Latest StoriesAndroid App Roundup
    Google Play App Roundup: Allo, The Bug Butcher, and Dog Sled Saga

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That;s what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

    Allo

    After months of waiting, Google has finally released the much-anticipated Allo chat app. It was a surprised when Google announced Allo at I/O this year. It had been trying to merge its disparate chat platforms into a single entity in recent years, but Hangouts has become a lumbering behemoth because of it. Allo is a completely different—it's faster, simpler, and has Google AI built-in. Can you actually get people to use it, though?

    Allo is based on your phone number, thus it's only for phones. That's the first major hurdle to switching, actually. Hangouts works on the web, on tablets, and on phones. With Allo, you register your phone number, then input a confirmation code that is delivered. After that's done, anyone that has your phone number you in their Allo contact list. It's a bit like WhatsApp.

    The basic chatting features are fun. You can do things like make text larger or smaller to shout/whisper or send a huge number of stickers. Allo also offers smart replies based on the context of your conversations, which can help speed up idle chitchat. This is all part of the Google Assistant, which is manifested as a chatbot you can call upon at any time.

    When you're chatting with someone else, you can use @google to issue commands to the bot. You can ask it for restaurant listings, directions, weather reports, and general search data. In these chats, both parties can see the responses from Google. There's also a dedicated Assistant chat where it's just you and the bot. This is handy if you want to have Google set calendar appointments or pull up your recent photos in private.

    Speaking of private, Allo offers a truly private communication mode. If you start an Incognito chat in the app with one or more of your contacts, it will be end-to-end encrypted and the messages expire after a set amount of time. Because Google can't access the content of these chats, you won't have access to the Assistant.

    Allo still feels a little early—it doesn't support SMS, except to send Allo invites to your contacts and relay messages across an awkward SMS relay. Then there's the single-device approach. Not only can you only use Allo on phones, but it only works on a single phone. That means if you get a new device or simply switch to another one, you have to re-register with Allo and all your chats, settings, and profile information are reset. It's a real pain if you switch devices.

    Allo is definitely something to try, but it's only going to be useful if you can convince your friends to start using it. Right now, I don't think there's a compelling reason to stop using Hangouts, but Assistant has some potential.

    Google Play App Roundup: Solid Explorer, One More Jump, and Monolithic

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Solid Explorer

    Solid Explorer is obviously not a new app, but it's just gotten a big update, which has been in testing for months. We haven't talked about this app for a long time, so it's time to check in on what is, I think, undeniably the best file manager on Android. Front and center in the latest update are some Nougat improvements and support for fingerprint-based file encryption. This is the most robust implementation of this feature I've seen yet on Android.

    Solid Explorer's original claim to fame was its fantastic multi-pane implementation. You can have two locations open at once, and easily move items between the two. That's still present in the new v2.2 update of course, but there's added support for Nougat's split-screen mode. That means it'll open in split screen without any annoying warnings and will behave itself without any weird crashing or UI errors.

    As for the file encryption feature, there are several reasons I think this is the best implementation on Android. When you choose the file or folder you want to encrypt, the app will pull up a dialog so you can set a password. Encryption is done with AES256, which is essentially uncrackable. The only potentially weak link is your password, but with Solid Explorer, you don't have to worry about that.

    Devices with a fingerprint scanner on Android 6.0 or higher can set the secure unlock method for a file to be the user's registered fingerprint. There's a checkbox in the encryption dialog to allow this. If you enable it, you can decrypt a file simply by touching the sensor, allowing you to use a long and annoying password to encrypt as you don't have to type it in every time. The files you encrypt also keep their file name, simply gaining a .sec extension. That makes it easy to know what you're opening. There's also an option to have the source file scrubbed when you encrypt.

    After decrypting a file, you can open it normally. However, Solid Explorer smartly re-encrypts automatically when you close it. This is not a particularly flashy aspect of the feature, but probably one that makes it actually useful. If you had to re-encrypt files every time, you probably wouldn't use them as much.

    Solid Explorer includes a 14-day trial of all the features, if you want to give it a shot. After that, it's a $1.99 in-app purchase to unlock permanently. If you're looking for a good file explorer and have any interest in protecting your files, this is a good method.

    Google Play App Roundup: Conscient, Outfolded, and Bit Bit Blocks

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Conscient

    Automation apps have been one of the best selling point for Android as a whole over the years. With a little setup, you can make your phone respond to your real world situation in a very cool way. The apps that do this have varying levels of complexity. Tasker is popular for instance, but it's very difficult to learn. Conscient aims to make it quick and easy to setup simple automation features without a heavy service running in the background. Interested? It's free to try.

