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mana

Japan first enjoyed Secret of Mana back in 1993, at a time when this real-time, top-down view battle system was truly unique and innovative. Add to that the ring command menu system that the game introduced: allowing players to user items, change weapons and perform all of their requisite actions without the need to switch screens. With thanks to the developers at Square Enix, Android games can experience some of the same joy we felt at our Nintendo consoles all those years ago.

Don’t be fooled, this title is ported but not really upgraded (aside from accommodating 360-degree movement and a touch-screen interface, unless you decide to employ peripheral controllers). The graphics are still delightfully old-school, which is a style that is very hip and popular these days.

The story behind the game focuses on the mystical power of Mana, encouraging you to befriend the eight elementals who wield all of nature’s forces.

Nostalgia doesn’t come cheap, so the $9 price-tag won’t scare many would-be Secret of Mana gamers who remember console gaming from way back when.

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appleshare

A report released by J.D Power and IDC, indicates that Apple is starting to lose tablet market share again (despite remaining at the top of the list of those device manufacturers). The survey also showed that Apple has slipped into the number two slot for customer satisfaction, right behind Amazon (and their line of inexpensive Fire tablets).

satisfaction

Of course, if the survey is to be believed, there is no satisfying these consumers. On one hand they state that Apple isn’t innovating fast enough, but then they say that even with upgraded iPads launched this fall, users are upgrading more slowly.

It is my opinion that Apple doesn’t really care whether people are upgrading their old iPads… not really, anyway. Sure they want users to have iPads (and other iOS devices), and sure they want those users to keep them reasonably current (so they can run the latest operating system version), but hardware isn’t where they make there money. It isn’t where any of these manufacturers make their money. Profit is realized within the app ecosystem –with Apple taking a sizeable portion of the monies charged for apps and their now-famed in-app purchases.

Add to this the fact that market share does not equate to profit share. It’s easy to take a huge number of inexpensive tablets and drop them in the laps of consumers who wouldn’t be Apple customers anyway. That isn’t a loss for Apple.

With the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 shipping and the 2014 holiday season just getting started, the results from the next quarter could tell us a little more than these numbers do –which tablets are being wrapped and put under our trees? Which app store sees the most traffic in the early part of the new year?

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fb

Flipboard describes itself as being your personal magazine, and that is about as an accurate a picture as they could paint. From the first moment you download the app, there is little question that it is refined and a joy to use –and with a complete redesign and a generous helping of updates, this is even more true now.

By choosing the categories and then the stories within them that you most enjoy, a personal magazine is crafted –from there you can flip through your news in a way that feels very visual and enjoyable. Thanks to the latest round of changes, there are over 30,000 new topics to follow.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, take a stroll through the Daily Edition, featuring articles (complete with breaking news and an accompanying audio track) hand-picked by the Flipboard team each morning by 7 AM.

Content isn’t the only one way that Flipboard has been enhanced. A complete graphic redesign is also ready to be enjoyed, the focus of which being a new top tab bar that allows you to quickly navigate around Flipboard (between those you are following, search, notifications and your profile).

If you still need to try Flipboard: Your News Magazine, download it now and see what you have been missing.

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nhl

Hockey is very important (and when I say that as a Canadian, you can believe it is true). With the season having gotten underway just a few weeks ago, our appetites are whet and we want more. Fortunately, NHL 2K is now available for Android (a little behind schedule, but we can forgive the developers at 2K Games, Inc).

The game offers three styles of play: 3v3 mini rink mode, turn-based multiplayer shootouts and an immersive My Career Mode. While the 3v3 is fast-paced and challenging, there is something satisfying about My Career Mode –which allows you to invest yourself in a single player as he trains and plays throughout the league.

There are reports of issues with this game not running smoothly on a few devices, but given its origins from a reputable development house I am sure you can expect tha any that exist will be resolved quickly.

If you love hockey, and you have $7.99 USD burning a hole in your digital pocket, download NHL 2K for Android and get your season started!

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longest-journey-ios

If you like games that are equal parts book, movie, and game… The Longest Journey is something to be excited about. Described as being an interactive and beautifully created universe, The Longest Journey is told from the perspective of a young art student named April Ryan who possesses the power to pass between worlds (like others are able to pass between being awake and asleep).

Feel free to get yourself addicted to this franchise. Developed by Ragnar Tornquist and his team at development house, Red Thread Games, The Longest Journey: Dreamfall Chapters sequel was recently brought to computer and console gaming platforms by way of a tremendously successful Kickstarter campaign (they set out to raise $850,000, and ended up with over $1.5 million) –so chances are good that mobile games won’t have seen the last of these characters!

