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1 month ago

AmpMe brings Spotify integration to its neat stereo music app

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The app uses other devices and Bluetooth-enabled speakers to amplify music, so you can theoretically have a dance party anywhere.

Picture it: You and two of your friends jovially walking, with arms linked, towards the neighborhood bar. One of your friends starts whistling the piano intro to Cheers. You start singing, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got..." Your other friend whips out her phone, quickly queues up the song on Spotify, and starts blasting it at full volume. If only you could have this moment in stereo.

Well, now you can, as long as you and your pals all have AmpMe installed. Today, the team behind the app announced Spotify integration so that you and your friends can play the same song, at the same time, from your respective devices. The app actually uses the secondary devices to initiate the "stereo sound." It's not only a neat trick, but a great way to immerse yourself in the music without having to invest in a lofty, expensive stereo setup.

And yes — the phrase "social media party" is admittedly a bit nauseating when uttered out loud, but it is quite a bit of fun when you simply allow yourself to feel the rhythm. AmpMe also lets you create playlists, so you can keep the party going for more than one song. In addition to Spotify, it works with YouTube, Google Play Music, and locally-stored music files.

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1 month ago

Get pumped for the big game with our Super Bowl themes!

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ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALLLLLLL?????!!!!!!!

The parties are prepped. The commercials are cued. The fans have completely taken Houston — as an Austinite, you can have it, by the by. Super Bowl LI is Sunday, and that means it's time to give the teams their theming due. Only one team may walk outta Texas with a ring, but both teams and their fans can deck their phones in these simple, sporty themes on their Android phones.

So, I say again: are you ready for some football?

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1 month ago

Android users will have to wait a while longer for Outlook Mobile's add-ins

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It's too bad that Android users weren't prioritized for an update that brings native Evernote, Giphy, and Trello integration.

Microsoft is celebrating two years of Outlook mobile with a new feature. Unfortunately, it's only for your iPhone-using friends for now, but at the very least, here's a preview of what's to come in three concise GIFs.

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1 month ago

Best Math Apps for Kids

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Best overall

Math games, Mathematics

See at Play Store

While many of the math apps available are specifically directed towards a certain age group, Math games, Mathematics aims to help you sharpen your mental math skills with timed math games that steadily ups the difficulty as you show improvement. They cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, exponentials, and plenty more. Everything is offered up in a way that is fun and easy to learn and use — but it's definitely an app for kids who have already learned the basics.

Everything offered up in the app is part of a game, which often makes math much more palatable for kids. There are sixteen different levels that can be unlocked and each one covers a different set of math skills. If a younger child is playing you can set them at a lower level to make sure they can understand what is going on.

There is also a study mode, specifically for multiplication. Not only can your child practice their multiplication tables, but there is also an exam mode to simulate a test. Multiplication is often where many kids stumble with math, and extra practice can make sure the facts are cemented into their little brains.

Bottom line: Math games, Mathematics aims to make math fun and help your child to learn and master different concepts of mathematics.

One more thing: This app is available in 7 different languages, which makes it awesome for those who don't speak or read English.

Why Math games is the Best

Math games combines tricks for mastering math with fun games that help your child master a variety of mathematical concepts

The charm of Math games, Mathematics is that it delivers a solid all-around tool that can be used by children just learning to add all the way up through Elementary school. The app features four ways to learn; Workout, Multiplication Table, Math Tricks and Manual. Each of these sections works together to teach your child the rules of math, easy ways to solve problems, and then delivers the problems themselves.

The Workouts begin with addition and move through different functions all the way up and through finding percentages. Each concept is it's own mini-game, making it perfect for kids who need practice in order to get the processes down. Parents who are concerned about their children's progress will also find graphs that chart progression and how well each mathematical concept is being grasped.

In Multiplication tables, your child is able to both practice and test to show their knowledge of multiplication. This goes from 2 up to 12, making sure that this concept is solid. If they are having issues getting their tables down, or even with addition, then you'll want to check out the Math Tricks section.

Math Tricks shows off clever ways of getting the correct answer without confusing yourself. It shows you exactly how to find the answer, with a diagram of an equation. This is particularly helpful for students who are having issues grasping how to solve certain problems. There are tricks for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Best for Preschool

Preschool Math Games for Kids

See at Play Store

When your child is in Preschool learning their numbers and letters, they are building the foundation for their entire education. The importance of math can't be overstated, so if you're looking for a good game for your preschooler to have fun with math, this is definitely the one to check out.

Preschool Math Games for Kids is exactly what it sounds like. It's games cover reading and recognizing numbers, properly forming numbers by tracing them on the screen, addition and subtraction, plus plenty more to boot. It was made specifically with this age range in mind, and it's absolutely free to play.

Bottom line: Preschool Math Games for Kids is a great way for your little tyke to continue learning math in a fun way that lets them enjoy what they are learning.

One more thing: The art style here is very bubbly, bright, and kid friendly, making it fun and engaging for children to play with math.

Best for Elementary school

Math Run

See at Play Store

Math Run is perfect for kids who need something bright, fun and engaging to keep them interested in learning math. You play as one of four cute fuzzy animals running down a path and dodging to grab coins. However, every so often you'll run into math quizzes which must be correctly answered in order to continue on your quest.

When you get started you'll be playing a baby panda, and learning basic arithmetic. As your child rocks through the first few levels they'll start to unlock the other four animals they can play as. Each one has it's own math speciality for them to master by gaming.

Bottom line: With addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, Math Run reinforces the concepts that students are learning by getting them to play a game.

One more thing: Math Run is in line with Common Core standards, making it an excellent way to reinforce what kids are learning in the classroom.

Best for Fundamentals

Math Training for Kids

See at Play Store

Not everyone picks up new concepts at the same speed, and some of us definitely needed some extra help as kids. If your child needs to work on their fundamentals in a way that is still fun, then Math Training for Kids may be a great option to check out. It separates the problems by concept, as well as letting you choose between easy, medium, and difficult questions.

Each set of levels gives you a time limit and a number of lives. Each time a question is correctly answered, it resurrects a flower, and if incorrect you lose a life. It's got a fun, simple design that focuses more on the math than anything else. It does still deliver a bright format to grab the eyes of the child in your life.

Bottom line: Math Training for Kids focuses on giving kids goals in a game in order to master each basic mathematical concept.

One more thing: Parents, you can check the statistics to see what concepts your child is working on. This also includes how long they played, and their number of correctly answered questions.

Best overall

Math games, Mathematics

See at Play Store

While many of the math apps available are specifically directed towards a certain age group, Math games, Mathematics aims to help you sharpen your mental math skills with timed math games that steadily ups the difficulty as you show improvement. They cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, exponentials, and plenty more. Everything is offered up in a way that is fun and easy to learn and use — but it's definitely an app for kids who have already learned the basics.

Everything offered up in the app is part of a game, which often makes math much more palatable for kids. There are sixteen different levels that can be unlocked and each one covers a different set of math skills. If a younger child is playing you can set them at a lower level to make sure they can understand what is going on.

There is also a study mode, specifically for multiplication. Not only can your child practice their multiplication tables, but there is also an exam mode to simulate a test. Multiplication is often where many kids stumble with math, and extra practice can make sure the facts are cemented into their little brains.

Bottom line: Math games, Mathematics aims to make math fun and help your child to learn and master different concepts of mathematics.

One more thing: This app is available in 7 different languages, which makes it awesome for those who don't speak or read English.

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1 month ago

Best lock screen replacements for Android

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Best Android lock screen and lock screen replacement apps

Updated 1 February 2017 We took another look at alternate lock screen apps, and narrowed our list down to the best of the best.

Best Overall

ZUI Locker-Elegant Lock Screen

ZUI Locker

See at Google Play Store

ZUI locker manages to outdo all of its competitors with a combination of customization options and features all in one place. Being able to easily see your notifications without hassle, along with changing what is displayed when your phone is locked, doesn't seem like much but ZUI does it. And does it really well.

The many themes you can download include widgets for time and weather, along with stock themes that are already available from within the app. The Control Panel feature even allows you to easily access your must-used settings without actually unlocking your phone all the way.

Bottom line: ZUI delivers a great experience with plenty of ways to customize, and a setup that makes accessing regular settings fantastically easy.

One more thing: You can also quick launch apps from Control Panel, by customizing what is displayed in it.

Why ZUI Locker is the best

A winning combination of functionality, versatility, and customization make ZUI Locker the best lock screen replacement app.

There are a fair number of screen lock apps that are currently available on Google Play, but it ought to be telling that ZUI Locker has over 240,000 5-star reviews. There's good reasons for that too.

It comes with a handful of stock themes, but that definitely isn't everything you have access to. Whether you want to look at pre-built themes, or use a personal photo on your lock screen, you've got the ability to roll with it. You can even ensure that widgets with the weather, time, and more are available.

The feature that really brings ZUI to the head of the pack is the Control Panel. By swiping up from the bottom of your screen, you can access your most-used settings, and quickly launch favorite apps. The perk here is that doing this doesn't unlock your phone in the process.

You can manage Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, control brightness, turn on your flashlight, and even enable Airplane Mode without unlocking your phone. If there are certain apps or games that you want quick access to, you can also add them to the control panel so that they are available with a swipe.

Best for Simplicity

AcDisplay

AcDisplay

See at Play Store

For some people customization and bright colors can be swapped out for a more simple and elegant look to your lock screen. If that's the case for you, then AcDisplay is where to set your sights.

This is the best option for people who want a minimalist look for their lock screen, but aren't actually that concerned with securing their phone. That's because AcDisplay doesn't really work as a lock screen and can be opened with a swipe. In order for it to be active, you'll also need to make sure the app is open and running. (The app requires administrator access to full function.)

