Google’s Material Design aesthetic is supposed to be the new standard for Android design, but not all apps have made the transition to the catchy new look.
That’s a shame, because it brings a level of beauty and polish to Android that hasn’t existed until the new design scheme was rolled out with Android Lollipop.
Fortunately, several developers have put it into practice and cranked out some rather good looking apps. If you want to find out what Material Design is about, then grab one of the following apps or custom launchers from the Play Store to experience it for yourself.
Inbox by Gmail
While most of Google’s apps have gone material design in one form or another, Inbox is an excellent flagship. Emails are sorted in a card-style interface, which is a hallmark of material design. The app also uses a new slide-out menu to connect to other parts of the interface and has a floating button for creating a new message, reminder, or Inbox invite.
Field Trip is a clever app for when you’re traveling or just out and about and want to discover more about what’s around you. It will ping you with details about restaurants, sites of historical snippets, or other places that you wouldn’t normally pick up through just a Google search or perusal of Yelp.
It’s too rare to find a great “Android only” app that shows off the best of the platform. Weather Timeline has done this with its weather application. It also has excellent Android Wear implementation, pushing out weather alerts and putting the forecast on your watch. It’s only $0.99, so grab it and support great development efforts like this.
SwiftKey has gone all-in on with themes, with choices ranging from the minimalist to the ridiculous (Frozen, anyone?). On the material design, front, however, there are two excellent keyboard choices that match the new design of Google’s keyboard but add in more functionality. They’re $0.99 each, but well worth it.
Action Launcher 3
Sure, there’s the Google Now Launcher if you want the Googliest home screen possible, but Action Launcher gives your phone or tablet a Nexus-style look with more customization. There are plenty of icon pack choices and the QuickPage, which is a custom home screen you can get by swiping in from the right edge.
Falcon Pro 3
The official Twitter app may be dragging its feet in getting there, but if you want some material design with your Twitter then grab Falcon Pro 3. It’s $4 for the first account and $2 thereafter, and loaded with a lot of power features for those who want more out of the social network.
Not only does CBS Sports have an excellent sports app, it’s a great implementation of material design. It also will ping you with sports news and updates throughout the day, including sending them to your Android Wear watch.
Google Keep is a solid note-taking app for Android, but the best material design prize goes to Simplenote. This is one case where the floating button works really well, as it becomes muscle memory for how to start a new note. It’s a pretty robust note-taking app with several features for sharing with others and organizing your thoguhts.
Messenger from Google
The Hangouts app is still a work in progress, but at least Google built a clean, slick messaging app for SMS and MMS with its Messenger. Your finger touches splash on the screen and there’s plenty of white space and other lovely effects.
Google isn’t the only one who can put together an excellent, material design messaging app. QKSMS did it first, and it has many of the same hallmarks of the newest design aesthetic. You can tweak the look with a variety of themes, making it as understated or wild as you would like.
It’s had a long go in beta, but Cabinet is a pretty stable and desirable file manager with a slick, material design look. It uses the floating button well, letting you create a new remote connection, folder, or file.
Numix Calculator Pro
The stock Android calculator does the job, and it too has a new material theme if you’re running Lollipop. But if you want something that looks great and has a few more features then go with Numix Calculator Pro. It saves your calculation’s history and swings in with additional capabilities when you swipe through the keyboard.
Chrooma Live Wallpaper
Give your background a lively material design makeover with themes that float across the background. There are a lot of different choices that run across the color spectrum with Chrooma Live Wallpaper, letting you personalize how your wallpaper looks.
Source News Reader
Feedly is still undergoing a material redesign, so while you’re waiting, or if you just want to explore another alternative, check out Source News Reader. It looks great, and the card-based system of design goes well here. It’s $2.99, but you get a great-looking app and a developer that’s committed to cranking out timely updates.
Nova Launcher (beta)
This one is fresh from the kitchen, with Nova Launcher Beta recently receiving a material design overhaul on the beta channel of this popular custom launcher. This is another great way to get your hands on a material look for your phone if you’re one of the vast majority of Android users who don’t have Lollipop yet. The screen’s settings and dialogs are all Lollipop-friendly, and it includes all the knobs and dials for tweaking how your Android home screen performs.