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5 months ago

Best text messaging apps

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There are plenty of great text messaging apps to choose from, and these are some of our favorites.

Text messaging is a big part of phone use for many people, and while all phones come with native messaging clients, they… they can suck. Some native text messaging apps don't handle MMS the way we'd like. Some native text messaging apps are laid out poorly. Thankfully we have the option to use one of many, many third-party SMS clients — some of which are minimal messaging apps, and others that offer features above and beyond the rest.

Update June 2017: We've added Pulse and Mood, and we've done some much overdue spring- er… summer cleaning.

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5 months ago

Tasker's long-overdue redesign is in beta, and it looks awesome

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Tasker has never been a beauty queen.

Android's most powerful automation app Tasker has always been about form over function, and when so much functionality is crammed into one app by one single developer, it's easy to see why he'd rather spend that time on adding more functionality instead of making things look pretty. That said, every app eventually needs a redesign, and Tasker's is finally in beta.

And it honestly looks pretty good.

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5 months ago

Have we decided what Android O stands for yet?

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Google certainly hasn't, but that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun speculating.

Oreos. Oatmeal cookies. Orangina. Oranges. Ozark pudding. We've been ruminating over what it is that Google will officially call Android O, but we still don't know! Just like we didn't know that we'd be downloading Marshmallow or Nougat until the mobile operating system was raring to go.

What dessert do you think Android O will be named after? There are plenty of you who are surely convinced that Oreo is it.

*/
coppercabling 03-21-2017 03:24 AM “

The more I think about it, the more I realize Oreo's actually a pretty solid name, ignoring all other issues that arise.

Reply

We're dubious ourselves about that, though, considering the rampant availability of Oreo packets that were placed around the premises at Google I/O. The search company is known for effectively trolling attendees — it did the same in 2016 with bite-sized packets of Nutella — so the mere mention of such a dessert isn't a guarantee that it's the name.

Some of you have other ideas about what the name could be and it's been a really educational process googling these desserts I've never heard of before.

*/
liscon17 04-14-2017 11:27 AM “

Opera cake (not the web browser) 256635

Reply
*/
Mr Mendelli 05-20-2017 01:19 PM “

Ontbijtkoek. Had it a while back, and it's pretty good!

Reply

Anyway, what do you think? Do you have a preference for what Android O will be called? Do you think Google will even stick to its desserts motif? Or are we all sick of speculating and simply wishing Android O were a stable release that's ready to rock?

Join us in our forums!

Android Oreo

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5 months ago

Facebook wants teens to use its apps, but not without parental guidance

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A new messaging app from the social network is aimed at teens and will focus primarily on offering robust parental controls.

There is code inside the main Facebook app that refers to a yet-to-be-released messaging app aimed especially at teens.

According to The Information, the app is called "Talk" and it's developed to offer a bevy of parental controls. It's restricted to users 13 years or older and teens won't need their own Facebook profile to access the app. Users of Talk also won't be publicly searchable. From The Information, which is behind a paywall:

Code inside the main Facebook app points to an unreleased messaging app aimed at young teens called "Talk," which hasn't been previously reported. The code reveals signs of new parental controls that would set the app apart from Facebook's existing Messenger app. For example, a reference to unreleased features, written in plain-English text in the code, says, "Talk is a messaging app where you fully control the contacts." Another command states, "Your child uses the Talk app to chat with you in Messenger."

The app has yet to even be announced, but there's no telling what the world's young populace will think of a communication app that's mandated directly by their parents. In the grand scheme of things, it's not exactly cool to have your parental figures up in your online business. But considering Facebook's awful track record with teens of a certain age and the uncensored harassment that sometimes takes place on the social network, it may help at least offer an alternative for young users.

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5 months ago

Google soups up Sheets by adding in a little machine learning

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Data can be overwhelming to manage in mass quantities, so this is Google's way of offering to take over the hard stuff.

Google's cluster of professional, document making apps is still one of the most robust office suites available, and today's update includes several new feature additions that might make it even more attractive to use. Now, Sheets can build your chart for you using the same machine learning technology that's available in many other Google products.

From the official blog post:

Now, we're using the same powerful technology in Explore to make visualizing data even more effortless. If you don't see the chart you need, just ask. Instead of manually building charts, ask Explore to do it by typing in 'histogram of 2017 customer ratings' or 'bar chart for ice cream sales.' Less time spent building charts means more time acting on new insights.