    Conscient uses the Google Awareness API, which means the app itself doesn't need to run its own service in the background to keep track of what you're doing. That means better performance and battery life without any of the bugs you see with third-party implementations. Google's Awareness API can relay various device conditions (contexts) to the app like headphones plugged/unplugged, running, walking, in a vehicle, and cycling.

    To set up a "fence" in Conscient, you have to choose a context or a combination of contexts. You might want to have something happen when headphones are plugged in or you're in a car. There are also options for things like running and headphones plugged in. The next step is picking an action to trigger when a context is activated. You can have an app or shortcut launched. This is not as powerful as what you can get with other automation apps, but it's not supposed to be. If you use another automation app like Tasker, you can plug activities from that into Conscient as the trigger.

    There are two ways to launch fences in Conscient; immediate and notifications. The default is notification, which pops up a notification when a context is active you you can launch it in a single tap. The immediate version simple triggers the action.

    I've tested Conscient with a number of different settings, and all of them see to work reliably. It sometimes takes a few seconds for the app to recognize that I'm in a vehicle, for example, but that's down to the Awareness API more than the app. I haven't noticed any impact on battery life, either.

    The free version can run up to three concurrent fences at a time. After that, you need to upgrade to the pro version for $0.99 (but you can pay more if you want to support the dev). It's worth checking out if you're in the market for a simple automation app that won't murder your device's performance.

    Google Play App Roundup: CTRL-F, Particular, and CELL 13

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    CTRL-F

    Good old control-f is one of the most useful keyboard shortcuts, though some people still don't even realise it's a thing. Crazy, right? What if control-f existed in real life? I'm sure people would want to know about that. CTRL-F for Android aims to be just that, a real world version of the find command. It won't find anything, but it's pretty good at scanning text and making it searchable.

    CTRL-F is basically a fancy interface for optical character recognition with search built right in. To start using CTRL-F, simply find a document you want to search, and use the app to snap a photo (or import an existing image). Printed text works best, and the font needs to be at least somewhat conventional. Really weird stuff might now be detected correctly. After you take the photo, CTRL-F lets you frame the text for better detection.

    The app then processes the image by straightening the font and reading it. It supports over 50 languages, but I only tested it in English. The entire scanning process takes about 20 seconds for a single dense page of text. The processed image you get looks like a very high-contrast version of the photo you took, but behind the scenes is a full searchable text document.

    The accuracy is surprisingly good for most documents. I've found that glossy materials tend to cause more issues than those on matte paper. Varying fonts also seem to cause issues. Searching is fast and accurate most of the time, though. All the documents you've imported and had scanned will remain available from the main screen in CTRL-F.

    The data in CTRL-F isn't stored as some wonky non-standard file. If you want to export a searchable PDF, the option is available in the overflow menu. I'd like to see some sort of batch processing mode in CTRL-F, but the current functionality isn't bad, especially when you consider it's free.

    Google Play App Roundup: Taskbar, Auralux: Constellations, and Kerflux

    It's time again to dive into the Google Play Store and see what apps we can find. Every week we find the best new and newly updated apps for the Roundup, and this week is no exception. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Taskbar

    Android 7.0 Nougat has launched, and with it comes support for split-screen multitasking. There's also a "freeform" window mode that allows a more traditional desktop way of managing windows, but that's limited to Android TV for now... unless you give the new Taskbar app a shot. This is basically a fancy app switcher that works on all Android devices, but on Nougat phones and tablets, it can bring apps up in freeform windows.

    Let's talk about what Taskbar does before we get into the nuances of freeform windows. When Taskbar is running, you get an expandable bar that's a little like a Windows taskbar. It shows recently opened apps, which you can then tap to launch. There's also a launcher icon in Taskbar that lets you access all your apps. Apps that you use frequently can also be pinned to taskbar so you won't have to go digging for them.

    When it's collapsed, Taskbar is just a small translucent arrow in the lower left corner of the screen. I haven't accidentally triggered it at all, so it's not problematic when I'm using the device. There is, however, an ongoing notification when the service is running. It provides quick access to the settings, though.

    As for freeform windows, you will need to be on Nougat, or course. You also need to either toggle a setting in developer options or use an ADB command from your computer to enable the feature. Once enabled, you can trigger freeform mode from your home screen by opening Taskbar and pressing the launcher button several times. This is the first bit of jank, but this is an unofficial feature. That's really to be expected. When the home screen fades away, leaving only the wallpaper, you're in freeform mode. Now, any app you launch will pop up as a floating, resizable window.

    I've tested this with a number of apps with good results. As long as something can run in split-screen, it should be fine in freeform. You can drag them around and change the size as needed to get things done more efficiently. However, kicking them over into split-screen mode will probably break the UI. This seems to be a problem with the system at this time, but again, it's an unofficial feature.

    You can leave freeform mode at any time by hitting the home button, The apps you have in freeform will remain accessible as pop-up windows in your multitasking screen, but you can clear them if you'd like to relaunch in standard or split-screen mode.

    Taskbar is a neat app, even if you're not going to play around with freeform mode, and it's free.

    Google Play App Roundup: Duo, Deus Ex GO, and It's A Space Thing

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Duo

    Google announced two new chat apps at I/O last spring, and now the first of the two is available. Google Duo is a video chat application that's designed from the ground up to be easy. It's not as feature-rich as Hangouts, but it works much, much better for simple 1-on-1 video chats.

    Google has made it clear that Duo will be the consumer-focused video chat solution going forward as it makes Hangouts a more business-focused product. So, Duo is tied you your phone number, in an attempt to make it easier to get people using it. When you first open the app you need to verify your number by SMS.

    Starting a call is as easy as tapping the big call button at the bottom of the screen—it's basically the only button in the app. After you've been using Duo, your frequent contacts will show up there too. Your contact list will appear with Duo users up at the top. Those who have not installed Duo yet are shown below that with the option to send them an invitation to the app. If you select a Duo user, the call will start immediately.

    The default functionality on Android includes Knock Knock, a way to see who's calling you before you pick up. When you place a call, your video will be live before the other person answers. That means they can see you before deciding whether or not to answer, like looking through a peephole in a door. This only happens if you are in the other person's contact list, though. Knock Knock is neat, but also a little weird to dismiss a call when your friend's face is staring expectantly at you from the screen.

    The latency in Duo video chats seems very good, and the video is alright. It's not mindblowing quality, at least in my experience. There is a toggle in the settings to turn off the data saving feature, which makes it look nicer. According to Google, Duo is using a protocol called Quic that allows for better video compression. It can also hand the call over between WiFi and cellular data as needed. The only controls of importance when you're in a call are mute and a front/rear camera toggle.

    Duo seems like a fine video chat app, but its success will depend on how many of your friends and family you can convince to install it. I would not be surprised to see Google start bundling Duo (and Allo) with the Google apps package for all phones.

    Google Play App Roundup: Inkwire, Mars: Mars, and Reigns

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Inkwire

    Remote support is always messy in one way or another. Sometimes in more than one way, even. Android's security measures make true remote control of a phone or tablet tough to do, and even when you do have the tools in place, your capabilities are limited. Inkwire is a new remote assistance app that works within Android's limitations in a way that makes it easy to set up and use.

    As long as you've got an internet connection, Inkwire will work. That's because it's not relying on actually controlling the remote device. Inkwire lets you pain on top of the screen so the person on the other end can tap what you tell them to. This simpler approach is much easier to implement on a wide range of devices, and doesn't come with as many security risks. People who recently had their TeamViewer accounts hacked can certainly speak to that.

    To start a session on your device, just open Inkwire and confirm screen sharing. You'll get a code that can be shared with the other party. After inputting that in the Inkwire app, they'll be able to see what's happening on your screen, and draw lines for you to see. They can indicate a button or menu item for you to tap, which might even be preferable to true remote access. This way, you're engaged with the process and can learn what to do yourself. The same app on your phone can also be used to connect to someone else if you're on the other side of the situation.

    Sending doodles on the screen is all well and good, but what if a line doesn't get the point across? Inkwire also has voice chat built-in. Simply activate the toggle on your device (the person sharing their screen must do this) and you'll be able to talk through the process in addition to seeing things drawn on your screen.

    The delay in the streaming is surprisingly low when using Inkwire, but the image you get isn't super-high quality. There's some visible artifacting and some blurriness that can make small text a little hard to read. Still, it's more than good enough to help someone figure out what's busted.

    Inkwire is free and is still in beta. However, the listing just went live in the Play Store for everyone. There might be a few bugs to deal with, but it seems stable for me on LTE and WiFi.

    Google Play App Roundup: Dropbox Paper, Riptide GP: Renegade, and FIE Swordplay

    Well, your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Dropbox Paper

    At present, Google Docs is the go-to platform for team-based document creation and editing. It's not that it's perfect, but it's the most feature complete and it plugs into a platform that almost everyone uses. Dropbox is trying its hand at making documents work with its popular cloud storage platform. It's called Dropbox Paper, and you can give it a shot right now.

