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stayZen is a zen-style game that may actually calm you (review)

Lots of Android games want to wow you with crazy, hair-raising action, speed, and wild graphics. Their mission is to pull you in with the promise of a frenetic pace, testing your reflexes and concentration in the face of unrelenting distractions.

screenshot_20161207-220356stayZen is an Android game that tries to go in another direction. This is a game that is trying to be a bit of a meditation app. Or it could be a meditation app masking itself as a bit of gaming fun. It comes from Canadian developer PeaceOut Games. It is suitable for all ages; though young kids may have trouble keeping the game going, while even tweens may not appreciate the purposeful speed of this title.
If you’re curious by just what I mean, keep reading to see what this game/app is all about.


Install and setup is very straightforward. Simply download from the Play Store and fire it up. Once in the title screen, you have a couple of choices. “Levels” shows you the level map with all the different worlds & levels you’re in for. “Options” lets you choose some gameplay preferences such as music on/off, player avatar, and both gravity & enzo strength (more on these in a minute).
Otherwise you just press “Start” and you’re in.


screenshot_20161207-220532As I stated before, stayZen gameplay feels like a mix of game and zen-practice app. The idea of the game is to move your avatar (which starts as a Japanese-style painted circle but can be changed as you progress through the game) along a predetermined path on your screen to a unopened lotus blossom. Upon reaching your goal, your blossom blooms into a flower. Your main antagonist here is simple gravity; your avatar will always be pulled downward, and it’s your job to fight gravity while not veering off your line.

You move your stayZen avatar by ‘painting’ it along the path by repeatedly making small swipes in the direction you want your avatar to go. While going in a straight left-to-right line, you need to swipe up and to the right to counter gravity and to move your avatar closer to your goal. This swiping is your ‘enzo’. So as stated before, you can (slightly) adjust both the gravity and enzo strength in the game to change things up.

screenshot_20161207-220434The idea behind this game is not to blast through the levels as fast as you can or to acquire as many power-ups/coins/avatars as possible; rather, it’s to find a “zone” in which you are painting your avatar safely along its path. Slowly is just fine here; you won’t find any points or timers here.
After finishing a level, you are simply treated with a philosophical quote from various public figures….everybody from Gandhi himself to Mia Hamm (seriously!).

As you can imagine, the paths start as rather easy in the early levels, but quickly increase in difficulty. In addition, the game will add obstacles that you have to steer around (such as scorpions) and other path variations that turn it into more of a platformer.

Graphics & Music

15284824_1800281063584226_3616929330942987222_nGraphics in this game are very high-quality, with the backgrounds getting a nice vellum or scroll paper treatment. Most items shown in the game are simple black silhouettes, adding to the sunset-esque quality of the game lighting.

Music is also very well done, in the form of a soothing flute playing continuously throughout your experience. The only jarring moment comes when your avatar becomes separated from your path; a jarring gong indicates that your round is over along with your avatar free-falling off the bottom of your device’s screen.


stayZen is a rather soothing variation on a platform game, to the point where you could use this title as a game or as a relaxation app. I have to say, I rather enjoyed playing through the levels. The combination of the relaxing visuals, music, and “painting” gameplay mechanic did tend to settle me while playing.

If pressed, I would say the main critique I would have is that the level variation could start to happen a bit earlier than it currently does. It takes several levels to start to see some truly different levels (at least for my preference). But then again, that is probably exactly as the developer intended the game to be to allow for a deeper and longer engagement in the zen-like quality of the presentation before testing you with more varied and difficult levels.

As a bonus, the developer has just recently updated the game,with smoother gameplay and controls, which shows a good commitment to the title for the foreseeable future. In the end, I do highly recommend this game, and feel that you can’t go wrong with giving it a try. Download here and see if you feel the same.


Android 7.0 Nougat comes to Moto Z in Canada

Yummy Nougat comes to the Great White North.

Android 7.0 Nougat has come to the Moto Z in Canada. Our own device received the update early this morning, and we’re getting similar reports from a few people around the internet.

