With almost 1.9 million apps in the Google Play store -- and 33,000 more coming each month -- there is little chance of keeping up with all the new releases. But I steadily swap apps on and off my phone, trying anything that looks interesting. Google has its own list. But here are six apps that made the cut on my home screen this year.
When Google announced this summer that it was uncoupling Photos from Google+, the outlook didn't seem especially bright for either service. But for Photos at least the separation is working out. The standalone version of Google Photos is a surprisingly easy way to capture, edit, find, and share images. And Google is constantly adding cool new features and has created a vibrant group on Google+ for the app, full of tips and advice.
Watching 3D scenes with my Cardboard viewer and the New York Times' NYT VR app is astonishing. But using the GoogleCardboard Camera to easily make and view my own stereoscopic images is, if not mind-boggling, at least ridiculously fun.
Nothing else comes close: This is my favorite app. Major League Baseball gets its right with its centerpiece At Bat app. The app is easy to navigate, and it's a snap to monitor the progress of games. But the app's audio and video feeds set it apart. It's a delight to listen to home or away announcers and catch my favorite team's broadcasts when I'm traveling. Apps from other professional sports leagues (I'm looking at you, NFL) aren't even in the ballpark.
Waze is my way forward. Combining real-time traffic conditions, turn-by-turn navigation, and game-like interactions, Waze is more than an interesting alternative to Apple's and Google's maps apps. At some point this year, it became the only navigation and traffic app I used. It's not perfect: It's a bit bossy, and it offers too many onscreen notifications when I should have my eyes on the road. But the combination of crowdsourced traffic reporting and gamification of driving is too compelling to ignore.
I've been reading "RSS is dead" stories for years, but the technology doesn't seem to be going away, thank goodness. The services that were supposed to supplant RSS -- Twitter and Facebook -- do an OK job of showing me news, but it's news other folks think I should see, not necessarily news I want to see. Feedly lets me pick my news sources -- from tech news sites to baseball blogs -- and then lets me easily browse through my newsfeeds. I'd be a less interesting person without Feedly.
The Play Store is bulging with fitness apps that offer to track everything from sleep cycles to sit-ups. But studies show that perhaps the most effective way to lose weight is to keep a food journal. The Play Store has lots of apps to do that, but for me Lose It does the best job helping me keep track of what I've eaten throughout the day. It's helpful -- and often sobering -- to watch the calorie count grow over a day. I also use Google Fit to track my steps, but it lacks a food diary, so Fit is a nice companion to Lose It but not a replacement.