Recent Articles | Android Central

Order Samsung Galaxy S8: AT&T | Verizon | T-Mobile | Sprint

Pre-Order Unlocked Galaxy S8: Best Buy

Headlines

1 month ago

Best apps for taxes and getting money back

25

These apps will help you to prepare and even file your taxes with a minimum of stress.

Nobody really likes filing their taxes, but it's that time of year. If you haven't filed your taxes (and you should have) these apps will help you to get the job done. They can also help you to stay on top of things during the off-season so that you are ready for next year!

So grab your 1040 and let's go get that refund! Maybe.

Updated, April 18, 2017: We've updated our list of apps for 2017.

TurboTax Tax Preparation

We've recommended this app before, with plenty of good reason, TurboTax Tax Preparation app can sync with your TurboTax account so that you can fill out the question-by-question tax preparation throughout your busy day. It's also helpful if you need to go spelunking for more forms in the black hole formerly known as the family office. You may not fill out your entire return here, but at least you can keep going even if you get dragged away from the computer.

Download: TurboTax Tax Preparation (Free, in-app purchase)

Quickbooks Self Employed

We're living in a world where being a freelancer, or owning your own small business is more common than ever. When you aren't dealing with a tradition W2 to file, and especially if you have multiple lines of income, this is a great way to keep track of everything you have going on.

You can store your receipts, get help with tracking mileage, and even get quarterly updates on your taxes so you know what to expect in April. It also syncs up with Turbo Tax, and is an app we suggest keeping installed year round so that your taxes are as stress free as possible.

Download: Quickbook Self Employed (In-app purchases)

Mint

If you haven't been using a personal finance app all year, it's too late for this return, but maybe the sting from this year will be enough to actually get you into the habit of using an app like Mint. Mint is made by the same company as TurboTax and it's a simple way to both keep an eye on your budget and maintain a trail of where you spent money over the year for things like — you guessed it — your tax return. Whether you're saving your way towards that down payment on your first home or you're just trying to make sure you've got enough left over for whatever new phone/tablet/game/toy you'll be dying to buy on launch day, Mint can help you make it happen.

Download: Mint (Free)

Google Drive

If you think you're more likely to face an audit, or even if you're just looking to get all these documents somewhere easier to sort and access, then think about scanning your documents to a folder in Google Drive for this year's tax return. This way, you can click it, save it, and move on. Drive can also prove useful as you can make lists of deductions you did and didn't take and keep it in that same folder.

Download: Google Drive (Free)

H&R Block 1040EZ

If you qualify to file a 1040Ez instead of a more lengthy and complicated return — and keep in mind that just because you can file a 1040Ez instead doesn't mean that's the one you should file to get all the money back you can — then H&R Block has an app just for you. It even allows you to import your W-2 by taking a picture, simplifying input even more. State selection for your local returns is automatic and based off your address now, so if you get income from another state, you'll need to look elsewhere, but that shouldn't be an issue for most folks.

Download: H&R Block 1040EZ (Free, in-app purchases)

IRS2Go

The IRS is who you're sending your tax return to, so it might help if you saw the tips they give out to help maximize your refund, streamline the process, and get you done with your taxes so they can get done with them, too. The IRS2Go app can also help you track your refund once it's submitted, so you'll know when it's processed, and when that refund should be landing in your direct deposit account.

If your taxes are getting to be too much for you, the IRS2Go app also provides a handy directory of local tax prep offices that you can turn to for help, especially if you qualify for free tax prep. It can also help you to set up a payment plan if it looks like you owe more in taxes than you can afford to pay right now.

Download: IRS2Go (Free)

Google Play Music

Finances can be frustrating. Math can be frustrating. Add in the threat of possible penalties or not getting all of your money back if you mess up, and it's no wonder you've waited this long to do your taxes. It's just too stressful! So put on some tunes to help keep you calm, keep you focused, and remind you to take breaks every now and again. And even if you don't have All Access, the Instant Mix feature will mix a playlist from the songs in your own collection based on a song, artist, or album and keep you jamming out through your tax prep.

Download: Google Play Music(Free, $9.99/month for All Access)

Are you using these apps?

Taxes are pretty much always a stressful process, no matter how used to them you actually are. Thankfully the days of having to do everything on paper are past us, and these apps can help you to streamline that process. Whether that means using them to track your expenses so you avoid surprised, or just to keep track of when your refund hits, they can be a serious help in reducing your stress levels.

