Five to Try: Amazon FreeTime keeps kids' phone usage in check, and Battle Bay enters the fray

Don't miss this week's most enticing new Android apps and games.

fivetotry may5 lead
Credit: Andrew Hayward/IDG

If you occasionally surrender control of your phone to a child—or you have another Android device for such purposes—then you might find an ally in Amazon’s new FreeTime app. It kicks off our latest stack of new Play Store app and game picks, but that kid-content-wrangling app isn’t the only intriguing release this week. 

Rovio’s new online combat game Battle Bay is also worth a look, along with premium shooter Neon Chrome, while video-driven recipe app Panna might help you whip up some tasty dishes and NASA’s Visualization Explorer offers up interesting research-driven stories. Read on for more, and then hit the Play Store to try something new this weekend. 

Amazon FreeTime

fivetotry may5 amazonfreetime Greenbot

FreeTime Unlimited offers a treasure trove of on-demand kids content.

FreeTime used to be one of the best reasons for parents to consider buying an Amazon Fire tablet for a kid—but now you can put the app on any compatible Android phone or tablet, now that it’s available from the Play Store. Amazon’s app is a service that not only lets parents restrict what kind of content their children can access on the device, but also allows optional access to a subscription stash of kid-centric books, TV shows, and games.

On its own, the free app lets you create a profile for your kid and then choose which existing Google or Amazon content they can access. You can set time limits, bedtime cutoffs, and even incentives—like allowing games after a certain amount of time spent reading digital books. And if you want to tap into Amazon’s premium service, you can spend $3/month for FreeTime Unlimited for access to those aforementioned books, shows, and games. In either case, it’s a handy app for parents to keep their kids safely entertained. 

Battle Bay

fivetotry may5 battlebay Greenbot

No birds, no pigs—just aggressive, aquatic action.

Everyone knows Rovio for its increasingly exhausted Angry Birds series, but the studio is trying something new with Battle Bay. Thankfully free of both cartoon birds and pigs, this active online multiplayer game tosses you into 5-on-5 shootouts on the high seas, as each team fights to control a spot in the water while simultaneously trying to eliminate the other squad.

Rovio likens it to a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game, but this isn’t League of Legends: the matches typically only last a couple of minutes, and you’ll actively fire your cannons while pushing through the churning waves. This free-to-play affair lets you unlock new types of fighters and augment your ship with upgradeable weapons, plus you can join a guild and fight for something more than just short-term supremacy.

Panna

fivetotry may5 panna Greenbot

Watch and learn with these video-driven recipes.

Love spending your spare time in the kitchen whipping up new dishes? If so, then you might get a kick out of Panna, a longtime iOS favorite that finally made the jump to Android. This cooking app is video-centric, delivering impressive clips alongside the written instructions. Better yet, many of the recipes and videos come from respected celebrity chefs, such as Rick Bayless, Nancy Silverton, and Andrew Zimmern. 

On the other hand, it doesn’t come for free: you can try it for a month without paying, but then it’s $40 for a full year with no month-to-month option offered. At least you’re paying for quality, thanks to an array of scrumptious-looking dishes, festive holiday-centric themed options, and well-shot videos for every one of the 400+ recipes.

Neon Chrome

fivetotry may5 neonchrome Greenbot

Neon Chrome's cyberpunk theme and thumping beats help propel the frantic blasting.

Speaking of paying for quality: Neon Chrome ($10) is a lot pricier than your average Android game release, but this port of the popular PC shooter loses little in its move to smaller screens. Neon Chrome finds you scaling a tower floor by floor, blasting everything in sight in a cool, cyberpunk-inspired world teeming with aggressive robotic foes.

You’ll use one virtual stick to move your character and the other to use your firearm in this top-down shooter, and the tough challenge means you’ll probably die frequently at first. However, there’s incentive to keep pushing ahead, thanks to persistent character upgrades and enhancements, plus the randomized level arrangements mean you’ll face something new with each fresh run. And look at it this way: it’s $5 less than the PC version.

NASA Visualization Explorer

fivetotry may5 nasaviz Greenbot

NASA's latest app is chock full of intriguing stories.

Space enthusiasts, take note: NASA’s new Visualization Explorer is another way to tap into the agency’s exhaustive output, and it’s a lot speedier than browsing the website. This particular app is built around NASA’s space-based research efforts, delivering a stream of news stories from its various space crafts complete with images, photos, charts, and videos. 

Truth be told, the actual app itself isn’t much of a looker: it’s really just a repository for text with some accompanying assets, the same as you’d find on the web. But if you’re into stories about climate change, solar system observations, and historical NASA details, then you’re sure to appreciate the approachable writing and easy access on your phone. New stories are added every other week, and you can dig into the entire archive of 500+ stories for free.

To comment on this article and other Greenbot content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon