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Developing many Android apps I found that a lot of methods are non-application-specific which means I can extract them into a Utils class which I can then share among various projects. One of my most useful methods is Utils.isEmulator(). This allows me to write into the app behavior which will be optimized for development in case the app is running inside an emulator supplied by an SDK and optimized for end-users in case it’s running on an actual device.

Here’s a use case example. Let’s say you’re building an alarm clock for Android and you want to test the snoozing feature. Let’s say the snooze period has a minimum length of 5 minutes. It will be a waste of time for you to wait 5 minutes every time you hit snooze when you’re actually testing this on the emulator, so why not set it to 1 in this case?

final int minutes = Utils.isEmulator() ? 1 : 5;

While developing the application yourself you’ll find many such use cases. At the moment there is no full proof, recommended way of checking whether you’re running in an emulator or not but the following implementation never failed me:

private static final boolean IS_EMULATOR = android.os.Build.MODEL.endsWith("sdk");

public static boolean isEmulator() {
return IS_EMULATOR;
}

Packaging both behaviors in the same ‘shipment’ (.apk file) is also convenient because it allows you to enable a debug/development mode when you’re helping customers or when you’re just testing functionality on real devices (e.g. simply by forcing IS_EMULATOR to be true in the implementation above in case some button is pressed). In my next process tip, I’ll share another use case for isEmulator() which isn’t application specific and which you can use in every single app you build from now on.

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Snapchat, Vine, and Candy Crush Saga earned coveted spots on smartphones this year, making them among the most downloaded apps of the year.

There are more than a million apps on Apple Inc’s App Store and Google Inc’s Play store, the two dominant marketplaces for apps, which see billions of downloads each year.

This year, the most downloaded apps were new takes on communication, gaming, and entertainment, according to mobile app experts.

“2013 was a really interesting year in terms of maturation, milestones and new trends,” said Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at Fiksu, a mobile marketing company based in Boston.

“The most downloaded apps were in familiar categories, but offered new twists,” he added.

While old favorites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter — available for iPhone, Android and other devices – continued to be popular ways of communicating with friends, Snapchat eclipsed them in downloads in 2013, becoming the sixth most downloaded free app of the year on the App Store, according to Apple.

“Snapchat went from being a niche app to achieving much more critical mass, so much so that Facebook was reportedly willing to spend billions of dollars to acquire the company,” said Palli.

With Snapchat, users can send photos and videos that disappear shortly after they are viewed.

Launched in 2011, the app’s user base continued to grow rapidly in 2013, with over 13 million people using the app in October, according to the latest available estimates from global information and measurement company Nielsen. In December alone, over 400 million pieces of content were shared through the app, according to Snapchat, based in Venice, CA.

Vine, a video sharing app released earlier this year by microblogging company Twitter Inc, was the fourth most downloaded free app in 2013. The app, for iPhone, Android and other devices, allows users to share videos under six seconds in length. Nielsen estimates over 6 million people in the US were using the app in October of this year.

Snapchat and Vine fall into a category that mobile analytics firm Flurry calls camera-enhanced messaging, which they said grew eightfold in 2013.

“The communications category underwent phenomenal growth this year. Messaging apps like Snapchat, Line, Kakao (KakaoTalk) and WeChat are all exploding and becoming bigger than the carriers in their home countries in terms of users,” said Simon Khalaf, chief executive of San Francisco-based company Flurry.

CRUSHING SAGA

Games were another popular category, with Candy Crush Saga for iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire securing its position as the top downloaded free app, and as the top revenue grossing app. It has been downloaded over 500 million times since its launch last year, according to its creator King, based in the UK. Nielsen estimates that over 20 million people in the US were playing the game in October of this year.

In the entertainment category, Pandora continued to be the leading way to stream music and was the ninth most downloaded, and third top grossing, app in 2013.

“Clearly the device has swallowed radio,” said Palli. “Despite the new entrants, Pandora remains the dominant player in the space,” he added.

But the biggest trend of 2013, according to Palli, is the emergence of apps as a way to control companion devices, which he believes will continue to grow in 2014.

On Christmas Day, apps that pair with devices were among some of the top downloaded apps on the App Store.

