News Republic – Your News Fix for iOS, Android & Windows Phone

I love getting my News fix throughout the day, when I’ve got a moment to spare. My usual favorites are Flipboard and Zite, but I’m always looking out  new ways to discover news instead of just sticking to my standard reading list.

News Republic’s latest version has just been added to my list after more than three weeks of using it. I seem to be favoring it more than Flipboard on my iPad. News Republic has quite a few topic you can follow and get updates on your opening screen. Since it’s a news reading app, it serves it function well, and I won’t go into much details there. I’ll just highlight two of my favorite features of the app.

List based viewer
List based viewer

One of the features I really Like about the app are the list based news viewer, which allows reading of the news item, and give a list of other news on the left side. So instead of flipping through stuff I don’t want to read, I can go directly and select the ones I want to. Saves a lot of time on a hype day, with a lot of sites publishing the same news items, and I really don’t want to read the same thing again and again.

Take your News offline
Take your News offline

Another feature I really love is the Offline reading capability. Given that my iPad is just the WiFi model, this is a killer feature which downloads news items from my favorite topics and has it ready for my reading pleasure during my commutes to work. To save bandwidth which downloading items offline, I can also choose to not download images.

Personally, I feel that News Republic on the  iPad really Rocks! Of course, not all versions of the app are equal. Your mileage will vary on the Android and Windows Phone version, so try them out and see if you like it.

Video Walkthrough of News Republic

 

Download

iPad & iPhone

Android

News Republic - Breaking and Trending News
News Republic - Breaking and Trending News

Windows Phone

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[Mac Tools] Droid NAS to Access your Android phone via Finder

Mac users usually have a limited way of interfacing with their Android Filesystem from their laptops, unlike their Windows user counterparts who can just plug in in Mass Storage mode and access the files as a drive. Mac users are tied in to using the Android File Transfer app for most of the work, which is not the best way.

2013-06-20 09.58.33Now you can do this via your WiFi network using Droid NAS. Droid NAS mounts your Android Device and shows it up on your Mac’s Finder as a Bonjour device. You can then go in and play around with it like you would any other shared drive.

All you need to do is to launch the app and click on the “Start Server” to start sharing.

Droid NAS also allows you to select your network as a Home, Office or Cafe giving different pre-set levels of access with each mode. At Home, you can access to all the locations of you phone though the network. If you’d like to change the pre-set access, you are free to go and tap on the location to share to enable or disable it. For example, tapping on the camera toggles the availability for the network you chose.

If you are on an open network, I’d also suggest that you go into settings, by tapping the gears icon on the bottom right hand of the screen and choose “Limit Access to Device”. This gives you the option of setting a username and password for accessing your phone contents from the Finder.

The settings screen also gives you the option of choosing the Name and icon which shows up for your phone on the Mac Finder. You can also select which WiFi network to assign to Home, Office and Cafe. Once the NAS server is active, you can go ahead with using other apps on the Phone, and hit on the Notification area to get a quick link back to the app.

In all a nice and simple app to access your phone and copy data between that and your Mac. A note to Windows users, you can give this app a miss, since it’s doesn’t work for you.

Download Link

Droid NAS
Droid NAS
Developer: Code Sector
Price: Free

Screenshots from Droid NAS

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Must have Android Apps for someone who knows their way around a smartphone

If you are someone who knows their way around a smartphone; someone who had an old Blackberry or Symbian perhaps, and moved over to Android, here are some of the basic, must haves (at least in my book, ummm, phone).

eBook Readers

Aldiko: for epubs

Aldiko
Aldiko
Developer: De Marque
Price: Free+

Kindle:  for .mobi

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle
Developer: Amazon Mobile LLC
Price: Free

Tip, for Kindle, using your own .mobi or azw format books, just drop the book in the kindle folder on your phone.

