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3 years ago

F-Droid is the FOSS application store for your Android phone


One of the cool things about Android is the open market model. The folks at Google don't mind at all if you sideload apps, or use your phone to build apps of your own, or even if you install a whole separate application market. That's the real meaning of open when you hear the word being tossed around so freely. Because the platform is open, we get to see things like F-Droid.

F-Droid is a third party application "store" that hosts FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) in a repository for easy installation and updating. The repo is full of open-source software written under a variety of licenses, but all nice and FOSSy enough to please most any die-hard fan.

Having it laid out all nicely this way offers a few benefits as well. You can choose which version of an app to install, track which FOSS apps you have installed, and turn on update notifications right in the app settings. It's an excellent way to manage things, and closely mimics software repos from popular desktop Linux distributions. Even the F-Droid app itself is FOSS and licensed under the GPLv2+.

Of course we can't mention any third party application centers without thinking of security. F-Droid tackles this in a pretty novel way. Developers can upload a pre-built apk file, but the preferred way is to upload the source. F-Droid then builds an signs the code, creating an apk file they guarantee is 100% derived from the source code anyone can look through. Community oversight has long been a staple of the FOSS world, and when source is readily available you'll find that very few shenanigans are tried. The guys and gal who can read the code will let everyone know if they find something shady. Everyone.

There's quite a few interesting apps in F-Droid, and I'm going to give it a spin. If you're a fan of FOSS, I recommend you do the same.

Source: F-Droid, via +Josh Armour

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3 years ago

Microsoft launches new email app with old design


Microsoft has just released a new version of its email app to coincide with its overall email rebranding to from today. While the app brings a lot of features that Outlook users will like -- ActiveSync, Contacts and Calendar sync, multiple account support -- it is wrapped up in a very bland and outdated design that reminds us all of Android 2.3. We had high hopes that Microsoft would bring something more striking. Maybe wrapped up in a "holo" UI, or at very least something of the metro "modern UI" style that has won many people over on Windows Phone.

Nevertheless, if you're an Outlook user, you'll probably be getting one of the better experiences out there using this official app right from Microsoft. You can take a look via the Google Play Store link above.

Source: Outlook Blog

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3 years ago

Hamilton's Great Adventure now in Google Play [Tegra games]


The PC and console game Hamilton's Great Adventure makes it's way to Android today, and is available from Google Play for Tegra devices. It's a two-part affair, and both the base game and the expansion will cost you $4.00, but I'm really feeling this one and won't mind buying my own copy. 

You play as an adventurer, and you need to work your way though mazes and levels, collecting coins and trinkets as you go along. You're followed by your parrot companion Sasha. Using virtual joysticks or a controller you walk along the level, until you reach something you can't walk past. If you reach that point because you weren't paying attention and the floor has dropped out behind you, you're done and need to restart the level. If you're stuck behind an obstacle, that's when Sasha comes into play. 

Tap a button and switch to your parrot, who can fly around and trip levers, grab keys and do all sorts of things to unblock your path. When you've accomplished that, a quick tap takes you back to playing as Hamilton and you can continue. It's easy and fun gameplay, but as the levels progress things get much more complicated and really present a challenge. 

The gameplay is plenty fun, and the visuals are a real treat thanks to Tegra 3 optimizations. Nvidia works with OEMs and developers to bring console quality gaming to Android, and Hamilton's Great Adventure is yet another winner from the TegraZone. Hit the links below to give it a try, and jump past the break for a few more screenshots and the game trailer.

More: TegraZone

Download from Google Play (1), (2)

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3 years ago

Blue Skies Live Wallpaper updated for Android 4.2 Daydreams


There's not a lot to see here -- that's the Blue Skies live wallpaper I've been using for some time now. What's new is that it's been updated to serve as a sort of screen save as part of the Android 4.2 full-screen "Daydreams" feature. So when you plug in your phone, you can enjoy the same beautiful sky as when it's sitting in your hand.

Expect to see more live wallpapers do this, we reckon, and don't forget to check to see if your favorite widgets have been updated to work on the Android 4.2 lock screen.

