Color and the death of “Beta”

This past Friday was pretty confusing for app reviewers; while scoping out new releases to examine, I came across a large number of media outlets reporting that Color, released March 23, was going to be the newest thing in social sharing. It touted a number of features that both amazed and confused me, particularly its main function: photos taken in a geographic proximity to each other (such as at a concert, office or party) would be grouped automatically together for viewing and commenting.

Users would take a picture of themselves to furnish a profile, which, in turn, would be viewable to anyone who happened to be in range. Naturally, since it was reported on heavily, users scrambled to download Color en masse; after all, how much bragging rights would they be entitled to if they were among the first to use such an amazing and revolutionary app?

Color is an interesting concept, and provoked a number of questions, like “What if people didn’t want every photo available they take at a party made public?” “What happens when someone wants something deleted?” and “Do people actually take party pictures with the frequency the FAQ image would suggest?”

It would have been great to answer some of these questions, had the application not been a buggy piece of garbage. (more…)

Fugly Android: a blog about horrible home screens

Every once and awhile a skinning experiment goes awry and our phones don’t turn out exactly how we want them to. I know here at Droid Life we can be pretty meticulous about how our Home Screens look, but some people… aren’t. Fugly Android is a Tumblr dedicated to those of us whose home screen fashion might need a little bit of policing.

My friend Amanda pointed this blog out to me yesterday and it’s actually a pretty fun read. If you ever want to feel better about the way your Android looks, look no farther than some of these monstrosities.

Thanks Amanda!

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, and he can’t tell you how many times he’s fiddled around with horrible icons. Contact him via Twitter or e-mail.

Review: Hextacy on Android

Ah, it seems like it’s been awhile since my last game review. I got knocked on my ass by a pretty serious case of the flu last week, so I apologize that my reviews have been sparse.

This week I bring you Hextacy, an oft-discussed game that’s hit the Android market and making quite a splash. At its core, Hextacy is a very simple tile-matching game; you match hexagons of three or more together in order to eliminate them from the playing field and score points.

Matching is done by dragging your finger along strings of tiles in a row, and the elimination is completed when you release contact. This presents an interesting game mechanic: you can’t go over the same tiles twice. It emphasizes a decision to be made: which tile decision will lead to further combos?

As move options deplete, tiles are replaced until there are literally no moves left; rinse, repeat. It’s puzzling action in a very bite-sized format that I’ve found works best when played in short bursts. Unlike previously-reviewed puzzler Runik, there aren’t many powerups to extend game life; they don’t appear often, and are usually a last resort to get some more tiles to work with.

This forces the player to be strategic, which I enjoy; not only are players rewarded for thinking ahead, that action is needed for their continued survival. I think Runik coddled me a little bit in expecting more ways “out” of bad decisions. With Hextacy, bad choices are just met with a simple “Game over. Try again, sucker.”

I threw together a quick gameplay demo, to those who want to see how the game works.   (more…)

AT&T set to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion

After what was otherwise a slow weekend, a major bombshell has dropped in American telecom news: AT&T and Deutche Telekom has just entered into an agreement that arranges the purchase of T-Mobile USA for a stunning $39 billion. AT&T’s combined user base will swell to approximately 130 million users after the requisite bureaucracy time, which is estimated to take one year.

Full press release after the break.   (more…)

Review: TiltArena > PewPew

A couple weeks ago I reviewed a Geometry Wars lookalike called “Pew Pew,” which was fun, but I had a few complaints about. I’m generally not a fan of games like it, which try to emulate game controls on-screen. Coupled with the fact that the play area was a bit on the small side, these joysticks blocked my field of play to the point where it was frustrating.

However, yesterday I came across another Geometry Wars clone which solved most of the problems I had with PewPew. Instead of relying on on-screen controls, Tilt Arena does everything via your phone’s accelerometer. By tweaking sensitivity settings found in the menu, users can fine-tune their steering and speed and blow up shapes to their heart’s content.

The graphics are beautiful and emulate the Geometry Wars experience a lot more closely, right down to the screen flashes when enemies die. This is a recent change, and one that can be thankfully turned off. The game also manages to zoom out a little bit, giving the player a greater view of the battlefield they’re playing on.

