Latest StoriesAndroid App Roundup
    Google Play App Roundup: Bleep, Knights of Pen & Paper 2, and Sunburn!

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


    BitTorrent's various projects are mostly about leveraging the power of many individuals to create decentralized services. However, the newly released Bleep messaging app is a little different. Rather than dealing with the many, this secure messaging client relies on direct one-on-one connections and local encryption.

    Bleep was released as an Alpha several months ago, but now it's "done." BitTorrent has cleaned up the interface, squashed some bugs, and added new featured over the course of the beta. What we have now seems like a capable messaging service, and it supports completely anonymous usage. You can install Bleep and pick a nickname without adding your phone number or email. This is simply the name others will see when chatting with you.

    Should you choose, you can also verify your information with Bleep so any of your friends who sign up will see you in their contact lists. Otherwise, adding Bleep contacts is done by sharing your ID or letting the other party scan your QR code if you meet them in meatspace. All messages sent over Bleep are encrypted locally and sent directly to the recipient, making it difficult to eavesdrop on the conversation. You can also send pictures and initiate VoIP calls.

    The big new feature added for the launch of Bleep is called Whisper. It's basically an off-the-record chat with Snapchat-like automatic deletion. Any message or image you send will be deleted 25 seconds after it is viewed. BitTorrent opted for an odd method of privacy protection for Whispers. The message only shows up when the sender's name is hidden. If you toggle the name display on, the message is blurred. This is intended to disassociate the sender and message in screenshots and photos taken of the Whisper. It's a nice sentiment, but I can't help but note you can take two screenshots and match them up pretty easily.

    Bleep messages seem to come in reliably in just a few seconds, and I'm not seeing any appreciable impact on battery life. It seems like a really neat service, but you'll have to convince your friends to use Bleep before you can do much with it. It's worth a shot if you've got privacy concerns with services like Hangouts and WhatsApp.

    Google Play App Roundup: VoxelMaker, Earn to Die 2, and GoatZ

    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.


    This might look like a game at first--maybe some sort of Minecraft knockoff. However, VoxelMaker is actually a 3D art and modeling app. It gives you the tools to create nifty pixel art 3D designs on your Android device in just a few minutes (after you learn how to use it). You can even apply lighting, depth of field, and more before exporting as an image or a 3D file.

    So what's a voxel? You can probably guess from the look and feel of this app, but it's a grid of blocks that are essentially the 3D counterpart to a pixel. It's a mashup of the words volume and pixel. There are plenty of games, like the aforementioned Minecraft, that are based on voxel art. In addition to the obvious stuff, a number of game engines and rendering technologies make use of voxels as a way of approximating shapes and lighting. For example, Nvidia's Maxwell GPUs use voxel mapping to generate realistic surface lighting in real time.

    VoxelMaker is a little confusing at first, but there are a few example scenes available in the app. You might want to start by taking these apart and seeing how all the tools work. You've got four basic modes to create and edit images. There's draw, select, paint, and light. The drawing mode is where you should start. This is how you create new blocks in your 3D canvas. There are three lines that intersect on the screen to show you where the cursor is. This is important because you are operating in a 3D space with a 2D interface, and these lines keep you oriented. You can tap anywhere to move the cursor there, but VoxelMaker also has a few arrow buttons in the lower left corner for finer control.

    The selection mode lets you grab large areas of your design to copy, delete, or insert elements. Painting mode similarly lets you change large sections of the image at once, but by altering the colors of the voxels. This is faster than replacing the voxels with the correct color ones. Then there's lighting, which is the simplest, but also has a dramatic impact on your designs. This mode simply lets you choose from where the light is coming.

    Google Play App Roundup: AppChat, Wire Defuser, and Battledots

    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.

    This week you can chat about apps with other people, defuse bombs, and battle dots.


    You've probably got at least a few apps installed on your phone, and so do a lot of other people. If only there was an easy way to connect with people who use the same apps. Hey, that's a thing now that AppChat is available. This app is still very new and basic, but you can get it from Google Play and instantly start chatting up people who use the same apps as you.

    AppChat basically hosts a live chat room for each app and game it detects on users' devices. You can open AppChat to browse your installed apps and the associated chat rooms. The app lists how many registered users have each one installed, and how many new messages have been posted since the last time you looked.

    You can also access the chat room for an app by dragging up from the bottom right corner of the screen in any app. This displays a shortcut button to jump right into the AppChat room for that app or game. Edge gestures tend to be somewhat wonky on Android, but this one doesn't seem to get in the way too much.

    So maybe you're wondering why you'd want this. Let's say you've got a calendar app on your phone that you're quite fond of. There's an update, and something seems broken. Rather than digging blindly through Google results to see if it's something others are seeing, you can just ask in the chat room. You could also chat about features you might not know about or get tips in a game.

