HeyZap Introduces New Add Players Feature

While HeyZap has been used to help Android gamers connect with their fellow Android gamers and to share what they’re playing, for some of those multiplayer games, especially turn-based ones, finding players can be difficult. That’s why HeyZap is introducing a new feature to help make discovery easier: Add Players, the ability to add usernames for various games in order to help find new players. This means that players can add their Words With Friends and Hanging With Friends names to HeyZap, and then friends and other HeyZap users can find their name to play them.

HeyZap CTO James Smith says “We saw a lot of
latent demand for ‘Add Players’ prior to its
implementation, so it’s no surprise that this has been a
popular addition to the app.” As well, he says that “On average, each user adds 2 new players through the ‘add player’ system.” This may not sound like a lot for developers, but that’s two new players to regularly play the game with, meaning that users are spending more time playing the game. The update is available now from the Android Market.

Wattpad Review

Wattpad Review

Feb 29, 2012

Wattpad is an online library of over 100,000 free books all stored in the cloud. It has a community of authors who contribute these stories through the app – with interaction from readers who can vote, comment or leave a suggestion. Although no login credentials are required to start the app, one can log in using a Facebook account, or by setting up a Wattpad account. The home page then offers two default featured titles, giving a button below to see more books from their vast selection.

Most, if not all, stories are contemporary fiction genres – from teen to suspense thrillers. The fly out style menus make browsing intuitive enough to make sense to the first time user. Tap on a genre and all titles are presented with a thumbnail of the book cover and a synopsis. The rest of the summary can be expanded and collapsed by tapping on the end of the paragraph. To choose a book, simply tap on the thumbnail or book title to show first page. The loading time is acceptable considering the amount of data the app has. It shouldn’t take too long with a good Internet connection. When hitting the Back button, there is an option to save the book to the library. Choosing “Yes” will include that book in the home page the next time the app is opened.

The text and other elements of the book can be adjusted by tapping on the Menu button. The text size, color and font face can be changed, as well as the background colors. The colors are all preset and there is no option to manually set it. Scrolling up and down the text is an okay experience, it’s not the best but it’s also not the worst. The text scrolls by paragraph, so scrolling through the story feels a bit choppy and awkward at first. However, the overall stable performance of the app makes this a very minor flaw. The user can also double tap the screen for making the text scroll automatically.

Although the app itself has good features, the quality of books found in the network can sometimes throw a reader off. Typos, incorrect grammar and awkward phrases are not good things to spot in any published work. Because the network allows for anyone to submit e-books, quality control may not be so prevalent given the volume of submissions.

Wattpad may not be as feature-rich as other e-book readers, but it does offer more free book titles than any other e-book store in the Market. For a voracious reader who is not particular with an author’s popularity and is open to reading anything, this app is a great reading companion. It does, however, fall short on aesthetic and functional aspects of an e-book reader. Ultimately, the reader decides which features are more important for them, but this app surely is worth a try.

Pick Pic Review

Pick Pic Review

Feb 29, 2012

Sony Digital Network Applications is back with another photography application for Android, and this one is designed to help users get that perfect shot. What Pick Pic is designed to do is to help alleviate the difficulties that come from shutter lag, by taking 11 photos in rapid-fire order, saving the median photo to the phone, then allowing users to save any and all of the other frames manually. The uses include taking shots of moving objects, to help improve the chances of getting a clear shot, taking a photo of someone’s face without them blinking, and just for any photo, where a subtle difference in frames may lead to a better photo. This is the kind of trick that high-end photographers use to get good shots, and it is available in a form for Android users.

This is a unique solution to the problem of taking motion photographs. This can help compensate for slow shutter speeds on many phone cameras, helping to improve the quality of shot taken. It’s great for high-motion shots, or for situations where trying to catch that one perfect moment would be best. The “Say Cheese!” button is just endearing, if not this app’s vestigial organ, because getting people ready for a photo isn’t really necessary with an app like this.

The app does not perform particularly well on the Samsung Captivate, with long delays after hitting the shutter button, making it unclear as to just when the photos are being taken. On the more capable Motorola Xoom, the app flickers when using the rear camera, and the camera view is distorted in both views, although photos are taken much more quickly. These may be Ice Cream Sandwich-specific issues.

Pick Pic is a creative solution to a problem with smartphone platforms, and despite some problems, it’s an interesting solution to try out.

Angry Birds Space Coming in March, and Launching on Galaxy Note

Angry Birds Space Coming in March, and Launching on Galaxy Note

Feb 29, 2012

Rovio’s about ready to pull back and launch their latest Angry Birds title on us pigs in March, Angry Birds: Space. Fitting with the vast expanses of space, the game will be “launching” on the Galaxy Note. What does that mean? Well…that’s a good question!

This could just mean that the game will be optimized for the Galaxy Note, and Samsung has an interest in making sure their name is connected with mobile gaming’s juggernaut. After all, they think so highly of the Galaxy Note that they spent approximately $10.5 million to run one ninety-second advertisement during the Super Bowl. Spending extra money to make sure their name is tied in with Angry Birds may be money well-spent.

