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The best broadband and TV deals in July 2017

The best broadband and TV deals in July 2017

If the last thing you want to do on your evening or weekend is to spend time shopping around for broadband contracts and TV plans, TechRadar is coming to the rescue. Not only will our price comparison tool above find you the cheapest prices, but we'll show you how buying a package broadband and TV deal will save you time and money.

BT and Sky Sports, movie channels, the latest US TV imports, 24/7 music – whatever your passion, there are TV packages to suit everybody. And whether you're content with a standard ADSL connection or require superfast fibre broadband, you'll be sure to end up with the combo to suit you with our price table. There are broadband and TV deals available from BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and NOW TV.

See also: Broadband deals | BT broadband deals | Sky broadband deals | Virgin Broadband deals | Fibre broadband deals

best broadband deals

Which broadband and TV packages have Sky Sports?

Sky Sports has long been the destination for serious sports fans. Building its reputation in the 90s as the only place to watch Premier League football, you'll still need to grab a Sky Sports subscription to watch Test match cricket, golf majors and most of the Formula One season.

You can add Sky Sports to the following broadband plans:

  • Sky Fibre
  • BT Unlimited Broadband and Infinity fibre
  • Virgin Media broadband
  • TalkTalk Fast Broadband and Faster Fibre
  • NOW TV Brilliant Broadband

best broadband deals

Which broadband and TV packages have Sky Cinema?

Formerly known as Sky Movies, Sky Cinema features more films than you can shake a celluloid stick at. And it doesn't matter whether you like a laugh, crave nail-biting action or enjoy having your spine chilled – Sky Cinema channels include Comedy, Disney, Crime & Thriller, Sci-Fi & Horror and Premiere for all the best new flicks.

You can add Sky Cinema to the following broadband packages:

  • BT Unlimited Broadband and Infinity fibre
  • Sky Fibre
  • Virgin Media broadband
  • TalkTalk Fast Broadband and Faster Fibre
  • NOW TV Brilliant Broadband and Fab Fibre

best broadband deals

Which broadband and TV packages have Sky Atlantic?

You don't need us to tell you that we're in a Golden Age for television drama and box sets. Sky Atlantic is the network's way to make the most of the small screen's new wave of high-quality broadcasting from the US. Premiering the likes of Ray Donovan, The Affair and Westworld to these shores, most of you are probably after Sky Atlantic for one thing and one thing alone…Game of Thrones.

You can add Sky Atlantic to the following broadband plans:

  • Sky Fibre
  • NOW TV Brilliant Broadband and Fab Fibre

Can I get BT Sport with my broadband and TV package?

Until the end of July, BT Infinity and broadband deals come with BT Sport for absolutely free. That all changes on 1 August when you'll have to pay £3.50 per month to enjoy BT Sport's exclusive coverage of Premiership and Champions League football, Premiership Rugby.

Virgin Media is the only other internet provider that allows you to add BT Sport to your broadband plan. You have to add BT Sport to one of Virgin's broadband and TV bundles.

best broadband deals

What broadband speed do I need?

After you've chosen what TV channels you want, the next thing to decide is how much to splash on the broadband element of the deal. Very simply, the faster the connection, the higher the monthly tariff, with the cheapest rates on standard ADSL internet.

If you rely on the internet for streaming or downloading TV, films and music, then it makes sense to pay a few quid more a month and go for a fibre broadband deal instead. Learn more about the different available broadband speeds and which you may need below.

0-25Mb The entry-level internet connection you can get is called ADSL, sometimes simply referred to as 'standard'. It delivers speeds of up to 17Mb, which equates to  just over 2MB per second. It best suits small households who want to surf the web, handle their emails and stream non-4k catch-up TV.

25-50Mb Fibre broadband speeds start at up to 38Mb, so more than double what you get with standard ADSL. It's the sweet spot between fast speeds and good value and just the ticket for a family household where four or five members are all streaming, downloading and surfing at once.

50+Mb You need to crank up the speeds if you want to, say, stream 4K Ultra HD content TV and films. Most providers have speeds of 52MB and 76Mb, but only Virgin Media broadband can offer 100Mb and over – that's an incredible 12.5MB per second.

Can I get fibre broadband where I live?

If you think superfast broadband is what you need for your home, there may be a slight snag. Most households can now get it, but there's still around 10% of UK homes that still can't get it – and that rises to 40% where Virgin cable connections are concerned. So be sure to type in your postcode in our fibre broadband checker above to see whether superfast internet deals are available in your part of the country.

best broadband deals

What contract length should I go for?

BT, Virgin and NOW all offer 18 month package deals, Sky does 12 monthers and TalkTalk gives the option between either. Virgin Media offers 30 day rolling contracts for broadband and TV contracts as well, but we wouldn't recommend them – the price shoots through the roof for these short term agreements.

best broadband deals

Will I have to pay anything upfront for broadband and TV?

Afraid so. Unless you manage to catch one of the providers during one heck of a good promotional offer, you'll always have at least something to pay up front. This can include the costs of delivering the router and set-top TV internet box, but the likes of Virgin and BT also charge an activation or set-up fee.

Expect to pay at least £25 when you sign up for a TV and broadband  deal, but it shouldn't cost you any more than around £70 at the outset.

BT broadband deals and speeds

BT Unlimited Broadband | Up to 17Mb
BT is still the most popular broadband provider in the UK. You get the Home Hub 4 with its standard internet, as well as a Reward Card that you can spend anywhere Mastercard is accepted (the amount varies from week-to-week, so check our comparison chart for more details).

BT Unlimited Infinity | 52Mb-76Mb
Infinity is the name BT gives to its fibre optic broadband service. Infinity 1 gives speeds of up to 52Mb (around 6.5 MB per second download speed), which is faster than most other companies' entry-level fibre. Upgrade to Infinity 2 and crank the speed up to 76Mb. With both, you get the rangey BT Smart Hub router and a more bountiful Reward Card.

View and compare BT broadband and TV deals

Sky broadband deals and speeds

Sky Fibre | 38Mb-76Mb
Sky only lets you add TV channels if you go for one of its superfast broadband options. Sky Fibre is the cheapest plan, but be wise to the fact that you'll be limited to using, downloading and streaming up to 25GB of data per month. Pay more for Sky Fibre Unlimited, or extra still for Sky Fibre Max giving you up to 76Mb speed (around 9.5MB per second) and a Sky Q Hub router.

View and compare Sky broadband and TV deals

Virgin broadband deals and speeds

Virgin VIVID fibre broadband | 100Mb-300Mb
Not currently available on Virgin's cheapest VIVID 50 plan, you can instead choose from 100Mb (12.5MB per second), 200Mb (25MB per second) or 300Mb (a jaw-dropping 37.5MB per second). If you're also into gaming, you can choose VIVID 200 Gamer instead, which has better upload speeds and surpasses online traffic management to give you full speed even at peak times.

View and compare Virgin broadband and TV deals

TalkTalk broadband deals and speeds

TalkTalk Fast Broadband | Up to 17Mb
Don't let the name fool you, TalkTalk's fast broadband offers only standard ADSL 17Mb speed.

TalkTalk Faster Fibre | Up to 38Mb-76Mb
TalkTalk's fibre optic broadband plans are some of the cheapest around. And with its maximum speed of around 9.5MB per second, you can pay extra for Speed Boost and a Super Router.

View and compare TalkTalk broadband and TV deals

NOW TV broadband deals and speeds

Brilliant Broadband | Up to 17Mb
We can't help thinking of Paul Whitehouse when we hear the name 'Brilliant Broadband'. It's NOW TV's standard speed. Combine it with a TV plan and the prices can be very attractive indeed.

Fab Fibre | Up to 38Mb
Like the above, Fab Fibre comes with the NOW TV Hub router. The speeds head rise to around 4.75MB per second, which should be more than enough for streaming, downloading and surfing without frustration.

View and compare NOW TV broadband and TV deals

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The best Three SIM only deals in July 2017

The best Three SIM only deals in July 2017

The Three network has long been the go-to destination if you're looking for shedloads of data – it's still the only major player offering truly unlimited (and unrestricted) data packages. And time and again now it comes up with superb SIM only deals that we just have to shout about.

If you've landed on this page, we imagine you've already figured out that combining a SIM only plan with a SIM free phone or your beloved existing handset can be a brilliant way to save cash. And if it is big data that you crave, Three's £18 tariff for 30GB is unparalleled by the likes of Vodafone, EE or O2.

Scroll down to our comparison tool to pick out your ideal Three SIM only deal – whether you need it now, or to match up with a Black Friday bargain. And if you're not yet sold on the Three network or are still unsure about how going SIM only works, keep scrolling down to our FAQ.

Is Three the best mobile network for me?

As we've said above, there are two very good reasons why you should consider Three for SIM only. The first is the price tag – it often gets the jump on the other 'Big 4' networks when it comes to its SIM card pricing. And the second is if you like a plan with oodles of data.

But if you're looking for a network that's going to send freebies and rewards to your inbox every week, you've come to the wrong place. Three doesn't bother with subscriptions or gifts – it channels its energies on ensuring you get the cheapest bill at the end of the month.

sim only deals

Three's Essential and Advanced plans

Grab a Three SIM, and you'll be on one of two plans:

Three Essential Plans
The cheapest Three SIM only deals are on the Essential plan, and this will be completely fine for most people. It lacks a handful of benefits that you get with Advanced, but you still get 4G coverage, unlimited texts and use of Wi-Fi on the  London Underground. Unless you're a keen globetrotter or need to tether, stick to the bare Essentials.

Three Advanced Plans
Make the jump to an Advanced Plan and make yourself comfortable with the network's Feel At Home extra – unlimited use of your data, calls and texts in 60 other countries, including the US and Australia. Go Binge let's you stream Netflix, TVPlayer, Deezer and SoundCloud away from Wi-Fi without eating into your data allowance. Plus, you can use your phone as a Personal Hotspot from which to tether your laptop or tablet.

sim only deals

Are Three SIM only deals cheaper than contract?

If you're at the end of your contract or blagged a friend's old unlocked phone, then grabbing a Three SIM card is undeniably cost effective. They start at less than £10 a month.

But if you're starting afresh with a new phone, you get no discernible benefit from heading down the handset and SIM only combo road with Three. Whether you're after an iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S8 or something cheaper, the deals you can get by simply grabbing a normal two year tariff are more reasonable in the long run. You can head to our mobile phone deals page to compare contract prices of the latest, greatest handsets around.

sim only deals

Can I keep my old number?

Give your current network a call (on one of the below numbers), ask for your PAC – short for Porting Authorisation Code – give it to Three and they'll gladly transfer over your old telephone number. So no need to send out a text to your entire contacts list with a new number:

  • EE 07953 966 250
  • O2 0344 8090202
  • Vodafone 03333 040 191
  • ID 0333 003 7777
  • GiffGaff 43431 from your handset
  • Virgin 0345 6000 789
  • BT 0800 800 150
  • Tesco 0345 301 4455
  • Sky 03300 412 524
  • Asda 0800 079 2732

Easy, right? But not so easy if you were already on Three and then decided to go for one of the deals in our comparison chart that isn't directly with Three. Three won't give you a PAC in this situation, so instead you'll have to grab the cheapest free pay-as-you-go SIM you can find from another network (e.g. O2, EE, iD, etc) and give them your PAC code from Three. Once your number has transferred to the substitute network, call them for a second PAC. Then you can give this to Three and continue using that same telephone number. A convoluted but handy workaround.

sim only deals

Is my phone unlocked – can I use a Three SIM in it?

If Three is where your heart is, then you may already know that it ships all of its phones completely unlocked. That means you can put a SIM card from any network in your handset and you're good to go.

Unfortunately, not all networks are as profligate in this regard. Some networks require you to pay to unlock your mobile and Apple iPhones are generally locked completely to the network they were originally sold with. Here's how the other major networks operate:

  • EE Get through the first six months of your contract, call EE on 0800 956 6000 and pay them £8.99 and it'll unlock your phone. It says it will take around 10 days to complete. PAYG phones can be unlocked for free.
  • O2 You can unlock any O2 phone for free if you're on a pay monthly contract. PAYG customers have to pay £15. That's unless your phone is a Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, in which case you'll have to wait until the end of your contract before it can be unlocked.
  • Vodafone Vodafone is similar to Three. It will unlock your handset for free, but you have to give them a call to do so. From there, it's likely to take 10 days before you can use another network's SIM in your phone.

sim only deals

What SIM card size do I need?

We hate to sound glib (we really do), but it doesn't really matter if you're moving to Three. Whatever plan you choose, you'll receive a 'trio-sim'. So whether your phone takes a micro SIM, nano SIM or an old-school standard SIM, you're covered.

sim only deals

What contract length should I get?

Three gives you the choice between signing up for a whole year, or paying a little more for 1 month at a time. It may cost you a few quid extra per month, but if you know that you'll only need use of your new SIM for a few months, it should save you plenty in the long run.

sim only deals

How much phone data do I need?

If you're sniffing around Three, there's a good chance that you've already made up your mind and want to go straight for the jugular – 30GB or unlimited data.

But if you're still trying to make up your mind, and have no notion of exactly how much data you'll really need per month, then our quick guide below will help. Alternatively, why not grab a big data deal for one month, see how much data you use, and then downsize after that…?

  • 500MB-2GB If you just need a very cheap free SIM to shove in your phone and barely use data away from WI-FI, then we're not going to persuade you otherwise. But bear in mind that Three's 4GB tariffs can often be as cheap, or just a couple pounds more a month.
  • 4-8GB This is a solid wedge of data that you should be able to bag for a reasonable monthly rate. A good amount if you want to safely use Google Maps, stream Spotify and update your downloads without going over your limit.
  • 12-20GB Although unlimited data sounds very attractive on paper, ask yourself whether you really need it. And check your current usage – you may be surprised how far you can get with 12-20GB. It's a huge allowance that allows for loads of downloading, social media browsing and a few films' worth of streaming per month.
  • 30GB At the risk of repeating ourselves, this is Three's sweet spot – whether you're going SIM only or contract. It's more data than most people will know what to do with, but the prices can be really reasonable. Far cheaper than going unlimited.
  • Unlimited If you've already made up your mind about getting unlimited, we doubt there's much we can say to change your mind. And it's certainly a liberating feeling to have the freedom of unlimited data. But prices can get really expensive, so we'd urge you only to sign up if you really need it.

sim only deals

Should I get unlimited calls and texts?

