Animal Crossing Impression

You might have heard that a Switch game came out recently – Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’ve played it every day since it was released two solid weeks ago, and I’d like to share some impressions about it.


Let me first offer up some background. I played the original Animal Crossing on the Gamecube about 18 years ago. Then I played Animal Crossing: New Leaf on 2DS XL as recently as one year ago, which improved upon the original. So I’ll compare New Horizons to those a little bit.

ACNH is awesome! It is a super-chill and beautifully made game. You start on a deserted island with practically nothing. Then you slowly build up a community there with new town buildings and houses and infrastructure. You can decorate the inside of your house and also anywhere outside. Want a flower garden or a playground? Go for it!

The graphics on the Switch look splendid, better than ever. The level of detail in all the 3D objects is superb. There’s a museum on the island to display all the fossils, bugs, and fish you find. By itself, you can literally spend a long time slowly walking through the exhibits gazing at the gorgeous detail throughout.

As in previous games, ACNH has collecting galore. But new to the game is crafting, and it’s excellent, albeit somewhat simple. But simple is perfect for a relaxing casual game such as this. It also has designing, whether its fabric patterns or total town layout. And another new aspect is terraforming! But I’ve not yet arrived at that level of the game.

So there’s a lot to do in ACNH. But what do you really do? What is the goal? There are, of course, goals within the game, things to accomplish, status to achieve. But at its heart, the game is very interactive, so you just do things. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey! I don’t care how cliche that sounds, it’s accurate about the game. The fun in ACNH is in doing all the things more than having done them.

A key element of the game since its inception in the late 90’s is, of course, as solid as ever in ACNH. I speak of the real-time clock. Things in the game happen in real time and according to the calendar and seasons of the year. It takes time for flowers to bloom, trees to grow and bear fruit, buildings to be constructed. Most of all, it takes time to develop good relationships with your neighbors.

All that said, there is one particular aspect of the game that had me scratching my head in the first week. The number one thing that the game has always been about from the beginning was the social interaction between you and the other residents of the town. It’s about…Animal Crossing. That is, the heart of the game is about socializing with the anthropomorphic animals that live in the game. The life of the game is crossing other animals’ paths and interacting, communicating, trading, and even emoting with them. ACNH is a life-simulation game.

This soul of the game seemed to be missing in the first week I played. It made me wonder if somehow it was lost, replaced by the new game mechanics such as crafting. But there’s nothing to worry about here. At first, you simply arrive on a deserted get-away island, and only 2 other animals arrive with you. So in the slow-paced beginnings, there is almost nobody around to socialize with. Instead, you’re focused on some basic quality-of-life improvements to get the community started. In past games, there was already a town filled with animals to get to know. But in ACNH, there is more of a slow build-up to all that. In my opinion, this has turned out to be wonderful.

I don’t know how intentional the blank-slate town start was, but the psychology behind it is cool. We are all social creatures by nature (even us introverts need a friend or two). We are made to enjoy relationships with others. This human-nature is reflected in Animal Crossing, only it’s more anthropomorphic animal-nature.

Starting life on a deserted island presents an emptiness, a lack of relationship as well as town structures. As you grow the town, so too does the apparent lack of animal interaction other than the relatively few starter inhabitants that joined you on the island. Slowly, more new animal-people move to the island and bring new life with their unique artificially intelligent personalities, some of which have many quirks. Like real people.

Being a Nintendo game, the level of polish and wonder and fun in ACNH is laudable. It’s also par-for-the-course with what is expected of a triple-A title game from a company that seems to have gaming magic in its DNA.


If you’ve never played Animal Crossing, wow, there’s no better time to jump into this franchise. It is a game that you should buy a Switch for. This game, only $60, keeps giving you more content over time. As seasons unfold in real time, so too do related events within the game world.

New people arrive. Some may move away. New things happen. More bugs and fish appear in season. Spring Bamboo can be found now. But come Autumn, you’ll be able to collect acorns and pine-cones to craft new items. The game keeps giving. And since there’s no real end-goal, you never beat the game! You just keep living it out, enjoying the journey.


Have you played Animal Crossing? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

A Switch For Smartphone Computing

I found an article related to a feature in Android 10 that surprised me. And it got me thinking. What if your smartphone was like a Nintendo Switch?

The article I read talked about a potential upcoming feature that smartphone maker, LG, is purportedly working on. It’s a Desktop Mode. From what I understand, it lets you connect your Android 10 smartphone to a cable to output your phone’s screen to a large display. I assume it would also wirelessly connect to a keyboard and pointing device. This essentially would turn your smartphone into a desktop computer. And apparently, LG is polishing this native Android 10 feature to make it even more useful.