What really got me was how well it ran on my aging Milestone; not many games that involve a lot of action and particle effects do. Tilt Arena was smooth, responsive and the opposite of frustrating, which wins it major points. To give you guys an idea of how it plays, I whipped together a quick gameplay demo.

YouTube Preview Image

The only thing I find lacking with this game is its lack of depth: PewPew may have been a bit more annoying in gameplay, but at least it had a lot of variety when it came to play modes and ship selection. There’s really no replayability here except for a high score table, which is a bit disappointing. However, apparently this is Priority Interrupt’s first effort at a game: hopefully more updates are coming.

Tilt Arena is a free download

Source: Reddit

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, and is sick as a dog. You can hear it in the video. You can wish him well via Twitter or e-mail.

Review: PicPlz on Android

If you’ve got friends who use iOS, there’s a good chance that at least one of them uses Instagr.am; for the uninitiated, the app takes a lot of the work out of photo editing and sharing. Users can take photos, apply effects and publish photos to social networks like Twitter and Facebook quickly and easily, which, for some, is an asset. Not all of us have the time to bring up Photoshop if we just want to convert things to black and white.

Though Instagr.am doesn’t have an Android app, it has something that’s similar. PicPlz achieves the same functions and more; in addition to Twitter and Tumblr, users can automatically add their photos to a Dropbox account. This makes it very easy to transfer photos off your phone without connecting a cable, and eases the process of viewing them later.

Users can use the app to comb their contacts for friends who also have PicPlz installed; they can, in turn, be added as “friends.” An in-app timeline lets you know what your friends have been up to with the ability to comment. This turns PicPlz into its own social network, but really, why would you use that system when you’re going to be posting to Twitter, anyways?

PicPlz has many of the same filters as Instagr.am, which is the main appeal; primarily, I’m using the faux-high-definition filter due to its ability to make my pictures look a little more detailed – at least at lower resolutions. Blown up it looks a bit off, but for Twitter, it’s alright.

If you don’t use a camera replacement, PicPlz is for you; it doesn’t add any new features to the camera itself, but makes it easy to share photos quickly. However, if you want to just snap and forget, the default camera might be a better option, as having to navigate filter and posting menus can be annoying.

PicPlz is a free download, which is great. You can find it on the Android Market.

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, and staving off strep throat at the moment. Good vibes on Twitter or e-mail would be appreciated.

Spotlight: Coding Green Robots

Though many of us are Android fans, a few of us have taken things a step further and have  actually done some coding for the platform. This is all well and good, but what about those of us who wish to learn?

As someone’s who’s in that latter camp (if anything, to learn more about that of which I write), I find that I learn a lot better from videos than reading endless blocks of text. While this is no substitute for a proper programming education, a number of self-education options are available, namely Coding Green Robots.

Coding Green Robots is a web series broadcasted biweekly by a couple developers from Toronto, ON. Though only two episodes are available at the moment, they give a run-through of a number of basic concepts that a user would need to know to develop for Android. Included are open-source projects and a number of tutorial notes for users to read and keep around for reference: these are invaluable resources in a quest from programming-illiterate to writing basic apps. They also offer a number of tutorials and a developer discussion section on their website.

Again, these sites can’t replace a formal programming education, but they can try; I don’t see anything wrong with trying to give users who don’t have money (or time) to drop on formal courses a taste of what they can experience with Android development. If nothing else, knowing how applications work and are made can give you a greater appreciation for the work that developers put into their creations; knowing a thing or two about the hard work devs do may give you an incentive to to toss them a couple bucks for a premium version of their app.

Happy coding!

Coding Green Robots on UStream

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, but as you can see, he likes to mix things up from time to time. You can find him on Twitter, or contact him via e-mail.

Review: Plug In Launcher

Many of us have gone through the stress of disabling the bug where Android will automatically launch a music player when headphones are inserted. For me, it’s been especially frustrating to hear the same songs from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” in some form of another on repeat.

So, naturally, one of the first things I used Titanium Backup for was to remove the Music.apk as a whole. However, what if you wanted to merely control the auto-launch better, instead of disabling it outright?

(more…)