Minggu, 30 September 2012

Jetpack Joyride tops Android Games of the Week

I know I say things like this pretty often, but holy cow, is this week impressive. Not only do we get the latest Rovio game based on the Angry Birds universe, but we also get a great runner based on the recent Rayman: Origins, and we finally get a port of Jetpack Joyride, which tops our list. Those three releases may be the best three-hit combo Android has seen, and that's not even counting the awesomeness that is Subway Surfers. What a treat this is for everyone. Anyway, here are this week's top Android games.

Jetpack Joyride (Free)

It's been just over a year since this game came out on iOS, and for good reason, many, many Android users have been waiting for a port. Formerly an Amazon Appstore exclusive, and brought to us by Halfbrick Studios of Fruit Ninja fame, this endless runner takes some of the best elements of popular games, adds a new spin to them, and polishes everything to a shine. It's also the game that brought back Barry Steakfries as a protagonist, last seen blasting brains in Age of Zombies. Sick of his mundane work life in a lab, Barry steals a machine gun-propelled jetpack for a spin, with plenty of other cool vehicles and power-ups to be found along the way. This is still my favorite mobile game of 2011. Download it.

Subway Surfers (Free)

This Temple Run-like runner was originally released on iOS in May of this year, but at the time, it had flown under my radar. It's very likely that this game helped inspire the many lane-based runners we're seeing these days, such as Rail Rush. It's a colorful game with attitude, putting you in the role of a rascally kid on a hover board who has to surf some subways to outrun the guard who catches him tagging a train. When it's available, you simply double tap the screen to switch over to your gravity-defying board and get away even faster. Marty McFly would be proud.

Bad Piggies (Free)

It's generally quite strange to talk about a new Rovio game this far down on the list, but Barry Steakfries will not be easily dethroned. After the diversion that was Amazing Alex, based on the acquisition of Casey's Contraptions (which makes a lot more sense now) Rovio has revisited the wild world of Angry Birds. This time, like all iconic villains in gaming, you get to play as those mean, green, egg stealing swine. This casual puzzler asks you to use a pre-set grid of tiles and a objects to build your very own getaway vehicle. The game is imaginative, polished, unique and accessible. Just what you'd expect from Rovio. It's great to see them branching out and expanding this universe.

Indestructible (Free)

Twisted Metal meets Gun Bros. in this latest action title from Glu Mobile. It's a simple twin-stick shooter with vehicles instead of people, and it's pretty rad. The game is strictly mutliplayer-based, pitting four players against each other in three different game modes on three different maps. As you play and earn currency, you'll be able to customize your vehicles weapon load-out and appearance. Being a Glu Mobile game, you're probably wondering how bad the In-app purchases are. To be fair, they don't seem to be bad at all, though you can pay money for better weapons, so I imagine it'll be necessary to stay competitive down the line. Still worth checking out, for sure.

Rayman Jungle Run ($2.99)

This game may be the last on the list, but oh my, is it not even close to the least. Rayman: Origins was my favorite platformer of last year, with fantastic, frantic, yet streamlined gameplay, a zany world full of quirk, and the most crisp and vibrant 2-D art ever seen in a game. All of those elements are present in this challenge-based runner, based on the original. It's not an endless runner, mind you, but one with a very well designed difficulty climb of levels. The game is just as gorgeous as its counterpart, and just as much fun to play, even if it is simplified. This would have easily topped the list any other week, but fate wasn't kind to this one. Check it out.

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Sabtu, 29 September 2012

Android App Video Review: The Bard's Tale

If you like action RPGs and crass, lewd humor, then oh boy, do I have the game for you. The Bard's Tale is a real gem of a game, not because it's super polished or masterfully designed, but because it's totally unique, and totally hilarious. This game was originally on consoles back in 2004, but its legacy reaches much farther than that. It's actually based on a series of RPGs from the eighties that went by the same name. The games may be completely different in terms of graphics and gameplay, but they share the same, rude, snarky heart.

Our "Hero" of this tale is simply known as The Bard, and he's a real piece of work. Even the narrator hates his guts, and he's not afraid to let the player know. Sure, he gets caught up in a big quest to save the world and such, but not without demanding a few awards. A bag of silver here, a night with a buxom bar maid there, you get the picture. The very first quest sets the satirical tone of the game perfectly, as you have to clear a rat out of a cellar, except that the rat is twice your size and breathes fire.

The gameplay is well done enough. It's not great, but it's not bad either. You have an attack and defend button, but your defense must be well timed. You can't just hold the button down forever. As you hack your way through the ridiculous enemies of the world, you'll also be doing a lot of summoning with your trusty lute. That is the bard's main strategic option, and what makes him unique. He can summon all manner of creatures and companions to fight along his side.

Visually, the game is still solid, even if it does show off its age. The soundtrack is great, especially thanks to The Beer Song." Voice acting is top notch, not only from the narrator, but from the Bard himself. Oh, did I forget to mention? The Bard is voiced by Cary Elwes, of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and The Princess Bride fame. The game is packed with features, from OpenFeint to totally optional in-app purchases to help you along. You can download it for six dollars, which may seem pricey for an Android game, but it gets even better. Not only do you get the new game, but you'll eventually get access to all the eighties titles as well, whenever they're released, as a free bonus. The Bard's Tale is still laugh out loud funny, and definitely worth a look.

Jumat, 28 September 2012

New Android apps worth downloading: Field Trip, NYTimes update, Rayman Jungle Run

Here are three great Android apps to help you end the week right. Field Trip is a beautifully designed app which uses your devices GPS capabilities to help you discover unique and unusual things around you. The New York Times app for smartphones got a nice refresh so its now speedier and easier to navigate. Last but not least is Rayman Jungle Run, an endless runner with platforming elements full of color and great presentation.

And dont forget, Google is celebrating 25 billion app downloads with a selection of top apps available every day for just 25 a pop!

Field Trip (Free)

Whats it about? This new app from Google and Niantic Labs is a guide to the cool, hidden and unique things in the world around you.

Whats cool? The app runs in the background on your phone. When you get close to something interesting, it pops up a card with details about the location. It could be a fun place to shop, an historical site or a new place to eat and the content comes from some respectable sources like Arcadia, Zagat, Cool Hunting, Flavorpill and Atlas Obscura.

Who is it for? The app is great if youre visiting a different city or even a new part of town and you can adjust the frequency of notifications or what categories you want to see. If you love to explore and discover new things, Field Trip is a fun app to have in your arsenal and it also looks great.

Whats it like? Field Trip is not dissimilar to a number of other local apps to find nearby businesses like Whats Nearby or Scoutmob. What sets Field Trip apart, however, is its excellent content sources which help dig up intriguing things mere GPS alone wont necessarily find.

NYTimes update (Free)

Whats it about? This new update to The New York Times app features a complete redesign to reflect Androids Holo design standards.

Whats cool? Besides the refreshed design and new UI, youll discover more intuitive navigation using the Action Bar, the ability to dictate comments via Androids voice-to-text services, passive customization of the blogs you visit most, and an updated widget which includes images.

Who is it for? If you ditched the New York Times app to use the mobile web site instead (sorry, folks, the old app wasnt that great), it might be a good time to download this dedicated app again and give it another spin. Its faster, easier to navigate and better than ever.

Whats it like? The New York Times is its own entity of course, but check out their dedicated 2012 Election coverage app too if you appreciate the papers style and outlook. Other major publications like USA Today, The Guardian and Wall Street Journal all have Android apps.

Rayman Jungle Run ($2.99)

Whats it about? After its iOS release last week, were glad to see this endless runner/platformer hybrid emerge on Google Play.

Whats cool? This endless runner features beautiful graphics, plenty of new worlds to discover, new powers to unlock, captivating music, smooth touch-based controls, and even exclusive wallpapers to unlock for your device. The production qualities are exquisite for a mobile game.

Who is it for? Developed by the same team that produced Rayman Origins, fans of the chase/running segments of that title will love what theyve done with Rayman Jungle Run. People who enjoy platformers or endless runners in general will enjoy this one. Its fun for kids but also packs a challenge for adults.

Whats it like? Consider other slick-looking endless runners like Granny Smith or Jetpack Joyride (Amazon Appstore) if youre searching for something with great production values and addicting gameplay.

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Kamis, 27 September 2012

Comparing Instapaper to other read later apps on Android

Now that Instapaper finally made its way to Android, wed like to compare the service to other read it later apps available for Android. Is it good enough to ditch a similar service you already use in favor of the iOS all-star that is now available on your Android smartphone and tablet? Lets look at some of the other apps that offer similar functionality so you can decide which is right for you.

Instapaper ($2.99)

A $2.99 investment will get you a quality app with similar functionality to its acclaimed iOS counterpart. If youre browsing the web during the day (on any device) and find an article you dont have time to read right now, simply click Read Later and the article will be saved. Your Android smartphone or tablet will display the story free of clutter, perfectly formatted for your devices screen. Instapaper creator, Marco Arment entrusted app designer Mobelux (who worked on the beautiful-looking Tumblr app) and they did a fine job here too. The apps design is crisp, efficient and its easy to use. As Instapaper was just released, expect updates and further enhancements in the future.

Readability (Free)

Readability is free, so that might make it more attractive to folks who dont want to drop $3 on Instapaper right away. Like Instapaper, youll need to sign-up at the Readability site and install a plug-in for your browser, then you can begin saving articles to read later. The app offers a clean and elegant, single-column reading view with some beautiful typography provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. It also offers an unlimited, searchable archive of favorites and easy sharing via your social networks. Reviews in the Google Play store, however, are somewhat mixed, but future updates and that free price tag may convince many to give it a shot.

Pocket -formerly Read It Later (Free)

Its worth noting that there used to be both paid and free versions of the Read It Later app. Now, with it rebranding as Pocket, the app is free for everyone. In addition, the functionality and design of the app improved greatly, so Pocket is well worth a look. Like the two apps above, Pocket lets you save articles for later, strips out ads and presents them in a streamlined manner when offline. It even includes the bonus feature of being able to save videos for later, but youll need to be connected to view these. Pocket works on tablets and smartphones and while most of its improvements have been welcomed, some find the new dark theme not as black as it was in the Read It Later days.

Dolphin Read Later (Free)

Users of the Dolphin HD browser on Android tablets and smartphones will discover this add-on app is worth the free download. When youre browsing the web, you can save any web page to the add-on popup without even leaving the page. Then, you can just simply click the icon to access the web page later. If you find yourself consuming a lot of your web content on your Android tablet or smartphone these days, you can see the value of Dolphin Read Later. Dolphin has a huge number of extra add-ons available to streamline your Android browsing.

Google Currents (Free)

Google Currents offers a magazine-style way to consume news content on your Android smartphone or tablet. You pick your sources and Current finds the latest articles and presents them in a handy magazine format. So why is it in this list? Well, like many other Google offerings, it has the capability to store the articles and news sources youve chosen for offline reading. That way, you can pile up a bunch of different stories from your favorites, sync them, and they will be available for you later. Its a little different to picking and choosing articles like you do with Instapaper, Pocket or Readability, but its still a handy, free way to read news from your favorite sources when youre not connected. Just dont forget to sync!

Find great Android games here

Android App Video Review: DragonCraft

DragonCraft is a simple and fun new resource management title from Mobage. It has a cool theme and some interesting ideas, but its also very lacking on the technical side with poor stability and extremely slow loading. As far as these Facebook kind of games go, this one is not nearly as focused on the social aspect, though it does still try to tempt you with in-app purchases that you shouldnt need. All in all, I liked it, but it definitely has some severe flaws.

In this fantasy world of knights, magic, and dragons, you play as a Dragon Baron--a kind of king who hatches and raises his own dragons while building his kingdom. By fighting off enemies and completing missions, youll get loads of wood, gold, food, and dragon crystals as a reward. You then build new buildings, research new troop units and abilities, and basically continue in that cycle forever.

While your lumber mills and mines are toiling away for a few hours at a time in search of resources, youll venture outside the castle walls to thin out the population of dangerous creatures wandering about, thereby making it safer for traders to come to your city. Youll occasionally have to save players from a dragon by scaring them off with a single spear, as little sense as that makes. If you hit them with your spear, youll get one of five differently colored dragon scales. Collecting full sets of these scales will allow you to hatch a dragon after a set amount of time, and the more sets you complete, the stronger your dragon will be. Once your egg hatches, the cycle begins anew.

Here is where the real problems rear their ugly heads. You can throw both plain spears, or specialized dragon spears. Dragon spears will never miss, but theyre also hard to come by. Regular spears seem to miss the majority of the time, making it all rather frustrating. Dragon crystals themselves are also hard to come by, and can be quickly used up to grant special bonuses due to generally high resource costs. Of course, dragon crystals and spears are available through in-app purchases.

Honestly though, all of that isnt what I hate about the game. Im used to this kind of issue coming up. What I hate about the game is just how slow it is. It takes forever to boot up, and loading times are generally very long. It doesnt help that they frequently make you sit through the same boring animations again and again for various tasks. The app has also frozen and crashed on me more than a handful of times. This is equivalent to a basic Facebook game in complexity and mechanics, and I just do not know what could possibly be going on with the memory and data management to make it so unbearably sluggish.

Besides those flaws, I actually really like the game. Its not my usual cup of tea, but if youre into this genre of titles youll probably like it. It does a lot to mix up regular conventions and has some genuinely cool ideas. The art is all quite well done, and the music was awesome as well. Hopefully this app improves in the future. Otherwise, its completely free, so you might as well give it a look. Just know what to expect.

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Apex Launcher update tops Android Apps of the Week

As Google Play hits 25 billion app downloads (and celebrates by offering a great selection of titles for a mere 25 a pop) here are a selection of new apps and updates that caught our eye this week. Apex Launcher got a big update which brings it more in line with the features of Jelly Bean, and Vellamo Benchmark received a nice facelift and some new additions. Weve also got a sporting goods retailer, an vacation rental finder and even a fun, throwaway app to coincide with the release of the iPhone 5.

Apex Launcher update (Free)

Apex didnt get off to a good start with their version 1.3.0 update: the launcher would immediately crash upon opening. But its developers were quick to fix it and now 1.3.1 offers all the features beta users have already been enjoying. Importantly, this highly customizable home screen launcher is built on the Jelly Bean launcher instead, though it still works on any Ice Cream Sandwich (and above) device. That means performance boosts, desktop items re-arranging to fit the screen, an option to switch to a tablet-style UI, activity animation options, and more. Unlock more features by going Pro, or try Nova Launcher as an alternative (which received a minor update this week, too).

Vellamo Mobile Benchmark (Free)

This isnt necessarily a new app, but it did receive a cool update and a stylish new interface. Vellamo Mobile Benchmark offers a great way to test the performance of your Android device and compare it to others. Vellamo will now benchmark HTML5 video, DOM performance, web page load/reload, and WebGL. It supports both ARM and x86 processors and also evaluates scrolling and zooming, video performance, memory read/write and peak bandwidth performance and 3-D graphics.

DICKs Sporting Goods Mobile (Free)

The new DICKs Sporting Goods app for Android offers full access to all the athletic gear available at their online store, or you can find a physical store nearby. Also, it offers news and information on the companys latest products and lets you manage your ScoreCard Rewards, which turn into cash the more gear you buy. This app is great for people who shop regularly at DSG, or for anyone really who loves to purchase sports gear and apparel.

Dwellable Vacation Rentals (Free)

Dwellable got an update just a few days ago, but its in our list because it got a lot of attention this week as a Staff Pick on Google Play. Dwellable offers reviews, photos and maps of beautiful vacation rentals across the United States with powerful search/filtering tools. There are 55,000 listings available complete with high-resolution imagery in locations like the Hawaiian islands, Cape Cod, Florida, Lake Tahoe, Myrtle Beach, Oregon, Virginia Beach and many more. Even if youre not in the market for a vacation rental, the apps sharp design and great photos are well worth a look.