Unlimited texts are a given with Three, regardless of whether you get an Essential or Advanced plan. But lots of plans do place restrictions on calls – usually 200 or 600 minutes. If you don't actually make that many calls from your mobile, then you can bag a cheaper deal by going for one of these. Chatterboxes should pay extra for unlimited minutes or, if you're going for a big data deal anyway, make use of apps like WhatsApp or the network's Three inTouch and use data calling.

sim only deals

How does TechRadar make money from SIM only deals?

If you buy a phone after visiting this page, TechRadar will be paid a small commission by the network or reseller you buy from. This money is paid by the site you buy from and thus does not affect the amount you pay for your phone contract. If you go direct to the site you buy from, you would pay the same amount.

While some sites out there will be paid larger fees for pushing people to specific deals that aren't necessarily the cheapest, TechRadar will always find you the absolute best value. Trust and integrity is important to us, so if you ever think we're not displaying the very best deals let us know.  

sim only deals

If Three sounds like the network for you, then scroll back to the top of this page and select your SIM. rather try your luck elsewhere? Then head to our best SIM only deals guide for more information and the best prices from other networks.

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Sony Xperia XZ 2: what we want to see

Sony Xperia XZ 2: what we want to see

It's OK to be confused about the Sony range, and which phone sits where. We would say the Xperia XZ lives between the Xperia X and the Xperia XZ Premium, but then there’s the Sony Xperia X Performance, and the Xperia XZs… which arrived as a sort of Xperia XZ 1.5.

For the true Xperia XZ 2 we’re expecting improvements on both the XZ and the XZs, and we've made a wish list of the form we hope those improvements will take.

You’ll find that at the bottom of this article, but first, here’s everything we’ve heard so far – and everything we suspect – about the Sony Xperia XZ 2 and when we might see it.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Sony's next flagship phone
  • When is it out? Maybe September
  • What will it cost? Probably at least $699.99/£549 (around AU$940)

Sony Xperia XZ 2 release date and price

The Sony Xperia XZ was announced in September 2016, so there’s a good chance we’ll see the Xperia XZ 2 in September 2017.

If we do, it will probably land at IFA 2017, happening from September 1-6, as Sony tends to take phones to that show.

There’s little news on price yet, but the XZ 2 will probably cost at least as much as the XZ, meaning a price of $699.99 (£549, about AU$940). That would make it pricey, but would still undercut the Xperia XZ Premium, which makes sense.

However, pricing for a Sony phone with the model number G8341 has appeared on a Polish website. It’s not clear what phone this is, but the price equates to roughly $860/£665/AU$1,130, which would make it high-end, and possibly the Xperia XZ 2.

Sony Xperia XZ 2 news and rumors

There aren’t a huge amount of Sony Xperia XZ 2 rumors yet but we have caught a few whispers. For one thing, back in January we heard word that five new Xperia handsets were on the way, and they haven’t all been accounted for yet.

Among them there’s one codenamed ‘BlancBright’, which supposedly has a 5.5-inch 1440 x 2560 screen, 4GB of RAM, a Sony IMX400 camera and either a Snapdragon 835 or Snapdragon 653 chipset.

It’s unlikely to be the XZ 2 if it has the Snapdragon 653, but with the high-end Snapdragon 835 it could well be, as those specs would be an upgrade on the Sony Xperia XZ.

On the other hand, a Sony phone with the model number G8341 has popped up both on a Polish website and a user-agent profile. It apparently has a 1080p screen and runs Android O, so that too could be the Sony Xperia XZ 2.

We can also look at the Xperia XZ and Xperia XZs for clues, as the Sony Xperia XZ 2 is likely to match or better them in most ways.

That means we can expect at least a 1080p screen and 4GB of RAM, while the chipset is likely to be newer than the Snapdragon 820 in those phones, perhaps it will have the flagship Snapdragon 835 used by the Xperia XZ Premium?

The camera meanwhile could well be the same 19MP and 13MP rear and front pairing as the XZs and XZ Premium- although we could see a slightly better camera as any new technology would be pushed onto the new flagship handset.

Then again, there were some key upgrades to the XZ Premium – including predictive capture and Super Slo-Mo mode, so matching that wouldn't be all bad.

Sony Xperia XZ 2: what we want to see

That covers what we know about the Sony Xperia XZ 2, but what we want is a whole different story. From better speakers to a whole new design, here’s our wish list for the phone.

1. A QHD display

If you buy a flagship Sony phone you have a choice of either a 1080p display, which is far lower resolution than rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and HTC U11 offer, or a 4K one, which is arguably overkill.

It’s long past time that there was a QHD option, and the Sony Xperia XZ 2 would be the perfect candidate for such a screen, slipping in just below the 4K Sony Xperia XZ Premium in the company’s range.

It would make for sharper visuals when using the phone normally, and would be a huge boon for VR (if the XZ 2 was Daydream-enabled), as well as ticking one more box on the specs list.

2. A fingerprint scanner wherever you are

The Sony Xperia XZ and many other Sony handsets have fingerprint scanners, but not if you’re in the US.

The exact reason for this isn’t clear, though it’s likely that it was a necessary business decision. However, if there’s any way for that situation to change we’d like to see it happen. Most flagship phones now have fingerprint scanners and the lack of one on Sony phones holds the brand back in the US.

3. A new design

Although Sony tends to tweak the design of its phones with each new model, the overall shape and look hasn’t changed much in a long time.

So for the Xperia XZ 2 we’d like to see a complete overhaul of the look. Make it curvy, make it bendy… just do something innovative. There’s only so much you can do with a phone, but Sony is far from hitting those limits.

We want the XZ 2 to excite us from the very first moment we lay eyes on it, and a new design is the only way that’s going to happen.

4. Ditch the bloat

Sony’s software isn’t terrible, but the company does pack an unnecessary number of pre-installed apps into its phones.

Some of these are useful, others really, really aren’t, but in almost all cases we’d rather simply be able to download them from Google Play if we want them, rather than having them forced upon us.

So for the Xperia XZ 2 we want Sony to ditch the bloat and just stick with the basic suite of Google apps.

5. Powerful speakers

The Xperia XZ’s speakers aren’t bad, and are capable of a good stereo effect, but they’re simply not loud enough, to the point where we sometimes struggled to make things out properly.

So we want the speakers on the Sony Xperia XZ 2 to be given a boost, so they can deliver loud, crisp stereo sound.

6. A dual-lens camera

Sony’s phones tend to have good cameras, but they’re rarely the very best smartphone snappers you can get, so we want something better from the Sony Xperia XZ 2.

But more than that we want a dual-lens camera. That’s the new in thing and with good reason, as whether used to allow lossless zoom, wide-angle shots or fancy bokeh effects, an extra lens can really add a lot.

7. An OLED screen

Not only do we want the screen on the Xperia XZ 2 to be sharper, but also to use OLED rather than LCD.

Apple is rumored to be switching to OLED with the iPhone 8 and Samsung’s been using it for years, so it could soon become the flagship standard and we don’t want Sony getting left behind.

Although not objectively better than LCD, it has some clear advantages, such as blacker blacks and a tendency towards more vivid colors.

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How a Craig David gig filled me in to the power of augmented reality

How a Craig David gig filled me in to the power of augmented reality

I never imagined that a Craig David comeback gig would send me into an existential crisis, but it’s funny what 30-degree heat and a few cocktails can do to your critical thinking. 

The early-noughties UK garage maestro was playing at super-posh, all-you-can-eat-lobsterfest and Sloan-ranger-love-in House Festival (which, despite my reservations – and in no small part thanks to a bottomless bucket of vodka-based booze – was actually excellent, in a ‘last days of Rome’ sort of way). 

David, it turns out, rising like a MacBook-wielding phoenix from the ashes of the Saturday-morning Popworld scene, was the perfect conduit for my growing dread of the future, given he’s built his public resurrection around remixing the tunes of today’s R’n’B elite with his TS5 show. Because, with no one to fill him in, David himself was in a way being remixed by his very audience.

Selecta reality

Some context. I’m of an age (30) that exists in something of a social media netherworld – old enough to be bored of my long-standing Facebook page, put off by Twitter’s bile and narcissism, and about a decade too aged to use Snapchat without looking like a try-hard, ‘how do you do, fellow kids?’ arse. Unless you’re in secondary school, or trying to convince your LinkedIn contacts you’re a ‘Social Media Expert/Guru/Wizard/Ninja’ to supplement your copywriting career, it’s of my opinion that you should steer well clear of Snapchat. 

Snapchat in all its mask-wearing glory.

So while I observe Snapchat developments from an appropriate distance, I don’t use it enough to fully appreciate its full capabilities these days.

Imagine my inebriated surprise then as, during the heady heights of David’s ‘7 Days’, two overage Snapchat users in the crowd in front of me used the app to perfectly (and, given the surroundings, inevitably inappropriately) map a native American headdress atop Craig’s beautifully-groomed barnet. We were some distance away from the stage, but Snapchat still managed to lock-on to David’s head, scaling the culturally-appropriated digital festival wear admirably as David was walking away from us (and the the troubles of his pre-comeback life).

It was the second time I’d been floored that day – the first being at my surprisingly deep knowledge of the Sean Paul back catalogue, also on the bill. The power of augmented reality is growing exponentially, and it’s no wonder that the likes of Apple are now joining Snapchat and Microsoft (with its HoloLens headset) on this soon-to-be-overflowing gravy train. 

But it did (as is now customary with this column) leave me feeling a bit exasperated and fearful, too. 

Augmented reality – the rise and fall

We’re approaching a future where anyone will be able to tweak and spin the world around them in an instant, in their image, to whatever ends they desire. We’ve had Photoshopped fakeries for decades now, but AR takes things to a whole new level. If the rumours are to be believed, Apple (and the industry at large) sees the Next Big Thing™ as being augmented reality glasses

Apple’s ARKit, on display for the first time at this year’s WWDC

If they’re adopted with the same fervour as the iPhone, they could more-or-less become extensions of our own bodies, stuck on the ends of our noses every waking hour of the day, allowing all sorts of real-time digital feedback to be overlaid onto the carbon world around us. As the quality of AR technology improves, will we ever be able to believe what we see in this augmented world?

In a world of easily-manipulated readers of fake news and an embattled media struggling to maintain trust in the face of presidential hit pieces, augmented reality will allow the forces of deception to remix reality in real-time. Popping a floppy tongue sticker or anime eyes on a mate’s video chat today may be funny, but, to paraphrase David, we may come to long for the ability to re-e-wind to an age where reality was no more than meets the eye.

  • Gerald Lynch is TechRadar’s resident futurist. His bi-weekly Future Gazing column casts a critical eye over the technologies and trends that are set to shape our world, bringing back to today a glimpse of tomorrow in the boot of his Delorean.

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Samsung unveils its 2017 flagship soundbar, the MS750 Sound+

Samsung unveils its 2017 flagship soundbar, the MS750 Sound+

Joining its existing 2017 lineup of soundbars, Samsung has just announced the MS750 Sound+ Soundbar, which it's calling its flagship soundbar for 2017. 

The 5-channel soundbar contains 11 speakers consisting of three wide-range tweeters, six woofers and two 'vertical' wide-range tweeters. 

Samsung claims this speaker configuration is capable of vertically expanding the sound stage, although there's no mention of Dolby Atmos, the 3D surround sound technology that creates the impression of sound that's above, as well as behind, you. 

An expandable soundbar with pedigree

By default the MS750 is a 5-channel soundbar, but you have the option of expanding your setup to a 5.1 setup by pairing it with a W700 subwoofer. 

We've already given five stars to one Samsung soundbar this year, the HW-MS650 – which is the 3-channel version of this soundbar. In our review we said that it achieves a quality of sound that "you've no right to hear from a one-body audio product."

We'll have to wait for our full review to see if the MS750 is able to combine this same level of performance with a 5-channel setup. 

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Facebook Messenger is introducing adverts

Facebook Messenger is introducing adverts

Facebook Messenger has announced that it's bringing advertisements into its hugely successful messaging platform. It's been trialing the ads as a feature in Australia and Thailand, and off the back of these “promising tests” is expanding worldwide.

But if you’re worried that the ads are going to pop up in the middle of your chats, don’t worry – it’s not that invasive. The ads will appear in your inbox between chats. 

They'll give you the option to connect with either the company's website or its Messenger chat account – a large number of companies are now using chatbots on Messenger to foster stronger customer relationships.

Show me the money

When we sat down with Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus recently he was reluctant to discuss exactly how many of the company's chat interactions happening on Messenger were run by chatbots.

But he did tell us: “There are about two billion messages a month exchanged between businesses/services on Messenger. That number has doubled in a year, and that includes automation and human interaction.”

It does make sense for Facebook to try and monetize its Messenger platform, which with its 1.2 billion users is currently an untapped pool for ad revenue. 

This becomes even more significant when you consider the fact that Facebook CFO Dave Wehner admitted the company is starting to hit the limit of how many ads it can push into users' news feeds.

Via Business Insider

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Alarming number of PCs are teetering on the edge of the ‘memory cliff’

Alarming number of PCs are teetering on the edge of the ‘memory cliff’

According to new research from memory specialists Crucial, a quarter of folks in the UK have a PC which has reached what the firm calls the ‘memory cliff’ – the point where the computer is hugely slowed down, or completely falls over, crashing down onto the rocky crags below.

To be precise, Crucial’s survey found that 24% of Brits have a machine on the memory precipice, the specific definition of which is the point where the PC “is at risk of falling into the danger zone and slowing down drastically”.

