The Best Augmented Reality Apps to Try on Android Right Now

Augmented reality (AR) represents an exciting shift in mobile computing where our devices can overlay visuals and information directly onto the real-world environment. What began just a few years ago as a novelty spearheaded by simple AR games has rapidly expanded into practical app experiences that demonstrate the technology‘s potential in nearly every category.

In 2022 alone, global AR app revenues grew over 300% to $2.8 billion while downloads topped one billion according to data.ai. And 2023 projections indicate the AR app market doubling again as both adoption and technical capabilities accelerate.

But with over 10,000 results for "augmented reality" on the Google Play Store, identifying the best AR apps for Android can prove challenging if the concept remains unfamiliar.

As a veteran tech analyst tracking extended reality (XR) industry trends, growth drivers, and rising startups for over a decade, I‘ve tested hundreds of mobile AR experiences first-hand (for both personal entertainment and professional research).

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll highlight the top augmented reality apps available on Android right now across major categories like games, shopping tools, creative apps, and educational resources.

Rather than focus solely on recreational AR uses, I took care to spotlight the most innovative yet practical apps that demonstrate augmented reality as a useful everyday tool rather than just a novelty. Because while the "wow-factor" attracts initial interest, the technology‘s staying power relies on providing actual long-term value.

Let‘s first quickly examine why AR apps are primed to expand exponentially in reach and utility during 2023 before diving into category-by-category recommendations complete with in-depth app profiles.

Why AR Apps Are Growing So Quickly

Many of us equate the concept of augmented reality with advanced AR headsets offered by companies like Microsoft and Magic Leap which overlay visuals directly into your field of view rather than relying on a smartphone screen.

And while specialized equipment clearly enables more advanced and immersive experiences, AR apps accessible from the smartphone in your pocket account for the lion‘s share of consumer adoption and market expansion.

You can attribute the rapid maturation of mobile AR apps to a convergence of several key factors:

  • Hardware Advancements – Modern smartphone cameras, motion sensors, and processors only recently became capable of handling AR‘s visual processing demands in real-time. And component miniaturization helps slim devices house the tech.

  • Software Innovation – Game engines like Unity and Unreal provide developer-friendly toolkits while Apple and Google build AR frameworks directly into their operating systems via ARKit and ARCore respectively.

  • Expanding Networks – AR‘s data demands rely on low-latency 5G and upcoming Wi-Fi 7 networks plus enhanced mobile processors and graphics.

  • App Store Prioritization – Both Apple and Google now highlight apps utilizing AR with dedicated sections that make discoverability easier than years prior.

Collectively, these advancements helped AR kit mature from unreliable tech demos into convenient features already being adopted into industries like ecommerce, manufacturing, field services, medical care, and more.

According to an Ark Invest Research analysis, over 75% of the Forturne 500 companies now use AR apps in some capacity.

And Apple CEO Tim Cook declared 2023 the year of AR, with their long-rumored AR headset poised to help push mobile ecosystems forward similar to how the App Store accelerated smartphone app development.

But you needn‘t wait for unreleased hardware to experience some of the most compelling AR use cases and apps available now for Android devices.

Top AR Game Apps for Interactive Fun

Games represent the most popular and certainly flashiest category for showing off fun graphics and interactive capabilities augmented reality enables.

While viral smash hits like Pokemon GO introduced AR gameplay concepts to the mainstream, more recent arrivals better showcase how far mobile hardware and software now stretches for life-like overlays.

Here are my top recommendations for enjoying AR gaming experiences using just your Android phone:

AppDeveloperDownloadsRatingDescription
ARiseClira Games100,000+4.6 ⭐Story-driven RPG with 30+ hours of voice acted gameplay spread across 10 seasons. Stunning visuals.
Minecraft EarthMojang10,000,000+4.1 ⭐Official Minecraft game with real-life construction mechanics. Shutting down June 2023 but revolutionary while active.
AR Shooter: CyberworldsLiving Magic Apps50,000+4.3 ⭐Multiplayer shooter pits teams against each other with realistic weaponry using your actual environment as the map.

While unanimously positively reviewed for gameplay depth and visual fidelity, a common limitation shared by even top AR games involves hardware demands.