The Fitbit app, for iPhone and Android, pairs with an electronic wristband to track metrics such as steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. It was the 16th most downloaded app on December 25, according to Palli, who monitored the Apple rankings.

Other apps that pair with devices, such as Chromecast, UP by Jawbone, and GoPro were also among the top downloads that day.

Khalaf predicts that apps for televisions will be the trend to watch for 2014.

“I think 2014 could be the year the TV industry gets disrupted by mobile,” said Khalaf.

“If you think about it, every American spends $100+ dollars per month on a service that is not personalized and not mobile. It’s an area that’s ripe for disruption and I think someone will come up with new content, maybe a new device and more importantly a better business model.”

Source: REUTERS

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The next area of battle for Google seems to be automobiles.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is working with German carmaker Audi to develop in-car entertainment and information systems based on its Android software — and that plans will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

There will also reportedly be plans to collaborate with other companies including chip manufacturer Nvidia to work towards having Android as a system available within vehicles, which will let drivers and passengers access music, navigation, apps and services like those on Android smartphones.

Google’s efforts come as Apple introduced its “iOS in the Car” initiative during its WWDC 2013 keynote in June this year, aiming to give drivers and passengers direct access to the functionalities of iOS devices via native in-car control systems.

Source: thenextweb

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In a year that saw Google Play finally pass the one million milestone in terms of live apps, it’s fair to say there’s a deluge of file-managers, smart calendars, funky cameras, games and more to sift through to get to the real gems.

So here’s a quick snapshot of some of the more notable apps to launch for Android in 2013. For the most part, these are all available globally, though a handful are restricted to certain markets – these are clearly marked.

In no particular order…

PRODUCTIVITY

Cal

To-do list startup Any.DO spun out a brand new smart calendar app called Cal this year, representing the “first in a suite” of standalone apps from the Israel-based company. More to come from them soon, we expect.

CAL 730x459 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013
It’s worth noting that although it is indeed a ‘standalone’ app, insofar as it’s a separate entity to Any.DO, there is actually a fairly tight integration between the two apps – so you will be asked to sign-in using your Any.DO credentials.

Cal syncs with all the major calendars, including Google and Exchange, but it’s when you start adding items to your calendar where things get interesting. It asks to use your current location, so it can deliver additional details for each entry. For example, if you enter a location name such as ‘Concert at Finsbury Park’, Cal detects it. It will even plot it out on a map for you and offer to help you navigate your way to any event.

➤ Cal

Buy Me a Pie

After seeing success on the iPhone, Buy Me a Pie finally arrived for Android in August, delivering a sweet way of creating shopping lists. These lists can be shared via SMS, email or via other apps installed on a device.

buypie 220x352 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    buypies 220x352 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

It has a cloud synchronization feature, so if you’re an iOS and Android user, you can sync lists between accounts and devices.

➤ Buy Me a Pie

Simplenote

Simplenote, the popular productivity app acquired by WordPress-ownerAutomattic, finally landed on Android earlier this year.

snotes 730x387 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Like the iOS version, the Android app is free, but those who download it can get started from the get-go, without the need to create a Simplenote account. Users who do go to the trouble of signing up and logging in will see their notes synced and maintained across the iOS, Kindle and Web versions of the service.

➤ Simplenote

Chirp

Chirp, the app that lets you share links and photos using short bursts of  ‘digital birdsong’, finally landed on Android in September.

Hotspotio 220x366 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    Hotspotios 220x366 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Rather than sending pictures via messages, emails, social networks or storage services like DropboxChirp lets you send links to webpages, pictures and other content to multiple people at once, provided they also have the Chirp app installed.

➤ Chirp

FindIt

A little over two months after FindIt first launched for iPhone, the email- and file-search app quietly rolled out on Android too.

Findit 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013      43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

It connects with Gmail, Google Drive and Dropbox, though there is scope for opening this up to additional cloud-based services in the future.With FindIt, you can opt to search for things by person, time or file-type and, crucially, you can search universally across all compatible services in one fell swoop.

➤ FindIt

Themer

Themer enables you to completely transform your Android phone in seconds.

