Flipboard Magazines Arrive on Android

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Flipboard’s magazine feature, which unleashed some creative personal magazines on iOS, is now available on Android. The 2.0 update brings this along with other improvements to the app for Google’s mobile OS.

Android users can now add content throughout Flipboard into their own customized magazine. By hitting the + button on an interesting article it becomes one of the posts inside your customized publication.

And because you don’t get enough notifications, count on some from Flipboard when others comment, like, or subscribe to your magazines.

Below is the full changelog from Google Play:

-Collect and save content into your own magazines, tap the “+” button to begin
-Your magazines are public, but can be made private
-Integrated Android share: add content from the Gallery & other apps to your magazines
-Bookmarklet to add items to your magazines from a browser
-Get notifications when people like, comment or subscribe to your magazines
-Share magazines via email or social networks
-Personalized recommendations for more to read
-Search is now front & center, with improved results

Gmail for iOS adds YouTube, Google Maps Links

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Google’s subversion of iOS continues. Today the company pushed out an update to it iOS Gmail app that will open links to YouTube videos and maps in those respective Google-built apps. This circumvents the default method in iOS, where links open in Safari.

Google previously had included the choice to open links in Chrome. While these options are turned on by default, they can be disabled. This would return one to the standard behavior of opening a link in Apple’s Safari browser.

This move comes after Google added its Google Now service to the company’s search app. It is another indication that while the Mountain View company would love to have everyone using Android, it knows that it has a large base of its users want to access its services on the iPhone and iPad.

Another minor addition is rather convenient. If you are signed in to multiple Gmail accounts, you can now just sign out of one instead of being forced to sign out of all of them at once.  [Read more...]

Facebook for Windows Phone Beta Ready for Testers

Microsoft wants to make sure as many people as possible like the new Facebook app for Windows Phone. The newest beta of the Windows Phone Facebook app is available in the Windows Store for anyone who wants to try it out.

Instead of going for a specific Windows Phone-style interface, this app, which is built by Microsoft, appears to have much in common with the iOS and Android versions. The goal here is likely to unify the Facebook experience across platforms and make new converts to Windows Phone comfortable with the interface.

Users can share feedback to Microsoft inside the app by going to Settings < About. The app is getting pretty rapid updates, as the most recent change went live today.

Facebook for Windows Phone can be downloaded directly from the Windows Store.

Image credit: Microsoft

Source: CNET

Google Now Comes to iOS

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Google Now has been added to the Google search app for iPhone and iPad.

By enabling Google Now, you can get current weather, sports team updates, traffic recommendations, public transit information and calendar reminders. The feature has been available for some time on Android devices running Jelly Bean.

After downloading the update from the App Store you will receive a tutorial on how Google Now works. Then you have the option to enable it or continue with the app as it previously worked.

While the implementation is good, it shows the difference between having it locked inside of an app on iOS as opposed to its operating system integration found on Android. For example, on an Android device the notification center will prompt you to a new score from a favorite team once a game has begun.

Swype Now in Google Play

Swype, the keyboard that pioneered gesture-based typing, is finally available in Google Playswype-google-play. It is being offered for $0.99 as a promotion.

Previously users had to purchase the app from the company’s Web site and then load it into their device.

With Swype one can slide their finger across a keyboard instead of tapping out early key. The Swype software then will offer autocorrrect ions to increase the typing speed.

This typing method has been rather popular, as Google has implemented this technology in the stock Android keyboard. SwiftKey recently introduced SwiftKey Flow as an option in version 4 of its Android keyboard.

At $0.99 Swype is a good enough deal that many people may want to try it out. I did the same, with mixed impressions. I like the number of predictions offered for each word and the interface choices. Swype also does a good job at offering words that minimize the amount of typing, or in this case “swyping,” that one must do.

However, I find the predictive power in SwiftKey to be superior to Swype. And if gesture-based typing isn’t your thing then SwiftKey is the way to go without hesitation.

WordPress, LinkedIn Revamp UI

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Updating an app’s user interface has been rather popular lately. WordPress and LinkedIn are the latest to jump on the design craze, giving their apps a more consistent look across iOS and Android.

LinkedIn

For LinkedIn, the newest version brings a consistent design to its iOS and Android options.

