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    Google Play App Roundup: Flytube, Dots and Co., and Rooms of Doom

    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.

    Flytube

    For all its multitasking abilities, Android is still not completely there with true multitasking. That is, having more than one thing on the screen at a time. Some devices have a version of this (that isn't very good), and Android 7.0 is supposed to expand support for split-screen. But even that isn't going to make a proper floating video player possible right away. That's what Flytube is. It takes any YouTube video and puts it in a floating window.

    Setting up Flytube will vary depending on your device. You'll need to clear defaults for YouTube (however you go about that on your device) so that Flytube will be an option when you click on a video link. The opening tutorial walks you through a few tests to make sure it works correctly.

    When you tap on a YouTube video, Flytube opens and starts playback. It looks like a tiny web frame to me, based on the controls. It works well enough, though. By default, the video will snap to the edge of your screen, but you can drag it around anywhere you like. You have access to closed captioning, but all the other YouTube settings are unavailable.

    The standard window size seems alright for a phone, but it's somewhat small for a tablet. If you upgrade to the full version for $0.99, you can resize the video window with a small corner drag indicator. This also gets rid of the banner ad in the app itself. Speaking of the Flytube app, you can search for videos and open them in Flytube windows from here, even if you don't have it set as the default.

    Flytube maintains good framerates as you're doing other things, as long as your phone is reasonably powerful. I've seen no issues with the apps I'm using while Flytube is playing in the foreground. Note, it won't continue playing while the screen is off -- you still need YouTube Red for that.

    Google Play App Roundup: Storm it, Dead Venture, and Super Stickman Golf 3

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

    Storm it

    Some would argue that Twitter's main strength over the years has also been its main limitation. Tweets can only be 140 characters in length (at least for now). Every time the company has speculated about making tweets longer, the reaction from the community has been swift and negative. Still, there are times you might want to express an idea on Twitter that's longer than 140 characters. Posting multiple tweets is a pain, but "Storm it" makes the process easier.

    The name of the app comes from "tweetstorm," which is the term often used when someone posts multiple tweets in quick succession on a single topic. The problem is figuring out where to split things up and posting them quickly enough that they'll appear nearby in the stream. Storm it does all the hard work for you.

    After you log into your Twitter account in Storm it, you'll get a blank canvas upon which you can scrawl your ideas -- rant, rave, or just a thought that's too long for one tweet. The cool thing here it that Storm it will be smart about where to break your text up into individual tweets. It won't just stop mid-word, but your sentences will still get chopped in half if they don't fit in one tweet. It also adds numbering so people can tell which order to read the tweets.

    Down at the bottom is a Storm it button. Now, I would have thought that this would give you some sort of preview of confirmation dialog, but it doesn't. When you press that button, all your queued tweets are sent. You'll get a status screen to show you as each one is posted. If you want to preview the chopped up version of your text, you can tap the eye icon on the far left of the Storm it button. It's probably a good idea to do that.

    The settings are sparse -- all you have is the choice of two different formats for the numbering appended to your tweets. There's also a history menu that shows you past tweetstorms, both sent (stormed) and unsent (forecasted -- ha). Unsent storms can be edited and sent from this menu.

    Storm it has admittedly narrow appeal, but it does it's job well without a bunch of added cruft. It's also free.

    Google Play App Roundup: ASAP Launcher, Pokémon GO, and Titan Quest

    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.

    ASAP Launcher

    There are plenty of alternative launchers on Android, some of which are very mature and feature-rich. They all have a lot of features in common, though. ASAP Launcher is brand new, and it's markedly different than those other launchers. It has a very clean material look with custom "cards" on the home screen for features like weather, contacts, and calendar. One thing it doesn't have is widgets. How very odd.

    There's one regular home screen panel in ASAP Launcher, and even that one has some unusual modifications. At the top is a single built-in widget with the date, google voice search button, weather, and music controls. At the bottom are five app icons of your choosing. You can drag up from the bottom or open an expanded dock that has two more rows of icons for the apps you use most. This improves over time, but you can also manually pin apps to the list.

    If you want to get at the rest of your apps, drag in from the left to open the scrollable drawer. This reminds me very much of the QuickDrawer in Action Launcher, which I really like. You can scroll along normally, or drag along the letters toward the right to fast-scroll. A search bar at the top of the list lets you type the first few letters of an app as well. Drag in from the right side of the screen and you get a configurable quick settings panel.