Fake iPhone 5 (Free)

OK, we dont usually feature irreverent apps like this, but Fake iPhone 5 is timely, emerging just as the world appears to be going bonkers about Apples latest smartphone. This iOS-style launcher from Big Byte offers a full-screen working replica of the iPhone home screen. All your apps are easily accessible and you just flip the screen across to view more pages like you would on iOS 6. The skin is quite realistic and authentic-looking, and because this app works as a fully-fledged launcher it actually functions properly and is not just a mere screenshot. Have some fun fooling a gullible friend this weekend!

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New Android apps worth downloading: Battery Doctor, Foursquare update, Deluxe Cafe

Here are three great Android apps to enjoy. Battery Doctor is an app that can help you manage the battery life on your device and includes some useful power-saving tips. Check-in app Foursquare got a welcome update which actually re-introduces a function omitted from the previous one. Finally, our game today is Deluxe Cafe which will see you designing the interior of a cafe, decorating it, and filling it with beautiful, tasty desserts.

And dont forget, Google is celebrating 25 billion app downloads with a selection of top apps available every day for just 25 a pop!

Battery Doctor (Free)

Whats it about? Battery Doctor offers a great way to extend the battery life on your Android device for free.

Whats cool? The app works in a number of ways. It can estimate how much juice is left in your current battery and informs you about the different power usage of various apps. That way, you can predict whether its smart or not to use a particular service once you reach a specific level. You can turn off settings automatically and the app provides plenty of power-saving tips.

Who is it for? If you find your device is running out of juice too quickly, maybe Battery Doctor can help. Perhaps youve tried the plethora of other similar apps and they havent worked out for you.

Whats it like? Juice Defender is the big daddy of battery saver apps with a wealth of options to help you reduce battery consumption (and over 7 million downloads to boot). Battery Doctor is different because it works more like an assistant with a number of tools to help you get the best battery life.

Foursquare update (Free)

Whats it about? The latest Foursquare update is significant because it re-introduces a feature it previously removed, namely nearby check-ins from friends.

Whats cool? The uber-popular social check-in app includes some other new features, too, like a social history for venues. That way, you can see which of your friends visited a certain place, how often, and whether they liked it. Theres also a new me card design at the top of the Friends tab.

Who is it for? We wrote about Foursquares UI overhaul back in June, but its good to see a company responding to its customers complaints and reinstating a feature many people really enjoyed. For those who just love to check-in and earn those badges, the new update will be very welcome.

Whats it like? Foursquare is the granddaddy of social check-in apps, but there are numerous other ways to tell people where you are via services like Facebook, Twitter, Path or sharing your photos through an image-based app like Instagram.

Deluxe Cafe (Free)

Whats it about? Namco Bandai, better known for their Pac-Man games, bring you this delicious offering in which you get to create your very own cafe and all the tasty treats go with it!

Whats cool? You get to create a stylish interior which will influence your cafes atmosphere, then you get to decorate the treats themselves. The more you make, the more treats you unlock, and there are new decorations and interiors on the way. This is a social game, so you get to check out your friends cafes. Whats more, sometimes little mysterious elves will appear to make your cafe all the more exciting.

Who is it for? Fans of social games like those from Zynga will probably enjoy Deluxe Cafe. Once more, this is a free-to-play title but with plenty of in-app purchase opportunities if you really want to up the style. The more you share, the better rewards you get.

Whats it like? There are a legion of food-service games out there like Hello Kitty Cafe, Restaurant Story and Cafe Fever, and in Cake Now, you get to design and create your very own cakes.

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Rabu, 26 September 2012

Save old photos to your Android in a snap with the ShoeBox app

My in-laws were just over at my house this weekend for Mothers Day and we happened to get on the subject of old high school photos. I whipped out my box full of photos that was in no way organized, and my mother-in-law made a comment (Ill let you imagine what the comment was). Had I known about the free ShoeBox app for Android sooner, I wouldnt have had to bear the scolding I received via one glance about my disorganization (okay, well I guess I gave it away).

So basically this savvy photography app makes it super easy for you to scan in old photos you have laying around the housesay inside, maybe, some old shoeboxes. Aptly named app, yes? Once you take a digital image of your paper photo, the app helps you crop it with amazing edge detection. Although the edge detection didnt always work perfectly for me, it was easy to instead crop photos by dragging the edges to where I wanted them.

You can create a new album on your phone to organize photos and/or upload straight to Facebook for all your friends and family to enjoy. For newer photos, the scan quality isnt the best of the best. But for older photos, it works just fine. Older photos have a distinct color quality to them that you just cant get anymore with this newfangled technology. Everything is just so crisp and clear these days!

The app gives you free storage for an unlimited amount of photos. So if you have some old photos laying around that you want to share, start scanning them now with the ShoeBox app for Android.

Find great Android games here

Show your hand with these fun trading card games for Android

Recently, it was revealed that Rage of Bahamut was one of the top grossing games for Android. Trading card games have been around for quite some time but now are getting popular on Android and other mobile devices. In general, these are turn-based games where the outcome of each turn is based on the cards each player has. These can be fun games, but do a have a learning curve to them.

Fortunes of War FREE (Free)

Fortunes of War is a fun and relatively quick game to learn. You begin your turn with a set of cards that represent power, wealth and ability. The key to winning is to develop a strategy to build up your deck's Victory Points, while trying to lower your opponents. The game has a very well done tutorial and card rules sections. The game comes with three main modes. You can play the conquest mode, where you are following a storyline; a quick match mode against the AI; and finally a multiplayer mode game online. There is also a paid version of Fortunes of War that unlocks more conquest stages and multiplayer options.

Rage of Bahamut (Free)

In Rage of Bahamut you first chose a side: man, god or demon. Once you have done that, then you must go through the tutorial. In the tutorial, you will get one card and the basics on how to play and advance. Overall, the game does provide a lot of explanation about things. In general the game has two main modes: quests and battles. The quest area is where you build up experience and obtain more cards. As you collect cards, you can combine them to create customized and more powerful ones. In the battle mode, you can create custom decks that you will use when you battle other players online. The game encourages you to play with (and against) others online. There is a lot to the game and it will keep you entertained. In addition to earning items via quests and battles, you can purchase cards with in app purchases.

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Shadow Era (Free)

Shadow Era is a beautifully designed and well structured cross-platform game. You can play on your Android device or on the web. The game begins by you choosing and naming a hero card. You can play various battles on the world map or choose to battle other players online. When it is your turn, there is a specific order of what to do. The game will provide some guidance but I found it took some time to understand how it all worked. Within the battle, its all about getting and using skills/abilities cards to support and strengthen your fighter cards. You can attack multiple times if you have the appropriate cards on the game board. Once the boss of that battle is killed the battle is over. When you win a battle you are awarded coins/crystals, which can be used to purchase more decks of cards. You will want to get more cards over time, since this is what determines how you perform in the battle. The website contains a forum and support area plus the ability to purchase more crystals.

Cabals: The Card Game (Free)

Cabals is another cross-platform trading card game. You can play on your Android device or online. Another nice feature of the game is you can play offline on your Android without having to log-in or create an account. Here you can try or practice the game without any commitments, but you will not get any experience points. Within the game, you can have an online match, friend match, or single player game. Cabal is also a bit difference in that in uses a game board in addition to the cards. To win you can either conquer your opponents stronghold (position on the game board) or collect 60 domination points. The game board and cards are nicely done and easy to read. As with the other games, you can earn more cards via playing or in-app purchase. The website does have a forum and help section if needed.

Legend Cards (Free)

Legend Cards is a new game to Android but has been very popular in Japan. As with the other games you begin by choosing a race: human, machine or monster. The game is very similar to Rage of Bahamut, where you complete quests to level-up and collect more cards. You can battle others online, combine cards to create customized and more powerful ones. You follow a series of quests on the map to collect items. If you play Rage of Bahamut, then you will have a general idea on how to play. I found the tutorial to be too brief and it really did not explain a lot. The developers site was also no help. The graphics are nice with the human characters being anime-style women. As with the others, you can purchase more cards and special items within the app.

Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Kristin George, Director of Product at TuneIn

Kristen GeorgeTuneIn Radio (and TuneIn Radio Pro) is one of the best ways to listen to over 70,000 different radio stations and millions of on-demand shows from all around the world, whether you want to hear music, current affairs, sports, local stations and much more. Its one of our favorite Android offerings, and was recently featured in a curated app list by Appolicious Advisor, Larry Sullivan.

