New Android device, new apps

Congrats on your new Android phone or tablet. After you get it all set up, it's time to fill it with some great 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. It's a mix of classics and newer titles released in 2014.

Looking for apps for your iPhone or iPad? Jason Parker has a greatstarter collection for iOS apps.

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SwiftKey

One of the all-time most popular apps on Google Play, SwiftKey went free this year, getting rid of any excuse not to download it.

This personal, intelligent Android keyboard knows what you want to type before you even start tapping the screen, always predicting your next word.

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Google Chrome

If your Android device doesn't come with Chrome (free) already installed, download it now. Google's mobile browser has a clean design and simple navigation, which makes it beat out the other choices.

One of the best features is that you can sync your open tabs across devices, so long as you sign in with the same Google account on your Android phone, tablet and the desktop version of Chrome.

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Pocket

Pocket (free) is still my favorite way to save articles, videos and photos to view later. It's essentially a bookmark manager, keeping stuff you want to save safe for as long as you want.

Most people add items to Pocket throughout the week and then catch up on the weekends. And because Pocket downloads everything you save to your device, you can read articles when you're offline, such as during a subway commute or on a plane.

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Copy

Cloud storage is especially handy for backing up photos these days, and one of my top picks is Copy. It has a friendly design, 15GB of free storage, and a photo backup tool that saves your pictures and screenshots to the cloud as soon as you take them.

If you haven't already picked a cloud storage service, give Copy a try.

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Google Keep

For taking down short notes, managing to-do lists, and setting reminders, it doesn't get any simplier than Google Keep (free). The app makes it quick and easy to jot down a short note, create a checklist, record a voice message or save a photo.

You can add reminders to any of your saved items, one of the most useful features in the app. Those reminders can be time-specific or fire off when you get to a certain location, such as the grocery store --helpful for when you need to remember to pick up milk.

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Evernote

If you're looking for a feature-packed note-taking app that can do more than Keep, Evernote (free) is your best bet.

This heavy hitter can incorporate text, voice clips, pictures, attached files and even location stamps into your notes. What's more, it syncs everything across all your devices, so you can access your stuff no matter which 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.

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Snapseed

A longtime hit on iOS, Snapseed (free) is now part of the Google family and it's still a great mobile photo editor.

This powerhouse editing app is capable of doing everything from applying filters and focus effects to adjusting white balance and contrast.

Though it has a lot of tools that can be intimidating at first, Snapseed is easy to master and turn your humdrum shots into stunning photos.

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Spotify

Picking a music streaming service is tough because nearly all of your choices are excellent. My personal favorite is Spotify (free) for its music catalog and capable search feature.

The app plays radio stations (playlists of songs based on a particular song or artist) and 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.

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Pocket Casts

Of the many podcast apps I've tried, Pocket Casts is my favorite. It's got a no-nonsense design and a delightful discovery menu, where you can find new audio and video podcasts to listen to.

The app updates automatically, downloading new episodes when they are available. You can control how long episodes stay on your device, create playlists and filter episodes by type. With the Android app, you can even start streaming a podcast while it's still downloading.

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Circa News

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.

Circa even sends out alerts when there's breaking news, so you never miss something important.

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Flipboard

Flipboard (free) is still the king for keeping up with your favorite websites. This news reader lets you subscribe to your favorite websites to read new articles as their published.

The app can also that pull in your social-media feeds and highlights the most popular posts.

The best part is that Flipboard shows off everything with a slick, magazine-like design with rich photos and page-flipping navigation.

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Amazon Kindle

You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books.

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 website it will appear in the app automatically so 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.

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TwoDots

One of the blockbuster games of 2014 is TwoDots. It's a sequel to the wildly popular Dots game, and this version is even better.

The app is beautifully designed, with whimsical characters and colorful levels. There are unique challenges that keep you engaged and obstacles that are just hard enough to keep you coming back for more.

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Monument Valley

Another smash hit this year is Monument Valley, a very artistic puzzle game that's both beautiful and engaging.

It's tough to completely describe the game, but it's a series of puzzles that require some spatial reasoning and patience. The soothing music and stunning visuals will keep you coming back for more, even after you've beat the game.

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Mint

Mint is a great tool if you need a little help with your finances. This tried-and-true free money management system is so popular because it gives you a ton of flexibility to keep tabs on your budget.

The tablet version is bit easier to navigate than the phone app, but both are effective for tracking your spending, account balances and savings goals.

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Twilight

If you spend your evenings on your phone or tablet, do your eyes a favor and install Twilight. The free app changes the color of your screen, blocking out the blue light that research suggests can interfere with our sleep.

Twilight runs on a schedule, turning on at night and off in the morning, or you can toggle it manually. Advanced features let you adjust the color temperature, intensity and screen brightness.

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Yahoo Weather

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.

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Lookout

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 website 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.

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Yelp

For finding a place to eat nearby or reviews on the top salon in your city, Yelp (free) is still the top app.

You can search for any of the several million business on Yelp, read reviews, get hours and location, see photos and, often, check in to the business to get a discount.

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