Every year we see a slew of new Android apps, and 2021 was no exception. We saw a variety of apps hit the metaphorical shelves this year across various genres. Of course, some years are better than others, and 2021 was comparatively a bit of a slow year. We only saw a handful of apps make a real impact, but we did see an increase in niche apps that improved selections in less exciting genres.
Let’s take a look at the best Android apps released in 2021. Check the bottom of the article for some extra honorable mentions as well.
The best Android apps released in 2021
Clubhouse is a unique premise for an app. It’s basically a live radio show app that saw a lot of popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The official Android app launched in early 2021. Users can hop into talks from other users and listen to what they have to say. They can also host their own talks if they want to.
The app saw success after various celebrities and successful business people used it. In fact, it’s so successful that Spotify is trying to do something similar with Spotify Greenroom. It’s an overall fun premise, and people seem to like it quite a bit.
Price: Free / $3.99
coreSpecs is one of the best apps for viewing your phone’s sensors. It shows you a list of the sensors your phone supports. You can also test each sensor, view real-time data, and even check your battery stats.
It’s probably not useful for the vast majority of users. However, those who are curious, or specific power users, can find a lot of utility with an app like this. It works well, the UI is easy to use, and the pro version is not expensive.
LADB is another power user app that most people probably won’t need to use. The app bundles an ADB server in the app libraries so you can connect to your own device via local ADB. This is useful for a number of applications, namely, not needing to connect your device to a computer to run ADB commands.
There is a bit of a learning curve for those who aren’t tech-savvy, but it worked pretty well in our testing.
Microsoft Edge Canary
Microsoft released a Canary version of its browser this year, matching Google’s Chrome browser offerings. This app version is very similar to Google Chrome’s Canary release. You get to test out new and upcoming features, UI changes, and other stuff before everyone else. You may even see things that never make it to the stable release.
It gets updated daily, so people who hate updates should probably stay away. Otherwise, it works fine, and it’s a fun way to check out new stuff from a big browser.
Price: Free / $0.99 per month / $5.99 per year / $14.99 once
Niagara Launcher saw most of its popularity surge in 2020, but the app actually officially launched in 2021. The stable version launched in February 2021 and brought a lot of bug fixes from the beta. The app is demonstrably different from most Android launchers. It features a single home screen with a few shortcuts and a simple app drawer. You run through the app drawer, and it has a very pleasing wave animation. There are some other minor features, but that’s basically it.
It was among the first in a wave of minimalistic launchers that helped reduce clutter. We don’t like the subscription service part of it, but it does have a lifetime license, so that’s good.
Opera GX is a surprisingly popular browser aimed at gamers. The app acts like a regular Opera browser for the most part, but includes things like a gamer-oriented news feed along with a release calendar for games. There is also a desktop version, and you can sync things like your bookmarks between the two. It also includes an ad blocker and a cookie dialog blocker.
It’s far from perfect, but this app already has over a million downloads. That’s more than we thought it’d get.
Price: Free trial / $9.99 per month / $99.99 per year
Paramount+ was the big new streaming service in 2021. I am personally against the fragmentation of video content, but Paramount+ is less bad than some of its competitors. It includes some big TV shows like NCIS and SpongeBob SquarePants. It also has a bunch of other shows and movies you can stream. Luckily, the app also has modern features like profiles, Chromecast support, and live sports.
It works fine, even if the price is a bit high. The app seems to struggle a bit when it has to load advertising, and it definitely needs another layer of polish, but it generally works okay.
Price: Free / $9.49 per month / $69.99 per year
PhotoRoom Studio is a photo editor with a very specific purpose. It removes the background from photos, so you can put something else there. It’s pretty simple to use. You select a photo from your camera roll. The app processes your photo and out pops an image without a background. It worked well for the pictures we tested.
You can use the basic parts of the app for free. However, the app does ask for a subscription as soon as you start to push it. This was one of Google’s favorite apps from 2021, and it’s one of ours too.
Price: Free / $1.99
Poweramp Equalizer is one of the first and only good equalizer apps on Android that doesn’t require root. It boasts a laundry list of features, including a configurable number of equalizer bands, built-in presets, bass and treble tone controls, a preamp function, and several other things.
To be honest, there isn’t a lot to talk about. It functions as an equalizer and works in most apps, including streaming apps. It just works so well that we didn’t find any problems with it. This is the equalizer app we’ll be recommending to anyone who asks for one.
Project Activate isn’t something most people will use, but the technology that went into it is really cool. The app lets you create text-to-speech phrases and then play them when the app detects a specific look on your face. Thus, you can use facial expressions to communicate with people. There is also a function to perform phone actions with facial expressions.
This is for folks with disabilities, and it’s far from perfect. However, the concept is really cool, and Google will likely use this to improve accessibility in the future.
