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StoryMaker: The Android Journalist’s Essential Companion

It is blatantly apparent that journalism is no longer an exclusive vocation. Anyone can become a respected expert simply by publishing a successful blog, and on-the-ground news gathering is now open to any individual equipped with a smartphone. Even traditional professional media outlets are now moving with the times and embracing the phone; the Chicago Sun-Times recently replaced its entire photography department by making iPhones standard issue among its reporters.

There is a difference, however, between the simplistic recording of current events, and great journalism. Truly to captivate a reader, listener, or viewer, a journalist must tell a story and provide a coherent narrative. In most cases, the ability to do this is not a talent, but rather, a learned skill. How much better, then, would Average Joe’s news gathering be if he were to learn this skill? Significantly so, in all likelihood.

That is the idea behind Storymaker, a new Android offering which aims to educate everyone in the art of capturing and presenting the stories around them. This beta app provides a library of tutorials, and pre-built cookie cutter stories to build your report around. The concept is an interesting one, but can an app really turn us all into high class correspondents? Let’s find out…

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I started listening to podcasts back in high school, when I used to use iTunes to sync music with my iPod Classic — I discovered that the iTunes Store had a boatload of great episodic content that I could grab for free, so that I could listen to more than just music when I was commuting or relaxing outdoors. Does anyone else remember Ask a Ninja? Either way, podcasts are a wonderful way to catch up with the news, dig deeper into your interests, discover new music and keep up with your favorite sites, aurally.

I’ve been getting back to podcasts over the past few months to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world of technology, gaming and digital culture, and I recently stumbled upon a new app to help me do just that — Player FM. Originally launched as a web app by ex-Googler Michael Mahemoff, the service includes a live directory of great podcasts from the around the web for you to discover and listen to. Player FM recently came up with a companion Android app to help you find, curate and enjoy your personalized content on the go. Let’s see how it works.

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Before we get any further, I should come clean — I’m a die-hard Winamp fan. I began using the desktop version back in 1997 and it suited my needs over the years as my music collection grew. When I got my first Android phone, I immediately sought out Winamp’s app for the platform and enjoyed the interface as well as the desktop-to-mobile wifi syncing. But I soon wanted more from my music player and started trying out everything the Play Store had to offer. I still haven’t found a favorite, but GoneMAD Music Player sure comes close.

Perfect for power users, GoneMAD Music Player is packed to the gills with features and configurable options to tweak the app to do your exact bidding. From detailed playback control to lockscreen and homescreen widgets, passing by smart playlists, gesture support and configurable multi-band EQ, this player has got it all. Let’s see how well it handles tuneage with some real-world testing, and how it stacks up against the competition.

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With the rise of the Internet, most people have turned to online music solutions, causing many radio stations to lose a significant amount of their audience. In addition to downloading songs on iTunes, on-demand streaming services, such as Spotify, Deezer and Grooveshark, have grown very popular by letting you listen to virtually any track on your mobile phone, provided you pay a monthly subscription.

While these services are very convenient, radios are essentially different in the sense that they play a specific genre without allowing you to make your own playlist. Pandora has tried to recapture this analogue radio concept of letting you pick the genre but not the songs, as it automatically generates playlists based on an artist, genre or composer you select. Songza takes the concept even further: instead of asking you to pick a genre or an artist first, it analyzes context and suggests playlists accordingly.

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The wonderful thing about playing guitar is that you don’t need sheet music — or even know how to read sheet music — in order to learn your favorite songs. Tablature’s clear one-to-one translation to the strings and finger positions democratizes the instrument that has dominated popular music for much of the past century.

Even better, hundreds of thousands of other guitarists worldwide write and share their interpretations online, providing vast repositories of tabs that give you a head start on just about any published song — popular or obscure.

If you want to tap into this hive mind on your phone or tablet, you could make do with a web browser or text editor…or you could grab an app like GuitarTapp Pro.

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It’s well known that visual media is extremely popular online and this is especially true when it comes to social media. While it’s cool to read about what someone is doing, it’s even cooler to see a picture of it. This is why photo sharing has been such a huge hit recently. Instagram was already the hot topic in social before it was even acquired by Facebook. So where can you go next?

Many believe the next logical step after pictures is moving pictures and there are a few Android apps vying to make that market pop such as Telly and Viddy. There are a number of other contenders, but these two are almost blatantly trying to give their users that Instagram appeal. From the layout of the interface to the availability of fancy video filters, Telly and Viddy are definitely going head-to-head, and we’ll be following them with a thorough comparison.

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“Music” is quite the cluttered category these days on mobile devices – there are the old school music players, radio apps, editing apps and then some creation apps. On the gaming front, the competition is pretty light with a few variations of Guitar Hero style gameplay and not much else. I’m not into the whole guitar-chord-busting genre, but one game that brought back memories of my childhood piano lessons is Smule’s Magic Piano.

If the developer’s name sounds somewhat familiar, you’ve probably heard of their Ocarina app on iPhone a few years back that caused quite a stir with its unique approach to creating music by blowing into the iPhone’s microphone. After a spate of ground breaking and successful apps on iOS and the excellent Songify on Android, they finally decided to bring Magic Piano over to Android. Having craved to see something like the Ocarina on Android, I decided to give Magic Piano a go and here’s what I came back thinking.

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“Radio” to the majority of us seems like an old technology. Nowadays most people only listen to the FM radio occasionally in the car to drain away the mindless hours. And for the younger generation, it is only ever listened to as a last resource after TV, music players and countless other entertainment options.

Admittedly, I don’t listen to the radio as much as I should. Radio shows have a lot to offer, and some of them have really enticed and intrigued me in the past, making me wonder about the world and society as we know them. That’s why I looked for a encouragement to use it more. So I decided to get Nexus 7 to help me and fortunately, I came across TuneIn Radio, a brilliant Android radio app!

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I’m a movie and TV show fanatic. I could sit on my couch all day long and watch one show after another. In fact, I do that whenever I get a chance. For a couch potato, the problem these days isn’t the availability of content, on the contrary, there’s an abundance of scripted and original material. The problem arises when I try to find a new show or movie to watch. Discoverability is so broken, that valuable time is wasted searching for new content. Recommendations are confined to lists, which are very Web 1.0 and don’t take into account my personal taste and interests.

Enter GetGlue who have been hard at work for a few years now, trying to recommend entertainment based on what users already like and dislike. After doing a commendable job with their web and iOS apps, GetGlue brought their expertise in suggestions and check-ins to Android users.

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In a world where musicians are relying more and more on technology, finding a decent, portable music studio can be a daunting task. In the iOS ecosystem, this market is dominated by Apple’s own GarageBand. However, this leaves a pretty large gap in the Android community.

This is where PocketBand steps in. It is by far the most full-featured music studio running on the Android operating system. PocketBand combines a terrific user interface with irresistible cloud connectivity to create a very pleasurable experience. It comes out ahead of the pack in nearly every single aspect and is absolutely second to none in the very small world of Android music studios.

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