Latest StoriesAndroid App Roundup
    Google Play App Roundup: Contextual App Folder, Jade Empire, and Hopeless 3

    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.

    Contextual App Folder

    As you install more apps and games, your app drawer will increasingly become a pain to navigate. You can add shortcuts to your home screen, but eventually you end up with the same problem—too many things and not enough space. Contextual App Folder can help with a simple folder that changes its contents based on triggers like time, location, and connected devices.

    To start, Contextual App Folder comes with a "Default" folder and one for "Headphones." All you get in default is a link to the Contextual App Folder settings. The Headphones folder will include any apps Contextual App Folder recognizes as audio or music-related. Default is the folder what appears on your home screen when no other of your contextual settings have been triggered. You can change the name of this folder, as well as what's in it. The same goes for the Headphones folder.

    Those two are just the start. Contextual App Folder includes conditions for the time of day, location, various device status triggers like being on a phone call, getting a notification from certain apps, and charging. When you select a new condition to create a folder, you have to choose which apps you want included in it. The order of these apps can also be changed.

    To use Contextual App Folder, just add it as a widget to the home screen. One thing I've always disliked about similar dynamic folder apps is that they don't look like folders. That's not the case with Contextual App Folder. It looks and acts like a regular folder on your home screen, but you can also tweak the style to use different colors, font sizes, and layouts.

    As for the basic functionality, I'm very impressed with Contextual App Folder. The folder updates to the right context extremely fast—within a second or two of plugging in headphones, for example. This app is still in early access, but it seems really solid. It's free right now, although I imagine there will be an in-app upgrade option when it's officially released.

    Google Play App Roundup: PhotoScan, NYTimes - Crossword, and Space Marshals 2

    There's always something awesome happening on Android. There are killer apps, amazing games, and utilities unlike you'll find on other platforms. The goal of the Google Play App Roundup is to find the best of the best in all those categories so you don't have to hunt them down manually. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store.


    Digital cameras have been a mainstream consumer item for over a decade at this point, and smartphone cameras have been fantastic in recent years. As such, the use of film cameras is essentially zero, but many of us still have mountains of old photo albums in the attic. These photos won't last forever, and now Google has released an app that aims to make digitizing them easier. It's called PhotoScan.

    There are several apps in the Play Store that claim to scan your photos, but Google says it's approach is better. PhotoScan leverages the power of machine learning to intelligently recreate the physical photo in digital format with no glare or perspective distortion.

    If you've ever tried to take a photo of a photo, you know how bad the quality usually is. You're forced to either take a picture head-on and deal with glare, or take it at an angle and end up with a screwed up perspective. PhotoScan eliminates both of those issues because it's not taking a single photo.

    To start, you set the photo down and take a picture of it with the app. I know I said you aren't taking a photo of the photo, but this is just to help the app detect the general layout. Four dots will be overlaid in the viewfinder toward the corners of the photo. Simply move the phone to point at each one of those dots until the circle fills up. This is where all of Google's AI magic happens. It filters out all the glare from different individual captures, then slices the photo up into segments. Each one is transformed slightly and reassembled to correct for the subtly different perspectives of each capture.

    Your in-app camera roll shows the results from each photo almost instantly, which is quite impressive. There are times when the app can't quite detect the corners of the photo—this usually happens when the original doesn't take up very much of the frame. You can crop the image down manually to adjust the corners, which should give PhotoScan what it needs to output the final image.

    Photos that you create with this app can be uploaded to Google Photos and saved to your device. I think the quality of the photos is very good overall. You should try to do your scans in good natural light as the LED on the phone tends to make images cooler than the original. However, the images created by PhotoScan do look like photos, and not photos of photos. It's a free app, so give it a shot.

    Google Play App Roundup: Fingerprint Gestures, Party Hard Go, and Skyhill

    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.

    Fingerprint Gestures

    Google's new Pixel phones include a gesture to open the navigation pane by swiping the fingerprint sensor. It's neat but largely inconsequential to your daily use. However, when Google noted that this feature would not come to other devices on Android 7.1, people were not pleased. It was the principle of the thing. Well, now there's an app that can replicate that feature on a lot of devices with a little hackery.

