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    Google Play App Roundup: Firefox Focus, Altered Beast, and Rider

    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.

    Firefox Focus

    Most browsers for Android seem to focus on adding more features, but Firefox is focusing on something else with the aptly named Firefox Focus. This is a stripped down browser that preserves your privacy and offers a fast browsing experience.

    When you open Firefox Focus, all you have is a bar in the middle of the screen for a search term or URL. The default search engine is Yahoo, which is kind of weird at this point. You can change it to Google, and I'm sure most people will. The app has an interesting purple and pink color scheme with a gradient sweeping across all the UI elements. Gradients usually look pretty old-fashioned, but I think it kind of works here. Firefox Focus has a neat 80s vibe.

    Firefox Focus uses ad-blocking and do-not-track by default on all pages. Additionally, it saves no data locally. While you're browsing, there's a floating action button in the lower right corner with a trashcan on it. You can tap that at any time to close your page and delete all browsing data. Additionally, there's a notification whenever Firefox Focus is running. There's even a "Stealth" mode that prevents screenshots and app previews in overview. You can turn that off, though.

    You only get a single page at a time in Focus, so no tabbed browsing. That makes sense considering the mission of Focus to provide simple, fast browsing. The overflow menu shows you how many trackers were blocked on each page, and there's a toggle right there to shut blocking off. That's useful on pages where there's ad-block detection that blocks you from seeing content. The menu also includes options to open a page in Firefox or your default browser.

    Using Focus for all your browsing is tedious seeing as there's no bookmark system, history, or tabbed browsing. You can set it as default, if you want (there's a toggle in the settings). However, it's a good choice for opening links from other apps as it'll block all tracking and doesn't keep history. Some of the privacy features are a bit heavy-handed, but that's what you get in a privacy-oriented browser.

    Google Play App Roundup: CineTrak, Mr Future Ninja, and Infinity Merge

    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.

    CineTrak

    Have you ever heard someone online or in real life talk about a movie and think it sounds like something you should check out, and then, months later you realize you completely forgot about it? CineTrak might be able to help you avoid that. It's a movie watchlist tracker and info browser that pulls in data from various sources and syncs to the Trakt.tv service.

    The app is done in Google's material design from top to bottom. The main interface is the "Discover" page. At the top are a series of tabs that show movies based on criteria like trending, popular, most watches, and box office. You can use the app without Trakt.tv login, but your lists and watch stats won't be available on other devices. You can switch to upcoming, my lists, or my collection in the navigation menu.

    Whenever you come across a movie, you can add it to your watch list by tapping the floating action button. That same button then becomes a "check-in" button. You can tap that indicate that you're watching the movie, and share that activity with the app of your choice. When it's over, tap again and the movie goes into your previously watched list. To undo all of that, tap one more time and the movie is removed.

    The info page for each film includes the sort of data you'd get on something like IMDB, but I find the interface much more pleasant. It has ratings aggregated from Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, Metacritic, and Trakt.tv. There's also a cast list and a trailer.

    The bookmark icon at the top of the info page lets you add a film to your library. It seems like this should get a more prominent button as it's one of the main features of the app. When adding, you get to pick the format, resolution, and date of acquisition. Then, you can scroll through the collection page to see all your stuff.

    CineTrak is free to use, and you don't have to sign into Trakt.tv if you don't want. However, there are a few ads in the app by default. A $2.99 in-app purchase will remove them and add staff picks and additional curated lists.

    Google Play App Roundup: Audvel, ZOMBIE AnnihilatoR, and Topsoil

    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.

    Audvel

    The Play Store has a number of popular podcast apps, but it's been a while since a new contender has emerged, but Audvel is promising despite its newness. It might not have as many features as the more mature alternatives, but it's free. That counts for something.

    One of the cool things about Audvel is that you don't have to set up a separate account—it supports Google account logins, but a standard email account login is available too. After logging in, your subscription data will be synced to new devices upon setting up the app. After opening the app for the first time, Audvel offers up some suggested podcasts in categories like tech, science, and business. I think the top picks are pretty universally liked, but there aren't many in each group. A few more suggestions would be nice.

    Once you've got some subscriptions, you can view them all on a single page with big thumbnail icons. Each podcast has a details page that lists recent episodes, a description, and controls to unsubscribe and refresh. I like that the page is themed to match the podcast's thumbnail as well. You can tap on an episode to stream it, or hit the arrow to download it. There are also settings in the app to have new episodes downloaded automatically. Unfortunately, you can't import a podcast list from other apps, but you can add custom feed URLs.

    While some of the advanced features from other apps are missing (importing, Android Auto, themes, etc.), you do have built-in support for multiple playback speeds. You can increase to 1.2, 1.5, or 2.0x speed. The app correctly downshifts the pitch to compensate for the higher speed as well. There are also persistent playback controls at the bottom of the app while you've got an episode going.

    Audvel still has a way to go before it's the match of something like Pocket Casts, but it's already impressive. When you consider it's also free, that's even better.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (June 2017)

    When the time comes to get a new Android device, you want to make sure you get the right one. After all, phones are expensive and you carry them with you all the time. It's worth spending money to get the best when you use it so much. Still, there are so many phones out there. Let's break it down and see what's the best right now.

    Carriers Phones: Samsung Galaxy S8 vs. LG G6

    Buying a phone from your carrier is less onerous than it used to be. All major carriers offer payment plans so the cost of your new phone is spread out over two years. That makes it easy to get a nice phone, and there are often promotional offers when you buy from the carrier. If you go this route, there are two solid choices right now, the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6. Unlike past years, these two competitors are very close.

    The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display. There's no "flat" version of the phone this year; both the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have have the curved design that minimizes the bezel. The GS8 Plus bumps the display size to 6.2-inches, but they both feel much smaller in the hand. Both have a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels. It's similar to the G6 with the taller screen, but the Plus variant is just a little too tall to be used comfortably in one hand. Samsung's AMOLED displays are still the best you can get, and DisplayMate confirms that Samsung's GS8 panel has the most accurate colors and highest brightness.

    This phone feels great in the hand with the symmetrically curved front and back glass, although I don't personally love glass backs on phones. They pick up fingerprints like no one's business. Finally, Samsung has ditched the physical nav buttons. Now they're all on-screen. Thankfully, that means you can change the order to the "correct" one. Additionally, the screen has a pressure-sensitive region where the home button pops up. Even if the button is hidden, you can hard-press that area to trigger the home button. I love this feature, and tend to miss it when I use other phones. It's still IP68 water resistant.

    Getting rid of the physical home button meant Samsung had to move the fingerprint scanner, and the new location is no good. It's on the back next to the camera, rather than under it like many rear-facing sensors are. Even when you reach it without smudging up the camera, it's not very accurate. The iris scanner makes up for that a little bit, but it's not ideal and won't work in some environments.

    Google Play App Roundup: Adobe Scan, Galaxy on Fire 3, and Epic Little War Game

    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.

    Adobe Scan

    Adobe offers various PDF viewing and editing capabilities in its app, but surprisingly it has never released a document scanner app until now. Adobe Scan lets you use your phone to scan documents and convert them instantly to a PDF. It also plugs into various Adobe online services and apps.

    Scanning a document with Adobe Scan is very slick. Just set the page down and point your device's camera at it. The built-in scanner identifies the edges and captures only the document. I've seen a lot of apps try this, but Adobe Scan is one of the best at detecting edges; I hardly ever have to readjust the crop. To add more pages, simply move the sheet and place another one in the camera's frame. Adobe Scan only captures an image when it sees a document.

    By default, Adobe Scan places all the pages in the order you scanned them. However, you can easily reorder them before converting to a PDF—it's drag and drop. You can also apply filters like grayscale and high-contrast. Tap the save button at the top, and you get a PDF of all the images. It only takes a few seconds even with a lot of pages. I tested this with a 24 page document, and it worked like a charm. It's also impressive how well the app straightens and rotates the images. They look more like pages captured by a traditional scanner than what you get from most Android apps.

    Annoyingly, you have to sign in with an Adobe account to use Adobe Scan. You don't need to have a paid membership, though. By signing in, all your PDFs will be synced to Creative Cloud. You can also share them with the app of your choice on Android.

    Adobe Scan runs text recognition on your documents, but you'll need Adobe Acrobat for Android to do anything with it. The app links you to the Play Store if you don't have it. I would have preferred to have basic text selection in the scanner app as Acrobat does a lot of things I don't need. Still, if you work with PDFs a lot, Acrobat is probably already something you use.

