Apple will update China iPhones to prevent ban, but Qualcomm still fighting

  • Apple will send software updates to several iPhone models in China to remove features disputed by Qualcomm as illegal. This will, hopefully, avoid a Chinese iPhone sales ban.
  • However, Qualcomm is at the same time fighting for the potential sales ban to cover even more iPhone models.
  • Apple admitted that if it cannot avoid the Chinese sales ban, it will be forced to settle with Qualcomm.

Earlier this week, a Chinese court issued a set of preliminary injunctions in the patent fight between Apple and Qualcomm. The injunctions — which heavily favor Qualcomm — essentially put a Chinese sales ban into effect for the Apple iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

Apple revealed today, via Reuters, that it will push a software update to the Chinese iPhones in question next week. This software update will change and/or remove the disputed Qualcomm technology, which Apple hopes will allow the company to avoid the sales ban.

“Early next week we will deliver a software update for iPhone users in China addressing the minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case,” Apple said. “Based on the iPhone models we offer today in China, we believe we are in compliance.”

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Originally, Apple claimed the sales ban was irrelevant because the iPhone models in question all run iOS 12, which the company argues fixes the issues revolving around the case. However, Apple must have changed its mind, as now it is pushing an update.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Chinese courts to decide if this future software update will be enough to avoid the sales ban.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm is pushing even harder on Apple, apparently emblazoned by the preliminary injunctions win this week. According to The Financial Times (via Engadget), Qualcomm is now pushing for the sales ban to also include the Apple iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

Should the Chinese courts deem the software update to not be enough to avoid the ban, Apple concedes it would have no other option but to settle with Qualcomm. If this comes to pass, it would be an enormous win for Qualcomm in its years-long fight with Apple over alleged patent licensing infringement.

However, Apple does not mince words when describing how destructive an Apple sales ban in China would be. Apple had this to say in a December 10 filing, via The South China Morning Post:

“Apple will be forced to settle with the Respondent, causing all mobile phone manufacturers to relapse into the previous unreasonable charging mode and pay high licensing fees, resulting in unrecoverable losses in the downstream market of mobile phones. Apple, many other companies, and consumers … will suffer truly irreparable harm, [and the Chinese government] may suffer hundreds of thousands of tax losses.”

We can only assume that next week we will learn whether the Chinese courts will grant Apple some leniency in this case.

NEXT: Apple tipped to be working on own modem for iPhones, but don’t expect it soon

Getting the best of both worlds with a hybrid smartwatch

As much as we love the functionality that smartwatches offer, there’s no denying that traditional, non-smart watches look way better more times than not. Thanks to the market of hybrid watches, it’s possible to get something that looks like a regular watch but still offers some of the best features of a smartwatch. If you think the hybrid life might be for you, here are the top ones we recommend!

Minimal beauty

Skagen Connected

Our first pick on this list is the Skagen Connected. The sleek, minimalistic design is something we can’t get enough of, with the 41mm case making this accessible for even the smallest of wrists. The watch also tracks your steps, sleep, and notifies you when you get a call or text. It’s even water resistant up to 30 meters!

$110 at Amazon

Long-lasting battery

Fossil Q Men’s Hybrid Smartwatch

Fossil is one of the biggest supporters of Google’s Wear OS, but did you know the company also makes hybrid watches? The Fossil Q Men’s comes with six months of battery life, customizable buttons, and ships with a gorgeous leather band that complements the 45mm black metal case wonderfully.

$117 at Amazon

Rose gold life

Fossil Q Jacqueline

If you’re looking for something a bit more feminine, the Fossil Q Jacqueline is one of the most striking hybrid watches around. It also comes with six months of battery life, 50 meters of water resistance, and a super sleek 36mm case. The rose gold color is a real thing of beauty, as is the included steel mesh watch band.

$175 at Amazon

Powered by Wear OS

LG Watch W7

Without a doubt, the LG Watch W7 is the most advanced watch on this list. Unlike the other options listed here, the W7 is powered by a full version of Wear OS. This means you can use its touchscreen to use apps, track your activity, reply to notifications, and a ton more. However, it’s unlike most smartwatches thanks to the two physical watch hands in the middle of the display.

$250 at Amazon

Best for fitness

Withings/Nokia Steel HR

The Withings/Nokia Steel HR is the hybrid watch to get if fitness tracking is your top priority. It can monitor your heart rate, has 24/7 activity tracking, sleep monitoring, and even Alexa integration. All of your data is synced to the Nokia Health app on your phone, and when it comes to battery life, you should see up to 25 days per charge.

$144 at Amazon

Ultimate style

Michael Kors Women’s Access Slim Runway

Should you prefer form over function, you’ll want to go with the Michael Kors Access Slim Runway. This women’s watch has a 42mm stainless steel case that’s paired nicely with a matching metal watch band. The watch can track your activity throughout the day, view multiple time zones, and is even water resistant up to 50 meters.

$121 at Amazon

Get in shape

Garmin Vívomove HR

Another great fitness-focused hybrid watch is the Garmin Vívomove HR. This watch is capable of 24/7 hear rate monitoring, activity tracking, stress monitoring, and long-lasting battery life that’ll get you up to 5 days in smart mode and 2 weeks in watch mode.

$200 at Amazon

Always in fashion

Fossil Q Grant

The Fossil Q Grant works the same as the other Fossil watches on this list but offers a design that’s a bit classier. The stainless steel case is paired with a tan paint job around the Roman numeral numbers, and when you add that together with the genuine leather watch band, you get something that’s truly stunning.

$155 at Amazon

Value pick

Skagen Signatur Connected

Last but certainly not least, the Signatur Connected from Skagen is the cheapest option on our list and delivers a much better experience than the price tag would suggest. Along with a fantastic, minimal aesthetic, the Signatur Connected also alerts you of notifications from your phone, tracks steps and distance, and is rated for up to 6 months on a single charge.

$70 at Amazon

For people that want a good mix of great aesthetics and useful smart features, the Skagen Connected is a fantastic choice. Not only does it look downright gorgeous, but it has just about every feature you could ask for while also being the most affordable pick on our list. Fitness enthusiasts will be better suited with something like the Withings/Nokia Steel HR, and if you want the absolute most features you can get in something that’s still technically a hybrid watch, the LG Watch W7 is the way to go.

Huawei troubles poised to land on US industry

The Huawei logo.

Huawei is in deep trouble. It might not quite be ZTE levels of trouble, but the winds are swirling.

I’ve written about Huawei’s security and telecommunication equipment problems before. Add in trade wars and criminal allegations, and you’re almost caught up.

Previously I’ve tried to get to the bottom of security issues with Huawei, but the exact secrets have never quite been revealed. The Five Eyes nations firmly believe Huawei is more or less a proxy for the Chinese state, but the public hasn’t seen verifiable proof.

Things are changing. The arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, in Canada occurred on Dec. 1. The public wasn’t aware of her detention until Friday, December 7th.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou is cataclysmic. You may have seen the headlines about Beijing’s fury, threats to Canada, and furor, but it hasn’t taken legal action, as you might have well expected.

The situation currently surrounding Huawei has major implications for worldwide 5G rollout.

Here’s how the South China Morning Post described the aftermath of the arrest:

“The shocked tone rings false. If China’s ambassador to Canada was really so sure Meng’s arrest was wrong, he could have filed a writ of habeas corpus to have her brought immediately before a court to determine the lawfulness of her detention. He did not.”

Meng was eventually freed on a $7.5m bail, and must wear an ankle bracelet along with paying for 24/7 security to ensure she does not attempt to flee Canada, as an extradition hearing is set up. Meng was also forced to surrender all passports and travel documents.

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to pursue investigations that Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. While non-U.S. companies are free to deal with Iran — Samsung sells smartphones to Iranians — they can’t sell U.S. technologies like Intel or Qualcomm chipsets or modems. A similar breach of sanctions saw ZTE barred from using U.S. companies’ technology — something later watered down to fines after reported intervention from the White House.

Any such ban would be devastating for Huawei’s business. Of Huawei’s reported 92 core suppliers, 33 are U.S. corporations, including chip makers such as Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Micron.

Any ban on Huawei utilizing U.S. technology, would cause serious issues for the company’s handsets and 5G technology. Huawei manufactures more of its own chips, including an award-winning processor but this could still cripple it. Huawei is largely a symbol of China’s success, both domestically and abroad.

For us, we need to imagine if Tim Cook or Sundar Pichai were arrested in China. The uproar would be immense, and many would feel China would be overreaching.  In this case, the U.S. involving Canada adds a third party, and Canadians may be anxious about retaliation from Beijing having been caught up in the Huawei mess.

Additionally, the U.S. is still pressuring its allies to avoid Huawei telecommunications equipment. Japan is the latest country to exclude both Huawei and ZTE from the 5G network rollout. BT in the UK also recently decided to bar Huawei equipment from its 5G rollout, and remove existing Huawei 4G infrastructure as well.

Why?

Spy agencies come in from the cold

Five Eyes world map

We know that the Five Eyes (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand — often abbreviated FVEY) attorneys general met this year from an Australian government release later removed from a Home Affairs website, though you can read it here.

Then came a rare set of speeches by top intelligence chiefs. These were significant, even if the words were moderate and indirect.

On Oct. 29, the first ever public speech was made by head of the Australian Signals Directorate Mike Burgess, following Australia’s ban on Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks:

These twin themes of technological and strategic economic shifts can be seen in the government’s recent decision to prohibit telecommunications carriers from using high-risk vendors in 5G networks.

This decision, which was not taken lightly, was supported by technical advice from my agency, all elements of my agency. Our intelligence and offensive cyber experts that led the formation of our cyber security advice. Offence informs defence.

Then came the second-ever public speech by an MI6 boss, Alex Younger on Dec. 3, who sounded a general warning over technology:

But I have also witnessed the damage new technologies can do in the hands of a skilled opponent unrestrained by any notion of law or morality, as well as the potentially existential challenge the data age poses to the traditional operating methods of a secret intelligence agency.

We and our allies face a battle to make sure technology works to our advantage, not to that of our opponents.

“We need to decide the extent to which we re going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken a quite definite position,” Younger said in later comments reported by the BBC.

Three days later, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s top spy, David Vigneault, gave his first public speech.

“Plainly said: there is state-sponsored espionage in Canada,” said Vigneault.

None of these spymasters mentioned Huawei or ZTE, but you don’t need to have beaten an Escape Room game to understand the warnings.

Then from the top echelon of the U.S. seat of power came the hugely significant speech by Vice President Mike Pence, a truly extraordinary attack on China at The Hudson Institute. Hostile and directly mentioning China no less than 91 times in remarks heard around the world.

How much does hurting Huawei hurt US networks and allies?

Huawei is banned from involvement with 5G rollout in the U.S., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Canada may follow suit, with a former prime minister calling for the same limitation. Huawei remains active with 20 5G contracts with other major carriers, and it’s actively involved in 5G rollout and testing in the U.K., despite spy chief concerns.

At the very least, carriers in countries banning Huawei will have a more expensive and difficult rollout of 5G technology. That means consumers will have to wait longer and pay more for 5G when it becomes available. Countries will have to rely on Swedish giant Ericsson and Finnish Nokia, a two-horse race for most major wireless bands. Samsung is a contender in mmWave very high spectrum bands only.

Any country banning Huawei will have a more difficult rollout of 5G technology.

This will likely mean slower U.S. uptake of 5G wireless. We’re already seeing test environments in some major urban centers, but significant 5G penetration outside of major cities soon is unlikely.

The U.S. has legitimate concerns about the importance of 5G infrastructure. 5G will, in as little as two or three years, take over from even wired installations where the traditional routing of major voice and data takes place. Significant and nationwide telecommunications infrastructure could be at risk to Chinese influence, however small, and however much Huawei protests its innocence.

The next major act of significance will be the outcome of Meng Wanzhou’s extradition, and the response from China. For now, China is incensed, but not retaliating. If that changes, U.S. lag on 5G infrastructure could be the least of its worries.

Asus CEO resigns, mobile strategy revamp could mean loss of ZenFone (Updated)

Update, 12/14/2018, 09:30 ET: Asus has confirmed its ZenFone line will not be abandoned as part of its internal restructuring and new mobile strategy. In a statement to Gadgets360, Asus said:

“With regard to doubts raised by some on the continuation of the ZenFone brand, we confirm that we will continue to develop the ZenFone series, while also aiming to expand the gaming smartphone market. We will focus on perfecting solutions for gamers and power users.”

Questions over the series’ continuation were raised yesterday when Asus announced its CEO, Jerry Shen, was resigning after 11 years at Asus’ helm.

The most recent ZenFone we reviewed was the ZenFone 5Z and we’d gladly see a sequel to that handset. In our coverage, we called it the “flagship killer” killer. Hit the previous link to find out more on that.

Asus Zenfone 5Z

Original story, 12/13/2018 13:31 ET: Today, Asus announced that its longtime CEO Jerry Shen will be stepping down, via Engadget. Shen has been the head of Asus for the past 11 years. His resignation takes effect on January 1, 2019.

Shen will be replaced by two acting CEOs — PC business lead S.Y. Hsu and global customer service lead Samson Hu. It is not clear if those roles will be permanent or temporary.

Along with the announcement of Shen’s departure, Asus also revealed it will be revamping its mobile strategy going forward. According to Asus, more emphasis will be placed on gaming industry products and devices for power users — which means less emphasis on general consumer devices like the Asus ZenFone.

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Although Asus didn’t make any clear declarations in regard to the ZenFone line, ASUS chairman Jonney Shih described the general consumer mobile market as a “bloody battlefield” in his interview with Business Next. Asus is primarily known as a PC/gaming company, so it makes sense to focus more on making gaming phones than it does ZenFones.