    The cards are what you see if you swipe left or right instead of more home screen panels. There's one for frequent contacts, weather, calendar, and notes. You can rearrange or disable any of them from the settings. I think the weather one is very well-done, as is the frequent contact card. The calendar is fine, but frankly a whole screen is overkill for just a scrolling list. If there were more details shown, then we'd be in business. The notes panel feels unnecessary to me.

    All the above features are included for free, but a sub-$2 pro upgrade adds things like unread counts, custom icon packs, and additional themes. ASAP has a lot of potential, and I hope the developer keeps the improvements coming.

    The Best Alternative Home Screen Apps on Android

    From the earliest days of Android, alternative home screens have been one of the most interesting app categories. So much of what you do on your phone starts with the launcher, and Android let's you completely change it. The top replacement home screens have changed a lot over the years with old classics like Launcher Pro falling into disrepair. At the same time, new home screens like Nova appear in the Play Store to fill in the gaps. Let's take a look at the top Android home screens and see what they offer.

    Nova Launcher

    Nova is considered by many to be the most customizable and fully fleshed out launcher for Android. It's a true chameleon among launchers that can be made to look almost any way you want with an intimidatingly long list of features. Once you get acclimated to Nova, you'll probably find a lot to like here.

    I think Nova probably adheres the best to Android ever-changing design guidelines. As soon as Google has a new quirk, Nova is updated with a matching option. And it usually is an option. Almost every visual element in Nova can be tweaked to your heart's content. There are dozens of ways to display folders, a ton of home screen scrolling effects, at least 15 or 20 ways to display the Google search bar, and that's just scratching the surface.

    Some of the distinctive features in Nova include an automated night mode that makes most of the launcher less hard on your eyes, an extremely comprehensive gesture system that lets you operate almost every function with a swipe, and icon scaling that makes oddly sized icons fit in with everything else. I'm particularly impressed with how accurate the icon scaling is. Nova's gestures are cool too, but they can make you phone almost completely unusable for someone else. If you control everything with a gesture, no one will know where anything is. Maybe you want that, though?

    Because Google has not opened the search features up, you won't get easy access to Google Now. The closest you can get is opening the search app with a gesture. Nova Launcher is free to try with a limited feature set, and you can upgrade to the full version for $4.99.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (July 2016)

    We are quickly approaching a new Android release with the official unveiling of Android 7.0 Nougat, and not all phones will be getting that software quickly. That makes your decisions at this time somewhat more complicated. There are some great phones available from your carrier, but unlocked phones get updates faster. What's an Android nerd to do? Let's sort it all out.

    Carrier Phones

    Things are simpler on the carrier side this month with very little change. You should consider the Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10. If you're on AT&T, you won't be able to get the HTC 10 direct, so that's an easier choice. What of the LG G5? I think the only reason you should pick that phone up is if you really, truly cannot live without a removable battery.

    Let's start with the Galaxy S7, and why you might want it. Samsung is still using a solid metla and glass design for the GS7. The glass back will collect fingerprints like mad and you could damage the body of the phone if you drop it. Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker than the GS6, which might not sound desirable, but there's more room inside for a bigger battery now. The glass panel on the back also has curved edges to make it more comfortable in your hand.

    The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery, and the GS7 Edge has 3600mAh. Both phones are also water resistant, which the Galaxy S6 wasn't. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have new Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. The Edge, of course, has a screen that curves down on the left and right edge. The Edge phone does look very nice, but it's not as comfortable to hold thanks to the larger size and narrower metal band around the rim due to the Edge screen. None of the software features that are supposed to take advantage of the Edge display really do anything special. Most of them would work on the regular phone too. It's just an arbitrary attempt to justify the design.

    Samsung is using a Snapdragon 820, which is a quad-core 64-bit SoC that's easily as fast as last year's octa-core parts. The GS7 also has 4GB of RAM, and it multitasks much better than the GS6. There's also a microSD card slot in these phones, another improvement over the Galaxy S6, but it doesn't support adoptable storage in Android 6.0.

    Samsung is using a 12MP camera sensor this year, and the performance is really impressive. It has excellent low-light clarity and color balance, and the outdoor shots are realistic and vibrant. Samsung also implemented an autofocus technology that lets it use all the available pixels to locate the subject. I've found this to be faster than any other phone, even those with laser autofocus sensors.

