It’s time for PC game demos to make a comeback

 

I’ve been privately lamenting the lack of PC game demos lately. There was a time when demos were commonplace: a chunk of a brand new game you could try out for free before you bought the full game. Demos gave us a chance not only see what a game had to offer and whether or not we enjoyed it, but also allowed us to continually tweak the settings and try different graphics options to see how our PCs handled it. Plus, instead of waiting months for a sale to try the game without a lot of risk, you could play right when the game came out, while everyone else was still talking about it.

While I was at PDXCon this past weekend I spent a few minutes talking with Kim Nordstrom, former general manager of Swedish game company King and current leader of Paradox Interactive’s mobile initiative. We chatted about PC and mobile games, and especially about Introversion’s Prison Architect, which is making an unlikely appearance on mobile platforms with Paradox as the publisher. Nordstrom’s plan for Prison Architect provide a few lessons PC games could learn from with its unusual, almost shareware-era approach to pricing.

Mobility

Big, meaty mobile games have a challenge when it comes to sales. The roots of mobile are in free games, or exceedingly cheap ones: 99 cents, maybe a couple of dollars. Pricing a mobile game at $15 or $20 is a dubious prospect, which is why so many are free-to-play with microtransactions: get the game into players’ hands first, and try to get money out of them later. The issue is that ‘microtransaction’ has become something of a dirty word, and that’s mostly true on PC as well. While there are a number of great free-to-play games on PC like Dota 2 and League of Legends, there are scores more that have left us highly suspicious of the F2P model, with gated progress and gameplay designed around making you so damn impatient you’ll pay just to advance at a reasonable pace.Image result for It's time for PC game demos to make a comeback

On mobile, Prison Architect will cost around $15. That feels like a fair price for what you get—it’s a complex management simulation and a great gameone of my favorites from 2015—but Nordstrom knows simply plopping it on mobile stores with that price tag probably won’t fly. So it will be free to download, and unlocking the complete game lands somewhere between free-to-play and full-price.

“It’s not a free-to-play with microtransactions, nothing like that, it caps at $15 right now,” Nordstrom told me. “But we basically just made it so anyone can install it, and it’s a try before you buy.”

Nordstrom holds out his hands a few inches apart, then widens them as he describes how the game unlocks more content for those who purchase it in chunks. “And the game size is this big, we offer you this much for free, and then we’re very clear on if you pay whatever dollars, you get the sandbox, if you pay [more] you get the chapters, and if you pay the full price you get the full game.”

So, you get to play a portion of the game as much as you want for free, just like a PC demo. Inside the game itself there’s a store that lets you unlock the rest of the features at certain price points. While that sounds suspiciously like microtransactions, there’s a difference: the total amount you can spend is capped. You won’t be nickel-and-dimed forever. If you decide to spend money, you’ll know exactly how much, in advance, it will cost you, and once you’ve spent it, you’re done. You own everything, and you’re never prompted or even tempted to spend more.

The demo, man

As Tyler concluded recently, big-publisher games can cost a lot on PC, especially when you factor in their many special editions, and that along with having no way to try a game before buying it has kept me away from a lot of games in the past few years. With Steam refunds, you can play a game for two hours before returning it or deciding to keep it but as we pointed out recently with Prey, which had a console demo but irritatingly none on PC, that’s nothing like a proper demo at all. (The reason given by Prey’s co-creative director Raphael Colantonio was “It’s just a resource assignment thing. We couldn’t do a demo on both the console and on the PC, we had to choose.”)

Sometimes there are free weekends for games, which are great, but that’s usually well after launch (this weekend’s Rising Storm 2 beta excepted) and usually long after people are actively talking about the game and your friends are still playing it. I’ve never bought a game just for a pre-order bonus, because pre-purchasing isn’t a great idea and the bonuses aren’t much to speak of (what am I really going to do with a digital art book, besides either flip through it once and forget it, or completely forget to flip through it at all). And pre-orders don’t always include a discount, so there’s rarely any real reason to pre-purchase anything.

