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In the third of a series on Android.Appstorm, I look in turn at each of the Android manufacturers and the changes they make to Android’s start up, interface and basic functionality. In each case, does the end result justify the huge investment in programming time and the resulting delays for end users in seeing each new version and update for the Android OS?

Having surprised myself by proclaiming both Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense to deliver more advantages than disadvantages, and given that Sony’s Xperia UI is arguably slightly closer to stock Android than the other two, you might probably guess at the same outcome here too, but for this ‘skin’, I’m definitely swinging the other way.

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With Android 4.0+, Google introduced the Holo scheme of design principles that promoted clean and digitally authentic design. Many third-party apps have since adopted these design themes, but the phenomenon isn’t exclusive to just social networking clients and calculators. In this roundup, we’ll be taking a look at fifteen awesome Holo-inspired games that you can grab for your Android handset from the Play Store today!

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Every year there’s one Monday morning in June where the company Google loves to hate takes the very same stage that previously hosted Android announcements to present updates to iOS, amongst other things. This year was no difference but with a rumoured significant design change, the 2013 instalment is perhaps one of the most anticipated.

iOS 7 has delivered a new design with a skeuomorphic-less, flatter design somewhat resemblant of the design principles of Google’s Holo and Microsoft’s Metro. In this article, we’re going to take a look at iOS 7 and see how it stacks up to the incumbent versions of Android.

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In the second of a new series on Android.Appstorm, I look in turn at each of the Android manufacturers and the changes they make to Android’s start up, interface and basic functionality. In each case, does the end result justify the huge investment in programming time and the resulting delays for end users in seeing each new version and update for the Android OS?

HTC’s Sense interface has received much criticism over the years, principally because it presented a face to Android that was just a little too different to stock. This was rarely an issue for new users, many of whom grew up with Sense, but switching from a Samsung or Motorola (or Nexus) device would typically involve a lot of head scratching and set-up time. Sense 5.0, here on the HTC One, is actually something of a rewrite — so forget everything you ever knew about Sense, this is more streamlined and refined. And, indeed, arguably close enough to stock Android that few may want to spend time hacking it around.

Up front and central is the new BlinkFeed homescreen, of which more later. Integrating social feeds into Sense has always been something HTC has been keen on, and the company has knocked it out of the park here.

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In the first of a new series on Android.Appstorm, I look in turn at each of the Android manufacturers and the changes they make to Android’s start up, interface and basic functionality. In each case, does the end result justify the huge investment in programming time and the resulting delays for end users in seeing each new version and update for the Android OS?

Here, for the purposes of the review, Samsung’s TouchWiz is implemented on Android 4.1.1 on the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Galaxy S III mini, and on Android 4.2.2 on the Galaxy S4 — I’ve sprinkled screenshots from each throughout, as needed. Summary? There are significant benefits here for new users, and for advanced users too, provided they’re happy to delve deeply into Settings to turn a few things off. The level of Samsung’s ‘additions’ to the platform is slightly worrying in places but is, overall, manageable.

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Earlier this week, we shared with you a collection of more than 30 beautiful and Holo-designed apps. Had Connor set out to write this round-up a year ago, or even six months ago, he would have had trouble coming up with decent apps. Yet nowadays, most developers seem to have adopted — and adapted — the Google design language in their apps.

This, in turn, has been superb for us users. Apps that are still plagued with the Froyo/Gingerbread dark grey tabs on top are becoming rare and irrelevant in the face of fierce competition from newcomers that not only value functionality but also esthetics.

Looking at my own usage, I know that I was a lot more forgiving a year ago. I placed features above design, and picked my apps based on that. However, I have the privilege of using an ecosystem that offers choice and variety. Whatever functionality I need, there are probably more than five apps in the Play Store that offer it, if not ten or more.

So now I simply can’t forgive an app developer who’s stuck a few years behind their times. I want apps that I can enjoy looking at as well as using. As a matter of fact, the only relic I have on my phone is SafeWallet, a password and personal data vault that I have invested in and that works with my other phones and computers.

What about you? Is design becoming more and more important in your app decision process? Or are you still OK with yesteryear looks as long as the app does what you need it to?

Holo first saw light in Android 3.0 for tablets and has since found popularity in Android 4.0 and above with Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean. No doubt the best looking aspect of stock apps, it was only a matter of time before the design principles started to make their way into third-party apps.

In this roundup, we’re going to take a look at some of our favourite Holo apps that you can install to give your phone the design unity it deserves!

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’re probably aware of the battle that has been raging between the iOS and Android platforms. Loyalists on both sides have been taking turns throwing punches at each other. For a good few years, the one punch Android fans were having a tough time deflecting was about the visual quality of apps on iOS. Make no mistake: to this day, iOS apps trump their Android counterparts in the aesthetics department.

Things have been changing pretty rapidly though, and since our first roundup of beautiful Android apps, a huge number of new contenders have arrived. Here, then, is a look and some more Android apps that are gorgeous to look at and – in most cases, if not all – also do a stellar job of functioning as well as they look.

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Last month, Nathaniel Mott told us why manufacturer’s custom skins should disappear. I and many others were quite excited for the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, hoping to catch a glimpse of the next generation of Android handsets running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but collectively, I think we were disappointed. Why? Certainly not because of the specs, or even the design, but because of the skins.

If we take a look at the HTC One X, it’s not an incredibly ugly phone when it comes to user interface, but it’s nowhere near as well designed as stock Ice Cream Sandwich. It seems that the phone makers have taken Android’s open, versatile nature to mean it is there for them to mess up.

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Google and Samsung recently released their latest and greatest flagship phone, the Galaxy Nexus, running Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich). I watched a video review of the device and I was very impressed with Google’s latest offering because it represented some big changes to Android that are going to be fantastic.

I took to my own site and penned an article praising the new phone and OS. Being an Apple-focused site, I threw a bit of iPhone discussion in there, looking at Apple’s ageing mobile interface compared to Google’s fresh, modern, almost Windows Phone-ish interface.

However, Ice Cream Sandwich is helping Google recognise some big improvements to Android that is going to edge them towards a level of customer satisfaction provided by companies like Apple and Amazon, with fully integrated devices and all-in-one solutions. (more…)

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