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    Google Play App Roundup: EasilyDo Email, Splitter Critters, and unWorded

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

    EasilyDo Email

    Your phone came with the Gmail app, and maybe you've since branched out to the Inbox app. Support for non-Google email accounts in Inbox is poor, but the new Email app from EasilyDo is a bit like Inbox for whatever email account you want to use. It's essentially an email app wrapped around the EasilyDo Assistant app.

    Adding an account is very quick, especially for Gmail accounts you already have on your phone. Just select it and you're done. There's also a guided setup process for popular apps like Yahoo, Outlook, and AOL Mail. You can also plug in any other account via IMAP. Syncing and general app navigation are quite fast.

    Your inbox defaults to a Gmail-style conversation view—the app doesn't try to imitate Inbox's bundling. The style is a little different, though. Instead of seeing all the emails collapsed in one screen, tapping on an email brings up a new screen with a list of all threaded messages. I don't know if I like it more than Gmail's approach, but it's something new.

    One of my favorite things about EasilyDo Email is the customizable swipe gestures. Each message in the inbox can be swiped left or right. You can have those gestures do things like archive, delete, and mark read/unread. The assistant functionality is neat as well. You'll find this in the navigation panel. The app automatically finds emails that fit into categories like travel, subscriptions, and packages. Tap on any of them to get a filtered view of your inbox. Some of these lists will include a handy breakdown of all the relevant details. For example, flights found in the travel list have flight numbers, reservations, seat numbers, and times. The assistant seems reasonably smart, but it does miss some things.

    The subscriptions section also showcases one of Email's main features; one-tap unsubscribing. You'll see this button at the top of any email it detects as a subscription with a supported method of removing yourself from the list. It seems to work on most of my email subscriptions. Simply tap the button, the app thinks, and you're unsubscribed.

    EasilyDo Email is free, so check it out if you want to get a different take on your email.

    Google Play App Roundup: Peek Launcher, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Glitchskier

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

    Peek Launcher

    Most of the alternative home screens on Android are generally similar, but every now and then a developer just goes in a different direction. Such is the case with Peek Launcher. It eschews many of the things that other launchers have, relying almost entirely on T9 text input. It's an interesting minimalist take on the home screen.

    When you start up Peek Launcher the first time, you'll get a regular phone dial pad at the bottom of the display and two rows of icons. The icons that show up are predictions based on what you've been using most lately. Newly installed apps will also pop up here. To find an app, just start tapping the keys to spell out the name. So for Gmail you'd tap 4, 6, 2, and at that point you'd probably be left with just Gmail. It filters the list of apps live as you tap.

    There are other launchers that include features like this, then there are some apps that just do this alone. Peek Launcher is the only one I'm aware of that is based almost entirely on T9 input. In addition to filtering apps, you can long-press the icons to pin important apps so they'll always show up on the main page. There are swipe gestures too. Drag down to get your Google search bar, and drag up to reveal a full scrollable app list.

    Peek Launcher includes options to change the background and button color of the keyboard. It will also change automatically when you set a new background to match the colors. You can set a custom icon pack as well.

    This app is still early in its development, and it's changing fast. It is a little light on features right now, but it's free. I'll be watching to see what Peek can do down the line.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (February 2017)

    The 2017 phone season is just starting to spin up. The lineup is almost unchanged right now, but there are a big couple of months right around the corner. We expect flagship phones from Samsung, HTC, and LG to show up, and that means you have to be more picky than ever when buying a phone. You could wait it out and see what these upcoming phones look like, but there are still good choices right now. Let's break it down.

    Carrier phones

    Despite being almost a year old, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is still the best overall choice for a carrier phone. Samsung is in the process of rolling Android 7.0 Nougat out to the GS7, which makes it a bit more appealing. It's not the only choice you have, though. Verizon customers have the Pixel, and there's the LG V20.

    Let's start with the Galaxy S7, which is still worth considering. The hardware is still fantastic. I pick up the GS7 Edge sometimes and am still wowed by the curves. The front and back are both Gorilla Glass, but it feels so well put together. The phone is IP68 water resistant, so it can take a quick dip and be fine. It's a little heavier than you probably expect when you pick it up, but the back has a slight curve, making it comfortable to hold.