A change in mobile strategy at this point is a necessity, as Asus just had to list a one-time loss of 6 billion new Taiwan dollars (~$195 million) to cover “loss of inventory, royalties, production costs, and organizational adjustment expenses” in its mobile arm.

The most notable Asus smartphone of the year is the Asus ROG Phone, which is getting good reviews. Its wide-ranging line of accessories make it a versatile device, and is the most “gamer-centric” gaming phone of the year, as compared to the Razer Phone 2 and the Xiaomi Black Shark.

Click below to see how these gaming phones stack up against each other:

NEXT: Asus ROG Phone vs Razer Phone 2 vs Xiaomi Black Shark: Gaming smartphone deathmatch

Cast your vote for the best Android games released in 2018!

This is the featured image for fan vote Android games 2018
We started our 2018 app and game voting with a fan vote for the best Android apps from 2018 last weekend. This weekend, we continue the fun with the best Android games from 2018. We’re taking a similar approach to our game vote as we did with our apps vote. We narrowed down a list of over 120 possible competitors down to just 20 and you can choose from there!

Android gaming took a massive step in 2018. We saw some truly big name releases with PUBG Mobile and Fortnite along with some new games from previously outstanding mobile gaming franchises. The list is varied and includes shooters, RPGs, tower defense games, puzzle games, big cross-overs, and even a quiz game. This list is truly a representation of modern mobile gaming from HQ Trivia’s launch on the first second of 2018 to the predictably positive launch of The Room: Old Sins. There were just a bunch of great titles this year. Our criteria for this list include:

  1. The game had to be from 2018 or the last few weeks of 2017 because we cut it off during December.
  2. It had to be a totally new mobile game. For instance, Distraint: Deluxe Edition was new in 2018 and also an outstanding game. However, it’s a re-release of a game from 2017.
  3. Mobile ports are tricky business. Some people don’t like them and others don’t mind them. We decided not to micromanage things here. They are right in the fray with every other game within reason.
  4. We did take popularity into consideration but only as a consideration. Obviously, PUBG Mobile and Fortnite are extremely popular for a reason. On the other hand, freemium games get more downloads than premium games because they are a free download. We obviously don’t want a list of games with only 50 downloads. However, this is also not just a list of the most popular freemium games of 2018 either.

This poll is massive just like our apps poll. Make sure to give it a good look before casting your vote! There aren’t any special rules or anything like that. Just vote for the one you like the most! We have basic descriptions and links for each game below the poll if you want to learn more.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

As promised, here is a brief description and link to all 20 games in the poll above:

  • Alto’s Odyssey – Alto’s Odyssey is a gorgeous 2D side-scrolling runner. Players ski down hills, make huge jumps, and collect little rings to unlock stuff. It stays within the runner archetype. However, any given moment in this game is a screenshot worthy of a wallpaper. It also a Zen Mode with no coins, power-ups, or scoring for a relaxing runner experience.
  • Asphalt 9: Legends – Asphalt 9: Legends is one of the most popular new arcade racing games of 2018. It has everything. That includes tons of content, unlockable cars, online multiplayer, above average graphics, and fun, simple controls. Its freemium elements are a little obtrusive occasionally, but it’s otherwise a solid racer.
  • Bloons TD 6 – The latest game in the popular tower defense series is just as good as the previous five. It includes a bunch of levels, plenty of towers, an excellent upgrade system, and it’s completely playable offline. Tower defense isn’t as popular these days, but this title shows there are still some great game releases, even in 2018.
  • Bridge Constructor Portal – Bridge Constructor Portal combines the fun mechanics of a Bridge Constructor game with the quirky personality of a Portal game. The game features rock solid mechanics, plenty of Portal cameos, and even some Portal elements in the game play. You also get achievements, hardware controller support, and achievements. What’s not to like?
  • Cytus II – Cytus II is easily the best rhythm game release of 2018. Players use taps, swipes, and other gestures to the beat of the music to survive the level and achieve a high score. The base game includes a campaign mode with a story line, 35 songs, and multiple step charts per song. You can buy additional tracks and step charts as DLC. The first Cytus game is good too.
  • Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition – Square Enix did a couple of excellent games this year, but we particularly liked Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. It follows the same story as the console and PC version of the game. However, the graphics and game play mechanics were changed for an easier mobile experience. We consider it one step up from a straight port. Square Enix also did Life is Strange, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and Valkyrie Profile Lenneth. All notable mobile game launches.
  • Florence – Florence is a slice of life narrative game by some of the same development staff of Monument Valley 2. You play as 25 year old Florence and players navigate her life as she conducts it. It focuses primarily on her relationship with a man named Krish. The game is definitely something different from what we normally see, even if the genre itself isn’t overly popular as a mobile game.
  • Fortnite – Fortnite is one of the two big name battle royale shooter releases of 2018. This one mimics the console and PC version. Players drop into a battlefield, craft various things, shoot the competitors, and become the last person standing. Epic Games tread a lot of unexplored ground with this one, including a non-Google Play Store release. It’s still a beta, but it’s improving all the time.
  • Friday the 13th – Friday the 13th is a gory puzzle game for adults. Blue Wizard Digital launched the game on a Friday the 13th and it was a beautiful day. The game features over 100 levels, tons of pixelated gore, a PG mode for a less gory experience, some minor RPG elements, an offline play support. It’s definitely not for everybody, but the animation style helps take the edge off of the gore.
  • HQ Trivia – HQ Trivia was literally the first new Android game of 2018. It ran its first quiz show literally moments after midnight on New Years. The addictive game plays like a real life game show and includes actual cash prizes for winners. Games take place every day at 9PM EST and every week day at 3PM EST. The game occasionally suffers from lag issues, but it’s otherwise a good time.
  • Kingdom Rush Vengeance – Kingdom Rush Vengeance is the latest game in the venerable tower defense franchise. It uses a lot of the same mechanics as previous games, but also includes boss fights, more towers, more heroes, a bunch of new levels, offline support, and new achievements. Like Bloons TD 6, this game serves as a reminder that tower defense games are alive and kicking on mobile.
  • Monster Hunter Stories – Monster Hunter Stories is a port of the popular Nintendo 3DS game of the same name. It’s a turn-based RPG with monster collecting mechanics. It’s not quite the same as other Monster Hunter games, but the premise and feel is there. This one is surprisingly expensive. However, Capcom launched a free demo that also serves as a sort of prologue into the main game. We thought that was an absolutely genius idea.
  • Part Time UFO – Part Time UFO is an adorable puzzle game by the developers of most of the Kirby games as well as the first Super Smash Bros. You play as an alien who crash landed on Earth. Players complete missions, unlock customization gear, and enjoy the fun banter between characters. Almost nobody hates this game.
  • Pocket City – Pocket City is a city-building simulator similar to SimCity. You build a city with various buildings, roads, and businesses. Players collect money, fix the town after natural disasters, and unlock new buildings and territory for building. It’s basically the mobile SimCity fans asked for, except it’s not actually SimCity. The game also has offline support as well.
  • PUBG Mobile – PUBG Mobile hit the ground running in 2018. It’s arguably the most popular game of the year and a good shooter to boot. It features classic battle royale mechcanics, a lite version for lower end devices, and decent graphics and controls. It and Fortnite redefined the mobile shooter in 2018 and we don’t use that word lightly.
  • Reigns: Game of Thrones – Reigns: Game of Thrones is a surprisingly addicting mobile card game. Each card has a scenario and players swipe left or right to make a decision. The decision can mean the end of your rule or the continuation of it. This one also contains a bunch of Game of Thrones characters and references for added entertainment value.
  • Returner 77 – Returner 77 is another gorgeous indie puzzle game. This one takes place in a sci-fi future where humanity is nearly wiped out by aliens. Players ascend the alien ship in hopes of saving humanity. The graphics are quite good and the puzzles are fun and enjoyable. It also boasts a non-freemium experience and a decent story line.
  • The Room: Old Sins – The Room: Old Sins is a shoo-in for this list. It’s the fourth game in arguably the best puzzle game franchise on mobile. The graphics are outstanding and the puzzles are fun and clever. This title also features cloud saves, achievements, and some other neat ideas. It’s also one of the few premium games with over 100,000 downloads.
  • Rusty Lake Paradise – The Rusty Lake series is a long running series of point-and-click adventure games similar to the old Telltale Games titles. It features a dark story, plenty of fun puzzles, and simple game mechanics. You’re really into this one for the story more than any challenge, but it’s an entertaining narrative so we don’t mind.
  • Shadowgun Legends – Shadowgun Legends is the long awaited sequel to the popular mobile shooter from years ago. It features a sci-fi theme, excellent graphics, a story mode, a co-op mode, and an online multiplayer mode. There’s a ton of loot to collect, some RPG elements mixed in, and a fame system for online players. It’s a great mobile shooter, even if some other titles stole the show this year.

