Sunday, 17 August 2014

Dot Bharat domain to be unveiled on August 21


Web addresses are set to get multilingual in India. Soon you will be able to type in addresses in a web browser in the Devnagri script - with "dot bharat" standing in for the currently common "dot in" domain to begin with. The roll-out of the same begins on August 21.



In the 90-day "sunrise period" of the roll-out those with registered trademarks will be able to register domain names in languages that use the Devnagri script, such as Hindi, Marathi, Boro, Dogri etc. After the sunrise period, it will be thrown open to regular users of the internet.

The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), an autonomous non-profit organisation, is responsible for peering of ISPs and routing the domestic traffic within the country. The NIXI and the government's Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) have worked on enabling this country code top level domain (ccTLD) of dot bharat. They say more such domains in different scripts and languages will eventually follow.

Currently, one can find content in various languages online. However, the URLs or web addresses are in English. With this rollout, even URLs would be in Hindi or Marathi. "Once the sunrise period runs smoothly, we will introduce other languages in other scripts such as Bengali, Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu etc. There is no timeline set for it yet, but we hope there will be enough pressure with the adoption of the Devnagri domains to implement it soon," says Mahesh Kulkarni, program coordinator at the C-DAC, heading the language technology group.

A few government websites too will be a part of the launch next week by the union minister of communications and information technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad. "For example, the pmindia dot gov dot in will be pradhanmantri dot sarkar dot bharat," says Dr Govind, CEO of NIXI.

While some quarters have welcomed the introduction of the new domain, others are doubtful of its success given the low internet penetration and low literacy rate in the country. A June 2014 report from research firm eMarketer, India had the third largest online user-base globally after China and the US but had the lowest internet penetration growth in Asia Pacific at 17.4%. Osama Manzar, who heads the Digital Empowerment Foundation, suggests getting more people and public institutions online rolling out local language domain names.

"This is not a bad move, but I doubt and wonder if it will encourage people to buy domain names in Indian languages. Is it in sync with the national digital infrastructure? It is important that the government encourage every department and village panchayat to get online with a website along with this," says Manzar.

Sahitya Akademi-winning Hindi writer Uday Prakash finds the Devnagri domain a welcome move, but stresses on the importance of making quality content in regional languages available online. "It's a good step and will help those who are not comfortable with English. However, the problem remains that most of the content online is in English. If I search for Robin Williams in English, I will find hundreds of webpages. But if I google the same name in Devnagri, I'll hardly find anything," says Prakash.

On the other hand, there is also the view that the move towards a multilingual web need not follow a set path. "If a poor person buys a mobile phone before he build a toilet, who are we to judge? It is a market phenomenon. Like a jigsaw, some pieces of the puzzle may be worked out in advance. There are things like Indic input keyboards, text to speech and speech to text that need to be in place before an Indic language speaker can have the same experience as an English language user of the internet," says Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore-based research organization Center for Internet and Society.

In October 2013, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) delegated generic top level domains in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic scripts. This was under the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) fast track process of the ICANN, which began in 2009, inviting requests from countries for territory names in scripts other than Latin. Meanwhile domestically, the union government has made a push for the use of local languages.

Microsoft May Be Looking To Sell Xbox Entertainment Studios To Warner Bros.


nightfall

The recent closure of Xbox Entertainment Studios by Microsoft MSFT +1.19% as an effort to refocus the company signaled that the company’s digital TV ambitions on Xbox was likely coming to an end. Outside of a few existing projects in the works like the high profile Halo: Nightfall, it seemed that Xbox would not focus seriously on TV show content for its players going forward.

But now there’s some interesting news out of THR that says Microsoft is shopping around Xbox Entertainment Studios to Warner Bros. The media giant is reportedly considering merging XES with the video game network it already has a large stake in, Machinima, though reps for both have declined comment on the possible deal as of yet.

Many may not realize that Warner Bros. even owns a large part of Machinima, but as recently as March 2014, Warners led a $18M round of funding for them. Machinima is often viewed as the “only game in town” when it comes to high profile YouTube video game partnerships, allowing their content creators to make videos featuring game content free from many tricky copyright issues that plague the unaffiliated. Though even their partners ran into trouble during a recent YouTube crackdown on content, and many pointed the finger at Machinima for not doing enough to prevent it.

Machinima is no stranger to working with Xbox, and helped to distribute the last Halo web series, Forward Unto Dawn, which ended up being the inspiration for the new Halo: Nightfall. The deal would potentially allow for more collaborations like that, though with Warner Bros. directly involved, they may look to bring much of the digital content to actual broadcast networks. Halo: Nightfall is already in talks to come to Showtime, even ahead of this possible deal.

It should be noted that Sony is still pressing ahead with their PlayStation TV show plans, including the upcoming Powers, based on the Brian Michael Bendis comic. If Sony’s concept of video game-based TV takes off and Microsoft has abandoned those plans completely, they could end up behind the curve.