    The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. They are still the best panels you can get (now that the Note 7 is dead). They're bright, have perfect viewing angles, and the colors are very accurate. Then there's the Edge with a screen that curves down on both the left and right sides. It looks cool, but it's actually less comfortable to hold. The Pixel XL's display is almost as good, but it's not as bright and the colors are flatter. Samsung still wins on this front.

    Bad Robots: How Gimmicks Shaped the Android Ecosystem

    Google devised Android in a way that allows device makers to take the lead on modifying the software to support whatever crazy hardware gimmicks they want to try. Sometimes this has led to some interesting innovations, and other times it's been a mess.

    Some of the hardware fads over the years look bizarre and even foolish in retrospect, but this is all part of the process. Some fads ended up changing the nature of the Android devices we have today.

    Dual screens

    Plenty of people use multiple displays on their computers, but on Android devices? This was another famously poor example of mobile hardware gimmickry. A number of Android devices with dwo displays were launched in 2011 and 2012 including the Kyocera Echo, LG Flip II, and the Sony Tablet P.

    Even today, Android doesn't really support dual-screens, and it barely even supported large format screens in 2011. That meant all the code managing the secondary displays of these phone and tablets was integrated by the OEM. Therefore, the only apps that could take advantage of the special features enabled by the hardware were the ones built-into the device. Oh, there were APIs for developers to add support, but guess how many did. Yeah, none.

    This idea was left behind, at least for the most part. The Russian YotaPhone bumped around a few markets until 2015. This device had an e-paper rear-facing display. It was a little better supported, but the niche wasn't very interesting to consumers in practice. Now, there are a few phones with secondary ticker displays (more on that later).

    Google Play App Roundup: BitTorrent Live, A Normal Lost Phone, and Xenoraid

    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.

    BitTorrent Live

    There are a number of services that offer access to live TV streams on Android, but they tend to want money. BitTorrent Live is a streaming TV service from, you guessed it, BitTorrent. It's completely free. It's been available on some streaming boxes and desktops for several months, but the app has now showed up in the Play Store.

    As with most things BitTorrent does, this streaming video app is based on the company's p2p technology. It uses many of the same techniques that have allowed Torrent sites to become so prominent as sources for… well, everything. BitTorrent itself is a legitimate business, though. The content on BitTorrent Live is fully licensed.

    Because this is based on p2p technology, the quality of the stream will vary based on how many people are viewing it. Just like with a Torrent download, you both download and upload to keep the swarm of watchers going. The result is a system that's much easier on the video source. How does it look? From my testing, I'd say it ranges from middling to good. Some channels look like a standard 480p stream, and other are almost as good as what you'd get streaming HD video from a source like YouTube.

    The interface is minimal, and I think it could use a bit of work. You can tap to bring up the current stream info, then tap the arrow at the bottom to get the full channel list. There are nearly 20 channels, some of which are not going to have wide appeal, like the far, far right One America News network. You do get the NASA TV and NASA UHD stream, though. Scrolling through the horizontal channel guide is not pleasant. Inertial scrolling is ramped way up, and any downward movement is interpreted as a swipe to close the guide.

    There are some other bugs here too. For example, the stream fails to load on mobile data, so you need WiFi right now. It also strikes me as odd there's no Chromecast support at launch. Still, the app is free and it does offer free streaming video as advertised.

    Google Play App Roundup: System Panel 2, Soul Knight, and PixelTerra

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    System Panel 2

    Sometimes you need to know what's going on inside your phone, and System Panel is one of the apps that helps you do that. However, the original System Panel app hasn't been updated in ages. Now, there's a new version available in the Play Store. It's actually a completely new listing and rewritten app. That means you'll have to buy it again if you had the original.

    There will be some concern over the new version so I'll just point out the original System Panel was supported for about 6 years. That's not bad for an app people spent a buck on. The new one has better support for modern versions of Android and has a vastly improved UI. However, changes to the way Android works will limit your ability to track and manage running processes (you shouldn't be "managing" them anyway). You need root access for System Panel 2 to access these tools.

    Even without root, there are a lot of cool things to do in System Panel 2. On the main screen you have a dashboard of your phone's current activity. At the top are read-outs of what's going on with your processor, RAM, storage, battery, and network connection. Below that is a historic graph of battery charge and CPU usage. This can be useful troubleshooting an app or performance issues. At the bottom is a panel showing how many apps you have installed, and your device's ID.

