pokemon-go

Pokémon Go is … GO!!! (Well, almost)

We’ve worn the hats. We’ve played the beta. Now it’s time for everyone to get their download on.

Pokémon Go is now available for Android.

Pokemon Go for Android

OK, so it’s almost available. It’s now got a proper listing in Google Play, completely with a whopping 50,000 installs (thanks, beta!) and in-app purchases. But as of right this second it’s not available for any of my devices. (And I have a lot of devices.) So get that F5 button ready.

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Truecaller aims to be the most important app on your phone

In 2007, two Swedes, Alan Mamedi and Nami Zarringhalam, created beljakt.se, a furniture aggregator app. A year later, they launched jobbigt.se, a website where employees could review their employers. You may not have heard of the two unless you live in Sweden.

But, of course, you you’ve likely heard of Truecaller, the duo’s third venture, and one that became a global, unrivalled success story. Launched in 2009, Truecaller offers an integrated caller ID service that automatically searches for contact details behind the scenes when a user receives a call. The phone number database is created by crowdsourcing contact details from users’ address books.

Interestingly, even if you’ve never used the service, your name and number could be in Truecaller’s database — a privacy concern that many have strongly criticized. Truecaller insists that everything is ‘permission-based’ to safeguard privacy, and a number will not be stored in Truecaller’s servers if the owner has denied permission.

When I met Mamedi and Zarringhalam on a recent visit to India, both reiterated the company’s vision to provide as much information as possible to users in meaningful ways. They also stated that after Truedialer and Truemessenger, the company will release all new features within its existing Truecaller app.

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Here are the winners of the inaugural Google Play Awards

Google has selected the winners of the inaugural Google Play Awards at I/O 2016, highlighting this year’s best apps and games. The search giant has picked apps and games from a variety of categories, focusing on metrics like innovation and app quality, or apps that make the best use of Google Play’s game services orMaterial Design guidelines. Interior design app Houzz has picked up the honor of the best app, while popular multiplayer title Clash Royale was awarded the best game.

2016 Google Play Awards

Here’s the full list of this year’s winners:

  • Best App: Houzz
  • Best Early Adopter: World Around Me
  • Best Families App: Thinkrolls 2
  • Best Go Global: Pokemon Shuffle Mobile
  • Best Game: Clash Royale
  • Most Innovative: NYT VR
  • Best Use of Material Design: Robinhood
  • Best Standout Indie: Alphabear
  • Best Use of Google Play Game Services: Table Tennis Touch
  • Best Standout Startup: Hopper

Google picked the winners from a shortlist of five apps across ten categories. Head to the link below to see all the apps nominated for the Google Play Awards.

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The best Android keyboard apps

Tap tap tap away with these great keyboards for your Android phones and tablets.

Keyboards are important. Really important. Without a good keyboard, communicating on a smartphone can go from heavenly bliss straight back to teeth-pulling torture. Keyboards are also one of the most important apps you select from a security standpoint, as they are by their very nature keyloggers. And while most users will never really need to worry about if their keyboard is stealing their emails and passwords as they type it in, it is something that you should keep in mind if you’re checking out a keyboard that you know absolutely nothing about.

There are a number of great keyboards out there, each with its own features, flaws, and followings. There are utterly simplistic keyboards and bleeding-edge keyboards with a longer list of features than some smartphones. Finding a keyboard that fits you and your lifestyle can be a bit daunting.

Whatever your style may be, these are the five best Android keyboard apps that we think stand above the rest, and may be worthy of composing your LOLs and WTFs.

1. SWIFTKEY

SwiftKey

If you had to ask us to pick one keyboard as our ultimate top choice for Android, SwiftKey would be it.

For years, SwiftKey soared above Google’s included keyboard, and it did — and still does — come preinstalled on many a phone and tablet. SwiftKey’s prediction methods, called the “fluency engine,” has made it the keyboard that many users and editors alike keep coming back to. SwiftKey has been pre-loaded on millions of devices over the years, including on flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S4.

