Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Motorola Moto G2 – Poor Man’s Nexus Now Grown Up!

Pros : Stereo Speakers, Value for money, Latest android updates, Specifications, Camera, Screen quality, Gorilla Glass protection, Build quality 

Cons : Same old processor and memory, Non-removable battery



The Motorola Moto G2 has been launched in India in September 2014 with a price tag of Rs. 12,999. The successor of first gen Moto G is powered by Qualcomm MSM8226 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 Processor, Adreno 305 GPU, 1 GB RAM, 8GB Internal memory with SD card support upto 32GB, Dual SIM support, 8MP primary camera + 2MP secondary camera, 5 inches IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen and Android 4.4.4 KitKat Operating System.

Prologue

It was February 2014 when mobile phone market was suddenly revolutionised and entry level smartphone segment was stirred with launch of first gen Motorola Moto G. The result was obvious – the little Moto G was a huge success, thanks to its excellent value for money pricing, good specifications and best part was the guaranteed OS updates right from Google with vanilla android experience. But as we know, smartphone industry is very dynamic, models come and go in the blink of an eye. Within 8-9 months of its launch in India, Motorola upgraded the Moto G with its second gen avtaar which has slightly bigger screen, stereo speakers, and bigger front & back cameras with same chipset, processor and memory! Before reviewing the phone I would just say – Motorola Moto G2 is the best phone for a first time smartphone buyer! Let’s take a closer look at it to find out why is it so.

Screen & Build Quality

The biggest change in Motorola Moto G2 as compared to its predecessor is the screen real estate. Moto G2 sports a 5.0 inches IPS LCD capacitive multi-touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. It has resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels with ~294 ppi pixel density. Screen quality is very good with nice touch response. Bigger screen makes reading text much easier. Day time viewing is also decent as compared to some other phones even in higher segment. 5 inch screen is pretty standard these days and most people prefer to have a bigger phone rather than having a separate tablet device for reading purposes. In the budget of 13k, Moto G2 is one of the best 5” screen phone in the market. Though the screen is protected with gorilla glass 3 protection, it is better to have screen guard cover. 




Motorola Moto G2 has a very nice build quality. Even the first gen was excellent in this regard and G2 takes the level even further. Moto G2 rear is made up of non-removable good quality plastic body which is, however, scratch prone. This necessitates the phone users to have a body cover for it.  On the back there is an 8MP primary camera with Motorola logo imprinted in the middle. On the front, there is a 2 MP secondary camera, with couple of sensors. Moto G2 also comes with stereo speakers that are integrated in the both extreme corners of the screen. Weighing around 150 grams, Moto G2 is tad heavier than its predecessor but build quality and feel is premium and no signs of cost cuttings are there. With dimensions of 141.50 x 70.70 x 10.99, Moto G2 still appears to have compact footprint. 

Camera, Buttons & Call/Audio Quality

Another enhancement as compared to previous gen is in the camera department. Moto G now comes with 8 MP primary camera and 2 MP front camera. Image quality has also increased with the increased mega pixel count. Photos and videos taken from Moto G2 are quite decent in quality and will suffice day to day clicking needs. Front camera is good enough for clear video calls. The 8 MP shooter captures images with size of  3264 x 2448 pixels. It has basic features like autofocus, LED flash, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama.  The camera is capable to record 720p@30fps with stereo sound. 





Moto G2 comes with dual front stereo speakers. The audio quality is decent, though when compared to sound quality of stereo speakers which comes in HTC phones, Moto G2 needs lots of improvement. Call quality is very good. There are two buttons on the left side of the phone – power button and volume rocker. Button quality is good. Moto G2 comes with standard USB cum charging port along with 3.5 mm audio jack. The standard earphones bundled along with Moto G2 are of good quality. Moto G2 comes with wired charger with no separate USB cable. 