A Comic Viewer : for CBR/CBZ format comics:

A Comic Viewer
A Comic Viewer
Developer: Robot Media
Price: Free+

 

Music

TuneIn

For internet radio, this is the best:

the Pro version lets your record, but obviously not share the recorded stream:

ex.fm

ex.fm is the best place to search for individual songs or artists and stream:

 

Podcasts

Pocketcasts

THE BEST. EVER! A LIFE SAVER:

Or try these:

AntennaPod
AntennaPod
Developer: AntennaPod
Price: Free

 

Feeds:

These are the “Visual” Feed readers: easy on the eye.

Feedly

Feedly also has a web app which runs on your web browser as well, so you can catch up with news anywhere.

Feedly - Smarter News Reader
Feedly - Smarter News Reader
Developer: Feedly Team
Price: Free+

Pulse

Pule also has a web app accessible and is my favourite.

Flipboard

No web app

Google Current

Looks nice, works well as well.

Not so visual ones:

Press

gReader

gReader | Feedly | News | RSS
gReader | Feedly | News | RSS
Developer: noinnion
Price: Free

 

Keyboard Replacements

Don’t like the stock keyboard bundled with your Android phone or tablet, here are some options for you to try out.

Swiftkey

Swiftkey is the best (for me).

Try it for a month:

Buy it, its on sale:

Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard
Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard
Developer: SwiftKey
Price: Free

Swype

You could also try Swype:

Trial:

Full Version:

Swype Keyboard
Swype Keyboard
Price: $0.99+

 

Taking Notes

Evernote

(available everywhere, best for someone who wants to completely control how they takes notes, set reminders, to-dos, etc.) (has Windows, Mac, web, iOS, Android and Windows Phone and Blackberry apps).

Google Keep

Simple note taker, list maker? Try Google Keep:

Google Keep - Notes and Lists
Google Keep - Notes and Lists

Catch:

Catch notes is a good alternative as well. iOS, Android and Web.

 

Tasks

You can use Evernote to create reminders and task lists, or another app.

Tasks

Sync? Google Account? Use Tasks:
Free:

Tasks Free
Tasks Free
Developer: Team Tasks
Price: Free+

Wunderlist

Are you a GTD kind of Person? Check these favourites out  –

Simpletask

Simpletask
Simpletask
Developer: Mark Janssen
Price: Free

Remember the Milk

Remember The Milk
Remember The Milk
Developer: Remember The Milk
Price: Free

 

Backup your Images from the Phone

Dropbox

Enable auto image upload (over wifi only) and install dropbox on your home PC. Now you can just drag and drop files to keep them in sync, or you can take a photo on your phone and view it on your comp, no hassle involved.

Google +

The Google + app can also be configured to auto-upload your photos and videos from your phone to Google Photos.

Currents
Currents
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

 

Read Articles Offline

Pocket

Pocket: Save. Read. Grow.
Pocket: Save. Read. Grow.
Developer: Read It Later
Price: Free+

Save to it, share to it, it saves it, read later.

Or try

Instapaper

Paid, has some other features that I don’t use so can’t explain.

Instapaper
Instapaper
Price: Free+

Readability

Nice Fonts. Simple

 

Shopping lists?

Rainbow

Shared with other peoples?  Use this:

Rainbow Shopping List
Rainbow Shopping List
Developer: Chak Development
Price: Free

 

Languages

Google Translate

The must have translation app for Android, now with Offline Mode.

Google Translate
Google Translate
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Duolingo

Want to learn basic stuff?

Duolingo: Learn Languages Free
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free
Developer: Duolingo
Price: Free+

 

Travel

Google Maps

You already have Google Maps on your phone:

Google Maps - Navigate & Explore
Google Maps - Navigate & Explore

Waze

Waze is a nice navigation option if you’re in a city:

Sygic

Sygic maps are good, especially because they have offline support. You will have to pay for the maps though.

Sygic GPS Navigation & Offline Maps
Sygic GPS Navigation & Offline Maps

So what do you use frequently? Is there any app or set of apps that you would recommend for a not exactly normob? Let us know in the comments section.

Expedition Mars – SciFi game for iPhone and iPad

You’re on a mission to Mars in the year 2020 and during your space jaunt, you’re rudely shocked out of your sleep to find out that your ship is all but destroyed. You’re the sole survivor and have to get your self out of the damaged ship and head over to Mars.

As you go into the game,  you have to find parts, fix circuits, assemble space suites and more to escape from the doomed ship. The game demands quite a bit for you to advance to the next level. You have to keep an eye for parts which you may need to assemble into tools and gizmos which will aid your advancement into the next levels.

Stuck in Mars

You can explore your environment by panning around the screen in all directions including up and down. Tap on items in your environment to interact with them or find items to collect for later. The items you collect line up on the top of your screen. You can use these items to build stuff or work gadgets or machinery in the game.

The puzzles in the game are also not a cakewalk either, some of them had me stumped initially and I had to backtrack and figure out how to solve them. You always have the option of getting hints on what to do next using your hand-held computer on the right bottom side of the screen. be aware that if you run out of battery, you don’t get any more hints till you do an in-app purchase to get more. So conserve your hints till you actually need them. I made the mistake of running out of them quite early on in the game…

Apart from your hand-held’s battery, when you’re out on the Martian Surface, keep an eye out on your Air Supply meter on the left hand bottom corner as well. The more time you spend exploring the great Martian outdoors and battling it out on those tough puzzles, the more air you consume, leaving you with no air to survive on.  Fortunately, since this is just a game, you can buy more air canisters using an in-app purchase option as well.

Overall Experience

I found this game to be quite engaging and challenging to keep me occupied during my daily commutes. At times it does get me a little worked up with those puzzles end up being a little too tough to solve in the first go, but the satisfaction after actually solving it makes up for it. The environments in this game really are beautifully designed and add that special touch to the game.

The game is available  in both iPhone and iPad versions with a free version in both avatars. The free version allows you to play the first chapter in the game to sample it so take that for a spin before you go ahead and download the Full version of the game. Just past the download links for the game trailer video.

Expedition Mars – iPad HD  Version

Expedition Mars – iPhone Version

Game Trailer

Google launches Hangouts, unifying Google Talk and Google+ Messenger

At the Google I/O Keynote today, Google announced a bunch of new stuff. Most of it was for developers (I/O is a developers conference after all), but among the few consumer releases announced was Hangouts. Hangouts is the replacement Chat/Video Service for Google Talk, which hasn’t really been improved in ages. It also unifies Google+ Messenger and the Hangout video chat feature that is a part of Google+.

Hangouts

Having used it for a short period on both Android and on the Chrome Browser, it is quite nice and easy to navigate through, and works much more reliably than the messenger component of Google+.

It’s available now for iOS, Android and for Chrome. Just click the links below to download the app.

Here’s the link to the Android App

Hangouts
Hangouts
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

And here’s the iOS App

‎Hangouts
‎Hangouts
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

You can get the Chrome app here.

You can read more about the new Hangouts at the Gmail Blog. Here’s the post blog post:

Today we announced Hangouts, a big improvement to Google’s real-time communication services. Instead of different versions of chat, video chat and calling across Google products, Hangouts gives you one consistent way to connect with the people you care about. 
What does this mean for your Gmail? You now have the option to switch from the current version of chat to Hangouts. Simply click “Try it out” next to your chat list to switch to Hangouts and give your chat an instant facelift (literally!). You’ll now see the profile photos in the order of your most recent conversations. With Hangouts, you’ll also be able to quickly send messages, have video calls with up to ten people at once, and share photos. You can start a conversation with just one friend or even a whole group. Hangouts transition effortlessly between desktop and mobile — in fact, Hangouts will be available in Gmail, Google+,Android phones and tabletsiPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and as a Windows, Mac or Linux desktop application using the Chrome extension. You can start a Hangout on your phone, and pick it up in Gmail right where you left off! 

 

 

 

 

The new Hangouts experience in Gmail is rolling out as an optional switch starting today. Click the “Try it out” button when it appears next to your chat list to switch right away, or you can switch later. Learn more about the new Hangouts here.
 

