As ever, the prices provided in brackets are for the initial download only: when an app uses in-app purchases, this will be listed as (Free + IAP). Something to look for: a new section of each app’s Google Play store listing, which explains the full range of IAP.
More interested in iOS apps? They’re covered in a separate Best iPhone and iPad Apps roundup, with the latest instalment due to be published later today.
Since it’s been a few weeks since the last Android roundup, this week’s is a top 30:
Amex Unstaged – Taylor Swift (Free)
She might not be on Spotify, but Taylor Swift is certainly on the Google Play store with this app, based on her Blank Space single. It involves exploring a house filmed using 360-degree cameras, watching behind-the-scenes footage too. One for fans, but impressive nonetheless.
Sleep Better (Free + IAP)
Runtastic made its name as an activity-tracking app – hence the name – but now it’s turning its attention to your night-time health. This app aims to track your sleep cycles, complete with a smart alarm to wake you up at the right moment – translation: not grumpytime – as well as helping you pinpoint good and bad influences on your sleep.
Messenger is Google’s latest attempt to break out a feature of Android into a standalone app, which can then be updated more frequently via Google Play. In this case, it’s all about the messaging: SMS, MMS, group texts and more.
An essential download for winter sports folk, this provides maps and weather forecasts for pistes around the world; tracks your speed and distance while skiing and snowboarding; and has some inventive social features to challenge friends, or simply (virtually) yodel at them.
MTV Trax (Free)
This app is the work of startup MusicQubed working with MTV, following its partnership with O2 on the similar O2 Tracks app. It’s a music app that downloads playlists of popular and new songs to your phone overnight, including the odd exclusive – One Direction’s new album this week. It’s free until early February, at which point a weekly subscription will kick in.
Rooster Teeth (Free)
Rooster Teeth is one of the most creative studios making original videos for YouTube at the moment, and now it has an official app for fans to keep up with its output. From gaming Let’s Play videos to comedy, it’s a handy way to watch – albeit not one that’ll replace the main YouTube app for more casual viewers.
Home Design 3D (Free + IAP)
Having moved house earlier in the year, I’ve been building up a mountain of bits of paper with scribbled layouts. Home Design 3D is one of the apps aiming to take that process digital, as you quickly draw rooms, place furniture and then see how it all looks. A handy visualisation tool.
Facebook Groups (Free)
Forgotten that Facebook had groups? Apparently around 700 million people are still using the feature. This new standalone app – part of Facebook’s strategy to “unbundle the big blue app” – focuses on groups: creating new ones, joining existing ones and posting to any that you’re a member of.
There’s a growing community of cookery apps on Android, with this one aimed at a wide audience (translation: even kitchen liabilities like me) with more than 1,000 recipes to try. Step-by-step instructions, built-in timers and the ability to control the app with your voice when your hands are floury make it very useful.
A Hollow Body (Free)
Looking to fill time during the (long) wait between series of Sherlock? This app from the Museum of London is just the thing: a narrated walk starting near St Paul’s Cathedral, inspired by the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Note, they’re stressing it’s NOT just a guide: “You should imagine walking through a film, where you are the main characters…”
The Hunt (Free)
This is a new approach to online shopping, fresh to the UK. Instead of browsing products, you post a photo of what you’re looking for, and then wait for other users to “help you find it, style it, or buy it for less”. Crowdshopping? Maybe that’s the key to a stress-free pre-Christmas period.
OurHome – Chores and Rewards (Free)
This is a good idea for parents grumbling that their children don’t help out around the home. It’s part family-organiser, so you know who’s where when; it’s part motivational tool to reward kids for doing chores; and it’s also a digital shopping list, kept updated in between shop/supermarket trips.
Tiggly Addventure (Free)
This is a cute maths app for young children, aged three and older, introducing them to simple sums through the adventure of its titular hero. It works fine on its own, but can also be used with the developer’s Tiggly Counts maths toys, which have just gone on sale.
Burger King App (Free)
New for the UK – I suspect American Burger King fans have had something like it for a while – this blends mobile vouchers, menus and a find-your-nearest option for anyone craving this particular brand of fast food.
Finally, a simple but potentially-effective idea for charities to raise money through mobile donations. SnapDonate lets you take a photo of a charity’s logo, then donate to them in a variety of small-to-medium amounts.
Civilization Revolution 2 (£11.26)
Yes, it’s a high price for a mobile game, but strategy game Civilization remains engrossing, especially in this revamped version for mobile play. You build up your empire, then negotiate with rivals (or crush them) while racing to discover new technologies. As moreish as the original PC game.
Candy Crush Soda Saga (Free + IAP)
Candy Crush Saga may have peaked a little while ago, but it still has a huge audience. Those people are unlikely to be disappointed with its official sequel: yes, it’s more of the same sweet-swapping action, but with little touches – soda, bears, power-ups – that give it new appeal.
Football Manager Handheld 2015 (£6.99 + IAP)
Along with Civilization, this represents a double-whammy this week of ‘games that were more important than homework when I was a teenager’ – Football Manager in its original Championship Manager incarnation, that is. The Handheld version remains the best mobile football management game by far, from its neat interface to its smooth match engine.
TwoDots (Free + IAP)
Dots and its sequel TwoDots have been very popular on iOS, but now the latter is on Android too. It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play puzzler, as you connect coloured dots across 135 levels, challenging friends to beat your skills as you go.
Kingdom Rush Origins (£1.88 + IAP)
Kingdom Rush is a rightfully-respected brand in the tower defence genre, and from what I’ve played so far, this is the best version yet. Pitched as a prequel, it’s an absorbing strategy game as you marshal your fantasy forces (and towers) to fend off onrushing enemies.
The Banner Saga (£6.99)
Thankfully spared a lawsuit from the Candy Crush people, this Viking-themed RPG is a carefully-crafted treat. Its battles and storytelling blend perfectly, as they did on iOS, with a tale you can happily lose yourself in.
Turbo Dismount (Free + IAP)
If you’re more action-focused, you’ll love Turbo Dismount. It’s a “crash simulator” that sees you trying to causing as much chaos as possible with “Mr Dismount and the cars who love him”, with slow-motion replays making the most of the impressive physics engine.
The Hunger Games: Panem Rising (Free + IAP)
With The Hunger Games back in cinemas, this is a pretty good time for a new official mobile game – with publisher Kabam’s record with The Hobbit a good omen. Set in the world of The Hunger Games, this involves building a team of rebels, battling to improve their skills and exploring the world of Panem.
XCOM: Enemy Within (£9.89)
Another old gaming brand coming back for another bite on mobile. 2K’s new XCOM title is billed as an “expansion” to 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with its squad-based strategy – multiplayer included – providing plenty to get your teeth into.
Mark of the Dragon (Free + IAP)
Breeding dragons? There’ve been a few popular mobile games along those lines in recent years, but Gamevil’s new release looks like it’s putting a fresh spin on the theme. So yes, breeding and battling, but a community of guilds and multiplayer raiding looks to add depth too.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 (£1.90)
It’s not so long since the (excellent) Five Nights at Freddy’s game was released for Android, with its tale of a spooky pizza restaurant and creepy animatronic characters. The sequel looks equally impressive, as you track the characters through security camera footage, and fend them off.
Battle Worlds: Kronos (£7.02)
A good week for hardcore strategy gaming, with Battle Worlds: Kronos a turn-based tablet wargame with depth to spare. You can play alone – the promise of 50 hours’ solo play looks about right – or pit your wits against other humans in the multiplayer mode.
Creature Academy (Free + IAP)
Kabam’s second entry in this roundup features more critters that you have to collect and train up for fights, with more than 200 to find, and a host of battles to harden their skills. It’s colourful, with a neat touch-friendly interface.
Endless Doves (Free + IAP)
The almost Game Boy-style retro graphics will have gamers of a certain age salivating at the sight of Endless Doves, but its gameplay has much more to offer than old-school visuals. “Collect Doves, Don’t Crash” is how the developers sum it up. Miles more fun than Flappy Bird is how I’d put it.
Jet Run: City Defender (Free + IAP)
Finally, Jet Run: City Defender is one of the best-looking Android games this week: an into-the-screen action game that sees you whizzing through urban landscapes in a jet, letting anything in your path have it with both missiles. Like Temple Run meeting After Burner, it’s great fun.
That’s my choice, but what Android apps and games have you been using recently? Make your recommendations – or give your views on the picks above – in the comments section.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 25th November 2014 13.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010