Samsung Galaxy S5 review: less about the gimmicks

Cutting down: Samsung has removed a lot of superfluous features from its latest Galaxy smartphone, the S5.

Cutting down: Samsung has removed a lot of superfluous features from its latest Galaxy smartphone, the S5.

There’s a lot to like about Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 smartphone – among them, its relative lack of features.

Don’t get me wrong. The company’s new flagship smartphone has plenty of innovations, including water resistance, a heart rate sensor and a fingerprint reader to bypass security passcodes. The screen measures 5.1 inches diagonally, which is slightly larger than its predecessor’s 5 inches and much bigger than the iPhone’s 4 inches. The S5′s camera is capable of taking 16 megapixel images, an improvement from 13 megapixels in last year’s Galaxy S4.

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

What’s most notable, though, is Samsung’s decision to focus on features people might actually want.

Some of the S4′s features – such as automatic scrolling of content when you tilt your phone or head – came across as clutter or gimmicks that often didn’t work as advertised.

Samsung also simplified the phone’s interface.

Like other Android phones, the S5 is still more complex to use than Apple’s iPhone, but the flip side is you get many more ways to customise it, including the ability to unlock a phone by drawing a pattern on the screen rather than using a passcode. In the S5, Samsung plays down or removes many of the S4′s less useful features, while rearranging the settings and layouts to make things easier to find.

The phone goes on sale tomorrow around the world, though a few carriers in Korea have released it early. Through the major NZ carriers, it will cost about $129 to $139 per month with a two-year service agreement or $1049  without one.

Samsung is emphasising fitness activities in its latest phone.

The heart rate sensor, located on the back just below the camera lens, doesn’t measure your pulse continuously. Rather, you have to hold your finger on the sensor for about five seconds before and after your activity. The information gets stored in Samsung’s S Health app. Other app developers can make use of the sensor, too.

If you need continuous tracking, Samsung has three fitness-focused wrist devices. They sync with the S5 and other Samsung phones to give you a broader snapshot of your activities. I’ll be reviewing those features separately after I’ve had a chance to use the phone for more than an afternoon.

In keeping with the fitness focus, Samsung also offers water resistance, meaning you can submerge it as much as 3 feet deep for up to 30 minutes. You can splash away by the pool, or sweat on it during a run.

Sony goes further in letting you dunk its latest Xperia phones up to 4.5 feet deep, but multiple plastic covers must be intact to get the protection. With the S5, there’s only one cover to worry about, plus the phone’s removable plastic back. The S5 isn’t meant for underwater use, but I was still able to take photos and listen to audio.

The camera’s 16 megapixel resolution brings the S5 closer to what stand-alone cameras offer, though the megapixel count is just one factor. In my limited tests, many indoor shots came out blurrier compared with the 8-megapixel iPhone 5S. I’ll be reviewing the camera features more extensively.

For now, I’ll point out that the camera interface is simplified. With the S4, I would often turn on special modes and features by mistake and miss the shot trying to turn them off. The S5 reduces your choices or at least hides many of them. For instance, one button combines many of the previous choices and offers you the relevant ones based on circumstances. The S5 also promises a faster auto-focus, though it’ll take time to test that promise.

The fingerprint reader is what excites me most about the S5. When it arrived on the iPhone 5S last year, I had a lot of fun using the fingerprint reader to unlock the phone without needing to punch in a four-digit code.

To set it up on the S5, you simply swipe your finger over the home button eight times. You can do it with up to three fingers. The device recognises my print when I swipe it sideways or upside down. It even works after handling oily Indian bread, though the phone drew a line after I dipped my finger in grease. It chided me to clean the surface and my finger.

The S5 goes further than the iPhone in letting you use your fingerprint to buy things at retail stores that accept PayPal’s mobile app. You swipe the sensor instead of entering your passcode.

Your fingerprint can also be used to unlock a new, private mode on the phone. When you exit that mode, photos and other documents you designate as sensitive are hidden as if they never existed.

Some people may be concerned about losing their fingerprint identity to hackers. Unlike passcodes, fingerprints can’t be changed. I’ll just note that it’s optional, and you can still use passcodes the way you always have. Like Apple, Samsung keeps the fingerprint ID in a secured part of the phone, so it never goes to any servers. When PayPal needs to verify an identity, the phone simply tells PayPal’s app about the match, without needing to send the print ID.

Parents will also appreciate a kids mode filled with age-specific apps for each child. But to leave kids mode, all you have to do is enter a birth year that’s 2001 or before. The app is even helpful enough to tell the kid to pick an age older than 13. You’ll need to pay for a premium service that includes a real passcode, not just your birth year.

One area where Samsung phones still fall short is in their construction. Although the removable plastic back makes it possible to replace the battery, it comes across as cheap next to the iPhone’s glass back and the HTC One’s metal body.