    Google Play App Roundup: Smart Wallpapers, Redungeon, and CSR Racing 2

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

    Smart Wallpapers

    Live Wallpapers have existed since Android 2.1, and I'm always mildly surprised when a new version of Android comes out with support for them. Google has essentially ignored live wallpapers for years, but third-party developers have managed to do some cool things without completely killing battery life. The latest example of innovative live wallpaper design is Smart Wallpapers. They behave like static images, except there are embedded live device stats.

    You can set Smart Wallpapers like any LWP by going through the system interface. However, to customize you should open the Smart Wallpapers app itself. At the top you can pick which data points you'd like to add to the wallpaper (up to 8). The free version of the app only includes a few, but the full version ($0.99) includes things like network speed, steps (Google Fit), missed calls, message count, storage usage, and so on.

    You can access this information is other ways, of course. You could even use widgets to see it on the home screen. The advantage of Smart Wallpapers is that the stats are part of the background. That means you can place other icons and widgets around (or on top of) the readouts. The settings app even has an interface where you can preview and move the data widgets around. Wherever you place them is where they'll be on the actual wallpaper applied on your device. This works fine for the most part, but I really wish the app could snap the widgets into columns or rows so it wasn't such a pain to line things up.

    Adding a wallpaper image is the other side of customizing Smart Wallpapers. It includes a few options, but you can also add your own. The readouts are white, so a darker image is best. The color of the numeric values can be changed, but not the gauges.

    I think Smart Wallpapers is very interesting, and could be ideal for someone working on a minimalist home screen setup. It works nicely with the Marshmallow UI tuner, which allows you to remove icons from the status bar. With Smart Wallpapers, you can just put that data on the home screen.

    What Killing the 3.5mm Headphone Jack Could Mean for Android Phones

    When choosing a new smartphone, it's often hard to find something with literally every feature you want. You might have to go without things like wireless charging or the latest and greatest processor in order to get the best overall fit. However, one thing you haven't had to worry about losing is the headphone jack. That may well be a real concern in the not too distant future.

    Motorola is has announced the Moto Z without a headphone jack, and although this isn't the first foray into Android phones without a standard 3.5mm jack, it's certainly the most high profile.

    Headphone History

    In some ways, this feels like a real blast from the past. The first few Android phones in 2008 and 2009 didn't have headphone jacks either. Back then, HTC was fond of the extUSB port, a tweaked version of a standard miniUSB with a few extra pins that could carry analog audio. This graced such iconic devices as the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) and HTC Magic (Google Ion/T-Mobile MyTouch 3G). A version of the latter was re-released later with a 3.5mm headphone jack because let's face it, not having a headphone jack is annoying.

    A headphone jack is the standard way of outputting analog audio, but the early experiments in jackless phones were doing that as well. You could use an adapter for the extUSB port to get a standard 3.5mm jack, or use headphones with extUSB. I think about four of those ever existed because it was far too early to ditch the 3.5mm jack.

    However you get audio out of your phone, it needs to be an analog signal when it reached your ears -- something has to process the digital signal, and thus far that has always happened in the phone with a DAC (digital to analog converter). Some phones have toyed with using more powerful, high-end DACs for a supposedly better audio experience. LG even sells a DAC module for the G5 in some markets.

    A few OEMs think that the move to the reversible USB Type-C plug is the perfect time to get rid of the old standard, but it might not be a clean break with the past.

    Google Play App Roundup: Calendar Widget: Agenda, Rodeo Stampede, and Zombieville USA 2

    Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

    Calendar Widget: Agenda

    A few years ago, Candl Apps released the "Month" calendar widget, and it was a pretty big success. Now, the developer has published Calendar Widget: Agenda. You can probably guess what it does from the name. Like Month, this app comes with a multiple skins and a couple extra features but directly related to your schedule.

    There's no entry for Agenda in your app drawer after installing. It's settings are only available from the widget after you've placed it in there home screen, so go ahead and do that. There's only one size in the weather list, but it's resizable to add small as 2x2 or as large as whatever your device's maximum grid size is. To change the theme, tap the settings gear on the widget.