To me, this is intriguing.

Yet I think this can be marketed and understood better when thinking about Nintendo’s latest and very popular game console, the Switch. It’s main attractive feature is the ability to play the Switch as a tried and true home console on your TV but then easily and quickly take it on the go for an excellent handheld mobile gaming system. It’s a 2-in-1! And thanks to the design of the hardware and software, it works remarkably well.

So why can’t a smartphone work the same way? All you need is a good docking solution. Imagine being able to take your mobile phone, place it on a wireless charging mat, and then it auto-connects wirelessly (NFC/bluetooth/wi-fi) to a nearby display, mouse, and keyboard. Then the software turns on a desktop mode, letting you compute at a desk. Later, you just grab your phone off the charging mat and go! So easy!

Let’s say this set-up is totally feasible and will hit the market next year. The next question is, would you want this feature? Would you buy your next smartphone if you knew it could double as your primary desktop computer?

I, for one, think this could be great and would want to try it. To me, it wouldn’t be much different than a Chrombook with Android experience. Matter of fact, I would change the scenario a bit and have the phone wirelessly output to a Chromebook/laptop form factor for full mobile-desktop computing. I think the most attractive aspect of this idea is the simplicity of it. One device, one CPU, one storage drive, etc. It’d be one thing to power all your cloud computing.


Okay, so I just checked into this a bit more and found a related YouTube video. Basically, it is possible now to make an Android phone act like a desktop computer, where each app gets windowed and you can multi-task like traditional computing.

It’s intriguing, but it kinda feels like a niche experiment rather than a bonafide feature. It also looks like it might be fiddly with connecting the right cables and peripherals. But the wireless Chromecast ability of Android phones is one I had forgotten about; I want to see if that works with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

All that said, I’m also thinking that I like the simplicity of my two dedicated devices: a smartphone and a Chromebook. Both are small and capable and portable and serve me well.

In any case, I hope to see further development of Android’s desktop mode so that it becomes a common and powerful feature. In a few years, maybe using only a smartphone as your computer will be the norm.


What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Android Attraction

Smart Switch

Last Summer, when I ditched my iPad and switched to Chromebook, I started thinking about doing the same with my phone – iPhone to Android. Naturally! It just makes sense to go all-in with the Google stuff. But I hesitated, finding it a bit concerning to fix something that isn’t broken. My iPhone 7, despite its age, is working great. I’m comfortable with the quality and reliability; also, there are a few key apps/features that I would miss.

A few months later, I found myself re-visiting the idea of switching phones. The iPhone has a lot going for it, but my mind has changed. I’ve decided to move over to Android! So what’s the big deal?


Android Attributes

As I mentioned, one of the big draws to an Android phone is that all the Google apps I use daily would be the default apps! Click a link: Chrome would open instead of Safari. Heck, I could have Firefox open if I wanted instead! Sharing via mail: Gmail would open instead of Apple Mail. And best of all: Google Assistant would default instead of Siri. You get the idea. Overall, Android’s flexibility (and openness) is more efficient than iPhone.

Also very attractive is Android’s customizability. Get bored with the way your phone looks? You can totally change it up…but not on iPhone. Want to see the nice photo you set as wallpaper? No probs! Just move your app icons anywhere you wanna! Heck, you can have zero apps on the screen too and just dive into the App Drawer where all your apps reside. Nice!

I know these features first-hand because I used Android for several years. I’ve already switched back and forth between iPhone and Android. So another reason I’m wanting to switch back now is because of the novelty of it. I’m ready for something new.

Now, onto one of the grandest Android features of all! Affordability. Even though $1,000 Android phones exist, you can also get a great Android phone on a budget. But are they worth it? Yes! I love how there are a number of phones competing in the market at the entry-level and also at the mid-range phone level. You can say that mid-range Android phones today are the affordable versions of the flagship-level phones of yesterday. Since smartphone tech has advanced so much now, you can get an Android phone without compromising or sacrificing all that much. And without emptying a bank vault.

Because there are truck-loads of Android phone makers producing multiple phone models for every budget, there’s another cool aspect of shopping for one instead of an iPhone: variety. Beyond the simple glass rectangle of a phone, in the Android space, you’ll find different sizes, colors, features, and benefits. While this abundance relates to a downside called “fragmentation”, which can be a mixed bag, I find it really nice to have so many phone options. In contrast, the only iPhone variety you have is: the new one or an old one. Or plain, plainer, and plainest. Or costly, more expensive, and exorbitantly priced. No thanks.

