Tested: Hater, the dating app with a difference

If you’ve tried dating apps, you’ll know that most try to match people based on shared interests. Hater does things a bit differently…

Created by former Goldman Sachs banker Brendan Alper, Hater offers up topics, usually in the form of a gif, which you decide if you hate or not. They’ll then match you up based on your selected “hates” and the rest could be history.

Hater currently has a whole host of randoms topics including Boston Terriers, bubble baths, the sound of filing nails and even YouTube stars. Like Bumble and Tinder users swipe through the topics choosing either right or left depending if they like it or hate it and can skip altogether if no preference.

The app will then find your most compatible matches, giving you the option to see, in detail, what they like and hate. You can even choose if the app searches locally or across the world…

The rest is up to you, if you fancy giving it a go download Hater from the Google Play Store, happy swiping!

If you’re in a relationship and want to know if Hater would have matched you and your SO, ask yourself… how would you feel about their answers to the below:

Love or hate?

– Sudoku
– Eating straight from the fridge
– Will Ferrell
– The beach
– When someone you hate makes a joke
– Big cities
– Harley Quinn
– Community
– Pet sitting
– Thunderstorms

Have you used your smartphone to find love? Post your stories in the comments below…

 

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Tested: Can Investment Apps Make You Rich?

If you’ve been paying attention to the Sony Mobile Blog, you will have noticed our recent budgeting post and potentially started managing your finances directly from your Xperia. Great choice. But now does it feel like that cash is burning a hole in your pocket? Sure, you could splash those hard earned savings on a flat white – or – you could launch your empire. You’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street, it’s easy, buy low, sell high, retire at 26.

Okay, it’s not that straightforward, but we’ve tested some of the most downloaded apps that could see that one coffee, turn into two and that’s not a bad place to start.

Before you know it, you’ve got a nice little nest egg to throw into Beanie Babies, Tulip Bulbs or Bitcoin.

Please remember with any investment, your capital is at risk, so please do invest with caution.

 

iBillionaire

This is a pretty simple concept, you want to invest, but you, like us, have no clue about the markets. But you know who does? Billionaire investors with a track record for getting things right. iBillionaire lets you peak over the shoulder of the likes of Warren Buffet, David Einhorn and Carl Icahn. How does it do this? Every quarter, iBillionaire automatically updates your portfolio to replicate billionaires’ filings. If it works for them, it should work for you right?

You’ve got a number of investment options here – you can take the Billionaire route as above, or you could invest in their Bitcoin Fund, their Real Estate Fund or maybe you’ve read up on Bridgewater’s All Weather strategy and think that’s the way to go? Whatever you choose, it starts at $ 1 a month (including four rebalances every year) and there are no additional costs or commissions charged. They claim for as little as $ 5 a week, you could invest like a billionaire.

 

Acorns (USA) and Money Box (UK)

Acorns and Money Box though created by different developers, have a similar aim – making everyday investing a habit. The cleverest part (in our opinion) is how you can save. The first barrier most people run into is that they don’t have any money to invest in the first place. Where these apps succeed is taking the sting out of investing, by making it gradual. Buying a sandwich for $ 3.75? Your purchase gets rounded up to an even $ 4.00, you notice nothing at the time, but over a couple of months, this rounding up turns into real money.

Depending on whether you’re using Acorns or Money Box, your money will be put into Funds and ISAs, which you can customise to your preferred level of risk. For example, with Money Box, depending on the level of risk you are willing to accept, there are three investment options: Cautious, Balanced and Adventurous

Acorns charges $ 1 a month (accounts investing up to $ 5,000), while Moneybox costs £1 a month and 0.45% of the value of your investments per year (at the time of writing, Moneybox is offering to waive the £1 fee for the first three months).

 

Nutmeg

To be honest, this one isn’t an app you’ll be opening every forty minutes, it’s a slow burner. Nutmeg means business. You put money in it every month and invest it – the app is just a nice way to keep track.

You can get a Lifetime ISA with contributions starting at £100 a month, a Nutmeg ISA or general investment account within initial £500 when you make monthly contributions of £100, or consolidate your pension with a £5,000 investment.

You’ve handed over your money, but what are Nutmeg bringing to the table? Their schemes have been built by investment experts – they’ve created a number of diversified portfolios that limit risk but have options for those of you who want to play it a little more dangerously.

They’ve also got award winning service and it’s really straightforward to use – so if you do happen to get a bit stuck, they’ll get someone on the case for you.

 

So now you’re an “investor”, you may not be a wolf, but you’re certainly not a sheep. Good luck.

