Google’s Play Store has often been seen as playing second fiddle to Apple’s App Store. But that’s an unfair take on Android’s app emporium.
As well as serving up some excellent apps which have been ported over from Apple’s platform, this year has seen a string of ace Android extras.
Whether made by Google themselves or independent developers, Android apps are undoubtedly getting better.
Here’s our pick of the best from the past twelve months.
1 Google Now Launcher
Google Now, the Big G’s clever system which predicts your movements, serves up calendar reminders and tells you how badly your football team is doing, this year rolled out to all Android phones running version 4.1 or higher.
Its simple cards system is available by swiping to the left of your device’s home screen.
Tell it what cards you find useful and what you don’t and it’ll learn your habits. It takes some time to get used to, but give it a go and we promise you won’t be without it after a month.
Grab Google Now Launcher here: Google Now Launcher
2 Nokia Z launcher
This clever widget is still in beta, but can be snared via the once mighty mobile maker’s website.
Its aim is to simply your phone, learning which apps you use the most and leaving them as a simple list of shortcuts on your home screen.
It also shows your latest calendar event and the time. That’s it.
If there’s an app you want to open that’s not on your list, use the Scribble feature to swipe out its first few letters and it’ll open automatically.
This is set to be huge in 2015, so give it a go now and be ahead of the pack.
Grab Nokia Z launcher here: Nokia Z launcher
The big iOS hit of 2013 landed on Android earlier this year and immediately earned plaudits as the best way to access your email on your Google phone.
Its simple swipe system for archiving and setting reminders for emails has set the standard for modern email apps.
We love its simple, clean interface and the fact that it makes email feel less cumbersome and clunky than the native Gmail app.
It’s also a lot sharper than Google’s new Inbox tool, which looks a mess by comparison.
Grab Mailbox here: Mailbox
4 Google Fit
The Big G’s fitness aggregation tool is one of our choices of the year, not because of what it can do now (although that is cool), but what it’ll be able to do in the new year.
A fitness aggregator to rival Apple Health, it delivers daily details on how far you’ve run, walked or cycled. It’s set to offer tie–ins with big name apps from RunKeeper, Adidas, Polar, Nike and Withings to name just a few.
This means you’ll be able to track specific fitness achievements, weight loss and calorie count in one place.
The app is simple and less drill down than Apple Health and all the better for it.
Grab Google Fit here: Google Fit
5 Sunrise Calendar
For our money, this is the best smartphone calendar app out there.
Android’s native effort remains average at best, but this sharp tool hooks into Google’s servers to deliver your key events, as well as hooking up with other apps, such as Songkick.
This means you get information about events you’re going to without sticking them into your calendar manually.
Got a favourite football team? Get all their fixtures in your calendar just by choosing them in the settings.
You can switch timezones so you can schedule events such as international calls at the right time as well.
Grab Sunrise Calendar here: Sunrise Calendar