The new feature takes advantage of some of the machine learning capabilities we've already seen shown off at various Google I/O keynotes and demonstrations. But in this case, the algorithm is parsing your data into visually appealing, presentable information.

A helpful GIF from Google depicting how to use the "Explore" button in Google Sheets.

Other feature additions include new keyboard shortcuts, which you can now customize to your liking, as well as a bevy of new functions you can plug into your spreadsheets. There's even an updated print preview experience, so you know exactly what's coming out the other end before you waste paper, and an improved chart editor. Google has also added the ability to make 3D charts for iOS users — enjoy, iPhone and iPad-using brethren!

Curious about what else Sheets can do? Google has a webpage for that, including how to effectively switch over from Microsoft Excel.

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5 months ago

TweetDeck for your browser now lets you verify images via Google

1

Knowing where Twitter's images come from is a good thing.

With the rampant and almost revolutionary spread of fake things across the internet, TweetDeck has announced it's added a feature that lets you verify the source behind an image before you react.

It's easy to use: hover your mouse pointer over the image in the TweetDeck web app and then click the little magnifying glass icon to jump to a Google Search in another window. Google will fetch results related to that image and verify whether it's an original photo or a copied one.

This is what the search icon looks like on top of a photo when you hover over it with your mouse pointer.

This is what the Google Search page looks like after you ask for verification from TweetDeck.

The feature is not available for your smartphone yet, but it should be since you can view images through the Twitter app, too. It's possible that since the ability was originally announced by Twitter's own account feed, perhaps this is an indication that it's someday meant to be a part of the Twitter mobile app. This sort of feature could be greatly beneficial to those who only view Twitter through an app, or even through Twitter Lite.

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5 months ago

Android O is coming to OnePlus 3 and 3T

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Last year's phones are being updated to this year's OS.

Friendly neighborhood CEO Pete Lau has confirmed via Twitter that your OnePlus 3 and 3T will be updated to Android O. This announcement doesn't include a timeframe, which makes sense since Android O itself doesn't have a hard launch date, but at some point in the future this update will come.

While this announcement seems a little on the obvious side, it's important to remember OnePlus has a shaky history when it comes to delivering timely updates for its phones. The OnePlus 2 never got an update to Android N, and the OnePlus X eventually started seeing support from third-party maintainers. For several reasons, OnePlus 3 hasn't had these problems and is widely considered a quality turning point for the company in general.

Still, it's good to know that hype for the upcoming OnePlus 5 hasn't done anything to dampen support for the current OnePlus phones. Now all everyone has to do is wait, and we're all really good at that, right?

OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3

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5 months ago

Twitter now separates Direct Messages from people you don't know

0

Don't know the guy? That's fine, because now he can't bother you.

Twitter now enables you to preview Direct Messages in your inbox from anyone that you don't follow. Those sending the messages won't receive a read receipt unless you select the "Accept" option. Media won't be displayed in the preview either, unless you actively opt in to show the media prior to accepting the message.

This is a nice middle ground for those who have opted in to having wide open DMs on Twitter — letting anyone send them a message — but at the same time don't want their inbox to be bogged down with lots of random messages. But of course, as we've seen time and time again with new features, the ability to review Direct Message requests also won't be available inside third-party Twitter clients.

If you're thinking you've seen this feature before, that's because it's almost exactly like the review feature that Facebook's long offered with its Messages functionality. But this sort of ability makes sense on Twitter, which is suffering partly because of its rampant user-to-user harassment issues. At least in this sense, Twitter users have more control over who has direct access to them.

The ability to review Direct Messages is slowly rolling out to Twitter on the web and to both the Android and iOS apps. You won't need an app update, either — the feature will just appear once Twitter has rolled it out to you.

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5 months ago

YouTube changes its app interface yet again, moving to bottom tab navigation

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A subtle tweak that should simplify the experience for many users.

blank

YouTube is once again tweaking its Android app interface, aiming to hopefully clean things up and make the most-used YouTube functions easier to quickly reach. The crux of the new interface is the move to a bottom navigation bar that lets you quickly tap one of five tabs: home, trending, subscriptions, shared and library. The trending and subscription tabs use a familiar bubble interface at the top of the page to let you refine your view.

Outside of the tabs moving from the top of the interface to the bottom, not much else has changed to our eyes. The live video button is no longer a floating action button and now has a permanent place in the top bar, and your account icon is also stuck up on the top bar rather than in a submenu.

