Phonewbie http://www.phonewbie.com Enhance Your Mobile Experience Sat, 04 Jul 2015 03:19:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Hot Camera Apps – July http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/07/04/hot-camera-apps-july/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/07/04/hot-camera-apps-july/#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 02:26:15 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=210 Galaxy-S6-Camera

The camera on a smartphones is one of the most important features. The quality of the camera can make or break a purchase. With the explosion of selfies, social media and the use of cameras, we want to bring you some hot apps that will enhance your camera experience.

infinitInfinitPhoto & Video Transfer – Photo and video technology has advanced so quickly on mobile devices. However, one area where it has lagged is the ability to transfer large HD videos between devices. Enter Infinit who has now solved this problem. It is the easiest way to to send photos, videos and large files to friends and between phones and computers. I tried it between my Mac and Nexus 5 and it worked like magic. It’s even faster than cloud services.

Infinit finds the shortest path between two devices, resulting in speeds that are up to 30 times faster than Dropbox, Whatsapp or any other file sharing tool. If you’re connected to the same WiFi network on your phone and computer, you’ll be able to send a 2GB movie in less than 10 minutes

pgPhoto GridCollage Maker – Photo grid started off as a cool collage maker with great frames for photos. Now it has grown in to one of the most comprehensive and versatile photo apps around. You can add texts, stickers and even filters to photos. Photo Grid also has scrapbook features, magazine layouts, filmstrips and the ability to turn your photos in to video stories or slides. This is also my go to app for fitting full photos into Instagram’s tiny box. Do yourself a favor and download it now.

glggpgGlitch, Photo Glitch and Glitch Wizard- Photo editing is a big deal on smartphones now. Everyone wants to add filters or smooth their photos to get that magazine quality look. Do you dare to be different and add some fun to your photos instead? These apps add alternative editing features which brings that computer glitch look to your photos. Glitch brings edits like Tron and hacker and you can even pixelate your photos. Glitch Wizard allows you to add glitch features to your photos, gifs and videos as well.

vyVyclone – Film Together – This is a great app that I don’t here much about but is very useful. Vyclone allows users who are recording video nearby to stitch their videos together. Let’s say you’re at you child’s recital. You can record video from one side of the the audience and your spouse from the other side. Vycloce will stitch the videos together and give you a complete view from different angles. To me this is genius.

Remember, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Infinit, Photo Grid, Glitch (Android), Glitch Wizard (iOS), Photo Glitch (WP)Vyclone

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Game Review: Xenowerk http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/29/game-review-xenowerk/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/29/game-review-xenowerk/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 03:26:27 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=351  

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So you just got hired in to a high security unit and they’re throwing you into an underground lab to investigate. What is down there lurking in the dark you ask? Nothing but some deranged mutants. Can you exterminate all of these mutants and stop the infestation?

Xenowerk-icon-450x450Gameplay:  Xenowerk is a top down shooter, meaning the view of the game is from above. The object of the game is to go to every level and exterminate the mutants. The only thing you are armed with are two guns and a flashlight in these dark labs. As you go deeper into the labs, the levels get bigger, the number of mutants grow, and most importantly, the game gets harder.

To combat the mutants getting tougher your weapons steadily upgrade. To really step your game up you need to purchase new weapons and armor using coins you gained while slaying mutants. There are three additional suits of armor to purchase which gives you special abilities and increases your defenses. Choose from 24 different weapons to use to slay these nasty mutants. Being that you can only carry two at a time, make sure to purchase and carry the right combination. Don’t get stuck with two shotguns because the mutants are fast. Let me just advise you to get my favorite weapon, the flame thrower.

Modes: The main mode consists of traveling through the labs and descending further down all 50 levels. There is also a challenge mode where you can challenge your friends. I didn’t get the chance to play that but I’m sure I would love it because I like to defeat real competitors as well as the computer.

Addiction Level: Low – Average – High – Very High

Compelling Factor: I really love the top down view in this game. This is not the first top down shooter but their implementation is great and gives you great angles of the action. The graphics and layout of the levels are superb. The use of the contrasting darkness of the lab against the use of the flashlight is amazing.

