Cubed Rally World is Addictive Lane-Changing Fun! (review)
A game recently released for both iOS and Android this past November is Cubed Rally World by developer Jared Bailey (under the corporate name “Nocanwin”). It’s the latest in a series of games using the ‘cubed’ motif of simple 8-bit graphics drawn in a 3D layout. I’ve had the best time playing and sharing this game with friends and family, and I’d like to share it with you here.
Getting to the game is standard-issue; just download the game from the Play Store and open it up. Once in, you’re free to explore the game at your leisure. The title screen also serves as a ‘master menu’ screen, where you can choose your vehicle to race. As far as options, you only have a couple: turn the music on/off, buy additional coins (more on this soon), and link out to a premium ad-free version of the game (for $4.99).
Back to selecting your vehicle….while there is a plethora of vehicle types to choose from in a lineup-style on the title screen, you are only given a single simple car to start out with. So choose that one and off we go!
After selecting your vehicle, you transition to the race screen with your vehicle waiting at the starting line. The race course is made of 5 parallel tracks, and your controls are a simple left and right button on their respective sides. After a quick countdown (“3, 2, 1, Go!”), your vehicle takes off at a constant speed along the course. There are multiple courses, and which one you find yourself on (street, water, sky, dirt, farm) is mainly dictated by the type of vehicle you are in (car, boat, helicopter, dune buggy, tractor, etc).
Each course is littered with both stationary and moving obstacles. Your job is simply to avoid these obstacles by tapping left and right to switch amongst the 5 lanes. The variety in the obstacles are a highlight of the game as they are relevant to the vehicle and course you are on and in how they attempt to end your race. Included in the lanes are multiple types of ramps/jumps to give you some added excitement. You can even add to your point total by drifting around corners (you can’t really control this, but everybody I had try the game on my phone commented on how they liked this).
While maneuvering down the course, there are also some goodies you’ll want to try to pick up. The coins you’ll want to collect as they are how you acquire the other vehicles shown in the title screen (different vehicles have different prices). The blue icons add to your point total (my kiddos & I found some healthy competition in trying to best the current high score).
The clock icons give you a very temporary “bullet-time” slo-mo visual of particularly tricky course areas upcoming. And there are gas tanks you want to grab because during your course run there is a fuel bar across the top of the screen that is constantly dwindling down. Without grabbing gas icons, you will run out before finishing your race.
The game is a great combo of simple and challenging. First-timers that I’ve had try this title have zero problem getting an immediate handle on it. But because one collision with an obstacle equals starting over at the start, it forces players to really focus and jump right back in once they screw up. And try as I might, I could not find someone who could get mad at this game. Even when trouble was had in getting through a particular course, it only caused a giggle and a “let me try that again”.
There really is no end to the game. The more vehicles you buy, and the more points you score, the game just continually gets longer and even links multiple course types together into super-long courses. If you start by choosing a boat, it will only get you so far as at some point you’ll cross a faux-finish line and immediately switch to a randomly-selected different vehicle and respective course. Then another, and another. Good luck to your patience level.
Visuals & Sound
The hallmark of the game is the ‘cubed’ motif mentioned earlier. It’s a simple but well-done 8-bit world, drawn in a 3D arrangement that isn’t commonly seen in mobile gaming. The colors are primary and really pop off the screen without being garish at all. The vehicles and courses are varied enough that they make you want to pursue and try them out. My kiddos quickly became obsessed with trying to collect all the vehicles they could!
The sound is simple 8-bit nirvana with all the electronics beeps and boops you can handle. Again, if it happens to be a little more than you can handle, you can always toggle this off in the title screen.
Let me put it this way: Cubed Rally World has stayed on my phone longer than any other app or game I’ve reviewed in a while. And given my propensity to move through apps, that’s a pretty impressive statement. The game is very easy to access at the start, offers enough eye candy to be fun, and provides enough variables to keep you coming back.
Click here to download Cubed Rally World from the Play Store.
The Incipio Car Dock Moto Mod for the Moto Z, Moto Z Force, and Moto Z Play (Review)
One of my favorite features on smartphones in 2016 was the modular capabilities that Lenovo added onto the back of the Moto Z lineup. The Moto Z, Moto Z Force, and Moto Z Play all had pins on the back of the device that let you attach accessories like battery packs, camera modules, and projectors.
Incipio, who also makes the Offgrid Power Pack and three different back plates for the phones, recently came out with its Car Dock as well. The dock is intended to hook onto your vent to hold your phone upright at dashboard level. The clamp that attaches to the vent has a knob that allows you to adjust how tightly it grips it and the bolt on the back of the dock allows you to loosen it enough to turn the dock 360 degrees. I’m more of a landscape person so I appreciate the ability to have my phone sit like this while I’m using Android Auto.
My biggest concern before I received the Car Dock was how tightly it would hold onto the phone. Not tight enough and the phone would easily fall and too tight and you’d never be able to release it if you needed it quickly. Incipio really nailed this aspect because you can literally shake the dock and the phone won’t move, but the quick release levers on the back of the dock make it incredibly easy to release the phone and go. It’s a frustration free design. I don’t know it’ll hold up in cases of car crashes, but most bumps and shakes shouldn’t cause an issue.
One of the nicer aspects of the dock is that it leaves the bottom and sides of the device completely free. All of the buttons and ports are open, so you can easily charge your phone or use the 3.5mm headphone jack on the Moto Z Play while the phone sits in the dock.
When you place your Moto Z on the dock, Android Auto instantly starts. You can exit Android Auto, but the fact that it pops up immediately and is the main point of function is kind of annoying. I was interested in the dock because I often don’t have a good place for my phone in my car and I’d like a nice dock to keep it out of the way. I would like to use the full functionality of my phone at stop lights or if I pull over without having to detach my phone from the dock. It’s a minor annoyance but it certainly does turn me off from using it.
The build quality is pretty sturdy. Made out of hard plastic, the Incipio Car Dock is definitely made to last. Is it the most premium thing in the world? No, it isn’t but then again I don’t know if it would be affordable to anyone if Incipio made it out of higher quality materials. The dock already costs $64.99 on Incipio’s site and at Verizon, the only two places you can buy it right now.
I don’t personally think it’s worth that much, but if you are in the car a lot and are looking for an Android Auto solution, you may disagree with me. Incipio did well with the Car Dock and I’d count it as another successful Moto Mod, I just wish the price was a tad lower. I’d even venture to say that around $50 it would be pushing the upper limits of what I’d be willing to pay.
I’m hopeful for the future of Moto Mods, especially when bigger companies like Incipio are putting out multiple third-party accessories.
What size microSD card should you buy for your Amazon Fire Tablet?
It’s not always as easy as just buying whatever you see on Amazon.
Sure, it sounds silly. But with the super-cheap Amazon Fire Tablet also comes an important decision on how best to expand the storage capacity. You can slot in a microSD card and make a small, cheap tablet have a lot more space to keep your apps and media.
So, let’s try and help you make the buying process a little easier by covering some key points to consider.
READ: Best microSD Cards for Amazon Fire Tablet
Onboard storage is low on the cheaper models
If you go for the cheapest model, it’s sold as an 8GB tablet. Out of the box you get about 5.5GB give or take to actually use for yourself. And that’s not a lot at all. There are larger options available, such as 16GB at the 7-inch level, up to 32GB at 8 inches and up to 64GB at 10.1 inches.
If you get a 64GB 10.1-inch Fire Tablet you might not even need a microSD card, but that will depend on your use case and some of the things we’ll look at below.
Apps and games
The Fire Tablet runs regular Android applications, just without the Google Play Store or any of Google’s associated services. And many apps are getting bigger and bigger. Five years ago, having 5.5GB free on your phone or tablet would have felt like something you could never fill with apps alone, nowadays it won’t get you that far.
