Tag Archives: android

Peak vs Elevate

Recently I’ve been pondering wether its possible to enhance your mental fitness. I mean its easy to improve your physical fitness – you can go to the gym, run, improve your diet etc – but when it comes to brain power is it really possible to see progress? Back in 2005 Nintendo certainly thought so with the introduction of Brain Age for the popular DS console. Brain Age had you solve simple math problems and complete basic tasks with the premise of making you smarter. Today however, there are several excellent options available for your smart device which make similar claims.
The three most popular brain training apps for mobile are Elevate, Peak and Luminosity. For me, Luminosity is way too expensive (£7.99/$11.99 per month) and as such I have opted to leave it out of this comparison. The two apps which really stood out for me as viable options were Elevate and Peak. Both apps offer a similar experience but they go about delivering it in a slightly different way. I subscribed to both premium services and have been using them frequently for about a month.
Probably the most popular brain training app at the moment is Elevate. Although only launched in May 2014, at time of writing the app has been downloaded 5 million times. What makes Elevate great is its intuitive, bold design and slick execution. Recently Elevate hit the headlines when it was voted as Apples App of the year for 2014. New users to Elevate will first have to complete a quick diagnostics test which will tell the app the areas which need improving on etc. According to elevate the service focuses on your reading and writing skills, along with memory and focus. The app offers a customised service which adjusts appropriately to your performance over time.
Elevate comes with a pretty comprehensive free to use service but if you really want to reap the benefits you will want to subscribe to the premium service for £2.99/$4.99 a month or £31.99/$44.99 for the year. This will give you access to 8 exclusive premium games, unlimited access to all 25 games and also the ability to compare your performance to other Elevate users.
Peak brain training comes from the London based company Brainbow. It offers a very similar experience to Elevate and also comes with some very positive review. Peak also comes high in many app rankings and to date has been downloaded 2 million times. Like Elevate, Peak helps improve your language skills, but puts more of an emphasis on mental agility and problem solving. The service allows you to set your own training goals and like Elevate offers a customised service which adapts to you performance over time.
Sign up to Peaks pro subscription and gain access to the 6-game daily personal workouts, more comprehensive analytics and unlimited access to all games. The premium package will cost you £2.99/$4.99 a month or £24.99/$34.99 for a yearly subscription. There is also a pretty decent free version, although like its competitor you will need to subscribe to the premium service if your serious about seeing improvements.
Games and design
The structure of Elevate has improved recently and now comprises of three main sections: These ‘Training’, ‘Games’ and Elevate design‘Performance’. The ‘training’ tab gives you access to your daily training session and comprises of three specially selected games. The ‘games’ tab gives you access to all 25 games and allows you to practice them as much as you like, and the ‘performance’ tab gives you access to all you statistics and tracks your performance (more on this later).

Elevate games

The games are beautifully designed and incorporate bold colours, slick animations and great sound effects. Because the games
are so well designed and such fun to play you would hardly know you are working out at all. It is clear that a lot of effort has gone into creating this type of experience. Some games are locked until you reach a certain level in associated games, and others are only available in the premium service. There is usually a goal in each game (like maintaining propulsion of a space rocket or navigating a boat across an ocean) and it all helps to make Elevate both interesting and engaging.

