Google Play App Roundup: Reddit ET Pro, Retro Athletics, and InstaWiFi

By Ryan Whitwam

Reddit like a champ, be an athlete, and share your Wi-Fi.

Maybe you picked up a Nexus 7 this week, or perhaps you've just gotten bored with the apps currently on your device. In either case, the Google Play App Roundup is here to make sure your hard-earned money goes to the right apps. If you see something you like, just click the link to head right to the Play Store and pick it up.

This week Reddit browsing gets better, we celebrate the Olympics in a retro way, and your Wi-Fi gets easier to share.

Reddit ET Pro

There are few sites more entertaining and adept at eating your time than Reddit. For any self-respecting Redditor, a good mobile client is essential for the most efficient consumption of memes. There are a few good apps out there, but Reddit ET Pro is an impressive newcomer to the field. This app has proven itself to be fast, fairly full-featured, and nice to look at.

Reddit ET makes good use of the Holo user interface without looking like a template. The app is split up into columns with the first, and default one being the “Hot” list. This is the Reddit sorting you’re probably most familiar with. You can slide over to the right for New, Controversial, and Top sorting.

You can switch between sub-Reddits by tapping on the drop down in the upper left corner. Whereas most of the app is very clean and easy to figure out, this screen is a little confounding. If you’re logged in, your personally subscribed sub-Reddits will be in one column, but others are under the New and Popular columns. You can tap on any sub-Reddit to open it alone, or use the selections at the top to load the “front” page for the selected column. This is basically what the default view is, but you can also choose to see all posts regardless or area, or just the ones you moderate.

In the main list, you can tap on any line to open the link, or just vote on it with the arrows. The built in browser is passable, but a much better UI is pulled up for images which is customized with links to comments and sub-Reddit info. Tapping on the blue word bubble in the main list will open comments for a post. You can up/downvote and add your own comments.

The best thing about Reddit ET is the super-clean interface. There are white and black themes, but that’s not all. The Pro version of the app you get Canvas Mode. This is a swipable interface that lets you go through all the posts in your currently selected list at lightning speed. Images are pulled out, if possible, and other content can be pulled up in the built-in browser. There is also a full-screen mode here.

I think that Reddit ET Pro is my new Reddit browser for phones. It’s got a sleek Holo UI, and does the things I need it to do. The fabulous home screen widget also helps. There is really just one trick I’ve seen in other Reddit apps that I’d like to see in Reddit ET, and that’s in-line image previews. Currently, comments with Imgur links open in the browser. Other than that, I’m more than happy to pay the $1.99 asked by the developer.

Retro Athletics

You might have heard of a little thing called the Olympics going down in jolly London for the next couple of weeks. Well, the developers of Retro Athletics have no idea what you’re talking about. Nope. Olympics? What’s that? You see, this game used to be called Retro Olympics, but the Olympic committee pointed out to the devs that no one is allowed to use the various Olympic trademarks without paying a huge sum of money. So Retro Athletics is now the name of the game, but let’s face it -- this is totally an olympic sports game.

This isn’t a complicated game, but it harkens back to a time when our game controllers were lacking in buttons, and it didn’t matter if things were hard. In each of the six events, you have to use a combination of three on-screen buttons to compete. Mostly you’re going to be tapping the A and B buttons in an alternating pattern to get your olympian -- I mean generic sporting athlete -- up to speed. The C buttons is added in to execute an action like leaning forward in races, lifting a weight, or throwing the javelin.

In some events, you have to hold the C button for just the right amount of time. Take the long jump for instance, you run your legs off, then you have to press and hold the jump control for just long enough to get the best angle. It’s a similar thing with the javelin, which needs to be released at the right time and angle to offer any chance of a win. If you start off the line too soon in a race, or cross the line in events like the long jump or javelin, you get a fault.

The thing I like most about Retro Athletics is the way each event makes good use of the controls I don’t feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over with a different animation playing. Some events are very dependent on timing, and others are just about how fast you can press those buttons. Weightlifting is difficult to time correctly, but is probably the most fun event.

There are various cutoffs for each of the metal levels, which you’re shown before each event. You win coins for besting any of those numbers. The events can be played one at a time however you like, or you can do tournament mode. A tournament goes through all the events, and you can’t restart.

You can probably guess from the name that this is a game that prides itself on its old-school graphics. I found myself liking the vibe mostly because it reminds me of a certain track and field game on the NES. It makes good use of the 8-bit graphics with over-the-top animations. This is certainly a good example of retro graphics done right.

Retro Athletics is free, but there is a catch. An ad will show up at the top of the screen in the “scoreboard” area. Frankly, I didn’t even notice this at first. It blends in well with the game, and there are even a few spots where ads are plastered on signage “inside” the game -- just like the real olympics. I wouldn’t worry about the ads. Just worry about icing down your fingers after playing this game.

InstaWiFi

If you like to have people over, you more than likely are asked for your wireless password from time to time. It can get tiring to spell things for everyone, especially if you’re using special characters or capitalization to make things extra secure. If you want to make it fast and foolproof to get your friends on your Wi-Fi. InstaWiFi is here to help. This app can automatically get your friends connected via NFC or a QR code. It’s deliciously nerdy.

When you open the app, there is a little surprise for rooted users. The app will ask for root in order to pull in your current Wi-Fi credentials. If you’re not rooted, no worries; you’ll just have to enter the data manually. The main screen is for the NFC tag, but you can slide over to the QR code screen if you lack NFC capability.

You will need a writable NFC tag, but they are incredibly cheap and you should probably have a few around to play with anyway. I have use these tags for previous projects and I’m still very happy with them. Just hold the back of your device up to the tag, and press the “write to tag” button. That NFC tag has become the key to your network.

When a guest scans it, they will be directed to download InstaWiFi from the Play Store if it's not already installed. This is not the most slick process, but an intermediary is required. Once that is done, of if the user already has the app installed, the device will instantly connect to the secured network.

The same thing can be done with the QR code. When the user scans it, the same things will happen. The QR code screen lets you share the code image with a quick description to various apps. Just print it out, and hang by the door.

I’m not going to claim this app will work for mainstream users. Many of your friends that bought Android devices because they were pushed by in-store reps don’t know what NFC or QR codes are. But if you hang out with a geeky group, this will go over very well. Anyway, it’s free, so you don’t really have anything to lose.

We've come to the end of another Roundup. I hope you find some of these apps useful, but feel free to let me know about the next cool thing when you find it.