Welcome to the 416th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the headlines from the last week:
YouTube now offers an annual subscription to its Premium service. It’s only a limited run until January 23rd and it’s a bit tricky to get. Plus, some grandfathered accounts may not get a full discount. Hit the link to learn how to get it.
Google started testing Google Play Games on PC this week. It’s in limited beta so it’s not available to everybody just yet. In fact, you can only try it in Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong right now. This could have a massive impact on apps like Bluestacks if you can just play games on your PC without an emulator.
There are many old G Suite accounts that are using the service for free. Google is apparently taking them all away. The legacy accounts are being migrated to paid Google Workspace accounts. People have until May 1, 2022, to select a plan and until July 1, 2022, to add a payment method. Goodbye, old G Suite customers.
Google hates that iMessage doesn’t support RCS. However, it seems Apple doesn’t have a lot of faith in RCS and, coincidentally, neither do our readers. Nearly 50% of you don’t think RCS stands a chance and 27.5% of you think that it might, but the deck is stacked against it. Hit the link to view more details.
Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion this week. It’s a massive purchase that includes games like World of Warcraft, Diablo, and mobile games like Candy Crush, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Diablo: Immortal. This is a huge deal and we’re sure to see the both positive and negative fallout from this for years to come.
Legion Network is a combination of a few different things. It works primarily as a crypto wallet and it also houses an NFT marketplace for folks who care about that. It also boasts a decent amount of materials for people to learn about NFTs, Defi, GameFi, and other topics in this space. The app is still a bit buggy as a consequence of being new, but it seems headed in the right direction.
Awaken: Chaos Era
Price: Free to play
Awaken: Chaos Era is a mobile RPG with some gacha elements. As per the norm, players collect various heroes, level them up, and use them to take on bad guys. The game also boasts a PvE campaign, a PvP arena mode, and more. You can even crawl through dungeons and find loot. It’s not terribly different from most mobile RPGs, but the execution is decent and the microtransactions aren’t the worst we’ve ever seen.
Sleep.com Sleep Cycle Tracker
Sleep.com Sleep Cycle Tracker is an app from Mattress Firm, the mattress store chain. The company partnered with SleeepScore to make this app. Basically, it tracks your sleep, gives you a sleep score, and then gives you recommendations on how to improve your sleep. There is also an alarm function, sleep goals, and a history section where you can see your stats.
The app definitely has some release pains as many users have complained of bugs. The developer seems to be correcting problems as they arise, but it seems like it’ll take a while. Keep it on your radar if you’re into sleep tracking, but give the developers a few months to fix the issues.
Dice: Heroes of Whitestone
Price: Free to play
Dice: Heroes of Whitestone is a mix of an RPG and a strategic board game. Players explore the world via a game board. They roll dice, move, and then do what the board tells them they need to do. The RPG side of things is straightforward enough. You grind levels, beat up bad guys, and play through the game’s story. There are boss battles, various loot to collect, and even a PvP mode. It’s not free from bugs, but existing players seem to enjoy it regardless.
Cast to TV
Price: Free / $2.99
Cast to TV is a pretty simple little app. It lets you cast things to your television. It supports Miracast so you don’t necessarily need a Chromecast, but it does make it easier. It lets you cast just about anything you want to your TV as long as your TV supports it. It worked well in our testing with the LG B7 TV and a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but your mileage may vary depending on your TV.
If we missed any big Android apps or games releases, tell us about it in the comments. Thank you for reading. Try these out too:
Parental controls on phones evolved a lot over the years. Back in the day, devices had kid modes that turned off the UI basically entirely, trapping the child in a specific app. Unfortunately, kid mode is easy to work around, and it doesn’t work well. There are better alternatives out there anyway. These new options give your children more freedom to do what they want while keeping you in control. Here are the best parental control apps for Android and other methods if you need further control. There are no kid mode apps on this list because that is a seriously outdated method, and kids could easily get around it anyway.
The best parental control apps for Android
Price: From $9.99 per month
eyeZy is a parental control app that’s jam-packed with numerous monitoring features that allow adults to check on every step their kids take online. It’s specifically designed for those parents hoping to keep an eye on smartphone activities like text messages, chats, and emails.
Parents can also browse through photos and videos their kids send and receive with help from eyeZy. The advanced GPS tracking lets you know their exact whereabouts and sends notifications if they enter geofenced areas, even if you don’t need to see what they’re up to.
eyeZy also offers a screen recording feature in case you need to remotely capture what your kids are seeing. No matter your parental needs, eyeZy has you and your kids covered.
AppLock by IvyMobile
An app lock is an excellent way to keep kids out of apps on your phone. This is mainly for parents with younger kids who use the parent’s phone to watch YouTube Kids or play kids games. An app lock puts a password on your other apps. Thus, if your kids get back to the home screen and start clicking on sensitive stuff like your Facebook or banking apps, they can’t get any further. We have a whole list of these, but IvyMobile’s is free and relatively simple to use. This should keep kids away from the sensitive stuff until they’re old enough to know better.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Find My Kids is a lighter touch on parental control apps. This one keeps track of your child’s location at all times. You can see where they are, where they go, and where they’ve been. We like how simple this app is. You open it and can immediately see where all of your kids are. Some other features include notifications if your child’s phone is having trouble sending a location, and you can see what apps they use. There are also some security controls, a battery monitor for your child’s device, and a family chat so you can ask them where they are. It’s surprisingly inexpensive compared to most of its competitors like Life360. Plus, we appreciate that you can buy it once for $25.99, even if that license only works on three devices at once.
Google Family Link is our first choice for parental control. Your kids get the freedom of using their phones, and you get the satisfaction of seeing everything. We recommend Family Link first because it has so many features, and it also integrates directly into the Android OS itself, a feature none of these other apps have. Some of the features include the ability to see all the apps your kids use, see their location, see their usage habits, and you can lock the device if you want them to chill out on the phone for a while. The only downside is the setup process. That one is a bit of a pain, but we have a tutorial on how to do it here if you need it.
Safe Lagoon is a lighter version of Google Family Link but can do different things. You can view things like apps and games your kids use. Additionally, you can find their location, control time limits in certain apps and games, and lock the phone if need be. However, you can also monitor instant messages, set up locations they can’t go, and do some other neat stuff. The app says it’s for cyberbullying, but you can use it for other stuff as well. It’s relatively simple to set up and it’s a good alternative to Google Family Link.
Some antivirus suites come with parental controls. Those who use antivirus apps can sometimes just use the parental control extensions for an all-in-one punch. Some examples of antivirus apps with parental control extensions include ESET (linked at the button below) and Norton. These types of apps usually let you do things like check out your child’s web activity, what apps they download and use, share the child’s location, and can even sometimes support wearables. They tend to work okay but usually require you to get a license to use the whole antivirus product first.