Gone is the awkward home page that broke everything from the app into four different categories.

Outlook.com

Outlook.com has emerged as a strong alternative to Gmail. However, outside of Windows Phone its mobile component has been lacking, especially on Android.

The new UI in the latest update mirrors the Windows 8 interface and looks great on its own platform, but feels out-of-place on Android. Also the folders found on the desktop to not sync across to the mobile app.

While Outlook.com is a substantial improvement from Hotmail, Gmail power users who rely on labels and the strong integration that Google has built into its Android app are unlikely to be satisfied with Outlook. Nonetheless, grab the updated app to check out one of the alternatives out there in Google Play.

 

Sliding Messaging Pro, Chat Heads Liven Android Messaging

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Sliding Messaging Pro has become my favorite messaging app on Android. Despite some occasional glitches, developer Jacob Klinker has worked diligently on the project to improve the interface, which is now a far superior messaging experience than the stock Android messaging app.

The latest update is a rather radical redesign that places all of the conversations inside cards for better viewing. The original aesthetic of sliding is still there – just swipe any direction to go through the conversations or to get back to the main list. Each contact also is displayed at the top of the conversation (if you wish) for a quick glance at their information.

Unfortunately none of this will quickly take you to that profile’s contact card. This is a feature that would be a good addition in a future update.

Sliding Messaging Pro now handles MMS very well. The feature only came into being with the app recently, though it greatly improves it not only through the ability to send a picture but also as a way to send longer messages. You can set how long the message limit is prior to sending it out as an MMS. This prevents your contacts from getting several messages from you just because there was too much text.

Probably my favorite feature is one that is fairly inconsequential – Sliding Messaging Pro supports Emojis. So if you are chatting with iPhone-toting friends their green messages will at least be accented by those lovingly annoying picture messages. [Read more...]

Google Play 4.0 Continues Minimalist Design

google-play-mainGoogle’s newest redesign of its Play Store furthers its effort to create a cohesive, minimalist interface as its new branding mark. For myself Google’s design aesthetic has become more pleasant and properly blends real-world icons with a digital interface – a much preferable look to that of iOS.

This is a matter of preference, of course. The icon-based interface of iOS and its emphasis on the use of skeumorphism work well for many and serve as a useful link to the past. Also, whatever one makes of the UI of iOS, it still is the vast ecosystem of apps that make the iPhone and iPad worthy of paying attention to.

The new look brings larger icons, more content recommendations and less digital clutter. The top of the new home page contains links to the major content areas of Google Play; the icons have been tweaked to match the flatter look.

Gone are the panels which tried to squeeze too much information into a small space. The highlighted apps, movies and other features fit well inside the page; view them by scrolling down.

Those coming from the App Store may feel an instinctive pull to swipe through the promoted items. Instead you need to hit the “Read More” link to see further items from that category. Navigating is accomplished through swiping the sliding panels, which is one of the key UI characteristics of the Holo design. Watch the bar along the top to keep track of where you are. Fortunately more Android apps are beginning to use this design aesthetic, which is bringing some much-needed consistency to Android applications.

Each app page is essentially the same as the previous iteration of Google Play, save for the font changes and lightened background color. Also there is still that tight integration with Google+, which requires you have an account with Google’s social service in order to leave review or give content a +1.  [Read more...]

SnipSnap Suspends ‘Follow the Money’ Contest

snipsnap-iosCoupon-clipping app SnipSnap has nixed a contest designed to increase the social component of the network. Due to “significant mechanized entries, collusion, and fraud” the company sent an email to users announcing the suspension of the contest.

SnipSnap, a popular coupon sharing app, has been building up its sharing component and sought to use the contest as a way for users to gain additional followers. Those who gained 100 followers were eligible to win a $100 gift card.

Below is the text from the company’s email:

SnipSnappers,

We have been forced to suspend the “Follow the Money” contest (get 100 followers, win $100 gift card), due to abuse.

Over the weekend, the contest was compromised by significant mechanized entries, collusion, and fraud.

We are sorry to have to cancel the contest after just one short week, but we don’t have the manpower to investigate each and every claim, especially given the overwhelming number of false ones.

We will be reaching out to all individuals who already submitted a claim, and attempt to adjudicate accordingly. If you followed the rules of the contest and got 100 new users to follow you, you’re golden! However, if your follower count appears to be identical to other submissions, automated, or otherwise fishy, you will likely be disqualified. [Read more...]

Twitter for Android 4.0 Brings Holo-Friendly Design

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Twitter for Android 4.0, available today in Google Play, vastly improves the Twitter interface and gives it a Holo-themed design aesthetic.

The app now includes many smooth animations, sliding panels, and larger text which pops out from the increased white space. While there is not yet a tablet-specific version, the app looks much better on a Nexus 7.

Users can swipe from one column to another instead of being forced to only tap the heading. Twitter for Android now also recommends Twitter user names and hash tags when typing a tweet.

Also I found it to be far more responsive when alerting me about @mentions or new follows.

It is another good sign for Android users, who increasingly less need to be jealous of all those applications running on the rival iPhone or iPad. Yes, there are still those current exclusives like Tempo, but even that and other apps that first debut on iOS have plans to make their way to Android.

Nonetheless, as operat
ing systems get more powerful and integrated, developers continue to respond with compelling applications that take a central role in users’ mobile computing.

Evernote Smart Notebooks Now Work with Android

evernote-moleskine-androidEvernote Smart Notebooks can finally be used with the note-taking service’s Android app. An update rolled out from Google Play early this morning which adds additional features supporting the Moleskine and Evernote Android app functionality.

The notebooks are a collaboration between Evernote and Moleskine, blending the traditional note taking of pen and paper with the evolution in digital file-keeping. Through a series of stickers users are able to take pictures of their handwritten notes for easy filing inside of Evernote. The paper is also said to be designed by Evernote for better picture quality.

The new version of the app also includes a “Page Camera,” which is designed for more accurate digitization of physical documents and pages.

The Moleskine notebooks have been available for several months in tandem with the company’s iOS apps. Today’s Android app update brings these specific Evernote features to devices powered with Google’s mobile operating system.

Those who purchase one of the Moleskine notebooks get a three-month subscription to Evernote Premium, which includes the more robust camera features, offline storage and additional space for saving files.

Evernote Premium subscribers also now have access to search in attached office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with the latest Android app.

Gmail for Android Adds Reply, Archive to Notification Shade

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The Notification Shade is one of those differentiating factors in Android, so Google clearly wants to use it to its advantage. It has done so today with a tweak to its Gmail for Android app, allowing users to reply to messages or archive them directly from the notification.

Additionally, search works faster in Gmail and has more predictive options. I fond it helpful for finding email contacts or popular topics that I needed to resurrect from the vast archives.

The feature is rolling out to Google Play today. I had to manually force the update – go directly to the Gmail app page to make that happen.

Image credit: Official Gmail blog

Feedly Cures Google Reader Blues

wpid-Screenshot_2013-03-17-22-46-51.pngAfter spending some time using Feedly I began to think all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over Google Reader was overblown. Feedly is a robust, cross-platform RSS tool that all Google Reader nomads should consider as their new home.

In fact, the developers have smartly included some guidelines for customizing Feedly to look and act much like Reader. This is because Feedly has enough flexibility to give a Flipboard-like magazine experience or the utilitarian look of a traditional RSS reader.

While some have argued that RSS is past its utility, for many it still has an important function. For example, I subscribe to several product feeds from Google, Apple, Microsoft and others that aren’t designed for an imaginative layout. Such posts are short and designed for quick updates.

Power users will also want to learn Feedly’s keyboard shortcuts, which will help transition to zipping through a large number of sources.

Feedly looks great in the browser and has apps for iOS, Android, and Kindle. While Reeder and Press are both excellent apps and will likely recover from Google’s decision, Feedly has an inherent advantage with its cross-platform appeal and free price tag (the browser version has occasional advertising.) [Read more...]

Sync Forms in Chrome Beta for Android

Chrome for Android Beta m26Just after updating the iOS versions of its Chrome browser, Google is back to pumping out more features in the beta version of its Android browser forward by adding in autofill, password sync and speed boosting technology.

It only works for those who are currently running both the beta version of Chrome on their desktop as well as Android device. For early adopters, however, it has been another effort in making the mobile browsing experience similar to using a computer.

