Apps That Made My Week: Familiar, Pocket, Sheep Dog and More…

Whether it be for reviewing purposes or just for personal usage I end up installing plenty of apps during any given week. After getting a new phone recently, which features Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, app design has become a really important factor. I’ve been especially looking into apps that follow some of the ICS design principals and use the ‘Holo’ thematic as inspiration. What I’ve tended to notice is that, using apps like this feel far more ‘native’ within ICS itself and make for a really nice user experience. As recently as yesterday someone sent me an awesome link to a site called ‘Holo Everywhere‘, which blogs solely about about apps designed in this way.

I’m now trying to see if these apps are good enough to replace some of more commonly used applications, to make as much of my Android experience as Ice Cream Sandwich flavoured as possible. I might even have to report back with my findings! You’ll see a couple of examples within this list of ‘apps that have made my week’, most notably Pocket (formerly ReadItLater) which has now been given a big overhaul and ‘Ice Cream Sandwiched’ in terms of design. AppAware too is not only a great little discovery tool, it’s also clearly inspired by ICS. For these and a few other apps that have really caught my attention this week, read on for more.

Pocket

ReadItLater was an app I really love but tended not to use as much, always finding the opportunity to ‘read it now’ rather than later. With a name change to ‘Pocket’ and a fresh update, I’m trying to find reasons to use it all over again. The ICS design is apparent, but it’s such a cool little app for reading.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, you simply add a small extension to your browser and when you see a web page or news article you think would be good to read (but perhaps haven’t got time there and then), you can add it to Pocket. The extension then syncs with the Android app and you can view the story in a beautifully formatted reader on your device. It works incredibly well and offers all kinds of additional functionality. such as saving articles, sharing, searching and filtering.

Great reading experience and new ICS design

Great reading experience and new ICS design

Conky?

This bizarrely named little widget was brought to my attention by one of my Google+ friends. It’s simply a discreet 2×3 widget that displays a host of system statistics. You can change the colour of the font but that is about as far as it goes customisation-wise! What’s so great about it is the information is posts.

This includes battery level, battery temperature, RAM, storage, CPU type, CPU usage, OS, Build version, Manufacturer, Device name, carrier and uptime. So, if you’re monitoring some of these things it’s very useful. I personally have been using it to monitor battery life and temperature (I have a quadcore device and it can warm up quite a bit). Very simple, but free and extremely useful.

Neat homescreen widget that gives you a raft of handy system information

Neat homescreen widget that gives you a raft of handy system information

Familiar

Familiar is a new app I’ve only started using very recently, but I really like the concept. It’s a basic photo sharing platform for families. So, if you have parents, siblings or extended family that live a distance a way from you and you want to share pictures you’ve taken, this is perfect.

It’s more private than Facebook, more intuitive than sharing via Twitter, easier to encourage older parents to use than Google+ and perhaps less of an obligation than something like Path. Like I said, I have only very recently started playing with it, but I hope it might be a good way to share pictures of my children with my wonderful-but-mildy-technophobic Mum and ridiculously overworked sister who live squillions of miles away.

AppAware

AppAware is another app that tries to follow the Ice Cream Sandwich ‘Holo’ thematic. It just about works too. Essentially it’s an app discovery tool and social platform. It shows you trending, popular, highest rated, paid apps and those recently updated. You can also search by category or time frame and view top apps based on local downloads.

There’s a social element so you can see what your friends are recommending too. In functionality it reminds me slightly of AppBrain App Market only with a few more features and far better design. It’s a great app to identify new and up-and-coming apps that any Android user should check out… perfect too for Android reviewers like myself!

Sheep Dog!

Sheep Dog is one of those games that demonstrates that gameplay can be far more important than graphics. The visuals here are very stark, tiny details but mostly uninspiring. You control a little sheep dog and you simply need to guide sheep through fences, mazes, over bridges etc. It’s incredibly simple to play but the sheep can be quite unruly so very difficult to master.

The terrains are really challenging but the game has a nice learning curve so it’s very absorbing. The game is not much to look at, but I’ve found it increasingly harder to put down. It’s incredibly basic yet highly addictive. Best of all, it’s also free, so definitely give it a look!

Conclusion

So that’s a little round up of some of the apps that have made up my week. There’s the return of an old favourite, a useful little system tool, a photo-sharing app for families, a brilliant app discovery tool and a little game that looks very plain but really packs a punch. The Google Play Store is huge and getting bigger every day, so how about you? Have you uncovered any gems recently? Which apps have made your week? Let us know in the comments!


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