Google just announced its biggest update to the Hangouts Android app in some time, introducing a bevvy of features not seen before on the platform. In terms of utility, the biggest addition is probably confirmed phone numbers: like competing SMS-style message services, this will allow people who know you to search for your Google+/Hangouts profile with your cell phone number. It's an addition to the app that will be particularly useful to international users, who are used to this kind of contact lookup.
For years, Google Maps has been a compelling reason to own an Android device, but it's not the only mobile navigation service out there worth your time. Nokia's HERE service has built a name for itself, attracting users thanks to its presence on competing platforms and a number of strengths, such as the ability to store maps for offline viewing/navigation and the presence of data in countries Google essentially considers the middle of nowhere.
There's been much talk about how Android 5.0 will finally do some good for mediocre Android cameras. The new camera APIs allow apps to get RAW images off the sensor and process them into JPEGs, but where are all the apps to take advantage of it? There's L Camera, which is still in testing on GitHub, but Camera FV-5 has become the first app in the Play Store to support the new Lollipop camera features.
I recall with fondness many weeks spent in front of my spinning, clicking Dreamcast, working away at the only game I had for Sega's console at the time: Hydro Thunder. While the graphics were amazing (for 2000, anyway), the big jumps and odd physics were what kept me coming back to the boat racing game. Pixel Boat Rush doesn't look or play anything like the minor Dreamcast classic, but I think it's managed to capture a glint of Hydro Thunder's spirit.
Gift cards are a little impersonal, aren't they? Digital gift cards even more so. Amazon's new Surprise! app can at least make them somewhat thoughtful with some nifty digital cards and customizations. This is not a substitute for love, though.
Sometimes you just want to kick back and play a nice dual-stick shooter. Oh, there are plenty of them out there, but Inferno from Radiangames has been one of the finest examples available. Now the predictably named sequel, Inferno 2 has arrived on Android. Get your thumbs ready.
HTC's Power to Give app, the philanthropic software created by HTC to devote idle processing power to scientific research, has been updated with a refreshed interface and a single sign-on feature to help streamline the process of signing into various projects.
So you got that fancy Sonos speaker (or several ones) and you're annoyed that it only streams music via Wi-Fi from your Android device through the Sonos or Google Play Music apps? Cheaper (much cheaper actually) Bluetooth speakers would allow you to play any audio from any app on them, and Macronos unlocks that same functionality on the Sonos.
The app, which has been available for a while, but only came to our attention recently, serves mostly as a Sonos macro creator — something like a shortcut to play this playlist on this speaker at this volume, while lowering that speaker to that volume.
The YouTube update on Friday brought a generally well-received redesign, incorporating the Material theme and a whole lot of red. The app didn't just receive a visual refresh, it also gained much needed functionality in the form of search filters. These changes are certainly enough to justify a major version bump, but those weren't the only noteworthy things to turn up in this version. Here's a hint: we can look forward to much more music on our YouTube videos in the future.
Samsung rebranded its AllShare Play service to Link about a year ago, but that wasn't the end of that transition. A new Samsung Link Platform app has been released on the Play Store to complement the new experience — the previous Samsung Link app is still there too, but it carries an older design language and seems to suffer from update and sign-in issues.
Link allows you to bridge the gap between your various electronics, be it Samsung phones or tablets, computers, and TV sets.