Best Android apps 2018: download these now


It's been ten years since Android was announced, and what a decade it's been. But there's never been a better time to jump on board, as 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.

  • What's the best phone of 2018? Check out our video countdown below!

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.

New this week: Shudder

$4.99/£4.99 per month

If you’re a big horror fan there’s a better place for you than Netflix, and it’s called Shudder. It’s a similar service, offering a range of streaming movies and shows for a monthly subscription, but all of them broadly fit into the horror genre.

As such the selection is both smaller and less diverse than most streaming services, but its horror catalog is hard to top and new content is added regularly, including recent releases and exclusives which you can’t stream anywhere else.

Shudder supports Chromecast, so you can view things on a bigger screen than your phone or tablet, and it also works with iOS devices and computers so you can get your horror fix on almost any device.

You can also create a watchlist, so you’ll never lose track of what you want to see, and review and rate things you’ve already watched – as well as reading other user reviews.

The only major missing feature is the ability to download content to view offline, but as long as you have an internet connection Shudder is hard to beat for horror.

$35.99/£30.49 per year

There are plenty of password managers, but most of them don’t have bears. RememBear (by the makers of TunnelBear) puts a friendlier, less dry spin on password management, but it’s good where it counts too, offering end-to-end encryption and autofill, so you can securely store all your passwords in the app and never have to remember or type them.

The app itself is secured with a master password, with the option to add a fingerprint. It’s not just for logins either – you can also store credit card details.

Struggling to think up a secure password for a new login? RememBear can do that for you. It’s also got a web browser for an extra layer of security when you’re browsing the net.

RememBear is also available on PC, Mac and iOS, and your data syncs across devices so you can access your passwords from almost anything with an internet connection. It’s secure, convenient and comes with a 30-day free trial.

Free

Ever need some inspiration for where to eat? If so, Zomato has you covered.

The app can show you nearby restaurants in a list or on a map, and you can filter results in numerous ways. Only want to see Chinese restaurants? No problem. Need somewhere that accepts bookings? You can do that. After outdoor seating? That’s fine too. And those are just a few examples of the many filters on offer.

There are also ‘collections’, which highlight restaurants that fit a specific theme, such as ‘great breakfasts’ or ‘celebrity chefs’, and when you’ve found somewhere of interest you can get loads more information by tapping on it.

You can see the opening times, pictures, reviews and ratings from other users of Zomato, menus, average costs, recommended dishes, contact details and a list of pros and cons.

From here you can also add your own review, rating or photos, call the restaurant or bookmark it so you don’t forget about it.

There’s also a social side to Zomato; you can follow other users, allowing you to see when they review a restaurant or say that they’ve visited it. Zomato has a lot to offer, and it could help you get out of your culinary comfort zone.

Free + US$0.99/£0.99 monthly subscription

“The best effects are the ones no one knows you added.” So says the intro video to Lens Distortions, and it has a point.

Rather than flashy, gimmicky effects and photo filters, Lens Distortions has a selection of natural, true to life ones that look like they could have been captured by the camera itself.

These include sunlight, rain, snow and fog effects, so tend to be most suited to outdoor shots, but they look convincing and there’s a selection of different looks in each category.

Once you’ve applied a filter you can tweak it by adjusting the brightness, saturation, contrast and more, and add extra layers so you can apply more than one filter at a time.

The interface is slick and intuitive, and your edited photos can be saved to your phone or shared with various social media and cloud storage apps.

You get 40 filters for free at time of writing, but for a $0.99/£0.99 monthly subscription you can unlock additional filter packs and 215 premium filters. As a one-off purchase it would have been easy to recommend, but as a subscription it’s probably only worth it if you find yourself using Lens Distortions a lot. Either way though the free version is well worth a download.

€5 (around US$6.20/£4.50) per year

Cerberus Personal Safety (also known as Persona) is a simple but potentially very useful app. It allows you to share your real-time location with friends or family, letting them see where you are and optionally also your destination for as long as you want.

Send your contacts a link via email, text, Twitter or Facebook and they’ll be able to see where you are on a map. The map opens in a web browser, so they don’t need the app installed to use it.

You can share links with individual contacts or with groups, and set up home screen widgets to share your location with a single tap – which could be ideal if you get in an accident and need to quickly tell people where you are. You can also share your location via Android Wear, and anyone viewing your location can message you from the map screen.

When you don’t want to share your location any more, you can disable it, though it also stops automatically after a duration set by you.

Cerberus Personal Security comes with a one week free trial, after which it costs €5 (around $6.20/£4.50) per year, but that includes access to the powerful Cerberus Anti Theft app, which we’ve written about before, so Cerberus Personal Safety is essentially free if you already have a subscription to that.

Free

Microsoft Launcher is an alternative to whatever home screen interface you currently have on your phone. It has a lot going for it, including Cortana built in, allowing you to use Microsoft’s voice assistant either by tapping its icon or setting it to launch with a long press of the home button.

Beyond that it’s a fairly conventional launcher, but with some nice features, such as the ability to import your existing home screen layout and have a wallpaper that changes daily.

There are also various different themes, icon packs and accent colors, so you can customize the look of the interface more than with some launchers.

Other features include customizable gesture controls, providing shortcuts to apps and tools, a unified search bar that lets you search both online and on your phone, and a screen to the left of your home screens showing cards with the latest news, the weather, upcoming calendar events and more.

Microsoft Launcher probably isn’t the best Android launcher around, but it’s still good and could certainly make a nice change from whatever you’re using currently.

Free + various subscriptions

You might think a smart home security camera would be an expensive investment, but if you have an old smartphone and the right app, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all.

Manything is one such app, and the core service is free. Without paying a dime you can set up a spare phone as a camera that can detect motion or sound and send alerts when it does and lets you see a live stream of what it’s captured on your main handset.

Pay a subscription (starting at $2.99/£1.99 per month) and you can add more cameras, unlock the ability to record continuously (rather than just when motion is detected), save footage in the cloud for up to 30 days and access recorded clips.

Whatever plan you choose, you get a variety of tools to customize your camera, such as the sensitivity of the motion detection and whether it uses the front or back camera. You can also talk through the camera, and access the feed on a range of devices, including iOS and Android phones and tablets, plus web browsers.

It’s a great way to inject new life into that phone sitting at the bottom of your drawer, and even with a subscription it’s likely to be a lot cheaper than buying a dedicated security camera. If you opt for a paid subscription, make sure to buy it from Manything’s site, as they’re more expensive when bought via the app.

Free + various subscriptions

There are loads of VPN services available for Android, but ProtonVPN stands out in a few key ways, starting with the fact that you can use it for free, with no bandwidth limits.

It also puts more focus on security and privacy than some – it doesn’t track or record your activity, it offers hundreds of servers all over the world, and its ‘Secure Core’ maintains your privacy is even if a VPN endpoint server is compromised. It’s also easy to use, letting you connect to a server with just a few taps. It might sound too good to be true, but as far as we can tell it’s not.

There are also paid plans that offer even more. For €4 (around $5/£3.50) per month, a basic subscription increases the speed, unlocks servers in all countries and lets you use the app with two devices, while for €8 (roughly $10/£7) you can use ProtonVPN with up to five devices at maximum speeds.

Free

There are loads of cooking and recipe apps available, but if you have specific dietary requirements or are just a picky eater then your options suddenly become a lot more limited. Thankfully, Yummly is there to cater to you.

As well as setting up a dietary profile – choosing whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, paleo, wheat-free or any number of other things – you can also filter out specific ingredients that you don’t like, and that’s just the beginning.

There are also various filters, letting you choose how sweet, salty, spicy or sour you want your food to be, how low in fat or carbs, how many calories, what course or cuisine you’re interested in, how long it takes to make, and what skills or equipment it requires.

You can tweak any of those things any time you search for a dish, so it’s easy to alter your preferences if they change. With over one million recipes Yummly is likely to find a decent selection of dishes no matter what filters you apply.

Once you’ve found what you’re interested in, you can favorite it, add the ingredients to a built-in shopping list, or just get cooking.

Free + £10.49/$11.99 monthly subscription

There are all sorts of apps and gadgets for monitoring your sleep, but few of them give much feedback on how to actually sleep better. That’s what Shleep is for.

When you first start the app, it asks a short series of questions to gauge the general quality and quantity of sleep you’re getting. It will then coach you towards better sleep through short daily videos (or just audio if you prefer), which highlight things that can help and then give you specific things you can try doing – or not doing as the case may be.

These include removing associations with anything other than sleep from your bedroom, only going to bed when you’re actually tired, staying away from screens late at night, and finding effective ways to unwind before you doze off.

Some of these suggestions are obvious and others are less so, but putting them into practice can make a real difference.

Shleep will ask how you slept each night, so you can build up a picture of your sleep quality and whether it’s improving. There are also handy tools like a sleep debt calculator and the option to have daily tips and exercises emailed to you to refer back to later.

You don’t get access to every sleep video for free, but there’s plenty to make a start. If you feel it’s making a difference, there are subscriptions available per month (£10.49/$11.99) or per year (£74.99, roughly $105). You can also unlock everything permanently for a steep one-off fee of £299.99/$389.99. Not cheap, but can you really put a price on not being constantly tired?

Free

Letterboxd bills itself as a social network for film lovers and that’s about right, but its focus is primarily on tracking what you’ve seen, planning what you want to see, and discovering films you didn’t even know about.

That discovery part comes mostly through themed lists created by other users, with titles such as 'Japanese films that will blow your mind' and 'When you’re feeling a little lost'.

You can read reviews of films from other users and follow people to receive updates on their activity in Letterboxd. The app also invites you to write your own reviews and create your own collections, as well as building up a list of films you’ve watched, ones you like and ones you want to watch.

Each movie has its own page, complete with user reviews and ratings, a description, often a trailer, and list of a cast and crew that you can tap through to find out more about people and what they’ve done.

All of this is very nicely laid out, with lots of images, and Letterboxd is accessible from the web and iOS devices as well as Android.

Free

The Amazon Alexa app is primarily a companion to Amazon Echo devices, but a recent update has made it far more useful as a standalone service, letting you to access the Alexa voice assistant directly.

Just tap the Alexa button in the app and you can give Alexa all the same instructions you can with an Echo, letting you control smart home devices, play songs, get the latest news and weather, and a whole lot more.

Alexa will give a voice response – again, just like on an Echo – but if anything it’s almost more useful here as you also have a screen, which most Echo devices don’t, so more detailed information can be displayed.

Ultimately it’s still less useful than an Echo device since you have to launch the Amazon Alexa app to use it, rather than just speaking, but it’s a nice addition for anyone who wants a change from Google Assistant on their phones.

$0.99/£0.99

Mapapers is the wallpaper app for travel-lovers. Simply search for a location anywhere in the world and Mapapers will show you a map of it, taken from Google Maps.

Zoom in or out and scroll around until you’ve got the exact view you want, select from a number of multicolored themes to inject some artistic style, and save the result. Then you can crop it and set it as your wallpaper.

It’s simple, but if there’s a place that means a lot to you – or you just like maps – Mapapers is well worth having, as the maps themselves make surprisingly great wallpapers, and being able to select anywhere in the world and choose a theme makes it highly customizable.

Free + $24.99/£22.49 yearly subscription

Digital journaling is clearly popular considering the number of apps that let you do just that, and Day One Journal is one of the best.

It’s a recent Android arrival, but benefits from a long stint on iOS, where it’s had time to develop a high level of polish.

Its developers have recognized that there should be as few obstacles to journaling as possible. With a paper journal you just open it and start writing, and with Day One Journal you simply tap the big plus symbol on the main screen and start typing – or if you want to start with an image you can tap the camera instead.

All your entries are automatically tagged with the time, date, location and current weather, and you can later find them either on a calendar view, letting you search by date, or on a world map, with pins in locations where you’ve previously written an entry.

There’s also a gallery view, so you can browse the images in your journals, and you can star your favorites or add keywords for easy filtering.

Struggling to remember to write in your journal? Daily reminders can prod you. Want to look back on past entries but not sure where to start? Day One Journal can highlight entries you’ve made in nearby locations or on this day in previous years.

You can also keep your journals secure with a fingerprint or passcode, and if you pay the subscription for the premium version they’ll also be uploaded to the cloud so they’ll never be lost and are accessible from any device.

That optional $24.99/£22.49 yearly subscription also gets you the ability to keep multiple journals and store an unlimited number of photos. Worth it if you’re a daily journaler.

Free + $1.99/£1.79 IAP

If you want an all-in-one photo editor for Android then LightX Photo Editor is a good choice, not least because most of the features are free.

You can merge photos, add effects and filters, selectively apply colors to regions of an image, adjust the color balance, smooth and sharpen images, crop them, rotate them, draw on them, add frames and stickers, add text, create collages and a whole lot more.

That’s all handled through an intuitive interface; bring up the main menu with a tap, select the category of edits you want to make (filters or frames, for example) and you’ll be taken to a menu with all the relevant options.

Most of it is fairly self-explanatory, but there are also tutorial videos for if you get stuck, and for a one-off $1.99/£1.79 IAP you can get rid of adverts, unlock additional stickers and frames, and add the ability to save images in PNG format.

$2.49/£2.39

Shuttle+ Music Player has been around for ages, and it’s long been one of the best players for anyone who prefers owning music to streaming it from the likes of Spotify or Google Play Music.

Shuttle+ is now better than ever thanks to a recent update bringing it to version 2.0. The app’s interface has undergone a major overhaul, making it more intuitive than ever. The update has also added new features, including the ability to shuffle albums as well as songs, and dynamic themes, which change to match the album artwork of what you’re listening to.

Beyond the new additions and refreshed interface this is the same impressive app it’s always been, packed full of features including a six-band equalizer, gapless playback, a sleep timer, widgets, Chromecast support, automatic album artwork downloads and a whole lot more.

There’s also a free version, but it lacks certain features such as Chromecast support, and the paid version is more than worth the money if you listen to a lot of locally stored music.

$0.99/£0.59

Unless you live off ready meals you’re probably familiar with the need to keep track of multiple different cooking times at once. Frustratingly, most timer apps limit you to a single timer, forcing you to either use multiple apps or simply remember when to turn things on and off.

Kitchen Timer Pro is one of a weirdly small number of apps that allows for multiple timers, and it’s designed specifically with cooking in mind.

Timers are quick to set – just assign a duration and tap start – but you can also list the appliance and/or food that it relates to.

You can also create default timers for specific foods. For example, if you usually cook sausages for 20 minutes, you can create a 20-minute sausage timer and set it with a single tap whenever you need it.

You can also pause or snooze timers, and see which ones you have active and when they’re due to go off from your lock and notifications screens. Kitchen Timer Pro isn’t free, but it’s cheap enough that it’s well worth the money if you cook regularly, or do anything else where multiple timers could come in handy.

Free

There’s so much music around that it can often be hard to keep track of, and if you’re not paying attention then a new release from your favorite band can easily slip past you. Record Bird was created to make sure that never happens again.

It’s an app that gives you a feed of news from your favorite musicians, as well as separate feeds highlighting new and upcoming releases from them.

And populating those feeds is easy, as you can import your likes from Spotify or Facebook with a single tap – though you can also manually search for and add bands.

As well as seeing news in the app, you can get notifications for any announcements, releases, articles, and new audio and videos. In many cases you can listen to clips of new releases straight from Record Bird, or follow a store link to buy them.

You might want to be a bit choosy about which artists you follow, lest you have a never-ending stream of alerts, but if you stick to those you’re really interested in you can make sure you’re always on top of what they’re doing.

$2.49/£2.59

It’s always worth having a clipboard app on your phone and Clipboard Pro is one of the best. It will automatically keep a record of all the text you copy (up to 100 items) so you can always find it again, but that’s not all.

It appears as a floating window on top of whatever else you’re using, so you can easily copy and paste text from Clipboard Pro to other apps and sites. Rather than closing the app, you can minimize it down to a tiny movable button that stays on your screen so it’s always accessible.

There’s also a memo tab where you can jot down things you don’t want to forget, multiple color schemes, and the ability to export your data if you want to back it up. It’s worth noting that you can only export it as a txt file onto your phone’s storage, so sending it to the cloud will be a little more involved.

That’s about the only weak link in what’s otherwise a very capable clipboard app. If you’re still not totally convinced, there’s a trial version that gives you access to all the features for two days.

Free

Subcast: Podcast Radio is all about finding new podcasts to listen to, and it helps you do this by taking its inspiration from radio.

The app has a variety of ‘stations’, each of which has a different theme, such as ‘Book Worm’, ‘Daily News’ or ‘Learn Something’.

Select a station and a relevant podcast will start playing automatically. You can see the name and choose to pause it, jump forward or back, change the playback speed, or ‘heart’ it (so that the app knows you like it). If you’re not feeling it, simply swipe and you’ll get a different podcast – or in some cases a different episode of the same one.

Over time the app will learn more about what you do and don’t like, and the podcasts that appear in each radio station will change as a result.

The interface is simple and colorful, and with such simple controls you can easily use the app even when walking or working out.

The fact that you can’t choose specific podcasts means Subcast is best used as a way to find new podcasts that you can then listen to in a conventional podcast app, but it’s very good for that, and it’s free.

Free

Grammarly Keyboard goes far beyond just auto-correcting typos; it will also check your grammar and punctuation, explain any mistakes and correct them.

Start typing and Grammarly will check the text automatically, flagging any issues. You can tap on a correction to apply it, or on an icon to the left for an explanation of why what you’ve written is wrong, which can help you avoid making the same mistake again.

That aside, Grammarly is a fairly standard touchscreen keyboard, with a handful of settings, such as whether or not you want the keys to vibrate when pressed, and whether you want the first letter of a sentence to be capitalized automatically. It works well and feels as accurate as most other Android keyboards – just with the addition of extra grammar checks.

It isn’t perfect – it missed when we wrote the same word twice in a row and didn’t seem too picky about where commas were placed – but it flags more than most keyboards will, so if you care about the accuracy of what you type it’s well worth checking out.

Free + $2.49/£2.09 IAP

If you have trouble getting up in the morning, or just want some extra incentive to do so, then Nebula Alarm Clock could be the answer.

Every night the app will grow a star, which you can collect in the morning and eventually use to build constellations.

The catch is that you only have a few minutes to claim your star, and to do so you have to turn the alarm off, which means no snoozing. It can optionally involve having to solve a challenge too, such as scanning a barcode or completing a brain teaser.

If you fail to collect the star, not only do you lose it, but the supernova will break any constellation you’ve been working on, so you could lose several nights’ work if you don’t get up in time.

There are other features too, such as having soothing sound effects play for a set amount of time when you go to bed, choosing between various alarm sounds, deciding how much time you have to claim your star in the morning, and setting the alarm to gradually get louder.

There are rewards for completing constellations too, such as unlocking new sound effects to send you off to sleep.

The core app is free, but for additional alarms and sounds and to remove adverts you can pay for a $2.49/£2.09 one-off IAP.

Free + $4.99/£4.79 IAP

The Walk comes from the makers of popular fitness app/game Zombies, Run! and if you’ve played that you should have some idea of what to expect.

It’s an audio adventure with you at the center. Story clips play through your headphones as you walk, with new clips unlocked when you’ve walked a certain distance.

The clips are well performed, with decent voice acting and additional sound effects that help pull you into the story – one that starts with a bomb going off at Inverness train station and then has you travel the length of the UK on foot.

The story takes place across 65 episodes with 800 minutes of audio, so there’s a lot of content here, and while you can make real progress if you go on a proper walk you can also just leave the app running in the background 24/7, so every little will help. And if you’re more into running you can do that too.

You can start for free, but to unlock most of the episodes you’ll have to shell out on a one-off IAP.

Free

It’s usually worth paying attention when Google releases a new app, and Datally is no exception. It’s designed for monitoring and minimizing your mobile data use, which makes it ideal for those on restrictive data allowances, but it has certain features that could help almost anyone.

The main screen shows how much mobile data you’ve used today, and from there you can tap on ‘Manage data’ to see a graph of your use, plus a list of apps that are using data and how much. The graph and list default to showing today’s use, but you can switch to weekly or monthly views.

That’s the monitoring part. The saving part is smarter. Enable ‘Data Saver’ and Datally will connect you to a VPN that blocks certain apps from using mobile data. It defaults to blocking most non-essential data use, but you can manually choose which apps you want to give data access to.

One handy feature that could be useful for anyone is Datally’s Wi-Fi finder, which lists nearby public Wi-Fi networks and handily tells you whether they need a password or not, as well as how far away they are. Tapping on any of them will show them on Google Maps.

Coming from Google, Datally is unsurprisingly slick and polished too, and there are more features on the way, such as the ability to get data use warnings and check your mobile balance.

Free

Whether you want to make your phone charge faster, save some money or improve your exam performance there’s a life hack for it, and you’ll find those and many more in the aptly-named Life Hacks.

