HTC One M8 appeals to social media users

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The HTC One M8 shines among Androids. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Nobody wants a smartphone that answers calls any more; that’s just a bonus. Most of us want a smart-looking media device that gives us fast, easy access to our social media lifelines such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

That’s where the HTC One M8 shines among Androids. Clip on the Dot View matrix cover, which shines light through the tiny holes, to receive illuminated calls, messages, weather and time updates without having to open the cover. The glow-in-the-dark notifications across the aluminium five-inch handset are good fun at night, and a practical way to stay in the loop when you’re on the move. Just don’t let your battery drain too far as the case will stop working.

Two cameras (5MP front and 4MP rear) aren’t inspiring specs for a 2014 smartphone but some impressive filters, effects and modes are there for maximum bragging rights on social media. Selfie mode is clever. It’s a shame the Dot View case doesn’t flip all the way backwards, which is especially annoying for one-handed snaps.

An intelligent flash is impressive in the dark but we wish HTC hadn’t dropped its optical image stabilisation to prevent blur.

Dual capture lets you take photos and video simultaneously using both front and back cameras – a social media buff’s dream for covering all bases at an event. The three-pronged share icon lets you upload your pics and footage to a network at 4G speed.

Another great social aspect of the M8 is the Highlights reel you get when you swipe to the left from your home screen. Laid out in tiles like a magazine ‘‘what’s hot’’ page, you can scroll through the latest posts in your social circle and among those you follow online. It’s ideal for a quick content grab when you don’t have the time or patience to load up each of your social apps individually.

Front-facing speakers deliver clear, loud, dynamic audio when you’re time-wasting through videos or recording your own. Surprising other brands haven’t thought of this.

If you’re already on Android, the HTC One M8 on 4.4.2 Kit Kat sets some new benchmarks for style, speed and social networking. If you’re on iPhone, this star performer could be the one that makes you convert.

$899 outright, or on a plan with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

Markets Live: Investors on a high

Childcare centre operator G8 Education has announced a planned 29 per cent increase in its annual dividend, from 14 cents per share to 18 cents.

The company pays dividends on a quarterly basis, meaning the payments will increase from 3.5 cents per share to 4.5 cents.

The news has sent the company’s share price up 3.1 per cent to $4.70.

The stock has suffered somewhat of a reversal in recent weeks; from a high of $5.07 on March 31 to stock had dropped to $4.35 two weeks later.

Managing Director Chris Scott said in the ASX announcement: “This increase reflects the strong performance of our operations”.

Medical devices group Resmed has just missed analyst expectations for its March quarter earnings, with chief executive Mick Farrell describing conditions in the key US market as particularly challenging.

The company, which makes products to help patients with sleep breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, posted revenue of $US397.8 million for the three months to March 31. This was just below analysts’ consensus expectations of $US401 million in revenue, but up from $US383.6 million in the previous period.

Diluted earnings per share rose from $US0.58 to $US0.63, just missing analyst expectations of $US0.64.

The company’s shares are up 3.4 per cent in early trading to $5.28.

Mr Farrell said the company was “pleased with our third quarter results in the face of challenging market conditions, particularly in the US.

“Our Americas business showed encouraging trends and we continue to benefit from our globally diversified business, with constant currency revenue growth of 6 per cent in combined Europe and Asia-Pacific businesses for the quarter.

“In particular, our European results were strong across the board, with most countries showing solid growth.” For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Revenue from the group’s American business was flat at $US216.1 million (compared with $US215.2 in the prior year) while revenue from he rest of the world grew by 8 per cent (or 6 per cent in constant currency terms) to $181.6 million.

Mr Farrell has big ambitions for Resmed. In a speech he gave in Melbourne last month he said ResMed wanted to work with “appropriate consumer partners and well-known brand names” in the consumer space to make personal products that can monitor consumers’ health signs, such as heart and respiratory rates and how well they are sleeping.

A number of wearable technology groups including Jawbone and Fitbit have products that monitor sleep cycles.

Shares have built on their freshly achieved post-GFC highs, defying a weak lead from Wall St.

