January, like most months, had plenty in the way of new apps and games. We've already published our list of the top five games from last month, so it only seems right that we follow up with the month's best apps.
From backup utilities to social/RPG/motivational fitness apps, January 2013 had something for everyone. In the interest of saving our readers time, energy, and perhaps some money, we've rounded up the six very best apps every Android user should know about from the past month.
Back in early October while we were knee-deep in a pre-release Android 4.2 system dump, Ron found an interesting tidbit of info on a "quick settings" menu. Back then, it was a double pull down notification area that housed absolutely nothing of value. Thanks to today's Nexus/Android 4.2 announcements, however, we know not only what options the Quick Settings area will feature, but also how to really access it.
There are actually two ways to get into the QS menu, as highlighted by Hugo Barra in an incredible behind-the-scenes video put together by The Verge (see the full video here):
As you can see in the above clip, there will be a small toggle in the notification area directly beside the current Settings button, which, when pressed, will cause the notification area to do a neat little flip, revealing the Quick Setting area.
Buried deep within the changelog of Android 4.1.2 that arrived today is a very welcomed change to the way expandable notifications are handled by the OS. Introduced in Jelly Bean, expanding and collapsing notifications originally required two fingers to operate. Not anymore! A handy gesture now allows easy expansion and collapsing with just one finger, making it easier to perform this task while holding a device in one hand.
Collapsing is a little tricky at first and requires first pulling down and then up. Once you figure it out, it becomes a no-brainer, but is a little confusing if you don't know what you're doing.
CyanogenMod's recent improvements to CM10's messaging app – Quick Message pop-ups and "Quick Reply" functionality in the notification shade – are now available for download in apk form.
If you missed our initial coverage of CM10's latest enhancements to the messaging app (thanks to David von Tonder), here's the short version: the default messaging app in recent CM10 builds includes a feature called Quick Message that, upon receipt of a new SMS message, triggers a handy popup notification that allows users to quickly type up a reply, swipe to other new messages, view the message in the messaging app, or simply dismiss the notification.
A couple of days ago, the CyanogenMod team announced via Google+ a new feature merged to CM's Jelly Bean code branch – Quick Message. In case you missed it, Quick Message is a feature (built by David van Tonder) that displays a pop-up notification upon receipt of a new SMS message, offering the ability to reply from within the pop-up, view the message in Android's Messaging app, swipe to another new message, or close the notification.
Today, van Tonder (along with CyanogenMod) announced even further enhancements to the feature, primarily influenced by user feedback, adding a "Quick reply" option to SMS messages' actionable notifications.
In an e-mail sent out to Play Store developers earlier, Google announced several updates to its developer program policy. The e-mail mentioned changes in policy including clarification to payment policy regarding subscription billing, the restriction of the "use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps" (a statement that brings back memories of Facebook's "Messenger" gaffe), clarification regarding dangerous products, and practices that violate the Play Store's spam policy, all in addition to a stringent new Ad Policy.
Here's the full text of the e-mail:
Hello Google Play Developer,
We are constantly striving to make Google Play a great community for developers and consumers.
In Jelly Bean, Google introduced an incredibly useful new feature that allows users to find the source of a notification by long-pressing on it and selecting "app info." This is fantastic for those occasions when notifications are showing up without a clear idea of what is causing it. The problem is, that's only helpful on devices running Jelly Bean (which isn't a whole lot at this point).
For everyone else, there's a new app called Notification History.
NH is very simple: it runs as a service, collecting your notifications. Thus, you can go back later and not only check to see which apps are the cause of annoying notifications, but also read or re-read ones that have already been dismissed.
Airpush and similar notification spammers, your days are numbered. The people have spoken - everyone universally hates these types of ads, and Google actually listened to our numerous complaints.
In Jelly Bean, you can not only figure out exactly which app caused a notification by long-pressing it and selecting App Info - you can actually disable notifications on a per-app basis altogether. That, my friends, is not just a slap in Airpush's face - it's a swift kick in its private parts.
This is exactly how it's done, in case you wanted a demonstration:
Google's I/O conference, in usual form, kicked off with an explosive start. The day's news saw the revelation of things we've been waiting to see for months. Things we've heard rumor of, wished for, and even (quite accurately) predicted. With all the things we saw, it only seems right to round up all the day's news in one place. Grab a snack, because we've got a lot to talk about.
One of the day's I/O show stoppers was undoubtedly the announcement of Android 4.1 aka Jelly Bean. I have to be honest, with a ".1" update, I wasn't expecting too much improvement, but I was certainly wrong in that estimation.
"Android has always put you in control when it comes to staying notified and connected. Now you can take action directly from the notifications shade," says Android's updated "What's New" page. Indeed, today's Jelly Bean announcement saw a number of improvements to the already handy notification system we've come to know and love in previous iterations of Android. Not only can the new notifications system display larger, richer notifications, developers can create actionable notification with interactive controls for telephony, music, and more.
With a new and improved Notification Builder, apps can create notifications with a height of up to 256dp.