Kristin George is Director of Product at TuneIn. In todays installment of Developing Minds Want to Know, Kristin discusses what inspired her to become an app creator, some of her favorites, where she sees innovation in the sector and offers some advice to budding app developers.

Key Company Facts:

Name: Kristin George, Director of Product

Company: TuneInLocation: Palo Alto, CA

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): 70 employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: TuneIn Radio (Android/iOS/Windows Phones/BlackBerry/Bada) and TuneIn Radio Pro (Android/iOS/BlackBerry)

APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

KRISTIN GEORGE: There was this whole new platform that travels around with me in my pocket, that completely changes the way I think about consuming media, and spending my time. It was new and unknown. The modern day gold rush. And people were creating companies worth billions of dollars that didn't even have a web presence. This was a crazy, cool new world and I wanted to be a part of it.

Heres a brief video from TuneIn that introduces the Android apps car mode:

APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

KG: I worked on an Android app before the platform launched. Back then it was unclear what a button should look like. Now Google is starting to make (and enforce) user guidelines based on a couple years of learning. The platforms are getting more defined and the creation of user-friendly applications is becoming easier as a result. The attitude of the community is one of trial and error and we are all working together to the benefit of the same customer our users!

APPO: What apps (outside of those that you develop) inspire you the most and why?

KG: I love Flipboard. The way they are thinking about aggregating content is very cool and their design is gorgeous on all platforms (as well as uniquely theirs). HBO GO wow! Can I really watch Game of Thrones while waiting for a delayed flight, or on the train? Does anyone not appreciate the camera-meets-cellphone- meets-photo-editing apps? Instagram, youve changed my life, and the size of my purse.

APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

KG: I love the content aggregators in the space in general because I can bring this crazy world of content into such a tiny little device that travels with me everywhere I go. From big names like Netflix, to our many options for on-demand music consumption (personal favorite:Rdio), to being able to shop, listen, watch, capture, socially interact with a single and persistent point of contact.

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

KG: I am in content aggregation now. Just seeing the listeners reaction to the way we are able to fit this entire world of live and on-demand streaming audio into a single and simple application is a really hard challenge. Solving hard problems with a simple user experience is even more challenging, the smaller and more variable the screen size is. This challenge leaves me with something to think about at night and motivates me to wake up in the morning.

APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

KG: Provide a daily value to the listeners. Such an easy thing to say and so hard to execute. The app world is a meritocracy and the best utility wins.

APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

KG: Variable device sizes! Making a single application feel good in so many form factors. Its hard, but a testament to good designers. Ours are incredible.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

KG: Display ads and selling advanced features (like recording).

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

KG: Listen to the people who love you and communicate often with those who dont. Welcome the challenging learning process that pushes innovation to the ledge. You can learn so much from the community and if you listen, you might just create the best new application. Feedback is so accessible and almost real time. This is a tool, use it.

APPO: Where do you see the app sector one year from now? Five years from now?

KG: I hope that cellphones help us control almost everything in our life. No more plastic credit cards, house keys, forms of identification. Im looking forward to my purse becoming outdated, and my whole life controlled by the little device that fits in my pocket.

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Stitcher Radio - News and Talk keeps you tuned in

Android has a plethora of podcast radio apps so it can become overwhelming trying to find the perfect one. Even Google has dipped its toes in the Internet broadcasting phenomenon with their app, Listen. Unfortunately, the search giants offering has its own shortcomings. Featuring an intuitive layout, radio discovery app Stitcher provides a great alternative for your favorite podcasts and radio.

As with most apps, a sign-up is required. For social network eccentrics, Stitcher allows for Facebook sign-in and integration so you can easily notify (or annoy) your buddies with a stream of your latest tunes. For those wary of throwing their information to other companies, you can also log-in with a valid email account. While not totally innovative, Stitchers inclusion of a social connection can help you find like-minded listeners.

Upon startup, Stitcher attempts to discover your personal likes by offering you a wide array of genres. From tech to world news, I easily found myself adding stations to my favorites that piqued my interest. You can also browse by specific interest or straight from sources. The amount of talk shows on offer is huge, and there is something for any taste.

Discovering new stations is extremely easy. Aside from browsing the included channels, you can view what everyone else is listening to with the Front Page panel. From headline news, whats hot and whats new it keeps listeners socially aware. Of course, you can always manually search for your favorite broadcasting show.

Just be aware, as Stitcher uses your wireless provider, the radio podcasts can be a bit of a data guzzler if left unchecked. Tiered data plans may feel the hurt, though music streaming isnt as large as say, videos. Listening to a station is smooth and clear and Ive yet to encounter any stutters.

The killer feature that keeps Googles Listen a step above Stitcher is offline listening. While its nothing an update cant fix, the omission of this can leave you stranded if youre without a data connection. The addition of offline listening should have been a no-brainer, but Stitchers developers managed to drop the ball with this one.

Though not thoroughly intuitive, the app is semi-optimized for tablet. I say semi because only the Front Page layout has been used to take advantage of the larger screen. What originally was the home page for smartphones is easily laid to the left side of the screen and acts as a toolbar. With the larger space, more stations are shown on the screen. Unfortunately, everything else is left with the phone layout.

If youre looking for a fresh podcast discovery app, tune in with Stitcher Radio. Though it has some missteps, the ability to discover new shows is incredibly easy.

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Ski Safari is a long and wild ride

Ski Safari does not really feature a safari, at least not if I'm understanding the word correctly, but it is a pretty fun game that will manage to keep you occupied for ten or so minutes at a time... Or more, if you're really, really good at it.

Ski Safari is an incredibly simple game. You ride down a 2-D mountain (it's a side-scroller) on skis while an avalanche chases you. Also, you can jump and do flips. Oh, and along the way down the mountain, which may or may not go on forever (the avalanche always caught me), you will encounter penguins and yetis that you can ride on, and if you ride through a cabin, you might just come out the other side on a snowmobile.

It's good to ride on things, because they make you go faster, and if you don't go faster, the avalanche hits you.

The objective, as with most phone games, is to get a high score. The longer you go, the higher your score will be, but you also get bonuses for doing flips and collecting coins and riding on things. So you'll want to do that stuff.

There is joy to be found in this game, and its simplicity is a virtue. It's the kind of mindless game that can keep you occupied for any stretch of time, but it's so slight that you may forget it's on your phone. But you'll enjoy yourself when you do remember to pick it up and give it another go.

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New Android apps worth downloading: Insomniac, Pocket Planes, Indestructible

Here are three great Android apps to enjoy. Insomniac, who produce festivals across North America like the Electric Daily Festival, now have their own dedicated Android app. Weve also got two fun games to consider. Pocket Planes sees you managing an airport and its fleet while Indestructible will see you indulging your appetite for mass vehicular destruction multiplayer-style.

Insomniac (Free)

Whats it about? Insomniac, who produce innovative music festivals around North America including the very popular Electric Daisy Festival, now have an official Android app.

Whats cool? This app acts as an all-encompassing guide to Insomniacs future festivals including Beyond Wonderland, EDC, Nocturnal Wonderland, Escape from Wonderland and White Wonderland. It includes maps, set times and other up-to-the-minute information about things like ticket sales or line-ups.

Who is it for? People who love their music festivals (and particularly like to attend the ones organized by Insomniac) will certainly get a kick out of this new mobile app. A few recent reviews in Google Play complain of force close issues, so be wary before downloading or look out for an app update soon.

Whats it like? Clearly, Insomniac are only going to be concerned with the festivals theyre organizing and promoting. Often there are individual apps for all the music festivals occurring during the year, but an app like Festivals by Last.fm covers a number of them.

Pocket Planes (Free)

Whats it about? The hit game on iOS (from Mobage, the makers of Tiny Tower) now has a place on Android (and in our hearts, naturally).

Whats cool? In Pocket Planes, you manage and grow a fleet of planes as they fly interesting people and cargo to over 250 cities around the map. You can customize your planes with your own paint jobs and pilot uniforms, trade planes with friends, and see how you stack up against them on the leaderboards.

