Android app round-up: Google Maps 5, Memory Trainer, Words With Friends, BBC iPlayer, Google Translate, Androidify review

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This month has been another busy one for us, exploring the world of Android apps. We’ve been busy trying to get our brain at peak performance, playing word games, watching TV, translating foreign words, having a bit of mindless fun – and finally getting around to upgrading our old favourite, Google Maps.

Google Maps 5
Everyone with an Android handset must be familiar with Google Maps. It has taken us a little while to upgrade to Version 5, which appeared late last year, simply because we’ve not felt the need for the new features. But now the time has come. So far we’ve enjoyed the faster rendering of maps as we pan and zoom, though we’re not so impressed by the 3D buildings which aren’t available for all of the UK anyway yet. You’ll need to be running Android 2.0 or higher to get the benefit of 3D too. Still, if you haven’t yet upgraded, the time might be right.

Memory Trainer
You know those brain-training apps? The ones that some people are convinced make them better at stuff like lateral thinking, concentration, maths and such like? Well, there are, of course, plenty for Android, and we’ve been putting Memory Trainer through its paces. This free app concentrates on spatial memory, working memory, focus and concentration. Memory Trainer gives you exercises to complete and progress reports to read. Whether you believe in brain training or not, Memory Trainer provides some useful game-like challenges.

Words With Friends
While we were being brainy, we thought we’d take a look at the free app Words With Friends. Scrabble addicts will find this game a real pleasure. The gameplay is very Scrabble-like – letters have values, you lay them onto a board that includes special squares such as triple letter, double word score and so on, and you win by getting the highest score. But there’s more, in that there is an online game option too. We found this a bit slow, lacking the fun factor that face-to-face games have – but avid wordgame fans should be kept very, very happy.

BBC iPlayer
Even if you are not the world’s biggest TV fan, the free iPlayer for Android is one of those must-have’ apps. Offering catch-up TV from the last seven days as well as live TV and Radio it is one of those apps that Wi-Fi was made for. Wherever there’s a good connection, you can catch up on whatever it is you’ve missed out on recently. The screen might be small, but the quality, at least on our HTC Desire, is good. It is, though, rather heavy on the battery.

Google Translate
Google offers a really useful translation tool on the web which we’ve used on numerous occasions to get us out of a tight spot. But firing up the web browser to use it on our Android smartphone isn’t the most elegant solution. So we’ve installed the free Google Translate app. This converts text between more than 50 languages. Just enter your text, choose your to’ and from’ languages and wait. No more worries with foreign food menus, and it’ll even accept spoken input and speak the translations.

Androidify
Some apps are educational, some are based around entertainment, and some are designed to provide a useful service. Others… well, others are just plain pointless, but fun. Such a one is Androidify. Download this free app and you can create a customised Android avatar. That’s it, really. You can stretch and pull the little green Android into a different shape, change the colour of its skin, give it hair, glasses, clothes and accessories. And, well, then you can look at it, share it, or use it as a contact book icon. That’s about it, really. Like we said: pointless, but fun.

Company: Android


Verdict

As above. All apps available via the Android Market.