The upside? Some great new features, including inline replies, multi-window support, and new display scaling, which fits more on the Moto Z’s QHD display.


There’s also Daydream support, which makes the Moto Z the first device outside of Google’s own Pixels to support the burgeoning VR platform.

Our own Russell Holly, when evaluating the Nougat update on the Verizon Moto Z, called it “life by a thousand improvements.”

Nougat the phone absolutely screams. It’s as though every ounce of performance has been squeezed out of the Snapdragon 820 underneath this glass. Some of that is Nougat optimizations and what happens when you fully wipe a phone before installing a major system update, but everything from checking notifications to launching apps is not only faster but noticeably smoother. Nougat’s number one feature is polish, and that is plainly evident on the Moto Z.

The build number on the Canadian Moto Z is NPL25.86-15 with a security patch date of November 1, 2016 (unfortunately).

Moto Z, Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play

  • Our Moto Z review!
  • Moto Z Play preview
  • The Hasselblad True Zoom is a Mod to remember
  • Moto Z specs
  • Moto Mods custom backs
  • The latest Moto Z news
  • Discuss in our Moto Z forums



With the $50 Barnes & Noble Nook 7 Tablet, you get what you pay for

If all you’re looking for is an e-reader, then maybe $50 isn’t that bad. Maybe. Possibly.

The Nook 7 from Barnes & Noble is $50. That may be the best thing I have to say about it. It’s not particularly fast. (Or fast at all.) The display isn’t anything to write home about. The software is basically stock Android with BN apps added in.

But if all you’re looking for is an e-reader, then maybe $50 isn’t that bad, right?

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I guess it really depends on what you’re hoping to get out of this. I’d hoped this might be another option for the kids. And while it is, it’s not really a good option. At least not without doing some work to it. There’s no real kid support built into the Nook 7 out of the box. There’s basic Android user switching, and even profile support for the Barnes & Noble content. It’s password protected, even, so you can keep your Disney kids out of your Danielle Steel. But that’s it. They still have full access to every single app on the tablet. And you’re on your own for setting up any sort of screen time limitations. Point is, for not too much more money you can get a much better tablet for youngsters.

On the other hand, this one does have Google Play support from the moment you fire it up, so there’s that.

See at Barnes & Noble

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Turn any song into a yule log with Google Play Music’s Chromecast Fireplace Visualizer


Chromecasts roasting with an open fire… Android nipping at your nose…

It’s winter. It’s Christmas. It’s cold. We all just want to curl up by the fire, roast a few marshmallows, and pass out listening to good music. Well, the Google Play Music Chromecast Fireplace Visualizer can’t roast the marshmallows, but we have broilers for that. Want to get these lovely flames on your Chromecast? Here’s how it’s done.

Open Google Play Music on a desktop computer.


Click the top left menu button.


Click Settings.


Under Labs, click the toggle next to Chromecast Fireplace Visualizer.


Next time you cast from your phone or computer, you’ll be treated to lovely frames instead of horribly blown-up album art. I turned on Chromecast Visualizer Fireplace two years ago and I never turn it off. It can be the middle of the Texas summer, I will watch the flames before I look at hideously cropped and zoomed album art.

Now, as with all Google Play Music labs, the Chromecast Fireplace Visualizer can vanish at any time, but as many years as it’s been around, I highly doubt they’ll take it out yet.

What tunes are you putting on your fireplace? Are you a traditionalist, or prefer more modern merry melodies? Or are you skipping the holiday carols and blasting one Hamilton Mixtape on yours?


With FotoSwipe 3.0, sharing files, pictures, videos (even apps) has never been easier #BYEBYEBLUETOOTH


If you’re looking for an easy way to transfer your files, pictures, folders — WHATEVER — check out FotoSwipe!


For those of you that have been reading Android Central for a while, you might remember us posting about FotoSwipe way back in 2014 and 2015.

