Why Higher-Resolution Displays in Phones are a Marketing Gimmick, Not a Functional Feature

Why Higher-Resolution Displays in Phones are a Marketing Gimmick, Not a Functional Feature

Jan 31, 2014

So, the rumor has it that the Galaxy S5 will have a 2560×1440 screen. Frankly, this is absolutely ridiculous. There’s no good reason for this to exist, because there’s such diminishing returns from a high-resolution screen. It’s time for Android manufacturers’ obsession with resolution to stop.

Now, getting up to 1080p was an acceptable idea, if not perhaps excessive in and of itself. After all, 1080p is a very standardized resolution in monitors, TVs, and entertainment, especially video content. Exceeding requires a particularly good reason. Monitors can make do of extra pixels in order to put more items on screen, and the “retina” movement hasn’t hit in a widespread way yet. As well, tablets going for “retina” resolutions often need to exceed 1080p.

But see, there’s a certain point where this all these extra pixels get to be too much. The push for 4K TVs are one example: for most people, even 1080p TVs are unnecessary because the eye can’t resolve detail beyond a certain point. Only in very, very large rooms will 4K TVs make a difference. For the average person or family, the TV they have right now is of high enough resolution. Doubling the vertical resolution won’t cause a noticeable quality bump. It’s all just a marketing push to sell new TVs because there was a successful push to get people to buy new TVs about 10–15 years ago. Of course, that worked out of necessity. 4K won’t because there won’t be any good reason for it.

This is a very similar situation with smartphones. Apple calls it a “Retina Display” because it’s said that the screen is at a pixel density where the human eye can’t resolve anything more detailed than that – at least for the expected use case of the device. For example, the iPhone, which is held closer than an iPad, has a higher pixel density than the tablet.

The iPhone 4's pixel doubling made sense - anything beyond that would likely be imperceptible.

The iPhone 4’s pixel doubling made sense – anything beyond that would likely be imperceptible.

What’s happened is that others have started making higher-resolution screens to match the Retina Display, but much like TVs, they’ve started making higher and higher resolution displays because hey, that’s a sexy bullet point. Now, stopping at 1080p makes sense. Again, 1080p is a very standard resolution. Advancing to 2560×1440 on a phone makes no sense. The human eye will only perceive a slight difference if any at all from 1080p at a 5" screen size.

As well, this will require even higher-resolution art assets from developers, which will bloat up app sizes and spend more data, which isn’t necessarily getting increased limits. Video content will now be upscaled on smartphones for no good reason. And games will particularly suffer: instead of being able to take full advantage of any power boost, now the games must also deal with pushing extra pixels. This can make a big difference, as anyone who plays PC games can tell you. Even small jumps can cause big performance hits.

And this is all isn’t for any good reason, either – it’s basically to get a sexy bullet point. OR to say that “we have twice the resolution fo the iPhone.”

While perhaps the march of false progress will continue unabated, consumers can make smart decisions. They can look beyond useless features for actual value, and realize that resolution isn’t everything. Just as a camera’s megapixels alone don’t determine quality, but the quality of the sensors plays a bigger role, consumers need to be smart and realize which numbers are important, and which are just there to seem more important.

Ikoid’s Latest Bundle Features Shufflepuck Cantina and Other Spacey Games for Less Than Two Bucks

Ikoid’s Latest Bundle Features Shufflepuck Cantina and Other Spacey Games for Less Than Two Bucks

Jan 31, 2014

Android-focused bundle site Ikoid has a new spacey bundle for those who want to get out of this world. For $1.75, players can get their hands on strategy game Planetary Defense, puzzle game QbQbQb, and Shufflepuck Cantina Gold. Two additional games are available, but only will unlock once the bundle has been shared on social media a certain number of times: Smashing Planets at 150, and Xelorians at 300. As always, the bundle can be purchased from Ikoid’s site, and it goes until 1:00am EST on February 11th.

Android Rundown Plays Marvel Run Jump Smash, Worm Run, and More!

Android Rundown Plays Marvel Run Jump Smash, Worm Run, and More!

Jan 31, 2014

We did another Twitch stream on January 30th, and aimed to tackle one big release and a couple recent ones that caught our eye. Here’s what we played!

Watch the whole show, featuring Marvel Run Jump Smash, Worm Run, Hammer Quest, and Toast Time!

Marvel Run Jump Smash: Disney dropped a surprise release of an Avengers-featuring endless runner on Android yesterday. Run and jump as a cartoony Nick Fury? Sounded interesting enough to try out:

Worm Run: This Kickstarted endless runner is finally on Android, and I try to not get eaten by the worm. I fail, but the fun is in trying.

Watch the full video for more Worm Run, and the Hammer Quest and Toast Time footage! And follow us on Twitch to find out when we go live next!