The implication that no kind of exclusivity beyond some exclusive content for the game being mentioned seems to indicate that iOS users won’t be changing their opinions on the Galaxy Note from mocking to pure, spiteful anger.

What it may also confirm is that Android gamers (or at least a subset of them) will be playing the game come March 22nd when it launches. The previous two new SKUs that were released, Seasons and Rio, launched on iOS before hitting Android. That gap may not exist in this case, or at least it will not on the Galaxy Note. There’s worse ways to sell a phone than to say that it’s the biggest and best way to carry an Angry Birds-capable device in one’s pocket.

We’ll have more on Angry Birds: Space as it nears launch, especially as the game is still the behemoth franchise in mobile gaming, and likely will be jumping up the charts as soon as it launches. On Android, it will be interesting to see if the game launches on the Android Market in a paid flavor for a change, or if they continue to rely on the Amazon Appstore for paid versions of the game. We’ll know, or at least have a better idea, by March 22nd.

Google’s Andy Rubin Wants Android Tablets to Expand in 2012; Is The Answer a Nexus Tablet?

Google’s Andy Rubin Wants Android Tablets to Expand in 2012; Is The Answer a Nexus Tablet?

Feb 28, 2012

Andy Rubin, the head of the Android division at Google, has said that Android tablets are going to be a priority for Google this year and that “2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space.” He revealed some sales numbers for Android tablets: 12 million, compared to 50 million-plus for the iPad. It’s unknown if this number includes non-Google tablets like the Nook line and the Kindle Fire. He specifically mentioned the current lack of Android tablet apps when speaking to The Verge, saying that “Fundamentally you shouldn’t have to have a third-party developer build his app twice,” possibly explaining why there isn’t a distinction between phone and tablet apps like there is on iOS.

The answer to their Android tablet concerns could be a rumored Nexus Tablet: a seven-inch tablet that would feature Ice Cream Sandwich and a 1280×800 display at a $199 cost, that could serve as Google’s way to push the Android experience on a budget tablet. It would be an interesting move, considering that most of the Google Experience Android tablets are ten-inch devices. Still, these smaller devices are currently defining the difference between Android and iOS tablets, so they may be the best move for Android devices to tap into that market.

However, hardware manufacturers like Nvidia continue to push devices like the Tegra 3 which are going into tablets like the currently-available Transformer Prime, and Asus’ own MeMo 370T which will boast the quad-core processor. As well, with Google continuing their move to purchase Motorola Mobility and installing their own executives, they may be continuing to budge into third-party manufacturers’ territories.

However, considering that Android provides manufacturers a low-cost operating system with hundreds of thousands of apps, Google’s moves may not dissuade them. Google has shown little interest in running out anyone else making Android devices from the market, and there are plenty of low-end customers with phones that the manufacturers may be able to cover. Google definitely wants a slice of that pie, though.

Sonic 4 Episode 2 Coming Early to Tegra 3 Devices This March

Sonic 4 Episode 2 Coming Early to Tegra 3 Devices This March

Feb 28, 2012

Sonic 4 Episode 2 has been confirmed for Android devices, and it’s coming really, really soon for a certain subset of them. Phandroid is reporting that after playing the game hands on at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, that the game will be coming to Tegra 3 devices this March. Probably the most prominent of Tegra 3 devices currently available is the Asus Transformer Prime, though more devices are rolling out with the chip, such as the LG Optimus 4X HD. Still, this will mean that only a limited number of people will be playing it on Android at its March launch, though the game will be available for Android at large in mid-April.

The second episode in Sega’s 2.5D Sonic 4 series (the first episode of which recently launched on Android) will bring Tails into the mix, with special attacks available for Sonic and Tails together. A trailer for the game has recently been released, showing off some of the game’s new levels. We’ll have more on this game as it approaches release.

Box Gives 50 GB of Storage to Android Users

Box Gives 50 GB of Storage to Android Users

Feb 28, 2012

Think that Dropbox’s space limitations are too limiting? Then Android owners will especially love Box. This cloud storage service offers a killer feature for users who sign up through the Android app: 50GB of lifetime storage for the low, low price of free. Files can be shared through Android’s built-in sharing services. Note that unlike Dropbox, there does not appear to be a free desktop synchronization app, so that space does come at a price, although files are easily available via the web as well. Apps can integrate with Box, such as File Expert, which can log in to Box accounts and access files from there. Unlike iOS, Box integration in apps is less of a potential issue because of Android’s built-in sharing features.

As well, Box is running a contest for businesses to give away twenty Samsung Galaxy Tabs and twenty Enterprise subscriptions to Box. Submissions are due by March 8th. The Box app is available for free from the Android Market.

Any.DO Brings Simple Task List Management to Android

Any.DO Brings Simple Task List Management to Android

Feb 27, 2012

For those Android users jealous of Clear on iOS, with its stylish and simple task list functions, be jealous no longer! Any.DO brings stylish, simple task list management with several options beyond what even Clear has. It boasts a simple interface in both light and dark colors – this is one of the most elegantly designed apps on Android, period. Tasks can be organized to be completed today, tomorrow, this week, or the procrastinator’s favorite time: later. It’s easy to either type in or use voice recognition to enter tasks. Tasks can be synced up with Google Tasks, to bring tasks from the web to the app and vice versa. Alerts can be made for tasks, to be reminded to finish those tasks. Notes can be added for the tasks beyond just their titles. When a task is completed, just simply swipe across it to cross it off. Any.DO is available for free from the Android Market, and is completely ad-free.

Guitar Pro Lets Shredders Practice With Their Android Devices

Guitar Pro Lets Shredders Practice With Their Android Devices

Feb 27, 2012

Attention Android rockers: Guitar Pro is now available for Android. This app helps guitar players practice and learn while on the go. It can load in tablature from desktop version of Guitar Pro, including GP3/4/5 and GPX files, with multiple notation types, and on-screen keyboards or fretboards for adding notes. Sounds can be rendered with over 80 instruments, from various guitar and bass types, to keyboards, strings, drums, and other instruments. Certain sections can be played in loops to help guitarists practice those particularly tricky sections in songs they’re trying to learn or practice. Rhythmical tools like a metronome are available to help practicing guitarists. Files can be imported and exported via USB, wifi, or just the built-in file explorer, to help expand the functionality to and from the desktop versions of Guitar Pro. The app is available now from the Android Market – tablet owners should note that score displaying is not optimized yet.

The Hills Are Greener: I Come To Bury The Telephone

The Hills Are Greener: I Come To Bury The Telephone

Feb 27, 2012

The cell phone providers’ days are numbered. They can try to fight all they want to continue to sell voice, messaging, and data subscriptions as separate products, but their futures are all the same: as dumb pipes that just carry information provided by other services. The technology to replace their costly voice and messaging services already exist, and connections are only getting faster. Soon, all people will need to communicate is a logical hookup to data services, which is what the providers will, well, provide. They may still make money off of subsidizing phones at yearly contracts, but this will be their funciton entirely.

Pretty much the only thing holding us back is a reliance on phone numbers and their cross-platform interoperability. No matter what operating system they use, a phone number is a phone number and it will receive its phone calls and text messages no matter what. However, the idea of having one unified contact point may be dead in a generation or so as social networking and those handles become more used. We use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking services to get in touch with the people we need to so often now that phone numbers are decreasing in importance, and it’s even already affecting the carriers’ bottom lines as far as text messaging goes. We can get the same kind of direct, real-time notifications that phone numbers give us, and non-telephone voice and video communication are only getting more popular.

Apple, in their attempts to bring everyone forward, may be the ones holding back this dream. iMessage is closed off to everyone. FaceTime is still not open. Google’s branded Google Talk products are simply just branded versions of the XMPP protocol that anyone can implement to work with their accounts. Like Apple, who have Google Talk implemented into iChat, along with the variety of apps that openly support it as well, through the Jingle video protocols. Android users can easily communicate with anyone using the protocols that Google has built-in; Apple wants people to use Apple products and Apple protocols.

Perhaps this is room for a startup to take advantage of, to disrupt and supplant phone numbers, to find a way to unify all these disparate communications systems, to create one unified handle for people to use that could work with whatever text, voice, and video messaging system the user wishes. Right now, we are simply in a transitional period where the growing pains of new technology are clashing with the standards of old technology. But growing pains are not forever. It will just take someone with a service that is inventive and useful enough to solve this problem of disunification.

Google Goggles About to Become Literal

Google Goggles About to Become Literal

Feb 24, 2012

Google Goggles, the augmented-reality service from Google that scans photographs for related information, is about to come to a new platform: glasses. Yes, it appears as if the term Google Goggles is about to become literal, as the New York Times and 9 to 5 Google are reporting. These glasses, which reportedly resemble Oakley Thumps, would offer a heads-up display with a built-in camera to get augmented reality information. Users could hypothetically put them on and look around their surroundings to get information on nearby restaurants and stores, or to help identify landmarks. The devices would be Android-powered, and have Bluetooth and cellular radios for communication. User head movement would power the device’s user interface, where nods would help move between menus and confirm selections. They’re not meant to be worn all the time, but as something to be put on when necessary. It’s a bold idea, one that Google may be releasing just as a sort of public experiment, and one that hasn’t been revealed to the public yet, but these could be an intriguing new piece of technology.

Dropbox Introduces Background Photo and Video Uploading to Android App

Dropbox Introduces Background Photo and Video Uploading to Android App

Feb 24, 2012

Dropbox has released an update to their Android app to automatically allow photos and videos to be uploaded to a Dropbox folder for easy access from the cloud storage service.

This is a similar functionality to what Google+ has, although it offers video uploading as well. When a photo or video is captured, it uploads invisibly in the background to Dropbox, making it available anywhere Dropbox is available, including computers and other phones. The upload can be configured to only upload on wifi or on mobile networks if so desired. The process is entirely invisible, there are no notifications that background uploads are in process or finished unless or until the “Camera Uploads” folder is checked. Users are given an extra 500MB after the first photo or video upload as a bonus for using the service. Still, high-resolution photos and videos will take up a lot of space, so this may help spur sales of higher-capacity Dropbox storage plans. The update to Dropbox is available from the Android Market now, and is a manual update due to new permissions required.