We do get a few demos nowadays—though most often they don’t arrive as a game is released, such as Dishonored 2’s demo which came months after launch—but we need more, and more games with something like Prison Architect’s mobile model. If Deus Ex: Mankind Divided had been downloadable for free on day one, with a nice chunk of it playable indefinitely (like Prison Architect’s mobile version), players who were undecided about purchasing it for $60 could have gotten a good long look at what it has to offer. It would have given players like me time to play with a selection of augs and try out different playstyles. And it would’ve provided us with a good chance tweak the settings to see how well the it ran on our PCs, something the two-hour Steam refund window simply doesn’t allow for (and really shouldn’t be used for anyway).

If a potential customer such as myself ultimately decides not to buy the rest, what does the publisher really lose? I know creating game demos means more work, and that it’s not as simple as cutting off a slice of the game and plopping it in a folder. But in addition to demos being beneficial to gamers, developers and publishers can gain valuable information from making free demos available. As Kim Nordstrom told me, there’s value not just in the sales a company makes but in having information about the sales they didn’t make.

“The problem is that we as a company, we would never learn if we [had] a $4.99 price point in a storefront, or even a $14.99, because we wouldn’t know,” Nordstrom said. “We would just know who bought it, [but] we wouldn’t know who didn’t [buy] it.”

Information on who didn’t buy your game is useful. How many people were interested enough to download it but were turned off by something in the opening hours? How many people were willing to pay some, but not all, of the full price? Plus, it could whet the appetite of some customers who would then buy later during a sale instead of simply forgetting about it. This strikes me as a net positive for both developers and players.

Even if people don’t buy Prison Architect on mobile after trying it for free, Nordstrom says, “…they’ll play the game and if they enjoy it they might get interested in the company, or the brand, or Introversion’s games, and such. And they might spread it in terms of [word of mouth], and some people say ‘Holy crap, this is a great game, I’m going to buy it.'”

For publishers and developers, demos put a game in front of more players on launch day, provides them with additional information on how their game is being played and received, and can increase interest in their games even if not everyone who tries them, buys them. They can even get more technical feedback if their game is having problems on launch day. For players, they’re given a chance to sample more new games, to properly try before they buy, and less incentive to abuse Steam’s refund policy or wait months for a sale. PC demos are good for everyone, and it’s time for them to make a comeback.

AbleGamers’ Player Panels could make future games more disability-friendly

 

Nonprofit charity AbleGamers has been helping gamers with disabilities get the technology they need to play since 2004. Now, the organization’s new AbleGamers Player Panels initiative wants to help games become even more accessible—from the inside.

AbleGamers and the University of York created Player Panels to connect gamers with disabilities with developers and researchers who want to tap into their expertise. The idea stemmed from frequent calls from game companies looking for testers with disabilities, and from conversations with Xbox and PlayStation officials about how to advance more accessible gaming, AbleGamers COO Steve Spohn told PCWorld in a Skype interview.

“It’s not just about doing the right thing [for developers], it’s about making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the game you created and poured your blood, sweat, and tears into,” Spohn says. “In order to do that, they need to be able to test those games [for accessibility]…We’re trying to bring two sides together to make a better gaming environment.”

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AbleGamers

The only requirements for joining the Player Panels: You need to have some sort of disability, you need to love games, and you need to fill out this form.

AbleGamers then acts as a go-between, connecting developers and researchers with gamers able to assist in accessibility testing and studies. Rather than being a middle-man, Spohn says the charity is more like a security guard, ensuring the process remains “secure, safe, and happy” for everyone involved. AbleGamers doesn’t receive any money from gamers or game developers for Player Panels, though it does vet requests and make sure participants are compensated.

“We won’t let our community be used, and we like to think we’ve cultivated enough trust that they know we won’t let them be used,” Spohn says. But that compensation won’t always be in the form of cash—because it can’t.

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AbleGamers

“There are some very tricky things we have to navigate,” Spohn says. “Most of the people in our core group of disabled gamers are on Social Security or the U.K. equivalent, and if you take money, that can put your insurance in jeopardy. We’re uniquely qualified to be able to navigate [those concerns].” Gift cards to Best Buy and other popular stores could be one solution when accepting money becomes a concern for Player Panel members, Spohn says, “but you do need to compensate them for their time.”

Spohn wasn’t willing to divulge which companies AbleGamers is working with for Player Panels to avoid potential controversy. (Fanboy wars start over silly things!) But his hope is for the panel process to fully in place by the end of summer or early fall, at which point the charity would start opening up more about the names and needs of companies it’s working with. AbleGamers is already in touch with developers and researchers asking for gamers with specific disabilities, Spohn said.