Are you using any of these apps? Is there a good one that we failed to mention? Be sure to drop us a line in the comments and let us know about it!

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

All-new Google Earth brings storytelling feature and 3D views to Chrome and Android

9

Google Earth gets a new home.

You no longer have to download the desktop app or use a browser plug-in to access Google Earth. Just in time for Earth Day, Google has launched a redesigned Google Earth that's accessible over the web and on Android. The redesign took over two years, and includes new features like Voyager, a series of interactive stories that let you explore interesting places from all over the world:

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

How to create collages, animations, and movies in Google Photos

5

Google Photos can do more than just store and edit your photos.

Google Photos is great app for storing, sharing, and even editing the photos that you take with your phone. It isn't all business here though, and you can also use Google Photos' Assistant feature to create new collages, animations, and movies. These features are fairly small, but they're fun and easy to use.

How to create a new Collage

Collages are created by choosing between two and nine different photos. After you've chose the ones that you like the most, Google will put them together in a collage for you, They're super simple to create, since all you need to do is choose the photos, and if you don't like the way that the collage comes out, you can always choose not to save it.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the icon for Assistant in the lower left corner of your screen.
  3. Tap the purple Collage icon near the top of your screen.

  4. Choose the photos you want in your collage.
  5. Tap Create in the upper right corner of your screen.

How to create a new animation

Animations are created from a bunch of different photos, but unlike a collage, you won't be seeing them all side by side. Instead one photos will shift to the next, and so on. You can add anywhere between 2 and 50 photos to an animation, and they work really well if you have a bunch of action shots that you have taken. It will take the photos you have chosen and essentially combine them all into a single animation that will move swiftly from one photo to the next. So it essentially lets you create a GIF where you decide on the images in the frame.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the icon for Assistant in the lower left corner of your screen.
  3. Tap the blue Animation icon near the top of the screen.

  4. Choose the photos you would like in your animation.
  5. Tap Create in the upper right corner of your screen.

How to create a new movie

The third option that Google gives you is to create a movie and that's where things get a little bit more complicated. It works essentially the same way as creating a collage, or animation, except that there are far more moving parts that you can choose to mess with. First you'll want to select up to 50 photos or videos for you to use in your new movie. Next you'll get to name your film, and choose a filter to overlay your movie, and there are tons of options from Lo-FI to 8MM, to vintage. It automatically has music which you can change choosing from theme music or tunes you've saved onto your phone.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the icon for Assistant in the lower left corner of your screen.
  3. Tap the green Movie icon on the upper right of your screen.

  4. Choose the photos or videos you want in your movie.
  5. Name your movie.
  6. Choose a filter for your movie.

Are you using this features?

Google has packed roughly a ton of features into Google Photos, and that includes being able to create collages, animations, and movies. If you're a fan of sharing your memories this a great way to do it in a unique, and less spammy sort of way. It's also just fun, truth be told. So will you be taking advantage of these features? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Google Aero is a hyperlocal food delivery and home services app for India

1

Google is now targeting the hyperlocal segment with Aero.

Google has launched several India-specific initiatives recently, including a data-friendly version of YouTube and free public Wi-Fi at train stations. The company is now setting its sights on the burgeoning hyperlocal segment with a new app called Aero.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Best Password Manager For Android

Update, April 2017: These are still our picks for the best password managers on Android.

Best overall

1Password

See at Google Play

1Password hits all of the features we expect from this sort of app: AES 256-bit encryption, password generation, fingerprint security, storage for all kinds of information and cross-device syncing; all with a well-implemented Android keyboard that lets you quickly paste login and password details from your secure storage.

1Password gets really powerful when you pay to upgrade from the free version. For $2.99 per month (billed annually) 1Password keeps all of your secure information synced across devices and you don't have to configure a thing. You can also upgrade to a Family or Team plan to share important information between multiple 1Password users.

Bottom line: 1Password isn't cheap, but it is definitely the easiest to use and most full-featured password manager available.

One more thing: For teams or families that need to simply and securely share passwords, 1Password is definitely the best choice.

Why 1Password is the best

You get everything you need with a single service in 1Password.

1Password has become the gold standard for cross-platform password managers, and that starts for most of us with the Android app. The app is well designed and implements all of the features we want. That means you get easy ways to store logins and passwords, but also other personal information and notes securely. Everything is secured with top-end encryption and synced across all of your devices — phones, tablets, and computers — with no additional setup.