    AppChat is light on features right now, but you can mention users, delete your own messages, and share links/screenshots. AppChat will actually detect which app a screenshot was taken in and offer to share it to the right room, which is neat. The account system is a little too rudimentary right now. Once you set a username, you can't uninstall the app and then use the same name again later. There's really no account system -- you pick a name, and if it's used (even by you in a previous install), that's it. The app also doesn't offer any control over notifications. You can either disable them at the system level, or see notifications every time there are new posts in a chatroom you've been active in.

    This app is completely free, and I feel like it's got real potential. You should check it out and see what wisdom you can gleen from your fellow app users. And yes, there's an AppChat room. It's so meta.

    Google Play App Roundup: Overam, Does not Commute, and Beatdown

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

    This week we've got a new photo editor with a cool vibe, a game about commuting, and a good old-fashioned beat-em-up.


    Taking photos is definitely one of the primary uses for a smartphone these days. In fact, most people don't even buy dedicated cameras any more. There are plenty of apps that will help you edit photos to make them look a little nicer, but Overam just makes them more funky. I can get behind that.

    As with most photo editing apps, you can use a photo you've taken previously, or you can use the app itself to take a photo. If you think you might want to use said photo for anything else ever, you might want to take it with the built-in camera app from your device. Overam will apply the filters and overlays to the original image when taken with its camera.

    If you choose an existing photo, the app gives you an opportunity to crop it. The default mode is custom aspect ratio, but you can also limit it to certain ratios, which is handy if you're planning to share to Instagram (kids still use that, right?). Overam's distinctive image manipulations are based on geometric shapes. There are the more standard squares, pentagons, and trapezoids, as well as more exotic barbell and Pac Man shapes. You can set the position, rotation, and scale of the shape as you like. This serves as the base of your image transformations.

    Along the bottom of the editing interface are buttons for the various effects. The main event after adding the shape is the blur effect. This is applied to either the inside or outside of the shape, which you can still move around and re-scale at any point using swiping and multitouch. Some of the blur effects are a little generic, but the ones that apply transformations are neat--like the stacked overlay one or the expanding blur in the screenshot there. You also have filters, glow effects, and color overlays. All of this can be applied outside or inside the shape, whatever fits with your artistic vision.

    Again, these photos look cool, but they aren't archival quality. You can probably guess that by how fast the filters are applied (really fast). Even a full crop of a high-resolution photo will only be about 1200 pixels high. That's fine if you're sharing it online, though.

    Overam is free to use, as long as you don't mind an ad hovering at the bottom of the screen. You can remove it for $0.99, and that's it. There are no paid filters or additional in-app purchases.

    Google Play App Roundup: Trepn Profiler, Space Marshals, and Implosion

    There's no reason you wouldn't want the best apps on your Android device, but the Google Play Store makes that hard sometimes. Don't worry, though. That's what the weekly app roundup here on Tested is all about. This is where you can come to find out what the best apps are, and why they're the best. Click on the app name to go right to the Play Store web site to grab the app for yourself.

    This week Qualcomm demystifies your phone's hardware, there's a prison break in space, and a battle suit gets serious.

    Trepn Profiler

    Qualcomm is mostly known as a maker of ARM chips, cellular radios, and other bits of silicon that power many phones and tablets. However, the company has also produced a few system tools of Android. These are usually exclusive to Snapdragon chips made by Qualcomm, but the new Trepn Profiler app runs on all chips to help you take a closer look at your hardware and system performance.

    Trepn Profiler includes six different system monitoring tools. You get a CPU frequency overlay, mobile data analysis, performance graph, CPU usage monitor, CPU load overlay, and network activity monitor. Several of these profiling presets can be used in the app as a way to monitor system activity while you do other things. For example, you can start a profile for CPU usage, and use your phone normally for a few minutes. When you check back with Trepn Profiler, you can see if an app you don't need is eating up a chunk of your CPU with background processes.

    Most of the tests in Trepn Profiler can be activated in overlay mode, which positions a floating chart or graph on top of whatever you're doing. This is great for seeing what your phone or tablet is up to internally while you're actively using it. The CPU tests are particularly cool in overlay mode as you get a small graph for each main core in your device. Each of the graphs can be collapsed and moved around to keep them out of the way temporarily.

    This is just the simple "presets" mode of Trepn Profiler. More technical users and developers might want to dig around in the advanced mode, which allows you to build your own presets to see how an app or the total system is working. When you create one of these custom presets, there are more than 30 different data points that can be logged including individual CPU core frequencies, memory use, screen state, battery power, and more. There are also a few extra automation and code auditing features for developers who are testing apps.