And Samsung hasn’t completely removed all the clutter. There are still two separate apps to listen to music, watch video and buy apps. The S5 comes with the standard Google apps for Android, but Samsung loads its own, too.

These aren’t huge shortcomings. There’s more to like than not.

The S5 isn’t the only good smartphone out there, but there’s enough in it to give Samsung another hit. 

AP

M0B1US Review

Developer: Mental Universe
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

Nice ideas will only take an interesting game so far, before its flaws elsewhere become more prominent. That’s certainly the case with M0B1US. It’s an Endless Runner with a twist and, for once, it’s a fairly good twist. Instead of the usual motif, players run around the four sides of their iOS device, jumping and sliding amongst various obstacles. Unfortunately though, it’s not overly gripping. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

m0b1us3The rectangular prison doesn’t actually evolve hugely. Kind of like a race track, players find themselves going around and around for as long as they can survive. Taps enable them to jump over low obstacles or from wall to wall, while a swipe helps them duck under high obstacles. It’s a simple enough control method that’s thwarted by other issues.

Namely, that the screen is quite dark with things only illuminated when one is a little too close to comfort to many obstacles. This means all too often that one fails because they just couldn’t see the obstacle in time. Sure that could be down to having inferior reactions, but it’s a little too speedy for comfort, making it a less than satisfying experience for the average Endless Runner fan.

m0b1us1M0B1US also doesn’t really evolve further than what’s there at the start. There aren’t any power-ups to acquire or any upgrades to benefit from. It’s all a little too basic despite that initially promising early concept. The only depth that potentially shines through is being able to share high scores with others or through Game Center, but it doesn’t feel like enough to keep one coming back for more.

Hard games are all well and good, but they need something to keep one playing and keen for more. M0B1US just feels a little too simple for comfort.


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Taasky Review

Developer: Cleevio s.r.o.
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.3
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

With a slightly cheesy name, Taasky bounds onto the App Store, providing a useful way in which to keep track of one’s tasks, appointments, and to-do list. It’s reasonably stylish to look at without appearing garish, and it’s very simple to learn.

Capturing the flat style of iOS 7, Taasky is certainly intuitive. One simply uses a mixture of gestures and taps to initiate everything, plus there’s a clearly laid out tutorial ensuring that no one is going to get lost here. It’s possible to view all tasks en masse, but it’s more convenient to view things according to type. Starting out, users can add tasks to home, work, friends, or a shopping list, with it possible to change these options around to whatever suits the user’s needs. Each is color-coded so it’s clear to see what each task is related to. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

taasky4taasky3Adding a task can be as simple as needed. It’s possible to just add a task to a category and leave it at that, but further options are available. Setting a deadline either by date or time is possible, as well as adding a note for further information. Adjusting priorities is simply a matter of dragging tasks around to line them up accordingly. To further add to Taasky‘s flexibility, it’s possible to synchronize tasks with iCloud as well as with the user’s calendar, although there’s no way of sharing tasks with other people just yet (an update in the future is promised).

Consolidating tasks and appointments isn’t a new idea, but Taasky manages to make it feel fresh again. ‘Easy to use and stylish to look at’ is a concept that iOS has been built upon, and Taasky easily embraces that here. It’ll certainly boost many users’s productivity levels.

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15 Coins Review

Developer: Engaging Games
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.01
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

15 Coins enters the crowded arena of minimalist, challenging arcade games that descend from Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon. But by sticking to minimalist principles to create the emergent complexity that makes these games fun, it largely succeeds at what it sets out to do.

15_coins_presskit_image615_coins_presskit_image715 Coins has players controlling the clockwise and counterclockwise turning of a constantly-moving triangle around an arena with the goal being to collect 15 coins, which randomly appear throughout the arena, as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, clones sporadically appear that travel along the routes the player has taken – and colliding with them is game over. However, a power-up square can be collected that freezes the clones in place and eliminates them on contact for a limited amount of time, much like Pac-Man, though there’s no visual indicator of when the power-up expires. That’s the entirety of the game. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

Of course, that leaves off how challenging it can be. The clones become agents of chaos, but ones that the player dictated at some point. It’s a perfect example of minimalism: it takes a simple concept and turns it into something with emergent complexity. The visuals are basic, but effective.

15 Coins has an interesting difficulty pacing. Easy is not necessarily the easiest difficulty because of how slow it is. It’s easier to navigate, but part of what helps me succeed is to eliminate clones, as having too many alive at once makes things pretty much impossible to manage.

15_coins_presskit_image3Thus, I think the difficulties are some what misnamed. Easy has players moving so slowly that this is not a viable strategy, where Medium and Hard have the player moving quickly enough that they can get to other clones and take them out in short order. Hard has players turning and moving fast enough that it’s challenging to go where one needs to. Thus, Medium might just be the easiest difficulty because it balances out “slow enough to turn accurately” with “fast enough to reach clones to eliminate them.”

Yet, maintaining the strategy of both speedy coin collection and clone containment is a challenge no matter what, and the game has just enough chaos and skill to be quite the entertaining combination. I do fear that the margins for fast times are incredibly thin, which hurts the replay value in my eye. I’d be curious to see how well an endless mode would work. The mitigation of item collection and enemy management is similar to Super Crate Box, but 15 Coins‘ chaotic movement would make it not become a slog over long periods of time.

15 Coins is a rather intriguing game that I have fun playing, and a fantastic example of how minimalistic, challenging arcade games should be done.


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Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

magicragefacesicon 150x150 Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

Price: Free
Rating: star Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks
Magic Rage Faces
iPhone App Review by TheiPhoneAppReview.com

M1 168x300 Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

Reviewed by Adam Itkoff For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

If you are a fan of the social media community and phenomenon, Reddit Inc., then you have probably seen the website’s infamous meme-esque caricatures.

These scrunched up, stick-figure faces have swept across the Internet at rapid speeds, and have become a staple of digital iconography in no time at all. In this vein, we present you with a truly hilarious app, Magic Rage Faces, from Le Thanh Quang.

This app allows users who are a fan of Reddit, or just mobile photo-editing in general, to choose from a wide array of faces, get funky while editing them, and post directly to Social Media for their friends to see.

M2 170x300 Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

iPhone App Review

Features: star Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

Boasted as one of the best “Rage Face” apps on the Internet, this app comes through with a truly massive selection of images. You can find happy, sad, furious, strange and outright bewildering faces of every type.

Copy them directly to your clipboard and send them to friends, make some adjustments via editing options, and then post to Facebook and Twitter so that these images can go directly back into the infinite digital creation feedback loop.

The latest enhancements to the app include revamped UI and UX improvements and an additional 20 fonts that can be utilized when editing.

Updates keep this app running clean, and at just over 100MB, it won’t take up too much space in your mobile device either.

Concept and Functionality: star Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

In order to give credit where it is truly due, we have to give a shoutout to the millions of Reddit users that have helped to coin these hilarious expressions in the first place.

Still, the idea of gathering these images and incorporating them into a highly entertaining app deserves a pat on the back and a top-notch rating. The app may take a tiny bit of time to download due to the amount of images contained, but otherwise runs smoothly.

Be prepared to face some in-app advertisements, but don’t worry, they do not appear so frequently that they become truly bothersome.

Overall Value: star Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

All in all, we had a great time with this app. It’s worth a download so that you can poke around and see what all of the buzz is about. From huge slices of cheese to truly unthinkable expressions, you’ll probably have a great time exploring this one.

MQR 150x150 Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo KicksMagic Rage Faces requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. A small expedite fee was paid to speed up the publication of this review.

The iPhone App Review’s rating: star Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicksstar Magic Rage Faces Is A Hilarious And Free Way To Get Your Photo Kicks

Find your next app at TheiPhoneAppReview.com

 

What do YOU think? We’d love to hear your comments, try it and let us know!

You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamitkoff

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The Quest Review

Developer: Guerilla Tea Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 2.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

The Holy Grail is one of the most sought-after supernatural relics in history. People have fought and died on quests to find the mystic cup. Nazis have shriveled up and turned to dust after drinking from counterfeit grails (a consequence of choosing… poorly). According to The Quest by Guerilla Tea Games, the Holy Grail is simply God’s favorite tea mug. No more, no less. Though once God takes a direct interest something, it becomes “special” by association. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

quest_01Either way, The Quest is a puzzle game that tells the story of a knight named Steve who’s been chosen to retrieve God’s mug. Turn out the Lord accidentally dropped it from the heavens. Somebody has butterfingers. Steve’s mission takes him across many cube-shaped worlds made of shifting plates. The Quest is actually heavily influenced by the Rubik’s Cube toy: Sir Steve must collect the star in each level (the more quickly, the better), which involves turning bits of the playing field around – a la the classic 80s plaything.

Steve can walk and he can travel across all sorts of terrain. Problem is, he can’t switch between terrain on the fly, which is why the player needs to turn the block around and around. That way, they can deliver the star directly to Steve. But sometimes even cleverly manipulating the terrain isn’t enough to deposit the star at Steve’s shoes. He often needs to take a walk to get his jewel, which means ascending and descending across land, mountains, and sea.

This is where the ships, balloons, and toboggans that are scattered across most of the game’s levels come into use. Steve can use balloons to transition between the sea and the mountains. He can use ships to transition between land and sea. And he can use toboggans to transition between land and the mountains. In other words, successfully collecting a star usually involves manipulating the cube/level so that Steve is aligned properly with the objects that let him reach his goal. Later levels contain multiple objects and roadblocks, making Steve’s quest more complicated as a consequence.

quest_02The Quest isn’t much to look at. The simple graphics are functional, however, which is all that really can be asked out of a puzzle game. The Quest is most concerned about providing a tricky but enjoyable gameplay experience, which it delivers. It’s an original idea built on top of a classic puzzle idea that’s still well-loved today. There are tons of levels to get through, and once those are tucked away there’s always the challenge of getting through them as quickly as possible for a three-star score.

The Quest is worth a try even for folks that are lukewarm on Rubik’s Cube. Just be warned that there’s no way to cheat through the game. That is to say, there’s no way to peel colored stickers and re-apply them in uniform groups while no-one is watching.


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Fairway Solitaire Blast Review

Developer: Big Fish Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

One of the iOS games I often find myself returning to is Fairway Solitaire, an addictive card game based around golf solitaire. It’s been a mainstay on my iPhone since launch so the prospect of a new title in the series, Fairway Solitaire Blast, got me pretty excited. This new installment is more freemium-focused, more reminiscent of King’s selection of titles, and currently lacks a certain amount of the ‘wow’ factor. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

fairwayblast4Working on a level-by-level basis with a structure very similar to the mighty Candy Crush Saga et al, Fairway Solitaire Blast leads players down a path of increasingly tricky challenges. At first, players simply progress by clearing all the cards across three holes of each course (or level), but as they move through these stages other requirements emerge. Clearing 10 face cards in a row might be one such challenge, while others might require the player to clear 10 cards, each alternating in color, in order to progress.

There’s a certain amount of trial and error to Fairway Solitaire Blast, with the game clearly aimed towards encouraging players to spend money to progress faster. 5 lives are given to the player with one lost each time they fail a stage, and lives renew after a set period of time. Power-ups can be gained occasionally, helping one’s chances, but they can also be bought via an in-app purchase. Ever tantalizing is the option to buy five extra cards at the end of a round, which is pretty tempting when there’s only one card left on the board.

fairwayblast2Such in-app purchases aren’t hugely intrusive but they are there to remind players of the shift in freemium game mechanics, restricting their option to play for as long as they might like. The biggest issue with Fairway Solitaire Blast though is its lack of depth. It doesn’t yet have the wealth of content that its predecessor provides. Given the regular support that Fairway Solitaire has enjoyed, I suspect it’s only a matter of time until Fairway Solitaire Blast offers similar.

For now though, Fairway Solitaire Blast is a fun change for solitaire fans, but not quite as essential as its earlier outing.


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Monument Valley Review

Developer: ustwo
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.3
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Monument Valley – ustwo’s puzzling adventure game where players must twist and turn an Escherian world to discover its secrets, able to tell protagonist Princess Ida where to go and with various levers and twisting points that they can manipulate – can be approached and analyzed in two ways. One is purely as an experience. The other is as a game.

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As a game, Monument Valley is really quite short: it’s 75 to 90 minutes long across 10 levels that pose few threats to players. There’s maybe one puzzle in the entire game that made me really confused. Those who can’t comprehend the Escher-esque levels and designs, (that perspective can mess with one’s head) will probably have a hard time with the game. Those who have an eye for it will likely breeze through it. There’s not much in the way of replay value as there’s no time being kept for a level, which is a shame as it would be a fantastic way to promote coming back. As well, if there are any secrets they’re really, really well-hidden, which is a shame because this kind of game would promote hiding things. Its clear Fez inspiration sure had plenty of secrets of its own, so why not this too? The story isn’t really engaging – it’s ethereal and always felt out of touch to me, except for one moment that focuses on emotion rather than narrative. It’s not a perfect game.

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But as an experience, its flaws are secondary. The world of Monument Valley is intricately-created. The game can be mind-bending as the world shifts to the player manipulating its levels and rotating everything to create new perspectives, but it is never cruel: it is meant for the player to discover what its tricks are. Players will learn about perspective and how to tweak it. The game’s rules ultimately do make sense, particularly the “players can only go where they can see Ida” rule, making everything about what the player sees and perceives. That everything comes together so elegantly is a massive credit to ustwo for managing to nail something so tricky. The world is incredible (play this on a retina iPad if possible), and I can only hope that there’s more to see at some point down the road. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane www.snappy-apps.com.au

I find myself really conflicted by Monument Valley. On one hand, it’s so beautiful, an absolute artistic triumph that I don’t regret having experienced – and anyone who puts in the time and money won’t regret it. But as a game, it felt like it could have worked better, done more with this incredible world. I suppose the best way to look at it is that Monument Valley‘s ‘game’ is a delivery system for experiencing the incredible world. But it could be better.


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