Applications

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Android Central Apps

We know why you are here, you are in need of your weekly fix, right? Need some new apps to check out, something new to install and play around with instead of doing house work? We understand, so without any further delay let's hit the break and check out some of our favorites from this week!

Andrew Martonik - Real Silent

Real Silent

I've been absolutely in love with my GSM Galaxy Nexus since I bought it in January, so much that I've chosen to stay completely stock, then on Ice Cream Sandwich and now on Jelly Bean. I've had to find apps to bring some of the functionality back to stock that I had gotten accustomed to on ROMs. The first thing I had to fix was sound management.

If I were writing the Android code (scary thought, I know) the default behavior when putting the phone's ringer in "silent" mode would be to silence every sound on the device. I've been embarrassed way too many times when my phone is on silent mode and I open a game or media player and the "media" volume is still on full blast. Not the best experience when you're in a quiet room. As long as Android keeps working the way it does, RealSilent is my fix. It's simple, and rightfully so. Open up the app and you have 4 options: you can mute media volume when it silent mode and/or vibrate mode, restore the media volume when coming out of silent and choose whether or not the alarm should be muted. The final result for me is that when I long-press my Galaxy Nexus' power button, and select the silent option, every single volume level on my phone is set to 0 without exception.

Download: Real Silent (Free)

Chris Parsons - Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts

With the death of Google Listen we looked at some podcast replacement apps and I just wanted to go ahead and highlight my personal favourite. Pocket Casts is a paid app that packs a lot of features for podcast listeners, including importing of podcasts from Google Listen. Quick skip feature, background downloading, audio & video podcasts, instant refresh of up to 100 podcasts and plenty more. The UI doesn't really play well on my Nexus 7 but it looks great on my Galaxy Nexus, if you're looking for a good podcast app and don't mind spending a couple of bucks, give it a go.

Download: Pocket Casts ($2.99)

Jerry Hildenbrand - NFC Task Launcher 

NFC Launcher

NFC on our Android phones is for more than just Google Wallet. We've seen Sony come out with their Xperia Smart Tag system  but it's worth noting that almost any tag and any NFC enabled phone can do the same sort of thing with a free app from Google Play. NFC Task Launcher will allow you to write commands to an NFC tag that do things like adjust your volume, turn Wifi (or other radios) on and off, set an alarm, even launch a Tasker task in addition to the things like sending SMS or opening a web URL we're used to seeing.

The "extra cool" factor is that you can string tasks together. You could stick an NFC tag in the cup holder of your car that shuts off Wifi, turns on Bluetooth, and fires up your favorite music player when you slip your phone into it and it bumps the tag. Then put one at your front door that reverses the entire thing when you get home. The tags will work with any NFC enabled phone, so one tag will allow multiple users to trigger the actions.

The app is really simple to use, and follows the Android light Holo design guide. The app is free, but of course you'll need to get some NFC tags, which you can do right from the app -- sellers in the U.S, Europe, and Australia are just a link away. Put the NFC radio to good use!

Download: NFC Task Launcher (Free)

Jared DiPane - Drag Racing (Bike Edition)

Drag Race

Simple games in which you can jump in for a few minutes of fun and leave them behind at any time are my favorites. Beyond that I tend to enjoy sports games and things that are outside of the realm of things I would actually do in real life. Drag Racing games have been around for a long time, I can remember many of hours spent pressing my space bar on my keyboard to shift gears as I raced through various levels. The bike edition is the same concept, but using motorcycles instead of cars, and it is quite addictive. Whether you have a couple of minutes, or a couple of hours, this is a fun game that will definitely have you wanting to play more.

Download: Drag Racing, Bike Edition (PRice)

 

Reader comments

Apps of the Week - NFC Task Launcher, Pocket Casts and more!

22 Comments

Earlier this week I got around to finally ordering NFC tags off Ebay and install NFC task Launcher. Been playing around with it and Llama on my S3. I might pony up the $6.50 for Tasker though as it seems it would work so much better together.

Good picks this time guys! NFC task launcher is a pretty nice app. It works great on my VZW Nexus with some cheap NFC tags I got on Amazon.

Hello,
I purchased the tags with "Web evolved" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005UIU3ZE/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?t...) and they work perfectly. Now, I purchased for some "NFC Key Ring Tokens" at Ebay, as I would like to carry one NFC token my Car Keys. I haven't received them, but the seller said they work just fine with a Nexus (http://www.ebay.com/itm/290683632019?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3...). You can contact him. Probably you should think what use you will give them to decide if you need a sticker or a token. There are some other NFCs in a Card form.

While applaud the talents and time for development of Real Silent, doesn't setting you phone to vibrate or silent do the same thing? It does on my SGS3 ...I think

Unfortunately you just can't be sure. At least on my Galaxy Nexus, setting the phone to "silent" doesn't always mute the media volume (I'm pretty sure this is intentionally done). Each phone acts differently also. Using an app like RealSilent guarantees that I never need to be worried about media being muted when the phone is.

If you were visually-impaired and depended on TalkBack or some other screen reader to use your phone, you definitely would NOT want all sounds muted just because you had to set your ring to Silent. I'd rather keep the default behavior and "fix" it with apps for those who really must-have a fully muted phone.

I think that the specific issue you bring up could simply be fixed by keeping media volume from setting to 0 when TalkBack is enabled.

Now if only I could get pocketcasts to start playing using NFC launcher it would all be perfect. Can get Bluetooth on open the app but can not work out the command to start playing the playlist. Any help?

Slider Widget gives me the sound control I need. The 4x1 widget has every volume control on your screen!

About NFC Task Launcher, the feature I like the most is the Switch option. Using it, you can use only 1 NFC sticker to do two functions, like setting up a "Car" Profile the first time you pass your phone, and when using again (the same NFC sticker), change to a different setting, like "Outdoor", so really a Switch ON and OFF for the same NFC chip. Great.

While I like NFC Task Launcher,there's one thing that disappointed me. It doesn't seem to have any decent persistent store.

It doesn't seem to have an option to read tags if they are already written and it doesn't seem to have a Save/Restore option that backs up any profiles you've carefully crafted.

So, when I recently did a factory reset on my phone, I lost all the scripts that I had put together. They are on the tags themselves, but I seem to have no way to retrieve them into NFC Task Launcher.

Finally, there seems to be no persistence of any kind for "Switch" tag profiles. That is, every time you want to write a switch tag, you have to assign each script to the switch, which gets tedious when you're debugging.

It's a nice program, but I still think it needs these improvements.

I don't think NFC apps actually write onto the tags, they just store a unique tag identifier so when you tap your device against the tag it just reads the identifier and the app does the rest.

Best feature of NFC Task Launcher is its ability to launch a tasker task. This makes a NFC tag able to perform countless tasks. I was able to puy a NFC tag in my proclip car mount and wrote the tag to launch my car mode. Now when I put my phone into my holder and unlock it my car mode task fires which keeps my screen on, enables speakerphone and launches waze for me. The possibilities are endless.

Before I didn't really see the need for NFC since I didn't really want to do Google wallet. Now I so want it!

Are NFC Tags re-writable or editable? If I decide I want to use it for something else or add another function to it, will I be able to? Or will I need to grab a new blank tag?

Yep they have tags for that. I believe most all of them will allow you to rewrite over an existing tag but when you purchase them I would make sure that they are re-writable.

I've been testing out the Samsung TecTiles app along with the TecTiles (NFC tags) I ordered. You do indeed write information to the tag, and you can even lock it to not be written again. I say this modifies the tag rather than just indexing the ID on your phone because I've been able to program a tag and then test it on my brother's SIII (who hasn't installed any extra NFC software).