It’s still about the ecosystems, and Amazon is holding serve

It’s still about the ecosystems, and Amazon is holding serve

Feb 9, 2018

Remember back when Amazon released the Fire Phone? That Android-flavored smartphone most pundits called a flop? Yes, don’t pretend. You dissed it too.

What about the Amazon Appstore? It was appreciated, but with developers less likely to put their apps on it versus the Play Store, it was always gonna be a tough sell. Hey, at least the Fire Tablets have been doing well, right? Either way, for all its financial acumen, we couldn’t help but wonder if Amazon would really become that other ecosystem consumers deserved. I mean, Apple, Google, Samsung et al. weren’t taking naps at the time, either.

Somehow, we practically missed her until she was right on top of us: Alexa.

Hey, nothing has changed. It’s all about the ecosystems, and Amazon seems to be pace setter, especially from a mindshare perspective. In this race, mindshare is gold.

With the connected smarthome being the new frontier, being in front early is important. When it comes to consumer adoption, it’s not always about who has the best product on the market, but rather who has the most recognizable one. When your grandma makes fun of friends who use Alexa, Amazon smiles because it knows it has a future customer.

Don’t cry too hard for Apple. It has become great at sitting back and perfecting technology rather than necessarily introducing it.

One thing’s for sure: consumer wins.


Jam Ultra Wireless Earbuds Review

Jam Ultra Wireless Earbuds Review

Feb 8, 2018

We’ve said it before: with the advent of Apple’s version (hey, we admit it), truly wireless headphones — you know, the ones that have each earbud wirelessly free of each other — are becoming more mainstream. They aren’t just hipster novelties anymore, in that they actually have real, measurable value for everyday users.

Jam Audio has thrown a firm hat into the consumer ring with its Ultra Wireless Earbuds, a (relatively) decently priced wireless offering.

The earbuds both fit in the palm easily, dark in appearance and each not too much bigger than an acorn. They each have replaceable tips, and allow the earbuds to sit in the ear, and form a seal on the outside. They fit well as stock.

As with most truly wireless earbuds, the overall experience and aesthetic have a good deal to do with the design and utility of the charging solution. As noted, these ones utilize a portable charging case. At first glance (and compared to the charging cases of competing sets), they may come across as somewhat bulky, but they aren’t ugly, and can be pocketed without too mush unseemliness.


In practice, the Jam Ultras took a bit of while to reconnect to devices it had already been paired to the first time; after this, it was fairly spot on in this regard. When it was connected, the sound quality was sharp and uninterrupted when within ten feet of the audio source. Further out allowed for a bit of interference.

They were great for podcasts, and was a great outlet for the jazz, country, pop, hip hop and R&B tracks that were piped through them. They also performed well during running and didn’t chafe the ears during extended use.

ALl in all, a great set of earbuds for everyday use, and at $99 on the Jam Audio website, a good deal cheaper than other options out there.

Who? What? Why? When? Where? Wednesday!

You have questions. We don’t always have the answers.

— So who is not interested in finding out more about the upcoming Samsung flagships? Courtesy of Android Central, we’re hearing Oreo, Snapdragon and 12 MP cameras. Yum.

— Well, it’s about time MyScript Nebo was made available for Samsung Note8. What is it? Handwriting recognition for devices that utilize active pens. I’m thirsty.

Who won the unofficial Super Bowl Ad championship? Alexa, who was mostly missing. On a serious note, what would we do without Alexa?

Where can I find a non-disposable bluetooth tracker that down’t need to be charged twice a day? You know… something thin, portable and unobtrusive?

Why do I feel quite comfortable with the, uh, ancient S7e I use as daily driver. Could it be it’s easier to keep devices for longer now because there is less innovation?

Round and about the Steel Media world

Round and about the Steel Media world

Feb 2, 2018

Yikes. it was 2017 not too long ago. Can it really already be February?

Yes… another week, another slew of great content all around the Steel media landscape. It is pretty good stuff, even if we do say so ourselves.

