Here’s the new Monument Valley, new Clash of Clans, new Secret Garden – I Try First #2

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I Try First is a column where I try apps and share with you their taste. It updates at least one time each week.

This time I tried four new apps. They are all either recent releases of former hot app makers or new apps which gained popularity in similar ways as former hits.

They are:

Yo Polls: New app produced by the same team who created the simple but unbelievably popular social app “Yo.“.

Clash Royale: Phenomenal new mobile game produced by Finnish game company Supercell, who made the extraordinary Clash of Clans.

Agar.io: New favourite of President Underwood in House of Cards Season 4. In Season 3 he played Monument Valley, which gained huge success after showing up in House of Cards.

Recolor: An mobile version of color filling book Secret Garden. Much more sophisticated.

 

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Yo Polls

Cost: free

I still remember Yo. (yes, with a dot). That simple app, which can do nothing except send a “Yo” to my friends, raised $1.5 million in funding after gaining crazy popularity two years ago. After Yo., its developer released another app Yo Status, with its only function to send emojis to others.

Now, here comes Yo Polls. Same design style and a new game play. This time I’m not sending “Yo” or emojis, but a poll.

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Once logging in, I was asked to lock my screen – it was telling me I can play Yo Polls on a locked screen. After several either-or questions, I was obsessed. I remember the teenage years when I opened my diary at night but couldn’t think of anything specific to write. These simple polls are great that they can exactly break the deadlock of mind.

Just like Yo. and Yo Status, these polls can be sent to friends via Message or Twitter. The success of the former two apps has proved even a simple “Yo”can be a very good conversation launcher. Yo Polls provides more topics to talk about. I tried sending a poll to my friends, and then surprisingly, none of them kept asking “why”, but all started pleasant conversations as I wished. So amazing!

There are a huge variety of polls, created by anonymous users. I can choose from “Fun”, “Sports”, “Music”, “Tech”, … to control the themes.

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So, Yo Polls is not only about polls. As its previous apps, Yo Polls provides a more playful way to start socialising. Sometimes communicating can be easier and more effective when it is without a clear purpose.

Click here to download Yo Polls.

 

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Recolor

Cost: free (in-app purchase)

Secret Garden was absolutely one of the hottest things in 2015. Yes, people do need some ways to help them release pressure, but for me, I don’t think I can have enough space to open Secret Garden and color it in some really stressful occasions, such as a crowded tube.

Then I found this new app named Recolor.

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Once opening it, I saw a countdown on the top. If I could finish any one of the pictures before it ends, all the pics would be unlocked for 24 hours. Of course you can spend money to unlock them instantly.

Good news is that all the free pictures, in rich categories such as human, animals and food, are already enough for me to find one I like.

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It’s very easy to color by a simple click. I can also use two fingers to zoom in/out, so iPhone 5/5s/SE users won’t find some blocks too small. Auto-saving is another useful function that enables me to finish part of a picture on the way and continue next time.

Once finishing, I can apply filters, save it or share it to social media. So, don’t worry if you can’t shoot a perfect photo of your Secret Garden work, Recolor is better.

To make it more playful, a “scan” function lies in the upper left corner. It allows me to scan any pictures to color. I tried with 3 ugly birds I drew, and it really worked. Since every Secret Garden is the same, I prefer Recolor.

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Click here to download Recolor.

 

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Clash Royale

Cost: free (in-app purchase)

Finnish game company Supercell’s last hit Clash of Clans is already well-known, but Clash Royale still wowed me. Being a new game famous even before its release, Clash Royale only spent 12 hours to climb to No.1 in the US app store. After trying it, though I haven’t spent any money on in-app purchases, I have a strong feeling that Clash Royale represents an ultimate form of mobile game today.

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First, Clash Royale combines several hottest game types. It is a tower rush game, with 3 towers on each side and the only goal is to destroy the opponent’s towers. It is a card game, containing various cards of roles, which can be unlocked, updated and grouped into a battle deck. It’s also a real-time strategy game played by multiple players. These 3 most popular types are combined very well in one system.

In Clash Royale, each round is within 4 minutes. A proper pace for a mobile game. There’s not much punishment for loss, so I can keep playing again and again. I think this is a key factor contributing to a mobile game’s success. It needs to satisfy users’ desire to play it on and on, at any time anywhere. That’s why many games can earn money by charging users after a number of free entries. Such a “fast food” pace making users wanna keep playing is a must for an ultimate mobile game in my eye.

