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1 month ago

Best apps for learning a language

11

Rosetta Stone delivers a solid foundation for learning a new language.

Best overall

Learn languages: Rosetta Stone

See at Store

Rosetta Stone is already well known as a great way to begin learning a new language, but you may not have realized that it was available on your phone. With access to 28 different languages, a slow and steady pace that is great for building up your confidence, and optional live-tutoring, there is a reason that Rosetta Stone is king when it comes to language learning apps. Whether you're aiming to learn for fun, or you want to become fluent, this is a great place to start. This program will let you learn how to speak, write and read in a new language, with an emphasis on building confidence in pronunciation and the ability to sync progress across your desktop or mobile device.

Bottom line: Rosetta Stone delivers an excellent foundation for learning a new language with a program that focuses on practical conversational skills. With the addition of teaching you how to read, write, and listen for a rounded experience.

One more thing: While you do have to pay for the full version, you can access the first module of any language for free to try it out.

Why Rosetta Stone is the best

Rosetta Stone makes sure that the fundamentals are pounded into your head and offers features that make sure you're confident about what you're hearing, saying, and writing.

When it comes to language apps, Rosetta Stone may already be the first software you think of. There's good reason for that too. For years Rosetta Stone has dominated language learning on PC and it's mobile version is just as solid. While getting access to the full program is a bit pricy, if you'll motivated to really learn a new language it's worth the hit to your wallet in the long run.

Jill Duffy of PCMag gave it high marks for a foundation in a new language.

"Rosetta Stone is a wonderful, polished, and technically competent language-learning program, especially for beginners who are looking to build a foundation of knowledge on their own time."

While Rosetta Stone does have it's limitations, for those without a background in the language they're trying to learn, this is the most solid all around program. While it can be repetitive, that's to make sure that your new vocabulary sticks in your brain. At higher levels you'll also be able to read to the program while it listens to your pronunciation. Additionally it employs games likes bingo to help your association between individual words and their meanings.

One of the biggest perks to Rosetta Stone is how they introduce everything. Immersion is the key to learning with Rosetta Stone, combined with deductive reasoning. At time you'll need to guess a new word, but it's made easier by giving you choices of other words that you've already learned.

Best free

Duolingo

See at Store

While price isn't an option for some people, if you're looking for the best way to begin learning a new language on a budget then Duolingo is definitely the best bet. This free app has access to 20 different languages to learn from Vietnamese and Irish to Spanish and German. Unlike most other programs, Duolingo employs XP and leaderboards so that you can learn with your friends and turns language into a game to be played.

Each language is a little bit different, and the more popular languages do have access to far more module lessons. Each one starts out the same though. You'll deal with the basics before moving on to phrases and language specific lessons. The leaderboards will show you which friends on facebook use the app and will let you compete against each other. By completing modules you'll also earn EXP and Lingots which you can use to purchase extra modules. If you're learning with friends, you can also start clubs which allows you to turn learning a language into a group activity.

Bottom line: Duolingo makes learning a language fun, and with it's social aspects it's easy to learn a language with friends. Absolutely free, you never need to pay a penny in order to learn everything it has to offer.

One more thing: Duolingo also allows people coming back to a language to test past the basics and jump right back into learning new content.

Best for the rest

Babbel

See at Store

If you're looking for a solid middle of the road option for learning a new language, then Babbel ought to be your go to. It offers a subscription for access to the full catalog, but it isn't nearly as expensive as picking up a copy of Rosetta Stone. Each language is made up of a variety of courses from beginning vocabulary to grammar and writing in the language you are learning.

Each lesson must be downloaded to your phone, but they only take a moment or two and then you can properly jump in. Those lessons are also fairly short, making them easy to rock through when you're sitting on the train during your commute. There are currently 14 languages in the Babbel arsenal, from Spanish to Brazilian Portugese.

Bottom line: Babbel offers an affordable middle of the road option for learning a new language. There are 14 different languages available, with plenty of courses to get you working towards fluency in a new language.

One more thing: Each language must be downloaded as a different app, which can be a bit bulky if you download more than one at a time.

Best overall

Learn languages: Rosetta Stone

See at Store

Rosetta Stone is already well known as a great way to begin learning a new language, but you may not have realized that it was available on your phone. With access to 28 different languages, a slow and steady pace that is great for building up your confidence, and optional live-tutoring, there is a reason that Rosetta Stone is king when it comes to language learning apps. Whether you're aiming to learn for fun, or you want to become fluent, this is a great place to start. This program will let you learn how to speak, write and read in a new language, with an emphasis on building confidence in pronunciation and the ability to sync progress across your desktop or mobile device.

Bottom line: Rosetta Stone delivers an excellent foundation for learning a new language with a program that focuses on practical conversational skills. With the addition of teaching you how to read, write, and listen for a rounded experience.

One more thing: While you do have to pay for the full version, you can access the first module of any language for free to try it out.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

The Best Android Apps

116

Looking for the absolute best Android apps, utilities, and games, the Play Store has to offer? You've come to the right place!

There are a lot of Android apps out there, and we've rounded up the very best across each of the Play Store's major categories. Keep in mind that these are our subjective choices, and are always welcome to hear about what you're digging in the comments, so don't be shy!

