How Global Hi-Tech Hotels are Bringing Back the Visitors

This is a guest post by Hannah Connor

Travel PlansWhen you last checked into a hotel did your mouth open wide with shock at the length of time it took, or the paperwork required or the time wasted in finding your booking? Breathe a sigh of relief, then as hotels around the globe go hi-tech in an effort to resolve these issues.

As hotels upgrade their technology, what will this mean for the overall hotel and leisure industry? Will it improve the check-in procedure time and room occupancy in these tough economic times or will the competition grow so fast that it will become too competitive to survive in? Today I’m taking you into hi-tech hotels to see exactly what is going on and why hi-tech is needed.

Value To The Customer
Installing new technology is an investment and a risk. Hotels need to be sure that they are adding value to the customer or improving the smooth flow of their stay through enhanced operations, taking the complexity out of the hotels functions and building better working relationships between the different departments within a hotel.

Making sure that housekeeping and reception are in harmony and know exactly which guests are checking in and the special requirements of guests is one thing but making a stay feel futuristic is the way forward. The latest in technology-heavy hotels is The Hotel Alma in Barcelona with their door opening at the touch of a finger. This new feature enables the visitor to live the keyless experience, and gone are the problems with swipe cards not functioning or getting demagnetised. Hotel Alma, with it’s fingerprint recognition system, allows you to arrive and then scan your fingerprint for door to door access.

This is just one hotel leading the way of technology revolution, so what are the others doing you may be thinking? Are they learning from the likes of Hotel Alma or failing in upgrades?

The Magdalen Chapter, Exeter is a paper free zone. We’ve all heard about the paperless office, and marvel that the idea still hasn’t really come into fruition. In a former eye hospital in Exeter, the hi-tech Magdalen Chapter gives guests an iPad to check in on and use throughout their stay; to order room service, play music and video and view the restaurant’s wine list.

Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel, Balaerics has taken the extraordinary step of allowing customers to pay for their stay with a fingerprint. When they check in, customer’s credit card details are taken along with a scan of their fingerprint. That way, when it comes to paying for a drink at the bar or checking out, they simply place their finger on the scanner and job done! Furthermore, guests can use their fingerprints to log into Facebook at dedicated ‘Totems’ around the hotel. This quick pay system actively encourages transactions by making them fun and speedy!

Marlin Hotel Miami Beach, Florida offers customer the ultimate in luxury in-room technology. Aimed specifically at the younger tech-savvy customer, it has two recording studios, a personal 60 inch TV concealed behind a mirror in each room and an iPad that is customised with your favourite music and films. The hotel provides excellent wifi service and there is a Tannoy surround sound system and subwoofer in each room. It’s all about entertainment here.

Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Georgia is harnessing technology that improves the hotel’s organisation. It employs a Hotel Service Optimisation System (HotSOS) which tracks guests’ requirements and helps to resolve issues within the hotel. A bonus for business guests is the SwankDraw app which allows them to plan an event or meeting and use technology to visualise the event and send out pictures of it. You can also check in to your flight and print your boarding pass in reception.

There are various technologies being employed already by hotels globally that are aiming to achieve this simplification of processes. Some hotels have infrared sensors to tell housekeeping that you are still in your room and not to enter for cleaning, for instance. There are lifts that play music according to the number of people in it – playing “Are you Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis if you’re travelling solo, or “Just the Two of Us” when a pair ride the elevator.

These hotels have installed high-tech gadgets and add-ons in an attempt to stand out from their competitors. Often it’s the additions to a guest’s stay that can enhance their enjoyment and prompt a recommendation to a friend. Hotel discounts and promotions are great offerings for visitors, and hotels using high technology will only see results if their offering really provides customers with more value for money or makes their stay more comfortable and easy.

Have you ever been in a hotel that used technology to make your stay easier, more comfortable, or gave added value? Or have you been in a hotel that tried to do so and actually ended up with the technology being a hindrance rather than a help? Why not share in the comments and tell us your hi-tech hotel stories?

Hannah ConnorAuthor: Hannah is a fan of technology innovation in hotels and loves how hotels are embracing technology to improve the customer experience and believes this should be continued. Hannah has stayed in many hotels herself and works as a freelance writer within the Vouchercloud.com hotel team.