TimesCity launches their Restaurant, Movie and Events App for Android, iOS and Blackberry

TimesCity.com has just launched their  new lifestyle app which allows users to look up Restaurants, Nightlife, Event and movies from their mobiles. The app has an easy to use interface to look up information in your city or switch to another city as well. Timescity app is currently available for users in Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Goa, Jaipur, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad.

Speaking about the launch of Timescity App, Siddhaarth Jalan ,Business head,Timescity.com & Times Food and Nightlife Guide, “said, “  We are happy to launch the Timescity app on Android,iOS & Blackberry 10 to let the users discover the best of going out in their city in an intuitive, easy-to-use format.  We will be launching the app on all other platforms shortly”.

We had a sneek peek of the app yesterday and here are some details on what you can see in the app. We also have screenshots from the app at the end of the this post.

Restaurant & Night Life

The location-based app brings up interesting places to eat or spend an evening with friends, allowing users to sort the listing based on distance from their current location, cost and ratings of the establishments. The app also features Critic reviews of establishments by renowned critics like Rashmi Uday Singh, Marryam Reshii, Karen Anand, Suresh Hinduja. These are available in the restaurant reviews section of the app.

Apart from reviews, you can directly call the place to book your tables from the app by just tapping on the green call button or share details about a restaurant you plan to visit on Facebook, Twitter, Email or SMS. Great to arrange a meet with your friends. You can also leave a rating directly from the app.

Movies and Events

The Movies section shows you the latest movies playing in your city, along with the Showtimes at the various locations which are playing the movie. You can also look up reviews of the movies  and watch the movie trailers from the Times City app. It’s a good way to find a movie to watch or make up your mind if you haven’t made up your mind on which one to watch.

The Events listings shows you various plays, music shows, workshops and other events in the City. You can add the event to your calendar, look up their locations on the map and  call the event organizers for passes or information about the event.

The app is available for download on the Google Play store,iTunes store (iOS) & Blackberry World.

Download Times City from Google Play

Download Times City from iTunes

Screenshots from the TimesCity App

 

Improved Facebook for Windows Phone in now in Beta

In the good news department, Microsoft is finally working on a newer and better Facebook for Windows Phone. The current version of Facebook on the Windows Phone store is quite antiquated and doesn’t work very well at all. Windows Phone users have been complaining about the app’s bad usability, which is evident in the app reviews on the Windows Phone Store.

Here’s what the Windows Phone Blog has to say about the beta app, “Today we’re launching a new program designed to help speed up delivery of new features in the official Facebook app for Windows Phone and need sharp-eyed, energetic volunteers to download a beta version of our next release and tell us how to make it better.

The beta app is a major update from the older one, with the “Metro” style UI being discarded for the standard Facebook Timeline UI which is the staple on the major platforms. It also seems more responsive and faster as well. Photos go hi-res, both on the timeline and when you upload. At the same time, I find a few features still missing or not working as expected.

The good part of the beta app is that you can report these anomalies to Microsoft, so they can add or fix features as they progress along with the beta program. To do this, head over to Settings>About and then click on the “send feedback” button to send that in.

Since this is a beta version, there could be issues with the app, so I’d suggest that you install this beta version along the official Facebook app on your phone, and don’t replace it yet. This way you can access Facebook on the official app in case the beta app goes kaput.

Download

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Twiize – Make your calls Fun on Android

Here’s an app to make your calls with friends and family fun! Twiize is an app which enhances the standard call screen for Android. While you are on a call with your friend, you can check their Facebook status, photos and even send notes and doodles to them. Of course, you’ll have to be on a wired or bluetooth headset if you want to play around with Twiize while you’re on a call.

Twiize for AndroidTwiize prompts you  to login to Facebook when it first launches, pulling your friend details and updates from there. You can invite your friends to install the Twiize app on their phone as well for optimal experience. You don’t have to be compelled to invite a friend, since  the app works pretty well if your friend’s not on Twiize. You can still see their FB updates on the call screen, and the notes and doodles you create can be posted on your wall or your friends.

