As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.
- The Secret to QuizUp's Record Setting Viral Growth
An interview with Thorsteinn Fridriksson, CEO of Plain Vanilla Games
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little strange to randomly discover a game on the App Store on a Sunday afternoon, have over 60 friends begin using it by the next day and then be interviewing the CEO/founder of the company that developed it the day after that. But, like the growth of QuizUp over the last two weeks, sometimes things escalate quickly.
QuizUp is a new game for iOS devices that claims to be the biggest trivia game in the World. By combining an insane amount of questions and categories with gorgeous UX design, and unique social features that allow users from around the world to interact with people who share mutual interests, QuizUp has created what some are calling the most perfect trivia game ever made.
I was lucky enough to chat with Thor Fridriksson, the founder and CEO of Plain Vanilla Productions (the creators of QuizUp) after he arrived in San Francisco on a flight from Boston. His flight had originally been delayed, delayed, delayed and ultimately canceled in Boston, but while waiting around in the terminal for hours he had the surreal experience of witnessing strangers around him playing his game. Keep in mind — a game that had just been released only a week ago, had spent almost nothing on marketing and was built thousands of miles away in Iceland.
This is not how things usually work for mobile game developers, and what may seem like an overnight success was actually the result of almost three years of hard work and an obsession with creating an amazing product.
Making Product Quality the #1 Priority
According to Fridriksson, “the QuizUp you see today is actually the fourth iteration, after the team had decided to completely scrap the first three versions and start over from scratch each time.” This commitment to perfection is obvious within minutes of playing QuizUp. The colors, shapes and animations all work together in harmony to create a user experience whose elegantly simple functionality borders on magic.
Along with taking the time to perfect every aspect of the app’s design, QuizUp took a unique approach when obtaining their trivia questions. They chose to crowdsource the questions directly from individuals passionate about their specific topic rather than paying to farm the content en masse. This resulted in over 150,000 questions in nearly 300 categories by the time they launched. Fridriksson said that, “when you go to people who are deeply passionate about a topic they will be eager to contribute quality content.” All of this attention to detail and focus on making the perfect trivia game is clear when you look at what happened after they launched.
Engagement > Number of Downloads
Apple’s App Store, especially the games category, is brutally competitive. All of the experts that Fridriksson and his team consulted prior to launch said that they would need to throw tons of money into marketing before they would see any organic growth. What happened was the opposite. The way Fridriksson described the growth to me was “incredibly viral,” and that after looking at the numbers from the first day they “decided not to spend another dime on marketing.” I personally left the ‘new friend’ notifications on and it was funny to watch as one of my Facebook friends would get the app, and then within twenty minutes I would see notifications that several of our mutual friends who the first person was closer with had joined. Presumably coerced by the first friend.
Within about 10 days of release, the app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times and users were playing over 10 million games a day. These numbers even beat out the record setting DrawSomething app that was sold to Zynga for $200 million dollars last summer. Despite impressive download stats, the most impressive number by far is the average daily playing time of 40 minutes. For comparison, this amount of engagement is roughly double the average time spent on Facebook, and over triple that of Twitter.
Users Are Making the App Their Own
Fridriksson and his team have been blown away the outrageous amount of user engagement. But the most interesting part isn’t how much users are engaging, but rather that they are engaging in ways the team hadn’t even anticipated. Fridriksson explained to me that they are seeing “tiny social pockets” materializing within topics and through the extensive social/communication features of the app. Fascinatingly, a “social network of sorts” is organically growing within individual topics. You can go to the discussion boards of economics and history and see genuine intellectual discussions, or hop over to Justin Bieber trivia and see more “colorful” discussions.
In some ways QuizUp is almost like a social discovery engine where you are constantly matched with new people who share mutual interests from all over the world. Even if sometimes it is only for a fleeting seven round trivia match, the game is connecting people in a uniquely compelling way. For the time being, Fridriksson and the rest of Plain Vanilla Productions are focused on keeping the service running smoothly in the face of so much unanticipated traffic. However, going forward the team has a number of exciting and innovative features planned for the future.
- Comet ISON May Have Survived Encounter With Sun, Scientists Say
STOCKHOLM (AP) — A comet that gained an earthly following because of its bright tail visible from space was initially declared dead after essentially grazing the sun. Now, there is a silver of hope that Comet ISON may have survived.
