I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard that movie is awesome. It’s awesomeness is all over the place. Whatever.” But do you truly know how good this movie is? If you haven’t seen it, then you don’t. Which is why you should see it.

But I want to give you more than just vague reasons that may or may not resemble some semblance of logic. This is not a review, because I don’t do reviews. When people do reviews, they try REAALLY hard to find this that are bad about something because they want to seem unbiased. I think that’s dumb. This is me telling you why you should see this movie while trying to avoid spoilers. It’s going to be hard, but it might be entertaining.

Fun Is Not Dead

Do you remember the first Captain America movie? Probably not. It came out three years ago, and we all know you can’t even remember that we ever had a president other than Obama. I understand. You probably don’t remember that movie because it wasn’t really an amazing movie, but it was a good movie and exactly what it should be. Anyone with a passing familiarity of Captain America comics can tell you that Captain America is supposed to be silly, campy and filled with kicking Nazi ass. What’s the problem with that? Well, campy and fun is something that doesn’t quite fly in American theaters today, unless you’re Quentin Tarentino and you throw in a bunch of gratuitous violence.

You know you loved how he fucked with history

Unfortunately for Captain America, the story is generally pretty family friendly. But you can’t just throw Captain America into a Christopher Nolan style gritty realism and expect it to work. I mean, come on. Have you seen his costume?

It’s goddamned ridiculous. If this guy was in high school, he’d get his ass kicked. I mean, he throws a goddamned shield at people. That’s his only weapon. He has the letter A on his forehead because with all the red, white and blue and stars, you’d never know he was representing America. Besides the shield, his only power is superhuman strength due to roiding up like a madman (although it was military roids, so they’re more potent and legit). Iron Man has the power of super engineering smarts and a mech suit. The Hulk has animalistic desires and a green Mr. Hyde. Thor is a fucking god. What does Captain America have? A shield a American pride? Are you kidding me?

When I first heard about the original Captain America movie, I had to admit, that I didn’t give much of a shit. I followed the above lines of logic and figured Captain America was always going to be dumb, but now I kind of regret that. I love campy and ridiculous. I love all the Wolfenstein games. I loved Indiana Jones. I love the Adam West Batman (to an extent). I even (gasp) kinda enjoyed the Joel Schumacher Batman movies. Yes they were terrible, but they were fun, and I think sometime in the early 2000′s we all suddenly developed major depression and decided that fun was no longer in fashion. Joel Schumacher got shipped off to an insane asylum, and we started getting movies and TV shows that took themselves way too seriously, culminating into anything from Christopher Nolan, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, and deciding that Spiderman needs something more than Toby McGuire’s wackiness.

Now, is this trend a bad thing? Not really. You may notice that all four examples are actually really good movies or TV shows. But the problem is that they all make you feel like you should kill yourself or the person sitting next to you out of fear that they will kill you. These things do not make you happy inside. They are good because they’re important, not because they’re fun. And I miss fun.

So to bring this rant back around, I think the first Captain America was an incredibly great attempt at bringing the happy campy Nazi ass-kicking of Captain America to modern audiences. It was deep enough to make you care about the characters, but ultimately it was a fantasy set in a world that is very much different from ours. It was Nazi’s sure, but it was really Hydra. The villain was a guy with a red fucking head. And that costume. They modernized the costume, but it still looks ridiculous. He still hits people with a shield. But damn it, that movie sold the campiness. But most importantly, the first movie brought Cap into the modern age, and contrasted today with the “simplicity” of the 40′s. In the span of 2 hours, the writers created a golden age, set up an international conspiracy, gave you a great character that you learn to love, and then rocketed you back to reality and gave you nostalgia for the past. That’s brilliant storytelling and it did exactly what it needed to do. Now I understand Captain America as a relic of a simpler time who represents when we still had fun and weren’t so goddamned depressed. That movie made me happy, but in the end of that movie, I worried about what would happen to Captain America when he was brought into this age where everyone is depressed and fun is no longer had.

Well, he does a lot of this. He kicks ass for S.H.I.E.L.D. because he believes in his friend Sam Jackson and what he says. It’s a more complicated world, but he does what he thinks is right. In the back of his mind, though, he’s considering everything he does. Things aren’t quite right. And it’s the fact that he is a relic and believes in the things that he does that actually helps him get through the events of the movie.

 

 

Interestingly, he doesn’t actually wear this costume for most of the movie. If you’ve seen the original movie, you’ll know that this costume represents the morality, simplicity, and old school values that gave Captain America such appeal in his prior time line. As with every superhero, Captain America’s suit represents that he is more than a man, and I feel that is made so clear in this movie. When things are shadowy, dark, gritty, Nolan-esque, he’s not wearing the suit. But when he finally figures out who the true bad guys are and decides to kick some ass, he returns to the suit and goes all Nazi ass-kickin’ on everyone.

Basically what I’m saying is that where the original movie was a glorious return to campy fun, this movie is an evolution of that theme. It brings the fun that we’ve all been missing into a world that’s truly dark, gritty, and confusing. It satisfies our need for intrigue and drama, yet finishes with the good guys winning and the bad guys getting what they deserved. I wouldn’t say that the plots that are created are finalized in any sense, sense there’s a bit of a thematic cliffhanger at the end of the movie, but it ends in a satisfying way, and I think that’s important.

