CES 2012: New Android Hardware Roundup

CES 2012: New Android Hardware Roundup

Jan 11, 2012

Ah yes, a big technology trade show rolls around and plenty of shiny new Android hardware is unveiled. While some on the Apple side of the aisle will sneer at more potential iPhone killers that likely won’t be as such, and WP7 & BlackBerry fans will lament their lack of attention being paid to them, there’s still a variety of interesting new phones and devices to report on.

Motorola Droid 4: The Droid 4 is the latest in the flagship line of Motorola & Verizon’s Droid phones. Like the other flagship Droids, it boasts a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, with only a .5 inch thickness. It has a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, a gigabyte of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording, and a 4-inch 960×540 screen. Sadly, it will only ship with Gingerbread, but should get an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade later.

Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX: Android phones do not have great battery life; it’s kind of a fact of life at this point, sadly. Motorola’s solution? A new Droid Razr that boasts a 3300 mAh battery versus the original 1700 mAh. Most phones use a similar amount of battery capacity. Apparently the phone is about as thin as the original Droid Razr was, or at least any difference in thickness is negligible. It boats the same specifications as the regular Droid Razr otherwise.

Asus MeMO 370T Tablet: Asus announced this upcoming 7″ tablet in partnership with Nvidia, which hopes to combine two disparate tablet worlds: the low-priced entry model tablets with the high-performance Android tablets. The tablet boasts a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, Ice Cream Sandwich, and various other Nvidia features, such as a “fifth ninja core” that will be used for features like “Direct Touch” which supposedly will improve touch screen response. Apparently the device will be powerful enough to run PC games remotely, as Asus ran a demo with Skyrim running off a remote PC, being played on the tablet.

Asus Padfone: Enthusiastically revealed last year, Asus’ phone with tablet dock is still in the works, as they showed it off at CES. However, it’s being kept under glass at this point, and no release date has been revealed yet. We believe in you, Padfone!

FXI Cotton Candy: This USB/HDMI stick runs, rather impressively, a dual-boot solution of Ice Cream Sandwich and Ubuntu. It can either plug into a display, or be run on a computer. It’s still in prototype form, will require a microSD card to store the OS, and. However, it’s still an extremely intriguing piece of hardware, especially with the ability to just plug in to any display easily using HDMI.

Lenovo K800: This phone is notable particularly for being the first Android phone to use Intel chipsets to power it; it will initially be available in China, boasting a 4.5″ 720p display, and Ice Cream Sandwich. It will release in 2nd quarter this year.

Theme Thursday – Frozen Android

Theme Thursday – Frozen Android

Nov 10, 2011

In the mood for something cool and refreshing? Perhaps you would like to try an Android on the rocks? If so, take a look at Frozen Android and see if it’s a theme you would like to chill with.

Frozen Android puts your favorite app icons on ice, surrounding them in cool shades of blue and hard freezing them. It even extends this idea into several of the 5 included background images, giving you a good view of the “honeybee” Android mascot looking a lot like the Demolition Man.

Running in ADW Launcher, a home replacement utility, Frozen Android instantly transforms the graphical user interface of your Android device into a customized look and feel. It’s the easiest way to give your device a unique design that you’ll love to show off at every opportunity you get. And, of course, in case that isn’t quite distinct enough for you, you can always further customize the theme by mixing and matching it with others. From icons to wall papers and dock styles, there are a multitude of ways to make your Android device truly your own.

Frozen Android is completely free, so you won’t have to spend anything to get it up and running on your device. The author of Frozen Android has stated that more icons are on their way; however, the theme hasn’t been updated in a while. The author does includes contact information, though, just in case you don’t find an icon for your favorite app and would like to get in contact to get more.

Of course, a frozen droid is never a good thing, unless we’re talking about this theme. In which case, hopefully, plenty of people will agree that this is an attractive theme, well worth the download.

You can find Frozen Android on the Android Market.

LightUp Review

LightUp Review

May 11, 2011

LightUp is an interesting puzzle game wrapped up in some great looks and cool ideas. However, there are a lot of problems plaguing this game.

Playing with lasers is cool, and in LightUp, you have 48 different ways to play with them. Each level is a puzzle, and the only way to solve each puzzle involves using mirrors, splitters and other pieces to bounce the light into specific targets. As you progress through the game, it becomes increasingly difficult, offering new pieces and cool new tricks to do. If you can solve the puzzle under a par time, you can maximize your score, but you have to be careful, as there are black holes that add time onto the clock each time you hit them.

