Friday, 7 February 2014

Verizon Launches The Samsung Galaxy S III Mini ($50) And Galaxy S4 Mini ($100)

The "Mini" portion of Samsung's lineup is squarely aimed at the budget market. It's strange, then, to see two
 new phones that are (at least in some respects) a generation apart launch on the same carrier on the same day. Verizon has done just that: the Galaxy S III Mini is now available starting at $49.99 ($249.99 without a contract) and the Galaxy S4 Mini is $99.99 (a full $399.99 contract-free). Oh, and both of them have the Verizon logo of shame on the home button.
siii mini
Between the two, the Galaxy S III Mini is probably a better choice for the smartphone buyer on a budget. The specs aren't anything to write home about: 4" 800x480 screen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage plus SD card, and a 5MP rear camera. But then again, the Galaxy S4 Mini isn't going to win any specification showdowns either. It's got a larger and denser 4.3" qHD screen, a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, an 8MP rear camera, and an extra half-gigabyte of RAM, but the storage and Android version (4.2.2 plus TouchWiz) are the same. Both phones can use the ISIS NFC wallet app, if you really must have it.
s4 mini
So why do I recommend the S III Mini over the S4 Mini? Well, the off-contract price is $250, which is about as low as you're going to get for a new Verizon smartphone. But you're going to get something on-contract, you might as well skip both of them and go for the Motorola DROID Mini, a great little device with solid software and 2GB of RAM, which has the same $50 contract price as the S III Mini and the same $400 off-contract price as the S4 Mini. Just my two cents.
If you've got your heart set on a diminutive Galaxy, both the S III Mini and S4 Mini are on Verizon's website now. They should be showing up in retail stores today as well.

The Popular Farming Sim 'Hay Day' For Android

There's a different farming sim out there for every type of gamer (except for those that hate farming sims, that is). There are realistic simulators, and then there are some that don't seem to have all that much to do with farming. There's Harvest Moon, FarmVille, and the list goes on. Producing a farming game seems to be a winning strategy regardless of platform, so now Supercell (developer of Clash of Clans) has ported its wildly popular iOS game Hay Day to Android, and it's available for free.
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Hay Day isn't particularly complex. Players run a farm on which they grow the usual plants and raise adorable animals. They can sell their produce, go fishing, bake goods, trade with friends, and run ads to spread word of their products. It has the mix of being addictive, free-to-play, and easy to learn that leads to tons of downloads. Now that it's available for Android, here comes many more.
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Though Hay Day is free to download, there are in-app purchases to deal with. Thankfully, you can disable these in the game's settings if you're not interested. Enjoy.

Thanks, drew.

Official Nexus 5 Bumper Case Quick Look

Official Nexus accessories are always exciting. Not just because we get to have cool new official toys for our phones, but because Google has such a bad reputation for releasing official accessories (remember that Nexus 10 dock from the holiday video last year?) that when one does become available, it's like a treat.
It is with this in mind that I approached the bright red version of the official Nexus 5 bumper case, and decided to give it a review. Coming into the experience, I didn't expect there to be much to discuss about the case, but it's - somewhat surprisingly - not a "this is exactly you expect" kind of situation.

Look and Feel

The first thing I noticed about the case was that it is not squishy. It's surprisingly rigid plastic, and takes not-insignificant effort to both put on and take off. That said, it feels sturdy, and the general presumption with phone cases is that they have the ability to protect your phone in some capacity.
All of that said, the texture of the case is great. I have a hard time describing how the case feels when your fingers touch it, but I'd probably liken it to the Nexus 7 2013, with a slightly finer grain. It's super smooth, but just a teeny bit grippy. It's actually softer than the Nexus 5, if you can believe it.
The only downside to its texture is the fact that it doesn't "stick" to the Nexus charging orb. Given that Google is peddling a new wireless charger for Nexus devices, though, I guess that isn't a huge problem. And the case does still allow the N5 to work with the orb, but only because the bottom of the case can rest against whatever surface the orb is sitting on.
There's also a very subtle "nexus" logo printed on the back, mimicking the logo hiding on the phone underneath. It's very subtle, and the texture of the printing can barely be differentiated from the material under it.
One thing to note is that the case has some nearly invisible, yet still noticeable ridges on the top and bottom edges. Whether this is because the case is thicker in some places than others (to accommodate port openings and the shape of the phone) I can't say, but they're there.
Another minor quibble with the case's material is that it picks up moisture and oil quite easily. Eating a single potato chip and touching the case left a shiny smear.
Speaking of the case's contours, there's a band around the inside that cradle's the Nexus 5's curved back. The approach Google took with the case is an interesting one, because it's clear that blocking off the curves that make the Nexus 5 such a pleasure to hold was a very deliberate move.
The lack of curves definitely makes a notable difference when using and holding the Nexus 5. The device feels more rigid and industrial, and all the finesse of the two-part curved chassis design is lost in angles. The bright side of this is that those whose hearts ache for the air hockey capabilities of the Nexus 4 will be at least partially satisfied with this case.

