LG G3 Review

LG has come a long way since its initial clunky Optimus handsets. The first two flagships in the G series did a lot to improve consumer perception about LG smartphones. It didn’t hurt that Google also placed faith in LG and assigned it the responsibility of developing the Nexus devices. The Korean electronics giant is going all out with the new G3. Launched and promoted by Amitabh Bachchan, it certainly has the specs to turn heads. But, how does it perform in real life? Did LG bite off more than it can chew? Keep reading to find out.

Appearance, Display and Battery

LG G3 Front
LG G3 Front
LG G3 Back
LG G3 Back

The headline grabbing feature of the G3 is undoubtedly the quad-HD display. The 5.5’’ IPS display boasts of a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, which equates to an insane 534 ppi pixel density. LG obviously doesn’t believe in Apple’s claim that it’s impossible for our eye to discern improvements in pixel density beyond 300 ppi. After, using the G3, I am inclined to agree with LG. Some of the preloaded content looks absolutely breath-taking. Even the YouTube videos at a 2K resolution looks splendid. Unfortunately, most of the content that you are going to come across will not be able to take advantage of the G3’s superior display. We expect apps and videos to catch up at 2K becomes more prevalent, but by then the G3 might already be old. Compared to the G2, both contrast and saturation seems to have suffered. LG has shifted from natural looking displays to dialling up the saturation to make the colours pop. Another area where LG has compromised with the display is outdoor visibility. It’s not as good as before, and is made worse by the fact that in order to prevent overheating, the phone automatically restricts the maximum brightness to 90% after a few minutes of usage.

LG G3 Brightness Limitation
LG G3 Brightness Limitation

The size of the display puts it firmly in the phablet category. In fact, the LG G3’s display is a couple of inches bigger than the first Samsung Note. However, the G3 is still appreciably smaller than the Note N700 in almost every way. The G2 has impressively thin bezels, but the G3 cuts down even further. The almost edge-to-edge display lends the G3 a majestic appearance that none of the other flagships manage to pull off. In spite of the heft, the G3 is the easiest to handle among similarly sized devices. This is largely due to the fact that the G3 is not as wide as many of the phablets, and has a curved back that is easy to grip. This is only a relative thing though. Like all current generation flagships, the G3 is simply too big to be comfortably used with one hand. The G3’s rear is plastic, but polished to give a metallic appearance. The plastic feels cheap, but also has the advantage of making the phone lighter.

Smartphone Size Comparison
Smartphone Size Comparison

The back cover is removable and the battery is user replaceable. The 3000 mAh battery offers enough juice to last through the day. I didn’t conduct any benchmarks, but the battery life seemed to be on par with other flagships. LG has done a few under the hood tinkering to make sure that the massive display doesn’t hurt the battery life, and the tweaks seem to have worked.

LG G3 Battery Options
LG G3 Battery Options

Hardware

The G3 is powered by a Snapdragon 801 chipset that includes a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330. As you can expect from such mighty hardware, the performance is great. The G3 maxed out the 3D Mark – Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, and is certainly among the best performers you can buy right now. Heating can be a concern, as I mentioned earlier, but at least the G3 doesn’t completely disable critical functions (Camera) like the Z2 does when its gets heated.

LG G3 Geekench Score
LG G3 Geekench Score
LG G3 Basemark X Score
LG G3 Basemark X Score
LG G3 3D Mark Score
LG G3 3D Mark Score

The G3 comes with 16 or 32 gigs of internal storage. The latter has 3GB RAM while the former has only 2 GB. External memory cards up to 128 GB are also supported.

LG G3 Storage Availability Out of the Box
LG G3 Storage Availability Out of the Box

The G3 unit in India is 4G-enabled, and supports all common connectivity options including Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/f/n/ac, and NFC. Wireless charging (Qi) is also supported.

LG G3 Network Settings
LG G3 Network Settings

Software

One of my pet peeves with LG has been its silly, childish icons. I’m glad to report that they are finally gone. In fact, LG has embraced the flat design concept, and tastefully reskinned its entire interface. Bright, primary colors have been replaced with more subdued tones. But, LG has ensured that the UI doesn’t become boring with the help of quick animations peppered through the interface. However, all is not rosy. The notifications pane still has way too many things going on. I like the scrollable, quick toggles section, but the audio control is pointless since that can easily be done through hardware keys. Also, in its attempt to simplify the Settings pane, LG has removed a lot of the neat options it had before. Important settings like switching between Network modes (2G/3G/LTE) seem to have disappeared. However, the G3 is still one of the most customizable Android devices out of the box. You can change your phone’s appearance by changing home screen themes, tweaking fonts, and switch animation effects. There are tons of free themes available for download in LG’s app store (SmartWorld).