Together, with the help of our awesome community, we helped the FotoSwipe team launch their app in iTunes and Google Play, and we’ve been super pumped about their progress. Check out some of the wicked new updates!

Okay, back up: What is FotoSwipe anyway?

FotoSwipe is a simple app that lets you share tons of files across multiple devices without any hassle. You can transfer pictures, videos, files, apps, music, WHATEVER!

Better yet, you can transfer files between two iOS devices, an iOS and Android, or two Android devices. It doesn’t matter. It just works.

Why should you use it?

With services like Dropbox or a traditional cloud service, you have to upload your files, share the link, and wait a specific amount of time for things to load. That’s way too many steps, honestly.

With FotoSwipe, it’s as easy as tapping your photo, getting your code, typing it in, and BAM: your photo is downloaded instantly. Also, once you add a device in FotoSwipe, it remembers it forever, making it easy to share files whenever you need!


Some scenarios where you might find FotoSwipe a huge help:

  • Sharing photos quickly without the need to exchange contact info

  • Transferring photos between devices quickly at home (from iPhone to Android tablet, for example)

  • Authorizing a device once and then pushing photos to it (for example, your parents iPad. Authorize it once and easily share family photos with them whenever you like!)

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

FotoSwipe is free to download, and recently pushed version 3.0 to Google Play. Some really great improvements have been made including the ability to send large videos (500MB or more) and apps directly from one device to another.

If you’re ready to give it a try, hit the button below to get started!

Download FotoSwipe 3.0 (free)


Sling TV poised to launch ‘AirTV Player’ hardware to incorporate streaming, OTA signals

The streaming TV market just keeps improving.

One of the leading streaming services, Sling TV, seems poised to finally release a rumored standalone hardware device that integrates an over-the-air antenna to round out offerings from its own streaming service. Currently dubbed “AirTV Player,” it’s a small white-and-blue little box with its own remote and an integrated antenna for receiving signals from your local stations.


Though the Sling TV service is already available for streaming on just about every platform — phones, tablets and Android TV as well — this standalone box would offer up an interesting combination by giving you over-the-air local channels as well. Depending on how seamlessly the box can integrate both the OTA signals and the online content, it could become an extremely compelling service for those who live in a populous area with lots of local TV offerings.

Just what could that ‘G’ button do?

The AirTV Player is expected to include Netflix, which is basically a given nowadays, but slightly more interesting is a prominent Google-style “G” button on the remote. That initially points to the idea that the box is running Android, though so far no information is known about what exactly that Google button would do in the service.

Expectations are that Sling TV’s streaming service would continue to exist across multiple platforms, of course, though it wouldn’t integrate with an OTA antenna in the same way. Considering that the CES show is just around the corner, starting the first week of January, there’s a good chance we’ll learn more about the AirTV Player there.


Prostate cancer laser treatment cures half of trial subjects

A new prostate cancer treatment that combines lasers and deep-sea bacteria could be “truly transformative,” according to a team of researchers. A trial conducted with 415 men across Europe finished with nearly half completely free of cancer compared to 13.5 percent given regular treatment. To top it off, unlike with current, aggressive therapies that can cause impotence and urinary incontinence, most of the subjects were free of side effects after two years.

The “vascular targeted photodynamic therapy (VPT),” developed by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and private company STEBA Biotech, is pretty creative. Patients are first treated with a drug called WST11 derived from highly light-sensitive bacteria that live near the bottom of the ocean.

After the treatment, doctors insert optical fibers through the perineum, between the anus and testes, into the affected prostate gland. When the red laser is switched on, it activates the drug, which releases free radicals that destroy the tumors, but not the surrounding cells.

After followup, only six percent of patients needed to have their prostate removed, compared to 30 percent of patients under normal therapy. “This is truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment, which has previously lagged decades behind other solid cancers such as breast cancer,” said lead researcher Mark Emberton from the University College London hospital. “In prostate cancer, we are still commonly removing or irradiating the whole prostate, so the success of this new tissue-preserving treatment is welcome news indeed.”