While Crucial's number deal with UK machines, it's likely there's a similar pattern worldwide. Crucial's warnings – and advice – about the memory cliff and how to avoid it, are also relevant no matter where you live.

RAM warnings

Crucial has made a handy diagram showing exactly where the danger areas lie depending on the PC’s amount of system memory, which you can check out below.

The essence of the findings is that computers with smaller amounts of RAM get bogged down quicker, as every megabyte of memory used by a program represents a bigger slice of the machine’s total capacity (not forgetting that system overheads will have a bigger impact on a smaller amount of RAM for the same reason).

So those with a PC that has only 2GB of RAM will find they hit slowdowns when 60% of system memory is being used, and at the 80% level, the computer is in danger of being overwhelmed and freezing or falling over.

If you’ve got 4GB of RAM slowdowns don’t start until the 70% memory usage level, and with 8GB, sluggishness doesn’t manifest until 80%, according to Crucial’s workings-out as presented below.

The company further noted that 62% of the folks surveyed had 8GB or less system memory installed. Although unfortunately figures weren’t provided for those with 4GB or less, who are more likely to struggle.

Memory management

To see the total amount of memory your Windows PC is currently using, all you have to do is head to the Task Manager. Simply press the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keys together, and then click on Task Manager – look at the memory column to see the percentage used at the top, and the memory usage of individual apps is listed below.

The more apps you have open, the more memory is gobbled up. Using the Task Manager, however, helps you to see if any particular program is using up a ton of memory, so you can then close the offending app and hopefully see your computer go back to running smoothly.

If you’re having trouble closing down a program because it’s frozen, Task Manager lets you hard-close the app in question simply by selecting it and clicking End Task (bottom-right).

(Incidentally, Mac owners can check their memory usage via the Finder app – head there and click on Applications, Utilities, then Activity Monitor.)

Of course, Crucial sells memory, so it’s hardly surprising that the firm advises upgrading your RAM if slowdown gremlins are rearing their ugly heads. But obviously, this is a good point regardless of any not-so-hidden agenda – particularly if you can see that your memory usage is spiking really high.

And should you want to bolster your system memory, we’ve got an article right here which covers everything you need to know about upgrading your RAM.

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Cheap gaming: The most wallet-friendly ways to keep up with the latest games

Cheap gaming: The most wallet-friendly ways to keep up with the latest games

Trying to keep up with the latest releases can really take its toll on your wallet. Luckily, there are lots of tools and services designed to help you play the best games around without emptying your bank account. 

Here’s our pick of the bunch broken down by platform, with a few cross-platform options to boot.


Winner: Isthereanydeal

The ultimate tool for saving money on PC games. Think of it as a hub for the best deals: it catalogues every discount worth knowing about on the web in one place, which is handy given the hundreds of PC sales that are going on at any one time.

You create a ‘waitlist’ by importing your Steam, GOG or Gamersgate wishlist, or populate the list manually on the website by selecting the games you’re interested in buying. From there you can sort by price or percentage discount. It will tell you the historic low price across several buying platforms so you make sure you get the best deal, and you can set up notifications for individual games if you want a nudge when a title falls below a certain price. 

Its email updates are a godsend, letting you know new deals for games that are currently on your waitlist. And best of all, it costs absolutely nothing.

Runner-up: Humble Bundle Monthly

A brilliant monthly bundle service that gives you curated crates of both blockbuster and indie games for just $12 a month (around £9.50). July’s bundle, for example, contained more than $200 worth of games including the excellent Galactic Civilisation III and Hyper Light Drifter. Plus, 5% of the proceeds go to charity, so you can feel good about where your money is going.

Runner-up: Origin Access

EA’s subscription service has a limited library of around 70 titles (it’s EA-only, after all), and it doesn’t give you the latest releases. But there’s lots of good games on offer including FIFA 17, Battlefield 4 and the entire series for both Mass Effect and Dragon Age. It costs just £3.99/$4.99 month, or £20/$30 for a yearly subscription. That’s hard to beat. To sweeten the deal, you get 10% off all Origin purchases and early trial access to EA games in the future.


Winner: PlayStation Now

The PS3 had some of the best games around, and you can play most of them on PS4 (or even PC) through PlayStation Now, Sony’s streaming service. There’s Shadow of the Colossus, Red Dead Redemption, Ico and more than 400 others. 

There are a couple of catches to this service. First is its price: at £12.99/$19.99 a month it’s one of the steepest on this list. We’d like to see that come down by at least 25% before giving it our unreserved recommendation. But if you don’t mind spending that money, you’ll be getting some of the best games ever made at the touch of a button. 

Secondly is the fact that this is a game streaming service, rather than a download and play service. This means that the quality of your gaming experience can be dramatically impacted by how good your internet connection is. 

If your internet connection can handle it then the the PC version is also great if you don’t own a PS4, and Sony is beginning to add PS4 games to further expand the catalogue. There’s a seven-day free trial in case you’re on the fence.

Note: PS Now has yet to arrive in Australia. 

Runner up: PlayStation Plus free games

PS Plus is almost a must-have for PS4 players because it’s the only way to play games online, and as part of the service you get a handful of free games every month. 

They can be hit and miss: at the time of writing you can get the decent survival horror game Until Dawn alongside the disappointing Game of Thrones series from Telltale Games. But it is at least always good value, with more than $50 worth of free games every month. 

If you’re paying for PS Plus already, you may as well try out some of the games you might’ve missed at no extra cost.

Unfortunately, although your free games are available for the length of your subscription, regardless of what month they become available, if you cancel then you'll lose access to them.

PS Plus costs $9.99/£5.99/AU$9.95 a month or $59.99/£39.99/AU$69.95 for a year. 

Xbox One

Winner: Xbox Games Pass

Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s PlayStation Now, the Games Pass gives you an online catalogue of Xbox 360 and Xbox One games to play at your leisure. One of its best features is that you download games rather than streaming them, which is good if you have a slow internet connection. It also means that internet blackouts won’t interrupt your time on the sofa.

The price is reasonable: $9.99/£7.99/AU$10.95 a month after a two-week free trial. Plus, you get a 20% discount on Xbox One titles if you sign up. 

The main downside is the size of the library. At just over 100 games it’s not to be sniffed at, but it’s far less than the 400+ games that Sony are offering on their own subscription service. More games are incoming, though, so keep your eyes peeled for new releases. 

If you’re keen to play through the best of Microsoft’s backlog, this is a lot cheaper than buying individual titles.

Runner-up: EA Access

EA Access is much the same as Origin Access (see PC section above), but for Xbox One. There’s a limited range of titles but among them are some of the best games of all time, including the entire Mass Effect series. Plus, it’s only $4.99/£3.99/AU$6.99 month, or a mere $30/£20/AU$39.99 for the year. You’d spend that on a single game normally – this way you can play a dozen or more for the same price.

Runner-up: Games with Gold 

Xbox Live Gold is an absolute must for any Xbox One owner who wants to play online. For $59.99/£39.99/AU$79.95 a year or $9.99/£5.99/AU$10.95 a month you get access to Xbox Live and discounts on the Xbox store, but you also get a couple of free games. 

As with PS Plus the quality varies wildly, but they’re normally titles worth trying. As of writing this you can get Grow Up, Watch_Dogs and Kane & Lynch 2 for free, each of which deserves a little bit of your time. 

Unlike PS Plus, you'll be able to continue to play these games if you choose to cancel your subscription. 


Winner: Boomerang (UK only)

The days where you could pop down to your local Blockbuster, rent the latest release and spend all weekend playing it are over, but Boomerang offers you the modern equivalent. It’s an online rental store for all the latest releases for every console, including the Nintendo Switch

There’s a range of subscription options varying from a basic £3.99 for one game a month to £15.99 a month, which gives you unlimited rentals and priority access to new releases. You can only have a maximum of two titles at a time (or one on cheaper packages), so you have to return a game to get a new one. But there’s no late fees, so you can hang onto a single game for as long as you want.

The range is enormous: whether you want the newest PS4 title or a 3DS classic, it’s got you covered with over 1,000 titles. You’ll probably need to play at least a couple of games a month to get full value out of it, but you could easily use Boomerang as your only source for gaming.

Runner-up: GameFly Streaming service

The closest you can get to Netflix for games. You can play PS4 and Xbox One games without buying a console – all you need to do is download the GameFly app on you Smart TV or Amazon Fire Stick. Provided your internet is fast enough (5Mbps or more should do it) you then stream games direct to your TV. 

You pay for a package of games, either ‘gamer’ or ‘family’, and you get unlimited access to the titles in that range for just under $10 a month. The library isn’t massive, mind, with just over 100 titles available, but it is growing all the time.

Runner-up: Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is full of neat add-ons, and there’s one that’s especially good for gamers. In the US, if you’re a subscriber you’ll get an automatic 20% off new game releases. If you’ve been putting off signing up – and it’s well worth the $8.99 a month of $100 a year in our view – then this is one more reason to pull the trigger.

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Best Android apps 2017: download these now

Best Android apps 2017: download these now

The Google Play store has exploded in recent years, with a proliferation of apps that can cater to your every need. The problem is: there are just too many of them, even with Editor's Picks, Featured and Best Selling, Top Paid and Top Free categories there to help.

There are things you can do to filter the winners from the wannabes. Google builds a list of apps it recommends for you based on your previous downloads, so that's often a good place to start. 

You can also filter by new releases if you just want to see the latest things to hit the store. Or, if you want something similar to an app you already have, search for that app and see what comes up.

And of course using user reviews and ratings is an essential part of ensuring the apps you download are high quality. But the easiest (and best) way to find top quality apps is to have someone else do the searching for you.

And that's why we made this list. Like you we want the best apps for our Android phones. The apps that are going to revolutionize functionality or, at the very least, offer something so great that it becomes one of the must-have apps that has to be downloaded whenever you get a new handset.

The following apps will be constantly updated and are a mixture of paid and free ones that have been chosen by our Android experts. So, even if you do dip into actual cash for one of these apps, you are safe in the knowledge that it is a worthwhile purchase.

$49.99/£47.99 per year

If you spend your days knee deep in email you’re going to want the most powerful email app around, and that’s arguably Newton Mail.

It’s packed full of features, many of which you’ll find elsewhere, but you’ll be hard pushed to find them all in a single app.

These include support – and instant push notifications – for all types of email accounts, from Gmail and Outlook, to Exchange, Yahoo Mail, Office 365 and more.

You’ll also get read receipts, the ability to schedule emails, and snooze emails so they’ll pop up again at a more convenient time. You can even snooze to desktop, so they’ll appear at the top of your inbox next time you log in from a computer.

Sender profiles give you more information about the people emailing you, pulling in data from LinkedIn and other social networks, and you can unsubscribe from newsletters with a single tap and set up customizable gesture controls.

Newton Mail also works across devices and platforms and you can connect various apps, such as Evernote, Pocket and Todoist, allowing you to add emails to them without leaving your inbox. There’s even an Alexa skill, if you want Amazon’s AI assistant to read and manage your email.

And those are just the headline features, there’s too much to cover here. Sadly there’s also a but coming: unlike most email apps, Newton Mail isn’t free. You can try it for two weeks and after that it costs $49.99/£47.99 per year. Pricey, but if you live in your inbox it could prove invaluable.


Chances are that at some point in time you’ve come across a file type that your media player of choice can’t play. With Timbre, that’s no problem, as the app lets you convert audio and video files to and from almost any file type.

It supports MP3, WAV, FLAC, M4A, AAC, PCM, AIFF, Ogg, WMA, ALAC, MP4, AVI, FLV, MOV, WebM, MKV and MPEG files for both input and output, which also means you can convert a video file into an audio format. But file conversion is just one of Timbre’s skills.

It can also be used to cut audio and video files, which is handy if there’s a part you don’t want. You can also combine multiple files into a single one, split an audio file into two parts, change the bitrate of an audio file, and remove audio from a video.

None of these are tools that you’re likely to need often, but Timbre is a free, simple solution that’s great to have to hand for when you do.

Free + IAP

8Bit Photo Lab is a photo filter app that takes you back to simpler times. Times when games didn’t have near-photo-realistic graphics and Android was just a glint in Andy Rubin’s eye.

Simply snap or import a picture and pick a color palette from over 40 options, such as Game Boy or Commodore 64. Your photo will then instantly transform into something you might have seen on a screen from that era.

But that’s just the beginning, you can also add effects such as noise and checkerboard patterns, change the resolution and aspect ratio, tweak the contrast, saturation and brightness, and add 8-bit stickers, such as a mouse cursor, or little characters that look like they’ve come straight out of a game from the late 80s.

Essentially, 8Bit Photo Lab is like Prisma for anyone who prefers old-school video games to modern art, but it’s a well thought-through app.

Once you’ve tweaked an image to perfection you can add exactly the same filter to other photos with a swipe, for example, and while you get plenty for free, you can unlock lots of extra options with an IAP, including the ability to turn your creations into animated wallpapers.


Your home screen is probably a busy mass of apps, folders and widgets, so the last thing you need is an intricate image adding to the chaos. Instead, a minimalist wallpaper can often look far more striking, and there’s no shortage of them in Minimalist Wallpapers.

In fact, there are thousands of them, with new ones added each and every day. They’re sorted into various categories such as ‘nature’ and ‘abstract’, while the latest 500 can be viewed separately, so you always know what’s new.

You can save your favorites to easily return to later – which is especially handy if you ever change phone and lose all your downloaded wallpapers.

That’s all free, and while there is a one-off $0.99/£0.69 IAP to remove adverts we didn’t actually experience any while using the app. So while you won’t need to pay for the app, if you enjoy using it then it’s not a high price to have a different view on your phone whenever you want it.


If your taste in sports tends towards the extreme then Red Bull TV is the app for you. The app houses a wide selection of shows, films and documentaries focussed on the likes of BMX, surfing, rallying, climbing and more.

These are available on demand, but Red Bull TV lives up to its name by also offering live streaming TV that you can tune into 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are also live sporting events broadcast on the app, such as the Red Bull Air Race and the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, and a built in calendar tells you when these events are coming up, so you’ll never miss them.

