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3 years ago

Photo buffs - be sure to give Snapseed a good long look

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Like that old dog who is reluctant to learn new tricks, I may have written off the new Android Snapseed app a bit too soon. In our last podcast, I was quick to dismiss it as yet another hipster filter app, with controls that are too difficult to use on a phone. We all agreed that it's better on a tablet (and it still is -- real estate FTW) but after a bit of practice today -- inspired by Google Android engineer Tor Norbye -- I'm Loving it. With a capital L. 

Gesture based apps aren't really new, but most folks are used to controls and numbers being shown when editing photos. I know I am, but after actually trying it for a while, I've got the hang of it and can use the image adjustment tools that aren't grunge and other lo-fi dramatic effects. It's helpful for phones with less-than-stellar cameras like the Nexus 4, and really does a number when you're using something like the Galaxy S3 or One X.

Take a few and try it on some old pictures. Chances are you'll see what all the fuss is about and end up keeping it. Be sure to show them all off, and enter the photo contest with your result. Install it by clicking the link up top.

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3 years ago

Apps of the Week: Ski & Snow Report, Christmas Countdown, Holo Lamp and more!

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Welcome back to another edition of our Android Central app picks. We've only got a few more of these before the end of 2012, so we're hoping to make the most of 'em. It's the holiday season, so of course we've brought a couple of seasonal apps here -- with a few of our usual great picks thrown in as well. Stick around after the break and see how we did this week.

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3 years ago

Why Plume is still my Twitter client of choice

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It seems like there's a new wizz-bang fancy Twitter client released every week. Every single time you hear claims that it's the next best thing. Every once and a while those claims actually hold some merit, but it seems like more often than not these new clients just fade off into the ether and everyone goes back to their previous choice. For me, that choice is Plume and I've yet to find a client that can pull me away.

I've been using Plume exclusively since about February of this year, and it's only improved since then. After trying it out for about a week -- coming from the official Twitter app -- I paid $4.99 for the "Premium" version and never looked back. I initially chose Plume because not only did it ditch the legacy menu button, but also followed Android's new "holo" design guidelines extensively. There's something refreshing about apps that fit in nicely with the rest of the OS. Plume doesn't cut any corners in features or functionality to get "holo" either -- you have full customization of refresh, notifications (although not push, unfortunately), backgrounds, colors, display, URL shorteners, picture hosting and multiple accounts.

You also get three extremely functional widgets -- 2x1, 4x1 and 4x2 to 4x4 expandable. The largest is information dense and offers scrolling, tabs for tweets/mentions/messages and dedicated tweet/search keys. I interact with Plume through the widget a majority of the time, and it really is a joy to use. The developers are on top of updates for the widgets as well, offering an Android 4.2 lockscreen widget just days after the code released.

It's hard for me to consider using any other client when there's nothing I find in my use of Plume to drive me away. I'm not using it because it's the least broken out of the clients available -- I'm using it because I think it's the best available.

So what is your Twitter client of choice, and what has kept you from switching away? Let us know in the comments.

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3 years ago

Photoshop Express, Snapseed and the best photo editing apps for Android

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Fixing pictures on your phone has become a pretty big deal lately. Big players like Facebook and Twitter are starting to bundle photo filter and adjustment tools into their apps, but there’s still a home for the dedicate photography app. There are a ton of popular ones that continue to thrive and offer armchair photographers the opportunity to share some really slick shots. As a point of comparison, I’ll be using three pictures and sending them through each of the apps to give you an idea of what to expect: one portrait, one close-up, and one landscape shot. Here are the originals.

So, in order of personal preference, my top photograph editing apps are...

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3 years ago

Major Google+ app update launches, including new photo + event features [updated]

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Update: The new version of the Google+ app is now live on Google Play. Go get it!

Google's been on a roll with software and feature updates this past week or so. And so when Google social boss Vic Gundotra remarked that he "couldn't sleep" last night, we suspected there might be big Google+ news coming today. And it seems that's exactly what we're getting, as Google prepares to roll out version 3.3 of Google+ for Android, along with updates for the web version. Highlights in this release include new photo features, including better Photo sphere support, and integration with the newly-launched G+ Communities feature.

The new Google+ app will land later today, along with new features for the desktop version of Google's social network. Here's what we can expect from the new app --

  • New photo stuff -- Instant upload now offers up to 5GB of  full-sized photo backups. Photo sphere panoramas recorded on Android 4.2 can be viewed on devices running Android 2.2 or higher.
  • Events and communities -- Communities support for the mobile app. And it's now possible to send messages to individual event guests and see who's opened invitations.
  • Hangouts -- Now only 150kb of bandwidth is required to participate in a hangout.
  • General improvements -- The ability to edit your profile on-the-go, new "subtle" notices when new posts arrive, and improvements to the posting menu. 
  • Google Now integration -- Birthday notifications through cards on Google Now, including G+ links to wish the person a happy birthday.
  • Other goodies -- Animated GIF support and a lock screen widget for Android 4.2. Also, new "mood" posts based around a gallery of emoticons.