OS/Performance and Battery

This is one department where Moto G2 has no improvement. Same old processor and memory combo. It is powered by Qualcomm MSM8226 Snapdragon 400 based Chipset, Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, 1 GB RAM, Adreno 305 GPU, 8 GB internal storage capacity with SD card support and Android 4.4.4 KitKat Operating system (out of the box) upgradable to Android 5.0 Lollipop OS. Though performance wise, Moto G had never any issues. It can play games like real racing without any hitch. Moto G2 now comes with SD card support upto 32 GB which was not available in its predecessor. Performance is smooth for day to day smartphone usage. Quadrant benchmark score of Moto G2 is 8821. There is no overheating problem on Moto G2. It would have been even better if Motorola increased the clock speed of the processor to at least 1.4 Ghz and little bump in physical memory also to make it future proof. 




Moto G2 comes with Android 4.4.4 KitKat operating system which will be very soon upgraded to Android 5.0 lollipop OS with over the air update. Motorola has not done any major modification to the OS and users can enjoy plain vanilla Android experience without any 3rd party UI layer.  All standard Android OS apps are available including gallery, camera UI, dialer, phone book etc. 
Moto G2 comes with same Non-removable Li-Ion 2070 mAh battery which Motorola claims to last full day of use. Though with increase in screen real estate and more powerful camera, the overall backup time has reduced a bit. On a full charge it does last for complete day wth moderate basic usage. 






Motorola Moto G2 is exclusively available on flipkart and it comes with 1 year manufacturer warranty for Phone and in-box accessories. 

Verdict 

 There are many reasons for Motorola Moto G2 to be a big market success which includes stock android experience, guaranteed timely OS updates, value for money pricing and decent configurations to name a few. Moto G2 ticks all the right boxes which are necessary in a smartphone which makes it a first choice for any person who wants to upgrade from their existing conventional phones or even anyone who wants a new phone for general smartphone usage and have peace of mind.  

Ratings (out of 5 stars)

Build Quality ****
Screen *****
Camera *****
Performance ****
Value for Money *****

Overall *****

Specs at a glance

Screen
5.0 inches IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels and ~294 ppi pixel density
Processor

GPU
Qualcomm MSM8226 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 Processor
Adreno 305 GPU
RAM
1 GB RAM
Storage
8 GB internal memory with microSD support up to 128 GB
Camera
8 MP Primary camera + 2 MP Secondary camera
Network Type
Dual SIM, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 GPS, GPRS/EDGE, 3G, FM Radio
Battery
Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery
OS
Android 4.4.4 KitKat
Dimensions
141.5 x 70.7 x 11 mm
Weight
149 grams

Monday, November 17, 2014

Are You Game? Start a career as a Game Designer!

All of us love playing games – be it on our mobiles, PCs or PlayStations consoles. Regardless of age/gender, everyone enjoys gaming no matter if the person is child, adult, women or old. Games are one of the sources of entertainment, relaxation and enjoyment in our hectic lives.
Gaming Industry has gained immense popularity ever since smartphones came into existence. But have you ever wondered how such a complex piece of software is made? What kind of knowledge and skills are required to make a “good” game? Well, if you have ever wanted to get into the game of making a game, maybe you would want to look at game design as a career. Ever thought of becoming a Game designer? Interested? Read on!

What it is, what it isn’t

Let’s take an example of a popular game Angry Birds to understand game designing. Game design is the art of knowing how hurling disgruntled birds on a stack of pigs can actually be fun for millions of people on the planet while making a franchise worth billions of dollars. Well, kind of.
Game Designing is the art of visualising the storyline, characters and rules of a game; while it is the science and art of examining the psychology of the player and his relationship with the game. In short, game design involves figuring out what will get a player hooked to a game and what won’t… and creating games that will work. There are so many games which are successful and there are many which are failures and that’s all because of the art of designing.