    The app has a persistent notification when a profile is active, which you'll want to watch for. Accidentally leaving Trepn running in the background will chew through battery. It should shut down fine as long as you don't leave any floating windows or background profiles active. Trepn Profiler is a little more complicated than other system diagnostic tools, but there's a lot more power too. The app is completely free in the Play Store.

    Google Play App Roundup: Office Remote, Corridor Z, and Dragon Hills

    It's time once again to find out what's going on 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 Office gets official remote control, the zombies are coming, and dragons erupt from the ground.

    Office Remote

    Microsoft has lately been all about expanding its products beyond the consistently underperforming Windows Phone platform. The latest feature to reach Android is the Office Remote app, which can be used to access and control documents in the Office 2013 desktop suite. You'll need Bluetooth on your PC and a full version of Office, but the results are neat.

    Office Remote connects to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. The idea is that you'll use this as a way to control a presentation, which is mostly a PowerPoint thing. However, anyone who has ever sat through meetings as part of the daily grind know that there's not always time to turn something into a Powerpoint. As such, it's nice there's support for all three of the core Office apps.

    Setup is fairly easy -- turn on Bluetooth on your Android device and PC, then install the Office Remote add-on from Microsoft. The app will send you a link to download it. That places an Office Remote tab in your desktop Office apps. Just go there and enable remote access to your open documents. Next, you need to pair your devices, which can be fussy depending on your setup. You might need to manually pair your PC and phone from the system menu before it will show up in the list of available devices in the Office Remote app.

    If you're connecting to Powerpoint, you get the most options including advancing slides, thumbnail view, and virtual laser pointer control using the phone's screen (this is more fun than you think). With Excel, you're basically moving around the document in various ways. You can jump between worksheets, go to named objects, filter data, and more. Word lets you scroll around, zoom, jump to comments/headings, and a few other things.

    Once you're connected, Office Remote seems very stable and reliable. I did have some issues getting it to refresh the list of open files, but closing and reopening the app seemed to fix it. If you ever have to show an Office document to others, you should definitely consider using Office Remote. It's much easier than most of those third-party presentation management apps out there. It's also free, aside from the cost of Office.

    Google Play App Roundup: Infinit, Tetrobot and Co, and DuckTales: Remastered

    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.

    This week we look at sending big files, a robo-puzzler, and a classic game remastered.


    So you've got a file on your phone or tablet, and you want it somewhere else? You could upload it to a cloud storage service, send an email, or set up a local WiFi share. A new app called Infinit promises to handle all the legwork for you, and do so super-fast.

    You need to sign up for an Infinit account before you can use it, which isn't uncommon. However, the app only allows you to use an email address or Facebook. Google sign-in would be appreciated. At any rate, the app itself is very straightforward to use. It's arranged into a series of tabs, with the main one being a list of files you've transferred. There's a floating action button to initiate file transfers (the only real material element in the app).

    After choosing a file, you have the option of sending it to your own devices (Android and desktop) or to any of your contacts. This is one of the cool things about Infinit. You don't need to have other people set up with the app ahead of time. When you send them the transfer request by email or SMS, they will get a unique link to download the app and link their account with yours. After this first transfer, they will just receive a notification for each new transfer, which can be accepted or rejected.

    Infinit claims its transfers are faster than simply using the cloud, although that's what it uses most of the time. What I suspect they mean is that the app is smart enough to know if two devices are on the same local WiFi network. If that's the case, they will connect over the local network for a much faster transfer. Another advantage, according to the developers, is that there is absolutely no limit on the file type or size you can send. That really makes it stand out from most file transfer tools.

    The functionality seems to all be there, but I feel like the app could use a redesign to look more suited to Android. The icons and styling look a little too much like iOS for my taste. The FAB only helps a little. Still, this is worth checking out if you need to send big files with a minimum of hassle.

    Google Play App Roundup: Open Imgur, Frozen Synapse Prime, and Overpaint

    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.

    This week you can share images more easily, hack the system, and mix up some colors.

    Open Imgur

    Seldom will you see a more negative reaction on the internet than if you post a link on Reddit that does not go to Imgur. The image sharing site has become the go-to way to host images for Reddit, as well as many other sites and services. There is an official Imgur app, but it's really just okay. Open Imgur, on the other hand, seems pretty great.

    This app comes to the Play Store packing a fully material interface with an "imgur green" action bar and light backdrop. That's just the default, though. As with most material apps, you can change the action/status bar color in the settings. There's also a dark theme, which actually looks a bit more like the Imgur website.

    The main screen when you open the app is a feed of recent galleries posted by users in a grid layout. To get around, there's a slide-out nav menu on the left. Again, this is done with proper material styling. From here you can log in if you have an Imgur account, as well as access different areas of the app. You can view images by topic, subreddit, or random. When viewing individual images you can add comments and favorite posts.