Best book & reference app for Android: Kindle

Amazon's Kindle remains the de facto standard for e-reading and offers the widest marketplace for books and reference materials. The app includes a wide range of features, including definition look-up, text scaling, contrast adjustment, and location memory. You can even load Mobi and PDF files to be read in the Kindle app (though not ePub).

Download: Kindle (Free w/ IAPS)


Best business app for Android: Splashtop

Splashtop is a remote desktop access app that allows users to get access to everything they need on your home or work PC. So long as your computer is on, the desktop client is running, and you have an active subscription, you can use your Android device to click around your desktop, open applications, browse files, and make use of touch shortcuts to get more done faster. Encryption is enabled for business customers concerned about security.

Download: Splashtop (Free w/ subscription)


Best comics app for Android: Comixology

In no uncertain terms, Comixology made comics on mobile popular. Issues are made available to purchase the same day they're out on print. There are a bunch of free issues available, and the selection spans major publishers like Marvel, DC, IDW, and Disney. You'll also find related news and podcasts tucked away in there.

Download: Comixology (Free w/ IAPs)


Best education app for Android: Lynda.com

Lynda remains a top source for current, high-quality instructional videos. Though the bulk of the service relies on a hefty $25/month subscription fee, there are a lot of free videos available. Many of the areas of subject matter are technical and surround certain types of software, but you'll also find photography, music, art, and other major topics covered.

Download: Lynda.com (Monthly subscription required)


Best entertainment app for Android: IMDb

IMDb is an invaluable tool for figuring out which films and shows actors are from, digging up obscure quotes, and seeing which shows are topping the charts. After watching an HD trailer, you can find showtimes at theatres near you, or mark it on your watchlist to catch it later. Between the full photo galleries, recent news, and information on every movie under the sun, IMDb is insanely useful.

Download: IMDb (Free)


Best finance app for Android: Mint.com Personal Finance

Mint.com is an outstanding organizational app to stay on top of your budget. It plugs directly into your existing bank accounts and identifies transactions across broad categories so it can visualize the information in helpful way. You can set monthly budget limits for different types of activities, and manually add in transactions that aren't using any of your bank cards. Investment totals made through your bank are displayed here as well.

Download: Mint (Free)


Best health & fitness app for Android: Endomondo Sports Tracker

Endomondo is still one of the best all-around fitness trackers available on Android. You can track speed, distance, and time for running, walking, cycling, or any other overland activity and share the results to your friends on Facebook. If you're willing to go with the pro version, you're able to enjoy goal setting features, an audio coach, and view detailed graphs for your progress throughout a workout. You'll also find that a wide range of popular fitness bands and accessories will feed data into Endomondo.

Download: Endomondo (Free w/ IAPs, or $4.99 for Pro version


Best lifestyle app for Android: Tinder

Tinder is a hugely popular location-based dating app. Users log in with their Facebook credentials, which populates a Tinder profile with all of their interests and a profile image. You're then presented with a stream of potential matches based on those nearby and with overlapping interests and common Facebook friends. With a swipe, users anonymously decide if they like someone or not, and they get a notification when someone they picked has picked them as well. Then it's just a matter of using the chat system to taking things from there.

Download Tinder (Free)


Best media & video app for Android: Plex

Plex is a widely-respected media-sharing app that helps you get content on your Android device from your PC. Just run the media server software on your computer, and you can access music, video, and pictures from anywhere. Extra features, like Chromecast support and cloud saving, are available with a PlexPass subscription.

Download: Plex (Free w/subscription)


Best medical app for Android: Medscape

Medscape is a rich medical reference library that allows users to pour over thousands of procedures, drugs, and news articles. Specialities can be tagged so that relevant information can be made more prominent. The data is pulled in through WebMD, which is highly reputable in the sphere. One of the more useful sections for everyday users is a drug database and cross-referencing for potential interactions. For those really into medicine, there's an educational section where you can read up on the latest research and catch embedded videos going over the content.

Download: Medscape (Free)


Best music & audio app for Android: Spotify

Spotify is arguably the best music streaming service out there, featuring a massive library of tracks, as well as a station generator and some curated, mood and genre based offerings if you don't feel like making a playlist yourself.

There's also a social emphasis with Spotify, giving users the option to share and play friend's playlists to help them discover music and share what they're listening to on social media sites. You can stream shuffled music for free (with ads) or subscribe for unlimited access to everything Spotify offers.

Download: Spotify (Free, $9.99/month for premium)

Best news & magazine app for Android: Flipboard

Flipboard has become the new way people take in web content on their phone. Users build up a list of subscriptions, and content is fed into a beautiful interface. Swipes cause each page to turn smoothly, and a single tap on the header image takes you into the full text of an article. Though reading through your favorite sites is great, you can build your own magazines built from web content and share them with the Flipboard community at large.

Download: Flipboard (Free)


Best personalization app for Android: Action Launcher 3

Action Launcher brings a ton of thoughtful features plus lots of additional tweaks that you expect from a custom launcher. Replace the traditional app drawer with a slide-in Quickdrawer, maximize on-screen real estate with Shutters and tweak the home screen search bar with the customizable Quickbar. Beyond that, Action Launcher also offers theming options, suggestions for app icon replacements and a beta feature to normalize icon sizes.

The best features of Action Launcher 3 require a paid upgrade to the Plus version, but it's worth every penny.

Download: Action Launcher 3 (Free)


Best photography app for Android: Snapseed

Snapseed is a highly polished photo editing app built smartly for touch input. Tapping navigation buttons along the bottom allow users to switch between tools, such as rotating, cropping, color correction, and filters. Then, swiping up and down on the picture lets you select the type of adjustment, and going left and right changes the amount of adjustment. It's a great interface for smaller screens, and provides all the major editing you might need to do.

Download: Snapseed (Free)


Best productivity app for Android: Trello

Trello is a task app the can scale as large as company-wide project handing, to as small as grocery lists. Set reminders, add labels, organize in collections called boards, assign other members, attach pictures and documents, and much more. Trello has a very good-looking web client too, making it easy to manage your tasks by PC as well.

Download Trello (Free)


Best shopping app for Android: Amazon Shopping

Amazon is the granddaddy of online retail. If you're shopping for anything at all, it's worth checking out to see what Amazon's offering. They have crazy deals all the time, just about every physical object you could possibly want to acquire, and with Prime, you'll get it on your doorstep lickety-split. A separate price check app can help by scanning barcodes of physical products and seeing if you can get it any cheaper on Amazon.

Download Amazon (Free)


Best social app for Android: Facebook

Like it or not, Facebook is the most ubiquitous social network out there. Everybody's on it, sharing everything they do. With the Android app, you can quickly post status updates, share links through the browser, upload and tag pictures, send instant messages, and leave likes on your friends' status updates. On many devices, Facebook information is tied to your address book, ensuring that their information is up-to-date and the image is their latest profile pic.

Download: Facebook (Free)


Best sports app for Android: theScore

theScore remains a high-quality, broad-field sports app that helps you get all the news you could possibly want. NFL, NBA, NHL, EPL, UFC, and more are covered with news, scores, pictures, and video clips. Users can mark teams or players as favorites so they can track what's up more easily.

Download: theScore (Free)


Best tool app for Android: Tasker

Tasker lets you set up a wide range of tasks to execute automatically given certain circumstances. You can set antenna to go off when you leave a certain location, turn on an app after tapping an NFC tag, or mute your ringer after connecting to a specific Wi-Fi network. With the help of third parties plugging into Tasker, you have a ton of options for if/then statements here.

Download: Tasker ($2.99)


Best transport app for Android: Uber

Uber has become such a force in the sphere of transportation that it has displaced the entire taxi industry in many major cities. Uber acts as the go-between for pedestrians looking for a ride and a legion of private drivers. Uber drivers are vouched for by users to ensure security, and thanks to GPS, you can find the closest one easily. Prices are dictated by supply of drivers, which means you can get some very reasonable fares, though there are occasionally surges in pricing during busy periods. Payments are made through Uber, so there's no need for cash at any stage. If you're lucky enough to be in a city with Uber service, this is hands-down the way to get around.

Download: Uber (Free, plus fare)


Best travel & local app for Android: TripIt

TripIt lets you store all of your travel plans, including information about your itinerary, hotel, and car rental bookings in one convenient location. It can import this information direct from your email box, and you can easily share your travel plans with your family and friends. It'll even add your trips to your calendar.

TripIt is a free app and service for a basic set of features, but the real benefits come in when you subscribe to TripIt Pro for $49 per year. You get updates on any changes to your flights such as delays or gate changes, and it will also inform you when a better flight becomes available and will let you change your flight plans in-app.

Download: TripIt (Free or $49.99/year subscription)


Best weather app for Android: Accuweather

You might be using Accuweather right now on your Android, whether you know it or not. The longtime weather service powers the weather data on many apps and widgets, including those pre-loaded on many handsets by manufacturers. They use Accuweather for a reason: it's dependable and damn accurate.

And why should you use Accuweather? That accuracy here is combined with a clean, concise app that is easy to navigate and easy to understand.

Download: Accuweather (Free, or $2.99 for premium)


Best widget for Android: Beautiful Widgets

Beautiful Widgets is a full complement of home screen widgets, including weather, time, and battery. Though Android includes many of those natively, the real selling point with is that Beautiful Widgets has a whole store full of styles to chose from. Combination widgets which include multiple data types, such as weather and clock, can use different themes together to create a really unique look.

Download: Beautiful Widgets ($2.69)


Best live wallpaper for Android: Muzei

Muzei is a simple, gorgeous way of livening up your wallpaper rotation. By default, the background is blurred, and with a double-tap, it leaps into focus. You can set how long it takes for a new wallpaper to come in, or decide to leave the wallpaper permanently in focus. An open framework allows other extension apps to find and pick wallpapers for you, either based on your location, social network, cloud collection, and many other sources.