    Tapping on any of the panels in the main app UI will open additional information. For the top few, you'll get the live streamed data with additional information. Opening the history panel (also accessible from the nav menu) lets you drill down into more historical stats. The device ID panel gives you access to system information like reported specs, network conditions, and location data.

    The app manager is one of the most interesting parts of System Panel 2, I think. It has sections for your installed apps, system apps, archived apps, and a permission list. Tapping on any app in the list shows you the package name, install date, last update date, and more. You can archive any app, saving the APK for the current version. The APK is placed on your SD card in a simple folder hierarchy so it's easy to find. With archived apps, you can compare the package stats using the drop down in the app details screen. You can, of course, install those old APKs or export them elsewhere. Note: paid apps can be archived, but the licensing will prevent them from working on devices without a valid account license.

    System Panel 2 is still in beta, but it seems really solid for what it is. I'd like to see some widgets, and a few alternative data filters might be nice. If you need a system info app, this one is a good choice and it's free. If you want to remove the ads, it's a $1.99 in-app purchase.

    Google Play App Roundup: Weather Wiz, Towaga, and Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed

    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.

    Weather Wiz

    Weather apps with a lot of data tend to be not very attractive, and apps with attractive design tend to be lacking in data. Weather Wiz seems like a good compromise between pretty and functional. It's also completely free, at least for now.

    Weather Wiz reminds me a little of the weather app HTC builds into its phone, but it has a lot more data and features than that app. In the main view, there's a temperature readout at the top along with some notes on the current conditions. At the bottom is an hourly forecast that can be scrolled through to see what's coming up in the future. I really appreciate having this data so easily accessible in the app.

    The animated background image on the main screen is controlled by the theme you've chosen. It will, of course, change based on the current conditions. This is where you'll encounter the upsell—some of these themes cost $0.99. There are about 12 themes right now, and five appear to be paid. They don't seem any better than the free ones, though. I'm particularly into the Material theme (right) and the space theme.

    If you scroll down from the main screen, you'll find all the other data in Weather Wiz. Oddly, you have to scroll from the bottom section with the temperature timeline. Swiping on the background doesn't work, which seems awkward and wrong. At any rate, the background is blurred as the new weather readings slide into view. You get more details about current conditions at the top, then as you scroll down there's a rundown of weather for tomorrow. Below that is a 10-day forecast. At the very bottom is a cool sunrise/sunset graphic.

    Weather radar is accessible from the navigation menu, and it'll get the job done. It is very pretty with animated wind patterns, but there's no true animations for radar changes over time. The accuracy of the precipitation (the most important radar use case, I think) seems lacking. This data comes from a third-party, so this isn't necessarily the developer's fault.

    Lastly, there's a full suite of widgets for Weather Wiz that are mostly very good. There are several different sizes, and each theme has its own backgrounds for them. However, you can also use the more generic stock ones if you like. There's an add that pops up when you add a widget, but after you've cleared it, you won't see it again until you add another Weather Wiz widget. Overall, I think this is a great weather app with a not too annoying monetization setup.

    Google Play App Roundup: Stringify, Road Not Taken, and War Commander: Rogue Assault

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Stringify

    Many of us have ended up with various smart internet-connected things. Cameras, lights, and of course our smartphones. There are a number of services that tie these things together, but Stringify is a new take on this with a more visual and potentially powerful approach. Simply link up your services and start playing around.

    If you've used something like IFTTT or Tasker, you'll be able to figure out Stringify pretty fast. It's sort of a combination of those two (although it can actually plug into IFTTT as well). Stringify uses "flows" to control your devices and services. You can use one of the flows from the starter pack to get familiar with the process, but ideally you will want to create new flows based on the things you have.

    I've been playing around with Stringify and my Arlo home security cameras. In a few minutes I was able to create flows to arm and disarm the cameras based on my location and manually trigger a video recording when I tap a special Stringify button. One thing that really sets Stringify apart from services like IFTTT is that it can have multiple triggers and actions, and they're pretty easy to follow with the flowchart setup process. IFTTT by comparison only allows a single trigger and action. You can even plug into IFTTT to integrate recipes within your flows.

