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If you are looking to experiment with the hundreds of thousands of great video games that are available on the Google Play Store, you'll need a device to access them. The great thing about android is that they have a different group of manufacturers, meaning they also a vast range of phones and other devices to choose from. This means that you don't need to purchase the top of the range devices as some other phones, further down the pricing scale, offer a truly exceptional gaming experience.


But which Android mobile phone or portable handheld Android game console is right for you?


Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge



With the latest Snapdragon 820 processor, the Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. It is more than capable of not just playing the most up to date games, but plays them like a breeze too. Released in 2016, it looks fab, especially with the curved edge, which doesn't add a great deal to be honest, but gives it a classy finish. The games run as smoothly as needed, without lagging, and is what they call, future-proof, guaranteeing two years of top-level performance. This means that this awesome Samsung will be able to cope with any of the top games due for release in the future.


NVIDIA SHIELD Portable and Tablet



The NVIDIA SHIELD Portable is the best purpose built handheld Android game console on the market right now. It looks and feels great on the outside, while on the inside, it is powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor which helps power the stunning 5-inch HD LCD display. On this device, you will be able to stream PC games and play the Android games of your choosing. Running on Android KitKat, it is a fantastic machine and was only a matter of time before the market demanded it.


HTC 10



HTC's new flagship phone, the 10, is something of a return to form for the Taiwanese brand, who went unnecessarily quiet in 2015, following weirdly low sales for what was actually a very good phone, the M9. Anyway, here they are again and the 10 is worth the wait. It's a beautiful phone, and contains specs allowing it to compete with the Galaxy S7 range. Powered by Snapdragon 820 and Adreno 530 GPU, the phone kindly gives up 4 GB of RAM (as does the Galaxy). Visually, the games will look the part thanks to the LCD 5 technology and is a wise, but pricey, choice.


Nexus 6P



While we have listed the S7 Edge as the best on the market, this number represents the best value. The powerful hardware in the Nexus 6P, machinery like Snapdragon 810 processor and Adreno 430 GPU, shouldn't be available at this price but, hey, that's android for you. This brilliant little gem is capable of competing with the Samsung and HTC flagships for almost half the price. The Nexus 6P looks stunning and, with 3 GB of RAM and a 5.7-inch AMOLED screen, gives a performance fit enough for even the most discerning consumer.


Why Android is Best


We wholeheartedly commit to the idea that Android devices are superior to iOS devices not just because of their ability, but also because of the little extras you get with the Google system. Extras like freemium games and range of manufacturers which leads to greater, competitive market place. This is especially effective for games and gamers.


If you do like real money online casinos, then you will have to navigate over to the homepage of the site you wish to use before downloading the app directly from them, as opposed to downloading straight from the Play Market. This minor convenience aside, you can enjoy all your favourites like blackjack and slots. These, and others, are available at all casinos for Android users. Slots are the most popular of all online and live casino games, beating off competition from games like poker, roulette and others.


There are so many games, most of which are free to play, and range from all manner of different genres. These could be tower games, strategy games, life sims, action games, racing titles, just about anything you fancy. If real money gambling is more your thing, then any of the devices listed here will suit your needs. Even most of the Android machines not listed, should do the trick.


"Little android figurines" (CC BY 2.0) by Family O'Abé


While Pokémon Go might have added a new risk factor to online gaming - physical injury - app store safety traditionally revolves around viruses, micro-transactions, and adware. Here are three quick tips for stress-free gaming this autumn.


1. Stay Away from Third Party Stores


Here's a strange fact about smartphones: mobile malware is a growth industry. In the twelve months between 2014 and 2015, the number of malicious programs attacking smartphones jumped nearly 200%. However, the number of viruses, worms, and other nasties hidden in the Play and App stores remained close to zero.


So, how does malware get onto mobile phones in the first place? Viruses and their ilk are a non-issue for the majority of smartphone users; the threat only arises when people try to download apps from third party stores, especially those physically located in the Middle East. In some places, your infection rate can be as high as 1 in 3.


A good example occurred shortly before the release of Pokémon Go, when a malware-infested app called Guide for Pokémon Go appeared on third-party app stores. It was downloaded half a million times before anybody noticed that it was up to no good.


Apple and Google's vetting systems aren't infallible - there's at least one story of an app with no functionality at all becoming a five-star app on the Play Store - but at least the odds aren't stacked against you in the official stores.


2. Permissions are Everything


You might not have realised but every app on your phone has your explicit permission to do certain things. For example, Facebook and Instagram can both access your camera; Pokémon Go can find out your precise location, and Gmail can view your phone's calendar. Apps need these permissions to function.


However, you should always try to ‘connect the dots' before giving a new app VIP access to your phone. For example, Facebook needs to ‘talk' to your camera every time you try to take a photograph from within the app and Pokémon Go uses your location to determine your proximity to monsters; that makes sense. Ask yourself if that calculator app you've just downloaded really needs access to your text messages.


