When a device passes through the FCC, it’s usually only a matter of weeks if not days before the official release. This may be the case for Samsung’s Galaxy A9.
The Galaxy A9 just passed through the FCC and confirmed most of the rumored specifications. The Galaxy A9 should pack a 6-inch full-HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 620 chipset, 3GB of RAM, a 13MP rear-facing camera, a high quality front-facing camera, and a metal design similar to Samsung’s recent flagship models. Unlike previous mid-range Galaxy handsets, the A9 will include a fingerprint scanner, which up until this point has only been present on Samsung’s flagship models. The new Galaxy A5 and A7 will also have Samsung’s super fast fingerprint scanner embedded into their respective home buttons.
Android 5.1.1 is onboard and most notably is a 4,000mAh battery. That’s one of the biggest battery capacities we’ve ever seen on a Samsung device. The Galaxy A9 should make an appearance shortly, but we’ll likely find out more about the phone at the CES trade show next month.
Come comment on this article: Samsung Galaxy A9 visits the FCC
The smaller, more affordable OnePlus X is sold in China with an extra color option that nowhere else in the world has access to. But that will change on December 22 when OnePlus brings the Champagne Gold color option to western markets, meaning that people are no longer forced to choose the standard Onyx model.
The Champagne Gold model of the OnePlus X has white front and back panels while putting the signature color on the trim. That back panel, though, can be changed from glass to a premium ceramic for a few more dollars.
Unlike the flagship OnePlus 2, OnePlus is still requiring invites to purchase the OnePlus X. So try and get your hands on an invite soon if you plan on purchasing the OnePlus X in Champagne Gold. Although the phone does look great in Champagne Gold, I’d like to remind everyone that using it here in the United States isn’t a particularly seamless experience. It’s definitely something to consider when spending $249.
Come comment on this article: OnePlus X in Champagne Gold heads west next week
Earlier today, the long anticipated Yu Yutopia smartphone was officially announced.
The Yu Yutopia features mostly high-end specifications but keeps the price reasonable. The handset features a QHD display, a Snapdragon 810 processor, a 21MP rear-facing camera with dual-tone flash, an 8MP front-facing camera for selfies and video chats, and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded via its built-in microSD card slot. The Yu Yutopia also contains a 3,000mAh battery and supports 4G LTE connectivity.
If you take a further look beneath the device’s surface you’ll find an integrated fingerprint scanner along with Quick Charge 2.0 support and high-quality DTS Audio. The device runs Cyanogen OS 12.1 which is inspired by Android 5.1 Lollipop.
The company put time aside in its announcement to talk about their “Assured Upgrade Program,” which keeps you partially covered for next year’s Yutopia 2 handset. If purchased upfront, it ensures at least a 40% buyback value of your Yutopia smartphone.
Pricing for the Yu Yutopia goes for Rs 25,000 or approximately $375 USD, and will begin shipping the day after Christmas.
Source: YU Mobiles
Come comment on this article: Yu Yutopia smartphone officially unveiled
The award-winning Scribblenauts franchise, which started in 2009, returns to mobile devices for the first time in more than two years.
Way back in November 2012, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment released Scribblenauts Unlimited for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS. Now that game is here for phones and tablets, bringing the creative franchise back to mobile devices after the release of Scribblenauts Remix in June 2013. Like any Scribblenauts game, this one empowers players to be thinkers and creators to solve puzzles by summoning and modifying objects with their words as Maxwell, the franchise’s perennial protagonist. The game takes players through Maxwell’s background and the magical notepad used.
Scribblenauts Unlimited is now available for $4.99 with in-app purchases tagging along. And exclusive to players of the mobile version of the game are four new characters.
Come comment on this article: ‘Scribblenauts Unlimited’ sets up shop on Android
Cut the Rope: Magic has arrived on Android, bursting with spells, evil ghouls and mystical creatures ready to put you to the test.
After the original Cut the Rope app reached over 750 million downloads, this sequel (one of many) looks set to cast a spell over players with new graphics, fresh gameplay elements and 100 all-new puzzles, with more ‘coming soon’.