LG G3 Home Screen
LG G3 Home Screen

There are also heaps of software enhancements. My favourite among them is Knock Code. One of the potential issues with having the power button at the rear of the phone is that it becomes impossible to unlock the phone without picking it up from your desk. To get around this problem, the G2 introduced Knock On, which allowed you to wake up the phone by simply tapping on the screen twice. Knock Code is a further enhancement of that. It allows you to define a custom pattern of taps (combination of Up, Down, Left, and Right). You can directly wake up and unlock your device by tapping your Knock Code. This is actually a faster and easier than pattern unlock. It’s also a lot harder for bystanders to figure out.

LG G3 Knock Code
LG G3 Knock Code

Another new inclusion is LG Health, which tracks your steps without requiring any additional hardware or using too much battery. However, like most such apps it’s likely to be more gimmicky than useful. The data it reported varied wildly with the data reported by Sony’s Smart Band, which itself doesn’t agree with the Fitbit.

LG G3 Smart Bulletin
LG G3 Smart Bulletin

LG also made a lot of fuss about its keyboard. I like that fact that you can adjust the height and there is a dedicated numpad. However, like all other OEM keyboards, it is no where near as good as Swype or Swiftkey.

LG G3 Keyboard
LG G3 Keyboard

Perhaps my least favourite new feature is Smart Notice, which is more annoying than useful. The only reasonable advice I received from it is to carry an umbrella based on the weather forecast. When you already have something as good as Google Now, it’s stupid to a similar but vastly inferior app.

LG Smart Notice
LG Smart Notice

LG’s note taking app QuickMemo is still there, but doesnt have a dedicated button like in some of the older models. Other typical LG features are also there including Smartseek (displays YouTube like thumbnail preview in the video player when you seek), QSlide (opens app in a floating mini-window with adjustable transparency), Guest Mode (restricts access to apps and data), and Cliptray (clip board manager providing access to data you have previously copied).

LG G3 Bundled Apps
LG G3 Bundled Apps
LG Smart Cleaner
LG Smart Cleaner
LG G3 Display Settings
LG G3 Display Settings
LG G3 Guest Mode
LG G3 Guest Mode

Multimedia

The G3 ships with a 13 mega-pixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization and Laser Autofocus. The latter is another LG innovation. As soon as you hit the capture button, the G3 emits a laser beam, which acts like a SONAR and helps it determine the distance of objects in the frame. LG claims that it allows the G3 to focus faster and more accurately in varied conditions. Although, the benefits weren’t as dramatic as advertised by LG, the G3 did manage to focus quickly and reliably even under poor lighting conditions.

The camera itself is excellent. Although, it looks inferior to the Sony Xperia Z2 on paper, in reality I struggled to find a difference. In fact, in some cases, the G3 returned better results. LG has dramatically simplified the camera interface. Manual mode as well as multiple scenes are now a thing of the past. There are three basic modes – Auto, Magic Focus, Panorama, and Dual. The Magic Focus mode snaps multiple pics at different focal lengths and allows you to change the focus of the picture later. The Dual mode fires both the front and rear cams together to make sure that you aren’t missing from all your photo. Photosphere (or VR Camera as LG used to call it) has been axed, presumably because it’s too complex to be used in most situations. The amount of detail in the images was good with low noise and vibrant colours. LG’ flagship is way ahead of HTC, and on-par with everyone else.

[ Download Uncompressed Images ]

The 2.1 mega pixel front-camera is capable of shooting full HD videos. There’s also a selfie mode, which allows you to trigger a 3-second countdown timer by clasping your palm. This is neat as having to tap the camera button while posing for and taking a selfie can be a bit tricky. There’s also an option to use the light from the display as a secondary light source. The overall quality of pics captured from the front cam, however, is nothing particularly impressive.

The G3 supports 4K video recording, but as in other devices it’s more of a gimmick. It’s usable for short periods of time, but generates way too much heat and takes way too much space to be usable for longer videos. However, the quality of recorded video is great for a smartphone, and the microphone does a good job at removing background noise.

