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9
Feb

Amazon’s Lumberyard is a free triple-A game engine


Amazon has announced that they are launching a new game development engine called Lumberyard. However, what makes this newsworthy is that the A-Z service/content/product provider is putting this system in your hands for the low, low cost of Free.

In terms of visual technology, Lumberyard takes its cues from CryTek’s CryEngine. It has everything you would need to create lush, triple-A game environments from advanced particle effects to real-time fluid dynamics. You’ve even got the vegetation tools that made the Far Cry series so lush right at your fingertips. Amazon says that their engine can create games for Windows, Xbox One, and PS4. However, updates are in the pipeline to make game development possible for Mac, Linux, iOS, and – you guessed it – Android.


Game Development With UnitySee also: An introduction to Unity3D for easy Android game development4

So what’s the catch here? I mean, sure it’s great for Amazon to help lower the bar set for game developers and make high-end tools available to indie designers looking to make a real impact on the gaming world, but what’s in it for them? Altruism looks nice enough in PR, but it doesn’t pay your employees.

The hitch is that Lumberyard limits what servers you can use for the games developed on it. Even if you create the next Dota 2, you won’t be able to use cloud resources from Amazon competitors like Google or Microsoft. You’ll have to buy server support from Amazon.

While that seems restrictive at a glance, it’s really not that bad of a trade-off. If you’re designing a single-player game, for instance, there’s no need to buy server time anyway, so you just got to develop a high-end game with tools that didn’t cost you a penny. And even if you are creating a multiplayer game, as long as Amazon doesn’t start price-gouging indie devs – which seems unlikely – then this looks like a pretty fair arrangement for both parties.

What are your thoughts regarding Lumberyard? If you’re a game dev, let us know if this is a tempting offer in the comments, and let us know what you think the pros and cons of getting into bed with Amazon would be!


best Android gamesNext: 10 best new Android games of January 201616

9
Feb

Marshmallow rolling out to the LG G4 on AT&T


lg-g4-first-look-aa-1-of-32

Are you the owner of an LG G4 on AT&T? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that Android 6.0 Marshmallow is now rolling out to your device.

LG has been pretty good about rolling out Marshmallow to the G4 in a timely fashion. G4 owners on US Cellular, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as users in Canada, Korea and Europe have already received the update, and now it’s AT&T’s turn. The update, which will bring your device’s software up to version H81020n, comes in at a size 971MB.


Android 6.0 marshmallow logo DSC_0126See also: Android 6.0 Marshmallow updates roundup – February 2, 2016104

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While Android 6.0 Marshmallow doesn’t bring along all too many visual changes, there are a handful of great features under the hood that come with the update. For starters, you’ll get to take advantage of the wonderful Google Now on Tap, which essentially brings the power of Google Now to every corner of your phone. There’s also an improved app permissions system, Doze Mode for saving battery when you’re not using your phone, access to Android Pay, and much more.

It should be noted that the update might take a few days to reach your device, so don’t worry if you haven’t received it yet. If you’d like to check for it manually, head to Settings>About phone>Update center>System updates>Check for update. Have you received Marshmallow on your G4? If so, let us know how you’re liking it!

9
Feb

Unofficial Google Street View for Gear VR looks pretty sweet


Streetview-VR-Header-789x300

So StreetView VR has just arrived for Samsung’s Gear VR headset, and it’s kind of really cool. Even though it wasn’t developed by Google, StreetView VR uses data from Google Street View to create the Gear’s first world-sized free-roaming VR/AR experience.

That VR/AR description is earned from the app’s fluid Wikipedia integration. Wherever you are, you can activate an in-app Wikipedia browser that gives you more information about things that are nearby, all without popping you out of the virtual reality experience. Roam as far as you want, from Iceland to Taipei, and you’ll always find new immersive content to explore.

gear-vr-tip-streetview-vr-4-720x367

There are some downsides. Since this pulls from Street View, you’re not getting true depth in these VR images. It’s really more like a massive collection of immersive 360-degree images than true stereoscopic virtual reality. Nevertheless, this lack of depth is more than made up for with the slew of other features. Search for locations using voice controls or a standard virtual keyboard, share a tour with some friends with the built-in voice chat, and toggle directional arrows for navigation in the settings menu.


google cardboard io 2015 aa (9 of 9)See also: Google reportedly releasing a rival to Samsung’s Gear VR later this year14

All in all, the app is a pretty cool service, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve got a Samsung Gear VR lying around. Give it a spin, then let us know what you think in the comments below!


