Holiday Gift Guide: The Android Gamer

Holiday Gift Guide: The Android Gamer

Nov 27, 2014

Trying to find a gift for the Android gamer is no easy task. There is a myriad of options when it comes to accessories, and many of them can be considered useless. Our holiday gift guide will help you find the perfect gift for an Android gamer, whether you are looking for a more expensive gift or a stocking stuffer that won’t break the bank.

Nexus Player

Android gamers typically love the portability of mobile devices, but even the large screen of a tablet doesn’t compare to playing games on a TV. Of course, gamers can turn to full gaming consoles, but buying a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One requires a significant financial investment, especially when factoring in the cost of games. Google is attempting to fill the void this holiday season with the Nexus Player.

The sleek device plugs into a TV via HDMI and allows users to access Google Play apps on their TV. This is great for streaming video, but it also represents an affordable gaming option at only $99. Not all Google Play apps and games are currently available through the Player, but there is already a solid selection of games, and the collection will only continue to grow. Add the Bluetooth gamepad for $39.99. It will also work with any other devices. The Nexus Player and gamepad are currently available through the Google Play store.

MOGA Mobile Gaming System

The MOGA mobile gaming system has long been a favorite among Android gamers, and it is the perfect gift for users who love playing games on their smartphone. Holding the phone and using touchscreen controls is not comfortable, especially during longer play sessions. The MOGA controller solves this problem. The portable Bluetooth controller is equipped with a pop-out center that acts as a stand for smartphones. Devices up to 3.2 inches wide can snap into the port, making it a great option for on-the-go gaming.

Tablet users will also be able to use the controller without the stand via Bluetooth. While the controller has a list price of $29.99, it can often be purchased for much cheaper on Amazon. If the Android gamer on your list has been extra nice this year, spend a few more bucks for the MOGA Hero Power.

Antec LifeBar 10 Portable Charger

The Android gamer’s worst nightmare: not being able to play games because the device is dead or dying. The Antec LifeBar 10 portable charger is a solution that fits inside your pocket. The sleek handheld charger is equipped with two USB ports and one micro-USB slot, and is capable of charging any mobile device.

Android gamers on the go will appreciate the charger’s ability to hold a charge over several days, making it hassle-free power. It also has a built-in flashlight, allowing users to find their device even in the darkest times. Check out our review of the Antec LifeBar 10 here.

Nyko DualShock 4 Smart Clip

The Nyko DualShock 4 smart clip is the perfect stocking stuffer for hardcore gamers. If the gamer on your list already owns a PlayStation 4, this is a great complement. It clips onto the DualShock 4 controller and has a stand that will hold most smartphones.

While the smart clip is designed for use with the PlayStation app or PS4 Remote Play, more active Android users will find a way to make the controller work with Android games. The smart clip is available on the Nyko website for only $9.99.

Amazon Acquires Twitch — For a Lot

Amazon Acquires Twitch — For a Lot

Aug 25, 2014

Yes, gaming is a spectator event!

Proving once and for all that televising Madden Football tournaments wasn’t that weird, online behemoth Amazon has added another feather to its acquisitions cap in picking up streaming gaming portal Twitch. Twitch is a service that allows gamers to stream live gaming sessions to watchers online.

Amazon thinks highly of the service, so much so that it is willing to drop a reported $970 million for the rights to call it and it’s 55 million monthly visitors (according to CNN Money) its own.

Twitch Chief Emmett Shear hints at speed when talking about the deal. “Being part of Amazon will let us do even more for our community,” he says. “We will be able to create tools and services faster than we could have independently.”

It should be interesting to see Amazon’s strategy with Twitch. With its deliberate foray into mobility, it is definitely a development to keep an eye on.

[Source: CNN Money]

KickStarter Spotlight: Outerlands: Season One

KickStarter Spotlight: Outerlands: Season One

Feb 12, 2014

For this week’s KickStarter Spotlight, we here at Android Rundown, have expanded our horizons to shed some light onto a very deserving project in serious need of some attention. For me, growing up in the mid-to-late 90’s I never had a proper exposure to arcades which is something that I wish I had been able to really enjoy. Sure the local pizza joint had a Tekken machine in the back next to NFL Blitz but I never got the true experience of being in a crowded arcade enjoying the cutting edge of video game technology and entertainment. Most of my experiences with these endangered, beloved gaming foci has been retroactive; I guess one could say my mind has already been corrupted by the lavish graphics and convenience of console and PC gaming.

