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fatprincesss

In a sea of mobile games with the now traditional match-3 styling (think Bejeweled), Sony has released its Fat Princess: Piece of Cake game. By matching gems (showing either cake or images corresponding to the four character classes: sporting warrior swords, ranger muskets, worker bombs, and priest healer) you can work to defeat the invading army using the attacks they bring about.

It’s the kind of game that could be addictive, but it’s not quite there yet. While many games feature a brief tutorial-mode when you first begin, I found that the intro to this game is so slow it’s almost painful; you have to complete quite a number of levels before the handy hints and descriptions stop interrupting your flow. If they could speed up the pace, it would be a lot of fun to play.

As an added bonus for those with a Sony Playstation 3: reach level 15 with your princess and you will get a code that gives you access to download Fat Princess for your console at no additional cost (as long as you also have vaid Facebook and Sony Entertainment Network accounts).

Fat Princess: Piece of Cake is free to download and play, but there are a number of in-app purchases like power-ups and character upgrades that will help you rescue the princess a little faster.

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big_hero

Only true fans of Marvel comic books will be familiar with Big Hero 6, at least until Disney releases their upcoming animated film based on the series next month. Based in imaginary city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 is based on a team of crime-fighters led by Hiro Hamada and Baymax (his robot). Ahead of the movie, Disney Interactive has built a Big Hero 6-themed mobile game that will be available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone on November 3.

When you hear that the game allows players to collect hundreds of bots and evolve them into higher forms, it’s possible you won’t need to hear more before you move to the edge of your seat. Using a match 3 style, players will do battle with their enemies by matching colored blocks together. It may sound exceedingly simple, but Disney Interactive producer Scott Humphries promises that the game will involve “strategy and depth,” making it complex (and probably addictive). Plus, it stars robots.

If you want a sneak peek into the game, as well as the Big Hero 6 franchise, check out the game-play video from TouchGameplay below.

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ipad-air-2-

Unlike the intensely flawed process for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus a few weeks back, Apple is successfully offering pre-orders for their recently announced iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 tablets. Of course, calling it a pre-order is a bit misleading when customers can expect their tablets to ship within 2-4 days, arriving as early as October 23.

Pricing for the new iPads really hasn’t changed from previous versions, with a starting cost of $499 for the 16GB Air 2 and $399 for the 16GB Mini 3 models. If you want a little more storage, 64GB and 128GB models are also available in both sizes –all of which appear to still be available with a quick shipping time (and for once, colour doesn’t seem to play a part in how quickly you get your new device: with the silver, gold, and space grey all ready to go).

First impressions of the new iPads were pretty underwhelming, but it will be interesting to see if this changes at all once they are actually in our hot little hands. If nothing else, having Touch ID would be really nice –it’s amazing how that feature makes you wonder how you ever lived without it once you’ve given it a try.

It is pretty clear that Apple wanted these tablets out the door as soon as they were able, and while it seems they have done a good job… it may not be sitting as well with the hoards of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus customers who are still waiting for their smartphones to arrive after pre-ordering the devices over a month ago.

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applepayinapps

It doesn’t matter how successful the launch of Apple Pay is, consumers and retailers are going to need some time to see how it works before they fully trust and then adopt the service. It is with this in mind that Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue made the statement that he expects the largest portion of Apple Pay transactions will be generated by in-app purchases.

This seems less like clairvoyance though, when you consider that the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 can only offer Apple Pay for in-app purchases –likely due to the lack of a near-field communication (NFC) antenna… meaning there are lots of iOS devices out there that don’t have any other options. Add to this the fact that most brand-loyal iOS users are already used to paying for in-app purchases on their device without pulling out their wallets, and it seems like a logical way for people to dip their toes in the Apple Pay waters.

Initial experiences will mean a great deal when Apple Pay launches today along side iOS 8.1, as they will go a long way toward making consumers either comfortable or nervous. Many credit and debit cards from major payment networks include American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are lined up to participate in the service. In addition, several banks have partnered with Apple including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Capital One.

Are you excited to try Apple Pay?

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Multi-user-lollipop

Android has let us create multiple user accounts for a while now, as long as you were doing so on a tablet; it wasn’t until Lollipop that we could do this on a smartphone.

As you decide how best to take advantage of this new feature, keep in mind that the first user you create will be branded as the device’s owner and enjoy all of the administrator-type privileges that go along with that role. Each user can install their own apps and personalize the account, but there are a few important things to keep in mind: uninstalling an app for one account will affect everybody (who has the app installed), decisions configuring permissions and access for apps will affect everybody on the device, and the device owner can remove entire accounts (and all associated data) at any time.

