Friday, 19 November 2010

Mission #6: My Mob!ler Experience

The video is quite personal to me and my experience and journey as a Mob!ler, though I am certain that it applies to all of the Mob!lers. 

The footage I've used was shot mostly on the Galaxy Tab with a little bit of Wave thrown in. It's supposed to be representative of how my time as a Mob!ler has made the otherwise-boring-inbetween-times of my life more exciting, and how this whole experience has really made a real impression on my day to day existence. I really hope that message comes across in the video better than I can explain it here!

Let me know what you think... (I've never made a proper video before so be nice!!)

Mission #7: Design an App

For our seventh and (sadly) final mission we have been asked to think of an app which could potentially revolutionise the app world, and have an impact on people’s lives. There are so many apps out there in the world, and there are few that we actually use on a day to day basis that genuinely make things easier. Most are gimmicky and transient amidst a few apps which we will honestly use on a daily basis. This makes it hard to think of an app which would really make an impact on people’s lives. For this reason I’ve come at this task from a more personal perspective, and will share my thoughts on what I would like to see the Galaxy Tab being used for... or the future of all tablet technology in general.

“App”, of course, is short for “application” and I suppose I’ve interpreted that in a broader sense of the word. Not only would this be an “app” on the Tab, but it’s an application for the use the Tab which I think, and hope, could be quite far reaching.

Present for the Future

We all know that the days of the blackboard are over. Whiteboards are still just about clinging on but really it’s projectors and “interactive whiteboards” that dominate the world of education and presentations. My idea is to use the Galaxy tab as an interactive device to use in presentations. The Tab would be used to switch between slides, highlight relevant information on the screen and add a whole new dimension of interactivity to the way information and knowledge is presented to the audience. It would mean that the presenter wouldn’t have to turn around every minute to change the slide. They wouldn’t have to use a silly laser pointer to point at information while accidentally blinding half the people in the audience!

The size of the Tab would be perfect for this; you can fit it in one hand, leaving the other free to interact with the content on the tab whilst not hindering movement. The set-up would, of course, be a wireless one which would allow the Tab to be passed around the audience so that each individual could interact with what’s on screen... annotate...add text...or complete tasks.

Communal Presention and Sharing

Taking this idea a step further... imagine if everyone in the classroom, lecture or meeting had their own Tablet device. It would be possible to synchronise the app so that all devices show the same thing on the screen, but those in the audience could add their own annotations to the presentation in real time whilst their device records audio and syncs it with the change of slides/content on screen for future reference or revision. It could also be possible for different users in the group to have their device display its content on the main screen (if a screen was needed!) or other Tabs. This would allow everyone to demonstrate their knowledge or share ideas and content that couldn’t be better expressed verbally.

Okay, yes, this is a rather ambitious idea: I understand that this is not something we can expect to see in the next few weeks, months or even years... but it’s already happening to some extent with computers in schools and universities... so why not take it to its more simple, portable conclusion? Apart from needing a piece of software/connectivity to connect the Tab with the projector or computer connected to the projector I think that the hardware is already sufficient to achieve this.

Over the past few years I’ve placed a few bets with friends about technology and where it will take us next and I’ve made a good amount of pocket money from it! I wouldn’t like to say that this is something which will definitely happen, certainly not in its entirety, but I do believe that this is a great application (in both senses of the word) for tablets, and would not be at all surprised if something similar to this crops up in the future!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Samsung Galaxy TAB Gaming: Nova HD

Samsung Mob!lers Mission #5:

This week the Samsung Mob!lers were asked to review a game on the Galaxy Tab. I struggled with this as I really like all of them and have found the Tab to be an excellent gaming device: It really shows off how a large touchscreen interface and brilliant display can create a whole new genre of interactive gaming. In my review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, I touched on the game Nova HD, and I think as it is so impressive, I should talk about it a little more.