Buttons and Ports

Angles aside, the real - and almost only - problem I have with this case is the buttons. They aren't clicky. On some level I knew before approaching the case that non-clicky buttons are a necessary evil of most plastic or TPU cases, but still - it's just no fun to press a button too hard without any kind of feedback except that the screen flicks on or the volume changes. If I press the buttons directly with my thumbnail I can feel the buttons clicking inside, but pressing them as I normally would feels wrong. It feels like I have to use more pressure than usual, with no feedback, and that the device just happens to react.
The cover has thirty-seven holes. Thirty-two of those are earmarked by the bottom-firing speaker (singular) and its big fat phony counterpart, with one each going to the micro USB port, headphone jack, camera, flash, and top microphone.
In theory, the speaker holes should line up perfectly with those on the actual device. In practice, there's pretty much no sound interference with the case, which is good. Past that, the two openings that really matter are the micro USB and headphone jack holes. The micro USB hole is amply sized. You shouldn't have any problem plugging in your charger.
The headphone jack can accommodate my earbuds with a fairly small connector, but the larger plug I typically use in the car just doesn't quite fit, which is disappointing. Then again, maybe I just need a cable with a smaller connector. Part of the reason my car-cable doesn't fit is likely that the opening is - like the rest of the case - angled, and doesn't stick closely to the curve of the case. With a headphone port that's already slightly less than a full circle on the N5, putting any more distance between it and the plug is bound to create problems.
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Final Thoughts

Is the case worth $35 plus shipping? As someone who very rarely uses a phone case, I wouldn't normally buy this case either. That said, it's nice for what it is. It has a great texture, looks fantastic, fits snugly, and at least gives the impression that it's offering your Nexus 5 some serious protection. Its major downfalls are the non-clicky buttons and a headphone port that's not compatible with every cable I own, but those used to cases like this will probably feel right at home.
If, after reading this quick review, the case looks like something you want, you know what to do.
Nexus 5 Bumper Case on Google Play

Chrome Beta For Android Update Bumped To v32

If you're running the Chrome Beta on your Android device, prepare for an update. Chrome v32 is rolling out to the Play Store, and it includes a few improvements and fixes. Being a beta, there are also some known issues to be aware of. 
2013-11-21 15.29.23
Here's the good stuff from Chrome 32 for Android:
  • Application shortcuts: Ability to add shortcuts to home screen is back
  • Vibration API: An API that allows web apps to make devices vibrate
  • 285066: Reenabled canvas anti-aliasing
And the not so good:
  • 319983: Lots of background color when scrolling up and down on pages
  • 320094: [M32/M33] Double tap drag zoom gets stuck sometimes
  • Some known crashes
If you want to try the Chrome Beta, use the link below as it won't show up in searches. There are usually a few bugs like the ones listed above, but you get new features before the stable channel.ù

Chrome Beta

31,143 ratings
by Google Inc.
1,000,000 - 5,000,000 downloads
[Chrome Blog]

[New Game] EA Blurs The Lines Between Mobile Game

You can't release a AAA console game these days without also releasing a mobile app. For some reason. If you're looking for a way to actually play your big fancy shooter game on your tablet... well, this isn't really it, but it's close. The Battlefield 4 Commander app lets BF4 players coordinate their squad and hand out extra supplies during live Battlefield games.

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Once you reach level 10 on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, or PC version of Battlefield 4, you gain access to the Commander app, which mirrors the Commander mode in the full game. The basic interface is a top-down view of the map complete with current player locations, supply drop zones, spawn points, and all sorts of other information not normally visible in the shooter. Commanders can give orders to teammates directly through VOIP, all in a UAV to scout out enemy locations, or attack with gunship volleys or radar-jamming EMPs. It might not be as thrilling as the actual game, but a solid Commander could easily turn the tide in an online match. 

