4 Early Access Games in 2020 for Android Worth Checking Out

Just like game platforms like Steam on the PC, the Google Play store makes it possible for developers to release “Early Access” games to the public. This lets mobile gamers play the game before it’s officially done.

It also helps the developer in a number of ways. First of all, it means the public can provide feedback on bugs and features they’d like added. Developers can also sell early access games or sell in-app content. Which means if you like a game, you can help support it until it’s final polished version is done.

For players, the advantages are there as well. First, you get to play a game before the mainstream public is likely to do so. It also lets you support game concepts that might otherwise never make it to the mainstream market. The coolest aspect of early access games is the chance to play some part in game development. Your feedback can shape how a game turns out in its final form!

Of course, always keep in mind that these early access games are not finished. They might be buggy or lose your progress. If you’re OK with that, let’s look at four of the best titles currently in Early Access.

How To Get Early Access Games

In the past, Google Play featured dedicated sections of the store to early access games. At the time of writing, we couldn’t find either of those sections in the app or on the web.

However, finding early access games still seems to work by simply searching for “early access” in the Play Store. These games have “(Early Access)” in their title and the description will also reiterate that this is essentially beta software.

OctoMaze ($3.99)

OctoMaze is the only game on this list that needs money upfront, but it’s already such a solid little puzzler that we didn’t mind spending a few bucks on it. The idea is simple enough, but in actual play it can be devious to solve each level.

You control the tentacle of a purple octopus with a rather intimidating jawline. You need to grab a set of objects while avoiding traps and bad guys. If you get all the bits and bobs you need, the level ends and you move on to the next.

Some of the best mobile games have been puzzlers with simple base mechanics that then iterate on them in clever ways. Angry Birds is that sort of game. The premise is simple: just knock down pigs and structures using birds fired from a slingshot. Yet there’s infinite variation in its levels.

OctoMaze starts out with some simple starter puzzles, but the challenge is very quickly there and some of the puzzles are real head-scratchers. The game’s aesthetic harkens back to the good old days of PC puzzle games. It ran perfectly on our Galaxy Note 10+, but did not fill the entire screen. On phones with a 16:9 aspect ratio, this should not be an issue. This one has potential to be one of the great mobile puzzlers.

Another Life – Life Simulator (AD-supported)

Another Life – Life Simulator has some fascinating ideas, although it does need quite a bit of polish still. Graphically the game is very basic, with the main action happening via text. Essentially you take control of a virtual person’s life from birth until death.

You need to make key decisions along the way, which will influence what sort of person your character will become and whether they’ll have a good life or not. In many ways Another Life is reminiscent of fantasy life sims such as Princess Maker or Long Live the Queen, just with a more realistic setting.

There are some random problems here and there throughout the game. For example our first character was invited to a school debate competition at age 5. What a precocious little tyke! 

As your character ages it gains life points, which can be used to buy various items that provide perks and bonuses. As far as we could see, life points aren’t linked to any sort of in-app purchases, and right now the game is supported by a single banner advert that runs at the bottom of the screen.

While Another Life is an incredibly interesting idea and worth trying out, this is definitely not a game for younger players. Since this is a life sim, it also deals with the darker and more adult themes of life. It’s not graphic, but as you can imagine some parts of life can be disturbing. 

Battle Royale by Flying Beagle (Free To Play)

Battle royale games have taken the world by storm, with games like Fortnite and PUBG tearing up the charts. Everyone is trying to create a fresh spin on these games, but Flying Beagle might be onto something with their top-down, stylized game.

Unfortunately only those with invite codes can play the Early Access version of the game. So ask around among your friends and social media contacts whether anyone has invite codes to hand out. Players who give out invite codes get in-game currency, so it shouldn’t be too hard to convince them to part with one.

The game makes heavy use of vehicles and the early access version has four classes of vehicle, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are 30 players in each battle royale and 20 different character skins at the time of writing.

Early access players do note existing issues with network performance and controls, but we think this has the potential to be the next big battle royale style game. If you can get a code, you could get in early. Sadly, we could only look in through the window as other people played. Our code is probably still stuck in the mail!