And Red Bull TV even goes beyond sports, broadcasting music festivals and shows focussed on video games and other aspects of popular culture.

The quality of the content is variable but generally high. We’re talking full length sporting events with professional commentary, while the documentaries tend to be well shot.

You can watch on your phone or tablet, and choose what quality to stream it in, which is handy if you’re relying on mobile data. Or, if you’re at home, you can also cast videos to a Chromecast or Android TV.


There are any number of reasons you might want to keep track of your data use, from making sure you don’t go over your allowance, to checking no apps are going rogue and using more bytes than they should, and GlassWire makes all of that easy.

The app shows you both your overall data use (spit between mobile data and Wi-Fi) and the amount of data each individual app has used. You can view data use from the last 5 minutes, the last 90 days or various intervals in between, and apps are listed in order of how much data they’ve used.

You can also view graphs of your data use, as well as just seeing the numbers, and if you enter your monthly allowance and the day that it resets the app can also keep track of that and alert you when you’re nearing your limit.

GlassWire isn’t going to be needed by everyone, but if you ever wanted a closer look at your data use, there’s no better app for it.


Most meditation apps require a subscription to access the bulk of their guided meditations, but not Buddhify.

A one-off payment of $2.99/£1.99 gives you unlimited access to the entire app, including over 80 guided audio meditations, amounting to over 11 hours of content.

These vary in length from 5 to 30 minutes, and are divided by locations (such as at home or in the park), activities (such as eating or work break) and moods, so there’s sure to be at least one to suit your current needs. And if not there’s a solo meditation timer.

The app isn’t quite as attractively designed or content-rich as some rivals like Simple Habit and Headspace, but it’s a whole lot cheaper.


There are certain phone features that you might want to adjust or turn on for specific apps. For example, you might want GPS or Bluetooth on when using a sports tracker app, but not the rest of the time.

With Autoset you can do that, having GPS – or whatever else – enabled automatically when you launch a relevant app, and disabled when you close it.

Similarly, you can tweak settings, for example having the screen go brighter automatically when you launch Netflix.

You can also create time-based profiles, if for example you want your phone to switch to silent at midnight.

For the most part these are simple toggles, which you can set and forget, and there are lots to choose from, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile data, GPS, mobile hotspot, rotation, screen off time, brightness, sound mode and media volume.

Free + $1.49/£1.39 IAP

TaoMix is one of the best ambient sound apps around, giving you far more control over your soundscape than most rivals.

Not only can you choose from over 50 sounds, split into numerous categories such as ‘fire’, ‘wind’ and ‘city’, but you can combine up to 10 of them, adjust the volume for each of them individually, and set a timer if you want the soundscape to turn off on its own.

That last option is great if you’re using it to help you get to sleep, but you might also want soothing sounds when meditating, reading, or to block out background noise when working.

TaoMix also has an attractive, minimalist and intuitive interface, allowing you to drag sound bubbles closer or further from a central point to increase or decrease their strength.

You can also play other audio from your device while using TaoMix, so if you want a soundscape mixed with music or a guided meditation, that’s possible. And you can save your favorite mixes to easily return to them later.

The free version doesn’t give you all the sounds and only lets you use three at a time, but a one off IAP of $1.49/£1.39 unlocks the rest.

Free + $0.99/£1.99 IAP

Some of the most interesting Android apps are those which add genuinely new features to your phone. Pocket Sense is one of those.

With this app you can set an alarm to go off if your phone is removed from your pocket, taken off charge, or moved from where it’s sat.

You can toggle any or all of those things to sound an alarm, so you’ll know the second someone tries to steal, move or use your phone.

You can choose from several different alarm sounds, all of which are very loud and can be set to audibly go off even when your phone is on silent.

Alarms will be turned off when you unlock your phone and you can optionally set a delay before an alarm sounds – so that when you yourself pick your phone up you won’t be greeted with an alarm, as you can unlock your handset first to cancel it.

Sensitivity can also be altered if you find it’s going off seemingly at random or not triggering when you want it to. But in our experience Pocket Sense worked well on the default settings, and is sure to give any thief or snooper a real fright.

There’s an IAP to remove adverts, but all the actual features of the app are free.

Free + $0.99/79p IAP

You’d think it would be impossible for a new weather forecast app to make a mark at this point there are so many of them, but Today Weather – Forecast at least has a shot.

Like many of the best weather apps it lets you choose your forecast source (currently offering Accuweather, Weather Underground, Dark Sky or – with more likely to be added).

Then, it wraps the forecast up in an attractive skin, with daily weather-appropriate images, and packs in loads of information, such as the forecast for the next 15 days, the dew point, humidity, UV index, air quality index, phase of the moon, and the position of the sun in the sky – along with sunrise and set times.

Plus, Today Weather has a selection of different widgets available if you’d rather see the forecast on your home screen. All of that is free, but you can get rid of the adverts and add a weather map with an IAP.


Keeping your phone locked is one thing, but what if you want to give someone access but not free rein to open all of your apps? That’s where Norton App Lock comes in.

It lets you secure any or all of your apps with a PIN, pattern or fingerprint, and all you have to do to secure them is tap on the little padlock next to them in Norton’s list.

While it’s not the only app designed around letting you lock other apps, Norton App Lock does have a few extra things going for it. For one thing, it won’t re-lock an app until you turn the screen off, so if you’re actively using your phone and jumping between apps, you won’t have to keep unlocking the same ones. That might sound like common sense but not all of its rivals do the same.

Another problem some rival apps have is being slow, in that they’ll allow an app to load and then a second or two later will bring up a lock screen.

This is both annoying – since you have to wait a little longer to properly interact with a locked app – and less secure, as prying eyes will be able to catch a glimpse of the content before it’s locked. But Norton App Lock, at least in our experience, instantly locks apps.

With options to also automatically lock recommended apps, and unlock all apps with a single tap if you want to temporarily remove security, it’s a useful, thoughtful app, and one which is reassuringly run by one of the biggest names in computer security.


If you want to be fit and healthy, exercise is just one part of the equation. Just as important is what you eat, which is why Runtastic has launched an app called Runtasty, packed full of healthy recipes to fuel you on your fitness journey.

The recipes are dietitian-approved, and as well as being healthy many of them are suited to specific dietary needs, such as vegetarian or gluten-free.

You can filter them by your dietary requirements, or by the preparation time, the calorie count, the meal type and more, and once you head into a recipe you can see all the dietary and nutritional information in detail.

Recipes themselves have both written and video instructions, so you’ve got the choice of words or pictures, and you can save favorites to return to later.

Runtasty also has a selection of how-to videos, showing you basic kitchen skills like how to chop an onion or poach an egg – the sorts of things that will come in handy when working your way through its recipe book.

The selection of recipes could be larger, but it’s a nicely laid out, very visual app, and for those on a diet or training plan it’s a much better bet than a standard recipe app.

Free + optional subscription

Books haven’t really changed. We can read them on our phones and Kindles now, but the way they’re presented is still largely the same as it was hundreds of years ago.

Or at least it is unless you’re using Hooked. This app presents all of its stories like text message conversations, and in most cases the stories actually take the form of a text message exchange, which is a perfect fit for a phone and in a weird way can make them seem more real than just reading words on a page.

The stories are mostly short or split up into chapters, so you can consume them in bite-sized chunks, and they encompass a wide range of genres.

Quality is variable, but more are added regularly and they’re professionally written (the iOS app lets readers also write their own stories, but the Android app doesn’t yet have this feature, and in any case the amateur attempts are kept separate from the main story selection).

Other than that missing feature the only real problem is that it limits how much you can read unless you subscribe, which costs $2.99 (roughly £2.30/AU$4) per week, $7.99 (around £6.20/AU$10.70) per month or $39.99 (approximately £31.20/AU$53.50) if you subscribe for a year.

This paywall is the only thing that’s likely to stop you getting hooked, but even if you stick to the free version you never have to wait more than an hour to keep reading.


It’s all too easy to get bogged down with negative thoughts and stress, but Five Minute Journal makes you start every day focused on the positive, by having you write three things that you’re grateful for.

It also has you think ahead and write three things that you’ll do to make today great, which makes you plan ahead in a positive way, and holds you more accountable to actually doing those things.

Then, you add a daily affirmation, and in the evening write three great things that happened, so you can see the day in a positive light. But it also asks you how you could have made the day better, so that, perhaps, you’ll make the next day better instead.

It’s nicely presented, reminds you to add an entry at the beginning and end of each day, lets you add photos, and stores your past entries, so you can be reminded of days past.

Five Minute Journal is a small thing, and if anything it takes less than five minutes to fill out, but it’s based on proven positive psychology research and in its physical form has an army of fans who believe in it, so if you could use a bit more happiness in your life it’s well worth giving a try.


Thanks to LinkedIn, the days of filling out lengthy job applications are largely gone, as you can often apply in a few taps using your LinkedIn profile. But the LinkedIn app itself is more focused on networking than applying, which is where LinkedIn Job Search comes in.

It strips away all the networking, messaging, groups and profiles and puts the jobs front and center. You can search by job title or keyword, pick a radius from the desired location and select whether to sort by the date or relevance of the posting.

You’ll then be presented with a list of possible roles, and while not all jobs let you apply using your LinkedIn profile, many do and these are highlighted in the list so you can easily prioritize them.

Tapping on a listing gives you a full description along with links to apply, whether through LinkedIn or externally. You can also save jobs to go back to later, and on the main screen you can see recent searches and recommended jobs.

You can also opt to get notifications when someone views your application, when new jobs match your search and when saved jobs are about to expire. And although LinkedIn Job Search is linked to the main site and app, your network won’t be alerted to any of your job applications and searches.

It’s at once a fully-featured and simple app, and it makes finding and applying for jobs the easiest it’s ever been.

Free + IAP

Keeping up to date with what’s new on Netflix isn’t always that easy, and being aware of what’s about to get removed from the service is near impossible without outside help.

Which is what Upflix is. You pick your Netflix region and it will then show you two lists – one with new additions to the service, and the other with those about to leave, and in both cases sorted by the date that they were added or that they will be leaving.

But you get more than just names of titles. You can also see their IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores at a glance, and if you tap on a title you can see a synopsis, view trailers, or follow links to its Netflix or IMDB page.

You can also opt to get push notifications when new content is added, and there’s a ‘Roulette’ feature built in as well, letting you pick a genre and minimum Netflix, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, then be presented with a film or show that meets them.

There are some limitations – it would be nice for example if the Roulette feature was expanded into a proper search tool, so you could see all the titles with a specific rating, rather than just one at random, and there are adverts unless you pay $1/£0.99 to get rid of them, but as a mostly free tool Upflix is indispensable to anyone with a Netflix account.

Free + IAP

Certain apps and keyboards have built-in spellcheckers, but for grammar you’re largely on your own. At least, you were until GrammarPal came along.

The app makes a little floating bubble appear any time you start entering text. Tap on it and it will tell you how many (if any) errors there are. Tap again to highlight the errors and see suggested fixes.

Errors are color coded so you can see at a glance whether it’s a style issue, a spelling mistake or something else, and you can create an ignore list or a custom dictionary if you don’t want certain things to be flagged.

You can also change the position of the bubble, change the language, alter the way errors are marked (either highlighting or underlining them) and change the theme, so it’s possible to customize the app to your liking. However it’s also very unobtrusive, so most of the time all you’ll see is that floating bubble and it’s small enough to ignore.

For $1.99/£1.89 you can get the GrammarPal Pro upgrade, which lets you backup and restore your dictionary, undo changes and further personalize the app, but the free version has all the core features.


Staying focused throughout the work day can be challenging, especially with the internet ever-ready to distract us, but there are time management techniques to help, and Tide makes use of one of the most famous.

Known as the Pomodoro Technique, this involves working for roughly 25 minutes, then taking a roughly 5-minute break, then after 4 work periods getting a longer break of at least 15 minutes.

Tide lets you customize the exact lengths of work and break periods, then essentially works as an elegant timer, with a soothing appearance and optionally nature sounds to help you get into the work zone.

It sounds an alarm after each work or break period, but waits for you to tap to start the next one rather than automatically transitioning, which is handy, since you might not be at an ideal stopping point. It also gives you the option to skip a break altogether.

We found the app gives you all the controls you might want, but importantly the technique itself is effective, as it seems a lot easier to focus and avoid distractions when you know a break is never more than 25 minutes away.

Free + monthly subscription

Fitonomy is something of an all-in-one health and fitness app, not just offering workouts, but also healthy recipes and articles to inspire and inform.

But it’s the exercise that’s the focus, and the workouts within the app are almost all designed to be done at home or outdoors with minimal equipment, so you don’t need to go to the gym.

For free you can pick from a handful of basic workout courses, which give you a guided workout each day. You can also view animations of every exercise in the app, split into categories based on which body part they exercise, which is handy for learning new exercises.

Each animation uses a 3D model of a person that you can zoom into and rotate, giving you a clearer look at the exercise than a video would, and making them a great tool for checking that you’re doing an exercise right.

But to get the most out of Fitonomy you might want to subscribe to one of its premium plans. These cost different amounts depending on the plan and how long you commit to, but they start at $4.99/£4.49 per month.

There are a range of plans with different focuses, but they all include workouts that get more intense each time, along with daily recipe suggestions, making for an experience that’s a bit like having a personal trainer in your pocket.

Free + various IAP

There’s a seemingly near endless range of Endless apps, each of which aims to help young children learn in a fun, hands-on way, but Endless Reader is perhaps one of the best.

More advanced than Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader helps teach children to read basic words and sentences by having them drag letters into the correct position to build words.

Words are then dragged into sentences, and the words, sentences and even individual letters are vocalized when tapped on.

As words and sentences are built, you’re rewarded with cute animations featuring an assortment of colorful creatures, making it as fun and engaging for little minds as it is educational.

For free you get access to a handful of words, but you’ll quickly hit a paywall, with new words (covering the entire alphabet and three different difficulty levels) costing between $5.99/£5.49 for around 25 more words and $29.99/£28.49 for all 315 extra words.

