Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Buyers Guide 2014: Phones


Welcome back to the official CCN summer buyers guide! I'm presenting my picks for the top smartphones in two price categories on the three major platforms: Apple's iOS 7, Google's Android 4.4 and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, plus a few bonus picks.

Flagship, Android
LG G3($199/$579, Quad HD 5.5" display, 13MP laser-focused camera, Qualcomm 801)
Last year, my favorite Android smartphones were the Motorola Moto X, HTC One M7, and Google LG Nexus 5. This year, we so far haven't seen an update to the Moto or the Nexus(though those might be worth waiting for if) and the One M8 kept it's sub par camera, over-large bezels and expensive unlocked price tag. So far, then, LG's flagship G3 and Sony's Xperia Z2 are my top picks, with LG winning out slightly due to it's simply outstanding specs. Besides the standard top of the line quad core processor, Android 4.4 with various LG customizations, and plenty of RAM and storage, LG's fit in a lot else. Starting with the display: It's a crazy 2560x1440 5.5" IPS panel, yet has some seriously small bezels leaving the device not much bigger than other 5" phones. There's also a 13MP camera with optical image stabilization and laser focusing, and wireless charging on board. 
If the G3's a little out of your budget, you like closer to stock Android or want something a bit smaller, I would recommend waiting to see whether the rumored Moto X + 1 or Nexus 6 turn out better.

Budget, Android
Motorola Moto G($179+ unsubsidized, 720p 4.5" display, Qualcomm 400)
The Moto G is the best sub-$200 Android smartphone you can buy, bar none. Running close to stock Android 4.4 KitKat with a few tasteful customizations and a guaranteed update to Android L, it's far superior on the software front to most budget phones. There's also a quad core processor on board powering a 4.5" 720p display(still a rarety at this price point, and fun interchangeable colored back plates. If you can swing it, the $220 version with LTE and a microSD card slot is the version to buy. If you want something even cheaper, the $129 Moto E is also a surprisingly solid choice, just with a lower resolution screen, no front facing camera and a slower processor. 

Flagship, iOS
Apple iPhone 5S($199/$649, 4" Retina display, 8MP camera, Apple A7)
It's getting a little bit old at this point, but the iPhone 5S still has one of if not the best smartphone cameras on the market, an actually functional fingerprint reader, & a sleek design. If you can't wait for the next model and can afford one, the 5S is definitely the iPhone to buy.

Budget, iOS
Apple iPhone 5C($99/$549, 4" Retina display, 8MP camera, Apple A6)
The iPhone 4S is the truly affordable option available at the moment, but it's hard to recommend with its minuscule display and old processor. The 5C, meanwhile, has a colorful, cheerful design, a larger screen and the A6 processor. 

Flagship Windows Phone
Nokia Lumia Icon($99/$599, 5" 1080p display, 20MP camera, Qualcomm 800)

It's currently only available from Verizon, with the international version coming soon in the form of the Lumia 930, but the Icon is just about the best Windows Phone you can buy right now. If you're not on Verizon though, you might take a look at the Lumia 1520 or 928 as well. 

Budget, Windows Phone
Nokia Lumia 635($129, 4.5" 854x480 display, 5MP camera, Qualcomm 400)



At an amazingly low price of $129 unsubsidized and unlocked, the Lumia 635 has very similar specs to the Motorola Moto E, but with Windows Phone instead of Android. You end up with an inferior display but a superior processor, however.

Waterproof phone
Sony Xperia Z2($587 on Amazon, 5.2" 1080p display, 20.7MP camera, Qualcomm 800)


The Xperia Z2 is just flat out beautiful. Not only that, it also comes in purple, is super thin, and it both water and dust proof. Behind that striking frame, there's a top notch display, very good(but slightly old) Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, and a camera with Sony's Exmor sensor and the capability to record 4K video. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Buyers Guide 2014: Tablets


It's one of the questions you get asked the most if you're known as the "techie" of your group of friends: What ____ should I buy? Well, to make that a little clearer for everyone, I'm breaking down the best devices in a variety of categories that are available right now. This is the tablet edition, so I'm presenting my picks for the top devices in each size category on the three major platforms: Apple's iOS 7, Google's Android 4.4 and Microsoft's Windows 8.

