Instagram Launches Bolt, Its One Tap Messaging App

Facebook owned Instagram recently launched its newest messaging app named Bolt. It is a one tap messaging app for Android and iOS smartphones which directly compete with the extremely popular Snapchat app. Bolt is currently available only for users in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa, while the app will roll out globally in the coming weeks.

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Similar to Snapchat, this app allows you to send images and videos to your friends, which is automatically deleted after it has been viewed by the recipient. It also lets you annotate messages with text captions. You don’t need a Facebook or Instagram account to sign-up. Bolt allows you to sign up using your phone number and add up to 20 friends in your favorite list.

You can easily send images by tapping on your friend’s face or you can even long-press to send a video. After the message has been received, your friends can directly reply by sending text or images. The best part is the shake-to-undo feature, which retracts your message by shaking your phone within the first few seconds. Currently, you cannot send messages to more than one person at a time and you cannot add more than 20 friends from your contacts to the favorite list.

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Apart from taking photos from the rear camera, Bolt also allows you to take selfies. You can also turn on the flast from the on-screen button. To delete a message, just swipe it to the right and it is gone forever. We’ll review the Bolt app in the coming days. Stay tuned! If you live in New Zealand, Singapore or South Africa, you can download the Bolt app right now from the download links given below.

[ Bolt for Android ] | [ Bolt for iOS ]

Thomas Was Alone Comes to iOS and Android

The BAFTA award winning indie platformer Thomas Was Alone is now available on Android and iOS. The game garnered critical acclaim for its PC, Mac, and PS3 editions, and is now promising the same emotional journey to mobile gamers.

Thomas Was Alone - Title Card

Unlike many recent indie platformers that focus on bringing back the 80s style challenging gameplay, Thomas Was Alone focuses on keeping things simple. A majority of the fifty levels in the game are simple enough for even the most casual gamers to enjoy. The protagonist of this game is Thomas – a self-aware AI created accidentally. Thomas is represented as a simple red rectangle, and all he can do is move and jump. Over the course of his journey he meets up with other AIs, who are also represented as quadrilaterals. By combining each character’s unique ability you need to traverse each level and reach the portal that’ll take you to the next one.

Thomas Was Alone - Game Commentary

Mike Bithell – the creator of the game, introduces enough variations and novelties to keep you engaged till the end, but the gameplay is still fairly basic. What elevates this game to greatness is the atmosphere. Thomas’ journey is expertly narrated by Danny Wallace, whose humorous and quirky comments establish an emotional connect that’ll leave you thinking about the game long after you have finished it. David Housden’s minimalistic background composition suitable complements the level design and the narration.

Thomas Was Alone - Platforming

I played the Android version of the game and did notice one annoying issue with the port. The option for switching between the characters is on the left and right edges of the screen, which makes it very easy to accidentally hit the Home button. Switching between characters requires too much attention and precision and often distracts you from the game. Hopefully, the developers will tweak the control scheme to address this issue. Other than this the game worked flawlessly, without any performance issues.

The game is available during this weekend at a 33% discounted price of $3.99, which is a steal for a game of this calibre. To make the deal even sweeter, the Bossa Studios has included the Benjamin’s Flight DLC pack with twenty additional levels in the mobile version of the game. Thomas Was Alone is a mesmerizing experience that I can’t recommend enough.

[ Download Thomas Was Alone from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store ]

RunPee Helps You Plan Your Bathroom Break during Movies

Intermissions were necessary in the olden days because as they enabled the operators to change reels. However, as technology improved, intermissions became unnecessary, and were phased out in most parts of the world to save time and squeeze in more shows. India remains an exception, where for both Bollywood and Hollywood movies, theatres have an intermission, which gives the audience a chance grab more popcorn.

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RunPee – Plan your Bathroom Break During Movies

The unfortunate downside to phasing out intermissions is that, in case you need to take a leak, you are forced to miss out on parts of the movie. RunPee is a mobile app that’s designed to help you with planning your bathroom break during a movie. Theaters don’t have pause buttons, but with RunPee you can at least ensure that you don’t miss out on the best parts of the movie. RunPee’s database is updated the day a movie comes out with the best moments to run to the bathroom. These scenes are normally three to five minute intervals in the movie where not a lot happens. RunPee tells you the exact time that the scene will start at as well as a dialogue by which you can identify the scene.