Talk to your kids
Sometimes kids just need some advice and nothing compares to the involvement of a parent. Teach your kids about the dangers of the Internet, what to do if they encounter cyberbullying, and where to go and where not to go. One day your kids will be old enough to where you can’t monitor what they do anymore. They need to be prepared for that day. Monitoring is great for younger kids especially, but consider relaxing the monitoring as they get older and you trust them more. Don’t underestimate the value of an involved parent. School can only teach kids so much about the world.
Use apps for other platforms too
There are actually parental control apps that support platforms other than Android. You usually need parental control apps specifically for that platform, but companies are doing better about releasing mobile apps for non-mobile platforms.
Some examples include Microsoft Family Safety and Nintendo Switch’s parental control app. Both apps serve mostly the same function. Microsoft’s solution lets you monitor your child’s Xbox and Windows PC usage and limit various things. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s solution lets you monitor screen time and what games your kids play. There aren’t a ton of these types of apps, but if you can find one, we recommend it for use on other platforms besides Android.
Set up parental controls on Google Play
Google Play has a fairly robust set of parental controls. For starters, you can add a password lock to purchases so your kids can’t go wild with your debit card and buy in-app purchases from the games they play. That’s usually the use case for this kind of thing, but you can go deeper. Once you add your kids to your family account, you can actually restrict access to apps and games as well.
For instance, you can tell Google Play to only show your kids stuff rated T for Teen or lower and the Play Store will automatically filter out stuff with Mature 17+ or Adults only 18+ content. This also ties into Google Family Link to an extent so we recommend using this information alongside that app for maximum results. We have a whole tutorial on Google Play parental controls here.
Use carrier parental control solutions
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
Many mobile carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have parental control functions. They usually cost a monthly fee and vary in features, but they all do more or less the same thing. You can track the location of your child and see the web searches and apps your kids use. You can also keep track of (or completely deny) third-party charges, block videos and images from text messages, and even give your kids an allowance for buying apps or ringtones.
It would take way too long to list every feature for every carrier, but you can find parental control stuff for the carriers linked below for more information:
Native Android features that may help as well
Android is fairly customizable and there are a bunch of privacy and security features that come with it. You can set a data limit for your kids by going to Settings, Networks, and finally, Mobile Data. The location may vary based on which phone you have. From there you can see what apps use the most data and set a data limit for your kids so they know when they’ve run out.
Those with younger kids can use the super handy Screen Pinning feature. This feature pins an app or game to your screen and prevents kids from leaving it. I’ve seen parents use this with YouTube Kids so kids can watch videos but can’t access Facebook or other apps on accident.
The method for Screen Pinning may differ slightly on devices, but it should be something close to this:
Open your Settings menu and search for Screen pin.
Enable the feature if it is not already enabled.
Open your Recent apps menu via the soft key or by a gesture.
Tap the icon of the app you want to screen pin.
Tap the Pin app option (wording may be different on different phones)
This pins an app to your screen and disables things like calls, messages, and other functions. To remove the pinned app, do the following:
Hold the back and recent apps (overview) buttons simultaneously to unpin the app and return to the recent apps screen.
On devices with gesture navigation, swipe up and hold there to unpin the app.
Older kids may be able to get around a screen pin, but younger kids (especially toddlers) generally can’t do it on purpose. Still, be vigilant and check to make sure your kids didn’t get out of it somehow.
How to limit web browsing for young eyes
This is, by far, the most difficult thing to actually do. Most Android phones come with Google Chrome and the mobile version doesn’t have the functionality to deal with this that your kids can’t easily undo with a Google Search. There is a range of safety browsers that you can set as default and that might help, but again, older kids can get around it.
You have two options to solve this problem. One is quite easy and the other is quite difficult. The difficult method involves setting a DNS. Here is a tutorial from OpenDNS to show you how. However, that doesn’t work all the time.
Your better bet is the second option. Use an app like Google Family Link, Microsoft Family Safety, or Safe Lagoon to keep an eye on your child’s web activity and simply confront them if they go somewhere they shouldn’t go. It may even be a valuable teaching opportunity.
Your credit score is very important. Businesses use it when issuing credit cards. You need a decent one to get good rates on a house. Even some jobs require a good credit score. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to check out your credit, and often for free. You probably know a few of these already. For example, Credit Karma is on our list and it’s one of the most popular free credit score apps. You have other options too. Here are the best credit score apps for Android.
Please note, this list is for our US readers. Each country handles this kind of stuff differently and the services below may not work outside of the US.
The best credit score apps for Android
Credit Karma is one of the most recognizable names in this space. You sign up, log in, and see your credit reports. It gets the basics right and you can see things like your open accounts and how much money you owe.
There are a host of other services like a tax filing function as well as credit card stuff. We don’t necessarily recommend any of that, but the core functionality is very helpful. You can also use this to monitor your credit and do so some other stuff.
Price: Free / $9.95-$19.95 per month
Credit Sesame is a lot like Credit Karma. It shows your credit score, open accounts, and all of that. It then remains free by offering you a bunch of stuff like credit cards or cashback offers. The free part of it is useful for basic credit monitoring. The subscription options add some other stuff like daily credit scores, monthly reports, and other power-user features.
CreditWise from Capital One
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
CreditWise by Capital One is a free app offered by the credit card company. Anybody can use it, even if you don’t have a Capital One credit card. It offers free weekly TransUnion credit scores. You can also review your credit report from TransUnion to see your various accounts. Some other features include a credit simulator to see how your decisions affect your score and alerts for various nefarious things, like if your social security number ends up on the dark web. It’s pretty great for a free service.
Experian Credit Report
Price: Free / $9.99-$19.99 per month
All three of the major credit bureaus are on the Play Store, but Experian is the only one that has a decent mobile app. The app gives you a free credit report along with your FICO score whenever you want. It also helps you improve your credit by adding in things like paying your bills and utilities.
Some other features include alerts when your credit changes, updates to your credit score (every 30 days), and more. There are subscription services, and you’ll need one to do anything other than the most basic stuff.
Mint is one of the most popular budgeting apps on mobile. Its primary focus is helping you manage your money more effectively. It does this with a wide range of features, like spending graphics, a budget tool, etc. However, one of the many features of the app is the ability to pull your credit score so you can see what you’re dealing with.
It won’t deliver alerts if your credit score changes, but it’s a nice one-two punch for people who want to manage their money better and watch their credit score go up.
Price: Free trial / $19.95-$39.95 per month
MyFICO is a premium service that lets you check your FICO score whenever you want. Several companies do credit scores, but an outsized percentage of lenders use your FICO score. It’ll also show you different FICO scores depending on the type of purchase. Thus, your mortgage FICO may be different than if you were going for an auto loan.
The app also includes various reports, insights, alerts, and even graphics to help you see your FICO score over time and ways you can improve it. The only downside is that although you get a free trial, a subscription is required after the trial period ends.
NerdWallet is very similar to Mint. It’s a money management app with a bunch of tools to help you save money, spend less, and manage your money better. One of those functions includes the pulling of your credit score so you can see it go up or down over time.
NerdWallet also sends you notifications when your credit score changes, shows you articles about how credit scores work, and gives you advice on how to build better credit. It’s definitely not perfect, especially for super niche things like having multiple accounts at the same bank, but otherwise, it’s decent.
