Best apps and updates of the week: The Bowling Dead, Facebook Photo Sync, and more

apple app store apps

The app marketplace is expanding exponentially. The Google Play Store and Apple App Store already have millions of apps between the two. Even the newly launched Windows Phone 8 has more than 20,000 apps available for download in just over a month of existence. New apps are always trying insert themselves into the market to either fill perceived voids or improve upon existing options. The top developers roll out updates as fast as new apps can pop up to try to stay on top of the competition. Here are the best updates to existing apps and fresh launches that are worth checking out from the past week. 

App updates

Google Drive (iOS and Android)

Spreadsheet nerds, rejoice! You can now work on your odd hobby while on the go if you use Google Drive. We’re just poking fun, of course, as this is an ability we’ve all been waiting for. An update to Google Drive has made spreadsheet files editable within the app. You now also have the ability to format text options – including size, color, and style – and a much needed copy and paste feature. Spreadsheet formatting is also manageable from Google Drive, allowing column shifts and changes and data sorting. All in all, a step toward total on-the-go editing.

Vimeo (iPhone)

Vimeo keeps doing the best it can to dig a niche for itself in the video hosting market so heavily dominated by YouTube. Its iPhone app update is a step in the right direction, making improvements to the app’s upload options and simplifying navigation. Taking out the rarely-used in-app video editor and allowing videos to upload in the background as users enter in pertinent metadata for the film has streamlined the overall process. A shift to tabbed browsing from the previous grid layout has also made consumption of content a lot easier. The addition of social sharing features also seems to be a good move for improving viewership. It’s the first update to come straight from Vimeo’s own design team. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

Facebook Photo Sync (iOS and Android)

Facebook wants you to trust it with even more of your information. This time, it’s in the form of a cloud storage option for your photos. Facebook calls it Photo Sync, and it’s available in the latest Facebook app update. Facebook is offering users of the new feature 2GB of free space to host images. Photo Sync will take all of the images you snap on your smartphone or tablet and automatically upload them to Facebook. From there, you’ll have the option to share them or keep them or delete them before you make a horribly embarrassing mistake. Encourage your friends to get this app, because  it will inevitably produce a hilariously disturbing moment.

Rdio (iOS and Android)

If Rdio acts as your personal band, then the developers of the app just gave it new and shiny instruments to play. An overhaul to the interface of Rdio’s app came out this week. A sliding style navigation now remains constant throughout the app, as does the sleek white interface. Also popping up for the first time is a unified player option, which will sync your listening experience across your devices. Start a song at home and finish it in the car by accessing your Queue. Finally, remote control options will allow Rdio listeners to control their music remotely from another device.

Words with Friends (Windows Phone)

Remember when Words with Friends was super popular and the object of obsession for mobile users? Thanks to an update to the Windows Phone version of the game, now it has the ability to catch on with Microsoft fans, as well. Of course, it could have done that when it first launched had it simply worked properly, but better late than never. The update from Zynga to it’s popular title provides much needed stability and performance improvements. If you already paid the $3 price tag for the game, might as well get the update that makes it actually playable.

New Apps

AdBlock Plus (Android)

AdBlock Plus is a popular option for keeping annoying ads at bay in web browsers on desktops. Now it’s made its way to Android to take care of the advertising that is scattered across apps and browsers alike. Keep your eyes from being violated by banner ads, push notifications with a sales agenda, and more. It’s free and doesn’t require rooting, though you are likely to see better results if you’re willing to take the risk to root. The results that the app promises includes saved bandwidth and increased screen space, but most importantly it promises to keep you from overexposure to advertising.

New Games

Jet Set Radio (iOS and Android)

A classic game making a welcome return on a new platform. This is nothing new, but it’s still great to see. It’s especially awesome when the game is a cult classic like Jet Set Radio. A game that suffered from the curse that was the Dreamcast, Jet Set Radio managed to build a following with an extremely unique look, insane tricks, memorable moments, and a pitch perfect soundtrack. All of that is back and as good as it ever was in this mobile re-imagining. It’s one of the only times where you can describe a game as “grinding” and it’s a good thing. 

The Bowling Dead (iOS)

“How many zombie games do we really need?” you may ask. That’s a fair question, and it’s pretty impossible to deny that the genre is packed to the brim. However, if there is one place that the undead are under-utilized, it’s bowling alleys. A crossover that is rather unexpected, The Bowling Dead puts survival horror in a new lane as it pins bowlers against zombies. More than just a clever concept, responsive controls and silly but fun story makes this title a perfect strike.

BattleFriends at Sea (iOS and Android)

Take to the open oceans with friends … and then try to sink them. It’s international waters, so it’s not a crime or anything. BattleFriends at Sea is like board game classic Battleship with a social twist. Free to play, the game uses a pretty impressive graphics engine to provide a new skin on an old game model. It can be played cross-platform so you can take down your friends no matter what type of ship they sale the mobile oceans on. There are a few added twists to the gameplay to keep things interesting, so set your sales for your app marketplace of choice and pick this one up.

Fruitiny (iPhone)

The first ever real time memory game ever made, Fruitiny puts a new twist on the old matching card game. You have a simply goal: match bananas with bananas and apples with apples. Sounds simple enough, and the vintage appearance and overall presentation furthers that. But once you start flipping tiles and trying to put together matches as quickly as possible to keep bugs from invading, it starts to show its depth. Extremely addictive and deceivingly challenging, it’s a memory game you won’t forget.

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