HTC Rhyme Review

February 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews, Smartphones, Spotlight

I often find that phones catered to females are useless. They’re usually underpowered, based on an old design or colored pink to make it look feminine and that’s all. It’s as if phone manufacturers think that all girls like the color pink and just wish they had a pink phone to carry around. Luckily HTC have done the smart thing and introduced a phone and bundle that might actually be useful and doesn’t look like it’s made for Barbie.

The HTC Rhyme’s design is one that everyone should be familiar with. It doesn’t deviate much from other HTC phones in terms of design except for the coloring scheme. The HTC Rhyme comes in Clearwater, Hourglass and Plum colors and the sample phone I received I can only guess is Clearwater. The whole phone is colored in pastels or shades of blue and brushed metal which definitely make it light on the eyes. It doesn’t look too feminine though but I can’t say the same for the Plum colored one.

The 3.7 inch screen dominates the front with sensors, an LED indicator, the earpiece and front camera at the top and capacitive buttons at the bottom. The screen is surrounded by brushed metal that continues onto the back where the HTC logo is etched. The back has the camera, flash and speaker bunched together along with three metal pins for connecting with the included dock.

On the left you have the covered microUSB connector, on the right is the volume button and at the top there’s the power/unlock button and 3.5mm audio connector. The battery compartment is at the bottom, open it and you get access to the Sim and microSD cards, both are hot-swappable. The battery is non-removable so forget about bringing a spare. Build quality is excellent as is expected from HTC. The phone feels solid with almost zero creaks or squeaks apart from those coming from the battery compartment. Overall the phone feels sturdy and built with quality and longevity in mind.

Now I did initially mention that phones catered to females are often underpowered and this might be considered one of them when you look at the range of higher end phones out today. The Rhyme comes with a single core 1 GHz Scorpion processor with the Adreno 205 bundled GPU. Compared to the dual core powerhouses out today, the HTC Rhyme’s CPU might appear to struggle with a modern operating system but it runs everything with very little stuttering. As mentioned earlier the Rhyme has a 3.7 inch screen, it’s an S-LCD which doesn’t quite cut it with the likes of AMOLED, Retina and qHD displays out there but it’s certainly better than the average LCD on cheaper phones and the 480×800 resolution has been seen on phones with larger screens.

The phone comes with 4GB of internal storage but only about 1GB may be used but HTC have generously included an 8GB microSD card in the bundle. It also comes with 768MB of RAM. The dimensions are 119 x 60.8 x 10.85 mm and it weighs only 130 grams. The phone feels slimmer though as it tapers at the back near the edges. The HTC Rhyme comes with a 5mpx camera with auto focus and an LED flash that is capable of taking videos at 720p. It also has a front facing VGA camera for video calls. The phone comes with Android 2.3.5 with HTC’s new Sense 3.5 slapped on top and a video of Sense 3.5 is available below. Running SunSpider, the Rhyme got a score of 3661.5ms which is well under the 3424.8ms the Xperia Active got despite the similar internal specs.

BlackBerry App of the Week: Catapult

I personally think simple games work very well on the Blackberry platform. Business people will be too busy to get involved in a long winded game with levels and a plot to follow, and the average person who buys a Blackberry that is not tied to a business is buying it for the internet and messaging package. This is why games like Catapult and a slew of games I have reviewed before are rated well and games that require you to follow a plot or a storyline haven’t been as successful. Android and iOS can be seen as gaming platforms, but RIM hasn’t built many handsets capable of playing games on a large screen.

Catapult is a very simple game to play, but will take a while to actually master if you ever do. The object of the game is simple, place the rock in the huge catapult and fling it as far as you can. The further it goes, the more points you get. Using the 9860 with a touch screen you just drag the rock onto the catapult, fling it backwards and you get a gauge of how fast the rock will go. You can adjust the height of the throw as well. At the top left corner you have a meter for boost, this can be used once your rock has been thrown by dragging the rock upwards. The boost increases the height of the rock, but finishes off quickly. The rock has two objects it can hit in the sky, the bulls-eye and a star. The bulls-eye increases your points and the star can be later used to buy upgrades.

The rock can land on 3 different things when it falls, the first being the ground itself, the second is a sand pit that stops the rock dead in its tracks and the third is a spring that flings the rock forward and helps you score more points. The upgrade system consists of 6 categories or variables that you can upgrade: bounce, luck, spring, rubber, boost and score. The more stars you hit, the more points you get to upgrade with. You can adjust the upgrades however you like, taking points away from one thing to bolster another. Once you’re done playing you can submit your score, view high scores or trade in your upgrade points for score points if you’ve maxed everything out.

