Looking for some new apps to help make your everyday phone use even more efficient? Or do you just want to have a bit of fun on your phone this weekend? We’ve got you covered on both fronts with our latest Five to Try column, which spotlights some new and updated Android options in the Play Store.
Evie is an interesting pick, as it shakes up the usual Android launcher approach by building the interface around an intelligent universal search bar, while Dango is designed to get you the contextual emoji and GIFs you need during conversations. Meanwhile, Minecraft: Pocket Edition got a huge update this week with dedicated servers and wider cross-platform play, while _PRISM is an alluring puzzler and Toca Life: Vacation is a perfect pick for the kids.
Evie’s home screen search bar taps not only into your local apps, but also info, maps, and services from the web.
Tired of hunting around your phone for the right app or service to complete a task? Evie could help: it’s a new home screen launcher built around a search bar. Start typing in a query, such as the name of an app, restaurant, movie, or nearby hotspot, and it’ll serve up options not only from your device but also the web, Yelp, and other services.
And from there, it’s even more useful. You can tap on a restaurant listing, for example, and have one-tap access to the correct app for placing a delivery order, as well as the ability to make a reservation or beckon an Uber or Lyft driver (with a cost estimate to boot). Search can often be siloed to just point you at apps or search within a single app, but Evie seems to bridge the gap and impresses as an all-in-one option for varying needs. If you spend far too much time digging through menus, it’s worth a look.
This week’s E3 gaming convention might have been mostly about big console and PC games, but even the years-old Minecraft took center stage for some big news of its own: Pocket Edition on Android now has cross-platform multiplayer that lets players link up over Xbox Live to play with iOS, Windows 10, and Gear VR players. And there’s another big feature in this week’s update—dubbed “The Friendly Update”—as the game now has support for dedicated servers.
Want to play online with one friend—or up to 10? Mojang’s Realms feature lets you pay a monthly fee for access to a server that continues on even when you’re not there, letting you create persistent worlds to share with friends. It’s $4/month for two total players or $8/month for up to 10 in the same space, although there’s a free month-long trial available for the larger plan.
Like Evie up top, Dango is an app designed to speed up everyday use of your phone… albeit in a very different way. See, Dango is an artificially intelligent app built to help pull up the emoji, animated GIFs, and stickers you need at any given moment. Once installed, it puts a little pink face in any chat or messaging above the keyboard; as you type, it reads the context of your message and suggests an ideal emoji to fit your note.
Tap the pink icon and you’ll see a wider range of suggestions, including several emoji, pop culture GIFs based on mood, and more. Better yet, Dango doesn’t just suggest images based on your in-progress messages, but also the ones sent your way, gaining context from conversation. If you’re a heavy GIF and emoji user, it could save precious seconds with every single missive.
Looks just like the pineapple-man I met on my last vacation…
Toca Boca is one of the premier developers for ad-free, kid-friendly apps, and its latest offering is perfectly primed for the summer school break. Released this week, Toca Life: Vacation ($3) drops you onto a tropical island resort, letting you choose from an array of characters and interact all around the locale, including at the hotel, beach, and even the airport.
Your cartoonish avatar can leap on the bed, x-ray a suitcase, fly an airplane, wander the boardwalk, and take on all sorts of other appropriately-themed activities. Toca Life: Vacation isn’t heavy on complex interactions, nor are there extensive games to play; rather, it’s a colorful and kid-centric way to have a little tropical fun wherever you are, and hopefully spur a little creativity in the process.
This might look totally confusing, but it makes sense once you start rotating the shape and touching the symbols.
Thanks to their multitouch screens, phones and tablets are ideal for the kind of puzzle games where you must push, pull, rotate, and otherwise manipulate objects. That’s why The Room trilogy has been so successful, and also why _PRISM ($3) might turn your head this week. It doesn’t have the spooky atmosphere or narrative threads of the former series, instead putting a mystical, serene spin on the act of solving these faux-physical brainteasers.
You’ll draw slide glyphs into place, rotate and shift icons, and hunt around each geometric shape to find the next input needed to expand the puzzle to its full size, with a mysterious and and colorful aesthetic throughout. _PRISM isn’t terribly long, promising about an hour’s worth of gameplay on average, but it’s well-designed, nicely presented, and should be a treat for fans of brainy-yet-tactile challenges.