The app offers one-touch fingerprint login for compatible devices, and also offers a keyboard that lets you quickly paste login information right into apps without toggling over to the full 1Password app. It's simple, and it just works the way you expect.

For many, 1Password is the best choice simply because it offers the best multi-user experience available today. For $4.99 per month, everyone in your family can have shared passwords and access to specific information from other family members, which is invaluable for some. 1Password Teams does the same, but for businesses that need to store and share large numbers of passwords.

For just individuals, 1Password is hoping you'll choose its $2.99 personal plan that offers automatic cross-device syncing, web access and of course regular updates. There's still an option to pay upfront for an individual app license for 1Password, but you lose automatic syncing and web support, which are of course two key features of what makes 1Password so great.

With a simple, powerful app and great sharing options between families or large teams, 1Password really does it all — and that's worth the price for many.

Best for less

LastPass

See at Google Play

LastPass offers the same general set of features as 1Password, including secure encrypted storage of your information, fingerprint unlocking, auto-filling of logins for browsers and apps, as well as free cross-device syncing (which used to be a premium feature).

For a subscription of $1 per month you can get a "family sharing" setup with access for five distinct users, extra two-factor authentication options and 1GB of encrypted file storage.

Bottom line: For a full-featured password manager at a lower subscription price, LastPass should be considered.

One more thing: Most people will be happy enough with the basic free features of LastPass, but give the Premium subscription a look just in case.

Best for simplicity

Enpass

See at Google Play

Enpass is a simple app that integrates every password manager feature you could ask for. There's app auto-filling, a built-in browser, fingerprint sensor lock, password generation and the highest level of encryption.

You'll pay $9.99 for the premium version of the mobile app, and that unlocks full premium features including access to the free desktop and Chrome apps. It works this way because you store the password data on your own cloud service of choice. Data is still encrypted before syncing, so everything is kept nice and secure.

Bottom line: Enpass is a great option for those who want to store passwords on their own cloud, without an additional monthly subscription.

One more thing: Enpass actually has a relatively functional free version if you want to cheap out for a bit before paying for the full feature set.

Best for free

Dashlane

See at Google Play

Dashlane offers industry-standard AES-256 bit encryption of your passwords, as well as secure cross-device syncing and on-device password generation. It's also able to store other sensitive non-password data such as IDs, credit card info, addresses, and secure notes.

Dashlane comes with its own browser that will auto-fill all of your accounts and passwords as you visit websites, but you can also elect to use its keyboard to easily insert passwords into other apps as well. The app blocks screenshots and offers several security measures to keep the app safe from unwanted users..

Bottom line: Dashlane is the best choice for someone who wants to use a full-featured password manager on one device for free, and if you need more you can pay for premium features.

One more thing: When you download Dashlane you get 30 days of the premium features for free to give you a taste of everything it has to offer.

Conclusion

For those who want the absolute best password manager for their phone, tablet, and computers, 1Password is the way to go. It has every feature you (and your family or company) want, and you pay a bit extra for that complete package.

Best overall

1Password

See at Google Play

1Password hits all of the features we expect from this sort of app: AES 256-bit encryption, password generation, fingerprint security, storage for all kinds of information and cross-device syncing; all with a well-implemented Android keyboard that lets you quickly paste login and password details from your secure storage.

1Password gets really powerful when you pay to upgrade from the free version. For $2.99 per month (billed annually) 1Password keeps all of your secure information synced across devices and you don't have to configure a thing. You can also upgrade to a Family or Team plan to share important information between multiple 1Password users.

Bottom line: 1Password isn't cheap, but it is definitely the easiest to use and most full-featured password manager available.

One more thing: For teams or families that need to simply and securely share passwords, 1Password is definitely the best choice.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

How to manage existing albums, and create new albums with Google Photos

3

Google Photos puts control of your photos in your own hands.

Google Photos makes accessing and sharing your photos from one place easier than ever. That isn't all it's here to do here, it also works very hard to organize all of your photos into albums, and easily manage who can see which photos. These albums let you easily share important moments with friends, as well as keeping more private moments for your eyes only.