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The 2018 Google Play Indie Games Contest

Since we picked up our XZ1 at IFA last year, we haven’t been able to stop playing games on it. The super-speedy Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 keeps games running smoothly while Sony display and audio tech keep games looking and sounding great.

Now with a trip to MWC in Barcelona coming up, this feels like the perfect time to load some new games onto our devices for the flight.

Way back in October, when we heard Google announce their second annual Google Play Indie Games Contest in Europe, we were excited. The shortlist of twenty finalists has been chosen ahead of the main event on 13th February; these amazing games vary in cost and genre but are all worth checking out.

So, before some know it all tells you they’ve discovered the new “Flappy Bird”, we’ve written a round up (in no particular order) of six of our favourites to give you the inside scoop.

Old Man’s Journey

Through the eyes of the “Old Man” you explore life’s complexities and live through his heartache, regret, and hope. In this visually distinctive game, you solve puzzles to create the Old Man’s path forward. This is the sort of game that will have people straining over your shoulder to take a look, it’s bold and colourful with a hand drawn graphic style which makes the scenic transitions so worth the effort. Old Man’s Journey has won a few awards already…

“Old Man’s Journey is one of the most beautiful and unique games we’ve ever seen.” Touch Arcade

No More Buttons

Turns out, there were more buttons – just not where you’d expect… No More Buttons is a platform game with hand-drawn graphics where buttons make up part of the environment – they’re part of the furniture. You can move them around, rotate and even stand on them. Don’t understand what we mean? Check the trailer here.

“A quirky platformer with one BIG twist.” Android Central

The Big Journey

There are quite a few puzzle games on Google’s shortlist, but where’s something for the tilt-controlled game fans? Don’t worry, your patience has been rewarded. The Big Journey follows Mr Whiskers, a happy go lucky, well fed cat who sets out across an obstacle filled landscape to find his missing friend Mr Cho. It’s got it all, including an original soundtrack featuring Ukranian folk musicians, the Choconauts.

“It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy when you play it, and there’s something really wonderful about that.” Pocket Gamer

The House of Da Vinci

Liked ‘The Room’? Like 3D mechanical puzzles? Like the feeling of self satisfaction which only comes from solving a riddle? Then you’re in luck. The House of Da Vinci is a beautiful, engaging, 3D puzzle adventure game with an authentic Rennaisance feel. Where’s Da Vinci you ask? It’s your job to find out.

“Atmospheric, highly polished puzzler.” Droid Gamers

The Office Quest

The Office Quest is a very modern point and click adventure game, a prison break adventure for cubicle dwellers. Via puzzles and riddles you must break the shackles of your employment and escape into the wider world. Beautifully drawn, it brings whole new meaning to ‘Boss Battles’.

“The Office Quest is certainly one of the more impressive and polished adventure games on the app store” Android Apps

I Love Hue

For word play and tranquility lovers alike. I Love Hue is as low octane as you can get. The premise revolves around reordering mosaics of coloured tiles into perfectly ordered spectrums. Commuting has never been so relaxing.

“The most soothing smartphone game I’ve ever played.” Business Insider

So there you have it. 6 games to get your teeth into. Want to meet the developers? Well, good news games fans, if you can get yourself to the Saatchi Gallery in London for 13th February, you can still snag a ticket here.

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Robotic Arms, VR football and movie magic: Sony is heading to SXSW 2018

We’re heading back to Austin for SXSW 2018. Last year Xperia Touch was the star of the show, this time we’re packing an Xperia XZ1, 3D Creator and a robotic arm in our suitcases.

From Saturday 10th until Tuesday 13th March, Sony will host the ‘WOW Studio” inviting visitors to try out some of our most exciting prototypes and previously unseen tech, along with our popular 3D Creator feature.

Our 3D Creator showcase will bring the joy of 3D creation to each visitor as a robotic arm wielding an Xperia XZ1 will scan and create 3D renders of guests heads, who will each receive a video to view on their smartphones and share their experience.

State of the art VR technology will be on display as visitors have the chance to face off in a penalty shoot out against a world-class goalie. Festival-goers will even be able to star in their own movie as Sony’s Free-Viewpoint Visual Technology works to create 3D avatars for users to star as the lead in their very own short film.

Click here to find out more about Sony’s WOW Studio and our other exhibits.

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The top budgeting apps to keep saving on track

So you’ve made it through month one of your New Year’s resolution to budget and save more money and now you’re wondering how you’ll make it to December…

Luckily, your smartphone is here to help. There are several top budgeting apps on Google Play to help take control of your spending and we thought we’d get you started with some of our favourites.

