- NaturalMotion Games Raises $11M From Benchmark For 3D, Realistically Animated Mobile Games
- MeFeedia Team Launches Beachfront Builder, A Platform For Building Apps On Every Device
- Hands On With The Moshi iGlaze With VersaCover iPad Case
- Augmented Reality Advertising: So Close, And Yet So Far Away
- Mobile Meetup App Uberlife Redesigns To Make Planning Events And Meeting Friends Easier
- HTC Reportedly Has Three Windows Phone 8 Devices In The Works
- Ditch Your Hackathon, Have A Napkin Pitch Contest Like Today’s Uncubed Philadelphia Talent Fair
- Y Combinator-Backed Local Marketplace App Yardsale Launches Nationwide
- 500 Startups-Backed HighScore House Launches A Family-Friendly Drawing App, FamJam
- Do Patents Really Matter To Startups? New Data Reveals Shifting Habits
- Here Are The First Samsung Galaxy S III Commercials
- Nomophobia Attacks! Lookout Says 74% Of Users Panic Over Phone Loss; 58% Of Us Can’t Stay Away From Mobiles For More Than An Hour
- Jumping Off The Burning Platform: Nokia Knew It Was Stuck On WP7 When It Signed On
- Better, Stronger, Faster: Tumblr 3.0 For iPhone Has Arrived
- SwiftKey Counters Swype With A Smarter Version, Makes An In-Road Into Healthcare Market
- WNYC’s Radiolab Makes Mobile Debut With New iOS And Android Apps
- Madefire Reinvents Comics For The iPad, Signs Up True Ventures And Watchmen Artist Dave Gibbons
- The Volt Buckle Charges Your Phone, Holds Up Your Pants
- Samsung Galaxy S III Officiallly Goes Live At T-Mobile: $279 On-Contract
- The Bluetooth-Enabled Syre Is The iPod Nano Watch Strap You’ve Been Looking For
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 09:01 AM PDT
NaturalMotion, which makes very photo-realistic, animated games like My Horse, just raised $11 million from Benchmark Capital and got mobile gaming veteran Mitch Lasky on its board.
What makes NaturalMotion stand out from many other chart-topping gaming companies is just the sheer quality of the titles. They tap into the same kind of care-taking impulse that many other casual, resource-management games do, but with much better, anatomically accurate 3D animations.
“We’re just about to witness the end of Wave 1 in iOS gaming,” said chief executive Torsten Reil. “A lot of mobile-social game are obviously 2G resource management games. They’re very similar. But devices are now at point where we can give a much richer user experience. That’s where we believe the disruption is going to happen.”
For example, My Horse is a game where players take care of an animal by grooming, feeding and treating it. Like other freemium games, the company uses a virtual currency-oriented model by charging for items like special saddles to personalize the animal. Players can also take their horses around for show-jumping competitions.
It’s the kind of quality that even Apple appreciates as the company’s upcoming title CSR Racing was given some premium stage time at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this month.
The company has seen 30 million downloads so far, which isn’t a huge number considering that many other top-tier companies post download numbers in the hundreds of millions. (Or in Rovio’s case, over 1 billion.) But the thing to point out is that they have a much more profitable model than many other social gaming-style companies. The company got more than 10 million downloads for My Horse even though it spent very little on user acquisition and marketing — less than 3 percent of the games revenues.
The company overall has about 130 people and they’re looking to grow it to 160 people with expanded offices in SOMA. It previously raised funding from Balderton Capital back in 2006. Just as a sidenote, Balderton originally started out as the European arm of Benchmark, but Reil said Benchmark’s investment was made totally independently.
Benchmark has one other iron in the mobile gaming fire through an investment in Red Robot Labs. But Reil feels these are uncompetitive as Red Robot does more midcore RPG style games that appeal to a different demographic.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 09:00 AM PDT
Ok, so this isn’t news, but — video publishers want to get their content on as many devices as possible. That means iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and that’s not even counting a whole mess of different connected TVs. The problem is that the path to getting there is slow, laborious, and expensive.
For content creators, “going mobile” frequently means hiring multiple developers to build, manage and update apps across multiple operating systems and device platforms. Or they can outsource the whole thing, which has a high upfront cost, and leaves them stuck doing the whole thing over again whenever they want to update their app or when a new device is launched.
That’s why the MeFeedia team is shifting gears and has rolled out a new platform that is designed to help video publishers quickly and easily create mobile apps across a wide variety of platforms with little upfront investment. The company is relaunching as Beachfront Media and releasing Beachfront Builder, an all-in-one suite for creating, delivering video to, and monetizing apps across all of the major mobile platforms.
Beachfront Builder, which is launching in private beta today, was designed to allow publishers to build rich, video-specific applications. Launching in private beta on June 28, the platform allows users to customize the apps and players, hook them up to existing video management platforms like Brightcove and Ooyala, and begin serving up video to mobile devices.
The platform is launching with native app support for the iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and Android tablets (including the Kindle Fire), and also provides support for advanced analytics and monetization out of the box. Publishers can either bring their own ads, or they can use those provided by Beachfront, with the platform provider taking a cut.