    To create flows, you pick the services you want to use, and drop them on the provided grid of circles. There are plenty of built-in triggers like time, location, and so on. The ones needing configuration have gear icons to let you know. After all your icons are set up, you can drag between them to create the flow. I've found Stringify to be very reliable, but there are still some bugs. A few services are also unsupported in the Android client. Not surprising as this is a beta app. If you choose to use a button trigger in Stringify, you can access those from the app's control center. Although, I've had trouble getting the home screen widget version working.

    Despite the issues with this early build, Stringify is something you should keep an eye on. It could potentially be a very powerful automation app.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (January 2017)

    It's a new year, so maybe that means it's time for a new phone too? If you've got some cash left over after the holiday season and are looking for a new Android phone, you don't want to drop that cash on something you'll end up hating. That's where Tested comes in. We're here to give you the lay of the land so you can get the best Android phone. This month, the selection of phones is stable, but the software situation is changing.

    Carrier phones

    If you're going through your carrier, you can take advantage of all the payment plans and other enticements, so it's an understandable option. That does limit your phone choices a bit, and the device will usually be locked (or at least band-customized) for that carrier. There are a few solid options, the most notable of which is the Galaxy S7. Although, the LG V20 isn't a bad choice, and the Pixel is technically available on Verizon. I'll get to that later, but first, the GS7.

    The Galaxy S7 has a number of good selling points that I'll get into in detail, but probably the best are the overall design and the display. The GS7 (and especially the Edge) are solid phones. The front and back are both Gorilla Glass, but it feels so well put together. It's IP68 water resistant, and feels very dense in the hand. It's a little heavier than you probably expect when you pick it up, but it has a slight curve, making it comfortable to hold.

    The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. These are still the best panels you can get on a smartphone, though the gap is closing. They're bright, have perfect viewing angles, and the colors are very accurate. Then there's the Edge with a screen that curves down on both the left and right sides. It looks cool, but it's actually less comfortable to hold. The Pixel XL's display is almost as good, but samsung still wins on this front.

    This phone is slightly thicker than Samsung's 2015 flagship, allowing for a reasonably large battery (relative to size). The GS7 has a 3000mAh battery and the GS7 Edge has 3600mA. In both cases, these cells perform very well. Both phones support Quick Charge 2.0 and wireless charging, but they have microUSB ports. The GS7 has held up well in terms of performance. It was never a blazing-fast phone, but it's fast enough. The Snapdragon 820 has shown up in a lot of phones, but Samsung lowered the clock speed a bit to make the device more power efficient. That's why the battery is so impressive. There are no issues with multitasking thanks to the 4GB of RAM, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Screens, Ookujira, and Empty

    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.

    Screens

    Android 7.0 added support for split-screen apps in the core of Android, meaning all those janky OEM implementations can go the way of the dodo. This also opens developers up to play around with the feature, and maybe even improve it. Screens is an attempt to do just that. It lets you create shortcuts that launch multi-window mode with a predetermined pair of apps.

    Setup for Screens requires only one trip into the settings, and you don't need root or anything fancy like that. All this app needs it access to Accessibility controls. It's basically launching apps and triggering split-screen mode automatically.

    To create shortcuts, just open the Screens interface and pick a name for your shortcut and the two apps you want to open. Note which one is on the top and which is on the top and which is on the bottom—that's the orientation they'll show up in when you launch the app. If you have a device in landscape mode, the "top" position is on the right side of the display.

    The shortcut on your home screen can be moved around like any other, and launching is fast. You'll probably see the very basic Screens UI flash for a split second, then your chosen apps will appear. It's a good idea to make sure the apps you've chosen will actually open in split-screen. Some developers specifically disallow that because it breaks something. However, the apps don't have to be running in the background to launch in split-screen via Screens.

    The app is free and it definitely does what it claims to without trouble. I'd still like to see a few more niceties added. For example, a way to edit previously created shortcuts or custom icon support. Sprucing up the app's interface might be a smart too. Still, it could be a really useful app for anyone who uses the feature on Nougat.

    Hopes and Fears for Google Android in 2017

    This last year was a big deal for Android. Google made substantial changes to its product lineup, took a timeout on smartwatches, and was silent on the topic of tablets. What's going to happen in 2016? I can't know for sure, but I know what my hopes and fears for Android in 2017 are. There are many of them.

