Five to Try: DirecTV could be a cord cutter's delight, and Google's Santa Tracker takes flight

Grab a few fresh apps and games for your Android phone this week.

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If the creeping return of cold weather has you riding the couch more regularly these days, then this week’s launch of DirecTV Now might grab your attention. With no long-term agreements required and no need for extra equipment, it can pump more than 100 live channels to your Android phone and tablet, as well as various other devices. 

Otherwise, Google is getting ready for Christmas with its updated Santa Tracker app, while the former Top Gear hosts have a new car community app called Drivetribe. And if you need fresh games to curl up with this weekend, Miniclip’s Archery King is an amusing distraction, while retro-stylized quest Kathy Rain offers a rich narrative adventure to unravel.

DirecTV Now

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Who needs a cable box or satellite dish?

Cord cutters (or would-be cord cutters), take note: AT&T just launched DirecTV Now, a no-dish-required streaming TV service that has some advantages over the likes of competitors SlingTV and PlayStation Vue. You can stream live TV to your Android phone or tablet, as well as web browsers and other set-top boxes and devices, and you can get 100+ live channels anywhere at an introductory rate of $35/month (usually $60). 

AT&T says that rate will stay in place for ongoing subscribers after the initial six months, otherwise there are packages with fewer or additional channels priced between $35 and $70 per month, with the ability to add HBO or Cinemax for $5/month each to any plan. DirecTV Now has some drawbacks, including no DVR functionality, no ability to watch NFL games on mobile devices, and some weird restrictions on local network content based on location.

Our sister site TechHive has a full, detailed FAQ on the service that outlines the positives and negatives, but given the $35 starting price, DirecTV seems to have a lot of benefits for anyone trying to ditch a traditional cable or satellite agreement. And it has a free seven-day trial, so you might as well give it a shot.

Google Santa Tracker

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Santa’s back with a new, sort-of Pokémon Go-esque game.

It’s that time of year again: Christmas is just weeks away, and Google has started to do its part by relaunching the Santa Tracker app. Right now, it delivers an ever-updating countdown until the 24th, when Santa “begins his trek” around the world. When that date comes, the app will be even more engaging, as the actual Santa Tracker tool will show his progress via Maps and highlight all of the places that he stops to make deliveries. 

Even so, there’s more to do right now than stare at a countdown for three weeks. The app is largely similar to last year’s experience, but it comes with a new location-based Present Quest game that challenges you to walk around your neighborhood to complete objectives, plus the earlier games and videos are included. And this year’s version will let you pop the tracker up on Android TV, as well, which should be a nice treat for Christmas Eve.

Archery King

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Archery King’s simple shooting competitions are solid fun.

The #1 top free game on the Play Store as of this writing, with more than a million downloads, is Archery King—and it’s easy to see why Miniclip’s latest game is hitting the bullseye with so many players. This target-shooting simulator is incredibly easy to learn, as you’re essentially just aiming and firing while compensating for wind and distance, and you’ll prove your skills in live online duels with plenty of competition available.

Archery King has a strongly freemium edge, as you can buy currency to snag better gear to improve your shots or watch video ads to amplify free coin bonuses, all of which tugs at the competitive balance. But played solely as a free game here and there, it’s a fun little diversion.

Drivetribe

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The three TV hosts are front and center, but there’s plenty more to find if you’re not fixated on them.

The former Top Gear trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May is back with The Grand Tour, another show about fast cars and wild adventures, but they also have a new car community app for Android. Drivetribe is the app, and it plugs members into a series of groups focused on certain topics: Ferraris, vintage cars, selfies with amazing rides, and one each lead by those notable hosts.

In fact, you’ll find thousands of these tribes within the app, and can subscribe to as many as you’d like to have people’s posts, photos, videos, and discussions pumped into your feed. The three hosts seem pretty engaged so far, sharing behind-the-scenes footage from the show and other stray photos and stories, plus there are other writers, drivers, and journalists abound to fill your curated stream with loads of car content.

Kathy Rain

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There’s something more to this untimely death. Can you solve the mystery?

If you’ve got a thing for old-school point-and-click adventure games, here’s a brand new one that looks the part and presses all of the right nostalgia buttons. Kathy Rain ($5) isn’t as ancient as it looks, just debuting on PC and Mac this spring before hitting Android, but it uses that familiar genre template to introduce a new heroine and tell a fresh, intriguing story. 

Rain is a journalism student returning home in the ‘90s after the curious death of her estranged grandfather, and the investigation into what happened—and crucially, what led him down the path to that point—requires a combination of her young pluck and developing investigatory skills. The fuzzy, retro aesthetic is charming, and Rain herself is a compelling new character in the spirit of Veronica Mars.

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