Your initial reaction might be that it seems less likely more than one person would share a smartphone, but I would suggest that there are two main reasons to utilize multiple user accounts: creating a work versus home profile to segregate apps and data required for each, or to keep everything on your device safe from your toddler’s amazingly capable hands when you let them play during your next waiting room stint (especially when you learn that the device owner gets to decide whether secondary accounts can make or receive calls, or send and receive text messages).

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android-oem-rank-640x577

According to the latest statistics released by Chitika, the LG user base has exhibited the greatest usage share growth as compared to any of the competing Android brands since June 2014. With a 1.7 percentage point gain and representing over 10% of the total North American smartphone and tablet Web traffic, LG should be counted as a significant player in the mobile market.

Samsung can rest easy for now, sitting comfortably at the top of the heap with 57.4% of the current Android market share –but it would be wise to keep at least one eye on their competition given their less substantial 1% gain since June 2014 (despite the release of an entirely updated line of mobile hardware during this period). Amazon is sitting precariously in the third spot (with a meagre .5% lead on Motorola), likely due in large part to their Fire tablets as opposed to their unremarkable smartphone sales.

Google was down this quarter, falling to just 3.6% –but these numbers should look a little better shortly with the release of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices.

Chitika’s report also indicated that smartphones continue to dominate the mobile Web traffic, with very little growth in this area being observed in the Android tablet space. Some speculation suggests that this is due to Apple’s dominance in the tablet arena, but it may also be due in part to the next-generation phablet type smartphones prompting users to invest in large-screen, smartphones instead of a tablet.

Founded in 2003, Chitika is an online ad network that boasts the delivery of “over four billion strategically targeted ads each month to a network of over 300,000+ sites.” Together with high profile advertising partners like Yahoo!, Chitika has developed proprietary optimization technology that promises to display the right ad, at the right time.

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apple-sim

After the anti-climactic Apple event yesterday, the tech community at large took a nap –which is why news seemed to slip between the cracks telling us Apple has built a SIM card that allows users to move between AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile (plus EE in the UK) without having to swap it out.

Using the new Apple SIM card, you can switch between carriers in the Settings for your iPad Air 2 by simply selecting a new one from the list, and voila!

While it may not seem like a big deal to swap out a SIM card, it does involve a little hassle (getting them in and out of an iPad or iPhone involves a tool, unlike the spring loaded insert and eject usually seen with SD cards). They generally come at a cost as well, so you end up shelling out a little money with each carrier you use. With that said, the people who are excited by this news are those who tend toward short-term data plans –which typically points to travelers.

It doesn’t appear like you can purchase this new Apple SIM card separately right now, but it is standard issue on their new cell-enabled iPad Air 2 tablets… but many of us have our fingers crossed that this will be an option very soon!

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ipadAir

It was a lot of ‘yeah, yeah, we were expecting that’ at the Apple Event today… leaving many of us to wonder why they didn’t just do a soft launch. Brand-loyal Apple fans will be glad to see that the iPad Air 2 is a little thinner (at 6.1mm) and finally features the fingerprint ID sensor that has been present in the last 2 iterations of the iPhone.

Other updates for the iPad Air include a faster processor, more advanced wireless connectivity, better camera (with a new 8 megapixel sensor that captures images in 3264-by-2448 native resolution and continues to take 1080p HD video), and an anti-reflective coating for the screen (which they claim makes it 56 per cent less reflective). If this addition works as well as it appears, this might strike a fairly mighty blow against popular eReaders whose main benefit has included being able to be used in direct sunlight.

If it seems like I have forgotten about the iPad Mini 3, I wasn’t the first –Apple really had very little to say about their smaller-format tablet, other than to tell us that it also has the fingerprint ID sensor.

Proof positive that the upgrades for iPads being mainly cosmetic is reflected by the addition of a gold colour option (mirroring the iPhone choices) and brighter Smart Cases to match. While both certainly add curb appeal, it won’t go unnoticed that these were some of the biggest announcements today.

For those looking to grab an iPad Air 2, be prepared to hand over $499 USD for the 16GB Wi-Fi model (with a jump to $599 USD for 64GB, and $699 USD for 128GB). For those looking to add Cellular capabilities, the prices start at $629 USD for the 16GB model.

If your sights are set more on the iPad Mini 3, the price tag is a little more affordable at $399 USD for 16GB of storage (moving to $499 for 64GB, and $599 for 128GB). Cellular capability is available for this device as well, with an entry level cost of $529 USD for the 16GB tablet.

All in all, Apple’s news today was underwhelming. It might be true that the iPads didn’t need much in the way of updates, and I am delighted that every Apple smartphone and tablet now features the incredibly handy fingerprint sensor, but it all seems a little out of the ordinary. It might strike some as a little bit of a ‘conspiracy theory’, but if I were a betting woman I’d say that Apple just wanted to make sure they had some stage time and a few news cycles to (try and) keep their mobile devices front and centre following Google’s Nexus announcements earlier this week.

