I Miss Android

20150724_093052-01
Zenfone 2 with CyanogenMod 13. Photo credit: xda-developers

I miss being able to adjust the speed of the phone’s animations. The iPhone might present its interface in a fancy, elegant way, but after a week or so they often felt like intentional delays to hide the phone’s inability to keep up with my mind. I would like Android’s ability to adjust the animation speed (after turning on Developer Options).

I miss the ability to change my launcher. To be able to position my most frequently used apps on the main screen and keep the rest stashed in the app drawer. It’s the equivalent of stowing away your less frequently used junk away in the cupboard, instead of needing to spread them over a long, wide springboard.

notifications_anatomy_01_comparison
Material Design. Photo credit: material.io

I miss Material Design. A consistent language in user interface creates a unified, pleasing experience on the smartphone, the one device that the average person checks 54 times a day. A streamlined and standardized user experience that reduces the time required to learn how to use new apps. An enriching feeling that you are part of a huge ecosystem.

I miss the seamless integration of Google Services into the operating system, and its better implementation of its core apps on Android. Hangouts suck on the iPhone with its non-responsive buttons. Google’s one-touch sign in did not require me to switch apps on Android. Rapid backups and processing of my photos on Google’s photos app.

google-now-6799
Photo credit: techrepublic

I miss OK Google. The entire process of using my voice to create reminders, do searches, launch apps and call an acquaintance is much better implemented in Android. Siri’s voice recognition is lackluster, especially in noisy environments where it thinks the ambient noise is my voice. And honestly, Google’s calendar and notes implementation trumps the folks at Cupertino, especially if you don’t own everything Apple. (For the record, I am using a MacBook and an Apple Watch.)

I miss how I can launch customized apps from one another to share rich data, instead of being limited to a standardized small scale data sharing implementation. Launching Pocket to save an article from Feedly. Using the actual WhatsApp app to share a screenshot instead of a half-baked, restricted interface. Being able to actually choose which browser I want to use, which is not Safari.

I miss Android.

This is purely an opinion from a user who’s very comfortable with Android and Google, and any suggestions to improve the experience on iOS are welcome.

Featured photo credit: android.com

WhatsApp and Privacy: Get The Facts Right

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 11.10.33 AM
I’m pretty surprised that WhatsApp’s official website hasn’t updated its screenshots.

The hoo-hah over WhatsApp’s changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy has caused quite a stir recently, with many groups calling foul to WhatsApp’s doings as a sly move in an attempt to make more money. I certainly thought that it was a bad move on WhatsApp, but in light of recent discussions I’ve seen from friends in our conversations and on Facebook, I decided to dive into the situation to shed some light on the actual facts (instead of the erroneous claims that is often seen on social media).


Yes, WhatsApp is sharing your phone number with Facebook, but that doesn’t mean random people can see your phone number.

I was initially skeptical about this, but it turns out that this is indeed happening, despite what WhatsApp claims in the “Account” page:

Your chats and phone number will not be shared onto Facebook regardless of this setting.

I believe that it’s clever wordplay intended to misguide users here – “shared onto Facebook” probably means that your personal information will not be, in any way, visible to the news feed, or any feature on Facebook that can be viewed by other users in a social context.

Your phone number, however, will still be imported into Facebook’s systems, through a two-tier approach implemented by the opt-out feature (the checkbox in your Account settings):

  • If you do not opt-out, your mobile number will be used for future value-added services, as quoted from the WhatsApp blog post:

    Whether it’s hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.

    And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.

  • If you opt-out, none of that will happen to you, but your phone number is still being shared into Facebook’s systems for other services that do not impact you on a personal level:

    The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.

While this may potentially introduce spam calls and messages, I think the services that WhatsApp is planning to implement seem exciting enough for me to remain opted in – after all, who doesn’t want their life made simpler?


No, your chats will not be readable by WhatsApp.

In addition, when you and your contacts use the latest version of our app, your messages are end-to-end encrypted by default. When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, only the people you are messaging with can read them – not WhatsApp, Facebook, or anyone else.

That’s that. No privacy concerns here.


Yes, WhatsApp did not honor its promise of upholding privacy as a priority.

When WhatsApp was launched in 2009, its founders promised not to sell your personal information to anyone. They reaffirmed this in 2014. Guess not.


Ultimately, I wasn’t surprised at the bold move – after all, we are using a free service, and WhatsApp using these information to build a better ecosystem (and earn money, I guess) should be expected. Of course, them going back on their word is another matter that will definitely make people lose their trust in WhatsApp.