A Puntastic Start:

Nova is a game that’s been around for a while now. I’ve played it on friends’ smart phones in the past and been really impressed with the first person shooter gameplay. I mean, I was really really impressed before... but nothing quite prepared me for what it would be like on the Galaxy Tab. If Nova is a five star game on other devices then I think we need to invent a new scale. I’ve been playing for just over a week now and I honestly think that ‘SuperNova’ is a more appropriate name: it’s absolutely stunning!! My picture editing skills leave a lot to be desired; but here is my artistic attempt at visualising this:

The Setup:

You play as a futuristic soldier and you’ve got a myriad of exciting weapons, grenades and special moves at your disposal. The setup is relatively simple... you wonder round and kill aliens. I think you’re supposed to be protecting a future earth from an invading extraterrestrial army…or something… but, I have to confess, I was so interested in the gameplay that I largely ignored the backstory! Maybe I’ll pay more attention the second time I play it through... the cutscenes are all very impressive; here's the cutscene from the beginning:

Gyroscopic Amazement:

This is one of the things that makes this game exceptional, no…. jaw-droppingly-exceptional, so take note! When you move the Tab left, you look left, when you move it right, you look right…. up, down, diagonals, everywhere. This really puts you in the world of Nova and augments the beautiful 3D world into your own world. You living room becomes a space station and when enemies sneak up behind you, you’ll find yourself actually jumping and trying to get out of their way before you realise you need to control your in-game avatar! The gyroscope isn’t only used for looking around, but for aiming your firepower at the nasty invading aliens.

The game also has an inbuilt auto-aim. I think it's great because it's subtle enough to make you think you’re doing all the hard work yourself!

In Game Involvement and Niceties:

The controls for the game are astonishingly intuitive! Coupled with the gyroscope controls it makes complicated movements and interactions intuitive and enjoyable. To the left hand side of the screen you have the forward/backward left right controls, and to the right you have the weapon select and fire buttons (the most important ones!). I would have been happy with the game just like that, but they’ve pushed the boat out even further!

The whole game it riddled with lifts which you access by swiping your finger in the lift controls and broken doors you have to force open by yanking with three fingers. There are also lots of fun mini-games you have to complete to “hack” ammo crates and unlock doors. There’s also an onscreen map, which not only aligns itself to the direction your looking, but you can move it around the screen and enlarge it: it’s a really nice subtle little detail which makes the whole interface feel like a futuristic-robocop-style-heads-up-helmet display and draws you into the game!

I’ve made a couple of short videos for you to see what I mean:

In a lift...

Forcing open a broken door...

"Hacking" a door control


In conclusion, Nova is one of the best games I have ever played. The extra level and depth of interactivity really draws you into the world of Nova and makes it hard to put down. In my review of the Tab I said that Nova has a “quasi-augmented-reality” feel to it… but having played it a bit more I feel as though I should correct that statement. It’s not quasi-augmented, or even augmented reality: it is its own reality. The level of detail gets you so involved that it’s easy to forget about the real world: you become totally immersed. Of course it’s not like you’re going to start believing there are aliens around the corner, but you can really feel part of this wonderful creation. You definitely don’t get the same feeling when playing on other, smaller, devices.

The fact that this game been around for a whole year, is still one of the most impressive games on the market and they’ve managed to make it even better for the Galaxy Tab leaves me utterly bewildered. All I think is that if this is one of the first games available for the Tab, they’ve set their standards very high and I can’t wait to see what the pull out of the bag in the coming months. There’s a lot to be excited about with this … and the future of gaming on the Tab (Nova 2!!!). This is a game packed full of action, jaw-dropping graphics and possibly the best gameplay I’ve ever encountered, on any device. This really is an exceptional concept and execution, and the Galaxy Tab really makes it shine.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Samsung Galaxy Tab Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab Review:

I had initially written a review based on what I had seen of the Galaxy tab in a shop, but when one of my housemates threw (yes, threw) a parcel at me containing a brand new Galaxy Tab I thought I should re-write it now that I’ve had a chance to play with it properly.

A Sceptical Preamble:

I’d always been a bit of sceptic when it came to tablets. I always thought of them as being thought up of a way to offload all of the odd sized screens created for digital photograph frames. I also thought that I’d much rather read a novel in a book... or if I wanted to browse the internet I would use my laptop... or if I wanted to watch a film, I’d use my television. I would still much rather do all of those things on the technologies (if a book counts as a technology!), but sometimes, this just isn’t possible.