Here’s the key features of Twiize:

  • Send photos from live camera or gallery, while talking on the phone
  • Browse recent full screen photos and statuses of your friend, yourself and mutual friends (not just the usual full screen caller id photo)
  • Get a birthday reminder in real-time and send a happy birthday card
  • Draw & send each other personalized notes, scribbles and funny doodles

Here’s a video of Twiize in action. You can jump to the end of the post for the download link.

Download Twiize for Android

 

The Giant List of Text Messaging Replacement Apps – OTT Messaging

Depending on where you are and who your mobile service provider is, text messaging is either so cheap that you don’t worry about it or so expensive that you barely use it. Texting is still one of the most popular methods of communication though , which means someone somewhere is always on it. Of course, sending texts across continents and countries is still expensive.

There are ways around that though, if you’re willing to use your data connection of course. The benefits? Lower cost (especially if it’s an international message) and added features like pictures, videos and more. Of course, that requires an Internet service, and a mobile device that has the app available on it. Oh, and you need to have other people that use that app.

So here’s a list of quite a few of the so called OTT (over the top) text messaging replacement services, with the pros and cons of each.It isn’t a review of the app or service though, and it isn’t a complete list by any stretch. Let us know what we missed and we’ll get around to adding them to this list.

Whatsapp

Whatsapp is one of the oldest ones out there, and as such it’s got a wide base that it works on.

Pros – multi platform (available on everything except Bada. Oh, and Symbian UIQ). Yes, it supports S40 too (and they aren’t smartphones). Media transfer (photos, videos, contact info, Location Data). Group Messaging (upto 20 users per group). Simple setup and use (linked to your phone number, no other login needed).

Cons – Photos are down scaled. Videos have to be under 12MB. There is no confirmation of Message Read status (One green tick-mark is for sent, two is for delivered). Group messaging needs more features/controls (Quiet time for the really talkative groups, Better management of users in that group).

[button style=”5″ caption=”Whatsapp” link=”http://www.whatsapp.com/”][/button]

Kik

Kik was the app whose service supposedly pulled blocked by RIM and then got back onto the Blackberry Platform. It’s simple to use, it’s fast, it’s almost like BBM. And now it’s available on most major smartphone platforms.

Pros – Fast. Really Fast. Login with user created account, so the same account can be used simultaneously on multiple devices. Sent, Delivered and Read status (for those who want to track that). Available on iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Phone. Has plugins (like sketchee) for more functionality.

Cons – User Created account (now that’s another thing you have to remember). Group Messaging controls. The Symbian app is quite limited at the moment, and there is no S40 app.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Kik” link=”http://kik.com/”][/button]

Ebuddy XMS

Ebuddy has been around for a while as a web and mobile based IM client. XMS is their take on the OTT messaging service.

Pros – Multi Platform (Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS, Android, Blackberry & J2ME). Group Messaging. Media Sharing. Facebook Login to setup the account and pull in contacts. Web version available.

Cons – Broadcast option is missing.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Ebuddy XMS” link=”http://www.ebuddy.com/”][/button]

PingMe

 PingMe is another messaging service that seems to focus more on interaction (Media Content) and on meeting new people.

Pros – Neat interface that brings Media content up front and centre. Group Messaging. Registration with just your phone number.

Cons – iOS and Android only (they dropped Blackberry and Windows Phone support a little while ago).

[button style=”5″ caption=”PingMe” link=”http://pingme.net/”][/button]

Hookt

Hookt has been around for a couple of years now, has a few common features present in the other platforms (Group Chat, Stickers, Emojis), but it has two “features” that kind of set it apart. A) It syncs across platforms (send a message on one device, platform, it’ll be there on all the others that have your account). B) Desktop and Mobile Web Support (handy for platforms that aren’t supported)

Pros – Unique ID. Syncs across Platforms (Supports iOS, Android and Blackberry (Not BB10), desktop and mobile web.

