Android News

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fling

Marketed by social start-up Unii as an exciting way to share life’s moments with the world, Fling is one part Snapchat and one part spam. With that said, the premise is very enticing: snap a photo and let the app send it out to 50 random Fling users (while avoiding any users that you actually may want to see it).

Are you on the receiving end of a random Fling photo? You have the option of replying privately to the sender (which is entirely bizarre when you consider they could be anyone and live anywhere, at least in theory).

There are no constraints regarding what content is allowed, nor are there ways to report inappropriate use; this means chances are very good you will enjoy explicit content coming across your phone while you sip your morning coffee (I can’t imagine impromptu snapshots of my evening meal would be riveting or inspirational for those who would receive them). Based on this, it may be more accurate to classify Fling as a sort of dating app (though be careful, you may not want to send random strangers images that feature details such as phone numbers, addresses or license plates that could expressly identify you).

If you are curious, voyeuristic, or both… download Fling – Message The World for iOS and see what arrives. Unfortunately there isn’t an Android app available yet.

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bolt-699x420

In the instant messaging game, everybody wants to be Snapchat; Instagram is no exception. With the launch of Bolt, Instagram has moved beyond images of what everybody had for supper and enters the world of instant sharing of photos and videos with your friends.

The interface is basically the same as we have seen in every competing app: one tap takes and sends a photo while your friends are able to reply with text, photos, or videos. What may be more surprising is that Bolt does not require that you have a Facebook or Instagram account in order to use the service.

While most people likely see this as Instagram trying to compete with existing ‘snap and share’ apps, the more likely reality is they are trying to maintain their stronghold in the photo sharing market so as to service and retain their considerable userbase.

So far you have to live in New Zealand, South Africa, or Singapore if you would like to demo Bolt –the developers have decided that these are the first locations targeted by their launch. If you are intrigued enough to give the app a try, keep watch as it is expected a North American release will follow shortly.

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Facebook-Messenger

Beginning as early as this week, Facebook will make it a requirement that you use their standalone Messenger app to send and receive messages (as they pull the plug on Messenger being supported from within their stock Facebook app). Generally, changes to Facebook are met with unhappiness among their users –but this time, the company is claiming it will help speed up the rates of response to messages sent out to your friends.

Facebook issued a statement regarding the move to a mandatory standalone app:

“In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app. As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.”

It can’t possibly be a coincidence that this separation occurred soon after Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $16 billion –it may be that the company is wanting to integrate additional features and functionality with the least impact to their core social networking app as possible.

Do you think this is a wise move for the social media giant? Are you more or less likely to use Facebook Messenger a result?

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signal

Everyone is concerned about security these days, especially when our smartphones and tablets are so vulnerable (due in large part to their multitasking abilities and portability). You can put a passcode on your device to make it more difficult for the bad guys to gain access and you can transfer documents securely using encrypted apps, but how do you protect phone calls? Open Whisper Systems has an answer with their new app, Signal.

Using Signal is simple, beginning with adding a phone number and then confirming it with a six-digit confirmation code (sent by SMS or phone call). When a phone call is initiated between two participating users, a pair of words is shown (one on each caller’s screen). From there, the security words are exchanged and a secure connection is in effect.

During an interview with Wired magazine, Open Whisper Systems founder Moxie Marlinspike noted:

“We’re trying to make private communications as available and accessible as any normal phone call,” says Moxie Marlinspike, the hacker security researcher who founded the nonprofit software group. Later this summer, he adds, encrypted text messaging will be integrated into Signal, too, to create what he describes as a “single, unified app for free, easy, open source, private voice and text messaging.”

Initial tests conducted by media and beta testers unveiled a few bugs, but overall Signal performed as advertised.

Secure phone calls may be overkill for most applications –but it is easy to consider situations where it may be advisable, such as: calls between doctors and their patients, or lawyers and their clients.

Ready to start making secure phone calls? Download Signal – Private Messenger from the Apple App Store for free. Existing users of the Android RedPhone app can also take advantage of this secure calling technology.

