As soon as you get your brand-new Android smartphone, there are certain apps you’ll probably download immediately, such as Facebook, Spotify, Kindle and your favorite games. But with more than one million apps in the Google Play store, there are bound to be a ton of options that you never consider downloading, either because you’re not sure what they do or you simply don’t know they exist. Want to type on a better keyboard, speed up your phone’s performance or experience augmented reality? You can do that and a lot more with our top picks. These are the best Android apps you’re probably not using.
1. Wikitude (Free)
Wikitude is a browser that will open your eyes to the world around you through your device’s camera. The augmented-reality browser lets you explore and interact with your surroundings. You can search for places around you, such as “restaurants” or “accommodations,” or look up nearby events, tweets, Yelp recommendations or relevant Wikipedia articles. Vendors in the area also serve up mobile coupons via the app so you’ll know when you’re near a good deal. Wikitude also comes with a bunch of cool AR games, like “Swat The Fly,” “Alien Attack” and “Bubble Tap.”
2. Tasker ($2.99)
Whether you’re looking to keep your phone screen on while you’re reading an e-book or you want it to ring more loudly at the office so you don’t miss an important call, Tasker is ready to do your bidding. Have your phone’s volume, display and notifications automatically adjusted based on various triggers — such as time, day and location — to make your smartphone smarter.
3. Buzz Launcher (Free)
Sick of the way your phone’s interface looks and wish you could change more than just the wallpaper? From app drawers and calendar widgets to home-screen layouts, Buzz Launcher lets you change the look of the interface so it feels like you’re using a completely different device. Choose from one of more than 200,000 beautiful user-created designs, or create your own. You can even build your own widget to truly personalize your phone.
4. A.I.type Keyboard ($3.99)
You want a keyboard that’s smart enough to know what you want to enter, but not one so presumptuous that it auto-corrects your words without providing any notice. A.I.type features a context-based next-word prediction engine and warns you before and after it corrects your text. Different skins, such as iPhone 4s and Windows 7 layouts, let you emulate other devices and operating systems. A.I.type also offers navigation and editing buttons, such as Back and Undo, so your fingers never have to leave the keyboard. It also learns from your typing habits to refine its prediction engine.
5. CamDictionary (Free)
Whether you’re getting ready for a trip to Japan or just want to make sense of the French-only menu in a fancy restaurant, CamDictionary can be a lifesaver. The app translates words it sees through your device’s camera in real time so you don’t have to worry about taking a clear picture to get your explanation. With support for 36 languages — including Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian and Swedish — you can use CamDictionary in almost any part of the world. You can even pick up a new language, thanks to the pronunciation guides and audio clips of foreign words recited by native speakers.
6. Google Goggles (Free)
Google Goggles lets you look up anything you see around you by snapping photos with your phone’s camera. Shoot pictures of bar codes, QR codes or images such as famous landmarks, billboards and movie posters. The app will do a Google Images search and return information such as movie titles, locations and even translations of foreign text in your photos. You can also use this app to add Contacts by taking a snapshot of a business card, thanks to built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR). You can’t even perform these functions with Google Glass (yet, anyway).
7. WeChat (Free)
The market for messaging apps that send texts, photos, videos and location information is crowded, but WeChat’s claim to fame is fun. Its cool Live Chat walkie-talkie-style feature allows you and a group of friends to send short voice messages to one another. We also love the robust library of free and paid stickers that make messaging pals truly entertaining. The free app works on iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry devices, and there’s a Web client for the desktop.
8. Accupedo (Free)
Accupedo is a pedometer that does what it’s supposed to and does it well. Unlike many other fitness apps, this dedicated step tracker doesn’t ask you to set up an account and log in before you can start tracking. Accupedo tracks your steps, distance walked, calories burned and time spent walking, and shows you weekly, monthly and yearly reports of your progress. You can share your daily walking log on Facebook or have it emailed to yourself for safekeeping. Set goals based on number of steps, distance walked or the amount of weight you want to lose.
9. PasswordBox (Free)
It seems like security breaches are more common than burglaries and muggings these days. Guard yourself against would-be identity thieves with PasswordBox, which lets you manage the credentials to services such as Facebook, Netflix and your banking accounts. The app generates secure passwords for new profiles you create as you browse the Web and guards your info with AES-256 bit encryption. Access all of your accounts in the app with one master password. You can also store your credit card, banking and ID information in the app and have it covered by the same protection.
10. FoxFi ($7.95)
With FoxFi, you can make full use of your phone’s data plan without having to pay extra for tethering. The app turns your smartphone into a hotspot for your other devices so you can surf on the go with your laptop or tablet. You don’t have to root your phone to use this app, and your carrier will never know the difference.