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    Google Play App Roundup: TapPath, Duet, and Afterlight

    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.

    This week there's a new way to manage links, a killer rhythm game, and an app for making pretty pictures.

    TapPath

    The "complete action with" dialog in Android isn't perfect, but it's a problem several apps are trying to fix. The recently featured Better Open With is one way, but noted developer Chris Lacy is giving it a shot now as well. TapPath lets you send web links to different apps based on the number of times you tap it, which is pretty cool.

    Like most of these solutions, you need to set TapPath as the default handler for web links. Once that's done, you can open the TapPath app and choose your tap settings. It recognizes single, double, and triple taps. Simply set each one to a different app. So for example, I have a single tap set to open Chrome Beta, a double-tap for Link Bubble, and triple-tap for the share menu.

    TapPath can save you a lot of time when dealing with web links, but it's not perfect. If you are in an app that allows double-tap zooming, you have to be fairly precise with your taps. If you miss the link (in Gmail for example), the app will zoom instead of triggering Tap Path. Otherwise, TapPath should work as expected in any app system-wide. The app isn't just for browsers, though. You can set a different number of taps for anything from Pocket to Push Bullet.

    A small toast notification will pop up to tell you which tap sequence was recognized, just as confirmation everything is working as expected. TapPath works very well overall. It will occasionally see a single-tap for a double or triple, but there is a setting for the tap delay, which can be lengthened if you're having issues.

    TapPath will cost you a buck in the Play Store. It's at least worth checking out.

    Google Play App Roundup: Unclouded, Watercolors, and Skull of the Shogun

    Time once again to check in on what's new in the Play Store. This is the Google Play App Roundup where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just hit the links below to head right to the Play Store on your device. This week cloud storage gets more convenient, puzzles get more colorful, and the souls of your enemies will litter the battlefield.

    Unclouded

    There are official Dropbox and Drive apps, but they are far from the ideal interfaces for managing your files. The Dropbox app is looking increasingly ancient with each passing day, and the Drive app is better suited to messing with documents and spreadsheets. That's why Unclouded is a neat option for managing your online files. You can log into both Drive and Dropbox from this one app, and it has a free trial mode.

    The main screen in Unclouded shows you a cool pie graph of the currently selected storage account. It's a quick way to see how much free space you have, but it doesn't break things down any further on this screen. You can pull up the file explorer if you just need to move things around in your storage space. The interface for doing this is much more friendly than many apps--roughly a zillion times better than the Dropbox app. Unclouded has both list and grid views, but a dual pane option for landscape would have been nice.

    No matter how you sort the files, you can always tap on a file to download it to your device, but you can also share directly to a compatible app through the Android sharing menu. The only thing I'm missing here is the option to export to a specific folder on the device. As it currently stands, Unclouded automatically puts everything in a separate downloads folder on the phone or tablet. It might also be nice to have Unclouded as a sharing target for uploading files to Drive or Dropbox, but it's not necessary.

    One of the threads throughout in Unclouded is keeping abreast of how much free space you have. To that end, one of the coolest features available in the app is the duplicate file checker. Just select it from the nav menu and you'll get a list of all the matching files organized by size, Tapping on each line brings up all the dupes so you can decide which one to keep and which to toss. Likewise, you can sort the entire storage container by file types to figure out where all the space is going.

    The speed and ease of use here is far above what you'd find in the official Dropbox app, and still a little better than Drive. The interface is appropriately modern--it's a sort of newer Holo/card thing, not Material Design. The app certainly looks good and it makes it easy to see what's taking up all your cloud storage space. The basic version of Unclouded only has read access to your files. If you want to write files (i.e. actually manage anything) you'll need to buy the pro upgrade via an in-app purchase for $1.99. I'd say it's worth the price if you're fed up with substandard official cloud storage apps.

    Google Play App Roundup: Better Open With, Thomas Was Alone, and Solarmax 2

    You can stop wading through the mess of new apps arriving in the Play Store. This is the Google Play App Roundup, your weekly source for all things new and cool on Android. Just hit the links to open the Play Store on your device. See? Isn't that easier?

    This week we've got a new way to open links, a game about shapes, and a game with strategic appeal.

    Better Open With

    Android's "Complete action using" menu is used to choose specific apps to handle a type of link or file, but it can also set a permanent system-wide default. The two buttons "always" and "just once" are a little limiting, though. Better Open With replaces the standard menu in a clever way by providing you the option of rerouting links to different apps without giving up your default actions.

    To use Better Open With, you simply have to set it as the default for all your link types. So you'll select Better Open With and tap the "always" button. In the Better Open With application, you can set your preferred apps for each type of intent--audio, web, video stream, and so on. This allows Better Open With to pop up instead of the standard menu and route your selections itself.

    So why is it better if it's just another popup? When you've selected your preferred apps for Better Open With to feed links to, they will be highlighted in the popup. There's also a countdown at the bottom of the frame that tells you how long until the default option is automatically launched. You can still tap on a different app to use that one, but just give it a second and your link goes through without any additional fuss.

    The countdown for each link type is customizable, and you can pause the countdown at any point if you need a moment to decide. There are also a few interface options for color schemes and layouts.