YouTubeYouTubeYouTube

The YouTube app listing in Google Play hasn't actually been updated for a few days, but we're actually seeing this new interface arrive without a distinct update to the app itself. To force the update we just force-closed the app and reopened it. This is likely rolling out in waves, though, so be patient if it doesn't arrive right away.

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5 months ago

RaveVR lets you watch YouTube with friends in virtual reality

1

Can't join your friends for the feature presentation? This Daydream- and Gear VR-compatible app lets you hop into a virtual room and view videos in tandem in real time.

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Scoff if you will, but I'm a big believer that the propagation of virtual reality will eventually enhance the way we socialize online. I was first impressed by the concept when Mark Zuckerberg waxed poetic on the subject at Oculus Connect. I've since been yearning for those same people-on-people connections in virtual reality but haven't found an app that could get my friends on board. Until I learned about RaveVR.

Rave (or WeMesh, as it was currently known) is actually a social video viewing platform — the Twitch of social viewing, if you will, though without the audience. It originated as a social viewing app for Android and iOS, and now there's a separate virtual reality component for those who are equipped with a Daydream View or Gear VR. RaveVR enables you to watch video in tandem with people you know and with complete strangers. The only bummer with RaveVR is that when it comes to the actual social part, it's a little lacking.

Real-time reality

Part of the appeal of RaveVR is that it works interchangeably across a variety of platforms.

Part of the appeal of RaveVR is that it works interchangeably across a variety of platforms, though there is more compatibility on the horizon. At present, you can sync up with your friends to watch content, even if you aren't using the same mobile phones, though the video library that's currently available might leave you wanting more. RaveVR currently pulls in content from YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, and Viki, which is an overseas streaming network that offers a variety of Korean and Taiwanese shows, as well as Bollywood and anime. You can also pull in content from your personal Google Drive account, though I had quite a bit of trouble actually playing any of the video files I had stored there, including MP4s. It's unfortunate, too, because Rave is the kind of app I could see using with my family to cycle through a bunch of vacation videos and whatnot.

This screenshot was taken in RaveVR...

And this screenshot was taken on a tablet running the stream at the same time.

One particular gem I discovered inside RaveVR is the ability to start a virtual karaoke room. Granted, a majority of the karaoke video links lead to the cheesiest third-party covers of popular songs, and not all of the videos offer lyrics or the full song, but the ability is there. I'd imagine this feature is even better with a microphone plugged in so that your friends can more clearly hear you.

The RaveVR app itself is easy to use with Daydream View and newcomers shouldn't have an issue navigating around its interface. You start out on a launcher screen, like you would in the Daydream app, and then you choose whether to start a new rave or join in an existing one. To the left, there is a feed of content, including any public raves or local ones your friends might be hosting. Once you start or jump into a rave, a chat window will appear to the right, with the content set front and center. In my experience, I found RaveVR is best used while laying down in bed, because you'll want to be comfortable.

A screenshot of what you see when you're inside the RaveVR app.

If you're the leader of the rave, you'll be able to choose whether the session goes to auto play when the video is finished or whether the audience can vote on the next production. If you choose the latter, each participant can double tap on the video they want to watch next while the current video is playing. At the end of the show, you'll be able to see what people voted for and choose what's next on the list from there.

If you're an attendee of someone else's rave, you can't skip forward or pause the production. However, you can chat at will, with the microphone built into the device. I was pleased at the lack of lag between when I spoke and when my voice was broadcasted. I sounded clear enough that the person on the other line could understand what it was I was ranting about, and I was impressed that this was all happening on my Wi-Fi network. All this took place in real time as the video was streaming ahead for me and another friend.

Where the people at?

RaveVR has a content problem.

The true test of RaveVR's social aspect relies on how well it performs when there are more than just a few people watching the stream at a time, but there was hardly anyone to have a rave with. I was surprised at the relative lack of people to hang with. Part of the issue could be Rave's content problem, however. There is no Hulu or Netflix, for instance, which is something I'd more likely use in my personal life; just imagine being in a giant virtual room of your closest pals for the season finale of one of your favorite shows — that's the kind of interaction I yearn for from a social viewing app.

The RaveVR app on Daydream also isn't completely devoid of bugs. There were several instances where RaveVR crashed and I'd have to kill the task and then relaunch the app again. There was also another instance where I couldn't log in with my Twitter account, no matter how many times I authenticated it. But despite the minor hiccups, the concept is there. Rave just needs better content partners that would make it easy for early adopters like me to get their friends to participate.

