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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Six Android apps you'll thank me for (you're welcome)

As a reviewer of Android apps, it's my role to sniff out what's hot and interesting on Google Play. I make it a point to try out apps old and new, as well as big-name apps, apps from startup shops, and everything in between.
Among these, it's not uncommon for me to find a few apps that are just so attention-grabbing that I feel compelled to share them with the masses. They may not necessarily be the best apps of all time, or even the best apps available right now, but they are fresh and interesting titles that I just can't keep my hands off of.
This is a roundup of those apps. As I encounter new ones, I will continue to update this post with my recommendations, so be sure to check back regularly. And of course, feel free to chime in with your own hot apps if you have any.
Editors' note: For six hot apps on iOS, check out Jason Parker's roundup.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)
Feedly (free)
With Google Reader set to go away very soon, Feedly might be your best bet as an app that lets you access your RSS feeds while on the go. It looks great, works well, and even features two-way syncing with Google Reader. Also, according to its developers, Feedly will offer a seamless transition once Google's service officially bites the dust.
Compared with other RSS readers out there, Feedly is exceptionally visual. It makes use of large images and incorporates magazine-style layouts. To many, this is a good thing. But for those out there who are looking for a simpler text-based list, similar to Google Reader, this might not be the app for you.
If you do decide to try Feedly, you can expect a wealth of features that enhance your reading experience. The app comes with themes and other customization options, integration with bookmarking tool Pocket, and more. The app even offers suggestions for interesting sites that you can subscribe to with a single tap.
You can also get Feedly for iOS.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)
SpellTower ($1.99)
If Boggle and Bejeweled had a love child, SpellTower would be it.
In SpellTower, your goal is to find as many high-value words as you can among the board of lettered tiles (just like in Boggle). Thing is, as you find these words, the used tiles disappear, causing the remaining tiles to drop down and occupy the empty space (just as in Bejeweled). The result is a board that continues to change throughout your game. So, as you can imagine, when playing SpellTower, it is in your best interests to think ahead, and try to set yourself up for big moves as you go. And did I mention there's a multiplayer mode that is very much like those old-school Tetris head-to-head battles?
You can also get SpellTower for iOS.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)
PushBullet (free)
PushBullet may not be the most popular app on this list, but it is a good one. Consider it a sleeper hit. PushBullet is the easiest way to get files, links, notes, lists, and addresses from your desktop computer to your mobile device. Once you install it, all you have to do is log in to the PushBullet Web site on your computer, then use one of the modules to push an item to your device. Once you do so, the item will appear in your Android notification bar, so you can access it with a single tap.
It's fast, reliable, and easy to use. Plus, PushBullet lets you add multiple mobile devices to your account, which widens your pushing possibilities considerably.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)
Songza (free)
Songza is not your typical streaming-music app. It offers a different take on radio, as it tries to match the perfect playlist with your mood or whatever activity you happen to currently be engaged.
While other music apps start you off with a search bar, Songza gives you a Concierge screen, where it presents you with choices of different activities (e.g. working out, doing housework, or taking the day off). Here, you can either pick the one you're currently engaged in, or bypass the choices to look for more. In the end, Songza will serve you up a playlist that the company's curators deem appropriate for the given activity.
You can also get Songza for iOS.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)
Candy Crush Saga (free)
Voted "Best Social Game" at the International Mobile Gaming Awards, Candy Crush Saga takes the popular match-three style of game to another level by adding a variety of special game pieces (candies), "boosters," and objectives that go beyond simply scoring a lot of points. With its addictive gameplay, simple controls, and whimsical, circus-themed animation, it is very difficult not to develop a sweet tooth for this game. Some might call it a Bejeweled clone, but with its variety of levels, Candy Crush Saga is so much more.
You can also get Candy Crush Saga for iOS.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)
Cinemagram (free)
While some might be quick to call Cinemagram nothing more than a Vine clone, the reality is that this app has quite a few features that set it apart from its Twitter-owned rival. Chief among these is its ability to create cinemagraphs, which are essentially hybrid photo-videos.
To create a cinemagraph, you must first record video footage. From there, all you have to do is draw a mask around the portion of the screen that you want to remain in motion, and the rest will remain a static photo. If you've never seen a cinemagraph, they can be beautifully artistic or sometimes downright creepy.
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