Mobius Final Fantasy

While everyone is enjoying the mobile craze that is Pokémon GO, I’m one of the few that remains uninterested at the game – primarily because the game felt more like a tech demo without any cognitive benefits to playing it. That’s for another blog post though! For now, I’ve been engrossed in the mobile game Square Enix released a few days ago, that is Mobius Final Fantasy.

final-fantasy-7-remake-crossover-mobius-final-fantasy.jpg.optimal
Photo credit: gamerant.com

Unlike the previous mobile offering from Square Enix, Mobius Final Fantasy drew me into its world due to its fully 3D graphics, a feat that’s seldom accomplished in a free-to-play mobile RPG game. Though my phone (Zenfone 2) wasn’t able to render the game at full quality (and stutters sometimes through the game), the world that Mobius Final Fantasy created, Palamecia, still attracts me with its realistic interpretation of a Final Fantasy-esque world, with its monsters, elements, characters and spells.

Which brings me to one of the most unique aspects of the game – it’s played in portrait! I was pleasantly surprised as most RPG games required you to play the game in landscape, which usually means with two hands. The controls are touch-optimized and I really felt that I was playing a proper mobile game with a touch of the Final Fantasy experience.

Screenshot_20160807-021027
Boss battle against a Fire Dragon.

Battles are turn-based, which might disappoint players who are used to the Active Time Battle (ATB) system that various flagship titles from the series have employed. However, the combat experience still offers enough complexity, in the form of using elemental orbs you acquired from enemies for either offense or defense; using an element for defense will affect the probability of drawing the particular element for subsequent turns, which is a key strategic element that I really enjoy.

“You need to put on some clothes.” Best dialogue ever.

The story is written by the mind behind Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X, and while I have only played the game for a short period of time, the initial setting was intriguing enough to keep me captivated – some of the dialogue is beautifully written.

Outside the main storyline and battle elements, character customization is in the form of a pseudo-deck building system that involves collecting cards from enemies and levelling them up. This aspect of the game is the most confusing and complex to me, as there are many different benefits from equipping a single card and the tutorial kinda vomitted the entire system in one go – it can be intimidating at first but I’m still trying to get the hang of it! At least there’s jobs that you can switch around, which is a nice touch.

Screenshot_20160807-164452
Social elements – renting cards from other players for spells

As mobile games are often played on the go, many of us would switch the sound off, especially if we are not wearing earphones. However, I strongly recommend playing the game with sounds on – composer Mitsuto Suzuki has done a fantastic job in crafting the perfect ambient soundtracks for the game, and most of the dialogue are also voice-acted in pure Final Fantasy fashion. It’s a beautiful, quaint touch that makes Mobius Final Fantasy stand out from the crowded mobile game industry.

Of course, the game isn’t without its flaws – the constant requirement for an internet connection can be infuriating at times, especially when loading times are long. Also, the game has crashed on me multiple times, but luckily not too much to turn me off.


mobius-final-fantasy-logo

Photo credit: androidauthority.net

All in all, I would recommend the game to casual gamers who miss playing old RPG games like the old Final Fantasy playstation titles. You might just find it a more intelligent time waster compared to Pokémon GO. 🙂

Sky Force 2014

Does anyone remember playing Sky Force on their old Symbian phones, when Nokia was the smartphone brand? It was really fun while it lasted – Sky Force was one of the more polished games in the Symbian S60V2 generation of smartphones, among others.

Photo credit: allaboutsymbian.com, androidforums.com

Thus it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered Sky Force 2014, a release on modern smartphones celebrating the original series’ ten year anniversary. I knew I had to try it!

122
The incredible graphics. Image credit: idreams.pl

The first thing about Sky Force 2014 is how incredibly polished it is – the menu interface is slick, the gameplay is fluid, and the graphics leaves no room for error. It’s a beautiful game. I’ve played other shoot ’em ups found on the Android Play Store, and nothing comes close to the overall cohesiveness of Sky Force 2014.

120
Creative level design. Image credit: idreams.pl

The game design is exceptional as well; each stage introduces different enemies with a multitude of firing patterns, as well as bosses each with their unique style. The different difficulty levels for each stage (unlocked with achievements such as destroying 100% of enemy forces) cater to both the casual gamers and the hardcore achievers, and offers replayability. One of the stages (pictured above) even challenges you to win the stage without the ability to fire bullets!

Pictured: Stage selection, hangar for upgrades.

The hangar offers plenty of upgrade options, ranging from the main firing cannons, heat-seeking missiles to single use but powerful laser beams and energy shields. One thing I love about Sky Force 2014 is that while it offers in-game purchases, it’s not pay to win; you can grind enough to get stars to fully upgrade your ship.


