Microsoft started a closed beta for Office on Android tablets back in November, but today it's opening things up. Just mosey over to the Play Store, and you can download Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for free, no beta invite required. These are still preview apps, but they seem ready for prime time.
Ever wanted to take handwritten notes, but didn't want to write on a digital screen? Maybe you just don't want a Samsung device, the primary Android manufacturer to offer active digitizers (better known as the "S Pen" in their marketing materials). Livescribe's smartpens have, up to now, been just a nearly perfect solution for many. You can write on real paper* and have your notes rather effortlessly synced to select digital destinations.
PasswordBox is a password manager that automatically enters your credentials into various websites and apps, not unlike LastPass. Last month the company was acquired by Intel Security, which is both absorbing the service and leaving it available in its current form for the time being. The PasswordBox team has been hard at work for its new boss, and at this year's CES, Intel Security announced True Key, built on top of the technology made available by the partnership.
The SoundCloud Android app has received a slight visual touch-up in the latest update, version 14.12.18-43. Users will now see a slightly more spacious action bar, rounded menus, and Lollipop notifications. These tweaks sit on top of previous user interface changes that still look bright, colorful, and clean.
Another change takes effect only when you pause music. The changelog says that the background album art gets blurred, but on my Nexus 7, I only noticed dimming.
When you find yourself needing to use your phone as a flashlight, you usually need it quickly. Those who do not have one of the few devices/ROMs that have support for quick access to the built-in LED for use as a light end up fumbling through their app drawer looking for the appropriate app to do so. Power Button Flashlight/Torch is an app that lets you use your power button as a trigger for this purpose, even when your screen is off.
The venerable animated GIF remains a staple of the internet even after all these years because of its unparalleled versatility. If it has a screen, it can probably play a GIF. Such is the case with Android Wear, and Little TV turns those GIFs into watch faces. This is either fun or really ridiculous. I haven't decided which yet, but it's definitely one or the other.
In Facebook’s app update to version 26.0, users can now log into their accounts without typing their password. While you still stay signed in by default as before, if you are logged out for some reason, you can get back to your own account by just tapping on your profile picture. This is especially useful for those times when a friend needs to sign in on your device or if you have multiple accounts.
It's entirely possible to find the nearest pizza restaurant using Google Maps. Or Yelp. Or even just searching in the browser of your choice. But why would you go to all that trouble when something like Pizza Compass exists? It's both a compass that uses pizza as its needle, and a compass that points you to pizza. It's deep, man. So deep it's overflowing with pepperoni and onions like a Chicago pie.
While December was a huge month for Android games, you can't say the same for more standard apps - despite a large number of new apps that came out, only a handful were all that interesting or innovative. (Heck, one of our apps below is specifically meant to record video games!) For what it's worth, here are the seven most interesting and/or innovative apps that came out this month, and some others thrown in for good measure.
It's here, or, well, it will be here shortly: the day you can start your car with only a watch and your voice. Hyundai is announcing that its official Blue Link app (which, to be fair, reviews pretty badly) will be gaining Android Wear support in "early 2015." The company will be demoing the new app at CES, though, along with its Android Auto-powered 2015 Sonata concept.
Hyundai has been a rapid adopter of 3rd-party smart tech in its vehicles, and will likely be among the very first automakers to sell an Android Auto-ready car (any Hyundai with Android Auto will also have Apple's Car Play).