Who is it for? Pocket Planes is one of those titles that encourages you to unlock more and more stuff as you go starting with tiny planes all the way up to huge jumbo jets, and from small towns up to massive cities. You can play tactically or spend some money along the way to unlock things more quickly.

Whats it like? There are a few other airport sims in Google Play like Airport Mania XP Free and Airport City, and Mobage themselves publish all manner of addictive freemium titles.

Indestructible (Free)

Whats it about? Indestructible is a fun, frantic 3-D online multiplayer action game where you get to engage in some vehicular combat.

Whats cool? Hit the road and leave your opponents in heap of wrecked, smoking metal in Indestructibles four-player real-time multiplayer mode. There are three unique game modes: Capture the Flag, Death Match and Recover the Charge with high-quality graphics and many ways to customize your vehicle and its weaponry.

Who is it for? As is common with Glu Mobile, the game is free to play, but in-app purchases are available so you can buy more items to gain that competitive edge. With its crazy stunts and advanced physics engine, multiplayer fans should enjoy this one.

Whats it like? Did we mention Twisted Metal yet? Theres no denying that Indestructible bears a bit of a passing resemblance to the classic Sony PlayStation vehicle combat game. Theres also Death Rally FREE in Google Play, but admittedly, that focuses more on the racing element of things.

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Selasa, 25 September 2012

Save old photos to your Android in a snap with the the ShoeBox app

My in-laws were just over at my house this weekend for Mothers Day and we happened to get on the subject of old high school photos. I whipped out my box full of photos that was in no way organized, and my mother-in-law made a comment (Ill let you imagine what the comment was). Had I known about the free ShoeBox app for Android sooner, I wouldnt have had to bear the scolding I received via one glance about my disorganization (okay, well I guess I gave it away).

So basically this savvy photography app makes it super easy for you to scan in old photos you have laying around the housesay inside, maybe, some old shoeboxes. Aptly named app, yes? Once you take a digital image of your paper photo, the app helps you crop it with amazing edge detection. Although the edge detection didnt always work perfectly for me, it was easy to instead crop photos by dragging the edges to where I wanted them.

You can create a new album on your phone to organize photos and/or upload straight to Facebook for all your friends and family to enjoy. For newer photos, the scan quality isnt the best of the best. But for older photos, it works just fine. Older photos have a distinct color quality to them that you just cant get anymore with this newfangled technology. Everything is just so crisp and clear these days!

The app gives you free storage for an unlimited amount of photos. So if you have some old photos laying around that you want to share, start scanning them now with the ShoeBox app for Android.

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A look at some of the best MMORPGs for Android devices

MMO (massive multiplayer online) games have been very popular for the PC and other gaming consoles for years. Recently, I began a search for MMOs to play on my Android phone so I could get some action away from the computer.

There are many types of MMO such as RPG (role-playing game) and RTS (real-time strategy). For this list, I will cover RPGs. In most of these games you play as a character you create. You choose the characters class (fighter, burglar, magician and so on) and then you go explore the a massive and expansive world. As you move through the world, you need to complete quests for experience and items and team up with other players as needed. The more you play, the more your character grows. To my surprise, there are a lot of MMORPGs for Android devices. Some have done an excellent job of cramming those huge, beautiful, massive worlds into a tiny device! If you like playing MMO games on your computer, consider these Android games.

Order & Chaos ($6.99)

Order and & Chaos from Gameloft is a beautifully done game. The graphics are nicely done; the game interface does not take up too much room, and makes it easy to find the menus. If you have experience playing MMORPGs on the computer, this game should be easy to pick up. Recent updates have added more dungeons and maps to the game and cross-platform capabilities.

Navigating your character is done via the virtual joystick and the game has pinch to zoom capabilities. I had no troubles moving my character, finding where I had to go, locating items in my bags, fighting creatures and interacting with the other players. Overall, its a very smooth and pleasant gaming experience.

There are two key things to know about Order & Chaos. Firstly, this game is the most expensive. After your initial purchase, you get three months free access, after that it will cost you as little as $0.50 per month. The game also has in app purchases. Secondly, this game is not playable on tablets. Hopefully this will change in the near future.

Earth And Legend ($4.99)

This was one of the more intriguing games. From the previews and reviews it looked fantastic and a game to try. Earth And Legend is not a bad game, but it is one that will take some time to figure out. The graphics and the virtual world are excellent. It always seemed to be raining when I played, though!

I did not find the tutorial very helpful and the game interface seemed not to exist at all. I eventually did find the buttons. To move your character you need to use the virtual joystick and there is no pinch to zoom. You can switch from first to third person. The game did not have any visible map or way to show you where to go. There is a map button you can gain access to see where you are in the world, but I had a hard time figuring out where to go.

As you move through the world, characters with exclamation marks have quests and the green dialog box indicate you can talk with them. You definitely do a lot of exploring here and there are a great number of quests. I found the game a bit choppy and difficult to move my character around. The game is broken up into two parts, a single player game and a multiple player game. The multiple player game is via Bluetooth, but I had to go to their website to figure that out. So this title is probably more of an RPG game.

Star Legends (Free) / Pocket Legends (Free)

Both of these excellent games are from Spacetime Studios. Star Legends is a space-themed MMO, while Pocket Legends is more fantasy-based. Both games are free and contain in app purchases that can be used for items, maps/quests and so on. When you first join, you can log-in as an unregistered player or create an account. A really, really cool feature is that you can now play the same game on your computer (via the Chrome browser) or on your Android device!

The graphics are excellent and gameplay is very smooth. There is a lot going on in the game but the interface is done in a way that does not take up too much real estate. The pinch to zoom feature works well. Both the website and game have very helpful tutorials. A nice little arrow appears under your character to show you the way to go. To interact with others (characters or objects) simply tap on them and a new window will open up. To attack, simply select the target and fire (auto fire is also available). Star Legends is a great game to try if you are new to MMOs. After a few minutes, you should get the hang of it.

The World of Magic (Free)

This is another free MMO, with in app purchases available. As with the other games, you can select your character class and enter a tutorial section before hitting the real game. The graphics in this game are much more cartoon-like and cute. A recent update has improved the graphics and layout, but for me the screen is very busy and you can easily get lost. To move you have to use a virtual game pad and there is no pinch to zoom. The interface, though faded out some, cannot be hidden and takes up too much real estate. To interact with someone, simply tap on the character and a dialog window will open.

In The World of Magic, there is a lot to explore and do. Every time I was playing, there always seemed to be a lot of other players online. I did like their menu section where you can pull up a map to see where you are and where you needed to go. Unfortunately for me, with the very busy screen and tiny fonts, I had a very hard time getting into the game.

Each of these MMOs provides the player with a vast virtual world to explore and conquer, providing for many hours of gameplay. In every game you can create a unique character and level them up by battling creatures and completing quests. Each game is very different in its game interfaces and cost. So if you are new and want to explore MMOs, try Star Legends. If you love MMORPGs and want that traditional type gameplay on Android, try Order & Chaos.

Rhapsodys mobile strategy is bigger than offline playlists

Music when you want it, where you want it. Rhapsody is all about access, recently updating its cloud music service to support offline playlists for Android users. Its a small step in the grand scheme of things, but puts Rhapsody on par with rivals like Spotify, making offline access an emerging standard amongst music cloud providers.

Rhapsody has been struggling to regain prominence and users, after suffering a decline in subscribed users over recent years. Plenty changed at Rhapsody lately. It gained independence from MTV Networks/Viacom and tweaked products and prices, including a subscription price cut around the time Rhapsodys Android app first launched in 2010. Now Rhapsody turns to the mobile cloud for a second chance at the top, differentiating their experience around access and recommendations.

Right music, anywhere

That means Rhapsody isnt just about delivering music on-demand, but delivering the right music. Mobile gives Rhapsody a fresh opportunity to grow its distribution channels, adding context to a music service that initially centered around streaming radio. The music cloud has become far more personal since, storing user playlists, friends and activity as well.

The majority of subscription users come through mobile, says Paul Springer, SVP of Product and Design at Rhapsody. Weve seen slow and steady growth over the last 18 months, and that includes offline playback.