Themer 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    themers 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Currently still in open beta, Themer offers much more than just skins – the ‘themes’ give your phone a whole new identity. To access it, simply enter your email address here and you’ll instantly receive your access code.

➤ Themer

Aviate [Invite only]

Aviate is a stunning, smart new Android homescreen built for the age of context. It is still in private beta though, available by invite-only, but it does offer a fresh take on what a mobile homescreen should look like.

Coming from a Silicon Valley-based team that includes two ex-Googlers, Aviate shuns the familiar rows of app icons that we’ve grown accustomed to, and makes a big bet – that it can know what apps and information you need beforeyou do.

➤ Aviate

Pearltrees

Content curation service Pearltrees launched for Android back in July, as it geared up to become the ultimate ‘post-PC file manager’.

ptrees 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    ptreess 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

As with the Web and iOS version, Pearltrees for Android lets you create, share and explore mindmap-style ‘trees’ of content. So, for example, you could create a tree of articles, images and notes related to a particular theme and then if you searched Pearltrees for that theme, you’d find my tree and related ones by other people.

It’s a nice app for sure.

➤ Pearltrees

Boomerang

Baydin, the company behind the Boomerang for Gmail service on the Web, released its first native app back in June – kicking off with Android.

brang 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    brans 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Boomerang has been helping people organize and track their emails for a while now, so a native incarnation for Android was a welcome addition.

➤ Boomerang

Quip

Former Facebook CTO (and FriendFeed co-founder) Bret Taylor and ex-Googler Kevin Gibbs teamed up to launch Quip back in July, with a view towards reinventing how word processing is done. And the Android incarnation landed earlier this month too.

In a nutshell, the app lets users create documents on any compatible device, and communicate/collaborate across projects. It can be used for shared to-do lists, family shopping lists or, well, anything really.

Quip 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    Quipls 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Documents and messages are combined into a single chat-like thread, letting multiple people edit the same document. To use a somewhat crude analogy, Quip is like the offspring of Word and WhatsApp.

➤ Quip

RefreshMe

RefreshMe for Android lets you attach notes to calls to remember what was discussed.

refreshme 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

It is a very simple idea, one that’s similar to Call Reminder Notes for Android, though RefreshMe attaches notes to specific calls, not contacts.

➤ RefreshMe

 

MUSIC & AUDIO

Tunester

Tunester is a minimalist, gesture-based music-player for Android. You can’t create playlists, browse by genre, song or even album. All you get is one long list of music, ordered alphabetically by artist.

tunester 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013     Tunesters 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Tunester is all about usability. When you’re scrolling through your music, you can stop at any artist and click on their respective album to ‘expand’ it. This ‘auto-collapse’ interface is designed to make navigating a single list easier, with each song accessible in a couple of clicks.

➤ Tunester

Band of the Day

Band of the Day is the perennially popular iPhone app that was pipped to pole position in Apple’s 2011 app of the year awards. And as of just a few months back, it’s available for Android users too, serving up a beautifully designed app that surfaces one new artist each day, hand-picked by the good folks working behind the scenes at 955 Dreams.

 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013     43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The calendar-style grid lets you jump back in time through the archives, and you can listen to a full-length, ad-free song for each artist, while perusing biographies, videos, and more. The music is streamed directly from 955 Dreams’ servers, and the company works with labels and the musicians to secure the rights to stream featured artists.

➤ Band of the Day

Soundrop

December proved to be a busy month for Soundrop. Fresh from expanding its social listening service to cover Deezer, it also released an Android app to accompany the existing iOS incarnation.

soundrop1 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    soundrops1 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Soundrop offers ‘listening rooms’ where Spotify and Deezer users can discuss and share artists, new music and anything else.

➤ Soundrop

Music Maker Jam

Music Maker Jam for Android is an incredibly fun way to mix and make music, courtesy of Berlin-based developers Magix.

The app adopts a more playful approach than the professional suite available for PCs, and it’s clearly aimed at novices looking to mess around with different sounds and mixes, rather than those wishing to create a smash hit. But it is fun nevertheless, and could get very addictive.