Cyberbullying: When online gaming goes wrong

This is a guest post by Dexter Bishop. Dexter is a mobile programmer from LA who also happens to be a die-hard gamer.

Game controller in hands, against a screenThe digital universe is an environment where four out of five users agree that cyberbullying is easier to experience than face-to-face bullying, even for gamers. The world of virtual gaming can sometimes be a hostile space fervent with bullies and victims, and the effects of online bullying can be just as detrimental as face-to-face. Kids can suffer into adulthood, explains TIME Healthland, and children will suffer from low self-esteem, experience trouble in school and have health problems. TIME further mentions that studies have shown “higher rates of anxiety and panic attacks among victims of bullying,” creating mental health problems for later in life. Help dissuade and curtail bullying among online gamers by being a team player, reporting abuse and avoiding antagonism.

Do Favors

One of the most famous anecdotes attributed to Benjamin Franklin is his mantra to turn an enemy into a friend. Politely asking a political enemy if he could borrow a book, Franklin received a positive response along with the book. Upon returning it, Franklin delivered a note expressing his thanks, and the two men would go on to be lifelong friends. Vertabase suggested the moral of this anecdote can help “build powerful bonds.” Even competitive online gamers can build bonds while enhancing the joy of gaming. Instead of going for the best weapons in a competitive shooter game like Battlefield 4 by Origin, help team members get better armor, weapons and supplies to win the day.

Be a Team

Typically, an online game dissolves into name-calling and threats when a team cannot come together to complete an objective. Aggressive game playing can occur in online arena games (MOBAs) like DOTA 2. Teammates need to work in specific roles like “Carry” (those responsible for victory later on), “Lane” (those responsible for maintaining the integrity of an attacking channel) and “Pusher” (those who need to initiate a strong attack). Acting as part of a team instead of trying to be the single glorious hero helps minimize verbal attacks and a hostile environment when one player refuses to work with others.

Report Abuse

Online video gamers can report aggressive and harmful behavior, whether it is verbal, written or implied. Both Xbox Live and Playstation Plus allow users to report particular player gamer tags for all types of alarming behavior, such as spam and abuse. Gaming victims can even document the case using video and audio recording features. Players who take to MMOs can report player behavior to game managers (GMs). The GMs lock down an account whenever a player breaks the game’s rules.

Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

Nothing will escalate a heated online argument like someone going tit-for-tat on insults and threats. As an argument starts to progress into verbal assault, whether it is directed toward you or another person, resist the urge to retaliate. Diffuse the situation with calm words (or text) to demonstrate that you won’t participate in a shouting match. Try to calm the other player down by explaining your point of view. Refrain from name calling, taunting or mocking how they lost or died because of a lack of skill.

What do you think?

Have you experienced cyberbullying in a gaming environment? If so, how did you deal with it? Are the tips here helpful, new, just plain common sense, or completely off the mark? Why not share your thoughts in the comments and tell us what you think.

Champagne iPhone 5S on the way?

Three cases purported to be iPhone 5Ss in black, grey and champagne.This is a guest post by Will Judd.

Since the dawn of time*, the iPhone has come in two colours: black and white. This year, it looks like that trend is finally set to be broken with the release of both the colourful iPhone 5C and the flagship iPhone 5S.

Surprisingly, it’s not just the iPhone 5C that will be offered in new colours, reminiscent of Apple’s iPod lineup. The iPhone 5S will also be offered in a couple of new colours, if recent rumours are to be believed.

The first rumour is that the phone will be available in a new gold colour. Earlier rumours pointed towards a rather eye-catching full gold colouring, but as the potential announcement date of September 10th has grown near it seems that a more mature champagne colour seems more likely. Regardless, swag-bound personages are likely to welcome the new option, although makers of gold iPhone 5 cases and respray operations will likely resent the loss in business.

Sim trays in multiple coloursOur second rumour is more recent, stating that the iPhone 5S will also come in a graphite colour between the traditional white and black. The evidence for this seems a bit thinner, with only hearsay and a grey coloured sim tray being posited as proof the colour option. Regardless, if Apple are set to unveil a new colour then a second isn’t really too unbelievable.