Download: Muzei (Free)


Best keyboard for Android: Gboard

Google originally designed the Gboard for the iPhone, and they took their time making it available for Android. The wait was worth it, as Google Keyboard has been rebranded and updated with great new features including integrated web search. The Gboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, and a modest choice of themes.

Download: GBoard (Free)


Best podcast app for Android: Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts does what any good podcast player should do: it loads quickly, has great discovery tools, has effects for cutting down on silences, and it looks great doing it. Shifty Jelly, the company behind Pocket Casts, has put a lot of love into making the app as full-featured as possible without alienating beginners just looking for an easy-to-use podcast app.

With tablet support, Chromecast output, and easy ways to store content on microSD cards, Pocket Casts is our pick for the best podcast app on Android.

Download: Pocket Casts ($3.99)


Best arcade game for Android: PinOut

PinOut is a brilliant reimagining of the classic pinball action we're all familiar with into an endless arcade format, created by the award-winning developers behind Smash Hit. The game features sharp, futuristic graphics and smooth controls as it pits you in a race against the clock to see how far you can make it on one ball.

PinOut is a free download from the Google Play Store, but you might want to spend $2.99 on the one-time upgrade to premium to unlock the ability to start from previous checkpoints you've reached.

Download: PinOut (Free w/ IAPs)


Best action game for Android: Sky Force: Reloaded

Sky Force Reloaded is, simply, one of the finest games on Android. Featuring frantic gameplay, dazzling graphics, and a deep upgrade system it will have you coming back and playing for hours on end.

The story picks up after the events of Sky Force 2014 with General Mantis' daughter picking up the cause of her fallen father. Most stages feature an epic boss battle with her in a massive warship, but first you have to shoot and navigate your way through intense waves of laser-blasting tanks, turrets, and helicopters. New missions are unlocked by collecting medals, which are earned by saving all the humans, destroying all enemies, and staying untouched through a mission.

Download: Sky Force: Reloaded (Free)


Best cards and casino game for Android: PokerStars Poker: Texas Hold'Em

Fans of Texas Hold 'em will be familiar with PokerStars. It stacked with features you'll love: millions of online players, frequent tournaments, multiple game styles to choose from and in-game table chat. Actual gambling apps aren't available through the Google Play Store, so you're playing with play money here — which you can buy through in-app purchases, or you can hold out for a free spin at the slots to get some starting funds once you're out.

Download: PokerStars Poker: Texas Hold'em (Free w/ IAPs)


Best racing game for Android: Asphalt 8

Asphalt 8 is an over-the-top, white-knuckled racing game for Android. Power-ups litter the fantastic courses set in real-world locations, which can help you launch off ramps for amazing (and physically unlikely) stunts. Hopefully in the process you can trash some of the competition in explosively cinematic crashes. Some freemium elements are employed, such as purchasable currency and premium power-ups, but on the whole, the game is entirely playable without spending a cent.

Download: Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free, IAPs)


Best sports game for Android: FIFA Mobile

FIFA Mobile offers all of the excitement of a live footie match to your Android device. There are four game modes to choose from: you start out with Live Events and Attack Mode, and unlock Leagues and Season once your profile reaches level five. Controls include the standard virtual button and joystick layout, or you can try out some great finger-friendly gesture controls. No doubt soccer fans will appreciate the top-notch graphics and real player models.

Download: FIFA Mobile (Free, IAPs)


Your favorite Android apps?

Those are our picks for the very best apps for Android, but there are a lot of apps out there and new ones are coming out all the time. Leave a comment with your favorites!

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1 month ago

Save 50% on Scrivener for Windows for a limited time!

Ever try creating a really long document in Microsoft Word or an online notepad? It's not ideal, and odds are it isn't something you will want to do more than once. There has to be a better way to do it right? One with more features aimed at those writing in longer form? Well, there is.

Meet Scrivener for Windows, the great long-form writing app that comes packed with features. It allows you to view and edit different sections by themselves or switch to a storyboard to view and arrange your project. Sounds expensive, huh? Well, right now you can save 50% on the purchase!

Some of the other great features include:

  • View & edit different sections of your writing in isolation or as a whole
  • Take a "snapshot" of a document, then edit & rewrite knowing you can restore an earlier revision at any time
  • Easily storyboard & rearrange your project
  • Utilize the fully-featured outliner to take control of the structure of your work
  • Switch to scriptwriting mode for automatic or custom formatting—then export to a dedicated scriptwriting program such as Final Draft
  • Use the name generator to create pseudonyms for interviewees or names for fictional characters
  • Automatically back up your projects as zip files each time you open or close them

Save 50% right now! Learn More

Normally this would all set you back $40, but right now you can save half of that. At just $20 this is a hard program to pass up. You may think your current workflow is just fine, but once you invest a bit of money and try this out, you won't want to turn back!

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1 month ago

Photo editing app Meitu says it needs permissions for analytics, denies selling user data

4

Meitu details why it needs all those permissions.

Chinese photo editing app Meitu made landfall in the U.S. recently, with the free app shooting up the Play Store rankings over the course of the week. The app adds anime-style filters to photos, and the final results end up being equal parts wonderful and weird.

