Make your snapshots even better with this selection of image editors for Android phones and tablets
If anybody had said 20 years ago that Id be taking most of our photographs with our phones they would've been laughed at, which makes the fad that many of us also do a lot of the image manipulation and editing with smartphones even more amazing. Yet, it's a daily reality, and tablets have added an additional level of usefulness, with their bigger screens promising even more functionality.

Last time i have posted about Photofy photo editing App.Now I've reviewed six image editors available for Android. While each is free of charge via the Google Play store, some charge for downloadable extras. I tested each on a tablet and phone, using a Tesco Hudl as the baseline to evaluate performance after all, an app can be packed with features, but if it takes half a minute to apply a basic effect then it's next to useless.

Pixlr Express
This offering from industry giant Autodesk is typical of many image editing apps in that it's geared towards enhancing pics for social media use. However, it's untypical in the sheer breadth of tools it offers, and in many ways it acts as an exemplar for how things should be done.

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On tablets in landscape and phones in portrait orientation, the interface shows the image filling most of the window, and seven buttons at the bottom: Adjustment, Effect, Overlay, Borders, Type, and Stickers. On a phone, tapping and dragging scrolls these left and right although they fit on a tablet screen.

During the review there was also an Easter button, which was a seasonal addition offering a few additional overlays, borders and sticker packages, and was part of a competition to create the best Easter image. A nice touch The Adjustment button will be the first to be hit when opening an image and it offers various tools to fix the brightness, contrast and colour of an image, as well as removing red eye. You'll also find a Heal tool, which like the Adobe Photoshop equivalent magically uses clones of surrounding areas when you tap to remove things like skin blemishes. Perhaps surprisingly, it worked very well in our tests, and is certainly better than the tools in other apps that merely blur the area.

The Effects tool lets you apply various colour and contrast mixes to the image in the way pioneered by Instagram (that is making photos look like they were taken on a point and click in 1968). Here encountered a hiccup tapping the buttons for each Effect didn't appear to do anything other than show a progress bar. The image didn't change. A little research revealed that Pixlr is a cloud-based editor and tools are downloaded on demand when you need them. Tapping each Effect actually downloads an effects pack, and tapping it again will then show the usually large raft of options. There's nothing wrong this approach but you'll have to plan ahead and download everything you need if you intend to work where there's no Internet connection.

The Overlay tool lets you apply various mostly transparent overlays to the image, which can do everything from give the image a dirty look, as if it's been printed from a dirty negative, or just apply surreal visuals. It's more useful than it sounds, and for making truly unique images it can't be beat.

As you might expect, the Borders tool applies various types of effects to the edge of the image, and the Type tool lets you write on the image. The Stickers tool lets you apply to the photo ready made images such as cartoons or stylized text.

I was very impressed by Pixlr Express. Not only is its toolkit useful but there's a lot of choices to work through and, perhaps surprisingly, I couldn't find premium content being offered everywhere. This makes it simply astonishing. Performance was great too. For tweaking snapshots for upload to the likes of Facebook there really isn't anything better than this app.

Image Editor

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There's little doubt that apps like Instagram transformed mobile image editing, with the unfortunate result that virtually every app that followed was a clone in some fashion. The simply titled Image Editor appears to be born in a world were Instagram doesn't exist and instead takes desktop image editors as its inspiration.

Click on Image Editor's Effects button, for example, and you'll find a listing much more in common with the likes of Adobe Photoshop. Gone are the weirdly titled tweaks that make your images look grungy or old. Instead you get familiar favorites such as solarize, or sepia. You can apply material overlays, such as wood or marble.

While such effects are not much use outside of specialist editing, the other tools Image Editor Shares with desktop counterparts are. The selection tool only lets you make rectangular selections, but it's a start, and useful when you consider another tool borrowed from desktop apps layers. Layers can be adjusted singularly, including their opacity, and there's even layer masking possibilities in that components of a layer can be erased.

There's a basic brush/pencil tool, and type tool as well. Sadly, the tools for adjusting brightness, contrast and saturation are basic sliders; no levels, or curves. Alas, Image Editor has a huge problem. It's slow. You'll get used to the progress indicator because it's there whenever; when you apply even a simple effect, or do something like adjusting the brightness. It's not a case of it simply flashing up on screen, either - in most cases it doesn't disappear for maybe 10-20 seconds.