Create a new album

Albums help to keep all your photos organized. Some folks like to save albums of specific events so they can find all the photos from their last family gathering, while others prefer to have larger albums that encompass entire seasons or years. It doesn't matter how you prefer to organize your photos, so long as you know how to create an album when you need it. While Google does a good job automatically arranging your photos, these are mostly by date which can make it difficult to find the specific photo you are looking for. When you create a new album, you'll see the dates of photos in it, along with other pertinent info.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the overflow icon that looks like three vertical dots in the upper right corner of your screen.
  3. Tap Album.

  4. Choose the photos you want in your new album by tapping on them.
  5. Tap Create in the upper right corner of your screen.
  6. Give your album a name.

Create a shared album

Shared albums are a unique feature that easily allows you to share your photo with anyone of your choice. When you create these albums, you get to decide who else has access to them. Creation is nearly identical to a normal album, save for the part where you share them with other people.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the overflow icon that looks like three vertical dots in the upper right corner of your screen.
  3. Tap shared album.

  4. Choose the photos you want in your new shared album by tapping on them.
  5. Tap Next in the upper right corner of your screen.
  6. Give your album a name.

  7. Tap Share in the upper right hand corner of your screen
  8. Choose who or where you'd like to share the album.
  9. Tap Send to invite people to view your album.

Add photos to a shared album

For some shared albums, you may want to add more photos to them as time pass. When you do need to add new content to the albums you have shared with friends and family, it's a very easy process. Additionally, every person that you have shared an album with can choose to receive notifications when you add new photos to this album.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the album icon at the bottom right of your screen.
  3. Tap Shared to open all shared albums.

  4. Tap on the shared album you want to add photos to.
  5. Tap the photo icon at the upper right of your screen.
  6. Tap the **photos you wish to add to the album.
  7. Tap Done in the upper right corner of your screen**.

Remove access to a shared album

There are times during which you may end up cutting ties with folks who have access to certain albums. If this happens, or you want to remove someone's access to a shared album, it's a very easy process. This means that no matter who you have shared your photos with, you can revoke that access. This is just another way that Google puts control over your photos directly into your hands. Just remember that you are deleting the shared album and revoking access to everyone who has access to it. Don't get scared though, because all of those photos will still be available from within the app.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the album icon at the bottom right of your screen.
  3. Tap Shared to open all shared albums.

  4. Tap the overflow icon that looks like three vertical dots to the right of the album you want to revoke access to.
  5. Tap Delete share.

Adjust the sharing settings for shared albums

While sharing an album is quite easy to do, it isn't just a one click option. You get to decide how much control the folks you share your albums with get when they see your photos. You can access a link to share photos with, allow other users to add photos to the album, and lets others comment on your photos. You can also see every person who has access to view the photos in this album, and block them if you want to keep the album but remove access for a single person.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the album icon at the bottom right of your screen.
  3. Tap Shared to open all shared albums.

  4. Tap the overflow icon in the upper right corner of the screen.
  5. Tap Sharing options.
  6. Use the toggle switch to allow others to add photos to this album.

  7. Use the toggle switch to allow others to comment on this album.
  8. Tap Copy link, to copy a link to share your album.
  9. Use the toggle switch to turn off sharing for this album.

  10. Tap the overflow icon next to a user's name.
  11. Tap Block person, to revoke access to your album.

Conclusion

Google Photos gives you tons of options for sharing and managing the photos that you've taken using albums. You can create new albums, and shared albums, along with tweaking just who can see and interact with the photos that you share. Are you a fan of using albums? Is there a trick that we missed for managing your albums? Be sure to drop us a comment below and let us know all about it!

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Something new will be revealed for Google Earth on April 18

16

What could it be? Could it be virtual reality? We'll find out four days before Earth Day.

Google Earth is apparently headed for a redux. According to The Next Web, Google will hold an event on April 18 where it will unveil "the new Google Earth." That's four days before Earth Day — an entirely appropriate time to make such an announcement.

There aren't too many hints about what's on the horizon for Google Earth, but it's likely to be a major redesign of the app, which hasn't seen an overhaul in quite some time. Google Maps has surpassed it in functionality since its debut in 2001. It wouldn't be too surprising to see Google bundle in some virtual reality features, as well, akin to what it launched for the HTC Vive last year.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Five major banks now offer Android Pay integration inside their mobile apps

15

Bank of America, Discover, and USAA are among the first US-based banks to offer this feature.

Google has announced that some mobile banking apps will offer built-in Android Pay integration.