Experienced Cut the Rope fans will recognise the lovable Om Nom, who makes a return in this sequel transforming into magical forms to save stolen candy from an evil wizard.
Complex boss levels will stand between you and your goals, but Om Nom’s new transformation power is the key to overcoming the toughest challenges. Players can turn into a bird to soar above obstacles or a fish to dive deep in search of delicious candy. Om Nom also has the ability to become a mouse, helping him sniff out treats, or a spirit temporarily immune to damage from falling hazards.
Cut the Rope: Magic’s visuals look beautifully vibrant, with sparks flying across the screen as gamers master Om Nom’s new set of skills.
Zeptolab’s Cut the Rope: Magic is out now and free to download over on the Play Store.
Come comment on this article: ‘Cut the Rope: Magic’ out now, packed with enchanting puzzles
When I talk to friends and family about VR, their most pressing questions are usually about immersion. Once they’ve finished asking about the possibility of vomiting, the conversation turns to: “And how real does it feel?” “Do you believe you’re really there?” Truth be told, I’ve never had that sensation — a complete and utter submission of my senses — although developers are getting better at tricking my brain for a few fleeting moments.
Take two VR climbing projects that are currently in development: The Climb and Everest VR. The former, an Oculus Rift game by Crytek, duped my body into sweating at a few crucial checkpoints peppered throughout the cliff face. The latter, which takes you to some of the most iconic and dangerous parts of Mount Everest, triggered a surprising sense of vertigo as I walked nervously across an icy crevasse.
The two experiences use different techniques to lead the player into feeling certain sensations. The reasons are numerous. For one, the creators are conveying different places and activities, which in turn have different emotions attached to them. For another, The Climb is being pitched as a straight-up video game, albeit with simple controls, whereas Everest VR is more of a cinematic tour with minimal challenge and exploration.
When I dive into Crytek’s rock-climbing romp, I start halfway up a rock face in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Within a few seconds, I’m dangling from a tiny hand hold, peering down at the glassy ocean hundreds of feet below. It’s a breathtaking view and when I turn around, I see that my body is represented by two dismembered hands, which can be clenched using the left and right triggers on the gamepad. When you release one, it’ll float in mid-air and move as you look around with the headset, finally hovering over a hand hold if it’s within your reach. If you press the trigger again, it’ll suddenly snap into place and cause your body to move upwards.
Such a control scheme might sound a little strange, but it’s surprisingly natural in practice. I’ve been bouldering a few times (rock climbing, but without the ropes) and have become accustomed to dangling with one hand, looking around a corner and then delicately reaching with my free arm. You quickly get into a rhythm — a methodical left, right, left, right — and that feeling of momentum is replicated in The Climb, which is impressive given that most of your body is strangely invisible.
Stressing the risks
These controls are merely the foundation that cement the feeling of climbing, however. When I found myself sweating at certain checkpoints, it was for two reasons. Firstly, a small sense of physical exhaustion after completing what would be a tremendously long and difficult climb in the real world. Secondly, and more overwhelmingly, was a sense of relief. The latter, I believe, was triggered because of the technicality of the climb — like a long video game boss battle that takes every ounce of your concentration — as well as the inherent dangers of climbing.
The game achieves this sense of tension and risk-taking with three buttons on the controller: a face-button for jumping and two bumpers for reapplying climbing chalk. The chalk acts as two stamina gauges, one for each hand, which slowly deplete as you shimmy around corners and scramble up ledges. The more complex the maneuver, the bigger the toll on your climbing chalk. Your ghostly hands will change from white to red and so, before tackling a particularly difficult section, you’ll want to stop and prepare by reapplying the fine, sweat-repelling powder.
Jumping is a huge gamble. You have to judge the distance, leap and then hit the triggers at just the right moment to safely grip the hand hold. On multiple occasions I missed, swearing profusely as I plummeted to my inevitable death. As a beginner, this sequence can be a little frightening. But for experienced players, it’ll soon be replaced by a feeling of frustration, given the challenge and replayability comes with completing the climbs in faster times.