The lock screen itself is a perfect black, with the date, and time displayed. That's it. When you get notifications, they'll pop up as icons. This means it's easy to glance and see what a notification is without having to actually get distracted when they come in. It's a bit Moto Display, a bit Pixel Ambient Display. All awesome.

Bottom line: AcDisplay will deliver a stunningly simple screen, just remember that it can be unlocked with a swipe.

One more thing: Remember that AcDisplay will only work if you have it open and running on your phone.

Best for prioritizing

Echo Notification Lockscreen

Echo Notification

See at Play Store

Phones can be a serious distraction, especially if you're working towards a deadline or trying to juggle an already busy day. It can be tempting to open up your phone for each notification, and that's what Echo Notification Lockscreen aims to stop.

It automatically prioritizes your notifications into two categories: Priority and Social. This means it's easy to see the important stuff at a glance, and know without opening your phone if it's worth stopping what you are doing.

Now, not everyone has the same kind of priorities. That's fine, because you can easily finetune which apps send notifications to prioritize. So if Facebook and Gmail are the only notifications you want to pay attention to, there is an easy solution.

When you download the app there are only three stock wallpapers available, which is a bit unfortunate. It's easy to swap them with photos or background pictures you've saved to your phone, though.

Bottom line: Echo Screen delivers a great experience if you're looking for a way to sort your notifications, but aren't concerned with many other bells and whistles.

One more thing: Echo works with swipe, pattern or PIN security. It's also very stable, so you shouldn't expect the crashes notorious with lock screen apps.

Best for Customization

Locker Master

Locker Master

See at Play Store

Let's be honest, one of the best part of using an Android phone is the sheer amount of customization that's possible. If you like your phone looking exactly the way you want, down to font size, then Locker Master is definitely your best bet.

Locker Master has a huge catalog of free wallpapers for download, and its perks all revolve around being able to customize your lock screen. You can adjust the layout, font, wallpaper, and even what information is shown. There are also options to add widgets, and those are customizable as well.

The possibilities with Locker Master are nearly unlimited, giving you access to tons of free features that you can tweak until looks absolutely perfect.

Bottom line: Locker Master offers the greatest amount of customization, letting you play with your lock screen until every aspect is absolutely the way you'd dreamed.

One more thing: Locker Master can be a bit buggy at times, but that isn't uncommon with lock screen apps.

Best Overall

ZUI Locker-Elegant Lock Screen

ZUI Locker

See at Google Play Store

ZUI locker manages to outdo all of its competitors with a combination of customization options and features all in one place. Being able to easily see your notifications without hassle, along with changing what is displayed when your phone is locked, doesn't seem like much but ZUI does it. And does it really well.

The many themes you can download include widgets for time and weather, along with stock themes that are already available from within the app. The Control Panel feature even allows you to easily access your must-used settings without actually unlocking your phone all the way.

Bottom line: ZUI delivers a great experience with plenty of ways to customize, and a setup that makes accessing regular settings fantastically easy.

One more thing: You can also quick launch apps from Control Panel, by customizing what is displayed in it.

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1 month ago

Google boosts Snapseed by adding a Curves tool and fixing Face detection

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It's as if Google finally realized that a real photo-editing app has Curves.

Snapseed is getting its first major update of the year. The photo-editing app, which Google purchased from Nik Software back in 2012, finally features a Curves tool, which helps provide precise control over the brightness levels and varying colors of the picture you're editing. And with smartphones becoming almost as capable as the some of DSLRs, this is a welcome feature for those who may not want to carry laptop with them just to edit photos on the road.

Google has also improved Snapseed's face detection feature. If Snapseed fails to detect a face, for instance, you can essentially ask it to "try harder." And if you're hoping to get a bit kooky with your captions, the Text tool now lets you choose where to wrap lines.

You can read all the details of the Snapseed update at the official Google Plus post on the matter. Or you can wait for the app update to hit your device.

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1 month ago

Plex has acquired newscast aggregator Watchup because people are watching news again

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Plex has acquired a new app that helps people stream traditional news broadcasts.

Plex, the well-known U.S.-based consolidator of all things media, has acquired newscast aggregator Watchup, which brings together video from news channels around the world in an Android (and iOS) app, for an undisclosed amount.

Watchup was launched in 2012 on the iPad but later spread to Android and various set-top boxes, including Amazon Fire TV, Xbox and PS4, as Americans cut cords and began to find most of their news online. The company has aggregation deals with many of the top U.S. media companies, including CBS, PBS, CNN, Fox News and WSJ, as well as international sources like Euronews, Sky, Financial Times and others.

Plex plans to make Watchup part of its media portal, which is increasingly relying on external streaming sources rather than its more traditional focus on local media consolidation. Plex says that the Watchup deal is perfectly timed given the resurgence of video news as part of people's daily routines.

Watchup makes watching news easy by using suggested categories and themes to learn what people want to watch and, like Stitcher in the audio space, creates a continuous playlist of content that people can peruse during a commute, meal or workout.