While SwiftKey used to be a paid app, the keyboard itself went free in 2014, instead having its users pay for themes — such as their Frozen theme pack. SwiftKey has led the keyboard pack for a while, but it has plenty of competition to keep it on its toes.

The original misspelled keyboard

Swype is to SwiftKey as GM is to Ford. Both are established, respected, feature-rich keyboards. Swype allows you to swipe out words or whole sentences, and Swype supports typing in two languages at once, for bilingual users. Swype offers a free version, but the full version is a dollar, and themes are an additional two dollars apiece. For those uninterested in having Elsa on they keyboard, Swype offers sports themes, including Major League Soccer themes.

Swype ties into Android’s Accessibility features for TalkBack and Explore By Touch, which make Swype a keyboard vision-impaired users can learn more easily on their own. Copy/Cut/Paste functions are embedded as gestures in Swype’s keyboard, too. Swype all the things!

Google's no slouch anymore

While years ago, Google’s built-in android keyboard was considered a bit of a slouch, it’s built to compete today. The Google Keyboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, a modest choice of themes, and it was the first keyboard to feature the full library of Kit Kat emoji last year. That may not sound like much, but after years of mediocre or downright dreadful emoji from the OEMs and keyboard manufacturers, Kit Kat system emoji was a welcome change and drew in quite a few users before third-party keyboards began to integrate it.

The Google Keyboard employs Google’s own text-to-speech engine for voice dictation, and the many advancements in voice recognition made for Google Now and Android Wear over the last few years have benefitted this keyboard greatly. Google’s keyboard still has a little ways to go on the text prediction, but it does learn from your typed data across Google’s apps and services.

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The best Android RPGs

High-quality gaming can happen anywhere you are.

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Role-Playing Games are unlike any other kind of video game. There are no attempts to feed the user into a perpetual adrenaline loop, no focus on demonstrating ideally calibrated hand-eye coordination, and attempts to reach into your wallet for extra cash in the middle of the game are few and far between. It’s a genre of game that places a premium on the story, leaving developers open to be as graphically intense or as calm and straightforward as they feel necessary to complete the experience they are trying to draw you into.

Many of these games have existed on PCs and consoles for years, and with the meteoric rise in the popularity of mobile gaming it didn’t take long for RPGs to find their way into the Google Play Store. Here’s a good look at the best of the best in RPGs available for Android.

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The best Android launchers

1. ACTION LAUNCHER

Action Launcher

Action Launcher is a great option that mixes things up and changes the interface paradigm from what you’d expect in a “normal” launcher — but not too much. You still have a highly customizable home screen and dock, but if you want to find an app, rather than going into the traditional app drawer (which you still have the option to use), you swipe in from the left side of the screen for Quickdrawer. This compact app drawer makes finding an app much faster than swiping through pages in a traditional app drawer, and the quick-scrolling feature allows you to zip through your app list no matter how many apps you’ve installed.

You also get Shutters and Covers, which give you innovative ways to launch into folders and widgets with swipes — it’s all about getting to your apps and content quicker. There’s a free version of Action Launcher for everyone to try, with a pro upgrade costing just $3.99 — and after you figure out the time-saving features you’ll want to unlock it.

The Google Now launcher is the obvious pick for anybody looking for a pure, clean Android experience. It comes right from Google (and is pre-installed on Nexus phones), so you can shear away anything the manufacturer has loaded up in one install. Transitions are quick and clean, and there’s nothing superfluous getting between you and your apps and widgets. Beyond that, the left-most home screen becomes Google Now, so you can launch into searches, view cards populated based on the time of day, your location, and general browsing habits, and execute all sorts of hands-free “OK Google” commands. The only real downside here is that you won’t be able to enjoy the level of customization available on more robust launchers — you get what Google gives you here.

Nova can get complex or Nova can keep it simple.