    Open Imgur also has a meme generator built-in, which comes with a selection of all the big memes. There's Scumbag Steve, Insanity Wolf, Skeptical Third-World Kid, and more. If you're already tired of all the memes you've ever seen, feel free to avoid this section of the app. Actually, why are you using Imgur at all? I kid.

    Of course, Imgur is all about sharing your pics, and you can do that with Open Imgur. There's a section of the app where you can get images from your device uploaded and share the links. A FAB on the main page also lets you upload images. If you're logged in, you can access all your past uploads from the app as well.

    One last thing, this is called Open Imgur, right? Well, it's open source, You can go to the Github and download the code, fork it, file changes, and so on. You can get the finished app free in the Play Store.

    Google Play App Roundup: Tinkerplay, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Boss Monster

    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 we finally put that 3D printer to use, visit the past, and become a boss monster.


    In my day we didn't have any choice in the design of our action figures. We took what we were given and we liked it. Also snow, uphill both ways, and so on. With the advent of 3D printing, it has become possible to make real world objects dreamed up on a computer from the comfort of your own home. Autodesk's new Tinkerplay app lets you create characters from a plethora of interchangeable parts, then export a file to have it 3D printed. The future is now.

    All the parts are available in the arc-shaped menu in the top right corner. From here you can choose any of a number of torsos to use at the starting point of a design. There are also categories for arms, legs, hands, weapons, and other miscellaneous parts. To attach something new, simply drag it from the list and to the general vicinity of the connection point. The app will display an arc of electricity to show where it will snap on if released at that moment.

    You can start from scratch and build whatever you like, but the app also comes with some complete advanced models that can be tweaked to your liking. However you decide to use the app, you can move the parts around to pose your creation by tapping and dragging. If you need to precisely position a single component without affecting everything it's attached to, you can double tap to get a 3D rotation interface. You might want to zoom in to do this more effectively.

    Tinkerplay also has full support for adding colors and textures to your models. This is all reflected in the final file export as well. Speaking of the file export, you can select the type of printer you're using to get the proper format, but all you really need to worry about is getting a .stl or .thing file. You can change the scale of the parts, separate by color, and more. The app also gives you an approximate printing time.

    Google Play App Roundup: Source, Table Tennis Touch, and Dungeon Hunter 5

    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 Google Play.

    This week there's a lovely new news reader, a game about a game, and a new dungeon crawler.


    Source is a feed reader client from the developers of the popular Talon for Twitter. The two apps have a lot in common, meaning a strict adherence to material design aesthetics and plenty of colors. Source has been in beta for a few months, but now it's ready for primetime. This isn't meant to be a replacement as your main RSS hub, but it plugs into services like Feedly, The Old Reader, and others to provide a clean, attractive interface for keeping an eye on those feeds.

    When you first open Source, it asks you to add feeds via whatever service you have previously used. It lists any groups you may have set up in Feedly or something else, and allows you to choose which ones you want synced to Source. If you don't have an account at one of the established services, you can add RSS feeds individually to Source.

    The main interface for checking articles in Source, is very clean--there's not even a slide-out navigation menu, just a list of cards. You can tap on any article to have it expanded in-line (similar to Talon). If the site only provides a snippet of text you can open the full article in a browser, but there isn't one built into Source. Source has background sync for articles, and it can be limited to only work on WiFi to control your data usage.

    Where this app truly shines is with the interface--it's really pretty. The default theme is a white background with an orange status/action bar. In the settings you can change to a dark theme and pick from a dozen different accent colors. The navigation bar can be colored as well. Just about every button and card in the interface has a touch effect attached to it too.

    Source's last trick is something that's becoming increasingly popular--Wear integration. When you connect an Android Wear watch, a Source module will sync over that lets you view the entire feed on your wrist. You can scroll through cards for each article and tap on them to view all the available text. I don't know that I'd want to do this very much on such a small screen, but it's an option.

    Source is a very attractive app with solid, though basic functionality. Although, I think it's going to be a somewhat hard sell for $2.99 when it lacks some of the features of a full-featured client. If you already use Feedly or a similar service, Source could be a great way to see your pre-built feeds in a better app.

    Google Play App Roundup: Ampere, Dark Echo, and Blockwick 2

    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 you can see power, sound, and illuminated blocks.


    It used to be that all microUSB phone chargers were created equal, but that's no longer the case. There are power adapters with different ratings, and then there are all those Quick Charge-compatible chargers. Wireless chargers complicate matters even more. Ampere is a simple app that tells you what kind of juice you're getting from your charger with a pleasant material interface.

