Latest StoriesAndroid App Roundup
    Google Play App Roundup: ClickMe, Ski Safari 2, and Paper Monsters Recut

    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.


    Your phone rides around in your pocket all day most likely, so it's an ideal vehicle for personal reminders. There are tons of apps that offer this functionality, and even Google Now offers a reminder feature. ClickMe doesn't have as many features as most reminder apps, but it lets you set reminders insanely fast.

    There are several ways to access the reminder features of ClickMe, the most obvious being to simply open the app. There isn't much to get the hang of in ClickMe. The app defaults to listing your last phone call as the "subject" of the reminder, but you can also tap the new reminder or contact button to remove the phone number. Simply fill in a subject and tap the button below with the desired time until you'll be reminded. That can be as little as 10 minutes or as long as a week in a single tap. There's a calendar button if you want to do a different amount of time. If you use one of the default buttons, that's it -- the reminder is set.

    I think what makes ClickMe interesting is the way it inserts itself into the user experience when you're doing other things. For example, when you finish on a call, ClickMe pops up a small bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to set a reminder to call the person back in a single tap. This bar times out in a few seconds, and you can disable it completely if you want. The other optional integration is with screenshots. Whenever you take a screenshot, ClickMe pops up (in full screen this time) so you can set a reminder with the screenshot attached. This might be handy if you want to remind yourself to deal with an email or text message. Just take a screenshot and tap a single button in ClickMe to set a reminder.

    In the app, you've got a section where all your active and completed reminders can be found. The app also contains a voice input button if you want to speak instead of type. Next to that is the camera button if you want to attach a photo to the reminder. Whenever you set a reminder (however you do it) ClickMe closes immediately afterward. It's designed to get out of your way as much as possible.

    The reminders pop up with a UI that lets you quickly mark as complete, or place a call/send a message if there's a contact or phone number attached. I only wish the visual style was a little more consistent with Android. ClickMe is also free and has no in-app purchases.

    Google Play App Roundup: DAEMON Sync, Lost Qubixle, and HoPiKo

    The week is just getting started, but you can ease the transition with some new apps and games. You've come to the right place too. This is the Google Play App Roundup, the weekly feature where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store.

    DAEMON Sync

    Google, Dropbox, and many others offer data backup services on Android, but most solutions rely on the cloud, even if all you want is a quick way to get files to your PC. They go up to the internet, then back down to an internet-connected computer. Why bother with that if all you want is local sync? That's what DAEMON Sync offers.

    DAEMON Sync comes from the developers of that popular disc image manager of yesteryear, DAEMON Tools. I know it still exists, but does anyone really use it anymore? At any rate, DAEMON Sync connects to a desktop client on your local WiFi and sends files over without using the internet. The setup process is incredibly quick too. All you need to do is download the app, install the desktop client, and enter the PIN code provided by the PC client in the phone. That ties them together for sync. There's no account to set up and no passwords to remember.

    The desktop software doesn't have a lot of settings, but I'd suggest you move the data folder to a more logical location. The default is in the public users folder of Windows (I'm not sure where it is on OS X). The app has most of the sync settings, and there are a few cool things there. During the setup process, you'll be able to decide what you want to sync, with the defaults being images, videos, and screenshots. Each one gets its own folder on the computer, which is nice. They're also broken out be device, which is great if you have several phones syncing to a single PC. There's also a handy option to add custom folders, so anything you add there will be sent over to the PC.

    Having individual folders for each device is useful when browsing the server, which you can do from the DAEMON Sync app. It has a tab for photos, one for videos, and another for other files. In the nav menu, you can toggle between viewing all devices and a single one of your choosing.

    Because this is all happening over the local network, the sync speed is fantastic. New images pop up on your computer in a fraction of the time it would take for the to be uploaded to a cloud service, then downloaded by the computer. Obviously, the main drawback here is that your files are not being kept off-site. Your safeguards are only as strong as your personal backup solution.

    Google Play App Roundup: ADV Screen Recorder, Sky, and David.

    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.

    ADV Screen Recorder

    The history of screen recording on Android is a long and confusing one. It used to be that you needed root access to capture a video of your screen, but in KitKat Google added an ADB method for developers. In Android 5.0 we finally got a proper recording method that could be triggered without root by a regular app. There have been several quality apps to come out since then that let you record the screen, but ADV Screen Recorder might have a leg up on all of them.

    The way you start a recording varies a lot between apps, and can be pretty clumsy. Ideally, you don't want to have the recording app at the beginning of all your videos, so countdowns are pretty common after you trigger a recording. ADV uses a floating button in the upper right corner instead (on top of the clock). Once you tap the record button, you have to grant access as with all apps. However, ADV just places the floating button on the screen at that point and you can leave the app to get ready for your recording.