    There centerpiece of this app is the assortment of neat themes for the widget. A few look like tweaked versions of the stock Google Calendar widget, and none of them are super-weird or unattractive. I particularly like the ones that separate the days out as cards. When selecting a theme, you also have the option of tweaking the colors and opacity.

    Like other agenda widgets, you can scroll through to get a look at all the event coming up on your calendars. In the settings, you can choose which calendars you want shown on the widget if you've got more than one attached to your account. There's also an option to have weather shown next to each day. This is part of the full version upgrade, though.

    You get a handful of themes in the free download. Most of them are the note generic ones, but for $1.49 you can get another dozen themes and the aforementioned weather feature.

    Google Play App Roundup: ADW Launcher 2.0, Lost Frontier, and _PRISM

    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 links to head right to Google Play.

    ADW Launcher 2.0

    Anyone who has used Android devices for a few years has probably heard of ADW Launcher. It was one of the best custom home screens for Android in the days before Nova appeared on the scene. It hasn't been updated in years, but the developer has reappeared with a beta release of ADW 2.0, and you can give it a shot right now.

    This is a completely redesigned version of ADW that seems competitive with the top alternative launchers today. Note: you'll have to opt into the beta test for this app before the new version will show up for you. It's using the same listing as the original app, so install that one and your devices will update to the beta automatically.

    ADW 2.0 is highly configurable and colorful, a good mix of qualities from other launchers. At the top of your screen is a Google search bar, but that's actually a custom widget. You can modify it, or even create entirely new widgets for that spot or anywhere else on your home screen. These widgets aren't as powerful as the various standalone apps that let you build custom widgets, but you can do some neat stuff. It does lead to some unnecessary complication, though. An example: ADW's custom all-in-one widget add-on defaults to celcius. If you want to use Fahrenheit, you have to actually go into the widget editor, find the temperature layer, and change it to imperial. It's a very "power user" way to do things.

    The launcher also has an automated theme engine built-in, which is one of the things I really like about Action Launcher. By default, it's based on your wallpaper image. Your search bar, app drawer, and folder background will pull colors from the wallpaper. You can change the colors in settings if you like. In another nod to Action Launcher, you can set folders to show only the top icon (launched with a tap), but still make the rest of the folder accessible with a swipe.

    I really like the way ADW groups widgets and makes managing your home screens easier. However, some of the features here aren't completely obvious. For instance, it took me a minute of experimenting to figure out how to get rid of a home screen panel. It's beta, so I assume that the tutorial will be fleshed out before the final release. In the app drawer, there's also a categorization option for apps, but it's all manual. That's fine if you want things a certain way and don't mind organizing everything by hand.

    ADW 2.0 does all the basic stuff you'd expect from a custom launcher like gestures, page transition effects, and icon packs. Almost all of this is available for free in the new beta, but you can upgrade to the full version for $2.99. The free version does have a "promo apps" icon, which is essentially an ad. You can remove it from your "all apps" category to hide it, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Opera News and Search, Heroes of Loot 2, and PKTBALL

    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.

    Opera News and Search

    Opera has been making browsers for Android since the early days, and there are several versions of its existing mini and standard browsers in the store right now. The new Opera News and Search browser is a little different. It focuses on recommending content in the browser and making it easier to read. It's a bit like a browser with a stripped down RSS feed inside.

    When you first open Opera News and Search, you'll see a start screen with a search/URL field at the top and news headlines below that. Right now the biggest issue is that some of the content Opera shows you be default is kind of garbage. I don't personally care about a "crazy hack that will dry your nails in seconds." Luckily, that's just the main feed. You can slide over to the Discover tab to see specific topics like technology, design, and so on. You can check them out there or subscribe to get dedicated news tabs and a better mix of things in your main list. When you tap on a story, you have the option of loading it in a text-only reading mode too.

    Your main search/news tabs remain open at all times in the home tab, but you can open others and use Opera like any other browser. Simply use the search bar or the tab button in the bottom toolbar to get on your way. The home button will always take you back to the main tab with all the news content. You'll get notifications for breaking news as well.

    If you have an Opera account, this browser can sync your tab history, reading list, and bookmarks. As is customary in Opera browsers, there's also an option to enable server-side compression to save mobile data while browsing. Private browsing is supported as well via the tab management screen. Anything loaded in private mode will not be saved in cache or your browsing history.

