Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’re probably aware of the battle that has been raging between the iOS and Android platforms. Loyalists on both sides have been taking turns throwing punches at each other. For a good few years, the one punch Android fans were having a tough time deflecting was about the visual quality of apps on iOS. Make no mistake: to this day, iOS apps trump their Android counterparts in the aesthetics department.
Things have been changing pretty rapidly though, and since our first roundup of beautiful Android apps, a huge number of new contenders have arrived. Here, then, is a look and some more Android apps that are gorgeous to look at and – in most cases, if not all – also do a stellar job of functioning as well as they look.
Widgets have been Android’s trump card over iOS since the beginning and apps like 1Weather are the reason widgets make so much sense. An absolutely gorgeous interface, crisp visuals and hig quality implementation make it one of the best ways to check weather, period.
Coming from the guys at Behance – one of the most respected design portfolio services out there – you’d expect Action Method to shine in the looks department. And it does not disappoint. The subtle use of color, gradients and drop shadows make it as elegant a productivity solution as any. Why wouldn’t you get things done?
Right, so AirDroid is not primarily a phone app. But the interface, colors and overall look of this desktop app for managing your phone is so good, I wish they’d expand more on their phone interface – which is not bad itself – and bring some more of that bling right into my hands!
doubleTwist has been a name to respect in the Android media player space, so when they came out of the blue with a fairly unrelated alarm clock app, I was a bit apprehensive. Fortunately, the app brings the same quality and sleekness that made their media player so popular to a much more rudimentary app and quickly rendered most other alarm clocks old and clunky.
Often referred to as the “Pandora for the real world”, Alfred is an app that recommends new places based on what you already like. The fresh and lively interface make browsing through your recommendations easy, and make you want to keep coming back for more. A beautiful combination of light and dark grays, and primary color accents give the app a unique look that is hard to miss.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 or above Google Play Link:Alfred Developer:CleverSense
Todo list apps are a dime a dozen on Android, but I can safely say that none come close to Any.DO in the look and feel department. Silky smooth looks – accentuated by an absolutely gorgeous font – and buttery animations that just work on pretty much any Android device make Any.DO the best way to make lists on Android. And the shake-to-remove-completed-tasks is just the cherry on the sundae.
This one is not for everyone, but it you are into making music, there is no better way to do that on an Android tablet (or the Galaxy Nexus, apparently) than Audiotool Sketch. A clean realistic interface complete with responsive controls and multi-touch functionality make it the perfect companion to any musician’s toolset.
Like Windows, Android has proven to be a hot bed for malware over the last year or so and there has been a flood of security software. If you like your security app to look as good as it works, avast! is an option. With a virus scanner, firewall, phone tracker and a whole lot more packaged in a nice dark and orange package, this one is a nice deviation from the boring old antivirus apps of the past.
BabyBump is a pregnancy app that meant for soon-to-be parents to track and share their progress. With a pretty pink interface, detailed illustrations, comprehensive descriptions and pretty graphs for data visualization, it makes the whole process pretty simple and sleek.
Reddit is by far one of the most popular sites on the web and those who use it regularly swear by its power. There are a number of Reddit clients for Android, but BaconReader stands out with its extensive feature set and a beautiful interface. For those who find Reddit’s web interface too simple and barebones, this app can be a nice change of pace and I actually recommend it over the official website – something one can’t say too often.
Barclays Pingit is an Android app that lets you transfer money to anyone in the UK directly from your phone – whether you have an account with Barclays Bank or any other bank in the country. As has been a trend with financial apps lately, the app makes excellent use of the parent company’s branding with a nice clean white and blue interface and some nice fine details thrown in to create a pretty streamlined mobile user experience.
Bump has been around for a while now – letting users bump their phones together to instantly exchange files, contacts and other information wirelessly. They recently launched an entirely redesigned interface with some social features, media management and a more reliable core functionality. It also works across Android and iOS platforms.
