The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Is The New Hotness

scaled-5328 The Edge Case This review is primarily about the S6 Edge. Out of the two phones released by Samsung at MWC the Edge most deserves to be called a flagship – a device that shows the best of what the company has to offer. While the “standard” S6 is solid, usable, and handsome, I think the Edge is the real winner here. Why? First off the design is unique and unique to Samsung. It… Read More

App downloads are slightly down from January — but user acquisition is way up from last year

Fiksu's AppStore Competitive Index shows that daily download of the top 200 apps is way up over last year.
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These days, even the down months are technically up.

The Fiksu App Store Competitive Index tracks the average daily download volume of the top 200 free iOS apps, and it shows a whopping 9.7 million daily downloads for February, which is 6 percent down from January. Still, that download volume is up 43 percent over last year’s. And Fiksu’s Cost Per Loyal User index, which measures the cost of acquiring a user who opens an app three times, is also down from the previous month, dipped 3 percent from January to $2.80. But that’s still quite a bit more than this time last year — 76 percent more.

The cost of acquiring loyal users shows a lull for February, and that’s most likely the result of a shorter month and some slowdown on holiday spending, Fiksu says. The company’s Cost Per Install index, which measures the cost per app installs directly tied to ads, shows at $1.28 for iOS, which was about the same as January. But like the competitive index figures for the month, it’s up 17 percent over last year. On the Android side, things were about the same for the month, with the CPI at $1.51.

“Marketers are becoming familiar with the ebbs and flows of seasonal behavior and the February Indexes reflect the revisiting of priorities and planning for Q2 spending,” said Micah Adler, the CEO of Fiksu. “Moving forward, we can expect more use of strategic spending practices via programmatic advertising and improved targeting as marketers seek to both scale and stand out from their competition.”

“With the Cost per Loyal User being 76 percent higher than last year, but the Cost per Install either dropping or remaining flat, it suggests that competition is getting higher,” Stewart Rogers, analyst at VB Insight said. “Although still a niche area of marketing technology, I expect that more app developers will follow the example set by the likes of Starbucks, PopCap, Kiloo, and Alaska Airlines, who all use Mobile Marketing Automation (MMA) solutions to increase loyalty, lifetime customer value, and engagement. A recent report by John Koetsier suggests the MMA industry is growing fast, and many solutions are available to smaller developers; MMA isn’t just for the big brands.”

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Google Expands Advertising Options For Mobile Developers Designed To Increase Installs

android-apps Google announced this morning a range of new advertising options for Android app developers designed to increase the number of app installations. The most notable change rolling out today is that developers can now more easily advertise their applications on the Google Display Network, including via video app promo ads. The Google Display Network today reaches 2 million publisher websites,… Read More

Gmail For Android Gets A Unified Inbox

attachment preview final Google updated its Gmail app for Android today, and the most important feature is probably the addition of a unified inbox. Most of us probably manage multiple accounts and until now, you had to awkwardly switch between them in the Gmail app. To get started with this new unified inbox, you simply switch to the “All Inboxes” option in the app and you’re done. Read More

How Microsoft should woo Android and iOS developers to build Windows 10 apps

windows 10 microsoft
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It’s common knowledge that Microsoft has an app problem, both with Windows and Windows Phone. The state of both has been improving steadily for a while now, developers still largely don’t care anywhere nearly as much as they do about Android or iOS.

Internally, Microsoft has explored various ways of offering Android apps on Windows and Windows Phone, including by way of an emulator (similar to how BlackBerry allows Android apps to run on its devices). The rumor that Android apps will one day run on Windows devices is one that simply refuses to die.

While such a strategy is attractive for many reasons, mainly because it could potentially quickly solve the app quantity problem on Windows, it’s the wrong approach. Microsoft should instead woo Android and iOS developers to use its developer tools, and then deploy their apps to Google Play and/or Apple’s App Store, in addition to the Windows Store.

