Sleep Cycle Finally Makes its Way to Android, Promises to Help You Wake Up Better

Sleep Cycle Finally Makes its Way to Android, Promises to Help You Wake Up Better

Jun 23, 2014

Sleep Cycle, the popular iPhone app for waking up better, is now on Android. The app anaylszes sleep through the sensors on your phone while you sleep, and over time, can help to wake you up in your lightest sleep phase so that you wake up feeling better and more refreshed. The app is available now on Google Play.

Pushbullet Makes it Easy to Sync Android Notifications Between Devices

Pushbullet Makes it Easy to Sync Android Notifications Between Devices

May 23, 2014

Pushbullet, a tool for getting notifications on multiple devices, has just been made much better. Now, notifications can be synced across any devices running Pushbullet: this means you can see texts from your phone on another Android tablet and on your PC, with the ability to mute individual apps from being notified on a device, say if you don’t want to see your email notifications on your tablet because you already get them through Gmail. The updated app is available now on Google Play: a Chrome extension for computers is also available.

play2prep Turns SAT and ACT Test Studying into a Game, Literally

play2prep Turns SAT and ACT Test Studying into a Game, Literally

May 12, 2014

play2prep is a new app that hopes to make studying for those dastardly SAT and ACT tests a little easier by making it into a Words with Friends style of game. Players can take on their friends and others by trying to answer questions and earn points for doing so, with daily questions to encourage coming back to the app again and again. play2prep is available now from Google Play.

Nextt Launches on Android, Helps Turns “Dude, We Should do That!” into Reality

Nextt Launches on Android, Helps Turns “Dude, We Should do That!” into Reality

Feb 19, 2014

Nextt, an app for making plans with friends, has been updated and released on Android. Designed to help friends make plans, turning them from ideas to actions, nwo it’s possible to make plans via a new Android app as well as the mobile web. Plus, with the Android launch comes new features: there’s a self-destruct feature for ideas that just don’t come together. Plus, there’s improved private messaging, and better notification options for those without Nextt accounts. Anything to get plans going! The app is now available on Google Play.

The Transit App Review

The Transit App Review

Jan 22, 2014

Living in Chicago, a city with robust public transit options, I find myself glad that I also live in the time of mobile technology, because otherwise I fear I’d get lost when going around this big city. Thankfully, I’ve had The Transit App in its iOS incarnation to help get around. This app does two things: it shows which transit lines are running nearby, and it provides helpful directions to get where I’m going. It does these two things tremendously well. And now, it does them well on Android, jumping to the top of the transit app heap.

See, what makes the app so handy is that when it’s launched, it shows all the nearby routes, including bus, subways, and train lines. For Chicago, this includes CTA buses and trains, along with Metra trains and Pace buses. It shows the route name, allows for easy toggling between route direction, and also when the next stop is. There’s the ability to see when future stops are coming, and where the various stops are going to be on the map. That is perhaps my favorite feature of the app: being able to see where exactly a bus is going to stop makes it infinitely easier to get around, particularly as I can see which stops come before where I need to get off so I can signal to stop and get to the exit when necessary. T


Finding transit directions is great too: it shows where each line runs, the various stops inbetween, and where transfers need to be made. Multiple routes are given, too, a killer feature since often transit routing can be imperfect. Some routes are just easier or better than others, but The Transit App is generally quite intelligent. It’s also possible to search by place names, though this can be imperfect. Typing in the address will work, though. While my experience is largely based on Chicago, The Transit App has also served me well in trips to San Francisco, Portland, and San Antonio, where it made sense of the complicated bus routes down there.

The one issue with The Transit App is that its really more of an app for seeing which transit lines nearby to one’s current location are available rather than being able to research when a particular line is running. There is the ability to set custom locations to see what’s running around that location as well as to set favorite lines, but those will only appear if they’re nearby. I’d appreciate a feature that shows all my favorite lines so that I can quickly see what’s running no matter where I am.

While perhaps that one lacking element is the factor that keeps me from only using one transit app as I like to see other routes and stops when necessary, this is still hands-down the best transit app that’s out there. Truly, it is The Transit App.

