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3 years ago

Android App Review: Spelling Bee

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: I like words. They keep my brain sharp and vocabulary growing. But what good is knowing a bunch of words if you don't know how to spell them? Sure, you could use spell check, but what if you were the spell checker?

That's where Spelling Bee comes into play. You can study and you'll be given a word and a definition, and can even have the app pronounce the word using text-to-speech. Swiping left and right moves you from study card to study card, and the only words you'll be given are the ones you'll eventually be tested on.

The actual spelling bee component is pretty cool and well done. You're only given the definition and a text box to enter the word. There's also the option to have the app say the word to you, which is probably the most powerful and revealing part about the test. Once you're confident, just enter your word in the text field and enter it. You'll be given immediate feedback as to your correctness, and if you misspelled the word, you're also shown the correct spelling.

At the end of the quiz, you're shown your overall percent correct. From there you can quit or go back to the main menu to study some more and drill yourself.

The settings menu allows you to change the length of the quiz (5, 10, or 20) as well as the difficulty of the words. Mine came set to "hard" out of the box, but there's also beginner, easy, and medium difficulty settings. The other two options are to show a timer and to enable vibration.

As a total package, Spelling Bee delivers on what you'd expect in a nice and neat little app. There's not a lot of unnecessary extras, but the core of learning words and spelling them is well done. Spelling Bee is also aesthetically pleasing, with a nice, yellow-colored beehive wallpaper and aesthetic throughout.

Thanks to the variable difficulty levels, Spelling Bee can work for people of all ages, from kids all the way up to well-read adults. If you're looking to improve your vocabulary, Spelling Bee is a scant 99 cents in the Android Market.

We've got lots of pictures and download links after the break.

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3 years ago

Android App Review: MattedBlues Theme for CM7

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One of the best parts about CyanogenMod 7 is the powerful theme engine. No flashing zip files or anything is such a relief, plus, the theming and skinning community has delivered a multitude of awesome themes to try out. One of those is MattedBlues, which is made by the same fellow who created the MellowYellow Theme for CM7.

MattedBlues was the original theme created by this person (group? The developer name is Team MattedBlues), but just because it's older doesn't mean it's still not great. A lot of the features we saw in the MellowYellow theme are present, just in a cool blue instead.

Per the usual with these kinds of themes, once you've selected MattedBlues from the Theme Engine, all your icons, check marks, highlights, and even the bounce color when a list hits the top or bottom turns blue. There's also a different 3G icon, but the other icons are par the course, just in this particular shade of blue.

The notification pulldown menu is the same as it is in MellowYellow (I assume MellowYellow actually borrowed it from MattedBlues), with the same, happy little Android head at the bottom, except he's blue. Pretty stock, except on this theme, it says "MattedBlues" inside of his head. I don't know why, but I feel like it could do without that.

The phone dialer is similarly transparent, with a better looking font replacing the stock font. If only the Theme Engine itself supported changing the fonts the entire phone over, I think this theme would truly kick it up a notch.

For those who aren't a fan of yellow but still want to theme their CM7'd phones, MattedBlues is another great entry by a great theme developer. I'm still pushing for an orange theme myself, but for those who find blue as their color of choice, MattedBlues is for you.

MattedBlues for CM7 is $2.99 in the Android Market.

We've got more screenshots and download links after the break.

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3 years ago

Android Game Review: Noogra Nuts

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YouTube link for mobile viewing

If I had to pick my favorite cuddly nature animal, squirrel would probably win. They have big, bushy tails, look really soft, and one time I saw one run up to a guy and take the remainder of his sandwich out of his hand. (No lie.) When I found a game about a squirrel busting open nuts on his head and eating them, I figured it was worth a look. That game is Noogra Nuts.

Noogra Nuts is an entirely tilt-based game where your aim is to bounce falling nuts on this squirrel's head until the shells crack, then eat the delicious innards as they come tumbling down to your mouth. This sounds like a pretty fun game until you realize it's completely tilt-based and there's no options to change it to some sort of touch screen control.

There's a lot of good about Noogra Nuts, though, like the graphics. Continuing the theme of nature and squirrels and nuts and stuff, Noogra Nuts has nice green grass fields you jump on, cartoonish nuts that fall, and a terrifyingly absurd looking squirrel that's the star of the game. Yeah, he makes cutesy noises when he jumps and when nuts bonk him on the head, but those eyes freak me out.

