The best Android apps of the year include a social media giant, a video editor, and a gaming streaming service.
Crazy to think that just over a decade ago, Android apps didn’t exist. The Google Play store launched in 2008 with 50 apps and as of 2019 has grown to a playground of 2.8 million apps that have changed the way we communicate, travel, watch TV and play games. Google’s recent introduction of the Pixel 4 phone, major move into game streaming and expansion of its smart home devices has made the apps we use in the Android universe even more relevant.
The Android apps the CNET staff chose for recognition were introduced in the last year, got a major update, or went mainstream in culture in a way that we hadn’t seen previously. (Two of our picks were also found on our list of Best iPhone apps of 2020.) Here are the best Android apps of the year.
Read also: 25 apps that defined the decade: 2010-2019
TikTok is a social video app that lets you watch people lip-sync or dance to songs or create videos of yourself doing the same. While it was released in 2016, this past year was when TikTok truly went mainstream: In November 2019, the app surpassed 1.5 billion downloads worldwide on the App Store and Google Play, with more than 600 million downloads in 2019 alone. TikTok was also the third most-downloaded non-gaming app of the year, following WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — putting it ahead of the main Facebook app and Instagram, according to mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower. It should be noted that TikTok is under investigation from the US government for potential security risks.
You can download TikTok free in the Play store. It is also available for iOS.
Glitch Video Effects
Google named Glitch Video Effects the Play Users’ Choice App of 2019, as part of Google Play’s Best of 2019 awards. TikTok creators as well as other making videos on their Android phone can take advantage of the video editing app, which lets you take photos and videos and add more than 100 filters and effects in real time, including Retro VHS, Shadow, Xray and Neon. You can import music from your phone and add it to your videos. You can also import videos from your personal gallery and add filters, change aspect ratios and export high-resolution videos to share across social media like TikTok, Instagram, IGTV, Facebook and Snapchat.
More than 10 million people have downloaded Glitch Video Effects, according to its Play store listing. As of January, more than 86,000 people have rated the app, giving it 4.6 out of 5 stars in the Play store. Glitch Video requires Android 5.0 and up.
You can download Glitch Video Effects from the Play store for $10, or try it free for seven days.
In November 2019, Google launched its video game streaming service Stadia, a platform that lets you play games across phones, laptops, desktops and TV screens. The Stadia app acts as a hub where you can manage your Stadia account, set up your controller, make purchases, and play games (depending on your phone). While the service itself has seen early mixed reviews, more than 4,500 users have rated the app 4.1 out of 5 stars in the Play store.
You can download the Google Stadia app from the Play store free, but games are priced separately, as is the package to connect it to your TV.
Call of Duty: Mobile
Call of Duty: Mobile saw the largest mobile game launch in history in October 2019, with more than 100 million downloads in its first week of release — outranking the mobile launches of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, according to industry analyst firm Sensor Tower. While the mobile version of the popular first-person shooter game had a troubled release from publisher Activision Blizzard, those problems appear to have largely been resolved and didn’t deter people from downloading the game.
Call of Duty: Mobile has more than 6 million reviews in the Play store, and 4.6 out of 5 stars. You can download Call of Duty: Mobile free in the Play store, with optional in-game purchases. It is also available for iOS.
Disney‘s $7 per month streaming service Disney Plus launched in November 2019 to lots of fanfare — and got 10 million subscribers in just one day. The platform includes some 500 movies and 7,500 episodes of TV shows, including Disney classics, as well as Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and the Simpsons (not to mention the new original show The Mandalorian, which introduced us to America’s sweetheart Baby Yoda). Disney has already made some changes to improve the streaming experience, including adding a resume button.
Google Maps has been around since 2005, an ancient time before Android and iPhones existed. Since then, the platform has expanded to become one of the most popular apps in the US in terms of audience reach — behind only YouTube, Facebook and Google Search, according to an August report from Statista. In 2019, the Google Maps app added several new features for Android users, including Incognito mode, a speedometer, traffic incident reporting and speed trap reporting, making it even more useful (and more competitive with Google’s other navigation app, Waze).
Google awarded social communication app Ablo its Google Play Best App of 2019 award. The app connects you with random people all over the world, and translates your chats and video calls in real time, with the goal of helping you learn about another culture, practice a language or connect with people to travel with worldwide. Ablo may sound like another version of the notorious Chatroulette; however, it sets more ground rules, and offenders get kicked off the app.
Ablo has more than 1 million downloads, according to its Play store listing, and more than 136,000 users have rated it, with an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars. You can download Ablo for free in the Play store.