Voracious readers and Word-A-Day calendar fans, this one is for you. While the latest update to Google Play Books isn't anywhere near as dramatic as the Material Design refresh six weeks ago, it nonetheless adds a couple of features that regular readers will find useful. First of all, version 3.3 adds a downloadable dictionary option to augment Play Books' instant lookup feature. To apply it, just highlight a word in any book and then tap the contextual "download" button.
Obviously this will be a boon for places where you might not be able to get reliable Internet access, notably during air travel or in a foreign country, but tablet users in particular will be happy to see the offline dictionary. Read More
One of the things I love about Android is the way it allows fantastic customization of its user interface, even without root or other major modifications. Take App Swap for example: this handy little app drawer replacement can launch either from a standard shortcut on your launcher (or alternative methods like SwipePad) or it can replace the default Google Now swipe-up-from-the-home-button gesture.
The latest update to this tool adds an even more useful feature: Quick Swipe. This allows users to swipe left or right from the pop-up app drawer to instantly go to the apps of their choice. Essentially it's an even faster way to get to your two most-frequented apps. Read More
For a long time, Google's My Tracks app was basically a niche app, if not just a novelty. However, the recent addition of Android Wear support started to get things to make more sense. Location tracking on a smart watch is more convenient and may render obsolete the GPS watches of yesteryear. With the new 2.0.9 update, My Tracks has Google Fit support, giving My Tracks some credibility as a fitness app. Read More
Version 2.6 makes BBM ready for Android 5.0, but don't get too excited. There's no big redesign here. The app still looks as Gingerbread as ever, it just now explicitly supports devices running the latest version of Google's mobile operating system.
That's not to say that the update is without visual changes. If you turn your phone sideways, the interface will now rotate to landscape mode in order to accommodate you.
Other features new to BBM users include the ability to share stickers in a group chat, set longer limits on timed messages (up to 60 seconds), share multiple pictures or attachments at the same time, and see when someone has received or viewed your photos. Read More
Android Lollipop has started rolling out to people in the months since version 3.3 of Fleksy hit the Play Store, and the third-party keyboard's developers aren't just settling for giving the next release a material theme. The beta contains a new interface, plenty of new themes, and keyboard extensions. This last category is the one we're most excited to see.
The Material keyboard themes look less like Google's and more like simple recolored versions of Fleksy, and while they're not particularly exciting, at least they're not indicative of the effort the developers have taken to make the app look at home on Android 5.0. Read More
Who better to learn encryption from than the people who have actively tried to build vulnerabilities into encryption? Nobody, says the GCHQ, the British NSA equivalent that has released a free Android app called Cryptoy to teach children the basics of encryption. The app, designed for tablets, focuses on four basic techniques and allows users to create encrypted messages for sharing to friends to decode. Read More
Got big plans this weekend? No you don't—stop lying. It's okay, though. We've got your back. There are some apps and games on sale, and they can help keep your mind off the crippling loneliness. We're always there for you.
Microsoft Lync is instant messaging for people wearing suits and ties. The service, which you generally won't see outside of corporate environments, supports typing, talking, or staring at each other's faces through an Android device. Now Microsoft has rolled out an update that adds new features and brings more feature parity with the Windows Phone and iOS versions of the software.
For starters, the Lync Android app can now handle Anonymous Join, which lets users join a Lync meeting without an account. Such participants can participate as guests without needing a PIN or dial-in number. This particular feature was previously available on both of the other two supported mobile platforms, but not Android. Read More
If you have a lot of media files on your computer or server and you like the freedom of streaming them to your mobile phones, tablets, TVs, and other screens, chances are you're either using XBMC or Plex. For fans of the latter, there's some good news waiting for you in the form of a major update to the Android app.
Playlist support has been added to Plex on both the mobile layout and Android TV. Simply select any song, episode, or movie, and add it to a playlist. If you haven't created any playlists before, you'll be asked to make a new one. Read More
From a recent teardown of Google+ 4.8, it seemed like Google was preparing to offer bandwidth optimizations in the app, with the option to switch on a data conservation option. It looks like that feature has cropped up (thanks David) now, along with a new gender identity setting brought over from the web.
A few days ago, the Google+ team announced that the service would now accommodate those of any gender, not just male or female, by opening up a "custom" option, as well as a method of indicating one's preferred pronoun (the selection includes male, female, and other). This functionality is now available on the web and in the Google+ app for Android. Read More