In the U.S., Bank of America, USAA, and Discover are among the first to offer this native functionality. Elsewhere in the world, customers with Bank of New Zealand and mBank, which is based in Poland, will see the ability added to their respective mobile banking apps.

In its blog, Google explained why it added this functionality:

This latest collaboration with banks expands Android Pay's capabilities as an open platform and moves us closer toward our goal of empowering mobile payments everywhere. We're continuing to integrate with additional mobile banking apps, so look for updates from your bank about this new feature.

You won't need to have Android Pay downloaded on your device to use Android Pay. The aforementioned banks will offer the NFC-reliant ability within their apps. All you have to do is select your default payment card.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

How to edit photos in Google Photos

9

Editing your photos is a breeze with Google Photos.

Google Photos offers your one stop shop for all things related to your phone's photos. You have storage for all of your new snapshots, an easy way to share, and plenty more. What you might not have realized is that there is a handy suite of editing tools built directly into the app. When you want to make sure those picnic photos look as awesome as possible before uploading them to Facebook or Instagram, these are the editing tools available to you.

How to use Filters

Anyone who has spent time uploading photos to Instagram is probably pretty familiar filters. These specific effects allow you to adjust the entire photo with a single tap, overlaying the photo to look a certain way. In Google Photos you have access to 13 different filters that you can use. There are a variety of different ones here including an auto filter, and several black and white photos. To apply a filter all that you need to do is scroll through the options and choose the filter that you like the most.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the photo that you want to edit.
  3. Tap the pencil icon at the bottom of your screen to open the editing tools.

  4. Swipe across the filters and choose the one you want to use.
  5. Tap Save, to save the filter on your photo.

How to use 'Auto' to make your photos look amazing with no work

The first 'filter' you can select in Google Photos is the amazing 'Auto' mode that tries to figure out the best combination of exposure, saturation and other settings. It doesn't always work, but pressing on 'Auto' can have a big positive effect on your photos. Try it out!

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the photo that you want to edit.
  3. Tap the pencil icon at the bottom of your screen to open the editing tools.
  4. Tap the Auto button and see the results.

How to adjust light, color and pop

Being able to adjust the white balance of a photo can be key to saving a photo that is too bright, or too dim, in equal measure. With Google Photos you actually get access to not just sliders that will let you adjust the light, but also color, and then "pop".

With Light and color you have extra options past the initial slider bar. You'll be able to adjust exposure, contrast, whites, highlights, shadows, and vignette for light. With color you can adjust saturation, warmth, tints, skin tone, and deep blue. Each option is available for use with a slider bar to ensure that you have the most control over the final product of your photo edits.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the photo that you want to edit.
  3. Tap the pencil icon at the bottom of your screen to open the editing tools.

  4. Tap the icon of slider bars at the bottom middle of your screen.
  5. Use the slider bars to adjust the Light, Color or Pop of your photo.
  6. Tap the arrow next to Light or Color to open up the advanced options.

  7. Use the slider bars to make additional edits.
  8. Tap Save at the upper right corner of your screen to save your edits.

How to crop and rotate photos

There are times when you take a photo and you need to adjust it a bit before you're ready to upload. You may need to crop the photo to ensure there isn't anything unsuitable for social media lurking in the background, or need to rotate the photo so that it's lined up properly. You also have the option to change the scale of the photo.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the photo you want to edit.
  3. Tap the pencil icon at the bottom of your screen to open the editing tools.

  4. Tap the crop icon on the bottom right of the screen.
  5. To adjust the angle of your photo use the slider bar at the bottom of the screen.
  6. To rotate your photo tap on the rotate icon at the right of your screen.

  7. To change the aspect ratio, tap the icon on the left side of your screen, and then tap the ratio you desire.
  8. To zoom on your photo, pinch your fingers to zoom in.
  9. To crop your photo use your finger to drag the corners of the photo to where you want them.

  10. Tap Done to save your edits.

How to undo edits

There are times when you finish editing a photo and realize that something about it just looks off. Nobody wants to upload a photo that looks goofy thanks to over saturation, for example. That's why it's so easy to undo all of those crazy edits you just applied to your photo with just a tap of a finger.

Note: Google does not make permanent changes to any of your photos, so any edits can be undone for as long as the photo remains on Google Photos.