Beats Music Now Live on Google Play

Beats Music Now Live on Google Play

Jan 21, 2014

Beats Music is now available and live on Google Play. Available for $9.99 per month with a free trial, and various promotions from AT&T and Target to get free trials as well, this unlimited music streaming service, which replaces the former MOG Music, promises to offer a more curated and personal listening experience than other services with things like playlists generated based off of user preferences. With the muscle behind it, Beats Music should be a capable streaming option, but whether it can succeed is the ten million dollar question. Beats Music is available now from Google Play and on other platforms.

Spotify Expands Free Listening Options on Mobile

Spotify Expands Free Listening Options on Mobile

Dec 11, 2013

The headlines will say “Spotify enables free listening on mobile!” but really, the truth is this: Spotify has simply expanded what can be listened to for free on mobile, while still placing restrictions.

Now, on mobile it’s possible to listen to individual artists in Shuffle Play mode, with the occasional ad playing. If you want to listen to tracks in order, save it as a playlist, where there’s no Shuffle Play restriction. This is handy for listening to albums straight-through. So while this isn’t quite the same level of access as the desktop version, where listening to anything for free can be done as long as one can tolerate ad playback, it’s still a nice step forward. Of course, unlimited listening can still be had by paying for Spotify Premium, so nothing new under the sun for subscribers, other than hey, Led Zeppelin is on Spotify now.

The Spotify app with expanded free listening is available now for free on Google Play.

Why Android Could be the PS4 and Xbox One’s Perfect Companion

Why Android Could be the PS4 and Xbox One’s Perfect Companion

Nov 15, 2013

You may have missed that the next-generation of console’s biggest feature isn’t shiny graphics, cloud computing or superior motion controls. Nope. The next big thing for console gaming is your Android device. The PS4 and Xbox One are going to turn your smartphones and tablets into ‘second screens’ with developers looking to offer companion apps to go with their big releases.

The PS4 and the Xbox One want to ensure they have your undivided attention this time around with the use of Android apps that ‘enrich’ your gaming experience whilst you’re playing games, watching video content and when you’re away from your console.App3

Similar to what the Wii U offers, minus the need for a proprietary device, these apps will increase the scope for potential singleplayer and multiplayer options when it comes to game mechanics.

Whether you’re looking at getting a Sony or Microsoft console, both of the new consoles are getting their own Android apps that will be pivotal to how you play and interact with your new console.

Microsoft have the jump on Sony in this regard, as their app, Xbox Smartglass, has been available for quite some time. This video for last year’s Forza game shows how Smartglass technology was integrated into the game.

Whilst Smartglass has currently been limited in what it can do, it does offer a glimpse as to how your smartphone and tablet will become increasingly important in this new generation of consoles.

This head start doesn’t mean that Sony’s offering is looking to be lacking. Similar to Smartglass, the Playstation App is set to offer functionality that’s on par with Microsoft’s technology. At the recent Tokyo Game Show, Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide, demonstrated the application in action.

Big-name publishers like EA and Ubisoft are already well into development of so-called companion apps that exploit the increasingly symbiotic relationship between console and Smartphones/tablets. EA has Battlefield 4’s application that shows a detailed map and allows for quick loadout selection. Ubisoft are working on tie-ins for their Watch Dogs and The Division games. In The Division’s case, by loading up the appropriate app, you gain access to a whole new class of character that plays unlike any other and otherwise isn’t available.

This focus on apps has all come about because console makers and developers have noticed the fact that people don’t watch TV or play games anymore. They multitask. The TV’s on, but you’re also on your laptop. Yes there may be playing a great game on your console, but you’re also on your phone and tweeting at the same time.

Recognizing that not all publishers have money to spend on developing game-specific apps, it’s interesting to see that both Microsoft’s Smartglass and Sony’s Playstation App are being created with large and small developers in mind.

Shuhei Yoshida, when speaking to Playstation Blog, was keen to mention this as a key element behind the idea of the Playstation App:

“There are many big publishers creating their own apps for their games, like Watch_Dogs or Battlefield, and that’s great, but smaller developers can use PlayStation App to connect to [the] PS4 and load an application, like drawing software for example, so that you don’t have to download and install a specific app on your smartphone. It’s open to all PS4 developers to use.”

