Google IO 2016 Coverage

UX Corner: How ICS Follows Basic User-Centered Design Principles

 

At the beginning of this year, Google launched the Android Design Principles Web Site. This site outlines how and why the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich User Interface (UI) is built the way it is. For those of us who work as User Experience Designers, it’s a treasure trove of information and insights into the minds of Matias Duarte and his team.

What I would like to do is break down a few elements of the Android 4.0 UI and talk about how they follow tried-and-tested user-centered design principles. Yeah, this might be a bit geeky even for us geeks, but trust me… it’s these kinds of solid building blocks that can make or break a platform. Read on after the break for my take on how Android is implementing and evolving their User Experience (UX).

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Review: Football Manager 2012 for Android

 

The History

For young football fans (soccer for my American friends) of the 80’s and 90’s, Football Manager wasn’t a game, it was a way of life. For the purists amongst us, you will no doubt remember the game by its original name Championship Manager. This was a game that you could load up on a cold, wet Saturday morning with a view to playing one or two matches before realising that it’s nearly time for your Sunday night bath ready for school the next day. When engrossed in Football Manager, days seem like hours and hours seem like minutes such is the manner in which the game sucks you in.

For the uninitiated, Football Manager is not your typical football (soccer) game, you don’t use a direction pad to run your players around the pitch etc. Football Manager, as the name obviously suggests, puts you as the manager of your chosen team and tasks you with the day-t0-day running of a football club. This covers everything from stadia, player transfers, finances, match tactics and so much more. You set up everything behind the scenes, pick your team and then sit back and watch as your players perform according to your instructions. Depending on the team you manage a successful season could be anything from winning the Champions League to surviving relegation to the bottom division.

A blast from the past?

The Main Game

From its humble beginnings on the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, Football Manager is one of those games that receives an annual update around the same time each year updating the player rosters and adding new features. It hit the PSP and iOS last year and finally it’s landed on Android.

Football Manager Handheld is not a direct port of the desktop version, anyone expecting that could end up slightly disappointed. The handheld version is a cut down version that’s designed to be easier to access in order to cater for the more casual gamer who may just be looking to kill some time on the daily commute. The game transfers to a touch-screen format nicely with a simplified layout, there are less options and not as many facets of the managerial role. Let me reassure you now, a stripped down game does not mean stripped down fun, the game is still as much fun and just as addictive as ever.

All of the major leagues and clubs are represented and there’s a huge database of over 20,000 real life players. The main match view will be familiar to those who have followed the franchise over the years. Watching the match involves watching 22 coloured dots swarming around the screen, moving along a white dot (the football). It may not sound like edge of the seat stuff but just try it for yourself and see!

Just like the desktop version, the game lasts as long as your managerial career does. You might find yourself poached by clubs from other countries, you may find yourself called up to manage a national team or perhaps you’ll get the sack. I recall entering the 20th season of my career on the 2002/2003 desktop version of the game, an achievement that I won’t (but undoubtedly could) replicate on the handheld edition.

 

 

Challenge Mode

In order to really make the most of the handheld edition, there is a separate challenge mode designed for the more casual gamer. Challenge mode throws you into the middle of one of four set scenarios where you are tasked with leading your team through a particular crisis or campaign. The challenge must be complete before the end of the season.

The challenges include scenarios such as steering a poor performing club from relegation, avoid being sacked from an injury struck club, and leading a top club to an undefeated season. They are each straight forward enough to pick up and play easily however they are tough enough to keep Football Manager veterans satisfied. All in all, a welcome edition to the main game.

 

 

Summary

Football Manager Handheld 2012 will cost you £6.99 (approx $11) and brings all of the polish and playability you would expect from a Sega title. Long time followers of the series will enjoy this game, the stripped down handheld edition actually feels a lot like the desktop version did circa 2003 which, in my opinion, was when the game was at its best. Subsequent releases became a little too complex with the sheer number of options available almost getting in the way of just playing the core game.

Casual gamers and Football Manager newcomers may well enjoy the main game however the four challenges are sure to be the ideal way to introduce people to the game and allow them to cut their teeth before progressing to the big wide world of career mode.

