10 cool Android apps to start the year

There are so many apps in the Google Play store it can be hard finding those useful gems. We've done the work for you with these 10 cool Android apps.
By James Kendrick on
1 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

10 cool Android apps

The greatest thing about Android is the number of apps available. These range from silly, whimsical apps to some very useful ones. It's hard to find the latter given the 100s of thousands in the store but we've done some work for you.

The apps in this collection include some good utilities that may help you get the most out of your Android phone or tablet. They include an app that will help you find the best deal on products based on a simple scan of a barcode. There's one that lets you see and respond to text messages on your tablet. 

These are just a couple of the apps in this collection of 10. You may find one or two you haven't seen before.


2 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet


Apps that can read product barcodes are a dime a dozen, but this app from the folks at eBay take this act much further. It can read most major retail barcodes and then check thousands of retailers to find the best deal on the scanned product.

You can then buy the product online from the app or have it show you local retailers that have the product at the lower price. 

From the developer:


  • Scan all major retail barcodes (including UPC, EAN, UPC-E, and EAN-8) and QR codes
  • Search for prices from thousands of online retailers for millions of products
  • Search hundreds of local retailers to compare prices, find the nearest locations, and even check out books at the library
  • Buy on the go, right from your phone. Have items shipped to your home or pick up in-store from select local retailers
  • Get product descriptions, reviews, and nutritional information to help you make the right decision
  • Find deals and coupons from many merchants. You can view top deals of the day or browse deals by store.
  • View popular products scanned by other RedLaser users
  • Create personalized QR codes with your info, contacts, website’s URL, location and more with our powerful QR code engine
  • Create shopping, wish, and gift lists to share with friends and family. Also great for archiving your book, CD, DVD, and even your wine collection
  • Keyword, Voice, and Image recognition search to find the best deal, even when you don’t have a barcode handy

Free on the Google Play store

3 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Shush! Ringer Restorer

If you're like me you regularly forget to turn off your phone's silent mode after a movie or meeting. Then you have to deal with business associates or family members peeved that you didn't answer your phone.

That situation is a thing of the past with this simple utility. Shush does one thing and does it well. When you silence your phone as you normally do (eg turning volume down all the way) the app lets you easily set how long it needs to be quiet. When the appointed time comes along it turns your phone's ringer back on. Simple and useful, the mark of a good utility.

Free on the Google Play store

4 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Wi-fi Keyboard

This app's not for everyone but for those who'd like to occasionally use their computer's keyboard to enter text messages and the like on the phone this one will do it.

It connects your computer to your phone over wi-fi (USB, too) and lets you type away. You can type short entries with the app, but you didn't plan on writing your novel this way, did you?

Free on the Google Play store

5 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Changelog Droid

If you have many apps installed on your Android device you probably have some of them being updated all the time. This app lets you see exactly what has changed with each update so you can keep track of your favorite apps. It will even let you optionally track updates for apps you don't have installed.

Just as importantly, the app will let you blacklist apps for which you don't want updates. This can be useful if your favorite app is just perfect and you've heard a new update creates problems. You can block the update until you feel it's safe to let the update install.

Free on the Google Play Store

6 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Dashclock Widget

Having useful information on the lock screen of your Android device is a nice feature. This simple widget puts certain notifications on your lock screen in an easy-to-read format.

Notifications supported by Dashclock:

  • Your current local weather
  • Missed calls and unread text messages
  • Your next calendar appointment
  • Unread Gmail inbox or priority inbox conversations
  • Your next scheduled alarm

Dashclock also supports extensions in apps. The Changelog Droid app in the previous slide has a Dashclock extension.

Free at the Google Play store

7 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Verizon Messages

This app is for those with phones on the Verizon network. Those who have one and an Android tablet can install this app to work with the phone's text messages on the tablet.

Once installed on the tablet all text messages sent to the Verizon phone will instantly appear on the tablet, too. They can be viewed in a threaded conversation on the tablet and replies can be sent. The sender of the text message has no idea the response is not from the user's phone.

This is very handy when using the tablet and the phone is in the pocket or bag.

Free on the Google Play store


8 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet


If you let your kids play with your Android phone you might want to give this utility a look. It erases different histories on the phone to keep your private info away from prying eyes.

According to the developer, HistoryEraser can wipe the following histories off the Android phone:

  • Application cache data
  • Android Market search suggestions
  • Maps search suggestions(old version only)
  • Gmail search suggestions
  • Youtube search suggestions(Assist)
  • Google Earth search suggestions
  • Call logs
  • Frequently called contacts status
  • Standard browser histories
  • Standard browser bookmarks
  • Quick Searches(Assist)
  • Download histories

Free on the Google Play store

9 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

SwiftKey 4

Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard of SwiftKey. It's the best keyboard app on any platform. It's included in this collection because you can't list cool apps without including SwiftKey.

SwiftKey learns your writing style the longer you use it, and predicts the word you're entering with uncanny accuracy. After typing just a letter or two SwiftKey presents three words it thinks you want, and it's usually correct. You simply tap the desired word and move on to the next one.

After just a few weeks using the keyboard you'll save thousands of keystrokes, which the app tracks and can inform you just how many taps you've saved.

The phone app also works on tablets with features that fit a larger screen. These include a split keyboard for thumb typing.

There is also a swipe mode (SwiftKey Flow) that lets you spell words by swiping through the desired keys.

SwiftKey now optionally stores your predictive library in the cloud for access by multiple devices.

$3.99 on the Google Play store

10 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

gReader Pro

Those who still use old-school RSS feeds to keep up with lots of web sites will find this app to be a joy to use. It syncs with Feedly so those who use that service can use gReader Pro and keep everything up-to-date everywhere.

The interface is nicely done and the sync speed is good for lots of feeds.

Every detail of the interface and operation is configurable to suit the individual. This is one of my favorite apps on the Android platform.

$4.69 on the Google Play store


11 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet


This is a news reader that first appeared on iOS and it's been available on Android for a while. It presents news of interest to the user (configurable) in a format that is easy to read.

The iPad version is still much better than the Android version. The Android version is much improved over its earlier version so it's included in this collection in recognition of this improvement.

Free on the Google Play store

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