So who is the mastermind that uses game design theories to create a successful game? the Game Designer!
A Game Designer is someone who has a vision of what the game is as it goes through iterations during its development cycle.
Any game you play on your phone, PC or console are result of the brainchild of various game designers. A game designer is to a game what a director is to a movie—he can make or break a game concept. Game designing involves working on video games for all kind of devices like PC/Console/Smartphones.

Game Design isn’t Programming. Game designers don’t do the programming in anyway, so don’t confuse game designing with game programming. Both are completely different.  If you have been a die-hard gamer and you think you would want to make games because you can play games—you would be disappointed to know that it doesn’t qualify you to become a Game Designer. But of course if you are a passionate gamer then that will be very useful in your career.  


State of the Gaming Industry

The gaming industry in India is about to hit a boom. It has already gained the momentum with the craze of android games on smartphones. However, the production houses in India are mostly into smaller scale projects on platforms like Web / Mobile / Flash / HTML5. But no need to be disheartened, Many new players are coming up with  bigger studios who work on cutting-edge 3D games for PC / PS3 as well. And the rest of the studios have essentially applied the Indian IT industry model of taking outsourced projects to sustain their businesses.

Qualities of Game Designers

Apart from knowledge of designing games, a Game Designer is expected to have understanding of Art / Aesthetics, Programming, Project Management, Culture, Languages, Sound Design / Music etc. While it is not necessary to have all the qualities but since You will be the only person who will have a complete vision of the game in the team and you will have to work with Programmers, Artists, Project Managers and even other Designers to bring the game to life. Knowing a thing or two about such topics removes unwanted friction in communication. And since you are a creative person, it is desirable for you to also have a reasonable amount of exposure to varied media such as Movies, Music, Comics, Animations, TV Shows etc. At the end of the day, making games is a business and you are supposed to make a game that people will be willing to pay for.

Work Routine

Software engineering concepts plays its part here. Before the start of any project, Game Designers typically make documents called Game Concept which are small 1 or 2 page documents describing - say - a new idea for a first person shooting game. This is the time when a Game Designer has to be an excellent salesman with remarkable showmanship—enough to convince his co-workers and the investors alike. Once a game enters production, Designers work on a document called the GDD or the Game Design Document. A GDD, is very important document for the success of entire game project. It describes everything about the game right from the story to the UI to the Characters to the Gameplay. The purpose of such a document is to communicate to the entire production team as to how the game will play. So, is the game coder confused on how high the character should jump, how fast a character runs, how to simulate real life events like shooting? The Level Designer is confused how many levels should be there in the game? The Artist wants to know how the background should be. All these questions would be normally answered in a Game Design Document.

When to Learn? How to Learn? Where to Learn?

Age is no bar to enter gaming industry. Neither you have to an IITian or have a mark sheet over 90% marks in your board exams. All that matters is passion coupled with practicality. If you are determined, you could always explore by learning things on your own. There is NO standard pay scale for a Game Designer. It may range between 20k a month to more than a lakh depending on your skill. And if the very first question you ask is “What is the package?” you won’t be treated very well. It could be your second question, this industry expects passion first!
In India, your options are little limited to learn game designing exhaustively. DSK Supinfocom, Pune is one premier game designing institute in India which an aspirant should look for. The reason being their approach towards educating you in this craft is 100% practical. They train students via projects (that become a part of student’s portfolio) and by the time a person graduate – he/she know how to work in teams and make projects possible and design really good games. Their faculty comprises professionals from western gaming industry and they seem to know what they are doing. Digipen, VFS and CMU are other schools abroad that will provide the kind of education that you need. Also, try to make sure the program is practical and that it is at least two years in duration.

Future Opportunities – Is the sky really the limit?