MusicMakerJam 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

You get access to around a thousand loops from four different genres: Hip Hop, Dance, Electric Jazz, and Rock Ballads. If Dubstep, Techno, Rock Pop or other genres take your fancy, you can buy more for around $1.99 each.

➤ Music Maker Jam

Pandora [US, Australia & New Zealand]

Pandora launched a new tablet-optimized Android app for its Internet radio and music recommendation service in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Pandora 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The experience was designed from the ground up to take advantage of the added screen real estate offered by larger devices.

➤ Pandora

Rormix

Rormix helps you find new music videos from unsigned artist based on bands you already like. So, a search for ‘Beyonce’, for example, will turn up artists that sound similar to the iconic singer.

RORMIX 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    RORMIXS 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The team at Rormix hand-pick the bands included to ensure a certain level of quality, and future plans include incentivizing users to become influential tastemakers within the app by offering tickets and merchandise.

➤ Rormix

BBC iPlayer Radio [UK only]

The BBC launched its iPlayer Radio app for Android back in April, giving users the chance to listen to their favourite shows either live or on-demand while on the go. And yes, it remains UK-only for now.

unnamed2 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The app’s design is similar to that found on iOS, with a touchscreen dial along the bottom that can be repositioned to choose from one of the BBC’s many radio stations, including Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra and Radio 5 Live. Users can also set a personalized alarm through the app, which will wake them up with a specific programme or station; a long-standing tradition with analogue radio sets.

➤ BBC iPlayer Radio

 

GAMES

Dots

Dots, the ridiculously addictive mobile puzzle game, finally landed on Androidthis year.

For the uninitiated, the aim of the game is to connect as many of the same-colored dots as possible in a minute. And you can also compete against friends by connecting with the usual social networks.

DOTS 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    DOTSS 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The Android launch came a little over two months after Dots arrived for iPad, but the Android incarnation brought a new mode into the mix. It features a non-time-sensitive element, which basically means you can head off and make a cup of coffee and come back to it while you assess the best way forward.

➤ Dots

Clash of Clans

Supercell’s hugely successful free-to-play game Clash of Clans hit Android in October. Available for smartphones and tablets running Android version 4.0.3 and above, Clash of Clans lets you log-in immediately and bring over your progress from other platforms (iOS).

➤ Clash of Clans

FIFA 14

Ahead of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil, EA launched FIFA 14 for iOS and Android.

FUFA 730x410 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Though this year’s version is free – last year FIFA 13 cost $6.99 — it’s targeting revenue from in-app purchases such as unlocking game modes and buying points to form your fantasy team.

➤ FIFA 14

Sonic the Hedgehog

It was a long time coming, but SEGA finally released Sonic the Hedgehog on Android via Google Play this year.

SH3 730x456 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The original 2D platformer, which was released on the SEGA Genesis back in 1991, was refreshed for Google’s mobile operating system with widescreen support and a smooth 60 fps frame rate. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released later in the year too.

➤ Sonic the Hedgehog

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

There was good news for Grand Theft Auto fans this year -  Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas went mobile, hitting Android and iOS earlier this month.

GTA 730x410 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004, the game was reworked for touchscreen devices, with a more forgiving checkpoint system and two different control schemes for driving and moving around on foot.

➤ Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Angry Birds Go

Rovio launched its Mario Kart-style Angry Birds racing game in December, hitting Android, Windows Phone, iOS, AND BlackBerry in one fell swoop.

The Angry Birds franchise is really growing arms and legs now, and based on our tinkerings with this game, it has another hit on its hands.

➤ Angry Birds Go

First

Okay, not a game as such, but if you’re into gaming, then First is a slick, 8-bit inspired community mobile app for discussing video games. A social network for gamers, in other words.

FIRST 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

First is built around real-time conversations. Just like a traditional message board, it’s possible for anyone in the community to start a video game-related thread by posting either a headline, photo, URL or YouTube clip. The post will then appear within the app for other users to read and comment on.

➤ First

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star

Disney unveiled its first Star Wars-themed game for mobile last month in collaboration with game studio NimbleBit.

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star is an 8-bit builder game for iOS, Android, and Windows devices, and players find themselves on the dark side of the force helping Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader build a fully functional Death Star.

