The best apps and games to download for a new phone, tablet, VR or gaming console
You've just unwrapped your shiny new tech gift, torn it from its sleek packaging, and got the thing up and running. Now what? Let New Atlas provide suggestions on which apps and games you should download first, for everything from smartphones to VR headsets.
If you just gifted a new iPhone, you should remove or replace the stock apps you don't use, and then add the fun stuff.
For basic productivity, get the basic Google Search app, since iOS does not come with a standalone search app (though Spotlight, which pops up when you swipe down on the screen, can bring up search results). If you use Gmail, we suggest the official Gmail app as well, since the native Mail app doesn't replicate the Gmail inbox experience.
If you asked for an iPhone because of its camera clout, check out Camera+, which adds all kinds of high quality controls, filters, and other editing options to the built-in camera. You choose which photos you want to save, so your storage usage is kept to a minimum and your Camera Roll isn't cluttered with junk. It's easy to use, so you can capture and edit plenty of holiday photos and share them before the day is over. Free to download, but in-app purchases unlock all features. There is also a one-and-done $2.99 version.
In terms of games, Super Mario Run is the current headliner, but if the $10 mobile Mario experience doesn't appeal to you, try Dots, a free timed matching game that's refreshingly devoid of cutesy themes yet just as addictive as its candy- and jewel-themed counterparts.
Android phones don't come with annoying Apple stock apps, and core Google tools come pre-installed, so you can skip the removing and replacing step.
Still, you may want to download basic utilities like Microsoft Office for Android, and a camera app to give you hints of DSLR-like control over the megapixel-packing camera on your device. We like Camera FV-5 Lite (free with in-app purchases).
For now, the previously mentioned Super Mario Run is an iOS exclusive, but Dots is also available for free on Android. Other top gaming picks include Asphalt 8: Airborne, popular free racing game, and Minecraft Pocket Edition ($6.99) a mobile version of the bomb-heavy survival game.
iPads & other tablets
Just as iOS devices don't have a native Google app, they're also missing a built-in YouTube player. Since iPads are great for video, you'll likely want to download the YouTube app just to save yourself some time.
Similarly, tablets make better e-readers than their smaller-screened counterparts, but a dedicated app is in order. The iBooks iOS app is for reading e-books downloaded from iTunes, or you can download Amazon's free Kindle app to read material purchased through the Kindle store on either iOS or Android tablets.
If you feel like sharing the fun (and you don't mind friends' and families' hands smudging your brand new device) download Bloop, $4.99 for iOS or $0.99 for Android. This multiplayer screen-tapping game is perfect for playing on a tablet at holiday parties. Check out our roundup of best party games on mobile for more ideas.
Samsung Gear VR
Suggestions go a long way in navigating the content library for the Gear VR. It's fairly large, and contains a mix of games, apps, and experiences with dramatic differences in quality and comfort level. Absolute newbies are advised to start off with simpler, slower experiences, since mobile VR definitely warrants an acclimation period.
On the gentle side of things, Land's End ($2.99) is a calm-yet-challenging puzzle game that is reminiscent of the classic 1990s Myst series. The app Within (free) is a good entry point to the world of VR filmmaking: It presents 360-degree news and documentary content from a number of national media outlets all in one place. For faster paced play, Drop Dead ($9.99) is a first-person zombie shooter that makes good use of the 3D space without being overwhelming or nauseating.
We also like Herobound titles, which have beautiful graphics, smart puzzles and well-developed characters, but you'll need an additional gamepad to play those. First Steps and Gladiator are free mini counterparts to the full length adventure game Herobound: Spirit Champion ($9.99).
For a greater spectrum of suggestions, check out our full-length roundup of the best Gear VR content.
Google Daydream View
The same mobile VR precautions apply to Google's Daydream View headset, but since its content library is much newer and smaller, there is less to comb through.
Wonderglade, which is actually a free collection of four arcade-inspired mini games, is our pick for kids and truly entry-level maneuvering. We also like The Arcslinger ($7.99), a cartoony Wild-West themed first person shooter, and Drift ($9.99) a futuristic, minimally rendered game where you are the bullet. And don't forget Danger Goat, a linear puzzler where you guide a billy across treacherous 3D platforms.
If you cracked open an Oculus Rift without the companion Touch controllers, there are still some great VR titles to play with the bundled gamepad. We recommend action/adventure title Edge of Nowhere, first-person shooter Damaged Core and Mario-esque platformer Lucky's Tale as top downloads from the Oculus Store.
If the optional Touch controls were indeed under your tree, then we recommend time-slowdown game Superhot, wild-west shooter Dead & Buried, athletic arcade silliness VR Sports Challenge and spell-casting duel game The Unspoken.
Put your entire body into immersive experiences like zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine, wave-based shooter Raw Data, the Zelda-esque Vanishing Realms, the cheeky Job Simulator and ultra-quick fantasy fulfillment Star Wars' Trials on Tatooine.
PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro
While it isn't as new as the fancy VR headsets, the PS4 is still one of the best platforms for gamers. Top recommendations include meditative puzzler The Witness, rebooted classic Doom, the long-awaited The Last Guardian and epic action/adventure Uncharted 4.
Xbox One or One S
Maybe the new Xbox One S ended up in your pile of gifts and you're looking for some of the best of 2106 to play on it? Along with Doom and The Witness (again), check out historical shooter Battlefield 1, multiplayer shooter Overwatch and cyborg shooter Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.