12 Best VR Apps For Android

Virtual reality — it’s the technology we’ve been waiting to get our paws on for many years. Now that it’s here, how will you implement it into your life? You have Microsoft already crafting VR gadgets like goggles and headgear for gamers and casual use.

However, you don’t need all of this fancy equipment to get started with using virtual reality. In fact, if you have a smartphone, you can start right now. There are many virtual reality apps on the market you can use — which should are worth the download? 

Let’s take a peek at the top 12 best VR apps for Android. 

YouTube VR

If you’re like most people today, then you spend hours of your life watching YouTube videos each week (if not each day). So why not step it up a notch by viewing your favorite content using YouTube VR? 

There’s no additional app to open — once you download it, you can just use your YouTube app. All you have to do is switch to “watch in VR” mode, and you can enjoy your shows and movies using an Android-supported VR headset. 

Google Cardboard

This is the VR app Google designed for Android users to enjoy its Cardboard VR headset with. Once you’re all set up, you can use all of the basic VR features with various Cardboard-supported apps. 

You can also use it to load VR videos and view 3D demonstrations. 

Google Expeditions

Google makes it to the list for the third time in a row. Is it really any surprise, though? With Google Expeditions, you’re doing more than just viewing scenes in 3D — you’re taking a trip around the world. 

You can travel to various corners of the earth, see different cultures up close and “personal,” and explore areas you’ve never even known existed. Expeditions is the perfect name for this VR app!

Fulldive VR

You always see virtual reality apps designed for games — but what if you want to enjoy using your smartphone in 3D? With the Fulldive VR app, you can become fully immersed in your smartphone. It’s ideal for browsing the web or viewing your photos and videos. 

Plus, it comes with a VR camera that allows you to capture videos and photos in a 360-degree view. 

VR Thrills Roller Coaster 360

What fun is getting the best VR apps if they’re not taking you on a wild roller coaster ride? With the VR Thrills Roller Coaster 360 app, you can get your adrenaline fix without leaving your house. 

This app features pre-recorded videos in first-person so you can “feel” like you’re actually there. 

VR Crazy Swing

Maybe you’re not into roller coasters, but wouldn’t mind being on a swing. Not just any swing — a VR Crazy Swing. 

This is beyond the typical swing you’ll find at the playground. When you climb aboard your virtual swing, you’ll be hundreds of feet off the ground. Then once the swing starts doing its thing, you’ll be thrilled (or even scared) at how high and far it goes. 

Netflix VR

Do you have a subscription with Netflix? Of course, you do! Now you can binge-watch your favorite movies and shows in 3D. 

There are two options for viewing your content. You can either go with a static view (aka rustic living room experience), so it feels like you’re sitting in a cozy den. Or you can choose to immerse yourself in the content with the void experience. With this option, the content moves based on your eye movement. 

InCell VR

Let’s not leave the kids out of the virtual reality fun. On this list of best VR apps, we have InCell, which is designed with children in mind. It’s an educational app that teaches children about the human body. 

Think of The Magic School Bus episode where Ms. Frizzle takes the class on a field trip into the bloodstream. Instead of just watching, your children can engage by defending the system from viruses as they travel throughout the body. 

Google Daydream

If you’re using Google Cardboard, then be prepared to make the switch to Google Daydream. This is an upgraded version that’ll replace Cardboard. You can use it to access all sorts of VR content, such as VR videos and other apps supported by Daydream. 

Be sure to get a Daydream headset, so you configure it to work with your VR experience. 

Orbulus

All the talk today about colonizing Mars may seem like an impossible feat. Now, you can get a head start by using Orbulus. In this VR app, you get to explore 360-degree photospheres of Mars and other celestial areas. 

However, that’s not all — the app also allows you to experience photos of events in 3D, such as the Hong Kong New Year Fireworks.

Cosmic Roller Coaster

Maybe you enjoy roller coasters and viewing celestial worlds in 3D. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to give Cosmic Roller Coaster a whirl. With this virtual reality app, you’ll be able to take a tour of the solar system on a fun roller coaster ride.  

Not to worry though — you’re not traveling at the speed of light, so you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful celestial views. 

Sisters

Now, for the folks who enjoy playing spooky games on their smartphone (like Granny and Five Nights at Freddy’s), you have Sisters. This is more than just another horror game — it’s a virtual reality app, which means you get to enjoy the game in 3D. 

If you didn’t think those games were nerve-wracking enough, wait until you try this!