WalletHub is another direct competitor to companies like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. It pulls your credit score and claims to update it every day. You can also monitor your credit 24/7 and set up alerts for various activities — and there is a debt payoff plan function where it helps you build a plan to pay off existing debt.
It services credit card ads as a source of income, but otherwise, the app is entirely free to use. Some people have reported login bugs, but most people don’t seem to have them. It’s quite good and competes favorably with the others.
Some banking apps do it
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Some banking apps and most credit card companies offer free credit scores. Some examples include Capital One (listed above), Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, many credit unions, and more. You simply need to get a hold of your bank’s customer service to find out if yours offers it and how to access everything. In most cases, it’s pretty easy and updates regularly so you can keep track of your accounts and your credit score in the same place.
FTC’s official website
The FTC says you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Obviously, you can get it more often than that through other means, but this is still an option. It’s especially good for people who don’t want to sign up for a whole service that emails or pesters them all the time. At the button below, you can go to the FTC’s website, where you can find out how to get your credit report for free.
If we missed any great credit score apps, tell us about them in the comments. You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists.
Whether hobbyist or pro, Clip Studio Paint has plenty of features for all artists. It blends the natural feeling of drawing with more brushes and 3D models than you can count. You can tap into a massive materials library on the Android version, and it’s a breeze to bring your artwork to life. Clip Studio Paint doesn’t limit you to a single device — you can store everything in the cloud for fast access. You can even record timelapse videos in case you want to show off your artistic process on TikTok.
If you’re not quite sure about Clip Studio Paint, you can give the three-month free trial a test or enjoy the free version for an hour a day on your smartphone. Users on tablets will have to subscribe following the initial three-month trial, though.
Adobe Illustrator Draw
Price: Free / Up to $53.99 per month
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Adobe Illustrator Draw and Photoshop Sketch are two drawing apps from Adobe. Illustrator Draw features a variety of drawing features, including layers, five different pen tips with various customization features each, and you can even zoom in up to x64 to apply finer details to your work. When you’re done, you can export it to your device for sharing or you can export it to your desktop for use on other Adobe products. Photoshop Sketch has a variety of features of its own. Both apps can also work together so you can import and export projects back and forth between the two. They’re free downloads and you can get an optional Creative Cloud subscription to unlock more features.
ArtFlow is one of the more in-depth drawing apps. Its main claim to fame is the ridiculous number of brushes it provides. You can use one of the 70 brush, smudge, and other tools to make your artwork shine. It also features layers and includes layer blending. You can export to JPEG, PNG, or even PSD so you can import it into Photoshop later. To top things off, you’ll have access to Nvidia’s DirectStylus support if you’re rocking an Nvidia device. It’s a solid all-around option for both kids and adults. You can download it for free to try it out. ArtFlow is also free to use if you use Google Play Pass.
Price: Free / $4.49
dotpict is one of the more unique drawing apps. This one lets you do pixel art. It offers up a grid and you can zoom in and move around to create little scenes or people simply by filling in the pixel boxes. You can then zoom out to see your whole creation. The app also includes auto-saving, undo and redo, and you can export your work when you’re done. Other than that, it’s not too feature-heavy and it stays out of your way while you draw. It’s an excellent app for those who enjoy creating pixel art.
Ibis Paint is a painting app with a lot of fun features. The app has over 140 different brushes, including dip pens, felt tip pens, actual paintbrushes, and other fun stuff. In addition, you can record yourself drawing so you have a video of how you got there. It does have layer support and you can use as many layers as your device can handle. It even has features for specific types of drawing, such as manga. You can check out the free version with the paid version going for $4.99 as an in-app purchase. It’s definitely one of the more serious, in-depth drawing apps.
InspirARTion is a less popular drawing app but some people seem to really enjoy it. This one also has a web version version if you want it on multiple platforms. The app has a bunch of features, including various brushes and drawing implements. Additionally, there is a symmetry mode, the ability to import existing images, and you can even pick the color by using colors already on the image. It’s not the deepest drawing app on the list. However, it’s entirely free and it’s definitely good enough for hobby use or getting a quick idea down.
LayerPaint HD is one of the more comprehensive drawing apps on the list. It has a bucket ton of features, including pen pressure support, PSD (Photoshop) support, and a layer mode. The layer mode also lets you add a variety of effects to your drawings. It even supports keyboard shortcuts if you have one of those attached to your device. We really only recommend this one for people with larger devices. The various controls and options can take up a sizable portion of the usable space on smaller devices. The main app runs for $6.99. You can buy the older LayerPaint for $2.99. However, based on its last update date, we think that version is abandoned so we don’t recommend it.
MediBang Paint is one of the better free drawing apps. Its claim to fame is its cross-platform support. You can download the app on mobile, Mac, and Windows. All three have a cloud-saving feature that lets you start your work in one spot and move it to another platform. That’s kind of awesome. Additionally, there is a decent number of brushes, tools for both free drawing and comics, and a variety of other fun little tools and add-ons. It’s a shockingly good app for what it costs (nothing).
PaperColor (formerly PaperDraw) is one of those drawing apps that tries to emulate real life as closely as it can. It carries the basics, such as different brush types so you can draw how you want. What makes it different is its tracing feature. You can import a photo and set it to translucent mode. From there, you can trace the original photograph. That makes it a good way to draw and also a decent way to learn. It’s a lot of fun to use, especially if you’re an amateur. It’s free to download and you can unlock additional features with in-app purchases.
RoughAnimator is a drawing app that lets you create animations. Instead of creating a still image that you can export and share, RoughAnimator lets you create full-on animations. You can draw it frame by frame and then string it together at the end to create little cartoons. It includes features to control frame rate and resolution along with some simple drawing tools as well. Finished projects can be exported as GIFs, a QuickTime video, or as an image sequence. It’s $4.99 upfront so we recommend you test it out before the refund period is over to see if you like it.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Sketchbook by Autodesk has been around for a long time. It’s been a long-time favorite for artists looking for good drawing apps. Thankfully, it also comes with a decent set of features. You’ll have ten brushes. Each brush can be customized to suit your needs. It also includes up to three layers, six blending modes, a 2500% zoom, and simulated pressure sensitivity. Those who go pro will get all of that along with over 100 more brush types, more layers, more blending options, and other tools. It’s a fairly powerful app and it was also designed for serious artists. Recent updates actually removed the price tag so everyone gets everything from the pro version for free. You do need an Autodesk account after a 7-day trial, though.
If we missed any great drawing apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!
Welcome to the 415th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from the last week:
Netflix raised the prices of plans in the US and Canada this week. The price hike isn’t massive, but it does apply to every single plan. The top tier is $2 more expensive, the standard plan is $1.50 more expensive, and the basic plan is $1 more expensive. This puts the plans at $19.99 per month, $15.49 per month, and $9.99 per month, respectively. Hit the link to learn more.
