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12 Free Apps You Probably Have or Should Know About

These are among the most popular downloads in Apple's and Google's app stores

a smiling man looking at his phone with app icons in the background

Source: Getty / Yelp / FaceTime / Zoom / YouTube / Facebook / Google / Instagram / LinkedIn

En español | You may have some popular apps on your phone already. They represent the social networks where you spend the most time, the email service you use more than others, the places you go for sports scores or dining recommendations, and, yes, the video-chat service you count on to keep in close touch with colleagues, family and friends during the pandemic.

The following free apps are among the most popular downloads in Apple's and Google's app stores. Large tech companies own half the apps on the list below: Facebook has Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp; Google owns Gmail and YouTube; and Microsoft bought LinkedIn.

Millions of people find countless uses for these apps, from networking for a new job to organizing favorite home-remodeling ideas to taking time out for a laugh or two.

ESPN: Live Sports & Scores

With analysis, live radio, news, podcasts and video highlights, ESPN's app caters to fans of almost every college, individual and professional sport as well as to fantasy sports aficionados. You can list your favorite teams to follow them more closely.



The mammoth social network has billions of active users. Odds are quite good that you have kids, grandkids and lifelong friends on the service whom you can keep up with through messages, musings, and posts of photos and links.


Google's Gmail is among the most popular email services around the world. It has some handy features, such as auto-generated suggestions for quick replies.



At the heart of Instagram is the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Think of the Facebook-owned app as a visual social network where people from around the globe express themselves through photos and videos. (The Android app is here.)

LinkedIn: Network & Job Finder

A career-oriented social network, LinkedIn connects employers, job seekers, professionals and others seeking to expand their circle of contacts in the business world. A recruiter — or your future boss — just may find you there.


This image-based social app is all about inspiring folks on a wide range of topics, including home improvement, health, recipes, fashion, parties and even silly pranks. You can follow creators of digital scrapbooks based on such interests and pin your own ideas to a digital board.


TikTok is all the rage for people of all ages, not just your kids or grandkids. The short-form video-sharing platform is the top downloaded free app for both Android and iOS. You can produce short videos (15 seconds long is the norm; 3 minutes, the max) or watch cute animals in action, dance crazes that go viral and helpful how-tos on, say, repairing a hole in your drywall.

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Keep it brief: In 280 characters or fewer, businesses, ordinary people and celebrities use this microblogging social network to share content, opinions — some of which are provocative or divisive — and news.


WhatsApp Messenger

You can use this popular messaging service to text, make calls or engage in group chats worldwide, which is perfect if you have friends or relatives who live or are traveling overseas. Experts praise its enhanced encryption features.

Yelp Food, Delivery & Services

Read customer reviews and rate businesses yourself — from restaurants and repair shops to hair salons and housecleaning services — in your neighborhood or while you are traveling.


YouTube: Watch, Listen, Stream

Google-owned YouTube boasts a humongous library of free videos (on demand or streaming) on just about any topic you can, well, Google. You can also record videos and share them with the world.


Zoom Cloud Meetings

Zoom became a household name early in the pandemic, so popular in the United States last year that it held the No. 2 spot in downloads from the Apple and Google Play app stores. In lieu of in-person meetings and social gatherings, people got comfortable “Zooming” with bosses, colleagues, family and friends in front of their computer or phone cameras.


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Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics. He previously worked for
USA Today, BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and Fortune and is the author of Macs for Dummies and the coauthor of iPhone for Dummies and iPad for Dummies.

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