Welcome to the 295th edition of Android Apps Weekly! Here are the big headlines from the last week:
- Qualcomm is doing a lot of interesting things this week. One of them is giving users the ability to update graphics drivers in the Google Play Store. Not only is this an excellent example of Project Mainline from Android 10, but it’s also a much faster, more efficient way of delivering fixes. Gaming on mobile is quite popular now and top tier performance can come a little bit faster with independent driver updates. Hit the link to learn more!
- Plex launched a video on-demand service this last week. It uses ads for monetary support, but it’s otherwise free. The new service boasts thousands of free titles, including some popular stuff that we’ve actually heard of. In addition, the ads are about 60% less than you would view if watching the same movie on cable television. That’s not a bad deal considering it costs nothing. It’s not a bad free option for movie fans and you can keep it separate from your existing Plex library if you already use the app.
- Google Play has announced its picks for the best Android app, game, and more of the year. The choices are fairly predictable, at least for games. Call of Duty: Mobile won best game of the year. Some other apps and games tot make the list include Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, Auto Chess, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, Appy Weather, Scripts by Drops, and Albo. Hit the link to view the whole list.
- Tidal opened up a neat, new deal for high school kids. The music service promises a 50% discount to all high school students for its music service. Many streaming services, like Apple Music and Spotify, offer discounts for college students, but few do for high school. The price drop would bring Tidal to $4.99 for its premium service and $9.99 per month for its Hi-Fi service. It’s not a bad deal.
- There is some good news for fans of encryption. In 2018, 0% of Android apps used network encryption by default. That number is now up to 80%. This is great news because encryption is generally considered to be a good thing. Google has done its part. Any app that aims at Android 9 or higher must have TLS encryption enabled by default so when the numbers really started going up when Android 9 launched in late 2018.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is the latest game from Square Enix. It’s a jRPG style game. Players create a party of up to five fighters, one of which acts as the main character. The game uses strategy RPG mechanics and it leans rather heavily on those mechanics. There is a decent narrative as well as a decent soundtrack and we’d expect nothing less from Square Enix. However, the big story here is that combat system. The controls are a little clunky and that turned off some Google Play reviewers, but it’s overall a solid effort. The price tag is going to turn away a lot of people, though, and we totally understand why.
Facebook Viewpoints is the latest app from, well, Facebook. It functions a little bit like Google Opinion Rewards. Users create accounts, login, answer surveys, and earn points. Those points are redeemable for various rewards. Facebook promises to use this data to create better services, but it’s Facebook so who knows where that data actually goes. We would love to tell you more about the app. However, it’s having a problem with verifying accounts right now and that’s why it has a 1.6 rating in the Google Play Store. It should be a decent app when Facebook fixes it.
Terraforming Mars is a mobile card game. Don’t worry, it’s not like the free to play ones that we talk about a lot. This one is closer to a board game. Players draw a hand and try to use those cards to terraform Mars. Players can play solo against AI opponents or against five real players in a pass-and-play local multiplayer. There are also a couple of different game modes. The game plays basically the same as its real life board game counterpart and it’s a fairly faithful mobile recreation. The game runs for $8.99 with no in-app purchases and considering the real game runs for about $40-$45, the mobile game is a decent deal.
Google Santa Tracker
Google Santa Tracker is Google’s yearly Christmas app for counting down the days until the big day. It the same premise as every other year. There are a bunch of little Christmas-themed mini-games that are perfectly suitable for kids. You also get a countdown timer, some festive music, and other stuff. Of course, come Christmas Eve, you can track Santa during his flight around the world. The app is only active for this month and inactive for the other 11 so enjoy it while you can. This year’s iteration seems to have the occasional bug, though, so keep an eye out for that.
Price: $3.99 with in-app purchases
This is the new, official Monopoly port for mobile. There were free to play mobile board games with a Monopoly theme, but this one seems to be the real deal. It plays like classic Monopoly. You buy properties, collect money, and try not to lose all of your stuff. There are in-app purchases for this game, but they are entirely cosmetic and you can’t pay your way to victory in this one. You can play single player against the AI or multiplayer with your friends. The game has a few bugs on the onset and that has affected its Google Play rating, but we assume those bugs will be dealt with sooner rather than later.
If we missed any big Android apps or games news or releases, tell us about them in the comment section!