    Adobe Scan is completely free. I think it'll be my new go-to for document scanning on Android.

    Google Play App Roundup: Path Guide, Zombie Gunship: Survival, and Reckless Getaway 2

    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.

    Path Guide

    Apps like Google Maps are great for getting you to a location, but that location needs to be an address. Once you get there, finding your final destination can mean navigating hallways that are every bit as confusing as the roads you took to get there. There's a new app that could ease the burden, and it comes from a surprising source: Microsoft.

    Path Guide allows you to create walking directions that aren't reliant on GPS or mapping data. Instead, it uses your phone's sensors to keep people on track. To create a recording, you begin by snapping a photo of the starting location. This is the only part of the process that requires a visual cue. Then, the app instructs you to get in position to begin recording.

    Each step is counted by Path Guide, and that's used as the standard of measurement for your directions. It also picks up each turn you make based on the phone's sensors. So, you end up with a sort of treasure map. Take X steps, turn right, take another Y steps. As you record, you can also add voice to text notes to the directions.

    When your directions are finished, you can save and share with your contacts. They will see a scrolling timeline on the bottom of the screen, which advances as they walk. The top of the screen tells you want you should be doing and for how long. For example, it'll estimate how many steps you need to take and which direction you should turn after that.

    I know this sounds kind of crazy, but it actually works. It's not exact, and anything tricky really needs a note of some sort, but you can easily figure things out based on the directions. There's also a secondary mode where you record your steps and then get the reverse directions saved. It's like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs you can follow later. It'd probably be handy for remembering where you parked.

    Path Guide is completely free, though I have to wonder about Microsoft's commitment. The directions require the app, so you'd be out of luck if that falls into disrepair.

    Google Play App Roundup: NOISE, Lode Runner 1, and No Stick Shooter

    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.

    NOISE

    You may not be a great composer, but you can probably put together a neat little tune with NOISE, a new music creation app from Roli. They make the Blocks modular music pads, and now you can use your phone to do some of the same things. This app is still in the early stages, so it's a little unstable and not all phones will work. That said, it's already a really neat experience.

    There's a quick tutorial when you first open NOISE, which you ought to pay attention to. There's very little in the way of instruction within the app itself. The gist is that you have four sets of loops for each project. One is for rhythmic sounds and the other three are for the melody. Each square in the song view is a loop, which you can tap to queue up during playback. It's a little confusing, but I found it informative to play around with the pre-made sample track included with the app.

    The song view is where all your loops live (you can have up to won from each line playing at a time). You can swipe down to the instrument view to make new loops. Simply tap a square to select it, then pick an instrument. All the instruments come in the form of digital touch pads, and there are a few dozen of them in the app. You can tap on the pads to produce sounds for the loop, or just drag across them. There's also a number of other effects and ways to control the nature of the sound, all of which are admittedly beyond me.

    My first attempts at making songs in NOISE are… not impressive. If you've got a better sense of rhythm than I do, the app has the tools to make some cool stuff. It gives you a 4-beat count before you start recording a loop, and you can even keep a "click" going in the background to keep you on the beat. Should you own any Blocks device, you can even connect them to the app via Bluetooth.

    Eventually, your creations in NOISE will be exportable to the noise.fm community. The app has a little way to go before it's ready for prime time, though. Right now, you'll need a device with robust audio processing capabilities like the Pixel, Galaxy S8 or LG G6. it's completely free if you want to give it a shot.

    The Best and Worst Things about Samsung's Galaxy S8

    Samsung used to be known for making plastic phones that felt cheap and ran the least desirable version of Android. Then, things changed after the poor performance of the Galaxy S5. Samsung started paying attention to the design and features it pushed on consumers, and it has released some of the most attractive and solid Android phones in recent years. There have been bumps along the road, like the Note 7 with its defective battery. Samsung hopes the Galaxy S8 can smooth all that over, and the early results are good. The Galaxy S8 is getting largely positive reviews, and none of them have exploded. That's always nice.

    You've probably heard plenty about the Galaxy S8, but most reviews don't get past basic evaluations of the features. Let's drill down deeper and go over the best and worst things about this phone.

