Android apps are not just self-contained bubbles of code restricted to a basic set of operations. No, Android developers can build apps that improve your device in a more fundamental way. The gaps left by Google can be filled in and the experience made better than ever. Although, you don't want to get in over your head with apps that aren't up to the task. That's why the Google Play App Roundup exists. Each week we go over the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head right to the Google Play store and check things out for yourself.
This week we've got a serious backup utility, a game about shapes, and an app for the advanced user.
Android does a lot of things really well, but backing up your apps is not one of them. In fact, Google has done a very poor job of getting developers to support its limited cloud backup system. Rooted users have long been able to use apps like Titanium Backup to keep app data saved, but it’s clunky and not ideal. ClockworkMod has finally made the process easier with no root required. Carbon lets you save and sync your app and game data between devices and save it in the cloud.
If you’re a long time reader of Tested, you might recall a while back I covered a little-known feature in Android 4.0 that allowed ADB backups of app data. This is the same feature that Carbon takes advantage of, but it makes the process much easier. While root is not required, it does make the setup process much faster. When you install Carbon, you’ll have to plug your device into a computer if you’re not rooted. Use the desktop app available from the ClockworkMod site to enable the backup utility. Root users just have to tap the allow button.
After things are up and running, Carbon will suggest you configure your Google Drive account to store your backups. However, you can also plug into Dropbox or Box. If you prefer local backups, the SD card directory or a PC can be used. Now, there are free and paid versions of Carbon, and the paid version is required to really use the aforementioned cloud storage. Sure, you can upload all you want, but you need the pro key to restore app data from the cloud.
However you’re going to save data, just go down the list of apps and choose the ones you want backed up. I tested this with a few games that I had made progress in with my Nexus 7. I just backed up the data to save space, and then restored that data to my Nexus 4. Sure enough, my progress and stats transferred over flawlessly. To be clear, this same maneuver is possible with Titanium Backup, but it’s a pain in the butt. Again, the Pro key is needed to connect multiple Android devices.
From the Restore and Sync panel (this is a very Holo-style app), you can connect instantly to your other Android devices (assuming they are online). Carbon on the remote device will fire up a server so you can slurp up the app data instantly. This is a killer feature, and again, pro only.
If you want to make sure that you always have the most recent data for some of your apps, Carbon can be set to do scheduled backups. Just pick your apps, then instead of using Drive or Dropbox, choose Scheduled Backup. This is handy, but can you guess what you need? Yep, the pro key.
One issue is that Carbon won’t work on Motorola devices. According to the developer, Motorola’s build of Android has a bug that prevents the backup system from working properly. You can give Carbon a shot, but don’t expect anything until Motorola fixes the bug.
So Carbon is fabulous -- I’m really enamoured with it. It’s fast, effective, and feature-rich. As for that pro key you keep hearing about, it’s $4.99. Just buy it. Seriously. It adds so much to the app, like multiple device support, cloud restores, and scheduled backups. If you switch phones a lot, or have both a phone and tablet, this app is now essential.
Cubes vs. Spheres
The eternal geometric battle has arrived on your Android phone. Corners or no corners? You’re playing on the side of the spheres in Cubes vs. Spheres, and the cubes take no prisoners. This is a 3D action defense game that you’re sure to get sucked into.
In each of Cubes vs. Spheres’ 40 stages you will be positioned in the middle of a large sterile space. Out in the distance the terrain might get a little more interesting as blocky mountains and towers rise above the ground. From these areas, the cubes will begin making their way toward you, clomping and tumbling as only a clumsy collection of right angles can.
In order to stay alive and complete the stage, you have to take them out. Across the bottom of the screen are six sphere types. Only the first will be available when you start the game. Tap your chosen type, then watch as a sphere rises out of the ground in front of you. Just flick it in the direction of a cube, and watch the carnage.
You have a wide field of fire, but you will have to change your view to protect the roughly 180-degree battlefield. You can do this either with accelerometer controls, or swipes. I actually found the accelerometer controls hard to get used to. If you keep at it they might be fine eventually, but swiping works well and is easy to make your brain understand.
Things really start getting interesting when you begin amassing enough points to unlock more spheres. There are exploding spheres, heavy spheres, freezing spheres, and more. The default projectile has unlimited ammo, so that’s where most of your firepower is coming from. The other ones have limited ammo that you buy with points before each stage. The game gets frantic as more and more cubes start piling on. If you’re clever, you can ricochet spheres off multiple cubes and get combo bonuses. That gets you more points so you can buy more special spheres.
VIsually, Cubes vs. Spheres is simple, but still very clean. The developer specifically points out that anti-aliasing is used to keep the geometric shapes smooth. The screenshots above do show some jaggies, but I don't feel like that's representative of the game. It looks much smoother when you're playing. The physics feel believable and easy to grasp. This is the aspect that really makes Cubes vs. Spheres awesome. You can predict what’s going to happen when you fling a sphere out there. The presentation is spot on.
Cubes vs. Spheres will run you $0.99 and there are no in-app purchases. It would have been easy for the developer to cram them in, but that didn’t happen. Check out Cubes vs. Spheres.
All rooted users need an app to manage root access to the device. SuperSU is one of these apps, and it just got a big honking update to version 1.0. This brought a number of often requested features, and I think SuperSU is far and away the best app for managing root now.
For the more aesthetically-minded folks. There are finally options to change the app icon and theme. I'm more happy about this than I should be -- the default icon is just horribly ugly. The themes currently are just variations on Holo, but more could come later. SuperSU can also me set as a system app from the settings now.
Most of your interactions with app will come when an app requests root access. A popup will appear to give you the option of hearing or denying access. Some of the new features are presented here too. This stuff is only in the pro edition, but you can now long-press the grant or deny button to grant or deny for a specific period of time. The countdown timer for the root popup can also be adjusted. Another new pro feature is only available in the app settings, but its really handy for the more security-minded. You can set per-app specific PIN codes for root.
Of course, SuperSU had plenty of great features before the update. You can check out logs of root access, temporary and permanently unroot your device, and hide the app from the launcher.
SuperSU is not the kind of app you show off to friends or spend a lot of time using, but it’s an essential utility for root users. the new update makes it better than ever, and well worth your time getting to know. Most root methods install some kind of root management app, but I’d suggest switching to SuperSU if something else is pre-installed.
The free version of SuperSU is solid, but the pro key is only just $2.49. It’s worth it if you’re serious about playing around with root access.
That's all for this week. If you didn't find what you wanted this go, check back next time. Some big things are coming.