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This week saw another slew of big brand updates in the Android Market, proving the power and worth of Google’s growing mobile ecosystem. Sony’s hoping to expand its subscription-based music streaming service to the mobile sector with the launch of an Android app, while Starbucks hopes to broaden the success of its mobile payments app with an Android version. Breakthrough app Lightbox is hoping to become a big brand of its own, with a photo-sharing app that keys into Android devices while maintaining an iOS-like aesthetic.
Music Unlimited (Free)
From Sony’s music streaming service Qriocity comes Music Unlimited, an Android app aimed at extending the music cloud to mobile devices. Launched in February, Qriocity lets you access streaming music from a range of connected devices, including Sony PlayStation consoles, Sony TVs and laptops. Having teamed up with Google on several connected devices initiatives, it’s not surprising to see Sony come out with an Android app for the mobile sector, especially as the music cloud gets crowded with competing services. Apple, Amazon and Google are all ramping up efforts around accessible media, with Music Unlimited offering monthly subscriptions at $4 or $10 for pre-programmed channels and on-demand content.
Starbucks has finally introduced its mobile payments app to the Android Market, enabling users to pay for their coffee directly from their phones. The app is integrated with your Starbucks Card, and will track your purchases from supporting locations. Just have your app scanned at check-out, and you’ll speed through the Starbucks line without having to pull out your wallet. Already successful on iOS, the Starbucks mobile payments app has been a case study for mobile payment trends, and is far ahead of NFC technology thanks to its internal support and widespread brand loyalty. The app even works at Target and Safeway Starbucks locations and ties-in with your Stars rewards.
Lightbox Photos (Free)
With a goal of heavy integration with Android devices and a clean interface similar to what you’ll find standard on most iOS apps, Lightbox had quite a challenge during its development and testing phases. This photo-sharing app works with a range of Android devices, supporting front- and rear-facing cameras for high usability, letting you create filters and effects for your snapshots. There’s a great deal of social integration for easy sharing, across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare, along with geo-tagging and descriptions to pull all the necessary data you may need for a photo later on. More importantly, this app “thinks” in the background, auto-syncing your photos when you have connectivity, with no manual uploads or updates required at your end.
Another option for photo backup is SugarSync, with a new Android app for storage and syncing. SugarSync also performs auto syncs for your other files, letting you access them anytime on the web. You can choose settings for auto-syncing folders and photos, selecting the interval for syncs and if you’d like Wi-Fi syncs only, as the app will also run on 3G. You can also save some data charges and battery life by disabling syncs when roaming, or syncing only when you’re device is plugged in. Apps like SugarSync and Lightbox are extending the capabilities of Android devices, which is important considering Apple’s upcoming iCloud service for auto-syncs across its entire family of devices.
Swype 3.0 (Free)
Swype has launched a new beta version of its Android keyboard, with two notable features. The app, known for its swiping technology, now offers predictive text for tapping as well, along with a horizontal word choice list (like Android’s default keyboard) that replaces the app’s old pop-up window when narrowing-down word selections. Called Swype 3.0, many Android users have been familiarizing themselves with Swype’s keyboards as they’ve come standard on several devices in recent months. Swype’s expanding its Android support with a specialized version for Android 3.1 Honeycomb tablets, complete with a moveable, resizable keyboard.
Strava Cycling (Free)
Strava’s taking its cycling network mobile, with a new Android app. It offers a faster, easier way to upload your data after a ride, with logging features and charts to compare while on the road. The app uses GPS technology to send your data to the main site, offering real-time analytics around workouts. As a social network, you can follow friends, compare and compete your rides with other users, create challenges for your groups, and make cyclist clubs to ride with offline. The app is a welcome addition to the existing website, combining mobile tech with strong analytics to give users helpful information about themselves and their lifestyles.