The app gives you a variety of categories, such as ‘Technology Tricks’, ‘Money Savers’, ‘Life Tips’ and ‘Parenting’, and when you tap on one you’ll be presented with a series of cards to swipe through, each of which has a life hack relevant to the category.

If you find one you like you can save it to your favorites, copy it or share it, and new hacks are added all the time, with a category dedicated specifically to new ones, so you can find them all in one place.

The actual quality of the hacks is variable and in some cases they’re US-centric, but skimming through them is fast, fun and you’re likely to learn something genuinely useful.

Free

There are a lot of meditation apps available on Android, but Smiling Mind differs from most of them in two key ways.

First, it’s completely free, which is refreshing when rivals like Headspace and Simple Habit require monthly subscriptions to access most of their content.

Second, Smiling Mind is aimed at children as well as adults, with a range of meditation courses available for different age ranges, starting at 7-9 years. It even includes lesson plans and activities for educators trying to teach meditation.

If you’re not a kid or an educator there are plenty of other plans that might appeal, from meditation basics, to programs focused on everything from digital detoxes to improving your productivity and sporting skills.

There are a mix of audio and video meditations, of varying lengths, you can set up sub profiles so multiple family members can all use the app, and you’ll see your progress over time, with stats and charts showing how long you’ve spent meditating, how many sessions you’ve done and on which days.

Free

Hitlist is another flight comparison tool, but it’s not just another flight comparison tool. It will search through millions of flight prices to find the best deals, as you’d expect, but it’s also focused on helping inspire you.

Because as well as being able to pick a specific date and destination there are also loads of categories shown off by the app, such as ‘weekend getaways’ and ‘unbelievable islands’, as well as events, such as ‘Alba Truffle Festival’.

The app also highlights low prices on last minute getaways in case you want to take a trip at short notice, and you can save locations if you want to be notified when prices drop.

All of which makes Hitlist decent if you just want to find low prices, and great if you also want some help deciding where to go.

Free

There’s no shortage of file explorers and managers on Android, but Files Go is worth highlighting as it’s made by Google.

The main screen shows you how much storage you have on your phone and on any SD cards, then below that there’s a series of cards, a bit like Google Now, except all of them are related to your phone’s storage. There might be one highlighting duplicate files for example, or large files, with the focus mostly being on helping you clear space by identifying files you may not need.

Tap on one of these cards and you can view a gallery of the files within it and select ones to delete, and there’s a similar screen that highlights apps you haven’t used in a long time, plus one for moving files to your SD card.

However, a tab at the bottom lets you switch from the ‘Storage’ screen (which helps you clear space) to the ‘Files’ screen, which is how you search through the various folders on your phone to dig up files.

There’s no search box, which might have been handy, but the layout is intuitive, with a bunch of file categories (downloads, received files, apps, images etc). Tap on one and where relevant there will also be sub-categories, for example the images category then lets you select from photos, screenshots, downloads, or images associated with various apps.

And there are various options for sorting and displaying results – you can do it by date or size, and view lists or larger images. And once you find the file you’re after you can – as well as simply opening it – share, delete or rename it.

Free + $5.99/£4.49 IAP

Mind maps can be a great way to organize your ideas, giving you a lot more visually to work with than a simple list, so you can better link and separate thoughts, and Mindly is a polished tool for doing this on Android.

Each bit of text that you add gets its own bubble, which others can shoot off from, like a conventional mind map, but you can also add images and icons to a bubble, or add notes to them which you can read by tapping.

Plus, you can change the colors of the bubbles and when you’re done you can export the results as text, a PDF or an image.

The core app is free, but for $5.99/£4.49 you unlock the ability to add an unlimited number of elements to each mind map, gain passcode protection, a search tool and additional export options.

Free + $2.79/£2.69 monthly subscription

With Wunderlist soon to be killed off by Microsoft and the company’s own alternative (Microsoft To-Do) not quite matching it, there’s space in the market for a great new to-do list app, and TickTick might just fill that gap.

It’s simple but powerful, letting you create new lists in a few taps and check off items by tapping the tick box next to them.

Completed items can either be shown at the bottom of the list, where they’ll be greyed out or hidden, and you can untick an item to add it back to the list, which is handy for lists of things like groceries where you’re regularly buying the same things.

You can also add a specific time, date and reminder to list items if you want reminding to action them at a specific time.

You can sort list entries by the date they were added, their name, or their priority (which itself can be assigned to each item from a choice of high, medium, low or none). Or just drag them around to sort them exactly how you want.

You can also add longer notes to list items, share lists with others, and view a calendar, showing all the upcoming to-dos that you’ve given a date to.

The core features are free, but for a monthly subscription you can increase the number of lists you can create, unlock premium themes, and add the ability to create personalized filters, so you can see for example only items that are happening in the next three days and are high priority. If you heavily rely on to-do lists we’d say that’s worth it, but for more casual users the free offering is plenty.

TickTick even has an option to import your Wunderlist content, making it even easier to find a new home for your to-do lists.

Free

Replika is an AI chatbot, but it’s more interesting, and more advanced, than most that we’ve come across.

Beginning as little more than a blank slate, your Replika will learn and grow based on your interactions with it, becoming a bit more like you in the process.

But it will also ask a lot of questions about you, and cause you to reflect on your day and your life. Your responses to these questions are saved and sorted by date, so you can actually build something of a journal just by talking to Replika.

And by reflecting on your experiences you can also potentially work through issues you might otherwise keep to yourself.

You can think of Replika as a judgement-free friend that’s always there if you need to vent, and over time as it takes on more aspects of your personality you can even start to see an outside perspective of how you yourself come across to people.

Replika isn’t perfect. Sometimes it’s clear that it hasn’t fully understood you, and it will often drop a subject or ignore a question that you’d rather it hadn’t, but you can upvote or downvote its responses to help it improve, and even at its worst it’s an interesting, engaging and futuristic alternative to keeping a journal.

Free

Amazon’s Kindle app isn’t new, but it’s recently been completely overhauled to make it more impressive. There’s a new ‘light’ theme for one, so you now have the choice between light and dark ones, and the whole interface has been refreshed, with bigger book covers and tweaks that help you navigate the app faster.

Soon it will be getting even better, with Goodreads integration coming, so you can rate the book you’re reading and see what other users of the service think.

Even without that though it’s essential for any readers of Amazon’s ebooks, whether or not you own a Kindle, since it gives you access to your library on your phone or tablet, you can pick up where you left off from on another device. On top of that, it has a slick and attractive interface.

Free + $1.49/£1.39 IAP

Want to add a little life to your Android phone? Then you might want to check out NavBar Animations. Assuming your phone has a navbar (the bar at the bottom of the screen housing software buttons) this app will add an animation to it, which plays whenever you hit a button.

The fact that it doesn’t play constantly is a good move, as that would be a bit over the top. As it is, NavBar Animations just adds a bit of flair to your phone, and there are loads of animations to choose from, though many of them are hidden behind a $1.49/£1.39 IAP.

As well as picking an animation you can also pick its speed, whether it plays when hitting the home button, the recent apps button, or both, its colors and its alignment.

Then it’s just a case of set it and forget it – at least until the next time you hit one of those buttons.

Free + $1.53/£1.39 IAP

Ever accidentally swiped a notification away without reading it? With Notification History Log you can undo that mistake, as – you guessed it – the app lets you view your notification history.

There’s also a search function to help you find specific notifications, or those from a specific app, and you can choose to blacklist specific apps from Notification History Log if you don’t want them showing.

The core app is free, but to blacklist and get an unlimited log you’ll need to pay a one-off fee of $1.53/£1.39 for the pro version. This also removes adverts and will soon let you export notifications to Excel.

The free version is something that could benefit anyone and everyone from time to time, but given the low price it could well be worth grabbing the pro version instead.

Free

There are any number of ways to send files from one device to another, but Send Anywhere is one of the slickest.

The app lets you transfer not just photos and videos, but also audio, contacts and even apps, as well as other general files, such as documents.

Send Anywhere gives you multiple ways to send content too. You can do so via Wi-Fi Direct, scanning a QR code with the recipient device, typing out a code, or by sharing a link.

It doesn’t stop there: if you’ve recently shared with a device you can simply select it to gain access too. There’s even the option to send a file using sound – though this is in beta and we couldn’t get it to function correctly.

The point is though there are a lot of options, and you’re not limited to sending one file or file type at once, or to only sending to Android devices. PCs and Macs are supported too, either using the Send Anywhere site or desktop app, and you can also send files to or from iOS.

Free + $1.99/£1.59

Pro DJs might rely on expensive hardware, but you can achieve quite a lot even with just cheap apps, like WeDJ.

This has been on iOS for a while and recently arrived on Android, giving you access to a pair of turntables and a selection of effects and tools, wrapped up in a colorful interface.

Tools include a three-band EQ, a channel fader, samples and various effects that you can use to mess with your music. You can also scratch and use the likes of the ‘Sync’ button and ‘Auto Gain’ to get two tracks lined up and at the right volume level.

This might sound like a lot to fit on a phone screen, and indeed WeDJ works better on a tablet, but if you’ve got a 5.5-inch or above display it works surprisingly well on smartphones too.

There’s no real tutorial, so it’s perhaps not one for complete beginners (though you can muddle your way through to pleasing effect). It’s also got a one-off $1.99/£1.59 IAP that you need to playback more than one song at once. Worth it, we’d say, if you want to get the most out of the app.

Free

Whether group cinema trips or getting together at someone’s house, watching things can be quite a sociable experience, but it’s not always easy to get people in the same place at the same time.

Rabbit – Watch Together aims to somewhat solve that problem by letting you start a video playing on your device and then invite friends into a chat room that includes the video. That way you can all watch together and talk, wherever you are.

Rabbit can play videos from YouTube and the web, so there’s plenty to choose from (though you can’t use it for locked content on the likes of Google Play or iTunes), and as well as text you can also turn on voice chat or video in the room – though that’s not really advisable if you actually want to watch something.

And if you have no-one to watch with Rabbit can help with that too, as you can make your stream public, so anyone can join your room.

Free + $7.99/£6.30 monthly subscription

Fitbit Coach is the new name for Fitstar, so it’s not a new app as such but it is worth highlighting.

Packed full of workouts and exercise plans, Fitbit Coach has a wide range of content with things suited for most abilities, most of which doesn’t require a gym membership.

There are dozens of bodyweight workouts, plus guided walks and runs and at the time of writing 24 different treadmill workouts, each of which has a duration and an estimated calorie burn that you can see before you start.

There are also various ‘programs’ which have you work through a selection of workouts each week.

Most workouts are videos, which you can cast to your TV if you prefer, but there are also audio ones for runs and walks.

The app aims to keep the workout variety up, which – along with built-in soundtracks from Fitbit Radio – should help keep you motivated, and despite the Fitbit branding there’s no requirement to have a Fitbit in order to use it.

The only problem is that most of this stuff is hidden behind a monthly subscription, but you can access a handful of workouts for free to get a taste of the app before putting any money down.

Free

We all need to convert currencies from time to time, and Currency Converter Plus Free is one of the best ways to do it.

The main screen has a calculator-like number pad and above that there’s the currency you’re converting from and a list of up to ten other forms of monetary excitement. You just type out the figure you want converting and can see at a glance what it amounts to in loads of other currencies.

You can choose from all world currencies to convert to and from, as well as Bitcoin, which not all converters have, and precious metals.

You can view historic graphs, showing how rates between two different currencies have changed over anything from a week to a year, you can choose from several sources to get the rates from, such as the European Central Bank and Yahoo Finance, and the whole interface makes conversions quick, because as soon as you start entering a number you’ll start seeing the altered total.

Free

There are a lot of browsers on Android, but Microsoft Edge is worthy of attention as a big-name browser.

This will mostly appeal to people who already use it on desktop, as also having the app allows you to seamlessly move content between your phone and PC (as long as you’ve got the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s update) and to access your favorites and reading list on all devices.

But Microsoft Edge is a good browser beyond that, with a stripped-back reading view for when you don’t want any distractions, a built-in QR code reader, voice search if you don’t want to type, and a private mode. Plus the near-essential ability to change your default search engine from Bing to Google.

The ‘Preview’ in the name refers to the fact that the Microsoft Edge browser is still in beta, which is the only real mark against what’s generally a slick, good-looking mobile browser. This means it may not be entirely stable and bug-free just yet, but we haven’t experienced any issues.

Free + various IAP

One of the great things about Android is that if there’s a software feature on another phone there’s a good chance there will be an app which can bring it to yours.

And so it is with Floating Bar LG V30. As the name suggests, this brings the floating bar from the LG V30 to other Android handsets.

Activate it and a little arrow will sit permanently somewhere on one side of your screen. You can drag it around freely, while tapping on it will bring up a row of shortcuts to five apps of your choosing.

You can also change the opacity of the bar and choose whether or not to display it on the lock screen.

That much is free, but you can also pay $2/£1.79 to unlock the ability to add tools (such as a torch or Bluetooth toggles), contacts and websites to the bar, while a separate IAP of the same amount will remove adverts.

Opt for the paid version and it’s a close approximation of what LG offers on the V30, and either way it’s one more handy option for giving you quick access to your favorite apps.

There are similar things around, such as takes on Samsung’s Edge screen that you can add to your phone, but Floating Bar LG V30 is a useful, polished alternative.

£2.69/$2.99

If you’re a Twitter addict you probably know that the official client isn’t the only or arguably the best Twitter app available for Android. There are numerous alternatives, and Fenix is one of the oldest and most well liked.

Now in version 2.0, Fenix 2 for Twitter is one of the best ways to view your Twitter feed. It’s highly customizable, letting you choose not just the theme and font size, but also change the layout and even customize gesture controls.

So for example you could have a long press retweet the thing you’ve tapped on, or have it act as a quote or a reply, among other things, while single and double taps are also customizable.

You can also choose what you want to get notifications for, and whether you want those notifications to vibrate, flash your notification light or play a ringtone. There’s support for multiple accounts too, and the whole interface looks great.

Free

There are entirely too many ways to find and consume news on the Play Store, yet somehow Squid manages to be a bit different and worthy of mention.

First, the bits that aren’t different, but are still good: you can select from a range of interests (such as tech, culture and politics) and you’ll then be provided with a feed of relevant news stories. Or rather several feeds, as you can switch between a combined one, a feed of ‘top news’ and separate feeds for each individual topic you’re interested in.

Each of those feeds is image-heavy and attractive to look at, and with a tap you can be on the web page hosting a story. Loading these pages seems surprisingly fast, but if you prefer there’s also a reader view, which cuts out most of the adverts and other extraneous content.

You can also block any sources you don’t want to see and get push notifications for new stories. So far, so familiar, albeit done well.

The new bit is where the name Squid comes in, as you can also annotate stories with ‘ink’, underlining or circling key bits, adding stickers, then sharing the result with friends. That’s handy if you want to draw attention to a specific part of a story, rather than the whole thing, or simply want to leave your mark on it.

If that feature appeals then squid stands out from the raft of similar apps and services. If not, it’s still a highly competent and completely free news feed.

Free

With over one billion active Facebook users there’s a good chance you’re one of them. But Facebook’s various apps can prove harsh on battery life and data use alike, so if you use Facebook Messenger you might be interested in Messenger Lite.

This, as the name suggests, is a lightweight alternative to Facebook Messenger. It’s an official Facebook app and still includes many of the core features – you can send and receive messages, see who’s online and even have voice calls.

But Messenger Lite is smaller than Messenger, so it takes up less space on your device. It should also load faster and use less data; in fact, it’s even designed to work on 2G networks and in places with unstable networks. This makes it ideal if you have a small data allowance or don’t have great coverage where you are.

The whole interface is also a lot less cluttered than the main Messenger app. There are some downsides – you can’t make video calls or play games for example, so for the full fat experience you’ll have to stick with the main app, but if you mostly just use it for instant messaging then Messenger Lite could be a worthwhile downgrade.

Free + $0.99/£0.89 IAP

Chances are there are a number of things you’ll want to know in the morning before you start your day. They might include the weather, the latest news or any reminders you’ve set for the day, among other things. With Clockwise Smart Alarm you can hear all these things as soon as you wake up.

Simply set an alarm time and customize what things you want to hear, with the selection also including a fact about this day in history, a daily quote, Reddit or Twitter posts, the travel time to a custom destination and a countdown to an event.

Then when your alarm goes off it will start by making a loud alarm sound (of your choosing) to make sure you wake up, before either automatically reading out various information from the selection above, or doing so when you tap ‘play’.

You can also choose from a wide range of male or female voices to read things out, set multiple alarms and choose which content you want each alarm to read.

With options like customizable volumes and snooze lengths, Clockwise Smart Alarm handles the basics well, while also offering far more than a typical alarm clock.

The free version of Clockwise Smart Alarm limits you to three different types of content (called ‘modules’) for any one alarm, but a single IAP of $0.99/£0.89 lets you unlock unlimited modules, unlimited alarms and removes adverts, which is probably worth it if you start using this your main alarm clock.

Free

Superfast broadband and a powerful router aren’t the only things you need to ensure a fast, stable internet connection. One other potentially major factor is making sure you’re on an uncongested Wi-Fi channel, and Wifi Analyzer helps you do that.

It can tell you what channel your network is on and also which nearby networks are using, so you can see how busy your channel is relative to others.

This should give you a good idea of which to use, but there’s also a separate screen, giving each channel a star rating and suggesting which you should move your router to.

There’s also a signal meter so you can see how strong your Wi-Fi signal is in different parts of your house or on different channels, so you’re better able to optimize it.

Actually changing the channel will be handled by your router’s interface, but if you’ve got a modern one it should be fairly simple to do, and could lead to a faster, more reliable connection.

$2.99/£2.29

Smoothies tend to be both tasty and healthy, and the selection on Daily Blends are also all vegan and gluten-free, but should appeal even if you don’t have those requirements.

The Daily Blends app has over 100 smoothie recipes, split into categories such as energizing, workout, dessert and kid-friendly, and you can also search based on the ingredients that you have to hand, or filter based on dietary requirements (such as nut free).

When you find a recipe you can also tweak it to your liking, swiping across an ingredient that you don’t want to use to view an alternative.

The Daily Blends app is enjoyable to use too, with big high-quality photos of all the smoothies and descriptions to accompany the recipes.

You can save favorites and add all the ingredients for a smoothie to an in-app shopping list with a tap, and the recipes are mostly quite quick and simple.

For the purchase price you get all the smoothie recipes, but there are additional IAPs to unlock full meal plans if you want to go beyond smoothies.

Free + $0.99/£0.79

If you’re anything like us you need all the help you can get when it comes to remembering to do, basically, anything. To-do lists and the like help, but you need to remember to look at them, while calendar reminders only pop up at certain times.

Memory Helper on the other hand appears whenever you wake up your phone, which we’re probably doing about 3000 times a day. In other words, this app was seemingly built for us, but it could help you too.

It displays a simple list of tasks or reminders, which you can swipe away once you’ve completed, or tap a button to bring back an accidentally cleared entry.

You can customize the colors and layout, set it to only run when you have things in the list or always run, choose whether you want it to pop up before or after your lock screen and a few other helpful functions.

Basically Memory Helper is just good at making sure the things you want to remember end up in front of your eyes as often as possible, in a mostly unintrusive way.

There is an IAP to remove adverts, but oddly it only claims to remove them for a month, before presumably you have to pay again. This isn’t worth it in our opinion, as the free version is fully featured.

$0.99/£0.89

PhET Simulations are interactive simulations designed to demonstrate and teach you various aspects of science and maths, such as forces and motion, the area of shapes, fractions, atoms, gravity and more.

The simulations and the concepts they’re teaching vary in complexity, but generally we’d say they’re suitable for teenagers and above, and are also handy tools for any adults who want a slightly hands-on refresher or guide to these subjects.

The PhET Simulations app contains over 45 of these simulations, so there’s plenty to explore. And some go beyond just simulating a thing, also offering a ‘game’ to help you learn it.

For example, the Area Builder simulation lets you put colored squares on graph paper and as you do it will tell you the area and perimeter of the shape you’ve created, while the Area Builder game will challenge you to construct a shape of a certain area.

If you’re already confident in your science and maths skills then PhET Simulations might seem a bit basic – though we’d wager you’ll still learn something from some of them – but for everyone else it’s a useful and fun tool.

Free + $7.49/£5.99 subscription

Desygner lets you unleash your inner graphic designer on your phone or tablet, but with an intuitive interface and thousands of templates it’s simple enough for beginners to use.

You can combine text, shapes, images, stickers, backgrounds and more to create logos, posters, adverts, PowerPoint-like presentations, postcards or any number of other things where images and typography are important.

Each component of your design can be moved, resized, rotated, flipped, duplicated or have its color changed, and you can work with multiple layers. Results can then be saved to your device to be used wherever you want.

We suspect it might be a bit limited for professional graphic designers, who may want more freedom to completely create designs from scratch, but for everyone else Desygner is a great way to make something that looks professional.