    The Good

    Looks aren't everything, but they are definitely something. The Galaxy S8 has good looks to spare, too. It's like a slightly more compact version of the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 with the same symmetrical front-back curve. It's an extremely comfortable phone to hold in both the standard 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch Plus varieties.

    I'll get to the new AMOLED panel in a moment, but the shape of this phone is an important milestone for Samsung. There won't be a version of the GS8 with a flat screen, which frankly concerned me at first. While curved AMOLEDs have sold better and generally look really neat, Samsung's palm detection needed work. With the GS6 and GS7 generations, curved AMOLEDs suffered from a lot of "phantom touches" on the edge as you were holding them. The Galaxy S8 solves that problem. No longer do I find my hand setting off touches on the edge of the screen.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flick Launcher, Injustice 2, and Spaceplan

    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.

    Flick Launcher

    You interact with your home screen more than any other app, but some devices ship with rather annoying launchers. You can swap them for a better launcher, but which one? There are so many options, including the new Flick Launcher. It's still in beta, but Flick looks and feels like a good stand-in for the Pixel Launcher with more customization.

    Out of the box, Flick Launcher is designed to look like the Pixel Launcher. It's possible to get a similar look by customizing other launchers, but this one goes for the pure stock look right away. That means you have a vertically scrolling app drawer that is opened with a swipe. It even has the predicted apps and search bar at the top. Launcher shortcuts are present as well, so you can long-press an icon to get quick actions. Developers have to add support for this, but a lot of apps are already on board.

    This launcher is very snappy, much like the Pixel Launcher it's emulating. You don't get that Google "pill" search widget, but there is a custom rounded search box that jives with the launcher's style better than Google's rectangular one.

    Flick Launcher has two features that set it apart from many other launchers. One if swipe gestures, which some third-party launchers have but no stock ones. You can set one and two-finger swipe gestures to launch apps or change settings. Then you have password and fingerprint locking of, well, everything. Flick Launcher lets you lock any apps from being launched unless a password or valid fingerprint is entered. If you have the pro upgrade ($1.99), you can also create folders that cannot be opened without the right biometrics or password.

    There are plenty of other standard launcher features like support for icons packs, custom grid sizes, icon sizes, unread counts, and more. You don't get as many features in Flick Launcher as something like Nova, but this is a much newer app. It's off to a good start as it currently stands, and most of the features are available for free. There are no ads or "suggested apps" lurking around there either.

    Google Play App Roundup: Socratic, Battle Bay, and Desert Island Fishing

    There's no reason you wouldn't want the best apps on your Android device, but the Google Play Store makes that hard sometimes. Don't worry, though. That's what the weekly app roundup here on Tested is all about. This is where you can go to find out what the best apps are, and why they're the best. Click on the app name to go right to the Play Store web site to grab the app for yourself.

    Socratic

    School is just getting out for most kids, but there's a new app in the Play Store that could be of great use once classes are in session again. Socratic is an app that snaps photos of homework questions, then offers up answers from a variety of sources. This app has been in beta testing for a while, but now it's available to everyone.

    Socratic is essentially about saving time. You could look up the answer to most questions with some Google searching, but this app makes it easy—you don't even have to type anything. And really, typing mathematical expressions is annoying. After opening Socratic for the first time, it will ask to be granted camera access, which is necessary for scanning in questions.

    Just point the viewfinder at the question and tap the capture button. Don't worry about the framing; after capturing the image you have a chance to drag the border to crop out anything that isn't part of the question.

    Socratic is supposed to work for math, science, English, and history questions. I've found it to be most accurate with math, which should give you answers for anything up through advanced algebra. The answer interface is displayed as a series of cards that scroll left to right across the screen. The first card will offer a definitive answer, if one is available. In the case of math problems, it shows you the solution step by step. Scrolling over to other cards includes additional background information from the web, as well as videos.

    I've found Socratic to be excellent at reading the text. It gets the right input virtually every time, even if it sometimes doesn't have an answer. Math is the best right now, as long as you don't throw anything too heavy at it. Basic scientific and history queries are solid too, as long as they're formatted as a standard question.

    Socratic has a lot of potential in this first release. The developers plan to add more advanced math skills later this summer as well.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (May 2017)

    The first round of flagship phones in 2017 are in the open and the reviews are in. So, which one is most deserving of your money? And what about those phones from the tail end of 2016? Maybe one of those is best. It can be hard to know what to buy when there are so many solid phones, but you can (probably) only get one, and it should be the right one. Let's break it down.