LG has also worked on the loudspeaker, which is often ignored in smartphones. The speaker is rated at 1 Watt (1.5W with Boost Amp), and is quite loud. Of course, if you keep the phone on a flat surface, the sound is going to get muffled. LG still can’t match up to the quality of the sound produced by HTC’s front-facing stereo speakers, but its loud speakers are no pushovers. In all likelihood, LG was forced to put the speaker in the rear as front-facing speakers would have added to the dimensions of the G3.

Conclusion

The G3 is a phenomenal device. It’s not perfect. It’s too big to be comfortable. The faux-metal back cover looks good, but doesn’t feel as great. And, the ultra-high resolution display comes with its own set of compromises. However, these are small grievances. LG gets most of the things right. It packs in a bigger display than others, while keeping the phone size in the same ballpark. The resolution is, of course, a generation ahead of everyone else. The camera is as good as others, if not better. And, some of its innovations like the Rear Key and Knock Code are simply brilliant. There’s little to separate the flagships from Samsung, HTC, Sony, and LG. The G3 is also priced competitively. It’s cheaper than the Z2, in the same range as the One M8, and a bit more expensive than the Galaxy S5. A lot depends on your personal preference. However, LG G3 is my favourite device of the season. This is a phone that’s really hard to not like.

GlassWire is a Beautiful Network Monitor and Firewall for Windows

One trait that’s a rarity among Windows applications is beauty. However, every once in a while there comes an app that stands out and makes you take notice due to its well thought out design and interface. GlassWire is one such app.

Cracking

GlassWire is a free network and bandwidth monitor and firewall. There’s no shortage of similar apps for Windows; however, almost all of them are a confusing mess of complexity that would scare away anyone who is not tech-savvy. GlassWire on the other hand is brilliant in its simplicity.

There are only four tabs – Graph, Firewall, Usage, and Alerts. The Graph section shows a continuous stream of your network activity. You can see your total internet activity or drill down on type of traffic and application.

GlassWire - Graph
GlassWire – Graph

The Firewall tab allows you to quickly block an app from using your internet connection. It lists all apps that are connected or have connected to the internet, along with details about the host that it is connecting to. If you see something that you don’t like you can instantly bock that app by clicking on the fire icon next to it. GlassWire itself doesn’t have a Firewall engine. Instead, it sits on top of the Windows Firewall and provides an interface to control the Windows Firewall.

GlassWire - Firewall
GlassWire – Firewall

The Usage tab gives a detailed report on the internet usage pattern of every app. You will be able to see exactly who your app has been communicating with and how much data they are sending out. GlassWire also has an Incognito Mode for the times when you don’t want your activity to be recorded. It’s also pretty straight forward to delete reports, in case you want to keep some stuff off the books.

GlassWire - Usage
GlassWire – Usage

Finally, there’s a pretty versatile Alerts feature, which provides you a wide range of alert including first network activity, excessive bandwidth usage, host files modification, and suspicious host connection. There’s also an option to remotely observe another system’s activity.

It’s still early days for GlassWire, and there’s undoubtedly room for improvement. The Firewall tab simply lists all the processes that are transferring data over the internet. It will be a lot more useful it also integrated with something like ProcessLibrary to show more information about each app/process. There are also a few UI glitches that show up at various resolutions.

GlassWire - Alerts
GlassWire – Alerts

The absence of advanced features found in most third-party firewalls might put off power users, but GlassWire does just enough to be useful to a large section of users, who might get annoyed or confused by a full-fledged firewall. GlassWire does a good job at keeping things simple and exposing a lot of useful information without being confusing.

[ Download GlassWire ]
Image Credit: Crackers by elhombredenegro

Watch Celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge Videos at IceBucketVideos.TV

It’s been weeks since the Ice Bucket challenge went viral and became mainstream, but it’s still showing no signs of slowing down with more and more celebrities as well as thousands of common folks gleefully dunking themselves in frigid water to raise awareness about ALS.