    Dropbox Paper is still in beta on Android, but so has Google Maps navigation for the last seven years. There's not a ton to screw up in a document editor, and indeed, Dropbox Paper gets most things right out of the gate. It's existed on the web for about a year, but it was in closed beta and lacking some important features. With the Mobile release, Paper is getting more useful. For example, tables are more handy with adjustable width and you can create image galleries. The app is a bit more focused, though.

    Paper is more basic than something like Microsoft's Office suite, but right now it doesn't come with an added fee. You can log into Paper using Dropbox, but you'll need to actually sign up for Paper first—the signup flow isn't great. Once you get in, you'll be presented with a series of sample documents to play with and see how the app works.

    When you create a new document, it's a blank canvas to drop your thoughts into. There are no templates or special tools. So we're mainly talking about text-based documents here. If you need to create complicated spreadsheets or presentations, you should stick with Google or Microsoft. There's a toolbar that floats just above your keyboard that lets you access text indent, photos, and text modes. If you want to add bullets, headings, and so on, that's where you need to go.

    I think the most confusing thing in this initial release is the use of rich media like photos and videos. Paper will expand YouTube video, for example, but it doesn't seem to work in the app right now. I can add photos, but removing them is either not possible or just bugged at the moment.

    As with similar products, adding other people to your documents as collaborators is a big part of the appeal. You can invite people via email, allowing them to set up a Paper account and add things to your documents. Each addition is marked with the username so you can keep track of who's doing what. You can also add comments to the document. You can @mention people to send a push notification to them as well. This works in text and in comments.

    Dropbox Paper is interesting, and it has a lot of good features for the first mobile release. It seems more focused on planning and team-focused activities right now, as opposed to generating content. I'd never use it in place of Google Docs to get things done, for example. That could change one day, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Prisma, Snakebird, and Quaser One

    If you're going to be supporting app development on Android (and you should), you might as well pay for the best content you can. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is all about. This is where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just follow the links to the Play Store.

    Prisma

    The photo filter app Prisma has been spectacularly popular on iOS for a couple months, and now it has arrived on Android. This app is completely free and has no ads. I'm not sure how the company plans to make money, but it's already tearing up the charts in the Play Store. It's not the first app to apply filters to your images, but it goes about it in a very unusual way with the power of AI.

    Prisma's interface is pretty limited. When you open it, you'll be able to snap a photo from the app, or import one you've already taken. Photos taken in the app are just 1080x1080 pixels, and even when you import a photo is will have you crop it down to a square. The next step is where all the magic happens.

    Prisma has more than two dozen filters , but they aren't filters like you'd see in Instagram or Lightroom. Prisma uses server-based processing to deconstruct your photo and rebuild it with a completely different style. The result is a complete metamorphosis of your photo that looks much more complete than simply overlaying things on top of it.

    The AI that Prisma uses to do this processing needs a lot more power than your phone has, so all the hard work is done on Prisma's servers. That means you will need an internet connection to use the app. Additionally, processing photos takes a pretty long time. The images captured by Prisma are much smaller than the ones that come from your camera, so those can usually be passed through a new filter in 15 seconds or so. A photo you import might take as long as 30-45 seconds to come back. You can switch between filters you've already tried on an image without waiting, though.

    When the edit is ready, you can swipe left and right to change the blending of the new version with the unaltered one. This happens locally on the device, so you won't have to wait for the servers again. From there, you can save the photo or share it directly via the system share menu. Although, this seems a little buggy with some apps. The app's servers are also occasionally overloaded, meaning you'll have to wait a few minutes to try another filter. Still, it's pretty fun to play around with.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flytube, Dots and Co., and Rooms of Doom

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Flytube

    For all its multitasking abilities, Android is still not completely there with true multitasking. That is, having more than one thing on the screen at a time. Some devices have a version of this (that isn't very good), and Android 7.0 is supposed to expand support for split-screen. But even that isn't going to make a proper floating video player possible right away. That's what Flytube is. It takes any YouTube video and puts it in a floating window.

    Setting up Flytube will vary depending on your device. You'll need to clear defaults for YouTube (however you go about that on your device) so that Flytube will be an option when you click on a video link. The opening tutorial walks you through a few tests to make sure it works correctly.

    When you tap on a YouTube video, Flytube opens and starts playback. It looks like a tiny web frame to me, based on the controls. It works well enough, though. By default, the video will snap to the edge of your screen, but you can drag it around anywhere you like. You have access to closed captioning, but all the other YouTube settings are unavailable.

    The standard window size seems alright for a phone, but it's somewhat small for a tablet. If you upgrade to the full version for $0.99, you can resize the video window with a small corner drag indicator. This also gets rid of the banner ad in the app itself. Speaking of the Flytube app, you can search for videos and open them in Flytube windows from here, even if you don't have it set as the default.