    Ampere is not the first app to display battery current on Android. The system exposes this information to apps, but few have ever implemented it in a compelling way. This app is geared only toward showing you your battery's state. At the top is a display of the current as measured in milliampere hours. If you're discharging, that number is negative. Plugged in, it's positive. Alongside that value are the minimum and maximum for the current observation period, which can be reset by tapping the "x" under the current value.

    Below the measurement area is some basic system information like the type of charging reported by the system (USB, AC, wireless), battery health, and device model. There's also a floating action button that links to the system battery stats interface. Settings are sparse, and you can't really do anything with the free ad-supported version of the app. It's $1 up upgrade via in-app purchase, which grants you an optional notification that shows you the charge information at all times and a few other small tweaks.

    Device support is not universal because of the different power control ICs that are used in some phones and tablets. I've tested it on a few devices like the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and LG G3 without issue. The developer has an official list of supported devices on the app description page, but I suspect it's intentionally conservative. You'll probably be fine, but you don't have to pay anything to try it out.

    With this app you can easily figure out how much power you're getting from different chargers without looking at the regulatory markings on them. Even if you did know the specs, not all chargers work as advertised. Keep in mind this app is displaying the power measured at the battery, so it won't exactly match the specs of any charger due to inefficiencies in the hardware.

    I can see a clear difference between standard AC adapters and Quick Charge ones with Ampere, but more interesting is the difference between various wireless chargers. Wireless charging is slower than wired, of course, but some of the ones I've tested are more than twice as fast as others. It's times like that Ampere comes in handy.

    Google Play App Roundup: iA Writer, Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire, and Chrooma

    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.

    This week there are fewer distractions, more magic, and a moderate number of FABs.

    iA Writer

    I fancy myself a writer, as you might have guessed. I've been doing it for a long time using a variety of programs on the desktop and mobile devices. There are a few apps out there designed to combat distracted while writing, but iA Writer is probably one of the most popular. It's been on Mac and iOS for a while, but now it has come to Android. I'm going to write this post in iA Writer to see how it goes because I'm not sure I'm sold on this low-distraction thing.

    iA Writer offers a bare bones interface, but it's not really lacking in functionality. This app simply courses very carefully the features it thinks you need. When you've got the keyboard up, iA Writer gifts the action bar completely. There's a small menu icon that can pull it back up, but if you're using iA Writer the way it was intended, that shouldn't come up much. The idea is that you just write, and take your hands (or thumbs) off the keyboard as little as possible.

    There are no formatting controls in iA Writer. Instead, it uses markdown in plain text documents. So you still have things like italics and lists, but you enter them with special characters like asterisks and underscores. The app does change the formatting as you go so you'll know if you've entered things correctly.

    In the action bar you have undo and redo buttons, share, new document, and focus mode. You can probably figure out what all those do except for focus mode, but the name is self-explanatory. Turn this on and iA Writer will gray out every sentence except the one you're working on. It's supposed to help you focus, thus focus mode.

    iA Writer outputs, as mentioned above, plain text documents. The default format is a .md file, which you can open in a variety of ways. The share button can also be used to export your text in a variety of ways. iA Writer also has built-in Dropbox sync so you can keep your files safe in the cloud.

    This app could be a great way to stay on task if you're prone to distraction, and it's really snappy. All the Android keyboard auto-correction features and spell checking works fine as well. I don't know if I'll use iA Writer full-time on Android, but i appreciate the effort that went into making this a proper Android version and not simply a messy iOS port. It's worth the $4.99 asking price if distraction-free writing is what you seek.

    Google Play App Roundup: Palabre, Swap Heroes 2, and Draw Slasher

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load them up with new apps to make them 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 RSS is prettier, heroes are swapped, and pirate zombies are slashed.


    A number of feed readers have appeared to fill the void left by Google Reader, but Feedly seems to be one of the top options. The Feedly app is okay, but it's not yet updated for Android Lollipop's design features. Luckily, Feedly supports third-party apps like the newly released Palabre. This feed reader lets you add sources as standard RSS within the app, or access and manage a Feedly account. Plus, it looks great.

    This app comes from LevelUp Studio, developer of the mega popular Beautiful Widgets. When you open it, you can immediately start adding feeds or log into your Feedly account. The app's layout is straight out of the material design playbook. We're still early enough in the Lollipop era that this is a fine approach. Maybe in a few years the cookie cutter approach to material design will feel a little dated, but for now it's a very pretty app compared to the competition.

    Your articles are shown in a grid of cards by default, but you can switch it to a list view. I actually feel like this could be a little nicer as some of your articles might have tiny thumbnail images that don't look good blown up to a full-width card. Whichever way you go, tapping on one of the articles loads up at least part of the article. Most sites only put part of posts into the RSS, so you'll have to click through to get the full version. Palabre has a fine built-in webview browser, though.