That said, it’s easy to remain skeptical about the idea. While streaming services like Netflix NFLX +1.84% and Amazon are accessible by anyone across a number of devices, which means original content by those brands makes sense, the same can’t really be said for video game systems. These shows would be restricted to not just video game consoles, but one brand of video game console and only with a specific kind of subscription (Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus). That’s limiting your audience in a pretty huge way, and it may be that Microsoft may have the right idea by partnering with a more traditional media company for possible distribution. In Sony’s case, Powers very well may be an amazing show in the end, but limited to a select audience, it may not find the reach it deserves. And certainly no one is going to pick up a game console to watch even a handful of original shows, so it mostly exists as a fun bonus for existing owners.

An XES partnership with Machinima may worry some, however. The brand isn’t exactly beloved these days in the gaming scene, with many content creators coming forward to tell tales of how they’ve been mistreated in one way or another by a company that feels like something of a monopoly in the YouTube gaming realm. As recently as today, YouTuber Broteam came forward with a lengthy diatribe explaining how his handlers were fired without him knowing, Machinima explicitly told him to change his content from retro to present day, and he wasn’t paid an amount that was initially agreed upon in his contract. The story got worse when Machinima Producer RickyFTW started joking about Broteam’s complaints on stream, and suggested his contract be extended out of spite. Needless to say, Machinima hasn’t won all that many fans as of late, and some would be wary of them partnering with XES this closely in the wake of a possible Warner Bros. deal.

None of this has come to pass yet however, and XES remains in limbo until something official is worked out. One way or another, Halo: Nightfall will at least see the night of day, but Microsoft’s other TV plans may be put on hold indefinitely, or transferred to a more traditional media giant.

Virgin America Distributing Nexus 7 Tablets Across Entire Fleet for Crew Members


If you fly Virgin America, be prepared to see the Nexus 7 making frequent appearances in the skies, as the company recently announced that they are to outfit their flight attendants with the Google and ASUS-made hardware.



Nicknamed the Crewpad, the device is used to help flight attendants assistant passengers better. For example, whenever you order food or drinks through Virgin’s inflight entertainment system, the attendant will receive a notification on their tablet, then fulfill your request.

In the company’s blog post covering the news, it states the Nexus 7 will allow Virgin to “constantly enhance the software,” on the device, meaning the service should only get better over time.

The Nexus 7 tablet from Google will replace our existing tablets, providing a thinner, lighter and faster solution and a state-of-the-art 7-inch touch screen. Our InFlight Teammates took the devices for a 30-day test run and shared great feedback, allowing them to deliver an even more efficient service to our guests. And the best part – the tablets will give us a great foundation for the future, with the ability to constantly enhance the software and make the service even more personalized for our guests…so watch this space!


Micromax Canvas Knight Cameo A290 introduced for around Rs 11999


Micromax Canvas Knight Cameo A290

Speaking of product names that are hard to remember, a new Micromax Canvas Knight Cameo A290 has been launched in India at a price starting from Rs 11500 and going past the Rs 12000 mark for those who buy it from eBay. Is it just us, or is there something about the design which reminds you of the iPhone?

It’s a good thing that Apple is rumored to be revamping the appearance of the upcoming iPhone 6 to sport more curves. Once a high-end device design trend starts being adopted by mid-range phones like the Micromax Canvas Knight Cameo, it’s always a good thing to flee the scene and invent a new level of premium shallowness.

The Micromax A290 handset has some nice things going for it if you choose to be sensible and look at it as a mid-range handset. Unlike the Reliance Digital Reconnect which shares a similar price point, the Canvas Cameo handset lands with KitKat v4.4.2 running the show.

The Canvas Knight Cameo smartphone embeds an octa core processor from MediaTek and it clocks a speed of 1.4GHz. Its 4.7-inch screen is not the crispest at 1280 x 720p resolution and there’s just 1GB of RAM inside. At least you’ll be able to click decent selfies thanks to the 5MP camera on the front.

Micromax Canvas Knight Cameo A290 specs at a run:

- Platform: Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS
- Processor: 1.4GHz octa core MT6592M chip
- Memory: 8GB ROM, 1GB RAM, 32GB expandability
- Display: 4.7-inch 1280 x 720p IPS touchscreen
- Cameras: 8MP main snapper, 5MP front lens
- Power house: 2000mAh battery, 7 hours talk time
- Connectivity: HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS
- Colors: Black, white and gold or black and gold

Head over to this page on eBay India, if you want to get your paws on the Micromax Canvas Knight Cameo A290. As for folks intending to buy the smartphone via Snapdeal, you can go there.

Quick review: Spice Smart Pulse M9010


Spice Smart Pulse M9010

Right of the bat, the Spice Smart Pulse M9010 smartwatch isn’t something that you can’t do without, but it does provide a glimpse of what local vendors in India are up to as far as wearable technology goes.
We check out the Spice Smart Pulse M9010 to provide you with a quick review based on the specifications.