So, you are a Game Designer now. Where do you go from here? Well, two things come into play at this stage. The first is knowing that you will never stop learning as a Designer. The second is knowing what you want from your career. Do you see yourself making this unique game no one else seems to have made? Go ahead, gather a team, inspire others with your idea and start working on the project. You can be a freelancer also and start your own designing studio and work on outsourced projects. Get a prototype running and approach a publisher (in the same way a writer would approach one for funding / marketing / development / distribution) to pitch your game to. Even though this stage normally comes in at 3-10 years of work experience, depending on how enterprising you are, you don’t always need to start your own company to see your ideas come to fruition. If the idea is good and you sell it well, your studio could fund it. But nothing should stop you from doing the same either. 

*With inputs from tech magazine

Saturday, October 18, 2014

‘Gadgets hi Gadgets’ – The Festivity err Gadgetry Saga!


“The dhamaka of technology”, “Diwali sale bonanza”, “Diwali aayi, Sabne bazar me bhari bachat paayi” etc etc etc

Ever since the festival season has begun, I am seeing such type of numerous advertisements with catchy, attractive, sometimes annoying captions & taglines both in newspapers & televisions. And it’s obviously not for the first time, every year with festivals season around the corner, companies including retailers and ecommerce giants leave no stone unturned to promote their products by luring customers with offers, extended warranties on products, schemes, 0% interest loan for repayment of existing car/bike loan ;p etc.

Out of all categories of items on sale including products like groceries, cloths, furniture, footwear, automobiles and whatever possible consumer related items, one segment rules the market especially during festival season which is the ‘Electronics’ segment. From top down bottom up whatever kind of washing machines to curved televisions to most expensive recent mobile phone on planet, these products are featured so exhaustively to seduce customers which often leave many people broke on Diwali to even buy diyas and sweets! The market is flooded with ‘n’ number of products, models and its variants that if someone wants to count the number or store distinct electronic and gadget related products then even an 'unsigned long’ data type in ANSI C will go out of bound! And, this is NO exaggeration.

Gadgets, mobile phones, tablets, televisions, are dominating our lives more than H2O and O2 available on planet. We are being controlled and circumscribed by devices programmed in java, sporting integrated circuit boards with no feelings and emotions and just kind of ‘hardwired’ to broadcast and present the content or whatever we intends to as per the instructions flashed in their ROMs. I am in no way inimical to gadgets and electronics; But I often wonder where we all are heading to with all this. Every year, every month and every day something new is coming up and to be able to catch up with latest tech, the kind of money one requires to buy them, will either leave someone without a house to put and flaunt those gadgets in or probably leave someone in financial memory leak condition and money stack underflow situation which is often only solved by switching of the system - if you know what I mean. 

The race to stay up to date in the world of technology and stay connected with acquaintances (I won’t use the word ‘friend’ which has lost its meaning ever since social media services like facebook started owning that term) is actually making people to lose friendship even with themselves. The urge to show off makes people sell their existing stuff to buy new which loses its financial value faster than a 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch ice cube melting to water in room temperature. There is hardly anyone really happy while wishing someone happy Diwali using their iPhones or Note smartphones! 

The point of rant is not to demotivate or demote gadgetry! Heck! Even I am a tech freak. What I am trying to convey is that people should and must use their senses before upgrading their less than a year old iPhone, Nexus or Note, LEDs,and whatever other appliances  to their respective latest iteration which will be again superseded by their successive iteration, probably in another 10-11 months. There is no point of flaunting with the latest iPhone or Note when someone is not content with the beauty of life and gifts of nature. Some buy second hand stuff of iPhones, HTC Ones etc trying to keep up with flagship models of these smartphones to feed their false egos and achieve fake sense of satisfaction. And I haven’t even mentioned about the concern of e-waste which itself is now becoming a field of study considering it’s unmanageable state.

Technology is intended for making us connected with our near and dear ones. It was invented for a purpose. Sadly that purpose is lost somewhere amidst the mad race of ‘octa core’ ’64 bit’ processors, gigs of RAM, big price tags but with little love and affection. Instead of allowing technology to mess our lives and tangle it with complexities, Let us celebrate this Diwali by appreciating technology for making our lives more beautiful than it ever was for our past generations.