That might sound steep, but it works well on both phones and tablets, and the art, sound and animations are sure to keep your kids entertained – and learning – for a long time.


No matter how good your smartphone camera is your images can still be ruined by unwanted additions, be it people in the background, a trash can in your landscape or blemishes on your own face.

TouchRetouch is here to help, by removing anything that you don’t want in your shot. You can get rid of unwanted objects by highlighting or circling them, and simply tap a blemish to remove it.

There are additional tools to clone or mirror parts of the image, and video tutorials to help you get more out of the app – though most of the features are fairly self-explanatory.

Results aren’t always perfect, with the app trying but not always entirely succeeding to hide the seams when you cut someone out, but you don’t have to save any changes you’re unhappy with and it generally does a surprisingly good job, all with only a few taps from you.


Talon for Twitter isn’t new, but it’s recently been overhauled and turned into one of the best Twitter clients around.

It’s a good-looking app, as you can see in the images above, but more importantly it’s a very powerful app, primarily because of the amount of control it gives you.

You can choose between three different themes, selecting the colors, fonts and timestamp style and even the line spacing. The app supports home screen widgets too, which are similarly customizable, and the control it gives you doesn’t end at the aesthetics.

Talon also lets you create up to eight home pages that you can swipe across to get to different parts of your Twitter account – be it mentions, direct messages, tweets from users that you’ve favorited, or a number of other things.

Talon for Twitter also includes a night mode and a do not disturb option, so you won’t be bombarded with notifications when want to be slumbering.

We found Talon is great when you get down to the core activities of reading and posting. GIFs and videos can be viewed directly from your timeline, images can be rotated and cropped before you post them, users can be muted or favorited, you can be signed in to two accounts at once, and if you use Twitter on multiple devices you can use ‘TweetMarker’ to sync your timeline position.

And these are just some of the highlights of Talon, there’s too much to detail here, but suffice to say if it’s something you realistically wish a Twitter client could do, Talon probably can.

Free + $2.99/£2.79 IAP

Timer apps tend to assume we only have one thing to do (or time) at once, yet, for us at least, that’s often not true.

If, like us, you want to be able to set multiple timers at once, Multi Timer StopWatch could be for you. It’s not unique in allowing this, but it does seem to be in the minority, and it also does a whole lot more to help it stand out above the rest.

Among other things it lets you save multiple timers too, which we’ve found far more useful than it sounds. So, if for example you regularly exercise for a set amount of time, or run the washing machine for the same duration, you can have permanent named timers for each of these activities.

You can also give each timer a custom sound, and add widgets to your home screen for even easier access. Plus, you can have timers within timers, allowing you to sound an alert after a certain duration prior to the timer coming to an end.

As the name suggests, Multi Timer StopWatch also has a stopwatch component, and there are all sorts of other things you can tweak and configure, such as the layout of the app itself and whether to show individual notifications for each active timer, or just a notification for the next one that’s going to go off.

The app’s more functional than stylish, and if you don’t want to see adverts across the bottom you will have to pay $2.99/£2.79 to get rid of them (a fee which also unlocks a dark theme), but otherwise you get the whole app for the generous price of zero dollars.

Free + IAP

We know it’s important to exercise our bodies, but our minds sometimes get neglected, and that’s where brain training apps come in.

Of these NeuroNation is perhaps the best, as its training plans have been developed in collaboration with actual neuroscientists from Medical School Hamburg, Edith Cowan University and Free University Berlin.

The app first asks you what your goal is – for example to remember things better or stay focused – and then creates a training plan around that, consisting of a number of activities and games which you’re tasked with carrying out.

These are generally well-designed and enjoyable and the selection changes from day to day, so repetition shouldn’t set in.

You also level up over time and there’s a leaderboard where you can compare your scores in the games with your friends and people worldwide, all of which can help keep you motivated.

How much it actually trains your brain is questionable, but the backing by educational institutions is encouraging, and it would make sense that using your brain in various ways would improve its function.

The core app is free, but to unlock 19 additional exercises and a personalized plan you have to subscribe at a cost of £4.99/$5.99/AU$7.99 per month (or less if you subscribe for 6 or 12 months).

Free + $9.99/£9.49 IAP

Ever wondered how long you spend using specific apps? Or how many times you unlock your phone each day? Instant – Quantified Self can answer those questions and more.

It monitors your phone usage, providing daily reports with that information, along with how many minutes you’ve spent using your phone, the places you’ve been, and estimates of how long you’ve slept, based on the motion (or lack thereof) of your handset at night. Plus, it can link up with Google Fit to track your steps.

In and of itself the information can be interesting and surprising, giving a history of not just your smartphone use but – with location and step tracking – the rest of your life too.

But you can also set a daily usage goal if you want to cut down on your phone use, with reminders to help you stick to it, and for more in depth information you can upgrade to pro with a one-off $9.99/£9.49 IAP (or pay monthly) and get a complete history of your app usage, along with detailed weekly reports and the ability to back your data up to the cloud.

If you plan to use Instant to limit your phone or app use this could be worth paying for, but if you’re just curious about how many hundreds of times you’ve unlocked your phone today and how many minutes you’ve wasted on Facebook the free version will do the trick.

There are any number of apps and websites dedicated to testing your current data speeds, but for the most part that’s all they do. Meteor aims to add context, not only telling you your download speed, upload speed and ping, but also telling you the implications of that for the apps you use.

Meteor will tell you the overall performance you can expect from YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Waze, Google Maps, Skype, Amazon, Dropbox, Chrome, Flipboard, Gmail, Instagram, Google Street View, Twitter, Uber and WhatsApp based on your current results.

It can assign ‘awesome’, ‘very good’, ‘OK’, or ‘poor’ ratings to each app, and also gives one of those scores to the overall speeds you’re getting.

But if you want more detail you can tap on an app and see the same ratings for individual activities. For example, if you tap on YouTube you’ll see separate ratings for different streaming qualities.

The ratings are all color coded too, so you can see them at a glance, and the app is attractively laid out, with separate tabs for your test history.

The only small fault we can see is that the number of apps it can provide performance information for isn’t larger, and that, for some reason, you can only choose to see information for six of the current selection at any given time.

But Meteor has only just launched, so it’s likely to improve over time.

Free + various IAP

There’s no shortage of mapping apps on Android, but most of these are aimed at motorists or at the very least at mapping proper streets. ViewRanger on the other hand focuses on the tracks and trails people love to hike.

It offers maps for much of the world, including the US and UK, with data coming from a range of sources, such as Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap and Topo Map.

As well as providing maps of the world’s wilderness, it also lets you create or follow trails, view your heading, bearing, latitude, longitude and altitude, and download maps for offline use.

But perhaps the best feature is Skyline, which uses your phone’s camera to deliver an augmented view of the world, with the name, direction and distance of various locations, landmarks and waypoints overlaid on the landscape.

The only bad thing about ViewRanger is that it’s not free. You can download the app itself free of charge, but (with few exceptions) the actual maps within cost money, and depending on how big and detailed a map you want, you can spend anywhere from a couple of dollars/pounds to hundreds if you’re looking to map the whole world.


Despite all the curated playlists, recommendations and radio stations we have at our fingertips, finding new music that we actually like – and are currently in the mood for – can sometimes feel like a chore.

We won’t pretend that SoundR Music completely solves the problem, but it does help, letting you choose a genre, followed by one or more moods or settings, such as ‘happy’ or ‘morning’. It’s this which really helps SoundR Music stand out, as most alternatives limit you to a single mood or other keyword.

Once you’ve dug down into what you’re in the mood for, you’re then presented with a selection of playlists that the app reckons you’ll be into, and you can stream these free of charge, favoriting any you particularly like, so you can easily return to them later.

Add in a colorful interface that’s more polished than you’d often find in such a new app, and the fact that it’s completely free with no adverts, and it’s easy to recommend.


Browsers tend to either be feature-packed, or light on your battery and data, but not both. Pyrope Browser is an exception, and it’s stylish and easy to navigate as well.

It’s light on battery use thanks to its power saving mode, which, like the power saving modes on most phones, restricts performance and some functionality to conserve juice.

And it’s light on resources thanks to its ‘web refiner’, which filters out adverts. Pyrope Browser is also optimized for Snapdragon chipsets (which many smartphones use) and promises 10% – 40% performance increases if run on a device with a Snapdragon chip.

But as you’re probably starting to realize, Pyrope Browser is also packed full of features and modes. As well as those above, there’s a night mode, which inverts colors to strain your eyes less at night, an immersive mode, which cuts away the search bar and buttons, and a background audio mode, which allows audio to keep playing even when you leave the browser.

The stylish look meanwhile is helped by a ‘dynamic notification bar’, which changes the color of your notification bar to match that of whatever website you’re on.

With gesture controls, an incognito mode and more on top of all that, this is a browser that’s easy to love.


Email by EasilyDo is a slick and simple email app that’s already a favorite on iOS and now available for Android.

It makes sorting and searching your email easy, with messages automatically added to categories such as receipts, packages or travel. It also features a powerful search tool, letting you search by keyword, name or phrase.

You can delete or archive a message with a single swipe, and there’s a dedicated unsubscribe button at the top of messages, plus a whole screen dedicated to managing subscriptions, so you can easily ditch all those mailing lists you’ve found yourself on.

You can also add all your accounts to it, as there’s support for Gmail, Hotmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Outlook, Office/Outlook 365, and AOL mail.

This app is fast, and gives you a chance to undo sent or deleted messages in case you change your mind. And Email by EasilyDo looks great too, with a clean interface seemingly inspired by the Material Design of Android itself.

Free + optional $3.99/£3.99 monthly subscription

Fitness trackers are all the rage, but the abilities of basic ones can largely be replicated by smartphone apps, for little to no money.

Pacer Pedometer is a prime example of that. As the name suggests, this is a pedometer, and like your average Fitbit it will run 24/7, tracking all of your steps automatically.

It does a pretty accurate job of it too, and you can make it more accurate by adjusting the sensitivity. You can also set goals, and have your step count permanently displayed on the notifications screen, so it’s never more than a glance away.

As well as steps, Pacer also tells you how far you’ve walked, how much active time you’ve had, and makes a stab at estimating how many calories you’ve burned.

You can also track your weight and BMI, connect with friends and motivate one another. That all comes free, and should be enough for most people, but for $3.99/£3.99 per month (or less if you pay for a year upfront) you can also get rid of adverts, join groups and access an AI weight loss coach – the last one being the reason most would pay the subscription for.


There are any number of art apps available for Android, but where most of them let you paint or sketch, Dotpict is all about pixel art.

That not only gives your creations a very different look to more conventional art apps, but also means you need far less talent to actually use it, as your canvas is a grid and you just tap the squares you want to fill.

This means that although you’ll need to work out which ones to use in order to create an image, you won’t need any actual technique when filling them in.

We don’t want to undersell it though. With canvases going up to 96 x 96 and custom color palettes there’s plenty here for experts, it’s just that Dotpict is welcoming to newbies too.

If you get artist’s block there are also a couple of games built in, for some reason. These are basic, but the art looks like it was made in the app, demonstrating the potential of pixel paintings.


Looxie is a great idea that’s currently lacking enough users to fulfil its potential, but is very worth keeping an eye on.

Essentially, if you want to see where somewhere looks right now – be it as vague as a country or as specific as a bar – you can just make the request on the app, and if there are any users in that location they’ll be prompted to send you a photo.

This could be used to see how bad the traffic actually is, how choppy the sea is, how crowded your favorite bar is or whether the supermarket is open, among many other things, but is likely to be used as much just out of curiosity about more exotic locales.

Want to see what the center of Tokyo looks like right now? Request a picture. How about the top of a mountain? You know what to do.

Right now there aren’t anywhere near enough users to reliably get a response, but you can help change that by downloading the app and taking photos that others request.


If you want to keep up to date on the latest mobile games, have already exhausted our paid and free lists, and are more into videos than text, then you should definitely check out Core.

The app has a mix of exclusive video content – covering news, reviews and guides to games – and video streams from players, taken from Twitch, YouTube and the like, but which you can watch all in one place on Core.

You can also follow streamers that you want to see more from, and while much of the content is available elsewhere it’s worth checking out for the exclusive videos, which are well-presented and a good way to get a look at new games.

As a fairly new app, content is currently quite limited, but more is likely to be added regularly. There’s also Chromecast support, and the team are listening to comments and reviews, so if there’s something you want to see more or less of it’s worth getting in touch.

Free + $0.99/72p IAP

As great as smartphones are, they can become addictive, with all sorts of apps vying for our attention and the urge to check Facebook ever-present. This can be bad for both productivity and relationships, with screen-based distractions interrupting work and quality time.

If any of that sounds familiar then Forest is worth checking out, as it’s an app that rewards you for not using your phone.

Specifically, it rewards you by building a virtual forest, with each new bush or tree being completed when you successfully spend a certain amount of time not using your phone. You can set how long you want to stay distraction free and if you fail your tree will wither and die.

The tree, whether alive or dead, will then appear on a patch of ground, alongside any others you grow that day, with each day having a new forest.

Extra incentive to stay off your phone comes from the ability to compete with friends, and to earn coins, which can be spent on new tree designs or even on planting real trees (though that latter feature first requires spending $0.99/72p on a one time IAP, which also removes adverts and lets you compete with global users).


The presence of an app drawer is one of the key ways in which most Android phones stand out from iOS, but not much thought always goes into these drawers, and you’re often presented with just a long, cluttered list of apps.

If that describes the app drawer on your phone then you should consider swapping it for Smart Drawer.

This app automatically sorts all the rest of your apps into categories, such as communication, utilities, media and games, so you can more easily find the things you’re looking for.

You can also choose whether the apps within each category are listed in order of name, usage or install date, and there’s also a search option if you’d rather just start typing out the name of what you’re looking for.

