» Reviews http://androinica.com Google Android phones, news and apps Fri, 17 Jan 2014 18:41:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Moto X by Motorola on AT&T Review http://androinica.com/2013/09/moto-x-by-motorola-on-att-review/ http://androinica.com/2013/09/moto-x-by-motorola-on-att-review/#comments Sun, 01 Sep 2013 21:33:27 +0000 Natesh Sood http://androinica.com/?p=46968

The Moto X is one of the more interesting smartphones to launch in recent memory for a couple of fundamental reasons.  To begin, it offers mid-range specs (on paper), coupled with a high-end price tag ($199 on contract), and…

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The Moto X is one of the more interesting smartphones to launch in recent memory for a couple of fundamental reasons.  To begin, it offers mid-range specs (on paper), coupled with a high-end price tag ($199 on contract), and the best customization options currently in the marketplace.  Despite the mid-range specs and high-end price tag, many are falling in love with the device simply because of high quality design and ease of use.  Without giving too much of the review away, the Moto X is definitely a fun phone to use, but my only concern is whether it can last two plus years.

Hardware

As you probably know by now, the Moto X offers a 4.7 inch display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, 16GB of storage, 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 10 MP rear facing camera, LTE, and a 2,200 mAh battery.  At first glance, the device seems mid-range with its display resolution and processor, but the display is actually quite terrific and vibrant.  In fact, it offers a better viewing experience than my stock Nexus 4.  On the processor side, it handles multi-tasking and switching between apps with ease — as you would naturally expect from a flagship device.  As I mentioned before, the Moto X operates without missing a beat for now, but I do have slight concern how it will fare in two years since most devices currently possess quad-core processors.

The build quality of the Moto X is astoundingly good, as the device is just a joy to hold and use.  The curved design was not something thought up by a rookie engineer, it had to be something studied and researched carefully by Motorola.  One of the aspects of the Moto X I enjoy the most is how Motorola managed to make it feel small despite owning a 4.7 inch display.  My Nexus 4 has the same screen size, but is noticeably bigger than the Moto X.  I prefer larger displays, but the device needs to maintain some semblance of being small, which the Moto X has perfectly captured.  With one hand-usability being a key feature for some users, the Moto X enables one hand usage for sure.

In terms of the camera, Motorola packs a 10MP shooter into the device.  Some say the camera is mediocre and some say it works really well.  In my opinion, it gets the job done as smartphone camera.  It will not best the Nokia Lumia 1020, but it will allow you snap quick pictures and have them turn out just fine.  In fact, Motorola added a gesture sensor to the camera so users can easily launch the camera from a sleeping device with two shakes of the wrist.  It does take some time getting used to, but if it becomes a habit, then taking pictures can occur faster.

The battery life is another shining aspect of the device since the Moto X only uses a dual-core processor, it is able to work more efficiently when handling tasks.  In my testing, I could almost always get through a day with some power remaining.  On a slow usage day, the phone could easily last a day and a half, but heavy operation would require a charge at night.  Regardless, it performed better than my Nexus 4 on the battery front, and I imagine most users will be satisfied with its performance.  It may not be as powerful as its cousin’s battery life (DROID MAXX), but it certainly gets the job done.

Software

The uniqueness of the Moto X is heavily derived from the software aspect of the device.  A couple of examples include Active Display and Touchless controls.  Most people interested in Moto X will presumably hear these terms constantly tossed around — and for good reason.  Active Display is an interesting way of receiving notifications since the phone will only light up portions of the screen when drawn from the pocket or lifted up from a table.  At a quick glance, it shows what kind of notification, and if you press the icon, it will display the message and allow you to act upon it.  For the most part, I enjoyed how Active Notifications operated, but there would be times where the screen would randomly light up on its own for no apparent reason.  In addition, there were some instances where I wanted to see the notifications, but the screen didn’t light up.  Most of the time, Active Display works as you would expect, but I would say it is not completely flawless.

Touchless Control is another superb feature by Motorola that will really come in handy for people who enjoy speaking to their phone.  Essentially, the Moto X can respond and carry out actions based on your voice when you say “Ok, Google Now.”  I often use my phone in the presence of others, so having to speak something aloud isn’t always ideal.  However, navigating in the car is an excellent opportunity to tell the Moto X to pull up directions to location X on a whim.

The last interesting software component is Assist, as the Moto X aims to understand where you are and providing the appropriate notifications.  For instance, if you set up Assist to know when you are driving, it will then read aloud text messages and alert you to calls.  These features both work great if you drive alone; I imagine you may not want your passengers constantly hearing your texts.  Assist can also know when you are in meetings based on your Google Calendar and it will silence notifications appropriately.  There are alternative apps that can do something similar, but it is always nice to have the functionality baked into the OS.

Customization

Unfortunately, the Moto Maker is an AT&T exclusive for the time being, but it is something I would recommend to all those interested in the Moto X.  Essentially, it offers you a free way to customize and personalize your device.  There are over 2,000 possibilities, and Moto Maker specifically allows you to customize the back plating, the front color, an accent color, and eventually users will be able to add a custom signature.  In case you realize your design isn’t absolutely perfect when it ships to your house, you can return it within 14 days and change the design for free.

Conclusion

In order to really understand how the Moto X can benefit your lifestyle, I firmly believe it is necessary to check out the device in person before purchasing it.  To truly understand how the unique software applications work, using it in person will grant you that insight.  The premium build quality and in-hand feel cannot easily be communicated through a review, but it is something that is meant to be experienced.  If you enjoy the feel, speed, and customization of the Moto X, then I think it will be worth the price.  However, keep in mind the hardware is still mid-range and the customization is locked to AT&T for now, so it is hard to completely justify the $199 price tag.

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Androinica Reviews the M-Cloud Qi Wireless Charging Pad http://androinica.com/2013/08/androinica-reviews-the-m-cloud-qi-wireless-charging-pad/ http://androinica.com/2013/08/androinica-reviews-the-m-cloud-qi-wireless-charging-pad/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 00:59:10 +0000 Natesh Sood http://androinica.com/?p=46937

A common feature in many flagship devices is wireless charging, which essentially grants you two ways to charge your device.  The standard way is to simply plug in a micro-USB cable that extends from the wall to your device.  The…

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A common feature in many flagship devices is wireless charging, which essentially grants you two ways to charge your device.  The standard way is to simply plug in a micro-USB cable that extends from the wall to your device.  The second way is to place your device onto a Qi wireless charging pad or stand and simply let the electricity flow from the stand into your device.  The only cable necessary is the one going from the wall to your Qi charging stand.  While I must admit, wireless charging is more of a luxury than a necessary piece of technology, it is pretty neat and offers the ability to immediately pick up and place your phone for charge without having to touch any wires.

Up for review today is M-Cloud’s Qi Wireless Charging Pad courtesy of Mobile Fun.  The gadget is very easy to set up, it simply requires plugging in the AC charger into the wall, and placing the Qi Wireless Charging Pad on a flat surface.  Next, take your device that supports wireless charging and place it onto the pad.  For the purposes of this review, the device I used is the Nexus 4 by Google.  Assuming your case is thin enough, then the Nexus 4 should immediately make a sound and begin charging.

Essentially, the M-Cloud product works exactly as you would expect – plug and play at its finest.  The only trouble I imagine some customers experiencing is the fact that larger and bulkier cases will not allow the charge to take place.  Alternatively, a case-less phone will definitely work, but some slim cases can work as well.  I personally like to keep my Nexus 4 protected at all times, so I was pleased when the Charging Pad continued to work with the case I had on my Nexus 4.  In addition, the Nexus 4 can become pretty warm after sitting on the pad for an extended amount of time, but I am sure the case adds to the heat.  Lastly, I found that wireless charging seemed to take a little bit longer than it normally would from the stock cable charger.  However, throughout the few weeks in which I reviewed the unit, I preferred to use the wireless charger since it was easier to pick it up on the go, and drop it back down.

The Qi Wireless Charging Pad retails on MobileFun for $46.99, which is a great price point considering the Google official wireless charger for the Nexus 4 costs $59.99.  The device will also work with any smartphone that supports the Qi standard.  However, be warned that it will not work with the Nexus 7 (or other tablets) simply because it is too large for the tiny pad to contain.

Special Thanks to MobileFun for providing Androinica with the M-Cloud Qi Wireless Charging Pad!

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Androinica Reviews ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective case for Google Nexus 4 http://androinica.com/2013/04/androinica-reviews-armourdillo-hybrid-protective-case-for-google-nexus-4/ http://androinica.com/2013/04/androinica-reviews-armourdillo-hybrid-protective-case-for-google-nexus-4/#comments Thu, 11 Apr 2013 21:28:52 +0000 Natesh Sood http://androinica.com/?p=46856

Up for review today is the ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case for the Google Nexus 4.  The specific unit for review was sent to us by MobileFun, which is an online retailer for mobile accessories.

The Google Nexus 4,…

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Up for review today is the ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case for the Google Nexus 4.  The specific unit for review was sent to us by MobileFun, which is an online retailer for mobile accessories.

The Google Nexus 4, as you probably know, features a glass backing, which makes it very susceptible to scratches and cracks.  As a result, many Nexus 4 owners quickly protect it with a case, but there many Nexus 4 cases available, so it is important to find the one that satisfies your needs.

The ArmourDillo case is a rugged two piece case that offers stellar protection for the Nexus 4.  One unique feature specific to the case is the fact that it offers a kickstand, which can be popped out to prop up the Nexus 4 to view videos.  The kickstand can definitely come in handy if the device is charging, but you want it propped on your desk.  If you are watching a video from your desk, then the kickstand can be used to let it stand while you sit comfortably watching.  If you take out the last layer of protection, you are left with a simple black rubber skin.  Some owners may prefer this option since it is thinner than the complete case, but you lose some protection and the kickstand.

I personally enjoy the fact that it is easy to add and remove the second protective layer, depending if I want the extra protection and bulk or not.  It features many grooves (hence the ArmourDillo name), which offers a better grip than you would normally expect from handling the device without a case.

The one aspect of the ArmourDillo Hybrid case that bothers me is the fact that the buttons are harder to press.  The protective rubber of the case extends over the volume and power buttons, so you will have to press relatively hard to increase the volume or turn on the screen.  For some, this is a huge nuisance and others may hardly notice this lack of functionality.  I generally prefer cases that have cut-outs where the buttons reside, since this offers for easier access.

The black ArmourDillo Hybrid protective case through MobileFun costs $16.49, which is a fair price point for such a case.  If you are looking for excellent protection and something with a kickstand, the ArmourDillo option is something worth considering.  However, if you prefer a minimalist sleek case, then you will want to keep looking for something thinner.  Overall, I would rate the Nexus 4 ArmourDillo case 4 stars out of 5.

Special Thanks to MobileFun for providing Androinica with the AmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case for the Nexus 4!

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Androinica Reviews Andru from Gen http://androinica.com/2013/03/androinica-reviews-andru-from-gen/ http://androinica.com/2013/03/androinica-reviews-andru-from-gen/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2013 12:30:49 +0000 Natesh Sood http://androinica.com/?p=46797

The problem with standard smartphone chargers is the fact that they are boring and bland.  How cool would it be if each Android smartphone came with a specially designed charger in the shape of an Android?  Fortunately, Gen (a division…

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The problem with standard smartphone chargers is the fact that they are boring and bland.  How cool would it be if each Android smartphone came with a specially designed charger in the shape of an Android?  Fortunately, Gen (a division of Salom in America) has come up with a solution that is sure to please Android enthusiasts.  Dubbed Andru, this little product depicted above is an alternative charger for your phone.  While it comes bundled with a standard micro USB charger, you can technically attach any charging cable into its head.

The specific model I reviewed is the standard Andru model in green.  However, Gen also sells Andru Dark (which offers a black matte finish) and Andru Chill (which offers a white matte finish).

Basically, Andru is miniature Android robot with a USB female port on the top of its head.  Since it comes included with a USB data cable, you can easily attach the cable into its head and plug the micro USB end into your phone for charging.  Once it is plugged into a socket, the device emits a white standby color.  When Andru is actually charging a phone, it emits a blue color through its eyes.  Overall, the product is pretty interesting and represents a neat desk companion.

If you do not want to keep Andru constantly plugged into the wall, then you can put it in its stand and keep it on your desk.  Andru does not offer any specific advantages over a standard wall charger; it is simply a cute figurine to use instead of the conventional boring charger.  Oh, and, the arms and antennae actually move!

In terms of specific technical details, the device measures out at 2.5 inches tall, inputs 120~240V AC, outputs 5V/1A DC, and the micro USB cable is 1.2m in length.

The bottom line with Andru is it is a great alternative charger especially if you prefer novelty Android products.  If you really do not care what kind of charger you use, then shelling out $25 for Andru is probably not the best idea.  However, if you like creative products or desire an extra charger on hand, then Andru is something worth checking out.

The product retails for $25 and can be purchased online through the Gen web store or through Amazon.  The relevant purchase links can be found below.

[Andru by Gen] [Amazon] [Gen Facebook] [Andru on Twitter]

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Ant Raid – A Fast-Paced Hive Defense Game [Game Review] http://androinica.com/2013/01/ant-raid-a-fast-paced-hive-defense-game-game-review/ http://androinica.com/2013/01/ant-raid-a-fast-paced-hive-defense-game-game-review/#comments Wed, 30 Jan 2013 21:49:26 +0000 Ben Crawford http://androinica.com/?p=46580

Ant Raid is made by the same Developers of The Tiny Bang Story and brings a more action-packed style to the Tower Defense Genre.  Don’t let the cute graphics and quirky sound effects fool you, if you don’t…

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Ant Raid is made by the same Developers of The Tiny Bang Story and brings a more action-packed style to the Tower Defense Genre.  Don’t let the cute graphics and quirky sound effects fool you, if you don’t make the correct moves at the beginning, you will fail and fail often at levels.

To start, Ant Raid is a simple defend-your-home game.  You have an army of ants that you group to fight off snails, bees and more.  There aren’t different types or classes of ants for you to choose; instead, you, eventually, have different powers to give your ant horde.  Your ants surround their hive to defend it, and you use your finger to select as many ants as you want to send to attack your enemies.  The trick at the beginning of the game is to select the right number of ants to attack the different approaching enemies.  If you select too many or too few, the snails will destroy your hive within seconds.  The last levels give you more tasks than simply defending your hive, and these add a dimension to the game that the first levels lack.  Ant Raid starts off slow, but with more powers come more fun.

The further you progress in the game, you get more powers like berserker-mode, healing, and an earthquake that you control with your finger.  These powers are much-needed as the story progress, but they seem to imbalance the power between you and the approaching enemies.  While the first chapter has overpowered enemies where if you slip up, you die, the last couple chapters allow you to gain the upper hand with your powers.  The earthquake power basically allows you to kill everything without remorse or challenge.

For replayability and a challenge, you can get up to three stars in each level.  You can achieve these by beating the level within a certain time, not allowing your hive to get harmed, not letting your finger earthquakes hurt your ants, and more.  These are great to have and add to the game, but don’t expect to get three stars often on your first try.  As I mentioned, it takes knowing what enemies are coming where and how many ants you need to take them down to really get those three stars.  These are achievable but much more difficult than say the first few levels of Angry Birds.

The story is enough to carry the game.  It’s quirky, funny, and silly without being strictly for kids.  The music and atmosphere match that light-hearted description, and it’s all very well created.  The graphics are serviceable, very much in the Herocraft style; though, I would have liked fewer sharp edges on the enemies and a bit more detail to see your ant army easier.

