Archive for January, 2011

App Round Up – Updated Apps

Android apps are being updated all the time and since we started Android Apt back in October 2010 we’ve reviewed over 40 apps that have been getting their fair share of improvements (or otherwise). For Android Apt newcomers or anyone who missed these first time around, here’s a few updates worth pointing out.

Audiogalaxy – An excellent app for streaming your desktop music to your phone whether over wi-fi or your phone network. Recent updates include bug fixes, an improved UI, a genres tab, voice search, a better landscape mode and Last .FM scrobbling (yay!).

Grooveshark – Our review of Grooveshark has garnered it’s fair share of attention seeing as we were quite daming about the application. A newer version of the app has appeared since that review which claims improved application responsiveness, improved album art downloading and improved playback across most devices. There’s also fixes for playlist and favorites syncing.

Homepipe – I loved the idea of Homepipe but I just couldn’t get it to work. No word on how well the updated versions work but it’s now a ‘limited-use’ free app (10 uses a month).

Pulse News Reader – This slick RSS feed app has had a few improvements since our review the best of which is the facebook feed integration. Pulse can now go through your Facebook newsfeed and create a stream of any links posted by your friends, genius!

Rocket Bunnies – A new update to the number one Space Rabbit Simulator has doubled the number of levels with a new set enemies and obstacles to avoid. More importatntly there are now collectible hats! Yeah I knew that would grab your attention. A great game just got even better.

Skyfire Browser (Beta) – Now in version 3.0 (and out of Beta by the looks of things) this web browser may well warrant another look. Recent changes include a new search box for easy access to the OneTouch Search feature, enhanced video search with more content providers, a speedier browsing experience and some fine tuning to ensuring stability.

Winamp – The superb Winamp has had a few additions since our review, SHOUTcast Radio (2.2 & above) is now available, there’s improved Wi-Fi sync and iTunes library import and the number of widgets has increased.

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Pinball Deluxe – It’s Flipping Good

 

Pinball Deluxe

 

I remember many a holiday from my childhood where I would simply while away my time in the amusement arcades.  The rows of upright cabinets and pinball tables were a haven away from the dull & dreary caravan parks my family would take me to in the furthest reaches of Devon. It may sound like a case of rose tinted spectacles but arcades these days are rubbish, gone are the upright cabinets and multiple choices of games. These days the only options for arcade gaming involve…

  • Driving games
  • Shooting / Light Gun Games
  • Guitar Hero (which most gamers already own or don’t need to pay £1 to play again).

Every now and again, tucked away behind the awful ‘Fast and Furious’ driving games there’ll be a pinball table or two, pushed aside and clinging on for their space in the arcade like the gaming dinosaurs they are perceived to be.

Ball jiggling fun that you can keep in your pockets.

I love a good pinball table but sadly the arcade business thinks otherwise so I’m increasingly forced to get my pinball kicks via video games.
Pinball Deluxe is a pretty good go at recreating the pinball experience on the Android platform. It boasts three large tables (with more promised in the future) and promises to run on all resolutions on all devices, even tablets (which could look particularly cool).
The tables themselves are well made, all contain their own visual and gaming styles with no obvious repetition of playing features. The typical pinball tricks are all present along with mini-games tucked away in the pixel display like you would find on the real thing. You can control the flippers via your touch screen but personally I found the ‘menu’ and ‘search’ keys a far more authentic alternative.
The physics are pretty much spot on, it’s a shame the ball movement isn’t smoother but for a mobile phone game that’s going to be asking a lot. Either way it’s a great effort.
Sadly there’s currently no OpenFeint support, it’s not a massive loss but pinball is a game that appeals to to high-score whore in all of us and online scoreboards would add an extra level of competition between online friends.

Link : Official Page

Bottom Line : Pinball Deluxe is a free download so whether you’re a hardcore Pinball wizard or a casual gamer it’s a recommended download for your Android device.

Sleep As An Droid – No That’s Not A Typo, It’s Actually Called That

Sleep As An Droid

 

"Good Night" the app displays when you go to bed. Awww ain't that nice.

Sleeping is ace! I can never get enough of it. The only problem I have with sleeping is with the whole ‘waking up’ part, it’s horrendous. I could not-get-up all day long if it were up to me (and it isn’t). Sleep As An Droid is an app the claims to help with that problem by gently waking you up when you are in a period of ‘light sleep’. According to the spiel on the creator’s website…

Common alarm clocks ignore your sleep cycles, they wake you on schedule no matter your are currently in your deep sleep. Waking-up from the deep sleep is very unpleasant, it makes you tired and it may negatively affect your productivity during the whole day.