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What comes after mobile?

Indeed, mobile is a promising reset button for many consumer services that leverage the cloud, but where does Rhapsody go from here? Apps are notorious for their limited functionality and usually require a significant amount of activity to personalize. Even Spotify faced criticism for leaving out features originally found on their desktop version, and this is an obstacle for Rhapsody as well.

Springer notes one pattern hes seen: people consume music via mobile but are more likely to manage it on the desktop. But I know for certain that Id do more playlist and preference management on my mobile device if the functionality were there. So while Rhapsody is making strides in the mobile space, it still has a ways to go to fully catch up to the likes of Pandora and Spotify when it comes to mobile access. Their absent iPad app is surely impacting their goals for total access music, but fortunately they have one in the works.

Rhapsody: the melody of metadata

But instead of just playing catch up, Rhapsody wants to leap ahead of the competition through personalized recommendations. To Rhapsodys benefit their music service has a very broad distribution channel beyond smartphones and tablets, streaming through connected cars, televisions, set top boxes and wireless entertainment centers. In business for over a decade, Rhapsody has had time to build up an extensive database of consumer activity. Thats something Spotify doesnt have yet, as demonstrated by the short-sightedness of their recently launched radio service.

Rhapsody may be leveraging connected devices at large, but theyre really writing a data story as a central theme. Were looking to enhance editorial for songs and artists, Springer says.

That means more curated content, more playlists to subscribe to, more recommendations that look beyond mainstream trends and tap into the unique DNA behind your music preferences and listening behavior. It means Rhapsody is turning into a consumer-driven service, a far cry from the type of business it was, or couldve been, ten years ago.

Expect to see that data unlocked, hints Springer, talking about Rhapsodys plans to contextualize its treasure of consumer information for the greater good. What we do differently is combine man and machine.

Machinarium is an incredibly well thought-out adventure game

Movie critic Robert Ebert once claimed that movies will never be art. While its doubtful games like Angry Birds will ever grace art galas, a title like Amanita Designs Machinarium proves time and time again that the video game medium can be as emotionally engaging as a beautifully crafted painting. With Machinarium, Amanita Design takes everything that makes point-and-click adventures great and packages it with stunning art direction.

Machinariums story is not overly complex. After being dumped and abandoned in a scrapyard, youll follow the trail of an unnamed robot as he makes his way back home. Not one word of dialogue is spoken during the course of the game, and most of the story is told through gestures and thought bubbles. This fundamental principle makes Machinarium unique and does not detract at all from the story.

Right from the start, youll notice Machinariums gorgeous art direction. Like stepping into a graphic novel, the 2-D penciled characters and background depicts how much thought Amanita Design put into crafting this game. The steam punk dystopian (future?) setting of Machinarium is hauntingly beautiful. Upon first stepping into the city in the game, I was taken aback by the details on even the most minor things. Pipes, steel and cold metal drape the city into a blanket of steel I was just as impressed with the visuals of Machinarium as seeing current generation console graphics for the first time.

Like death and taxes, point-and-click controls on touchscreens have become expected in mobile gaming. Almost to the point of saturation, most point and click (tap) games have slowly become a random hide-and-seek guessing game. Thankfully, Machinarium is a step above games in its own genre. Instead of the usual trial and error, the puzzles contained within the game rely on logic and common sense. Aside from the first few areas, the obstacles youll face are consistently difficult. Youll find yourself backtracking a number of times as you piece together smaller pieces of a puzzle into grander challenges.

As difficult as Machinarium is, the developers throws you a bone in a form of a two-tiered hint system. One is a thought bubble on how the little robot completely concludes the area. The second system acts as a journal, a visual step-by-step guide on how players can solve the puzzle. To access the journal is a little more difficult: the developer puts the player into a shooter mini-game. This get very tedious, and once youve opened the book, youll be prompted to play again, even in the same area.

One incredibly small gripe is how the game is not fully landscape. On tablets, the status bar reverts into portrait mode. While the developers implemented this to prevent accidental presses, I actually found myself touching the area by accident. The placement of the menu and hint buttons makes it relatively close to the status bar and once it becomes visible, it no longer fades back to black. A minor annoyance, but still worth addressing.

That said, only a select few will only be able to enjoy this classic. As the game is massive in scope, so is its size, literally. Android smartphones will have to take a back seat as it is only available on tablets. Though its a shame the masses wont be enjoying this well-crafted masterpiece, its quite understandable. As most of the interactable items are quite small, the limited sizes of phones would just detract from the experience.

If you didnt play Machinarium on PC a few years back, I highly suggest you pick up this port. Amanita Design has created a stunning game thats engaging as well as fun. If youre looking for a game with a more substance and direction, you will fall head-over-heels in love with Machinarium.

Discover more great Android games here

New Android apps worth downloading: Netflix update, Vellamo Mobile Benchmark, Voxel Invaders

Here are three great Android apps to enjoy. The new Netflix update for Android matches the functionality offered by the iOS version by bringing the smartphone app more in tune with the tablet offering. Vellamo Mobile Benchmark has been around for a while, but got a great new UI design and some new test to try out. Finally, Voxel Invaders is a fun space-based old-school shoot-em-up which brings Space Invaders into the 21st century.

Netflix update (Free)

Whats it about? Just like its iOS counterpart, the Netflix Android app just got an update to mimic some the functionality of the tablet version.

Whats cool? At the top of the browse screen are some new options, like the ability to continue viewing shows or movies that you previously started watching right where you left off. The Instant Queue is now presented on the home screen just below your Top 10 list, and further down there are several personalized rows with movie and TV show recommendations.

Who is it for? The app and its new update works on devices running Android versions 2.2 and above. Subscribers of Netflix should appreciate these new enhancements.

Whats it like? There are a few similar apps to Netflix in Google Play like Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Crackle - Movies & TV and Googles own Movies & TV service.

Vellamo Mobile Benchmark (Free)

Whats it about? With a fresh, new redesign, Vellamo Mobile Benchmark from Qualcomm is a great way to test the performance of your Android device and compare it to others.

Whats cool? As well as a brand new user interface, Vellamo will now benchmark HTML5 video, DOM performance, web page load/reload, and WebGL. It supports both ARM and x86 processors and evaluates scrolling and zooming, 3-D graphics, video performance, memory read/write and peak bandwidth performance.

Who is it for? People who like to tweak their devices for the most speed possible, especially if rooted, will definitely dig Vellamo Mobile Benchmark. But it can be valuable for anyone who just wants an idea of where their device excels or perhaps falls short.

Whats it like? There are a few other benchmarking apps available like AnTuTu Benchmark, Quadrant Standard Edition, CPU Benchmark and numerous others. So even though Vellamo is one of the prettiest, there are others to try if it doesnt work out for you.

Voxel Invaders ($2.49)

Whats it about? Heres a fun new take on the old classic Space Invaders but with some cool graphics and neat 3-D effects.

Whats cool? The game faithfully recreates the old-school action youre used to, but its fresh 3-D look enables you to move your ship in four directions to dodge enemies while you blast them. There are 24 levels containing more than 140 stages so theres certainly plenty of bang for your two-and-a-half bucks.

Who is it for? Voxel Invaders will certainly appeal to fans of the original Space Invaders, but even if you never played that, its still a fun blaster with lots to enjoy. There are nine different weapons, three difficulty levels and simple one-touch controls, and the vintage sound effects are fun.

Whats it like? Check out Space Invaders Infinity Gene for a really great take on the original or else look to Radiant or even Velocispider which we featured just yesterday!

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Senin, 24 September 2012

Waiting for the mobile core gaming revolution

N.O.V.A. 3Mobile gaming is a great thing. I am a big believer in the phone as a major gaming platform. And it is a major gaming platform. The NPD Group revealed this month that for the first time ever, there are more mobile gamers than core gamers right now, which means there are more people playing games on their phones than there are playing games on their Xbox 360s, PlayStation 3s and PCs combined.