    Flytube maintains good framerates as you're doing other things, as long as your phone is reasonably powerful. I've seen no issues with the apps I'm using while Flytube is playing in the foreground. Note, it won't continue playing while the screen is off -- you still need YouTube Red for that.

    Google Play App Roundup: Storm it, Dead Venture, and Super Stickman Golf 3

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    Storm it

    Some would argue that Twitter's main strength over the years has also been its main limitation. Tweets can only be 140 characters in length (at least for now). Every time the company has speculated about making tweets longer, the reaction from the community has been swift and negative. Still, there are times you might want to express an idea on Twitter that's longer than 140 characters. Posting multiple tweets is a pain, but "Storm it" makes the process easier.

    The name of the app comes from "tweetstorm," which is the term often used when someone posts multiple tweets in quick succession on a single topic. The problem is figuring out where to split things up and posting them quickly enough that they'll appear nearby in the stream. Storm it does all the hard work for you.

    After you log into your Twitter account in Storm it, you'll get a blank canvas upon which you can scrawl your ideas -- rant, rave, or just a thought that's too long for one tweet. The cool thing here it that Storm it will be smart about where to break your text up into individual tweets. It won't just stop mid-word, but your sentences will still get chopped in half if they don't fit in one tweet. It also adds numbering so people can tell which order to read the tweets.

    Down at the bottom is a Storm it button. Now, I would have thought that this would give you some sort of preview of confirmation dialog, but it doesn't. When you press that button, all your queued tweets are sent. You'll get a status screen to show you as each one is posted. If you want to preview the chopped up version of your text, you can tap the eye icon on the far left of the Storm it button. It's probably a good idea to do that.

    The settings are sparse -- all you have is the choice of two different formats for the numbering appended to your tweets. There's also a history menu that shows you past tweetstorms, both sent (stormed) and unsent (forecasted -- ha). Unsent storms can be edited and sent from this menu.

    Storm it has admittedly narrow appeal, but it does it's job well without a bunch of added cruft. It's also free.

    Google Play App Roundup: ASAP Launcher, Pokémon GO, and Titan Quest

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

    ASAP Launcher

    There are plenty of alternative launchers on Android, some of which are very mature and feature-rich. They all have a lot of features in common, though. ASAP Launcher is brand new, and it's markedly different than those other launchers. It has a very clean material look with custom "cards" on the home screen for features like weather, contacts, and calendar. One thing it doesn't have is widgets. How very odd.

    There's one regular home screen panel in ASAP Launcher, and even that one has some unusual modifications. At the top is a single built-in widget with the date, google voice search button, weather, and music controls. At the bottom are five app icons of your choosing. You can drag up from the bottom or open an expanded dock that has two more rows of icons for the apps you use most. This improves over time, but you can also manually pin apps to the list.

    If you want to get at the rest of your apps, drag in from the left to open the scrollable drawer. This reminds me very much of the QuickDrawer in Action Launcher, which I really like. You can scroll along normally, or drag along the letters toward the right to fast-scroll. A search bar at the top of the list lets you type the first few letters of an app as well. Drag in from the right side of the screen and you get a configurable quick settings panel.

    The cards are what you see if you swipe left or right instead of more home screen panels. There's one for frequent contacts, weather, calendar, and notes. You can rearrange or disable any of them from the settings. I think the weather one is very well-done, as is the frequent contact card. The calendar is fine, but frankly a whole screen is overkill for just a scrolling list. If there were more details shown, then we'd be in business. The notes panel feels unnecessary to me.

    All the above features are included for free, but a sub-$2 pro upgrade adds things like unread counts, custom icon packs, and additional themes. ASAP has a lot of potential, and I hope the developer keeps the improvements coming.

    Google Play App Roundup: Calendar Widget: Agenda, Rodeo Stampede, and Zombieville USA 2

    Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

    Calendar Widget: Agenda

    A few years ago, Candl Apps released the "Month" calendar widget, and it was a pretty big success. Now, the developer has published Calendar Widget: Agenda. You can probably guess what it does from the name. Like Month, this app comes with a multiple skins and a couple extra features but directly related to your schedule.

    There's no entry for Agenda in your app drawer after installing. It's settings are only available from the widget after you've placed it in there home screen, so go ahead and do that. There's only one size in the weather list, but it's resizable to add small as 2x2 or as large as whatever your device's maximum grid size is. To change the theme, tap the settings gear on the widget.

    There centerpiece of this app is the assortment of neat themes for the widget. A few look like tweaked versions of the stock Google Calendar widget, and none of them are super-weird or unattractive. I particularly like the ones that separate the days out as cards. When selecting a theme, you also have the option of tweaking the colors and opacity.