Cool Machines (Demo)

Some of you reading this may have fond memories of a classic computer game called The Incredible Machine. In that game you were given goals and then had to build a Rube-Goldberg type machine to achieve that goal.

Cool Machines isn’t exactly the same sort of game as Incredible Machine was, but it does channel the same sort of energy. In this game you need to manipulate physical objects to reach your objective. In the demo we played that goal was to get a ball into the right receptacle. 

Cool Machines is actually a pretty tricky game. The physics engine is always running, except for the object you are currently manipulating. This means that in certain puzzles, you need to move things around while the scene plays out! For example, you may need to hastily move a plank you used in the first half of the puzzle into a new position for the other half.

The Early Bird, And All That

Mobile gaming has come a long way, but these early access games show that the industry isn’t too big to involve regular players. Embrace the unpolished gems and get yourself some early access games!

Android Messages On Desktop: How To Send & Receive From Your PC

With the slew of internet-based messaging apps available today, one might think that SMS is dead, but that’s not the case. It’s still useful for communicating with non-smartphone users or receiving updates from companies such as your bank or utility service providers.

Traditionally, sending text messages or SMS was reserved for devices like a mobile phone that had a SIM card. However, there are different options you can use to send and receive text messages from your computer.

For iPhone users, it’s easy to receive text messages on your Mac so that you never miss an important text message no matter what you’re doing. With Android devices though, the Android Messages desktop app makes it easy to send and receive messages from your PC.

What Is Android Messages?

Android Messages is a free messaging app designed for Android devices that allows you to chat, text, send media files like photos, audio messages, videos, and send group texts.

It works much like WhatsApp for the web, with features that you’d find in most messaging apps such as GIFs, emojis, stickers, but it goes even further to allow you to send or receive payments through Google Pay.

All these help you save time that you’d otherwise spend scrolling through social media or photos and videos when you could just send a quick SMS. Not only that, but it also allows you to type longer messages on a keyboard and send them straight from your PC.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use Android Messages to link your Android device to your PC, so you can view, copy, send and/or receive Android messages on your desktop PC.

How To Use The Android Messages Desktop Client On Your PC

The Android Messages desktop app or Android Messages for Web allows users to send and receive messages seamlessly between their smartphone and PC. To get started, download Android Messages from the Google Play Store, and install it on your smartphone.

Open the app on your phone and tap Set As Default chat app.

If you already have a default app with which you receive your messages such as Samsung’s Messages app, you could receive a pop-up warning notifying you that your action may disable some app features if you set Android Messages as your default. Tap Yes to confirm that you want to change the messaging app to Android Messages.

Android Messages will sync all your saved text messages and conversations, and you’ll see a blue Start Chat bubble at the lower right side of the screen, which you can tap on to start sending messages.

Next, set up Android Messages on your desktop computer or laptop by opening the Android Messages website in your web browser. It works with any browser.

Go to your Android phone and open the Android Messages app. Tap the three dots at the upper right side of the screen to open the menu.

Tap Messages for web. This connects your phone to the services and automatically generates all your messages so you can see them the same way you would with your usual messaging app’s interface.

Note: You can change the contrast from light to dark mode by tapping Enable dark theme if you want less eye strain in low light settings.

The interface will switch to a dark mode theme as shown in the image below.

Tap the blue QR code scanner button.

Scan the QR code on the Android Messages website on your PC.

Once you scan the QR code, Android Messages will load and appear in your web browser, and you can start chatting with your contacts, and share videos, voice messages, photos and other features of the app on your PC.

You can also choose individual messages, see their contents and reply by typing into the text box below each message. It’s important to note that Android Messages works when your phone is switched on and connected to the internet.

Note: If you close the Android Messages website from your browser on the PC, you may have to scan a new QR code to send a message or response using the Android Messages desktop client again. This is because by default, the Remember this computer option is disabled, but you can enable it if you intend to use the app to send or receive messages on your PC.

How To Start a Conversation Or Reply With Android Messages On PC

To start a new conversation, click the blue Start Chat button at the upper left side of the screen, and type the recipient’s name, phone number, or email address.

