SmartNews Review

SmartNews Review

Jul 2, 2015

In a perpetually fast-paced world, there is always a place for easy-to-use news apps. Enter SmartNews, an app from Japanese developers that already has quite the positive reputation on Google Play.

Upon first inspection, the app looks clean. It opens up into the main page, and one gets to see the white background and splashes of color upon that in the tabs at the top. It is set in blog form, with text summaries bordered by a relevant pictures. It a serious look, but easy on the eyes, and easy to appreciate from a visual perspective.

The tabs (channels) underscore a major part of the functionality by providing easy access to color-coded news categories: Entertainment, Lifestyle, Sports and such, with a “Top” Channel — representing overall top news — occupying the leftmost section. One can scroll down to browse new articles, or swipe from side to side to access new channels. Tapping on any one story leads to the corresponding full article from the hosting website; there is also a “Smart View” option that can be selected, which provides a cleaner, less-frilled version of a website. Together, the navigation elements are fairly intuitive and especially smooth.


Now, as noted, what SmartNews looks to do, obviously, is provide news effectively. By default, on the surface, it seems to accomplish just that. News stories are relevant, and properly filed, allowing for one to get a good dose of leading headlines. The sources run the gamut: CBS, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, RE/COOL, The Guardian, Business Insider and much, much more. The channels one has can be tweaked in setting, and it is also possible to add sources.

One cool tool is a pop-up service that provides reports for the user at times during the day: morning, afternoon and evening. The app can be paired to external services like Facebook, Evernote and Twitter. Another thing which is pretty interesting for Android users is the Google Now functionality; this allows stories to appear in one’s Now feed. (this feature is dependent on Google’s card functionality roll-out).

It’s tough to be a news utility of repute in Google’s world, and SmartNews has managed that. It’s a great app that is easy to use, and in today’s world, that is gold.

Crayola DJ Review

Crayola DJ Review

Jun 16, 2015

I was hanging with some friends I wasn’t supposed to hang with, watching a movie I wasn’t supposed to watch when I decided what I was going to do in life.

The movie? Juice. The coming of age movie that featured Tupac and Omar Epps. Even Latifah made an appearance. Folks will remember Tupac’s tragically gritty performance, but it was all about Epps’ character, up and coming “local” DJ Q. Yes… the honeys, the money. Juice. I was going to spin and scratch my way to glory.

Unfortunately, I never came up with the money for a turntable, and Napster changed the direction of the music industry, so I changed paths. Deep down though, there has always been a KG-Spinderella hybrid in my soul.

Crayola DJ, a new game introduced at Google I/O, awakened the dormant monster.

It’s a simple app, and the tutorial guides one through the appropriately flashy user interface; the game incorporates several musical bits in different, broad musical categories, like hip hop, dance, holiday, pop and fusion. Within each of these are sub-components, like drumbeat and melody. using a two table visual system, it’s possible to add, subtract and otherwise tweak a jam pretty specific targets. It’s even possible to blend outputs, adjust tempos and special sound effects. It is surprisingly vivid, and the game gets high marks for the creativity alone.


Then the game challenges one to really rev up the production, allowing the player to chase points over a set time period; in this, the player gets points for being as creative as possible, with combos, effects, speed ups/downs and just keeping it steady. It is interestingly logical, and quite an enjoyable concept. There is even a local PVP option.

Created sounds can then be saved, piped via wired speakers or bluetooth and other wise enjoyed.

Crayola DJ does the enviable job of being easy to pick up while also hitting on the fun and creative. It is relatively self-contained, so nothing else is really needed to get it going after purchase. The number of musical loops and pieces make it possible to mix and match a countless number of times; the possible permutations allow for something new to be created every time. The scoring aspect is simple, and the PVP option is a nice touch. I think a multiplayer option would be nice (across devices), but for the target demographic, it works.

For a creative game that masquerades — delightfully so — as an offering for younger folks, Crayola DJ is remarkably cross-generational in appeal.

I suspect even Tiesto would agree.

Blaze for Twitter Review

Blaze for Twitter Review

Apr 29, 2015

Blaze for Twitter is a new-ish option that brings a new way to consume and produce tweets. AS there can never be too many options, we were happy to take a look.

The intro sequence is humble, inviting the user to add a Twitter account. After tokenization and such, one gets an idea of the customization options available, as well as a look a the user interface. It has a clean default look, with definite lines and bold coloring. The layout option which pops up at the beginning gives one a large say with regards to tweaking the exterior. Off the bat, it is possible to adjust the way Blaze handles images, going from full all the way down to thumbnails. After that, the background color — light or dark — can be selected; there is also a theme option, which allows the user to select from several colors.

