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    Google Play App Roundup: Noyze Volume Panel, Goat Simulator, and daWindci Deluxe

    An app might only cost a buck or two, but if you end up buying things that don't strike your fancy, that could add up to a lot of wasted money. It's best to go into the Play Store with some idea of what's a safe bet. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is here to do--it's the best new stuff every week. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store and test it out yourself

    This week there's a new volume control app, a game about being a Goat, and a lovely atmospheric puzzler.

    Noyze Volume Panel

    Android has had volume management apps since the very beginning as there is no support for a single hardware mute switch, a la the iPhone. Most of these apps rely on an app or widget that you have to find and use. Noyze Volume Panel is cool in that it plugs right into the hardware volume toggles to give you UI tweaks, quick access to multiple volume controls, and a few more neat features. Additionally, you don't need root access, just Android 4.3 or higher.

    Setting up Noyze is a little more involved than most apps. Because it's plugging into a hardware feature, it needs to enabled as an accessibility service. The app will give you a link the the settings menu to enable it, but you'll also need notification access (another trip to the settings) for the full effect--more on that later. The default behavior of Noyze is that instead of the floating volume panel popup that most Android devices have, you'll get a clean volume overlay on the status bar when you change the volume.

    The settings in Noyze are fairly extensive with a number of vastly different themes. You'll need to upgrade to the full version for $1.49 to get access to all of them, but the free ones are good too. Most of the themes are aping some other device or ROM like Paranoid Android (pictured here), iOS, or MIUI. A few are just different takes on standard Android controls. Several volume panel themes also come with built-in playback controls, which is actually really useful. This feature is also why you'll have to add Noyze to the notification service.

    I also quite like that the foreground and accent colors can be changed to better match your system theme. The addition of a custom time out is also much appreciated. Delving into the other settings areas is a good idea because this app is modifying a system function, which can cause some issues. For example, Noyze will pop up every time you take a screenshot with the volume down + power shortcut. Luckily, there's a setting to ignore long-presses of the volume buttons. You can also link together all your individual volumes and assign app shortcuts to a long-press of the up or down toggle. I'm not saying the developer thought of everything, but he thought of a lot.

    There is no discernable lag on any of the devices I've tested Noyze on, but it was a little reluctant to start on one or two until I had fully restarted. There is a helper notification that can be enabled in the settings to make sure the app isn't closed in the background, but a device with 2GB of RAM or more shouldn't have an issue. Even if you don't need the additional features of the pro version, Noyze is a capable app with no ads.

    Google Play App Roundup: Amazon Instant Video, Block Fortress, and Phantom Rift

    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.

    Amazon Instant Video

    What universe is this? It's hard to believe, but there is finally a way to play Amazon Instant Video on your non-Amazon Android phone. Don't get too excited--Amazon is going about this in its characteristically bizarre way. There's not an Instant Video app in the Play Store, but Amazon has updated the standard shopping app to be something of an omnibus of all its digital content. That's kind of interesting in and of itself.

    The Amazon app will now include a play button when viewing listings for Instant Video titles. This includes things you'd have to buy or rent, as well as free video for those with a Prime account. The first time you try to play a video, something unusual will happen. Rather than loading the video, you will be asked to install the Instant Video app. However, it's not in the Play Store. Instead, it will be downloaded by the Amazon app and you'll have to allow unknown sources in the settings to install it. Why it wouldn't just be put in the Play Store is beyond me.

    Another thing to know--the Instant Video app is only officially available on phones. If you are using the tablet version of Amazon's app, you won't see the video content at all. Even installing the phone version on a tablet won't offer the option to install the Instant Video client. It's not the end of the world, though. The Instant Video APK can be sideloaded, but it won't allow you to stream any videos because of a "license error." This is an artificial blockade by Amazon.

    The playback interface is about what you'd expect. It has support for captions and hides on-screen nav buttons correctly. It also pulls up a thumbnail preview when you scrub through the timeline. Video quality was solid on all the devices I tested with as well. One more missing piece of the puzzle is Chromecast support--Amazon would probably prefer you bought a Fire TV. The main Amazon app also includes its other Appstore content, but you still need the actually Appstore client for licensing purposes.

    It's frustrating to see so many limitations on Instant Video for Android, but it's better than nothing. I can only hope that Amazon wises up and makes this content available on the platforms on which people want to use it.

    Google Play App Roundup: Boxer, CounterSpy, and Bio Inc

    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 there's a cool new mail client, a game about sneaking, and a biomedical strategy simulator.

    Boxer

    The official Gmail app does a pretty good job when it comes to managing email on Android, but maybe you want something with a few more options, or you don't use a Google address all the time. There are plenty of options out there, but the newly released Boxer email client is one of the best I've ever come across. It might even be good enough to replace the Gmail app for some.

    Boxer supports Gmail, Exchange, Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, iCloud, AOL, Office 365, and generic IMAP and POP3 accounts. The setup process is painless and configures the settings automatically based on the type of email address you add. Like the regular Gmail app, it has push notifications for new messages and includes rich Android notifications.

    If you're using a Gmail account, Boxer has built-in support for labels, stars, and threaded messages. Although, I've noticed a few threads broken up for some reason. The interface is very light and clean with a modern Android aesthetic. The navigation panel provides quick access to all your labels and folders too. Boxer scales appropriately to phones and tablets, with a two-pane UI for tablets.