With Amazon Underground, too, you get a good selection of premium, paid apps completely free. Here are a few examples of how much storage you need for some popular titles on Amazon’s Appstore:
- Goat Simulator – 486.2MB
- Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse – 592MB
- Terraria – 104.7MB
- Minecraft Story Mode – 1.1GB
It doesn’t take long to realize that onboard storage won’t go very far. How many apps and games you anticipate using will be a big part of the purchase decision. You’re better to overestimate than to have to keep removing and re-downloading your content.
Amazon Prime Video is likely something you use if you’re buying a Fire Tablet. It’s one of Amazon’s core content offerings and you can download videos to watch when you’re away from a network connection.
The good news is that you can download this content to a microSD card. You should also adjust the quality settings for downloads to ensure you maximize your storage potential. If you’re on the base, 8GB tablet there’s no reason to download everything at the highest available resolution. It’s pretty wasted!
The Fire Tablet is a great travel companion, and if this is in your buying decision then go for as big a memory card as you can afford.
The good news is that despite its cheap starting price, Amazon didn’t cut back on the ability to use the very highest capacity memory cards. It may seem like a waste to consider putting a 200GB microSD in a tablet that cost less than the card, but mass storage is mass storage whatever you use it in.
The Fire Tablet is listed as being able to expand its storage by “up to 200GB,” but that’s likely just because that was the largest available at the time of print. The SDXC standard is being observed which means you, in theory, could try any card adhering to it.
A general rule of thumb is to over-estimate how much you think you’re going to use. Perhaps go one size up. The prices of microSD cards are a lot more affordable than they once were, and doubling your storage might only cost a few dollars more in some cases.
It’s less likely if you’re buying a microSD card right now that you’d be buying a really old, really slow model. You’ll see a number 10 on most lower priced cards, meaning Class 10 and these are perfectly fine for the Fire Tablet. In fact, Amazon stocks a few Class 10 cards it has “tested and certified” for Fire Tablet and Fire TV from SanDisk.
The cheapest of these, the SDHC models, have a write speed of up to 48MB/s. Amazon says this is perfectly good enough for the Fire Tablet, so anything above this will be even better.
So which should I get?
It sounds silly, but get the biggest you can afford that will also meet your needs. It’s much less painful than continually having to delete content and apps and re-download things. A good solid choice to get great “bang for your buck” would be a 64GB card, and you can often pick those up for as little as $20.
And one of the best places to find them is the same place you bought your Fire Tablet from (probably): Amazon. MicroSD cards are a commodity item so there’s not a lot to be gained from comparing prices across multiple retailers. Amazon does a good job price matching anyway and the selection is plentiful.
See at Amazon
Huawei’s next flagship is coming at MWC 2017
Huawei P10 likely to break cover in Barcelona.
Huawei has begun sending out “save the date” invites for its Mobile World Congress 2017 press conference, which kicks off on the afternoon of Sunday, February 26 in Barcelona, Spain. The invite promises “the global unveiling of a new flagship device” — a surprising development perhaps, just a couple of months after the Mate 9’s arrival.
It’s likely CEO Richard Yu will take the wraps off the Huawei P10, the successor to the P9, which will surely build on the hardware and software platform of Huawei’s latest phablet. The rumor mill has yet to conjure up anything particularly convincing on what the P10 will look like. Reports of dubious origins suggest a curved display may be on the cards, along with a spec sheet similar to that of the Mate 9 Pro, along with a glass-backed chassis. We’ll have to wait another month or so to find out for sure.
Huawei’s latest will be joined in Barcelona by the LG G6, with the two firms competing for the limelight normally occupied by Samsung. For its part, the Korean firm isn’t expected to debut its next-gen Galaxy S8 until a couple of months after the trade show.
The Android launcher experience on tablets is still terrible
It’s not quite a desktop, but it’s not quite a normal home screen.
