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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Secret

It's been a while since I made a decent post (and I was on such a roll). The fact is I have loads of stuff I want to post about, but I'm really busy due to a pretty major change in my life. I officially resigned at 5DT last week, and I'll end my time here at the end of July. As a result I've been hectically trying to finish off my outstanding stuff here.

I can't say much about my new job. I can say I wasn't job hunting but when the offer came up I knew I had to give it serious consideration. I lost lots of sleep, and in the end decided it's a chance I can't pass up. All I can say is, it'll bring me back to the industry I love :)

Right, so with that out of the way and with no real answers given, lets move on!

Another toy

Two weeks ago I was up for an upgrade on my phone contract (the N95 wasn't on my contract, it was a gift :)) and I went and picked up my new phone, a Sony Ericsson W850i. I have been eyeing the white model for some time, but it turns out it's not possible to get it on Vodacom except through Nashua Mobile in SA. So black it is. Obviously the W850 doesn't match up to the N95 on functionality, but it's no slacker either.

Being one of the SE Walkman range, a lot of emphasis is placed on it's music ability, so it obviously has a decent music player (though far from perfect) and FM radio. The bundled 1Gb memory stick duo holds a sizeable amount of music, in my case shuffled in with WinAmp's excellent portable player support. While the music player has support for internet radio as well, I'm not about to run my bill up streaming audio over 3G ;)

The included web browser is one of the better standard issue ones I have seen, with fullscreen support and the ability to view pages in landscape instead of portrait mode. I have installed Opera Min of course, but have found myself using the built in browser far more often. It does have an RSS client as well which is nice, but until the day I can get all my feeds from Google Reader as a single feed I will stick to a reader bookmark.

The calendar has support for OTA synchronization, and GooSync works perfectly on it. There is no support for contact synchronization though, which is a pity. Apparently this is a common gripe with the SE UIQ operating system. Speaking of the OS, Nokia could learn a lot from SE's operating system. It is far snappier and more stable than the Symbian OS running on Nokia's latest devices.

The 2 megapixel camera is a far cry from the N95's 5 megapixel one, and there is no autofocus, but one area where the W850 seems to be way better is in the brightness and colour quality of the pictures it takes.

At this stage I've taken to using the SE during the week when I don't need the Nokia's extra features, and the N95 on weekends when the extra bits come in handy being away from a PC. Yeah I know, I'm such a geek :p

Something Fishy

I was quite surprised at how tough it was to find fun, quality 3D games which take advantage of the 3D hardware in the N95. In the end what I did find was a group called Fishlabs that make 3D games for Java. Now this doesn't utilize the N95's acceleration hardware (there were demos available for both my phones) but they do have some really excellent games.

They use a combination of a decent engine (the Abyss engine, go figure :p ), good art direction to hide device rendering limitations and gameplay and controls designed to fit a mobile phone well to create some of the best mobile games I have seen in a while. I ended up buying a copy of their submarine shooter/trader Deep 3D. It feels a lot like X Beyond the Frontier and has a satisfying mix of action and strategy-just what is needed for a good mobile experience. It's east to start up the game, work through a quick mission, save and exit in a couple of minutes.

Block this!

Of course  I had to get a decent game for my SE as well, and ended up being pleasantly surprised by a game which I never really got into on other platforms: Lumines. When I bought the original PSP Lumines game when it first came out, I felt it was a terribly over-hyped and over-priced game. The Xbox Live Lumines fiasco left an even worse taste in my mouth, with the game being broken up and being sold piecemeal for what amounted to the price of a full retail title. I could just never swallow paying the price of a full blown arcade game for a block dropper.

Well Lumines mobile fixes all of that. For less than half the price of the cheapest XBLA game, you get a fun, polished block dropper with loads of gameplay. The only thing missing is a bluetooth multiplayer mode-which I would definitely have paid extra for, but as it stands Lumines mobile is a great buy.

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