Monday, 21 January 2013

Ingress Invite Landed (And What To Expect When It's Public)

Ingress. One word that gets Google Fans excited and annoyed at the same time. I was one of the annoyed but when my invite came, I become one of the enlightened.
So, what is Ingress? It's the game to get people out of the house and gets Google lots more information for their maps. There are two groups in this game. The enlightened and the resistance. What you need to do is to get out of the house and search for XM and Portals. XM is exotic matter that helps you interact with portals. They are little white dots on your map that when you are close to them, they can be collected. Portals are points that you want your team to control. To control these portals, you need to hack them. When you hack these portals, you get items like portal keys or resonators. Resonators can be deployed to upgrade your portal. You will need friends to upgrade you portals to level two and upwards. Resonators deplete every day and it costs XM to recharge them. You can only recharge them remotely if you have the corresponding portal key. You can also link portals to enhance your strength and make control fields. Do not worry, this is all explained in the tutorial.
The tutorial in this game is very informative and simple to understand. You will have to walk around to complete the tutorials but you have to walk to play this game so it doesn't matter too much. After the tutorial, you will be asked what team you want to join. There is some information on what each team stand for but that doesn't matter too much. You don't need background information to join Team Red in Team Fortress 2.
I have started to play the full and I was involved when I was visiting Canterbury; there were some portals at points of interest (i.e the West Gate). But now I am at home in a borough of London; there is not much to do. No Portals, just XM. As this is a beta game, there is an option to try to get portals in your area by sharing GPS linked photos to Ingress which will help improve the game and improve Google's Maps software for places of interest.
The game is exciting and great in a big area of interest. It is a great way to meet mobile gamers like yourself. And start rivalry Ingress gangs in your area. When this goes public and has many more players and more portals, it will be a big following. Just think, Ingress on Google Glass.
So, should you sign up to the beta? You need to. I would recommend it to everyone who likes mobile gaming and wants to try the future of it. If you can't wait, I can personally invite you as a reader of this blog and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I hope to see you in the Ingress world.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Android 4.2. What does the new flavour of Jelly Bean taste like?

All the Nexus faithful have received the fruits from their Google labour and have had a taste of the new flavour of jelly bean (except the Nexus S, you have lost support). Including me with my Nexus 7. What's new and what is worth the update? All will be revealed.

The Good: Multi User Support
For most households, you share the one tablet. It could be your remote and TV guide on the coffee table or just the small computer that you all share for surfing the web and playing games. Now 4.2 has multi user log in. This is like your home computer where each person has their account with their own passwords, their own home screen and apps. Now this is on the tablet edition only which is a good move for Android as not many people share their phones. This works very well as most phones have dual or quad core processors to handle the heftyness of many homes on one tablet. Each person has their own gmail and gcal synced without access to the other persons Google accounts. It is a good feature to have standard rather than with a root and rom.

The Bad: Swipe/Swype Keyboard
If you have a Samsung Phone, you have Swype keyboard built into the touchwiz skin. If not you may have used the swiftkey app from the store. If you haven't used these apps, I will explain what a swipe keyboard is. It is a new version of predictive texting. You swipe your finger over the letters you want in order and the phone will work out what word you mean. It is a rather cool feature but is rather gimmicky unless you constantly use it and the swipe interface becomes second nature. I have found the swipe keyboard apps on Android to be rather in your face and hard to use. Their predictive systems are very good which does make up for the clunky look. On 4.2, this is built into the OS and looks like the original keyboard so it does not look clunky or intrusive. It is so non intrusive that you don't even know that it is there. The other main difference to this keyboard than the apps is that the prediction hovers above your finger. Do I personally like this? No, not at all. It hides the keyboard above your finger and is rather distracting. I haven't used the swipe keyboard since I first tried it on the update but I will probably not use it.