New images, basically faint smudges on a screen, being analyzed Friday showed a streak of light moving away from the sun that some said could indicate it wasn’t game over just yet. “It certainly appears as if there is an object there that is emitting material,” said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Basically a dirty snowball from the fringes of the solar system, scientists had pronounced Comet ISON dead when it came within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun Thursday.
Some sky gazers speculated early on that it might become the comet of the century because of its brightness, although expectations dimmed over time. But it wouldn’t be all bad news if the 4.5-billion-year-old space rock broke up into pieces, because some scientists say they might be able to study them and learn more about comets.
The European Space Agency, which had declared ISON’s death on Twitter late Thursday, was backtracking early Friday, saying the comet “continues to surprise.”
Comet ISON was first spotted by a Russian telescope in September last year, and became something of celestial flash in the pan this week for its vivid tail — visible by the naked eye — and compelling backstory of impending doom.
The comet was two-thirds of a mile wide as it got within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun, which in space terms basically means grazing it.
NASA solar physicist Alex Young said Thursday the comet had been expected to show up in images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft at around noon eastern time (1700 GMT), but almost four hours later there was “no sign of it whatsoever.”
Images from other spacecraft showed a light streak continuing past the sun, but Young said that was most likely a trail of dust continuing in the comet’s trajectory.
However, instead of fading, that trail appeared to get brighter Friday, suggesting that “at least some small fraction of ISON has remained in one piece,” U.S. Navy solar researcher Karl Battams wrote on his blog. He cautioned that even if there is a solid nucleus, it may not survive for long.
Two years ago, a smaller comet, Lovejoy, grazed the sun and survived, but fell apart a couple of days later.
“This is what makes science interesting,” said Fitzsimmons, who specializes in comets and asteroids. “If we knew what was going to happen, it wouldn’t be interesting.”
ISON’s slingshot toward the sun left astronomers puzzled and excited at the same time.
Made up of loosely packed ice and dirt, the space rock came from the Oort cloud, an area of comets and debris on the fringes of the solar system.
- The Very Best Apple Black Friday Deals In The U.S.
Black Friday is one of the few — if only — days of the year when Apple acts like a normal retailer. So as in years past, the electronics maker is offering one-day deals to kick off the holiday shopping season.
But instead of price cuts on iPads and MacBooks, as Apple has done on Black Fridays of yore, it took a different tack in the U.S. this year. Apple is including Apple Store Gift Cards valued between $25 and $150 with the full-priced purchase of various products. You can see all the deals on the company’s website, but we’ve listed out the very best Apple Black Friday deals below.
But here is what Apple is offering:
- iPad Air: Get a $75 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $499.
- iPad Mini: Get a $50 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $299. Deal only available with non-Retina display models.
- iPad 2: Get $50 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $399.
MacBooks and iMacs
- MacBook Air: Get a $150 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $999.
- iMac: Get a $150 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $1,299.
- MacBook Pro with Retina display: Get a $150 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $1,299.
- MacBook Pro without Retina display: Get a $150 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $1,199.
- iPod Touch: Get a $50 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $229.
- iPod Nano: Get a $25 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $149.
- Apple TV: Get a $25 gift card with every purchase. Starts at $99.
- Nest Learning Thermostat (second generation): Get a $50 gift card with every purchase. $249.95.
- Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Over-Ear Headphones: Get a $50 gift card with every purchase. $299.95.
- Nike+ FuelBand SE: Get a $25 gift card with every purchase. $149.95.
- GoPro HERO3+ Video Camera: Get a $50 gift card. $399.95.
And that’s not all. Check out all the deals here.
- PlayStation 4 'starting to sell out'
Sony’s PlayStation 4 is launched in the UK two weeks after its debut in the US and is already “starting to sell out”.
- LiveCode 6.5 adds resolution independence for app output
RunRev has released v6.5 of LiveCode, its simplified app development tool for iOS and Android apps. The update primarily adds resolution independence — meaning that the same app can quickly be rescaled for any screen size, whether on a phone or a tablet. This includes accommodation for displays with high pixel densities, such as the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.
- Samsung UE46F8000 Review: Just How Good Is A Really, Really Great TV?
The Samsung 46-inch UE46F8000 TV is available for around £1,499 from Currys.