    I was quite surprised how well Better Open With integrates with the system. Trying to replace system dialogs on Android has a tendency to be messy, but this works very well. If Better Open With doesn't have a protocol for a particular link, the system won't try to open it. You automatically fall back to the standard dialog.

    This app is a little light on settings at the moment, but it was spawned from a discussion on Reddit very recently. Better Open With is free and has no ads or sketchy permissions, so take it for a spin.

    Google Play App Roundup: Bamboo Paper, Wayward Souls, and Madefire

    Get ready to fire up the Play Store and load up some new apps and games, because it's time once again for the Google Play App Roundup. This is where you can come each and every week to find out what's cool and new on Android. Just hit the links to open the Play Store on your device.

    This week you can take notes and doodle in a new way, go on a quest that is sure to end in death, and experience comics in a whole new way.

    Bamboo Paper

    Wacom released the "memo" version of Bamboo paper for phones a few months ago, but now Android tablet users have access to the real deal. Bamboo Paper is a notebook app that lets you take notes, sketch, or just get your thoughts down on (virtual) paper quickly. The interface is designed for tablets, so it won't install on phones. If you check out Bamboo Paper now, you can get all the features for free too.

    The home screen in Bamboo Paper is just a scrollable list of your notebooks. You can change the colors, paper types, and names of each one. The notebook theme is carrier through the rest of the app, but it's not overbearing. I suppose I'd say Paper uses skeuomorphism to an acceptable degree--it never gets too out of hand.

    The notebooks work like, well... notebooks. You can swipe in from the edges to navigate between pages and choose if you want plain, lined, graph or dotted paper. A real notebook certainly doesn't have a menu bar at the top like the app does. This is where you choose the brush type, line thickness, and color. These are "brushes" in the technical sense, but they're mostly for writing and doodling. You won't find any advanced Photoshop-style brushes, but that's not really what Paper is all about.

    The menu bar also has controls for undo/redo, sharing, eraser, and image importing. Images are actually quite cool in Paper. You can pull in pictures from any service that has registered itself correctly with the OS. That means all your gallery apps, file managers, and the camera app should be there as options. You can paste these images into a notebook however you like by resizing, moving, and tilting with a multitouch gesture.

    You can use Bamboo Paper with a regular capacitive stylus or one of the ten capacitive styluses that are attached to your hand, but Wacom's Bamboo-branded styluses are the best way to do it. These devices connect to the tablet via Bluetooth and provide pressure-sensitive input and allows the app to ignore other inputs, like your palm resting on the screen. They're neat tools, but you'll pay $20-80 for the good ones. Anyone with a Galaxy Note tablet will be able to take advantage of some of that same functionality without buying a new stylus, though Wacom will sell special versions that offer an improved Paper experience on those devices as well.

    If you download Bamboo Paper now, you'll get all the tools for free. The iOS version sells most of the brushes and features as in-app add-ons. These will be added to the Android app later, but you can keep all of them on your device permanently as long as you act quickly.

    Google Play App Roundup: Notific, Fish Out of Water, and Magic 2015

    Time to check in on what's new in the Play Store. This is the Google Play App Roundup where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just hit the links below to head right to the Play Store on your device. This week there's another way to check your notifications, a game with fish, and a king of collectible card games is back.

    Notific

    Developers have really embraced Android's notification listener service in the last year, and Notific is yet another app that takes advantage of it to make your notifications a little more accessible. Notific will wake your display and let you manage incoming notifications without unlocking the device. This app borrows a bit from the Moto X's Active Display system in implementation, though not so much in actual appearance.

    If you've used an app like Peek or DynamicDisplay, you'll get the basic gist of Notific. After installing you need to enable the notification service and grant admin access so the app can shut your screen off after the appropriate length of time. By default, Notific reproduces all the high-priority notifications on your device (i.e. those with icons in the status bar) and wakes the screen. The full version also has a blacklist for apps you don't want to show up in Notific's management interface. There's also a whitelist mode that only produces notifications from the apps you select -- this is probably the best way to go if you have a lot of apps intsalled.

    Notific isn't quite as minimalist as most of the other implementations of this idea, but that might be okay for some users. It actually replications almost all the UI from the standard Android notification including buttons and full text previews. When the screen is woken up, you have the opportunity to deal not only with the new notification, but any others that might be waiting for you. you can swipe between notifications and dismiss, open, or use one of the action buttons. The lock icon at the bottom is used to either open or dismiss each notification individually.

    The default behavior is to have your homescreen background up behind the notification UI, but that can be changed. There's even an option in the newest version to change it to all black, which is better for AMOLED screens. For everyone else, the brightness of the background is adjustable.

    If you're on Android 4.4, Notific supports immersive mode and an "Android Wear" theme that (I think) looks much more modern than the standard Holo Dark theme. It separates the selection slider from the notification card and basically has a much more open design.

    I've been using DynamicNotifications for a number of months on several devices, but I find myself rather content with Notific. It has all the necessary options and the new theme is great. It's a bargain at $0.99 and there's even a trial on XDA.

    Google Play App Roundup: QCast Music, Leo's Fortune, and Lost Toys

    There's no need to scrounge around the new section of the Play Store hoping to pick up the handful of worthwhile additions. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is here to do. This is where you can come for the best new and newly updated stuff in the Play Store. Just hit the links to open the Play Store on your device.

    This week there's an app that makes Chromecasting more social, a game with serious polish, and a puzzler that

    QCast Music

    The Chromecast is a cool way to get some tunes going when you have people over, but it doesn't have any native multi-user functionality. Usually when someone else connects to the device, it switches over completely to that input. A new app called QCast Music is a little different. It pushes a playlist to the Chromecast that can be built by everyone in the room. All you need is one Google Play Music All Access account to make it all happen.

    To start using QCast, the "host" needs to connect to the Chromecast first using the QCast app. Host in this situation doesn't refer to the actual host of the party, just someone who wants to have full control of the playlist and also happens to have an All Access subscription. The app will request Google account access, and you're ready to start playing. Simply use the search button to find songs you want to add to the queue and they'll be played via the Chromecast (whatever it's plugged into).

    Other people can connect to the Chromecast to join the party and add songs to the queue, but you only need the one All Access account, which is really the beauty of this app. The songs are being added from the host's account, the other partygoers just have temporary access through the Qcast connection.

    As the songs cycle through, everyone connected to the party can use the app to downvote tracks they don't like. If a majority agree, the song is instantly skipped. It's a bit like Turntable.fm back when it launched, but for real life gatherings. The host always has the ability to manually remove tracks from the queue and control the volume.

    QCast is completely free to use, other than the All Access subscription. As for other services, the developers are investigating ways to plug into services like Spotify, but official Chromecast support for that service hasn't even arrived yet. Google Play All Access is the best solution for casting right now.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cyanogen Gallery, 99 Bricks Wizard Academy, and Blek

    It's time to make your phone better not through hard work and determination, but by installing some apps. That's a lot easier. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we find the best new and newly updated stuff on Android. Hit the links to open the Play Store.

    This week we've got a new gallery app, the anti-Tetris, and a game all about lines.

    Cyanogen Gallery

    Usually apps that start with "Cyanogen" have to do with installing a custom ROM, but not so with the new Cyanogen Gallery app. Well, it's not entirely new. This app was first posted when the OnePlus One began shipping and was exclusive to that phone, but it was recently expanded to all Android devices running 4.2 or higher. Considering some devices don't even have the stock Gallery app included anymore, this could be a worthy replacement.

    The layout of the Cyanogen Gallery app is nothing groundbreaking -- the slide-out nav bar on the left gives you access to an album view, all media, and moments. The moments view is essentially a cleaned up month-by-month layout, which is what the app defaults to. Moments also get split up by location, if you have geotags on your images. Below the view modes are your services, but that's a little misleading. After installing the app you have "internal" in that list, but you can also add cloud services like Google+, Facebook, and Dropbox.

    Once you've dropped more sources into Cyanogen Gallery, you can choose between them, then set your view. it's a nice way to handle your images if you've got a lot of duplicates on various services (ex. if you're using an auto-backup tool). When you open any of the photo groups (however you've decided to sort them) there will be a slideshow button up at the top, which is a nice touch. There's also Chromecast support backed into the app for throwing your images up on a bigger screen.

    Cyanogen Gallery seems to perform very well, even with big files. The cloud images take a moment to populate in the thumbnail view, but the full resolution version loads quickly when you tap. The only thing I'm really missing is a built-in image editor. A lot of gallery apps have some simple tools to crop or brighten a picture, but Cyanogen Gallery directs you to other installed apps when you choose Edit from the menu.

    Overall this is a solid replacement for the stock gallery app on most devices. I'm not sure it will become my go-to, but it's worth checking out.

    Google Play App Roundup: Udacity, Wave Wave, and Eliss Infinity

    Google I/O is over for this year, so it's back to the usual Android concerns for the time being, like finding the best new apps. You wouldn't want to miss anything, which is why the Google Play App Roundup exists. This is where you can find the best in new Android apps and games. Hit the links to load up the Play Store directly.

    This week there's a new way to learn to code, a game that you will love/hate, and an abstract puzzler.

    Udacity

    The Android version of Udacity has been a long time coming. The freemium technology education service has a website that anyone can use, but having access to course materials on the go is a big part of actually getting through it all. Udacity on Android offers courses like Intro to Java, Applied Cryptography, and Android development (which is fitting). Best of all, you can take any course for free.

    The app is laid out as a series of scrollable rows in each course category. There are a few dozen courses with more being added on a regular basis. Oddly, there isn't a search function that I could find, but there isn't enough content that it's a must-have, I suppose. You'll have to create a free Udacity account (which can be done entirely in the app) to add a course to your roster. You can always access that with the button in the upper right corner.