These days we are so busy, travelling from one thing to the next and we rarely get to enjoy those entertainments and luxuries because we’re rarely there to be able to. Now this is where I do understand tablets, especially the Galaxy Tab. It allows us to capitalise on that ‘in-between time’; the dreary dredge of commuting and the limbo of waiting. It’s very slim, extremely highly portable, it’s got heaps of features and ... well ... it’s converted me!

From the moment it came out of the box I’ve not been able to put it down, and I know already that it’s going to be a piece of tech I’ll always be carrying around.

Battle of The Galaxies:

Everyone seems to be comparing the Galaxy Tab to the iPad, which makes sense as they’re the two biggest Tablet competitors on the market. I understand why they’re being compared but they seem so different to me that I think they’re best judged on their own! In my mind they’re designed for different purposes, the iPad for sofa-ness and the Tab for out-and-about-ness. You might as well be comparing the Galaxy Tab to other Galaxies currently dominating the market.

Ok, so they both look very appetising. I’d probably choose to eat the one on the left though. Jokes aside (and I must apologise, that was pretty bad: just be glad I didn't do a Milkyway one too!)... I do mean it. 

Operation Tab:

The Tab runs on the ever-more popular Android (Froyo/2.2) Operating system which has been skilfully skinned by Samsung with their TouchWiz UI. It runs on the powerful 1Ghz ARM Cortex A8 processor with 512Mb RAM which allows you to do more than you need it to on this nippy bit of kit. Multitasking isn’t going to be a problem and if you ever find the need to run ten applications at the same time then it’s not going to be a problem! The transitions between screens are slick and seamless and well... it’s all rather wonderful! The connectivity has everything you’d expect from a portable device these days and the DLNA certification means that you’re not going to have any problems sharing your photographs with others!

A Flashy Piece of Tech:

I don’t really understand why it’s taken so long for portable technology to sort out Flash, but I’m so glad that it’s here now. Having flash on here means that you don’t have to go through a YouTube App to see youtube videos or the MyPlayer App to watch BBCiPlayer videos: the content just works! Of course, almost every horrible add-banner is flash, so you get all of them too. In the long run this is going to eat into your bandwidth. I don’t like this because it means that you're paying extra money to be be advertised at... but for now I’ll just have to grin and bear it until someone comes up with a decent add-blocker for the Tab. Sometimes lots of flash content can get a tiny bit laggy, as you can see in the video below. However it’s early days (and this could just be because I was running 14 other things in the background) and thinking about it, that’s probably the only bad thing I have to say about the Tab, and I’m not sure it’s a problem at all! Pretty good stuff really!

Videos and Screens:

The TFT-LCD screen boasts a 600 x 1024 resolution which is more than ample for something this size. Unless you have telescopic vision or you’re pressing your nose to the screen, you’re not going to see any pixels. It makes the whole Tab experience fantastic and watching videos is particularly excellent.

First of all is the size. At 190.1 x 120.45 x 11.98 mm it’s just right to fit into the hand so you can feasibly walk around whilst using it. It’s also just the right size for watching videos on the go it’s not too big and not too small. It’s also very generous with 16Gb of internal memory which can be upgradable with a Micro-SD slot, so you can put a lot of content on there! More good news for video lovers is that the Tab isn’t strict with video codecs and lets you play HD DivX files. So you can put your own content on there without spending ages converting everything into a specific format. Hurrah!


The Galaxy Tab comes preloaded with a couple of games such as Nova. Nova is a first person shooter game and really demonstrates how cool this bit of kit is. It makes use of the G-sensor so that you can look around the three dimensional virtual word simply by moving the TAB left and right. This quasi-augmented-reality feature gets you really involved in the game and it genuinely makes you jump when enemies sneak up behind you! The game Nova has been around for a while now, but this added dimension to game play really shows off the Tab’s potential! If that didn’t make sense, I’ve tried to make a video to demonstrate: sorry if it makes things more confusing!

Samsung has loads of other 3D games ready and waiting for the tab and you can try them all before you buy. The combination of the Android Market and Samsung’s own app store means that you are not ever going to run out of applications for this phone, and the expandable memory means that you shouldn’t run out of storage space either!


