Welcome to the 243rd edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from last week:
- Pokemon Go players are helping Niantic more than they know. Niantic CEO John Hanke told Reuters as much earlier this week. Apparently, player activity is generating AR maps for future games in Niantic’s pipeline, including Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The goal is to open the data up for other developers for AR map use as well. Hit the link to learn more!
- Chainfire announced end-of-life for many of his root apps this week. His Google+ post outlines a new project that is taking up a lot of his time. Between that and Google’s continued muzzling of the root community, he just isn’t as into it as he used to be. The announcement doesn’t affect SuperSU. Chainfire handed that over to another team a while ago. However, others like FlashFire, are on the chopping block.
- Google announced the winners of the 2018 Google Play Awards at Google I/O 2018 this week. The winners include Be My Eyes for Best Accessibility, BBC Earth: Life in VR for the Best AR or VR Experience category, and Khan Academy for the Best Social Impact. Other winners include Flipkart, Old Man’s Journey, Empires and Puzzles, and Simple Habit. A few of these are older apps, so we’re a bit disappointed that we didn’t see more recognition for newer work.
- Google Assistant stole the show at Google I/O 2018 this week. We expected as much because Google is very proud of their AI. However, the big demo that everyone is talking about is Google Duplex. This new feature lets Google Assistant place actual phone calls for you. It can schedule appointments, order pizza, and other things. Some people are very uncertain about this one. We are a little bit as well. However, the idea of having a robot place your calls for you is kind of cool in theory. Hit the link to check out our hands-on!
- Google I/O 2018 also held plenty of other announcements for apps and app developers. Included are huge updates coming for Google Photos, Google Maps, Gmail, ARCore, Android Auto, and most of Google’s other apps. That also includes binary support for Gboard for the physically impaired, Google Lens updates, a new ML Kit API for developers that want machine learning, Slices, App Actions, and a ton more. Way too much to put in a roundup like this. We linked to our Google I/O 2018 tag page where you can find all of the neat new stuff announced at I/O 2018!
Sago Mini Apartment is a new kids game. It features all of the stuff that kids game typically have. That includes cutesy characters, simple mechanics, and some educational content. The game allows kids to create simple music, practice counting, and solve some simple hand-eye puzzle. It also features seven floors, each with its own activities. Initial reviews are fairly positive. The game goes for $2.99 with no additional in-app purchases or advertisements.
Google announced a news app at Google I/O 2018. It turns out that it's replacing Google Play Newsstand. The new app shows you the news. However, Google puts a renewed focus on increasing reader perspectives with the use of AI. That may be a good decision because usually when humans curate the news, they usually don't do a good job. The app is rolling out currently. It may take a few days for Google News to take over Newsstand's Google Play page.
DISTRAINT: Deluxe edition is a re-release of an already great psychological thriller game. The game also includes 2D adventure elements and puzzle solving as well. This edition has all of the features of the original game but with a few extras. They include improved game color, enhanced animations, graphics, and lighting, better audio, and some improved UI elements. The original is easily among the best horror games on Android. The Deluxe Edition is as well. It runs for $4.49 with no additional in-app purchases or ads.
Material Gallery is a new app from Google. It is not a photo gallery app much to our chagrin. Instead, it's an app for developers. They can upload their design work, get feedback, and give feedback to other developers. Thus, it's probably not usable by the average, everyday person. There isn't much else to say about it. It does just that one thing and it does it fairly well. It's also free, like most Google apps.
RBI Baseball 18 is MLB's yearly refresh of their baseball game franchise. Admittedly, previous games from previous years had a lot of issues. Early reviews of this one indicate that this one is an improvement. The game includes updated MLB rosters, all of the teams, and even all of the ballparks along with a couple of game modes. The mechanics are fairly simple. That's great if you like arcade style baseball. It's not so great if you're coming from a full console MLB game. In any case, it's relatively inexpensive and it's definitely the best one is the series so far. We also appreciate that it has only a single cost unlike most official sports games like FIFA or the NBA.
If we missed any big Android apps or games news, updates, or releases this week, tell us about them in the comments! Check back next week for more!