All posts by Saket

Saket is a 19 year old tech enthusiast who currently lives in Ranchi, Jharkhand. He loves playing with gadgets, especially Android and owns a tech blog, TechSplurge. He can be found messing around on Facebook or stalking people on Twitter @techsplurge.

Amazing Alex is a Fun Physics Game for Android and iOS [Game Review]

amazing alex

Rovio, the team behind Angry Birds, has come up with another interesting game — Amazing Alex for both the major mobile platforms, Android and iOS. It is a physics based puzzle game that features several fun filled challenges.

Rovio is known for creating very simple yet addictive games and Amazing Alex is no different. If you’re among those people who love playing games such as Cut the Rope, Where’s My Water, Apparatus, Sprinkle and other physics/puzzle games then you’re surely going to love Amazing Alex as well.

gameplay (2)

The basic idea of the game is to create a complex machine by arranging items from a given collection such as balloons, scissors, cardboards, toy cars, etc. to perform an utterly simple task like putting a football in a basket or popping balloons with a scissor.

gameplay (1)

The items are limited and they can be arranged or rotated anywhere in the space in order to achieve the level’s goal.

People who’re familiar with a very old game, The Incredible Machine (TIM) will find the gameplay of Amazing Alex strikingly similar. Both the games have a similar goal of creating a Rube Goldberg machine with the only difference being that TIM was more complex.

the incredible machine
The Incredible Machine game (Photo credits).

where-is-alexInterestingly, Amazing Alex doesn’t justify its name — there is no character as Alex present in the gameplay, unlike what I had expected since there are several angry-faced birds present in Angry Birds. Anyway, this physics-based game is fun to play.

Amazing Alex comes in three different versions — Free, Full and HD. The free version has only 16 levels and the gameplay in very limited which won’t last longer than twenty minutes. On the other hand, the full and HD version feature 100 different and more challenging levels.

The free version is.. obviously free while the full and HD version of Amazing Alex come with a price tag of $0.99 and $2.99 respectively.

Grab Amazing Alex for Android — Free, Full ($0.99), HD ($2.99) and for iOS ($0.99).

Editorial: Why Amazon’s Rumored Smartphone Will Likely be a Failure

amazon-kindle-smartphone

Rumors of an Amazon branded smartphone have started to fly suggesting that the retail giant is looking for viable options to enter the smartphone business after seeing an immense success with its tablet, the Kindle Fire.

A big question about this story has been hitting me for two days that whether the rumored Amazon smartphone will ever be able to achieve the same milestone or not. My less than stellar mind says no.

Before diving deep into my thoughts, let us first recap the launch of Kindle Fire and the factors that helped it become the best selling Android tablet ever.

kindle-fireBack in 2011, when the iPad was enjoying unrivaled success in the tablet market, it was only Amazon who was able to successfully challenge it with its own tablet, the Kindle Fire. Amazon did what other manufacturers were doing wrong:

  • First, it kept the price of Kindle Fire as low and affordable as possible knowing the fact that there are many people who’re interested in owning a tablet, but cannot afford an iPad.
  • Secondly, Amazon also realized that people primarily use their tablets to consume content — read books, magazines, watch movies, TV shows, etc., and so, it offered Kindle Fire owners with access to a huge library of its digital content.

And Boom! The Kindle Fire started selling like hotcakes. In just three months after its launch, it had managed to capture approximately a quarter of the tablet market share while other Android tablets were still struggling to reach even 5% of it despite boasting superlative specifications.

But can Amazon achieve the same feat with a smartphone? I doubt it. Smartphones are totally a different story.

Kindle Fire’s most impressive feature was probably its price — 199 bucks. Despite the fact that it offered virtually zero profit margin to Amazon, Amazon still turned it into a profit making machine by using it as a medium to sell eBooks, magazines and other digital content to Kindle Fire owners. But can Amazon do the same with a smartphone? No. People rarely read books or magazines on their smartphones — they instead consume applications, which Amazon doesn’t have enough to offer.