While pricing has yet to be announced, Frank Sinton, CEO of Beachfront Media, told me that users of the platform will be charged based on usage, with very little upfront cost to get up and running. The idea is to reduce the cost and friction associated with getting content up on new devices, and to grow and profit along with them.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:44 AM PDT
Finding the right iPad cover is sort of a first world problem – there’s plenty of choice and you just don’t know what to spend your money on. I’ve been using a Speck case and the smart cover for a while but I think I found my new favorite, the Moshi iGlaze with folding VersaCover. What it lacks in naming finesse it makes up for in beauty.
This case features a bonded cover and clear back shell case (called iGlaze). The cover itself is the real draw, however. It is made of soft material and folds in five places. Two magnets hold the edges together, turning it into sort of a cup or beak that you can use to hold up the iPad in portrait or landscape positions.
Moshi doesn’t make cases in crazy colors or styles – no Hello Kitty here – but the iGlaze is delightfully low-key and seems to just work. I can’t comment on the durability yet – I haven’t dragged this onto forty planes and through 80 TSA checkpoints yet – but at first blush it seems like it will last at least as long as a my Speck/Smart Cover combo.
Apple has already entered the full case space with the $49 Smart Case but I think the unique folding design of this $60 Moshi model may make up for the lack of color choice. It’s a cool case with plenty of flair and well worth checking out if you’re in the market.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:37 AM PDT
Nature Publishing Group teamed up with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to run an augmented reality advertising campaign. Point your tablet or smartphone at the print advertisement and watch the beautiful KAUST campus spring to life before you! You can click on the various departments, “talk” to virtual students, and peruse job openings hosted at Naturejobs.
Here’s the rub, though: you still need to download the KAUST AR app (iOS or Android). The app isn’t even useful in its own right, which makes the augmented reality portion just a gimmick. There are plenty of AR gimmicks already. Is this really the best they can do? And once you’ve enjoyed the spectacle of the KAUST campus floating inside your phone, you’ll delete the app and never use it again.
This is especially frustrating for me: I was at the KAUST inauguration. The campus is absolutely gorgeous and the facilities are top of the line. If you’re interested in graduate research (or potentially full-time employment) at KAUST, I would definitely recommend you to explore the openings there. But I don’t think a gimmicky AR advertisement is the means to attract the kind of talent they want. What a pity.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:30 AM PDT
Uberlife is a mobile app that was created to help users join meetups with and get to know new, like-minded individuals. We first covered Uberlife in January when the app was still in alpha. It officially launched in March, just ahead of SXSW. Since then, the team has been hard at work taking some of what it’s learned from the first 12 weeks and refining the app to make it easier to meet up with friends and make new connections by letting them know where you are and will be.
For one thing, the app has streamlined the process for posting hangout plans. Before users had to fill out a big long form to post events that they would be attending, but now the process of creating an event takes just three steps. That will make it easier for users to set up more casual events and meetups. Since Uberlife is intended to allow for more spontaneous get-togethers, users no longer have to enter in specific dates and times when creating a new event — instead, they can choose to meet up “in 5 minutes,” “this afternoon,” “later tonight,” and other non-specific times.
While Uberlife was founded with the idea of helping users meet new people at social events around them, a number of people wanted to use it to socialize just with their friends. So the app now has allows users to invite their friends and create hangouts only visible to their friends. It’s also removed a limit to the number of people that they can invite.
And since its users frequently travel, Uberlife also expanded their ability to plan meetups in locations outside of their own cities or neighborhoods. Previously, users were only able to schedule local meetups — but the ability to let friends and acquaintances know when users would be visiting from out of town was a big request for the Uberlife team.
All that said, Uberlife is still positioned to help community members meet up with like-minded people that they’re not already friends with. Founder Sanchita Saha had also founded CitySocialising.com, and still believes that there needs to be a platform for meeting new people. As a result, the team is looking to add more updates to advance that use case as time goes on. That will include a list of suggested users and the ability to follow venues to get an alert when events are happening.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:07 AM PDT
Man, does HTC employ some loose-lipped people or what?
Less than a day after Microsoft’s big Windows Phone 8 preview event, The Verge managed to score some details on HTC's hardware plans for Windows Phone 8. If their source's information holds true, the Taiwanese company has plans to release a top-tier, mid-range, and an entry-level WP8 device before the year is out.
Starting at the top is the "Zenith," which reportedly sports a 4.7-inch Super LCD 2 display, HSPA+ 42Mbps support, and, 8-megapixel camera, and an unspecified Qualcomm quad-core processor. Meanwhile, the "Accord" is slated to take up the position in the middle of the pack with its 4.3-inch Super LCD 2 display, 1GB of RAM, and a Qualcomm dual-core processor — it reportedly retains the same network support and camera module as seen in its bigger brother.
Last but not least is the relatively pint-sized "Rio," which is said to be HTC's entry-level Windows Phone 8 device. It sports a 4-inch WVGA display, and though it's expected to be powered by one of Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4, the Rio will only have 512MB of RAM onboard — more than enough to handle existing versions of Windows Phone, but it'll be interesting to see how the processor/RAM combo deals with WP8.