Kneel Before Zod and Get 30,000 Power Credits in Injustice: Gods Among Us to Commemorate One Billion Play Sessions

Kneel Before Zod and Get 30,000 Power Credits in Injustice: Gods Among Us to Commemorate One Billion Play Sessions

Jan 31, 2014

Injustice: Gods Among Us has officially hit one billion served, as the game has crossed that number of play sessions since its launch last April on iOS. Now, in order to commemorate the milestone and to get players back into the game, those who play the mobile version of the DC fighting game from the creators of Mortal Kombat will get 30,000 free power credits. Download the game from Google Play here.

IGAU_1Billion

TowerMadness 2 Review

TowerMadness 2 Review

Jan 31, 2014

TowerMadness 2 is perhaps not the most innovative tower defense game of all-time, but it’s a solid effort.

Really, standard open-field tower defense rules apply: there’s towers with different ranges and effects, they can be upgraded to do more damage, or sold if not part of a good strategy any more. Success is based on whether players kept the aliens from getting in and taking too many sheep through a star system, with Invasion Mode, where waves come in faster, offering a fourth star. Players can also send in waves faster themselves to get faster times for the leaderboards.

Mixing things up from the original, this boasts a tower upgrade system, a limited number of towers that can be sent into battle, and Bo, a ram who will keep the aliens at bay when one of them gets into the sheep pen. The game is $2.99 and has wool, a currency for upgrades, but the game gives away decent amounts of it, has a doubler for $1.99, and offers up 400 wool for watching a short video. It’s not a bad deal, and the upgrades largely just add longer upgrade trees. They do help, but they’re not an overwhelming feature.

TowerMadness 2 does one technical feature in a way that other games have no excuse to do: on a device with no physical buttons like the Nexus phones, the navigation keys are sent away, thus allowing the entire phone display to be used. That few if any other games do this when it’s a supported feature (at least on Android 4.4 KitKat) is baffling because it’s fantastic. Just swipe in from the top or right edge to bring back the notification bar and nav keys.

TM2 - Gameplay 1

Another interesting technical feature is the addition of gamepad support. For a tower defense game, it seems like an odd addition, but really, it’s great: the ability to move around the board with the d-pad is well-made to where I like playing this way rather than touch because it feels more accurate and deliberate this way. It just feels good.

Really, that’s the best way to sum up TowerMadness 2: it just feels good. It has its own tower defense quirks, if not anything too revolutionary, but it’s just a solid game of tower defense.

Translate Your Diet With Can I Eat That?

Translate Your Diet With Can I Eat That?

Jan 31, 2014

Can I Eat That 2

Although this app is intended for a very small market, maybe it’s exactly what some people need. It’s a very simple idea. The user inserts all the food they are allergic to, then they inserts the country they are currently in, and the app translates all of their limitations in the language of this country, so it would be easy to order food in the restaurants. The app can be downloaded for free from here: Can I Eat That? On Google Play.

Ouya Announces Redesigned 16 GB Model

Ouya Announces Redesigned 16 GB Model

Jan 31, 2014

Ouya has announced a new 16 GB version of their Android-powered microconsole. While it now boasts twice the storage as the original model, that’s not all that’s new. WiFi connectivity has improved, possibly due to the new matte finish instead of the metal casing the 8 GB model users. The controller is updated with a new look and improved Bluetooth. The 16 GB model will run $129, and is available in North America from Ouya directly or from Amazon.

16GB Pic

Clean Up Your Photo Gallery With Tidy – Photo Album

Clean Up Your Photo Gallery With Tidy – Photo Album

Jan 31, 2014

Tidy - Photo Album 3

This gallery app can help organize and clean the photo directory in a matter of minutes. It’s a nifty little app with great design that allows grouping of photos and ease of scrolling through them. You can try it out for free here: Tidy – Photo Album on Google Play.

Star Command is Free Today Only on Amazon: Act Fast!

Thanks to our fellow Steel Media publication Pocket Gamer, we’ve been made aware that Star Command, the space crew simulation that was one of the first big Kickstarter controversies, can be had for as many dollars as there are people that can hear you scream in space: zero. Click here to get it – if you have an Amazon account, you can add it with one click, even if you don’t have the Amazon Appstore app currently installed. Don’t know what Star Command is about? Watch our video below.

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

Jan 31, 2014

We had an opportunity to check out sound maven JBL’s Charge Wireless Speakers, and it was a pleasant experience. As such, we were happy to check out its sibling, the JBL Pulse Wireless Speakers.