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Open the edited photo that you want to revert.
  3. Tap the overflow icon that looks like three vertical dots at the upper right of your screen.
  4. Tap undo edits to remove all edits and revert your photo to its original form.

Don't forget Assistant

One aspect of Google Photos that is often overlooked is the incredible Assistant, which uses your photos to create GIFs, collages, stylized photos and more. It even groups together photos from a particular day.

Understanding Assistant in Google Photos

Google Photos makes editing easy

Google Photos is an excellent all around app for the photos that you take with your phone. It's also got the editing tools that you need in order to make sure that your photos look as fantastic as possible before you upload them. Whether that means rotating and cropping a photo, adjust levels of light and color, or using filters to make your photos look otherworldly, Google Photos has you absolutely covered.

Have you used the editing tools within Google Photos? Is there an editing tool we failed to mention? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments below!

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Google's AutoDraw can help turn a disastrous doodle into a masterpiece

8

It's exceptionally fun to use and you can save your project when you're finished.

Do you like to doodle? I find it particularly difficult to do so with just my mouse on the screen, but fortunately, Google has artificial intelligence that can help effectively translate what it is I'm attempting to draw.

Google's automated drawing bot is called AutoDraw and it's available to play with right now. The browser-based bot is based on the Quick, Draw! experiment launched some time ago and, per the introductory video, it's meant as a "drawing tool for the rest of us."

AutoDraw is exceptionally responsive and easy to use, though not always accurate. Select the Auto Draw tool to see suggestions as you're drawing. Once the Google's intelligence engine catches on to what you're attempting to do, you can select the image that's closest to what you're going for to convert your scrawl into passable clip art. Here are a few examples of mine, both of which I drew without the aid of a stylus.

Behold, my attempt at drawing with AutoDraw.

You don't have to hang with the artificial intelligence engine if you don't want to either. There's a "free draw" tool, which lets you create without Google looking over your shoulder. When you're finished practicing your Picasso skills, you can save and share your creation as a PNG file. And the best part is that AutoDraw works inside the browser on both your computer and mobile device.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Instagram Direct disappearing messages work exactly like Snapchat's

10

Thus continues Instagram's efforts to remain relevant among the messaging-obsessed millennials — and it seems to be working.

It appears Facebook's Instagram will stop at nothing until it's fully bumped out Snapchat in the social media wars. At least, that's sure what it seems like with all the Snapchat-like copycat features.

Instagram is rolling out new Direct messaging features to both Android and iOS devices. These new features employ the same disappearing photo and video mechanism that Snapchat became famous for. You can tap to view the disappearing content in the same message thread where you've already been chatting with your friends, and like Snapchat, you can only replay the messages one other time. The sender on the other end will know if you've viewed, replayed, or taken a screenshot of the message.

Snapchat ostensibly works the same. You can send direct Snaps to your pals or to a favorite group of pals, in the same chat window where you've been chatting it up already. You can see when each pal opens a message or screenshots it. You can also choose whether to post a recorded Snap to your story or as a direct message — the same way you can with Instagram Direct.

Instagram cites the reasoning for these Snapchat-like features are due to the vast increase in the number of people using its direct messages. "Since our last update in November 2016, the number of people using Direct has grown from 300 million to 375 million," wrote Instagram. "We want to make Direct the best place to have fun, visual conversations with your friends."

Instagram Direct (left) versus Snapchat's direct messages (right).

Indeed, Instagram is fast becoming the "best place to have fun." Months ago, analytics providers confirmed to TechCrunch about the rapid increase in Instagram Stories users after its debut last summer. And earlier, CNBC reported that Snap's shares had dipped after news of Instagram's Direct disappearing messages hit the airwaves.

Will Instagram ever offer augmented reality face filtering effects for Stories? That's the one feature Snapchat can still leverage in the social media wars, especially since it actually owns the patent on that particular facial recognition technology. But with smartphone makers like Samsung already bundling these sorts of features into the native camera app, and now Facebook entering the story-making game, Snapchat seriously needs to consider looking for other ways to stay relevant in this ever-evolving social media landscape.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Evie Launcher review: A zippy home screen experience that capitalizes on current trends

29
Evie Launcher can evolve your home screen

In the vast world of third-party Android launchers, it's hard to cut through the pack and make an impression.

