Latest StoriesAndroid App Roundup
    Google Play App Roundup: Audify, Horizon Chase, and Call of Champions

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


    Android's notification system is great… when you're looking at the phone. But what happens when your attention is focused elsewhere? A beep and flashing light only provides so much information. With Audify, you can have your notifications read aloud, and unlike some similar services and apps, this isn't just for messaging. Audify can read all your notifications.

    Audify should work on any phone running Android 4.3 or higher. That's because it needs the notification listener, which you'll be prompted to enable upon opening the app for the first time. This lets Audify read the text of the notification, which it then runs through the standard text-to-speech engine on your phone. It's not going to be like having a conversation with a human, but the default voice on most phones isn't bad anymore. It's like a very polite female robot.

    There are multiple settings to control how and when Audify activates. Once you set these rules, you don't have to fiddle with the app at all. The default behavior is to start Audify when you plug in headphones or connect a Bluetooth audio device. This implies that you're not going to be looking at the screen and it might be advantageous to have your notifications read to you. There's also a setting to only read when the screen is off. Again, this is probably the most likely use case. However, you can have the audio go through the speakers and work all the time, even when the screen is awake. It's your call.

    Audify will read all high-priority notifications (the ones that trigger alert sounds). If an app isn't important enough that you want the notifications read aloud, no problem. Just add it to the muted list. Audify will smartly ignore repeated notifications from the same app in a short period of time too.

    Some people will be annoyed by the active notification in the shade when Audify is active. I don't think there's anyway to get around that, though. If you want the app to work, it needs a foreground notification to remain alive. You can give Audify a shot for free with 250 notifications. After that, you have to buy the full version for $0.99. You can also get 100 more free notifications by referring a friend.

    Google Play App Roundup: YouTube Music, Soda Dungeon, and Crimsonland

    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 go 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.

    YouTube Music

    As part of Google's big YouTube Red push, it has released a new YouTube app called YouTube Music. This was promised a few weeks ago when Red was announced, and now it's here. In the same way YouTube Gaming is an app focused on gaming videos on YouTube, the YouTube Music app is focused on music on YouTube. What the app can do for you is dependent on whether or not you have a subscription to Red/Play Music.

    The main advantage to using YouTube as a source of music is that there's a lot of unusual stuff on there. You get all the usual albums and whatnot you will find on other services, but there's also a wealth of remixes, live concerts, covers, and so on. This is why a lot of people just use the YouTube website for their music needs in the first place. The app makes this easier by surfacing only music and music videos. The home tab lists things that you might be interested in based on what you've listened to in Google's ecosystem in the past. The next tab over shows you all the hottest music on YouTube, then there's a tab of all your liked music videos.

    When you're listening to your recommended music, there's a cool feature on the Now Playing screen that lets you determine how much variety you want in the station. More variety means Google ventures further from the taste profile it has built for you, and less means that it will mostly show you things you've liked in the past.

    All the above is available to all users of YouTube Music. If you've got a Red or Play Music subscription (both services are included for the $10 price), you get some cool bonuses. First and foremost, you can do background and screen-off audio streaming. If you leave YouTube Music or shut off the screen, the app will automatically switch to audio streaming mode and keep going. You even get playback controls in the notifications like a standard music app. There's a persistent toggle at the top of the screen to switch between video and audio-only mode too.

    Premium users can also cache music offline with a feature called Offline Mixtape. This isn't quite the same as the Play Music offline feature where you explicitly save tracks you want. Instead, YouTube Music grabs a set amount of music that it thinks you'll like based on your past behavior. The default setting for this is 80MB or about 20 tracks. The only semblance of manual control I can find here is that it does include your most recently liked videos. It's kind of a neat feature for offline listening.

    Perhaps most important here is that YouTube Music is ad-free for subscribers. Everyone else gets regular YouTube-style ads. They might not be on every video, but they're going to be there. Honestly, Google's $10 deal with Play Music streaming, YouTube Red, and now YouTube Music is such a fantastic deal, I can't think of a good argument against it.

    Google Play App Roundup: Texpand, Shooty Skies, and 1 Volt

    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.


    Typing things out on even the best software keyboard can be tedious. It can be helpful to keep some frequently used snippets of text in a note app for quick copying and pasting, but Texpand makes it even easier to insert text with fewer keystrokes. As the name implies, it's a text expander app, and you can try it for free.