This is truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment, which has previously lagged decades behind other solid cancers such as breast cancer. In prostate cancer, we are still commonly removing or irradiating the whole prostate, so the success of this new tissue-preserving treatment is welcome news indeed.

The procedure was performed in 10 European nations by 47 treatment centers, many of which had no experience with it. “New procedures are generally associated with a learning curve, but the lack of complications in the trial suggests that the treatment protocol is safe, efficient and relatively easy to scale up,” said Emberton. What’s more, he adds, MRI and other techniques for spotting prostate cancers have improved since the trial started in 2011, so further studies should produce even better results.

There’s still some work to be done. Right now, the treatment is best for low-to-medium-risk patients, because it gives them a safe option for treatment instead of waiting, which could allow the cancer to progress. However, it remains to be seen whether VPT treatment will work for high-risk cases. Right now, researchers are “eagerly awaiting” results from trials on patients with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

In the meantime, one UK patient is grateful for the procedure. “When I was diagnosed with early prostate cancer, I had the option of active surveillance but I didn’t want to wait until it got worse so when I was offered a place on the trial I signed up straight away,” said Gerald Capon. “The treatment I received on the trial changed my life. I’m now cancer-free with no side-effects and don’t have to worry about needing surgery in future.”

Via: BBC

Source: University College London, The Lancet Oncology


Nokia D1C Android phone: What’s the story so far?

Nokia is making its way back to smartphones, first announcing that it’s going to be embracing Android and reaffirming that position in December on formation of the new organisation.

That means we’re going to be seeing Nokia branded smartphones once again in 2017, which gives us plenty to be excited about.

Unlike other brands that are more predictable, Nokia is starting fresh. There’s a lot of rumour and speculation and we’re cutting through it to build a picture of what we expect to see.

Nokia Android phones: Two handsets families rumoured

  • Mid-range Nokia D1C
  • Flagship Nokia P1

First up, there’s rumours that Nokia is working on two (or more) handsets lines and these are said to be in the prototyping stage.

There are some codenames floating around, like Nokia D1C, first thought to be a tablet, but now considered to be a mid-range phone, said to come in two sizes – 5.0 and 5.5-inch sizes, although some are saying 5.2 and 5.5 inches. It’s this device we’re looking at here.

Then there’s the Nokia P1, which is thought to be the flagship.

All the names are a little abstract and there’s very little information to go on, so take it with a pinch of salt.

Nokia Power User

Nokia D1C design

  • IP68 protection suggested
  • Metal build rumoured

In terms of design, it’s said that the Nokia D1C Android phone will offer a premium metal design, although other sources suggest a metal frame with polycarbonate rear shell.

So far we’ve seen some manufacturing images and concepts appear, but it’s difficult at this time to determine whether these are the D1C or the reported flagship P1.

There have been some renderings for the D1C, however, in both black and white finishes. These are said to have a metal frame and a plastic rear. The white version looks a lot like the Nokia Lumia 925, one of our favourite Nokia designs of all time. Either the concept artist knows our preference, or perhaps the Nokia D1C will have this link back to a previous design.

Currently, with lots of doubt around positioning and names of future Nokia phones, there’s only so much we can deduce.

  • Nokia through the years: 30 best and worst phones, in pictures

Nokia Android phones: Hardware specs

  • 1920 x 1080 pixels, 5.2 and 5.5 inches
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, 2/3GB RAM,
  • 16GB storage

The details are rather unsubstantial at the moment and there’s little that can be independently verified. Currently there are only a few sources claiming information on future Nokia devices, meaning you need to take this all with a pinch of salt.

The Nokia D1C, if pitched into the mid-range, is likely to offer a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, with two display sizes rumoured at 5.2 and 5.5-inches.

In terms of hardware, it’s thought that the Nokia D1C will offer a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset, fitting its mid-range position, with one device offering 2GB RAM and the other offering 3GB RAM. The storage is rumoured to be 16GB.