The app has been popular in China and Hong Kong for several years now, but its entry into the U.S. was fraught with privacy issues. The app asks for twenty-three permissions in total, which include access to your phone's device ID, storage, Wi-Fi, network settings, local IP, location details, carrier information, the ability to run at startup, and more.

In a statement to the media, Meitu said that it collects all that data to optimize the app's performance, and get a better understanding of how customers engage with its ads. The company denied that it sells any of the user data it collects, going into further detail as to why it needs so many permissions.

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1 month ago

How to stop Google Play from automatically adding new icons to your home screen

57
Turn it off.

App shortcuts are great, but can quickly overwhelm your home screens.

There's nothing worse than getting overwhelmed on a new device, but thanks to one pesky setting in Google Play Store, while you're installing all your apps on your new Android phone you might go into Google Play with an empty home screen and come out to find it completely covered with apps. It's a bit annoying if you're not the type to put every app you use on the home screen — but don't worry! The setting is called "Add icon to Home screen" and it's really easy to turn off.

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1 month ago

Best apps for starting a meditation habit

7

Because life is crazy and we should all take a little time to settle down.

Meditation is not just something that flower children do. You can do it, too, and you don't have to go to a yoga studio or spend a weekend at an ashram to get started. All you have to do is download an app to your smartphone.

Meditation offers plenty of benefits. A consistent meditation practice can help reduce stress, improve concentration, and encourage a healthy lifestyle by virtue of requiring routine. It's also the practice of self-awareness, which can admittedly be a tad overwhelming for those who may have quite a bit they're contending with internally. As a person with an inconsistent meditation practice, I can say that when I have stuck to the program, I've never felt better.

If you're hoping to get started with a meditation practice of you own, here are several apps worth trying out.

Insight Timer

Insight Timer is one of the more worthy meditation apps that appeals to both newcomers and season meditators. If you're new, you can select from one of 3,500 different guided meditations led by well-known meditation teachers, and if you're already a pro, you can set a timer and choose from the library of ambient background sounds. There are also helpful interface elements, like the ability to bookmark your favorite guided meditations for later use, and there's a social networking aspect so that you can see who else is meditating alongside you.

Insight Timer does have a few drawbacks. It's free, but you'll have to fork over some cash for different bell sounds. You'll also have to maintain a separate login to keep your data synced. At the very least, that data can be easily backed up and carried over to other devices.

Download Insight Timer (Free, IAP)

Stop, Breathe, and Think

Stop, Breathe, and Think has been gaining quite a bit of traction since its debut in the Play Store. Whereas most apps require you to sort of know what kind of meditation you're into, this app asks you about how you're feeling before offering up the appropriate program for the day. Stop, Breathe, and Think also employs a sticker system for accolades, in case you need that extra push to make it to your mat each day, as well as the ability to share your progress with friends.

Be forewarned that Stop, Breathe, and Think requires quite a bit of commitment, including logging in daily to maintain your streak and actually paying to unlock longer meditation sessions.

Download Stop, Breathe, and Think (Free, IAP)

Headspace

Whether you're already seasoned at meditations, or merely a bashful beginner, Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps precisely because it's so effective. One major catch, however, is that you'll have to pay monthly for full access to the app, which includes over a hundred hours of content, a buddy system for you and your pals, and special meditation packages. Think of Headspace as a class on meditation; if you're hoping to really commit to the practice, this is a great place to start if you don't mind figuratively having your hand held for a bit in the beginning.

Download Headspace (Free, IAP)

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1 month ago

Best Streaming Music App for Android

202
Spotify

Spotify is the best streaming music app that you can download for Android. With an impressively large catalog, radio stations, playlists and the ability to listen to a single song or a full album, it offers the best listening experience no matter what you are looking for.

Best overall

Spotify Music

See at Play Store

Spotify Music pulls to the head of the pack with its huge collection of music and the wide variety of features that it employs. The biggest perk is the wide variety of ways that you can find new music while exploring the app. You've got genre and mood stations that are great if you're throwing a party and want to turn on music to play for a while. It's also easy to build playlists or listen to an entire album from beginning to end. With the emphasis on social connection, you can even share your music to your favorite social network, or browse the music that your friends are listening to.

Bottom line: Spotify Music delivers an awesome experience, with all tons of features to make listening to music fun and easy.

One more thing: Spotify has Chromecast support, which means that you cast your music to make sure everyone can hear what is going on.

Why Spotify Music is the best

A massive catalog and emphasis on social connection, and great features to make your listening experiences amazing.

Having an adaptable music service that gets me access to whatever I want to listen to is kind of a big deal for me. I still have over 50GB of music saved on my PC. Spotify manages to win out through the sheer size of its music catalog — updated regularly —and the number of features it delivers.

You get all of the features that various different services offer in one place. Whether you like to find new music, have great playlists for parties, listen to entire albums, or have something great to work out to, Spotify has you covered. It's constantly evolving the way that you find and experience music, and even brings a social aspect in by letting you browse the music of people you are friends with.

Sarah Mitroff of CNET calls Spotify "The King of streaming music":

"On the surface, Spotify is just another app that lets you play millions of songs you don't own for a monthly fee. But look deeper and you see a constantly evolving service that seeks to reinvent how we find and play music."

