After a few months, YouTube TV is beginning to grow on me

After a few months, YouTube TV is beginning to grow on me

Jan 10, 2018

It’s a cord cutter’s world (it seems) and we just live in it. I truly believe more of us are beginning to enjoy said world. There are quite a few options for folks trying to forego traditional cable television, and YouTube TV is definitely one that has created some buzz. After a several weeks (going on months) trying it out, here are some of our thoughts.

  • Location, location… location! It’s still all about where you live. The list of supported locales is growing though.
  • Sports lovers will probably smile, but probably won’t cackle out loud. ESPN remains a big draw, and there are other local sports options,but there a few staples that are not standard yet. Still, there are some bright spots; for instance, hardcore soccer fans can recover from USA not making the World Cup with a soccer-laden add-on which runs for $15 per month extra.
  • Unlimited DVR is just as cool as it sounds. The ability is pause, forward and rewind live shows isn’t remotely innovative, but it is awesome. Before long, it is easy to have a large collection of shows and movies, albeit edited for broadcast TV and consisting of ads. Hello, 30 for 30; greetings, Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
  • Controlling shows on phone or tablet is okay, but your might crave a bona fide remote control every now and then, a la Amazon Fire TV. It’s great being able to stream from any number of devices (including the Youtube TV app on iOS devices), but your smartphone might not have the most “natural” feel when it comes to managing the broadcasts.
  • The Chromecast offer (get a new one “free” after paying for the service for a month) is worth it. If you haven’t yet upgraded to the latest version, it is definitely a true upgrade performance-wise. The hand-offs are much quicker, it’s easier to engage and disengage the stream and there are definitely fewer latency issues.

The list of metros that have the service available continues to grow, and the no obligation trial makes it easy to try.

My app addiction: Google Home

My app addiction: Google Home

Jan 9, 2018

The world is simultaneously getting more connected and more untethered, and I love it. Even better, I enjoy the way mobile devices are becoming the heartbeats of a new paradigm… the so-called “connected home” that allows us to literally bring the internet of things home.

Of course, Google is at the forefront of this movement, and one of its biggest pieces in this pursuit is its all-encompassing control hub, Google Home.

The app does a lot — but my usage really devices around casting content from my phone, of late especially YouTube TV.

Now, the beauty of the setup is that using Google Home to cast does not tie up one’s phone. Indeed, one can go on and do any number of activities on the hosting device… like, say, drafting an article highlighting why the app is so easy to get addicted to.

One of the things that makes the whole system worth it is the built-in nature of the system. Google Cast is built into the Chrome browser, so, in theory, you can mirror most things from the Chrome browser to an equipped television. This also means I can use Cast-ready applications, like the Youtube TV app, on iOS. That’s not a bad proposition at all, especially folks who use technology across mobile platforms. And the list of iOS apps that are ready to go is fairly expansive, including media favorites like HBO GO, Showtime, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, Spotify and >a whole lot more. And remember, the Chrome thingie means your PC can be a portal too.

Now that I am beginning to dabble more into Google Home (the hardware, that is), the app becomes more of a mainstay for me. Google Home ties it altogether, making life easier and more cohesive, all while becoming more indispensable to me and mine.

You’ve seen the film, now play the game: Ferdinand: Unstoppabull is out now on Android

You’ve seen the film, now play the game: Ferdinand: Unstoppabull is out now on Android

Jan 4, 2018

Ferdinand: Unstoppabull is a match three puzzler that serves as the official game of the animated movie of (almost) the same name.

It’s a match three puzzler as you know and love them. You’ll match blocks together to earn a high score, doing so over hundreds of levels.

There’s a twist here though. Matching blocks causes your favourite characters – who all feature – to perform a bunch of different dance moves. Snazzy!

You can upgrade all of these dance moves as well to increase the score they provide when you do them. That will help you beat all your friends.

Another interesting feature is the ability to have the game play automatically. Not only is this quite unique for a match three puzzler, but the hedgehogs Uno, Dos, and Quatro will play rather than the AI.

With hundreds of levels to complete, a variety of dance moves to master, and special abilities to unleash, Ferdinand: Unstoppabull is chock full of content.

So go ahead and grab it right now from Google Play. You certainly won’t regret it!

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Jan 1, 2018

Wishing everyone’s best tech dreams of 2018 come true!!!

ECOVACS R95 — a smart cleaning experience

ECOVACS R95 — a smart cleaning experience

Dec 27, 2017

I got in on the smart home movement before it really was a defined thing. I mean, I’d love to writing about technology is the reason, but the truth is that I am a gadget freak.