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turtles

Whether you were watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a child alongside me, or you are seeing them for the first time as they regain popularity, I can guarantee that you have a favourite superdude. Nickelodeon is giving you the chance to play as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, or Raphael in an effort to launch Ninjitsu-style attacks that will protect the city against Shredder and his minions.

Beyond the awesome stars of the game, the interface is sophisticated enough to deliver a true feeling of being a martial-arts fighter (at least virtually, anyway). When an enemy is near, upward swipes will send them flying while a horizontal slide of your fingers will execute attack moves. If you manage to avoid getting hit, your turtle power meter will fill and the combo multiplier delivers fast mini-games (where you get the change to fight as a group with all 4 turtles) that add to the action and excitement.

The more you play, the more you can upgrade your turtle (I recommend choosing Leonardo, because, well… he’s clearly the best).

If you are excited by the idea of masquerading as a butt-kicking turtle, download Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now for $3.99 CAD (with additional in-app purchases available).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is doubtful that anybody misses the days when listening to your favourite radio programs meant watching the clock and tuning in at a particular time. These days, life doesn’t have to revolve around radio schedules –using the NPR One app, you can tune in and start following the stories and news that matter to you (including local news that will be woven seamlessly into your audio stream).

Following in the footsteps of other customized and curated streaming media apps, like Pandora, NPR One gives you two introductory segments; once you are hooked, create an account and swipe your way through the presented audio (left to skip ahead, right to see your listening history). Want to hear something specific? Use the integrated search to find the programs you like best.

This is another app that evolves: tag stories as interesting so NPR One can learn what you like.

Technical features of the app are what you would expect: skip, rewind, pause, and share individual shows, stations, and podcasts. The user interface is described as sparse, but many will appreciate the short learning curve and ease of use this affords; simple is refreshing.

If you love public radio, start enjoying your favourite stations by downloading NPR One for free now.

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image-Kindle

Kindle is already one of the most frequently used digital reading apps available for iOS, boasting access to over 1,000,000 books in the Kindle store in addition to hundreds of newspapers and magazines. While the existing interface was clean and easy to use, Amazon has implemented a number of updates in version 4.4 that promise to make sync and navigation easier.

One of the handiest new features is the ability to sync to the most recent page read. This means that all of your devices (whether they are iOS, Android or any device using the reading app and registered to your Amazon account) will agree on the last page you actually read (instead of just the furthest page). This is incredibly convenient when you read books like I do –needing to jump backward to remind yourself of past happenings in the volume and then continue from where you were.

Placeholders are also new, allowing you to flip around and explore new areas of your book without changing your current bookmark.

Finally, notes export is a fantastic tool for students and researchers alike. As you are reading, highlighting, and making notes, you can then email these items to yourself. Features like this are critical if electronic books are ever going to fully replace paper textbooks in classrooms.

If you are using an iPad or iPhone, you can download Kindle for your iOS device for free from the Apple App Store. If you are using an Android device, you can download Amazon Kindle (though you won’t see these latest updates in this version just yet).

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the_walking_dead

Telltale Games has announced that Season 3 of their successful Walking Dead series of games is headed our way. Less fortunate news is that there are no details being released (fellow fans of the franchise will be dying to find out of our beloved Clementine will once again be taking the lead role in this game as she did in the season 2).

The great thing about these Telltale Games titles is the sophistication in the gameplay. Your strategy is cumulative, meaning decisions you make in earlier episodes will carry through as you move forward. For those of us who are easily drawn in to complex storylines (while also sporting a love of zombies), addiction is nearly guaranteed.

We may not see this third installment in the Walking Dead series until 2015, but if you would like to be prepared, download The Walking Dead: Season One for Android and The Walking Dead: Season Two for free now.

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apps

When the Internet really started to take off and companies were making e-commerce profits hand over fist, all it took to make money was an idea and just enough technical skill to hang a web-shingle. Many years later, in much the same way, app developers are popping up everywhere –every day there are hundreds of new titles fighting for our attention. Some are worth it, but according to VisionMobile’s latest Developer Economics report, many are not.

