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This week, Connor Turnbull wrote about a couple of recent plagiarism cases in mobile gaming. In each case, a company saw an existing, popular game, and copied elements of its core to create (and sell) their own version.

To be clear, I’m not referring to copying a basic idea: Tiny Tower and Sim Tower are both games in which you manage and build a tower apartment complex, but their gameplay is very different. Dream Heights, however, is practically a reskin of Tiny Tower.

Likewise, Triple Town is a match-3 game, and so shares a lot of game mechanics with other match-3 games – that’s fine. But Yeti Town shares a lot of game mechanics with Triple Town specifically, right down to the prices of individual items in the game’s store. Oh, but it’s set at the North Pole rather than in a forest, so hey, no problem.

I hate this. So much work goes into designing gameplay, and so much more goes into tweaking that gameplay to make sure everything feels fair and balanced and fun. If you have a finished game in hand, it’s easy to reverse-engineer all that work, to take a shortcut right past all the time spent on testing and development. And it’s easy to then repackage the result under your own brand.

I don’t plan to approve any more reviews of Zynga games on this site. But what do you think – is it all just business?

This week, Abhimanyu Ghoshal reviewed Pepperplate, a great app for collecting recipes and planning what meals to cook and ingredients to buy. It’s not the first such app we’ve covered: last month, Kim Barloso reviewed Food Planner.

But Android can be used for more than just planning meals – take a look at Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals, which contains 60 of Jamie Oliver’s recipes, each with photos, along with videos of Jamie explaining kitchen techniques like chopping an onion.

Personally, I prefer to stick with cookbooks or look up recipes online than to mess around with a screen that turns off every 30 seconds (particularly as I generally want to avoid smearing whatever I’m cooking with all over the touchscreen), but I do love using my phone as a kitchen timer. There are plenty of timer apps that claim to be specifically for cooking, but my favourite is the general purpose StopWatch & Timer: it’s well designed, with an easy-to-read display that stays on when the app is active, and an always-visible icon in the notifications bar when it’s not.

What about you? Do you prefer cookbooks and kitchen gadgets, or have you gone so far as to buy a cheap Android tablet specifically for the kitchen?

You’ve probably heard by now that Chrome is available on Android. If you haven’t, you should go check out Joe Casabona’s review of the app.

It’s only available on Ice Cream Sandwich at the moment, however, so the majority of us can’t use it yet. There are plenty of alternatives, though: Opera, which renders pages on the server to ease the load on your phone; Firefox, which syncs with its desktop equivalent; Skyfire, which positions itself as a social mobile browser; and Dolphin, which has a ton of add-ons and features. Oh, and I should mention the stock browser, too.

Personally, I find the stock browser adequate for most tasks, but I have Dolphin installed as well, for if I want to spend some time actually surfing the web, rather than just checking out a link someone sent me.

What about you?

“The best camera you have is the one that’s with you”. It’s a cliché that’s often used in defence of phone cameras that, although improving with every generation, are still a long way behind point-and-shoots.

I’m not a photographer. I don’t study the craft, I’ve never woken up early to take pictures of the sunrise, and the most post-production I’ve ever done is to use the red-eye removal tool in Photoshop.

I do enjoy having a camera on my phone, though: it is great to be able to snap a picture of something to remember it later (I have an Evernote notebook with photos of important items around the house so I can remember where they are) or share it with friends (“haha, look at this hilarious scene, you guys”).

So while I’m happy to hear the rumours that Instagram will soon be coming to Android, I’m not bothered about the filters. Perhaps this is because I have a few too many Facebook friends who feel that slapping a sepia tone on anything makes it artistic.

Anyway! Enough grumbling. I’ve told you how I use my phone’s camera; let me know how you use yours.

Our sister site, Mac.AppStorm, recently announced that they were going to put a much bigger emphasis on news articles (while still maintaining or increasing their current output of reviews, roundups, tips, and opinion editorials).

I’m curious: what would you think if we announced the same thing here at Android.AppStorm?

Actually, let’s make this more interesting. What would you think if we announced that we were going to post more news articles, but less of all the other types of post? Or, perhaps, more reviews, but less roundups? More opinions, but less tips?

Just to be clear, we’re not planning any major changes to the site’s output at the moment. I’m just wondering what your number one reason for coming to the site is.

Vote in the poll, and leave a comment to let us know!

We’ve reviewed a few voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps on this site – Kryptos, Sipdroid, and most recently Viber – and we’ve also explained how to make calls with Google Voice and GrooVe IP in combination.

In case you’re not familiar with the idea behind VoIP apps, it’s simple: they let you talk to other people on your handset, but through the internet rather than via your carrier’s phone service. As long as you’ve got a decent data allowance, this is totally free – a huge money-saver, particularly if you make international calls.