The Android tablet experience is often awkward and awful, and that goes double for the launchers, which are inconsistent, inconvenient, and often times ugly. From third-party launchers to manufacturer versions of tablet layouts, there’s a lot to be desired, and while part of that blame falls on developers, it also falls to Google, which has still not quite figured out how tablets should behave.
And it falls on us. Because we just don’t know what we want.
Look at this screen. What do you see? I see a lot of wasted space. I see ridiculously oversized grids and laughably scaled widgets. Icons are huge, widget text is small, and there is no real happy medium. Long story short, tablet launchers are phone launchers blown up. That’s not always a bad thing, as good launchers make tablets tolerable. The problem is that even good launchers don’t make the tablet UI enjoyable.
Even good launchers don’t make the tablet UI enjoyable.
Tablets have always been an in-between category. Not quite a laptop, not quite a phone. Phones being covered with grids of icons are fine, as everything’s within easy reach of a thumb. Desktop layouts, with a larger grid and a larger flexibility, have a mouse to minimize the impact of reaching across the screen. Tablets are too big for the classic phone grid, and reaching past the bottom third of the screen takes a second hand — though if you can use a tablet one-handed at all, good on you, giant v
It doesn’t help that just as phone launchers seem determined to have five icons on the dock, launchers on tablets seem to think the magic number is seven, which leaves gaps in smaller tablets and black holes in larger ones. Icons are often comically oversized to compensate for this, which only reinforces the bloated phone look.
Then we have widgets. Widgets, which are already often overlooked on phones, are completely forgotten for tablets. Most widgets are designed to be 4×1 or 4×2. They’re not designed for a 7×7 grid, or a 12×12, as I often use on large slates. Try stretching a 4×1 widget across a 10-inch tablet screen, even a good widget like 1Weather. They all look horrible, but widgets only look as good as developers design them to be, and tablet-optimized widgets are too low on the totem pole for most developers.
So where do we go from here?
So, where do we go from here? Well, it’s hard to get launcher developers and widget developers to focus on improving the tablet experience when we keep calling tablets dead. If we’re not vocal, nothing will change, either. Ask developers of apps you like if they’ve considered how their widgets look on larger screens. Get into launcher betas like Nova Launcher’s and give feedback on how to make the tablet launcher experience feel less hobbled. The first part of asking for what we want is to figure it out, though, and that’s easier said than done.
How to use Bluetooth headphones with Google Daydream
Audio is an integral part of enjoying Google Daydream, make sure you get the best experience possible.
Being able to clearly hear what is going on around you when you are enjoying yourself in VR is key to really falling into the experience. So it’s pretty common to want to invest in an awesome pair of bluetooth headphones so that you don’t have to worry about wires getting in your way while you are playing. Unfortunately, bluetooth headphones don’t tend to work particularly well in VR. It isn’t impossible, and we’ve got the details for you on how to get the best audio experience.
Read more at VRHeads.com
Brag about your Chromecast Ultra with this 4K YouTube playlist
You don’t have to look any further than YouTube for some great 4K.
The Chromecast Ultra can handle 4K streaming like a champ, and if you have a 4K TV you’ll be looking to get as much 4K content as possible. The problem is most of what you’ll find today is still 1080p. The @Chromecast account has your back, though, pointing out that there’s a great 4K-only YouTube playlist available that’ll show off your great Chromecast Ultra and 4K TV.
There are over 75 videos in the playlist, most of which are flyovers or nature shots of beautiful places with brilliant cinematography. Sure it isn’t all the most compelling content you’ll want to watch over and over again, but if you’re looking for something that’ll show off what your Chromecast Ultra can do, it’s great to have a playlist like this.
As you get ready to start streaming everything in 4K, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to 4K streaming with Chromecast — it has all of the information you need to be up and running at the highest resolution.
- Chromecast and Chromecast Audio review
- Chromecast Ultra vs Roku
- Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra: Which should you buy?