There is no denying the appeal of mobile gaming at this point in history, and so I won't even try. People like that they can pick up and play these games anywhere, and for a short amount of time if they so desire. Mobile gaming doesn't have the same time requirements that core gaming does, and these games are easier to figure out how to play than on an Xbox controller. Even a game like N.O.V.A. 3, which apes core games, only has three buttons with which to deal.

Some obstacles remain

There is a debate within the gaming world about whether or not mobile gaming can ever truly replace core gaming. I think that, yes, it is possible, but not if mobile game development continues the way it is now.

Modern Combat 3Phones these days have some truly amazing graphical power, as demonstrated by a lot of Gameloft's catalog. They've got the Modern Combat, Gangstar and the aforementioned N.O.V.A. franchises, along with the recent Dark Knight Rises game, looking great and really pushing the hardware. These games, which cost a tenth the price of their console counterparts, feel like real games that core gamers can latch on to.

But very few other games, outside of those produced by Electronic Arts, carry production values that rival what Gameloft puts out, and that's because the price points for mobile gaming are so low. At the high end, you have Square Enix selling old Final Fantasy games for $15.99, but most everything else is under $7. Plus, games like Modern Combat sell only a small amount compared with the most popular mobile games. Most of the folks who make mobile games simply don't see the point in making an investment in high-definition games.

And so we find ourselves in a world in which our shiny new phones (I bought a Galaxy Nexus this year) are nearly as powerful as an Xbox 360, but we don't have enough games that really take advantage of the hardware. Most of the games I play on my phone, in fact, could run on phones that are several years old. That seems like it would make commercial sense the wider your potential audience, the better, right? But think about this: in the three-and-a-half months since the release of the Galaxy SIII, it has sold more than 20 million units. Samsung, with its line of powerful Galaxy phones, has a higher smartphone market share than even Apple. The install base for some really high-end games really is there.

Are hardcore gamers being left behind?

The reason there is a debate about mobile gaming taking over from core gaming is because the core gamers don't feel as if mobile developers are making games for them. Sure, there are the previously mentioned Gameloft and EA games, but when people think of mobile gaming they think of simpler titles Iike Angry Birds and Bejeweled. Arcade-style games are not the overwhelming focus of the mobile world, and the people who enjoy Mass Effect, for example, don't see what they're looking for in a game in the mobile sphere.

The Dark Knight RisesEA, which is primarily a core gaming company, is investing in mobile games because they're hedging their bets. If mobile gaming does take over, they want to make sure they have a piece of it. The reason we don't have more games that push the phone tech to the edge is because other core games companies aren't going there, and that's likely because they don't want to sell content so cheaply. But that's leaving mobile gaming in a hole.

Until a much larger portion of the mobile gaming market consists of console-quality, AAA-level games, we won't see a rush of core gamers to this platform as consumers or as small time developers. If only more developers would see the low price points of mobile games as an advantage: on average, a core gamer buys one big game a year, but they could buy many games at a lower price.

What it comes down to, though, is that most of the companies that would be able to put real money into mobile development simply don't want to do it. They'll probably come around. How long it takes for that to happen is anyone's guess, though.

New Android apps worth downloading: Roku update, Velocispider, Subway Surfers

Here are three great Android apps to start the week off right. The latest Roku app update lets you stream music and photographs from your Android device directly to your TV, which is a really nice addition. Weve got two great games today: Velocispider is a fun, retro-style arcade shooter in which you get to play as a monster which is part-dinosaur, part spider. Subway Surfers is an endless running game set in a train yard with easy swipe controls and colorful cartoon-style graphics.

Roku update (Free)

Whats it about? The latest update to this app lets you stream music or photos from your Android device to your TV via your Roku box sweet!

Whats cool? In addition to its capabilities as a remote control (which is far easier to use than the tiny one supplied with the Roku), this new update adds a whole new dimension. Now you can stream music direct to your TV or show off photos from your smartphone on the big screen. In addition, this update includes the ability to add channels via voice, improves device discovery, and fixes a few bugs.

Who is it for? If youre a Roku user, this app is a handy way to make using the device more straightforward (having a touchscreen keyboard is a real bonus, for example). The streaming photos/music capability works on Roku 2 and above so if youre still using one of the original boxes (like yours truly), youre out of luck. Still, the other updates are cool!

Whats it like? There are a few other third-party Roku remote apps out there, so they could be worth trying if the official one doesnt work out for you.

Velocispider (Free)

Whats it about? Ever wanted to play as a part-spider, part-dinosaur hybrid? Now you can with this retro-style arcade shooter.

Whats cool? Your endangered eggs have attracted the taste buds of the evil CEO of the Robot Seafood Corporation who will stop at nothing to feast on them. You must defend your eggs from his relentless army of aquatic robot beasts through 20 levels of retro arcade-style action. This ones been out for a while on iOS, so were glad to see it ported to Android.

Who is it for? Fans of old-school arcade shoot-em-ups should enjoy Velocispider. Its 16-bit visuals and good sense of humor alongside its cut-scenes make it a blast to play. Definitely one for those who love games like Space Invaders, Galaga, and Defender.

Whats it like? Google Play has a number of good old-school shooters like Velocispider, so check out titles like R-Type, Space Invaders Infinity Gene or Centipede Origins if you need a retro gaming fix.

Subway Surfers (Free)

Whats it about? Another iOS hit comes to Android! This is a fun, free endless runner which keeps things simple but is also very addictive.

Whats cool? You play as a kid running away from a grumpy railway inspector and his dog after youre caught spraying graffiti. You need to leap over trains or dodge them using simple swipe controls and see how far you can get until you die. Along the way, youll pick up coins, jetpacks, use hoverboards, big-jump boots and complete daily challenges.

Who is it for? Its definitely one for fans of endless running games. Its easy to pick up and play, the controls are simple, and the mission system a bit like that in Jetpack Joyride, always encouraging you to play one more game.

Whats it like? The game takes its inspiration from Temple Run, especially with its over-the-shoulder perspective and one more chance gameplay if you gently hit something.

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Minggu, 23 September 2012

The Bards Tale tops Android Games of the Week

We had some great surprise hits this week, not the least of which is a port of The Bards Tale. Its a great, humor-based action RPG that pits you in the role of a vulgar anti-hero, and its just awesome all around. Weve also got several great iOS ports, from the challenging and unique platformer To-Fu 2, to the creative arcade style retro shooter Velocispider. We also have Ubisofts very own retro revival of the original Prince of Persia, plus more. Here are this weeks top Android games.

The Bards Tale ($5.95)

This is an RPG that is the exact opposite of epic, heroic or charming. In it, you play as a vulgar and lewd Bard, voiced by Cary Elwes no less, who gets wrapped up in something bigger than himself, but never really becomes a hero. This is a port of the action RPG of 2004 which is based on the original Bards Tale trilogy of the eighties. The best part? The original games actually come with this one as a bonus. They arent all done yet, but theyll arrive in time. The gameplay is solid enough, but the humor, randomness and music really drive this game, and are worth the price of admission alone. It may not be everyones cup of tea, but it definitely should be.

To-Fu 2 (Free)

This is the excellent sequel to To-Fu: The Trials of Chi, and both games were ported to Android by the same developers of Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack, DevolverDigital. Its a brilliant little challenge-based platformer with completely unorthodox controls. You play as a block of tofu, and move around by stretching and launching yourself around the level, collecting gems and getting to the end. Eventually you have to deal with spikes, moving platforms, slippery glass surfaces, bouncy metal surfaces, portals and much more. Its a solid game with solid design, worth checking out.

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Velocispider ($0.99)

Originally developed for iOS by studio Retro Dreamer, this modern take on Space Invaders is excellent in just about every way. Its taken a while, but Im grateful to Noodlecake Studios for porting this title over to Android. In it, you play as a Velocispider mother who is desperately defending her delectable eggs from a rich and evil villain who wants Velocispider eggs for breakfast. You have two goals: to avoid being hit three times, and to keep all three eggs from being snatched away. The retro visuals are gorgeous, using a nice cool color palate, and its all backed up by a very catchy soundtrack. If youre looking for an arcade-style game, this is your title. There is a free version as well.

