Google has announced a huge Android Market update, bringing a slew of changes, including books and movie rentals to users in the US. The update (for Android 2.2 and higher) will bring the ability to purchase books via your Android Market account, as well as rent movies through the Videos app (hey, we've seen that somewhere before) starting at $1.99. Google says they plan to expand this outside the US in the future.
Also coming are changes like new top picks, a new visual style, and web features like Editor's Choice and Staff Picks. The Market will start rolling out in the next few weeks, and as soon as you receive the update you'll be able to access the videos app to rent movies and buy books through the market with no changes on your end. Hit the break for a video overview.
Although the IMDb website works pretty good on a Honeycomb tablet, the dedicated app has now been Honeycomb optimized for users. The UI is pretty slick looking and features built-in such as movie ratings, watch lists and the ability to purchase movie tickets all from within the app make it a pretty awesome update. It's available now in the Android Market -- download link and one more screenshot can be found past the break.
The folks at Evernote have pushed out the Honeycomb version of their popular organization app to the Market, and it looks like it was well worth the wait. The big changes are rich text and checkboxes within your notes, and an all new preview style widget for your tablet homescreen, but I'm impressed more with what I've seen of the UI. The dashboard style homescreen gives you a great overview of everything, well organized and with a great visual style. This continues through the rest of the new UI, leaving you with the impression that the app is truly finished and polished.
We'll be taking a closer look at this one, in the meantime if you've been waiting (or using the beta), hit the break for the free download link so you can check out this one.
Been looking to make use of that front-facing camera on your tablet by sharing your daily adventures with the World? If so, Ustream has now given you a Honeycomb optimized way of completing that mission. Ustream for Honeycomb has been released to the Android Market and is looking pretty spiffy. Users can not only now broadcast from their tablets but also tune into live shows from anywhere a connection is available. In other words, you now have a perfect way to tune into the Android Central podcast on Thursday nights.
This one's pretty simple, folks. If you like stars, space, spaceships, or Star Trek and/or Star Wars, I've got the live wallpaper for you. It goes by the name of Starfield 3D Live Wallpaper, and it's about as straightforward as they come.
Starfield 3D Live Wallpaper has a settings of menu of only give choices: Stars, Speed, Background, Battery, and Reverse. Stars and Speed are fairly obvious: adjust the slider to determine how many stars are on the screen at once and how fast you're blazing by in your ship (X-Wing? Starship Enterprise?).
Background is a simple check box, and enabling it adds a static image of about six galaxies that are far, far away. It kind of detracts from the overall slickness of a solid black background, but if realism is your thing, the option is there.
Battery is quite possibly my favorite choice, as it makes your default flying speed tied to your battery level. Have a charged battery, zoom right along. Have an almost dead battery, though, and expect to drag along in deep space, just waiting for a KlingonStar Destroyer ambush. Reverse is just that: the stars all go the opposite way, as thought your boosters were pushing you in reverse.
There's also the excellent double-tap reaction of going into warp speed, and I dig it. It reminds me of the Millennium Falcon scene in Star Wars when they're on the run. Nerdy, sure, but at least it's there!
Scrolling is smooth, with no performance problems on my end. Perhaps it's the newness of the EVO 3D, but with the popularity this wallpaper has already seen, I'm almost positive it runs on everything pretty well.
At the whopping price of free, there's nothing in your way to keep you from downloading this stellar wallpaper. Well, maybe trying to get a girlfriend, but if you're reading about Android, that ship has probably sailed. May the Force be with you/live long and prosper, friends.
EA's official Scrabble game (the one we first told you about last week) has just been released. (If for some reason you've managed to get this far in life without ever playing Scrabble, you get seven letters from which to make words on a board. Letters have different point values, and there are bonus spaces on the board. You take a turn making a word, then your opponent takes a turn. Most points wins.)
Until now, we've had to make do with a couple of relative good non-Scrabble games -- Words with Friends and Word Feud. But this one's the officially branded real deal.
So how's it stack up? We've been playing Scrabble for Android for a few minutes now. You'll want to turn off the elevator music, and the game animations are slower than we'd like to see. And we could really do without the between-turn ads in addition to the banner at the bottom of the screen. We can't decide if it's better or worse that EA's pimping its other titles here -- it's almost better when we know we're being served ads we'll never in a million years want to click on.
Other than that, gameplay's pretty good. The board scales up nicely. You're told a word's point title as you place the letters. There are buttons to shuffle the tiles, bring up a dictionary (nice!), or a "teacher" button that basically cheats and shows you the word you should have played instead of that four-letter noun that only bagged 5 points.
You can play against a friend who also has the app, or an anonymous opponent.
Twitter, which in the past has been accused to treating third-party developers as second-class citizens by basically borrowing their functionality before telling them they're not longer needed, has just announced that there are more than 1 million registered Twitter applications from 750,000 developers.
Also Monday, Twitter, which reportedly is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for the way it treats third-party developers, announced a new version of the Twitter Developer Site, which includes discussions, a developer blog, better documentation, improved apps management and an enhanced search engine.
The video up there says it all. Wiz Kid Jr. is a fast-paced, puzzle-based game that challenges not only your finger dexterity but also your forethought and ability to adapt on-the-fly.
The idea is classic: anything of the same color can be destroyed or removed if there's three or more of them together. In this case, they're totems, and they give you mana. The mana doesn't give you any cool powers (for that, there's magic bolts), but it does keep your game going. Mana is like your essence, your life-blood, and without it, the baddies win.