Download Watchup (free)

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1 month ago

How to save what you're reading on your phone for later

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Sometimes, there is no time to finish that article. Stow it away for later with these helpful apps and services.

Smartphones are mobile, so naturally, you're using your mobile device to get a bulk of your reading done throughout the day. I know I do — even if my tablet is nearby, I'm still reading the news, perusing Twitter, and delving into articles with the device that's already in my hand.

But you can't stay glued to the screen all day, which is where those "read it later" apps come in handy. Here's what I like to use to keep track of what's interesting on the internet, even when I don't have time to digest it.

Pocket

I'd argue that this is one of the most suggested apps for saving articles to read later. It's called Pocket (it used to be called Read It Later) and I've been using it for so long that my reading list is essentially an archive of what used to get me riled up. You can use Pocket to file away those articles you'll merely skim through or longer narratives that require an afternoon accompanied by a cup of tea.

I like Pocket because you can easily use Android's built-in sharing functionality to file articles for later. You can then go into the app and tag articles to organize them by categories of your choice. After you've been reading for a while, Pocket will start to email you a weekly summary of other worthy reads based on what you've already stored away. There's also a social networking element to the app where you can follow friends with their own Pocket accounts to see what they're reading when they can get to it.

Download Pocket (Free)


Instapaper

Instapaper is the other popular app for reading stuff later. I don't use it daily, but that's because Instapaper is more focused on the interface environment you're reading around rather than the content. Its layout is simplistic and designed to appear newspaper-esque. Whereas Pocket is a fan of embedding images and media, Instapaper will keep those hidden so that you can more easily digest the diction.

Instapaper also offers myriad settings for customizing themes, fonts, and text size to your liking. And like Pocket, it offers a bookmarklet for pinning articles from Google Chrome.

Download Instapaper (Free)


Facebook Save

I see you scrolling through your Facebook feed during work hours. I get it: I don't want to miss out on what my friends and family are talking about it either. I've curated my social network so that I want to engage in daily dialogue with my pals and a few others who enjoy the banter. But I also have a bad habit of getting into it when I should be working. (Sorry, editors!) Thankfully, there's a feature that lets me save articles for later. I just tap on the more button of the post I'm interested in and select Save link. The article is then archived to my Facebook account, where only I can see the articles I've deemed worth reading later.

Go to your Facebook Reading List


Save to Inbox

Did you know that you can save links to your Gmail account? It's true, and I'm glad for it considering I'm constantly emailing links to my best friend on the other side of the country.

If you're already an Inbox user, you can file away links you read in your email or on Google Chrome to read later by using Android's built-in sharing mechanism. You'll immediately get a notification that there's an email waiting for you — that's the article you filed away! And the best part is that if you find the article you've read worth sharing with the world, you can easily forward it on with a few taps.

Download Inbox


Watch it later

I love watching YouTube and catching up on web shows, but I try to avoid going anywhere near that site during work hours. Unfortunately, that's a difficult dance, but I've figured out a way to save the videos without getting sucked into watching them. When a pal forwards a video link with a persuasive headline, I'll open it up on my phone and queue it up for later by adding it to my Watch it Later playlist. Simple as that!

Go to your WatchLater playlist


How do you save?

Do you use an app to save your reading for later? Which one do you use and why do you love or hate it? Let us know in the comments below.

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1 month ago

Best Messaging Apps for Android

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Which apps are worth using to stay in touch? We've got the scoop.

Best Overall

WhatsApp

See at Google Play

There is almost no contest. WhatsApp is an all-inclusive messaging app that's all you need for staying in touch, no matter where you are in the world. WhatsApp merely relies on whether your phone has an Internet connection — whether that's through cellular or Wi-Fi — so it's great if you're frequently traveling between regions. You can use WhatsApp to send and receive photos, videos, documents, and voice messages. It also supports group chats and voice calls.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a formidable, all-in-one messaging that's packed with more features than some of Google's offerings, WhatsApp is the second most-popular messaging app available.

One More Thing: Both parties have to be using the WhatsApp app to communicate, though all it requires to register is your phone number.

Why WhatsApp is the best

Google has yet to settle on the one best messaging app. As a result, Android users have had to resign themselves to simply switching off between applications when necessary. It's not the most user-friendly solution, but it's the reality until Google lands on a cohesive messaging strategy.

WhatsApp is worth adding to your arsenal — and possibly switching over to for primary communication. In addition to being able to send and receive photos, videos, documents, and voice messages, WhatsApp lets you place free VoIP calls as long as you're on a strong Wi-Fi signal. That's especially helpful when you're traveling overseas.

Additionally, WhatsApp works well on 2G networks, which is fantastic if you're roaming the countryside with the faintest signal available, and it offers end-to-end encrypted messaging. And since it was the first messaging app of its kind, there were so many early adopters that you'd be hard pressed not to find your friends already have an account. (Even I was surprised at how many of my friends and family members were already users!)