Of course, Star Wars wouldn’t be what it is without the Rebel Alliance, so players must prevent Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and others from escaping.

➤ Star Wars: Tiny Death Star

 

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Vine

Launched way back in January, Twitter’s GIF-like looping video app was among one of the big hits of the year, even though it took its time to hit Android.

vine 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    vinez 220x391 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Seriously addictive, Vine is a great match for Twitter’s short-form communications platform, and helps capture moments in time in a way that photographs simply can’t match.

➤ Vine

MixBit

Almost two months after YouTube co-founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurleylaunched their latest venture, a video remix app called MixBit, October saw it finally land on Android too.

As with the iPhone incarnation, MixBit for Android lets users create their own sixteen-second video clips and share them with other users. It’s not like Vine or Instagram though – through the website, users can add to and remix videos made by other users, and create pastiche videos of up to 1 hour in length.

➤ MixBit

Lifecake

Lifecake for Android is an app designed to make it easy to share photos and videos with family and friends, and launched last month under the guidance of ex-Skype and ex-Yahoo execs.

lifecake1 220x366 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    lifecakes 220x366 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Lifecake is striving to set itself apart from the pack by aiming for families – parents that wish to keep other family members and friends up-to-date on their kids’ progress, but away from the prying eyes of an open social network.

➤ Lifecake

JumpCam

After first arriving for iPhone, JumpCam brought its video collaboration app to Android last month.

JumpCam lets users compose videos and solicit clips from friends to build a well-rounded collection of any specific event. Up to 30 clips can be added, each one lasting up to 10 seconds. The app works with all devices running Android 4.0 and above.

➤ JumpCam

Vodio

Following its iOS debut last year, Vodio finally arrived for Android in June.

vodil 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Essentially, Vodio aggregates videos from news outlets, as well as YouTube channels you’re subscribed to and organizes them into channels within the app, and staying true to its predecessors on Apple’s platform, the Android version offers very similar functionality.

➤ Vodio

Flayvr

The idea behind Flayvr is simple – it monitors your Camera Roll for photos and videos, and groups them into albums based on the time and location they were taken.

Flayvr 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    Flayvrs 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

These can then be shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, SMS or email, and are viewable by others via Flayvr’s website.

➤ Flayvr

VSCO Cam

VSCO Cam is a sweet photo-editing app with subtle filters that give your shots the color cast usually reserved for RAW files spat out by a full-frame DSLR.

VSCO 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

You can alter the intensity of the filters, contrast, temperature and crop options, and share across the social sphere. Though it has a shooting mode too, it’s really the editing features that make this worth your time.

➤ VSCO Cam

 

BEST OF THE REST

Tripomatic

Previously only available via the Web and iOS, Tripomatic lets users create their own personalized travel guide for more than 40,000 attractions in 300 destinations globally.

Tripo 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    Tripos 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

With the introduction of an Android app, you can carry this guide around with you wherever you roam, and not have to worry about printing off PDFs.

➤ Tripomatic

YPlan [New York & London]

YPlan, the app that promises to find you and your friends something to do in New York or London (for now) launched on Android back in October, with its curated list of events in tow.

It suggests things for you to do, such as going to see Chessboxing, Rebel Bingo, Future Cinema, Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding or Louis CK, and it can be booked in two taps, with no need to print out any tickets.

➤ YPlan

Simple [US only]

Banking startup Simple finally launched on Android this year, though the service remains US-only for now.

Simple’s Android app packs largely the same functionality as the existing iOS incarnation, including photo check deposits, but it sports a different color scheme and new navigation patterns.

simples 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013Simple offers goal oriented spending, natural-language filtering, granular transaction reports and places a strong emphasis on design.

➤ Simple

Android Device Manager

Google launched a standalone app for its Android Device Manager service earlier this month, one that works just like the Web-based version of the service.

It shows you any device associated with your Google Account, lets you ring to locate these devices, and protects the information stored inside by remotely adding a screen lock or performing a factory reset to erase your content.

➤ Android Device Manager

Whisk

Whisk incorporates “advanced semantic and linguistic analysis” to interpret recipes and automatically add them to an online shopping basket which can then be delivered direct to the consumer’s door. It’s an interesting concept for sure.

