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From the Editor's Desk: What we're using, 2012 edition

From the Editor's Desk: What we're using, 2012 edition

Phil Nickinson

As we close out the year, it's time to take a look back at things. I've never been all that keen on "year's best" lists for applications, though that doesn't mean they don't necessarily serve a purpose. There are so many good apps, so many updates. Instead, I think it's a little more fun to take a look at how each one of us uses our phones and tablets.
Are they travel companions? I, for one, remember all too well navigating the backwoods (or what seemed like the backwoods) or Louisiana and Mississippi and Georgia and Florida during my school-age years, playing soccer. We did it with maps. On paper. That didn't move. Or update. That any of us made it back alive is a miracle.
What about bedside readers? Does your tablet even make it out of the boudoir? Does it spend as much time (or more) in the bathroom as you do?
I'm always fascinated to read about how folks use their technology, and inevitably I learn a trick or two that I'll want to try as well. So let's walk through what I used in 2012, and how I used it. In the coming days, you'll hear from the other names and faces behind Android Central and see just what it is we use on a daily basis. Want to get in on the fun yourself? Hit up this forum thread and share your stash with the world.

The hardware

Phil's devices
In this job, you can't help but be buried in plastic from time to time. It's also pretty easy to forget about one phone or tablet just as soon as a new one shows up. But for the first quarter of the year or so, I was sporting a Samsung Galaxy Nexus full-time. It's a Nexus. Needs not other explanation, right? I can hack when I want to, but mostly I used it stock. Bootloader unlocked (because then you have the option to tinker), and not rooted. I just don't use any apps that need root access.
Then came along the HTC One X, and that complicated matters. Because the No. 1 gripe about the Galaxy Nexus was that the camera wasn't anywhere near as good as we were led to believe, particularly with the focus time. So I started do really weird things. Sometimes I'd carry the GNex. If I knew I was going to be someplace I'd want to take pictures, I'd take the One X -- especially if my kids were going to be around. Sometimes I'd take both, just to complicate matters even more.
Then about halfway through the year, we got the Galaxy S3. I picked it up on Verizon, since I was using the GNexand One X on AT&T. It's no great secret that i'm not a fan of Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, so it disappeared pretty quick, replaced by whatever CyanogenModrelease was available at the time. (Usually rocking nightliesfor that, by the way. Cause I like to live dangerously like that.) So for a while it was back and forth between the GS3 and the HOX, depending on which was charged, and how badly I needed LTE. (AT&T had yet to turn it on here in Pensacola. That's since changed.)
That brings us to the middle of the year and the Google I/O -- and the Nexus 7 tablet. You'll notice I haven't mentioned tablets yet. You know how if you get a dog or a kid or something important, it's kind of hard to remember life before it? Same thing here. Sort of. I've reviewed all sorts of Android tablets, including ASUS' excellent Infinity line, but a 10-inch Android tablet just never did it for me. Same goes for the iPad we have laying around here. The Nexus 7 changed that. I use that damn thing every day. Well, that is I did until the Android 4.2 update hit. It's laggy as hell now. But I just have a little patience and power through it.
And, finally, that brings us to the Nexus 4. It's not perfect, and I think the official 4.2 update borked it some, too (I'd been running prerelease software on it before that), but it's my daily driver right now. And I'm doing so not without some irony, since not long after it was released I finally got AT&T LTEwhere I live (T-Mobile is still pretty atrocious here, unfortunately). But Photosphere's a lot of fun, the hardware is great, and -- let's face it -- the phone's a looker.
(And, yes, I've been dabbling with Windows Phone and the HTC 8X. More on that ... eventually. Great hardware, but I'm not giving up Android anytime soon.)

The software

Phil's home screen
OK. I'm not going to list Gmail. And Chrome. And Google Plus. And Google Play. Those are givens, right? (Whoops. I just mentioned them.) Instead, here's the easy list of what I've got running on my main home screen -- which is the only home screen I really use:
  • Pure Calendar Agenda: I can't show off a phone in a picture or video without someone asking what it is. That's what it is. It's indispensable at shows for seeing which meeting or event I'm late for. It's scrollable, highly customizable and sucks in any of the dozen calendars I need to see at a glance. I'm running it as a 4x3widget.
  • Camera app: Gets a spot on the home screen on its own. I just stick with the stock app.
  • Social folder: Here's where I keep Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Google Talk. For Twitter, I use Plume. Falcon Pro is really good, but I need a Twitter app that handles more than one account at a time.
  • Apps folder: Where I stash the Google Play store, Google Music, Gallery, YouTube, contacts and calendar apps. Also: 1Password, which is a must for anyone. I also have the OnkyoRemote app, for adjusting the TV volume on the sly, as well as Ingress.
  • Travel folder: Google Maps, Fly Delta, FlightTrack (and FlightTrack Pro)and Tripit. So there are three apps in there that overlap a great deal. But each of them has features the other lacks. FlightTrackis great for a quick glance at that day's flights. Tripitis the key to the whole itinerary, but it's more work to look through. And the FlyDelta app has electronic boarding passes. If I'm really nerding out on airplanes, I use FlightAwarefor a more detailed look at where I've been.
  • In the dock: Gmail, Chrome, phone and Google Voice.
So that's it for everything in the one main home screen, which really is the only one I've customized. I recently put Play-My Library widget on a neighboring screen, as I'm watching more content over the Nexus Q these days.
Other apps that I can't live without but that are tucked away in the app drawer:
  • Associated Press: Not a great app, but I know what I'm getting from it -- news.
  • Google Authenticator: For two-step passwords.
  • Dropbox: Must. Must. Must. (Also semi-required for using 1Password.)
  • Expensify: If you have to keep track of business expenses, you must use this app.
  • Pocket Casts: My podcatcher of choice.
  • ScoreCenter: A must during football season.
  • SwiftKey Flow: Really should have mentioned this from the outset, as it's one of the first apps I install on any phone.
  • Blue Skies Live Wallpaper: Cause I need a little bit of Zen.
That's all boring stuff though. What about the games! It's a pretty small list, but I good one, I think. I only really play games on the Nexus 7. My eyes are too tired to play on a phone. In no particular order:
  • Plague Inc.: Destroy the world. And then destroy it again. I should feel worse about playing it than I do.
  • Sailboat Championship: Frustratingly hard. But still a hell of a lot of phone.
  • 10 Pin Shuffle: I'm a sucker for bowling apps.
  • AirAttack HD: Doesn't get old. Ever.
  • Beach Buggy Blitz: A little fast, a little difficult -- a lot of fun.
  • Granny Smith: Challenging, but a good time-waster.

