Motorola E (2nd Gen) 4G LTE: A Belated Review

Motorola E (2nd Gen) 4G LTE: A Belated Review

May 13, 2015

For the longest time, Motorola has been synonymous with Android; it’s been a part of the Android takeover, and some of the best smartphone hardware has born its imprint. With the Moto E2, the device maker looks to show it can have a budget hit. Again.

The review unit Moto sent us contained the black handset (a white alternative is also available, two bands (more on that later), power cord and documentation. The phone goes against the grain somewhat, particularly with regards to size; still, it would be rude to call it diminutive at 5.11 x 2.63 x 0.48 inches and weighing in at 5.1 ounces. It is quite comfortable in hand, and feels well constructed, so much so that at first glance, one will definitely be forgiven foe not noticing the interesting band that goes around the side. This flexible band houses hardware buttons and protects SIM and SD card slots, but are also swappable, and allows a degree of aesthetic customization.

Under the hood, the Moto E does have some pertinent upgrades on its predecessor: our review unit packs the Snapdragon 410 with 1.2 GHz Quad-Core CPU (Adreno 306 with 400 MHz GPU)). It also has 1GB RAM and 8GB Flash, with the ability to expand with up to 32GB, and a 5GB rear camera paired with a simple VGA snapper set towards the top right on the front of the device.

Moto E_2nd Gen_1 Phone

With Android Lollipop at the helm, the device is zippy and familiar. Interestingly enough, the OS is close to stock in appearance and navigation, with Material Design front and center in the stock offerings. The core apps are all here, and the hardware and software combine to create a smooth experience. We are able to test it out with a few choice games, and the Moto E did swimmingly.

The lack of NFC functionality is disappointing, the cameras are not going to blow you away, and that internal space might cause app-centric users some nervousness. Also, one will have to learn to love the installed apps, because a lot of them can only be disabled at best, and not uninstalled from the device; it boils down to a good deal of the stated being used from jump. Some folks might balk at the screen size, but it is better than decent in real life usage, and even browsing works well.

In the end, it’s a budget device that feels like it has the chops to at least not get left too behind by the flagships. It works surprisingly well as a hub, and, in some aspects, puts us on notice with regards to when Motorola drops its next high-powered device.

Foap Launches Android App, Unveils Motorola-Sponsored User Contest

Foap Launches Android App, Unveils Motorola-Sponsored User Contest

Mar 12, 2015

Foap is an interesting initiative that allows photographers of any and every ability potentially monetize their snaps with entities looking for authentic image captures. Now, Foap is launching a brand new app for Android users, sponsored by Motorola.

Turning your photos into real money. Simple as that. Just foap it! Upload your smartphone photos from apps like Instagram, Eyeem, Flickr and more.

*Sell your photos through Foap Market
*Sell photos through Foap Missions to brands like Mastercard, Hyatt, Volvo Group, Absolut Vodka
*Create your own web portfolio easily accessible for buyers
*Explore beautiful photos from all around the world
*Get feedback on your photos from other Foapers
*Photo upload right from your phone
*No upload limits
*PayPal integration for cashouts
*Amazing community of truly passionate photographers
*The best way to make money out of your passion
Foap is free. Each photo costs $10 and the photographer gets $5. A photo can be sold an unlimited amount of times! Foap Mission rewards start from $100.

Almost cooler is the fact that Motorola is launching a contest to celebrate the new app:

To celebrate the new app, Motorola is running a Foap Mission titled “For the Love of Android” seeking creative photos of users’ “Android moments,” whether it’s photos taken with Android devices or even pictures of the Android robot! The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize, second and third place will each be awarded a Moto X smartphone and fourth and fifth place winners will each receive a Moto 360 watch.

Folks can sign up for the contest via the app.

[Source: Foap Announcement]

Google Announces Nexus 6 — and More

Google Announces Nexus 6 — and More

Oct 15, 2014

It’s official: The Nexus 6 is here.

