First Xbox Live game for both Windows Phone and Windows 8 quietly released

galactic_reign2When Windows Phone 8 was released way back in October last year, much was made of the relationship prospective Windows Phone 8 purchasers would have between their mobile and their PCs. Since then, nothing much to that side of things has materialised, but yesterday that all changed.

Galactic Reign was teased by Microsoft last October, but there was no mention of platforms, nor was there a release date, but yesterday the game quietly slipped into both the Windows 8 Store and the Windows Phone Store as an Xbox Live title. Microsoft used to always announce upcoming Windows Phone games well in advance, but they haven’t done so much of that recently, and it seems crazy that such a huge milestone for the OS was released with so little fanfare, but hey, at least it’s here now.

galactic_reign3As you might have guessed from its name, the game is a sci-fi strategy number. You have to find the right balance between spaceships and weapons and hope your fleet is good enough to beat your opponents, and we won’t go into too much detail here, but there’s a single player mode with 60 challenges and a multiplayer side of things where you battle people online. There a bunch of Xbox achievements to aim for as well.

It’s great to finally see a game which bridges the Windows Phone 8/ Windows 8 divide. With the multiplayer game, you can play with different hardware to your opponent, i.e. it doesn’t matter whether you use a PC, Windows Phone or Surface. Galactic reign will cost $4.99 for Windows 8 or for Windows Phone 7 and 8. The best bit of all? You only need to purchase one version to have access to it on both platforms.

Source: Windows Phone Central

Mozilla shows off developer phones for Firefox OS

firefoxphone Mozilla has just announced that they’ve got two “Developer Preview Phones” in the works which will run on their own Firefox OS. Both are made by relatively unknown Spanish company Geeksphone. The orange phone above is known as the Keon, and has 3.5-inch touchscreen and has a 3-megapixel camera on the back. It comes with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, and runs one of Qualcomm’s 1Ghz Snapdragon CPUs. The white model is called the Peak, and has higher specs than the Keon, with a 4.3-inch screen, 1.2Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU and an 8-megapixel camera, though it has the same storage and RAM. It runs on a 1800mAh battery, slightly larger than the Keon’s 1580mAh cell.

Mozilla didn’t mention anything to do with price or  a specific release date, but Digixav understands that the Keon will start shipping next month.

These handsets clearly aren’t going to set the world alight, and it seems as though Firefox might be targeting developing markets with cheaper smartphones. Software-wise, from a purely visual perspective the home screen looks very similar to the iOS one, simply with circular icons instead of Apple’s square ones. We have to say that it is a big disappointment that Mozilla couldn’t have found a fresh or innovative design rather than slightly altering one which is five years old.

Firefox OS works very differently to current mobile operating systems. The processors might seem tiny compared to the quad-core beasts powering the latest phones, but Mozilla have tried to make it so the phones don’t need huge processors to run smoothly. The big thing that sets it apart from rivals, however, is that Firefox OS doesn’t do native apps. What might look like native apps on the phone are actually website bookmarks. This means it can all be written in HTML5, which could be a big boost for some developers. This is a certainly a huge step Mozilla have taken, and it will be interesting to see how the consumer market responds. Mozilla reckons that we’re not doing apps right at present, and we could lose the wonderful open web we currently take for granted.

Here at Digixav we’ll certainly be watching closely to see whether Firefox OS can make a significant impact on the smartphone audience. With an Ubuntu mobile operating system on the way, it will be very interesting to see whether this new breed of open source software can have the desired impact on the iOS and Android dominated market.

Via Wired

HTC Sense 4+ review

This summer I reviewed the HTC One X, a phone that came preloaded with Android 4.0.1 and HTC’s comparatively lighter but nevertheless bloated Sense 4 skin. You might recall I went on a bit of a rant about it, with the problem being that it lagged. A new operating system on a top of the line phone should not be stuttering on the homescreen. Now, to coincide with the release of the One X+, HTC has come up with an answer. The new Sense 4+ skin is layered on top of that buttery Android 4.1 goodness, also known as Jelly Bean, but does it fix the inherent problems its predecessor had? Read on to find out.

The Good

HTC really has fixed a lot with the new version of Sense. Most noticeably, the stuttering has been eradicated completely and utterly. I’m not completely sure whether this is down to the new Jelly Bean’s Project Butter or simply HTC’s optimisations, but it really doesn’t matter. Whatever they’ve done, it makes the phone a joy to use. Expandable notifications have been introduced too, bringing all sorts of new functionality to your pull down shade. The only problem with these is the slightly awkward two finger pinch gesture to open them up – something that is not present in stock Android. The keyboard is really a lot better than it used to be, nixing the pointless arrow keys at the bottom and adding altogether better feedback and responsiveness. My biggest annoyance with the One X has also been fixed – the menu button situation. It used to be that the One X did not have a hardware menu button, with a software version popping on screen as and when it was needed, wasting about a tenth of the screen real estate. With this update, TC has added the option in settings to reassign the multitasking button to menu. Holding down this button with this setting enabled will take you to recent apps, giving back the screen that was taken. Google Now, Android’s answer to Siri, has also been added, with a long press of the home button propelling you straight into the new voice search feature. While I don’t want to go as far as to compare it with Siri as they both perform different functions, I have to say the retrieval of data is snappier and the voice is not nearly as robotic.

The Bad

There isn’t really much that has become worse in Sense 4+. After all, it is an update: something supposed to make something else better, unless you are Apple.

The Ugly

There is a lot in this section, and while there is not as much as there used to be, the list of negative aspects of Sense only reinforce my desire to see stock Android being shipped on more than one phone a year. The first thing is the icons, which remain childish and displeasing to the eye. Compared to the polished look of iOS, Windows Phone and post-ICS stock Android, you realise how far behind such skins remain, and a little customisation with an icon pack goes a long way aesthetically. I still feel that the greens and whites of Sense clash with the deep blues and Tron-like lighting of Holo clash horribly, however certain elements appear pleasant and muted. Another thing that hasn’t been fixed is the lockscreen shortcuts, still default to the ones you have placed in your dock.

Conclusion

Overall, I think Sense 4+ is a great upgrade over Sense 4, making Sense a decent skin once again. It makes it smoother, faster, slicker and better looking while also tying in new functionality that you won’t necessarily find in a stock Android build. If you are a user of one of HTC’s One series phones, I urge you to upgrade to keep your sanity and enjoy the butter.

Nokia unveils PureView-touting Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8 at New York event

At an event in New York today, Nokia unveiled the Lumia 920, their first phone with the forthcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system. With a design that serves as a refinement to the Lumia 800 and 900 before it, the 4.5″ device has an 8.7MP PureView camera, a 1280 x 768 PureMotion HD+ display that Nokia claims to be its best ever, a 1.5GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and a variety of polycarbonate body colours, including yellow, red, white, gray and black. While there is no sign of a cyan model, one that proved very popular with the 800 and 900, the 920 has a 2000mAh battery and will feature Qi wireless charging.

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Windows Phone 8 has a native screenshot feature! Pressing the home and power buttons takes a shot and puts it in your pictures hub.

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Kevin Shields demonstrated the device – and Windows Phone – with some gloves. We love him.

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Qualcomm shows off cool Snapdragon chips by melting butter on smartphones

People love a benchmark, and Qualcomm has invented a new one that appears to favour their series of Snapdragon processors. In a video posted on their YouTube channel, Vidyasagar Rao, a staff engineer at the company, pits an HTC One S with a Snapdragon S4 MSM8260A chip against a Motorola Razr Maxx with a TI OMAP4430 and Samsung Galaxy S II sporting a Samsung Exynos 4 Dual chip in their new Butter benchmark test. It’s quite simple really. Butter melts at 35°C, so whichever phone runs coolest will keep the block of butter intact for the longest. We doubt this will catch on, but you can see the results by watching the video below.

Google wants to make the web more mobile

Google wants to make the web more mobile, and is willing to splash the cash to do so.

Gigaom

Google(s goog) wants to bring more small websites to mobile phones, and to help nudge those sites along it’s willing to foot the bill for a year. Google, with the help of mobile Web optimization startup Duda Mobile, is offering for 12 months free hosting and customization of Web sites for mobile browsers in an effort to make more Internet content mobile-friendly.

Fortune first broke the story Thursday morning, reporting that the initiative as a new service, but according to The Next Web, the offer is really an extension of the Go Mo program Google launched in November. TNW cited a post on Duda Mobile’s blog that has since been removed from its Website:

“Our hope is that by offering both the education AND the service at no cost for one year, we can help businesses make the shift to mobile more quickly, benefiting both their business as well…

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Meet TheO Ball: a foam phone case that encourages physical activity

Some people don’t like putting cases on their phones, but what if they were football shaped? Well, TheO Ball is! It is a football with one exception: you can put your phone in it! So instead of a case that just fits the phone, you can now buy a case that you can actually use to play games. It fits nearly all smartphones including iPhone, Android and Windows Phone devices. In short, if you have a smartphone, you will be able to use TheO.

TheO Ball is designed to hold your phone within its cushioned grasp, allowing you to liter...

It is designed and manufactured by Physical Apps, a company with the aim of making mobile gaming more physical and beneficial to health. TheO Ball has a slot that means your phone is safe and secure, whilst you can still see the screen. The ball itself is made completely of foam and so provides protection for both your smartphone and its surroundings.

TheO Ball

TheO Ball recently won the Popular Science Best Toy of Toy Fair 2012 award and I’m confident that it deserved its title. TheO Ball has some dedicated apps including games like Hot Potato, which is a game where you throw the ball to each other as quickly as possible. You lose if you wait too long before passing it on. I expect there will be many more fun and exciting games to play in the very near future, with the ball launching later this year for around $24.95 (£15.67), with each app costing from $1.99 to $4.99. Sign up for more information at TheO Ball website.

Android phones caught stealing names from condoms

We all know how ridiculous Android device names can be, but this chart from the Intercom Blog really alarms me. To quote the author:

If your product isn’t a condom then don’t name it like one

Don’t know what I mean? Have a look below.

Android Condom Chart

NB: There is actually a phone called the LG Rumor Touch, but it is a dumbphone so it doesn’t count here. This is an advert for it:

Eva Longoria LG Rumor Touch Advert

The sorry state of Android updates

With Samsung’s announcement that Galaxy S II owners will not in fact be getting their Ice Cream Sandwich updates today as previously stated by one of their websites, the age-old discussion regarding Android updates, skinning and fragmentation has returned to the fore. Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich and referred to as ICS, was confirmed on way back on October 15th of last year, the same day that this very website launched, yet now, almost 5 months later, only a small handful of devices from major manufacturers have either launched with or been updated to Google’s latest and greatest operating system. Why is this the case, and what can be done to help the situation?

Take a look at this graphic, taken from the Android website, which shows the versions of Android which have accessed the Android Market Google Play in the two weeks leading up to March 5th.

Just 1.6% of Android devices are running the latest version of the software. A comprehensive list of devices that have either shipped with or been officially updated to Ice Cream Sandwich is below. Please note that this does not include devices that have been announced but not shipped.

  • Archos G9
  • Asus Eee Pad Transformer
  • Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime
  • HTC Sensation
  • HTC Sensation XE
  • Motorola Xoom
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Samsung Nexus S

Firstly, some of the blame has to be placed on Google. The OEMs do not get access to the source code until it is publicly released, with the exemption of the partner making the flagship Nexus device, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, announced alongside Ice Cream Sandwich at a press conference in Hong Kong last year. While Google should want the Nexus phones to succeed and have an advantage over other handsets on the market at the time of release, I believe that major manufacturers such as HTC, Sony, Samsung and Google’s own subsidiary Motorola should get early access to the source code, so that handsets and devices can get the latest software promptly after it is unleashed upon the world. It is wrong to go into a store at this stage and see just one device, the Galaxy Nexus, sporting up-to-date software.

We must never forget the manufacturers themselves, as they too delay updates for a number of reasons. Firstly, they already have your money and, as such, there is little benefit to them if they spend time and money preparing software updates for phones. This raises a whole load of questions regarding the state of customer service in the 21st century, but those are for another day. An example of this kind of neglect is Samsung, with the Galaxy S. Late last year, the Korean company confirmed that they would not update the phone, the second biggest selling Android device of all time, to Ice Cream Sandwich. Their excuse? TouchWiz and Ice Cream Sandwich can’t live together on the ROM. Why not just get rid of the crappy skin which users hate?

Of course, manufacturers feel that they have to stick their bloated skins on top of Android, and updates get delayed to ensure that this is the case. Take LG for example. At Mobile World Congress 2 weeks ago, they unveiled a host of new Android devices – the Optimus L3, Optimus L5, Optimus L7, Optimus 3D Max, Optimus 4X HD and the Optimus Vu phablet. Of these, half are scheduled to launch with Gingerbread, and only the L7, L5 and 4X HD are guaranteed to have Ice Cream Sandwich. As for the rest, LG issued a vague timeframe for updates of later this year. Considering that they have no plans to update their existing phones until Q2 or even Q3 at the earliest, I wouldn’t hold out much hope of this ever happening. If such an update actually does come, the community will probably have Jelly Bean stable on the handsets. LG’s excuse? A combination of the skin and the fact that they seemingly don’t care about consumers – a statement that can be applied to almost all Android manufacturers. This infographic, made last year by Michael DeGusta of The Understatement, shows just how slow these updates can be, especially compared to iOS.

Across the internet, I have seen people complaining about the update situation, only to be told to buy a Nexus phone and have all their problems solved, but this argument is ridiculously stupid. The beauty of Android is the wide variety of handsets, tailored to suit every need. To be told that, in order to be certain to get the latest software officially, you have to buy a certain device, takes away this beauty. If I wanted that kind of situation, where I no choice in form factor in exchange for a guarantee to get updates, I’d buy an iPhone. Take the Galaxy Nexus, for instance. At 4.65″, it is way too big for me. I think the design is horrible in comparison to some other smartphones, the rear camera is, for such a high-end device, sub-par for the course, and Samsung’s incessant use of flimsy plastics mean that I would never even consider buying one. If I want to get an Android phone with almost a guarantee of an update however, I have no other choice. This is not on.

Even if I were to jump on the Nexus bandwagon, I still wouldn’t be 100% certain of updates. Certain Nexus S owners are still waiting for Google and carriers to push the ICS update to their devices, even though most GSM variants of the phone got the update to 4.0 back in December. We must not forget the Nexus One either. The HTC device was Google’s first flagship and, despite the fact that the Android community can do it, Google has announced that they do not plan to push an ICS update to the handset which is still less than 2 years old.

So, until the day comes where updates are prompt and ensured, I will not buy an Android phone or tablet. I know that there are other ways of getting updates, but manufacturers and carriers should have a duty to ensure that devices are kept up-to-date for at least the standard contract length of 24 months. And finally, before you dismiss this whole post as pure trolling of Android, I am an Android user and I am still waiting for Gingerbread. If HTC doesn’t care about an 18 month old phone, why should I?

Casio announce G-Shock phone: running Android and looking hideous

Pictures of Casio’s new phone with G-Shock branding appeared during CES, clearly showing a rugged and chunky Android device. In the style of G-Shock watches, many extraneous plastic lumps protect the device and house the buttons which, unlike most Android devices, are around the edge and not on the base. We know nothing about the hardware specifications yet, but the phone appears to be running Gingerbread and will be able to withstand a whole tonne of pressure. It will also be shock-resistant to 10 feet and waterproof to 1 bar, meaning that it’s no RAZR. What do you think? A rugged dream or design nightmare?