First up, let’s take a look at PG. Hey, whaddya know? The latest Pocket Gamer Podcast — Episode 429, no less — is live now. On tap this week: discussion about Mario Kart Tour and Hero Hunters. You can also find a comprehensive list of 67 games that are soft launched on Android and iOS, as well as some interest talk pertaining to LEGO games.

I’m interested in a Westworld game for mobile, and you will be too.

If you haven’t checked out 148Apps this week, shame on you! How else would you pick up on Harry Slater’s round up of the best iOS games currently on sale? There’s also some great gaming hints for the crazy popular Headshot ZD and reviews for Pako 2 and Disc Drivin’ 2.

Now, you’ll definitely wanna swing by AppSpy, if only to check out Christian Valentin’s pick for hidden gem of the week (hint: it’s all about geometry). You can also read up on recent mobile entries Gunslugs 3 and Tesla vs Lovecraft.

The real good news? This only scratches the surface. Head on out to Pocket Gamer, 148Apps and AppSpy to get all the content you could want, and then some.


Blast from the past: Broken Sword

Blast from the past: Broken Sword

Jan 30, 2018

Long before Dan Brown got regular people talking about Knight Templars in their book clubs (and long, long before Tom Hanks had us doing the same in our living rooms), some of us already had an in on the shadowy world of religious conspiracies. It came in the form of the point and click adventure of the time, called Broken Sword.

Look, this was a fantastic game. My first foray occurred, believe it or not, on Palm. Before then, it cut its teeth as a very popular PC game. Since then, it has spawned versions on other mobile platforms (like Android and iOS, of course), sequels, prequels and even the eponymous proof of standing: a Director’s Cut.

Want more proof? it has been nominated for our very own Pocket Gamer awards in years past.

From a personal standpoint, it is a bit of a family gaming heirloom. It was one of the first games we played as a family, and even now, it is the one application that makes it worthwhile to keep the old Palm T5 charged up. As part of our Google Play family library, it exists and every device, including, most recently, my Chromebook.


Then, as now, the game’s charm is based on its creativity. Right from the beginning, it draws you in, and doesn’t let go; because of its design, it felt tailor-made for mobile play. The artwork was zany then, and retains that quality even when seen through eyes spoiled on high fidelity graphics. But the coolest factor was that the game came together very well.

All the accolades aside, Broken Sword represents a fun time in my life… back when everything was evergreen, and life was so full of hope. When I fire it up now, I get the same feelings.

Life can be a game.

[Our Broken Sword Review]

An in-depth look at NETGEAR Orbi: could wall-to-wall wi-fi be a possibility?

An in-depth look at NETGEAR Orbi: could wall-to-wall wi-fi be a possibility?

Jan 28, 2018

I remember when I first got a wi-fi router. Yes, in those days, when I wanted to get online on the phone-book looking laptop, I had to disconnect the ethernet cable from the desktop and reconnect it to said laptop. Yes… very mobile.

My wife wondered aloud at the investment. Why on earth did we need wireless connectivity? I gave her the techie’s best catchall answer: because it’s cool.

Now, for myself and the practically the rest of the world, wi-fi is ubiquitously necessary. Seriously… I remember when we had the only network in our neighborhood. Now, there are scores of them whenever you look to sign in, including the standard sophomoric joke names referencing anatomy and federal agencies to boot. I expect doctor’s offices, coffee hangouts and church to have complimentary wi-fi. And, interestingly enough, turning it off is the one way I can simultaneously elicit screams from every corner of the house… the loudest coming from the same person who originally doubted its usability.

Wi-fi is serious business. When auto manufacturers start incorporating something as a standout feature, you know it’s big.

But back to wi-fi at home… wi-fi coverage has gotten so much better, what with better technology and front-facing hardware, but dead spots at home can be a problem. I have a painful one, right across from the refrigerator. I have come to live with such, consoling myself in the fact that it could be worse, and even unconsciously looking for routers so as to be as close to them wherever I go.

The latest concept that is catching major steam is mesh coverage. This system looks to eliminate coverage dead spots by providing a, well, web of coverage that utilizes multiple hardware clients. NETGEAR looks to take this idea and gives us the Orbi.


