The 8 Must-Have Apps for Your New Android Phone

By Ryan Whitwam

The stock apps might be fine for some things, but you need to add these ones to your library.

Picking up the latest and greatest Android phone is only the first step. The apps on your phone are just as important as having fast hardware or a razor-sharp screen, but there are so many apps out there. Which apps are worthy of your phone? Here are the eight must-have apps for an Android phone.


The internet is a scary place, and even as strong password might not be enough to protect your accounts all the time anymore. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is the best way to ensure no one but you accesses your accounts, but the default SMS option for 2FA is susceptible to SIM hijacking. The best way to use 2FA is with an authentication app, and the best I've found is Authy.

This app is entirely free and easy to set up. All services that support auth apps (eg. Google, Twitter, and many more) will work with Authy. You just need to scan a QR code, and Authy generates numeric codes for your accounts. The best thing about Authy is that it encrypts and syncs your auth tokens between devices. Thus, you can generate codes on your phone, tablet, or PC. You need to know the decryption password for the tokens to access them on a new device, but the added security is worth it. Authy is completely free.

Weather Timeline

Odds are your phone came with a weather app of some sort, but it's not very good. That's based on my experience with a dozen stock weather apps—they're basic and clunky. Weather Timeline is not a free app, but it's the best overall weather experience on Android. As the name implies, Weather Timeline is set up like a timeline, so you can scroll through to see the forecast over the coming days. It's much faster than flipping back and forth between screens in other apps.

In addition to being efficient, the UI is slick and fully configurable. You can change colors, icons, and how locations are organized in the app. Weather Timeline also has a whole section of graphs if you want more data about the weather. You can see precipitation, UV index, wind speed, and more. I love the widgets, too. The only weak point of the app is radar, which isn't as precise as some other apps. Still, it's a bargain for just a buck.


You will eventually get bored with the stock wallpapers that come with your phone, and Backdrops is the single best source for new ones. The app itself is fantastic because it's designed in accordance with Google's material guidelines, and the ads in the free version aren't intrusive. You can pay a dollar to get rid of the ads, too. Upgrading gets you access to some exclusive wallpaper packs as well.

Even without the upgraded version, Backdrops includes hundreds of images. Most of them were created specifically for the app, so you won't find them elsewhere. You can save your favorites in the app for quick access, and the app makes it easy to set wallpapers.It's a great way to spruce up your home screen.

Notification History Log

Android's notification handling is fantastic, but what if you accidentally dismiss something and need to know what it said? You're usually out of luck, but Notification History Log is a simple app that keep track of all your recent notifications in one place. To unlock its full power, you need a pro upgrade, but the $3.59 asking price is well worth it.

This app plugs into Android's notification system to show raw timestamp data, but the "Advanced History" is only available with the pro upgrade. It lists the time, app, and full notification text for your most recent notifications. You can choose how many notifications you want stored and blacklist apps you don't want saved. The app also has no network access, so it can't send your data anyplace even if it wanted to.

Solid Explorer

Google has a basic file manager built into the Android settings these days, but the time will come when you need something a little more capable. Well, Solid Explorer is a lot more capable. It's been around for years, but this is still far and away the best file manager app on Android.

There's a free trial for Solid Explorer, but trust me, you'll happily pay the $1.99 license fee. This app has it all: dual pane navigation, drag-and-drop, cloud storage, FTP, SMBv2, ZIP management, root access, and more. The app also looks great (though perhaps a little cluttered in the menus) with Google's material guidelines.

Google Keep

Google's note taking app is not part of the pre-installed suite of apps on most phones, and that baffles me because Keep is excellent. This app is good for making text notes and lists, of course, but it also has a raft of lesser-known features. You can add reminders, drawings, audio notes, and collaborators.

Keep also offers Google Docs integration, which I find invaluable. You can export a note right to your Drive account for more powerful editing. You can even take a picture of text and use OCR inside keep to grab the text. All that, and the interface is still clean and a joy to use. Evernote might have more features, but the app is clunky and limited unless you have a paid account. Keep is completely free.


You'll probably want to access various media files on your phone, and VLC is the best way to do it. VLC has a media library interface, or you can browse folders directly. You can stream remotely to VLC or access network resources from the app as well. If you're using a newer version of Android (oreo or higher), VLC even supports newer features like picture-in-picture video.

While the development process for VLC can be slow, it can play virtually any file and it has excellent control gestures. Being totally free doesn't hurt, either.


Your phone has a screen timeout for a reason—it saves battery life. However, you might occasionally want to keep the screen on for an extended period of time. Digging into the settings to change the screen timeout is tedious, though. Caffeinate is a simple app that adds a screen timeout tile to your quick settings. Just a tap, and your screen will stay on longer.

After adding the Caffeinate tile to your quick settings, you can tap it to cycle through the timeout options, including five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes, and forever. It'll show you how much longer until Caffeinate disengages right on the tile. You can also go back to the quick settings and tap again to disable the Caffeinate countdown. The app is free and very useful.