- 46-inch LED pannel (1080P)
- Active 3D (with two pairs of included glasses)
- 3D ‘HyperReal’ picture engine
- 40W speakers
- Built-in WiFi, quad-core processor
- 4X HDMI, 3X USB 2.0
- Freeview/Freesat HD tuners
- Smart TV with App Store
- Pop-out Camera
- Motion-based single remote control
“Combining the latest Smart TV features and industry-leading interactive voice and motion controls, outstanding Full HD 3D picture quality and innovative audio, the Samsung UE46F8000 Smart 3D 46″ LED TV is undeniably the ultimate 21st-Century home entertainment hub.”
In the main, TV reviews are for specialists: a group of rarified, technically minded individuals who sit around all day surrounded by panels and screens, know what things like a ‘HyperReal’ picture engine and Clear Motion Rates are, and have opinions on 8K and 16K before you’ve even seen a 4K TV in the flesh.
For most of you – for most of us – buying a TV is a bit more depressing, and fraught, and inexact. For most people, it’s about avoiding the poorly built junk on the low end, but settling for a set below the ultra-luxury mega-tellies. Something about £500-700-ish, not too fancy… let’s all move on with our lives.
And in the main, that’s probably just life. But every time you stare at that set for the next two-to-five years, you’ll always wonder what you could have had, if only you’d pushed the boat out a little and bought something really fun.
The Samsung UE46F8000 Smart 3D LED TV is the answer.
And we’re here to tell you that not only is it ridiculously named, it is also ridiculously good. Yes, the sad truth is that if you don’t have a really good TV, you probably don’t even know what a really good TV is.
Some things are a given when it comes to a set like the F8000, of course. Take the picture. You’d expect brilliance, and that’s what you get. Experts more, well, “expert” than us have given it top marks for picture quality and straight visual fidelity, and we have to agree that it looks incredible, even without too much fiddling with the settings. The back lighting is superbly even, colours pop and black areas are inky and deep, and motion is rendered brilliantly, even without the Motion Plus frame creation system turned on. The 3D performance is great too – the very slim design of the set means that it’s easy to focus on the action on screen, and there’s no sense of flicker. Even the included pairs of 3D glasses are comfortable and well designed.
Similarly, you’d also expect a full suite of Smart TV apps, and that’s also present and correct. The software is based around five separate screens – a Store, a Multimedia tab for playing files off USB and networks, the Live TV screen, the Apps tray and a social ‘Friends’ tab, which collects recommendations on the fly. The Apps page is well stocked on first boot, with iPlayer, 4OD, ITV, Channel 5, Netflix and Lovefilm all installed by default. There are many more apps to choose from too, and all launch and run as fast as you’d hope, thanks to the Quad-Core processor chugging away (silently) in the background. The result is that even if you don’t work too hard to explore all the options, this is a very Smart TV indeed.
Finally on the obvious front, you have design. The F8000 is beautiful, with a curved, elegant, all-metal stand, thin bezels and minimalist touches which make it look totally stunning from any angle. Even the placement of the ports – all on the lower-left corner, makes for simple and easy cable management.
But then there are the non-obvious features. The things that make owning a super TV like this really worthwhile. And there are so many, it’s hard to keep track.
For starters, your main TV HDMI source isn’t just stuck on a certain HDMI input. It’s automatically found and integrated into the Smart TV software. The TV learns what you watch and can suggest new programs, all while controlling your Sky Box (or whatever) from a single remote, via an IR blaster.
And oh, the remote. While the TV comes with a normal plastic controller, the real remote is a simple, gesture-based doodad that lets you draw channel numbers with your finger.
If that’s not enough, the TV also lets you control your set – and watch pictures from any of the inputs, including one you’re not using – on your Android smartphone. Technically you could use your phone as a second-screen on which to play a PS4, for instance. It actually doesn’t work in practice – there’s a bit too much lag. But watching a Blu-Ray on your phone, via a games console, is undeniably neat. Elsewhere, there’s a pop-up, high-quality camera on top for Skype calls, while the included voice and gesture controls make it easy (though not always foolproof) to switch between functions at will. The TV even has good sound quality – though we’ll be damned if we know where the speakers are hidden.
The overall feeling, once you’ve gotten used to the TV, is of something elegant, powerful and much cleverer than you have any right to expect. The Smart TV interface isn’t a janky add-on, it’s a beautiful, centralised way to experience entertainment. The live-TV integration is better than that on the Xbox One, and the picture quality is also more amazing than you’d ever really think possible.