 

Internet companies make hay when the sun peeks out

 

It remains to be seen if funds raised crosses the $5.9 billion internet companies raised in the funding frenzy of 2015. Graphics by Ajay Negi/Mint

Fund-raising by Indian Internet firms has risen sharply this year, with some large one agreeing to so-called down-rounds.

Indian firms in Internet business raised over $3.8 billion in the first half of the year against $2.7 billion in the whole of 2016, according to data collated by Jefferies India Pvt. Ltd.It remains to be seen if funds raised crosses the $5.9 billion internet companies raised in the funding frenzy of 2015. Graphics by Ajay Negi/Mint

In the March quarter, Flipkart and Ola accounted for a bulk of the $2 billion that was raised, with both agreeing to a lower valuation vis-a-vis the previous funding round. This was followed by a large fund-raise by Paytm ($1 billion); Oyo Rooms ($250 million) and a few others such as Swiggy.

It remains to be seen if funds raised crosses the $5.9 billion internet companies raised in the funding frenzy of 2015. Nevertheless, private market investors are more careful and are restricting investments to companies who are leaders in their respective segments, and/or have a business model that is both sustainable and is working towards profitable growth.

Despite this more stringent screening process, the large amounts raised is a heartening sign. Of course, unless firms demonstrate better unit economics as well as sustainable growth, the funding tap may go dry again.

 

LLB entrance exam format needs a makeover, make them like NEET or JEE

 

Last Sunday, thousands of law aspirants appeared for the Delhi University LLB entrance exam. Interestingly, a week before the exam, the entire pattern for the examination was altered. This brings to attention the need for setting up proper guidelines and instructions for conducting law entrance examinations with clear guidelines to even regulate the cases of erroneous questions and grace marks.

This year, as a part of the entrance exam, certain questions were irrelevant to law, like question number 37 when asked, ‘What was the most common password in 2016 throughout the world?’

Apart from this, there were a number of questions that only a law student could have answered, not an aspirant. For instance question number 92 which required students to apply complex legal concepts such as ‘free consent’, ‘consideration’, ‘specific performance’, etc, that requires a detailed and in-depth understanding of the provisions of law, interpretation of statutory provisions, and even law of torts, to name a few.llb entrance exam, du llb result, clat

This indicates the importance of a makeover for the process of conducting LL.B. entrance exams in India. Most importantly there is a need for a single entrance examination on a pan-India basis much like the engineering and medical entrance formats.

Also, there the entrance exam should be conducted by an independent body dedicated to entrance tests for higher education, that is, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States, as proposed in the Programme of Action in 1992 under the National Policy on Education, 1986, and more recently by the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitely in his 2017-2018 Budget speech.

In order to make a larger number of candidates appear for the entrance in India, it is a good idea to limit the mode of examination to just one-preferably the online mode.

To make the exam homogenous, there should be a uniform pattern for the exam which should be specified beforehand. Apart from this, the subjects on focus should be English, logical reasoning, analytical ability, general knowledge and current affairs, much like the LSATs.

Currently the entrance exam evaluates candidates on legal aptitude including the social sciences, Indian constitution and political system and elementary mathematics, which might be unnecessary at this stage. These subjects tend to put students from different streams at a considerable disadvantage, like arts students for the Mathematics, and most others for the legal aptitude.

 

Apple And Amazon Make Strange Bedfellows In The Chip Business

Toshiba is up almost 11% in two days on chatter that there are bids as high as 3 trillion yen for its chip subsidiary.

The latest buzz being reported by Japanese daily, Mainichi, is that Foxconn is looking to also get the backing of Amazon and Dell, in addition to Apple, in its effort to win the approval of the Japanese government to take over Toshiba’s foundry business.

According to Mainichi, Foxconn is planning to ask Amazon and Dell to take a 10% each stake in the unit, while Apple will take a 20% share, with the rest going to Foxconn assumedly.

With Apple locked in a major dispute with Qualcomm, one of its chip suppliers that happened to report its March quarter earnings yesterday, an investment in Toshiba flash memory unit would go a long way in helping Apple gain further leverage versus Qualcomm.

