Most people know I'm an app-aholic. Whenever I get bored or feeling like tinkering around, I hit the Play Store and see what's new. Here's what I've been testing the past few weeks.
The popular photography app made the jump from iPhone to Android recently. How is it? Well, its coolest feature is that it uses your smartphone camera to take pictures.
That's it. This is a super basic photography app with filters. There's no panorama, video, or photosphere features. It takes photos and you can edit them. The app is free with paid editing features, but the free version isn't dramatically advanced from what your camera app can already do. There's also social sharing and a UI ready for Tumblr, if that's your thing, and a movable focal point in the app that allowed me to let in more light when I focused behind a lamp. If you value the aesthetic of your camera app and don't mind basic functionality, go for it.
It's holiday shopping time, and I personally have avoided the crowds by shopping online. Slice takes the hassle out of remembering specific emails and saving tracking numbers by doing it for you. Let the app sign into your mail account and it grabs the info for you. It evens monitors for price drops and recalls.
The attractive and easy to use interface alone is reason for the free download. If you get a lot of shopping done online, squinting at a tracking info page not formatted for mobile (read: all of them) sucks. This app even tries to show where in transit your package is, in a little Google Maps style window.
The biggest downside is that the app falters when adding tracking info manually. This was an issue when getting info from eBay or Amazon, which tend to bury tracking numbers in their sites. However, Etsy and other retailers worked like a dream. Don't tell my family that though, they'll guess their gifts.
Waze is Google Maps' location finding and navigation combined with Foursquare's social data collection. It'll find locations and give you directions, but it also updates with key info from other drivers. In the time I've used it, it let me know when traffic ahead had slowed, and also notified me of accidents coming up.
It works by rewarding players with points for driving with the app open, and users can report accidents, traffic, police activity, etc. Thankfully it let's you fill in info through your voice, another person taking over, or you can fill in details when you park. It's just as useful as Google Maps, and the real-time traffic info is insanely handy.
Cover is a free lock screen replacement that changes through your day. In addition to display the usual time and keeping your phone somewhat safe, the left side has shortcuts to your commonly used apps. It groups the apps and changes according to Home, Out, Work and Car. Touch one shortcut and slide slightly to do a quick check (handy for texts and email), swipe all the way to open that app. It replaces your existing lock screen quick and painlessly too; you might get the default lock at boot, but once it runs you won't think about it until you turn your screen on.
The biggest issue I've found is the group switching. There's a trigger to change based on what WiFi network you're connected to, and it also pings your GPS occasionally once you enter addresses for home and work. But it doesn't scan for WiFi networks, so if you're not connecting manually, you'll be switching manually. The developers should consider NFC tag triggers in future releases.
The drawback is if you largely use the same apps all day, you won't save much time. In an average day I'm checking social networks, newsfeeds, and podcasts. That's only four or five apps. Also, it doesn't take note of when you've set apps to handle actions by default, so if you text with Hangouts, you'll get a shortcut on top to the stock Messaging app. Hangouts will still appear, since you presumably use it often, but Messages will pop up. A minor inconvenience that can be fixed, sure, but right now still a minor pain. Ultimately though, the app works, it's pretty and it's free. Check it out if you're bored with your current lock screen.