Augmented Reality has grown in popularity over the past few years, and we’ve seen hundreds of new titles arrive during that time. While AR games are a blast, we’re going to take a look at the best augmented reality apps for Android. The selection of high-quality AR apps is somewhat sparse, although we expect that to change as Apple, Samsung, and others step into the space.
What Is Augmented Reality?
Virtual reality, or VR, has been in the headlines lately thanks to the Meta Quest and accessories like PlayStation VR. Augmented reality has largely been in the background, although we’ve seen more interest due to Apple’s upcoming AR headset. While it can be hard to define this type of tech to new consumers, we’re going to keep things simple.
Augmented reality technology adds a “layer” of computer-generated information over real-world environments. It differs from VR, where everything is generated by a PC, so only a portion of what the user views is augmented. Mercedes began experimenting with the tech in their heads-up displays a few years ago, but that’s just one example of this unique technology.
These interactive experiences are finding their way into some unusual places, from shopping malls and doctors’ offices to theme parks. You can use it to see how glasses or clothing will look before you buy them, or test out furniture placement in your home. It’s a useful tech for real-world applications, although, until headsets and AR glasses become popular, you’ll need to rely on mobile apps.
The Best Augmented Reality Apps for Android
Whether you’re new to AR or trying to explain the concept to friends and family, Fectar is a fantastic solution. This augmented reality app has a little bit of everything and is one of the easiest apps to use that we’ve tested.
When you fire up Fectar, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. From the opening screen, you can choose from exotic cars, animals, food, and some very interesting objects. Want to see what a drum kit would look like in your living room? You can do that, or view the USS Northampton in AR from the floor of your kitchen.
The amount of content is staggering and easy to access through a search feature. You can open a new Space through Fectar or QR codes, or browse categories that range from business and celebrities to entrainment. When you find something you like, you can give the creator a thumbs up, add it to your favorites, or download some models for offline use.
Fectar is also a social app, so you can set up a profile to show off your space or creations. Parents can keep their kids in check with restricted content settings, as well. You can view all the models and AR creations in 3D, but a tap switches to AR mode. While many of the models are static, there is animated content, along with some surprising interactive experiences.
Anyone interested in AR should have Fectar on their smartphone or tablet. It’s the best augmented reality app for Android in our mind, and totally free to use. If you want to create content or your own space in the metaverse, that’s also an option through Fectar Studio and a subscription plan.
When you want to understand the power of AR and how creative it allows users to be, Thyng is one of the best places to start. While it has plenty of models to work with, the way you use this app and what you can import make it one of the best augmented reality apps for Android.
There are two ways to use Thyng — you can use targets or environments. Targets allow users to scan or look at certain objects in augmented reality to unlock animations. A few great examples in the app are magazine covers and a cereal box, although we highly advise everyone to try the $1 bill. Environments open things up a bit more, and once you lock in a placement, the options are endless.
When Thyng finds and locks onto a solid surface, you’re able to load models from dozens of categories. There are brands like General Mills and Apple. There are also magazine covers, artwork, sports, food, cars, furniture, animals, and people. You can access any of these through a smooth interface that lets you add or swap out models at will.
This is also where our favorite part of the app comes into play. While we love the models, you can load up any photo or video from your smartphone and use it as well. You can make a “portal” on the wall of your den that plays a video from your family vacation. You could also make a sticker of anything and slap it on a surface through the app.
Most of the content in Thyng is free to check out, but there are premium model packs across a variety of areas. There’s also a nifty social aspect to the app with ThyngTV, as well as profiles that allow you to engage with creators or make new fans. Despite some poor reviews in the past, we had no problem using Thyng on several modern smartphones and it’s an app we highly recommend.
Whether you’re scared of needles or just can’t decide what you want, getting a tattoo can be a daunting process. Unless you plan to cover your body in ink, it’s a good idea to know what a design will look like on your skin beforehand. InkHunter allows users to do that with the power of AR, which is an interesting use for the technology.
Using InkHunter is as simple as opening the app and grabbing a marker. You essentially need to draw a “neutral face” emoji on your skin, and the app takes care of the rest. When you use your phone’s camera to view the mark, any tattoo you’ve selected will appear in real-time. Once it syncs, you can snap a quick photo and dig into the features.