Every fifth level is an especially tricky level where the emitter is switched off while you place your pieces. When you’re ready, switch on the emitter and hope you have the right solution. Otherwise, the grid clears and you have to start all over again while the clock just keeps running. These were probably the most interesting levels as there was no way to figure them out without also resetting them each time you switched on the emitter.

LightUp features some very nice graphics with eye-catching special effects. It’s reminiscent of Geometry Wars in how colorful and psychedelic it can be. As simple as the game is, sometimes, it just looks awesome. My favorite part of the game, by far, is the soundtrack. It’s epic, sweeping synth-based music that doesn’t just set the mood, it’s good enough that I could actually listen to it outside the game. Great stuff.

Now, for the bad. There’s a number of strikes against this game that mar it in terrible ways. Inaccurate, unresponsive controls, sound effects that sound like they were recorded way too loud and not a lot of replay value. Some of the problems, especially the overdriven sound effects, are so blatantly obvious that I wonder if this game went through any kind of QA process.

To add insult to injury, sometimes, I start up the game and get nothing but a white screen. The app doesn’t crash, but the graphics go completely glitchy and the app needs to be killed before it will work properly again. Also, what’s the deal with the “Exit Yes/No?” pop-up box that doesn’t work at all? When I click the “back” button on my phone, this dialogue box pops-up. Clicking “Yes” just closes the box while the game continues to run.

The real kicker here is that LightUp is still on version 1.0 and hasn’t been updated since May 2010. That’s a long time to go without fixing a number of obvious problems. This game is in a pretty sorry state, and if I were you, I’d avoid it altogether. It could have been a lot more fun, but needs some serious fixing before it’s worth the asking price.

Ancient Frog Review

Ancient Frog Review

Apr 25, 2011

Ancient Frog is one of those games I’m always looking forward to discovering, as a reviewer. As much as I love shooters and action games, I can’t help my craving for the more artsy/outsider style of games. It’s such a unique experience that, at times, doesn’t even really feel like a game.

There are no “lives,” no time limit or leader board to compete with. You’re playing as a frog, trying to climb your way to a tasty fly in as few moves as possible with the goal of coming in “under par.” But rather than manipulate a directional pad or other such control scheme, you’re moving the frog’s limbs, one at a time.

Some levels of Ancient Frog are so easy that it feels like you’re hardly trying at all. Then, it gets hard. Like, we’re talking QWOP-level difficulty. Even with the built-in hints feature giving you some idea of where the frog needs to be to advance, just getting it into that position can be mind-bending.

What makes the game so difficult is that you have to take into account the physical limitations of the frogs and that the footholds are set in specific locations. You can’t just stretch a leg or bend a joint in a direction it won’t go, and if the only way to go up is to rotate 180 degrees and climb upside down, that’s just how you’ll have to do it. Half the battle is figuring out which limb to place first, as you can find yourself without a solution right from the very first, wrong step. Thankfully, swiping the screen to the left provides a convenient “undo” function.

The graphics are breathtaking, featuring fluid animation and photo-realistic environments. Granted, there’s not a lot going on — a 3D frog model, a buzzing fly, some dew drops or other object to climb on and a picture of a leaf, lilly pad or tree trunk to provide the background. Even so, the texture work and special effects are simply phenomenal.

The only problem I had with the graphics was on the tree trunk levels, where it can be extremely difficult to see each foothold. Thankfully, the game highlights any foothold you can reach when you select a limb, but it makes planning each move in advance very strenuous. I couldn’t wait to pass these levels.

In the end, we’re left with an extremely unique puzzle game with stunning graphics and a zen-like experience. The world just melts away as you become engrossed with solving each one. What’s even more interesting is that I actually found myself thinking like a rock climber, relying on what little experience I’ve had from the few times I’ve climbed artificial rock faces. You can’t actually fall in the game, but you have to plan out each movement or risk getting stuck. It can be very frustrating.

All in all, Ancient Frog is just a great little game that I’ve become extremely enamored with. I’m glad I got to play it.

Recoil Review

Recoil Review

Apr 18, 2011

Developer: Chipsteam
Price: US$0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: Motorola Droid X

Recoil is a time-waster; it is an affair that lasts minutes and doesn’t overstay its welcome. However, it represents an interesting conundrum. As a simple, physics-based game featuring a dot amidst a scrambled mess of lines, are the extremely basic rules and visuals too simple to be entertaining? And, if so, is it at least fun? These are questions I keep asking myself as I play it.