Either way, the first time we’ll really know for sure will be when  Apple have their iPhone event. A lot of rumours have pinned this on September 10th, but with no press invitation as of yet that date can’t be relied upon. Typically invitations are sent out with a week’s notice, so we’d expect to hear about it by next week, on September 3rd.

What do you make of the new iPhone colours – would you buy one? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading the article and have a great day!

*a slight exaggeration

From Atari to Candy Crush Saga: Gaming, Then and Now

Atari ConsoleThis is a guest post by David Bledsoe. David is an engineer during the day and a gamer by night. He enjoys writing about digital technology and entertainment news.

Are you begging for lives on Candy Crush Saga, while trying to maintain the top score amongst your Facebook friends? Have you forgotten to go to work because you are stuck on the chocolate levels, struggling to destroy the sticky stuff before it gets the better of you? For millions of folks, this online game has hooked them body and soul. But how did such a game become possible? What started our fascination and compulsion with gaming? Who is to credit (or blame) for our desire to play?

The Beginning

In the past year, ESA reports consumers have spent more than $20 billion on accessories, software and content for video games, proving this is an ever-profitable industry. Ralph Baer has been credited as the “father of video games,” and what a phenomenon he started. Baer created the first video game console known as the Odyssey, manufactured by Magnavox in 1972. Immediately following, an inspired Nolan Bushnell founded Atari, and created the arcade game known as Pong. This led to a cartridge-based console known as the Atari VCS, or Atari 2600 as it is now known, designed to be able to support a variety of games. This concept was revolutionary and spawned a billion dollar industry. People adored being able to play the arcade games they knew and loved in the comfort and convenience of their homes.

Atari Faces Stiff Competition

By 1981, Mattel’s Intellevision gaming console posed a considerable threat to Atari’s near-monopoly of the home gaming industry. Along with this competition, other companies joined the race, and in 1983, the video game market crashed due to an overabundance of products. As 1985 rolled in, whispers began to surface about the death of video games, and this was when NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) was introduced by Nintendo. Released earlier in Japan, NES had proven to be a wild success, so it made its way to the U.S. Sales of NES were astonishing, and to date, NES has been credited as the savior of the video gaming industry.

Beyond Cartridges, PlayStation, Xbox, and More

The early ‘90s proved to be the start of a new generation of systems. Sony came out with the PlayStation in 1995, a console that used CDs instead of cartridges to play video games. According to editors at PlayStation.com, PlayStation sold more than 100,000 units its opening weekend, making it an overnight sensation. From here on, technological advancements and features increased dramatically, to allow for 3D gaming, increased interactivity, and PC compatibility. Microsoft’s Xbox came out in 2001, and eventually Xbox Live, allowing gamers to connect online and play with real people across the country and the world.

As the public became more interested in playing games online, the popularity of consoles and systems such as Nintendo Wii skyrocketed. Cartridges and cords soon gave way to play that synced up with services such as hughesnet to empower the online experience, dramatically changing the world of gaming as we knew it. Simultaneously, interest in mobile phone game apps and online computer games created an ancillary market for video games.

Video Gaming and the Internet

Approximately 62 percent of gamers play these games with others, either in person or online, ESA reports. Increased access to the Internet allows for a more collaborative gaming experience. The world as we know it is connected, and the gaming industry understands the importance of this cultural phenomenon. ESA notes the type of online games played most often are classified as casual or social, requiring interaction to continue. With the convenience of downloading directly to our phones, tablets, consoles, and computers, game applications continue to be a highly profitable industry, and are the future of gaming.

Video games are a part of our collective history. These games are synonymous with our culture, and their evolution has gone hand-in-hand with the increased global connectivity possible through the Internet.

Are you a gamer? Do you see games as a part of our collective history, or just as entertainment? What do you think will be the next leap forward in games tech? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know.

Creative Commons image by moparx

3 Alternatives to QWERTY

This is a guest post by Jobe Cousins, an IT expert and gadget enthusiast who currently writes for printer cartridges and office supplies company, PrinterInks.com.

The QWERY keyboard layout is one which most of us have grown up with. Designed in 1870 by Christopher Latham Scholes, it is the most commonly used format in the world. The name comes from the first six letters on the keyboard reading from left to right. The layout came into widespread use as it was patented for the ‘Sholes and Glidden typewriter and became even more popular after the design was sold to Remington in 1873. In 2013, it is still the default layout for most of the keyboards sold worldwide. However, there are alternatives out there and here we take a look at a few of them below.