The sound is good too, with this loop of weird, upbeat techno on the title screen and nature sounds during gameplay. Nuts bouncing off of the squirrel's head have a satisfying if not muted knocking sound to them, but it's not ill-placed.

Back to the controls, they're just not precise enough for my taste. Doing a completely motion-based game is cool, but it feels like you're either not tilting hard enough or you tilt too hard and overcompensate to move. The result is your squirrel inching along or bouncing from side-to-side on the screen, missing most of the stuff he's supposed to be bouncing up. If the developer added in something as simple like a thumb press on each side of the screen, I think it'd make Noogra Nuts much more intuitive and enjoyable.

At the very least, Noogra Nuts is OpenFeint supported and doesn't cost anything to play. There is an ugly ad on the front of the title screen that you have to pay (via an in-app purchase) to remove, but it never shows up in gameplay, so it's not too terrible of a deal.

To get your nutcracking skills on, there's download links after the break.

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3 years ago

Android Game Review: R-Type

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YouTube link for mobile viewing

When news got out that R-Type had been officially released on Android, I got pretty excited. Yes, R-Type is technically a year older than me. I still played it at the laundromat down the street growing up, and old games in general still occupy a soft spot in my heart.

Simply put, this is an awesome, authentic port. There's eight levels, two modes of difficulty, and enough powerups to make you keep continuing in hopes you'll beat the darn game. It's also OpenFeint supported, which is the only newfangled, non-authentic addition to R-Type.

If there's one thing that sticks out, it's how brutal R-Type is. That's not a bad thing, but it's a nice reminder and how much games coddle people these days. Take one hit? Boom, your ship is gone. All of your lives run out? Sayonara, friend. You'll be starting back over at the beginning.

That's probably the most entertaining part of R-Type (aside from a well-placed charge shot). It's difficult just like you remember it, and if it's your first time playing, put on your big boy (or girl) pants and strap yourself in, cause the gameplay is as unforgiving as it gets. And that's awesome.

Some people argue that the touch screen doesn't control the ship very well, but I didn't experience any of those issues, especially on a tablet. On the contrary, the only issue I had was stretching my thumb too far away and having to reset its position, but on a phone screen, you'll be hard pressed to do that. The response is really quite good, and your right thumb is completely free to shoot whatever powerup you might be saving or charge up your cannon to blast through a big group of aliens.

For those who grew up playing this game (or even those who are looking for a bit of a retro experience), R-Type is a must. This port is so well done and so faithful to the original, it might just take you back to your days of standing on a stool, pumping quarters into the arcade machine because you got blown up... again. It's just that good.

R-Type is a bit on the pricey side at $4.13, but for the hours (and hours and hours) of gameplay you'll get trying to beat it on normal (and don't forget about Hard Mode!), it's totally worth it. For old folks and newcomers alike, R-Type should be in your game library.

We've got download links after the break.

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3 years ago

Android Launcher Review: Rocket Launcher

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Launchers are a dime a dozen now-a-days, there are tons and tons of options in the market, some free, some paid, many doing similar things in the end. When I first caught wind of Rocket Launcher I thought to myself "oh, another launcher to do the same thing" but as always I checked it out and wow was I shocked. First impressions, as we all know, mean quite a bit, and when I first installed Rocket Launcher I was quite intrigued so I gave it a look.

The video above shows off the features and different parts of Rocket Launcher in action, and while it won't appeal to everyone this launcher is not one to simply write off. With static icons, and only one home screen that offers limited customization it is great for maximizing productivity, and enhancing ease of use. The market offers a free version, as well as a paid version, so if you are on the fence about it try the free one, and if you enjoy be sure to upgrade to the paid. Is this the replacement launcher for you? Hit the break for download links, and be sure to hop in the forums and let us know what you think!

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3 years ago

Android Game Review: Muffin Knight

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YouTube link for mobile viewing

Sometimes you just need to play a game that makes absolutely no sense. Something with a completely nonsensical, ludicrous plot that has simple mechanics and colorful graphics.

