Just picked up a new Android device? Download these apps first.
New Android device, new apps
Congrats on your new Android phone or tablet. Now you've got a shiny new Android gadget and it's time to fill it with apps.
Whether you're brand-new to the world of Android or you've been rocking a 'droid since the original Droid, we've found some great choices from the Google Play store, from captivating games and rocking music players, to apps that help you stay organized and productive.
This is in no way a definitive list of the best or most essential apps to download, but simply a collection of great titles to get you started with your new device.
If you're looking for a bookmark manager that syncs across different devices and different platforms, then look no further than Pocket (free). Better than Instapaper and other competitors, Pocket is hands-down the best app in the category.
One of the most popular paid apps on Google Play, SwiftKey ($3.99) makes your Android keyboard smarter. It can not only understand the patterns in your typing, but also how words work together, which makes it scary good at predicting words, even before you being typing them. Right now, it's our all-around top keyboard replacement app available for Android.
For taking down short notes, managing to-do lists, and setting reminders, Google Keep (free) is one of our favorites. The app makes it quick and easy to jot down a short note, create a checklist, record a voice message, or save a photo.
Next, you can add a reminder to any of your saved items, one of the most useful features in the app. Pick from either a time reminder, such as "Tomorrow morning" or "December 23 at 8 p.m.," or, our personal favorite, a location reminder, which will coax you to buy milk when you get to the grocery store. There's also has a widget so you can view your notes at a glance on your home screen.
If you're looking for a feature-packed note-taking app to use for more than simple to-do lists, then give Evernote (free) a try. This heavy-hitter can incorporate text, voice clips, pictures, attached files, and even location stamps into your notes. What's more, it can sync across different platforms, so you can access your stuff no matter what device you're using. Evernote looks great on phones and even better on tablets and it's a must-have app if you use the Web service or desktop apps.
A longtime hit on iOS, Snapseed (free) comes to Android with all of the same impressive tools. This powerhouse is capable of doing everything from applying filters to adjusting white balance. But be warned: this app is probably best suited to more serious photographers looking to enhance their work.
Sure, you may not feel like sharing your daily musings on yet another social network, but that's not all Google+ (free) is good for. This app is a must-have because it can upload all your photos to your Google+ account, where they are organized and edited to make them look better than what you shot. You can also host and participate in video Hangouts.
Different from the typical radio app, TuneIn Radio ($4) streams AM, FM, and Internet radio stations to your mobile device. As a total package, it is one of the best radio streaming apps we've seen. And with its DVR-like recording capabilities, the paid Pro version is worth the $4.
If you want more control over your music than TuneIn can offer, Spotify (free) is the way to go. The app plays radio stations (playlists of songs based on a particular song or artist) and, thanks to an update in December 2013, can stream songs from the personal playlists you create -- all for free. Upgrade to the premium, $10-per-month subscription and you can stream any song without ads and download playlists to your phone so that you can listen without a signal.
Want to stay on top of the news, but don't have time to read lengthy stories? Circa News (free) is the right app for you. It delivers just the facts of breaking news stories from the US and around the world. The news team behind Circa combs through press releases, blog posts, and new stories from major publications to get the most crucial bits of information, including quotes and photos, then combines each tidbit into a short article. You can follow stories to get updates on new developments and browse the news by categories, such as technology and health.
We're not including the Facebook and Twitter apps in the list because it's likely that if you use those social networks, you'll download those apps right off the bat. Instead, we're focusing on Flipboard (free), a news and RSS reader that pulls in your social media feeds, and highlights the most popular posts. Flipboard also lets you subscribe to your favorite Web sites and news sources and shows off articles in a slick, magazine-like design with rich photos and page-flipping navigation.
The free Kindle app for Android is an excellent e-reader that seamlessly ties with your Amazon account. When you buy a book on Amazon's Web site, you have it go directly to the app, where you can read it anytime, with or without a data or Wi-Fi signal. If you start reading on your Android tablet, then switch to your phone, the app knows where you left off, which is a nice touch. It does a good job of presenting e-books and comes with a few bells and whistles to enhance your overall mobile reading experience.
Lookout Security (free) helps protect your phone or tablet from several angles. First, it scans every app you download to make sure it's safe and free of malware. Second, if you ever lose your device, you can head to Lookout's Web site to find it on a map, activate a piercing alarm to help you find it or annoy the person who stole it, or erase all of your data and lock your phone so no one else can use it. The list of other features goes on and on, including safe browsing, privacy alerts, and file backups.
This simple weather app has just enough frills to give you all the details you need without being overwhelming. Yahoo Weather (free) shines with a simple, yet elegant design, using stunning Flickr photos as a backdrop to a wide range of weather information on your phone. There are certainly other options with more weather information, but for a quick look at what's happening in your area and the upcoming conditions, Yahoo Weather is a perfect pick.
For finding a place to eat nearby or reviews on the top salon in your city, Yelp (free) is still the top app. The Android app makes it easy to search for any of the several million business on Yelp, then read reviews, get hours and location, see photos, and check in to the business to get a discount.
Dropbox's Android app (free) makes it incredibly simple to sync files between your phone and computer. You can access all of your Dropbox files from the app, add new ones from your phone, and password-protect the app for added security. The Camera Upload feature automatically uploads photos you take with your camera (and screenshots from your phone) to your Dropbox account, so you always have a backup.
It has a few minor shortcomings, but Google Drive (free) is still a must-have download for any Android user, as it does an excellent job of integrating cloud storage and file-syncing with Google Docs functionality.
Though many Android devices with Jelly Bean 4.1 and up have this browser preinstalled, there a still a number of Androids that come with a generic Web browser instead. If that's the case with your new device, we recommend that you grab Google Chrome (free) from the Play store and use it as your default browser instead. It's simple, relatively fast, and, if you use Chrome on the desktop and sign in with the same Google account, you can open a new tab on your phone and then easily view it on your computer.
A follow-up to the popular first Star Wars-themed installment, Angry Birds Star Wars 2 (free) brings all the fun of the original. This time, you get to play with characters from the prequel movies, including Anakin Skywalker, Jango Fett, and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. There's also a "Pork Side" that features villains like Darth Maul. Like the other games, you fling birds at pigs, but be on the lookout for new abilities from your favorite Star Wars characters.
Realistic soccer, stunning graphics, multiple game modes -- even if you're not a big sports fan, it's safe to say you'll enjoy playing FIFA 14 (free). The game offers a ton of content and game modes to explore, keeping you entertained for hours. Test your soccer skills with 600 fully licensed teams, over 16,000 players, 33 leagues, and 34 different stadiums.
Well worth its relatively steep price of $6.99, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour is perhaps the best first-person shooter for the touch screen. Sure, it doesn't offer anything new or surprising gameplay-wise, but that doesn't mean it's any less addicting. This latest sequel takes the fighting to countries around the world and even lets you try your hand as the villain.