Specification Overview

ComponentValue
Display Size1.6-inch screen; 320 x 240p resolution
SoftwareJava
CameraVGA
Onboard Storage256KB
Expandable Storage8GB (microSD card)
Battery420mAh
Dual SIM1 Normal + 1 micro
Connectivity2G, Bluetooth
 

Design, Build & Display

The first thing that you will notice about the Smart Pulse M9010 is that it is made out of plastic. What we observed was that Spice has tried to give it a metallic kind of finish by giving it a metallic texture and even tried to top it with industrial design screws, but it has more or less failed in that aspect. To add a little spice to the mix, Spice is even offering two extra straps.
The Smart Pulse is squarish in design with rounded corners and within that is the 1.6-inch display. We will give it to Spice on using a display that provides great brightness and colours in low lighting conditions, but as soon as you wander off in the Sun or a well-lit area, the display gives up and the colours seem to be giving our a smudged or washed off effect.
We are sure you will get a real metallic watch for that price sans the smartwatch capabilities. We will leave it to you to decide – real metal or plastic with metallic finish!

Software & Interface

We would have expected Spice to atleast honour the demand of current youth by powering its smartwatch with Android, but it has definitely failed here again. Java based interface is that last thing that one would and inability to add new apps is definitely a huge deterrent.
The interface will remind you of a feature phone that you would have been using 2-3 years back – if you aren’t still holding onto one right now. Navigation on the Smart Pulse M9010 has to be done through three capacitive keys below the display.
As far as keyboard is concerned – predictable enough – it is tiny. Sending out an SMS may seem to be a daunting task. You can pair the smartwatch with your smartphone for notifications – but they will remain just that – notifications – and you can’t act on them.
If you fancy using Smart Pulse’s VGA camera to shoot pictures, you can do so using a remote capture option beyond the manual controls right through the smartwatch.
You find some prebuilt apps like a file manager, one game, among other things – all in all limited functionality accompanied by tiny controls that really do not appeal a great deal.

Storage

256KB onboard storage is so like 1990s; however, having said that you can have an 8GB microSD card for additional storage on the smartwatch. We are not sure why one would accept 256KB storage and to top if why would one go for 8GB storage on a smartwatch that offers no ability to add new apps.

Battery

The 420mAh battery may not sound too impressive, but given the components of the smartphone, we wouldn’t expect Spice to go overboard and fit the Smart Pulse M9010 with a huge battery. Considering that the display and the OS aren’t too tasking on the battery and with only 2G connectivity option the 420mAh should give you a day on single recharge.

Sound & Video

Onboard speakers are definitely great and the accompanying headphones aren’t impressive either. We wouldn’t recommend listening to songs on this one as you wouldn’t get the feeling you might be looking for from your smartwatch.
You can play videos, but it seems that only onboard camera recorded videos are supported.

Conclusion

An outlay just below ₹4,000 may seem impressive at first and specifically until the Smart Pulse M9010 is still inside the box, but as soon as it is out there is just one feeling we are left with – What!!!
We do not see using the device on a day to day basis and definitely not while going to office or a social gathering as we don’t want people to look at us with strange expressions. Further, attending to phone calls on a gadget slapped onto your wrist isn’t practical enough.

Asus vs Xiaomi: Mi3 vs Zenfone smartphone war in India


Asus vs Xiaomi or Mi3 vs Zenfone smartphone war in India may not be that much intense. Nonetheless the Chinese and Taiwanese companies are working hard to get a foothold here.

Two new entrants in smartphone market in India are claiming victories. It is notwithstanding the fact that none of them have sold a large number of smartphones here in India. Nonetheless both are claiming great success in the Indian market.

While Xiaomi has reportedly sold as many as around 50000 units of its rather older but very exciting handset Xiaomi Mi3 (the company has already introduced its new flagship handset Xiaomi Mi4 in the international market) since its launch on FlipKart, the biggest online retailer in South Asia.

The company thought might have launched its wares in the Indian market in July, nonetheless its handsets are effectively available online for not more than four hours. It holds flash sales on Flipkart weekly and last time it put 20000 units on sale that were sold in less than five seconds. The same had happened to its previous sales a week ago as it took the company merely two seconds to sell 15000 units.

The response and enthusiasm is great. Nonetheless if the company continues to come up with so miniscule number of units this warmth will vanish and others with impressive handsets and low pricing will get people’s attention.

Another company that seems to have entered the Indian smartphone market around the same time is Taiwanese tech giant Asus. It had introduced a few decent low priced handsets in the Indian market and was able to sell the same number of units as Xiaomi in just four days.

Asus seems to be very excited about the chances of its smartphones in India. Asus Zenfone are doing very well in India. The Zenfone handsets that come in three sizes — four, five and six inches — with prices low price starting at just Rs 5,999. Peter Chang of Asus says, “We are overwhelmed by the response… as many as 40,000 units were sold out within the first four days of launch…The Zenfone series stocks have been refilled numerous times and are being restocked at regular intervals”.

Peter Chang says that his company by now has sold more than 100000 units of Zenphones in the country. He says that his company and Xiomi strategy was very different. “It is hard to define the sellout per week. But to match up to the potential of this series we are ensuring the availability of stocks in both online and offline mediums.”

On Xiaomi’s strategy, which has been very successful so far, Chang said: “We respect each brand’s strategy. We believe that every brand has its specific, defined fan engagement, product strategy and social media strategy crafted with much research and analysis, just like ours.” The best thing about Asus is the fact that they already have a massive service and after sale set-up in place across India. It is going to be in its favour in the long term.

Robin Williams Video Game Appearance Requested [Video]


robin williams

Since his untimely death, details surrounding Robin Williams and his life and appearance, or likeness, have been requested  just about everywhere, including the world of video games. Many longtime fans have looked for new ways to honor the successful actor and outspoken gamer. Some fans have now taken to the Internet and Nintendo to ask for a very specific honor to be bestowed postmortem on Williams. This is following a separate petition that has already convinced Blizzard designers to place a tribute of some kind in their expansive online world as well.

A petition was distributed through social media means, gathering traction and signatures everywhere until 90,000 names were added in less than a week. The purpose of the petition was brought to Nintendo, one of the three biggest video game and home console publishers, in a request to have Williams appear in the upcoming Legend of Zelda game in some way. The Zelda series, one of the oldest and most storied in games today, is well known for friendly, light-hearted characters, qualities that fans and friends of Williams would readily use to describe him.

Nintendo responded quickly and solemnly to the request, acknowledging his death as a tragedy. “Robin Williams was loved at Nintendo,” a representative said. “We appreciate the outpouring of support from the gaming community,” their statement continued, “and hear the request…to honor him in a future game.”

The response went on to extend their condolences to Zelda Williams, but stopped short of directly appeasing the petition by simply saying this wasn’t the proper time to discuss possibilities for future games. Their statement ended saying the company will “hold our memories of Robin close.”

Robin Williams was not a video game lover by appearance alone; he was known for readily speaking about any of his favorite titles when requested. The Legend of Zelda  series was so loved by the actor and comedian that he named his daughter after the main heroine of the games, Princess Zelda. In an ad done for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D release on Nintendo 3DS, Williams called both Princess Zelda and his daughter “pretty magical.”

Another of his favorite series, World of Warcraft, has already confirmed that it has a Williams tribute in the works. Ian Hazzikostas, lead designer on the massively-multiplayer online game, offered a statement for the company, calling them all “massive Robin Williams fans.” The company was also well aware of his presence within their online world. As far as the tribute itself, there’s nothing set in stone, as of yet, but it may end up being either a character or a series of characters based on his past roles.

The requested Robin Williams appearance in popular video games from thousands of people stands as a testament in the eyes of major companies such as Nintendo and Blizzard. He said once that he treated games as a way to escape from the grind of daily, rigorous life. He was joined by many other people that loved to share these imagined worlds with Robin Williams. No timeline was released by Blizzard on when their tribute would appear.



Dishonored Now Free For Xbox Live Gold Members




Replacing the previous free Games with Gold Xbox 360 title, Motocross Madness, you can now grab Dishonored for free.

You can sign into Xbox Live and set the game to download remotely by heading here. Xbox One titles, Crimson Dragon and Strike Suit Zero, continue to be free until the end of the month, but you've officially missed your window to grab Motocross Madness.

For our review of Dishonored, head here.

As a reminder, Xbox One games will be available as long as you continue your membership. Xbox 360 games are yours to keep once you download them.

The New Moto X: 5 Things I Want to See


moto x2

There are some specific things we would love to see Motorola address in order to make the next Moto X an amazing phone. Here are five of them.

A Better Camera

I used the original Moto X more than any other phone released last year. Loved almost every moment with it. I can also tell you that I went through a period where I took very few pictures and was scared to share anything on Instagram. The camera on the Moto X really is as bad as Ron makes it sound regularly on the DL Show. Motorola may have built in a handy wrist-twisting gesture to quickly access the phone’s shooter, but the lack of detail, consistency, and quality in the photos taken were a major disappointment, even after a handful of supposed software fixes were issued.

In the new Moto X, Motorola better get the camera right. I can’t tell you the last time that Motorola put a good camera in one of their phones, but now is the time to change that. Almost anyone who has used a Moto X loves it, except anyone who has used it will also tell you how terrible its camera is. Fix that, Moto, and you may yet again have the best phone on the planet.

moto x camera

A Better Display

I can live with a sub-par display for the most part. Hell, I’m using an LG G3 and love it. But the 720p AMOLED panel used in the original Moto X just wasn’t very good. Clearly, Motorola went with AMOLED technology so that their Active Display could be used without draining battery, but the quality needs to be stepped up this year. Last year’s panel was often too yellow, too warm, and lacked the crispness seen in the 1080p panels used by HTC and Samsung. I’m not saying that Motorola needs to match the best-in-class AMOLED used by Samsung in the Galaxy S5, but let’s see if we can’t get close.

The new Moto X is rumored to have a 5.2-inch 1080p display, which is pushing the limits in terms of being a manageable one-handed phone like last year’s Moto X. However, if the quality and color accuracy can step up a notch, you won’t see me complain about the added size.

Bring Back a Bunch of the Same

While Motorola needs to improve the camera and display of the new Moto X, the rest should go mostly unchanged. In the new version, I want it to feel as good in hand as the original. The general design also shouldn’t change, as it was one of the most attractive phones of the past couple of years. There was something special to the original Moto X in terms of size and appearance. Motorola wanted to make a phone that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand that was also capable of being used with that same single hand. Moto avoided the bigger-is-better-so-lets-make-this-next-phone-massive trend that all other manufacturers bought into starting last year, and we appreciated them for it.

I also want to see Motorola continue to focus on making their phones tell me information or let me access it without much work. Features like Active Display, Touchless Control, and the twisting camera shortcut better all return. These three features helped shape the Moto X into the best phone of last year, so if Motorola can bring them all back with slight improvements here or there, we may even be able to overlook a potentially sub-par camera. OK, that might be a lie.

moto x design

No Exclusives

Last year, Motorola screwed up big time by exclusively releasing one of the most important features of the Moto X for two months to AT&T. I am talking about MotoMaker, Motorola’s customization process for the Moto X that allowed you and I to make a phone that was all ours. With the new Moto X, Motorola better open up MotoMaker to all carrier variants from day one. We aren’t exactly sure how MotoMaker is going to work going forward, since they closed the Texas plant that pumped out custom devices, but since Motorola assured us that MotoMaker is here to stay, this needs to happen.

On the day that the new Moto X becomes available, I want to order a custom-made device that day, off-contract, on my carrier of choice. Waiting two months again would only hurt the launch, annoy loyal Motorola customers, and give customers from carriers who aren’t a part of the exclusive to look elsewhere, at devices like the LG G3.

Make My Life Even Easier

When Motorola showed me Active Display, Touchless Control, and quick action camera at least year’s press unveiling, I’ll stop short of saying that my mind was blown, but it was close. After playing with any of these three options for any amount of time, you could tell that your life with a smartphone was going to be easier. Information was there when you needed it, yet you didn’t have to press a button. You could ask it commands without ever even having to wake your phone. You could even launch your camera from sleep-to-camera-open in a matter of seconds, again, without ever pressing a button.

While I don’t know what Motorola can do to add to this suite and make my life even easier, I want them to. Make it even easier, please, Motorola. Whether that be through some sort of combination of the phone talking through the Moto 360 to new Bluetooth accessories teased in your press invite to showing more information through Active Display, impress me again.


Samsung Acquires SmartThings, Deal Reportedly Worth $200 Million


SmartThings

Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Samsung was set to acquire SmartThings, a company specializing in home automation, for an estimated $200 million. SmartThings has had a short journey on its way to acquisition, having raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter, then receiving an additional $12.5 million in Series A funding late last year.

As for Samsung’s plans, it seems rather clear, as Google went ahead and snatched up Nest, and Apple launched HomeKit. Samsung does not plan on being left behind in this space, as SmartThings is now packing up its office and heading on over to Samsung’s main California office in Palo Alto.

So, what can we expect to see from Samsung down the road thanks to this purchase? For starters, SmartThings specializes in smart water sensors, door locks, light switches, and much more. In the future, these products could come with a Samsung logo on them, but for now, SmartThings will operate independently from the tech giant.

The next five years are looking pretty intense in the home automation space.

Google Rolls Out New YouTube App for TVs, Makes It All More Easy to Find


new youtube tv

Google announced this morning that they have begun rolling out a new YouTube app for TV that has been designed for the big screen. They started initially with the XBOX One, but will roll the new app out to other streaming devices over the following weeks.

The new app makes everything easy to find and navigate, thanks to slideout guide on the left side, just like the one you will find on phones and tablets. Once signed in, you can access your subscriptions or recommendations, open playlists and as Google suggests in their blog post, essentially turn your TV into whatever you need it to be.



ASUS to Possibly Launch Android Wear Device at IFA


ASUS

According to ASUS CEO Jerry Shen, who held an investors conference on Tuesday, a new Android Wear device may be debuted at this year’s IFA in Berlin, Germany.

Shen mentioned to investors that once announced, ASUS will followup the smartwatch with aggressive marketing efforts, but should not expect to see great revenue returns on the device or sequel device for roughly nine months.

The following is a quote obtained by Focus Taiwan of ASUS’ CEO, stating, “We’re dreaming big about the future of wearable devices, but the dream will not come true this year or in the first half of next year because the market demand has not picked up.”

Google announced Android Wear with ASUS as one of their partners, as were plenty of other companies. Much like Samsung and LG’s offerings, the ASUS-made Android Wear device is reported to be priced very affordably, making it an easy choice for consumers. However, at this time, no specifications or hardware details are known.

If ASUS does indeed launch an Android Wear device at IFA in September, will you be interested if it is a cheaper, more plasticy type of watch?

HTC Intros “Phunk” One (M8), Limited to 64 Units


PHUNK One M8

HTC has a history of releasing extremely limited edition devices, such as last year’s “All Gold Everything” One (M7). This year, instead of doing platinum, diamonds, or gold, they have partnered with a design studio based in Singapore called PHUNK Studio. To celebrate 20 years of design, PHUNK has teamed up with HTC to create a special smartphone, one which will feature a design of their own.

While the internals are just like any other One (M8), the outside of the device has received a lovely design, done with what appears to be a simple etching process.

Of course, the device is super limited - only 64 units exist – so don’t get your hopes up on getting one for Christmas. If you would like to see the device, you can attend HTC and PHUNK’s event which will have the device on display in Singapore this year.

5 Android Games You Can’t Go Wrong With


threes android

By no means am I the gaming guru beyond this operation we have here (you already knew that), but that doesn’t mean my boring self can’t get down with some handheld fun from time to time. And even though I leave gaming duties up to DL team members who play all the new hotness with regularity, we still thought I should share the games that have really grabbed my attention over the years.

1.  Granny Smith ($0.99)

My addiction to Granny Smith from 2012 until mid-2013 became a running joke around these parts. It was, for a long time, the only game I ever talked about. As new titles came and went, there was Kellen, still re-playing Granny Smith over and over. I haven’t played the game in well over a year now, but it still tops my list. No game in the history of my mobile life has taken up as much time as Granny Smith.

What is Granny Smith? It’s a platformer with solid graphics and physics, all led by a granny chasing a pestering little boy who wants to steal her apples. Seriously, it’s that silly. There are jumps, cane swings and slides, flips, vintage replays of levels, dog characters, space adventures, and more. It’s the most random, yet completely amusing game you will ever play on mobile.

2.  Threes ($1.99)

Is Threes the best puzzler ever created? Maybe. By combining tiles of 1s and 2s to create 3s on a board, to matching up 6s, 12s, 24s, 48s, 96s, and more, you constantly grow a score before that board of tiles fills up and you can no longer make a move. It’s difficult, but easy to pick up. The game has a snazzy soundtrack, mostly obnoxious background voices that can be turned off, cloud syncing, and high scores that you can use to compete against friends.

This game is insanely addictive and will never get old. I think my wife has secretly been playing it for the last six months.

3.  Kingdom Rush Frontiers ($1.99)

I mentioned in my opening that I rarely play games that involve lengthy storylines, game saves, and what seem like never-ending amounts of levels. There is one exception I seem to make, and that’s with tower defense games. Yep, I’m a sucker for a good tower defense title. The Kingdom Rush titles are some of my favorite, with Frontiers topping the list.

In Frontiers, you get classic tower defense features, but they are set in medieval, yet Game of Thrones-like times. You will confront wizardry, flying demons, monsters, aliens, pirates, and more, as you try and defend your maps. To defend, you get to upgrade heroes with special powers, build archery towers that can conquer the world, use your own forms of magic, enlist and power-up soldiers, and create robotic-firing-artillery, to name a few of your forces.

The graphics are solid, characters are memorable, and there are a number of levels and game modes to keep you busy for a while.

4.  Super Stickman Golf (free)

Stickman games, as silly as they seem, are always entertaining. Super Stickman Golf and its sequel are classics, created by respected game studio Noodlecake, makers of popular games like Velocispider, Mikey Shorts, and most recently, Gravity Duck.

The game features you as a stickman, playing rounds of golf in a 2D world filled with obstacles, multiple levels, power-ups, and challenging environments. Stickman Golf is really like a puzzler in disguise. The game is simple to start with, but once you play and realize that there is a sneakier way around each hole, don’t be surprised to find yourself constantly working to improve your scores. This is another game that can be picked up and played without much work, but will grab you for hours if you let it.

5.  Into the Dead (free)

A top 5 games list doesn’t seem legit in 2014 if it doesn’t contain at least one zombie title. Into the Dead is my pick, a game that is all based around how long you can run and survive a zombie apocalypse. As an endless, first-person runner, you are greeted with impressive graphics, in-your-face zombies, creepy shadows and noises, all sorts of weapons to use against the undead, and high-score challenges with friends.

The game is bloody, graphic, and awesome. Seriously, install this on a tablet, turn off the lights, crank up the volume, and tell me you aren’t slightly creeped out. The game has been around for a good year or two, but it remains a solid install if you ever need some quick zombie action.

Barnes & Noble teases new Samsung Nook e-reader a few days before official launch


Galaxy Tab 4, set to be launched on Wednesday. Digital Reader notes that the company has now emailed out a 30-second teaser video, showing reactions to the device – including one from Grumpy Cat …



The video doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but there will probably be few surprises in store anyway. The e-reader is likely to be the same hardware as the Tab 4, but with a different overlay to put books front and centre.

The HTC One E8 is coming to Sprint


HTC-E8-Sprint

The HTC One E8 is coming to Sprint. The carrier recently posted a promo video on its official YouTube channel showing off some of the device’s design. If you’re unfamiliar with the E8, it’s pretty much an affordable version of HTC’s flagship M8 wrapped up in a plastic body. It features a 5-inch 1080p display, a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter, a 2,600mAh battery and Android 4.4 KitKat.

Sprint’s E8 sizzle reel doesn’t reveal any pricing or release details, however the carrier is currently selling the HTC One M8 for $200 on a two year service agreement, so we’d expect the E8’s pricing to be around $100 or less. We’ve reached out to Sprint for more details about its E8 plans and will update this news article if the carrier decides to share.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Nintendo Bringing Pokemon To iPad In Trading Card Form


The eternal dream of Nintendo showering the smartphone/tablet community with their Pokemon license may still never come to pass, but at least one aspect of the series is heading that direction. The Pokemon Trading Card Game is coming to iPad, competing with other recent digital card battling games that have found success on the platform like Hearthstone.

ipad pokemon

The quick snapshot of the game comes from  Josh Wittenkeller on Twitter, and its existence has been confirmed by an official rep of The Pokemon Company. The new game is being showed off at the World Pokemon Championship this weekend, but there’s no timetable for an official release as of yet. The game already exists on Windows and Mac, but this is the first news of a portable tablet release.

I expect to see a lot more digital card games coming to tablets, even as established ones like Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone are already there. The medium is absolutely perfect for card games, though it should be said you don’t see all that many sky high on the app charts like you have with Flappy Bird clones, infinite running titles or shape-matching puzzle games.

The truth is that generally speaking, the app market rejects complexity. Even if a game like Hearthstone is relatively easy to pick up and play for the average gamer, the average gamer is not the average app store customer. Not to insult the intelligence of the general public, but it’s very obvious that simpler games find more success than complex ones a lot of time in the market. Not always, surely, but a good deal of the time. That’s why even if the iPad is a perfect medium for battle card games, they still have somewhat limited appeal. The same will likely be true for Pokemon, which is arguably more complex than something like Hearthstone. That said, developers should always strive to raise the general quality level of the tablet/smartphone game market, because lord knows it needs it.

As for Pokemon itself, this will inevitably start some new debate about how Nintendo must react to the changing winds and release all their games on the Android and Apple AAPL +0.49% app stores. I understand the sentiment, and it does seem like a logical transition, but this goes back to the “should Nintendo stay in the hardware game?” question that’s being asked every few weeks any time a new Nintendo doom and gloom story comes to light.

While I think there’s an argument to be made for Nintendo shifting to software for the console market, as evidenced by the poor sales of the Wii U limiting the reach of their phenomenal first party games, I can’t say the same about mobile yet.

Nintendo understands the mobile market far better than they do consoles at the moment. Their handhelds remain some of the top selling video game systems of all time, and the 3DS is now the 12th highest selling piece of gaming hardware ever. Nintendo is absolutely not going to undercut it by releasing their games on smartphones and tablets.

That said, with 44M sold, the 3DS is still woefully short of even the Game Boy Advance (81.5M) and lightyears away from Nintendo’s past smash hits, the original Game Boy (119M) and the DS (154M). Even if it’s still doing pretty well, there is an obvious trend as there is more and more competition in the mobile games space as the years press on. And you can bet it’s not the PS Vita putting pressure on them.

But Nintendo continues to offer a unique perspective on mobile games, creating quality titles that are leagues better than most offerings in any app store. Though Nintendo is designing mobile games for gamers, where app games are designed for literally anyone. Obviously one is going to have more broad appeal that the other.

We need both, however. Nintendo has created a great mobile experience for those who are willing to pay a little more for better games, and don’t mind carrying around a piece of gaming-specific hardware, even in an age where your keys and wallet can be on your phone.

But hey, if you want a taste of what they could be like on tablets, maybe this new Pokemon game is for you. I’ll certainly give it a shot, even if it’s been fifteen years since I first opened up my dream pack of cards with a holofoil Charizard. That’s worth what, like $500K now? I knew they were a good investment.

Assassin's Creed Rogue is a next-gen rebel for Xbox 360, PS3




We're sure you can make up your own mind on why Assassin's Creed Rogue is only coming to Xbox 360 and PS3. Nonetheless, we wanted to know what Ubisoft had to say on it. After all, Rogue's story is meant to bridge the gap between Assassin's Creed 3 and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, and the latter of those games came to PS4 and Xbox One. And both, of course, came to PC and Wii U.

"Well, the Kenway saga that began with Assassin's Creed 3 and continued with Assassin's Creed 4 was largely told on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360," Associate Producer Karl Luhe told Joystiq at Gamescom. "So for us it made complete sense to finish that saga there. For next-gen players we built Assassin's Creed Unity from the ground up to make best use of that new technology, and that's where next-gen players are going to play Assassin's Creed."
Assassin's Creed Rogue (8/5/14)

While Assassin's Creed 4 did introduce the PS4 and Xbox One to the series, the game was still built on the AnvilNext engine that was used in Assassin's Creed 3. As Ubisoft's Ashraf Ismail told IGN last year, the engine was built with next-gen systems in mind.

We asked Luhe if Rogue could really be seen as a key cog in the Kenway saga if it wasn't coming to next-gen platforms like the previous game did.

"Well, Assassin's Creed 3 was exclusively on that generation..." Luhe began.

"But you did have the previous game on the next-gen platforms," we reiterated.

"It's a valid point," he replied. "We remain with that focus of next-gen is for Assassin's Creed Unity and for those gamers that haven't made the transition or really want to finish that saga, Assassin's Creed Rogue is the offering for them."

So, Xbox 360 and PS3 players can check out Rogue when it hits stateside on November 11. As a new trailer shows, players take on the role of a Templar rather than an assassin, and the Templar hero has his own ship with his own new weaponry to make waves with.

PS4 Outpaces Xbox One In July, 'The Last Of Us' Tops Software Charts


Coming as a surprise to absolutely nobody, Sony has confirmed that once again the PlayStation 4 was the best-selling console in July. This marks the seventh month in a row with the PS4 taking the NPD’s proverbial blue ribbon.

ps4

July NPD numbers show US spending on physical games and game hardware was up in July over last year.

Sony confirmed that the PS4 has sold-through over 10 million units to-date. Microsoft has not released hard numbers for the Xbox One yet, though the console continues to fall behind Sony’s even with the Kinect-free $399 sku. Nintendo’s Wii U continues to struggle against the competition even as it outpaces last year’s sales by 60%.

Consumers spent $514.3 million on new gaming hardware, software, and accessories, which is up 16 percent over last year. Last July consumers spent just $443.1 million. The PS4 and Xbox One account for the majority of that spending.

Consumers dropped $198.8 million on consoles in July, up 100 percent year-over-year, while software sales were down 15 percent from last July. Less cash on hand after an expensive console purchase means fewer software units sell through.

“Similar to the pattern seen in seven out of the last nine months, strong growth in hardware sales offset declines in software sales in July 2014 while accessory sales had modest growth,” said NPD analyst Liam Callahan.

“Two other factors caused seen in July 2014 software sales,” he continued. “Reduced sales for new launches and the decline in [last-gen] software not entirely being offset by [new-gen] sales.”

Best-Selling Games

Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us topped software charts in July, thanks to its re-release on PS4. It was followed by the everlasting Minecraft with FIFA 14, Watch Dogs, and Mario Kart 8 taking up the top five.

Nintendo confirmed that over 1 million units of Mario Kart 8 have been sold in the US alone since its launch at the end of May.

1. The Last of Us (PS4, PS3)
2. Minecraft (360, PS3)
3. FIFA 14 (360, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Vita)
4. Watch Dogs (PS4, 360, PS3, Xbox One, PC)
5. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
6. Call of Duty: Ghosts (Xbox One, 360, PS4, PS3, Wii U, PC)
7. Grand Theft Auto V (360, PS3)
8. Sniper Elite III (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
9. NBA 2K14 (360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
10. Lego Marvel Super Heroes (360, PS3, 3DS, DS, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One, Vita, PC)

“When combining life-to-date sales of Xbox One and PS4 after nine months, and comparing them to the combined totals of nine months of sales for Xbox 360 and PS3, sales of the newest consoles are larger than the prior generation by close to 80 percent,” said NPD’s Callahan.

All told, July holds to the year-long trend of increased sales across the industry as more and more consumers migrate to new-gen machines despite a continuing lack of stellar new-gen-only content.

Smartphone at 20: IBM Simon to iPhone 6


1994: The IBM Simon was the first ever mobile phone to feature software applications, or apps, using a stylus and touch screen. The Simon cost $899 and only ever worked in the USA, operating within a 15 state network.

It is the device that paved the way for the worldwide smartphone revolution; now, 20 years after going on public sale, the IBM Simon is set to become one of the star attractions at a new exhibition at the Science Museum in London, exploring the history of information and communication technologies.
The Simon took the best technology that handheld computing could offer at the time and combined it with a mobile phone, to create a device that could do much more than simply make phone calls. It was the first mobile phone to feature software applications, or ‘apps’, using a stylus and touchscreen – allowing users to sketch a drawing, update their calendar, write notes, and send and receive faxes.
The unit on display at the Science Museum – as part of its new permanent Information Age gallery, opening on 25 October – was once owned by a project manager for construction works in the United States, who used the Simon to receive, sign off, and return technical drawings by fax, without having to print anything on paper.
However, at a weight of half a kilo, and with a battery life of only an hour, it was impractical as a portable device, and its $899 price tag was prohibitively high for most people. It only worked in the United States, and there was also no mobile internet at the time, so although it was fax-enabled it could not be used to send emails unless it was connected to the web via a PC.
Despite being a commercial flop, the IBM Simon laid the groundwork for a new category of device that combined the functions of mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The word ‘smartphone’ was not coined until the year 2000, when Ericsson launched the R380 – the first device to use the new Symbian mobile operating system.
The smartphone revolution really got going in 2002 with the launch of the Palm OS Treo, featuring both a touchscreen and a full keyboard, and the popular BlackBerry Quark series of smartphones the following year. Manufacturers started adding new features to their mobile devices around the same time, such as MP3 players, cameras, and wireless technology.
However, it was not until 2007, and the launch of Apple’s original iPhone, that consumer interest in the technology began escalating rapidly. The iPhone was the first commercial smartphone to use finger input as its main means of interaction, instead of a stylus, keyboard or keypad. It sold around 6 million units in its first year, and now accounts for around 15 per cent of worldwide market share.
The initial success of the iPhone prompted an explosion of similar devices from mobile phone manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony. The HTC Dream (or G1), launched in 2008, was the first device to run Google’s Android operating system. Android is now the dominant mobile operating system, with around 85 per cent of worldwide market share.
In 2013, smartphone sales surpassed sales of more basic mobile phone handsets for the first time, thanks to an influx of cheap handsets from Chinese brands spurring growth in developing markets. Analysts predict that smartphone sales will represent 88 percent of global mobile phone sales by 2018.
In just 20 years, smartphones have transformed the way we work, live and play. However, with the rapid growth of tablet PCs, and a new era of wearable devices on the horizon, smartphones will need to keep evolving if they are to maintain their dominance over the next 20 years.