Welcome to the 277th edition of Android Apps Weekly! Here are your big headlines from the last week:
- Google Assistant is rolling right along. In fact, Google expects it to reach the one billion install mark by the end of the month. That is up by about 500 million downloads from May 2018. This comes on a heels of a huge rollout process that saw Assistant expand to 80 countries in 30 different languages in 2018. Some other fun stats include compatibility with over 10,000 devices and the number of users is more than four time what it was at this point last year. Good for you, Google Assistant.
- TCL’s weather app is causing all sorts of problems right now. Originally, security researches claimed the app sent data to a Chinese server, including users’ location, IMEI numbers, and more. TCL responded by hiring a third party security firm to investigate the matter. Additionally, TCL updated the app to remove all third party SDKs just in case. The company also claims that the IMEI collection was to identify users in case they wanted all of their data deleted. They have since moved to Android ID instead of IMEI. It’s a bit of a mess. Hit the link to learn more.
- Google is expanding Chrome’s ad-blocking capabilities to more countries this year. Originally, the ad-blocking launched in the Chrome 71 release back in December 2018. However, it only worked in a few countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Europe. This should change by July 2019. From that point, the app will natively block all ads that don’t comply with the CBA, or Coalition for Better Ads, standards across the globe. Google says the initiative has helped encourage websites to follow better practices.
- Square Enix may launch a new Final Fantasy mobile game sometime in 2019. It’s a digital card game that features a bunch of characters and summons from the various Final Fantasy games. It sounds like a gacha-dueling game similar to something like Hearthstone, Clash Royale, Badland Brawl, etc. You collect characters, make decks, and then duel with other players. It should launch on Yahoo Japan Game Plus sometime this year We’re unsure if it’ll expand out from there.
- Google’s changes to the SMS permissions continues to befuddle and cripple apps in the Play Store. The most recent victim is Cerberus, one of the most popular (and powerful) find-my-phone apps. The new permissions basically wreck the app’s ability to send SMS messages to and from a lost device. It was one of Cerberus’ best features and one that helped set it apart from simpler apps like Google’s Find My Device app. This isn’t the first time this has happened to Cerberus either. It used to have a call recording ability that Google destroyed as well. Hit the link to learn more.
OutRush is a new endless runner game. You fly a plane through various obstacles and try to survive for as long as possible. The controls are simple enough. You tap and swipe to move the plane around. Obstacles drop in front of you as you go so you don’t have all that much time to make decisions. The Tron style graphics add a bit of retro flair as does the synth music. The developers also promise a level editor and a daily challenge mode in future updates. It’s a rare pay-once runner and we don’t have a lot of complaints about it. Even the ads in the free version aren’t that bad.
RedPapers is a fun little app for wallpaper fans. It basically auto-sets wallpapers on a regular interval from the subreddit of your choice. The app is simple. You define the subreddit you want to pull wallpapers from along with the frequency. The app then pulls the wallpaper and sets it as your background automatically. It worked fine in our testing and we tried a few different subreddits. The Google Play description even has a short list of preferable subreddits with consistently good imagery for wallpapers. The app is entirely free. However, it is a niche kind of app and the UI is a little basic.
Ramageddon is a little arcade game with a simple premise. You run around ramming other players. It features simple controls, an online PvP mode and two PvE modes. You turn the character by tapping on the edges of the screen. You then ram stuff by holding down both edges simultaneously. There are a bunch of power-ups and traps on the map as well. The controls are a tad clunky, but it helps add to the chaos of the environment. This game is also in active development so we expect some changes before its official release. It’s a fun little time killer and it’s kid friendly. However, it is definitely not the deepest game ever.
Remote Fingerprint Unlock is a neat app for owners of both Android phones and Windows PCs. The app basically unlocks and re-locks your PC with the fingerprint scanner on your Android phone. The setup is a little bit complicated. There is a PC app to install along with this one. You then follow the instructions to connect the two devices. From there, you can unlock your PC with a fingerprint scan on your phone. It doesn’t work with all phones because not all manufacturers fully implement Google’s Fingerprint APIs. Otherwise, we didn’t see much of a problem with it. It’s also still relatively new, so we expect it to improve even more over time.
Blackmoor 2: The Traitor King is a new arcade platformer with elements of other genres. The game features a story along with an online multiplayer option. You can even design your own levels and share them with other players. The mechanics are easy to learn. You jump and move around levels and beat up bad guys. Some other game features include Google Play Games cloud saving and all elements of the game are unlockable for free. You can, of course, buy some stuff as in-app purchases as well. This is actually a fun game even though it’s in beta. We look forward to its full release, but you can play it now as long as you don’t mind the occasional bug.
If we missed any big Android app or game releases this week, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our CES 2019 coverage!