Peak designPeak also has a lovely design which is easily recognisable. The app basically comprises of two screens. The first screen is centred around your daily goal and workout, and the second contains all you performance stats and progress. You can move between the two screens by swiping with you finger. There is also an icon in the top left hand corner which takes you to the menu, and another in the top right which takes you to the games archive. The interface is very slick looking and fairly easy to use. The games themselves are also very fun to play and offer enough variety to keep you interested. Unlike Elevate though, the games feel more functional rather than recreational.
Peak gamesWhilst both apps are exceptionally designed and lovely to use, Elevate is possible slightly simpler to navigate due to is tab based design. That said, I think Peak’s home screen design is a little bit more interesting and dynamic, particularly when you get used to it. Whilst games on both are great, Elevate perhaps shines a little more due to its use of animations and sounds.
Performance analytics
Your performance in Elevate is based on what has been coined ‘Elevate proficiency quotient’ (EPQ). This is based on you Elevavate statsperformance over time, how often you play and the variety of of games you play. It gives you a score ranging from 0 – 5000. Your EPQ is will give you an idea of how well you are performing in the five areas: Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening and math and for each category Elevate will tell you which is your best game. You also get a percentile ranking which compares you against Elevate users. This is pretty cool although I’m not sure my writing skills would actually put me at 96.8% against other users. The scores do seem a little exaggerated.
Peak on the other hand does things a little differently. Importantly it gives you a single score based on your overall Peak Performance. This is scored out of 1000. There is also a graph which shows your score over the past week. If you want more in-depth statistics then Peak also breaks things down in much more detail. A very cool function is the ability to compare your Peak score to people within your age group or profession. This is great as it gives you a feel of how well you compare to others. The information is displayed in a spider chart which includes Peak brain score, memory, problem solving, language, mental agility and focus. As if this wasn’t enough there is also a graph charting your performance in each category over the last month and a break down of how you perform in each category compared to your age group.
Peak statsThe app further breaks down your performance and gives you a Peak brain score for every game you have played. It even tells you which day of the week you have performed best.
Whilst both Elevate and Peak have excellent performance trackers, there is no bout that Peak’s is more comprehensive. I also much prefer having a single score to keep me motivated. I find this gives me a target to focus on and means I don’t have to get bogged down in statistics if I don’t want to.
The science 
According to the Elevate website ‘Elevates games are designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and cognitive learning and are based on extensive scientific research’. Furthermore ‘Elevate’s brain training algorithms further focus the learning experience by drawing from research in memory studies to develop a personalised training program for each user’. 
Peak makes a similar claim ‘Designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience, cognitive science and education, Peak makes brain training fun and rewarding. The scientific advisors involved with Peak includes Bruce Wexler, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist at Yale, and Amir Konigsberg, PhD from Princeton in cognitive psychology‘.
What this all means, I’m not really sure. Both claim to be based on scientific research but neither goes any way in explaining what this actually means to the end user. The subject of brain training is a slightly controversial subject at the minute. It has been suggested that there is actually little evidence to suggest that such activities actually have any positive impact on mental agility. That said, doing any sort of task repetitively will surely have some sort of benefit. If your interested you can take a look at this study which suggests mixed results concerning the effectiveness of computer based cognitive training.
From my point of view it is difficult to say wether I have personally seen results. Looking at my analytics from both apps, I seem to do well some days and then terribly bad on others. It is difficult to judge wether I have actually improved in any of the given areas or wether I have just become well practiced at particular tasks. I’m sure in the long term however I will start to see more positive results. That said, I’m not sue how all this transfers to the real world.
Final thoughts
Wether or not these brain training apps are actually having a positive effect, they are certainly fun to play and I can see that there must be some benefit to exercising my brain regularly. To which app is best is a difficult question to answer. Both are excellent and tailored for slightly different needs. Peak offers a more all over experience, but Elevate focuses more on language and math. Both are beautifully designed and offer a lot of variety to keep you engaged.
I would say that Elevate certainly has a more bold and dynamic design, but in my opinion Peak offers better analytics and progress tracking. It is very difficult to recommend one over the other but if I had to continue just one of my premium subscriptions it would probably be with Elevate.
If you have had any experience with Peak, Elevate or any other service then please let me know.

Tesco announces Hudl2

UK retail giant Tesco have just announced the successor to their immensely popular Hudl tablet – the Hudl2. The Hudl2 undercuts the likes of Samsung and Apple with a rather unbeatable price of £129.

The original Hudl was incredibly popular with people having to sell their own body parts to get hold of one.

The Hudle2 is better than its predecessor in every way and is larger, faster and more premium looking. The design philosophy hasn’t changed however with a similar look and feel.


The new Hudle features a 8.3 inch full HD display which is not only bigger that its predecessor, but also features smaller bezels giving for a much premium feel.The device is powered by a 1.83GHZ Intel Atom Quad Core processor with 2GB RAM. The 16 GB internal memory is fully expandable via a Micro SD slot and the device also features a 5MP rear facing camera. According to Tesco the Hudl2 is three times faster than its predecessor so it should be able to handle all the latest games and apps.

The Hudl2 is available in eight different colours and should be available from October 9th.