    Like other agenda widgets, you can scroll through to get a look at all the event coming up on your calendars. In the settings, you can choose which calendars you want shown on the widget if you've got more than one attached to your account. There's also an option to have weather shown next to each day. This is part of the full version upgrade, though.

    You get a handful of themes in the free download. Most of them are the note generic ones, but for $1.49 you can get another dozen themes and the aforementioned weather feature.

    Google Play App Roundup: ADW Launcher 2.0, Lost Frontier, and _PRISM

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the links to head right to Google Play.

    ADW Launcher 2.0

    Anyone who has used Android devices for a few years has probably heard of ADW Launcher. It was one of the best custom home screens for Android in the days before Nova appeared on the scene. It hasn't been updated in years, but the developer has reappeared with a beta release of ADW 2.0, and you can give it a shot right now.

    This is a completely redesigned version of ADW that seems competitive with the top alternative launchers today. Note: you'll have to opt into the beta test for this app before the new version will show up for you. It's using the same listing as the original app, so install that one and your devices will update to the beta automatically.

    ADW 2.0 is highly configurable and colorful, a good mix of qualities from other launchers. At the top of your screen is a Google search bar, but that's actually a custom widget. You can modify it, or even create entirely new widgets for that spot or anywhere else on your home screen. These widgets aren't as powerful as the various standalone apps that let you build custom widgets, but you can do some neat stuff. It does lead to some unnecessary complication, though. An example: ADW's custom all-in-one widget add-on defaults to celcius. If you want to use Fahrenheit, you have to actually go into the widget editor, find the temperature layer, and change it to imperial. It's a very "power user" way to do things.

    The launcher also has an automated theme engine built-in, which is one of the things I really like about Action Launcher. By default, it's based on your wallpaper image. Your search bar, app drawer, and folder background will pull colors from the wallpaper. You can change the colors in settings if you like. In another nod to Action Launcher, you can set folders to show only the top icon (launched with a tap), but still make the rest of the folder accessible with a swipe.

    I really like the way ADW groups widgets and makes managing your home screens easier. However, some of the features here aren't completely obvious. For instance, it took me a minute of experimenting to figure out how to get rid of a home screen panel. It's beta, so I assume that the tutorial will be fleshed out before the final release. In the app drawer, there's also a categorization option for apps, but it's all manual. That's fine if you want things a certain way and don't mind organizing everything by hand.

    ADW 2.0 does all the basic stuff you'd expect from a custom launcher like gestures, page transition effects, and icon packs. Almost all of this is available for free in the new beta, but you can upgrade to the full version for $2.99. The free version does have a "promo apps" icon, which is essentially an ad. You can remove it from your "all apps" category to hide it, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Opera News and Search, Heroes of Loot 2, and PKTBALL

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Opera News and Search

    Opera has been making browsers for Android since the early days, and there are several versions of its existing mini and standard browsers in the store right now. The new Opera News and Search browser is a little different. It focuses on recommending content in the browser and making it easier to read. It's a bit like a browser with a stripped down RSS feed inside.

    When you first open Opera News and Search, you'll see a start screen with a search/URL field at the top and news headlines below that. Right now the biggest issue is that some of the content Opera shows you be default is kind of garbage. I don't personally care about a "crazy hack that will dry your nails in seconds." Luckily, that's just the main feed. You can slide over to the Discover tab to see specific topics like technology, design, and so on. You can check them out there or subscribe to get dedicated news tabs and a better mix of things in your main list. When you tap on a story, you have the option of loading it in a text-only reading mode too.

    Your main search/news tabs remain open at all times in the home tab, but you can open others and use Opera like any other browser. Simply use the search bar or the tab button in the bottom toolbar to get on your way. The home button will always take you back to the main tab with all the news content. You'll get notifications for breaking news as well.

    If you have an Opera account, this browser can sync your tab history, reading list, and bookmarks. As is customary in Opera browsers, there's also an option to enable server-side compression to save mobile data while browsing. Private browsing is supported as well via the tab management screen. Anything loaded in private mode will not be saved in cache or your browsing history.

    The new Opera is experimental, so there are probably going to be some bugs. It's also only available in the US right now (at least officially). At its heart, the new Opera is running the same engine as the other full-scale version (non-Mini), meaning Chromium. The Opera implementation is fast and page rendering is spot-on.