You should also be wary of imposter apps, especially anti-virus tools (Symantec has removed fake ‘Norton Anti-virus' apps from the Play Store in the past), as these can be used by criminals to scam you. Using the above example of the calculator app - a favourite trick is to send thousands of automatic text messages to premium rate numbers, landing you with the bill.


3. Take Care with Online Gaming Apps


Having access to casino games on the go is one of the benefits of smartphone gaming but it's important to find a trustworthy operator, especially if you intend to play cash games. Closing the app and visiting the company's website with your browser is an easy way to determine the legitimacy of a gambling firm, as most casinos have their credentials on the homepage. The Betway app, for example, is regulated by the Belgian Gaming Commission, as well as other bodies such as the European Sports Security Association.


The same goes for apps with micro-transactions. Reports indicate that micro-transactions - small payments for extra lives, in-game currency, or other luxuries - make up 79% of all mobile developer income. They're an easy way to make money from otherwise ‘free' apps and they're not going away.


Ensure that all payments you make on a mobile platform go through the Play Store or the App Store, as the two companies have various safeguards in place to prevent fraud, and you may be able to get a refund if the app doesn't work as expected or somebody else uses your account to buy things. Apple and Google won't share your payment details with the company who created the app.


One final point - you can learn a lot about a mobile game, from compatibility and user experience to the number of micro-transactions, by reading the customer reviews on the two app stores before downloading the app to your phone. It sounds cynical but somebody else's bad luck might just save you from installing a fraudulent or malicious app.


"Huawei Ascend II m865" (CC BY 2.0) by Linuxbear



We now live in a mobile world, we all know that. But when it comes to choosing the right mobile medium, companies have a number of factors to consider. While many would assume that the growth of the mobile app market might cause a decrease in the number of mobile websites out there, the opposite is actually true.


According to Statista, there are now more than 1 billion apps on the market. Delving a little deeper into the stats, the Apple App Store alone saw more than 100 billion downloads as of June 2015. Interestingly, however, only a small number of those apps account for people's daily usage. As outlined by Forrester and comScore, of the top 50 mobile apps in the world, the top five are responsible for as much as 90% of all usage.


If this is the case it would seem to suggest that while app market is extremely large, it's not a completely dominant force in the mobile world. Indeed, if people are only using a fraction of the apps they download, then 2 billion smartphones must be using mobile sites at least some of the time.


The battle between mobile apps and websites is one that's raged on for the best part of a decade and while neither has every shown a clear dominance, companies often find themselves faced with a choice. Having a native app certainly gives users easier access to what you have to offer, but it can also limit your market. In contrast, mobile websites can be made available to all platforms at once, but they don't offer things like offline access and push notifications.


Universal Appeal Helps Break Down Borders


"Texting" (CC BY 2.0) by nSeika


Deciding between one or the other partly depends on the type of product or service on offer. If we look at a major mobile operator in the iGaming space, 32Red, the benefits of a mobile site are obvious.


The industry as a whole is worth more than $41 billion each year and that means millions of people around the world are now anteing up via their computers and, importantly, their smartphones. With such a broad demographic to cater for, 32Red decided to create an optimized mobile site that features everything from roulette to slots and works across the board. Indeed, different countries have different preferences as to their favourite brand of smartphone. For instance, the iPhone was the most popular smartphone in Canada back in 2014 while the Samsung brand tops sales in Germany.


32Red understood the need to offer a platform that performs equally well on Germany's most popular device and Canada's favourite phone. Thanks to the operator's mobile site, customers who normally play online roulette at 32Red can now also ante up on the go regardless of the mobile device they own without having to download an app. They just need to log in and start playing one of the 90 or so casino games available.


Offline Options Offer Hands-On Approach


"Introducing the Push Notification Servic" (CC BY 2.0) by Erik Pitti


Of course, the iGaming industry isn't simply a collection of mobile sites. It's often the case that native apps offer fewer gaming options than their browser-based peers. For example, Betway has 400+ online games but games such as Hotel of Horror form part of a 120-game mobile offering.


However, while mobile apps often offer fewer features than a mobile site, they do have the benefit of improved access and, importantly, offline capabilities. Indeed, one of the most powerful features of a mobile app that companies can exploit is push notifications.


Sticking with the iGaming industry, an operator like Caesars Casino can utilize this feature by sending users push notifications announcing a new game such as Wolf Run (a five-reel, 40-payline video slot), the latest casino bonus or the status of a withdrawal. This system is great for operators as it allows them to keep their services at the forefront of a user's mind and, importantly, gain more clicks from their calls to action.


Instead of posting an announcement online and hoping people find it, operators can put it right under someone's nose (quite literally) and that's extremely powerful. Essentially, when it comes down to it, the mobile site vs. app argument comes down a matter of acquisition vs. retention.