Finally, I recently found a bonus feature of Android phones. It’s called the Google Family Link app. So let’s call this feature, Family. This app from Google allows a parent to easily control multiple aspects of their kid’s phone. Yes, Apple has something similar, which I currently use. But the Google Family Link app appears to offer better or more granular control than Apple’s set-up. The fact that I can also keep tabs on my kid’s Chromebook activity in addition to their phone habits is salsa on the chips!


Hello…Moto

There are other areas to consider about Android versus iPhone. One of the biggest and trendiest these days is the two-punch combo of Privacy/Security. In some ways, I still think Apple and iPhone are best-in-class for this. But Google and Android are also great; I consider them trustworthy enough.

So now I’m saving up my pennies and dollars to make my next smartphone purchase a shiny new Android. I’ve set my sights on the reduced-price Moto G7 to replace my iPhone 7. The cool extra benefit to this will be the similarity and affordability of also replacing my kids’ iPhone 6 with the Moto G7 Play. If it all works out, I may blog about it in the not-too-distant future.

Speaking of the future, here’s another good example of Android variety. Microsoft has announced they plan to release a two-screen Android phone called the Duo. It looks so cool! Will it be practical? Time will tell.

(For the record, I once was the proud owner of the Moto Q feature phone. And in my former Android days, I used the Moto X followed by the Moto G4. No, I never owned the flip phone Moto Razr…but have you seen the new flip-smartphone version?)


What smartphone do you prefer? Have you lived with both iPhone and Android before? Write below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Quest For A Music Service

Rip, Mix, Burn

Raise your hand if you remember iTunes in the era of the iPod and how game changing $0.99 songs a-la-carte were. Nowadays, it’s all about streaming music services. I’ve stood as a hold-out, but the ground is cracking beneath my feet. I think it’s time to move on.


Listening History

If you’re like me, then you may recall the way music worked in the 80’s and 90’s. If I wanted a hit song, I rushed to the boom box to mash the fat plastic record button on the tape deck while the radio announcer talked over the first few seconds of the music. Ah, those days…

If I wished to avoid the DJs, the air-wave ads, or the hissing crackling audio of cheap cassettes, despite Dolby B and NR noise reduction, my other option was to buy a whole entire CD (album) from an artist to get that-one-song. That’s right, we “old” people would sometimes pay $15 for a song.

Then Napster, Kazaa, and Apple changed everything.

Now Playing

Fast-forward (like a cassette tape!) to now. Way back in January this year, I tried Apple Music for the first time! I told you, I’ve been a hold-out. Buying specific songs for a buck on iTunes to make a mix-tape (playlist) was revolutionary and easy, and not so easy to let go of.

So Apple’s streaming service was cool, if not a bit overwhelming. It was kinda weird to see my decades old music library suddenly inundated with new albums and artists. The Apple Music app on my iPhone also wasn’t organized very well. I had a hard time combining my trusty library with all the new stuff and getting it sorted. But most of all, I wasn’t ready to pay $10 a month for the rest of my life; I figured it’d be cheaper to buy 5 new songs a month at roughly half the price!

But things have changed. Again.

I switched my main computer from iPad to Chromebook. In other words, from Apple to Google. So I wanted to switch to Google Play Music too. I’d used it before, and besides uploading my songs from iTunes (library migration is hard!), it had a feature I really liked: Stations based on a song or artist. It was great for new music discovery!

But I quickly saw that Google was, yet again, killing a service! Slowly but surely, Google Play Music is being replaced by YouTube Music. And it’s just not there yet. You can’t transfer your existing song library to it. The app is limited too. If I must abandon my old song library and start over, then I’ll go with the best solution I’ve found so far.

Spotify

I’ll start with this one-weird-fact. For years, I thought the Spotify logo was lame. But I can say it has grown on me. Judging a book by its cover is a no-no. And now that I’ve actually started trying Spotify…oh my, I think I may have fallen head over heels!

The app and service are so MUCH better than Apple Music! The interface is clean, elegant, simple, and easy. The service works great as a result of clarity and simplicity. How has Apple fallen behind in this regard? I think it’s due to the baggage. Apple’s music app/service has the burden of combining the old (iTunes library) with the new (streaming library). But Spotify starts fresh from the ground up as a groundbreaking streaming service.

Speaking of starting fresh, I’m experiencing a surprising liberation. Since there is no way to import my old music collection into Spotify, I’m literally starting over with a clean slate. It’s a refreshing transformation! I can create all new playlists. I don’t have the laborious task of migrating, importing, or matching music. I have all-the-songs!

Also, Spotify is a third-party solution. It’s an independent, not sold-out, service. So it’s cross-platform. That means I can use any company’s device (iPhone, Chromebook, fire tablet) and always have my whole music library!


A Sound Summary

Long have I resisted subscription services, but Spotify is awesome! I’ll keep trying it out and see if it sticks. I think it will.

At least the Spotify logo is not a cassette tape.


Where do you get your music? Sound off below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

My iPhone Got Googled

Google’s Grasp

Would you believe me if I told you it is nigh impossible to get away from Google? The tech giant is so ingrained on the internet, you likely use at least one Google service. Several attempts at escaping Google’s vortex are posted online; just do a quick search for them – try not to use Google search! I distanced myself from Google several months ago, but now my Apple iPhone has become Google-fied.


Tech Turf

My iPhone is Apple’s home turf, and it was free of all Google apps. I had even deleted YouTube! Of course, Apple wants you to use their built-in apps, and doing so makes the iPhone experience smoother overall. In fact, after more than a decade, Apple still won’t let you change default apps.

When I switched from using an iPad to a Chromebook, which is Google’s turf, I embraced using Google’s web apps and services. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would use only the minimum necessary to blog. You can guess the one Google app I’d be “forced” to use on a Chromebook: Chrome!

On my once “pure” Apple iPhone, it didn’t take long for me to download almost all of Google’s apps; I had a whole page full of them! What can I say? I like to go all-in. Besides, Google’s web services are linked together to make them more functional, so it makes sense to fully embrace them.


Google iPhone

It seems like an oxymoron, but a Google iPhone is not a pretty ugly device; it’s surprisingly Google-y. You might say it’s the best of both worlds: Apple hardware with Google software. To me, it still seems weird having so many Google apps dominating my once “pure” Apple phone. It’s a major contrast, going from dependence on Apple’s solutions to Google’s. I’ll share three examples of apps I’ve switched.

Voice Assistance

For the third year in a row, it’s been proven that Google Assistant is more accurate in answering questions than Siri. And having used Google Now on Android in the past, I remember how handy it was at offering up info for whatever I was doing at the moment. Most of all, taking an all-Google approach, I want Google Assistant to be the default voice assistant, integrated throughout the phone at my beck and call.

Unfortunately, Apple restricts changing the default apps on iPhone. So I placed Google Assistant on my homescreen and also enabled the widget. Now I do a tap or swipe to access it and then start talking. It’s not as nice as Siri’s integration where you can just say, “Hey Siri” without touching the phone. But it’s nice enough; I can rely upon it for general questions and search queries. It’s also fun testing both Siri and Google Assistant in competition to see who, or which, gets the best answer.

Lifestyle Apps

This category is a tough nut to crack. Once you become accustomed to relying on certain lifestyle apps every day of your life, changing any one of them is daunting. I switched them all!

Instead of Apple Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Reminders, I now use Google’s versions like Gmail and Tasks. Apple’s offerings work great. But Google’s are, in some ways, even better because of how they integrate with each other on the web. For example, Google Calendar and Tasks are separate apps on the iPhone. Yet online, you can access Tasks within Calendar, and if a task is set to have a date/time, then it will get a special entry on the Calendar too!

After hurdling over the flip-flop to Google’s daily lifestyle apps, it didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable relying on them. Google’s great at synchronizing your data across all its apps and services. From my web browser at work to my iPhone to my Chromebook, I’m happy to trust Google with my daily digital bits.

Music

I still prefer to buy songs one at a time, and Apple’s Music app plus iTunes has been my mainstay. But it lacks music discovery. I tried the Apple Music streaming service, and Spotify, but from my experience, Google’s solutions have been my favorite overall: YouTube and Google Play Music.

For the past two years, I relied on my iPhone’s Apple Music app to playback the songs I paid for. But I hit the big reset button in my mind; now I’ve switched to Google Play Music. I love the great “stations” it has to discover new music. And for now, I can still buy new songs outright from the Google Play Store. (Time will tell if YouTube Music replaces Google Play Music.)


Ecosystem Evolved

Switching from Apple’s apps to Google’s apps on my iPhone was technically straightforward. But mentally, it required quite a mind-shift, rewiring the well worn grooves in my brain.

It’s a lot like physically moving to a new house. You’re daily routine is mostly the same, but you must reorient everything for it. And it takes time to unpack and settle in before you’re “at home” with your new surroundings.

Speaking of moving, now that I’m on Chromebook and using Google’s apps on my iPhone, there’s one more move that I will likely make: switching to an Android phone! Will this happen? Let me ask Siri. Or Google Assistant.


What is your preference? Do you use only Apple apps or a mix of third-party apps? Or do you Google everything? Share your valuable feedback below, or write to me here! Thanks for your time!