To get access to everything Spotify has to offer you will need to pony up for a $9.99 monthly subscription. The price tag is well worth it though. You'll remove ads, get unlimited skips, and be able to download your playlists to listen to them even when you aren't connected to the internet. In a nutshell, it's well worth the extra money for the access to the full toolbox of features. There is also the ability to set up a family account which can hold 6 individual accounts for just $14.99 a month.

Best Free

Pandora Radio

Pandora

See at Play Store

If you're looking for the best option for streaming music on a budget, then you need look no further then Pandora Radio. Pandora was one of the first streaming music platforms, and it's still popular for a good reason. You can create a station for a song or artist and then you'll get music that is related. By liking or disliking the music that plays you can curate stations so that you only hear the music that you enjoy.

Pandora Radio includes not only music, but also some audio you might not expect like Epic Rap Battles from YouTube and stand-up comedy sets. On top of creating and curating stations you can also browse stations by genre or mood. As you like music you'll also get access to Thumbprint radio, a station filled with only the songs that you have liked on other stations.

While you are limited to a specific number of song skips with the free version of Pandora, once you have curated your stations this shouldn't be a real issue. You can have as many stations as you like, and it's easy to add variety to an existing station if you want to hear something new.

Bottom line: Pandora offers a massive collection of music that you can explore by browsing pre-made stations, or by creating and curating your own music stations.

One more thing: While you are limited to the number of songs you can skip, you can go around this by just switching stations.

Best for Podcasts

Google Play Music

Google Play MusicSee at Play Store

Google Play Music has an impressive catalog when it comes to music, and may actually come installed when you get a new phone. While it does many things very well, (especially since Songza was added to the mix) Google Play Music really shines for those of you that also enjoy listening to podcasts. From Nightvale to The Joe Rogan Experience, Google Play Music has a full section available for podcasts built in. This means that you can search by charts, category, or by specifically looking up your favorite podcast. You can easily add podcasts to a favorite list to make them easy to find again. You're also able to manage your subscribed podcasts by auto downloading or receiving notifications about new episodes, as well as choosing the order that episodes are displayed in.

Bottom line: Google Play Music's gigantic collection extends out to dozens of podcasts for you to enjoy. With features that let you customize your listening experience.

One more thing: When you find an awesome new podcast, it's easy to share with friends on social media right from the podcast page.

Best for Audiophiles

Tidal

Tidal

See at Play Store

In terms of streaming music services, Tidal is still one of the younger players on the block. Don't let that trick you, though. On top of their catalog of exclusive music like Beyonce's Lemonade, or Prince's full album list, they are also hands-down the absolute best experience for audiophiles.

Tidal delivers high fidelity sound on both its songs and its music videos. While they don't have quite as large of a catalog as some other services, the 40 million tracks that they do have are top notch in quality. Tidal also boasts a ton of great music that is exclusive to the service.

Bottom line: Tidal offers a great selection of music, makes it easy to find new favorites, and best of delivers a superior listening experience with High Fidelity audio.

One more thing: It's easy to find great new music with the curated recommendations of albums and playlists.

Best for Playlists

Apple Music

Apple Music

See at Play Store

Apple Music might not sound like it should belong on an Android phone, and that's where you would be so very, very, wrong. Apple Music has a solid collection of music with 30 million tracks, but it's their playlists that should get you intrigued. Building personal playlists can be fun, but there are times you just want to find awesome music with as little work as possible.

Apple Music brings you thousands of different playlists that have been curated for pretty much every genre or activity on the planet. As you find and listen to music, you'll also get special playlist recommendations that can help you to discover entirely new music.

Bottom line: Apple Music delivers a superior experience when it comes to playlists. You can easily find great playlists by searching, or delve into your recommendations to find the best new music you've never heard of.

One more thing: In order to access those awesome playlists, you will need to pony up for a monthly subscription.

Best overall

Spotify Music

See at Play Store

Spotify Music pulls to the head of the pack with its huge collection of music and the wide variety of features that it employs. The biggest perk is the wide variety of ways that you can find new music while exploring the app. You've got genre and mood stations that are great if you're throwing a party and want to turn on music to play for a while. It's also easy to build playlists or listen to an entire album from beginning to end. With the emphasis on social connection, you can even share your music to your favorite social network, or browse the music that your friends are listening to.

Bottom line: Spotify Music delivers an awesome experience, with all tons of features to make listening to music fun and easy.

One more thing: Spotify has Chromecast support, which means that you cast your music to make sure everyone can hear what is going on.

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1 month ago

ComiXology is getting an exclusive Adventure Time comic

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Wield that axe, Marshall Lee.

Fans of the Adventure Time universe are about to find themselves needing ComiXology in their lives, as one of its alternate universe characters gets his own three-part story. In a continued effort to promote their new push for original content, Amazon has a year of exclusive comics planned for ComiXology and Kindle owners.

At the top of their publishing list is Adventure Time: Marshall Lee Spectacular, a three story comic all about the alternate version of Marceline the Vampire Queen from the perspective of Ice King's fan fiction. If you're unfamiliar with the series, it really doesn't get less confusing from here.