Google TV might get a functionality boost in 2022. Rob Caruso, Google TV’s Director of Product Management, said the company was looking into fitness and smart home integration along with some other things. It may even get Zoom integration. There were other things as well and you can click the link to see all of them.
Blackberry is shutting down its Android apps. The company is targeting August 31st, 2022 as the end-of-life date. The apps on the chopping block include Password Keeper, DTEK, the Blackberry Launcher, Privacy Shade, and BlackBerry Keyboard. It’s a bit disappointing for Blackberry owners trying to keep their devices long-term, but this is probably going to pass by without much notice.
Rainbow Story Global is a side-scrolling RPG with some MMO elements. Players roam through the game world to fight enemies and bosses. You’ll fun into other players as you move through various areas, hence the MMO element. At its core, though, this is a simple RPG with plenty of character customization. Nothing about it is too difficult and you can farm for stuff while you’re not playing with the AFK auto fight function. There are microtransactions and the servers can get laggy, but it’s otherwise an okay time killer.
Shadow Galaxy Anniversary
Shadow Galaxy Anniversary is a remaster of one of Google Play’s most popular live wallpapers from Maxelus. The original came out ten years ago and was limited in resolution as phones got sharper and sharper displays. This new version has sharper graphics, support for up to 120hz displays, and it just looks much better than the original. It’s a nostalgia trip for long-time Android fans and a very good-looking wallpaper for people who weren’t using Android phones in 2011.
Price: Free demo / $2.99
Turmoil is a real-time strategy game and business simulator. Players start the game by acquiring some land, uncovering oil, and then running an oil refinery. It plays as you would expect. Everything you do helps you earn more money. That money helps you unlock more things that make you more money. You officially win the game when you become the mayor. There is also a DLC with a second campaign as well. The game launch with some bugs, but recent updates seem to have added some stability.
Pro Wear Calendar
Pro Wear Calendar is a calendar app for Wear OS devices. The app boasts fully customizable month calendars along with individual calendar tiles. You can add and delete events, choose your theme, and it syncs with Google Calendar. Most of the customization elements live in the phone companion app and the watch version basically just does what it’s supposed to do. It’s relatively inexpensive and gives users another calendar option for watches, where a calendar option actually makes sense.
League of Pantheons
Price: Free to play
League of Pantheons is an idle RPG with gacha elements. Players summon characters, set up a fighting team, and then auto-fight for resources, experience, and loot. It features over 100 heroes to summon and new players get 200 free summons. There are also a few different game modes, including online PvP. There have been a lot of idle games over the last year and a half or so, but this one seems well executed and actually worth playing if you don’t mind gacha stuff and long grinds.
If we missed any big Android apps or games releases, tell us about them in the comments. Thank you for reading. Try these out too:
Libraries seem old school at first glance. However, many libraries update their stuff all the time and you can get some fairly modern entertainment there. Some libraries have movies, others have audiobooks, and they all have regular books, obviously. In some cases, you can even rent e-books for free with a library card. It’s an excellent way to find stuff to do on a budget. The only problem is that there are only a handful of apps capable of helping with this. Here are the best library apps for Android.
Google Maps is a bit of a lame pick for library apps, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. Google Maps is the fastest, easiest way to find your local library. It’s even more useful in larger cities, where there may be multiple libraries in a relatively short distance. Additionally, Google Maps shows things like opening and closing times, directions, and even reviews.
It’s helpful in other ways. Other users may have posted photos of the library and you can usually find the library’s official website link there as well. Again, it’s a lame pick, but it’s still a good one.
Hoopla Digital is one of the most powerful library apps on Android. It boasts a library of over one million titles ranging from movies to books. The app lets you access all of it for free and without advertising. The only thing you need is an actual, physical library card in order to register. Some other features include offline support, 24/7 access, and it’ll sync your progress if you need to switch devices.
This is the kind of stuff we like to see. It’s basically a giant library that anyone with library access can use without much difficulty. We especially like the wide range of content available in a variety of mediums. This is one of the apps we’d recommend first.
Libby, by Overdrive
Libby, an app by OverDrive, is very similar to Hoopla Digital but seems to focus primarily on books. It has millions of regular e-books as well as audiobooks. You simply “borrow” them with your library card and you have full access. Some of the app’s other features include the ability to send books to your Kindle (in the US only) and Android Auto support — and the app will sync your progress when you switch devices.
Like Hoopla, Libby is entirely free to use with no ads or in-app purchases. It’s basically like an e-book library except you get access like you would a normal library. This is an excellent app for readers.
Your local library app
Many libraries have their own apps now, and they’re a good choice if you intend on frequenting your local library consistently. The apps range in terms of features based on the services each library provides. However, most of the ones we looked at let you do things like search the library’s inventory, reserve books, and view upcoming events.
A few features intersect with Google Maps, like hours of operation, but they’re generally useful and always free. People who frequent their local library should ensure they download the official app, if their library has one.
If we missed any great library apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments. You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists.
BlackBerry’s in-house mobile platforms (BlackBerry OS 7.1 and earlier, BlackBerry 10, and PlayBook OS) reached end-of-life status (EOL) on December 31, 2021. The company said that this meant calls, data, SMS, emergency calls, and more would no longer “reliably function.”
BlackBerry’s Android phones weren’t part of this announcement though, but a keen-eyed CrackBerry forum member (h/t: Liliputing) found that several Android apps are indeed reaching end-of-life status too.
The company’s software lifecycle page specifically notes that the Password Keeper, DTEK, BlackBerry Launcher, Privacy Shade, and Keyboard apps are all reaching end-of-life status on August 31, 2022. The page also reveals that BlackBerry already ended support for several other Android apps in 2019, such as the Device Search, Productivity Tab, Power Center, and BlackBerry Blend apps.
What does this mean?
Nevertheless, the BlackBerry Launcher, DTEK security suite, Password Keeper, Privacy Shade, and Keyboard apps were all available on the BlackBerry KeyOne, Key2, Key2 LE, and Motion Android phones. So this is a disappointing turn of events if you were hoping to hold onto these phones for longer.
In saying so, Liliputing notes that BlackBerry’s Android apps that have already reached EOL status are still available via the Play Store. But you’ll be on your own if you run into any problems or if these apps cease working altogether. It also seems unlikely that Onward Mobility’s new BlackBerry-branded phone, now tipped to arrive in 2022, will use these apps.
Either way, there are alternatives to some of these apps and services. But we hope to see Privacy Shade functionality in particular come to stock Android, as it’s a handy feature to fight screen peeking.
Teleprompters are a niche category. The only people who need them are those who make video content. Thus, you don’t have a ton of options in terms of hardware, and the price can get quite high. A valid alternative is using your smartphone with an app. There are a few decent teleprompter apps that work well in most scenarios. Here are the best teleprompter apps for Android.
Price: Free / $14.99 per month / $49.99-$99.99 per 6 months
BIGVU Teleprompter is a reasonably decent teleprompter app. You can record your script, have it scroll through, and record yourself reading it. BIGVU also lets you record video directly from the phone’s selfie camera, with the teleprompter overlaid for your convenience. That makes it good for mobile shooters.