Resource-intensive processing shrinks addressable markets to exclude various budget devices even in 2023. We‘ll likely need another product cycle or two before the technology ubiquitously runs smoothly on low-end hardware.

Promisingly, Unity recently managed to get its high-quality 3D graphics pipeline running on more affordable Android phones like Samsung‘s A-series. And Qualcomm‘s incoming Snapdragon AR2 chip aims specifically to address latency and efficiency issues still impacting some AR implementations.

But if you own relatively modern flagship-tier hardware, I highly recommend downloads ARise and AR Shooter for utterly enthralling demonstrations of how augmented reality can transform competitive gaming. Their 5G multiplayer modes preview the inevitable AR esports boom as networks and hardware advance.

And while Minecraft Earth ends service this summer, analyzing why Microsoft‘s blockbuster franchise failed to maintain an audience can help future AR developers refine engagement models and sustainability.

Most Practical Augmented Reality Apps

While AR gaming garners press attention for obvious reasons, I find apps focused on utility even more compelling given their ability to improve real parts of our everyday lives.

These implement the technology to enhance shopping experiences, boost workplace productivity, improve education, assist medical treatment, and more.

Here are practical AR apps already producing tangible value across industries:

AppDeveloperDownloadsRatingDescription
HouzzHouzz Inc10,000,000+4.7 ⭐Interior design shopping and planning for home remodels/decoration.
Walls by VisualizeVisualize Software Ltd100,000+4.4 ⭐Preview paint colors and patterns on your actual room surfaces via AR overlay.
Ikea PlaceInter IKEA Systems B.V5,000,000+4.2 ⭐Place true-to-scale 3D furniture models from IKEA into your rooms to test spacing/style.
Complete Anatomy3D4Medical500,000+4.5 ⭐Medical studying app with AR overlays for detailed anatomy models to dissect.
MeasureGoogle10,000,000+4.3 ⭐Part of Google‘s ARCore tools. Takes precise AR measurements useful for planning DIY projects.

While seemingly mundane on the surface, these apps provide glimpse of efficiency gains, cost savings, convenience improvements, and productivity boosts in action right now.

Rather than consider augmented reality as only applicable for flashy games and marketing gimmicks, practical apps like these better reveal AR‘s potential as the next genuine computing platform poised to impact real categories.

And by incorporating audience feedback, they help evolving expectations about natural user interfaces and spatial computing grounded in meeting existing needs…rather than inventing wholly new behaviours requiring adoption hurdles.

While still early across industries, companies like Walmart, L‘Oreal, Nike, and Porsche now develop custom enterprise AR apps for tasks like assembly instructions, machine repairs, design prototyping, and medical treatments as just some examples.

Most Innovative Augmented Reality Apps

Augmented reality as a technology concept offers seemingly limitless potential for creative uses that transform how mobile devices interact with the world around us.

And these experimental apps on the leading edge showcase some of the most promising implementations I‘ve tested when it comes to innovative features.

AppDeveloperDownloadsRatingDescription
Portal by FACEBOOKMeta Platforms, Inc.10,000,000+4.0 ⭐Portal device setup plus creative AR masks/effects for video calls and photoshoots.
WallameWallame Inc.100,000+4.1 ⭐Create interactive stickers anchored to real world surfaces for leaving messages, reminders, jokes, etc over shared spaces.
HOLO8i100,000+4.1 ⭐Uses volumetric video to create 3D AR holograms of people that can be placed around an environment with impressive fidelity.
Night Vision CameraCrazyphoton10,000,000+4.5 ⭐Real-time AR overlays using thermal imaging rather than standard RGB camera feed.

Admittedly, some of these verge from utility into just impressive technical demos as developers experiment with emergent techniques.

But pushing boundaries with new interface approaches, environmental inputs, and visualization methods helps inspire practical applications later on.

Even novel features like HOLO‘s lifelike augmented humans and Night Vision‘s thermal AR camera feed seem poised to transform entertainment and creative outlets at minimum…once more affordable lidar sensors reach mobile devices.

And Meta experimenting with its social media ecosystem integration via Portal apps provides another snapshot of ambient computing futures centered around AR wearables rather than phones.