It will be one of the first devices to rock Android 5.0 (yes, it is Lollipop), and will be the biggest Nexus smartphone to date, with a 5.96″ screen that nestles a Quad HD resolution. It looks like the device will continue the Nexus tradition of forgoing external storage, but will have 32GB and 64GB options, and will also come in two colors: white and blue. It’s built by Motorola, so physical similarities to the Moto X (as described by Androidcentral) shouldn’t be too surprising. It’ll reportedly have 3GB RAM, and a quad-core Snapdragon chip. It also packs a massive 3220 mAh battery.

We also hear it will be on all of the major cellular networks, allowing for pre-order towards the end of this month and availability in November. It will be $649 off contract.

The long-rumored HTC-derived Nexus 9 tablet is also set to be released; it has an 8.9″ screen and comes in 16GB and 32GB flavors. Also on deck is the cast-ready Nexus Player Entertainment console.

[Google Press Release and Android Central]

The Hills Are Greener: There’s No Such Thing as an “iPhone Killer”

The Hills Are Greener: There’s No Such Thing as an “iPhone Killer”

Dec 31, 2012

Well, it took a bit longer than expected, but it seems like Google is finally going to use their Motorola acquisition to actually make a standout phone for themselves, the “X Phone.” Or whatever the next Nexus device will be called.

The immediate speculation swirling around is that this is finally Google’s “iPhone Killer.” You know, like the other Nexus devices that were iPhone killers. I don’t think that anything at this point will be an iPhone killer. It just isn’t going to happen.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

I think the most immediate analogue for the iOS vs. Android battle is like Halo versus Call of Duty. Halo is more of an exclusive club – it’s popular, and very much so, but its audience will have a built-in limitation because it’s only trying to get to so many people, Xbox owners. Call of Duty, by its nature of being a multiplatform game, has bigger success, even standing firm on Halo’s home turf. But the point is that both are doing extremely well. Thre’s room for both.

Halo is a particularly apt comparison, because the term “Halo Killer” has been frequently bandied about, particularly in the days of the original Xbox. Everyone thought they had the game to replace Halo, to crush it outright, to be that much more superior than it, and what happened? Call of Duty kept at it, and started to succeed and become extremely popular on its own merits. Halo hasn’t been “killed” yet, it’s still a major success, but it’s not alone. Same goes with the Mario games: no one ever really killed it.

I think it’s the same situation with iOS and Android. If there is an iPhone Killer, it will be time, people getting disinterested, more so than a sexy new device coming around and overtaking it. Apple in particular has a history of being whittled down over time, rather than outright slain. That might be what happens with Android: it will just grow so large, like Windows did, that it dwarfs iPhone. In particular, its advantage in having a growing international market with tons of low-cost devices is a huge help in the platform’s dominance. But there’s no reason why one has to kill the other. There will be no iPhone killer because such a thing as people want to deem it does not exist.

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.

Motorola Announces Droid RAZR Phone and MOTOACTV Android-Powered Fitness Watch

Some things in life are mysteries, never to be deciphered by mankind. The latest unsolvable engima? Why Motorola decided that the day before the Galaxy Nexus was a good day to unveil their latest Android devices. But, Motorola did unveil two new devices on October 18th, and cover them we shall!

First up is the Droid RAZR. Yes, the RAZR is back, raised from the dead for Motorola’s latest Droid phone. It features a 4.3″ 960×540 screen, with an 8 megapixel camera, 1080p video recording, LTE support, 16 GB internal storage, and 1 GB of RAM. The phone currently runs Gingerbread, and lacks NFC, both of which are lacking in comparison to the Galaxy Nexus. Apparently the Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility hasn’t had much of an effect yet in terms of Motorola getting leads on Android hardware and software. It sounds like an impressive set of hardware, but it still was topped by Google and Samsung 12 hours later.

The device that could really be interesting, however, is the MOTOACTV. This is a wristwatch-esque device that is basically designed to compete with the iPod nano. It comes with 8 or 16GB of storage, runs on Android, and is primarily designed for fitness usage. It can also be used to control Android phones via an app that will be made available on the Android Market. It can be used to answer calls (when paired with a Bluetooth headset), and receive text messages. This is the kind of thing that the Android customization community could make great use of, to help make it run apps focused on the smaller screen, and to increase the level of interaction it has with connected devices.

While the Droid RAZR sounds like it will be a high-quality phone, albeit not exactly top-of-the-line. However, the MOTOACTV sounds like the device to really get interested about for its connectivity and portability potential.

Google Buys Motorola Mobility; What Do They Want, Though?

Google made a major splash yesterday, announcing that they bought Motorola’s mobile division for over $12.5 billion cash; the deal was announced by Larry Page on Google’s official blog. Analysts from armchairs to Wall Street have been weighing in on the deal and what it could mean for the future of Android. There seem to be three things that Google wants out of this deal.

1. Google wants patents.

Motorola has a lot of patents, being one of the first mobile phone companies. They have about 12,500 patents issued, with about 7,500 pending. There’s been plenty of legal wrangling over patents like these, now Google can safeguard Android even further by having control over these patents, and being able to license these to other Android manufacturers. Google wanting Motorola’s patents initially was one hypothesis laid down toward why Google mae this purchase, before eventually just deciding to buy the whole company.

2. Google wants to make money off of Android.

Google may be making money off of the deep Google integration in Android devices, either from licensing official Google apps and Market access, money from apps sold in the Android Market, and from mobile advertising, but the actual phones themselves are not bringing a lot in quite yet. By purchasing an actual Android phone manufacturer, and one that holds 29% of the US Android smartphone market, they can now make Android a viable financial proposition for themselves. The other handset makers may feel threatened by an official Google handset manufacturer, but Google seems open to at least leaving the option open for handset makers to continue to support Android. It would behoove Google to keep Android on as many devices as possible, as more users of the platform mean greater incentive for developers to support it.

3. Google wants to make a gPhone.

Sure, Google and Andy Rubin can deny that Motorola would be the manufacturer of the next Nexus phone, and that could possibly be true. However, thinking that Google won’t use their Motorola purchase in order to make a ‘pure’ Android experience the most popular devices out there seems foolish. The point of the Nexus devices are to be stock devices, pure Android experiences. They haven’t been the most popular of Android devices, though. Google could use Motorola’s relationship with the carriers to push their pure Android device. They could possibly pare down Motorola’s various devices to a core set of tablets and phones instead of the wide variety of random devices that currently dominate the Android market.

Google purchases Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion

Google purchases Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion

Aug 17, 2011

In a bold move that took the tech world by surprise, Google announced on Monday, August 15 that it would be buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

In the press release, Google CEO, Larry Page, said that, “Motorola Mobility’s total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers.”

It seems clear that this attempt to “supercharge” the Android ecosystem is in response to several of Android’s woes, including the steady stream of threats from Apple Inc. over the Android operating system and the devices that run it.

In a game of corporate saber-rattling, Apple has been threatening patent infringement lawsuits over certain devices such as the Motorola Xoom tablet. Now, Google has the leverage it needs to counteract those threats and even the playing field. Google puts itself in a better position to continue making Android competitive.

Of course, this purchase goes beyond defanging Apple. Google, through Motorola, now has the ability to manufacture the very devices that will be running Android. Like Apple, having control over the hardware means the ability to choose components and design features that have a much tighter integration with the operating system, ensuring a much smoother blend of technologies, better performance and support, overall.

However, this doesn’t mean the end of “open” platforms, as Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile at Google, said, “… our vision for Android is unchanged and Google remains firmly committed to Android as an open platform and a vibrant open source community. We will continue to work with all of our valued Android partners to develop and distribute innovative Android-powered devices.”

That’s good news for other manufacturers, such as HTC and Samsung, which have been experiencing a significant amount of success with their own Android devices.

As can be expected, the transaction is subject certain conditions, including regulatory approvals in the US, the European Union and other jurisdictions, and the approval of Motorola Mobility’s stockholders. If all goes smoothly, Google expects the transaction to close by the end of 2011 or early 2012.


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.

Airport Mania Review

Airport Mania Review

Apr 20, 2011

Airport Mania has quickly become one of my favorite games on Android. Between the intense strategy of trying to keep everything running smoothly to the fun visuals and catchy music, it’s just really hitting on all the main points that make a game fun. I’m having a hard time putting it down.

Although the game shares a similar theme to Flight Control, where the goal is to land various aircraft at a busy airport, the similarities end there. Airport Mania is less about managing flight paths and more about managing an entire airport. You touch aircraft to select them, then simply touch the points on the screen where you want them to go. You tell them where to land while managing parking stalls, refueling stations, maintenance hangars and keeping the runway clear. Meanwhile, you are trying to upgrade buildings so that all of this happens quickly enough to keep passengers from waiting too long for their trips to commence. It gets very hectic.

Besides merely making sure that aircraft are landing and departing on time, you’re also trying to match the color of aircraft to the color of a terminal. For example, sending two blue planes to a blue terminal gives you a score multiplier. Likewise, if you can keep a certain number of planes landing or taking off from the same runway, you also build up a score multiplier. Get a high enough score and you get 3 stars, meaning you played a perfect level. If you can get 3 stars on every level, you’ll have played a perfect game.

Another neat aspect to the game is upgrading your terminals so that they can service planes faster. The sooner a plane can get passengers on and off, the sooner it’ll be off the tarmac, making room for more planes. The more time a plane spends sitting around leads to discontent. Eventually, planes will either turn away or become less friendly towards your airport, so it’s very important to keep things moving as smoothly as possible. You can do this by adding in-flight movies and parking stalls. You also have access to a facility that will paint a plane a different color, allowing you to keep the combo going on certain colored terminals. It all adds up, so being as efficient as possible is very important.

I really don’t have anything to complain about Airport Mania. As the levels progress, the difficulty ramps up quite a bit, but it all comes down to how well you can keep things moving along so that the facilities aren’t jammed when new aircraft arrive. It’s a fun game that keeps you on your toes, and with 48 levels across 8 airports, you’ll have a lot to do. There are also awards to unlock, extra planes to purchase and other hidden items for you to find. It’s quite an entertaining experience that’s kept me coming back for more, trying again and again to get all three stars on every level. I highly recommend 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.

Puzzle Prism review

Puzzle Prism review

Apr 11, 2011

Developer: PONOS
Price: PRICE US$4.11
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: Motorola Droid X

When I first saw the screenshots of Puzzle Prism, I didn’t think I was going to like it. Not because I thought it looked bad, but because I’ve played 3D variations on Tetris before, and I usually wound up walking away unimpressed. Yet, after playing Puzzle Prism for a few rounds, I didn’t hate it at all; I just kept right on playing because I was hooked.

Puzzle Prism is a typical block dropping game where the goal is to play for the highest score by filling in as many levels as possible. It’s a simple formula that’s been exploited by generations of video games, but still a lot of fun. You have 4 modes to choose from, which you unlock as you play the game. You start at the Standard mode and advance after you hit a certain score.

In Standard mode, you’re playing an endless game featuring a tower that is steadily rising. You have to drop irregularly shaped blocks into the gaps to fill a “level,” causing that level to clear and awarding you with points. As you clear each level, the remaining bits of blocks drop down and either fill in other gaps to create a chain reaction or just lie there, waiting for you to drop another block. The game only ends after the tower reaches the top line.

In Time Attack mode, the same rules apply, however, you have 2 minutes to get as high a score as possible without the tower reaching the top. Dead Line is like Time Attack mode, except that as you drop blocks, the tower rises much more quickly. You have to fill in the spaces about as fast as you can just to keep up. It’s easily the hardest mode, in my opinion, as it comes right at you and almost never lets up.

Finally, you have Extra mode, which is the most unusual of the group. In Extra mode, the tower is a blue block that is steadily dwindling down to nothing. The object is to be as efficient as possible, filling in the level directly on top of the tower. If you slip up and misplace a block, you’ll have to clear it before you can start adding layers again. The game ends when the tower completely disappears. In addition to these 4 modes, you have 88 trophies to unlock and a global leaderboard to compete with, giving you plenty of reasons to keep coming back and playing the game.

The only complaint I have about the game is that the swiping controls were very touchy, sometimes registering a side swipe as a down swipe and immediately dropping a block where I didn’t want it. However, this is easily solved by switching to pad controls in the Options menu. Meanwhile, the psychedelic colors and flashy visuals might not be for everyone, but once you get hooked, you don’t even notice them.

Regardless of these minor problems, I just keep on playing because I really enjoy the core mechanic.