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Four years ago I had the idea to build a blog network dedicated to reviewing and rounding up apps. We started with Mac apps and then quickly expanded to additional channels covering iOS, Android, Windows and Web apps. While the network has been successful in traffic and audience, reaching some 100m+ visitors over the four years, it’s ultimately not fit within our broader company mission. So I’m here today to announce that unfortunately after four years of app guidance, we’re closing AppStorm down.

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ng-shop/">Click here to continue reading the message from Collis at Mac.AppStorm.


What Do You Think of “This Week In Android”?

For the past few weeks, we have been running a new column on the site entitled “This Week In Android” where we recount the most interesting news tidbits from the week in terms of software updates, new device announcements, and app updates. It was designed as a light recap of general news, to keep you up-to-date on the latest Android happenings, since we usually do

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n’t cover these in our regular posts.

However, we know that you, as an Android.Appstorm reader, come to us mostly — and almost exclusively — for our app and game reviews and roundups. That’s why, after a few weeks of foraying into “This Week In Android”, we’d like to know your opinion about the new column. Did it pique your interest, or were you skipping it as you prefer to get your Android news from other more timely and elaborate sources? Would you be more interested in a change of format that skips the device and software news to focus solely on app and game updates and releases?

Please take the time to vote and share your opinions in the comments below.

I’m always suspicious of traditional platform games on a touch screen, because it’s one of the genres most dependent on a physical joystick and buttons. However, Paper Monsters is one of the rare platformers that not only works with a touch screen, but also thrives on it.
It puts you in control of a cardboard crusader, on a mission to save the paper kingdom from an evil tyrant. In the process, you stomp and jump and run your way through four worlds, collecting buttons and traversing platforms. Paper Monsters is adorable and fun, and I’m rather besotted with it.

