The best Android apps that you probably don't know about

If you've got app fatigue, take a look at some of these lesser-knowns that will make your phone do some amazing things.

google play store
Credit: Derek Walter
Great apps are still out there

It’s easy to feel like we’ve hit peak app. There are only so many times you can feel like your smartphone is on the verge of a transformative experience thanks to a new app invention.

Instead, it’s really the little things that matter. There are still plenty of gems out there that can pull off something you didn’t quite expect, like automatically split the tab at a restaurant, add some smarts to your notifications, or let someone remote into your phone. 

This topic sparked a discussion in a recent Reddit thread, where many shared their favorite hidden app gem. This is our collection of the best apps that you probably have never heard of. Through hours of going into the darkest caverns of the Google Play Store, we found a pack of 15 lesser-known apps that you shouldn't overlook.

tab
Tab

We’ve all been there. You're out for dinner with your friends, and it’s time to pay up. Avoid the blank stare that everyone gives each other once they realize even their calculators can’t split the bill for them. Tab does the work for you automatically by letting you take a picture of the bill, and claim which items are yours. It will then it will then do the math to split the bill (including tip), so everybody knows what exactly they owe. According to the developers it only works in the U.S. for now, as international receipt formats and languages will muck things up, but it’s a pretty nice option to have.

Tab (Free)

hooks
Hooks

Hooks is like a more customizable version of Google Now. You’re able to set alerts for a wide range of topics, with plenty of sports team options, article updates from popular web sites, and even Android vulnerability alerts. The app also has an excellent Material Design-inspired interface and is very easy to maneuver. You probably feel like you already get too many notifications, but using Hooks may be a way to keep them all in one place.

Hooks (Free)

teamviewer
TeamViewer QuickSupport

You’ve probably had that moment when a relative calls you because they can’t figure out something with their phone. The only thing worse than the problem is their inability to describe the issue to you, which means heading over to their house. Fix such nonsense with this app from TeamViewer.

All one needs to do is launch it and give you the code, and then you’re in tech support mode with access to their screen. You can also see essential specs and request a screenshot, which is handy if you need some visual evidence if the problem needs to be escalated to actual tech support.

TeamViewer QuickSupport (Free)

camscanner
CamScanner

There are plenty of apps that will use your phone camera to scan an item. But CamScanner is probably smarter than most of them. That’s because it will automatically crop the image and turn it into a PDF, which is helpful if you’re taking a picture of notes to save to a cloud service. It also features OCR (optical character recognition), though it was a little hit and miss: a few tests turned up gibberish when I tried it out. It works best on printed documents, not handwritten ones.

You can even mark up the note, but that requires you to install a separate app, InNote. CamScanner also handles QR codes, which is a surprisingly difficult feature to find in the Play Store.

CamScanner (Free)

lightflow
Light Flow

Light Flow is a great example of one of those “only on Android” type of apps. It allows you to take granular control of the LED notifications on your phone at levels you may not have even dreamed that you needed. You can customize the color, sound, manner of vibration, and many other different controls.

There’s a free version to see if it’s for you, but the paid option is worth it for all the different options it gives you. Samsung Galaxy owners will need to follow some extra instructions to make the app work on their phones given that Samsung tends to tinker heavily with how some pieces of Android work.

Light Flow ($2.49)

qr
QR & Barcode Scanner

A good QR and barcode scanner is pretty handy to have. Scanning a barcode can be far more efficient than typing in the product to a Google search, but you have to have the right app to do so. QR & Barcode Scanner will  save the scan and then search the big box stores for a price comparison And it’s always good to have a QR scanner around, as there are still plenty of those codes in use.

The app’s interface is solid enough, though it will cost you $4 to nix the advertisements.