 

Here is what Qualcomm said about its dispute with Apple last night on the conference call:

“In Q2, Apple (AAPL) interfered with the license agreements between Qualcomm and the Apple suppliers by actively inducing them to underpay the royalties they owed to Qualcomm for sales during the December quarter. Apple withheld payments to their suppliers for sales in the December quarter in an amount equal to what Apple claims Qualcomm owes to Apple under a separate cooperation agreement between the companies… Apple suppliers then underpaid royalties to Qualcomm in the same amount. In the aggregate, this amount is approximately $1B. Most of Apple’s suppliers have already reported the royalties they owe to Qualcomm for sales to Apple during the March quarter and they are obligated to pay the full amount of those royalties to us. While we would expect Apple suppliers to pay the royalties they owe us under their license agreements, it is possible that Apple will continue to interfere with the Apple suppliers license agreements, leading those suppliers to breach their contracts with Qualcomm by underpaying some or all of what they owe us. We expect to have more visibility into this in the coming weeks. Given this uncertainty, our Q3 guidance assumes a range of possible payments from the Apple suppliers but does not reflect a scenario that Apple suppliers pay nothing to us for March quarter sales.” 

The last line states that Qualcomm expects to get paid at least partially on the $1B that Apple has held back from its suppliers who, in turn, did not pay Qualcomm.

Gallery

2017 Midas: Newcomers and Returnees

Launch Gallery

This matter will not get resolved quickly, however an investment in Toshiba’s chip-making business could possibly bring Qualcomm to lower its royalty rates and requirements going forward. That would benefit not just Apple but most of its supply chain as well.

Qualcomm management did state on the conference call, “We expect to continue to be an important supplier to Apple now and into the future.”

That could change pretty quickly if Apple, Foxconn and company are successful in their bid for Toshiba’s chip business.

If Apple and Amazon, as partners with Foxconn and Dell in Toshiba’s flash memory business, do end up as owners of the unit, it will be a partnership that will catch most by surprise.

Think about it, a Taiwan based company (Foxconn) partnering with 3 of America’s best known companies, Apple, Amazon and Dell, to buy out a Japanese conglomerate’s chip making unit.

The words, “we are living increasingly interconnected lives on a global basis” couldn’t ring more true.

For Apple, the move couldn’t be more timely given its dispute with Qualcomm and the leverage alone it would gain versus the latter could be well worth the price of admission to become a co-owner of Toshiba’s chip manufacturing operations.

Strange bedfellows completely notwithstanding.

(Long aapl, amzn, options on both)

Follow me on twitter @jsomaney, find my other Forbes posts & articles from other platforms at jaysomaney.com where you can get my real-time opinion on the stock markets live daily.

 

What LG needs to do to make the V30 a success

 

It’s been just two and a half months since the last flagship phone from LG, the G6, went on sale in the US. Unfortunately, it looks like the phone got caught up in the wake of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Pluslaunch just a couple weeks later. We have seen prices for the G6 go down quite a bit in the brief time it has been on sale. The unlocked version can now be bought for less than $500 on eBay, well below its original launch price.

Even US carriers are selling the G6 below its launch cost. That includes T-Mobile, which has cut the price down to $500, both with monthly payments and even if you pay for it in full. Sprint is selling it for $14.75 a month for 24 months, which means you can snap it up for just $354 over two years. Add all of this activity up, and it seems clear that retailers and carriers want to get rid of their G6 inventory quickly.

LG V20 review: a premium phone that will delight audiophiles

Of course, this puts a ton of pressure on LG to make sure its next flagship phone is more of a success. Rumors and image leaks about that device, the V30, have started to pop up more frequently in the last few weeks. The latest rumor claims LG will officially announce the V30 at a press event on August 30, one day before the official start of the IFA trade show in Berlin, Germany. The phone is expected to face the most competition from the rumored launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which is expected to be officially revealed just a few days beforehand at a separate press event in New York City on August 26.

So what can LG do to make the V30 a success, in order to avoid what happened to the G6? We have a few suggestions for the company on that very subject!

Don’t skimp on the specs

For consumers, one of the LG G6’s biggest issues was the fact that it came with the slightly older Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. If the phone launched in January 2017, that wouldn’t be an issue. But because the G6 launched so closely to the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus (which are both powered by the faster Snapdragon 835), many users felt that the G6 was instantly less capable when it came to market.

Recent V30 rumors have indicated that the phone will indeed sport the new 835 chip, which is indeed good news for folks who want the latest-and-greatest specs powering their smartphones.

Use a larger version of the G6’s 18:9 display

While the LG G6 may not be selling all that well, reviews for the phone have praised its 5.7-inch screen with its unusual 18:9 display ratio. We would love to see a larger version of this same kind of display on the V30, and it would certainly be a good contrast to the rumored curved Infinity Display that is expected to be part of the Galaxy Note 8. We have heard rumors that the V30 may have a curved display as well, but we think it would be better if it kept the flat screen like the G6 did.

Price the LG V30 competitively with the Galaxy Note 8

If LG really wants to cut into Samsung’s vast customer base, it also needs to make sure its phones are priced to compete immediately. LG could cut the price of the V30 so it’s $100 to $150 lower than the price of the Galaxy Note 8 right from the start. If LG can launch the V30 with both a lower price and hardware that can match or exceed the Note 8’s, it will likely have a much bigger success than the G6 did when it went up against the Galaxy S8.

Offer the new two-year warranty that was just added to the G6

Last week, LG announced that new and current owners of the G6 in the US will be able to take advantage of the company’s newly revealed Second Year Promise Program. It extends the free limited warranty for the phone from one year to two years.

LG’s extended warranty is a good first step towards restoring trust

Offering that same Second Year Promise Program for the V30, and making it available worldwide instead of just the US, could be a huge selling phone for the upcoming phone as well. Adding an extra blanket of consumer security is a win-win in our book.

Launch the V30 worldwide at around the same time

One of the big problems with the release of the G6 was that LG decided to stagger its launch. The phone first became available in South Korea in early March, followed by a release in North America in early April, and a European launch later in that same month. If LG can get its shipping infrastructure together so that the V30 can launch worldwide on or around the same timeframe,  that would certainly help its overall sales.

What do you think?

Of course, these are just our opinions on what we think the LG V30 needs to be successful, but we definitely want to hear from you. What features would you like to see included with the V30? Sound off in the comment section below.

 

HTC needs more than great hardware to make a comeback

 

HTC has had a rough few years.

Back in the days of the HTC One, the company’s hardware was class-leading. No other manufacturer had made a phone quite like the HTC One, with a unibody aluminum design that looked just as great as it felt. The new Boomsound speakers blew away every hint of competition on the market, as no one had really seen dual speakers quite like this before. Though the company opted to iterate on this design for another three generations, other manufacturers began to catch up. Samsung moved from a plastic-y, cheap-feeling set of flagships to the all-glass unibody designs we see today. Even smaller brands like ZTE and Huawei started producing high-quality options at extremely competitive prices.

It’s no secret that HTC still produces incredibly interesting hardware. The Edge Sense feature present on the new HTC U11 may seem strange to some, but it is absolutely different than any hardware manufacturers have  put out in quite a long time. The company is working to step away from their all-metal unibody designs in order to differentiate themselves from the pack, but is interesting hardware enough to get customers to buy devices again?

READ MOREHTC U11 review

While the industry was evolving to compete with HTC’s hardware, quite frankly, HTC hasn’t done much to improve its software. Many manufacturers have chosen to lean down their software offerings but still contribute great additions to Android, and HTC has joined them to cut down Android to a pretty extreme extent. In fact, HTC’s version of Android is pretty much as barebones as you can get on a non-Pixel or Nexus device. You may be fine with that, as quite a few of us have been asking manufacturers to slim down their customizations for a long time. But at a certain point, you need to ask – what makes these phones so exciting? HTC’s software trim happened almost four generations ago, and yet the UI has barely evolved ever since.

The gallery above shows screenshots from the HTC One M9, HTC 10, and HTC U11. Do you see what I’m getting at? Sure, there are a few differences here, but overall we’re getting an extremely similar look and feel here. Quoting our HTC U11 review:

Sense is still one of the cleanest takes on Android, but it is starting to feel a little dated and in need of a refresh. The U11 was a perfect opportunity for HTC to do that, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

So what exactly does HTC need to do to make a comeback? The company’s hardware is definitely innovative, but it doesn’t excite people like it used to during the metal unibody days. Edge Sense is pretty innovative, but is is enough to attract customers that have moved on to adopt offerings from Samsung and others? There is so much amazing competition on the market these days, it’s becoming quite difficult for HTC to climb their way back to the top.

