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Archive for the ‘Buyers Guides’ Category

Pro Tip: Don’t buy a phone or smartwatch until September

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

The beginning of September is looking like a massively busy period, as the IFA trade show kicks off and almost every major mobile company has an event planned. Scores of smartphones and smartwatches will be announced here, and most will start shipping later in the month.

For this reason, right now is the worst possible time to buy a phone or smartwatch–wait until these releases are out of the way, and then reap the benefits of lower prices or newer devices on the market in late September and October.

Don’t believe me? Just have a look at what’s coming in September:

Smartphones*

Samsung are releasing the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4. Motorola are releasing the Moto X+1 and Moto G2. Sony are releasing the Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact. Nokia are releasing the Nokia Lumia 530, 730 and 830. HTC are releasing the One M8 with Windows and the J Butterfly. Chinese companies Meizu and Huawei are releasing the MX4 and Ascend Mate 7, respectively. Sharp are releasing the Aquous Crystal. Most importantly of all, Apple are releasing at least one new iPhone, the iPhone 6.

Smartwatches

September looks equally busy for smartwatches. Motorola are the biggest confirmed players here, with the eagerly anticipated Moto 360 set to launch. ASUS and LG have also teased new smartwatches for IFA, while Sony are rumoured to also be showing a watch at the event. Apple are the wildcard here–it’s not known if they’ll announce the iWatch at their September 9th event, but if they do then it’ll be massive.

Press Events

Here’s a breakdown of all announced or heavily rumoured events:

September 2nd

Meizu (MX4)

September 3rd

Samsung (Galaxy Note 4)
Sony (Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, Z3 Tablet Compact, SmartWatch 3)
ASUS (smartwatch)

September 4th

Motorola (Moto X+1, G2, 360)
Nokia (Lumia 730, 830)
Huawei (Ascend Mate 7)

September 9th

Apple (iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Air)

Signing off

September is going to be an awesome time for mobile fans, and there’s only one way to ruin it: by purchasing a smartphone or smartwatch just before its successor is announced. Wait if you can, and you’ll find cheaper smartphones or newer models in a matter of weeks. My recommendation? iPhone 6 or Galaxy Note 4. But don’t decide now – there will be a lot of excellent choices in the weeks to come!

*Not all of these phones will see European releases – the One M8 with Windows and Aquous Crystal have been announced for US markets. The J Butterfly and Aquous Crystal are launching in Japan. The MX4 and Ascend Mate 7 will launch in China. Still, it’s possible to import these phones.

Top 10 addictive Android games (2014)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

1. Threes

You’ve probably heard of tile matching game Threes – or its slew of clones, most of which go by the name ’2048′. Threes is the real deal though, with refined gameplay, gorgeously minimal graphics and a lot more strategy than its imitators. It does cost a few quid, but it’s well worth it.

2. Plants vs Zombies 2

Plants vs Zombies 2 is a fun sequel to the popular PC game of the same name, where you must defend your back garden from murderous zombies with an assortment of flowers and flora. The game has been criticised for its in-app purchases, but it’s still quite possible to progress without paying a penny.

3. Super Hexagon

Super Hexagon is a game that I can’t stop playing. It’s simple enough – rotate your tiny triangle to avoid incoming barriers – but the pulsating visuals, brilliant soundtrack and intense difficulty make it a must-play. Mastering the first difficulty (hard) is tough but satisfying, and there are five more difficulty levels after that to really test your mettle.

4. Monument Valley

Monument Valley is probably the most beautiful game on the list, with M.C. Escher-inspired architecture and a serene soundtrack. Gameplay is simple but puzzling, as you move through an impossible level, each of which includes its own unique rules. It’s not a long game, but it’s still a pleasure to replay and one that you’ll want your friends to try too.

5. Super Crossfighter

Super Crossfighter is a fun shoot ‘em up with 80s-era graphics and plenty of alien spacecraft to destroy. The gameplay is simple enough to grasp quickly, but the levels are reasonably challenging later on and will definitely test your skill.