The app has some other features, like a crop function for your video, and you can brand your videos with your company logo. This one has a subscription price, so it’s definitely not the cheapest, but it’ll get you there.
Price: Free / $2.99
Elegant Teleprompter is one of the simpler teleprompter apps. You type out your script and it’ll scroll through it while you talk. It has some excellent features like Bluetooth remote compatibility, and you can do basic stuff like change text size, scroll speed, and more. You can also record video while the teleprompter scrolls, if you want.
This one is pretty cheap at only $2.99 for the premium version. The pro version adds a few extra features and removes ads. It’s not always the prettiest to look at, but it gets the job done and that’s all that matters here.
Nano Teleprompter is a lot like Elegant Teleprompter. It’s simple, reasonably easy to use, and it doesn’t have a subscription cost. The app also includes a floating widget, so you can use your native phone camera app, a huge plus in this space. You can also import scripts, use custom colors, and there are a few gesture controls as well.
It’s not perfect. It’s a little too easy to accidentally hit the floating widget while recording video, which can change some stuff for the worse. Otherwise, this app is rock solid and works rather well.
Price: Free / $9.99
Oratory is one of those teleprompter apps that works pretty well, but can be a little frustrating to use. This one boasts a feature set for professionals, including streamers. It lets you roll your teleprompter in any application, whether it’s Twitch, Snapchat, or your main camera app. The app also comes with some basic controls like text size and scroll speed.
The app has its ups and downs. However, lately (in early 2022), the developers seem to have figured out the issues. Thus, we’re recommending it despite its lower-than-average Google Play rating. The price tag is a bit high at $9.99, but it’s still cheaper than all the subscription options.
Price: Free / $3.99 per month
SUFLER.PRO is another teleprompter app with its ups and downs. On the plus side, it offers some unique features like voice activation for its teleprompter mode, remote control support, and an online text editor (for cross-platform support) — and it can record video with a teleprompter for you. There are also the base features like text size and scroll speed.
It is, however, a little buggy from time to time. Although we didn’t have any issues with our test devices, it seems like other people have experienced problems. As it’s also a subscription (due to cross-platform syncing) we recommend you give this app a good, long test before paying for anything.
Price: Free / $7.99 per month / $29.99 per year
Teletoto is kind of a wildcard on this list. It does the same things as most of the other teleprompter apps here. You write your script, and then you record yourself reading it with the built-in video recorder. It also lets you use the rear camera if you prefer.
It’s quite expensive compared to most of its peers. However, it specifically markets itself to professionals and students, and that’s probably why. Other teleprompters do more, but Teletoto removes a lot of the fluff for a clean, basic UI that just works.
If we missed any great teleprompter apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments. You can also check out our latest Android app and game lists.
Welcome to the 414th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from the last week:
We know that this is a software-oriented roundup, but CES 2022 was this last week and there was truly a ton to see. We have a round-up post for it that includes TVs, phones, PCs, laptops, gaming, and a lot more. Hit the link above to check it out.
Telegram squeaked in a feature update just before the end of the year. The update includes message reactions, a direct translation feature, and a spoiler formatting option. All these features work about the same as they do in Telegram’s competitors. It’s nice to see Telegram keeping up.
C. Scott Brown took a deep dive into LaunchBox for Android. It’s an emulator frontend similar to RetroArch and Lemuroid, except this one isn’t in the Play Store. The article talks about the app’s launch, why it’s not in the Play Store, pricing, and installation instructions. Check it out, it’s pretty good.
It’s been years since we had a good, high-resolution Matrix-style wallpaper launch. This one fits the bill quite nicely. The effect is the same as every other Matrix live wallpaper except this one looks really good. You can customize it in a variety of ways, including changing the color, size, falling interval, length, and more. It has no permissions and a single price tag. There’s a lot to like here.
Active Gaming Media (3 games)
Price: Free / $5.99
Active Gaming Media is a developer on Google Play and they launched three mobile games in a very short period of time. The first is Kero Blaster ($5.99), a side-scrolling shooter with platformer elements. The graphics are retro, but the mechanics are solid. The other two games are Pink Hour and Pink Heaven. Both are platformers and they are also free. Both games are sort of like demos of Kero Blaster so all three games kind of link to each other. The order of play seems to be Pink Hour, Pink Heaven, and then finally Kero Blaster.
Tracker Detect is a recent app from Apple. It’s an app for finding your lost AirTags, and other items compatible with Apple’s Find My network. We put off writing about this one for a few weeks in hopes that Apple would fix the issues with the app. Aside from it missing some features that some users want, the app seems to work pretty well. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have any AirTags so I had to rely on user experiences to see how well it worked.
Angry Birds Journey
Price: Free to play
Angry Birds Journey is the first slingshot-style Angry Birds game in years. It soft launched in the US and other territories last year and should launch globally sometime in January 2022. It’s a fairly typical old-school Angry Birds experience. There are hundreds of levels to play, familiar mechanics, and power-ups to help you out in sticky situations. It features old characters, new characters, and a full story to play through. The microtransactions turn a decent overall playing experience into a mediocre one, but otherwise, it’s classic Angry Birds.
DINA: Personalized Weather (Early Access)
DINA is a personalized weather app. It understands that weather is different depending on who you are. After all, some people like the cold and some people enjoy the heat. It recommends what clothes to wear based on the temperature. The user can switch the clothing around and the app learns what you prefer at which temperatures. It’ll then start recommending the kinds of clothes you might actually wear.
It’s a neat concept, but it is in early access beta so you can expect bugs until the developers release the stable version.
If we missed any big Android apps or games releases, tell us about them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. Thank you for reading. Try these out too:
Auctions are intense and fun. However, it’s not as easy to find them since they aren’t all that popular. Most auction sites are primarily for housing or vehicles, but you can still find auctions for other stuff as well. Of course, eBay is the most popular auction site for a variety of reasons and it’s on the list below. Here are the best auction apps for Android.
Auction.com is a reasonably decent auction app. It’s predominately an app for buying houses and it boasts over 25,000 listings and over $42 billion in sales. The app works about how you would expect. You can remote bid using the app (only in 16 US states), get push notifications about new listings, and conduct research about properties from the app. It’s a good example of a good auction app even if it’s a little niche.
eBay is your best bet for auctioning things on mobile. You can put in bids on things on the site through the app or list your stuff to have other people bid on it. The process is fairly easy and eBay is extremely well-known for this kind of thing. Thus, most people looking to bid on stuff on mobile do it here. There isn’t much else to say. You know eBay and what it’s capable of.
Google Maps is a bit of a lame choice, but it’s a solid option for auction fans. You can find auction houses in your general area along with directions on how to get there. Additionally, if you find an auction online, you can find directions to it from Google Maps as well. Physical, in-person auctions still exist and Maps is one of the best ways to find them.
