Fresh Off The Block


Jun
26
2017

Nintendo confirm SNES-flavoured sequel to Nintendo Classic Mini line

Nintendo made waves last year when, near the holiday season, it released the NES Classic Mini – a miniaturised facsimile of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, with 30 classic games built-in. Though the console was only available for a few months – with most selling out – before being discontinued by Nintendo as a "limited edition product", even before its discontinuation, rumours were swirling about a potential sequel based on the NES's successor console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System – often shortened to "Super NES" or just "SNES".

Well fans, the wait is over. Nintendo has confirmed the rumours, announcing that a SNES-flavoured sequel IS indeed in production and will be hitting European and American Nintendo fans very soon!

Official banner showing off the European Super Nintendo Entertainment System, courtesy Nintendo UK.

Like the NES Classic Mini, the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a miniaturised replica of the Super NES console, seemingly with the localised styling for its region. For us Europeans, that means the sleek and svelte curved chassis embellished on its top-right corner with the four-colour Super NES emblem; Americans will receive the blocky, squarish design with purple buttons that was released in that region. It's not yet clear if the controllers – of which two will be included in every pack – will follow suit. Also included in the package will be a HDMI cable, allowing the classic games to be enjoyed in Full HD for the first time; and a USB cable for power. Annoyingly, the European package will NOT include an AC Adaptor in the box, meaning that if you don't have a powered USB port on your TV, you will need to pay extra for an adaptor to plug it into the mains.

The less sleek, but still attractive US Edition of the SNES Classic Mini, alongside its controllers (courtesy Nintendo of America)

But what about the games? While the SNES Classic Mini will feature a smaller software library to its predecessor – containing just 21 games compared to the NES Mini's 30, the titles on offer still give a diverse range of single- and multi-player games comprising many of the original console's favourite titles. All but one of these titles will be available straight off the bat, and all of the titles will be based on their original 60Hz American releases – even in the European edition. For example, Contra III: The Alien Wars, which was remade in Europe as Super Probotector: Alien Rebels, will go back to the original US version for both region's consoles. Star Fox (originally released as Starwing in Europe) and Final Fantasy III (which is actually Final Fantasy VI in the original Japanese numbering scheme, as the actual 3-5 were not released in US originally) also keep their US names.

Games available from the start:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby's Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • SECRET of MANA
  • Star Fox
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls'n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!

While all the games listed above are available out of the box, Nintendo has also tucked in one final tasty treat. By playing one level of Star Fox, a twenty-first, exclusive game will be unlocked: Star Fox 2! This sequel to the original Star Fox, also originally intended for the SNES, was cancelled just prior to its original launch in all regions, and although it has since been leaked and made available illegally online as a ROM, the game has never been officially released by Nintendo – until now!

The SNES Classic Edition will hit both Europe and America on September 29, 2017 with a suggested retail price of $79.99 in America; while Nintendo UK has it listed at £69.99 at time of writing. Other European prices are still to be confirmed.

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    Previous Articles


    Jan
    21
    2017

    Need storage? Seagate 4TB Barracuda on Sale at Amazon and NewEgg

    While Solid State Drives may slowly be taking over the world of computer storage due to their fast speeds and lack of spinning parts, if you're looking to store lots of things – maybe you work in a job where regular backups are key, you edit videos a lot, or you're a heavy gamer – or you want reliability, there's still no better than a traditional Hard Drive. And now Seagate is making it easier to get lots of storage for very little outlay – how about 4 Terabytes for $105 (roughly £85.20)?

    That's how much Seagate's 4TB Barracuda drive is on sale for at Amazon's US site, and at NewEgg, which claims the price will stick until Wednesday. At a price that equates to roughly 2p ($0.03) a Gigabyte, this price pitches the Barracuda even cheaper than the cheapest SSDs.

    Take note that the Barracuda line is intended for "general purpose" storage, and thus doesn't have the highest speed when compared to more performance-focused lines like the Barracuda Pro. That said, when the drive is rated to deliver read and write speeds of 146MB/s on average, with a maximum sustained data rate of up to 180MB/s, in most general situations you're hardly going to complain. The 4TB model also sports 64MB of cache, meaning it should get going quickly for your more regular tasks; and also has a SATA 6Gbps interface.