Ice Bucket Challenge - Bill Gates
Ice Bucket Challenge – Bill Gates

Now, Sapan Diwakar from Switzerland has created a nifty website which catalogues all celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge videos. The website already has almost three hundred videos featuring a wide spectrum of well-known personalities including presidents, tech innovators, sport stars, athletes, and Hollywood and Bollywood stars. You can scroll through the list, search for your favourite celebrity, or filter by tags. The website is responsive and works well in various form factors. There’s also an accompanying Android app for those wanting their dose of Ice Bucket Challenge videos on the go. However, the app is simply a repackaged version of the website and doesn’t offer any additional functionality.

Ice Bucket Videos
Ice Bucket Videos
Ice Bucket Videos - Android App
Ice Bucket Videos – Android App

The Ice Bucket challenge was initiated to raise awareness about ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Over the past month, it has managed to raise over eighty million dollars towards fighting ALS. This is massive considering that only $2.6 million was donated last year between July 29 and August 26. Right now donations are averaging $9 million per day. If you haven’t already, head over to alsa.org to learn more about ALS and contribute.

[ Visit Ice Bucket Videos ]

Four Really Cool Reddit Clients for Desktop Users

Reddit’s popularity has soared over the past few years; however, one thing that hasn’t changed is its appearance. There is no way to put this politely. Reddit.com is ugly. It’s fast and functional, but an eyesore. Even the Reddit Enhancement Suite (RES), which adds dozens of super cool features to the Reddit website, leaves the appearance aspect largely alone. If you are looking for a completely revamped Reddit experience on your desktop, here are four options.

reddit

1. ReedditApp

This app is for Redditors wanting something simple and elegant. Reeddit has a simple three pane layout. The first pane lists the subreddits, the second lists the posts and the third displays images (including GIFs), self-posts and comments. The website is responsive and works well at a wide range of resolutions. Reeddit is solely targeted at the lurkers who mainly use Reddit for consuming information. There is actually no way to submit new content or comment and vote. Surprisingly, Reeddit also doesn’t support multi-reddits. Instead, it has its own implementation called Channels. ReedditApp is available for Mac, FirefoxOS, and the web.

Reeddit

[ Visit ReedditApp ]

2. Redditery

A lot of the content on Reddit are pictures. In fact several of the popular subreddits are completely image driven. Redditery is a simple web client that’s great for browsing through multimedia content. You can open any subreddit with Redditery, but the navigation bar disregards your subscriptions and offers a pre-curated list of popular subreddits.

Redditery

[ Visit Redditery ]

3. Reddit.TV

Think of RedditTV as Reddit’s Leanback mode. It offers a continuous stream of popular video content from /r/videos and various other popular subreddits. To be honest this website itself pretty ugly. However, it is the best way to surf through the endless list of awesome videos that Reddit community regularly discovers.

RedditTV

[ Visit Reddit TV ]

4. Reditr

If you want a powerful, full featured Reddit client, then Reditr is your best bet. Reditr supports two modes. A TweetDeck like multi-column mode, and a more conventional single columns Stream mode. The multi-column mode is great for the heavy duty users as columns can be created from a multitude of sources including subreddits, multireddits, searches, and users. However, the dizzying amount of information that’s on display in the multi-column mode might be too much for most users. The Stream view offers a familiar single stream of updates, but with an enhanced user interface. Multimedia content and self-posts are displayed inline, and the top comments from every submission is also shown in the main stream. Reditr is extremely customizable and you can change almost every aspect of the interface including theme and background. It supports multiple accounts and allows you to even import your RES tags. It is available as a web app, Chrome extension, and Windows/Mac/Linux app.

ReditR

[ Visit Reditr ]

Three Android Apps That Will Help You Snap the Perfect Selfie

Selfies have already taken over the world, and this pop culture phenomenon is showing no signs of slowing down. Now, mobile manufacturers are also jumping on the selfie bandwagon with special selfie oriented devices like odd looking Xperia C3. However, you don’t need a brand new device to snap some kickass selfies. Here are three apps that’ll help you take the perfect selfie from your Android.

Best Selfie Camera Apps for Android
Best Selfie Camera Apps for Android

Bright Camera

Bright Camera - Selfie Cam
Bright Camera – Selfie Cam

This camera app comes with tons of filters, effects, frames, and test effects. However, what sets it apart from many other similar apps is that everything was created with selfies in mind. Several of the effects and frames are paid; however, there are plenty of free ones to keep you happy. It also features tight Facebook and Instagram integration including a photo stream.