Price: Free / $3.99 per month / $29.99 per year
Reddit is a decent place for auctions. There is a whole subreddit where people post the auctions they put up on eBay, making it a feed of sorts to help find things you may be interested in. Additionally, the site at large has a lot of advice for people looking to find or attend auctions. There are tons of tips, tricks, and hacks posts as well for those just getting started. It’s not all 100% accurate, but it’s a good place for info. YouTube is also pretty good for learning how to conduct yourself at an auction.
Unfortunately, the best spot to find auctions is through good old Google Search and websites. You can find auctions near you with AuctionZip. There are dozens of listicles across the Internet with many other auction sites that you can check out. Most sites and services don’t have dedicated apps so you have to use your web browser for it. That’s just the way things are.
If we missed any great auction apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments. You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists.
We have Android app lists for many, many topics. After all, people use their Android devices for a ton of different things. Many of these apps are pretty mainstream, while others are very niche. These niche apps work exceptionally well, but only for the few people who actually need them.
Anybody can write a list of weird apps that do nothing. This list pays an ode to the wonderful niche apps that actually work really well should you find yourself in a position to actually use one. We fully intend to do multiple volumes of these to continue to show off some of the Play Store’s more unusual apps.
With all that out of the way: Here are some fun, niche, weird apps for Android that are actually pretty good.
Fun, weird, niche apps for Android (volume 1)
Easter Egg Collection in Android
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
As it says on the tin, this is a collection of all of Android’s Easter Eggs over the years. The app includes every Easter egg from Android Gingerbread (the first one) all the way to Android 11. It’s a fun little app to see what all the Easter eggs looked like and how they worked. That’s basically all this app does. You select the one you want, view it, and that’s it. You’ll probably only use this app for all of 15 minutes once every few years, but it exists, and it works well.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Embiggen is a solid app that also does one thing: You type text into it and it makes the text bigger. While it might sound useless at first brush, there are actual use cases for this app. You can type short messages in loud places and show them to someone near you. The screenshots show you can use it in a bar and get someone’s attention without walking up to them. Super niche, right? It works really well, however, and does what it says.
Flying With Gauss
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Flying With Gauss is a developer on the Google Play Store with a collection of excellent, super niche apps. Some of the apps include Xash3D FWGS, Husky for Pleroma, CS16Client, and several others. Most of the apps are engines to run Half-Life or Counter-Strike on your phone with a selection of mods and game modes. The engine and mods work surprisingly well, as long as you supply your own game data. It’s very specific, but people seem to really like it when they can find a situation to use it.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
InstaMocks is a neat little app that can take screenshots and then put it into the frame of whatever phone you want. It has 40 devices to choose from, and you can work on up to ten screenshots at a time. There is no use for this unless you are an app developer, a YouTuber, or someone who posts on forums. However, the app works, and the screenshot editing is quite nice. Still, there’s no real reason for this to exist for the general audience, but it exists if you ever need it.
PhotoPills and SunSurveyor
Price: $9.99 and $7.99, respectively
PhotoPills and SunSurveyor do basically the same thing. They let photographers scout locations based on when the sun sets or rises. PhotoPills has a sun, moon, and Milky Way planner along with a 2D, augmented reality, and 3D mode. SunSurveyor has basically all of the same features. Both have a couple of things that set them apart from one another, but they work wonderfully in case you’re planning a photoshoot around a sunset or a sunrise.
RunPee is an app for moviegoers. It tells you the best time to take a pee break when watching a movie. It then fills you in on what you missed when you get back. Obviously, it is designed for seeing movies at a theater because you can just pause at home. However, RunPee can also tell you if extra scenes are coming at the end of the movie so you know whether to hang around and wait or leave the cinema early. The app itself is in the midst of a huge makeover, as earlier versions definitely needed some work.
Shark Tracker by Ocearch
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Did you know you can track the migratory patterns of sharks through an Android app? It turns out you can do just that with this one. Researchers tagged a bunch of sharks, and the app shows you where they are. It’s really only useful for biologists but it’s a fun app to play with, and it’s super educational. In fact, there are a bunch of applications that track random things. For instance, Blitzortung tracks lightning strikes.
SpotAngels is a parking app. It uses crowdsourcing to tell you where to find parking spaces, how much they cost, and other potential parking obstacles. For instance, some people use the app to remind them to move their cars before a street cleaner shows up. You can also book parking deals and pay for some parking meters. This one is obviously for a specific type of person, but it’s useful almost anywhere. You can also contribute if your area doesn’t have enough data.
Web Alert is a different kind of reminder app. You tell it to monitor a website, and it notifies you if the website changes. You can use it for all kinds of things. It can notify you when new articles publish on a website you like, when a price changes on a product you want, or even when you get a response in a forum. Most sites have official apps now, but it’s cool to know an app like this exists.
Have you ever wanted to use Windows 98 for something? This emulator lets you do just that. It not only boots into a Windows 98 environment, but you can use many original Windows 98 apps as well. The tools include old school Internet Explorer, Minesweeper, Solitaire, Windows Media Player, Notepad, and more. It also supports a mouse and a keyboard if you need them. We don’t know who would need something like this, but it’s here if you ever want it.
If you want to see some fun, niche, weird apps on our next list, leave us a comment with your suggestions!
Spy apps don’t always sound like a good thing on your Android phone. However, there are a few good reasons to download one. For example, kids may not always know the safest ways to use their new phones. Of course, you should always be transparent with your kids — or anyone else you’re tracking — before you start spying on them. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re in line with any local laws about spying. Once you’ve squared that away, check out our list of the best spy apps for Android.
The best spy apps for Android
Price: $11.66 with an annual subscription
mSpy is an app built around the idea that knowing is always better than hoping. Loaded with features, it gives you a clear picture of the user’s digital world. With advanced GPS tracking, you’ll know where they are at all times. With detailed call monitoring, you’ll know who they’re calling and who’s calling them. And with social media monitoring — including Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Snapchat — you’ll know what they’re saying and who they’re saying it to. Just install mSpy on a target device and you’ll have advanced spying metrics at your fingertips, plus all the insight you need to make informed decisions.
Price: Free / $5-$43 per year
Cerberus is a phone tracker app for personal use. That’s right — it keeps an eye on your phone, rather than someone else’s.
It helps you find a lost or stolen smartphone and it has a bunch of additional features. They include taking photos of the potential thief, SMS commands, finding the phone on a map, and you can lock and wipe your data. It won’t help you track other people’s devices, but you can totally spy on whoever stole yours. The subscription service starts at a very reasonable $5 per year for a single device and scales up from there.
FlexiSpy is one of a few more powerful spy apps on Android. Of course, that means you have to be extra careful with its impressive features. It lets you do the kinds of things people might be afraid of, including turning on the microphone to listen to a device’s surroundings, monitoring chat apps, remote camera capture, keylogging, and the ability to completely hide itself from antivirus apps and the app drawer. The price is way up there and you can’t get this app in the Play Store, but it has a ton of features.
Google Family Link
Google Family Link is an app for parents to keep track of kids through your Google account. The app lets you view activity on the child device, manage apps, and even recommend apps. You can also set device limits and lock the device if necessary.
