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:


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


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.

SwiftKey Tilt: Full-Body Typing Experience


SwiftKey has been busy this year, launching its gesture-based system SwiftKey Flow and bringing several updates to its Android keyboard.

The team is out with something new, which may burn some calories while sending messages.

“SwiftKey today unveils SwiftKey Tilt, the future of smartphone typing. The revolutionary new input method transforms the everyday activity of typing into a whole-body, immersive experience. SwiftKey Tilt makes it possible to text loved ones, email colleagues and type soliloquies without even touching the screen; just rock, wiggle or shimmy your smartphone to insert words in a truly innovative way. Drawing on SwiftKey’s mind-reading word prediction ability, SwiftKey Tilt is the most significant typing innovation since the quill.

SwiftKey Tilt works by unleashing a pinball into the keyboard to power a third, exciting way to type on your device. While tapping or flowing words, the device accelerometer sends the brightly colored ball across the keyboard and when it collides with a prediction, the word is inserted. This frees up thumbs to make even quicker progress through a text, email or Tweet. It also offers users an eye-catching way to interact with their devices and is fully compatible with both the Macarena and the Harlem Shake. [Read more…]

Tempo is Superior iPhone Calendar App


Much like the majority of Apple’s stock iPhone apps the Calendar has not evolved from the original iPhone. Tempo Smart Calendar
bills itself as a smarter calendar application with an effective integration of email, meeting locations, conference call information and other details for advanced productivity.

In the mold of its original personal assistant Siri, the developers behind Tempo see the application as less of a calendar replacement and more as a digital, personal assistant. For example, Tempo pulls in data from email accounts, contacts, and one’s calendar to provide needed files or phone numbers for meetings. It has a handy button to quickly message someone if you are running late. For the less formal moments, it even integrates birthday notices to send that obligatory message to one’s Facebook wall.  [Read more…]

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.

Google Keep for Android Review

2013-03-20 21.06.56If there has been one major hole in Google’s ecosystem it has been the lack of a native note-taking app. Google Play is filled with the likes of Evernote, Catch, and others built around idea saving. It would appear that Google saw a lot of information that was going to other services instead of its Google Drive.

Enter Google Keep – the company’s effort at recording one’s thoughts or short lists. The content in the Android app syncs in real time with Google Keep on the web (full integration isn’t there yet, but Google says it is coming). It has a clever interface that is built to mimic post-it notes without the excessive skeuomorphism of the iOS Notes app.

What I like best is how it is built for rapidly launching a new note. It is perfect for that confirmation number, address, phone number, or other snippet of information that you quickly need to take down. For example, when opening the app it is only one tap to begin writing a new note.

Another clever trick – when you click “show check boxes” it will transform the current text into a list with boxes. Feel free to tick them and clean out the to-do list.

Change the color of notes by tapping the color palette icon on the top right corner. Also, tap and hold a note to rearrange its position within the application. Each app can also be shared with Android’s excellent sharing feature, deleted, or archived. [Read more…]

Gmail for Android Adds Reply, Archive to Notification Shade


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…]

Google Reader Shutdown Sends Developers Scrambling


Google’s announcement that it was nixing Google Reader will not only disrupt those who use the service to read their feeds. Many of the most popular news reading apps like Reeder and Press use Google Reader to pull in their data. It makes it simple for users to quickly log in with one’s Google account credentials and see a list of all of one’s RSS feeds.

Developers were quick to react Wednesday, pledging to continue on despite what was disappointing news.

Jay Ohms, developer of the Press app for Android, said his team already is working on a solution.

“We’re as surprised as everyone to hear about the death of Google Reader,” he said. “We’ve put a ton of work into Press and will do everything we can to keep it alive and an app that people love. We’ll be looking over all our syncing options over the coming weeks, but our plan is to absolutely carry Press into the post-Google Reader world.”
[Read more…]

Follow The Conclave With These Apps

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The process of selecting a Pope may be centuries old, but mobile apps are helping send the message as soon as smoke leaves the chimney. A number of developers have updated existing apps or cranked out new ones in order to keep the public informed on the selection of the next pontiff.

Conclave: This app was jammed together by the developers to serve as a resource, or something. It is a small piece of a larger Logos Bible Software company, which creates Bible software for all major desktop and mobile operating systems. (iOS) (Android)

The Cardinal bios section is rather interesting, with a trending list of the candidates supplied by the buzz meter. If you feel like checking out the previous 2,000 years of church history, hit up that section as well. Nearly all the links are to desktop web sites, so browsing can be kind of a pain. However, there are plenty of great historical snippets, especially stuff about the antipopes.

The Pope App: While less imaginative, this is the official application of the Vatican news agency. When a new Pope is elected, this will serve as the official mobile application. (iOS) (Android)

Radio Vaticana: The Vatican has a surprisingly robust multimedia presence, and this app offers the official Vatican radio network along with its other sources of media. 
[Read more…]

Haiku Deck Builds Image-Friendly Presentations

20130309-150350.jpgHaiku Deck is an iPad-native presentation application designed to mesmerize an audience with eye-popping images. It has several advantages for those looking for a simple, straightforward way to build a powerful slide show.

In many ways it is the anti-PowerPoint. It gets the excessive number of tweaks and design decisions out of the way, allowing the user to focus primarily on the text and images for each presentation (they are called decks in Haiku-speak). It also is share-friendly: with just one tap users can share through a social network, e-mail, posting to a blog or placing it in .ppt format. (Below is a quick deck I created on the subject of hyperbole).

Haiku Deck has several themes, such as origami or cinematic, to give each presentation an original flavor. Along with those stock themes are eleven premium options available for $1.99 each. After using the application for a while it may make sense to increase the available features for a couple of dollars. For those who start building several decks some extra flexibility might be welcome. [Read more…]

Doceri Desktop Empowers iPad-Using Teachers


As more school districts begin deploying the iPad to teachers and students it has created a small industry focused on how to best engage one’s class.

Doceri has become one of my favorite applications for doing this. Its strength relies on its good set of whiteboard-style tools combined with the flexibility to connect remotely through a computer. This solution is ideal for those who can not connect wirelessly to a projector or have a school network that blocks AirPlay.

While an interactive whiteboard is a powerful tool, the flexibility of being able to walk around the room is equally beneficial. It can create a more compelling classroom presence for monitoring behavior and engaging more directly with students.

Beyond the connection solution is the strong set of tools for enhancing lessons or other presentations. You can annotate over the desktop and use the iPad as a mouse to control a Windows or Mac computer. [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…]

Versu is for Readers who want Choice

versu-iPadVersu is like Choose Your Own Adventures books – readers take control of a key character and determine the outcome through a series of decisions.

The stories are either a reworking of classic novels or written to appeal to those who would be interested in such stories. It will definitely appeal to a higher-brow student who enjoys reading and engaging with text.

For example, play through a scene from Pride and Prejudice with the story, “The Unwelcome Proposal.” As Elizabeth’s cousin, you must fend off an overeager suitor who is convinced marriage with your character is meant to be.

After using the stock stories that come with the application, there is a store button for purchasing other titles to read and manipulate.
The stories include mystery and elements of character development in order to take the reader through the journey of choosing the best path through the narrative. [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…]

The Pope App is Conclave Ready

the-pope-appSo there may not be a Pope right now (Sede Vacante for those who want to touch up on their Latin), but there still is an app.

The Pope App is a good resource for those who want to follow the ecclesiastical sweepstakes soon taking place at the Vatican. For an institution as ancient as the Roman Catholic Church, it has an impressive amount of multimedia contained in its mobile app for iOS and Android.

The sidebar menu contains links to the articles, videos and radio broadcasts from, which is an official Vatican news source. There are also a number of live webcam feeds from locations such as St. Peter’s Square.

The recent events of Benedict XVI’s resignation triggered a number of articles and videos, which make for interesting content for anyone interested in modern religious trends. The pope’s final days include video of his last address as well as the helicopter journey to the Papal version of Camp David. There is also a link to an archive of the @pontifex Twitter account, which has now been wiped clean and contains the icon used for a vacant papacy.

For those looking for further news on all things Pope, there are several other official and unofficial applications for one’s perusal. [Read more…]

ClassDojo for Android Launches

ClassDojo Android AppClassroom behavior management app ClassDojo has arrived in Google Play. Like its iOS counterpart it allows teachers to award points or demerits based on a customized list of student behaviors.

By all accounts it should work across a wide range of Android devices. It does not have a native tablet version, but should work fine on smaller devices, such as the Nexus 7.

ClassDojo for Android is a very stable and solid release, allowing me to easily award the little monsters, complete with the same sounds found in the desktop and iOS versions. If you want the app to stay silent, simply turn off the sounds in the settings.

The main screen lists your classes – just tap on the one you want to use. The search bar can be used to find any of your classes faster is there is a larger list.

Also, like many Jelly Bean apps just slide to the right from the left edge to pull up the sidebar menu. Other options include sharing the app with others or changing how student names are sorted. There is no ability to edit or begin a new class – those must be handled from the desktop view. [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…]

SnipSnap for Android in the Works


The popular digital coupon-sharing app SnipSnap is coming to Android. I have been testing the beta for a couple of weeks, which has made me eager for a final, polished version.

It was one of the few apps I missed when moving from iOS to Android. For those unfamiliar with it, SnipSnap digitizes paper coupons, eliminating the need to carry most of them out shopping. While not all grocery stores or other retailers have jumped on board with scanning your phone, a number of larger retailers have done so. This makes redeeming coupons just as easy as paying for that Starbucks drink by showing your phone.

SnipSnap has also evolved into a coupon-sharing social network, with users able to share deals and connect with social networks. SnipSnap CEO Ted Mann said the social community has grown exponentially with a large amount of sharing happening.

“People are snipping and sharing coupons like mad. The idea of a coupon community has really taken off,” he said.

The iOS version of SnipSnap also exhibits deep integration with Apple’s Passbook feature, which helps alert users with location awareness. The app pings you with coupon reminders when entering specific stores. [Read more…]