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  • Best Google Account Apps

    When you look across the spectrum of email companies, there really isn’t that much unique to offer. (10,000 free AOL hours, anyone? Am I the only person that remembers that?) Google, on the other hand, has plenty available when you sign up for Gmail. When you sign up for a Google account, you get instant access to a large number of Google’s useful apps. Many of these are already included in a suite of apps on your Android device. So if you’re still using person.guy@askjeeves.com, it might be time to upgrade to Google accounts. Here are a few of my favorite apps Google has to offer for Android devices.

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    GMail (Obviously)

    Okay, this one’s a pretty obvious choice. But let’s be honest. It’s a great email service. It’s got a sleek but customizable appearance, plenty of storage, and a great organization feature. Additionally, it has amazing filters when it comes to junk mail. Which means you won’t have to see three “special offer” emails every day just because you signed up for a rewards card at a frozen yogurt stand.

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    Google Maps

    Have you ever watched an older movie where somebody is trying to navigate with a little paper map? What a dark time in our history. I personally just wouldn’t have left the house. Thankfully, I live in a time where Google Maps is easily integrated with my account. While it has all the basic features such as general mapping and GPS, it’s the memory that is Google Maps’ best feature. Because it’s attached to my Google account, the app remembers all the locations I’ve previously searched. Which means I won’t have to embarrassingly ask my parents what their address is for the 50th time.

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    Google Drive

    Before I discovered Google Drive, my home computer was a mess. I would save a document to the desktop, forget about it, and let them all pile up. I was a document hoarder, a danger to myself. But since adopting the wonderful tool of Google Drive, I’ve become a master of organization. The only drawback to the app is you will also need the Docs application in order to edit documents on your Android device. However, that’s a pretty small price to pay. Sure, I’m still a slob in real life, but my Drive has made my collection of documents clean and organized. And if you saw my room, you’d know it’s a miracle that any aspect of my life is in order.

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    YouTube

    The days of Youtube being the highway to nothing but cat videos and “fail” videos are long gone. It is now a wonderful void where you can get caught up for hours. Well, more so than before. Thankfully, having a Google account, you can subscribe to all your favorite content creators to keep up with their newest uploads. Plus, it saves your past searches and history if you need to rewatch something. So if you need to watch a tutorial every time you tie a tie, it’s got you covered. Not that I know that feeling from experience or anything.

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  • Pac-Man 256

    Pac-Man does things we all want to be able to do. He eats nonstop without gaining a pound, he’s been popular for over 30 years, he’s in Super Smash Bros. Every guy wants to be him, every gal wants to be his.

    OK, I’m getting a bit off track here.

    The point is, Pac-Man is wonderful and it’s high time we got the opportunity to help him eat pellets whenever possible. Well now, with the help of Pac-Man 256, you can fulfill that dream. The game, available for free on Android devices, was released this year. With some help from a familiar developer, does the game make us forget the old way of Pac-Manning? (Note to self: is Pac-Manning a word? Please check before sending.) Let’s find out.

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    Cool Graphics

    With blockly, retro graphics, this game is charming right off the bat. Does the aesthetic look vaguely familiar? That’s because the game was also worked on by Crossy Road developers Hipster Whale. (I really did my homework on this article!)

    These old-timey graphics really fit the world of Pac Man. It’s almost like he jumped out of his arcade cabinet and came to life. (Isn’t that the plot of an Adam Sandler movie?) It keeps the old looks while also remaining fresh.

    However, perhaps you’re scared of change. Maybe you’ve had the same look since the 80’s and want Pac Man to be the same. Well dry those tears and hitch up your parachute pants because you’re in luck! There’s the option to switch back to the graphics of the classic game. The only drawback is it does cost money. (Gasp!) However, it’s really not that much and gives the game a clean, somehow more retro, look.

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    Endless PacMan

    If you’re looking for a classic Pac-Man experience, you’ll have to go to your local arcade with a handful of coins. (Or get the other Pac-Man apps. Either way.) Pac-Man 256 breaks down the barriers of the classic game to give it a more endless experience. With a lot more ghosts. Think a really long Stephen King novel.