Other Features and Bugs
Daydream is a feature which I have not been able to get to work. It supposed to give you a photo frame/table style thing when you plug it into a dock or charger. I can preview it but I never have got it to work in the wild. I will update you when I do get it to work. The photos get thrown onto the table and you can move them and swipe them away. It is a cool feature if it worked. I will get a dock and see if that works too.
Airplay for Android has been updated so that you can stream your whole screen to you TV with an adapter (HTC Media Link) rather than just your videos and pictures. Needs to be tested and needs to be a cheap adapter for it to be useful.
Actionable Notifications is a small feature which is okay. The expandable notification on jelly bean 4.1 was a great feature for quick email view. Now if you are going to be late for a meeting, you can send a message to the event organiser from the notification and snooze alarms too.
Quick options (Tablet Edition) is helpful. If you have a Samsung phone/tablet or a skin that has options in the notification bar, this will not be for you. On pure android, we now have a quick option bar if you swipe from top to bottom on the right side. You get wifi, bluetooth, user change, battery life, aeroplane mode, auto rotate, brightness and full settings button. It is rather good but if you just want the normal notification bar, you may get quick options by accident.
Bugs that will be fixed is that some Google apps (especially Google Now) sometimes makes the tablet freeze and reboot. This happens once every few days but always happens when you are leading the curve.

The Ugly: Lock Screen Widgets
This is such a silly idea. When you are in the lock screen, you can swipe left to add widgets to the lock screen so you can use information when you are not in the phone/tablet. Why do you want this? I only use the clock (standard) and I have tried the calendar but I don't really want someone who has got my tablet without me knowing looking at my calendar or my email. Who does? This is why it is The Ugly. If you want to use this feature, please do but you are reducing the security of your data very much.

So, to answer my question of What does the new flavour of Jelly Bean taste of? It tastes good. It has a slightly better fluidity than the old jelly bean with some cool features what you may have had before if you rooted your phone but has a few features and bugs that could be got rid of. Jelly Bean 4.2 tastes like a strawberry trifle. Vanilla taste with the smoothness of dream topping but has small fruit niche obstructions in the jelly that just hurts part of the experience.

More on Jelly Bean 4.2 and what you can do, click here

App of the Week: Google Play Music

This is a rather late post because of prior engagements buy hopefully these next few posts will be worth the wait as alot of Android has been released.
App of the week is rather belated to the UK market as the US gets all the good stuff in beta first. One of these Google apps I am still waiting for is Google Wallet but mobile payments is still not big in the UK. Google Play Music is the music version of Google Drive. That wraps it up in a sentence. There are only a few music cloud storage services available in the UK for android including Amazon (free) and Spotify (Premium £9.99). Cloud music player services is a place where you store your music online and you stream it through the app on your device. With Amazon you only have space for 250 of your own music library and you have to by the rest on the Amazon MP3 store which is annoying as most peoples music collection is over 250 songs and no one wants to buy your music again.
Google Play music blows Amazon out of the water with space for 20,000 of your own songs and songs bought from the Play Store. So how do you set it up? Well you go onto the Play store with your PC or Mac and you need to follow this link. Then you will download the application for the computer and drag and drop your music in bulk onto the application and it will all be stored in the cloud. So it is very easy to set up and put your music online. You do not need to put it in special folders or have all the tags for the albums or artists on there. The application finds the song name, artist, album, album art and genre. I only noticed this when I went to the cloud player and saw all my music in the right albums with 90% of the album art. Some of my obscure and collection albums did not have cover art but they were recognized as an album which is very good as I have found that some players will not recognize it at all.
What can you use the Player on? You can use a PC, Mac, Linux and Chromebook through a browser. Also there is a dedicated app on the Android OS from Ice Cream Sandwich and up. You can download the app from the Play Store/Market and you may have to manually download the update to use the cloud facilities.
The web app is easy to use and has all the covers set up like iTunes on a long tiled list with a search bar and your general functions. This goes the same for the mobile version. It is very good indeed. Easy to use and very simple. Google does this with their services. Very complicated servers and programmes make up a very easy and seamless service that just works every time.
So should you download this app? Well it is already on the operating system so you might as well use it. This app is great for people who do not have expandable memory on their phone and use their phone/tablet as their MP3 player. And it is much better than Amazon and much cheaper than the premium spotify service