Variables: I like the controls because it requires you to use both hands in a way that other shooting games doesn’t. Pixelbite does a great job of implementing in app purchases. You clearly don’t need to use real money to purchase any extra weapons but the option is there in case you want to advance quicker. Fifty levels are okay but I hope they add additional levels in the future. At times the levels does get repetitive.

Wrap up: This is a very good game that just falls short of being a classic. It is, however, a must download so go download it now.

Score: 85%

Xenowerk for iPhone/iPad and Android

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Cut the Cord – Hulu & Showtime http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/25/cut-the-cord-hulu-showtime/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/25/cut-the-cord-hulu-showtime/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 08:22:29 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=332 wpid-wp-1435169428830.jpg

 

Are you a cord cutter or someone looking to cut the cord? In case you didn’t know, people who choose to abandon the high prices of their cable and satellite providers to use cheaper streaming services are called cord cutters. All it takes is a high speed internet connection and a subscription(s) to your favorite streaming service and start saving.

huluHulu is a must have service for all cord cutters. Hulu is a streaming service that allows you to view popular television episodes and even full seasons in high quality video. They have tons of programming like movies and underground channels.

Their main attraction is the ability to watch all the big prime time television shows the day after they air. That includes shows like Empire, Once Upon a Time, The Voice and much much more. Feeling nostalgic? Binge watch full seasons of your favorite shows from the past like Seinfeld, CSI and South Park. The subscription fee is $7.99 a month after a 7 day free trial.

showtime-logoShowtime, the premium cable network, is set to do the same thing as HBO. In an attempt to scoop up its share of cord cutters, they will  make their content available to streamers as well. You’ll get all the hits including Ray Donovan, Homeland and Nurse Jackie among others. Their monthly subscription will be $4 cheaper than HBO’s, coming in at $10.99 after 30 day free trial.

Showtime currently has a service called Showtime Anytime. This service differs from HBO GO in that it does live streaming of the Showtime network. It will be interesting if there is live streaming. That would give it a leg up on HBO and would be a bonus for subscribers.

Hulu and Showtime – Hulu as upped the ante by offering a sweet deal. In July, they will begin offering Showtime in a package deal along side their own service. The price for this bundle will cost you only $17 which saves you another $2. This brings direct competition to Netflix and really makes the HBO NOW service look way over priced at $15.

The winner in all of this is the customers, in particular, the cord cutters. This gives you more options for television and makes the adjustment from cable and satellite packages much better. Showtime streaming service is set to launch in July but no exact date or platforms have been announced. Hulu is already available for Android, iPhone/iPad, Windows Phone, Roku, Xbox and more.

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Should Zombie Texters get their own walking lanes? http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/22/will-zombie-texters-get-their-own-lanes/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/22/will-zombie-texters-get-their-own-lanes/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 02:08:22 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=266 lllNot too long ago bikers were recognized as a major part of traffic flow. Now when you look across the country, you see bike lanes everywhere. This is particularly important in areas where bike riding is heavy including those making deliveries. Should another category of commuters getting their own lane?

Zombie texters are growing rapidly and deserve some attention. A zombie texter is someone who is so preoccupied with texting on their phone that they don’t watch where they’re walking. They can be seen all of the world bumping into people, knocking things over, walking into poles or even worst, walking into traffic. Check out this video from F BeeShock on YouTube:

The video may seem funny but the problem is growing and something needs to be done. Does zombie texters need their own lane? Would that even help? Utah Valley University has weighed in on this topic by painting lines in a stair well in the university: 

 

A Utah Valley University student walks down the bright green lanes painted on the stairs from the gym Thursday, June 18, 2015, at Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. Utah Valley University spokeswoman Melinda Colton said  the green lanes were intended as a lighthearted way to brighten up the space and get students’ attention. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A Utah Valley University student walks down the bright green lanes painted on the stairs from the gym Thursday, June 18, 2015, at Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. Utah Valley University spokeswoman Melinda Colton said the green lanes were intended as a lighthearted way to brighten up the space and get students’ attention. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

This is a lighthearted way to get people to focus but others have taken this seriously like this plaza out in Belgium:
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And a few years ago China was probably the first to implement something like this on a larger scale:

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This one here isn’t a joke. This was really implemented by the Chinese government. National Geographic ran a study on texting lanes by painting temporary lanes on the streets as well. Serious attention has been given to this. Is this the direction that we should go? What say you?

