Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 3

Last time (read article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus, Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2), I spelled out what Google was doing with Android. Today, I’m going to wrap it up and bring it home, providing a recommendation that I hope Google will listen to.  Unfortunately, given their track record, I’m not getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, neither should you.

Android is attacking the market en masse. It’s the only way the fragmented OS is capturing share. Its lack of focus provides for a quick product introduction cycle by its 3rd party supporters. For example,

T-Mobile USA currently offers 16 Android smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
AT&T offers 22 Android smartphones from 7 different manufacturers.
Verizon offers 34 smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.

Most of these phones are either running FroYo (Android 2.2.x), or Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x). Very few of them will run or officially support Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.x). Each manufacturer has added their own launcher and customizations on top of the OS. Nearly all have provided customized versions of some system level apps or components, originally developed by Google.  This has unfortunately created a bigger divide between stock Android and what end users actually use on their devices.

What does this mean, exactly?  In many cases, Google provides the shell and relies on the 3rd party developer to complete the structure. Until recently, and by recently I mean the last 12-18 months, Google resisted the development of an ecosystem. It provided an operating system that would allow users to organize their lives, communicate with the outside world, run apps, listen to music, watch video and read books.  However, it failed to provide a way for users to purchase, organize and manage that content on those devices. Their philosophy – we provide the means, YOU (meaning the hardware OEM or 3rd party developer) provide the way. In the process they’ve lost out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and royalties.

It finally recognized this when it introduced Google Music.  From there, you could buy and then stream music directly to your Android phone.  It also modified its Android Market allowing for the sale of not only music, but books, movies as well the standard and familiar device apps.  Music purchased there could be copied to your device and your PC and then synchronized with Google Music’s online music locker.

While this signifies a move in the proper direction, not only for Google and its partners, but for users as well, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Google needs to further lock down the platform – hardware manufacturers and OEM’s shouldn’t be allowed to have devices with up to three different revisions of the OS in active support at the same time, and shouldn’t be allowed to introduce new products with outdated OS revisions, as they have in the past.

Google is developing focus, but it’s taken approximately 4 years to get here. Frankly, I think Google’s gotten very lucky. Hopefully, they’ve seen the error of their ways, have seen the success their major competitors have in their own ecosystems, and continue to stay focused.

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Battleheart – a highly addictive, gorgeous looking game for Android and iPhone

A while back I wrote about Inotia 3 – my favorite RPG for Android and iOS at that moment – an addictive game with cute characters and great storyline. Meanwhile I finished the game and to be honest I thought that I won’t find a better RPG, until just a few days back I discovered Battleheart.

Battleheart is a challenging action RPG (much more harder then Inotia 3) with a great level of customization and freedom, smooth multi-touch controls and addictive fast-paced battly system. At this moment I’ve only put a couple of hours into it so far, but I can easily say that if I should choice between this and Inotia 3, I would definitely say Battleheart due to the simple fact that is more challenging and I love the multi-touch controls system.

The game has around 30 campaign levels and each battle you can choose 4 characters from your party. Your characters can equip a weapon, armore, and 2 accessories (rings, talismans, etc) some of which can be upgraded. In order to obtain rare equipment , you can try your luck in the competitive survival arena – a place where you fight until your last breath in order to make as much kills you can. After every fight, you earn gold and experience that can be spent in the merchant shop or upgrading items.

As any other typical RPG, your characters level up based on the experience you get fighting monsters and you unlock new talents and abilities. What I like is that you can change your talents at any time in-between battles (by visiting the tavern from the game menu), so you don’t have to worry about choosing the “wrong” one, or you can switch based on a battle you’re having trouble with.