    Tapping the floating button (which doesn't show up in the video) will start the recording. Another tap will stop the recording and a long press activates drawing mode. This is really cool for making demos and how-to videos. You get a little toolbar in the upper left when you activate this mode where you can choose a color and undo lines if you like. When you close the toolbar, your screen is wiped clean. There's an advanced recording mode that also lets you pause the recording at any point with a double-tap in the clock area.

    In the settings, you'll also find another unique feature. ADV has support for front-facing camera overlays (with opacity controls). It's got microphone recording as well, but that's available in most screen-recording apps. Together, you can use these features to record yourself talking about what you're doing on the screen in the video. There are also various quality settings to fiddle with.

    When you finish a recording, a heads-up notification lets you immediately view, delete, or trim it. Yes, ADV has a built-in video editor, but it's very basic. You can cut a few seconds from the beginning or end of the video, but that's still a nice extra.

    ADV Screen Recorder is completely free and there are no ads that I've seen. It has great features and seems to work flawlessly. It's probably going to be my new go-to screen recording app.

    Google Play App Roundup: ClearLock, Random Fighters, and Hotline Miami 2

    The time has come again to shine a light into all the shadowy corners of Google Play to find the best new and newly updated stuff for your phone or tablet. The Google Play App Roundup is where you can come every week to see what's cool on Android, and this week is no exception. Click on the links to head right to Google Play and download them for yourself.


    Smartphones sure are amazing devices, brimming with all manner of entertaining apps, games, and other ways to amuse yourself. That can be a big problem when you're supposed to be getting some work done, though. That's why ClearLock exists -- to keep you from getting distracted. It's not the only app to attempt to lock you out of your phone, but it's probably the most elegant I've seen.

    Locking yourself out of your phone doesn't sound like a good idea, but ClearLock lets you do it very selectively in the interest of productivity. After installing the app, you'll need to grant it access to usage restrictions in your security settings. The app will link you to the appropriate menu to do so. It needs this low-level access so it can automatically kill apps that you don't want to be tempted by.

    To set up ClearLock, simply scroll down the list any flip the switch on any app you think might prove to be a distraction. ClearLock makes some suggestions when you install it -- basically all social apps, games, and messaging services. After you've selected your favorite things that you cannot be trusted with, tap the "play" button at the bottom to lock everything down. ClearLock will ask you to set a timer, which can be anything from 10 minutes to three hours.

    When you attempt to open one of the offending apps, ClearLock instantly kills the foreground process. A toast notification lets you know ClearLock killed the app, just in case you'd forgotten. There are ways around this if you know what you're doing, but they're inconvenient enough to stop you from absentmindedly getting lost in Facebook or whatever. Restarting the phone will immediately unlock all the offending apps, as well digging into the app manager and manually killing the ClearLock process.

    ClearLock is a handy app to have around if you need to be getting work done or you're simply in a social setting where phone use would be impolite. It's free and there are no in-app purchases to unlock additional functionality.

    Google Play App Roundup: Scout Launcher, Goat Simulator MMO Simulator, and Into the Void

    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

    Scout Launcher

    The name Scout Launcher is new, but that app is only new in a certain sense of the word. Until recently, Scout was called Bento Launcher, and it was available as a closed beta app on the Play Store. However, it's now been opened up to everyone with a new name and some new functionality. It's interesting because Scout isn't just another riff on AOSP styling, but it might not be for everyone.

    Scout is split up into three basic sections. On the center panel you've got a series of cards that scout pulls from various online services and local content. There's notifications, weather, YouTube, Yelp, news, SoundCloud, Reddit, and more. You can configure each one or disable them altogether. You can even log into several of the cards for a more personalized experience. For example, the Reddit card can show content from your customized front page instead of the default subs. You can scroll up and down to see all the sections, and in several places (like news) you scroll side to side to see more content.

    I actually quite like the news card because it doesn't just grab RSS snippets. When you open a story, Scout loads a webview browser so you can see full entire text. The notification card is also neat as you can use it to filter out apps you don't need to see right on the home screen. Scout's "thing" is to keep you from needing to open a ton of different apps, so even when you tap on home screen content, it usually opens it up within the launcher. It's not just news, YouTube and SoundCloud also do this.

    If you swipe left in Scout, you get a search panel, but you can actually get the same thing by tapping in the search box at the top of the screen. This seems like a poor use of space to me. Swiping to the right gets you the Spaces interface. This is the other big component of Scout. Each space is a collection of apps in a general category. For example, entertainment or utilities. These are auto-categorized, and they seem accurate to me. You can customize them however you like as well. The full app list is available at the bottom of the screen in the main panel along with recent apps in a scrolling favorites bar.