Recall editing images on computers back in the 1990s, with PCs far more primitive than today's phones and tablets. Somehow they avoided these kind of delays, so I find them hard to excuse here.

If you're somebody who craves the power of a desktop app then Image Editor's worth a look, and it's free so you have no excuse. It appears to be a work in progress, with new features appearing all the time, so perhaps the performance issue will be addressed sooner rather than later.

Photo Editor

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Photo Editor is another app from the pre-Instagram school of thought and it features a set of basic editing tools the likes of which you'd expect to find on a desktop image editor. Its tools are geared toward tweaking and improving, however, rather than being the only app you'll need for serious image manipulation.

Although eminently usable, Photo Editor isn't a good looking app on tablet or phone. The chunky text buttons look like a 70s self-mockup of how a touch interface should operate. On a tablet these sit at the left of the screen, while on a phone they're at the bottom. Rather irritatingly, the free version of the app features adverts on screen at all times, which eats a valuable chunk of space on a phone these can be removed for a 1.89 in-app purchase, though.

Photographers will be pleased to see a curves tool, complete with histogram display. In fact, there's a lot more for them, such as an unsharp mask filter that offers similar control over image sharpening as the likes of Adobe Photoshop. Most of the filters you'll find on the Photoshop Effects menu are present here everything from pixelate, to oil painting. The ability to denoise images might prick up the ears of those who like low-light photography but whose devices lack a camera sensor that can do so successfully.

There's even a clone tool that works in a virtually identical way to most examples within desktop apps - just define an origin point, and then dab or drag to copy or erase blemishes. The brush size and strength can be adjusted for subtle effects.

Photo Editor goes beyond just image editing. We particularly liked the info button that showed a detailing list of info about the image including Exif. This can be copied for pasting into another app. Batch processing is also possible, although don't expect drag and drop ease of use - this is one area where you'll have to consult the documentation. User interface quibbles aside, there's a basic elegance and usefulness about Photo Editor that we found appealing. It's not hard to get results quickly if all you need to do is perform basic tweaks on images - and this includes sophisticated image fixes usually limited to desktop apps.

Photo Editor by Aviary
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It's back to the Instagram way of working with Photo Editor by Aviary, which features a long list of image effects, frames and stickers that can be applied to images with a single click. Unfortunately, it's here you immediately come up against one of Photo Editor's irritations - it's very keen to sell you add-ens. Indeed, even the basic frames and sticker packs must be downloaded individually from the Play Store. They're free but this rapidly becomes tedious and you get the feeling you're being trained to buy stuff.

Luckily, Photo Editor is redeemed by its core tools, which are free and numerous. On both tablet in horizontal orientation and phones held in portrait mode a toolbar runs across the bottom of the screen. Tapping and dragging scrolls this to reveal more tools. In addition to the usual options to fix brightness, contrast and saturation you'll find tools that let you adjust the sharpness and warmth of images. In most cases selecting these options reveals a slider that you can drag to adjust the severity of the effect.

A couple of tools stood out. The first was the Focus tool, which lets you tap an area of the image to place in focus while the surrounding area is blurred. Dragging on screen via the pinch-expand gesture grows the area of focus in size although there didn't appear to be anyway to adjust the degree of blur, and the default setting is fairly heavy handed. However, Focus lets you easily create tilt-shift effects, in which the entire photo appears to be constructed from miniature models.

I also liked the Splash tool that turns the image black and white and lets you drag with your finger to allow back areas of color. Back in the 1980s this was regularly used in posters to highlight New York taxis against a rainy backdrop, as just one example, and although it's a hackneyed technique it's still lots of fun.

There's a basic Blemish (heal) tool too although it uses the 'blur' technique rather than anything more complicated, such as cloning the surrounding area. Additionally, the Whiten tool can be used to auto-magically make teeth somewhat less yellow in portrait photography. There are brush and text tools too, if you fancy getting creative with images.
There's equal amounts to like and dislike about Photo Editor, but its user-friendliness and core set of free tools just pushes it into the likable category. As a basic go-to image enhancer for social media it's powerful and also very fast.

Note that this app is available from other developers in repackaged form, which appear to include differing effects, frames and sticker packs.

Smart Image Editor

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Unusually for an Android app, Smart Image Editor appears to have been created with tablet devices in mind. In fact, it forces phone users to hold their devices in horizontal orientation. This is because the user interface is built around two vertical rows of icons overlaid on the image at the left and right-hand sides. Tapping and dragging slides the toolbars up and down, revealing more options.

In terms of tools, a comprehensive series of Instagram like overlays are available to give photos that grungy, distressed or vintage appearance, but perhaps surprisingly the Effects list is more like a desktop app, offering choices such as inverting colors or embossing.

The toolkit contains the essentials but not much more, and there isn't much innovation or choice therein. Click the Adjustments icon, for example, and all you'll see are options to adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, tint, and sharpness. There were some interesting tools rarely found elsewhere, such as the ability to add watermarks although we couldn't make this work. There was also the option to adjust the opacity of the entire image, which is something we question the usefulness of. In fact, the only way we can see this being useful if you want to use the image within desktop publishing but in that case you shouldn't be using a basic image tweaker like this.

Whenever a tool is in use an advert appears at the top of the screen another benefit of forcing users to work in horizontal orientation because this means the advert doesn't take up too much space. However, any adverts on screen while we're working feels intrusive to us. We're prepared to concede adverts are a viable way of financing free software, but we look for the inverse of this setup adverts where it doesn't really matter, such as when choosing images or when the app first starts, but keeping the main interface uncluttered.

It's difficult for us to recommend Smart Image Editor. It's simply outclassed by other apps reviewed here, which offer more features, a better interface, and those with less intrusive adverts. It's also a little slow when applying effects and edits, with a few seconds wait not uncommon.

Photo Editor for Android

Android app developers aren't quite as obsessed with innovation and cleverness as their iOS counterparts, and one area this is apparent is with app names. The Play Store features many, many apps simply called Photo Editor. All are from different developers. Most come from parts of the world where English is at best a second language, and Photo Editor for Android promises to give users "the effect of the sketch" and "the effect of blurring". However, we try not to write off apps for trivial reasons.

Things didn't get better, though. On a tablet the app forces portrait orientation, perhaps because it's actually designed for use on a phone, although it doesn't look or feel that odd on the more expansive screen area of a tablet. However, while with other apps a phone-based approach is just about permissible, with photo editing it doesn't make best use of screen space considering that most photos are themselves landscape in orientation.

The interface includes an always visible advert, which on our test tablet and phone overlapped slightly with the toolbar running along the bottom. This makes mistapping very likely and we suspect the app developer is fully aware of this too - taps on adverts lead to increased income. Sadly, the toolkit doesn't redeem the app. You're presented with a mixture of filters (sepia, sketch, emboss, oil etc.) as well as basic image improvement tools. Some are applied upon being tapped, while others offer a slider.

However, there's no live preview of the effect being applied. When adjusting the brightness, for example, you'll have to guess how much to apply. Worst of all is the Undo button, where tapping it doesn't do anything. In other words, if you apply an effect and you don't like it, the only recourse is to close the photo without saving and opening it again. Still, at least clicking the save button writes out a new version of the image and doesn't overwrite the original.

The selection of tools is strange. There's a blur tool, for example, but no sharpen. The blur tool simply blurs the entire image, with no control over the severity, so why you'd want to do so is a mystery. There's a tool that lets you draw on the image in a primitive way (think MS Paint) and here the Undo tool does work, but when switching back to the standard editing tools we found the image disappears from view.

Applying an effect makes it reappear. There are other strange things too. One is that only one filter can be applied. Applying another deactivates any already used. You can apply the oil effect, for example, or the rounded corners framing effect, but you can't have an oil effect with rounded corners. Bizarre. You could get around this by saving an image after applying an effect, and then reopening it, but why would you bother?

Photo Editor for Android is what happens when you reach deep down into the bargain bin of the Google Play store. Its s diametrically opposite to the quality of apps like Pixlr Express and, like so many Android apps, appears to be little more than a cynical attempt to make money. If ever you need to explain the different between the iOS approach to apps, and the Google approach, it's a perfect example.