A death-defying leap will also eat into your chalk, forcing you to stop and recover. It’s a small, but subtle technique that reinforces the sense of exertion and the physical penalties involved with rock climbing. Once I reached the top and took off the headset, I wanted to sit down and catch my breath for a moment.
Scaling Mount Everest
Everest VR, which is being developed for the HTC Vive, is taking a different approach. Sólfar Studios, a developer of VR experiences in Reykjavik, Iceland, is working with the visual effects studio RVX on a series of linked vignettes. The one I tried took place on the Khumbu Icefall, a dangerous section where crevasses can open at any moment. For this particular demo, I was wearing an absurdly large jacket in a room with “snow” on the floor and flags with Tibetan script hanging from the ceiling. The air conditioning had also been lowered and while I couldn’t see my breath, it did feel just a teensy-bit more like Everest. Not that Sólfar expects you to go to these lengths in your living room, but every little bit helps.
After a brief cinematic, I’m asked to step on a set of footprints in the corner of the room. Once I’ve found them with my goggles, Mount Everest suddenly appears around me, with a narrow ladder stretching over a deadly chasm. Immediately, the detail and authenticity of the environment is apparent. Unlike The Climb, which is based loosely on a real world location, Everest VR is aiming for absolute accuracy.
Initially, RVX was working on a model of the mountain for a feature film, which is also called Everest and came out earlier this year. “I thought it was very important to be completely accurate, in terms of all the geography, the topology, and the different views from different places,” Dadi Einarsson, RVX’s Creative Director says. The company used a technique called photogrammetry, which involves taking photographs from numerous vantage points to record and construct a three-dimensional surface. This, combined with “a huge mish-mash of different sources,” as Einarsson describes it, piqued the curiosity of Sólfar Studios.
“We immediately thought it would be extremely cool to bring this to VR,” Kjartan Emilsson, CEO of Sólfar Studios recalls. “With the level of detail that was there, we knew we would be able to create a sense of immersion.”
The result is impressive. I tentatively crept forward and pressed the triggers on two wand-shaped controllers, forcing my virtual mitts to bind myself to a rope system. I slowly inch across the ladder until, halfway across, I stop and take a long look down. To my great surprise, this managed to create a brief sense of vertigo. I could feel my stomach tightening and my legs turning to putty. It quickly passed, however, and after gathering my thoughts I shuffled across to the far side.
That phantom sense of vertical giddiness was triggered purely by the quality of the environment. Which is impressive, given it’s a digital reconstruction of the mountain, not a 360-degree video.
Sólfar Studios says it’s working on other ways to “hack the brain” during its Everest sequences. For instance, when you enter the “death zone,” which climbers use to describe an altitude where there isn’t enough oxygen to breath properly, the team wants players to move in a slow, deliberate manner. But that’s difficult, given there’s nothing in the room to physically slow you down. Sólfar’s solution is to blur your vision, as if you were blacking out, whenever you move too fast. In addition, there will be a subtle but deliberate audio track in the background imitating a heartbeat. Even if you don’t notice it, the company says your body should naturally align with it and discretely emphasize the difficult conditions.
These techniques are mostly experimental. Some could be trialled in a traditional video game, but others feel unique to VR. In the final version of The Climb, for instance, you’ll be able to use the Oculus Touch controllers to reach out and grab parts of the cliff face. Technically, this could have been possible with other motion-based controllers, like the PlayStation Move, but it’s the culmination of the Rift’s hardware pieces — the headset, the Touch controllers and a decent set of over-ear headphones, that is giving Crytek new ways to manipulate our senses.
The same is true of Everest VR. The “Lighthouse” tracking system that comes with the HTC Vive offers accurate motion tracking that is, in my opinion, far superior to Microsoft’s first and second-gen Kinect peripherals. The various vignettes could have been offered on a console or a high-powered gaming PC, but it wouldn’t have had the same effect. With a VR headset, I can look down and see my hands as snow-covered gloves, rather than pasty fingers wrapped around two plastic controllers. That sense of immersion is what allows Sólfar Studios and RVX to play with the body’s expectations in ways that would have been impossible, or felt contrived, with a normal TV and speaker setup.
