Topple Towers Lite – Timberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

 Topple Towers Lite

Topple Towers creator Ian Stanbridge is a very patient man. For months he has been quietly waiting for a review of his app and now, finally, after all kinds of distractions I can sit down and review Topple Towers. Sorry for the wait Ian.
Largely reminiscent of the excellent Wii game ‘Boom Blox’ the aim of Topple Towers is to use your cannon to knock down all of the red towers within each level whilst leaving the green ones intact wherever possible. Knock down too many green blocks and you fail the level. Initial stages seem simple enough but eventually lead on to more intricate challenges involving cogs and chains. It’s certainly a unique puzzle offering in a marketplace full of ‘Angry Birds’ wannabes.
Topple Towers is a challenging game, there’s a tutorial to ease you in but once the main levels get going you’ll need to flex the old grey matter in order to be up to the tasks ahead. By far the most impressive aspect is the in-game physics engine. The rendering speed is up to scratch on my HTC Desire as blocks interact and tumble in an entirely convincing fashion. There are also options in the settings menu to help those with lower spec handsets run the game.
There are some sticking points however. The controls can prove tricky to master and you don’t get the full amount of aim that you may be used to with a first person game such as this. Many a time I found myself moving into place for a shot only to find that the limited ‘aiming circle’ couldn’t give me the firing angle I desired.
The other (more superficial) issue is with presentation. It’s not entirely fair to harshly judge a product on looks especially one as unique as this but there is no avoiding the fact that the overall appearance of Topple Towers somewhat resembles an early 90’s PC game. In a marketplace where apps are stylised to within an inch of their lives Topple Towers may lose potential players with it’s dated looks, blocky menus and freezing loading screen (complete with comic sans).
If you can look past the rougher visual aspects and get the hang of the controls then Topple Towers contains some enjoyable action for fans of 3D physics puzzle games. The Lite version contains 10 levels and a tutorial for you to enjoy whilst the full product boasts over 5 times as many puzzles.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 1
  • Requires Android : 2.0.1 and up
  • Category : Games – Brain & Puzzle
  • Size : 21M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : It may not look as polished as other Android apps but for those willing to persevere there’s plenty of physics based puzzle challenges to get stuck into.

Skyfire Browser 4.0 – Is it Skyfire 4.Woah or Skyfire 4.Blow?

Skyfire Browser 4.0

A while ago we reviewed a beta version of Skyfire and despite its potential it just wasn’t quite up to the task of replacing the default Android web browser. Since that time Skyfire has gone through a number of iterations and has morphed into version 4.0 which brings with it a number of hefty improvements. It seemed like a good time to give Skyfire another chance.

Click the magnifying glass next to your Google results to open this handy results 'gallery'.

The layout makes for a good first impression, it’s feature packed but also tidy and intuitive. The top of the screen includes the address bar and a search box. Below this is an array of buttons for page navigation, home, bookmarks and tab management. Yes, Skyfire does tabs and it does them well. Also included is a handy switch to alternate between Android and Desktop mode which helps with avoiding those annoying limited ‘mobile versions’ of your regular web haunts. There’s also a drop down menu that offers similar choices to your average Android browser (share page, find, select text etc.) as well as the settings menu.
Using the Search box on the top right of the screen opens up some interesting search results. Searching for an item brings you the standard Google results but also displayed is a row of buttons that can scour for your search on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Videosurf and Digg. It a genius idea that turns a simple query into a whole range of varied search results. Excellent stuff.
The biggest selling point of Skyfire is the SkyBar, a customisable tool that is capable of offering all kinds of extra web content with the minimum effort on the user’s part. There are buttons for Facebook and Twitter which allow use of the social networks within Skyfire itself, they’re not as complete as their standalone app counterparts but it’s nice to have them handy if needed. A Facebook ‘Like’ button is also included so you can quickly share while you surf. There’s a ‘Popular’ button that can scan the website you’re currently visiting and show you what content from it is being shared the most and the ‘Fireplace’ button will scan your Facebook news feed for any photos or links your friends have posted.

The 'Popular' button is a great way to find content you may have missed.