This three-part series includes an original song performed by Marshall Lee, and is available as either a $3.99 one-time purchase or free to ComiXology Unlimited subscribers. If you're not a part of the $5.99/month subscription service, Amazon offers a 30 day free trial so you can see what's going on. For those who would rather not bother with ComiXology at all, the comic is also available directly from Amazon for the Kindle app.

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1 month ago

Best Chrome extensions you didn't know existed but should be using

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10 Chrome extensions you didn't know existed but should be using

What are the best Chrome extensions I should be using?

Update 16 January 2017: We've refreshed this list to ensure you're kept up to the latest when it comes to the best Chrome extensions you should be using.

The amount of time most people spend browsing the internet continues to rise each year, and Google's Chrome browser attempts to be the most comfortable and versatile browser out there. To aid in its quest, Google allows for developers to market small software extensions that modify and (in most cases) ameliorate your browsing experience. Here are 10 Chrome extensions you didn't know about but should be using.

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1 month ago

Microsoft is finally testing Cortana for your lock screen!

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"Hey Cortana, catch up to Google Assistant."

Microsoft's progress with Cortana for Android has been slow, but undeniably constant. As voice services go Cortana is arguably more capable than Assistant or Siri, but the implementation on Android hasn't been complete enough to ever seriously consider replacing Google's services. It's an uphill climb for Microsoft, especially now that Google's Assistant is coupled with Google Home as a more complete solution, but the next big step has finally arrived in the Cortana beta channel this morning.

This doesn't appear to be a full lock screen replacement like Microsoft has done with other apps in the past.

In what Microsoft is calling a "VERY Alpha build" in the Cortana beta community, support for Cortana on your lock screen is being tested. This update starts by asking if you'd like to enable Cortana, and if you agree to test the new feature you'll see Cortana's ring at the bottom of your lock screen. This doesn't appear to be a full lock screen replacement like Microsoft has done with other apps in the past, but you do gain some new information by interacting with the Cortana ring.

Swiping right on the rings pulls the Cortana itinerary view into frame, which gives you access to all of the traffic, calendar, and news events you've told Cortana you want to see in your feed. There's also a microphone icon should you want to communicate directly with Cortana, but for right now it doesn't look like "Hey Cortana" works when the display is off. It's possible Microsoft will have that working as work on this Alpha build continues, but even without that feature this step forward is significant.

If you want to try this out before it is rolled out as a standard feature, sign up for the Cortana Beta group here.

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1 month ago

Google app for Android gets offline search to deal with spotty connections

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The Google app for Android is now better at dealing with intermittent connectivity issues.

Google has been streamlining its search efforts to deal with spotty connections, and today's update to the Google app for Android includes a new offline search feature. If you're looking something up on Google and lose connectivity in the middle of the query, the app will now save your search, and deliver the results as soon as it detects an internet connection.

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1 month ago

Here's how to tell your fortune with autocorrect

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The future is now where we don't have to visit a seedy fortune teller to get the scoop. Maybe.

One reason I love reading Leigh Alexander: She always manages to find a connection between the ethereal parts of our culture and technology at large.

In one of her latest pieces on Motherboard, Alexander draws relations between our smartphone keyboard's predictive text feature and how that could be used to tell the future. The article, titled Who Needs a Tarot Reading When We Have Predictive Keyboards? (so true) is a larger look at what our phones know about us and how that keyboard data could be used to essentially predict the future. That's kind of how Tarot works, too!

Your phone's knowledge base about language is generally shaped in part by collective use and ongoing updates to a shared database, and partially by what it learns from you in particular. No two users will necessarily have the same experience of autocorrect or predictive text, which means the system is simultaneously personal and universal. That's also one of the traits that makes tarot such a valuable tool to contemplate one's goals and choices: the system is universal, where each card generally has a particular meaning, but that meaning depends entirely on the context in which the card appears, the interpretation of the person who reads it, and the personal prompt from the querent.

Fascinating, right? Alexander continues on to make the case for how auto-predict has ostensibly become "a new form of traditional folk divination," as a source puts it in the article.

Before you dive through the piece, I thought it would be fun to share our own fortunes from GBoard, or whatever other keyboard app you're currently using.

This year, I will be gone for a while and I will be in touch with me.

Alexander suggests typing out a phrase like "This year, I will," or "My 2017 will be" and then tapping on the words that show up as it make sense for the sentence. Mine were a bit too personal to share, and almost a bit too revealing, but I'm not surprised considering what the keyboard app has witnessed me type. (I bare my heart through text messages to my closest friends — Gboard stores all that!) Here's one I didn't mind sharing, though:

What's your fortune? Share it in the comments!

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1 month ago

OnePlus confirms Nougat update uses proper kernel, will remove confusing debug warning

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After some confusion, OnePlus says there's nothing to worry about in its kernel.

A few tidbits of information swirled yesterday about the Nougat update for the OnePlus 3 and 3T in regards to what kernel it was using. Looking at logs, some users had found messages indicating that the OxygenOS 4.0.1 build was using a debug kernel in what would otherwise be completely release-level software. With a debug kernel, unknowing consumers would be vulnerable to various attacks, as there would theoretically be no checks against modifying the system folder of the phone.