The basic app is free but certain features, as well as the majority of the templates, require a monthly subscription which costs $7.49/£5.99. That’s probably worth it if you’re going to use the app semi-regularly, but if you just want to design something as a one-off you might find the free version good enough.

$4.99/£2.99

There are a number of thesaurus apps on Google Play and some are free, but if you’re regularly writing – or looking words up – on your Android device, then Chambers Thesaurus is one of the best options, and worth the outlay.

It has entries for almost 40,000 words, along with around 400,000 synonyms and antonyms, and they’re browsable alphabetically so you can read through the thesaurus if you want, rather than simply searching for a word.

When you do search, you’ll get results as soon as you start typing, and not just for words that fit the spelling, but also similarly spelt words, those that sound similar, and those that are often confused for one another.

You can also bookmark entries and cross reference with the Chambers Dictionary or WordWeb apps (if you have them), or look the words up on Wikipedia, Wiktionary or Google, all with a tap from Chambers Thesaurus.

Data is stored locally, so you don’t need an internet connection to use the Chambers Thesaurus app itself, and there are all sorts of customization options, letting you change the color scheme, font size and more.

Free + various IAP

Weather forecasts are usually a bit dull – you might think that’s unavoidable – but What The Forecast?!! disagrees, as it provides a sentence of humorous commentary alongside every forecast.

There are well over 6,000 of these humorous phrases in the app, and you’ll always get one appropriate to the current forecast, and it will usually be quite amusingly negative. Musing even on sunny days, for example, that the weather will probably be rubbish tomorrow.

The personality doesn’t end there, as What The Forecast?!! also has animated backgrounds appropriate to the current weather, and it has all the usual information, such as wind speed, 7 day forecasts, sunrise and sunset times, chance of rain and more.

The core app is free, but for $1.99/£1.89 you can remove adverts, while a separate purchase of the same amount will let you add a weather widget to your home screen.

£0.59/$0.99

You might think you have a good idea of what Recent App Switcher does from the name, and you’d be half right. One of the things it does is give you an easy way to switch between recently used apps, in this case by pinning them to a bar on your notifications screen.

Of course, the recent apps menu is never far away anyway so this isn’t super useful, though being able to access recent apps from the lock screen as you can with Recent App Switcher is nice. What’s more useful is the ability to also pin your favorite apps to the notifications screen, so they’re never more than a swipe away.

Or you can have a mix of recents and favorites, and you can choose between either one or two rows of icons, each with between one and eight apps.

Speaking of shortcuts, you’re not limited just to apps, you can also add shortcuts to functions, like calling a specific contact or opening a specific Dropbox folder.

And Recent App Switcher is visually customizable too, letting you choose the shape of the shortcuts and the color of the bar they’re on, as well as whether or not to display labels under the shortcuts.

In all it’s a handy slice of Android customization ideal for power users or anyone who just wants to make their phone feel more tailored to them.

$2.99/£2.79

Box breathing is a breathing technique used by the Navy Seals, sports professionals and others, which involves taking long deep breaths and holding them.

It has a number of supposed benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety, to improving blood flow, awareness, focus and attention.

While we’re not sure how sound the science is for all of that, it can certainly serve as a calming influence, and the BoxBreathing app helps you get started.

It contains an instructional video to help you get the technique down, and then can guide you through the required breaths, with words or sound effects and visual indicators to tell you when to breathe in and out.

You can work through a number of levels, which adjust how deep a breath to take and how long to hold it, or just stick with the basics, and BoxBreathing also keeps a log of your breathing practice and can be set to remind you to do it daily.

There are even gamification features, with new ranks handed out for practicing a number of consecutive days. And all in all, the app is about as comprehensive as possible for such a simple technique, and justifies its price tag.

Free + $29.99/£27.99 monthly subscription

won’t be for everyone, but if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, or know someone who is, it could be enormously useful.

The core feature is simply that it listens to what’s being said and shows it on the screen, so if you’re deaf or hard of hearing you can have Ava listen to someone who’s speaking to you and then you can read their responses.

Alternatively, if you’re talking to someone with hearing difficulties you can show them a text version of what you’re saying.

Ava can also learn your voice, so it can better determine whether it’s you or someone else speaking, and if you’re communicating with other people who use Ava then you’ll also be able to see who else said what in the conversation (rather than the app assigning all speech to you or ‘other’).

Ava isn’t perfect – it doesn’t always hear what’s being said perfectly in our limited experience with it, and for unlimited use you’ll need to shell out a hefty $29.99/£27.99 per month, but for those who could benefit from Ava that’s a price that could be worth paying, and for free you can still host up to five hours of group conversations each month.

$0.99/£0.59

TouchBar for Android is inspired by the feature of the same name for the MacBook Pro. It adds a little shortcut bar to the bottom of your screen, which you can reveal or hide with a swipe up from the bottom left corner, or set to stay visible permanently.

The bar gives you quick access to a number of features, and you can customize which ones, choosing from the likes of brightness, volume, Wi-Fi, Google Search and music controls. You can also change the size and colors of TouchBar to your liking.

TouchBar is accessible from any app and even the lock screen, giving you a handy, customizable alternative to the shortcuts found on your notifications pull-down.

There’s a of the app, but that forces you to watch an advert video every time you change a customization setting, which gets old fast, so the $0.99/59p is the better option.

$9.99/£7.99 per month

In the age of the web, magazines can feel like a dated concept, but does a decent job of bringing them up to date by offering a Netflix-like subscription service.

We say Netflix-like, but while most of the content on there is far from brand new, you have access to the latest issues of thousands of magazines on Readly, all in digital form and with unlimited access for $9.99/£7.99 per month.

You can read content from not just your own country but various others too and the selection is strong, with plenty of big names on offer, along with more niche magazines.

Readly is accessible on phone, tablet and computer, so you can access your magazines almost anywhere with a screen, and even download them for offline reading.

You also have access to back issues, and navigation is a breeze, handled by intuitive swipes and taps. Readly even supports crosswords and other puzzle content, so you can do just about everything you could with a paper version.

Free + $0.99/£0.99 IAP

You’re probably well aware of how customizable Android is, and may even have dabbled with custom icon packs to change up the look of your apps, but what if you want to go a step further and actually create icons of your own? Well, then you probably want .

This app, as the name suggests, lets you adapt your existing app icons – though the changes you make can be significant enough to almost count as a whole new icon.

You can pick from a range of shapes to surround the existing icon, not just squares and circles but also things like paw prints, flowers and hearts. Then choose the size and position of the existing icon within that shape, change the orientation if you like, and change the color.

If you want to change the original icon completely you can import new images from your gallery or icon packs and you can even change the text underneath the icon.

Batch edits make the whole process a lot faster if you want to make a whole set of similar icons, and the interface is intuitive and simple.

Many of the shapes and features are locked behind a $0.99/£0.99 IAP, but you can get a taste for free.

Free + $2.99/£2.49 IAP

Chromecast, AirPlay and the like are great, but not all services support them, which is where an app like comes in.

The app lets you cast web videos and music from your phone or tablet to your smart TV and other smart devices, including Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Nexus Player, Android TV, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

It also works with some older smart TVs which support DLNA/UPnP/AllShare, but may not come with an easy built-in casting solution.

Just head to the video or audio you want using Tubio’s built-in browser and hit the cast button. It’s as simple as Chromecast, but more far-reaching. Although we can’t be sure it will work with all website video content, it certainly widens your options.

Tubio also works with locally stored content and you can keep using your phone as normal once you start streaming, without interrupting the content.

The app is free, but for $2.99/£2.49 you can get rid of adverts and unlock HD playback (where supported).

Free + various IAP

Want to learn something new? could be a good place to start. This website and app has over 40,000 video courses across more than 12,000 topics, covering everything from yoga and meditation to psychology, photography and web development.

Courses are of varied lengths and aimed at various different levels. Some are just a few hours long, others have dozens of hours of content.

And they’re more than just videos. You can also ask the instructors (all of whom are theoretically experts in their fields) questions, or communicate with other students.

Some courses are free, but many cost money (starting at under $10/£10 and rising to well over $100/£100). Don’t baulk at the fees though – the pricier ones are often available at a discount and you have access to them for life. Courses can also be downloaded, cast to your TV or viewed on just about anything with a web browser.

Some courses are better than others, but with numerous user reviews for most of them it’s easy to separate the good from the bad before you put any money down.

Free + $2.99/£2.59 IAP

is a simple app designed to remind you of the things you’re grateful for. When you open the app it asks you to write out something you’re grateful for and optionally add an associated image. You can build up a collection of these, which you can then view whenever you need a reminder that there are good things in your life.

That much is free, but Gratus really comes into its own when you pay a $2.99/£2.59 IAP, as this unlocks a reminder feature, so you’ll be reminded daily to add something you’re grateful for, along with the ability to see your entries in a widget or as a notification, allowing you to see them whenever you use your phone, without having to actively launch the Gratus app.

That’s important, because having to launch the app is an extra step that you might not get into the habit of doing.

Though the idea of writing or seeing things you’re grateful for might seem inconsequential it can have a lasting effect on your happiness, as it’s otherwise so easy to overlook good things, or take them for granted where writing them down helps cement them for future moments.

Free

is a video streaming service a bit like Netflix, except, well, not really (bear with us). Like Netflix it has a variety of shows across a number of genres (all of which are fiction in this case), but unlike Netflix it’s all original content, so you won’t see these anywhere else.

Blackpills is also designed specifically for mobile. You can’t access it on a desktop, just an Android or iOS device, consisting of very short episodes of around 10-15 minutes, so you can fit them into a coffee break or while you’re waiting for the bus.

The app promises a new episode every day and a new original series every week, so while there’s not a huge amount of content on there right now it should grow rapidly, and it’s all completely free.

Blackpills also lets you subtitle the shows in various languages and change the streaming quality, though notably you can’t download any of its content for offline viewing.

Still, as a free service there’s little to complain about here, especially as – crucially – the content is of a generally quite high quality. It’s not quite a match for Netflix, but think low-to-mid budget TV standard, rather than student film.

Free + $2.99/£2.99 IAP

Your phone’s status bar can show you how much battery you’ve got left or how strong your signal is, but what if you want to be able to see how much memory your phone has left, how many unread messages you have, the battery temperature or your CPU usage?

For those things and many more there’s . And rather than just an icon, it shows a colored bar at the top of the screen, giving those indicators a much more eye-catching look.

You can also add bars for some of the jobs the status bar already does, such as one for battery life, and the length of the bars depends on the status of the thing they’re tracking. So for battery life it would run halfway across the top if you’re at 50%.

But you’re not limited to putting the bars at the top. They can run along the left, right or bottom edge instead, or some combination of the four.

You can customize the colors and sizes of the bars too, but if you want more than two displayed at once you’ll need to go pro with a one-off $2.99/£2.99 IAP. This lets you have up to nine bars at once.

It’s a worthwhile purchase if you want to be able to see more things at a glance, or just like the stylish design of the bars.

Free + $1.99/£1.99 IAP

isn’t actually a new app, rather a rebranding of WeatherBomb, but it’s worth your attention if you don’t know about it.

Yes, it’s a forecast app, but it’s more interested in showing you how weather systems move than simply telling you whether it’s going to rain.

The app gives you a map and then you can choose whether to track precipitation, cloud, wind speed, temperature, pressure or wave height. Then zoom in or out with a pinch and swipe slowly to see how these conditions are predicted to change over a period of hours or days, by watching for example clouds or storms move across the map.

You can add arrows to give you a clearer picture of the direction weather systems are moving in, key details such as the temperature are shown at all times, and you can customize the units of measurement.

Flowx probably won’t replace your normal forecast app, in fact the app description even suggests you use Flowx alongside a more conventional weather app, but if you want deeper insight into weather patterns it’s a fascinating addition to your app arsenal.

And if you get really into it an IAP of $1.99/£1.99 per year or $4.99/£4.99 as a one-off will remove adverts, give you 10 days of data instead of 7 and ensure you get future features.

Free

From the company behind the popular app comes a new tool, this time aimed at freeing up space on your device.

can find and delete duplicate files, compress images (and suggest large or rarely used ones that you might want to compress), highlight the size of cached files in apps and clear the cache from any or all of them, and display big files, new files and rarely used apps, in case any of them are expendable.

ES Disk Analyzer also has a basic file explorer built in, but one which orders files and folders based on their size, so you can see where all your storage is going, and you can delete files and folders from there too.

Obviously, much of what it finds will be things you want to keep, so it’s up to you to decide what is and isn’t important, but ES Disk Analyzer at least highlights many things that you’re unlikely to need and makes it easy to get a clear picture of your overall storage use.

Free + $1.99/£1.69 IAP

If you’ve got any interest in Space Flight you probably know that launches of shuttles and satellites are happening all the time. The thing is keeping track of them all can be tricky, especially as various different space agencies are responsible for organisation.

keeps track of launches, so finally you don’t have to. It has a calendar of all the upcoming take-offs, along with details and a link to the live stream of the launch where applicable.

You can also see details of different space vehicles, information on previous launches, and search for specific events if you know what you’re after.

Most of the features are free, but if you’re a serious shuttle-head you can pay $1.99/£1.69 to automatically have upcoming events synced to your calendar, get weather details from the launch pad for historical and upcoming launches, and get dynamic pictures of launch vehicles as a watch face for your Android Wear device. As well, of course, as supporting the developer – which should never be overlooked as a reason to pay.

Free + $2.99/£2.89 IAP

There are lots of apps for discovering and building a watch list of films, but is more feature-packed and polished than most.

For one thing, you can make a list not just of things that you want to watch, but also have a second list of the things you’ve seen, so you’ll never again get halfway through a movie only to realize that you’ve watched it already… but it was just really, really forgettable.

You can also rate the movies you’ve seen, and the app builds up a third list with all of your ratings. Movies can be searched for by name or genre, or you can check out what’s coming soon, and results are shown as big poster-like images.

Tap on one and you can see a film’s length, release date, synopsis, trailer, cast and crew and its ratings both from users of the app, and from other sources, including IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

You can also find reviews from other CineTrak users – or add your own, and if you’re looking for something similar the app has you covered there too, with a list of similar films.

The app also builds up stats based on your watch list, telling you how many films you’ve seen and how long you’ve spent watching them.

All that’s completely free, but for $2.99/£2.89 you can remove adverts, get curated lists, staff picks and unlock the ability to collect achievements. If you use CineTrak a lot, that’s probably worth paying.

Free + $2.49/£2.19 IAP

The quick settings that you can reach from the notification shade on Android phones can be enormously useful, saving time when you want to toggle often used features, but the features you use most may not be the ones available on this screen. If that’s the case, you’ll want .

This lets you add new shortcuts to the quick settings screen, with 63 options available in all. These cover expected things like the flashlight and NFC, but also far more unusual options like a random number generator, and one you can tap to launch straight into typing out a new tweet on Twitter.

As well as adding shortcuts to the quick settings screen, Shortcutter also has an optional swipe-out sidebar, or you can add shortcuts to the home screen or app drawer.

The core app is free but it’s well worth paying the $2.49/£2.19 IAP, as this unlocks additional quick settings to give you a more fully-featured experience.

Free

Avoiding sunburn can seem like a dark art at times. It doesn’t always need to be that warm or sunny to get burned, and everyone’s different in terms of how much UV they can take. It’s also not always clear how often you should reapply sunscreen, but with you need never get burned again.

The app tells you the UV index now and throughout the day, so you can plan the best time to be outside. And based on the current index, combined with what you tell it about your skin (the tone, whether you have many freckles etc), it will estimate how quickly you’ll burn and what if anything you should wear to prevent damage – be it sunscreen, sunglasses or a hat.

You can also tell the app the type of sunscreen you’ve applied and what activity you’re doing, and then it will tell you how soon you should re-apply, and can even alert you when it’s time to.

UVLens is a simple, easy to use app that makes the effects of UV – and how to combat them – far clearer.

Free + various IAP

There are many apps aimed at motivating you to walk more, but is more gamified than most. Like a standard pedometer it tracks your steps, as well as making a rough estimate of how many calories you’ve burnt, but Walkr also has you exploring a galaxy.

Your steps are converted into energy which fuels your spaceship, allowing you to blast off to new solar systems and discover new planets.

These planets have cute illustrations and unique wildlife which you can feed by building food factories. Feeding the wildlife in turn gives you currency which you can spend on more buildings and ship upgrades.

And there are also missions to undertake, leaderboards to compare your progress with friends, and achievements to unlock.

Walkr can take a bit of learning as the tutorial only covers the very basics, but once you get to grips with it it’s surprisingly engaging.

It’s also essentially free, but you can speed up your progress with various IAP. We don’t recommend that, since it’s a bit of a cheat and the whole point of the app is to get you moving more. You might, however, want to spend $1.99/£1.56 to remove adverts.

Free + various IAP

If you’re an outdoor adventurer then is for you, as whether it’s hiking, cycling or climbing you can use the app to plan routes.

Enter a start and end point, an activity and a fitness level, and the app will present you with an appropriate route.

However you can also manually change the route to your liking and view information such as the total distance, estimated time it will take and even a breakdown of the types of surface you’ll be traveling on, how far up and down hill you’ll go and what the highest and lowest points are.

And the map itself highlights parks and other scenic areas, so you can make sure your routes pass through the most interesting places.

That’s way more detail than a typical mapping app would give you, and once you’ve planned a route you can get turn by turn navigation and save it for future use.

You can also add photos to routes and share them, so friends and family can see where you’ve been or attempt the same journey. And Komoot has global maps, so you can use it wherever you are.

The only downside to Komoot is that you only get one region for free and regions usually only cover a single city or county. After that you’ll pay $3.99/£3.99 for each of them, or $29.99/£29.99 for the whole world.

Free

Finance manager apps tend to be quite dry, which in turn can make you less likely to use them, but turns the whole business of tracking your income and outgoings into a game.

You manage a cute little city, with new buildings added each time you add an income or expense, each of which you can do in several taps.

Workers can be hired and assigned jobs, buildings can be upgraded, and if you’re diligent in your tracking your city can flourish.

If friends are using the app too you can compete with them and visit their cities, and everything is backed up to the cloud, so you won’t lose your progress if you change phone.

But, like any good finance tracker, you can also see graphs and charts of your spending and income, to get a clearer picture of where your money is going, and there are dozens of achievements to work towards, many of which require saving and careful money management.

$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 .

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.

Free

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 , 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.

Free

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.

Free

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.

Free

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.

$2.99/£1.99

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.

$1.99/£1.99

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 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 + $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 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 Weather.com – 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.

$4.99/£4.99

It’s all too easy to get bogged down with negative thoughts and stress, but 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.

Free + monthly subscription

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.

$1.99/£1.99

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.

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.

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.

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.

$1.99/£1.49 

We all need a little help relieving stress sometimes, and 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.

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 , 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 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 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.

$7.99/£6.26

There’s no shortage of apps for digital artists, but 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.

£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.

£2.49/US$3.99/AU$3.99

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.

£3.30/$4.99/AU$6.09

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.

£4.99/$4.99/$AU9.25

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.

Free

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.

£0.77/US$0.99/AU$1.16

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.

£2.99/US$2.99/$AU5.53

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.

£4.42/US$6.50/AU$7.97

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.

£7.69/US$12.09/AU$15.22

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.

£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.



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Best Chromebooks 2018: the 8 top Chromebooks ranked


Although Windows laptops are finally getting longer battery life, thanks to ARM support, the Chromebook continues to impress us with all-day battery life as well. . When Google revealed its original laptop lineup almost seven years ago, we weren’t exactly sure what the future would hold for the best Chromebooks. Now, in 2018, there are over 25 million Chrome OS users in the world who have embraced the world of the best Chromebooks.

Much like Windows 10 laptops, Chromebooks are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, brands and prices – and now that Google is working on a tablet mode for Chrome OS and a way to install a second OS, the variety is only going to grow. The central tenets that govern the best Chromebooks is an attention to details like long battery life and speedy performance, without the high prices that top-end CPUs carry. However, that does mean they won’t feature the best graphics power. But, they don’t need it, as they make the most of the hardware they do have at their disposal.

However, even with the best Chromebook, you’ll still be restrained to what your web browser (and Google’s own Android storefront) can do. So, you’ll want to look elsewhere for all of your gaming and media editing needs. Still, if you spend a large portion of your computer time in word processors, email clients and video streaming services, you might want to look into picking up one of the best Chromebooks.

Shortly after declaring the end of the Chromebook Pixel, Google brought it back in a way nobody was anticipating before its announcement, and subsequent release back in October 2017. Now, it’s the Google Pixelbook, and it stands completely independently of its spiritual predecessor. That’s because, unlike the Chromebook Pixel, it can natively run Android apps, on top of building upon Chrome OS. And, when you add in the huge storage space, fantastic stylus and Google Assistant, it shouldn’t be surprising when we say the Pixelbook is the best Chromebook available in 2018.  