Now, if you want to be especially technical, the Orbi isn’t a true mesh network, in that it probably is more similar to a router-repeater setup. The resulting coverage purports to be more likened to said mesh coverage, which is what really matters. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to check this out.

NETGEAR sent us a 2-pc version, dignified and all in blue retail packaging. The review package contained two pieces that looked similar: a main router and an extender. Both pieces might remind you of a set of wireless speakers, coming in at 6.7 x 3.1 x 8.89 inches, and weighing just under 2 lbs each.

Setup was relatively easy; almost plug and play in the easiest mode. Setup from there was like any other: sign in via the web. Next, I configured the companion app, available on Google Play; the Netgear Orbi app in the same vein as other Netgear apps, in that it allows the administrator (in my case, read: parents) to control wi-fi access, set up quest access and monitor overall usage. Amazon Alexa can be used to launch guest network, by the way, in addition to other voice commands.

But how did it fair? SUperlatively, in the non-mansion target home it was tested in. That stubborn access disappeared, even with several walls between. Next up: how does it work at the office? Follow-to come soon, hopefully.

In case you missed it: elsewhere on Steel Media

The coolest thing about being part of a media network is that there is literally always something fresh… be it a different take, a new game or a platform-specific helper. Just in case you missed the goodness, here’s a quick rundown of some of the happenings on our sister sites.

Pocket Gamer

It’s always live at PG, and for folks that have a taste for sexy game talk, the latest Pocket Gamer Podcast — Episode 428 — is here. On the docket? Convo about The Room: Old Sins, Thumper and an interview Warhammer Quest II‘s developer.

There’s more… a walkthrough for popular cross-platform game Super Senso, and Jon Mundy’s take on the best iOS and Android games of January 2018.


Where to begin… if you want some tips and tricks to get ahead in Meteorfall, or become the baddest crime fighter in Jydge, or simply want to set sail with the best info possible in World of Warship Blitz… rest assured, the crew at 148apps has you well covered.



If you’re looking for news about the latest music game that’s dropped on mobile, AppSpy’s got you covered with it’s quick hitter on aforementioned new iOS app Thumper. You also want to drink in the feature read on the Hidden Gem of the Week, Ending, as well as furthering your ambition to become the best turn-based gunslinger by reading up on Christian Valentin’s hot take on Infinite West.

About that impromptu toughness test…

About that impromptu toughness test…

Jan 16, 2018

There is nothing — NOTHING — sexy about those insane drop tests. You know, the ones where the geek with the masochist streak lets admittedly increasingly fragile devices drop to the floor… supposedly to see how well they react to the clumsiness that occurs in the real world. I think it takes a twisted individual to be able to do this, but there is a place for ruggedness testing. These tech gizmos aren’t cheap, and even the most careful of us can have our plans for device longevity thwarted by the innocent gestures of a kid borrowing one’s phone to catch an episode of Super Y.

Stuff happens.

I come across all sorts of gadgets, and have the privilege of getting to try out dozens of products in any single category. Consequently, when I did pick a device, it is usually one that I can truly call the best for my needs at that time.

Like my earpiece of choice, the Jabra Eclipse. Sleek, light, effective, with a portable charging case to boot. I use it for calls, music and podcasts, and frankly, I baby the precious unit.

Till my laundry mishap last week.

Hey, I always check my pockets for gadgets. It’s a big reason I tend to do the laundry myself, actually; a soaked phone would cause me to swoon. Somehow, I messed up. I remember making a late addition to the load: a light jacket I’d worn out earlier in the day. It had the Eclipse and case in it. It went through the wash and dryer cycles, and I didn’t discover it till I got the clothes out to iron.

Ugh… my heart dropped when I saw the case at the bottom of the barrel. It took me a little while to locate the earpiece, which was magnetically stuck to the top of the dryer. Physically, it looked fine, but I just knew it would never work again.

But hey, I plugged in the charging case, and slapped in the earpiece. It started charging. What? After a half hour, it was working. Flawlessly.

So that’s my story of the Impromptu Toughness Test. Well done, Jabra.

[Our Jabra Eclipse Review]

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!!!