Stack is a surprisingly good app out of Google’s Area 120. It’s a multi-purpose productivity app that covers a few different bases. The app can scan documents into PDF files. It also automatically names them so you can find them easier later. Some additional features include the ability to isolate important details in PDFs automatically, the ability to import existing PDFs, and automatically backing up your stuff to the cloud.
This surprisingly potent document scanner competes pretty well with apps like Microsoft Office Lens.
Price: Free / $1.99 per month / $9.99 per year / $16.99 once
Taskito is an excellent entrant into the to-do list space. It offers most of the basic stuff from a to-do list like a timeline view, reminders, recurring tasks, color coding, and widgets. Taskito adds to the experience with a habit tracker, a decent tag system, and a Kanban system for getting tasks done.
Like Todoist, it puts some stuff behind the paywall like reminders. However, unlike most modern to-do list apps, you can purchase a lifetime license for this one and avoid the subscription costs. It competes well in this space for sure.
Videoleap Editor by Lightricks
Price: Free trial / $7.99 per month / $35.99 per year / $69.99 once
Videoleap Editor by Lightricks is a new video editor for 2021. It has a good list of features and uses a timeline editor with non-destructive editing, similar to the other big dogs in this space. In addition, the app can handle chroma keying (green screen), unlimited undo and redo, various filters and video effects, and more.
It should work in most situations, although some other editors outperform it in some areas. Of course, other editors have been out for way longer, so Videoleap has some time to catch up. We also like that you can buy it instead of paying a subscription, even if it’s a bit pricy.
Water Resistance Tester
Price: Free / $0.99—$99.99
We weren’t sure whether we wanted to include this on the best Android apps of the year list, or the most controversial. The app tests to see if your water resistance is intact. Many people didn’t think the app worked, but after lots of people tested it, it turned out the app did work. It uses your device’s built-in barometer to test your phone’s pressure. It doesn’t work if your phone doesn’t include one.
The app is entirely free to use with ads. An optional donation system removes ads for however much you want to pay.
Price: Free / $1.49 per year / $3.99 once
Win-X Launcher is something very different. It makes your Android home screen look like a Windows PC. The app comes complete with a start menu, a desktop, and more. It still lets you use widgets and things like that as well. It’s not great on a regular phone screen. The controls are just a bit too cramped.
However, the app also has a home on tablets, and foldables like the Galaxy Fold 3. The larger screens give this app the space to shine, and it actually works quite nicely. It’s also cheap and fun to use.
There were quite a few apps that could’ve easily made the main list, but didn’t for one reason or another. Here are some more generally good apps released in 2021.
- AetherSX2 — AetherSX2 made quite the splash at the end of 2021. It’s a PlayStation 2 emulator, in early alpha at the time of this writing, which is why it didn’t make the full list. This one has a lot of momentum and promise, and the developer seems committed to making it work. Tread with caution for now, but this may make the list when it launches next year.
- Chroma Galaxy Live Wallpapers — Chroma Galaxy Live Wallpaper is a live wallpaper app featuring art from Roman De Giuli. You pick the one you like, apply it, and the app plays a pattern on a loop. The wallpapers are gorgeous, colorful, and sharp. Aside from the occasional freeze bug, the app works fine. It should also get more wallpapers in future updates.
- Colorize — Colorize is a niche app, but it works pretty well. It uses AI to colorize black and white photographs into color. The app lets you scan in your old black and white photos, and then adds color at the press of a button. You can view stored photos in the gallery or share them as you please. It’s a bit too niche for the big list, but it’s still cool enough to mention.
- Lingvano — Lingvano is a new American Sign Language learning app in 2021. It seems to do everything right. You can learn ASL in bite-sized lessons. It teaches you conversational ASL and also includes a dictionary for quick reference. According to the developers, all of the teachers at Lingvano are deaf, and they helped develop the teaching methods. It’s all-around excellent, but it is very expensive at $17.99 per month. The high price makes it harder to recommend to a general audience.
- Mangamo — Mangamo is a manga reader. It boasts a growing manga collection, including popular ones like Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, Fire Force, The Seven Deadly Sins, and others. It boasts over 1,000 manga across 300 series and growing. It’s promising that an app is trying to tackle the space in a way that gives artists the money they deserve. However, it’s facing stiff competition from free manga readers, so we hope Mangamo continues to improve and iterate over time.
- OpenSea — OpenSea is one of the larger NFT marketplaces on the web. The app launched officially in 2021 and lets users browse and favorite NFTs across the site. It doesn’t allow you to buy NFTs, but you can browse along with checking item stats and other things. NFTs are a bit of a weird space, but this is among the best apps to check out for now.
- SwirlWalls — SwirlWalls is another live wallpaper with some really good animations. Every wallpaper is a swirl pattern of some kind. You can find very colorful ones or more minimal ones if you prefer. There is a healthy amount of customization, and every wallpaper has a dark mode version if you want to go that route. You simply tap the home screen to rotate the wallpaper.
If we missed any great Android apps released in 2021, tell us about them in the comments. You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists or check below for our lists from previous years.