Details in the report indicate that half of iOS developers, and 64% of Android developers are operating below the app poverty line (identified as making $500 per app per month). While it may seem like a reasonable profit for work that is already completed (once an app is released), one needs to see a return on their invested development time –but there is also a need to see revenue to compensate for Apple licensing, hardware, and ongoing support as required. It could be worse of course, 24% of all app developers are making nothing at all (and 23% are bringing in under $100 per month). If your idea is particularly amazing, or you have marketing genius that helps lead consumers to your app, you could find yourself among the 1.6% of development houses responsible for generating the most app store revenue (many making more than $500,000 for each app per month).

At first glance it may seem like these figures shouldn’t be of particular concern to end-users, but consider that if developers are unable to sustain upgrade and support channels for the apps they put out, the app stores will soon be cluttered with junky apps that probably shouldn’t be bothered with. Consequences of those apps seen as disposable will ripple through app stores as users learn not to trust or rely on anything they download and install.

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homer-iphone

There are millions of apps floating around out there, and you’ve installed a good number of them… which are worth keeping? Often the best apps on your smartphone or tablet came to reside there by way of recommendations from friends and family, and thanks to PayPal co-founder Max Levchin you can find out what they are using without even having to ask. Homer is an app available for the iPhone that lets you share your app picks with fellow users.

There is no magic to Homer, it’s all about screenshots of the screens on your phone. Not to worry, privacy features are built-in –which shots you share are completely voluntary.

Is there value in an app like Homer? Truthfully I’m not so sure that I care what most of my friends have installed, but I’m terribly interested in what productivity apps colleagues are using. Consider the lists of tips put out by highly successful people, wouldn’t it be interesting to see what they have installed on their smartphones?

Unfortunately there isn’t an Android version of Homer available just yet, but it seems reasonable to expect that one will head our way soon.

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marvel

For lovers of the genre, great news came out of Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con video game panel: Marvel Contest of Champions is headed to Android this fall!

The official press release whets our appetite, but doesn’t offer much for detail:

“In development at Kabam’s Vancouver studio, players fight their way through iconic locations from the Marvel Universe and collect their favorite Marvel super heroes and villains such as Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man and Thor to build their ultimate team of champions.”

We’re expecting a brawler, and if experience tells us anything, Kabam typically makes freemium games. Beyond that, the storyline should be the real heart of the game, which is being written by Sam Humphries (who you may recognize from previous projects like Marvel’s John Carter: The Gods of Mars series and the Ultimate Comics Ultimates).

A specific release date hasn’t been announced, but the sooner the better as far as I am concerned!

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weave

I know everybody out there search for a job is wishing that it was as easy to find that next position as it is to find the next love of your life. Or maybe not, but thanks to a new app (and $630,000 in seed money raised by the developers) called Weave, searching for a job became easier and more fun from your mobile device.

To begin, you use your LinkedIn credentials to login and then let the app pair you with professionals located nearby. If you are interested in chatting with them or meeting up, swipe left to pass or right to initiate contact. While the main focus of the app isn’t necessarily applying for jobs, it is about professional networking, which is all about meeting the right people and hoping it is the right time.

While the idea behind Weave Networking is a good one (and pulls at the career-oriented heartstrings), it also seems a little unnecessary –though I suppose it bypasses the need to pay for a full-service LinkedIn profile where you could do proper searching and networking in the originating app itself.

If you are considering a career change, download the Weave Networking app for free now.

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google-maps-explore

With so many updates to Google Maps these days, users of the app are likely to feel a little spoiled. Everybody knows they should rely on Google Maps when they need directions, but what if you aren’t actually sure where you want to go? We all think of exploration while on holiday, but consider that with the tap on the new Explore button, you could be well on your way to finding a new favourite place to eat in your own neighbourhood.

Exploring with Google Maps is about more than just restaurants; you could also find things to do or points of interest depending on the weather, how far you are willing to go, or the time of day.

Once you arrive at your destination, tapping on My Location will fill you in on the details (include things like restaurant reviews or transit schedules). Do you agree with Google’s recommendation (or you know you just can’t live without that poutine with the BBQ pulled pork shredded on top)? Save locations in the app that you’d like to return to later. As an added bonus, the more you visit and save locations, the better Google Maps will get at predicting what you’re going to love!

If you haven’t yet embraced Google Maps for Android, download it now for free.

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