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RunPee – List of Best Peetimes during a Movie

For an app with just one purpose, RunPee is rather feature packed. You can either select a movie, and chose to identify the scene manually. Or you can start a timer as soon as the movie starts, and RunPee will vibrate your phone, when a ‘peetime’ comes along. It also provides a quick summary of what happens during the scene.

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RunPee- Countdown Timer to the Best Bathroom Breaks during Movies

There are also a couple of bonus features. If you’re running late, you can read a summary of what happens during the first three minutes of the movie on RunPee. Additionally, it also informs you if there are any extra scenes during or after the end credits.

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RunPee – Bonus Features

RunPee is a free download on iOS and Android, while the Windows Phone version costs $0.99. I reviewed the Android version, and found it to work rather well. The user interface doesn’t strictly adhere to the Android design guidelines and is a mishmash of Android and iOS UI elements. RunPee won’t blow you away with its design, but the apps is undoubtedly handy, and serves its purpose brilliantly.

[ Download RunPee ]

How to Avoid Accidental TV Show Spoilers on Social Media [iOS, Android, Google Chrome]

Game of Thrones is back on TV, and has wasted no time in delivering the shocking game changers that it’s famous for. Over the past three seasons, the show has managed to amass a massive and vocal fan base. The HBO original based on the fantasy books “A Song of Ice and Fire” invariably manages to trend every week soon after it airs. However, for those of us who haven’t read the books and don’t watch the show during its initial broadcast, this poses a big challenge. Short of completely avoiding Twitter and Facebook, it’s almost impossible to remain spoiler free among all the #redwedding and #purplewedding chatter. Thankfully, as always, there’s a better and an easier solution!

Spoiler-Shield-Main

The first option is an Android and iOS app called Spoiler Shield. It is actually a Twitter and Facebook client, which automatically hides everything on your stream about the TV series that you don’t want to get spoiled about. Spoiler Shield also supports NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL, and other sports and live events. It ships with a list of shields, and all you need to do is enable the ones that you want.

Shields-in-Spoiler-Shield

Spoiler Shield is well designed, intuitive, and easy to use. However, quite obviously, it can’t replace dedicated Facebook and Twitter clients. It probably isn’t even meant to do so. You should probably only use it when you’re weary of getting spoiled. For example, the day of the Academy Awards, the day Netflix releases House of Cards, and of course the day Game of Throne airs. All the essential options including tweeting and retweeting for Twitter, and liking and replying for Facebook are included. Blocked posts are replaced with a shield, and in case you can’t hold your curiosity, you can double tap to reveal the hidden content.

Spoiler-Shield-Twitter-Stream

Spoiler Shield promises that a Google Chrome extension is also in the works. However, there’s another similar solution called Silencer that desktop users can use in the meanwhile. Silencer is a Google Chrome extension, which promises to filter spoilers from your social media feed. Like Spoiler Shield, it also comes with pre-configured block lists. Here, they are called Mute Packs. Once again, both TV shows and live events (AFC and NFC matches) are supported. The number of filter packs in Silencer is fewer than Spoiler Shield, but you can manually add terms that you wish to block.

Silencer-Mute-Packs

No automated filtering technology is going to be perfect. However, these two free utilities should make it easier to avoid accidentally spoiling yourself. Take them for a spin, and don’t forget to let us know how well they worked for you.

Gmail Tries to Tackle Inbox Clutter with Tabs

AOL isn’t exactly a hotbed for innovation, but its Alto mail did introduce a few neat concepts. The chief among them is the idea of stacks and automatic categorization. Unfortunately, Alto also had too many inconveniences to ever become a mainstream product. However, the good news is that Google is taking a leaf out of Alto’s book. Yes, Gmail is taking inspiration from an AOL email product.
Gmail-Tabbed-Inbox-Desktop

Google has annoucned a new tabbed inbox for Gmail that builds on the automatic categorization concept featured in Alto to reduce your inbox clutter. Gmail already has Priority Inbox, which surfaces mails that matter to you. Now, it will be grouping mails further, depending upon its source of origination. For example, one can tuck away all notifications from Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn under the Social category. Similarly mails from Groupon and its likes can be put under the Promotions category. You can setup custom categories and customize how you want your mails to be categorized.

Gmail-Tabbed-Inbox-Android-iPhone

Google will also be updating its Android and iOS apps (for iPhone and iPad) to add support for a categorized inbox. You will see your uncategorized mail by default when you open the Gmail app. You’ll be able to navigate to your categories from the left menu, as shown in the above screenshot. The updated Gmail app will be released within a few weeks, while the desktop version will be rolled out gradually.

Google Launches New Hangout App For Android, iOS And Chrome

Apart from the unveiling of the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, the tech-giant has also launched a new unified, cross-platform messaging service for Android, iOS, and Chrome at the I/O 2013 event in San Francisco. This messaging service has been rumored from a long time and it was previously codenamed as ‘Babel’. For the first time, Google’s Hangout messaging app will be available on all smartphones and tablets running on the Android and iOS Operating System as well as on the Google Chrome browser running on your Mac, Linux and Windows computer.

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Hangout allows you to send a text, photos and emoji to your friends. You can also video chat with up to 10 friends with this app. If your friends are not available when you try to reach them, they’ll see an alert next time they connect to Hangout. Similar to the Facebook Chat, this app lets you see whether your friends are online, when your friends are together in Hangouts, when they are typing or whether they have seen your message.

Once you see a notification on one device, Hangout will clear the notification from all other devices connected to your account. It also saves your chat history and shared photos by default, so that you can read your previous conversations anywhere anytime. You should also note that unlike Google Talk, Hangouts does not support invisible status. Google has also renamed the Instant Upload to Auto Backup, which helps you to automatically back up unlimited photos from your phone at standard size of 2048 pixels. The Hangout app is currently not available for Nexus 7.

[ Download Google Hangout on Android, iPad/iPhone and Chrome ]

BlackBerry Messenger Coming to Android and iOS as Free Download

BlackBerryBlackBerry Messenger or BBM used be the one killer features of BlackBerry. In fact it’s still the reason why many people purchase a BlackBerry. However, thanks to the popularity of multi-platform apps like WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber, BBM no longer commands the respect it used to. WhatsApp recently reported that it has 200 million active monthly users, which is more than thrice that of BBM’s active user count. Sure, BlackBerry Messenger is a lot more secure than WhatsApp, which is frankly a security nightmare. However, this can hardly enough to sway the opinion of millions of smartphone buyers. It has long been rumoured that the struggling Canadian smartphone manufacturer will be opening up BBM. Perhaps feeling the pressure, BlackBerry has finally bit the bullet.

BlackBerry just announced at the BBLive conference that it will be launching the BBM as an independent app on Android and iPhone this “summer”. No concrete dates were given; however, Android Police is reporting that the BlackBerry Messenger will be a free download that will require at least ICS (Android 4.0). It will be initially released with support for messaging and groups with additional features including voice, screen share, and channels being added later on. BBM users will be able to setup groups and share voice notes, calendar, photos, files and more. “For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service”, said Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, Software Product Management and Ecosystem, at BlackBerry.

Flipboard 2.0 For iOS Brings Custom Magazines, Read Later And More

Flipboard is an extremely popular news reading app for smartphones and tablets running on the iOS and Android Operating Systems. Flipboard was originally designed for the iPad, which was later updated to add support for the iPhone and iPod Touch followed by Android smartphones and tablets. Flipboard is one of those apps which I’ve been using almost everyday on my iPad.

Flipboard recently released the version 2.0 of this amazing app. The new Flipboard allows you to collect and save articles, photos, audio and video by organizing them into beautiful magazines. You heard it right! Now you can even create you own digital magazines on Flipboard. These magazines can be made public to share them with the Flipboard community or you can choose to make your magazines private.

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What’s new in Flipboard 2.0?

  • You can now collect and save content into your own magazines, tap the new “+” button to get started.
  • Your magazines are public, but can be made private (viewable only to you).
  • Use the new bookmarklet to add items to your magazines from your browser.
  • Get Flipboard notifications when people like, comment or subscribe to your magazines.
  • Easily email or share magazines to Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc.
  • Personalized recommendations for more to add to your Flipboard.
  • Search is now front and center on your Flipboard, with new and improved results.
  • Faster page-loading and faster flipping performance.

Flipboard 2.0 has also introduced a new commenting system which allows you to comments on articles and even use @mentions to interact with other Flipboard users. Apart from that, Flipboard also brings new “Flip It” bookmarklet which lets you flip the current page on Flipboard. This update is currently available only for iPad and iPhone users. Android users might have to wait for few weeks before getting their hands-on these amazing new features.

