As the holidays come ever closer and we “x” off more days on the calendar along the way, there starts to be a growing feeling of, “Oh crap!” when you realized you totally forgot to get a gift for that certain someone. If you’re playing Secret Santa this year, consider sending some apps to your friends, family, or coworkers. Below are some new and updated apps that are worth digitally wrapping.
Google keeps up the trend of major app upgrades by giving its social network an overhaul. Twenty new features popped up in the mobile version of Google+ this week. Among the biggest of those was the inclusion of recently added Communities feature, a direct competitor to Facebook Groups. You now have the ability to edit your profile and subscribe to circles from the mobile app, moving it up from little more than a social reader on mobile to a full-blown sharing tool. A big function that Facebook still lacks and Google+ now offers: Animated .GIF support. This could give Google a leg up with the popular image format that is giving people a whole new way to share their crazy cats.
Not to be outdone, of course, is the current king of social networking. Facebook has been offering up updates to it’s mobile apps on a regular basis lately, in part because it pretty much sucked before. The iOS version of Facebook had its timeline display restructured completely. It also ramped up the speed of the app on both Android and iOS, which is welcome considering it seemed to be designed as a social network for sloths before. Now both apps are built natively for each device. Other than that, the only major upgrade is the ability to upload photos to a specific album.
Instagram no longer works with Twitter, so it’s time for all the replacements to come flying in. Perhaps the most high-profile of the potential fill-ins in Flickr. Yahoo’s photo sharing site is setting out to capture the territory that Instagram surrendered by offering an update with sixteen unique photo filters that are easy to apply to your snapshots. Sound familiar? Working for Flickr is the fact it has the added benefit of an existing online structure, while Instagram is still figuring out its profile pages and setting up its own infrastructure. Working against Flickr is the fact that it’s owned by Yahoo, a company that seems to struggle to make anything it does work.
Here’s an app that takes your iPad and turns it into the start of an art project. Foldify lets users create printable, 3D figures right on their iPad screen. Draw and create a character that you’d like to bring to life and the app will create printable directions on how to go from flat printer paper to pop-up figurine in just a few steps. Great for kids or adults with a lot of free time, it’s an innovative way to bring art to life by starting it digitally. Once you’ve created your figure, use Foldify to share it with the world. It’s full circle.
If you gotta catch ’em all, then this is the app to do it with. One of the first appearances of any Nintendo-owned product on a third-party mobile device, the Pokédex app makees the process of searching for and catching pocket monsters that much more fun. A fully functioning collection of every piece of information you could possibly want to know about any Pokémon, this app has a searchable database of catchable creatures that will help you in your quest to be the best Pokémon trainer around.
Google Maps (iOS)
After three months of being absent on the App Store, Google Maps returns to iOS. It’s new and improved in nearly every way, from the user interface to the newly included turn-by-turn navigation. Aiming to prove that Apple took a wrong turn when it decided to discontinue its partnership with Google, the search giant gave its Maps app an overhaul that will make any frequent traveler happy. Public transit options that are unmatched, more traffic data, and the ever-popular Street View feature is sure to make Google Maps find its way on to most iOS devices even without being the default option.
AudioBus is a dream come true for musicians that do most of their music making on iOS devices and with apps. It acts as the booking agent, putting together a major music festival that includes tons of music-centric apps coming together in one place. Essentially, it allows musicians to use more than one of their favorite music apps at the same time, making their functions come together. You can now play the drums in one app while recording it in another. You can finally do your one-man band act with your iPhone or iPad.
It’s like Instagram but for videos. Viddy has been available on iOS but it made its Android debut this week. Record a video, then make it a whole new experience by applying a custom filter over the top of the footage, adding a unique soundtrack that helps emphasize the moment, and sharing it with your friends via your favorite social network. It allows you to be the director of every moment of your life that you capture through your mobile device’s lens.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (iOS)
Most people think of the Final Fantasy series as one of the most recognizable RPG series’ of all time. While that’s true, Square Enix doesn’t want to be boxed in like that. As such, it’s brought the famous fantasy world into a more musical world. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a rhythm-based game set in the Final Fantasy universe. Hit the notes as they scroll through and see how each hit translates in your battle against various baddies. Don’t lie to yourself, you were hoping for a musical RPG to come your way. Here it is.
Boardtastic Skateboarding (Android)
Shades of the famous Tony Hawk series in its heyday, Boardtastic Skateboarding will have you getting air in the half pipe as you try to nail tricks and build up your character. A 3D world with nearly endless surfaces to shred, this game features unlockable and customizable decks, tons of gear and character upgrades, and over thirty tricks to land. Tighten up your trucks, tape up your deck, and get to grinding.
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