Several other updates for the web version of Google+ are expected to be rolled out today too, including improvements to solo broadcasts via Hangouts on Air, the ability to easily create duplicate events and easier RSVPing. You'll find more details over at Google's full feature breakdown, linked below.

We'll keep you posted with further details when the app update drops later today.

Source: Google

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3 years ago

Facebook SDK 3.0 for Android comes out of beta

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Alongside its release of a native Android app, Facebook is bringing its SDK 3.0 for Android developers out of beta today. The Facebook SDK for Android lets app developers on the platform integrate social functions into their apps by calling Facebook API's and embedding their functions. This means simple actions like connecting a Facebook account to another app or calling up a friend or location list will be easier to implement and use. For example, users will be able to log-in to their Facebook account without ever leaving the primary app -- really cool stuff.

Facebook says the beta version of the SDK was downloaded over 80,000 times since it was released, so let's hope that some of those developers give it a closer look and use the tools to their advantage. This isn't something most end-users will be dealing with, but we all want this regardless. When developers have better tools, they provide an improved experience for all of us.

Source: Facebook Developers

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3 years ago

Walmart improves Android app to help holiday shoppers

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Walmart has made some subtle updates to its app -- now v1.4.1 -- that should help customers looking to ease the headaches of shopping this holiday season. Now in addition to online ordering and shopping cart management, you can view the localized ads for specific stores in your area. After letting the app view your location, you can see the newspaper circular for each store, and see if there are any special deals. You can swipe through the pages casually, and if something catches your eye you can tap into a certain page and get a simple list of the items on it.

The app with the updated UI is out now, and can be downloaded at the Google Play Store link above.

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3 years ago

BBC iPlayer app updated with new UI, higher quality video and Android 4.2 support

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Also BBC Media Player improvements, including background audio playback

Yesterday the BBC detailed exactly what it's planning to do with its iPlayer app for Android over the next few months, highlighting the importance of tablet support, feature parity with iOS and improved video quality. Now it seems the first of those improvements have arrived, as the Beeb is now pushing out an update to version 1.5.0.666 of the TV and radio streaming app.

New features include better video quality over Wifi connections, a re-vamped UI more in keeping with Android's "Holo" design guidelines, and support for Android 4.2. Previously, it had been possible to use iPlayer on an Android 4.2 device, but only if it was installed before applying a 4.2 update. Today's app update means iPlayer has full support for the latest version of Google's OS, and can be directly downloaded onto newer devices like the Nexus 4. There's also support for Gaelic-language TV channel BBC Alba, which may be of interest to viewers in Scotland.

Alongside iPlayer, the BBC Media Player companion app has also been updated. That update brings similar improvements in video quality over Wifi, along with background audio playback support, including ICS lock screen controls, and "currently playing" info in the notification bar. This makes it possible to listen to radio content without keeping the app in focus and the screen switched on. The Beeb cautions that there are still issues with the Sony Xperia Arc running Android 4.0 on this version, however, so owners of that device may want to hold off updating.

Readers in the UK can hit the Google Play link above to grab the new version of iPlayer, or here for the BBC Media Player app.

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3 years ago

Google Calendar adds more actionable notifications, location improvements

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Google has updated the Calendar app to improve notifications, location entry and event creation today. We were very happy to see Google break Calendar out of Android and make it available to everyone (provided the device is on 4.0.3 or higher) in the Play Store back in October, and now we're seeing the fruits of that decision because updates can be rolled out independent of the OS.

Now when you create an event, the app will suggest proper locations as you type. For example when I type "Starbucks" in the location field, it will suggest specific addresses of store locations, much like the location field in Google Maps does currently. Additionally, when you receive a notification for the event, you can act on it by either snoozing or going directly to a map view of the location in the event.

This is a great update and we're glad Google is improving even on its most basic apps. It is an interesting update, however, because this is functionality that's already included as part of Google Now, which will alert you of upcoming events and even adjust the alert time based on traffic or other appointments. This is a good stopgap for devices that are on Ice Cream Sandwich and can use the new Calendar but not Google Now, but that group of devices will only be getting smaller as time goes on.

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3 years ago

Facebook finally releases a native Android app

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After what seems like an eternity of dealing with a sluggish web view Facebook app on Android, the social media behemoth is finally releasing a new and improved version written in native code. Everyone got their hopes up when an improved, native app came to iOS a few months ago -- but the status of the Android version was still "coming soon."

The new version will drastically improve performance in critical areas such as load/resume times, navigating the timeline and loading of photo albums. Because much of the computation is now happening quickly on the device, there's no more waiting. Facebook's main descriptor when talking about the update is "fast," and keep stressing that this is a complete rebuilding of the app.

The update is now live in the Play Store at the link above. We're just getting through the features initially here and things are looking good. This one is definitely going to be a worth-while update for any Facebook users out there.