Applications drive an ecosystem and they’re probably the biggest hurdle for Amazon. Although the rumored Amazon smartphone will run on Android, which has more than 600,000 apps available for it in the Play Store, Amazon will undoubtedly replace the Play Store with its own App Store in the phone — as it did with the Kindle Fire — which has approximately only 37,000 apps or just 6% of apps in the Play Store.

os-market-share-2012Apps are the sole reason why Android and Apple are dominating the smartphone market and the sole reason why Windows Phone has failed to take off despite sporting a superb software. On a comparison note, even Windows Phone has more than twice the number of apps available in Amazon’s App store.

There are just not enough apps in the App Store for Amazon to sell a smartphone with negligible profit margin and still make money out of it on the longer run by selling apps to those phone owners. This leaves Amazon with no option for making profits other than selling its future phone at full price and that too with a decent profit margin.

This demands another question to be answered — what will be then the selling factor of its phone? Relatively cheap price?

Yes Amazon can do that. In fact, it’ll have to do that considering the fact that it will be nearly impossible for it fight with Samsung or Apple at similar price levels. But it cannot manufacture a phone that is both cheap and high on specifications at the same time. It’ll be most probably based on Android and so, the phone needs to be high on specifications or else the result will definitely be a slow phone with a choppy user interface, like we’ve seen in the Kindle Fire. And people will hate that.

Interestingly, Adrian Hughes of ZDNet thinks that Amazon can adopt a different game-plan by developing an user friendly interface to give Samsung, HTC and Sony a run for their money. I’ll just quote his words here:

While there’s no doubt that Android smartphones have experienced tremendous success, one of the complaints that I hear leveled against the platform is that it isn’t particularly friendly, especially to those who don’t consider themselves to be technically literate.

… a much-needed dumbing down of the platform that could give it an enormous advantage over both Apple iPhone and the entirety of the Android ecosystem.

A dumbed-down Android experience could be just what average users are waiting for..

But, in my opinion, he’s wrong. Although it is true that Android is not very user-friendly, Amazon will still not be able to beat Samsung and others just by making its UI user-friendly as Samsung has already been doing that for long and so have other manufacturers.

Compare the following two screenshots of dialers present in ICS and Samsung Touchwiz to get an idea of what I’m talking about:

dialer-comparison

It took my dad two full days to figure out that the clock icon on the top is the call logs tab. And it is obvious — how is a non-techy person ever going to discover that touching that clock icon will open call logs? But Samsung’s dialer (on the right) mentions the tab names clearly and makes it easier for laymen to understand the UI. It is one of the many areas in TouchWiz UI where Samsung has made considerable efforts to make the UI as user-friendly as possible.

In short, an user-friendly UI is also not going to help Amazon to win this race of smartphone wars. In fact, I cannot think of a single distinctive feature with which Amazon can impress consumers and I’m very skeptical of its success unless it manages to pull out something that… changes everything.

[Image credits: BGR, MobileShop]

Get Google Now on any Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich based ROM

Google Now has been making a lot of waves after being unveiled in Google I/O 2012. The intelligent information system is more than just a personal assistant. Unlike other voice assistants, cough cough Siri, Google Now learns about its device owner’s activities and gives suggestions by presenting useful cards.

However, Google Now only supports Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is present in less than 0.1% of Android devices, and users having a device with previous Android builds are out of luck. Fortunately, one XDA user has successfully got it working on Android 4.0 based ROMs.

google-now

google-now-voice-search-errorThe XDA thread can be found over here. The procedure is very short and all you’ve got to do is edit a line in a system file. But before you get excited please note that first, getting Google Now to work on your ICS based device requires your phone to be rooted and secondly, voice search currently does not work.

Tip: For those who’re getting network error, download this alternate APK, rename it to “velvet.apk” and move it to /system/app folder replacing the previous the old Velvet.apk.

VLC for Android (Finally) Released for Select Devices

The popular open source media player, VLC for Android by the VideoLAN team after several months of waiting. For what it is most known for, it supports almost all types of audio and video files a and brings a decent user interface. Different ports of Android by individual developers had been floating for Android a while, but they all were too buggy to use. This port has been made by the official team and is very stable, at least on supported devices.

Download from Play Store: VLC Beta (NEON version) (Amusingly, the app is not available to residents of USA and Canada. No problem, I’ve uploaded its APK, which you can find at the end.)

vlc music vlc

Unlike most of the media players, VLC can play both videos as well as songs. The UI is fully made up of orange & black colors and has some decent audio/video control options. It features support for headphones control, like automatic resuming of songs, etc., and supports subtitles too.

vlc video playback (1) vlc video playback (2)

It literally plays almost any video format you throw at it like MKV, FLV, MP4, etc. Volume can be changed by swiping up or down on the screen while a video is playing, something, which we have been seeing in almost every video players. One drawback of VLC is that it sometimes lags while trying to render full HD (1080p) videos smoothly.

Apart from the normal functions, it can also stream videos from a URL. VLC is currently in its initial stage of development and doesn’t sport any advanced capabilities such as an equalizer, automatic fetching of album art or lyrics, sleep timer, etc.

Overall, VLC is just a decent media player at this stage. On the desktop, the biggest reasons for VLC  being a popular media (especially video) player are — Simple UI, small size and support for nearly any file format. But the case is different on Android and I’m very skeptical whether these features are going to prove advantageous for VLC as they have already been available on several media player. That said, I’m really looking forward to its future builds hoping for some cool new features when it sheds its ‘beta’ tag.

VLC is currently in beta, contains a few bugs and might lag on some devices. At present, it only supports a small bunch of smartphones that have ARMv7 processors with NEON architecture and won’t work on phones with ARMv6 or non-NEON processors. However, the team does plan to support more devices very soon. The VLC team currently recommends the following phones for smooth playback:

  • Galaxy Nexus
  • HTC One X
  • Samsung Galaxy S3
  • Motorola Defy
  • HTC Desire
  • Nexus one

If your phone is not officially supported by the app, you might still want to download its APK and test it on your phone. You can download the VLC APK here.

Tablet Showdown: Google Nexus 7 vs Microsoft Surface vs Apple iPad 3

The launch of Nexus 7 by Google has set the tablet industry ablaze, not for producing a super cheap tablet, but for packing in a fully featured tablet for a small price tag of $199. So let’s see how well does it stacked up against the new iPad, the current undisputed king of the tablet world, and Microsoft’s own Surface, which was released just two weeks back.

Comparison: Google Nexus 7 vs Microsoft Surface vs Apple iPad 3Nexus 7 vs Microsoft Surface vs Apple iPad 3

Spec Nexus 7 Microsoft Surface New iPad
Operating System Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Windows 8 iOS 6
Display 7” 1280×800 IPS Display 10.6” ClearType HD Display 9.7” 2048×1536 IPS Display
Camera 1.2MP front camera

5MP rear and 0.3MP front camera

Memory 1 GB RAM

Unknown

1 GB RAM

Storage 8GB and 16GB 32GB, 64GB for Surface RT and 64GB, 128GB for Surface Pro 16GB, 32GB and 64GB
CPU Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor

Nvidia ARM processor on Surface RT and Intel iCore i5 on Surface Pro

1.0 Ghz Dual-core Apple A5X processor

Connectivity
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • MicroUSB
  • NFC
  • GPS
Surface RT is WiFi Only while Surface Pro will be WiFi + 3G/4G LTE
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/a
  • Bluetooth
  • MicroUSB
  • HDMI
  • 3G/4G
Misc.
  • Google now
  • Play Music
  • Play Magazines
  • Play Books
  • Play Movies
  • Office
  • Touch Cover
  • Pen with Palm Block
  • Siri
  • Newstand
  • Game Center
  • Photo Booth
Dimensions 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm Unknown 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm
Thickness 10.45mm Surface RT – 9.3mm
Surface Pro – 13.5mm
9.5mm
Battery 4325 mAh (Upto 8 hours of active use) Unknown 11560 mAh (Upto 10 hours of active use)

Verdict

This ‘pure Google experience’ tablet has fragmented the tablet market into two sections — The premium section led by the iPad and the affordable section for which the Nexus 7 has been made for.