With apps like RaveVR making their way into the Play Store, it feels like social virtual reality is right around the corner. I see Rave's offerings as the beginning of something greater, at least in the sense of how we interact online. As lives become busier and loved ones have to move farther apart from one another, these virtual interactions will become precious social currency.

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5 months ago

New Google Play Music subscribers now get a four-month trial

15

New customers can try out Google Play Music for free for 120 days.

Google typically offers a 90-day trial for customers looking to evaluate Google Play Music, but the company is now rolling out a four-month free trial for new subscribers. If you're using another streaming service and are looking to make the switch to Play Music, you now have an addition 30 days to decide if you want to continue. Once the trial ends, you'll have to shell out $9.99 per month.

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6 months ago

Aviate Launcher review: Smart, but not better

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Aviate Launcher

How's Aviate Launcher these days? Let's take a look!

Updated May 2017: Review updated to reflect the stability of the launcher and how it's aged over the last two years.

Aviate Launcher has garnered hype since it first debuted on Android, and after being acquired by Yahoo has actually seen steady improvement through updates. It's been awhile since we last examined it, and now it's time to take a fresh look and see how it works today.

Aviate aims to analyze how you use your phone to better surface information and apps that are relevant based on a variety of factors, taking the burden of customization away from you. But does it work? We're going to find out.

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6 months ago

What's on MrMobile's phone?

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As we approach the one-year anniversary of MrMobile's launch, it seems only right to fulfill one of the most common viewer requests. You see a variation of the question in the comment section of nearly every video: "what's on your phone, MrMobile?" And while I personally find my app selection really predictable, I figure there's probably a gem or two in here that some of y'all haven't heard of yet. So dive on in to the How MrMobile Works catalog to take in my Top 40 Apps video – and if you agree with me that this collection could use some spicing up, drop a comment down below with your top app alternatives!

Stay social, my friends

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6 months ago

Instagram is hedging its bets on becoming your go-to messaging platform

11

The latest additions to the image sharing platform add landscape and portrait photos to Direct messages, in addition to link sharing.

If you would have told me that Instagram would be the go-to social network five years ago, I would have scoffed. But things have really evolved for the app since then, and lately it seems to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance due in part to the multitude of updates.

Today's update brings with it landscape and portrait photos to Instagram Direct. On the surface, this is a fairly boring, yawn-worthy update, and though it will make direct messages between you and your friends a bit more dynamic, it's not exactly meant to overhaul your Instagram experience in a meaningful way. But if you use Instagram now and already have a bustling network of friends you chat with on a daily basis, you may find you'll use it more often, especially now that you have the knowledge of its ability to share links and one-off photos without all the noise of the perpetual feed and the fake news that often floods social networks like Facebook.

Instagram has added direct links in Direct messages.

Instagram has also added support for links in its Direct messages so that you can easily send a link you're perusing in the Twitter app, for instance. The link functionality will extend to phone numbers and addresses, too, so if the app is your primary method of socializing, you can rest easy knowing it's possible to have everyday correspondence without having to hop into another chat app. Granted, these aren't major features that will make or break your daily Instagram routine, but they are a valid reminder that in the social network race, it's anyone's game. Instagram is ensuring it stays ahead by offering what its users want, even if it is evolving away from its original objective.

The update is hitting iPhones right now and Android phones later, though links in Direct messages are already available with the latest Android app update.

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6 months ago

Magikarp Jump is a decidedly more casual Pokemon game, now available in Google Play

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The Pokémon you want, but without leaving the house.

Maybe you're tired of walking playing Pokémon Go but still need to get a Pokémon fix — well, why not give the new Magikarp Jump game a try? This casual Pokémon-themed game is far less involved than Go but still kicks in with the nostalgia we crave. Announced earlier this week with a limited release, Magikarp Jump is now available in the U.S. and most other countries.

Everything you need to know about Magikarp Jump is right in the title: the objective of the game is to train your Magikarp to jump higher than the other Magikarp. Yes, that's rather simple and somewhat pathetic, but, y'know, so is Magikarp itself. You'll train your Magikarp to gain jumping skills, feed it so it grows stronger, and then head into competition where you see just how high your Magikarp can jump.

There's little more to try and sell someone on this: you'll just need to download it and play. If you're a Pokémon fan, you're going to enjoy playing this casual title (it's already picking up tons of five-star reviews). It's free but has in-app ads by default, so expect to drop a little money to clean up the experience.

Pokémon Go

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