The powerful processors and high-quality cameras that modern smartphones are equipped with make them the ideal tool with which to explore augmented reality apps. There are now many different AR apps that you can try, targeting both the iOS and Android operating systems. Whether you are completely new to the world of augmented reality applications or you’ve tried a few already, the list below will help you to have more AR fun on your phone in the future. You’ll find everything from practical apps that help you to find your way around unfamiliar areas to creative software and immersive game experiences. Try them all and see which ones you like best.
We’ve compiled a list of the best augmented reality apps for smartphones, making the task of finding the most exciting AR software a little easier.
Google Lens gives you the ability to search for information on the things that you see through your phone camera. Simply take a picture of the object or view in front of you, and you can quickly find a host of interesting facts about it online. It’s one of the most useful augmented reality camera apps we have come across — it’s not surprising that it reached 50 million installs just 16 months after it was first released.
In addition to helping you identify unusual plants and animals that you come across in your travels, Google Lens can identify local landmarks, tell you where products are available and highlight the most popular dishes in restaurants that you visit.
This app has been nominated for various awards. It is only available on the iOS platform at the time of writing so if you want to play it on a smartphone, you’ll need an Apple device. Euclidean Skies is the sequel to Euclidean Lands, and like its predecessor, it boasts an AR mode that makes it look like the enemies and architectural structures you must make your way through are right in front of you in your living room.
If you are looking for interesting augmented reality games to play on your iPhone, this is a great one to start with. It features 55 individual levels with beautifully designed architectural backdrops. By shifting and rotating these backdrops, you can gain an advantage over your enemies and battle your way through to the next level.
If you are looking for an app that you can use to create your own augmented reality Android and iOS experiences rather than a ready-made game, Thyng could be perfect for you. It provides you with all the tools you need to create augmented reality environments, with a wide range of AR effects that can be applied to videos or still images taken with your phone camera.
Thyng comes with a variety of effects as standard, and you can download more effects packs from the Thyng store when you’re ready to experiment a little more. As it has already been around for a few years, you will find plenty of tips and guides on how to use this software, making it one of the easier creative augmented reality apps on Android and iOS to get started with.
Most of us have used Google Maps at one time or another to find our way to destinations we hadn’t been to before. But if you haven’t yet tried the AR features it has to offer, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. For people who still get lost, even with Google Maps directions to help them, the virtual signs and arrows that the app can superimpose on your phone camera view could come in very handy.
Google Maps is, of course, available on both Android and iOS, so whatever model of smartphone you’re currently using, this is one AR app that you can easily try out.
Whether you just like creating selfie pictures with virtual cosmetic products to change the way you look or you enjoy shopping for lipstick and blush online, YouCam Makeup is an AR camera app that is well worth exploring. It features a great selection of cosmetics products from leading brand names such as Urban Decay and L’Oreal, all of which you can virtually apply to an image of your face.
If you like how you look with makeup on but don’t want to apply it just for one photo, YouCam Makeup could save you a lot of time and effort. If you would like to order a specific product online but you are not sure whether it’s right for your complexion, simply apply it to your face in the app, and you will be able to see what it looks like before you spend any money.
If you want an AR application on iOS that can help you choose new furniture for your home, IKEA is one of the more popular ones currently available. Once you download the app, you can scan your home then drop pieces of furniture into the views you see through your camera to see what they would look like in situ. It’s an excellent way to find furnishings that really compliment your interior décor and are sure to fit into the spaces you have in mind for them. You can find other similar apps for other brands, too, such as Houzz, which has a linked e-commerce store from which you can buy the items of furniture you try if you like how they look.
Created to complement the broadcaster’s documentary series of the same name, Civilisations is one of the best educational AR apps on Android that we’ve found. It has 30 artefacts to view, and when you see each of these ancient objects appear as if they are lying on your living room floor or in your backyard, it really helps to bring them to life. If visiting the British Museum is out of the question because you live on the other side of the world, this app offers you the next best thing.
In addition to letting you explore each artifact in 3D, the Civilisations AR app has x-ray views, audio commentary and other interactive features that make for a fascinating interactive experience.
SketchAR is an iOS and Android AR application that is sure to be of interest if you enjoy drawing in your spare time. It is a drawing aid that allows you to trace over existing line drawings from the app's library or create your own line drawings from photos on your phone. It's not marketed as a serious artistic learning tool, but it could help you to develop your sketching ability whilst having a lot of fun in the process.
For a drawing app with a difference, WallaMe is hard to beat. WallaMe enables you to apply virtual art to the buildings and footpaths you see every day, without actually getting in trouble for unauthorised graffiti. Even better, you can apply geo-location tags to each work of art you create and share them with your friends. When they are in the right location, they can use their own phone cameras to see what you have created. It’s like a secret world of graffiti that only WallaMe users can see.
If your friends are unlikely to visit the locations you tag, you can share your messages and artwork on the public walls tab instead. If you’re in a really creative mood, you could use WallaMe to create an AR scavenger hunt for you and your friends to enjoy.
Whether you’re searching for augmented reality and virtual reality apps for adults or children, Holo should definitely be on your shortlist. It’s an entertaining app that lets you put holographic images of animals and objects in your photos. If you like the idea of creating AR photos in which you can be seen feeding a lion or standing next to a dinosaur, download Holo and try it for yourself. It only lets you insert one holographic image per photo, but with so many interesting ones to choose from, this doesn’t have to limit your creative abilities.
Inkhunter is a great app if you’ve ever thought about getting tattoos but weren’t sure what the end result would look like. With Inkhunter, you can place virtual location markers on your body then apply virtual tattoos to these locations, creating AR photos that will give you an excellent idea of what the tattoos would look like in real life.
Just a Line is one of the ARCore apps that Google themselves have developed. ARCore is a development platform that the tech giant makes available to third-party developers. It’s designed to make it easier for developers to create their own AR apps, and Just a Line is a good example of what can be achieved with the platform. Based on quite a simple concept — applying doodles to views you can see through your phone camera — it’s nonetheless a fascinating app that you can lose yourself in for hours. After completing your doodles, you can record a short video of them and share your creative masterpieces with friends and family.
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it might be like to try and land a spacecraft on the surface of Mars or you fancy exploring the Martian terrain in an augmented reality environment, Mission to Mars AR is for you. With this fun little app, you can also drive a model of one of the Mars Exploration Rovers around your home or in the local high street.
Lot of parents want to find out what AR apps are good for kids, and Quiver is an excellent one to try with children of all ages. It’s an AR colouring book app that is very easy to use. First, you download a page to colour in. Then, once you have finished, you use the camera on your phone to scan the page into the app, and you will see it come to life with animated characters and effects.
One of the best multiplayer AR games exclusive to iOS, The Machines’ augmented reality features take full advantage of the technology. It’s a visual treat, and AR adds an extra dimension of excitement to gameplay. With this game, you control a group of machines that you can maneuver through your camera viewfinder and try to defeat enemy forces. You can make the virtual battlefield appear as if it is on top of your coffee table or any other convenient surface where you'd like to play.