There’s a new release of the game (Sky Force Reloaded) and while I haven’t played it yet, I’m confident that the studio will deliver something of quality. If you haven’t tried this game before, give it a shot!

Zopo C2 Ultimate

side

Finally a new phone! I took a risk and opted for a China-branded phone. But do not simply brush off this phone as another one of the China phone replicas – for the Zopo C2 Ultimate has specifications that rivals the best of the handsets today. I purchased it for RM1099 – that’s about S$400+, half the price of an off-contract S4!

box

I purchased the ‘Ultimate’ variant of the phone, which houses a 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6589T quad-core processor. The cores are of the Cortex-A7 variant, which is basically the 4 power-saving cores in the Galaxy S4’s Exynos Octa processor. Not bad, I’m at least half the S4. LOL! The C2 Ultimate also comes with 2GB of RAM (the differentiating factor compared to other China branded smartphones, which has mostly only 1GB), and 32GB of internal storage. Neat.

unbox

My dad purchased the phone over in Puchong, and the shop owner was kind enough to give him a flip cover. Not really my style to use flip covers, but it looks authentic (Zopo branded) and it looks nice. Other than that, the box contains the phone, two batteries (YAY!), instruction manuals, and a earpiece. The earpiece looks cheap and from the reviews I’ve read about online it didn’t really perform, so I won’t even bother trying it.

Design

leftside

This thing is pretty. It actually kind of looks like an oversized iPhone without the home button, but I really don’t mind that. The metallic finish at the sides adds an extra premium flavour. Power button’s on the right side, in a good position for your thumb to press; volume buttons on the left side, 3.5mm jack on top and a lone MicroUSB port below. All in all, looks great.

back

I absolutely love the rubber black plating on the back; it’s bendable so you really don’t need to worry about excessive force breaking the cover’s attaching hooks. All in all, I feel that the C2 really redefines how gorgeous a China-branded smartphone can get (for such a price).

Display

text

The screen is fantastic. I think the LCD was manufactured by Sharp, but colors are vibrant, brightness is amazing and text looks crystal clear without any hint of pixelation. I dare say that it probably looks as nice as the current top devices, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

The responsiveness of the touchscreen, however, leaves something to be desired. It’s definitely not as responsive as normal phones I’ve used, not registering touches say 20% of the time, and having double taps when I tap once, once in a while. It’s getting irritating sometimes especially when you use the keyboard (two letters at once), but I’ve read that it’s a software problem. Hopefully the OTA updates will fix it soon. (Yes, there’s OTA!)

Normal use

pokemon

The C2 blazes through whatever I throw to it – heck, even 1080p MKV videos! I was really surprised that the MT6589T processor could handle Full HD videos, and it definitely makes use of the beautiful screen. Otherwise, I installed my normal ‘social apps suite’ – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, LINE etc, and they all work well with little to no delay when switching between apps.

My variant of Zopo C2 runs on ‘stock’ Android 4.2 (some variants runs the China Aliyun OS). ‘Stock’ because there’s little modifications here and there, such as the limited amount of Developer Options; I can’t turn on animations for some weird reason. Must be them trying to hide the low performance of the SGX544 graphics chip. Otherwise, everything is okay, ‘cept I wished that the phone came rooted as stock Android, well, is stock – little to no customizations.

I haven’t played any games as I’m not really a mobile gamer, so I’ll post back some results next time if I did install one.

Camera

camera

The C2 houses a 13-megapixel shooter at the rear and a 5-megapixel (!!) shooter in front. I’m not very particular about image quality as I think most pictures look okay with Instagram filters nowadays (yes, I’m lazy), but the shots from the C2 look good enough for me. Shutter speed seems to be on the low side though, as I’ve been getting  blurry shots every now and then. The default camera app (non-stock) even features a face enhancement technology that makes your eyes bigger and complexion better – check out my brother’s face here, lol.

Battery

I was a little disappointed with the battery, as it didn’t seem to hold its own long enough even without a GSM/3G connection – on WiFi use I seem to run out of juice after about 8 hours of moderate use. Haven’t had the chance to test out 3G battery usage as I’m still in Malaysia so I’ll see about that!

frontal

All in all, I’m not complaining – RM1099 is a steal for a phone of this build quality. And I’m sure I can find more ways to customize it after I’ve rooted it, but not so fast as I’ll void my warranty for doing so. Of course, you will lose the tech support that you normally get when you buy phones that are popular, but if you’re adventurous, I think the Zopo C2 Ultimate is definitely a recommended buy.