Beyond that, the app can be set up to be read from the top or bottom, and one can also pick long service to use and the frequency rate. When it’s all said and done, the app does give the user a bunch of options to make it his/her own. The app clearly pays attention the Material Design, and overall, it is a pretty vibrant-looking application.


On the functionality side, the app incorporates a lot of the tools we’d expect in a microblogging client; one can slide through specialized screens for home, @ replies, direct messages, lists and trending topics. Each tweet in one’s stream can be manipulated individually via small symbols, and again, we get the core tools: reply, retweet, favoriting, muting and sharing. Working on an individual tweets brings even more options, like the ability to make a note or text someone a tweet. Retweeting gives one the option to quote, copy or do a simple retweet (I love the overlay). It is possible to work on one’s profile from within Blaze too.

The cherry on top? Blaze handles multiple Twitter accounts.

There’s not much to dislike; if I am to nitpick, it would be that I would have liked a “shoot-to-the-top” button, such that one can get up quickly. An option to tweet to simultaneously to multiple accounts could be handy on occasion.

All in all, it’s a great option, underscored by the option to use the ad-supported option, or the premium build. Either ay, it’s a client to appreciate, and well worth the risk-free try.

Google Messenger Review

Google Messenger Review

Mar 24, 2015

As Android continues to mature, one of the cooler aspects is the way Google has seen fit to not only build its version of mobile utilities, but to also serve a lot of its apps à la carte. Keep, Calendar, Keyboard, etc are great parts of the OS, but pay of their charm is that they are optional pieces.

When it comes to messaging, most observers would probably agree that Android is very, uh… well… an area of opportunity. Definitely not from a lack of options. Oh no. Between Voice, Hangouts and the deprecated Talk, there are quite a few communication tools. And now, the relatively new Messenger throws its hat into the muddled ring.mes2

Messenger is Google’s homogeneous answer to Android device SMS and MMS communication. It’s a slim offering that acts as a replacement for OEM/carrier messaging apps.

Off the bat, it possesses that streamlined, familiar look that Google is clearly looking for with Material Design. There is a lot of white space and blue accents, with the chatted-with contacts appearing as icon circles towards the top left; for each one, there is a text to the right highlighting the last sent/received communication. To the top right, one gets a search button and the three-dot menu, and at the bottom right, there is a circled “+” button for starting new conversations.

When a contact is selected from the main screen (or a new one initiated), the same mostly white motif shows up. Each sequence is denoted by defined chat bubbles, with the user postings aligning right and the person being chatted with gets their words slanted to the left. From the individual contact settings, one can personalize the colors somewhat, such that the text bubble of the contact can be shaded. Calls can also be initiated directly from the individual “pages.”

The main menu doesn’t provide a whole lot more diversity, but one can set up notifications and set up delivery report.

In practice, it works well, as instant as the built in apps (which isn’t shocking).

It would be nice if there was automatic functionality with Goggle Voice, but it’s hard to knock the clean simplicity. It’s a no-frills presentation that mostly works. Yes, i would have appreciated more customization options, but hey.

Is it good enough to replace built-in options? Yes. It’s not necessarily breathtaking, but merely good enough, and that it an intimidating starting point.

Milk Video Review

Milk Video Review

Feb 20, 2015

The internet is a wonderful place.

It’s all about the content. Meme videos. Music clips. Technological reviews. News analysis. Satire. And a whole, whole lot more.

Yep… it boils down to so much content, and so little time. Samsung’s Milk Video looks to be the bridge in the process, a service that pulls in video from a host of sources, and gets smarter as it goes.

Opening up the app the first time gives an idea of the breadth of offerings; off the bat, one gets to see an interesting swathe of options with regards to channels to pick from: Jimmy Kimmel Live, Laugh or Die, The Tonight Show, NBA, HuffPost Live, Engadget, Android Authority, VEVO and a whole lot more. The basic concept is to “follow” milk2channels, and said channels will then show up in the users feed.

Then in the feed, the channels are stacked upon each other vertically, and tapping on any video makes it play embedded in the feed. Switching to landscape allows the app user to consume video full-screen, which is a nice feature. Also, videos can be acted upon from the feed; long-pressing (or tapping the three-dot menu at the top right) a video gives one the options of saving a video, formally “liking” it, or even sharing using on-device utilities like email or social networks. To do any of these operations though, one must have a Samsung account, Google account or a Facebook account.