Extra tools in Smart Drawer let you hide apps, add a PIN to protect them, and customize the look and layout, and while this isn’t the only app drawer replacement it’s one of the few that doesn’t require you to change your whole launcher.

$0.99/£69p (roughly AU$1.30)

Pickle is about as simple as a note-taking app gets, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have multiple lists or folders, just one long note, laid out like an SMS conversation, with each new addition getting its own text bubble.

Eventually, of course, you’ll end up with far more notes here than you can easily skim through, but you can search for keywords, or add hashtags and then choose to view only the notes with those tags.

You can add photos and links, as well as text, edit or delete notes with a swipe, and change the font size and background color, but that’s about it. It won’t replace Evernote for power users, but if you just want a simple note taker without the clutter, Pickle is it.

Be aware though that after a 7-day free trial it costs $0.99/69p (roughly AU$1.30) as a one-off IAP.


Anyone with a tiny artist (or future Spielberg) at home should give Toontastic 3D a try. This Google app might look like a game, but at its heart it’s actually all about drawing, animating and narrating your own cartoons.

Pick a setting and a cast of characters (or create your own), and then move them around the environment (dragging them to make them walk), while adding sound effects or dialogue via your phone’s microphone.

You can also interact with the backdrop, tapping on objects to animate them. Then add music from the built-in selection of songs and move on to the next scene.

It’s basic stuff, but that means it’s easy for even the youngest members of the family to make something, and there are enough different characters and environments here to make a wide range of content. It’s also open enough to teach kids to tell stories and create basic artworks of their own.

Once you’re done you can play the animation back and export it to your gallery to share with friends and family. Or just get to work on the sequel. 


We wouldn’t say changing the volume on most Android phones is tricky, but it can be a several step process if you want to change the noise level of just a specific type of sound, say alarms, or music – especially if you’re not currently using a relevant app.

Volume Notification makes the task a little bit easier, by placing volume controls on the notification dropdown, and optionally also on the lock screen. Rather than being a global control you can pick which things you want to be able to control the volume of, and add an icon for any or all of them.

Then just tap the icon and you can adjust just the volume for that thing, be it media playback, voice calls, notifications, phone ringer, system sounds or alarms.

Volume Notification is a simple app and may not be one you use much, but if you do tend to tweak the volumes or mute specific sounds on a regular basis (or just need to be sure something isn't going to blare out in a quiet environment) it makes doing so that much more convenient. 

From $5.75 (around £4.75/AU$7.50) per month

There are any number of reasons you might want to use a VPN, from improved privacy and security to accessing region-locked content, but whatever your reason NordVPN is a strong option.

You can use it not only on Android, but also Windows, iOS and Mac, all with a single subscription, and the app is nicely designed, with a world map from which you can tap on the country you want to access a server from.

Do that and NordVPN will automatically select the best performing server in that country, but there’s also a list of over 600 servers if you’d rather choose your own.

Further keeping things simple there’s a one-tap toggle to unlock most geo-restricted content, and NordVPN takes your privacy seriously too, with 2048-bit encryption and no logs kept of your activity.

It’s a subscription-based service with no free tier and no easily accessible free trial (you can get three days free, but only from Nord’s website and only if you select to pay with Bitcoin), but it’s cheaper than some VPNs and the cost is often further cut by sales and promotions. 

Free + $3.60/£3.80 IAP

ADW Launcher has long been one of the best launchers available on Google Play to change the look of your phone, and now the company behind it is back with ADW Launcher 2.

This isn’t one for fans of minimalist, simple interfaces as ADW Launcher 2 is all about customization.

You can change the style of the app drawer, the animation when transitioning between home screens, the number of apps shown on each page, the theme, the icons and just about everything else you might ever want to tweak.

As well as making the interface look and animate exactly as you want, ADW Launcher 2 also has some clever features that add whole new functionality. These include the ability to disguise folders as a single app – viewing the contents with a swipe, or launching the first app in the folder with a tap.

There are also various customizable gesture controls letting you launch apps or functions with swipes and pinches. The bulk of the app is completely free, but there’s a single IAP to unlock a larger selection of customization options.

Free + $4.99/£2.99 monthly subscription

Whether you just have a grocery list, or to-do lists for work, chores and every other part of your life, Wunderlist has you covered.

The app is built specifically for list making, so it’s not a multi-purpose note taking app like Evernote, but it creates more effective to-do points as a result.

Any list you create automatically has check boxes attached to it, and any item you tick off is automatically removed. That means you can see at a glance what still needs doing, as everything that’s been done already is hidden.

But re-adding completed items to a list is easy too, as your checked off items aren’t deleted, they’re simply a tap away.

That, plus the ability to sort lists into folders (for instance, work and home) and sub-lists (to split your grocery shopping between multiple stores), makes Wunderlist a strong option for most users.

But if you need more power, Wunderlist also lets you share and collaborate on lists, set deadlines and reminders, and attach PDFs, presentations and photos to your lists.

These features are free, but with some limitations. For a $4.99/£2.99 monthly subscription you can unlock unlimited file attachments, unlimited sub lists, assign an unlimited number of tasks to others and get access to a selection of backgrounds.

It’s a handy option for anyone managing their whole life with lists, but most users should be fine with the free offering.

Free + $0.99/89p IAP

Your phone’s screen is one of the biggest drains on a battery, but if your handset has an AMOLED display (like most Samsung handsets and a number of others do) then there are things you can do to minimize the drain.

While LCD screens light up the entire display no matter what you’re viewing, AMOLED screens can turn pixels on and off individually, so when you’re viewing a pure black the pixels don’t need to be lit at all.

That’s handled automatically by your phone, but with Pixoff you can choose to turn off some of the pixels whatever you’re doing. This makes the screen appear darker and lower resolution than it would otherwise, but it can save battery in the process, and the app lets you control how many pixels you disable and in what arrangement.

It’s unlikely to be something you’ll want on all the time, but if you have a QHD display the visual effect isn’t that huge, and could be handy if you’re trying to conserve battery. In fact, to make things easier there’s even an option to have it automatically enable when your battery falls below a certain level.

Or you can have Pixoff keep the screen black when your phone is in a pocket or face down on a surface, and it avoids burn-in by slightly adjusting the placement of the black pixels at regular intervals.

All of which makes Pixoff a powerful, well thought-out tool. The core app is free, but for denser arrangements of black pixels (which saves more battery life) you’ll have to buy a $0.99/89p IAP.


You probably don’t think about your posture when looking at your phone, but perhaps you should, as according to one study angling your head downwards while using a handset can put up to 60lbs of strain on your neck and spine.

Now think about how much you use your phone. That much strain every time you use it could be very, very bad news.

And that’s what Posture aims to stop. The app runs in the background and provides an alert if the angle of your phone suggests you’re probably straining your neck.

The alert is unobtrusive, appearing silently in a position of your choice, and you can choose how often you want the app to check your posture and how strict you want it to be.

And that’s really all there is to it. If you already have good posture then you’ll quickly forget you even have the app, but if not it could help you make an important change. 


Gboard is the new name for Google Keyboard, but this is more than just a rebranding, with numerous new features, most notably the ability to search Google from the keyboard, and get results displayed on the keyboard, so you don’t have to leave the screen you’re on.

If you’ve asked Google a simple question, such as what time the sun sets, the answer will be displayed on the keyboard, while if you get website or map results then tapping on them will paste the URL into the text entry field.

Another new feature is the ability to search for and post GIFs from the keyboard – though currently only into a small number of apps.

Beyond that, this is largely the Google Keyboard of old, but that’s no bad thing, as it’s a polished app that’s packed full of features, including gesture typing (now known as Glide typing), multilingual typing, a one-handed mode, and word suggestions that learn based on your own vocabulary.


Microsoft’s AI assistant, Cortana, has been available on Android for a while, but it only recently launched in the UK, and to mark the occasion Microsoft gave the app an overhaul, with a new, simplified interface.

Much like Google Assistant, Cortana can answer questions by looking things up online, as well as interacting with other apps on your phone, allowing you to check your calendar, send a text, or launch an app, all just by talking to Cortana.

Cortana is also generally good at understanding what you’re asking, but it does have some shortcomings – top among them being a reliance on Bing, and the inability to launch it from your home screen with a voice command (though you can start talking to it with just a single tap).

As such it’s not quite a rival for Google’s assistant, but it’s an interesting alternative and one you might want to check out if you don’t get on with Google’s.


News on mobile is usually presented like an RSS feed, or in some cases with a website or magazine-inspired layout. All these approaches are great for browsing, but they can feel quite impersonal, even once you’ve tailored them to your interests.

Quartz aims to address that, by making reading the news more like having a text conversation with a very well informed friend, one who has no interest in talking about anything except the latest happenings in the world.

The app is laid out like an SMS or WhatsApp conversation – right down to speech bubbles and giving you a choice of responses – with new stories being ‘messaged’ to you when you start it up.

These come through one at a time, with a brief synopsis, and you can then choose to hear the full story or move on to the next one.

It’s all very conversational, not just in the layout, but in the fact that stories are littered with emojis, GIFs and images, and the writing is concise and engaging. All in all, it’s an interestingly different take on news delivery, and one that’s worth a look if you find most sources a bit dry.

Free or $3.49/£2.39 for Pro version

Never feel like you have enough storage space on your phone? Then SD Maid could be for you, as beyond being a file explorer it also has tools to help you identify what’s taking up space and what you can get rid of.

Its ‘CorpseFinder’ tool searches for directories or files that have been left behind by deleted applications, while ‘SystemCleaner’ scans for known file types that can safely be deleted.

‘AppCleaner’ looks for files within applications that can be deleted without causing loss of important data, ‘Duplicates’ looks for duplicate files, and ‘Storage analyzer’ shows which things on your phone are taking up the most space.

Whichever tool you’re using within the app, the first step is simply to identify things that you might want to delete.

Once SD Maid has done that you still have complete control over which, if any, files and folders you actually do delete, so you’ve only got yourself to blame if it erases something important – though in theory nothing it finds should be vital anyway.

The ‘AppCleaner’ and ‘Duplicates’ tools require the Pro upgrade, but most of the rest of the app is free, and it’s a great tool for clearing out files you might never even have found otherwise.


AccuBattery isn’t one of those apps which dubiously claims to extend your battery life by meddling with background processes. Instead it simply aims to provide far more information on your phone’s battery and its health than most handsets offer as standard.

It contains a wealth of stats, including how much power individual apps are using, right down the exact mAh they consume, how often your device is woken from deep sleep, and estimates how long your battery will last based on your habits.

It also claims to be more accurate than Android’s own battery usage estimates, and while we’re not sure that’s true, we can say that its stats – and especially its slightly worrying battery health figures – have changed the way we use and charge our phones, leading to longer-lasting, and hopefully healthier, juice packs.

Free + IAP

Whether you’re learning math for the first time, or you’ve simply forgotten how to do everything beyond basic addition, Photomath can help.

Simply point your phone’s camera at a written-out math problem and Photomath will identify and solve it, saving you the effort of typing it out into a calculator, and effortlessly handling complicated equations.

That would be enough to recommend it, but Photomath also shows working, with a clear step-by-step guide explaining how to reach the answer, making it a brilliant teaching tool too.

There’s also the option to type an equation out on your screen and still get guided solutions, making it a complete learning tool.

For even more detailed instructions, along with tips and tricks, you can subscribe to Photomath+ for $0.99/89p per month, but even the basic app is likely more powerful than your calculator.


Redshift is an essential app for anyone with an interest in the night sky. Using your current location, the app will highlight the planets, stars and constellations that should be visible to you, and with a tap you can fly out to them, viewing 3D models of the night sky.

With 100,000 stars, 70,000 deep sky objects, 500 asteroids, 16 comets, 26 moons and all known planets, exploring the whole universe is an unending task with this app.

Using the 3D graphics and animations it’s an enjoyable experience to just tap around and dart between solar systems and stars, but if you want more information the app also has 10 guided tours and links to Wikipedia pages for anything you happen to be looking at.


Google is already a big part of many people's travel plans, thanks largely to Google Maps, but now Google Trips aims to make Google your single destination for all vacations and day trips.

The app lets you plan and save trips, automatically pulling in any reservations from Gmail, and providing details on attractions, transport, food and drink, as well as need-to-know information about money and medical care.

Many major locations across the world also have pre-constructed day plans if you're feeling uninspired, and your saved trips are available offline, so you can access all the relevant information even when there's no internet (or you don’t want to pay for data).


Despite the 'Pro' in its name, Microsoft News Pro is actually quite a basic news aggregator, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as it puts the stories front and center and doesn't get overly distracted with customization.

Simply sign in with your email or a social media account and it will present a feed full of content that it thinks you'll be interested in.

The initial results, at least in our testing, were hit and miss in terms of ‘relevant’ content, but the upside of that is that we were presented with stories that we'd never think of following on our own.

Taking full control of what you see in News Pro isn't easy, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of this app. Instead it's aimed at people who want to see news on just about everything and anything, delivering a well-rounded, but not particularly personalized, feed of stories.

You can tweak it though, searching for and following specific topics or telling it you want to see more or less of a specific type of news, or even muting certain sites altogether. You'll still regularly see stories you would never have looked for, but that's the point.

Free + IAP

Duolingo is the king of free language learning apps, but if you're prepared to spend a bit of money Mondly arguably has it beat.

The app has lessons for dozens of languages, including some missing from Duolingo, such as Japanese, and there's a range of different content, designed to help you read, write and speak your language of choice.

Daily lessons give you something new to learn every day, and there's also a wide selection of permanent lessons and tests split across numerous categories (such as 'travel' and 'family). There's even a chat bot, which you can speak to in the language you're learning to give youb much-needed feedback.

With leaderboards and charts to track and compare your progress there's also plenty of incentive to keep using Mondly beyond just the satisfaction of learning a new language.

The app actually has quite a lot of free content, so you can try it out without spending anything, but to get the most out of Mondly you'll ultimately want to stump up for extra content, which starts at $4.99/£4.99 in one-off payments.

Free + IAP

Buttons, as we all know, are old fashioned, and KinScreen is here to help take them out of the equation.