    Android Wear

    I personally like smartwatches, but I'm fully cognizant that my job is basically to be a giant nerd. For regular people, smartwatches have yet to catch on. Android Wear is in an interesting place because Google relies upon its OEM partners to make and sell the hardware. It just handles the core software development. In 2016, the number of new smartwatches dropped off and Google had to take a bogie on the big Android Wear 2.0. Needless to say, I'm worried for Android Wear in 2017.

    Motorola and Huawei skipped launching new Wear devices in 2016, and Motorola confirmed it's not even developing more watches. Meanwhile, Google had to delays the release of Android Wear 2.0 when feedback on the developer preview was, to put it kindly, terrible. It's now expected to launch in early 2017. That's not all, though. Google is also releasing new flagship watches.

    The word on Google's Wear 2.0 watches came from Google's Android Wear product manager Jeff Chang. There will be two of them that run Android Wear 2.0 out of the box, They'll be the first devices to run the new software, and they'll be sold directly by Google. However, the OEMs branding will still be present. These won't be "Pixel" devices.

    This is probably the last shot Android Wear has in its current state. We'll know by around the middle of 2017 if Wear is taking off. If it doesn't I feel like Google is going to have to go back to the drawing board to come at wearables from a different direction.

    Ryan's Favorite Google and Android Things of 2016

    Google's product strategy changed a lot in 2016—the Nexus line is gone, and all hardware has been united under the Rick Osterloh. In general, Google seems to be taking a more measured approach to all its products and services now. My work (and therefore much of my life) revolves around Google's products, particularly Android. It's a good time to be a Google nerd. Here are my favorite Google and Android things of 2016.

    Google Pixel

    I've used Nexus phones for as long as they've existed, and now they don't anymore. I think I'm okay with that because the Pixel is the best phone Google has ever made—it's actually the best Android phone you can buy right now, in my opinion. There are things I could complain about like the high price or lack of water-resistant design, but it's overall such a compelling phone that I recommend it to people wholeheartedly.

    The Pixel has a Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and 32/128GB of storage. It's specced very well, but it's also very well-optimized. The Pixel is without a doubt the fastest Android phone I've ever used. What's more, it stays fast. I've been using it most of the time since it came out, and there's no discernable drop in speed. I also love that there's a small version of the phone that doesn't make a million compromises simply because phablets tend to sell better. The 5-inch Pixel is every bit as fast as the 5.5-inch XL.

    Google Play App Roundup: Pigment, Oceanhorn, and RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic

    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.

    Pigment

    Just because you're a grown-up doesn't mean you can't chill out with a coloring book and some markers. Adult coloring books are a big deal these days with mental health experts citing them as a great way to relieve stress. There's also a way to get your coloring fix digitally with Pigment. This app includes hundreds of free pages to color, plus a ton more if you subscribe.

    Adult coloring books tend to have vastly more detail than the ones intended for kids, and it's the same way with the pages in this app. They come in various categories like animals, fantasy, and geometric. The default settings make it pretty easy to get up and doodling right away. There are plenty of color palettes to choose from, and you have several different brushes. These also come with distinctive textures. For example, the paintbrush has rougher strokes than the marker, and the airbrush is completely uniform. Each one has configurable size and transparency too.

    When you tap in an area to start coloring, the app will keep you inside the lines. This lets you be a little more free with the way you apply brush strokes without getting a mess. You can turn this off. But you need to be pretty careful—a capacitive touch screen isn't the most accurate input device. At the very least you'll need a stylus with a fine tip to go completely free-hand. It's certainly doable, though.

    The images have a lot of little nooks and crannies to be colored, so you'll have to zoom in with multitouch to get them all. You can also pan across images with a two-finger drag gesture. The pages have very high detail in general. Even zooming way in, the lines are still rendered smoothly.

    Pigment lets you just fill things in solid if you want. However, it also includes the tools to create some very pretty works of art. You can layer colors on top of each other with different brushes and weight to create some very neat effects. All your work will be saved in the app, allowing you to come back to a partially finished page later or export something you previously finished. Exported images have watermarks, though.

    There are around 300 free pages in Pigment, but upgrading to premium gets you thousands more. That also adds more color palettes and removes watermarks. This is a subscription app, so you pay monthly for access. The developers say that more pages will be added every week as a justification for the subscription. It's a little spendy at $7.99 per month. If you're really into coloring, maybe you'll be down with that. Otherwise, the free content it pretty cool too.

