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"Taking a photo of Christmas tree" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Takashi(aes256)


We can all be guilty of getting into the Christmas spirit a little early. Festive marketing - which usually begins in November - can be a little bit infectious. But Selfridges in London took the cake for overexcitement this year, opening the doors of their Christmas shop on the first day of August - the peak of British summertime.


For regular folk, Christmas usually begins in mid-November, ahead of the last (or second-to-last) wage of the year. You know, the point when questions about trees, markets, presents, John Lewis adverts and Coca-Cola trucks become unavoidable. We're almost at that point once again, so here are a few mobile apps to get you in the mood for Santa's arrival.


NORAD Tracks Santa (iOS, Android)


NORAD, otherwise known as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is arguably the last organisation on Earth you'd expect to run a regular Santa-tracking service over the festive period. However, the event has been a fixture of Christmas in the States since 1955, when a child tried to call Santa and ended up speaking to Colonel Harry Shoup instead.

'NORAD Tracks Santa' has made the leap from helpline service to a Google Maps-style website over the last few decades. But most modern users will experience Santa's journey on Android or iOS in 2016. The event is incredibly popular, with volunteers fielding 117,000 phone calls from children and nearly 20million people following Santa via the app or website in 2013.


The Elf Adventure Christmas Story (iOS, Android)


Many of the most popular Android and iOS games out there have Christmas themes, such as Doodle Jump Christmas Special or A Christmas Carol by Bitcasino, a slots-style game available here. However, some festive titles are just palette swaps of an original, sticking a woolly hat on a protagonist or swapping a palm tree for a fir tree.

One for the kids, the Elf Adventure Christmas Story is a 24-episode saga and digital advent calendar that revolves around a quest to awaken a sleepy frost giant before Christmas. It's nothing too taxing - each day requires the completion of a task like cleaning a window or putting biscuits in an oven - but it's a fun distraction before school for the little ones.


Secret Santa Tombola (iOS)


Whether it's a pair of socks or a sew-your-own plush cactus, Secret Santa has always been a celebration of the cheapest and weirdest presents on the market. With office-based versions of the game, the likelihood is that you won't know anything about the person you're buying a present for. So why not leave it up to fate?


Secret Santa Tombola is an app with the uncreative and just plain lazy in mind. All you have to do is specify whether the recipient is male or female, set a budget, and choose the type of gift you'd like to see as a suggestion (cute, funny, or cheeky). It's the mobile equivalent of closing your eyes and choosing something at random from the Argos catalogue.


So, there you go; three apps to make Christmas a little easier and a lot more exciting. A good month before Santa pulls on his boots.




To be honest, there are plenty of app tools in the Google Play Store that are extremely useful, but if we had to choose just three for our smartphone, these would be them.


Google Translate (Free)



Google Translate is one of the best things to ever happen to the internet as it almost closes the communication gap completely in between people from different regions of the world. It has support for 103 languages at present, with many more about to be added. The app even supports offline translations for up to 52 languages and includes a conversation mode, so that you can translate while communicating with a person who is speaking in another language! There's also Optical Character Recognition embedded in the app now.


Smart Tools ($2.99)



Smart Tools is a handy little application which includes multiple rulers, a compass, torchlight, measurement tools, unit converter, vibrometer and a mirror. It's almost everything you may need for daily tasks, tucked into one app for easy access.


ParcelTrack ($2.99)



Being an online shopper myself, I really appreciate how easy it is to keep track of all my shipments via this one app. Put in the tracking number and the courier service's name to keep yourself informed about the whereabouts of all your shipments, complete with alerts and timely updates. If you are a seller who ships merchandise to your customers on a regular basis, you will appreciate ParcelTrack even more.




Android-powered mobile devices are more popular than ever with an estimated 1.5 billion active devices currently operating across the globe. Each device can hold hundreds of apps but in a market that is so over-crowded, which apps are the most essential? Here are the top 5 must-have apps available on the Android platform.


WhatsApp Messenger



We currently live in a world where instant communication has never been more important. People want access to their loved ones and friends at all times and sometimes it can be tricky to get hold of those people when relying simply on phone calls and text messages if the signal is poor.


This is where WhatsApp Messenger comes in. Released back in January, 2010, WhatsApp allows users to not only send a text-based message, images, and even sound recordings to others through the app provided there is a 3G or 4G connection or wireless connection present but it also will not cost a penny for users to do so. Users can also set up group chats so they can message multiple people simultaneously and it just allows an extra potential method of convenient communication. It has a user base in excess of 1 billion active users making it the largest messaging app available. Its takeover by Facebook has also allowed it to maximise its potential over recent months.


Snapchat



It's hard to think that Snapchat first hit the app stores back in September, 2011 and it has just grown in popularity ever since. It is so popular in fact that some major companies have altered their logos on social media in order to link in with the Snapchat app. You might recognise that ghost-style image. It was originally created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown when they were student studying at Stanford University.


The app can be used for photo sharing, instant messaging, multimedia, and video chat. It is available in over 20 languages which shows how it has transcended cultures across the world. The app has proved to be such a hit with mobile device users that it had reached 10 billion daily video views in 2016. Even though the app initially hit the main stream for its image sharing capabilities, a recent survey suggested that 71% of users now actually used it for its instant chat functions.