The Winter Soldier

I don’t know how obvious this is to everyone, but the title actually reveals the two people that you will leave the theater being impressed by. Captain America and The Winter Solider. I would forgive those who don’t know anything about Captain America comics for thinking The Winter Solider was somehow a secondary name for Captain America, but The Winter Solider is actually as character all on his own. And my gods is he glorious. As much as I loved William Defoe as Red Skull, that villain is nothing compared to the sheer badassery that is represented by The Winter Soldier.


I mean, well I guess Red Skull looks pretty frightening. But Red Skull also looks goddamned ridiculous (I feel like I could punch him in the head and cause paralyzing pain), whereas The Winter Soldier looks like a badass assassin. Unfortunately, this picture doesn’t truly capture his badassery, and I haven’t found a picture that does. But this character is like Heath Ledger Joker level awesome. Okay, not nearly that awesome, but this is truly the most bad ass villain that I’ve ever seen (Joker is more insane than bad ass), and we’ve seen some bad ass villains in the last 15 years.

But I think the best thing about this character is that he represents the very dark and confusing world that Captain America fights against in this movie. Choosing him as the lone super villain (unless you consider Batroc the Leaper in the first 10 minutes of the movie) in this movie was brilliant, not only thematically, but also developmentally. I don’t really want to go into spoiler territory in order to tell you why this villain is insanely important, but you’ll know once you see the movie.

You Need To See This If You Ever Want to See Another Marvel Movie

Yeah, that’s a sensational title, but I don’t care. It’s goddamned true. This is an important movie for the overall Marvel universe. If you didn’t know already, it’s not just Captain America. He’s also hanging around with Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow, Nick Fury, a new potential Avenger’s member named Falcon, and a whole bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D dudes. There are even passing references to The Hulk and Iron Man, although they don’t appear in the film. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I just want to say that the world you thought you knew at the end of The Avengers gets completely flipped around at the end of The Winter Soldier. Nothing is the same. If you watched The Avengers, and then watched the upcoming sequel without watching this movie, I’ll bet you’d be really fucking confused. Oh and by the way, all these changes are all due to Captain America. He personally changes the world in this movie.

But even more than that, there are some important bits of character development in this movie. Black Widows has always been an interesting character for me. She’s deep in the shadows, doing things that nobody really should, but while she deals with them, it’s clear that she has some deep emotional scars because of the things she’s done and because of her past. Well, let’s just say that hanging around with Cap gives her a real chance at redemption. She doesn’t really get there quite yet in the movie, but I think she’ll be able to sleep better at the end of the movie. Suffice to say, she’s a better person because of the influence of Cap.

There’s also Falcon. I won’t post a picture of this character, because it might be a bit spoilery (he doesn’t really become Falcon until near the end of the movie). I have no idea if he’ll be in the next Avenger’s movie, but I wouldn’t be surprised. But either way, getting introduced to this character might be a good idea. I have a feeling he’ll be important.

And then there’s The Winter Solider himself. Will he be important in the future? Absolutely. I have no doubt that the third Captain America movie will have a lot to do with this guy. Is it odd to have two movies based on the same villain? Absolutely, but The Winter Soldier is so important and so deep that I think he can fill the role quite well. Besides, although I didn’t lie before, I was cagey. There is only one supervillian in this movie, but the main villain is something else entirely which isn’t even a single man. This movie does not focus entirely on The Winter Soldier.

This Article Is Too Fucking Long For You to Be Reading And Not Watching the Movie

Nuff said.

 

While most of us were sleeping last night, Nokia was hard at work at Nokia World in Abu Dabi announcing new devices. They also announced many other things, but I’ll talk about their other announcements in future articles.

Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia-Lumia-1520-cs-Samsung-Galaxy-Note-3-vs-HTC-One-Max1

The 1520 was the star of the show this morning. This is Nokia’s newest spec monster, but it goes in a slightly different direction than the 1020. I see this device as more of a replacement of the year old Lumia 920 than the 1020. The spec barf is below. So, notice a few things on the specs. First of all, its clear this phone’s main selling point is going to be its huge 6 inch screen and 1080p resolution. This will be the first truly high definition phablet for Windows Phone. Also notice in the pic below how the extra pixels are used on the start screen: You’ll essentially get two additional medium tile columns.

Nokia-Lumia-1520-2

While not a huge deal, the extra glance and go info will be nice for some. The extra pixels will also make text, pictures, and videos a bit more crisp, but I don’t expect a very noticeable difference from the existing 720p screens. Also of note is this model is sporting an IPS LCD instead of the AMOLED screens present in the more recent devices. You may remember that the venerable 920 had an LCD before the 925, 928, and 1020 came out with their AMOLEDs. While I’m typically critical of LED screens for being over-saturated or unable to generate a good white screen, Nokia’s implementation has converted me to AMOLED. My 928 is brighter, more vibrant(but not too vibrant) and presents much better blacks than the 920, and there is a lot of black space to Win Phone 8. So its slightly disappointing to see the 1530 with an LCD, but Nokia seems apt to use LCD with new screen tech to save money at first, so hopefully further variants will opt for the AMOLED.

This thing is also a spec monster even compared with the latest Android phones, but especially for Windows Phone. Win Phone 8 runs well even without super high end hardware, so the phones don’t have to have the latest and greatest processors but instead Nokia tends to innovate in other area of the experience like the camera or screen. But this time, Nokia wanted to show off and has outfitted the 1520 with the latest and top of the line Snapdragon 800 quad core processor running at 2.2 Ghz, 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. Basically, this phone will fly through anything you can throw at it. But I think its pretty impressive that Microsoft and Nokia have managed to put out a phablet that goes spec for spec with Android flagships mere weeks after the G2 and Note 3 are released. While the timing isn’t perfect, Microsoft and Nokia are managing to adopt newer hardware and newer trends much quicker than before, and that’s important when faced with the breakneck pace of hardware innovation present in the Android market.