With your faux ink loaded, you can adjust the size or placement. You can also select different tattoos to load on the screen, whether you’re a Disney fan or prefer classic flash art. Images can be saved to your device or shared on social media. There are also a handful of filters that allow you to fine-tune the virtual tattoo to your liking.
The InkHunter dev’s motto is “Think Before You Ink” and their app allows you to check out what various designs would look like on your skin. There are dozens of artists with free images available, while others only require watching a brief ad to unlock. If you like an artist’s work, you can jump to their Instagram or set up an appointment for some fresh ink within the United States.
4. ARLOOPA: AR Camera 3D Scanner
AR apps have been around in some form for mobiles since Google Cardboard was popular, although technology has come a long way since that time. ARLOOPA made some popular experiences for that early headset but took a different approach with their ARLOOPA: AR Camera 3D scanner app.
From art and pop culture to masks, ARLOOPA has a bit of everything. That includes dinosaurs like the Ankylosaurus, Pterodactyls, and the always popular T-Rex.
There are dozens of education models that deal with anatomy and astronomy, as well, along with building blocks for kids and human figures. You can unlock “Sitting Bernie” and others by watching ads, but we found that most of their models are ready to use.
When you load a model, you can put it into AR mode or view it on a white screen in 3D. Everything is adjustable, and you can take steps further if you’re a content creator.
There are also “markers” you can download through their website to provide additional content through QR codes. There’s something for creators, as well, through the ARLOOPA Studio, a platform designed for creating augmented reality content.
ARLOOPA isn’t as deep as Fectar when it comes to free content, but their models and experiences provide just as much immersion. The app feels intuitive and easy to use, although some models are locked behind a premium subscription.
You can try ARLOOPA and experience most of the content for free. If you’re a fan, you can pick up a monthly subscription for $4.99; it removes watermarks and ads, and unlocks all content.
Some AR apps take users to far-away galaxies or focus on fun models. ARitize is full of unique content but differs from other apps on our list. The company’s app focuses on the consumer’s experience from a brand standpoint, which means you won’t find dinosaurs or aliens. Instead, they took a more business-minded approach.
The ARitize app is categorized into channels based on brands or experiences. Some are familiar names like Metaverse Labs or TrueLyfe, while others are set in universities or involve products directly. If you’ve ever wondered what a vacuum cleaner store would look like in augmented reality, ARitize will answer that question.
The experiences in the app vary from air purifiers and storefronts to an FIA F4 car. Navigation is simple, and there’s a place to save your favorites or scan QR codes into the app. It’s a little light on content, although they have things you won’t find elsewhere. That includes Bothwell lactose-free cheese in glorious AR, as well as Mr. Steak.
ARitize is one of many apps from NexTech AR Solutions which produces AR scanning apps along with an interesting program that can turn people into holograms. It’s also a good way to see how businesses are using, or plan to use, augmented reality in the future to bring their products to the masses.
More Great Augmented Reality Apps for Android
While there aren’t as many experiences set in augmented reality on mobiles as you’ll find with virtual reality, there are dozens of apps that didn’t make our main list. Some were excluded because they didn’t function properly, while others we felt were still a bit too rough around the edges. With that in mind, here are more of the best augmented reality apps for Android.
Using AR apps is simple, but designed experiences can be daunting for beginners. Assembler Studio aims to change that with its code-free app, which is full of templates spanning a variety of categories. It’s intuitive for beginners or seasoned pros, and you can give things a test run before opting for a premium subscription within the app.
Star Walk 2 – Night Sky View takes a different approach to AR. It’s an astronomy app for stargazers to learn about the planets and constellations in the night skies. While that’s not unique, AR mode puts a new twist on things whether it’s day or night.
Star Walk 2 has free and paid versions. Artists and folks that want to learn to draw should check out the aptly named Sketchar: Learn to Draw. This app is designed around drawing lessons and community contests.
AI and augmented reality tech combine to create a unique experience for users. There are some fantastic lessons and loads of content, but you’ll need to subscribe to access some of the popular features. You can trace and practice your skills through AR for free in Sketchar, however.
Augmented reality still hasn’t become mainstream, but gets closer as major companies begin to incorporate the technology into their products. If you prefer to spend your free time in virtual reality instead of an augmented one, you’ll want to check out our comparison of two top-tier headsets with the Quest 2 vs. PlayStation VR2 battle.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com.