    Carriers Phones: Samsung Galaxy S8 vs. LG G6

    Of all the phones you can get from carriers, there are two that stand out: the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6. They're available everywhere, have powerful hardware, and nice design. They are not completely equal on all things, though.

    The LG G5 was a flop—I think we can all agree on that now. LG did what it had to do in order to remain competitive in the face of Samsung's non-stop onslaught. LG has left a few anachronisms behind and improved its design to claw its way back with the LG G6. Firstly, this phone looks nice. It has a glass and aluminum frame, similar to Samsung phones. There's no more removable battery on this phone, just a 3300mAh seal-in li-ion cell. It'll make it through the day, but not much more. The non-removable battery made it feasible for LG to make this phone water-resistant as well.

    When you first look at the G6, it's clear there's something unusual going on. But it's unusual in a good way. The LG G6 has a 5.7-inch LCD display, but it has a different aspect ratio of 18:9. That means the display is very tall. The phone's bezels have been shrunken way down, and the screen has rounded corners. The display has a resolution of 1440 x 2880, so some apps render a bit oddly. The upshot: you get a lot more screen area in the same footprint. It makes a difference, too. The G6 is very comfortable to hold, and you can use it fairly well with one hand. That's not something you can usually say about phones with a 5.7-inch display.

    LG is still doing the rear-facing fingerprint sensor/power button combo, and it works quite well. This is the right place for a fingerprint sensor, in my opinion. It's infinitely better than the Galaxy S8's fingerprint sensor, which is far too high up on the back.

    Google Play App Roundup: Mobile Witness, Penarium, and Neon Chrome

    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.

    Mobile Witness

    There may be times when you'd like to have some sort of digital record to back up your own words. Evidence, you might say. That's where Mobile Witness comes in. This app can record location data, audio, or video even if your phone is asleep.

    The setup process is a bit more laborious than you think, but there's a good reason for that. Mobile Witness needs a few permissions and settings tweaks, and it takes you through each of them individually. Most apps just throw up the system permissions one after the next, so I appreciate the explanation of each permission. The app needs to access your location, microphone, and camera to work. Additionally, Mobile Witness asks to be exempted from Doze Mode. This is what allows it to continue recording when the app is not in the foreground or your phone is asleep.

    The app has three tabs across the top for location, audio, and video. You can visit any of them to start a new data collection. You can also have it record data at regular intervals. And of course, everything the app does is silent—no shutter sounds to give you away. I've done some testing, and the app does indeed continue to record when it is closed or when the screen is turned off.

    Collecting this information is of little use when your phone might be taken away or damaged, so Mobile Witness includes a number of cloud backup solutions. It has built-in support for Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and OneDrive on the third-party side. Plus custom settings for a personal server. Recordings are uploaded to your preferred cloud as you take them, so you'll have the data even if you don't have your phone. However, I've noticed the video files are a bit on the large side; a few hundred megabytes for a 1 minute video.

    I suppose you need to live with a certain amount of paranoia to feel like you need Mobile Witness, but it's good at what it does. It's completely free, but you can donate to the developer or upgrade to a "premium" version of the app that includes a few experimental features.

    Google Play App Roundup: Microsoft To-Do, Invert, and Card Thief

    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.

    Microsoft To-Do

    Microsoft has a habit of buying the developers behind popular apps, then killing the app they just bought. As counterintuitive as that is, Microsoft has done it more than once. Remember Sunrise Calendar? So do many others, which is why Microsoft's release of Microsoft To-Do is so concerning. See, the company recently acquired the maker of the popular to-do manager Wunderlist. Could this be the beginning of the end for Wunderlist?

    Microsoft To-Do bears a superficial resemblance to Wunderlist, and there's even support for importing your current lists from Wunderlist. This app lets you create to-do lists, set reminders, and keep track of your lists and projects over time. To create a new to-do, just hit the floating action button in the lower right corner. To create a new list, open the slide-out navigation panel and tap "New list" at the bottom. This is also where you'll find all your existing lists.

