February saw some considerable new apps, both in terms of new services like YouTube Kids and Sling TV, and in expanded tools like PhotoMath and Microsoft's first custom keyboard for Android. If you find it hard to see the tiny type on your new ultra-high-res phone, check out BIG Notifications. Below are our top seven picks from last month, along with some honorable mentions.
Dear readers: I have a confession to make. I completely forgot about our monthly best-of games series, because when the event came up on the calendar I was busy drooling over the new SHIELD set-top box and other Game Developers Conference-related stuff in San Francisco. Here, belated but hopefully still appreciated, are my picks for the top seven Android games of last month and a few honorable mentions.
Welcome to the latest entry in our Bonus Round series, wherein we tell you all about the new Android games of the day that we couldn't get to during our regular news rounds. Consider this a quick update for the dedicated gamers who can't wait for our bi-weekly roundups, and don't want to wade through a whole day's worth of news just to get their pixelated fix. Today we've got a unique sound-based puzzle game, a nostalgic sliding block puzzler, and Kairosoft's latest business manager.
Google's material design, which I've written about a number of times, has generally been received well by designers, developers, and press alike. We've seen numerous apps adopt it, developers explain and evangelize it, and users react positively to it.
Still, there have been nagging questions about the new design philosophy. A big one, and one that could potentially be a stumbling block for adoption, is the question of branding. Some voice concerns that material design may overshadow existing brands if implemented to Google's spec, or that it's too difficult to brand a "material design app."
Someone recently asked me what I thought about the relationship between branding opportunities and material design, and while I was able to come up with a short version of the answer, there are a few different things packed into this issue that are worth exploring.
There are plenty of feed readers on Android, but how many of them slap some news on your lock screen? Not many, I'd imagine. Corgi is an app that plugs into Feedly to pull in news and display it on the lock screen. Android lock screen replacements are never ideal, but Corgi seems to do a rather good job.
Blizzard's ridiculously popular card-based arena battle game Hearthstone is getting a new expansion, and you'll be able to pre-order it in just a few weeks. Blackrock Mountain will take players deep underground to the Molten Core where powerful creatures await your arrival. Braving the inferno will grant you 31 new cards that can only be obtained in this $25 expansion.
Zynga acquired NaturalMotionGames about a year ago for over half a billion dollars, and now the maker of titles like CSR Racing and Backbreaker Football has released the trailer for its first post-Zynga project. The game is called Dawn of Titans, and it's a big departure from the games NaturalMotion has been making thus far. In Dawn of Titans you control armies led by giant warriors as they do battle with other players. The developer promises fluid performance and quick gameplay that makes sense on a mobile device.
Puzzle games are a natural fit on mobile devices thanks to their simple pick-up-and-play mechanics and basic controls that actually work better on touchscreens than traditional game controllers. Android gamers looking for their next high-quality fix may be happy to know that Blockwick 2 has made its way into the Play Store.
This polished puzzle game is the sequel to a well-received first installment that never made its way over to Android. The goal is to move blocks around until all the ones of the same color are grouped together. The puzzle comes from shifting everything around inside the various stages, which are constructed to make success a reward for careful thought and strategy.
There isn't a shortage of Tron-inspired watch faces for Android Wear with bright neon blue colors, but finding one that is customizable to different styles and watch shapes can be a bit difficult. Enter NAVI, from Tha PHLASH (lots of capslocking there), a cool watch design that hits all the right notes.
Available for both round and square watches, with a setting that lets you remove the redundant digits on the G Watch R (finally someone thought of that!), NAVI comes in both a day and a night mode. It has several colors and settings for the clock hands, with weather, date, and battery placeholders, and a very battery-friendly ambient mode.
But the Korean giant doesn't want you to forget the cameras it included in this bad boy. In the following video, it demonstrates some of the cool features of both 5MP front and 16MP back shooters, emphasizing the f/1.9 aperture for better lighting, fast launch time thanks to the double click on the home button shortcut, faster auto-focus, Pro camera mode for manual control over ISO and exposure, real-time HDR for both cameras (selfies!), OIS, and fast and slow motion video recording.