The Tab has two cameras, a pleasant 3MP one on the back with LED Flash and a 1.3MP webcam-like one front for video calling. I don’t see myself using the front camera very much, but it’s nice to have it there in case I ever change my mind. As for the one on the back – it’s great! It’s a bit disconcerting at first, to see the picture you’re taking already fully sized on device you’re taking it with, but the quality is excellent. I’ve taken some rather boring (sorry) pictures of the packaging the Tab came with to demonstrate:

I’ll try and find something more interesting to photo later this week!

Rambling Over:

I feel as though I’ve rambled enough for now. The Galaxy Tab is a marvellous creation, a perfectly portable pleasure that does not fail to deliver. It is the ultimate portable device; small (and light) enough to carry in one hand yet large enough for you to be able to enjoy high quality entertainment on the move. If you haven’t already, then make sure you go and try one of these out, even if it is simply to appreciate the fact that we are already living in the future!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Samsung Wave S8500 and Augmented Reality: Samsung Mob!ilers Mission #3

For our third mission, Samsung has asked us Mob!lers to give our opinion on one of their applications. If I’m being honest I’ve found this a little difficult as, given the number of excellent free applications in their app store, it’s been hard to choose the one I like the most! In the end I decided that it should be a game, as this is what I spend most of my “procrastinating time” doing on my phone, and most utility-type apps either do what they say in the title or don’t... there isn’t much more you can say about them! Until the weekend it was it was a choice between two fantastic free games: the fast pace action filled Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior and the focussed balancing Tightrope Hero.

However, tucked away in the bowels of the app store I discovered ARdefender. Although these other two games are absolutely brilliant fun, they don't even come close to the genius of ARdefender! It modestly describes itself as “an Augmented Reality Game, involving a tower, various weapons and nasty opponents bugging you on your desk”. It’s a little bit understated for what it is: an absolute gem, and a free one at that. I've not been able to put my phone down and I've become the envy of my friends who all wait in line to have a go. This is quality stuff!

Augmented reality the term given to real-time blending of virtual imagery into a video stream. For this to work the application has to have a point of reference so you have to print out a special design on a bit of paper (a “tag”) so the app knows where to place your defence tower.

In place of your scrap of paper a delightful 3D blue tower appears on your phone screen with a turret on top. The cool thing about this is the 3D: you can move your phone around the tower and view it from all angles! You are also presented with a crosshair in the middle of your screen which you can aim at the numerous little critters and beasties that pop up on. You can see from the screenshots I’ve taken that you can really do this anywhere... I have used my leg to demonstrate!

The big red button in the bottom right hand corner is the most important one: the fire button. It allows you to bombard the enemies with a choice of lasers, missiles or just a regular rail gun which you can select from the right hand side. On the Samsung Wave you can also use the camera button to fire at your enemies which is a very nice touch! The game concept is quite simple, there are a series of levels which get progressively harder with more enemies each time. What makes this game so much fun is the augmented reality; without it wouldn’t be half as fun! You can change you coffee table, your desktop or even your lap into a fully fledged battleground.

This is something I’m never going to get bored of and one of the best apps to show off to your mates! I confess to not being very good at the game but that’s not stopped me enjoying the easier levels... it’s just a marvel of technology and programming. The ease in which this virtual world sits onto reality is absolutely stunning. The screenshots I’ve taken here really don’t do it justice (I'll try and get some better ones during the week). You must try it for yourself!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A Day in the Life of Dom: Samsung Mob!ler Mission 2


For the second Mob!ler mission Samsung asked us to take a series of photographs or videos with our new smartphones. I decided to take my phone (the Samsung Wave GT-S8500) out with me for an afternoon and an evening a document my life for a day. I thought this would also be a good way to put the phone's camera to the test as I would be encountering different levels of light, shots at different distances and all sorts of other camerary type things! If you're interested in what the pictures are of, head over to my Flickr page for some more info! Essentially I start with a perambulate around York University campus before heading into town for some tea with a friend, a pint at York Brewery and then back onto campus for some night time photography tests. There are also a couple of (non HD) videos thrown in for good luck!