How To Program NFC Tags Using Android

NFC stands for Near Field Communication and it allows two devices held closely to communicate with each other. An NFC tag is a paper-like tag that can be programmed to do your tasks using the NFC technology.

If you haven’t heard of this technology before, the above might sound a bit too technical to you, but it’s not. Once you’ve learned the basics of programming an NFC tag, you’ll find that you can use it to automate a number of your tasks that you may be doing manually every day.

Getting an NFC tag and programming it doesn’t require any special skills. As long as you know how to use an app on your Android device, you can program an NFC tag to do your specified tasks. Also, these NFC tags are inexpensive and available on all the major websites including Amazon. You can get a few of these for you so they can perform various tasks for you.

Requirements For Programming An NFC Tag

In order to program NFC tags, there are certain things, or requirements that you must meet. These are basic ones and as long as you use modern gadgets, you should be just fine.

You must have:

  • An NFC tag which can be bought very cheaply on Amazon.
  • An Android device with NFC compatibility. Check your phone’s specifications to confirm.
  • An app to program your tags. There’s a free app on the Play Store so you don’t need to worry about it.

Once you’ve confirmed you meet the minimum requirements, head onto the following section to start writing data to your NFC tag.

Writing Data To An NFC Tag Using Your Android Device

Programming an NFC tag basically means writing the actions you want to perform to your tag. This is done using a free app from the Play Store that you can download and use on your device.

  • The first thing you’ll need to do is enable the NFC option on your device. To do it, open the Settings app, tap on Bluetooth & device connection, select Connection preferences, and finally turn the toggle for NFC to the ON position.

    If you don’t find the option in the exact menu shown above, you might want to look inside other menus to see if it’s there. The location of the option varies by the device you use.

  • When NFC is enabled, launch the Google Play Store on your device, search for the app named Trigger, and install the app on your device.
  • Launch the newly installed app. When it opens, you’ll need to first create a new trigger. This can be done by tapping on the + (plus) sign at the bottom-right corner.
  • On the following screen, you’ll find the options you can create triggers for. The option you need to tap on is called NFC as this is what allows you to perform an action when an NFC tag is tapped.
  • After tapping NFC, tap on Next on the following screen to continue to program your tag.
  • The screen that follows lets you add restrictions to your tag. Here you can define the conditions when your tag is allowed to run. Tap on Done when you’ve specified the options.
  • Your NFC trigger is now ready. You now need to add an action to it so that your tag performs your chosen action when it’s tapped. Tap on Next to do it.
  • You’ll find various actions you can add to your tag for it to perform. As an example, we’ll be using the Bluetooth toggle option so that Bluetooth is turned on/off when the tag is tapped. Hit Next when you’re done.
  • You can customize the action even further on the following screen. Since we want to toggle Bluetooth, we’ll choose Toggle from the dropdown menu and tap on Add to Task.
  • You can now see all the actions you’ve added to the list. If you want, you can more actions by tapping the + (plus) sign at the top. This’ll make your tag do more than one task at a time. Then tap on Next to continue.
  • Tap on Done on the following screen.
  • Here comes the main part where you actually write the data to your tag. Place your NFC tag near the NFC location (usually near the rear camera) and the app will automatically write your actions to your tag.
  • You’ll get a success message when the tag is successfully programmed.

From now on, whenever you tap your phone to your NFC tag, it’ll perform the predefined actions on your device. In our case above, it’ll toggle the Bluetooth functionality on our phone.

You can even stick these tags somewhere convenient and then all you need to do is tap your phone at them to run your tasks.

How To Erase An NFC Tag On Android

If you want to use your tag for any other task, you can do so by erasing the existing data on it. You can program NFC tags as many times as you want and it’s pretty easy to get them formatted if you wish to do it.

  • Enable the NFC option on your device and launch the Trigger app.
  • Tap on the three horizontal-lines at the top-left corner and select Other NFC Actions.
  • On the following screen, you’ll find an option that says Erase tag. Tap on it to select it.
  • Place your NFC tag on your phone like you did when you were programming it.

You’ll get a notification when your tag is erased. It’s instant in most cases.

Uses Of a Programmable NFC Tag

If this is your first time using NFC tags, we know you’ll appreciate some suggestions as to what to use them for

  • Create a WiFi NFC tag that lets your guests automatically connect to your WiFi.
  • Create an NFC tag for an alarm so you don’t need to mess with the alarm app.
  • Make a tag for your conference room that puts people’s devices in silent mode.
  • Program a tag to call someone specific in your contacts

4 Amazing Desktop Environments For Android

Android is an operating system that’s come a long way since its first limping steps on early devices, but it still lacks a proper desktop environment. In other words, if you plug your powerful smartphone into a large screen, you still get a phone interface. Simply blown up to epic proportions. 