Instagram



One thing that really riles professional photographers is when those that are not active in the industry claim they could do it. Unfortunately, for photographers, that claim has now been given more of a voice due to the rise of the image and video-sharing app Instagram that allows users to manipulate and edit their photographs to give it a more professional edge.


Instagram was initially released back in October, 2010 by its creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and six years later it continues to be one of the most used apps on Android devices. It is listed up there with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr as being one of the main social network apps on the market. Latest figures suggest that the app has over 500 million active users every month which is a 100 million increase on 2015. It is used by celebrities and sports stars to communicate with fans and has even become a source of income for those in the fashion and food industries who blog their experiences for audiences.


Slots Huuuge Casino



Mobile casino gaming is an industry that is growing with every passing day. Online casino operators realise that analysts predict mobile casino revenue will hit the $99.6 billion mark this year and it is a market that is becoming potentially very lucrative as online products transfer onto the mobile platform.


There are an endless number of mobile casino offerings on the market but one of the most underrated ones is the Huuuge Inc-developed Slots Huuuge Casino. Players can get involved in a wide selection of classic casino games on their mobile devices such as slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, and baccarat plus many more. The likes of Big Fish Casino and DoubleDown Casino are still the bigger names but this app is one of a new up and coming generation that will evolve the market and take things to the next level.


Advanced Task Killer



It is a common complaint for users of mobile devices. An app that is sucking the life out of your mobile device battery has been left open in the background and within a matter of hours your device has run out of juice and you're left with a powerless mobile device without a charger within touching distance.


Advanced Task Killer is a tool that can help to solve that issue. It lists all the apps that are running both in the foreground and background of your mobile device. It will then give you the option to kill those devices to stop them from draining your battery. Developed by ReChild, it has been on the market for a number of years now but remains one of the most underrated apps available for download.



Android Nougat 7.1 is rumoured to launch with the upcoming Google Pixel and Pixel XL phones. Now that the October 4 press event is just two days away, we are pretty excited to see what the company has in store for us. However, if you want to experience a few of the features that Android Nougat 7.1 will bring with it, right now on your phone, Action Launcher 3 has you covered. The launcher now has multiple unique attributes of the next Nougat OS incorporated into it, thanks to the latest update.


Some of the features included in the update are Quickcuts (launcher shortcuts), round icons, All Apps drawer, new widgets, Google "Pill," tinted dock background, new folder styles from the Pixel Launcher, caret page indicator and much more. Action Launcher is free to download and use but accessing some of the features here will cost you a few bucks. If you are planning to get the LG V20, the Pixel phones or any of the upcoming smartphones with Android Nougat on them, this might not be of much interest to you. But for those of us who are using phones that will probably never see the actual Android Nougat OS running on their current devices, this could be a nice little taste of the future.


Saikat Kar (tech-enthusiast)



EaseUS MobiSaver for Android claims to be the most powerful and effective desktop data recovery software for all Android powered devices and it can be downloaded for free. Is it really as good as it sounds? Let's check out what the software is offering.


Features


3 Step Easy Recovery - The recovery process can be completed in about three steps and they involve simply connecting your device to your computer via USB, scanning and recovering. In other words, you don't have to be a techie to use EaseUS MobiSaver.


Safe and Speedy - The software once installed on your computer will detect your smartphone or tablet automatically, as soon as you connect it via USB. The recovery process itself is safe and does not affect the source in any way. All data recovered by using the software is kept private as expected.


All data types supported - The EaseUS MobiSaver can be used to not only recover photos and SMS messages, but also contacts, documents, videos and audio files.


Effective in most cases - The desktop tool can be used for recovery if your Android phone has lost its data due to a virus infection, software failure, hardware failure, rooting attempt or just plain deletion by accident. Although the effectiveness of the recovery attempt will vary depending on a number of factors, EaseUS MobiSafe can be utilized for attempting data recovery, irrespective of the reason for the data loss.


All major brands supported - It should work for almost all Android devices, but major brands like Samsung, Sony, Motorola, LG, HTC, Google Nexus, Huawei and ZTE are thoroughly supported.


Support for both old and new Android OS versions - It works with smartphones running on the now ancient Android 2.3 Gingerbread just as well as it does on the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Every Android OS versions in between the two (4.0, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.0, 5.1) are also compatible.


Data on SD cards can be recovered - MobiSaver is powerful enough to recover all types of data even from corrupted SD cards used in smartphones.


Up to 1GB (+1GB) free recovery - The free version of the EaseUS MobiSaver allows the user to recover as much as up to 1GB of data, after which you will need to buy the software to support the developers. However, the last we checked, they were also offering an extra 1GB of free recovery, if the user shared the app via social media.


A variety of supported formats - Before the process begins, you can choose the type of files you need recovering from formats such as .jpg/.png/.bmp (images), Word/PDF/Excel (documents), .wma/.mp3 (audio), CSV/HTML/VCF (contacts and messages) and multiple others.


Preview - The application will allow you to have a preview before beginning with the actual recovery process, so that the user can have a clear idea about what to expect.


What you should know


Although EaseUS MobiSaver for Android Free does work and almost anyone can use it without any issues, there is a chance that some of the recovered files will be corrupted. Also, the sizes of the recovered files are limited to a maximum of 100MB per file, which may not be ideal if you are trying to recover long video content. However, advanced users will appreciate the Deep Scan option which allows for finding even lost or formatted data.

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