A Matter of Personal Preference


Mobile sites clearly have a greater reach than apps which is great for a company that wants to maintain a global presence. In contrast, a mobile app has more power to retain customers as its accessibility and ability to offer push notifications help generate more action from existing players.


As you can see, there are positives and negatives on both sides of the equation. While apps might be slicker than sites, they aren't as universal so it all comes down to the goals of the company in question as to which one they choose to invest their money in.

9 September, 2016 Gaming


Samsung and Apple both have their flagship models available for inspection now and both hold the hopes of Android and iOS within their sleek shells. Although you'll need to wait a little while longer to get your hands on the iPhone 7, now seems a good time to see how they matchup and which one is right for you.


DESIGN


The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a tremendously good-looking handset, boasting a slender 142 x 70 x 8mm chassis and a weight of just 152g. But make sure you don't drop it! As well as the fact that it is super easy to crack the screen, it also scores very low in terms of reparability, with Samsung opting to use adhesive rather than screws. That means if something needs to be replaced, something else needs to come out with the faulty component. The iPhone 7 is also very alluring and lightweight, with a slim 7.1mm chassis and weighing in at just 138g. For the color conscious the S7 is available in Black, White, Gold, Silver, and Pink Gold, while the iPhone 7 can be Gold, Silver, Rose Gold, Black, and Jet Black.


Both phones are resistant to dust and water, but The Galaxy S7 has the edge here, as it is IP68-certified, meaning it can be dunked in the water.


It's hard to pick which phone is more attractive and both will require casing of some kind which will make them less aesthetically-pleasing but it could help avoid an expensive repair in the long run.


"Android Firewall" (CC BY 2.0) by Uncalno


DISPLAY


The Galaxy S7 features a rich, colorful 5.1 inch Super AMOLED display and has a high-resolution 1,440 x 2,560 pixel screen with 577 ppi pixel density. The iPhone 7 has a 4.7 inch Retina HD display with a lower resolution of 1,334 x 750 pixels which, spread over a smaller area, means the disparity between the two won't be as conspicuous. Both are great, but Samsung takes the point here, as bigger is always better in the display round. Another plus for the Samsung camp is the 'always-on' display setting, which turns on a small piece of the display to show the time, date, and notifications at a cost of just over 1% battery life per hour.


GAMING


The S7 comes packing the latest Snapdragon 820 processor, while the iPhone 7 is equipped with the new A10 Fusion. Although the A10 Fusion is a significant improvement on the iPhone 6's processor, it's a case of Apple catching up with Android capabilities rather than surpassing them. Both phones possess the required processing power to cope with the most demanding games available, from Oz: Broken Kingdom and live blackjack at a bitcoin online casino to Modern Combat 6 or the latest Fifa. The ability both phones have to give menial jobs to low-power cores and demanding tasks to high-power cores means that everything should run that little bit smoother, so playing MMOs or online poker with will be as easy the game developers intended, even if you're running a number of other programs in the background.


SOFTWARE


The Samsung Galaxy S7 runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and this should be followed by a Nougat update in early 2017. The iPhone 7 runs on Apple's custom-built iOS-10 software, which should give it the edge, as it's been custom built for the iPhone 7, as opposed to Marshmallow, which Google developed for a range of devices. There really isn't the time or space here to go into an iOS VS Android debate and really it comes down to personal preference, as Android has worked hard to currently be on an equal pegging with iOS. This one's a tie, as those using many Google services will be content to remain with Android and those comfortable in the Apple environment will be equally fulfilled.


"Embossed Apple logo" (CC BY 2.0) by Marcin Wichary


Samsung and Apple have both made big statements with their new devices and there's no doubt they're the elite in this highly competitive market. There are other considerations such as the battery-life and the camera, which are important, but very similar for both models. One chief area of consideration is the price and this is where the Samsung takes the victory because it is considerably cheaper than the iPhone 7. With the top-end iPhone 7 a whopping £919, compared to the high-end Galaxy at £799, you get a great phone with both Apple and Samsung, but you'll keep a little more cash in your pocket with the Android.



Unless you have been living in complete isolation with no connection to the modern world, you probably have an idea about the mobile game Pokémon Go. Most of us know that Nintendo is the company to bring the super popular mobile game to the masses, but if we were to ask you which company actually developed it, most of you would probably not have a clear answer. Well, Niantic is the name of the small company that developed Pokémon Go and John Hanke, the CEO of the company is the main man behind the mapping technology that the game is based on. In fact, John was one of the main developers involved in designing the basics of Google Earth while he was still working with his previous corporation.


Niantic has three prime investors, Nintendo, Pokémon Co and of course Google, under which the company actually began as a startup in 2010. John Hanke himself is a gamer and he plans to expand the game with new features like trading very soon. In the meanwhile, since the popularity of the game has reached an all time high and is only continuing to grow with each passing day, Niantic is possibly going to use this massive success to get its mapping components licensed by other major developers in the hope of developing new apps and games in the near future.


Saikat Kar (tech enthusiast)

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