6. Snap Attack

Microsoft are suprisingly good at crafting word puzzle games, it seems. First we had Wordament, and now we have another Xbox-on-Android title: Snap Attack. You rearrange letter tiles to form words here, with locked letter positions and a time limit adding some urgency to the proceedings. The game is fun and free.

7. Modern Combat 5: Blackout

Modern Combat 5 is the latest iteration of Gameloft’s series of Call of Duty clones. They’re a decent enough translation of CoD’s gameplay to a mobile-friendly format, and the latest is one of the most advanced depictions yet. While the gameplay is derivative, the execution here is good, and there is plenty of content to go around: singleplayer, multiplayer and 4 classes.

8. Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone is a rather extraordinary 2D platformer, with deep characters and genuine emotion attached to some rather simple geometric shapes. There are 100 levels to play through, and though they pass quickly you’ll want to revisit them later on.

9. Dungelot 2

Dungelot is a weird combination of Minesweeper and Pixel Dungeon. You uncover squares one at a time (like Minesweeper), finding randomly generated treasure and enemies to fight. Once you’re dead, you have to start over from the beginning. It’s a lot easier to get into than most roguelike games, but you may be disappointed with its depth.

10. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a puzzle game set in the same universe as the TV show, but featuring a different setting and cast of characters. The game is famous for the tough choices that it demands of you, which cause the story to arc in different directions. Each decision is important, each decision is remembered, and things rarely proceed as you expect.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter @mobilefun.

The complete guide to Tizen

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

What is Tizen?

Tizen is an open-source operating system, meaning anyone can contribute to its development. It is designed as a flexible operating system that provides a consistent user experience across a variety of devices, from mobile phones and tablets to in-car entertainment systems, televisions and wearables.

How does Tizen compare to Android?

Both Tizen and Android are Linux-based open-source mobile operating systems that can be used on a wide range of devices. Tizen’s development is lead by a steering committee chiefly formed of Samsung and Intel employees, while Android’s development is guided by Google.

Android is a much more mature OS, and has seen widespread adoption across thousands of devices that ship millions of units. In contrast, Tizen is still in an early phase of development. The first Tizen smartphone was shipped recently, the Samsung Z, and more devices are expected to follow. Samsung has also released a series of wearables under the Gear brand which run Tizen, and a series of Tizen smart TVs are planned as well.

What’s the app situation for Tizen?

Tizen currently has a small store filled with native apps, written in HTML5 with the help of Linux standards like QT, GTK+ and EFL. Development of apps here should be easier than on Android or on iOS, with standard tools and languages that’ll be familiar to developers of desktop apps. Samsung are also paying developers to create apps for their platform. Together, these factors should spur faster-than-normal development for Tizen.

Android apps can also be converted to run on Tizen through the use of an Application Compatibility Layer (ACL). Open Mobile, who developed the ACL for Tizen, claims that these apps run at full speed and all Android apps are compatible with Tizen after conversion.

Can I try Tizen?

Soon. We will sell the Samsung Z, the first Tizen smartphone, upon its release. In the meantime, if you’re a developer you can try the Tizen SDK to create your own apps or just explore the OS.

Why is Tizen being developed?

Android is popular – maybe too popular. That gives Android creator Google a lot of control over the mobile ecosystem. Samsung and Intel both started their own projects to create an alternative mobile OS, so that they wouldn’t be held at the whim of Google in the future. Both of these projects didn’t get off the ground, but Samsung and Intel were able to join forces and create an OS that used the best ideas of both projects: Tizen. Now, it’s up to them to make Tizen a truly viable alternative, so that they can lessen Google’s impact on the mobile space.

Will Tizen be a success?