That way, the company avoids potential performance problems, possible legal issues, and can still ensure apps are built specifically for Windows 10, as opposed to simply getting a flood apps repurposed from other platforms. The pitch would be quite straightforward: ‘Use the best developer tools on the planet to build apps that reach the millions of new Windows 10 devices on top of the millions of Android and iOS devices.’

This is not a new strategy. Microsoft has done started down this road with Visual Studio’s adoption of Apache Cordova, an open source platform for building multi-device hybrid mobile applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But those are very basic apps.

Microsoft’s next step is to offer tools that could directly compete with Apple’s and Google’s offerings. iOS tools are already quite advanced and Google has finally ramped up its efforts with Android Studio, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to wedge in between the two.

It’s no wonder the rumor of Microsoft acquiring Xamarin, which lets developers use C# to build native Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows apps, keeps popping up every few months. When it comes to supporting programming languages for building on non-Microsoft platforms, there’s absolutely no reason why Microsoft should stop at HTML.

Despite its failures in mobile, Redmond is still known for how well it supports developers. And again, the company would be able to make a very unique offer: if you use our tools, you’ll simply be able to reach more users. Instead of developing for just Android, or just iOS, or even just Android and iOS, why not build for Android and Windows 10, or iOS and Windows 10, or all three?

That’s something Apple would never do, and given its disregard for Windows Phone, neither would Google. Despite a multitude of mistakes in mobile, Microsoft still finds itself in a very powerful position: it has the money, resources, and expertise to win over developers. Furthermore, even though Windows Phone is a very distant third to Android and iOS, the Windows Store on Windows 10 will be pushed to millions of users because it will work across PCs, tablets, and smartphones. That’s potentially very enticing for app developers.

In short, Microsoft needs to expand its cross-platform strategy for developers. The perfect time is coming to do exactly that: the company’s Build conference is just a month away.

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Watch out! All that Meerkating and Periscoping could slam your mobile data limits

Twitter's Periscope is just one of several new live streaming video mobile apps to launch in the last month.
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Josh Miller, who works on Facebook’s product team, thinks red-hot mobile live-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat are “cool art projects,” but that we’re a couple years too early for the technology.

And why? For one thing, Miller told VentureBeat on Twitter recently, connection speeds aren’t good enough. And that’s to say nothing of the impact of such apps on “phone and data plan costs.”

Sure enough, you’re already starting to see people report that thanks to using these apps — which allow anyone to easily broadcast live streaming video to the world from their iPhone or Android phone with just a few taps — they’ve gone over their monthly mobile data limits.

Those limits vary from carrier to carrier and plan to plan, not to mention country to country, but the dynamic is very real: It’s so easy to just pull your phone out of your pocket and start shooting live video of anything, from building fires in New York City to conference sessions at South by Southwest to Game of Thrones red carpet premieres, that people may not be aware of how much data they’re using. Or, they may not even care. As The Next Web reporter Owen Williams tweeted Saturday, “Periscope made me blow my [New Zealand] data cap in two days.”

40 percent of Meerkat streams are on carrier networks

The amount of data a stream uses varies from service to service, and of course, if you’re Meerkating or streaming from Periscope on a Wi-Fi network, then it’s probably not an issue. But Ryan Cooley, the co-founder of Meerkat, told VentureBeat that 40 percent of all the streams on the service are broadcast over carrier networks.

Twitter, which owns Periscope, and launched it last week, would not say what the corresponding figure is for that service. But a source with knowledge of the technology told VentureBeat that Periscope’s data demand is roughly equivalent to that of Apple’s FaceTime service.

Again, every live-streaming app uses different technology. But one would have to assume there are some general similarities in how they work, and the amount of data they consume.

Of course, as Jeremy Martin, the CTO of Stre.am, yet another mobile live-streaming app that launched recently, put it in an email to VentureBeat, There are “quite a few factors that have a direct impact on how much data is consumed while broadcasting or watching.”