Family Link did replace an older Google service, so not all features were perfect at launch. Some people ran into connectivity issues and bugs, but by and large, the experience should work fine for most people. Best of all, it’s a completely free option for you to try.
Google’s Find My Device app is probably the best lost or stolen phone app for Android. You can quickly see your phone or other Google accessories on a map for their exact location. Additionally, you can wipe the phone, ring it, or secure (lock) the device at will. However, ou can’t take pictures or anything like you can with Cerberus. Overall, it’s a straightforward and simple method for keeping track of where your phone is at all times.
Prey Anti Theft is another find-my-device style app. This one is entirely free and has some decent features. They include the usual array of find-my-phone features like GPS tracking, phone locking, and sending alarms through the phone. However, Prey can also take pictures with the camera, identify nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, and keep track of things like the device’s MAC address. That’s not a bad set of features when you’re getting them for free.
Price: $89 per month
Spyera is one of the most intense spy apps for Android. It boasts simple features for people like parents. However, we can’t imagine a use case where something this intense is necessary outside of enterprise use. It has a bunch of features, including the ability to hide itself from basically everywhere. It also comes with remote control support, SMS spoofing, and all kinds of other admittedly shady behavior. It’s extremely expensive so we don’t recommend this to normal folks. It’s also not available on Google Play so you have to obtain and sideload the app from its official website.
Carrier family locator apps
Carrier Family Locators are family location services by mobile carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, and others. These services work about as expected. You can keep track of the phone location of any phone on your plan. They usually feature things like on-demand location, alerts of various types, and it works on most devices. We have T-Mobile’s linked up here, but you can search the Play Store or call your carrier to see if they have a similar service.
OEM Find My Phone
Several phone manufacturers have phone-finding services as part of their software experience. One notable example is Samsung. You log in with your Samsung account and you can find your device with its service. It runs parallel with Google’s Find My Device for a potent one-two punch. You can lock (or unlock) your phone, find it on a map, and there are other features as well. It’s worth looking to see if your phone has something like this.
Price: Free / $59.99-$89.99 per year
XNSPY is a bit of a weird case. It has all of those frightening features like monitoring call logs, GPS tracking, monitoring web browsing, access chats, and all kinds of other tracking stuff. However, it’s more affordable than most of its bigger competitors like FlexiSpy and Spyera. The basic version lets you look at some stuff while the premium version lets you look at everything. This is a good option for businesses or families with some money to spend, but families may want to try Google Family Link or Kiddie Parental Controls before something more powerful like this.
How to check for and remove spy apps
Of course, some of these apps may be on your device without your knowledge and you may want to find out. Unfortunately, with how well these hide, a lot of the usual methods don’t work very well. However, there are a few ways to see if something may be spying on you.
The apps and games ecosystem is massive. Thus, it is no surprise that some have better years than others. The theme this past year seems to have been changes in policies. As companies grow and evolve, many have started questioning the status quo. However, we also saw the usual stuff, like massive outages, serious slip-ups, and just plain old bad decision-making. Here are the most controversial apps and games from 2021.
The most controversial apps and games in 2021
Roku vs YouTube TV
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Roku and YouTube had a bit of beef in the latter half of 2021. It started with a disagreement when Roku wanted some exceptions to YouTube’s technical requirements. After negotiations broke down, Roku removed YouTube TV from its channel list in April 2021, citing issues with Google. It also claimed Google wanted more user data than Roku was willing to give.
Google responded with a blog post stating that Roku didn’t want to support open-source codecs (specifically the AV1 codec). This would prevent YouTube from working in 4K and 8K resolutions. Google then added a link for YouTube TV in the regular YouTube app so people could still get both for the time being.
The beef officially ended in December 2021 with a contract extension between the two companies. The extension came just one day before Google was set to remove YouTube from the Roku platform, leaving Roku with zero YouTube channels. Everything should go back to normal soon enough now that the multi-year agreement was reached.
Google Pay redesign
Google made a lot of changes to Google Pay at the end of 2020, but the disaster didn’t strike until the company closed down the old Google Pay app in 2021. Ars Technicahas a decent breakdown if you want the whole story, but here are the highlights.
The new Google Pay only worked through the app with no website support. You have to create a new account with your phone number to send money. Your friends need the app and new accounts to receive money. None of your existing Google Pay contacts transfer over to the new app. The new Google Pay charges you a fee to send money to your bank via debit card, whereas the old Google Pay did it for free. Google Pay’s new UI was not very friendly. The list goes on and on.
The changes and backlash caused a major upheaval in the Google Pay team. Dozens of employees and executives jumped ship after the failed redesign, causing even more instability than before. Google even canceled its plans for a bank account in October 2021. Things have cooled off for now, but we expect Google Pay to make some changes soon, or it’ll suffer the same fate as Google Plus or Google Allo.
Fortnite copies Among Us
Fortnite launched a new Imposters mode in 2021. It is basically a copy of Among Us. It isn’t illegal to copy game mechanics so Fortnite can make an Among Us game mode without legal repercussion.
However, Innersloth, developer of Among Us, had some stuff to say about how Fortnite went about it. Several team members criticized Fortnite for how blatant the copy is, right down to the use of the word imposter, how non-imposter players did chores to win the game, and how other players sniff out the imposters.
We’re not likely to see any legal repercussions from any of this. However, it does remind us that even huge game studios can shamelessly copy other games. Epic Games should’ve collaborated with Innersloth at the very least, and it definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Amazon Appstore was broken on Android 12
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
Google releases developer previews and betas of Android OS updates for a reason. Developers use them to get their apps ready for the next version of Android. Apparently, the Amazon Appstore developers didn’t quite get the memo.
The second-largest Android app store didn’t properly prepare itself for Android 12, and it didn’t work on the new OS. For the most part, the issue stemmed from Amazon’s DRM. It prevented people from opening apps downloaded from Amazon, even if they were downloaded before Android 12 was installed on the device.
Roku wasn’t YouTube TV’s only problem in 2021. The streaming service also had some issues securing a new contract with Disney. It was a contract for 18 channels, including the Disney Channel, FX, ESPN, National Geographic, ABC News Live, and others.
Here’s how it basically went. YouTube TV said that if a new contract wasn’t signed, it would remove those 18 channels and then drop the price by $15 per month to compensate. Disney called Google’s bluff, and a new contract wasn’t signed in time. The thing is, Google wasn’t bluffing, and it did remove those channels and lowered its price.
The channels stayed down for about a week, and then both companies came to a new agreement. Google added all 18 channels back to the lineup and added the $15 back onto the price. TV deals seem to be happening like this more frequently, with some cable ISPs dealing with similar situations with other networks. We’re glad this one got settled sooner rather than later, especially with all those sports channels going down as the NFL enters the later stages of its season.
YouTube doesn’t count dislikes anymore
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
YouTube announced it would stop showing a dislike counter in 2021. This became a surprisingly big deal as creators and viewers online debated the pros and cons of such a move. Proponents of the move cited a lack of importance of a dislike counter and said it didn’t matter. YouTube also says not showing the numbers prevents dislike attacks from viewers.