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The Cardboard Hero’s Journey
Paper Monsters offers a 16-level main adventure, plus three additional modes. The main adventure takes you through four chapters, starting in the Paper Hills, then on through the Yibiki Peaks and Cardboard Dunes to the Papyrus Ruins.
Each chapter sports a distinct color scheme and mood — the bright, happy, and colorful first chapter gives way to a desaturated and snowy second chapter, which is followed by an orange and red-hued third chapter and a green, red, and dangerous-looking fourth chapter. The game’s difficulty follows a similar curve, springing more surprises and deadly obstacles as you progress.
The level selection screen hints at the colorful adventures that await.
You control your cardboard crusader with a virtual joystick on the left side of the screen. This is a floating joystick by default, appearing whenever and wherever you touch the screen, but you can toggle a setting that puts it in the corner, visible at all times.Tap anywhere on the right side of the screen to jump (or shoot, if you’re in the submarine). Tap a second time while in the air to double jump. The controls are sharp and responsive, and jumping feels right — not too floaty, nor too heavy.
Touch controls in Paper Monsters work remarkably well.
Most of the standard platformer tropes are here. You jump on the heads of enemies to kill them  — unless they’re armored — and lose health if you touch them in any other way. There are lots of coins buttons to collect, along with three paper clips to look for in each level. Traversing through levels requires a mix of running, jumping, double jumping, and dying because you got the timing wrong. And there’s a boss fight at the end of each world, which involves jumping on them or shooting them three times to kill them. It’s all pretty normal fare, except for a couple of things.
I grinned from ear to ear the first time a pipe — yes, there are pipes too — sent me into the background. When this happens, you do all of the same platforming, only you’re no longer in the foreground of the image, as is the norm for such games where the background would typically just be a static painting. Paper Monsters isn’t the first game to offer a separate plane of platforming, but this is still a rare concept — and seldom is the execution so good.
Platforming in the background still feels novel, and Paper Monsters does it well.
Sometimes a pipe spits you back out as a submarine or flying box. Underwater sections are a great change of pace for the adventure, swapping the running and jumping for dodging and weaving and finally letting you shoot bad guys. Flying sections give you freedom to explore further, going to heights and depths you could never safely reach via platforming.
These different mechanics pop up from time to time throughout the game, never lasting for an entire level. They tighten the pacing of the adventure, which might otherwise come to feel stretched out or tedious, and actually remind me of the way Super Nintendo classic Donkey Kong Country mixed underwater and mining cart adventuring to keep its platforming fresh.
The underwater sections are a breath of fresh air, and they don’t overstay their welcome.
Mini-Games and Themed Adventures
Paper Monsters has three other game modes to sink your teeth into, and they’re just as fun as the main adventure — albeit without much meatiness or longevity. The Drag ’N Dash mini-game sees you running a side-scrolling obstacle course, with buttons strewn along the way that need to be collected. You have control only over when your character jumps — he/she/it runs automatically — and the course is short. Once you master it you’re unlikely to ever go back, since there’s just the one course, but it’s fun while it lasts.
Drag ‘N Dash is a fun endless runner-style mini-game, but its lack of depth or variety may grate after several tries.
The other two modes are more like extensions of the main game. The Halloween-themed Punkin’ Time is a fun six-level side-quest through a world of pumpkins, spikes, and cemetery backgrounds, minus some of the more inventive ideas of the main adventure.
Heartbreak Showdown is similarly six levels and designed much like the main quest, but it throws in the cool twist that you need to find and collect a certain number of candy hearts hidden (or plainly visible) around the level. This side-quest is also notable for having a completely-different look to the rest of the game — it’s full of purples, violets, reds, and love hearts.
Heartbreak Showdown offers a simple scavenger hunt in addition to the usual platforming, along with a bright purple-and-pink-and-red aesthetic.
Cut-Out Worlds
There’s a kind of domestic charm here not unlike that found in Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series on the PlayStation 3. Everything looks like a hand-made cut-out, and you even get a similar dancing-on-a-stage celebration at the end of each level. It’s a good aesthetic style to ape, especially when coupled with Paper Monsters’ more precise, less airy controls — which is a strange thing to say, given that touch screens are typically less precise.
The end-of-level celebrations bear an uncanny resemblance to LittleBigPlanet’s dancing Sackboy and disco music.
Paper Monsters draws comparisons to LittleBigPlanet in its character customization, too. Just as you can deck Sackboy out in all sorts of costumes, your little cardboard-box hero can wear different clothing and accessories — which you purchase with gold buttons collected from wrapped-present boxes in the game. The selection is fairly diverse, catering to many different styles and sensibilities, but unfortunately you can only choose two of these at a time — a head-piece (eg. a hat or headphones) and a body-piece (eg. a box-shaped suit). Nonetheless, it’s easy to add a sense of individual flair for the cost of a few gold buttons.
You can customize your character’s appearance with outfits purchased with gold buttons found in levels.
Paper Platforming Perfection
I adore Paper Monsters. It’s cute, fun, light-hearted, well-designed, and a breath of fresh air. I usually get bored of platformers well short of the end, because of a combination of repetitive, uninventive level design and an unshakeable feeling that I’ve played the same thing before — only it was better then.
Paper Monsters avoids this by presenting a cut-out cardboard world of whimsy and wonder, which pays homage to great platformers of old without directly aping them. With tight, responsive controls and a reasonable difficulty curve, Paper Monsters is a winner.

With camera lens and sensor specs getting more and more impressive, Android devices have easily become our go-to choice for point-and-shoot cameras. Photos on our phones keep getting better and better but the issue is with transferring and backing up those precious memories seamlessly.
The best place to automatically store photos is in the cloud so we can access them anytime and anywhere. Many apps and services offer this option but with only very little free space — 2GBs is ridiculous given the higher resolution sensors on cameraphones — and expensive additional space. Google+ will backu
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p photos with no storage limit, except it counteracts that by downsizing the image resolution. Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could back those photos up to our Google Drive account, making good use of the free space offered with the reasonably priced additional storage? Well, there’s a simple app called FolderSync to do just that.