All of the photographs have come out really well, even ones where I was deliberately shaking the phone only came out a tiny bit blurry. The phone boasts an LED flash which is much brighter than you'd expect and a definitely does a good job! I've found the camera functionality of the Wave to be excellent and I've been surprised and impressed at how many features Samsung have managed to pack into it. My favourite has to be the "Panorama" feature, the way it does it is something I would never have thought of myself: the phone makes use of the G-sensor to automatically locate where the next photograph should be taken and automatically takes the picture when you move it to the right place. It's great fun and an impressive feature to show of to your friends. It's actually quite hard to explain, so you'll just have to try it yourself!

It also has a "Smile Shot" feature which takes a photograph when your subjects starts to smile, a "Beauty" feature which seems to recognise faces and smooth out any blemishes (though I suppose there's only so much it can do!) and a "Continuous" feature which lets you take up to 9 pictures in quick succession. All of these little extras lend themselves to a camera which is not only fantastic quality, but has a holistic element of fun about it making it great fun to play with and show off to friends.


This is also the case with the video part of the camera, which boasts HD recording at 1280 X 720 resolution. I can't say much more other than that it does really, really well... for a camera phone and such a compact one at that: this is very impressive stuff. Here's an example... not that interesting content i'm afraid, just a wall of my house, but it does give you an idea of the quality (make sure you watch it in full screen and full 720p quality!).

Samsung have also been clever in telling you not only how much time is left for your video, but also how much space the video is taking up on your memory

Perhaps the best thing about it though, and for entertainment purposes far better than HD recording is the "Slow Motion" feature! It does exactly what it says and allows you to take slow motion videos! Although video resolution is compromised, the overall effect is simply wonderful and my friends and I have had hours upon hours of fun with this... see for yourself!

Some conclusive thoughts:

I thought it would be a long time before a camera phone would encroach on the territory of a dedicated camera in terms of features, but the Wave comes impressively close. Of course the quality of the lens is never going be as good as an SLR camera... but to me this isn't important. All I want photographs for is for fun and for memories and I don't need the highest end camera to do that! I think this is the case for most of us. This phone takes superb pictures, in much better quality than I'd ever need them for and also provides a much needed element of fun!

An Afterthought:

I also have to mention, as it is important, a comment about the battery life of the Wave now that I've had it long enough to know for sure: It is exceptional. Even after a day of heavy usage of HD filming, using the LED flash for camera tests reviewing media over and over again (especially the slow motion bits!), constant connection to the internet, Facebook, Twitter, emails.... the battery barely went down at all. In my experience smartphones don't have the greatest battery life even whilst doing normal things, and when it comes to using the camera they might as well not have a battery!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Samsung Wave S8500 Review

There is no doubt that this is a beautifully made phone; the sleek seamless design sits in the hand as though human anatomy were designed for it. The crisp 3.3’’ super AMOLED screen brings the most vivid vivacity to the footage you shoot with the tour de force high definition video and 5 megapixel camera whist extending battery life with its superior low power consumption.

This is clearly a company which understands the needs of the user, providing personalisation in all areas. Under the bonnet it kicks a powerful punch with a 1GHz processor, allowing much sought after multi-tasking for the readily available Apps. Perhaps most noteworthy is the slip-stream integration of social networking memes into the new “bada” operating system. I think they’ve got this right; phones are, after all, supposed to be a means of communicating and this is a phone which seeks and certainly succeeds in creating a platform for communication in the most modern of ways

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Samsung's Bada Operating System: My Thoughts

Hello! I'm Dom and I recently won a wonderful competition with Samsung which is allowing me to express my views on some of their techno-wizardry! I'm passionate about technology and I love how it is constantly evolving to help facilitate our needs for easy communication in the busy lives we lead. As part of the competition, me and 19 other lucky people will be set a series of tasks. What follows is the first of these. It's my opinion, or review if you like, of the Samsung Bada Operating System. Enjoy...


In the world of phones and technology in general, hardware is increasingly finishing second best to the presence of quality applications and operating systems. No one really cares how many GHz your phone has, how many invisible pixels might be on your screen or how many Gigabytes you have to store extortionately large photographs from your million megapixel camera. Today it's all about the software. If your phone can open an application 0.1 second faster than mine or you can take a photograph and print it off on an A1 piece of paper then pat yourself on the back because, and let's be honest with each other, it doesn't really matter!

We're already reaching a plateau, or dare I say peripeteia, with regards to technology: For the most part it's all good enough to do the job we need it to do and anything more these days is just an extra bell and a whistle which will never really be sounded. For me, the magic of being able to call anyone from anywhere in the world completely without wires hasn't and will never get old, but I suppose this isn't enough anymore. Almost everyone's got something fantastic and we only really need to get something new if we've broken our old one or because adverts convince us that we one that's a little better. Naturally, top-trumping each others' phones is an important social mechanism these days. Heaven knows I do it, but I understand that what really counts is how the operating system uses its resources and how it helps us do things efficiently. It's all about ease of use, not speed of use!

In a battle for what companies think consumers are actually interested in, for my money, Samsung has got it right. Allow me to present to you the Samsung Wave (GT-S 8500), one of Samsung's newest phones and flagship carrier of their new Bada Operating system. Perhaps more importantly for the purposes of this article, it's the phone I've been using to assess Samsung's Bada and the one which I've used or the screenshots throughout this article... just so you know!

Bada: An Operating System for Modern Communication

Named after the Korean word for "Ocean", Bada invites everyone in for a swim. First and foremost, it doesn't come across as trying to be something groundbreaking or market changing. But this is a good thing. It's a system for everybody and one which embodies today's needs in portable communication and entertainment. Most importantly, it delivers. These days we communicate in such a vast variety of ways it's sometimes hard to keep up with our own lives let alone our friends. We use social networking, we email and we text. Actually placing a phone call is often the last thing we use our phones for!

Samsung, being the clever company that they are, have realised this. Of course you can still call people... but they have created an operating system which amalgamates all forms of communication into one bundle: Emails, Facebook updates, twitter, Bebo, myspace... the list goes on. It synchronises easily and instantly with your social networking and email accounts, pulling down the relevant profile pictures, status updates, phone numbers... everything! Not only that, but if you've syncronised your contacts, Bada will give you their status updates alongside their contact details. Bada also makes the most out of the now must-have threaded text messaging which makes it easy to keep yourself in the know of the important who-said-what-when.

If you want your Facebook and Twitter to update constantly through the "Feed and Update" widget, then you can. But not everyone is on an unlimited data plan and can't afford their data allowance to be sapped while they're not using it. The same applies to emails: the phone cleverly downloads only a preview of the email, saving your data allowance but still letting you download the full message if it's important enough. 

Bonus, Fun and Entertainment:

I imagine that Samsung's App store will come under scrutiny from some because it doesn't have as many tens of thousands of apps as other markets might do. I've had a good browse of the app store, and trust me, there's plenty to be getting on with! I can't even envisage myself needing more than 100 applications on my phone: If I did I certainly wouldn't have time to use them all! The phone also comes pre-loaded with all the widgets and gizmos a normal person is going to want to use. The dedicated Samsung App store is undoubtedly in its infancy, but even at this young age it caters for a lot of interests and provides numerous utilities... from piano playing to kung-fu fighting: It's rife with potential.

Also worth a mention is Samsung's "Kies" software, which alongside the normal media and contact retrieval and calendar synchronisation offers the chance to save your data allowance and use your computer's internet to do the hard work and upload apps and media to your phone. Once again Samsung is thinking of the user and the limited data-allowances we're faced with... I like this! They also chuck in all the extras you'd expect from any modern phone such as multitasking and the ability to customise almost everything!

In Conclusion: Badass or Bad as?

All in all I've been really impressed with Bada. What I like most about it is that it doesn't feel like something too technical or out of reach. You don't have to learn how to use it. It's designed for everyday people with everyday needsI like this about Bada and it goes hand in hand with Samsung, a company which consistently gets things right, providing the right thing for the everyday consumer, not just the techno-snobs. It's understated and it's excellent, not bad or badass just excellent and consistent. And in my books, excellence and consistency is a winning formula. It doesn't sing from the rooftops or dance in the streets like some shallow, raucous idiot, it just does what you want it to, when you want it to. What more could you possibly ask for?!