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2 years ago

Solar System Explorer [Android App Review]

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YouTube link for mobile viewing

It's not often I come across an app that both humbles me and causes me to have an existential crisis, so when I find one, I know it's a keeper. Solar System Explorer caused me to go through both of these things simultaneously, and apart from making you question your tiny, insignificant self in this grand universe, you're also treated to a gorgeous layout loaded with more information about our solar system than you probably knew existed.

First thing you'll notice when you open up Solar System Explorer is how great it looks. This is a seriously polished app, with beautiful 3D models of every planet in our solar system, the moons of each planet, and each satellite the United States has launched. There's full pinch-to-zoom on all of the models as well as swiping support so you can change your perspective, too.

You move from planet to planet (or moon to moon) using pictures along the bottom of the screen. All of our planets are there, ordered from closest to farthest from the sun, and on the very end, you can get to the satellites. When you pick a planet, the pictures at the bottom of the screen change, and if the planet has any moons, images of those moons appear so you can see models and read up on them, should you choose to.

Aside from all of that, there's also an incredible treasure trove of information at your fingertips, all of it a button push away. When you've got a heavenly body selected, you're shown its general information by default, but should you leave this screen, tapping the eyeball will take you back to it. The little bar graph looking button shows you stats for your planet, all in relation to Earth.

Finally, the upside down peace sign tells you information about the structure of your planet and the 3D model changes to reflect said information. It's really quite cool seeing Earth broken up into differently colored layers and an explanation about what's going on in this beautiful blue-green ball we call home. (Plus, it reminds me of elementary school science class.)

Solar System Explorer also gives you the opportunity to just admire the solar system by hiding the information panel and zooming in and out. The full-screen experience is quite incredible, and at times like these, I wonder why I didn't do more to become something like an astronaut or work for NASA. This might "just" be an Android app, but it certainly instills a sense of awe in me.

If you're someone who has even a slight interest in our big, mysterious solar system, check this app out. It's great to just poke around in, but it's also chock full of such solid information, I don't see any reason why it couldn't be used as an educational tool, too.

Solar System Explorer is $1.99 in the Google Play Store. We've got download links after the break.

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2 years ago

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary 8th Edition for Android

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Oxford University Press -- the folks behind that big book full of words and defintions -- have just put out an android version of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 8th edition. It's geared toward those who are learing Englishi -- and let's face it, a goodly number of 'mericans might be able to take advantage of it, too.

It's got full-sentence pronunciations, more than 1,300 illustrations to explain words -- and more than 184,000 individual words, phrases and meanings.

The full presser and download links are after the break.

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2 years ago

Hands-on with the Onkyo Android app

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So I rearranged my living room over the past weekend and decided to retire my (gasp) 9-year-old receiver. Wasn't looking to spend a fortune, but surround sound is a must, Internet access is a plus. Ended up going with The Wirecutter's recommendation of the Onkyo TX-NR509. It's got a rear Ethernet port (if that's how you roll), or an optional Wifi dongle that plugs into the front USB port -- and an added bonus -- a companion Android application.

Let's really start off by saying that home audio is a pretty personal and finicky thing, and your setup will determine the usefulness of features. I've got an Xbox 360 and a Logitech Revue to handle most of my multimedia functions, so there's a good bit of what's the in Onkyo app -- specifically the music playback --  that I'll never use. You've pretty much got full remote capability, including switching inputs and sources. The app's layout's pretty intuitive, as are the settings. I'm not going to walk you through them as, again, your setup will vary from mine, and chances are you're a proper nerd and can do it yourself.

(I'll mention that the Onkyo has things like Internet radio and DLNA streaming, which is nice, but the on-screen UIs are so horrid that you'll likely not want to touch them.)

No, the one shining feature of the Onkyo Android app -- for me, anyway -- is the ability to change  the volume from another room. I've got kids. Two of 'em. The eldest is 5, and she can rock the Logitech Harmony One remote just fine to get her Dora on. But she's also going deaf, I'm convinced, because the TV will get louder and louder as she watches. Thanks to the Onkyo app, there's no more getting up from what I'm doing. No more arguing. I just turn the damn thing down, and no one's the wiser. (I can do the same thing with the Google TV Remote app, by the way.)