Read the full review: Google Pixelbook

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus Chromebook Flip 

Before the Asus Chromebook Flip came calling, there really weren’t very many affordable Chromebooks rocking full-fat Intel Core processors and full HD 1080p displays. Backlit keyboards and even touchscreens were hard to find. Then, the Chromebook Flip arrived and changed everything. With this Chromebook, all of these facets and more were brought to life. Put simply, if you want the key features that the Pixelbook offers without selling a kidney, this is a great alternative. While its sound quality leaves a bit to be desired, the Asus Chromebook Flip is one of the best Chromebooks hiding behind an attractive price tag. 

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip 

When Google announced that Android apps would be heading to Chromebooks, it was only a matter of time before Samsung took its mastery of the two OSs and crafted something truly beautiful. Boasting a 12.3-inch QHD touchscreen and a 360-degree hinge, the Samsung Chromebook Pro is widely acclaimed for its built-in stylus – the first of its kind to show up in a Chromebook. Not only does it show up a majority of laptops in its own category, but it’s better than most Android devices as well, our issues with the speakers and keyboard aside. 

Read the full review: Samsung Chromebook Pro

  • This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the .

Best Chromebook

If the Samsung Chromebook Pro is all about versatility, the Dell Chromebook 11 is about value. Reinforced by a 180-degree hinge, sturdy design and a sealed keyboard and trackpad in addition to a punchy typing experience, this Chromebook is a perfectly portable package. Not only adequately suited for school and work, the Dell Chromebook 11 even packs a set of loud stereo speakers for listening to music or watching videos. Don’t worry about dinging it, either, as this device remains the most rugged Chromebook on our list.

Read the full review: Dell Chromebook 11

With the build quality of a MacBook, we can forgive the Acer Chromebook 15 for its aversion to 2-in-1 form factors. But, given that most Chromebooks coming out nowadays are fully convertible due to the wide implementation of Android app support, the Acer Chromebook 15 had to prove itself to us with more than a stellar design. So in addition to its ability to lay flat using a 180-degree hinge, this 15-inch beauty makes great strides with its battery life as well, having lasted nearly 17 hours in our own TechRadar battery life test.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the HP Chromebook 14.

Acer Chromebook R11

Though we don’t doubt that it will soon be replaced judging by the recent announcement of the Chromebook Spin 11, the Acer Chromebook R11 still holds up to this day as a formidable option for those on the prowl for the best Chromebook around. It isn’t the most powerful machine on the planet, but at least it gives you access to the complete library of Google Play Android apps. Better yet, it does so on a touchscreen display that can be cycled back into tablet mode, complemented by an all-metal finish that you won’t be embarrassed by.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook R11

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus Chromebook Flip 

best chromebook

The HP Chromebook 14 is practically the posterchild for Chromebooks. Its rock-bottom starting price and zippy interpretation of Chrome OS only begin to exemplify its appeal. While Acer's Chromebook 15 serves up similar components, HPs' 14-incher is a bit more compact and better looking to boot. Embellished with a bright blue finish and a screen devised to surprise, this machine boasts the best value out of every Chromebook you could buy. Albeit average in both battery life and performance, the HP Chromebook 14 remains a sublime value nonetheless.

Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus Chromebook Flip 

best chromebook

The HP Chromebook 13 goes above and beyond what any of us would expect from a Chromebook. You’re guaranteed at least a 1440p screen, two USB-C ports and, if you're willing to shell out just a bit more cash, you can also snatch yourself an Intel Core-M processor rather than a Pentium. All of this is complemented by incredible style and a metallic design that exudes Pixel influence. Given that Google discontinued its own Chromebook earlier in the year, the HP Chromebook 13 is one of the few remaining alternatives. 

Read the full review: HP Chromebook 13

Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop. 

Juan Martinez and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.



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Best HP laptops 2018: the top HP laptops we’ve seen and tested


HP is slowly but surely building back the name that made it a widely beloved PC maker back in the day. And, it’s done so with laptops, the same brand of mobile workhorses that were thought to be dead just a few years ago. But, thanks to the advent of Windows 10 and convertible laptops that no longer suck, even the best HP laptop is getting better every day. These days, we’ve seen HP become a company concentrating on design flair rather than cheapness.

In some ways, this means the reintroduction of its increasingly prominent ‘privacy filter,’ called SureView, to an ever-expanding range of devices. In others, it equates to the gorgeous gold trimmings we’re seeing on HP’s high-end offerings, like the HP Spectre line of Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s. To help you find the best HP laptop for your demands, we’ve gone hands on with a wide range of hardware, narrowing our picks down to the 5 best HP laptops on the market in 2018. 

HP has been steadily perfecting its flagship 13-inch convertible laptop and it’s among one of our favorite 2-in-1 laptops for a few years running. It has perfectly slim bezels and is lightweight enough to use as a tablet regularly. As a regular notebook, you won’t find many with a more tactile keyboard, brilliantly vibrant display or two Windows Hello biometric solutions.

This may very well be the most gorgeous laptop we’ve ever laid our eyes (and hands) on. The ceramic white finish is complemented by a two-prong, glossy hinge design that’s absolutely irresistible. That’s all fine and dandy, but in terms of power it’s a real winner too. As a matter of fact, it leverages the sheer might of the most recent 8th-generation Intel CPUs nigh-flawlessly.

What it lacks in performance prowess, the HP Pavilion 15 makes up for in finesse. It’s one of the few remaining AMD-based laptops that HP is still making, which should certainly entice those on a budget. It’s affordable, but don’t think cheap. The HP Pavilion 15 is a rare example of a laptop that knows how to strike a balance, making it an excellent value proposition, especially for students.

No one wants to blow their entire tax refund on a laptop, which is why laptops like the HP Chromebook 14 G4 exist to begin with. It’s economical without feeling cheap, a distinction that many Chromebooks have made since their inception six years ago. The HP Chromebook 14 G4 in particular boasts a subtle, yet refined appearance that will remain in style for years to come.

Gaming laptops have long been criticized for their lack of upgradeability, thereby making them more disposable than a gaming desktop by nature. HP, on the other hand, has subverted this crucial flaw by adding an essential features that most gamer’s notebooks lack. Specifically, the Omen X adds overclocking, meaning you determine performance rather than HP.



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Best free iPad apps 2018: the top titles we've tried


Free apps sometimes have a bad reputation, but many are gems that are so good you won’t believe they’re free. We’ve scoured the App Store to find the very best, and sorted them into handy categories, which you can find on the following pages.

On this page you'll find the app of the week – our top new selection to try out, and check back every seven days where you'll find a new option to test. After that, it's the best entertainment apps (surely the best reason to own an iPad…) and a variety of categories on the following pages to tickle your fancy.

Free app of the week: Lego Creator Islands

Lego Creator Islands is for fans of the popular construction toy when there are no plastic bricks close at hand. It starts you off with a little island, on which you build a house. Construction is simple: tap piles of bricks and they magically combine into pieces of a finished Lego set, which you drag into place.

Rinse and repeat a few times and your kid will beam as they watch their island increasingly come alive, populated with Lego minifigs and bounding Lego animals, and dotted with buildings, trees and vehicles.

The experience is, admittedly, not that deep, and you can see most of what it has to offer in an hour or so. But it’s always fun to return to, and certainly beats treading on a Lego brick while barefoot.

The best free entertainment apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for having fun with your iPad, whether shopping, coloring, reading, watching TV or using Twitter.

Letterboxd

Letterboxd is an iPad take on a social network for film lovers. Sign up, and you can do all the usual following friends and bellyaching, only here you’re complaining about whether Blade Runner 2049 is 2049 times worse than the original, and who’s the best James Bond. If that sounds awful but you’re a film lover, Letterboxd has another use: the ability to log everything you’ve ever watched.

You can quickly assign ratings and ‘likes’ to your personal favorites, which are subsequently displayed as a grid of artwork that can be sorted and filtered. Beyond that, you can add tags, a review, and the date when you last watched the film. On the iPad’s large display, the entire app looks great – not least when you start checking out trailers of those films you’re keen to see.

Attenborough Story of life

If you’ve any interest in wildlife films, Attenborough Story of Life is a must-have. It features over a thousand clips picked from Attenborough’s decades-long journey through what he refers to as the “greatest story of all…how animals and plants came to fill our Earth”.

The app is split into three sections. You’re initially urged to delve into some featured collections, but can also explore by habitat or species, unearthing everything from big-toothed sharks to tiny penguins skittering about. Clips can be saved as favorites, or grouped into custom collections to later peruse or share with friends.

Some of the footage is noticeably low-res on an iPad – there’s nothing here to concern your Blu-Rays, and that’s a pity. Still, for instant access to such a wealth of amazing programming, this one’s not to be missed.

Chunky Comic Reader

The majority of comic-book readers on the App Store are tied to online stores, and any emphasis on quality in the actual apps isn't always placed on the reading part.

But with many more publishers embracing DRM-free downloads, having a really great reading app is essential if you're into digital comics. Chunky Comic Reader is the best available on iOS.

The interface is smart, simple and boasts plenty of settings, including the means to eradicate animation entirely when flipping pages.

Rendering is top-notch, even for relatively low-res fare. And you get the option of one- or two-up page views. For free, you can access web storage to upload comics. A single $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99 pro upgrade adds support for shared Mac/PC/NAS drives.

eBay

eBay provides access to a colossal online marketplace. Anyone can sell, and so you’ll find huge brands mingling with individuals attempting to offload the entire contents of their basements and attics.

Something of a design playground, the iPad app is regularly reworked; but whatever eBay’s designers come up with, a large touchscreen device proves to be the best way to search. You can quickly drill down into categories, and explore individual listings, swiping between photos.

If you need to keep track of things, the app offers automated notifications, and can flag searches, making it easy to see whenever new matching listings appear. And if you want to sell yourself, you can do that in-app, with eBay providing shortcuts to get your listing started (through barcode scanning or matching your item to publicly available information about it).

Fingerpaint Magic

The iPad and App Store combine to create an extremely strong ecosystem when it comes to art apps, but that's not terribly helpful if you don't have an artistic bone in your body.

Fortunately, there are apps like Fingerpaint Magic that enable a much wider range of people to create something visually stunning.

As you draw, feathers of color explode from your fingertip, bleeding into the background in a manner that feels like you're drawing with an alien material atop viscous liquid. You can adjust your brush and color – 'neon' from the former coming across like sketching with fire.

Artwork can be further enhanced using mirrors or background filters prior to export. The process is at once aesthetically pleasing, fun and relaxing.

A single $0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49 IAP unlocks a set of premium brushes, but Fingerpaint Magic's free incarnation has more than enough to unleash your inner artist, regardless of your skill level.

Instapaper

Instapaper acts as a time-shifting service for the web. You can send pages to it from any browser (PC, Mac or mobile), whereupon Instapaper strips away everything bar the content. When you open the app, it’ll quickly sync your article collection. You can then read anything you’ve stored in a mobile-optimized layout that’s entirely free from cruft.

On an iPhone, Instapaper is handy for commuters wanting to catch up on saved pages while belting along on a train. But on iPad, the larger display transforms Instapaper into a superb lean-back reading experience – your own personal periodical that’s free from the gimmickry and iffy curation found in glossier fare, and that’s instead all about the content.

Melodist

Part meditative relaxation tool, part sleep aid, Melodist is all about creating melodies from imagery. All you have to do is load something from your Camera Roll, and the app does the rest.

On analyzing your photo or screen grab for changes in hues, saturation and brightness, a music loop is generated. You can adjust the playback speed, instrument and visual effect (which starts off as a lazily scrolling piano roll), along with setting a timer.

Although occasionally discordant, the app mostly creates very pleasing sounds. And while it’s perhaps missing a trick in not displaying your photo as-is underneath the notes being played (your image is instead heavily blurred as a background), you can export each tune as audio or a video that shows the picture alongside the animation.

These free exports are a pretty generous gesture by the developer; if you want to return the favor, there’s affordable IAP for extra sounds, animation and MIDI export.

Notes on Blindness VR

After years of eyesight deterioration, John Hull became blind in 1983. Notes on Blindness VR has six chapters taken from his journal of the time. Each is set in a specific location, marrying John’s narrative, binaural audio, and real-time 3D animation, to create an immersive experience of a ‘world beyond sight’.

Although designed as a VR experience, this app remains effective when holding an iPad in front of your face, moving the screen about to scan your surroundings. The mood shifts throughout – there’s wonder in a blind John’s discovery of the beauty of rain, disconnection when he finds things ‘disappear’ from the world when sound stops, and a harrowing section on panic.

Towards the end, John mulls he’s “starting to understand what it’s like to be blind,” and you may get a sense of what it’s like, too, from the app, which ably showcases how to craft an engaging screen-based experience beyond the confines of television.

Pigment

Adult colouring books are all the rage, proponents claiming bringing colour to intricate abstract shapes helps reduce stress – at least until you realise you've got pen on your shirt and ground oil pastels into the sofa.

You'd think the process of colouring would be ideal for iPad, but most relevant apps are awful, some even forcing tap-to-fill. That is to colouring what using a motorbike is to running a marathon – a big cheat. Pigment is an exception, marrying a love for colouring with serious digital smarts.

On selecting an illustration, there's a range of palettes and tools to explore. You can use pencils and markers, adjusting opacity and brush sizes, and work with subtle gradients. Colouring can be 'freestyle', or you can tap to select an area and ensure you don't go over the lines while furiously scribbling. With a finger, Pigment works well, but it's better with a stylus; with an iPad Pro and a Pencil, you'll lob your real books in the bin.

The one niggle: printing and accessing the larger library requires a subscription in-app purchase. It's a pity there's no one-off payment for individual books, but you do get plenty of free illustrations, and so it's hard to grumble.

Sandbox

Sandbox offers an interesting take on coloring apps. Instead of virtual paper and pens (as per the excellent Pigment), Sandbox gives you a quirky combination of painting by numbers and old-school pixel art.

Select an image and it appears in grayscale. A tap zooms you in to a grid of numbers. Select a palette color and tap relevant grid squares to start coloring things in. Tap the wrong squares and your colors remain – but the numbers stick around in zoomed view, reminding you of your ‘error’.

Because you have to tap every single square, Sandbox might for some feel tedious. But there’s a meditative quality to proceedings, and there are plenty of images to color for free. A drag-to-color brush wouldn’t go amiss though.

Twitterrific

The official Twitter client may get the social network’s new toys first, but Twitterrific is a better bet for the more discerning Twitter user. It has a beautifully designed interface that's a delight to use, helpfully merging mentions and messages into a unified timeline, saving you mucking about switching tabs.

Customization options give you the means to adjust the app's visual appearance (and the app can optionally automatically switch to a dark theme at night), and powerful mute and muffle features block users and hashtags you want no part of.

Pay $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 and the app adds notifications, Apple Watch support, and translation support, along with removing ads.

WWF Together

With a noodly soundtrack playing in the background, WWF Together invites you to spin a papercraft world and tap points of interest to learn more about endangered species. 16 creatures get fuller treatment – a navigable presentation of sorts that hangs on a key characteristic, such as a panda's charisma, or an elephant's intelligence.

These sections are arranged as a three-by-three grid, each screen of which gives you something different, be it statistics, gorgeous photography, or a 'facetime' movie that gives you a chance to get up close and personal.

Apps that mix charity and education can often come across as dry and worthy, but WWF Together is neither. It's informative but charming, and emotive but fun.

Rather neatly, stories can be shared by email, and this screen further rewards you with origami instructions to make your own paper animal; once constructed, it can sit on the desk next to all your technology, reminding you of the more fragile things that exist in our world.

YouTube

YouTube is the best way to watch YouTube videos on your iPad. On the dynamic Home tab, you can quickly get at interesting stuff. It includes channels you subscribe to, and videos you didn’t yet finish watching; but also, it makes recommendations based on your viewing habits. The more you watch, the better they get.

On selecting something to watch, the video itself sits at the top-left of the screen, allowing you to scroll through comments other viewers have left, and peruse an up-next feed. There’s also a full-screen view for a more immersive experience.

Fittingly, for a service seemingly attempting to usurp traditional television, the YouTube app also provides access to content you’ve bought on Google Play. And with AirPlay and Chromecast support, getting what you’re watching to an actual telly is a cinch, too.

Can't figure out which iPad to buy? Watch our guide video below!

  • For a mix of free and paid apps, check out our amazing Best iPad apps chart. If you're more into a smaller form-factor or have your eye on the iPhone X check out our list of the best free iPhone apps.
  • Haven't bought an iPad yet and not sure which is best? We've got them listed on our best iPad ranking – or you can check out the best tablets list to see the full range available now.
  • Are you a professional? Then our pick of the 10 best business apps should have something for you.

The best free art and design apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for painting, sketching, drawing, graphic design and animation.

Artomaton – The Motion Painter

Artomaton – The Motion Painter is a little like Prisma, in that it uses AI to transform photos into something that looks like it was painted or sketched. However, this isn’t a single-tap filter app; Artomaton wants to afford you at least some control over your creations.

To start with, you paint in the natural media effects to the degree you’re happy with. Do so lightly and you get the subtlest of sketches; cover every inch of the canvas and you end up with a more complete piece of art. Beyond that, there are plenty of settings to fiddle with.

The resulting images aren’t always entirely convincing in terms of realism, but they always look good. And although many materials are locked behind IAP, you get plenty for free.

Adobe Illustrator Draw

On the desktop, Adobe Illustrator is more about enabling creative types to work up pin-sharp illustrative fare than freehand drawing. But on iPad, Adobe Illustrator Draw concentrates on doodling. You can experiment with five highly configurable brush tips, which feel great whether drawing with a stylus or a finger.

But dig deeper into the options and the professional sheen of this app becomes apparent. There are perspective grids, a layers system for mixing and matching artwork and imagery for tracing over, and stencils you temporarily overlay when extra precision is needed.

Completed images can be exported to Camera Roll or the clipboard, and Adobe Creative Cloud users can also send art to Photoshop or Illustrator with layers preserved.

A straightforward vector export option would be nice, although that’s perhaps too big an ask for a free app designed to suck you into a larger ecosystem.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch

Although Photoshop started out as a tool for retouching imagery, plenty of people use it for creating art from scratch. It’s presumably that line of thinking that led to Adobe Photoshop Sketch, an iPad app that enables you to draw with virtual takes on ink, paint, pastel and markers.

The tools themselves are broadly impressive and configurable. You can adjust brushes in all kinds of ways, and then utilize blend modes and layers for complex art, and grids/stencils when more precision is needed.

Export feels a bit needlessly restrictive – you’re mostly forced to send drawings to Adobe’s Behance network – even Photos isn’t an option.

Also, while tools work well individually, they don’t really interact, such as when dragging pen through a glob of paint. Still, for free, Adobe Photoshop Sketch gives you a lot – and even if you don’t use the app for finished art, it works (as its name suggests) as a pretty neat sketchpad.

Autodesk SketchBook

We tend to quickly shift children from finger-painting to using much finer tools, but the iPad shows there's plenty of power in your digits — if you're using the right app.

Autodesk SketchBook provides all the tools you need for digital sketching, from basic doodles through to intricate and painterly masterpieces; and if you're wanting to share your technique, you can even time-lapse record to save drawing sessions to your camera roll.

The core app is free, but it will cost you $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 to unlock the pro features.

Brushes Redux

The original Brushes app was one of the most important in the iPhone's early days. With Jorge Colombo using it to paint a New Yorker cover, it showcased the potential of the technology, and that an iPhone could be used for production, rather than merely consumption.

Brushes eventually stopped being updated, but fortunately went open source beforehand. Brushes Redux is the result.

On the iPad, you can take advantage of the much larger screen. But the main benefit of the app is its approachable nature. It's extremely easy to use, but also has plenty of power for those who need it, not least in the layering system and the superb brush designer.

Canva

The idea behind Canva is to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating great-looking layouts based on your photos. Select a layout type (presentation, blog graphic, invitation, and so on) and the app serves up templates to work with.

These are mostly very smart indeed, but the smartest thing about Canva is that these starting points can all be edited: swap out images for your own photos, adjust text boxes, and add new elements or even entire pages.

Because of its scope, Canva isn't as immediate as one-click automated apps in this space, but the interface is intuitive enough to quickly grasp. Our only niggle is the lack of multi-item selection, but with Canva being an online service, you can always fine-tune your iPad creations in a browser on the desktop.

Pixel art editor – Dottable

Despite being lumbered with an awkward name, Pixel art editor – Dottable is a usable and nicely-conceived app. Choose a canvas size and then the interface is split between your drawing area, layers, and tools.

The basics are all there for creating old-school pixel art, but beyond brushes and fills, Dottable adds some fairly sophisticated shapes and transform tools.

If you want to trace an image, it can be imported, and optionally converted to pixel art form. Exports are also dealt with nicely, either exporting your image as a PNG, or converting each layer into a single frame of an animated GIF.

None of this is enough to trouble the pro-oriented Pixaki, but as a freebie for pixel artists, Dottable is mightily impressive.

Flickr

Instagram might be the current online photo-sharing darling, but it's clear veteran Flickr remains up for a fight. On iPad, it's a lovely app, with a refined and minimal UI that makes browsing simple and allows photography to shine.