You can also reply to a message by clicking on it in the message history list window to open the conversation thread, type your response, and click the SMS button at the lower right side of the screen.

Like other messaging apps, you can add emoji, stickers, GIFs and other attachments, and if your smartphone is a dual-SIM device, you can choose which SIM card to send the message or response from.

The Settings area lets you change your message preview or notification settings, pair or unpair your PC and smartphone, play sounds for incoming messages, replace emoticons with emojis when typing, and display when your phone is using mobile data, and much more.

Other features available with the Android Messages desktop app include muting conversations or opening the overflow menu for more options.

With the smartphone app, you can add or block contacts from the settings menu, and use the Smart Reply tool to get automatic suggestions for replying to messages and sending them to your contacts. It also has more messaging and notification settings you can use.

Have you used the Android Messages desktop client on your PC before? Share your experience with us by dropping your comment below. If this is your first time to use it, we’d also love to hear whether this guide helped you set up the app on your smartphone and PC, and your first impressions of it.

How To Make A Snapchat Filter

Today thanks to the many apps that offer photo filters you don’t need to have a smartphone with a top of the line camera to produce excellent shots. When it comes to social media, filters play an even bigger role. They can transform your pictures and stories and make your content more engaging. On Snapchat, you can now create your own filters. 

Depending on your purpose, place, and audience you can make different custom filters to entertain your Snapchat followers. Some filters only work in specific locations, while others are only suitable for special events. There are also filters that you can create and use for free, while for others you’ll have to pay. 

Let’s take a look at how to make a Snapchat filter.

Decide What Type Of Filter You’re After

When it comes to making a custom Snapchat filter, it’s best to begin with setting your goals. 

For example, you can create a free Community filter. If it’s a place that you want to tie your filter to, you can choose to create a Geofilter. It will only work in a specific location, so you can choose to set it in a place that has some significance to you (like a park, university, or your favourite cafe, etc). You can also create a free Moment filter that will represent some sort of event. It can be anything from a public concert to a shopping trip with your friends. 

Another option is making a paid Snapchat filter. It’s a more suitable alternative if you want to celebrate a special event like a wedding or someone’s birthday. It’s also a good choice for businesses or any other type of advertising. 

You can make a Snapchat filter using the Snapchat mobile app or through their website. After you submit it, it takes a couple of hours for Snapchat to approve it. Then you can enjoy using your own Snapchat filter on the app. 

How To Make A Free Snapchat Filter

Snapchat offers an option to create your own Snapchat filters for free, but they have to be Community filters and they come with some limitations. You can only create them using your web browser, and Snapchat doesn’t offer any templates. The design needs to be 100% original. 

The most important part, however, is that you follow Snapchat’s guidelines when you create the filter. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Go to Snapchat web, and choose Filters & Lenses from the site’s ribbon menu. 
  2. Scroll down to Creative Tools, and select Community Filters
  1. Now depending on your occasion, choose between Geofilter and Moment Filters
  1. If it’s a Moment Filter, all you need to do is to upload your design and then submit it to Snapchat. 
  1. With Geofilter you will also have to set the zone on the map where you’d like that filter to apply. 

To create the original design for your filter, Snapchat recommends you use software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. If you’re not very skilled at those, a good alternative for creating custom images is Canva

Make sure you provide all the relevant information with your filter, like dates or an event description. Then, as long as you follow the official guidelines, your custom filter should be approved and ready to use within hours. 

How To Make A Paid Snapchat Filter On Your Computer

If you don’t mind paying a little and want to save yourself time and effort, you can make a paid Snapchat filter. Here’s how to do it from your computer.

  1. On Snapchat web, go to Filters & Lenses
  2. Scroll down to Creative Tools, and select Filters.
  1. Here, instead of creating your own design from scratch, you can choose from a variety of templates. You also get more customization options, like changing fonts, colours, and adding pictures.

You can also use Bitmoji to add a little cartoon version of yourself and your friends to your filter.

  1. After you finish the design, go to Dates and choose the start and end date for your filter. You can make it a One Time Event, or a Repeating Event to run it on certain days, or time of day. 
  1. Under Location, draw a fence to select the area for your Geofilter. All Snapchat users on the inside of that fence will be able to use your filter. 
  1. Go to Checkout to pay and submit your filter.