Google cardboard best vr appsNext: 7 best Google Cardboard VR apps and games5

9
Feb

6 improvements we want to see in Android Wear


android wear

As smart watches become an ever increasing part of our lifestyle, the battle is on for supremacy amongst the platforms that power the devices that adorn our wrists. Google’s Android Wear is just one of these platforms and while its smartphone counterpart continues to dominate the smartphone market, Android Wear hasn’t had as much success.

Coupled with the dominance of the Apple Watch in the market – Apple sold 1 million watches in the first day, while Android Wear took a year to reach the same milestone – Google’s platform certainly faces a challenge. What does it need to be able to dominate in wearables though? We’ve used Android Wear across many devices (as well as the Apple Watch and the Gear S2), so here’s a few of the features we’d like to see in the next version of Android Wear.

1. Freedom for OEMs

The biggest improvement we’d like to see in the next version of Android Wear is freedom for OEMs to innovate and create unique experiences. As we’ve seen from the Gear S2, Apple Watch and the Pebble range, having the freedom to customise the software to suit a particular style of smartwatch can create excellent – and very unique – experiences.

Unlike its smartphone-powering sibling, Android Wear offers the same experience across multiple devices and this lack of freedom means OEMs are limited to innovating via hardware only. This could potentially be one of the reasons that Samsung opted to use its Tizen OS – as opposed to Android Wear – for the Gear S2, as this offered it the freedom to create an interface that is capable of utilising the unique rotating bezel.


gear-s2-thumb Samsung Gear S2 review65

In comparison to this, Android Wear offers a cards approach that relies heavily on touch input for navigating the smartwatch. Offering a homogenous experience across devices is certainly not a bad thing as it means you can use any Android Wear smartwatch and feel comfortable, but it can result in the platform becoming stale.

There’s no doubt that sales of Android Wear devices have been less than initially estimated and the initial buzz around the platform seems to have worn off as a series of updates – that, admittedly, have bought a range of improvements and new features – have failed to excite. Can you imagine if an OEM like Motorola or Huawei had been able to create customised interfaces running atop Android Wear to make full use of the round display on the Moto 360 2nd Gen and Huawei Watch respectively?

samsung gear s2 review aa (9 of 24)

2. Physical buttons

In a world dominated by touch screens, it seems strange to be saying we want to see more physical buttons, but this is exactly what Android Wear needs. Take two of its chief rivals – the Gear S2 and the Apple Watch – and both offer a physical element that is crucial to the experience. The former has a unique rotating bezel and the latter has a digital crown, and while Android Wear devices have had physical buttons on the side, they don’t actually serve a purpose.

Imagine having two buttons on the right of your Android Wear device and – exploring this further – being able to customise them to suit your needs. If you frequently interact with your watch via your voice, you could have one button set to launch Google’s voice search. If you prefer to have different watch faces for different times of the day, you could easily switch by pressing a physical button.


moto 360 2nd gen review aa (4 of 27)See also: Best Android Wear watches (February 2016)58

Furthermore, instead of swiping up and down to navigate the display, you could even use the two buttons to replicate that feature, or even have one button to go back a step and another to launch an app drawer. Relying solely on touch inputs has worked so far for Android Wear, but offering physical buttons may provide the extra – and unique functionality – that is arguably missing from Google’s wearable platform.

moto 360 2nd gen review aa (14 of 27)

3. A slicker experience

At launch, Android Wear’s cards-first approach certainly offered something unique as it brought the power and familiarity of Google Now to your wrist but more than 18 months later, the interface hasn’t changed all too much. Broken down to the essentials, Android Wear is a collection of cards displaying useful information and notifications seamlessly together in one list and while it’s definitely functional, we’d certainly expect Google to offer an evolution of an experience in the next version of Android Wear.

A key problem with the cards approach is notifications; if you have ten or even twenty unread notifications, scrolling through them on a small smartwatch display isn’t exactly user-friendly. Furthermore, notifications are in a chronological order and if you’re like me, not checking notifications for a couple of hours results in an endless list of cards. By way of comparison, the Gear S2 offers notifications to the left of the home screen with each app having its own “screen” and while this approach has its own problems, scrolling left and right is a lot easier than navigating a long list of notifications.

Obviously, each platform has its own approach and there’s plenty that like the chronological cards layout of Android Wear, but in the next version, we’d like to see Google change up notifications a little. Whether it’s revolutionising the entire interface or just tweaking notifications to make them more user-friendly, Android Wear’s approach is certainly in need of a revamp, and in the next version of Android Wear, we’d like to see a revamped experience that has less swiping around a small screen.

moto 360 2nd gen review aa (24 of 27)

4. A revamped interface for round displays

While notifications may need a little tweak, the biggest problem facing Android Wear is its interface on round displays. From its initial launch, Android Wear has been designed with square displays in mind, and while this is acceptable for some devices, a lot of OEMs are opting for round displays.

OEMs have approach round displays and Android Wear in a multitude of ways but no approach yet has felt completely natural. On most round Wear devices, cropped notifications and text only appearing in the middle of the display are ‘normal’ occurrences, yet there is definitely a need for innovation here.

Whether it is Google itself innovating in Android Wear as a whole or individual OEMs having the freedom to innovate with the experience on round displays, Android Wear definitely needs to improve on how it handles round displays. As we see smartwatches rise in price and hardware improve, Google needs to ensure its software keeps up otherwise we may see OEMs looking at alternative platforms to power their wearables.

samsung gear s2 review aa (19 of 24)

5. Multiple input options

Unlike smartphones, replying to messages or notifications from your wrist poses a number of input challenges. At the moment, Android Wear supports voice input or quick replies and while its voice recognition is certainly impressive, there’s definitely room for improvement, not least as voice input isn’t always appropriate for a particular environment.

In the next version of Android Wear, we’d definitely like to see the list of input options expand past its currently-limited offering. Instead of limiting users to just voice input, it would be nice to see Google include support for additional inputs. For example, having a keyboard – however basic – on your wrist would certainly be useful for when you can’t use voice input. The lack of screen real estate does limit what Google is able to do but adding a T9 keyboard like the Gear S2 would offer a potential solution to this problem.

huawei watch unboxing aa (21 of 26)

6. Improved Battery Life

If there’s one area that Android Wear certainly fails to deliver, it’s in the battery department; we’ve seen improvements in battery life since the launch of Android Wear but none have quite delivered the excellent battery life we’ve all been hoping for.

From my personal experience, most Android Wear devices can last a full day, but will then require recharging during the middle of the following day. This then means you have to charge your wearable every night and on more than one occasion, I’ve walked out my house in the morning without putting my wearable on. In comparison, as I covered in my Gear S2 follow up review, I’m able to get two days minimum from the Gear S2 and often, it can last three days (albeit with very low usage). While it may not seem like much of a difference, having to charge your wearable every other day instead of every day does improve the overall experience.

Wearables in video:

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Whether it’s through optimising the software or reducing the requirements of Android Wear, battery life is a key feature that Google definitely needs to fix in the next version of its wearable OS. Sure, manufacturers could increase the size of the battery but, as an example, the 250mAh battery in the Gear S2 is smaller than most Android Wear devices (that are atypically 300-400mAh in capacity) yet offers much better battery life. With wearables having much larger limitations in terms of design compared to smartphones, the onus is on Google to improve Android Wear so it is optimised to offer the best possible battery life.

Android-Wear-Vs-Apple-Watch-9

What do you want to see from Android Wear?

Google’s smartwatch platform is certainly heavily adopted by both, manufacturers and developers alike, but it is running the risk of growing stale. The next version of Android Wear is likely to bring several improvements but we’d like to see Google present a well-thought out experience that has been optimised for wearables.

There’s several improvements we could have listed but we’ve opted for the major improvements that will really enhance the experience on Android Wear devices. What do you want to see from the next version of Android Wear and is there anything you’d like to add to our list above? Let us know your views in the comments below.