Is anybody else frustrated that the entry level iPad storage remains at 16GB, with a 32GB model distinctly and noticeably absent?

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nexus6

It is with great enthusiasm that Google released their next generation Nexus 6 smartphone yesterday. Being labelled the next in a line of phablets, the Nexus 6 is a very large mobile device that straddles the line between smartphone and tablets. Packed with features, the Nexus 6 promises to stand up proudly against the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.

Design and Display

It can’t be said that the Nexus 6 is a light smartphone, and coming in at 6.49 ounces (184g) is will feel quite substantial. By comparison, the Galaxy Note 4 is 6.21 ounce (176g) and the iPhone 6 Plus is the lightest at 6.07 ounces (172g). It is also the largest of the three phablets, with a full 6-inch display with a 1440×2560 pixel resolution and 493 ppi density. Also a very attractive feature is that the Nexus 6 is splash resistant (without needing to wrap it in a case) –other Samsung products can boast that, the Galaxy Note 4 isn’t so lucky.

Camera

The camera in the Nexus 6 is competitive with a dual LED flash, but only measures 13 megapixels (where the Galaxy Note 4 has 16, and iPhone 6 Plus lags quite a distance behind at 8).

Operating System

Running the latest Android Lollipop, Google maintains their top spot as the manufacturer with the truest Android smartphone.

Hardware

Powered by a quad core, 2700 MHz, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, the Nexus 6 should still be comparable the 8-core, 1900 MHz ARM processor found in the Galaxy Note 4 –though on paper Apple’s processor seems quite a bit behind both devices by only being dual core and 1400MHz. With that said, many of the performance tests being run are placing Apple’s smartphone performing ahead of Samsung’s, so these specifications on their own don’t carry much real-world weight or meaning. The Nexus 6 comes with 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage, but unlike the Galaxy Note 4, cannot be expanded with additional storage (using microSD, microSDHC, or microSDXC).

Battery

Google claims that the Nexus 6 will deliver 24 hours of talk time. They also say you can expect 13.8 days of stand-by time. In other news, pigs can apparently fly. I’ll believe that these batteries perform this well when I experience it for myself, but I do trust that it’s better than most of us are used to… especially if you turn off the Ambient Display.

Unlike any of the competition, the Nexus 6 does lead the pack in the power arena by offering built-in wireless charging… and using Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, a quick 15 minutes of charging should get you about 6 more hours of use.

Connectivity

You should have no complaints in this arena, with the Nexus 6 offering GSM at 850/900/1800/1900MHz, CDMA band classes 0/1/10, WCDMA bands 1/2/4/5/8, and LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/41.

Aside from cellular options, Google equipped the Nexus 6 with 802.11ac Wi-Fi using a 2×2 MIMO antenna, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and NFC.

Before you salivate yourself into needing a fresh shirt, brace yourself for the $649 USD price-tag found on the unlocked model. Not surprisingly, many Android purists are already expressing their outrage at the cost –especially when previous Nexus smartphones only rid our wallets of $349 USD. While this increase is difficult to accept, it’s necessary if Google is going to produce the kind of hardware that will have the chops to compete with the quality options being released by the competition. Of course, the Nexus 6 looks to be worth every penny… but it means that carriers with contract-signing incentives will play a much more significant role in the success of this device (like they already do for the high-end hardware coming from Samsung and Apple).

Pre-order for the Nexus 6 will begin in late October, with full retail availability beginning in November.

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amazon_uk

In case you needed additional evidence to suggest that the traditional retail format is evolving, Amazon UK has added same-day deliveries. Working with newspaper distributor Connect Group, Amazon UK’s new service (labelled ‘Pass My Parcel’) promises to deliver packages to local shops and high street stores throughout Britain within 12 hours.

Some restrictions apply of course: if your order is made by 7:45PM, it will leave your designated pick-up point by 6:30AM the following day. If you place your order before the 11:45AM cut-off point, your items will be ready a few hours later, by 4:00PM. So far there are about 500 pick-up points that you can take advantage of, but Amazon intends to increase this number over the next year.

If you happen to be an Amazon Prime subscriber, this speedy delivery option will come to you free of charge until the end of the year; others can take advantage of Pass My Parcel for €4.99 per shipment.

This news comes just a few days after Amazon announced that they plan to hire over 1,000 additional, permanent staff members for their already over-extended UK distribution centres. It is the company’s expectation that every one of the 6,000 people employed by their UK warehouses will be required to meet the growing demand for goods purchased online.

