Barnes & Noble and Samsung Release Collaborative Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK

Barnes & Noble and Samsung Release Collaborative Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK

Aug 20, 2014

Barnes & Noble and Samsung have released their previously announced joint project: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK.

The new offering has a 7-inch display that looks to merge web use and e-reading by bringing NOOK features to the Galaxy Tab line. It is a wi-fi tablet that comes in white or black, with 8 GB of on-board memory that is expandable up to 32 GB via SD card. It also has a GPS chip and has a camera each on the front and back. It will have access to Google apps and the NOOK Store as well.

Barnes & Noble CEO Michael Huseby invites people to come try the new device out. “The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK is the most advanced NOOK ever, delivering the great NOOK experience our customers have come to love, with the high-performance tablet features they’ve asked for,” he says. “We invite reading and entertainment fans to visit their local Barnes & Noble store to experience the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK. Once they do, we’re certain they will make this innovative device part of their daily routine.”

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK is available for sale at Barnes & Noble online and brick and mortar locations for $179 (with instant rebate).

[Source: Barnes & Noble/Samsung press release via Business Wire]

Ludomotion Launches New Game SUMICO at Gamescom

Ludomotion Launches New Game SUMICO at Gamescom

Aug 19, 2014

With help from Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, Ludomotion recently launched its new puzzler SUMICO right on the floor at Gamescom.

Excerpts from the informational email:

Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail just minutes ago pushed the button to officially launch Ludomotion’s new number puzzler SUMICO for Android.

SUMICO is an addictive numbers game for mobile, developed by a journalist and a game developer. It is released for Android, the iOS release will follow in September.

Ismail was among the first developers to play the original prototype and provided the SUMICO creators with loads of valuable feedback.

Ismail: “I’m super honoured to have a developer ask me to launch their game. Helps that I’ve been playing the game for a few weeks already.”

SUMICO is available for free (with optional in-app purchases) on the Play Store; the launch trailer is below.

Targus City Fusion Messenger Bag Hardware Review

Targus City Fusion Messenger Bag Hardware Review

Aug 19, 2014

As we are wont to say, one can have the best-fitting device in the world, with the coolest accessories, companion gadgets and backup devices to boot: chargers, USB cables, and more.

Yep, it is possible to be the consummate mobile professional, but what good are all the gadgets and tools if one doesn’t have a serious, flexible way of toting them around? Enter the City Fusion Laptop Messenger from Targus. Targus isn’t exactly an unknown commodity with regards to computer accessories, and with the current push for increased mobility, it only makes sense that there would be some pleasant overlap.

The gray piece we reviewed has interior dimensions of 14.75 x 10.25 x 1.53 inches is concealed in the 16.5 x 12 x 4.75 inch exterior and weighs less than 2.5 lbs. Most of the outside is coated in smooth gray canvas, with leather trim in pertinent areas (including the bottom). The very front of the bag has some stylish leather straps which are unashamedly cosmetic and distract from the snaps the truly hold the front flap in place, and the back of the bag has an easy access slot that uses velcro for fastening. There is also a single hand strap embedded towards the top, and a shoulder strap that allows the messenger to be used in “traditional” manner.

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Opening the bag is more fun than it should be. The “main” compartment is fairly large, and fully capable of storing larger notebooks and holding such in place via strap. In this portion, there also three pouches built into the front-facing end, perfect for knick-knacks and stuff like USB cables. Behind this area is a soft-lined area that is great for tablets and such. The third main area has a fastener. The entire interior is well laid out, and tailor-made for organized transportation; there’s even a key-hook in the middlemost portion.

I almost missed the zippered area right under the front flap. In my book, there’s nothing like too many storage compartments.

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So… it looks good, has all the cool pieces and such, but what about real life usage? Of course I took it for a spin. I packed in the 15″ laptop, added in a phablet, tablet, cables, backup chargers, portable hard-drive, wireless keyboard, and some Altoids. I was able to pack these all in comfortably, without any unsightly bulges, and the bag is even able to stand upright on its own.

Even though all my gear fits — and then some — I would have loved to see something like smaller, secured pouch for SD memory or a jump drive, and a dedicated option for laptop cable. Yes, I’m being persnickety.

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Not all messenger bags are created equal. The City Fusion may not have the sexy look of the high-end all-leather options, but it eschews the premium price, too. It’s better than basic, and for most purposes, that ma be just okay.

The City Fusion is available from Amazon for $49.00

Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2 Card Reader Hardware Review

Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2 Card Reader Hardware Review

Aug 15, 2014

Years ago, as an upcoming tech feen, I reached a major milestone. I was rocking the awesome Palm Tungsten T5, was proclaiming publicly about preferring my phone and PDA devices separate, and enjoyed the PalmOS-WinMo wars. Then, one fateful day, I found a huge sale going on. It was for a then-massive 1GB Kingston SD card that could help me expand the T5 with ginormous external space.