Download now from the Google Play Store

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

BBC iPlayer: Two Apps, One Operation

For all the 4.1 Jelly Bean faithful, you have had to battle with the loss of Flash player. You thought you wouldn't need it anyway but then we couldn't catch up on our terrestrial TV. There was ways to get around it with downloading from a browser and having to use Firefox beta but it never worked as well as the flash based apps. But for all the fans of BBC, we have an option through apps. Not one app, but you need two.
You have to go the Play Store and download BBC iPlayer AND BBC Media Player to catch up and stream your TV. I know that I should applaud them for their innovation and that the have released an option for the people who are using Jelly Bean. But I am annoyed at how the apps work and how slow these apps have taken to be released. Adobe has announced their withdrawal from the mobile platform in July and the flagship Jelly Bean tablet (nexus 7) has been around since July too.
Why is two apps so annoying? Well, what I liked about the old iPlayer app was that I could see what is recommended and if there was any older or newer episodes in the series whilst the video was playing. This is not in the new set up. You have to exit the media player, then enter the page you were on in the iPlayer app. This has little effort, but it is annoying when you look back and then when you go back to the media player, you loose your place in the video and you have to wait again for it to load and buffer. This is so frustrating that I have stopped using this app and have been using the desktop version on my chromebook and the iPlayer section on my Sky+HD box.
Other channels who need an app that works on Jelly Bean is ITV, channel 4 and 5. Please get working on your Android presence. If you want to see what other Nexus 7 users think of this, look on the Google Play store.
This is more of a rant than a review so normal app of the week review will still be coming next week. My final words to the BBC. Not all tablet users use an iPad, work on your Android experience so you do not burn out your viewing market.
Just a quick apology to the international readers. If you want iPlayer in your country, use a VPN server/app. A good one is TunnelBear VPN.

Have you used this app set up? Do you use a Jelly Bean device? Have you used this on a phone set up?
Please comment below on what you think.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Nexus Range Official (With iPad Killers?)

Unlike most blogs, I will not discuss rumours or leaks. But we have official releases on the new and updated Nexus range. There was no announcement from Google because of the hurricane but they have released the new range for us all.

The nexus 7 range has been updated. I bought a nexus 7 16gb at £200 but now that model is at £160. I do feel a little burned with the price drop but it happens so I'm not too annoyed. So we have a price drop. But now we have a 32gb WiFi and 32gb 3G models. That is a good update to the range as the nexus 7 needed a data option. The pricing is very competitive with the market. 32gb Wifi is £200 and 32gb 3G is £240. The iPad mini versions are £350 and £450 respectively. That is a £150-£210 premium for apple! I have apple fan friends and they even think that the iPad mini prices are extortionate. How will apple compete in the 7 inch market?
But the iPad does have 4g advantage but outside the US, this doesn't matter.
I'm not here to slag off apple but their pricing strategy will make them DOA.

The most leaked phone in history. The title was owned by iPhone 5 before someone left the nexus 4 in a pub. So you probably know everything about the phone but I will cover it quickly. It has all of the features of Jelly Bean so no Key Lime Pie yet. It has a 4.7 inch display, 2GB of RAM and a 1.5GHz quad core processor. So all the bells and whistles of the newest hardware with a small price of £280 for 16GB 3G. This price is very competitive in this market as the new Galaxy Note 2 is £550. The price range the nexus 4 is in is with the HTC Desire X, Samsung Omnia M. Most mid range phones. So its a top end phone for a mid range price. I want one now.
I know people think NFC is gimmicky in the UK because we do not have Google Wallet but this phone does have wireless charging. I think this will be the norm very soon.
Well done Google for two reasons. For a top end phone at mid range price. And for letting all of the Android phone makers get the chance for the Nexus crown. Just need a Galaxy Nexus Note, Xperia Nexus and Droid Nexus.

The iPad killer from Samsung and Google? It could be. This tablet has a 10' Super High Def screen! I mean super because it is 2560 x 1600! 300 PPI for £320! A bargain I personally think. Has a dual core processor with a front and rear facing camera and MMO WiFi. As all Nexus is packed full of great specs for a small price. This come up trumps. An updated Jelly Bean (which I'll be reviewing when it arrives on my Nexus 7) which has some cool features including swipe keyboard and a better panorama mode. But on this tablet, there is no 3G. Why don't they put some data on this? I will probably wait for the data option to come as I did regret it with my Nexus 7. The price comparison is 16GB for £320 and 32GB for £390. Compared with the new iPad Retina (Lower PPI than Nexus 10). £400 and £480 respectively gives apple a £80-90 premium which is enough to think about the iPad as an option.Unlike the Nexus 7 which is a no nonsense buy.

So what Nexus devices should you buy? I would say buy all of them as they are a steal with the prices. Especially with the Nexus 7. This Nexus range completely blows the iPad mini and the iPhone 5 out of the water. But is the Nexus 10 an iPad killer? I think it could be because of the slight price difference and the better display.

What do you think? Comment below on what you think on the new Nexus range.