    It does seem rather well put together for a first release. If Opera improves user control over the news feed, this could be a capable alternative to Chrome and a nice improvement over the current Opera browser.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flamingo, Sky Force Reloaded, and NeoWars

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Flamingo

    Twitter recently resurrected the much-loved app Fenix from the grave after it ran out of tokens. From this we learned that the company is now willing to work with developers who have run out of auth tokens, so it's a bit safer for developers to invest their time and energy into Twitter apps. The first new Twitter app of interest in a long time is Flamingo, which was made by the developer of the fabulous Weather Timeline app. It's still in beta, but Flamingo get a lot of things right.

    Flamingo has three main columns across the top, and they're the right columns. You have the timeline, mentions, and messages. So many apps clutter the main interface with unnecessary streams. You can, however, rearrange, add, and remove columns from the main app UI. Flamingo puts all the other stuff in the slide-out navigation menu where it's supposed to be. You can swipe to navigate between columns or tap on the headers. Tapping on the header will also move you to the top of your current stream, an essential feature for me in Twitter apps.

    The way you interact with tweets is well-designed in Flamingo as well. Tapping on a tweet pulls up in-line action buttons to reply, retweet, like, and so on. A long-press opens the tweet in a new screen with full conversation history. I love that you can drag down to close these screens, as well as images that you've opened. If you are supposed to see replies to something in your timeline (i.e. you follow both people) those will be shown in-line, which is very handy. I also quite like the way links and quoted tweets show up in colorful boxes in the timeline tweet. It's easy to follow what's going on at a glance here.

    One of Flamingo's main selling points is the abundance of themes. It comes with a dozen presets, and you can design your own theme by picking colors. The default "blue bird" theme is pretty good, but there are plenty of other nice ones including an AMOLED dark theme.

    Flamingo doesn't have settings for refresh speed, so I'm assuming the notifications are handled as push messages. The only toggle I can find is one to defer notifications to save battery. Presumably this batches notifications so your phone won't wake up constantly to deliver them. I'd like a little more clarity on this.

    I'm really impressed with the design and reliability of Flamingo at such an early stage. I'm personally missing a widget. I use home screen widgets to browse Twitter almost as much as I use the actual app, so it's a must have feature for me. If the developer can get that sorted out, i could easily make Flamingo my full-time Twitter client, and it's only $0.99.

    Google Play App Roundup: Boomerang Notifications, Tiny Tower, and Crashing Season

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Boomerang Notifications

    It always strikes me as weird that there are so many apps out there that seek to improve on Android's notification system. At every stage of the game, it's been the best notification scheme of any platform, but there are always edge cases that encourage someone to try something different. Sometimes it's even a cool addition, as in the case of Boomerang. It turns your notifications into recurring reminders and archives them for you.

    Boomerang plugs into the Android notification listener service, so you'll be asked to enable that during setup. All modern Android phones have this feature, and it's used by a lot of apps. It uses this access to read and save the text from your notifications, but not all notifications. Boomerang makes the most sense when you choose specific apps for it to manage. These will probably be the apps you get the most notifications from like Gmail, your messaging app of choice, and social apps.

    Once you've selected active apps in the list, Boomerang will monitor for those notifications. When you swipe away a notification, Boomerang will pop up a notification asking you if you want to save it for later (this will go away on its own after a few seconds). You can also choose to add a reminder in addition to saving. This is the "boomerang" part of the app -- it comes back to you. There's also a persistent notification for Boomerang that shows you the current number of saved notifications you have. I'm not crazy about persistent notifications, but this is the sort of app that really needs one to make sure it operates as intended.

    When you open Boomerang from the notification or shortcut, it shows you the saved notifications. Tapping on them launches as if you'd tapped on the original notification, and a long press lets you set a reminder. This can be handy in the event you need to reply to someone later, but you don't want to deal with it at that moment. Boomerang saves you from messing around with launching other apps just to set reminders about a notification. This is just one step.

    Boomerang Notifications is free, which is a little surprising. I would have at least expected some sort of premium version in-app purchase. There's no reason not to at least give this a shot.

    Google Play App Roundup: Science Journal, Air Attack, and Assassin's Creed Identity

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    Science Journal

    Your smartphone is bristling with sensors, so why not use them to do some basic science? Google has released a new app that helps you run simple experiments with your phone called Science Journal. It's mostly aimed at getting students interested in science and the process of running experiments, but everyone can learn a little something.

    Science Journal accesses three sensors in your phone: the light sensor, accelerometer, and the microphone. In the main interface, you can switch between each of these outputs to see live data as a single number or a graph. In addition, the accelerometer data is split up into X, Y, and Z axis readings. Of course, the app is a super-slick example of material design with bright colors and cool animations.