So that's what I'm rocking in the living room now, all connected like. (And it sounds good, too.) Onkyo says the app's compatible with all network AV receivers released since 2010, as well as the TX-8050 Network Stereo Receiver and the T-4070 Network Stereo Tuner. You may need to do a firmware update (mine took about 5 minutes) to get things going.

We've got screen shots and download links after the break.

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2 years ago

Deep Trip [Android Kids App]

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YouTube link for mobile viewing

I don't have kids myself, but when I came across Deep Trip, well, it's fairly obvious which market's being targeted. It's a pleasant, cheerful game with a simple learning curve and cartoony graphics. That being said, if you find yourself spending time with it, too, don't be ashamed. It really is quite fun.

Deep Trip is designed in the tradition of games like Helicopter, where you hold the screen to ascend, let go to descend, and try not to crash into anything along the way. Instead of a helicopter, you're a long, orange sea snake (eel, perhaps?) who is trying to find your way home.

While the concept sounds simple, it's actually deceptively difficult, especially considering how winding underwater can be, loaded with all sorts of pointy rocks and wrecked ships and whatnot. To combat this, Deep Trip places powerups throughout the level that afford you some protection on your journey.

If you collect one powerup, your little snaky eel gets a helmet that's good for one crash into an obstacle. However, if you collect two powerups (collect a second powerup while still wearing your helmet), you're granted near-invulnerability for a time, madly careening about, smashing through anything that gets in your way without consequence.

Deep Trip is also Papaya-enabled, which is a social gaming service that looks suspiciously similar to OpenFeint. On Papaya you can see your best attempts, compare your results to other people playing Deep Trip, add friends, check out more games that are using Papaya, and chat with friends you've made. It looks like a pretty comprehensive social hub, despite it being kind of barren, friends-wise.

If you're looking for a game to kill some time or quiet your little one, Deep Trip looks like it'll fit the bill. It doesn't even cost a penny, so it's at least worth checking out.

We've got download links after the break.

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2 years ago

Google Play Store Version 3.4.7 fixes link on Moto phones

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The Google Play Store has been updated to Version 3.4.7. We repeat: The Google Play Store has been updated to Verison 3.4.7. You folks on Motorola phones can now hit that secondary store link in your app drawer without fear of failure.

That is all.

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2 years ago

Jelly Defense [Android Game Review]

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YouTube link for mobile viewing

I'm always curious about how tower defense games try to differentiate themselves in what can sometimes become a saturated environment. With heavy hitters like Robo Defense, Fieldrunners HD, and GRave Defense HD dominating headlines (and play time), sometimes the best way to make yourself noticed is by being a little bit absurd (well, and having an incredibly well-designed game, too).

Jelly Defense takes everything you've come to know and love about tower defense games, dresses it up in cutesy, goofy graphics, and delivers an experience of such high caliber that when someone asks you about the best tower defense games, this is one you name without hesitation.

The story is simple: Evil alien jellies are invading your planet, looking to steal your most valuable crystals, and you've got to stop them. This is all achieved by laying down towers at various points, pumping your enemies full of jelly-lead, and going on your merry way.

Mechanically, you're looking at the same old, same old you see on every tower defense game. Destroy enemies, get currency, and use said currency to buy more towers with which to defend your booty. This isn't a bad thing (at all), because it's one less new skill you need to learn to get on with playing.

The only thing that really stuck out to me was how you have to touch the coins that are dropped from former enemies; if you take too long, they'll eventually flash a few times and disappear, leaving your defenses vastly underfunded.

Where Jelly Defense really shines, though, is its visual presentation. Everything on screen is colorful, very upbeat, and quite unique for the tower defense genre. Enemy jellies sort of waddle or sashay over towards your crystals, and your towers dispose of them, in turn. The different kind of towers you have all look great, and their attacks are as varied as their appearance.

Infinite Dreams (the developers behind Jelly Defense) went to great lengths to pay attention to detail, and boy, does it pay off. For example, in the early levels you'll encounter jellies of two colors: red and blue. Towers you place down are similarly colored, and they can only attack jellies of their color.