Let people know you’re busy in style with Bzzy. The app’s premise is as simple as it gets – it is a text-message auto-responder that sends out messages on your behalf when you’re busy – like driving or watching a movie. The interface, likewise, is minimalist but drop dead gorgeous. (And, dare I say, unlike anything else I’ve seen in a mobile app to date.) If you are a stickler for brilliant visuals, this is one app to check out for sure.
There are tons of finance and money management apps out there, but what do you do when you want to track all the money people owe you or that you owe others? You use Conmigo. The app lets you easily manage expenses you share with friends and family, letting you always stay on top of who owes whom how much. The interface is non-traditional and overly orange, but it does a good job of keeping all the information you need always at your fingertips.
CoTweet is a social media engagement platform that helps organizations of all sizes engage and track conversations about their brands on the real-time web. If you are an enterprise customer, the Android app is the perfect companion that keep you posted on all the updates and lets you manage your workgroups right from the phone.
Okay, this one is strictly for the Korean speaking folks, but I couldn’t resist keeping it out of this list for its beautiful interface and vibrant graphics. Cyworld is a South Korean messaging application that lets users exchange messages and media with their friends, comment on photos, and so on.
We’ve already discussed how awesome Any.DO is for a full-featured todo app, but if you prefer to keep things nice and simple, you might want to give Do it (Tomorrow) a try. All you get are two lists – today and tomorrow – represented by the left and right pages of a diary respectively. Add items by typing them in, strike them off when you complete them or move them over to tomorrow. Simple, clean and beautiful.
And nope, we’re not done with todo apps yet. Doit.im is different from the ones we’ve covered before in that it is a client for a web app of the same name. Like its web version, the app is extremely polished and comes with pretty much every feature you could ask for to help you get things done. Of course, everything is synced online with the web app so you have access to all your data from anywhere you want.
easyJet is the Android client for the UK-based budget airline company, which lets you manage your flights with easyJet from the phone. Search for and book flights, manage bookings, get schedule updates and track flight status all from a brilliant orange and white interface that stands out from the crowd.
Feedly has been my choice of feed readers on the desktop as well as my phone for quite some time now, and for good reason. Although a lot of news reading apps synchronize with Google Reader, I’ve found none that do it as seamlessly or beautifully as Feedly does. Feedly does a brilliant job of laying out updates to your subscribed websites in a minimalistic interface, letting you easily scan through and manage them while on the move, or even share or save them for later.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 or above Google Play Link:Feedly Developer:Feedly Team
The Fitbit Wireless Tracker is a neat little piece of gadget that you clip on to yourself while exercising, and it keeps track of what you’re doing – like the number of steps you take, calories burned, sleep hours, etc. The Android client lets you keep view, manage and analyze all this information and also add more data manually, things like what you eat, drink etc. The interface makes it super-easy to see how things are going and where you need to pay attention moving forward.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about FourSquare and are possibly even using it right now. The Android client for the app has been a benchmark in mobile UI design for some time and only continues to get better. With the trademark blue color, unique icons and an overall consistent feel the FourSquare Android app is one of the best I’ve seen.
What Baconreader is to Reddit, Friendcaster is to Facebook. Developed by the same team at OneLouder Apps, Friendcaster is by far the best third-party Facebook clients out there. With a smooth, ICS-inspired look, a snappy interface and more features than you can shake a stick at, there is hardly a need for me to bother with the official Facebook app on my phone anymore.
The GO Dev Team is very familiar to Android fans. They have been credited for some of the best apps on the platform to date and the GO Weather Widget only carries that legacy forward. The widget is pretty customizable with multiple layouts available and with a whole host of themes you can make it look exactly the way you want. Note that you need to have GO Launcher Ex running to get the widget.
Grocery Smart is a nice little shopping list app to make your grocery shopping experience a breeze. The beautifully designed app lets you categorize your shopping list so you know you will not be scooting all over the food store trying to pick up things at random. It also has a section of saving your discount card details, and you can sync between multiple devices so everyone in the family is always on the same page.
