Tobold's Blog
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Getting smart

I am not a big user of mobile phones. So up to this weekend I only had a simple Nokia phone with a prepaid plan and mostly used it for incoming calls. But my experience with using the iPad GPS as a city map convinced me that having a smart phone might actually be a good idea. So I went and looked what kind of a smart phone I might want to buy. The obvious choice, an iPhone, was quickly excluded because I had tried the iPod Touch of the same 4" size and found it a bit too small. But I wasn't going to phone with an 8" phablet either, so some review site researching later I decided on a Samsung Galaxy S4 with a 5" screen. So now I am the proud owner of a smart phone.

I still need to wait 2 business days until I can actually use the thing as a phone, as I wanted to keep my old telephone number. But at the same time I am changing providers, so there are some administrative hoops to jump through. My old provider offered me his cheapest subscription plan for 12€ a month, which includes 250 MB of data. But I went with the provider I already have for my internet access, landline, and TV. And moving from a "triple play" to a "quadruple play " plan ended up costing just 1€ per month, with 500 MB of data included. I'll end up paying less than with my prepaid plan even at low usage, which is a win. Of course that provider also would have offered me a 330€ reduction on the price of the phone if I had taken his most expensive subscription at 50€ a month more for 2 years; but you don't need to be a math wiz to calculate that this is much more expensive in the end. And I don't need multiple gigabytes of download capacity each month on the phone via 3G, that is what I have WiFi at home for.

So while I'm still waiting on the phone connection, the Galaxy S4 already works fine over WiFi, so I could make the acquaintance of Android and install some apps. Of course everything works slightly differently than on the iPad, but I'm getting used to that. And I started wondering what games I should install. I tried Total War Battles: Shogun, which turned out to be a mistake: It obviously was designed for bigger tablets, and the text and icons are far too small on a phone screen. So now I downloaded Dungeon Village, which is made for smaller screens. I also downloaded Marvel Puzzle Quest, and was happy to find that it is possible via Facebook to share the saved game from my iPad. But of course I'd be most interested in Android "exclusive" games that I haven't played on the iPad yet. Recommendations would be welcome.

Not that I'm planning on playing all that much on the Galaxy S4. It is just a stopgap solution for when I'm stuck somewhere without the iPad. I am more likely to use the phone for looking things up on the internet when away from the computer, and as a portable GPS device. I put widgets on the screen with stuff like weather forecast, stock quotes, my GMail inbox, a notepad, a calendar, and news. What I like about the Google Play store is that I can search for apps on my PC and it installs them on my phone remotely. Way more user-friendly than the iTunes store. Well, I see how my usage of the smart phone evolves with time. The only thing I doubt it will do is making me smarter. :)

I would have gone for the nexus 5, but the Samsung is probably the best one, also because you could actually be seen with it in hong Kong (people will sniff in disdain at you if you don't have a Samsung or iphone there).

I liked 'robo defense' a lot as game, but you may already have done too many tower defense games. 'Zen bound 2' is unique and fun, but might need a bigger screen too.

As for plans, here in the USA I switched to t-mobile's new $50 free international roaming plan, which gave me free internet in India, UK and Ireland on my last trip (I have to see the bill still. I am worried it may be too good to be true). I am not sure if you can get that plan if you are not living in the USA though, otherwise it may be a good deal (although speed is limited).
Well Android gaming is usually a bit behind IOS gaming. What I mean is that a lot of titles get released first on IOS and then ported over to Android. As Android's market share continues to go up and up we'll see more same day releases on it but it's still really common to get some games months after they have been released on Android.

I have a Galaxy S4 Active and currently what I'm playing is Plants VS Zombies 2 and a collection of titles from the last Humble Android Bundle. I would definitely say check out the Humble Android bundles because I've found some awesome games that way. Punch Quest and Time surfer were two of my favorites from the last one.

If your looking for RPG/Simcityesque management games I would say check out the Kairosoft games. They all follow the same basic formula/layout but are really fun if you like that style of game.

