Posts Tagged ‘ Market ’

the Android Market and Compatibility

by Dave Loft

I’ve been mulling this over for the past week and wanted to share my thoughts on it. Ultimately what it comes down to is that there is no guarantee that the games your buying for your Android phone today are going to work on your next Android device. More apps and games are being targeted at specific devices. At Google IO in the market session it was mentioned that developers would now have even more control over which which device can access the game by not only chipset, screen size and android version but also the specific model.

So now a developer can build a compatible list or a not compatible list. An example of each that recently hit the market is the Netflix app which is limited to work on only five devices and Battleheart which currently blocks many Samsung and HTC devices. The worst part of this is that as the hacking community has shown running a rooted android with the hacked Netflix app can work on just about any device.

Blocking a specific model can result in blocking devices that may have been updated or are running custom software that actually fixes the issue that the device was blocked for. To take it even further a device may be blocked due just to performance issues. Something that a rooted device with a stock ROM running an overclocked CPU can often fix.

Ultimately these updates are great for the average Android user as it will reduce the number of times they will come across apps and games that do not work on their device. But it’s the power users that will ultimately have run into challenges from these changes.

Jump ahead one or two years after your first Android and you may find yourself in a situation where many of the games you have wont work on your brand new device. This will be especially true for anyone who owns a Tegra 2 based device or the Xperia Play. With so many games being made specifically just for those devices if your next device is not a Tegra device or the Xperia Play 2 it won’t work.

This also extends to any 3D game that specifically lists what devices it works on. Next year if you go and buy the latest and greatest phone that should easily be able to handle the game but the developer hasn’t added it to the list of compatible devices. As a result it won’t even show up in the market for you.

So going forward the argument that because it’s an Android device and you bought it from the Market doesn’t give you any guarantee. It kind of puts some perspective on the many arguments against buying from Gameloft because it won’t work on your next device. As it is, no matter where you buy it, there really is no guarantee it will work.

Google also introduced another update to the market, but this one could help alleviate many issues. They will allow a developer to have one listing for their game and it can hold multiple APK’s. This would be helpful for example if you currently own a Tegra 2 device, you would be given the Tegra 2 version. Then for example next year you buy the Xperia Play 2 and then when you hit the market to download your apps you would be given the appropriate version.

Unfortunately by the looks of things in the market this may be more of a dream than a reality. Many Tegra 2 games won’t work on any other platform and the one’s that do like Fruit Ninja and Guerrilla Bob have a higher price for the Tegra 2 version.

Thankfully most developers seem to have the right idea by just adding support to the Xperia Play in the regular version of the game. But I have to give a thumbs down to any developer choosing to build a separate version  for the Xperia Play.

Now before you get too worried about all this just bear in mind this is really only going to affect more advanced 3D games. Most apps and games should work just fine. This issue could also be helped if Google takes a stronger stance and more aggressively enforces the Android Market. The biggest thing Android needs is an all encompassing graphic layer akin to DirectX. This would alleviate the need for developers to write for specific chipsets and would greatly help eliminate compatibility issues. Going forward hopefully developers and Google don’t let things get too far out of hand.

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.

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

No Netflix, No Hulu… No Problem

by Dave Loft

The studios just don’t get it, if you don’t make the content available legitimately, people will find another way to get it. So far there isn’t an option for Android users looking for a way to watch Hulu or Netflix on their device. The reason for the delay has been blamed on concerns of DRM. The reality is that no matter how DRM is implemented, it will eventually fail. Then theres the other question and arguably the more important one. Who is going to use an Android app that requires a monthly subscription as a means to steal content and share it on the web? It’s far more likely to be done using a cable box and a PC.

Now at least in the US Amazon has an option for Android users to buy and stream videos to their Android device. Unfortunately in Canada, the only option for Android users is to buy a DVD and rip it into a format the phone can play. Which is a rather time consuming process and in the age of digital distribution, rather ridiculous.

I stopped buying physical media a long time ago. I get my music from Rdio, my comics from Comixology, my books from Kobo, my TV from Hulu and movies from Netflix. I try to stay as legitimate as possible but when it becomes more difficult to use, or worse it’s just not available, I tend to head to the types of sources the studios wish never existed.

Rdio, Comixology and Kobo have apps that allow me to enjoy my content on the go. But since the movie and television studios haven’t yet learned what the music labels learned several years ago, they are currently hurtling towards a cliff in Bugatti Veyron at 407 KMH with the brakes from a Volkswagen Jetta. Subsequently customers are being lost in the very holes they created by not offering a competing service.

So what do I suggest for TV on the go? TV Shows Stream, which is available on the Android Market for a one time purchase price of $5 from Loading Home. TV Shows Stream provides as the name suggest a method for streaming TV and it offers more content than Netflix and Hulu ever could.

