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Welcome to the 513th edition of Android Apps Weekly, where we discuss the latest in mobile news and take a closer look at some of the most interesting new apps and games. This week saw the release of another app claiming to replicate iMessage for Android users, but this time it actually seems to work. Google was also in the news for a few reasons, such as price increases for YouTube customers including those previously grandfathered into older plans.
Let’s jump right in and take a look at some of the biggest highlights from the last week:
- Apple doesn’t officially offer iMessage for Android users but a few workarounds have surfaced over the years, including Beeper, which lets you use iMessage but requires you to hand over your ID in the process. Nothing introduced a similar solution recently, until it was suddenly pulled after it became clear the app was a security nightmare. The good news is that a true solution has finally arrived in the form of Beeper Mini. The app doesn’t require you to hand over your iMessage credentials and, at most, takes minutes to set up. The only downside is the service isn’t free and will set you back $1.99 a month. Beeper claims that this is just the beginning and that Beeper Mini will eventually integrate WhatsApp, SMS, RCS, and Facetime support.
- YouTube has been cranking up prices on YouTube Premium in more and more locations as it continues its war against ad-blockers and attempts to force users over to Premium. Now South Korea is joining the club with a price increase. That’s not the only bad news, YouTube Premium is also moving all its previously grandfathered accounts over to new pricing plans. If you were currently paying $9.99 a month or less you’ll see an increase to $13.99 a month starting in January.
- Google recently announced its new Gemini large language model, which now powers the latest version of the Bard chatbot. So when will this improved functionality come to Assistant? Code within the Google App indicates Assistant with Bard is getting closer to release, with more strings moving from the beta to the stable version of the app. The same code dive also revealed a few new tidbits about Bard’s image generation capabilities and extension support.
- Discord has updated its mobile app’s UI, optimizing it for the small screen and moving away from its previous design which attempted to line up better with its web and desktop apps. Unfortunately, not everyone likes the new look and some are upset to learn there’s no way to move back to the old look, as the change is server-side.
- It’s no secret that the world’s governments like to spy on civilians but Apple and Google have now confirmed that governments can spy on users through push notifications. This info can tell the government how users interact with apps and even give them access to the notification’s complete text. It’s good to have more transparency and it illustrates the point that privacy just isn’t something guaranteed when you’re on the web.
- Meta has been talking about Meta AI for a while now, but the Meta chatbot is now available for all users in the US across Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. The bot can generate images in chats and much more. Additionally, Meta is also opening up its AI image generation tool to mobile and desktop users in the US.
- WhatsApp isn’t just getting Meta AI, it’s also bringing its View Once mode to voice messages. Voice messages will self-delete after they are played for the first time. View Once messages are clearly marked with a special icon to denote they can only be played one time.
- After it announced the death of Google Podcasts, Google said it would eventually introduce a tool and would clarify on how long users had to migrate their data. As promised, Google has now revealed the tool will arrive in the next few weeks and users will be able to keep listening to podcasts until March 2024. After that, they’ll have until July 2024 to move the data before it’s too late.
Android Apps Weekly: New apps and games of the week
Looking for some new Android apps and Android games to keep you occupied? Below, we take a look at some of our favorite suggestions for the week. This time around we’re getting a lot of great premium games, many of which have been popular on PC and console.
- Price: Free with a Netflix subscription
Death’s Door is a unique action-adventure game where you play as a small crow who collects soles as his profession. Previously the game was a hit on both the PC and console. The new port stays true to the original game but adds touch controllers and a few other changes to better suit it for mobile. Overall this feels like the full game but with some very big limitations including a lack of physical controller support, a lock to just 30fps, and I have to admit I ran into a few other performance glitches and hiccups with the Pixel 6 Pro I tested it on. The game is playable and completely free as long as you have a Netflix subscription, but just be aware it won’t be quite as smooth of an experience if you’ve played it elsewhere. For those with older phones it’s also important to note there’s no video quality settings, just what you get out of the box.
Goat Simulator 3
- Price: $12.99
Goat Simulator 3 is another console/PC port making its way to Android. The mobile version features co-op support and all the core features you’d expect. While the game is true to what you’d get on other platforms, it tends to be a lot less stable. I had to use my Google Pixel 7 to get a good experience, as my Pixel 6 Pro struggled hard. Even then, I had a few bugs, stutters, and other graphical issues. What’s made worse is that there’s no way to adjust your graphics settings in this title, which would likely go a long way in improving the experience.
Hitman: Blood Money Reprisal
- Price: $14.99
Yet another port! This time we’re looking at a remake of the 2006 original, remastered with new quality-of-life features including touchscreen optimizations and a few other changes including an Instinct Mode, which was introduced to the series in the 2012 game Hitman: Absolution. Unlike the other games on the list so far, this one is a port that has actually zero notable performance issues. I played it on three different devices briefly and found the experience worked well even on phones that were a bit older or mid-range.
- Price: Free with in-app purchases
After a bunch of hardcore games, I thought I’d bring you something slightly more casual, though it’s still a port. While the Steam version costs, this is a free game though there are in-app purchases that unlock the full experience. Shapez is a unique game where you build complex factories to automate the creation of increasingly complex shapes. It’s a good way to exercise your brain and is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the mobile controls aren’t quite as good and there are a few bugs here and there. Here’s hoping the game gets better over time, but in its current form, it’s playable, just not quite as good as what you’d get in the non-mobile version.
- Price: $1.99 a month
While we mentioned Beeper Mini in the news, we figured we’d add it to our new apps spotlight as well. The new app essentially tricks Apple into letting you into their exclusive blue box club. You’ll get all the same features as iMessage users and iPhone users will see you as just another iMessage user. While it’s unclear how Apple will react to this app and if there’s even anything they can do about it, for now we highly recommend this if you’ve considered switching to an iPhone just for iMessage. Apple’s messaging app is extremely popular in the US and I’ve known more than a few people who have switched phones just for that, including my own sister. The only real downside here is you’ll have to pay $1.99 for the service.
Pro Tip of the Week
In our Pro Tip of the Week, we share tips or suggestions that we think could benefit our readers. This could include app recommendations for obscure apps that aren’t new, how-to guides for emerging issues, or any advice we think will help you out.
Thinking about ditching X? Here’s our tips for the best alternatives to Twitter
Recently there have been several new apps attempting to draw in users that have become jaded by Musk’s version of Twitter. Which Twitter alternative is the best for you? It depends on what you’re looking for. Mastodon previously drew attention for its more open-source attention but has faded a bit from the spotlight and was probably never destined to become anything more than a niche alternative. Still, it’s a good choice if you want to kind of build your own thing.
Just looking for something that feels similar to Twitter? Meta’s Threads network is probably the most obvious choice and Threads compares mostly favorably to X. While it’s not a perfect replacement, it comes close and has the largest user base at over 100 million. While X remains the more versatile option, many have left the network just out of principle due to disagreements with how Musk is handling the company. If you’re finding your favorite Twitter users have jumped ship, you’re more likely to find them on Thread than on some of the other Twitter-like apps.
Another solid option would be Bluesky Social. You can learn more about how it compares to Twitter in our X vs Bluesky guide. We also have an explainer that helps highlight the differences between Bluesocial vs Threads as well.