Just picked up a new Android device? Download these apps first.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.