The best Android apps of 2016

The best apps from all year, in case you missed them.

best apps of 2016 main
Credit: Ryan Whitwam
These are the best new apps of the year

Trying to keep track of every app that comes to the Play Store would be a complete impossibility. There are so many apps being uploaded every day that it can be easy to miss the good stuff hidden by all the mediocrity. We pay close attention to the Play Store, so here's your chance to catch up on all the best apps to hit Android in 2016. Every app on this list is worth trying—they're the best of the best.

These apps are presented in no particular order, and note that to qualify, they had to be either released in 2016, or at least completely overhauled and updated in 2016. Many apps released in prior years are still some of the best around, but that's not what this list is about.

best apps of 2016 prisma
Prisma

Android phones take better, more true-to-life photos than ever before, but sometimes you don't want the truth. Maybe you want something stylish and fun. That's what Prisma gives you. This isn't just another photo filter app—it uses AI to deconstruct your photo and rebuild it with a cool style. There are more than 30 styles available right now, many of which are absolutely stunning. You can share photos directly from Prisma or save them to your device.

Prisma (free)

best apps of 2016 radon
Radon

Google Nearby is a criminally underappreciated feature that lets two devices intelligently and quickly determine they are physically close to each other using a combination of Bluetooth and ultrasound pulses. There are various way this can be used by developers, and Radon uses it to share content. You don't need to worry about accounts or usernames. Simply share a link to Radon, and anyone nearby with Radon running on their device will receive it. You still have to get people to install the app, but the barrier of entry is much lower otherwise.

Radon (free)

best apps of 2016 backdrops
Backdrops

So many wallpaper apps are little more than ugly, ad-infused wrappers around a bunch of low-resolution stock images. Backdrops is the first dedicated wallpaper app to come along that gets things right.

The app is dead-on material design, and the developers are constantly churning out original images for the app. There are also user submitted images that are curated to filter out the junk. Backdrops is free if you don't mind a few ads, but a small in-app purchase unlocks several premium collections and the option to save wallpapers offline.

Backdrops (free, $1.49 in-app upgrade)

best apps of 2016 velociraptor
Velociraptor

Google Maps is great at getting you from point A to point B, but how fast are you supposed to be going on the way there? Google's navigation interface still lacks speed limits and alerts, but Velociraptor can handle that all on its own. It actually works in any app of your choosing—it's a floating icon that lists your current speed and the posted speed limit in supported areas.

It pulls the speed limit data from OpenStreetMap, so most metro areas and even some more rural ones are covered. Velociraptor can also alert you if you exceed the speed limit. Not many free apps can save you from a big speeding ticket.

Velociraptor (free)

best apps of 2016 newsfold
Newsfold

There's so much news out there, some real and some fake. Newsfold is a slick news reader app that lets you keep track of the news sources you care about with a clean interface and gesture-based controls. You can sign into Newsfold with your existing Feedly or Inoreader account, and it supports adding more subscriptions as well.

The swipe controls let you advance to the next article in your feed, go back, and mark as read. You can also toggle on full-screen and a stripped down readability mode with a single and double-tap, respectively. The free version has ads, but upgrading gets rid of those and enables all the gestures.

Newsfold (free, $2.49 upgrade)

best apps of 2016 ivy
Ivy

Samsung's edge displays look pretty, but there are precious few software features tied to it, the most prominent of which is the Edge Panel. This swipe-out interface includes app, news, and more, but it's not very configurable. Ivy is a better version of this same idea that runs on all Android devices.

After installing Ivy, you get a translucent handle at the edge of the screen, allowing you to launch the Ivy interface at any time with a swipe. It can show shortcuts to apps and contacts, as well as a live RSS feed and full home screen widgets. The theme is also completely customizable. The only annoyance is a persistent hidden notification that keeps the app alive in the background. If you're okay with that, Ivy is super-useful.

Ivy (free)

best apps of 2016 inkwire
Inkwire

Anyone who has tried to talk a relative through fixing a technology issue over the phone knows the importance of remote support apps. However, setting those up on Android is a pain, and not all devices are supported. Inkwire is a simple support app that anyone can get up and running in a few seconds. All you need is a 12-digit code generated by the device to connect. It's easy because you don't actually control the other device—you draw on top of the screen in order to tell the other party what they need to tap. It also has integrated VoIP calls so you can talk them through the process as you point out what's what.

Inkwire (free)

best apps of 2016 flyperlink
Flyperlink

Even with Nougat's multitasking, Android is restrictive in the ways that apps can be placed on the screen. Flyperlink frees your browser so you can resize it however you want. Flyperlink has multiple ways to render webpages, but they are all centered around floating bubbles, sort of like Facebook chat heads. There's the full screen bubble, a Chrome custom tab, and the resizable popup.

You can also choose certain link types (eg. YouTube) that Flyperlink won't try to open. You can leave a page in the bubble, easily accessible at the edge of the screen while you do something else. It also includes a button to instantly send a link to your chosen backup browser in the event you need something more powerful. Flyperlink is free to try, but there are ads unless you upgrade to pro. That also enables popup mode.

Flyperlink (free, $0.99 in-app upgrade)

best apps of 2016 contextual app folder
Contextual App Folder

The entire purpose of this app is to make your other apps easier to access, which becomes rather important as your phone gets cluttered with more and more stuff the longer you have it. Contextual App Folder creates a widget on your home screen that looks and behaves like a regular folder. The contents change, though. Contextual App Folder updates automatically based on the triggers you set in the app. For example, you can have a folder with all your media apps appear when you plug in headphones. Or you could turn that into a folder of all your work-related tools when you get to the office.

Contextual App Folder (free)

best apps of 2016 photoscan
PhotoScan

People don't take many photos with film anymore (hipsters not withstanding), but many of us have heaps of old photos in physical albums that won't last forever. Google's PhotoScan app lets you turn them into high-quality digital images in a few seconds.

This isn't just another app that takes a photo of a photo, though. PhotoScan has you capture a snapshot of the whole photo, then it places four points in the viewfinder near each corner of the image. Simply hover the viewfinder over each of those points, and the app captures image data. It then slices up the image into segments and puts them back together as a digital image, minus the glare and distortion. Your images are automatically backed up to Google Photos, too. 

PhotoScan (free)