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.
There aren't many premium Android tablets worth your money, but Sony has some solid hardware and the software isn't bad either. You don't even have to settle for one of those clunky 10.1-inch monsters. The Z3 Tablet Compact is an 8-inch tablet with great specs, and the price is getting pretty attractive at Amazon ($430 from about $500).
In case you're unaware, the Z3 Tablet Compact has an 8-inch 1920x1200 LCD, 4500mAh battery, Snapdragon 801, and 2GB of RAM.
T-Mobile's unlimited talk, text, and data plan is the big carrier option to beat at $80 a month. But so far it's only been available to individual customers - if you have four people and you want four lines of unlimited data, you need four different accounts. Starting tomorrow, December 10th, unlimited data will be available for families as well. The cheapest option is unlimited talk, text, and data on two lines for $100 a month, a $60 savings over the old structure.
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.
Ting has attracted many customers with its low-cost, pay-for-what-you-use tier-based approach to mobile service (give me a second, I'm sure I could fit more hyphens into this sentence), but some have been put off by the company's reliance on the Sprint network. Starting February 2015, folks will have a choice. Ting will start offering a GSM option for people who just want to pop a SIM card into their existing unlocked phone.