That game is Muffin Knight.

Writing this, I'm still not really sure what Muffin Knight is about. I've gathered that you play as a little warrior and collect muffins whilst either defeating or avoiding enemy animals. Downing a bad guy gets you some experience, and as you level up, you're able to upgrade any of the various warriors you've unlocked.

The actual muffin collecting is where the game takes a turn for the strange. Whenever you pick up a muffin, you turn into a different character that you've unlocked. The characters are all fundamentally similar (they can all jump, they all have an attack), but from there, it's up to you to know each character's speciality to survive and keep collecting muffins.

Collecting muffins gets you two things: new levels and new characters. For example, in my first playthrough, I unlocked a unicorn that poops out explosive rainbow mines. Yes, you read that correctly. You also start off with the knight, mage, archer, and gnome at the beginning of the game.

It's hard to say what exactly is so hypnotic about Muffin Knight. Is it the random chance of getting a character you've upgraded fully so you know you'll pwn whatever is barreling down on you? Maybe the fact you can play as a unicorn that poops out explosive rainbow mines? Perhaps it's the fact that when you fail to stop an enemy and they jump into a pit of flame (what? why would they do that?), they return on fire and run at double speed?

Regardless, Muffin Knight is fun. The controls are tight, the graphics are appealing and colorful, and the game is just neurotic and random enough to keep you from getting bored. Nearly endless entertainment is only $2.99, and we've got download links after the break.

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3 years ago

Mint.com Personal Finance app updated with new features

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Intuit's popular personal finance app Mint has been updated with a few new features, along with some security enhancements. You can now add transactions from your device, as well as view your available and current balances for each of your accounts. Mint also now supports Google Maps to change the location of your transaction, and Google Places to find a merchant when adding a transaction. You can grab the update from the Android Market after the break. 

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3 years ago

Android Kids App: Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin now available

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From the same developer who brought us the excellent Android version of Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" comes another Potter classic: "The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin." Just like with "Peter Rabbit," you can read the book yourself, or have the app read to you. The images are all interactive, and your child can tap each word to read along.

"The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin" is available in the Android Market for $3.04, and it's coming soon to the Barnes & Noble Nook Color. We've got download links and a promo video after the break.

See more Android kids apps

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3 years ago

Adobe goes 3D with Flash Player 11, AIR 3, coming in October

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Adobe's come quite a long way in a relatively short amount of time on Android -- just about every device released today has Flash Player or AIR on board, or it's one of the first apps you download. Adobe's just announced the next versions of its Flash Player and AIR frameworks, and things are going to get faster and become more immersive -- and they're going 3D.

Yes, the updated Adobe framework will allow for 3D Flash and AIR gaming, folks. And that's whether you're talking on a desktop computer, television or, in our case, Android smartphones. No more side-scrollers. We're talking console-quality gaming that Adobe says is 1,000 times faster than Flash Player 10 and AIR 2, and it can deliver a smooth 60 frames per second. (An added bonus is that Adobe AIR can be bundled with an Android application -- no more extra downloads.)

And that's just for the end user. There's tons more for developers, naturally. Check out these videos:


Zombie Tycoon
Update highlights

And ease on past the break for more from the slide deck, and the full press release.

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3 years ago

Hulu Plus adds more device support to their Android app

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If you're rocking a device that in the past, wasn't supported by Hulu Plus then you'll want to check the list below. Hulu has updated their Android app today and the list of supported devices has grown by nine. Eight phones and one tablet. The new devices listed are:

That's it -- nine new devices in total supported by Hulu Plus, anyone going to be checking it out? The service does cost $7.99/mnth but students can get one month free when you sign up.

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3 years ago

ESPN and Slacker launch customizable sports stations on Slacker Radio

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I know plenty of people who listen to sports radio programs and one common thing I noticed between them all is that as soon as someone starts talking about something they don't like, they tend to get all fired up.  But what if you could customize your sports radio stations to however you like, so that you never really have to deal with the stuff you don't enjoy listening to?

That's exactly what ESPN and Slacker Radio have announced today. Slacker Radio Plus and Slacker Premium Radio subscribers now have unlimited access to the ESPN Radio integration, and the ability to create highly personalized, myESPN Radio sports stations based on favorite sports, teams or ESPN programs. If you're not yet a subscriber, you have free access to ESPN Radio but without all the extra bonus content.

