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Posts tagged ‘Android Apps’

17
Apr

Amazon kills off its Test Drive service, announces it the day after the fact


amazon-accounts-hacked

Amazon’s Appstore has been around a while now, providing a viable alternative to Google’s Play Store, as well as a couple of quirky features. One of which was the ability to try out apps in your browser before making the decision to install it on your device.  That feature was called Test Drive, and according to Amazon’s announcement, it has been swiftly pulled from service as of April 15th.

Amazon has said that although 16,000 apps had been launched via the Test Drive service, there has been a significant decline in customers in recent times. This has been attributed to the increase in popularity of free-to-play business models with In-App-Purchase options. Although the Test Drive service is discontinued, apps that have used the service will still be available, although the Test Drive function has been removed. You may have noticed that Amazon gave zero notice that it was planning on killing off the Test Drive function, basically announcing it a day after they’d already removed it from service. Did you ever use the test Drive service? If so, will you miss it?

 

Source: Amazon

Come comment on this article: Amazon kills off its Test Drive service, announces it the day after the fact

11
Apr

5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly


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Welcome back to Android Apps Weekly! Here are your headlines this week:

  • A new study came out this last week that shows that three out of the top four regularly used apps belonged to Facebook. The main app, Whatsapp, and Instagram, all owned by Facebook, are in the top four with Blackberry Messenger clocking in at number two.  Also up there is Twitter, Snapchat, WeChat, and an app called Average.
  • While we’re on the subject of Facebook, they’ve also started testing out WhatsApp integration. In some apps, you now have the option to send things to people directly over WhatsApp from the Facebook app which is interesting because the services have remained separate for so long. It’s not available for everyone, so if you want to try it, patience.
  • A new Humble Bundle is out now. You can pay whatever you want and get Bounden, Auro, and Avernum: Escape From the Pit. If you pay the average, which is around $4.18, you get 80 Days, Kingdom Rush Origins, and Riddick: The Merc Files. As always, it’s a great way to give to charity and buy some awesome games.
  • Reports are out that say that YouTube is preparing to launch a subscription option that removes advertising from all videos. They’re still working out the details and we don’t know how much it’ll cost, but we do know that it is happening. Soon you can pay to remove all ads from YouTube.
  • In our last bit of news this week, Amazon Prime Instant Video now officially works on Android tablets. This was some key functionality that’s been missing for a long time but now it’s there and you can watch it. It’s a little convoluted to install and it’s a bit shaky to use but it’s there. Now, we wait for Chromecast support.

If you want to see even more headlines, updates, and new releases, don’t forget to check out this week’s newsletter. We send it out every Friday along with the show so give it a bookmark and check out all of this week’s biggest Android apps and games news. You can also sign up with your email address if you want to.

Subscribe to our Android Apps Weekly newsletter!


Playworld Superheroes Android Apps WeeklyPlayworld Superheroes

[Price: $3.99]
Playworld Superheroes is a new kids game that’s a mixture of a crafting game and an action-adventure game. Players can craft various costumes and such in the treehouse and then take to the streets to thwart bad guys. The graphics and game play mechanics are phenomenal and this is definitely a step above most kids games. There are also no in-app purchases which will make parents happy and there are even some lessons to be learned from the game. It hits all the right notes and is worth a try.
Get it on Google Play


AppSlinger Android Apps WeeklyAppSlinger

[Price: Free]
AppSlinger is an application that helps you find other applications. The premise is pretty simple because it only shows you applications that are free to use. This is great for Android users on a budget and those who don’t want to go surfing through the Play Store to find good free stuff. The recommendations are customizable and the app claims to never show you the same app twice. It’s interesting and so far has really good ratings so it’s worth a shot.
Get it on Google Play
appslinger Android Apps Weekly


kx music player Android Apps WeeklyKX Music Player

[Price: Free]
KX Music Player is a free music app with a dark theme and some basic features. It’s not trying to compete with something like PowerAmp but it’s a good option for those looking for something minimal, small, and simple. It has a built-in equalizer including bass boost and sound effects and basic controls like editing playlists and using shuffle/repeat. It is simple and it does lack some features but it is also entirely free.
Get it on Google Play
kx music player Android Apps Weekly


kromacellik Android Apps WeeklyKromacelliK

[Price: $0.99].
KromacelliK is a unique game where you play as a cell as you make your way around a strange world by moving other microbes and cells out of your way. The mechanics are simple and the graphics are colorful and retro. It also features an ambient soundtrack. It’s definitely a design and game type we don’t see every day and it’s exploration-style game play is quite enjoyable. Thankfully, it’s only $0.99 and there are no in-app purchases.
Get it on Google Play


adventures of poco eco Android Apps WeeklyAdventures of Poco Eco

[Price: $1.98]
Adventures of Poco Eco is a beautifully designed adventure game with colorful, 3D graphics and a story that has you helping Poco find his tribe. It features atmospheric music, simple game mechanics, and really focuses more on the whole experience than any individual part of the game. It’s a mixture of a puzzler and an adventure game and it really is a joy to play. It’s $1.98 and there are no in app purchases for this one either.
Get it on Google Play


Wrap up

If we missed any great Android apps and games news, let us know in the comments!

309
10
Apr

Should we be worried about Android app permissions?


facebook permissions

If you’re really honest, do you actually read the permissions that Android apps are asking for before you install them? If you do, then there’s little doubt that you’re in the minority. Most of us treat them like terms and conditions, blindly clicking, or tapping, our way through. Is this something we should be taking more seriously? What are we actually giving away here?

