This year has been a great one for Android. The Nexus tablets have really helped boost Android into many households, and updates to the operating system have meant that Android finally feels like a complete operating system. Here we have compiled a list of our favourite Android apps to be released or heavily revamped this year. The list isn’t in any particular order.
Flipboard is a late arrival for me in this list. I have been a big fan of the app on my iPad for over a year now, however since launching earlier this year, I have felt that the Android version of the app is more of a gimmick, and is no competition to FLUD, Pulse and Feedly. However, that all changed earlier this month when Flipboard released its tablet-exclusive version for Android tablets. Basically, those with Android tablets can now experience one of the most unusual and impressive applications that was only ever available on iOS. The tablet Flipboard is by far one of the best applications available on any operating system, and the fact that it released for Android this year makes it one of the apps of the year.
As a social network, Google+ has grown on me this past year. I’ve been an on-off user since its beta stage, however since the introduction of Communities, it has become one of my main social networks, taking over for Facebook. The Android app, however, is part of what makes the social network so great. In terms of replicating what’s possible on desktop, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of Facebook and Twitter. Google have really found their comfort zone for mobile applications this year, with YouTube and Google Now also sporting incredible designs, but Google+ takes the biscuit and is easily one of the top applications of 2012.
After all that’s happened for the Android platform this year, it’s hard to believe that the mobile version of Chrome is yet to have its first birthday. In the past year, the browser has gone from being in its beta stage, to being the default browser on the latest Jelly Bean devices. As a browser, it performs way better than any competitor on the market, and you always have the benefit of syncing Chrome with desktop versions too.
Instagram is another app which was only released on Android earlier this year, but it seems like forever. Since the summer, Android users have been able to take photos of their feet, breakfast and pets and share them with their friends, hashtagged to within an inch of their life. Making the move to Android has certainly helped boost the services popularity, and it works just as well as its iOS cousin.
Originally starting life as a Kickstarter project earlier this year, Chameleon Launcher has probably been one of the most talked about launchers of 2012. Most launchers offer minimal change to the interface until the user begins to tinker around, whereas Chameleon Launcher completely changes the tablet experience. The main aim of the launcher is to show the user as much information as possible, while keeping a nice design, and it does it very well. Chameleon Launcher is now available on the Google Play Store for an extremely reasonable price, and thrives on Google’s latest Nexus 7 and 10 devices.
Xbox Smartglass was announced earlier this year at E3 by Microsoft. The application lets you control your Xbox for playing media, browsing the web and navigating the menus, as well as giving you extra information on films and tv programmes you watch through the games console. Despite now being available on iOS, Microsoft originally made the app Android-only for a short time. It’s not a necessary application, but it adds to the normal gaming and media experience to make it a little special.
Pattrn is an extremely simple app, but it’s easily one of my favourites. I love changing the background of my phone, but I don’t really like having an image, as I think patterns usually look better. Pattrn is an application which only contains pattern backgrounds. The UI of Pattrn is great, and it really is a breeze to select an image as a wallpaper.
BBC Olympics App
It may be coming from a biased source, but I really felt like the 2012 Olympics were far better than previous years. The whole three weeks flew by, but each day brought some new magic from Team GB, and it was magnificent to be a part of. Unfortunately, it was simply impossible to watch all of the events, there were over 20 channels dedicated to live coverage. This was the first Olympic games where applications are a main part of life, and BBC’s Olympic Coverage application for Android was the best way to keep up to date. The UI was brilliant, and it was always up to date. For me, when I look back at London 2012, I will remember regularly checking this special little app.
Download BBC Olympics on the Google Play Store (but as you may have noticed, the Olympics finished some while ago)
Google Now isn’t really an optional application, releasing with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean as a default app earlier this year. But since it’s release, it’s been extremely well received. Despite incredible voice recognition capable of beating Siri, my favourite feature is that the app gets to know you over time. It learns your favourite sports teams, where you live, where you need to go and other important things, so that eventually it learns what you are about to do or finds the information that you are about to search for. It’s incredible, free and is easily one of the best apps for Android, even if it is only available on the latest version of Android.
As I mentioned earlier, this year has been incredible for fans of Google applications. Each app release or update has brought a great design interface which is fast and easy to use. When their cloud storage service launched earlier this year, Google were quick to provide the same great service to users of Google Drive, providing them with an application that gets the job done with minimal fuss. Of course, it’s only worth downloading if you use the service, but for someone like me who uses Drive all of the time, it’s a must-have app.
SwiftKey Flow Beta
I’ve tried just about all the mainstream keyboards for Android available, but none of them have impressed me as much as the latest version of SwiftKey: Flow Beta. It’s absolutely incredible, a combination of the reason why we love SwiftKey, and the best features of Swype and the Android 4.2 keyboard. My favourite feature is the usage tracking. It tells you how many taps you have saved by using the swiping feature, how many times you have had a word predicted for you, and a lot more excellent things which are interesting to find out about the way you type.
Snapseed has been available for iOS for quite some time now, but has recently released on Android for free. While there are many great attempts at photo editors available on the Play Store, none of them are quite as well designed and easy to use as Snapseed. It’s easy to quickly edit photos in a professional manner, and it even has filters for those Instagram fanatics.
There are countless Twitter clients available on Android, most of which are practically exact clones of each other. There are some which stand out such as Echofon and the official Twitter client, but the best by far is this year’s new arrival. Falcon Pro is easily one of the best Twitter apps right now for Android, with an incredible design like no other app on the Play Store. It’s good-looking, fast and available for a reasonable price.
BaconReader has actually been around since late 2011 (way back when the Google Play Store was actually the Android Market!), however updates to the Reddit client in the past year means that the app has completely changed for the better. It’s easily the best Reddit client for Android, sporting a brilliant UI with lots of customization options. The free version is more than enough for occasional browsers such as myself, but the pro version is a must have for people who both view and contribute to the community.
Did we miss anything? Leave your suggestions in the comments below for submission before January 1st!
Flipboard Tablet: Wired
Google Plus: LifeHacker
Pattrn: Android Curated