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3 years ago

Nook app updated with support for UK store, several new languages


Following hot on the heels of the latest Nook tablet hardware going on sale in the U.K. last week, Barnes & Noble has updated its Android app today to support users in that market as well. The latest version makes over 2.5 million U.K. books, magazines and newspapers available to users. Additionally -- and as you would expect -- the update brings added language support for British English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, although full dictionary support is only for British English at this time.

One quick thing to note for all users of the Nook app is that the app name will change after this update, and will now be labeled simply as "Nook" rather than "B&N Nook." You can grab a download of the Nook app at the Google Play Store link above.

Source: Barnes & Noble (BusinessWire)

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3 years ago

Google+ user reviews now a go for Google Play


When the Play store apk last updated, the folks at Android Police noticed some reference pointing towards a Google+ tie in with user reviews, and now it's live. We figured it was coming when we saw all the reviews on the web go anonymous, and now whenever you go to leave a comment and review for an app you're first told it's going to happen, then you're switched to your Google+ account to do the deed.

It's surely something that's going to cause user-backlash, but it should also lead to more helpful reviews now that you're tied an account to the review. It's also a good way to pump numbers up, so prepare for those news stories as well.

It's easy to check out yourself, head to Google Play and leave a review!

Source: +#googleplusupdate

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3 years ago

Words With Friends adds SMS game invites and notification improvements


One of the most popular cross-platform word games in the mobile world, Words With Friends, has received an update tonight with a few good parts to it. First off is an interesting (and we doubt very useful) feature that lets you invite friends to games via SMS messages. Zynga also lists improvements to the notification system -- something that has been pretty hit or miss for many users. Unfortunately the notification sticks with a pretty unsightly gray/white striped background, but that's just how things go. Lastly, the game now automatically adds a homescreen shortcut when it's installed -- a curious addition considering the Play Store lets you choose whether you want this or not as a global setting.

You can grab the game for free at the Google Play Store link above. You might just grow your vocabulary while you're at it.

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3 years ago

Pure Calendar widget updated for Android 4.2 lock screen


It's impossible for me to show my phone without someone asking "What is that calendar widget?" It's called "Pure Calendar widget (agenda)," and it just got updated so that it works as a lock screen widget with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

If you're unfamiliar with Pure Calendar, it's a highly customizable widget. Anything being pulled into your Google Calendar can be displayed here, and there are numerous skins and colors available. Plus, it'll scroll. It's a must-have on my main home screen, and now it's sitting on my lock screen. 

Get your download on at the link above.

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3 years ago

Netflix updated to support Android 4.2, improve UI


These are the kinds of updates we like to see. As many of us are getting our hands on devices running Android 4.2, Netflix (and many others) is updating for full support of the new platform version. The last couple of weeks may have felt like years waiting for the update, but it was still released in a pretty reasonable timeframe (now the Starbucks app, on the other hand...). Aside from supporting Android 4.2, there have been a few other notable changes:

  • Large volume button
  • Easy scrubbing with new screen stills
  • Improved stability and playback bug fixes

All-in-all, a very useful update. We'll take improved support and usability features any day of the week. You can grab a download at the Google Play Store link above.

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3 years ago

Don't like the Android 4.2 clock widget? Fixed 4.2 Clock Widget can help


One of the visual changes we were 'treated' to in Android 4.2 when it first dropped, was a re-designed digital clock widget. I say 'treated' because its design is a point of contention for many. Personally, I don't mind it, but many others have a vastly differing opinion. The mixture of bold and regular font doesn't cut it for some people, especially when compared to the relative simplicity of the light Roboto font we've all come to know and love. 

But, this is Android, so there's usually a way to change these things. This ones called Fixed 4.2 Clock Widget, and is available for free in the Google Play Store. And, it does exactly what it says on the tin. You can alter the font to your liking, and you can go all bold if that's your thing. But, it gives us a simple way to bring back the clock widget of old, and it's also compatible with the Android 4.2 lockscreen. Tapping on the clock widget also takes you into the stock clock app as you would hope. 

And, aside from mentioning that it also displays your alarm times -- as the stock widget also does -- that's about it. If you like it enough, there's a donate version also available, but all the features are available in the free version. 

