Your phone does cool stuff out of the box, sure. But it's not truly yours until you find the apps and games that make it distinctly you. While we at Tested can't claim to know everything about you personally, we've got a pretty good handle on what apps are going to be a hit in the Google Play App Roundup. This is the place where you can find out what's new and cool in the world of Android apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Google Play Store.
This week your your clock gets better, we have platforming robots, and we show rogue apps who's boss.
When it comes to the addition of lock screen widgets in Android 4.2, opinions are strongly divided. I think that the reaction would have been overall more positive if DashClock had been available when 4.2 arrived. This app (for Android 4.2 only) cleans up the stock clock widget and adds various bits of data from apps and services. Even better, developers can build their own DashClock extensions to add functionality.
DashClock can be used on the home screen or the lock screen, but let’s check out how things work when the device is locked first. DashClock uses a clean Roboto font to spell out the time, but you can choose from different combinations of weight and spacing. Just to the right of the time are three slots for extensions of your choosing. DashClock can tell you about the weather, how many unread emails you have, new SMS, alarms, and more. You can choose which items are shown and what order they should be in. More than three extensions can be added so that if one has nothing to report, it will make way for the next one on the list.
If you drag down the widget to expand the lock screen, it offers up extended information about your various notifications. Tapping on any of the icons will open the corresponding app, which is really handy. The only real difference between using DashClock on the home and lock screens is that the home screen treats it as a standard resizable widget. It starts as a 4x2, but you can expand it to get the more detailed view.
DashClock already has enough going for it to earn a place on my lock screen, but it gets even better. The extension system is already gaining traction among developers. There are standalone DashClock extensions, as well as extensions bundled with full apps. For example, the great Twitter client Falcon Pro has already added a tweet counts extension to the app.
Make sure you also take a swing through the settings for each extension. I was surprised how configurable it is. It made me very happy that I could restrict the Gmail unread count to a specific account. DashClock is free, open source, and made by a Googler. If you are one of the select few with Android 4.2, download this now.
Cordy was one of the first platformers on Android that wasn’t just a rehash of an old franchise or an overly-simplistic run-and-jump. Cordy introduced new game elements and had killer graphics. Cordy 2 might have more competition, but it’s still a best-in-class platformer. Best of all, you can try it out for free.
Cordy 2 reminds me quite a bit of the old sonic games. It has that same feeling of speed and focus on precisely timed jumps. You can play take multiple paths to the goal, but there’s plenty to see if you explore. It’s a nice balance -- take the scenic route and get all the bonuses and secrets, or speed through it and beat the clock.
I like that Cordy 2 rewards you for efficient navigation, but the levels are designed in such a way that you won’t get lost -- it might just take you a little longer to get the the end. You are judged on a three-star system: one for finishing, one for getting all the Zap bonuses, and another for beating the level time.
You have to pick up gears along the way in Cordy 2. The gears and level stars are used to unlock various areas of the game. Each new set of levels requires a certain number of stars. There are also bonus levels with extra stars that you can unlock with gears.
Most of the baddies in Cordy 2 will just knock you back and take a few gears. Although, there are a few that put you back to the last checkpoint. See, Cordy 2 is not a vindictive game. It’s about improving your efficiency.
You control Cordy with just a few buttons. There are left and right buttons to the left for movement. On the opposite side is a jump button. Any special powers will display a new button over by the jump button. With these limited controls, your little electronic avatar will be able to jump, sprint, and zap to the goal. Once you get the hang of things, it’s a really solid control scheme.
Visually, Cordy 2 is absolutely wonderful. It is a mostly 2D experience, but there are places where you can zap into a different area either in front or behind the plane you were on before. The effect when you make the jump is great. It really makes the game feel larger. The environments are rich and the textures are crisp. There is a lot going on, and I’m not seeing a single hiccup on the Nexus 7.
The first 4 levels can be played for free, but after that you’ll have to pay for the full version. It’s a little expensive at $4.99, but it does carry over to all of your devices. Cordy 2 is one of the best 2D platformers out there, so at least give those free levels a shot.
Even though Android developers are still given plenty of leeway in the way apps are designed and implemented, Google has tightened things up in the last few versions of the platform. Runaway processes that eat up battery are much less common now, but things still go wrong from time to time. So what can you do if Facebook isn’t behaving itself on your phone? Greenify it. You have to be rooted, but this app can solve a lot of your battery woes without destroying functionality.
Uninstalling a buggy app might be the best remedy, but that’s not always an option. Maybe you want to use Facebook on your phone, but don’t want it chugging along in the background and chewing through battery. I’m using Facebook as an example because it’s something I’ve experienced. However, different builds of Android from different OEMs will have different issues. Basically, if you notice some app or another is using too much battery in the background, Greenify can force it to hibernate.
The way Greenify goes about things has several advantages over other methods. Freezing misbehaving apps has been a common practice, but that means you can’t use them until you manually unfreeze them. Task killers have been a big no-no for a long time because the unexpected end of a process can wreak havoc with your system.
Greenify lets you use these apps normally, but once they’re out of the foreground, Greenify sweeps them out of memory so they can’t do any harm. The cleanup usually happens after you’ve had the screen off for a few seconds. The hibernated apps can be started up normally, but none of the app’s background processes will run if you choose to Greenify them.
The interface for Greenify is very straightforward. It lists apps that are currently running in the background for quick addition to your hibernation list. Greenify also lists apps that can cause device slowdowns, but you don’t have to add any of them to the hibernate list of you aren’t having problems with them. The app also allows you to add other apps to the list via a notification. Just open the offending app, tap the notification, and it’s on the list.
You don’t want to hibernate apps that manage alarms, messaging, or active widgets. Be aware system apps can’t be added to Greenify at all. Any other issues, Greenify should be able to take care of. The app is free, so rooted users take note.
That's all for this week, folks. Make sure to check back next time for more apps. Or get involved by telling me what you want to see covered!