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FolderSync comes in a lite version for free in the Play Store that does everything we need to set up our automatic photo backups. The interface can seem tricky at first glance if you don’t understand how it works so let’s do a step by step walk-through to explain the whole process.
Step 1: Get Familiar With What Makes a Sync
There are three different parts that make up a sync: the original file location, a cloud storage account (in this case, Google Drive account), and a folderpair. In the ensuing steps we will go through each one of the parts and soon you’ll see how simple it is to set them up to work together.
Step 2: Set Up a Cloud Storage Account
Foldersync supports a great list of accounts you can set up, from Dropbox and Skydrive all the way down to your own FTP server. Since we’re looking at taking advantage of our available Google Drive space, we’ll choose that option.
On the home screen, you will see the navigation options where you can choose Accounts.
Foldersync homescreen
Once you go to the Accounts screen, you’ll see a tiny cloud button in the lower left-hand corner with a small plus sign on it. Tapping that will give you the cloud services you can choose from. Simply choose Google Drive.
Setting up a Google Drive account
Attaching your Google Drive account is as simple as following the steps to sign in and validate it. Once you do, make sure you tap the save button in the upper right corner of the screen to save it.
Step 3: Set Up a Folderpair
Setting up a folderpair is simply telling the app which folder on your phone you want synced with which cloud service you just set up. You can have several folders syncing to several services all at once. What we want to do is to back up our photos on our Google Drive account, making sure none are missed.
Folderpair setup
From the drop down menu, choose Folderpairs. Tap the small plus button in the lower left-hand corner to add a new folderpair. Most of the fields here are pretty simple to figure out but let’s have a walk-through.

Name: This is simply to identify what this folderpair is doing should you choose to set up more than one. You can name it something like “photos from phone” or something similar.
Account: This space needs to be the Google account we just set up.
Remote folder: It’d probably be good if you set up a specific folder in your Google Drive account before just placing the photos anywhere, so name it something you’ll remember like “photos from phone” then come back here and choose this new folder.
Local folder: This is for the folder on your phone that you want backed up. Most Androids have a folder on the SD card — whether it’s physical or the internal virtual one — called DCIM. To be safe that all of your photos make it to the backup session, choose the whole folder.
Sync type: Choose the “to remote folder” option.
Scheduling: This is entirely up to you. Choose when you want the backup to occur.
Sync options: Pay attention here because you’ll either get errors or you’ll miss some photos if you check or uncheck some of these wrongly. I typically ignore the first two boxes but the rest are imperative.

Make sure “Sync subfolders” is checked so all photos in the folders beneath the DCIM folder are synced.
Make sure the “Sync hidden files” box is unchecked or you’ll get errors. You don’t need any hidden files to backup your photos anyway.
Unless you want the photos deleted from your phone as they’re synced, make sure the “Delete source files after sync” option is unchecked.
I usually check the “Do not sync deletions” option because I don’t want to accidentally delete a wanted photo off my phone and then have the backup automatically deleted too — just a safeguard.

If you want to set up sync filters, you must opt to purchase the full version but that’s for another day. Finally, make sure you tap the save button in the upper right corner to save those changes.
Step 4: Start Your First Sync
Choose Sync status from the drop down menu to see a history of your syncs. Since this is the first time, there won’t be a list there but you will be able to start your first sync.
Sync status
To start the sync, simple tap the sync button in the lower left-hand corner of the sync screen. The first sync will probably take some time, assuming you’ve got a lot of photos and videos ready to back up. Once it’s done, ensuing syncs should be quicker as it only backs up the files added or updated since the last time.
Although it would be nice if there was a built-in feature with Google Drive to automatically back up photos in full-resolution, that doesn’t exist yet and Foldersync fills the void very well. Now you can backup photos to your Google storage in two different ways. You can either have Google+ send the lowered resolution version without it counting against your free storage, or you can use Foldersync to sync and safely keep the full-sized images.