Dvorak Layout

DVORAK keyboardImage by:  zappowbang

This is a layout which was designed to specifically address some inherent weaknesses found in the QWERTY layout. It was created by Dr. August Dvorak and Dr. William Dealey and patented in 1936.   Also known as the ‘Simplified Keyboard’, it’s a  faster keyboard as it removes some of the awkward features that are evident in QWERTY  such as allowing for more letter combinations to be typed with both hands which produces a more rhythmic approach and makes the typing faster. Also the Dvorak layout avoids awkward finger motions and letters which don’t have to be crossed over to the same extent. This keyboard caters more for the majority of typists with the most common letters on the right hand side which is the opposite case with the QWERTY layout.  Most of the keystrokes (70%) are performed on the home row as opposed to the top rows which some say reduce the chances of repetitive strain injury.

Colemak

This keyboard layout was designed as an alternative to both QWERY and Dvorak. It was developed by Shai Coleman with a strong emphasis on ergonomic design and specifically for English touch typing. There are many advantages to Colmak over QWERTY and it doesn’t take that long to learn. Finger movement is significantly reduced, because you use your fingers 2.2 times more on QWERTY than you do with Colmak which has obvious advantages for fatigue avoidance and strain. You can also type up to 35 times more on the home row than you can with QWERTY.  Colmak is a credible alternative because it has created lot of time consuming changes whilst maintaining many of the features that users have grown accustomed to such as the well known short cuts, i.e. ‘CTRL+’ functions. Colmak also caters for over 40 different languages which will attract a whole range of users.

Optimus Maximus

Optimus Maximus keyboard

Image by:  na0905

Designed by Artemy Lebedev, the Optimus Maximus keyboard is an ambitious move away from the standard keyboard formats.  This system differs greatly in a sense that it allows for greater interaction with the user. Each key is effectively a standalone display and shows which function is currently in use. If the shift key is pressed for example, it would illuminate an upper case picture. Optimus Maximus is suitable for a variety of different language layouts such as Ancient Greek, Cyrillic and Arabic as well as catering for HTML codes and maths functions. The keyboard buttons can easily be moved for replacement or when they just need cleaning.

There are other alternatives out there which are also proving that users don’t have to rely on QWERTY.  Of course many will still prefer to stick with its tried and tested formula but as computer and software manufacturers evolve we will most likely see a demand for more revolutionary keyboards.

Have you tried an alternative keyboard? Or are alternatives to the ‘standard’ a silly idea? Tell us your thoughts either way in the comments below.

Xbox One & PS4 Hardware Compared

This is a guest post by William Judd

Xbox One Console, Sensor and ControllerLast week Microsoft unveiled the next generation Xbox console: The Xbox One. Like the PlayStation 4, which was announced earlier this year but hasn’t yet been shown in the flesh, the new console will be released in time for Christmas this year. That will bring an end to almost eight years without a new console generation, a much longer period than generations past.

As you’d expect, both of these next-generation systems are much more powerful than their predecessors. What you might not expect is how similar the two systems are to one another! In this article, we’ll have a look at how these two next-generation consoles compare.

Processors
Both systems move from a custom PowerPC architecture to a 64-bit semi-custom system-on-chip, like a gaming PC. Both the PS4 and X1 use an AMD Jaguar APU, which should be clocked in the region of 1.6 GHz (as estimated by Anandtech). Both systems feature two four-core processors, making for eight cores (and eight threads) in total. So far, so similar.

Memory
Where things begin to diverge is in system memory. Both have 8 GB of RAM, but the PlayStation 4 has an edge here, as it’s using much faster GDDR5 RAM versus the DDR3 of the Xbox One. Datarates and peak memory bandwidth are considerably in Sony’s favour here as a result. Expect 5.5 GHz datarate delivery peak memory bandwidth of 176 GB/s for the PS4, and only 2.133 GHz good for 68.3 GB/s for the X1. The Microsoft console partially makes up for this with 32 MB of embedded memory on die, which should reduce the amount of peak memory bandwidth required. Overall, it looks pretty close – Sony have gone with a higher cost but simpler option, but Microsoft’s approach is by no means foolish.

