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May
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April was a big month for Android apps, especially if you like yours to come directly from Google. We've also got admirable entries from big web names like Dropbox and IFTTT, as well as surprising applications from smaller developers. This is the cream of the crop of Android apps for last month, plus a few honorable mentions, in no particular order.

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Google Camera

Good grief, Google, you guys took your sweet time with this one. But good things come to those who wait, and while this isn't exactly an AOSP camera, it's the new Android standard. While the Google Camera app isn't dramatically better than the apps that come from the manufacturers, it does have some rather unique properties.

First of all, the official app will give any Android device with Android 4.4 access to the Photo Sphere feature that's been on the the last few Nexus phones and tablets. It also does the more typical panorama trick, and the fancy new "lens blur" (read: fake depth of field) that seems to be all the rage with manufacturer skins. And perhaps best of all, this app finally reminds people to turn their phones to landscape mode when taking videos. Not that you needed reminding, right?

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Google Camera is free, and it should work on any Android device running KitKat, including phones with manufacturer skins. Your phone will need at least 1GB of RAM and a gyroscopic sensor for access to all the photo modes.

Chrome Remote Desktop

The Chrome browser on the desktop and the full-fledged Chrome OS has had access to a handy remote desktop feature for a long time. With a heavy Chrome extension, you can log into your computer from any other computer running Chrome, VLC-style. After a few months of hints, Android phones and tablets can now hook into the same system with this free app. Once you've set up the extension on your home Windows or OS X machine.

Setting up the connection is pretty simple: just input the PIN from your desktop machine into the app, and it will connect over any network, even 3G. The interface is a little wonky, as is the case with just about all remote clients - don't expect full touch emulation for a Windows 8 tablet, for example, and left-clicking anything through the connection requires a two-finger tap, which can be tedious.

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Right now it's a one-way street - there's no way to view your phone or tablet from your desktop (though there are other non-Google tools available for that purpose). And there are plenty of competing services on Android that will let you hook into your home computer from your phone. But this is probably the fastest and easiest way to do so (assuming you're already a Chrome browser user), and it's free.

Mailbox

There are a lot of alternatives to Gmail and the AOSP email app on the Play Store. (Seriously. Go look. It's mind-boggling.) But this one was an iOS favorite before the creators got swallowed up by Dropbox, and it's easy to see why. A clean interface, a readable text presentation, and a unique gesture-based organization system - what's not to like?

Well, a few things, first of all, not everyone is going to love those gesture controls: you'll have to be strangely precise to differentiate between archiving or deleting. And at present, Mailbox only supports Gmail and Apple mail standards - you won't be able to bring in your Pop3 or Exchange accounts. Bummer. At least the app syncs your actions across multiple devices.

The unique features in the app are designed to get you to "inbox zero," and some interesting additions like a procrastinating snooze button extend the app's appeal beyond the minimal interface. It's free with no ads or in-app purchases, so why not give it a shot? It might work better than Gmail, depending on your mail volume and habits.

Fenix for Twitter

You've got plenty of options when it comes to an advanced Twitter app, but since Twitter isn't letting go of its incredibly unreasonable and limiting API policies any time soon, that's actually a healthy thing for the community of power users. Enter Fenix, another entry in the Holo-heavy Twitter category. This app has all the pretty, pretty interface touches and advanced features you've come to expect from similar apps. Hashtag holoyolo.

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Plus: Fenix supports multiple simultaneous Twitter accounts. Minus: Fenix does not have a built-in homescreen widget. Plus: Fenix has multiple built-in themes, including a "black" theme specifically designed for AMOLED screens. Minus: the dual-pane view is available on tablets, but not smartphones, no matter how big your phone actually is. Depending on exactly how you use Twitter, it's a gamble as to whether or not the $2.50 asking price is justifiable.

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I will say that the "Mute" feature is great for when one of the people you follow goes on an all-night rant. Hear that, Twitter followers? You can use this app to shut me up without unfollowing me.

IFTTT

IFTTT Is a big deal around the virtual offices of Android Police. It's one of the tools that we use to bring you the freshest Android news right after it breaks. If This, Then That has been a favorite of power users for years, and now it's finally available in a tiny mobile package. But for all the shrinking that the creators have done, it's no less powerful or useful.