Bright Camera - Selfie Editor
Bright Camera – Selfie Editor

[ Download Bright Camera ]

Selfie Studio

Selfie Studio - Overview
Selfie Studio – Overview

Selfie Studio lives up to its name and offers a wide range of features to appeal to the selfie addicts. Since almost all phones don’t have a flash for the front camera, Selfie Studio allows you to use the display as a secondary light source. You can easily tweak the color of the display to get the look you want. You can snap pics in either Instagram like square (1:1) or usual rectangular (3:4) aspect ratios. Other features include auto-reverse and countdown timer.

Selfie Studio - Selfie Cam
Selfie Studio – Selfie Cam

The bundled editor is powered by Aviary and offers gazillions of options. You can enhance and adjust the pic as well as apply effects, frames, and stickers.

Selfie Studio - Selfie Editor
Selfie Studio – Selfie Editor

[ Download Selfie Studio ]

Frontback

Front Back - Image Stream
Front Back – Image Stream

Frontback is not your typical selfie app. This app takes two shots – one with the rear cam and one with the front cam, and merges them. However, unlike other similar apps, it doesn’t tuck away the selfie in a tiny rectangle at the side of the screen. Instead, it gives both the pics equal amount of space. This simple change can allow for some truly mesmerizing photos. You can view some of the best creations over here. The app is simple, and has very few options to tinker with. However, it works well. My only gripe with Frontback is that the app can’t be used until you signup for a free Frontback account.

Front Back - Selfie Cam
Front Back – Selfie Cam

[ Download Frontback ]

Image Credits: Freepik

Three New Free Android Apps to Boost Your Productivity

As per AppBrain, there are over 1.3 million apps in the Android market with about a thousand new ones being added every day. Among the scores of wallpaper, ringtone, and other low quality apps, it’s not easy to find out the ones that are truly useful. I’m always on the lookout for apps that’ll make my phone easier and faster to use. Here are three of my favourite free productivity apps that were released in the last couple of months.

Android Productivity Apps

Better Open With

Better Open With - File Types
Better Open With – File Types

Unlike many other platforms, Android allows you to install third party apps to replace several key stock apps and functionalities. However, the process for managing the default app for every aspect of the operating system isn’t exactly very intuitive. There is no single utility or settings page to handle all of your app defaults. Instead, you need to navigate to the Apps page within Settings, select the App that’s currently set as default, and then ‘Clear Defaults’ every time you want to change the app associations. Better Open With is a brand new app that offers a bit more flexibility. The app currently handles default file associations for seven types of content including audio, video, and the web. These cover most of the most common file types; however, I am hoping to see support for more in the future.

Better Open With - Select App
Better Open With – App Selection

Setting up Better Open With (BOW) involves two steps. First you need to open the app and select the default app for each category. After this, you need to set BOW as the default app for each of these categories. BOW gives you the option of either opening the default app straight away, or presenting you with a list of options similar to the one you get by default in Android. The big advantage with BWO, however, is that you can set the app selection screen to be dismissed and the default option to be automatically selected after a predefined amount of time. I absolutely love this option as it provides the flexibility of changing the app on the fly, but still doesn’t force you to tap and select an app every time.

Better Open With - App List
Better Open With – App List

[ Download Better Open With ]

Copy Bubble

Copy Bubble
Copy Bubble

One of the many neat features of Microsoft Office is the Clipboard, which allows you to not just paste the most recently copied content, but from as any as twenty four items that you’ve copied recently. Copy Bubble provides the same functionality on Android. As a name suggests it’s a tiny bubble that floats on your screen. Every time you copy something, Copy Bubbles stores a copy of it. If you want to access anything that you had previously copied, all you need to do is tap on the bubble and select from the list of saved clipboard items. These items are available to be directly shared or copied to the Android clipboard. The bubble size can be configured and it is by default small enough to e not too obtrusive. It’s also easy to dismiss the bubble when you don’t want it, but the only way to bring it back is to launch the app again.

Copy Bubble - Floating Bubble
Copy Bubble – Floating Bubble
Copy Bubble - Clipboard
Copy Bubble – Clipboard

[ Download Copy Bubble ]

Heads Up!

Heads Up notifications is among the many new features of Android L. When a new notification arrives, the notification is displayed in a floating window on top of the active app. This allows you to quickly get a glimpse of messages and other important stuff even when you are watching a movie or playing a game. The code for this was already present in KitKat, but this feature wasn’t enabled by Google. There’s an Xposed Module to enable this on KitKat systems; however, there’s an easier way that also works on devices without root.