As such, I have tried several items and products that were great in theory, but probably a bit too early for mass consumption at the time… at least for my usage at that time. Take robotic vacuums for instance; loved them, but my first foray into them tech aeons ago was less than satisfactory. The robots where great to watch, but weren’t especially smart, and when it was all said and done, I wasn’t opposed to just doing the deed with the trusty upright.

Things have changed. With recent changes and the maturing of the smart home, robotic vacuums are in vogue, and really useful. In fact, recent numbers suggest they are close to mainstream.

Enter ECOVACS Deebot R95, one of the latest robotic rollers from the established tech company.

It’s a weighty piece, but not unwieldy, similar in stylings to the default look we associate with robotic vacuums: flying saucer-ish, and a little thick in the waist. It has a grey finish over mostly black, and comes with a stationary charging dock. The bottom has two wheels, and other parts and pieces to help it get the job done.

The job? Cleaning your floors… duh. After the charging period, the thing calls for it to be started via the prominent “Auto” button on top. After some tinkering (which involved manually re-docking, searching for and downloading the app on Google Play, and re-staring the process via said app), I was able to get it going and simultaneously observe it in action.

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Deebot uses its lasers to map out a virtual path of the room, and then proceeds to “grey” out the area as it works. I admit, I spent an unusually long time watching the virtual process on my smartphone. It attempts to go anywhere it can fit into, and deftly works around physical objects in its way. It does eat up smaller things, and can get stopped by things it cannot digest, like the errant cable. When this happens, it is not too shy to announce its inability to move, and requests that the offending material be removed manually.

As long as the area to be cleaned is reasonably free of palmable objects — more or less the same type of objects one would pre-pick prior to using a “traditional” upright vacuum — Deebot does its thing capably. The dirt receptacle is fit with a filter, and it is not the largest. It makes sense to empty it out after each cleaning, in my estimation.

One great aspect is the ability to use it on different floors. It can mop too, with the right pieces attached.

My favorite feature, beyond the app-related control, is the Amazon Alexa functionality. It is possible to get Deebot working via voice command. Pretty nifty.

A few nitpicky drawbacks… first, the dirt receptacle is relatively tiny, which explains why the manufacturer strongly suggests emptying after each use. Also, the included documentation didn’t mention the companion app, the use of which absolutely makes setup infinitely easier.

Sweet Kitty is a match-three adventure that will give you a sugar rush

Sweet Kitty is a match-three adventure that will give you a sugar rush

Dec 18, 2017

Sweety the Kitty needs your help to become a master chef in Sweety Kitty. Created and self published by Integra Games Global OU, the adorable match-three adventure game is now available on the App Store and Google Play. Journey around a world full of colourful levels to collect recipes and help Sweety on his harrowing adventure.

Sweety Kitty features over a hundred unique levels that will see you matching delectable candies, tarts, and pies to earn a high score and complete each challenge. Travel across diverse, beautifully designed locales to collect recipes for Sweety’s recipe book, a family heirloom left to him by his Granny.

Along the way, you’ll meet up with the evil Rat, who will stop at nothing to see Sweety fail. Help Sweety protect his precious recipes by defeating the Rat in puzzle challenges that will really keep you on your toes. If you run into trouble, you can always call on your friends for help in Sweety Kitty’s multiplayer mode.

Are you ready to embark on this delectable journey? You can download Sweety Kitty right now from the App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Facebook.

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.

Prepare for the nuclear apocalypse in 60 Seconds! Atomic Adventure

Prepare for the nuclear apocalypse in 60 Seconds! Atomic Adventure

Dec 15, 2017

What would you do if you only had 60 seconds to prepare your family for the pending doom of the entire world? It’s hard to imagine, but you can get some good ol’ video game practice in with 60 Seconds! Atomic Adventure, Robot Gentleman’s apocalyptic indie adventure. The game is making the jump from PC to Android, and you’ll be able to test your own disaster scenarios in this dark comedy quite soon.

60 Seconds! Atomic Adventure casts you as Ted, a family man frantically scrambling to gather supplies before the nuclear apocalypse hits. You’ll need to gather your family members and enough supplies to hold you over in your fallout shelter. Ted’s house is different in each playthrough, meaning you’ll be struggling to find things in time, adding to the tension each time you return to the game.

Once you make to your shelter, however, another struggle begins. Whatever you manage to bring with you is key to your survival–the first 60 seconds of the game could determine whether you live or die. The game will throw unexpected events at you, forcing you to make tough decisions as you forge a new life in the post-apocalypse. Which of your family members get to eat the precious food rations? Will you venture outside to hunt for more? Do you answer the door when someone comes knocking? Each playthrough presents new decisions that will shape the story in fun new ways.

60 Seconds

Eager to try your hand at survival? 60 Seconds! Atomic Adventure lands on Android on December 28th.

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.

Get your online fantasy fix in Lineage 2: Revolution’s latest update

Get your online fantasy fix in Lineage 2: Revolution’s latest update

Dec 14, 2017

Putting an endcap on what is already sure to be an impressive year for mobile publisher Netmarble, a new update is gracing their chart-topping fantasy MMORPG from today. Bringing with it a wealth of gameplay tweaks and additional servers, the star of the show is the introduction of 50v50 siege battles – available now in Lineage 2: Revolution.

Pitting clans against each other in two teams of 50, Fortress Sieges act as the headline act within Lineage 2: Revolution’s end of year update. Taking place every Friday from 20:30 – 21:00 PST, the objective is to “imprint” onto the opposing team’s Holy Artefact, with many buffs and rewards awaiting those good enough to do so. Both sides can look forward to Adena, EXP, and Proof of Blood as standard, making every Fortress Siege a worthy endeavour.

Newcomers needn’t miss out on the thrill of epic online battles thanks to the addition of a new mode known as Open Siege. It plays largely the same but works by placing every participant at an equal combat power and level, meaning that acute skill and strategy is rewarded more so than sheer brawn. Player count is also limited to 30v30 without the need to be part of a clan, making Open Siege the perfect place to hone your online ability in Lineage 2: Revolution.

Those worried about the popularity of Lineage 2: Revolution’s new modes causing server strain can rest comfortably, with Netmarble introducing three new servers exclusively for North America and European. This will help ensure that players old and new that want to jump in will have the smoothest online experience possible.
There’s never been a better time to jump in, gear up, and do battle. Lineage 2: Revolution and its end of year update are live now on Google Play.

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.

My App Addiction: Nova Launcher

My App Addiction: Nova Launcher

Dec 7, 2017

There’s no way you’ve been on Android for more than a fortnight and not heard of it. Come on. You either insanely love this application… or you know someone who does.

What does Nova Launcher do? Well, think of it as a replacement for the underlying UI that allows you to interact with — and launch stuff on — your device. You know… that software veneer that you work with to get to stuff. Every device in every OS has a stock option built in.

On a platform like Android where customization is a trademark, Nova Launcher is especially valued. The same attribute that allow Android to be so easy to get into — the diversity of product — also leads to a major complaint.

IOS devices noted have UI consistency. Pick up an Android device from Samsung, and another from LG, and you’ll see that they each have different UI flavors from an HTC or BlackBerry or whoever makes the device. Every manufacturer has it’s own concept, and if you’re even a little OCD, this can wreak havoc on your emotions.

Nova Launcher is an option that can provide consistency.for those that crave it.

Basically, you can install the app across all your Android devices, and have them all look and feel the same. Further, you get the full library of custom Nova customizations available across devices.

For someone like me, the benefits are numerous. One, I have a pretty unique homescreen that I have honed for years. It uses a lot of hidden icons and file groups, such that this arrangement is somewhat of a second security layer. Nova Launcher (plus several other tools) allows me to have this setup, but also allows me to have the same setup on all devices, including on AMIDuOS on my Windows tablet. Having the same setup boosts my productivity.

Look, I’ve done my good deed for the season. Check the free trial out, and get the paid version. Put it in your family library. Boom. Just did your Christmas shopping for you too.

You’re welcome.

Join Blob on his latest adventure in Give It Up! 3

Join Blob on his latest adventure in Give It Up! 3

Nov 26, 2017

Give It Up! 3, the latest action-adventure title from Yoozoo Games and Invictus Gaming, recently made its big debut, introducing a host of new worlds, customization features, and multiplayer modes for players to explore. Guide Blob, your amorphous hero, through imaginative colorful levels in his most exciting adventure yet.

The game is boasting a new and improved 3D aesthetic, with five expansive worlds for you to explore. Players can take their time to play through each level, uncovering every puzzle and surprise hidden therein. You’ll guide Blob through a number of interesting worlds, from jungle areas to even a car chassis. When you begin to tire of single player (which will likely take you quite some time), don’t forget to check out Give It Up! 3’s brand new PVP modes. You can compete against seven other players in League mode, or go head to head against a lone competitor in Arena mode.

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Give It Up! 3 even offers you the tools you’ll need to set yourself apart from the competition. Customize your Blob’s appearance, choosing from a number of different styles asnd props. You can deck your Blob out in some pretty sweet Wolverine claws, or opt for something classic, like a baseball bat. Yoozoo’s also offering players 12 new exclusive skins dedicated to the Chinese Zodiac.

You can find Give It Up! 3 available to download right now from Google Play.

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.

Black Friday Watch

Black Friday Watch

Nov 23, 2017

It’s that time of year, and we’re listing all relevant sales that we can find online. Here is a list of Android-related goodies that are discounted.

We’ll update as we go on.

Here we go:

APPS/GAMES

Google Play:

Framed $2.99 $0.99

League of Stickman 2017-Ninja $0.99 $0.50

Trivia Crack (No Ads) $2.99 $0.99

Mini Metro $4.99 $0.99

Day R Premium $4.99 $0.99

Monument Valley $3.99 $1.29

Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition $4.99 $0.99

Bloons Supermonkey 2 $2.99 $0.99

Chameleon Run $1.99 $0.99

Mystery of Fortune 2 $0.99 $0.49

Dice With Buddies $2.99 0.99

Layton’s Mystery Journey $15.99 $6.99

Ticket to Ride $6.99 $1.99

Farming Simulator 16 $2.99 $0.99

Call of Duty:Black Ops Zombies $6.99 $2.99

LEGO Jurassic World $4.99 $0.99

Another World $3.99 $0.99

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition $4.99 $0.99

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions $9.99 $3.99

Amazon Appstore:

Mega Man 1, Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3 $1.99 each $0.99 each

Music

4 month Google Play Music Subscription (for new users) $39.96 Free

HARDWARE

Virtual Reality

Samsung VR w/Controller $129.99 $89.99

Chromebooks

Acer R 11 Convertible Chromebook $279.99 $179.99

Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C6ZB) $329.99 $249.99.

Acer Chromebook (CB3-131-C3SZ) $199.00 $129.00

Controllers

Gamevice Controller for Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+/Note8 $79.95 $59.95

Smart Home

D-Link HD 180-Degree Wi-Fi Camera $129.99 $99.99

Extended hands on with Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite Tablet

Extended hands on with Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite Tablet

Nov 16, 2017

The Android tablet scene is far from sparse. There are several vendors, exponentially more options, and consumer is king.

As such, it’s tough for manufacturers to make a name for themselves. Huawei has come quite far from those heady days when it had to teach people how to pronounce its name; indeed, Huawei can arguably claim to be one of the more prominent Android OEMs.

Such recognition can be a double-edged sword, what with affordable options like the recently released Mediapad M3 Lite. We definitely looked to give it a major workout.

The review retail box contained the tablet, charging pieces, paperwork and eject pin. Then, it’s off to charge.

Now, if the screen should be considered the jump-off point, the M3L definitely makes a great impression. Right upon initial boot, the vivid 1920 x 1200 pixel 8-inch screen smiles in greeting. It does like smudges though.

Just beyond the screen, you do get a sharp white frame, with space up top for an 8MP fixed focus front-facing camera, while a deceptive home button resides at the bottom. Around the frame, there are the requisite ports: audio input, micro-HDMI charging, microphone and speakers. The volume rocker and power buttons reside on the right, while there is a prominent 8MP auto-focus snapper. If you blink, you might miss the microSD card expansion slot. All this packed into a 8.4 x 4.9 x 0.3 inch frame that comes in at under 11 ounces.

m3

Altogether, the white finish with silver accents worked well on our review unit (and we hear it can be had in grey and gold too).

We proceeded to setup… the M3L does its thing snappily; under the hood, it packs a familiar Qualcomm Snapdragon octa-core processor. A quick run through reveals the standard stuff: bluetooth and GPS, plus 3 GB RAM, 16 GB memory and a 4800 mAh battery.

But back to performance. Basic operations like browsing, listening to music and running social networking apps didn’t cause any noticeable slowdowns. I did wish it had more onboard memory, especially with all the stock (Facebook, Amazon, Lyft, etc) apps it has. The iteration of EMUI is a nice, relatively thin-feeling overlay, and the fingerprint reader is a great latent touch, in that you might get fooled by the placement on the “home” button.

And the camera… well, check it out:

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Whines? One’s man’s must-have is another’s man app bloat. I wish I could remove — completely — apps that I don’t want. Which brings me to another nitpick: 16GB isn’t a lot for wanna be app hoarders.

The M3L does well to make you feel like you are getting a good deal for relatively little. It doesn’t really compete well with its big brother, but I hazard that its biggest positive is that it really isn’t supposed to.