With the new generation of consoles now upon us it’s good to see that, Sony and Microsoft realise what an important role smartphones and tablets play in their customer’s life. Owning an Android device for this new generation of consoles could mean you have the upper-hand in the battlefield, more ways to enjoy multiplayer games and give you access to content that you otherwise wouldn’t see.

The old saying goes ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and it’s about time these console manufacturers and game developers joined in with what we’ve been doing for years.

Pocket for Samsung Galaxy Gear was Announced

Pocket for Samsung Galaxy Gear was Announced

Sep 9, 2013

Pocket 1

Samsung Galaxy Gear is a piece of hardware that looks like a wristwatch, but actually offers a phone’s little buddy for easy access on a wrist. Pocket is an app that lets anyone save any piece of content to read/listen/hear/spank oneself to, later, with an ability to read articles out loud, previously known as Read It Later. Now they can finally be together. Will their love conquer the future challenges? News on official Pocket Blog

Helium Review

Helium Review

Jul 29, 2013

Helium, formerly known as Carbon before trademark disputes, most likely with the Twitter app of the same name, forced a name change, sounded like an extremely interesting app, promising app backups without rooting. However, I never really had much of a reason to give it a shot until a second primary Android device came in to my life. Now that I do have one, I must say: Helium is amazing.

This is an app backup and restore tool that works without root, by using a backdoor method with PC app backups. Setting up initially will require following instructions and connecting to a PC running a special app. Then, apps can be backed up, either just their data or the APK file as well for compatible apps (some require Google Play downloads), and then restored from either local storage or from connected cloud storage. It’s all simple to use and very seamless. Multiple devices attached to the same Google account can share backups, too. This app does what it says and does it well.


The app’s backdoor method of doing all this without rooting is the one annoying thing about it: Helium won’t work after a restart until it is plugged in to a computer again, and the initial setup steps repeated. This is relatively painless, as the app explains what the user needs to do in which settings page, but it’s still a bit of a hassle. Granted, on unrooted devices this is a necessity. Rooted users can use it without any problems, and I recommend it over Titanium Backup for most users. Helium is just so much more simple, though Titanium Backup has more advanced options.

The app works perfectly fine for backing up to the device and to the cloud, but the premium key is necessary to restore from the cloud. This isn’t inherently ‘necessary’ per se and it’s probably possible to circumvent this by copying from Dropbox to the Helium directory on the device, but it’s just so much simpler with the premium key. As well, restoring apps from different devices is extremely easy with this. Want to copy game progress from one device to another? This is the trick, unless something goes wrong and it doesn’t work. Technology can always screw up.

For those who want to ensure that their apps are backed up or even want to make game progress transfer wirelessly, this is the must-have app.

Du Battery Saver: How Focusing on Novice Tech Users and an International Market Helped Lead to Success

Du Battery Saver: How Focusing on Novice Tech Users and an International Market Helped Lead to Success

Jul 22, 2013

Android’s more liberal app permissions mean that apps can do things like save battery life on a phone by managing settings intelligently to preserve every last drop of juice to make that phone last when it needs to be there. But what if the battery-saving apps are too complex? Who watches the watchmen? It’s what Jeffrey Becker, director of international marketing for Du Battery Saver, which recently announced that they had surpassed 11 million downloads in 8 months, says is the goal for their app.

He related to me a tale from his personal life of just who they’re trying to target with their app: “I sit next to my wife who’s got the same model of phone that I do, and I will sit there for when we go somewhere, I’ll sit there for two minutes and turn of Bluetooth and turn off my wifi, and do all those things manually, and she will never do them. And she’ll suffer toward the end of the day, y’know, she doesn’t have any battery left and I do, but she’s the exact kind of user that we’re really targeting. Someone who uses their phone all day long, who needs it or wants it with them all day long, but isn’t comfortable diving in to those specific details that give her the result that she wants.”


So, how does Du Battery Saver’s team try to accomplish this: first, Becker says that the app actually does keep international users in mind. “…I think that the UI and just the way that the app works is so simple for people that it’s really been, I think, an easy adoption for a lot of people, and we’ve gotten a lot of notice very quickly.”

