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

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

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

    iA Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tested In-Depth: Dell Venue 8 7000 Android Tablet

    Dell's new tablet isn't just one of the best-designed tablets we've used, it's our new favorite Android tablet. We discuss how the thin bezel and high-resolution OLED display affects content consumption, the differences between ARM and x86 on Android, and expected battery life for today's tablets.

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

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

    This week RSS is prettier, heroes are swapped, and pirate zombies are slashed.

    Palabre

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

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

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

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

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

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

    5 Lollipop Problems Google Should Address in Android 5.1

    Right from the start it was clear Google had big plans for Android 5.0 Lollipop. The entire UI had been rethought and some long-awaited features were finally being added. Sure, there were a few gripes over this or that minor feature, but Lollipop looked like a win. Now that we've got the advantage of hindsight, let's look back at Lollipop and see what Google still has to fix in the impending Android 5.1 update.

    The Infamous Memory Leak

    Google's initial deployment of Android 5.0 seemed to be going swimmingly. Mere days after Nexus devices got their customary updates LG, Nvidia, and Motorola started sending out the first wave of OTAs. Then things got weird and the updates slowed to a crawl, and from what I've been told it was because of memory usage.

    Most Android devices still ship with 2GB of RAM, and that's more than enough most of the time, but Lollipop has a particularly nasty memory leak that doesn't show up in system process tracking. Basically, RAM is not being reclaimed properly after process are closed, leading to a memory constrained environment. Background services that you want running (ex. music playback) are mysteriously closed and the home screen redraws frequently. A device like the Nexus 6 with 3GB of RAM seems to be immune from any ill effects, but it's an ongoing issue for many others.

    This bug has been reported to Google thousands of times and is one of the most "starred" items in the public Android issue tracker. While Google has marked the defect as minor, it's the sort of thing that can ruin a user experience if a build of Lollipop isn't specifically designed to avoid it. This is probably one of the main reasons the Lollipop rollout has stalled for months. OEMs were waiting on a fix, and now there is one.

    Google has listed this bug as "future release," meaning it should be patched in the next major release. That means Android 5.1, as long as it was done in time.

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

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

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

    Lock Me Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, a better alternative has come along. We're here to make sure you're ahead of the curve--that you're always on the bleeding edge. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is for. Just click on the links to head to Google Play and get the best new apps and games for your device.

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

    Power Button Flashlight

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

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

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

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

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

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (January 2015)

    We took a month off from bombarding you with phone recommendations over the holiday season, but now it's time to dive back in. This is a crucial time if you're up for contract renewal or have saved up the cash to get a new device. Flagship phones are going to be announced in the coming weeks, which could make you feel quite behind the times with your previously top-of-the-line device. Let's try to keep that from happening.

    AT&T

    Ma Bell has taken a more cautious approach to updates than many of the other carriers, so there's not much movement amongst the top phones. I think your best bets right now are the Moto X or the LG G3. However, we know that HTC's upcoming flagship, which will probably be announced in mere weeks, will be for sale soon on AT&T. Samsung too is probably a little further off, but not much. That affects the calculus.

    Starting with the LG G3, You're looking at a 5.5-inch LCD with an excellent 2560x1440 resolution. A fwe months ago this was a huge device, now it simply feels big. I even feel like a giant after using the G3 after carrying around a nexus 6. The bezels are incredibly thin and there are no buttons around the edges. Instead, LG stuck those on the back, and that's a good place for them. The frame and back are entirely plastic, but they're very solid premium-feeling plastics. I don't feel like I'm going to break the G3 when I take the back panel off. Speaking of, that's where the removable battery and microSD card slot are.

    The LG G3 is packing some impressive hardware including 3GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, a Snapdragon 801, and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot. It's a fast device, and LG's skin is mostly free of bloat. The battery life is very good in standby, but you won't get as much screen time as you would with a 1080p screen. 4-5 hours is still doable on the G3. The software is also very reliable in that it won't start wakelocking for no reason.

    The G3's 13MP camera is the same resolution as the Moto X and the Nexus 6, but it's probably a better overall camera. Low light performance is solid, if perhaps a little aggressive with noise reduction. The laser autofocus system totally works and outdoor images are stunning.

    I find myself not disliking LG's Android skin, and what I've seen of the impending Lollipop update has me excited. Most of the strange UI choices LG made on the G3 (and there aren't many) are being covered up by proper Lollipop elements. The fact that LG is now finally using the proper on-screen buttons setup is hugely encouraging too. LG also didn't spend time on crappy features no one will care about. Instead we get cool stuff like guest mode and Knock Code. Knock Code is a particularly cool feature that lets you securely unlock the phone while also waking it up with a series of taps on the screen.