Heads Up!
Heads Up!

The ‘Heads Up!’ app ports the heads up notification feature from Android L, and makes it available to devices running on Android 4.3 and above. Heads Up! allows very granular control over which apps should trigger a heads up notification. It also allows you to control the position and transparency of the floating notification toast as well as the automatic dismiss time.

Heads Up! - Notification
Heads Up! – Notification

Heads Up! is a paid app in the Play Store, but you can download a free copy from the XDA forums.

[ Download Heads Up! ]

Ladoo Offers Free Mobile Recharges for Engaging with Advertisers

Platforms like Tapjoy, which incentivize app downloads, have earned Apple’s wrath in the past for messing up App Store rankings. Critics say that these apps inflate download counts and manipulate app store rankings. However, there’s no denying that a lot of users and advertisers love incentivized download platforms. Hence, it’s not surprising that Airloyal is attempting to bring the same concept to India.

Ladoo - Earn Free Mobile Recharges

Airloyal’s Ladoo app for Android offers free mobile recharges to users for completing simple tasks. Almost all of the tasks that I saw on Ladoo’s offer wall involved downloading and installing free apps from Google Play. The reward amount depends on the advertiser, all of them ranged between ₹2 and ₹8.

Ladoo - Get Free Mobile Recharges

The name Ladoo is meant to symbolize the spirit of gifting and celebration. “If you think about it, you would have never really paid for the Ladooos you have eaten”, remarked Raja Hussain, Founder and CEO of Airloyal.

Ladoo Team
Ladoo Team

Airloyal’s company structure is based out of Singapore, but currently all the team members are in Chennai and Bangalore offices. Having raised funding from Australia’s tech millionaire Zhenya Tsvetnenko, Airloyal is looking to expand quickly and launch in a couple of South East Asian countries before the end of the current quarter. Ladoo claims itself to be profitable and is in the process of raising its Series A round. “When there is an ‘apple’ from the US that the world loves, why can’t there be a Ladooo from India that the world can enjoy?” quipped Raja Hussain.

Ladoo - Offers Wall

Mr. Hussain informed me that a dedicated user can earn over ₹ 500 in rewards every month. My own estimate based on what I’ve seen over the past week is a lot less. However, Ladoo features geo-targeting, which means means that everyone wont see every offer. Although, Mr. Hussain declined to give concrete user figures, he did reveal that within the first ninety days of its launch, Ladoo managed to register several thousand new users every day, with more than 40% daily retention, and generated almost 1 million instances of guaranteed engagement for brands. More than 40,000 offers are being completed every day.

Ladoo - Typical App Offer

The usage figures are quite good for a new app with minimal marketing capabilities. Ladoo is quite obviously offering something that a lot of users want – free talktime. However, the bigger question is how valuable are they to the brands? Currently, most of the apps advertised through Ladoo are good apps from big brands that I don’t mind having on my phone. Brands like Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal, Quickr, Tata, BookmyShow, and Airtel are driving downloads to their app through Ladoo. The quality of advertisers is a lot higher than that in other similar apps. Ladoo claims that early clients like TicketGoose are happy with the results and have continued to work with them. Ladoo’s biggest challenge will be continuing to deliver high quality leads even as the number of users increase. Quick downloads are a great way to climb through Play Store rankings and get your apps discovered. However, an engaged user base will enable Ladoo to retain the bigger players who often have higher rewards and offer better experiences.

Thomas Was Alone Comes to iOS and Android

The BAFTA award winning indie platformer Thomas Was Alone is now available on Android and iOS. The game garnered critical acclaim for its PC, Mac, and PS3 editions, and is now promising the same emotional journey to mobile gamers.

Thomas Was Alone - Title Card

Unlike many recent indie platformers that focus on bringing back the 80s style challenging gameplay, Thomas Was Alone focuses on keeping things simple. A majority of the fifty levels in the game are simple enough for even the most casual gamers to enjoy. The protagonist of this game is Thomas – a self-aware AI created accidentally. Thomas is represented as a simple red rectangle, and all he can do is move and jump. Over the course of his journey he meets up with other AIs, who are also represented as quadrilaterals. By combining each character’s unique ability you need to traverse each level and reach the portal that’ll take you to the next one.

Thomas Was Alone - Game Commentary

Mike Bithell – the creator of the game, introduces enough variations and novelties to keep you engaged till the end, but the gameplay is still fairly basic. What elevates this game to greatness is the atmosphere. Thomas’ journey is expertly narrated by Danny Wallace, whose humorous and quirky comments establish an emotional connect that’ll leave you thinking about the game long after you have finished it. David Housden’s minimalistic background composition suitable complements the level design and the narration.

Thomas Was Alone - Platforming

I played the Android version of the game and did notice one annoying issue with the port. The option for switching between the characters is on the left and right edges of the screen, which makes it very easy to accidentally hit the Home button. Switching between characters requires too much attention and precision and often distracts you from the game. Hopefully, the developers will tweak the control scheme to address this issue. Other than this the game worked flawlessly, without any performance issues.

The game is available during this weekend at a 33% discounted price of $3.99, which is a steal for a game of this calibre. To make the deal even sweeter, the Bossa Studios has included the Benjamin’s Flight DLC pack with twenty additional levels in the mobile version of the game. Thomas Was Alone is a mesmerizing experience that I can’t recommend enough.

[ Download Thomas Was Alone from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store ]

Lumia 530 Announced with a Dual SIM Variant

The budget segment has been the biggest area of strength for Windows Phone devices, with handsets like the Lumia 520 and the 620 doing brisk business. The Lumia 520 alone managed to capture over a third of the Windows Phone market. Now, this crucial low-end Windows Phone handset is receiving a refresh in the form of the Lumia 530. The Lumia 530 promises to deliver more for less. However, the competition has gotten a lot tougher over the past few months with the launch of well-built Android devices like the Moto E. Does the Lumia 530 have enough to put up a good fight?

Nokua Lumia 530 1

The Lumia 530 is identical to its predecessor in terms of size and weight. The display still measures in at 4 inches, but the pixel density has been marginally improved to 245 ppi with the change in resolution to 480 x 854 pixels. The bright and vibrant colors that we associate with Nokia’s Lumia series are still there, but the Lumia 530 eschews the sharp, rectangular design in favour of a more conventional curved appearance.

Nokua Lumia 530 2

Nokua Lumia 530 3

The Lumia 530 features a Qualcomm Snapgradon 200 with a quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU that Microsoft will undoubtedly pitch as an improvement over its predecessor. However, in reality, the new processor will deliver roughly similar performance since it is a Cortex A-7, while the older one was a Cortex A-9 (Krait). Even the GPU is marginally inferior (Adreno 302 in 530 vs Adreno 305 in 520). The amount of RAM has remained unchanged at a measly 512 MB, but internal storage has been halved to 4 GB. Thankfully, the new Lumia is runs on Windows Phone 8.1, which allows the installation of apps on micro SD cards. Windows Phone is also less memory hungry than Android. So, even a device with only half a gigabyte of RAM should still be responsive and usable.

Nokua Lumia 530 4

Another piece of hardware that has been downgraded is the camera. Both the 520 and the 530 feature a 5 megapixel camera, but the latter is fixed focus and can’t capture HD (720p) videos. Front camera for video calling is still missing. The battery unit, which is unchanged, is rated at 1430 mAh.

Nokua Lumia 530 5

The Lumia 530 will be available in two variants – Single SIM and Dual SIM, and is expected to be priced at around €85 (a little over $110). Nokia also announced a companion Bang mini speaker by Coloud, which will retail for €19.

Somewhat surprisingly, the new Lumia appears to be a weaker phone than its predecessor. Everything including the chipset, camera, and storage have been downgraded. However, it might still end up being a big seller due to its newly earned quad-core status and the reduced price tag.

LG G3: Hands-on, Photos, and First Impressions

The LG G2 might not have achieved the massive sales figures of some of its competitors, but it won the hearts of many, and demonstrated that LG had what it takes to be an industry leader. With the G3, the Korean manufacturer is looking to raise the bar further.