Even so, my curiosity and respect for the arcade has never quite diminished. For millions of people the arcade was their childhood, and like other forms of art or sporting history there needs to be a way of historical documentation and preservation for nostalgic entertainment as well as future intellectual study and comparison. It is certainly not hard for me to imagine my cousins in middle school having access to a ‘History of Video Games’ course by the time they reach college.

Outerlands poster art and a $10 pledge reward.

Outerlands poster art and a $10 pledge reward.

Due to the analog medium of the arcade and early home console era games most of these games have a very definite shelf life. Compared to CD’s or hard drives, a floppy disk breaks down fairly rapidly and for lesser known games there is a growing concern that all usable copies will be lost forever. Film crew Area 5 from San Fransisco has been working hard, traveling around the nation to find these remaining remnants of the past as well as highlight the many stories they find along the way. For anyone who is a fan of video game lore, this set of documentaries is sure to deliver plenty of insight with a generous helping of nostalgia on the side.

However, Outlands is more than just a historical lecture. A large focus of this documentary is about the people who are actively in contact with these games both in preserving the past and creating new exciting ways to play socially. This KickStarter is specifically for one-six episode season that, hopefully, is the beginning of something much more expansive. By splitting this project up into episodes it allows Area 5 to really focus in on specific individuals or generas without having to worry about making a transition to a different topic. The shear breadth of stories that this crew is aiming to report on is astounding and should make for an extremely compelling set of documentaries.

Unfortunately, part of the reason for writing this is because with just over 2 days remaining, Area 5 is still $31,000 away from successfully reaching their $210,000 goal. I hope that my thoughts here have brought this project to the attention to those who truly appreciate the art form that is slowly slipping out of societal consciousness. So, as always, please consider donating and help make this incredibly ambitious project become a reality.

KickStarter Spotlight: Drone

KickStarter Spotlight: Drone

Oct 30, 2013

With the recent advent of incredibly legitimate games for the ever more powerful smartphone and tablet market there has been a certain clamor for a mobile physical controller to offset the only drawback to playing a game on a giant touchscreen. Some curse the consoles for making us so reliable on these contraptions, but the fact remains that we, as a gaming culture, have become entirely dependent on console-quality controllers. 4 face buttons, a D-pad, start/select, and 2 joysticks, triggers, and bumpers. This is the foundation we have built for ourselves. So, instead of fighting, it is definitely easier to pony up small sum for a quality mobile controller. Now, obviously because the design is fairly set, and the demand is so high, there are a lot of startups who are looking to design the first flagship, go-to mobile controller, and we have even covered a few here. One worth keeping an eye on, however, is called Drone, and it is produced by Evolution Controllers out in Microsoft’s backyard in Redmond, WA.

So what does Drone have that other similar product’s do not? Well, for starters it supports a lot more devices than simply smartphones and tablets, and the build quality looks to be top of the line. The Drone comes in 7 different colors, including a personal favorite, matte black, and sports an Xbox configuration with the joystick placement (also a preference of mine). Another thing the Drone has going for it is the fact that it is completely open source; meaning that developers simply need to make their firmware available for download an the controller is instantly compatible. This makes the Drone a comparatively safer purchase as it is essentially ‘future-proof’. The Drone is also incredibly portable, coming in at about 5″x2.5″x1″, and with over 17 hours of battery life this is definitely something that can withstand a week of train rides to work.

It is looking that the drone will retail for $60 which is on the high end of the scale but is a fair price considering its feature set and quality. First, the Drone needs to complete its funding goal which, as of writing, is unfulfilled. So head on over to their KickStarter page and help the Drone controller become the new standard for quality mobile controllers.

Unu Is Available For Pre-Order

Unu Is Available For Pre-Order

Oct 14, 2013

unu Gaming Edition m

Unu is a very daring tablet-like hardware that unifies standard tablet experience with a gaming controller, and smart-TV capability. The console is already available for pre-orders. Called an “entertainment hub” by its creators, it’s available in two versions, costing $199 without, and $249 with the wireless gaming controller. Additional information and pre-order are here: Unu Official Website.

Fobito, An App That Helps Gamers Find New Games, Is Released

Fobito, An App That Helps Gamers Find New Games, Is Released

Oct 9, 2013

Fobito 3

While not a game itself, Fobito will surely be comfortable in any gamer’s collection, as it allows its users to find new games and socialize themselves with other gamers much better. Or, you can wait for all eternity for Google to actually make its market comfortable for gaming enthusiasts. It’s totally free, by the way. Fobito can be downloaded from here: Fobito – Discover New Games! on Google Play

Wikipad Gaming Tablet Hardware Review

Wikipad Gaming Tablet Hardware Review

Aug 28, 2013

The Wikipad, the long-awaited 7″ tablet with a controller attachment, is in theory a great device. The gamepad attachment looks a bit big and goofy at first, but it’s a comfortable experience and one of my favorite ways to play games now. But the hardware being a year behind current high-end tablets, especially as a gaming device, causes the Wikipad’s overall value to suffer, which is a shame: this is a fantastic concept.

The body and guts of the tablet are the same as the original Nexus 7: it’s about the same size, has a rubberized back (though with back ridges that jut out), has a Tegra 3 processor with 1 GB of RAM, all the same basics. Running a 3DMark benchmark showed a score of 3629, compared to 4185 in their database for the 2012 Nexus 7, (Update: Futuremark reached out to me and said that this is an error: 3800-3900 is the average benchmark score for the 2012 Nexus 7, the 2013’s benchmark scores are currently mixed in with the old model’s scores.) but it actually outclasses it in two fashions: one, it has a microSD card slot built in so that its storage can be expanded, which is key for the gamer audience that this tablet targets. Second, it has a microHDMI output on the top of the tablet, which is something that the Nexus 7 lacked (even with SlimPort or MHL functionality through the microUSB).


The tablet is laid out in an intelligent way. Yes, 7-inch tablets are actually quite usable in portrait, but like most tablets, they’re great because they can be used in landscape. And the Wikipad puts its microUSB slot on the bottom, with all other inputs on the top. Sure, it has to by necessity of the gamepad attachment, but still, it’s nice to use a tablet and not have to awkwardly place my hand around the charging cable. And the Wikipad seems to have a lot of background battery drain for whatever reason, so I’m glad it isn’t in the way.

OS-wise, the Wikipad is running 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, which is disappointing now that 4.3 is out and 4.2 has been out for a decent spell. The rest of the OS is largely untouched, so I hope that Wikipad is hard at work at bringing the OS up to speed with 4.3.

Now, the gamepad attachment. Yes, this thing is big, considering that it envelopes the entire tablet. But it turns the 7″ tablet into something that’s the width and height of the Surface Pro, so it’s not necessarily all that huge. It feels a bit weird at first holding a controller that’s far wider than the standard-width gamepads on the market, but it’s not a bad thing.


Thanks to the rubberized construction, this thing is an ergonomic joy. The shoulder triggers and bumpers all work well. The face buttons are solid. The d-pad works exceptionally and is great for fighting games if Samurai Shodown 2 is any indication. The joysticks were the only area of skepticism with me, when I tried out Dead Trigger, I had to change the sensitivity of looking in-game in order to make them feel better. Still, using these joysticks was a lot better than the touch screen. I was dropping zombies left and right, which is quite welcome for that game.

The combination of tablet and gamepad attachment is not particularly weighty: perhaps holding it in one hand feels a bit heavy, but with two hands, the weight is properly distributed and feels very comfortable. This is a perfect device for sitting back, and enjoying some Android games that support gamepads. The built-in TegraZone app (also available on Google Play) has a gamepad section that’s worth perusing, though it’s not an exhaustive list. Really, Google not showing which games are compatible with the gamepad is a drawback that needs to be addressed.


The gamepad attachment has a microUSB charging port and powered speakers to go along with it, and the charging port is set up in a way that it’s pointing outward, so there’s no awkward cable bending. There was a lot of thought that went into the Wikipad’s physical design, and it shows.

The one big deviation on the OS level is the inclusion of PlayStation Mobile, which is really cool: some of the indie games that are on PS Vita are available here! Except this winds up being a disappointment: there’s no gamepad support! This could be addressed in one of two ways, either Sony enabling HID gamepads in Android for PSM games (since they largely require the manual enabling of a virtual gamepad anyways), or Wikipad implementing touchscreen-to-gamepad mapping. It’s something Archos’ gaming tablet supports, and is something that rooted third-party apps can do, but sadly is not present here despite it seeming quite possible. Think about it: if every game could become possible to use with the gamepad, the value here would be enormous.


As for the tablet’s current value, it’s $250 for the tablet and the gamepad. Now, here’s where the problem with the Wikipad lies. This is year-old hardware. Google just refreshed the Nexus 7 and it’s $229 for its 16 GB model, though a decent gamepad isn’t. Nvidia just released the Shield, which is $299 but also one of the most powerful Android devices available with the Tegra 4 processor. So it’s at a disadvantage that it wasn’t at, say, 5 or 6 months ago.

This is not to say that it’s not still capable hardware: it plays most if not all games quite well, though I did notice the occasional stuttering. But that’s true of the 2012 Nexus 7 as well, and given that it’s a very popular device, most if not all games will support it. It’s just, especially for gamers, who are a performance-focused group on the whole, offering them a sub-optimal horsepower is a major ding.

It’s true that this is a unique package, with the gamepad attachment. Just based on that alone, it’s a more interesting proposition than the Playstation Vita because of the screen size. And given the HDMI output and just general design, it’s got a lot of compelling features. But the horsepower issue is one that will keep coming up.

This is kind of like the Surface Pro, a device in comparable size: both are really great ideas, but as products their first generations suffer from not having the most up-to-date hardware. The Surface Pro, with the Intel Haswell processor microarchitecture and its improved power management should make any potential second generation much better. The first generation? Buying into the idea as much as the product. That’s the same with the Wikipad: it’s going to need people buying into the idea, willing to put up with hardware that is not at its peak in order to get what they want eventually. The Wikipad is perhaps the best tablet gaming experience out there on paper, it just needs more horsepower under the hood to be something I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Long-Awaited Wikipad Gaming Tablet Has a Release Date

Long-Awaited Wikipad Gaming Tablet Has a Release Date

Jun 4, 2013

The Wikipad, the long-in-development Android gaming tablet that showed itself recently at GDC, is one step closer to getting into the public’s hands. Wikipad has announced that next Tuesday, June 11th, the Wikipad 7 will be available in the US for $249. Those interested in buying it will be able to get it online from Best Buy, Walmart, and TigerDirect. It will be made available internationally at a later time.

The tablet’s specs remain the same from what we learned at GDC: 7" IPS screen at 1280×800, 16 GB of memory with a microSD slot, and a Tegra 3 processor. And of course, there’s the all-important gamepad attachment that makes the Wikipad a gaming-optimized device.

The Playstation Mobile partnership still comes in tow, meaning that a selection of original titles not yet available elsewhere on Android such as Super Crate Box and rymdkapsel will be supported by the Wikipad. Given Sony’s push to get original content for the Vita from indie developers, this means that the Wikipad could also be the benefactor of some original titles. As well, Big Fish Instant Games will come preloaded with cloud access to over 250 titles. Plus, the gamepad will have HID support for any Android games that support controllers, so plenty of games will be available for those picking up the Wikipad. We’ll have more as we get our hands on it, hopefully soon.

KickStarter Spotlight: GameStick

KickStarter Spotlight: GameStick

Jan 9, 2013

With the advent of Ouya, the wildly successful Android powered, open-source gaming console, there have been a flood of new and unique console ideas. Weather this is the start of a new era in gaming where the power is decentralized and given to small indie developers remains to be seen, and the success of Ouya will probably be the biggest barometer of that. One thing that these consoles have going for it that many startups did not traditionally have in the past is an established library of games and a seasoned operating system. Coming hand-in-hand with this lowered bar of entry are a lot of optimistic and eager developers hoping that their Android powered console will, for one reason or another, reign supreme or at least get a large slice of the pie in this new frontier. Making it even easier for these entrepreneurs is the fact that unlike the past there now exists tremendously powerful crowd funding resources that were not available to game developers of the past.

So with that being said, we are going to take a look at one hopeful called GameStick which takes the idea of the console and tries to render it completely useless. The developers behind GameStick have taken a small sized gaming console like the Ouya and were able to fit it into about the size of a large flash drive that plugs directly into the HDMI port on a TV. The kicker here is that this ‘flash drive’ is able to be stored inside of its controller which makes the entire system incredible portable in a way that no system has been able to do before. The games, and especially the home UI that was shown in their KickStarter video all looked great on an HD TV and they claim to have over 200 titles already ready for launch.

This all sounds great but I do have a few reservations, one being that because this is so small there has to be something sacrificed and my feeling is that this will work well for the current wave of mobile games, but what will happen to future games when phone get even more processing power and start to outpace the GameStick. If the price is right though maybe it would be cost effective to just buy an updated version of the GameStick, but this does not exactly breed confidence in the product. Also, I am not a fan of the initial controller design. It looks too square and does not seem comfortable in the slightest.

Even after all that I do feel that GameStick could potentially have a great future because it will be cheap at around $100 and will launch with a large and established library of games. Assuming they can get their wonky controller whittled down to size and deliver some solid hardware I see no reason that the GameStick could not “stick” around with us for some time.

KickStarter Spotlight: iMpulse Game Controller

KickStarter Spotlight: iMpulse Game Controller

Oct 17, 2012

Now, I am not a big mobile gamer. I enjoy the simple, cerebral puzzlers just as much as the next man but when it comes to some of the huge action titles that are now available for Android or iOS I would much rather play their brethren on my 43″ TV as opposed to my smartphone that is 1/10 the size. The other problem I have with hardcore mobile gaming is the lack of physical buttons. Trying to aim a gun without tactile mouse or stick is hard and no matter what some people say, not very intuitive. Besides, the screen is small as it is, why try to clog it up with my thick sausage thumbs.

There are Bluetooth remotes out there and most games of this genre are compatible with these. The problem here is that it really negates the mobility of a smartphone. The biggest selling point from the gaming aspect is that the phone is with you 24/7 and is able to be quickly taken out and enjoyed while waiting in line or on the train. By introducing a giant controller that has to be consciously packed into a bag or purse, the mobility is suddenly constricted. No more can the phone just be complete in the pocket of a jacket; these full sized controllers cannot be comfortably thrown in a pocket because they are just too big.

Like all KickStarter blogs I do here, I now present a solution to this problem. Welcome, iMpulse, a tiny rectangular controller that is small enough to comfortably fit on any keychain. iMpulse was specifically designed to go onto keychains because they are with the player constantly. Anytime they leave the house their keys must go with them along with the phone; meaning that at anytime, gaming with a controller is possible. At about the width of an average palm iMpulse is small but it does not seem too small where it would be frustrating or unusable. Oh, and did I mention that it will help locate lost keys? For me, as forgetful as they come, this is almost more than worth the price of the whole device, gaming notwithstanding.

The only thing that makes me leery of the iMpulse is the lack of a second analog stick. The whole device basically is a 4 button NES controller with an analog stick in place of the traditional d-pad. Being a person who owned the older PSP for a number of years, I can attest to how hard it is to play a FPS without dual analog sticks. I am not quite sure if or how the design team plans on marketing the iMpulse but from their video they do not seem too concerned with marketing to the FPS crowd as most of the games they demoed were more traditional, less complicated mobile games.

If the iMpulse sounds interesting be sure to check out their KickStarter page for more information and possibly donate to the cause and get a pre-order for a pretty generous discount.

KickStarter Spotlight: MG

KickStarter Spotlight: MG

Sep 5, 2012

While the exact state of the portable gaming remains a hot topic, there are very few facts that are impossible to argue. The industry as we have known ever since the first GameBoy is slowly dying. Taken over by independent developers and smartphones, the single use portable gaming console idea is quickly seeming obsolete along with the idea of brick-and-mortar stores with game cartridges. Portable games now are less of an investment and more of a way to waste a few minutes on the bus or before a lecture. People unfortunately do not want to play God of War on a small 4.5″ screen between their hands when they can witness it in full HD on a 45″ plasma screen in their living room. The games that are meant to be on small screens so close to the player’s fingers are the kind of games that smart phones have been ushering in; the Angry Birds and Cut the Rope’s of the gaming world. While some hardcore PSP or DS fanboys may disagree, it is very hard to argue that the portable gaming that we are familiar with will be almost extinct come five years.