These last few features combined are great for those moments of web surfing when you’ve ‘gone blank’ for things to look at. There are also buttons for sharing pages, viewing Google Reader and content related to news, sports and finance. In this latest version Skyfire really goes all out to deliver everything in one package.

Worthy of additional note is the ‘Video’ button, this is a feature that hunts down any video link on a page and optimizes them for playback. If you have downloaded Skyfire before you will get this feature for free however new-comers to Skyfire will only get a 3 day trial before it requires unlocking for a fee. So far I’ve not had much luck with this feature, videos take too long to buffer (even over wi-fi) and the playback quality could be better. I seem to have a better time relying on Skyfire’s built in flash capabilities, maybe I’m using the wrong sites (I’m open to suggestions here). Seeing as this feature costs £1.85 to unlock I recommend thoroughly putting this feature through it’s paces before committing to it.

Away from all the bells and whistles, general browsing on Skyfire is a breeze, web pages load in good time and the zoom / text-wrapping functionality is much improved from the beta. There’s even a built in pop-up blocker which so far has done a great job of staying on top of those ever-annoying rogue interruptions.
Despite the good stuff there are a couple of small downsides to Skyfire. So far I’ve been unable to find any way of organising my bookmarks, they only appear in the order I save them. There’s also a lack of an ‘incognito’ function, something that is becoming a more common feature on many browsers. These aren’t deal breakers and hopefully are simple things to be picked up on future updates.

Skyfire has definitely surprised me.

Skyfire does a fine job of handling flash content (and blocking pop-ups).

Usually a new web browser can take time to get into but I found Skyfire easy to get the hang of and it’s handling my everyday web browsing with ease. It’s the first mobile web browser I’ve come across that can play an active role in helping you find new content to enjoy rather than just sit back and let you do all the surfing. For me it’s earned the ultimate accolade on my HTC Desire, it’s become my default web browser and with that, I tip my hat to the team at Skyfire.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 4.0.3
  • Requires Android : 2.0 and up
  • Category : Communication
  • Size : 1.7M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A great web browser with some unique features that make surfing even better than before. Excellent stuff!

Big Cup Cricket Free – Howzat? Not bad actually.

 Big Cup Cricket Free

Me and Cricket don’t get on. We never have done thanks to it’s s-l-o-w pace and unfathomable score system. Ever since I was made to play it in school I knew it was something I wasn’t going to go back to by choice. That relationship has carried over into video games, I think the last time I played any kind of Cricket video game was on my ZX Spectrum back in 1988.
So when you think about it, Big Cup Cricket is breaking a firmly held habit of over 20 years and unbelievably I quite enjoyed it.
There’s a range of modes to get stuck into, whether it’s a one-off match, some training drills to hone your skills or The Big Cup Contest where you can pick an international team and guide them through to the world finals. The main game is played via simple touch and swipe gestures which the game reacts to very convincingly. It may all seem random at first but give it time and you’ll soon find yourself flexing your cat-like reflexes in order to catch out an opponent with a hearty ‘Howzat!’ (most satisfying).
Being a free app, adverts do make an appearance in Big Cup Cricket. They don’t get in the way of the game so much but some people may be put off by their constant presence. It’s also a shame that there’s no multiplayer options, I accept the difficulty involved in pulling such a feature off but it could have made this game a truly essential download.
As it stands I had fun with Big Cup Cricket which is a surprise given my lack of enthusiasm for the real thing. With it’s NES style graphics Big Cup Cricket makes a decent go of bringing Cricket (albeit an arcade experience of it) to your mobile device.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 1.1.1
  • Requires Android : 2.1 and up
  • Category : Arcade & Action
  • Size : 9.3M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : For a quick fun diversion, Big Cup Cricket does the job. And that’s coming from a complete non-fan of cricket.

Super Box 10 Tools In 1 – Is it a bird?.. a plane?.. No, it’s Super Box!