It goes without saying that you should take all of this with a (rather sizable) grain of salt, but it wouldn't be too much of a shock if this info panned out considering the three-tiered launch of HTC's One series seems to have done them well. Fortunately, the tentative release schedule puts launches for the Rio and Accord around October with the Zenith to follow, so it shouldn’t be too long before more leaks either confirm or bust these claims.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:05 AM PDT
Smelly, underslept entrepreneurs. Every tech event these days seems to have an all-night hackathon, so that’s what you get. But startups, incubators, blogs — consider what’s going down at today’s Uncubed Tech Talent Fair in Philadelphia. Rather than a 24 hour hackathon, they’re having a “napkin pitch contest”.
Entrants get a problem and just 10 minutes to come up with an idea for a company to solve it. No need for a lengthy business plan or even any coding. Those with the top submissions are invited to pitch their idea on stage to the audience and judges.
You can see it in action today at the Uncubed Tech Talent Fair from 11am to 4pm (plus an after-party) at World Cafe Live – 3025 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA.
Sure, a napkin pitch contest isn’t as accurate a test of true entrepreneurial skill. Having an idea is one thing, and executing is definitely the other. But Hackathons aren’t perfect either. They cater to ideas that can be shown off in flashy prototypes that a team couldn’t necessarily build or scale.
A napkin pitch contest is also more accessible, informal, fast-paced, and fun, so it fits better into events that aren’t multi-day mega-conferences. Instead of a grueling war of endurance, the fast-paced contest only takes around an hour.
Entrepreneurs should think big, about solving real world-changing problems. I think there are too many startups going after small, market problems that aren’t really making a dent in the universe. A proliferation of napkin pitch contests over hackathons could get more would-be founders to play with ideas that they couldn’t build in a day, but if they had the right team, resources, and a few years, could make a massive impact.
I wish I could check it out in Philadelphia today, but clearly some company’s going to need to have a napkin pitch contest in San Francisco. Maybe we’ll even try one at Disrupt SF in September. Along with the plausible pitches, I bet there’d be some ridiculous moonshots that would remind us all that beyond all the serious business, entrepreneurship rules because you get to choose your own crazy destiny.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:00 AM PDT
Yardsale, a mobile app to help folks sell goods to local buyers, is now available throughout the U.S., after a long, long period of testing in the San Francisco Bay Area. The latest version of the app, which hooks into Craigslist and enables users to easily list items for sale, hopes to take on other local marketplaces by reducing the friction associated with creating listings, and then dealing with flaky buyers afterward.
The Yardsale guys believe that everyone has some stuff they’d like to get rid of, if only Craigslist and eBay weren’t such a pain in the ass to deal with. On Craigslist, you’re faced with buyers who’d rather spend time haggling than actually buying your stuff. And when you do agree on a price, you never know whether your buyer will actually show up to, you know, buy the items. As for eBay, well, you are up against a growing number of small businesses, which have cropped up to largely make individual sellers seem irrelevant. In either case, it’s not a good user experience.
The key to the Yardsale app is that listing items for sale is incredibly easy. Like, Instagram easy. It’s betting that by allowing users to quickly take pictures and add them to an item listing, it will be able to help get those items sold. Pictures — more than text or anything else — are what buyers look at when they want to purchase an item, so the more the better.
In addition to listing items for sale within the Yardsale app, users can also do all the usual social sharing you’d expect in the 21st century: tweeting out to Twitter and posting to your Facebook friends. Better yet, though, Yardsale posts directly to Craigslist, which, for all of its faults and crappy design, is still probably the best and most-used place on the web for local sales.
But the good news is that all Craiglist listings feed back through Yardsale, so users don’t have to worry about an influx of irrelevant emails, and instead receive real-world offers for the stuff they want to sell.
Beyond Craigslist, though, Yardsale hopes to bring the idea of community back to the local sales process. Once upon a time, eBay used to have a community of loyal buyers and sellers, before it became enamored with power sellers — small businesses with large inventories that largely pushed individuals out of the sales process. That focus on community is paying off, at least in the San Francisco launch test, where nearly 80 percent of users who buy or sell an item come back to do so again after that initial transaction is completed.
The app is free for users who wish to list items — and even free for those who sell them, at least for a limited time. But after an unspecified period of time, it’ll start taking a 10 percent cut of transactions when the seller makes money.
Yardsale was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2011 class, and has spent the past year under the radar, testing its app and getting it ready for broader release. Over that time, it’s focused on its home turf — the San Francisco Bay Area — and facilitating sales here. But the startup now feels ready to make its service available nationwide.
The Yardsale team is five strong and based in San Francisco, but it’s hiring. With availability spreading throughout the U.S., that’s probably a good idea.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 08:00 AM PDT
HighScore House, the family-focused startup whose previous app was a “gamified” chore list tracker for iPad, has today released its latest creation: FamJam. Parents might call it an inter-family communication tool, but that sounds boring. It’s just a fun way for kids to send their iPad drawings to grandma and grandpa without needing their email address.
The company is backed by 500 Startups, and has angel investment from Jason Bailey (GM of Virtual Currency at Super Rewards), Kay Luo (who led PR at LinkedIn and Square), Dan Martell (co-founder of Flowtown), James Levine (former CTO at SimplyHired), Bob Mason (co-founder of Brightcove) and Glenn Graff (formerly of Kaboose).
