is a learning curve.

IFTTT (Free)

apps 2014 javelin

Javelin Browser

For the more privacy-conscious Android user, there's Javelin Browser. This browser launched in 2014 with incognito mode, a built-in VPN, and ad-blocking. You can use it for free, but you have to upgrade to pro for $3 for features like unlimited tabs, custom home page, and a few other things. The VPN is quite speedy, but it's a $2 per month subscription. Javelin also has a great reading mode with white and AMOLED-friendly black themes.

Javelin Browser (Free, in-app purchase)

apps 2014 potential

Potential

Picture this... you plan to get cozy on the couch and poke around on your tablet, then you realize you forgot to charge it. That won't happen with Potential. This is a killer app for anyone with more than one device. After it's installed, it syncs the battery state across all installations with your login info. So, for example, you can check the battery level of your tablet from your phone no matter where you are. If the battery level of one device gets low, it sends an alert to all your others so you don't forget to plug it in. It's really clever.

Potential (Free)

apps 2014 talon

Talon Plus

One of the big stories for 2014 was the move to Android 5.0 and Google’s new Material Design aesthetic. Material design is characterized by bright colors, smooth animations, and layers of digital “material.” Talon Plus for Twitter was ready to go even before Lollipop officially launched with a full material design interface. It looks fantastic and has all the features you’d expect from a Twitter client. It’s a great app to invest in if you’re running Lollipop.

Talon for Twitter (Plus) ($4)

apps 2014 djay2

djay 2

Android has had issues with audio latency for years, which kept high-end music production and performance apps off the platform. However, the highly praised djay 2 turntable and mixing app arrived on Android in 2014, and it worked. The developers strived to get latency down to nearly zero on a wide range of devices, allowing Android users to load up their tunes on a pair of virtual turntables and start mixing music. This app has a ton of effects, audio tools, and even Spotify support. It’s also an amazing deal—djay2 is only $3 in the Play Store, but it’s $10 on iPad.

djay2 ($3)

apps 2014 yahoo news

Yahoo News Digest

News happens whether or not you have time to pay attention, but Yahoo News Digest has a way of keeping you informed. A team of editors pick the top stories in your selected categories several times per day, and push down summaries with links, images, and explanations to the app. You’ll get a notification on your phone when a new edition is ready to read, and the app itself looks nice. It’s hard to argue with the price of zero dollars.

Yahoo News Digest (Free)

apps 2014 mailbox

Mailbox

A great many Gmail alternatives have come and gone without making much of an impact, but Mailbox from Dropbox might have staying power. Mailbox integrates perfectly with Gmail and iCloud accounts, offering customizable swipe gestures to delete, archive, label, and snooze messages. It can even learn from you to automate these actions based on the sender. It plugs into your Dropbox account to sync those setting across devices too.

Mailbox (Free)

apps 2014 action launcher

Action Launcher 3

Custom launchers tend to pile on a dozen little features that cater to every niche user out there, but the new Action Launcher 3 is different. This is a complete rewrite of the old Action Launcher using Lollipop code as the base. This alternative home screen has automatic theming based on your wallpaper, popup widgets, and custom quick launch folders. It brings a material design aesthetic to your home screen and the slide-out app Quickdrawer is awesome. Action Launcher 3 is free to try, but most of the features will require a $5 in-app purchase.

Action Launcher 3 (Free, in-app purchase)