The Week's Top Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows Mobile Apps

By Tom Pritchard on at

With Giz's Transport Week over, we return to our regularly scheduled apps roundup. Last week was a little bit mental, but life has to go on. Let's get down to business then, and take a look at the best new apps and updates from the past seven days.

Android: VLC (Free)

This week VLC got a lovely new feature that a lot of people might find interesting: picture-in-picture mode. Suck it iPad. As the name suggests, this means you can watch video in the corner of your screen while you do something else.

The problem is the updated app isn't very clear when it comes to letting you know what's changed and how to access the new features, and neither is the app's Google Play page. Luckily it's not that hard to find, provided you have a tiny little smidgen of common sense. All you need to do is find the video, or video playlist (those are also new in this version) that you're after, and get things going. From there you hit the three dots and tap the picture-in-picture icon in the bottom left-hand corner. It's obvious which one it is.

The downside at first is that the picture is tiny. The good news is that you can change its size, but not in a particularly precise manner. Doing it is a bit like pinch-to-zoom, the difference being that the size of the corner video doesn't change until you let go. It's not too difficult to get the hang of, thankfully. You can also move the video around to a more appropriate place if you so wish – just hold and drag.

Also new in this version are the aforementioned video playlists, a network browsing mode, a history view, and a merge between the Android and Android TV apps. Obviously, Picture-in-Picture is the more important one. So next time you want to watch whatever it is you want to watch, you don't have to choose between video entertainment and doing something more productive on your tablet.

You should also try:

Shazam (Update): The music identification app now works in the background, so you don't have to do a damn thing next time that pesky tune you can never remember the name of comes on the radio. [Free]

Samsung VR (Update): Not only has this had a name change (it used to be called Samsung Milk VR), it now lets you upload your own 360-degree videos directly. Only works on select Samsung devices . [Free]

BitTorrent Now (Update): This one is now a video and music streaming app, letting you stream stuff from people you've likely never heard of. Just be aware, this isn't a torrent-streaming app like Popcorn Time. Just regular ol' streaming uploaded by creators. [Free]

iPhone: Embark (Free)

Hey look, a transport app. This one must've slipped past me last week. My bad. Still, it's just had an update so it's getting some love seven days later instead. This one is a route-planning app, but unlike things like Citymapper or Moovit it doesn't appear to be tied to pre-determined locations. Case in point, I live in a town rather than a major city, but Embark still has all the local public transport available for me in seconds.

So let's have a look at what we have here. It's fairly simple, really. It has all the information from local methods of public transport (including Uber, if it's available where you are), and uses your location to pinpoint exactly where you are. All you have to do is tell it where you want to go, and it'll pull up all the relevant routes with the information you need to decide how to go about it. That means info on methods of transport (and the company responsible), what time you need to leave and to sort out any transfers, how long the whole journey will take, and step-by-step directions (with maps and GPS) to show you what you need to do.

Embark also has a personalised feed to try and keep you entertained during your travels. It does that by asking you what topics you like (generalised stuff, like tech, gaming, entertainment, sport, etc), and then dishes up a collection of reading material from across the web. That way, provided you have data left, you'll struggle to be bored.

You should also try:

Dropbox (Update): No longer content with just being a cloud storage app, Dropbox now comes with built-in document scanning and tools for creating Office documents without going anywhere. [Free]

Karhoo (Update): The taxi-comparison and booking app is expanding out of London, and into 14 other cities across the UK. So you know which local firms have the best rates, without any pesky surge pricing. [Free]

Fitbit (Update): A new feature called Sleep Schedule is here to help you get better control over your sleep, with alarms reminding you when to go to bed and when to get up. Provided you have a sleep-tracking Fitbit device, that is. [Free]

iPad: The Championships, Wimbledon 2016 (Free)

Today is the start of every Brit's favourite tennis tournament – Wimbledon. That tournament that everybody hopes a British player will win, which has only happened once in living memory. As with every other sporting event, there is an app to help people keep up with what's going on in the land of the Wombles.

The main brunt of the app is keeping you on top of what's happening, naturally. So you can go in and tell it which players, draws, and countries you want to keep track of. That helps personalise your 'My Wimbledon' section, so you can keep on top of the tournament's news without having to sift through all the nonsense you don't care about. Just head to the homepage and swipe the pages up for the app to take you through a list of all the stuff you've favourited. There are also notifications so you don't have to keep going in and checking for yourself. Standard stuff for any sports news app, really.

There are also menus for live updates, telling you what's going on at any given time on each court, plus live radio and video broadcasts.

Finally, this app will be of use for anyone heading down to Wimbledon to try and catch some of the action. There are plans for you to make sure you can check out as much of the grounds and tournament as you possibly can, including tips on how to prepare for the day out. It also has a little checklist of things to document, to create 'Your Story'. It takes a while to process and finish up once you've done everything, but when you have the final thing you have your own little diary of all the cliches and important things everyone who goes to Wimbledon should do.

Oh, and there's a shop so you can buy some (probably) overpriced merchandise.

You should also try:

iDoyle: The Interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: An interactive story that puts you in the shoes of Conan Doyle's famous detective, as he attempts to work through the mystery presented in the pages of A Scandal in Bohemia. [£1.99]

Modern Atlas Travel Guides & City Maps: One that uses your location in collaboration with Wikipedia and WikiVoyage, in order to find and bookmark brand new places to explore. [£0.79]

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: One to try and inspire your kids' creativity, using everyone's favourite gluttonous caterpillar. It'll let you paint your own pictures, in the style of the author of the original book. [£2.29]

Windows Mobile: Crunchyroll (Free, with optional subscription)

Do you love yourself some anime? Lucky you, because Crunchyroll's streaming service is now available on Windows 10. So you can watch the best in Asian animation wherever you are, as long as there's internet access. Don't expect any manga here though, as it all seems to be video content.

It's all pretty simple, and if you've used any video streaming service before you'll be able to navigate this without a problem. There is a menu for filtering based on different genres, popularity, alphabetical name, and different seasons. There's also a search function, showing off what's new, and all that. Watching a video is as easy as tapping the series on your screen, then selecting the episode you want.

Crunchyroll is free to use, and you can watch anime without having to pay a penny. There are limits, though. For starters the free version has limits on how much you can watch (some shows are free and others are not), it only streams in 480p, and has adverts. Premium memberships (from £5 a month) don't limit streaming, offer the option to watch new episodes an hour after they air in Japan,  and give playback in 720p and 1080p.

You should also try:

Audible (Update): Amazon's audiobook app has been updated with a new feature called Audible Channels. That give you access to short-form audio, including podcasts, news, and so on. [Free]

Instagram (Update): An update to Instagram now means foreign languages will be automatically translated for you in-app. So no need to check Google Translate to see what people are saying about your breakfast snaps. [Free]

My Daily Wallpaper: One for changing up the background of your phone, doing it automatically every 24 hours. [Free]