Today Google sent me an invite for Ingress – their latest augmented reality game . The fact that they sent me the invitation while the Google Play store page for Ingress  tells me that it’s not available in my country (Australia) is interesting. Google obviously aren’t using their Big Brother powers effectively!
The way to install Ingress if you are in Australia, New Zealand, or other countries where it’s not supported is to do a Google search on the words “Ingress” and “APK” and take the highest available version (1.08 at the moment). Then you will find a web site that offers it with no authentication and the potential of getting a trojan version. Forcing people to install the software in an insecure manner doesn’t seem to be in the best interests of Google.
I first installed the game on my Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 which has a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 CPU and runs Android 2.3.3 compiled by Sony-Ericsson and performance was terrible. It often would fail to respond to the UI effectively, it would process touch actions after I had repeated them because they didn’t seem to have registered, scrolling text at the same speed as playing audio was apparently impossible.
Then I briefly tried running it on my Samsung Galaxy S which has a 1 GHz (ARM Cortex A8) CPU and runs Android 2.3.7 with a CyanogenMod-7.1.0-GalaxyS build. It seemed to be a bit faster but the difference was small enough that I could have imagined it.
I tried it on the cheap Onix tablet I bought from Aldi this morning  but it refused to work every time I tried and eventually crashed the tablet and forced me to use the reset button.
Finally I tried it on a Kogan Agora 10″ tablet running Android 4.0.4 with what Kogan describes as a 1GHz ARMv7 CPU and it seemed a lot more usable. I haven’t yet tried actually playing the game on the Kogan Agora tablet, but the fact that I can read the messages from other players is a significant improvement over the experience on the phones. On the phones the poor performance of the UI made it almost impossible to read messages from other players, now it’s merely extremely annoying.
I’m very disappointed with this. Almost three years ago I reviewed the Seer augmented reality software from IBM that performed tasks that are more demanding and did it well . The IBM Seer software ran on a HTC Hero which had a 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7600A CPU, it’s really disappointing that Ingress can’t run well on modern phones – particularly as the “augmented reality” part of the game which I’ve seen so far is not much different to what Google Maps, Osmand, and other mapping programs do.
The IBM Seer software was good enough to drive the purchase of new phones. When I first got an Android phone almost two years ago I wanted to run such augmented reality software and it was a factor that determined my choice of phone. Unfortunately I still haven’t found anything to live up to that promise. IBM’s software was tailored to the Australian Open even a tennis fan would find it to be of little interest for about 360 days of the year and I haven’t found any other augmented reality software that is useful and works well (please let me know if there’s something I’ve missed).
I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would be inspired to change their phone purchase plans after seeing a demo of Ingress on any hardware that I own. It seems that it will probably be usable on my Xperia X10 and all features should work on the Kogan Agora tablet, but I don’t think that any of them will allow the game to live up to the hype.