Asphalt 8: Airborne review

Image via Gameloft

Image via Gameloft

Games like Real Racing 3 and CSR Racing have given a massive breath of life to the racing genre on mobile devices. While Real Racing 3 takes a simulation approach and CSR Racing is based on drag racing, there’s still be a lack of a quality arcade-style racer. Fortunately, Gameloft has filled that void with Asphalt 8: Airborne, a visually-impressive racing game that comes packed with a ton of speed and action.  Whether you’re looking to pull off flips and barrel rolls, or you want to speed and drift around the competition, Asphalt 8 offers something for all types of race fans.

As soon as you enter the main menu, it’s obvious that Gameloft set out to make a racing game that’s full of detail and customization, even if the menu system is a bit cluttered and difficult to navigate. The main gameplay options are World Series (online play), Career, Quick Solo Race, and Local Wi-Fi Race. Season one of the career is available from the start, and is an excellent way to get used to the controls and the different game types. Players experienced in mobile racers may be able to go online and hold their own right off the bat, but the controls feel a little less sharp than in games like Real Racing 3, so a few practice rounds isn’t a bad idea. While the first few races will likely be underwhelming, most players will quickly learn some of the tricks that make Asphalt 8 stand out. Pulling off crazy stunts doesn’t just look cool, it’s a fun way to refill turbo meter and destroy the competition. (more…)

Boxer review

boxer_650

Photo via Wired / Ariel Zambelich

Boxer (formerly known as Taskbox – Mail) is an iPhone release. It is available as a free download from the App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Boxer is a third party email app that works with Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, iCloud, Outlook/Hotmail, and AOL. Upon opening Boxer, users will be asked to select their email provider. From there, they simply enter their username and password, accept any permissions requests, and Boxer links the account to the app. The entire inbox is imported flawlessly, and any organizational folders that exist will be carried over, as well. Boxer does an excellent job at making the transition from the user’s email service to the Boxer app. Users can link multiple accounts, and switching between them is simple. Boxer also gives the option to set a default account for users who need to favor one email more than the others.

Boxer comes with a brief tutorial slideshow that explains some of the basics, but doesn’t get too detailed. Boxer’s interface is based entirely around swiping. When looking at the inbox, the user’s messages are organized in a vertical list. New messages are indicated by a blue dot underneath that message’s picture. Reading a message is as easy as tapping it. From there, users can easily reply, forward, tag, archive, or delete that message. When users swipe a message on the inbox screen, they’re given numerous options. Swiping from right to left brings up three options: Delete, Spam, and Archive. Messages that are no longer wanted in the inbox or other folders can easily be removed by selecting the option of choice and swiping another message. (more…)

ooVoo review

ooVoo app iconooVoo is an iOS and Android release from the company of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play and carries no additional in-app purchases.

ooVoo is a video and text chat system in the same vein as Skype and Google Hangouts. When first opening ooVoo, users will be prompted to sign into or create an account. Account creation can easily be done through social media profiles, though creating a proprietary account can be accomplished just as fast as connecting a social media profile. Once logged in, ooVoo will import contacts from the device and social networks and will easily list any contacts that are also using ooVoo. Users who don’t have friends using ooVoo can easily invite them, and the ones who are connected will show up on a special contact list.

When two users connect on ooVoo, their options are similar to Skype: video, audio, or text. The video and sound quality are good, and are mostly on par with the competition. Getting into a call and connecting with other users is a breeze and users are able to organize chats with up to 12 people simultaneously. It’s a simple system that feels very familiar to Skype and Google Hangouts users. ooVoo’s basic functions doesn’t offer anything that those other services do not, but it does everything just as well, including seamless interaction between mobile and PC users. (more…)

Duolingo review

Duolingo app iconDuolingo: Learn Languages Free is an iOS and Android release from Duolingo. It’s available now as a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Duolingo: Learn Languages Free tries to help users learn the language of their choosing through gamification. When users first start Duolingo, they’re asked to sign in via Facebook, Google, or a proprietary account. Once logged on, users will choose which language they want to start learning. Currently, Duolingo offers support for only six languages: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. Users also need to be aware of selecting which language they already know, since French speakers may not benefit from trying to learn German when the lesson is taught in English.

