Google’s clever keyboard arrived for iPhone back in May, and Android users have had to wait for months to get their hands on it.
Gboard packs a search bar right above your keys, so you can look up stuff and paste it into your note-taking app, messaging service or email composition window with a tap.
You can also search for and quickly insert emoji, resize the keyboard for more comfortable one-handed typing and select from a range of themes. If you haven’t yet settled on a primary keyboard app, this one’s certainly worth considering.
I’ll admit it: I’m including Radon on this list primarily because of how cool it is. It lets you share links and text with nearby devices using ultrasound.
It’s really a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and near-ultrasonic audio, found in Google’s Nearby API, that’s used to enable sharing, and it works best with small amounts of data. While both users need to have the app installed and there are other tools that can help you share stuff, this one at least don’t need pairing to get started.
Traditional Android dialers are rather basic and don’t address the problem of contacts being available on various messaging services. Drupe fixes that with a clever interface: It displays contacts on one side of your screen, which you can swipe to the other side to connect with them using the app of your choice.
The app has been updated to include useful new features like a call recorder, caller ID and voice messages that you can leave for other Drupe users.
Since it was acquired by Microsoft in February, SwiftKey’s added plenty of useful features to its excellent keyboard app. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of neural networks for smarter, more meaningful word predictions based on the context of your input.
The app also got a new Incognito mode for when you don’t want it to learn certain words, a clipboard that lets you save text snippets for later and the ability to insert long strings of text with just a shortcut. Plus, its entire collection of themes is now available for free. At this point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better keyboard for your Android device.
➤ SwiftKeyOpera VPN
Need a free and easy-to-use VPN for your phone? Opera’s new offering gets the job done with minimal fuss.
Fire it up, get connected and you can then browse anonymously without giving away your real IP address, as well as access region-locked content by spoofing your location.
The service supports several languages and lets you choose from five server locations, including the US, Canada, Germany, Singapore and The Netherlands.
➤ Opera VPNNexar
Nexar turns your phone into a dash cam for free, and includes a few handy features to boot.
In addition to recording footage in front of your car, it’ll also automatically detect incidents and save the clip to your cloud storage. Plus, the app uses data from its community of drivers to warn of accidents and other issues on your route.
If you’re using your car as a ride-sharing cab, you can also set Nexar to record both inside and outside your vehicle, so you never have to worry about documenting issues with passengers.
AirDroid is great for managing your mobile device from your desktop – it lets you do things like transfer files, reply to texts, send stuff to the clipboard and install downloaded apps.
The interface has been overhauled for improved file transfer, so it’s now easier to share content with other devices nearby without an internet connection. There are also new controls to manage whether you want to display notifications for calls and texts on your desktop.
Plus, it can now back up photos from your device’s local storage, share the keyboard and clipboard with your desktop and the ability to search through your SMS.
If you share and download files via torrents, you’ll want a client that’s free of ads and unnecessary features. LibreTorrent handles torrents like a champ in a fuss-free interface and supports magnet links, IP filtering, as well as the ability to select which files to download from a torrent. Plus, it looks great on tablets.
➤ LibreTorrentGoogle Maps
Google Maps got a bunch of useful updates this year, including a tab displaying taxi ride costs and times for your destination, a smart Driving Mode that displays traffic updates without asking for a route, the ability to restrict map downloads to only Wi-Fi connections and the option to store offline maps on your SD card.
There’s also a new direction indicator built into the app that makes it easier to avoid walking around like a lunatic to find your way, and a new feature for making reservations without having to launch a separate app. Plus, it now specifies if an establishment you’re looking up is wheelchair accessible.
➤ Google MapsGoogle Trips
If you’re heading out of town, whether for work or play, be sure to fire up Google Trips before you leave the house. It grabs itinerary info from your Gmail account and then lists attractions, bars and restaurants, and plans for day trips at your destination. I found it incredibly handy while exploring new cities in Europe this year, as it saved me precious time looking up things to do.
Thanks to a recent update, you can also create day plans by selecting saved places to visit on your trip; choose a starting point from a range of options and the app will map a route for you automatically.
➤ Google Trips