There have been some attempts at creating a good desktop environment for Android phones. Samsung leads the way here with DeX. It’s exclusive to specific Samsung phones, but transforms your device into a full-fledged desktop machine when you plug it into a large monitor, DeX station or (in some models) another computer using the DeX desktop app.

Leena Desktop UI

Right now, Leena Desktop UI is still in beta form, but it already looks incredibly promising. Leena is in fact just an Android app, but it’s been cleverly written to provide you with much of the core functionality you’d get from a real desktop UI for your phone. 

The downside of Leena is that you can’t launch other apps and then run them within it. Instead you have to use the built in sub-apps. The upside of Leena is that you don’t have to root or otherwise modify your phone to use it. Simply download it as a regular app and use it.

There’s a paid “pro” version of the software as well that adds more functionality, but for most people the basic free beta will already provide a quick way to move into a more comfortable workspace.

Sentio Desktop

Sentio Desktop offers a more feature-rich product than Leena at this point, but the company has gone beyond simply offering a desktop environment for Android. They also sell hardware that combines with the app to really turn your phone into a laptop. 

It’s called the Superbook and is basically a laptop with all the computer guts stripped out. Your phone mounts on the side of the Superbook and the app runs on the main screen. It’s very cool, though perhaps not ready to replace a laptop for most people.

The good news is that you don’t have to buy Sentio hardware to make use of this app. You can simply connect any mouse, keyboard and external monitor to the setup and get the same experience.

Sentio really seems to have thought it through when it comes to which desktop features are really important for day-to-day work. It allows for apps to be resized, resolution changes, multi-window apps and everything you’d generally expect from a Windows or Linux desktop UI, 

It also sports a traditional start menu, a taskbar with system tray and a notification center. As a whole, Sentio Desktop seems to be a real competitor to Samsung DeX, just without the hardware restriction. Then again, since Sentio will run on any Android device, stability will inevitably suffer. 

Looking through user reviews it seems that, while it runs perfectly for many, some users get crashes or other niggles on their particular handsets. Not that big a deal if you haven’t invested in the SuperBook hardware, so it is worth trying the app out before considering that.

Sentio is certainly plenty ambitious and if you don’t have a DeX-capable phone, (or even if you do!) it’s certainly worth a try.

AndroNix

While Leena and Sentio offer a desktop front-end for your Android phone, AndroNix goes further by adding an entire extra operating system to your phone. Yes, this app allows you to run a Linux installation on your Android phone. That’s without the need for rooting, but it does take some elbow grease to get it all going.

Andronix is really more a collection of step-wise scripts that you copy into a terminal app. The instructions are clear and there’s plenty of documentation, but they’ve had to work around the limitations of Android here. For example, you access your Linux instance by using VNC, a remote desktop client. It’s a kludge that works just fine, but it’s a kludge nonetheless.

AndroNix does have an amazing community, lots of documentation and developers who really seem to be on the ball with support requests. The paid-for premium version comes with dedicated support as well, which might matter to you if this becomes a mission-critical application. 

It is definitely not for everyone, but incredibly impressive nonetheless.

Maru OS

The first thing you should know about Maru OS is that it only works on a very small number of devices right now. These aren’t even particularly popular phone models, so chances are you don’t have one of these. However, Maru is worth bookmarking and keeping an eye on. It’s a gorgeous, lightweight operating system for smartphones.

Yes, MaruOS actually replaces the entire operating system, it isn’t an OS within and OS or simply an app with a desktop UI. It’s based on Android Oreo and seamlessly shifts from being a mobile OS to being a desktop one.

These are the devices you can load MaruOS on at the time of writing:

  • Nexus 6P (angler)
  • Nexus 5X (bullhead)
  • Nexus 5 (hammerhead)
  • Pixel (Sailfish)
  • Samsung S9+ (star2LTE) 

Pay attention to the internal condenames here. For example, “star2LTE” refers to the Exynos-equipped S9+ phones. So not every S9+ will work.

MaruOS represents an extreme approach to getting your phone to work as a desktop, but it might also be the most reliable and elegant way to do it. For most of us, this is just a curiosity right now, but hopefully something like MaruOS will become the norm for all Android devices at some point in the future.

Your Phone Is Your Computer!

With flagship Android phones now packing as much processing power as a typical work laptop, it seems a shame to waste it all on Instagram and Twitter browsing. With these apps you can put that grunt to good use and perhaps even leave that laptop at home as you move from one monitor to the next. 

Even if you only ever use the desktop option in a pinch, it’s never a bad thing to have options!

How to Set Up Android Guest Mode and Why You Should

Android guest mode is an option that lets you hide everything that’s yours, but still keep your phone functional. When you switch over to guest mode, you’re hiding all of your apps, history, pictures, messages, etc, while simultaneously allowing someone else to use your phone.

Using Android guest mode is like having an entirely separate phone within your primary one. Much like a separate user account on a computer or website, guest mode can have different apps, files, home screen widgets, emails, etc. Guest users can still make calls, install apps, and download their own files, but nothing collides with your account.

Let’s look at how to enable Android guest mode so that you can get this neat alternate account for your friends or family to use when they want your phone. Switching to guest mode is easy, but before we start, let’s dive a bit deeper into why you’d use guest mode.

Why You Should Use Android Guest Mode

Anyone who wants to share their phone temporarily might like guest mode. Maybe you’re letting a stranger borrow your phone to make a private call and you don’t want them snooping through your texts or bank information? Or maybe you have a child who likes to watch videos on your phone, but they have a habit of messing around in other apps like Facebook or Messages?

Android guest mode is also helpful if you want a distraction-free phone for a while. Turn over to guest mode (with calls enabled in case of emergencies) and enjoy zero app notifications. Since your regular apps aren’t installed in guest mode, you won’t be tempted to open games during work or browse social media when out with friends.

How To Set Up Android Guest Mode

Turning on Android’s guest mode is really easy. 

  • Go to Settings > System > Advanced > Multiple users and enable multiple users if it isn’t already turned on. 
  • Tap Add guest or Guest (whichever one you see) to switch over to guest mode.
  • On the multiple users screen, tap the settings button next to the guest option if you want to turn on phone calls. Otherwise, the guest user won’t be able to make or take phone calls.
  • Another way to quickly switch in and out of Android guest mode is by swiping down from the top of the screen to view the notifications panel. Expand it fully to view all options, and then choose the avatar button to pick Guest.
  • When you’re finished in guest mode, but before you choose a different account to switch over to, the Guest button changes to Remove guest

This is an easy way to erase all that you’ve done in guest mode so that the next time you go in there, it’s a brand-new, fresh account. If you don’t erase guest mode, you can still do it the next time you open it.

What Gets Shared Between Accounts

Every account on your phone shares updates made to apps and settings like Wi-Fi network details and paired Bluetooth devices. 

This means when one user updates an app, it’s updated for all users. The same goes for wireless devices. Whether you or the guest user joins a wireless network, you’ll both have access to the network since the password is shared between both accounts.

However, texts, files, emails, music, videos, documents, photos, and data stored within apps aren’t shared between the guest account and primary account. You can open email accounts, download documents, take pictures, etc., and the other account won’t see them unless they switch over to yours.

Guests vs Users On Android Phones

When switching over to Android guest mode or turning on the multiple users feature, you may have noticed an option to add users. Users and guests are really similar accounts, but with one major difference: it’s easier to erase and restart the guest account.

Every time you switch over to guest mode, you’re asked if you want to continue the session with the same changes made to it the last time it was used, or if you want to start over. This isn’t a prompt you see when switching over to a user profile. This is because Android views guest mode as temporary, where you might want to wipe it before each new use, while user accounts are meant for long-term use with their own apps and files.

Another difference is that you can’t send or receive texts in Android guest mode. Phone calls can work if you enable them, but there isn’t an option to turn on texting. If you want another user account that’s separate from your primary one, and you want it to be able to text, you’ll have to use another user account instead of guest mode (and then enable texting for it).

To recap, these are the primary differences between user mode and Android guest mode:

  • Only user mode can send and receive texts from the Messages app (these are still shared with the primary account).
  • Guest mode is easier to erase after use (but you can still delete user accounts fairly easily).

Both have their own benefits and disadvantages, so it’s entirely up to you which one you use.

The Best On-The-Go Accessories for Your Smartphone

While we may call them “smartphones”, the device you have in your pocket is actually a proper general purpose computer. As smartphone manufacturers have started embracing this fact, smartphones (and of course tablets) have started taking on more and more “proper” computer attributes. 