The Snapchat filter price varies. It depends on two factors: the size of the area where you want to run it, and how long you want the filter to be available for the users. 

How To Make a Snapchat Filter In The App

You can also submit your custom Snapchat filter on your iPhone. The process is pretty much the same, with the only difference being finding the iOS-only feature within the app.

To locate it, open Snapchat on your iPhone and go to your profile. Then go to Settings to find Filter and Lenses. After you select Filter, Snapchat will take you to a similar customization screen to design it. 

Follow the same algorithm, create your own design, set the dates, and the area, then pay and submit your Snapchat filter for approval. 

How To Use Your Custom Snapchat Filter

Once you receive the email from Snapchat confirming your filter is live, you can start adding it to your snaps.

You’ll find it among your filters when you open the app by swiping left and right. Make sure your Snapchat privacy settings are set to allow the app to access your location. Then you’ll be able to use yours and other people’s geofilters specific to your area. 

Customize Your Snapchat Further

Once you go through an experience of creating and using your own Snapchat filters, you’ll probably want to do even more to personalize your snaps and make them more relatable. Luckily, Snapchat offers a lot of ways to do it: from making your own lenses to creating deepfake videos with you and your friends

Have you tried to make a Snapchat filter? Was it a success with other users? Share your Snapchat experience with us in the comments below. 

Snapchat Trophies Are Gone But This Snapchat Charm List Will Help

Snapchat is one of the most addictive social media platforms. It’s so popular among users for two main reasons. One is the Snapchat’s visual add-ons like filters and text that you can apply when you send a message. The second reason is the app’s reward system that gives you awards the more you send those messages to other users. 

Both Snapchat friend emojis and Snapchat Trophies used to be part of that system. However, it now seems that the trophies have been replaced by something called Snapchat Charms. Let’s look into what each Snapchat Charm means, how to get them, as well as what happened to Snapchat Trophies. 

What Happened To Snapchat Trophies?

Snapchat used to have a popular feature called Trophies. It was essentially a hidden reward system that allowed you to unlock certain badges once you achieved something within the app. 

Snapchat had more than 50 different “locked” emojis that represented Trophies. To unlock them, you had to send a certain number of messages, make new friends, or even just verify your email address. Every user could access their Trophies through the Snapchat Trophy case. 

With the latest update, Snapchat replaced Trophies with something similar called Charms.

Where To Find Your Snapchat Charms

You can find your Snapchat Charms in your friendship details with another Snapchat user.

  1. Open Snapchat on your camera screen.
  1. Use the Search bar to type a specific friend’s name in, or go to the Chat list. 
  1. Choose one of your Snapchat friends and click on their username.
  1. In the top left corner of the screen, find the user’s icon or their Bitmoji and click on it.
  1. Scroll down and find Charms at the bottom of your friend’s profile. 

Did you open a chat with your friend and not find many Charms? Here’s how to get more of them.

How To Get Snapchat Charms

You and your friends can get different Charms depending on your connection. This includes how often and how many snaps you send to one another, as well as how complete your Snapchat profiles are. 

Snapchat will automatically award you new Charms when you fit certain criteria. You can get Charms related to your birthdays, usernames, your friend emojis, or Bitmoji. 

You can’t exactly control which ones or how many you will get. However, if you want to see new charms appearing in your friendship, make sure to snap each other often, and keep your Snapchat profiles up to date. 

Full Snapchat Charm List

Unlike Trophies, Charms are more personal and differ depending on your friendship with a user. They give you more details about the kind of connection you have with a friend, like your astrological compatibility. 

Although Snapchat promises to add more Charms in future, there are about 30 of them on the app right now. 

Snapchat Birthday Charms

As we mentioned before, some charms can be unlocked just by filling in your Snapchat profile. 

Astrological Sign 

If both you and your friend have filled in their birthdays in your Snapchat profiles, you’ll get an Astrological Sign Charm with your zodiac signs. 

Astrology Compatibility 

Snapchat will award you this charm if you and your friend’s zodiac signs are compatible. It will also highlight your character traits and features that unite the two of you (according to astrology). 

