This may not have been a year of great technological leaps. Moto made the Z with mods and Xiaomi made the MiMix with a bezel-less display. Otherwise, it was business as usual on the hardware front. That’s not to say it was a bad year for smartphones. Google shook things up with the Pixel, possibly the best phone of the year, the Moto Z was far more impressive than expected and OnePlus finally knocked it out of the park with the OnePlus 3(T).
One great thing this year was some great new apps that came to the Play Store. Of all the apps that came out, here are my favourites:
The name Luke Klinker might be familiar to you. He’s the developer behind Talon, one of the more popular Twitter clients. He also created EvolveSMS a fan favourite for SMS apps. Now he’s brought an even better alternative to the built-in texting app your phone came with.
Several months ago Pulse entered a private beta, then known simply as “Messenger.” I was fortunate enough to have a part in that testing group from the beginning and I knew right then it would be good.
In terms of design it perfectly follows Material guidelines. The animations are spot on and the colour themes are good-looking. It takes some cues from Inbox as well, like when you are at the bottom of a conversation you can swipe up to leave that chat. There are “mark all as read” ticks to press and you can even pin favourite conversations to the top. Those conversations also show as app shortcuts in Android 7.1.
Pulse also offers the fastest and most seamless cross device SMS I have ever used. Phone, Tablet, Wear, PC and even Android TV are supported! Within seconds of pressing send on your tablet the phone will have sent the message. This part of the app is subscription based however. You can pay monthly, yearly or a one-off fee.
If you’re looking for something to replace you current SMS app you can’t go wrong with Pulse. It’s beautiful, functional and reliable. Even if you don’t want to pay a subscription for the cross device support you can still use all of the other great features for free.
Twitter has been around for a long time now and there are many clients you can use. One of the best to launch this year is Flamingo by Sam Ruston. It is full of animations as you would expect from Material Design. One of my favourite things is the theme editor. As well as having built-in themes, Flamingo lets you make your own by changing everything from the UI colours, tab layouts and status bar colour.
Like the official app Flamingo supports notifications which can be adjusted to an interval of your choice. Unlike other clients Flamingo doesn’t hog your battery when it syncs with Twitter. Like Pulse in our previous section this also supports app shortcuts. They allow you to; compose a new tweet, send a new DM, open your profile and start a search. I’m glad to see this feature is being utilised quickly.
Ever since Google released Android Lollipop in 2014 one thing has always irked me. While the status bar tints to match the colour of the app you use, the navigation bar on phones that use such stays black. Not only is this an annoyance but on AMOLED displays it can cause uneven wear. That is where Navbar Apps by Damian Piwowarski solves that problem! Navbar Apps colours the background of the navigation bar to match the app colour just like the status bar.
If you don’t like the colour the app chooses, then you can easily set a custom one yourself, on an app-by-app basis through an app shortcut or from a menu in the app itself. You can even set one colour to show all the time (except when it’s supposed to be transparent). This looks particularly good if you set it to match your keyboard colour.
You can add images to the Navbar as well as change the colour, meaning you can even make your phone look like a Pixel with the built-in template. I’ve been using it on my Pixel XL since it arrived and so far there is no screen burn, likely thanks to this app.
Many games released this year, most notably of which was Pokémon Go. But that isn’t my pick. I’ve never been a fan of that particular sensation, probably because I’ve sold my soul to an even larger franchise: Star Wars.
In Force Builder your character is something rare in the galaxy. You are a ship builder who can channel the force to build bigger and better ships. You unlock more parts by completing quests for different characters from the entire saga.
You can build your own creations with the parts you unlock and then fly it on an assault course that tests; speed, steering, firepower and size. Then you can pose the ship in a number of backdrops and save images of them. These are uploaded to the in-game server or saved to device memory for external sharing. All-in-all this is a fun way to pass the time if you enjoy the Star Wars universe. Be sure to watch out for subtle references made by the characters!
Force Builder is a rarity in the mobile games space. Not only is it free to download, the game has no in-app purchases whatsoever. Add the fact it is constantly being updated with new content, including Rogue One locations and characters and you have one of the best games of the year.
Now that 2016 is over, we have another twelve months of new apps and tech to look forward to! I hope it’s as good as this one!