Recoil is like playing some piece of abstract art where the lines and dots suddenly spring to life and become game pieces. The idea is to aim the dot at the lines, like aiming a cue ball in a game of billiards, then clear the lines by hitting them in a set number of “shots” to advance to the next level. You want to clear as many lines as you can on each shot to rack up as many points as possible. It’s brain-dead simple. So, thankfully, there a number of obstacles to make it more of a challenge. Scattered among the lines are a bunch of other dots, or “nodes” that can be cleared by eliminating the lines attached to them. The white nodes act as bumpers, sending your dot in other directions and potentially wasting your shot. The red nodes create new lines when you hit them, escalating the difficulty until it becomes impossible to clear all the lines. Obviously, you want to avoid those.

As for how the game controls, the dot’s movement can be somewhat unpredictable. You might be trying to make a bank shot to place the ball exactly where you want it, but, for whatever reason, it ends up bouncing off in a direction you didn’t want it to go. It’s a little frustrating. Making things more difficult, the dot tends to “teleport” at random. It just suddenly disappears and reappears somewhere else. The game does warn you that this will happen, though, so it’s not a bug; just a quirk to make the game more interesting.

That brings me back to my main point, though. Is Recoil fun, or just interesting? I think you can make arguments for each. Trying to get as many points as you can while working within the rules of the game to overcome the challenges presented is fun, but the game appeals to me on a different level.

Recoil makes me think of some abstract art paintings I saw when I was a kid. It reminds me of the way I’d look at those paintings, imagining some kind of ruleset in my mind to guide the world in that painting and how it would work if it were to suddenly come to life. What if those dots were billiard balls, and what if you ran the balls into the lines, allowing them to bounce all over the place? For a brief moment, it stirs the imagination and makes me forget that I’m just killing time on my phone. But, that moment passes, and I’m left looking for something else to do. That just about sums up the entire experience.

Tiki Towers 2: Monkey Republic review

Tiki Towers 2: Monkey Republic review

Apr 14, 2011

Developer: GameHouse
Price: US$2.99
Version: 1.2.0
App Reviewed on: Motorola Droid X

Tiki Towers 2: Monkey Republic could have been a really fun game. It’s a bridge/tower/structure building game where you’re trying to help monkeys reach a certain point on each level. Along the way, you collect all the bananas, use the fewest number of pieces possible, and voila, you’ve won the game. Unfortunately, it suffers from a number of critical flaws that really suck the fun right out of it.

First among the most egregious of problems is the unresponsive control scheme. Here’s a typical scenario: I’m trying to scroll the screen so I can see where I need to put the next building piece, except the game thinks I’m trying to insert a bridge piece and acts accordingly. I delete the piece added by mistake and try scrolling the screen again, except, this time, it’s not responding at all. I tap all over the screen, trying to find a spot where I can get it to scroll. This happens again and again until it finally works. Mission accomplished, or so I assume.

I complete the structure and turn the monkeys loose. They screech and hoot and jump all over the place, tearing the structure apart until it crumbles into nothing and I fail to pass the level. So, I rebuild, unleash hell and watch the monkeys either become confused or fall to their deaths, again. At this point, I gently place my phone down on the desk and invoke the healing powers of “Scream Therapy.”

When Tiki Towers 2 is on, it’s really on. The well-designed characters and wild antics of the monkeys are cute and funny. You really get into the game and have a great time. Then you just hit a little snag here and there, like, where did the sound go? Why can’t I erase these pieces? Why did the monkey go off in THAT direction? The banana is RIGHT THERE, just grab it! Why are you monkeys so stupid? WHY?

Strangely enough, I can see how the monkeys jumping around and ripping your hard work to shreds could be considered an extra challenge, and not just a cruel joke. That is, until after redesigning a tower 3 or 4 times, running out of pieces and gently weeping as I realize, I’m going to have to rethink the entire plan. Sometimes, though, the game just works. The structure survives, the monkeys get their bananas and I can move on.

Tiki Towers 2 offers 30 levels of physics and monkeys. You’ll find challenges galore, items to help you on your way and levels with multiple solutions leading to branching paths on your way to the end of the game. It’s a “World of Goo” clone that, in the end, just makes me wish I were playing “World of Goo” instead. If you have enough patience to see past the flaws and embrace the extra challenges, you might have a lot of fun. As for me, I found little to enjoy as I worked my way through the game.

Guerrilla Bob Review

Guerrilla Bob Review

Mar 25, 2011

Developer: Angry Mob Games
Price: US$2.99
Version: 1.1
App Reviewed on: Motorola Droid X

Kill ’em all! That’s what Guerrilla Bob would say, if he said anything other than cheesy one-liners while blasting away bad guys.

