Hard to believe it's already November, but we're moving right along on our Apps of the Week column every Saturday. As we do every week, we round up a group of apps picked by each of the Android Central writers, and give you a quick explanation of why they're installed on our phones and tablets. They may not be chart-topping apps that will blow your mind every time, but they work for us and we think they can work for you as well.
This week we have a list of both utilities and games, with the theme that each one is completely free. Read along with us after the break and see how this week's list compares to the rest — you may just find an app or two you want to try out for yourself.
Casey Rendon - GroupMe
I was unexpectedly added to a new group chat recently. I got a text message out of the blue one day telling me I was now part of the "DUDES" chat group with GroupMe. I then proceeded to see messages from multiple friends in the newly created SMS thread. It worked great, and required literally zero setup on my part. While getting group messages through SMS was great, I wanted to check out the app, so I hit Google Play. As soon the app was downloaded and I signed in, the group messages stopped coming through SMS and start going directly to the app. What's great about this app is that it not only is available for most phones, even phones that can only receive text messages can still seamlessly participate in the chat. For those that can use the app, photos and location can be shared, and there is support for emoticons and a "like" system. Even tablets without SMS support can download and use the app. Facebook can be used to login, or a new account can be created with GroupMe. It's totally free, and is a pleasure to use. Android owners even get expandable notifications with Reply and Like buttons. If cross-platform messaging, free, and SMS compatibility are all things you need, GroupMe is a great solution.
Download: GroupMe (Free)
Simon Sage - Thor: The Dark World
The official Thor game hit Android this week, and as a dude with some watered-down Danish blood in me, I had to give it a shot. The game's full of rootin' tootin' ass-whoopin' as you might expect, and the controls have been made very finger-friendly; gestures activate supernatural powers, taps move and target enemies, and the only real buttons you deal with are to summon lackeys to do your bidding. Those support troops are not only an interesting addition, but a vital tactical element, as each has specific strengths and weaknesses against various enemy types. Over time, you pick which of Thor's powers and equipment to increase, allowing you to tweak out the God of Thunder to best suit your play style. Yes, you'll find the usual gamut of in-app purchases here, but if you're able to get past that, you'll find some solid action and some great graphics.
Download: Thor: The Dark World (Free)
Jerry Hildenbrand - Media Converter
Sometimes, I’ve picked apps for my weekly choice because they look fabulous. This is not one of those times. Media Converter is as basic and utilitarian as they come, and if you were to call it ugly I wouldn’t argue. But it’s also pretty damn good at what it does, and has an easy to understand interface.
There are a couple notification tones in iOS 7 that I like. The problem is they are m4a files and won’t work as notifications in Android. I downloaded the sounds directly to my phone, and was determined to find a way to convert them without using my computer. I tried a handful of media conversion tools, but this uncomely little app was the best out of the bunch. Besides m4a, it handles conversion between mp3, mp4, ogg , 3gp, avi , mpeg, flv, wav, 3ga and oga. You’ll be pressed to find a piece of audio or video that it can't handle. Other tools include a trimming tool and settings for the output file, like the bit-rate.
It’s free. It has no stupid permissions. And it works well. That makes it a great app, even if it looks like something built for Froyo.
Download: Media Converter (Free)
Chris Parsons - Lep's World 3
Following up on the success of their earlier releases in the Lep’s World series, NerByte has recently released Lep’s World 3. The platformer shamelessly plays off the Super Mario Brothers feel but honestly, that’s one of the things I like about it. Instead of Mario, you get to play as Lep, a leprechaun who has battle his way through over 120 levels of forrest monsters and evil trolls by throwing pine cones at them, all in an effort to find your lucky gold and save villagers. The controls take a bit getting used to but once you get the hang of it, it’s all good. If you played the game before, then it may please you to know you can also now play as one of four characters in total, instead of just playing as Lep.
Download: Lep's World 3 (Free)
Andrew Martonik - Target
I just recently signed up for a Target REDcard to save some money considering I shop there all the time, and I actually had no idea that the store also has a very capable and useful Android app. I wouldn't normally find a store-specific app too useful, but Target does a few things right. You can of course view the entire product catalog, create wishlists and shop completely through the app, but it also offers in-store barcode scanning and coupons to help you without asking someone in-store (thank you very much!).
You can also sign in and manage your Target REDcard without having to go to the mobile website, which is another bonus. If you're a Target shopper, there's really no reason not to have its app installed.
Download: Target (Free)
Happen to miss previous editions of our weekly app picks? You can check them out right here. Our continuing weekly app coverage can also be seen right here as well.