 Wishing all my blog readers/visitors a very happy and tech-savvy Diwali! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: HTC Desire 816 – For the Love of Photography!

Pros: 13MP primary camera + 5MP secondary camera with BSI sensor, HTC  Sense 6.0, Front firing amp powered stereo speakers, Design, Dual Sim with 3g support, Screen quality.

Cons: Tad pricier, No Gorilla Glass protection, Slightly big in size



The HTC Desire 816 has been launched in India in June 2014 with a price tag of Rs. 25,000. The mid range flagship phablet is powered by Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 chipset, Adreno 305 GPU, 1.5 GB RAM, 8GB Internal memory with SD card support upto 128GB, Dual SIM support (3G), 13MP primary camera + 5MP secondary camera with BSI sensor, 5.5 inches Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen and Android 4.4.2 KitKat Operating System coupled with HTC Sense 6.0.



Prologue

The mid-range smartphone segment is flooded with number of devices but there are very few phones which demands attention from the consumer. With a budget of 25k Nexus 5 is still the best choice in the segment with class apart hardware and guaranteed software updates convenience. But Nexus 5 suffers from average battery life and camera quality. If anyone is in market with a budget of 25k and wants a phone with extremely good camera then Nexus 5 will disappoint. HTC Desire 816 is a dual sim phablet with not a stellar  hardware configuration but comes with brilliant front and rear camera. So in the game of mind versus heart i.e. Nexus 5 versus HTC 816 – heart won. The HTC Desire 816 is most eligible android phone in 25k category when it comes to a good camera as a prime requirement.

Screen & Build Quality

With screen real estate of 5.5inch HTC Desire 816 is actually a phablet which doesn’t actually feels like one. It is quite light weight considering the category to which it belongs. Like most HTCs, 816 is a unibody design though instead of metallic body this one is of fine grade plastic. Design of the phone is inspired from HTCs flagship M8 and from a distance both looks quite a same. With dual speaker grills on the front and please all offend none design strategy HTC Desire 816 is a gorgeous phone. After Apple, HTC has the best looking phone out in the market. The build quality is at par but it could have been a lot better if it was provided with a metallic enclosure. HTC 816 looks and feels absolutely premium and there is hardly any complaint in this regard. There is a 5MP front camera placed above the screen along with a sensor. The screen is complemented with two stereo speakers placed at extreme opposite panels surrounding the screen. It weighs around 165 grams and measures at 78.7x156.6x7.9 mm. It is thin and light weight but being a phablet quite noticeable when carrying in trousers/jeans pockets. 




HTC 816 has a 5.5 inch Super LCD2 capacitive multi-touchscreen with 16M colors, 720 x 1280 pixels resolution and ~267 ppi pixel density. Disappointingly and strangely, 816 is not provided with Gorilla Glass protection. So one must better use a good quality screen protector and possibly a flip cover for extra screen protection. Touch response is pretty decent with daytime visibility at par. Viewing angles are also quite decent. Now being a phablet, HTC 816 offers great reading, watching photos and movies experience. Color and contrast saturation levels are good. Screen brightness levels can be adjusted via widget in quick settings menu section. The home, back and menu buttons are on screen type which facilitates extra screen real state by doing away with physical capacitive touch buttons for the same.

Camera, Buttons & Call/Audio Quality

Powered by 13 MP primary camera and 5 MP secondary camera, HTC 816 is one of the best phone in upper mid range android smartphone category. The primary 13 MP f/2.2, 28 mm Lens captures images at max 4160 x 3120 pixels. Both front and back cameras are supplemented by BSI sensor.    Other camera features includes autofocus, LED flash, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, simultaneous HD video & image recording and HDR. Video recording is supported at 1080p@30fps, 720p@60fps. Secondary 5MP front camera is also powered by BSI sensor and can record videos at 1080p.  Both cameras offers brilliant picture quality. Colour reproduction, saturation levels in pictures are respectable. Compared with the camera of Nexus 5, HTC 816 has stellar camera. Much ahead in terms of image quality. Though it doesn’t has a dedicated camera button but the volume rocker and power button can be customised to do the dedicate photography functions including clicking and zoom out & zoom in. Front camera can record broadcast quality videos. Some of the sample shots are shared in the review.