One final hardware mention about this phone is that it will be sporting a 20 MP back camera, rather than the 41 MP beast the 1020 has. Once again, this pits the device as a 920 replacement. The 1020 will continue to dominate as the best smartphone camera, but the 1520 brings the 1020′s advancements to a well-rounded flagship. The camera will still take advantage of Nokia’s oversampling technology (using multiple pixels to generate one better and higher quality pixel) and can even shoot a RAW image as Nokia announced for the 1520, 1320, and 1020 today (a RAW image takes the full camera sensor input and outputs it in s digital form, giving a photographer an unconverted and unmodified picture to edit). Oh and yes that is a 3400 mAh battery. Battery life should be awesome.

As usual, the 1520 will be an AT&T exclusive, but expect variants of this device (like the rumored 929 for Verizon) to show up on other carriers later. This is one thing in really disappointed in. The fact that the 928 and 925 both outsold the 920 should have enough evidence to Nokia that they need to expand their carrier reach a bit.

Nokia Lumia 1520 Specs

  • Screen: 6′ IPS LCD ClearBlack display w/ 60 Hz refresh rate
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (368 ppi)
  • Display glass: Corning Gorilla Glass 3 w/ Super Sensitive Touch
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core @ 2.2 Ghz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Storage: 32 GB built in / microSD card support up to 64 GB
  • Camera: 20 MP PureView with f/2.4 aperature
  • Camera Flash: Dual LED
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac / Bluetooth 4.0 / NFC
  • QI Wireless Charging: Yes
  • Battery: 3400 mAh
  • Dimensions: 162 mm H x 85.4 mm W x 8.7 mm D
  • Weight: 209 g
  • Colors: Yellow, Red, Black, White
  • Price: $750 (unsubsidized – contract price unannounced)

Nokia Lumia 1320

Lumia-1320-Hero-2-jpg

This guy will be a cheaper variant of the impressive 1520. It’ll be running for the equivalent price of $339, but the 1320 is more geared towards Asian markets. Its not exactly a slouch though. Its 6 inch screen, even if is only 720p, should be very popular in its intended market as phablets quickly replace conventional laptops.The device is powered by the still quite capable Snapdragon S4 Pro dual core processor that powers most 900 series Lumia phones and will even come with 4G LTE capability, which will be a nice addition as Asian markets begin to ramp up LTE attenna support.

There are a few areas where its cheaper price tag does show, though, like its Lumia 520-like 5 MP camera and removable backs, but this phone doesn’t really seem “cheap” by any stretch of the imagination. From what I’ve seen from the event coverage, the device is rounded and comfortable to hold like the Lumia 620. Also of note, the device will still be carrying the same 3400 mAh battery as it’s beefier cousin, so the lower specs will probably translate to even more ridiculous battery life.

Nokia Lumia 1320 Specs

  • Screen: 6′ IPS LCD ClearBlack Display w/ 60 Hz refresh rate
  • Resolution: 1280 x 720 (245 ppi)
  • Display Glass: Corning Gorilla Glass 3 w/ Super Sensitive Touch
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Dual-core @ 1.7 Ghz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Storage: 8 GB Internal / microSD support up to 64 GB
  • Camera: 5 MP with f/2.4 aperture
  • Flash: Single LED
  • Wireless Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n / Bluetooth 4.0 / NFC
  • QI Wireless Charging: No
  • Battery: 3400 mAh
  • Dimensions: 164 mm H x 85.9 mm W x 9.8 mm D
  • Weight: 220 g
  • Colors: Red, Yellow, Black, White
  • Price: appx. $340 (before local import taxes)

Nokia Lumia 2520

Nokia-Lumia-2520

The oft rumored and leaked Nokia tablet became official as well. When the leaks and rumors were going around, I didn’t think much of the device, but its kinda growing on me. Incidentally, the biggest problem with this device is not going to be the hardware. The hardware is wonderful, powerful, and beautiful, but inevitably its going to be criticized for taking on Microsoft’s struggling Windows 8 RT ecosystem. While Win Phone often gets wrongly accused of having a weak ecosystem, there are few apologists that would claim the Win8 ecosystem is anything but weak. I was pleasantly surprised how many gaps were filled with upon checking out the Windows 8.1 store, and I think I could get along doing a lot of what I like to do in the Metro environment, but the app ecosystem needs some work. Nokia’s work in Windows Phone really helped bring the apps the ecosystem needed and brought a lot of attention to the platform, so I can only hope Nokia’s software talent will continue doing great things for the Windows platform as well. Now on to the hardware.

The device is really incredible and actually stands out in a variety of ways against the Surface. First of all, look at that hot red exterior. This device simply looks beautiful. Even the keyboard looks great as a contrast with that vibrant backing. To make the hotness even better, Nokia brought their display innovation to the tablet world with a 10.1 inch ClearBlack IPS LCD running a full 1920 x 1080 resolution. Supposedly, Nokia built the display as close to the glass as possible, removing any air between the two and resulting in an experience in which the screen literally looks like it’s on top of the glass, rather than underneath it. I’m also impressed with the display’s insane 665 nit brightness. The screen on this tablet should be completely visible even in direct sunlight.colozeum-682x1024

This is going to be a pretty powerful tablet too. Rather than grabbing Nvidia’s fairly untested Tegra 4 processor like Microsoft did with the Surface 2, Nokia opted for the above referenced Snapdragon 800, which is the current ARM hotness. This is rounded out by 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage, microSD expansion, a USB port, an HDMI-out port, and even LTE connectivity for the pretty decent price of $499. Oh, and because this is Nokia, it of course has a decent camera. It will have a 6.7 MP PureView camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a fairly impressive f/1.9 aperature (smaller aperature is better). So all you wonderful people who hold up tablets to take photos will be happy to have that.

The most interesting part of this tablet is going to be what it can bring to the Windows ecosystem. For instance, a Nokia Lumia smartphone can pair with the tablet over NFC and transfer photos, music, and videos wirelessly. I’ve honestly been waiting for someone to use NFC in this way for years and I’m surprised Samsung never put NFC in their tablets for this reason. Finally, Nokia announced their new Video Director app for Windows 8, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds. It’s a simple but well designed video editing app for Windows 8. There’s not much to say about it but WPCentral did a pretty good hands-on video if you want to check it out.

That nice looking detachable keyboard cover on the above picture will also be available separately but is similar to the Surface 2′s power cover. While the 2520 is estimated to get about 11 hours of battery life, the Power Keyboard will give it an additional 5 hours along with providing a tactile keyboard experience. About that experience though, while the keyboard may be nice, Mary Jo Foley recently tweeted that its actually pretty floppy, so don’t expect it to be a hard plastic keyboard like Microsoft’s Power Cover. The additional keyboard should debut at a surprisingly affordable $149.99.

All in all, a pretty impressive showing for Nokia’s first tablet. While Windows 8 is yet another ecosystem that needs some work, Nokia’s presence certainly helped catapult Windows Phone 8′s ecosystem in ways that Microsoft could never do. So hopefully between the second generation Surfaces and the Nokia 2520, Microsoft can finally carve a niche for itself in the tablet sphere when this device ships in November.

Nokia 2520 Specs

  • Screen: 10.1′ IPS LCD ClearBlack Display w/ 60 Hz refresh rate
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (218 ppi)
  • Display Glass: Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Quad-core @ 2.2 Ghz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Storage: 32 GB Internal / microSD support up to 64 GB
  • Front Camera: 2 MP HD w/ f/2.4 aperature
  • Camera: 6.7 MP with f/1.9 aperature
  • Flash: None
  • Wireless Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n / Bluetooth 4.0 / NFC
  • Ports: 1 USB 3.0 / 1 micro HDMI
  • Battery: 8000 mAh
  • Dimensions: 168 mm H x 267 mm W x 8.9 mm D
  • Weight: 615 g
  • Colors: Black, Cyan, Red, White
  • Carriers: AT&T / Verizon
  • Price: $499 (unsubsidized)

A Splash of AshaAsha-502-Dual-SIM-KSP-4-jpg

The last three device announcements were Nokia’s new Asha 501, 502, and 503 Symbian phones. While Symbian is in no way a modern operating system, it is still being supported and allows Nokia to build some really cheap hardware. Those in American may be surprised to note that Nokia actually sales a rather large amount of Asha phones and comprises a significant amount of Nokia’s device sales revenue. As long as these incredibly low cost devices continue to sell and as long as Microsoft doesn’t say anything about it, Nokia will continue to produce more of them.

So, onto the devices. All three of them are dual-sim devices (useful for constant travellers), all seem to be clad in a durable crystal plastic shell, and they come in a variety of colors. The most interesting advancements for the new devices is actually on the software front. These new Ashas will come with Nokia’s new VoIP app, Nimbuzz messenger, which allows users to utilize cell data or WiFi to make domestic and international calls to cell phones and LAN lines. They also sport a newly redesigned user interface with one-swipe camera access, a one-touch share option, and a new FastLane screen that aggregates Facebook and Twitter updates, favorite contacts, new apps, and calendar appointments on a single page.

New FastLane Screen

New FastLane Screen

There are some minor differences between the three models as they are separated by minor variations in price.

Asha 500:

  • 2.8 inch screen @ 320 x 240 resolution
  • 2 MP camera w/ f/2.8 apature
  • No flash
  • 2G radio only
  • Red, black, white, green, cyan color options
  • $69.99 off contract price

Asha 502:

  • 3 inch screen @ 320 x 240 resolution
  • 5 MP camera w/ f/2.4 apature
  • LED Flash
  • 2G radio only
  • Red, black, white, green, cyan color options
  • $89.99 off-contract price

Asha 503:

  • 3 inch screen @ 320 x 240 resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  • Glance screen & double tap to wake
  • 5 MP camera w/ f/2.4 aperature
  • LED Flash
  • 3G and 2G radios
  • Red, black, white, green, cyan color options
  • $99.99 off-contract price

For those who don’t know, Windows 8.1 officially launched yesterday and so its time to upgrade. Although I’ve been kept busy with work and other obligations, I still want to keep you in the loop with the upgrade process.

First of all, yes you should get Windows 8.1. With the addition of the start button,the ability to make the start screen mirror the desktop background, and new “all apps” start screen option, i feel that 8.1 addresses the “jarring transition” of the original start screen. Combine that with the improved performance, improved file system, and better integration with online services, and you’ve got something I think is highly worth an upgrade. If you absolutely cannot stand the start screen and will never adapt to the change, you’re probably going to need to look at different OS options, because the start screen is here to stay and will probably become a more integral part of Windows as times goes on. If you can give the new interface a chance, I think you’ll be greeted with a more efficient and improved user experience.