There were plenty of other great mobile games from 2018. If we missed one you think should be here, tell us about it in the comments! Of course, you can also check out all of our best Android app and game lists!

The newest Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer is here with its greatest hits

Want to know what’s going on with Kingdom Hearts 3? Here’s everything we know so far.

In the early years of gaming, there were quite a few swings taken at the creation of a game utilizing Disney properties. Most of those games ranged anywhere from unplayable to mediocre as far as quality goes. Then in 2002, Square Enix released Kingdom Hearts onto the PlayStation 2.

Disney fans and gamers rejoiced as they finally had a significant video game with Disney characters. Thus far, there have been a total of nine Kingdom Hearts games, and here in 2018, Square Enix stands poised to release a new entry to the gaming public.

We have been hearing rumblings about Kingdom Hearts 3 for years now, but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for fans of the series. As it stands now, we should see a release toward the end of 2018. However, what do we know about Kingdom Hearts 3 right now? Let’s take a look.

What’s new with Kingdom Hearts 3?

December 12 — A Kingdom Hearts Christmas Experience

With all the excitement for the Opening Cinematic trailer that dropped recently, it’s easy to forget some of the big news for Kingdom Hearts fans that have a PSVR. At TGS this year, it was announced that there would be a new Kingdom Hearts VR experience for Playstation VR owners and we finally got more information about this experience.

Releasing on Christmas Day, 25th of December we will be able to enjoy a musical experience of our journeys so far through the main series. It’ll be 10 minutes in duration, and you will be able to enjoy your favourite memories and maybe bop some heartless to boot! Square Enix confirmed that you will be able to unlock more content as you proceed through the experience. There is also an update due on January 18th, so a week before the release of Kingdom Hearts 3.

The VR experience will be free for everyone to download, so I’d recommend folks who don’t have a PSVR to download it, as this would be a good one to keep in your libraries should you get a PSVR later in 2019! This way you still get to enjoy the experience along with everyone else.

December 9 — New trailer shows off scenes and old battles from opening movie

We’re finally 50 days from the release of Kingdom Hearts 3, and the hype is starting to get intense. Kingdom Hearts has been releasing trailers every few weeks showcasing new worlds, weapons, attacks, and allies, but today’s new trailer doesn’t show off new gameplay or new battles.

It shows off all the battles that led up to this point.

This “Opening Movie Trailer” takes us back before the beginning of Kingdom Heart I and gives us an ultra-compressed history of the Dark Seeker Saga in less than 90 seconds, from Aqua being trapped in the realm of darkness after her battles with Xehanort and Ven’s heart taking refuge inside Sora up to Sora, Riku, and Kairi reuniting — along with Donald, Goofy, and Mickey reuniting — as they prepare to face Xehanort’s “13 wielders of darkness”.

It’s hard to sum up the drama of a decades-long war taking place over half a dozen games involving dozens of important players, but it’s great to see that Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to fill in the blanks for those of us who didn’t play every KH game released in the last 16 years.

November 27, 2018 – Cyber Monday Amazon & Kinda Funny Games & New Trailers

Black Friday is an exciting time of the year for shoppers of all kinds, but this year’s Black Friday came with an exciting teaser for Kingdom Hearts fans. Amazon and Kinda Funny Games revealed in a live stream that on Cyber Monday that there would be some new DLC for the game, as well as another world premiere trailer.

This wasn’t to be, however.

Shortly before the live stream was due to start, Amazon Video Games released the following tweet about the trailer.

With the new trailer devoured by heartless, an unsuspecting fan base that still joined in on the live stream expecting brand new content was only to be left disappointed by a 30-second re-edit of the Together trailer launched earlier this month! To add insult to injury, the exclusive DLC is the Dusk till Dawn Keyblade which was already released to pre-orders in Japan at E3 this year!

In happier news, Tetsuya Nomura took to the Japanese Kingdom Hearts Twitter account to let fans know the schedule for next month. While the translations are a little inaccurate at present, what we can take from the tweets is that there will be a new trailer on the 10th of December, a new video on the 18th of December and on the 21st a combination of a new trailer, 30 seconds of footage and cinematics. So there is plenty for fans to look forward to next month!

November 26, 2018 – Another Kingdom Hearts 3 Trailer, Water spells & Clothing Lines

How blessed are we that the trailer gods decided to rain down upon us this month! We have received one trailer a week this month with the Together, Winnie The Pooh and Lucca trailers all dropping this month it’s been a whirlwind of content for the franchise. With there being rumors of another trailer releasing this week to round out the month, we recommend keeping your eyes peeled to here and the official Kingdom Hearts Youtube Channel for the latest updates.

In exciting news for a magic user of the series, there seems to be new elemental magic that has been included in the series. As long-time players will know, water magic has been excluded from Sora’s magic. However, it seems like in the Winnie the Pooh Japanese trailer that there is confirmation that there is a water spell. While we’re unsure as to what type of spell this would be, it’s exciting news for magic users.

Ever wanted your own Kingdom Hearts clothes? No, I don’t mean specially branded merchandise with the logos on it. But items of clothing and accessories that are designed after the main characters of Kingdom Hearts 3. Yes? Me too.

Our prayers have been answered by the brand Super Groupies as they have released a limited edition line for Kingdom Hearts 3 which starts preorders on December 1st. There is a pop-up store at the Seibu Ikebukuro main store for a limited time from the Saturday, December 1, 2018, to Wednesday, December 5, 2018! For those of us who aren’t in Tokyo; fear not! International shipping is available, but you’ll need to be quick as orders are from Saturday, December 1, 2018 – Sunday, December 16.

November 20, 2018 — Development has wrapped!

Square Enix has announced that development on Kingdom Hearts 3 has officially wrapped. Bet you never thought you’d read that sentence. To celebrate the occasion, the studio released an extended version of the trailer that’s been playing in North American theaters. It all comes down to this as our heroes band together from all across the worlds of Disney to take down Organization XIII.

November 10, 2018 — Winnie the Pooh is back!

During Microsoft’s X018 livestream a new trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3 was shown featuring everyone’s favorite bear, Winnie the Pooh, and his gang of friends. The 100 Acre Wood will be home to mini-games focusing on puzzles that players can complete.

Aside from Winnie the Pooh, this trailer also gave us a new glimpse of Organization XIII. Whatever Master Xenohart is up to, it doesn’t bode well for Sora and his pals.

November 3, 2018 — New trailer shows off the Kingdom of Corona

During the Italian comic and games festival LUCCA 2018, Square Enix revealed a new Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer showcasing the Tangled world, Kingdom of Corona. While fans got a better look at the upcoming game, franchise director Tetsuya Nomura could unfortunately not be in attendance as planned.

“I was supposed to visit #LuccaCG18 but as development on #KingdomHearts III is coming to an end, I have to focus on development,” he said. “Instead, I’ve prepared a special trailer for everyone – please watch!”

October 3, 2018 — Grab the Deluxe Edition for a tad cheaper

Amazon is putting on a nice deal for the Deluxe Edition of Kingdom Hearts 3. Normally $80, the game is sitting on Amazon for $75.16. That’s a savings of 6%. Take another $1.53 off when applying the coupon attached to this deal.

The total upfront discount isn’t massive, but it effectively eliminates your tax obligation, so that’s a win. Don’t forget that Amazon offers a $10 credit for Prime members who pre-order it. The credit is delivered 30-35 days after the game ships. That’s nearly $20 in savings with no hoops to jump through if you’re already a Prime member (and if you’re not, a free trial gets you there just as well).

The Kingdom Hearts 3 Deluxe Edition comes complete with a premium steelbook case, a hardcover art book, and a collectible pin. Look forward to the game launching in the west on January 29, 2019.

See at Amazon

September 18, 2018

Following the trailer released last week, Square Enix has released an extended trailer diving deep into the world of Big Hero 6! This is our best look at the recreation of San Fransokyo yet. Expect to hear more information soon as Tokyo Game Show 2018 begins in a couple of short days.

September 10, 2018

Ahead of Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 2018, Square Enix has released a new Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer showcasing the world of San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6. Along with new gameplay, we got a glimpse at cinematics from the worlds of Monsters, Inc., Tangled, and Toy Story.

July 17, 2018

Those looking to pre-order Kingdom Hearts 3 just received some extra incentive to do so from GameStop. The company has revealed that one of three fabric posters will be included with your pre-order of the game, and it’s up to you to cast your vote on Twitter with the hashtags noted in the image above to decide which one it will be.

June 11, 2018

Sony had their own piece of exclusive Kingdom Hearts 3 footage to show at E3 2018. The new footage confirms the inclusion of Pirates of the Caribbean. This isn’t the franchise’s first appearance in a Kingdom Hearts game, with Kingdom Hearts 2 having been the first.

Yes, Captain Jack Sparrow is back, and Sora’s crew are on deck to help him live the pirate’s life. The gameplay sequences for this world seem pretty epic, with both a ship battle and a fight with a huge sea monster being featured. The trailer also shows that a replica version of Riku will make an appearance.

Alongside that new footage, we get word that not only will there be a special edition Kingdom Hearts 3 PlayStation 4 console, but you’ll also be able to buy all three mainline Kingdom Hearts games as a bundle. That means you’ll get Kindom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix, and Kingdom Hearts 3 in the same package. They’ve even thrown in Kingdom Hearts 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue for good measure.

A release date for the special edition PS4 has not yet been confirmed, though it’s likely we’ll see it on or close to Kingdom Hearts 3’s release date, which was previously confirmed to be January 29th, 2019.

June 10, 2018

Square Enix has announced a release date for Kingdom Hearts 3. It’ll be arriving January 29th, 2019. Originally, their goal was to get the game out in 2018. However, the company needs more time to ensure the game is the best it can be before launch.

With that news, we also saw a new trailer at E3 2018 that revealed new details, namely showing off new content and abilities surrounding previously unannounced Disney franchises. Those franchises include heavy-hitting staples such as Frozen and Lion King, with Elsa and Mufasa making appearances, respectively.

A whole new world

Since its inception, an important element of the Kingdom Hearts games has been the setting. Part of the joy of these games is the opportunity to explore familiar Disney worlds in a way that is not possible when you’re watching a film. Some of the worlds which have been tapped for inclusion in KH3 include Andy’s House from Toy Story, Twilight Town, Mount Olympus from Hercules, Monsters Inc, Tangled, and even San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6.

With Disney owning just about every existing IP under the sun there doesn’t seem to be many worlds left that are not within their reach. However, everything indicates that all the worlds tapped for inclusion will remain those who lie directly under the Disney Umbrella, as well as some from underling Pixar.

While Kingdom Hearts 3 isn’t a traditional open world game, Square Enix has a clear goal to increase the scope and capacity of each world. Some of these levels are the most expansive we’ve ever seen in a Kingdom Hearts game. You’ll especially feel the scale at places like Toy Box in the Toy Story world, or Mount Olympus over in Hercules’ corner. Despite the increased size, Square Enix manages to create each world with the level of detail that’ll make you feel like you’re in the theater watching your favorite movies all over again. It’s this nice balance of scope and focus that gets us excited to be sucked into Disney’s magical kingdom once more.

Characters Welcome

Another critical element of the Kingdom Hearts series has, of course, been characters. There is something undeniably exciting about running into some of your favorite Disney denizens while you progress through a KH game.

While your main characters will remain steadfast – Sora and the gang are back – there are some additions. With the inclusion of the aforementioned worlds, it should come as no surprise that we will see end up crossing paths with their related character inhabitants. You’ll certainly be seeing Woody, Buzz, and the glutton of other toys living in Andy’s room for the Toy Story sections. I, for one, am totally ready to get some heals from Beymax.

And that’s alongside mainstays such as Goofy, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse, all of whom have proven to be valuable comrades for Sora over the years.

Gameplay

Kingdom Hearts 3 will seemingly feature a keen blend of all the combat mechanics introduced in each previous title. Keyblades still cut foes down with ease and magic is still here to help you quickly dispel waves of enemies. However, we’ll also be seeing new mechanics such as character summons, keyblade transformations, link attacks, something Square Enix is calling “attractions,” and more. Here’s a quick rundown of what those types of attacks are:

  • Character Summons: You can call on one of your Disney or Pixar friends to fight alongside you for a short time.
  • Keyblade Transformations: Alongside your keyblade’s normal abilities and combos, you can transform the keyblade after hitting a series of uninterrupted attacks. The temporary transformation unlocks a wealth of new abilities, as well as a finisher attack.
  • Link Attacks: Like Character Summons, this mechanic brings your friends into the fray, but instead of being there as a sidekick they’ll execute a more coordinated and powerful attack with Sora.
  • Attractions: These are flashy, big abilities that play out like rides you’d see at Disneyworld and Disneyland. For instance, you can call on something like a water ride to splash through a ton of foes.

There will also be other miscellaneous gameplay mechanics that may be unique to certain worlds and sequences. For instance, Sora can take control of robot Gigas at Toy Box to help him get around the store and fight enemies faster. Expect a lot of variety in this regard.

Players will get stronger as the game goes on with a leveling system that should increase your power, health total, mana pool, and offer new abilities. And it’s not just Sora getting this treatment, either – all your mainstay companions have their own experience to grow.

World traversal has been a big part of the Kingdom Hearts series, and Sora’s movement abilities are seeing some interesting changes with this entry. Sora has seemingly been practicing parkour as a new mechanic allows him to scale up, down, and across walls. This is likely to help players quickly maneuver through a world is just as wide as it is tall, with verticality being a staple element of Kingdom Hearts.

As was the case in most Kingdom Hearts games to date, you’ll be fighting enemies who use Darkness for evil. Darkness is both an alternate realm and an actual force of energy. Good characters can use Darkness to augment their abilities, though the bad ones use it with far more malevolent intentions. Much of your battling will be done against those known as the Heartless, a common enemy in the game. The Heartless are actually living forms of the darkness that exists in everyone’s heart. Their goals are likely driven by some evil no-gooder behind the scenes, as the heartless don’t act on any sort of feeling or emotion of their own.

When can I play?

Square Enix has announced that Kingdom Hearts 3 will now launch January 29th, 2019. The game was originally given a 2018 launch window, but Square Enix has felt the need to delay it, likely to make sure it gets the polish it needs.

If you want to get in line early, you can always head over and preorder a copy for $60.

See at Amazon

In its long and storied history, Kingdom Hearts has done a stellar job of taking the elements that work and adding new ones. Like a fine wine, Kingdom Hearts has (mostly) gotten better with age. At this point, we don’t know everything about what is in store for us but as the year progresses we will undoubtedly see more new pieces of the puzzle unveiled.

I think Square knows that part of the magic and joy in these games is the surprise of running into unexpected characters. I have no doubt that they are holding a few cards close to their chests for the time being but I can’t wait to find out what those cards are.

What do you want to see in Kingdom Hearts 3?

Updated November 2018: Square Enix has wrapped development on Kingdom Hearts 3! The studio celebrated by releasing a new trailer packed with characters from the game.

Blu Vivo Go with Android 9 Pie launches for $80, or $60 if you hurry

A few weeks ago, details of a new Android Go phone from Blu leaked out. At the time, the Blu Vivo Go was reported to be priced at $89.99 when it launched. Today, the Vivo Go officially launches on Amazon, but its actual price is a bit lower at $79.99. Plus, if you buy the phone before 10:30 a.m. Eastern time (yes, that gives you less than 30 minutes), you can get the Vivo Go for just $59.99.

The specs for the Blu Vivo Go are decidedly low-end, but for $80 you are getting some features that show up on some phones with higher price tags. There’s a big 6-inch 18:9 display with a resolution of 1,440 x 720. Inside, you will find a  MediaTek MT6739 chipset (quad-core Cortex-A53 at 1.5Ghz), along with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card slot to add up to 64GB of additional storage.

You also get a dual rear-camera setup with the Vivo Go, but don’t get too excited. While the main rear camera is 8MP, the secondary sensor is just 0.3MP. That’s still enough for owners to create some depth of field effects with photos. You are also getting an 8MP front-facing selfie camera and a 2,600mAh battery.

The Blu Vivo Go comes with the Android Go version of Android 9 Pie, which means this version of the OS has been modified to run on low-end hardware, with apps that won’t take up as much storage space. Indeed, the Go version of Android Pie is only supposed to take up 2.5GB of space on any phone that has it installed.

Once again, you can snap up the Blu Vivo Go for just $60 on Amazon if you hurry, but even at $80 this phone might be worth getting.

These are the very best Android games you should be playing

Don’t settle for anything less.

If you’re looking for the best new games available in the Google Play Store, you’ve come to the right place. We update this list whenever a new game comes out that’s worthy of being added to this list, so you’ll always know about the latest and greatest games.

Whether you’re new to Android and need some fresh, new games to start building out your Google Play library or simply looking for the latest trendy games that are worthy of your time and attention, these are the best Android games as of December 2018!

PUBG Mobile

It’s pretty incredible how well PUBG Mobile plays on Android. This is a massive PvP battle royale game that pits 100 players against each other on a massive island loaded with weapons, ammo, tactical gear, and vehicles. You drop in as a solo player or as part of a team and must use all your best skills to take down your opponents until you’re the last man standing.

It’s not unheard of for a popular PC or console release to find its way to Android, but you’ll be surprised at how well PUBG plays on a smartphone. The developers have made it easier for mobile players to pick up and manage items, and have also added bots in the lowest ranks to help ease players into the game experience. Bluetooth controller support would be a nice addition, but the touch controls are some of the best I’ve seen for a shooter on mobile.

It also allows you to scale back the graphics so you can enjoy smooth gameplay even when playing on an older device. If you’ve got a newer device, crank those settings to the max and enjoy one of the best looking mobile games I’ve played in a long while.

PUBG Mobile somehow delivers all the epic moments you’d expect the PC game scaled down perfectly for mobile devices. Best of all, it’s free to play and features three unique maps to choose from along with multiple game mode and your choice of playing in first- or third-person view. Get your squad together, and I’ll see you on the battlegrounds!

Download: PUBG Mobile (Free)

Brawl Stars

It’s been a long time coming, but Brawl Stars has finally been launched globally in the Google Play Store. It’s a good thing, too, because it means I can include it in our final wrap up of the best games of 2018.

Developed by Supercell, Brawl Stars is a fast-paced arena brawler that is unlike most other games on the Play Store. It’s a departure from the Clash of Clans universe that has made Supercell a household name and instead lets players team up in a MOBA game that differentiates itself from others in the genre with it’s colorfol and cartoony look and feel and great gameplay variety.

There are multiple game modes available, which rotate every couple of hours so there’s always something new to play whenever you log into the app. These modes include:

  • Gem Grab: teams collect gems which spawn at the center of the map, and the first team to collect and hold 10 or more gems for 15 seconds win
  • Heist: teams must defend their safe of gems while strategically attacking the other team’s safe.
  • Showdown: a Battle Royale mode with up to 10 players that’s available for solo players or duos.
  • Bounty: teams battle to collect stars which are earned by kill opponents. The more kills you get without dying the bigger the star bounty on your own head.
  • Brawl Ball: a soccer match featuring the Brawl Stars cast. The first team to score two goals wins.
  • Robo Rumble: a time-based special event where teams of three take on wave after wave of robot enemies that include boss robots with very high hitpoints and damage.

Individually, each game mode is fun in its own unique way and could easily be its own standalone app, but by including all six modes on a rotating basis Supercell has elevated Brawl Stars to the next level. This is a really well-made game that just recently got a major update that overhauled the graphics with a fresh 3D-style design that looks even better. The only downside is the crate unlocking and card collecting aspects of the game, but at least it’s all performance based rewards and doesn’t require you to arbitrarily wait hours to unlock each crate.

Download: Brawl Stars (Free w/IAPs)

RWBY: Amity Arena

Based on the Rooster Teeth Animation series RWBY — which, I’ll admit, I had never heard of before — RWBY: Amity Arena has proven itself to be a very popular and well-designed real-time strategy tower defence MOBA in the same vein as Clash Royale.

At its core, it’s a two-lane brawler where your goal is to destroy your opponents towers as fast as possible by putting down troop cards on the battlefield. Characters and creatures are based on the RWBY universe, but again you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy this game.

Matches last three minutes and feature a really good balance between the different troop types. This means that winning will come down to strategy and timing your attacks more than just spamming troops down onto the battlefield. You can choose between playing a match just for fun or working to improve your global rank in ranked matches, so there’s something for both casual players and more competitive players.

It’s a free game to download and well worth your time if you love this genre of mobile game and need more variety in your life, or if you’re a fan of the RWBY series.

Download: RWBY: Amity Arena (Free w/IAPs)

Holedown

It’s hard to find a fun puzzle game that doesn’t try to sell you on power-ups or extra lives or something.

That’s just one of the reasons why Holedown is a standout game in 2018. Holedown will have you strategically blasting through to the core of celestial bodies — starting with asteroids and working your way up to the Sun — using the classic gaming formula of bouncing balls off blocks. Each brick has a number that represents the number of hits needed to destroy it, or you can destroying a supporting block clear out everything above it.

This is a pickup and play game that’s an easy concept to grasp but you quickly learn there’s an amount of strategy and skill involved. All the bricks are curved, allowing you to set up tricky bank shots to clear out massive sections of blocks in one go. This will become quite important as the screen move up one row after every shot. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, it’s game over.

Along the way, you will collect crystals which you spend on upgrades that give you more balls per shot, and more shots per round. These upgrades are crucial to completing the later planets but also let the earlier levels become more of a mindless distraction for your subway commute. All told, it won’t take you too long to max out all your stats in Holedown, but that’s mostly because it’s so hard to stop playing this game once you start.

If you’re a fan of physics-based puzzle games and are looking for a new obsession, Holedown is well worth your money!

Downlaod: Holedown ($3.99 )

Evoland 2

Evoland 2 is one of those premium games for Android that you just don’t want to put down. Initially released in 2015 on Steam, Evoland 2 is a fantastic sequel to the first Evoland and follows suit with graphics and gameplay that evolve as you progress through the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Evoland game for Android and one of my few criticisms of the game was that the story was a bit short. That’s not the case with Evoland 2, which features over 20 hours of gameplay.

While the first game in the series explored the evolution of RPGs, Evoland 2 has expanded its nostalgic scope by incorporating even more gaming genres into the game. It starts out as a pretty typical action RPG, but as you progress through the story both the graphics and gameplay take dramatic shifts which work wonderfully for keeping the game feeling fresh.

Evoland 2 will have you laughing as it constantly breaks the fourth wall and there are more gaming and pop culture references than you can shake a stick at. This is another great game for fans of RPGs and video game culture and well worth the cost to play.

Download: Evoland 2 ($6.99)

The Room: Old Sins

The Room: Old Sins is the latest epic puzzle game from Fireproof Games and the 4th in the award-winning ‘The Room’ puzzle game series. You are exploring the home of an ambitious engineer who has gone missing when you find a rather peculiar dollhouse in the attic.

Using a sophisticated eyepiece you’re able to explore different rooms in the dollhouse that are filled with incredibly sophisticated puzzle boxes and contraptions. There’s something really weird going on here, so maybe if you can solve all the puzzles you’ll figure out what happened to the missing engineer and his wife.

If you’ve never played a game from “The Room” series before, just get ready for one of the more engrossing games you’ll ever play on a mobile phone. The graphics and audio come together to create a wonderfully creepy vibe as you carefully inspect intricate objects and unlock secrets to help you on your journey.

If you want to catch up with the other games, you can snag The Room, The Room Two, and The Room 3 at discounted prices.

Download The Room: Old Sins ($4.99)

Dissembler

Dissembler is a colorful and abstract game that, from the outset, might seem like another standard tile-swapping match three game. Instead, Dissembler unravels itself to be one of those puzzle games that almost transcends the genre, offering a relaxing exploration of patterns in abstract designs.

It starts out nice and easy as the game lays out the basic principles before gradually presenting you with more complex puzzles — check out the trailer above to see what I mean.

With over 120 puzzles to play with no time limits, move limits, or in-app purchases or ads to deal, this game absolutely deserves a spot on this list.

Download: Dissembler ($2.99)

JYDGE

JYDGE is a gritty and violent top-down twin-stick shooter that is an absolute blast to play. You are the JYDGE, a cybernetic enforcement officer who uses his Gavel (see: BIG freaking gun) to dole out RoboCop-style justice.

Each level features different challenges that are required to progress but never feel like a slogging chore. Confiscating illegal cash along the way, you’re able to upgrade JYDGE and his gavel with a deep selection of accessories. In that way, JYDGE retains the rogue-like element from its predecessor Neon Chrome by encouraging you to replay levels with different upgrade combinations until you complete all the challenges.

With a game that has you replay levels over and over again, it’s imperative for a game to find that mix of great gameplay with an interesting soundtrack that isn’t super annoying or repetitive — and JYDGE absolutely delivers.

Check out my full review if you need more convincing.

Download: JYDGE ($5.99)

HQ Trivia

It’s the app that started the new craze of live trivia game shows on your phone HQ Trivia is a daily trivia game show where you simply need to answer 12 questions to win a split of the pot. The daily weekday cash pot has risen to $5,000 with Sunday evening games usually around $25,000. 2018 has seen the game introduce HQ Sports and other themed nights that have occasionally featured celebrity guest appearances.

Each game is hosted live by a rotating crew of hosts that deliver the questions along with some entertaining banter. The app itself has steadily improved since launching in 2017 with features that let you connect and play along with friends, and you now have the option to buy extra lives instead of only getting them from referring new players. Millions of people play each week because it’s free and you just might win some cash!

That’s right, you’re playing for real cash via PayPal. Even if you only win a few bucks you can cash out at any time and buy yourself a coffee.

HQ Trivia for Android: Everything you need to know

Download: HQ Trivia (Free w/IAPs )

Death Road to Canada

Death Road to Canada is a $10 game — I want to open with that just to get the sticker shock out of the way before I talk about how awesome this freaking game is. (It’s currently on sale for a dollar, though, which makes it an even better purchase.)

Facing a zombie apocalypse, you must lead a scrappy squad of somewhat interesting characters on a deadly mission to the relative safety of Canada. Along the way, you’ll need to explore and loot places for supplies, while also managing your team’s health and morale.

Everything in Death Road to Canada is randomly generated, making every play-through a unique experience in this dynamic road trip action-RPG. You can randomly generate your character and buddy or custom design your starting characters with different attributes to help them stay alive, but you probably don’t want to get too attached unless you’re a really good shot.

The controls admittedly take some getting used to, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve as you learn which weapons are most effective and which times it’s better to fight or run. And you will die, early and often, although that’s part of the fun of a zombie apocalypse, right?

There’s a ridiculous amount of depth in this game, including 10 different game modes to unlock. The price might seem a little steep, but if you’re a fan of rogue-like zombie games, it’s well worth the investment!

Download: Death Road to Canada ($9.99)

Stranger Things: The Game

Stranger Things: The Game is the tie-in mobile game that other companies wish they could churn out. It’s a full-fledged action adventure game with a full cast of playable characters, tons of collectibles, and a retro graphical style that fits into the show theme and setting.

The game presents the entire town of Hawkins, Indiana along with the adjacent Mirkwood Forest to be explored. It plays like a classic Zelda-style adventure game, with the ability to switch between characters lending itself to creating complex puzzles.

Credit Netflix’s marketing team for spending the time to make sure the developers at BonusXP Inc. delivered something special for fans of the series. They’ve created a real winner here, and a true contender for game of the year — and I’m not even a huge fan of the source material.

The controls are optimized for mobile and there’s great game design on display here. The overworld is vast and filled with secret areas to explore and familiar items from the show scattered throughout as collectibles.

There’s just so much to appreciate here. Not only is it a faithful adaptation of the show, it’s available for free with no in-app purchases or ads — although you can certainly count the game itself as being an ad for the second season of Stranger Things. Here’s hoping it ushers in a new trend of substantial mobile games based on TV shows and movies.

Download: Stranger Things: The Game (Free)

Reigns: Her Majesty

Reigns was one of the best games of 2016 and actually won the first ever Google Play Indie Games contest. So needless to say we were pumped to check out the sequel.

In Reigns, you play as the monarch of the land and make decisions that affect four aspects of the kingdom: the church, the people, the army, and the royal wealth. Your goal is to keep all four in balance — if any meter fills to the max or is entirely depleted your reign is over… and a new reign begins!

The sequel plays nearly identically to the first game, except this time you play as the Queen instead of the King, complete with new characters to interact with and multiple branching storylines to discover. The gameplay is as easy as swiping left or right on cards and if it’s anything like the first game there’s a ton of great easter eggs to find along the way!

I would hate to spoil anything for this new game, but if you played the first one and are afraid that it’s going to be too similar, I can assure you there are plenty of new mechanics to make this one of the best titles of 2017.

Download: Reigns: Her Majesty ($1.50)

Updated December 2018:Added Brawl Stars, RWBY: Amity Arena, and Holedown to our list. Our final picks for the best games you should be playing in 2018.

Get certified as a Lean Six Sigma project manager for just $49

Lean Six Sigma Bundle

Project Management is a golden ticket in many industries, so the AA Picks team loves getting wind of great offers on training kits. Today’s Lean Six Sigma deal particularly caught our eye.

The Official Lean Six Sigma Training and Certification Bundle contains over 35 hours of accredited training in the globally recognized Six Sigma and Lean methods, all for just $49.

Lean Six Sigma is a business management methodology that combines Lean and Six Sigma, two methodologies intended to improve performance by systematically removing waste. There are yellow, green, and black belt levels to attain. This bundle trains and certifies you in all three.

Lean Six Sigma Bundle

In such a competitive field, it’s not enough just to have the know-how; employers rely heavily on certifications to thin the herd when hiring.

This package fully prepares you for the IASSC exams, which are the most prestigious in the Lean Six Sigma game. Not only that, the bundle includes exams and certifications from Grey Campus, which is the professional training provider of these online courses. They’ve trained over 100,000 students.

The Official Lean Six Sigma bundle:

Given the value of the courses, by paying only $49 you’re saving around 95 percent with this deal. You get access to the materials for a whole year, so you can make qualifying as a high-flying project manager your New Year’s resolution.

The clock’s ticking on the deal, so hit the button below to find out more.

The AAPicks team writes about things we think you’ll like, and we may see a share of revenue from any purchases made through affiliate links. To see all our hottest deals, head over to the AAPICKS HUB.


Looking for a new phone or plan? Start here with the Android Authority Plan Tool:

This smart tool lets you filter plans by phone, price, data tiers, and regional availability. Stop overpaying for cell service you hate and a phone that you’re tired of. Use our Compare Phones & Plans tool to fully customize your mobile experience and painlessly transition from one carrier to another!

Amazon resumes Chromecast sales, three years after first giving Google the boot

Third-gen Chromecast

Amazon stopped selling Google’s Chromecast line back in 2015, claiming the sales halt was due to the streaming gadgets’ lack of support for Amazon Prime Video.

Now, three years after the online retailer first pulled the gadget, Android Police noticed that it has resumed sales of the streaming sticks. Amazon is currently selling two models, namely the third-generation Chromecast and the Chromecast Ultra. These retail for $35 and $69 respectively.

The standard device plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, allowing you to wirelessly send video streams from supported applications (e.g. Chrome, Netflix, Google Play Movies and TV, and YouTube) to your TV.

Meanwhile, the Ultra variant differs from the vanilla model by supporting 4K and HDR playback — the standard version tops out at 1080p.

Editor’s Pick

News of the streaming gadgets’ return comes almost exactly a year after Amazon first confirmed it would be selling them once again. It’s unclear why there was such a lengthy delay between the announcement and actual sales, but it’s also worth noting that the devices still don’t support Prime Video.

The decision to resume sales of the streaming sticks could likely mean one of a few things. Either Amazon decided to make an exception for Google, the Prime Video requirement was a lie, or an update to enable Chromecast support is coming (or it could be an entirely different reason).

NEXT: 15 best Chromecast apps for Android