When you click on the show you like, it will give you some general information about the show as well as a link to IMDb and the option to Add or Delete Bookmark. It’s really easy to use and and is a necessity considering every letter of the alphabet has hundreds of show listings. At the bottom will be a list of seasons with each episode name and number listed inside. Once you click on the episode you want you will be given a list of links to watch from. On occasion some of the links will be dead, hence the reason to have several to choose from.

For fans of Megavideo, TV Shows Stream offers an option to login to your account from the homepage. Without a Megavideo account, you will be limited to 72 minutes of streaming video from their links. For anyone who doesn’t have a Megavideo account I would suggest using Karambavidz or Loombo videos. They offer excellent quality, no time limit and can be loaded into an external video player, rather than played within the browser using flash. The battery life and playback controls on your Android video player is definitely better than the browser.

For anyone looking for movies, I would suggest MegaViewer Movie Streamer Pro. It’s not quite as good as TV Shows Stream. While TV Shows Stream’s UI is very sparse, it’s also very usable. MegaViewer Pro is just badly designed and lacks any options whatsoever. But the biggest issue is the inability to bookmark your position in the movie to save it for later. This issue is made worse with the players inability to fast forward or rewind. But even with those issues as it stands, it’s still the best option for streaming movies to your Android device. MegaViewer’s selection doesn’t have everything, but what it does have blows away what Netflix can offer.

Now the nitty gritty. The act of streaming movies and TV shows you haven’t paid for is not exactly legal, yet it isn’t illegal either. It currently lives in the gray area of the internet where major corporations have yet to sway governments into changing laws with which to prosecute anyone who partakes in it. Currently it comes down to the act of sharing content that will get you in trouble. So wither these apps are OK to use or not really comes down to your personal beliefs and morals. But if you pay for cable, satellite, Netflix, Hulu or any other video distribution service that fails to offer an option on your mobile, you now know of your alternatives.

It’s interesting to see the studios doing just what music labels did ten years ago. They don’t provide an option so an illegitimate option takes it’s place. Then by the time they figure it out and make something available they have to convince people who have gotten used to the free alternative to start paying again. The funny thing is the free alternatives may never have even existed had the studios made their content available from the beginning. It will be at that point that the studios turn to lawsuits to solve the problem they created in the first place rather than try to innovate.

So for now enjoy the freedom while it lasts and give these apps a try. If your interested, bear in mind they do require Android 2.2 and slow phones need not apply. Also don’t expect the longest battery life if you plan to watch a lot of video. With the display on, a data connection in constant use and a heavier CPU load it’s really no surprise to see a significant drop after finishing a movie. So if the morals and stiff requirements don’t scare you away, MegaViewer Pro and TV Shows Stream are truly great alternatives to Hulu or Netflix.

Rovio is run by a bunch of daft cocks

by Dave Loft

GetJar or Get Lost
Rovio’s first mistake came with the release of the original Angry Birds on Android. On the day it was supposed to be launched everyone hit the Android Market to get the famed iOS game. Unfortunately Angry Birds was not on the Android market and after a search on Google it was found to be only available from GetJar. I hit GetJar and tried to download Angry Birds only to find their server was unresponsive. It took hours before I could get the game downloaded and installed on my Android device. it wasn’t till the next day that Rovio finally woke up and just put the game on the Android market.

You Can Get Angry Birds Any Way You Like, as Long as it has Ads
Rovio’s second mistake was making the decision to only offer a free ad supported version of Angry Birds on Android. I would have gladly paid a dollar or two for an ad free Angry Birds but that option was not made available. Anyone who hated ads had to turn to other solutions to get rid of them and that solution turns out to be a rather simple one, an application that blocks ad. With that installed on a rooted device you get an ad free version of Angry Birds and Rovio get’s nothing for it.

Rovio and Intel’s App Up Slip Up
Rovio’s third mistake came with the release of the PC version of Angry Birds. Instead of choosing a major digital distributer like Steam they instead chose Intel’s AppUp store. Another store I had never heard of before so I hit Google to find it and begin the sign up process. Unfortunately the demand of Angry Birds was too large for Intel and the site gave errors every time I tried to register. It wasn’t till the next day that I was able to do so and get in the store to download the game.

Everything the Original Had and More (the More Being Price)
Rovio’s forth mistake was pricing the PC version too high. Five dollars for a game that went for one dollar on iOS and free on Android was quite steep. Not to mention gameplay that just wasn’t as exciting when played with anything but a touch screen. As it is now the price is too much, but if Rovio had made Angry Birds available on Steam and included achievements, leaderboards and Steam cloud support it may have been a reasonable price.

Finnish Birds From Rio only Found on Amazon in the US?
Rovio’s fifth mistake was the decision to release Angry Birds Rio exclusively on the just released Amazon Appstore. When I heard the news I went and setup an account as well as a one click payment to my credit card. I then downloaded the app to my phone and launched it looking for Angry Birds Rio. I clicked on the get app button below only to be greeted with ‘The Amazon Appstore for Android is not yet available in your region‘.  After Googling Amazon’s Appstore availability it appears it’s only available in the US. It’s rather odd that a Finnish company would choose to limit their game only to people in the the US.

Conclusion
It appears that Rovio’s bottom line is to milk Angry Birds for all it’s worth. They will go as far as taking millions of dollars from Amazon and locking out the majority of Angry Birds fans around the world just to line their pocket books. It’s for all these reasons that I think Rovio is run by a bunch of daft cocks.

Stellar Escape on Android

by Dave Loft

I’m really impressed with the quality of Stellar Escape and the entertainment I’ve squeezed from this simple yet brilliantly executed game. Stellar Escape is a very straight forward game, literally. Your character always runs forward and you simply have to hit the right button to jump over or under the obstacles. But make three mistakes and your dead.

The graphics and animation are beautiful and the controls couldn’t be better. On the left you have two buttons, the top one grabs the bar above you and bottom one is for jumping down the tubes. On the right you have three buttons, jump over, dive between and slide under obstacles. The buttons icon clearly illustrates with what each does and was never a hindrance to my progression. See image below.

The game doesn’t have too much story and you won’t even be presented with one if you just choose ‘Play’ from the menu. But if you want the story, you can choose it by selecting ‘Story’ from the main menu. The story is presented with six still images with the story written on each page. You play Elliot Black who is ‘a courier in the infamous Beta Sector’. Upon delivering a package to Lord Gulasch, Elliott finds his evil plan to destroy Earth. Elliot is quick to act and grabbed the jewel from the package and begins running for his ship. The jewel was the last piece in Lord Gulasch’s super laser and taking it made Elliott ‘the most wanted person in the galaxy’.


Some may find the game too short with only 9 levels, something a better player than I could finish in an hour. But for anyone who does finish the game it provides an endless mode allowing you to push for a new high distance score. So at least there is something to do, even after you made it back to your ship. Some more levels and variation would definitely have made Stellar Escape just about the perfect game. But considering the quality of the game and a price tag of less than $1.50, there should be no hesitation in buying this game. *Update* Less than a week old and Orange Agenda has already released a major update with 6 more levels. Bringing the total level count up to 15. I don’t think anyone can argue the game is too short anymore.

I’m really pleased with Orange Agenda’s decision to release this game on both the iOS and Android platform at the same time. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that Orange Agenda is comprised of just two developers. I strongly recommend to anyone with an iOS or Android device to go out and buy this truly stellar game. You will not be disappointed with Stellar Escape.

Score: 9.0

Android Market Link: Stellar Escape
Official Website: orangeagenda.com

Gun Bros shoots it way onto Android

by Dave Loft

Gun Bros (Glu Mobile)

This free game is a killer, literally. You play one of two characters in the top down shooter with waves of increasingly difficult enemies. The longer you survive and the more enemies you kill the more xplodium and experience you earn. The xplodium is then traded in for money to spend on weapons and Armour. Unlocking stuff takes a long time to earn but the payoff is enjoyable.

Unfortunately the user interface needs work, the menus are cluttered and not well designed from an ease of use standpoint. The menu buttons are small and it’s easy to hit the wrong one. Also once you die it takes too long to get back into the action. Your first taken to a screen to convert the xplodium into cash, a process that just adds an extra step and is not really needed in the game. After converting to cash your taken to the store even though it will take a couple dozen games before you can even afford anything. I would prefer after a game that it would just take you back to the main menu and let you select the option to play, quit or go to the store.

The good thing is once you are in a game the controls are easy to pick up and play. You use dual analog sticks to move and aim and the gun combat is one of the best of it’s kind. While the concept is simple, the game is fairly difficult. You really need to keep moving and avoid getting surrounded by enemies and it doesn’t take much to die. Thankfully you have more than just your guns to take out enemies. Throughout the environment are items you can shoot at that will explode and take out enemies near it. You can also purchase power ups to use when the action gets overwhelming. Some of the power ups include shields, orbital strikes, tactical nukes and a temper tantrum that gives you a boost in speed, defense and attack ability.

The graphics and art style are great, easily the best looking of it’s kind. The game is massive and the developer promises more to come. I can’t wait for the multiplayer version as the co-op game style seems destined to be even better when played with a friend. Also good news for anyone who has limited internal phone storage and cache. Thankfully the developer has released a small apk on the market that is only 1MB in size. When launched the game downloads the remaining 100MB to your SD card. Going forward with the limited space available on many phones and the growing trend of larger games this process will become a requirement.

All in all it’s yet another great free game for Android, hit up the Android Market to download.

Score: 7.5

Android Market Link: Gun Bros
Official Website: gunbros.glu.com

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