I would also like to point out that upgrading to Windows 8.1 from anything other than 8 will force you reinstall you desktop applications (but your files and settings are preserved). But there is a solution. Fortunately, resellers are still selling Windows 8, which is not only cheaper in some circumstances, but will also upgrade from Windows 7 without killing your programs, and give you a free and easy upgrade path to Windows 8.1. So if you are upgrading from Windows 7 I recommend picking up Windows 8 while you still can. If you are upgrading from Vista or XP, you will have to wipe your programs but the installer will still keep your computer’s files.

If you’re upgrading from Windows 8, the process should be straight forward and easy (it was for me). However, if you want one, Paul Thurrott has the best guides on the net right now. So if you haven’t upgraded yet and are a bit nervous or curious about the process, check out the following links:

Before You Start: Upgrade Options And Tips

Step By Step Upgrade From Windows 8

Also, once you’re upgraded, check out this list of tutorials from the Windows Observer.

Windows 8.1 Tutorials

After months of rumor and speculation (which I typically avoid), HTC finally made it official. The HTC One Max is HTC’s first entry into the phablet market. While its clear there are some compromises that were made, and it doesn’t truly compete in the same sphere as the Note 3, it still seems like it will be a fairly solid device. For all intents and purposes, this device is a big HTC One.

Ginormous Screen

The HTC One Max earns its Max moniker (although it slightly steals it from Motorola) by having a freaking giant screen. It still has the same older Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, the same front facing boom-sound speakers, the same 1080P resolution and also presumably the same Super LCD screen technology, but this device will have a 5.9″ screen. The device narrowly beats the Samsung Galaxy Note 3′s similarly giant 5.7″ screen and is much bigger than it’s 4.7″ progenitor, meaning if you want a beautiful aluminum device and the most gigantic screen you can get, the One Max is the one to get. However, if you’re not quite sold on the benefits of a phablet, the One Max isn’t going to win you over. Sense 5.5 does offer some welcome changes to the Blink Feed Social Media aggregator, such as Instagram, Google+, and RSS integration, in addition to offline viewing and its still the cleanest and fastest skinning of Android available. However, while the fast and efficient user experience is a welcome change from Samsung’s bloated TouchWiz, there doesn’t seem to be any additional features that really make use of the bigger screen. It has the same resolution, there is no stylus support, and no Galaxy Note style-app windowing. Despite this though, big screen phone fans will be happy to get more options than just Samsung.

Fingerprinting Comes (back) to Android

The last Android phone to have a fingerprint scanner was the Motorola Atrix for AT&T. Unfortunately, Fingerprint scanning tech was just not ready yet so it was the last…until now. On the heels of the iPhone 5S’s home button front facing fingerprint scanner, HTC is hoping to capitalize on the trend by putting the sensor in a more natural position.

HTC-One-Max-Peter-Chou-Leak-07

And here it is. That plain looking black square under the camera lens is HTC’s new fingerprint reader. The placement is a little odd, as its clear there may be quite a bit of smudge marks on that camera lens, but as I am holding my 4.5 inch phone, my index finger naturally rests close to the camera lens (which is roughly in the same position as on the HTC One). With a large 5.9″ screen, the natural position for my index finger would be just below the camera lens, which is where the fingerprint sensor lies.Those that are making a big deal about smudgy camera lenses are making much ado about nothing. We’ve had glossy camera lenses in the backs of our phones for decades and only when HTC puts a fingerprint scanner below it has it become a problem? I’m not so convinced that will be problem.

Although the hardware is here, the features are a little light so far. While Apple’s fingerprint scanner allows you to unlock your phone, authorize purchases and assign passwords to a fingerprint, HTC’s implementation is currently limited to unlocking the phone and launching apps. Due to the placement of the sensor, I would prefer that it could be used to sign into apps and services as the index finger is really the only finger that can comfortably swipe across it. While it’s cool that apps can be assigned to open with any of your fingers, it’s made a bit silly by the fact that utilizing that feature is a bit uncomfortable. However, adding a bit of hardware with this much potential on an open platform like Android is delivering a truck load of Legos to a room full of engineers. You are bound to get some awesome stuff out of it.

Some Strange Compromises

This isn’t just a HTC One with a big screen and fingerprint scanner, though. HTC took this opportunity to make some additional changes to the hardware. The only welcome change is that the back cover is now removable. In a time where most modern smartphones are impenetrable slabs that are just daring you to run out of space or dunk it in water, it’s refreshing to see phones like the One Max that are okay with a little more bulk for the ability to add microSD storage (up to 64GB worth of it). However, removable back plates normally mean a removable or replaceable battery, but this is not the case with the One Max. I find it odd that they made such a distinction, but with a giant 3,300 mAh battery, I suppose they couldn’t spare the room to insert a removable battery and battery terminals.

Another strange compromise is the removal of Optical Image Stabilization on the camera. For those who don’t know, OIS is a technology that keeps the camera lens steady within a spring-locked frame even as your hand will natural shake. This allows for quicker, more natural, and less blurry shots, buttery smooth video, and has been one of the most innovative pieces of technology to come to camera tech in many years. Now that many manufacturers are introducing OIS in their smartphones, it’s disappointing that HTC has decided to remove the technology, but it is possible that the fingerprint scanner’s close proximity to the camera sensor limited their options. In that case, however, I would have preferred to keep the OIS and move the fingerprint scanner, but I’m just guessing. The innovative Ultrapixel camera is otherwise unchanged, so it should still be able to take some pretty decent shots.

