Game Review: Predators™

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 11:41
Category: Fun, Game, News, Review, Software

The Predators game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a direct tie-in with the recently released Predators movie by Robert Rodriquez (directed by Nimrod Antal) distributed by Chillingo for Fox Mobile. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’ve been told it’s good fun and the game seems to do it’s job of getting me a little more jazzed to see it. Unlike a lot of game-movie tie-ins, this game actually has some solid play value.

One of the things appreciated about this game is that is it a Universal app, meaning the same app plays on all three “i” devices. An issue that bugs me a little is games that require you to buy a completely new app in order to play it in full resolution on the iPad. I understand that developers have to make money, and that they do have to do some extra work, but it just feels wrong to have to pay a second, higher price for a game I already paid for. I wish they would just work out a system to upgrade to a Universal app for the difference of the two. On a side note, I had a problem with the game on my iPad crashing on launch, but rebooting the iPad seems to have fixed it so far.

Off my soap box, and onto the action.

In this game, you are playing the role of the Predator which is a nice switch up. This is probably because he has all the cool gadgets. The first several “missions” teach you the essentials of mauling and beheading humans for trophies. There are also in-play tutorials for learning to use the gadgets like the wrist knives, shoulder cannon, and the cloaking device. Later, you also get other abilities like thermal vision. I really liked how the tutorials played out so you can get used to using just one weapon or combo attack, rather than just being thrown into a melee and having to figure it out.

The game isn’t strictly a shoot ‘em up either. In some scenarios, you get more points for stalking your prey in cloaked mode, and killing humans undetected. There are also human “boss” characters which represent the main characters from the film such as Royce who is played by Adrian Brody in the film. These guys are harder to beat. I haven’t gotten too far in the game, but so far the terrain has just been your basic jungle with some different environmental factors like darkness or rain (with makes you more visible in cloaked mode). I’ve been through about seven levels and it hasn’t gotten boring yet, so I hope it just keep getting better.

The game stays very true to the Predator feel and mythos. Even the crosshair for the shoulder cannon works like it did in the movie and you can shoot people behind you. The graphics can be a bit gruesome if you are worried about younger audiences. There is lots of blood and your Predator very clearly rips people in half and pulls their head off with a nice, wet, ripping sound. Obviously the graphics are very good and optimized for the iPhone 4 and iPad, and the sounds are quite good as well; probably taken directly from the movies. You will also be happy to know that the game is compatible with iOS 4′s backgrounding, so you can leave in the middle of a mission and come back in the same spot and continue. There is also a pause menu too, until the iPad gets iOS 4.

I liked the iPad version the best, but mainly because the controls cover less screen than the iPhone version. Menus are slightly different for the iPad, but the gameplay is identical to the iPhone/iPod Touch version. I liked that none of the combos were too complicated. I find that annoying about some console games because you end up concentrating too much on how many buttons to push instead of the game. The controls are pretty good and straightforward. There is a “joystick” on the left and action buttons on the right. There are also toggles for things like night vision, weapons, and cloaking. It isn’t a problem for me, but I’d like to see more games give people the option of flipping the controls. The only problems I had were the ones inherent in a touch-based system; when the action gets fast, you tend to slide your fingers off the controls and can’t center again without looking away form the action. Perhaps I have more trouble with this than most people, but I can’t really fault the game for this.

Lastly, the game uses the Crystal gaming network. The frustration I have with all the game networking systems could be a whole post in itself. I’m waiting to see how Apple’s Game Center changes things. Developers naturally have investments in tying themselves to particular systems, but I wish you could choose which system to use for each game instead of being forced to use the one the developer picks.

I highly recommend this game. If you like action games, shooters, and anything to do with Predators, this game is a steal at $2.99.

iOS 4 upgrade offers some battery life improvements over iOS 3 for iPhone 3G, 3GS handsets

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 04:30
Category: iPhone, News

With the recent release of iOS 4.0 and iOS 4.0.1, one question has needed to be answered: does the update boost your iPhone’s battery life. Per Macworld, it does, the lab downgrading an iPhone 3G that was running iOS 4 to iOS 3.1.3 and running a series of tasks. The staff then upgraded the iPhone 3G to iOS4 and ran the same set of tasks.

The iPhone 3G with iOS 4 lasted 5% longer (10 minutes) than the iOS 3-configured iPhone 3G.

In additional tests, there proved to be an even greater increase in battery life with iOS 4 on an iPhone 4GS, with the updated iPhone 3GS lasting 14% longer (35 minutes) than with iOS 3.

Take a gander at the article for specific details behind each test. And in spite of AntennaGate, the iPhone 4 and the usual complaints that come with any upgrade (“iOS 2.0 used to paint my house for me and that’s why I’ll never upgrade!!!”), it’s nice to see the battery life improve a bit.

Apple offers free bumper to iPhone 4 customers, explains antenna issue at press conference

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Date: Friday, July 16th, 2010, 10:49
Category: iPhone, News

After being hounded by weeks of complaints regarding the iPhone 4′s antenna, Apple today held a press conference to tackle the press conference head on.

While the company didn’t issue a sweeping recall, it noted that you can get a free bumper case (or a refund if you’ve already purchased one) and that since they can’t make bumpers fast enough, you’ll be able to select from a choice of cases on the Apple website starting late next week.

Per the full play-by-play over at the Apple Core, iPhone 4 customers still have the option of returning the phone for a full refund, with no restocking fee within 30 days. Apple also announced that the white iPhone is going to start shipping at the end of July and that its bringing the iPhone to 17 more countries on July 30, including:

Australia
Austria
Belgium
Canada
Denmark
Finland
Hong Kong
Ireland
Italy
Luxembourg
Netherlands
Norway
New Zealand
Singapore
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to avoid iPhone 4 recall, offer details at press conference later today

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Date: Friday, July 16th, 2010, 05:11
Category: iPhone, News

In spite of the press conference scheduled for today, the iOS 4.0.1 update and Apple’s well-documented problems with the iPhone 4′s antenna and reception, a new report claims that a recall of the handset won’t be among the announcements.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a source close to the story has stated the company doesn’t plan to instate a recall of the more than 2 million units it’s shipped worldwide thus far.

That same source echoed an earlier report in claiming that hardware engineers warned chief executive Steve Jobs about the risks of the phone’s new external antenna design nearly a year ago, but that Jobs “liked the design so much that Apple went ahead with its development.”

The report went on to document how Apple’s immense secrecy over new iPhone masked the problem during the company’s evaluation process with its carrier partners, as design verification units were disguised as “stealth” phones that obscured their design and some of their functions.

“Those test phones are specifically designed so the phone can’t be touched, which made it hard to catch the iPhone 4′s antenna problem,” the Journal said. The paper added, citing people familiar with the matter, that Apple afforded carriers “limited time to test the iPhone 4 before its June 24 launch” and equipped them with “fewer devices to test than other handset makers.”

Although Apple declined to comment on its development methods for the new iPhone, a company spokesperson fired back at the claim that a senior antenna expert had expressed his concern over the new design to Jobs, challenging the publication to “produce anything beyond rumors to back this up.”

“It’s simply not true,” the spokesperson said.

Concerns over the iPhone 4′s new antenna design began generating headlines ever since its June 24th launch, when some users began reporting the handset’s propensity to lose reception and sometimes drop calls when cupped in the lower left corner.

Though media coverage of the matter persisted for a couple of weeks on and on-and-off basis, it reached a boiling point earlier this week when Consumer Reports did a 180-degree turn on its stance on the iPhone 4, and announced that it could no longer recommend the device to consumers because of the antenna issues.

Since then, the matter has only escalated further up the chain, with democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer on Thursday issuing an open letter to Jobs, calling Apple’s current solutions to fixing the problem “insufficient” and asking the company to provide a free fix for consumers.

So yeah, it’s been a fun three weeks…

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 4.0.1 for iPhone, iOS 3.2.1 for iPad, hunts down long-standing bugs

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Date: Friday, July 16th, 2010, 04:03
Category: iPad, iPhone, News, Software

Following up on rumors, Apple has released iOS 4.0.1 via iTunes. Per MacNN, the update makes just a single major change, that being improved accuracy in iPhone signal display. The company recently promised a software fix in light of reception issues, though it’s now believed the problem is traceable to hardware. The download is only available for the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4.

For iPad owners, Apple has meanwhile posted iOS 3.2.1. The firmware solves several issues, most notably trouble with Wi-Fi connections. It also corrects a glitch with PDF attachments in Mail, and two video bugs: one causing videos to freeze, and another hampering the official iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter. The one feature addition is Bing support for Safari search.

To download and install the updates, which each weigh in at over 300 megabytes, attach your iPhone or iPad to your computer, open iTunes, select the device and search for an update. The process will occur as per usual.

Apple is scheduled to hold a full iPhone 4 press conference today. Stay tuned to the PowerPage for additional details as they become available.

And if you’ve noticed any major changes or would like to offer feedback on this, let us know.

Consumer Reports vouches for Apple’s Bumper as resolution to iPhone 4 antenna bug

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Date: Thursday, July 15th, 2010, 04:49
Category: iPhone, News

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Apple’s iPhone 4 reception issues. On Wednesday, Consumer Reports announced that Apple iPhone 4 owners can eliminate reception problems by enclosing their phones in the “Bumper” case Apple sells.

The findings could presage a decision by Apple to offer iPhone 4 owners a free Bumper, as the publication confirmed yesterday that it has been in contact with Apple over its testing results.

Per Macworld UK, the consumer testing organization said it could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of major reception issues when users touched the external antenna, the publication’s engineers went back into their lab to retest with iPhones equipped with Bumpers.

Apple’s Bumper, which retails for US$29, represents the company’s first efforts to move into the iPhone case market.

“With the Bumper fitted, we repeated the test procedure, placing a finger on the Bumper at the point at which it covers the gap [on the lower left side of the case],” said Paul Reynolds, Consumer Reports’s electronics editor, in an entry on the magazine’s blog on Wednesday afternoon.

The publication tested only Apple’s Bumper, although another Consumer Reports editor said yesterday that it was planning on evaluating several different cases.

“The result was a negligible drop in signal strength – so slight that it would not have any effect, in our judgment.”

On Monday, Consumer Reports explained its could-not-recommend decision by describing testing of three different iPhone 4s in its radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber, where a cell tower emulator simulates real-world signals.

The magazine’s engineers also tested several other AT&T-sold phones, including the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. None of those phones showed the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and I’ll happily trade you my first born for a Bumper should the need arise…

Apple distribute iOS 4.1 beta to testers, addresses iPhone 4 signal, reception issues

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Date: Thursday, July 15th, 2010, 04:15
Category: iPhone, News, Software

If your software’s picky and people are complaining, there’s always the chance to fix it in the update. Per AppleInsider, Apple began widespread testing of its iOS 4.1 update on Tuesday, the beta delivering changes to the way the handset displays signal strength.

Build 8b5080c of iOS 4.1 beta 1 began making its way to developers alongside iOS SDK 4.1 build 10M2304. Beta testers who reported in stated that one visible change is the new signal bar, which presents taller bars at the low end of the scale to make it easier to read. They also report the signal bars seem to better exaggerate signal drop off, with fewer bars visible when in an area of with limited reception.

Responding to widespread criticism over reception problems with the new touch-screen handset, Apple earlier this month penned an open letter to iPhone 4 users, in which it claimed that the formula used to calculate bars of signal strength on the device is inaccurate, and would be corrected in the coming weeks through a free software fix.

“Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength,” the company said. “For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars.”

Apple added that users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone 4 in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because their handset is erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. “Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place,” said the company, which maintains that the iPhone 4’s wireless performance “is the best [it has] ever shipped.”

For their part, wireless experts and well-regarded product research firm Consumer Reports have disputed Apple’s claims through their own research which alleges that the iPhone 4 suffers from reception issues when held by a user in a particular manner.

In a surprise move, Consumer Reports announced on Monday that it would no longer recommend the iPhone 4 to potential buyers due to reception problems that it believes to be a result of the design of the handset. The research firm issued the statement on its official electronics blog, stating that it reached that conclusion after testing three iPhone 4 handsets that were purchased from three separate retailers in the New York area inside a controlled environment of a radio frequency isolation chamber.

While iOS 4.1 beta appears to deliver Apple’s controversial ‘fix’ to the reception issues, there’s yet to be reliable word on wether the beta also addresses inaccuracies in the phone’s proximity sensor, which have similarly helped to sour the iPhone 4 experience for many customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: Full iPhone 4 recall could cost Apple $1.5 billion, affect operating income by 1%

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Date: Wednesday, July 14th, 2010, 04:08
Category: iPhone, News

applelogo_silver

Following up on the iPhone 4 antenna issue, one research investment firm has studied the numbers and determined that a recall of the iPhone 4 could cost Apple as much as US$1.5 billion.

Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst for Bernstein Research, said in a note to clients on Tuesday that while a full product recall is “highly unlikely,” it could theoretically cost the company up to US$250 per phone. Sacconaghi estimates 6 million units sold or in transit, resulting in a recall price tag as high as US$1.5 billion according to CNET.

Another option is for Apple to offer an in-store hardware fix, which could cost US$75 per phone. Giving away a free bumper case, which currently retails for US$29, would be a much cheaper alternative for the Cupertino, Calif., company. Sacconaghi estimates this approach would cost just US$1 per unit.

The report arrives just a day after Consumer Reports warned that it could no longer recommend the iPhone 4. After conducting its own tests inside a radio frequency isolation chamber, the organization issued a statement on its blog reversing its previous recommendation of the phone.

For its part, Apple earlier this month released an open letter stating that the iPhone 4′s reception issues were largely due to an inaccurate formula for calculating signal strength. The company assured that a free software fix would be available in the coming weeks. Consumer Reports’ findings are in opposition to Apple’s statement.

Another Wall Street analyst, Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray, estimated Tuesday that a fix from Apple could impact its operating income by 1%. Like Sacconaghi, Munster also suggested the possibility of issuing free bumper cases. Additionally, the analyst said that since only 25 of users are affected by the issue, the company could “weather the storm” by doing nothing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Consumer Reports study recommends duct tape fix for iPhone 4 antenna issue

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Date: Wednesday, July 14th, 2010, 04:29
Category: iPhone, News

It ain’t pretty but it’s recommended by Consumer Reports and it might just be effective.

Per CNN, a sliver of duct tape may be all that’s needed to fix the iPhone 4′s dropped calls issue which has stemmed from the handset’s new antenna design. The report follows a Consumer Reports study which highlights the issue and offers test data to back its claim.

Other sources have stated that purchasing Apple’s bumper protector also helps alleviate the problem, the bumper itself retailing for about US$30.

Take a gander at the video and if you’ve seen this issue on your end or discovered your own fix, let us know.



BMW announces support for iOS 4 “iPod Out” API for upcoming car models

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Date: Tuesday, July 13th, 2010, 06:06
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

When the “iPod Out” API was mentioned at Apple’s iOS 4 preview event back in April, no one really knew what it was. Still, this didn’t stop BMW Group from mentioning that it had integrated iPod Out into its newest BMW and Mini vehicle entertainment systems.

Per Macworld, the iPod Out API allows car manufacturers to integrate the iPod Classic OS look and controls into a vehicle’s on-board entertainment system. Owners of future BMW and Mini models will be able to control their iPod or iPhone fully from the car’s interface controls. In addition, users will have access to their device’s Genius feature and be able to make custom playlists.

In its statement, BMW announced that “future vehicles equipped with this technology will be able to adapt more quickly to the software lifecycles of iPod touch and iPhone.”

BMW Group hasn’t outlined any specific timeline for integration, but notes that support will be coming to future BMW models using BMW ConnectedDrive and Mini models using Mini Connected. Customers who wish to use the iPod Out feature in new BMW Group cars need to have an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.