Google IO 2011 Recap

Android

  • Honeycomb 3.1 was announced, it includes many bug fixes, optimizations, resizeable widgets, USB Host capability, a new quick control menu and an updated android market.
  • Google TV will receive a Honeycomb upgrade complete with apps.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich was also announced and will be available by the end of 2011. It will replace both Gingerbread on phones and Honeycomb on tablets as the single unifying OS, hence Ice Cream Sandwich.
  • Google demoed Cordy on the Motorola Xoom running 3.1 being controlled by an Xbox 360 gamepad.
  • Google will implement time guidelines in Android update cycles with oems and carriers. Unfortunately it’s not a requirement and instead an opt in. Thankfully the support is good and they will be required to update devices for at least 18 months.
  • Google announced the Android open accessory API allowing all Android devices to work with third party accessories. Any accessory designed using the API will be compatible with any Android phone or tablet with no cost or approval from Google allowing third party manufacturers to implement it any way they wish.
  • Google announces Android@Home which will be used to bring home automation courtesy of Android.
  • A new Nexus phone is in the works and should launch with Ice Cream Sandwich at the end of the year according to Andy Rubin.
  • Currently Google offers 50MB for in market APK’s on the Android Market and will now provide an additional 4GB of storage for larger Apps. This is huge for smaller developers who want to go big. Currently they would have to provide their own additional storage which can be costly, especially when considering piracy.
  • Google is adding new categories to the Android Market. Top Grossing, Top Free & Paid, Top New Free & Paid, Just In, Trending, Editors Choice and Top Developers list to the Market.
  • Android Market will soon be available in 99 new countries, bringing the total to 131 countries. This will most likely result in much bigger revenues for developers and an increase in Android hardware sales worldwide.

Chrome

  • ChromeOS finally gets a file browser and media player and is starting to looking more and more like a full fledge OS
  • Google will charge 5% for in app payments from the Chrome Web Store
  • Google will launch two Chromebooks on June 15th, one from Samsung and one from Acer in the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
  • Google will also be releasing a Chromebox mini-desktop targeted at businesses.
  • Chromebooks by monthly subscription, cost per user; $28 for businesses and $20 for schools with free software and hardware upgrades. This could be very popular for Businesses and schools. No up front cost, no OS upgrade costs, no hardware upgrade costs and requires less employees to maintain the computers.

Music Beta

  • Currently only available in the US and by invitation only.
  • They do not have deals with any labels, so it is merely a cloud storage option.
  • Install the app on your computer and it will upload your music and playlist to the web for playback from any web browser, ChromeOS and Android device.
  • It can handle MP3, MPA, WMA and FLAC which still leaves a few holes but is superior than Amazon’s cloud storage.
  • The service currently offers free storage for up to 20,000 songs, no mention of actual storage space but it’s probably 80GB.
  • There is no mention of price but Google’s current pricing for storage is $5 for 20GB, $20 for 80GB, $50 for 200GB, $100 for 400GB, $256 for 1TB per year.

Movie Rentals

  • Google launched 3000 movie rentals from all the major studios.
  • Available from YouTube or the web based Android Market and Android devices with the movie app.
  • The rental is attached to your gmail and can be viewed from any of your devices.
  • Rentals are good for 30 days from purchase and 24 hours from first viewing.
  • The movies can be downloaded to your device for offline viewing.
  • Movie rentals are only available in the US and no mention of making the jump to other countries.
  • Pricing varies from $3.99 for new releases, $2.99 for movies older than several months and $1.99 for movies older than a year or two.
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2011: The Colour of Canada Today

Image and story from the National Post

Android Tablet Comparison Spring 2011

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline is out of the shop and it’s firing on all cylinders

by Dave Loft

I had quite a few problems with Asphalt 6 when it first came out as I mentioned in my previous post. To summarize, it was too big at 1GB, took too much RAM at over 100MB, it had framerate issues, stability issues, control issues and achievements were not saved. To say the least, it was a complete mess. I had planned to write a review when it came out but instead I just ranted about how poorly done the Android port was.

Well here we are five weeks and two patches later and Gameloft has addressed all of my issues. It now uses less storage at just under 900MB and limits the download to 500MB compressed. It’s now down to 70MB of RAM, the framerate has improved, stability is great, control issues are gone and achievements are working. It is now in a state that I would consider release worthy and I am now going to give it a proper run through.

First and foremost it really is a great game and is easily the best Arcade Racer on Android. The physics on the cars feel a little off and fairly floaty but after a few hours with the game, that issue kind of fades away. Drifting is an absolute blast, once you get the rhythm down. Accelerometer steering is precise and feels just right and for anyone who prefers alternative methods of steering, you will be happy to see a few alternative options available.

The graphics are good, but look somewhat grainy, like it’s not taking advantage of the high res display on my phone. But then on some tracks this isn’t an issue at all. It appears to be the detailed textures used on some levels that have the issue and utilizing anti aliasing and anisotropic filtering would clear it up. Making up for the texture issues are the beautifully rendered cars, lush scenery, great filtering and weather effects. All of which come together to create a great visual presentation.

The game offers a number of ways to play. With Free Race you will be given an option of four modes; Normal Race, Beat ’em All, Elimination and Collector. Beat ’em All requires that you knock out a set number of opponents. Just smash your car against theirs and push them into the edge of the track will usually do the trick and is followed by a pleasing slow motion ‘Elimination’ animation. Get used to taking out racers this way as you will need to take out a few racers in each race to rank higher. In Elimination, races the last racer will be eliminated every 30 seconds till there is just three left. With Collector your goal is to collect the most special items and to win, you will need to get out first quickly. In Career you will have four additional modes; Dual, Time Attack, Drift and Under Pressure. Under Pressure is just like Beat ’em All, except that you have limited respawns.

The game has 42 cars ranging from the Mini Cooper to the Bugatti Veyron, all of which can be customized with paint jobs, decals and performance enhancing parts.  The game provides 11 leagues, 55 events and 12 courses to sharpen your skills on. Then when your ready you can take them online and race with up to six people, locally or over the internet. This game does not disappoint in the value for dollar catagory.

This has been my go to game for the past week whenever I have had time to sink my teeth into it. It’s not the game I pickup when I have a couple minutes while waiting, as it takes too long to load into the game and get racing. But like many Gameloft games, it is the game I go to when I’m looking for a console like experience. The depth of gameplay is beyond most smartphone games and easily provides the same amount of content of a game ten times it’s price. If you like arcade racing games, then Asphalt 6 is a must buy.

Score: 9.0

Official Website: Gameloft.com

For those interested, the game is only for high end phones and must be purchased from Gameloft directly. Games can be paid with credit card or PayPal and with some carriers, carrier billing is an option. Any game purchased can be easily re-downloaded by heading to gameloft.com on your phone and selecting ‘My Downloads’ at the bottom of the page. Login with your email or phone number and any game purchased available for that model will appear. Gameloft games will occasionally check for updates when launched and download them automatically if needed. 

email:  android.support@gameloft.com
phone: 1-800-910-3186

Portal 2 Available Now!

I’m too busy playing the game right now to do anything more than a picture and a few sentences. I will definitely write up a review in the next week or too. Now back to Portal 2 and if you haven’t yet bought this game, what is wrong with you?

Best Android Phones in Canada April 2011

Guerrilla Bob is well dressed but doesn’t have anything to say

by Dave Loft

I’ve had Guerrilla Bob for about a month and while it’s easily one of the most polished games on the Android market, it just doesn’t posses the longevity to keep me interested. Now to be fair, that would describe most mobile phone games and is exactly why they’re typically priced below $5. I guess I’m just looking for a console experience on a phone and one I know can be done.

I love the graphics in the game and the visual style reminds me of TF2. The textures are clean, beautifully put together and they’re not very detailed. But it works within the style of the game. To go with the smooth graphics is an equally smooth framerate that makes Guerrilla Bob a joy to play.

Cross compatibility is a big part of the marketing behind Guerrilla Bob and is one feature few games have offered. It is unfortunately only local multiplayer and the lacks the essential online multiplayer required to keep me playing the game.

Controls are plentiful with options to auto-aim and multiple dual stick configurations to choose from. If your new to dual stick games, or just want a simpler experience on your mobile, auto-aim is a great place to start. Once you get good at the game you can set the difficulty to hard or just turn off auto-aim.

The game offers ten guns and four characters to choose from, but with only one to start the game. You will unlock more as you play and getting all the guns can take quite a while.

The game offers a few ways to play; arcade, survival and mercenary. Arcade and mercenary are the same game but it changes how weapons are unlocked. In arcade you need to find new weapons hidden throughout the level. While in mercenary mode, you make money by taking out enemies to spend on your weapon of choice. With these two modes your goal is to move to the end of the level and your only job is to shoot. Survivor is the same gameplay in an arena and your scored based on how long you can survive.

What you soon realize is that all of the options available are pretty much the same. I feel if your gonna do just a shooting game, your gonna need more than ten guns. If you want to make your game more than just a shooting game some extra gameplay elements would go a long way. Just steeling ideas from your standard fps will do wonders. Vehicles, mele combat, stealth, cover, defend here, attack this, find the key, disguise as an enemy, something, anything. It just won’t stand as long without another leg to use.

To be fair. this really is me just wanting more complexity from mobile games and that’s something many people don’t care for. Taking into consideration what type of game Angry Mob was aiming to create with Guerrilla Bob, they have definitely nailed the mechanics of the game. It’s when you compare Guerrilla Bob to other shooters available on the Android Market that it becomes a more compelling product. It may have nothing on games like Modern Combat, but it’s really not trying to either.

Guerrilla Bob is the shooter built for a touch screen phone and one that’s accessible to the masses. This is the style of shooter that will have the most success on mobile devices and Angry Mob has built the best of it’s kind. Hopefully they can take that success and return with a squeal that raises the bar well above the the competition, rather than just over.

Score: 8.0

Android Market Link: Guerrilla Bob
Official Website: angrymobgames.com

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