This is an addictive and immersive game that will help the longest train journey pass in a flash as well as being responsible for losing entire weekends without trace. So what are you waiting for? Dig out your sheepskin coat and hit the link below to get downloading!

 


Google Play Store

 

 

Review: Frisbee Forever Makes Tossing Frisbees Fun Again

When you think of the frisbee, you think of some good times: tossing the plastic disc at the park with your dog, your friends at the beach or in a heated battle of frisbee golf. While the game is no doubt fun in real life, how does it fare on Android? Two words: it’s awesome. Thanks to Frisbee Forever’s simple concept, addictive gameplay and solid graphics, Frisbee Forever is no doubt one of the most underrated and addictive games out there in gaming world. Read more

Quick Thoughts On Soulcraft THD Beta For Tegra Devices

NVIDIA’s Tegra platform is no doubt a great one for showcasing Android gaming. We know there are plenty of Tegra-exclusive games out there, but there’s one game that’s standing out head and shoulders above the rest of the Tegra-based games. You may have heard about a certain Action-RPG called Soulcraft THD, which is pretty much a dark fantasy game on steroids. The beta has currently been in beta for a few months now and while the developer Mobilebits claims there are still some bugs to be worked out, the game runs incredibly fluid while the graphics are smooth like butter. Read more

GroupMe: The Best Group Messaging App Around

 

Let’s face it, we live in a world of internet-based communication. In fact, most of us tend to keep in contact with our friends and loved ones with messaging clients, especially if your friends and loved ones are spread out around the country or world. The most famed and successful international messaging client is no doubt the Blackberry Messenger by RIM, especially because it featured the popular group chat function. My friends and family aren’t particularly fond of the Android platform, so most of them are on either iPhones or Blackberries. That means unless we use some sort of cross platform IM client like AIM or Facebook messenger, we can’t communicate with each other in real time. Enter: GroupMe— one of the most important apps I use daily. This is not only the best group messaging client, it’s one of the best IM clients, period. Read more

Question To Android OEMs & Manufacturers: What’s The Benefit Of Having Custom Skins On Devices?

 

Ah yes, the variation of the Android platform. Some people love it while others hate it. Let’s face the cold, hard truth about Android: it’s an open-source platform in which any individual can take the basic source, tweak it a little and truly make it their own. Similarly manufacturers can take the basic open source and throw it onto all sorts of devices with all sorts of hardware configurations. What do both amateur developers and established manufacturers of Android devices have in common? Each want to develop and create an end result or product that is “unique” and more or less different from its competition, while also providing a need for its customers and consumers. Amateur developers have a different perspective from both the engineers/developers at Google and OEMS– that’s to take the Android platform which notoriously omits items such as built-in functions like the ability to take screenshots and make it available for all. OEMs and manufacturers conversely see the bare Android platform as too basic and will slap on enhanced features such as social communication widgets. Independent/amateur developers and OEMs/manufacturers have different visions, but again— they’re looking at the bigger goal of answering what they perceive to be Android customer’s need ands try to address them.

What Android users truly want or need can be subjective and there’s no real right or wrong answer. However, we all believe Android’s benefit to users involve the freedom of choice. There are a myriad of options prospective and interested consumers can look into when it comes to manufacturers. For those who want a simple phone which allows for web browsing, messaging (texting and Twitter) and basic phone calls, there are a ton of budget options such as the Pantech Burst smartphone. For others who are interested in watching videos, listening to music or gaming on the go, there are other devices which feature dual-core processors with built-in GPUs such as the HTC Rezound. Whatever it is a prospective user is interested in, they’ll find what they want. Now suppose I ask this question to you: considering Android is truly an open platform, is it fair that manufacturers generally market devices with various hardware profiles, but only one UI option? More importantly, what is the benefit of having an Android device with a custom UI and would manufacturers and ultimately consumers be better off having the option to choose between a device with a custom skin or no skin at all? I personally believe that not only is it unfair for OEMs to market most devices with custom skins, but also marketing devices with no skins may be a financial benefit as well as positive perception from the various levels of the Android community.

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Why I Want an Android Brain Implant

In this day and age, technology is designed to make our lives simpler. We no longer need to pull over to a rest area to use a payphone. Paper maps are quickly becoming a thing of the past. We can now carry thousands of books with us without requiring years of weight training. The devices we carry with us every day are rapidly becoming indispensable.

So this is why we freak out when we suddenly don’t have access to our smartphones, either through damage or loss. This single point of failure is why we have a growing market of protective phone cases, insurance, and remote wipe software. How can we guarantee we’ll never lose or break our phones? Only one way I see…remove the device from the equation.

If there was no physical device we had to keep track of, there would obviously be no fear of losing it. But the device is what gives us the power to do all those wonderful things. So what if we natively had the same abilities our smartphones have without having to carry anything around? Enter the Android Brain Implant™ (ABI).

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Word Search Asks Question To Users: How Fast Can You Find A List Of Words?

 

Word Search is another one of those games you might stumble upon as you’re trying to kill time. By using clean and colorful grids, you’re given the task of trying to find a list of words. Sounds simple, but the words are hidden amongst jumbled and scrambled letters, so you have to pay close attention and look for patterns in order to find each word. While there’s no time limit, users are still timed and will aim to complete the list as quickly as possible. You’ll be able to find words and complete the puzzles quickly too thanks to some snappy and intuitive controls. All you do is swipe in the direction of the word you find and that’s it. My first go-round of the game had me complete the puzzle on my tablet in just under 17 minutes, but by the time I got used to the patterns and strategy, my average dropped a whopping 3 minutes. Users should expect a similar– if not better outcome. One noteworthy aspect is the game has numerous languages available. That means if your bilingual or multilingual like myself, you’ll be able to challenge yourself even further.

The game is available for any Android 1.6+ device. While it will work on any device, I found the layout and interface to be especially brilliant on tablets thanks to some special tablet-specific optimizations that developer Melimots included. If you’re ready to stimulate your brain in yet another way, give this simple, yet great game a try today by hitting up the Android Market or by scanning the QR code below.

Android Market

Math Cruncher Aims To Test How Sharp Your Brain Is

Searching for a quick, fun and addictive way to kill time while stimulating your brain? Well you may want to give Math Cruncher a try. It’s a puzzle game that involves you guessed it— the subject of math. You are essentially given the task of solving math questions given to you but with a twist— each question comes in the form of a falling tile, so you only have a limited time to answer each question. Users will need to solve equations before they get to the bottom of the screen, while simultaneously avoiding mistakes. In addition, as the game moves forward, equations become faster and you’ll have to keep up with the pace, otherwise you lose.

What’s ironic about this aspect of the gameplay is that the questions are painfully basic and simple— things we should have been able to master in elementary school. While some of the questions (3 – 1 = 2 for example) are simple, things can become tricky when you’re given the task of having to answer consecutive questions on the fly (42 x 15 = 630 followed by 28 x 19 = 532). This game definitely works your brain and challenges you to be sharp and quick in order to achieve the goal of getting as many points as possible. All of these can be executed in the most effective way thanks to some solid controls.

While the gameplay is addictive and top-notch, the graphics and sounds are not. The game claims to feature HD graphics when in reality looks more like standard 32-bit graphics. Also the game is best suited when the annoying music which is looped over and over is shut off completely. While the graphics and sounds could have been much improved— those are not the focus. Again, the focus is the addictive gameplay which will have you solving the various math equations in order to progress your game.

The game is available today for Android 1.6+ devices in both Free and Paid versions. The free version is probably what most will go for thanks to the unobtrusive ads which aren’t the least bit distracting. However the paid version is only 99¢. For some addictive gameplay that will never get old while seeing no ads at all, I think it’s mighty worth it.

Android Market

 

Quick Review: CloudMagic

 

The best thing about our Android devices is more likely than not— they help us to be as productive as we can be. This includes being able to store an infinite amount of emails, contact information, documents and for some of us— even our tweets. Now as much information we save onto our phones, we sometimes forget where that information is, when we created or viewed the information, who the information came from and so on. There’s an interesting app out there called CloudMagic which aims to make those small nuisances a thing of the past. Read more