 

In contrast Sleep as an Droid tracks your sleep during night and given a time range, it chooses the optimal moment to wake you up (ideally in light sleep). Waking up in light sleep is natural, gentle and it may only be compared to the experience of waking up without any alarm clock.


So does it work? Well, I guess… but more on that later. All the light/deep sleep business aside S.A.A.D. is actually a pretty comprehensive alarm clock app, you can set multiple alarms for different days, you can choose to have music soothe you to sleep or have an alarm gradually increase in volume to gently wake you up. You can even setup a catchpa that you have unlock before the alarm will switch off.
The sleep measurement side of things seems to be pretty effective, the idea is that you lay the phone on your bed and the accelerometers in the handset will track any movements as you sleep; in theory the less you move the ‘deeper’ asleep you are. At the end of your snooze the app generates a graph of your measured movements which you can save and these stats can be shared with your friends via Facebook although they may not stay your friends for long if you keep posting updates about your sleep patterns. The theory of using accelerometers to track your sleeping pattern seems sound enough although I wonder what happens if you share a double bed. Are your partner’s movements going to get picked up too and will that mess up how the phone handles your sleep data? If graphs aren’t enough you can also use the ‘recording’ function which will activate once the noise in the room reaches a certain db level, at last you can prove whether your loved one is a chronic snorer.

This week I have mostly been sleeping THIS much.

 
You can also set a window before your desired wake-up time to allow the app some breathing space with regards to choosing your optimum moment to be woken up. So again, does the light sleep/dark sleep aspect actually work? To be honest I couldn’t really tell and this is no fault of the app, it’s purely down to the fact that I have kids and as any parent will tell you, when you have kids you don’t need an alarm clock. Kids aren’t worried about the important things in life such as whether you’re in a light or deep sleep, they’ll just wake you up whenever the need rises so unfortunately I couldn’t fully test that side of the app which is a shame.
The app comes with a generous two-week free trial before it becomes unusable on certain days of the week, I’ve been using it for about 7 days and as a tweak-able alarm app I think it’s a great piece of work, it’s well made and loaded with all kinds of well thought out features.

Links : Install via Appbrain, Official Page

Bottom Line : ‘Sleep As An Droid’ is a unique and intuitive alarm clock app. Well worth a try for all you heavy sleepers.

Stop Motion Lite – STOP!… Hammer Time!

Stop-Motion – Lite

Just when you’re thinking there couldn’t be any more unexpected tricks that your Android phone could perform up pops another odd function to take you by surprise. Just last week we uncovered the genius idea of using your phone as a document scanner by using ‘CamScanner‘ and now there’s a new addition to the ever growing list of ‘mad things you never expected your phone to do‘, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have three words for you…. Stop. Motion. Camera.
It’s kind of crude in operation but yes, your Android phone can operate as a camera that can create stopmotion videos, animations or claymations and once you’ve made your video you can save it as a file to watch on your phone or your computer.
It’s a very simple looking program but it’s also very easy to use. Simply set up your shot, tap the screen to shoot a frame and repeat. When you are done click ‘save’ and the app with string all the shots together to make a .mov file that you can watch on your phone or PC or upload them to Dropbox or wherever you want to share them. The lite version limits you to a 176×144 resolution however higher sizes are available if you pay up for the full version. For some reason I couldn’t get the built-in share function to work with Dropbox, every upload would result in a fail. In the end I had to resort to ‘Astro file explorer’ to find my movie and use that to share the file to Dropbox. Here’s what I managed to throw together in 5 minutes armed with just a piece of paper and a biro.

Obviously it’s a very crude looking video, if you look closely you can see my aborted first attempt (I forgot to restart the filming) and my hand pops up in the middle. Classy stuff.

Stop Motion Lite is a unique way to spend time using your Android handset (if you have kids, break out play-doh and get animating) and the results are good enough for a free app.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A unique and fun app that unlocks a new side of creativity for everyone.

Doodle Dash Lite – “Canabalt… but with GUNS!”