    You can navigate through your various sources and groups using the navigation drawer on the left of the screen. I like that you can mark all the articles in your current view read with the button in the action bar. Make sure you check the drop down menu at the top to set your view as all, unread, or saved. This is the only slightly clunky part of the design.

    Palabre has a clean teal and white interface with yellow accents. There are material animations everywhere, as well as a proper status bar and hero color. You'll only see that stuff on Lollipop, though. There's also a dark UI mode in the settings that flips from a white to black background. Additional features hiding in the settings include refresh interval, navigation, and notifications.

    Palabre is free to use without limitations, but there will be occasional ads in your feeds. They aren't too annoying, but it's worth the $2 upgrade price.

    Google Play App Roundup: Lock Me Out, Limbo, and Grey Cubes

    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 we lock you out, leave you in limbo, and drop some cubes.

    Lock Me Out

    Self-control is not something we all possess in abundance at all times. That's especially true when you account for these tempting little supercomputers in our pockets with an endless supply of games and information. Sometimes you just need to get things done, and your phone can get in the way. Lock Me Out helps by removing the temptation.

    First thing's first--this app with really and truly lock you out of your phone for the predetermined length of time. All you'll have access to is the lock screen, widgets, and emergency dialer. You can also answer incoming calls while Lock Me Out is active.

    It does this by using the Android accessibility service to change the PIN code on your device. Lock Me Out chooses a random PIN when you trigger the lock. After the timer counts down, the PIN will be changed back to the one you have set. If you don't set one, the PIN will be disabled completely.

    This app works remarkably well because it's not relying on any third-party locking mechanisms. Non-native lock screens are almost universally broken and easy to circumvent. With Lock Me Out, the only way to get around the lock would be to reboot the device, which removes the lure of instant gratification. Removing the Lock Me Out app without authorization would require booting into safe mode to disable admin rights, which is also more trouble than it's worth.

    You can use Lock Me Out free for up to 10 minutes at a time. To set a longer lockout than that, you need to pay $0.99 via an in-app purchase to upgrade to the full version.

    Google Play App Roundup: Power Button Flashlight, Day of the Vikings, and Air Control 2

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, 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.

    This week there's light, a game about vikings, and an airport in need of control.

    Power Button Flashlight

    This app actually came out a few weeks ago, but I haven't had a chance to get it into the roundup until now. It really deserves to be here, though. Oh, not because it's an entirely new idea or anything, but just because it's so darn convenient. This app lets you turn on the LED flash in your phone with three presses of the power button. This works even when the screen is off, and it doesn't require root access.

    The app itself works as a regular flashlight app--you can open it and press the button to toggle the flash on. The headlining functionality doesn't require you have the app open at all. At any time you can triple tap the power button to activate the flash. This is part of the free feature set. To turn it back off, you need to buy the full version via a $0.99 in-app purchase. Well, you can turn it off from inside the app for free, but that rather defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

    Upgrading to the full version adds a few other interesting options like increasing the power button count to four when the screen is on. That way you don't end up with the screen in the off state when the flashlight is activated. As an aside, you'll probably want to get into the system security settings to set a timeout for the lock screen and disable instant locking with the power button.

    I've found Power Button Flashlight to be quite reliable. It sometimes takes about a second to activate after the last press, but it still comes on. As long as all three presses happen within three seconds, you're good. Some devices with very soft buttons might be much faster to press, in which case you should change the lower limit cut off in the app to a quarter second.

    Various phones have similar ways of activating the flashlight, and Lollipop has a toggle in the quick settings, but Power Button Flashlight is faster. It's not really worth using without the full version upgrade, but it's only a buck.

    Google Play App Roundup: BLINQ, Odd Bot Out, and CaastMe

    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.


    It can be hard to keep track of what all your friends and acquaintances are up to, but BLINQ takes some of the guess work out. If you've got a few social accounts to connect, it can even make you look like you're really on the ball. The idea is that BLINQ pulls in recent social posts by your friends and makes them easy to access when you get a new message. The way it does this is pretty clever.

    Setup with BLINQ is a bit tedious, but not really out of the ordinary for something that needs to plug into multiple services. It contains logins for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. After you get logged into one or more of those, you'll want to sync your contacts with BLINQ, which allows it to recognize the senders of messages and connect them with the social accounts you provided.

    The last step is granting BLINQ access to your notifications. So, each time a new message arrives, BLINQ will read the sender's name and check it against the people attached to all those social networking accounts. If there's a match, that's the data BLINQ will make available.

