Categories
Apps Smartphones

Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird, for those of you who don’t know, was a smartphone game where users had to try and get a bird through as many obstacles as possible. I say had, as the app has been removed from the iTunes and Google Play – more on that later. I’m not sure I can really explain it much better than that, so take a look at this video to see it in action.

As you can see people take this game pretty seriously. The chap says how he has been playing it for about a week and that “it has totally consumed [his] life“. I tried the game on a friends phone and sensing that it was something that I was likely to get addicted to I decided not to install it myself. I am very glad I made that decision. In fact I have decided to take a total detox from all smartphone and tablet apps recently, and it really does feel great.

A screenshop of the Flappy Bird appUsually I install an app when I have some time to kill, but after a while, I seem to be wasting far too much time on pointless apps. I took a step back and saw that playing games such as Flappy Bird was just a waste of my time. This article is not asking you to stop using apps, but I do want to make people think.

I want to make people think, much in the same way that I suspect Dong Nguyen wants to make people think. Dong Nguyen was the creator of Flappy Bird and despite the fact that some sources report the game to have been earning around $50,000 per day in ad revenues, he took it down. The game was very addictive and didn’t really add any value to the lives of players. If anything, for many it just caused a lot of stress and aggravation.

Anyone who downloaded the game still has it, but if they uninstall it it is gone forever. Some people are selling their handsets with the game still installed on it, although many manufacturers advise against this on privacy grounds.

What I want to know – in the comments below – is what are your opinions? Was the developer right to remove the game? As a society are we getting more addicted to such games? If so, how are they affecting culture – or are they just a bit of harmless fun?

Oh and folks, please don’t go taking a hammer to your phone. 🙂

Categories
Apps Reviews Smartphones

There’s an app for that

On June the 26th 2007, smartphones didn’t exist. Mobile phones, and computers were two very different things. A day later (27/06/2007) Apple launched the iPhone.

You could argue that there were ‘smartphones’ pre-iPhone, but many in the technology industry view the iPhone as the tipping point and birth-date of the modern smartphone – no inverted commas.

With the launch of the iPhone, came the launch of apps. A few years later along came tablets – and what would a tablet be without apps?

In this post I want to explore some of those apps. Not the apps like Angry Birds, Rayman Jungle Run, Skype and Fruit Ninja though, they are what you expect from applications – games and communication. In this post I am going to explore some of the more innovative uses for apps.

Mirror

Ever desperately needed a mirror just when there are none in sight? Mirror by mmapps mobile, is a free app for Android which turns your phone into a usable mirror! The app even lets you zoom in and out and freeze the mirror, something that no mirror I have ever used does.

The app is available in many different languages, and similar apps are available for iDevices, however mmapps mobile don’t make an ‘i’ version.

Square Wallet

Square Wallet is an application which lets you fully embrace mobile payment. With Square Wallet, you can link your credit card to your phone, and then, in a surprisingly large number of retailers, pay for goods, using your phone! The app also lets you track transactions, so you can keep track of what you are buying.

Square Wallet is available for iDevices with iOS 5.0 or later, and Androids via Google Play.

Inflora Flower App

Interflora smartphone appTen years ago, who would have thought that you could be out and about, and on a device which fits in your hand, and order a bouquet of flowers? Probably not many people!

The flower delivery company Interflora has an app where you can do just that. Naturally its called Interflora, and can be download for free for iDevices – any iPod, iPhone or iPad with iOS 3.0 or later. Interflora is also available to download for Android devices. The app gives you access to a wide range of flowers, information (such as delivery details and a description) and prices; you can even order your gift using the app!

Zite Personalised Magazine

If you like to keep up to date with the latest news, and you like the news your way, then Zite is the perfect app for you.

Zite trawls through your Facebook and Twitter feeds to work out what you like to read. The application then created you your very own personalised magazine to read, and the more you use it, the cleverer it gets, and the more tailored your content become – to a point where it should only be displaying content you really want to read.

Zite is available for free for all iDevices with iOS 6.0 or later, although the developers state that is is specifically designed for the iPhone, as opposed to tablets. Zite is also available on Android.

Flow Powered

Flow Powered - NutellaAmazon have recently released an augmented reality app called Flow Power, which can identify millions of real life products (using your phones camera), and can then tell you more information about them.

The app ‘knows’ thousands of books, games and CDs, and is able to tell you about almost anything, if you scan the barcode.

Be it a novel, or a box of chocolates, the app can tell you how much it costs and what other people think of it – pretty clever huh?