Another smart aspect of Flickr is its extremely generous 1 TB of free storage. You can set videos and photos to automatically upload, and they stay private unless you choose to share them.

There are compatibility issues with the most modern Apple toys as Live Photos end up as stills on Flickr. Even so, Flickr makes Apple's free 5 GB of iCloud storage look pathetic by comparison; and even if you use it only as a belt-and-braces back-up for important images, it's worth checking out.

Folioscope

One of the great things about the app revolution is how these bits of software can help you experience creative fare that would have previously been inaccessible, unless you were armed with tons of cash and loads of time. Folioscope is a case in point, providing the basics for crafting your own animations.

We should note you’re not going to be the next Disney with Folioscope – the tools are fairly basic, and the output veers towards ‘wobbling stickmen’.

But you do get a range of brushes (of differing size and texture), several drawing tools (pen, eraser, flood fill, and marquee), and onion-skinning, which enables you to see faint impressions of adjacent frames, in order to line everything up.

The friendly nature of the app makes it accessible to anyone, and there’s no limit on export – projects can be shared as GIFs or movies, or uploaded to the Folioscope community, should you create an account.

MediBang Paint

MediBang Paint feels like one of those apps where you’re always waiting for the catch to arrive. Create a new canvas and you end up staring at what can only be described as a simplified Photoshop on your iPad. There are loads of drawing tools, a layers system (including photo import), and configurable brushes.

Opening up menus reveals yet more features – rotation; shapes; grids – but palettes can also be hidden, so you can get on with just drawing. Judging by the in-app gallery of uploaded art, MediBang is popular with manga artists, but its tools are capable enough to support a much wider range of digital painting and drawing styles – all without costing you a penny.

PicsArt Animated Gif & Video Animator

You won’t trouble Hollywood with PicsArt (or PicsArt Animated Gif & Video Animator to use its unwieldy full name). However, it is a great introduction to animation and also a handy sketchpad for those already immersed in the field.

A beginner can start with a blank slate, paper texture, or photo background, on to which an animation frame is drawn. Add further frames and previous ones faintly show through, to aid you in making smooth transitions.

Delve further into the app to discover more advanced fare, including brush options and a hugely useful layers system. When done, export to GIF or video – or save projects to refine later. That this all comes for free (and free from ads) is astonishing.

Quark DesignPad

Quark DesignPad scratches an itch if you need to get started on some layouts while on the go with your iPad – or just fancy doing the same away from the glowing screen of your Mac or PC.

This isn’t a full-fledged desktop publishing app, note. Instead, it’s about creating frameworks for page designs – wireframes that show the placement of headings, images, columns, and boxes. You can work pages up from scratch, or use one of the pre-defined layouts. With its grids, pop-up menus, and a little nudge ‘joystick’, the interface proves to be flexible and efficient.

Output options, however, are initially limited. You can save flat images to Photos, but if you want PDFs or to print via AirPrint, you’ll need to go pro ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99).

Seedling Comic Studio

Although it's apparently designed for kids aged 9-11, Seedling Comic Studio comes across a lot like a free (if somewhat stripped back) take on iPad classic Comic Life. You load images from your Camera Roll (or take new ones with the camera), arrange them into comic-book frames, and can then add all manner of speech balloons, filters and stickers.

Decided that your heroic Miniature Schnauzer should have to save the world from a giant comic-book sandwich? This is your app! Naturally, there are limitations lurking. The filter system is a bit rubbish, requiring you to cycle through the dozen or so on offer, rather than pick favourites more directly, and a few of the sticker packs require IAP.

But for no outlay at all, there's plenty of scope here for comic-book creation, from multi-page documents you can output to PDF, to amusing poster-like pages you can share on social networks. And that's true whether you're 9 or 49.

Tayasui Sketches 

Tayasui Sketches is a drawing tool, designed to be realistic, versatile, and usable. And although various IAPs lurk for the full toolset (which includes a ruler, extra layers, and pressure sensitivity), you get an awful lot for free.

You start by selecting a paper type, or use an imported photo as the basis for your masterpiece. Then it’s time to get cracking with the pens and brushes. Although it’s perhaps a stretch to call them totally realistic, they all offer pleasing results. The watercolor brush in particular is lovely, bleeding into the paper and leaving splats on the canvas when you tap the screen.

In fact, the app as a whole is very pleasant to use, offering the right balance between trying to help and getting out of your way when you’re busy painting. And as a final neat touch, if you’re stuck for inspiration there are some coloring book pages thrown in for free.

The best free education apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for learning new things – from coding to astronomy.

JigSpace

JigSpace uses augmented reality (AR) to educate, by way of 3D models you can fiddle about with before your very eyes. Although the range isn’t exactly in Wikipedia territory, you get quite the variety of ‘jigs’ for free. There’s the anatomy of a trebuchet, a floating eye to fiddle around with, a manual car’s transmission, and many more.

JigSpace rapidly finds a flat surface onto which your object is projected. You can then pinch to resize it, or spin it with a swipe. Objects aren’t static either – many animate, and are gradually disassembled across a series of slides. For example, an alarm clock opens to show its gears and mechanisms – and because this is AR, you can check everything out from any angle.

Khan Academy

Maybe it's just our tech-addled brains, but often we find it a lot easier to focus on an app than a book, which can make learning things the old fashioned way tricky. That's where Khan Academy comes in. This free app contains lessons and guidance on dozens of subjects, from algebra, to cosmology, to computer science and beyond.

As it's an app rather than a book it benefits from videos and even a few interactive elements, alongside words and pictures and it contains over 10,000 videos and explanations in all.

Everything is broken in to bite-sized chunks, so whether you've got a few minutes to spare or a whole afternoon there's always time to learn something new and if you make an account it will keep track of your progress and award achievements.

Py

Py wants to teach you to communicate with computers. You provide some information about the kind of coding you fancy doing, and it recommends a course – anything from basic HTML through to delving into Python.

Lessons are very reminiscent of those in language-learning freebie Duolingo. A colorful, cartoonish interface provides questions, and you type out your answer or select from multiple choice options.

Py could be more helpful when you get something wrong, but its breezy, pacy nature gives it a real energy and game-like feel that boosts focus and longevity.

Unlike Duolingo, Py doesn’t have any interest in being free forever. A premium tier locks a chunk of content behind a monthly fee (along with access to mentors, who can help you through tough spots via an integrated chat). But for no outlay, there’s still plenty here for budding website – and app – creators to get stuck into.

SkyView Free

SkyView Free is a stargazing app that very much wants you to get off your behind and outside, or at least hold your iPad aloft to explore the heavens.

Unlike TechRadar favourite Sky Guide, there's no means to drag a finger to manually move the sky around – you must always point your iPad's display where you want to look – but there's no price-tag either. And for free, this app does the business.

There are minimal ads, a noodly atmospheric soundtrack, an optional augmented reality view (to overlay app graphics on to the actual sky), and a handy search that'll point you in the direction of Mars, Ursa Major, or the International Space Station.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is an app about coding, although you’d initially be forgiven for thinking it a weird game. Early lessons involve guiding oddball cartoon cyclops Byte about an isometric landscape by way of typed commands, having him trigger switches and grab gems along the way.

This is, of course, sneakily teaching you the fundamentals of logic and programming, and the lessons do then gradually become more involved. However, at no point does Swift Playgrounds become overwhelming. And the split-screen set-up – instructions and code on the left; interactive world based on your work on the right – feels friendly and intuitive.

It’s not Xcode for iPad, then, but perhaps a first step in that direction. More importantly, Swift Playgrounds can act as a first step for people who want to start coding their own apps, but for whom the very idea has, to date, simply been too daunting.

Wikipedia

Often, third-party apps improve on bare-bones equivalents provided as the ‘official’ take on a product, but Wikipedia is an exception. This freebie app for browsing the online encyclopedia is excellent on iPad – and probably the best option on the platform.

The Explore page lists a bunch of nearby and topical articles; after a few uses, it’ll also recommend things it reckons you’d like to read. Tap an article and the screen splits in two – (collapsible) table of contents to the left and your chosen article to the right. Articles can be searched and saved, the latter option storing them for offline perusal.

It’s a pity Wikipedia doesn’t rework the Peek/Pop previews from the iPhone version (by way of a long-tap), but otherwise this is an excellent, usable encyclopedia for the modern age.

Yousician

Learning a musical instrument isn't easy, which is probably why a bunch of people don't bother, instead pretending to be rock stars by way of tiny plastic instruments and their parent videogames.

Yousician bridges the divide, flipping a kind of Guitar Hero interface 90 degrees and using its visual and timing devices to get you playing chords and notes.

This proves remarkably effective, and your iPad merrily keeps track of your skills (or lack thereof) through its internal mic. The difficulty curve is slight, but the app enables you to skip ahead if you're bored, through periodic 'test' rounds. Most surprisingly, for free you get access to everything, only your daily lesson time is limited.

TED

TED is a video app designed to feed your curiosity, by watching smart people talk about all kinds of subjects.

Although the organization’s name stands for ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’, it’s fundamentally interested in ideas. Example talks we watched during testing included a piece about screen time for kids (and why related fears are not true), not suffering in silence from depression, and mind-blowing magnified portraits of insects. What we’re saying is: this app has range.

It also has smarts. Along with a standard search, you can have the app ‘surprise you’ with something courageous, beautiful, or fascinating, and revisit favorites by delving into your watch history and liked talks, which sync across devices.

TED’s perhaps not an app you’ll open daily, but it’s a breath of fresh air when you desire brain food rather than typical telly.

The best free health, food and exercise apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for cooking, relaxing and keeping fit.

Breathe+

Many of us are caught in high-stress environments for much of our lives, and electronic gadgets often do little to help. Apple has recognized this on Apple Watch, which offers a breathing visualization tool. But Breathe+ brings similar functionality to your iPad.

You define how long breaths in and out should take, and whether you want to hold your breath at any point during the cycle. You then let Breathe+ guide your breathing for a user-defined session length.

The visualization is reminiscent of a minimalist illustrator's take on a wave rising and falling on the screen, but you can also close your eyes and have the iPad vibrate for cues. For free, there are some ads, which aren't pretty, but don't distract too much. For $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99, you can be rid of them, along with adding themes and usage history stats.

Kitchen Stories

As you launch Kitchen Stories, you catch a glimpse of the app's mantra: "Anyone can cook". The problem is, most cooking apps (and indeed, traditional cookery books) make assumptions regarding people's abilities.

Faced with a list of steps on a stark white page, it's easy to get halfway through a recipe, look at the stodge in front of you, reason something must have gone terribly wrong, and order a takeaway.

Kitchen Stories offers firmer footing. You're first met with a wall of gorgeous photography. More importantly, the photographs don't stop.

Every step in a recipe is accompanied by a picture that shows how things should be at that point. Additionally, some recipes provide tutorial videos for potentially tricky skills and techniques. Fancy some Vietnamese pho, but not sure how to peel ginger, prepare a chilli or thinly slice meat? Kitchen Stories has you covered.

Beyond this, there's a shopping list, handy essentials guide, and some magazine-style articles to peruse. And while you don't get the sheer range of recipes found in some rival apps, the presentation more than makes up for that — especially on the iPad, which will likely find a new home in your own kitchen soon after Kitchen Stories is installed.

TaoMix 2

There's a tendency for relaxation aids to be noodly and dull, but TaoMix 2 bucks the trend. You get the usual sounds to aid relaxation (wind, rain, birds, water), but also an interface that nudges the app towards being a tool for creating a kind of ambient personal soundtrack.

The basics are dead simple: tap the + button, select a sound pack, and drag a sound to the canvas. You then manually position the circular cursor within the soundscape, or slowly flick so it lazily bounces around the screen, your various sounds then ebbing and flowing into the mix.

This makes TaoMix 2 more fun to play with than its many rivals. Of course, if you just want to shut the world out, that option exists too: load a soundscape you've previously created, set a timer, and use TaoMix 2 to help you nod off.

Should you want something other than what's found within the generous selection of built-in noises, packs are available for purchase (including whale sounds, 'Japanese garden' and orchestral strings); and if you fancy something entirely more custom, you can even import sounds of your own.

White Noise+

There are quite a few apps for creating ambient background noise, helping you to focus, relax, and even sleep. White Noise+ is perhaps the best we’ve seen – a really smartly designed mix of sound and interface design that is extremely intuitive yet thoroughly modern.

It works through you adding sounds to an on-screen grid. Those placed towards the right become more complex, and those towards the top are louder. Personalized mixes can be saved, or you can play several that are pre-loaded.

For free, you do get an ad across the bottom of the screen, only five sounds, and no access to timers and alarms. But even with such restrictions, White Noise+ is pretty great. Throw $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 at it for the extra features and noises, and it borders on exceptional.

7 Minute Workout

7 Minute Workout is designed to give you a complete fitness workout in just seven minutes. It’s far from alone on the App Store, but we like this take because it’s straightforward – and also properly free (rather than being riddled with IAP).

The exercise screens are basic, but bold. It’s always obvious where you are in a routine, and if you’re unsure about the next step, you can tap a video playback button to view a demonstration.

Beyond the exercises, the app enables you to track your weight and set the gap between exercises, which are regularly switched during the routine. The only downside is not being able to block specific exercises if, for example, you don’t have access to a chair, or cannot perform them due to accessibility reasons.

Epicurious

Epicurious is a massive recipe book for iPad. It provides access to over 35,000 recipes, and offers a magazine-like presentation. The entry screen is awash with new recipes with vibrant photography; you can quickly flick between that and dedicated pages for themed recipes and new videos.

The app’s search is excellent. You can select by meal type, and filter available recipes by selecting specific ingredients, cuisine types, and dietary issues (such as low-fat and wheat-free). Flicking back and forth between filters and results can irk, but the app at least does so quickly and efficiently.

The actual recipe pages are a touch basic – there’s no hand-holding like the step-by-step photos you get in Kitchen Stories. Still, if confident in your abilities, it’s a great app to broaden your culinary horizons.

The best free kids apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps, learning tools, and games for toddlers and children.

Sago Mini Friends

Sago Mini Friends is a sweet-natured collection of adorable mini-games, ideal for young children. After selecting a character to play, you visit a neighborhood of colorful houses. Knock on a door and you’ll be invited inside for a playdate.

The activities are varied and smartly designed. There’s a birthday party, where gifts are gleefully unwrapped, and a birdhouse to fix by hammering in nails. Our favorite, though, is a cleverly conceived snack time that finds two friends sitting side-by-side. Feed one and the other looks a bit glum, which encourages the young player to learn to share.

Entirely lacking IAP and advertising, Sago Mini Friends is a no-brainer for any parent who wants a safe, free, fun, educational app for their youngster to spend a bit of quality time with.

LEGO AR-Studio

LEGO AR-Studio is the app we first thought of when Apple started banging on about augmented reality. After all, who wouldn’t want a bunch of virtual Lego bricks to play with, which could magically integrate with the real world?

Well, it turns out Lego wouldn’t, because that’s not what this app offers. Instead, you get a small selection of AR Lego kits, which you can mess about with, take videos of, and thereby try to trick your friends into wondering why their own Lego doesn’t zoom about the place on remote control.

It’s admittedly a bit shallow, and feels a touch proof-of-concept. But here’s hoping this is just the app equivalent of a Lego baseplate on which to build, rather than a completed set.

Zen Studio

According to the developer's blurb, Zen Studio is all about helping children to relax and focus, by providing a kind of finger-painting that can only exist in the digital realm. Frankly, we take issue with the 'children' bit, because Zen Studio has a welcoming and pleasing nature that should ensure it's a hit with every iPad user.

You start off with a grid of triangles and a column of colored paints. Tap a paint to choose your color and then tap individual triangles or drag across the grid to start drawing. Every gesture you make is accompanied by musical notes that play over an ambient background soundtrack.

Bar the atmosphere being knocked a touch by a loud squelch noise whenever a new paint tube is selected, the mix of drawing tool and musical instrument is intoxicating. When you're done, your picture can be squirted to the Photos app, ready for sharing with the world.

This is, however, a limited freebie in some ways. You get eight canvases, which can be blank or based on templates. If you want more, you can buy an IAP to unlock the premium version of the app. Still, for no outlay at all, you get a good few hours of chill-out noodly fun — more, if you're happy drawing over the same canvases again and again.

Doctor Who: Comic Creator

Doctor Who: Comic Creator does what you’d expect from its name. When you’re between seasons of the hit sci-fi show, you can satisfy yourself by fashioning custom adventures about everyone’s favorite regenerating time traveler, who goes everywhere and everywhen in a beaten-up old time machine.

Creating comics is akin to slapping down stickers – only you can move things around later. And you get a pleasingly diverse range of page layouts, along with a monster maker, so you can combine parts of the Doctor’s enemies into something suitably horrific.

The main downside is most foes lurk behind various IAPs – would it have killed the BBC to throw in a Cyberman for free? Sadly, there’s no way to use the app to get all timey-wimey and change people’s minds when the app was being made.

Lego Life

Lego Life is a social network for kids whose lives revolve around plastic bricks. Once you’re signed up, you explore feeds and follow themes, to become a better builder, or just see what’s current in the world of Lego.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a nod towards advertising of a kind, in new product videos being liberally sprinkled about. But mostly, this is an app about inspiration. You’re regularly offered building challenges and knowledge tests; during lazy days, you can slap stickers all over a virtual Lego kit, or build a mini-figure for your profile.

Given that it’ll mostly be kids using the app, it’s worth noting usernames are anonymized. You can’t type your own, and instead select from semi-random word lists. EmpressSensibleMotorbike, meet ElderSupersonicJelly!

Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby

Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby is a two-part game designed for children as young as six months old.

In Level 1, your youngling – now armed with a worryingly expensive piece of technology – can tilt and tap the screen to make shapes appear and bounce around. But Level 2 ramps things up considerably.

“Let’s put on a show,” chirps the app as the five shapes wiggle and jig about on the screen, lurking above a colorful keyboard. And you know what’s next: maddeningly jaunty earworms, augmented by a deliriously happy baby smacking the huge piano keys.

Your slow descent into madness will be worth it for the smile on their little face.

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales is a dressing up app. You choose from a male or female customer, and then set about giving them a new and exciting outfit.

As with other Toca Boca fare, this is a tactile, immediate app. Tap a garment to adjust its type; drag and you’ll change its length. Accessories can be added from an expanding box, if you decide your appreciative on-screen ‘manakin’ needs a trendy hat.

The best bit, though, is the materials section. For each part of the garment, you can drag and drop materials onto it. This isn’t a question of merely recoloring either – you can pinch/rotate to make all kinds of crazy patterns, and even import photos or snap a texture using the iPad’s camera. Great stuff for tiny wannabe fashion designers.

The best free music and audio apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for listening to podcasts, making music or being a virtual DJ.

Novation Launchpad

Novation Launchpad is about remixing electronic music using a grid of loops. For the beginner, it’s a friendly, intuitive introduction to music-making. You load a genre and just tap away, safe in the knowledge everything will always sound great. You can even record live mixes and share them with friends.

There’s depth to Novation Launchpad as well – effects to apply, filters to experiment with, and the option to mix and match pad sounds. If you’re prepared to dip into your wallet, you can take things much further, importing your own audio files and working with a larger range of effects.

On iPad, you can buy all of these things – and a MIDI sync feature – for a one-off $14.99/£14.99/$AU22.99 IAP. But even if you stick to the free version, Novation Launchpad proves to be suitably noisy fun.

Auxy Music Studio

The thinking behind Auxy Music Studio is that music-making – both in the real world and software – has become too complicated. This app therefore strives to combine the immediacy of something like Novation Launchpad's loop triggers with a basic piano roll editor.

For each instrument, you choose between drums and decidedly electronic synths. You then compose loops of between one and four bars, tapping out notes on the piano roll's grid. Subsequent playback occurs on the overview screen by tapping loops to cue them up.

For those who want to go a bit further, the app includes arrangement functionality (for composing entire songs), along with Ableton Link and MIDI export support. Auxy's therefore worth a look for relative newcomers to making music and also pros after a no-nonsense scratchpad.

Figure

The iPad is the perfect mobile device for composing music, with its fairly large display and powerful innards. This has resulted in a range of involved and impressive music-creation tools, such as Korg Gadget. Sometimes, though, you yearn for something simpler for making some noise.

This is where Figure comes in. Within seconds, you can craft thumping dance loops, comprising drum, bass and lead parts. The sounds are great, being based on developer Propellerhead Software's much-loved Reason. They can be manipulated, too, so your exported loops sound truly unique.

Garageband

On an iPhone, music-making app GarageBand is mightily impressive, but on iPad, the extra space proves transformative. In being able to see more at any given time, your experience is more efficient and enjoyable, whether you’re a beginner tapping the grid view to trigger loops, a live musician tweaking a synth on stage, or a recording artist delving into audio waveforms and MIDI data.