The FamJam app is cute, maybe a little busy for my tastes, but the feeling it gives off is that of Saturday morning cartoons: loud, colorful, with lots to look at. I think kids will dig it. My child may be just a bit too young to really enjoy this app yet (she’s 2), but given that she’s mastered most of the horror that is the iPad Netflix UI, there’s a good chance that I can teach her how to email Auntie and Grandma from this app, too, after a few tries.
Although there’s a lot going on with the FamJam interface, the overall structure of the app is simple. Mom or Dad set up the accounts with names, photos (optional) and email addresses, and then the kids can start drawing. The drawing interface offers different colors, pen styles (coming soon), backgrounds, stamps, and a photos tool for pulling in camera photos. When finished, the green “done” button lets the kids send off their creation to anyone else who has been previously set up in the app’s contact list.
For what it’s worth, recipients (i.e., grown-ups) can respond to the kid’s in-app messages with drawings or messages of their own, but it’s more likely they’ll use this more for a quick: “nice job!” response than an asynchronous version of DrawSomething, for example. The messages will arrive in-app for other iPad users, but also via email for all family members who don’t use an iPad. The landing page sent out via email looks something like this, with prompts to download the app and social sharing buttons. Recipients can also reply via email to write back, if they don’t have the iPad app themselves. This feature didn’t appear to be real-time in tests, however.
The app is iPad-only for now, but iPhone and Android in the works. According to HighScore House co-founder Kyle Seaman, who created FamJam with Theo Ephraim, the app’s creation was in response to requests from users for a safe communication tool for the family. “Over the last year we’ve discovered three specific needs for families: connecting kids with grandparents and extended family, helping distant parents, who might be travelling for or who are separated, stay connected with their kids, and apps designed for the entire family, not just parents or just kids,” says Seaman.
He notes there’s not really a safe channel which allows kids to have online conversations with other family members, because email is too complicated for FamJam’s target users (ages 4-9) and it doesn’t offer parental controls. Other apps like Instagram and DrawSomething have kid appeal, but aren’t necessarily appropriate and aren’t designed for families because they allow access to unfiltered content from strangers. Plus, the iPad is really starting to get a foothold in families, he says. “For the first time since the TV, babies to grandparents are comfortable on the same technology platform – the iPad,” Seaman says.
FamJam is now available for download on the iPad here for free. A future version will monetize via in-app purchases.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 07:38 AM PDT
Editor’s note: Leonid Kravets is a patent attorney specializing in developing IP strategy for young technology companies. He blogs on the topic at startupsip.com. Robert J. Moore is the CEO and co-founder of RJMetrics, which helps online businesses make smarter decisions by making their data more understandable and actionable. For more information, visit RJMetrics.com. To be notified of any new findings regarding this study, register for updates.
Arguments about the value of patents have heated up over the past few years. Software patents in particular have come under increasing scrutiny from thought leaders in the start-up ecosystem, yet later-stage companies like Facebook continue to pay huge sums to acquire patent portfolios.
Just how much attention are start-ups paying to patents? Rather than speculate, we decided to go straight to the data. We pulled information from CrunchBase and the USPTO to build a patent activity database of over 12,000 funded technology companies. Then we plugged it into RJMetrics, a tool that makes data more understandable and actionable for online businesses. Here's what we found:
How We Did It
We used the CrunchBase API to identify the industries and backers of 12,404 technology companies. We then matched the names of these companies to records in the historical patent application database published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). Once we had the data, we were able to upload it to RJMetrics and pull the insights shown here with just a few clicks.
In order to provide the most recent data possible, we limited our study to only published patent applications (not issued patents, which are typically not published until several years after application). The USPTO typically publishes non-provisional patent applications 18 months after filing. Thus, some of the recent company results may be skewed low because recent patent applications may not yet have had time to be published by the USPTO.
Patent Rates by Industry
Our findings show that 33% of all funded companies (4,050 of 12,404) have at least one published patent application, but patent rates vary greatly by industry.
Companies in the semiconductor and biotech industries have the highest patent application rates (65% and 62% respectively). Companies in these "hard tech" industries require significant investments at very early stages and their patents are more commonly used to defend intellectual property. Conversely, "soft tech" industries like ecommerce, web, and video games have patent rates below 20%.
The percent of funded companies with patent applications on file by industry is shown below. Only industries with at least 200 funded companies were included:
Company industries were pulled from CrunchBase.
The differing patent philosophies of top investors are illuminated by our findings. First, it is worth noting that 18.9% of all funded companies filed patent applications prior to even receiving their first funding round. This compares to 33% of all funded companies having filed patent applications at any point during their existence.
Among investors with at least 20 portfolio companies, both the mean and median of companies with patent applications is 43%. In other words, 43% of the companies that a typical VC invests in will apply for a patent at some point. Based on the fund, however, this number can vary substantially.
There is a clear trend for the funding arms of large companies to place a significant emphasis on patents. For example, 88% of companies invested in by Samsung Ventures, 86% of companies invested in by Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, and 81% of companies invested in by Motorola Ventures have at least one published patent application.
Some major Silicon Valley investors, such as Khosla Ventures (66%), DAG Ventures (59%), Menlo Ventures (57%) and Kleiner Perkins (56%) have patent application rates that are substantially higher than average.