    Fingerprint Gestures is a service that runs in the background and plugs into Google's fingerprint API, which was added in Android 6.0. Not all phones have the standard fingerprint implementation, but the vast majority of phones that ship with Marshmallow do. I tested Fingerprint Gestures on an LG V20, and it worked as expected. It functions by running as an accessibility service, so you'll be prompted to enable that the first time Fingerprint Gestures is configured.

    To be clear, this app works without root, which surprised me at first. I suppose it makes sense in the context of an app with accessibility access. However, there are a few extra features you can enable if you do have root on your phone. Whether or not you have root determines which functions you can associate with tapping, double-tapping, and swiping the sensor.

    Without root, you can do things like open the notification panel, trigger the home button, open recent apps, and access the device power menu. There's also an option to create a shortcut panel that can be accessed from one of the sensor gestures. With root, you can scroll up and down or put the phone to sleep.

    You will have to put up with a persistent notification while Fingerprint Gestures is running. If you can get over that, it works pretty well. Although, if you have a phone with the sensor on the back, it's easy to accidentally brush it and trigger the app. It feels more useful for a phone where the fingerprint sensor is on the front or side.

    Google Play App Roundup: Brave Browser, The Trail, and Asphalt Xtreme

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, than a better alternative has come along. We're here to make sure you're ahead of the curve, that you're always on the bleeding edge. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is for. Just click on the links to head to Google Play and get the best new apps and games for your device.

    Brave Browser

    You may be thinking, Brave already exists, and you are technically correct. Brave came into existence when the Link Bubble browser was acquired by Brave Software, but now that app has turned back into Link Bubble. There's a new Brave Browser, and it's a bit more conventional.

    Brave Browser is a traditional tabbed browser with all the enhanced security and privacy features that Brave has been pushing since its inception. This app is not based on any of the code acquired in the Link Bubble deal. Instead, it uses Chromium as a base—currently v54, which is the same as mainline stable Chrome.

    So, if you've used Chrome on Android, you'll notice a lot of similarities in Brave. One thing you will not notice is ads. Brave blocks all ads, trackers, and 3rd party cookies by default. You can also optionally block all scripts on the page. It enforces HTTPS everywhere too.

    Brave made news a year or so ago when it announced its ambitious plan to replace ads in web pages with its own individually vetted ads, which would still result in revenue for publishers. Brave would also take a cut of the revenue. However, that feature has still not been implemented. For the time being, Brave is just an ad-blocking browser.

    The most prominent difference between Chrome and Brave is the Brave logo in the action bar at the top. Tapping on this opens up the menu for Brave Shield—essentially all the privacy features the app promotes. At the top is a slider that lets you set shields up or shields down for a particular domain. It shows you the number of ads and trackers it blocks as the site loads. You can also individually toggle trackers/ads, cookies, scripts, and HTTPS.

    Is Brave fast? Sure, it's based on Chromium and has been slimmed down a little bit. None of Google's sync features are included. The lack of ads also makes page loads faster, of course. If you're on the lookout for a new browser, Brave is worth a shot.

    Google Play App Roundup: ActionDirector, Dustoff Heli Rescue 2, and PinOut

    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.

    ActionDirector Video Editor

    Video editing on Android is one of those things that never really took off. Google had a video editing app for a while, but it fell into disrepair rather quickly. As everyone moved to shooting shorter videos for services like Instagram and Snapchat, the necessity for these apps diminished somewhat. There are still times you need to make some changes to a video, but doing so is much harder than editing a photo. Cyberlink has released a new video editing app that might do what you need, and it's not hellishly expensive, either.

    ActionDirector gives you two options for getting videos into the app. You can shoot with the built-in camera or simply import a video you shot previously. The UI is a little confusing when you import a video—there's a small "+" next to the video title after you tap on it. That takes you to the editing interface with the various tool categories along the bottom of the display.