Getting rid of totems (or the undesirables) is easy. Draw a connecting line between them, and poof, they disappear. Unfortunately, diagonal lines are a no-no, but you can still string together some pretty impressive combos if you snake to-and-fro and make sure you start the line at the optimal location. If you can't, you can still totally just go for groups of three or four (I totally did) to get your mana up little by little.
The bad guys are evil spirits, but I still think they're evil faces, and for some reason, they like munching on your mana. There's six different kinds, but you don't face them all unless you're playing on the Unstoppable Wizard difficulty. For beginner wizard, you face the first three that are unlocked, and as you unlock the more difficult levels, a new evil spirit is unlocked as well.
You're able to have six levels of mana saved up, noted by the change in your mana bar's color and the amount of vials sitting above it. You can save up more mana after you've already filled six vials, but I'm not sure by how much, because at that point, evil spirits were munching my mana so quickly I couldn't fill it up fast enough. At any rate, just know you can save up a big war chest in case the waves start coming too quickly.
Something also worth saving up (especially for the later levels), are your magic bolts. Magic bolts fuel some special abilities you unlock that can greatly expedite the removal of evil faces. You start off with the hammer at the beginner level, and it does just that: hammers away a totem or spirit. There's a small cooldown between using magic bolt-infused abilities, so you can't just blow half your hammers back-to-back when the going gets rough. As you unlock more abilities (also in conjunction with more difficult levels and more spirits), you'll have more options at your disposal, but to keep them scaled with their increased power, their cost goes up. I know the bomb costs two bolts (compared to the hammer's one), and I can only assume the next two will cost three and four (or more!).
There's also a Super Free Play mode, which lets you pick the wave speed, spirit anger, and any three spirits to duke it out with. It's fun to have and definitely lets you work out strategies against some of the spirits that may be causing you trouble.
Overall, Wiz Kid Jr. is a stellar game. Graphically, it's nails. The scary, training wizard man up top looks great, as do all the stylized fonts and accents. It runs smooth as butter, and has a kickin' soundtrack, to boot. If you like puzzle games (or anything that'll surely challenge you), Wiz Kid Jr. is a safe bet. There's a free version that's limited to 10 waves and a paid version, that for a mere 99 cents, nets you the whole game. If you like what you see, find yourself four quarters and pony up the dough. There's ghosts evil spirits to be busted.
More pictures and download links are after the break.
Here's an interesting addition coming to a future version of Android. Apps that don't properly scale up to Honeycomb tablets' greater resolution and larger screen sizes will be able to be zoomed in on to properly fill the screen. This is different than stretching the app to fill the screen, which is what happens now if the app doesn't properly target Android 3.x.
Instead, if you tell the app to "Zoom to fill screen," the app will be emulated at approximately HVGA resolution (that's 320x480) and then scaled up. The down side is that things will look pretty pixelated, but usability shouldn't be affected.
You won't see this on every app you run on Honeycomb -- many apps were designed to scale up on their own just fine, thank you very much, and so developers can remove the stretch/zoom option if they so choose.
DocumentsToGo is the stalwart champion of on-the-go file editing. It's been around for a number of years and on a number of handsets and operating systems, be it RIM's BlackBerry or Palm's Palm OS, and as of the inception of our operating system, Android.
DocumentsToGo has a very clean, metallic interface that's easy on the eyes. From the main menu, everything is clearly laid out in front of you. Want to view your starred files? Not a problem. Prefer to be synced with Google Docs? DocumentsToGo supports it.
The plus sign on the bottom left is your one-stop shop for creating a new file. A simple tap on the plus sign brings up a new menu with the options to create a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file. The gear on the bottom right brings up the settings menu, which is also accessible by hitting the menu button on your phone.
Editing a file is a breeze, requiring you only to select it and wait for it to load. I really appreciate how the file editors look in DocumentsToGo, as well. There's a definitely Windows 95 look going on, but it isn't bad at all. It's familiar, which is great. It's also great that when you open a file, it defaults to being zoomed out, so you're able to find what you want to edit it, then zoom in on it, instead of having to zoom out, find, and then zoom in again.
Starred files are a pretty cool, defining characteristic of DocumentsToGo as well, especially if you have a quagmire of files to sort through. If that is you, I'd recommend a laptop or a netbook (or maybe even a tablet!), but know that there's something to help you be better organized than having to sort through long lists of files or go into deeply structured folders on your microSD. This is definitely one of those features I wouldn't mind being ported to the other office products out there.
As mentioned previously, DocumentsToGo supports syncing up with Google Docs, but unfortunately, nothing else. There's no Dropbox integration, no SugarSync, no Box or MobileMe. What Dataviz does give you instead, though, is an actual desktop sync. While it's not as cool as giving you more cloud options (and actually kind of limiting, forcing you to sync with machines the client has been installed on), it's better than nothing. To enable it, you download a Dataviz.exe onto your desktop and set up syncing from there. If Dataviz set up their own cloud syncing between multiple devices, it wouldn't be so bad, but I think to really propel this app to new heights, they should at least add in Dropbox.
At $14.99, Dataviz is asking a bit of a premium for their app. But with its arguably better interface and a more experienced history with mobile editing, this might be the app for you. I do also think if you're going to charge more for a product, you should at least have the same cloud syncing options, but that's just me. As a whole, though, DocumentsToGo offers most (if not all) of the options some will need on the go.
Download links and more pictures are after the break.