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3 years ago

We find the lack of Angry Birds Star Wars on the Droid DNA ... disturbing


What's a guy got to do to fling some birds in high-definition on the Verizon Droid DNA? As has been the case since its release on Nov. 16, Angry Birds Star Wars HD (see our review) continues to crash and burn on the DNA. No option to report an error, no asking if we'd like to wait or force close the app. Just tap the first level, and the whole game disappears quicker than you can say "Hey, wasn't Alderaan around here somewhere?" 

User reviews are echoing what we've seen. Crashes on the first level on the Droid DNA. We've reached out to the developer through its support channels and will update if we ever hear back.

Help us, Rovio. You're our only hope.

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3 years ago

DocScanner S now available on Android


DocScanner, an app that has over 1.5 million downloads on the iOS platform, has just launched onto Android. The basic idea behind these types of apps is simple -- scan pretty much any type of document, business card or receipt and you now have a digital copy of it. Nowadays we don't want to deal with paper more than we have to, and if there's a simple way to manage it electronically we'll take it.

DocScanner S is now available for free in the Google Play Store at the link above. There's also a paid version for $3 if you are so inclined.

Source: DocScanner

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3 years ago

Plume update removes direct messages from lockscreen widget


There have been a lot of concerns about security since Google implemented lockscreen widgets in Android 4.2. Some may have concerns over how much information is actually accessible from these lockscreen widgets, and with no guidelines on what is and isn't okay, some developers are taking it upon themselves to implement some of their own security measures. Plume has decided to remove the DM (Direct Message) tab from its lockscreen widget, and now you can only see how many unread messages there are. The widget is otherwise the exact same as the one available on the homescreen.

Of course the best security policy is to not put any widgets on the lockscreen -- and use a PIN, pattern or password lock on the device -- but its good to see developers taking these things into consideration.

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3 years ago

Galaxy S Relay 4G receiving small update via Kies


The Galaxy S Relay 4G from T-Mobile has only been available for a couple of months now, but it is already receiving a maintenance update. The update will bring the device up to firmware version T699UVALJ1 and is listed to fix two issues on the device. The first is fixing an issue with Media Hub playback, and the second is backend improvements to pinch-and-zoom throughout the software.

The update is unfortunately only available via Samsung Kies desktop software, and not OTA (Over The Air). For such a small update, we really wish they would just push it out without users having to go through the desktop process.

Source: Samsung

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3 years ago

Tackling 'fragmentation': Developers sound off on supporting multiple screens


What does it take to support multiple devices? A few top developers weigh in

Android runs on a variety of devices, which means it also runs on a variety of screen sizes and resolutions. Lots of folks call this "fragmentation." Never mind the fact that they've been using products designed and developed the same way for years on their desktop. Apparently if everything isn't exactly the same it gets the "fragmentation" label. 

There are different ways to tackle the problems that arise when you use screens with different sizes and densities. Apple has separate listings for apps designed for the iPhone versus the iPad. Microsoft creates a new eco-system for its big screen devices. Android provides a way for developers to make the same app work differently for different screens. There's good and bad about each method, but we're going to focus on Android here.

In Android, applications can adjust the layout for different size screens as well as resolution. This is all built in, but there are a few things developers need to declare in their code to make the app look good. The thing to keep in mind is how screen size and density will change the look of the app. The Droid DNA has a higher-res screen than the Motorola XOOM tablet, but we don't want to see a tablet layout for apps on the phone-sized screen.

A developer needs to provide assets (images) that are high enough quality to look sharp at high resolution (never mind insanely high resolution), and be sure to use density independent pixel units when designing their layout. This is what keeps things like buttons and other controls from being really big on low density screens like the Galaxy S2, or from being really tiny on high density screens like the DNA.

It sounds complicated, but most of this stuff is done for you when coding an app. All the developer needs to do is make the right declarations, and provide the right assets to support any size (both physical and resolution) or layout. Even multiple layout apps like the Google+ app use the same code to cover every conceivable screen.

We're not trying to judge developers here. Writing apps is tough. The Android developers have been preaching all this since the release of Gingerbread, but how practical is it? We asked a few developers about it, see what they had to say after the break.

More: Google's Android developer site

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