Like your run-of-the-mill brothers, the Charge and the Pulse bear plenty of familial similarities. They are both cylindrical, but the latter has more deliberately tapered ends. The black exterior underscored the solid feel, with mesh-like surface (a departure from the fused finishing of the Charge) mostly preventing the accessory from looking cheap. On one end are buttons: pairing, power and light control. The other is bare and serves as the base when upright. Along the body are ports for coaxial and micro-usb cables. For comparative purposes, the Pulse is just a shade taller than the Charge, coming in at 7 inches tall and less than a pound and a half in weight.

Powering it up is as simple as connecting the included adapter/cable combo to an electric source; powering it on, I daresay, is almost the coolest part. The specs sheet boldly pronounces LED lights, but the actual display is pretty surprising. It boasts scores ofpulse2 LED lights that run around and along the base. When the device is on, those lights all come on in a dizzying explosion of color that is as once a bit gimmicky and inexplicably commanding at the same time. The light patterns can be toggled or turned off by the button at the top, and most sequences react to volume. It’s an interesting feature, and one that I actually enjoyed more than I would have envisaged. Additionally, the JBL MusicFlow app allows the lights to be controlled as well as providing an easy way to adjust sound performance from Android devices.

As soon as bluetooth pairing was attempted it connected seamlessly in seconds, and it’s also NFC-enabled.

The sound doesn’t have the high level of bass some people dearly crave; compared to the Charge, it gentler in that aspect, but it still holds it own sound quality-wise. It does provide great volume, and in our informal testing, it actually beat the advertised 5-hr usage time. It worked just as well as a wired speaker.

I did miss the portable USB charging feature from the Charge; I also think the app could be a bit more intuitive. All in all though, it falls just within what I would term acceptable limits of reasonable portability, and the overall value is hard to ignore.

The Pulse is available from Amazon for $199.

Inexplicable Hit Game Flappy Bird Flies to Android

Inexplicable Hit Game Flappy Bird Flies to Android

Jan 31, 2014

Flappy Bird is the game that’s inexplicably taken the world by storm, and now it’s on Android. Controlling a bird that can only fly by the player tapping rapidly on the screen, it must make its way through hazardously-placed pipes lest it crash and fall to its demise. It’s got no IAP, just ads, and it’s so frustrating that it practically taunts the player to keep going. The Android version, which is supposedly actually easier than its iOS counterpart, is now available on Google Play. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Akasha Review

Akasha Review

Jan 31, 2014

Akasha is a new mobile exclusive MMORG. Does it tip Order and Chaos from its pedestal?

Akasha isn’t the most user friendly game. After a class choice between fighter, archer or mage and a very brief series of tutorial text boxes in a small font the game basically leaves the player to their own devices. Akasha uses a instance based system much like Guild Wars. To fight monsters or party up with other adventurers the player must begin an instance which can be thought of as a mini quest.

Screenshot_2014-01-26-13-36-14After beginning an instance, Akasha plays much like any MMO, if MMOs consisted of tapping a single icon.

Regardless of the class chosen, gameplay in Akasha boils down to battering the fire icon as quickly as possible while moving between enemies. Unlike most MMOs, there are no varied classes such as clerics, tanks or nukers here since every class from fighter to mage attacks at point blank range for much the same damage.

Indeed the only reason to join a party in Akasha is because of the bonus experience that monsters give when killed, as the extremely limited number of skills in the game and the total lack of support or healing spells mean that common MMORPG strategies, such as healing the tank as he takes the damage or protecting the cleric as they keep everyone else alive don’t exist. The classes in the game are all attackers and the gameplay consists of simply attacking constantly until enemies are dead. This is hardly compelling and is completely devoid of the tactics and camaraderie that is typically found in MMORPG parties. There is just no co-operation or fun to be found in Akasha’s gameplay.

Screenshot_2014-01-29-09-03-36Akasha uses a very barebones skill system. The titular Akasha are little more than stats boosts that are attached to characters to augment their statistics and don’t make an actual appearance in the game. The player is limited in the amount of Akasha that can be equipped, adding a tiny bit of depth by forcing players to balance out stats with the right Akasha. Additional slots to equip Akasha can only be gained though in-app purchases.

Matters are not helped by the extremely basic presentation on offer. Akasha uses a 2-D sprite based style that will be familiar to players of famous mobile MMOs, such as Zeonia. Unfortunately, it lacks any sort of eye candy and features generic sprites on nondescript backgrounds. Magic effects are unimpressive and nothing in the game really looks good. Order and Chaos with it’s full 3-D environments is far better.

The player is unlikely to want to play Akasha for long either. The lack of actual MMO style gameplay ensure its button mashing becomes dull fast.

Akasha in short is not really a MMO as such. Sure the “online” and the “massive” parts are there, but it barely qualifies as an RPG. Order and Chaos is a far superior game with real MMO classes and very solid gameplay. Akasha meanwhile is not worth playing.