Your weekly serving of the best apps
Hooray it's Super Bowl Appday! We know that a good many of us are preparing for the big game right about now, but there's always time to get to know a great Android app or two. Take a break from nacho tray assembly and beverage layout placement for a minute or two and have a look at our list of great Android apps that you need to try.
And remember — we can't list every great app or even try them all. That's where we count on you fine folks to share with us. Found an app that you think everyone needs to know about and try for themselves? Throw that bad boy into the comments so we all know about it. Sharing is caring and all that.
Alex Dobie — SMS Backup and Restore
As much as mobile communication has shifted towards instant messaging in recent years, good old-fashioned text messages aren't going away anytime soon. And when you switch phones SMS and MMS messages often aren't included in content that's restored to your new device from the cloud. If you're jumping from one Android phone to another, SMS Backup and Restore is a simple, free app that lets you bring your entire cache of messages over to your new handset.
The app creates backups of text and multimedia messages in XML format, with the option of backing up to your phone's internal storage, cloud storage or SD card. Once you're on your new device, you can view messages in your backup, restore all of them, restore selectively based on conversation, or only include messages after a certain date. There's also the option to avoid duplicates if you end up switching back.
- Download: SMS Backup and Restore (Free)
Phil Nickinson — HTC Cloudex
This one's just for those of you with newer HTC phones, but it's worth breaking out again in our weekly pics. HTC's now running its Gallery application through Google Play, and this add-on lets you tie other accounts into the Gallery app. Specifically, it'll currently do Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook and Flickr. It's not perfect — Facebook, for example, desperately needs support for folders — but HTC Research says they're working on it. All in all, a nice addition the HTC Gallery app.
- Download: HTC Cloudex (free)
Russell Holly — Billguard - Track and Protect
I recently had to ditch my Simple account, and it turns out the thing my new bank calls an app is really just pictures of a dumpster fire hidden behind a login page. A friend told me about Billguard, and it ended my sadness over the state of my banking app. Billguard shows me what transactions have happened on my account, lets me set spending goals, offers a few neat features for dealing with purchase conflicts, and actually looks nice. For a free app that makes it so I basically never have to log in to my actual banking app, it's not bad.
- Download: Billguard - Track and Protect (Free)
Andrew Martonik — Keeper Password Manager
I feel like I try a different password manager every few weeks. I'm so terrible at sticking to just one, but at some point I'll find the right one for my usage. My current short-term choice is Keeper, and while it doesn't have the prettiest interface ever it does have the right encryption on the back end and the features I want. It lets you securely store and back up your passwords and other private information on your phone or tablet, and offers two-factor sign-in — including Samsung's Finger Scanner — for an extra layer of lockdown.
I also appreciate that the basic storage and viewing features are free, with cloud backup and sync setting you back just $10 per year if you want them. Who knows if I'll stick with this one, but right now I'm giving it a go.
- Download: Keeper Password Manager (Free, $10/year subscription)
Ara Wagoner — Hue Pro
I recommended the Philips Hue app a few weeks ago because of the versatility of its widget, but after prolonged use, I found a small problem with it: it didn't work all of the time. Many times, I'd be forced to open the app in order to re-connect to the Hue Bridge and then I could switch between presets. Hearing several people recommend Hue Pro — both for regular use and for integrating Tasker into my lighting — I picked up the app.
I was pleasantly surprised that the widget would work with just one click — it still sometimes takes a few seconds for it to connect to the Bridge and activate, but at least it does it on its own. The widget isn't quite as configurable at the native one in terms of presets available, but the widget looks a little more refined and the buttons for each preset are bigger and easier to distinguish. Creating your own presets in Hue Pro is a little bit more tedious for scenes that all have the same color light, but overall I've been happy with the app, and I'm looking forward to making my lights hands-free thanks to the Hue Pro Tasker plugin, AutoVoice, and Moto Voice.
- Download: Hue Pro ($0.99)
Justin Duino — Snapchat
This week we saw one of the biggest updates to Snapchat in its history. While there were some visual changes, the big news was the addition of a new feature called Discover. In this new section of the photo sharing application, you will find 11 different news organizations from the Food Network to CNN. Discover is like a Snapchat story but acts more like an interactive magazine where you can swipe through several articles which can include videos alongside the written text.
While Snapchat is still known for being a way to send NSFW photos between users, the company is trying hard to show that the temporary photo sharing application is much more. With Discover, users get a fun way to take in the news and Snapchat gets to showcase what is possible with their app.
- Download: Snapchat (Free)