Currently, aside from a handful of smartphones with clever proximity, motion or screen-tapping features, you have to tap a button to turn on the screen on the majority of handsets, but KinScreen gives you button-free options, allowing you to fire up the display by waving your hand over the proximity sensor or even simply picking the phone up.

There are also options for keeping the screen on when in a call, when the phone is charging, or when it's held at a certain angle. Some settings require a cheap IAP to unlock, but most of the content is free and makes your phone that little bit smarter.

Free + IAP

Ever wished your widgets took up less space on the home screen of your Android phone? Well with Snap Swipe Drawer they can or, rather, can be put somewhere that's at once out of the way and convenient.

Once set up, simply swipe down from the top of your screen to view your widgets. This doesn't interfere with notifications, as you can choose just one section to swipe across when you want to view widgets.

Not only does this mean your home screens are left just for apps and folders (and potentially reduced in number as a result), but also by moving the widgets to a drop-down screen you can access them from anywhere, even from within apps or the lock screen.

Best of all, Snap Swipe Drawer is free for the most part, though there's a single $2.49/£1.99 IAP to remove adverts and allow for an unlimited number of widgets.


For notetaking and to-do lists you'll struggle to find a better app than Evernote, but for more serious, longer form writing, iA Writer is a superior choice.

The app is designed to be simple, by providing you with an uncluttered interface to make it much easier to focus on crafting that essay or novel. In fact, there's even a Focus Mode, which makes all the writing other than your current sentence fade into a dull gray.

But while many simple apps of this genre lack more varied features, iA Writer is also functionally powerful, with Markdown support, multiple templates, word counts and a night mode available if you want them.

When you're done with a piece you can export it to plain text, PDF, HTML or Microsoft Word and you can publish your work direct to Medium or WordPress, or upload it to Dropbox or Google Drive.


We all need a little help relieving stress sometimes, and Pause aims to provide that assistance through the simple act of following a dot around the screen with your finger.

As you do so soothing sounds play, and a colored blob gradually grows around the dot. Within a few minutes the app promises to lessen your stress and increase your focus, and though it sounds gimmicky it works in our experience.

Supposedly it’s based on the principles of Tai Chi and mindfulness practice, as well as being scientifically tested and validated with EEG (electroencephalogram) technology. But credentials aside it’s just a great way to find some calm on a busy day.

Free + $9.99/£9.99 monthly subscription 

Meditation apps are meant, among other things, to relax and de-stress us, but if you’re anything like us they run the risk of doing the opposite, becoming chores that we feel guilty for neglecting.

Simple Habit doesn’t completely solve that problem, but it gets some way there, by offering short 5-minute meditations, that you can easily fit in at any point during your day.

Other meditation apps have short sessions too, but there are usually only a few of them, mixed in with longer meditations, while they’re all short in Simple Habit (though we do have to point out some stretch beyond 5 minutes to cater for those that do want a bit more relaxation).

Simple Habit also has a variety of different teachers to guide you, so if you don’t get on with one (or just get bored of their voice) there are plenty of others to choose from.

The rest of the app is as you’d expect, with meditations designed around specific life circumstances, goals or moods, and a simple interface that doesn’t get in the way.

Like Headspace, most of the meditations are locked behind a subscription, but you can listen to a handful for free to see if Simple Habit is for you.

Free + various IAP

Remixlive is a great music maker for people who don’t know how to make music. It provides you with a grid of pads (24 on mobile, 48 on phablets and tablets), each of which contains a sample, with different grids fitting a particular style of music.

That second point means that everything broadly fits together, and even tapping the pads at random can produce something aurally pleasing.

But Remixlive is also good software for those who know how to make music, as you can create your own samples, either by recording sounds with your device’s microphone or importing them.

You can control levels, change the tempo and record and export your tracks too, with most of these features are hidden behind IAP, ranging from $0.99/89p to $3.49/£2.69 each, as are most of the pre-built samples.

But if you’re only interested in certain features you shouldn’t have to spend much to get them, and you get three grids included for free, with three more available for no charge via in-app purchase.

Free with ads or $3.99/£3.49 

The problem with weather apps is that, for the most part, they only use one source for their data, but Climendo uses lots, and then works out what the most likely weather at any given time is.

The complete selection of weather providers that it uses includes AccuWeather, Weather Underground, NOAA, Met Office, Foreca, Dark Sky, SMHI, YR and World Weather Online – though only the most accurate ones for your location will be used.

You can see hourly or ten day forecasts, complete with the likelihood of each being accurate, or you can dig down to the individual forecasts from each weather provider, to see how they vary.

Climendo lacks some of the more detailed information found in other apps – such as humidity and UV index –  but if you just want accurate information on whether or not you need an umbrella then this app is up there with the best.


There’s no shortage of apps for digital artists, but Infinite Painter is one of the most feature-packed, with dozens of brush presets and the ability to create your own, along with layers, blending, editing tools and more, plus the option to export your images as JPEG, PNG, PSD or ZIP.

But as well as being packed full of features, Infinite Painter also takes the time to show you how they all work, with detailed tutorials and guides, although the interface is so simple that you should be able to muddle your way through most things anyway.

A lot of the features are hidden behind a paywall, with it costing $7.99/£6.26 to unlock everything, but the app includes a free seven-day trial, letting you try everything out before you decide whether you want to put money down, which if you’re a fan of digital art you probably will, because you get a lot for your money.


File managers aren’t exciting, but they are useful, especially if you have a lot stored on your phone. Google Play is full of options, but Solid Explorer File Manager is one of the best for a variety of reasons.

For one thing it’s not limited to just displaying local storage, as you can also link cloud storage accounts to the app, allowing you to view and manage all of your online storage in one place.

It also looks good, with a Material Design-influenced interface that’s easy to navigate. There’s a menu bar permanently visible at the top, which lets you quickly jump between storage sources or ‘collections’ (such as videos, music and photos), and folders are clearly laid out.

It’s not free, but there’s a 14-day trial so you can see what you think before you put any cash down.


Between Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and dozens of other services there are numerous ways to legally watch content that don’t require you to go anywhere near a TV schedule, but with different libraries and different payment models finding the specific things you want can sometimes be a chore.

JustWatch simplifies that process by letting you search for specific shows or films on all the available providers in your country or just those that you filter it by, so you can see exactly how and where you can watch things.

JustWatch also provides an up to date list of new arrivals on your favourite services and of price drops, so you can skip the searching and just watch.


Stop motion clips let you bring worlds to life on zero budget and Motion is a slick, simple way of creating them on an Android device.

All you have to do is line up a shot, then press the shutter button to save it. Rinse and repeat until you’ve built a full clip, then you can view it back, adjust the frame rate and delete any frames that you don’t like.

From there you can save your project and easily add to it any time, so if you’ve got a stop motion epic in mind you don’t have to film it all in one go. But once you are done you can export it to your phone as a video and easily share it with the world.

The simple controls make Motion suitable for kids, but it’s powerful enough to create really good footage too. All you need is an idea and the patience to make tiny adjustments to a scene over and over again.


One of the great things about Android is how customizable it is and icon packs are one of the best examples of that.

The Urmun Icon Pack gives you access to over 3790 high quality icons, each of which offers a stylish alternative to the standard app icons to freshen up your home screens.

It doesn’t work with all launchers, but many, including Nova Launcher, Action Launcher, ADW Launcher, Apex Launcher, Cyanogen and more are supported and you can apply the new icons to them with a single tap.

Urmun also comes with a range of mostly abstract wallpapers which match the style of the icons, for a cohesive look. Urmun is one of the better examples of icon packs, but if you don’t like the style there are dozens of other options, including more by the same developer, with links to them from within Urmun itself.


Some say print is dead, but with Zinio it can live on in a digital world. The app gives you access to both the latest issues and back issues of thousands of magazines from around the world, letting you buy single issues or subscribe to your favorites.

You can download the magazines to your phone or tablet to read anywhere and with simple pinch and swipe controls you can easily read and navigate a magazine even on smaller screens.

Content on Zinio is also often cheaper than the physical alternative, not to mention less of a waste of paper and space.

It also gives you access to a greater selection of titles than your local corner shop, so really you’ll just need to find the time to read them all.

Free + IAP for all features

Our phones might be smart but for the most part our clocks aren’t yet and even most alarm clock apps are disappointingly basic, but Sleep as Android proves that there’s a lot more an alarm clock can do than just wake someone up.

You can set it to wake you up after just 15 or 30 minutes if you want a short nap, record any noises so you’ll know if you snore or talk in your sleep, drift off to soothing sounds, have a voice remind you that you’re sleeping to potentially allow for lucid dreaming, wake up to songs on Spotify, make sure you get up on time by having to solve a problem to turn off the alarm and a whole lot more.

Many of these features are free, but stump up for a single IAP and you also get access to sleep cycle tracking, allowing you to put your phone on your mattress so that the app can track the duration and quality of your sleep, as well as helping you wake up at the optimal point in your sleep cycle.

Sleep as Android isn’t the prettiest app, but it puts most other alarm clocks of both the physical and app variety to shame – and it’s so regularly updated with advanced, prototype features that you feel you’re really getting good value if you do upgrade.

£0.79/US$0.99 (around AU$1.35)

Twitter might be one of the biggest social networks around, but its official app leaves something to be desired. Thankfully there’s a whole world of third party options and Flamingo for Twitter is one of the newest and best.

Despite still being in beta it already feels slick and polished, with a material design inspired interface, which includes pages that are coloured to match any images, for a pleasingly unified look. There’s also a number of visual customization options and if you have multiple accounts you can theme them all individually.

So it looks good, but Flamingo is also enjoyable to use, thanks to thoughtful features like being able to swipe pages to close them and long press on images and profile pages to preview them.

But the best thing about Flamingo is that as good as it is now, the fact that it’s in beta means there’s likely plenty more to come, so this is one app which will hopefully just keep getting better.

£2.49/US$2.99 (around AU$4.13)

There are only so many ways you can make a keyboard, especially on a smartphone, but WRIO Keyboard manages to be unlike most others, yet somehow still very usable.

It uses a honeycomb layout, with large keys that are easy to hit so you can type quickly and accident-free. The actual layout is similar but not identical to a standard QWERTY keyboard, so it takes some getting used to, but once you do it’s surprisingly fast, especially as it incorporates a number of gesture controls, like swipes to delete or restore text and undo auto-corrections.

WRIO Keyboard is fairly attractive too and with multiple themes you’re bound to find a color scheme you like.

We’ll say it right now: it’s not for everyone and given it takes some getting used to it could have really done with a free version, but give it a chance and it might just become your keyboard of choice (especially if you don’t get on with any of the conventional options).

£1.49/US$0.99 (around AU$3)

Whether you’re trying to work or relax background noise can have a significant impact on your ability to. It’s not always easy to tune out conversations or annoying songs, while the sounds in an office or train can be unpredictable, all of which are the enemy of productivity and sleep.

Noisli overcomes these issues by giving you a selection of soothing background sounds that you can play, such as the sounds of rain, a gentle breeze or waves rolling into shore.

You can adjust the volume of the sounds and also create and save combinations, so if you want to be able to hear both the chatter of a coffee shop and a burning log fire at the same time you can.

There’s a timer which you can use if you only want the sounds to play for a certain amount of time and even the interface is soothing, with a selection of relaxing background shades that the app cycles through.

On your way home from work you can trade the noises of a busy train or honking cars for the sounds of night time in nature… but try not to get so relaxed that you miss your stop.

£4.18/US$5 (around AU$6.73) monthly subscription

Netflix is the king of video streaming subscription services, but it’s not the only option and nor are you limited to other big names like Amazon and Hulu. There are also smaller options that carve out their own niche and IndieFlix is one such service.

Its focus on independent films means you won’t see much crossover with the larger services and rather than getting the big blockbusters you’ll be discovering new things you may never have heard of. There’s also a large selection of shorts, which are handy if you don’t have time for a full movie.

Otherwise it’s a lot like Netflix. You can stream content on a wide variety of devices and while its selection isn’t the largest around, with over 8,000 titles there’s still more than you could get through in a lifetime.

The app is easy to navigate too and while it’s not free you do get a 30-day free trial, so give it a shot if you’re looking for a new addition to your streaming arsenal.

Free + optional £2.99/US$2.99 yearly subscription

Dark Sky has made waves on iOS and it’s now arrived on Android, bringing hyperlocal and incredibly detailed weather forecasts with it.

Not only can you see the weather for today or the coming days for any town or city, but also forecasts for your exact location. As well as being geographically precise it also aims to give you down to the minute forecasts, so you’ll know exactly when that threatening cloud will shower you with rain.

You can see precise forecasts for temperature, wind, humidity, pressure, visibility and UV index too, explore a detailed weather map of the world, set alerts for the specific weather conditions and stick a range of weather widgets on your home screens.

The minimalist black and white interface won’t be for everyone and certain features are locked behind a £2.99/US$2.99 yearly subscription, which is worth taking out if you have more than a passing interest in the weather around you, but even the free version of the app has a competitive number of features.

£3.99/US$4.99 (around AU$6.79)

Nova Launcher Prime has been around for a long time and thanks to regular updates and a wealth of features it remains one of the very best Android launchers available.

It’s enormously customisable, allowing you to change your phone’s theme and home screen transitions, add a scrollable dock, choose what direction the app drawer scrolls and even add widgets to the dock.

As bloated as it might sound Nova is actually a slick, speedy launcher, which looks a whole lot like stock Android until you start fiddling with it.

There’s a free version available too, just called Nova Launcher, but Nova Launcher Prime gives you access to gesture controls, among other features that aren’t found in the free one, so it’s worth investing in, given that the home screen is one of the things you’ll interact with most on your phone.


Strava is a seriously compelling tool for runners and cyclists, letting you create, find and follow routes and track your speed, distance, pace and elevation.

But for many of us running and cycling is at its best when it’s gently competitive, whether that’s trying to top your own records or someone elses and Strave excels there too, with leaderboards, personal records and comparisons to friends and other app users.

