CallApp Tries to Improve the Phone Contact Experience

CallApp Tries to Improve the Phone Contact Experience

May 25, 2012

Recently revealed and launched at TechCrunch Disrupt, CallApp has a goal: to try and improve contact phone contacts. It does this by integrating important information from social networks about contacts, in order to offer more information on a contact when calling them than just “I’m on a call with this person.”

For example, when calling a person, CallApp can find information to improve the caller ID experience, listing not just their name but who they are, listing mutual friend connections, work info, and the last messages they sent to the user’s phone and email address. CallApp claims that they do respect privacy settings on various social networks, so Facebook profile information that’s privacy-restricted will not appear through CallApp.

When calling a business, CallApp can aggregate information like reviews and maps, helping to save time. No longer is it necessary to call and ask for directions! When calling other CallApp users, it’s possible to share photos, location, contacts info, and more. It’s even possible to use VOIP services with the app to help save on phone minutes. CallApp is available now from Google Play for free.

GameFly to Launch Mobile Publishing Arm and GameStore

GameFly to Launch Mobile Publishing Arm and GameStore

May 24, 2012

GameFly, the Netflix-esque service for renting games by mail, is making a transition into the digital distribution era. Like Netflix. Their transition to the mobile market is going to be twofold. First, they’re launching a new publishing arm that’s looking to release titles for iOS and Android. They’re currently accepting submissions for potential games to be published via email.

As well, they’re planning to launch their own third-party app store for Android: the GameFly GameStore. The plan is to launch later this fall, and will be available for phones and tablets. Combined with their publishing initiative, they appear to be attempting to establish a foothold in mobile gaming, in order to secure their place if and when the disc rental business becomes outdated. Android obviously gives them the opportunity to launch their own distribution mechanism, unlike iOS, but the question will be if GameFly GameStore can come up with a compelling enough reason for users to buy their games from there instead of Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. If they can help with games visibility, then there just may be a market for their store.

Because We May Sale Celebrates Developers’ Pricing Independence

Because We May Sale Celebrates Developers’ Pricing Independence

May 24, 2012

Indie developers from all over the world are putting their games on sale in celebration of a cause that some may take for granted: the freedom of developers to price their games as they wish without any outside interference. It’s the “Because We May” sale, running from May 24th to June 1st, and dozens of Android games are going on sale as part of this campaign.

Some notable titles include many of the games in previous Humble Indie Bundles, including Canabalt HD, World of Goo, and Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD, which are available for half-off or more. Shadowgun is available for $1.99 during the sale. Even Android-exclusive Android shmup All My Enemies is available for $0.99.

Worthy of note is that no one decided to do an anti-discount on Android like Michael Brough, who actually decided to raise the prices on his games for the sale as an interesting statement that he explains on his blog. Well, it’s his prerogative to do so!

All the links to download games are available from the Because We May Android page.

Theme Thursday: Cartoon for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Cartoon for GO Launcher

May 24, 2012

Today in our weekly Theme Thursday blog post we will be looking at the aptly titled Cartoon theme for GO Launcher and its numerous, stylish icon selection. The first thing that will strike anyone after applying this theme is the almost creepy painted lady icon that represents the app drawer. This icon bears a nearly identical resemblance to No-Face from Spirited Away, and its strange aura is a questionable inclusion at best; considering the rest of the theme carries a much happier tone. Aside from that, each icon looks top notch, and it really seems like there was a decent amount of attention paid to keeping the whole theme consistent. These icons ‘pop’ slightly in the middle and, with an added shadow, this subtle 3-D effect is pulled off brilliantly. As stated before, the whole theme has a bright, pastel feel to it, and unfortunately this will probably limit its audience. I know that as a man, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to get some ribbing from my roommates for having this theme on my phone, but fortunately, my girlfriend found the app much to her liking and I suspect that opinion will hold true for a majority of women.

While it works just fine, I found that the wallpaper was just too plain and almost boring. All the icons fit in perfectly with the provided wallpaper, but, like most other themes, the wallpaper is usually the first thing to go, and in this case there is little reason to keep it. One good note about the wallpaper is the pretty app drawer background and folder display that features well appreciated details such as the double-layered edges on the folder panel. One final note is that the icon selection here is above par, and there are plenty of icons to mix-and-match to make that dock bar completely consistent. While I would not necessarily recommend this theme to any guys out there, Cartoon for GO Launcher is definitely something to recommend to those Android fan-girls out there.

KickStarter Spotlight: playGO AP1

KickStarter Spotlight: playGO AP1

May 23, 2012

Love them or hate them, it is hard to argue against Apple’s AirPlay; with the tap of a button any song is now playing, wirelessly, on the living room speakers. Making an entire house’s media work together is something that Apple really prides itself on, and for good reason. Having an Apple TV, iPod Touch, and a MacBook Pro I can attest to the ease of use and incredible convenience of sitting back and wirelessly listening to my music on the stereo while my laptop and I remain comfortably seated on the loveseat. Delivering an experience like AirPlay is something that Apple competitors have been trying to accomplish for years now, and while semi-viable solutions have emerged, it is still a frustrating and very flawed experience.

The solution for non-Apple subscribers remains tied to DLNA. Unfortunately for phone owners, there is not a lot of DLNA support in Android and it is up to a 3rd party app to get it to work. Assuming this is not too much to handle, playGO from Monroe, CT has developed a worthy replacement for any set-top wireless audio streamer dubbed the AP1 for it’s native AirPlay support. A major complaint of other routers is that they are tied into a questionable sets of speakers and can be horrifically expensive.

The playGO AP1 connects directly into any existing stereo system and includes multiple input and output types. This level of flexibility has yet to be seen from this market and playGO has made it a mission to ensure that this product is both future and backwards compatible. The sleek white with blue trim router is firmware-updatable and offers support for wired connections; including legacy iOS models.

I know that setting up home audio with an Android phone in mind is tough, but assuming that dealing with DLNA is not an issue then the playGO AP1 is something that should not be missed, and as like all KickStarter projects, these projects are not funded without support from the internet.

Peel Makes Discovering What’s Good on TV Right Now Much Easier

Peel Makes Discovering What’s Good on TV Right Now Much Easier

May 23, 2012

Can’t find anything good on TV? There’s an app for that! Peel is an app that utilizes user preferences and information to help find the best shows to watch at any given time. Users select from their favorite genres, input their TV provider and optional demographic information, and then Peel provides information on which shows are currently on, prioritizing based on favorite genres. There are other ways to get recommendations as well, with the ability to choose by genre (though for some reason Peel categorizes Aqua Teen Hunger Force as a drama) and to add favorite channels to see what’s on those.

As well, users can register with Peel and add friends, sharing recommendations, favorite programs, and even seeing what their friends are watching. This includes the ability to share those “Guilty pleasure” shows, which is perfect for those Glee fans who want people to know that they like to watch the show, they just feel bad about it. Peel is available now as a free download from Google Play.

NimbleBit’s New Game Pocket Planes is Coming to Android Soon

NimbleBit’s New Game Pocket Planes is Coming to Android Soon

May 23, 2012

NimbleBit’s followup to the smash hit Tiny Tower is coming very soon – and it’s coming to Android very soon to boot. Pocket Planes, which has a new trailer available, shares a pixel art style with Tiny Tower, but is a more invovled game. The goal is to grow an airline, flying customers from airport to airport, managing the various routes to make money. New destinations can be unlocked as the game progresses, allowing players to fly routes around the world in over 250 cities. There are a wide variety of planes that can be unlocked, each with different stats and customization schemes. As well, NimbleBit is promising more social features will be involved in the game, with the ability to trade plane parts and compete in events with players around the world.

This is the first NimbleBit social game to be announced for iOS and Android; both Pocket Frogs and Tiny Tower’s announcements came at a period of time after the iOS launches. According to NimbleBit’s Dave Marsh, Mobage will be publishing the Android version of Pocket Planes, similar to Tiny Tower. It’s unknown if the game will be a simultaneous iOS and Android launch, but it does appear to be a possibility. Pocket Planes is coming soon, and we’ll have more on this game as it nears release.

Lightbox, Facebook Acquisitions, and the Curious Volatile State of Apps

Lightbox, Facebook Acquisitions, and the Curious Volatile State of Apps

May 22, 2012

After years of software that was rarely updated or changed, apps have created a new world in which software is strangely impermanent, and an app that someone uses regularly can disappear just like that. Lightbox is one such app: the app for sharing photographs as a photo blog has disappeared from Google Play, thanks to Facebook, who hired away its engineers, seemingly in order to improve their mobile photo sharing product, similar to why they acquired Instagram. Facebook has said that they have problems with mobile, and improving their mobile apps and services is why they’re making such moves. Lightbox is the exception among Facebook’s recent acquisitions: both Instagram and Karma are remaining in their current forms for now.

However, it’s all just a reminder, that these apps from small teams can suddenly change, and possibly disappear because they were too good, or too successful, and someone else wanted their success to be part of them. Or a major update can come along and dramatically change the way an app works. Games tend to go through this a lot. Perhaps every app we use should be used and enjoyed while we have them, because there’s just no guarantee that they will be that way tomorrow, and it’s still just a vastly new and unique thing in the world of software.

Proboards Forum Review

Proboards Forum Review

May 22, 2012

Proboards is a popular free forum platform. They are like the WordPress.com of forums. When a Proboards form is created, the URL for the site will be forum-name.proboards.com. Because they are free and hosted by Proboards, it is easy for someone to toss together a quick forum for their interest or club.