Flow Powered is available for Android via Google Play and iOS 4.2 and more recent iDevices through iTunes.

It seems like there is an app for almost everything these days, be it an app to help you apply make-up, order flowers or tell you the price of a video game. There’s an app for that!

Smartphones really are smart.

Categories
Series Technology

Day to day use of my Remote Heating Control system

This is the fifth in a series of articles in which I am exploring Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

Well Autumn really has begun, it’s now mid-October and the days are starting to get shorter. Trees are starting to drop their now golden brown leaves and there is a chill in the air that hasn’t been there since last winter.

Now that it is Autumn it is getting much colder, and this means that my heating is now really important to me. It’s that time of year when I want to stay warm, but at the same time am conscious to save energy.

Controlling My Heating Via Smartphone

I have recently bought a Samsung Galaxy S III, a smartphone powered by Google’s Android operating system. This means that I am now able to test out the Remote Heating Control app. British Gas have made an app for both Androids and iDevices, as I have an Android powered Samsung, I will be talking about the Android app.

The application is available for download from Apple’s App Store and from Google play, and is called myHome – after the online portal that you log into to control your heating.

The app is free to download, however (as you would expect) you need to have Remote Heating Control technology in your home for it to be of any use. You need internet access to be able to use the app, as it has to connect to the myHome portal in order to fetch real time data and store any changes you make; however that shouldn’t really be an issue though, as most smartphones now come Wi-Fi enabled and have optional 3G/4G. A smartphone isn’t really that smart without the internet!

Installing The myHome App

I was pleasantly surprised by how fast I was able to install and log into the app. I clicked on the Google play icon on my handset, I then searched for ‘myhome’ and third on the list was the app I wanted. I clicked on the app and pressed install and within seconds it had installed. I then ran the app, and it brought up a login screen, very similar to the one that can be seen if you log in to myHome on your PC.

British Gas myHome
British Gas’s myHome log in screen

After I logged in I was presented with a very similar screen to the one I see when I am online. I was able to control the temperature of my heating right this moment. As you can see, I was at work at the time, so the temperature in the house wasn’t set very high, however it had been on earlier in the morning, so the house was still relatively warm.

A screenshot of the myHome dashboard
A screenshot I took of the myHome dashboard once I had logged in to the Android app.

The heating status was set to Auto, as it was following the schedule. It was really easy to change the temperature, which I did by moving the sliding on the right up and down with my finger.

If you click on the thermometer at the top you get a temperature summary – showing you the temperature in your house and outside.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t edit my heating schedule via my Samsung, however I suppose the settings could get a little fiddly on the smaller screen.

If I want to change the schedule, the easiest way is online. That said, it is really easy to change the immediate temperature via smartphone. I am happy with the app, it loads very fast and is well designed. The layout is clean, and easy to use.

Other Features Of The myHome Portal

In previous article I have discussed some of the main features of the myHome online portal, such as being able to see your heating status and the temperature, and being able to set up a schedule for your heating, however there are some other features which are of use.

Under the ACCOUNT heading you are able to change details like your name and email, along with your PIN (the code you have to text when you want to change your heating via SMS) and alerts. I have the system set to alert me via email in the case of a failure of any of the technology and also it will contact me with any warnings that may be relevant, like to let me know the battery on my smart linked thermostat is running low.

As I mentioned in a previous article, it isn’t ideal that my thermostat now needs a battery, that said, it has been running for around 3 months now, and still has 5/5 bars of battery, and if it does start to run low, I will be told in advance of the batteries dying.

If you click on the DEVICES heading, you will be taken to a page displaying all the devices that are currently in your system. On this page I can see my wireless hub and smart linked thermostat. Both are reading status ‘All ok‘ and have full battery and signal strength. My wireless hub is plugged into the mains, to the battery should always read full on that, as the power is mains supply.

Finally, if you click on the HELP heading, you are taken to a screen where there are various guides to help you use the software. If you ever get stuck you can either call British Gas, send them an email, or consult one of their PDF help guides. There is also a link to the app download pages on this page.

British Gas myHome Help and Advice page screenshot
A screenshot of the Help and Advice page in the myHome online portal.

That’s about it for this week.

In two weeks time I will publish the sixth and final article in the series. It will summarise and conclude what I have learnt and shared with you over the last five articles, and I will also give my verdict as to whether the system met my expectations, and whether it is really a technology of the future. See you on the 2nd of November!