Cons – No Windows Phone Support.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Hookt” link=”http://www.hookt.com/”][/button]

ChatON

ChatON is Samsung’s own cross platform messaging service, that has a lot of the features that other services have, including cross platform sync. It also has the ability to create an animated message or picture. It seems to have a little bit more detailed profile management, kind of like a Social Network (no it isn’t one)

Pros – Unique ID. Syncs across Platforms (Supports iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Certain Samsung Non-Smartphones, and desktop. Animated Messages.

Cons – No ability to actually manage notification tones (I could not find a way to turn off the tone!). Clunky interface (there are a lot of features, you just have to find them).

[button style=”5″ caption=”ChatON” link=”https://web.samsungchaton.com/”][/button]

Wechat

WeChat is one of the newer entrants. It’s developed by Tencent. The service has grown massively of late, mostly in China and South East Asia.. It has apps on most platforms (No BB10 yet) and a couple of things that it has over the others are Video Chat and what it calls “Drift Bottle” – you literally throw your message out there and wait for someone to pick it up. It’s also one of the fastest growing services, in Asia at least.

Pros – Sign in using phone number of Facebook Connect. Find Friends from FB. Symbian, Android, Blackberry (no BB10 yet), iOS, Windows Phone and Web clients.

Cons – No timestamps, delivery notifications & read reports.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Wechat” link=”http://www.wechat.com/en/”][/button]

Line

Line is a service by Japanese company Naver and it’s got everything but the kitchen sink! It’s available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry (No BB10 yet), for the Mac, Windows and Windows 8. Apart from the usual messaging, it has other services available (some as in-app purchases), like audio calling, video and audio messages, social gaming, stickers and more. In Japan, it has more active users than facebook!

Pros – Sign in using phone number or email. Android, Blackberry (no BB10 yet), iOS, Windows Phone, Mac, Windows/Windows 8 clients, Sync’chats across clients. Free calling, Audio and Video messages, Stickers, games

Cons – Only one smartphone can be used for a registered user (you can use it on one device and on a Mac/Windows computer).

[button style=”5″ caption=”Line” link=”http://line.naver.jp/en/”][/button]

Kakaotalk

Kakotalk is like a Korean version of Line, and it’s been around for a long time now. Just like Line, in Korea, it has more active users than Facebook. It has clients for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry (No BB10 Yet) and Bada. It also has other add on services like Kakaopoll, Kakaolink, etc, adding even more modes of interaction. It does not have a desktop client however.

Pros – Sign in using email. Android, Blackberry (no BB10 yet), iOS, Windows Phone, Bada clients. Free calling, Audio and Video messages, Stickers. Pin lock for chats.

Cons – No Desktop Client. Only one mobile number per account.

TU Me

TU Me is an example of a service created by an operator (Telefonica) to catch up with the rest of the OTT service (which operators supposedly hate because of the loss of revenue from text messaging). And on first glance, they’ve done a good job of it. It looks good, has quite a few features and most importantly, you do not have to be a Telefonica customer to use it. It’s iOS and Android only for now, but hopefully it’ll soon get on other platforms. They let you store your chats for a year, after which you have to pay to keep your chat history.

Pros – Sign in using phone number. Audio Calls, Voice and Video messages.

Cons – Android and iOS only. Pay for storage and usage after a limtied period.

Viber

Viber isn’t specifically a messaging service; it started off as a VOIP service which you use to call other Viber users over WiFi or your devices’ data network (kinda like skype). It has had messaging for a while now though, and it doesn’t have much (Group chat for instance), but it does work well with what it’s got. It has clients for iOS, Android, Bada, Windows Phone, Blackberry (no BB10), Symbian and even s40 (like whatsapp).

Pros – Sign in with phone number. Free calling to viber users, messaging & stickers.  iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Bada, Symbian and s40 clients.

