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|2G Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - SIM 1 & SIM 2 (dual-SIM model only)|
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Introduction, design and display
Two years ago, if you would have told me you could buy an Android phone with flagship-worthy specs for under $300 unlocked, I would have said you're crazy. And, I would have assumed you hijacked a semi trailer full à la Fast and the Furious. However, this is 2015, and Alcatel has managed to deliver exactly that with the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.
Available in the US for $250 (£270, about AU$328) unlocked, it rests on the same spectrum as the Asus ZenFone 2, and OnePlus One. While you've probably heard of the latter, don't let the Idol 3's innocuous name fool you. It's rolled up to the party ready to have some fun.
With a 5.5-inch, 1080p IPS display, it's got the same pixel density as the iPhone 6 Plus. A 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM are tucked inside, along with 16GB of internal storage. If 10GB of actually useable storage isn't enough for you, there's microSD card support for up to 128GB. On the back is a 13-megapixel (MP) camera with a single LED flash, and on the front is a crazy 8MP snapper. Theoretically, selfies should be amazing.
From NFC to LTE support, it's got all the connectivity you'd expect, including dual-band Wi-Fi, and a 2,910 mAh battery keeps the juice flowing. In the sound department, dual front-facing speakers created in partnership with JBL liven things up.
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is not the Brad Pitt of smartphones. Nothing from the plastic body particularly jumps out at you, but it's not terrible to look at either. At 7.4mm thin, it's only slightly thicker than some of the latest flagships, and its rounded edges are wrapped in faux metal.
The fake metal edges are very reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S5, and offer a good amount of grip. On the top, you have a microphone and headphone jack, and on the bottom is another microphone and micro USB charging port.
On the left-hand side, at the very top, is the power button and SIM card slot, and also at the top on the right-hand side are the volume buttons. You may be wondering, where the microSD card slot is located? There isn't one, actually. Instead, Alcatel incorporated it into the SIM card slot.
Because of the 5.5-inch display, the power and volume buttons could have been better positioned together on the right-hand side halfway down. Despite having big hands, they were sometimes difficult to get to.
The brushed plastic back has a smooth, but not slippery feel to it, and features "Idol" and "Alcatel OneTouch" branding. My review unit had some FCC stickers, but thankfully those won't be included on the production model. The 13MP rear-facing camera is completely flush with the back – unlike some of the latest flagships in their pursuit to get even thinner – and it gets the same faux metal treatment.
At just under five ounces, the Idol 3 feels solid in my hand. It's not too heavy, not too light. Personally, I'd rather have a phone that feels solid than one insanely thin and light. The Idol 3 reaffirms this. I never had a fear of dropping it, even while jogging, and coming from the 5.2-inch display on the Moto X, it took very little adjusting.
It's possible to use one-handed, and is well-balanced enough to not topple over. The body and display do offer a little bit of flex, and you can tuck away in your pocket no problem.
Sticking out just a few millimeters on the top and bottom beyond the display are the dual front-facing speakers. They actually sit below the glass panel of the display, creating a small but noticeable drop off.
If you want something other than the ordinary black or white, you'll be left hanging. At launch, the Idol 3 is only available in dark gray. Alcatel will offer a flip case starting May 30, but it too will be available in the same bland color.
While LG and Samsung want you to believe you need Quad HD in your life, the reality is, 1080p is perfectly suitable for the average person. Even at 5.5-inches, there's no issue with seeing individual pixels. Being an IPS LCD panel, colors are fairly accurate, and the screen gets sufficiently bright even when the sun is glaring down on you.
Bezels are fairly thin on the sides, and about half an inch on the top and bottom. This is to make way for the 8-megapixel front-facing camera, and dual stereo speakers which we'll get into here shortly.
Interface and performance
A lot of manufacturers like to add their own skin on top of Android. For the purists out there, it can be a major annoyance, and in quite a few cases, actually slows the phone down. In the case of the Idol 3, Alcatel kept it simple. The phone is running virtually stock Android Lollipop, and here's a list of pre-installed apps:
You can completely uninstall third-party apps like Facebook and AVG, but can't do so with the generic system apps. Of course, Google's usual suite of Play-branded apps are installed, along with Gmail, Chrome, Hangouts, Calendar, Email and more.
From a visual standpoint, most of what's been changed are the app icons themselves. The notifications drawer and quick settings menu has kept its Android 5.0 Lollipop roots. You can easily access quick settings by swiping down from the top with two fingers, and a gear icon takes you directly to Settings. And, because Lollipop allows multiple user accounts, you can tap the avatar to switch to another account.
On paper, the Idol 3 should scream through whatever you throw at it. After all, it has an octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. However, it's yet another reminder that optimized software is just as, if not more important, than great hardware. The "buttery smooth" first introduced in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean just isn't here. Scrolling can be a bit janky, and there's sometimes as much as a two second delay when opening or transitioning to other apps.
Navigating around the home screen and app drawer seems to be okay, though. To try and fix the lag, I enabled Developer Options, and turned off all animations. This definitely helped to speed things up, but is far from ideal.
In Geekbench, the Idol 3's multi-core score was 2066. This puts it just behind the Exynos octa-core version of the Samsung Galaxy S4, and nearly 800 points behind the Asus Zenfone 2.
The phone I tested was running Android 5.0.2, which is known to have performance issues. We reached out to Alcatel to find out if an update to Android 5.1 is planned, and will update this review once we hear back.
On the plus side, if you're one of the few who still use a phone to make phone calls, the Idol 3 offers no complaints. In fact, when talking with my dad, he said it "sounds like you're sitting right next to me."
When the OneTouch Idol 3 was announced back at MWC 2015, it was touted as the world's first "reversible" smartphone. Basically, even if the phone is upside down, you can use it as you normally would.
The display automatically adjusts as long as you have the "Reversible" icon selected under quick settings. It's a great idea. After all, how many times have you pulled your phone out of your pocket, and had to flip it right side up? I found myself taking advantage of it on a few occasions, but muscle memory usually kicked in.
Dual stereo speakers
When HTC launched the One, front-facing speakers were one of those incredibly simple, yet brilliant ideas. Alcatel apparently agreed, and teamed up with JBL to offer a similar experience.
The audio is crisp, and as someone who enjoys listening to podcasts in the morning while getting my day going, it's fantastic. Music doesn't sound 100%, and is missing some detail, but I don't expect perfection from such tiny speakers.
However, don't let the word "tiny" fool you. These speakers pack some serious punch. I quickly learned you'll want to keep the volume for notifications around ⅓ of the way, otherwise you may jump when you're "in the zone" working. And if you're going to talk to someone on speakerphone, you best not do it in a crowded public place. While the speakers do add a bit more to the bezel, it's a welcome trade-off.
Camera, battery life and verdict
I snap photos just as much as the next guy or gal, so it's safe to say a bad experience can be a deal breaker. The 13MP camera features a Sony sensor, and it performed as I'd expected with good quality. For a $250 (£270, about AU$328) phone, it's hard to complain.
Photos take a second or two to focus, and about the same to snap. Shooting with the default camera app, it was a little confusing at first since there's no visual feedback once you've taken a photo. I've never owned a phone that shoots great in low-light, and the Idol 3 was no exception.
The real star is the 8MP front-facing camera. With the right lighting, you can capture some pretty great selfies. Of course, it might help to have a better subject than me.
It's worth noting that, by default, the rear camera shoots 10MP photos to allow for a wide 16:9 ratio. While Alcatel advertises an "8MP Wide Angle Front Camera," you'll actually have to drop down to 5-MP to get that wide shot. Still, the results can be pretty impressive, and you can shoot 1080p video as well.
The camera app keeps the Android Lollipop feel, but with a few additions. Swiping from the left, you're met with several options:
I mostly stuck with the default auto mode, though HDR and Pano – otherwise known as panorama – performed well. Unfortunately, for those who know all about ISO and want a little more control over their shots, the camera app would crash in Manual mode whenever I tried changing the shutter priority (S) or white balance (WB).
Although Manual mode didn't pan out (no pun intended), the Time-lapse feature worked great. Here's a result I uploaded to Instagram.
If you're one of the four people who scan QR codes, the Scanner function is pretty straightforward. As you probably guessed by now, Face Beauty is all about capturing that perfect selfie.
Utilizing the built-in face detection, you can smooth out any blemishes with this feature. I took three separate photos, the first in Auto mode. The other two were in Face Beauty with the slider set to halfway in one, and to the max in another.
With the slider set to halfway, it did a pretty good job. However, when set to the max, the fake glow and smoothness is blatantly obvious. Quick side note: just be yourself and let the real you shine through.
During my testing, I kept the screen at auto brightness, and GPS at high accuracy. Under moderate use, the 2,910 mAh battery performed extremely well. I was able to consistently get about 20 hours with around 25% battery left. This was with about 3 hours of screen on time, and I could have easily squeezed out another hour with some juice to spare.
Under heavy use, you could definitely get through a work day. In our battery rundown test where we loop video at 100% brightness, from a full charge the Idol 3 lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes. Sadly, the Idol 3 does not have Quick Charge support, and comes with a standard charger. Alcatel's claim of two and a half hours is about right if the phone is nearly dead, and from around 25% battery, it took about 90 minutes to fully charge.
The Full HD display is on the same level as other 1080p panels in more expensive phones. Dual front-facing speakers should be standard on every device, and the 8MP front-facing camera is truly at the top of its class. Alcatel doesn't claim 24 hour battery life, but it's possible under the right circumstances.
Performance issues are what's really holding the Idol 3 back from 4.5 stars. The fact it's only available in gray takes some life away, and while Quick Charge support isn't necessary, it's tough living without once you've been spoiled.
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 has all the bells and whistles at a fraction the cost of major flagships. It's no flagship killer, but it's also not claiming to be. While good, good isn't always enough.
With the performance issues ironed out, there's no doubt the Idol 3 could be great. There's also the issue of carrier compatibility. Support for GSM and UTMS bands means you're stuck with AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.
Still, we're talking $250 (£270, about AU$328) unlocked. The fact the OneTouch Idol 3 even exists is pretty amazing. If you're willing to live with some imperfections for an excellent price, there's no reason this phone can't be good enough for you.
50 best iPhone games: 1-25
Gaming on iOS is so big that the platform is becoming dominant enough to threaten the likes of Nintendo and Sony, long-reigning kings of the mobile gaming hill.
Yet for all iOS's gaming prowess, there's no escaping the fact the App Store has a lot of dross. Apple's relative openness, in enabling anyone to develop for the system, means there's almost no meaningful quality control. The flip-side is that previously undiscovered indie talent can find an outlet for frequently innovative fare.
Too often, though, people focus only on the negative, mistaking stories about in-app purchases and low-quality clones for evidence that there are no good games on iOS. But there are. In fact, the best games on iOS are among the very best on any platform, mixing traditional fare with titles that could only have appeared on a capable multi-touch device. Here are our current favourites…
1. Asphalt 8 (free)
Some time long ago, the gaming gods apparently decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Thankfully Gameloft chose to ignore their foolish omniscient notions - along with a large chunk of real-world physics - with Asphalt 8: Airborne. Here, then, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warranty.
2. Badland ($3.99/£2.49)
This darkly humorous title at its core echoes copter-style games, in you prodding the screen to make your avatar fly. But the hazards and traps are devious and plentiful, imaginative and deadly contraptions in silhouette, ready to eliminate any passing creature. Your retaliation in Badland comes via cloning your flying monster, and figuring out how to manipulate the environment to bring as many clones home as possible.
3. Beat Sneak Bandit ($2.99/£1.99)
One thumb is plenty when a game's so cleverly designed. Beat Sneak Bandit is part rhythm-action, part platformer and part stealth game, with the titular hero aiming to steal back the world's clocks from the nefarious Duke Clockface. You move on the beat, rebounding off walls, and avoiding guards and alarms. It's clever, charming and brilliant.
4. Bejeweled (free)
We've lost count of how many gem-swappers exist for iOS, but PopCap's Bejeweled has a long history, its maturity reflected in this iPhone release. Along with a polished standard mode, where you match three or more gems with each swap, there's Diamond Mine (dig into the ground), Butterflies (save insects from spider-ronch doom), and Poker (make 'hands' of gems).
5. Beyond Ynth ($1.99/£1.49)
This fantastic platform puzzler stars a bug who's oddly averse to flying. Instead, he gets about 2D levels by rolling around in boxes full of platforms. Beyond Ynth hangs on a quest, but each level forms a devious test, where you must figure out precisely how to reach the end via careful use of boxes, switches and even environmental hazards.
6. Bit Pilot ($1.99/£1.49)
A pilot finds himself trapped inside a tiny area of space frequented by an alarming number of deadly asteroids. You must stave off death for as long as possible. Bit Pilot is the best of the iOS avoid 'em ups, with precise one- and two-thumb controls guiding your tiny ship, effortlessly dodging between rocky foes — until the inevitable collision.
7. Blackbar ($2.99/£1.99)
As much a warning about digital surveillance as a word-based puzzler, Blackbar is a unique and compelling iOS classic. The game comprises single screens of communications, many involving your friend who's gone to work in the city, which you soon learn is part of a worryingly oppressive society. You literally fill in the blanks, while becoming immersed in a stark dystopian reality that's fortunately still peppered with warmth, humour and humanity.
8. Blek ($0.99/69p)
Blek is akin to shepherding semi-sentient calligraphy through a series of dexterity tests. Each sparse screen has one or more dots that needs collecting, which is achieved by drawing a squiggle that's then set in motion. To say the game can be opaque is putting it lightly, but as a voyage of discovery, there are few touchscreen games that come close.
9. Boson X ($2.99/£1.99)
In what we can only assume is a totally accurate representation of what boffins in Geneva get up to, Boson X finds scientists sprinting inside colliders, running over energy panels and then discovering particles by leaping into the abyss. It's equal parts Super Hexagon, Tempest and Canabalt, and it's very addictive indeed.
10. Coolson's Pocket Pack ($0.99/69p)
This word puzzler's all about chaining. You drag tiles from the bottom of the well and make short words; do so without swapping any letters from the well's bottom row or the area you create the words and you start amassing huge points. Coolson's Pocket Pack is then a test of nerve, and your ability to not forget every single short word in the dictionary when under pressure.
11. CRUSH! ($1.99/£1.49)
CRUSH! is deceptive. At first, it appears to be little more than a collapse game, where you prod a coloured tile, only for the rest to collapse into the now empty space. But subtle changes to the formula elevate this title to greatness: the tiles wrap around, and each removal sees your pile jump towards a line of death. So even when tiles are moving at speed, you must carefully consider each tap.
12. Dark Nebula 2 HD ($2.99/£1.99)
One of the first titles to truly make use of the iPhone gyro, Dark Nebula was a beautiful tilt-based steampunk adventure and dexterity test, with you leading a strange craft through maze-like levels. Dark Nebula 2 ramped up the beauty and complexity, and the HD reissue added iPad and Retina support. The title still feels fresh and is perfectly suited to mobile, rewarding speed-runs and careful exploration of each level alike.
13. David. ($1.99/£1.49)
David. is a game that flirts with the conventional but comes across as half art piece, half brutally difficult action game. The eponymous hero is a simple square, charged with ridding the world of evil shapes. The controls broadly align with platform games, but David. goes all slow-motion when held, whereupon you can unleash colourful blobs of death on multi-angled foes. Tricky level design tests your ability to move, leap, plan, and tackle encroaching enemies while everyone's floating about as if immersed in water.
14. Death Ray Manta ($0.99/69p)
Akin to what Robotron might have looked like had its developer managed to recreate a 24-hour sherbet binge on-screen, Death Ray Manta is a wonderful, eye-searing twin-stick shooter. But whereas you initially think KILL ALL THE THINGS, each level contains a collectable 'tiffin'. Death Ray Manta therefore becomes both shooter and puzzler as you attempt to score the maximum 64 — and you've only got one life.
15. Device 6 ($3.99/£2.49)
Device 6 is first and foremost a story — a mystery into which protagonist Anna finds herself propelled. She awakes on an island, but where is she? How did she get there? Why can't she remember anything? The game fuses literature with adventuring, the very words forming corridors you travel along, integrated puzzles being dotted about for you to investigate. It's a truly inspiring experience, an imaginative, ambitious and brilliantly realised creation that showcases how iOS can be the home for something unique and wonderful.
16. Devil's Attorney ($1.99/£1.49)
A satirical take on 1980s lawyering, this turn-based strategy has you battling in court by using your legal skills on the opposition, who then fight back after you've exhausted your action points. Wins result in cash that can be spent on goods that boost your materialism, decadence and vanity, which results in new skills. Our verdict? Devil's Attorney is a very silly (or, depending on your outlook, entirely accurate) and compelling take on court-based sparring.
17. Eliss Infinity ($2.99/£1.99)
Eliss was the first game to truly take advantage of iOS's multitouch capabilities, with you combining and tearing apart planets to fling into like-coloured and suitably sized wormholes. Eliss Infinity, a semi-sequel, brings the original's levels into glorious Retina and adds a totally bonkers endless mode. Unique, challenging and fun, this is a game that defines the platform.
18. Frisbee Forever 2 (Free)
We were big fans of the original Frisbee Forever, with its Nintendo-like fling-a-plastic-disc about larks. Frisbee Forever 2's essentially more of the same, but prettier, smoother and with wilder locations in which to fly through hoops and collect stars. It's lovely and costs precisely zero pence, so download it.
19. Gridrunner (Free)
Jeff Minter is a shoot 'em up genius, and his Gridrunner series has a long history, starting out on the VIC-20, at the dawn of home gaming. This update riffs off classic Namco arcade machines but also shoves modern bullet-hell mechanics into a claustrophobic single screen. And in this version's survival mode, you have just one life. Argh! The 69p/99c 'Oxtended Mode' in-app purchase adds the rest of the standard game.
20. Hitman GO ($4.99/£2.99)
Square Enix would have been on a hiding to nothing converting its free-roaming 3D game to touchscreens, and so it's great to see the company do something entirely different with Hitman GO. Although still echoing the original series, this touchscreen title is presented as a board game of sorts, with turn-based actions against clockwork opposition. You must figure out your way to the prize, without getting knocked off (the board). It's an oddly adorable take on assassination, and one of the best iOS puzzlers.
21. Impossible Road ($1.99/£1.49)
A roller-coaster ribbon of road winds through space, and your only aim is to stay on it and reach the highest-numbered gate. But Impossible Road is sneaky: the winding track is one you can leave and rejoin, if you've enough skill, 'cheating' your way to higher scores. It's like the distillation of Super Monkey Ball, Rainbow Road and queue-skipping, all bundled up in a stark, razor-sharp package.
22. Leo's Fortune ($4.99/£2.99)
Leo's Fortune finds gruff hairball Leo in search of his gold, which has been dropped in a suspiciously trail-like manner across typically platform-game environments. As he scoops up coins, he finds himself whizzing round Sonic-style loops, solving puzzles by manipulating the environment, and negotiating increasingly complex and deadly pathways. It's a beautiful game, full of character, and well-suited to quick bursts on your iPhone.
23. Letterpress (Free)
What mad fool welds Boggle to tug o' war Risk-style land-grabbing? The kind who doesn't want anyone to get any work done again, ever, that's who. Letterpress is, simply, the best word game on the App Store. You make words to win points and temporarily 'lock' letters from your opponent by surrounding them. The result is a tense asynchronous two-player game with plenty of last-move wins and general gnashing of teeth when you realise 'qin' is in fact an acceptable word.
24. Limbo ($4.99/£2.99)
A boy awakens in hell, and must work his way through a deadly forest. Gruesome deaths and trial and error gradually lead to progress, as he forces his way deeper into the gloom and greater mystery. Originating on the Xbox, Limbo fares surprisingly well on iOS, with smartly designed controls; and its eerie beauty and intriguing environments remain hypnotic.
25. Magnetic Billiards (free)
A game that could have been called Reverse Pool For Show-Offs, Magnetic Billiards lacks pockets. Instead, the aim is to join like-coloured balls that cling together on colliding. Along the way, you get more points for trick shots and 'buzzing' other balls that must otherwise be avoided. 20 diverse tables are provided for free, and many more can be unlocked for $1.99/£1.49.
50 best iPhone games: 26-50.
26. Micro Miners ($1.99/£1.49)
Marrying the elegance of digging games like Where's My Water? with the semi-controllable critters from Lemmings, Micro Miners is a superb real-time puzzler. Initially simple, the game is soon complicated by the need to switch the colour of miners, collect objects, and avoid or utilise deadly gas and lava. It's extremely tough later on, but you'll see it through to the bitter end.
27. Mikey Hooks ($1.99/£1.49)
If iOS is supposed to be no good for traditional 2D platform games, it's a good job no-one told the developer of Mikey Hooks. The mechanics aren't a million miles away from Nintendo titles starring a certain plumber, but Mikey's also armed with a rope that can attach to hooks dotted about the levels, enabling him to speedily swing to glory. An emphasis on time-attack racing and surprisingly solid controls round out a first-rate title.
28. Monument Valley ($3.99/£2.49)
In Monument Valley, you journey through delightful Escher-like landscapes, manipulating the very architecture to build impossible paths along which to explore. It's not the most challenging of games (nor one with the most coherent of storylines), but each scene is a gorgeous and mesmerising bite-sized experience that showcases how important great craft is in the best iOS titles.
29. Need For Speed Most Wanted ($6.99/£2.99)
Racing games are all very well, but too many aim for simulation rather than evoking the glorious feeling of speeding along like a maniac. Most Wanted absolutely nails the fun side of arcade racing, and is reminiscent of classic console title OutRun 2 in enabling you to effortlessly drift for miles. Add to that varied city streets on which to best rivals and avoid (or smash) the cops, and you've a tremendous iOS racer.
30. New Star Soccer (Free)
Starting out as a fresh-faced teen in a lowly non-league side, your aim in New Star Soccer is to make your way to a top-flight club. Along the way, you get chances in each match to win balls and score goals. It's management-lite with fun playable highlights, and although there's a whiff of freemium in the energy model, New Star Soccer's top-of-the-table, if you're willing to put in a few bucks here and there.
31. Osmos ($2.99/£1.99)
This superb arcade puzzler is at times microscopic and at others galactic in nature, as you use the power of physics and time to move your 'mote' about. Some levels in Osmos are primordial soup, the mote propelled by ejecting bits of itself, all the while aiming to absorb everything around it; elsewhere, motes circle sun-like 'Attractors', and your challenge becomes one of understanding the intersecting trajectories of orbital paths.
32. Plants vs Zombies ($0.99/69p)
Yes, we know there's a Plants vs. Zombies 2, but some dolt infected that with a pointless time-travel gimmick and a freemium business model. The charming, amusing, silly and sweet original remains where it's at. For the uninitiated, you repel zombies with the power of hostile plants. Countless other defence titles exist for iOS, but PopCap's classic, Plants vs Zombies, is still the best.
33. PUK ($1.99/£1.49)
PUK reminds us of what someone with a minimalism fetish might make of Angry Birds, before speeding everything up to manic levels. Here, each level lasts mere seconds, as you frantically fling discs at portals; and then just as you've got into the groove, deadly black levels aim to throw you off balance. There are no cartoon squawks here — just pure, adrenaline-fuelled arcade action.
34. Rayman Fiesta Run ($2.99/£1.99)
The iOS Rayman games are considered by some to be reductive, overly simplifying console-style platforming to an instant runner with bells on. We instead consider Ubisoft's games distilled: they take the essence of platforming action — running, jumping, timing — and make it truly fit for mobile. Smart, varied level and character design, along with a well-considered unlock mechanism, ensure Rayman Fiesta Run's an iOS classic.
35. Ridiculous Fishing ($2.99/£1.99)
If Ridiculous Fishing is what fishing's really like, we've been missing out all these years. An angular fisherman casts his line into the inky gloom, where you cunningly avoid fish by tilting your device. Snag one and the hero reels the line back in, and you jerk your iPhone from side to side, aiming to catch as many fish as possible. At the surface, the catch is flung into the sky, to be blasted to pieces by powerful weaponry. Longevity's secured by an amusing in-game store and social network parody, along with several fishing spots to visit.
36. Rocket Robo ($0.99/69p)
It's not the most innovative game around, but Rocket Robo makes up for it with bags of character, smart level design, and tight controls. You guide your little floating droid about the place, collecting stars and swiping in and out of the screen. The first few levels are extremely simple, but you're soon introduced to complex, cunning layouts and plenty of gimmicks that add some real bite to the cutesy proceedings.
37. Smash Hit (free)
If you find catharsis in smashing things, Smash Hit will leave you in a totally blissed-out state. You float through the void, lobbing metal balls at glass objects, clearing a path and chaining collisions. Over time, the paths become increasingly complex, the camera begins to whirl, and the shots get very demanding, depleting your meagre resources. A single one-time 'premium' in app purchase upgrade exists should you want to start out on any sections of the journey you've managed to already reach.
38. SpellTower ($1.99/£1.49)
SpellTower is a fantastic word game that starts off easy. You get a grid of letters and remove them by dragging out words. Your only foe is gravity, letters falling into empty space as completed words disappear. But then come new modes, with ferocious timers and numbered letters that won't vanish unless you craft long enough words. And there always seem to be too many Vs!
39. Super Hexagon ($2.99/£1.99)
Ah, Super Hexagon. We remember that punishing first game, which must have lasted all of three seconds. Much like the next — and the next. But then we recognised patterns in the walls that closed in on our tiny ship, and learned to react and dodge. Then you threw increasingly tough difficulty levels at us, and we've been smitten ever since.
40. Super Monsters Ate My Condo
Logic? Pah! Sanity? Pfft! We care not for such things, yells Super Monsters Ate My Condo. It then gets on with turning the match-three genre and Jenga-style tower-building into a relentless time-attack cartoon fest of apartment-munching, explosions, giant tantrums and opera. No, really.
41. Super Stickman Golf 2 ($0.99/69p)
If you've often thought golf would be much better if it was played on Mars, or in a giant castle, or in dank caverns with glue-like surfaces, Super Stickman Golf 2 is the game for you. Its side-on charms echo Angry Birds in its artillery core, but this is a far smarter and more polished game. It also boasts two equally brilliant but different multiplayer modes: one-on-one asynchronous play and frantic multiplayer racing.
42. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP ($4.99/£2.99)
Apple's mobile platform has become an unlikely home for traditional point-and-click adventures. Sword & Sworcery has long been a favourite, with its sense of mystery, palpable atmosphere, gorgeous pixel art and evocative soundtrack. Exploratory in nature, this is a true /adventure/ in the real sense of the word, and it's absolutely not to be missed.
43. Threes! ($1.99/£1.49)
Threes! is all about matching numbered cards. 1s and 2s merge to make 3s, and then pairs of identical cards can subsequently be merged, doubling their face value. With each swipe, a new card enters the tiny grid, forcing you to carefully manage your growing collection, and think many moves ahead. The ingenious mix of risk and reward makes it hugely frustrating when you're a fraction from an elusive 1536 card, but so addictive you'll immediately want another go.
44. Tiny Wings ($0.99/69p)
This sweet endless title stars a bird who loves to fly but doesn't have the wings for it. Instead, she uses gravity, sliding down hills and then propelling herself into the air from the top of adjacent slopes. Meanwhile, in another mode, her offspring are happily racing, bounding over lakes, eager to earn the biggest fish from their mother. Whichever route you take, Tiny Wings is a vibrant, warm and friendly experience.
45. Trainyard ($3.99/£2.49)
Trainyard is another devious puzzler that at first seems a cinch. Initially, you merely drag tracks to lead trains between stations of the same colour. But then rocks enter the fray, along with colour-mixing and train-splitting. Before you know it, you've 14 stations, seven trains, hazards aplenty and an aching brain from figuring out how to get all the trains home safely.
46. Monument Valley ($3.99/£2.99)
It might not be the most challenging game in the world, but Monument Valley is a short, sweet platformer that everyone should play through at least once. Its beautiful style is very Escher-esque, but even he'd have a hard time making his way through some of these labyrinths. More than worth its price.
47. Walking Dead (Free)
We do like a good zombie yarn, as long as we're not the subject matter, having just had our brains eaten. Walking Dead successfully jumped from comic to TV screen, and it's just as good in its interactive incarnation. The first part of the story is free, and you can then buy new episodes; if you survive, season 2 is also available.
48. WaveWave ($2.99/£1.99)
Wave Wave is cut from similar cloth as Super Hexagon. If anything, though, this demanding survival game is simpler and tougher than its forebear. It's a one-thumb affair, with you tapping to alter the direction of your line that zig-zags its way through a gauntlet of triangles as the screen lurches and spins. It's a mesmerising but utterly ferocious experience.
49. Year Walk ($3.99/£2.49)
Year Walk preceded the same developer's iOS masterpiece Device 6, but is equally daring. It's a first-person adventure of sorts, with more than a nod towards horror literature and, frankly, the just plain weird. It's unsettling, clever, distinctive and beautifully crafted — another unmissable and original touchscreen creation.
50. Zen Bound 2 ($2.99/£1.99)
One of the most tactile puzzlers around, Zen Bound 2 doesn't sound terribly exciting, in that you're wrapping sculptures in rope. But the atmosphere and polish combine with a nagging percentage bar, urging you to perfect each level. With no time limit, it's one of the more soothing puzzlers in this round-up, but it also never drifts towards the noodly.
Best free iPhone apps: 90 to choose from!
Take a look at your computer, phone and tablet. The chances are they are encrusted with dirt, grease and are home to some germs that can be harmful to your health. Forget that old clichéd quote regarding our toilets being cleaner than our kitchens – nowadays, our smartphones contain ten times more bacteria than our toilet seats. This isn't surprising, as our bathrooms are regularly cleaned, but when was the last time you even wiped a cloth over your tablet, laptop, keyboard, TV or games console?
Researchers have discovered a range of bacteria living in the tech we use on a daily basis. The habit of eating at our desks coupled with poor tech hygiene has meant bugs such as staphylococcus aureus have been found, which can cause upset stomachs, leading to the illness being dubbed 'Qwerty tummy'.
And in an office environment, food crumbs can attract mice and other pests, which in turn leave droppings, which offer an even richer breeding ground for germs. In one reported case a keyboard was so badly infected, it was ordered quarantined, as it contained 150 times the acceptable levels of bacteria. You can take a test to see how many germs are potentially living on your keyboard right now at CyberClean.
Simple cloth and water
The approach you take to cleaning your devices will largely depend on how soiled they are and how much you want to spend on cleaning products. The Wall Street Journal for instance found that a microfiber cloth and plain tap water was the best for cleaning screens – no fancy solutions were used. However, it has been shown that a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar can be highly effective at cutting through grime and grease.
Care should be taken, however. There are rugged examples of technology, but most of the devices we all use on a daily basis need to be treated with care, especially when cleaning them. Pressing too hard on your LCD TV for instance could burn out a pixel. And think about the basic tools you will need. As already mentioned the microfiber cloth is vital. Don't use cotton wool for instance. You might think it feels soft to the touch, but it's abrasive to delicate screens.
Okay, let's discuss in detail how to spring clean your various bits of hardware…
First off, check the manual for your tech before you begin scrubbing, as some cleaning products could damage your sensitive devices. And any special screen coating could be wiped away if the right cleaning product isn't used. Most smartphones have what is called an oleophobic coating, which is designed to reduce fingerprints. Using the wrong cleaning products could damage this coating, and make your phone or tablet even more susceptible to dirt and grease.
Turn off your tech
Make sure your PCs, tablets and phones are off before you begin to clean them. This is especially important to avoid damaging your keyboard. Keyboards will often have to be dismantled before they can be cleaned properly.
Remove the debris
Target the loose dirt and other detritus that has accumulated on your keyboard or other peripherals first. Use canned air to remove any stubborn debris. Don't blow on your keyboard (or other device) as your breath is moist and you just spray droplets of saliva onto your hardware. A product like Cyber Clean is ideal for this task. OXO also has a handy cleaning brush (see the above video) made from silicone that is retractable to protect it.
Don't use household cleaning products as many contain bleach, which can damage sensitive equipment. The cleaning solutions from companies such as Muc-Off and iKlear have been specially formatted to effectively clean electronic devices. And don't spray the cleaner directly onto your device. Spray onto a microfiber cloth and then apply to your tech. The Stylus Pro is a liquid spray, cleaning cloth and stylus all in one device, which is great for cleaning on the move.
If your tech is very soiled avoid the temptation to scrub too hard, as many screens now have anti-glare coatings. If you polish these coatings too much they can become shiny defeating the whole point of them. Use microfiber cloths at all times as their surface isn't too abrasive. Be careful when using products like Mr Clean Erasers, as they are basically very fine glass paper. Moshi offers a Terahedron microfiber, TeraGlove, which is designed to fit over the hand for perfect cleaning.
Kill the bugs
One of the issues with a build-up of dirt is that this can become a breeding ground for all manner of nasties. One of the best ways to deal with this is to invest in a UV light box. These are used to sterilise toothbrushes, but larger ones can be used to sterilise smartphones, keyboards, mice and any other smaller devices. Search eBay (Germix brand name) for a range of UV sterilisers.
Prevention is better than cure
Stopping your tech from getting dirty in the first place is also an option. There are many keyboard protectors as well as screen shields for touch devices. Suppliers including Protect Computer Products and even sealed peripherals from Seal Shield stop any dirt or germs reaching your devices. It is also possible to buy keyboards and mouse pads coated with an anti-bacterial called Microban.
Of course you can cut down drastically on cleaning by not touching the screen of your devices at all. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007 he said that no one wants a stylus. Using a stylus, however, keeps fingerprints to a minimum.
Inside and out
Giving the outside of your tech a quick wipe down may be enough to make it cosmetically clean, but think about what could be lurking inside. Any device with a fan will inevitably let dust into the casing. Over time if this isn't removed it can lead to serious faults and of course all this dirt is yet another breeding ground for bugs.
Carefully open your device and use a vacuum cleaner if it has a very narrow hose head to remove the majority of the dust. Then use a soft paintbrush for any crevices the vacuum can't reach. And finally, canned air (available from Poundland) will blast away the remaining dust particles.
Cleaning your tech should become a habit you get into. Don't leave it months or even years between cleans, as this can lead to a serious health hazard in some extreme cases. Invest in the right cleaning tools for the tech you have, and to ensure your devices stay as clean and shiny as the day you unboxed them.