From the rumours so far, it sounds like there will be a regular D1C and a premium version and that might also present different camera versions, which we’ll discuss next.

Nokia D1C cameras

  • 13 or 16-megapixel rear camera
  • 8-megapixel front camera

There’s rumour that the larger D1C will have a 16-megapixel camera and the smaller a 13-megapixel camera, with both offering an 8-megapixel front camera. 

This change in specs on an entry-level device might just be to hit a specific price in particular regions and currently little had been said about Nokia’s camera plans.

However, Nokia did have some great cameras on devices that weren’t too expensive. It also liked a dedicated camera button, something that hasn’t been mentioned so far. Whether we’ll see Zeiss lenses or not remains unanswered, but we’d imagine that Nokia will shoot for the very best it can with its new Android phone cameras.

Nokia D1C: Software

  • Android Nougat 
  • Nokia customisations

Despite jumping off the Symbian train and falling into the Windows Phone quagmire, one of the details that Nokia has publicly confirmed is that it’s working on Android devices. The Nokia N1 tablet was also Android, but otherwise Nokia isn’t really known for its Android devices … yet.

However, that didn’t stop BlackBerry making the jump off its own sinking platform. BlackBerry managed to introduce plenty of lovely Android features on the Priv, proving that you don’t need to have a long history with a software platform to be able to innovate with it.

Nokia did release a launcher for Android called Z Launcher. This launcher would let you scribble to find apps to save you digging into the apps tray to get what you want.

It’s likely that we’ll see a full range of Nokia innovations when its Android phones surface, fronted with Z Launcher, but we’d be happy if Nokia kept things close to Android.

Nokia D1C release date

  • Confirmed for H1 2017
  • HMD has a stand at MWC 2017

Nokia hasn’t officially confirmed when Android devices might be hitting the market, but it was reported that the target was for the end of Q4 2016. That timeline was credited to a Nokia exec talking to the media in China, but as 2016 draws to a close, it seems very unlikely that we’ll see anything from the new company so soon.

For Nokia to make a big bang, the most obvious time to do so would be at Mobile World Congress 2017, in February. The company has stated that it will be targeting H1 2017, i.e., the first half of 2017.

That would give HMD (the company producing phones under the Nokia brand) time to make an appearance at Mobile World Congress 2017 and launch to market well within the first half of 2017. Fortunately, we already know that HMD will be at MWC, because the company will have a stand there.

  • Mobile World Congress 2017: Smartphones, smartphones, smartphones to expect

‘Dawn of Titans’ shrinks an epic strategy game onto your phone

This year alone, 1.4 billion smartphones will be sold, giving more people have access to gaming devices than ever before. But with more than 1,000 new apps flooding the App Store every day, it’s increasingly difficult for new titles to make an impact. Every so often, a game like Pokémon Go comes along, proving that if you have the right “hook,” you can find a massive audience.

NaturalMotion believes technology is its hook. The British gaming studio started life creating animation engines, with its software used for everything from The Lord of the Rings movies to Grand Theft Auto V. It then packed that tech into mobile games like Clumsy Ninja that, thanks to their visual edge, quickly topped the App Store. That success led to the studio being bought for $527 million by casual-gaming giant Zynga. It’s been nearly three years since the acquisition, though, and the pressure is on for NaturalMotion to deliver a fresh hit.

The studio is hoping that pushing the processing power of modern smartphones is enough to get players downloading again. Moving away from the simple titles that built them an empire, NaturalMotion’s latest title, Dawn of Titans, is the developer’s first foray into action-strategy gaming.

For a mobile game, Dawn of Titans offers an unusual sense of scale. Upon opening the app, you find yourself looking over an intricately detailed floating kingdom, fully rendered 3D castles and buildings sitting before you as tiny villagers wander around them in real time. It’s a level of detail you’d expect to see in a console game, not on an app’s home screen.