While not essential downloads just yet, keeping tabs on bleeding edge apps like these provide interesting signals for forecasting what becomes standard fare once the next generation of phones and viewers upgrade core capabilities again.

Augmented Reality Learning Apps

Education and training present massive addressable markets ripe for improvement using extended reality interfaces.

Rather than passively watch videos or sift through static diagrams trying to memorize textbook concepts, AR allows interacting with detailed 3D models mapped to surrounding spaces.

Students better retain information shown experientially in environmental context rather than abstracted on small screens. Which makes augmented reality a potent future tool for revolutionizing hands-on learning.

AppDeveloperDownloadsRatingDescription
FroggipediaTinybop500,000+4.5 ⭐Gamified AR experience lets students dissect virtual frog models overlayed into real-world tables and surfaces.
Cosmos ARCosmos XR100,000+4.6 ⭐Highly-detailed AR models covering astronomy, aerospace, robotics, geology, biology and more STEM topics.
AR anatomXDAQRI100,000+4Medical training app with fully interactive VR/AR organ models for spatial memorization building.

As both educational content and creative development tools improve, I expect learning-focused AR apps to catch up with entertainment counterparts over next 2-3 years.

Edtech overall lacks innovation. But room-scale viewing of intricate concepts difficulty visualized on small screens offers too powerful a value proposition for publishers to ignore as content creation and curation catches up to demand.

Between collaborative exercises for students and assistive job training for employee onboarding programs, the practical applications for AR-enabled learning span generations and disciplines.

Tips for Testing Augmented Reality Apps

When first exploring unfamiliar AR apps spanning innovative game concepts to practical design tools, know that some amount of learning curve exists before the value becomes apparent.

As spatial computing moves beyond novelty phase into genuine utility, even experts still determine ideal interaction models and user experience conventions.

So when first downloading any promising augmented reality app, keep these tips in mind:

  • Seek proper lighting without glare and move your vantage point around to help phone cameras accurately map environments for overlay stability.

  • Re-calibration involves pointing device cameras at new surfaces whenever digital objects seem to drift or shake as you move around.

  • AR eats battery life and data faster than typical apps, so insure your phone stays charged and connect to strong WiFi for smoothest performance.

  • When not using an app actively, turn off AR mode and point cameras away from crowded rooms to ease processing demands.

  • Mind physical space needed for some games and measuring tools so you don‘t accidentally collide with objects outside a phone‘s field of view.

While inconvenient technical limitations still plague a subset of available apps, take solace that rapid progress continues smoothing out issues the average consumer would consider "buggy" rather than novel.

This resembles the eras when early 3D games, mobile websites, voice assistants and other emerging platforms still required much fine-tuning…until reaching more polished states through ongoing usage feedback and additional funding for engineering resources.

Conclusion & Market Outlook

Even limiting our overview just to mobile apps already available on Android smartphones, impressive breadth exists covering recreational games, practical shopping/design tools, innovative interfaces, and valuable educational experiences augmented through AR.

And 2023 hardware upgrades like lidar integration on Galaxy devices plus revamped AR developer kits from Unity and Snapchat indicate the pace of progress really accelerates this year.

By Gartner‘s latest market forecast, they expect over 300 million mobile AR users actively by next year. While a fraction of the total smartphone install base, that still amounts to impressive penetration for a nascent technology.

As networks, sensors, app development suites all mature in parallel, AR seems poised to covert from "good to have" feature into absolute must-have functionality across categories.

We‘ll no doubt witness another Cambrian explosion of inventive apps trying to determine "killer applications" as the tech proliferates. Though campy early attempts shouldn‘t overshadow the legitimate value many current tools already provide professionals, students and casual users alike.

Even focusing just on the mobile ecosystem, I believe 2023 proves the tipping point where AR apps transform from intriguing novelties into essential utilities.

The apps showcased throughout this guide merely hint at those future potentials from functional interior design tools to collaborative multiplayer experiences unlocking new entertainment mediums altogether.

I encourage keeping tabs on the state of augmented reality advances this year. Because while widespread adoption spans 2-3 more years, the creative seeds planting now determine later mass market successes.

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