As Google Play hits 25 billion app downloads (and celebrates by offering a great selection of titles for a mere 25¢ a pop) here are a selection of new apps and updates that caught our eye this week. Apex Launcher got a big update which brings it more in line with the features of Jelly Bean, and Vellamo Benchmark received a facelift and some nice additions. We’ve also got a sporting goods retailer, a vacation rental finder and even a fun, throwaway app to coincide with the release of the iPhone 5.
Apex Launcher update (Free)
Apex didn’t get off to a good start with their version 1.3.0 update: the launcher would immediately crash upon opening. But its developers were quick to fix it and now 1.3.1 offers all the features beta users have already been enjoying. Importantly, this highly customizable home screen launcher is built on the Jelly Bean launcher instead, though it still works on any Ice Cream Sandwich (and above) device. That means performance boosts, desktop items re-arranging to fit the screen, an option to switch to a tablet-style UI, activity animation options, and more. Unlock more features by going Pro, or try Nova Launcher as an alternative (which received a minor update this week, too).
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark (Free)
This isn’t necessarily a new app, but it did receive a cool update and a stylish new interface. Vellamo Mobile Benchmark offers a great way to test the performance of your Android device and compare it to others. Vellamo will now benchmark HTML5 video, DOM performance, web page load/reload, and WebGL. It supports both ARM and x86 processors and also evaluates scrolling and zooming, video performance, memory read/write and peak bandwidth performance and 3-D graphics.
DICK’s Sporting Goods Mobile (Free)
The new DICK’s Sporting Goods app for Android offers full access to all the athletic gear available at their online store, or you can find a physical store nearby. Also, it offers news and information on the company’s latest products and lets you manage your ScoreCard Rewards, which turn into cash the more gear you buy. This app is great for people who shop regularly at DSG, or for anyone really who loves to purchase sports gear and apparel.
Dwellable Vacation Rentals (Free)
Dwellable got an update just a few days ago, but it’s in our list because it got a lot of attention this week as a Staff Pick on Google Play. Dwellable offers reviews, photos and maps of beautiful vacation rentals across the United States with powerful search/filtering tools. There are 55,000 listings available complete with high-resolution imagery in locations like the Hawaiian islands, Cape Cod, Florida, Lake Tahoe, Myrtle Beach, Oregon, Virginia Beach and many more. Even if you’re not in the market for a vacation rental, the app’s sharp design and great photos are well worth a look.
Fake iPhone 5 (Free)
OK, we don’t usually feature irreverent apps like this, but Fake iPhone 5 is timely, emerging just as the world appears to be going bonkers about Apple’s latest smartphone. This iOS-style launcher from Big Byte offers a full-screen working replica of the iPhone home screen. All your apps are easily accessible and you just flip the screen across to view more pages like you would on iOS 6. The skin is quite realistic and authentic-looking, and because this app works as a fully-fledged launcher it actually functions properly and is not just a mere screenshot. Have some fun fooling a gullible friend this weekend!