    The new Opera is experimental, so there are probably going to be some bugs. It's also only available in the US right now (at least officially). At its heart, the new Opera is running the same engine as the other full-scale version (non-Mini), meaning Chromium. The Opera implementation is fast and page rendering is spot-on.

    It does seem rather well put together for a first release. If Opera improves user control over the news feed, this could be a capable alternative to Chrome and a nice improvement over the current Opera browser.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flamingo, Sky Force Reloaded, and NeoWars

    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.

    Flamingo

    Twitter recently resurrected the much-loved app Fenix from the grave after it ran out of tokens. From this we learned that the company is now willing to work with developers who have run out of auth tokens, so it's a bit safer for developers to invest their time and energy into Twitter apps. The first new Twitter app of interest in a long time is Flamingo, which was made by the developer of the fabulous Weather Timeline app. It's still in beta, but Flamingo get a lot of things right.

    Flamingo has three main columns across the top, and they're the right columns. You have the timeline, mentions, and messages. So many apps clutter the main interface with unnecessary streams. You can, however, rearrange, add, and remove columns from the main app UI. Flamingo puts all the other stuff in the slide-out navigation menu where it's supposed to be. You can swipe to navigate between columns or tap on the headers. Tapping on the header will also move you to the top of your current stream, an essential feature for me in Twitter apps.

    The way you interact with tweets is well-designed in Flamingo as well. Tapping on a tweet pulls up in-line action buttons to reply, retweet, like, and so on. A long-press opens the tweet in a new screen with full conversation history. I love that you can drag down to close these screens, as well as images that you've opened. If you are supposed to see replies to something in your timeline (i.e. you follow both people) those will be shown in-line, which is very handy. I also quite like the way links and quoted tweets show up in colorful boxes in the timeline tweet. It's easy to follow what's going on at a glance here.

    One of Flamingo's main selling points is the abundance of themes. It comes with a dozen presets, and you can design your own theme by picking colors. The default "blue bird" theme is pretty good, but there are plenty of other nice ones including an AMOLED dark theme.

    Flamingo doesn't have settings for refresh speed, so I'm assuming the notifications are handled as push messages. The only toggle I can find is one to defer notifications to save battery. Presumably this batches notifications so your phone won't wake up constantly to deliver them. I'd like a little more clarity on this.

    I'm really impressed with the design and reliability of Flamingo at such an early stage. I'm personally missing a widget. I use home screen widgets to browse Twitter almost as much as I use the actual app, so it's a must have feature for me. If the developer can get that sorted out, i could easily make Flamingo my full-time Twitter client, and it's only $0.99.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network (June 2016)

    There have already been some big device launches this year, and several of 2015's Android flagships are starting to get a bit long in the tooth. So, what are you supposed to do if the time has come to upgrade? You can get something a bit older that costs a bit less and appeals to you more, or pick up the latest and greatest. And of course, there's always something big just around the corner. Let's get the lay of the Android land.

    Carrier Phones

    On the carrier side, I think there are only two devices to seriously consider; the Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10. If you're on AT&T, that decision is even easier, which I'll get to shortly. First, the Galaxy S7 has some strong points regardless of the carrier you're on.

    Samsung is using a metal and glass unibody design for the GS7, which feels extremely solid. However, you will collect fingerprints like mad and you could damage the body of the phone if you drop it. The designers took an unusual step this year. Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker than the GS6 so the camera hump is flush with the back, and there's more room inside for a bigger battery. The glass panel on the back also has curved edges to make it more comfortable in your hand.

    The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery, and the GS7 Edge has 3600mAh. Both phones are also water resistant, which is a feature Samsung dropped from the GS6. There's also a microSD card slot in these phones, another improvement over the Galaxy S6, but it doesn't support adoptable storage in Android 6.0.

    The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have new Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. The Edge, of course, has a screen that curves down on the left and right edge. The Edge phone does look very nice, but it's not as comfortable to hold thanks to the larger size and narrower metal band around the perimeter due to the Edge screen. None of the software features that are supposed to take advantage of the Edge display really do anything special. Most of them would work on the regular phone too. It's just an arbitrary attempt to justify the design.

    Tested: The HTC 10 Android Smartphone

    There was a time when HTC was the top Android OEM -- in fact, it was the first Android OEM too. Its fortunes changed after several disappointing release cycles, and now the future of HTC is uncertain. The company needed a hit in 2016, a device that proves it deserves to remain in the top tier of Android OEMs. Its best shot is the HTC 10. This phone is make or break for HTC, so let's find out which it is.