If VR can hack my brain, even for a moment, it bodes well for the medium’s future. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever scale Everest in the real world, but I look forward to the day when I can pull on a pair of goggles and truly believe that I’m standing at the summit of the world’s tallest mountain.
If you’re a fan of Fleksy and/or the phone manufacturer ZTE, this might be of some interest to you. ZTE and Fleksy have announced a partnership that will have Fleksy pre-installed on future ZTE Android devices. The press announcement touted Fleksy’s new built-in theme builder, which “gives users the ability to customize their keyboard with photos, colors, and effects.”
Customers who purchase a ZTE phone in the future will see Fleksy preloaded, although it isn’t clear if an alternative keyboard such as the stock Google Keyboard will be preloaded as well. There is no word on an exact date for this change, or a list of ZTE devices that will get the Fleksy treatment, but we expect more announcements from the two companies as they implement the partnership.
Roland revived the iconic sounds of the TR-808 with last year’s AIRA TR-8, and now its leveraging those tones for mobile gaming. With TR-REC, the audio company uses sounds from both the TR-808 and TR-8, as players recreate rhythms played by the app. As the game moves on, tones are layered on top of the original rhythm to create a piece of dance music. In order to progress to the next stage, you must correctly tap out the sequence before time runs out. If that sounds too intimidating, don’t worry: the game starts with the basics. You can think of it like Guitar Hero, but for a drum machine.
The app packs in 16 musical selections across 48 stages, and players can earn bonus points for correctly recreating the tunes. As you might expect, those compositions get more complex as the game progresses. If you’re unable to tap out the rhythm before time runs out, you lose a life. Recreate it properly, though, and earn a higher score based on how quickly you’re able to do so. Looking to give it a shot? The free TR-REC app is available now for both Android and iOS.
Users who purchased a Nexus 5X or 6P on Google’s Project Fi have sadly been unable to take advantage of the Nexus Protect program, Google’s insurance for Nexus devices. Google looks to change that this week by offering Project Fi users an insurance option directly from the carrier. The new insurance would be different from Nexus Protect, which is a one-time fee added on to a device purchase.
The Project Fi insurance will come in the form of a monthly charge of $5, which covers manufacturer defects as well as user-inflicted damage to the device. A possible downside to this plan versus Nexus Protect is that users will have to pay a deductible fee if they file a claim for anything other than a manufacturer issue. That fee will be $69 for the Nexus 5X and $99 for the Nexus 6P.
Interestingly, the new insurance program would cost more than Nexus Protect for the 5X and 6P. A quick look at the numbers shows that over two years, it would cost roughly $120 for insurance on one of these devices, but the Nexus Protect program offers coverage for the Nexus 5X and 6P for $69 and $89, respectively.It is worth noting that the Project Fi insurance only applies to devices bought through Project Fi, so users can still buy a Nexus directly from Google and enroll in Nexus Protect.
In a world where consumers are trusting more and more of their personal data to the cloud, security of that data is a growing concern. As a company with a major interest in learning about its customers through the data they share, Google has a vested interest in keeping its products secure — as such, the company is today giving an update on its grant program for independent security researchers. The company has just announced that in 2016, it’ll dedicate $1 million to fund a variety of different programs aimed at keeping Google’s products secure.
Google first started offering security research grants this year and confirmed that the $1 million figure is more than it has offered before. The vulnerability research grant program is intended to incentivize researchers who look into the security of Google’s products, even if they don’t find any vulnerabilities. That’s a bit different than the typical “bug bounty” program, where companies will pay researchers who find and report security flaws. Google still does that, too, offering up to $20,000 to anyone who finds a “qualifying issue.” Overall, the company has a large security rewards program to incentivize people to keep pushing its products to find any flaws the internal team might have missed.