    Google Play App Roundup: Pyrope Browser, Time Locker, and Retro City Rampage DX

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Pyrope Browser

    I find that I don't often have cause to stray from Chrome on Android. While it's not always been the fastest browser, it has improved markedly in recent years. It's also deeply integrated with my other Google stuff. I think to be interesting, a browser has to bring some distinct features to the table, and Pyrope Browser. This is a revamped version of the CyanogenMod browser (sometimes known as Gello) that runs on all Android devices. It's based on Chromium, but there's a lot of cool stuff going on here.

    The first thing you'll notice about Pyrope Browser is how minimal the on-screen UI is. There's a URL bar, favicon, tabs, and overflow menu button. If that's too much, you can even enable immersive mode with hides the system UI (status and nav bar) unless you swipe to reveal them. Tapping on the favicon for a site shows all the permissions and security information on that domain. Pyrope Browser has built-in ad-blocking on a per domain basis, so this is where you can enable ads for sites you know and trust. Because this is Chromium under the hood, you also have access to Incognito Mode for sketchy browsing.

    One of the most useful things in Pyrope Browser is the edge navigation, which you will be asked to enable the first time you stumble upon it. Swiping in from the left or right can be interpreted as a forward or back gesture. This can interfere with pages that have edge gesture navigation, but I've found it still usable in those instances. The edge gesture navigation is particularly useful in Pyrope Browser because it loads pages so fast. As you drag inward, you can see the other page slide over. The browser flashes for a moment as the page reloads, and you're all set. Pyrope Browser is definitely faster at loading pages than Google's standard Chrome releases on Android. Devices running Qualcomm Snapdragon chips can take advantage of special APIs that increase performance even further

    Some of the more exotic features include power saving modes, restricted access to webview data, and night mode. That last one is quite interesting. Pyrope Browser simply inverts all the colors on the page. Most pages are black text on a light background, so it's much easier on the eyes in the dark. However, it's smart enough not to invert the colors on a page that uses a dark background by default.

    Pyrope Browser is free, and it might be just the alternative browser you've been waiting for on Android.

    Google Play App Roundup: Trusted Contacts, Dawn of Titans, and Bully

    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.

    Trusted Contacts

    Google knows where you are, and from the context of your movements, it can often figure out what you're doing. This is all part of the trade off for leaving location services on. You get a lot of cool features, but there's sometimes a little bit of a creepiness factor. It's about time to put Google's location awareness to good use, and that's what Trusted Contacts does. After registering the app with your account and verifying your contacts, you can share your location securely in a snap.

    Trusted Contacts is technically part of Google Play Services, which is on nearly every Android device. However, you need to install the app to enable the feature. After logging in, you can choose which of your contacts you want to set as "trusted." They also need to install the app and confirm the connection.

    Doing all this gives you both access to the other's location, but no unfettered access. Let's say you're supposed to meet your significant other and they're running late. You can use the Trusted Contacts app to request a location. Simply tap on their entry in the app, and send the request. On the other end, your trusted contact gets a notification that you want access to their location. The notification lets them deny or grant access. If they don't act on the notification within five minutes, the request is automatically granted. This is an emergency measure.

    On your device, contacts that have granted location access are visible in the list for 24 hours with a live updating map. This is not an additional battery drain, though. The location information is tied into Play Services. So you're just getting the same location information as Google. When you tap on the map for a shared contact, you have the option of opening the location in Maps

    Your trusted contacts can also, of course, request your location. You don't have to wait for that, though. You can also foist your location upon them by tapping the action button at the top of the app. You can choose individual recipients or just send an alert to all your trusted contacts with your location. This is another emergency measure.

    Trusted Contacts is a neat and useful app. I would not be surprised to see Google require this on GMS-certified devices going forward.

    Google Play App Roundup: Clip Layer, Battleship Lonewolf, and Samorost 3

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Clip Layer

    Android has always supported copying text, even back when that was unusual on mobile devices. However, there are still lots of places in the OS that text isn't accessible. There are a few apps that let you grab that text, but Microsoft's Clip Layer seems to be the best at it. There is, however, a drawback. You'll lose Google Now on Tap. Okay, admittedly that's a pretty minor drawback.

    Clip Layer is bound to the long-press home button shortcut—it takes over the Assist command in the system settings. On most phones, that's still Google Now on Tap. The lone exception being the Pixel phones. On those devices, the long-press action launches Assistant. Assistant is useful, so I don't know that I'd recommend using Clip Layer on the Pixel. Everyone else is only losing access to Now on Tap (AKA screen search), which Google has effectively abandoned.