QR & Barcode Scanner (Free)

fing
Fing

Find out if someone else is siphoning off your Wi-Fi network. Fing will pull up a list of all the devices and list their MAC address so there’s no question about which device is using up all your bandwidth. The app performs several other networking tricks, such as automatic DNS lookup, reverse lookup, and checking into the availability of your connection. It’s pretty handy to have, especially if you want a more broad picture of what’s going on with your Wi-Fi network.

Fing (Free)

zailoo
Zailoo

If you want to save a few dollars next time you need a ride, check out Zailoo. It’ll show a quick price comparison of top services like Uber, Lyft, and Flywheel once you put in the start and destination for your journey. The app will then kick you over to the service you choose to book the ride. It’s worth grabbing if you’re not sold on one particular service and would like to save a few dollars.

Zailoo (Free)

lux
Lux Auto Brightness

There are often times when the auto-brightness on a phone isn’t quite right. I’ve found the current Galaxy S7 Edge to be among the most accurate I’ve experienced, but even then I still have to do manual adjustments from time to time. Lux is a good app if you want way more control over this, as you can set the lighting to change for specific conditions, such as automatically ramping up the brightness first thing in the morning or toning it down at certain times of the day.

The effectiveness is going to differ based upon the quality of your light sensor, so it’s worth spending the time to really set it up the way you want it.

Lux Auto Brightness ($3.80)

material player
Material Audiobook Player

Audiobooks are a great way to kick back and take in a novel or nonfiction tome. But a lot of audiobook playback apps are bogged down with excessive menus and needless options. Material Audiobook Player looks great and does the job well if you have audiobook files to listen to. Recently, the app added a night theme, so you can tone down the light if you're doing some listening while tucked in for the night.

Material Audiobook Player (Free)

velociraptor
Velociraptor

For all the information available to us with digital maps, I’ve long felt the one thing missing is the speed limit. Velociraptor fixes this with a floating speed limit indicator. (Of course you should also keep your eyes on the road.) The app uses OpenStreetMap and HERE data, so if you’re looking at the embedded map you won’t see as many of the bells and whistles as you get with Google Maps.

Velociraptor (Free)

bluelight filter
Bluelight Filter

By now you’ve probably heard that staring at your screen all night wreaks havoc on your ability to sleep. Bluelight Filter zaps some of the offending blue light so you can read or play a mobile game without all of the unfortunate side effects. You can take control of how much blue light is eliminated, set times for it to launch, and put a widget on your homescreen for quick access.

There’s a night mode present in the beta build of Android N, but we’re several months away from a final version. So until then, Bluelight Filter is a good option. The app is free, with $1 required to kill off the ads.

Bluelight Filter (Free)

radon
Radon

Android phones have had the ability to share content through Android Beam for a while, but putting phones back to back has always been a little awkward. Radon takes advantage of a new capability called the Nearby API, which uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or even ultrasound to connect devices. You don’t even have to be on the same wireless network as the person you’re sending the content to.

They do have to have the app, however, so it’s not quite as seamless as NFC or Apple’s Airdrop (which is only on Apple devices, of course). But it’s a clever way to share content, and it shows there’s an exciting future ahead of Google’s Nearby API gets wider traction.

Radon (Free)

runpee
RunPee

We’ve all been at that moment where it’s bladder vs. plot development. Now you don’t have to choose. The RunPee app tells you when it’s the ideal time to run off to the restroom next time you’re at the theater. The app is updated with the latest weekend releases, so if you’re off to see the latest blockbuster then you’ll know exactly when to hit the restroom without missing any of the good stuff. The interface is a little...okay...a lot dated. But it gets the job done.

RunPee (Free)

unified remote
Unified Remote

Unified Remote wants to run your whole life. Spotify, your TV, even other pieces of sofware. It works with over 90 different programs and can also perform as a mouse and keyboard when paired with a PC. If you really want to customize the experience, connect the app to NFC tags to launch a specific function. The app is free, with a $4 upgrade required to remove the ads and activate many of the advanced features.

Unified Remote (Free)