Recognizing this trend, a small startup, PlayMG, has been quietly developing its own Android-powered portable gaming device that would cater directly to those who just want their addictive 5-10 minute gaming bites. Their product is the MG; the first portable Android based gaming device. Without the ability to text or make phone calls, consider the MG an android version of the iPod touch. With the MG there is access to the full breadth of the Android Market which will supply endless hours of entertainment for a fraction of the cost of big budget PSP or DS games.

Because the MG will naturally appeal to kids there are great parental control tools, including a free app that lets parents know exactly what apps their kids are downloading and playing. Also included is a prepaid credit card that allows kids to purchase apps without the parent being charged $0.99 every time. Parents load this digital wallet up with as much money as they see fit and once the money is gone their child cannot make another purchase until more money is placed back onto the card. Also, similar to XBox Live, MG has its own avatar and profile system that allows for easy connection between friends.

The whole device looks great and has a nice large 4″ screen surrounded by ergonomically-designed rubber bumpers. My main concern for the device is weather or not there is enough of a need in the marketplace for it, but because the target audience is so specific, teens under-18 without smartphones, and because the MG is only retailing for around $100, I feel confident enough that it could easily become a hit. There are plenty of parents who have major qualms about giving their children expensive smartphones but feel pressured because of their child’s want for all those shiny and colorful games. Fortunately for them, MG fills in that gap and might be the closest thing the iPod touch has seen to a competitor in years.

KickStarter Spotlight: Ouya

KickStarter Spotlight: Ouya

Jul 11, 2012

It is hard to escape the hype around Ouya, the latest great potential savior to console gaming since OnLive. Fortunately for Ouya, it has more possible staying power and a better foundation then OnLive ever did. Seeing the obvious need to lower the entry level for console gaming developers, Julie Uhrman – with a resume that lists high up positions at IGN, GameFly, and Vivendi – had the idea for Ouya, an Android based $99 gaming console that promises that every game at least has portions of free content. The whole business plan is based on having games that are sold similarly to the Android Market and App Store where games generally come in a Lite form and them a Premium upgrade. I like the idea of making large format, high definition games for the $10 and under price range, because, as fun as Angry Birds is on a 3.5″ screen, it doesn’t compare to experience of playing on the living room TV. Also, because Ouya is a console, strictly speaking, it mercifully comes with a controller which adopts the superior button layout of that on the Xbox 360.

One of the biggest and most publicized aspect of Ouya is the fact that it is completely open for hackers and programmers to have their way with it. Of course, it comes with a standard and very attractive OS, but Uhrman was not shy in inviting the programming community to unleash their creativity onto the device. This idea extends to game developers as there is no longer an expensive SDK to download or license to buy; a game can literally be created in the attic overnight on the existing Android platform that has proved so fruitful for games and other apps. The Ouya KickStarter page makes it perfectly clear that this console is not simply to be used to port over existing Android games, even though that option is exciting because there are plenty of great Android games that could greatly benefit from a tactile controller. It is also noted that games are not the only options for this console, and as it becomes more popular it is a safe bet that popular media companies like Netflix will port their Android app over.

And really, I see Ouya becoming much more successful then the struggling OnLive simply because it doesn’t need big name companies to adopt it initially. Once it inevitably gains steam from ported games and indie developers, the larger companies such as EA, Gameloft, and other traditional console heavy weights will follow suit just as they did a few years ago with mobile gaming. Mojang has already committed Minecraft and their other titles to Ouya and given companies like Netflix and Spotify’s tendency to embrace any platform under the sun, major adoption of Ouya does not seem too far off. Also, the $99 price tag almost makes Ouya available for even an impulse purchase, and the promise of cheap/free games is an invaluable selling point.

So brace yourselves, the gaming revolution may very well be upon us.