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CyanogenMod 12.1 for YU Yureka

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

o-MICROMAX-YU-YUREKA-facebook

YU Yureka recently received an official Cyanogen OS 12S update. If you prefer to use a newer revision of Android, XDA Recognized Developer varun.chitre15 has something special for you. Grab a stable port of CyanogenMod 12.1. now!

The post CyanogenMod 12.1 for YU Yureka appeared first on xda-developers.

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MediaTek Releases a Couple of New Mid-Range Tablet SoC

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

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In the last few years MediaTek has significantly strengthened its position in the mobile world. This Chinese chip-maker just announced two new tablet processors, the MT8163 and MT8735. Both processors use 64-bit architecture and are designed to work with mid/low range devices.

The post MediaTek Releases a Couple of New Mid-Range Tablet SoC appeared first on xda-developers.

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5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off


ticktick Android Apps WeeklySponsor: TickTick – Todo and Task List

[Price: Free with in app purchases]
TickTick is a task list application that allows you to organize your day. It features cross platform support on Android, iOS, and the web via extensions so you can check your tasks anywhere. It features real-time syncing across devices, the ability to do things like create checklists for more immersive task creation, support for sub tasks, and the ability to group tasks together in a folder. You can also upload attachments and share task lists for collaborative purposes. It’s a solid application that’s very easy to use and you should check it out.
Get it on Google Play


Hello and welcome back to the Android Apps Weekly show! Here are your headlines for this week:

For more Android apps and games headlines, releases, and updates, don’t forget to check out this week’s newsletter where we’ll have the complete list of everything app related that happened this week. If you’re so inclined, you can sign up for it with your email address to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to our Android Apps Weekly newsletter!


hearthstone Android appsHearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

[Price: Free with in-app purchases]
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft got a huge update this last week. Among other things, the app is now available for all smartphones and not just screens that are 6-inches or larger. People have been getting around that issue on their own but it does feel nice to have actual support for smaller screens. Also with the update came some bug fixes, performance improvements, and an indicator to let you know when you’re about to lose connection.
Get it on Google Play


google handwriting input Android apps weeklyGoogle Handwriting Input

[Price: Free]
Google Handwriting Input is a new keyboard app that lets you write down your messages instead of just typing them out. It works on tablets and phones and you can choose whether or not to use a stylus. It also comes in 82 languages, supports emojis, and it’s available for all Android devices running Android 4.0.3 and up. It’s a nice augment to a keyboard and voice input and it recognizes your writing even if it’s pretty bad.
Get it on Google Play
google handwriting input android apps


galaxy s6 experience Android apps weeklySamsung Galaxy S6 Experience

[Price: Free]
If you’ve been wondering about getting a Galaxy S6, you now have the opportunity to try out the software features to see if you like them. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Experience app lets you test out various Touchwiz features and look at the design and even the accessories of the Galaxy S6. This is a fun to try if you’re considering picking up the S6 or S6 Edge and it is free to use. It should also be compatible with most Android devices.
Get it on Google Play
galaxy s6 Android apps weekly


magica x magica Android apps weeklyMagica X Magica

[Price: $0.99 with in-app purchases]
Magica X Magica is a 2D infinite runner and shooter game and it’s one of the precious few with an actual story line. You play as a girl who is trying to save her kidnapped friend by shooting a bunch of bad guys. It features some decent artwork and graphics, simple mechanics, various weapons, many missions, and boss fights. It calls itself the saddest game in this genre ever made and should be an interesting pick up for runner and shooter fans.
Get it on Google Play


joe danger Android apps weeklyJoe Danger

[Price: $3.38 with in-app purchases]
Joe Danger is a side-scrolling daredevil game that was a huge hit on iOS and iPad and it’s finally made it’s way to Android. The game will feature 80 levels across 10 tours to challenge your skills, online scoreboards and achievements, 29 different characters, and daily challenges. You can also replay levels to get a perfect run to earn the Pro Medals for each level. It’s a fun little game and shouldn’t be too expensive for most people.
Get it on Google Play


Wrap up

If we missed any great Android apps and games news, let us know in the comments!