Altogether, it works well as an aggregator, with videos playing smoothly. Content providers continue to increase, and for music lovers, the presence of genre-specific VEVO channels is huge. Sadly, the ad-free goodness is restricted to owners of specific Samsung devices — no tablets — and as such, this is an unabashed exclusive directed at a specific set users. Still as an anchor service, it does resonate surprisingly well.

For folks who do a lot of video — and who doesn’t — it is a more than just an enjoyable diversion.

Sony Music Unlimited Review

Sony Music Unlimited Review

Oct 8, 2014



“What is that ‘CD’ thingie they are talking about on that show?”

We’ve come a long way. Not that long ago, having one’s music on the go meant investing in a CD case or one of those hideous auto visor holders. Now, our smartphones are our streaming hubs.

And mighty Sony is on it it — in the manifestation of the subscription-based Sony Music Unlimited streaming service.

After setting up the service (which involved redeeming the review code Sony provided), the next thing was to download the accompanying from the Play Store. using the app, one is easily able to navigate the service. it’s possible to browse the catalog by genre. For premium subscribers, there is the channel feature, which parses thesum1 music into common-ground groups; channels range from “Bollywood” to “Assassin’s Creed” and beyond. There is even a “Comedy Nightclub” channel, which rocks stuff from Cheech and Chong all the way to Chris Rock, I liked the ability to create one’s own channels. There is also a Library section in the main menu which allows users to collate favorite music.

The service allows for streaming (obviously), but also gives users the ability to pin music offline; this is great for when might be lacking internet connectivity.

One of the biggest question a music service has to answer is the one that pertains to content. On this front, Sony Music Unlimited packs a major punch; not shocking, considering we’re talking about, well, Sony here. It boasts more than 30 million songs, which is far from shabby. In reality, it picked up almost every artist I threw at it across genres. I was happy to find entire albums from even obscure artists; it didn’t have ALL, but I think I could be satisfied with the selection. The audio is quite clear (320 kbps High Quality Audio), and no ads to contend with.

The ability to access the premium service on the web, multiple mobile platforms, Playstation consoles/handhelds and compatible Sony electronics adds to its allure.

I think the search engine can be tweaked a good deal; in some of my searches, it seemed to be quite reliant on exactness, which can be a tough with regards to zany spellings of artist names and songs, and even then, finding songs can be infuriating. There are some instances that I think the UI could be a bit more logical off the search too; there were times a song/artist search came up blank when the song was indeed in the catalog.

Yes, the streaming music space is pretty packed for Android, but Sony knows a thing or two about this entertainment, and it brings that knowledge to bear in this product.

Good for us.

Soccer Fitness Gols Review

Soccer Fitness Gols Review

Sep 19, 2014

Sometimes, we get apps to review that are so natural to use. As a licensed soccer coach who has played and coached The Beautiful Game most of my life, I have an intimate understanding of how seriously fitness impacts the sport. It’s an important, and there are quite a number of wearables aimed at this segment.

In any case, checking out apps like Soccer Fitness Gols not only feels natural, it feels like its my duty. So there.

The app itself is simple in design, with bright green, turf-like graphics making up the main background. The developer uses different shades of green in places to contrast the mostly white main screen text. The UI, as noted, is simple, and uses mostly uses taps and some gestures as the main modes of navigation.gol1

The main menu provides a few options: Programs, Assessment, Leaderboard and Profile. The Program submenu is futher broken into Strength, Endurance, Power, Speed and Flexibility. Each of these categories has three levels of difficulty aimed at people of different stages of fitness (beer league? Hilarious), and selecting one opens up the fitness activities to be done. Now, the exercises were my favorite part, incorporating a lot of warm-up moves familiar to soccer players, and several logical sequences, with video accompanying the descriptions and instructions. The program lists goals (sorry, gols) and allows the user to tweak the actual number achieved, which actually worked to encourage me to “beat” the gol. When done, the results can be saved (to be compared to past and future results), assessed and/or shared to social networks.

It turns out that “gols” isn’t just a funky way of spelling the obvious word; it is also a measure of activity. Gols are assigned for doing the workouts, and used to populate the Leaderboards. The Assessment is self-explanatory, and the Profile allows for users to personalize usage stats.

I especially like the video aspect, and the leaderboard adds a competitive aspect. I do think there could be more media content, and probably a little bit of nutritional pointers. Still, it’s an app I have no problem allowing my players to use.

Or myself, for that matter.

Agenday Smart Calendar Review

Agenday Smart Calendar Review

Sep 18, 2014

Making everyday business activities easier is a worthy goal that definitely earns developers a spot in heaven. With Agenday Smart Calendar, PGi might have a chance to go up yonder.

The use interface is appropriately businesslike, with the default soft hues and flashes of orange. The welcome screen is tastefully crafted, with weather, date and meetings that are planned for the current day. The date bar is scrollable, and there is a calendar button nestled to the top right, along with the familiar Android-standard three-button menu access. Tapping on a specific part of the weather information leads to Weather Underground, from which more specific weather information can be procured. Altogether, the UI feels clean and intuitive, and avoids the pitfall of being too cluttered.age1

Tapping on the menu button gives an idea of the app’s functionality as a scheduling and conferencing hub. The app automatically pulls in the emails already attached to the hosting device, and tapping “Schedule Meeting” out of the app menu suggests adding a conference service. If this is selected, the user is led to a menu where conference call info can be added. Then, Agenday calls up the installed calendars on the device (and if there is more than one with the appropriate permissions, it allows the user to pick the preferred one). In the main menu, there is also the option to “Meet Now” which allows one to set up a call now.

As already noted, the app stands out by streamlining conference calls. It works with services like GoToMeeting and Linc on the fly, allowing for one-touch dialing and connection to pre-configured conference calls. Additionally, I found it calls up navigation utilities from within the app for drive-to locations.

The extras help make the app standout. For the business professional on the go, integration with LinkedIn and Salesforce should be very welcome. It interfaces with the installed contacts/people utility too, so a lot of actions can be performed from the app. The widget is also a nice touch.

When it’s all said and done, Agenday makes its name by doing more, and doing more simply. Being free makes if feel even more of a steal.

VSCO Cam Review

VSCO Cam Review

Feb 27, 2014

When it comes to image capture on mobile devices, competition is fierce. Better hardware, more megapixels, yes, but almost more importantly, better image manipulation tools. This is the space VSCO Cam is looking to fill.

Starting the app starts a device optimization sequence; after this, the app menu appears, and it gives us a clue as to the app’s core functionality. The app menu is rated in greys and blacks, besides the Camera button, there are tabs for Library, Store, Settings, Journal and VSCO Grid, and these tabs are set in a slide-out panel that can be hidden on the left.

The camera function is probably the most important, and selecting it opens up the shooting utility. This specific vsco1environment is minimalist in nature, with menu and sizing buttons. There is also a toggle to important pictures for manipulation. Taking a picture is as simple as it is on any smartphone camera (obviously); VSCO Cam‘s assumed value is mostly in its ability to tweak images.

And, at first blush, that value is high indeed. The option set is superb, allowing for the user to actually create pre-sets that can be applied to pictures. Further, there is a slider that can be utilized to perfect tat particular look. Picture tweaking utilizes elements like temperature and exposure to create balance, and the comparison feature is phenomenal, as it allows for before/after checks by long-pressing the edited image. For folks looking to get a hand in selecting the perfect combination of tweaks, there are preset packs available via in-app purchase.

The app also covers the social angle, allowing sharing via social networks and via its own aforementioned VSCO Grid. The latter is an interesting concept that makes sense, allowing folks to discover and be discovered. This is social aspect adds to the attraction of the app.

It’s a third-party app that is fluid and actually fun to use, and is great for all ages.

Talon for Twitter Review

Talon for Twitter Review

Feb 25, 2014

May the Twitter space battles go on; they bring us options like Talon from Twitter.

Getting things going is a simple matter of authorizing Twitter from within the app and giving it a few moments to sync up one’s data. The first thing that jumps out is the styling of the app; the default theme is subtle but determined, with soft grays superimposed on a black background. Twitter handles are handled in orange, and most other text in white. Outside this default theme (“dark” in settings) here is a “light” one (mostly white tweet bubbles on light grey background) and “black” (grey on black). Text size and fonts can be tweaked, and there is an option to load an add-on theme, or to make one’s own using an external theme building app. Looking at the whole package, it’s hard not to appreciate the attention paid to customization options.talon1

Functionally, most information is a gesture away. The default page is the ubiquitous Timeline view. Swiping to the left reveals Mentions and Direct messages after that. Long-pressing a tweet allows it to be manipulated via favoriting, retweeting and replying.tapping a tweet automatically opens up a reply window with mentioned profiles pre-populated. Tapping the menu button gives a few more options like quoting. There is also a three-line menu context nestled in the top left corner, which allows for navigation to one’s profile, trending topics, user lists and more. It’s set up logically, and most operation sequences should be intuitive to Twitter vets.