 Super Box – 10 Tools In 1

I have to say I was slightly dubious about ‘Super Box 10 Tools in 1’ when I first laid eyes on it. On the one hand I thought it had a whiff of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ about it but mainly my doubts centred around the fact that I really didn’t like the app icon. I know, shallow.
Thankfully, despite my ridiculous first impressions, Super Box performs it’s 10 functions very well and does a pretty good job of making similar ‘one task’ apps redundant in the process.
So what tools do you get for your initial down payment of FREE?

It may not be uber-flash on the eyes but it's quick & simple and that's what counts.

Memory/Cpu : This tool gives you an overview of how much memory and cpu your handset is using. There’s also a rundown on storage space with regards to your sd card and internal storage. A ‘Free Memory’ button is also included although I usually avoid these as (in my personal opinion) Android seems to do a pretty good job of handling memory.
Battery : Selecting this gives you full details on your battery, it’s health and how it has been used.
APK Installer : If you have any APK (Android App Files) on your phone, this tool will sniff ‘em out and give you the option to install them.
Uninstaller : This allows you easy access to your apps list so you can remove them quickly if needs be. You can also perform batch-job uninstalls as well as backup apps in case you lose them, bonus points for adding these features.
Apps2SD : This tool will show you what is installed and where. From here you can choose what apps should be installed in which locations. It’s a very well thought out interface which makes the process far easier than the standard Android apps menus.

Oooh TweetDeck. I love you but you can be such an utterly bloated cache cow.

Cache : Despite rooting my phone and having my apps runs from a separate partition on my SD card, I still have issues with apps eating up my handset’s limited internal memory by building up huge caches of data over time. The Cache tool lists all those data hungry apps so you can blitz them all or individually with just a few presses. On my first go my total used cache went from over 28MB to less than 3MB. Excellent!
TaskKiller : I’ve never been an advocate of Android Task Killers (due to their supposed lack of requirement) so I can’t really comment on the effectiveness of this tool. Despite my limited knowledge it seems to tick the required boxes.
Settings : This tool gives you quick access to a selection of toggle buttons that control a whole manner of power related tom-foolery on your mobile. You can quickly switch on/off your wi/fi, bluetooth, mobile data, GPS and lots more. It’s a lot like Quick Settings which I highly recommend.

Safe Guard is an excellent tool for keeping those sneakier apps in check.

File Manager : A functional file explorer tool. I’m not entirely sold on the folder view but the auto scan function is very useful giving you easy access to all the music, videos, pics and APKs stored on your handset and SD card.
Safe Guard : This is a very good tool that checks the permissions of your installed apps. With this you can find out if apps are helping themselves to permissions they shouldn’t be dealing with (i.e. permissions to make calls/texts and costing money without you knowing).

Seeing as it’s a free app there are ads built-in but they only reside at the bottom of the screen and never get in the way of what you’re trying to do. At a modest 2MB install footprint, Super Box is a worthwhile app to download if you want to tweak your handset to it’s fullest potential. Personally speaking the ‘Cache’ tool is worth the install alone.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 2.1
  • Requires Android : 1.6 and up
  • Category : Productivity
  • Size : 980k
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Jack of all trades, and great at all of them. Super Box – 10 Tools In 1 confidently fills the shoes of other apps that can only perform one of it’s many tricks. Recommended.

Go SMS Pro – “Go Go Gadget Text”

Go SMS Pro

The first thing I would advise to anyone buying a HTC handset (or possibly any Android phone for that matter) is to ignore the standard SMS app in favour of a third party alternative. In some cases the SMS apps on the marketplace are a better option over the stock versions that come pre-loaded on an Android handset.
Since buying my HTC Desire almost a year ago I’ve tried Chomp SMS and more recently Handcent, both are definitely worth a look. A few weeks ago, another new SMS by the prolific ‘Go Dev Team’ (ace name) popped up on my radar and it’s charming looks were more than enough to perk my interest.

Yes, it's looking a bit sparse. This is just the default view. (Do check out the Beasties album BTW, some good stuff on there).

On the surface Go SMS Pro is very much like the other third party SMS apps previously mentioned but everything here just seems to have that slightly more ‘polished’ edge about it. Standard features such as the chat style interface and pop up alerts are present as well as theme support with extra styles available for download.

GO SMS Pro contains a whole warehouse full of extra functionality, there’s far too much to cover here but features worth noting are the email style folder support (accessible via some cool transitions), scheduled SMS functionality, DIY themes and Emoji support.
The latest additions on the menu (as of version 3.33 ) are a Wallpaper Maker and Facebook Chat plug-in. Sure some of these features are available in the other SMS apps I’ve mentioned but GSMSP (as I have now called it in this never to be used again abbreviation) brings the whole thing together in a great package.
The only downside may be for those rocking a slower Android handset. Go SMS Pro is known to be demanding on the horse power so you may need to play around with the ‘Running Mode’ settings to get the best from it.
That aside, Go Sms Pro has quickly become the default sms app on my handset, well for now anyway.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 3.33
Requires Android : 1.6 and up , Category : Communication , Size : 2.7M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain, Official Page

Bottom Line : Well made and feature packed. If your phone can run it this is a great SMS (and now Facebook messaging) app to have.

TubeMate – My mate, your mate, our mate, TubeMate

TubeMate

A while ago on Android Apt we reviewed the Youtube download app JetVD. It proved to be one of the more popular reviews on the blog, clearly people prefer the convenience of downloaded videos over ones that you have to stream. Sadly JetVD has refused to work in recent weeks, this wasn’t totally unexpected as Youtube have a habit of making background changes in order to disable programs that can download videos. A replacement was needed and I found Tubemate, dubbed as ‘The Fastest Youtube Downloader’.

Now you can download 'How Indy 4 Should Have Ended' and watch it on your phone.

Tubemate takes the standard Youtube front-end (you can switch between the standard web or mobile version) and adds a couple of handy buttons that allow you to download content as well as share and search for videos. Pressing the download button gives you a selection of video sizes (plus an MP3 download option) that caters for all flavours of Android right up to the latest tablet resolutions (depending on the source material obviously).
Downloading content is a devilishly quick process when TubeMate is used over wi-fi. You get a handy kbps counter as the video downloads and unlike JetVD the handset doesn’t slow down to a crawl when downloading HD videos. Tubemate also supports multiple downloads so you can build up your local Youtube library in next to no time.
TubeMate is a tidy, functional and easy to navigate app that only clocks in at a tiny 500k install size. It’s definately worth a download, lets just hope it doesn’t go the same way as JetVD any time soon.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 1,04.04
Category : Multimedia , Price : Free

Links : At the time of posting TubeMate has been taken off the Android Marketplace but it is available here.

Bottom Line : Hooray! Downloading Youtube videos is back on the menu. Enjoy it while it lasts.

SD Increase & SD Tools

A quick warning, this is going to be a short review… and it may not even apply to many of you due to the fact that this app can only be used with rooted handsets.
SD Increase claims to alter a parameter in your Android file system that handles how quick your memory card is accessed by your handset. By default your handset is set to access it at 128kb a second but by using SD Increase you can easily increase that amount to 2048kb a second (and beyond if you wish but 2048 is the recommended amount).
As I’ve already mentioned, the caveat is that you can only run this app on a rooted handset. It’s also important to note that not every memory card and file system can support this tweak so don’t blame the app if it doesn’t work.
In order to check the difference (if any) made by SD Increase it’s worth grabbing the free app SD Tools for a before / after comparison. Here’s how my card and phone stacked up.

 

Before

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So after applying SD Increase my memory card write speed has increased by over 2MB, this is an excellent result. The read figure has also gone up by 2MB but what is worth noting that this is the best of a number of tests. In most cases the increase would be about 0.5MB but before using SD Increase it would take around 20 – 30 seconds to get that result. Post SD Increase the result would come back much quicker, so in effect even though the top speed may not have changed much but the acceleration is greatly improved.

In terms of practical use ‘post SD Increase’, the standard Android Gallery app is loading noticeably quicker and outdoor 720p videos recorded on my HTC Desire now playback with excellent quality. If you’re in a position to try out this tweak then do so, it may be of a great benefit to you.

Links : SD Increase, SD Tools

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