Developers are well aware that most people don’t pay much attention to permissions and a lot of them have been surreptitiously adding more and more permissions to the list. Take a look at this chart of permissions for some of the most popular apps and games around.

http://embed.chartblocks.com/1.0/?c=55264ee8c9a61d2a0b597bc3&t=37e1d6874d7281a

Do these apps really need all these permissions? If you dig into the list, which you can find via the View details link under Permissions on the Play Store page for each app, then you’ll find some pretty puzzling requests.

The popular game Cut the Rope, for example, requests permission for your Location and yet the Privacy Policy from developer, ZeptoLab, specifically states “Geo-Location Data. ZeptoLab does not ask you for, access, or track any location based information at any time while downloading or using ZeptoLab’s mobile applications or services.”

I emailed and asked about it and here’s what Community Manager, Olga Antsiferova told me,

“Location data is needed for advertising SDKs to show people the ads which are relevant to their country. It is also used in both free and paid version of our games to identify countries with COPPA law. Finally, it is used in analytics, but it is important to understand that we gather only general, not personified info (i.e. “today we received 10k downloads from UK”) and we do not track individual devices.”

I’m not singling Cut the Rope out for any particular reason, by the way. You could pick an app at random and probably find a permission that’s puzzling at first glance.

What’s the problem?

A spotlight, or flashlight, was thrown on the issue a while back when popular free app Brightest Flashlight turned out to be selling location data and device ID information to third party advertisers. It transpired that it was far from the only app engaging in a fire sale of our personal data. A lot of flashlight apps are asking for permissions they absolutely do not need to function. It’s not a phenomenon that’s restricted to flashlight apps.

flashlight apps permissions chart

In all likelihood what we’re talking about here is the sale of anonymized data to advertisers, so that developers can generate a little extra cash. Some of you might be okay with that. But you’re actually putting a lot of trust in these developers. It’s one thing to trust that Google isn’t going to do anything untoward with your personal data (and some people struggle with that idea), but how much do you know about the publishers and developers behind the apps you’re using, or the third-party advertising networks that they work with?

Is there a worse scenario? Are you giving them the permission to do things like upload all your personal photos to a web server or sell your contacts list? While it may be technically possible in some instances, it’s extremely unlikely that they’re actually doing that, it’s illegal and they wouldn’t get away with it for long. The most likely explanation is generally innocuous — an app might want access to your photos to allow you to upload an image directly in the app without having to jump through hoops or quit the app and start up the gallery app.

The problem is that most people don’t really know what the permissions mean, they aren’t willing to research it, and they don’t want to have to. What they really want is to be able to trust that someone else is looking out for them.

Google does have your back, up to a point

The Play Store is pretty secure. Google does a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that the apps on offer are safe. Most of the scaremongering about malware on Android is designed to sell security apps. If you only ever download apps from the Play Store with high numbers of downloads and a good review score, and you don’t tick the Unknown sources box in Settings > Security then you realistically have nothing serious to worry about.

google verify apps defense (2) Quartz

The trouble kicks in if you’re concerned about privacy. If you don’t like the idea of giving strangers potential access to a lot of personal data. If you don’t like the idea of them collecting information about your habits. There’s a gray area of acceptability there that Google isn’t policing.

Your only real option if you don’t like the permissions that an app is requesting is to not install it. But, why is that the case?

Puzzling changes

Google simplified app permissions last summer (some people will say dumbed down) and things are grouped into sections now. This was supposed to make it easier for people, but it actually makes it tougher to see what specific permissions you are granting. It also means that an app can request a new permission in an update and if you’ve already granted a permission in that section it’s automatically granted without your say-so.

We need better control over permissions

There are a lot of other ways this could work. You could be asked for a permission when an app actually needs to use it, but this could arguably impair the user experience. You could also have a clear menu where you can go in and deny specific permissions, or tell the app to ask when it needs that permission. Something like App Ops which Google rolled out and then retracted.

Google brought App Ops out in Android 4.3, though it was never advertised. It was quietly removed in Android 4.4.2. It allowed you to revoke specific permissions for apps. Officially Google claimed it was only ever intended for developers. It’s possible part of the reason it was removed was to prevent stability issues for apps if users started revoking permissions all over the place, but realistically it probably had a lot more to do with advertising revenue. If you could use free apps and easily block permissions that generate ads (and revenue for the developers) then you probably would, right? That could make Android app development unprofitable for many.

What can you do?

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The bottom line is that most developers are asking for permissions because of some function or feature in the app and the request is legitimate. There’s another tier of apps that are trying to turn a profit by selling anonymized data. Unfortunately it’s not always easy for the average person to tell the difference. If you’re concerned, then make sure you read the permissions and the privacy policy. There’s no substitute for doing a little digging to see what you can uncover. If you routinely download apps from outside the Play Store then you really can’t afford to ignore permissions.

You can find a bunch of permission managers in the Play Store, many confusingly called App Ops or some variant. If you’re rooted then check out X Privacy Installer for smart protection that won’t make the apps fail.

Tell us what you think. Do you read app permissions before every install? Are you worried about leaking personal info? Do you care about anonymized data for advertisers? Is Google doing enough to protect our privacy?

7

3
4
10
Apr

Should we be worried about Android app permissions?


facebook permissions

If you’re really honest, do you actually read the permissions that Android apps are asking for before you install them? If you do, then there’s little doubt that you’re in the minority. Most of us treat them like terms and conditions, blindly clicking, or tapping, our way through. Is this something we should be taking more seriously? What are we actually giving away here?

Developers are well aware that most people don’t pay much attention to permissions and a lot of them have been surreptitiously adding more and more permissions to the list. Take a look at this chart of permissions for some of the most popular apps and games around.

http://embed.chartblocks.com/1.0/?c=55264ee8c9a61d2a0b597bc3&t=37e1d6874d7281a

Do these apps really need all these permissions? If you dig into the list, which you can find via the View details link under Permissions on the Play Store page for each app, then you’ll find some pretty puzzling requests.

The popular game Cut the Rope, for example, requests permission for your Location and yet the Privacy Policy from developer, ZeptoLab, specifically states “Geo-Location Data. ZeptoLab does not ask you for, access, or track any location based information at any time while downloading or using ZeptoLab’s mobile applications or services.”

I emailed and asked about it and here’s what Community Manager, Olga Antsiferova told me,

“Location data is needed for advertising SDKs to show people the ads which are relevant to their country. It is also used in both free and paid version of our games to identify countries with COPPA law. Finally, it is used in analytics, but it is important to understand that we gather only general, not personified info (i.e. “today we received 10k downloads from UK”) and we do not track individual devices.”

I’m not singling Cut the Rope out for any particular reason, by the way. You could pick an app at random and probably find a permission that’s puzzling at first glance.

What’s the problem?

A spotlight, or flashlight, was thrown on the issue a while back when popular free app Brightest Flashlight turned out to be selling location data and device ID information to third party advertisers. It transpired that it was far from the only app engaging in a fire sale of our personal data. A lot of flashlight apps are asking for permissions they absolutely do not need to function. It’s not a phenomenon that’s restricted to flashlight apps.

flashlight apps permissions chart

In all likelihood what we’re talking about here is the sale of anonymized data to advertisers, so that developers can generate a little extra cash. Some of you might be okay with that. But you’re actually putting a lot of trust in these developers. It’s one thing to trust that Google isn’t going to do anything untoward with your personal data (and some people struggle with that idea), but how much do you know about the publishers and developers behind the apps you’re using, or the third-party advertising networks that they work with?

Is there a worse scenario? Are you giving them the permission to do things like upload all your personal photos to a web server or sell your contacts list? While it may be technically possible in some instances, it’s extremely unlikely that they’re actually doing that, it’s illegal and they wouldn’t get away with it for long. The most likely explanation is generally innocuous — an app might want access to your photos to allow you to upload an image directly in the app without having to jump through hoops or quit the app and start up the gallery app.

The problem is that most people don’t really know what the permissions mean, they aren’t willing to research it, and they don’t want to have to. What they really want is to be able to trust that someone else is looking out for them.

Google does have your back, up to a point

The Play Store is pretty secure. Google does a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that the apps on offer are safe. Most of the scaremongering about malware on Android is designed to sell security apps. If you only ever download apps from the Play Store with high numbers of downloads and a good review score, and you don’t tick the Unknown sources box in Settings > Security then you realistically have nothing serious to worry about.

google verify apps defense (2) Quartz

The trouble kicks in if you’re concerned about privacy. If you don’t like the idea of giving strangers potential access to a lot of personal data. If you don’t like the idea of them collecting information about your habits. There’s a gray area of acceptability there that Google isn’t policing.

Your only real option if you don’t like the permissions that an app is requesting is to not install it. But, why is that the case?

Puzzling changes

Google simplified app permissions last summer (some people will say dumbed down) and things are grouped into sections now. This was supposed to make it easier for people, but it actually makes it tougher to see what specific permissions you are granting. It also means that an app can request a new permission in an update and if you’ve already granted a permission in that section it’s automatically granted without your say-so.

We need better control over permissions

There are a lot of other ways this could work. You could be asked for a permission when an app actually needs to use it, but this could arguably impair the user experience. You could also have a clear menu where you can go in and deny specific permissions, or tell the app to ask when it needs that permission. Something like App Ops which Google rolled out and then retracted.

Google brought App Ops out in Android 4.3, though it was never advertised. It was quietly removed in Android 4.4.2. It allowed you to revoke specific permissions for apps. Officially Google claimed it was only ever intended for developers. It’s possible part of the reason it was removed was to prevent stability issues for apps if users started revoking permissions all over the place, but realistically it probably had a lot more to do with advertising revenue. If you could use free apps and easily block permissions that generate ads (and revenue for the developers) then you probably would, right? That could make Android app development unprofitable for many.

What can you do?

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#page .rvs_wrapper.cbc-latest-videos ul li
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float: none;
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The bottom line is that most developers are asking for permissions because of some function or feature in the app and the request is legitimate. There’s another tier of apps that are trying to turn a profit by selling anonymized data. Unfortunately it’s not always easy for the average person to tell the difference. If you’re concerned, then make sure you read the permissions and the privacy policy. There’s no substitute for doing a little digging to see what you can uncover. If you routinely download apps from outside the Play Store then you really can’t afford to ignore permissions.

You can find a bunch of permission managers in the Play Store, many confusingly called App Ops or some variant. If you’re rooted then check out X Privacy Installer for smart protection that won’t make the apps fail.