Google Wallet To Become FDIC Insured

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

Google Wallet

According to a Google spokesperson, balances held in Google Wallet will gain FDIC insurance against bankruptcy in strict contrast to PayPal, Venmo, and other non-banking institutions like payday lenders and prepaid debit cards. Read on for more on the financial implications and PayPal’s response.

The post Google Wallet To Become FDIC Insured appeared first on xda-developers.

Google Code Jam Round 1A Has Begun

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

Code Jam Scores

Google Code Jam 2015 has begun, the competition challenges professional and student programmers around the globe to solve difficult algorithmic puzzles, the four online Code Jam rounds will conclude at Google’s Seattle office this August. To keep track of the event so far, find the live scoreboard here.

The post Google Code Jam Round 1A Has Begun appeared first on xda-developers.

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Open War for Open Android: Antitrust for Cyanogen?

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

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Android and openness is something we talk about all the time, but the recent developments in the industry point towards inherent flaws with this very premise. Be it from bloggers, political institutions or corporations, Android is seemingly not open enough. The “War on Openness” is ironically becoming an open war, where many players are increasing their stakes and scope to try and land a bigger hold – or at the very least, restrict Google’s – on what is the world’s most popular mobile OS. We don’t say this lightly, either, as Android’s 81 percent market share achieved through last year’s 1 billion shipped phones means business.

To us at XDA, Android is extremely open – I need to make this distinction before we go further – as those with knowledge on how to flash mods, tweaks or ROMs can have an even bigger say on what’s on their phone. To those who lack the skills, however, Android is very much pre-packaged. While users can access the Google Play Store to download a plethora of apps, the service is run by Google and it offers privileges (be it through Google Services software or actual services) with which other developers can not compete. This being said, even a Galaxy smartphone with all its prepackaged bloatware has more freedom than, say, an iPhone.

Another clarification I want to make before we go deeper in this is that when we talk about freedom in Android’s openness we don’t mean options. Sure, the decision space of a scenario can offer more or fewer options for you to follow. But ultimately, liberty comes from the ability to choose without constraints, not the amount of options given to you. A simple example would be iOS apps, particularly back when their App Store trumped Android’s – more, better apps meant more and better options to choose from but not necessarily more freedom within the decisions. With this said, the decision space is limited (be it by lack of knowledge or software obstacles) to the stock functionality of a given phone, unless there is knowledge of sideloading or disabling apps. For most Android handsets, however, the liberty to choose remains.

Antitrust & Google

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.40.28 PMThis week, headlines had it that Google was seeing some trouble with the European Union in regards to unfair market strategies. To be more specific, the EU’s Antitrust chief accused Google of manipulating its web search results for financial gains within the company and its partnerships. This is of utmost importance to the EU given that Google dominates web searches in the region with a hold of 90 percent of users. The European Commission’s investigation issued charges (Statements of Objections) that if objected would cost Google upwards of €6 billion. Mediation is not finished, and Google did try to defend itself in a blog post, but the black stain will remain.

While this made for global news, the direct impact on smartphone users is the Commission’s investigation of Android. They claim that Google used its dominant position to get OEMs to pre-install Google applications on smartphones, and that this represents unfair treatment to the rest of the market (especially given Android’s open-source nature). Google claims that smartphone makers do so voluntarily, and in many ways this is a believable statement given the predominance of Google services in mobile. But regardless, if it’s proven that Google does transgress the region’s regulations with antitrust practices the whole market could shift by allowing other players to have a much bigger presence of Android. Given the latest developments with Cyanogen, this is worth looking into. Did Google engage in anti-competitivity?

Defensive Google

With the Android investigation announcement, Google was quick (very quick) to issue yet another blogpost where it tries to defend itself. This post is significantly different, however, as rather than trying to convince readers that Google did no harm, it’s more of a praise of how open and diverse the Android ecosystem is. The post is also significantly less focused than the previous defense which rebutted claims convincingly. In this post, Google explains their mobile OS this way:

  • It’s an open-source operating system that can be used free-of-charge by anyone—that’s right, literally anyone. And it’s not just phones. Today people are building almost anything with Android—including tablets, watches, TVs, cars, and more. Some Android devices use Google services, and others do not.
  • Our Google Play store contains over one million apps and we paid out over $7 billion in revenue over the past year to developers and content publishers.
  • Apps that compete directly with Google such as Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft Office, and Expedia are easily available to Android users. Indeed many of these apps come pre-loaded onto Android devices in addition to Google apps. The recent Samsung S6 is a great example of this, including pre-installed apps from Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.
  • Developers have a choice of platforms and over 80% of developers are building apps for several different mobile operating systems.

Keep in mind that all of these things are true, but none of them tackle the original claim that Google might be using anti-competitive coercion behind the scenes to get Google apps pre-installed in OEM devices. And in the past, we’ve seen a lot of drama regarding these Mobile Application Distribution Agreements (MADAs). In fact, a popular class-action lawsuit was filed last year in regards to how Google apps have special placement.  The basic idea is (supposedly) that if an OEM wants to package a Google app, they must include all of Google’s apps and Google Services. The lawsuit also suggested direct bidding taking place to “subsidize” OEM phones in exchange for pre-installing Google apps.

The Google-Samsung MADA originally published by re/code and effective as of January 2011 shows that there was something going on, and there might be still.. It reads:

“Unless otherwise approved by Google in writing: (1) Company will preload all Google Applications approved in the applicable Territory or Territories on each Device; (2) Google Phone-top Search and the Android Market Client icon must be placed at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen; (3) all other Google Applications will be placed no more than one level below the Phone on the Device; and (4) Google Phone-top Search must be set as the default search provider for all search access points on the Device. Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are no placement requirements for Optional Google Applications,”

Cyanogen in an Open War

Cyanogen’s remarks against Google’s Android have circled Android headlines for a while now, and with the latest funding rounds that the company has gone through, the company is seemingly ready for prime-time. We’ve detailed the intricate war assets that make Cyanogen such a threat to the future of Google’s hold in a previous feature, where we talked about their investors, their OS, their users & developers and most importantly their vision. Cyanogen believes that Android in its present form is not open enough – they have the conception that Google is a sort of “tyrant” holding Android back with their proprietary services. Plenty of manufacturers do not allow you to uninstall Google apps – simply disable them, which ties in with the previously mentioned MADAs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.33.58 PMIn plenty of our previous coverage, we’ve held a skeptic position regarding Cyanogen and their claims. It is true that their solutions are typically more “open” than other OEMs’, and they are very committed to offering liberty and options in their CyanogenMod ROMs, be it through customization, support or simply contributing to the developer community. However, the corporation has had its fair share of questionable actions, and with the latest funding rounds and partnerships, they are getting “in bed” with some of the biggest corporations in key sectors of the industry like hardware (Qualcomm), telecommunications (Telefónica), social media (Twitter) and now Microsoft.

Patron Microsoft, Ally Boxer

This is where Cyanogen’s tales becomes a little dubitable: the deal specifies that Microsoft apps will come bundled within Cyanogen OS (manufacturer ROM, not the custom ROM we all love) and Cyanogen will allow deeper and “native” integration of Microsoft services in the operating system. The good news is reports have it that the bundled apps will be completely uninstallable if you so desire, and you can always put Google apps back in there too. But regardless, this shows that favoritisms will still exist within Cyanogen phones, and further on, they might develop into something different… especially considering Microsoft is involved. (As a side note, isn’t it “weird” how the partnership was announced so shortly after we learned that Google is in trouble for not opening up Android enough? Hmm, I wonder…)

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I spy with my little eye

Microsoft is expanding inside of Android by bringing many of its services and applications to the platform as well as further (and blatantly) promoting them within them. Knowing Microsoft, this is not simply an attempt at better sales: their expansion is something we begun exploring a while ago, and we believe there’s something going on behind the scenes. But when it comes to tangible suspicions, Microsoft has been under the microscope for their software security, especially after the massive ‘vulnerabilities’ (one which included Microsoft servers being the middle-man to all private e-mail exchanges) found in their recent Outlook for Android & iOS release. Regarding the situation, here’s a quote on the matter from IBM developer Winkelmeyer:

“What I saw was breathtaking. A frequent scanning from an AWS IP to my mail account. Means Microsoft stores my personal credentials and server data (luckily I’ve used my private test account and not my company account) somewhere in the cloud! They haven’t asked me. They just scan. So they have in theory full access to my PIM data, (…)”

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“Data is open too!”

This raised some eyebrows, and new concerns lay with a partnership between Cyanogen and Boxer, a company that is now powering up the default e-mail solution in Cyanogen OS. We took a look at their privacy policy and found that they may collect unspecified kinds of data by scanning your inbox contents… and then distribute them within the company, with affiliates or “trusted” third parties… so potentially Microsoft too. Like XDA Portal Editor Matthew pointed out, at least we know that Google collects our data, and we willingly agree to the notion. This is trying to fly under the radar undisclosed, which once again shows Cyanogen’s shady cloak & dagger tactics. Yet in Boxer’s open letter we find the following blatantly ironic excerpt:

The launch of our partnership with Cyanogen marks a major shift in the mobile landscape. No longer are users forced to use second-class software or services that further the agenda of the companies behind their platforms (…) Users now have a choice – an open operating system in Cyanogen that is bringing best in class products and services together to form a single cohesive platform.”

Open War

The war for an Open Android is not limited to Google and Cyanogen, and we can expect to see many other players hop in soon. But right now, the biggest armies in this battle are these two’s. I tried to objectively show that both companies are surrounded by tactics that do not really aspire one’s uttermost confidence in them, but while both claim to have or offer an “Open Android”, the truth is both of them don’t. Both Google and Cyanogen offer virtually identical decision spaces and almost equal liberty in their Android offerings, but this doesn’t quite mean that their Android’s are as “open” as they want it to be. Google’s Android is not open, and neither is Cyanogen’s Android. What is open is Android in itself, the platform, and not what the companies want it to be.

android-openThe foundations of Android allow for this liberty, decision space and openness, and it is only when the project is tainted with corporate agendas that it loses that last bit. Ultimately, both Google and Cyanogen constrict Android, but not necessarily negatively. Google’s Android is, to me, a brilliant piece of software largely because of Google services. While I know the difference between the purest of Android and the experience I am accustomed to, things like Google Now are intuitively and intrinsically Android in my mind now. I am sure many of you use Google services as much as we do, even on your custom ROMs that may not even come with them pre-installed. Cyanogen’s vision of Android is noble, but in a Theory of Forms sort of way… and like many ideas, the physical manifestation is subjected to corporate greed and vice, and it ultimately gets tainted. This is what might be happening to Cyanogen now that they are dependent (or rather, “lobbied”) by these huge companies.

Going back to the MADAs: Google is probably not playing fair. In fact, the behind-the-scenes and less-than-noble coercion shows that Google is not willing to battle in an open and fair landscape… or at the very least it shows paranoia and fear that manufacturers would abandon them. Both of these traits as well as the tactics displayed are typical of an authoritarian regime, so in this regard Cyanogen’s claim of a tyrannic Google might have some semblance of truth. However, it is undeniable that the Google experience on Android is one that people love, and while Google might not be the most trustworthy in regards to data mining and partnerships either, Cyanogen’s approach to business leaves too much to be desired.

To round things up: Google’s anti competitivity is neither justified nor noble, but neither is Cyanogen’s outspoken remarks about Google – not when they are effectively doing the same, just with a simpler “remove” button in their app manager menu. Moreover, Google’s best interests are on Android while we can’t say the thing about Microsoft which became Cyanogen’s most notable (and notorious) partner. The war for an open Android is now an open war, and nobody knows what will come out of it. The next few years will be full of interesting developments, especially if the Android investigation and further accusations manage to regulate Google’s Android and further open it up for a more leveraged playing field. This being said, I personally picked my side.


Did you?

 

 

Featured image by Aurich Lawson

The post Open War for Open Android: Antitrust for Cyanogen? appeared first on xda-developers.

Galaxy S6 Edge vs Huawei P8 – hands on

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off
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Every year, Android manufacturers are faced with attempting to produce the best handset possible at the cheapest price possible in a bid to gain market share at the expense of the market leaders, Apple and Samsung. Normally this is a somewhat easy enough task as Samsung generally introduces evolutionary designs of previous handsets but as the Galaxy S5 failed to meet the company’s ambitious sales targets, Samsung were forced to rethink the Galaxy S range.

At MWC 2015, the company released both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, which completely revolutionises their flagship smartphone line. Instead of the boring same design, we have a new cutting edge look which poses a much tougher challenge for rival manufacturers. A couple of days ago, Huawei introduced the handset they are hoping will successfully challenge the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, the Huawei P8, but how does it compare to the best of Samsung? Let’s take a closer look.

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The front of the Galaxy S6 Edge has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED Quad HD display offering 577 pixels per inch density, while the Huawei P8 has a 5.2 inch IPS-Neo display with Full HD resolution which offers 424 pixels per inch density. The two displays themselves are definitely vastly different with the Galaxy S6 Edge sporting the best mobile display on a smartphone to date – although, Sharp’s rumoured 4k Ultra HD panel will set a new benchmark for mobile screens.

Beneath the display, the Galaxy S6 Edge has a redesigned home button that houses a one-touch fingerprint sensor (akin to that on the Ascend Mate 7). Despite being a flagship, the Huawei P8 doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor, as Huawei have reserved this for the Mate phablet range only, and it’s a shame as the Mate 7 has one of the finest fingerprint sensors on a smartphone to-date.

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Above the display, the Galaxy S6 Edge has a 5MP front facing camera supporting 1440p video recording and auto HDR, while the P8’s 8MP front snapper is arguably slightly superior due to its higher megapixel count and wide-angle capabilities. Although there’s very little to separate the two front cameras, the P8 comes with Huawei’s Beauty Level feature that can be used to accentuate your best features when taking selfies.

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When designing the Galaxy S6 Edge and the Huawei P8, both manufacturers have sought to redefine the design of a smartphone. The Galaxy S6 Edge shows that curved displays can be used in a truly tasteful way – even if they’re not the most functional when using a small dropped edge – while with the P8, Huawei are showing that you can deliver excellent performance in a super thin body.

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Previous Samsung flagships have usually been on the thicker side but the Galaxy S6 Edge seeks to change this, sporting a body that is just 7mm thick. Given that the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S4 were 8.1 mm and 7.9 mm thick respectively, Samsung has done extremely well to shave over a 1mm off the profile of last year’s flagship. In comparison, Huawei have done even better by packing a fully featured specs list into a body that is one of the slimmest on the market at 6.4mm.

The P8 camera sits completely flush with the 6.4mm thin body

The key reason for Huawei to gloat about the thickness of the P8 is the rear camera, and this is a point they focused on during the launch. The Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 and even the iPhone 6 all feature rear cameras that stick out a little from the back of the phone but with the P8, Huawei have managed to make the 13MP camera sit completely flush. When you consider the handset comes with Optical Image Stabilisation as well, it’s a crowning achievement.

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The Galaxy S6 Edge camera picks up where the Galaxy Note 4 camera left off by offering the best camera ever on a Samsung flagship. The 16MP sensor is incredibly quick to launch, focus and capture images while the colour reproduction and vibrancy is simply superb. The Galaxy S6 Edge camera also has Optical Image Stabilisation, but the key thing is that the camera does protrude a significant amount from the back. It’s not enough to hamper the design and is usually hidden by a case but if you carry your phone without a case, you’ll need to be careful when placing it on a surface on its back.

The Galaxy S6 is one of the nicest looking handsets ever made

The back is another area where the Galaxy S6 Edge is in stark contrast to any other Samsung handset ever made. Instead of the plastic we’ve come to expect from Samsung, the back of the Galaxy S6 Edge is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and the result is one of the nicest looking handsets ever made, even if it is a fingerprint-magnet. In comparison, the Huawei P8 picks up from the Ascend P7 in that it offers an aluminium rear but on the P8, the colouring on the rear is now much more pronounced, which produces a handset that looks much more premium.

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An area where both Samsung and Huawei agree is in the processor department, as each company has opted for their in-house processor over a chip from Qualcomm. Both 64-bit processors feature eight Cortex-A53 cores arranged in a big.LITTLE formation with the Galaxy S6 Edge using four cores at 2.1GHz and four at 1.5GHz while the Huawei P8 has four cores clocked at 2GHz and also has four clocked at 1.5GHz. The Galaxy S6 Edge uses Samsung’s Exynos 7420 processor while the P8 uses Huawei’s own-brand HiSilicon Kirin 930 processor.

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On paper there’s very little difference in the performance as both handsets come with 3GB RAM and a range of storage options (but the P8 is the only one with expandable storage). However, the key to a super fast performance is in software optimisation and both manufacturers have made an attempt to optimise their software to provide the best possible experience.

Galaxy-S6-Edge-vs-Huawei-P8-3

Huawei’s EMUI v3.1 on the P8 offers a refined experience designed to be smooth, despite the heavy interface, but the biggest improvement (over past flagships) comes from Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on the Galaxy S6 Edge. Prior to the Galaxy S6 Edge, each Samsung flagship traditionally had more and more software features – otherwise known as bloatware – than the previous year (up to and including the Galaxy S5) but with their latest flagships, Samsung has made a complete u-turn.

Related: Are the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge overpriced?

Instead of lots of bloatware, the new TouchWiz is incredibly slick with only a handful of pre-installed apps, which can all be disabled. The latest TouchWiz UI is a complete revamp of Samsung’s philosophy and the results speak for themselves; instead of slowing down pretty quickly, the Galaxy S6 Edge is still as fast as it was out of the box, even after installing all of my apps and data.

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Quite possibly the biggest change for Samsung is the switch to a non-removable back cover and hence, a non-removable battery. Samsung devices have always been known for the ability to swap out the battery for a spare to ensure you remain powered up throughout the day, but the Galaxy S6 Edge puts an end to all of this.

Samsung claims the non-removable 2600mAh battery on the Galaxy S6 Edge offers all-day battery life but we wanted to see if this was actually true; so far, we’ve published two sets of battery results with more to follow so do check them out for all the details. The Huawei P8 packs a similarly sized 2680mAh battery, which they claim will last more than two days on average usage.

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These are bold claims from both manufacturers but given the incredible battery life on the Ascend Mate 7, we’re inclined to believe Huawei. Samsung on the other hand has no pedigree for us to rank these claims against and while the jury is still out, there’s definitely something to be said for our battery life so far.

For the times when you need a fast charge, the Galaxy S6 Edge offers just this; incorporating both types of Wireless charging (PMA + Qi) and Quick Charge 2.0, there are several ways to keep your S6 Edge battery topped up and Samsung claim that you can add 50 percent battery life in just 30 minutes using the quick charger in the box.

Galaxy-S6-Edge-vs-Huawei-P8-8

Overall, the Galaxy S6 Edge and the Huawei P8 both have enough enhancements to offer an impressive flagship performance but while the P8 wins awards for the style and design, the Galaxy S6 Edge wins for its incredible specs list and innovative design. The key fact however, is the price: the Huawei P8 is over half the price of the Galaxy S6 Edge.

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Huawei’s flagship comes with a recommended price tag of €499 before taxes and subsidies – the premium version costs €100 more in two alternative colours with 64GB storage instead of 16GB – which equates to around $529 (£350). In comparison, the Galaxy S6 Edge starts at $849 for the 32GB, which equates to around €785 (£567).

With a price tag that is approximately 57 percent higher than the Huawei P8, the Galaxy S6 Edge won’t appeal to all users mainly due to the price barrier. In comparison, Huawei is able to price the Huawei P8 aggressively to gain market traction and with the new Huawei VIP same-day replacement support service, may have a key after-market service to tempt customers.

Which of these two handsets is the better? It all depends upon your usage: the Huawei P8 is ideal if you want a truly premium flagship experience without requiring a re-mortgage of your home but the Galaxy S6 Edge is perfect if you want a phone like no other that pushes the boundaries of modern smartphones.

Which do you think is better and would you buy either? Let us know your thoughts guys!

Square Enix’s Masters of the Masks: different yet typical

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

Square Enix snuck in a mobile game while we were still busy obsessing over various incarnations of Final Fantasy, both on the big machines and hopefully on mobile as well. But its surprise game, Masters of the Masks, couldn’t be farther from whatever preconceived notion you might have of a Square Enix mobile game, incorporating some things that the game developer has never done on mobile before. And yet, at the same time, it is because of those very same things that make MotM actually closer to a typical mobile game than anything Square Enix has done before.

The plot thickens … or not

Square Enix’s classic games, particularly the Final Fantasy series, and even some of its more modern mobile exclusives, have been praised for their deep and well thought out story lines and characters. Don’t go trying to find any of those here, however. It’s your typical “something bad happened and it’s up to you to save the world” kind of plot. Almost like The One Ring, a super powerful Mask was created that gave godlike powers to its bearer, which is never a good thing. So the Mask was shattered into many masks, and now it’s up to you to collect and fight for them in order to defeat the ultimate baddie. Of course, each mask you get grants you powers and fuse masks to get even better powers.

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It’s a thin premise, but at least it’s there. Good thing that isn’t exactly what makes this game rather fascinating.

If looks could kill

As you may have noticed above, this is again not your typical Square Enix mobile game, which usually falls in either of two categories. One is a simple port of old school retro 8 or 16 bit graphics, ala Final Fantasy I to VI. The other is full on 3D exemplified by the Chaos Rings series. In Masks, however, Square Enix went for a look that was neither here nor there. The closest thing to describe it would be like a Western (yes, not Japanese) cartoon turned into a game. Yes, dialogs are delivered in Japanese visual novel fashion, but the aesthetics are not what you’d usually associate with that region. Everything is cel shaded, either in the character portraits or in the 3D models.

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Not that it’s never been done before, but it’s definitely nothing you might have expected from the game maker.

Touch and go

Controls on mobile games are a rather contentious topic, with some bemoaning the concession to simply implement virtual d-pads and buttons everywhere. Others have taken a more “touch-friendly” approach, which usually means being limited to taps and swipes. Masters of the Masks is somewhat of the latter camp, but it adds a little twist, or in this case, a drag and drop. Like what you might normally do with when moving files or folders on touchscreens, the main action in this game, at least in the battle field, is tapping and holding on a character and dragging his or her attack to a target, represented by a directional arrow. It’s that simple, though, at the same time, a bit more work than simply tapping here and tapping there. At the very least, it keeps the player aware of who to target.

The same drag and drop action applies to using “super” attacks, which are strangely represented by a meter at the bottom of the screen. You wait for it to fill up to a certain extent and then you drag from one of the Roman numerals and drop into a target, whether they be enemy or ally. This, however, is a little more complicated than a normal attack. Each character has a special ability. One might heal like a cleric, another might rain arrows on your foes. Which character’s super attack (or buff) gets activated depends on whose turn it is.

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Waiting in line

Here is where Square Enix borrows a familiar trope from JRPGs. Battles are turn-based, but it’s not a simple matter of one character following another. Each character has an action meter that gets filled up over time. Some get theirs filled faster than others and therefore get to attack or do a spell sooner. Same goes for enemies, and some units will be able to attack you even before one of your own units gets his or her chance to dish out some damage. After a character does something, the meter resets and needs to get filled up again. This is no different from the ATB or Active Time Battle system that the later Final Fantasy games popularized.

That said, the ATB wasn’t always a welcome game mechanic, and some might cringe at seeing it here as well. At least the game pays homage to some of Square Enix’s more mainstream titles.

Familiar faces

The Final Fantasy series haven’t exactly been designed for modern mobile game conventions and some of Square Enix’s mobile RPGs don’t lend themselves easily to those either. Masters of the Masks is neither of those. In short, you also have the full gamut of mobile game features and misfeatures. Ladderized and fixed progression: check. Social connections and leaderboards: check. A “home screen” for setting up camp (quite literally here): check. In-app purchases: unfortunately, also check.

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Mobile gamers definitely won’t feel like a stranger in this Square Enix title.

Wrap-up

Masters of the Masks is an unexpected game coming from a big name publisher and it could very well be a bit refreshing in that regard. But it probably won’t be a hot item either. Square Enix played it safe and stuck to tried and tested and definitely overused mobile gaming tropes perhaps to try to appeal to the masses. And to their wallets. It does have a novelty factor to it that could make the game a bit more interesting. At least for some time.

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The game is free on Google Play Store, so it’s safe to take it out for a spin. Do beware of those pesky in-app purchases though.

Sprint starts pushing out Lollipop update for Spark-branded Galaxy S4’s

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

SamsungGalaxyS4BlackEdition

Sprint has finally started pushing out the much-anticipated and long-awaited Lollipop update for all Sprint Spark-branded variants of the Galaxy S4 located in the United States. In terms of added functionality, this upgrade transports the latest build of the Android operating system to the handset, in addition to a truckload of bug fixes and stability improvements.

Hit the break for the full changelog.

  • Material Design: You will quickly notice a whole new colorful look and feel to your device – from fluid animations to new application and system themes, colors and widgets.
  • Notifications UI & Priorities: In order to alert you to the most timely and relevant information, the format and behavior of notifications have evolved:
    • notifications will appear on the lock screen and are intelligently ranked by type and who sent them.
    • you double-tap to open one, swipe left or right to clear one, or clear all notifications from the bottom of the list.
    • you can set the priority and privacy of notifications for each application.
    • very high priority notifications will pop up briefly over other applications so that you can take action.
    • when you dismiss a notification on one device it will be dismissed on your other Android devices, if they are connected to the Internet.
    • you can further tailor how notifications behave with the new Downtime and Ambient Display settings (see below).
  • New Interruptions & Downtime Settings: You can tailor how interruptions behave, choosing to allow all, none, or only priority interruptions.  You can personalize what counts as a priority interruption (reminders, events, calls, messages) and even tailor them to be from only contacts you specify.  The Downtime setting will allow only priority interruptions during the times and days that you specify.  e.g. allow only priority interruptions on the weekend.
  • Recent Apps (Multi-tasking): The redesigned Overview space (formerly called Recents) will include both applications and separate activities within those applications.  For instance, each open tab in Chrome will also appear here along with recent applications; both your Gmail Inbox and a draft email message will appear as separate cards.  This provides a consistent way to switch amongst tasks.
  • Flashlight: Lollipop includes a new flashlight option as part of Quick settings (swipe down with two fingers from the status bar to see it).
  • Pin a view/app: Screen pinning allows you to keep a specific app or screen in view. For example, you can ‘pin’ a game and your child will not be able to navigate anywhere else on your phone.
  • Battery: The Battery settings panel now shows an estimated projection for how much time you have left while discharging or charging.  You can also enable a new battery saver mode that will save power by reducing performance and most background data operations to extend your battery life.
  • Smarter Internet Connections: With Android Lollipop, your phone will not connect to a Wi-Fi access point unless there is a verified Internet connection. This feature improves hand-offs between Wi-Fi and cellular connections, helping to maintain your video chat or voice-over-IP (VoIP) call as you switch.
  • Performance: Your phone now uses the new Android Runtime to help optimize application performance.  After upgrading to Lollipop, your applications will undergo a one-time optimization process.  Note that the optimization for ART requires more space.
  • Security: Encryption can now use a stronger 256-bit key to help protect your data.  Note that the stronger key willonly be used after you perform a factory reset on Android Lollipop.  Otherwise encryption will continue to use 128-bit key.  You can turn on encryption in the Security settings menu.

As is customary with all manufacturer updates, the upgrade is being rolled out in stages, but if you don’t feel like waiting for a notification confirming that it’s ready for your device to hit your unit, you can search for the update manually. To do so simply follow the four steps below:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap on “About Device”
  3. Hit “System Updates”
  4. Tap on “Check for update”

Come comment on this article: Sprint starts pushing out Lollipop update for Spark-branded Galaxy S4’s

Groupon is holding a fantastic promotion on the Chromecast [Deal]

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

Chromecast_dongle (1)

If you haven’t got your hands on a Chromecast yet, but have been meaning to do so, you may like to know that you can currently grab one for just $20 from Groupon. The company is also offering complimentary shipping and won’t be charging any sales tax, making this an unmissable deal.

Hit the source link below to find out more.

Source: Groupon

Come comment on this article: Groupon is holding a fantastic promotion on the Chromecast [Deal]

ePad 7 Android 4.0 ICS
$162 $100 FREE SHIPPING 

10" Android 4.2 1.2GHz Tablet PC

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