Finally, there’s the hardware. Oddly enough, HTC chose not to upgrade the One Max with a Snapdragon 800 but instead kept the slightly lower powered Snapdrahon 600. Does this matter? Absolutely not. HTC’s Sense UI runs much faster and efficiently than TouchWiz and that will mean more for performance than the processor. The user experience should be cleaner and more consistant than the Note 3, but I wonder how many will be duped by the spec sheet.

Great Phablet, But Why?

This device is the most beautifully designed phablet in existence, but it’s a bit of a strange device. The addition of the fingerprint reader and microSD expansion are certainly great, but I feel that anyone seeking to compete against Samsung in the phablet market will need to do something other than give a great phone a bigger screen. As much as I hate to pit Samsung favorably against HTC, Samsung does phablets better by giving the Note line some innovative features that actually make good use of the screen real estate. By removing OIS, not upgrading any of the hardware, and not offering any real reason to use a 5.9″ screen over a 4.7″ screen, HTC has created a product for a very small user base: those who want an HTC One, but don’t feel it’s big enough. I certainly hope that HTC’s beautifully machined casing and potentially hackable fingerprint sensor will be enough to entice phablet buyers away from the Note, but I don’t really know why this device exists.

Source: Pocketnow

So in addition to totally nailing the part of Joel from Last of Us, quietly making awesome as Oscelot from the Metal Gear series, and playing the sexy and kickass Pinkerton main character from Bioshock Infinite, he can now apparently take the mantle from Mark Hamill and play the Joker in Arkham Origins. Watch his performance at ComicCon below:

Hey readers. This article is partly to explain why I haven’t written a lot lately and partly to get up on a soap box and talk about one of the biggest problems facing the tech industry today. Rabid fanboyism. As much as I will try to talk about this without sounding like a fanboy myself, the fact is that it is unavoidable. Since tech giants are trying and succeeding in locking users into their respective walled gardens, it seems unavoidable that people who loved their walled garden experience won’t be rabid about their enjoyment of it. Despite the fact that every single person is different in some way and will thus have different desires and usage patterns with their tech, it seems unreasonable to us that anyone else would choose a different product then we did. However, since we are social creatures, it is difficult to just enjoy our decisions. We have to seek verification with our peers, and when they disagree, we have to convert them. Kind of makes technology sound like religion, eh?

So all that is just to say that this write up will not be free from bias, nor is any write up ever made about any piece of technology ever free from bias. I will admit that I can be fanatical about my love of Windows Phone and I will honestly say that I give Windows 8 and Xbox much more of a chance in my personal life then they might deserve, at times, just because I want my personal choice of a walled garden to succeed. But my reasons for choosing Windows Phone are almost entirely aesthetic with a slight bit of practical. I love the quality of Lumia devices. I love the Nokia’s emphasis towards mobile cameras. I love the innovative way Windows Phone deals with camera apps (Lenses). I really want a smartphone experience that “just works” without me having to constantly tweak and change and edit. I love how fast and fluid Windows Phone 8 is. I loved the customization of Android but hated how much my rapid love of customization would inevitably lead to slow down. Windows Phone gives me a “just right” amount of customization. Nokia Music and Xbox Music are amazing and as a music fan, both these things are incredibly important.

I can go on and on, but unless you are me or are a Windows Phone fan, you don’t care why I like my phone. I understand that Windows Phone is not without faults, but the faults it has I am willing to live with because they are not super high priorities for me and many of them should be fixed in soon to come updates. iOS and Android are not without faults, but those that use the platforms accept the faults because they are not high priorities and they enjoy the benefits. But, like all other things, priorities, likes and dislikes are different for every person. Smartphones are very personal devices. They are constantly nestled in the pocket of our jeans, attached on our arms or clothing via a strap, or stuck between your touch-up makeup and wallet in a purse. They are also our primary way to stay connected to friends and family and sometimes to our careers. Smartphones are intensely personal and this is why every single comment board I’ve ever seen regarding any tech news always degrades into some sort of platform flame war. Like I said before, no article is ever unbiased and when our need for verification is not fulfilled but degraded, we lash out. It’s human nature.

But I just want people to be aware of this aspect of human nature and to try to restrict it. Unfortunately, tech blogs thrive on this kind of flame war. Divisive headlines will always lead to more page views as millions of well-meaning but vindictive readers jump onto the comments board to flame the writer and other commenters. But the writer doesn’t care. They’re laughing all the way to the bank with the ad revenue. I guarantee you that the kind of writer that will purposely post a divisive headline or an obvious biased article will not care one lick what you say about their writing. It is impossible to create an unbiased article, but you should support those that try and stop reading the articles of those that don’t.

The fact is, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and even Blackberry 10, Firefox OS, Ubuntu Mobile, etc. are all amazing feats of software engineering. The fact that you can grab any of these phones and have a half way decent computing experience is amazing. Since there are expected to be almost 2 billion smartphones sold this year and the market is only growing, I think it’s rather important to have a rather large array of options. And with that many smartphones being sold, there is certainly room for there to be several viable platforms. Even if Android picks up 70% of the smartphone market, that still leaves 600 million smartphones to share and its not exactly like selling a 100 million units of anything is a bad thing. But it is a bad thing if you compare 200 million versus 1.4 billion. And that’s where the problem lies. Reviewers point out a new OS’s lack of maturity and constantly give good graces to the “established” platforms just by virtue of them being around for a few years longer. Buyers don’t buy into new platforms because they are afraid of a lack of support. Developer interest wanes and the platform never really gains support. Wall Street pushes down the stock value of publically traded companies because nobody buys it and developers aren’t interested. Company dies. Innovation and choice dies with it.

This is exactly what happened to Blackberry. Yes they were late. Android was late compared to iOS. It took Android almost 5 years before it became a truly mature platform. Honestly, it didn’t matter how good Blackberry 10 was. It’s the fear of not having “apps.” Many believe that my beloved Windows Phone is going in the same direction, and maybe it is. It’s still around because Microsoft is a slow moving company and once it’s dedicated time and resources, it won’t give up easily. It’s not that it’s not selling though, it’s just that it’s not selling like Android is. Every single time I see a Windows Phone device reviewed, there is a pointed remark about the “lack of apps.” Is there a lack of apps? Maybe for some people, but I haven’t found anything I wanted but couldn’t find. The reviewers never point out what’s missing and if they do, they point out apps that lack 1st party support but have a plethora of 3rd party support (No Instagram? There’s a half dozen 3rd party apps!) Maybe their favorite app isn’t on Windows Phone. Maybe they legitimately don’t like the OS and the only way he or she can quantify this is with a consistently repeated meme. But I feel that the size of a mobile OS’s store is never an acceptable form of criticism. Platforms take time to mature. The most egregious form of this that I’ve heard was in this article where the author mentioned Windows Phone 8 being an immature platform and explained that “It’s not even 3 years old, iOS has been around for nearly twice that long and Apple is adding new features every year and polishing old ones.” Okay. I don’t think Microsoft can speed up time. Another word for “immature” is young and another word for mature is “old.” The fact that Microsoft has had three updates to an OS they released last year (Windows Phone 8 is a completely different kernel than 7) where iOS has a yearly update cycle says volumes. Yes, mobile OS’s are being released all the time and they are all newer than Android and iOS, but just as Android and iOS weren’t built overnight, neither can anything else. There is also the fact that many platforms don’t even really focus on apps. iOS and Android are app launchers, so of course they have to have a lot of apps. Windows Phone and Blackberry have a lot of the functionality from Android and iOS’s apps built straight into the OS. Firefox OS is entirely based on webapps and HTML5, so arguably an app store is irrelevant. Whether a platform is “mature” or not is a ridiculous criticism because that is based on factors that have nothing to do with the companies that build the software. By labeling a platform as immature, tech bloggers are essentially shooting it in the foot and preventing new platforms from getting the traction they need. Tech bloggers have a lot of sway with their readers, and they should realize it. It is possible that reviewers have written off minority platforms and have decided to focus on what they’re interested in (Android or iPhone). As someone who writes a blog in his spare time, I can totally understand that it is literally impossible to have a constant and thorough understanding of every phone and platform. But don’t pretend to say that your cross platform review is unbiased when it clearly is not. Just as I am getting trapped in defending my platform of choice, once again, I’m sure many other tech writers will absent-mindedly do the same.

When doing a review and comparison, it’s very alluring to compare specificatoins. Specs sometimes matter when comparing Android phones because the experience can very greatly based on the power of the hardware, but the user experience is almost always tied into software optimization. For instance, while the current top spec monster, the Galaxy Note 3, is highly regarded for its incredible feature set, interesting design, and great use stylus input, it is still noted as having inconsistent performance and occasionally lags behind the user’s input, despite having the beefiest quad core processor on the market and 3 GB of RAM. The reason for this, however, is that Samsung’s build of Android has become bloated with features. LG G2 and the Xperia Z1 actually both run quite well with similar specs and new Android builds. Even the Moto X, with it’s older dual core processor, runs really well. The Note 3, Z1, and G2 all have similar specs but widely differing user experiences. I’ve tried the Note 3, G2, and Moto X in stores and while the Moto X has much lower specs, it runs the best out of all 3 of them, in my opinion, because it has an unskinned version of Android. Also to note, many Android OEMs (most famously, Samsung) are now including software optimizations for hardware testing, meaning that running performance tests may provide results that are inconsistent with the actual user experience. The Galaxy Note 3 would certainly beat any phone running a performance test, but because of software bloat, the experience is actually slower than a lower spec’d phone. The performance situation on Android is so different  primarily because Google allows it’s OEMs to customize the OS as they would like. Software optimizations vary wildly across the board, leading to different experiences from phone to phone. Once again, this is an excellent state of affairs due to the amount of choice it allows people.

However, the situation on iOS, Windows Phone, and many others is very different. Where Android was built to be open and highly customizable, iOS and Windows Phone are built to be highly optimized for a specific set of hardware. iOS is built for small set of hardware that doesn’t tend to vary all that much from generation to generation. Because Apple builds the hardware and the software, they can optimize the OS to run perfectly on all their devices. This is the reason why a friend of mine has a 4 year old iPhone 3GS that still runs perfectly fine and runs most of the apps in the app store (although it won’t be getting iOS 7). For Windows Phone, Microsoft intended to sell this to OEMs to build hardware, but they wanted to ensure a certain performance standard, and thus the OS supports a limited set of hardware. While this limits Windows Phones in that Microsoft has to update the OS to support their OEM’s demands to use new hardware, it does mean that the most popular Windows Phone currently in use, the Lumia 520, runs the OS and a vast majority of apps with only 512 MB of RAM and a single core processor. An Android phone with those specs could hardly run Gingerbread, much less anything newer.