Tell us what you think. Do you read app permissions before every install? Are you worried about leaking personal info? Do you care about anonymized data for advertisers? Is Google doing enough to protect our privacy?

7

3
4
3
Apr

5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly


[embedwidth=”710″]videourl[/embed]


magnetic ball android appsSponsored by: Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game is a game that has you shooting balls at other balls. The balls are magnetized which can have either untoward or unexpected benefits to each and every shot. It’s a colorful, fun game with power ups, many levels, and plenty of content to enjoy. There is even a color blind mode for you folks who have trouble seeing colors. It’s available in the Play Store right now for free and we’d like to thank them for sponsoring the Android Apps Weekly show.
Get it on Google Play
Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game


Welcome back to the Android Apps Weekly show! Let’s take a look at the top headlines.

  • Google released Arc Welder for Chrome browser and ChromeOS this last week. The extension allows you to run a limited number of Android apps straight from the browser which can be fun or even useful for some people. It’s not perfect but it’s getting there.
  • As part of the April Fool’s Day festivities, Google turned Google Maps into a Pac-Man game. It was a goofy and fun little thing to experience. You just have to make sure you look at a place with enough roads or it won’t let you play.
  • Developer HandyGames is celebrating their 15 year anniversary today by putting all of their titles on sale for $0.15. Follow the link to see the list in its entirety. Most of them are fairly well regarded and $0.15 is a steal for pretty much any paid game.
  • WhatsApp announced a calling feature a while back but it was invite only. Now, there are reports that WhatsApp calling is rolling out to all users even without an invite. If you don’t have it yet, patience because it’s coming soon.
  • A new Gmail update has included support for a unified inbox even for Yahoo and Outlook accounts. Other improvements include better auto-complete for keyword searching, larger attachment previews, and bug fixes along with performance improvements.

If you want to see all of the new releases, updates, and headlines, don’t forget to check out this week’s newsletter and while you’re there, bookmark it for later or use your email and sign up. We send one out every Friday and it’s a great way to stay up to date on the latest in Android apps news!

Subscribe to our Android Apps Weekly newsletter!


goodreads android appsGoodreads

[Price: Free]
Goodreads is a sort of social network for readers that helps you find new books and novels to read based on the reviews left by friends. The app received a huge update this last week that includes a significant redesign. Most of the rest of the improvements are based around the redesign including easier to find features and a new Want To Read button to help you save stuff faster. If you like to read books, you should try this out.
Get it on Google Play
Goodreads Android Apps Weekly


Izanagi Online android appsIzanagi Online

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Izanagi Online is a new MMORPG designed by the same guy who did Afro Samurai. The game features over 100 quests, four classes, and even a story line that you can play through. The graphics aren’t half bad but there are some early release day bugs and issues so you may want to wait a couple of weeks for those to get worked out.
Get it on Google Play
Izanagi Online android apps


mighty marvel heroes android appsMarvel Mighty Heroes

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Marvel Mighty Heroes is a new online hack and slash game where you can play as your favorite Marvel characters online with up to four other real people. It’s a fun little time waster but like any new release, there are some issues here and there so proceed with caution.
Get it on Google Play
marvel mighty heroes android apps


riff android appsRiff

[Price: Free]
Riff is a new video sharing app by Facebook that allows you to make video with friends. Here’s how it works. You post a video to the service, then friends can add to it. From there, the friends of your friends can add to it. It’s definitely something unique and worth trying out if you’re into this kind of thing.
Get it on Google Play
riff android apps


tomb raider android appsTomb Raider 1

[Price: $0.99]
The original Tomb Raider has been re-released to Android by Square Enix. The game has been lightly retouched for HD screens but otherwise contains pretty much all of the puzzles and fun of the original. Some have lamented the controls and there are some bugs here and there but it’s only $0.99 which is cheap for a Square Enix game.
Get it on Google Play
tomb raider android apps


Wrap up

Thanks for reading and watching the Android Apps Weekly show! If we missed any news, headlines, or releases, let us know in the comments!

2

2
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Apr

Protect your privacy with VPN by Private Internet Access


SPONSORED CONTENT


VPN by Private Internet Access is a simple, but effective VPN service that you can use to make yourself anonymous online, keep you safe in public WiFi hotspots, and perform any other sensitive business like financial transactions, file transfers or anything else that you would like to keep secure online. The application is free in the Google Play Store and you must sign up for a subscription before being able to enjoy the service.

VPN by Private Internet Access

How does it work?

VPN stands for virtual private networks. What they do is essentially create a private network that only you can join. That private network then connects to public networks like your local coffee shop or airport WiFi. This added layer prevents hackers and internet service providers (ISPs) from seeing what you’re actually doing on the web. These are essential tools for those who value their online privacy and VPN by Private Internet Access provides that functionality.

The app itself is simple and effective. You have to create an account before starting and subscribe to one of their plans (which are either monthly or yearly based on your needs). Once you sign in, you can connect to servers all over the world. VPN by Private Internet Access also includes IP cloaking which allows you to circumvent blocked content (for you folks who live in countries where this is a problem).

In addition to the standard VPN services and IP Cloaking, VPN by Private Internet Access also uses a compression algorithm in the app. This can save your data if the sites you go to can be compressed (which makes them smaller) and can even make your web browsing a little bit faster depending on your connection.

The Android client is based on OpenVPN which is one of the more trusted systems to work with. With a basic subscription, you can also connect up to five devices simultaneously and the app has cross platform support. That means one subscription can cover your Android phone, Android tablet, Windows or Mac computers, Ubuntu, or iOS devices with just one subscription.

You’ll also have access to over 3,000 servers in 15 countries and over 25 regions.

VPN by Private Internet Access

The Pros

Here’s what we liked about VPN by Private Internet Access.

  • They use OpenVPN for their Android application which is one of the best systems to use.
  • According to their FAQ, they do not keep logs. Ever.
  • The subscription service covers five devices so your Android phone and Android tablet can be covered.
  • IP Cloaking and data compression are both seriously awesome features.
  • There are some customization settings like turning on the VPN service when you boot automatically along with some more advanced configuration options.
  • Cross platform support means that you can also use that five device subscription coverage on computers and iOS devices, including iPads, Macs, computers running Ubuntu, or Windows.
  • Comparatively speaking, the VPN service is reasonably priced.

The bad

And here’s what we didn’t like so much:

  • The interface is a bit bland. It gets the job done to be sure and it’s easy to figure out, but it’s not much to look at. Thankfully you only have to use it to turn it on.
  • We would’ve liked a free demo. You can get one, however. VPN by Private Internet Access appears to have a 7-day money back guarantee. You have to pay up front but if you don’t like it, let them know within a week and you should get a full refund.
  • VPNs in general can be a bit finicky on Android. This isn’t the fault of the application, but sometimes things do go wrong specifically with VPNs.

VPN by Private Internet Access

Overall

Overall, VPN by Private Internet Access is a solid and well done VPN service. The lack of logs, IP cloaking, and data compression are all great reasons to give it a shot. Subscriptions covering five devices is icing on the cake as well and VPN by Private Internet Access has one of the more simple payment plan structures of any VPN app which is nice for simplicity’s sake. If you want to give it a shot, check out their official website and download the application using the button below.
Get it on Google Play

 

SPONSORED CONTENT



1
Apr

App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) Beta runs Android Apps in Chrome


image41

If you are one of the many people that wishes you can use the apps you love from your phone on your computer, you’re in luck. Thanks to Google’s new Chrome app, ARC Welder, you can now run your favorite apps like Duolingo, Clash of Clans, or Vine, all from your Chrome web browser.

If you’d like to figure out how to run your apps from your browser, follow these steps:

1. Download and install the ARC Welder Chrome app from the Chrome Web Store.

2. Launch the app and select the .apk file you want to run.

3. Finally, select the settings for the app. (landscape or portrait mode, tablet or phone mode, etc.)

4. Launch your app and have fun using it!

This is new software, so, as usual, expect bugs, and expect plenty. Many apps will work swimmingly with the new ARC Welder, many won’t. It’s important to contact the developer for any application with bugs, and this is no exception, so when you reach problems, let Google know.

Got anything else to add? Leave a comment below and start a discussion!

Source: Chrome Developer

Come comment on this article: App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) Beta runs Android Apps in Chrome

31
Mar

14 best new Android apps and games from March 2015


The buzz of CES and Mobile World Congress 2015 has finally started to calm down but the app world is as busy as ever. We saw some great Android apps and games releases from March 2015 and we’re going to talk about the best ones here.


almightree new android apps weeklyAlmightree; The Last Dreamer

[Price: $1.99]
Almightree: The Last Dreamer is a 3D platformer game with impressive, colorful visuals, a fun story line, and challenging game play. You play as a hero who is trying to save a world that is crumbling by the minute. It’s a lot of fun but doesn’t work on devices that use ART although we imagine that issue is temporary.
Get it on Google Play


alphadia genesis 2 new android apps weeklyAlphadia Genesis 2

[Price: $4.99 with in app purchases on sale ($9.99 usually)]
Alphadia Genesis 2 is the latest in the Alphadia series from Kemco Games. It is an RPG title that features a long and decent story, job classes, decent graphics, and a unique UI experience for a game. There are a few bugs here and there so be sure to test it inside of the refund time!
Get it on Google Play


autowear new android apps weeklyAutoWear

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
AutoWear is an Android Wear application that gives you the ability to add some unique stuff to your smartwatch experience. Some features include floating icons, interactive screen creation, Okay Google integration, and a lot more. If you like to tinker and don’t mind a learning curve, you can get a 7-day free trial of the app right now.
Get it on Google Play


android new apps weeklyCorgi for Feedly

[Price: Free]
Corgi for Feedly is a lock screen replacement app that puts your Feedly news feed on your lock screen. It adheres to material design, uses your customizable Feedly feed, and also lets you share with friends. It’s a simple replacement but it doesn’t have good lock screen security and there are a few bugs here and there.
Get it on Google Play


Drupe new Android appsDrupe

[Price: Free]
Drupe is a kind of messaging app where you can browse your contracts and message any one of them you want using your preferred messaging service. That means you can get a hold of one person on Facebook Messenger and another on Hangouts, all from one app. It’s definitely interesting if you use multiple messaging platforms and free to use.
Get it on Google Play


dungeon hunter 5 new android apps weeklyDungeon Hunter 5

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Dungeon Hunter 5 is the latest iteration of the Dungeon Hunger series from Gameloft. It continues where Dungeon Hunter 4 left off and includes improved graphics, a new story line to play through, and some online player mechanics. It’s an action RPG that uses a freemium model but it’s still worth a shot if you like action RPGs.
Get it on Google Play


final fantasy record keeper new android appsFinal Fantasy Record Keeper

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a dual effort between DeNA and Square Enix. The game has enough nostalgia to where any Final Fantasy fan can feel welcome. The game play is simple and easy to understand. There are some optimization issues and the game starts slowly but pretty much any Final Fantasy fan could enjoy this one.
Get it on Google Play


new android apps weeklyFive Nights at Freddy’s 3

[Price: $2.99]
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a horror game series that took Android by storm in 2014. The third in the series was released in March to positive reviews from both reviewers and users. It’s inexpensive with no in-app purchases and it’s truly a creepy experience. It can’t hurt to pick up this one.
Get it on Google Play


fotonica new android appsFotonica

[Price: $0.99]
Fotonica is an infinite runner game that uses some unique minimal graphics and fast speeds. There are eight levels, three endless levels, local multiplayer, two difficulty settings, and it comes with a cheap, affordable price tag with no in-app purchases. It’s a fun little time waster.
Get it on Google Play


htc fun fit new android apps weeklyFun Fit

[Price: Free]
Fun Fit is a workout application that was released by HTC in an effort to help people get in shape. It isn’t as featured filled as something like Runtastic but if you need something basic and simple with a good design then you should be okay with this one. It also includes goals, Facebook integration, and more.
Get it on Google Play
htc fun fit new android apps weekly


king of thieves new android apps weeklyKing of Thieves

[Price: Free with in-app purcahses]
King of Thieves is a time-waster out of ZeptoLab, makers of the famous Cut the Rope series. In this game, you build a base to protect your gold, then you go and raid other people for theirs. Unlike most games with this dynamic, you’ll be attacking people using platformer game mechanics. It’s free to play and good for adults and kids.
Get it on Google Play


motion tennis cast new android apps weeklyMotion Tennis Cast

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Motion Tennis Cast is a unique game that uses a Google Chromecast to let you play tennis on your TV screen similar to a Nintendo Wii game. This is definitely one of the most interesting mobile games we’ve seen in a long time. If you have a Chromecast, you should definitely try it out.
Get it on Google Play


Nuzzel new android appsNuzzel: News From Your Friends

[Price: Free]
Nuzzel is an application that helps you keep track of what news your friends read. It sounds creepy but they mean well. It’s a way to find news and topics based on the stuff your friends are reading. It’s totally free to use so it can’t hurt to try. That is, unless you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account. Then you can’t use it.
Get it on Google Play
nuzzel new android apps


zombie highway 2 new android apps weeklyZombie Highway 2

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
The original Zombie Highway was one of the best time wasters on Android in its day and Zombie Highway 2 hopes to continue that tradition. It includes more cars, more guns, improved graphics, more levels, and plenty of objectives to complete. It is a freemium game that you can do fairly well in without purchasing anything.
Get it on Google Play


Wrap up

If we missed any great new Android apps or games from March 2015, let us know in the comments!



28
Mar

Test your skills with Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game


Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game
App spotlight sponsored post

Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game is casual puzzle game where you must shoot colored balls up at a bunch of other colored balls to create combos of three or more to clear them from the level. It’s currently available on the Google Play Store free of charge right now and there are some optional in-app purchases you can use as well.

How does the game work?

The game works like this. Every level starts out with a smattering of balls. At the bottom, you can see the next color that you can shoot up into the shape above. You tap where you want the ball to go and it attempts to go that way. The catch is that all the balls are magnetized so your shot may get stuck on another ball or cause other chain reactions.

The point of the game is to score enough points to move on to the next round. The point totals are easier to get in the first few levels but get progressively more challenging as you keep going. There are a total of four “realms” the game takes place in that include different graphics, backgrounds, and even slightly different physics in each game type. On top of that, each realm has a bunch of levels that can be completed on easy, medium, hard, and nightmare modes. The result is a casual game that you’ll be playing for a long time.

Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game

On top of that, there are some other pieces to the game. There are Google Play Games services that let you view leaderboards against your friends. You can also change the mode of the game which switches the balls to different graphics if the ones you’re using aren’t to your liking. There are also sections where you can change the level and the realm, access the store, and a “more” section that advertises other Freemium titles for you to play.

Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game

Game mechanics

The center stage of Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game is the magnetized balls. Thanks to their unique physics, the game is capable of taking all sorts of ridiculous spins based on how you shoot. For instance, you may have a shot go awry when you aim for a spot but the magnetic balls pull it in to a different spot before it can reach its destination and yes, that frustrating bit is all part of the strategy of the game. Don’t shoot where the balls can’t get to.

You can also change the ball that you shoot. Every shot gives you four options. There is the normal, colored ball, a “white” ball that can change color to the first ball it makes contact with after you shoot it, an explosive ball that takes out every ball it touches, then an electric ball that takes out a few additional ones. Each special ball costs coins to use and you earn coins after every round you win. The color-changing ball costs two coins, the explosive one costs 10 coins, and the electric one costs 14 coins.

Of course, there is a plethora of positive aspects to the magnetization. For instance, if you have cleared a path up one side but the other side is starting to get close, you can clear balls in the center and the empty space will drag the left side up with it. This aspect of being able to pull different pieces of the puzzle together by clearing out certain balls is extremely important to the strategy as you can clear whole levels very quickly with just the right shots and, admittedly, it feels really good to see that puzzle practically disappear after almost losing.

The game does include some in-app purchases. They include:

  • $0.99 to remove ads.
  • $0.99 for 1,500 coins.
  • $1.99 for 5,000 coins.
  • $2.99 for 25,000 coins.

Comparatively speaking, it’s not a bad in-app strategy. Many “cash grab” style games can ask you to fork out up to $99.99 for in-game currency and you don’t usually get all that much. In this game, you’ll never spend more than $3 at a time and you’ll get a ton of coins that will last you a long time. Using special balls in-game don’t require that many so a 25,000 coin buy will last quite some time.

Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game

The pros

Okay here’s what we liked about Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game:

  • The game physics really are unique and they can ruin a good time or help you out a whole bunch. It all depends on your strategy.
  • There are four realms, four difficulties, and just shy of 400 total levels. Finishing the game is going to take you a long time.
  • Google Play Games leaderboards are a nice touch.
  • Despite the fact that there are in-app purchases, they are reasonably priced, there are only three of them (four if you count removing ads), and they never get as expensive as other casual game in-app purchases.
  • Extra content includes collecting kittens and helping penguins build a ski resort in the hidden “vacation” realm.
  • It’s free to play, challenging, and fun.

The cons

And here is what we didn’t like so much:

  • The main screen is a little cluttered.
  • There are some weird labels. For instance, “Stars” and “Coins” are actually leaderboards, not places where you can go to view your stars and coins.
  • Grinding for coins to get the higher difficulties may be a minor inconvenience for some players.

Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game

Overall

Overall, Magnetic Balls Puzzle Game is a fun, casual game that almost anyone can enjoy. Its inoffensive nature and copious numbers of kittens and penguins make it great for kids or adults while its progressive difficulty, multiple realms, and magnetic physics keep you coming back for more. What few issues it has are minor nitpicks at best and the game is a decent option overall. If this doesn’t convince you, the game has over a million downloads and currently holds a 4.1 out of 5 rating in the Google Play Store It’s also free so it won’t cost you anything to try it out! Click the button below to grab it.

Get it on Google Play

 

App Spotlight Sponsored Post



26
Mar

Things the Google Play Store could improve: Part 2 – In-App Purchases


in-app purchases google play store
Editor’s note: this is the second article in this series discussing some potential Google Play Store flaws and what Google could do to improve user experience. Feel free to join the discussion and suggest new topics. You can find a link to part one at the bottom of the page.

In-app purchases have been a sore spot for both Google and consumers for a long time. Despite the overwhelming success of in-app purchases, many consumers are unhappy about the unscrupulous methods that some app and game developers use to procure money from their users. Of course, Google has had minor nightmares of their own, culminating in the FTC decision to make Google pay $19 million to parents when their kids made in-app purchases. In-app purchases are a big deal for developers, but more could be done to make it a more pleasant experience for consumers.

Please note, this is commentary on how the Google Play Store handles in-app purchases and not how app developers actually use them. That’s a wholly different conversation that we’ll all have together eventually.

in-app purchases google play store

What is the problem?

In-app purchases have made a negative name for themselves in some circles. The “cash cow” philosophy has been a subject of intense ire from many consumers and it’s even been parodied on shows like South Park. Of course, the stats don’t agree with the criticisms, as in-app purchases account for over 95% of sales in the Google Play Store and has allowed developers to make more money than ever before. So what’s the problem?

In-app purchases account for over 95% of the revenue generated in the Google Play Store

The problem can be summed up in one word: transparency. Let’s do a little thought exercise. Go to any app or game (with in-app purchases) in the Google Play Store that you have never downloaded, used, or even heard of before. Now, using the information only available on the app description page, try to discern the following:

  • How many in-app purchases are there in total?
  • What kind of in-app purchases are there? Are they consumables (gems), expansions, the pro unlocker, or a subscription?
  • How much money is the developer going to ask you to spend?
  • What exactly are you getting yourself into?

The fact is that you cannot answer these questions with the information available on the app description right now unless the developers go through the trouble of explaining it themselves. When you combine that closed-doors approach with a few bad experiences with “cash cow” apps and games, you end up with a consumer base that not only distrusts the whole system, but actively dislikes it. Let’s discuss these issues a little more in depth, shall we?

in-app purchases google play store

Problem #1: What are we actually paying for?

The core problem is that we simply can’t educate ourselves about an app or a game without downloading it. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if there were only a few apps and games. However, there are currently well over one million apps and games in the Google Play Store. That means the process of finding and downloading each app and game that might look interesting just to see how much it will cost us is counterproductive and even a bit tedious. Without proper information, it severely bottlenecks the experience consumers could (and dare we say: should) be having.

Downloading each app and game just to see how much it’ll cost is counterproductive.

The questions begin to arise. Why doesn’t Google just give us a labeled list of all of the in-app purchases? It’s a good question and even I don’t understand why Google hasn’t done something like this yet. iTunes actually does this very well. If you look at the Clash of Clans iTunes page, you’ll see a list of the popular in-app purchases. You can clearly see that each in-app purchase revolves around buying a certain denomination of gems and, using a bit of logic, you can deduce that Clash of Clans operates using consumable in-app purchases before you ever download it.

It would almost be better if the price range didn’t exist at all.

Currently, there is a less-than-useful “price range” feature that labels all in-app purchases as “items”. The price range shows the cheapest and most expensive in-app purchase an application has or, if the app only has one, it will show a single price. It would almost be better if the price range didn’t exist at all because it doesn’t provide any useful information. Yes, apps with in-app purchases do, in fact, contain items. Yes, those items cost anywhere from $0.99 to $99.99. These are all things we knew the moment we saw the “offers in-app purchases” label.

The long and short of it is simply this: Google does a bad job at showing what these applications have to offer and what few attempts they’ve made to help feel halfhearted and rushed.

google play music subscription

Problem #2: Subscriptions

Subscriptions are a huge problem in the Google Play Store for three reason:

  1. Subscription prices don’t appear in the “price range” portion of the Google Play Store. Don’t believe me? Look at Spotify’s app. It shows that there are in-app purchases, but no price is given. In fact, there’s isn’t so much as a dollar symbol anywhere on the page. There is something wrong with that.
  2. Apps and games that require a subscription do not have to use Google’s in-house system to process payments. Spotify, most VPN apps, and most antivirus apps have accounts that you can create and manage independently from Google. That makes them almost impossible to police on Google Play.

    Subscriptions live in a reality all on their own.

  3. A few apps, such as Google Play Music, have a subscription service but there’s no mention of it anywhere. Again, if you don’t believe me, look for yourself. There is no price, no dollar sign, no in-app purchase label, or anything to indicate a cost. Spotify does a little better because it at least gets labeled for having in-app purchases. Humorously enough, Norton Security has the label and the subscription price listed in the price range section of their Google Play page.

It appears as though subscriptions live in a reality all on their own. On top of being wildly inconsistent, they appear to be able to skirt the rules other apps have to play by.

in-app purchases google play store

How does it get fixed?

Thankfully, most of the problems could be easily fixed with a bit of effort. Here are a few ideas we had:

  • Show us all of the in-app purchases – It’s really as simple as that. Put all of them there and show us what they are. Google Play uses a modular UI and I don’t think anyone would be bummed out if they added a module that showed us the in-app purchases in their entirety, including cost and name. Bonus points if they tell us what kind of in-app purchase it is (consumables, pro versions, expansions, subscriptions, etc). If Google cannot grab this information using their APIs, give developers a box in the publisher dashboard where they can input the prices themselves.
  • Create a standard for subscription services to follow – There currently is no standard for subscription services. Some show prices, others do not. Some are labeled as offering in-app purchases, others are not. Google needs to figure out a standard and begin to hold everyone (including itself) to it. The box in the publisher dashboard idea would work well here as well, especially for developers who don’t use Google services to charge for subscriptions.
  • Create a bottom line requirement for labeling apps – There seems to be no real standard for what counts as “having in-app purchases” and there really needs to be. Amazon Shopping and Google Play Music both allow you to spend money in the app, but don’t carry the IAP label. Spotify does have the label but doesn’t show a price. Grand Theft Auto titles are labeled as having in-app purchases but they actually don’t have any at all. It’s maddeningly inconsistent.

    In-app purchase labels are maddeningly inconsistent.

  • Allow us to refine our searches for certain types of in-app purchases – This one is a bit complicated. A majority of people who feel disdain for IAPs really only dislike certain types of IAPs such as consumables. If consumers can search for apps and games without those specific kinds of in-app purchases (or no in-app purchases at all), they will be able to find more apps that are suited to their liking and that will ultimately improve their experience.
  • Give apps with in-app purchases their own top charts – This is the totally crazy, shot in the dark suggestion with a lot of potentially positive repercussions. With the apps and games with IAPs in their own category, it helps level the playing field for the standard free and free-paid paradigms without excluding IAPs entirely. This cleaner, more organized layout would result in people finding popular free apps and games and popular paid apps and games with no in-app purchases far more easily.

Google Play Store

Wrap up

Listen folks, in-app purchases are a good thing. Revenue to developers has increased by leaps and bounds since its inception and they really are making more money now than ever before. That has translated to more content and higher quality content. There is no arguing that fact. Back in 2010, we had 700,000 apps and the best of the best were Flickster, Angry Birds, and Skype didn’t even allow for video calls on mobile yet.

Today we have more than double what we had in 2010 and they include massive, gorgeous games and innovative, beautifully designed apps. In 2010, Google Play (formerly the Android Market) made just over $100 million in total revenue. In 2013, after the first full year of in-app purchases, Google Play made an estimated $1.3 billion. It has only gone up since then. Even if you’re against the practice ethically, no one can argue with the results. IAPs are why most developers make money on Android.

IAPs are why most developers make money on Android.

However, I’m not so stuck in my ways that I can’t admit that there are a few bad apples (proportionately speaking) that make the whole bunch look bad. With the suggested improvements, the transparency will allow consumers to make better, more informed decisions about what apps they want to download. There is even a small, outside chance that “cash grab” developers may use the pressure of full transparency to tone down their aggressive strategies and try to compete by simplifying their pay structure and building better games. Nothing gets the ball rolling like transparency.

By giving consumers more control and information with the transparency, improved charts, and refined searches, a lot of the negativity could potentially subside as frustrated users will enjoy a new-found proliferation of apps and games that they actually want instead of being forced to browse through stuff they do not.

Who knows, one day maybe being labeled as having in-app purchases won’t be such a bad thing but it’s definitely not something that is just going to happen organically. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments!

Check out the other parts of the series:

Part 1 – The Top Charts

122
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