Android apps of the week ending December 21

Flipboard, Redbox Instant (kinda), Snapkeys and more, plus some trending oddities.

TV on the radio phone

This week saw a couple of big releases in the world of Android apps, including a potential Netflix competitor, a keyboard even weirder than Skype and a tablet-ified version of Flipboard. Read on.

RELATED: Ho-ho-hottest Android news and rumors for week ending Dec. 21

Facebook
Credit: Google Play
Facebook

OK, this technically came out late last week, but I write these on Thursday, so hush. The new version of Facebook’s Android app now uses all native code, rather than relying on a mash-up of native code and HTML5. It’s designed to be a lot faster and smoother than before, which, frankly, isn’t saying all that much.

Redbox Instant
Credit: Google Play
Redbox Instant

Look out Netflix, there’s a new streaming video titan in town – or, rather there will be, once Redbox Instant’s service is up and running. Redbox, which has teamed up with Verizon on its Android app, promises features above and beyond Netflix, like bookmarking, reserving movies at Redbox kiosks, and subscription-free purchases and rentals.

Tablet users, rejoice
Credit: Google Play
Tablet users, rejoice

Flipboard’s latest release now works on your device. With the all-important tablet optimizations in place, the popular news reader app should provide a richer, more organic experience. 

Snapkeys
Credit: Snapkeys
Snapkeys

If you thought Swype-style keyboards were weird, get a load of this – a translucent, grid-based predictive keyboard that only shows you 12 letters at a time. Apparently this makes typing easier, somehow. I’m skeptical, but I haven’t test-driven it yet, and hey, Swype eventually won me over as well.

mPing (trending)
Credit: Google Play
mPing (trending)

A crowd-sourcing project from the National Severe Storms Laboratory, mPing provides a way for you to upload weather data to researchers trying to create predictive algorithms for better forecasting. Pretty cool idea.

Dragon Warcraft (trending)
Credit: Google Play
Dragon Warcraft (trending)

Despite the name, this game with colorful graphics appears to be a dressed-up take on those old archery games where you play around with angles and velocities to hit targets. It also advertises “countless levels,” which couldn’t possibly be true.

Monster Tracker (trending)
Credit: Google Play
Monster Tracker (trending)

Boy, does this one trip a lot of alarms – huge permissions list. People complaining about it more or less requiring premium items to succeed in the comments. Clearly, um, “heavily indebted” to a much more popular game. (Pokemon, in this case.) Still, whatever floats your boat.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold. Oh, and happy holidays.