So there is the hardware and software that got me through 2012 and into 2013. What helped you along? I've started a forum thread for you to share. And be sure to check back this week for everyone else's favorites of 2012. Plus, we've got our Editor's Choice and Reader's Choice awards to be announced, more giveaways, and a look ahead to CES -- which starts next week.
See y'all in 2013!

Via: From the Editor's Desk: What we're using, 2012 edition

Notification Weather: an elegant way to check the forecast

Notification Weather: an elegant way to check the forecast

Notification Weather

Settings Menu cont.Icon Settings

The release of Android 4.1 and 4.2 Jelly Bean brought several improvements to the handling and functionality of notifications. With expandable, actionable and prioritized notifications, developers can manage their apps and take control of what goes on when a notification is presented to the user. Notification Weather, as the name implies, takes advantage of the new notification options in Jelly Bean to elegantly present the weather to you when you drop down the pane.
It seems like everyone's got a favorite weather app loaded on their device already, so does Notification Weather have what it takes to become your new favorite? Read on past the break and see what this one has to offer.
Let's get this out of the way from the start: Notification Weather is only available to users with devices running Android 4.1 and above. At first glance that's a bit of a let down considering the vast majority of users are still on 4.0 and below (mostly 2.3 still,) which means the potential audience for this app is severely diminished.
This isn't just an arbitrary restriction though -- this app really gains its appeal by working with the latest in Jelly Bean features and just wouldn't give the same impression to a user on Gingerbread.

Look and feel

Notification Weather ExpandedNotification Weather Collapsed
The design of Notification Weather is most certainly focused to fit in with the Jelly Bean aesthetic. The stark, white on black and minimalist layout fits perfectly in the notification bar of a stock Android 4.2 device -- in this case my Galaxy Nexus -- as if it was part of the stock software. The weather display is simple but barely configurable, split into two rows. The top shows your current location, the last data sync time, a nice weather icon and the current temperature, high/low forecast and wind speed. The refresh button on the right... refreshes. The bottom is a 4-day forecast with the same icon and high/low temperature layout.
The app has a fully expanded notification (left screenshot above) by default, a new feature as part of Jelly Bean, but can also be collapsed to show just a small version of the same information. The smaller notification (right screenshot above) shows just the icon on the left side with your location, temperature and description of the weather next to it. It's good to see both types of notifications offer you a good set of information. This is basically everything you'd be getting out of any regular weather app or widget, but now it's pinned in your notification bar.
The fact that the notification fits so nicely in with every other system app and notification on a stock Jelly Bean device is what makes this app usable for me. If it stood out more, was overly flashy or busy I wouldn't find it useful enough to have it take up the room of 1 or 2 notifications at all time. Because it's so simple, you can easily ignore it and get to your other notifications if you want to.

Settings and features

Settings menuRefresh Interval
When opening the app from its icon in the app drawer, you're taken directly into the settings menu. There's no way to access the weather the app provides other than from the notification pane -- settings is all you get. The settings are simple, again following holo design perfectly, with everything you'd want or expect in a basic weather app. You can simply enable or disable the notification's display, have your location auto-detected or set one manually and choose either Celsius or Fahrenheit for the temperature. For a data refresh interval you get a wide range -- from 10 minutes to 8 hours -- to choose from, although a conservative 2 hours is set as default.
There are three different weather data providers to choose from -- Yahoo! Weather, Open Weather Map and World Weather Online are your only choices at the moment. Open Weather Map is a good one to see represented, as it often has data available for some of the smaller towns and cities that many of the big providers skip over. It would be nice to see more options available, but there are likely licensing and API call limit problems to deal with that keep the list limited.
You can choose whether or not to display the full 4-day forecast under the current weather (which would turn it into a single-high notification,) although I'd be surprised if you didn't keep it displayed. The app respects the system setting for 12- or 24-hour clock display by default, but you can toggle it to change if you prefer. By default the app will start on device boot, but you can turn this setting off as well -- a little nod to the power users that like to manage their auto-starting processes.
The most interesting -- and mildly confusing -- settings of the whole lot have to do with the notification icon and the notification priority. In the former, you can set it to display an icon of the current weather condition, the current temperature, a transparent icon or no icon whatsoever. For the latter, you can select from a range -- maximum, high, normal, low, minimum -- of priorities that control how high up the notification pane the weather should appear. For example, "Maximum" will keep the weather pegged at the top, and "Minimum" will let it be pushed down by a newer notification. It reminds me of the settings in Google Now, which let you choose whether to make certain cards display notifications and at what priority level. When setting the app to display no icon it overrides the priority setting you chose, which leads me to believe there's no simple way in Android to turn off a notification icon without changing the priority it reports to the system. Similar apps that need to remove the icon often require root in my experience.
That being said, there seems to be some discrepancy between the way the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 -- both running Android 4.2 -- handle the priorities. Between our resident neckbeard Jerry Hildenbrand and I, our devices are acting differently. When using the "No Icon" setting, my weather is being pushed down as a low priority notification. Jerry and the Nexus 4 are seeing the weather stay up top. We're not sure what the differences are, but it's definitely something to note. If you plan on keeping the notification and "Maximum" priority, it should act the same regardless of device.