Android, Full Size

Sony Xperia Z2($499+, Android 4.4 KitKat, Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 10" display)
At an insane quarter of an inch thick(thinner than the iPad Air, you would expect Sony's top of the line tablet to sacrifice durability or power. But it does neither: it may be one of the most gorgeous tablets around(pictures really don't do it justice,) but it's also waterproof and dust proof, and has a 2.3GHz quad core CPU and 3GB's of RAM. Oh and there's a beautiful full HD screen with the same display engine as Sony's legendary TV's and an 8.1MP camera with an Exmor RS sensor, and optional 4G LTE. Plus you can use it with a Playstation 3 controller for gaming.
A good budget alternative would be the ASUS Transformer Pad TF103cl, which still costs $299 but for that price comes with a keyboard dock, transforming(get it?) the 103 into an Android-powered mini laptop.

Android, Mini
Google ASUS Nexus 7($229+, Android 4.4 KitKat, Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 7" display)
Google's collaboration with manufacturer ASUS for the first Nexus 7 changed the tablet game - for $200, you could get a really good, compact, easy to hold tablet with stock Android and guaranteed updates. In many ways, it was the first Android tablet that was truly successful, and it's easy to see why. The 2013 model improved the screen to a full high definition display and a faster Qualcomm processor, and it still runs the latest version of Android, completely unsullied by 3rd party customizations. It's also quite cheap, and there's a lot of sales going on right now.

Apple, Full Size
iPad Air($499+, iOS 7, A7 processor, 10 inch display)
Don't be confused by the new name: The iPad Air is a proper successor to the previous top of the line iPad's, just thinner and lighter with somewhat improved specs. It's the second thinnest 10" tablet from a major brand, and incredibly light, with Apple's latest processor and the Retina 2048x1536 IPS display. If you want something cheaper, I'd recommend picking up a 3rd or 4th generation iPad from a 3rd party store, not the iPad 2 that Apple sells for $399 and up. At that price, you can get an iPad 3 or 4, an iPad Mini Retina, a used iPad Air, or a whole variety of other options with better screens, faster processors, nicer designs and more years of support still to come.

iOS, Mini:
iPad Mini Retina($399+, iOS 7, A7 processor, 8 inch display)

With a gorgeous 2048x1536 7.9" display, a faster processor, and all around better specs than last year's iPad Mini, the iPad Mini Retina is by far the best small Apple tablet you can buy. And with the huge selection of useful, fun or otherwise interesting tablet apps available for iOS, you could even make an argument that it's the best small tablet period. If you're looking to save some money, the original iPad Mini costs $299 but is frequently available on sale - in fact, I wouldn't recommend one unless it was $250 or less for the base model and a similar discount for the higher end versions. Of course, you should also keep in mind that Apple often refreshes devices in September or October, so a little patience might pay off.

Windows, Laptop Replacement
Microsoft Surface Pro 3($799, Windows 8.1, Intel Core i3/i5/i7, 12" display)
Microsoft's not playing around anymore. The new Surface Pro 3 is aimed straight at replacing not one but two devices from Apple, the Macbook Air and iPad Air, and it makes a compelling case. Starting on the outside, the Surface Pro has a gorgeous & durable magnesium allow frame with a unique kickstand that you can finally use at any angle, and a 12" 1440p display. Then there are the optional Type and Touch covers, which add quite good keyboards and trackpads along with a dash of color to the device, as well as an included stylus that works with the active digitizer for precise drawing. Inside, there's standard ultrabook specs, with anywhere from an Intel Core i3, 4GB's of RAM and a 64GB SSD up to a Core i7, 8GB's of RAM and 512GB's of storage. I'm still not quite convinced on the form factor, but if you are and currently have a Macbook Air, Microsoft will give you up to $650 off a Surface Pro 3 if you trade in the Air.
If you want a more standard, affordable tablet, check out the ASUS Transformer T100. It's got simply amazing battery life due to a second battery in the detachable keyboard dock, decent performance, and a low price.