    Design and Display

    Aluminum unibody designs have been HTC's hallmark for several generations, but if you ask fans of the One series, they'll often say that the M7 was HTC's best chassis. It was a little more rough around the edges, but the design was sleek, angular, and clean. The more rounded body of the M8 and M9 were a step backward in my eyes, but the HTC 10 returns HTC's aluminum design to greatness.

    The HTC 10 body is milled from a solid piece of aluminum with a glass front that blends smoothly into the metal edges. I was admittedly worried about the giant chamfer that encircles the rear panel of this phone. However, it gives the frame a distinctive shape and actually makes it very comfortable in the hand. It's a heavy, dense phone, but only a little more so than the Samsung Galaxy S7. The HTC 10 looks and feels like an expensive piece of technology.

    You will probably notice that HTC's obsession with front-facing speakers appears to be over. The A9 didn't have them, and neither does the HTC 10. There are actually two speakers, though. One is in the earpiece and the other is on the bottom edge of the phone. The stereo sound this phone produces isn't as good as older HTC phones (tinnier and less power in the lows), but it's better than phones that only have one bottom-firing speaker.

    Google Play App Roundup: Boomerang Notifications, Tiny Tower, and Crashing Season

    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.

    Boomerang Notifications

    It always strikes me as weird that there are so many apps out there that seek to improve on Android's notification system. At every stage of the game, it's been the best notification scheme of any platform, but there are always edge cases that encourage someone to try something different. Sometimes it's even a cool addition, as in the case of Boomerang. It turns your notifications into recurring reminders and archives them for you.

    Boomerang plugs into the Android notification listener service, so you'll be asked to enable that during setup. All modern Android phones have this feature, and it's used by a lot of apps. It uses this access to read and save the text from your notifications, but not all notifications. Boomerang makes the most sense when you choose specific apps for it to manage. These will probably be the apps you get the most notifications from like Gmail, your messaging app of choice, and social apps.

    Once you've selected active apps in the list, Boomerang will monitor for those notifications. When you swipe away a notification, Boomerang will pop up a notification asking you if you want to save it for later (this will go away on its own after a few seconds). You can also choose to add a reminder in addition to saving. This is the "boomerang" part of the app -- it comes back to you. There's also a persistent notification for Boomerang that shows you the current number of saved notifications you have. I'm not crazy about persistent notifications, but this is the sort of app that really needs one to make sure it operates as intended.

    When you open Boomerang from the notification or shortcut, it shows you the saved notifications. Tapping on them launches as if you'd tapped on the original notification, and a long press lets you set a reminder. This can be handy in the event you need to reply to someone later, but you don't want to deal with it at that moment. Boomerang saves you from messing around with launching other apps just to set reminders about a notification. This is just one step.

    Boomerang Notifications is free, which is a little surprising. I would have at least expected some sort of premium version in-app purchase. There's no reason not to at least give this a shot.

    Google Play App Roundup: Science Journal, Air Attack, and Assassin's Creed Identity

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

    Science Journal

    Your smartphone is bristling with sensors, so why not use them to do some basic science? Google has released a new app that helps you run simple experiments with your phone called Science Journal. It's mostly aimed at getting students interested in science and the process of running experiments, but everyone can learn a little something.

    Science Journal accesses three sensors in your phone: the light sensor, accelerometer, and the microphone. In the main interface, you can switch between each of these outputs to see live data as a single number or a graph. In addition, the accelerometer data is split up into X, Y, and Z axis readings. Of course, the app is a super-slick example of material design with bright colors and cool animations.

    Down at the bottom of the screen is a toolbar and timecode. This is where you record your data. Simply hit the record button and the sensor data will be archived. You can organize each data set into different experiments and add notes to them as well. The graphs (both live and archived) respond to pinch zoom gestures.

    You might be surprised how sensitive the sensors in your phone are, especially the accelerometer. Because this part is designed to measure g-forces, it reads gravitational acceleration at rest, and it's pretty close to the 9.8m/s^2 number we all learned in school. We often think of acceleration in terms of velocity relative to the ground, but this app encourages you to think about it a little differently. For example, in freefall, the Z-axis reads 0 instead of 9.8-ish. I was even able to use the accelerometer to measure my heart rate by laying the phone on my chest.