Doodle Dash Lite

Have you played Canabalt? If you haven’t then you should go play it (once you’ve read this review obviously). It’s a great game, excellent pixel graphics, simple controls, it’s ideal for mobile gaming except that it’s not available on Android. Don’t worry though because there’s always Doodle Dash, it’s like a slightly less polished version of Canabalt but with GUNS!
Doodle Dash is a platform scrolling game where your only controls involve ‘jump’ and ‘fire’, the screen scrolls by itself so there’s always the ever present danger of falling to your death as well as zombies and spikes that will damage your health upon contact. You can take out the baddies with either your firearm or by employing the trusted old ‘Super Mario’ technique of jumping on their heads. Dotted around the landscape are hearts that can boost your health and weapon crates which contain weaponry that’s far more effective than your slightly lousy shotgun (and gives the game something of a Metal Slug feel).  The more you play the game the more weapons you unlock to use in the future and there’s also an ‘easy mode’ should you find things too difficult.
Doodle Dash is a simple and fun game that neatly suits the touchscreen input of Android handsets, the game runs nicely and has it’s own unique ‘cartoon crayon’ style which looks good on a mobile phone. My only complaint is that after 30 seconds of play the control buttons inexplicably vanish. All too many times I found myself falling to my doom because I missed the invisible jump button by a just the tinniest bit, I do wish there was an option to always keep them visible.This aside the game is enjoyable as a quick distraction and the unlockable content ensures a certain amount of replay value, the paid version of the game removes the ads and has more levels and fun weaponry to enjoy.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Simple, fun and nicely put together. Doodle Dash is worth a download for a quick gaming fix when needed.

CamScanner – Phone to Scanner – So Good Your Head May Explode

CamScanner – Phone To Scanner

 

Let’s have a quick look at what handy functions my Android phone fulfills…

Phone, CHECK. Texts & emails, CHECK. Twitter/Facebook, CHECK. MP3 Player, CHECK. Camera, CHECK. Sat Nav, CHECK. Portable Scanner, CHECK. Wait what? A scanner. Yes that’s right, your Android phone is now a portable document scanner.

The crop selection screen is ace. There's even a zoom for where your finger is.

Using CamScanner you can scan and manage your documents simply by taking pictures of them with the camera on your phone. The app boasts a smart image cropping and enhancement algorithm to ensure the scanned images are clear and recognizable. The app comes with a PDF based tutorial that you can view in the app itself, this is worth a quick look so you can get to grips with how everything works. The app seems slightly daunting at first but after a small amount of use it soon becomes second nature.
Cam Scanner can be used with pictures taken on your camera or any pictures you already have saved in your gallery. The camera scanning side of things is very impressive, the cropping tools are intuitive and helpful so you’ll always get the exact image that you want. The built-in image enhancer does an excellent job of beefing up your scanned pictures so they look their best when viewed on a PC. Once your images are taken you can arrange what order they need to go in and then combine them into a PDF file that you can share with Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote, Google Docs or any other client that will support it. Just a quick heads up on the free version, it’s described as “limited docs/pages for trial version” but there’s nothing specific in just how limited it is.
Cam Scanner is a genius idea that works really well on a mobile phone. It may not be a tool that everyone needs but it does what it does very well.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : The excellent picture cropping and enhancement features make this scanning app a great tool for sharing or archiving documents.

Jet Car Stunts Lite – One Crazy Mother-Stunter

Jet Car Stunts Lite

With each passing week it seems that the quality of gaming apps for the Android platform take another step towards excellence.  Latest in this trend is a new free version of Jet Car Stunts courtesy of developer True Axis.
Jet Car Stunts is a racing game where you race all by yourself, woah woah woah! Come back! It’s much better than it sounds. The opposition in this game are the tracks themselves, suspended thousands of feet in the air they twist and turn with multiple jumps, loops and corners that will send you falling into the big blue sky time and time again. It’s less a racing title and more a high-speed platform game… in a car
The first thing that grabs you with JCS is the superb presentation and how slippery smooth the game runs, screenshots and Youtube videos don’t do it justice, you need to see this running in your hands in order to get a full feel for it. Speaking of which ‘feel’ is something that JCS gets totally spot on compared to other driving games I’ve played on any mobile device. In the past tilting the handset in order to steer can lead to an endless chain over-compensating which results in veering all over the track but in Jet Car Stunts the tilting is balanced perfectly making the game infinitely more playable (and controllable).

Here I am, hopelessly flying through the air and about to crash.

The game itself is a joy to play, partly because it looks so good and partly because it’s annoyingly hard (but in a good way). For a trial version there’s plenty to get stuck into, 8 superb new tracks, 3 game modes (including an excellent tutorial) and integration with the ‘Open Feint’ leaderboard community.

The full version has been around on Android for a few weeks but I never had time to try it due to the new 15 minute trial limit that is now part of the Android Marketplace. Thanks to True Axis taking the time to making an excellent free version I am now hugely tempted to pony up for the full game, surely that’s a perfect example for how instrumental trial software can be in driving sales.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A superb game creation, no wonder it topped so many ‘Best of 2009’ iOS lists. An excellent download for any Android gamers out there.

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