5 Fresh Android Games Released in 2012

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40Tech is pleased to present a guest post from Amelia Hunter!

If you own an Android phone and love playing games on it, you’ve most likely already played all versions of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Wanna try something new? Here are some fresh Android games released this year! They’re free, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy playing them.

 

1) Pocket Clothier

We’re all well aware of the type of management simulation games that Kairosoft produce and Pocket Clothier is the latest release. This game involves you running a clothing store, hiring employees, buying new stock and setting up displays. In fact, anything that is involved with running a clothing store is included here. Beware though; Pocket Clothier can take over your life.

 

2) Oscura

This game by MTV Networks in collaboration with The Chocolate Liberation Front is one of the slicks games in terms of visuals to appear on Android for some time. Evil creatures are taking over the strange land and it is your job to use your skills to restore the light – excellent 2D fun to be had for all.

 

3) Commander Pixman

Who doesn’t love a retro platform game? That’s right no one! Commander Pixman is as old-school as they come and involves the usual avoidance of traps and killing of enemies over a whopping 135 levels. One of many games recently released by Noodlcake Studios recently, but probably the best. You can play it on any phone of course, but for the best experience it would be great to try it on a new smartphone with high-end features.

 

4) Tapadoo

Brain exercise games are great fun for all the family and Tapadoo is one of these games. This puzzle games takes scribbles and turns them into puzzles that must be solved by you. These puzzles range from the very easy to the mind-boggling – a great game from Nevosoft.

 

5) Aqua Story

Fish can be great pets and they are even better when they are kept in a virtual tank on your smartphone. This game from Com2uS lets you raise different varieties of fish, playing with them and feeding them as you would in real-life. If you’re into your virtual pets, you will love this game. And the best thing is – it can run on almost any Android phone, even on those old ones.

Amelia Hunter is from Rightmobilephone.co.uk, which offers the best mobile phone deals in the UK. She’s interested in smartphones, tablets, apps and PC games, and she loves sports.

Winterizing Your Portable Tech

Winterizing Your Portable Tech | 40Tech

I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in the soon to be frozen hell that is central North America. This has led me to consider things that, heretofore, I had no inkling about while hanging out on the often wet but nearly always mild Northwest coast. Things like: how to touch my smartphone or iPad screen in the freezing cold weather, should I even bring the damned things out in the freezing cold weather and, oh, what about my tech and the, you know, freezing cold weather? So I did a bit of looking around, and here are the best tips that I found…

The biggest — and most obvious — suggestion was to just never take the things out when it’s truly cold, and to make sure you never forget them in your car. This sort of silliness can lead to cracked screens (especially for the glass ones, like iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets), and dead batteries. That’s not all, though. Condensation is also a concern. Nothing like little droplets of water forming inside your electronics. That’ll make for a fun and expensive day, yes?

Condensation can form inside your device if you turn it on while it’s still cold. The best advice I’ve found to avoid this is to wait until your toy — or essential life device (ELD) as the toys are fast becoming — reaches room temperature before turning it on. Other management options are to try and keep the things warm in the first place. There are laptop warmers out there, and someone is probably bringing heated iPad cases to market as we speak, but the tried and true option is to keep the device close to your body. This only works if you dress warmly, however — and it really only works for smartphones or little wee-tablets.

If you do see condensation, don’t turn on your device. Wait! You’ll want to check if it’s still working but that is an incredibly bad idea! Instead, stick the thing in some uncooked rice — cover it! — and let that attempt to draw the moisture out. It may or may not work, but it’s your best chance, even if you drop your device in a puddle or something.

The phone doesn’t stop ringing just because it’s cold. You can always purchase (or make) some gloves with removable or conductive finger-tips, but a better option in extreme cold weather is to just keep the thing in your pocket and use a good earbud with inline mic and call answer buttons. Something with music track-changing buttons doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s something I didn’t know: I had no idea that leaving your device in sleep mode can increase the potential for problems and damage in cold weather. I read this on a couple of different sites and, while no one ever said why, they all said that turning off your device completely — at least in regard to laptops and netbooks — is always a good idea before going out into the frozen outside world. Better safe than sorry, I say.

Some sites also advised wrapping your device up in a scarf or something if you have to leave it in your car. If you use it often, this could work, as it will help to keep the device’s generated heat from dissipating. If you leave it out over night — or even for an hour — in really cold weather, however, wrapping it up won’t do a thing. Not unless what you wrap it in has it’s own heat source.

So what do you do to protect your portable electronic devices — smartphones, tablets, laptops, et al — in extreme cold weather?

Hotspot Shield VPN Officially on iOS — Secure Browsing, Bandwidth Compression, Access Blocked Sites/Services

Hotspot Shield Now Officially on iOS -- Say Hello to HTTPS, Bandwidth Compression, Out-of-US Netflix, Pandora | 40Tech

When we first told you about Hotspot Shield, it was to use the free Virtual Private Network to bypass blocked media, as well as increase your browsing security. Over a year later, we posted a tutorial on how to use the VPN to watch US Netflix outside of United States, using your iOS devices. Unfortunately, the Hotspot Shield sign up process for iOS was broken soonafter, and their customer service team didn’t have a lot to say about it. Now we know why: Anchorfree, the creators of Hotspot Shield have released an iPhone app that makes all of the steps go away, and even solves a few of the problems.

The new Hotspot Shield app will have you up and running with a couple of touches, installing two VPN configurations on your iPhone or iPad. The second one is for manual use — you turn it on when you need it, and leave it off when you don’t. The default configuration, though, is Always On, which handily accomplishes two things: it allows you to automatically have the VPN’s data compression and additional security in place whether you are on WiFi or mobile broadband, and it also fixes potential annoyances by automatically re-establishing the VPN’s connection when it drops (which is still a regular occurrence).

In testing, I found that the VPN is more stable on iOS than it was previously, and that using it was practically painless. I also discovered, very quickly, that the free-ness of Hotspot Shield — at least for mobile — is a thing of the past. In comparison to other VPNs, though, especially services that are as effective, the price is still more than worthwhile. You can use the VPN free for a week, after that, it’ll cost you $0.99/month or $9.99/year. You can also use a purchase code the app provides you to activate up to five personal devices that are connected to the same iTunes account. If the incredibly attractive price is to much for you, and you already have an old Hotspot Shield VPN installed on your iOS device, it should still work, at least for now — mine does, anyway.

Hotspot Shield VPN for iOS, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch | 40TechHotspot Shield VPN App for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch | 40TechHotspot Shield VPN App for iOS | 40Tech

Some other fun features of the app are the abilities to track your bandwidth savings and to control your compression level. You can turn it off completely for WiFi, or turn it up to maximum to save bandwidth on images and the like. This will downgrade image quality, of course, but how much is your data worth to you?

All in all, I recommend it to pretty much everyone on iOS with even a passing interest in security (or in using Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, etc., outside of the US). You can never be too careful with your data, and HotSpot Shield does a decent job of protecting you. According to ReadWriteWeb, it was even used during the revolutions of the Arab Spring to allow “users to skirt detection of officials that may have been monitoring mobile internet activity.” Handy, that…

If you do decide to use Hotspot Shield for iOS, do keep a couple of things in mind:

  1. The terms of service are very explicit about the VPN being for personal use only. Don’t use it for business or they may cut you off.
  2. Using a VPN to access a US-only service outside of the US may be considered breach of that service’s terms of use. You may want to double-check that before going ahead to make sure you don’t have any issues — especially if you pay for said service.

What do you think of Hotspot Shield for iOS? Do you plan to use it to increase your browsing security? Let us know in the comments!

App of the Week: PressReader [Mobile]

App of the Week: PressReader [Mobile] | 40Tech

Traditional newspapers are struggling. We’ve all heard this, time and again, and know that they are having the same problem that the music and other “olde world” industries have: namely, that the people in charge don’t truly understand the medium of the internet, and are too wrapped up in either complaining about it, trying to figure out how to control it, and suing people to recoup their perceived losses to take advantage of it. Some newspapers have embraced the web, openly or behind paywalls, and some of these websites and mobile apps are actually good, presenting their content well, and occasionally adding a bell or whistle here and there.

What if you have simpler tastes, though? What if, all you want to do is read your favourite newspapers, in their full, original, cover-to-cover glory, from the comfort of your iOS or Android device? How about from your Blackberry? If this is a dream of yours, then Newspaper Direct’s PressReader is your new best friend. Hell, you and your new buddy might even save a tree or 10.

PressReader is fantastic. If I had to use one word to describe it, that would be the one — that or awesome. There are over 1900 newspapers (though the app still says 1700) from around the world available (92 countries, 48 languages) for your reading pleasure, updated daily. These are, as I said, available in full, just the way you would pick them up from the news stands, including all ads, classifieds, the funnies, sections and stories. They are downloaded directly to your device (you can choose download by Wi-Fi only, if you like) so that they are available even when offline.

PressReader Downloads Full Newspapers to Your Device | 40Tech

Newspaper Direct, who are also the purveyors of PressDisplay (the web version and precursor to PressReader), have license agreements in place with all of these newspapers, receiving daily .PDF scans which Newspaper Direct then process to add all sorts of fun interactivity.

 

An Interactive Newspaper (the Really-Real One)

What sort of interactivity, you say? Well, for starters, all headlines are clickable. You can swipe through the pages as you like, in portrait or landscape mode, and can double-tap, pinch, and zoom to your heart’s content to read the stories — but if you want to see something that’s formatted for easy reading, then tap any headline and you will get a pop up version of only that story. While in the pop-up, you can change the text size and move to the next and previous story, as well, making for a customizable reading experience.

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The story pop-up also allows you to print the story in plain text or with full graphics, and has sharing features as well. At the moment, you can share a story via email, Twitter, and Facebook. The Facebook share is a bit ugly with it’s long, title-less hyperlink, but all three methods link you to the full article on PressDisplay.com. In my tests, I was able to access the shared article on the web and mobile safari (the mobile web app is pretty cool, too), without having to log in, or pay for access. That could be the case for all, or just for the papers I was using.

 

Newspapers That Read to You

The best feature, by far, of PressReader (and PressDisplay) is yet another gem that’s available in the pop-up when you touch a headline. It’s not the ability to search within nearly 2000 papers, and it’s not the Top Stories or Favourites feature (all available from the main menu-bar, not the pop-up) — it’s the cute little headphones icon in the bottom right. Touch this button, and PressReader’s built in text to speech functionality will read the story to you! This is a beautiful thing! If you are on the go, driving, or busily working, your newspaper story can be read to you, keeping your hands and eyes free for more important things — like not killing yourself while driving. I’ve seen more than one moron on the road that was reading a newspaper while in motion — and I’ve called the cops on the idiots, too. I’m no snitch/narc/derogatory tell-tale word of the day, but I’m on the road with my kid and you are not going to cause an accident that hurts her. If you like the paper while driving… get PressReader and save us all the trouble.

Slight digressions about morons aside, I highly recommend PressReader to anyone who enjoys the full newspaper experience (plus more) while on the go, or is interested in saving a few trees (NewsDirect claims to have saved 173,824 trees, and counting). You can get it on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, as well as on Android (Gingerbread and Honeycomb devices), Blackberry (no Playbook yet, but it’s on the way), Windows 7 Slate, and even Windows Mobile 5 (go figure). No mention of Windows Mobile 6 (5 should still work) or 7 yet, but it is likely on the way. You can also download Pressreader for your PC or Mac, iRex Digital, WebOS is on the way, and you can access PressDisplay via the web or even on your Kindle and other eReaders.

 

What it Costs

The PressReader app itself is free, but newspapers cost $0.99 each, or you can get an unlimited subscription to everything (all 1900 papers) for $29.95 per month. If you want to try before you buy, PressReader comes with seven free newspaper downloads of your choice, and you can give the Top News feature a whirl as well. If you want to try and offset the cost a bit, head over to your account on PressDisplay and check out the referral widget. This is a beta tool that can get you 10% of each subscription that comes through you.

NOTE: My only problem with PressReader, is that the papers you choose to subscribe to don’t sync in your account and therefore have to be re-downloaded for each device. What I am not certain of, as I am using a trial of an unlimited account, is whether or not you would have to pay for that paper on each device. I’ve asked the people at News Direct and expect them to get back to me shortly.

UPDATE: According to my contact at NewsDirect, as well as a comment by Gayle, who also appears to work for them, you can download your newspaper issues on up to six different devices, unless there is something that precludes that in NewsDirect’s licensing deal with a particular publisher.

Also, for those worried about download size and data on your mobile, go into settings to change how long you want PressReader to keep a paper, and to set your PressReader app to download via WiFi only.

 

PressReader

One of the Most Beautiful Things Humankind Has Ever Made-and I’m Not Talking About the Phone [video]

Japanese Gravity Marimba, Sharp Touch Wood SH-08C | 40Tech

This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. In my life. Seriously. And oddly enough, it’s for a smartphone commercial — the Sharp SH-08C Touch Wood. Picture this, if you will: a quiet day in a beautiful forest, the occasional deer, and a small stream chattering as it flows by on its merry way. Doesn’t that just scream relaxation? Now imagine yourself breathing in that fresh air, drinking in that view — and listening to the sounds of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147) as it tinkles through the air. You look around, wondering where the music is coming from, and see a long, angled construction between the trees. It’s made of wood, is kind of pretty in its own right, and it’s singing out the notes of the 10th movement as a little wooden ball rolls ever downward, toward the waiting ground.

You can’t tell me that you don’t think that’s cool!

Japanese Gravity Marimba | 40Tech

The gravity marimba, as it’s called, is a masterful feat of engineering. So much so, in fact, that a part of me still thinks it might be computer graphics — but from all reports, it’s real. Each time the little wooden ball hits one of the wooden slats, a note sounds. Each wooden slat is just long enough, and angled in just the right way to provide the proper rhythm; slowing down or speeding up as needed. The sustained notes are an added treat — very cleverly done. The math that must have been required to create this thing boggles my regular, writing-loving mind!

My just-about-three-year-old daughter and I were enthralled by this video — we watched it four times in a row — and like I said, probably one of the neatest things I’ve ever come across, online or off. These things should be built everywhere. The phone that I mentioned doesn’t come up until the end of the commercial, and is in itself an interesting attempt to marry technology with nature. It appears to have a wooden back, for example.

Watch the video! Absorb it. It just might make your weekend! :D

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Japanese Gravity Marimba Plays In An Ancient Forest [Make Magazine Blog]

Which Android Browser Is Fastest?

Android browser speed test

One of the ways to speed up web browsing on your smartphone is by using a snappy browser. On Android, you have many choices. Recently, both MakeUseOf and PC Magazine put several Android browsers through the paces, to see which one was fastest. The browsers tested by MakeUseOf included Firefox, Dolphin Mini, Dolphin HD, Opera Mobile, xScope, Skyfire, and the stock browser. PC Magazine tested Dolphin HD, Dolphin Mini, Firefox, Opera Mobile, and Opera Mini.

The conclusion? According to MakeUseOf, Firefox was the fastest. It beat the competition in the synthetic benchmarks, and edged the other browsers in the page loading test. The losers were Skyfire, and the stock Android browser. My browser of choice, xScope, fell in the middle of the pack.

PC Magazine didn’t rate the browsers just based on speed, but if you click through to the individual browser reviews, you will see the speed results. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the article appears to have a typo and shows the same chart for two of the tests. Still, reading the text of the reviews, it appears that Firefox comes out on top, with the other browsers displaying mixed results. As the Firefox review notes, though, Firefox’s mobile offering has other issues, such as video handling and how it displays pages.

My take? Speed isn’t the only consideration. See which browser feels most comfortable to you, so long as the speed is acceptable. My browser of choice, xScope, sports a user interface that I love, and respectable speed. Once you get into the middle of the browser speed results, the differences among browsers was negligible, making other considerations more important.

What is your favorite Android browser? What do you like about it?

The Best Browsers for Android [PC Magazine]

What’s The Fastest Android Browser? [MakeUseOf]

[Reader Survey] What Kind of Battery Life Does Your Smartphone Get?

battery life for smartphones

Smartphone battery life is a fickle thing, not only between different phone models, but among supposedly identical phones. After nearly two years with an iPhone, I started using my Android-based AT&T Captivate in December. One difference, among otherwise Android awesomeness: pathetic battery life. I installed Serendipity, a custom ROM, and saw some improvement, but I still can’t go from morning until bed time without plugging in the phone. The catch, though, is that other Captivate users who run Serendipity report battery life that is double what I get. Battery life seems to depend on an individual’s usage, the apps installed, and the condition of the battery in the device.

Let us know in the comments what kind of battery life you get. Make sure you let us know what phone you use, how heavily you use your phone, and any tips you’ve come across to increase your battery life.

To get the ball rolling on some tips, here is a very thorough thread from the xdadevelopers forum, for you users of Android custom ROMs, with several tips and links about how to improve battery life. The tips include deleting your battery stats, and doing a “bump charge,” among others. I’m running at about 13 hours now. How about you?

The History of Mobile Operating Systems

Mobile operating systems have come far in the last 15 years. From dull screens with no Internet connection, to the mini-computers that we have today, the changes have been staggering. [x]cubeLABS has a graphic on its site displaying the progression of several mobile operating systems over the years.

For a full-sized look at the chart, check out The Evolution of Mobile Operating Systems at [x]cubeLABS.

I’ve used a couple versions of Palm OS, Windows Mobile, iOS, and now Android. How many of the operating systems have you used? Do you have a favorite?

[Disclaimer: the creator of the chart previously sponsored a text link here at 40Tech a month or two ago, but we’re writing about this chart because we think it is pretty darn cool.]