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Blu Studio C Review http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/19/blu-studio-c-full-review/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/19/blu-studio-c-full-review/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 02:16:03 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=267 wpid-screenshot_2015-06-18-19-34-01.png

The Blu Studio C was announced back in May as one of the cheapest Android Lollipop phone’s around. That was a big deal considering that it had the latest software and still came in at $99. It was also Blu’s first device with Lollipop out the box. I have never used a device from Blu, a company who focuses on low to midrange devices. I jumped at the opportunity to give this device a spin. Check out the unboxing and then read the full review:

Design

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Non removable battery

The design of the Studio C is what you would expect for a low end phone, basic. The front has the Blu logo at the top by the earpiece and the back is just plain ole plastic. The unit I have is white but it also comes in orange, salmon pink, black and green. The color of the earpiece matches the color of the back of the device. That is all the flare that you get.

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The device is noticeably thick and feels a tad slippery. The phone is also as tall as the Galaxy Note Edge despite having a half inch less of screen real estate. The volume rocker and the power button are on the same side and are interestingly close together. I was able to take a screenshot (simultaneously press the power button and volume down button) with one finger. I found that kind of funny. All of that being said, it is not hideous it’s just super plain looking and a little thick. Keep in mind that this phone is $99 and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Display

Blu outfitted the display with a 5″ 720p HD screen. The colors are not over-saturated but they are closer to true colors which is what I prefer. The brightness leaves much to be desired and viewing the screen in direct sunlight is a chosun This is not a high end phone so that is easy to overlook because you don’t spend a lot of time looking at the phone in the sun Besides…its a $99 phone. lol. Get where I’m coming from?

The 5″ screen is the ideal size for me. I really don’t want a phone with a smaller screen than that. You can clearly see the letters without seeing pixels. Even when zooming all the way in on webpages it still looked crisp. For the value, the screen is more than acceptable.

Performance

wpid-screenshot_2015-06-04-13-00-36.pngWhen getting a low end phone this is the area where most of the concerns are. How does it work? Is it fast? Does it lag? Running things on the inside is a 1.3 GHz Mediatek Quad core processor. It only has 1GB Ram so how does it perform? The chip definitely gets the job done. However, it is slow and it would be slower if it was pushing a bloated software. The good thing is that when I killed apps that was running in the background I noticed a boost in speed. Also, the only time i saw stuttering or a choppy performance was when trying to multitask while downloading apps.

A big problem with this device lies in the fact that it doesn’t have LTE. Faux G/4G or HSPA+, was doable tho. I was able to get 9Mps down. In the beginning I noticed how much slower it was compared to the Asus Zenfone 2. After using it regularly I got us to it. Even though it’s not blazingly fast, it is totally acceptable.

Battery

The Studio C totes a hefty 3000 mAh battery. I prefer real world usage to measure battery performance. As always I focus on the battery on my first 2 days because I’m usually doing so much on it which provides a good real world challenge.

I have 4 active emails on my phone receiving and sending emails all day. I keep the bluetooth and wifi on all day regardless of time or battery percentage. I spend time downloading my favorite apps, taking pics and short video clips. Of course with a new phone you end up swiping throughout the entire phone just playing with it to see what it has to offer. I spent 30 minutes using the hot spot and another 30 or so playing music on my Beats Pill XL. This is not to mention calls and texts. I took the phone off the charger at 5:47 a.m. at 100%. At 9:17 p.m. when I decided to quit it was at 20%. On the average, it actually performs better than that. The battery is a winner in my book.

Camera

Blu surprisingly put an 8 MP camera on this $99 phone as well as a 2MP shooter on the front. The camera on this phone is not good, however. To be honest, I don’t take pictures with it because without perfect lighting the pictures are blurry. I’m not talking about noise, i’m talking about straight blurriness as if the screen is slightly foggy. Not good.

It was a nice surprise to see that the phone has dual flash. Sadly it doesn’t really work well. When comparing pictures taken with flash versus the Nexus 5 it wasn’t even close and the Nexus 5 was never one of the best camera phones. Blu advertises 1080p HD video recording but the video is not very good. The camera review is the only area where me saying, “but it’s a $99 phone” didn’t matter.

Software

A close to bare bones Android Lollipop 5.0 is the software of choice. I definitely appreciate that. It makes sense for a device with low end specs. Blu did make some interesting choices though. Some but not all of Google’s apps are pre-installed. I was happy to learn that the Play Store was already there but disappointed that Chrome wasn’t. Not a big deal, I just downloaded it. Blu chose to go with Opera as their browser which is interesting.

There is not a lot of bloat on this device. Two thumbs up for that! It does come with 2 apps that I wish would just die, Voice Search and Sound Recorder. They do have the old Kit Kat music player. I don’t hate that because the Play Music app is trash in my opinion. They also put the old Android Gallery app on it which I appreciate because the Photos app is hideous. There are very minor tweaks but nothing worth mentioning. Good job keeping the software clean.

Miscellaneous

As you can see from the picture above there is a notification light that blinks green for texts and blue for all other notifications. Of course this is a dual sim GSM phone. It only has 8GB storage but it’s expandable up to 64GB. To answer a question by +ThisWonderfulWorld, the audio output is fine. The speaker is louder than the speaker on the Nexus 5 and it recognizes the different outputs with no problem.

Conclusion

The expectations of a $99 phone are very low. Still, this phone exceeded them and is worth every penny. When looking to purchase a low end phone you’re either looking for s backup phone, a phone for a child or for sunshine ego doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. If that is you, then this is definitely a good option for you. Yes it has flaws but like I said earlier, “it’s a $99 phone.”

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Game Review: Dude Perfect 2 http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/13/game-review-dude-perfect-2/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/13/game-review-dude-perfect-2/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 18:34:07 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=234 wpid-img_20150613_080335_366.jpg

imagesI love when games I enjoy release a sequel. Dude Perfect, an addictive trick shot basketball game, just recently released Dude Perfect 2 and of course I was all over it. After diving in for a few days, here is my review.

Gameplay: The object of the game is to make mind blowing trick shots through tons of challenging situations. The hoops are placed in all types of weird places. Sometimes you may have to launch the ball at long distances and sometimes you may have to break glass or even jump on trampolines.

In the sequel, it seems like they increased the level of difficulty. There was always an element of physics but now there seems to be more of a puzzler feel to the game. Take a look at the video to get a first hand look at all the wild shots:

Modes: The game is set up like most games. There are various levels and stages you must complete with a 1-3 star rating scale. They changed the way Dude Perfect launches his trick shots. Before it was more of a sling shot feel similar to Angry Birds. Now you use gestures to measure the direction and force you choose to use. That was disappointing to me as I prefer the sling shot feel.

There are different characters and power ups you can buy, with game cash or real cash, to help you complete the levels. You can also purchase different balls. There is really nothing here that distinguishes it from any other game at this point. It feels like the same old story with all games concerning the ability to buy characters and bonus items.

(Note: The game is actually based on a group of guys who go around doing trick shots in basketball, among other sports. you can earn a few coins by watching their YouTube videos inside the game itself.)

Addiction Level:  Low – Average – High – Very High

Variables: In the mobile game world, there is a struggle between developers who want to put out freemium games which has proven to be the most lucrative and hardcore gamers who prefer to pay a one time fee for full access to the game. This game goes close to the extreme end on how it implements the freemium model. It seems like you can’t enjoy the game or progress much unless you make in app purchases. On top of that the characters and power ups are nothing to write home about.

Wrap Up: The first game was exciting, addictive and fun. The sequel is less exciting and seems to add more of a puzzler aspect to it. Their implementation of the freemium model makes an ok game at best, less enjoyable. My experience proved to be disappointing and one with not much fun. Score: 60%

imagesAppStore

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Op-ed: Apple we’re not Dumb http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/11/op-apple-were-not-dumb/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/11/op-apple-were-not-dumb/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 01:15:44 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=219 images

zatsnotfunny.com

The reason why I titled this opinion piece the way I did was because of the quote I read below. The quote is from, Phil Schiller, Apple’s Marketing Executive, who is obviously giving lame answers to some important questions regarding the iPhone’s evolution.

As a person who has invested into their ecosystem it gets frustrating dealing with a company who doesn’t give you what you want but chooses to make decisions for you. Only to turn around later and do it when it’s profitable for them. Below you will find the quote and I will dissect it phrase by phrase:

Question: Apple’s iOS devices should come with more storage capacity at the low end; the entry-level iPhone has included just 16GB ever since the 3GS in 2010, which is becoming increasingly hard to justify in an age of multi-gigabyte app downloads and high-resolution video recording.

But Schiller argued that cloud storage is picking up the slack. “The belief is more and more as we use iCloud services for documents and our photos and videos and music,” he said, “that perhaps the most price-conscious customers are able to live in an environment where they don’t need gobs of local storage because these services are lightening the load.”

He also says, that cost savings on storage could go into improving other features such as the camera, but the answer isn’t altogether satisfactory.

And again, in response to the issue of battery life and how it relates to Apple’s endless quest to create ultra-thin products, he says, “If you want a product that’s thicker with a bigger battery it’s also heavier, more costly, takes longer to charge,” he said. “We model every thickness, every size, every weight and try to figure out what the tradeoffs are. I think we’ve made great choices there.”

There you have it! Foolishness. Let’s break this down:

  1. 16GB is not enough. Actually there is not even a full 16GB available to the consumer. Only around 12GB are available. If I download 2 games at 2GB each, I’m already down to 8GB and I haven’t taken a single picture yet.
  2. 1080p HD video recording eats up large amounts of storage. Add to that the amount of pictures the average person takes and 16GB begins to seem like a joke.
  3. He later mentions price conscious customers benefitting from using iCloud instead. What he failed to mention is after the measley 5GB of free storage, you have to pay for more storage. besides, you can’t upload your app storage to the clouds.
  4. Cost saving on storage could help improve the camera. Is the most profitable and wealthiest company talking about cost saving instead benefitting their consumer base?The iPhone’s camera is among the top 3 every single year. How useful is a great camera if you can’t save the pictures to the phone?
  5. I can guarantee you that the vast majority of iOS users would sacrifice a few millimeters for some extra battery juice. Is he pleased that his customers are called wall huggers because their battery dies so quickly?
  6. Phones with bigger batteries do not take longer to charge. One of many examples happens to be their rival, the Galaxy S6. Another, the Asus Zenfone 2, also costs half the price of the iPhone but it charges quicker.

Sir, you have made bad tradeoffs. Can you imagine a 16GB iPad?! That is ridiculous. For anyone who follows mobile tech even a little bit knows his statements were silly. So Mr. Schiller you have to come better than that because we’re not dumb.

Phonearea, The Verge, Daring Fireball

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Hot Camera Apps – June http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/06/hot-camera-apps-june/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/06/06/hot-camera-apps-june/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 15:24:55 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=175 xperia-m2-camera-apps-3604e175c6ec38ac847cc59f1b416d03-940

 

The camera on a smartphones is one of the most important features. The quality of the camera can make or break a purchase. With the explosion of selfies, social media and the use of cameras, we want to bring you some hot apps that will enhance your camera experience.

 

face tuneFacetune – In a crowded category of photo editing apps, it’s hard to have a significant impact. Facetune has been able to differentiate themselves with some great editing tools. You can edit to your heart’s content and retouch your photos to get magazine-like quality photos. Take a look at the video to see how it works:

 

Horizon Camera – Do you find portrait videos annoying? Horizon Camera solves a probldownload (1)em that I believe most people have experienced one time or another with their mobile device. Horizon let’s you record horizontal videos no matter how you hold your phone. This is simple but genius at the same time. Other features include slow motion support, tilt to zoom and you can use Horizon Camera for photos as well. Everyone should download this app so we can say goodbye to portrait videos forever.

 

download (2)Camera360 – The oldest but most versatile app on this list has over 400 million users on various platforms. Camera 360 acts as a camera replacement and may possibly be better than your stock camera app. Features include control over the type of focus, the photo ratio, up to 200 free filters, low light camera, photo editing, cloud services, intelligent facial recognition, skin smoothing and much much more. Easily one of the most feature rich apps around. If you take a lot of pictures or like to edit you photos, do yourself a favor and download this app now.

 

downloadAlfred – Home Security IP Cam – One of the great things that developers do is find useful things to do with our phones that we may have never thought of. We can put this on at the top of the list. Alfred is an app that allows you to use your phone’s camera as a security or surveillance camera. All you need to do is download Alfred on two devices. One device will act as the surveillance camera and the other will allow you to watch what the camera is capturing. The set up is very easy. I tried it and it works. Unfortunately this app is only available for Android. There is an app for iOS but it is only a remote for the Mac app.

Remember, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Facetune iPhone/Android, Horizon Camera iPhone/Android, 360 iPhone/Android/WP, Alfred Android only

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Game Review: Joe Danger http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/05/29/game-review-joe-danger/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/05/29/game-review-joe-danger/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 02:01:59 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=139 joe

Joe Danger is a daring and wild racing game that you may have played on your PS3 or Xbox. After being released on iOS some 2 years ago it has finally made it’s way to Android. After purchasing it as part of the Humble Mobile Bundle, I decided to give it a spin.

Gadangermeplay: Joe Danger is a wild stuntman who is willing to ride his bike on any track no matter how many obstacles are in his way. He is determined to beat every course regardless of how many jumps, spins or flips he has to do. This side scrolling game is full of short but fun-filled levels of racing, jumps, stunts and tricks.

To beat these crazy courses you must ride your bike through mud and short tunnels. You have to jump over blood thirsty sharks waiting for you to fall in their tanks. If you want to maximize your points, you need to do spins, 360 flips, wheelies and more. all of this requires great timing so you can get “perfects.” Oh yeah, don’t forget to collect all of the coins on the board, not only with Joe Danger but with also with your other hand.

Game Modes: Most of the game consists of maneuvering through all of the obstacles to complete the course. The levels start off easy then progress to medium and hard. I generally hate easy levels but in this case they are entertaining enough to keep you interested while you get the hang of it.  At the end of each level you get to race a weird character like a cupcake through all of the obstacles you encountered during the other stages of the level. There is also a bonus stage in each level where you have to change characters before you can race.

Graphics and Sound: The graphics are very good especially for a side scrolling gam everything goes together and I like the colors. What really stands out to me is the sound. Every time I hear “jump” and “duck” it adds to the anticipation of the next stunt. It enhanced my experience and I feel it helps the game overall.

Addiction Level:  Low – Average – HighVery High

Variables: Joe Danger is not free. It comes in around $3 and there are In-app purchases available as well. I am not a fan of In-app purchases, especially for games that are not free. However, my experience with the game leads me to believe that you can fully enjoy this game without needing to make any additional purchases.

Wrap Up: I like this game and will easily recommend it. Once you get a hang of it and the difficulty level goes up, you’ll be hooked. Score: 80%

AppStoreimages

 

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Asus Zenfone 2 Review http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/05/12/asus-zenfone-2-full-review/ http://www.phonewbie.com/2015/05/12/asus-zenfone-2-full-review/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 02:01:40 +0000 http://www.phonewbie.com/?p=77
Asus-ZenFone-2

I’ve been using this device for about 3 1/2 weeks now and I’m ready to share my opinion of this heavily anticipated device with you. There is a movement among many android fans that have people searching for phones with high end specs for midrange prices. The hope is that these devices can compete with the high end Galaxy S and HTC ONEs of the world. This is one of the devices that is supposed to lead this charge so we’ll have an answer to that question in this review.

Design

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Although the Asus Zenfone 2 doesn’t have a groundbreaking design it still is a very good looking phone. The unit I have is red but it also comes in gold, silver and black. The back of the phone is round which helps make it fit nicely in your hand. That is important because this is a huge phone. At it’s thinness point it is thinner that the iPhone 6 but at its thickest, it’s thicker that many phones that have a case on it.

Asus took a page out of LG’s book by putting the volume buttons on the back. This was new to me but I found it easy to get used to. The buttons on the back also serve as the camera shutter for selfies which I found very useful. There aren’t any buttons on the sides or bottom. The power button is on the top which is awkward because I couldn’t reach it when I wanted to turn off the screen. On the front of the screen you have 3 soft keys, which many people, hate but I don’t have a big problem with them. The speaker grill is on the back which I hate and it doesn’t help that it is a weak one.

Display

I own the ZE550 which comes with a huge 5.5″ screen but only at 720p. The screen was okay. It definitely isn’t the strong point of the phone. The brightness is very weak. I was able to see in the sunlight at max brightness but it wasn’t always easy. The key here is that the version that everyone wants, the ZE551 has 1080p screen which should make things a little better. Even with that bump in specs for the display, I still don’t see the screen as a top performer.

The colors on the screen seemed just plain off. Fortunately the screen has a companion app call Splendid which helps you adjust the color temperature of the screen. I found this extremely useful when I was testing the camera. The pictures were just over saturated and very orange. a change of the temperature brought things back to normal.

Performance

wpid-screenshot_2015-05-10-19-42-43.jpgI found the performance of the phone to be very good. The Quad core intel Atom Z3560 clocked at 1.8 Ghz coupled with 2GB Ram worked very well. I never got the feeling that they cut corners by going with Intel over something like the Snapdtragon. The device rarely ever slows down and handled everything I threw at it. Multitasking was a breeze and it doesn’t stutter.

Everything is very fluid but I have to say that it isn’t very fast. It’s not slow but its just not one of the faster performers out there. Fluid yes, fast, no.

I used this phone on T-Mobile’s fast LTE network.This is the international version of the Zenfone 2 so I wasn’t sure how fast it would be. To my surprise I was able to get blazing fast speeds on this device. I consistently got over 20Mps down while reaching a max of 71 down. I also consistently stayed in the 20Mps range up with a max of 25 up. I tested the speeds in several different areas of New York City.

Battery

One of the most important things on a phone nowadays is the performance of the battery. With people doing so many things on their phones you need one with long battery life. The Zenfone 2 comes with a beefy 3000 mah battery that promises great battery life. After putting it under heavy usage, I can tell you that it is pretty good but not what you would expect when you hear 3000 mah on a phone.

Without a doubt I am a power user. The battery never failed me but it does make me nervous because the first 10-12 percentage points run off too quickly. After that the batter is solid. When I use my phone I always have the bluetooth and wifi on whether I am connected to something or not. I have bluetooth speakers everywhere I go and may need to play Spotify at any time.

Here is what i put the battery through: I took my phone off the charger at 4am 100% charged. I had all four of my email accounts set up and receiving emails all day. I used the hot spot for over a half hour. I listened to Spotify on my Beats PillXL for over a half hour. I made two or three calls totalling 40 minutes and texted all day.

Being that the phone is new, of course I was playing with it all day, swiping around for no reason and downloading apps so I can have all of my familiar apps on my phone. I took a few pics and shot some short clips of video. Of course I did all of this with the bluetooth and wi-fi on all day. At 10pm my battery was at 28% which I thought was pretty good. To do that with my Nexus 5 I would have to put it on the charger while at work and it still may not be at 28%.

On screen time is not the best. I basically get the same results everyday. Overall I have to say it is good not great. I certainly thought it would be better being that it is only pushing a 720p screen with low brightness. I wonder how the ZE551 battery fares for heavy users like me.

Camera

The Asus Zenfone 2 brings a 13MP camera to the table. Although MPs aren’t everything it certainly sounds better than 8MP and it gives hope that the camera will perform well due to the recent focus on picture quality. On the front of the phone you have a 5MP camera which is quickly becoming the standard for high end phones. Camera performance can make or break a customer’s purchase. Everyone wants good picture quality because this is the era of capturing everything on camera. I was very hopeful that the camera would perform well and was confident that things would be good due to Pixelmaster which enhances the picture quality.

Let me tell you now that the camera really disappoints. The camera just takes bad photos. In good lighting it takes decent pictures but nothing special. The pictures had too much noise and was too grainy. In low light the pictures were horrible. When switching to low light mode it did a much better job. In low light mode however, the resolution is lower and that affects the overall quality. The dual tone flash is hit or miss. Flash on phones are bad for the most part but I was expecting better.

The selfie camera was much better. In good lighting it took great pictures. In low lighting it didn’t perform well but most front facing cameras aren’t great anyway. It also ded better in low light mode. The biggest problem with the camera is that it doesn’t capture enough light. Also, the quality of the 13MP camera is not good. Here are sample pictures versus the iPhone 6 and the Nexus 5:

 

N5

N5

Z2

Z2

iP6

iP6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Z2 low light mode

Z2 low light mode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Z2

Z2

N5

N5

Ip6

Ip6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Z2 fully zoomed in

Z2 fully zoomed in

N5 fully zoomed in

N5 fully zoomed in

iP6 fully zoomed in

iP6 fully zoomed in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video camera performance was bad as well. Using video stabilization actually made the video shake and it was only compatible with 720p.

Software

I am truly a stock Android person person at heart. Six of the eight Android devices i’ve owned has been stock Android. With that in mind, I have been ready to try something different. I know the benefits of stock but I was ready for a change and Zen UI provided me with an opportunity for something different.

My personal experience with non stock devices aren’t great. I’m used to lag, corrupted updates and all types of problems. I’m glad to say that is not the case with the Zenfone 2. The software is very fluid and everything seems to be optimized very well. The 2GB Ram on ZE550 performed well but the ZE551 has 4GB Ram. One video I saw proved that the 4GB allowed it to multitask better that the Note 4 and GS6.

Android 5.0 Lollipop comes pre-installed on the device. It’s not 5.1 but all of the important elements are there. Coming from the Nexus 5 I don’t feel like I am missing anything of importance. One of the good things about skinned versions of Android is the features that they add to the software that is lacking from stock. Zen UI brings some neat things to the table like tap to wake and my favorite, ZenMotion:

 

(Editor’s Note: I apologize but the video was mistakenly deleted from my account)

We all know how important personalization and customization is in the Android world. Third party launchers are a must for many because it allows you to change the look of the icons, animations and even the launcher. I was happy to learn that the Asus Launcher acts as a third party launcher. I was able to download icon packs of my choice and use them without the use of ADW or Nova Launcher.

wpid-screenshot_2015-04-23-19-34-15.jpgThere are many other customization options as well. You can change the scroll animations, the opacity of the status bar, the type of font and even the color. Asus also provides you with themes of their own. These themes come with wallpapers and icons of their own.

 

One of the hidden gems in this software is the Reply Later feature. When you get a missed call, email or text message there’s usually an option to reply. In the Zen UI there is an option to reply later. If you select that option, a reminder is automatically set up in the Do It Later app and you will receive a notification to remind you. I’m not sure if any other UI has that set up but I think that is very useful.

In case you were wondering, the Zenfone 2 comes with all of the Google, Inc apps pre-installed. Many international phones don’t come with them so it was nice to have them already there.

A big black eye to my experience was the bloatware (unnecassary pre installed apps downloaded on the deice by the manufacturer or carrier). No lie there are over 60 apps pre loaded onto the phone. What’s worse is that you can’t delete them. The only thing you can do is disable them and hide them. I found that most of them are truly not needed and some of them are basic features, like data transfer, mirror and kids mode which could have been put in the settings and didn’t need a stand alone app. Do it Later and Super Note, both by Asus, are the only two that I found that I would recommend. Splendid, which was mentioned earlier is also valuable.

Miscellaneous

The call quality is good but the phone is very uncomfortable on the ear. The device is huge, there is no way around it but it is definitely comfortable in the hand. Many times though it was uncomfortable in my pockets, particularly while trying to sit down. The speaker is disappointingly weak. The device is dual sim which is great and it also comes with a pair of low end ear buds.

Conclusion

My overall experience with this device is a positive one. Laying this device next to any other phone and it looks just as good in my opinion. I don’t feel inferior when I pull out my Zenfone 2. It is totally capable and excels in many areas. I like the phone and would recommend it, camera performance aside.

The phone does fall short in two key areas. The camera is a big let down. I am disappointed with its performance and will tell you to stay away from this device if you want a top tier camera. The second area that it doesn’t fulfill is the myth that midrange phones with some high end specs can regularly perform as well as high end phones. There may one day be a phone to pull that off but it isn’t this one.

However, when you factor in the price, $199-$299, then you have a great value on your hands for a very good performing phone. What we used to expect for a phone in that price range has now changed. Asus has raised the bar. This phone is perfect for those who like unlocked phones with low prices, that’s not sluggish from a reliable manufacturer. I can’t forget about the blazing fast LTE speeds.

(Update: I would like to add that their customer service is very good. They are also consistently updating their software and that is a good sign. As for the camera, other reviews have spoken highly about pictures taken in HDR mode so keep that in mind.)

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