The year 2014 was full of fun and amazing apps. There were old apps redefining themselves and new apps that stormed into the Play Store with something to say. In this roundup, we’ll take a look at the best Android apps released in 2014.
Action Launcher 3 was a complete step forward from Action Launcher 2. It was completely rewritten from scratch and included so many redesigns and fixes that it was released as a brand new app as opposed to an update. It features some unique functionality like the quickdrawer and shutters and we have it on good authority that some old favorites from Action Launcher 2 will resurface. It’s free to try and $4.99 to unlock the full version.
AllCast is an app that lets your Android device communicate with a number of things like the Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, and many others. It lets you stream your personal content like photos and videos to those devices. There is a free version to try it out but the paid version removes the restrictions and gives you the full experience. It made its mark when it was the only Chromecast app that was capable of doing what it does and remains one of the only apps that can do what it does to so many different devices.
Camera51 is one of the more interesting camera apps to be released in 2014. What it does is analyze faces and surroundings to help you determine the best spot to take a photo. This works for things like selfies and portrait shots of other people but it can also help scenery and other sorts of camera shots. It doesn’t have the advanced features that wannabe-DSLR apps have but if you’re terrible at taking photos (and have a high end device), this is a great option.
Commandr is an application that aims to make Google Now more useful from a practical standpoint. It works offline and allows you to do some more basic things like turn on/off things like Bluetooth, WiFi, flashlight, and others as well as setting volume, access Google Play Music playlists, and others. If you have root access you can even reboot into recovery and clear notifications. It’s a unique app and if you ever plan on getting more into Google Now, this should be an app you’re using.
One of the many iOS apps that Android users long pined for was djay 2. This is an app that emulates a DJ turntable and allows you to mix and mess around with music. It comes with Spotify integration as well as your personal library integration, automix, looping and cue points, mixer, tempo, pitch-bending, audio FX, and many, many more features. Whether or not it is good enough for a professional setting is up for personal interpretation but there is no better app on Android that does what this does.
Disney Movies Anywhere was released earlier this year and it brought with it a unique concept. With this app, you can buy and stream pretty much any Disney movie as well as Pixar movies. There is also access to exclusive Disney content. The app is cross platform so you can download it on other devices like your computer and tablet. It’s true that most of their titles are available on Netflix and services like Google Play and iTunes, but it shows that it’s possible for a movie studio to go out and do it on their own and do it in a desirable way.
Google Camera came out over the summer and a lot of people loved it. It gave many people access to Google-only features like Photosphere for the first time and it has fun new things like Lens Blur mode. It’s meant to be the official camera app of Nexus devices so some things like HDR only work on those, but it was really cool of Google to give access to these other previously exclusive features to the public.
Google decided to break their Google Drive office suite up into multiple apps with the intent of adding more features and functionality to each piece. Thus, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets were born and Google Drive fell back into being only for cloud storage. As it turns out, this was a good move because it allowed Google to add new features to each on a fairly regular basis and the three apps combined create one very competent office suite.
One of the big announcements at Google I/O 2014 was Google Fit. Its biggest selling point is that it’s integrated natively with Android Wear and it’s slowly but steadily gaining more and more features and integration with other fitness hardware. You can use it to track and analyze your fitness and help you reach those all important fitness goals. It’s a tad basic right now compared to other heavy hitters in the fitness market but Google is behind it so it’ll get to where it needs to be.
Google Now Launcher was released earlier this year and has become the way people can get a stock Android feel on their devices without all the root and ROM stuff that many don’t feel comfortable doing. It comes with built-in Google Now support, a solid set of features, and it’s much lighter than OEM skin launchers and most third party launchers. It is very Google-centric but people who use this know that and use it for that reason. It’s also totally free which a lot of launcher aren’t.
Most browsers focus on things like speed or features but Ghostery focused on something else entirely: privacy. The app allows you to visually see what trackers are looking at you and give you the options to turn those trackers off. You can also do things like change the search engine and enter into the Ghostrank feature which helps Ghostery find new trackers. It’s a great and polished browser for the security minded and fans of the browser extension should have it.
Nokia had a big year since they distanced themselves from hardware and started focusing on software. One of the more recent additions to their software line up is HERE Maps. It contains a great design, offline mode, and many of the same features as Google Maps such as the ability to explore things nearby, turn by turn directions, and maps available in more than 100 countries. Despite being in beta, HERE Maps already has more than half a million downloads and rocks a 4.5 out of 5 rating in the Play Store. It’s a phenomenal start and that was a pleasant surprise.
Horizon is another camera app that aimed to do things from a different perspective. Horizon allows you to shoot video as a full horizon shot no matter how you hold your phone. That means you can hold it portrait, landscape, or anything between and the video/picture comes out as though you were holding it landscape. Given the general distaste for portrait videos and images, Horizon corrects a problem that many people don’t know they have and does so in a unique and inoffensive way.
IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and what it does is create connections between apps so that when you do something in one, it makes the other app do something. A popular example is the ability to save a picture from Instagram and upload it to Google Drive automatically. The options are virtually limitless and it can save you a lot of time and effort. You can even find lists of recipes (the term used for a connection created in IFTTT) to get you started.