Birthday Twins 

If you and your friend have birthdays in the same week, you will unlock the Birthday Twins Charm. The year doesn’t matter here, just as long as your birthdays are less than 7 days apart. 

Half Birthday Twins 

When you and your friend have birthdays 6 months apart, you get a Half Birthday Twins Charm.

Upcoming Birthday 

This is a charm that you’ll see when your friend’s birthday is approaching. 

Friend’s Birthstone 

You will also see your friend’s Birthstone Charm in the list. That’s a little keyring talisman that Snapchat awards everyone based on the month they’re born in.

Snapchat Friendship Charms

The biggest lump of all Snapchat Charms are the Friendship Charms. They’re the ones that have something to do with how often and how much you two keep in touch on the app.

New Friends 

When you have a fairly new Snapchat account and don’t have a single best friend on it yet, you can get a New Friends Charm. It will appear as soon as you add a new user to your friends list.

BFF

Similar to friends emojis, you can get this charm in three different versions depending on how long you’ve been each other’s best friend on the app. 

Mutual BFs

If you and your friend share a mutual best friend from the Best Friends section, you will see a Mutual BFs Charm appear on your list.

Mutual Besties

This one’s a bit awkward. If you get this charm, it means that you and your friend share the same #1 Best Friend on the app. Still, it’s another charm that you can accidentally earn.

Snapstreak 

Once you start exchanging snaps with your friend on a daily basis without a fail, you will get a Snapstreak Charm with the number of days on it. 

Snapchat Keep In Touch Charms

You will probably see a lot of these on Snapchat since they’re awarded even if you don’t keep in touch with a person at all.

Shy Guys

When you add a contact on Snapchat and don’t speak to them, you will see this Snapchat Charm appear on the list. 

In Touch

If you exchange snaps with each other often, you will get the In Touch Charm. 

It’s Been A Second, It’s Been A Minute & It’s Been A While

Those are the three charms that will appear when you lose contact with someone. Depending on the amount of time, it will say “it’s been a second, minute or a while”. That’s Snapchat giving you a little nudge. 

It’s Been Forever

If you and your friend on Snapchat haven’t been in touch for over a year, you will get this sad It’s Been Forever Charm. 

Snapchat Score Charms

By using the app every day to send snaps and stories you increase your Snapchat Score. When both your and your friend’s scores reach a certain level, the app will award you a Score Charm.

These come in 5 different tiers like 5 stars: Snap Rookies with one star, Sophomores, Masters, Heroes, and Snap Legends with 5 stars accordingly. 

There are also two special charms that aren’t for everyone. The Snapchat OGs Charm is only for those users who have started using the app back in 2013, and the Employee Charm is exclusively for Snapchat staff. 

How To Hide & Restore Charms 

Your Friendships on Snapchat are private, and so are the Charms. You can hide or restore them to your profile at any time. Here’s how to hide a Snapchat Charm.

  1. Find the Charm you’d like to hide.
  2. Tap on the three dots at the top right corner of the Charm.
  3. Select Hide Charm

To restore the Charm, go to your Friendship profile. In the Charm list you’ll now find a new Hidden button. Click on it to see all of your hidden Charms and to choose the one you’d like to restore. 

Time To Charm Them All

Snapchat is one of those apps that are extremely popular among kids, and that you should definitely know about as a parent. If you don’t fit in any of those groups, it can still be fun to explore something new and different. 

Did you check out the new Snapchat Charms already? Are you happy with the replacement or do you prefer Trophies over them? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 

10 Best Free Movie Apps to Watch Movies Online

Long gone are the days when people had a huge collection of movies sitting in their home. The majority of the world has switched to a digital-only collection, but even that requires a huge amount of space. After all, a movie can take up as much as 2 GB of storage space. 

If you don’t want to set up a massive in-home media server, you can just stream your films. Not sure where to stream from? Check out this list of the 10 best free movie apps to watch movies online.

Sony Crackle

Sony Crackle is the single best option on the web for streaming movies. Not only does it have a tremendous collection, but it has a free movie app for almost every platform and device out there. 