In terms of using the app, it tries to be simple to understand: “I think we try to be very visual about what we’re displaying…every time you make a change in your settings, you get this feedback of both audio and a visual that shows your time growing again as you add more power savings. And I think that sort of feedback was a really smart move just to get people kind of engaged in the product.” This sort of experience-based feedback is something that many designers try to tackle in localization: experiences translate easier than words.

As well, targeting users who may be less-savvy has helped as well. “I think that…we don’t want to dumb it down…but it is important for us to communicate what we’re doing without requiring users to know exactly the technical details behind what we’re doing. So it’s a real balancing act. And that’s where that instant feedback comes in. Did we just accomplish something for you, or did you, in mangaing your settings, get something out of it? We’re going to keep working on that to make sure that people are really feeling that benefit every time they open the product.”

While they claim that other technical features like algorithms to help create more accurate battery time remaining are part of the app’s quality proposition (Baker claims that time estimates are 50–70% more accurate than Android’s own estimates), along with trying to keep users happy by giving away more features for free, there’s a lot of little design notes that go in to an app’s success as well. It’s a global world, especially with Android’s vast reach, and we can all agree: our battery life stinks. Du Battery Saver’s international approach may just be doing them and other users well.

How to Sideload Apps on to the Ouya

How to Sideload Apps on to the Ouya

Jul 2, 2013

The Ouya released rather recently, and there’s been complaints about the lack of content on there: there’s hundreds of games and a selection of non-game apps right now, but there are plenty of notable omissions. Of course, half the fun of the Ouya is that it’s an open Android device, and getting apps that aren’t yet on the Ouya store to your console is a breeze. Here’s how to sideload apps on to the Ouya.

How to Sideload

The Ouya interface doesn’t make it immediately clear how to install your own apps. Your best bet is to install a file manager and then install apps from there. Do just that. Go to the Ouya’s Make menu, and go to Software. Open up the browser. Now, download Astro v3 from Metago’s web page. Back out to the main menu and go to Manage, System, Advanced, which takes you to the default Android settings. From here, open Storage, Downloads. Install Astro. It will now be listed next to the browser in the Make/Software menu.


Copy the apps to your Ouya by plugging it in to your computer and copying them anywhere, though I recommend creating an Apps folder. You can copy while the system is on and in use. Now open up Astro, and using the touchpad on the Ouya controller, choose Manage My Files. Go to the folder with the app you want to install and chose Install. Follow the dialogue to install the app. Assuming that it’s a non Ouya-optimized one, it will appear in the Make/Software menu. Now just launch the app, and you’re good to go.


The easiest way to get APKs for yourself is to back the app up using a file manager. Astro has the ability to back up apps to APKs, as does File Expert. Both apps have Backup Apps options on their main screens. Get the APK files they create off of your device and on to your Ouya!


Apps that aren’t optimized for the Ouya’s controls and settings will be hit or miss. Here’s a few apps I tried from across the spectrum that show the postives and drawbacks of sideloading on Ouya.

MLB At Bat: Works normally! The d-pad works for some actions, and video playback is not as high-quality as it could be, but the app works perfectly well with the Ouya.

Netflix: The app runs, and video can be watched, but only if an advanced setting to kill all processes as they are quit is disabled. The Ouya has this setting enabled so that background processes don’t slow down game performance. Short answer: until an Ouya-optimized version is released, no Netflix for you. You’ll just have to play it on one of the dozen other devices you own that can play back Netflix.

OnLive: The streaming game service is still alive! And it works great on Ouya despite not being there at launch. The only issue that arises is that because the Ouya controller lacks the standard Start/Select buttons of most HID controllers (which the Ouya controller seems to work as) that some controls in some games will not work.

Metal Slug 3: These faulty controls rear their ugly head here. Try continuing when running out of lives while using the Ouya controller. You can’t. Thankfully Xbox controllers work with the Ouya, but this does limit what the Ouya controller can do.

While sideloading is an imperfect experience, there’s still plenty of unofficial functionality that can be added to the Ouya if you’re clever. Sideload away, and let us know if you find anything that works particularly well!