Mint

One of the highest rated budgeting apps on the market, Mint is a free money manager and budget tracking app that works to bring all of your bank accounts, bills, credits cards and savings together so you have a clear view of how your money is spent.

Their handy budgeting feature looks at where you spend your money and gives you the option to create your own budget plan or use one crafted by them. Mint can also remind you when a bill needs to be paid and can even schedule them for you, so no more overcharging for late payments. You’ll also have access to their free credit score check service and tips on how to improve it.

Wally+

Wally+ is a personal finance app that helps you track income against expenses to understand where you money goes. It stores exact details of where and when you spent your money and unlike Mint, it gives you the option to add more detail into spending such as who you were with, the sentiment around the places you visit and even images of receipts.

Its location-based service automatically identifies and categorises places you’ve been and stores frequently visited locations for easy access next time you’re there. Notifications will also remind you of upcoming payments and when you have reached a savings goal.

A great app for someone looking to track details of their payments and to cut down on excessive spending.

YNAB

The only paid-for app to appear on our round up, You Need A Budget costs $ 6.99 a month (with the first 34 days free) and boldly claims that budgeters can save up to $ 600 by the second month and over $ 6,000 in the first year. Impressive stuff.

Users divide their income into separate pots (rent, household bills or entertainment) and works by accounting for every penny and letting customers to move money around depending on over or underspend.

It allows you to easily connect all bank accounts together and shares regular reports to keep you up to date on how your saving is going. Not one to shy away from fun, the platform also encourages users to save money each month for larger expenses such as holidays or birthday gifts.

Do you use your smartphone to save cash? Post your favourite apps in the comments or tweet us @SonyMobileNews

 

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Sketch application by Sony: Now available on Apple App Store

Sketch is the social drawing app that, since 2014, has been the go-to application for millions of aspiring digital artists on Android. Now we’re excited to finally invite all creative iOS users out there to join in on the action.

With Sketch, users can create everything from professional art to simple sketches. The editor includes a number of brushes, tools, and features that help both beginners and experienced artists to create fantastic art. In the Sketch community users can share their sketches, and get both inspiration and recognition from other users. Every day more than 100,000 sketches are shared by the community.

It is available for free on the App Store now. If you haven’t already got it on Android, head to Google Play to download it now.

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Industry Innovators: Meet Tara Reed, the woman changing the way we think about developing software

You’ve had a brilliant idea for an app, you’re really excited to get it off the ground, one catch, you’ve never coded in your life and the one time you thought you’d give it a go – it felt like a glitch in the Matrix.

Don’t worry, help is at hand – Tara Reed is the founder of Apps Without Code. Tara has a formidable tech background (Google, FourSquare, Microsoft) and has developed her own apps but never learnt to code herself, as we discovered that hasn’t held her back.

Tell us about Apps Without Code.

Apps Without Code is a global education company teaching entrepreneurs how to build profitable apps with limited resources. Our programs are kind of like business school for your start-up idea. We have students in 14 countries. And graduates of our programs have built really awesome apps and licensed them to companies like Coca-Cola or entire school districts in Florida.

How did you get started?

As a business, Apps Without Code sort of happened by accident. I built my first app, Kollecto (Netflix for affordable art), as a non-technical entrepreneur, stringing together a bunch of existing technologies, without writing a single line of code. We had some really great success — we raised $ 300,000 in investment, made $ 150,000 in revenue, and got into the 500 Startups accelerator, in less than a year. But as time went on, it was amazing how many aspiring entrepreneurs came to me asking, “How’d you do that?” There were all kinds of “non-technical” people who wanted to learn how to build apps without code and launch startups on a budget. So a couple years in, I launched a second company called Apps Without Code. Today we run a startup school for entrepreneurs and also partner with nonprofits, universities, and corporations on entrepreneurship training programs.

What are the main benefits of creating an App without code?

There’s nothing wrong with coding, but it doesn’t make sense for everyone. It takes most people a long time (a few years) to get proficient enough in a coding language to build their full app idea. But the tech industry moves really fast. So 1-2 years is a long time to wait before you launch your business idea. Also, outsourcing the work to professional developers can be super expensive and if you’re not technical, it is super difficult to translate your creative vision to an affordable developer.

Building your own app without code means you can bring your product to market in a few weeks. It also means you can be really scrappy and efficient, and develop your app at a fraction of the cost. So it’s really an attractive option for bootstrapping entrepreneurs who aren’t backed by investors.