The verdict

Android Central
If you've got a device running Android 4.1 or higher -- especially a Nexus with the stock variety -- and you're already using a notification weather app, there's no reason not to spend the $1.02 and take this one for a test drive. For anyone who's not been interested in other weather apps because of their off-putting design that clashes with the stock Android look-and-feel, Notification Weather may be worth a look to see if you can live with it.
There are some issues, such as limited settings and questionable weirdness with notification priorities, but there's nothing here that is big enough of an issue as to detract from the overall great design of this app. If you're still on the fence, at least give the free version (with fewer settings) a try and if you like it, toss the developer a dollar for their great work. Notification Weather is a great example of how developers should be keeping up with the latest in Android design.

Via: Notification Weather: an elegant way to check the forecast

Amazon's Kindle daily book deals are a great way to build your library

Amazon's Kindle daily book deals are a great way to build your library

Kindle deals
If you got a Kindle device this year for the holidays, don't forget about the Kindle Store Daily Deals. There are always plenty of books for just $1.99, and they change daily. It's a great way to build your library on the cheap.
You need a Kindle or Kindle Fire to buy them, but once purchased they are in your Amazon account and can be read on any device with a Kindle app. With WhisperSync taking care of your bookmarks, you'll be hard pressed to find a better reading solution anywhere. To find them, just open the Kindle store from your tablet and look for the Daily Deals link on the right.
You'll always find deals and specials in the music and video store as well, but the Kindle deals are a solid perk for having one of Amazon's tablets. Take advantage of it if you like to read and have a Kindle device. I just picked up William Alexander's"The $64 Tomato" and plan on spending the evening enjoying the warm indoors with it.

Via: Amazon's Kindle daily book deals are a great way to build your library

Apps of the Week: BBC iPlayer, Bloons TD 5, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and more!

Apps of the Week: BBC iPlayer, Bloons TD 5, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and more!

Apps of the Week

It's Saturday, and that means it's time for the Android Central app picks. We've got another smattering of random apps, games and utilities for your enjoyment here this week. This is our last roundup of app picks for 2012, but fear not, we're coming back stronger than ever in 2013 with more apps for you to check out.See how we did wrapping up 2012 after the break.

Alex Dobie - BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer
The BBC iPlayer app for Android is an essential download for anyone in the UK, and recent additionsmake it better than ever. The latest version includes improved 7-inch tablet support, Android 4.2 support, higher quality streams for Wifi connections, and there's also a redesigned UI that fits in with Android's "holo" design language. Functionally, the app is the same as ever, allowing you to stream recent TV and radio content from the Beeb, and watch and listen to live broadcasts.
As always, the app is free to download in the UK for devices running Android 2.2 or above.
Download: BBC iPlayer (Free)

Jerry Hildenbrand - Bloons TD 5

Bloons TD 5
There is no better way to destroy your battery than with ninjas and monkeys. Bloons TD5 is an awesome Android version of the popular desktop game from Ninja Kiwi. It's tower defense at it's heart, but with enough twists and gameplay features to make it not just another tower defense game. There are 24 different tracks, special missions, random tracks, achievements, and some of the coolest towers you'll find anywhere. You use these monkey-powered towers to pop balloons before they reach the end of the track. Sounds simple, right? It is at first, but the game gets serious after a few easy levels and you'll need to strategically set towers in just the right places to keep from losing.
It's 3 bucks with no trial, but trust me -- if you like tower defense games, or are a fan of the Bloons games on the desktop, you're going to love it. It's also family friendly, so it's a perfect game to install for the kids.
Download: Bloons TD 5 ($2.99)

Simon Sage -Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery emerged from its beta status this week and hit Google Play at a promotional price. This is probably one of the more bizarre role-playing games youre going to play for some time. The modernized twist on dialog in a classic fantasy setting, the creepy pseudo-scientific meta-narrative surrounding the game, the juxtaposition of lo-fi graphics with high-grade animation, and the gameplay tied with moon cycles all add up to make a really unique game. Definitely try Superbrothers out if you didnt already snag it in the last Humble Bundle for Android. Oh, and it has a totally awesome soundtrack. Get it. Getitgetitgetitgetit.
Download:Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($1.99)

Sean Brunett - Pocket

I read quite a bit on my Nexus 7 and am always searching for new apps that present my to-be-read articles well. Pocket, formerly Read It Later, is a fantastic app that saves all of your articles from a variety of devices so you can read them at a later time. I always find articles that I want to save for later and prior to trying out Pocket, I would either email them to myself or save them to a service like Evernote. Pocket does it better than both of these options though and the UI is fantastic. There is a free Android app, a Chrome extension and more that allow you to save to your Pocket account.
Download: Pocket (Free)