And this is the problem. Because whatever way you look at it, the F8000 is still £1,499 – and as such, a serious investment. If you add up the features and look at the price compared to an equivalent size TV lower down the rung, you might still find yourself leaning the other way.
But that wasn’t really the point of this review. As we said, there are others more suited to pouring every inch of value in this TV, and its competitors.
The point here was just to examine what owners of great TVs are getting for their money. And the sad – but sort of pleasing – answer, is simple: they’re getting lots. TV isn’t perfect in the land of the high-end screen. But it’s close. And the F8000 is the best TV we’ve ever tried in person. Sigh.
- This Duck Has The Best Hackers In The World Baffled
For the past two years, a mysterious online organisation has been setting the world’s finest code-breakers a series of seemingly unsolveable problems. But to what end? Welcome to the world of Cicada 3301.
- The Case Against Monitoring Teens Online
One day after school, 16-year-old Amelia was in her room scrolling through her Facebook updates when she took a break to get a snack. When she came back, her mom was at her computer, busy reading the status updates posted by Amelia’s friends, which alluded to “gossip about who got drunk last weekend and who likes who, stuff like that,” Amelia remembered. “It was nothing, most of it probably wasn’t even true — everyone exaggerates about everything — but my mom totally flipped out.” Amelia, meanwhile, “flipped out” too, accusing her mother of spying, and having no respect for her privacy.
Parents have nosed around in their kids’ lives ever since the invention of the telephone, but these days, technology has taken the spying game to an entirely new level with multiple points of entry, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, Vine and Tumblr. While communicating via social media has made it easier for kids to stay connected with their friends, these largely public forums (and traceable activities) also give parents a new in to what their children may not be telling them. A study published earlier this year by the Education Database Online found that nearly half of all parents using Facebook joined the social network with the primary purpose of spying on their kids (and their kids’ friends). All but 7 percent of those parents check their child’s profile every single day, monitoring status updates, location check-ins and photos their kids post and are tagged in.
Many parents say they do this monitoring simply for their teen’s own good. “Amelia can be impulsive, like all teens,” Amelia’s mom, Gina, told me. “And all it takes is one thoughtless tweet or provocative photo to get you a reputation. I don’t want someone to Google her name and have the first thing come up be some half-grammatically correct rant about where her algebra teacher could shove it, even if she thinks she’s just being funny. It’s not appropriate.” And given the fact that most teens have a shallow internet presence, their social media posts do often comprise much of their online identities, making what they post even more significant than that posted by adults, whose social media accounts are more likely to get buried.
Which is why, in many ways, Gina has a point. After all, many teens don’t consider the permanence, or the public nature, of their social media posts, often blindly sharing information and photos they wouldn’t want their parents to see. And people — their parents, yes, but others, too — are taking notice. Philadelphia police arrested a 17-year-old accused of using Twitter and Instagram to instigate potential witnesses to violent crimes, while a New York Times story shared the unsurprising news that college admissions officers are reading applicants’ Facebook posts and tweets (and often rejecting them as a result). At the same time, the Internet doesn’t do much to protect teens’ privacy; with social media sites changing their rules so often it can be difficult to keep up. For example, Facebook changed its privacy rules for teens. Now, unless they specifically opt out, their status updates, videos and images can now be seen by anyone — no longer just their friends or friends of friends — raising the stakes considerably.
And yet the answer isn’t for parents to be poised to erase their child’s every online misstep. There’s a real danger in too closely monitoring, or even limiting, teens’ online behavior. The fact is that social media is, now, a very real way of life, and to shield kids from that is to leave them underprepared for a time when their parents aren’t there to protect them. It’s like operating a car: There’s a period during which young drivers are required to drive with an adult. But that period ends, and then the kids are on their own.
Social media freedom teaches kids an important lesson in how not to behave. What not to share. It teaches them that public is public, and some mistakes can’t be erased. That’s a hard, but necessary, lesson for people to learn. And it won’t happen with mom and dad looking over their shoulders, or at their browser history when no one’s looking. Letting kids control their own online presence is also a valuable lesson in accountability. Social media takes much of the fall for teens’ bad behavior, from enabling after-school bullying to providing a forum for inappropriate photos. But by blaming social media for kids’ mistakes, we absolve kids from certain responsibility that is theirs and theirs alone. Teens will make bad decisions both online and off, but they make the decisions. Simply put, when social media exposes a child’s bad behavior, it’s not the fault of social media.