However, other prolific investors such as Accel Partners (34%) and Sequoia Capital (39%) are comfortable in the middle of the pack, having patent application rates that are not notably different from the average investor.
Seed-stage investors have the fewest patent applicants in their portfolios, with 500 Startups (6.5%), SV Angel (17.7%), and German VC High-Tech Gruenderfonds (15.7%) rounding out the bottom of the list.
Some investors are outspoken against software patents. For example, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Brad Feld of the Foundry Group believe software patents should be abolished. Indeed, the investment philosophies of both funds appear to reflect these views. Union Square Ventures (18%) and Foundry Group (26.2%) both have patent application rates that are well below the average of 43%.
Patent Cohort Analysis
We wanted to see if startups have become more or less likely to apply for patents in recent years. To compare companies from different vintages on an apples-to-apples basis, we turned to our weapon of choice: cohort analysis in RJMetrics.
We grouped companies into cohorts by their founding year (as indicated in CrunchBase) and looked at the average number of patent applicants submitted per company in that cohort over time. The results were quite telling.
Each line is the "cohort" of companies that were founded in that year (i.e., the light blue line represents all companies founded in 2005). Any given data point is the number of patent applications that the average company in that cohort had submitted by that point in their lifecycle.
What is remarkable about this chart is the perfect chronological stacking of cohort lines by year. Lower lines mean the average company is less likely to apply for patents. Because each year's line is lower than the previous year's, the average company has been decreasingly likely to apply for a patent in each year of their existence.
Also noteworthy is what happens to the slope of these lines over time. In the 2005 and 2006 cohorts, the slope of the line increases in later years. This makes sense if you assume that companies become more likely to start applying for patents as they age and achieve more scale. The 2007 line, however, has a near-constant slope between years 2 and 4. Then, in the 2008 cohort, we see the slope of that line is actually declining. In other words, companies founded in 2008 became less likely to apply for a patent with each year that went by. This trend continues in the data we have about the 2009 and 2010 cohorts.
So, the average company is less likely to pursue a patent. But what if we exclude companies who never apply for any patents? How do the patent pursuers behave as a group? We re-ran the cohort analysis and only included companies that applied for at least one patent. The results are below.
The lines have almost exactly flipped! In recent years, companies that have applied for at least one patent have been increasingly likely to apply for more patents over time.
It appears that, while the average company is less likely to apply for patents, those companies that do apply for patents are now applying for a greater number on a more rapid timeframe. Indeed, this is confirmed by the "probability of repeat application" chart below.
As you can see, the chances that a given company submits an additional patent application increases with each patent application they submit. Among companies that submitted 5 applications, 85% of them went on to submit a 6th.
Over the past several years, the average popularity of patents has steadily declined among funded technology startups.
The reasons an individual company may choose to apply for patents can be complex, but key characteristics can have a major influence. A company's industry and investors, for example, appear to be meaningful indicators of their likelihood to apply for patents.
Despite the overall decline in application activity, those companies that have chosen to pursue patents have done so more aggressively than ever. This is indicative of the increasing dichotomy in the marketplace, in which some thought leaders are actively speaking out against certain types of patents while patent portfolios are being bought and sold for lucrative amounts.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 07:29 AM PDT
Prepare to be assaulted by Samsung Galaxy S III ad spots. It’s the company’s biggest mobile launch of the year and the phone is rolling out to carriers right now. Samsung found great success with the Samsung Galaxy S II ad spots that used real life situations to show its strengths against the iPhone. Expect more of the same this time around. After all, why deviate from a strategy that lead to selling 28 million units?
These are the first two ad spots although more are likely on their way. The Galaxy S III was supposed to hit AT&T last week, T-Mobile and Sprint today with Verizon’s version launching on July 9th. Check out our review here.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 07:21 AM PDT
The swing to smartphones and more immersive experiences using apps is having a major knock-on effect with how mobile handsets now figure in our lives. The Mobile Mindset Study, a new survey from mobile security developers Lookout using data commissioned from Harris Interactive, has found that three out of five smartphone owners in the U.S. do not go for more than one hour without checking their devices.
The report also contains some data that speaks to where our priorities are when it comes to our phones. Some 94 percent of people worry about losing their devices — with some 74 percent saying they panicked when they lost a phone in the past (and 14 percent describing their state as “desperate” and 7 percent as “sick”). But the main reason for that wasn’t a worry about the loss of personal details, but the cost, hassle and inconvenience of replacing it.
While 38 percent complained the cost of replacing a lost phone and 24 percent said it would be inconvenient to lose it — combined for 62 percent — only 29 percent cited personal details, account information or inappropriate content as reasons to be worried when they lost their phone.
That points to people either being more relaxed about personal information and security than some would think; or that people are not really storing so much information on their devices these days — or that they are unaware of how much they can contain.
“We suspect that smartphone users out there banking, sexting and explicit picture-taking are, in fact, concerned about their financials and unmentionables being revealed, but our data reveals that they are more concerned with the time they would have to spend without their device and the money it would cost to get it back,” Lookout’s analysts write in the report.
It’s a bit of an ironic conclusion, given that report commissioner Lookout’s app is geared towards users who want to track their devices if they get lost — and wipe them remotely if they cannot.