HTC 816 comes with dual front stereo speakers. Both speakers are powered by amp which assures exceptional audio quality. Coupled with a 5.5 inch screen, HTC 816 is like a mini TV when it comes to watching movies, playing games and doing similar stuff. The sound quality is very nice with each beat and string audible. The speakers are way better than many external USB powered speakers and laptop speakers. Call audio quality is also nice and loud at both ends. Desire 816 has power button and volume rocker buttons placed on the left side of the phone and sim card/sd card tray opening on the right side of the phone.

Sample indoor shots in low cfl light






OS/Performance and Battery

HTC desire 816 comes with a Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 chipset, Adreno 305 GPU, 1.5 GB RAM, 8GB Internal memory with SD card support upto 128GB, Dual SIM support(3G) and Android 4.4.2 KitKat Operating System coupled with HTC Sense 6.0. Now on paper, the specs might appears to be modest but real world performance is at par. There is zero lag or hitch during app switching or playing games. Though when playing high end graphic intensive games the frame rate drop will be a little significant. Games like real racing and asphalt plays pretty fine on 816. The device does gets a bit warm upon extended period of gaming. 816 scores respectable numbers on quadrant and antunu benchmark apps.













HTC has promised to deliver updates of the next android iteration within 90days of official release so one can expect Android L on this device pretty soon once it is released. HTC Sense 6.0 makes Android 4.4.2 even gorgeous with its brilliant offering in terms of Blink feed, HTC widgets and more. HTC has provided lots of pre installed apps out of which many can be disabled. Overall Android EcoSystem is nicely maintained with more than half of the system resources free most of the time. Standard HTC music player provides ‘BoomSound’ audio enhancing feature just like Beats Audio which came in earlier versions of HTC phones. Dialer app looks very nice and functional. Same is for the SMS app. Default HTC web browser is pretty capable. One will not miss Chrome. Camera app has lots of settings and functionalities to play around including lots of features like make up mode which enhances picture quality and many picture enhancement tools.











 Coming to the battery life, considering the fact that Desire 816 is a phablet with decent hardware and powerful camera, battery life is quite satisfactory. On a full charge it will easily last you for a day with enough juice left to survive another day with average use of the phone. HTC 816 has a non-removable  Li-Po 2600 mAh battery. HTC provides 1 year manufacturer warranty for Phone and 6 months warranty for in the box accessories.

Verdict

 HTC Desire 816 ticks most of the boxes which includes decent performance, exceptional camera & speakers and phablet screen experience.  It could have been a couple of grands cheaper and came with a slightly powerful GPU chipset to support full-fledged gaming experience. If someone is in market looking for a dual sim phablet with good camera quality as prime requirement, HTC Desire 816 should be on their shopping list.

Ratings (out of 5 stars)

Build Quality ****
Screen ****
Camera *****
Performance ****
Value for Money ***

Overall *****

Specs at a glance

Screen
5.5 inches Super LCD2 capacitive multi-touchscreen with resolution of 540 x 960 pixels and ~256 ppi pixel density
Processor

GPU
Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 chipset
Adreno 305 GPU
RAM
1.5 GB RAM
Storage
8 GB internal memory with microSD support up to 128 GB
Camera
13 MP Primary camera + 5 MP Secondary camera
Network Type
Dual SIM, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 GPS,HSDPA,DLNA, Hotspot, 3G, FM Radio
Battery
Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery
OS
Android 4.4.2 KitKat
Dimensions
156.6 x 78.7 x 7.9 mm
Weight
165 grams