Chris Parsons - Transformers Legends

Transformers Legends
I'm not really one for " battle card" style games but I am certainly a Transformers fan. The newest addition to the Google Play store is Transformers: Legends and despite the fact that it's in no way a button mashing thrashing of metal on metal, it's still a fun game full of great artwork and fun. Pick your side -- Autobot or Decepticon. Build up your team and unlock plenty of goodies. If you're in any way a Transformers fan it's a must have. Keep in mind though, it is a new game and there are some bugs to be found. If you spot them, report them. Mobage has been gathering bug reports to help improve the overall game experience and even checks user comments frequently.
Download: Transformers Legends (Free)

Anndrew Vacca - Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight
Hotel Tonight has made our Apps of the Week list before, but during such a busy travel week for many readers, it easily earns a second look. New Years Eve is right around the corner, and if you haven't booked a hotel yet, you're flirting with being left out in the cold. With Hotel Tonight, procrastinators everywhere won't have to settle for Dominos delivery and Netflix to ring in the New Year-- beginning at noon on the day you're interested in traveling, Hotel Tonight updates with a handful of deeply discounted rooms in over 75 cities around the US, Europe, Canada and Mexico. Hotel selection is fantastic and properties are often first class-- if you've even been toying with the idea of a night on the town this NYE, Hotel Tonight might be just enough to give you that final nudge.
Download: Hotel Tonight (Free)

Richard Devine - Sonic CD

Sonic CD
Sonic CD is a classic, there's no other word for it. Better yet, it's a classic that's currently on sale. If you've thought about it but haven't pulled the trigger yet, now is as good a time as any.
Completely faithful to the original, Sonic CD is platform gaming at it's finest. Simple controls, colorful and immersive levels, and a soundtrack that would definitely fall into the love/hate category depending on taste. There's not really much else that needs saying. It's Sonic CD, and it's on sale for the holidays. Get it while you can.
Download: Sonic CD ($0.99)

Andrew Martonik - Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express
There's a huge boom in the number of photo editing apps hitting Google Play right now, and many of the general editing apps with no specific purpose are pretty bland. After poking around with a few, I found Pixlr Express to have a pretty solid feature set. You can import photos from your gallery (or Dropbox, a file manager, etc.) or take them within the app with the stock camera UI, and then edit and manage them afterwards. There's a basic suite of image adjustments like sharpening, touch up, rotation, crop, color and contrast. You also have a simple set of filters and borders, if that's your kind of thing. When you're done with an image you can share it directly to any app, or save it to your Gallery for later.
The big winner here is the way the UI is setup and responds to input. It's just really easy to use and very visually appealing, which is something that's important if you're going to commit to editing photos on a phone. The UI better be good to keep me from just doing it on my computer instead.
Download: Pixlr Express (Free)

Via: Apps of the Week: BBC iPlayer, Bloons TD 5, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and more!

Samsung to expand US operations with two new California facilities

Samsung to expand US operations with two new California facilities


Samsung will be taking several steps towards strengthening its U.S. presence with two new facilities to be constructed in 2013. The Korean handset and chip manufacturer already has some notable presence in the Bay Area, and has big plans to expand that in the coming year. The first big move is a 1.1 million square foot building to be constructed in San Jose with its current display and semiconductor business, which will be used for SSI (Samsung Semiconductor, Inc.) R&D and sales teams.
The second step will be moving the current SISA (Samsung Information Systems America) R&D Center to two new 6 story business buildings (and a 6 story parking structure) located in North San Jose. These new buildings will total about 385,000 square feet on 8.5 acres of land. The buildings are set to be finished in 2013, with full occupancy in 2014.
That's some big investment from Samsung, and these changes will surely help bring some operating efficiency to a very large company that currently has divisions spread across multiple countries. You can find a press release with some of the specifics after the break.
Source: Samsung (BusinessWire)

Samsung Continues to Expand Operations in the Bay Area

Adding to its effort to build state-of-the-art, energy-efficient campuses, the company is expanding into innovation centers to enhance its soft capabilities
SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, a global leader in digital media, digital convergence technologies and advanced semiconductor solutions, continues to expand its operations in Silicon Valley by investing more resources in its existing R&D centers and establishing new innovation centers.
Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. (SSI) announced plans to build a 1.1 million square foot sales and R&D headquarters on the current site of its semiconductor and display panel businesses, north of downtown San Jose. The building, designed by global architecture firm NBBJ, will be comprised of a 10-story tower, an amenity pavilion and parking garage. The design seeks to encourage interaction among staff, foster connections with the community and provide a space to attract employment in the highly competitive tech market, which is growing at a faster pace than overall employment.
Samsung Information Systems America Inc. (SISA), will relocate its R&D Center from its current facility in North San Jose to an 8.5-acre site and expand to two new 6-story class-A office buildings totaling approximately 385,000 square foot. (each 192,500 sq. ft.) with two 5-6 story parking structures. The new facility will be oriented around a central plaza with views overlooking the adjacent Sunnyvale golf course and will be constructed to LEED Gold standards. The 15-year build-to-suit lease will be located at Cypress Business Park, 625-685 Clyde Avenue in Mountain View, California. Entitlements are in process and anticipated for completion in second quarter of 2013, with targeted occupancy in fourth quarter of 2014.
In addition to these two major planned campuses, Samsung Electronics is expanding its Open Innovation efforts with additional space that will allow for incubating and acquiring new technologies and working with early stage companies.
Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center, located in Menlo Park, a core area in Silicon Valley, was recently established to strengthen Samsungs ecosystem and promote synergy between the companys various products and services. Samsung Open Innovation Center, located in Palo Alto, will be a core entity to discover innovative startups in Silicon Valley, provide space, funds and effectively leverage them for innovation of Samsungs products through equity investments, acquisition and strategic partnership.
Following the establishment of both the Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center and the Open Innovation Center in Silicon Valley, Samsung Electronics plans to set up corresponding organizations at R&D Centers and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology at its Korean headquarters to strengthen its global cooperative network.
About Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. is a global leader in consumer electronics and components. Through relentless innovation and discovery, we are transforming the worlds of televisions, smartphones, personal computers, printers, cameras, home appliances, medical devices, semiconductors and LED solutions. We employ 227,000 people across 75 countries with annual sales exceeding US$143 billion. Our goal is opening new possibilities for people everywhere. To discover more, please visit