For those who fee like being experimental Google is also using its data compression technology for a faster experience. To turn it on, type chrome://flags in to the browser’s Omnibox. Then, check the box for the setting titled, “Enable Data Compression Proxy.”

Google claims this can speed up browsing by up to 50 percent. I can’t speak to the specifics of the data, but my experience was that it was very rapid when surfing through a large number of sites, both on HSPA+ and over WiFi.

As always, the beta version can be on the buggy side, so proceed with caution and be willing to keep other browsers on standby. [Read more...]

ESPN Bracket Bound Feeds March Madness

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Anyone who is a dedicated or casual fan of college basketball should grab the 2013 edition of Bracket Bound. While it had a few too many bugs for my taste, it offers a great resource for staying on top of the season as we head towards the NCAA tournament.

For maximum performance log in with your ESPN credentials or via Facebook. I had to restart the app to get my ESPN account to take and had similar difficulties getting Facebook Connect to work on my Nexus 4. Once this works, any of your favorite schools saved elsewhere with your ESPN account will appear within the application. You can then

Bracket Bound 2013 also includes access to the Tournament Challenge, which is a pick-em style event for those who want to test their college tournament prediction skills.

By default push alerts will notify you of important game scores and down-to-the wire events. It may be overkill for some, but I appreciated the updates on a recent Saturday to how the Top 25 were faring against the competition.

My only lament is that it took all season for ESPN to update a dedicated college basketball app. While the college football app was ready for the entire season, college basketball again only seemed to pick up interest as the tournament approaches.  [Read more...]

Falcon Pro Petitions Twitter

falcon pro androidFalcon Pro was one of the top Twitter apps for Android, offering far more robust features and expandability than the stock client. It has essentially been taken out of commission, however, due to a Twitter rule restricting the number of user accounts.

As such, developer Joaquim Vergès has created an online petition asking Twitter to extend what is known as the token limit (these give the developer access to Twitter).

In the interim, Vergès has raised the price of Falcon Pro to $132.13 in order to dissuade others from buying it. The reason? In order to maintain the application with updates for current users it must stay in the Google Play store. However, more buyers would only further the problems – so along with the excessive price is a warning to potential buyers to not purchase the app.

Vergès told The Verge that he has been unsuccessful in asking Twitter to change it

“They refuse to extend the token limit because Falcon doesn’t provide any features that their app doesn’t have already,” he told The Verge. [Read more...]

Plants vs. Zombies for iOS is Free (For Now)

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Considering that this is probably a temporary promotion, be sure to grab Plants vs. Zombies for free on your iOS device. This is one of the original strong games that debuted when the iPad launched. I spent a considerable amount of time loitering at my local Best Buy playing the game before deciding to purchase my own iPad.

For anyone unfamiliar with the game, players must use a variety of plant life to defend against an invasion of (mostly) slow zombies. The strategy involves upgrading plants and weaponry as the zombies become faster and more adept at dodging the defenses. [Read more...]

Google Now Widget Disappoints

Google Now is one of the strongest components of the current version of Android. The read-your-mind service now includes a home screen widget which brings forth some of the information previously only available when launching the application.

The widget can expand to fill one’s screen or be reduced down to the 4×1 size. It provides quick updates on weather, stocks, traffic, or sports information.  [Read more...]

Chrome Beta for Android Update Squashes Bugs

Chrome Beta for Android received its fourth update in the last two weeks, with Google clearly committed to a rapid development cycle. Version 25.0.1362.64 brings a number of bug fixes and stability improvements. Through my use I found this update to Chrome Beta helped with some of the flashing screens and other wonky behavior experienced since it first debuted.

The update began rolling out Friday. If you have not received it, then head to Google Play and check the “My Apps” list to be prompted for the download.  [Read more...]

Google+, Google Play Music Updates Boost Utility

One of the advantages I found when switching my primary device to Android was the pace of development in native system apps. That was on display with some nice updates for Google Play Music and Google+.

Google+ page managers get some very welcome additional options in version 3.5, such as more moderation capabilites for community managers, improved notifications and access to the clipboard for sharing content. Page owners can now promote, review, or ban members from a community. they also can remove or restore posts that were marked for review. [Read more...]