Great Google apps you didn't know you needed

All Android phones come with a bunch of preloaded Google apps, but these you'll have to download from Google Play

Sarah Jacobbson Purewal

Many of the best Google apps don't come pre-installed

You already use plenty of Google apps. Android is a Google product, after all. And your phone almost certainly came with Google Maps and Gmail, for example.

Honestly, you may think you have too many Google apps.

But you’re wrong. The Google apps that came preinstalled on your device are the tip of the Google app empire. Google develops lots of apps beyond what comes with your phone. Some are good, some are bad, and some are surprisingly useful and intriguing. Here are nine of our favorite Google apps that you won’t find already on your phone.

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Inbox by Gmail

The official Gmail app is pretty good, but Inbox by Gmail might be better. In typical Google fashion, Inbox by Gmail is designed to “change the way you do email.” It attempts to do this (and mostly succeeds) by incorporating a slew of handy features you definitely won’t get in any other email app. With Inbox by Gmail, you can do things like “snooze” messages for later (they’ll disappear from your inbox and reappear at a set time or when you enter a specific area), organize messages into bundles, and add reminders to your inbox. The app also makes a better effort to auto-organize your messages by consolidating items like travel reservations and purchases. Inbox by Gmail isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a look.


Google Opinion Rewards

Two words: Free money.

Seriously, there’s no good reason not to have the Google Opinion Rewards app on your phone. This lightweight survey app is unobtrusive; it sits in the background until Google has a survey for your demographic. When an eligible survey pops up, the app will send you a quick notification and you’ll be asked to answer a handful of questions (often related to marketing and advertising, and none of which are personally identifying). When you’re finished, the app will award you some cash (up to $1) that will be deposited into your Google Play account. You can then use this free money to make purchases on the Google Play store. 


Google Translate

Google Translate is one of my favorite apps of all time.

I first fell in love with Google Translate when they introduced handwriting input for Japanese characters (the app now supports handwriting input for 93 different languages), because it’s much easier to identify stylized kanji when you can simply write them down. And the app has gotten better and better: Google Translate now supports 103 languages and multiple forms of input — including the ability to translate text instantly via your phone’s camera. The instant camera mode (courtesy of Google’s 2014 acquisition of Word Lens) lets you point your camera at any written text (in 30 languages) and see the words translated before your eyes.


Google Sound Search

Google has its own Shazam-like song identifier in Google Sound Search. Google Sound Search is a simple widget that you can add to your home screen or your lock screen, which is perfect for when you’re driving and a song comes on the radio and you don’t have the time or dexterity to unlock your phone and open up Shazam or SoundHound (Google Sound Search is also voice-activated through Google Now). There’s not much else to say about this app/widget, other than that it’s quick and effective, and it naturally links you directly to Google Play, so you can purchase identified tracks.


Google Goggles

Google Goggles was more impressive when it first came out, and augmented reality and reverse image searches weren’t as prevalent as they are now. But the app is still pretty neat and especially handy if you’re trying to identify a popular image, such as a painting or a piece of street art (it works best with two-dimensional objects, though it can also identify landmarks and monuments). Google Goggles is essentially a convenient phone-oriented reverse image search: Snap a photo of the object you want to identify, and Google Goggles will comb its archive for a match. It’s not that useful if you’re in a museum (since museums usually label their objects), but it’s great for when you want to identify a random picture on the wall of a restaurant or figure out which original painting a piece of street art was derived from.

Side note: Google Goggles hasn’t been updated since 2014, but rumors suggest Google might be adding its functionality into the Google app.



Snapseed is just about everything you could possibly want in a photo-editing app. It has got tons of features (including the ability to “stack” different edits and create your own Instagram-like filter), you can use it to open and edit both JPG and DNG files, and it’s free! For the less detail-oriented photo manipulators, Snapseed also features a collection of preset filters that you can easily apply to your pictures with a simple tap. It’s not quite Photoshop, but it’s pretty close.


Google Express

Google Express is Google’s answer to the demand for practically instant in-home delivery services like Amazon Prime Now and Postmates. Google Express lets you shop a variety of stores, including Costco (though you must be a member), Target, Toys R Us, Walgreens, and Whole Foods and get relatively fast delivery for $5. How fast “relatively fast” actually is depends on your location: In some areas, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, Google Express offers same-day delivery, but in other places you’ll see either overnight service or possibly even two- or three-day service. Google Express might not replace Amazon Prime, but it’s still a handy app for when you want to shop at a specific store (but, you know … not leave your house).


Google Trips

If you travel a lot (or at all) and use Gmail as your primary “traveling” email account, you’ll find the recently launched Google Trips app surprisingly useful. Google Trips combines multiple travel-friendly features in a single app: It scours your Gmail account to pull out reservations and confirmation emails; it offers up information about each city you’re planning to visit, including “insider” tips and things to do; and it features curated lists of places to eat and drink, complete with the location on Google maps and Google user reviews. In other words, Google Trips is sort of like TripIt, TripAdvisor, and Yelp rolled into one cool-looking app.  



You’re an Android user, so you’re probably a pro when it comes to alternative keyboard apps. But Google’s keyboard app, Gboard, has something other keyboard apps do not: Google search -- which makes sense, because Google’s biggest strength is, well, search.

In addition to search, Gboard has a lot of other features for you to play with: Glide-typing, the ability to modify/customize (or turn off) autocorrect, voice input, and even a built-in Google Translate module that translates your text in real time, so you can carry on long and probably confusing conversations with people who speak a different language. There’s also built-in GIF searching, predictive typing (when you’re texting and when you’re searching), and plenty of free themes and customization options. And it’s getting better all the time …