My few complaints are all above:  it takes too long to get all your powers with so few short levels (45, with more promised), your ants are difficult to see (especially the ones hidden behind your hive), and an imbalance in your powers versus the enemy’s.  Overall, it’s worth trying out the demo, and without a lot of noteworthy Tower Defense games on Android, Ant Raid could soothe your tower-defenseless gaming soul.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – Verizon Remix Version [Hardware Review] http://androinica.com/2013/01/samsung-galaxy-note-2-verizon-remix-version-hardware-review/ http://androinica.com/2013/01/samsung-galaxy-note-2-verizon-remix-version-hardware-review/#comments Wed, 30 Jan 2013 13:00:53 +0000 Ben Crawford http://androinica.com/?p=46534

We have written a review for the Galaxy Note 2 previously, but phones on Verizon are always a little different.  Whether it’s an almost completely rolled out LTE or non-removable apps that pervade your homescreen, Verizon plays by…

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We have written a review for the Galaxy Note 2 previously, but phones on Verizon are always a little different.  Whether it’s an almost completely rolled out LTE or non-removable apps that pervade your homescreen, Verizon plays by its own rules.  I’m going to be focusing more on the software side of things since you already have a good idea of what this phone brings to the Android world.  I’m going in-depth on the camera, Touchwiz, battery, and I’ll get into the consumer’s head to really understand the Galaxy Note 2 and why it’s the phone you need.

Software

While the Note 2 doesn’t have the eye-popping screen the Droid DNA did, Samsung does make sure the size of the phone grabs you, then the S-Pen, the multi-window function, and the S-Voice keep you sucked into the Samsung software ecosystem. It’s a very good ecosystem to get sucked into too.  The S-Voice is a nice gimmick, but I don’t think it really compares to Google Now as Samsung simply doesn’t have as much information about you as Google does.  However, the S-Pen is accurate, quick to withdraw, and I actually found myself using it quite a bit.  Samsung made a nice app to make notes, lists, and diary entries as well as draw and sketch to your heart’s content.  I would liked to have seen Evernote integration or support, but Samsung’s app is nice, if not very intuitive. It has been pointed out that Samsung is distancing itself from Google by providing its own Google Now competitor, its own Media Hub, and Kies.

This would be an unfortunate development as the multi-window feature is pure brilliance and works great on the Note 2 (aside from the Verizon Note 2 only being able to take advantage of a few apps), but the Media Hub and S-Voice simply cannot compete with Google Now and the Play Store. The battery is fantastic; I could only drain it to zero if I was using it constantly for the whole day (think YouTube streaming in HD on LTE for 4 hours). This is  my new number one feature – a battery that lasts all day.  I will not buy a phone that doesn’t have a 3,000+ mAh battery.  Of course, a Verizon OTA update was available for the Note 2 so I downloaded it, and, as many forums and websites have reported, it has caused a noticeable battery drain when compared to my first week without the update.  The battery still lasts a full day, but now it doesn’t seem to go into deep sleep as well as it used to. LTE has a strong signal, and where my Galaxy Nexus would have trouble finding a single or drop from LTE to 3G, the Galaxy Note would hold the LTE signal. Speed tests showed the Galaxy Note 2 averaging about 15mb/s at peak times, outpacing my Galaxy Nexus at ~7mb/s, and hitting a high of 29mb/s late at night.

Camera

Samsung generally makes some decent cameras, probably third behind Sony and HTC, and I think that’s about adequate.  The camera app isn’t as good as the Droid DNA was, but the Note 2 has a nice “Best Photo” mode to take quick pictures and select the best available, and it has all the usual filters and other normal camera stuff you need.  The camera lens is too high up for my liking.  I always seemed to get my finger caught in the way when I was trying to take quick shots.  This would have been an easy problem to solve since the Note 2 has so much room on the back.  The camera was noticeably dim at night compared to the DNA, and snapping pictures wasn’t nearly as quick as it is for my Galaxy Nexus or anything else I’ve tried running ICS or Jelly Bean. The more I look at the pictures, the less impressed I became, but most of them were with low light or at night.

 

Touchwiz

Touchwiz is as pervasive as HTC’s Sense UI, but Samsung has done a fairly good job of keeping it current with the Android updates.  Samsung took a lot of things from the stock ICS launcher, colorized it with a palette from the 80s, and added a few enhancements like the screen staying on if you are looking at it and moving items on your homescreen by tilting the phone.  It’s these small enhancements that make Touchwiz much more user-friendly and much more acceptable than HTC’s ten-clicks-deep menus.  We can all remember the days when Touchwiz had Bing, Blockbuster, and generally left the phone feeling more cumbersome than polished.  Not anymore.  Touchwiz actually adds value to the device, especially for novice Android users.  There are different homescreen modes, Simple and Standard, different saturation levels you can change, tons of lock screen options (news, weather, Facebook feeds), and battery-saving options (not that you will need them).  Touchwiz has certainly come a long way from my Fascinate days, and it isn’t an excuse to not buy a Samsung device anymore.

Final Thoughts

I love this phone.  The Galaxy Note 2 is the best phone I have ever used. Anyone that gasps about the size is correct, it’s a really big phone that isn’t seen very often.  But, you’re hand(s) become accustomed to it, and eventually a smaller phone just doesn’t cut it for pictures, movies, and Redditing. Looking at my Galaxy Nexus, it is almost a disappointment now, even though I’m on the latest version of Android with stock UI. A battery that lasts the whole day using LTE is a serious game changer and keeps your mind at ease. Samsung and their Touchwiz UI have made the buttons ever-so-slightly bigger to be reached easier, and the multi-window feature (especially if you figure out how to get any app to use it) is a serious advancement in smartphones. A  quad-core processor and 2GB RAM make this beast of a phone fly, even while having a YouTube video playing on one half of the screen and tweeting from the other half. Samsung has outdone themselves, and Verizon should be happy because the S-Pen, multi-window feature, and size can sell to business customers. That being said, why is there a Verizon logo on the front? A great phone aesthetically marred by stupidity/ingenious marketing. That is my one fault with the phone. That being said, the Galaxy Note 2 is a must-buy, even if the price tag gives you hesitation.

 

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Droid DNA – Love at first sight, quirky at second glance [Hardware Review] http://androinica.com/2012/12/droid-dna-love-at-first-sight-quirky-at-second-glance-hardware-review/ http://androinica.com/2012/12/droid-dna-love-at-first-sight-quirky-at-second-glance-hardware-review/#comments Sat, 29 Dec 2012 13:30:07 +0000 Ben Crawford http://androinica.com/?p=46298

HTC has finally given Verizon users a reason to be happy for the holiday season. HTC’s Droid lineup has been lackluster on Big Red’s service for at least the past year, but the Droid DNA has changed all that. There…

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HTC has finally given Verizon users a reason to be happy for the holiday season. HTC’s Droid lineup has been lackluster on Big Red’s service for at least the past year, but the Droid DNA has changed all that. There are no more variations to the Incredible lineup; instead, the DNA attempts to rejuvenate HTC’s influence in Verizon’s Samsung-dominated lineup. While it may not bring a flashy name, the DNA hits all the major marketing points to promote and sells itself well, better even than Samsung’s Galaxy series.

Hardware

While our readers and other Android enthusiasts may drool over a high processor speed or the latest Android update, everyone, including your grandmother, drools over a high resolution, high quality display. There is no overlooking or denying that HTC and Verizon attempted to make buying a smartphone simple – hold two phones together, the DNA and anything else, and see which looks better. The DNA wins that battle handily and creates a remarkably simple sell for buyers and sales associates.

Conversely, the single annoyance that will make you throw the DNA, which you probably won’t notice in the store, is the micro-USB cover. The cover is a pain to get off (I couldn’t take it off without my pocket knife) and is worth ripping off before you even turn on the phone. I understand the reasoning HTC – to create a solid, unibody design and look – but how about a sliding door, a la the Fascinate, or anything else that doesn’t take fingernails of steel to rip off.  It’s also fairly creaky.  For having a unibody design, HTC should have been able to tightly secure the the back to the front and sides with no movement.

With that gripe out of the way, the DNA looks fantastic. The red accents are an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the black. The glass screen melts over the edges of the phone for a smooth swiping area, and the fake speaker grills on the sides give the DNA a nice, if unnecessary, garnish.  There are two LED notification lights; the front is very difficult to see from any angle but directly in front, but the back notification light is a stroke of genius on HTC’s part.  It’s bright, clear, and imperceptible when not flashing.

The power button and headphone jack are at the top of the device, along with the removable mini-SIM card slot. The volume rocker is recessed into the right side of the phone. The power and volume buttons take some getting used to, but after a while, they become second nature. Besides these normal traits, HTC has left the DNA bare but sleek. There’s enough flair and wow without any gimmicks.

Screen/Camera

These two features go hand-in-hand. A great camera with a great screen to view photos and videos. The screen’s resolution is a full 1080p, and at 5 inches, I find it to be a perfect form factor.  Even though it sounds like a large display, HTC does a tremendous job in blending in the screen so it fits comfortably in your hand.  It’s true that the pixels per inch blow every other phone out of the water, but you will really only notice when reading text or web pages. The DNA has a notable washed-out look, but I’ve found this to be the case with most HTC phones on Verizon. Instead of popping like the accents on the outside, the red Droid color scheme has never caught my eye as being vibrant. It’s more of a muted, subdued tone almost attempting to meddle in both the business world and private world.

I’ve always enjoyed HTC’s camera app, and the quality of the photo sensor is unmatched on Verizon. There are tons of options like a countdown timer, aspect ratio, picture quality, and different photo lenses and distortions. Your fingers can easily find all these buttons in a very simple interface.  It may not be as elegant as the new 4.2 Jelly Bean camera app, but the DNA has more features and one of the best cameras on the market. The camera sensor and LED flash is also flush with the body so no worrying about scratching it or having an unstable-laying phone.

Software

For only having 16GB internal storage, with no external storage possible, Verizon and HTC, unfortunately, bundled enough apps and extras to whittle the storage down to 11GB. The Sense UI overlay is a stark contrast to the smooth, coherent Jelly Bean look. Sub-menus with a cartoonish color scheme and features from the Froyo era make up the Sense UI. It’s enough to make 2GB of RAM and the latest quad core processor slow down more than is reasonable. I also don’t enjoy being reminded to turn on WiFi regardless of where I am.  Out to eat? WiFi! At work? WiFi! Out to sea? WiFi!  And there is no way to disable this incessant notification.

The only redeeming quality is the zero-gap screen, which makes widgets and apps on your homescreens appear to float above the background.  Maybe I am buying into the marketing, but it feels like everything on the screen is easier and quicker to touch.

Apps play great, out-pacing my Galaxy Nexus by dozens of seconds.  The radio is crisp and clear, although I did experience less-than-stellar performance while I was traveling.  The signal would drop from 4G to no signal far too frequently with no 3G in between.  On the whole, the DNA had a much stronger signal than my Nexus (not shockingly), and speed tests were noticeably better than my Nexus.

On WiFi, the DNA can last well over a day, maybe two, with moderate usage.  With a cell signal, however, you could burn through the battery in less than twelve hours for moderate usage.  Heavy usage, with a cell signal, you’re looking at four to six hours before the screen eats up the battery.

Final Thoughts

Not only has HTC gone a long way in reasserting themselves as a Verizon favorite, the DNA is the torch-bearer for high definition phones.  Next year, we will see a ton of 1080p resolution phones, but HTC and the DNA won’t let you get behind the technological times.  The DNA has all the specs to compete with the Nexus 4 and Galaxy S III/Note II, with a special feature to separate itself from the pack.  I love the look, and I love the unibody construction.  Unfortunately, that comes with the hassle of a non-replaceable battery and a fixed 16GB storage amount. The screen can pull you in to using your phone a lot, but the Sense UI can make the app drawer and homescreens drag more than you would expect with a quad core processor and 2GB of RAM.  The DNA has a lot going for it and a lot to enjoy.  The hesitations I have with it are basically personal annoyances (Sense, slightly dated software, USB cover), but I think many people agree with these annoyances.  As great as the DNA is, it hasn’t completely blown away its competition.

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Samsung Galaxy Note II Review on Sprint http://androinica.com/2012/11/samsung-galaxy-note-ii-review-on-sprint/ http://androinica.com/2012/11/samsung-galaxy-note-ii-review-on-sprint/#comments Thu, 29 Nov 2012 13:00:09 +0000 Natesh Sood http://androinica.com/?p=46218

Up for review today is the Samsung Galaxy Note II on Sprint.  Let me start by saying that some consumers prematurely dismiss the Galaxy Note II from consideration based on its gargantuan size, but you should definitely at least play…

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Up for review today is the Samsung Galaxy Note II on Sprint.  Let me start by saying that some consumers prematurely dismiss the Galaxy Note II from consideration based on its gargantuan size, but you should definitely at least play with it for a little bit.  I was fortunate to test out the Galaxy Note II for a couple of weeks and I enjoyed most facets of the device beginning with its 5.5 inch Super AMOLED HD display. Before getting too far into my conclusion of the Galaxy Note II, let’s take a closer look at what it packs in terms of hardware and software.

Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Note II offers a stunning 5.5 inch Super AMOLED HD display with 1280 x 780 resolution, 8MP rear facing camera, 2MP front facing camera, 16GB of onboard memory, 2GB of RAM, 1.6GHz quad-core processor, microSD memory expansion, 3100 mAh battery, and 4G LTE connectivity.

The first thing I noticed about the Galaxy Note II (as I’m sure many individuals do as well) was its extremely large display.  At first, 5.5 inches seemed too large for a smartphone bordering on a tablet, but as I used it more and more, it became more comfortable and intuitive.  Browsing the web, playing games, watching videos, and reading emails was a pleasure.  I started using my Galaxy Note II for all media related consumption and literally stopped using my everyday smartphone and tablet.  In my opinion, the Galaxy Note II can take place of your tablet if you want it to.

Now, here is the drawback to having such an awesome display, it does feel a bit large in the pocket since it is long in size.  It is, however, relatively thin so it does not feel bulky in the pocket.  Sometimes, you need to use two hands for specific functions, so I don’t  think the Galaxy Note II is meant for everyone.  Even though my younger sister enjoyed using it from time to time, I doubt she would be comfortable using it for the long term as I would.

Moving on, the next thing I noticed is how snappy the device performs.  Multitasking is a breeze — apps close and open extremely fast and it seems to never skip a beat.  Undoubtedly, 2GB of RAM coupled with a 1.6GHz quad-core processor and Android 4.1 makes for a winning combination.  Feel free to toss your most intensive applications at your Galaxy Note II, I am confident it will handle it with ease.

Now, the Galaxy Note II is similar to the Galaxy S III in many ways.  Both devices are often compared and it is easy to see where Samsung got their inspiration for the Galaxy Note II from.  By taking a cursory glance at the Galaxy Note II, the design form factor is very similar to the Galaxy S III in terms of contours and feel.  Essentially, it is a larger version with souped up internals and runs Android 4.1 out of the box.  There’s two points I want to make here.  One, if you enjoy the Galaxy S III then you will very likely enjoy the Galaxy Note II especially if you fall in love with its display.  Two, the cameras and sharing modes are essentially the same.  The 8MP rear facing camera and the 2MP rear facing are quality cameras that take great pictures.

With that being said, the Galaxy Note II offers certain modes for pictures and videos such as Best Shot, Burst Shot, Low Light, and Share Shot.As with the Galaxy S III, it offers tight integration with the NFC chip found on board.   For example, the ability to use S Beam and Samsung TecTiles is easy to initiate on the Galaxy Note II.

One of the chief complains of individuals purchasing Android smartphones is invariably battery life.  Let me dispel your fear of battery life on the Galaxy Note II right off the bat.  The phablet offers a 3100 mAh battery, which is awfully big and lasts a long time.  The Galaxy Note II, when fully charged, can easily last me a day, so do not worry about constantly being tethered to a charger.  I personally charged it once every other day, and some times just for thirty minutes to get it some quick juice.

Software

On the software aspect of the device, it runs Android 4.1 coupled with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz UX.  It is worth noting that  the Galaxy Note II is one of the first non-Nexus devices to launch with Jelly Bean on board.  At a time when the market share for Jelly Bean is not high at all, it’s great to see that Samsung put in the extra effort to ensure it launched with Jelly Bean.  As a result, there are some great Jelly Bean features present such as Google Now, Project Butter, and smarter notifications. I personally enjoyed using the revamped Samsung keyboard, which is a hybrid of Swype and SwiftKey.  It offers smart predictions but allows you to swipe to enter in text.  Since you can swipe to input text, the device becomes a little easier to operate using only one hand.

One of the beautiful examples of smart hardware and software integration is the S-Pen.  While it was present in the first generation of the Galaxy Note, it is evident that Samsung sought to revamp it in the successor.  The Galaxy Note II now has a dedicated holster for the S-Pen and the device can actually tell when it is removed and inserted back.  Upon removal, the device automatically brings you to a specific S-Pen homepage with shortcuts for specific applications such as S Note. The S-Pen is able to take screen shots by holding down a button on the pen itself and then edit the image on the fly.  Similarly, it can crop a portion of the screen and attach it to a different app for editing.

Another facet of the S-Pen is its ability to hover over the screen which can bring up previews in apps such as Gallery. My opinion on the S-Pen is this, it’s a pretty nifty feature that can be used on the fly to jot down some notes or edit pictures in a humorous way, but I do not think it is a deal maker or breaker at this time.  If I were to buy the Galaxy Note II, it would not be for the S-Pen integration, but for the display and blazing fast internals.  However, some may enjoy the integration of the S-Pen much more than I did.  Samsung is definitely making progress on the pen, but I still haven’t found a reason to use it everyday.

The last software aspect I would like to elaborate on is the Multi Window View feature, which was recently enabled in my Sprint Galaxy Note II through a OTA Software Update.  Basically, it allows you to open two apps at the same time that can be used side-by-side simultaneously.  For example, I can have Facebook open in half the screen and Twitter in the other half in order to satisfy my thirst for constant social network stimulation.

Conclusion

During my review of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, I honestly fell in love with its vibrant and large display.  While I think it is a tad too large for everyday usage on my part, it does affirm my decision to purchase a smartphone with a large display.  If you are fine with how the Galaxy Note II feels in your hand and pocket, then there is really no reason not to purchase it.   Granted, the device is a little on the expensive side, but I imagine it will come down in the coming weeks and months. At the very least, I can definitively state it is one of the better phablets available in the market today.  If you want to take notes on your smartphone, or want to use a device with extremely fast processing speeds, then the Galaxy Note II is undoubtedly worthy of your consideration.

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The Tiny Bang Story – Hand-drawn, colorful puzzles to bend and twist your mind [Game Review] http://androinica.com/2012/09/the-tiny-bang-story-hand-drawn-colorful-puzzles-to-bend-and-twist-your-mind-game-review/ http://androinica.com/2012/09/the-tiny-bang-story-hand-drawn-colorful-puzzles-to-bend-and-twist-your-mind-game-review/#comments Wed, 19 Sep 2012 16:15:21 +0000 Ben Crawford http://androinica.com/?p=45960

The Tiny Bang Story has been out for PC for a while now, but just got released to the Google Play store a few weeks ago. It’s a great port with a beautiful hand-drawn art style, and Android certainly needs…

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The Tiny Bang Story has been out for PC for a while now, but just got released to the Google Play store a few weeks ago. It’s a great port with a beautiful hand-drawn art style, and Android certainly needs as many of these games as possible. Made by Herocraft, makers of Farm Frenzy and a Top Developer, The Tiny Bang Story is a brain-teasing puzzler and hidden object game. It has all the necessary features like puzzle pieces and mini-games with a very soothing soundtrack and a beautifully drawn world.

In a semi-steampunk world, an asteroid strike has demolished the landscape into puzzle pieces, and it’s your duty to put it all back together. You’ll have to complete five levels with multiple scenes to find all the puzzle pieces and put the world back together. There’s no textual help and very little story beyond what’s in the description of the game so it’s up to you to figure it all out. There are a few places where you may get stumped for a while, but The Tiny Bang Story does a good job of not ever leaving you too stranded.

The gameplay for The Tiny Bang Story is a fairly simple point-and-click adventure. Even the mini-games won’t test your dexterity or speed that much so you can relax and enjoy the game at your leisure. For this reason, The Tiny Bang Story is great for the mobile platform. You can pick it up, find a few puzzles pieces, figure out a brain-teaser, then put it down for a while without losing any progress or having to finish the level. As you begin the game, you’ll come across puzzle pieces scattered throughout the level. Some are easy to spot while others are blended into the background. There are about 25 puzzle pieces in each level, 125 in total, and you have to fit these together at the end of each level to put the world of The Tiny Bang Story back together. The mini-games themselves are really just to help you find all the puzzle pieces.

The brain teasers are an amalgamation of flipping pictures, matching numbers, and turning maps to allow you to open chests or hidden rooms. This doesn’t stray from the norm, but some puzzles will stretch your mind muscles and leave you confused longer than you should be. Even the devilish Venn Diagram puzzles only have so many options; you just have to keep turning until it falls into place. You can also get hints by swatting the bugs on the screen, but I found that takes almost as much time as scouring the screen. The artwork and soundtrack are worth the price of admission alone. While you’re stuck trying to solve the map puzzle, enjoy the serenity of the sounds pestering you with their simplicity.

The only drawback I had for the game was the installation process. It took a few tries and crashed often at the beginning before the game finally took off. I noticed a few of the same remarks in the Play store reviews. After you buy the game, you’ll have to install about 100mb of data which doesn’t finish properly sometimes so you’ll have to start over. Even though the game took me about 4.5 hours, I felt it could have had another planet that you needed to puzzle together. The atmosphere and graphics lend themselves well to extra levels, and I would love to see Herocraft expand this world.

The Tiny Bang Story is a must-play if you’re at all interested in casual or puzzle games. There’s nothing devious about the mind games, but Herocraft has put a great atmosphere, game, soundtrack, and world together which makes The Tiny Bang Story one of the tops in the Puzzle class. You can get the game in the Play store for $2.99.

 

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Sweet Cotton Mini Earphones and ePen Pro – Great accessories for your Android needs [Accessory Review] http://androinica.com/2012/09/sweet-cotton-mini-earphones-and-epen-pro-great-accessories-for-your-android-needs-accessory-review/ http://androinica.com/2012/09/sweet-cotton-mini-earphones-and-epen-pro-great-accessories-for-your-android-needs-accessory-review/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2012 14:57:53 +0000 Ben Crawford http://androinica.com/?p=45859

I’m adding two of the iLuv products to this review as I can’t really go into huge depth with either of them. The first up will be the Sweet Cotton Mini Earphones, and I’ll follow with the stylus/pen ePen Pro.…

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I’m adding two of the iLuv products to this review as I can’t really go into huge depth with either of them. The first up will be the Sweet Cotton Mini Earphones, and I’ll follow with the stylus/pen ePen Pro. Both accessories work great so I’ll just get to it.

 

Sweet Cotton Mini Earphones

I’ve gotten to try a few headphones, and I’ve mostly stuck with with my Arctic P311 Bluetooth headphones, but they’re nearly useless for cardio workouts or wearing a hat like I tend to do. I’ve used some Nike over the ear athletic earphones, some of HTC’s Beats by Dre headphones, and some $5 bin basket ones, and the Sweet Cotton Mini’s (SCM) are among the best. The SCM earphones (note: not HEADphones) were a welcome addition to my daily routine. I’m not a huge audiophile, but I can pick the good ones out of a lineup, and the SCM’s standup to my test.

There’s not a lot of fluff to these earphones, but I did notice the cables are a bit sturdier and thicker than most. I’m not sure if that just means less tangles (nope), more protection (probably), or if there are actually extra wires to produce a better sound (probably not). The SCMs come with a very clean, black polished button to end calls or play/pause music and a mic to talk into. It’s not intrusive at all unlike some other headphones’ remotes. The earphones themselves are small pieces that slide right into your ear. They’re small and peanut-shaped with a curvature for the tip that actually goes into your ear. Like many headphones nowadays, the SCM’s have three different choices for tips, small, medium, and large.

While the SCM’s didn’t block out ambient noise completely, they made it mostly white noise which made the sound so much better. Clarity was my number one takeaway from these earphones. Music sounded extremely clear and crisp. I could have done with a little extra oomph to the loudness (although my kernel may have had something to do with the volume settings). From what I expect from small, budget earphones, these iLuv Sweet Cotton Mini’s had it all: comfortability, clarity, and a great form factor.

You can find these on iLuv’s site for $29.99 with the Play/Pause remote button or $19.99 in various colors without it.

ePen Pro

This pen/stylus is remarkable for me. I was in the market for this before I received it for review, and I felt like it fit my needs perfectly. With a fashionable design, the ePen is black with a kevlar-like pattern on the handle and silver accents. It’s a very gorgeous design.

As a stylus (which I’ve never used regularly), the ePen handled great. It’s not a small stylus as the tip is broad and round so it probably wouldn’t be the best thing for a smaller device like an old Windows Mobile phone, but for my Nexus and coughiPadcough, it worked without fail. Making highlights on my law PDFs and write small notes in the margin were so much easier with the stylus than my finger. When holding the stylus, however, you may get tripped up by the pen clip if you’re holding it close to the tip. Not a big annoyance, but it’s there.

As a pen, the ePen writes beautifully. I’m a lover of fountain pens, and mostly hate anything not a fountain pen (it’s easier on the hand), but the ePen is a blend of gel and ballpoint pens. It glazes over the tops of papers with very little pressure and had no skips or bad angles to write. The middle simply unscrews to open the pen so nothing too fancy. My only complaint is that it’s a little on the top-heavy side when writing. I write with a very loose grip so heavy pens tend to slide around on me, but if you have a firm grip, you probably won’t notice the weight.

You can get this from iLuv’s site for $24.99, only in black.

 

 

Lastly, if you’re looking for accessories for your phone or tablet, both the Sweet Cotton Mini Earphones and the ePen Pro work great. With a crisp, clear sound and a gliding pen, both accessories held up to my standards. You can leave any questions or comments you have below, and I’ll be sure to answer them.

 

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