    At the top of Science Journal is a button that links the app with external devices. You probably don't have any of these, but the Google Making and Science Initiative website lists some kits Google helped to design with companies like Sparkfun that will connect to the app, usually via an Arduino. All the data acquired through the app, via both internal and external sensors, can be exported as a CSV file.

    The app is free and fun to play around with if nothing else. If you have kids, you might want to use this as a learning opportunity.

    The Best of Google I/O 2016: Android N, Daydream VR, and More

    Google I/O is now in its 10th year, and Google brought it back to the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View where it started. I/O is always big on news, especially in the last few years as Google announced developer previews of upcoming versions of Android. This year, we already have the Android N dev preview, but that didn't stop Google from showing off some cool new features. There are also big changes coming to Chrome OS, messaging, and more.

    Let's take a look at all of Google's I/O 2016 highlights.

    Android N

    The existence of Android N wasn't the big reveal this year. We're actually getting quite familiar with this pre-release OS after two developer previews. The third preview was released at I/O, and Google also talked about some more features coming to Android N.

    There were, of course, demos of things like multi-window and the revamped notifications. We knew all about that, though. Possibly the most interesting new tidbit about Android N is the support for what Google is calling seamless updates. If you've ever used a Chromebook, it'll be very similar. In fact, the Android team borrowed some code from Chrome OS to do this.

    Right now, getting an OTA update, though joyous, is a pain in the butt. You have to restart your device, wait for the OS to unpack and install, then sit through the app optimization process. Devices that ship with Android N won't have to do any of that. Instead, updates will happen in the background as soon as they're available (like a Chromebook). The next time you restart, your phone or tablet will simply boot into the updated OS and that's it.

    So how is this magic possible? Android N will support dual system partitions. The one you're actively using will be online and the other will be offline. When a system update is ready, it will be installed in the offline partition while the device is still in use. Upon reboot, the offline partition becomes online and online becomes offline. Not only is this a faster way to do updates, it provides a fallback in case a bad update breaks something. The device can just boot into the old system and try the update again.

    Google Play App Roundup: Slash Keyboard, Bushido Bear, and Leap Day

    Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but it's the apps that make that possible. 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 stuff. 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.

    Slash Keyboard

    You might have caught the news last week that Google released a keyboard app for iOS called Gboard. Its claim to fame is that it has Google search built right in. You can grab results and paste them in without leaving the app. That's not available on Android yet (weirdly), but there's actually an app that came out a few weeks back called Slash keyboard that has similar features. It's pretty relevant now, though.

    They call it Slash Keyboard because you trigger all its special search features by adding a slash to whatever you're typing. It works in any app too. For example, you're typing a message and making plans to meet up. You want to send them the location of some bar or restaurant, but switching apps is a pain. Just type /maps and enter your search term. The results appear in a scrollable bar right above the keyboard. When you tap a result, it will be pasted into the text field.

    That's just one possible use case. This keyboard app supports more than 20 services including Google search, Twitter, Giphy, Spotify, YouTube, and more. There's also a cool /pin command that instantly shares your current location. The keyboard will start suggesting slashes as soon as you enter one, but there's also a quick access bar at the top of the keyboard that starts your favorite slashes instantly. You can change the order or disable the bar entirely.

    Slash also includes custom slashes, which are basically shortcodes you can input to automatically expand into your chosen text. You might make one for your address or other contact info you don't want to type all the time.

    As for its performance as an actual keyboard, Slash does well. I wouldn't say it's my favorite keyboard, mostly because it lacks swipe input, which I use often. The theme does fit with Android, and you might not even notice at first it's not the stock keyboard. My only real UI complaint is that Slash takes up a lot of vertical space when you're performing searches. I don't know that there's really a way to solve that, though.

    Slash Keyboard is free and worth a look if you like the idea of Gboard.

    Google Play App Roundup: App Volume Control, Gangfort, and Hungry Shark World

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

    App Volume Control

    Volume control on Android has changed repeatedly in the last few iterations, and OEMs often change the way this feature works. It can be a pain to simply make sure you have sound when you want it, and no sound when you don't. App Volume Control is a new app that aims to make it simple by automating the process. Well, the setup isn't particularly simple, but after that it's smooth sailing.