Best for Google users

Google Hangouts

See at Google Play

Text messages, video chat, group chats — it's all there in Google Hangouts. We still don't know where Google is taking its once heralded messaging app, but for now, we're still using it to chat. Use it to easily multitask between conversations with your friends, family, and colleagues between your different Google accounts. You can even use Hangouts to make phone calls with your Google Voice number or download the Hangouts Dialer to make free Wi-Fi calls.

Bottom line: For now, Hangouts is basically a required app if you're planning to stay connected in the Google-verse. We're not sure where Google is taking it (some are expecting it to see it become the next prized messaging app of the enterprise), but there are definitely more people using it than Allo or Duo.

One more thing: Why isn't this Google's primary messaging app again?

Best for texting

Messenger from Google

See at Google Play

You're already a Google user, so you might as well stay with the family when it comes to text messaging. Messenger from Google lets you receive SMS and MMS messages — simple as that! Messenger supports RCS messaging, audio messaging, emoji, location sharing, colored text threads, and message archiving. It even comes with its own batch of stickers!

Bottom Line: Messenger from Google is the messenger for your Google phone.

One More Thing: If you're thinking I really don't want anymore Google, Textra is the next best text messaging app. It doesn't support RCS, but it does have Giphy integration, and offers full compatibility with Pushbullet, MightyText, Android Wear, and Android Auto for enhanced notifications and quick replies.

Best "everyone is using it"

Facebook Messenger

See at Google Play

Chances are, you've got an overwhelming list of friends and family who've become suddenly available on Facebook. Keep up with them all by downloading Facebook Messenger. The app supports messaging from both your Facebook account and phone number. You don't have to use the SMS feature if you don't want to, but it could be helpful if you find yourself constantly jumping between apps.

Facebook Messenger is one of the more dynamic messaging apps. It offers a hefty number of sticker packs, not to mention stellar video chat functionality. The app also supports group chats — including group voice chats — audio messaging, read receipts, and location sharing services. You can even use Facebook Messenger to swap cash with friends.

Bottom line: You've come this far at accepting Facebook as a part of your life. You might as well adopt the feature-filled Messenger app into your life, too.

One more thing: Not only are there stickers, but you can play games with your Facebook friends from Messenger, too!

Best Overall

WhatsApp

See at Google Play

There is almost no contest. WhatsApp is an all-inclusive messaging app that's all you need for staying in touch, no matter where you are in the world. WhatsApp merely relies on whether your phone has an Internet connection — whether that's through cellular or Wi-Fi — so it's great if you're frequently traveling between regions. You can use WhatsApp to send and receive photos, videos, documents, and voice messages. It also supports group chats and voice calls.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a formidable, all-in-one messaging that's packed with more features than some of Google's offerings, WhatsApp is the second most-popular messaging app available.

One More Thing: Both parties have to be using the WhatsApp app to communicate, though all it requires to register is your phone number.

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1 month ago

Best icon packs for Android

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Without icon packs, we are left with chaos.

App icons are different shapes, different sizes, different color schemes and follow different design guidelines. Samsung's icons look different than Google's icons, which look different from Microsoft's icons, which look different from every other developer's icons. They are messy. They are awkward. They need to be brought under control. And that's where icon packs come in.

Icon packs bring control. Icon packs bring consistency. Icon packs bring class. Even if you're not into big involved themes, you should use an icon pack. A good icon pack can help you find your apps more quickly, can help make your phone look and feel less cluttered, and they just look better. And whether you want an icon pack that stands out or blends in, we have the best icon packs right here for your pleasure and consideration.

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1 month ago

Your smartphone is the key to democracy

Get involved and stay informed. The device that's already in your pocket is all you need.

Here's the deal: You won't enact change by simply posting news articles to Facebook and arguing with people on Twitter. That's a waste of time. Instead, your best bet is to stay informed and encourage others to do the same. That's incredibly easy to do with the smartphone you're already equipped with.

It doesn't matter which way you lean. The technology in your hand is constantly connected, so unless you're living life in Airplane Mode, get yourself set up with the apps mentioned here and start paying attention to what's happening to the world you live in.

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2 months ago

Swype gets its biggest update in a long time but it's still not as good as Gboard

46

It may not have the influence it once did, but Swype's new update brings it back into focus.

In the early days of Android, Swype was basically unparalleled when it came to gesture keyboards. It was fast, reliable and intelligent. But its dominance was slowly eroded by competitors like SwiftKey and Google's own first-party Google Keyboard, which is now known as Gboard, and the company behind the app, Nuance, slowed its development to a crawl.

The app has come out of hibernation for now with version 3.0, offering a number of new features, some improvements to the text engine, and emoji predictions, which seems to be table stakes for an Android keyboard these days.