9
Feb

Deal: original Nexus 5 for $140


Google Nexus 5 black aa 13

With the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P all proceeding it, there’s no denying that the Nexus 5 is, well, getting up there in years. Don’t let this fool you though, despite its age, the Nexus 5 is still an exceptional device, particularly for those that are just looking for up-to-date software and a no frills experience.

With this age also comes plenty of discounts, with the phone going as low as $129.99 back in November. While that price was pretty temporary, Ebay seller mobilepros1 comes pretty close, selling the handset (refurbished) in your choice of black or white for $139.99 with free shipping in the US. The phone can also be sold in “many other countries”, though you’ll obviously have to pay extra for the shipping costs.

So what kind of specs we talking about with the Nexus 5? The Nexus 5 is powered by a Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage. Other specs include a 5-inch 1080p screen, an 8 MP rear camera, a 1.3 MP front-facing shooter, a 2300 mAh battery, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow (via OTA upgrades). While that’s certainly not bleeding age, the Nexus 5 is still more than capable of keeping up with other phones around that price point and even performs better than devices like the Moto G 3rd gen, which cost around $40 more.

For those with modest needs, or if you are just looking for a backup phone, we still highly recommend the Nexus 5. Keep in mind this is the US model, designed for proper use with Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile, though it should also work in many international markets. What do you think, is the Nexus 5 worth picking up at this price? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Buy on Ebay

9
Feb

Apple’s Siri topples Google Now in latest popularity study


Google_Now_Search

A new study has revealed that less than one third of Android phone owners make use of Google Now’s voice recognition software.

The findings, reported by consumer technology research firm Parks Associates, show that Apple’s Siri voice recognition tech is more popular amongst users than Android’s equivalent.

Titled ‘360 View: Mobility and the App Economy’, the study says more than half of iPhone owners use Siri. On top of that, it claims smartphone penetration has reached 86% of U.S. broadband households.

Apparently, just under half (48%) of smartphone owners between 18 and 24 currently use voice recognition tech. When it comes to Siri specifically, usage by iPhone owners is said to have risen from 40% to 52% between 2013 and 2015.

Google_Now_Listen

Harry Wang, Parks Associates’ Director of Health & Mobile Product Research, said:

“Users, particularly younger consumers and iOS users, [are] exploring more intelligent features and interfaces, including voice control. The growing consumer interest in voice control features is driving this technology into new Internet of Things (IoT) areas.”

This latest study may cause some concern for the folk over at Google, who will be hoping improvements can be made to Google Now to make the service more widely used.

Google Now is a top tool with a whole host of features for Android users to play around with, so the findings of this latest study are rather surprising.

What do you make of the study’s results? Let us know in the comments section below.

Come comment on this article: Apple’s Siri topples Google Now in latest popularity study

9
Feb

Despite stronger-than-expected earnings report, Yelp stock tanks


yelp_logo

If you have been following the recent woes of global stock markets, then you know that the U.S. technology sector is a victim of this recent downturn. It seems like Yelp, despite posting smaller than expected losses, has been unable to avoid the massive technology selloff caused by the downturn. After the release of its earning reports on Monday, its shares plummeted 11%, followed by, as of right now, another 3% drop in trading today.

Yesterday, Yelp saw its earning results reported a whole 3 hours earlier than they were suppose to be. This was coupled with the sudden news that Chief Financial Officer Rob Krolik, who has been with the compny since 2011, would be stepping down later this year. The early reporting of numbers paired with the CFO shake-up, and the overall volatility in the technology sector seems to have been the main reason for the stock plummet. Everything happened all at once which seems to have spooked investors despite the relatively strong earnings report.

Yelp was forecasted to lose 3 cents a share, but was able to beat that estimate by a whole cent, posting a loss of only 2 cents a share on an adjusted basis. Due to the strength of its advertising business and a rise in mobile usage, the company was able to post a 40% rise in revenue, again topping analysts estimates. While the stock drop is not what Yelp was looking for, this earnings report does show a lot of positives for the company.

Looking to the future, Yelp is looking to again beat analysts estimates this quarter. By employing an aggressive $14 million marketing campaigned paired with expansion into more international markets and diversifying into services including restaurant bookings, event management and payments they hope to counter increased competition and start on a track to profitable growth.

