If there’s one app category that seems more inventive than any other to me, it’s the camera app. I know what you’re all thinking: this can’t be the case. After all, mobile photography is pretty simple — take a picture, throw on a filter, and then move on with your life. For me, it’s not that simple. I love trying out new apps and seeing what they’re capable of, and if they line up with my personal philosophy for photography.
So what is my personal philosophy? I like to take slightly over-exposed photographs that are warmer in colour temperature. I prefer shooting in digital, but work hard in post to make sure my pictures look like film artefacts. For my DSLR, I’m always trying out new workflows but don’t move too far from my time-proven Aperture workhorse on my Mac. On my iPhone and Nexus 4, I dig Instagram for its social features. VSCO has some great filters for both desktop photo editors and mobile apps too. Is there space in my life for Camera Awesome, the latest mobile photography app to take the Android ecosystem by storm? Read on to find out.
The recent release of the Nexus 5 marked an important landmark in Android phoneography. The physical camera hardware in Google’s latest flagship phone is not a great improvement on the Nexus’ predecessor, but the overall photographic quality of the new handset, particularly after the 4.4.1 software update, shows that Google is taking mobile photography seriously. At last.
Developers are playing their part, too. Both Android-specific apps, such as Vignette, and iOS imports, such as PicLab, provide good quality, classy editing options on an OS that only had Instagram to play with, not so long ago.
But now, things have gone up another level. VSCO Cam, the self-proclaimed “standard of mobile photography” has exited private beta, and it is now ready to bring its comprehensive adjustments and subtle retro cool to our side of the mobile divide. But can this legend of iPhoneography successfully make the transition to Android?
Modern calendar apps have two serious problems: they’re ugly, and they’re hard to use. I like Google Calendar as much as the next guy, but I’m always on the lookout for an experience that could be better — and by all accounts, I think Google Calendar could be better than it is. But there aren’t a lot of popular alternatives on the Play Store, and even fewer that people say you *have* to try out before making a decision.
That’s what makes Cal by Any.do interesting. It marries a well-designed calendar with the simplicity of Any.do, and it does it with aplomb. Although it’s been available for iPhone for a long time, Cal finally saw its release on Android recently with a few new features of its own — some of which are Android-exclusive, for now. Let’s dig in and find out whether or not this ecosystem is worth getting into.
I am an Android customization addict and, to be honest, even the word “addict” is an understatement. Two months ago, I would have told you that there should be AA meetings for the kind of compulsion that I had. I kept hundreds of folders of iconsets ready in my Dropbox account, I mastered the dark corners of UCCW and Minimalistic Text, I spent hours every week on MyColorScreen, and even maintained a Google+ photo album as a visual history of the different homescreen designs I have made since 2010.
But most importantly, I installed Nova Launcher on any Android device I had in my hands for more than an hour, and enjoyed tinkering with every single setting the app allowed from gestures to grid layouts and more. Then I got an invite code to join the Aviate Launcher Beta, installed it on my LG G2 and … well, life wasn’t the same anymore. I haven’t had the impulse to switch back from Aviate to Nova in more than six weeks, I haven’t felt the need to change my icons either, and given my history with Android customization, this is the geeky version of a personal miracle.
In the following post, I’ll explain how Aviate won me over from Nova — and Apex, ADW and all their brethren — and why it squashed my urge to tinker with my homescreens every couple of days.
Most to-do and reminder apps are all about making lists of tasks that you need to complete, and reminding you to tackle them at specified times. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t always follow a schedule, and we often find ourselves skipping or putting off tasks because we couldn’t find the time to do them when we planned to — leaving with a longer to-do list for the next day. Will we ever be able to conquer these all-powerful lists?
The developers at New Delhi, India-based Signals, believe they may be onto some sort of a solution: Instead of adapting your day to the way your time management app is set up, why not have the app adapt to your life? Their new app Shifu does this by reminding you of tasks when you have the time to complete them and are at the right location. From chores to returning calls to wishing friends on their birthday, Shifu can actually help you get stuff done regardless of your ever-changing schedule. I spoke with Prashant Singh, co-founder of Signals, to understand how Shifu works and to see if I could actually get more done with their novel take on to-dos.
If role-playing games in the spirit of the Super Nintendo-era entries to the Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Phantasy Star series are your thing, Kemco should be planted firmly in your radar. The Japanese developer has now released more than 20 RPGs on Android, at varying degrees of old-school.
I decided to finally take the plunge with their latest, Fortuna Magus, which seems to be more of a throwback than other recent releases. It’s a fun and well-conceived adventure, with an engaging battle system and an unconventional story of three children heading out in search of their father a decade after he vanished, but a solid set-up is let down by poor writing and pacing issues.
The personalization of news is a nice idea. It should strip out unrequired stories, leaving behind only those pieces of writing that excite, educate or entertain — AppStorm posts, for instance.
But in my experience, most tailored news apps tend to be a bit…meh. They certainly filter, but rarely with the desired result. Some try to sort stories by keyword — always an inaccurate, spam-ridden approach — while others simply provide broad brushstroke subjects, gathering plenty of content you would otherwise avoid.
So, I’m interested to see how Material, an app which claims to deliver news that is tailored to each user, copes with this challenge. The product of an accomplished developer (Inq), Material has recently been updated with a sleek new design and a batch of new features; critically, though, can it deliver a great mix of content?
Although I’d definitely take a paperback over my tablet as my medium of choice to read a novel, one can’t argue the convenience of a single device that can carry all the books you’d ever want to read. That’s why I’ve been steadily growing my ebook collection — being able to carry every tome I intend to digest this year in a jacket pocket, just makes sense. The ebook game is now in a hot innings, with new heavy hitters like Google Play and even India’s Flipkart taking to the field. So I thought it’d be interesting to see what Kobo had up its sleeve.
Known for manufacturing affordable dedicated ebook readers, and for going up against the likes of Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes’ and Nobles’ Nook devices, Kobo has now made its debut in the Play Store with a bookstore-and-reader combo app that promises to deliver a comprehensive reading experience on your smartphone or tablet. With a wide range of titles, cross-device content and bookmark sync, and a clean flat interface, Kobo sure looks like it’s up to bat — but can it score a home run? I spent a couple of weeks with the app to find out.
While the first few years of the tablet’s life as a new consumer product category were rife with various screen sizes as the market was still being established and our demands and habits weren’t as well understood and stable as they are now, manufacturers have currently gravitated toward two different sizes or segments of tablets: the 7″-7.9″ small and compact one, and the 9″-10″ bigger and more couch-oriented one.
That left the whole 8″ bracket of the spectrum almost untapped, which is exactly where LG decided to focus their first tangible effort at the tablet market. At 8.3″, the G Pad sits comfortably in the middle between the two segments, but does that make it an ideal one-size-fits-all tablet or a neither-this-nor-that tablet? I’ve had the G Pad for review for a few days, and I tried to answer that question.