Most of the core features are completely free, but you can unlock its full potential by signing up for a premium account. This unlocks filtered leaderboards, daily progress tracking and much, much more.


Evernote is the first and last word in note-taking, or it might as well be anyway. With multiple notebooks to help you keep your thoughts tidy, simple to-do lists, a powerful search tool so you can easily find specific notes and the ability to sync between devices it’s a must have for anyone who ever jots things down. Which we’d wager is just about everyone.

It goes that little bit further than just being a notebook though, as you can also share your notes and collaborate on projects with others, easily track expenses and attach files, all through an attractive, clutter-free interface.


Life is busy and there’s not always time to read that article on bees or that guide to knitting cat jumpers. Pocket solves that by allowing you to easily save web pages and even videos for later, storing them all in one place.

It’s much more than just a bookmarking system though as it also makes them available offline, so you can catch up with things on the tube or any other time you don’t have an internet connection.

It’s free, slick and you can even synchronise your saved articles across every device you’ve installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading.


Pushbullet is all about saving time and not having to dig out your phone every five minutes. Need to get a file or link from your phone to your computer or vice-versa? Pushbullet can do that in a couple of taps.

Wondering who keeps texting but too busy to check your phone? Pushbullet can display the notification on your computer and even lets you interact with the notifications from there.

It’s one of those apps that we wonder how we ever did without now we’ve got it. Hopefully we’ll never have to go back, those were dark days.


The big selling point of Google Photos is that it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos. Except it’s not really a selling point, as amazingly the app is free.

Not only does that ensure your photos are automatically backed up, it also allows you to delete them from your device and free up space without losing them.

Add in editing tools, montage and collage creation, easy sharing and Chromecast support and Google Photos is just about the best gallery app around.

It even makes it easy to dig up old images, thanks to a deep search tool that allows you to hunt for shots based on where they were taken or what’s in them.


There are any number of podcast apps for Android but Pocket Casts is easily one of the best. Its slick, colourful interface helps it stand out from the drab designs of many competitors and it’s feature packed, with Chromecast support, auto downloads, sleep timers and more.

There are even tools to improve the listening experience of podcasts, such as the ability to remove silent sections to speed them up or toggle video podcasts to audio only. There are cheaper and even free alternatives to Pocket Casts, but you more than get your money’s worth with it.


The idea behind Plex is that it assimilates your existing media collection and serves it up, through one standard interface, via the cloud.

It’s a bit of a struggle to get going as you need a free account on Plex’s servers to access your stuff, but once it’s all up and running it offers streaming and transcoding of files, meaning everything ought to play everywhere. It’s attractively designed too and even lets you sync your media for offline viewing, so it’s not always dependent on an internet connection

It supports Chromecast too, so if you’ve bought into Google’s own media-managing dream, then you’re going to get a lot of use out of this app.


A hefty price, but can you put a price on not dying of obesity at age 52? That fitness promise is what you pay for with the RunTastic Pro. It is able to map you, track you, automatically cheer you on, generate live feedback and more, also covering interval training and letting users create their own regular routes to attack again and again.

Voice coaching keeps you motivated and on track and a leaderboard provides extra incentive to go faster and further. It’s also great for finding new routes to run, as other users can post theirs to the app. It’s serious stuff for competitive people and a seriously good tool for getting or staying in shape.


IF was formerly known as IFTTT, which stands for “if this then that”, concisely summing up what this app does. It powers up your Android device in all new ways, letting you automate various functions.

You can create simple statements such as “if my location is home, turn on Wi-Fi”, or “if I snap a screenshot email it to me”. As these are all simple two-part statements they’re easy to create and they can also be shared with the wider IF community. That also means there are tons of pre-existing ‘recipes’ to choose from, so you might not even feel the need to create your own.

£8.06/$9.99 (roughly AU$13.24)

FiLMiC Pro has been on iOS for a while and it’s so good that it was even used to make the arthouse feature film ‘Tangerine’. Now it’s arrived on Android and it’s every bit as impressive here.

As a premium video camera app it doesn’t come cheap, but it gives you far greater control over your footage than most alternatives.

There are standard, manual and hybrid shooting modes, with options to adjust the temperature, tint, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, focus and more. You can also shoot in slow or fast motion and a variety of different resolutions and aspect ratios, including the likes of Cinemascope and letterbox.

Shooting your film isn’t the end of the fun either, as FiLMiC Pro lets you alter the exposure and saturation after you’ve captured your footage. Then, there are a variety of encoding and sharing options. So you can save it in the quality you want and easily upload it to the cloud and social networks.

Free + £7.18/US$9.99/AU$12.85 IAP

Computing skills have never been more vital and being able to program could put you ahead of the game. Javvy probably won’t make you an expert, but it covers the basics and beyond of Java programming in easy and enjoyable bite-sized chunks.

It features over 150 interactive tutorials, to take you from the basics to more advanced things like HashMaps and classes.

You can try it out for free, but if you’re serious about learning Java you’ll want to shell out for more chapters, either a bit at a time or with a single £7.18/US$9.99/AU$12.85 in-app purchase.


There are plenty of photo editing apps, but while most offer filters and effects few allow you to alter the perspective of a photo in the way SKRWT does.

There are no stickers here, no makeup modes and no real effects. Instead there are tools to shift the perspective, change the ratio and correct lens distortion.

You can also flip, rotate, mirror and crop images, but SKRWT isn’t interested so much in modifying photos in unnatural ways, as in making them look exactly as you envisioned when you took them.

It’s a professional tool, but it’s easy to use and you can always undo your changes if you don’t like them.


Although for many English speakers it’s easy enough for us to communicate with the locals when we’re travelling by pointing at things and speaking LOUDLY AND SLOWLY, it’s also quite nice to learn a bit of the local lingo before you leave as well, which is where Duolingo: Learn Languages Free comes in.

This excellent app makes learning a second language easy, fun and convenient, with a number of daily challenges and tests to help you learn. The bite sized nature ensures it’s never overwhelming and the app guides you in such a way that you can keep progressing while reinforcing the basics.

We can’t quite work out how such a slick, feature-packed app manages to be completely free of both cost and adverts, but we’re not complaining.

Free (£8.23/$9.99/around AU$14 in-app purchase for all features)

Unless you're happy having pieces of paper cluttering your desk with passwords scrawled all over them, or are brave/stupid enough to use the same login for almost everything, there's really no avoiding password managers.

Not that you should want to avoid them, especially when it comes to 1Password, which doesn't even require a subscription. In fact, it doesn't cost anything at all, though if you want it to automatically generate passwords or to be able to fully manage your account from your Android device you will need to shell out for a single in-app purchase.

1Password remembers all of your passwords no matter which device you're on. Well, all but one, as the name suggests. You will still need to remember whatever password you use for the app itself. Unless that is you have a fingerprint scanner on your phone, in which case all it needs is a tap.

AES-256 encryption, secure notes and a slick interface with all your logins organised into folders are just the icing on the cake.


There’s an enormous number of music players to choose from on Android, but Shuttle+ is one of the best.

With an attractive and intuitive Material Design-inspired interface and most of the options you’d hope for from a premium player, including gapless playback, a sleep timer, lots of themes, automatic album artwork downloads, a 6-band equalizer, widgets, Chromecast support and a lot more besides it’s a joy to use.

There’s a free version, but the premium one is only £1.10/US$1.75/AU$1.99 and has far more features, so it’s worth the investment if you play a lot of music on your phone.


If you’re addicted to listening to podcasts on your Android device, then DoggCatcher Podcast Player is up there with Pocket Casts as one of the best apps. The clear and attractive interface makes it a cinch to manage and play your podcasts, and you can set it to automatically download new episodes, so you’re never stuck for things to listen to.

What sets DoggCatcher Podcast Player apart from free podcast apps is the wealth of options and customisability, such as multiple themes, variable playback speeds, Chromecast support, widgets and personalised recommendations. If you have a huge list of podcasts you listen to regularly, then this is the player you need.


Tasker is one of the first, and best, task managers for Android. It does it all. Turns stuff on or off depending on location, manages multiple schedules for changing phone state depending on the time of day, even letting users have their phone automatically reply to text messages if it’s set to a quiet state.

In many ways it’s like a more powerful and more impenetrable version of IF. If you’re brave enough to learn its ways there’s a lot here, with the promise of total automation by combining triggers such as an app, day or time, with actions, variables and conditions.

Tasker is so powerful it can even be used to create whole new apps. It’s complex, vast, and you’ll wonder how you lived without it.


There are plenty of weather apps available for Android, but what makes Weather Timeline – Forecast worth choosing over them (and spending money on), is its unique focus on delivering weather forecasts in a timeline, so you can easily see conditions at a glance.

It means you can view the current weather, weather for the next hour, the next 48 hours and next week. It can help you plan your day without any nasty weather surprises.

The Weather Time Machine feature also lets you see forecasts for months and years in advance, as well as checking out how the weather was behaving decades ago. It’s also Android Wear compatible.


Phones get lost and sometimes even stolen, that's just a fact of life, but with Cerberus they can be a whole lot easier to get back.

The app duplicates many of Google's Android Device Manager abilities, such as tracking, ringing, locking and erasing a handset. But it goes much, much further too, allowing you to sound an alarm, display a message on the screen, take pictures, videos and screenshots to identify the thief, record audio and a whole lot more.

It's a comprehensive service and while it comes with a one off cost it will more than pay for itself if you ever need to use it.


If you never want to run out of things to listen to again, TuneIn Radio Pro is the app for you. It gives you access to over 100,000 radio stations from around the world, so no matter what your favourite genre is, you’ll be covered.

There are podcasts on offer too and you can create a profile, giving you easy access to all your favourited stations.

The Pro version is pretty expensive for an app, but not only does it remove annoying ads, it brings handy features such as the ability to record shows and listen to them at any time, as well as access to over 40,000 audiobooks and advanced social tools for finding and sharing new music.

£2.99/US$3.99 (around AU$5.10)

Many phones have IR blasters built in, allowing you to control your TV with them. This can be useful, but given that most televisions come with a remote it’s often unnecessary. Being able to control your computer with your phone though can be far more beneficial, especially if you’re using it to watch or listen to something, without being sat right at your desk.

That’s where Unified Remote Full comes in. Using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, with no IR blaster required, it can communicate with your PC or Mac, along with other devices such as a Raspberry Pi.

There are over 90 built in remotes, giving you full control over various pieces of software, so whether you want a full virtual mouse and keyboard or just want a Netflix remote with buttons for playing and pausing content Unified Remote has you covered.

There’s a free version of the app, but most of the content is locked behind a one-time payment, which it’s well worth making if your PC is your primary device for media consumption.

£4.99/US$4.99 (around AU$6.80)

Describes itself as a ‘pro’ DJ app for people who enjoy nodding along and pumping their fists in the air while someone else’s record plays. Cross DJ Pro comes with specialist features such as BPM tracking, pitch shifting and a split audio output for previewing tracks before they’re mixed in, with filter effects in here too for adding a bit more oomph to whatever party you’re ruining with your rubbish music.

With 72 samples, the ability to record and save your own samples to the app, realistic scratching sounds and more there’s a lot to play with, while an intuitive interface and big buttons make it easy to hit the right notes.

£7.95/US$12.95 monthly subscription

Modern life can be hectic and most of us could probably do with some calm. Headspace aims to provide that through numerous guided mediations, ranging from ten minutes to over an hour in length.

There are also a number which are focused on helping you flourish in specific aspects of life, such as relationships or fitness, and they're all expertly guided by a former Buddhist monk.

You get access to ten short meditations for free, but to get the most out of it and unlock hundreds of others you'll have to subscribe.


Threema might look like any other messaging app, but it’s got privacy and security at its heart. It has all the standard features you’d expect, including group chats, the ability to share images, videos and voice messages and even a few extra features like support for QR codes and group polls.

But everything you send and receive, including media, is encrypted and Threema’s servers store as little information as possible, with contacts lists managed from your own device and messages deleted from the servers as soon as they’ve been delivered.

If that’s not enough it also allows you to communicate anonymously, for the full experience of feeling like you’re in a really boring spy movie.

Free (with optional subscription)

It’s great learning a new skill, but finding the time to do so can be tricky. Skillshare makes that a little bit easier, by breaking down lessons and tutorials into bitesize chunks that you can fit in while you take a coffee break.

As it’s an app it’s always with you, so you can learn on your commute too and there’s a vast variety of courses offered, from film making and photography, to game design, chocolate making and screen printing.

The courses aren’t generally detailed enough to make you an expert, but they’re a great way to get started or hone your skills. Some content is free, but to access the bulk of it or download the videos for offline access you’ll need a $9.99 (roughly £6.96/AU$13.08) monthly subscription.

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PayPal payments are now finally available on Apple’s iTunes – in certain regions

PayPal payments are now finally available on Apple’s iTunes – in certain regions

Good news if you are a fan of secure payment platform PayPal, as today it has announced that you will be able to use it as your preferred payment method on your Apple devices, but only in Mexico or Canada. 

According to the press release: “other countries including the US [will be coming] soon after”.

What this means realistically is just that your money will be coming from PayPal rather than a credit or debit card that you have attached to your iTunes account.

But if you are the sort of person who doesn’t like the idea of having your account details being stored on lots of companies servers, it could be a good way to cut that number down by one. 

Once selected, all “purchases of apps, music, movies, TV shows, and books, as well as Apple Music subscriptions and iCloud storage” will then come from your PayPal account. 

Tap to pay

What’s more, you will benefit from PayPal’s secure One Touch payments, meaning you can make quick and easy payments on your iPhone, iPad and any device connected to your account like the Apple Watch and Apple TV

With mobile payment systems like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay becoming more widespread, paying for small occasional purchases using your phone is getting easier and easier.

Presumably having PayPal set up as your preferred payment option on your Apple devices will turn all these little 'contact' payments into PayPal payments, we'll let you know if this is definitely the case once we've had a chance to test it out for ourselves. 

Via Engadget

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