Via: Samsung to expand US operations with two new California facilities

Custom ROMs for your Alltel RAZR MAXX are just a flash away

Custom ROMs for your Alltel RAZR MAXX are just a flash away

Razr Maxx

Verizon may take most of the headlines, but the Motorola RAZR MAXX(sans Droid) also made it's way to other carriers -- like Alltel. We love seeing the smaller carriers getting great Android phones like the MAXX, but folks who want to run a custom ROM are usually out of luck when this happens. Not so this time.
Forum Moderator, Alltel subscriber, and Android hacker cole2kb has you covered. He has taken the most popular ICS and Jelly Bean custom ROMs for the Verizon version of the RAZR MAXX and ported them over to Alltel. Getting them installed is as easy as flashing the original ROM and a small patch from recovery. He's even figured out how to get MMS working, so you're set there.
This is why we love Android. Users getting their hands dirty to bring more options to the folks who want them. Thanks, Chris -- and I'm sure plenty of folks on Alltelare thankful as well. Click the link below to get started.
Got ROMs? Flashable ZIPs for your Alltel MAXX!

Via: Custom ROMs for your Alltel RAZR MAXX are just a flash away

Press Google Reader client review

Press Google Reader client review


Press, a brand new Google Reader news client, has been the focus of the Android app community since its release, being heralded for its great design choices and general ease of use. It certainly isn't the first -- nor will it be the last -- in this arena, but right now its one that has everyone watching, and early indications are that it's living up to the hype.
Do the design and features offer enough of a draw to pull you away from another reading app of your choice? Stick around after the break and see if Press is worth your consideration.
The basic premise of Press, if you're not familiar, is to sync with your Google Reader and serve up news that you've added via RSS feeds. It's generally something that the more tech savvy -- or dare I say "power users" -- among us will use to consume news, but that's not to say that a novice couldn't set up a similar system on their own. Make no mistake, however, this isn't as simple and visually appealing as an app likeFlipboardor Google Currents will be to the average user. That being said, for those who need to churn through thousands of stories every week -- say, like writers for a technology website -- a great, minimalist RSS news reader is a necessity.
This is a minimalist news reading client done right.

Interface and navigation

Press UIPress UI 2
The main interface and navigation of Press isn't more than a stone's throw away from what Google already offers in its first party Reader client, but that last bit of difference is what makes it so great. To be honest most of the hard design work for Press was done for them -- this app follows Google's "holo" guidelines extensively. That's not at all meant to take anything away from the developers, the folks at TwentyFive Squares have made one hell of a nice app here, but more to say that Press is just taking the great Android design cues already available and making the best app possible. You can tell that time was spent on the user experience and ease of use rather than superfluous animations and wasted features.
Navigation is extremely simple, with just three tabs across the top of the app -- unread (a filled circle,) read (an open circle,) and starred. For some reason my immediate reaction was that the circles for read and unread should be reversed, and it really took a while to get used to it. Something about the open circle tells me "unfinished," and the closed circle means it's "complete." Weird OCD moments aside, everything here is simple to use. You get a numerical count of read/unread articles at the far right of each folder listing, and a set of red dots that indicate the number of feeds the articles are in. For example, two red dots and "10" on the side mean there are two feeds with ten unread stories between them. It helps you get a feeling for how much news is really in the folder before you tap through -- if there's one feed with 30 unread stories, you can probably guess someone reset an RSS feed and flooded the folder.


Press settingsPress settings
The settings menu of Press is an exercise in minimalism -- which isn't usually found in conjunction with a power user type of app -- but all of the main categories can be found here. You can manage the number of articles that can be synced, a few different UI tweaks and that's about it. One setting that seems to be missing is a background sync interval to keep articles in order. I don't necessarily need this personally because I'm always going to hit the refresh button when I enter so I have the absolute latest news, but I could see some users wanting this. A happy (battery and data friendly) middle ground would be a "refresh on app open" checkbox.
Another setting that I personally wish was there is a way to hide specific folders from views. I also use Google Reader to manage my podcast (both audio and video) feeds on my computer, and I just have no need for those to show up in my news client. My podcatcher is smart enough to take in just my podcast feeds, my news reader should be able to handle the opposite.