Besides that even though it's a bit controversial I have to mention emulators. You can download an emulator and play games from just about any previous console/mobile generations on your S4. From Gameboy Color to original DS emulators all play games pretty flawlessly on the S4. I don't really want to advocate piracy so I'm not going to link to anything, but for me being able to play old pokemon games and other games I owned without having to deal with my Gameboy Advance which is in rough shape these days is one of my favorite parts of my phone. Even some games that I thought were a total loss due to the cartridge going bad, (my original blue version which actually split open!) I can now play again anytime I want.

One tip is to definitely check online for games. As in Google search or browse the Google play store through an internet browser. The Google Play Store App is HORRIBLE for finding stuff. I have LITERALLY type in the name for a game I know exists and the app somehow can't find it. A quick Google search though and I'm at the games store page. It also sucks for searching stuff via genres. Much easier and reliable to just use your browser and then follow links directly to the games store page.
Tobold: Definitely look into Ingress. Very unique game that uses gps to make you travel around and see interesting places.
war worlds & ingress
Keep an eye out for Humble Bundle Android bundles. The games on offer are usually well selected.

I notice there is one running at the moment which has ticket to ride, bards tale, worms reloaded and a bunch of other games. Sounds good to me.

If you buy from Humble Bundle, the games don't come from the Android market. They have their own down loader. It works well but you need to toggle a switch in your settings to allow the installation of non market apps. You can toggle it back again once the games are installed if you are worried about security.
Oops That Humble Bundle Android sale is now over. Apologies for getting your hopes up. Still worth keeping an eye on them though because they do Android sales regularly enough and most of the games they offer are worth playing.
Just be careful about the data caps. If you get addicted to Pandora or Spotify in the car, you could hit that 500 mb pretty easily.
If you get addicted to Pandora or Spotify in the car, you could hit that 500 mb pretty easily

My car is where my old iPod Touch ended up, loaded with 8 GB full of songs from iTunes. If I wanted to stream music there, I'd turn on the radio. :)
I agree on ingress. Fun and simple game. Makes me think about what google will do with the data obtained though. And about identity, faction. Btw, the point of the smartphone is all the smart goes into the phone so you can dumb down...
This post served to remind me how good Australia has it when it comes to telecommunications. Even on a weekend, porting your existing number over to a new mobile on a new carrier takes a matter of hours, sometimes even less. Last time I upgraded my phone I went with a new provider and my number was ported over by the time I finished the set up process in store.

That and the good competition makes it one of the better things. Pretty much everything else technology related is years and years behind the times, though.
Ingress is fun but don't expect to play it for hours. It drains battery like a king.
A smartphone makes you smarter the same way a calculator makes you smarter. It's a massive difference nobody cares about ;)
You might find out that the pcie of a provider is not the main argument. If you use internet often with a mobile device the quality (4g/LTE) and coverage is more important for the user experience.

Thats why E-Plus and their 100 white labels suck in Germany while T-Mobile wins.
A few of my Android favourites:

Pigs of Aporkalypse - very similar in concept to Blizzard's Lost Vikings;
Choice of Games titles - text adventures (lot of them, very good);
Diversion - platform runner with costumes (if that's your thing);
DroidPlex - the faithful port of Supaplex classic (but with all levels already playable);
Everlands - very good board/tactics game;
Free Heroes 2 - the port of Heroes of Might and Magic II (without campaigns however);
Grammar Games (Lite) - vety educational and fun for non-native English speakers;
Majesty - special handheld campaign, same mechanics but different missions;
Plants vs Zombies 1&2;
Plague Inc (fun but only until you figure it out);
Shadow Era - F2P CCG, on the level of Hearthstone but fully functional now;
Star Traders (Elite) - essentially text-based Elite;
Townsmen - a Settlers clone;
Zenonia and Inotia series for action RPGs (plotlines suck though).
There are of course multitude versions of all known board games including Catan.
I'll add Neuroshima Hex for its asymmetric factions and Androminion if you like the Dominion card game.
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