    While I enjoy the classic game, I definitely had a lot of fun playing around with 256. It kept all the essentials of the old version but with a new flare. Like Van Halen with Sammy Hagar. (Please don't send hate mail over that)

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    So if you’re looking for a fun, simple way to kill some time while waiting in line for Star Wars tickets, Pac-Man 256 is the perfect Android game for you.

    It’s worth downloading just for the funky remix of Pac-Man’s theme song.

  • Plants Vs. Zombies Review

    The zombie apocalypse is coming. We’ve known about it for years, but we’ve still done nothing about it. However, it should be known that one game foretold the impending doom along with how to solve it. The one way to defeat zombies: vegetation. That’s right, your garden was the key to defeating the undead all along. At least this is what was foretold in the wonderfully addictive game Plants vs Zombies. While the game originally came out over five years ago, it is available on Android devices and still popular. Does the game still hold up? Let me answer you now. Does a zombie eat brains?

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    The Basics

    Besides being a blueprint for surviving the future, Plants vs Zombies is also a thinking man’s game. Using your plants, you must plan ahead on the best strategies to use. Do you use walnuts to block out the zombies? Do you plant plenty of sunflowers to get more sun power? Perhaps you prefer to stop a huge wave with a Cherry Bomb? OK, maybe I should explain a bit more in depth.

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    Basically, there is a slew of plants available to you that will help slow down and defeat the slowly advancing zombies. Each type needs a different amount of sun to plant, which you collect during the game. You start with only the Peashooter, which shoots peas at the zombies, and the Sunflower, which provides you with more sun. The more you play, the better weapons you get, such as the Potato Mine. (P.S. if you need a new band name, go with Potato Mine.)

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    Extremely Addictive

    Plants vs Zombies is very difficult to put down. Once you begin your war against the undead, you will never want to stop planting, digging, and strategizing. While you need to think fast, the game is never a stressful experience. And nothing quite beats the experience of bowling over zombies with walnuts. I’m going to assume this is the only game where that’s possible.

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    Free and Fun

    While it’s been years since the original release of Plants vs. Zombies, the game still holds up very well. It’s fun, it’s addictive, and (drumroll) it’s FREE! That’s right, the entire adventure is available free of charge. For fans of gardening, warfare, and zombies (AKA everybody) Plants Vs. Zombies is the perfect pastime. What excuse do you have for keeping Plants Vs. Zombies off of your phone? None. In fact, I’d argue it’s your duty to mankind to prepare if/when we need to battle the zombies. We’ll need all the help we can get.

  • Google Play Music All Access

    Remember the last time you saw a CD? It’s probably been awhile, huh? There’s a reason for that. The wonderful world of streaming meant we didn't have to see those shiny little donuts anymore. (How poetic!) But what service should you choose? Many go with Spotify, the most popular service and sworn enemy of Taylor Swift.

    However, Google has decided to throw their hat in the ring and show they can do it better, like they have with so many other things. (Writer’s Note: This is not a direct advertisement for Google. Unless they want to send me money.) Do they succeed? Well, I won’t give it away now. Cause then you won’t read the article,

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    So Much Music

    There is a crazy amount of music available to stream and download. Even some of the more obscure artists I searched for were there. (Don’t know who The Dollyrots are? Apparently Google Play All Access does. And they’re pretty obscure.)

    You also get all the benefits you’d expect from any other streaming service, such as the ability to make playlists. So there’s no need to burn that breakup playlist you made when you were 16 to your computer.

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    It’s Ad Free

    As much as I love listening to that car insurance ad for the 300th time, sometimes it feels good to get away from ads for a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love knowing what I should be buying. But it can feel nice to listen to a full album interruption-free.

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    YouTube Red

    If you only use Youtube once every couple months to watch that delightful video of the cat playing keyboards, I understand. But if, like me, you use it to watch many content creators and clips from late night shows, Youtube Red is a big deal. And it comes included with All Access!

    Basically, like the rest of Google Play’s All Access, it gets rid of all the ads. You can also download videos if you’d like. If you wanted to watch a video later on the bus, you can download the video and watch it later. Just wear headphones. Don’t be that one guy.

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    It’s Not Expensive

    When I think of the amount of money I spent on CDs in the pre-streaming era, I get a bit teary eyed. That’s because, for the price of just one album, you can stream all you want for a month. That’s pretty crazy when you think of all that’s available to you.

    Considering it’s only $10, I’d say it’s worth skipping all the ads and being in the driver's seat for all the music you want. I mean, I spend much more than that on vodka each month. (Oh wait, my Mom might be reading this.) I spend much more on charitable organizations each month.

  • Google Keep Android Perfect Note App

    If you’re anything like me, a million random thoughts are due to run through your head every hour or so. Additionally, if you’re like me, most of those thoughts are useless. However, the remaining 1% of thoughts is worth tabbing down. That’s when it’s time to whip out Google Keep: the greatest note app for Android on this planet. Unless they found Google Keep on Mars by the time this is published.

     

    Why I Need Google Keep

    Personally, I’m a person that needs a notetaking app for more than just tabbing down random thoughts. As a writer, I need to archive some of these ideas to turn into articles (I’m pretty sure I have a ‘talk about google keep, make good article’ note somewhere). Additionally, I have a long list of bands, books, movies, and shows people tell me to check out. I also have notes for day-to-day reminders and due dates for work. Am I pulling back the curtain too much? Should I try and maintain the mystery of the writing process a bit more?

    Now, to qualify myself a little bit, I have had no shortage of note taking apps in the past. Somewhere sprawled across the internet are my Evernote, InkPad, and Notepad + accounts, locked away for eternity because I’m incapable of remembering passwords. And I’m perfectly fine with that, because I have found the Holy Grail of note apps. Only this one won’t melt your face off (or was that the Arc of The Covenant? Have I even seen Indiana Jones?)

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    A Lovely Look

    One superficial reason I enjoy the Google Keep so much is the interface. It kind of looks like an actual board with sticky notes on it, which you can customize by color, add labels, and even input reminder times to pop up on your phone. And, if you finally start that novel you’ve been telling all your friends you’ve been writing as a note and need to switch it to a Google Doc, it’s a simple click away.

     

    Picture To Text

    Perhaps one of the coolest features offered by Google Keep is the ‘Grab image text’ option. After uploading an image, simply select the ‘grab image text’ button and any text on the image will be transcribed for you. This is especially useful if you need to quickly copy and paste information from a screenshot.

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    The Google Connection

    Finally, here’s the main reason I enjoy Google Keep: it’s part of your entire Google suite of apps. Remember how I mentioned I can’t remember a password to save my life? Well, I only have to be logged in to my Google account to use Google Keep along with every other Google app (I could geek out for a while on the entire suite I use, but I’ll save that for another article). So, if I can keep this up, I’ll only have to remember one password the rest of my life. Better write it down just in case.

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  • Gurk Android Review

    To be totally honest, I’ve never been all that good at RPG games. While I like the idea of going on a huge quest and saving the world, sometimes they’re just too difficult. Or I just can’t focus enough to finish any of them. Either way. Well, despite my lack of experience with RPGs, let’s take a look at Gurk for Android devices. Or Gurk The 8-Bit RPG as it’s called on the Google Play Store. But let’s just call it Gurk. It’s easier that way.

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    The Basics

    Before I get into the game itself, let’s talk about the graphics for a minute. Or a paragraph. Gurk shares the simple 8-bit graphics of many early RPGs like Final Fantasy or, umm, Final Fantasy 2? I don’t know many RPGs from that era to be totally honest. Which is probably why I’m not very good at them. Regardless, the game’s retro graphics really fit into the gameplay. And speaking of the gameplay...

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    The Gameplay

    The basics of Gurk’s gameplay are very reminiscent of other RPGs. You travel around the overworld and randomly encounter enemies. However, the battle system is pretty different from most standard RPG games. You see, most RPGs will simply have you mashing buttons for attacking, using magic, and using items. With Gurk, on the other hand, battles are placed on a grid, almost like a game of chess. You can either choose to move or attack during your turn. Isn’t that how chess works?

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    Is It Fun?

    Gurk is one of those games that really did surprise me. When I first started the game up, I wasn’t expecting very much, especially considering it was a free game. However, there is plenty of charm to this little adventure. The battle system especially really impressed me, adding a real sense of strategy to the classic RPG formula. My only real issue is the overall difficulty, as I found myself constantly overwhelmed by the hordes of enemies. Although, as I made very clear in the opening, I’m just not very good at these kinds of games.

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    The Bottom Line

    If somebody had never played a role playing video game before, Gurk may be a good start. The game is very simple, right down to the presentation. It’s a good way to understand the basics without being overwhelmed with a 900-hour quest where you have to talk to every single villager in each level. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

  • Andrio's World Super Mario Plagiarism

    Nintendo will always be one of the most synonymous companies with gaming. One of their biggest decisions is to keep most of their major games such as Super Mario off of smartphones. While this is interesting from a business perspective, it also opens up the need for those games on the Google Play Store. Is Andrio’s World the platforming experience that will make us forget about Super Mario forever? Let’s take a look.

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    The Least Sincere Form Of Flattery

    As you can see from the screenshots, Andrio’s World doesn’t dance around what it’s, ahem, paying homage to. From the main image on the Google Play Store we see a mustachioed overall-wearing man running from some fairly familiar looking enemies. At least they’re being honest?

    When you start the game you’re greeted with a very familiar sites: blocks with question marks, coins, and bottomless pits. Going back to the enemies, each is basically a downgraded version of enemies from Super Mario World. We see low-grade Goombas, Koopas, and purple dragons I just learned were named Rex. (See? At least I learned something from this game.) The only original enemies I saw were frog mummies. When they put in something original, they go all out.

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    Is it wasn’t bad enough to rip off how the Mario games look, Andrio’s World takes it a step further. They also took many of the iconic sounds from the games. For example, when Andrio dies, what sounds like a slowed down version of the death sounds from Super Mario plays. I could forgive ripping off the ‘jump’ sound, but this is going too far.

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    Control Freakish

    While I’ve spent a lot of time on the basic appearance of the game, the controls don’t offer much of a different story. There are two arrows along with jump and crouch buttons. This sounds fine at first, but then I found out how the ‘run’ button works. Basically, there are two halves to each arrow button, the arrow itself makes Andrio run while the rest of the arrow has him walking at a slow pace. I didn’t figure this out until I had let Andrio die many, many deaths.

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    At The Very Least…

    It’s free. And that’s pretty much all it has going for it. It has some in-app purchases if you desire, but it never seemed like a priority to me. To its credit, the ads aren’t too intrusive and you are able to play again and again with little interruption.

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    Bottom Line

    Have you ever gotten that store-brand soda that’s cheaper and kind of (emphasis on kind of) gets the job done? That’s how I see Andrio’s World. Except, since it’s free, it’d be more like some guy giving you a free liter of soda outside the grocery store. And that doesn’t really seem like a good idea to me.

  • The Struggles Of Being A Lone Android User

    Before, I start, I’d like to get one thing straight: I love my Android devices. Ever since I started using Android phones and tablets in 2013, I’ve been using them nonstop. I love the interface, they’re very affordable, and I have every app I need. However, I noticed something at a recent family and friend gathering:

    I am the only Android user among my family and friend group.

    For the most part, the people around me are staunchly pro-Apple. They rave about their phones, tablets, and computers. While I can admit they make quality products, I simply prefer the affordability and operating system of Android devices. And because I refuse to turn to the Apple side, let’s take a look at a few of the struggles of being the lone Android user in an Apple community.

    BYOC (Bring Your Own Charger) It’s happened to all of us. We’re enjoying the party around us and decide to check our phone to rationalize staying another twenty minutes. But reality settles in. We notice our device is down to 8% battery. It’s panic time. You run around asking everybody, anybody, for a spare charger.

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    Now, this used to be a pretty easy situation. There was always at least one fellow Androidman (is that the word? I’m using it anyways) to mooch some charger off of. But now, as the Lone Androidman (movie script pending), I need to bring my own charger everywhere, just in case.

    So Long, Siri Just to be clear: I realize Android basically has its own version of Siri. And it does the job just fine. What I mainly mean is having a little fun with Siri. I remember when Siri first came out. Everybody was flipping about this new robot butler (I refuse to think of it otherwise).

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    And one of the most fun things when it first came out was messing around with this new robot butler. It was fun to gauge the pre-programmed reactions when you joke around with it. While not a huge deal, it does make you feel a bit left out when everyone around you summons their robot butler right in front of you. (I still love you, Google Now)

    Faceless Time Much like Siri, FaceTime is something Android has a version of that I don’t really use that much. And that’s not only because I’m not a fan of video chatting, (I’m much better in person - kinda) no one from my friend group or family uses it since they're using FaceTime.

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    This wouldn’t be a huge deal, but again it makes you feel left out. When everybody’s so used to FaceTime, it’s tough to convince them to download Google Hangouts on their iPhone.

    I Still Won’t Change All of this may seem like the first world problem rant of a man about to change. Well, that’s simply not true. I love my Android and don't plan on changing anytime soon. And if that means not using a friend’s charger, harassing a robot butler, or letting people see a close-up of my face, I’m totally fine with that. As for changing something, maybe it’s time to befriend a few more fellow Androidmen.

  • Penguin Village Review

    What is it that’s so likeable about penguins? Is it their basic adorable appearance? Is it the fact that they generally look huggable? Is it the fact that they know how to dance, as accurately portrayed in the documentary Happy Feet? I’d say yes to all of those. And that’s why we see so many penguins in our movies and TV shows. And app games. Which I’m reviewing today. It’s called Penguin Village. It’s for Windows devices. That is all.

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    The Basics

    When I first saw the title was Penguin Village, I figured they’d be going for a whole “Club Penguin” kind of thing. You know, that game where kids can play as Penguins and...chat about penguin stuff? I’m not sure, I haven’t really played it. Well, this game is not that. But I can’t talk about that yet. This is the Basics section. I’m forbidden to speak of any gameplay until the appropriate section. Thank you for understanding.\

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    The Gameplay

    While this is not a Club Penguin-ish game, it’s more of a Mario-meets-Temple Run kind of experience. You see, you don’t actually control your movement, only jumping and ducking. And throwing...rocks? I don’t remember that from March Of The Penguins. You also collect fruits and vegetables while battling aliens. I definitely don’t remember that from March Of The Penguins.

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    Is It Fun?

    While it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, I had a decent time with Penguin Village. The controls are decent, the obstacles are plentiful, and there’s no shortage of standard platforming items to collect. You can tell they wanted to try something original, as evidenced by the fact that you battle aliens. However, I ran into one major problem with the game - the advertising placement. At least for me, there was a large banner ad placed between the buttons on the screen. This made seeing what’s below you nearly impossible at times, leading to plenty of mistakes by me. Caused by mistakes by the game.

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    The Bottom Line

    Penguin Village has all the basic parts of a good game. It has decent gameplay, a cute, cuddly mascot, and aliens. But the game’s strange ad placement makes me consider this game more mediocre than good. Is it too late for the game to jump from mediocre to good? Well, I’m not an app developer and don’t know how to move ads around. But I bet it’s easy. Right?

  • How to Get Podcasts on Your Android Phone

    Are you an avid listener of podcasts? Do you enjoy hearing a few people chat about everything from sports to entertainment to the best kind of quadruple stack cheeseburger? (I’m not sure if that’s a podcast yet, but it definitely should be.) Then I’m sure you’d like an easy way to have all your podcasts directly on your phone.

    “But wait! I have an Android phone. I can’t subscribe to iTunes podcasts”, you may say.

    Well, fear not, as Google Play Music, the main music service from Google (couldn’t you tell from the name?) is fully equipped for your podcast needs. But I know what you’re saying now. “I wish I had a mildly informative article to teach me how to find the podcasts I want on Google Play.” Well, you’re in luck again. Because you’re reading such an article right now. (Is your mind blown?) Let’s take a look at the world of Google Play Music podcasts.

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    The Basics

    After opening the Google Play Music app, you need to tap the small box in the top left of the screen. You know, that box with all the lines that every single app seems to have. You’ll get a number of different options, such as “Browse Stations”, “Listen Now”, and “Order Sandwich”. The last one’s my favorite feature. Simply tap on “Podcasts” and let your journey begin.

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    And Then What?

    Once you’ve taken a look at some of the most popular podcasts, you may want to narrow down your search. Simply tap on “All Categories” and scroll around. They have everything from Business to News & Politics to plenty of other things that are way too highbrow for me to listen to.

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    Additional Tips

    If you don’t see anything available that sparks your interests, simply search a keyword of something you enjoy. Big fan of the 90’s? Check out 90’s Percentile. Love trivia? Give Good Job Brain a listen. Huge fan of actor Todd Bridges? I’m sure there’s a podcast about him called Toddcast. Wait, never mind, I’m taking that idea.

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