Windows, Mini
Lenovo ThinkPad 8($429, Windows 8.1, Intel Bay Trail Atom, 8" display)

I really don't recommend any 8" Windows tablets myself, as the OS is just not particularly suited for the form factor. But there's something to be said for being able to carry a full computer in a suit coat pocket, and if you have to choose one, the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 seems like the best of the bunch at the moment. That's mostly due to it's high definition 1920x1080p display and brand new Intel quad core Atom processor.

PS if you wish to support this site or it's creator, and want to buy one of these tablets, please do so by clicking the links provided for each device mentioned.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Apple OS X Yosemite public beta now available for download

Apple showed off the next version of their desktop OS back in early June, and ever since developers have had access to a beta version to test apps on. Now, Apple has taken the somewhat unusual(for them) step of opening up a public beta for anyone to try out. Simply go and sign up, make sure you have a Mac running Mavericks with at least 2GB's of RAM and 8GB's of free storage space and you can download it through the Mac App Store. As is always the case when upgrading your computer, make absolutely, 100% sure you have a backup before doing so. Since this is beta software you probably don't want to install it on your primary computer, though I will be ignoring my own advice and installing Yosemite on my Macbook Air soon, so stay tuned for impressions.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Imitation Game: Code breaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing's story, played by Benedict Cumberbatch


Alan Turing's story is one of the most interesting in history. His work for the British military breaking German codes almost definitely helped shorten the war, thus saving lives, and he also is generally considered the father of computer science due to his Turing machine, one of the first true computers. He was also a pioneer in artificial intelligence, creating the Turing test, which is still an important benchmark today, and one of the first chess programs. He also was prosecuted by the British government for homosexuality and committed suicide(some say was murdered,) but was pardoned by the Queen in December of last year.
The Weinstein Company is making a movie of his life and has cast Benedict Cumberbatch, who rose to fame in the BBC's Sherlock, before playing everyone from the villain Khan in J.J. Abram's second Star Trek to Julian Assange in the Wikileaks biopic The Fifth Estate. 
The movie will launch November 21st and also stars Keira Knightly, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, and more.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Amazon finally launches an unlimited Kindle library, for $9.99 a month

People have been asking for a Netflix/Spotify-for-books style service from Amazon for many, many years, and now it's finally here. The appropriately named Kindle Unlimited will cost you $9.99 a month and allow you to read as many books as you like from a library of around 600,000 ebooks and "thousands" of audio books. Popular titles such as 12 Years a Slave, The Hunger Games trilogy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Life of Pi are available, though content will be the hard part for this service; There's also literally millions of books that aren't available.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tesla's upcoming 4th car rechristened the Model III, will launch as a 2017 model

Tesla Motors' plan has always been to start at the top and work down and that's just what they've done. Their first car was the $100,000 high performance Roadster, then the $70,000 luxury sedan, the Model S, followed by the Model X SUV at roughly the same price, and then a compact sedan aimed at the BMW 3 Series. This forthcoming car, which should make a Tesla accessible to a huge amount of new potential buyers, and was originally meant to be called the Model E. Unfortunately Ford Motor Company sued them when they attempted to trademark that name, so Tesla CEO Elon Musk has unveiled the new name for their 4th vehicle: The Model 3, stylized as the Model III, will compete directly with the similarly named & aforementioned BMW, Mercedes-Benz's C Class, the Audi A4, and Lexus' IS, among others in the compact luxury sedan market. It will have a range somewhere above 200 miles and below the Model S's 305 mile range. Finally, it'll be a 2017 model, meaning it will hopefully launch in mid 2016 if Tesla goes by standard auto launch timeframes.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Wireless: The state of waterproof phones, 2014 edition

For the last 2 years I've rounded up all of the phones that are waterproof or water resistant, providing a list of all your options if you want to be able to check Twitter from your bath tub. The first year I did this column, your options were rather miserable: A few giant, ugly ruggedized feature phones and just two smartphones. Last year the industry had stepped up some, but you were still somewhat limited. That all changes this year though, as almost every major manufacturer offers waterproof mobiles.