Although not quite as detailed, the battles themselves are also pretty spectacular. With the studio clearly taking cues from Creative Assembly’s Total War series, Dawn of Titans sees you leading thousands of soldiers into battle against either real-life or AI-controlled foes. Combat is simple: Skirmishes last around a minute, and you command each type of unit to attack with the flick of a finger. Most of the real strategizing takes place long before any swords clash. Offline missions and online fights reward you with in-game currency, and between matches you train your units and equip your most prized warriors.

NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil explains that simplicity is the key to success. “Those epic battles that you see in the likes of The Lord of the Rings, they don’t exist on mobile. We felt like we could do that and make them pass the Starbucks test.” Reil pauses, gesturing at the opposing army lying defeated on the screen. “For it to work on mobile, you need to be able to win a battle in the time it takes you to buy a coffee.”

“..Successful games create an environment that you want to spend time in, where you make friends. Then, eventually, some people will want to pay.”

Sensibly, this time NaturalMotion is choosing to avoid heavy-handed micro transactions. “[Dawn of Titans] doesn’t nickel-and-dime you because when we tried that in the past, players just dropped out of the game,” he explains. “In this new generation of free-to-play, I think all the successful games create an environment that you want to spend time in, where you make friends. Then, eventually, some people will want to pay.”

As enjoyable as Dawn of Titans is, it needs to do more than impress gamers like me. Facebook gaming has fallen by the wayside and NaturalMotion’s parent company Zynga’s relevance and profits have declined with it. The Farmville creator has bet big on NaturalMotion, and despite performing well initially, the company’s first game since the acquisition, CSR Racing 2, has since dropped out of the top 50 on the App Store charts. A lot is riding on Dawn of Titans‘ success.

NaturalMotion’s CEO seems less worried. “If we wow people, it spreads word of mouth.” Reil says. “It’s actually a very specific focus that we have with all of our games. Our business model is if we invest more in the product, then we invest less in user acquisition.”

But its competitors reportedly spend almost $1 million a day on star-studded ad campaigns, and NaturalMotion is going to need more than just word of mouth to succeed. Reil argued that Zynga has the resources to compete. “If we want to compete with Clash of Clans — with any of these companies– we can,” he says. I’m not so sure. That may have been true in 2012 when Zynga was valued at $11.5 billion, but now the company is worth just $2.4 billion, less than a quarter of Clash of Clans maker Supercell (which also has the financial clout of Tencent, a $250 billion company, behind it).

Since my discussion with Reil, Dawn of Titans was released on both Android and iOS. As of December 19th, it ranked 64th in the App Store’s “Top Grossing” list and 50th in the corresponding Google Play chart. It’s off to a decent start, for sure, but with Zynga unable to match its rivals’ marketing budgets, Dawn of Titans will have to hook a lot more players if it’s to succeed in this cutthroat market.


Uber admits its self-driving cars have trouble with bike lanes

After reports of Uber’s self-driving cars running red lights and failing to stop for pedestrians during trips in San Francisco, the company has also admitted to issues with its autonomous vehicles navigating around (and legally interacting with) bike lanes. A spokesperson told The Guardian that the company was working to fix a flaw that allowed cars to turn into cycling lanes. Instead of merging into lanes ahead of making a right-hand turn, SF Bicycle Coalition executive director Brian Weidenmeier said he saw Uber’s self-driving cars make unsafe turns through bike lanes, twice.

Uber says is explicitly down to programming issues, rather than human error. The developmental cars are still manned by a human driver at all times. The company added that one video, where a car ran a red light, happened while the vehicle was being operated by the driver. Uber is also running the cars in San Francisco without a permit, because its cars won’t operate without a human operator seated at the wheel.

Weidenmeter says he brought the issue to the engineering team after his preview ride, but it wasn’t fixed before the ride-sharing service expanded its self-driving car roll-out two days later. The cars’ human “safety drivers” were told to take manual control when turning right in a street with a bike lane, while engineers continued to work on the programming flaw.

Via: The Verge

Source: The Guardian

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