There's also an optional number row available for people who don't want to switch to a secondary panel, along with support for the following:

  • Handwriting Improvements
  • Chinese Handwriting Multiple Character Recognition
  • Uyghur keyboard
  • Kashmiri Devanagari predictive language database
  • Russian KDB for Russian and Kirghyz languages
  • Improvements to Thai, Lao, Khmer

The trial version offers a full experience for 30 days, after which it forces you to buy the full version, on sale for $0.99 — a great deal for a very good keyboard. It's still not as good as Gboard, nor as versatile as SwiftKey, but it's close — and for someone who exclusively uses gesture typing over pecking at the screen, it could very well be preferred.

The best Android keyboards

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2 months ago

Is sideloading APK files considered piracy?

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Is sideloading an Android app considered piracy? Yes. No. Maybe. It depends.

Recently, we got a question from someone new to Android about sideloading apps. For the most part, this isn't something you do (or can do) on iOS and seeing people in the comments of articles here and elsewhere about getting APK files online and sideloading them was a little confusing. Along with some confirmation about the hows and the whys, the meat of the question centered around piracy.

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2 months ago

Best UK transport apps for Android

18

Google Maps offers the best all around experience when you are looking for easy ways to get around the UK. With plenty of options on route and mode, it can help you to get where you need to be as efficiently as possible.

Best overall

Google Maps

See at Play Store

Google Maps is pretty much the undisputed master of getting from point A to point B, no matter where you are. Google Maps can show you the easiest way to get around by walking, driving, or finding public transit. There are options to add stops on your journey, as well as avoiding highways or tolls along the way.

You can also access nearby places by checking out the Explore tab. This will show you nearby restaurants, gas stations, and more with top rated recommendations. Google Maps has up-to-date traffic conditions, which means that you'll know before you hit a problem spot when navigating in the car.

If you're on a longer trip, it's also easy to program in stops along your way. This lets you ensure that you get back on track as quickly as possible.

Bottom line: Google Maps gives you a great overall experience whether you're traveling by car, truck or train, and easily lets you find great local places to find a bite to eat.

One more thing: If you're concerned about having data, you can also download areas that can be perused offline.

Why Google Maps is the best

Google Maps delivers you a little bit of everything, making it easy to get around even if you have no clue where you are.

There are dozens of apps that can help you get around, but none of them are quite as accurate or as all-encompassing as Google Maps has become. It covers just about every mode of transportation, and will also show you the different routes that you can take along the way. Absolutely free, it may even come preloaded on your phone, making it hassle free to use.

Google Maps also has tons of features that you can choose to use. You can save the locations of favorite restaurants, or your friends houses. If you use Google Calendar it will also show you the locations of upcoming events in your calendar. If you need to find food, you can see local restaurants and their reviews from customers.

One of the greatest features that Google Maps offers, though, is the ability to adjust your route. You can choose to avoid tolls and highways, as well as add stops on your trip. You can also see up to date traffic conditions while driving, which means that it's easy to avoid accidents a few miles down the road.

The best for cities

Citymapper

CityMapper

See at Play Store

If you spend a lot of time in the city, then Citymapper goes above and beyond what Google Maps has to offer. You can easily get wherever you need to go, so long as it is within one of the app's supported cities, like Manchester or Birmingham. There are detailed routes for public transit, as well as integration with Uber and even rain-safe routes to keep you dry during a downpour.

Citymapper even offers Android Wear support, so that you don't need to keep an eye on your phone to keep from getting lost. Their Uber integration is also well done, letting you know if prices are surging. The biggest problem with the app is that it isn't available for every city, but the list is always expanding.

Bottom line: Citymapper can make getting around in the city a breeze, you'll just want to make sure you're in a supported city before downloading and installing it.

One more thing: The SmartCommute feature can help you find the fastest and most cost effective routes for your commute.

Best for the Tube

Tube Map London Underground

Tube Map London Underground

See at Play Store

While having access to all public transit might be good, having a dedicated app to help you navigate the Tube is a good call. Tube Map London Underground is officially licensed by TfL and it is jam packed with just about anything you need to know. You get access to a zoomable map of the rail network, complete with every station. Tapping a station will get you more info, like departures, service info, and Wi-Fi coverage.

You can also use the route planner, which is especially handy for anyone not familiar with the city. This includes choosing between a fast route, or an easy one. You can also see how long it will take to walk between stations if there is a backup. You can even check out disruptions, and social media to help plan your trip.

Bottom line: Tube Map London Underground is the best aid to keep you up to date and getting where you need to go using the Tube.

One more thing: The basic app is free, but to get access to every feature you'll need to upgrade to the Pro version.

Best ride share

Uber

Uber

See at Play Store

Whether you're visiting the UK, or you're just trying to get to work, driving yourself isn't always an option. If you're looking for a ride share to use while in the city, then you can trust Uber. While they aren't accessible from anywhere, you can check coverage before you download the app.

Once you've signed it, and set up a payment method, you're good to go. Uber is super convenient when staying in the city, and is often a lot cheaper and easier than using a taxi or public transit. You just want to keep an eye on choosing the correct level of service for your ride, and make sure that you are aware of any surge pricing before requesting a ride.