    The G3 is still $149 on-contract from AT&T, but it does go on sale fairly often. It compares favorably to the competition.

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

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

    BLINQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Falcon Pro 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Testing: Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet

    Last week, I wrote about some of the products that we missed seeing at CES, but would get hands-on time with to test soon. One of them was Dell's new Venue 8 7000 tablet (terrible name, agreed), which attracted a lot of attention for its thin-bezel design and use of Intel's latest Atom processor to run Android. This tablet was actually released alongside CES, and I received mine late last week. While I'll be using and testing it for several more weeks before we shoot a video review, I wanted to share some initial thoughts, as well as get some feedback from you guys who also use Android tablets.

    So first, the design of this tablet. Ever since the very first iPhone was released in 2007, users and device designers have been trying to figure out what to make about the bezel around a touchscreen. It's generally considered that the narrower the bezel around a screen the better, though the absence of a sizeable bezel changes the way you can hold a phone or tablet. Case in point, the slimmer bezels on the iPad Mini change the practical ways to comfortably orient and grip that tablet as compared to the full-sized iPad. With the Venue 8 7000, Dell's designers have decided that an 8-inch tablet can work best without much bezel on three of its sizes, and an extended "chin" to pack hardware at the bottom. It's a striking design for sure.

    Compared to the iPad Mini, the Venue 8 7000 looks futuristic. The 8.4-inch 2560x1600 screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, so it's actually less wide than the Mini's. Even including its left and right bezel, Dell's tablet almost fits within the confines of the Mini's screen. The "forehead" bezel of the Venue is the same width as the sides', and the uniformity of bezel space around the top of the tablet is very visually pleasing. While reading a Kindle book, flipping through photos, and browsing webpages, I felt a little more connected to the content on the Venue than on the iPad--the tablet feels more like a window for digital content than any other smartphone or tablet I've previously used. It's a peculiar distinction, but that's the psychological power of thin bezels.

    Ergonomically, the Venue 8 7000 is comfortable to use, too. I was afraid that the thick "chin" at the bottom would limit how I could hold this tablet--and it does, in that it's best used in portrait orientation with the fat bezel at the bottom. But its size and weight made holding the tablet with one hand or gripping with two at the bottom very usable. At 6mm thick and .66 pounds, it's very comparable to the iPad Mini--the slight thickness advantage isn't all that noticeable. The only complaint I have so far is that gripping the bottom of the tablet, as when for thumb typing, can obscure part of the speakers--which aren't great to begin with. The headphone jack is on the bottom left, which is what I used for most of my time with the tablet so far.

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

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, a better alternative has come along. We're here to make sure you're ahead of the curve -- that you're always on the bleeding edge. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is for. Just click on the links to head to Google Play and get the best new apps and games for your device.

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

    Lightroom Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

    CES 2015: Razer Forge TV and Turret for Couch Gaming

    Had enough of set top boxes for your living room setup yet? We're going to see a bunch of Android TV devices this year, including Razer's Forge TV box. We chat with Razer's reps about what Forge TV can do, how it streams PC games, and what the gaming company thinks will solve the challenge of mouse and keyboard use on the couch. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Testing: Google Nexus 6 Smartphone

    For most of 2014 it looked like we weren't going to see a new Nexus phone at all, but the rumors turned out to be wrong and Google announced the Nexus 6 alongside the Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 is the most expensive Nexus flagship phone ever made, and it's also by far the largest. It marks Motorola's first attempt at a Nexus as well.

    With so many changes to the Nexus strategy, you're probably wondering how it all turned out. Well, let's dig in.

    Yes, It's a Very Large Phone

    The Nexus 6 packs a 5.96-inch AMOLED display clocking in at 2560x1440. This has become the new top-of-the-line for a premium smartphone, but it hasn't always turned out well. For example, the LG G3 has a 1440p LCD, but it's rather dim. The Nexus 6's screen compares favorably to the competition with average brightness and power consumption. The pixel density is a whopping 493 PPI, which is all you could ever need on a screen that size. As for burn-in, I'm not seeing any.

    Surrounding that huge screen are narrow bezels that keep the device itself from being as huge as it might have been. Don't get me wrong, it's a big phone, but Motorola has improved its industrial design lately and can manage slimmer bezels. It also helps that the screen glass curves down to meet the edge of the phone just like the new Moto X. You can hold the Nexus 6 in one hand, and even use it a little if you've got an average size mitt, but any prolonged use needs to be done with two hands.