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Theoretically, anyway. The early reviews of the Commander app are overwhelmingly negative, citing unexplained crashes, connection issues, and a poor interface. The app is technically only for tablets, but there are still a large amount of people claiming that their particular tablet isn't working, mostly on non-Nexus tablets. (Launch-day issues on Android for major publishers like EA is pretty much a given at this point.) This might have something to do with regional locks: EA usually releases a NA and ROW ("Rest of World") version of a new app, but Battlefield 4 Commander is a single ROW edition that works in North America as well. That may change at some point.
Here's hoping EA will sort through these issues. In the meantime you can play Commander Mode on the full game. Or just shoot people, I guess.
Source: Battlelog - thanks, BFC
BATTLEFIELD 4™ Commander

12,327 ratings
by EA Swiss Sarl
100,000 - 500,000 downloads
P.S. Apologies for the poor screenshots. Apparently EA would rather you look at that gut's BDUs than actually see the app clearly.

New Google Wallet Update Adds Tap & Pay Support To KitKat Devices

The new update to Google Wallet makes a big change to the app's functionality – it now supports Tap & Pay on all KitKat devices with NFC. Previously, only the Wallet app from the Nexus 5 enabled this feature, but now it's rolling out to everyone. 

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Devices like the Moto X (only the updated versions) and Nexus 7 now support this functionality with the stock software, but even devices running AOSP-based Android 4.4 ROMs can make use of Tap & Pay. Clearly it's a lot less restrictive than it used to be thanks to Host Card Emulation. 

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In addition to the Tap & Pay stuff, the new version also includes awareness of the physical Wallet card, which just launched yesterday. Right now it just shows the order status of the card, but maybe it will do something cool later. If you can't get the app through normal channels, we've got it mirrored below.
Google Wallet

24,434 ratings
by Google Inc.
10,000,000 - 50,000,000 downloads

Injustice: Gods Among Us Launches For Android

On the consoles, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a traditional fighting game where DC Comic heroes and villains rip one another to shreds in glorious 2D combat. The Android version isn't quite the same beast. These classic characters still despise each other, but now they're waging war in a 3 on 3 collectible card game.

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Though the core gameplay is different, the visuals should still look familiar for anyone who has played the original title. Characters ranging from Batman, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman to Poison Ivy and Lex Luther perform over-the-top animated attacks in fully rendered 3D environments. This is still a fighting game, but your cards help determine how well you can compete. Collecting them increases the number of characters you have to choose from, the moves you can perform, and the power of your attacks.


Injustice: Gods Among Us has already been available for Android in limited markets, but now it's launching worldwide. The game is free to play, but there are some in-app purchases to look out for. Not even Superman is capable of keeping those away. 

Injustice: Gods Among Us

425,481 ratings
by Warner Bros. International Enterprises
1,000,000 - 5,000,000 downloads

The EVGA Tegra Note 7 Is Now Available From Newegg For $199

It's been just over two monthsNewegg is selling the EVGA Tegra Note 7 for $199.99, and as far as we can tell, it's the only place that you can get one. The Tegra 4-powered tablet is shipping out now after a week delay. 
since NVIDIA announced its white box platform to promote the Tegra architecture, and now EVGA is demonstrating the value of that particular strategy.


The obvious star here is NVIDIA's Tegra 4 SoC, the same screaming fast processor and GPU combo found in the NVIDIA Shield. But to get the rest of the tablet below that magic $200 threshold, NVIIDA had to cut some corners on the rest of the design, namely in the screen (7" 720p) and RAM (1GB). The rest of the specs are pretty typical: 16GB of storage plus a MicroSD card slot, a 5MP rear camera and 1.3MP front-facing cam, and Android 4.2.2 at launch. The design is unique and mixes the dimpled back of the Nexus 7 with some flair that reminds me of a desktop graphics card, which is fitting considering the designer and manufacturer. An integrated stylus, dual front-facing speakers, and a MicroHDMI port round out the package.
The Tegra Note 7 is obviously aimed at gamers: with its SoC it gains access to at least some titles that are off limits to the rest of the Android world. But it's also got some software chops that other tablets don't, at least in this price range, thanks to NVIDIA's DirectStylus software. And one of the advantages of NVIDIA designing the hardware is that they'll be providing the software support. An Android 4.3 update is already scheduled for next month, and considering how well they've supported the SHIELD, I'd expect 4.4 to follow soon enough.
If you're tempted by the Tegra Note 7, check out our comprehensive review of the hardware.
Source: Newegg

[Bonus Round] Gary Chalk's Gun Dogs!