Nova is a massively popular launcher that offers a whole bunch of animation options, folder views, and desktop behaviors. One particularly cool addition is swipe actions, which allow app icons to act as a folder with a swipe, or a standard app launch with a tap, similar to Action Launcher’s Covers. Theming Nova with custom icons and custom wallpapers is easy, especially with the Google Drive integration. You can backup your Nova layouts and themes directly to the cloud service of your choice, and restore backups directly from the cloud, too, which can make setting up a new phone a great deal easier than putting everything back how you like it manually.

Aviate builds collections of your apps based on different types of activities. You can, of course, tweak those collections manually as well, and Aviate can offer suggestions to fill in collections. Aviate figures out where you are and what time of day it is, and serves up relevant collections in custom-built interfaces called Spaces so you can better handle those activities. For example, if you plug in your headphones, it offers you quick access to media controls and your favorite music apps. Hit the road, and you’ll be offered shortcuts to navigation home and to the office.

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5 Best free Android games of 2016 (1)

You’ve got some time to kill and only your trusty Android phone to keep you company? Take a gander at some of the most exciting, engaging, and absolutely free games that you can download from the Google Play Store. We’ve got a healthy mix including shooters, city-builders, puzzle games, racing, and lots more. If you’re itching for something new and you’re able to stomach a few in-app purchase prompts, read on!

1. ASPHALT 8

Asphalt 8: Airborne is easily one of the top racing games on mobile right now. It skips all pretensions of realism and provides an over-the-top, high-octane experience with all the fixings. Players can work their way through the career mode, unlock new rides, upgrade the ones they have, or take the competition online in multiplayer. The usual race modes are there, plus a new Infected one where players have to tag other racers before succumbing to an explosive virus. The incredibly polished graphics and outstanding soundtrack make Asphalt 8 an adrenaline trip you won’t soon forget. DOWNLOAD: Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free, IAPs)

 2. THREES!

Threes! is a thoughtful and light hearted puzzle game. By sliding a board of numbered cards in four directions, players aim to get adjacent and identically-numbered cards to stack on top of one another. Every turn introduces a new tile on the board, which means you’ve got to keep stacking to make room. When the board fills up, you’re given a score based on the value of the cards left, which in turn gets posted to the Google Play Games leaderboards. Threes! is elegant, fun, and challenging, and you should definitely pick it up if you haven’t tried it yet. DOWNLOAD: Threes! (Free, ads)

3. HEARTHSTONE

Hearthstone is a free turn-based card game that follows a familiar formula: players summon creature cards and cast spell cards based on the fantasy Warcraft universe in an effort to defeat online opponents. Every one of the nine heroes has their own unique special ability as well as a sizable batch of collectible and craftable cards. Casual online games, ranked matches, wacky weekly Tavern Brawls, and grueling Arena games appeal to varying levels of commitment. Hearthstone is without a doubt the best free card game to come to Android to date. DOWNLOAD: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Free, IAPs)

4. CROSSY ROAD

All you have to do in Crossy Road is get the chicken to cross the road so he can get to the other side. The catch is that there is no other side, and you’re just dodging speeding trains, traffic, torrential waters, and hungry eagles for as long as possible before meeting an inevitable and grisly demise. Single taps move you forward, and swipes move left or right. Old school gamers will sense plenty of familiarity with Frogger. Over time, you earn adorable new characters to hop along as. Between the adorable graphics and dead-simple controls, Crossy Road is incredibly addictive. DOWNLOAD: Crossy Road (Free, IAPs, ads)

5. SPACETEAM

Spaceteam is a truly unique local multiplayer game. Once paired, players are presented with ridiculously-labeled spaceship consoles. All manner of sliders, knobs, switches, and buttons show up on each screen. Each player then has a message flashing telling them which control needs to be tweaked in order to save their ship from being swallowed by an exploding star. The thing is, that control could be on anybody’s device, so everybody ends up barking ludicrous orders at one another with straight-faced urgency. Spaceteam is one of the most fun, free multiplayer games you can play.

DOWNLOAD: Spaceteam (Free, IAPs, ads)