    The app's tool categories are trim, action, color, title, and audio. The trim command should be straightforward. Simply drag the bars to indicate the section you wish to keep, and the remainder will be discarded. The action tab is where most of the fun stuff is. You can speed up, slow down, repeat, and reverse sections of the video. It's the same deal as above—use the sliders to indicate the section you want to modify. You can also alter the brightness, saturation, or contrast.

    The title and music are both customizable. The former includes some cool pre-defined intro, outro, and credit layouts, which you can edit as you like. The audio feature even includes options to import an audio file and mix it with the video's audio.

    When you're done, the video can be exported and saved locally to your device, or saved and shared in a single step. Exporting appears to happen fairly fast and supports resolutions up to 1080p and 60 fps. All this is available for free, but there's a Cyberlink watermark in the corner. If you want to remove that, it costs $2.99. If you only need to get rid of the watermark for this one project, you can watch a video ad to remove it. That's pretty clever.

    Google Play App Roundup: Wallpapers, Plants vs Zombies Heroes, and Break Liner

    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.


    I would not usually feature a wallpaper app, but this isn't just any wallpaper app. This is Wallpapers by Google. Just a few days before the Pixel shipped, Google decided to release the Wallpaper chooser from that phone as a standalone app that anyone can install.

    The app includes access to all the photos stored on your device, as well as stock wallpapers that came with it. The focus, though, is the Google-provided wallpapers. There are five categories in the app: Earth, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Life, and Textures. Each one has a couple dozen photos, and Google says it will continue adding more images over time.

    When you tap on an image to view it, the app downloads it from the web. It takes a second or two, depending on your connection speed. Each image comes with embedded source data allowing you to learn more about it. In the case of images that came from a partner like 500px, you'll be linked to the image on the artist's page. For the Google Earth snapshots (my personal favorite), the explore link opens Maps and takes you to the location.

    Each category has the option of setting a daily wallpaper as well. Choose that option, and the app will rotate in a new image each day. While you can install this app on any Android device running 4.1 or higher, it has special capabilities on devices running Nougat. Google added native support for different wallpapers on the home and lockscreen in Android 7.0. So, this app lets you set an image for one or the other, or both. I tested this on an LG V20, and it worked perfectly.

    If you like the style of Google's wallpapers as of late, this app is a must-have. The selection of images is great, and it's only going to get better. It is, of course, free.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flychat, The Banner Saga 2, and I am Bread

    There are far too many apps flowing into the Play Store on a daily basis to find all the good stuff yourself. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup seeks to solve. Every week we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps in the Play Store. Just click the app name to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.


    Facebook has come up with a lot of ideas over the years, but few of them have had the staying power of chat heads. These floating messaging icons were unveiled as part of the now-defunct Facebook Home interface, but chat heads came to the Messenger app, and subsequently were adopted by various other apps. Flychat is an app that essentially adds chat heads to all of the top messaging apps on Android, so you can have the benefit of chat heads without using Facebook Messenger.

    The app supports 10 chat clients so far including Hangouts, WhatsApp, Telegram, and more. In setting up Flychat, you'll have to grant the app access to your notifications. This allows it to read messages as they come in and replicate them in the floating bubble. That means you won't get full chat history from the apps it supports, only the messages that have come in since you started using it.

    When messages from a valid app come in, the bubble will appear unless you're in an app that you have blocked Flychat from appearing on top of. Tap on the bubble, and you get a full chat window from which you can reply. When you exit, the bubble remains so you can easily access the chat. To close, drag it down to the bottom of the screen. The app produces a separate icon for each app it supports, assuming you use more than one. It can be a useful way to unify all the various chat apps you are forced to use.

    Because Flychat is handling the on-screen notifications, you'll probably want to disable peeking notifications on any compatible chat apps you use to avoid duplicates. However, you can also choose to enable and disable the various chat apps Flychat supports. So, you can use Flychat for Hangouts, but continue using WhatsApp as you always have.

    Flychat is free to use with some ads in the settings, but a $0.99 in-app purchase gets rid of that. The full version also unlocks more customization like changing the bubble sizes and custom colors.