Game Features

  • Easily command your army via simple touch commands.
  • Create a unique party from numerous character classes, including stealthy rogues, powerful wizards and stoic knights!
  • Customize your heroes via dozens of unique skills – literally hundreds of class and skill combinations!
  • Make the most of your party’s skills to control the battlefield – turn your opponents into frogs, stun them with poisons, or simply destroy them with meteor strikes and whirlwinds of steel!
  • Over 100 unique items to collect and equip across a 30+ level campaign, complete with epic boss battles!
  • Put your custom party to the ultimate test in survival arenas, where rare and unique rewards can be found!
  • Incredibly sharp animation and art designed specifically for cutting edge mobile devices!

Battleheart for Android | Battleheart for iOS (iPhone/iPad)

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Must-have Android games that are free and really cool

Greedy Spiders Free – is one of the best mobile puzzler that I played so far.  The mission is to save the bugs from the Greedy Spiders! Looks like the Spiders have come to town and they are planning on dining their poor friendly neighbors. You’ll have to use your intelligence to prevent the Spiders from pulling off their plan. As you progress through the levels, new actions, new spiders and new surprises will be available. Deceive a spider, burn down the spider web or even invoke a supernatural power to save the bugs, actually… use everything at your hands to avoid your bugs being eaten by the Spiders!

Speedx 3D – is a accelerometer-controlled racer where you are travelling down a long tube and steer using the accelerometer. Your mission is to avoid blocks and the game ends when you hit the blocks. Each obstacle has a color trail just before the obstacle appears so use that indicator to get out of the way. Test your reflex in this speed challenge with smooth 3D graphic and compete with other players through high score leader board.

Racing Moto – is another fast paced racing game, something similar to SpeedX 3D but with a motorcycle. Control your moto with incredible fast speed during traffic rush time and tap the screen to enable the boost mode. Boost makes everything go faster and that rises your bonus points but watch out because cars and trucks love to cut you off. Also, don’t forget to watch out for walls, otherwise you’ll be getting some road-rash from that too.

Blast Monkeys – is an arcade puzzle game where you must take care of Moki, the hungry monkey. Help Moki fly through the obstacles in search of a giant bunch of bananas. In order to make Moki really happy, and to get the highest score possible, collect the three elusive individual bananas on each level. Now… getting bananas is not always easy. Sometimes you’re going to have to use your wicked fast fingers to help Moki move through spinning platforms and more canons than you can shake a banana at. Make sure to avoid the pesky spikes as you make your way to banana bliss.

Bug Village – is a game which puts you in charge of building your own little colony of ants and bees. You musut construct homes to attract other bugs and direct them to the garden, where they can gather resources to expand your village. Feed your bugs to keep them energized and healthy while you add decorations and flowers to your bugs town to make the colony even more happy. The game is highly addictive and it has a great gameplay. Enjoy!

Inotia3: Children of Carnia – is a classic RPG and this probably says it all. You walk around going from quest to quest completing all sorts of little side quests along the way. Characters level up and gain all sorts of weapons, cool items and skills. The story begins when Lucio (you) and Ameli (your hearts desire) acquires a powerful piece of guntlets which leads to a consequence that are beyond expectations… Lucio and Ameli will have to face what  destinies lain before them… Warriors’ fates have been predestined for thousands of years already… Will those who are born to be warriors be happy after all?

Cordy – is simply, a  beautiful 2D sidescroller with cool 3D visuals. Cordy, who is Cordy? Cordy is a little robot with a big job – to power up his world! The task? Just help Cordy run, jump, push, pull, lift, throw, bounce, swing, and hover in this beautiful console-quality 3D puzzle platform game. In my opinion, this game is one of the best games for Android. Looks good, feel good and it’s fun. I can’t wait to see what other games the developers will make in the future.

Moon Chaser – is… a… running game. You’re a ninja with an interesting power – the ability to control your own gravity. Ok, I guess you’re in fog. Let me explain further. The gravity increases when screen is touched, and it restores to normal when released. Practically, the rule is very simple: touch to accelerate speed on declivity, release to make ninja fly on acclivity. Seems simple?  Oh well, nothing is as simple as it seems. Oh, one more thing, good luck of the trip!

Pax Britannica – is yet another simple one-touch game, marketed as “the one button strategy game” and is a port of the open-source game with the same name. You take control of an underwater factory ship and you’ll have to fight until only one ship is left standing. You can play single player or up to 4 players at the same time. Select your ship to start a battle against the computer. Select two ships to start a local multiplayer battle.

Rocket Bunnies – is an action-puzzle game of slingshotting from planet to planet. Practically, you have to avoid obstacles such as asteroids while collecting things to feed your fellow bunny colonies. Race around the system and make your way to the next set of challenges. Very nice casual game to play when you have few minutes of spare time! P.S. Each level has three stars to earn, but you don’t collect them through clever platforming, you earn them with speed.

Paradise Island – is a  simulation game that lets you build your own little island empire from the ground up. The idea is to get people to come to your island, and keep them happy while they are there. Entertain them in casinos and entertainment centers, build Magnate Hotels, Waterslides, Disco Clubs and turn your island into the perfect place for sun and sea lovers! Well, what are you waiting for? Tear yourself away from work and build your own sunny island! The bottom line: the graphics are great, and the gameplay is cool.

Pocket Legends (3D MMO) – is the largest 3D Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game  (MMORPG) for mobile device and this say it all. You choose your character, pursue quests, upgrade your stats while you meet thousands of other player along the way. What is really cool about this game is that when you play this game, you’ll be connecting not only with other Android players, but also with the iPhone users around the world.Moreover, the game plays over virtually any connection: wireless, Edge, 3G or 4G connections and most mobile devices. Bottom line: The game is smooth and it has enough content to keep you addicted for quite some time. Have fun!

Snake – is the best interpretation of classic snake game lovingly crafted by XIMAD team. What you must do? Direct your snake train through the deep underground mines using gestures avoiding obstacles and collecting artefacts to complete levels in arcade mode and to increase score in challenge mode. Different bonuses will help you in this task. Awesome graphics and enriched gameplay.

Stair Dismount – is a 3D ragdoll physics simulator where you have to push your character down the stairs, in order to inflict as much damage as possible to all its body parts. Points are scored based on the amount of damage you inflict on the character. If you do something really cool, you can take in-game screenshots and share them with your friends. Moreover, you can add a picture in your camera roll to the ragdoll, and then save pictures mid-dismount, and e-mail it or post it to facebook. The game is fun to play and the physics are very good.

Happy Vikings – is a game about becoming a true Viking. You travel to foreign lands and raid valuable loot. It’s your job to stack and arrange the loot into combos and chains to earn points. The game is packed with 50 challenging raids, mighty combos, a hard rocking music. Glorious raids and happy stacking!

Check back later if you like. I’ll update this article with more other cool games. Also, if you have any game suggestion, please leave a comment.

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11 must-have Android apps that are free and really cool

Watchdog Task Manager Lite – there is one thing people don’t know for sure about Android: it doesn’t need a task managers. We need to get ride of the mindset that killing off tasks is a good thing. Why? Because Android kernels have their own task manager and it should be left up to them to decide when to free up memory. What you really need is an app which monitors your device and when an application malfunctions and starts using all your CPU power (without a reason), to kill that single app. This is what Watchdog does and that’s all you really need.

Astro File Manager – this app allows you to manage files on your phone without the need for a PC. You can perform actions such as copy, paste, move, delete, open with other apps and create folders. Additionally, you can select multiple files to perform actions which is really useful sometimes.Talking about what’s oh-so-cool, this file manager has the ability to backup Android Apps to SD card and quite a few more nice features.

Beautiful Widgets – is one of the most popular standalone widgets for Android. Well, the Lite version sports less than half the features of the full version but still, it is better than most other free clock and weather widgets out there. Beautiful Widgets free comes with a total of six widgets. These include four Super Clock (weather and clock) widgets and two Weather widgets.

Backgrounds HD Wallpapers – is an app which helps you find amazing background wallpapers & contact themes.You can choice from a huge selection and great variety of high quality wallpaper. The only bad thing is that it takes a little while to change pages and load the images but still… I love it! Take a look through the categories (funny, cute, sunsets, cars, girly, games, sports, scary, music, movies, animals, etc) and find the right wallpaper for your smartphone, every time you get bored of the one which you have right now.

Launcher Pro – is a great alternative to your Android application launcher which adds some exciting features to your device such as 3-D app launcher, super-smooth screen switching, a suite of Sense UI-like widgets, a scrolling dock at the bottom of the screen, and much much more. I’ve been using it for the past few months and I have to say that I’ve never been this pleased with the smoothness of any other launcher. Simply fast & highly customizable.

Google Goggles – this app is really cool. Basically, it uses image recognition technology to recognize objects and return search results. You can use it to identify products, landmarks, artwork, and popular images found online. For example, while skimming through a magazine, you see the picture of an actress that you like but you can’t remember her name. Well, you can use Goggles to find her name. All you need is your phone to be equipped with an auto-focus camera.

ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner – I’ve been using this from the first day I bought my phone. You can use it to scan barcodes on CDs, books and so on, then look up prices and reviews. Also, with it, you’re at liberty to scan QR codes to download apps, add a contact to your phone or jump to a Web link such as Youtube or any other without having to write the link in your Android browser.

handyCalc Calculator – is by far one of the best calculator you can find on the Android Market and much better than the one that comes with your device. Do you need to perform complex mathematical equations or functions ? Well, you can do them all. My only complains is that the buttons are a little too small and sometimes they are not that easy to hit. Oh, one more thing, the app also has some other capabilities like currency and unit converter.

Evernote – is probably the best cloud-based app you can find to helps you remember things across all of the devices you use. Use it to take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.

mVideoPlayer – is what I personally use as a video player replacement for my Android-powered phone. It has a lot of useful and handy features and a nice and clean interface. Perfect if your watching movie on your phone or video podcast! It will play mkv, avi, mp4, m4v and 3gp files and will also add a subtitle track if there is one with the same name as the video file itself. One thing that I like quite the most is that mVideoPlayer remembers the moment you stopped watching a video file and also that you can gesture seek forwards and backwards while watching.

Titanium Backup – I like to try all sorts of Android ROMs. Cyanogen, MIUI, Darky’s rom, you name them. Well, all cool but every time I had to reinstall my apps which is quite annoying.. Well, thanks Titanium Backup, there is no need to do this anymore. You can use this app to backup system and paid apps as well as their associated data, plus all your non-market installed apps. So, for example, Inotia3 (the cool RPG game) saves the game progress in a system directory which you can’t backup when you decide to upgrade your firmware or try other ROM. Well, thanks to this app, you can backup the game + the associated data (Savegames) and restore everything back when you’re done. Drawbacks? Well, there is one: your phone must be rooted.

That’s all for now but I still have many other great apps in mind. If you’re interested, check back later please because I’ll update this article with them.

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Google’s Android Market gets new look, movies and books

Android Market? We all love it — in the end it is the best source for apps and games for our Android phones.

I personally like the the interface and it’s simplicity, but it feels like there could be more. Oh well, Google felt that too and  they began rolling out an update to the Android Market which gives the app storefront not only a new great look, but also opens the Movie and Book doors to the world for full rental and purchase options.

Thе nеw Market computer іѕ premeditated tο meliorate background crowning apps аnԁ games, vow users wіth аn reinforced UI, аnԁ wage a qυісkеr distinction tο downloading οr purchase уουr products”, wrote Android developer Eric Chu іn a journal post.

Google began updating the Android Market on phones Tuesday for those running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and newer and the update should be available  worldwide in the upcoming weeks.

Note: Books and Movies are available only in the U.S. — at this moment…

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