    The big draw for Microsoft To-Do is the My Day feature. It's an attempt to help users focus on daily tasks by offering a new list each day. In addition, there's a suggested to-do feature. It will allegedly learn from your usage and offer frequent tasks for quick adding to My Day. I have only seen a few things pop up here, but it might become more useful after using it longer.

    Microsoft To-Do is available on the web, iOS, and Android. The Android app has a proper material interface with the aforementioned navigation panel, FAB, and a soothing purple-blue theme. This is totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but I like the little "ding" sound when tasks are checked off. It makes me feel like I really accomplished something.

    The app is tied into your Microsoft account and integrated with Office 365 and Outlook. It's still in the early stages, so it's hard to say if it'll rival Wunderlist eventually. Right now, it's lacking many of the features that made that app popular. Microsoft hasn't announced the demise of Wunderlist, but it can't be long for this world with Microsoft To-Do around. It's free and very polished, though. If you are looking for a to-do manager, this is a capable one.

    Google Play App Roundup; Volume Notification, Lumino City, and Zombie Offroad Safari

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

    Volume Notification

    The volume of your Android phone is not a monolithic setting—there's media, ringtone, notifications, alarms, and more. Changing the right one at the right time can be annoying, but Volume Notifications can help. It's a simple app that gives you two ways to quickly access specific volume controls.

    All devices can run Volume Notification as a notification, as the name would imply. That means it shows up as an item in the notification shade, but the location and style of that notification can be controlled from the app's settings. The main screen of those settings includes a list of volume types, which you can rearrange and enable/disable as you like. These control which shortcuts appear in the notification version of Volume Notification.

    You should also check out the full settings for this app, which allow you to tweak the performance of several of the buttons. For example, the default behavior when you press the buttons is to bring up a slider to control that particular volume setting. If you prefer, you can have the media or ring buttons simply toggle mute when you press them. The theme of the notification can be changed as well.

    When you're using the notification version of the app, you might also want to check the notification priority settings. The app can be set to produce a status bar icon, which keeps it at the top of your list. I think it looks nicer when you have the notification shade open to have Volume Notification at the top. That way you can theme it to match your phone's settings UI.

    Your other option for using Volume Notification requires Android 7.0 or higher. With Nougat, you can modify the quick settings on your phone and add third-party tiles. Installing Volume Notification adds the tiles to your list automatically. Simply open the editing UI and drag the tiles up into your quick settings. These tiles operate the same way as the notification—tap to get a popup volume slider.

    Volume Notification is not a complex app, but it could potentially fix a big pain point when using your phone. It doesn't hurt that it costs absolutely nothing.

    Google Play App Roundup: YouTube TV, Quantum Revenge, and Tempest

    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 yourself.

    YouTube TV

    Google is trying to worm its way into your living room again, but not with a new piece of hardware. It's just launched the YouTube TV streaming service, and the associated Android app. The Android app is a vital piece of the experience because there's no Android TV version, nor will it work on streaming devices like Roku. Luckily, the app is pretty good.

    First thing's first—YouTube TV is only available in five markets right now (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area). It costs $35 per month, and for that you get about 40 channels of live streaming TV. That includes all the local channels as well as ESPN, USA, FX, NatGeo, and many more. There's also an online DVR with unlimited storage. It's one of the missing pieces of the cable cutting puzzle.

    The app is one of the cleanest and most interesting Google has put out recently. It's split up into three tabs: Library, Home, and Live. The Home tab is where you land when opening the app. It includes a feed of popular live channels at the top, followed by several tiers of suggestions below that. The live stream thumbnails are actually animated; they reflect what's happening on the channel at that moment. So, it's more like channel surfing on a cable box.

    The live tab lists all your channels in a vertical column. Like the Home tab, there are live thumbnails for each channel as you scroll through. All the animated thumbnails play silently, which I'm very pleased about. Tapping on one will open the full player interface. Rotating the device to landscape will set the video to full screen automatically. If that's not big enough, tap the Chromecast button at the top and pick a display to move the stream.

    The Library tab is where you'll go to see all your recorded content (which is stored for nine months) and find out what upcoming recordings you have. Throughout the app, there are "plus" icons next to program titles. You can tap to add a subscription, which automatically records all upcoming instances of it on live TV. There's also some on-demand content available in YouTube TV, and that is bundled in with your recorded content when you subscribe.