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Clash Royale is friendly to both starters and senior players. For starters, it is very easy to be familiar with through the first 3 matches. For veterans, it’s still full of challenges because of a variety of roles and skills. Every time two players are matched, the system will make sure they are at close levels, avoiding gaps of fighting forces. So players at any stage can enjoy the game.

Click here to download Clash Royale.

 

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Agar.io

Cost: free

Do you remember this 10-sec scene in House of Cards Season 3? The game President Underwood is playing is Monument Valley.

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Not only playing by himself, the president also recommended it to his staff. “We need something that will capture the imagination,” he said. After his recommendation, the app soon became a worldwide hit and dominated app stores in many countries.

And now, in the new season of House of Cards, the president is playing a new game, named Agar.io.

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It’s very simple to play Agar.io. Basically I just need to control a ball representing myself to swallow up smaller balls and avoid being eaten by bigger ones.

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It seems pretty simple, but just like House of Cards, you only get more when you think more.

Each ball is given a nickname by its player. Since Agar.io is a multi-player online mobile game, I can always figure out interesting things due to these nicknames. Within the several days since I started, I have already seen “McDonald” chasing “KFC”, “Obama” surrounded by “China” and other Asian country names (certain key words will trigger certain patterns on the balls eg. China, Mars, Doge). I can even see a group of balls in one language battling balls in another language.  Really an eye-opening experience.

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Although the rule is pretty simple, it doesn’t mean that large balls can eat up everything. Agar.io keeps a good balance between different players. Smaller balls move faster. Larger ones can only reach a lower speed, but have the ability to ejaculate half of themselves to attain temporary high speed. Smaller players can also make use of tricks on the screen to avoid bigger balls or even settle them.

The best part of Agar.io is that it is interesting in both game plays and players’ states of mind. A nickname can lead to a sense of familiarity, unity or hostility. Very House of Cards.

Click here to download Agar.io.

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I Try First is a column where I try apps and share with you their taste.

For other posts, please click here.

 

What Apps I Use Most – I Try First #1

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I Try First is a column where I try apps and share with you their taste. It updates at least one time each week.
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This first post is a little different. It includes those apps I currently use and recommend most, while future posts will mainly focus on new apps and new updates of them.
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Here we go.
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Usage Frequency Top 10 (according to iPhone’s “battery usage” function)
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I recorded how much I used the apps on my iPhone by referring to the “BATTERY USAGE” function under “Settings”.
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No surprise to see Facebook, Instagram, Evernote and WeChat rank high, but the other six are all very helpful too.
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Clear
Frequency: open almost every hour
Cost: £3.99
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Among the countless to-do apps, Clear could be one of the coolest. All functions in Clear are controlled by simple and playful gestures. And they are very easy to learn with a step-by-step tutorial, which itself is a to-do list.
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What I like most about Clear is its beautiful user interface. The color transition from the top to the bottom shows a decrease of priority.
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The three-level interface allows me to organise different categories easily. 
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左滑右滑
Swipe right to finish an item. Swipe left to delete.
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I can use my fingers to pinch apart two bars to create a new item, or simply drag a bar to change its priority.
Clear has done a very good job organising my to-do lists and making the item-creating process effortless. It also gives me a strong sense of accomplishment by swiping a finished item to the right and hearing a refreshing buzz sound.
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With Clear, I find my life a lot more efficient, which is the key criterion to evaluate to-do apps. With its fresh UI design and user friendly gestures, I find it better than most other apps in the same category.
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Click here to download Clear.
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Drafts 4
How frequent: 5-10 times every day
Cost: £7.99
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Being a student and media worker, I always need to type down news ideas, story outlines, interview questions – anything from rough ideas to detailed plans. Drafts, which has been updated to its 4th generation, satisfies my need for convenience, quickness and simplicity.
I do use other note apps (Evernote for example) as well, but to me, they are for more delicate circumstances (at least with stable Internet connection). As many others, I turned to lightweight apps in recent years, and found Drafts. Once opened, it shows me a very simple interface with only an input window and a keyboard. I just need to type what came to my mind and choose whether to send it somewhere or to close it with autosaving.
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Email, Message, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, social media… Drafts provides as many output methods as I can imagine. Very helpful.
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Since I started to use Drafts, my workflows have been smoothed a lot. With so many platforms and circumstances to write in, Drafts plays the role of a perfect entrance. It allows me to avoid unnecessary steps and write down my thoughts as soon as possible.
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In Drafts, I can edit my text in the unit of paragraph (left pic) and change font, page color and brightness to make writing experience more comfortable.
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Now everything gets easier. First have an idea. Then open Drafts to write it down. If I were in London tube, I would never have a chance to open Evernote. Drafts is my easiest entrance whenever an idea occurs.
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When it comes to outputting, I can create personalised “actions” by combining several steps (for example: 1.share my text to Tumblr 2.create an Evernote note for archiving 3.open Tumblr to check the post). In this way I can finish a string of actions with one click. That’s another huge advantage of using Drafts.
Click here to download Drafts 4.
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Plant Nanny
Frequency: 10 times per day
Cost: free
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Plant Nanny is an app that very well reflects the idea of “gamification”. It relates how much water I drink to how much the virtual plant gets watered, thus I can record my water intake in a very playful way.
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It is both easy and interesting to use Plant Nanny. My suggested water intake is calculated according to my body information. Then what I need to do is just to choose a cute plant and start recording how much water I drink.
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Each plant has four growth stages. Drink more, and it will grow.
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More than 30 species are waiting for users to plant.
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Besides those cartoon plants which trigger my curiosity to see their final appearance, an achievement system is also included in Plant Nanny. For me, who is so obsessed with collecting and fulfilling achievement, this really pushes me to drink more water.
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So no matter a user is like me or just using Plant Nanny for its cuteness, it will both become a efficient health assistant. So there’s no wonder that Plant Nanny could rank 1st in the app stores of 15 countries.
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Click here to download Plant Nanny.