Graphics
In graphics land, things are more simply in Sony’s favour. Both consoles use an AMD GCN-based GPU, but Sony included an 18 Compute Unit configuration (good for 1152 ALUs) where Microsoft went for 12 CUs (delivering 768 ALUs). Both GPUs are clocked at the same speed (800 MHz), so here the PS4 has a clear advantage over the X1 in terms of horsepower – about 50%.

Power / Heat
The downside of having more powerful hardware is that you’d expect to also see more power used and more heat created. By that measure, the PS4 should be hotter and use more power than the X1, but both should also be hotter and use more power than the previous generation of consoles.

In truth, only the first comparison is likely to be true. While the new components used in the PS4 and X1 are more powerful, they’re also much more power efficient. Even when running at full tilt, we should expect to see only marginally higher power consumption than the previous generation.

Both of the new consoles also support power gating, allowing unused CPU and GPU cores to be kept in a low-power state until they’re needed. The new systems can also vary their frequencies and voltages as needed, allowing for a much wider range of heat and power usage than the previous generation. This should make them more economical and cooler to run outside of games.

In terms of PlayStation 4 versus Xbox One, we’d expect the PS4 will run a bit hotter and use a bit more power, thanks to the PS4’s additional GPU performance. Both systems look like they’ll use larger grilles, so heat shouldn’t be an issue.

Conclusion
All in all, it looks like the PlayStation 4 holds the performance crown, but the Xbox 360 may be a bit cheaper than the Sony console. That strategy hasn’t worked well for Microsoft with its Surface tablets or Windows Phones, but may be a good initial strategy for the company.

Of course, Microsoft are also investing a lot of time and money into the Kinect and the X1’s media capbilities, so perhaps we’ll see the same price point. Either way, it’s shaping up into an interesting battle!

I hope you found this comparison useful. For more in-depth information on the hardware differences between the PS4 and the X1, be sure to check out the Anandtech article linked above, which goes into much more detail for enthusiasts.

Apps for Downtime and Productivity: Make Your Smartphone Smarter

This is a guest post by Lauren Schmidt. Lauren loves to blog, play golf and sing in the rain.

Woman on smartphoneFor several years I stuck with my itty-bitty phone whose functions were limited to making calls, sending texts and waking me up in the morning. Why would I want to spend a few hard-earned Benjamins on a smartphone? Well, I drunk the Kool-aid and now I’m never more than a few feet away from my phone. Here are some apps that get used on a daily, or near-daily, basis:

Flipboard

Flipboard helps me keep tabs on social media; it integrates my Facebook and Twitter streams with the RSS feeds of my favorite blogs and news sources. Instead of looking at the boring interface of Google reader, I just open Flipboard and see pics and headlines of the latest posts, tweets and status updates in a magazine. Just tap the picture to read the rest of the post and share it with others. Set up is really easy and, best of all, it’s a free app.

Instapaper

During the week, I never have enough time to read even a fraction of what catches my eye so I use Instapaper to save and read the article later. Instapaper lets me save articles so I don’t spend precious minutes searching for them later. The one-time $4.99 cost is comparable to what I’d spend on just one issue of my favorite magazine. Besides archiving up to 500 articles, I can share them with others via email, Twitter and Tumblr through the app.

Break

To relieve the day’s stresses, sit down and open up funny pics on Break.com’s app to get a few good laughs. The ever-increasing collection of pics are cracking me up have created such an addiction, I have to limit myself to 15 minutes a day! The app is available for iOS, Android and tablet devices and best of all, it’s free!

Evernote

My organization management tool since my husband first introduced it to me as a desktop application a few years ago. Evernote is a virtual file cabinet that can be installed, and synced, on all of your digital devices for easy access to your documents no matter where you are. I keep notebooks, as the files are called, for each member of my family, my business, recipes, my never ending to-do list and projects. I use the basic service which is free, but the premium service allows you to store a larger amount of data and have changes of documents saved.

Mint

Whether you’re trying to dig out of debt or just want to stick to your budget, the folks at Mint have you covered with this handy app that integrates your bank accounts so you can keep better tabs on your money. I like the user interface — it lets me track my spending with a few taps. Say goodbye to racking up $30 overdraft fees for a $3 coffee!

Shop Savvy

You know that feeling you get when you see the same dress you bought last week at a different store, but for $30 less? That may very well be a thing of the past if you employ Shop Savvy on a regular basis. You simply input the item that you’re planning to purchase and it will compare both brick and mortar the virtual shops to find the lowest price. And if that wasn’t good enough, shopsavvy.com states it will give you the closest location so you can decide if the cheapest price is worth it, even if it requires a half-hour drive or let you purchase the item via the app if you’re making an online purchase.

OverTo You

Do you use any of the apps we detailed here? Or do you have suggestions for other apps that should have made the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts – please do share them in the comments and tell us what you think.

Mobile data usage – how much is enough?

Man looking suspiciously at phoneDownloaded an HD movie lately? What about streaming music from Spotify? Perhaps, like many of us, you now download all your games and music rather than buying the physical copies. Home broadband is so widespread, affordable and fast we’re accustomed to grabbing as much as want without worrying about the quantity. Unlimited services are common and inexpensive, and even if you have a cap it’s likely to be so high that most people will never hit the monthly limit.

But when it comes to mobile broadband it’s a very different situation.

The cheapest mobile broadband packages offer just 1GB of data usage, while the maximum you can currently get on a contract deal is 15GB. But how much data does the average user require, and what can you do within the limit? Figuring this out can be challenge if you’re new to mobile data services, and it can be an expensive period of trial and error as you learn exactly how your mobile internet package will cope with a heavy diet of YouTube and online games.

Mobile broadband data: what do you need? 

How much data you’ll need for your mobile broadband service will come down to what you’ll be doing with the connection.

Web browsing and emailing would be considered light usage. Web sites generally do not consume much data, even those heavy with Flash and other fancy effects. Email too is usually lightweight, particularly if you access your email via the web. It can be more demanding if you use a desktop client such as Outlook or Thunderbird, but even then only emails with large attachments will have any significant impact.

If the majority of your online activities are centred around the web and email, and you don’t use it for more than a couple of hours per day, a basic 1 or 2GB mobile broadband package may be sufficient.

However, things become more complex when you factor in streaming video and audio. Services such as YouTube and iPlayer use a lot more bandwidth – you’d be lucky to get four hours of streaming cute cat videos off YouTube with a 1GB allowance.

If you plan on making use of any kind of streaming media – video or audio – you will need to budget for a larger data limit. If you watch embedded videos while browsing, like those shared by friends on Facebook for example, then consider upping your mobile broadband data package to around 5GB. This will give you more breathing room, and allow you to use it for a few hours of iPlayer or Spotify streaming on occasion.

As a rough guideline, YouTube videos use between 100 – 250MB per hour, while streaming an hour of audio can be anywhere from 60 – 200MB. But an hour of web browsing might not be more than 25MB, giving a generous 40 hours of web browsing per gigabyte.

To help illustrate the data requirements of different activities we’ve put together this handy infographic:

Mobile broadband usage calculator – An infographic by the team at Mobile Broadband Usage Calculator by BroadbandGenie

Another thing to consider is file downloads. The exact amount of data consumed will be dictated by the size of the files so this is easy to manage, but it means you’ll want to try to stick to small files rather than multi-gigabyte monsters.

This is particularly problematic for gamers who might need large patches or updates, though. If you do think you’ll be needing to grab large files on a regular basis in addition to everything else, then look for packages up to 15GB in size. Even then it will need to be carefully monitored.

Background activities and uploads

File downloads and streaming are simple to control – if you’re worried just don’t play that video, or only download large files using a fixed line connection.

But there are some things that many mobile broadband users overlook, and as a result find themselves running out of data much sooner than expected.

Many applications, as well as your computer’s operating system, will download in the background without alerting you first. Often these are important bits like critical patches or new definitions for anti-virus software, but as it occurs without warning you won’t find out until it’s too late.

To avoid this check the settings for your applications, particularly those left running all the time. Normally there will be an option to tell the software to download patches only when you give permission.

Another factor is uploading. Anything you send to the internet is treated by the network as data use same as a download (just, you know, in reverse), so don’t go wild uploading big files. One major culprit is photo uploads. A single image sent to Facebook might only be 1 or 2MB but if you’re doing that many times over the month it’ll take a big chunk out of your account. You can find the full guide to mobile broadband data usage over at Broadband Genie.