- Join the discussion in our forums
Spectacles review: 5 things to know about Snapchat’s glasses
MrMobile loves his tech wearable and his social media sociable, and the Snapchat Spectacles are the perfect confluence of those ideals. He ambled around all of CES with the spectacles on his face, getting stopped with questions about them. Since he’s been asked about them many times already, he’s put together this great list of information you should know about Spectacles.
Michael Fisher lays down some great tips, tricks, info and things you should know about the Snapchat Spectacles. If you’re the kind of person who just can’t help documenting everything and anything, you’re probably already intrigued. Watch this video, and follow mrmobilesnaps on Snapchat!
Stay social, my friends
- Le web
VW pleads guilty in US emissions scandal, will pay $4.3 billion
Volkswagen has agreed to pay $4.3 billion to settle criminal and civil charges brought by the United States Justice Department over the company’s use of emissions-cheating technology in millions of its diesel vehicles sold around the world, the AP reports. As part of the settlement, the company plead guilty to three criminal charges and it will be required to work with an independent monitor for three years. Overall, this is the largest penalty handed down to an automaker in US history.
Volkswagen is already on the hook for $14.7 billion after it settled a case against California regulators and the owners of 475,000 vehicles compromised by the company’s “defeat device.” The company plans to buy back these cars and otherwise compensate owners, and it promises to devote billions to enhancing its zero-emission infrastructure.
Volkswagen admitted in late 2015 that it installed secret software designed to cheat emissions tests on as many as 11 million of its diesel vehicles. The defeat device made some of Volkswagen’s 2.0- and 3.0-liter vehicles emit fewer harmful gases during testing, but in reality, the cars produced up to 35 times the legal level of nitrogen oxide, which is known to cause respiratory problems.
This week, the FBI reportedly charged Volkswagen’s former regulatory compliance officer Oliver Schmidt with conspiracy to defraud the US. Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned shortly after news of the defeat device broke in 2015, and the company has calculated the cost of its diesel emissions scandal to be $18.2 billion.
Today’s settlement requires Volkswagen to cooperate in an ongoing investigation into the defeat device and any potential cover-up. The AP says six Volkswagen supervisors have been indicted over accusations that they lied to regulators or destroyed evidence related to the emissions scandal.
Samsung Galaxy X foldable smartphone may morph into a tablet, will launch in Q3 2017
We’ve been hearing rumours for nearly two years now that Samsung will one day introduce a smartphone with a foldable screen. It’s currently being called the Galaxy X and became topic of conversation in March 2015, when some industry analysts thought the Galaxy S7 would be the first to have a foldable screen.
- Samsung is working on bendable phones, one will fold like a compact
Fresh rumours have now surfaced to suggest the Galaxy X is real and will be released in either Q3 or Q4 2017, along with the suggestion that the phone will fold out and transform into a 7-inch tablet.
The rumours come from a report from The Korea Herald, but before you think the idea of a transforming smartphone is crazy, it’s not the first time we’ve heard the rumour. Bloomberg claimed in June 2016 that the Galaxy X would be a 5-inch smartphone that could morph into an 8-inch tablet, and even said it would arrive in 2017.
The Korea Herald cites “sources familiar with the matter” as saying Samsung has ordered 100,000 units of the foldable smartphone in the third quarter of this year. The report says the Galaxy X will have display panels that fold outwards to become a tablet, after experimenting with smartphones that fold into the screen. Samsung has apparently concluded that users “may find it inconvenient to unfold the phones every time they want to use them”.
If Samsung does indeed produce a phone with a foldable screen, it would likely use an OLED display. The company has previously shown off a prototype screen that is able to roll-out like a scroll, so producing a flexible screen that could fold instead shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
- Samsung Galaxy X roll-out OLED screen shown off, just 0.3mm thin
While the report does seem pretty confident about the claims of a Q3 launch, it does say Samsung does still need to make a final decision about whether to release it this year because of “marketability and profitability issues”. The Korea Herald’s sources added: “The final decision will be made after the personnel reshuffle of the company’s information technology and mobile communications unit is carried out”.