All of the movies featured on Crackle have captions for the hearing impaired, and it usually doesn’t require a login to watch the free movies on the platform. However, the movies are ad-supported, so you’ll have to bear with those while you watch.

Get it here:

Popcornflix

Popcornflix is another popular option for watching movies for free. The app divides movies, TV shows, and viral videos into three different sections for easy browsing. The movie section is then further divided into categories like most popular, staff picks, drama, action, and more more. Popular films are on the app, so you aren’t stuck watching obscure, lesser-known movies. 

Although Popcornflix is ad-sponsored, most of the ads are short, so they won’t detract from your overall viewing experience. Popcornflix is available for iPhone, Android, Roku, Apple TV, and more.

Get it here:

Tubi

Most movie apps require an account, but if you are tired of signing up for services, Tubi is the free movie app for you. You can create an account or watch movies as a guest. The majority of films on Tubi are streamed in high quality, so you don’t have to worry about losing quality because of compression. 

Although there are a lot of older films, you can also find newer movies on Tubi. Movies are divided into broad categories, but you can also take advantage of an extensive breakdown of films across dozens of different sections.

Get it here:

Vudu

Vudu is Walmart’s answer to Netflix. While the service is better known for at-home movie rentals, there are hundreds of ad-supported movies you can watch entirely for free. 

There are a few downsides to the service, but they balance out. The main issue is that you have to log in to watch any movies, and many free movies move off the service relatively quickly. On the other hand, the number of high-quality movies makes a little hassle worthwhile. 

Vudu also adds new movies on a regular basis, so you aren’t likely to run out of films to entertain you anytime soon.

Get it here:

SnagFilms

While many of the streaming services on this list are great for finding family-friendly, entertaining films, SnagFilms is better suited for people that enjoy documentaries and movies that make you think. 

SnagFilms sorts its movies into different categories like “Filmanthropy,” “Climate Change & The Environment,” and “Refugee & Immigrant Stories.” If you’re looking for classic films and great documentaries, SnagFilms is the way to go. Perhaps best of all, the frequency of ads is smaller versus other services.

Get it here:

FilmRise

FilmRise is home to many classic and cult favorite movies that might not be on other services. If you want to watch movies that may have been passed over the year they came out in favor of more popular titles, check out FilmRise. 

There are a lot of odd, obscure movies, but if you’re willing to sort through the large number of titles you can find a lot of hidden gems.

Get it here:

YouTube

Most everyone has YouTube on their phone already, but not everyone realizes that YouTube has a huge number of free movies. Sure, you can rent (and even buy) new, popular films, but if you’re willing to deal with advertisements you can see dozens of films for free. 

It can be a bit difficult to search out the free movies, but YouTube actually curates a playlist of movies that makes it easy to find the free choices. Many of the free films are geared towards children or are more obscure titles, but if you find yourself craving something new to watch, exploring YouTube can be a lot of fun.

Get it here:

PlutoTV

Don’t let the name fool you—Pluto TV may offer dozens of channels of free, ad-supported television, but you can also find movies on the service. More specifically, you can find channels dedicated to airing movies, like the 007 channel, the Pluto Spotlight channel, and the Pluto Movies channel. 

While you can’t choose what film is being aired at any given time, this gives you a free Starz-like experience. The Pluto TV free movie app is available on almost every device and is a great option for cord cutters.

Get it here:

Viki

Do you find yourself closely following the world of K-Pop? Does the idea of drama excite you? If you said yes to both of these questions, check out Viki. It’s a free movie streaming service for mobile devices that gives users access to a wide range of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese cinema. 

Don’t worry if you don’t speak the language; Viki offers subtitles in multiple languages. While this is definitely a more niche offering, Viki is great if you want something a bit out of the norm.

Get it here:

Sling TV

While Sling TV is most often spoken of as a way to get live TV without the need for a cable subscription, you can actually find quite a few free movies to watch on the service. Sling TV shows newer, popular films as well as older titles. 

The interface isn’t set up for easy browsing, however, so finding it takes a bit of searching—and you have to find free movies, not those that require a subscription to watch.  

Get it here: