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10 essential free apps for Android

You would need a spare week to trawl through the Google Play Store and identify the apps worth having so we’ve picked 10 free must-haves for you.

The Google Play Store is something of a rabbit hole –  a rabbit hole that runs over 1.5 million apps deep. Google has done its best to bring some semblance of order to the wealth of apps, but the huge array of icons, buzzwords and pound signs can leave you dizzy.

We’ve ploughed through the mire of so-so apps to highlight some of the ones we think are worth your time – and they’re all free.

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1. Google Drive 

This one’s a bit of a cheat since it comes pre-installed on most Android phones, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

Google Drive creates a cloud backup of your photos, videos and files, making them accessible to any other phone or computer you log into with your Google account. Saving things to your cloud means you can delete them from your handset, freeing up those precious gigabytes (GB) for more apps.

Google gives a generous 15GB-worth of free storage but you can buy more if you need it.

2. ES File Explorer 

Finding where all your files are hidden on your phone involves navigating through a maze of sub-menus and incomprehensible names. ES File Explorer shows exactly how many files, photos, videos, apps and songs are clogging up your memory.

With an overview of all your files you can see at a glance how much space they’re occupying. ES File Explorer can clean up your phone too, getting rid of the unnecessary junk your phone acquires during everyday use. It freed up almost a gigabyte of space on my phone.

3. Instagram 

As smartphone cameras continue to improve so to do the apps that let you share the images you take. Instagram allows you to add filters and edit your photos before uploading them to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and more – or just share them with your friends on Instagram.

Instagram is more open than Facebook so if you find someone’s photos especially funny or inspiring, you can follow the photographer and get updates whenever they add a new snap. As of this year you can even have multiple accounts on the same app, so if you’d prefer to keep your professional and personal pictures separate you can.

4. Hot UK Deals 

We all love a bargain but keeping track of who’s offering what deals and where can feel like a full-time job. Hot UK Deals is a user-driven app that allows anyone to add deals as and when they spot them. Users can rate deals too, which makes finding the best ones easier.

If you’re after something specific you can search for it or filter the deals by category. The deals aren’t just on products either – you can search for offers on holidays and restaurants too.

5. Pocket

Being able to surf the web on your phone just about anywhere is a novelty that isn’t likely to wear off so it’s all the more frustrating when you’ve got no signal and no wi-fi in sight. Pocket is the solution to your no-signal woes.

By allowing you to save articles from the web or from an app, Pocket creates a record of articles you can read anywhere even if you’re offline. If you’re not sure what articles to save you can follow celebrities and writers, who are likely to recommend anything they find engaging.

6. VLC 

Thanks to glorious high-resolution, not to mention increasingly bigger, screens using your phone to watch videos is a better proposition than ever, but just copying a video onto your phone is by no means a guarantee it will work.

The problem is the huge number of different file types a video can be – .avi, .mp4, .wmv to name but a few – and not every app will be compatible. VLC has one of the most comprehensive lists of compatible file types of any video player. If you’re planning to watch a lot of videos on your phone, VLC is a must.

7. Zombies, Run! 

One for the fitness fanatics, Zombies, Run! offers an unusual way to get you motivated. Utilising music and your GPS, the app creates the impression you’re being chased by a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. The GPS data tells the app how fast you’re running – too slow and the zombies will get you.

Zombies, Run! has even evolved to have a story. Your runs become survival missions to bring supplies back to your base. Fail and your fellow survivors will go hungry. A compelling impetus to run that bit faster or further but perhaps not for the faint-hearted.

8. Camera360 

If apps like Instagram don’t have enough options, perhaps your thirst for the perfect shot can be satisfied by Camera360. The app comes with over 100 filters to change the overall look of your photos and that’s before you’ve even started editing.

The touch-sensitive controls make it easy to enlarge images and individually edit them – great if you want to make an Andy Warhol-style grid. The latest version of Camera360 adds several sticker-style overlays too, so you can give your selfies a beard, designer shades, an eye patch and more.

9. Busuu 

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language apps are the perfect way to get started. Busuu adds a social network spin on teaching by allowing you to connect with native speakers from all over the world who can help you understand and pronounce tricky phrases.

The app connects you with people who want to learn your language too so the teaching goes both ways. If you’re not ready for a evaluation from a proficient speaker you can learn the basic vocabulary and grammar using audio examples, quizzes and games.

Busuu currently works with 11 different languages and you can set individual learning goals for each.

10. Avast Antivirus & Security 

Now that we use our phones for just about everything it’s even more important that we keep the personal data on our handsets protected. Avast wards our private data from all manner of viruses, trojans and malware by scanning websites, apps and downloads for anything malicious.

Avast also blocks nuisance calls and lets you set passwords for apps – useful for those, like Facebook, that automatically log you in.

Don’t let apps compromise security

Before you download any app, always check which parts of your phone it can access.

We’re looking into what apps are doing with our data, but if any permissions seem fishy try a different one – with the huge range on offer there’s likely to be an alternative that won’t take liberties with your personal data.

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