The Proboards Android application allows easy access to all of your favorite Proboards forums while mobile. I didn’t see an easy way to search for new forums to join. So here is a kind of nerdy way to find different Proboards forums to join. In the browser go to Google and type in the topic then a little search magic. It should look something like this:

ghosts site:@http://proboards.com/

Once some Proboards forums on interesting topics are discovered, it’s time to use the Android application. The first step is to add a forum. There is a spot on the main menu called My Forums. In this screen click on Add Forum. Enter in the the login credentials used to create an account on the new forum.

From there, using the forum is pretty much the same as using it in a standard browser with the exception of the look of the forum is simplified. There is access to all of the topics screens, pictures and links can be uploaded and added to replies. Pretty much all of the regular things needed for a forum frequenter.

Navigating through the tree of topics and threads is a breeze. Tap the topic and be taken to the next level. If preferred, there is a a Latest tab showing all of the newest posts since visiting last. Also in the tabs, there is a Participated option showing all of the recent conversation threads.

While there isn’t a lot to talk about with a forum application, there is a major benefit to using an application versus the browser; ease of use. When using the Android browser, there is a need to zoom in and out as well as a slower loading speed. For the person who is active in a forum or two, there is no substitute for easy navigation.

Text Groups and Blacklist People with POWOW

Text Groups and Blacklist People with POWOW

May 22, 2012

Handmark, publisher of various games and creators of Go SMS, have launched their newest SMS replacement app for Android, POWOW. There’s a few features that try to push this above the gaggle of other SMS replacement apps out there. Most importantly, this app is designed for group texts, allowing users to easily send texts to up to 10 people at once. This makes it easier to communicate with groups of friends, coordinating plans like going out at night in a much easier way than through the default Android messaging app. The app supports the current messaging list, MMS transmission, and an easy one-tap button for speech-to-text input.

But what might be the best feature of POWOW? The ability to blacklist people. SMS spammers being annoying? Blacklist them! Is that ex that still texting, and it’s for everyone’s benefit if their text messages just don’t pop up? Then blacklist them. The app is a free ad-supported download, and has a $4.99 in-app purchase to disable ads.

Zombie Granny

Zombie Granny

May 21, 2012

Zombie Granny mixes together a puzzle solving game with cartoony zombies. The puzzles are physics based, with a swinging ball of what looks like electricity somewhere on the screen. With a swipe of a finger on the screen, the ball is dropped. Based on when the tether to the ball is cut, it may or may not hit the zombie. Think of it like Tarzan swinging from vine to vine. If he lets go too soon or too late, the result isn’t what he’d like it to be.

Farther levels bring more complex puzzles. For instance, the first puzzle of the game is to simply cut the tether and drop the ball on the zombie. Next the ball is swinging. Next there are stairs to figure into the equation. The further into the game, the more thought needs to be put into solving the puzzle. The thing is, points are based on the speed at which the level is solved.

In addition to trying to fry the zombies with the ball of electricity, other methods are available too. Boxes can be moved by hitting the box with the ball or by cutting the chain or chains holding something up. When the box is moved, there are puzzle pieces to be collected. Tap on the puzzle piece to pick it up. After the allotted amount of puzzle pieces are collected, achievements are earned.

If the level is just too difficult, a Bomb can be used to complete the level, but gain no points. More bombs can be purchased.

Personally, I like this kind of game a lot. Games like Zombie Granny, get you thinking and are not as dry as some of the other brain teaser games out there. While there probably more than one possible way to zap the zombies, some will take a lot more thinking than others. A little foresight on how the different object will react with one another based on the angle or speed of the swing or falling of the second object is what makes this seemingly simple game difficult.

VLC is Coming to Android – Try Out an Early Build Now

VLC is Coming to Android – Try Out an Early Build Now

May 21, 2012

VLC, the open-source cross-platform media player, is finally making its way to Android. While an official release is still in the distance, with the official VideoLAN website stating that VLC for Android is “in development,” impatient users who want to walk on the wild side can download an unofficial (as in, not released by VideoLAN themselves, although with code released under the GPL, anyone can compile the app) hourly build for Android. It comes in two flavors: a version that supports NEON-enabled processors, and a non-NEON version.

Really, the fact that VLC hasn’t been developed for Android before now is kind of baffling. VLC has been ported to iOS before, but DRM issues with distributing on the App Store shut it down. While an App Store-esque way of distributing apps exists on Android, it’s also easy to distribute a DRM-free app over the internet that would work on Android (itself an open-source OS). That daily releases are only now available seems odd, unless the technical hurdles have been that much greater.

Now, these are daily releases, so they have some instability and general bugginess , but the player works well enough for video playback of standard definition video on my Samsung Captivate, though that had no problem working through the built-in video app. My question was rather simple: would this work for high-definition video playback from a downloaded internet video? On a Tegra 2 device, it ran into issues, though performance was improved when hardware decoding was enabled. As well, some audio synchronization issues appeared.

While this isn’t as useful as the desktop version quite yet, and has performance issues to work out (compared to something like MX Player), the fact is that this app does exist, and given the desktop’s capabilities, this app could be something truly great. Just not today. However, this hourly version is a great start down the road to video playback freedom on Android.