Thanks to technology such as USB-C, the port on your smartphone is a massive, multi-lane, bi-directional highway. Just like your laptop or desktop computer, it’s possible to connect all sorts of peripherals that expand the functionality of your device. That’s in addition to all the wireless goodies!

OTG or On The Go accessories refer to the OTG standard for smartphone USB ports. Early smartphones had a one-way relationship with whatever you plugged into them. They could never play the “host” for devices the way that a computer does. The phone was basically seen as a smartphone accessory itself. 

Phones that support OTG (which includes nearly all modern phones) can act as both a host and a client, depending on what you hook them up to. USB-C is becoming the standard quickly and is the most seamless implementation of OTG, but many fairly recent phones that still use the older micro-USB port also work with OTG devices, albeit with less available power and less bandwidth.

External Storage

Support for external storage is quite possible the biggest deal when it comes to on-the-go phone goodies. You can now buy OTG flash drives that already have a USB-C or Micro USB port out of the box. Simply plug them into your mobile device and access the files from the file system or an app directly. 

Wireless file transfer is an amazing convenience, but it is orders of magnitude slower than simply plugging a USB drive into your phone and blasting through a file transfer.

Mechanical external hard drives also work pretty well, but in general a phone won’t give out enough power to operate one. So you might need a powered hub to make this setup work. With a large tablet such as the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9”, we had no issue getting a portable hard drive to work. After reformatting it from NTFS to exFat, that is.

External Microphones & Cameras

The mics and cameras that are built into modern smartphones are incredibly impressive, but there is only so much you can do within the allotted space.

The good news is that if you have a good quality USB microphone, you can use it as an OTG device. That allows you to, for example, record your latest podcast episode on something that sounds amazing, rather than something recorded inside a tin can.

Another interesting possibility is the connection of external camera equipment. There are now products out there that let you attach a third-party camera to your phone for specialized uses. The Insta360 cameras, for example, are an affordable way to turn your phone into a 360-video machine. 

However, this is not yet something that’s natively supported by mobile operating systems. A companion app is generally required to operate these cameras once plugged in.

Keyboards, Mouses & Monitors

Yes, it’s possible to basically turn your phone into a desktop computer by attaching the classic peripherals that normally plug into a beige box. Using a USB-C hub with the right ports, you can be clicking away at a website or writing your masterpiece novel in no time. 

Of course, you’ll have to deal with mobile interfaces. Android has native mouse support and iOS recently added it in an experimental fashion, but bespoke solutions such as Samsung Dex or a third-party desktop environment app for Android could go a long way to make this a feasible way to satisfy your computing needs.

Game Controllers

iOS13 recently added support for Xbox One S and PS4 controllers, but on the Android side of things you can actually hook up either of these pads using USB OTG technology. 

In our testing game support for this was pretty widespread, although not as universal as Apple’s MFi standard has enforced on the other side of the fence. For Android users, it’s as simple as using an OTG adapter and a short micro USB cable and you’re ready to play. 

Combined with a nice gamepad phone mount, and you’ve got a pretty great handheld gaming solution!

Weird, Niche, Yet Useful Things

Since USB-C is such a universal and versatile technology, you can hook up some things that may not be obvious, but turn out to be quite cool. 

For example, USB-C monitors are paper thin laptop-sized displays that can work with your phone. What about a USB Midi controller to make music? Ethernet via USB is also possible, which is very weird but also useful in some cases. Have you ever considered connecting a printer to your phone? Depending on the model, it’s possible. 

Some DSLRs also allow for communication through your phone. With remote wired control for the device using an app.

What About iOS Users?

The situation for iOS users is a little more complicated than OTG use on Android. This is mainly because Apple has transitioned to USB-C from its own in-house Lightning standard. 

Whether something would work on-the-go via Lightning has been a bit of a gamble. People have had success using the Apple Lightning Camera Connection Kit and the newer USB 3 version.

It’s always a good idea to use Google specific accessories and whether they work with this solution. Support for external storage on iOS devices is pretty recent, but we’ve seen plenty of confirmations that it works just fine with this kit. 

If you have an Apple device that nativile uses USB-C, then you’re pretty much good to go!

Join The OTG Revolution!

While smartphones are absolutely amazing as standalone devices, you’re missing out on a lot if you ignore the potential of that unassuming little charging port. So go ahead and be bold, plug some smartphone accessories in and expand your mobile horizons.