The perennial wait for Instagram to hit Android meant there was a huge void to fill in the Android universe for a photo sharing application. There have been a lot of contenders, but hardly any that can beat Hipster in the looks department. The app lets you take photos of wherever you are and then share the location and the images with friends and family, like picture postcards. Yes, there are filters. And they’re pretty nice.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 or above Google Play Link:Hipster Developer:Hipster
Ever wondered about the history behind a country or city you were visiting? Enter Historious Places, a travel guide (currently only for Athens) that focuses on the history of the place. If you are visiting Athens, take this app along and it will point you to historical places near you, provide directions and give you all the information you need to make the most of your visit.
Hybrid Stopwatch and Timer is just what it sounds like – a timer and stopwatch app – but with an incredibly detailed UI the likes of which are rare to find on a mobile platform. The app simply does what it says, so there’s not much to talk about regarding features. In the looks department, though, this one is a piece of art.
The first time I heard about Instant Heart Rate, I honestly thought it was a joke. How could a mobile app tell what your heart rate is? But it does. Place your finger on the phone’s camera and the app will identify the heart rate by looking for tiny variations in the blood flow of your finger. The concept is brilliant, the functionality just right and the interface gorgeous.
Music players on the Android platform abound, many of them way better that the stock music player in most aspects. Instinctive Music Player is one of them that does an incredible job in the looks department. Every function, every control and icon is thoughtfully crafted, making for a much improved and satisfying music management experience.
This one’s strictly for the women. Intimity is an app that lets women track their cycle and predicts the fertile and ovulation phase. You simply log in your vitals and the app will get to work with reports and visual indications of your status through a neat and pretty interface.
There are tons of photo editing and filter apps on Android, but what if all you want to do is add some pretty labels to an image before sharing it with the world? Labelbox makes the process easy with a pretty good collection of label designs and fonts. Don’t like what you create? Just shake the phone to start over!
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.1 or above Google Play Link:Labelbox Developer:Stepcase
The developers of Mario Batali Cooks! call it the most advanced and comprehensive cooking app yet. Even if you’re not a big fan of cooking yourself, there’s merit in checking out this app for its unique take on the UI for a mobile application. Easy navigation, clean visuals and beautiful photographs make the app one of the best food-related apps on Android.
Mint.com’s mobile app is the king of the hill when it comes to finance apps on Android, but there are always new contenders trying their hand at the market. Money Tab is the latest entrant in the arena and it makes a great first impression. A clean, ICS inspired user interface, beautiful typography, visual cues for each category… what’s not to like?
A few years ago, genealogy apps were all the craze. They don’t crop up as frequently any more, but every once in a while you come across one that seems just perfect. MyHeritage guns for the top spot in genealogy apps with a very strong feature set, letting you build a family tree and sync it with their web app so you can connect with your family’s accounts and share the same data across family members and devices.
The Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android now comes with a built-in data usage monitor, albeit a very basic one. If you need more control over your mobile data plan, Onavo Extend can help you squeeze the maximum juice out of it by compressing all incoming and outgoing traffic. You can also continuously review and analyze your usage with detailed reports and beautiful graphs.
Price: Free Requires: Android 4.0 or above Google Play Link:Onavo Extend Developer:Onavo
Another finance app that has been making the headlines for some time now is Pageonce – Money & Bills. Unlike Money Tab, Pageonce comes with a fresh, colorful UI that makes money management on your phone as pretty as it gets. The app also connects with all your financial accounts and automatically tracks your income, expenses, bills and credit cards, all from one consolidated interface.
Path made a lot of big splash with their gorgeous new interface in version 2 when they launched simultaneously on iOS and Android late last year. Loved by many as the closed social network that allows only a limited number of friends, the app has made quite a mark for itself. The unique flyout menu for post types is a very nice touch to a beautiful app that works equally well on both platforms.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.1 or above Google Play Link:Path Developer:Path, Inc.
PlayerPro Music Player is another contender in the music players space for Android, which takes the visual approach a few notchees higher with multiple skins – something you don’t see too often in mobile apps. Of course, the does not fall short on the features front either with pretty much everything you would expect from an established – and expensive, if I may say so – Android app.
