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Notable Android apps showcased at SXSW 2012

by Kristen Nicole

SXSW has proved to be the perfect breeding ground for mobile apps, and while the iPhone tends to get most the attention, there were plenty of comparable Android apps to shine at this year’s springtime geek fest. The trendy ambient social discovery trend found plenty of Android love from Forecast, while M-Go, Rdio and Jelli Radio took up the charge for social entertainment. Marvel Comics has high hopes for augmented reality, though the world has higher hopes for Instagram’s Android debut.

Smarter check-ins and smarter entertainment

While Highlight remains an iOS exclusive app, Forecast’s cross-platform love gave Android users plenty to talk about. The idea behind future check-ins makes Forecast an app for planning meet-ups on any scale, marking your intent for real-world activities. Forecast stood out from the crowd by focusing on quality over quantity. Their goal at SXSW was to keep you from fighting the noise, “but rather target the things that will bring you the most value for what you are trying to achieve,” said Eric Katerman, Forecast co-founder and CTO.

Deja may have stolen the spotlight at SXSW for its iPhone-ready social TV app, but M-Go brings an Android alternative for smarter entertainment. A joint project from DreamWorks and Technicolor, M-Go delivers thousands of movies for purchase on-demand. The cross-platform app works on your TV, Android and iOS devices, offering a seamless experience for organizing movies, TV shows and other media. Launched in private beta at SXSW, M-Go demoed the new app on the streets of Austin inside a purple van with a big-screen display and Wi-Fi hotspots on board. M-Go has already worked out a deal with several manufacturers to ship with the app pre-loaded, including Samsung and Vizio TVs, tablets, Blu-ray disc players and Intel Ultrabooks.

New and updated musical offerings

From the founders of Skype comes the revamped digital music platform, Rdio, showcased at SXSW this week. There’s a new emphasis on music discovery, tying in influencers, media sources and users on a global scale. The idea is to help you better find the music you want, starting with a redesigned home page that puts music playlists and your immediate network front and center. Browse through a continuous stream of albums, easily return to previous searches and navigate faster with an auto-resizing window for varied Android screen sizes. Sharing has also been simplified, with socially-driven recommendations and the ability to see which friends like the music you’re listening to. Competing with Spotify, Rdio is now integrated with Facebook and Twitter, along with the addition of private, public and collaborative playlists.

A fresh social radio service called Jelli Radio also made a splash at SXSW this year, with a curated, SXSW artist-themed streaming radio station created just for the festival’s music fans. It’s another example of an app leveraging SXSW to prove its worth, enhancing the social music experience with an immediate use-case for attendees. You can vote for artists and songs you want to hear, creating dynamic playlists that change in real-time across the country. Jelli also features live chat rooms and other ways to collaborate on music selections, creating a shared listening experience that’s social and fun.

Comics and photographs

Hoping to better marry your tangible comic books with the digital capabilities of your Android device, Marvel Comics has layered in new augmented reality features into its upcoming Marvel AR app. It responds to augmented reality triggers built into the actual comic books, starting with the new Avengers Vs. X-Men #1, due to hit stores April 4 (which is when the app should launch as well). Marvel AR was demoed at the House of Ideas panel at SXSW’s Screenburn Arcade, bringing to life full-color 3D renditions of Iron Man. During the demo editor-in-chief Alex Alonso says "every issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men is going to be jam-packed with these. Our goal is to enrich your comic reading experience and tell stories in a new way."

Instagram hasn’t yet launched on Android, but it gets an honorable mention in this list for sharing its Android plans and a demo during SXSW. The popular photo-sharing app has taken the iPhone by storm, and millions of anxious Android users await Instagram’s Android debut. Co-founder Kevin Systrom showed off the Instagram for Android app during a private event at SXSW, fulfilling an earlier promise to drop the curtains of exclusivity on their impressive app. Expect Instagram to actually hit Google Play “very soon.”