    As of the time of writing, NewEgg is already out-of-stock, so be sure to act fast when the stock comes back if you want one!

    Jan
    05
    2017

    #CES2017: LG Unveils Range of Robots That Will Clean Airports, Mow Lawns…

    Ever since robotic technology became a mainstream thought, people have imagined a future where robots would deal with all of the housework in the home, or even help clean up in the office environment, so that us humans wouldn't have to. LG Corporation wants to make some of these dreams a reality, today unveiling a trio of intelligent robots at CES in Las Vegas, which together offer attendees a glimpse into a future where robots can help you around the house, make sure you catch a flight on-time, mow your lawn, or clean-up trash at the airport.

    The trio of robots are part of the company's movements in developing Internet of Things objects; and are designed to showcase LG’s advancements in artificial intelligence. Leading the pack is the Hub Robot, a robot designed to interact with a household through voice-recognition technology and an anthropomorphic design. Hub's "face" is an interactive display which can show a wide variety of information; and even express emotions using a digitised face.

    The LG Hub Robot

    The LG Hub Robot (Image Courtesy LG Newsroom)

    The Hub Robot connects to other smart appliances you own; then, using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition technology, the robot can be instructed using simple voice commands to perform tasks such as turning on air conditioning, setting a washing machine, or any other task made possible by the smart gadgets in the home. The robot can also "speak" to guide you through recipes or provide you with information in addition to what's on screen; and the robot can even respond using simple body language like nodding. The Hub Robot also contains a built-in camera; and can be programmed to recognise different family members and respond to them in different ways, for that more personal touch.

    But LG isn’t just interested in building robots to help you around the house; and for the second part of its technology triple-punch, the company has unveiled two robots designed for use in the Airport. The Airport Guide Robot is exactly what the name suggests – already being prepared for deployment in Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, this robot is designed to help travellers by answering their questions in English, Chinese, Japanese or Korean; and can offer directions, provide detailed flight information like boarding times or the gate location, scan a passenger's ticket or escort you to the gate itself. It can even tell you what weather to expect when you arrive at your destination.

    Joining it is the Airport Cleaning Robot, which LG describes as "a super-sized robot vacuum". Using a combination of smart light sensors, multiple cameras, and sensitive bumpers, the Airport Cleaning Robot offers enough cleaning power to clean everything from carpeted floors to tiles – all while avoiding obstacles and passengers to provide the most effective performance in crowded airports.

    On a very similar tangent, the company's final offering is the Lawn Mowing Robot, which uses the same advanced sensors and bumpers as the Airport Cleaning Robot to map out a user's garden and avoid obstacles, hedges and trees as it trims the grass. According to LG, this robot is ideal for all types of yards and uses its fast-moving blade to trim grass safely and accurately.

    All of these robots are now on display at LG's CES booth in Las Vegas, alongside other gadgets such as a smart refrigerator with Amazon Alexa voice-recognition tech and a razor-thin television set. Needless to say, 2017 may prove to be a stellar year for technological advances.

    Apr
    27
    2016

    Nintendo announce planned launch date, Zelda game for NX

    Over a year since it was first teased, we still don’t know what it looks like, plays like, or even what its final name will be – and Nintendo don’t plan to spill the beans until later this year. But now, thanks to a Tweet by Nintendo of America (based on information discreetly hidden in Nintendo of Japan’s annual financial report), we DO finally have one piece of concrete information about the upcoming Nintendo “NX” console – it’s launch date:

    March 2017. Just under a year away from the date of this article’s publication. For Nintendo, however, the launch likely can’t come soon enough. The Wii U has failed to resonate with players, with the GamePad being seen as a gimmick and games such as Splatoon and Bayonetta not doing enough to pull people on side; and the console’s lack of power compared to the XBox One and PS4 has seen its third-party support dwindle into near-nothingness. That Nintendo has taken a hit for the console’s failure was apparent in the annual fiscal report, revealing that Nintendo as a whole made 45.3 billion yen less in the last 12 months than the previous financial year, though this still equates to 504.5 billion yen or roughly £3.116 billion British Pounds.

    Importantly, however, Nintendo’s operating income came in at 32.8 billion yen last year, an increase of 8 billion yen. The company predicts that its move towards smartphones, combined with the launch of the NX, will pay off in the next year and aim to hit 45 billion yen in operating income by the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

    Of course, Nintendo may also have another ace in the sleeve to get people back on-side – a dynamite launch title. Nintendo also announced today, in a separate announcement to the fans, that the long-awaited Zelda Wii U title has once again been delayed to 2017, for “further quality testing”; and that the game will now launch simultaneously for both the Wii U and the NX – meaning that a new Zelda title may well be a launch title for the next console as well as a swansong for the current generation, paralleling the launch of Twilight Princess for Wii and GameCube ten years ago. 2017 may well be an interesting year for Nintendo fans.

    This article first appeared on Sanitarium.FM

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    Jan
    17
    2016

    Fixstars launch the highest-capacity SSD yet – and it holds 13TB

    Time was that Solid State Drives were a bit of a compromise. What you gained in speed and safety due to the lack of moving parts and general snappiness of a fully chip-based approach, you lost in capacity – Solid State Drives simply couldn't hold Terabytes of data like classic Hard Drives. Well, thanks to the latest offering from Fixstars, that may soon no longer be the case.

    Fixstars SSD-13000M

    Introducing the new Fixstars SSD-13000M, a new 2.5-inch Solid State Drive capable of holding a whopping 13TB of capacity, making it the biggest SSD in the world at the time of writing. To give some perspective of just how much data that is, you could fit 2,800 full-size DVDs on just one of these monsters, though the company also offers a less-expensive model released at the same time with a slightly lower 10TB capacity.

    Both drives offer read speeds of up to 540MB/s and sequential writes of up to 520MB/s, which means theoretically you could fill just one of those Terrabytes in just 33 minutes and 37 seconds if you've got huge amounts of data to store at once.

    Of course, writing huge amounts of data to a drive at once can severely reduce it's lifespan. However, Satoshi Miki, CEO of Fixstars, commented: "The Fixstars SSD series has been highly regarded for their distinct reliability on steady read/write performance that lasts over time." To this end the drives are temperature-controlled to reduce the amount of heat typically generated when a drive is put under heavy load, preventing heat damage; while the drives offer an optional high durability mode that allows users to cut the storage in half in return for a claimed three times the longevity (so you end up with just 6.5TB usable space, but it will live far longer).

    Naturally, a drive like this is going to be expensive; and the target market for this high-capacity SSD is more tailored towards the enterprise; and for tasks such as heavy-duty video processing. The SSD-13000M's expected retail price in America, where it launches by the end of Febuary 2016, is an eye-watering $13,000 – that's a grand a Terrabyte! This equates to about £9,000 for us British folk, although everything Hardware tends to command a higher premium when it reaches these shores, so take that estimate with a pinch of salt – especially as prices and availability outside the US are yet to be confirmed.

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    Aug
    17
    2015

    Samsung Aim For Beyond CD Quality With Latest Wireless Headphones

    One of the main problems with any type of wireless communication is that in order to maintain speed and allow the signal to be transmitted effectively, data often has to be compressed to fit the bandwidth. For wireless audio, this is a problem, as compressing sound signals can reduce the overall quality of the sound you hear, meaning that wireless headphones rarely give you CD Quality sound.

    Samsung, however, believe they can make it work. The company's newly introduced Level On Wireless Pro headphones include a new technology, dubbed "Ultra High Quality Audio" that improves the quality of sound whether you're plugged in or streaming wirelessly. In typical conditions, the headphones are supposedly capable of CD Quality sound, particularly when listening to a lossless audio format (such as FLAC) or streaming service (such as Tidal). However, when paired with a device that supports Ultra High Quality Audio, such as Samsung's own Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones, and the right source material, Samsung claim the sound experience can reach higher-than-CD fidelity. That's pretty impressive from a wireless headset, though the caveats (Engadget helpfully claims that "you'll need to shop at a service like Pono's to get the right source material") mean that getting this higher quality audio may not always be clear-cut.