With the infinite control that Android puts in your hands over the mobile operating system, there’s no end to how much you can tweak it to your advantage. Power Tune-Up from Bitdefender lets you optimize your Android device for maximum performance, battery life and data usage. Choose an option and toggle settings on and off to your heart’s content using this sleek little app and take control of your device.
Project Noah is an app aimed at nature lovers, letting them discover local wildlife and allowing citizens to participate in related research projects. Through it’s unique user interface, you can share photos of plants, birds, and so on with fellow enthusiasts, access location based field guides, and join field missions that interest you.
No matter how much space you have on your phone or how big an SD card you get, there is always going to be a time when you run out of space for that new kick-ass game you want to play. Enter SanDisk Memory Zone, an app that lets you control, manage and organize your files from the phone as well as the cloud. The app gives you a clear perspective on what’s hogging your phone’s memory and connects with a whole host of cloud services to help you back up files and clean things out to make room for more.
Remember the days when greeting cards were made of paper and we used snail mail to send them to our friends and family? Smartphones and the internet have changed all that, but if you still crave good old-fashioned dead-tree wishes, Sincerely Ink Cards has you covered. Use photos from your phone to create a beautiful card with whatever message you want to add, choose from a whole host of layouts and actually get a printed version of it sent to whomever you want.
There are tons and tons of photo editing apps on Android and new ones keep getting added every week. The one photo editing app I’ve actually stuck with for more than a few months is Snaptastic, for its easy, intuitive interface and just the right mix of features that I need to quickly tweak my photos and share them on a whole slew of online services directly.
When SPB Shell was released, the welcome from the Android community was overwhelming – in spite of the insane price tag of nearly $15. A lot of users felt the price was justified given how beautiful the custom launcher made their Android home screen experience. With some incredibly detailed 3D animations and effects, nifty launcher features and overall eye candy, this is arguably the best looking launcher on Android.
Speedtest.net has long been the best way to check your internet bandwidth on the desktop, so when they released their Android app, everyone sat up and took notice. The app bring the same glossy blue and grey interface the website is known for. The speedometer UI and animation are super-smooth and you can also save your results and analyze them with a nice chronological chart of test results over time.
Another cooking app that nails the visual part perfectly well is Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals. After its huge success on the iOS platform, the app is finally available for Android and it doesn’t disappoint. If you are a fan of quick fix meals that don’t take too long to make but taste amazing, this one should be right up your alley. That everything is stored locally and you don’t need a data connection to access recipes is definitely a plus.
Wallbase has emerged lately as one of the most popular wallpaper sites on the web. Their Android app lives up to the hype with a beautiful interface and a ginormous collection of wallpapers that should meet pretty much anyone’s needs. Just a word of caution though: the collection has its fair share of NSFW images, so make sure you keep your finger over the “sketchy” toggle button to keep them out of your stream.
Looking for a place to hang out? Try the WHERE app to find nearby restaurants, bars, stores and more. WHERE is a social network for places. Find, rate and suggest places that you like and get recommendations on what else you might like, wherever you are. And while you are at it, get special offers and deals for your favorite hangouts.
Price: Free Requires: Android 1.6 or above Google Play Link:WHERE Developer:WHERE Inc.
And last but not the least, arguably the prettiest cross-platform todo list app ever created: Wunderlist. Since the app debuted on the web and iOS last year, it has steadily gained its fair share of fans. If you are looking for a todo list manager that works on pretty much any desktop or mobile platform out there, syncs seamlessly between all of them and looks gorgeous while doing all that, Wunderlist is by far the best choice out there.
Now I’m not even going to try considering this an exhaustive list by any means. With the feverish pace of development on Android, there is no way one can scour through everything and keep up with all the new apps releasing every day to find the best looking ones. So if you find any that aren’t up here but do take the aesthetics quotient on Android a few notches up, lets hear about them in the comments.