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.

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.

Rumor: Apple to incorporate OLED displays into future iPad models

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Date: Tuesday, July 13th, 2010, 06:03
Category: iPad, News, Rumor

It’s the rumors that make the technology business interesting and in spite of the high cost of OLED displays and Apple’s continued support of LCD screens with IPS technology, whispers of a next-generation iPad with an OLED screen continue to resurface.

Per DigiTimes, sources close to the story have indicated that Apple plans to launch a second-generation iPad as soon as the fourth quarter of 2010. The new hardware would reportedly use 5.6-inch and 7-inch OLED displays, with Compal Electronics in the running to supply Apple.

The new models would be in addition to Apple’s successful 9.7-inch iPad, which would receive “some minor changes,” the report said. The smaller 5.6″ and 7″ iPad models would “mainly target the e-book reader market, separating them from the 9.7″ model, which mainly targets multimedia entertainment,” the report said.

It noted that costs of OLED panels are expected to drop, as Samsung Electronics and LG Display have been devoting resources into the development of panels. “With Apple’s brand image and high average selling price (ASP), Apple should have no problem adopting OLED panels, which have higher price than standard panels, into its devices,” the report said.

DigiTimes Research senior analyst Mingchi Kuo responded to the rumors and noted that Samsung cannot currently meet capacity for OLED displays on its own handsets, making it unlikely they would be able to supply Apple by the fourth quarter of 2010. In addition, Compal is “unlikely” to pursue orders with Apple, because its manufacturing gross margins are much less than what is offered by others.

Rumors of an OLED display on the iPad have been present since before Apple even formally announced the device and have continued to resurface since, with DigiTimes also reporting in April that Apple could adopt OLED displays for its second-generation iPad. At the time, the Taiwanese publication also reported the rumors, but simultaneously cast doubt on them through the analysis of Kuo.

The current iPad LCD screen uses IPS, or in-plane switching, technology. It was developed by Hitachi in 1996, and offers improved viewing angles and color reproductions on screens.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

We Have a Winner: Outlet Charging Proves Faster for iPhone 4

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Date: Monday, July 12th, 2010, 04:02
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

Among the great debates of computer technology (along with whether or not to shut your computer down for the night or put it to sleep and how this affects the hardware) is the question as to whether or not to charge an iPhone or similar device via an outlet or USB port. Even in the case of charging an iPad, where the user receives a “not charging” message near the battery indicator, the device is charging, but slowly.

The guys over at When Will Apple? took the time to do a pretty decent job of comparing charging times on the iPhone 4, comparing USB to AC outlet. The conclusion: USB charging takes 23% longer to charge an iPhone 4 than charging via an AC outlet. If you’re in a rush to charge your phone, that’s a pretty significant difference.

The little flaw in this test is not knowing the amount of charge coming from the USB port used, as not all USB ports are created equal.

If you’ve found a different result on your end, please let us know.

How-To: deactivate Network Services to improve iOS device battery life

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Date: Thursday, July 8th, 2010, 04:31
Category: How-To, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News

Although the iOS 4 software update has been lauded as improving battery life for most users, some are finding the improvements lacking. Per the Apple Toolbox Blog, one source of this may be overuse of the Location Services feature which can accompany checking Push notifications, and having many open Safari windows open.

It now appears that overactive location services usage can result in poor battery life. Specifically, apps that use location services in the background can quickly drain the battery.

The post offers the following steps for resolving this and hopefully upping your iOS device’s battery life:

“To check location services usage on an app-by-app basis, navigate to Settings > General > Location Services.

Turn location services off for all applications, then turn them back on for desired apps one by one or in groups. Via this procedure, you can identify which app’s use of location services is draining battery.

Alternatively, you can temporarily turn off location services altogether and check for increased battery life.”

Apple releases version 1.2 of MobileMe iDisk app, adds iPad support

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Date: Wednesday, July 7th, 2010, 04:58
Category: iPad, News, Software

Apple on Tuesday released version 1.2 of its MobileMe iDisk application, bringing support for multitasking within iOS 4 for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, as well as native support for the iPad.

The 3.4MB update is available from the App Store or through iTunes. New features in version 1.2, according to Apple, include:

- Designed for both iPhone and iPad.

- Multitasking support for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS (iOS 4 required).

- Quickly switch to another app and back using iDisk.

- Play audio from your iDisk while using another app.

- When app is opened, the last file or directory viewed is displayed.

- Option to open iDisk documents in compatible apps such as iBooks.

- When sharing a file, an email can be sent from any configured email account.

- The URL for a shared filed can be copied and pasted.

- Various stability improvements.

The iDisk application was first released for the iPhone and iPod touch in July of 2009. It allows users to remotely access files saved online via the MobileMe service.

iPhone 4 gyroscope goes under the microscope, could find its way into future iPad

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Date: Thursday, July 1st, 2010, 04:41
Category: iPad, iPhone, News

In as much as the iPhone 4 has drawn criticism, it does sport some nifty new technologies.

Among this is its new gyroscope, which could find its way into a future revision of the iPad.

Per InformationWeek, UBMTechInsights took a look inside Apple’s new iPhone 4 and found it was made by STMicroelectronics. The three-axis MEMS gyroscope is made by the same company that produces the accelerometer found both the iPhone and iPad.

Steve Bitton, senior analyst with TechInsights, noted that there is an empty slot on the iPad motherboard, perfectly sized to fit the gyroscope found in the iPhone 4. It is also located next to the accelerometer, and within proximity of the application processor.

The discovery suggests that Apple originally planned to have a gyroscope in the iPad, released in April in the U.S., but ultimately decided to leave the sensor out of the first-generation hardware.

But the pin out on the iPad motherboard doesn’t match the STMicroelectronics gyroscope found in the iPhone 4 — instead, Bitton said, it resembles a competing three-axis sensor made by InvenSense.

“When Apple’s iPad first came out, the InvenSense gyro was the only three-axis digital gyro on the market, so Apple may have designed its board with that component in mind,” the report said. “Indeed, Apple may have included it in the iPad initially, but may have ultimately decided against using it in either device.”

The cool cats at iFixit have also conducted a closer look at the iPhone 4 gyroscope, with the help of Chipworks. It also revealed that the gyroscope is made by STMicroelectronics, labeled AGD1 2022 FP6AQ. The microelectromechanical system (MEMS) integrates electronic and mechanical components at a very small scale to measure the orientation of the device.

X-ray photos of the gyroscope found that it is nearly identifcal to the off-the-shelf STMicroelectronics L3G4200D model. It includes a “proof mass” that is displaced in X, Y and Z directions by Coriolis forces when a user rotates the phone. Another die found inside converts those capacitive signals into a digital form that can be interpreted by the iPhone 4.

The gyroscope allows for far more precise movements with the device. One of the first App Store offerings to demonstrate this capability is Eliminate:GunRange, a US$0.99 title from ngmoco, Inc. The software allows users to conduct virtual target practice by aiming their onscreen gun with precise movements of the device, something that is only capable with the gyroscope found in the iPhone 4.

Apple drops hint at iOS 4 for iPad in November, iWork for iPhone

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Date: Tuesday, June 29th, 2010, 04:04
Category: iPad, News, Software

When iOS 4 hit, I was a little disappointed to see that it had yet to arrive for the iPad.

This may change as Apple has quietly hinted at a launch window for iOS 4 on the iPad, while the company’s website has slipped another clue that iWork is on its way to the iPhone. An AdAge report suggests that Apple has been telling marketers that the iAd platform will extend to the iPad sometime in November.

Steve Jobs initially pointed to iOS 4 availability on the iPad sometime “this fall.” The iAd platform is known to be directly integrated with iOS 4.

Many of Apple’s international online stores posted a “Learn more” link for iPhone AppleCare warranties, which includes software support for “iWork for iPhone” among other topics. The iOS 4 pages briefly included an iPhone interface image showing an option to open an attachment in Keynote, although the company quickly replaced the iWork reference with an iBooks selection.

Cool stuff either way and you have to wonder what iOS 4 will bring for the iPad.

iFixit posts early teardown of iPhone 4 components

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Date: Thursday, June 24th, 2010, 04:34
Category: iPhone, News

It’s the hardware teardowns that make technology fun and apparently a member of the fabled iFixit team planned to fly to Ginza to camp out at a Japanese Apple Store location. Instead, FedEx delivered an iPhone 4 two days early, allowing for an ahead-of schedule teardown of the handset, as posted here.

The teardown posted by iFixit of an early delivery reveals the new model’s A4 application processor with 512MB of RAM, the new Retina Display, dual front and rear cameras, a secondary mic for noise canceling, an oversized new battery, and custom gyroscope which along with the accelerometer provides full six-axis motion control.

The two rear exposed Phillips screws now release the back panel rather than the front glass, a design that “makes replacing the rear panel trivial, but unfortunately means that replacing the front glass will likely be rather challenging,” iFixit says.

Inside the back panel, the larger new 3.7V 1420 mAh Li-Polymer battery consumes all available space, while the new 5 megapixel still camera (capable of 720p, 30 fps video capture) anchors one corner and the vibration motor holds down the other.

The logic board packs Apple’s A4 application processor, a “new 3-axis gyroscope that we believe is designed and manufactured by STMicro” and not yet commercially available, STMicro’s 33DH 3-axis accelerometer, and an Apple-branded Cirrus Logic 338S0589 audio codec that is also used in iPad.

Going deeper, iFixit pulled the top mic used for noise cancelation to quiet ambient sounds, the front facing VGA camera used for FaceTime video chat, and the primary mic used in the mouthpiece.

E3 2010: Strange find in the halls

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Date: Monday, June 21st, 2010, 03:49
Category: Accessory, iPad, News

3608.jpg

On the second to last day of E3 this year, I was walking from the south hall to the west hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center only to find a man named Howie repeatedly dropping his iPad to the ground in public.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words…



There it is, the accurately-titled iBallz protection system for your iPad or Amazon Kindle, priced at US$20 plus shipping and handling with the product being geared towards users with small children who could easily knock your iPad off the coffee table or other low surface.

Take a gander, as this is one of the cleverest ideas I’ve seen in a while.