WHISKY 730x456 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

You can save recipes as your favorites, or go straight to the checkout. Here, you can tell it exactly how many folk you’re catering for, which serves up (pun intended) the exact amount of ingredients required. You can adjust your shopping list if you already have certain ingredients, or ‘let whisk choose items for you’.

➤ Whisk

Moves

Moves, the highly-acclaimed activity and location-tracking app, finally launched on Android this year.

Moves 220x346 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    MOVies 220x346 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

As with the iPhone version, Moves for Android keeps a log of where you go and how far you walk, run and cycle, presenting the data in a simple, useful way.

➤ Moves

Nextdoor [US only]

August saw Nextdoor make the leap from iOS to Android.

Nextdorz 220x323 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013    nextdoorz 220x323 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Nextdoor is a private social network for your neighborhood, enabling people to stay connected to what’s happening in their part of town. The release of this version came several months after the launch of its iOS app. As expected, the features are pretty much the same.

➤ Nextdoor

Circa

Circa was already one of our favorite news reader apps for the iPhone, breaking stories down to only the essential facts, quotes or photos. And this year it also hit Android.

circa 730x456 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

Circa is different to other news readers as it uses an in-house team of editors to create each atomized story. Every segment of the article is sourced from multiple news outlets, but it’s the staff at Circa who piece them all together and manage each story within the app.

➤ Circa

Readmill

Digital reading platform Readmill finally optimized its app for Android, almost a year-and-a-half after it first launched for iPad.

Readmil serves up a sweet, social way to read, letting you highlight quotes within a book and share these snippets across the social sphere. With that in mind, it also acts as a social network of sorts, letting you ‘follow’ other bookworms.

➤ Readmill

NowThis News

NowThis News launched an Android app serving up bite-sized video-clips for a range of news categories, breaking stories and events.

Videos are shown as thumbnail images and you can take a look at additional clips simply by swiping up and down from anywhere on the screen.

NowThis News 43 of the best Android apps launched in 2013

The home feed is a curated selection of NowThis News content, although you can switch to a different section just by swiping to the left. In addition to the traditional newspaper headers, such as food, entertainment, science and technology, there’s also a couple of dedicated channels for breaking or evolving stories.

➤ NowThis News

 

Source : http://thenextweb.com/apps/2013/12/29/best-android-apps-2013/5/

2471

Apple began allowing third-party gamepads on the iPhone with iOS 7, and Samsung is also upping its presence in the space after announcing it’s own gamepad  (the not-so-creatively named ‘Smartphone GamePad’) for Android 4.1 phones.

Unlike the iPhone gamepads which attach themselves to the device, Samsung’s is standalone and uses a Bluetooth connection to link up with a smartphone — although Android 4.3-powered Galaxy phones enjoy more features, including NFC connect support.

The GamePad weighs in at 195g and features an eight-way D-Pad, two analog sticks, four action buttons and two triggers located on the shoulders of the device.

The pad is accompanied by an app (‘the Mobile Console app’) through which users can browse and buy supported games. The GamePad appears to support all Android smartphones, but some features — including a ‘Play’ button — are exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy family.

The company points out that Galaxy device owners can hook their phone up to their TV using an HDMI cable or mirroring apps like Samsung’s Allshare service , and then replicate a home console experience using the GamePad.

Samsung says the GamePad is available now in “select” countries in Europe, although it has not revealed a price (we’ve contacted Samsung to try to get it). The company says the accessory will become available in other markets “in the coming weeks.”

53669 EI GP20 Stand 2 black 000000 Dynamic Online P 730x701 Samsung launches a gamepad for Android thats optimized for its Galaxy phones

Images via Samsung

Source – TheNextWeb

1121

For all its polish, Windows Phone still lags the competition in certain features that seem obvious to include. Windows Phone 8.1, set for a public reveal at Microsoft’s Build conference in April, brings two iOS and Android standards to the Windows Phone quiver, including a Notification Center and a smart personal assistant.