    Setting up Texpand will only take a minute, but it varies from one version of Android to the next. On Lollipop and earlier it only needs to be added as an accessibility service, but on Marshmallow it also needs access to drawing on top of other apps. Texpand will link you to the appropriate menus to get that done. After it's enabled, Texpand will work with just about any keyboard (even a Bluetooth keyboard) by reading the text you're inputting and watching for the shortcuts you've created.

    So, you need to make some shortcuts, right? For each one just create a short string of letters, for example "adr" for your full address. Texpand lets you create up to 10 of these with the free version, After that, it's $2.99 for the pro upgrade to make unlimited shortcuts. A small floating button will pop up when Texpand detects that you're typing what might be one of your shortcuts. Tapping that when you've not yet completed a shortcut gives you suggestions, but once the shortcut is completely out there, tapping will insert your desired text. There's also an option when setting up a shortcut to have it expanded automatically.

    The manual text entry is Texpand is cool, but it goes a step further with dynamic values. You can have the app insert the date, day of the week, time, or even the contents of your clipboard when you trigger a shortcut. I'd like to see more of the dynamic values added, but this is a good start. The clipboard shortcut in particular is really handy. By default, Texpand works in any app, but you can block it from reading the text in an app by adding it to the exemption list in the settings.

    There are a ton of cool extras in Texpand to round out the feature set. You can back up your shortcuts to Google Drive, move the floating UI around, make shortcuts case-sensitive, and more. It's really great even without the full version upgrade, but I think you'll run through the 10 free shortcuts quickly when you see how useful it is.

    Google Play App Roundup: Custom Quick Settings, In Between, and Arrow Launcher

    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.

    Custom Quick Settings

    Android 6.0 introduced the hidden UI tuner in the system settings. With this tool, you can change what shows up in the quick settings and status bar, but developers can also fiddle with these settings a bit. Custom Quick Settings does what the name implies and adds custom quick settings tiles to your device, and it doesn't need root. Be aware, this will only work on Marshmallow devices.

    Before using Custom Quick Settings, you need to activate the UI tuner, which is accomplished by long-pressing the settings shortcut in the notification shade. You don't have to go into the menu that is added to use Custom Quick Settings, but it will link you there when the time comes. Simply open the app and tap the action button to add a new toggle.

    Custom Quick Settings asks you to add a new "broadcast" button with placeholder text before it creates the custom action. It opens the UI tuner so you can do that in just a few taps, then it's back to Custom Quick Settings to create your button. There are three types of actions that can be performed -- app link, settings toggle, and URL shortcut. Each tile you create can have any text you want and a custom icon from the app's built-in selection. adding your own icon doesn't seem to be possible at this time. You can also set different actions for a tap and a long-press.

    The URL and app shortcuts work extremely well. I have one set to open the Play Store and another that pulls up a few frequently visited websites (one for tap and another for long-press). Toggles are limited to the stock functions, so it's easier just to use the included ones unless you really want to use a different icon or custom text. Using the UI tuner, you can move the custom tiles around with all your stock ones, but they only display the placeholder text. That can make it a little strange to get things organized.

    The UI tuner is an experimental component of Android, which is why it's something you have to manually enable. The features are incomplete right now, but Custom Quick Settings helps make them a little more robuts. As with all experimental features, there's a chance Google will break Custom Quick Settings in a future update. For the time being, it does its job well, and the developer promises more updates are on the way. It's free to use with ads, or you can pay about $1.50 to remove them. There will also be some pro features in the future (like Tasker support) that require the upgrade.

    Google Play App Roundup: Perch, Prune, and Pixolor

    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.


    If you've got an old, unused Android phone or tablet around, Perch might be a great way to repurpose it. This is a new app in beta that turns your Android device into a web-connected security camera. Simply set up the app, place your old phone on a stand or prop it up on a shelf, and you're ready to go.

    After installing the Perch app on your device, you'll be asked to sign in or create a Perch account. Next, you get to choose a name for your camera and decide if you want to have the device record audio along with video. Once you've started the feed, you can view it on other devices via the Perch app, or by going to the Perch website and logging in.

    Using the website on a computer offers the most functionality including scheduled recordings and alert settings. You can even set up motion detection zones in the camera feed so you can get a push notification on your phone when something moves in that region of the frame. Ideally, you'll plug the phone or tablet into power so you can leave it set up 24/7. It's handy for keeping an eye on kids or dogs.

    You can add more cameras to your Perch account, each one with a live feed that can be viewed from your other devices. Even if one of your cameras is offline, you can scan back and look at the video it captured in the recent past. I'm not sure how much history Perch saves as they don't list it anywhere, but I'd wager on a day. Longer retention times will probably be a paid service in the future. Again, just a guess.