I had to sign up for Google Checkout, which helped tie me in further to the Google ecosystem. That card literally opened up a new world to me, and I learned Kingston is a brand worth using. Since then, the company has expanded along with the entire mobile sector, and has stuff out like its MobileLite Wireless G2 Card Reader.

With regards to mobility, this device makes a lot of sense. It is an update to the original MobileLite Wireless G1; in theory, it allows for folks to access data from SD, micro SD cards and USB sticks on the go via the device’s built-in network. On paper, this can be useful functionality to have whether or not one has a device with external storage capabilities.

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But all the theoretical functionality is moot if the device isn’t, well, portable. The review package came with the main unit, USB cable and an SD card adapter and paperwork (Kingston also provided a 64 GB micro-SD card to fully test the unit). The MobileLite thankfully doesn’t carry a huge physical footprint, being similar in size visually to the HTC One that was used it with; officially, it comes in at 5 x 3.1 x 0.75 inches and 6.03 ounces. The device is mostly black with stark white band frame around the sides; the sides houseLED icons, power button, a reset hole and micro-USB port on the one long side, and a full ethernet port on the opposite long side. On the opposite side, one finds a slot for full SD cad and a full USB port too. All in all, it feels well-fused, and is infinitely pocketable.

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To use it, we charged it up and fired it on, and then we downloaded the companion Kingston MobileLite app from the Play Store. The app provides an interface to connect to the device’s wi-fi network. Connecting it was finicky at first, but it fixed itself, and after that it was fairly easy to use.

While connected, the unit shows the internal memory of the device on its network. The external memory card wasn’t an option, but the onboard memory shows, and it’s possible to move data back and forth. It officially supports, FAT, exFat, NFTS and FAT32, so that is one less thing to worry about. I especially like the streaming functionality that allows for one to access media directly from the card reader. It can also be used as a wi-fi bridge via the ethernet port, and even works as a mobile charger (we found it works best with a full charge; it was able to recharge the HTC almost two times).

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One can’t help but love products that do what they do well, and take on extra functionality; this is where the MobileLite excels. At $54.00 (per Amazon), it isn’t prohibitively priced either, especially when one considers the Kingston name.

Notepad+ Review

Notepad+ Review

Aug 14, 2014

For the mobile-centric person, it helps to have a quick method of entering notes. Notepad+ looks to be a intuitive solution.

The opening interface is fairly simple, and the developer does a good job of making the app feel intuitive off the bat. After installing, the huge plus (+) sign within a larger rectangle rests to the top left of the screen, and tapping it opens the main notebook/album page. Here, one can choose to enter a note by handwriting by finger or typing entries via device keyboard. The notebook title can also be selected, along with paper style from several offered types.

The handwriting feature is great for quick entries with a minimum of prior touches, and is quite easy to note1manipulate. It allows for several different colors and line thicknesses to be used, so one can “write” with different colored “ink” too. As most hand/finger-writing tools, block lettering is probably easier to decipher than cursive. Of course, one can draw objects with this entry method as well.

One unique feature is said method of entering typed text. When the text icon is selected, the user is prompted to tap on a free part of the screen, and, when performed, an adjustable text box appears in which the typed text can be placed. For customization feens, Notepad+ covers the bases: text font and colors can be adjusted via the adjustment tools that appear above the keyboard.

A notebook or album can have multiple pages within; to enter a second page, just swipe across the page to start a second note, and so on and so forth. This is useful for blocks of ideas, or categorized groups of entries. As an added bonus, notebooks can be assigned a four digit password for privacy.

The app provides share functionality, and incorporates the expected tools: email, bluetooth, messaging and more. It gave every share possible app on our test device as an option to send with.

The app is pretty good, but this leads to my biggest gripe: the lack of sync functionality. It begs to be used across devices, and I would have loved a common repository of notes. The share functionality somewhat alleviates this concern.

As a standalone app, I works well, and feels quite worth the $1.99 asking price.

Chillingo Releases New Game Incredible Jack

Chillingo Releases New Game Incredible Jack

Aug 14, 2014

Prolific Android game publisher Chillingo is back with yet another new title; this one is called Incredible Jack.

In this platformer, Jack (a “timbergrote”) is our mythical protagonist, and looks to be reunited with his loved ones and defeat the enemy and seven bosses.

Per the press release:

Reunite Jack with his loved ones in this classic platformer. Follow a trail of shiny golden coins through treetops, leap across overflowing lavapits, and bounce on anything in your way. With all sorts of dangers and surprises waiting for him across 37 levels, Jack’s journey will see him live up to his incredible title.

The trailer (posted below) hints at a delightfully atypical platform game that incorporated different scenery and plt tools. The graphics look robust, and one gets the feeling that the obstacles are a bit “smarter” than average.