    Your screen is overlaid with a grid showing all detected text when you long-press to launch Clip Layer. To select text, just tap the boxes. These can be app icon labels, contents from widgets, or just text in an app that doesn't expose it for selection. Then, tap the floating text icon in the upper right corner to see all the text you've selected.

    Like other apps, Clip Layer can only grab an entire block of text at a time. However, you can edit a bit in the text popup. You can long-press here to select and copy just a part of the text you've pulled out of the screen.

    At the bottom of the screen in Clip Layer mode are several action buttons including copy, task, email, and share. The copy button is self-explanatory. Task plugs into Wunderlist to turn the text into a to-do (you have to log into Wunderlist first). Email drops the text into a new email, and share simply opens the system sharing menu so you can send the text anyplace else.

    Clip Layer is free, and it's a good solution if you often find yourself needing to copy text from odd places. Losing the long-press shortcut is a minor drawback right now for most phones. If Assistant comes to more devices in the future, you may be less keen on it, though.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (December 2016)

    As we coast through the final weeks of the year, you may be eyeing deals on smartphones and wondering which one you should get. It's a big decision, and one that's harder than ever to make. New phones are constantly coming out, but this is the perfect time to pick one up. We're still months out from the 2017 flagships, and we've seen all the big 2016 releases. Google is making it easier than ever to pick up its latest and greatest, but Samsung is really trying to make up for that Note7 fiasco with some good deals. What's a smartphone buyer to do?

    Carrier phones

    Despite the issues with Samsung's Note 7 release this fall, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have held up well and don't (as far as I'm aware) blow up any more often than other phones. That's a good thing. The GS7 continues to be the best overall phone that you can get from your carrier, or at least from all carriers. Verizon customers can get the Pixel from Big Red, but we'll get into that later. First, let's talk about why the Galaxy S7 is still worthy of your attention.

    The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. These are still the best panels you can get on a smartphone, though the gap is closing. They're bright, have perfect viewing angles, and the colors are very accurate. Then there's the Edge, which is so named because the screen curves down on both the left and right sides. It looks cool, but it's actually less comfortable to hold. The Pixel XL's display is almost as good, but samsung still wins on this front.

    Samsung used to build phones that felt cheap, but I'm still impressed when I pick up the GS7. The front and back are both Gorilla Glass, but it feels so well put together. It's IP68 water resistant, and feels very dense in the hand. It's a little heavier than you probably expect when you pick it up, but it has a slight curve, making it much more comfortable to hold.

    This phone is slightly thicker than Samsung's 2015 flagship, allowing for a larger battery. The GS7 has a 3000mAh battery and the GS7 Edge has 3600mA. In both cases, these cells perform very well. I've been using a GS7 Edge on and off for months and it easily lasts a day with heavy use. The smaller GS7 is almost as good. Both phones support Quick Charge 2.0 and wireless charging, but they have microUSB ports. That's increasingly odd as time goes on.

    The GS7 has held up well in terms of performance. It was never a blazing-fast phone, but it's fast enough. The Snapdragon 820 has shown up in a lot of phones, but Samsung lowered the clock speed a bit to make the device more power efficient. There are no issues with multitasking thanks to the 4GB of RAM, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Contextual App Folder, Jade Empire, and Hopeless 3

    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.

    Contextual App Folder

    As you install more apps and games, your app drawer will increasingly become a pain to navigate. You can add shortcuts to your home screen, but eventually you end up with the same problem—too many things and not enough space. Contextual App Folder can help with a simple folder that changes its contents based on triggers like time, location, and connected devices.

    To start, Contextual App Folder comes with a "Default" folder and one for "Headphones." All you get in default is a link to the Contextual App Folder settings. The Headphones folder will include any apps Contextual App Folder recognizes as audio or music-related. Default is the folder what appears on your home screen when no other of your contextual settings have been triggered. You can change the name of this folder, as well as what's in it. The same goes for the Headphones folder.

    Those two are just the start. Contextual App Folder includes conditions for the time of day, location, various device status triggers like being on a phone call, getting a notification from certain apps, and charging. When you select a new condition to create a folder, you have to choose which apps you want included in it. The order of these apps can also be changed.

