10 must-have apps for your new Android phone

Make your great new phone even greater by installing these apps right away.

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Make your phone be all it can be

The first order of business when you get a new phone is to install your apps. Android makes it easy to grab all the apps from your old phone, so that covers the basics like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You don’t need to be told to download the most popular apps in the world. But what else should you install?

There are more than 1 million apps in the Play Store, but most of them aren’t worth your time. That’s not the case with these ten apps, though. These apps fill in some fundamental feature gaps in Android and make for a much more enjoyable experience. They’re also free or cheap, so you really don’t have any excuse not to give them a shot.

android essential apps opinion rewards
Google Opinion Rewards

While most of what we recommend as “essential” is free, some apps will cost you a few bucks. You should definitely shell out some cash for everything on this list, but Google Opinion Rewards can help cover the cost of these and future purchases. This app is a must-download because it’s basically free money.

The app pushes surveys to you every now and then, most of which only take a few seconds to complete. When you’re done, the app rewards you with between $0.10 and a dollar of Play Store credit. That can be spent on anything in the Play Store, including these essential apps, movies and TV, books, or music.

Google Opinion Rewards (free)

android essential apps pushbullet
Pushbullet

Pushbullet is the best way to send (i.e. push) text, files, and links between your devices. That includes your desktop PC, a Chromebook, and even your verified friends’ devices. More than that, it also mirrors your notifications from Android to a desktop computer, allowing you to take action on them without even touching the phone. That includes something as simple as dismissing a new email popup or actually responding to an SMS from the Pushbullet desktop client.

Pushbullet also includes indispensable features like universal copy-and-paste, newsfeed-like Pushbullet channels, and remote file access. The basic functionality is free, but a $5 monthly or $40 yearly Pro upgrade is required for a few features like unlimited SMS replies and universal copy-and-paste.

Pushbullet (free)

android essential apps authy
Authy

Even with the most spectacularly secure password, you are not completely safe from account hacks. The best way to keep your accounts secure is to use two-factor authentication (2FA), and Google accounts play nice with 2FA. Well, kind of nice. Two-factor auth is a bit of a pain to use, but Authy makes it much easier. This app can act as an authenticator for any service that supports open 2FA systems.

You can register Authy with your mobile number, then use the app generates codes for services like Google, Dropbox, and many others (once 2FA is activated). Authy is a huge improvement over other 2FA apps because it can sync the encrypted authentication tokens across all your devices including phones, tablets, and computers. Set it up once, and you’ll always have your 2FA codes close at hand.

Authy (free)

android essential apps solid explorer
Solid Explorer File Manager

Even with all of Android's sleek modern design and features, there are times when you need to dig into the file system. The built-in file managers that come with most phones are rather basic, so you should grab Solid Explorer. It has a dual-pane interface with support for local files and archives, but also cloud storage (Dropbox, Drive, etc.) and remote clients like FTP and WebDav. This app is updated frequently with new features as well. Solid Explorer comes with a free 14-day trial, after which it costs $1.99. It's well worth the price.

Solid Explorer File Manager (free trial, $1.99 upgrade)

android essential apps snapseed
Snapseed

That photo you snapped looks okay, but what if you want to crop it or add an artsy filter before you post it on your social network of choice? Most phones come with rudimentary image editing capabilities, but Snapseed is better at it. This app has a clean, touchscreen-friendly interface that makes it easy to tweak the saturation, brightness, and other basic photo qualities.

You can also crop, rotate, add text, and more. Many phones support RAW photo capture now, and Snapseed can open those files as well. That means your edits will be much more high-quality compared to reprocessing an already compressed normal JPEG file. Google has been updating Snapseed consistently and it's still completely free.

Snapseed (free)

android essential apps backdrops
Backdrops

Every phone comes with a few stock wallpapers, but they usually stick to one or two different styles. If that's not your thing, you'll have to go elsewhere. You should definitely grab Backdrops in that case—it's the best wallpaper catalog available in app form.

It has hundreds of background images available, many of which are exclusively created for the app. The app is free to use if you don't mind ads, or you can upgrade to the full version to get rid of them and gain access to saving images offline and a few premium background collections.

Backdrops (free, $0.99 upgrade)

android essential apps focus
Focus

The stock gallery app on your phone cannot match the fantastic feature set and great design of Focus. This app displays your images in their folder locations like most gallery apps, but it also has a great tagging system to make it even easier to find important pics. There's even fingerprint security to keep people from snooping in your photos.

Focus is completely free with a $2.99 in-app upgrade that adds a dark theme, custom tags, and a cool secure photo vault. Images you want to keep private can be locked away from prying eyes in the vault.

Focus (free, $2.99 in-app upgrade)

android essential apps remote desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop

Sometimes you need to access your computer while you're nowhere near it, but you have a phone! You just need to anticipate this eventuality before it comes up. There are plenty of options, but you should use Chrome Remote Desktop. As long as the Chrome service is running on your computer, Chrome Remote Desktop will be able to connect. The performance is surprisingly good, even over a cellular connection. Chrome Remote Desktop doesn't have as many features as some apps, but it's free and extremely reliable.

Chrome Remote Desktop (free)

android essential apps weather timeline
Weather Timeline

There are probably 100,000 weather apps on Android that put the conditions in widgets, your status bar, and even in the quick settings. Out of all those apps, Weather Timeline is the best. It doesn't get too fancy; it's just a great weather app with handsome widgets.

As the name implies, the conditions are forecast are laid out in a timeline. That makes it easy to scroll through hourly and extended forecasts. If you want more info, Weather Timeline has data (and graphs) for precipitation, humidity, wind, and more. There’s also a “time machine” feature that lets you look at probable weather in the more distant future based on past patterns. It's absolutely worth the small up-front price.

Weather Timeline ($0.99)

android essential apps pocket casts
Pocket Casts

Finding and managing podcasts on Android used to be an agonizing process, but Pocket Casts was one of the first apps to get it right. The developers have kept up with all the latest Android features, ensuring that it remains an essential app for any phone. Finding new podcasts is a snap with recommended feeds, Google Nearby sharing, and a search function. Signing up for an account also backs up all your podcast subscriptions so you can sync them to multiple devices. Your listening progress also syncs along with the subscriptions.

Pocket Casts ($3.99)