Despite the often frustrating invite system to get into this app, Inbox by Gmail is an innovative app that helps further integrate Google services into Google Now. It allows you to hyper-organize your emails so you can keep track of what’s what and there is built in integration with Google Now’s reminder system. It’s a little messy when you’re first getting started and that’s turned some people off to it but if you put in the effort to make the migration, this is a great email app.
Link Bubble is a unique browser that works amazingly well for fans of social media. The entire browser is housed in a floating notification and opens links in the background. This means you can continue to browse social media or whatever you’re reading and open as many links as you need to. Then you can come back and open those links and see what they’re all about. There are some customization features and the app has gotten progressively better throughout the year. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Maps.Me made their mark on the navigation world by offering offline maps for a number of regions around the world. You can do things like plan routes, and bookmark places that you like but the big draw are the highly detailed maps and the fact that it works totally offline once you download the maps to your device. This makes navigation easier in areas where there is no data connection and fans of having offline maps should definitely check this one out.
Muzei Live Wallpaper was one of the most unique live wallpaper releases of the year. Its claim to fame is its seemingly never ending supply of classic art pieces from legendary artists from times past. It also has a few other features like the ability to use your own gallery along with the classic art. Perhaps its biggest feature is the API it provides developers. That allows other devs to integrate Muzei into their app. It’s unique and popular, especially if you love old art.
MyStocks is a Holo-inspired stocks app that came out earlier this year without a lot of fanfare. It allows you to track your portfolio, see news regarding the stock market and your stocks, set alerts for stocks, and deep analysis of stocks complete with charts and graphics. It is capable of housing a lot of information and does so gracefully with a solid design. It may not match every stock app feature for feature, but anyone who is busy in the stock market on a consumer level should give it a try.
Nokia Z Launcher is the other huge release out of Nokia this year and it was a good one. It simplifies the Android experience into one home screen, one app drawer, and a scrollable clock/weather widget. Its claim to fame is the ability to search for apps, contacts, and Google by drawing letters on the screen. There are some small things as well like apps that show up on the home screen based on the time of day and your GPS location. It’s still in beta but it’s free to use and it’s something a little different.
When the Moto X came out, one of its most sought after features what the active display. Peek allows non Moto phones to emulate the active display feature by allowing you to see your notifications on your lock screens automatically without you pressing any buttons. It’s a unique experience and you can even interact with the notifications and open the needed apps to deal with them. It’s inexpensive but beware because it can drain your battery based on your settings.
Stack Exchange has helped an untold number of people in an untold number of ways across many, many topics. Their official Android apps takes the positive force that is Stack Exchange and makes it mobile. If you’re curious about pretty much anything then this is an app you should have on your Android device. It’s a great community that is run by the community and they do a pretty good job of it.
TapPath is another unique app that helps you deal with links that you find on social media or websites. Here’s how it works. You can configure what a single tap, double tap, and triple tap on links do. That means you can single click to open in a browser, but a double click will drop it in Pocket, and a triple click will send it to your computer using Pushbullet. This is an app designed for people who browser pretty heavily which means it’s not for everyone but it can be very helpful if you engage with links a lot.
Themer Launcher was in beta for a good long time but this year saw the first official, stable release. Themer is unique because it is a launcher like Nova and Action but the themes you can choose for your home screens are highly varied and quite enjoyable. All the themes are fully customizable, the themes are done by a talented community, and has integration with Zooper Widget. If you want something truly different for a launcher, give this a try.
Udemy is a video-driven educational app that allows you to purchase and take courses in various skills that you may need. You can find stuff from cooking tips to dancing, Java programming to speaking different languages. The classes can be quite expensive but there are cheaper ones and free ones you can grab to check out the platform. The app itself is free and lets you view the courses on your smartphone so you can use it for study.
Thanks to the small storage sizes on smartphones, many people have taken to cloud storage to keep the majority of their content. Unclouded is an app that allows you to manage your cloud storage across multiple sites to help organize all that stuff that just gets randomly uploaded. One of the best reasons to get this is to find duplicates of items you may have uploaded twice such as your camera roll which may have been uploaded to multiple cloud storage sites automatically. Cloud storage users should definitely try this out.
After a long road of fixing bugs and adding features, VLC for Android has finally exited beta with version 1.0 released early in December. The beta version was already popular but it should be even more so now that it’s not in beta. It plays video and audio files along with a number of more unique features that you’ll find with VLC. Those in the market for a new media player should check it out.
Wally made headlines back when Material Design was brand new and not many apps showed off the new Android design guidelines. On top of being a highly functional wallpaper app, the app successfully showed how Material Design can take a usually boring app and make it look and act much better. It went down for a short time in late 2014 when the site that hosted the wallpapers went down but it was revived and functions as it always has.
WeMail, like Inbox, has been working to change how people use email on mobile. Unlike Inbox, WeMail took a more mainstream approach that most people will be familiar with. They turned emails into threaded discussions that are organized by sender rather than chronologically. There are some other nifty features like voice emails and improved search and organization of attachments. IT’s also totally free.
Last up is the curious case of Yahoo’s Aviate Launcher. It was originally done by an app development start up and was purchased by Yahoo for quite a bit of money. It features a redesigned home screen set up with categories to better find apps, contextual features based on what time it is and your location, and a unique look and feel. Purists didn’t like it but people looking for something different have enjoyed it quite a bit and it’s free to use.
If we missed any amazing Android apps from 2014, let us know in the comments below!