The downside is, both you and the person you’re calling needs to have the VoIP app and an account with the VoIP service in order to place the call. Unless you and a friend or colleague plan to call each other a lot and arrange to sign up to the same service, you can’t assume that anyone you know will be using a specific app, so there’s little incentive to use any. At least, that’s been my experience.

Viber has a great approach: it sits on top of your existing dialer and it uses your phone number as your user ID. This means that, when you try to call someone, Viber checks to see whether they’re a member (according to their phone number), and puts you through via VoIP if so; if they aren’t, it just places the call as normal.

This is so simple and easy that it’s finally got me interested in using VoIP. Maybe I’m late to this trend, or maybe apps like this will help it really take off in the near future. Are you using VoIP?

The Nexus One, Google’s early 2010 flagship phone, had a diagonal screen size of 3.7″. The Nexus S, released at the end of the same year, had a 4.0″ screen. The recently-released Galaxy Nexus has a huge 4.65″ screen – a 25% increase in just under two years.

It’s not just the flagships: the HTC Desire measured 3.7″; the HTC Desire HD measured 4.3″. The Droid and Droid 2 measured 3.7″; the Droid 3 measures 4.0″. The Galaxy S measured 4.0″; the Galaxy S II measures 4.3″.

There’s a definite trend towards bigger screens – the 5.3″ Galaxy Note made a splash at CES – though smaller Android phones are available too: the popular HTC Wildfire and its successor, the Wildfire S, are both 3.2″.

Meanwhile, all iterations of the iPhone have stuck with the original 3.5″ screen size. Dustin Curtis says that this is because it’s impossible to reach all areas of a larger screen with a thumb when using it one-handed; site reader Miro, in a comment on a recent post, suggests that it’s because iOS typically places commonly-used controls in the top corners of the screen, where they’re impossible to reach.

So, I’m curious: what size is your screen, and does a larger screen make your phone harder to use?

Right now, the Consumer Electronics Show is being held in Los Angeles. Plenty of Android devices have been shown off so far – we’ll have a roundup of the tablets and smartphones once the show is over – but which are you most looking forward to holding in your hands?

For my money, the Galaxy Nexus and ASUS Transformer Prime are the best bets for Most Popular Hardware, but admittedly this is playing it safe: those devices have already been released!

So, ignoring those, what else is there? Well, there’s the Sony Xperia Ion and Xperia S, for starters: slim, candy-bar devices with huge 720p displays and a 12MP camera, soon to run Ice Cream Sandwich. And Vizio are showing off their new 10″ tablet, with a very stylish look: sharp corners, rather than the curved edges we’ve come to expect.

Tablets and phones aren’t the only Android devices being demonstrated. Sony’s new Walkman Z music player will be powered by Android (and allow access to the Android Market); Polaroid have made an Android camera with Wi-Fi connectivity, and the i’m watch will put Android on your wrist.

Plenty to look forward to, but what are you excited about? Vote in the poll and leave a comment to let us know.

In October, we revealed the details of Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich (and the new flagship Android, the Galaxy Nexus, which would be the first to run the OS). In November, Europe got the Galaxy Nexus; in December, the USA followed suit. This week, Joe Casabona reviewed both the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich.

If you don’t have the Galaxy Nexus, or another phone that runs ICS “naturally”, you can still try the experimental build of CyanogenMod 9 – and remember, unlike previous versions of Android, 4.0 is designed to run equally well on handsets and tablets. So, if your manufacturer and carrier haven’t announced an over-the-air update schedule for your device – and if you’re happy rooting and flashing ROMs – give it a go!

So, vote in the poll to let us know whether you’ve made the upgrade yet. If you have, share what you think of the new features and UI; if you haven’t, are you excited about it?

A simple poll for you this week: one question, two choices.

Android’s been through a lot this year: we started the year on 2.2 Froyo, and ended on 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The browser-based Market and the Amazon Appstore were both launched. Tablets came and went. Adobe Flash was dropped. And so much more – look out for my post this weekend summing up all the events of the year.

Personally, I think it’s amazing that when we launched this site at the start of the year, we were using QR codes to make it easier to download an app after reading a review, there was no tablet-optimised version of Android to worry about reviewing apps for, and it was still a frequent occurrence to run out of space for new apps on our internal phone storage. How things change.

But they don’t change in a vacuum. Google’s decade of voice recognition research have been eclipsed by Siri (how many people are aware of Google Voice Actions?), the ongoing patent wars have seemed to get nastier and nastier, and fragmentation is still a big complaint.

So what do you think? Overall, has Android ended the year on a high or a low? Vote in the poll and leave a comment to let us know.

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