App of the Week: Pair

This is the new section of my blog. I will review an app a week on the android ecosystem.
This week is Pair.
I have found that the past few years that texts have become unreliable. Most people have resorted to using instant message apps. I have used nearly all of them and they are okay. Just like using text but reliable. The only person I message alot is my girlfriend as we have a long distance relationship. We see each other on weekends but we go to universities in different counties.
I have heard on the TWiT network about the app Pair. I wanted to try it and me and my girlfriend tried it and we have only been using this now.
Pair is a IM app but for two people, so no contact list as you have one contact. It uses internet to send the messages but its much more than a few lines of text sending. There are other things you can send in the app. You can send pictures, voice recordings, videos; location map, and sketches drawn in the app. That feature works very well with the s pen on my Galaxy Note. When sent, they can be seen in the conversation screen. But they are also saved in the Moments section of the app so the cute picture your other half sent ages ago is still there to view and download whenever you want. That is a good feature. Another good feature is if you are in a meeting or having a long and busy day at work, you can send a little message saying "thinking of you" in two touches which is nice to send and receive.
But that is not all. There are things that you can do together. This is where you can do things together as a couple. Live sketch is where you draw together which is very good and lovely. The other couple thing you can do is called thumbkiss. What you do is put your thumb on the screen and the other one puts their thumb on the screen and they "kiss". The screen flashes red and vibrates. It is cute but I personally do not use this feature.
So what do I think overall? I think this is a great app and if you have a special someone, you should download it. The best IM app on the Google Play Store. I actually cant believe it is not a paid app. Its FREE!
And my wish/improvement for this app is for voice and video calling. I would pay for that feature on that app.
You need this app!
Download Now!

New Chromebook £230. Is it worth it?

I am a student and my course is basically on the web. All my lecture notes and assignments are on the web. I use Google Drive and Skydrive (for office 2013). I practically live in a browser so I thought of getting a chromebook. I have been waiting for a cheap version but the series 5 was very expensive. But now with the ARM processor, it is cheaper than any netbook. And if anyone has bought a netbook, they know how slow it has become in a year. I was first sceptical about buying this but for £230, I will chuck it on the student loan.
Firstly, anyone who tries compares this to a Macbook Air, just stop now! It is not going to replace the Macbook because a Macbook has programmes for the media student that is not comparable.
So to start this review, I have bought the Chromebook from PC World and used it for nearly a week. It is very light and very portable. Perfect for the student who has to travel. It boots in 8 seconds and wakes from sleep instantly. The only problem with these statistics is that it takes a few seconds to connect to the internet after it has awoken. I have tested this on my BT infinity WiFi, Starbucks free WiFi, and tethering through my Galaxy Note through 3G and this connection delay happens on all of them. But compared to my laptop, it is a lightning quick boot. And my laptop has a i3 processor and 8gb RAM.
If you have used the chrome browser, you have basically used Chrome OS. There is not much to say about the OS except it is light, quick, and has a nice UI. A few Google apps pinned to the task bar including Google Drive and YouTube. Everything is in a browser window so it is easy. The Chrome Web Store is very good indeed, has very nice offline apps and online apps. But they are basically bookmarks. I have used the feedly app lots and Drive.
The main thing is the hardware. The only Macbook Air comparison is the size. They are about the same size including thickness but the thick end of the Air is the same thickness of the Chromebook all the way through. It has a nice raised keyboard that is lovely and comfortable to type on but is not backlit. I never thought this would be a problem but when you are working at night in your room, you definitely need it. Also the keyboard has special keys on the top row. These include back, forward, refresh, full screen and more which are handy in this browser based OS. Also there is no caps lock. This has been replaced by a search key where you can search apps and Google directly which is handy. The overall design is very nice too. Not too netbook like but not too Air like. It is their own thing which is nice.
Spec Time. It has a dual core Exynos 5 processor and 2GB of RAM which is more than enough. 11.6 inch screen which you can watch 720p videos. USB 3 and 2 even though the UK has very little USB 3 usage. And it has a 16GB SSD. That may sound like a very small amount of storage but you are storing on the cloud all the time. Unless you are not connected to the internet and using Google docs offline. But you get 100GB free on Google Drive. There is a catch, the storage only lasts 2 years.But what you store on there, after the 2 years it does not get cancelled. You just cant upload more unless you pay the monthly fee which is all in US dollars.

So should you buy it? If you can live in the browser or you live mostly in the browser and you want a cheap solution for a second computer and want a tablet; Buy it now! It is a great investment and it will work well for years to come.
So what are you waiting for? Buy it now!