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Angry Birds Space

Jared's off with something called "family" this week, (seriously, who has ever heard of that?), so I'm filling in for him. Anyway, every week the folks at Android Central like to share with y'all, the best darn Android community on the internet, what it is we fancy, app-wise. Jump after the break to see what our selections are, and let us know what you're digging in the comments!

Sean Brunett - NHL 3D Live Wallpaper (free)

NHL 3D Live Wallpaper

The NHL playoffs are in full swing and there have already been several intense game 7s. One way to show your support for your team is to put a live wallpaper of that team as the background of your phone.

With NHL 3D Live Wallpaper, you get access to each and every team in the NHL. The app is free to download, but each team costs $1.99 via an in-app purchase, though it does come with a free general NHL wallpaper.

Once you have set the live wallpaper, you can change the camera angle and view your team all the way to the Stanley Cup. [Google Play Link]

​Alex Dobie - Angry Birds Space (free with ads, $0.99 ad-free, $3.00 HD for tablets)

Angry Birds Space

Through a series of bizarre coincidences, I ended up back with a Samsung Galaxy Note this week, so I decided to take the latest chapter of the Angry Birds saga for a spin.

Angry Birds Space extends the simple artillery shooter genre, taking the action into space and introducing new birds and some crazy gravity-based gameplay. Instead of simply falling to the ground like they do on boring old Earth, birds, pigs and everything in between gravitate towards the nearest planet, asteroid or moon.

And some levels take place in complete zero-gravity, meaning there's no limit to the amount of avian carnage you can dole out. Sure, it's still Angry Birds, but the space setting is more than a visual gimmick, with plenty of new gameplay tricks to keep the experience fresh.

Angry Birds Space is available on Google Play and Samsung Apps for phones running Android 1.6 and up. There's a free, ad-supported version, as well as a paid option if you'd prefer not to see any ads. In addition, there's a tablet-optimized HD version, which will set you back a little more. [Free, ad-free, HD for tablets]

​Richard Devine - Apex Launcher for ICS (free/$4.06)

Apex Launcher

I've previously been a champion of Nova Launcher, but in this game you have to try out the alternatives as well. Enter Apex Launcher, and my new launcher of choice.

It offers many similar features to Nova. Lots of customizations, that stock ICS look and feel, and the ability to set custom lists in the application drawer and hide those bloatware Apps you don't want to see.

You also get notifications to messaging, phone and Gmail as well as the ability to add 1x1 widgets to the dock. Yesterday it received an update that added one feature in particular that pleases the terminally lazy like myself. They call it root helper.

The application has to be installed to system to add widgets from the app drawer, but which requires root access. I'm not averse to a little tinkering and tomfoolery, but I am lazy. The root helper does the work for you, et voila! Widgets can be added from the application drawer.

Launchers are always down to personal preference, but you can try this for free, so there's nothing really to lose. [Google Play Link]

​Jerry Hildenbrand - AfterFocus (free)

AfterFocus

Ever notice the nice blurred background in a good portrait picture taken with a quality DSLR camera? The kind where the subject is crisp and clean, while the rest of the image is blurred and de-emphasized. It's a good look a lot of the time, which is why it's a popular effect.

While we can't change the format size, focal length or f-number on our Android phones, we can use software to compensate. That's what AfterFocus does, and it does it fairly easy.

Using smart image mapping magic of some sort you simply select the part of the picture you want to stay in focus, then select the parts you want blurred a bit. It's a lot like the smart selection done with Photoshop, but on a smaller scale.

Once selected, you have a handful of filters to apply that actually make the photo look better instead of hipstergrammed. It's free, and works on any phone or tablet running Eclair or higher. Check it out! [Google Play Link]

​Chris Parsons - Hookt Messenger (free)

Hookt Messenger

Ya, I know. There is a ton of cross-platform messenger services out there. Some are good, some --  not so much. That said, Hookt is one that I've been using for quite some time now and it pretty much seems to be the only one that gets synching across multiple devices correctly.

It has group chat, read notifications, push notifications and some fun things like stickers which is their name for really cool emoticons really. There is BlackBerry client, Android client and iOS client so if your friends are spread out you may find this is a great option.

Plus, they offer an web version as well through their site, so when you come home you can pick up right where your chats left off without ever even having to pick up your device. If you're in need of a cross-platform messaging client, give it a look. [Google Play Link]

​Kevin O'Quinn - FriendCaster (free)

FriendCaster

With all the hubbub about Facebook updating their app and adding some uninstallable icons for their services, I thought I would tell you about my favorite Facebook app.

Friendcaster is awesome.  It does everything that the official app does, and more.  Upload pictures, share links, tag friends, you name it and you can probably do it.

Now I'm no diehard Facebook user, so I'm sure their might be a few things that it doesn't do well, but I haven't found them.  It has pull down to refresh, which is honestly one of my favorite features of any app. (Google+ is still missing this, why?)

Of course you can also view your notifications, but there's more.  Friendcaster does push notifications, and they are reliable.  I've never had reliable notifications from the official app.

If you don't want to be bothered by a bunch of Facebook notifications, you can set it to poll, too, and you can customize which notifications you want to be alerted to. All-in-all this is my favorite Facebook app. It does things really well, and best of all is free. Oh, and it doesn't add any extra icons to your app drawer without asking. [Google Play Link]

​Anndrew Vacca - Songbird (free)

Songbird

I have to be completely honest: I really hate Google Music. It’s unintuitive, bulky, slow, and downright ugly. For streaming music in the cloud, it just passes for acceptable; for playing music stored locally, it’s unusable.

And as someone who spends a large part of his day traveling underground in the subway, it’s important for me to have music that doesn’t depend on an internet connection. That’s why on my Galaxy Nexus, I use Songbird. Its benefits are twofold: first, Songbird for your PC or Mac automatically imports all of your music from iTunes into a respectable, easy-to-use interface.

From the desktop app, you can create playlists and sync the music to your phone with ease. The other benefit is the Android UI. Playing music on your smartphone is a lovely experience, one that works and looks infinitely better than Google Music.

It can integrate with your Facebook account but honestly, I use it simply for its playback features. If you’ve got HTC Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz on your device, you probably have access to a native music player that can’t be beat. If you’re running stock Android 4.0 and must rely solely on Google Music, grab Songbird and never look back. [Google Play Link]

Joshua Muñoz - Tasks ($0.99)

Tasks

If there's one thing I'm a pretty big stickler for, it's meeting the Android design guidelines. Why, you might wonder? Because apps designed with the design guidelines in mind are, as a whole, gorgeous!

Take Tasks, for example. It's an app that syncs with Google Tasks, but, unlike many other similar apps before it, looks great while doing so. (And this is coming from a guy who never really used Google Tasks before.)

Simply sign in with your Google account and all of the lists you've made previously will pop up. Creating new lists is as easy as creating new tasks, and moving from list-to-list means you'll only be swiping left to right, just like the Android design guidelines say to.

When you've completed a task, simply tap the checkbox on it and it'll cross itself out (but remain onscreen). Once you've got some completed tasks on your list, a small popup will briefly appear at the bottom of the screen giving you the option to clear all completed tasks. If you choose to skip that, a setting in the menu also gives you the option to clear tasks.

With both a light and dark theme, Tasks is the real deal. It makes syncing your Google Tasks both efficient and stylish, and does so with one of the easiest interfaces to use I've seen yet. Tasks runs on Android 4.0. [Google Play Link]

 
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Android Central Editors' App Picks for April 28, 2012

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Neither Friendcaster nor "Fast for Facebook" are "Facebook alternatives". From what I can tell, they still use and rely on Facebook.

Not a big fan of lwp's, but I am a big nhl junky.
Can't say I've found a good general nhl app at all. Recommend any?
Oh, and todays match up! GO FLYERS!

Funny, I have no problem playing local music with Google Music. I don't spend any time in subways, but if I did I would have long since discovered the "make available off line" option.

two things
1) that's terribly unprofitable for those people who are stuck underneath those horrible datacaps

2) since "make available offline" is just a fancy way to say "re-download your own music and store it locally": why go to the trouble of waiting on a slower bandwidth controlled connection to a gmusic server to download music to some abstract place that'll be hard to find later when you want to get rid of it; when you could just spend a couple of minutes with a usb cable or your personal wireless network and have everything you need exactly where you want it.

Two things back:

Google music is not a streamer. Its a caching download player.
Play an album today, its still in cache tomorrow. Make available off line, on wifi, and it costs you nothing.
But, like all caching systems, it works better if you don't try to micromanage it.

Want to unpin it, do so from within the player, clear cache, and don't worry about where its stored.

Sorry, not going back to cables. Even iPhone users don't do that anymore.

still sounds like you have to move data to me...or maybe im just missing the whole concept of cloud storage somehow.

and i guess that works great if you want to listen to the same album over and over again...

plus let me know how well carrying that personal wireless network around with you works out. its not 2002 anymore, people dont just leave their wifi spread out on the corner like a vegas prostitute.

and no matter how great it gets, no phone user interface/OS is ever going to beat the speed, convenience and ease of use of a pc. No one's gonna sit there pecking at a 4 inch screen for half an hour when they can jus link up, drag and drop and be done in 2 minutes, so try that one again.

@icebike
I was gong to say the same thing. I use it all the time in the truck over Bluetooth. Works fine.

To say its unusable is a bit harsh. You make a playlist and play some music.

I think you guys that bicker about meaningless little tweaks and can't love without them are a bunch of pre Madonna's!

Tasks really is very very good. I love it - my answer to a long standing need for the perfect Google Tasks app. Best of all - it opens in the Task List last opened - not the one I created first - the way Google Tasks would open though the website.

Long time GTasks user here and I have made the switch to Tasks. Never realized how clunky and ugly GTasks was until trying Tasks.

Not mentioned in the article, there is a free ad-supported version also (Tasks Free).

I have been searching for a GTasks replacement for a while but never stumbled upon this gem. I hope they improve their Play SEO.

I am with you on not being being that into FB but occasionally I want to check something out etc. Friendcaster is nice, but needs updating as I can't look at people's pictures.

Not sure if there's anything sketchy about the Facebook app, but I don't like that it checks MY GPS on app launch, the extra icon crap and I don't like that the icon fix update happened without my permission. Was that just me or do cosmetic updates not require permission?

Friendcaster is great, but like all 3rd party Facebook apps, it suffers from one issue. Within Facebook users can select an option to not allow 3rd party apps to access their data. It was really created to prevent those apps and games within facebook from accessing your data, but it also affects 3rd party clients. I use Friendcaster, and a significant number of my friends don't show up on there. I can't see their updates, access their profiles, send them messages, etc.

I know this isn't Friendcaster's fault, but it prevents 3rd party clients from being a true substitute to the official FB app. I end up having to use both.