The dedication to using one’s phone has also meant that we are using them everywhere. The most common place? While in bed (54%), with on the toilet being a close runner-up (39%), and while eating in third (30%).
As you can see, usage across different age groups varied, with those ages 18-34 being in general much more dedicated phone users than older people in almost every category where age was broken out. For example, the survey further found that while 58 percent was the average for one-hour phone checks, but for 18-34 year-olds the proportion was actually 68 percent. Similarly, men tended to have more emotional reactions to their phones when they disappeared, with men scoring higher than women in emotional responses.
The Harris Interactive survey was carried out in the U.S. online among 2,097 respondents between May 8-10, 2012.
[Image: Zoonabar, Flickr]
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 06:59 AM PDT
Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop has had a hard time getting his company to jump off the ‘burning platform’ onto the Windows Phone ship, and in their haste to do something quick they made a crucial compromise.
The first Nokia handsets running Windows Phone would remain stuck on version 7 with no upgrade path to WP8, a fact, according to our sources, that the Finnish handset maker was made aware of when it signed on last year.
And in doing so, the company left itself exposed to the ‘Osborne-effect’ but this time at Redmond’s making.
The news that Nokia's current range of Lumia smartphones won't get the full Windows Phone 8 upgrade when it's made available sometime this fall, was bound to upset existing customers.
And it has.
Taken to replying to customer emails Steve Jobs-style, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is already on the backfoot having to explain to one Lumia 900 owner why, just three weeks after his purchase, his shiny new phone is not, in fact, obsolete.
But the bigger story here is that we're seeing a return of the Osborne-effect, now unaffectionately dubbed the Elop-effect. Upsetting existing customers is something that Nokia can ill afford to do, deterring future ones is catastrophic. Especially when, by some estimates, at Nokia’s current burn rate it has less than two years of cash left in the bank and even the latest round of layoffs won’t slow that.
Having previously made Nokia's current product line obsolete by announcing its successor prematurely — the company's original switch from Symbian to Windows Phone — this time around Elop's let Microsoft on stage to do it for him.
With the first Nokia Lumia to run Windows Phone 8 unlikely to ship before December (or probably later), there’s now very little reason why anybody would buy one. Or at least, that's the story that will circulate. As a Nokia rep recently reminded me, buying decisions are influenced by people. With as little as six months left before the current Lumia range will be deemed end-of-life, potential customers will be told to steer clear.
And according to my sources, when Nokia signed up for Windows Phone 7 last year they already knew that the hardware platform, as specified by Microsoft, would soon be obsolete with no migration path to Windows Phone 8. In other words, Elop knew full well he ran the risk of being ‘Osborned’ by Microsoft.
Furthermore, by joining Microsoft's Windows Phone ecosystem not only has Nokia lost control over timing, it has also meant an over reliance on chip maker Qualcomm for whom Windows Phone in terms of numbers is a small piece of the pie. Might that explain the original Lumia 900 bug when connecting to the Internet?
I guess that's the price you pay for jumping off of a burning platform onto somebody else's ship.
"They truly have burned the ships as well as the platform", says one industry insider I spoke to. "The layoffs, project cancellations and latest management departures means there is no Plan B. No next generation Symbian. No Tizen or Meltemi. No Meego."
In other words, it's Redmond's way or the highway.
And while the platform may no longer be burning, Nokia's bank balance is and the Elop-effect continues.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 06:44 AM PDT
Ah, there’s nothing like the sweet smell of highly-anticipated app updates in the morning. As CEO David Karp promised at last week’s F.ounders conference, the new version of Tumblr’s iOS app has now arrived. And it’s a doozy. (I mean that in a very good way). The app is completely redesigned, a lot faster, and offers a ton of new features ranging from Spotify support to gesture-based shortcuts.
The first thing you’ll notice, of course, upon logging in, is a radically different new post screen. While the app had previously featured colorful icons for things like “text,” “photo,” “audio,” and “video,” etc., the new post screen has gone for a black background with richer, bolder icons. It almost gives Tumblr’s iOS app an Android-like feel, to be honest.
At the bottom are buttons for the Dashboard, Tags, your profile and the Post button. (Watch the transition as you tap the compose button from another screen – Tumblr even got the details right, here.)
There are several other improvements as well, including support for Spotify, high-res images, and offline access. That last one means you can post, like, reply and reblog when you don’t have an Internet connection – the changes will sync once you’re back online.
Also new are gesture-based shortcuts for things like launching the camera (swipe the compose button up) and text posts (swipe the compose button left). These are the kind of things that aren’t must-haves, but rather nice flourishes that give the app some flair. And the screens load fast – faster than, say, launching the camera from the iPhone’s lockscreen, for example.
But the biggest change in terms of Tumblr’s overall vision, however, has to be the tags area. It’s no longer about you and your “likes” (those are under your profile now) – it’s about discovery. The tags area is kind of odd, though. There’s just a search box and photos below. It feels very experimental. Without any context, why would I click on a photo of a manatee, for example, or a photo of a golden gun on a pink background? Even in my Reddit Pics app, there’s at least a caption to pique your interest. It would make more sense if these photos were overlaid with a small tag, given that they’re being highlighted like this.
Tags notwithstanding, overall, Tumblr has delivered great update for what had been a stagnant app for far too long. Well worth the download.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 06:16 AM PDT
Swype recently announced the newest version of its smart keyboard, and now competitor SwiftKey is launching its new Swiftkey 3 version. This artificially intelligent keyboard predicts what you are going to type based on what you start to type and what it already knows about your writing. Alternative products include Slideit, Thumb Keyboard and Smart Keyboard, but the market seems to be turning into a face-off fight between Swype and Swiftkey.
Swiftkey has also released a custom version for the medical industry called SwiftKey Healthcare, allowing health care professionals take better and faster notes on tablets. This is their first entry into enterprise and has attracted four US medical clients so far.
Swiftkey 3 is now on Google Play with a temporary half-price offer. There is a bigger space bar, a dedicated comma key, new themes, smarter punctuation and special character prediction. There is also better support for Android backup which means it won’t lose your database of learned phrases.
It also has two new themes – 'Cobalt', to match SwiftKey's new look and feel, and an Ice Cream Sandwich-styled 'Holo' theme. There are now an additional seven languages (Korean, Estonian, Farsi, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian and Serbian), bringing the total up to 42.
Swiftkey works by understanding what you intend to type by the context of what you are writing. It both corrects words and suggests the next word. The app can be synced with your email, Tweets, and Facebook status updates to better learn your style and vocabulary. As a result the company estimates it's saved its users over 65 billion keystrokes.
Yesterday Swype’s owner Nuance updated the software with the firm’s Dragon speech recognition functions, letting users dictate text rather than type it. The ability to dictate, rather than type, words may help it in Asia where some languages with non-Roman alphabets have thousands of characters. Nuance bought Swype in October for $102.5m.
Swiftkey’s Ruth Barnett told me “While voice can be handy for dictating letters, it is a different proposition if you’re in front of a patient. It’s easier to tap away and have your next words accurately predicted than to repeat everything a patient tells you into a voice app while they’re sitting there twiddling their thumbs.”
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 06:15 AM PDT
WNYC’s Radiolab has garnered plenty of acclaim since its first shows went on the air back in 2002, and now thousands of fans (including myself) tend to champ at the bit in anticipation of hearing Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich geek out on some new topic.
Radiolab co-host Abumrad told me recently that a majority of Radiolab listeners get their fix from podcasts, and in an effort to put their own stamp on the mobile Radiolab experience, WNYC has just released the official Radiolab app for iOS and Android.
The app, it must be said, is terribly handsome. Users are plopped down at a desk and as they begin to swipe down, they break through a nearby window and begin to traverse the Radiolab world. The trip is one that takes time to fully scroll through, though a handy indicator nestled along the right side of the screen keeps track of your progress. Continuing to swipe through the app will eventually lead users to its different sections — an area where they can listen to (and download) every Radiolab show and short, a section that aggregates news from the Radiolab website, and perhaps most intriguingly, the "Make" section.
From here, users get can involved with the show by responding to requests put out by the Radiolab crew. Some of the live requests are recurring necessities — the show's guests and participants are often asked to record the show's credits and now users can pitch in with their own rendition — but the potential exists to do much more.
In recent months, the show's staff has reached out to listeners to provide their own input on topics like whether or not tic-tac-toe is a universal game and what the general walking speed is like in different cities across the globe. They've also launched a Remix project in which they've made their audio assets and tracks available to listeners to mess with, in hopes that their content combined with user imagination and ingenuity will lead yield some interesting results. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the Radiolab team will eventually come to use the Make section as a way to crowdsource unique information and perspectives from their users.
"We're in a stage now in the lifecycle of the show where it's all about experimenting," Abumrad said. "Now that we have a sound and a set of ideas that are the core of the show, we want to emphasize that again. Crowdsourcing is going to be one small aspect of that, trying to figure out how to answer questions like "Who are you?"
Abumrad admits that right now, the Make section is sort of limited in scope; aside from recording the credits, users can also upload pictures of their favorite colors and submit audio of wild cheering. All of the uploaded sound recordings are pushed to Radiolab's SoundCloud account, and if users are feeling particularly brave, they can share their recordings on their own SoundCloud accounts to boot.
Long-time listeners can attest that Radiolab has an aural character all its own, and the process of translating the show's sense of scientific whimsy and wonder into a visual experience was nothing to sneeze at. As such, the app is packed with in-jokes and Easter eggs for the true fanboy to search for, so Radiolab devotees will have plenty of minutiae to search out once they've gotten their fill of Jad and Robert's voices. And of course, as an app for a public radio show, they had to include a way for users to financially support the show — in this case, people can donate from the so-called “Pledge Cow.” For those that would rather skip all the visual flair and head straight for the content, a shortcut button sits in the bottom right corner that allows people to jump directly from section to section.
"We spent months trying to craft an experience in the spirit of the show," said Tom Hjelm, New York Public Radio's Chief Digital Officer. "We've tried to make it as easy as possible to find stuff, but also to create this coherent journey with its own incidental pleasures." He’s not kidding — Radiolab first started soliciting ideas and suggestions for what to implement in a mobile app over a year ago, though the finished product certainly seems to have benefited from all that effort.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 06:00 AM PDT
Comic books have made a pretty smooth transition onto the iPad — in fact, the Comixology app has become my preferred method of reading new issues. But the founders of a startup called Madefire are trying to push things further. They want to create comics designed specifically for tablets, rather than simply converting content that was created for print.