In early trading the ASX 200 is 0.3 per cent higher, or 16 points, to 5533.5, while the All Ords has increased by a similar amount to 5518.5.

BHP is the biggest single contributor to the gains, up 0.5 per cent, with the banks providing the biggest sectoral support. Fortescue is 1.4 per cent higher.

Among bluechip winners, Brambles is 1.2 per cent higher, QBE 1.1 per cent and Computershare 1.4 per cent.

Woolworths and CSL are the largest drags, both 0.5 per cent lower.

In a financial win for Queensland Investment Corporation, the state’s 70km tollroad system has been sold for more than twice the pricetag it settled for in 2011.

The fronting running consortium comprising Transurban, subsidary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tawreed Investments Limited, and Australian Super pulled off the Queensland Motorways sale with a $7.057 billion bid.

The sale well exceeded expectations of market watchers who expected the sale to fetch between $6 billion and $6.5 billion.

That more than doubled what the QIC paid when the Labor government transferred the asset in May 2011 to QIC’s investment arm. It then carried a $2.9 billion debt.

When QIC took over management, QML included just the Gateway and Logan motorways. It now manages a 70 km toll network, which includes the Gateway, Gateway Extension and Logan Motorways, the Go-Between Bridge, CLEM7 tunnel and the Legacy Way, which is due to open next year.

It confirmed it was looking to sell the business in November last year.

QIC Chief Executive Officer Damien Frawley, who last month said the demand for these sorts of assets outstripped supply world wide, said the sale price demonstrated “the high quality of the Queensland Motorways assets and its people”.

“QIC’s Global Infrastrucutre group made substantial progress in commercialising the business since taking over three years ago, installing a highly experienced board and management team,” he said in a statement.

Read more.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has raised its official cash rate for the second time in two months, lifting rates to 3 per cent as it forges ahead with a policy-tightening cycle to ward off an inflation threat.

The RBNZ confirmed on Thursday it would increase interest rates to 3 per cent from 2.75 per cent amid a period of strong economic growth, in line with economists’ expectations. The New Zealand economy grew by 3.5 per cent over the year to March, Governor Graeme Wheeler said, suggesting a slight upgrade from the previous estimate of 3.3 per cent. Last month, the New Zealand central bank became the first in the developed world to raise interest rates in this cycle.

The New Zealand dollar, or kiwi, jumped on the announcement, climbing to US86.24¢ from US85.78¢ defying the RBNZ’s claim that the value of the currency is unsustainable. The kiwi rose almost 8 per cent from late January to its 52-week high of US87.16¢ on April 9.

The RBNZ’s policy direction also provides valuable clues for the Reserve Bank of Australia which is equally concerned with a high Australian dollar and keeping house prices in check.

Read more.

More on Apple, as mentioned below well-known investor and big shareholder Carl Icahn signalled his approval of Apple’s results and plans to return more capital, tweeting:


He then tweeted:


Apple has approved another $US30 billion ($US32 billion) in share buybacks till the end of 2015 and authorized a rarely seen seven-for-one stock split, addressing calls to share more of its cash hoard while broadening the stock’s appeal to individual investors.

The company also approved a roughly 8 per cent increase in its quarterly dividend to $US3.29 per share.

Activist investor Carl Icahn, who had famously called on the iPhone maker to boost its buyback program, tweeted his approval of the move on Wednesday.

Shares of the company, which have remain mired around the $US500 to $US550 range since the start of the year, jumped 7 per cent to $US561.51 in after-hours trade.

Apple reported sales of 43.7 million iPhones in the quarter ended March, far outpacing the roughly 38 million that Wall Street had predicted. That drove a 4.6 per cent rise in revenue to $US45.6 billion – a record for any non-holiday quarter – and beating Wall Street’s projections for about $US43.5 billion.

But whether Apple can again produce a revolutionary new product remains the central question in investors’ and Silicon Valley executives’ minds. The smartphone market is maturing and rivals like Samsung and Google are taking chunks out of its mobile-device market share.

Read more.

The housing recovery in the US is running out of steam as buyers balk at record prices and higher mortgage rates that are making properties less affordable.

