It has been one week since Apple unveiled the new iPhone 5. As if the mere release of the fifth generation iPhone was not enough, the giant gadgets designer also dropped a newly revamped version of the Apple iPod Touch. The iPod Touch can be defined as an iPhone without the phone, meaning that the device delivers the other functionalities of an iPhone apart from the calling functionality.
Bigger screen, thinner device
This new iPod Touch still perpetuates Apple’s trend of releasing gadget updates that are slimmer, more power efficient and smarter than their predecessors. The gadget features a 4-inch retina display with an aspect ratio of 16:9 to enhance on video and gaming experiences which are the core functionalities of an iPad.
Weighing in at 88 grams (from the former 101 grams) with a super-thin depth of 6.1mm, the device is now powered by a dual core A5 processor, an improvement from the former A4 which is aimed at improving general processing capabilities to better on the execution of heavy-weight applications.
To cover the iPod, Apple designers have dumped the tapered chrome backing for a flat aluminum panel, a move that rhymes with the casing change of the iPhone 5 and is believed to add to the versatility of the gadget. The sleek cover is punctured at the front top part to host a secondary camera that can support 720p video and facial recognition with its pixel power left classified during the release.
At the rear of this new gadget that now features an internal speaker detaching you from the constant need for earphones and 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio making it compatible with Apple’s AirPlay Mirroring feature, is a new 5-megapixel camera complete with LED flash that supports 1080p video capture and other iSight capabilities.
Released in a variety of colors that include blue, silver and black that are bound to create an illusion of diversity fromone gadget to another, the new iPod Touch will come with new earbuds dubbed “EarPods” to enhance the audio quality delivered to the user.
An impressive cut down on power consumption will definitely reduce the need to get plugged in and juice up the iPod. Statistics released put music playback time to a record 40 hours.
It is speculated that the iPod will be selling at a retail price of $299 for the 32GB model and $100 more for an additional 32GB of storage to lay hands on the 64GB model.
Steam, Valve’s powerhouse digital distribution service for PC and Mac, is finally making its way to mobile devices. Don’t get too excited yet, though, they aren’t selling any mobile specific games. Instead, the Steam mobile app acts as a much-needed mobile portal for the multitude of services Steam offers.
Getting logged in is as simple as you’d expect, and Steam mobile even has support for Steam’s relatively recent Steam Guard account protection. Whenever you try to log into Steam on a new device Valve sends an e-mail containing a one time activation code to the address they have on file. You can’t log in without first entering that code. It adds an appreciated level of security for a service that many users have sunk hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars into.
Instead of trying to navigate Steam’s desktop-minded website on your phone you can now access Steam’s most useful features with an interface that has mobile devices in mind. Chat with your friends, check out active deals, or browse Steam’s entire catalog, all from your phone. You can even buy games directly from the app. If you don’t mind the extra icon in the status bar Steam will run in the background, making you available for chat no matter where you are (this service can be disabled in the Settings menu, where you can also set your preferences for receiving chat messages).
The Steam mobile app had a short closed beta period, but is now available for everyone who wants it. Get it for free from the official store for your preferred platform.
Apple has been getting its fair share of bad press lately. With battery issues plaguing the iPhone 4S and the iOS 5.01 update making things even worse, this latest problem just adds to the drama. On the Support section of their website, Apple states that “in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk.” That can’t be good.
The recall affects all 1st generation iPod Nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006. It seems to be an issue with whoever manufactured the batteries though, not Apple’s fault entirely (though they could have caught the problem sooner). It’s just one more blow to the brand.
On the bright side, if you’ve got an unused, silver-backed Nano in some old drawer you may just be able to get your hands on a brand new one for free. That’s got to be good for something, right? I mean, in all honesty, you’ve got to give a company credit where credit is due. It’s pretty amazing that Apple admitted there is a problem with the iPod Nano’s batteries, especially 5-6 years later. Seems to me that not many companies would do the same thing. So I am giving an Apple an A+ for putting their customer’s safety before their public image, even when they aren’t looking too hot right now.
You can check whether or not your old iPod Nano is effected by following this link to Apple Support. Good luck! You deserve a new Nano if you’ve held onto your old one for this long.
What could possibly be better than buying a single high quality puzzle game for just $0.99? If you answered, “two high quality puzzle games for just $0.99,” you are in luck. However, there is a small catch.
The good folks over at MacHeist have partnered with iOS developer tap tap tap to bring us The Heist. At first glance it appears to be your average puzzle game (which, let’s be honest, are a dime a dozen in the App Store), but lurking just under the surface is something more. If you manage to slog your way through enough puzzles, you can unlock a code to download another game, available for free on PC and Mac.
Thankfully, The Heist itself is a decent enough puzzle game that unlocking enough puzzles to get the free game isn’t a chore. In the game you’ll be playing through variations of four standard puzzle types.
First up is your standard block slider puzzle. Here the goal is to move the wooden blocks in such a way that the contraption in the middle is able to exit through the little hatch on the right side of the screen.
Next up is an interesting take on Sudoku. Instead of numbers you’re given hieroglyph-like pictures to put on the playing board. Only one of each hieroglyph may be in a single row or column, and each hieroglyph must be grouped with others of the same color.
Third you’ll find my personal favorite of the bunch, a sokoban-style sliding block puzzle. The goal here is to move a series of blocks onto an equal number of ‘final’ squares. The catch is that you’re only able to move the blocks by pushing them from behind. Pulling from the front isn’t allowed.
Up last is another sliding block puzzle you’ll probably recognize from your youth. You’re presented with a square grid with one of the interior squares missing. By manipulating the interior squares you need to connect the circles on the edge using wires of the same color as the circles.
As you continue to beat puzzles, more puzzles of increasing difficulty get unlocked. The puzzles near the end can get fiendishly difficult, but thankfully you don’t have to beat them all to unlock the second game (which is a very good thing, because I’m absolutely awful at the last type of sliding block puzzle).
So what is the unlockable game? I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it’s worth more than the $0.99 you’ll pay for The Heist, and it’s available on Steam (which means you’ll need a Steam account to redeem it).
Staying organized can be tough. Between paper notes, calendars, and technology, it can get pretty complicated to keep daily tasks in the forefront of one’s priorities. Heck, sometimes a person even needs to organize their organization methods just to keep their wits in place.
Now how can Techerator aid you in this prioritizing predicament? First off, I recommend getting a SimpleNote account, a free cloud-based space where you can sync and update any note created on a device. From Windows to Mac to Android to iPhone/iPad/iPod, any note changed or created on these devices becomes automatically updated and stored.
NoteTask, available in the Apple App Store, is an interesting meld. Not only does it allow your SimpleNote notes be downloaded, uploaded, and updated, but it has a special feature that allows notes to be changed into task-like to do lists.
As you can see, every time a hyphen is used in a note, NoteTask automatically makes a nice box to check off. If a colon is used, an entirely different section is created in the note for more tasks to be added in. Pretty cool, eh? Futhermore, stickers can be used to tag and sort notes in the main application screen and an underscore before the first words can be used to hide notes.
NoteTask works on all Apple devices running iOS 4.0 or greater, and a free, lite version of the application is available for download. Otherwise, for $2.99, all these things and more can be yours.
Get those prioritizing shoes on, Apple users. NoteTask is here to help.
Having grown up in the ’90s, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition is one of the many games I look back on fondly. Before the release of Goldeneye, NBA Jam is what my friends and I would play nonstop. Packed with outrageous dunks, an over-enthusiastic announcer, and violent gameplay that only vaguely follows the rules of basketball, NBA Jam single-handedly created a new genre of sports games that is still mimicked to this day.
Late last year, the NBA Jam franchise was revived by EA Sports with a new game releasing on the Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, and just a few weeks ago, a trimmed down version of the game was released on the iTunes App Store. Does it live up to the NBA Jam legacy?
Like all good arcade games, the basics of the game are incredibly simple and easy to pick up. At its core, you’re playing a 2-on-2 game of basketball, but the traditional elements of basketball are nowhere to be found. There’s no such thing as double dribbling, fouling is encouraged, and every player (even Steve Nash) has the ability to jump dozens of feet in the air to perform awe-inspiring dunks. If a player manages to make three baskets in a row, he’s designated ‘on fire’ (denoted by the ball literally being on fire when he touches it) and given unlimited turbo, even more ridiculous dunking abilities, better jump shots, and the ability to goaltend at will.
For a mobile game, NBA Jam offers a substantial amount of gameplay. It has the standard quick play option if you want to just pick a team and start playing, but you’ll also find a familiar (if you’ve played previous games in the series) campaign mode, where you pick a team and play successive games against every other team in the league until you’ve beaten them all. Like most modern games, NBA Jam also comes with the requisite achievements, giving any achievement hoarders out there something to work for.