Usability and design

I alluded to the extreme simplicity and ease of use in the above sections, but there really is nothing fancy about the interface here, and that's a really good thing. The interface of Press just gets out of your way and lets you read your news. When in a news feed, you're mainly using the sliding panel paradigm. You tap a story to view it, and when you want to go back to the articles list you slide it back over and select a new story. You can use the overflow settings key in the top right to share the article, copy the URL, open in the browser and change fonts.
Press UI 4Press UI 4
Speaking of fonts, there are several available:Roboto, Open Sans, Source Sans Pro (default,) Lora, Bitter and PT Serif. I'm really a fan of Roboto(the default font in Android since ICS) so I kept with that in my use. I'm far from a font connoisseur -- I know some of you are -- but I really enjoyed all of the font offerings here. Any regular user picking up the app will be happy enough with the default font that they won't even consider looking for a setting to change it. There are two simple buttons at the top left of each page to increase or decrease the font size -- a nice touch. Again, the fonts are just another part of the app that simply let you read. Perfect.
Of the articles I've read using Press, everything formatted nicely with no issues. Inline pictures, block quotes and links all displayed properly, making for a smooth experience. Scrolling and navigation were extremely quick (this running on my Galaxy Nexus) with nary a hiccup. I highly suggest you use the integrated browser as well, as it offers a nearly seamless switch between RSS and web views. Pages load much faster than an external browser and have the same great performance as the pre-loaded RSS stories.
As with any new app, it will take some time to get used to the gestures and controls before you feel comfortable with it. That time comes quickly with Press, and it won't take long before you start to get into some of the neat hidden features -- such as double tapping images to enter a zoom mode or tapping article favicons to mark stories read/unread. When it comes to just picking up the app and using it, I still can't express how simple Press is to use.

The verdict

Press reading list
If you're already in the Google Reader ecosystem when it comes to managing and reading news, there really is no better choice out there right now than Press. With a simple design and easy to use navigation, it blows Google's own Reader app out of the water and surpasses many of the more complicated clients out there.
If you're currently using a more casual app -- such as Flipboard or Currents -- to read news, moving to Press is a bigger investment than just the app. The choice of whether or not this app commands such a big move (to an RSS feed system) is a personal one, but if you do make it then Press is the client to get.
Press is only $1.99 in the Play Store, and after a few days with it you'll likely think it commands a much higher premium for the quality experience it offers.

Via: Press Google Reader client review

Heads up: No podcast tonight

Heads up: No podcast tonight

Android Central Podcast

A quick heads up that there will be no live show of the Android Central Podcast tonight, or for the rest ofthe year. Frankly, there's nothing going on this week anyway, and the rest of this egg nog isn't going to drink itself. (For a different sort of concoction, we point you toward Jerry's Double Turkey Triple Sec.)
While you wait for us to reappear next year, we invite you -- nay, we implore you -- to do the following:
  • Subscribe to the Android Central Podcast feed with your favorite podcatcher. Pocket Casts. Google Listen. Stitcher. Whatever. Subscribe. You don't want to miss a show.
  • If you have missed a show (it happens, we know), catch up with our podcast archive. These are timeless artifacts, folks, and they only get better with age.
And so, with that, we bid you adieu, and we'll be back on the air in 2013. (Which is, after all, next week.)

Via: Heads up: No podcast tonight

Galaxy Note 2 on AT&T receiving multi-window update tomorrow

Galaxy Note 2 on AT&T receiving multi-window update tomorrow

Galaxy Note 2

AT&T has confirmed to Engadget that starting tomorrow, Galaxy Note 2 users on its network will be receiving an update that will bring full multi-window functionality to their devices. AT&T is the last of the big carriers in the U.S. to roll out an update with the feature to Note 2 devices, something that many specifically want the device for. The multi-window feature, if you're not familiar, lets users run two apps side-by-side which can definitely offer increased productivity options if you're trying to get a lot done. With the extra screen real estate of the Note 2, it's something that can actually work for some people.
Luckily for us, AT&T is skipping the hassle of using Kies for the update (unlike the latest for the Galaxy S3) and letting this one go out OTA (Over The Air,) just like it should. We're not sure exactly when the update will begin rolling, but you can bet the folks here in our forums will know as soon as it does.
Source: Engadget; More: AT&T Galaxy Note 2 Forums

Via: Galaxy Note 2 on AT&T receiving multi-window update tomorrow

Tapatalk HD hits the Google Play Store in beta

Tapatalk HD hits the Google Play Store in beta

Android Central

One popular method of hitting up your favorite vBulletin forums -- including of course, the Android Central Forums -- from your Android device, is Tapatalk. While Tapatalkdoes a great job at hooking you into a pretty wide range of forums, the versions out there on public release don't include a dedicated Tablet app. There was a special version released through Samsung Apps for the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, and we've known of a more general version in the works for a while now.
It seems as though the finished product is almost ready for the big time, with the release of a beta version of Tapatalk HD into the Google Play Store for all to download and try out. And, with it being a beta product, it will cease to continue working once version 1.0 hits the Play Store, estimated to be sometime in late January.
There are a few new features along for the ride, such a gallery view on larger forums -- ours included -- and push notifications. The biggest difference to anything we've seen before though, is the UI. As it's been specifically designed for use with tablets, we get a split pane view, adjustable fonts, and viewing posts fits the dimensions of a tablet display much better than Tapatalk 2.0. Grab yourselves a copy at the Play Store link above, and click on past the break for a selection of screenshots.
Android Central Android Central
Android Central Android Central
Android Central

Via: Tapatalk HD hits the Google Play Store in beta

Round-up: Android games on holiday sale

Round-up: Android games on holiday sale

Android Central
Happy holidays, everyone! Got some time off and looking to unwind or get away from the Christmas chaos? There a bunch of solid Android games that have steep price cuts, and we've rounded some of them up for you here. Go on, treat yourself to a few - you deserve it. Of course, if you spot anything else that's on sale, don't be shy about dropping a comment!
  • Plants vs. Zombies - $1.99 $0.99- Download now
  • The Game of Life-$4.99$0.99-Download now
  • Tetris-$2.99$0.99-Download now
  • Contre Jour-$1.99$0.99-Download now
  • Dead Space-$6.99$0.99-Download now
  • Need for Speed Most Wanted- $6.99 $0.99 -Download now
  • Max Payne Mobile - $2.99 $0.99- Download now
  • Grand Theft Auto III - $4.99$0.99 - Download now
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 -$3.99 $0.99- Download now
  • Sonic CD -$4.99 $0.99- Download now
  • Total War Battles -$4.99 $1.99- Download now
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 -$6.99 $0.99 - Download now
  • Jet Set Radio -$4.99 $1.99 - Download now
  • Wild Blood - $6.99 $0.99- Download now
  • Order & Chaos: Online - $6.99 $0.99- Download now
  • The Amazing Spider Man -$6.99$0.99- Download now
  • Final Fantasy -$6.99$4.99-Download now
  • Chaos Rings -$12.99$3.99-Download now
  • Chaos Rings Omega -$13.99$3.99 -Download now
  • ChronoTrigger -$9.99$6.99-Download now
  • Cut the Rope HD - $1.99 $0.99 -Download now
  • Cut the Rope Experiments HD - $1.99 $0.99 -Download now
  • Angry Birds Space HD - $2.99 $0.99- Download now
  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery- $1.99- Download now
  • Anomaly Korea - $2.99- Download now
  • Mini Motor Racing - $1.99 $0.99- Download now
  • NeuroshimaHex -$2.99$0.99 -Download now
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies -$6.99$2.99 -Download now
  • FieldrunnersHD - $2.99 $0.99 - Download now
  • Townsmen Premium - $2.49 $0.99 - Download now

Via: Round-up: Android games on holiday sale

Rom Manager updated, now you can download flashable zip backups to your computer

Rom Manager updated, now you can download flashable zip backups to your computer

Rom Manager

If you use Rom Manager to manage your flashing habit and curate all your CWM backups, you're going to want to take a look at the latest update. Beside the theme fixes for older devices, there is a new feature that plenty of folks are going to find useful -- a backup server built right into the app.
It's not just any backup server though. There are plenty of options out there to browse the files on your phone or tablet via Wifi. What Rom Manager is doing provides an extra handy service -- it transforms the backup files into a flashable zip file that you can flash back to your device (or any device) from ClockWorkMod Recovery.
Granted, it's always been possible to pull and share CWM backups, but the new Rom Manager update takes the confusion away and makes it easy for everyone to pull a backup file that's ready to flash, without worrying about the right folder structure or location. As Koush says, this is the first version so there may be a few quirks in it. Be sure to report any of these you may run into back to him. I just tried it, and what I'm seeing works exceptionally well. Give it a go yourself with today's update.
Via: +ClockWorkMod

Via: Rom Manager updated, now you can download flashable zip backups to your computer

The Nexus 7 giveaway winners list is here

The Nexus 7 giveaway winners list is here

Nexus 7

You might remember that we hooked with Google last week and set up some giveaways for Nexus 7 tablets and Google Play gift cards. That's the kind of awesome stuff we do around these parts, and spreading the Android love around is something we enjoy. Anyhow, back to those giveaways.
We went throughthe forums threads and picked out our winners, and here they be.
  • Day one (December 17): scottyhifi
  • Day two (December 18): randyw
  • Day three (December 19):Culex316
  • Day four (December 21):Danrarbc
  • Day five (December 22):lexflo
Congrats all around! Keep an eye on your inboxes, as I'm going to need to know where to send the Nexus 7s. Thanks everyone for entering, and keep an eye out for more big contests.

Via: The Nexus 7 giveaway winners list is here

Sony Xperia TL shown running new Android 4.1.2-based firmware

The first official Xperia Jelly Bean updates aren't expected until late February, but a leaked video has given us an early sneak peek at what to expect from upcoming Android 4.1-based firmwares from Sony. Vietnamese Sony community SonyViet has published a video of pre-release XperiaTL software in action, demonstrating a familiar Sony UI with some brand new features.
Among these is a new home screen launcher with new wallpapers, as well as new "Album" and "Movie" apps for photo and video content. There's also a newClearAudio+ option for improving audio quality, a feature expected to ship in the upcoming Xperia V.Despite these new additions, the overall look and feel of the UI seems mostly unchanged from current ICS-based Xperia ROMs.
Sony is expected to show off a new 5-inch, 1080p-resolution handset at CES in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks, and it's likely that similar software will be running on this new handset. The device, rumored to be called the XperiaZ, is said to pack a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU and 2GB of RAM.
Source: SonyViet, via: XperiaBlog

Via: Sony Xperia TL shown running new Android 4.1.2-based firmware

Apps of the Week: Press, Pudding Monsters, FlightTrack and more!

Apps of the Week

'Twere the app picks before Christmas, and... we didn't pick a bunch of holiday apps. We just want to bring you the best of what we find on Google Play -- holiday or otherwise -- each and every week. We've got a bunch of different tools and a couple of games available for your enjoyment this week, with just two holiday-themed apps thrown in.
Stick around after the break and see how we did this week.

Jerry Hildenbrand - Press

Press is a great new Google Reader client from the folks at TwentyFive Squares. I've just started using it, but I can tell I've found the Google Reader client that I've been looking for. Press finds a happy medium that gives you all the content, yet formats things into a nice, easy to read package with all the right tools for the power-news-hound types.
A big part of what we do here at AC is read. We read press releases, manufacturer sites, general tech blogs, smartphone blogs -- you name it, there's probably someone here who reads it. I use Google Reader to keep track of it all. What I look for in a mobile app for my Google Reader feeds is stability, how easy it is to mark something read or unread (or star it for later), and how well it syncs for offline content. Press does all of that perfectly for me, and more. It has a great internal browser to open a feed link, customizable fonts, and a very nice image browser with pinch zooming. It also does it in a way that looks great -- both on a phone or a tablet.
Press runs on devices sporting Android 4.0 or higher, and will run you two bucks. If you like or need to read your news, it's a great purchase.
Download: Press ($1.99)

Simon Sage - Pudding Monsters

Pudding Monsters
The guys that made Cut the Rope just released their next property called Pudding Monsters, and it stands to be just as mind-bending, adorable, and addictive as its classic predecessor. Players have to slide little cubes of sentient pudding across a table so they can fuse, create an amalgam monstrosity, and devour those that would devour them. In order to do so, you must slide them across a table strategically so they don't fall right off the edge. If you can make sure that three little stars are covered up when all of the pudding cubes are melded together, then you earn bragging rights. There are 75 levels right now, with more coming down the pipe shortly. The art style reminds me a little bit of Jelly Defense, that is absolutely a good thing. Be sure to give Pudding Monsters a shot - it's time well wasted.
Download: Pudding Monsters (Free) HD ($0.99)

Sean Brunett - FlightTrack

I'm sure that, like me, many of you are travelling for the holidays. When it comes to monitoring the status of flights, what gate you're supposed to be at, and everything else involving air travel, you want a reliable app. I've tried a wide variety of apps and can say that my favorite thus far is FlightTrack. It gives you a simple UI which is perfect for tracking your flight. The homepage displays whatever flights you have added for your upcoming trip, with the current status and date of them. You can click on a specific flight for more detailed information, as well as airport and weather forecasts. In addition, the app gives you easy shortcuts for searching for alternate flights, calling your airline, checking airplane seats via SeatGuru and looking at certain airport's flightboard. The app also has a Pro version for $4.99, which allows you to forward emails from sites like Tripit so that FlightTrack can automatically populate your flight details. It is a must have for travelers this holiday season.
Download: FlightTrack (Free)

Andrew Martonik - NYTimes for Android

NYTimes for Android
I, like many of you, use a set of RSS feeds and a news reader to catch up on everything thats happening for most of my daily news. Sometimes you just want to browse through and see what one publication has to offer though, and for that I open up the New York Times for Android app. It has just received a notable update that has improved the overall UI and navigation experience, making it simple to browse and read. The new app does what every news app should, and thats get out of the way and let the content be the main focus.
The app is free if you just want to read the Top Stories section, but you can always sign up for a subscription if youre interested in some of the more in-depth coverage.
Download: NYTimes for Android (Free)

Chris Parsons - Christmas Clock

Christmas Clock
It's that time of year again where I decide to get a little bit jolly and dress up my device with some holiday cheer. Nothing over the top, just a little something fun and simple. This year, it's Christmas Clock -- a nice little clock that is animated throughout the day. As the sun rises, you'll see it float across your screen until it becomes the moon. That can be disabled through the settings if you wish or it can be left to run automatically.
Download: Christmas Clock ($1.00)

Richard Devine - The Snowman and the Snowdog

The Snowman and the Snowdog
As a child growing up in the UK, one thing about Christmas never, ever got old. The Snowman. The animated short-film is iconic in this part of the world. A silent animation, based upon a book containing no words that was first published in 1978. The movie -- all 26 minutes of it -- was made in 1982, which makes it older than me, but yet it never gets old. 30 years on, a sequel has been made, The Snowman and the Snowdog.
And, because this is 2012, why not have an official companion app to go along with it? It's such a simple game, but the kids -- and the big kids -- will adore it. You fly around with The Snowman and his Snowdog, collecting such items as snowflakes and Christmas fairies. These in turn give you more time to fly around and enjoy the beautifully re-created 3D world of The Snowman. Eventually, if you collect enough power up items, you'll find yourself at the North Pole. I'm definitely in the big kid category here, but I love this. And it's filling the time nicely until it hits TV screens across the UK on Christmas Eve.
Download: The Snowman and the Snowdog (Free) (U.K. Only)

Alex Dobie - Action Launcher Pro

Android Central
If you're after a break from the standard 'home screen-plus-app drawer' Android launchers, then you might want to check out Action Launcher Pro. Created by Chris Lacy, the brains behind Tweet Lanes, Action Launcher arranges your home screens around an action bar, which you can use to perform various tasks. Hit the 'Apps' button, or swipe across from the left, and you'll get a smooth, scrollable list of all your installed applications, and there are also handy shortcuts for voice search, Google Play, and adding shortcuts and widgets. And a new feature called "covers" allows you to use icons as both app shortcuts and folders -- tap once to open the app, or twice to open up the folder view and see other apps behind the cover.
It's still early days, but already Action Launcher is showing signs of promise. It's available on Google Play now for $3.99 in the U.S. and 2.59 in the U.K., for devices running Android 4.0.3 or higher.
Download: Action Launcher Pro ($3.99)

Via: Apps of the Week: Press, Pudding Monsters, FlightTrack and more!