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.
This week we go over an app for remote support, a game with wonderful artwork, and the official Pinterest app.
If you’re anything like me, your family and friends come to you for help with their smartphones. Some of those people may also have the hottest phone this side of open source, the Samsung Galaxy S3. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to get everyone you know to install TeamViewer QuickSupport. This is an app currently restricted to Samsung phones running newer builds of TouchWiz. It allows you to use the TeamViewer software to remote control your friend’s phone, thereby saving you a ton of time.
All you have to do is get your friend to run the software, and send you the access code. Plug that into the desktop TeamViewer program, and connect. The user on the actual device will have to confirm the connection in a popup. What you get on the computer is a live stream of the phone’s user interface. The quality of the streamed image will adjust based on bandwidth, but don’t expect to get much over 10fps or so.
Using your mouse, you can click and drag around the remote device’s interface and make fixes or install software. You might be wondering how you can use the phone without access to the hardware buttons. Well, TeamViewer thought of that. Down at the bottom of the window, you will get back, home, and menu soft buttons. The only thing you won’t be able to do is activate multitouch gestures because you're working with a mouse.
There is also a TeamViewer app for Android, and I gave that one a shot. It does indeed connect and stream the interface. However, you’re faced with an app that expects a desktop to be on the other end of the line. You get a cursor to control the other phone with on your touchscreen device. It’s a little awkward, but it does work.
There seems to be a slight performance impact on the phone itself while TeamViewer is running, but that’s not an issue -- it’s much faster than the streamed image you get. Other than that, just be careful not to do anything that resets the data connection or you’ll be disconnected.
I’ve already used this app a few times to troubleshoot a phone from my PC, and it was awesome. This app is free, and you should make it your mission to get it on all the Samsung phones you can.
I like a good puzzle game as much as the next guy, but sometimes they just lack depth. Spirits is a game that thankfully breaks the trend and packs in so much personality I can barely contain myself. In Spirits you have to guide the leaf spirits from their autumn grave into the swirling winds in the sky. This game is relaxing, lovely, and most importantly, fun.
In each level, some number of spirits will emerge from a leaf pile and start walking. They are simply things, you see, and they need your help to reach the end of the level. This is essentially a puzzle game with platforming elements. Each spirit has four abilities that can be activated to help the others reach the goal. Keep in mind that using a power will consume that spirit, so be judicious.
You start with just a few abilities to guide you in the right direction, but that eventually expands to all four. You can do things like grow a bridge of leaves, create a blowing wind, dig tunnels, and block the wind from an area. The game is all based around the way wind picks up your spirits. The flowing particles give you an idea what kind of currents you’re dealing with. You have to combine this with your powers to complete the stage. Sometime this is easy, and others it is deceptively complicated.
Some levels take on a Rube Goldberg feel as you set up a new air current here, a leaf bridge over there, and make new tunnels down there. As you’re doing all this, you have to remain conscious how many spirits have to make it to the glowing spiral at the end of the level. Use too many powers, and you won’t succeed.
There are, of course, various dangers to be avoided. These are mostly in the form of spikey walls and deadly chasms. Most levels contain a fair number of spirits, so you can afford a little trial and error. The level design is very well-done too. I don’t feel like I’m struggling, but it does take some thought. You might have to start over a few times after realizing that you made a boneheaded mistake.
The graphics in Spirits are just gorgeous. It has a really gentle, ethereal vibe. The spirits are glowing silhouettes that flutter like leaves -- it's almost haunting. I love the beautiful backgrounds behind each level. They look like hand painted renditions of Hubble images. As the spirits go wafting across the level, I’m also struck by how good the physics feel in this game. The ambient music helps to create a relaxing gaming experience.
Spirits will run you $2.99 in the Play Store, and I think that’s a good price. This game has real value behind it -- the art itself would be enough to make this game interesting, but it's got good gameplay, as well.
So Pinterest has been a very popular service in the last few months, and it’s totally not just for women. Really, I checked. Now that there is a new Pinterest app on Android, you should take a look because the app itself is very, very pretty. Still, guys can use it too. Seriously.
If you don’t have an Pinterest account (I didn’t), the app does a really good job of getting you up and running. You can sign up entirely from within the app, and have your choice of sign in methods: you can use Twitter, Facebook, or just an email address. Next, Pinterest will pull up a screen of recent popular images from the service. You will be asked to go through and tap the ones that interest you. This is how Pinterest populates your app with content right away.
When you open the app, it will show you a selection of content that it thinks you’ll like. Pinterest is about pictures, and you can steer clear of the categories you don’t care for. Don’t believe all the hype; there is a lot of fashion stuff here, but you don’t have to check that section. You will get a grid of tiles with notes, images, and tags. I really like this interface. It scales to both phones and tablets, and has a great look. If you’ve used G+ or Pocket on a tablet, that’s what Pinterest is like.
The overall UI is broken up into tabs that have a Holo feel without just copying a template. The middle tab is the main screen with all the tiles of featured content. To the right is your profile screen, and on the left is a page that lets you select categories to browse. Anyplace in the UI that you see something that strikes your fancy,you can ‘like’ or ‘re-pin’ it.
Pinning things is the essence of the service. Pinterest is tightly integrated with the Android sharing menu, and I’m impressed with how smooth the process is. Say that you’re on a web page and you see a stunning handbag (or something manly). Open your sharing menu, and choose Create Pin. The Pinterest app will pop up and pull all the images out of the page so you can select the one you like. Pick a title and add social sites if you want to share more widely. Pinterest also lets you share Pins from your camera snapshots. You can organize your Pins into boards, or topics, if you will. Each time you add a pin, you can create a new board to go along with it.
Pinterest might not be the social service for you, but the app is a great example of Android design. It’s a single APK that works wonderfully and scales to different devices. If you’re a Pinterest user, get the app now and never look back. New users can try it out, but make sure you select content that interests you from the start.
That's all for this week, folks. Hopefully you can find something here that makes the coming week just a little bit more fun for you. In the meantime, let me know if you find anything that deserves to be on next week's Roundup.