Bottom line: Uber is an accessible, easy, and often cheap way of getting around while in supported cities.

One more thing: Using Uber is a great way to go out for drinks, and not have to worry about a designated driver at the end of the night.

Best for driving

Waze

Waze

See at Play Store

If you're getting from point A to point B, then having an app to keep you on course is a solid choice. Waze is particularly handy for avoiding congestion and traffic spots before you hit them. While information from Waze is included in Google Maps, the standalone app is well worth downloading.

On top of knowing about accidents and traffic, you'll also be able to see fuel prices, and the presence of police. All information displayed within Waze is added by users, meaning that you'll get real time updates as you head wherever you're going. This is especially handy if you're heading towards traffic, because you'll see drivers reporting as it gets better — or worse.

Bottom line: Waze uses community reporting to deliver real-time up to date traffic conditions, as well as the presence of police, and local fuel prices.

One more thing: As you travel while using Waze, you'll slowly unlock the various different reporting features.

Conclusion

While Google Maps can't do absolutely everything, it does its level best to try. From exploring the area around you to navigating your way across the country, Google has you covered. It's easy to save locations, add stops, and even avoid highways or tolls. Google Maps even delivers up to date traffic conditions as you drive to ensure that you get where you're going with as few complications as possible.

Best overall

Google Maps

See at Play Store

Google Maps is pretty much the undisputed master of getting from point A to point B, no matter where you are. Google Maps can show you the easiest way to get around by walking, driving, or finding public transit. There are options to add stops on your journey, as well as avoiding highways or tolls along the way.

You can also access nearby places by checking out the Explore tab. This will show you nearby restaurants, gas stations, and more with top rated recommendations. Google Maps has up-to-date traffic conditions, which means that you'll know before you hit a problem spot when navigating in the car.

If you're on a longer trip, it's also easy to program in stops along your way. This lets you ensure that you get back on track as quickly as possible.

Bottom line: Google Maps gives you a great overall experience whether you're traveling by car, truck or train, and easily lets you find great local places to find a bite to eat.

One more thing: If you're concerned about having data, you can also download areas that can be perused offline.

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2 months ago

What those scary app permissions mean

Knowing when to be concerned over application permissions and when not to be is tricky. And important.

We've all heard stories about bad apps that want to steal your valuable data and ship it off overseas, and those discussions always end with one thing -- someone says you need to read an app's permissions before you install it. Well, that's fine, but there is a small problem -- how do you know what the heck those permissions mean? Something like System tools: automatically start at boot is easy enough to decipher and understand but plenty of others aren't so easy. The problem is that apps may have a good reason to use them because several different things can be covered by one permission and there's no good place to see exactly what they all mean.

Let's take a look at some common permissions that sound really scary. Hopefully, This will help you have a better grasp on why a developer might want a certain permission or why they shouldn't be asking for it.

Services that cost you money — directly call phone numbers

When you warn me that something is going to cost me money, and you have my attention.This permission means an app can automatically make a phone call. Every app can launch the default dialer and even fill in the number, but unless this permission is granted you have to press the call button. Things like Dialer replacements, Google Voice, or anything tied to your phone dialer needs to have this permission. If an application asks for this but should have nothing to do with making calls, find out why from the folks who put in in Google Play before you install it.

Sometimes it's not obvious why an app needs permission to do something that is useful and safe.

Services that cost you money — receive and send SMS or MMS

Again with the costing me money. Subscription SMS services are an easy way for a crook to make money, so this is one to keep an eye on. Your favorite SMS apps will need this (that makes sense) but so will an app that allows you to edit or take a picture and send it to a friend. Apps that can share any media will probably have this setting, It's needed to use the intent to share anything through an SMS or MMS message. If an app can't send anything to anyone, you should check why the developers need this.

Your personal information — read/write your contacts

An email client or any type of messenger uses this permission to do exactly what it says — read your contacts. But so will something like a home screen widget that can hold a shortcut to a person. Or Twitter or Facebook — they want to be able to find friends of yours who also use their service or make it easy for you to spam the ones who don't. "Contacts" is a broad term because so much information can be stored for an individual contact. We see this one on games that have leaderboards a lot, too. Anything that can put you in touch with anyone else will probably need this permission.

Permission to write to your contacts follows the same logic — if an app can add a friend it might need this permission to do it. In this case "write" means modify or add to your contacts list, not write a message to a contact.

Your personal information — read/write calendar events

This one is pretty simple. It only does one thing — read your default calendar. Some apps will need to have access to your calendar. Besides obvious reasons to need this one, apps that can do things like reminding you when it's time to take medicine or automatically tell you about an upcoming trip might do that by reading your calendar. If an app needs to do something at any point in the future reading the calendar is a valid permission request. If it doesn't, find out what it wants to do before you install.

Writing calendar events is a common thing to need for an app that has a legitimate reason to read them. If it's not obvious why an app needs these permissions, the description in the Play Store should tell you more. If you're still not sure, ask the developer.

Phone calls — read phone status and identity

This is the most abused and least understood permission of them all. You need to understand that this permission covers two different things that shouldn't be lumped together. There are a lot of good reasons to need to read your phone state. A game is a great example. You might be doing your thing and playing a game when all the sudden your phone rings. The game needs to step back and let the incoming call notification have control of your screen. The call request can take control (and does) but the game needs to know that so it can stop the action in the background until you get back to it. It can do this when the phone status changes.

It's important to know which ID an app is asking for.

There are a couple different things your phone can do to provide a unique identity. Every phone has a device identifier that's different from every other one and it can be exposed without sharing any private information. When you see how many people are using a particular version of Android in a chart from Google, they are using this device ID to help get those numbers. When you go to Google Play you get counted and since every number is different you only get counted once. This number is also the best way for an app that can store settings or favorites in the cloud to tie them to you and only you. This is the ID we want to share because it can only tell what phone you have and what software is on it so none of your data is exposed.

This permission is also required for an app to read a different unique ID — your IMEI number. Your IMEI number is how your phone company connects your phone to you — your address, your name and everything else you would need to provide to buy a phone that can prove who you are. That data is hard to get — there is a minimum of three different secure and encrypted database servers between it and any of your account data, but it's not impossible to get. Because we've all seen stories about big telco companies exposing random user data from time to time, this is not something you want to be sharing for no good reason.

Since you have no way of knowing which ID an app asking for this will grab, say no when you see this one unless you know why they want it and what they're doing with it.

Your precise location — GPS and network-based location

If an app needs to know where you are it needs to ask for your location. A rough location through something like a Wi-Fi AP database works well enough for a lot of things but sometimes you need to get precise and that's a second permission request.

The need for your precise location can be determined by a little guesstimation. Does this app need to know what is within 50 yards of me? If the answer is yes, it needs a precise location. An app that tells someone who is wheelchair bound where the mall elevators or bathrooms are (those exist, and kudos to the people who make them happen) needs your precise location. An app that tells you what's on sale at Target when you get in the parking lot doesn't. Of course, any app with a map or that gives you directions needs to pinpoint your location, too.

And sometimes apps with ads in them need this just for the ad company. It's up to you to decide if you need those apps bad enough.

Your personal information — Modify/delete SD card contents

This is the permission that allows an app to read or write to your phone's external storage. This used to give an application free run to look at your data, change that data, delete that data and add more data anywhere on your SD card. This is a little confusing because they don't necessarily mean the little SD card that you can take out of the phone. In Android, your phone storage is referred to as an SD card in the file system. The little SD card is external storage. This was needed to support storing system-wide data on your removable memory card back when it was first developed. It hasn't changed because changing the name would break a lot of apps.

How apps can read from your storage changes as Google tries to balance convenience with security.

Google has done a lot to make this permission harmless. With each version, they refine the ways an application can get access to only the information it needs. But there are still people out there running older versions that may mean this permission is a little more serious. If you're one of them, make sure you trust the app before you install it.

There's a second reason why I'm listing this one. Any application that was written for API level 4 (Android 1.6 Donut) or lower gets this permission by default. There aren't very many of those apps around. But it's a way for an app that didn't come from Google Play to get access it shouldn't have if your phone is running an older version of Android. What harm can come from this depends on what type of data you have on your phone's storage.

Phones running Android 7 Nougat and apps built for phones running Android 7 use scoped directory access and this one is finally laid to rest.

Network communication — full network access

This permission means exactly what it says. An app wants to be able to send requests and get a response through the network (Wi-Fi or your phone's data connection). Besides apps that use the internet for something obvious, apps with ads in them need this one.

While this is a fairly harmless permission when it comes to your personal information, it can use your data allotment without you realizing it. We hate paying for extra data as much as you do. Use airplane mode when you're low on data and if you find an app that should work offline but doesn't, uninstall it. There are too many good apps to fool with ones that don't follow the best practices.

There are many other, less suspicious permissions too. An app that takes pictures needs to control your hardware. Netflix needs to keep your screen awake for the 90 minutes you're not touching the screen. A ringer profile widget needs access to your settings. When you come across a permission that seems out of place, usually a bit of deductive reasoning can figure out why an app is requesting it. If not, read comments in Google Play, and ask questions in the forums. Don't just install anything you feel uneasy about, and don't automatically assume the worst.

Most apps in Google Play aren't out to steal your data or your money.

Remember, most of the people writing apps just want to make a little money or are doing it because it's fun. Apps that exist to farm your data are few and far between. And sometimes developers will make a mistake — it's not hard to get Android to ask for a permission an app isn't using and it's easy to overlook those errors when you're building them.

Android is getting a lot better than it used to be when it comes to permissions. There's a good chance you can deny any of these after you install an app through your phone's settings and some of the most common "scary sounding" permissions are going away altogether. But with so many different phones having so many different versions of Android this information can mean more to some people than others.

We'll keep this updated as things change.

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