    The message list is typical of mail clients at first glance, but there's something very cool going on behind the scenes. Boxer has swipe controls that can be used to manage messages, but they're much more powerful than the swipe actions for Gmail and other apps. The left and right swipe directions are split up into short and long swipes. For example, a short swipe to the left might archive a message, whereas a long swipe deletes it. The right swipes can add a label for a short swipe, and trigger a quick reply for a long one.

    What's more, you can use the swipe controls on more than one message at a time by multi-selecting and then swiping on any of the selected messages. It's an incredibly powerful tool, but you have to pay up to take full advantage of it. The free version of Boxer does not include the option to change the default swipe actions, but you can get the pro version for $9.99 through an in-app purchase. Yeah, that's a lot for a mobile app, but inviting five of your friends will also unlock the pro version. It's also $9.99 for Exchange support, unfortunately.

    I haven't had any issues sending or receiving messages in Boxer, and I've actually gotten quite used to the swipe actions. I also really appreciate the integration with Evernote and Dropbox. I'm not sure if Boxer will replace Gmail for me, but it's an impressive app nonetheless.

    Google Play App Roundup: Google News and Weather, Back to Bed, and Month

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That;s what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

    This week Google finally updates one of its old apps, you go back to bed, and calendars get pretty.

    Google News and Weather

    Google included a neat news and weather widget in stock Android back in the Froyo days. This widget has continued to exist over the years, but never saw an update--until now. The News and Weather Widget had been updated and added to the Play Store for most devices. It's pretty awesome.

    This is actually an app and a widget, but the app portion has been expanded quite a bit with this update. It used to do almost nothing. You've got two choices for widgets. One is a simple 3x1 widget that can be set to display weather, news, or both. This one isn't resizable, though. That makes it a little hard to fit into your homescreen layout.

    The other widget is 2x2, but that's just the default size. It can be changed and the content will be reorganized dynamically. Weather is up at the top and there's a scrollable list of news stories below. Tapping on any of the headlines sends you straight to the browser, but the weather boots you to the full News and Weather app.

    You won't get as much weather data in this app as you would in a dedicated app. Expanding the weather section at the top offers weather and precipitation graphs. Each news story has a drop down that shows related headlines as well. The default view is all the top stories, but the slide out navigation menu can be used to change news categories.

    I've tested this app on devices like the LG G3 and Nexus 5 and it works the same on both. It's responsive and very modern looking. This is another example of Google bringing its preferred Android experience to more devices. The app works well, but I'd say the reason to use it is the cool widgets. It's free, so check it out.

    Google Play App Roundup: Afterlight, Deep Under the Sky, and Snapshot

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

    This week we've got a few new ways to get better photos, plus some alien jellyfish.

    Afterlight

    In the realm of image editing on iOS, Afterlight is one of the most popular options. This app has amassed a huge number of downloads in spite of the $0.99 price tag in a sea of free alternatives. Surely there must be something to it then, right? Now is your chance to find out as this image editor has arrived in the Play Store.

    Afterlight, like many other editing apps, lets you either choose an existing image from your device, or snap a new one on the spot. The built-in camera app is reasonably good, but on Android you're further ahead to use the stock camera interface on your phone. You can use the gallery app of your choice to select the image, and I quite like that it gives you a larger preview of the selected image before importing. It's great if you've taken a few pics of the same scene to make sure you got a good one.

    The buttons along the bottom of the screen open up different sets of tools in a row directly above them. As you can probably guess, each one tweaks a different facet of the image. The far left button is for general edits. There are tools for brightness, saturation, color temperature, highlights, exposure, and so on. Afterlight has more tools than most other apps, but it's still a long way from something like Photoshop Touch. Cropping, rotation, and other tools of that sort are available under a different button. There's also an auto-fix tool that seem fairly accurate, though it seems to have a tendency to blow some images out. Annoyingly, the icons for individual tweaks aren't all easy to work out, and there are no labels.

    One of those buttons down there opens the filter menu, which will be contentious as usual. If you're into adding filters to photos, the ones in Afterlight are pretty good. There are a few dozen of them split up into categories, and you can change the strength of each. They don't seem to destroy detail like some filters do. There's an irksome little detail here--several of the filters are locked until you share Afterlight on Facebook. Technically, you just have to tap the share button and back out, but still. The only other bit of walled-off content is the instant film effect pack. If that's the sort of thing you need (why), you will have to pay an additional $0.99 via an in-app purchase.

    At the end of all your tweaking, Afterlight gives you direct sharing to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a local save option. The Android sharing menu is also supported. The tree-level quality selector at the top of the screen is a nice touch as well. If you're just sending something to Instagram, there's no reason to save it at full res. Note, the default top setting maxes out at 2048 px wide, but you can change that in the settings so you don't lose any quality.

    Google Play App Roundup: TapPath, Duet, and Afterlight

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

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

    TapPath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Unclouded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Better Open With

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bamboo Paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Notific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    QCast Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cyanogen Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Udacity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reddit Offline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1Password

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    PowerDirector

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

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

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

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

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (May 2014)

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

    AT&T

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sunrise Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

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

    Peek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bright Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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