It’s too early to tell. Some analysts are calling the OS “dead in the water“, while others are more optimistic. It’s certainly true that Android (and to a lesser extent iOS and Windows Phone) are incredibly popular, and it will take years of concerted effort to have any impact on its market share. For the meantime, Samsung and Intel seem happy to continue their efforts with Tizen.

The complete guide to USB OTG adapters

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Source: Josh Miller/CNET

What is USB OTG?

USB OTG stands for ‘USB On-The-Go’. Basically, USB OTG is a way of connecting USB accessories to smartphones and tablets which don’t have full-size USB ports. These accessories could be USB flash drives, card readers, keyboards, mice or gamepads. There are also some advanced tricks you can pull with USB OTG – more on these later!

What do I need for USB OTG?

Because microUSB and USB are different connectors, you’ll need an adapter which translates one to the other. These USB OTG cables are quite simple, and usually look like just a full size USB connector and a micro USB connector with a short cable connecting them. Here’s one example of a well-rated USB OTG adapter.

Here are device-specific USB OTG cables for some phones: Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Note 3, Note 2, Xperia Z2

What other kinds of USB OTG accessories are there?

You can also get USB OTG adapters baked into other connection kits; essentially translating a micro USB connection into full size USB as well as HDMI, microSD cards and other useful connectors.  Here’s an example of a Connection Kit with USB OTG.

Finally, there are also some USB flash drives with microUSB connectors, designed to be used partially or exclusively with mobile devices. If they work on computers as well, you’ll usually find a full size USB connector on the opposite side. Here’s an example of a USB flash drive with a microSD connector.

 

Clockwise from left: USB OTG adapter, connection kit with USB OTG, microUSB flash drive

What devices support USB OTG?

Most modern Android devices (running version 3.1 or later) support USB OTG. You can see if your device supports USB OTG with apps like USB Host Diagnostics, available on the Google Play store. Note that you’ll need a USB OTG cable and a USB device in order to run the test.

USB OTG is also available for Windows 8 and BlackBerry 10.2.1 devices with microUSB ports. Unfortunately, USB OTG is not supported on iOS or Windows Phone.

Do all USB accessories work with USB OTG?

Not all USB accessories work with USB OTG. Some USB accessories draw more power than OTG can provide; e.g. a gaming keyboard with LEDs turned on. Your mobile device will also need to support the USB device you have connected, so more esoteric accessories that require special software on Windows or Mac won’t likely work.

Do I need an app for USB OTG?

It depends. Some Android devices require an app to see the contents of USB drives or SD cards connected via OTG. The Nexus Media Importer and USB OTG Helper are two working examples. Note that some apps may require root.

What else can I do with USB OTG?

USB OTG can also be useful for charging phones from tablets. Tablets generally have much bigger batteries than phones, so you can use them as portable chargers. Just connect a USB OTG adapter to the tablet’s microUSB port, then plug your standard microUSB charging cable into the phone and connect it to the USB OTG adapter. You could also do this from phone to phone, but this is less commonly useful.

I have another question!

Sure. Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @mobilefun, and we’ll answer your question.

Power Banks and Portable Chargers Buying Guide

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Read our power banks and portable chargers buying guide to help you choose your perfect portable charging accessory

 
Smartphone battery flat? No way to charge where you are? What you need is a portable charger

There is nothing worse than losing all of the charge on your smartphone. Usually this happens at the most inconvenient time – possibly when you are using your phone for directions, in the middle of a phone call or when you are desperate to send an important email. That being said, in our new online connected world, there is never a good time!

Never put yourself through this agony again with one of our portable chargers.

You can view our complete range here, however have a look at our handy guide below to find out more about power banks and portable chargers and why they are such a ‘must have’ accessory…

Index:

 

What is a power bank / portable charger?

Power banks and portable chargers are available in a variety of forms, however essentially they provide extra power for your smartphone when you are unable to charge your device. With smartphone applications becoming more and more useful and intensive, the amount of power they require to operate often drains your phone’s battery quicker until eventually it runs out.

(more…)

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