Another month has come and gone, which means a ton of app posts on Android Police to sift through. In point of fact, there were fewer notable apps released in March than in the last few months - that's why our primary picks are down to just six. But most of these should be useful to most users, with Per-App Modes and Pixl Preview applying only to root users and Photoshop owners, respectively.
Every once in a while, an app comes along that fundamentally changes the way you use your phone. The last time that happened for me was SwipePad, but for a few users, you can include Link Bubble on that very short list. The app is a new way to manage web content on your phone, specifically that web content that gets linked from apps outside of your standard browser. Used correctly, it both improves and speeds up your mobile experience.
Let's say you're browsing your favorite social app, Facebook, Google+, Reddit or Twitter clients, whatever. You tap a link, and instead of switching to Chrome and waiting for the page to load, the floating Link Bubble button will load up the page, only displaying its custom browser overlay when the page is finished loading. Not only does this keep you from switching to a separate app, you can load multiple pages in the background without changing the core view.
But wait, there's more! Link Bubble changes the way that transitions are made between apps, say, from a Google+ link to the Play Store. Instead of quickly opening a blank Chrome page and then switching to the Play Store app, Link Bubble can load the link and open the correct app right away. Its floating Chat Heads-style button also enables some unique features, like quickly "flicking" a link to a read it later list in Pocket.
The free trial version of Link Bubble is limited to one open tab at a time, and it's restricted to loading links form just one app. Give it a try if you think it will be useful - from what we've seen, most people either love it or hate it. If you're in the former category, you can lift these limits by buying the $5 Pro version.
There are a lot of ways of getting your Android notifications to your desktop or laptop, but Notifications+ just might be the best. It zips your phone or tablet notifications over to its Chrome browser extension, which can then be dismissed manually (also dismissing the notifications back on the device). This is particularly handy since it should work on multiple Windows, OS X, or Linux machines simultaneously.
What's particularly nice about this implementation is the fine grain control. With the full version of Notifications+, you can select which apps will alert you in Chrome and which won't, how long the timeout delay will be, or even whether or not the notifications will be sent based on your current WiFi status. All communication between the Android app and the Chrome extension is encrypted and connected to your personal password.
You can try out Notifications+ for free, but you'll be limited to standard functions. To unlock all the settings you'll need the $2.50 key app.
Root users, this one's for you. Dedicated Android tinkerers have had the ability to overclock and underclock their devices for years, but this app makes it easy to force your phone or tablet into using just the right amount of oomph for the task at hand. Per-App Modes is essentially a list of apps and settings, applying a set of processor settings and other variables to each app as it loads up. Want your phone to sip power while you're reading in Kindle, then ramp up while you're kicking butt in Soul Calibur? Now you can.
Variables included in the app include CPU frequency, GPU frequency, input boost, and more technical options, including custom paths you can add (if you know what you're doing). Once you've set up your profiles you can assign apps to the different modes. When that's done, Per-App Modes should run nearly silently in the background, only alerting the user to system changes via toast messages.
Per-App Modes costs just under three bucks, and it will work both with stock kernels and custom kernels, including developer Francisco Franco's own franco.Kernel. It does interfere with some other root-only tools, notably a few Xposed Framework modules.
Cast Store for Chromecast
Now that Google has (finally) opened up the Chromecast API, even we can't keep track of all the Chromecast apps that are being published or adding compatibility. But the developer of Cast Store can, and does. This is a simple little app that keeps a handy list of all the apps in the Play Store that use Chromecast in some way, shape, or form, be it for video, music, or games.
The core of Cast Store is simple, just a list of apps divided by category. Each app will load up its description in Cast Store or send you to the Play Store to download or buy it (you don't buy the apps from within Cast Store itself). Cast Store also has some basic search functions and user organization, allowing you to favorite apps for easy retrieval - unfortunately those favorites don't sync across devices for the time being. The app includes a basic news feed for a quick look at new Chromecast apps, and periodic updates from the developer.
Cast Store is a free download supported by advertising. According to the description, a forthcoming update will add the ability to remove the ads via an in-app purchase. There is no other IAP in Cast Store.
RAR for Android
No Windows machine is complete without WinRAR, and now you can get the same thing for your Android phone or tablet. You know, without the Windows part. The mobile app does pretty much everything that the desktop program can, compressing and decompressing single and multiple files into a variety of formats. It won't work with quite everything that WinRAR will, but be honest, you're only going to use ZIP and RAR files anyway.
RAR is also a competent little file manager and browser, though there are those that do it better. It includes the capability to repair some damaged ZIP and RAR files, a benchmark tool that's comparable to the WinRAR benchmark, password encryption options, and multi-core processing for those big files. You can even split compressed volumes into specific chunks and choose which directory to send them to.
RAR is a free download for Android 4.0 or higher, and it doesn't use any in-app purchases. The interface isn't exactly mind-blowing, but for such a functional tool, we're betting that most users will overlook it.
Admittedly, Pixl Preview is only useful if you're a regular Photoshop user. (The full desktop version, not the Android app.) But there are enough of those out there (including just about every member of the Android Police writing staff) that it's worth highlighting here. The app can function as a secondary screen for Photoshop, allowing users to display finished designs on their phone or tablet without the arduous task of zipping color-accurate files back and forth.
Pixl Preview can also send Android screenshots right back into Photoshop, again, saving valuable time over manual file transfers. Its options for high and low-quality previews, not to mention solid integration with KitKat's hidden system bar, shows that a bit of thought has been put into the tool. Pixl Preview is free with no advertising, but unfortunately, you'll need at least Adobe Photoshop CS5 to connect it to your desktop.
- Photowall for Chromecast
- App Habits
- Flood - American Red Cross
- uPod Podcast Player
- Gametime - Sports Tickets
That's it for March. If you were hoping for a little more fun and a little less utility, be sure to stay tuned tomorrow: we've got a special customization roundup highlighting the best icon packs and themes available on the Play Store.