Price is a huge factor that HTC is going to need to consider moving forward. The company wants to be seen as a premium brand and prices their devices that way, but the public no longer considers them in that vein. Especially when you make anti-consumer moves such as getting rid of the headphone jack simply to follow the trend of the industry, your customers are not going to want to purchase your devices. When phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 are cheaper than HTC’s flagship, that is going to be a strong point for customers to consider. Why would you buy a phone with less features when your largest competitor comes in cheaper?

And the competition isn’t only coming from Samsung. Companies like OnePlus are hitting the industry hard with more value-oriented options that continue to impress us. Heck, even HTC is competing with HTC. Now priced at $499 and even cheaper on sale, the HTC 10 continues to be a solid option which could be seen as higher quality and a better option than the U11 on many fronts.

HTC may need to take the value-oriented approach to move their way back to the top. Some might argue that it shouldn’t do that as it might tarnish its reputation, but offering a competitively-priced device with top-of-the-line specs could vastly improve sales. Sure, this would reduce revenue, but at least it would move more phones. Have you seen anyone out in the wild with an HTC 10, U Ultra, or U11? Probably not. Customers need a better reason to purchase these phones over offerings from Samsung and others, and pricing could be a great way to do that.

Last but not least, the company needs to make sure it can keep these things in carrier stores. The HTC 10 was and still is a fantastic device, but whatever spat they had with AT&T absolutely destroyed the sales of the device. Reviews were very solid on release, and the body was very reminiscent of original HTC One M7. Heck, the thing even had a DAC that many audiophiles acclaimed as one of the best ever included in a smartphone. I’m not sure what happened between AT&T and HTC that caused this thing to be unavailable from the carrier, but not offering a device on the 2nd largest carrier in the world is not good for sales.

The company hasn’t offered a flagship directly from AT&T since then, so it’s going to be more difficult for customers to actually purchase these devices. As much as the industry is starting to move towards buying devices outright, carrier subsidization is still alive and well. Most customers still buy their phones from physical stores, and HTC is going to have a hard time making their way back to the top if they can’t get these devices into consumer’s hands.

What do you think HTC needs to do to make a comeback? Would better pricing be enough? Does it need to rethink its software? Let us know your thoughts. We’d love to see the company come back into the limelight.

6 ways to make the most of Android’s Clock app

Read on for six eye-opening tips and tricks for the Android Clock app, from setting alarm tones that gradually increase in volume to making sure your Do Not Disturb rules don’t override your morning wake-up alarm. (For the basics on setting alarms on your Android phone, click here.)

Note: I tested these tips on a Nexus 5X running on Android version 7.1.2. Your settings and features may vary depending on the make and model of your phone.

Open the clock app with a single tap

The Android Clock app isn’t the sexiest app on my Nexus phone, but it’s certainly in the top five when it comes to apps I use the most—and given that, I hate having to dig around the Android app drawer to find it.

Open the clock app with a single tap

Ben Patterson / IDG

Opening Android’s Clock app gets a lot more fun once you’re hip to this trick.

Luckily, there’s a handy one-tap shortcut to the Clock app, and it’s probably already sitting on your home screen.

Just tap the Clock widget—the one that looks like a digital or analog clock face—and you’ll jump immediately to the Clock app. That may sound obvious, but I only discovered the shortcut myself a few weeks ago, and I can’t believe I’d missed it so long. (If you’re not already using the Clock widget, just tap and hold a blank space on the Android home screen, tap Widgets, then install a Clock widget by tapping its icon.)

Use the clock as your screensaver

When I get up in the middle of the night (the older I get, the more it happens), I like taking a peek at the time—and I’d rather do it without having to click a button on my Android phone.

Use the clock as your screensaver

Ben Patterson / IDG

When you use the Clock app as your screensaver, a digital clock will appear on your screen (very faintly, if you enabled the “night mode” setting) whenever your Android handset is connected to its charger.

That’s why I love using the Clock app as my Android screensaver. Now, whenever I’ve got my Android phone docked or plugged into a charger, the current time flashes on the screen of my handset, and there’s even a night mode that keeps the screen relatively dim while leaving the clock visible.

The trick: Tap Settings > Display > Screen saver, select the Clock option, then tap the Settings button (the one shaped like a gear) to pick the style of the screensaver clock (analog or digital) and to toggle “night mode” on and off.