Catapult is a simple game that can become somewhat complicated if you want it to. If you want higher scores you have to use the upgrades but the game is good fun on its own regardless. Obviously there is no reason to play other than to get the highest score. The controls or handling is very good, the game responded nicely to my finger and there wasn’t any lag in the gameplay either. This game may not offer much in the way of a story, but it does offer a lot of entertainment without a purpose. Good, solid, basic gaming.

 

Toss It! BlackBerry App Review

I like simple games with simple controls and a simple purpose. I also like complex games but not necessarily on my mobile. I feel that I need a proper gaming system to maintain interest in a complex video game, something that I just don’t get on a cell phone. Saying that, I do have over a hundred apps on my BB, Android and iOS devices with many I haven’t even tried out yet.

Toss It! is one of those simple games that while being rather repetitive, can still keep you entertained for hours. The object of the game is to throw a specific object into its respective “goal” to score points. The number of “goals” you score in a row is your best score- miss one and you’re back to zero again and have to beat your best.

You get four levels/fields to play in, the first field of play is an office and the object is to throw crumpled up pieces of paper into a rubbish bin. The second field is beer pong, where you throw a small into a cup; the third is a Rugby/American Football goal post and the fourth is a basketball court. In all these levels or fields you have wind blowing from either the left or right at a specific speed so you have to throw the object at the right angle to get it into the goal. There are no achievements other than the best score which could throw people off after a while.

The game itself was very simple to follow and master. I found the beer pong and basketball levels to be the hardest as the balls had to go into a hole not that much larger than the balls themselves. Meanwhile the paper and football levels were much easier and the football level especially got rather tedious. I also found that the game isn’t always accurate with the wind levels indicating one thing while the ball would act like it either had the opposite or no wind affecting it.

It’s too bad that the game doesn’t allow you choose from an assortment of objects which could have made things more interesting and increased the game’s life. Otherwise the game was a good way to waste your free time but I don’t see myself playing this in the long run. You can get the game for free or purchase it for $1.50; the only difference I saw was that the free game had advertisements. The ads weren’t distracting nor did they affect the gameplay. Overall it’s a fun game if only for a little while before the boredom sets in.

BB App Review: Aces Traffic Pack

Ever wanted to work as a valet and get to drive all those fancy cars customers leave for you to park? Yes? Well this app doesn’t let you drive them or park as much as it lets you figure out how to get your car out of a parking disaster.

The object of the game is very simple, you have a red car you need to get out of a parking lot and in its way are several other cars of varying shapes and sizes. You can move the other cars forward and back in order to sort out the puzzle and get your little red sports car out.  On screen you have the parking lot itself that you have to get out of and on the right there’s a control panel with various settings and options displayed. The settings include difficulty levels, number of puzzles and whether you want to undo, redo or reset the game as well as return to the main menu. There is also a meter with the number of moves you have taken so far to get the car out, the less moves you make, the higher your score is in the stats menu.

The game started out pretty easy but the puzzles became more difficult too quickly. In the beginning they were challenging and the obvious method of extracting the vehicle required a small amount of thinking and maneuvering. However it wasn’t long before the puzzles became complex and extracting that little red car became confusing and almost a bit frustrating.

I did like the game when I first played it but after it got too hard it was too discouraging to play. It’s certainly not the kind of game you would relax to but it does help exercise your problem solving skills and that’s what I liked about it. I did not like the progression of difficulty from average to very hard; there should have been a more gradual progression. Overall Aces Traffic Pack is a decent game despite its limited playability and leap of difficulty levels and worth a go especially since it’s free and challenging. Also you get to move a little sports car back and forth.

Crazy Survival World Trip BlackBerry App Review

January 16, 2012 by  
Filed under App Reviews, Articles, Reviews

It’s a crazy world we live in and considering this is 2012 then why shouldn’t you expect the world to come to an end? Don’t fret though, there’s an app to help you prepare for the apocalypse! Well not really. Crazy Survival World Trip is a game about surviving what clearly must be the end of the world and seeing the world.