    The video quality will vary based on your internet connection, but it won't be as good as one of those dedicated security cameras. It's somewhat pixelated, especially in low light. Some phones are terrible in poor lighting, so you'll only find Perch of use with the lights on. All the dedicated security cameras on the market have night vision.

    For a free service, Perch has a lot of features, and it works as advertised. If you've got an old phone, you might as well install Perch and see how it works.

    Google Play App Roundup: KnockOn, Viva Sancho Villa, and Dim Light

    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.


    One of my favorite features on Android devices is double-tap to wake, and specifically LG's implementation that also allows you to double-tap to put the phone back to sleep. LG calls this Knock Code (r Knock On for older devices). this is very similar to the name of a new app in the Play Store that works with most Android devices. KnockOn lets you wake your device and put it back to sleep without touching the power button.

    Depending on the version of Android you're running, setting up KnockOn will require a few steps. It will need to be granted administrator access in order to control the screen, then it will need usage access on most phones as well. The double-tap to sleep should work on all devices, but it's limited to the home screen. This makes sense as a lot of apps use double-taps for various features.

    So with the default settings, you can double-tap in an empty area of the home screen or on the status bar to put the phone to sleep immediately. If you have a big phone, this can be a nice convenience. The double-tap to wake feature is limited to OLED phones, at least officially. You can turn it on no matter what phone you use, but it will keep the display "on" black in order to watch for a tap. With an OLED, that's not much of a problem. An LCD powers the whole backlight in that situation, though.

    Both features seem to work as intended, but you'll burn a little battery with the tap to wake feature (this is of course assuming your phone doesn't already do this). I haven't noticed much impact just using the tap to sleep feature with an LCD phone.

    All the above functionality is free, but there's also a pre version upgrade that adds sleep timers to improve battery life and an adjustable tap speed slider. Also note the app runs a notification to stay in memory, which might be necessary on Samsung devices with their aggressive memory management. Other phones it might not be a problem.

    You should give the free version a shot and see how it behaves on your phone. It's a neat idea.

    Google Play App Roundup: SwiftKey Neural Alpha, Bridge Constructor Stunts, Freeze! 2

    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.

    SwiftKey Neural Alpha

    When SwiftKey first came out a number of years ago, I remember being quite impressed with the quality of the text prediction. This was a time before Google had decided to take the default keyboard seriously, and most of the other third-party keyboards weren't particularly reliable. SwiftKey's predictions have gotten better over the years, but they aren't noticeably better than Google's. In fact, it seems like SwiftKey is prone to certain mistakes that its competitors aren't. Enter, SwiftKey Neural Alpha. It's an experimental new keyboard for Android that uses neural networks to generate better predictions.

    I was, to put it mildly, incredibly skeptical of this keyboard when it was announced a few days ago. I mean, it sounds like marketing mumbo jumbo. Neural networks are certainly a thing, and they've been used to improve things like computer vision and speech recognition. Google is also big in the developments of artificial neural networks as a way to improve its search algorithm and for the development of its self-driving cars. An artificial neural network is a different approach to computing that uses layers of nodes programmed to behave more like a living brain. After using SwiftKey Neural Alpha for a bit, I'm convinced they're doing something really interesting. The predictions are helpful and sometimes downright creepy.

    SwiftKey's old model for text prediction was called n-gram--this is still what's used in the standard SwiftKey app. It relies on having a lot of data about the way you type and the things it has seen before. That's why you can connect all your cloud accounts to the app. The more data it has, the better its predictions. However, if you look at a half completed sentence, you can probably figure out some likely words without all that data. Your brain is just better at predicting patterns than a traditional algorithm. The SwiftKey Neural Alpha seems capable of that too.

    This app looks at the context of your sentence in order to predict the next word, and it seems noticeably better at it than the standard app. When sending a text message about picking up food, SK Neural Alpha suggested the phrase "What do you want," when I just typed a "W." The suggestions aren't always right, but they always make sense at least. That's more than I can say for the regular SK app.

    One issue I still have with SwiftKey is the swipe input, which I use often on the Google Keyboard. It just never seems as accurate or forgiving as Google's implementation. It doesn't appear to be any different in the experimental Neural Alpha either. This is an alpha, though, so maybe the neural network stuff won't be fully integrated into the typing experience until later. There are only two themes included with the Neural Alpha, a standard black one and the default purple-ish Neural Alpha theme. It's free and doesn't have any of SK's usual in-app purchases.

    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.