Here's something I'm getting rather sick off at the moment: Waiting for the stable version of Windows 10 Mobile to arrive. It's almost like Microsoft is taunting people with the constant waiting. First it was a July release date, then it was October, now we know that it won't be arriving as an upgrade until December. It's almost as bad as waiting for a third-party Android upgrade.
Anyway, let's get down to this week's batch of apps. We're still looking for feedback on the new format, so make sure to drop a comment down at the bottom.
Android: YouTube Gaming (Free)
We all know that YouTube Gaming is Google's response to not being able to buy Twitch, but it's clear from this update that Google/Alphabet (or whichever is the top dog these days) isn't content with a cheap clone. This latest update brings in a bunch of features that go beyond organising your gaming subscriptions and watching live streams. It actually makes it possible for people to record and live stream stuff that goes on on their phones.
The main purpose of this feature is to make it possible for YouTubers to easily create content focussed on mobile games, but it appears that it will capture whatever you do on your phone. That means if your phone doesn't have dedicated screen recording functions, YouTube Gaming functions in the same way. Unfortunately because this is meant for YouTube personalities, it does have a small bubble in the corner that takes up some of the screen. Something that other screen recording apps do not have.
That's not to say that the bubble is useless; it's there as a remote control of sorts where you can control whether the app is recording or not, whether it captures audio from your microphone, and whether it uses the front camera to capture your reactions to what's going on. It's just a shame that there is no visible way to hide it, or at least reduce the size.
Once you're done, you can then edit your recordings in-app using Google's new mobile editing tools, add a variety of stock music (or stuff from your own device if you're not concerned about copyright), and upload them to your own YouTube channel.
It is worth mentioning that your device's hardware and software might prevent YouTube gaming from being able to record what's going on. I originally tried to get it working on my Hudl 2, but was told that the software (Android 5.01) wasn't up to scratch. My Xperia Z3, however, (running Android 5.1.1) was just fine.
The rest of the app's features aren't all that different from the main YouTube app, albeit streamlined for gaming-related content. Gaming channels you subscribe to can be imported from your YouTube accounts, and you can watch them and a variety of live streamed gaming content right here. There's nothing particularly unique about that, but if you watch a lot of YouTubers who talk about games then everything is a bit more pleasant than the stock app. Really, the killer feature is the recording/live streaming.
The new features appear to be an Android exclusive for now, but YouTube Gaming is also available on iOS.
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iPhone: Yahoo Mail (Free)
Some of the biggest news of the past week is that Yahoo's mail app is attempting to get rid of the password for good by using your phone as an authenticator. It sounds a bit like two-factor authentication, but without the first step. Let's take it for a spin, then, shall we?
Setting it up is simple, a lot simpler that setting up two-factor authentication with some online services *cough*iCloud*cough*, and once you're done you're no longer able to use your old password to log into your Yahoo account. I tried logging in the old fashioned way in my web browser, and the account key system wouldn't let me. As soon as you type in your account name and hit the password box it automatically switches to the account key log in. Hitting enter then makes a screen pop up on your iPhone asking if it's you that's trying to log in. Just hit yes and you're in.
It's worth mentioning that any older Yahoo services may still need you to use a password to log in. Rather than using your old password, the app will give you a randomly generator alphabetical password which will grant you access in those situations. Those are one-use only, so if you ever need to log into Yahoo you need to make sure you have the app on hand. If you don't have the app, you can use text-message-based authentication to access the app. If you can't receive texts, then it appears that you're kind of screwed. If you plan ahead, though, you can disable the account key via text and go back to your old password. If you can remember it.
There's also a typical two-factor code in the app, one that changes every three minutes. I can't for the life of me figure out what this is for. Possibly legacy apps that have two-factor authentication but don't use account key? I'm not sure.
It's a very nice idea from Yahoo, and I can see this catching on given how integral mobile apps are to our lives. It works fairly well, but Yahoo needs to sort out some sort of system where someone may need to access their account without having access to the Yahoo Mail app.
Yahoo Mail is also available on Android.
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iPad: Earbits Music Discovery Radio (Free)
It's not easy finding yourself some new music, and Earbits is a great way to do so without having to cough up a subscription fee or deal with meddlesome adverts. It's completely focussed on independent artists and bands too, so you're bound to find something you've never heard of before.
Obviously, being free this doesn't let you search for and choose the artists you want. Instead Earbits takes the internet radio approach, playing you a selection of pre-programmed music that differs depending on the channel you chose. The nice thing is that unlike a lot of radio services it doesn't just focus on specific genres. There are genre-based channels to listen to, but there are also a massive selection based on the mood you're in. Need to focus? There's a channel for that. Need exercise motivation? There's a channel for that. there's even a channel called 'Mad Scientist'. I'm still not entirely sure what that one's about.
Earbits is free to use and doesn't require you to register, but there are some advantages if you do. For starters, registering will let you save tracks for later listening and allows you to play music on-demand directly from artist profiles. Having stuff saved and altering your 'discovery level' also lets the app personalise what it feeds you based on your own preferences. Kind of handy so that you don't end up with Christian Rock when you'd rather something a bit harder and a bit less God-y. That's personal experience speaking, I can assure you.
The app itself has a fairly nice interface, and is incredibly easy to find your way around and get the music you want. It seems a little bit crippled without registering, but at least there's a 'recently played' section to find the stuff you were listening to as quickly as possible.
Earbits is also available on Android.
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Windows Phone: Halo Channel (Free)
I'll be honest, this is a bit of an odd app to be appearing on Windows Phone right now. For starters, it's an app that's been developed by Microsoft and has been available on other platforms (including Windows 8 and 10) for months. Secondly, it seems a bit pointless to launch it on Windows Phone 8 since Windows 10 Mobile (and universal apps) are launching in the next month or so. But I digress.
So what is Halo Channel then? It's Microsoft's digital portal into the Halo Universe, replacing the ageing Halo Waypoint app that nobody ever really used. It's a single place where everything Halo comes together, whether it's news, behind the scenes videos, e-sports, or expanded universe content.
Really, there's not much in here that's not easily accessible elsewhere. There's a portal for game info, for instance, that only contains a link to the official Halo website in your phone's browser. Honestly that seems a little bit pointless. That said, it's a nice little hub for finding all the important Halo news won the go. How much of it is relevant will differ from person to person, but it's easy to find and filter through.
What is important, though, is that Halo Channel is one of the few places you can watch the feature length 'films' that Microsoft has produced for the franchise. Both Forward Unto Dawn and Halo: Nightfall can be viewed in full in the app, along with a bunch of relevant in-universe content. It's also the ideal place to listen to the on-going audio drama Hunt the Truth, without having to use your browser or a third-party SoundCloud app. Forward Unto Dawn and Hunt the Truth are both pretty great, and I highly recommend them both.
The app itself is nice, neatly laid out, and I feel is only really let down by the Windows Phone infrastructure in terms of navigating and logging in. It's fairly niche, but since Halo 5 is coming out next week it's a good place to catch yourself up on things if you plan on playing the game.
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