    Down at the bottom of the screen is a toolbar and timecode. This is where you record your data. Simply hit the record button and the sensor data will be archived. You can organize each data set into different experiments and add notes to them as well. The graphs (both live and archived) respond to pinch zoom gestures.

    You might be surprised how sensitive the sensors in your phone are, especially the accelerometer. Because this part is designed to measure g-forces, it reads gravitational acceleration at rest, and it's pretty close to the 9.8m/s^2 number we all learned in school. We often think of acceleration in terms of velocity relative to the ground, but this app encourages you to think about it a little differently. For example, in freefall, the Z-axis reads 0 instead of 9.8-ish. I was even able to use the accelerometer to measure my heart rate by laying the phone on my chest.

    At the top of Science Journal is a button that links the app with external devices. You probably don't have any of these, but the Google Making and Science Initiative website lists some kits Google helped to design with companies like Sparkfun that will connect to the app, usually via an Arduino. All the data acquired through the app, via both internal and external sensors, can be exported as a CSV file.

    The app is free and fun to play around with if nothing else. If you have kids, you might want to use this as a learning opportunity.

    Google Play App Roundup: Slash Keyboard, Bushido Bear, and Leap Day

    Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but it's the apps that make that possible. Developers have access to all sorts of hooks in the system to make your phone do amazing things, you just have to find the right stuff. That's what the weekly Google Play App Roundup is all about -- helping you find the right apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store and pick it up yourself.

    Slash Keyboard

    You might have caught the news last week that Google released a keyboard app for iOS called Gboard. Its claim to fame is that it has Google search built right in. You can grab results and paste them in without leaving the app. That's not available on Android yet (weirdly), but there's actually an app that came out a few weeks back called Slash keyboard that has similar features. It's pretty relevant now, though.

    They call it Slash Keyboard because you trigger all its special search features by adding a slash to whatever you're typing. It works in any app too. For example, you're typing a message and making plans to meet up. You want to send them the location of some bar or restaurant, but switching apps is a pain. Just type /maps and enter your search term. The results appear in a scrollable bar right above the keyboard. When you tap a result, it will be pasted into the text field.

    That's just one possible use case. This keyboard app supports more than 20 services including Google search, Twitter, Giphy, Spotify, YouTube, and more. There's also a cool /pin command that instantly shares your current location. The keyboard will start suggesting slashes as soon as you enter one, but there's also a quick access bar at the top of the keyboard that starts your favorite slashes instantly. You can change the order or disable the bar entirely.

    Slash also includes custom slashes, which are basically shortcodes you can input to automatically expand into your chosen text. You might make one for your address or other contact info you don't want to type all the time.

    As for its performance as an actual keyboard, Slash does well. I wouldn't say it's my favorite keyboard, mostly because it lacks swipe input, which I use often. The theme does fit with Android, and you might not even notice at first it's not the stock keyboard. My only real UI complaint is that Slash takes up a lot of vertical space when you're performing searches. I don't know that there's really a way to solve that, though.

    Slash Keyboard is free and worth a look if you like the idea of Gboard.

    Google Play App Roundup: App Volume Control, Gangfort, and Hungry Shark World

    Well, your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    App Volume Control

    Volume control on Android has changed repeatedly in the last few iterations, and OEMs often change the way this feature works. It can be a pain to simply make sure you have sound when you want it, and no sound when you don't. App Volume Control is a new app that aims to make it simple by automating the process. Well, the setup isn't particularly simple, but after that it's smooth sailing.

    App Volume Control will need accessibility access on your device, which it uses to manage your volume levels down to the smallest detail depending on the app you have open. For example, maybe you want to keep your phone completely silent except for media volume when you open a music or video player. So, just find those apps in the main App Volume Control list and turn them on for automation. Then, choose the volume levels you want to control and save.

    The toughest part of using this app is just making sense of all the options. Android phones expose a ton of volume control options, and App Volume Control takes advantage of every one. Not only can you set the media, ring, alarm, notification, and system volume, you can choose different settings depending on how the sound is being played. The default mode is the phone speakers, but you can change the setting for headset and Bluetooth audio independently.

    And all that is just for starters. Literally, just when starting an app. Each app has a tab for starting and another for closing. The default setting in the second tab is to restore the previous volume when you leave an automated app, but you can also pick a custom setting with the same level of granularity as above. You even get a little toast notification to let you know App Volume Control is working (can be disabled in the settings).

    App Volume Control runs a service in the background to manage all this, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on performance or battery life in my testing. I'd like it if the app were a little more attractive or laid out better (it reminds me a little of setting up a Tasker profile right now), but it does what it's supposed to. The free version has a persistent ad at the bottom, but there's a pro version that you can buy for $0.99 that doesn't have that.