Source: Facebook; (2)

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3 years ago

Google introducing confirmed clicks into all mobile advertising banners

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Mobile ads are sometimes really, really annoying, but they serve a purpose -- devs got to get paid. However, perhaps the most frustrating  thing of all is when you accidentally tap on an ad banner, soon finding yourself nowhere near the app you were in. Google is putting an end to that today, with the announcement that confirmed clicks are to be implemented into all in-app image advertising banners on smartphones. 

It's incredibly simple, but sure to delight users around the globe. From their research, Google has deduced that the biggest majority of accidental clicks occur around the outer edges of the banners. So, going forward, taps in these areas will prompt a confirmation button to appear before heading out to any related websites. Google claims it will be good for the companies that are buying advertising, as they will be getting valuable clicks for their money instead of a number of people who didn't really care much for the advertised product or service. 

And, of course, it's fantastic news for us, the end user. People still get paid, and we lose a big source of frustration. 

Source: Google Mobile Ads Blog

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3 years ago

Elf on the Shelf gets a new Android game

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The Elf on the Shelf is everywhere. That's kind of the point, right? It bounces around various spots in your home until Christmas, keeping an watch on who's naughty and who's nice, reporting back to Santa each night before staking out a new hiding place. You can't hop on Facebook or Instagram or walk through a store without seeing one of these things.

And, yes, the Elf has an app. A game, actually, with the slightly double-entendre'd title of "Slide n' Glide." (Remember, even Santa has a naughty side, too.) The premise is you move the Elf to determine how far a package will fly off a chute and onto a platform. Get all the presets loaded, and you move onto the next level.

More: See other Android kids games

It's a simple (and free!) game, and adults won't get much out of it. But your kids? Chances are we just found another reason they'll be fighting you for the phone. (Plus there are more than Slide n' Glide available.) We've got some demo video on a Galaxy S3 (the game apparently is having issues on some phones) after the break.

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3 years ago

Google reportedly not keen on building out apps for Windows

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Google is gradually building out its apps portfolio for non-Android platforms, notably iOS. In recent months -- and since being pulled from the platform at OS level -- we've seen Google release dedicated YouTube, GMail and now Maps applications for Apple's mobile OS. But, what about Windows? Windows Phone 8 is gathering momentum, and Windows 8 will eventually be on billions of machines worldwide, or so you'd think, surely the next investment of time for Google? 

Not so, it seems. Clay Bavor, a Google Product Manager, went on record speaking to V3 about where the future may lie for Google expanding their apps to the latest Windows platforms: 

We have no plans to build out Windows apps. We are very careful about where we invest and will go where the users are but they are not on Windows Phone or Windows 8. If that changes, we would invest there, of course

Ouch. It all makes perfect business sense of course, if there's no market, Google wouldn't target it. Both platforms are in their infancy, and we'd expect -- from Windows 8 especially -- increased user numbers to come with time. But, we all know the best way to get the best Google experience on our devices, right? 

Source: V3 via WPCentral

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3 years ago

Football Manager Handheld 2013 released into Google Play for $9.99

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Football Manager is the premier desktop soccer football management simulation game, with millions buying it every year. Last year, Sega brought the title to Android for the first time, in the form of Football Manager Handheld 2012. That was then, and this is now, and the latest version is here. And, it's called -- you guessed it, Football Manager Handheld 2013. The price isn't cheap, and as with last year will cost $9.99 or £6.99 depending where you are. 

With a new year comes new stuff, the first of which is in-app purchases. The very thought of in-app purchases in a game that costs $10 is difficult to get your head round, but the idea kind of works. In the same way as the real football world works, if you splash the cash, you can attract wealthy investors and improve your stadium quicker. There's also 'fresh challenges' available for purchase should you ever require them. It's still difficult to swallow though having dropped all that money for the game in the first place.

Other new features for 2013 includes additional leagues -- we now have leagues for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland -- media improvements, player photos, player comparisons and form updates, and of course the full licensed information for the 2012/13 season. There's no MLS included though, so American managerial wannabe types will have to make do with teams from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and Wales in addition to the two new Irish leagues. 

Best of all, the file isn't huge -- although there is a first time download file you'll have to get -- and it's available to anyone using Android 2.2 and above. 

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3 years ago

Google releases its Zeitgeist 2012 'Year-in-Review' app

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There's just over two weeks left in 2012, and that means every major site and service is doing some kind of "year in review" feature. There's one company that has some of the most interesting data to analyze though, and that's Google. The search giant has packaged up all of its search data and insights from 2012 and released an app to let Android users have a look. The app itself is functional and works just fine, but what's cool is everything inside.

You can choose to view a "Global Top 10" or just United States lists, but in either case you get a breakdown of the top 10 searches in different categories. There's News, Pop Culture, Fashion, Lifestyle, Science, Tech & Gadgets (several Nexus entries here), Sports, Humanities and Cities available -- each having more granular categories within. There's also a pretty great video that gives you a look at the year all in one quick summary.

This is definitely worth a look in both the app and on the web. You can find the former at the Play Store link above, the latter at the source link below.

Source: Google Zeitgeist 2012

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