Source: Reuters

Come comment on this article: Despite stronger-than-expected earnings report, Yelp stock tanks

9
Feb

[Deal] Just in time for Valentine’s day, Mophie holding storewide buy one, get one 50% off sale


Mophie_Valentine's_sale

Our phones give us the ability to do incredible things right in the palm of our hands. Every single year these devices continue to get better and better, but lets face it, the batteries used to power them have not. The frustration of being on the go with a dead device is immense, and that is where Mophie comes in. In honor of Valentine’s day Mophie has a buy one, get one 50% off deal across its entire array of charging paraphernalia to keep you and your loved one’s devices going all day.

Portable batteries, battery cases, charging cables, and everything else are all up for grabs with this deal. Head over to the site, select the items that you want, and enter promo code CUPID at checkout to net yourself 50% off an item in your cart. Order by Wednesday, February 10th and Mophie will throw in free expedited shipping so you can make sure your special someone gets the power they need before Valentine’s day.

In addition to the usual crop of products Mophie sells, you can also grab most of these products in a special Valentine’s day print to make it a little extra special. If you have someone in your life who needs a little extra juice to the through the day, or maybe if you just needed a little encouragement to pick one up for yourself, hit the link below and happy shopping!

[Mophie Valentine’s Day Sale]

Come comment on this article: [Deal] Just in time for Valentine’s day, Mophie holding storewide buy one, get one 50% off sale

9
Feb

Twitter introudces new First View ad campaign to aid plummeting stocks


twitter-app-logo

As Twitter’s stocks plummet to an all-time low, the social networking giant has today released a new advertising platform, it hopes will generate some new revenue. The scheme is called First View and provides advertisers with the facility to host their adverts at the top of a user’s timeline for 24-hours, which means every time you sign into your account, the first post you’ll see will be a promoted video.

This announcement comes just a day before Twitter is set to release its Fourth Quarter and full-year earnings. We can only presume that the figures weren’t quite what the company expected and has been forced to introduce a somewhat controversial feature to generate additional funds.

First View is set to roll out in the United States later this month and will only be available to “managed clients”, who are essentially advertisers that work directly with Twitter’s sales team. It will then make its way to additional markets over the course of the next few months, with international companies being offered the opportunity to claim a top ad spot.

Here’s what Deepak Rao, Revenue Product Manager at Twitter, had to say about First View:

“Each day, millions of people come to Twitter to engage in conversations about their passions and every topic of interest that continually shapes culture. At the same time, marketers come to Twitter to reach this live, premium audience through Promoted Trends and Promoted Moments, creating significant brand moments for their product launches, event sponsorships, and film premieres.”

We’re not entirely sure how well this new advertising platform will catch on, though. Twitter appears to be losing regular users on a daily basis, and this is clearly reflected in its trends participation. During Super Bowl 49, the site raked in 28 million posts related to the Big Game and this year a mere 5.93 million tweets rolled in.

Source: Twitter

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9
Feb

AT&T now pushing out Android 6.0.1 update for the LG G4


lg_g4_display_corner_TA

Hot on the heels of T-Mobile’s rollout, AT&T is now pushing out the long-awaited Android 6.0.1 update to the LG G4. The upgrade transports the latest build of Marshmallow to the handset, together with support for the carrier’s Video Calling service.

In terms of added functionality, Marshmallow packs a ton of new features, including improved application permissions, Fingerprint compatibility for purchases, Android Pay, battery-life enhancement through Doze and a redesigned App Drawer. It also ferries several optimizations to call quality and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The upgrade weighs a hefty 1.14GB, and the operator claims it will take around an hour to download and install on your unit. The amount of battery juice your device has at the time of installation is of paramount importance as the more power you have, the faster download speeds you’ll be able to obtain — so try to keep your G4 plugged into a wall socket if possible.

As is customary, the upgrade is being rolled out in stages. To see if it’s ready for your handset, open up the Settings application, scroll right down to the bottom and tap on About Device, select the System Updates subheading, then tap Check for Updates. Alternatively, you can wait until you receive a push notification prompting you to download and install it.

Source: AT&T

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