The original Hudl sold 750,000 units in the first year and Tesco will hope that this latest model with help turn around struggling share prices and put to bed some negative press.

The Amazon Fire Phone has landed

Well guys its official, Amazon have finally ventured into the smartphone market with the introduction of the Fire Phone. In what was the worst kept secret in history, Amazon have seemingly been developing their own Smartphone for a while. The Fire Phone will join Amazons other Fire products but brings with it a host of new features. What is particularly interesting is the new head tracking 3D display. More on this later. Fire Phone

The device sports a 4.7 inch 720p IPS display and is powered by a 2.2 GHZ quad core processor with an Adreno 330 GPU in tow. Theres also 2GB RAM and it will be available in either 32GB or 64GB external memory configurations. The Fire Phone also has a 13MP camera on the back with a physical camera key, a f/2.0 lens and support for optical stabilization.  Amazon claims that the Fire Phone will take better pictures than its competitors and performs flawlessly in all conditions. The camera also has the ability to capture 1080p video but no 4K support.

In the sound department Amazon have things sorted with the inclusion of two stereo speakers and support for virtual Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. What is pretty cool is that Amazon are throwing in some pretty nifty knot-free headphones which they claim are better quality than what you get with the average smartphone.

What is particularly interesting is the new head tracking technology. The Fire Phone is slated as having a 3D user interface but is very much a different offering to what we have seen in the past. The USP here is phone uses 4 cameras to track the movement of your head and will change the picture depending on how you look at it. This also has some other cool implications including one particular feature which allows you to change the perspective of maps by tilting the phone.

Fire Phone

Theres another key feature known as Firefly. This heavily integrated feature uses the camera in recognising pretty much anything from books to food. It basically acts as your all in one search facility and will make use of the camera and microphone in finding what it is that you looking for. This feature will be heavily linked into the Amazon store and clearly represents a source of income for the company. Amazon boasts that Firefly is capable of recognising a hundred million different items and clearly this will be attractive to developers. There is even a dedicated hardware button.

The Fire Phone runs on a heavily customised version of Android known as Fire OS 3.5 and will link in seamlessly with other Amazon services. Its also worth noting that the Fire Phone ships with unlimited cloud storage.

The Fire Phone is currently exclusive to AT&T in the US and is available to purchase today on a 2 year contract for $199. No word on UK pricing yet.

Knock Knock review

Knock knock is a creepy atmospheric survival game by Russian developers Ice-Pick Lodge. Originally a PC game, it was ported over to iOS earlier in the year, and more recently Android. The game itself is wonderfully strange and very difficult to describe. Even now I am still not entirely sure what you have supposed to be doing.


The game is all about the atmosphere that it creates. It recommends at the beginning that you use headphones and turn down the light. This is not your typical game so to get the best experience you need to really play in the right conditions. When you do, the game becomes wonderfully creepy with brilliant sound effects and plenty of jumps.

Basically the game follows a freaky little fellow called Lodger who is persistently kept awake by strange goings on in his equally strange house. You begin the game knowing nothing at all and are forced to explore the house and find your own way through the plot. There are no real instructions so you just have to experiment with the environment and see what happens.


Lodger speaks in a creepy little foreign voice which just adds to the general oddness. Here lies a slight problem, however. With the game being a port it is ofter really difficult to read the on screen text. I found myself really straining my eyes in the dark and struggled to follow the onscreen text. This becomes increasingly taxing after a while of play.

In essence you task is to survive the night and make it through to sunrise. You are presented with a clock in the top left hand corner of the screen which counts down the hours but you can find clocks hidden around the house which speed this up. Controls are really simple and just consist of pressing the right or left of the screen to move Lodger, and clicking on things to engage with them. Climbing ladders can be achieved by merely swiping up on them. The same upwards swipe of the finger also activates lights in darkened rooms.



After a while of getting your bearings you start to encounter ghosts and ghouls. You have to hide from them in order to progress through the night and If you don’t succeed then you will have to start the level again, or certainly part of it. This is the main gameplay element. You have no tools or weapons, you just have to hide or run away from the baddies.

The game itself is very interesting and does a fantastic job of scaring the crap out of the player. It achieves this aim very well. The gameplay itself is also simple but can get a little bit tedious after a while. I often found myself wondering what the hell I had to do next, and the game certainly doesn’t really guide you at all. That said it is really fun to play, providing you set the mood first!

Visually everything looks great. The lighting and shadow effects work really well and everything looks super sharp on your smartphone display. I have no complaints about the visual experience at all.

If you like games with structure and purpose the Knock Knock is not for you. If on the other hand you enjoy new experiences and get kicks out of laying on the sofa with the lights out, then this is certainly the game for you!

I have enjoyed playing Knock Knock and find it has enough intrigue to keep me coming back for more.

Score 4/5

Rival Knights review

Rival knights is a brand new jousting game from the popular developer – Gameloft. The aim of the game is pretty simple – knock your opponent of their horse. Its pretty addictive too. What is interesting is that Gameloft are allowing you to download the app and play for free. Its true that the developer isn’t exactly known for offering free games however and you can rest assured that they will be making money from it (more on this later).

Gameplay is dead simple. As you charge down the jousting range you have to tap the touchscreen at the right time to increase your speed. You are then presented with a slow motion sequence where you have to aim your spear at the designated kill zone on your opponent. This can be anywhere from the chin to shoulder. If your lucky enough to get a perfect hit then you will be rewarded with more loot.

Skill is only part of the battle however. You can be the best jouster in the world but if you don’t have good enough stats then you will likely not succeed. Players can spend their hard earned loot on new equipment and this directly effects three skills areas: Speed, defence and strength. The better stats you have, the more likely you are to succeed against your opponent. The skill areas are effected by what equipment you spend your loot on.

In Rival knights you can improve your speed by buying new horses, your defence by buying new helms and armours, and your strength by buying new lances. All these items cost gold or gems to buy and you can upgrade your equipment if you like.You will get gold for completing battles and gems are rewarded for completing particular missions. Gems are quite hard to come by however so you will struggle to collect these through missions alone. Progressing through the game will allow you to unlock new equipment in the store.

Rival Knights

Although the App is free to play there is the option for in game purchases. Basically you can purchase more gold and gems for real money. Obviously this means certain people will have an advantage in the game through purchasing better equipment. This doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the game for free however. You can still take part in all events and progress through the game, the only downside is that you will have to wait before you can play again. You need a seal (basically a token) to play every level and these only replenish over time, unless you buy more.

The single player mode is split into leagues. You start in league one and take part in different mission types on your way up. Some missions require you to merely beat the opponent but others will require you to perform to a certain level. For example you may need to perform a perfect start or a perfect hit to win. This adds a lot of variety to the action and the seal concept stops you from playing excessively and getting bored.


The campaign is only half the fun however with the multiplayer mode adding a lot of extra content. Here you can take part in different tournaments and ranking as high as possible will reap better rewards. If you don’t fancy talking part in full blown tournaments however you can merely challenge similarly ranked opponents. You will be able to have a look at their stats and see how you stack up. Completing online battles also rewards you with gold and gems. Within the online environment you will require online tokens to take part. These are exactly the same as seals and replenish over time (or for a fee).

The game looks great too. Gameloft are renowned for creating beautiful and engaging game environments and Rival Knights is no exception. The battle scenes are absolutely gorgeous to look at and beating your opponent will result in a lovely animation sequence. I have been reviewing this using the Samsung Galaxy S5 and on this device the game runs flawlessly with no lag whatsoever. I imagine older devices may find the graphics a little taxing however.

Overall Rival Knights is an absolute joy to play and is utterly engaging. Its strikes a good balance between real money purchases and skill level and without the correct technique you are nothing more than a shiny punchbag. This is one of those games you just cant put down and as such I’m giving it a top rating.


The new king of smartphones

Once again HTC have showed the rest of the world what a smartphone should look like.

Yesterday the company announced the gorgeous looking HTC One (M8). Based very much on last years ‘One’, HTC will hope to put the past behind them and consolidate on the success of what was one of 2013’s greatest smartphones.

The all new One features a 90 % all metal build compared to the 70 % build the original. This means HTC have opted to lose the plastic surround of the original and replace this with metal. The aesthetics have been improved too with the device sporting sexy curves and an overall better feel. It is slightly fatter and taller than its predecessor but this can be forgiven due to its incredibly good build and looks. The device will launch in three colours – Gunmetal grey, Glacial silver and Amber gold.

The screen has seen a 12 % increase in size and the device now features a stunning 5 inch Super IPS 1080p LCD display. This adds up to a PPI (pixels per inch) of 441. In essence this means the display is ultra sharp and makes for an incredibly beautiful viewing experience. Gorilla  glass 3 has also been used for extra durability. A slight design change is that the navigation buttons are now incorporated into the screen.

The HTC One is now powered by Qualcomm’s latest 801 snapdragon processor clocked at 2.3GHZ with an Adreno 330 GPU in tow. It also sports 2GB RAM. This makes for a very powerful configuration and the device should chew through graphically intensive tasks with ease. Another nice hardware improvement is the addition of a micro SD slot. This gives more flexibility for people who would find the 16 or 32GB internal memory limiting. The amazing market leading front facing Boomsound speakers are still present, making the HTC One an excellent multimedia device.

When the original One was released last year one of the main features was the 4MP ‘Ultrapixel’ camera. It was said to allow more light into the lens and thus make for a better low light performance. It did get mixed reviews with many however saying it just wasn’t competitive with other smartphone cameras. Well the new HTC one features the very same camera with a few improvements. Unfortunately there is now no optical image stabilisation, however according to HTC they are now using a new imaging chip which takes care of digital image stabilisation and improves image quality. The HTC One can capture video in full 1080p video but for some reason 4k isn’t supported.

Another improvement to the camera is the addition of a second sensor on the back which is responsible for creating depth. It doesn’t actually take pictures but it creates depth of field and allows for some very cool background effects. In essence it helps create a 3D image which means the background can be enhanced or changed with the use of special effects. I really like the look of this and it adds something new and unique to the new device. Clearly HTC aren’t interested in the pixel race but if like me you only really take casual photos on nights out, and of that occasional stunning sunset you discover when driving to work, then the camera here is perfect. What is also great is that HTC have upped the front camera to 5MP which means it is great for taking selfies.

The HTC One will be running on the latest version of Android – 4.4.2 Kitkat supported by HTC’s latest user interface (UI) Sense 6. Sense is easily my favourite UI and does a really good job of looking after gestures and general software aesthetics. Its miles ahead of Samsung’s Touchwiz in my opinion. The UI still incorporates Blinkfeed which is a bit like Flipboard in that it displays relevant  news and social media updates. The brilliant HTC Zoe is still present as part of Sense but this time its accessed through a separate app. Zoe is basically a feature which allows you to stitch you videos and pictures together into cool looking little clips.

Last years HTC One was without a doubt one of my favourite smartphones ever. It offered so much in terms of functionality and innovation, but best of all it challenged the iPhone to being the prettiest smartphone around. I have always been a huge fan of HTC and it saddens me to see them struggling. The original ‘One’ was a brilliant device and got people thinking about HTC again. Lets just hope that people jump off the Apple/Samsung bandwagon and start buying into brand HTC. After all the world needs diversity.


Amazon’s uninspired game controller leaks



Rumours of Amazon’s possibly up and coming set top games console have been ramped up in light of recent internet leaks.

Images leaked on the interweb showing what can only be described as a rather uninspired and dull looking games controller have led some to believe that the release of an accompanying games console is imminent.

The gamepad which is clad in dull looking black plastic features two analog sticks, a traditional directional pad, 4 games buttons and a further 4 Android-esque function buttons. There are also some media playback buttons on the lower edge and the controller features 6 led lights. What is certain is that this is no where near as revolutionary and cool looking as Valves SteamMachines controller. As pointed out by many online commentators, the design is suspiciously similar to the wireless ‘OnLine’ gamepad.

No much is know about the accompanying console, or in fact wether there actually is one! If there is however it will likely link in with the current trend in online streaming and utilise Amazons catalogue of online material. Wether it will be a powerhouse console to take on the likes of the Xbox One and PS4, I doubt it. Considering Amazons current commitment to Android I would hazard a guess that this will be what the console will be running on.

We will have to wait and see what happens.

Source: Engadget

HTC One review

The HTC One has been one of the most hotly anticipated smartphones of the year so far. HTC have put a lot of effort into the One and are hoping that it can help turn the company around after what has been a disastrous few years. I have owned this phone for about 5 months and this review is a summary of my first hand experience using the device daily.

Build and design.

Well the HTC one is easily the nicest phone to come from HTC, possibly one of the nicest phones full stop. The device is clad between two precision cut pieces of aluminium with a strip of durable solid plastic running around the edges. There is a streamlined volume rocker on the right hand side and a power/lock switch on the top left. Also on the top is a well placed 3.5mm headphone jack. There is nothing on the left side and on the bottom is situated the connector port. The majority of the front is taken up by the gorgeous 4.7 inch full HD LCD display with a stereo speaker above and below. There is no denying that this is a beautiful handset. In my opinion this is the finest looking Android in existence. It has a lovely weight to it and feels brilliantly solid to hold. One gripe is that the power switch should be on the side for easier single handed operation. Also some may complain about the lack of removable battery and memory card slot. Personally I think these sacrifices are easily justified considering how beautiful the device is. HTC have done an excellent job in the design department.

Power and spec

As mentioned the One sports a gorgeous 4.7 inch full HD LCD display. This equates to 469 pixels per inch (ppi) and is simply stunning. Which is better between this and the Amoled display used in the Samsung Galaxy S4 will simply come down to preference. Colours are nice and bright and clarity is excellent. Sunlight legibility is also pretty good. The device is powered by a snapdragon 600 processor with an Adreno 320 GPU in the graphics department. This is all supported by a decent 2GB of RAM. This all makes for a very speedy experience. I have experienced little to no lag in the operating system and switching between apps is buttery smooth. The Adreno 320 eats through most apps and games although in more demanding games such as the newly released Asphalt 8 I have noticed a slight bit of lag when things get busy. This is not however anywhere near being unplayable. The sound pumped out from the amplified stereo speakers is great and coupled with Beats this makes for a great experience. One not so good feature of the phone is the battery. Whilst its not terrible it certainly doesn’t have the best battery life. When playing graphically demanding games the battery will completely run down in just a few hours. It also runs quite warm but this is normal because of the metal construction.



The camera on the HTC One is of the new ultra pixel variety. This means that although HTC have opted for a 4mp sensor, each pixel is much bigger and can subsequently capture more light. Picture quality is pretty good and low light images come out well. I have found the camera problematic in strong light situations particularly outside and the sensor does seem to get a little overloaded when the sun is strong. You are not going to get the level of detail like with higher pixel cameras but this camera can certainly hold its own. If your into sharing images via Facebook and Instagram etc then this camera will be perfect for you. If on the other hand you want to take large high resolution images then perhaps this is not for you. The One is also capable of filming in 1080p HD and it does a good job at it. I am happy with the camera overall but it is certainly not the best on the market.




My HTC One is running on Android 4.2. Again this is buttery smooth and I have yet to experience a single system crash. HTC does a great job with Android and makes menus easy to read and more accessible. The main menu gets loads of functionality as you can organise apps either alphabetically, by most recent apps or custom. You can also increase the amount of apps on view and search directly from the menu. A nice addition is the new BlinkFeed. This is basically like Flipboard and allows you to access all your favourite news feeds and social network feeds all from one place. It’s not quite as good as Flipboard but I’m sure it will be improved with future updates. BlinkFeed also acts as your default home screen. HTC sense has always been my favourite OS skin. I always find it buttery smooth and easy on the eye. I also find it helps so much with album art work when copying music to your phone. This always seems so much more difficult on samsung devices.




I absolutely love my HTC One. It’s such a beautiful handset. For me it’s the best all round Android on the market right now. Whilst the Samsung Galaxy S4 may beat it in some benchmarks, if you want an all round brilliant smartphone then the One is the one! It’s combination of exceptional design and features make it the real device to beat. It’s also reliable. Whilst still at the top of its game, smartphones such as the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 are just on the horizon. These use Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 800 processor and will really top the benchmarks! For now though the HTC One is more than adequate.


Google Nexus 4 sales hit 1 million

Well it’s official! Google nexus 4 sales have passed the 1 million mark. The LG built Google Nexus 4 has been selling like hot cakes. Not surprising considering the device is being sold at cost. The Nexus super phone will cost you a mere £239 in the UK for the 8GB model and £279 for the 16GB. As well as the monetary cost you may have to sacrifice a kidney to get on the waiting list!