Five to Try: Hopper helps you score cheap flights, and Pokémon hits the Play Store

If it's new apps and games you crave, here are the top options out this week.

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It’s Labor Day weekend here in the States, so it’s apt that our latest Five to Try picks focus on fun, relaxation, and entertainment. In fact, if the long weekend has you thinking about another breather on the horizon, Hopper can help you secure the best fares by predicting flight pricing trends. Meanwhile, Google’s new standalone Street View app lets you explore stunning photo spheres from around the world, while Scout Launcher refocuses your home screen on videos, music, and news.

And if you want games to dig into this weekend, Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is the long-running series’ first Android entry, plus free-to-play great Real Racing 3 has been freshly decked out with a NASCAR experience. In any case, savor the weekend, and be sure to grab these new and updated apps to help enjoy the time.

Hopper – Airfare Predictions

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The studious, yet skeptical cartoon rabbit will tell you the ideal time to buy those flight tickets.

If you have a destination in mind, Hopper might be your new best friend. Variations in flight prices might seem completely arbitrary to you, but there are real patterns and trends at play—and Hopper is designed to monitor them on your behalf. Simply input where you want to go and pick some dates, and the app will keep tabs on pricing, alerting you when it seems prudent to buy to get the best deal. 

Better yet, if you’re not set on which days you’ll embark on your grand adventure or breezy weekend getaway, consult the color-coded calendar: it shows at a glance when you might get the cheapest fares, even months in advance. Hopper is totally free to use, and you can monitor several travel possibilities at once. So if an escape is on your mind, grab the app, pick some locales, and be smart about it.

Pokémon Shuffle Mobile

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It’s Pokémon! No, it’s not exactly the Pokémon you know, but it’s a start.

Nintendo plans to make a big splash on Android and iOS starting next year, but surprise—one of its marquee franchises took a preemptive leap this week. Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is not the “gotta catch ‘em all” classic you might recall from the Game Boy and every Nintendo handheld since, but rather a cute blend of match-three puzzling and role-playing combat.

More specifically, it takes the template from Puzzle & Dragons and tweaks it with familiar franchise themes. True, Pokémon Shuffle isn’t overflowing with originality, but the familiar monsters and colorful aesthetic are more appealing than this game’s obvious inspiration, and it’s a lightly fun, fluffy puzzler. Just keep an eye out for the energy system and premium in-app purchases, which are liable to load up your credit card if you get the Poké-fever.

Street View on Google Maps

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Browse around, take in some breathtaking sights, and then add your own.

Street View has long existed as part of Google Maps, but the company has made strides to establish the feature as its own brand—particularly with its series of amazing worldwide destination shoots. The next step in that process is turning Street View into a fully standalone app available from the Play Store, which happened this week and makes using Street View a lot more interactive.

Now, you can not only more easily browse the 360-degree panoramic photo spheres posted by Google and other users, but also contribute your own right into Maps. You can do so with a gyroscope-equipped phone, with the app guiding you through the process; or even better, connect to a spherical camera and use footage directly from that. But even if your surroundings don’t seem worth sharing out to the world, there’s plenty here to explore.

Real Racing 3

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The Play Store’s best simulation racer goes full NASCAR this week with a new theme and fresh content.

Real Racing 3 is one of the best free games on Android, and even a couple years after its initial release, EA’s racer is still regularly updated with significant new content. This week’s integration of NASCAR is surely one of the biggest additions to date, letting you pick a Sprint Cup team, race against all of the real-life cars, and take part in the Federated Auto Parts 400 event. It even introduces drafting and slipstream elements not previously seen in the game.

Really, it’s more like an overhaul than a tacked-on extra: even the intro movie, menus, and tutorial are all NASCAR-flavored now. That’s a little surprising, since not everyone who loves cars and fast, fun racing games will necessarily be into NASCAR—and it really is right in your face here. But for a sizable update to a free game, it’s hefty bonus worth exploring.

Scout Launcher

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Scout looks like a feed full of widgets, which at least sets it apart from traditional app grid launchers.

No, this isn’t the Scout GPS app you sometimes find preinstalled on phones: Scout Launcher is another home screen option for Android phones, particularly anyone that is fully absorbed in media, news, and other Internet nonsense throughout the day. Formerly known as Bento Launcher, Scout had been in closed beta for a while, but now the beta has opened up to everyone via the Play Store.

Scout pulls in data and details from a variety of other services and creates a scrolling series of cards—almost like a stream of widgets. Top news stories, popular Reddit threads, trending tracks from SoundCloud, and nearby Yelp restaurant picks are a sampling of what to expect, while a floating, horizontally-scrolling lets you get to your most-used apps in a hurry. Swiping left, meanwhile, brings up the typical app grid and automatically sorted genre folders. The main view is a bit cluttered, but for media junkies, it might save a little time each day.

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