    Scout is still in beta, so I can understand a few rough edges. It would be nice to have more control over card position, and there aren't many appearance settings. I also feel like the side-to-side scrolling in some sections of the main panel makes it too hard to get over to the spaces. These are all fixable problems, though. Scout is a neat take on the home screen, and it's completely free.

    Google Play App Roundup: TUFFS Notification Shortcuts, Framed, and Lara Croft GO

    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.

    TUFFS Notification Shortcuts

    There are various ways to quickly access your apps on Android, but the notification shade is always just a swipe away. TUFFS Notification Shortcuts is a new app that lets you add custom shortcuts to the notification area, but unlike similar apps, it doesn't need a background service and won't take up space in the status bar or on the lock screen.

    The TUFFS shortcuts will appear in a notification item directly below the system UI in your notification shade. There are five icons in a single row to start, but you can increase the number of icons, and even add a second row. Apps are probably the most likely use for this, but you can also drop in any shortcut supported by your apps or system. For example, contacts, Maps directions, Drive files, and so on.

    By default, TUFFS shortcuts are hidden from the lock screen and status bar, which I think makes the most sense. This way it doesn't take up any space when it's not of use to you. Still, you can change that option if you want, but it means a status bar icon. There are actually plenty of settings to mess with. To make it blend in better with the system UI, you can change the icon framing (or shut it off), remove the labels, or even change the background color of the notification.

    Launching apps and shortcuts from TUFFS seems to work exactly as you'd expect. It's just like having an icon on your home screen, but it's in the notification shade. If you're having trouble matching the exact color and style of your phone, check the themes out. The developer has helpfully included several pre-packaged themes that match stock Android, Samsung, HTC, and a few more.

    The app is free to try, and most of the options are unlocked in this version. In the premium tier are a few themeing options, but most importantly, auto-start on reboot. There's an in-app purchase of $0.99 to permanently unlock all the features. If you like the idea of having shortcuts in your notifications, this is a pretty good way to do it.

    Google Play App Roundup: Floatify, Pac-Man 256, and Gathering Sky

    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.


    Android 5.0 added the heads-up notification paradigm and did away with our beloved statusbar ticker text. We mourn its loss, but life goes on. Floatify came out a while ago to make heads-up notifications a bit less annoying, and a new update (V8.0) really takes it to a whole new level. I haven't had a chance to cover this one in the past, so now seems as good a time as any.

    After setting up Floatify as a notification handler, it can essentially take over for the heads-up notifications built into Android 5.0 and higher. When you get a notification, the floatify banner will slide in from the top of the screen. You can do several things with this, depending on your settings. You can swipe up to hide, to the side to dismiss, and down to open all your notifications.

    What's new in this update is an improved version of quick reply called direct reply. Confusing names aside, what this means is that you can swipe down on a messaging notification to get a quick reply box. Just type your message and send it off. Yes, basically like iOS. The direct reply feature is a way to add some canned responses to your messaging drop-down. You can configure these in the settings to say whatever you want. Want to reply "okay, cool" or "you smell" without typing? That can be arranged.

    Floatify also extracts media playback controls from the stock notifications now. So each time a new song starts playing, you get a heads-up with the artist/song and playback controls in case you want to pause or skip. These can be hidden like any other heads-up too.

    Floatify is designed to work on the lock screen as well as elsewhere in the UI. You can disable the lock screen feature if you want, but leaving it enabled means you'll want to turn off the stock notification content so you don't double up. Floatify also tends to pop up notifications far unimportant things by default. You can tweak all that stuff in the settings as well. The basic settings are free, but a pro unlocker app ($2.49) is needed to access everything.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cinnamon, Fallout Shelter, and Shooting Stars

    Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but not because of what Google built in. Developers have access to all sorts of hooks in the system to make your phone do amazing things, you just have to find the right apps. That's what the weekly Google Play App Roundup is all about -- helping you find the right apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store and pick it up yourself.


    Shopping lists are one of the few use cases we all have in common when it comes to mobile devices. You've got a touchscreen computer in your pocket at the store, so why not use it to keep track of purchases. Annoyingly, many of the shopping list apps on Android are clunky, missing features, or just plain ugly. Cinnamon is a new shopping app that has none of those shortcomings, and you can try it for free.

    You'll notice straight away that Cinnamon is a fully material design app. The status bar, navigation menu, FAB, and everything else is in line with the guidelines. You can add items quickly with the FAB in the lower right corner. Cinnamon keeps a list of possible items so you only have to type a few characters to find the right one. When you add things to your list, they're automatically categorized, but you can choose how you want the list sorted in the overflow menu (a handy feature). To mark items complete, you swipe to the right. Swiping to the left deletes an item completely.

