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2
Jun

Apple Paying Freelancers to Improve the Accuracy of Apple Maps


In an effort to improve Apple Maps, which many iPhone users still consider to be inferior to Google Maps, Apple has enlisted the help of contracted freelancers to validate the accuracy of points of interest and other information, in exchange for micropayments, according to French blog iGeneration.

For the past year, through a platform called TryRating, Apple has reportedly paid freelancers 54 cents per task on average, with each task often only taking a few minutes to complete. The fine print allegedly limits freelancers to 600 completed tasks, and no more than 20 hours worked, per week.

A typical task, for example, could be verifying the accuracy and relevance of the search results that Apple Maps shows for a “McDonald’s” query for a particular location. The freelancer’s task would be to ensure the McDonald’s restaurants listed are within a close distance, have accurate addresses, and so forth.

Apple’s so-called TryRating platform with a typical verification task
Apple supposedly has a 200-page Maps Search Evaluation Guidelines document that freelancers are required to follow.

One of the examples Apple provides is a search from Somerville, Massachusetts for “Machu Picchu,” a well-known historical site in Peru, but also the name of a local restaurant in the city. A freelancer’s task would be to ensure all of the search results for “Machu Picchu” are contextually relevant.

iGeneration’s in-depth report provides further details about Apple’s so-called TryRating platform, which it likens to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Apple Maps launched in 2012 and was quickly criticized for having incomplete and inaccurate mapping data, which led some iPhone users on dangerous routes. Apple CEO Tim Cook offered a rare public apology for the frustration it caused customers, and then iOS chief Scott Forstall was ousted just one month later.

Apple Maps still gets a bad rap among some users, but Apple’s continued efforts to improve the app should help reverse some of those opinions.

Tags: Apple Maps, igen.fr
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2
Jun

Google is making it easier to speak to your spreadsheets


Why it matters to you

Google continues to improve its alternative to traditional office tools and software.

Google’s latest update for its Sheets spreadsheet tool makes it easier to give it commands through the use of natural language. New commands can include asking it to make a chart or graph, thereby presenting you with a visualization of data without the need to click through a bunch of menus to make it a reality.

Sheets already supports the ability to ask a dataset a question, but Google’s latest additions make it even easier to visualize this. Inputting commands such as “bar chart of X” (thanks Verge) will output the dataset you’re interested in, but in a much more visual form. You can then use it alone or quickly insert it into the document so that others can benefit from its summation of information.

Alongside the language improvements of Sheets, Google’s new update also helps synchronize data between tables in Sheets, Google Docs, and Slides. Hitting the ‘update’ button within any document will refresh the dataset in the others, keeping them all sychronized and letting you jump between different files without having to manually copy over information.

That could also aid collaboration, with multiple people working on different documents all having access to the latest data.

For those who want to print off the spreadsheets they’re working on, the interface for doing so has been overhauled. You can now tweak the margins and change the scale and alignment of various aspects of the document. There is also the ability to clone rows and columns as part of the print process.

Charts have seen improvements with a new sidebar, too. This adds the ability to create 3D charts and graphs, which along with the new language commands could open up a whole new way to order your datasets.

Of course if these updates don’t excite you too much or you’d rather not use Google Sheets altogether, we do have a handy list of alternatives you can try out.




2
Jun

iOS 10 problems and the solutions to deal with them


Update: Added problems related to Wi-Fi, CarPlay, notifications, email, and unresponsive apps.

The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 10, has a lot going for it. The biggest additions changed how people use their iOS devices — transforming the way they write and send texts, interact with notifications, and use Siri within apps. The latest version of iOS was in beta for quite a while and was made available to the public, meaning thousands of people got to experience iOS 10 prior to its official release. People came to grips with the new features during this period, but there were some iOS 10 problems that Apple didn’t catch.

Fortunately, making the beta available to the public resulted in more bugs, glitches, hardware and software issues being discovered, which gave Apple a chance to fix them before the official release. That said, it’s always convenient to have one place to find any and all iOS 10 problems, which is where we come in. We’ve scoured as many forums as we could to find the biggest problems people have run into while using iOS 10, and provided workarounds and solutions for as many of them as we can.

