Everyone loves free stuff. And there's plenty of it on Android, with an insane number of free apps available in the Google Play store.
But most of them are rubbish: a frustrating mix of non-official rip-offs, shonkily designed bedroom projects and, in the worst cases, plain old arrgghh-this-doesn't-even-work-at-all duds.
Fortunately, there are gems lurking among the dross, and we’ve rounded up 40 crackers. Read on, download and enjoy the best Android apps for photography; sketching and drawing; travel, weather and health; making music and editing video; writing and scanning; being productive; relaxing and reading; and watching TV and listening to radio.
We’ve long had a bit of a soft spot for Snapseed. Its intuitive interface was always one of the most tactile on Android; moreover, the huge range of filters and effects made it perfect for all manner of photographic manipulation and fine-tuning. But with 2015’s major revamp, Snapseed became further entrenched in must-have territory.
The star of the upgrade: Stacks, which converts each filter you apply into an editable layer. This means each effect can later be tweaked, rather than being burned into your image when applied, thereby providing even more scope for experimentation. Handily, stacks can also be saved for later re-use.
The idea behind Prisma is to turn photos into works of art, with almost zero effort. You load a pic, and then select a painting or illustration. Styles vary from Munch to manga-style fare, and the results are surprisingly authentic (although occasionally terrifying – probably don’t try your own version of The Scream unless you want to look like a demon).
The only snag is you must be online for Prisma to work its magic. However, any art it makes can be saved to your device or shared with the world. Just don’t get a bit too excited about your artistic prowess and lop off an ear.
There are so many camera apps, social networks pretending to be camera apps, and camera apps pretending to be social networks, that it takes a lot to stand out. Retrica manages to do so due to its straightforward interface, slew of live filters and effects (so you can see what you’re going to get at all times) and excellent multishot collage-creation mode.
Use the last of those when you’re zooming along in a car (er, as a passenger, obviously) and you get some really amazing photo strips. And if you miss a Retrica moment by using your normal camera app, you can always apply one of Retrica’s filters later.
Stop Motion Studio
Fancy yourself as the next big thing in animation? Sadly lacking the money to buy any equipment or even an app? No matter: with Stop Motion Studio, you only need your Android device’s camera and some bits and bobs to shuffle about your desk.
This app’s a cut-down version of the paid app, and so is light on features. Nonetheless, it still enables you to shoot individual frames, arrange and edit them, and then spit out the results to a movie or animated GIF.
8Bit Photo Lab
If you only feel happy when digital imagery has edges chunky enough to take off a kneecap, you’ll feel right at home with 8Bit Photo Lab. Import a pic, roll the dice, and the app draws on computing’s history to create something that might once have graced an ancient PC or Game Boy.
But this is no mere filter app. Every setting can be tweaked, and alternate output styles (from circles to glitches) await discovery. Some bits lurk behind IAP, but then if you want high-res output or virtual C64/Speccy pics, the ‘pro‘ IAP’s only £2.39. That’s a smidge over the price of a rubbish budget game from 1985 – and 8Bit Photo Lab’s far more fun.
Adobe Photoshop Fix
Until the (unlikely) day Adobe sees fit to release its desktop products in full on mobile, we’ll have to make do with the company carving off bits and squirting them into apps. Photoshop Fix is, though, a suitably impressive bit, if you’re in the habit of retouching and restoring photographs.
The basics – cropping and adjustments – aren’t anything you can’t get elsewhere. But Photoshop Fix’s Heal and Liquify tools are something else, respectively knocking out imperfections and enabling drastic effects. Load a portrait and Liquify becomes face-aware, too, so you can subtly adjust features – or give your boss a massive conk if you’re in a funny mood.