Your hero is a stick figure that you control via a set of four buttons on the screen (tested with a BlackBerry Torch 9860), right, left, jump and crouch. The goal is to score points by avoiding a myriad of falling objects such as meteors, rocks, missiles and fiery objects from the sky. You gain points by jumping over or crouching under these obstacles and grabbing health points and stars that make you grow to twice your size. You get to travel to all seven continents and in each continent you have 15 levels of difficulty to overcome.

The gameplay is quite simple and straightforward and you get a free version to try before considering paying for the premium. The thing that annoyed me about the free version was that in between the controls are advertisements and I found myself accidentally touching those while trying to play the game. The advertisement opens up a window in the browser that interrupts your game and you can see why that would be annoying. The controls themselves sometimes get stuck if they are pressed for too long and you cannot press two buttons at once so you cannot run to one side and jump over something, you have to run there, stop then jump.

The levels are quite challenging and it certainly gets much harder nearing the end of your visit to that continent. The graphics are nothing to write home about- you can’t expect a Crysis-like game with superb graphics for a measly $1.50. I reckon Crazy Survival World Trip is a decent game to keep you busy on a short flight or when you’re heading home from work on the bus or metro. It has nothing flashy like outstanding graphics or sound but you don’t need those in a game to make it decent enough to play. Give it a go, but be warned about the free version, the ad in the middle of the control buttons is just inexcusable.

Jabra Supreme Headset Review

Bluetooth headsets are quite cheap and widely available nowadays, but they don’t seem to be very popular as you would expect in this part of the world. However, Jabra’s new Supreme headset might help tip the scales in favor of safer driving. The Supreme comes in a box with the headset readily on display, and despite its bulky looks it is quite light. The reason why it’s so bulky is probably due to all the technology thrown into headset, and it certainly is one of the most advanced I’ve ever used. Taken from the Jabra website the Supreme comes with the features listed below:

  • Active Noise Cancellation technology removes ambient noise for the user wearing the headset
  • Noise Blackout™ 3.0 dual microphone technology
  • HD Voice* technology for superior sound quality
  • Voice Control and Voice Guidance for hands-free operation
  • Multiuse™ – Connects to 2 Bluetooth devices simultaneously
  • Streams media with A2DP.
  • Interchangable soft ear cushions for all-day comfort

The contents of the box include the headset itself, manuals, a wall charger, a microUSB cable, a car charger, 1 extra ear gel which is shaped differently to the default one for a better fit, and a larger ear hook for a better fit for those with larger ears. The ear hooks themselves can be worn for both left and right ears. While I liked the bundle I have a huge issue with the provided wall charger, it’s too short! It’s almost comical really; if I connected this to an actual wall socket the headset would be left hanging by the cable. The microUSB cable itself is short as well which can also be an issue when using the included car charger. On the whole those are the only real gripes I have with the bundle.

Turning the headset on is very simple, you extend the arm (the long stick thingy) and you will hear a female voice telling you it’s “on”. Initially it will start in pairing mode and will give you instructions on how to pair your headset to your phone. The instructions are quite clear but generalized. It expects you to know how to activate your Bluetooth and how to search for the headset. Once your phone finds it, you will either be asked to enter the headset’s passcode (which is 0000) or it will automatically connect. It will tell you that it is connected and subsequently whenever you turn your phone’s Bluetooth on and have authorized the headset to connect automatically, that same female voice will tell you so.

BlackBerry App of the Week: Fruits and Ninja

You ever wished you had one of those cool ninja swords to chop your fruits with? Well you’re in luck, there’s an app for that! Fruits and Ninja is a simple but addictive game that involves chopping up fruits for no reason whatsoever. All you have to do is swipe your finger across the screen when a fruit or fruits appear and they’re sliced. There are no complicated controls or directional buttons, it’s an easy to grasp slice and dice game and it has reached the top of the heap in App World.

In the free version all you get is the Classic mode where they mix fruits and bombs on screen to make it more of a challenge. You have to slice the fruit and avoid the bombs, miss three fruit and its game over, slice a bomb and its game over too. The free version has advertisements but otherwise you get the classic mode and a high score section where you can gain bonus ninja swords and score achievements. You can also view the local and online scores and follow how much others have scored in the game.

In the paid version you not only get the game without advertisements but Classic, Arcade and Zen modes to play. The Classic mode is no different to the one in the free version above. In Arcade mode you have to score as high as possible and you are given 60 seconds to do so. Slice as many fruit as possible while avoiding the bombs. In this mode you do not lose if you miss three fruit and it’s not game over if you slice a bomb. Slicing a bomb in Arcade mode knocks 10 points off your score. You also get bonus points for combo slices, cutting several fruit with a single swing of the blade. In Zen mode you get 90 seconds to cut as many fruit as you can, scoring points for slicing fruit in singles and in combo but there are no bombs to worry about.

