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

By Tom Pritchard on at

It looks like this pesky heatwave is coming to an end, finally. Not that the warm weather is going away. At least now maybe I can get away with not having my fan on 24/7. I swear I'm going to spend more money on keeping cool than I ever spent on heating during the winter. Here's hoping we won't get another swelter during August.

You know what doesn't make you sweat? Hitting the download button on a brand new app, that's what. Here's this week's pick of the new bits for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Android: Google Play Books (Update, Free)

Google Play Books? That's hardly news, but it does have a brand new feature that might make some of you start using it (provided you don't already). It's called Bubble Zoom, and it makes it easier to read comics using Google's e-reading app.

Debuting at San Diego Comic Con, Google revealed Bubble Zoom as a way of highlighting all the speech bubbles in your comics without having to zoom in and ruin the full-page experience - all using image recognition. Sounds great, right? The downside is that it's not universal just yet. Google says that it's compatible with a few collected Marvel and DC volumes. The idea, however, is that all comics and manga available from Google will feature the new system.

This does mean that you actually have to buy them from Google's e-book store to enjoy this experience. No converting your comic files into PDFs and uploading them to your Play Books library. A list of collections available can be found here. Some of them have free samples, too, so you can test out Bubble Zoom before you buy.

Using it is rather easy. When you first open up a compatible comic, Play Books tells you about Bubble Zoom and how you can turn it off. To actually get it to work, you need to flick through to the pages with speech bubbles. Then you can expand the bubbles by tapping the sides of the page. Tap the right side and it'll go through each bubble one by one. Tap the left side and you'll start going backwards. Alternatively you can double tap individual bubbles to pull them up on their own.

It's not perfect, especially when vertical panels get involved, but it works well enough. It's unfortunate that you can't use it with your own comics, but if you're looking for a new way to read comics - and you're happy ditching your current method of downloading digital comics - this might be worth a try.

You should also try:

Battery Go: Pokémon Go needs to keep the screen on to run, and the battery saver feature is a glitchy mess (it also does nothing unless you have an OLED display). Battery Go sorts this out by letting you turn off your lock screen, while Pokémon Go still runs in the background. [£0.69]

Discogs: Still buying physical music? You probably need this. It's an app designed around cataloguing your physical music collection, finding new stuff, and accurately valuing any of those old vinyls you have lying around. [Free]

Chat for Pokémon Go: Pokémon Go has brought people together, but this app makes communicating with other players that bit easier. It lets you get in touch with trainers in the local area, as groups, even if they're a dastardly member of teams Instinct and Valor. [Free]

iPhone: BBC+ (Free)

You pay the license fee, so you kind of want the BBC to be relevant to your life. So what have the BBC gone and done? Released an app that lets you shape what BBC content is shown to you, all in one place.

You'll need to set up a BBC account, and once you have that you're given a very large list of topics like news, entertainment, living, sport, countries, and so on. Then you get the option of notifications with what's new for you, which arrive twice a day. Once all that setup is sorted you have your feeds, plus news at a glance. You flick through them all, and when you get to the end you have the option of customising your interests again. Nothing special – it's just like during setup. You can also edit them by hitting up the side menu

It's really nice and easy to sort out, and rather than mixing everything together BBC+ opts to give each topic its own feed. That way you don't have to worry about any algorithms messing things up, and causing you to miss out on important news. Plus, like any good app where news is involved, breaking news pops up whenever you're using it.

So if you want more from the BBC, but only want to pay attention to things you actually care about, BBC+ is for you. It doesn't have any in-depth personalisation beyond general topics, but that has its upsides and downsides. At least this way you get more choice in what you see, and less fiddling around popping through menus.

You should also try:

iFiles 2: One for managing all your cloud storage in one single place, regardless of which services you happen to use. [Free]

Polymail: An email app focused on productivity, with a simple good-looking interface for you to enjoy. [Free]

Mirrordrin: Sick of notifications coming through to different devices? This one will sync them all, even cross platform, and make sure you get everything. [Free]

iPad: Poké Radar (Free)

Pokémon Go is great, but that three-step glitch is really pissing everybody off. Luckily there is an app to help you out, in a matter of speaking. It's called Poké Radar, and it's designed to help you find where the pokémon are spawning near you.

It's pretty simple, really. The app tracks your location, and a little image of the pokémon appear around where those pokémon are meant to spawn. That way you don't have to guess and go hunting around hoping something appears. You can also filter the map, so you only see the pokémon you actually want to catch. Handy if you're sick of the map loading up pidgeys and zubats all day long.

The downside is that the whole thing is powered by crowd submissions, which means if you don't live in an area of Pokémon Go players your local map is going to look very empty. The whole point is for Pokémon Go players to help each other out, and ensure people in their local area can get the pokémon they want. So people can add spawn points in the app to show them what's spawning where. In theory anyway.

The fact that other people can drop spawn points wherever they feel like also means it's the perfect place for trolling. Take this picture for instance. Apparently this one very small area spawns Charizards, Pikachus, Vensuars, Blastoises, and more. I am calling shenanigans on that one. The map itself also looks like Apple Maps, so take from that what you will.

It's certainly not the best Pokémon Go tracker out there, but it is probably the best one actually available on mobile devices at the moment. Just remember that you'll have better luck in heavily populated areas. If you live out in the countryside, you're probably on your own.

You should also try:

Tinycards: An app from the same people who made Duolingo, this time helping you learn useful information that isn't language-based. You've got thousands of topics, all in a flashcard-based system. [Free]

Skylanders Battlecast: Skylanders heads to the mobile world in the form of a card game, and like the main game you build your collection by buying real-world cards and scanning them into the game. There are more than 64 missions to complete, multiple challenges, and even daily bonus points. It should keep you going for a while. [Free - with in-app purchases]

Windows Mobile: Rio 2016 (Update, Free)

The Olympics aren't that far off, and while they're already starting to look like a complete shitshow, you might want to tune in anyway. So what else is there to do than download an app to get you going? I know the Olympics don't start for another couple of weeks, but you can never be too early.

There's not much going on right now, but the app is still fully functional (the torch relay is still going on, after all). It's set out day by day, so you can see exactly what's happening and when. Or what has happened, once the games have actually begun. It's only got a five day selection, so you can't let yourself get too far behind when the time comes.

On top of that, the Rio app has the option to buy event tickets (if you're going all the way to Rio), blog posts, photo stories, information on the venues, and a guide for spectators. So if you want to keep on top of all things Olympics, this is the app for you.

You should also try:

Viber (Update): Finally out of beta (that doesn't seem to happen that often on Windows phones), Viber has a bunch of news features. Video calls, Cortana support, quick reply, and more. [Free]

Xbox Beta (Update): The Xbox beta app has also had an update, bringing with it the option to edit and share DVR footage on your mobile, sharing to Twitter, enhancements to profile customisation, and more. [Free]

IMO: The messaging app has finally arrived on Windows 10, bringing with it unlimited messaging, voice, and video calls. If you need a new way to keep in touch with people, this one is available for you. [Free]