    This is the first release of Udacity on Android, and the developers have said up front that there are a few features missing that will be added in short order. For example, the videos that make up the courses are only available when you have an internet connection. Offline caching will be added soon, though. Some of the lessons also consist of quizzes about what you've learned about in the video lessons up to that point. This is another feature not currently working on Android. If you want to do the quizzes,. you'll need to use a browser. Although, the programming courses require the use of desktop software anyway. It's not the end of the world, and the devs are planning to clean this stuff up.

    The videos themselves are well-made with plenty of examples and almost excessively gentle instructors with disembodied hands. The basic courses won't take more than an hour or so to get through if you're just watching the videos. It's a lot more when you incorporate the projects associated with each course. The advanced classes contain several months of coursework.

    You can do all of this for free, but if you need one-on-one help from instructors, in-depth reviews of your work, or a certificate at the end of your training, you have to pay the subscription fee. Most of the intro courses don't have this option, but the more valuable advanced ones do, and it's a bit spendy. Many of them are $150 per month and are expected to take 2-3 months to complete.

    Despite a few missing features, Udacity looks like a cool way to learn a new skill on your Android device. I like that all the classes are available for free, and focusing on this one area of education ensures a high quality experience.

    Google Play App Roundup: Reddit Offline, Warhammer 40k: Carnage, and Fluid SE

    It's time again to delve into the depths of Google Play in search of the best new apps and games to make your Android device better. It's the same thing we do every week in the Google Play App Roundup. Just hit the links to go right to the Play Store.

    This week we've got a new way to Reddit, a game for Warhammer fans, and a racing game with a twist.

    Reddit Offline

    Yet another Reddit app? Yes, but this one has a specific reason to exist. You can probably guess what Reddit Offline does from the name -- it downloads the sub-Reddits of your choice so you can browse without a network connection. This app can pull down comments, posts, and even images on a schedule so you can kill time even when you're offline.

    Reddit Offline is not a particularly attractive app, but it's not going to make your eyes bleed either. It's just a little stark and utilitarian. The app consists of a scrollable list of Reddit posts and a drop-down selector up at the top with your chosen subs. There is no account login to deal with. Instead, you simply pick your favorites sections of Reddit manually and add them to the queue.

    Up at the top of the app is a button to download the current sub immediately, but the list popup can be used to grab more than one at the same time. There's a handy little bar graph next to each sub in this list that shows you how much of it has been downloaded and read. The full list of posts for each sub will have all the comments self posts and images associated with them. The only thing you don't get is an offline version of a webpage link, which is less common on Reddit than you might think.

    The main settings also have options to control how much storage space is taken up with cached Reddit data. A single sub could eat up most of that limit if there are some big Imgur albums, so you can even choose how many images are pulled from large albums.

    There are other apps with some limited offline caching abilities, but Reddit Offline also includes a scheduling feature to download your preferred subs automatically in the background. For example, if you work in a building that acts like a faraday cage and lacks WiFi, you can have content pulled each morning before you're out the door.

    Reddit Offline is a cool app, and it's free without any ads whatsoever.

    Google Play App Roundup: 1Password, Kiwanuka, and Great Little War Game 2

    The Play Store waits for no man -- the flow of new apps and games does not abate, not even for a moment. How are you supposed to find anything with all that stuff to dig through? You don't have to, thanks to the Google Play App Roundup. This is where you can come to find out about the best new and newly updates stuff in Google Play. Hit the links to grab the apps.

    This week there's a new way to manage your passwords, a game about human towers, and a great little war game.

    1Password

    If you're doing what you're supposed to with regard to passwords, they're supposed to be complicated. It helps to have something to help you remember all those logins, which is where 1Password comes in. It's a secure password database that you can access and sync across devices, and there's a new Android app that you can try for free until August 1st.

    This isn't the first 1Password app, actually. There was an older version, but it was incredibly out of date. Rather than try to fix that one, 1Password developed a new one from the ground up. Unlike Lastpass (the other big name in password management), 1Password gives you the option of managing your own password vault locally or on a private server (syncing is up to you). The keychain file is yours to do with as you like, but there is built-in support for Dropbox syncing.

    Despite the name, 1Password isn't only for passwords. You can use it to securely save text notes, credit card info, software licenses, and a ton more. You can add new entries in your database with the plus button in the action bar. The app can also be used to generate new passwords of varying lengths and strengths. The app requires your master password each time it's launched to unlock the keychain file, and it also prevents screenshots of the app's UI (hence the Play Store screenshots).

    You can tap on any of the passwords to see the full data set along with any notes, but the app also has a built-in browser to paste the passwords into fields automatically. The browser is intentionally stripped down and keeps no cache. That's not convenient if you happen across a website that needs a login with your regular browser, but 1Password can be used to copy the password to the clipboard (with auto-clear) as well.

    Google Play App Roundup: PowerDirector, Hitman GO, and Prime World: Defenders

    It's time once again to peer in the depths of Google Play and see what there is to download. This is the weekly Google Play App Roundup, your source for the newest apps and games on Android. Just hit the links below to open the Play Store and try things for yourself.

    This week we've got a video editor optimized for tablets, a new take on stealth action, and a tower defense card game.

    PowerDirector

    Android has been seriously lacking in robust video editing apps for basically its entire history. Oh, Google took a swing at that with the problem with the release of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but it didn't go well. Movie Studio was demoed a few times, saw a few updates, and was even preinstalled on devices up through Android 4.0.However, Google lost interest and canned the app in 2013. Now there's a new high-end video editing option on Android tablets, PowerDirector from CyberLink.

    PowerDirector can work with a variety of modern codecs including VP8, H.263/264, and MPEG-4. Basically almost any video you take or come across online should plug into PowerDirector just fine. It also handles images and audio in almost any format. Your content will be listed in the box on the upper left for addition to the timeline. Simply long-press and drag it where you want it.

    The PowerDirector interface is split up into three section, the first being the aforementioned content area. There are tabs that list all your videos, images, and audio. Then the next three tabs contain the built-in assortment of filters, text effects, and transitions. Toward the top right is the preview thumbnail, which is where you can see your creation simulated before output. It won't be as smooth as the final product if you've added a lot of effects and such, but it seems reasonably accurate.

    The bottom section of the app is where all the action happens. There are three segments of the timeline -- video, text, and audio. It only takes a few minutes to understand the gist of how PowerDirector works. Drag the video you want to work with into the video area and scrub around to see how it looks. If you need to chop it up, just use the button at the bottom to make cuts and drag the segments around or delete them as needed. You can also stretch or compress segments to change the time scale.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (May 2014)

    We've hit most of the high points for flagship phones in 2014 now, but some questions remain unanswered. What about the Moto X+1, and is the LG G3 going to be any good when it finally hits shelves? Well, in lieu of answers, the best we can do is help you find the best phone available for purchase right now on the big four US carriers. Samsung and HTC continue to duke it out, but there are a few wild cards that might also grab your attention.

    AT&T

    AT&T isn't particularly kind to modders and software developers who want unlocked bootloaders, but Ma Bell does have a nice selection of Android phones, plus compatibility for more if you're willing to go outside the official lineup of phones. Starting in house, we've still got the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, but there are a few new considerations.

    The Galaxy S5 packs some of the best hardware you'll find in a modern smartphone including a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked to 2.5GHz, 2800mAh, 2GB of RAM, and a lovely 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen. I don't consider myself unduly fond of AMOLEDs, but this is a fantastic display. The colors are bright, but not too saturated and the whites are actually pretty close to white. It also has a killer 16MP camera.

    Samsung's flagship device doesn't radically change the design aesthetic, but it's more solid than past devices from the Korean OEM. The GS5 is made of plastic, but the device has a strong mid-frame that most of the components are mounted to. This helps with the water resistant aspect of the device. It's IP67 rated, which means it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

    Circling around the the software, Samsung has done a lot to make the GS5 better. It's running Android 4.4.2 right now, which is still the current Nexus build. The TouchWiz UI layer is actually almost completely inoffensive now. I'm not a fan of the insistence on hiding the status bar in most of the stock apps, but the color palette and overall design language is much more mature. It also seems more than fast enough, and hasn't slowed down for me in the last month or so. Sadly, you don't get download booster mode on the AT&T variant.

    At $199 on contract it's a solid purchase, but you can, grab the newly announced Galaxy S5 Active. It's got the water and dust resistance credentials, but it also ruggedized and can withstand drops of four feet without trouble. It's also $199 on contact.

    Google Play App Roundup: Sunrise Calendar, Worms 3, and Nun Attack Origins: Yuki

    We're once again hanging over the abyss, ready to dive in and seek out the best new and newly updated content in the Google Play App Roundup. Just hit the links to head right to the Play Store to pick up these apps yourself.

    This week there's a new calendar in town, the Worms are back, and nuns attack.

    Sunrise Calendar

    One of main selling points of Android way back at the beginning was integration with Google's services, like Gmail, Maps, and of course, Calendar. The Calendar app has been tweaked over the years, but it's still very plain and doesn't lead when it comes to features. So a third-party alternative? There are some good ones, but top iOS app Sunrise Calendar has just come to town. Maybe it'll be your new Google replacement.

    If you've ever used Cal or Fantastical, there are some elements of Sunrise that will look familiar. The main screen is split into two parts -- the agenda view at the bottom and the calendar at the top. The top section only shows two weeks by default, but expands to four when you scroll. You can also scroll through the bottom of the UI with the agenda to slip seamlessly between days. it also includes weather forecasts in the agenda.

    Sunrise has a cool way of helping you keep your bearings as you swipe and scroll around. Navigate away from the current time in the agenda, and a small arrow button pops up in the corner. It rotates to point the way toward the here and now, essentially spinning to straight up and down if you go more than a few lines. At any time you can tap that arrow to get back to the present.

    The second screen in Sunrise Calendar is a more traditional 3-day agenda view. You can get to this screen by dragging to the right (or hit the view button in the action bar). You can slide around every which way here and that nifty arrow still appears to help you find your way back home.

    The overall design language is very clean and mature. The developers also went out of their way to adopt an Android vibe for this app -- it's not just a port of the iOS app. There are some card views in the event details screen and it makes proper use of expandable notifications with action buttons. Additionally, there's a widget, and it's really good. Sunrise works great with Google Calendar, properly receiving invitations and pushing notifications, but there's also iCloud and Facebook support.

    The only pain point for me right now is an apparent lack of search functionality. Some people might have an issue with the lack of Exchange support as well. Otherwise, Sunrise Calendar is a fine addition to Android, and it's free.

    Google Play App Roundup: Peek, OTTTD, and Blazin' Aces

    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.

    This week a custom ROM feature comes to all devices, tower defense goes over-the-top, and the skies are not safe.

    Peek

    It's not often that one of the headlining features of a popular ROM is ported in its entirety to unrooted devices, but that's exactly what just happened with the Peek feature from Paranoid Android. This is a way to manage your notifications without unlocking your device simply by picking it up. The feature comes to all Android 4.4 devices thanks to the hard work of original creator Jesús David Gulfo Agudelo and noted dev Francisco Franco.

    The basic gist of Peek is that when your phone gets a notification, you can pick it up and the screen will automatically turn on. The specialized display shows you a series of small icons representing your notifications with the most recent one on a larger slider. Just drag it to the left to dismiss, and to the left to unlock the device. tapping on the active icon will unlock the device to that notification.

    Keeping the sensors running to detect movement all the time would be messy and kill battery life. Peek gets around that by only activating the motion sensors when a new notification comes in. When that happens, you get about 10 seconds of wake time when you can scoop the device up and have the screen flip on. After that, it's back to deep sleep. I've been watching battery life since installing Peek, and so far there haven't been any unusual wakelock issues.

    The current settings are a bit limited. You can choose which apps will trigger Peek, and that's about it. The developers plan to add a lot more to it, including background options. Currently, you just see a blurred version of your desktop background, which does actually look rather nice. An all-black option might be better for devices with AMOLED screens. Likewise, I'd really like to see the option to have custom screen timeouts.

    Peek is not without its bugs right now. you'll want to reboot your device after installing, and that should take care of most of the issues. I find that it fails to initialize occasionally on the Nexus 5, but that's far from the norm. I suppose the best reason to go with this version of Peek and not one of the other apps built from the open source code is that it comes from the original developer and the app is sure to get a lot of attention from two well-known developers. It's $4 in the Play Store, but it is a neat way to make your phone more useful.

    Google Play App Roundup: Bright Weather, Portal/Half-Life 2, and Monument Valley

    Big things are happening in the Play Store, and we're here to make sure you know what's what, just like every week. This is the Google Play App Roundup with the best new apps and games on Android. Just click the links to head right to the Play Store.

    This week there's a new weather app from a big developer, a pair of Valve games on Android, and one of the most beautiful games on Android.

    Bright Weather

    Do you really need another weather app? Maybe not objectively, but this isn't just any weather app. Bright Weather is made by LevelUp Studio, the developer behind Beautiful Widgets and other wildly popular apps. Right out of the gate it's probably one of the best looking Android weather apps, and it has some cool widgets (obviously).

    The app itself has seen some tweaks since it was released last week. There are two panels with the left one being the "main" page. This has the current conditions and a timeline of the temperature. The timeline also contains hourly conditions down at the bottom. This left screen is just a very basic glanceable interface, but the other one is jampacked with data.

    On the right panel you'll gain get the current conditions up top with a smaller timeline below it. There are also readouts for wind, "feels like" temperatures, forecasts, and a weather map. You can actually tap on a number of these elements to expand more information in the app. For example, any of the daily forecast squares can be tapped to open a small window with detailed forecast information. Tapping on the map goes to a full-screen version as well. The map is fine for the basics, but this is one area I'd like to see some improvements in Bright Weather. It doesn't have animations and some of the view options are a bit blocky.

    The background is pulled from Bing every day with a little gaussian blur and dim effect. It's a cool look, and you can use the same background for the widgets. There are 4x2 and 4x1 versions, and the 4x2 includes the ability to have a clock or extended forecast in addition to the conditions.

    One more interesting thing in Bright Weather is the smart notification system. It does the usual severe weather alerts, but you also get handy weekly weather forecasts and freezing point warnings in your notifications (these are the defaults). You can add new notifications for general forecasts on your schedule or set custom thresholds for notifications. I'm less enthused about the option of taking pictures with the forecast overlayed -- that seems weird, but I guess if you like to brag about your weather, it's maybe of interest.

    Bright Weather is free to try with a few ads. The full version upgrade is $2.79 via an in-app purchase.

    Google Play App Roundup: Yahoo News Digest, Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage, and CastleStorm

    There's no doubt Android apps and games are of much higher quality than they once were, but there's also plenty of junk to dig through in Google Play. That's the way it is in any modern app store -- you need someone to help you find the good stuff, and that's us. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool on Android. Click the links to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.

    This week there's a new way to consume the news, a game with frozen Vikings, and a cool action game.

    Yahoo News Digest

    Yahoo's Android design has been a little (okay, a lot) hit and miss. Some apps adhere fairly well to the Android guidelines, but others are aggravatingly out of date. The new Yahoo News Digest has a slick interface that, while not a traditional Android UI, fits within the broad strokes of the platform. This app is intended to be a quick and easy way to catch up on the biggest stories of the day in one place.

    Loading the app for the first time gives you the gist of Yahoo News Digest. You'll get eight or nine fresh stories twice per day with optional notifications when new content is available. The stories are chosen based on your location, but it's only targeted at the US, Canada, the UK, and international, whatever that means. The stories run the gamut from politics to the arts, but only the biggest stories will be in the top list. You can scroll down to the bottom of the UI to get some additional stories that didn't quite make the cut for the main list.

    This isn't just an app for organizing traditional news stories. Yahoo News Digest is an editorially driven aggregator of all the available information on a particular topic. It's very much like Circa, which came to Android a few months back. Editors summarize the story with links to the sources they used, but this app also pulls in additional content like videos, tweets, maps, images, and Wikipedia entries. It's like a living news story that does all the research for you.

    You really have to try this app to get the full picture -- it's so responsive and the sliding animations are awesome. When you're in the main story stream, sliding left and right navigates between different news stories. Scrolling up and down goes through the current story. As you hit the top of the summary and scroll down, the content pane slides over and fades the header image, which looks really cool.

    I also really like that you can go back and look at other digests you may have missed by opening the overflow menu. This UI also shows you how long until the next new batch of stories is ready. The home screen widget for News Digest is a stack of cards not unlike Google's YouTube widget, but it's an odd 3x2 size.

    Overall, Yahoo News Digest is one of the most enjoyable news apps I've seen on Android in recent memory. It's free and has no ads, so check it out.

    Google Play App Roundup: Versus, Bridge Constructor Medieval, and Flashout 2

    What's a new week without some apps to help you get it started? Not just any apps, though. You want the kind of cool stuff that we bring you every week in there Google Play App Roundup. Just click thy the links to hear right to Google Play.

    This week we compare similar things, build some bridges, and win the rave at all costs.

    Versus

    Making choices is hard, right? Versus is a service that indexes a ton of products (and other stuff) so you can easily compare them. The website isn't the most attractive or intuitive, especially on a mobile device, but the new Android app is more usable. Just type something in, and compare it to a similar product.

    This is a straightforward experience based on simple swipe navigation. When you open the app, you're prompted to search for something -- almost any technology product, but you can also input a city, university, and a few other things you might not expect. The app loads up a cool interface with big high-resolution images of the products side-by-side.

    All the specifics are off to the sides, so drag to the right to see the strong points of that product, and slide the other way for the other. The way the app centers the images gives it a neat look as you scroll through the reasons -- there's just half the product image visible at any time.

    The reasons are all crowdsourced and upvoted based on accuracy and helpfulness. If you scroll way down to the bottom, you're going to see some foolish stuff, but most of the highly-ranked reasons are valid. For example, if you're comparing the Nexus 5 to the LG G2, the app tells you the Nexus 5's advantages include that it's slightly lighter, less expensive, and gets updates from Google. The LG G2, on the other hand, has a bigger battery, higher resolution camera, and has a much higher screen-to-bezel ratio.

    Versus gives you direct comparisons of how each product is better than the other, but also some reasons that may overlap. I've found Versus to be good for comparing anything where the spec lists are relevant. So, phones, tablets, cameras, CPUs, smart watches, and so on. When the decision is to be made on more subtle grounds, Versus isn't quite as useful. It also lets you compare things that don't have much in common. You can still compare a Nexus 5 and the Xbox One, but I don't know why you would.

    If you want to vote on reasons or add your own, you'll need a Facebook account. Yeah, it's a bummer, but that looks like the backbone of the web version as well. It's still usable without logging in, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Fenix for Twitter, Abyss Attack, and Xcom: Enemy Unknown

    Another week is upon us, and that means more apps and games have flooded into the Play Store. We're here to help you figure out which to scoop up, and which to ignore with the Google Play App Roundup. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    This week there's a slick new Twitter client, a game deep underwater, and a big console hit comes to Android.

    Fenix for Twitter

    There are plenty of Twitter clients out there, but with Twitter's API limits there really have to be. When an app hits 100k users, it's game over. So maybe you have to hop around a bit, but Fenix is an app you might want to hop to. This is a very clean and responsive client that's optimized for both phones and tablets.

    The first thing you'll notice about Fenix is that it's super-Holo -- not that this is a bad thing. It has one of the best implementations of Google's Android design guidelines I've ever seen in a Twitter client. Your various timelines are in swipable columns, but there is also a slide-out navigation bar on the left. This bar also contains your profile information at the top, just like Google's apps do.

    In addition to the standard Twitter columns all apps implement, Fenix also has a live streamed activity section. Yes, like an increasing number of clients, Fenix has support for push updates of new Tweets. It's a great feature to have, but regular background refreshing is there too. I also quite like the way it handles conversation threads. If you tap on a tweet that's part of a conversation, the conversation page loads with that tweet at the top and the various responses below, but you can also scroll up to see the tweets it was responding to, even if you weren't in the loop.

    On a phone the layouts is about what you'd expect, but tablets use a dual-pane view when in landscape mode. This lets you open a tweet to view it on one side while still scrolling through the timeline on the other. Fenix includes three themes as well -- light, dark, and black (for AMOELDs).