Evie Launcher, at first glance, looks like another easy-to-use launcher for those who just want to zip through their home screens and app drawer. Below that simple surface are a few features to help spice things up — but not every trick is perfectly pulled off.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

The Best VPN Services of 2017

6
The Best VPN Services for 2017

What are the best Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)?

A VPN can be described as an encrypted tunnel that shuttles your internet activity between your PC, Mac, or phone and a host server. While the internet is a public space, a VPN works by extending an invisibility cloak across the user's activity and allows people to send and receive data in a mostly anonymous manner. In the simplest terms, a VPN makes it hard for someone to track your online activity.

There are many different reasons people would want to use a VPN. In some countries, VPNs become a journalist's main tool to get around government censorship and geo-blocks.

It's true, there are plenty of free VPN services out there, but none that you can truly trust. You need a service that has fast speeds, even when streaming video, and you want a service that doesn't keep logs of its users' activities. To help you decide which VPN is best, here are some great options that are available now.

NordVPN

NordVPN

NordVPN is operated in Panama, which means it has no legal obligation to record any of the activities of its users. You're free to connect to any of the 785 VPN servers in 57 different countries, and you can use NordVPN on up to 6 different devices at once. To get around this restriction, however, it can be set up on your router, in which case it will handle any devices connected to your network.

Recommended by CNET in its VPN directory and awarded an Editor's Choice at PCMag, the latter site had this to say in its review:

The addition of Kill Switch is very welcome, as are the specialized servers for video streaming, Tor-Over-VPN, and double encryption. NordVPN offers a solid suite of security features in an easy-to-use package at an attractive price.

The NordVPN app is easy to use, and your internet speed while using the VPN doesn't take much of a hit, even when streaming 1080p video. With plenty of subscription options available — a yearly sub costs about $69 — NordVPN is one of the top services out there.

See at NordVPN

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Voted the top VPN by BestVPN and rated highly by PCMag, this service has plenty of servers all over the world, it doesn't keep a log of user activity, and torrenting is allowed on all servers. In PCMag's review, it stated:

If you use it you'll enjoy decent speeds, assured zero-logging, a wide selection of servers, and one of the best-looking clients I've yet used.

The service is easy to use with a simple setup (if you get stuck, there's always a live customer support chat on its site), and, as mentioned by PCMag, it has a great-looking app. If you're ready for unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server switches, unlimited speed, servers in more than 87 countries, and more, have a look at ExpressVPN.

See at ExpressVPN

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited

KeepSolid has a great thing going with its flexible subscription plans. If you need only a month of VPN while you travel, you can grab it for about $6. Want a lifetime subscription? That will cost you about $150, if you don't find a deep discount like the $39 deal we have over on our Digital Offers page.

PCMag awarded VPN Unlimited an Editor's Choice award in its review, stating:

Its speed test results didn't top my list, but you probably won't notice KeepSolid is running just the same. Add to that BitTorrent support, a well-designed client, specific streaming servers, browser clients, and numerous other advanced features, and you're looking at an all-around winner.

There is no activity logging in the background, so you don't have to worry about your browser history sitting in a vault somewhere waiting to be looked at.

If you'd like to start using a VPN now and continue using a VPN well into the future (probably a good idea), you won't find a better deal than with VPN Unlimited.

See at KeepSolid | Monthly subscription

See at Android Central Digital Offers | Lifetime subscription

Private Internet Access VPN

Private Internet Access VPN

When it comes to a VPN and its apps, some people want a UI that has only what is needed. Private Internet Access is exactly this. With one click, you'll be connected to a server of your choosing. There are over 3,000 servers in 24 different countries, and they support torrenting without jeopardizing speeds. Know that Private Internet Access does not log its users' activity.

Private Internet Access VPN received a high rating at TopTenReviews and was chosen as an Editor's Choice at PCMag. The latter site concluded its review with this:

With government spooks, hackers, and advertisers all hungry for our personal information, VPN is bound to become a more critical and common tool. And Private Internet Access is among the best, offering a robust collection of features in a feather-light package for less than the price of a Netflix subscription.

Toss in some ad-blocking features, as well as varied budget subscription options — get a full year for just $40 — and this service might be your first choice, especially if you like your UI as simple as possible.

See at Private Internet Access

How do you stay anonymous?

Do you have a favorite VPN service? Have you ended up with a dud before? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Best baseball apps for Android

37

They say it isn't spring until baseball starts. Well, then, spring is here.

