It's often the case that one piece of software will introduce a groundbreaking feature, but others will expand on it, eventually replacing the original. When it comes to Android, Swype and SwiftKey come to mind. But the latter has yet to vanquish the former, nor has the addition of gesture-based typing to the stock keyboard, and Swype has now been updated with a host of new features that show just how much of a heavyweight this contender remains.
The Android lockscreen has been slowly evolving over the years, and it's got a respectable feature set these days. But sometimes rethinking a feature can provide a better overall experience. Cover is a new beta lockscreen alternative that tries to learn where you are and what you're most likely to need access to, then put it right there on the lockscreen. It's a compelling approach, but how is it?
There's a new Google Play Services app in town, and it includes all kinds of goodies for developers. But there's a nasty surprise waiting inside Google Play Services 4.0, at least for users on some devices: it may have disabled the Android Device Manager's permission to act as a Device Administrator. This is what allows users to access the new remote lock and device wipe features from the web... which some of them might not realize they can no longer do.
We're not the first to observe this: plug an Android tablet into a charge (or even better, a wireless charger or dock) and it becomes a pretty splendid digital photo frame, like the one you gave your Grandma three Christmases ago that's still in the box. Cloud.TV, the developer behind the excellent HD Widgets, would like to offer you a more powerful alternative. Meet Dayframe, a connected and continuously-updating photo frame app.
One of the more drool-worthy aspects of the software from the Nexus 5 (and not necessarily Android 4.4) is the homescreen and launcher, which includes a ton of new features tied directly into Google Now and Google Search. But you might want to curb your enthusiasm: according to a report from The Verge, Google isn't interested in expanding that launcher to other devices at the moment.
The PushBullet team has been cranking out new features for their file-synching app as of late, making it that much easier to get files from an Android device onto a PC (and back again) without having to deal with any bothersome cables or heavy cloud services. Now the team has crossed yet another milestone - they've made PushBullet more of a social experience. In the past, users could pair directly with their friends' individual devices.
In case you haven't seen Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, the local news, or the latest rabble-rousing speech from your ineffectual Congressman, today is the yearly release of Activision's Call of Duty franchise. Kudos to the publisher: they've managed to get the Android companion app published on day one, so half the male college students in the country can spend today's lecture time customizing their multiplayer loadout.
If you've played a multiplayer shooter in the last few years, you know how this goes.
It's been a long time coming, but Google's distributed video advice service is finally live. Helpouts is a video chat service with a Google backbone, built on the interface and servers of Hangouts. But this is no mere chat service: it's designed specifically for users to connect with and learn from experts in their respective field. You can access the videos from the web or, naturally, the Android app.
Since you'll be connecting with individuals and companies that are ostensibly experts, you'll have to pay them for their time, either on a minute-by-minute basis or in a session fee.
For the uninitiated, Skylanders is a series of kid's video games that use collectible (read: expensive) real-world toys to unlock and enhance the power of the digital characters. The games have been smash hits on consoles, but so far Activision's only concession to the Play Store has been Cloud Patrol, a basic turret shooter that leaves a lot to be desired. The new Skylanders Battlegrounds, a more conventional action-RPG, should make much better use of the property.
As if you needed another reason to lust after the Nexus 5 and/or Android 4.4, Google just announced a huge new feature for the default Phone app in KitKat. The new version of the dialer/contacts app will match incoming numbers against Google's various databases to provide an automatic caller ID for businesses using Google Places, as we've already seen. But starting next year, this feature will be applied to people as well.