This week in apps has been a hectic one, with a new app that has you guessing the logos to major corporations, a Flickr competitor’s entry into the mobile app world, and the latest photography craze GifBoom, all making a splash not only on the Play Store, but on my device as well! So read on to see what’s happening this week in the world of Android.

Logo Quiz
First there was Temple Run, then Draw Something, and now Logo Quiz, the latest mobile game frenzy. As you may have guessed from the name, the main aim of the game is to guess the logos of brands familiar to tho
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se all over the world.
As I said above, these types of apps are the latest craze in the Android world and so the usual rush of apps mimicking identical functionality are to be expected, but the aptly named Logo Quiz still reigns supreme. It contains logos ranging from Shell Oil to Starbucks Coffee. I’ve been playing it a lot and so far have noticed little to no overlap of questions, so you can expect it to keep you entertained for hours on end!
Logo Quiz
Hailed by many as Flickr’s first true competitor, 500px’s Android offering is a sight to behold. Apart from offering a beautiful and easy to use interface, it also sports some amazing pictures taken by truly talented photographers. Thankfully, the developers decided to make the app free, without ads that would detract seriously from the viewing of the pictures.
Whilst some will agree that this app benefits from larger screen estate (such as offered by the Galaxy Note or other Android tablets) it’s also a pleasure to use on a smaller scale and is definitely a leap forward for Android photo browsing apps!
The Avengers Live Wallpaper
It’s hard to go on to any movie news site without seeing The Avengers mentioned. Adored by critics and fans alike, this film made (and still is making!) a huge splash in cinemas everywhere. Having grossed millions before even being released in the USA, it’s certainly popular. If you’re a fan then this live wallpaper is perfect for you.
Although there is a free download, this only comes with the basic wallpaper; but for an extra $0.99 you can upgrade to the full wallpaper, sporting the full Avengers cast including Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, Iron Man and Hulk. Performance wise this wallpaper isn’t too shabby either. It ran very smoothly on my device, and I can only imagine how well it could run on devices such as the Galaxy S II or the Nexus.
The Avengers Live Wallpaper
A while back here on Android.Appstorm we published a post of the best ringtone apps. In that roundup several apps that added custom vibrations to specific contacts made an appearance, and if we were to re-write that roundup, we would definitely include ViBe. Apart from making setting custom vibrations easier and faster, it also has several discerning features that set it apart from the standard flurry of vibration apps.
Apart from the usual features, this app also integrates tightly into some major apps that deliver notifications. It currently does so with Handcent and Go SMS Pro and the developers are looking to expand this further by integrating into other massively popular apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Gmail.
Instagram is so last week. Now it’s all about Gifboom. This app is taking the GIF community by storm, allowing users not only to easily create animated GIFs but also to view and share them with the Gifboom community. Although some users have reported that the app’s functionality can be quite sporadic, thankfully I have yet to experience a hitch.
For those of you who love GIFs (who doesn’t?!) you’ll begin to wonder how you ever woke up in the morning without being able to tap an icon and see a collection of user generated GIFs waiting to be enjoyed. Apart from offering its own network (á la Instagram), GifBoom also allows sharing to many of the most popular social networking websites around today, such as Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Overall this app will definitely reserve a special place in GIF lovers’ hearts (and homescreens).
Pocket Academy
Kairosoft’s latest venture in the Android market is very different than its other offerings. Rather than letting you control a glamorous space station, a game development startup, or even your own spa, this game lets you manage somewhere that everyone has been: a school. Although it’s hard to argue that managing a school in real life is actually fun, Kairosoft manages to make it so.
You can build dorms, classroom, locker rooms – basically most of the things that probably existed in your high school! This game is definitely one of Kairosoft’s better offerings (and you can definitely expect a full review here on Android.Appstorm sometime soon).
Pocket Academy
The quality of phone cameras improves by the day, and the craze of photo editing apps seems to keep pace. PicFrame basically allows you to put several of your images all into one via the use of frames. Not only does this make photography more fun, it also makes for a neat way to present your pictures to your friends and family.
So far I’ve used this app to showcase a few pictures from a recent trip (and even a few screenshots) and it has yet to let me down. If you use Instagram or are constantly using your phone as your camera and are looking for a way to present your images in both a functional and beautiful way than this app is definitely one you’ll appreciate.