The Longest Journey Remastered has already been available for iOS users in New Zealand with an $8.99 price-tag, but there are plans for a North American release very soon. If you are ready for a real iOS gaming adventure, prepare to purchase and download The Longest Journey Remastered from the Apple App Store.

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deep-loot

The developers of Deep Loot describe the game as being about “swimming, digging and fighting your way through an infinitely explorable ocean to discover lost ruins, plunder hidden treasures and earn some chunky paychecks!” In reality, for those of us who used to spend their quarters in old-school arcades, Deep Loot is a trip down memory lane (even though it didn’t technically exist back then).

On the surface, the app is pretty simple: your friends push your pixelated self off of the boat, and you start searching for treasure. As you collect unique artifacts and complete challenges, you can upgrade your equipment and stay under-water longer.

Adding to the game is the unique musical score (comprised of 8 original tracks) that play in the background as you reminisce about how video games used to look (in a completely enchanting and charming way).

If you’d like to do a little deep sea diving on your Android device, download Deep Loot and give your luck a try.

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twitch

Unfortunately for all of you that had weekend plans to strip down before broadcasting videos of your gaming exploits, Twitch has updated their Rules of Conduct. Inspired by their new owners at family-friendly Amazon, this adjustment likely shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It doesn’t matter how good you look naked (or nearly naked), Twitch’s new rules are very clear:

“Nerds are sexy, and you’re all magnificent, beautiful creatures, but let’s try and keep this about the games, shall we?

Wearing no clothing or sexually suggestive clothing – including lingerie, swimsuits, pasties, and undergarments – will most likely get you suspended, as well as any full nude torsos*, which applies to both male and female broadcasters. You may have a great six-pack, but that’s better shared on the beach during a 2-on-2 volleyball game blasting “Playing with the Boys.”

* If it’s unbearably hot where you are, and you happen to have your shirt off (gents) or a bikini top (ladies), then just crop the webcam to your face. If your lighting is hot, get fluorescent bulbs to reduce the heat. Xbox One Kinect doesn’t zoom? Move it closer to you, or turn it off. There is always a workaround.”

While some people may feel this is unnecessary censorship, some of us are wondering if it was a really big problem to begin with? It seems the change was kept fairly quiet by Twitch, but that is likely moreso because they didn’t want to make it seem like they used to be all about the nudity.

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amazonfiretvstick

It looks like Apple isn’t the only one bracing for the impact Chromecast will have on the way we watch TV, Amazon has released their Fire TV Stick as a viable contender. Built using powerful hardware (a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, dual-band, and dual-antenna Wi-Fi with MIMO), the Fire TV Stick boasts Amazon’s award-winning user interface accessible by the included remote control (or “you can use your phone as a remote with the free mobile app that includes voice search”).

Beyond just being easy to use (plug it in and you’re basically ready to stream in a matter of moments as it arrives pre-registered), the Amazon Fire TV Stick is content rich:

“[Giving you access to a] vast selection of the most popular video and music services, including Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, and more for instant access to shows like Transparent, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, and The Wire—plus the largest selection of movies and TV episodes to rent or buy from Amazon Instant Video.”

Like the Chromecast, you can fling or mirror content directly from your smartphone or tablet to the Fire TV Stick as well.

If you are now curious enough to give the Fire TV Stick a try, it will be available for sale on November 19th and can be pre-ordered now for $39 USD. Lucky Amazon Prime members ordering before 6:00 a.m. (PT) on October 29, 2014 will receive a significant discount and only have to pay $19 USD. As an added benefit, eligible customers will also enjoy free trial periods with Neflix and Amazon Prime with their purchase of a Fire TV Stick.

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monster_strike2

Fans of classic video game titles such as Street Fighter 2 and Final Flight will be excited to play the latest release from Yoshiki Okamoto: Monster Strike. The game is reminiscent of other monster collecting games, like Pokemon and Digimon, but with action and RPG elements added in. Originally released in Japan, Monster Strike is now available on Android (and iOS) across North America.

You begin by selecting your first monster teammate (I went with Blue Smydra –he didn’t have the highest attack or HP stats, but he was the fastest choice), then setting forth to pull back and sling him into your enemies in an effort to attack! There are a series of special moves that you can unleash as you defeat bosses and progress through the game, keeping you engaged and interested as you play. While it sounds simple, there is a lot of detail and complexity that will make you grateful there is a detailed tutorial mode that guides you through getting started.

The game also features a social media component that allows you to team up with friends in groups of 4!

If you are in the mood to play a game that gives you a true feeling of what classic pinball arcade games should be like with a touchscreen, modern, RPG-inspired twist, then give Monster Strike a try and download it for free now.