Incredible Jack is currently available on the Play Store for $0.99 (with additional option in-app purchases).

CODE Donut Bluetooth Speakers Hardware Review

CODE Donut Bluetooth Speakers Hardware Review

Aug 13, 2014

Someone should have told me not to have a sweet tooth while taking a formal look at the CODE Donut Bluetooth Speakers. Be warned: if you have a thing for sugar highs, this interestingly looking piece might have one over the edge. Blame TaoTronics for sending us one to appraise.

The review box was colorfully presented, and gave a good idea of what was within. Inside, there was the main unit, micro-USB cable and a small NFC tag along with the requisite paperwork. We received the white unit (out of four choices including black, tan and pink); it is barely bigger than the regular-sized doughnut its design comes from. It weighs less than half a pound and has a diameter of 4.92 inches. The unit is mostly crafted with hard plastic on the exterior, with cute designs and intricate cut-outs that destroy any chance of monotony. The white has some purposeful brown splotches which simultaneously maintain the confectionery motif and serve as as structural pieces of the unit. In one color point, there are daintily placed on/call and volume buttons; another flash of brown serves as a flap to cover the micro-USB opening and on the bottom, more brown plastic signifies the base. All in all, it looks whimsical without stumbling over the line to silly.

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Connecting the Bluetooth 3.0 unit to to another bluetooth source is easy enough, and involves toggling the unit on and then holding down the same button to put the Donut in pairing mode. After pairing is achieved, audio signals go through seamlessly. The NFC works well too.

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The sound is crisp; it isn’t the sharpest though, and I thought the bass was a bit muted, and the treble could use some zip too. For admirable sound that isn’t geared towards the most extreme audiophile, this does the job. I liked the output from leveled points, and the range in my testing fell a bit short of the advertised 30 feet. The 1000 mAh battery does give a decent amount of time (it claims 8 hours, and it was still going strong at 5 hours).

I like the call functionality; it actually pauses the music to deal with calls as a speakerphone. Audio on calls was a bit muddy, but to be fair, I could not tell if it was cell-induced. It works well with streamed music and even with my laptop via external bluetooth chip.

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For a simple, atypical option, the CODE Donut is a fine option, especially if one is able to resist taking a bite out of it.

The CODE Donut is available for $50.44 via Amazon.com

Google Search, Google+ and Youtube receive updates

Google Search, Google+ and Youtube receive updates

Aug 13, 2014

Google is in a giving mood, and at least three of its mobile apps for Android have updates available to Android users.

First up, Google Search is introducing flight card updates that provide alternatives when there are delays. Also, train and bus reminders can be generated from reservation emails received via Gmail. Of course, there are the requisite performance tweaks and bug fixes.

the card changes will be of special interest to people who are invested in Google Now, the voice-driven extension of Google Search.

Next up, the new build of YouTube introduces automatic correction of misspelled search entries, a video quality selector that allows mobile users adjust screen resolution, a fix for voice search and other unnamed fixes and improvements.

Rounding out the list is Google+, Google’s social networking and sharing app. It now allows users to cast media and links from their stream to compatible TVs. It’s also possible to edit Auto Awesome Movies on select devices; and then there are the enhancements and fixes.

If you haven’t seen the updates yet, no sweat; they have been rolling out this week, and should get to you soon.

[Source: Google Play]

TYLT Energi Battery Series Hardware Review

TYLT Energi Battery Series Hardware Review

Aug 12, 2014

TYLT is synonymous with accessorized style. From chargers to cases to cables and beyond, one can be assured that products from TYLT will be atypically attractive without sacrificing functionality. The Kickstarter-funding of some of its products adds to its allure.

We had an opportunity to look at it’s wireless charger a while back, and were mostly impressed with the design aesthetic and overall usability. We recently received an opportunity to look at its entire Energi External Battery Pack Series, and jumped in head first. With the increasing trend of sealed batteries in phones with brighter screens PLUS folks carrying several devices, the need for reliable third party battery packs is becoming more of a need than a want.

The review pieces all came individually cased in retail packaging; we got to check out the 2K, 3K, 5K and the momma of them all, the 10K. Each of the numerical designations correspond to the capacity of that unit.

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Of course, we couldn’t resist the urge to put the 10K through the paces. The 10K is pretty solid in hand, fairy thick but not too long at 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches, and weighing in at 11 ounces. This unit comes with a single microUSB cable that can be used to charge the unit, and also to transfer power to a device. The unit itself is mostly black with a subtle, grey logo band that runs round the middle of the unit. The bottom of the unit has four ports, each clearly labeled, with three being for charging (1A, 1A and a tablet-specific 2.1A) and the input port. On the lower end of the left side, there is an on/off button, and a series of LEDs that indicate the amount of charge available with green lights. The unit promises to charge a few devices simultaneously, or a regular device up to four times.

