Hangouts is an Android and iOS app from Google. It’s now available on Google Play and the App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.
Google’s new Hangouts app is the next evolution of their Talk app. When first downloading Hangouts, Google informs the user that this new program will replace Talk. Users who frequently use Talk may be a bit hesitant to make the switch, but once they download and start using Hangouts, it becomes obvious that it is more than just a new version of Talk. Instead, Hangouts combines the simplicity of Talk with the level of interaction Google has been growing within Google+ Hangouts.
When first opening Hangouts, users may be prompted to sign in if they are not already. Once they have logged on, users are greeted to a screen that shows off their most frequently contacted friends on Google+, along with their entire list of contacts (both from Google+ and imported from mobile devices). Users can interact with any of their contacts by pressing their name on the list, or by using the search bar. The search bar can find current contacts via name, email, or number, and can add new contacts in the same way. Users can also connect with entire circles at once, but are not able to edit circles directly from the Hangouts app.
Once contacts and circles are selected, users are given two options: “Message” and “video call.” Messaging works just like Google Talk’s instant messaging. Two Google users can send text-based messages to each other over the Hangouts app and in a web browser. Communication between the app and browsers is nearly flawless. The only noticeable issue with messaging is how the emoticons in Hangouts will often not load for users in a web browser. Most users won’t find this to be a problem, but those who rely on heavy use of emoticons may be somewhat disappointed. (more…)
Haiku Deck is an iOS app from Giant Thinkwell. It is available now as a free download from the App Store with additional in-app purchases, allowing users to quickly and easily build detailed presentations.
When Haiku Deck is first launched, users will be prompted to log in either through social media or with a Haiku Deck account. Once an account is created, users get a quick overview of what the app has to offer, then they can jump right in to making a presentation. For users who want a bit more instruction before making anything, there are two pre-made presentations that further explain what Haiku Deck is and how it works. Once a user is comfortable with the system, he or she can jump right in and begin building a presentation.
Creating a presentation in Haiku Deck is easy because the program is more than happy to guide users every step of the way. When a user first creates a new presentation, they’re prompted to enter a title. Next, the slides are generated and the theme list is shown. There are currently five free themes available, and the level of customization enables users to make each presentation feel unique, regardless of the chosen theme. Once the theme is selected, users can start to add content to the slides. There are four main slide types available: Text, ordered list, unordered list, and charts. Each category has various layouts and settings, and there are three different charts available. In text slides and lists, users can format the content and layout as they see fit. Charts can easily be adjusted by dragging handles to set the desired value. (more…)
Frame My Photo is a new iOS app from Unity Apps. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store with no additional in-app purchases — though the app description suggests it will only be free for a limited period.
As the title suggests, Frame My Photo is a simple app designed to allow users to quickly and easily add a picture frame effect to photographs from their device’s camera, photo library or their Facebook photo albums. The resulting framed images can then be shared via Facebook, Twitter and email or saved to the device’s camera roll.
Using the app is a simple matter of choosing the image source (camera, Facebook or photo library) and then picking or taking the photograph. This process is occasionally interrupted by pop-up advertising alerts offering free games and the like, but not so often as to be too obtrusive. Importing a photo from the camera or photo library is very straightforward — the photo library option also allows photos to be pulled from iCloud Photo Stream if available — but the Facebook option appears to be broken at present. Tapping on the Facebook option opens the Facebook app (if installed) and then should open the app’s permissions page and allow the user to install it to their social network account — however, when tested, this option steadfastly refused to work, instead giving a non-specific error message (“An error occurred. Please try again later.”) and simply returning to the social network’s News Feed when cancelled. It’s not clear if this is an issue with Facebook or the app itself, but the problem persisted regardless of whether the device was connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data, and happened repeatedly.
Phoster is an iOS app from Bucket Labs. It’s currently a free download from the App Store at the time of writing due to its feature spot as Apple’s App of the Week — its normal price is $1.99.
Phoster’s stated aim is to allow its users to create their own posters using a combination of templates, images and text. These posters may then be shared to a variety of social networks or printed out. The app comes pre-loaded with a wide variety of different templates for users to use, many of which use recognizably modern, attractive styles, and each is customizable.
To create a poster, users must first pick a template from the available options. Templates are divided into categories according to the shape of the poster — square, portrait or landscape — and may also be marked as favorites if the user finds a particularly appealing design they would like to reuse. All templates come with placeholder text and space for an image — either in the background of the whole poster or in a dedicated area, depending on the design — which can then be manipulated in various ways.
Social games developer and publisher Zynga today announced the release of its seventh game under the “With Friends” brand, an endless runner titled Running With Friends. The game should be available to download for free from the Apple App Store starting tonight and tomorrow morning.
Set in a cartoon-style re-imagining of Pamplona, Spain, the game puts players into the town’s famous Running of the Bulls Festival. Gameplay is very similar to Temple Run, Vector, Subway Surfers, and other games in the endless runner genre. It’s particular similar to the latter in that the device is oriented vertically, with the camera behind the character, allowing the player to swipe and tap in order to dodge obstacles across three lanes.
While it may be similar to other endless runners, Running With Friends is also adding several new features to the formula to keep it fresh. The social element of games has always been Zynga’s primary concern and Running With Friends is no different, allowing users to do as the title suggests and play with their friends asynchronously. The level for each round of the game is randomly generated, but players who compete with friends will compete over the same randomly generated level. The player who gets the highest score by running farther and collecting more stars, wins.
Postale is an iOS app from 7twenty7 LLC. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.
Postale’s remit is simple: it allows users to create virtual postcards, then send them to people via Facebook, Twitter or email. Postcards may have one of four different layouts — a portraitwise image with text to the right; a landscape image with text to the right; a vertical layout with a photo at the top and text at the bottom; and a “panoramic” layout featuring a letterboxed image with text above and below.
The first time the user fires up Postale, they are walked through the rather simple process of creating a postcard a step at a time. The tutorial is relatively unobtrusive, but it’s questionable if it’s even necessary, since the app is extremely easy and intuitive to use.
Creating a postcard consists of several steps: choosing a layout, choosing a visual theme from those available — additional packs are available via in-app purchase for $0.99 each — and then customizing the layout with a photo, title and message. Photos can either be taken with the camera or imported from the camera roll, and the app makes use of Aviary’s SDK to allow for fine-tuning and adjustment of the photograph in various ways. Titles and messages can be entered independently, and each may have their own style set by changing the color, size and font of the text. There are a fairly wide selection of commonly-used fonts available in the app, though the widely-despised Comic Sans is nowhere to be seen.
Moovee is a new iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases.
Moovee is a very simple app indeed: its sole purpose is to allow its users to shoot short video clips of up to 10 seconds in length, then share them online both via Moovee’s own mobile-social network as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Upon starting Moovee and signing in using either a proprietary account or Facebook, the user is immediately taken to the service’s main feed. From here, videos are displayed one at a time, automatically advancing to the next when the previous one is finished. Each video shows how many times it has been viewed along with any likes and comments it has received, and also provides the viewer the opportunity to do either of these things. A simple double-tap on a video quickly provides a “like”, tapping starts and stops the video and tapping and holding restarts it from the beginning. All content may also be shared via Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS/iMessage or the iOS clipboard with the tap of a share button in the corner of the screen.
Shooting and submitting video is a simple matter of tapping the camera icon in the corner of the screen, which immediately takes users to a standard-looking iOS camera display. From here, the user may shoot as much video as they like and subsequently “crop” it to 10 seconds or less using the standard iOS video-editing interface. After the video has been saved and compressed, the user may add a short description, their location data and decide whether or not they would like to include audio. Once this step has been completed, the video is posted online for everyone to see. It’s a quick and simple process with a lot of immediacy.
HitMeUp is an iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s been available for a while now, but has recently released a major update to version 3.1.0 of the app, which has caused it to be featured in the “New” section of the App Store’s Lifestyle category. The app is available now as a free download.
HitMeUp doesn’t make its purpose particularly clear, either in the App Store description or in the now-obligatory pictorial “tour” it displays before prompting users to sign in using either Twitter or their email address. It appears to be an app designed to allow users to see photos in an area along with where they were taken and then vote them as either a “hit” or a “miss,” but the exact reasons for doing this are not made particularly clear.
In order to use HitMeUp, as previously mentioned, the user must register and/or sign in to the service using either a Twitter account or their email address — the latter option was newly-added in the version 3.1.0 update. Once into the app proper, they are shown a map of their current location and are then able to snap a photo, which must have a caption attached to it — the app won’t allow photos to be posted without at least something being written in the caption box. This captioned photo is then recorded at the user’s current location for any other HitMeUp users to stumble across should they be browsing that particular area.
Zynga today revealed its newest core game title, Solstice Arena, a multiplayer online battle arena game for mobile devices from the A Bit Lucky team.
A Bit Lucky is the developer behind games like Lucky Train and Lucky Space, which were shut down on Facebook in September 2012 while the studio continued to work on Solstice Arena. When Zynga acquired the studio, also in September 2012, A Bit Lucky’s employees became a part of Zynga San Francisco and continued to work on Solstice Arena, though little was known about the game at the time.
Today we finally learned that Solstice Arena is a MOBA game, a genre that originated with the popular mod Defense of the Ancients (DotA) for Blizzard’s PC and Mac strategy game Warcraft 3.
Nudge is a new iOS app from Christian charity Tearfund. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, but presently only in the United Kingdom due to its focus on contacting members of the U.K. government to take action on various issues.
Nudge is an app designed to raise awareness of pertinent social issues ranging from global warming to charitable relief efforts, and which allows users to quickly and easily “take action” on these issues by contacting the relevant people in local or national government.
Upon opening the app, the user is presented with a list of current issues. Tapping on one reveals the full details of the issue along with how many other people have “taken action” through the app. Tapping the “Nudge” button beneath the details of the issue brings up a pre-composed email designed to be personalized and sent to the appropriate member of local or national government. The first time the user does this, they must enter their personal details, including their name, email address, U.K. postcode and address, which is calculated using the postcode. The postcode and address are used to determine exactly who the “Nudge” email should be sent to, as users in different locations around the country will have different people to contact. The postcode finder was a little unreliable at the time of testing, occasionally complaining of being unable to reach the Nudge servers. Closing the app completely from the iOS multitasking bar and restarting it resolved this issue, but judging from App Store reviewer comments, this is not an isolated incident.