    Cinnamon is, in some ways, more than just a shopping list app. When you mark items complete on your list, they go into the cart section of the app. When you clear the cart, those items are moved into the pantry. You can use this to keep track of what you've purchased recently and what you've still got at home. I also quite like the bundles feature where you can add several items to a bundle, then add all of those items to the list. You can also attach costs to all the items on your list to see a running total while you shop.

    This is all for the main list, but you can, of course, add additional lists to the app. Those lists can be synced to multiple devices, but only if you've got a premium version of the app (it only costs a buck). While Cinnamon is rather full featured for being a new app, I still wish there was Android Wear support. List apps are one of the few truly useful applications for a smartwatch in my estimation. A widget might be a nice extra as well. The developer has already committed to getting Android Wear support, barcode scanning, and support for notes.

    Cinnamon is worth checking out as the free version does have a fair bit of functionality. Note, there are ads in the free version, but the premium upgrade removed them.

    Google Play App Roundup: Snowball 2.0, Cosmonautica, and GLITCH

    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.

    Snowball 2.0

    Google Ventures tossed some serious money at the messaging manager app Snowball late last year, but at the time its utility was limited. It's been evolving over time, and now v2.0 is out with a much more robust feature set. Not only does it make your messaging easier to deal with, it actually takes over for the stock Android notification shade to manage all your notifications.

    With the default settings, Snowball remains on top of your status bar all the time (alternatively, it's an invisible overlay), so the tinted status bar on Lollipop won't work. It does this to filter the icons shown there to only be "important." It's actually very unobtrusive and has all the proper icons and information. Frankly, it might be an improvement over the status bar UI on some phones. I haven't decided if I like that feature personally, but a lot of people don't care one way or the other.

    When you pull down the shade, you get Snowball instead of your device's usual shade. It has three tabs, with the middle one being the main Snowball notification manager. You will need to grant notification access to the app, but that only takes a moment. All the notifications that would be in the native notification shade are in Snowball, but it ranks them by importance. You can swipe to the right to clear them and to the left to either hide or mark something as important/not important.

    Apps that you decide to hide from the main notification list go in the right side tab, which keeps them from cluttering up the UI. The tab on the left is for settings and toggles, because you can't access the native shade at all with Snowball running. It has a brightness slider, WiFi, flashlight, a few app shortcuts, and more. There aren't any settings to configure the selection here, but it seems to work quite well by default.

    The other side of Snowball is all about messaging. The app used to rely on a floating bubble to contain all of your messaging apps, but now they're in the notification stream. The cool thing is that all of them have quick reply features -- Hangouts, WhatsApp, and even Gmail. Just tap the reply button and send your message. This is probably my favorite part of Snowball.

    The app is free and has some really interesting features. You should give it a shot and see how it treats your notifications.

    Google Play App Roundup: Boxer Calendar, Sparkle 3, and SPACECOM

    Money doesn't grow on trees, and those $0.99 app purchases do add up. It's best to go into the Play Store with some idea of what's up your alley and what isn't. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is here to do. We bring you the best new and newly updated apps and games every week. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store and test it out yourself.

    Boxer Calendar

    You may know Boxer from the popular email app it released a while back but now the developer has returned with a free calendar app, and it seems quite impressive. It's called Boxer Calendar (duh), and it plugs in neatly to all the calendars already synced to your phone, including Google and Exchange.

    There's no setup required in Boxer Calendar. After it's installed, the app will simply plug into the calendar data already synced to your phone. You can control which calendars are shown in the app, but it doesn't have dedicated sync settings. Opening that menu option routes you to the system-level settings. So Boxer will work with any calendar service that can be synced to the phone. Boxer also has settings for notifications, timezones, and so on.

    The main interface for Boxer Calendar is split into two sections. At the top is a week view, and at the bottom is an agenda layout of the currently selected day. Several other apps do this, but Boxer's UI has a nifty trick. You can expand the top section to show a full month, which isn't all that distinct, however the bottom section can be customized with different views. You'll find the view options in the overflow menu at the top.

    The bottom section can show a week, day, or agenda layout. I like this setup because you get to keep the month/week calendar at the top of the screen whereas most apps will only show other layouts in full screen. There's also a tablet UI that places the two sections side-by-side. Boxer is a material app, but it's a bit dull compared to others. It certainly doesn't look bad, though.

    The app is most useful if you're also using Boxer's email app. That app has a feature that lets you reply to messages with availability times for a meeting or get together. If you have the Boxer Calendar app, it can automatically generate your available times and send them in a message.

    If you use Boxer email, you should definitely take a look at Boxer Calendar. Even if you don't, it's a solid option in an already crowded field.

    Google Play App Roundup: WiFiMapper, Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf, and Piloteer

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

    OpenSignal WiFiMapper

    Mobile networks are more robust than they used to be, but capped data plans are also considerably more common. If you need a WiFi connection on the go, it's not always easy to find one. That's where the OpenSignal WiFiMapper app comes into play. You can probably guess what it does -- WiFiMapper shows you nearby WiFi hotspots and tell you whether or not you'll be able to access them.

    OpenSignal gets its vast location data on WiFi access points from users of the app, and this collection happens automatically in the background. If you're not cool with that, no problem. You can open the settings and disable automatic collection of AP locations. However, that's the only setting in the app. Everything else takes place in the main UI.

    At the top of the screen is a map that shows your location as well as the approximate location of the access points your phone can see. Gray icons are private and green ones are public. Less common are the paid access points, which are pink. Tapping on any of the icons lets you open the detail page on the AP (or scrolling down below the map). Depending on where you are, there might not be any data about a network. However, most public spaces I've checked have some indexed networks.

    The app can tell you if a network is run by a business, if it needs a password, and if it's completely private. For business networks, the app ties in with FourSquare to show user comments. There are also comments within the OpenSignal system related specifically to the WiFi (i.e. whether or not it's usable).

    If a network doesn't have any details listed, you can fill in the details yourself (requires a Google login). The app also keeps a log of the networks you've connected to in the MY History section so you can go back and add availability information to them. Again, this is optional. You can turn off the background canning and clear your history.

    WiFiMapper has a material UI and performance seems good. I haven't seen any detectable battery drain from letting it save AP locations. It's a handy tool to have around if you're watching your mobile data closely.

    Google Play App Roundup: Native Clipboard, This War of Mine, and Redden

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

    Native Clipboard

    There was a time some years ago that copying and pasting on a mobile device was a big deal. Now you can pretty easily select, copy, and paste text on Android and other mobile platforms, but nothing much has changed in the last few years. Native Clipboard is an app that tries to beef up your clipboard, and it does a nice job of it. If you're got the root-only Xposed Framework, it's even more powerful too.

    Native Clipboard will need to be added as an accessibility service after installation, which allows it to read the contents of your clipboard. So it can see all the text you copy, but it's open source and nothing shady is going on. The basic idea is that if you need to paste some text, you can double-tap in a field and Native Clipboard will pop up at the bottom of the screen.

    The UI will cover up the keyboard, but you can drag it up out of the way if you need to type something before dismissing it. Your recently copied items will be in cards inside the Native Clipboard interface. Tapping on any of them will paste it into the selected field, and a long-press will expand it so you can see the full text of a longer snippet. From the expanded view, you can also pin something. Pinned text will remain at the top of the list (if you've selected that in the settings) and won't be automatically cleared. A swipe will clear any non pinned card in the list.

    There are a lot of customization options in Native Clipboard, including full control of the theme/colors. The size of the text, height of the pop up, and number of items to save are also configurable. For Xposed users, you can use the Native Clipboard module to blacklist certain apps, edit clips directly, and use the app inside a web browser. Note: regular users can use Native Clipboard in the address bar of a browser, just not within the page itself. That's coming to 5.0/5.1 devices soon, though.

    Native Clipboard is completely free and there are no in-app purchases. There's definitely enough functionality here to charge money for, so it's pretty cool that you can use it at no cost.

    Google Play App Roundup: Hooks, Atomas, and Quadrush

    It's that time of the week again. Time to shake off the weekend vibe and get back to work. But you can probably spare a few minutes to check out some new apps. This is the Tested Google Play App Roundup, which is where we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just follow the links to Google Play.


    There's a whole world of information out there, and your phone probably has an active internet connection all day long, If only there was some way to get notifications about all those events sent to your phone. That's exactly what Hooks is for--it's a notification service for multiple services and data sources. Want to be notified when a new episode your favorite show airs or when it's going to rain tomorrow? Hooks can tell you that.

    Hooks feels like a bit of a mix between Pushbullet channels and IFTTT. It's not a configurable as IFTTT, but it's somewhat more flexible than Pushbullet. To create a new notification, you have three columns that present different options. There's a full list of all available notifications, one of suggested notifications, and one with the most popular notifications.

    The notifications available in Hooks usually have a few settings you can tweak, but you're mostly at the mercy of the developers with regard to the selection. There's a pretty good list so far, though. You've got feeds that can watch for newly released movies with a certain rating, nearby concerts and events that match certain keywords, weather alerts, sports scores, popular news from various sources, and various tag/keyword alerts for social networks.

    The main screen in Hooks is a timeline of what's been going on in your account lately. It shows recently added notifications, as well as all the notifications that have been triggered. When something pops up, it appears in the notification shade and links you to Hooks. From there, you can open the relevant content in the browser or another app if you want more information.

    Individual notifications can also be edited after you've added them. Maybe you want to change a keyword or alter the rating threshold for a movie alert. You can also enable and disable notification sounds for each one.

    Hooks is a mostly material app. It looks fine, but there's no colored status bar for some reason, and the use of two separate slide-out nav menus seems confusing. Still, it's a neat way to track various events on your phone without wasting battery. Since Hooks is sending push notifications, it's only active when something actually happens. It's free, so give it a look.

    Google Play App Roundup: Solid Explorer 2.0, Vainglory, and Inputting+

    Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but not because of what Google built in. Developers have access to all sorts of hooks in the system to make your phone do amazing things, you just have to find the right apps. That's what the weekly Google Play App Roundup is all about -- helping you find the right apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store and pick it up yourself.

    Solid Explorer 2.0

    It's been in closed beta for a very long time, but the new and completely redesigned Solid Explorer app has finally been released. This is a separate listing from the classic Solid Explorer, which you can continue using if you like. The new one comes with a fully material UI, dual-pane interface, and much more.

    The dual-panel layout is something that made the original Solid Explorer an excellent option. Other file managers had this too, but Solid Explorer's implementation always seemed faster and more fluid. That's still in the new version, of course, and makes it easy to move files from one location to another. If you're using your device in landscape, you can also have both panes up at the same time for even faster file management. In portrait mode you just swipe back and forth to switch between panes.

    As part of the material redesign, the UI of Solid Explorer has been vastly simplified. That's certainly nice to see as the old app had a really convoluted series of buttons and menus at the bottom. The new app makes proper use of the action bar and overflow menu to list all the actions you can take in each folder and when files are selected. And just subjectively, it's a much more attractive app now. The UI can be customized with a few different color themes and it's got all the usual material touches like a colored status bar, floating action button, and nav drawer.

    The only thing that's a little confusing about the UI is the extra set of buttons in the nav drawer. When you open that on the left, there's a settings icon and a separate overflow button with links to several of the built-in tools.

    If you need a way to manage your cloud storage accounts, Solid Explorer is ready to help there too. The new version has built-in support for all the basics like Dropbox, Drive, and so on. Simply log in and you can have your cloud storage up as a pane and easily move files back and forth. Local network storage can also be added. You'll need to install the plug-in for FTP, but the Chromecast support is no longer a plug-in, it's just part of the app. That means you can easily beam pictures and videos from your phone (or cloud) to a TV.

    This is a new listing, so users of the classic app can stick with the old one if they like. Downloading the updated Solid Explorer will still work with the unlocker app, if you paid for that. Otherwise, there's an in-app purchase to get the full version (there's a 2 week trial when you download it). The full version is only $1.99, which is a good deal. As of now, there are also a few paid plug-ins that you can buy if you want. Right now just Mega access and two icon packs.

    Google Play App Roundup: CloudPlayer, Xenowerk, and Geometry Wars 3

    Money doesn't grow on trees, and those $0.99 app purchases do add up. It's best to go into the Play Store with some idea of what's up your alley and what isn't. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is here to do. We bring you the best new and newly updated app and games every week. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store and test it out yourself.


    There are a dozen different subscription music services, but what if you've already got a large music library and you don't want to mess around with something new? CloudPlayer from doubleTwist can turn your existing cloud storage accounts into a handy online music library.

    CloudPlayer works with Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive. Simply dump your music (supports all major formats including lossless) into whichever cloud account you have with sufficient storage, and log into it via the CloudPlayer app. The first indexing will take a while, especially if you have a lot of music. Once you've got everything ready to go, the app acts very much like other music players.

    You can see all of your music filtered in various ways by opening the navigation drawer on the left. It has quick links for artist, album, song, playlists, and so on. CloudPlayer pulls down artist images automatically and shows everything in a card layout. Starting playback seems very quick with my Dropbox test account and WiFi/LTE, but that will vary based on your connection. There's also an option to cache songs offline so you can listen without a connection.

    When listening to music via the app, there's a persistent playback bar at the bottom that brings up the Now Playing screen. You get the album art, playback controls, and everything else you'd expect from a music app. I will note that the way you drag up to see the full queue is really neat, though. There's also a built-in 10-band EQ that's accessible from the Now Playing screen.

    One of my favorite parts of the app is its built-in Google Cast and AirPlay support. Just hit the cast button on the main screen to select a device on your local network and send audio there. This has been working very well for me and really makes the app a viable alternative to Play Music.

    My only real concern with the way CloudPlayer works is that it scans the entire online storage directory. There's no way I can see to point it to a specific folder. So if you've got audio files in your Dropbox (or whatever service) that you don't want showing up in CloudPlayer, you'll have to move them elsewhere.

    Cloud Player is free to try for 7 days, but after that it costs $4.99 to buy the full version of the app.

    Google Play App Roundup: Portal, TransPlan, and Chronology

    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.


    Pushbullet has been one of the most consistently useful apps on my devices for a long time, and now the developers have released a new app that addresses one of the shortcomings of Pushbullet. It's called Portal, and it provides a quick and easy way to send big files from your computer to your phone.

    Portal works over your local WiFi to send files of any size to Android. This is not a completely new idea, but Portal improves things quite a bit. For example, Pushbullet allows you to send files, but the process is a little cumbersome and the file size is functionally unlimited. I also recall an app some years back that had very similar functionality called Awesome Drop. The company was acquired by HTC and the app was eventually killed. Portal is like a turbo charged version of that.

    Using Portal is really slick. Just install the app on your phone or tablet and open the Portal website on your computer. The site will generate a unique QR code that connects your phone and computer. Tap the scan button in the app and point it at the screen to pair them -- it recognizes the QR code almost instantly. The browser window will become a drag-and-drop target so you can take any file on your computer and push it to the phone or tablet.

    I've tested this with files up to several gigabytes in size, and they transferred fine. This only works over WiFi, remember. So you won't use your data plan to send the files. Portal is light on settings because it really just does this one thing. You can optionally have images and music routed to different folders to keep your storage a little more tidy. The general Portal download folder can also be specified. If you're on Lollipop, it can also request SD card access to put files there.

    Portal is a handy thing to have around, and like Pushbullet, it's completely free.

    Google Play App Roundup: Pounce, Feed Me Oil 2, and Outside World

    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.


    There may be times when you see something you want in real life, but you're not sure what it's called. Maybe you're also simply too lazy to type it into a search. No problem, there's Pounce. This new app lets you take a photo of objects to have them identified almost instantly. Then the app shows you where you can buy that item and similar ones on the spot. It's not the first app to do it, but Pounce seems like it might be the most accurate yet.

    When you open Pounce, it goes right to a camera viewfinder. To begin a search, simply point it at a thing you might be interested in buying and press the capture button. There's a switch to turn on the flash in the event there's not enough light, and it does seem somewhat picky about focusing on certain phone. For example, the Nexus 6 is fine, but the One M9 seems to lose focus entirely too quickly. There is an option to use an existing photo from your device as well, which might be a better option if it doesn't like your phone's camera.

    The image will be uploaded and processed on Pounce's servers. The technology backing it has been used in a few apps before (called Slyce visual search). It looks for general shapes and logos to figure out what things are. It's actually surprisingly good at a number of things. I pointed it at some game controllers, phones, and other things, and it got the gist. A few times it knew the exact product. Other times it was more generic (like gray HTC phone for the M9).

    The next step is where Pounce makes its money. It shows you shopping results with the thing you snapped a photo of, or at least some similar listings. The items come from a variety of stores like Amazon, Best Buy, and eBay. Should you see something you like, you can buy it instantly (after adding payment and shipping details in Pounce). Alternatively, it can be saved to your favorites.

    Pounce is a free app and it does what it says. It's worth checking out if only to see if you can fool it.

    Google Play App Roundup: Office Lens, You Must Build A Boat, and Robbery Bob 2

    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.

    Office Lens

    Microsoft's Office Lens app has been in beta for several weeks, but it just recently hit the full Google Play Store. This app provides a quick and easy way to save a document using your device's camera, though it does tie into the Microsoft ecosystem quite deeply. Even if you're not using other Microsoft apps on your phone, this might be something to check out.

    Office Lens opens right to a camera viewfinder, allowing you to quickly frame the document you want to capture. The buttons in the upper right control the settings used in the capture. The default mode is a document, but you can also choose whiteboard and photo. Document and whiteboard modes will automatically search the viewfinder for the subject you want to capture (a lighter rectangular shape). When it looks to have the object framed, you can hit the capture button.

    After capturing the image, Office Lens automatically crops the document, but you have the option of changing the framing before moving on. This is a little awkward as you can't quite see the selection box through your finger as you drag it around. It's still sufficient to fix small errors, though. You can also switch between capture types at this point.

    You don't have to line up the shot perfectly to get a readable image. Office Lens is actually quite good at transforming an off-center image of a document or receipt into a balanced square/rectangle. Keep in mind that if you're taking an image of something with very small text, you should go to the settings and increase the image resolution. The default setting is 6MP, which is lower than virtually all phone cameras these days. As long as you've got a moderately powerful device, you should still be able to process the images pretty quickly.

    After you've got the image you want, there's the catch (maybe). If you don't use many Microsoft products, you'll probably want to install some. You can export a cropped JPEG to the gallery with no issue, but if you want a PDF (you probably do), it can only be saved to OneDrive. That's not a huge deal, as you get free OneDrive storage, and the Android app is actually rather good. You can also export directly to other Microsoft apps like Word and OneNote.

    This is probably the best app I've seen for quick scans of single documents. It's not good for multi-page content, but it's free and great for keeping track of receipts and whatnot.

    Google Play App Roundup: Periscope, iO, and One More Dash

    The time has come again to shine a light into all the shadowy corners of Google Play to find the best new and newly updated stuff for your phone or tablet. The Google Play App Roundup is where you can come every week to see what's cool on Android, and this week is no exception. Click on the links to head right to Google Play and download for yourself.


    Odds are that you've heard about Periscope before -- this streaming video app from Twitter has been available on iOS for a few months. Now it has come to Android, making it even easier to stream the minutiae of your life, assuming that's of interest to anyone other than yourself. If not, well, you can still stream things with Periscope.

    The functionality of the app is mostly the same as the iOS version. You sign up with your Twitter account and can automatically add people on Periscope that you have on Twitter. There are also some suggested popular accounts you can follow. If you just want to watch streams, you've got a stream of content from everyone you follow. At the top is anything that's currently live and below that are recent streams that you can rewatch. If no one you know is broadcasting, you can go over the the global feed and see what's happening live that people are interested in.

    As a viewer, you can send messages via text to the broadcaster, but they don't type back. If they want to converse with you, it'll be by voice. Or obscene hand gestures, I suppose. You can also have the Periscope app alert you when one of your friends starts a live broadcast.

    If you want to start a broadcast, there's a floating action button down at the bottom of most screens. The FAB isn't the only modern UI element in the Periscope app. It also has a proper tinted status bar and material animations. At any rate, you can start a broadcast in public or private mode. If you do public, you can enable or disable location sharing, unrestricted chat, and Twitter announcement post. Both public and private allow you to set a name for the broadcast. If you want to make the broadcast private, you can manually choose the Periscope contacts you want to have access.

    The actual stream works the same whether it's public or private. That is to say, it's okay. The lag between the broadcasting device and viewers is only about a second. but the bitrate isn't very high. I've also noticed a few autofocusing issues with the broadcasting device. I can't fault Periscope too much, though. Live video is hard to get right, and this app makes things almost frictionless. It only takes a minute to get up and running and share a video. It's something to take a look at for sure.

    Google Play App Roundup: Randomly RemindMe, Atlantic Fleet, and MixRadio

    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.

    This week reminders are more random, the seas are not safe, and there's music to stream.

    Randomly RemindMe

    No matter what phone you have, you can ask Google Now to remind you about something. Although, many of us are prone to procrastination and might ignore Google's gentle urging. That's where Randomly RemindMe comes into play. This app creates recurring reminders on a set schedule, or spaced randomly throughout the day.

    So why would you want something like this? I can think of a few use cases, but I've been testing it as a way to remind myself to get up and move occasionally (I sit at my desk all day writing, as you might imagine). Setting reminders at regular intervals can be distracting because when you know another reminder is coming up soon, you can become sort of "hyper-aware" of it. Randomly RemindMe seems less disruptive to my workflow and could be used for plenty of things. Maybe you want to be reminded to drink more water or check on your kids/pets?

    The app has a largely material design aesthetic. When you set a new reminder, you can pick between the default random mode and a traditional set interval for reminders. Choose the mode, the number of reminders, notification icon, and fill in all the blanks. You can even set a notification LED color if your phone supports it. Randomly RemindMe is essentially letting you build a rich notification that will show up in the shade when the time comes.

    Randomly RemindMe has acknowledge and dismiss buttons on the notifications. Acknowledge basically signifies that you saw the alert and will (ideally) do what you're supposed to do. Dismiss signifies that you didn't do whatever you were supposed to do. So these two buttons are more or less a way to track how often your reminders successfully spur you to action.

    I'm surprised that Randomly RemindMe is free and contains no in-app purchases--there aren't even any ads. There's probably some functionality here that people would pay for. Maybe some sort of paid add-ons will happen later. For the time being, go ahead and take advantage of it for free.