By Abhimanyu Ghoshal
Abhimanyu is an avid gamer, street food gourmet & a design connoisseur.
2017 saw a nice bunch of useful and inventive apps hit the Play store, and a number of our older favorites got some notable updates too.
We’ve rounded up 30 of our favorites from our testing through the year – scroll through our list, find your must-haves and be sure to let us know which ones you’re rocking on your own device into the new year.
Practically all Android phones come with a file explorer, but if you’re not happy with your current choice, Files Go is worth a look. In addition to helping you browse your phone’s storage, it also lets you send and receive files offline via Bluetooth, and displays handy cards to help you find large files, unused apps and other stuff that’s simply taking up space on your device.
Google Play Store’s link: Files Go
If you live in India and need to transfer money or make a payment, Google’s Tez is one of the most ingenious ways to do it. Once you connect it to your bank account with your linked UPI address, you can send and receive cash instantly – and if you’re in proximity of the person you’re making a transaction with, you don’t even to exchange personal details.
Google Play Store’s link: Tez
If you’re getting to grips with English, or looking to improve your grammar when writing emails, reports, and messages, Grammarly Keyboard can help. It suggests improvements to your input as you type and make automatic corrections as well, so your text reads better – while also giving you a chance to learn from your mistakes on-the-fly. My only gripe is that it doesn’t allow for gesture-style typing, a la Swype and SwiftKey, but it’s still plenty useful for folks who want to fix their grammar.
Google Play Store’s link: Grammarly Keyboard
Truecaller’s caller ID works great because of its growing community of users who tag numbers and report spammers – but it’s now even better because it added two handy features. The first lets you send and receive money from your contacts via UPI in India; the second lets you scan numbers printed on paper or billboards, or even scribbled on a napkin, to call and save for later. It’s now become one of the first apps I install when setting up a new phone.
Google Play Store’s link: Truecaller
BlackBerry Privacy Shade
Sick of people peeping at your phone while you’re out in public? BlackBerry’s Privacy Shade lets you black out your screen, save for a rectangular or circular area that you can resize and move around. While it’s activated, you can use your phone as normal to navigate to apps and individual messages. You can turn it on or off from a persistent notification or by tapping a dedicated Quick Settings tile. Oh, and it’s great for reading in bed without disturbing your partner with a bright screen.
Google Play Store’s link: BlackBerry Privacy Shade
Datally is designed to give you control over apps to prevent them from chewing through your data plan – both during active use and while running in the background. Once you’ve spotted data-hungry apps, you can choose to restrict their consumption, or make a note to ditch them for more efficient alternatives.
Additionally, the app also comes with a public Wi-Fi finder that will guide you to locations where you can hop online for free. How handy is that?
Google Play Store’s link: Datally
Tired of having to stretch your fingers to reach across your phone screen? Some brands come with a built-in one-handed mode to shrink your display’s contents down to a more manageable size, but if that doesn’t sound like your handset, you’ll need this app from the folks at XDA.
It doesn’t require rooting, and be toggled using a Quick Settings tile, a launcher shortcut or a floating button. Not bad for the low price of free.
Google Play Store’s link: One-handed mode
Microsoft’s developed an excellent tool to help people with visual impairments get around indoor spaces, and it’s called Path Guide. When you’re in a building that’s been previously mapped out by a human user, it’ll help you navigate the space by telling you how many steps and in which directions you’ll need to turn in order to find, say, the restroom in a large mall.
It’s free to use, and works for both navigation and for recording paths. If you’re in popular public buildings a lot, you could do your bit to help others by recording navigation guides for them.
Google Play Store’s link: Path Guide
Trips was already great for automatically collating your travel tickets and bookings into one place and recommending places to visit, but it’s now even more powerful, thanks to a couple of nice updates from earlier this year.
It now captures bus and train tickets as well and adds them to your itinerary. And in case you make a last-minute booking offline, you can now tap the + button and enter those details manually to keep your schedule up-to-date. Trips also now lets you share the reservations for your journey, including hotel booking and travel tickets, straight from the app via email.
It also plays nice with custom lists that you’ve created in Google Maps or Search, and there’s an option to merge multiple trips into a single adventure.
If you’re heading out of town for the holidays, this is a must-have on your phone.
Google Play Store’s link: Google Trips
This is Facebook basically Messenger without a bunch of (mostly) unnecessary bells and whistles. For folks who are low on storage space and RAM, it’s a great choice.
You’ll lose out on voice and video calling, and the ability to send GIFs (boo), as well as some useless bloat like Messenger Day (aka Stories), bots and games (yay).
That seems like a small price to pay for massive savings on space: Lite takes up just 17MB, less than a tenth of what Messenger requires on your phone. You should also find more than 100MB of RAM freed up when you make the switch. In the event that it’s not available on Google Play in your country, you can grab it from APKMirror.
Google Play Store’s link: Messenger Lite
Wish you could hire a bot to handle your WhatsApp messages when you’re busy? Can’t Talk’s got you covered. Just set up a custom message, and toggle auto-reply on: when someone pings you on WhatsApp, it’ll automatically send out your text and let you know the task’s been taken care of with a silent notification. It only worked with WhatsApp in our testing, but support for other services is likely on the cards.
Google Play Store’s link: Can’t Talk (Beta)
Instagram’s image-and-video sharing app has been around for ages now, but it got oh, so much better in 2017 with a bevy of new features. Its Stories feature works really well for browsing and sharing ephemeral posts, and you can now add images to Stories that are older than 24 hours, as well as save select Stories to be displayed on your profile well after they’ve expired.
You can also join in on a friend’s livestream instantly, and liven things up with filters and masks in live video. My favorite feature is the ability to save posts into Collections that you can label yourself – it’s how I did most of my gift shopping this year from lesser-known brands. Plus, you can now follow hashtags in addition to following others’ profiles. And if you’re looking to clean up your profile, you can now archive posts so they’re hidden from view until you search for them. No wonder it’s become my messaging app of choice this year.
Google Play Store’s link: Instagram
Bonfire is Facebook’s take on instant group video chats that’s aimed at millennials. It’s great for people invested deeply in the social network’s ecosystem, as it makes it easy to invite your Facebook contacts, and share screenshots of your conversations straight to Instagram. You’ll also find stickers and the option to resize windows as you like, a nice upgrade from Messenger’s built-in video chat feature. However, it may not be available for you on Google Play, depending on your location; if that’s the case, find it over on APKMirror.
Google Play Store’s link: Facebook Bonfire
There are loads of apps for voice and video calling nowadays, but if most of your contacts are still on Skype, Microsoft’s Lite version of the service is worth a try.
It weighs in at just 13MB, while bundling essential functionality as well as a few additional features, including an SMS inbox and a mobile data usage monitor. That should help you save some storage space on your phone, as well as offer a smoother experience on older devices.
Google Play Store’s link: Skype Lite
Whether you love or loathe Facebook, it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the best tools for tracking events around you. The social network’s new Local app, a rebranded version of Events, lets you search through happenings across the US, sorted into categories like ‘Music,’ ‘Nightlife,’ ‘Arts & Culture,’ and ‘Food & Drink.’
You can also look up events by date, as well as see what’s going on around you on a map. The revamped interface is neat and clean, and makes light work of finding something fun to do in town.
Sadly, it’s only available in the US for now, but hopefully it’ll roll out to more folks across the globe next year.
Google Play Store’s Link: Facebook Local
Featured Image: Pixabay
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