Five to Try: The Star Wars app stokes fandom, and Alphabear is a clever, charming word game

Refresh your device with our picks for the top new Android apps and games.

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It’s Comic-Con weekend! Did you already know that? If so, you might be interested in this week’s release of the official Star Wars app, surely timed to release alongside the annual pop culture event. And if not, perhaps the week’s other new and freshly updated Android apps will strike your fancy.

For example, Microsoft’s Tossup offers an inventive solution for polling friends, and Fleksy’s predictive keyboard dropped its price tag to zero, making it easier than ever to turn nonsensical tapping into actual human language. If it’s games you want, meanwhile, the very clever Alphabear blends word games with ever-growing fuzzy creatures, while Splendor brings a recent board game smash to mobile for pass-and-play strategizing.

Star Wars

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The Star Wars app is hip to Internet culture: it has social media-ready GIFs, sorted by emotion.

You might be surprised to find that Disney didn’t have an official Star Wars app until this week, but it’s true—and with the franchise mounting a huge return this year with The Force Awakens (Episode VII), it was high time to build some enthusiasm on Android. While there’s nothing particularly mind-blowing about the free app, it’s a nice compendium of fan-centric diversions.

For example, you can take a selfie as Princess Leia alongside Darth Vader, with your face fitting nicely between her hair buns—or mix and match with other characters. There’s a soundboard, daily trivia bits, a themed weather report (“It’s like Endor out there”), countdown clocks for the upcoming films, and even an augmented reality lightsaber game. It’s a well-executed tie-in that could become even more handy as the movies start hitting theaters.

Alphabear

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Despite the cutesy look, Alphabear is surprisingly layered and rewards strategic play.

From Spry Fox, the maker of free-to-play smash Triple Town, comes a clever new game that blends word puzzlers with adorable cartoon bears. Alphabear drops a handful of Scrabble-like tiles on a board, and as you make words from them, the space-filling bears get larger and generate more points. Problem is, each tile only remains usable for a few turns until it turns to stone. 

So you’ll need to prioritize certain letters over others, but as the bears expand, more and more new tiles pop up around them, making your task even trickier. Alphabear is a little hard to explain, but it only takes a few moments for it to make perfect sense, and the game really is equally charming and smart. And the bears aren’t just window dressing in this free game: they’re also power-ups that can affect your play style and strategy.

Tossup

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Can’t get friends to agree to anything? Maybe Microsoft’s polling app can help.

Microsoft keeps bringing more and more of its apps to Android, but the company isn’t simply porting over its Windows Phone favorites—it’s also testing the waters with new and interesting concepts. Following releases like Bing Torque and Picturesque Lock Screen, the latest is Tossup, a free app that lets friends and colleagues vote on group queries.

Essentially, it’s designed to save you the hassle of a lengthy text or email chain, as someone can create a question, pick set responses or leave it open-ended, and then invite friends to participate. The next time you need to pick somewhere to meet for dinner, it might come in handy. Then again, it has a rather limited focus, and do you really want to download another app just for that? Guess we’ll see. 

Splendor

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Splendor recreates the board game aesthetic for pass-and-play local multiplayer fun.

Splendor was one of last year’s most celebrated board/card games, earning a nomination for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award and racking up more than 200,000 copies sold in the meantime. And now it’s available on Android, letting you take the role of a Renaissance-era merchant as you use your wealth and influence to… well, amass the most wealth and influence, unsurprisingly.

Playable against the A.I. or in a four-player pass-and-play mode, Splendor ($6.99) finds you building up prestige points while you collect gems and structure cards. It looks like a pretty close approximation of the physical version, and although the lack of online play is disappointing, at least it has an array of single-player challenge scenarios included for when friends aren’t near. 

Fleksy + GIF Keyboard

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Customize your predictive keyboard with themes and extensions—now without an entry fee.

Fleksy isn’t new, but for a long time, the keyboard had a price tag attached if you planned to use it beyond the initial trial period. As of this week it’s free, with the company hoping you’ll spend a little cash within to pay for upgrades. Licensed themes (Frozen! Hunger Games!) are available for a couple bucks apiece, plus you can add various extensions to your keyboard, with extra slots sold for a dollar each.

Luckily, anyone who paid for Fleksy in the past gets perks, while all users benefit from the updated navigation and enhanced GIF and sticker discovery interface. Beyond themes and easy access to GIFs, Fleksy’s hook remains its strong prediction engine, which does a very admirable job of figuring out what you meant to type rather than the gibberish you actually entered. Now that it’s free, there’s little reason not to check it out if you’re seeking a new input option.

This story, "Five to Try: The Star Wars app stokes fandom, and Alphabear is a clever, charming word game" was originally published by Greenbot.

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