Monthly Archives: September 2013

We’ll Hello, Camera

Camera and photo apps for iOS are a dime a dozen. (Not literally, most are $0.99). Camera+ stands out as the gold standard for camera apps with features I actually use. However, a freebie I downloaded last week has an interesting set of art inspired photo effects. The ridiculously named Camera 360 Concept – HelloCamera turns photos into works of art. See for yourself:

The pose is courtesy of my 7 year old son, pretending he has a nail in his finger. The photograph is courtesy of my wife. The grid is courtesy of Diptic

Two side notes. One, HelloCamera is easy to use but other than the art effects, the app is unremarkable compared to Camera+. Two, iOS on the iPad will run the retina display version of iPhone apps, and for my iPad 2, this means iPhone, apps are full screen by default and look great. (Though I do prefer universal apps.)

Goop

 

Most of the games on my iOS devices were once offered for free, and there is a good reason for that. Goop is an excellent example of a sub par game for iOS that no one should ever buy. The icon looks great and there is a sense that Goop is a quality game. Indded, the art is nicely done and the animations looks fun, like a real cartoon in motion. There is an old saying about lipstick and pigs, and playing the Goop is awful.

Regarding the animations, the frames are limited. The backgrounds are also highly limited and sparse. The game has the breadth of a demo. The art is nice and crisp, however, and at least this game does not look like a rip-off or a weekend project.

The problem with Goop is its tediously stupid gameplay. The characters march into the path of dripping goop.  You either drag a character to stop it or tap it to roll it. One drop on a little guy and the game is over. You go as long as you can. This is not fun. Please take my word for it. Too bad we can’t recycle the art into a better game.

First Parade

My 7 year old marched in his first parade. He is the one in the sunglasses holding the banner on the right. Super proud.

Android Kinda’ Sucks

Full disclosure: I bought a Samsung Galaxy Axiom at a garage sale for about $20 for the sole purpose of using it as a music player for my 5 year old daughter. Funny thing about buying a phone at a garage sale, the guy selling it to me only remembered to wipe the phone after I gave him the money. Also, he had a

Huawei phone for sale that he called a Hawaii phone (The official pronunciation is “wah-way”). All of the opinions expressed herein were formed while setting up the device for use by my daughter and made in comparison to my iPhone 4S running iOS 6. The Galaxy Axiom is running Android 4.1.2, the most up to date version available for the Galaxy Axiom.

Android Phones Are Terrible for Children

There is no way to control the content on the Galaxy Axiom. Is this true of all Android phones? I hope not, but probably yes. On the iPhone, I can turn off any app I like, set content restrictions for apps, music, and videos, and limit contacts who can communicate with e-mail. The Galaxy Axiom has none of this. The only way I can control content on the Galaxy Axiom is by turning off Wi-Fi and loading all of the content over USB. 

Android Phones Are Loaded with Crap

The Galaxy Axiom came pre-loaded with about a dozen apps that cannot be removed. These include Zappos for buying shoes and three virtual storefronts for buying Android apps. You can disable the apps, but they will remain, using up storage and reminding you how much you hate crapware. 

Android Phones Are Tedious to Configure

To turn off notifications, you have to open the settings for each app. Compare this to the iPhone, where all applications with notifications can be found together. Other settings, such as the ability to side-loadapplications , are found in odd places. Worse, the default settings are user unfriendly. This could be a case of my lack of familiarity with the Android OS, but when I looked for help on the internet, none of the screenshots I saw looked like the settings screen on the Galaxy Axiom. On a side note, the Google Play Store does not show whether Android applications include in-app purchases and plenty of application developers are abusing this lack of disclosure.

Android Has a Pretty Cool Home Screen

What makes the home screen on Android work is the customization options. For my daughter, I tailored a home screen based on the intended use of the Galaxy Axiom as a glorified MP3 player. The background I used is a self rotating slide-show of photos, and even though a majority of the screen is taken up by icons and widgets, the effect is cool. If this phone were for me, I would probably focus on having easy access to my most used applications and ape the traditional iPhone home screen. Confusingly though, the Android home screen has a link for an iPhone like icon view of all applications and a configurable page for an iPhone like icon view of all apps. For the sake of my daughter, I placed all of the she will likely use on both the applications link page and the configurable page. 

Android Rooting Is Not All It Is Cracked up to Be

Most of my quibbles with Android could be solved if I could root the Galaxy Axiom and load custom software. Unfortunately, whether an Android phone can be rooted depends on the phone. As far as I could find, a Galaxy Axiom running Android 4.1.2 cannot be rooted. Technically, it can be rooted, but no one with the programming knowledge to do it has made a root kit for it. That means I cannot install a newer version of Android, I cannot install custom ROMs with performance improvements. I cannot remove the crapware that came with it. And I cannot implement any kind of parental controls. For phones like the Galaxy Axiom, rooting is neither a feature of Android nor a cure-all for Android’s problems. 

You Get the Android Phone You Pay for

The Galaxy Axiom was obviously made to be provided free to new subscribers of wireless data plans. The phone has all the stuff my iPhone 4S has and everything works. Yet, the screen is lower resolution and rather dim, the speaker is barely loud enough to hear an audiobook, the back pops off and the battery flies out if you set the phone down to hard, the default storage is a laughable 2GB with any additional storage provided by a separately purchased micro-SD card, and the phone is subsidized by non-removable bloatware. All of these deficiencies are actually trade-offs made to cut down on the cost of the phone to the point where it looks like a free phone in the eyes of consumers. Then there is, of course, the Android OS which would be absolutely free if not for licensing fees Microsoft charges to avoid patent infringement lawsuits. Thus, an Android phone such as the Galaxy Axiom is such a cheap phone because it is an Android phone. Then again, there is my old saying, “cheapness is as cheapness does.”

Tiny Wings

Tiny Wings looks great; the art is superbly cartoony, rounded, not pixelated, and colorful. The game play is also easy to learn and difficult to master. On that last part, I plateaued at about 100,000 points a game. Then the game lost all appeal for me.

What makes the game fun? The one touch controls in Tiny Wings are brilliantly done. You can touch the screen and watch the bird go into a steep dive or let go watch the bird flaps its comically puny wings. The trick is making the bird dive into a down slope and flap its wings in an up slope. Then the fun is watching the bird cry out as it soars into the clouds. The sounds are as polished as the graphics.

The game was a blast as I mastered the one button controls and flew the bird all the way to the 8th island and over 100,000 points per game. Then I checked the leader boards. I am such a dummy that way. Players were maxing out at 400,000 points per game, per day. I kept playing in a futile if not Quixotic struggle to climb the leader boards. How many games should I play before giving up? You may as well ask how many hairs should you lose before you are bald. Either way, you do not really want to find out.

The broader question here is how much of the the fun of playing a game is the game play itself, the reward process, and the bragging rights. This is an old conundrum. In the old coin op arcade days, well reasoning people would spend a week’s wages in quarters in for the goal of writing their three initials at the number one spot. Others would strive to see the elusive final screen, a screen that most games did not have. The fun factor would get people in the arcade but it was the ties to obsessive, compulsive traits that really opened up wallets. The wheel goes round and the games are pretty much the same, only with fewer buttons. 

Days with Bee

For Kindergarten homework, my daughter brought home a stuffed bee for the weekend.