    When matching messages arrive, BLINQ pops up as a small dot in the corner of the screen. You can ignore it, and it will simply go away, but tap and you get an expanded window with recent posts from the person who sent the message. For example, you get a message from a friend and BLINQ contains a post made to Facebook with some bit of important news--the sort of stuff you should maybe comment on, like a new job. You offer congratulations and no one knows you completely forgot. Sure, it's kind of cheating, but people often expect their friends on social networks to pay close attention to the things they post, at least implicitly.

    BLINQ works with a wide variety of messaging apps including, Whatsapp, Hangouts, SMS, Facebook, and more. These can be enabled and disabled on an individual basis if you don't want the BLINQ icon to show up. I've found BLINQ to be mostly reliable with pulling up the proper social data. A few times it had had me narrow down which contact matches which social account. That's handy, but there's no way to fix an incorrect match. The only thing that seems to work is clearing app data and starting from scratch.

    BLINQ is a free app with no pro version upgrades. I imagine there will be additional paid features at a later date, but for the moment it's all yours.

    Google Play App Roundup: Falcon Pro 3, The Witcher Battle Arena, and Flockers

    I don't know if you could say there are too many apps out there, but there are certainly enough that it can be hard to find the ones worth your time. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup is seeking to solve. Every week we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps in the Play Store. Just click the app name to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.

    This week a Twitter classic returns, the battle is on, and the sheep want out.

    Falcon Pro 3

    The much anticipated Falcon Pro 3 Twitter client came out a recently, but I decided to give this one a few weeks to bake. The developer, for whatever reason, decided to release the app barely a month after he announced he was working on it. It was missing some very basic features, and in the process the dev lost much of the goodwill he had gained from the original Falcon Pro. That app is famous for being the first to fall victim to Twitter's API limits, but now it's back as a new app. Is it worth checking out yet?

    Falcon Pro 3 will look familiar to anyone who clung to the original Falcon Pro even after it was pulled from the Play Store. The UI is dark gray with a very clean overall look. The redesign includes support for material design UI touches and animations, but it doesn't look out of place on older versions of Android either. The status bar is dark blue, and the nav bar is set to translucent.

    The app is split up into scrollable columns, with the main timeline being on the left. Scrolling is buttery smooth and I quite like the subtle separation between the tweets. Some apps seem to run together too much and it can be hard to tell at a glance which tweet an in-line image is associated with. You also get a column for mentions be default, but you can add more with lists, searches, favorites, and so on.

    On the left is a slide-out nav bar, but it's not actually a nav bar. It just looks like one. This is actually a list of interactions on Twitter like replies, favorites and retweets. Falcon Pro 3 uses a smart refresh setting to update more or less live in the background. It was similar with the old FP app, and it seems to work well. You have the option to set a standard refresh interval, though.

    The app itself is reliable and has all the features you'd expect from a Twitter client now. At launch it didn't have any settings or support for DMs, which was really odd. There are still no options for themes, which doesn't bother me too much. Falcon Pro 3 looks fine as is. One thing I am missing is a widget. That's not a deal breaker for everyone, but it irks me. When a widget is added, I could see Falcon Pro 3 becoming my go-to client.

    You can give the app a try for free with sample lists, but you can't add an account until you buy the full version via an in-app purchase ($3.99). Each additional account you add costs $1.99, but that transfers to all your devices. This might seem weird, but each of those accounts takes up a Twitter API token. With a limited supply, the extra IAP keeps people from using more than they absolutely need. I'm fine with this, personally.

    Google Play App Roundup: Lightroom Mobile, Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders, and Manual Camera

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, 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.

    This week you can take better pics, edit them more skilfully, and shot down some unrelated planes.

    Lightroom Mobile

    Adobe launched a version of its popular Lightroom photo processing app on iOS last year, but now its finally on Android too. You'll need a Creative Cloud subscription to use it past 30 days, but you can give it a shot for free. I can't claim this app is everything we might have wanted--I will get to its shortcomings soon.

    Lightroom is the de facto way to process and tweak photos on the desktop. The mobile version isn't as robust, even on iOS, but it's a cool additional perk for Creative Cloud subscribers. In the desktop client, you can check off one or more collections to automatically sync to the mobile app. This lets you make changes to photos on the go, which then sync back to the full-resolution files on the desktop.

    When you're working with Lightroom on Android, its not actually making changes to a RAW file. Adobe does some behind-the-scenes magic to generate a smaller image based on a .DNG file. Manipulating a real RAW file on a mobile device would be pretty slow. Of course, it would be nice to have the option. You can't drop RAW files from your phone into the Lightroom app directly. That's really only a problem for Lollipop phones that can spit out RAW files directly, but you could still move those to your computer to sync. You get better results with RAW files synced from the desktop Lightroom, but you can import JPEGs from the phone locally as well.