While the game is repetitive it can be quite addictive and the bonus high score achievements do give you a challenge and extend the game’s life. The graphics are smooth and so is the gameplay. For a $0.75 game it does offer more bang for your buck as you get three modes to play while the free version is still great value for nothing, offering you the Classic mode which is quite challenging in itself. After the less than stellar game I reviewed last week, it’s good to see the Blackberry platform get some decent apps to tinker with and Fruits and Ninja may not be much, but it’s a game you can pick up at any time and enjoy. Grab it free or pay a little and get more, it’s worth it.

Zombie Attack (BlackBerry) Review

January 2, 2012 by  
Filed under App Reviews, Articles, Reviews

Zombies are just plain evil, they’re relentless and they never get tired of eating brains. Fortunately in a post-Zombie apocalypse, you had come to the struggle prepared. Armed with a catapult and an endless supply of fireballs and stones you take on the entire zombie horde to save humanity.

Now onto the actual game; if you’ve played Angry Birds then you can easily get the gist of Zombie Attack. The concept is pretty straightforward; you own a catapult and are given a set number of stones and fireballs on each level that you use to fling at the zombies. Actually they’re not zombies but more like zombie heads laid out on piles and bricks. With each level it gets more challenging and harder to knock all the heads with the ammunition you have. If you get stuck on a level and can’t get through, you can drop a nuclear bomb on them. The caveat here is that while the game is free right now, the bomb will cost you $0.75 to use. I suppose the bomb has its merits as it does help if you’re stuck in a level but you could still get by without it. However, I wonder if there might be at least one level in the 200 or so they’ve included where you would simply be forced to either stop playing or buy a bomb to get through to the next level.

The controls for the catapult are rather awkward and while the game supports touchscreen phones, I found it was easier to just use the trackpad. The graphics are not exactly fluid and seem rather sluggish in comparison to Angry Birds. You can control the angle of the catapult but not the speed of the object you’ve thrown or maybe I just haven’t been able to master that part yet. The game is also somewhat of a resource hog with the traditional Blackberry hourglass showing up on occasion and I am running this on a 9860 Torch.

I don’t know why Angry Birds isn’t available for Blackberry phones since you can get it for the Playbook. Zombie Attack is a pretty decent clone with some twists of its own to set it apart from the game that inspired it but it does have its issues and I hope they’ll work on making this game run smoother. I would like to see better touchscreen controls at least. For a game that has 200 levels and is free though, Zombie Attack is a good game to pass the time while commuting on the Metro or on a plane. It certainly has the number of levels to keep you occupied for hours.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Active Review

December 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews, Smartphones, Spotlight


Sony Ericsson have been releasing quite a bit of smartphones in the past few weeks and considering they have decided to focus only on smartphones from now on, it makes sense to fill the market with a phone or two for every category and niche. The Xperia Active reminds me of a bar of soap with a handle. As much as I tried to describe how it looks, I kept going back to that. This is not to say that it’s not elegant or looks ugly but it certainly isn’t your typical smartphone. I guess that’s a given considering not only the fact that it’s water resistant but that its name suggests it’s meant for much more. The Xperia Active takes a lot of its looks from the Xperia Mini, and it’s a good design for the purpose it serves.

The 3-inch screen is surrounded by a metallic band with the words “Xperia” inscribed at the bottom near the lanyard holder. At first I wondered if the holder could also serve as a bottle opener, the phone sure looks sturdy enough to open a few bottles in an emergency. The phone’s physical buttons are orange in color which adds to the sporty theme Sony Ericsson tried to get going here. I had an issue with the power/unlock button that’s on the left side of the phone. Unlike the volume and camera buttons on the other side, the power button doesn’t protrude as much and I found it hard to use. It wasn’t like there were times when I couldn’t press the button but after about a week of using the phone I still don’t like the power button. At the back of the phone you have the loudspeaker next to the camera lens and above that is the flash and the secondary mic. The USB and 3.5mm audio connector are at the bottom near the lanyard holder. They’re covered to ensure the phone is completely water resistant should it come into contact with water. In fact if you disconnect the earphones and check the screen it often reminds you to recover the connector to keep the phone water resistant.

On the front there is no secondary camera for video calls which seems a little odd considering this phone pretty much has everything else squeezed into it. It comes with a proximity sensor next to the speaker as well as a small led for notifications. At the bottom of the screen you get capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Menu and a mic. The build quality is excellent as you should expect from a phone that can survive a drop in water and it certainly looks like it can survive a drop on the floor as well within a reasonable height. To access the sim card, battery and microSD slot you have to remove two covers. The second cover is under the first and acts as an insulator to protect the internals from the elements.

Included in the box is a microUSB cable, charger, earphones with mic and call/end button, ear hooks, manuals, wrist strap and an armband. A microSD card might also be in the retail package but my review phone did not come with one nor did it come with the ear hooks, wrist strap or the armband. The Xperia Active has a 3 inch screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 which is pretty impressive for its size. Thanks to the Reality display and the Bravia mobile engine, pictures are crisp and clear on the screen. Despite its size this phone is no slouch, it’s running on a 1 GHz Scorpion CPU with the Adreno 205 for graphics. It also has 512MB of RAM and 1GB built-in storage but only about 320MB will be usable. The 5 megapixel camera has autofocus and image stabilization and can take videos at 720p. GPS, WiFi and DLNA are also included so this phone by no means is a “budget” Android phone, Sony Ericsson have included virtually all the bells and whistles on this one. When I installed the PC software for it I was prompted to update my phone so I ended up running Gingerbread 2.3.4 which while not the latest comes with several improvements such as a 3D panoramic camera options and swipe with T9.  Using SunSpider I was able to get 3424.8ms which is on par with the Xperia Pro that had similar internals but trails behind the Arc S and its upgraded CPU’s score of 2607ms.

BB App of the Week – DriveSave.Ly Enterprise

Using a mobile phone while driving is a dangerous practice that leads to scores of accidents and deaths around the world. DriveSafe.Ly Enterprise is an app made by ispeech.org that reads out your text messages and emails while you are driving or otherwise pre-occupied. The app works by reading out messages that you received through the default audio output which is often the phone’s loudspeaker if no headset is being used. This saves you from the urge to look at your phone whenever you hear your allocated message tone.

The voice used is female by default but can be changed to suit your preferences and they have a wide range of male and female voices in various accents and languages. In the settings menu there are quite a lot of settings you can play around with including whether to activate voice commands, the volume as well as speed and quality of the voice. Other settings include what it can and cannot read; whether to include the sender and subject and play emails or text messages.  There are also advanced settings to adjust, whether to auto-respond to emails and text messages with an automated message you can set; whether to play acronyms such as “lol” and “brb” and whether to play audio notifications. You can also use it to read Facebook and Twitter texts and if you have multiple email addresses you can choose which ones DriveSafe.Ly can read from.

When you are notified that you have received a message, DriveSafe.Ly starts reading it out a while after receiving it; it doesn’t instantly read it out the moment it is received. I am not sure whether the app lags before it starts up or this is so that you can choose to disable the app before it starts reading. I tried using the EU Italian Male and EU Catalan voices to read out my emails and their voices were slow and rather sluggish even though the settings stated the reading speed was set to “Normal”. This might be due to the fact that it was translating words from English to Italian and Catalan on the fly. Using the default English, messages are read at a steady pace but I felt that sometimes they seemed rushed even at normal speeds.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect was when the voice reads out even the irrelevant parts of the message like the disclaimer which can take forever to finish. This can be quite frustrating especially when driving as you would then have to press the End button on your phone to stop it. Another issue I found was that even when you close the app using the “Exit DriveSafe.Ly” option in settings it will still remain in your active applications list and that might potentially take away resources that could be used for something else. Another issue I found was that I would have to disable the app manually if I didn’t want it to read my messages out loud or through my headset. This would not really be an issue if I was expecting an urgent message but if I was on my way back home after a long trip or a long day at work I would have to unlock my phone, go to the app and turn it off. Not really a safe thing to do when driving but being tired I would probably forget to disable it beforehand and that is the issue.

DriveSafe.Ly is a great app to own just as a Bluetooth headset or any wired or wireless headset is a great accessory for your mobile as it takes away the need to fiddle with your phone when you receive a call or message while driving. It is far from perfect but if it saves lives then it’s definitely worth your time to try it out. RIM are giving this app away for free ($79 value) until the end of the year so grab it while you can, your family will thank you for it.

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