Email is the arena for an almighty battle of innovation right now. Ever since Mailbox introduced its shiny new side-swipe sorting to iOS, there have been innumerable reinventions of the veteran communication platform, with new clients arriving, by the bucket-load, on pretty much every OS.
Android has been no exception to this rush — in fact, it has been at the forefront. Google, itself, has made the official Gmail app a market leader in terms of intuitive design, whilst apps such as SolMail and Dextr are well-made alternatives, each with a slightly different approach to inbox sifting and sorting. There are plenty more where those came from, as well.
Take new email client, CloudMagic, for example. With a sleek interface and all the usual tricks of the email 2.0 trade, it looks like a great, free download. But how does it measure up to the fierce competition?
If I were to pick my top app to receive Chromecast support as soon as possible, it would have been MX Player. Despite a seemingly simple UI that lacks a lot of bells and whistles, MX Player can handle multiple file formats and sizes thanks to hardware or software decoding and supports gesture controls during playback and pinch-to-zoom.
However, Google seems to have a different opinion, and the first media player that got welcomed on the Chromecast was the relatively obscure Avia. I decided to take it for a spin, as it’s the only option that is available worldwide — Real Player Cloud doesn’t work in my region — and sends local files directly from my devices to the Chromecast without having to host them on another device like Plex‘ requirement. Read on for my assessment of the app.
In terms of photo styling, I’ve always been a purist. I have a passionate dislike of HDR (other than when it is a necessity of commercial photography), and I think Instagram‘s filters ruin every image they are applied to. In photographic terms, I believe that a great image is taken with a lens, not constructed with an app.
But that’s not to say that all styling is bad. The subtler effects of Vignette can bring out the natural tones in a beautiful landscape, and many folks add nicely designed overlays to their images to create a kind of photo-based artwork. I’m averse to neither technique.
So PicLab looks — from its Play Store description, at least – like my type of photo app. With a focus on text and image overlays, rather than filtering, it’s clear that this image styler is aimed at classy presentation. Does it have the quality to be a worthwhile download, though?
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.