The late winter snows are finally starting to melt, and we can already hear the ridiculously-priced concession stand beers and soft pretzels calling out names. Major League Baseball season has started, and if you're ready to step up to the plate of keeping up with teams, divisions, fantasy leagues, and statistics galore, we're here to help you hit it out of the park!

Take me out to the Play Store!

MLB At Bat

When it comes to baseball, it's little surprise that the MLB's own app is the first stop, and if you're a big-spending baseball fan who has a Premium MLB.tv subscription, then this may be the only app you need, as this app is included in your yearly subscription. MLB At Bat features each and every game outside your market — because the MLB's blackout rules just won't die — for MLB.tv Premium subscribers, while mere At Bat subscribers can watch the Game of the Day.

MLB At Bat has Chromecast support, so you won't have to squint to make out a foul pitch on your smartphone's screen. That said, unless you're already shelling out 130 bucks a year for MLB.tv Premium, MLB At Bat's limited games and subscription model — 3 bucks a month or a yearly subscription of $20 — may seem a bit too rich for many users.

Download: MLB At Bat (Free w/ IAPs)

ESPN

If you're looking to keep up with the home team's stats, standings, and maybe delve into their opponents stats during a 'lively debate' at the sports bar, ESPN may be just the ticket. ESPN's app — formerly known as ESPN Scorecenter — keeps up with baseball — and most other sports, for that matter — in grand style. You can customize alerts so that even if you're not watching a Gamecast you'll know when the tide is turning, or when your team is blowing its lead. If you've got a cable subscription from certain providers, you can even tune in to live ESPN shows and commentaries.

Download: ESPN (Free)

theScore

You may remember theScore, we've recommended it before for basketball, for hockey, and it's great for following MLB baseball, too. This lusciously dark material app is easy to navigate and re-arrange to your heart's content. You can follow individual players in addition to teams or events, keep up on the latest in news, and you can even keep up with your fantasy team here as well. Like ESPN, theScore can serve as your one and only sports news/scores app if you're looking for a single, simple app to depend on.

So try it.

Download: theScore (Free)

Yahoo Fantasy Sports

If you take your fantasy baseball team seriously, if your league means more than just bragging rights, then the Yahoo Fantasy Sports app has you covered. Another great dark material app, Yahoo is here for you to manage your team, participate in mock drafts, and — most importantly — smack talk the wimpy teams the other managers in your league have put together. And once the baseball season has wrapped up, you can use the same app to keep up with your fantasy football league.

They have also been voted Best Fantasy Sports Mobile App by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association for four years running. So if you're serious about your fantasy team, this is the app to download.

Download: Yahoo Fantasy Sports(Free)

WatchEspn

It may not have every single game, but if you're not shelling out for MLB.tv, WatchESPN can come through in a pinch. WatchESPN shows many an MLB game — especially those early afternoon games that you would never be caught watching at work — and if you're paying for cable, it might as well earn its keep outside your house. WatchESPN streams games to any of your devices — including your Chromecast, leaving your phone free to live-tweet the game and trash-talk the other team's fans.

Download: WatchESPN (Free)

Google Now

Even without an app, you can follow your home team just fine. And if local businesses run promotions around your team — like Papa Johns and the Texas Rangers — then paying attention isn't just a way to stay connected, it's a way to hunt for deals. You can follow a team from pre-season to world series on Google Now without it being bombarded with constant notifications. If you've got an Android Wear device, following baseball on Google Now is a breeze: you can swipe through the cards on your wrist whenever you have a moment and need to pick yourself up with the thought of your team kicking butt — and earning you cheap food.

Download: Google Now(Free)

How are you keeping track?

There are plenty of great apps that will keep you up to date with every inning of the game, but these are our favorites. DId we miss a must-have MLB app? So, what apps will you be taking out to the old ballgame — or at least the sports bar where you'll be watching that old ballgame? And which teams are you pulling for?

Looking to play baseball instead of watch? We've got you covered, too!

The best baseball games for Android

Read more and comment

 
1 month ago

Google Duo's audio calling feature is now rolling out to everyone

19

Everyone can now make audio calls on Google's Duo.

Google rolled out audio calling in Duo last month, starting with users in Brazil. The feature lets you easily toggle between video or audio calls from within Duo's interface, and the app's technical lead Justin Uberti announced today that audio calling is now available to all users globally.

Read more and comment

 
Show More Headlines

Pages