    Another weird issue with Lightroom is that you can't install it on tablets. Yeah, that's a big lolwut for me. If anything, it seems backward. It works on almost any phone, and you can actually sideload the APK on a tablet. However, the app's UI isn't really designed for a tablet. It works, but doesn't make good use of the screen space.

    When you select a photo from one of your collections, Lightroom shows three (unlabeled) icons at the bottom--adjustments, filters, and cropping. Each icon pulls up a row of controls at the bottom in the screen. You can tap with two fingers to see image metadata and three to see what the image looked like before you started making changes.

    The draw of Lightroom is simply that it tends to offer very good results. If you shoot RAW, it can help you produce some great images. Even if you're editing JPEGs with it, the filters are very high-quality. You shouldn't think of this as an app that you need to pay $10 per month for photo editing on the go. It's an accessory for those using Lightroom and Photoshop on the desktop. Both programs are included with the basic $10 Photographer's plan, but the more expensive plans for the full suite of Adobe apps give you access to Lightroom Mobile too.

    Google Play App Roundup: Fliktu, Crossy Road, and Spectrum

    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

    This week sharing gets better, a chicken crosses the road, and you avoid touching the sides.


    There have been various attempts to improve Android's sharing menu, which has long been a strength of the platform. Even Google has made some changes to the way it works in Android 5.0, but Fliktu takes things a step further. This app replaces the system dialog completely and adds some interesting new gesture-based features.

    Fliktu actually ties into three different actions--sharing, links, and the clipboard. You have to enable each one individually, which might take a few minutes, but the app guides you through setting all the defaults. When you're set up with sharing, the Fliktu interface simply pops up at the bottom of the screen instead of your native system UI. This gives you three sharing targets in the top row, but you can drag up to see the rest of the list. This is similar to what you get with most stock implementations, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.

    This app learns which apps you share to the most, but it also takes into account the context in which you hit the share button. This should allow for better sorting of the share options in the list, but you can also pin targets in the top three spots, if you like. Selecting anything from the list hands the data off to the other app normally. The only shortcoming here is that some apps (like Chrome) implement their own sharing menu separate from the system UI, so Fliktu can't replace them.

    Links also plug into Fliktu quite nicely, and this is where the gestures come into play. When you tap a link, Fliktu is actually acting as the default link handler. If you do nothing, it passes the link along to your default browser a second later. If you flick or shake the phone after tapping, Fliktu opens and you can direct the link to any other app that has registered itself with the system as a browser or sharing target.

    As a rule, I don't like shaking as a user interaction. It tends to disrupt the experience of using a phone, and you might have to change your grip on the device. It simply takes too long. However, Fliktu has configurable sensitivity settings, and I find the lower ones quite reasonable. You really just have to jostle the device a bit to trigger Fliktu at the right moment.

    The clipboard integration works in much the same way. After copying a link, you can shake the device to pull up Fliktu and send it off to a sharing target.

    Fliktu is only $0.99, and it does some neat stuff. Even if you don't want to mess around with shaking your phone, the regular sharing menu enhancements are worth checking out.

    Google Play App Roundup: Tutanota, Knights of the Old Republic, and SXPD

    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.

    This week we've got secure email, the force, and comic book biker chicks.


    Secure messaging sometimes comes with an annoying amount of setup, but the newly arrived Tutanota app for Android makes it all relatively simple. After you set up a Tutanota account, you can send email instantly with the option to include end-to-end encryption. You can send secure messages to any address, and the recipient doesn't have to jump through too many hoops.

    When composing a message in Tutanota, there is a button above the body field where you can set "confidential" or not. All messages sent to other Tutanota users are automatically end-to-end encrypted and can be read without any extra steps. For other emails, that confidential switch comes with a password option. This should be a phrase or code that you've agreed upon ahead of time, presumably in-person or via some other secure means.

    The recipient of a secure message at their regular email address will actually just get a message from you stating there is a confidential message available with a link. This opens Tutanota in the browser and asks for the password. After entering it, the message is decrypted and can be viewed and replied to. Alternatively, they can make a new Tutanota address to carry on the conversation. You can, of course, leave off the encryption and send a regular email too.

    Tutanota is handy because there's little to no set up to deal with aside from pre-sharing the password. If both parties have Tutanota, it's just like a regular email thread. Even attachments are encrypted. If you're a more technical user, Tutanota is open source, so you can head over to GitHub and audit the service's code.

    The app itself is pretty barebones. You can send emails, attach files, invite contacts, and that's pretty much it. It seems fast enough, but it doesn't understand the Android back button. Instead of going back a screen, it just exits. I'd like to see a few more tweaks to the UI and functionality, but for sending secure emails, Tutanota seems like a good option.