A Location Sharing App with an Unfortunate Name Goes Viral in Brazil

A couple of days back, a small Spanish firm called Makalu Interactive launched a new location bookmarking app called Rego on the iTunes app store. Rego is a simple app which allows you to save places you have been to, along with associated notes and images. Although Rego is primarily designed to serve as your own personal journal of favorite and memorable places, it features smart social integration, which enables you to share selected places with your friends and family.

Rego-Location-Bookmarking-App

It’s not easy for a new app from a little known development firm to make it big. However, Rego has gotten off to a great start. Soon after its launch, Rego was added to the “New and Recommended” section by Apple, which undoubtedly helped the freemium app. Rego requires a $0.99 in-app purchase to remove the 10 places and 1 photo filter limitation present in the free version. However, the app has gone viral in Brazil, largely due to an unfortunate co-incidence. I’ll let Malaku’s director Matt Henderson explain exactly why it went viral.

Rego in Portuguese means ‘butt crack’. With that bit of info in mind, Rego’s app description makes for a hilarious read. Here’s a sampler — “Rego’s private. Nobody sees what you add to Rego.” No wonder then that Gizmodo Brazil had a field day with it’s “not hands-on” review of Rego. To its credit, Makalu intends to capitalize on its unexpected popularity in Brazil by releasing a Portuguese translation of its location bookmarking app soon.

[ Download Rego ]

Review: Notability Note Taking & PDF Annotation App

Notability

If you use an iPad and are looking for a great app for taking notes and annotating PDF files, then look no further than Notability. Notability is by far one of the best note taking apps I have seen and is the only one that has taken some of my attention away from Evernote. Unlike Evernote, it is not free however, it is only $1.99 and it is packed full of features.

Organized

In the picture below, you can see how Notability allows you to organize your notes into nice note books called categories and tabs called subjects on the left side of the page. In the top bar you have a simple set of tools. The “Edit” button allows you to rename, delete, and reorganize your notes and notebooks. The right pointing arrow button to the right of “Edit” will allow you to share a particular note. Notability will connect to your email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, WebDav, printers, iTunes, and even other apps on your iPad. The second arrow button in the top right corner will allow you to import documents, PDFs, pictures, etc… from these connected services such as Dropbox. The final button in the right corner is used to start a new note.

Organize

Stylus and Finger Friendly

One of the few frustrations I have with Evernote has been the lack of an ink note on the iPad. An ink note will allow you to use a stylus, or your finger, to write on the tablet. Notability works great with a stylus. In the image below, notice the different colors of handwriting that was used as well as, the colorful sketches that were done. The ink in Notability is smooth as silk. If you press and hold on the pencil icon at the top of the note, you get several options for pen thicknesses, styles, and colors.

Ink Pen

Media Rich

Notability has the ability to insert a lot of media into a note. Below, you will where I inserted a picture of an apple pie I made. You will also see the little “plus” sign menu dropped down showing the different media available to you in Notability. Notice that I have a purple triangle inserted as a shape. I used the “figure” option to draw this into my note. You can also insert “Stickies” with all sorts of different paper colors and lines available. Another really cool trick is the “Web Clip” option they put into Notability. You can browse out to a web page and clip a picture of it into your note. This would be great if you were working on a website design team or if there is some important information on the web that you don’t want to lose. You will also notice the microphone icon at the top of the note. This allows you to make voice notes. This is excellent for those of us who work in construction and we want to give ourselves reminders as we walk through the initial stages of a project.

Media Rich

The Good:

For a $1.99, this app is fantastic. This app is fantastic for $10. It works very nicely with a stylus and it adds flair to your notes that a lot of other note taking apps just don’t do. For instance, the fact that you can pick lined or grid paper, or have color paper instead of plain white are great examples of the thoughtful additions Notability offers. It connects to most major cross browser cloud storage apps like Dropbox and Google Drive. You can also send you note in a variety of formats such as PDF.

The Bad:

Notability will let you create text boxes that you can type in and move around, but they are a little buggy at times. Sometimes selecting and deselecting the boxes is difficult and they will move around on you as well. It doesn’t integrate with QuickOffice so you can’t import a spreadsheet in as a spreadsheet. It wants to convert it using Google Drive. It is currently not available for Android.

All that being said, those very small flaws are the only reason I can’t give this a perfect score, but it is pretty darn close in my mind. Notability is a must have app for the student, project manager, or someone who likes to keep up with good notes. I am confident that they are working to add better capabilities to this already wonderful app. It’s a 4 star app going on 5 soon.