Sources familiar with the unreleased update for Microsoft’s mobile operating system told The Verge that we’ll see a Siri-style personal assistant introduced, codenamed “Cortana,” (nice Halo ref, Redmond) and also a notification center that collects all your notices in one place. There’s also potentially going to be a move away from hardware keys and to on-screen soft keys, similar to the move made by Android in recent versions.

Cortana was a known quantity previously, or at least a frequently leaked one, though the latest report confirms when it’ll make its first official appearance. Other things are also being added including VPN support, separate volume control for different types of things like calls and music, and more depending on different devices from different companies. But there’s a fairly common thread here: most of these are what I’d consider table stakes for a mobile OS at this point.

It’s true that Windows Phone offers some things that the other players in the space don’t (I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but they’re there), but a lot of the work left to do is just making sure that anyone coming from another platform will be comfortable with what they find when and if they switch from either Android or iOS. There are expectations out there now about what you get with a smartphone, and those expectations are growing as Apple and Google raise to impress and win more of that top half of the market.

Of course, it’s possible to trail in feature-richness but then lead in execution once you do get the stuff out there, and Microsoft could implement a notification repository and digital assistant that blow away their equivalents on iOS and Android. But it’s hard to see that happening given the current state of mobile affairs. Still, Microsoft might just need to call in order to earn that third spot at the table permanently, especially if its plan of attack on the low end of the market works out.

Source: TechCrunch

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Nokia has been building its own Android phone according to multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans. Codenamed Normandy, and known internally at Nokia under a number of other names, the handset is designed as the next step in low-end phones from the Finnish smartphone maker. We understand that Nokia has been testing “Normandy” with a special “forked” variant of Android that’s not aligned with Google’s own version, akin to what Amazon does with its Kindle Fire line.

An image of the handset was published in November by @evleaks, showing a Lumia-style device with no apparent capacitive buttons for navigation. We’re told that Normandy supports Android applications like Skype, and other popular top apps. Nokia has been developing the Android-powered phone despite Microsoft’s plans to acquire the company’s handset business. It’s now unclear whether Nokia will release the handset before the Microsoft deal is finalized, or whether Microsoft will continue will the plans for the device.

Multiple sources have revealed to The Verge that Normandy is designed as an Asha equivalent to push low-cost devices with access to more traditional smartphone apps — something the company has struggled to achieve for its Series 40-powered Asha line. Nokia’s effort is similar to Amazon’s own use of Android, allowing the company to customize it fully for its own use. Nokia employees working on Normandy were informed the device is planned as a 2014 release, and one insider described the Normandy effort as “full steam ahead.” Unless Nokia manages to release Normandy ahead of its Microsoft deal, we can’t imagine Microsoft is interested in using Android to target the low-end over its own Windows Phone operating system.

Source – http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/10/5197746/nokia-android-phone-normandy

 

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Just when it appeared Google’s recent run of Android updates had come to an end, a new version of the Play Store pops up with new features in tow. Android Police got its hands on the app, running it under a microscope to find new social and recommendation features that make finding and downloading the best apps less of a hassle. To that end, Google now warns you when an app you’re about to download contains in-app purchases, also making it easier to review apps with a larger star selector and dedicated edit and delete buttons. Opting for improved social recommendations, a new activity feed combines your +1s and ratings and connects them to your Google+ profile, letting you peek at those made by your friends to find apps you might otherwise have missed. Google’s already begun rolling out the Play Store update, but if you can’t wait for it to come over-the-air, hit up the source below to get the jump on everyone else.

Source : http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/06/google-play-store-android-social-update/

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While it doesn’t include anything groundbreaking, the newest Dropbox update forAndroid intros a few handy features. Perhaps most prominent is the new notifications feed, where you can access your latest account activity via the bell icon on the app menu. That could be super useful if you share folders with friends or co-workers, but if not, you can now also email them images and videos from within the app. To do so, simply find the option under the Share umbrella and go to town forwarding your memes. Finally, Dropbox, in hopes of enticing you to shell out for its services, can now auto-fill your credit card details if you take a pic of your plastic. We’ve embedded screenshots of the new features after the break for those who’d like to get a peek before downloading the update.