Basically, IFTTT hooks into almost every major social service and tool on the Internet (the ones with APIs, anyway) and lets you connect them with other services. It can do basic monitoring of standard websites as well. So, for example: if you'd like to monitor Reddit for free Steam game keys and get an email every time one is posted, there's a recipe for that. There's even one for when Android Police posts a new APK. Hint, hint. You can browse a database of thousands of pre-made recipes, or make your own. 

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All that is pretty darn cool, but the advantage of having an IFTTT app on your device itself is that the service can now hook into all the functions of your personal electronic doohickey, like alarms and notifications. For example, if you miss a call, the IFTTT can tag the number and remind you to call back with an automatic calendar alert. IFTTT is free for the service and the app.

Google Docs/Google Sheets

Android Police coverage: Google Releases Dedicated Docs And Spreadsheet Apps For Android And iOS, Slides App Coming Soon

Good grief, it's just raining Google apps in this roundup! But the next two should be familiar: Docs and Sheets. They're separate, dedicated apps for the Word and Excel equivalents in the Google Docs/Drive suite, which were previously accessible in the all-in-one Docs/Drive and QuickOffice apps. These offline-enabled single apps break things out into a more structured format.

Switching to dedicated apps allows each one to focus on its function, catering the interface and editing UI for the admittedly different tasks of adjusting Word-style documents or complex spreadsheets. A lot of the more complex actions available in the full web apps, such as they are, have made it to the Android translations. Each works offline, so changes made without a connection will sync the next time one is available.

The collaborative tools from Google Docs have made it over, and Google has already committed to releasing a Slides (PowerPoint) version sometime in the future. Of course both of the apps are free.

Versus

This app does one thing and one thing only: compares stuff. Well, it's a little more complex than that. The Versus service keeps a database of technical specifications on thousands of consumer products, then allows you to pit them head-to-head to see which is better in every category. It's not all technojargon, either: the app will put the advantages and disadvantages of the various specs in plain English.

The Versus app is a great shopping companion, but it's also got a surprisingly slick UI. High-resolution photos of the products in question will give you a great visual comparison, and the sliding layout makes for easy navigation. If you don't want to delve into a 3000-word review for a dishwasher, graphics card, or Android phone, this a great way to get a handle on things quickly.

Versus doesn't just compare tech. Put in everything from a smartwatch to a vacation destination to a compact car and you'll get a river of data, well-presented. If you often find yourself spending hours comparing various things before spending your money, then this is the app for you.

Honorable Mentions

That's all for April. 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.

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • SSDROiD

    Can someone please tell me what AOSP means? Not just what is stands for, but it means in practical terms. I've always read it and gone "Oh, I should ask what that is sometime", but always procrastinated it. Now, I have to ask: What the hell does that mean? Hahahaha

    • gsDroid

      Android Open Source Project. I think this is for custom roms.

      • SSDROiD

        Ohhhh, OK. Thanks for the reply! AOSP in general terms, what does it mean? Is it beneficial? Does it allow other people to design stuff for the app? I'm really curious about this! :)

        • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

          AOSP is Android without all the "Google Stuff". Most custom roms are built on it. They also don't have Google certification. That's why if you flash Cyanogen on your phone you also need to flash Gapps (Googles Apps) to get the play store.

          • SSDROiD

            Doesn't that make Google hate them? Why would they willingly have such a project going if it doesn't get them Google certification? And while this isn't something I'm going to do anyway, but are there really any good alternatives to Google's own apps on the Play Store?

          • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

            This sort of explains AOSP and why Google does it.

            http://www.androidcentral.com/android-z-what-aosp

          • SSDROiD

            Thank you for the link! Very valuable info! :D

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      AOSP is the Android Open Source Project. It's the open source code for all of the basic Android operating system. This is different to the Android you'd get on your phone which is Google's branch of Android, but it's still based on the same open source code. This open source code is what aids developers in creating custom roms, as they can start with a more or less fully functional OS and proceed from there.

      • SSDROiD

        Oh, I see, thank you so very much! I thought those who developed custom ROMs were actually an enemy of Google. Is this entire thing a part of Google? Do they like ROMs? Sorry for noobing out there :P

        • Henrique Persechini

          Well, opting to develop a system based on the linux kernel and making it open source makes me believe that the intention is to be friendly towards developers and customization (not taking in consideration the implications on OEM partnerships, which would be totally another game to windows phone devices, for instance). On top of that, we have the nexus line which is easily unlocked and have all the necessary code available to developers to customize from day 1

        • bprichard

          Historically, Google has a good relationship with the the most prominent ROM makers, CyanogenMod, up to the point of certifying the phone that runs its ROM, the 1+1.

          Google is clearly making a huge push to make Google services more popular by making their apps standalone and not part of AOSP, which may impact their relationship with ROM makers, although I haven't seen any change in their stance.

          They can't really stop ROM builders because of Android's nature, and I kind of doubt they care because flashing ROMs is a power user thing that doesn't impact anything much.

    • Grayson

      Simply put, it is the source code for stock, unmodified Android that all OEMs (Samsung, HTC, etc.) and ROM developers (Cyanogen, etc.) use as a base for their customized versions of Android.

      • SSDROiD

        Oh, I see. Thank you very much for the explanation! :D

    • didibus

      It's the part of Android's source code that is open source. Specifically, it is this: https://android.googlesource.com/

    • tintin.92

      The relation between AOSP and Android is sorta like Chromium and Chrome.

  • Coa96

    Is there any alternative youtube app like MetroTube on Windows Phone? Official app is complete garbage with worst UI and its full of annoying ads.

    • SSDROiD

      I don't think you'll find any decent Google-services on Windows Phone. They're the biggest competitors out there. You need to like Microsoft's own services to use Windows Phone. People who liked Microsoft and have bought a Windows Phone are in for a bunch of headaches if they also use some Google services.

      • Aooga

        No, he's not asking for apps on WP. He's saying is there anything like MetroTube (which is a WP only app and is actually pretty good) on Android. The answer is not really.

        • SSDROiD

          Ooooooh. My bad!

    • RaviShah

      viral for youtube is decent. It also has background audio which is nice

      • Coa96

        Awesome app! Thank you so much. :D

    • peatcoal

      I really like the UI of the official Android App. Being able to carry on browsing for your next video while watching another is very ussful. The ads are super annoying, I'll give you that, but YouTube AdAway for Xposed works perfectly.

    • Denis

      no mention of SuperTube? it's a great app. Viral and it's "hidden agenda" is a no go, sorry.

    • Mauro

      SuperTube and PVSTAR, with both you can listen to the video while having the screen off. I used PVSTAR first but SuperTube is better in my opinion.

  • Matthew Fry

    Random IFTTT question. I like the Android Police notification recipe thing but It feels kind of useless because I then have to navigate to my rss reader, find the article, and open it. Is there a way to set the notification to open the url on the default browser?

    • Miloš Mirković

      You can use this - https://ifttt.com/recipes/171551-push-apk-download-link-from-android-police
      Notifications are faster, and Pushbullet handles it as link, and opens it in your browser. You have to have Pushbullet, though.

      • peatcoal

        The other benefit is that if you already have Pushbullet (and if you don't, why not?), there's no need to install the IFTTT app at all, so it's one less service to eat up your storage space, data and battery life.

  • Dandamudi Mohan Krishna

    No offense but Mailbox supports only GMAIL which is kind of lame...

  • Rovex

    The Camera app is certainly much improved, but its still not quite out of the 'junk' catagory for me yet. The interface is still poor, it still has too few settings and the output is inferior to OEM stock apps.

  • Hi

    The impertinence of the Google Camera part is disgraceful, you should be grateful that our future overlords even put in the time to start to create this! Think about all the time they use to create these apps, a lot, isn't it? Yes, now they would be a lot lot happier if they spent that time eating Pizza! But no, they spent their time to please ungrateful people like you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    All Hail Google. (Trying to get on their good side, good thing they can't read inside brackets!)

  • Michael

    IFTTT is nice but I receive way too many emails from them even though I opted out of them. I feel it's borderline spam.

  • Eli

    i think IFFFT without the ability to actually change system settings (i.e wifi) is quite useless.
    a

  • Alain Lafond

    Mailbox is no use when you're looking for an email client... Tell me about a universal mail client...
    Still looking for a good one...

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