    The YouTube TV app is fast, and easy to get around in. It really is fantastic compared to the awful streaming apps that most networks and cable providers have. The only real drawback is availability. You have to be in one of those supported markets to sign up, and the local channel feeds are disabled whenever you leave. Still, it's the most robust live TV streaming service available right now.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (April 2017)

    The first wave of 2017 flagship Android phones is finally upon us. It's been hard to make a solid recommendation for the last few months with so many phones just on the verge of release. Now, you've got your choice of the best from 2016 and the latest and greatest from Samsung and LG. Which phone is the best for you, though? Let's break it down.

    Carrier Phones: LG G6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8

    The LG G6 is fully on sale and Samsung Galaxy S8 is up for pre-order. By my own self-imposed rules, that means both are eligible for consideration in this guide. Let's start with the LG G6, which is a huge improvement over last year's LG G5. LG really did what it had to do in order to come back from that disaster. It ditched the modular system, improved its build quality, and kept the price a bit under Samsung's.

    The LG G6 has a 5.7-inch LCD display, but it's very different than past LG displays. The phone's bezels have been shrunken way down, and the screen has rounded corners. The display as an 18:9 ratio and a resolution of 1440 x 2880, so it's taller than most phones. That allows for more screen area without making the phone as wide. It makes a difference, too. The G6 is very comfortable to hold, and you can use it fairly well with one hand. That's not something you can usually say about phones with a 5.7-inch display.

    Gone is LG's trademark removable battery—the G6 has an aluminum and glass frame with a sealed-in battery. It's a little larger than past LG phones with a capacity of 3300mAh. It makes it through the day with no trouble. One upshot of the design is that this phone is now IP68 water and dust resistant. It does feel like a very solid device.

    On the back is a fingerprint sensor that doubles as the power button. It's fast enough, but I wish the volume buttons were still back there. I miss when LG phones did that. There are also two cameras on the rear, just like the V20. One is a standard 13MP shooter and the other is a 13MP wide-angle sensor. The G6's photos are good, but not as good as what I've seen from Samsung and Google lately. The processing has a tendency to lose detail. For most applications, it should be more than good enough.

    How to Protect Your Privacy on Android Without Making Your Smartphone Dumb

    Your Android phone knows where you are and what you're doing, and it'll share that data with Google and any number of app developers. If you're a privacy-minded individual, you might not want to fling your data around freely. At the same time, you bought a smartphone in order to make use of all its cool features. There is a middle ground between being completely open and shutting off all your phone's features. Let's try to find it.

    Secure your location data

    You will hear plenty of people advocating turning off location completely to enhance privacy, but I don't think you need to go that far on newer version of Android. There are plenty of times you do want an app to be able to access your location. It's better to make use of Android's built-in permission system and disable automatic tracking through Google.

    You may not realize, but Google maintains a full history of where your phone has been. You can see it in the Maps app under "Your Timeline." If you don't like the idea of your phone constantly uploading your location to Google, you can disable that in the settings. It's under Settings > Location > Location History. You can turn it off with the toggle at the top, and your phone will stop uploading your location to Google.

    Next, it's time to take advantage of the permission system Google rolled out in Marshmallow. Head to the settings and find the app permissions list. Sometimes this is hidden in the overflow menu. One of the entries in the permission list will be location. Tap that and you get a list of all apps on your phone that request the location permission. You can turn all of them off here if you want, or just leave the essentials on. Apps will request location when you open them, but that can be denied.

    Google Play App Roundup: Oversec, Chicken Jump, and Stellar Wanderer

    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.

    Oversec

    Encrypted communications are available in various apps on Android, but that requires you to get your friends to actually use those apps. Not everyone is going to be keen on switching from their preferred messaging app just because of privacy concerns. Oversec offers an alternative. It uses accessibility and screen overlays to add encrypted communication to almost any app.

    After granting access to Oversec to read your screen, you'll get a list of compatible messaging apps. It works with most of the big ones, and you can also enable it to work with many others. You can set which apps you want Oversec to be active in via the settings. I tested Oversec with Hangouts, but it should work the same with most others. There are some tutorial popups that appear as you begin using Oversec, but in general it's a bit confusing at first.