Sales dropped a surprising 14.5 per cent to a 384,000 annualized pace, lower than any forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg and the weakest since July, Commerce Department data showed today in Washington. Three of the four regions saw setbacks, with demand in the West slumping to the lowest level in more than two years.

More expensive properties, borrowing costs that have jumped almost a percentage point from last year and lenders unwilling to go out on a limb are challenging an industry still emerging from its worst slump since the Great Depression.

In time, the slowly mending job market will help revive demand at builders such as NVR.

“It’s the reduction in affordability, the lack of inventory, also weak growth in median household income – all these are contributing to the sluggish recovery in housing,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, who forecast sales would drop in March. “It’s going to raise concerns about the strength of the housing recovery, but it’s too early to be too worried.”

More higher-priced properties are selling while first-time buyers and lower-income Americans struggle to get into the market. The decrease in sales was concentrated in houses priced less than $300,000, while more expensive dwellings showed gains, today’s report showed.

“The first-time homebuyer is not participating, nor are other buyers of modest means,” said David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Homebuilders in Washington. “We’ve lost a segment of our homebuyers because of tight credit.”

The average rate on a 30-year, fixed mortgage was 4.27 percent in the week ended April 17. A year ago, the rate averaged 3.41 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

Prices are rising, mortgage rates are higher, and that makes it considerably more expensive to buy than it was a year ago,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia, a San Francisco-based real estate information service. “Affordability is definitely a concern.”

Facebook said chief financial officer David Ebersman is leaving as sales and profit blew past analysts’ estimates.

Ebersman is stepping down later this year, to be succeeded by David Wehner, who joined from Zynga in 2012, the California-based company said today in a statement.

Revenue rose 72 per cent to $US2.5 billion ($2.69 billion), beating the average analyst estimate of $US2.36 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Mobile promotions accounted for 59 per cent of ad sales, up from 53 per cent in the prior period.

Having increased mobile advertising to a majority of its business from almost nothing at the time of its 2012 initial public offering, Facebook is seeking ways to make even more money on smartphones and tablets.

That includes testing a mobile ad network and agreeing to buy text messaging service WhatsApp for $US19 billion, a deal that’s yet to close.

“The core of this business is very strong, and their biggest challenge will be sustaining their growth rate in this range,” Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst at Rosenblatt Securities in New York. “We don’t know how big these new areas can be.”

Net income almost tripled to $US642 million, or 25 cents per share, from $US219 million, or 9 cents, a year earlier, Facebook said. Profit excluding some items was 34 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 24 cents.

Facebook has 1.28 billion monthly active users, or almost half the world’s internet population, up from 1.23 billion last quarter. WhatsApp will bring 500 million consumers of its texting app, though the company generates minimal revenue.

Read more.

"They clearly have the product, they have the traffic and now they have the advertising solution": Analysts have praised Facebook's ability to generate revenue.

“They clearly have the product, they have the traffic and now they have the advertising solution”: Analysts have praised Facebook’s ability to generate revenue. Photo: AFP

Local stocks are poised to open higher despite a weak lead from Wall Street where strong earnings reports from the likes of Apple and Facebook failed to offset a bigger than expected fall in US home sales.

Here’s what you need2know:

  • SPI futures up 20 points to 5529 at 8am AEST
  • AUD at 92.85 US cents, 95.16 Japanese yen, 67.21 Euro cents and 55.34 British pence at 6am AEST
  • On Wall St, S&P500 -0.2%, Dow Jones -0.1%, Nasdaq -0.8%
  • In Europe, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.7%, FTSE100 -0.1%, CAC -0.7%, DAX -0.6%
  • Spot gold up 0.1% to $US1284.77 an ounce
  • Brent oil slips 0.1% to $US109.14 per barrel
  • Iron ore falls 0.3% to $US109.14 per metric tonne
  • LME copper adds 0.3% to $US6670 a tonne


What’s on today:

  • No local economics releases
  • US: durable goods orders, unemployment claims at 10:30pm AEST
  • Europe: ECB President Draghi speaks at 7pm AEST


Stocks to watch:

  • Atlas Iron reports Q3 production
  • Asciano raised to buy vs neutral at BofA/ML
  • Aurizon cut to neutral vs buy at BofA/ML
  • Bank of Queensland trades ex-dividend
  • Horizon Oil is in talks with a potential buyer and could make an announcement this week, reports the AFR
  • Resmed Q3 revenue misses estimates
  • 21st Century Fox will be removed from the ASX 200 index at close of trade on May 1 and replaced with Sundance Energy
  • Toll Holdings raised to buy vs hold at BofA/ML reports the AFR
  • Consortium led by Transurban buys Motorways for $7.1 billion, seeks trading halt before market open today
  • Cashed-up Wesfarmers has joined the growing list of potential bidders in the running for private hospital owner Healthscope, reports AFR
  • Deutsche Bank has a “buy” recommendation on Oil Search after it reported March quarter production that was 5 per cent ahead of DB expectations. Its 12-month price target is $11 a share


Read more.


Good morning and welcome to the Markets Live blog for Thursday.

Your editor today is Patrick Commins.

This blog is not intended as investment advice.

BusinessDay with wires.


Master A Lifeless Automaton In The Challenging Platformer Wind-up Knight 2

Wind-up Knight 2 by Robot Invader icon

Wind-up Knight 2 (Free) by Robot Invader is the gorgeous sequel to the original platformer game that came out back in 2011. If you enjoy challenging platformers, then you will absolutely love what Wind-up Knight 2 has to offer.

I grew up with platformer games, so it’s only natural that I just have an affinity for them. No matter what the system, just show me a platformer, and chances are I’m all over it (if I can, anyway). It’s been a while since I’ve played a great platformer on iOS, so I was intrigued with Wind-up Knight 2 — the original was a game that I ended up downloading, but never really got a chance to playing through fully (as is the case with so many other games and apps). However, I’ve spent some time with WUK2, and it’s quite a delightful, challenging little game.

Wind-up Knight 2 by Robot Invader screenshot

The graphics in WUK2 are absolutely beautiful. If you played the original WUK, think of the graphics amplified by 10. This little platformer game looks like a console game, and it definitely plays like one too. The environments that your little knight will run through look vibrant, detailed, and lush — there is not a single thing in the stages that doesn’t look great. Along with the surroundings, the character models, from your knight to the various enemies that you’ll encounter, are rendered perfectly, and all animations are smooth and fluid. I also enjoy the music that plays in the background, as well as the various sound effects that you’ll hear as you run, jump, and slash your way through to the end — it’s all incredibly satisfying.

The game has a ton of levels to go through, but you’ll have to go through them one-at-a-time, of course. I’m unsure of the total number of levels that the game has (I purchased the full game via in-app purchase), but I know that the levels are difficult enough that it may take you quite some time to get through them all anyway. Each level will have the main objective to complete, which is to get to the end. You earn a grade depending on how well you did during that run, and you get the best grade when you collect all coins, earn S-Rank, and don’t restart at any checkpoints. However, there are three side quests that you can undertake on each as well, which will make you think outside the helmet to complete, so to speak.

The controls in the game are pretty simple, but will take some time to master. Your wind-up knight will run automatically, so you don’t need to worry about that. You do, however, need to help him maneuver through all of the dangers that he will run into along the way. The button on the far right allows you to jump, and the button adjacent to it will have your knight attack by slashing in front of him with his sword. On the left, you will have buttons for using your shield for cover from projectiles, and then you can roll through crevices.

While the controls are simple enough, it is taking me quite some time to get used to them. Perhaps it’s because I end up panicking when I’m in certain situations, but I end up pressing the wrong action button quite often, which leads me to my ugly demise. Prepare to spend a lot of time getting used to the controls, as well as dying a lot — that’s all I can really say about that. This is the epitome of simple to learn, difficult to master for me.

Along the way, you will encounter many new gameplay mechanics, such as Bouncy Pads, Ice Blocks, Warps, and more. These will all add a fresh new element to the game, but can also make it more difficult to get to your goal. Either way, it’s refreshing, and the extra difficulty involved with these new mechanics is appreciated.

If you played the original WUK, you will remember that there were no checkpoints in the stages, so if you died, you’d have to start over from the beginning. Fortunately, this is rectified in WUK2, as each stage will have several checkpoints, meaning you will restart at the last one you reached if you die. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Since your character is a wind-up toy, you will be running on a limited charge. Keep an eye on your charge gauge in the top left, and make sure to refill it by collecting the wind-up keys that are scattered throughout the stage. If you run out, your little automaton will explode, and you’ll need to start over or at the last checkpoint.

Wind-up Knight 2 by Robot Invader screenshot

Upon completion of each level, you will earn gold coins, which include the ones you collect in each run. These can be used in the shop to get upgrades for your knight, including weapons, armor, helmets, and shields. Each item will have their own unique abilities, such as turning enemies into stone with the Medusa Shield, shooting missiles when attacking with the Durendal Blade, being protected from falling objects once per life with the Stunt Helm, slowing the entire game down with the Tortoise Armor, and more. A lot of these items will cost quite a bit, so you’ll need to spend a good amount of time grinding through stages to earn the coin to buy them. But as you will want to try and complete all objectives anyway for the perfect grade, I suppose it works out in the end.

If you don’t feel like grinding your way through to get coins, you can purchase coins through in-app purchases. You can also unlock the full game through IAP, which I recommend doing, because the game is amazing.

WUK2 is great for competitive people as well. There is full Game Center integration for leaderboards (gems) and 34 achievements. However, it doesn’t stop there — WUK2 features a full Tournament Mode if you really want to up the ante with your friends. This mode will feature a different daily challenge every day, and you must get as far as you can with only a single life. This is pretty insane, and anyone who loves to be ambitious with their gaming friends will love having this mode around.

So far, even though I’m dying quite a lot, Wind-up Knight 2 is very enjoyable. I love the exquisite graphics, the charming music and sounds, simple controls (just a matter of remembering which button does what at the right times), and the very difficult platforming gameplay — having a challenge always makes the end result much more gratifying. I just wish that the items you can buy for your knight weren’t so expensive.

If you’re looking for a fun little platformer to check out, then I highly recommend getting Wind-up Knight 2, and purchasing the full game (there are special offers to get it for a discounted price for a limited time in-game). Download it on the App Store as a universal app for free.

Snupps Review

Developer: Snupps
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.7.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Most people have a collection of some sort. Whether it be fine art, faberge eggs, vintage comic books, or simply a bunch of childhood toys that one just can’t bring themselves to throw out, collections are important. They add to our identity, regardless of monetary value, and often bring about some great memories. Various apps in the past have attempted to make it easy to organize collections but I think that Snupps has the right balance here.

It’s the layout that works particularly well for Snupps. Designed like a series of shelves, users can arrange their collections just like they would on real units. All it requires is some brief set up, naming a shelf and collection, before uploading images of each item in the set. Then, as much or as little detail as the user wants to include can be provided. It even offers up space to snap photos of receipts or warranties, proving ideal for those with expensive items.

snupps6snupps5Snupps allows users to divide things up either privately or publicly. Therefore, it’s possible to create a private collection just for one’s own consultation or to share a bunch of things with other people, proving quite fun for those wanting to show off a particularly cool collection. It’s simply done with a clearly laid out slider bar allowing for private or public. Those with no interest in the social side of Snupps can always opt to remain completely private. It’s pretty interesting to look through what other people collect though, and it’s possible to follow people to see what they’re up to. For those trying to complete a collection, this could be an ideal way of hooking up.

It’s also possible through the magic of syncing to check one’s collection from different devices such as one’s iPad, iPhone, or even PC or Mac. That’s the kind of feature that’s particularly handy when out and about.

Fairly clear to learn and extra useful for the collector fiends out there, Snupps is pretty handy and bound to be of use to many who want to be a bit more organized about what they own.

For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Productivity, Reviews

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Call of Cookie Review

Developer: Ankama
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆ For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Thanks to Plants vs. Zombies, many iOS device owners already know the power of anthropomorphic food. Call of Cookie takes it a step further by putting players in charge of armies of sugary sweets instead of bland old vegetables. It may not be that action-packed, but the strategizing is still plenty exciting.

cookie 3Apparently based on a French comic book, Call of Cookie feels like one of the weirdest anime series Japan never produced. Set in a high school for superheroes, players assume the role of a horse-headed student who becomes friends with a wolf man and a devil girl. In the past, classmates would fight each other directly, but now they squash beef by battling their dessert monsters called “Freakies.” Nothing makes much sense, but Freakies are colorful, well-animated, and have delightful names like “Cookiller” and “Bat Taste” so who cares?

During the timed matches themselves, Freakies take turns clobbering each other with no input from the player. Instead, the strategy comes from choosing the right team and putting them in the right positions. The game uses a Fire Emblem-style weapon triangle system where archers beat flyers, flyers beat soldiers, and soldiers beat archers. Since units generally attack what’s closest to them, it’s best to put Freakies opposite from their natural prey. As more Freakies with more complex abilities are introduced, crafting the most effective team becomes increasingly satisfying. Bold players can earn even more coins by vanquishing an opponent with an army half their size, proving that brains trump brawn.

cookie 5Players can tackle the campaign with nearly 50 missions or choose to take their team online against others. Outside of matches, they can also use their earnings to purchase cookie cutters to bolster their ranks. When baking new Freakies, players need to add the right ingredients to the dough. However, recipes are costly and randomly adding the wrong ingredient by guessing just wastes valuable loot. Fortunately, even failed “Fumbled Freakies” have their use. These poor, misshapen creatures will distract enemies and soak up damage in battle. It’s nice that everything has its place in this meticulously constructed world.

Although players do not have much to do during the actual battles in Call of Cookie, the systems they need to manage to ensure domination in those battles makes up for it. Victory truly is sweet.

Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

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Union Review

Developer: Pixite LLC
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Union is a more powerful and artistic photography app than most. Rather than simply being a matter of applying one of a few filters and enjoying that result, it’s a lot more hands-on. For that reason, it’ll take more practice to perfect but it’ll be worth it in the end as the results can be really quite attractive.

The app works via a series of layers. Users initially load a background image – either from their camera roll, by picking out a color for a solid image, or using a transparent layer. Then they do the same with the foreground image, building upon what’s already there with masking options completing the process.

union1union4Each step of the way there are different settings to adjust. Besides the usual bunch of saturation, brightness, and temperature, there’s also the more interesting prospect of manipulating the foreground image. One can make it more or less prominent on the image, even turning it into a shape that changes around what can be seen. Masking further adds to what can be accomplished by the end.

The effects can vary from quite subtle to much more dramatic, and it’s satisfying to gradually adjust things to change how they work out. On the iPhone 5 everything takes hardly any time to do, proving quite convenient. Plus there’s always the undo button, which simplifies going back a step. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Union does take practice though. Early results won’t look as great as the App Store examples, but such things are possible. It’s a fun app to mess around with as one is always guaranteed a look that’s different from anything else out there. There’s the usual selection of sharing options too, so it’s easy to show off some good results. As a more powerful option than most, Union does the job well and attractively so.

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Photography, Reviews

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Bike Assault Review

Developer: Dyabit Games
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Though mobile games grow more complex by the day, there’s still room a-plenty for the genre that popularized the medium: The old-fashioned arcade action game. Bike Assault by Dyabit Games is a bare-bones arcade game through-and-through. It’s also a reminder that even the most basic games can benefit from some options.

bikeassault_01Bike Assault puts players on the back of a sweet motorcycle. Said cycle glides down the highway, chasing the tail of an armored truck. When the player lines up with the truck’s hind end, the truck is automatically fired upon with a gun. Every shot causes a bundle of money to fall from the vehicle. Scooping up a bundle by driving over it grants a single point. That’s pretty much it. Drive, shoot, score, repeat. Post score on worldwide leaderboards. Brag. Or hide in shame, depending on performance.

Getting a score worth being proud of is a little trickier than it sounds, however. The motorbike constantly guzzles gas, and players need to drive over the gas canisters scattered along the highway in order to refuel. More importantly, the player needs to take care not to slam into the armored truck itself, or any of the other motorists puttering along the road. Since traffic weaves all over the place, scoring and dodging requires sharp reflexes.

bikeassault_03Bike Assault is controlled via accelerometer, which works well for the most part. Tilt to the right to speed up, tilt to the left to slow down, tilt back and forth to change lanes. It’s fine, but an option for on-screen buttons is always nice for driving/running games. At least calibration is hassle-free: Simply pause the game and un-pause when the device is in the desired playing position.

It would be cool to have access to power-ups that cause the truck to drop more money with each hit. It would also be cool to have a way to clear the street of straggling cars. Collecting is fun. Collecting coupled with destruction is more fun.

On its own, Bike Assault is a decent arcade game, if shallow. The drive to land on the leaderboards will keep players occupied for a while, though not for hours on end by any means. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

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Boxer Review

Developer: TaskBox
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 4.4.3
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Boxer is a mailbox app for iOS that seems to be able to do almost anything one could ask of it. Where many mail apps I’ve tried tend to lean either more toward user-friendliness or high customization, Boxer does a great job of balancing both – making it my new favorite mail client for mobile devices. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

When users boot up Boxer they are greeted with their inbox view, which merges all of the incoming email from all connected accounts in a column view that is similar to most mail apps on the iPhone. From here users can open messages, swipe to archive or delete them, or assign other labels or actions to them such as putting them on a to-do list, liking them, or sending quick replies. While I found this layout relatively intuitive, Boxer accounts for the fact that this may not be the desired way to use email for everyone and have included customization options for users that want to boot into a different screen on startup, or change what the swiping actions do.

photo 3 (27)photo 5 (21)The fact that Boxer is easy-to-use out of the box and is extremely customizable from there is probably the best thing about it. However, there are a few key things that also make Boxer feel like a superior mail app to some of its competition. For starters, it boasts competent support for almost any email service or email-relevant service (e.g. Evernote, Dropbox, etc.) imaginable. On top of this, the app also integrates itself relatively seamlessly into Calendars and Contacts by allowing users to respond to event requests, view email histories, and access additional contact information all within the app. Of course, all of this integration isn’t quite as seamless and easy as Apple’s default mail app, but Boxer makes a compelling case for itself simply because it is “well-integrated enough,” with the added bonus of being much easier to use than the standard mail app interface.

Overall, Boxer is a great mail app for anyone looking for an alternative to their current mail client of choice. It presents itself in a nice, easy-to-use layout while also being completely flexible to the particular needs of anyone finicky about how they want to control their inbox.

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Smartphone cameras fine for snaps

While testing the Canon Ixus 155, we had to ask whether there is room in the market for both the compact and the smartphone. Some camera makers are quitting the low end of the compact market, because the smartphone is as much camera as the happy snapper needs.

We compared the Canon with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Apple iPhone 5s and the news is not good for the future of low-end compacts.

The one area in which the true camera beats phones is in handling. The big physical shutter button, the easy-to-use zoom and the accessible function buttons and knobs make it easier to control the camera. Even the slightly larger size works in the camera’s favour, but that is about where the camera advantages end.

Compact cameras have small, low-resolution LCD monitors, but smartphones have large, high-resolution screens with excellent sharpness, colour and tonality. On the phone you get a better idea of what you are taking and a better review of what is captured.

The Canon has the advantage of an optical zoom, whereas the phones rely on pseudo zooming by cropping the image. This does not work at all well on the iPhone, because it means throwing away pixels and introducing digital artefacts. Apple assumes that phone camera users won’t be doing much cropping, but Nokia takes another approach. With 41 megapixels on a larger sensor, zooming by cropping becomes a perfectly acceptable option up to the equivalent of a 5x zoom.

We tested the three cameras in automatic mode, and in the case of the iPhone, we didn’t have much choice – that is the way the camera is set up. We assumed that most users of cheap compacts will also choose automatic. For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

The Nokia has been made with serious photographers in mind and it has a complete suite of manual controls. The full-resolution images can be saved in Adobe’s DNG RAW format. However, to compare like with like, we used it in auto mode.

The Nokia 1020 outclasses the other cameras here. Resolved detail is astonishing. Exposure and focus are spot on and colour is realistic, which means it will be a little cool for most people’s taste.

The iPhone is consistent in its output. Photos always look sharp and brightly coloured, which means a touch oversaturated and plasticky. It is a better point-and-shoot camera than the Canon and fits the bill as the perfect box camera. You press the button and the phone does the rest.

In this company, the Canon is redundant. Nokia is king for photo enthusiasts and the iPhone is perfect for the point-and-shooters.

In my wardrobe: Lisa Havilah

"When you have good shoes, you really feel dressed": Lisa Havilah.

“When you have good shoes, you really feel dressed”: Lisa Havilah. Photo: Peter Rae

Lisa Havilah is the director of the Carriageworks arts institution in Eveleigh. She is obsessed with Celine shoes and Bassike T-shirts but steers clear of bold prints and bright colour.

As head of one of Australia’s leading multi-discipline complexes, Havilah prefers to blend into the background and let the art do the talking.

My style is …

Recent purchase: Celine gold-plated brogues.

Recent purchase: Celine gold-plated brogues. Photo: Peter Rae

Understated and practical with moments of lux and a touch of gold.

Most treasured piece in your wardrobe?

A gold Akira Isogawa antique sequinned jacket that I wore when I got married. I wore it with an Akira Isogawa cream silk dress and a pair of Marc Jacobs pale blue shoes with gold strap.

My job demands a wardrobe that is …

Durable and flexible.Carriageworks is a converted industrial building, with concrete floors and huge spaces spanning more than 10,000 square metres. My day might involve overseeing installations and navigating our backstage areas and industrial equipment; attending an artist lunch or funding meeting, or presenting awards or attending opening events. Such a diverse schedule calls for a wardrobe that can move from functional day-time activity through to evening events.

Anything in your wardrobe you’ve never worn?

A pair of pony skin leopard-print Louboutin shoes. I thought they were beautiful things as objects unto themselves, but there is too much pattern for me to actually wear them.

Biggest fashion indulgence?

Shoes. When you have good shoes, you really feel dressed, no matter what else you are wearing.

I can’t live without …

The people I love, something to do each day that has meaning and Carita moisturiser.

The finishing touch to an outfit is …

Tom Ford Noir on Noir fragrance and my Marc Jacobs rose-coloured lipstick.

I love to wear …

My dad’s watch when I need to be brave. It’s a $2 watch that he used to wear all the time, so it’s surprising it has lasted so long. It was a watch he wore for decades, so it makes me feel connected to him whenever I’m up against it.

I would never wear …

There are a lot of things that I would never wear. Most of them involve patterns and colour. I’m more of a monochrome person, as I prefer to blend into the background than stand out.

My favourite accessories are …

My iPhone and bobby pins.

If money were no object …

I would employ a range of very clever people to take care of all of the practicalities of life outside of work. I would also buy a J12 matte black Chanel watch, a Burberry pony hair bag, a Romance Was Born embroidered bomber jacket and more Celine shoes.

The best-dressed creative people I’ve met are …

French artist Christian Boltanski, who was recently at Carriageworks for the launch of his new major work. I loved his commitment to detail and how he was always impeccably dressed. Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales from Romance Was Born also always look terrific.

My style wisdom …

Iris Apfel said “If your hair is done and you’re wearing good shoes you can get away with anything”, which I translate to ”If the shoes are good – you are good to go”.

If you could live in any era of fashion, what would it be?

Contemporary inspires me, making the current era of fashion ideal.

Where do you love to shop?

Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, Bassike and Jac+Jack and David Jones.

On highest rotation in your wardrobe?

Bassike T-shirts and jackets and Celine shoes. They are both just really easy to wear and you don’t have to think too much about it.

Your most recent purchase? For more information, visit Snappy Apps iPhone App Developers Brisbane

A pair of Celine gold-plated brogues.

Labels of choice?

Celine again – this bag is a fave – Lanvin, Jac+ Jack, Romance Was Born.