Android’s flexibility has allowed manufactuers to play with hardware and has also helped to catapult mobile technology much faster than it would of otherwise. Because of this quick hardware innovation, it’s always alluring to compare the high spec’d top end Android devices with the latest from Apple and Windows Phone. But the fact is, hardware is only a skeleton over which the user experience is made. While hardware helps, it is only how the software and hardware interact which defines whether a noticeable difference is detected. Android’s highly customizable UI and heavy feature set makes sure that any innovation in hardware is easily felt in the user experience. A Snapdragon 800 is a noticeable innovation over a last generation dual core. I suppose many will argue that 1080P screens are a noticeable improvement from 720P, and perhaps because of giant phablet screens and Samsung’s windowing apps, such a difference can be noticeable, but I don’t see it. But when Apple’s new iPhone did not see a resolution boost, many were disappointed, but remember that the original design of the Retina display assumed that a screen with higher pixel density would have no point because the human eye could not tell the difference. I find that I agree, not that higher density displays are unnoticible, but that the iPhone’s UI would not really look much better with a higher density display. The thing is, more pixels do not mean a better looking display. Brightness, color accuracy, and vibrancy make better displays, and I think a great AMOLED screen (please not Samsung) with retina-like PPI would be an improvement in the user experience.

The last few paragraphs are all to say that comparing specs between smartphones is comparably worthless. Tech journalists should be interested in none other than the user experience. While specs are easy, they are misleading, and if there is something the tech reporting industry needs to avoid, it is misleading information. Criticizing a phone because it’s processor is slower or its screen doesn’t have as many pixels is an indictment of ignorance and laziness if the spec difference is not backed up by a difference in user experience. Do you think the millions of iPhone fans are clamoring for a more powerful quad core processor? Of course not. Do they care about a lower resolution display? Maybe, but probably not. Do Windows Phone fans suffer because they can’t get a snapdragon 800? Absolutely not. Is the screen of a Lumia 925 ugly because it only has 1280 x 768 pixels? Absolutely not. So why are we even comparing these things? Tech blogging should be all about the user experience. Even if opinions will differ from person to person, getting multiple opinions but free from worthless jargon and repeatable but inaccurate misinformation will be much more useful to the average smartphone shopper.

If you gain anything from this article, please acknowledge that just because someone else didn’t buy your favorite smartphone, it doesn’t somehow illegitimise your decision. In the end, you chose what you liked and that should be enough verification. Some people love their iPhones, and that’s totally fine. Some people love the power user experience and ultimate amount of choice given to them with Android, and that’s totally cool. Some people like me love Windows Phone, and that’s totally cool. Even as Blackberry dies, there are people who bought those devices and still love them. It’s sad that there probably won’t be any further updates to the platform or many more apps developed for it, but thankfully, the OS has a lot of great built in functionality that doesn’t require a big app store. To those still holding onto their love of Blackberry phones, I salute your stalwart dedication to a platform you loved and I hope that someone will buy the company and give it a future. To those wanting the uncompromising web experience of a Firefox OS phone, good on you. To those who pledged money to the Ubuntu Edge project, good on you and good luck to the company. To those who bought an HTC One or an LG G2 or an Xperia Z1 or any other Android phone other than a Samsung, good on you for supporting choice. I want more choice. I don’t want Samsung and Apple to be the only device companies. I don’t want Android, iOS, and Windows Phone to be the only viable platforms. Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we just enjoy the technological marvels that millions of brilliant engineers have given us? Can’t we just enjoy our tech and use it to talk, laugh, cry, communicate and share with each other? The cell phone was built to improve communication and collaboration, not to inspire division.

Bored with 3D yet? Not real enough for you? Well, someday you may be able to touch your phone or tablet and actually feel what your screen is showing you.

Disney’s Research lab reasoned that when we touch an object, the differences we sense in elevation, surface material, and texture are all the result of friction between a surface and the sensors in our skin. This makes sense, as sensation is just the difference in reaction between the atoms that make up skin cells and the atoms that make up surface. Friction is basically when molecules (bunches of atom) “rub up” against each other by virtue of their fields of electrons. By changing the frictional forces between a finger and a touch screen, one would be able to simulate the sensation of texture.

But how do you change frictional forces? By taking advantage of the way skin detects differences and modifying the electron “surface.” Essentially, Disney tested and developed a touch screen that uses low voltage electricity and vibration to increase friction and simulate texture and elevation. To make this, they had to test these low level charges to determine how the human brain reacts to specific levels, and from there, they build a model that predicts what levels of charge will produce what texture effects.

While the video above demonstrates the technology, its tough to tell how well implemented the technology is or how much potential there is in their techniques without testing it out. They did run focus testing and the results are promising, but I can only hope this moves past a prototype stage. This technology is most exciting for the blind, as they have been consistently left behind by visual touch interfaces and little to no innovation for TTS (text to speech). I can only imagine that something like braille lettering would be quite easily to create. But I don’t want to get away from the ways this can improve technological experiences for everyone. We could be seeing improvements in digital learning, 3D modeling and design (3D printers: eat your heart out), user interface design, communication, interaction and collaboration. In a world dominated by touch interfaces, a new way to interact with a touch screen that’s this innovative could change everything.

Source: Disney Innovation Labs

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