January is generally held as a gloomy month, a time when there's nothing but slush on the ground and crap in the movie theaters. But it gave us more than a few fine apps, which you should take the opportunity to peruse. If you don't feel like meticulously combing through our massive bi-weekly app roundups, we've gathered the best of the best right here. Dig in, why don't you?
12Hours is one of those ideas that's so brilliantly simple you wonder why no one has done it already. The basic idea is an analog clock (the one you had to learn in first grade) with color-coded sections indicating the upcoming events on your calendar. Each event corresponds to the hours it occupies on the clock face. Naturally, this limits the widget display to (wait for it) twelve hours at a time.
That limitation is actually part of why I love this app, and why it's now got a permanent spot on my center home screen. That wonderfully simple display shows you what parts of your day are occupied and what parts are free at a glance. If you're a regular user of Google Calendar, you will be able to instantly see which calendar events are taking up which slots, assuming you're organized enough to have multiple calendars set up.
The developer of this free app has already issued several updates, with visual options getting a particular highlight - you can now choose between a conventional numbered clock and the more stylish Android standard analog clock. If the idea of having both a numbered clock in the corner and an analog clock on the homescreen bothers you, some custom launchers allow root users to disable the system clock while viewing the launcher.
These days it's fairly common to see a slick implementation of the power Twitter app, but newcomer Talon seems to have what it takes to become a contender in this small and competitive space. Talon has a great UI that works on phones and tablets, some fancy animations, and all the advanced features that Twitter users crave.
Talon takes a lot of care to look great on later versions of Android, especially KitKat, with its transparent navigation controls and black or white themes. (Don't worry, it still works on Android 4.0 and up.) Little touches all over the interface are incredibly impressive, and there are way too many to list here. But if you dive into the settings menu, you'll find that just about all of them are configurable to at least some degree. Talon even has a live mode that will pull in tweets and alerts instantly.
Talon is a great example of how good Android apps can be with a dedicated developer behind them. If you like Talon, be sure to check out Klinker Apps' other recent release, EvolveSMS.
Banking and money management is boring - that's probably why those who do it get paid a lot more than I do. But there's a new trend as mobile becomes the standard: money apps that aren't just simple, they're fun. Level Money will interface with your bank account to give you an impressively detailed look at your spending habits, helping you to identify where your money goes (and how fast it goes there).
More importantly, Level Money puts a focus on how much spendable money you've got in your account, on daily, weekly, and monthly levels. The interface shows a dead simple graph of how much you've spent and how much you have left before you go over budget. Level imports transactions from your debit card or checks as soon as they hit the bank.
Level works with most banks, but unfortunately it's US-only at the moment. Of course you'll have to trust them with an active connection to your banking information for the app to work.
Beats Music is the subscription music service that's grown out of the ashes of MOG under the control of the Beats corporation, better known as "those headphone guys with the annoying commercials." But the music service might be worth your attention, especially if you're more interested in automatic radio and curated playlists than individual songs. The service costs $10 a month, with a free one-week trial. AT&T users can get access for an entire family for just $15 a month.
Beats claims a library of 20 million songs, but the curated playlists and "Sentence" radio are the bigger draws. It works like this: you play a short game of Mad Libs with your mood, location, time, and a basic music choice, and Beats will auto-populate a station to match it. It's a lot like iHeartRadio or Pandora, but with variables that are emotional rather than technical.
That said, The Sentence is like any computer-driven music choice: it doesn't always get it right. The music catalog also skews heavily towards pop and R&B, so if your tastes are more esoteric, you'll probably be better served by something else.
Online education is pretty great, but modern universities aren't exactly batting a thousand when it comes to mobile - ask anyone who's ever had to use WebCT. (That sound you hear is about a thousand students shuddering.) Udemy isn't an accredited college, but it offers college-level instruction, which means it's a great option for people who need a few life skills or some intensive single-subject study.
Udemy offers all the standard online college stuff, including course schedules, class materials, and video and audio lectures. All materials are available 24/7, and the variety of classes on offer is staggering. The app itself isn't too shabby - you'll see all the basic Holo functions observed, which is a good thing for something that's supposed to be your single point of access for a service.
Udemy does have one thing in common with a "real" school: real tuition. The classes range from under $10 for simple classes (like you might take for a week or two at a community college) to over a hundred bucks. At least you can pay for all of them easily with Google Play in-app purchases.
NVIDIA has been pushing its Tegra platform for years, and one of its central components is TegraZone, a sort of showroom for Tegra-enhanced games. The app was just expanded for compatibility with all Android devices, which is great news for anyone who wants quick access to an easy-to-use list of (mostly) quality games.
Of course, TegraZone is most useful if you've got a Tegra-powered Android phone or tablet. But these days developers seem to have learned that getting their games on the widest array of Android devices possible is a pretty good idea, so most of the new titles will work on just about anything. Also, a lot of the games that include controls for NVIDIA's SHIELD game machine also throw in MOGA or HID controller support, so checking for compatibility is a quick way to find games you can enjoy with external controls.
TegraZone comes installed on a lot of Tegra hardware, but some manufacturers don't include it on certain models (like older Galaxy Tabs or the original Nexus 7). The app links to game listings on the Play Store, so you won't have to keep up with a separate list of purchases.
Touch of Modern
Touch of Modern is a favorite around the Android Police watering hole - sometimes to see all the cool toys on display, sometimes just to gawk at the stupidly over-designed stuff that some people are willing to pay for. Since it's an "invite only" store (which just about anyone can get in to), the new Android app should save at least some users from having to log in when checking out the new stuff from the latest email. Also: now you can unsubscribe from the daily email.
Touch of Modern's catalog includes mostly style-conscious furniture, clothing, and home accessories, but there's also some legitimate technology gear inside, including at least a couple of smartwatches. It's also a lot of fun just to check out some of the outlandish designs. Fair warning: even though everything in the store is technically "discounted," a lot of Touch of Modern's wares are much, much more expensive than comparable goods.
- Swim by American Red Cross
- Sochi 2014 WOW
- Stack Exchange
- Adobe Photoshop Express (updated)
That's all for January. As always, you can check out our daily coverage for up-to-the-minute app news, or check in every other Monday for our useful roundups with easy links to the Play Store.