    It actually does feel a lot like a blown-up Moto X--even the buttons on the right side are a dead ringer for the Moto X's buttons. The only difference here is that they've been moved down toward the middle of the device so they're easier to reach. One improvement from the Moto X is the inclusion of stereo front-facing speakers. The Moto X only has one.

    The back panel feels like the Moto X too. It's made of a soft, somewhat grippy plastic emblazoned with the traditional Nexus logo. I wasn't as in love with the larger dimple on the 2014 Moto X, but happily, the Nexus 6 has the smaller plastic dimple seen in the first-gen Moto X. It's in just the right place for your index finger to rest and helps to stabilize the device while you're holding it.

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

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself

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

    Fliktu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Android in 2014: The Year in Review (and 2015 Resolutions!)

    There were big hits and big misses in 2014 when it comes to Android. Some phones that should have been home runs were disappointments, while others proved surprisingly popular. At the same time, Google embarked on one of the most significant UI transformations in Android's history. Yes, a lot has happened, but what will the next year bring? Let's look back at the ups and downs and see if we can figure out some of Android's new year's resolutions.

    Flagship Hits and Misses

    Looking at the Galaxy S5 in a vacuum, it's a good phone. Samsung has improved its software experience, the camera is fantastic, and the design is well… it's fine. It's just not very exciting, and that proved disastrous for Samsung in 2014. Instead of showering Samsung with sales and accolades, consumers largely shrugged their shoulders and passed on the GS5. Some sources have reported sales of the device were 40% lower than expectations.

    In response to this, Samsung has changed up its product development team and started experimenting with more premium materials. Devices like the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 are examples of the beginning of this transformation. It also seems likely that a planned Google Play Edition GS5, which popped up in a few leaks, was canceled in the wake of poor sales.

    Samsung learned a hard lesson from the Galaxy S5. It didn't look different enough to impress people who care about aesthetics, and the specs weren't enough of a jump to appeal to the spec-obsessed. It was a perfect nexus of blandness. With profits slumping, 2015 will be a big test for Samsung--it needs to make a premium flagship phone that recaptures the prestige it lost last year.

    Samsung was struggling with its flagship, but hometown rival LG had reason to celebrate. The LG G3 was announced a mere eight months after the G2, but it made a few significant improvements. LG's laser autofocus system put Samsung's phase detect tech to shame, and the industrial design, while still heavily based on plastic, felt surprisingly premium with slim bezels and cool rear-facing buttons. Even the software was a vast improvement for LG.

    LG probably didn't move as many units as Samsung did, but it wasn't expecting to. Still, the LG G3 stands out as one of the best devices of 2014. The jump to a 1440p LCD might have been a bit premature, but you can't win every time. LG is in a good place going into 2015, but it needs to be careful about competing too directly with the Note series. That's still a product segment that Samsung completely dominates.

    If there was one 2014 flagship that set the stage for a great 2015, it was the HTC One M8. This device had a lot going for it, and it sold fairly well. After years of sinking revenue, HTC saw a notable uptick following the M8's launch. This device was, however, held back by a somewhat small battery and weird Duo Camera feature. The 4MP Ultrapixel sensor simply doesn't cut it anymore, but HTC must know that by now. My suspicion is that the Duo Camera was the best HTC could come up with given supply chain problems. With a few tweaks, the M9 could be the phone to beat in 2015.

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

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

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

    Tutanota

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

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

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

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

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

    The 10 Best Android Apps and Games of 2014

    We've seen a ton of great apps on Android in the last 12 months, but some of them stand out from the rest. After whittling down the contenders, we're left with the best things you can install on your phone or tablet, and here are all 10 of them -- the best apps and games of 2014.

    Today Calendar

    Google's official Android calendar app has been updated for Lollipop, but Today Calendar was there first. This app was originally based on the AOSP calendar and has since been heavily modified. It has a great split month/agenda view rather like Fantastical on iOS and the UI looks amazing on Android 5.0. Even on earlier version you get a lot of great visuals. The full version costs $5, but it's worth the price.

    Link Bubble

    Few apps have saved as much time in small increments as Link Bubble. This app works within the fundamentally modal nature of most Android devices to make web browsing more convenient. When a webpage loads, you're stuck looking at a blank screen during the wait. Link Bubble is essentially a floating browser that loads pages in the background so you can continue doing other things until you're ready to view it. Until then it sits in a chat head-like bubble. You can even stack multiple pages to read later. The full version will run you $3.99.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cram, Hearthstone, and GTA: Chinatown Wars

    You 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 where we work to bring you the best new apps on Android. Just click links to head to the Play Store

    This week your pictures shrink, car collecting gets serious, and it's time for theft of the grand auto variety.

    Cram

    Device makers are constantly increasing the megapixel counts of cameras, but the size of internal storage is still hovering around 16GB. Bigger images take up a lot more space, and not all devices even have removable storage as an option. Enter Cram, which promises to reduce the size of your snapshots by 60% or more without making them look like junk.

    A jpeg is already a compressed image file, the quality of which depends on how the compression algorithm used. Cram is simply a way to compress the image further, and it claims that can be done without affecting the overall quality or reducing the resolution.

    There are a few ways to use Cram, the safest being manually, one image at a time to start. Simply choose the folder and file you want to shrink, and let the app do its thing. The images themselves are added to a new folder on your device, but the app gives you the option of deleting the old version at the end of the process. There's also a toggle in the settings to have this happen automatically.

    As for the quality of the reduced images, you've got three tiers to choose from--quality, balanced, and size. The default mode favors quality, but even then I'm seeing upward of 60% file size reductions. If you crank it up to favor size, the resulting file is even smaller. Try as I might, I can't detect any difference between old and new with the app set to favor quality. Since the resolution is unaffected, you can still crop the photo as needed.

    If you're mainly sharing photos from your phone to online services, I think you could get away with decreasing the file size even more. I can tell the difference between the original and compressed image when the settings favor size reduction, but only when cropping and zooming. That's not going to matter so much on Instagram or Facebook.

    Cram offers 300 image reductions for free, at which time you can get unlimited use for a single $1.99 in-app purchase. At that point, it's safe to allow the app to process an entire folder of images. Cram is definitely something you should check out if you find yourself struggling to make it work with a 16GB phone.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Android Wear

    For the ninth day of Tested Christmas, Norm extols the virtues of Android Wear. We've tested both the Pebble and two Android Wear watches, and the latter platform is proving the case for smart watches as useful complements to smart phones.

    Google Play App Roundup: Action Launcher 3, Inferno 2, and Scrolls

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

    This week it's time for a home screen makeover, shooters get glowing, and Mojang is back.

    Action Launcher 3

    The original Action Launcher came out a few years back, aiming to do things a little differently than the other AOSP-based home screens. The way Action Launcher handled (and continues to handle) widgets is unique among similar apps, and it adopted a different approach to finding your apps. Now Action Launcher has been redesigned around more modern Android code, and the result is the big v3 update. There are a few new features, and some old features are being left behind.

    Action Launcher took its name from the Android action bar, which it implemented on the home screen. This was in the early-ish days of Holo, so people (read: nerds) were all over the idea of the action bar. It was a unifying force in Android UI design. Action Launcher 3 still offers the action bar UI (with a Lollipop flair), but the default layout is more straightforward. There's a search bar with a hamburger icon that, when pressed, reveals the Actino Launcher Quickdrawer with all your apps.

    I'm quite fond of the Quickdrawer UI. There's an alphabetical column that you can drag up and down to scroll through the list, or just tap and drag the old-fashioned way. There's something new about the Quickdrawer and search box--they're really colorful. The big new fUI tweak in Action Launcher 3 is called Quicktheme. The launcher can pull colors out of your background image and apply them automatically to folders, the search box, Quickdrawer, and status bar (if you have the full action bar UI turned on). It even works with the excellent Muzei live wallpaper.

    Covers and Shutters are also carried over from the old version of Action Launcher. Shutters are pop-up versions of widgets that you can trigger by swiping up on the icon of an app on your home screen. I find these pretty useful as I tend to run a widget-heavy home screen. It only takes one or two pages in Action Launcher to accommodate everything I need. Covers are basically folders that show a single app icon. Tap on it to launch that app, or swipe to open the hidden folder.

    Action Launcher also drops a few features from the older version including the Quickpage, which was a slide-out home screen panel on the right side of the screen. Icon scaling and Icon pack support is also missing at launch. The developer says icon packs will probably be supported in early 2015, but there's no easy way to change your icons now without root.

    The new Action Launcher is also very snappy in my testing with a variety of phones and tablets. It does lack a few features that were in the previous build, but this is a complete rewrite of the app, and several of those features were labeled as experimental anyway. This is a paid update, though. That doesn't particularly bother me because Action Launcher 3 really overhauls the look and feel.

    The old version will continue to exist as the unlocker app is being updated as a full version of the paid AL2. Action Launcher 3 is free to try, but all the cool features are behind a $4.99 paywall.