Winners: The following manufacturer's most important devices or entire lineups capable of withstanding at least some level of water exposure




Samsung
Galaxy S 5 The world's largest manufacturer finally jumped into the waterproof game last year with the Galaxy S 4 Active, but it was quite large and somewhat expensive. This year, their flagship Galaxy S 5 is water resistant, and available on all carriers. It has a 5.1" 1080p display, heart rate monitor, Qualcomm quad core processor, and the latest version of Android with TouchWiz, Samsung's custom skin.
Galaxy S 5 Active: If you want something even more rugged, the Galaxy S 5 Active is available on AT&T with all the same specs as the normal GS5 but with dust resistance, drop protection, waterproofing instead of just water resistance, and a nifty camo color scheme.


Motorola
Moto X, G, and E Motorola was one of the first manufacturers to jump on board with water resistance, and now their entire lineup offers it, from the $129 off contract Moto E to the customizable, made in the US Moto X. They don't offer anything that's fully water proof like the Galaxy S 5 Active, however.



Sony
Xperia Z2, Z1 Compact Like Motorola, almost every phone Sony makes is waterproof, but the Xperia Z2 is by far the nicest. It's absolutely gorgeous, has a really great camera, an excellent 1080p 5" display, and a mild, tasteful skin on top of Android 4.4 KitKat. Oh and it comes in purple. The Z1 Compact, meanwhile, is the best small Android phone around with a 4.3" screen but near-flagship level specs.

Losers: 
Apple: The iPhone remains completely non-ruggedized, and is in fact one of the more fragile devices on the market. You can't even take the battery out if it does get exposed to liquid(which can really help; Neither Motorola nor Sony offers this either but their phones are waterproof so it's less needed.)

HTC: The same applies here - The HTC One M8 may look durable with it's solid aluminum chassis, but there's no water or dust protection and no way to easily remove the battery.

LG: LG, and thus the Google Nexus 5 not to mention the manufacturer's own devices running skinned Android, are all non-waterproof.  

Nokia/Microsoft: If you want a rugged phone, then you'll have to stick with  Android - there aren't any Windows Phone options for you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Acer update their no-frills C720 with much better performance, more storage

The Acer C720 may be... plain, if not quite ugly, but it has historically been the cheapest Chromebook that offers good performance, a good keyboard and trackpad, and a passible screen. Today, Acer's unveiled the mid-2014 model year C720, which enhances the laptop's strengths without changing it's weaknesses. It's still the least attractive in the Chromebook stable(in my opinion) compared to the beautiful HP models, super thin Samsung's and business-like Dell and Lenovo's. It also has a low resolution 1366x768 11" screen, unlike Samsung's Chromebook 13 which has a beautiful full HD display. But it now has the most powerful specs of any Chromebook save for the Google Chromebook Pixel, with an Intel Haswell Core i3 that should positively fly with the low resource requirements of ChromeOS. There's also 32GB's of SSD flash storage and either 2 or 4GB's of RAM depending on whether you pay $349 or $379. It's also equipped with HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0, and a built in card reader.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Google Voice Search will now let you correct it's mistakes

One of the reason's that Google is(debatably) beating everyone in voice search/dictation is that they can rapidly improve their speech to text algorithm on their servers, thus not having to deal with people not upgrading to the latest version. The latest update should help even more: You can now correct Google Search when it gets something wrong. Some of the given example's include saying "no, I meant Henry the fifth" when it thinks you said Henry the Seventh, or "no, I meant Baroque" instead of broke. This will help Google learn how your specific vocal intonations and style of speaking sound, thus making their service more accurate. It's now available through either Android or iOS's Google Search apps. I imagine the web and ChromeOS voice search portals will follow suit soon.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cars are mostly cheaper than they were 20 years ago

I've been noticing a lot of people complaining about cars getting more expensive lately, and this has struck me as wrong. I did a bit of research, using the Westegg inflation calculator and Cars.com to find prices of popular cars in various classes.
Toyota's ever-popular Camry midsize sedan was $16428 for the base model, which is $25434 with inflation factored in. The Camry now has a base price of $22425.
In sports cars, the base '94 Chevrolet Corvette cost $36285, $56176 after inflation. The 2014 Corvette Stingray starts at $53000.
For minivans, the Toyota Previa, the closest analogue to today's Toyota Sienna, was $22818/$35327 pre/post inflation, while the Sienna begins at $26920.
Interestingly, pickup trucks have gotten substantially more expensive across the board - for example, the Ford F150 was just $12148($18807) while a new F150 will cost you at least $25025.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Google launches a compilation of Apps for Android Wear

Android Wear is about to be launched upon the world, finally providing a unified, straight-from-Google platform for wearables, especially smartwatches. Of course, being an official new version of Android, there's already quite a few developers on board to make apps for the platform, and now Google's thrown a bone to them: They've launched a portal on the Google Play app market that highlights available apps for Android Wear. Right now there are 24 apps, and only 3 of them are from Google themselves, so it's off to a relatively solid start. They've even got some big names, such as Evernote, Pinterest, both Delta and American Airlines, BandsInTown, Level Banking, The Guardian and IFTTT among others.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Android Auto puts your phone at the heart of a staggering number of cars


There's one thing that everyone can agree on about Google: They're huge. Monetarily, physically, in terms of employees, projects, and industry clout. That's why when they decided to bring Android to the car in an official capacity, it's no surprise that they were able to get nearly every major auto manufacturer on board to some extent. That includes everyone from normal brands like Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, the Chrysler global group, Kia, Volkswagon and Subaru, to luxury brands such as Audi, Bentley, Volvo, Acura, Hyundai and Infinity, along with a few others. Notably absent are Toyota/Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. 
So what is Android Auto anyway? It's a stripped down, simplified version of Android(so that you can't play Flappy Bird while driving) that will pop up on your car's display when you plug in a compatible Android phone or tablet to a car with Android Auto. Music, contacts, navigation, Google Now predictive suggestions, and Google's excellent voice control will be available in a interface that in comparison to standard in car fare is lightyears ahead in performance and design. There'll also be 3rd party apps such as MLB.tv, Pandora and Spotify available. 

Android Wear-powered LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, and Motorola Moto 360 detailed


Android Wear aims to finally bring a unified OS to the smartwatch industry, so that developers will have one platform to target to be able to run on multiple devices, and users will have some guarantee of quality software, at least. It provides notifications, voice search, music and other remote controls for your phone apps, fitness tracking, and of course a variety of watch faces. So far, Google's lined up 3 major hardware partners, LG, Samsung and Motorola.
The LG G Watch and Moto 360 were already announced before Google I/O, but Samsung's Gear Live was all new. It's essentially the Gear 2 with Android Wear instead of Tizen and an arguably nicer design. It looks a little nicer than the G Watch, though nowhere near as good as the Moto 360 to me, costs $199, and is up for pre order right now on Google Play. The centerpiece is a 1.63" 320x320 Super AMOLED display, and there's a lone button below that panel and water/dust resistance.

LG's G Watch is a simple black cube with a wrist band, and while it's not as stylish as a 360, it seems like a perfectly solid entry. There's a 1.65" 280x280 resolution display, 1.2GHz processor, 400mAh battery, 4GB's of storage and 512MB's of RAM. It's also available on Google Play for pre order now, at $229 with your choice of black or black-on-gold color schemes.
The Motorola Moto 360 is by far the most intriguing smartwatch yet, mainly because of one thing: It's round. They've managed to make a circular screen, admittedly with a black inset at the bottom that contains the display drivers, and it just looks fabulous. Unfortunately, this one is not available yet, or even up for pre order like the other two, with this summer being the closest time frame we have.

Google Chromecast will now mirror your display

Google's little HDMI dongle that could, the Chromecast, is getting a few major updates. First off, it'll soon be able to mirror your Android phone or tablet's entire display, not just the media from specific apps, onto your TV. This is very similar to Miracast or Apple's Airplay Mirroring, but works with the much cheaper, simpler Chromecast.
Additionally, the Chromecast will be getting a screenshot that will play interesting photos and works of art, called backdrop.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Android TV: finally, Google TV done right


Google has had a number of failures with entering the TV and set top box market. Google TV was ambitious, innovative, confusing, buggy and gradually just abandoned. Meanwhile the strange Nexus Q ended up being given away to everyone who pre ordered it and never formally released. All of the various Google TV devices, as well as the Q and many failed smart TV/set top box devices have one unifying theme: They try to do to much, and can't pull it all off. That's why it was little surprise when Google's 3rd effort, the $35 Chromecas, that simply "casts" whatever media you're playing on your phone, tablet or the Chrome browser on a computer to your TV, was an instant success.
Google's now seeking to build on that with Android TV, which takes many of the good ideas from their previous efforts and puts them all into one sleek, simple interface that will be available as an open source OS for device manufacturers such as Sony, Sharp, ASUS and Razer. This being Android, it can of course play Google Play Movies, TV, & Music, Youtube, Netflix, and other such content sources, but that would just make it a Mountain View-designed Roku. Instead, Google baked in several other key features.


Google Cast support is integrated, so you won't have to buy a Chromecast if you have an Android TV device to cast media from supported apps, or whole desktop Chrome tabs or even the entire screen of your Android device to your TV.
If you're a developer, you can make apps for Android TV, just like you could for Google TV. But unlike on that platform, most users will have an Xbox-like game controller, and indeed Razer, a gaming hardware company, is one of the launch partners for Google TV and seems very, very excited about the potential.
And finally, Google is really good at voice recognition and typing in comparison to the other companies, so they're making that the primary search input mechanism, along with the remote and casting functionality.

Android L: Unifying your experience across every screen, with a whole new design


Android's next major release, version 5.0, is still only known as Android L, and we won't see it till the fall. But we now know quite a bit about how it'll look, function and what kind of devices it'll run on. At their annual I/O developer conference, Google showed off an extensive look at Android L, as well as a developer preview for some Nexus devices. Just like Android 4.0 way back in 2012, 5.0 introduces a new design language to replace Holo. Called Material Design, it brings a fresh, colorful, 3D look with an emphasis on transparencies and depth in the z-axis to Android, which in the 4.x days has been relatively flat. There's lots of new widgets, UI layouts, and animations for transitions, but it's still recognizable as Android. Beyond the design, they've shown off new notifications that are built right into your lockscreen and offer more actions, and a new runtime that promises better performance and battery life. There's ton of enhancements for developers, security improvements, a new version of Chrome, and much more, and we haven't seen anywhere close to everything.
More importantly though, is how well Android will now integrate with everything else in your life; Google Fit is an initiative similar to Apple HealthKit to tie together all your fitness data from various 3rd party services, there's increased interoperability with ChromeOS, and of course Android Auto, Wear and TV will all work perfectly with your phone or tablet running Android L.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Arizona hopefully releasing unsweetened iced tea very soon


Here's a bit of a scoop. I retweeted The Verge editor T.C. Sottek's tweet last night asking popular bottled/canned iced tea company Arizona to make an unsweetened variety of their $0.99 23 oz cans. Nothing unusual there, but the official Arizona Twitter account replied to me today, saying to stay tuned; The company already sells gallon-sized unsweetened ice tea so it wouldn't be hard to roll out more unsweetened products.

Source: Arizona Iced Tea

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone: $199 for a 3D Android phone that can buy anything you see with one click



Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets provide an interesting proposition, offering killer hardware specs and some unique software features for amazing prices, at the expense of a rather boring design and a heavy skin that removes all Google apps and features from their Android underpinnings. Today, Amazon has taken that formula to the even more portable world of smartphones, without the advantage of the super low price but with even more unique features. The new Fire Phone(notice the lack of Kindle branding) will launch July 25th for $199 exclusively on AT&T and is aimed directly at the major competition such as Apple's iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S5.
The most unique feature is the 3D display and tilting navigation - it uses four unique front facing cameras to detect your face and respond when you tilt it, not just to make the 3D part work but also for navigation. You can tilt the phone to pan through a menu or open the app drawer, or pan around the Empire State Building in maps.
Next up on the feature list is Firefly, which is essentially Google Goggles on steroids. Go into a store, point your phone at a real object, tap a button and it'll buy it for you... from Amazon, of course. It's a feature that is at once amazing, useful, scary and may help along the demise of brick and mortar retailers.
This being an Amazon phone, it's based on normal Android, but you'd never be able to tell; Instead, you get the Kindle Fire 3.5 OS, modified somewhat for the phone, with all the typical Prime, Kindle, Whispersync, X-ray, and Mayday features, along with their own Android app store, which just crossed 200,000 available apps. That's an impressive figure, but a long shot from Google Play's 1.2 million. There's also no GMail, Chrome, Google Maps, Keep, Play Music, or Google Calendar official apps pre installed, though you can find those with a minimum of difficulty.
As for hardware, the Fire Phone runs on a quad core 2.2GHz Qualcomm SoC with Adreno 330 graphics, 2GB's of RAM, a 13MP camera with optical image stabilization and a 4.7" 720p display.
The details on the pricing are as follows: A 32GB model will cost you $199 on contract or $649 off, while the 64GB model will cost $299.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Samsung introduces new flagship Galaxy Tab S tablet line

Samsung now has four primary families of tablets: Galaxy Tab 4, Galaxy Tab Pro, Galaxy Note Pro, and now Galaxy Tab S. In Samsung's phone lineup, where the S is the flagship, the new Tab S takes the top slot, at least in some ways. Available in 8.4 or 10.6 inch screen sizes, there's two primary differentiators: The screen and the size. Both screens are Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1600, and they're truly beautiful. Meanwhile, the tablets are an insane 6.6 millimeters(.25 inches) and a weight of just 294 grams for the 8" model and 467 grams at 10". Otherwise, they look like giant Galaxy S 5's, with the same dimpled back and plastic frames. There's a built in fingerprint reader(beating Apple to the punch as far as bringing that particular feature to tablets) and Titanium Bronze or Dazzling White color options. For software, they're running Android KitKat 4.4 with multiwindow support, enhanced multiuser mode, Samsung's full TouchWiz UI, 3 months membership to Marvel's unlimited comics membership, 50GB's of Dropbox storage, and a free copy of Gravity, among other perks. As for specs, there's wifi only or LTE models, 3GB's of RAM, Exynos 5 Octa or Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, and an 8MP camera. There's a few cases available, including a nifty bluetooth keyboard case. And they're targeting the iPad Mini and Air head on, with the 8" sitting at $399 for the entry level model and the 10" version starting at $499.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Infamous First Light shifts the narrative perspective to character Abigail "Fetch" Walker

Unlike many of the games demonstrated at E3 this year, Infamous has already gotten an installment on the Playstation 4. That game was Infamous Second Sun, and it had a conduit(the game's term for characters who can use special powers) named Abigail "Fetch" Walker. The new Infamous First Light is a download only game that focuses on her backstory, going through the various worlds of Curdun City, a mountain prison, and Seattle, and revolves around her search for her missing brother.

LittleBigPlanet 3 introduces 3 new characters to the first PS4 game of the series


Sony's creativity-encouraging, world-building LittleBigPlanet franchise is getting it's first 1080p entry. LBP 3 is the first entry into the series that will launch on the Playstation 4, and it brings 3 new playable characters: Swoop, Oddsock and Toggle, who are all fully customizable just like original protagonist Sackboy.

No Man's Sky: A beautiful indie space exploration game with dinosaurs

At the Sony E3 press conference, indie game development team Hello Games unveiled their latest, a game called No Man's Sky. It has a beautiful, extremely colorful art style with richly populated virtual planets that you explore and fly between. There's space combat, pirates and dinosaurs... what more could you ask for?
Well, if you responded "a Windows, Mac, SteamOS, Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation 3, Ouya, iOS or Android version," you're out of luck. It's a Playstation 4 exclusive. Still, just watch this trailer:

Youtube comes to Playstation 4 with easy upload functionality

The Playstation 4 has an entire physical button on it's primary controller for sharing to social media/video sites, but one of the most popular wasn't supported at launch: Youtube. At their E3 keynote, Sony just remedied that exception. Youtube will pop up as an option along Twitch, Facebook, Twitter and other such sites, and there will also be a Youtube app for watching videos.

Sony's $99 Playstation TV set top box that can stream full console games is coming to the US

Sony's game lineup at this year's E3 may not look quite as impressive as Microsoft's in my opinion, but they're killing it in something Microsoft didn't even talk about: The things you use to play those games. The incredibly ambitious Playstation Now service, which is something like Netflix streaming for games, or the doomed Onlive service, will be supported on the Playstation TV. That's the $99 set top box that Sony released in their home market of Japan last year. It runs essentially the same software and specs as the Playstation Vita handheld, but is made to be hooked up to a TV and used with a Dualshock controller. It'll also stream games from your PS4 over your local wifi network, providing a cheap option for those with large families and houses who have two TV's to allow multiple games or media services to be used at once. It'll also work with Playstation Vita games.
It'll cost $99 for the box alone or $139 with an 8GB memory card, Dualshock 3 controller, and Lego: The Movie.

Mass Effect, entirely new game are both coming from BioWare

At Electronic Art's E3 press conference, EA studio BioWare unveiled a video announcing their two next projects. One is a return to the Mass Effect galaxy, which should prove interesting since it will no longer follow the story of Commander Shepard, and will be the first Mass Effect game for current gen consoles such as the Xbox One and Playstation 4.
They also teased a new IP, with very little details other than a few visuals you can see in the above video.

Battlefield Hardline is EA's latest shooter, this time with cops & robbers

Instead of making yet another "realistic" war shooter, this year the team behind the EA first person shooter series Battlefield decided to go down a different path: Cops and robbers. Battlefield Hardline lets you play as a riot cop or criminal in the streets of LA and Miami, using tasers, police vehicles and other unique items. It's coming to the US on October 21st and Europe on October 23rd, with a beta available now for Playstation 4 and PC.

Rise of the Tomb Raider shows us a haunted Lara Croft, is coming during holiday 2015


Last year's Tomb Raider was a rather excellent reboot of the decades old franchise, and next year we're getting a sequel to it. Rise of the Tomb Raider shows that protagonist Lara Croft is having difficulty dealing with the events that occurred on the island in the first game, working with a psychiatrist, and learning to make new friends.

Assassin's Creed: Unity to feature four person multiplayer

We'd already seen a trailer for Ubisoft's new entry in the Assassin's Creed world, AC: Unity, but today at Microsoft's E3 keynote we got a look at the actual gameplay, as well as a new feature: Multiplayer. In Unity, which is set in the French Revolution, you'll be able to play in four person multiplayer co-op over Xbox Live.

Inside is a new, black & white platformer from indie studio Playdead


Indie studio Playdead is back after their hit Limbo, bringing another black and white platformer, this time called Inside. It's somewhat creepy looking, but also beautiful, and looks quite intriguing. It's coming exclusively to the Xbox One, in early 2015.

Halo Master Chief Collection includes Halo 1-4 remastered in 1080p & Nightfall, a series by Ridley Scott

After showing a frankly thrilling trailer for Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries Bonnie Ross came onstage at E3 to announce the Master Chief Collection. As expected, it consists of the first 4 Halo games, remastered in full 1080p at 60 frames per second for the Xbox One. What was not expected was the price, at just $60 for the four games plus two bonuses: Halo Nightfall, a new digital series created by Ridley Scott and Sergio Mimica-Gezzen, and a beta of Guardians.