In addition to the extra content being added, Slacker also updated their Android UI and optimized it to perform better across a range of devices. If you're looking for the full details, the press release is past the break for you all.

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3 years ago

Hands-on with mobile Hangouts and the Google+ update

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Youtube link for mobile viewing

Here's our first look at the major update to Google+ for Android 2.3 and above -- and it's a doozy. Mobile Hangouts are seamless and awesome, though you can only join a Hangout -- not initiate one.

The notification settings are a must. Basically, we're getting even more excited about Google+. Check it out.

And if you're looking to circle all of your favorite Android central writers on Google+, here's a handy list:

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3 years ago

Google+ Hangouts now available for Android 2.3+, opens registration to all [update]

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Google+ Hangouts have become one of the most popular uses of the rapidly growing social network. Until now, they were relegated to the desktop, making users pine for mobile support. Today, Google announced that they have made Hangouts available for phones running 2.3+.  This is amazing news and will certainly make the feature more widely used now that they can be done anywhere and on-the-go.

To use the feature, once you see a Hangout in your Stream, just click Join and you should be all set.

The new version of the Google+ app will be rolling out today, so if you don't have it yet, sit tight. For those who don't have the app yet, see the links after the break. For those with friends and family on iOS, they promised Hangouts will arrive soon. Until then, you can tease them about Hanging out right from your Android phone.

Also of note: Google+ has opened registration to everyone -- no more invites needed. Hangouts also can be broadcast for all to see, plus Hangout APIs have been released, and Google's added better search functionality. Check it all out at the link below!

[update] Google announced a bunch new features for the Google+ Android app in addition to Hangouts:

  • US and India users can post, respond and receive notifications via SMS (you need to verify your phone number in settings)
  • Improved + mention support
  • Edit your Profile photo
  • Customize notifications
  • Support to move to SD card
  • Huddle is now Messenger
  • You can share photos via Messenger now (killing Pool Party makes sense now)

Source: Official Google Blog

Google Mobile Blog

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3 years ago

Caillou's World joins Android kids educational games

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Heads up, parents. Everybody's favorite bald-headed boy is now on Android. Caillou's World (for those of you without kids, Caillou is a popular kids show on PBS) is intended for children ages 2-5 and helps with reading, spelling and phonics. The child spots a highlighted item in a picture and taps it, and then has to choose which letter the item starts with, all while associating the picture with the sound of the word, and the spelling.

The app works well enough on a large smartphone, but it's even better on a tablet, with more screen real estate. Caillou's World is $2.99 in the Android Market. We've got download links after the break.

See more Android kids apps

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3 years ago

Android App Review: National Football Post

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If you’re a football fan who wants to stay up-to-date with news and analysis right from your mobile device, you may want to check out the National Football Post app for Android. This free app from aggregates National Football Post columns and provides them in an easy to read fashion. When the app opens, the homescreen features five menu options along with three tabs, which you may slide left or right to access. The main menu options include:

  • Hot News & Rumors: This option gives you the most up-to-date articles that include news and rumors from around the league.
  • NFP Features: The NFP Features tab contains the latest articles from NFP columnists such as: Andrew Brandt, Matt Bowen, Joe Fortenbaugh and Wes Bunting.
  • Scouting Dept: The Scouting Department option is for all those NFL draft experts out there who want to read up on prospects, view rankings and see who their favorite team may choose come April.
  • Fantasy: As you can probably guess, this option gives all the fantasy news you could want to make sure your team is ready.
  • Get Sharp: Get Sharp is the new NFP online television series. It features experts talking about the big football topics of the week. While the videos are not embedded in the app, you will get a summary to read to find out what they said.

The tab options along the top are: Home, Team News and Saved. For the Team News option to show up, you need to select a favorite team. That tab will then feature all current news relating to that team. The Saved tab is for articles you have marked to save, which works well if you wish to read some of them later.

The National Football Post Android app is one of the best ways to stay on top of your football news and analysis on-the-go, particularly if you’re a big NFP fan. As mentioned above, it is available for free from the Android Market. Please find app links and more screenshots after the break.

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