    To use Contextual App Folder, just add it as a widget to the home screen. One thing I've always disliked about similar dynamic folder apps is that they don't look like folders. That's not the case with Contextual App Folder. It looks and acts like a regular folder on your home screen, but you can also tweak the style to use different colors, font sizes, and layouts.

    As for the basic functionality, I'm very impressed with Contextual App Folder. The folder updates to the right context extremely fast—within a second or two of plugging in headphones, for example. This app is still in early access, but it seems really solid. It's free right now, although I imagine there will be an in-app upgrade option when it's officially released.

    Google Play App Roundup: PhotoScan, NYTimes - Crossword, and Space Marshals 2

    There's always something awesome happening on Android. There are killer apps, amazing games, and utilities unlike you'll find on other platforms. The goal of the Google Play App Roundup is to find the best of the best in all those categories so you don't have to hunt them down manually. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store.

    PhotoScan

    Digital cameras have been a mainstream consumer item for over a decade at this point, and smartphone cameras have been fantastic in recent years. As such, the use of film cameras is essentially zero, but many of us still have mountains of old photo albums in the attic. These photos won't last forever, and now Google has released an app that aims to make digitizing them easier. It's called PhotoScan.

    There are several apps in the Play Store that claim to scan your photos, but Google says it's approach is better. PhotoScan leverages the power of machine learning to intelligently recreate the physical photo in digital format with no glare or perspective distortion.

    If you've ever tried to take a photo of a photo, you know how bad the quality usually is. You're forced to either take a picture head-on and deal with glare, or take it at an angle and end up with a screwed up perspective. PhotoScan eliminates both of those issues because it's not taking a single photo.

    To start, you set the photo down and take a picture of it with the app. I know I said you aren't taking a photo of the photo, but this is just to help the app detect the general layout. Four dots will be overlaid in the viewfinder toward the corners of the photo. Simply move the phone to point at each one of those dots until the circle fills up. This is where all of Google's AI magic happens. It filters out all the glare from different individual captures, then slices the photo up into segments. Each one is transformed slightly and reassembled to correct for the subtly different perspectives of each capture.

    Your in-app camera roll shows the results from each photo almost instantly, which is quite impressive. There are times when the app can't quite detect the corners of the photo—this usually happens when the original doesn't take up very much of the frame. You can crop the image down manually to adjust the corners, which should give PhotoScan what it needs to output the final image.

    Photos that you create with this app can be uploaded to Google Photos and saved to your device. I think the quality of the photos is very good overall. You should try to do your scans in good natural light as the LED on the phone tends to make images cooler than the original. However, the images created by PhotoScan do look like photos, and not photos of photos. It's a free app, so give it a shot.

    Google Play App Roundup: Fingerprint Gestures, Party Hard Go, and Skyhill

    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.

    Fingerprint Gestures

    Google's new Pixel phones include a gesture to open the navigation pane by swiping the fingerprint sensor. It's neat but largely inconsequential to your daily use. However, when Google noted that this feature would not come to other devices on Android 7.1, people were not pleased. It was the principle of the thing. Well, now there's an app that can replicate that feature on a lot of devices with a little hackery.

    Fingerprint Gestures is a service that runs in the background and plugs into Google's fingerprint API, which was added in Android 6.0. Not all phones have the standard fingerprint implementation, but the vast majority of phones that ship with Marshmallow do. I tested Fingerprint Gestures on an LG V20, and it worked as expected. It functions by running as an accessibility service, so you'll be prompted to enable that the first time Fingerprint Gestures is configured.

    To be clear, this app works without root, which surprised me at first. I suppose it makes sense in the context of an app with accessibility access. However, there are a few extra features you can enable if you do have root on your phone. Whether or not you have root determines which functions you can associate with tapping, double-tapping, and swiping the sensor.

    Without root, you can do things like open the notification panel, trigger the home button, open recent apps, and access the device power menu. There's also an option to create a shortcut panel that can be accessed from one of the sensor gestures. With root, you can scroll up and down or put the phone to sleep.

    You will have to put up with a persistent notification while Fingerprint Gestures is running. If you can get over that, it works pretty well. Although, if you have a phone with the sensor on the back, it's easy to accidentally brush it and trigger the app. It feels more useful for a phone where the fingerprint sensor is on the front or side.