You can get a taste of the Madefire experience in the video below. To me, using the app feels like someone took a regular comic, then jazzed it up with animation, music, and sound effects — yet you can still see the comic book at the heart of the experience. The company calls the titles “motion books”, a name that’s reminiscent of motion comics, another attempt to bring comics into the digital world. However, founder Ben Wolstenholme says there’s a big difference:
When I first heard about Madefire, what really caught my attention wasn’t the technology, but rather the writers and artists involved. There’s Dave Gibbons, most famous for drawing Watchmen. (One of the biggest fanboy moments in my life was getting Gibbons to sign my Watchmen pin. And yes, he’s done a bunch of other work, but Watchmen is one of those huge achievements that tends to overshadow everything else.) Also on the roster are Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), Robbie Morrison (The Adventures of Nikolai Dante), and Mike Carey (The Unwritten), among others.
There are some big names from the tech world as well. Madefire has raised a little more than $2 million from True Ventures and angels including Sina Tamaddon, former SVP of applications at Apple. The company’s advisory board includes True’s Toni Schneider (also CEO at Automattic), Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, Gibbons, Sienkiewicz, and Tamaddon.
Each of the current titles will release a new “episode” every week, Wolstenholme says, adding that one of his goals is “moving the book shop metaphor towards a channel metaphor.” Perhaps in that vein, Madefire’s content is all going to be free, at least for “the coming months.” Wolstenholme notes that other creators can sign up to use Madefire’s tools to make their own comics, and they’ll have the option to charge if they want.
So far, I’ve only read the first episode Treatment: Tokyo, a science fiction action comic that’s created and “executive produced” by Gibbons (Woltenholme and his co-founders also have executive producer credits), but actually scripted by Morrison, with art by Kinman Chan. It was, on the whole, an impressive experience. The art looks great, and the animation feels like a natural part of the experience. Unlike some other reading apps, using Madefire was intuitive — I never felt like I had to learn how to navigate it. My only complaint: By the end of the episode, I felt a bit tired out by all the frenetic, animated action and the over-the-top music.
You can download the Madefire iPad app here.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 05:53 AM PDT
Talk about convergence, eh? The Volt Buckle is described on its indiegogo fundraising page as “The world’s first and only wearable mobile device wall charger.” And as someone who has traveled around the Internet a time or two, I can attest to that claim. Never in all of my Internet days have I seen such a device. I want it.
When worn, the Volt Buckle looks like any ol’ belt buckle. If funded the device will ship with black and brown belts with silver buckles, or for an additional $15, an anodized black or bronze buckle. But when the need arises, simply take off the belt (that could be problem sometimes) and charge a phone through the USB port. The belt buckle portion even acts as a sort of stand when charging.
The creator explains that men, not being a gender that often carriers a purse, only have pockets to store items and thus often leave things at home — like a phone charger. But with the Volt Buckle a charger can always be handy.
The group is looking to raise $60,000 to start the Volt Buckle’s production. Pledge $20 and receive a leather belt minus the buckle. Step it up to $50 and receive a silver Volt Buckle with the anodized version available through a $75 pledge. A bit pricey, yes, but you’ll be the life of any party. Girls dig guys with convergence devices around their loins.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 05:32 AM PDT
The Samsung Galaxy S III is officially available today. T-Mobile has released the phone online and in select retail stores, while other carriers including AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular will be picking up the device in the next couple weeks.
We just recently reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S III and found that it’s likely the Android phone you’ve been waiting for. On the other hand, the new iPhone is on its way, but where Android is concerned this is far and away the best of the best. Since the Galaxy S III was inspired by nature, the company is donating $1.5 million to the World Wildlife Fund in celebration of the launch.
Samsung is also looking to reward owners of the Galaxy S III by leveraging some of the technology in the phone. The company is setting up Samsung Share-to-Go Stations across the country allowing owners to download content to their device from the kiosk. Movie-goers will also have the chance to play an interactive cinema 3D game experience in theaters across the country.
Times Square will be the first opportunity GSIII owners have to share content, with a station set up that allows users to share photos and videos with the Galaxy S III.
The Samsung Galaxy S III can be purchased here from T-Mobile for $279 on-contract.
Posted: 21 Jun 2012 05:18 AM PDT
iPod Nano straps have been around for a year or so now and they’ve been approximately exciting as tying a string to an iPod Classic and hanging it around your waist. Here’s something completely different. The Syre is a Bluetooth-enabled Nano watch case that transmits the audio wirelessly to compatible headphones. That’s right – no more looking like a weirdo with headphone cables sticking out of your wrist.
No battery specs but the entire watch encases the Nano, protecting the headphone port and jack from water and perspiration. It has a built-in battery.
The case, created by Anyé Spivey, is about to launch as a Kickstarter project but you can check it out now right here. They’re going to sell the watches with Bluetooth for $50 and they’re aiming for $75,000 in funding before they manufacture.
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