    Being an improved version of the existing Level On Wireless headphones, the Pro comes with the same additional benefits of its less audiophile cousin – "extra comfortable" cushions designed to completely enclose the ear, active noise cancelling and touch-sensitive controls – though the claimed 11 hour battery life will slightly reduce if one uses Bluetooth and noise reduction at the same time. Given the existing model tends to retail for around the £140 mark, it can be expected that the Level On Wireless Pro will retail for slightly more; but Samsung are yet to reveal price or shipping dates for the new product as of the time of going to press. Watch this space!

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

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    Dec
    02
    2014

    The ZX Spectrum is returning – as a retro gaming device

    Back in the 1980, when computers were expensive, far more basic and far less capable, a number of computers that tried to keep everything simple gained cult followings. The landmark of these was the ZX Spectrum, a simple plug-in-to-your-TV affair which was inexpensive (for its time), but had a wide variety of uses and many additional options such as modems and printers. It also was easy to develop for thanks to its simple BASIC programming language, which caused it to turn a number of children, teenagers and adults working in their bedrooms overnight into game and software developers; and the ZX quickly gained a following in Britain as an early game console with classic home-grown hits such as Elite, R-Type and Manic Miner.

    A 3D model of the ZX Vega Controller, which may not be the final design. Image courtesy IndieGoGo.

    A 3D model of the ZX Vega Controller, which may not be the final design. Image courtesy IndieGoGo.

    Flash forward to today, and now – thanks to efforts by Retro Computers – the Spectrum is being reintroduced to a modern audience. The Sinclair Spectrum Vega is an all-in-one controller and console that's styled after the original, but uses modern advancements to reduce the cost and streamline the design. While designed to look similar to the most well-known and iconic of the original Spectrum designs, with that classic rainbow motif in the corner, the Vega's design is focused solely on playing those classic Spectrum games of old, to the extent that the full QWERTY keypad of old has been simplified to just the five most commonly-used buttons – R, F, S, 1 and 2 – plus a brand new D-Pad for directional control and a dedicated "Reset" function.

    Retro Computers – a startup backed by Sinclair Research, the company founded by ZX Spectrum inventor Sir Clive Sinclair – are pitching the new computer on IndieGoGo after successfully completing a prototype model of the device. The company are aiming for an initial production run of just 1,000 of the new devices, and are asking for £100,000 ($157,115 USD) to begin work; with pledges of £100 ($157 USD) or more bagging one of the first models. Retro Computers says it'll come with 1,000 games pre-installed and support additional Spectrum titles loaded from an SD card, plus further free games are planned to be added down the line.

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    Aug
    30
    2014

    Nintendo reveal upcoming NEW 3DS and 3DS XL models with Amiibo, more buttons, better battery life and more!

    When Nintendo came out with the Circle Pad Pro accessory for the original Nintendo 3DS – which added a second Circle Pad and extra buttons to the 3DS which allowed for even more control; and which Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate made good use of – many asked why a second Circle Pad could not have been a standard feature of the 3DS. When the 3DS XL was released and also lacked the second pad, the complaints became even more vocal.

    New3DSColours

    Colour choices at launch for the New 3DS and New 3DS XL

    Today in Japan, Nintendo have not only finally heeded the call, but have gone even further. The company announced all new models of their popular hand-held game consoles, the Nintendo 3DS and the 3DS XL (called the 3DS LL in Japan), which along with extra controls, make a number of other additions and improvements over the previous models.

    3DSXLsizecomparison3DSsizecomparison

    If you actually care that the new models are a few mm bigger in most directions, you probably have an Apple device and/or no shame (click pictures to enlarge)

    The real big news of the announcement, however, comes in the form of a small toy.

    New 3DS XL / Amiibo Stylised Logo

    If you’re wondering why this pic shows just the Amiibo logo instead of an actual Amiibo, blame Nintendo.

    With the new consoles including an NFC Reader, the new 3DS and 3DS XL will come with built-in support for Amiibo, Nintendo’s upcoming range of NFC-enabled figurines. Previously thought to be exclusive to the Wii U, the new addition enables future 3DS games to also offer the ability to allow select Nintendo characters to be stored and shared across compatible games or to use the toys for special in-game functions; and use of the feature in the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. is already confirmed – what it consists of is yet to be announced, but if one is to make a guess, imagine something like the sticker mode in Brawl, but with an actual physical toy to enhance and make your own character with.

    New3DSButtonColours

    Those colourful SNES-like buttons.

    As to the controls, the new 3DS and 3DS XL will add a splash of colour to the A/B/X/Y button. The new 3DS gets the more significant facelift with fully-coloured buttons, while the XL simply gets coloured button labels. The colours are the same as those originally used on the Japanese SNES controller, in a nice homage to Nintendo history.

    New3DSC-Stick

    …But that’s not what you care about, is it? The bigger news is both devices finally feature a second Circle Pad – well, kind of. Dubbed the “C-Stick” by Nintendo in another homage (this time to the yellow analogue stick of Nintendo’s own GameCube controller), the new stick is much smaller than the main Circle Pad – in fact, it’s roughly the same size as one of the four A/B/X/Y buttons. This isn’t accidental – according to Nintendo’s own Satoru Iwata, while the new control will function like a stick, it’s also designed to be used as though it were a button itself. Iwata also claims the new C-Stick “is easy to use”; with Nintendo releasing a picture showing that the size and positioning of the button should make it easy to control with the same thumb used to press the lettered buttons – it remains to be seen if this turns out to be the case. The new C-stick will be used in Dragon Quest X: Online, Final Fantasy Explorers, and Monster Hunter 4G to control the in-game camera function, and in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS to unleash Smash Attacks.

    The back of the 3DS now has ZL and ZR buttons next to the L and R, but the game card slot is no longer found here.

    The back of the New 3DS XL. Notice anything different?

    The new 3DS models will also include ZL and ZR buttons on the back beside the existing L/R buttons, thus making the Circle Pad Pro accessory entirely redundant. Because there is no longer space for the game card, the game card slot is now found on new 3DS and XL’s bottom-left side, which seems poorly thought out – surely it’ll be right underneath your left palm thus making it easy to accidentally push the card in and eject it? The space at the top previously occupied by the game card slot now houses the charging port, which has been moved from its original off-centre position.

    3DSXLbatterycomparison   3DSbatterycomparison

    Battery life comparisons (given in minimum to maximum expected time between charges) for the New 3DS XL (top) and New 3DS (bottom) compared to their predecessors (click to enlarge)

    Nintendo claim that the new 3DS and XL models also make small improvements on the battery life, with their rated maximum life up half an hour on the XL to 7 hours; and up a whole hour on the regular 3DS to 6 hours. Part of the reason for these gains are due to a new adaptive brightness feature, where the screen will automatically brighten or darken depending on the currently displayed picture, which is also aimed to improve colour quality. Another big reason for the small improvement is a new, more efficient processor – which also grants the new models a small speed boost to make downloads and loading times quicker – though exact specs are not yet known. Speaking of downloads, you’ll also now be able to use Micro SD cards with both new 3DS models, with a new slot located under the bottom covering.

    The new Nintendo 3DS models also have an improved 3D function. With the original 3DS and XL, if you viewed the 3D effect from the side and didn’t stay in the “sweet spot,” the graphics became all blurred. However, the New 3DS has improved 3D, enabling players to continue to see the 3D effect even if viewed from an angle. Using the device’s cameras and gyroscopes, the new 3DS and 3DS XL actually track your face to work out the angle the screen is being viewed from – and will adjust the 3D effect to what’s best for your view. Clever!

    New3DSPrices

    Though the international launches of the new 3DS and 3DS XL models is still to be announced, both will be out October 11 in Japan. The New Nintendo 3DS is priced at 16,000 yen (approx. £92.75 at time of posting) and the New Nintendo 3DS XL is priced at 18,800 yen (approx. £109 at time of posting) – given the usual mark-ups, however, I’m personally predicting prices of £129 and £159 when they hit the UK. Sorry, that’s business.

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2014
    Acknowledgements: Images courtesy Nintendo and the Publ more...
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    May
    30
    2014

    Wii U recieves support for Gamecube Controllers!

    An official Nintendo Gamecube controller

    Many hardcore players of Nintendo’s long-running, franchise-merging beat-em-up, Super Smash Bros, will attest that the only way to properly play the games is with a proper, chunky controller with plenty of buttons to enable the widest range of moves and tactics. It’s no surprise really: having started on the N64 and then moved on to the GameCube for the subsequent sequel, Melee – both consoles whose controllers could be described as chunky and button filled – Smash Bros. was a game that took advantage of every single button to provide plenty of attacks, taunt options, grabs and – for the wusses – defensive moves. That Nintendo had to simply every character’s movesets for the Wii follow-up, Brawl, due to the Wii Remote having just four buttons and a D-Pad was seen as sacrilege to many fans of the previous two titles, who felt reducing the immediately available attacks and using two-button combinations for most moves just didn’t offer the level of control they were used to.

    Luckily, the Wii offered something that catered to those fans: Gamecube backwards-compatibility. Realising that there would be those craving the greater control of the previous games, Nintendo allowed people who had plugged Gamecube controllers into the Wii to use them as controllers for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, letting them play the new game with their old, familiar controllers even though they’d still be subject to the simplified move sets. That players familiar with the previous generation could fight again using the ergonomic, full-featured controllers they’d gotten accustomed to was a godsend; and so, when the Wii U removed Gamecube compatibility and the Gamecube ports, many wept that they’d not get the same option in the next Super Smash Bros. title.

    Well, dear fans, weep no longer:

    That’s right! Nintendo UK and Nintendo of Europe took to Twitter today to announce that Gamecube Controller support will be hitting the Wii U; and will feature in the next Smash Bros. title! From the picture posted, it appears the support will be added via a new accessory which will plug in to the Wii U via USB and offer the standard four Gamecube controller ports like on the original ‘Cube and the Wii. Given the nature of the accessory, it seems unlikely this will be used ONLY for Smash Bros. – many Wii games and WiiWare / Wii Virtual Console titles supported the Gamecube and the Wii U is backwards-compatible with those, so we may see Gamecube controls returned to those games; but what’s stopping Nintendo also baking Gamecube controller support back into the Wii U Virtual Console or even into future Wii U titles? The prospect is tantalising.

    Interestingly, the picture appears to show the Wii U with both front USB ports in use, though the connectors are different colours. This begs the question as to whether the Gamecube add-on will require one or two USB ports to use. What’s more, the plugged-in Gamecube controller in the picture features a Smash Ball decal – just a decorative touch, or will whole new, special-edition Gamecube controllers hit the stores once again? There’s a lot of questions still to be answered; but one thing’s for sure. Those of you who’ve kept hold of your Gamecube controllers for the last couple of years or more, now have even more reason to feel smug.

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

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    Apr
    29
    2014

    Add physical, customisable buttons to your Android phone with this sticker!

    Touchscreen phones are all the rage these days; and while they may do the job of giving you greater interaction with the phone; and haptic feedback is helping to bring back the feeling you get of actually "pressing" buttons etc. – sometimes there's just no substitute for real, physical buttons. As well as always knowing where they are – because they can't be moved or replaced by something else like on a screen – physical buttons often provide short-cuts to the parts of a phone you want to use, letting you get to them in one press even when trying to do the same through the phone itself would take multiple touches, gestures or flicking through different screens.

    Dimple on the bank of a Nexus phone; and a simulation of the app.
    Image Credit: Dimple.io

    Most Android phones lack any kind of physical button – even a Home button like on the iPhone – choosing to utilise virtual ones instead. If you found yourself nodding in the last paragraph and wishing you could add some physical buttons to your Android phone, let me introduce you to Dimple. As described on their website dimple.io, Dimple is "a small NFC™ sticker with four buttons for Android™ devices. You are the one who chooses the button functionality. It makes doing everyday tasks quicker and saves your precious time."

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