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Quartz
Frequency: every day
Cost: free
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When I first knew Quartz, it was just a news website that I couldn’t access in China. I remember my friend, who’s a reporter in Quartz, recommend me to subscribe it by email. However, this time when I saw Quartz’s new app, I was totally amazed.
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The way Quartz delivers news is revolutionary. A news app’s traditional elements such as tabs and lists can not be seen in Quartz. Instead, it uses the format of “conversation” to tell me news. After trying it, I dispelled all my worries about its feasibility. Gossips are always more fascinating than news, so why not delivering news in a gossiping way?
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Besides texts, other common elements in Messages or WhatsApp are also used in Quartz. I have received emojis, pictures, gifs, videos, musics and even locations. All of them are combined very well to make users both informed and entertained.
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The only disadvantage of Quartz could be that I can’t explore news on my own initiative. But I don’t see much problem here. Most people today use various kinds of apps and websites at the same time, so Quartz doesn’t need to be users’ only choice. To me, it’s a very playful complement to other sources.
Click here to download Quartz.
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Castro
Frequency: every 2-3 days
Cost: free
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No matter how traditional and new media are fighting for survival or expansion, it is a fact that podcast remains its popularity. Listening to podcasts has always been my routine when I’m on the way or before sleep. I agree that many contents can be better expressed in an oral way, so I’m still searching and listening to high-quality podcasts.
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The UI of Castro is designed with extreme simplicity, even without an “explore” function. Yes, the only way to add podcasts to the playlist is to search manually. But I don’t see it as a problem, as Castro include a wide range of sources. All the episodes (not only English ones, but also many in other languages) are listed in the format of timeline. Clear and easy to organise.
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A lot can be adjusted in Castro, to ensure a satisfying hearing experience.
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However, to explore new podcasts, I still need to use other apps (for example Overcast) as supplement. But I always turn back to Castro for listening, just because of its simplicity.
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Click here to download Castro.
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Best Before

Frequency: every day
Cost: ¥6.00 (only available in App Store China)
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Yes, the Internet of Things is still yet to come, but I have Best Before. It helps me solve the problem of organising things that are not stored electronically. Among the apps released recently, Best Before is not the fanciest, but one of the most functional.
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best before
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Everyone can understand how to use this app without a tutorial. Add an item after you buy it. Then choose a “best before” date and set an “attention” date. All the items are automatically listed in chronological order, with red or green color showing “turning bad” or “still fresh”.
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Best Before is not only for food, as identities, medicines, memberships, lease and insurance can also be recorded in it. Once I restock or renew stuffs, items can also be updated. Very convenient.
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Though I have just used Best Before for 2 weeks, I’ve already been habituated to check it every day. Now the chance to leave food expired has decreased a lot. And I will keep using it until the Internet of Things come to my life.
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Click here to download Best Before.
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I Try First is a column where I try apps and share with you their taste.

For other posts, please click here.