Apple’s app also cleverly appeals to all. Newcomers can work with loops, automated drummers, and piano strips for always staying in key. Pros get seriously impressive track controls with configurable effects, multi-take recording, and Audio Unit support for bringing favorite synths directly into GarageBand.

If you don’t feel terribly creative sitting in front of a PC, GarageBand’s the perfect way to unleash your Grammy-winning songwriter in waiting.

Groovebox

Groovebox is a really clever app for anyone interested in making electronic music. The smartest bit is in the app being approachable for newcomers, yet offering power and features for seasoned noise makers.

The basics involve selecting a track type (drums, bass, or synth), and then a sound, whereupon Groovebox starts playing a loop. If you’re not happy with what you hear, tap the dice and Groovebox will spit out a different pattern.

Most apps of this ilk are samples-based, and so grind to a juddering halt at this point. But Groovebox goes further, offering a keyboard for live play, and a piano roll grid for tweaking a loop’s notes – or removing them all to add your own. You can also build up entire tracks using a ‘song sections’ feature.

The only major limitation of the free version is many advanced instrument controls sit behind IAP. Still, for no outlay, Groovebox offers plenty of head-nodding entertainment.

Music Memos

It’s fair to say that Music Memos is primarily designed for the iPhone, enabling musicians to quickly capture a song idea, which can later be expanded on. But if you’re in a studio – home or otherwise – strumming away on a guitar, and with an iPad nearby, the app can help you compose your next chart-troubler on a much more user-friendly screen size.

You kick things off by tapping a circle in the middle of the screen, whereupon Music Memos starts recording. Tap again to stop. The app then attempts – with some degree of success – to transcribe the chords played, and enables you to overlay automated bass and drums.

It’s when tapping the audio waveform in the recordings list that the iPad’s value becomes clear – you get the whole screen to see your in-progress song, which is great for playing along with or when considering further tweaks. And with iCloud sync, you can always record on iPhone and peruse later on iPad.

Novation Launchpad

GarageBand offers a loop player, but Novation Launchpad was doing this kind of thing years before, and in a manner that's so intuitive and simple that even a toddler could record a track. (We know — ours did.)

The app comprises a set of pads, where you choose a genre, tap pads, and they keep playing until you tap something else in the same group. Performances can be recorded, and you can also mess about with effects to radically change the output of what you're playing.

Whether you're a musician or not, Launchpad is a great app for making a noise. And if you fancy something a bit more unique than the built-in sounds, there's a $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 in-app purchase that lets you import your own samples.

Overcast

Podcasts are mostly associated with small portable devices – after all, the very name is a mash-up of 'iPod' and 'broadcast'. But that doesn't mean you should ignore your favourite shows when armed with an iPad rather than an iPhone.

We're big fans of Overcast on Apple's smaller devices, but the app makes good use of the iPad's extra screen space, with a smart two-column display. On the left, episodes are listed, and the current podcast loads into the larger space on the right.

The big plusses with Overcast, though, remain playback and podcast management. It's the one podcast app we've used that retains plenty of clarity when playback is sped up; and there are clever effects for removing dead air and boosting vocals in podcasts with lower production values.

Playlists can be straightforward in nature, or quite intricate, automatically boosting favourites to the top of the list, and excluding specific episodes. And if you do mostly use an iPhone for listening, Overcast automatically syncs your podcasts and progress, so you can always pick up where you left off.

Pacemaker

There are quite a few DJ apps for iPad, but they mostly tend to make the assumption you’re a master of the decks already. With its bright colors, straightforward nature, and lack of a price tag, Pacemaker feels rather more approachable to the typical wannabe deck spinner.

You can mess about with demo tracks or load tunes from your iPhone and Spotify. Then it’s a case of messing around with virtual decks, sliders and buttons to crossfade, beat-match, and add effects. If you hit on something especially great, record your live performance and share it with your friends.

It’s worth noting the app does have IAP lurking, but that’s really only for people properly bitten by the bug. Splash out and you can grab new effects or a premium subscription for precision mixing. For free, though, there’s plenty to enjoy.

Remixlive

Fancy creating a slice of dubstep, hip hop, or deep house? Largely bereft of musical talent (or just feeling a bit lazy)?

Don’t worry – Remixlive has you covered. Using the app, you select a genre (others are available via IAP – and some extras are even free), and then superstardom is just a case of triggering loops by tapping large colored pads.

The app’s pretty much idiot-proof – pads are labelled, everything’s always in time or in tune, and you can record your efforts by tapping a big REC button. Lovely.

But if you fancy going a bit further, the app’s happy to oblige: there’s a mixing desk for adjusting levels, live effects, and an editor to mix and match pads from different genre sets. Want to import/export your own sounds? Grab the relevant IAP ($5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99).

Seaquence

There are two ways to approach Seaquence, where the first is as a really bizarre interactive album. Select a track and a bunch of little creatures swim about on the screen, which results in spatialized sound mixes. (Stick some headphones on to hear how their movements affect the placement of sounds being played.) You can manually fling the creatures about, or tap-hold to remove them.

But Seaquence also enables you to edit. Add a new creature and it’ll instantly change the track. Tap a creature and you can delve into a scale editor, sound designer, and a sequencer for adjusting the notes of the current loop.

A $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 IAP opens up a bunch of pro features; but for free, Seaquence is entertaining whether you’re just listening and occasionally bothering the digital sea life, or figuring out how to construct your own tunes.

Beatwave

Beatwave is a grid synthesizer/sound toy, loosely based on Yamaha’s Tenori-on. This means you tap notes by turning on the grid’s lights. When the endlessly looping playhead collides with one, you get an explosion of color, and a sound plays.

Notes towards the top of the grid are higher, and those at the bottom are lower. Some instruments use the bottom two rows for drum sounds. Most importantly, though, Beatwave is designed to always make output listenable.

It’s actually quite difficult to create anything horribly discordant, short of filling every square on the grid.

For those who fancy more depth, the app offers plenty of alternate sounds, automated morphing, and the ability to save patterns to the sidebar, which you switch between with a tap. So it’s fun whether writing songs or just playing with sound and color.

The best free office and writing apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for writing, email, spreadsheets, presentations and calculations.

Paper by FiftyThree

Paper by FiftyThree originally invited you to sketch in virtual journals, but then dispensed with sketchbooks for a board of cards you could rearrange. This latest take tries to merge the two approaches.

The best bit of Paper – the actual sketching tools – remains intact. You scribble with pens, splash watercolors on the canvas, and draw geometric shapes that neatly retain the character of your stroke.

Beyond that, the app stumbles. Text appears as notes stuck over your work when browsing – an ugly effect – and only one image can be imported to each sketch, which you can either trace over or use as a background.

Still, despite its flaws, this is still an app worth installing, simply because it feels really great to use.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is a popular app on the desktop for viewing, annotating and signing PDFs. On iPad… well, it’s much the same, albeit with a reliance on cloud storage, and a nicely-designed touchscreen interface.

On importing a PDF from another app, Dropbox, or iCloud Drive, you can rearrange its pages, add a signature, slather the thing in comments, and highlight bits of text. If your document arrived from Adobe Scan, you can search the text, and select/copy some to paste elsewhere. Annoyingly, copying must be done manually – there’s no ‘grab all text’ option.

In the main, though, this is a friendly, usable app, and you get the bulk of its functionality for free, including the means to share edited PDFs with other apps. (IAP is mostly for converting PDFs to other formats for editing in the likes of Microsoft Word.)

Adobe Scan

Adobe Scan turns your iPad into a handheld scanner. This in itself isn’t anything special – there are plenty of paid and free scanners for iPad, including inbuilt support with iOS 11. However, in Adobe Scan’s case, it’s mostly about the ecosystem.

The basics are present and correct – place a document in front of Adobe Scan and it will automatically be captured. This feature is sometimes a bit over-eager when scanning multiple pages (in one case during review, it took a fetching angled picture of a trackpad), but you can subsequently fiddle with cropping, page order, and recoloring.

The best bit, though, is the way in which Adobe Scan also captures words. You can’t actually get at them in Adobe Scan, frustratingly, but fling your PDF at Adobe Acrobat, and you can copy and paste text to the likes of Notes. Accuracy is pleasingly high, too.

Bear

A halfway house between full-fledged writing tool and capable note-taker, Bear provides a beautiful environment for tapping out words on an iPad.

The sidebar links to notes you’ve grouped by hashtag. Next to that, a notes list enables you to scroll through (or search) everything you’ve written, or notes matching a specific tag. The main workspace – which can be made full-screen – marries sleek minimalism with additional smarts: subtle Markdown syntax next to headings; automated to-do checkboxes when using certain characters; image integration.

There’s not enough here for pro writers – they’d need on-screen word counts, customizable note column ordering, and flexibility regarding notes nesting. Also, for iCloud sync, you must buy a $1.49/£1.49/AU$1.99 monthly subscription. But as a free, minimal note-taker for a single device, Bear more than fits the bill.

Dropbox

Dropbox is perhaps the most famous of cloud storage providers. For free, you get 2GB of space for your documents and photos – and more if you pay to upgrade.

In the early days of iPad, Apple wanted to hide the file system away, and Dropbox – which was quickly supported by a great many apps – became a kind of surrogate. And even in these days of iCloud Drive, it’s very much worth installing.

The main Dropbox app is smart and straightforward, with speedy previews, the means to save content offline, passcode lock functionality, and optional automated backup of your iPad photos.

As of iOS 11, Dropbox can integrate directly into the Files app, too. Given Dropbox’s cross-device and cross-platform nature, this makes it worth grabbing even if you only use it rarely. Chances are, though, you’ll use it a whole lot more often.

There are other decent cloud storage apps too, such as Google Drive, but even if you already have that it’s worth grabbing Dropbox for a little extra space.

Gmail

Gmail brings Google’s email service to your iPad. Of course, Apple’s own Mail app does this to some extent – and supports sending and receiving from Gmail addresses. But the Gmail app provides a fuller experience.

One of the most vital is the ability to undo a send. You have to be quick, but it’s hugely useful to stop something being sent if you realize you’ve made an error, or forgotten to add an attachment.

Elsewhere, the app’s also in tune with Google’s way of doing things, and so you get profile pictures of people you’re conversing with, integration with Google Calendar, and excellent search capabilities.

Another possible reason to install: as a means to keep business and leisure fully separate, if you use Apple’s Mail for work, and Gmail for everything else.

LiquidText

There are loads of iPad apps for reading and annotating PDFs, but LiquidText is different. Rather than purely aping paper, the developers have thought about the advantages of working with virtual documents.

So while you still get a typical page view, you can pinch to collapse passages you're not interested in and also compare those that aren't adjacent.

There's a 'focus' view that shows only annotated sections, and you can even select chunks of text and drag them to the sidebar. Tap one of those cut-outs at a later point and its location will instantly be displayed in the main text. Smartly, you can save any document in the app's native format, export it as a PDF with comments, or share just the notes as an RTF.

Microsoft Excel

The iPad's well catered for in spreadsheet terms with Google freebie Sheets and Apple's Numbers, but the reality is the business world mostly relies on Microsoft Excel. Like Microsoft's other iOS fare, Excel is surprisingly powerful, marrying desktop-style features with touchscreen smarts.

You can get started with a blank workbook or choose from one of the bundled templates, which include budget planners, schedules, logs, and lists. Wisely, the app has an optional custom keyboard when you're editing cells, filled with symbols, numbers, and virtual cursor keys. This won't make much odds if you're armed with a Bluetooth keyboard, but it speeds things up considerably if you only have your iPad handy.

You might be wondering what the catch is, and there aren't many if you own a standard iPad or a mini. Sign in with a free Microsoft account and you're blocked from some aesthetic niceties, but can do pretty much everything else. If you're on an iPad Pro, however, Microsoft demands you have a qualifying Office 365 subscription to create and edit documents, but the app at least still functions as a viewer.

Microsoft Word

It's not like Microsoft Word really needs introduction. Unless you've been living under a rock that itself is under a pretty sizeable rock, you'll have heard of Microsoft's hugely popular word processor. What you might not realize, though, is how good it is on iPad.

Fire up the app and you're greeted with a selection of handy templates, although you can of course instead use a blank canvas. You then work with something approximating the desktop version of Word, but that's been carefully optimized for tablets. Your brain keeps arguing it shouldn't exist, but it does — although things are a bit fiddly on an iPad mini.

Wisely, saved documents can be stored locally rather than you being forced to use Microsoft's cloud, and they can be shared via email. (A PDF option exists for recipients without Office, although it's oddly hidden behind the share button in the document toolbar, under 'Send Attachment', which may as well have been called 'beware of the leopard'.)

Something else that's also missing: full iPad Pro 12.9 support in the free version. On a smaller iPad, you merely need a Microsoft account to gain access to most features. Some advanced stuff — section breaks; columns; tracking changes; insertion of WordArt — requires an Office 365 account, but that won't limit most users.

Presumably, Microsoft thinks iPad Pro owners have money to burn, though, because for free they just get a viewer. Bah.

Numbers

With Numbers, Apple managed to do something with spreadsheets that had eluded Microsoft in decades of Excel development: they became pleasant (even fun) to work with.

Instead of forcing workmanlike grids of data on you, Numbers has you think in a more presentation-oriented fashion. Although you can still create tables for totting up figures, you’re also encouraged to be creative and reader-friendly regarding layout, incorporating graphs, imagery, and text. On iPad, it’s all tap – and finger – friendly, too.

With broad feature-parity with the Mac version, iCloud sync, and export to Excel format, Numbers should also fit neatly into most people’s workflow.

And although updates robbed the app of some friendliness (whoever removed the date picker needs a stern talking to), it still excels in that department, from nicely designed templates through to the handy action menu, ensuring common tasks are only ever a tap away.

Paper

For a long while, Paper was a freemium iPad take on Moleskine sketchbooks. You made little doodles and then flipped virtual pages to browse them. At some point, it went free, but now it's been transformed into something different and better.

The original tools remain present and correct, but are joined by the means to add text, checklists, and photos. One other newcomer allows geometric shapes you scribble to be tidied up, but without losing their character.

So rather than only being for digital sketches, Paper's now for all kinds of notes and graphs, too. The sketchbooks, however, are gone; in their place are paper stacks that explode into walls of virtual sticky notes. Some old-hands have grumbled, but we love the new Paper. It's smarter, simpler, easier to browse, and makes Apple's own Notes look like a cheap knock-off.

PCalc Lite

PCalc Lite's existence means the lack of a built-in iPad calculator doesn't bother us. For anyone who wants a traditional calculator, it's pretty much ideal. The big buttons beg to be tapped, and the interface can be tweaked to your liking, by way of bolder and larger key text, alternate display digits, and stilling animation.

Beyond basic sums, PCalc Lite adds some conversions, which are categorised but also searchable. If you're hankering for more, IAP lets you bolt on a number of extras from the paid version of PCalc, such as additional themes, dozens more conversions, alternate calculator layouts, a virtual paper tape, and options for programmers and power users.

The best free photo and video editing apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for editing photos, working with filters, adding text to photos and editing video.

Plotaverse

Plotaverse is an image editor and social network very much of the opinion that photographs are a bit rubbish unless they move.

The meat of the app is Plotagraph+, which provides tools for animating your pics. The process is simple: mask parts you want to remain static, and then drag arrows to denote movement. Plotagraph+ then does its thing, resulting in an endlessly looping animation.

Naturally, there are limitations. The system tends to work well with flowing subjects (such as water or clouds) and geometric patterns. Still, you can create amazing videos with a minimum of effort.

The social networking bit is less impressive, as are cheesy effects overlays (free and paid) that are available for download. But in bringing a touch of Harry Potter to even the most mundane of snaps, Plotaverse feels like a little piece of magic on your iPad.

Prisma

Prisma invites you to be an artist – albeit an incredibly lazy artist who’s not against a touch of stylistic plagiarism. There’s no actual drawing or painting here – you instead load a photo (or take one using the app) and tap an effect to apply it. This effect can be strengthened or weakened by swiping across the canvas.

Rather than aping cameras and film types, Prisma is interested in traditional art – everything from classical to manga is fair game. You’ll need an internet connection to download and apply effects, but it doesn’t take long and you can remove any duds if your library starts to become cluttered.

You’re not going to turn that shot of your lunch into a forgotten Kandinsky with Prisma, but the app is capable of gorgeous painterly results. High-res output is locked behind an $1.99/£1.79/AU$2.99 monthly subscription, but SD output is fine for posting online.

Clips

Clips is a video editor designed for people who don’t want to spend a great deal of time editing – or even shooting. Unlike Apple’s iMovie, Clips is intended for impulsive shoots, and super-fast clip arrangement – a video editor for the social media generation.

On iPad, you might question its relevance. After all, you’re not going to whip out an iPad Pro to quickly shoot someone larking about on a skateboard. But the iPad’s larger screen is superb for editing, making it easy to rearrange clips on the timeline and get a proper eye for the many included filters.

There’s more lurking here too, including automatic animated subtitles, posters with customizable text and iCloud sync. Clips won’t make you a Hollywood legend, but it might just propel you towards Instagram stardom.

Photoshop Fix

It's become apparent that Adobe – creators of photography and graphic design powerhouses Photoshop and Illustrator – don't see mobile devices as suitable for full projects. However, the company's been hard at work on a range of satellite apps, of which Photoshop Fix is perhaps the most impressive.

Built on Photoshop technology, this retouching tool boasts a number of high-end features for making considered edits to photographs. The Liquify tool in particular is terrific, enabling you to mangle images like clay, or more subtly adjust facial features using bespoke tools for manipulating mouths and eyes.

Elsewhere, you can smooth, heal, color and defocus a photo to your heart's content, before sending it to Photoshop on the desktop for further work, or flattening it for export to your Camera Roll. It's particularly good when used with the Apple Pencil (still a funny name) and the iPad Pro, such is the power and speed of that device and input method.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Making apps approachable is a good thing on mobile, but sometimes photo editors go a bit far, flinging all kinds of detritus into the mix (stickers; gaudy frames; a million indistinguishable filters).

With Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you instead get a more sedate and distinctly professional offering – although one that nonetheless retains plenty of immediacy.

The basic toolset includes cropping, rotation, a bunch of measured and genuinely useful presets, and an editor for adjusting tones, vignettes, colors and lens issues. Edits aren’t burned in and so you can experiment and revert as you wish. When you’re done, you can send the result to your Camera Roll.

If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you also get DNG support, and selective adjustments. But even as a pure freebie, Lightroom’s a must-have for any iPad owner interested in improving their photographs.

Little Moments

There are loads of apps for making basic edits to photos and slapping on some words, but Little Moments stands out primarily through being rather jolly (if a little twee at times) and being extremely easy to use.

Load in a pic (or use the camera to shoot a new one), and you can quickly add a filter, adjust things like saturation and contrast, overlay some text boxes, and get creative with quotes and stickers.

Weirdly, the last two of those things are pixelated when browsing through the app, but look just fine when added (and sadly many of the categories also sit behind in-app purchases).

But everything else about Little Moments is a joy, from the non-destructive adjustments (unless you select a new filter, whereupon everything resets) to the friendly, intuitive interface.

MuseCam

The App Store's awash with alternate cameras with editing smarts, but MuseCam warrants a place on your iPad's home screen nonetheless. As a camera, it's fine, with an on-screen grid and plenty of manual settings. But on Apple's tablet, it's in editing that MuseCam excels.

Load a photo and you can apply a film-inspired filter preset (based on insight from pro photographers), or fiddle around with tone curves, color tools, and other adjustment settings.

The interface is bold, efficient, and usable, making it accessible to relative newcomers; but there's also enough depth here to please those wanting a bit more control, including the option to save tweaks as custom presets.

IAP comes in the form of additional filters, but what you get for free is generous and of a very high quality, making MuseCam a no-brainer download.

Photofy

Although Photofy includes a decent range of tools for performing typical edits on photos – including adjustments, cropping, saturation, and the like – this app is more interested in helping you get properly creative.

Within the photo editing tools are options for adding in-vogue blurs and producing collages; and in 'Text & Overlays', you'll find a wealth of options for slapping all kinds of artwork and text on top of your photographic masterpieces.

The interface works well through bold, tappable buttons and chunky sliders (although it takes a while to realise the pane containing the latter can be scrolled). And although some filters and stickers require IAP to unlock, there's loads available here entirely for free. (Also, Photofy rather pleasingly gives you alternatives for its watermark, if you don't want to pay to remove it, but aren't too keen on the default. Nice.)

Pic Collage

Pic Collage has you create collages from photos and images. In Grids mode, select some pictures, and the app automatically places them in a layout. If you’re not keen, switch to a different layout; you can also adjust background colors and border sizes.

Select an individual image and you can move and rotate it, and perform the kind of edits and adjustments you find in a slew of photo apps. Using the + button you can further customize your creation with stickers, text and doodles.

Beyond this mode, you can craft cards and ‘freestyle’ layouts. For free, it all comes across as an astonishingly flexible, usable and feature-rich take on digital collages. The only real downside is watermarks on your exported collages, but you can be rid of them forever by paying a single $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

Pixify

On the iPhone, Prisma has become many people’s go-to app for transforming photos into tiny works of painterly art. Bafflingly, an iPad version of the app has yet to materialize, so fortunately Pixify is on hand to plug that particular gap.

In fact, in many ways Pixify is superior to Prisma. It has the same level of immediacy: load a photo and select what artwork you’d like it to resemble. But the app also provides a modicum of control over the output, in you being able to adjust brush sizes and how heavily the painterly style is applied.

The one downside on iPad is the final rendered image displays quite small on the screen. And even the $0.99/99p/AU$1.99 IAP, which unlocks higher-resolution artwork to export, doesn’t affect this oddity.

Quik

Formerly known as Replay, Quik is a video editor primarily designed for people who can't be bothered doing the editing bit. You select photos and videos, pick a theme, and sit back as Quik pieces together a masterpiece that can subsequently be saved and shared.

For tinkerers, there are styles and settings to tweak. Post-Replay, the app offers its 28 varied styles for free, and you can delve into the edit itself, trimming clips, reordering media, adjusting focal points, and adding titles.

Alternatively, the really lazy can do nothing at all and still get results – every week, Quik will serve up highlights videos, enabling you to relive favorite moments. These videos are quite random in nature, but are nonetheless often a nice surprise. Still, anyone willing to put in the slightest additional effort will find Quik rewards any minutes invested many times over.

Snapseed

Apple's Photos app has editing capabilities, but they're not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of from a number of tools and filters, and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. You get all the basics — cropping, rotation, healing brushes, and the like — but the filters are where you can get really creative.

There are blurs, photographic effects, and more extreme options like 'grunge' and 'grainy film', which can add plenty of atmosphere to your photographs. The vast majority of effects are tweakable, mostly by dragging up and down on the canvas to select a parameter and then horizontally to adjust its strength.

Brilliantly, the app also records applied effects as separate layers, each of which remains fully editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else.

Splice

Between quickly trimming a video in Photos and immersing yourself in the likes of iMovie sits Splice. This is a free video editor that on the surface looks accessible – even simplistic – but that offers surprising depth for those who need it.

To get started, you import a bunch of clips. These can be reordered, and you can for each choose a transition if you don't want standard crossfades. Access an individual clip and a whole host of additional tools becomes available, including text overlays, speed adjustment, and animation effects. It's also possible to layer multiple audio files, including on-board music and narration.

For more demanding wannabe directors, Splice might still not be enough – in which case, head towards a more powerful product like Pinnacle Studio Pro or iMovie. But for everyone else, it really hits that sweet spot in being straightforward, approachable, and powerful.

Trigraphy

Another filter app, but this one’s more about creating semi-abstract works of art than aping a bunch of photographic effects from the 1970s (although you get those too). With Trigraphy, the most interesting bits are the art filters, which can totally transform even the most mundane snap into something visually arresting.

You get four for free – more styles lurk as various IAPs – and they’re all pretty amazing. With a single tap, you can turn your photo into a landscape of isometric blocks, or overlay fragmented reflective surfaces.

With the brush tool, you can then paint out the effects layer to let parts of the original image show through, before exporting at up to 4K. It’s certainly a lot more creative than tapping a button to make a pretend Polaroid.

The best free productivity apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for being more productive with cloud storage, timers, iPad keyboards, automation and more.

1Password

Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain in iOS 7, designed to securely store passwords and payment information, 1Password is a more powerful system.

Along with integrating with Safari, it can be used to hold identities, secure notes, network information and app licence details. It's also cross-platform, meaning it will work with Windows and Android.

And since 1Password is a standalone app, accessing and editing your information is fast and efficient. The core app is free – the company primarily makes its money on the desktop. However, you’ll need a monthly subscription or to pay a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP to access advanced features (multiple vaults, Apple Watch support, tagging, and custom fields).

Cheatsheet

As iOS has evolved, Notification Center has become a far more useful and robust part of the iPad experience. It can now house all kinds of useful information, which is accessible via a single downwards swipe. The idea behind Cheatsheet is to create a place for tiny things you need to remember, such as luggage combinations, phone numbers, and Wi-Fi passwords.

The Cheatsheet app enables you to configure your list of items and their sort order; a custom icon can also be assigned to each one. On iPad, the screen is big enough to show two rows of 'cheats', meaning the widget rarely takes up much space.

Note that for free, you get all of this without even any ads, but there's a single IAP ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49) to extend Cheatsheet further; this gives you extra icons, iCloud notes sync, a custom keyboard, and an action extension, along with allowing the developer to eat.

Evernote

In a sense Evernote is an online back-up for fleeting thoughts and ideas. You use it to save whatever comes to mind — text documents and snippets, notes, images, web clips, and even audio. These can then be accessed from a huge number of devices. (We suspect any day now, Evernote will unveil its ZX Spectrum app.)

The app itself could be friendlier, and there's a tendency towards clutter. But navigation of your stored bits and pieces is simple enough, and the sheer ubiquity and reliability of Evernote makes it worthy of investigation and a place on your Home screen.

Find My iPhone

Find my iPhone isn’t well named, because it’s really ‘find all my devices that are signed up to the service’. And in the case of mobile devices, you really should sign them up.

The app itself gives you a list of devices and a map, showing where each device was most recently located. Lost something in your home? Select it, tap Actions, and have it make a noise, for easier retrieval. Lost something elsewhere? Set it to Lost mode, and hope a good Samaritan will notice the custom message/phone number. (You can also erase the device remotely.)

As an added ‘bonus’, Find my iPhone’s also a sobering reminder of how much Apple kit you own, if you see a dozen little bubbles nestled around your house on the map.

Firefox Focus

The web’s pretty great, apart from the bits that aren’t. And those bits are the manner in which your journey online is monitored by countless trackers. They look into what you’re viewing and where you’re going, aiming to serve up targeted ads. Beyond privacy issues, these trackers can slow down web pages and even crash browsers.

Enter: Firefox Focus. The app itself is a brutally stripped-back, privacy-oriented browser. You go online, tracker-free, do whatever you want, and then stab Erase to delete your session. Which probably sounds ideal for nefarious purposes, but this is mostly great for basic efficiency, and also handy if someone wants to quickly get online using your iPad but not leave their accounts live when handing your device back.

Beyond this, Firefox Focus can also integrate with Safari, blocking trackers and web fonts from that browser and, potentially, increasing its performance.

MultiTimer

Given the acres of space you get on an iPad display, it’s a bit odd that Apple’s own clock only provides a single timer. Fortunately, MultiTimer – as its name suggests – goes somewhat further by offering multiple options.

In fact, depending on the layout you choose, you can have twelve timers all ticking away at once. Each one of them can have its own icon, color and default time assigned, for those people who need to simultaneously exercise, boil eggs, and cook a turkey.

Smartly, the app works in portrait or landscape, and if you want a timer you can see clearly across the room, a single button press zooms it to fill almost the entire screen.

Should you want a bit more flexibility by way of multiple or custom workspaces, there’s a single IAP to unlock those features.

Notebook

Although Apple’s Notes is far more capable than it used to be, it can feel a touch sterile. Notebook mirrors a lot of the functionality of Apple’s app, while injecting a touch more tactility and fun.

Your notes are grouped into little notebooks, which when opened display as a grid of sticky notes. Individual notes can have a bespoke background color and contain text, imagery, audio recordings, checkboxes, and scribbles. The drawing tools lack the ruler from Notes but offer far more colors and tooltip sizes. Back in the notebook, notes can be grouped and browsed through with subtle flicks.

Export is weak and sync rather annoyingly requires an account with the developer rather than iCloud; but for a freebie note-taker on a single iPad, Notebook fits the bill.

Slack

We're not sure whether Slack is an amazing aid to productivity or some kind of time vampire. Probably a bit of both. What we do know is that the real-time messaging system is excellent in a work environment for chatting with colleagues (publicly and privately), sharing and previewing files, and organising discussions by topic.

There's smart integration with online services, and support for both the iPad Pro and the iPad's Split View function.

Note that although Slack is clearly designed with businesses in mind, it also works perfectly well as a means of communicating with friends if you don't fancy lobbing all your worldly wisdom into Facebook's maw.

Slash Keyboard

Slash Keyboard is a custom iPad keyboard that makes sharing online content easier. Tap the slash key for a list of commands, which you can filter by typing a letter or two, and then enter search terms and prod a result to insert it into a document.

This makes it a cinch to quickly find and add links (Wikipedia articles; SoundCloud songs; App Store products; and so on) to notes, documents and social media posts. Additionally, Slash Keyboard speeds up typing with gestural single-finger scribbles in a manner similar to Swype and SwiftKey.

It’s not a perfect app by any means, as links are US-focused and sometimes use a proprietary link shortener rather than giving you the entire URL. Also, long-pressing the top row of letters cuts off the menu displaying related special characters.

But Slash's usefulness counters such drawbacks, and it's at the very least worth considering as an occasional alternate keyboard when wanting to link to a bunch of things you've found online.

Thoughts

There are plenty of apps for doodling on your iPad, but Thoughts differentiates itself by going for a kind of razor-sharp minimalism that’s vanishingly rare these days.

On creating a new document, you can draw with a finger, and resize the canvas with a pinch. There’s also an eraser, a small palette to change colors, an interesting night mode (which flips black to white) and that’s pretty much it.

It sounds reductive, but in reality frees you up. You’re not thinking about line thicknesses and the like – you’re just drawing. Export is a little disappointing – it would be good if you could have a vector format rather than a fairly low-res bitmap – but otherwise Thoughts is a nicely simple sketching tool for iPad.

TunnelBear

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are becoming very popular, due to issues people increasingly face when browsing the web. A VPN can be used to circumvent region-blocking/censorship and security issues on public Wi-Fi. Such services can baffle people who aren't technically adept, but TunnelBear is all about the friendlier side of VPNs. With bears.

After installing the app and profile, you'll have 500 MB of data per month to play with. That said, TunnelBear’s exclusive TechRadar plan offers a far more generous 5GB, 10 times the amount you get if you sign elsewhere.

Tunnelling to a specific location is simply a case of tapping it on the map and waiting a few seconds for the bear to pop out of the ground.

Tweet about the product and you'll get an extra free GB. Alternatively, monthly and annual paid plans exist for heavier data users.

Workflow

Automation is something you’d usually associate more with a PC than an iPad, but Workflow, can perform strings of tasks on your behalf. This means instead of dipping in and out of several apps to do something complex, you can just tap a button.

The app’s gallery includes over 200 pre-made workflows, such as turning a web page into a PDF, creating an animated GIF, or finding the nearest coffee outlet. These can be saved to your Home screen as an app, to Workflow’s Today view widget, or even as a Share sheet action extension.

Should you want to construct a workflow of your own, you can do so using a straightforward drag-and-drop interface. During creation, workflows can be tested and each step tweaked until you’re happy.

Now Workflow’s owned by Apple, its future is a little unclear, but it’s also free, so you’ve no excuse not to delve in.

The best free travel and weather apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for planning a holiday, currency conversion, weather forecasts and mapping.

Google Earth

Google Earth is about exploring our planet. Search for somewhere specific and the app swoops and dives to its target. Important landmarks are rendered in 3D that’s surprisingly effective – if you don’t zoom in too far.

This is an entertaining, tactile app that encourages investigation. You can drag and spin the screen, and flick through cards that point towards local landmarks. Fancy looking at something new? Hit the random button, or tap on the Voyager icon for stories based around anything from UNESCO World Heritage Sights to trekking about Kennedy Space Center.

The app is effortless to use, and the iPad’s large screen enables you to more fully breathe in the sights; the result is armchair tourism that’s far more effective than what you’d get even on the largest of iPhones.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an app that might seem an odd fit for an iPad, but we’d argue it’s an essential install. First and foremost, it’s much better than Apple’s Maps for figuring out journeys: Google Maps can more easily find points of interest, and ably deals with public transport information.

Local areas can be explored in terms of amenities (food, drink, and sometimes entertainment), and in a more direct sense, with the road-level Street View. The latter is a great way to familiarize yourself with a place before you visit.

If you always have your iPad on you, Google Maps can save maps for offline use as well, so you don’t even need an internet connection to use it. Alternatively, sign up for a Google account, and the searches you make will be synced with the app on your iPhone.

Momondo

There are two things a good flight comparison apps needs to be: easy to use, and useful results. Broadly speaking, Momondo ably does the job in both cases.

Looking for flights is simple; the app allows a pleasing amount of vagueness regarding locations (including regions with multiple airports, such as ‘London’, or even entire countries, such as ‘New Zealand’), and it’ll happily enable you to search for singles, returns, or multi-city jaunts.

As search results gradually load in, the app points you to the cheapest and quickest options, along with what it considers ‘best’ when taking into account price, time and convenience. For some routes, a calendar graph lets you check nearby dates to see if you can snag a bargain.

Additional filters are available to further refine your results, and you can create an account to save favorites and receive fare alerts – plus hotel listing can be added in too, should you want a more comprehensive.

Townske

Townske seems to bill itself as an app akin to Foursquare – a place to find the best local cafes, restaurants, and sights in major cities. But really it’s more of a place where photo-bloggers can publish their unique take on amazing locations, thereby providing you with gorgeous photos and succinct chunks of writing to devour.

You can jump right into the main feed, or focus on a specific city. You then tap on a photo to open an individual story. Every one we tried was rich in superb imagery, with just enough text to add meaningful context without interrupting the flow of the visuals.

Neatly, you can tap a map icon to see where the various photos were all taken; and if you sign up for an account, favorite stories or individual images can be bookmarked for later. But even if you simply treat Townske as a regularly-updated lean-back digital take on a newspaper travel supplement, you can’t really go wrong.

Weather Underground

With a native weather app bafflingly absent from iPad, you need to venture to the App Store to get anything beyond the basic daily overview Notification Center provides. Weather Underground is the best freebie on the platform, offering a customizable view to satisfy even the most ardent weather geeks.

Current conditions are shown at the top, outlining the temperature, precipitation likelihood, and a local map. But scroll and you can delve into detailed forecasts, dew point readings, sunrise and sunset times, videos, webcams, health data and web links. The bulk of the tiles can be disabled if there are some you don't use, and most can be reordered to suit.

Although not making the best use of iPad in landscape, the extra screen space afforded by Apple's tablet makes the Weather Underground experience a little more usable than on iPhone, enabling faster access to tiles. And for free, it's a top-notch app, although you can also fling $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 at it annually if you want rid of the unobtrusive ads.

XE Currency

XE Currency is a currency converter that’s far from the prettiest of its kind – but it is useful and has all the right features.

Initially, it lists a few currencies, with the base one at the top. Tap an item in the list to select it as the new base currency; you can also adjust the base figure – tap on the number, and then enter something new in the calculator. The list of currencies can be changed at any point, and an item’s position adjusted by tap-holding and dragging it.

Beyond that, you can analyze rates, by punching in an alternate exchange rate, view graphs that outline rates for a pair of currencies over the past decade, and sign up to free rate alerts, which notify you when specific points are hit.



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Dell’s new 2-in-1 is the world’s smallest 15-inch mobile workstation



Dell has announced a new notebook which the firm is claiming is the world’s smallest 15-inch 2-in-1 mobile workstation, alongside a number of other business-targeted laptops from the Precision and Latitude ranges.

The Precision 5530 2-in-1 has a 360-degree hinge and comes with stylus support, not to mention a rather nifty InfinityEdge 4K display. That touch display supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity for Dell’s Premium Pen, with promises of low latency meaning that the sketching-on-the-screen experience is as close to scribbling on paper as is possible.

The 5530 is powered by Intel’s 8th-gen processors (up to Core i7) with integrated Radeon Vega graphics, and has a new ‘MagLev’ keyboard that’s super-thin to help slim the device down overall.

Dell is also launching a standard (non-convertible) Dell Precision 5530 with a 4K screen that boasts improved contrast ratios and IGZO 4 display options. This notebook can be specified with up to an Nvidia Quadro P2000, up to 32GB of 2666MHz system RAM, and up to 4TB of SSD storage.

Then there’s the Dell Precision 3530 which also runs with Intel’s 8th-gen CPUs or next-gen Xeon processors, and an Nvidia Quadro P600 on the graphics front. It delivers this power at a ‘price comparable to a PC’ according to Dell, although the exact pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet (and that’s the case with all these machines).

Ready for VR

And finally in the Precision range, we have the new Dell Precision 7730 and 7530, which are billed as ‘ready for VR’ mobile workstations.

These again run with either 8th-gen Intel CPUs or Xeon processors, AMD Radeon WX or Nvidia Quadro graphics, and the potential to specify a whopping 128GB of 3200MHz system memory. The 15-inch Precision 7530 will also let you specify up to 6TB of PCIe SSD storage.

Finally, Dell introduced a pair of new Latitude laptops: the Latitude 5491 and 5591 which have been slimmed down to shrink their footprint by 30% over the last three generations.

These notebooks offer up to 19 hours of battery life and have 8th-gen Intel Core vPro CPUs with Nvidia graphics and up to 32GB of system memory.

All these notebooks should be available from Dell on May 22, except for the Precision 5530 2-in-1 which won’t arrive until late August. As mentioned, pricing details haven’t been revealed as yet, although we should hear something before these laptops are launched.



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Best laptops for video editing in 2018


If you're looking for the best laptop for video editing, then finding the right machine can be tricky. After all, video editing is one of the most taxing tasks you can perform on any computer, let alone a laptop.

That's where our list of the best laptops for video editing in 2018 comes in, as our expert advice means you can shop in confidence. 

We also have a price comparison tool that will make sure you are getting the best deals for the best laptops for video editing.

So, read on to find out what we think are the best laptops for video editing in 2018…

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Once you go Apple, you are pretty much locked down when it comes to your hardware options. Fortunately, this MacBook Pro is hands-down the best Mac laptop ever designed for video editors.  The innovative Touch Bar makes it easier for videographers to intuitively access commands, while the Retina display on the 15-inch model offers more than enough pixels should you want to edit at native resolution in Full HD on the move.

We'd advise that you opt for a quad-core model rather than a dual-core one and choose as big a hard disk drive as your budget will allow. The laptop's video subsystem is powerful enough to drive up to four 4K monitors if needs be, and with a 76Whr battery, it has enough oomph to last longer than most rivals.

Dell XPS 15

The Dell XPS 15 is a brilliant laptop it its own right, and it really excels when it comes to video editing. It comes with a gorgeous 15-inch InfinityEdge screen, and the very top end version has a 4K color-accurate display which makes it perfect for video editing. It's also got plenty of processing power as well, making it a dab hand at rendering video files, which is important when looking for a laptop for video editing.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15

HP ZBook Studio G3

The HP ZBook Studio G3 laptop easily fits in the Ultrabook category with a weight of a tad under 2kg and a thickness of only 18mm, slightly heavier and a smidge thicker than the Precision 15 5000 but more portable and svelte than Lenovo's laptop. Where HP manages to score highly is when it comes to sheer value for money when it comes to powerful components, with a high performance processor and gorgeous 4K screen, which makes it one of the best laptops for video editing.

Lenovo ThinkPad P70

Very few laptops on the market can compete with this model. Dell's Inspiron range is aimed at business and consumers with a definite nudge towards the former. For the price, you get a laptop with an aluminium chassis and a long list of impressive features, and thanks to a decent discrete graphics card in the form of the Nvidia GTX 960, and a vibrant 1080p display, the Dell Inspiron 15 7566 is a great laptop for video editing if you're on a budget.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad P70 was one of the first notebooks featuring Intel's Skylake processor, which should give it a boost in performance compared to Broadwell or Haswell chips.  Equipped with ample storage and plenty of RAM, an excellent keyboard and a wide selection of ports for connectivity, Lenovo is positioning the ThinkPad P70 as the ultimate workstation that you can take on the go without missing your desktop. Also worth mentioning is the X-Rite Pantone calibration tool, available as an option, which is great to keep your screen accurate for production work, as well as the Quadro GPU that comes with all the P70 SKUs. 

The Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) is one of the most powerful 2-in-1 laptops in the world. While 2-in-1 laptops may not be the first choice for video editors, the Surface Book 2 has some powerful enough components to handle video editing if you go for a model with a dedicated graphics card. Brilliant build quality and excellent battery life makes this a wonderful device for using as either a laptop, or as a powerful Windows 10 tablet. The tablet mode is convenient if you want to shoot footage and edit it while out and about.

OK, so the MSI GS65 Stealth is primarily a high-end gaming laptop – with a price tag to match – but it also doubles as an absolutely brilliant laptop for video editing. This is because it comes with an excellent array of cutting edge components, which includes an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. This means multi tasking and video editing is handled with aplomb – and if you also want to do a bit of gaming on the side, then it's a no-brainer.

Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop. 