Cons – No Group Messaging

Moped

Moped is a startup from Berlin thats aims to rethink instant messaging from the ground up. Moped lets you send IM’s over phone as well as your computer. Available on both Android and iOS platforms, Moped allows you to share messages and pictures privately or in a group in a very twitter-y fashion. You’ll need a twitter account to sign up and and can incorporate #tags, and @’s in your messages. Users can receive messages on their mobile devices, desktops or by e-mail. Moped also comes built in with a very instagram type  functionality –  a series of photo filters for for enhancing photo sharing. With dropbox integration and a chrome extension, Moped is trying very hard to cover all bases between mobile and the desktop.

Pros – Access IM’s over mobile, desktop & email, hashtag and @(mention) integration, Chrome extension to share content with Moped contacts.

Cons – only twitter login, no WP client

Jongla

Jongla is different from the others for one main reason: the target audience. It’s targeted at kids. Well, 15-20 year olds. It’s got most of the “fun” features from the other apps; stickers, etc.

Pros – Stickers, Web Login.

Cons – iOS, Android and Web only. Beyond stickers, there’s no other “fun” content sharing options.

Hike

Hike is another example of a service created by an Operator (India’s Bharti Telecom and Japan’s Softbank telecom provider) to try and catch up with the rest of the crowd. A standard IM client with one extra feature, 100 Free SMS/user/month for those times when you have flaky internet connectivity.

Pros – All platform IM client(BB coming soon), 100 free SMS/month and other rewards and incentives for stuff like connecting with you Facebook and twitter accounts

Cons – very low user base

Relay

Relay is all about the GIFs. It lets you share animated content from your own gallery, or you can search the web and send animated content to your buddies. Unfortunately, it’s an iOS only app.

Pros – GIFs! Animated!

Cons – iOS only.

GroupMe

GroupMe has been around for a while now. It started off as a messaging app with the focus being on creating groups and staying in touch with them (set up a group when you’re out at an event or conference, with people you have as contacts and others). It recently got updated with some really neat features, including what they call “Split”. You can track the expenses in each group, or add expenses and have others chip in. It also lets you message people who do not have the app, say, someone without a smartphone. It just sends them a standard text message that they can reply to. GroupMe is meant to be a bit more serious, at least when you compare it to some of the other clients out there. It is owned by Skype after all. Which in turn, is owned by Microsoft.

Pros – Sign in online. Manage and edit groups from any device or from the web. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry (no bb10) and Web clients. Texts sent to phones that do not have the client. Split – expense tracking and management per group.

Cons – Focus on Group messaging (can’t really be counted as a con though).

Yoke

Yoke is similar to most other messaging apps, with stickers, scribbles (drawings), etc. It also allows you to edit your message if it hasn’t been read yet, and you can edit it upto 5 minutes after it has been read.

Pros – Sign in with phone number. Edit your chat. Avatars, Scribbles.

Cons – iOS and Android only.

Cubie

Cubie is a new entrant to the social messaging field. It tries to focus on the “fun” aspects of messaging, with a lot of features seen in Line, such as stickers, animations, etc. It does have a few unique features though, enabling you to create your own content, of sorts. You can sketch, edit photos, etc.

Pros – Sign in with phone number. Stickers, Create your own sketches, animations, customize the look of your chat.

Cons – iOS and Android only. Account can be used only on one device. Tied to one phone number, you’ll need to create a new account for a new phone number.

Image credit: rido / 123RF Stock Photo

The death of Google Reader, and its potential successors

Google_Reader_Logo

Google Reader is dead. After seven years of life and in the midst of steadily declining service, Google has pulled the plug on its RSS Reader, which will be fully discontinued at the beginning of June. Many of you will no doubt be disappointed by this, depending on your level of dependence on your RSS feed. But once you’ve managed to get over your initial panic attack, be advised that there are a number of highly functional alternatives to Google Reader to which you can quickly and easily relocate your subscriptions via Google Takeout. Here is a list of some of the possible successors to Google Reader’s throne.