You’ve previously said concentrating on code can be a disadvantage to the consumer, is the customer journey your primary motivation?

The customer journey is definitely part of it. Building an app without code means you can respond to user feedback almost immediately, without the cost and time associated with traditional software development, which ultimately means a better product and experience for your customers.

You previously worked at Google, Foursquare and Microsoft – what inspired you to set out on your own?

I’d been kicking around my own app ideas while I was working at Microsoft, but I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, and it was difficult to see how I would ever get something off the ground. Then one day a close friend and mentor said to me, “Tara, you are way too smart to not be taking more risks.” I cried when he told me that. And the next month I was on a plane to New York City to start a Bootcamp program for people wanting to start a side business. Kollecto was born from that process, and I left Microsoft shortly thereafter.

You are helping a host of entrepreneurs to create their own tech empires, any we should keep an eye out for?

There are so many amazing ideas that our Bootcamp students and alumni are working on. Many of our most successful students are actually “tech outsiders” — they don’t have much if any experience working in the tech world, but they have a ton of experience and expertise in other areas, like health care, or manufacturing, or education. One of our alumni saw a problem in the manufacturing industry and developed an app to streamline processes. A few months later, he was able to quit his job, and he’s already landed a contract with Coca-Cola for his app. This is life-changing stuff and it’s happening every single day.

What advice would you give to aspiring app developers who would be keen to follow your example?

I attribute a lot of our success to a willingness to fail. I’m always pushing my team to experiment. Most of the time, it doesn’t work out, but we learn from it and do better the next time. So I always tell other aspiring entrepreneurs and app builders, just go for it. Don’t wait. Just get something in front of people and see what happens.

How important has mobile technology been to spread your message?

It’s huge. Not only are we helping entrepreneurs develop mobile apps, but we’re also actively connecting with people that way. Instagram, for instance, is one of our most effective marketing channels. And in February we’re hosting an online conference that entrepreneurs can attend from literally anywhere.

Where can we find out more about Apps Without Code?

You can learn more about the Bootcamp program at AppsWithoutCode.com. We also run a free online workshop for people interested in building apps without code, and you can sign up for that at workshop.appswithoutcode.com as well.

Follow @TaraReed_on Twitter

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CES Xperia Round-Up 2018

Phew, CES is wrapped for another year and we’re heading back to Xperia HQ with not one, but three new Xperia smartphones, packed with features that got expo visitors talking, none more so, than the new XA2 Ultra’s double selfie camera – but we’ll come to that later.

At this year’s Las Vegas tech showcase, Sony unveiled the Xperia XA2, the Xperia XA2 Ultra and the Xperia L2.

Let’s start with the Xperia L2. With an expansive 5.5” HD display (perfect for enjoying video and browsing social media), high-capacity battery (3,300mAh, if you’re counting) and 8MP 120° super wide-angle selfie camera. With L2 you won’t have to stand halfway across the room to get everyone in the shot or having to hunt around constantly for a charger.

Next, the Xperia XA2. With a 5.2 inch display, is the most compact of the new launches but packs plenty of tech into its diminutive shell: Featuring a Sony 23MP Exmor RSTM mobile rear camera (those holiday shots are going to look amazing) and, don’t worry, the XA2 also features an 8MP 120° super wide-angle Exmor R™ selfie camera – all in a sleek and borderless design. When it comes to video, the XA2 features 4K movie recording, allowing you to create with colour and clarity– 120fps slow motion video capture is also included to preserve memories and magnify moments.

And finally – the Xperia XA2 Ultra the “dual selfie” smartphone, has all the top features of the XA2 and, as you’d expect, a couple of special extras. It not only features the 8MP 120° super wide-angle front camera, but also a 16MP camera with Optical Image Stabilisation too. The XA2 Ultra also just so happens to boast Sony’s most vibrant 6” Full HD smartphone display yet and with a 3,580 mAh battery.

If you’re keen to find out more, head over to the Xperia product page for all the technical info.

 

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The best fitness apps that give you a reason to run

New year… new you? Easy to say but have you seen the weather outside? Icy winds, pouring rain, and plummeting temperatures. No thank you, we’d much rather turn up the temperature at Sony Mobile HQ and stay indoors until MWC.

However, perhaps our smartphones can help provide the incentive we need. We’re all familiar with fitness trackers, but what about apps that actively encourage you to lace up your shoes, get out there, and start working off all that festive indulgence?

We downloaded some of the most popular apps, watched the training montage from Rocky IV, and headed outside.

Zombie Run

Plug in your headphones, step outside and suddenly you’re surrounded. Hundreds of zombies are staggering towards you; all you can do is run for your life. This ultra-immersive running app, set in a zombie apocalypse combines fitness with an epic adventure storyline to help you keep the excitement up, as every run becomes a mission where you are the hero. During each run, you’ll also automatically collect supplies like medicine and food, which you can use to help build your own post-apocalyptic society. The game comes with over 200 missions to enjoy, free players will unlock a new one each week. With over 2.5 million downloads it is clear to see why this app is so popular.

Charity Miles

This innovative app allows users to earn money for charity while they exercise. On starting the app, you are given the choice of 40 charities to raise money for including Stand Up To Cancer, Feeding America, Alzheimer’s Association, The Leukaemia & Lymphoma Society and many more. When you have selected one, the app works like a regular pedometer and begins to clock miles as you exercise, converting these into cash to be donated to your chosen charity. Bikers earn 10 cents per mile for their charity; walkers and runners earn 25 cents per mile. The money comes from the Charity Miles company who get corporate sponsors to back them. The aim is to incentivise people to go the extra mile for both their health and the worthy cause in question.

Sweatcoin

This all-new activity tracker actually pays you to get fit (brilliant) as it converts each of your steps into a digital currency called a Sweatcoin. Once you’ve collected enough, they can be exchanged for exciting gadgets, active wear, once in a lifetime experiences, or you can even donate the money to charity. The app is a great idea, and a fun way to stay fit, the only thing we would say is that you have to clock a fair few miles before you will have enough coins to use on anything nice! For example it will cost you a whopping 20,000 Sweatcoins to win an £100 Amazon voucher but the recommended 10,000 steps per day will only get you 6.5 Sweatcoins, so you better get moving!

Earthmiles

A similar concept to Sweatcoin, this app clocks reward points with each run, so users can win exciting prizes while they get in shape. Named ‘Earth Miles’ as a play on the concept of air miles, users can win anything from active wear, health foods to wellness experiences. The app comes as an addition to other run trackers such as Runkeeper, Strava, Map My Run, FitBit and more so you can track results as you usually would, while adding an extra bonus.

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How to take better photos of fireworks

Back in September we came across these spectacular shots of Hanabi, Japan’s summer-long fireworks festival.

Suitably impressed, we got in touch with photographer Keisuke Nakazawa to see how his expertise could help smartphone photographers up their own firework photography game. Keisuke grabbed the Xperia XZ1 (packed with all the latest Sony camera innovations) and headed to the Tokyo Bay Fireworks Display to put it through its paces. Check out some of the images he captured below.

So, just in time for New Year’s Eve, consider this your definitive guide on how to take better photos of fireworks, by someone who really knows their stuff.

Keisuke, over to you.

 

Pick your spot

Preparation is key. Ideally you want to be upwind of the display. This will minimise the amount of smoke in your shot as it will blow away from you. Also, feel free to put some distance between yourself and the display. I find shooting from a distance of 400 to 500 meters leads to the best results.

Do your research

This isn’t always possible but if you know what kind of fireworks will be shot off when, you’ll be ready to capture the perfect shot. It’s easy to miss a shot when a beautiful volley of fireworks appears. Having a schedule will help you capture the most impressive moments.

Use a tripod

Absolutely essential. When photographing fireworks, you want to take pictures with slow shutter speeds to create cool and beautiful shots. Slow shutter speeds + no tripod = shaky shots. Not good. If you don’t have a tripod, get creative and find another way to fix your smartphone in place. It’s that important.

Manual mode is your friend

Ok, now let’s take some pictures. Manual mode is also crucial. Why? Because it lets us lengthen the shutter speed to one second. As for ISO, when this is high, pictures can become noisy. Also, because fireworks are bright a high ISO will cause your shots to turn white. As such I set the ISO low, around 50 to 100. As for white balance, keep this on auto or set for fluorescent light.

If you struggle with manual settings, it is possible to take great shots in auto mode. The Xperia Superior Auto mode is amazing but be sure to use a tripod to ensure best results.

Finally, manual focus is also key. Even the very best autofocus can struggle at night.

Look at the fireworks, not the screen

Practice watching the firework with your eyes and pressing the shutter without looking at the screen. Also, be gentle! Pressing the shutter too strongly will cause the smartphone to shake. You want to press the shutter when the firework is at its highest point after launch. That’s when they explode and fill the sky with colour.

Follow Keisuke on Instagram and please share your Xperia fireworks shots on Twitter with the hashtag #XperiaFireworks. We’ll RT the best.

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