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googleExpress

Usually when Google takes aim, the target is Apple –this time, Amazon is more clearly locked in their sights. Google’s Brian Elliott, Head of Partnerships at Google Shopping, announced this week that they would be rebranding their services as Google Express and expanding to three new cities: Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C (not to mention the fact that they added 16 new participating merchants to their roster with familiar names like: Barnes & Noble, PetSmart, Vitamin Shoppe and Sports Authority).

Much like Amazon Prime’s Same Day delivery service, Google Express intends to bridge the gap between shopping at your favourite local stores and the convenience of being able to do that online. To this end, I’m certain it isn’t a coincidence that Google has undercut Amazon’s $99 annual membership fee by charging $95 for their equivalent (after three free months during which you can give it a try). You can of course pay by the order as well, but it adds up quickly with a $5-$8 surcharge applied to each.

So what privileges does this membership provide? It’s all about same-day delivery… at least as long as you are one of the lucky 7-million people who happen to live in the right city and want products from the right stores. Truth is that things are rather limited right now, but it’s a good start.

Analysts are busy trying to figure how less retail foot traffic affects businesses, with many suggesting that it won’t eliminate the need for employees, but rather change the type of work that needs doing (picking and packing orders instead of dealing directly with customers).

For those of us already delighted by online shopping, Google (and others) embracing rapid shipping practices demonstrates positive forward momentum. It also means that one day, sooner than later, I may not have to leave the house to brave huge retail outlets (and their parking lots) for boring things like toilet paper and laundry soap.

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qikscreen

Skype is doing their best to remain relevant in the ever-evolving world of instant messaging apps. With the release of Qik (pronounced ‘Quick’), Skype is a video messaging app designed to run along side their signature title. Behaving quite like an answering machine, Qik lets you send pre-recorded videos to your contacts (whether they are online at the same time as you or not).

Dan Chastney, Principal Program Manager Lead at Skype, describes their vision for Qik and the future of Skype:

“Skype for more than a decade now has been about bringing people together when they’re apart, and keeping people connected is still our mission. But we’ve seen three major trends that ultimately led us to thinking about doing something new.”

Videos can be up to 42 seconds long (which is either completely arbitrary, or a nod to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy –behaving as the answer to life, the universe, and everything), and are sent immediately after they are recorded (unless you choose to use pre-recorded Qik-Fliks, used for stock responses like shaking the naughty finger at somebody or shrugging your shoulders and looking bewildered). Your videos will also be an unexpected square-shape, making them more like the familiar Instagram format instead of the rectangular shape we are used to seeing come from our smartphones.

Functioning much like traditional MMS messages, content is pushed out to your contacts as you create it –meaning your videos are not stored on any centralized servers. A little less traditionally, if you delete the message (or wait out the 2-week expiry period), it is completely gone… even more oddly, if the sender deletes the message after it has been sent, it is deleted from the recipients device as well. A very handy feature I suppose, for those who may suffer from videographer’s remorse.

If somebody tries to send you a Qik video and you do not have the app installed, you will get a message indicating what you must do to remedy the situation.

My test drive of Qik wasn’t terribly successful, with the app freezing frequently and videos not being recorded correctly, so it appears that Skype may still have a few bugs to work out before they are truly ready for prime time; with any luck, things work better from your device. If you would like to give it a try for yourself, download Skype Qik: Group Video Chat for free now.

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applepay

We heard tales of the Apple Pay mobile payment solution during the company’s big launch event last month, but we weren’t sure exactly when we could expect to give the new service a try. There still hasn’t been anything official announced, but the start of Apple Pay training for their retail store personnel suggests it could be sometime later this month (along with an iOS 8.1 software update which will be required to configure the service).

The training materials offer specifics regarding the setup and transaction processes for Apple Pay, including a new Settings tab that will let users manage each of the credit or debit cards they intend to include (adding a maximum of 8 through iTunes or by using your phone’s camera).

Apple Pay does more than just enable you to make purchases, it will also let you keep track of each transaction and receive configurable push notifications. There also appear to be several value-added features included with Apple Pay, like not having to update the expiration date on your configured credit cards –these will be updated automatically by the issuer.

Most users are concerned about the security of making purchases in this manner, but Apple promises this is equally important to them. Apparently receipts for purchases you make using Apple Pay will not include your contact details or credit card numbers –identifying you only by the last 4-digits of your iPhones unique Apple Pay ID (which is assigned, encrypted and stored securely in a dedicated chip on your device).

Whether Apple Pay works as seamlessly as we need it to, remains to be seen –but if it can be as elegant and functional as other apps that allow you to make purchases using Passbook (such as those provided by Tim Horton’s or Starbucks), we could be in for a handy treat!

If Apple Pay is delivered in the coming weeks, October would be nearly as exciting as September, with another event scheduled for October 16 that is expected to deliver another assortment of updated hardware.

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