Prince of Persia Classic ($0.99)

Ubisoft has finally brought this retro/modern mishmash title to Android. Essentially, its a remake of the very original Prince of Persia game, which was more of a challenge-based platformer/puzzler that came long before the acclaimed Sands of Time trilogy of action/adventure games on PlayStation 2. The cool thing is that the remake uses modern visuals, adapting the same visual style as the newer Prince of Persia games. Its a solid game that requires careful and cautious progress, though the controls may be a deal breaker for many people, as they are rather clunky. Feel free to test the waters (or sands, rather) with the free version instead!

Music Samurai ($1.04)

This is an interesting title from studio Pixel Punch, who have a fantastic logo, by the way. Its a music and rhythm game that takes the Guitar Hero lane-based mechanics and adapts them to work perfectly on a touch screen. The answer was pretty obvious actually Just have two lanes and turn them sideways. As you hit notes, your samurai character will cut down foe after foe, trying to get to the dastardly man who stole his rice bowls. This game is very original, and a breath of fresh air, but its not really a music and rhythm game most of the time. It looks like one, and plays like one, but the notes dont seem to ever sync up with the actual music. Still, its pretty fun, and there is a free version to try out as well.

Sabtu, 22 September 2012

Android App Video Review: McPixel

McPixel is one of the most bizarre and entertaining games to come out this year. From the moment of its inception by developer SOS, it was destined to be a cult classic. To put it in a nutshell, it's a challenge based point and click adventure game that thrives on random situational humor, mostly at the expense of its main character, McPixel. Its retro aesthetics are the very opposite of pleasing, yet match the quirkiness of the game perfectly. This is definitely the game to get if you want something a bit different.

So essentially, it's up to you to stop explosions. lots and lots of explosions. In each level of each level pack, you'll have twenty seconds to interact with your environment to prevent whatever explosive is around, whether it's throwing a torpedo out the window of a submarine (defying all logic), or sacrificing a virgin to the angry volcano god. If you find all the jokes and gags in the six levels in a pack, you also get a bonus level. There are four worlds with three level packs each, an ending world, and an endless mode that lets you replay old levels.

To be honest, the randomness of the puzzles can be a bit frustrating at times, but that's all part of the charm. How were you to know that you had to smack that DJ with something so that he'd throw his record at you, miss, and cut someone's afro in half, carrying the bomb out of the club? Odd combinations and chains of events like this are often the solution, but brilliantly, some puzzles are absolutely blatant and clear as day about the solution, only you might be conditioned not to try the obvious solution at that point. This game is just packed with hilarity and variety, and it's completely original to boot. If you still have reservations, there is a lite version to try. Otherwise, McPixel can currently be yours for the price of three dollars.

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Jumat, 21 September 2012

New Android apps worth downloading: Coachs Eye, DICKs Sporting Goods, The Bards Tale

Here are three great Android apps to take you into the weekend. Coachs Eye is for all those budding athletes out there who want to analyze their technique using slow-motion video. Keeping with the sports theme, we have the DICKs Sporting Goods Android app so you can shop with ease and keep track of your rewards. Finally, weve got The Bards Tale, a satircal, epic RPG with a great sense of humor and the ability to really make you chuckle.

Coachs Eye ($4.99)

Whats it about? Coachs Eye provides athletes a method to improve their technique using slow-motion video.

Whats cool? The app offers an effective way for anyone to coach or learn form and technique. A pitcher can improve their fastball, or a golfer can analyze their swing. Its easy to break down a volleyball or tennis serve, or improve soccer skills. Coach's Eye provides video capture with slow-motion review, drawing tools and easy sharing

Who is it for? Coachs Eye is ideal for people who play sports (or their coaches/instructors of course), whether professional or amateur. At $4.99, its a lot cheaper than thousands of dollars of video equipment. The app has already been a hit on iOS.

Whats it like? I know theres a Tiger Woods analyze my swing app on iOS, but at least there is iSwing on Android which offers similar functionality, just without the famous name.

DICKs Sporting GoodsMobile (Free)

Whats it about? As well as allowing you to shop for athletic gear at DSG.com, this new app also lets you track and manage your rewards.

Whats cool? There is full access to all the stuff available at DICKs Sporting Goods, or you can find a store nearby. You can get news and info on all the companys latest products or manage your ScoreCard Rewards, which turn into cash the more gear you buy.

Who is it for? People familiar with DICKs Sporting Goods will be happy to see a dedicated app on Android, especially because it means more opportunities to earn rewards. At the same time, anyone who likes to shop for sporting apparel or athletic gear may find its a handy app to have around.

Whats it like? There arent too many other sporting goods retailers offering their apps in Google Play, but the big boys like Zappos, Buy.com, Amazon Mobile and Shopper are good alternatives.

The Bards Tale (Free)

Whats it about? This huge, sprawling, satirical and entertaining role-playing game will see you embarking on numerous quests for coins and cleavage (oh my!).

Whats cool? The game features 20-30 hours of action, according to the developers, with 50 enemy types, a vast world to explore, 16 magical characters to discover, loads of special bosses and over 14 hours of quality voice-acting from familiar Hollywood names like Cary Elwes and Tony Jay.

Who is it for? Theres a distinct sense of humor here throughout, so some of the games bawdy references might not be appropriate for kids, but its all tongue-in-cheek fun. IMG called it easily the funniest game Ive played. By the way, the app description says its a 14MB download, but once installed, youll need 1.7GB of free space. Thats probably not so funny if you dont have enough room!

Whats it like? There are plenty of RPGs out there, but few have the same sense of humor and irreverence of The Bards Tale.

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Kamis, 20 September 2012

Chameleon Launcher tops Android Apps of the Week

We lead off this weeks selection with Chameleon Launcher. It came out of beta and is available to all tablet owners who want to spice-up their home screens with a great-looking launcher. Also this week, CallApp reemerged in Google Play after some time away, Bloomberg released a great business/finance news radio app, Rhapsody got a handy update and Sonar wants to help you find friends nearby with common interests. Here are this weeks best Android apps.

Chameleon Launcher for Tablets ($10.00)

Chameleon Launcher is a great new launcher for Android tablets. It lets you create multiple home screens, each with your own layout of widgets and apps. The in-built widgets are beautiful looking and help create a uniform look and feel which is easy to customize. The overall appearance of the launcher is very slick, but the price is steep at ten bucks. Still, Chameleon Launcher is an exciting new app with plenty of room for growth and enhancement. Whether youre willing to pony up the cash right now though is up to you.

CallApp Contact Caller Dialer (Free)

Interestingly enough, this apps previous incarnation was featured a few months back in both our Apps of the Week and daily picks, but it soon got pulled from Google Play. However, its now back from its hiatus and boasts several new features. The app still remains a kind of supercharged caller ID, offering detailed information about who youre calling (or whos calling you), by pulling information from various social networks and the web. This new incarnation includes enhanced search capabilities and a reminders section. Were happy to see it back.

Bloomberg Radio+ (Free)

With their compelling news apps for both smartphone and tablet, it was only a matter of time before Bloomberg brought their popular Manhattan-based radio service to Google Play in app form. Its a good one, too, offering streaming business and economics news 24/7, as well as many archived shows available on-demand. Also, It offers the latest market data with a customized scrolling ticker, bios of guests, and the ability to listen to shows offline. Its a great app for people looking for deep insight and in-depth coverage on financial issues.

Rhapsody update (Free, requires subscription)

One of the earliest players in the subscription music game, Rhapsody just released version 3.0 of its Android app. The app still offers unlimited, streaming high-quality music for a fixed monthly fee but its a new feature that will be most welcome to long-time users: finally its possible to download music for offline listening, something other services have offered for a while. Another nice addition is the ability to designate where you want to store said music, either to the internal phone/tablet storage or to the removable storage-card (if available).

Sonar: Friends Nearby (Free)

Heres an app we showcased a while ago, but were happy to see it finally emerge from beta and become available for everyone. Sonar helps you find friends and like-minded people nearby. You log-in with Facebook or Foursquare and the app learns who your friends are and what kind of things you like. Then, it uses GPS to detect people who are close by and who share common interests. Conversely, you can set your own status message and let other users come to you, if they like what they see. Sonar could be useful at the next conference, trade show, or live event you attend.

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