Problem: Battery drain

Excessive battery drain is a problem for some people using iOS 10, even when the iOS device is being used as it should. The problem isn’t universal, as many people report that their batteries are performing as expected, but if you’re using iOS 10.3.2, you should be prepared to charge your phone more than usual. Forbes has reported on this issue, and this thread from Apple’s own forums is filled with people saying their phones are draining rapidly. A previous iteration of this issue stated the battery indicator would sometimes suddenly drop to 1 percent, then shut down. Needless to say, those affected are not happy.

Potential solutions:

  • If you haven’t updated to 10.3.2 yet, consider holding off until this issue has been worked out. If you are using 10.3.2 and are experiencing excessive battery drain, restoring your phone using a 10.3.1 or 10.2 backup may be your best bet at removing the problem.
  • Turning off the Raise to Wake feature has been said to help some users. To do this, go to Settings > Display & Brightness and toggle off Raise to Wake to disable the feature.
  • We’ve written a few iOS guides that include tips for fixing poor battery life. Here are a few for the iPhone 6S, iPhone SE, iPad Air and Air 2, and the iPad Pro.
  • You can find more tips and suggestions in our battery tips roundup for the iPhone.

Annoyance: Raise to Wake feature doesn’t work

Apple’s iOS 10 adds an incredibly useful feature known as “Raise to Wake,” which does exactly what you’d expect — when you pick up your phone, the screen automatically comes on. For some on Apple’s forums, this particular feature has stopped working, or the feature isn’t even available.

Potential solutions:

  • This isn’t as widely known as it should be, but if you’re using an iPad Pro, Raise to Wake won’t work because the feature is currently only available on the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, and SE, as those have the M9 motion coprocessor inside the A9 chip. The iPad Pro does as well, but for one reason or another, the feature isn’t there (at least not yet).
  • Another thing you can try, if you’re using one of the aforementioned iPhone models, is to check and make sure the Raise to Wake feature is on. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness and toggle on Raise to Wake to enable the feature.

Annoyance: Stutters while switching apps

With the current iteration of iOS 10, there have been a small number of people on the Apple Discussion forums saying that they’ve noticed a bit of stuttering and lag when switching apps (double-clicking the Home button to launch the app switcher). It still works, but it’s not as seamless or smooth as it was in iOS 9.

Workaround:

  • If you use multiple apps throughout the day, brace yourself for an app switcher that doesn’t perform as well as it should. Consider closing apps that aren’t being used, or haven’t been used for a while. While in the app switcher, swipe up on an app to completely close it.

Potential solutions: 

  • Setting a slower click speed for the Home button has been said to help but, of course, you’ll have to adjust to it. To set your Home button’s click speed, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Home Button.
  • A future iOS 10 update may contain a fix or improvements for the app switcher. A few people on the Apple forums linked above have said the iOS 10.3 beta has fixed this particular problem.

Problem: Mail app not working

After updating to iOS 10, or one of its subsequent versions, email accounts used in the Mail app may stop receiving new mail, show an error message that claims your password is incorrect, or the email appears as a blank white page when viewed. Re-entering the password does not fix the second issue, or prevent the error from appearing again. People have been having various problems with the Mail app and discussing it on the Apple Discussion forums since September 2016.

Potential solutions:

  • Go to Settings > Mail, and under the Threading section turn off Complete Threads.
  • Remove all of the affected email accounts and re-enter them. Go to Settings > Mail > Accounts and tap the account you wish to delete. Tap Delete Account at the bottom of the page. To enter and set up new accounts, simply tap Add Account on the previous screen.
  • If you have multiple email accounts, consider turning the Mail toggle off for each one to see if it improves the app’s performance. It has also been suggested that turning off accounts requiring a VPN will keep the app from crashing and improve performance.

Annoyance: HomeKit automations don’t trigger/run automatically

In iOS 10, Apple added a new Home app that allows users to control their HomeKit accessories and other smart home devices. However, as seen on these three threads on Apple’s forums, many people have been unable to set up their Homekit devices so that they run automatically. With the Lock/Unlock actions, in particular, users are prompted to control their devices via a notification.

Workarounds:

  • Some have found partial success by putting their devices on individual timers, instead of grouping them into Scenes so they all work via one command or action.

Potential solutions:

  • There doesn’t appear to be a definitive solution to get Homekit accessories to perform their actions automatically based on a user’s location, as many have expected. It has been suggested that automations such as the Lock/Unlock are designed the way they are as a security measure, perhaps to prevent the action from triggering while the owner is away, or if the owner has their iPhone or Apple Watch stolen.
  • iOS 10.3 included and improvement to the Home app that added “support to trigger scenes using accessories with switches and buttons.” iOS 10.3 or a later version may help.

Glitch: Siri will activate when trying to unlock the device

iOS 10 introduces a new way to unlock your iPhone by using the Home button. However, when attempting to use this method, Siri will activate instead, preventing the phone from being unlocked properly. On the Apple forums, this has been said to also happen even if the “Siri on the lock screen” setting is off.

  • Just to be sure, check your Siri settings again. Go to Settings > Siri, and toggle the Siri on the lock screen setting off if it’s on.
  • It’s possible you’re pressing the Home button for too long. It only takes one press to unlock the screen. Any longer and you may trigger Siri instead if the above feature has been turned on.
  • If you have Touch ID enabled, head to Settings > General > Accessibility > Home Button and turn on the Rest Finger to Open setting. This will allow you to simply rest your finger on the button to use the fingerprint reader, instead of having to apply pressure to the Home button. If this doesn’t work immediately, restart your device.

Problem: “Hey Siri” doesn’t work after updating to iOS 10

Following the update to iOS 10, people on the Apple forums have said that any attempts to use the “Hey Siri” voice command to prompt Siri will fail. However, Siri can still be used by holding down the Home button and will function as intended.

Potential solutions:

  • Go to Settings > Siri and make sure the “Hey Siri” feature is on.
  • Turn Siri and “Hey Siri” completely off and restart your iOS device. Turn Siri back on and set up “Hey Siri” once again.
  • Try resetting your settings by going to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings. Then, set up Siri once again.
  • If you have Bluetooth on, try turning it off and trying Siri again.
  • One person found success by separating their iPhone and iPad that both have “Hey Siri” enabled and setup. When both were within range, only one reacted to the voice prompt. When separated, both responded individually.
2
Jun

Best app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers put paid apps on sale for free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest apps on sale in the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

Preview 8

Preview 8 is an app that allows you download any file from the Cloud, and also happens to feature a music player that includes the ability to listen to music in background mode.

Available on:

iOS

Thankful

The Thankful app is the most beautifully designed personal way to privately, quickly, and easily record things that you are thankful for in your everyday life.

Available on:

iOS

Remote Drive

Turn your iPhone or iPad into the wireless flash drive for your Mac. Have full access to your Mac files – use your iOS device to stream videos, view photos and documents, from anywhere within your home.

Available on:

iOS

Time Manager

Time Manager is an easy way to keep track of your daily activities. With one touch you can access all your common tasks and edit them at any time. All your tasks will be totaled and broken down into reports and graphs for you to see how well you’re spending your time.

Available on:

iOS

HourFace

Ever wonder what you or your friends would look like decades from now? What about decades earlier? HourFace is the mind-blowing way to transform your face into an amazing interactive 3D image that instantly displays the effects of aging.

Available on:

iOS

My Translator

Not a polyglot? Not a problem. Instant translation begins to work as soon as you begin writing. It automatically completes the translation as you type.

Available on:

iOS




2
Jun

Mobile device popularity is only expected to rise, says research firm


Why it matters to you

2016 wasn’t a great year for smartphones, but don’t worry — they’re expected to rebound this year.

Last year may have been a bad one for smartphones, but they don’t deserve your pity. Fret not, friends. Your precious mobile devices are not going anywhere. As per the latest conclusions from the International Data Corporation (IDC), our smartphone addiction shows absolutely no signs of waning. Despite the devices’ lowest-ever year-over-year growth in 2016, the research corporation believes that the market will “rebound slightly” this year, and that some 1.52 billion units will be shipped around the world.

Part of this uptick can be attributed to “improved economic conditions in many emerging markets,” the IDC says. And seeing as these markets will only continue to become more lucrative, experts suggest that growth between 2017 and 2018 will be even more robust at 4.5 percent (as compared to the anticipated 3-percent growth this year).

Also enticing is the much anticipated iPhone 8, which is already being credited with spurring a potential uptick in smartphone shipments next year. After all, Apple is already slated to sell 223.6 million iOS devices in 2017, a 3.8 percent increase over 2016’s numbers. And while Android still reigns supreme with a 85.1 percent market share, Apple certainly has its devoted followers.

The IDC also noted that while technology has previously been involved in a race to the bottom with regard to size, the trend is now reversing itself. Bigger, it seems, is now better for customers. While smartphone buyers previously preferred smaller 4 or 5-inch models just a few years ago, the larger models that once seemed almost comical are now reigning supreme. In fact, the research company says that both the 5 to 5.5-inch and 5.5 to 6-inch models are performing better among customers. And moving forward, they will only trend larger, as 5.5 to 6-inch phones are expected to bypass the 5 to 5.5-inch category by 2021.

So buckle up, friends, as it looks like the smartphone is here to stay.




2
Jun

Facebook may be developing an app for teens that parents won’t freak out over


Why it matters to you

While Snapchat has taken over as the predominant social media app of choice for young users, Facebook may just have a plan to win them back.

While Facebook may have started out as the dominant social media platform for teens and young adults, over the last several years, the social media platform has seen its user base begin to age. Snapchat, Instagram, and other messaging apps have taken over as the platforms of choice for teens and younger users, but Mark Zuckerberg’s empire has a plan to win these all-important users back. It’s called “Talk,” and it’s rumored to be an as-of-yet unreleased messaging app geared specifically toward teenagers.

As first reported by The Information, “Code inside the main Facebook app points to an unreleased messaging app aimed at young teens called ‘Talk.’” Perhaps most intriguing about the alleged project is its nod towards parents. “The code reveals signs of new parental controls that would set the app apart from Facebook’s existing Messenger app,” The Information continues.

It seems as though Talk will require users to be at least 13 years old, but they won’t have to have a Facebook profile to use the app. And relatedly, teens who opt to use Talk to communicate won’t be publicly searchable, which could help assuage parents’ fears about their children’s otherwise easily accessible online presences.

Apparently, Talk will also allow users (or perhaps users’ parents) to “fully control the contacts,” ensuring that youngsters are only talking to people they ought to be talking to. And another recently discovered line of code suggests other features that are teen-specific. One comment in the code reads, “Kids love using the creative tools in “Talk” to play games and share fun masks with family and friends.”

So watch out, Snapchat. You may have the teen market cornered for now, but if Facebook has its way, the social media giant will soon be giving you a run for your money.




2
Jun

Google faces a potentially massive fine for breaking antitrust rules in the EU


Why it matters to you

Along with the financial penalty, this ruling against Google could force changes in the way the company presents search results to users.

For over a year, Google has been the subject of an investigation by the European Commission relating to accusations of anti-competitive practices. Now, there’s word that the company is about to be hit with a likely hefty fine as the Commission prepares to share its findings and administer sanctions.

Companies found to have breached antitrust rules in the European Union can be made to pay a penalty equal to 10 percent of its global turnover, according to a report from Reuters. As a result, Google could in theory be required to pay as much as $9 billion based on its financial performance in 2016.

The European Commission has been looking into this matter for seven years. The investigation was prompted by complaints from rival search engines in the U.S. and Europe, who claimed that Google distorts its search results to give an unfair advantage to its own shopping services.

As well as the fine, it’s likely that the Commission will force Google to modify its practices, although it’s not entirely clear how this action will play out. It’s possible that best practices could be laid out in broad strokes, but there’s also a chance that specific directions could be put in place for the company to adhere to.

Google has previously made three attempts to settle the matter, all of which were unsuccessful. At this point, it seems that the writing is on the wall, and a final ruling is set to be made public before the European Commission’s summer recess, which is scheduled to begin in August.

If Google is found to be guilty of wrongdoing, the decision could have an impact on two other accusations of anti-competitive practices. The company is also being investigated for pursuing an unfair monopoly in relation to both its Android operating system and its AdSense advertising program.




2
Jun

Have we decided what Android O stands for yet?


Google certainly hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun speculating.

Oreos. Oatmeal cookies. Orangina. Oranges. Ozark pudding. We’ve been ruminating over what it is that Google will officially call Android O, but we still don’t know! Just like we didn’t know that we’d be downloading Marshmallow or Nougat until the mobile operating system was raring to go.

What dessert do you think Android O will be named after? There are plenty of you who are surely convinced that Oreo is it.

default.jpgcoppercabling
03-21-2017 02:24 AM

The more I think about it, the more I realize Oreo’s actually a pretty solid name, ignoring all other issues that arise.

Reply

We’re dubious ourselves about that, though, considering the rampant availability of Oreo packets that were placed around the premises at Google I/O. The search company is known for effectively trolling attendees — it did the same in 2016 with bite-sized packets of Nutella — so the mere mention of such a dessert isn’t a guarantee that it’s the name.

Some of you have other ideas about what the name could be and it’s been a really educational process googling these desserts I’ve never heard of before.

avatar2898032_1.gifliscon17
04-14-2017 10:27 AM

Opera cake (not the web browser)

256635

Reply

avatar2891511_7.gifMr Mendelli
05-20-2017 12:19 PM

Ontbijtkoek. Had it a while back, and it’s pretty good!

Reply

Anyway, what do you think? Do you have a preference for what Android O will be called? Do you think Google will even stick to its desserts motif? Or are we all sick of speculating and simply wishing Android O were a stable release that’s ready to rock?

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Android O

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2
Jun

LG is releasing a mobile payment app, and you’ll never guess the name


Get ready for LG Pay, at least if you live in South Korea.

The mobile payment world just got a little more crowded, according to the Korea Herald. LG is deploying the entirely obviously named LG Pay in South Korea with the help of four credit card companies and big plans for expansion. LG Pay is expected to compete directly with the more well known Samsung Pay by offering a different approach to emulating regular cards in magnetic stripe terminals.

lg-pay.jpg?itok=ImuNBM0d

Instead of using the Samsung-owned Magnetic Secure Transmission tech, LG will be using Wireless Magnetic Communication for its feature. Users likely won’t notice a significant difference in how these two magnetic communication methods work, as both invite you to tap the back of your phone to the magnetic stripe reader on the terminal to wirelessly transmit credit card data. As we know, this has significant advantages for adoption beyond what NFC can offer because it works with “old” payment terminals.

LG isn’t currently talking about plans for expansion, but assuming this South Korean rollout goes as planned you can likely expect to see this feature offered later this year.

LG G6

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  • LG G6 vs. Google Pixel: The two best cameras right now
  • Everything you need to know about the G6’s cameras
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2
Jun

Best Android Games of 2017


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What are the best Android games to play in 2017?

Update June 2017: Added the futuristic Neon Chrome and the sadistic Penarium to our list of best Android games of 2017!

If you’re looking for the best new games available in the Google Play Store, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re new to Android and need some fresh, new games to start building out your Google Play library or simply looking for the latest trendy games that are worthy of your time and attention, we’ll break it all down for you with recommendations that are sure to ruin your productivity.

  • Reigns
  • The Battle of Polytopia
  • Causality
  • Island Delta
  • After the End: Forsaken Destiny
  • Fire Emblem: Heroes
  • Heart Star
  • Star Wars: Force Arena
  • Pokémon Go
  • Neon Chrome
  • Penarium

Reigns

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If you’ve always dreamt of being king for a day, you’ll definitely want to check out Reigns. It’s a stylish game with simple gameplay mechanics and razor-sharp wit, wherein you try to keep your kingdom running smoothly by interacting with advisors, citizens, witches, and other characters in your kingdom. It’s best described as one of those “choose your own adventure” books, except instead of flipping to some page, you simply swipe left or right.

Each decision you make has an effect on four resources you must manage: religion, citizens, the army, and your kingdom’s treasury. Balancing these resources is key, as if any meter maxes out or reaches zero, your reign is over. But the game doesn’t end — you instead become your successor and try to last longer in your reign than the king before you.

It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play game for killing some time, and you’ll definitely enjoy the dark humor throughout.

Despite being released and celebrated in 2016, Reigns gets top billing on this list for 2017 for being the winner of Google’s inaugural Indie Games Contest.

Download: Reigns ($2.99)

The Battle of Polytopia

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Also highlighted as a finalist for the Google Play Indie Games contest in February, The Battle of Polytopia is a great game for anyone who’s a fan of turn-based strategy games, like the Civilization franchise. The game features multiple game modes, including the rarely seen pass-and-play option for playing against friends. With multiple tribes to choose from, this plays like a full-fledged strategy game packaged with cartoony graphics and scaled down perfectly for playing on a mobile device.

The turn-based gameplay against the AI is brisk and you can add more opponents or up the difficulty level if you’re in need of a bigger challenge. Best of all, it’s a free download from the Google Play Store!

This games feels perfect for your daily commute on public transit or really any time you got time to kill — if you start a Domination game (last tribe standing wins), you can save and resume your game at a later time as needed.

Download: The Battle of Polytopia (Free w/IAPs)

Causality

Causality is a mind-blowing puzzle game that’s all about manipulating time. This is just a brilliant game where you control time and make adjustments to the level and alter the sequence in such a way that you help your stranded astronauts reach their goals.

Set in simplistic-yet-beautiful alien landscapes, this stylish game will have you wracking your brain as you try to figure out how to guide each astronaut to their color-coded exit within the allotted time. Of course, you have full control over the timeline and can jump to any point in time and change an aspect of the level. There are 60 mind-bending puzzles to unlock and complete in this outstandingly polished and challenging game.

Download: Causality ($1.99)

Island Delta

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Island Delta is a very stylish top-down action-adventure-puzzler developed by Mantisbite out of Finland. Explore the mysterious retro-futuristic island lair of Doctor Gunderson as our heroes, Zoe and Baxter.

Using your anti-gravity gun, you must work your way past mechanical minions, traps, and guards as you solve puzzles to make it through to the end of each level. At its best moments, Island Delta feels like a stripped down, third-person version Portal, which is something I wasn’t aware I needed in my life. The cartoony graphics and outstanding level design will immediately draw you in.

You can read our full review here before deciding to buy it. It’s available for $2.99 from the Google Play Store.

Download: Island Delta ($2.99)

After the End: Forsaken Destiny

After the End: Forsaken Destiny is a really beautiful puzzle game set in a mysterious desert world. The story follows a father-son duo who are on parallel paths at different times and must work together across time to help each other progress past obstacles and puzzles.

The wonderful art style will draw you in. The controls are fairly simple to pick up: you use the left half of the screen to control your character, tap the button that appears on the right side of the screen to interact with switches and objects, and you will also need to frequently rotate the camera by swiping across the screen.

The puzzles here are varied and increase in difficulty as you progress further through the game. There’s many secret areas to explore and relics to collect throughout the game. It’s a paid game, so there are no ads or in-app purchases to distract you from the beautiful graphics and challenging puzzles.

Will the father and son ever be reunited? There’s only one way to find out.

Download: After the End: Forsaken Destiny ($3.99)

Fire Emblem: Heroes

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Fire Emblem: Heroes represents Nintendo’s first foray into developing games for Android (ignoring last year’s Miimoto app) and is the eighth title in the popular strategy-RPG franchise to be released on North American shores.

Heroes brings all of your favorite Fire Emblem characters together for a brand new story that pits the noble Askran Kingdom against the power-hungry Emblian Empire, which wishes to rule all worlds. You play the role of a mighty summoner who has the power to bring Fire Emblem’s best heroes together to help defend the kingdom. Battle takes place in arenas where you must strategically move your Heroes around to attack and defend against your opponents.

Play through the Story Mode to unlock new game modes, including Special Maps, Arena Duels, and the Training Tower. Arena Duel is the multiplayer aspect of the game that will keep you busy beyond the single player campaign.

You can read our full review here.

Download: Fire Emblem: Heroes (Free w/IAPs)

Heart Star

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Heart Star is a cute puzzle platformer with a simple concept: you swap controls between two characters who can only walk on certain surfaces. You must use teamwork to make it through the 50 mind-bending levels included here.

Featuring wonderful retro graphics and an 8-bit soundtrack, this is just a really complete game that offers a decent challenge as you progress through the later levels. You will have to contend with the occasional ad that pops up when you fail or complete a level, but it’s worth the minor distraction to play this fun little game for free.

Download: Heart Star (Free)

Star Wars: Force Arena

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Star Wars: Force Arena is arguably the best Star Wars game you can play on Android. Combining the card-casting mechanic from Clash Royale with MOBA-style gameplay, it’s an extremely exciting game that couples fast-paced action with deep strategic elements as you step in as general for the Empire or the Rebellion.

Choose from your favorite Star Wars heroes and villains from the original trilogy and Rogue One and lead your army into battle against online opponents. There’s a freemium model in play here, meaning you’ll be tempted to spend real money to help unlock and upgrade new characters and troops more quickly — but you can move up the rankings just fine by being strategic in battle and patient opening card packs. You can battle one-on-one or team up with another hero for epic 2 vs 2 skirmishes.

At its best, Star Wars: Force Arena lets you recreate your own epic battle scenes on your phone. Rally your troops and take down the enemy turrets on your way to victory!

Read our full review here.

Download: Star Wars: Force Arena (Free w/IAPs)

Pokémon Go

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I know, I know. You’re asking what is Pokémon Go doing on this list in 2017.

Well, love it or hate it, Pokémon Go is still widely popular, and Niantic still has big plans to support it throughout the year. They’ve added the second generation of Pokemon with another five generations of Pokémon still in the bank, and as our pals over at iMore have reported, there are a bunch of global and region-based events in the works and the potential for a bunch of new and revamped features.

Also, winter is nearly over so we may see a resurgence of Pokémon Go during the warmer months. Will it ever reach the heights that it did during the summer of 2016? Probably not. But it still represents one of the best and most popular games available for Android.

Download: Pokémon Go (Free w/IAPs)

Neon Chrome

Neon Chrome is a must-own game in 2017. It’s a top-down twin-stick shooter with super stylized visuals and procedurally generated levels. Initially released in 2016 on Steam and then later for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it arrived on Android earlier this year and is available for $9.99 from the Google Play Store.

This is a really polished game that’s designed with replayability in mind. Each playthrough is going to present unique challenges and weapons, as you work your way through the compound on your quest to bring down the Overseer. Nearly everything you see is destroyable and there’s a ton of loot to collect, which you can use to upgrade your character

If you’re a fan of games with neon-futuristic cyberpunk aesthetics, like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, you are in for a treat with Neon Chrome. The game is super deep with upgrades and is just a blast to play, though be prepared for a real challenge here. If you need more convincing, check out Windows Central’s review of the game for the Xbox One.

Download: Neon Chrome ($9.99)

Penarium

For those who love a great platforming challenge, you need to check out Penarium. Developed by Self Made Miracle and Team17 — the folks behind the celebrated Worms franchise — Penarium tells the tale of a simple farm boy, Willy, who is trapped in an evil circus forever.

This game looks and plays beautifully, with all the action contained within a single screen — all you have to do is follow the circus master’s instruction and survive for as long as you can. Penarium features a story mode with 30 increasingly difficult levels to play through, along with an “endless mode”, which tests your skills as you challenge yourself to see how long you can last while collecting coins, which can be spent on character upgrades to help you collect more coins in future playthroughs.

The touch controls are very simple and kept near the bottom of the screen so as to not distract from the action on screen. You’ll need to develop lightning-fast reflexes to dodge everything this game throws at you. It’s a paid app, so you never have to deal with ads or in-app purchases. It’s a really polished game that’s perfect for those who are gluttons for punishing platformers.

Download: Penarium ($1.99)

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