    Google Play App Roundup: Ivy, Dan The Man, and Burly Men at Sea

    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.


    Samsung's edge display phones have a few software features that try to justify the curved display technology, but let's face it, it's there entirely because it looks cool. One of the more useful features Samsung includes is the edge panel. With a swipe, you can get access to apps, contacts, news, and more. Now, there's a third-party app that brings very similar (and more expansive) features to any phone, curved display or not.

    Just like the edge display, Ivy places a small translucent tab on the right side of the screen. You can change the size, position, and opacity of this tap. To open Ivy, simply swipe the tab. The interface is obviously very similar to what you get with Samsung's version. The bar on the far right has a list of apps, which you can alter as you wish.

    Instead of having a ton of "ribbon" lists that you swipe through, Ivy tries to have more of a dashboard look. The only features that show up as edge panel are apps and contacts. There are a number of features that can be activated, including an RSS ticket for the bottom. There are a number of pre-configured feeds in Ivy, but you can also add feeds manually. If you see a headline you want to investigate, tap on it and the browser will open. You also have an optional clock/date display in Ivy. It goes a step further with support for full widgets in the Ivy interface. After adding your favorite widgets, you can access them by tapping the widget button after opening Ivy. Anything you don't want active can be disabled, of course.

    This is not the first app to provide some way to access certain apps and features from any screen, but Ivy manages to do it without being as annoying as others. There's always a chance that you'll accidentally trigger one of these floating on-screen buttons, but Ivy stays out of the way with such a slim activation area. Still, it's easy to open when you want to.

    Ivy is free to download, and there are no in-app purchases or ads. I would not be surprised to see a pro version show up eventually. I've certainly seen less useful versions of the same thing with a price tag.

    Google Play App Roundup: News Pro, Looty Dungeon, and Pumped BMX 3

    We're really getting spoiled these days. There are great Android apps coming out all the time, but it can still be hard to find them amid all the clutter. The Google Play App Roundup is all about clearing the junk out of the way so you can find the best apps. Just click on the app name to go straight to the Google Play Store and pick up the app yourself.

    News Pro

    There have been a number of news aggregation apps over the years that I've like, but it's hard to make a news app a viable project. For example, Circa News threw in the towel a while back after failing to generate profit. Microsoft certainly has no issues with cash flow, which has allowed the tech behemoth to devote some resources to its semi-experimental Garage project. The newst app from the Microsoft Garage is News Pro, which aims to pull together news from around the web, along with context that helps you dig deeper.

    News Pro includes logins for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and just an email address. If you add a social media account, News Pro will tailor the news it displays to your interests, or so it says. When you open News Pro, you get a list of highlights—basically stories the algorithm thinks you'll like. There's always a main source for a story, then below that is a scrolling carousel of in-depth coverage. When you get to the end of the slider, there's a link to view more, which opens a list of related articles.

    When you tap on a thumbnail to view the full story, News Pro loads the full website in a built-in-browser. A lot of apps are using Chrome custom tabs for rendering these days, but not News Pro. I suppose the developers did this so they could add a few things on top of the standard browsing experience. When the page is loading, you can tap the "speedy view" button at the bottom to switch to a stripped down version of the page. You'll basically just see images and the body text. There won't be any ads, social buttons, relates story slideshows, or any of the other clutter news websites seem so keen on lately. This version of the page is indeed speedy.

    The articles you read in News Pro also have a custom sharing interface. Tap the share button and you'll get a weirdly iOS-style menu offering options to annotate and share, or just comment and share. Annotation lets you draw over top of a screenshot of the article, then share it to Twitter or Facebook. There are different colors and line widths available. Comment and share is a more traditional link with text.

    There's a menu button on each story that appears in the highlight feed so you can mute a site you don't like or express a desire to see more or less things like it. The default stories I'm seeing after logging into News Pro range from very close to my interests to almost totally unrelated. There are more of the former than the latter, though. News Pro is solid for a first release, It'll be interesting to see what Microsoft does with it going forward, assuming it continues to work on it.

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.