In this third-person, top-down shoot-’em-up, you play as Bob, a US Army soldier who’s been set up by his ex-best friend, John Gore. After being dishonorably discharged for crimes he didn’t commit, Bob decides to take justice into his own hands and become the rebel known as Guerrilla Bob. Ever since then, he’s been hell bent on taking John Gore down, personally.

Motorola Droid 2 For A Penny, Still Available.

Motorola Droid 2 For A Penny, Still Available.

Nov 3, 2010

It’s true, Amazon.com offers some great prices when it comes to smartphones. Of course you need to sign up for a 2-year contract to be eligible but isn’t that the standard? Right now there seems to be some downright insane prices for the popular Droid series of phones. If you have been on the ropes about switching over to Android or looking to upgrade, the price of $.01 is as strong of a reason to do so as any. That’s the current price of the Droid 2 with a new service plan. If you want the Droid Incredible you can get one in 1- 2 months for $39.99. What about the Droid X? Well, you can have that for the price of $149.99 which isn’t a huge savings from Verizon but it’s still an extra $50 dollars you can save.

Droid X Gets Froyo – Officially!

Droid X Gets Froyo – Officially!

Sep 24, 2010

Own a Droid X? Been waiting for Froyo? Not anymore! The Official 2.2 Froyo update for the Droid X started hitting phones early this morning and can be found by going to Settings>About phone>Check for updates. If you’re not sure what the heck we’re talking about, Froyo is the codename for the new Android OS 2.2.

Now all you have to do is hit install and start jumping up and down giddy with excitement. Flash, the new Gmail, and all the goodies of Froyo are now in the belly of that 4.3″ beast.

What’s new with Froyo you ask? It seems Verizon has provided us with a Droid X sized poster listing some of the new features and experience you will be getting once you update your Droid X to Froyo 2.2. Check it out.

So, what are you waiting for! Stop reading this and go get yourself some delicious Frozen Yogurt.

What about Root?
What about Root users? No worries, darkonion over at XDA forums and the Droid2 Rooting method have you covered. Not sure what Root access is? Then you should check out the excellent article written by the amazing guys over at Android Central on the hows, whys, and possible why nots of Rooting [HERE]. Everyone else can read ahead for instructions on how to root your Droid X 2.2 as posted by darkonion on the XDA forums and as always proceed at your own risk.

Sources: Verizon, Android Central, darkonion on the XDA forums

Droid Analytics Review

Droid Analytics Review

Sep 17, 2010

A “visitor counter” at the bottom of your website is so 1998. If you want to know real data about your site, you need Google Analytics.

If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics (GA), it is code that you can insert into your blog or website that will help you answer questions you may have had:

How many visitors do I get per day/week/month?
Where do these visitors come from?
What are they looking at when they arrive?
What sites are pushing the most referral traffic?
What is the most successful route to push more traffic to my site?

Motorola Droid Review

Motorola Droid Review

Aug 9, 2010

The Motorola Droid was my first venture into Android as my primary device. Since the launch of Android, I’ve always carried two phones, my iPhone (hate on it, it’s ok) and usually a G1 (hate even more), but I never really spent any time with just the G1 as my iPhone was my primary number. I should say that I’m glad I’ve waited until the platform matured a bit more before making it my device of choice, as there were major growing pains with the G! that may have actually turned me off from pursuing an Android device as a primary. We can thank AT&T for that jump.

Motorola Droid Users – Manual Upgrade to Froyo FRG01B Firmware

Motorola Droid Users – Manual Upgrade to Froyo FRG01B Firmware

Aug 5, 2010

Impatient to get Android 2.2 (Froyo) running on your Motorola Droid? Nexeo has a simple and straightforward guide on how to load firmware version FRG01B on to your device, regardless of its root status. This update, when the post was first made, was set to be the live version of Froyo that would be pushed over the air by Motorola and Verizon in the following weeks. As this is a legitimate update, there’s no concern with this version having any problems updating to any over the air patches or newer firmware down the line. As a word of warning, you update at your own risk, but having your device plugged in and the battery connected should be enough to sail smoothly forward into Froyo land.

We’re hearing reports that this version is already undergoing a patch which is notated as FRG22 and weighs in at around 1.6mb. You may receive this update immediately after installing FRG01B but personally I’ve yet to receive it. Whether or not Verizon and Motorola will swap out FRG01B with a version already patched with FRG22 is still not clear, but I’ve yet to experience any major issues that would leave me hungry for that update.