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3037508-inline-ipadchart3

Following a swirl of Internet discussion that is trying desperately to suggest that the iPad is circling the drain (so to speak), Fast Company charted the growth of iOS and iPad apps between June 2010 and October 2014. The results of their research makes one thing clear: whether the iPad succeeds or not, the iOS app marketplace is growing steadily.

So why is it that iPad year-over-year sales have declined during the last three quarters? \Apple CEO Tim Cook suggests that existing users are upgrading more slowly, and other products (such as the iPhone and Mac) are cannibalizing the iPad. Those reasons certainly seem more likely than the reason being offered up by anecdotal bloggers telling us that nearly 675,000 tablet-optimized apps are disappointing to would-be iPad owners (not to mention the overwhelming evidence to the contrary showing that people using tablets are doing so in very limited ways: games, social media, surfing the web, and streaming media).

It is just as likely that the tablet market is becoming saturated, or that the larger 5.5″ iPhone 6 Plus (nicknamed the phablet) is blurring the lines between smartphones and tablets enough that users don’t want both… regardless of the reason, news that the app marketplace is thriving is good news. Oh, and as everybody tries to speculate that Apple is going to be in some kind of financial trouble because they are selling fewer tablets, should remember that the 30% they are making off each iOS app purchase is a much larger margin than they typically make on hardware.

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fitbit

Fitbit hasn’t even made their official announcement launching their upcoming wearable, but Brookstone went ahead and started offering pre-orders for the much-anticipated Surge watch… though the page is now unavailable. Often regarded as the king of the fitness-related wearables market, Fitbit’s updated entry in this category could be a meaningful contender.

During the time Brookstone had their page active, we were able to get a glimpse into what this device is going to look like –inside, and out. While the main question answered indicates this is indeed a fitness device and not a true smartwatch, a touchscreen display (that tilts up slightly toward you, making it very easy to see) and additional functionality helps it to actually fall somewhere in the middle. A lot of technology is now built-in, like the 8-sensors (for steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, and active minutes) along with with a GPS to make those details more accurate without the need for a smartphone nearby.

Athletes will love the automatic, continuous heart rate monitor and the ability to record workouts as they happen.

Geeks will appreciate that a few smartwatch features are included, allowing for call and text notifications while also being able to control your music.

Most importantly (and even better than being water resistant and lasting a full 7-days on a single charge), the device syncs wirelessly and is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS (plus with Aria Wi-Fi scale).

With an anticipated price-tag of $249 USD, it’s on the expensive side of fitness trackers. It may be seen as worthwhile for those interested in a little more functionality than existing pedometer type trackers can offer, without making the more sizeable jump into a full Android wearable or the upcoming Apple Watch.

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sim

Apple intended for their new interchangeable SIM to work between carriers in the US and UK (including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and EE), but it seems AT&T had other plans. While the idea was that you could switch carriers using your device settings instead of swapping SIM cards, if you choose to get your data service with AT&T this won’t be the case.

According to an on-screen notification:

“Once activation is complete this Apple SIM can only be used with AT&T. You will need a new Apple SIM if you change carriers in the future.”

AT&T is quick to confirm that this news is true, but hasn’t yet announced why they have chosen to go against the nature of the new SIM card.

This kind of move certainly isn’t going to win any popularity contests for AT&T, and may make them look like bullies in the long run –especially if they are the only carrier to lock users in to their service in this way. I doubt it is impressing Apple much either, and it is likely safe to assume that they will make it well known this wasn’t their decision or within their control.

Are you less likely to choose AT&T after hearing this news?

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simcity-buildit-650x365

I have been playing video games for a really long time (longer than I like to admit, truth be told), but few stick out in my mind like Sim City. While it may seem like a rather silly concept, creating cities out of their base elements… decades later, when I drive by a new park, my inner voice says: “parks make people who live near them happier.” This lasting addiction (and my desire to share it with others) is why I am so delighted that EA has released SimCity BuildIt for Android!

If you’ve played the game before in any of the many versions, the gameplay will be familiar: supply your city with the necessities (like water, electricity, housing, commercial property, and industrial areas) and then spend your time growing it and solving problems (such as traffic congestion, fires, or pollution). EA has added a social element, allowing you to trade resources with other cities and interact with friends.

This isn’t the first time EA has tried to bring SimCity to mobile devices, but earlier versions tried to be entirely too close to the PC version. This time, they had simplicity in mind: understanding the need for adjustments to better fit smaller screens and mobile gaming habits.

If you have more than a little free time to lose, download SimCity BuildIt for Android. The game is free, but be warned… there are plenty of in-app purchases to embrace or avoid.

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