People against the notion say the dislike counter lets people know if a video was good or not before investing lots of time watching it, making it a valuable tool. Also, creators can see the dislike counter in their analytics anyway, so any mental health improvement is cosmetic, not real.
Both sides have good points, and that’s why this one blew up as much as it did. YouTube didn’t backpedal its decision, though, and the dislike counter was removed on schedule. YouTube still encourages people to use the dislike button for the content they don’t like so the algorithm can continue to tune itself to the user.
Google Play antitrust lawsuits everywhere
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Google Play was hit with several antitrust lawsuits in 2021. The biggest was in the US, where more than half of the states sued Google for anti-competitive practices. The states argue that the Google Play Store is decidedly dominant and that its dominance stifles competition from third-party app stores.
Google argues that its dominance helps encourage better performance from other app stores and that it plans to give third parties tools similar to the Play Store. Google also cited its changes to the service charge to show that it’s more friendly to developers.
Lawsuits like this can take a while to develop, so we may not see more for a while. States filed the lawsuit back in July 2021. We may hear more about all of this in 2022.
The big Facebook outage of 2021
Facebook had a major league meltdown back at the beginning of November. The tech giant’s servers went down hard enough to take down Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp for most of a day. The story is actually pretty funny.
An update to Facebook’s servers caused an issue with the data centers communicating with each other. There was a cascading effect that took out everything. Everything went down so hard that employees couldn’t access parts of their own buildings. Things failed at such a level that even troubleshooting the problem was difficult. Eventually, the issue was sorted out, and everything went back to normal.
This was the cherry on top of a rough year for Facebook. The company, now under the umbrella of parent company Meta, faced the usual yearly scrutiny of security and privacy issues. However, that all stopped for a day as the world watched Facebook have its worst outage in over a decade.
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
Ultimately, the policy rolled out, people reluctantly agreed to it, and things kind of went back to normal. However, in September, the issue came up again when the EU slapped the company with a $267 million fine for not telling its users about its data-sharing policies well enough. Later that same week, the company came under scrutiny for its content reviewal staff being able to see messages even though they are supposed to be encrypted.
In short, WhatsApp had a very rough year when you include the massive Facebook outage and smaller issues.
Fortnite vs Google Play and Apple’s App Store
Epic Games decided to go to war with Google and Apple after a tumultuous 2020 saw Fortnite arrive in the Play Store, and then disappear from the Play Store and Apple App Store that same year. The fight continued into 2021. To start, both the App Store and Play Store lowered the service charges to 15% from the original 30% for apps and games that generate less than $1 million in revenue. The changes revert after an app or game reaches that point.
Google also created a Fortnite Task Force specifically to find flaws in the game. Epic accused Google of making its findings public to make the game look bad, while Google said they did what they felt was responsible. Epic had already been rolling out a fix, and Google jumped the gun before the update was widely applied. There are plenty of other, smaller stories of the two companies taking jabs at each other throughout the year.
One of the things Epic fought for was alternative payment methods in the Play Store and Apple App Store. Right now, you can only use the default billing provided by both stores. Some strides were made in that area in South Korea, which passed a bill for it earlier this year. We anticipated it would last into 2021, and now we’re sure it’ll go into 2022 as well. Let’s see what happens.
If there are some other controversial apps and games we didn’t talk about that you think we should have, tell us about it in the comments. You can also check out our lists of the best apps and best games of 2021 at the links. Finally, we have a few roundups from previous years just below if you want to see more.
Welcome to the 413th edition of Android Apps Weekly and the first of 2022. Here are the big headlines from the last week of 2021:
We posted our picks for the best Android apps from 2021. Our list intersected with Google’s a little bit, but we also paid homage to some more niche power user apps like LADB and coreSpec. We also really liked the Water Resistance Tester app because of how much drama it caused when it first came out. Hit the link to see our list and honorable mentions.
We also listed our picks for the best Android games of 2021. Again, the list intersected with Google a little bit, but we also listed some other fun games like PUBG New State, Titan Quest: Legendary Edition, League of Legends: Wild Rift, and others. Again, hit the link to check out our picks and tell us what you think.
Our final Wallpaper Wednesday for 2021 came out this week. The wallpapers this week have a good variety and include photos of landscapes, a bird, and an abstract looking wallpaper. We look forward to seeing your submissions in 2022, so hit the link, check it out, and submit some original wallpapers for us to check out.
In some actual news, LastPass users received some scary emails this week. The emails told users that they had multiple failed login attempts. However, LastPass didn’t detect any breaches. The company is continuing to monitor the situation, but for now, it looks like a false alarm right now. If anything else happens, we’ll let you know.
Linia Super is the spiritual sequel to the reasonably successful Linia game. It’s a puzzle game where you figure out color sequences and draw lines to connect the proper shapes on the screen. The game features non-linear gameplay, over 100 levels, and the developers promise that more levels are coming. It’s not perfect, but considering this game is free, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a fun time killer, especially for gamers on a budget.
NASCAR Tracks is a companion app for folks headed to a live NASCAR race. It includes a bunch of information such as the schedule for race weekend, your digital tickets to the event, maps of the venue, and more. You can chat with reps if you have questions and all sorts of other stuff. We’ve seen more and more attractions use apps like this and it does make things better when the app is properly designed.
Little Big Robots
Little Big Robots is a free online battle game with robots. It’s a bit low-tech. You have some limited customization for each robot and then you drop into a match and try to take everyone out. The mobility is pretty decent and the combat is alright. The fun is in the arcade feel of it. Matches are reasonably quick and things get occasionally chaotic. Other game features include team play, multiple game modes, and more. This isn’t a deep game so it doesn’t take long to see everything there is to see. It’s another free game with no in-app purchase so you can’t buy your way to a win.
SafeUP is a very unique idea. It’s a safety app specifically for women. The idea is that you download the app and if you start feeling uncomfortable in a situation, the app connects you to another woman so you can get help. It doesn’t replace emergency services, so make sure you call the police if anything illegal is happening. However, as an example, you’d use this app if you were at a party and something didn’t feel right or if you were walking alone and felt like you were being followed.
The app is for women only so I couldn’t personally test it. Based on user reviews, it seems the app needs another coat of paint and some extra polish before it’s ready for primetime. However, this is a great idea and we hope the developers get the kinks worked out.
Mirage: Perfect Skyline
Price: Free to play
Mirage: Perfect Skyline is a new MMORPG. It boasts a lot of the usual MMORPG stuff like eight classes to choose from, multiplayer (both co-op and PvP), above-average graphics, and more. You can play the game manually or use the Botting mode, which basically automates everything. The automation rubs a lot of MMO players the wrong way so we get it if you don’t want to try it for that reason. Other than the automation stuff, the game seems like it has a lot of potential but we’ll have to wait and see how the developers handle the complaints to be sure.
If we missed any big Android app or game releases, tell us about them in the comments or you can tweet at me here. Thank you for reading. Try these out too: