• ea,  ea games,  games,  ios,  popcap

    Plants vs. Zombies 2 Review

    The wait for Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is finally over and is ready for you to download to your favorite iOS device now!

    As the name implies, Plants vs. Zombies 2 (PvZ2) is the follow on sequel to PopCaps wildly popular Plants vs Zombies game.  In this tower defense game, you control an army of plants defending your yard from the attacking zombie horde.  (Note, I’m not a fan of zombies, but these zombies and the plants as well, are of the cute variety and not scary at all.)

    “Free to Play”

    Unlike the original game, PvZ2 is a “freemium” game, meaning that the game is free to download and play, however, there are many in app purchases that cost money.  I really don’t like freemium games because most games of this type start out easy enough, but after a few levels, they become increasingly difficult and you have to start paying real money to move up in the game.  The good news about PvZ2 is that in my experience after playing the game for a weekend is that you don’t have to buy any power ups to defeat levels and move on to the next level.  While you don’t have to buy any upgrades, I did purchase one upgrade – the $3.99 extra seed tray.  It was an upgrade that I purchased with coins in the original and I wanted to have that same ability in the sequel.

    Game Play

    New locations spice up game play.  Crazy Dave has also added new power ups to help fight zombies.

    If you’ve played Plants vs Zombies you already know how to play PvZ2.  The basic game mechanics are the same.  In PvZ2 however, you are in control of which board you play, and to some degree, what order they are played in.  Once you’ve completed the required missions, you can replay the boards to earn stars, keys, and other power ups to help you along the way.  You collect stars to move on to the next level.  In PvZ2, there are four level, three are playable now, and the fourth one is kind of coming soon teaser.  You collect keys to unlock doorways on the board that open up other playable games and gain access to new plants or power ups like extra plant food slots. (More about plant food later.)

    Once you’ve won the level, play these mini games to collect stars to get to the next level.

    Unlike the original, PvZ2’s mini games are built right into the main game.  Once you have completed the necessary boards in a level, you need to go back and replay some boards to collect stars.  You use your collected stars to unlock the next level; or you can pay $4.99 as an in app purchase to skip directly to the new level.  This dynamic can be challenging as my younger daughter tells me, but if you put a little time an effort into beating these mini game/challenge levels, you can win without having to buy power ups.

    Choose your plants.  Use In App purchases to get popular plants from the original game.

    While I am glad that you can play PvZ2 without having to purchase anything, I am annoyed that you have to purchase some of my favorites plants from the original game that were included for no extra charge, such as the Snow Pea ($3.99), the Jalapeño ($2.99), Squash ($2.99) and Torchwood ($3.99).

    Collect start to unlock the time portal to the next level.

    Don’t want to collect stars? It’ll cost you to advance right away.

    Power Ups and New Mechanics

    In the original buy-it-once-and-you-get-everything Plants vs. Zombies, you purchased the game and that’s it. You’re done.  There is nothing else to buy that costs real money. In PvZ2, PopCap has changed this.  There are four new power ups that add a new game mechanic to PvZ.

    The first is Plant Food.  Plant food is something you can collect while battling zombies or purchase with coins that you pick up along the way.  If you don’t have 1,000 coins, no problem.  You can just do an in app purchase to buy more.  You can also use those game coins, either collected or purchased, to buy more uses of the other power ups: Power Pinch, Power Toss, and Power Zap.  These power ups, provided by Crazy Dave, do just they sound like.  Power Pinch allows you to use a two finger pinch attack on zombies to pop their heads off.  Power Toss allows you to pick up zombies and then flick them off the game board.  Lastly, Power Zab allows you to electrocute the zombies and burn them up in their tracks.  When you activate a power up you only get a few seconds to use them.  They are great for getting out of a jam when you are trying to fortify your defenses and the dreaded huge wave of zombies message appears on screen.  My advice is to use them sparingly as you will need more coins to recharge the power ups and if you don’t have enough, you can always get more coins via, yup you guessed it, an in app purchase.  My advice is to use them sparingly.  If you are thinking a move or two ahead in the game, you can get “buy” without them.

    Protect Your Privacy

    Keep your data private

    In today’s day and age with the NSA snorting up all sorts of personal and private data about us, any little thing you can do to protect your privacy is a good thing.  Tucked away in the settings for PvZ2 is the setting for “Sharing Usage Data.”  Defaulted to “Enabled”, this option allows PvZ2 to pass along your game playing usage data to EA.  EA’s in game verbiage says that the date won’t be shared, and that may be true, but I’d rather just turn off the option all together.


    Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is a good game that extends the fun of the original into new worlds, levels, and game play.  The game is free to download, but you’ll need to watch out for in app purchases.  If you have little ones, it might be a good idea to turn on the parental controls features of iOS and disabling in app purchases of any kind.  I’ve done this for my kid’s iPod touch handhelds and I don’t have to worry about coin buying sprees while I’m at work.

    The game play is easy to learn and master and the replay value is there for a few replays.  After I have played a board three or four times I’m pretty much ready to move on to the next board or level.  The animation of the plants and zombies is still cartoons that gives the game a cute an innocent feel that won’t make you rethink your decision to allow younger child to play.

    If you liked the original game then you will like PvZ2.  If you are new to the PvZ world you won’t have to have played the original to get into and enjoy the sequel.

    Plants vs. Zombies is available as a free download now.  It is also a universal binary which means that the one download will work on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

  • apple,  ios

    iCloud Gets the iOS 7 Treatment

    Earlier this week, obviously timed to go alone with the iOS 7 beta 6 release, Apple’s iCloud beta site received an iOS 7 make over.

    With the overhaul of iCloud in the likeness of iOS 7, the iCloud home page, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, and Find my iPhone all have the new look and feel of iOS 7.  The beta iWork applications and their icons still look as they do on Mac OS X.

    iOS 7, and iCloud are believed to be scheduled for unveiling and golden master release in early September and is expected to become available for the general public shortly there after.

  • apple,  ios,  iphone

    Rumor: Apple to Hold Media Event Sept 10

    Ina Fried, of AllThingsD.com, has suggested that Apple fans “Circle Sept 10 on Your Calendar.”

    Tuesday, September 10 is the rumored date that Apple will hold their media press event to show off what they have in store for the iPhone product line.

    Will the iPhone 5S have a biometric finger print reader as widely expected?  Will the iPhone be available in other colors beside black and white? Will Apple finally release a “low cost” iPhone, possibly the iPhone 5C and will it be available in a rainbow assortment of colors?

    About all we do know is that there will be a new iPhone this year and that it will be running iOS 7.

    All will be revealed in just 30 days.

    [Via AllThingsD.com…]

  • apple,  ios,  rumors

    Rumor: Apple Having Trouble with iPhone 5S Biometric Sensor

    DigiTimes, which has a spotty track record with regard to their Apple rumors, is reporting that the iPhone maker is having trouble with low yield rates with the rumored fingerprint reader that is said to be part of the upcoming iPhone’s Home button.

    From DigiTimes:

    “Volume production of fingerprint-recognition and LCD driver chips for the iPhone 5S should have started at the end of June or early in July, but issues related to yield rates will delay commercial production of the two chips to the end of July, therefore affecting the initial supply of the iPhone 5S, the sources explained.”

    Many people, myself included, expect Apple to follow last year’s September announcement of a new iPhone followed up with October shipments.  If that is true, and full production runs of the iPhone 5S are just now ramping up, there should still be plenty of time to build the millions of iPhone 5S handsets that will be needed globally in October.  If that is true, one had to wonder how a device that Apple has not yet publicly talked about or announced be considered ‘late’ if it ships in October and not September.

    I think that there are two more important things to consider here.  The first is that Apple really does leverage last year’s acquisition of Florida based AuthenTec to build and include a biometric fingerprint scanner into their smartphone.  I would love to be able to use that technology to secure my iPhone with a finger swipe rather than a clumsy PIN code.  That would be an amazing feature that will be a head of the competition.

    The second thing to consider is whether iOS 7 is ready in time to be installed on the new hardware.  If the software takes longer to work the major bugs out, it could impact the ship date as I don’t see Apple launching the iPhone 5S without iOS 7.

    [Via DigiTimes.com…]

  • apple,  ios,  iwork,  mac os x

    Apple Opens iWork for iCloud Beta to Registered Developers

    Apple started sending out emails yesterday to registered developers announcing that they now have access to the iWork for iCloud beta.

    If you watched the WWDC keynote, you know what iWork for iCloud is.  If not, you’ve had your head under a rock.  iWork for iCloud is web based versions of Apple’s iWork productivity suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) published in the iCloud portal.
    iWork for iCloud is still a beta release and is expected to ship this fall along side Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9 and iOS 7.
  • att,  ios,  iphone,  troubleshooting,  Uncategorized

    Simple Fix for iPhone 5 Coverage Issues

    My Dad has an iPhone 5, while I’m “stuck” with a 4S until the next iPhone is released.  The iPhone 5 is a really nice upgrade if you want more rows of information on the screen.

    But over the last two weeks, my Dad has been complaining to anyone who would listen about coverage issues.  Often he would have two bars or less of cellular signal.  He even went as so far to place several calls with AT&T support and even a trip to the Apple Store Genius Bar.

    Turns out that there may not have been any problems with his phone.  The real cause may really be poor LTE coverage.  The fix for my Dad’s coverage problem was to turn off the LTE radio by setting the Enable LTE option to “Off”.

  • apple,  ios,  iphone,  mac,  mac os x,  tim cook,  Uncategorized

    Thoughts and Comments: Apple WWDC Keynote

    Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off this year’s WWDC developer’s conference.  Below are my thought and comments on this year’s keynote address.

    Opening Video

    – To kick off the conference this year, Apple played a new TV spot called Designed by Apple in California. The video exemplifies how Apple sees itself and, I think, is a subtle stick jab at their competition suggesting that they lack focus on their products, software, and services.  In short, the perfect way to fire up the legion of Apple fans in the audience and watching the video stream.

    – This year is the 24th WWDC conference.  Over 1,000 Apple engineers on site.  I think it’s safe to say that Apple has shutdown their engineering arm this week.  Tim confirmed that the show sold out in 71 seconds.

    Apple Retail Update

    – Apple is hosting over 1 million customers a day around the world in their stores.

    – The App Store is 5 years old next month.  Customers have downloaded over 50 billion apps.  The App Store is home to over 900,000 apps.  Google has stated that the Play Store has 48 billion downloads.  Not bad.  Too bad the Play Store hasn’t paid out as much money to developers as Apple has to iOS developers.

    – Wall St, take notice.  Apple has 575,000,000 store accounts.  The majority of which have credit cards linked to them with one-click buying turned on.  Apple has a secret weapon, and it’s called customer impulse buying.  Wait until that is monetized outside Apple’s eStores.

    – There are now over 72 million Macs in service today.  MacBooks are the number one notebook in the United States and number one in customer satisfaction.

    OS X Update

    – The next version of Mac OS X will be then 10th release of OS X.  Having run out of big cats to name the OS after, Apple is switching to a California theme for the next series of OS X names.  The next version of Mac OS X will be called “Mavericks”.  It’s related to surfing and waves.  It just makes me thing of Tom Cruise’s character from Top Gun.

    – OS X Mavericks will focus on deep technology changes that will focus on things like even better battery performance.  Apple will focus on power users.  That is some welcomed news after the current release, in my opinion, went a little too far toward new users coming in to the Mac OS X ecosystem from iOS devices.

    – Major features of Mavericks that power users are going to love: Finder Tabs (meh, I can take it or leave it); Tags – allows you to assign keywords to your files which adds a new powerful search element to Mac OS X; and lastly (this is my most favorite) support for multiple displays.  Now, you can have your Mac OS X menu bar on each display, dock on each display, and; this is my favorite part, when you go full screen on one monitor, the other is left alone. Sweet!!

    – Since the majority of Mac sales are now made of up notebook sales, Apple is putting a lot of time into optimizing the CPU and conserving battery power.  They are claiming that they can achieve 72% less CPU activity.  That’s pretty neat.

    – Safari is going to get a major update in Mavericks.  A new, iTunes 11-like interface; enhanced bookmarking and reading list.  Under the hood, Apple is optimizing memory use and the JavaScript engine.  Sounds very cool, but I’m going to have to let the new interface grow on me.

    – iCloud Keychain a new, secure way to have Mac OS X remember all of your complex passwords for websites, Wi-Fi hot spots and all the rest.  Very cool!!  This is one of the features that makes me wish my company allowed us to deploy and use Macs again.

    – Safari can interface with iCloud Keychain and suggest strong passwords for you and can remember your saved credit card information.  You will still have to remember your credit card security code.

    – Notifications are now smarter in Mavericks.  You can now reply to a notification by mousing over it.  You can delete email you don’t want to deal with.  And, Mavericks allows you to subscribe to iOS push notifications to be sent to your Mac.

    – Holy poop!!  The Calendar app is sane looking again!!  I am sooo glad that I didn’t purchase a copy of Fantastical for my Mac.  (I still recommend Fantastical for your iPhone.)

    – Maps is coming to the Mac.  Lots of people don’t like Maps on iOS, but I’ve never had a problem with it.  A new cool feature will allow you to send a trip from your Maps app on OS X to Maps on your iPhone.  Very cool.  I can see myself using that feature a lot.  Because I get lost a lot.

    – iBooks is now coming to Mavericks.  All of your iBook Store purchases will now be available on your Mac.  Pretty nice.  I’m surprised this took so long to get done.

    – iBooks on Mac OS X has some very cool note taking features which will further push the desire to use this technology in schools for learning.  It almost makes me went to go back to school.

    – As expected, Mavericks will ship later this fall.  Hum, maybe about the same time as iOS 7?  That would be my guess.  Maybe Mavericks will ship a few weeks before iOS 7 so that customers don’t have a train wreck of new software updates all at once and Apple’s servers don’t get flooded.

    Macintosh Update

    – Apple has cooked up a new features in the MacBook Air family to push the envelop for all-day battery life.  Hmm, if a MacBook can go all day, I might be able to look past the silver, not black, display bezel and buy one.

    – The 11-inch MacBook Air will now get 9 hours of battery life.  The 13-inch can now get 12 hours of battery life.  Impressive.  Let’s see what the real world application use of these batteries is.  The iPad has set a high bar for the MacBook Air to meet.

    – New MacBook Airs now support 802.11ac Wi-Fi which now works with the new Apple Airport Extreme and Time Capsule units.  Very nice, but I don’t see myself getting a new AirPort until I upgrade my Mac, which is still a ways off.

    – The Mac Pro is getting a complete make over.  Instead of that monster metal next to your desk, the new Mac Pro is a sleek, glossy black cylinder that looks absolutely amazing.  Favorite Phil Schiller quote: “Can’t innovate my ass.”  I completely agree.

    – They just panned to Woz, looking skeptically at the new Mac Pro.  I don’t think he’s sold on it.

    – OMG!  The new Mac Pro is going to be absolutely amazing!  This thing is powerful.  Professionals are going to love it!

    – The Mac Pro will be assembled in the United States.  Thank you Apple for bringing manufacturing to the good ol’ US of A.

    iCloud Update

    – Developers are in love with the idea of iCloud, but trying to program for certain aspects of Apple’s web service is a royal PITA.  Let’s hope that it gets a serious infrastructure update.

    – Why is Roger Rosner wearing a jacket?  Apple execs and product mangers don’t wear jackets during keynote presentations.  Duh!!

    – Oh, ya, finally, iWork is coming to iCloud.  Maybe we’ll get new versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote now.

    – iWork for iCloud will allow you to use your iWork apps in a browser on your Mac…or Windows PC. Really cool.  There have been a few times when I would have loved to update a Pages document while at work, away from my Mac.

    – Interestingly, no one in the crowd cheered when Rosner announced iWork for iCloud.

    – Ok, so here’s what I’m thinking about iWork for iCloud.  Apple has *finally* caught up with Google Docs and even the late entry, Office 365’s streaming web apps.  Maybe Apple has been working on the iCloud services and plumbing.  Let’s see.

    – Again, no one cheers when Rosner says, “Remember, this is all happening in a web browser.”  Yes, Roger, we know.  We’ve been working on documents like this for years now.  Apple’s late to the game here.

    – Apple seems to have done a good job of translating Pages to work in a browser.  You can also convert and work with Word documents in iWork for iCloud.

    – Yes, we got it.  In a web browser.  Apple’s late.  We’re being polite.  Don’t push it.  Move on.

    – iWork for iCloud supports Safari, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.  Mozilla FireFox is absent from the list.  Read into that what you will.

    – iWork for iCloud is available as a beta today for developers.  A public beta is coming later this year for all iCloud users.  No word on when iWork for iCloud will be released as a final product.

    – Woz seems a little bit more animated now.

    iOS 7

    – Apple has sold over 600 million iOS devices.

    – In web market share, there is no comparison between traffic from iOS devices as it relates to Android devices and “Other” devices.

    – Interesting note about customer satisfaction. Yes, we know that people love their iOS devices.  But I found it interesting that Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS has a higher customers satisfaction rating than Google Android.  73% for iOS, 53% for Windows Phone, and then Android at 49%.

    – 93% of iOS devices are running iOS 6.  Amazing!  This is a major plus for customers and developers.

    – OMG!  Steve would be so proud of what Jony has done to iOS 7!  This looks like an amazing upgrade to iOS.  I want it NOW!

    – You can watch the new design video on the iOS website.

    – Holy Crap!!  iOS 7 has cards — Yes! — just like Palm webOS had.  Sweet!!  (I miss Palm.)

    – The crowd is going wild for iOS 7.

    – Al Gore looks pretty psyched about iOS 7.

    – iOS folders can now have pages of apps.  Nice.  No more folder names like Games, Games 2, Games, 3.

    – Notification Center is now available from the iOS lock screen.

    – I don’t like the new Settings icon.  I’m such a PITA.

    – Control Center gives you your settings widgets panel.  It also works from the iOS lock screen.

    – In iOS 7, all apps, will be supported for multitasking.

    – A double-click on the Home button in iOS 7 will bring up the “card view” and you can swipe across full screen cards of your open apps.

    – Safari on iOS now supports parental controls and iCloud Keychain which is shared with Mavericks.

    – The eight tab limit has been removed from Safari on iOS.  I don’t keep lots of tabs open, but this feature will cut down on the number of calls I get from my Dad who loves to keep lots of tabs open all the time.

    – AirDrop is coming to iOS.  Very nice.  No need to bump your pone.  LOL  Works with encrypted Wi-Fi connections.  No mention if it works with AirDrop from your Mac OS X box.  That is the feature I’d like to see.

    – Moments is a cool new way to add organize your iOS camera roll.  That will help you find the photo of your kids or vacations easily to show and bore your friends.

    – Siri has gotten a visual and vocal upgrade.  She sounds less tinny and more human.  Apple has also given her control over iOS functions.  Apple has integrated Bing searches, Twitter, Wikipedia, and other iOS applications.

    – Siri now has new female and mail voices.

    – iOS in the Car is a new Siri driven hands free, eyes free control while driving.  Many major vehicle manufactures will support iOS in the Car in their 2014 models.

    – iOS App Store will automatically update apps in the background for you.

    – Apple has just announced iTunes Radio.  It’s built into the Music app in iOS 7.

    – iTunes Radio looks pretty cool.  I’ve stayed away from Pandora and other streaming “radio” apps.  The service will be free with ads.  If you are an iTunes Match customer, and I am, the ads are removed.

    – Notification Sync allows you to dismiss a notification on one device and it is cleared on all devices.  I want this feature!

    – Finally!  You can now do message blocking for Phone, FaceTime, and Messages.  I know lots of parents will like this feature for their kids.

    – Activation Lock will render a lost or stolen iPhone completely unusable because it won’t be able to be used again without your Apple ID and password.  Apple is finally getting serious about cutting down on iPhone thefts.

    – iOS 7 beta is available now for registered developers.  iPad beta is coming soon.  The final release of iOS 7 will be “this fall”.  Read: When the iPhone 5S is released in October.

    Final Thoughts

    Apple has been getting a lot of negative coverage both in the press and on Wall Street.  I think that today’s WWDC keynote shows that the company can still crank out amazing products in a world without Steve.  I’m super excited to get my hands on the new software and start playing with it right now, but like many of you, I’ll have to wait until the September/October timeframe to get it.

    Apple is in a great place to once again jump years ahead of it’s competition.  Oh, and if anyone wants to buy me a new Mac Pro, please let me know.  I’ll give you my shipping address.

    For more information, visit the Apple website.

  • android,  apple,  google,  ios,  ipad,  iphone

    Google Now Arrives on iOS As Part of Google Search 3.0

     This morning Google Search 3.0 arrived in the Apple iOS App Store giving millions of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users access to Google Now, an “information assistant” that has been available on Android-powered smartphones for the past year.

    Once you have activated the Google Now feature in the Google Search app, you can use Google Now to see time and weather updates based on your current location, get notices of breaking news and your favorite sports teams, area restaurants, and currency exchange rates.

    Rumors that Google Now was coming to Apple’s mobile operating system appeared back on March 12 when a leaked video showing off Google Now’s iOS tutorial video appears and was quickly pulled down from YouTube.

    For more information, visit the Google Now website.  Google Search is a free application in the iOS App Store (link). To use the Google Now features, you must be running iOS 5.0 or later.

  • app store,  apple,  ios,  software

    Apple Store iOS App Gets Updated

    Last night, Apple released and update to their iOS Apple Store application.

    The update, while minor, strikes me as a tool to help keep new iPhone owners all worked up about when they can upgrade to the new iPhone, allegedly the iPhone 5S.

    The two new features puts up a notice of when you are eligible for an iPhone upgrade, with pricing, keeping you informed once you buy your new phone with delivery notifications.

    Hey, when it’s a new toy, even overnight shipping is too long and we *need* to know where our phone is and when it will arrive at on our front porch.

  • app store,  apple,  chrome,  google,  ios,  ipad,  iphone,  ipod touch

    Google Updates Chrome Browser for iOS

    Today, Google released a new version of their Chrome browser for iOS devices.

    When running on a compatible iPhone or iPod touch, you are now able to run Chrome in full screen mode by scrolling the entire screen up, pushing the URL toolbar off the top of the screen allowing you to interact with the web page.  To get the URL bar back, simply scroll down again.

    But I think that the more interesting update is Google adding the ability to print using their own Google Cloud Print service, or by sending your print job over the air to your wireless printer using AirPrint.

    Anti-paper, are ya?  No problem.  Google still has you covered because you can now also save any web page as a PDF document in your Google Drive.  That’s pretty nifty

    You can download the latest update from the App Store icon on your iDevice, or you can install Google Chrome from the App Store for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (link).