Author Bio: Matt Powell contributes this article on behalf of Broadband Genie, the mobile broadband consumer advice website.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown coming to iOS

This is a guest post by Will Judd.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown running on iPadXCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of the best games of last year, offering an excellent modern take on the classic turn-based alien defense strategy game. One of the game’s best qualities was that due to its turn-based nature and efficient implementation, it ran well even on integrated graphics cards like the Intel HD 4000 series found on the latest round of Ultrabooks. The game worked well on consoles as well, another rarity for a strategy title. This week, we’ve learned that publishers 2K Games are using those two qualities to bring the full game to iPhone and iPad.

Unlike many mobile ports, XCOM appears on its new platform without sacrificing much of the original experience. Except for a few maps cut to fit within Apple’s size limits, you’ll be playing precisely the same game as those on PC, Xbox 360 or PS3. That’s a major achievement for any mobile port, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released only in October last year – it took Grand Theft Auto ten years to make the jump from PC and console release to the eventual iOS and Android version.

The port is being developed by 2K China, with original developers Firaxis providing guidance. The game’s lead designer pointed out that turn-based strategy games are ideally suited for touch interfaces, and 2K have already been able to demonstrate a level running on the iPad with full touch controls.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on whether there will ever be an Android release, although I wouldn’t think of it as out of the question. Regardless, the iPhone and iPad versions will be released at a premium price point this summer and could well offer one of the deepest and most enriching games on the iOS platform.

Do you think that XCOM: Enemy Unknown will be a hit? I’m personally of the opinion that it’ll be the ideal iPad Mini accessory, particularly if we see the release of a new Retina iPad Mini before the game is finished.

Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know what you think. Thanks for reading and have a good one!

7 reasons to love the Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7Another round in the battle of the tablets, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini go head to head to take over the tablet market. Nexus 7 is a keen contender for the prize, despite the domination of iPad in the past. We’ve compiled a list of reasons why, we think, everyone should give Nexus 7 a try.

Open Source App store
Apple are notoriously fussy with what does and doesn’t make it onto the App Store, however, Android have created a software developer’s playground with the Google Play Store. Designers can bring to the market pretty much whatever they want, and can update, tweak and develop until their heart’s content. Meaning, as a user, you get the very best of the good, the bad and the downright weird Apps available.

Portability
It’s smaller, slimmer and lighter than other tablets, meaning it’s the perfect size for using whenever and wherever you please. It’s been likened to an all-powerful e-reader, a handy size which you can use comfortably in one hand, whilst simultaneously being a market leading tablet.

Quad core processor
The Nexus 7 boasts a Tegra 3 Quad core processor and Jelly Bean software; it’s sleek, smooth, fast and powerful –which completely floors the iPad.

Google integration
Whether you’re a Google lover or not, there’s a lot to be said for Nexus 7’s seamless integration of Google products, of course, it’s no less than you’d expect, but it is dreamy. All the Apps an average user would want are there straight out of the box, and Google developments and updates continue to make it effortless to sync all your technology and devices. The Nexus 7 is set to feature Google Now, a clever App which utilises all your current information, such as location and browsing history to compile a collection of things which might be of interest to you in the local area. Google has you covered, wherever you are.

Widgets, widgets, widgets
Most people who are proud of not owning an iPhone can contribute their attachment to their Smartphone to the widgets. Widgets are something which until you discover, you’ll never miss, or appreciate, however, once you’ve discovered the simplicity, personalisation and functionality of a widget, you’ll never go back. Widgets give you more of the App on the homescreen, you can use the App and levels of its functions without even going into the App itself. This is great on phones, and even better on tablets.

The price
Most of all, the price of a Nexus 7 blows the iPad out of the water. An Apple iPad Mini 32GB will cost you around £349, a 32GB Nexus 7 will cost you £199 – so, very little competition in terms of cost.

What do you think about the Nexus 7? Are our reasons enough to make you fall in love with it, or do you have a different preference? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

This is a guest post by Les Yates, on behalf of The Snugg. The Snugg offers a range of cases and covers for all leading Smartphones and tablets, including cases for the Nexus 7. Check out their entire range at thesnugg.com.