    Rather than actually encrypting what the app sends, Oversec just runs encryption and decryption on the local devices. Everything is still sent as plain text. It just happens to be nonsense text. Here's how it works: you enter a message, tap the encryption button floating on top of your messaging app, and Oversec turns the text into junk. On the other end, your friend's copy of Oversec decrypts the junk and displays the original text as an overlay. That's how Oversec works with all these unencrypted apps. It's pretty clever.

    Oversec requires a bit of setup before it will work. Specifically, you have to decide on an encryption key. This has to be shared with your friend ahead of time, preferably in person (the app has a QR scanner for importing keys) or via some secure method. The app includes several options for setting up a key. There's a simply password version where you choose the phrase you want to use for encryption. This is the weakest but fastest to set up. You can also have a random key generated in the app, or use a PGP provider.

    Oversec isn't the prettiest app with the bright orange overlays and floating buttons all over, but it does what it says it'll do. The concept is a bit confusing at first, but it really can encrypt your communication via any app. The basic functionality is free, but you can buy a full version license for a few bucks. The recommended fee depends on what you're going to do with it. A Student license is a buck and a government license is $109. I'd wager a lot of "students" will buy Oversec.

    Google Play App Roundup: Toucano, Super Mario Run, and Crash of Cars

    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.

    Toucano

    It's an unwritten rule that Twitter apps need to be named after birds. Thus, the newest Twitter option on Android is called Toucano. Why Toucano and not Toucan? No clue. At any rate, Toucano is a very new (and still beta) Twitter client. It's clean, fast, and offers a few unique features.

    The main feed in Toucano looks a lot like other Twitter clients. A series of tabs are arrayed across the top with the main timeline on the left, then mentions, and so on. The "so on" is a little different here. The activity tab isn't like the activity tab in other apps. It's a stats-based approach to tracking the impact your tweets have. It shows you how many favorites, replies, retweets, and more elicited by your postings.

    In a similar vein, you can view stats for any profile (your own included). There's a tab that shows you how many tweets have been posted, follower stats, and other interesting bits of data. You can also add notes to specific user profiles to be viewed later. If you need to keep tabs on any accounts, you can add them to your favorites. These will remain at the top of your timeline as profile links.

    The default theme is white and blue, just like the official Twitter client. However, there are plenty of other themes included, and you can build your own by choosing different primary and secondary colors. There's also a handy night mode toggle in the settings.

    Toucano does some cool stuff, but it's very clearly a young app. It lacks things like layout customization, widgets, and background sync. The notification controls are also rather rudimentary.

    It might be worth picking up if you're bored with your current Twitter client. Toucano is currently priced at $2.99.

    Google Play App Roundup: GrammarPal, Cosmic Express, and Too Many Dangers

    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.

    GrammarPal

    In the age of the internet, grammar has taken a backseat to memes and emoji. Let's bring it back. GrammarPal can help. This app scans the text you write on your device, looking for more than simple misspellings. It offers corrections to your grammar in a handy popup window. I could point out the irony of a grammar app having a CammelCase name, but let's just move one.

    You have to go through a few steps to set up and use GrammarPal, but it does a good job of walking you through the process. When enabled, GrammarPal shows up as a floating button next to your text input field. You can safely ignore it if you're just typing a few words that don't need to be checked, though it's bright green and there's no option for transparency. It kind of sticks out. At least you can move it around, and GrammarPal will remember that position for each app.

    After you type something out, tap the GrammarPal button and it'll scan your text. It does spell checking, but your phone probably does that too. The value here is that it uses the context of your sentences to figure out if you made any typos that are technically correctly spelled words. For example, using "to" when you meant "too." The GrammarPal icon will indicate the number of detected problems after scanning. Tap it again to open the editing panel at the bottom of the screen.

    The expanded GrammarPal interface shows you the text with color coded highlights for the various issues. Misspellings are red, style issues are blue, and all others are yellow. Tap on any of the highlights to get a suggestion of what to change. The buttons at the top allow you to copy the new text or automatically replace the old text. You can also just close this panel without changing anything. Unrecognized words can be added to the GrammarPal dictionary too.

    I've found GrammarPal's corrections to be right most of the time, and it does catch things that normal spell checking misses. It could be useful, depending on how concerned you are with using proper grammar in text messages and Facebook posts. The app is free and has no ads. There's a $1.99 in-app purchase that adds a few new features like dictionary backups and layout customization.