This app does not have push notifications; we have Twitter’s api policies to thank for that. Instead, it uses a listener option to keep users on top of twitter information. It works with TwitLonger, emoji and even Pebble.

The app allows for two Twitter accounts, which is definitely a plus.

It’s a great looking app, packs a lot of functionality, and seems well worth the $1.99 price tag.

Litho Review

Litho Review

Nov 12, 2013

It’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of apps designed to make photos taken using brand new technology look like they were taken centuries ago. In this digital world we live in, it looks like we still crave for analogue media.

That’s why this review for Litho was written on paper and then faxed into Android Rundown HQ.

Litho is, as the introduction may have alluded to, an image altering app. If you don’t know how these things work then listen up. You can crop and re-size images, apply filters to make your photos look ancient and you can also apply ‘stickers’ to give your creations that unique look that can only be acquired by scribbling on a moustache or some glasses. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can use a combination of all of these features.Litho1

What’s quite impressive is the ability to place textures and filters on top of each other. Like a mini-Photoshop, Litho allows you to layer your effects and images until you get the result that you want.

Whilst Litho treads old ground in terms of what’s been seen before in image editing apps, it’s safe to say that Litho is extensive in what it offers. A huge selection of filters and textures can be applied. There’s also an editing mode that gives you full control over alterations you’re making if any of the preset options on offer don’t take your fancy.

To be honest though, you’ll most likely never need to use these advanced editing features. Every tool is so well labelled and easy to use that most of what you’ll ever want to do to a picture will be easily done with a tool in Litho.

One minor complaint with the menus is that they’re not very responsive. There’s always a slight pause to any input. It never makes the process of editing images annoying and it won’t exactly get in your way, but it is noticeable.

One other barrier to you and your perfect image is the fact that some of the textures, effects and other features need to be purchased. It’s safe to say that for most people, the freely available content will be more than enough, but this is an app that needs to make money. So that’s how it does it.

The final part of any image’s journey through Litho will be deciding where to save your image. Considering that saving an image is no longer enough, we all know it’s about ‘sharing’ anything you make. Luckily, if you’re so inclined to do so, Litho makes sharing an absolute breeze and offers compatibility with all of the major social networks as well as some of the minor ones.

WordPress, Google+, Twitter, the list goes on. If you want to upload to a service that isn’t present in Litho you may want to change what service you use.

With Litho you have an extremely feature-full app that manages to cram in a lot of functionality whilst maintaining usability. Some of the content needs to be paid for, but considering there’s so much that’s given to you for free, it’s hard to feel aggrieved by this decision. A great app.

Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy Review

Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy Review

Nov 1, 2013

Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is one of those games that brings a lot to the table in many ways. Flight simulation games can sometimes be either overly involved or control-challenged; finding that comfortable middle ground can be tough.

First of all, it is a pretty hefty download; we’re talking about just under 2GB unpacked according to Goog. Off the bat, at first glance, the graphics make it seem worth it… it looks good. From the aircraft themselves to the way the sun reflects off the endless the sea in the background, detail is definitely paid attention to. If you are able to look at the planes and not want to fly one in real life, check for a pulse.

The tutorial does a good job of hitting the spot. It is broken down into several different lessons, each with an air1emphasis on a category of flying. They are fairly thorough, and are a fun way of getting acquainted with the game. And the one teaching controls is definitely appreciated.

Guiding the plane combines monitoring measurables like speed and altitude. Virtual joysticks controls banking in either direction, as well as dives, ascents. and airspeed. Realistic-looking gauges make up a lot of the background, and I like the various views that are and changeable at the tap of a button. Other sections of the tutorial deal with skills like dogfighting, and the finer points of evading the enemy as well as taking them out. Basic skills are taught using understandable terms, and in this, the tutorial is a bona fide, fun part of the game.

The actual gameplay itself comes in single and multiplayer flavors. There are missions, plenty of dogfighting and defensive sets.In some variations, it can get chaotic, with lifelined craft taking up a lot of space on the screen, but for the most part, it is a lot of fun. The IAP system is in place and fully stocked.

It’s intense, but its strength is that the intensity can be controlled by the user. The controls do take a bit of getting used to, but the scenery and gameplay helps overcome that.