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The best cheap laptop deals in April 2018


Whether you're shopping for an everyday machine, a gaming laptop, or something for work, the laptop choices available to you might be overwhelming. With a variety of specs to compare and technology always evolving at a rapid pace, it may start to feel like a lost cause.

Never fear! In an attempt to help you find the best laptop for you at a great price, we've combed the internet to find not only the cheapest laptops, but the absolute best laptop deals. From big brands like Dell to steadily growing names like Acer, you won’t want to miss out on these bargains.

At the top of the page, you'll find our selection of the very latest and best cheap laptop deals of the week. Beneath those, you'll find our pick of the latest best cheap laptops along with their lowest available prices.

The best laptop deal of the week

More top cheap laptop deals of the week

Where to find the best laptop deals in the US:

The best cheap laptops of 2018

Here we have one of the few budget laptops with a processor nearly equivalent to the MacBook Pro, that is, if you opt for the Intel Core i5 configuration. The best part? It’s roughly half the cost of its Apple-branded rival. Now given that it sells at a range of different prices, the Acer Swift 3 can be an obtuse purchase, but lucky for you, the midrange model will get you by just fine.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

Asus Transformer Mini T102HA

Its name is alphabet soup to the average reader, but then again this convertible laptop has always been about function over form. For one minuscule transaction, you’re getting a tablet equipped with an included keyboard and even a fingerprint scanner for more secure logins. Along with reliable performance and a magnesium-alloy chassis, it’s built to last.

Read the full review: Asus Transformer Mini T102HA

acer chromebook 15

While it may be outclassed by the Pixelbook and the Samsung Chromebook in terms of sheer power, the Acer Chromebook 15 can still pack a wallop while providing battery life that is frankly out of this world. It’s rare that a laptop can truly provide all-day battery, but in our independent battery tests, Acer’s Chromebook lasted an astonishing 17 hours – on top of providing enough power to get your work done online. If you’re looking for a 15 inch Chromebook that will give you the most bang for your buck, look no further.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15 

Lenovo Yoga Book

The Lenovo Yoga Book, and the Windows 10 version of it in particular, is the sort of futuristic fodder you would find in an episode of Black Mirror. It has a keyboard that doubles as a Wacom touch panel and, best of all, it’s cheap as hell. Now, of course, that comes with the caveat of a weak Intel Atom processor, but the rest of the Lenovo Yoga Book should go down in the history books.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Book

Asus X102BA

With its slick lines and a slim silhouette, the Acer Chromebook 14 makes for a subtle, snazzy laptop. Although its display isn't the most attractive we've seen, it’s still acceptable for full HD. On top of that, the keyboard and trackpad adhere to the principle of ‘it just works.’ The battery life is satisfactory as well despite falling a bit south of Acer's 12-hour claim in real-world use.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 14

Not quite what you're looking for? Maybe our other laptop articles will have what you need:



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Best laptop for programming 2018


Are you an IT professional that's looking for the best laptop for programming and coding on? If so, then you've come to the right place, as we've listed the very best laptops for programming on. If you're after a laptop for programming on in 2018, let us take you through the very best choices with this in-depth list.

When looking for the best laptop for programming, you'll have a certain set of criteria that the device will need to meet, as well as features it will need to have. For example, you're going to need plenty of processing power in a laptop for programming, so that it can compile and run your code as fast as possible. Thankfully, modern laptop processors come with plenty of cores and high clock speeds, which certainly makes looking for the best laptop for programming easier.

You'll also want plenty of RAM. We'd recommend at least 8GB – if you're running complex code, and you'll need a large hard drive. If a laptop also comes with a solid state drive (SSD), that's even better, as it will help with the overall speed of your programming and coding – especially if you regularly rebuild the code you write with minor changes.

Having a dedicated graphics card isn't essential for a laptop for programming, unless you are coding graphically-intensive games that you then want to test out. Modern Intel processors come with integrated graphics capabilities that are powerful enough for pretty much all programming tasks.

So, without further ado, here's our list of the best laptops for programming in 2018.

Portege

In our view, the Toshiba Portege Z30-C-138 is the best laptop for programming, as it features a fast processor, a large SSD and hefty 16GB of RAM. Best of all, it also manages 11 hours of battery life, which is ideal if you're looking for a laptop for programming and coding on the go. Toshiba has also managed to squeeze an extraordinary amount of components in this device including a VGA port, a fingerprint reader and even a 4G/LTE modem and A-GPS!

Thinkpad X

Lenovo took an existing form factor and refined it to deliver the new 2016-2017 ThinkPad E470. Powered by the 7th generation Intel Core processors, this particular SKU has a 14-inch FHD anti-glare display, powered by a discrete Nvidia Geforce 940MX 2GB GPU. 

Equipped with a spill resistant keyboard, a TrackPoint and a 3+2 buttons click pad, the E470 has more than enough ports and expansion capabilities to keep the average user happy. 

HP

The 255 G5 is HP's entry-level business laptop and is a solid candidate should you be looking for a straightforward, reliable, laptop for programming at a bargain price.  The RAM is a little on the low side, but that can be upgraded later on, and there's no denying that this is an excellent laptop for coding on. If you want a similar programming laptop with an Intel processor, rather than AMD, then the HP 250 G5 is worth looking into. There are various configurations of both the HP 255 G5 and the HP 250 G5, so it's worth shopping around and finding one with the right components for your needs.

Apple's range of MacBooks are excellent laptops for programming on, thanks to excellent build quality, fast components, great battery life and powerful software. The 13-inch Macbook Pro with touchbar is the best laptop Apple has ever made, and builds new features into the classic design. Of course the headline feature is the touchbar – it's a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard which can be used for any number of things, whether that be auto-suggesting words as you type or offering Touch ID so you can log in with just your fingerprint. It's 13-inch screen keeps the laptop thin and light enough to carry around with you if you travel a lot.

Read the full review: Apple Macbook with touchbar (2017)
See more like this: The best Macs and Macbooks 2017

Best Windows tablets

Despite the subdued naming convention, this is actually the fifth iteration of the Surface Pro. As a follow-up to the winning , it would have been every bit deserving of a number attached to it, too. That’s because the latest Surface Pro sees not only the battery life improve by as much as 32%, but, of course, the processor has been updated to as well. Plus, although it’s now sold separately, the Surface Pen has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. It can switch between tablet and laptop modes, which makes it easy to carry around with you, and it runs Windows 10, so you can access your favourite apps.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro

Sure, it’s a Chromebook, and while that may put some people off, the Google Pixelbook is powerful (and beautiful) enough to hang with the Surfaces and MacBooks of the world. Now, while ChromeOS is admittedly not as good a place to program as Windows or macOS, the Pixelbook’s support of Android makes it a must-own laptop for any Android developer. The fact that this laptop succeeds the now discontinued Google Chromebook Pixel, which was designed by and for Google’s own developers, should give it some street cred in the eyes of coders.

Read the full review: Google Pixelbook 

A Chromebook doesn't run Windows, Android or Apple's macOS. Instead it's powered by Google's Chrome OS – a super lightweight operating system based on the Chrome web browser. It's a great way to save money on a laptop (no Windows license to pay for and no need for top-end Intel chips etc) while still retaining all of the productivity options you'd get on a full-blown windows or Mac OS laptop. The Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook out there at the moment, offering truly premium build quality, a fabulous touchscreen and keyboard and excellent performance. All while offering great value for money too. While Chrome OS doesn't have the range of programming tools available for Windows and macOS, it has a growing library, and Chromebooks such as the Asus Chromebook Flip are excellent for building websites on. 

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C302
See more like this: The best Chromebooks 2017

The Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) is a great new addition to our best laptops for programmers list, as Microsoft has crafted one of the most powerful 2-in-1 laptops in the world. The Surface Book 2 has some powerful enough components to handle most day-to-day tasks, and even some light gaming and video editing if you go for a model with a dedicated graphics card. If you want a bigger screen, the there is also a 15-inch version of the Surface Book 2, which comes with more powerful components, but that's currently only on sale in the US. It should reach other territories next year.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)

elitebook

If you like the sound of an Apple MacBook as a laptop for programming, then you can save a bit of money by getting a slightly older model. The MacBook Pro from 2016 doesn't come with cutting-edge features such as the touchbar or USB-C ports, but it is still a fantastic laptop that offers plenty of power for all your programming needs. Plus, Apple's top of the range models are certainly not overly expensive compared to their Windows-based counterparts, especially if you buy them from trusted third-party websites.

latitude

Dell managed to deliver a magnificent piece of kit which it says is the most secure, most reliable and most manageable business-class laptop. That Latitude 5480 does come at a hefty price though and compared to the competition, this notebook may feel underwhelming. However, Dell's forte lies in its services and aftersales. That particular model comes with a 7th generation Intel CPU, one that is an actual four-core CPU. While it has a far higher TDP than most of its peers (45W vs 15W), it is likely to be more powerful than even a top of the range Core i7-7600U.

  • Here's our list of the best laptop 2017: Our pick of the 15 best laptops you can buy this year



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The best laptop for writers: the 10 best laptops for authors and journalists


If you're a writer, or you're in a job where writing is a big part of your day-to-day life, and are looking for the best laptop to suit your needs, then you've come to the right place.

We've gathered together the very best laptops for writers, taking into consideration the specific needs that writers and journalists need when looking for a laptop. That includes a comfortable keyboard that can be used for hours on end, a clear, easy to read, screen, long battery life and a slim and compact design that allows you to take your laptop with you where ever you go.

Because you'll be mainly using your laptop for word processing and research, it means you don't need the most cutting edge components. This can help keep the price of your laptop down. Also, even if you're not a full time writer, author or journalist, it doesn't means you're not writing a lot for your job. Emails, reports and presentations all require a laptop that is comfortable to write on.

What's more, our funky price comparison tools will show you where you can buy each one for the absolute cheapest price, so you won't have to trawl through the web comparing prices. If you want to see a more comprehensive list of prices and retailers, simply click the 'view all prices' link on each widget!

The best laptops for writers:

Thinkpad X

Lenovo took an existing form factor and refined it to deliver the new 2016-2017 ThinkPad E470. Powered by the 7th generation Intel Core processors, this particular SKU has a 14-inch FHD anti-glare display, powered by a discrete Nvidia Geforce 940MX 2GB GPU. While a discrete graphics card may be a bit overkill for writers, it means you've got a fast performing machine that can also handle the odd game when you need a break.

Equipped with a spill resistant keyboard, a TrackPoint and a 3+2 buttons click pad, the E470 has more than enough ports and expansion capabilities to keep the average user happy. Shame that it doesn't do DisplayPort, so no 4K output.

If you're looking for a sleek machine that's powerful and easy to carry around, then you'll love the Asus Zenbook UX310UA. As an 'ultrabook', this is a device that combines style with top-of-the-range components. For writers looking for a laptop, this means you get a brilliantly-performing machine that you won't need to upgrade for years, and thanks to its slim design it's easy to take with you if you do a lot of writing while travelling. The keyboard is a decent size which makes writing on it a pleasure.  Like most laptops of this kind, it comes in various specifications so the cheaper versions have Intel Core i3 CPUs and full HD screens while the most expensive options come with a super high res display and Intel Core i5. Whichever one you go for, though, you're getting a fantastic laptop. 

Read the full review: Asus Zenbook UX310UA

A Chromebook doesn't run Windows, Android or Apple's Mac OS. Instead it's powered by Google's Chrome OS – a super lightweight operating system based on the Chrome web browser. It's a great way to save money on a laptop, and if you're buying a laptop to use primarily for writing, it's a great choice, as Google Docs can be used as a word processor, and you of course also have the Chrome browser for research. The Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook out there at the moment, offering truly premium build quality, a fabulous touchscreen and keyboard and excellent performance. All while offering great value for money too. 

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C302
See more like this: The best Chromebooks 2017

If you're after a cheap laptop for writing that offers something a bit special, look no further than the Lenovo Yoga Book 2017. As with all Yoga devices, the screen folds flat so you can use it either as a tablet or a laptop. To add more versatility, Lenovo has now added the option to buy it with either Windows 10 or Android 6.0 onboard – which one you choose will depend how you're more likely to use the device. The screen on this thing defies the cheap asking price and the keyboard and capacitive touch-keyboard are both fantastic too. The built-in Wacom digitizer stylus allows you to hand-write notes on the touchscreen, and then save them to the web – or convert it into text – which makes it the perfect device for quickly writing down notes when inspiration strikes.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Book
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The best 2-in-1 laptops 2017

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is 2017's best laptop for you if you're looking for the perfect cross between a nimble Windows tablet and a fully functional laptop. The base version of the Surface Pro 4 is just a tablet – you get the main unit itself with kickstand but if you want the Surface Pen or the fantastic Type Cover keyboard you'll need to pay extra for a bundle or buy it separately. Again, this is a great laptop for writers who can use a stylus to jot down their notes to later turn into editable text. If you are buying the Surface Pro 4 as a device to use as a writer, then we strongly recommend buying the Type Cover keyboard, which adds a comfortable to use keyboard that also doubles as a protective cover for the screen.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4
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HP

The 255 G5 is HP's entry-level business laptop and is a solid candidate should you be looking for a straightforward, reliable, workhorse at a bargain price. It's a great laptop for writers, as it has solid (if unspectacular) specifications, while keeping the price at a reasonable level. If you want a similar laptop with an Intel processor, rather than AMD, then the HP 250 G5 is worth looking into. There are various configurations of both the HP 255 G5 and the HP 250 G5, so it's worth shopping around and finding one with the right components for your needs.

If you're after the latest and greatest laptop from Apple, welcome to the 13-inch Macbook Pro with touchbar. It's the best laptop Apple has ever made, and builds new features into the classic design. Of course the headline feature is the touchbar – it's a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard which can be used for any number of things, whether that be auto-suggesting words as you type or offering Touch ID so you can log in with just your fingerprint. This makes it an excellent laptop for writers, and if you love Apple's way of doing things, then you'll love the Macbook Pro with touchbar. The reason why it isn't higher in our list of best laptops for writers is the price: this is an incredibly expensive laptop, and if you're just using it for writing, then there are plenty of much cheaper alternatives. However, if you're an Apple fan that wants a machine for performing more complex tasks, as well as writing, then there really is no other choice.

Read the full review: Apple Macbook with touchbar (2017)
See more like this: The best Macs and Macbooks 2017

If you want the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 but you want to spend a lot less, the Acer Switch 3 2017 is definitely the your best option. It's designed around essentially the same concept as the Surface Pro and it's a less capable thanks to slightly lower power innards, but for most tasks, especially writing, it's a brilliant little machine. What's more, to add further value this 2-in-1 laptop/tablet comes with the keyboard upgrade which means no little extras to pay for. As usual it comes in several different versions, with USB Type-C, 8GB RAM, an IPS display and Intel Core i3 7100U CPU coming with the more expensive option.

Read the full review: Acer Switch 3
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The Acer Chromebook R11 is probably the best cheap laptop around at the moment, and it's a great laptop for wirters. Like the Acer Chromebook Flip higher up this page, this laptop runs Chrome OS so does away with all the overheads that Windows brings. Consequently it's able to run nice and fast on less powerful components, which means a very cheap price! Its touchscreen is decent, though it's only HD, and it will flip to become a tablet too. What's more, it'll run practically all day thanks to its excellent battery life. So if you're looking for a capable but very cheap laptop that you can whip out and begin writing on, then this one is your best bet.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook R11
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If you’re looking for a laptop that you can fold up and play with when you’re done writing for the day, look no further than the HP Spectre X360. Not only is this one of the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy today, but thanks to the keyboard’s stiff force curve, you’ll find typing is a breeze for any touch-typist. And, thanks to its long battery life, you’ll be able to write all day on this comfortable keyboard without having to worry about scrambling for your charger.

Read the full review: HP Spectre X360 



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Best gaming laptops 2018: the 10 top gaming laptops we've reviewed


It used to be that the best gaming laptops were those that had Intel Core i7 processors, 8GB of RAM and any discrete graphics imaginable. Gaming laptops were so few and far between that it wasn’t a matter of whether they were good or not. Instead, the only question was ‘Can it run Crysis?’

In 2018, the best gaming laptops are entirely different from what they looked like in the past. There are ultra-thin portable solutions using Nvidia Max-Q technology, but you can still buy a clunky, powerful behemoth that can plow through every game you throw at it. And, now that Intel has released a wide range of 8th-generation Coffee Lake processors for laptops, including the Core i9-8950HK, there are no limits on what the best gaming laptops can do. 

So, whether you’re looking for a laptop that can handle work just as well as gaming, or you want a gigantic gaming behemoth, we have the recommendations you’re looking for. And, because we’ve tested, reviewed and ranked all the gaming laptops on this list, you can be confident that you’ll find the best gaming laptops for your needs right here on this list.

Hailing in Coffee Lake to the world of the best gaming laptops, the MSI GS65 packs a ton of power into a very unassuming package. Rocking an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, there’s nothing that can stand in the way of this laptop. And, what’s better, thanks to its subdued design, you’ll be able to bring this power out wherever you go without having to hide your nerdy pastimes.

Read the full review: MSI GS65 Stealth 

Kicking Nvidia’s Max-Q technology off right, the Asus Zephyrus GX501 combines the heralded thinness of an Ultrabook with the performance of a gaming PC to bring the best of both worlds to your feet. Despite exhibiting subpar times in our battery life benchmarks, this svelte powerhouse of a notebook is one for the books when it comes to both portability and style. Plus, it’s virtually silent if noise is a cause for distraction in your everyday routine.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501

best gaming laptop

It may have an edgy name, and you may not be able to stick a bigger hard drive in it later, but the Razer Blade is built for stamina and, obviously, high quality graphics. On top of featuring a battery life over 7 hours and 30 minutes, it can handle up to 4K Ultra-HD gaming with the help of a Razer Core V2 external graphics box and a spare monitor. Or, you could opt in for the more recently added integrated 4K display option. However you choose, you’re in for a treat, we promise. 

Read the full review: Razer Blade

Best gaming laptops

The Asus Strix GL502 may not boast the most innovative design, swapping out the usual black and red color scheme for one that makes it feel like Halloween year-round. But, it's undoubtedly one of the best when it comes to gaming in 1080p. In fact, we were able to crank the settings all the way up in Overwatch without taking a hit below 60fps. The battery life is janky, sure, but the screen, performance and onboard sound system more than make up for it.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix GL502

Unlike most laptops its size, the Alienware 13 R3 bears a hinge-forward design. By moving the heat sinks behind the screen, the chassis is allowed to be thinner, at 0.81-inch (0.22cm). Unfortunately, this means you won’t find many 13-inch laptop bags that will actually suit the Alienware 13 R3. While you may be tempted by the inclusion of a full-size Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, it’s the OLED touch display that caught our attention. 

Read the full review: Alienware 13 R3

best gaming laptop

At long last, Razer has introduced a true desktop replacement that won’t weigh you down. Measuring in at only 0.88 inches thick with the option between a 17-inch 1080p display running at 120Hz or a G-Sync-laden 4K touchscreen, the Razer Blade Pro also introduces the company’s ultra-low-profile mechanical switches to a notebook for the first time ever. That’s a deal that’s only sweetened by an unusual trackpad placement that makes it comfier to boot.

Read the full review: Razer Blade Pro

For less than a grand and a half, you might not think it, but the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is a bargain. In its price range, you won’t find a laptop with this level of performance. Although it’s only available in one configuration, the GTX 1060 is a nice change of pace considering most affordable gaming laptops struggle to run triple-A games beyond medium settings. That goes without mentioning the fantastic RGB keyboard and Microsoft Precision Touchpad.

Read the full review:

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus ROG Strix GL502 

To be frank, Alienware hasn’t been a name typically associated with value. That seems to be changing with the Alienware 17 R4, which bears so many different customization options when it comes to specs that you can practically name your own price. Bespeckled with all of the signature elements we’ve come to expect from the brand, such as RGB backlit-accents and tons of ventilation, our only real qualm with the Alienware 17 R4 is a disappointing battery life.

Read the full review:

If you like your laptop thin, light and affordable with lengthy battery life, you’re going to have to look somewhere else. The Asus ROG G703, a hulking behemoth of a gaming laptop, takes the specs of a desktop PC and only ever so slightly squishes them down into a package that can more or less be taken anywhere. At 10.6lbs (4.8kg) and with a 17.3-inch screen, it won’t fit in your backpack, but with a graphics card and processor this powerful – does it really matter? 

Read the full review: Asus ROG G703

  • This product is only available in the US and  Australia at the time of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Alienware 17 R4 

best gaming laptops

For those uninitiated, there are few names in gaming hardware as positively recognized as Gigabyte. The Aero 15X is further proof that all the credit is well deserved. It’s expensive, but no more so than the bulk of gaming laptops we see using Nvidia’s Max-Q design technology today. That means that the Gigabyte Aero 15X packs an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 into a frame that’s under 0.8 inches thick – thin enough to qualify as an Ultrabook.

Read the full review: Gigabyte Aero 15X

  • This product is only available in the US and Australia at the time of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Razer Blade 

Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article



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