Unlocking achievements also unlocks extras such as cheats, different ball skins, and, most importantly, classic players. Not all of your favorite NBA legends will make an appearance, but there’s bound to be at least a few you’ll want to unlock.
Noticeably absent, however, is any form of multiplayer. Part of the fun of NBA Jam is playing with your friends, and, unfortunately, that’s not possible at this time. We can only hope that it’s patched in at a later date.
As in most console-to-mobile ports, NBA Jam features the dreaded on-screen control pad. Controls make or break a game on a touch-only platform, and I’ve given up on plenty of games because of shoddy controls. Thankfully, NBA Jam doesn’t fall into that category. Part of this is due to the control simplicity. With only three buttons to manage (turbo, pass, and shoot) plus the onscreen analog stick, your fingers don’t get lost.
Of course, without any tactile feedback, it is possible for your fingers to start to wander. Also, since some screen real estate is necessarily taken away to make room for the controls, it’s possible to run into instances where the game action takes place right under your fingers, making it difficult to see what’s going on. These issues can be overlooked, however, as they don’t crop up frequently enough to mar the experience.
Graphically, NBA Jam is simple but adequate. The low-poly bodies are topped by heads with unnaturally high-resolution scans of the players’ faces pasted on. The heads don’t really rotate in any natural way, so it’s not uncommon to see Exorcist-like moments where a player’s head appears to be facing backwards. Somehow, though, it all manages to fit into the NBA Jam style.
In true NBA Jam form, codes can be entered to play as hidden (mostly political) characters. Old favorites like Bill and Hilary Clinton are joined by newcomers Barack Obama, Al Gore, Sarah Palin, and more. How can you not enjoy a game that lets you dunk on Sarah Palin?
NBA Jam for iOS is a return to the series’ roots, which is where I feel it’s strongest. Classic, accessible gameplay makes NBA Jam a must buy for old fans of the series and newcomers alike. Lack of any sort of multiplayer is a bummer, but you’ll still find plenty to enjoy. NBA Jam is available for download in the iTunes App Store now for $4.99.
The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me you haven’t even thought about starting to shop for gifts. In the past this situation might have ended with you in tears at the mall, desperately fighting against throngs of soccer moms and biting children, hoping to grab the last of whatever this year’s best seller ends up being in the final days leading to Christmas.
This year, however, with our series of gift guides and the convenience of online shopping, you can buy gifts for everyone on your list in between matches of Call of Duty.
Gamers can be a tricky bunch to buy for. Taste in games varies wildly, and if you’re unlucky you might accidentally buy Kinect Sports for someone who was hoping to play Fallout on Christmas morning. Talk about embarrassing.
Thankfully, some games have near universal appeal, that any gamer would be happy to find in his or her stocking. I’m here to tell you about these games, one for each of the major systems available today.
Do you have someone on your list who likes Legos? Of course you do, everyone likes Legos. It should then follow naturally that everyone likes Minecraft.
Minecraft has been around for a while now, but this past summer it saw an explosion in popularity, and it seemed like every PC gaming website on the planet was giving their take on the indie sensation. All this attention didn’t come without a reason, and Mincraft – though it’s still in the alpha stage of development – manages to live up to the lofty expectations set by its success.
In its current form Minecraft is a pure sandbox style game. There are no goals to accomplish except those set by yourself, and you can do anything you want, whenever and wherever you want. All the geometry in the game (including your character) is based around the simple Lego-style block, which can be combined with other blocks of different types to form new objects. Punch a tree for long enough and a block of wood will fall out. Combine two blocks of wood and you get a stick. Combine that stick with blocks of coal that can be mined, and you end up with a torch that can light your path.
Blocks of material can also be moved around to create structures in the game world. This comes in handy, as you can build yourself a house to protect you from the monsters that come out during the game’s nighttime.
On top of how fun and engaging Minecraft can be, until it’s final release the game can be bought at a discount. That means you can afford to buy yourself a copy as well!
Peter Molyneux, the mind behind the Fable series, is a bit of a controversial figure in the world of gaming. He’s the man responsible for some of the greatest games in the history of the PC, including Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, and Black & White. More recently, however, he has a habit of making claims that his games cannot possibly deliver on (see his Wikipedia entry for more information).
Thankfully, Fable III manages to live up to most of the hype and offer an enjoyable gaming experience. If you played Fable II, you should feel right at home as you’ll be slinging the same spells at the same Balverines, working to level up your melee, ranged, and magical arsenals.
On top of the familiar gameplay, your character now also has to deal with the day to day management of a kingdom, with your decisions influencing the direction the game takes. Heavily tax your citizens and let criminals wander freely and the world responds by becoming visibly poorer. Take the opposite strategy and watch as your kingdom flourishes.
Fable III isn’t without its flaws, but is absolutely bursting with charm that makes it impossible to not enjoy, making it an excellent holiday gift for that gamer on your list.
Ok, I lied a little bit earlier. Gran Turismo 5 might not have universal appeal, but to the right person it might be just what they’re hoping for, and it’s definitely going to be a big seller this holiday season. Does the person you’re shopping for make their own motor noises while cruising around town in their purple Dodge Stratus? Get them Gran Turismo 5 and they’ll love you for life.
Any car/driving/racing enthusiast will find plenty to do in Gran Turismo 5. The fifth iteration (obviously) of the critically acclaimed driving simulation series Gran Turismo, GT5 is a game that’s been in the making for six long years. It boasts a roster of over 1000 cars (though some are more detailed than others), and you’ll be doing everything from go-kart racing at 75 MPH, to learning about NASCAR from Jeff Gordon, to, of course, lots of racing in cars you’ll never be able to afford on real world tracks you’ll never visit.
Gran Turismo 5 certainly isn’t perfect, but it still manages to succeed on a level never before seen in a racing simulator. If you want to know what went on during those six years of development, hop into your favorite supercar and take it for a spin around Nürburgring. As you open up the throttle on the track’s long straightaway, taking in the beautiful scenery, the roar of the engine loud in your ears, you’ll know you’re playing something special. Or at least whoever you buy it for will.
Ah, the memories. Four kids huddled around a tiny TV. Each looking at their quarter of the screen, pretending not to look at anyone else’s. Ripping each other apart with RCP-90s and blowing each other to bits with the dreaded proximity mine. That one kid who always (annoyingly) picked Oddjob. If you played video games in the ’90s, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Goldeneye. The name alone brings back waves of nostalgia.
Unlike Perfect Dark for the Xbox 360, Goldeneye for the Wii isn’t a direct port of the N64 classic. Instead, it’s more of a re-imagining. Throughout the game you’ll see some familiar areas, but there’s plenty of new ground to cover and people to shoot. Additionally, Pierce Brosnan’s visage has been replaced by the most recent actor to play James Bond, Daniel Craig.
Multiplayer can be enjoyed by up to four people on one console, split-screen style, or you can opt to take the more modern approach and play with up to seven other people online. All your favorite classic characters make an appearance (yes, even Oddjob), and even the one-shot-one-kill Golden Gun returns to wreak havoc. Any classic gamer on your list lucky enough to get it will certainly enjoy Goldeneye.
Before its release, the original Scribblenauts was set to be quite possibly the greatest game of all time (I might be exaggerating slightly). It allowed you to think of nearly any object, type it out, and watch it appear before your eyes. Particularly tough enemy got you down? Instantiate a time machine, take it back to the past, and ride back to the present on a freaking dinosaur and eat the problem away. Or just summon Cthulu and watch as one of the Great Old Ones demolishes your opposition. Only your imagination (and the game’s nearly bottomless dictionary) stood in the way of solving all the puzzles the game had to offer.
Unfortunately, infuriating controls and some lame levels marred an otherwise enjoyable experience. This year, Scribblenauts is back, bigger and better than ever.
Super Scribblenauts manages to solve most of the problems of the first game. The annoying touch-based only controls of the previous installment can now be replaced by more precise d-pad controls if you wish, and the level design is much improved. Additionally, adjectives can now be attached to objects you summon. Why wield a simple sword when you can instead brandish a much more intimidating flaming sword? Almost anyone can find joy in playing Super Scribblenauts, making it a perfect gift.
The God of War franchise is known for its stellar gameplay and polished gaming experience, and this excellence carries over to its latest mini form, Ghost of Sparta.
Just like in past incarnations of God of War, you play as the demigod Kratos, and like usual you’re mad as hell. Thankfully there are legions of mythical creatures just waiting for you to hack and slash them to bits and release some of your anger.
And boy is that hacking and slashing pretty. Somehow God of War‘s developers have managed to cram the graphical quality of a PS2 game into the aging hardware of the PSP. Ghost of Sparta is one of the must-have games for Sony’s portable console, so it’s a safe purchase for that special someone on your list.
If you’re having a tough time deciding what to get, take the easy way out and buy the gaming equivalent of a gift card. All three of the major consoles have an online service where plenty of downloadable games are available for purchase, so they’re bound to find something they like.
While iTunes might be most recognized for its music store, there are also plenty of games available. If your giftee owns an iPod Touch or iPhone, an iTunes gift card makes a great gift idea.
That’s it from me. If you have additional suggestions for good gifts for gamers, feel free to leave them in the comments section found below!
A friend of mine recently asked if she should buy an iPod Touch or a Motorola Droid. While these are two completely different products, one being a wifi-enabled MP3 player and the other being a full-featured smartphone, a choice definitely still exists. So without any further adieu, here’s what I had to say about the two of them!
I bought my 16GB iPod Touch two summers ago and I used it like crazy. Since I didn’t have a smartphone back then, I basically used it for everything. The apps are fantastic, battery life is great, and let’s not forget that the Touch is still a really nice MP3 player.
On average, I used my Touch 90% of the time for apps and the internet, and the other 10% was for music/audiobooks. The one real downside of the Touch is that a wifi-only device, so once you hit the road you won’t be able to use most of the internet apps.
I bought a Droid about two weeks ago. It’s amazing. It’s exactly the type of phone I’ve always wanted – highly customizable, very fast, and has huge potential for growth.
Since you’re trying to figure out which one to buy, here’s some things to keep in mind about the devices:
– Both have apps. Touch has way more, but Droid’s app store (called the Android Market) is steadily increasing. The nice thing about Android phones is that the app market is completely open, which means there are no barriers to entry for a software developer (unlike Apple, who requires an arduous approval process). If a developer wants to make something for Android, boom, it’s done. Huge potential for growth here.
– Both support the basics. They can both play music (although the Touch is probably more refined when it comes to a straight MP3 player). They both have apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, web browsers… pretty much anything you can think of.
– Battery life will be much longer on the iPod Touch, but keep in mind the Droid is also a full-featured cell phone which uses most of the juice.
Here’s where they’re pretty different:
– Touch has Google Maps, but no GPS (and you can really only use the maps when you have a wifi connection). The Droid uses your cellular network and has a built-in GPS, so not only can it show you maps, it can also do turn-by-turn navigation (which is free!). It’s a straight-up GPS, and I used it on my last trip to Minneapolis as a total replacement for my old GPS.
– Droid has a cellular network. This was implied before, but this means you’ve got an internet connection anywhere where you go. Verizon’s network is really impressive, and you’ll browse websites on the Droid just like you would at home.
– Touch is much simpler and easier to use. For a person like me this can be frustrating (I like menus! And settings!), but you can’t beat it for ease of use and using it for what it was intended – enjoyment. The Droid, on the other hand, lets you customize basically every facet of the phone (and the things you can’t change can typically be modified with apps from the Android Market). This is a blessing and a curse – even I found the Droid to be a little daunting when I first started using it.
– Droid has a camera (5 megapixels), the Touch has no camera.
– Both are touchscreen devices. They both have “virtual keyboards”, which are keyboards on the touchscreen, but the Droid has an actual slide-out physical keyboard. I’ve never had one of these before and I really like it. A lot of people complain about the keyboard though, so your mileage may vary. The Droid offers both landscape and portrait virtual keyboards in almost all applications, but the Touch only offers landscape virtual keyboards in applications that support it.
– As for size, they’re about the same dimensions but the Droid is much thicker (again, the cell phone is the reason for this). The Droid is heavier than the Touch.
– Droid supports a bunch of Google services out-of-the-box (Android was designed by Google). This means that Gmail, Google Calendar, your Google contacts, and several other services are automatically synchronized to the phone and are deeply integrated. This makes it really easy to manage your data. Touch can do these things too, but it’s more “added on” and not as smooth in my opinion.
– Total cost of ownership: the iPod Touch costs around $300 and that’s all you’ll every pay to use it (excluding purchases from the app store). The Droid costs $200 with a new 2-year contract, and you’ll need a voice plan (starting at $39.99/month) as well as a data plan ($30/month). That puts the total cost of ownership for the Droid at about $1,040 for the first year (includes price of the phone) and $840 for successive years (network charges). Plus tax.
Overall, I’ve loved both of these devices. I still use my Touch (mainly because Audible.com DRM-encrypts their audiobooks and they don’t support Android yet – that’s another rant altogether) but for all intents and purposes, the Droid gets all of my attention.
I love being connected everywhere I go, and the Droid does a fantastic job of integrating all my Google services, Facebook, Twitter… everything. It’s a fantastic device.