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1 month ago

Best e-book reader app for Android

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Ebooks

Amazon Kindle is the best e-book reader that is available on Android. Their catalog is filled with thousands of titles from best-selling and new authors alike, as well as free books, along with magazines and periodicals.

Best overall

Amazon Kindle

See at Play Store

Amazon Kindle pulls ahead of the pack of e-book readers with its access to a huge library of content, which includes free books and content from indie publishers. Many classic books like The Count of Monte Cristo are absolutely free, and you can read them on your mobile device, or desktop with the Kindle app. There is a book out there for you no matter what genre you are looking for, and even includes independently published content.

Bottom line: With a huge selection of books, customizable options, and the ability to borrow books, Amazon Kindle is by far the best e-book reader for Android.

One more thing: If you decide to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you'll have free access to thousands and thousands of books to peruse at your leisure, along with a catalog of free e-books.

Why the Amazon Kindle is the best

A gigantic library with thousands upon thousands of titles from new and unknown authors put Amazon Kindle at the top.

Kindle Select Publishing even publishes content of varying lengths from self-published authors, or are otherwise unable to find a brick and mortar publisher. You can find titles ranging from Stephen King or Joe Hill to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Bell Hooks.

In the app, you're able to customize fonts, margins, line spacing, and organize the books you've downloaded into collections so that it's easier to find the book you want to read. Kindle will also remember the page that you left on when you switch devices. This means that you can switch between your phone, Fire Tablet, and PC without ever losing your page in the process.

Another benefit is that lots of local libraries will actually lend you copies of books via the Kindle app through Overdrive.

Best pre-loaded

Google Play Books

See at Play Store

Google Play Books gives you access to a vast book store. Some of the books are free. You'll also find some textbooks, although we'd like to see the textbook selection improve in the future. You can read books offline, use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words, and have your notes and place in the book saved across multiple devices through your Google account.

If you have a family account set up, then you can share books between everybody without having to purchase them multiple times. As you purchase more books, Google will also show you books that are similar to ones you have already purchased, in order to find new authors you may not have heard of before.

Bottom line: Google Play Books has a great selection for the bibliophile in your family, and will likely be loaded onto your Android phone when you purchase it. Staying within the Google ecosystem also makes it easy to share your purchases with family members, and keep all of your media in one place.

One more thing: You can actually gift books to your friends and family from inside Google Play Books.

Best for the rest

Kobo

See at Play Store

Kobo Books is a great way to read your favorite books whether it's on your phone or tablet. They have a gigantic selection as you might expect filled with both new and established authors. This includes magazines and even children's books. The most popular and trending e-books are even updated hourly so that you don't miss an amazing story, even when it's coming from an author you've never heard of.

Kobo's free e-books are easy to browse and find what you're looking for. Everything is categorized so that you don't have to scroll through dozens of books you don't care about to find one that piques your interest. Kobo also includes a reading list, which lets you add items you are currently reading, as well as the books you intend to tackle. This makes it easy to keep track of your reading list, even when you're on the go.

As you begin to buy books and Kobo learns your likes, it will also build a recommendations list. This is made up of suggestions for new books or magazines, based on what you've already purchased. There is also a really awesome reading activity feature. It will show you how much time you've spent reading in the app, what books you are currently reading, a running tally of how many books you've read and how many pages you've turned in the process.

Bottom line: Kobo delivers an awesome reading experience with plenty of books to read through, as well as features that make finding a good book easier than ever. You can customize your reading experience, and since Kobo will learn your preferences over time, you'll find new authors with just a tap.

One more thing: When you sign up you'll get a $5 credit to be used towards your first book purchase.

Conclusion

While you might miss the feel of a book in your hands, or the smell of aged paper, there's a reason e-books are so popular: they can save you space and money. If you've made the choice to move solely to e-books, Amazon Kindle is the obvious winner with the largest selection of books, access to thousands of free titles, and plenty of features to customize your reading experience. No matter what you are looking for.

Best overall

Amazon Kindle

See at Play Store

Amazon Kindle pulls ahead of the pack of e-book readers with its access to a huge library of content, which includes free books and content from indie publishers. Many classic books like The Count of Monte Cristo are absolutely free, and you can read them on your mobile device, or desktop with the Kindle app. There is a book out there for you no matter what genre you are looking for, and even includes independently published content.

Bottom line: With a huge selection of books, customizable options, and the ability to borrow books, Amazon Kindle is by far the best e-book reader for Android.

One more thing: If you decide to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you'll have free access to thousands and thousands of books to peruse at your leisure, along with a catalog of free e-books.

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1 month ago

How to share GIFs and search for emoji in Gboard

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Share the perfect GIF or emoji using Gboard for Android.

Gboard (formerly Google Keyboard) is probably the best keyboard you can use for Android, and thankfully it is preinstalled on many handsets sold today, even those not made by Google.

One of Gboard's best little-known features is the ability to share GIFs straight into the text box of certain apps, as well as search for emoji when you just need to quickly find the perfect character. Here's how to do both.

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