    App Volume Control will need accessibility access on your device, which it uses to manage your volume levels down to the smallest detail depending on the app you have open. For example, maybe you want to keep your phone completely silent except for media volume when you open a music or video player. So, just find those apps in the main App Volume Control list and turn them on for automation. Then, choose the volume levels you want to control and save.

    The toughest part of using this app is just making sense of all the options. Android phones expose a ton of volume control options, and App Volume Control takes advantage of every one. Not only can you set the media, ring, alarm, notification, and system volume, you can choose different settings depending on how the sound is being played. The default mode is the phone speakers, but you can change the setting for headset and Bluetooth audio independently.

    And all that is just for starters. Literally, just when starting an app. Each app has a tab for starting and another for closing. The default setting in the second tab is to restore the previous volume when you leave an automated app, but you can also pick a custom setting with the same level of granularity as above. You even get a little toast notification to let you know App Volume Control is working (can be disabled in the settings).

    App Volume Control runs a service in the background to manage all this, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on performance or battery life in my testing. I'd like it if the app were a little more attractive or laid out better (it reminds me a little of setting up a Tasker profile right now), but it does what it's supposed to. The free version has a persistent ad at the bottom, but there's a pro version that you can buy for $0.99 that doesn't have that.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network (May 2016)

    The first round of 2016 Android flagships are all out in the open, and that means you've got a serious decision to make if the time has come for an upgrade. The best Android phones are priced near or over $700, so you don't want to make the wrong decision. That's a lot of coin to spend on a phone if you don't like it. Samsung was the undisputed winner last month on the carrier side, but this month the HTC 10 is up for preorder.

    Carrier Phones

    The Galaxy S7 has a very similar overall aesthetic to the Galaxy S6, but it makes several important changes. It's not a revolutionary device, but it really focuses on the GS6's shortcomings. There will be deals on the GS6, but don't let the similar looks fool you. The GS7 is a much better phone and it's worth the cost.

    Samsung is using a metal and glass unibody design for the GS7. So yes, that means fingerprints and the potential of a cracked back if you drop the GS7. The designers took an unusual step, though. Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker so the camera hump is flush with the back, and there's more room inside for a bigger battery. The glass panel on the back also has curved edges to make it more comfortable in your hand.

    The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery, and the GS7 Edge has 3600mAh. Both phones are also water resistant, which is a feature Samsung dropped from the GS6. There's also a microSD card slot in these phones, another improvement over the Galaxy S6, but it doesn't support adoptable storage in Android 6.0.

    The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have new Super AMOLED panels with the same 1440p resolution as last year. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. The Edge, of course, has a screen that curves down on the left and right edge. I don't think the Edge is as comfortable because of the narrower band around the screen. There are a few software features that are intended to take advantage of the curved panel, but none of them are necessary. The real reason to get this version of the device is that it looks really cool.

    Everything You Need to Know About Fingerprint Sensors on Android

    Android phones started sporting fingerprint sensors years ago, but the technology was still too early to make a big impact on the experience. After Apple introduced Touch ID on the iPhone, Android OEMs came back to fingerprint reader tech with renewed interest. Thanks to improved hardware, it has become a feature people actually want on Android. However, not all fingerprint readers on Android are created equal. Here's how they differ, and how users can maximize their usefulness today.

    Speed and accuracy

    Having a phone that unlocks quickly from a fingerprint is good, but sometimes accuracy is actually preferable. One of the primary things to consider here is how you wake up the phone. Take the Nexus phones for example -- you can tap the rear-facing Nexus Imprint sensor to wake and unlock the phone. It happens quickly and is highly accurate. If you want to see the lock screen without unlocking, there's a dedicated power button on the side. The Honor 5X is similar, and works quite well.

    The G5, on the other hand, has the power button combined with the rear-facing sensor. If you press the button so you can just check your notifications on the lock screen, it's probably going to read your fingerprint because the sensor is very fast to react. That might not be what you want in this scenario because fast doesn't mean accurate. The G5's sensor misses more often than the Nexus phones, so you may get a rejected print. When that happens, you have to lift your finger and tap again should you decided to unlock. It's annoying. So here, you might prefer the sensor was slower and more accurate. The V10 suffers from the same issue, but it seems a bit more accurate to me at least.