    Again, with posting tweets you'll see a full suite of features. There's URL shortening, image uploads, and username auto-complete. I also like that you have your choice of using the 'plus' button at the top or a swipe from the right to compose a new tweet -- some devs get a little too creative with this, but it's pretty straight forward in Fenix.

    There is one thing that bums me out about this app -- there's no widget. That isn't a huge deal for everyone, but I tend to read a lot of Tweets on the home screen. If the dev adds a good scrollable widget, it might make Fenix very nearly perfect. It's still very good as is, and might warrant a $2.49 investment.

    Google Play App Roundup: Google Camera, Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Hopeless: Space Shooting

    There are a ton of great apps and games in Google Play, and they're not just going to download themselves. Are they? If they are, we have something of a mystery to solve. In the meantime, let's see what's cooking in the Play Store with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. Just click the links to head right to the Play Store page and check out the apps for yourself.

    This week we've got a new stock camera app, a game with spider men, and a space shooter with marshmallow men.

    Google Camera

    Google's camera revamp didn't come soon enough to help the Nexus 5 at launch, but now Mountain View's camera app has been updated and launched in the Play Store. That means you can install it on any device, but Nexus and Google Play Edition devices will benefit the most. This app removes some of the more advanced features that had little use and adds afew new things along with a spiffy new interface,

    The first thing to address is the capture button, which is pretty big now. This is good as it's easy to press, but some seem like a poor use of space. However, this big button solves a major issues with Nexus device cameras. The Nexus 5 takes 4:3 images (as do most other devices in the line) at 8MP. The old camera app filled the viewfinder, but it's a 16:9 screen. Thus, the top and bottom of the frame were cut off in the preview. This made it very hard to frame a shot well. With this update, the camera viewfinder now has a true 4:3 ratio. On devices that do take 16:9 images, the button is semi-transparent so you can still see the whole frame.

    The settings are now off to the left and can be brought up with a swipe. This is where all the main capture modes are found, and also links to the main app settings (not very easy to find there, Google). You have stills, video, Photosphere, panorama, and lens blur. Yes, the lens blur option is new -- apparently that's the hot new thing for a camera to do.

    The lens blur effect in the Google Camera is a bit awkward, but the results are pretty good. All you have to do is snap a picture and slowly pan the phone upward, keeping it pointed at the subject. After that you can tap on areas of the photo to focus and apply lens blur behind that point. It's not as easy to capture, but still does what it says. There is also a bit of rendering time for each image and they are scaled down to about 2000 pixels tall.

    With lens blur effect

    The image quality will vary depending on your device, but I'm seeing a modest improvement on the Nexus 5. The Galaxy S5 doesn't seem to like the focus system in the Google Camera, though. You can still take HDR shots in the still camera and Photospheres are now much higher resolution. Unfortunately, some settings like white manual white balance are not included at this time.

    The Google Camera is free and it's worth checking out to see if it does better on your device than the included solution. Of course, anyone running a stock device or an AOSP-based ROM should get on this ASAP.

    Google Play App Roundup: Today Calendar, The Walking Dead, and Wind-up Knight 2

    A new week has dawned, and there are new smartphones hitting the streets. You want to have the latest and greatest apps for your new purchase, right? That's what we bring in the weekly Google Play App Roundup -- all the content that's fit for your Android device. Just lick the links to head right to the Play Store.

    This week we've got a new calendar, a game with zombies, and a fabulous platformer.

    Today Calendar

    Your phone comes with some version of the Android calendar app, whether it's a custom solution from the OEM with Google's account back end added, or the Play Store version of the Google app. Today Calendar is freshly out of beta and could give all those other solutions a run for their money. However, you're going to have to part with a little of YOUR money to find out.

    Today Calendar is based on the AOSP calendar app, but has some UI tweaks and additional features built-in. The interface has been cleaned up in this app when compared to the stock app. The gray-on-gray UI is gone, replaced instead with accented whites and a blue action bar. It's interesting that this app now looks a little more like a modern Android app than Google's own calendar app.

    There are still weekly and agenda views, and they haven't changed much beyond some performance and UI optimizations. The month view is where all the really cool things are happening in Today Calendar. Rather than have a stretched-out month-long calendar taking up the entire screen, Today Calendar integrates an agenda with the calendar. The developer calls this the All-In-One view, which pretty much explains it. You can tap on any day from the calendar in the top half of the screen to see the agenda for that day in the bottom half. It's really the best of both worlds, and much more useful than other views. You can also swipe to move between days in the All-In-One view.

    The app itself is great, but that's only part of what you get with Today Calendar. Buying this app also gives you the Today Widgets, which are available as a separate purchase as well. These are highly-configurable, scroallable calendar widgets -- both month and agenda view -- with multiple themes and options. Settings for these widgets are available when you place them, or from within the Today Calendar app.

    Today Calendar will run you $2.99, but it's definitely something you should consider as a replacement for your current calendar app. Even if you end up not liking the app, the widgets can be used independently and linked with a shortcut to the stock app.