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The unit arrived with a partial charge. It is fairly intuitive to set up and even with a single light showing, it started juicing up the M8. I did expect reasonable charging rate, but it is surprisingly fast, getting the M8 from 40% to full in less than a half hour (using the 2.1A port).

Next, I filled it up and tried it with three devices (an LG G3, a Nook HD+ and the aforementioned M8). The Energi 10K handled itself admirably, getting them all up to par from half way down with charge left. It also has excellent standby functionality, allowing one to keep it unused with the charge retained over time.

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What really makes the Energi series compelling is the range; I do wish the 10K had embedded cable like some of its siblings, but the raw power is comforting. In related testing, the other units are just as effective within their advertised parameters.

The 10K isn’t exactly cheap, at about $99.99 (per Amazon), and it is a bit hefty, but there are different pieces that can suit different needs and price points.

Google Play Summer Sale Still On For Limited Time, Offers Up to 80% Off Select Titles

Google Play Summer Sale Still On For Limited Time, Offers Up to 80% Off Select Titles

Aug 12, 2014

Google Play is continuing its ongoing summer sale, albeit with the “last-chance” descriptor. Some of the discounts are related to in-app purchases versus one-time upfront purchase, and as such, there are free entries (like John Dever’s Lone Wolf) that might remain free after the sale concludes.

The apps on sale run the gamut — there are several camera apps, for instance — and some of them can be had for up to a whopping 80% off. There are several publishers with multiple games included, which will be great for people who like to try new stuff from development houses they are already familiar with.

There are some top shelf titles, notably:

  • Sims 3
  • Power Amp
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Deus Ex: The Fall
  • SoundHound
  • Paper Camera
  • Real Boxing
  • CSI: Hidden Crimes
  • … and a whole lot more.

    No solid word on when the sale will end, so it might be prudent to get in on it as soon as possible.

    [Source: Google Play Sales Page]

    QubicGames To Release Air Race Speed for Android in September

    QubicGames To Release Air Race Speed for Android in September

    Aug 11, 2014

    QubicGames is set to release a port of its Nintendo 3DS title Air Race Speed for Android in September.

    The development house has a history making games for Nintendo systems. According to an earlier blog post on the developer’s site, the Android version will provide “a new gameplay experience with an immersive and very smooth gyroscopig steering, and with highly enhanced graphics. It will feature the levels of the AiRace Speed released on 3DS last September (2013) and completely new levels too.”

    No word on pricing just yet; a video trailer is below.

    Arkon Mobile Grip 2 Mount Hardware Review

    Arkon Mobile Grip 2 Mount Hardware Review

    Aug 11, 2014

    I “discovered” smartphone-based GPS a while back; the ability to have mobile, ad-hoc voice directions, albeit reliant on cellular signal, was invaluable, and since I was frequently on the road headed to new locations, it became one of the most important features on my device. I have never had to rely on a standalone unit, and even when not driving, mobile GPS has been a lifesaver more than once.

    Driving with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a phone isn’t especially safe or effective though, so — cue the “accessorize the ultimate accessory” music — we get to see potentially multidisciplinary tools like the Arkon Deluxe Mini Windshield/Dashboard Sticky Suction Mount (MG279) become prime players.

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    We received the review unit in simple, mostly clear packaging that shows of the components: Mobile Grip 2 Universal Smartphone Holder, an optional Sticky Mounting piece, the swivel adjustment ring, an adhesive disk along with diagrammed paperwork. The core piece is made of hard plastic, with a spring mechanism at the bottom. It feels well crafted, is fairly durable and the diagrams show how easy it is to assemble.

    In practice, the mount works well enough on smooth interiors and glass/windshields. The device holder portion provides a good grip, and the adjustable nature allows for a host of devices to be used with it; it can comfortably hold devices that are up to 3.6″ wide, which means it can even handle some of the more popular phablets. Shaking it vigorously did not dislodge the devices. The suction part works as most do, by pressing on the activating button to create a vacuum seal that works quite well. With some practice, I was able to manipulate the unit with one hand, which is a bonus.

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    The mounting plate allows for the suction cup to be used on other surfaces; I let it cure for 48 hours to be safe, though it only asks for 24. The bond created is quite strong, and it pairs with the suction cup seamlessly. the swivel adjustment ring is a smart piece that helps tighten the angles, and the rotation of the holder is quite useful and well-thought out. The holder can also be used with standard tripods.

    A longer (maybe adjustable?) neck could probably make it more effective, but to be fair, Arkon’s penchant for using common components across several solutions and the 2-yr warranty make this specific tool hard to pass up. I suspect a lot of folks would see the price ($19.99 via the Arkon website) and become even more enamored of this effective piece of kit that can be used on the road… and elsewhere.