Welcome to the latest entry in our Bonus Round series, wherein we tell you all about the new Android games of the day that we couldn't get to during our regular news rounds. Consider this a quick update for the dedicated gamers who can't wait for our bi-weekly roundups, and don't want to wade through a whole day's worth of news just to get their pixelated fix. Today we've got a new Tin Man game book, a Disney endless runner, a modern take on Space Harrier, and a zombie game that might actually be worth a look. Without further ado:

Gary Chalk's Gun Dogs

Another week (or so), another Choose Your Own Adventure-style RPG book from Tin Man Games. This one comes courtesy of Gary Chalk, who takes a Joe Dever approach to brand recognition, and apparently favors Victorian fantasy to D&D style. Like all of Tin Man's titles, this one uses a mix of tabletop RPG elements and branching written story, though I must say that the art is fantastic (especially if you're a fan of the Josh Kirby style). Four bucks gets you in.
Tin Man Games presents Gary Chalk’s Gun Dogs, a gamebook with art by the legendary illustrator Gary Chalk, famed for his work on the legendary Lone Wolf series. Co-creating Gun Dogs is Jamie Wallis of Greywood Publishing. You have been charged with treason against the Empire and placed on death row. The Emperor offers you a choice: die a slow and humiliating death or serve as a Gun Dog, a soldier assigned impossible missions and tethered by a magical collar. The collar will choke you to death if you disobey your mission orders.
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39 ratings
by Tin Man Games
100 - 500 downloads

Agent P DoofenDash

The first Where's My Water was pretty original for a mobile game... so naturally Disney had to ruin it with a ton of sequels. And now they're extending the Phineas And Ferb tie-ins with an endless runner. Agent P DoofenDash, which is apparently rife with references to the show (I wouldn't know), has you running, jumping, sliding, flying, and performing other detritus of the endless runner genre. The game is free to play, so expect plenty of in-app purchases.
Join Agent P as he chases down Dr. Doofenshmirtz to save the Tri-State Area! An Agent’s job is never done. Dr. Doofenshmirtz decides it’s time to get rid of Agent P once and for all! To accomplish this, he unleashes every plot he can think of on the Tri-State area! Now it’s up to Agent P and his fellow O.W.C.A. Agents to chase down the eccentric evildoer and save the people of Danville! 

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9,367 ratings
by Majesco Entertainment
500,000 - 1,000,000 downloads

Circuit Chaser

Circuit Chaser is basically Space Harrier with a new coat of paint, and that's definitely a good thing. While it might look like an endless runner at first glance, it's more of a rail shooter with three dimensions of gameplay. Solid graphics and a unique visual design don't hurt (though the F2P approach might). If your Sega Master System emulator is collecting dust, give Circuit Chaser a chance.
Circuit Chaser is a new take on classic scrolling shoot ‘em ups, which has been re-imagined in an exhilarating 3D perspective! Play as T0NY as you shoot, fly and destroy your way across a stunning 3D environment and collect precious circuits. Guide T0NY over and under challenging enemies and obstacles in this fast and fun-filled endless run & gun game. T0NY is one of many robots that are lined up for incineration after a failed experiment. Help T0NY escape in his first endless shoot’ em up game – how far can you take him?

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622 ratings
by Ink Vial Games
10,000 - 50,000 downloads
Appears in a list of Best Games and Apps

Fight Fight Zombanite!

My stance on zombie games is well-documented, but never let it be said that I let an interesting one pass me by. Fight Fight! Zombanite! uses a mix of game types and genres including real-time strategy, tower defense, and endless runner/driver to keep things interesting. You'll have to stay on your toes to keep on top of the shifting game mechanics. The graphics are nothing to write home about, but randomly-generated terrain should make for a decent amount of replay value.
Fight Fight Zombanite!’ takes the zombie genre to new tactical heights! Pick your survivor and begin building your team: each survivor brings their own unique abilities to the fight including building turrets, healing, laying bear traps and even calling in paratroopers! ‘Fight Fight Zombanite!’ has over 50 levels with over 6 mission types. Rescue missions, driving missions, base fixing missions, defend objective missions, holdouts, … FFZ an incredibly varied experience that goes above and beyond the traditional zombie game! 

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25 ratings
by MojoBox Games
100 - 500 downloads
Appears in a list of Favorites