 

 

Source : http://www.engadget.com/2013/11/20/dropbox-android-notification-send-to-contact/

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A new runtime in Android may soon replace Dalvik.

Android apps run in Dalvik. We know this as sure as the sun rises in the morning and water is wet. It is the foundation of how Android apps can run on a variety of devices with different amounts of RAM and processors.

In the near future, Google may be getting rid of Dalvik for a new standard that runs Android apps called Android Runtime (ART).

Dalvik is the virtual machine that compiles the code that make your Android apps work. Typically, Android apps are written in the Java programming language and compiled into bytecode—the generic numeric code that is submitted by developers to app stores like Google Play (the same code makes it less processor intensive to run on a variety of devices). That bytecode is then transferred from a Java Virtual Machine file to a Dalvik executable file.

You may think that all your apps and the code that makes them live in a happy place somewhere inside your smartphone. Really, they don’t. That happy place doesn’t exist. In reality, every time you run an app, the bytecode that comprises the program is run through a compiler that makes it work. In Android, this is done through a process known as a “Just In Time” (JIT) compiler that translates the universal bytecode into machine code, which in turn becomes a hardware-specific program known as an app. This is essentially what Dalvik in Android does.

android_art_settings

Imagine: every time you open an app, all the different parts of the smartphone responsible for making that app work have to scramble to assemble the code for the app to make it work on your device. You close the app and all those parts relax. You open it and they scramble again. This is not a very efficient way to run apps but it allows those apps to run basically anywhere (it was one of the reasons it was so easy for BlackBerry to port Android apps to the BlackBerry 10).

With Android Runtime, Google will attempt to change this process so that apps run faster and are more tied to the hardware of the device than ever.

What Is ART?

I first ran into Android Runtime—ART—earlier this week when diddling with the developer settings on the Nexus 5. It is presented in the Developer Options settings of the device as “Select Runtime.” “Use Dalvik” or “Use ART” are the options.

There has not been a lot written about ART but Android Police seems to have the scoop. ART has been secretly in the works from Google for about two years. ART uses an “Ahead Of Time” (AOT) compiler instead of JIT. It is like a Web browser pre-caching websites to be able to load them faster. The AOT compiler translates the bytecode into machine code when an app is downloaded on a device. This machine code may take up more storage memory on a device, but it will make apps open faster and run smoother than before. 

Hidden within Google’s Android developer website is a very short introduction to ART:

ART is a new Android runtime being introduced experimentally in the 4.4 release. This is a preview of work in progress in KitKat that can be turned on in Settings > developer options. This is available for the purpose of obtaining early developer and partner feedback.

Important: Dalvik must remain the default runtime or you risk breaking your Android implementations and third-party applications.

Two runtimes are now available, the existing Dalvik runtime (libdvm.so) and the ART (libart.so). A device can be built using either or both. (You can dual boot from Developer options if both are installed.)

The important note here is that ART is an experimental setting for developers and device manufacturers. It can lead to instability of the operating system, cause apps to crash constantly and basically turn your Nexus 5 into a worthless hunk of attractively lasered plastic.

Cody Toombs of Android Police outlines the potential benefits of ART:

Thus far, estimates and some benchmarks suggest that the new runtime is already capable of cutting execution time in half for most applications. This means that long-running, processor-intensive tasks will be able to finish faster, allowing the system to idle more often and for longer. Regular applications will also benefit from smoother animations and more instantaneous responses to touch and other sensor data. Additionally, now that the typical device contains a quad-core (or greater) processor, many situations will call for activating fewer cores, and it may be possible to make even better use of the lower-powered cores in ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture. How much this improves battery life and performance will vary quite a bit based on usage scenarios and hardware, but the results could be substantial.

Are we soon to see the end of Dalvik in favor of a more efficient runtime that could make Android apps perform much, much better? Probably not quite yet. Google will test ART with its manufacturing partners and developers for the foreseeable future. If ART works like it is supposed to, all that scrambling within a smartphone to make an app work will stop and the code that runs the app will just be there on your device, waiting for you to open it.

Source : http://readwrite.com/2013/11/07/how-google-may-be-planning-to-make-android-apps-faster-with-art#awesm=~omAbIK97N2Ft3E