Once users pick out their language, they’re dropped into a basic lesson. Duolingo starts simple by stating a noun in the native language, and showing a list of potential translations, accompanied by images. This is a simple task intended to build a user’s vocabulary, but the image association seems to work well. Basic lessons progressively get harder as users will be introduced to various verbs, differences between masculine and feminine words, and other language-specific quirks. Users practicing with Duolingo in public will likely need to carry a pair of headphones, as there are audio samples that ask for translation. Users will never have to speak into Duolingo, but the program does push for both written and verbal understandings of the chosen language. (more…)

Skyscanner All flights, everywhere! review

Skyscanner All Flights, everywhere app iconSkyscanner All flights, everywhere! is an iOS release from Skyscanner. It’s available now as a free download from the Apple App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Skyscanner All flights, everywhere! attempts to allow users to easily find the best price for any airline ticket and book it right from their mobile device. When users open the app, they’re greeted with the search window, either as a clean slate, or showing their previous search. It’s a simple menu that simply asks for the starting airport, the destination, the depart and return dates, and how many passengers. This process works identical to flight app competitors, with a couple additions. The first is a list of every available airport, sorted by country. The other option is to display this same list as an interactive map.

Once the information is entered and submitted, Skyscanner continues to work like most other flight-booking websites and apps. Once the list of flights is generated, it’s automatically sorted by price per person. Users can change the sorting by departure time, duration, and arrival time, and they can filter out certain airlines, multi-stop trips, and block out undesirable times. Users who aren’t satisfied with the prices or times can pull up a chart that allows them to quickly change the departure and arrival dates and quickly execute another search. If users need some time to think about their plans, they can press a button to add the search to their favorites list and check it out later.

Skyscanner All flights, everywhere! screenshot

There’s a bit of customization in Skyscanner that, when combined with its straightforward interface, can make it a somewhat-appealing candidate for booking flights on the go. Users can easily change their currency, save booking information, and put various trips on a watch list so they can book if a good deal pops up. Users who find a deal or have an idea that they want to pass on to someone else have a few sharing options available. Users can post their searches publicly to either Twitter or Facebook, or they can email flight and trip details to anyone. These options are nice to have, despite the social media sharing seeming entirely unnecessary.

While other services allow for booking of hotels and rental cars, often in bundles, Skyscanner relies entirely on flights at this time. Part of that is due to the service booking directly through the airlines, but users who want to plan entire trips will need to book hotels and vehicles separately. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many users book separately anyways, but those who are into bundling their vacations will need to look elsewhere.

Everything Skyscanner does, it does very well. The issue with the app isn’t that its not good, it’s just not entirely relevant. There are other apps and services that help book flights. In some cases, other services will find lower prices on the same flight, though most are about equal. Skyscanner is in the midst of crowded flight app market, and while it has a very easy-to-use interface to help it stand out from the pack, it gives no compelling reason for anyone to pick it over the competitors.

You can follow Skyscanner’s progress on AppData, our tracking tool for mobile and social apps and developers.

Hipstamatic Oggl review

Hipstamatic Oggl app iconHipstamatic Oggl is an iPhone by Hipstamatic, LLC. It’s available now as a free download on the Apple App Store and carries additional in-app purchases.

Hipstamatic Oggl is an image editing and sharing service and social network. When users first open Hipstamatic Oggl, they’re prompted to make an account. Unfortunately, there’s no option to sign in with other social media accounts, so users will be forced to create a proprietary Hipstamatic account, which only takes a minute. Once in, users will be shown a brief overview, then thrown into the wild, expected to learn all of Hipstamatic Oggl’s features with minimal assistance.