Among them? Users’ current network strength. “If we detect that you’re having trouble pushing video over the wire fast enough,” Martin said, “we actually begin to dynamically drop frames to try and keep up. Even over faster networks, the throughput is impacted by the codecs and quality levels that your device is capable of handling, which isn’t consistent either.”

But in the end, Martin said, a rule of thumb is that a livestream broadcast over Stre.am sucks up about 3.3 megabytes per minute of live video.

That means, on a plan allowing up to 2 gigabytes of data usage per month with no overage fees, you’d be able to shoot about 10.1 hours of video a month on Stre.am — if you didn’t use any other data at all. Neither Meerkat nor Twitter would say what the corresponding figures were for their services. However, David Gibbons, the vice president of marketing at Ustream, long a leading provider of live-streaming technology, said users of that service could typically expect to safely stream about seven or eight hours of video without going over their caps.

Still, while most people may not ever approach that level of broadcasting, some are clearly starting to think that if live-streaming is here to stay, and not a fad, there’s going to be a bottom line cost. “For sure people are concerned about the cost to your data,” Gibbons said, which you’re “going to consume relatively quickly.”

As TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine pondered on Twitter, “I wonder if we’ll see whiplash reactions to people’s data bills after a month of intense Meerkating/Periscoping. Livestreaming ain’t cheap.”

Although some carriers, like T-Mobile, offer pricey unlimited data plans, most users have limits. It might be 2 gigabytes of data, or it might be more. Typically, if you go over your limit — and you’ll likely get multiple warnings from your carrier before you do — you pay a per-gigabyte fee that can be in the $15 range. But those in the business are hoping that the dynamics surrounding mobile data plans may soon change.

“Mobile bandwidth is becoming more plentiful and accessible, as local network infrastructure improves, and telco models begin to shift to accommodate this,” said Meerkat’s Cooley, pointing to T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan offering. “Things are moving forward in terms of mobile data access, not backward.”

Meerkat has attracted more than 300,000 users in just a month.

Above: Meerkat has attracted more than 300,000 users in just a month.

Image Credit: Meerkat

To Gibbons, it’s all about market pressures. The more people see the need for services like live-steraming apps, the more “people are going to want free access to data everywhere.”

And while we might think that carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and others are out to squeeze us for every dime, there’s also the reality that they will figure out ways to profit even if they play along. The “carriers are going to go along with it,” Gibbons said. “They will formulate plans that will (allow unlimited data usage) at prices that work for them….I think the mobile carriers will like it, because they’ll be able to get more revenue from consumers.”

At the same time, Gibbons added, as people use more and more video, there will be increasing pressure on the developers of services like Meerkat, Periscope, Ustream, and Stre.am to come up with more efficient video compression technology. There’s a reason, after all, that the fictional company Pied Piper won TechCrunch Disrupt on the HBO series “Silicon Valley” for its ground-breaking compression algorithm.

When digital cameras became a commodity device, and even more, when most people began to have smartphones, we saw that taking photographs was cheap. We took way more than we could ever process. Although we all love our cats and kids and food, if we’re honest, we know that the vast majority of the pictures we take are poor. Yet the cost is low. Already, we’re seeing that most of the live-streaming that’s going on is hardly going to win a Peabody — a broadcast news award.

But Cooley thinks there’s larger social issues at work. “Introducing Meerkat [was] the beginning of a long play to usher in live video as a social medium,” he said. “There will be adoption pains, but we believe the culture is ripe to embrace this participation-based video medium.”

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Facebook’s 5 trends for an exciting, profitable, mobile-first future

Facebook
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Facebook thinks that mobile phones are changing the world, and sees a future where everything starts with our mobile-connected lives. What follows from that, if done right, can be happy users and profitable businesses.

This week, thousands of mobile company executives and others are gathered in Barcelona, Spain for Mobile World Congress. Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg keynoted there, explaining that Internet.org, the company’s non-profit effort to bring connectivity to new users in developing countries, is helping carriers win new customers.

Today, Facebook is sharing its thoughts on the trends in a mobile-first future. In a blog post, Jane Schactel, the company’s global head of technology and mobile strategy, explained her vision for that future.

Facebook global head of technology and mobile strategy jane Schachtel.

Above: Facebook global head of technology and mobile strategy jane Schachtel.

Image Credit: Facebook

“Mobile phones have existed in one form or another for more than 30 years now, and every day they’re becoming more entwined in people’s lives,” Facebook wrote in its post. “But we are only in the early days of living in a mobile world. Today, a person’s mobile experience depends largely on where they live.”

In the developed world, countless people are using high-end Android phones and iPhones, and connecting via fast mobile networks, while in developing nations, networks are slower, and more people use basic phones. “For many people in these countries mobile phones are also a first point of entry to the Internet.”

With that in mind, here’s Schactel’s look at the five trends she sees for the future.

  • More affordable smart phones. Schachtel noted that she foresees significant innovation in the proliferation of low-cost smart phones “that offer better performance and better features for less money.” The benefits, she said, are that more people will get connected, and manufacturers will find new customers by targeting their devices at specific demographics, like Millennials, “hoping they’ll become future long-term customers.”
  • New focus on mobile commerce. As more and more people are conducting transactions via their mobile devices. But there’s still huge untapped opportunity there, Schachtel noted. “More technology and telecom businesses need to adapt their business models to mobile, and I expect to see new solutions from operators that make it easier for people to buy and sell things through their phones.”
  • Differentiation. In many developed countries, Schachtel said, it’s hard for device makers to stand out as almost everyone already has a phone, many of which look the same and offer more or less the same features. Without standing out, manufacturers struggle to build brand loyalty, and in the process deal with increased customer churn. But by finding ways to make their devices more personal to users — “focusing, for instance, on the emotional role they play in our lives rather than the latest technical specs — manufacturers could reverse that trend. That would be aided by getting users to buy more products from the device makers, Schachtel said. “Device manufacturers are now introducing gadgets like watches and selfie-cams to pair with phones and tablets,” a dynamic known as “device families.”
  • Better network capabilities. In the first world, users are consuming huge amounts of video content, Schachtel said, and that trend will only increase. As a result, carriers have little choice but to boost their networks’ capabilities and reliability. “I expect to see lots about 5G networks, as well as ways of delivering video to more people on slower networks….It’s become essential to understand creative best practices for mobile experiences, and the changing ways in which people consume video.”
  • Making the Internet of Things important. Schachtel said she expects the near future to be filled with talk about the Internet of Things — connected devices like the Nest smart thermostat or the August smart lock — and what she called “machine to machine” connections. Too, she said, Apple’s watch will likely spawn large numbers of second-gen smart watches. “With the Internet of Things, the big challenge remains showing people how connected devices can be meaningful additions to their lives, rather than just being cool pieces of tech.”

In the end, Schachtel concluded, mobile means great opportunities and exciting times for users and businesses. “As more people come online and new technologies become more widely available,” she wrote, “we’ll continue to see more sophisticated solutions for connecting the world. And that’s good for people, and good for businesses.”

 

 


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Google updates Play Services API with new location features for Android apps

A new feature of Google Play Games lets developers turn Android smartphones and tablets into second-screen controllers.
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Google is once again updating Google Play Services, its Android application programming interface (API), to add new features for developers. The new version is 7.0.

Google Play Services is the company’s set of features for building apps that connect with Google products such as Maps and Drive. The previous version, Google Play Services 6.5, came out in November, 2014.

Screenshot of Google's new Place Picker dialog, in Play Services 7.0

Above: Screenshot of Google’s new Place Picker dialog, in Play Services 7.0

The top features in this new API offer features for developers to add location-friendly features. There’s a new “place picker” dialog that makes it easier for people to select their current location based on the geodata provided by their phone and the database of locations that Google has.

And there’s an enhanced Places API that gives developers access to that location database — including details about specific venues and items within the database — either through Google’s user interface or through their own UI.

Google writes, “We will be rolling out Google Play services 7.0 over the next few days,” and notes that the software development kit for new new API will be available once that is complete.

Other updates to the API:

  • Google Fit: The company has updated several of the APIs for its fitness-tracking service.
  • Google Mobile Ads: Developers can now integrate data from Google’s AdMob (a mobile advertising network) with Google Analytics.
  • Google Play Games: There’s support for the new Android game features Google announced today, including the ability to connect an Android tablet or smartphone to a nearby TV as a second screen for gameplay — enabling you to use your smartphone as a controller, for instance.
  • App Indexing: Google has simplified this feature, which “lets Google index apps just like websites, enabling Google search results to deep-link directly into your native app.”

Google announced the news on its Android Developers Google+ page, and posted more details on the Android Developers blog.

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Android Lollipop hits 3.3% adoption, KitKat passes 40%, and Jelly Bean continues to slide

Lollipop Forest Google Android
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Google today released its monthly update of the Platform Versions page for Android, and it looks like the latest version has managed to double its adoption share. Android 5.0 Lollipop has hit 3.3 percent of the pie, cutting into the growth of Android 4.4 KitKat, once again the only other version to gain adoption share this month.

In fact, KitKat is about to pass Jelly Bean, which encompasses Android 4.1, Android 4.2, and Android 4.3. In other words, there will soon be a new Android king in town:

android_adoption_march_2015

More specifically, here are the changes between February and March:

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop: Up 1.7 points to 3.3 percent
  • Android 4.4 KitKat: Up 1.2 points to 40.9 percent
  • Android 4.1/4.2/4.3 Jelly Bean: Down 1.9 points to 42.6 percent
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Down 0.5 points to 5.9 percent
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread: Down 0.5 points to 6.9 percent
  • Android 2.2 Froyo: Unchanged at 0.4 percent

For the sake of comparison, here’s the Android adoption chart for February:

android_adoption_february_2015

As with any updates using this tool, we have to point out that the data is gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don’t have Google Play installed (such as Amazon’s Fire line).

More to follow

To recap, we currently have Jelly Bean in first, KitKat in second, Gingerbread in third, ICS in fourth, Lollipop in fifth, and Froyo in sixth. KitKat will overtake Jelly Bean before Lollipop passes Gingerbread, as unfortunate as that is.

As we’ve said before, Lollipop’s slow start is not surprising given the lukewarm popularity of the Nexus line and how long it takes for Android device manufacturers to push out updates. Multiple new Android devices were announced at Mobile World Congress today in Barcelona, and more are expected to follow in the coming days.

Nevertheless, Android 5.0 won’t see significant adoption for a few more months.

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Blackberry takes security, productivity, and communications tools cross-platform

The Blackberry Experience Suite is available for all mobile devices.
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Blackberry said today it will bring its security, productivity, and communications tools to iOS, Android, and Windows.

In an announcement about the Blackberry Experience Suite made at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Canada’s Blackberry said “we want to empower all mobile professionals in order to supercharge their productivity and allow them to work across all their devices in an effortless and secure way.”

The company said the suite of tools will be released later this year.

This isn’t the first time Blackberry has brought its tools to other devices or platforms. It has already done so with its Blackberry Messenger, and Blackberry Blend.

With the Blackberry Experience Suite, the company is extending its “cross-platform strategy of complementing [its] innovative and ultra-secure hardware with software solutions that meet the changing needs of enterprises and mobile professionals – as well as device makers serving those markets,” it said.

The Experience Suite will comprise three individual sets of tools — the Productivity Suite, the Communication & Collaboration Suite, and the Security Suite.

 

 

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