NewsBlur

First up is NewsBlur, which offers a slick interface with a cohesive visual design, to make reading very easy on the eye. It is also mobile friendly, with apps for Android and iOS, for those of you who have already embraced new technology in the tablet vs laptop debate. For those of you into content curation, you can even use NewsBlur to start up your own “BlurBlog” to host and comment on posts to your RSS feed. The major, major downside to this option is that NewsBlur has currently suspended the creation of free accounts due to increased demand, meaning that those who want to take advantage will have to pay for a premium account. This, however, does allow for an unlimitedly large feed, and access to all the site’s features.

iOS Download

‎NewsBlur
‎NewsBlur
Developer: NewsBlur, Inc.
Price: Free+

Android Download

NewsBlur
NewsBlur
Developer: NewsBlur, Inc.
Price: Free+

Feedly

Next, we have Feedly, which is probably the most likely all-purpose alternative to be adopted en-masse by GR refugees. Feedly has the advantage of being freely available on major platform – web, iOS and Android. It also offers a minimalistic approach similar to GR, but with a few modernisations that will likely appeal immensely to those at the cutting edge. These features include a magazine-style viewing option, the ability to organise parts of your feed into specific folders with different pre-set viewing styles, and a surprising degree of customisability in terms of its overall look. Its biggest advantage is definitely its free and robust mobile apps, which are likely to dominate in a market where Google’s API has vanished, which makes it the perfect alternative for tablet and smartphone users, even if only as a temporary stopgap.

Android Download

Feedly - Smarter News Reader
Feedly - Smarter News Reader
Developer: Feedly Team
Price: Free+

iOS Download

‎Feedly - Smart News Reader
‎Feedly - Smart News Reader

Flipboard

Flipboard is another contender in this space, which is available on the iOS and Android platforms. A web version is missing here though. It offers a simplified way to navigate through your social and news feeds by just flipping through the items. Even though the mobile experience is good, Flipboard works exceptionally well on tablets with big colourful cover images. You can choose curated topics to subscribe to as well as as individual feeds. Flipboard is also offering a way to migrate your existing Google Reader feeds to their platform.

Android Download

iOS Download

‎Flipboard
‎Flipboard
Developer: Flipboard Inc.
Price: Free

The Old Reader

A definite one-to-watch comes in the form of The Old Reader. Styling itself “the ultimate social RSS reader”, the Old Reader was created to replicate the style and features of the older version of Google Reader, meaning it is likely to feel very familiar to diehard GR users who have been using the product for a long time. It offers a robust replacement, allowing for a complete RSS experience with highly functional social elements. It is, however, hampered by its present lack of mobile and tablet apps, which may hamstring it at this early stage and prevent it from picking up a huge number of those in the RSS wilderness – at least right now. The Old Reader is still only in a beta stage, and it is definitely worth keeping an eye on its development; once it emerges in its final form, it may offer an experience akin to a much improved version of Google Reader, as its design philosophy suggests.

Others?

Beyond these more promising alternatives, a number of smaller players exist. These include NetNewsWire (a dependable if visually outdated Mac-only app which will currently undergo major redesign in the near future), Pulse (an independent platform which is now offering features to speed the import of your Google Reader subscriptions which also boasts companion mobile apps) and the NetVibes site (which isn’t an RSS reader at all, but a social dashboard utility that can do the job of an RSS reader and is both free and highly functional in its implementation). And this is just the beginning. Far from Google Reader’s shutdown signalling the end for RSS, this much beloved platform will likely see much expansion and innovation over the coming months. Google Reader, much beloved as it was, had essentially created a situation in which developers were actively being discouraged from making their own RSS back end, which means that several reader apps are now going to be left worryingly adrift unless they can adapt fast. With this monolithic force now gone, developers will be forced to innovate to set themselves apart from the crowd. The future will probably still be dominated by larger and already existing forces, but we can expect much more diversification in terms of smaller specialist apps for more niche markets.

About Author

Joanna Stevenson studied Computer Science in London, and currently works in digital consulting. She enjoys writing tech articles in her free time and aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast