The apps you're looking for
Nice mix of apps to look at this week! Whether you want to be productive, stay organized, jam out or even have a little fun in your downtime, there's something on this weeks list you'll want to have a look at.
This is also a good week to think about how far mobile apps have come in such a short time. Looking back at some of the first apps from 2008, then comparing the user interface and feature set to today's great apps is a stunner. Google is getting better at delivering the right tools, and the developers are getting better and making beautiful things with them.
And we get to enjoy the results.
Phil Nickinson — Inbox
I don't know if Inbox — Google's new take on Gmail — will save us all from the great scourge that is electronic mail. (I'm still not convinced that email is the plague so many say it is, but that's another matter.) But I do know that I'm excited to see something new. Something a little more than what Mailbox tried to do, and a little more than what Google's done with its tabbed categories. And I also know that the hype that comes along with a closed-beta and invite-only system gets magnified, so this will either be the greatest thing or worst thing folks see this week.
Me? I'm patient. I really want to get Inbox onto my Google Apps accounts, so I can give it some proper stress testing. And if you've got a chance to give it a whirl, I suggest you do so.
Download: Inbox by Gmail (invite-only)
Alex Dobie — Wear Mini Launcher
I've been getting to grips with Android Wear again on the LG G Watch R this past week, and my pick is an app that's still essential for most of the Android smartwatches out there. Wear Mini Launcher puts a tiny app drawer and settings pane a swipe away at all times. On square watches, swipe left from the top left corner to activate a grid of apps; on round watches it's left from the leftmost part of the watch. Swipe left again and you'll get a bunch of quick settings options, including that all-important brightness control, which is otherwise buried under layers of menus.
If you're using an Android Wear smartwatch and need a bit more control over your device without resorting to voice commands, Wear Mini Launcher is definitely worth checking out.
Download: Wear Mini Launcher (Free)
Russell Holly — Duet
It's easy to get lost in a good game, but most mobile games get set down after a little while and forgotten about. Duet is one of those games that you've either never heard of before or you remember that dark week where it swallowed you whole and you just couldn't put it down. Unsuprisingly, the developer has kept up on the game and built some great new challenges even for those who have defeated the original story. Regardless of whether or not you have played the game before, Duet is still a great weekend-killer with a fantastic soundtrack.
Download: Duet (Free)
Ara Wagoner — Google Play Music
We got a nice big overhaul to the Play Music app this week, and while it wasn't quite everything I hoped for (gimme that dark Material UI you've teased me with since IO!), it has nonetheless made me a very happy girl. Because it gave me volume controls in the Play Music notification on my Moto 360. No longer do I need to try and find a volume Wear app that will be there when I need it but not waste space with a notification on my phone. If they could just add seeking (or at least a 30 rewind button), I'd be just about set (except for the dark theme... I want my dark theme). I like the new icon, and I'm warming up to the new play icons set.
Download: Google Play Music (Free)
Andrew Martonik — Key Ring
Nobody likes having a wallet or set of keys full of loyalty cards that just have a simple number or barcode on them, and that's where Key Ring comes in. It lets you scan in and set up every loyalty card you have into one app, so when you're out shopping you just open the app for the retailers to scan rather than pulling out a piece of paper and plastic.
You can add loyalty cards from hundreds of different retailers, and add additional descriptions and even pictures of the card to the listing if you want. Beyond that, Key Ring lets you browse for coupons and nearby retailers to use the coupons and loyalty cards, hoping to save you a bit of money.
The design might not be as nice as Google Wallet when it comes to just holding barcodes, but you get a nice set of extras that makes it worth installing if you have a lot of those physical cards to manage.
Download: Key Ring (Free)
Richard Devine - Today Calendar
We haven't yet seen (officially) what Google is going to do with some of its stock apps for Lollipop, but if you want a Material Design calendar app, now, then check out Today Calendar. What it does is provide the same feature set you'd get with the stock calendar app, only with a much more modern, Material inspired look.
It's been really nicely done and really does have to be one of the best looking calendar apps you'll find right now. It also comes with a pretty minimal, yet stylish home screen widget, too. It's available free to trial for 14 days before an update to a Pro version will be required. And while it's a pretty hefty $6, even Google will have to come out swinging to make a better looking calendar.
Download: Today Calendar (Free/$5.99)