Hipstamatic Oggl is filled with a ton of features. Instagram users will feel right at home taking pictures and adding filters, but the depth Hipstamatic Oggl offers in that area is far more impressive than Instagram. When users snap a picture, they can go into their gallery and apply two types of filters. One filter simulates different camera lenses, while the other simulates different film. These two elements can be combined to create beautiful images, but some of the combinations don’t work well, so users will need to spend some time discovering what fits and what does not. (more…)

Monogram review

Monogram app iconMonogram is an iOS release from Fara, Inc. It’s available now as a free download from the Apple App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Monogram is a collection of user-created shopping catalogs intended to help users present their unique shopping experience. Monogram features an easy-to-use iOS app, but also requires a web browser to make full use of its functions. Monogram places a focus on fashion and apparel, and currently features more than 300 online stores whose products can be mixed and matched to create catalogs of different themes and styles. Monogram’s ease of use and strong visual presentation makes it attractive for both users and fashion bloggers.

Users who just want to focus on shopping and don’t care about creating their own magazines will feel right at home with the Monogram app. To use the app, Monogram doesn’t require users to create an account or link social media accounts. When the app is first opened, users are immediately introduced to Monogram’s featured posts, a collection of quality entries from users. Every featured post links back to its source magazine, which is where Monogram starts to shine. Magazines are collections of posts created by a group of users. There are two types of magazines: ones that are ran by a group of select users, and ones that are open for public contribution. All magazines are ran by editors, chosen by the magazine’s creator. Editors are there to makes sure the submitted content fits their theme, and from our experience, they seem to be doing well. (more…)

AppCurious review

appcuriousAppCurious is an iPhone app from Starkid Inc. It’s available now for free on the App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.

AppCurious is a new social networking service that aims to help users connect with other users and discover new iPhone apps. When the user first opens AppCurious, they’re prompted to log in through Facebook or create an AppCurious account. After that, they can create a username, and set any visible profile info. Once that’s done, the focus shifts to the most important part of AppCurious — the apps. Users are asked to mark some of the apps they use on their iPhone. Finally, users are asked to follow at least five other users, with a recommendation list generated by celebrities and power users.

Once the info is set, the user’s feed is generated. Using a Twitter-like appearance, AppCurious shows activity from the user and everyone they follow. Whether they add apps to their collection, make comments, or answer questions, everything is shown in order to best connect users with new apps. The feed can be sorted in numerous ways, from recent activity, to recent questions, to listing popular apps and comments. The feed is the main tool for discovering new apps and connecting with others, but it currently suffers from the drawback of little popularity. There aren’t many users currently using AppCurious on a regular basis, meaning that the feed can feel a bit empty at times, even if a user is following numerous people.

appcurious1

The “Explore” option is also a great tool for finding new apps and people to follow. The first part of the explore tab is the AppCurious introduction video, which gives a very brief overview of what the app is trying to do, but doesn’t explain how it works. Below the video, AppCurious lists some of its more popular users and their top apps. Again, there’s not a lot of depth to this feature right now. The featured users consist mostly of celebrities and the AppCurious founders. Most of their showcased apps are popular apps and games that most users will have already used or at least have known of beforehand.

The “ask” function is potentially the most powerful tool for app discovery. When clicking on the ask tab, users are presented with a list of questions made by other users. Most questions are looking for the best app of a certain category, such as “What is the best app for email?” After writing a question, users pick a category and submit it to AppCurious. From there, others can check out the question and answer it by linking to an app’s AppCurious page. Like the rest of AppCurious, the lack of active users will determine how powerful this feature is over the long run.

Overall AppCurious is a social network with a ton of potential. Users who frequently want new apps, or are often looking for specific apps, will find a helpful resource and some helpful people. There’s also potential in AppCurious being used to help developers promote their apps, as the amount of sharing and interaction is high. Like any new social network, there are concerns about the longevity of AppCurious, but if the active userbase continues to grow, it will be a great way to discover new apps.

You can follow AppCurious’ progress on AppData, our tracking tool for mobile and social apps and developers.

A Beautiful Mess review

A Beautiful Mess app iconA Beautiful Mess is an iPad and iPhone app from Red Velvet Art LLC. It’s now available on the App Store for $0.99 and carries additional in-app purchases.

Following the trend made famous by Instagram, Red Velvet Art’s A Beautiful Mess allows users to crop photos, apply filters, and edit images so they can be shared over social media. The first time A Beautiful Mess is opened, the user is greeted with two options: “Photo Library” and “Background.” The background option is essentially template images that can be customized with the in-app tools. Most users will ignore this feature and head straight to their photo library. From there, A Beautiful Mess will access the device’s camera roll and ask users to choose which photo they’d like to work with.

Once a user has chosen a photo, they’re asked to crop it into a perfect square. The cropping process involves dragging the picture into a square, opposed to dragging the square, like in Instagram. Users may run into problems lining up the picture to their liking. Once the crop is made, the rest of the tools become available, and A Beautiful Mess has quite a few tools available. The filter tool allows for easy adjustment of color and brightness. Each filter comes with various sliders, so experienced users will be able to take full advantage of the depth available. The other tools on hand are borders, text, and doodles. These three functions add a plain white border, custom or pre-set text, or basic images to the picture. After one is selected, users can change the color, angle, and size. These added bits can also be filtered if they’re placed before a filter is in use.A Beautiful Mess screenshot

Once a user is finished editing their photo, they’re given the option to share it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or email. Other than that, there’s not much in the way of sharing. It would have been nice to see Tumblr or Pinterest support, given their emphasis on images, but the options available will satisfy most users. The disappointing part is the inability to easily check out the images you’ve made in A Beautiful Mess. Once a picture is saved, it’s added alongside the original photo. The only way users can review their previous work is to open the photos app and look for the image. It would be nice for A Beautiful Mess to give users quick access to their work so they can easily share it later if they choose. (more…)

NOAA Hi-Def Radar review

NOAA Hi-Def RadarNOAA Hi-Def Radar is an iOS and Android app from WeatherSphere. It’s available now for $1.99 on the App Store and Google Play and carries no additional in-app purchases.

A lot of people don’t care about detailed reports and long-term forecasts when they’re curious about the weather. Sometimes, all someone wants to do is take a look at the radar, see what’s in their area, and know what’s coming their way. There are numerous perks of using the visual aid of a radar over written forecasts, and now mobile users are in for a treat with the detailed options available in WeatherSphere’s NOAA Hi-Def Radar.

When NOAA Hi-Def Radar is first opened, users are given a look of the U.S. From there, they can zoom in and out of any location they choose, though service cuts off outside North America. By default, the map shows off current rain and snow, along with severe storm and flood warnings. The radar displays the past hour of weather, allowing users to get a good idea on how storm fronts are moving. Users can pause the radar if they’d like, and they can view a static image of activity of any point in the past hour.

Users who want to monitor multiple cities or locations can easily set bookmarked locations by typing in an address or finding the location on the map. The may also comes with three different views: Road, Satellite, and Hybrid. The road map is what looks best for weather purposes, but the satellite and hybrid maps will be useful for users who want a more realistic look at a specific area. None of these views change the actual function of the radar, however. Those looking to add or remove features will have a ton of options available.NOAA Hi-Def Radar screenshot

There are a ton of customization options available in NOAA Hi-Def Radar, and it would take far too long to list them all. One of the most in-depth menus is the layers list. There are only a few layers turned on by default, such as the NOAA Base Radar and NOAA Warning Boxes. Users who desire more information can show features like cloud cover, recent lightning strikes, hurricane forecasts, and a drought map for the U.S. The expansive layers menu can also adjust the interval of the radar, allowing for a more precise or a broader look at recent weather patterns. Finally, users are also given the option to save and share screenshots of areas they want to show off to others on social media and email. (more…)

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