What’s your preferred mobile voice control interface?

Today, Joe Casabona argued Google missed with Voice Actions, and Connor Turnbull said, “Siri’s an interface, voice actions are a proxy“.
Both authors highlight an important difference between Android’s Voice Actions and iOS’s Siri (aside from the marketing): Voice Actions works like a command line or keyboard shortcut, while Siri aims to be a natural language computer assistant.
It reminds me of Yahoo Search vs. Ask Jeeves back in the early 2000s; so-called “natural
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language” recognition may be more elegant and impressive and capable of constructing complex queries, but it’s far from natural – the natural way to inquire about something is to point at it and grunt. This could be why keyword-based search engines have typically been way more popular and useful. Want food? Search [food].
I’ve been enjoying playing with Vlingo in the past week, grunting commands like “play music”, “call Bob”, “search killer whale length”. This, to me, is much more comfortable than asking “How long is the average killer whale?”
I’m not trying to knock Siri – I don’t even have an iPhone so I can hardly give it a fair evaluation, and I believe it can cope with “grunt” commands as well – I’m just making the point that I’m happy happy with voice commands, without the need for full natural language processing.
What about you?


How Do You Use Your Phone’s Camera?

“The best camera you have is the one that’s with you”. It’s a cliché that’s often used in defence of phone cameras that, although improving with every generation, are still a long way behind point-and-shoots.
I’m not a photographer. I don’t study the craft, I’ve never woken up early to take pictures of the sunrise, and the most post-production I’ve ever done is to use the red-eye removal tool in Photoshop.
I do enjoy having a camera on my phone, though: it is great
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to be able to snap a picture of something to remember it later (I have an Evernote notebook with photos of important items around the house so I can remember where they are) or share it with friends (“haha, look at this hilarious scene, you guys”).
So while I’m happy to hear the rumours that Instagram will soon be coming to Android, I’m not bothered about the filters. Perhaps this is because I have a few too many Facebook friends who feel that slapping a sepia tone on anything makes it artistic.
Anyway! Enough grumbling. I’ve told you how I use my phone’s camera; let me know how you use yours.


Do You Use VoIP?

We’ve reviewed a few voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps on this site – Kryptos, Sipdroid, and most recently Viber – and we’ve also explained how to make calls with Google Voice and GrooVe IP in combination.
In case you’re not familiar with the idea behind VoIP apps, it’s simple: they let you talk to other people on your handset, but through the internet rather than via your carrier’s phone service. As long as you’ve got a decent data allowance, this is totally free – a huge money-saver, particularly if yo
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u make international calls.
The downside is, both you and the person you’re calling needs to have the VoIP app and an account with the VoIP service in order to place the call. Unless you and a friend or colleague plan to call each other a lot and arrange to sign up to the same service, you can’t assume that anyone you know will be using a specific app, so there’s little incentive to use any. At least, that’s been my experience.
Viber has a great approach: it sits on top of your existing dialer and it uses your phone number as your user ID. This means that, when you try to call someone, Viber checks to see whether they’re a member (according to their phone number), and puts you through via VoIP if so; if they aren’t, it just places the call as normal.
This is so simple and easy that it’s finally got me interested in using VoIP. Maybe I’m late to this trend, or maybe apps like this will help it really take off in the near future. Are you using VoIP?

A few days ago I reviewed Google Wallet and talked a little bit about Near Field Communication (NFC). As you may have read, Google Wallet allows people to use their credit cards, gift cards, and reward cards without having a physical card on them. They can use the app to scan the card using NFC. Google Wallet also offers NFC-only coupons through participating businesses. I truly believe that with the help of Google, NFC will revolutionize how we use our mobile devices – and not just with financial information.
My friend and I, both Software Engineers, have had fairly lengthy discuss
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ions recently about uses for NFC and what it means for the future of mobile. We’ve discussed its current capabilities, its potential capabilities, and the possible issues that will arise.

Current Capabilities
I touched on these in my Google Wallet review. Right now NFC is capable of, and being used for, sending simple data like apps, directions, contact information, and more, as well as payment processing. The former is powerful because it can be (and is being) leveraged by application developers. Developers are using it to send business cards, transfer various files, and even read those annoying anti-theft tags that are found on some items in stores. Paypal is working NFC into the latest version of their app so one user can send funds directly to another’s account just by touching phones.
There are tons of developers creating more and more such apps every day using the technology that is currently out there. With the current capabilities of NFC, sites like Groupon and Living Social can integrate NFC coupons right into their apps like Google Wallet did. Barcode scanners for certain items may be rendered useless for the more convenient NFC reader.
Obviously the latter is the big ticket item as far as NFC goes. You can add certain credit, gift, and reward cards to Google Wallet and can “clip coupons.” The carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile) have launched their own similar technology called ISIS. With more support from vendors, Google Wallet and similar apps have the ability to almost completely replace your wallet. The only thing you’d need to carry around is identification.
Speaking of which…
Future Capabilities
NFC could be used for so much more than just data transfer and payments. Imagine you’re planning a Disney Vacation (as it turns out, I am). You purchase your park tickets, reserve your hotel, buy your flight tickets, and you’re ready to go. Instead of printing everything off before you go to the airport, you get there and just wave your phone at the kiosk, where it asks you to enter a PIN that they issued to you. It then checks the tickets on your phone, as well as your identification, and you’re on your way. 
Once you touch down in Orlando and head to the hotel, you check in using your phone and they beam you your room key, all using NFC. Now you just wave your phone in front of your room’s lock and it unlocks. Finally, it’s time to go to the park. You go through the turnstile but instead of sliding your park ticket through a reader, you hold your phone up to it. You’re in, and your phone displays how many more times you can use your ticket.
Pretty cool, right? The truth is that all of this and more is possible with NFC. As long as vendors get a reader that supports NFC, capable phones can quickly and easily send information to those devices.  And I know what you’re thinking; everything I said might seem reasonable in theory, except for one step: the identification. It seems crazy and impossible that people would be able to identify using NFC. However, in the USA passports now have RFID chips embedded, something that was put in place back in 2005. Admittedly, there is the glaring problem of security and identity theft prevention.
Possible Issues
The biggest issue with NFC is also its biggest convenience: how easy it is to transfer data. There are probably apps being developed right now designed to try and intercept data via NFC. The comforting though is that NFC really is near field. You need to be about 7 inches or closer in order to get a read, with most apps now requiring an even smaller distance – Android Beam, built into Android 4.0, pretty much requires the devices to be touching. But there are other issues, especially with the future capabilities I described.
How would one ensure that they did not tamper with the data on, say, an NFC driver’s license or passport to change the owner’s age from 18 to 21? There would probably require photo verification, which would need human verification (at this point) or a facial recognition camera (in the nearish future). For tickets (for parks, planes, concerts, sporting events, etc.) there would need to be some sort of uncrackable vendor signature to ensure that the tickets are not counterfeit. There would also need to be a way to transfer ownership in case event tickets are sold on. These are just some of the issues that can arise from relying on devices for sensitive information.
Final Thoughts
What we have now as far as NFC is pretty cool; the ability to easily transfer information between devices is novel and the ability to pay with your phone is outright awesome. What we can have soon is mind blowing.
Having a single device able to grant you access to whatever you need is so futuristic that it’s both exciting and horrifying in equal measure. And while there are issues we need to look out for – specifically in the security arena – these are problems that have surfaced before and ones that can be solved by building off current solutions like encryption, vendor signatures, and more.
I’m really excited to see what NFC brings to mobile devices. If the story I painted for you comes to fruition, I’ll be a very happy man.