All of your towers have eyeballs, too, and if enemies are present that they can't attack, they'll close their eyes and go to sleep. It's a small thing, but it really helps hammer home not only a concept of the gameplay, but how much thought went into the creation of such a masterpiece.

Really, there's not much more I can say about Jelly Defense without screaming "Buy this game!" It runs smoothly, looks gorgeous, and offers lots and lots of opportunity for fun. It's a beautiful deviation from the stereotypically violent and dark themes normally associated with games in this genre, and that's something worth applauding.

Jelly Defense is $2.99 in the Google Play Store. We've got download links after the break.

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2 years ago

Slice for Android - Organizes your orders, tracks your stuff

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I've long since raved about services like Tripit, which aggregate and organize your travel itineraries into a single application. Slice has  been doing that for shopping for some time now, and today it announced it's coming to Android. We've been using Slice for a few days now, and it's quickly found a home in our must-have applications. 

The premise is simple: You give Slice access to your e-mail account, and it keeps an eye on things, looking out of receipts, order confirmations and shipping announcements. If it spots one, it gets sucked into the Slice app for easy digestion. You've got quick access to current and previous orders, tracking codes, histories and maps.

Oh, and it'll show you your total number of orders imported, as well as how much you've spent. And you'll likely feel a little guilty and wonder where all that money went. Just saying. (Our test sucked in orders all the way back from 2008 – these things add up after a while.)

Slice's layout is excellent. The main menu takes you to open orders, shipped orders, delivered orders and full history. It's a little redundant because once you choose one of those sections, you can flip left or right to the others. But it still looks great. (Update: Slice apparently decided to change its main home screen between the time we got our advance look and launch. The home screen at right is what you should see on your phone.)

Order tracking is nicely done – you get easy access to the tracking number and service phone number, as well as the history of your package's travels. You get a Google Map, too, showing the shipping origin and destination cities, and points in between, but that's really not all that useful for any sort of real-time tracking.

The long and the short of it is that Slice is an excellent way to keep track of your online purchases and keep up with orders that are on the way. It's also got the ability to squelch iTunes and Netflix purchases, which you'll likely have a bunch of, so things stay nice and tidy.

We've got a slew of screen shots and some hands-on video -- and the download link, of course -- after the break.

More: Slice for Android

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2 years ago

NASA astronaut/scientist/engineer explains Angry Birds in Space

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Youtube link for mobile viewing

In case you're a little worried after seeing this, the international space station is still up there. (We chceked.) And it's presumably doing stuff other than this. Angry Birds Space hits March 22.

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2 years ago

Citibank unveils banking app for Kindle Fire

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Citibank just announced a Kindle Fire edition of its mobile banking app, which it says has "every component, graphic, touch action, button and slider customized for the device." Along with that, Citi says, come:

  • Plan cash outflows with the help of a unique interactive chart of past and future payments and transfers
  • Analyze personal spending habits through automatically generated, customizable charts of payee spending
  • Compare personal spending habits with general consumer data, filtering by location, age group, income bracket and purchase category
  • Get direct access to educational content from Women & Co., a service of Citibank, as well as real-time customer service.

Snag it for free (well, you'll need some money in a Citi account, we suppose) at the link below.

Download: Citi for Kindle Fire; more: Press release

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2 years ago

Late-night poll: What do you think of the 'Google Play' portal name?

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We've had a couple of days to settle in (and debate) the new Google Play branding that covers the old Android Market, Google Book, Google Music, and Google Movies content stores. We've also been enjoying the sales in effect on apps and digital media (get Flick Golf Extreme from Google Play for a quarter before it's too late!) and filling our devices with content. But the name is a bit of a change.

We get it -- Google wanted to provide a unified name and look across all their digital content stores for Android, and a big re-branding sure got everyone's attention. But like all things when they change, there are plenty of skeptics. I'll admit saying download from Google Play seems a bit odd, but I'll get used to it soon enough. Of course what's done is done, but we're still allowed to say what we think of it, and that's what we're about to do. Sound off in the poll and comments and tell us what you think of the new Google Play moniker.

 

Is "Google Play" a good look for Google?

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