5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week

AAW Coco Valley screenshot

Welcome to the 483rd edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from the last week:

  • Apple and Google are working together to reign in location tracker abuse. The problem is, essentially, that people can use Google and Apple’s Bluetooth trackers to track people who don’t know that they’re being tracked. The two tech giants are figuring out a way to let people know they’re being tracked so that they can do something about it. This is especially good news because a new wave of third-party trackers may be available with Google’s Finder Network soon.
  • Google is introducing a new passkey feature that doesn’t use passwords. The feature lets people sign into their Google accounts by using a PIN, a fingerprint, or a face scan instead of typing in a password like you usually do. Google is hardly the first with this idea. Microsoft, Apple, and several other companies are looking into it as well. Hit the link to learn more.
  • Google TV is seeing some improvements coming. Some of the improvements include a reduction of app sizes by up to 25%, and the smart TV platform will start hibernating apps when they haven’t been used in 30 days.  You can hit the link to learn more, but this is a positive update for Google TV owners.
  • Google Photos is getting improvements to its search bar. It’s only available on the web for right now, but you can try it out if you use Google Photos. Essentially, the search bar lets you type in more words into the search bar to find photos. For example, you can use phrases like “peaceful garden” or “colorful sunset”, phrases that didn’t work before.
  • We have some more AI news this week. Samsung phones now come with Bing AI by default. Well, kind of, anyway. The built-in version of SwiftKey for Samsung phones now includes Bing AI, just like the regular version of SwiftKey. It started as of version v9.10.11.10. Microsoft also announced a new AI function that’ll help you build Instagram posts in seconds. Finally, Geoffrey Hinton, known as the Godfather of AI, exited Google in April amid ethical concerns about AI. You can read about all of those things at the links.

Coco Valley

Price: Free to play

Coco Valley is a farm builder simulator similar to others that look like it in Google Play. You build various buildings that produce various goods. Meanwhile, you build plots and farm crops to use as raw materials. The gameplay loop is nothing fans of the genre haven’t seen before. There’s an energy counter that prevents you from playing 24/7, but you can watch ads for some extra energy. Aside from that, the game ran well on our test devices, and there were plenty of other things to do. It’s competitive in its space, but we don’t think it’ll leave a lasting impression.

HandyAI

Price: Free / $11.99 per month / $42.99 per 6 months

HandyAI screenshot 2023

HandyAI is an all-in-one AI tool. It features the typical stuff like an AI chat. However, you also get image upscaling, text-to-image AI, and more. It looks good and seems to work reasonably well. We tested the AI chat, and it didn’t have any problems with the stuff we asked it for, although, to be fair, we didn’t test it very hard. Most of the rest of the features are locked behind a paywall, so you’ll need a subscription in order to use them. The subscription is a bit pricy, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen in this space already. We give it good marks for the presentation, and the AI stuff works fine.

Drop Merge

Price: Free to play

Drop Merge is a mix between a merge game and the classic game 2048. Blocks drop down with numbers on them. You merge them with the same number to create new numbers. This continues until you lose. As a game, it’s pretty simple, and it’s something you play during a coffee break rather than something you play consistently every day. It plays fine, and it scratches that merge itch for folks who like merge games. However, we do wish there was a way to get rid of the advertisements. There are a bunch of them, and they can be intrusive after a bit.

tOndO Keyboard

Price: Free

tOndO Keyboard is a different spin from the typical keyboard. Instead of the usual QWERTY layout, it has six circles. Each circle has several letters. You use the circles similarly to a joystick. You move the joystick toward the letters you want to type. It has a surprisingly low learning curve, although it does take time to get up to the same typing speed that some folks have with the standard QWERTY. We also like how well it works in landscape mode. This one could stick as a decent keyboard, as it works fine during our testing.

Valiant Force 2

Price: Free to play

Valiant Force 2 is the second game in the Valiant Force series. This one takes place ten years after the events of the first game, so you may want to check out the first game so you get caught up on the story. It’s a mobile gacha RPG with strategy RPG mechanics. The gameplay loop is pretty similar to stuff you’ve seen before. You get characters, use them for combat, and progress through the story. Combat is the traditional checkerboard-style strategy RPG where you place units on the board and move them around to defeat enemies. It has a solid presentation, decent graphics for a gacha, and the story is also quite good.


If we missed any big Android apps or games news or releases, tell us about them in the comments.

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