LG G3 - Simple is the New Smart
LG G3 – Simple is the New Smart

Appearance and Display

As is the trend these days, LG has bumped up the display size in G3. It sports a 5.5’’ display, which firmly puts it in the phablet category. However, thanks to unbelievably narrow bezels the G3’s dimensions are actually very similar to the HTC One M8 or the Sony Xperia Z2. This means that like every other flagship released this year, the G3 is too big for single handed operation. However, the G3 at least gives you a phablet sized display. There are compromises to be made. The LG G3 boasts of a plastic body and doesn’t have any water or dust resistance. The metallic finish on the plastic does help retain the premium appearence, but it doesn’t feel as great to hold as the M8 or the Z2. LG has played its cards well, and the G3 ends up managing to to appear sleeker, smaller, and more premium than it really is. I’m a fan of the G2’s rear keys, and they’ve been improved further in the G3. The volume keys now form a distinct concave pad that makes it impossible to mistake them for the power button.

LG G3 Front View
LG G3 Front View
LG G3 Rear Keys
LG G3 Rear Keys

Even a few years back the thought of a full HD display on phones would have seemed ludicrous, but LG now believes that even 1080p is not good enough. As a result, the G3 boasts of a quad-HD (1440 x 2560 pixels) display. The display is simply fantastic, and you would be hard pressed to spot pixels even when you’re looking really close. However, this is only as long as you’re using the inbuilt apps and the wallpapers available in the gallery. For example, LG’s clock face for the Quick Circle screen looks disarmingly real. However, as soon as you open Chrome and start surfing or other use third party apps the screen advantage is rendered moot. Owing to its first mover status, the G3 is definitely going to have a content problem. The crazy high resolution has also forced LG to come up with clever optimizations to ensure that the battery doesn’t die within a few hours. There are also reports that the display gets heated easily and often forcefully reduces brightness to cool down. I didn’t get enough time during my hands-on to replicate these issues.

LG G3 Side View
LG G3 Side View
LG G3  Another Front View
LG G3 Another Front View

Hardware and Software

The LG G3 chugs along smoothly thanks to the Snapdragon 801 chipset that features a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 processor. The phone is available in 2 variants – 16 GB and 32 GB. Surprisingly, even the amount of RAM varies between the two. The latter has three gigs of memory, while the former only has a couple. Both of them support microSD cards. The G3’s tagline is ‘Simple is the New Smart’ and LG has attempted to clean up a lot of the mess from its previous release. I’m glad to report that the silly looking icons have finally been axed. LG has embraced flat design, and the colour palate is mature yet attractive. I really liked the new look and feel of the G3, but Android L’s Material Design is still the best Android UI so far. Several pre-installed apps have removed, while others have been merged to reduce complexity and increase available space.

LG G3 Display Up Close
LG G3 Display Up Close
LG G3 Knock Code
LG G3 Knock Code

Camera

The camera snaps pics at 13 megapixels, which is lesser than some of the other flagships. However, based on my limited hands-on, the camera is actually really competent. I took a few snaps inside the display booth to compare the Z2 with the G3, and found that the G3 has nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, in a couple of cases, I felt that under proper lighting conditions shots captured by the G3 had better details and lower noise. The G3 includes a laser focus feature that LG claims to significantly improve capture speed as well as focusing ability under low light. During my hands-on, I found that the G3 is consistently fast in focusing and capturing photos, but not much faster than its competitors. The G3 also includes dual-LED flash for a more natural colour reproduction under flash. Once again, I didn’t see any significant enhancement during my hands-on, but I’ll hold my verdict for now due to the limited amount of testing that I could do. Other camera tricks include a new selfie mode that can be triggered via hand gestures, and optical image stabilization. The latter is something that both Sony and Samsung surprisingly left out of their flagships.

LG G3 Big B Edition Back View
LG G3 Big B Edition Back View
LG G3 Black Model Front
LG G3 Black Model Front
LG G3 Black Model Back
LG G3 Black Model Back

Conclusion

A quick hands-on is never enough to fully judge a phone. I’m not entirely sold that the QHD display is necessary, or even worth all the added compromises. I would like to go back and take a deeper look at the camera, audio output and the battery, as well as the software modifications that LG has made. However, one thing that I can say without a shade of doubt is that the G3 is an extremely competent smartphone that makes a great first impression.

The G3 is being launched in three colours – Metallic Black, Silk White, and Shine Gold. LG will also release 15,000 Big B editions of the G3 that will sport Amitabh Bachchan’s signature. In a welcome departure from prevailing trends, the special edition won’t cost extra. Officially, the price tag is ₹47,990 for the 16 GB variant and ₹50,990 for the 32 GB variant; however, you should soon be able to get them for less.