In the upcoming 6-7 months, I’m pretty sure that the Nexus 7 will cover a significant tablet market share by focusing sorely on the ‘Affordable’ section while iPad will undoubtedly remain the king of the ‘Premium’ section. The real challenge will certainly be felt by the Microsoft Surface, which will have a tough time trying to enter in a market that exists between these two sections.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Will Let you Turn Off Notifications from Specific Apps – Say Goodbye to Those Nasty AirPush Ads

google-io

Day one of Google I/O 2012 has just ended and we’ve got some cool announcements including the Nexus 7 Tablet, Jelly Bean and Nexus Q. These new additions are currently heavily dominating Twitter and Facebook streams.

But in this midst of major announcements, there is a new feature in Jelly Bean that is not getting any attention — ability to mute notifications from specific apps!

Advertisements in the notification window has been always an annoying problem, especially Airpush advertisements, which has often sparked rage among Android users. Thankfully, Google has a plan with Jelly Bean to combat this nasty problem and that is by letting users turn off notifications for specific applications.

This feature is one of those several new features that were not announced in the live presentation, but have been left for Android users to find out themselves. Credits for discovering this handy feature goes to a Reddit user who found this option in application settings in an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Emulator.

Update

Looks like Google has added another functionality to notifications. Starting from Jelly Bean, users will be able to long-press a notification to discover which application posted it. In my opinion, it is a really nifty feature to tackle obtrusive notification ads as users will now be able to know which particular application is behind all those ads and even uninstall them if needed.

[Image credit]

New Game: Frisbee Rush Brings Nintendo Wii Style Motion Gaming to Android and iPhone

frisbee-rush

While we’ve covered many worthy mobile games in the past such as Equiblirum, Max Payne and more that offer superb graphics and story, I recently came across a game that has gone a step ahead and offers real Nintendo Wii-esque motion controller gaming experience with a smartphone — Frisbee Rush.

Frisbee Rush is basically a mobile-desktop game that uses your phone as a Frisbee controller and your desktop/TV screen as a window to a city. The city is being raided by aliens and your job is to throw Frisbees at them by either swinging your phone (like a real Wii controller) or manually throwing Frisbees by swiping them from the mobile screen towards the monitor.

setting-up-Frisbee-Rush

It takes some time in learning the art of Frisbee throwing since we Android gamers are not used of motion gaming. But the game becomes insanely addictive once you’ve mastered it, especially in a co-operative multi-player mode where you can play with upto two of your friend(s), helping each other in salvaging the city.

Frisbee Rush features 12 different levels and trust me, the game difficulty increases exponentially with each level; I’m still trying to complete the third level even after spending almost an hour with it… Or maybe I’m a terrible gamer.

multiplayer-mode

Setting up Frisbee Rush is fairly an easy task and all you’re required to do is download the game on your mobile and load its website in a desktop web-browser. Next, a unique code will appear on your mobile screen. Enter the code in your desktop browser and you’re ready to play.

The best part of the game is probably its price — it’s completely free. It is available for both both the major mobile platforms — iPhone and Android.

Download from Play Store | iTunes

Caution: Please hold your phone tight while throwing Frisbees. Techie-Buzz won’t be responsible for any damages to your phone ;)

Confirmed: The Next Android 4.1 Will be Jelly Bean, Likely to be Announced at Google I/O 2012

Looks like someone accidentally pushed the wrong button at the Google headquarters by listing Samsung Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ as “soon the first phone with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean” on the Play Store. This puts an end to all those rumors circling around Jelly Bean and confirms that 4.1 Jelly Bean will indeed be the next Android version.

GNex Jelly Bean

An XDA Forum member, while surfing the Play Store finding an unlocked Galaxy Nexus, found out that the description was changed as the first phone which would be getting the Jelly Bean update. What’s more interesting is that the Galaxy Nexus thumbnail image during checkout had also been changed to a newer image of Nexus sporting a different wallpaper and a modified search widget.

jellybean1

Jelly Bean 4.1 is the next major update to Android 4.0 and is surely going to bring several new features and improvements. However, as the screenshot suggests, the Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ would be the first and by my experience, the only phone to sport it officially for a couple of months as other OEMs will surely take some time to deliver it on their phones after customizing it with their own skins.

Google was quick to revert that image and description mentioning Jelly Bean to their original form in just a couple of hours, but those few hours were enough to tease us all Android lovers. Was it an accident? Or an intentional (subtle) move by Google to hint us what we can expect to see at the Google I/O on 27th of this month? We will have to hold our nerves for four more days to find out anything more and of course, we at Techie-Buzz will always be there to keep you updated!

[Image credit: AndroidPolice, Source: XDA]

Transfer Files from a PC to your Android Phone in Just a Click with FilePush App

Transferring files such as a song or a photo from a desktop to a mobile/tablet could be a cumbersome task for some people as it involves messing with long data cables and micro-SD card adapters. Meet Filepush, a new application for Android that solves this problem elegantly.

Filepush - wireless file transfer from pc to android

filepush-app

Filepush is a small app that can transfer files from a desktop to your Android phone (or a tablet) with just a click. Right-click a file and send it to your phone — it’s that simple.

The user interface is so simple that there is nothing to talk about it. And that is probably the best part of it — it does it job, over, no fancy features.

Setting up Filepush is a very easy job and all you have to do is install the app & register your device using your Google account. It requires a tiny desktop client to be installed on your PC, but only Windows is supported at this moment; Sorry Mac users, no cookie for you this time. There are two modes of transferring files — first, locally over WiFi, when both devices are on the same WiFi network and second, through Google Drive.

filepush-desktop-client

After the installation part, you can configure the default download folder on your phone. The developer is also working on adding a couple of more features such as an option for filtering files which would save files to different folders according to their file formats, like songs to a ‘music’ folder and PDFs to a ‘documents’ folder, which he says should be completed in about a week or so.

Until now, Airdroid was the best workaround I could find for remotely transferring files, but it’s not seamless. Filepush is seamless. Just click a file, walk away from the PC with your phone and you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

Download Filepush from Play Store: FilePush ($1.2) | FilePush Trial (Free)

Google Launches ‘Play With Collectibles’ Promotion, Offers Exclusive Merchandise Inside Select Android Games for a Limited Time

Google loves showering Android users with regular promotional offers that range from offering several Play Store games at just 10 cents to new albums in Play Music at amazingly low prices.

This time, Google has quietly launched another promotional Play Store offer for Android gamers, Play With Collectibles, where it is offering exclusive in-game merchandise in select Android games for a limited period of time. The bonus items range from a legendary spaceship in Panic Flight to an Android themed t-shirt in Stardom: The A-List. The bonus in-game collectible items are either available for free in some of the games or at dirt-cheap rates.

play-with-collectibles

Play With Collectibles offer is open to everyone. However, I found no traces of this promotion on the Play Store website and application in countries other than the USA. As usual, Google seems to be more interested in targeting Android users residing in the US than other countries.

National sentiments aside, the promotion will run for a week starting from today, i.e., 16th June and will end on 22nd of this month. Overall, there are 25 games that have been included in this promotion, which are listed as follows:

  1. Monster Park
  2. STARDOM: THE A-LIST
  3. The Sims™ FreePlay
  4. Crime City
  5. HOMERUN BATTLE 2
  6. Tap Dragon Park
  7. Hanging With Friends
  8. DEER HUNTER RELOADED
  9. Tiny Zoo Friends
  10. Dino Life
  11. Pet Shop Story™
  12. Aqua Story
  13. Tiny Village
  14. World War™
  15. Fantasy Town
  16. Dream Zoo
  17. FRONTLINE COMMANDO
  18. Panic Flight
  19. Tiny Farm®
  20. Tap Zoo
  21. Samurai vs Zombies Defense!
  22. Bakery Story™
  23. ZombieSmash
  24. Brightwood Adventures FREE
  25. Dream Heights

Android gaming freaks, grab em all! – Play With Collectibles

[Source: DroidGamers]