Which is why the best policy is to give kids their privacy, but to also make sure they’re very clear about the public nature of social media and the possible implications of potentially regrettable online behavior. Ask them to be honest with you, and be honest and upfront with them in return. Realize that going behind their backs to determine what they’re up to may only push them towards greater secrecy. 15-year-old Noelle was recently confronted by her parents about Twitter interactions she’d been having with a group of kids they disliked. She later learned they’d also been reading her emails and Facebook chats. “I was grounded for a week, and forbidden to hang out with those kids,” Noelle remembered. “Of course, it didn’t stop me from hanging out with them; I just learned to lie better.”
- The Most Cringe-Worthy Autocorrect FAILS Of The Month
- On designing apps for patients & healthcare professionals, a chat with Amy Cueva, founder of Mad*Pow
iMedicalApps sat down with Amy Cueva, founder & chief experience officer of Mad*Pow, an experience design agency specializing in healthcare. In our interview, Amy shares insider tips on how to create compelling medical apps that people will want to use.
- Solar Power Gets Massive Boost In Connecticut As States Continue To Support Green Energy Push
MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — As Connecticut pushes aggressively to expand solar energy to homes across the state, few supporters are more enthusiastic than Eugene DeJoannis.
The retired mechanical engineer from Manchester has long been a booster of green energy and boasts a keen interest in home energy issues. He’s now serving as a volunteer solar ambassador promoting a state program that subsidizes home solar projects and urges homeowners to participate.
“I have a personal fascination with the residential energy picture,” DeJoannis said. “Whenever we go to church, I invariably take out my literature and display it there.”
Backed by a $27 million fund supplied by utility ratepayers, a campaign known as Solarize Connecticut joins as many homeowners as possible to lower the cost of residential solar installation. It annually earmarks $9 million of the available funding to finance residential installation by solar panel businesses competitively picked.
The intent is to boost nonpolluting energy, reduce demand on the electric grid relied upon by utilities and cut dependence on overseas sources of power such as oil.
Bob Wall, director of marketing and outreach at Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, said the agency is running solar panel installation campaigns in 22 of the state’s 169 towns and cities and has completed solar energy installation campaigns in nine towns.
In the past 22 months, 2,160 residential solar systems contracts have been approved.
Gary and Debbie Sweet, looking for information about putting solar panels on their house, attended a recent meeting in Manchester organized by state energy officials, bankers and solar installers. Sweet, an architect, said solar panels could slash his electricity costs.
“It doesn’t cost me anything. Why not?” he said.
The cost to homeowners is significantly reduced, and although it’s touted by Connecticut as a “once in a lifetime bargain,” it’s not free. Glenn Cucinell, solar division manager at Encon Solar Energy Division, which won the contract to install solar panels on homes in Manchester, said a typical system in Connecticut would cost about $24,000.
After a state rebate of about $8,000 and a 30 percent federal tax credit available for the remaining $16,000, a homeowner’s cost for a residential solar system would be cut by more than half, to $8,000 to $12,000, which can be paid for in long-term financing.
Connecticut’s subsidy is not unusual. Virtually every state offers loans, grants, rebates and other incentives to support broader use of residential solar panels, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “It’s an incentive driven industry at this point,” Cucinell said.
In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, solar energy received $1.13 billion in federal subsidies in the form of direct spending, research, tax benefits and loans, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In contrast, wind power received nearly $5 billion in subsidies, and coal was the beneficiary of $1.36 billion in subsidies.
Andy Pusateri, a utilities analyst at Edward Jones, said solar power will not be weaned off federal and state subsidies anytime soon. Wind power is the fastest growing alternative source of power, but solar energy has a greater growth potential, he said.
“We’re still a ways off from a competitive generation source without subsidies,” he said.
Pusateri said politics is a factor behind the push for public subsidies of solar energy.
“Democrats tend to favor renewable energy,” he said. “I think that’s driving that.”
The solar campaign is part of a broader effort by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to rework Connecticut’s energy policy. It includes a greater reliance on hydropower from Canada, an increase in natural gas connections to homes and businesses and a push for renewable power such as solar.
DeJoannis promises to keep at it with his campaign for home solar projects.
“There’s a garden club meeting tonight. Maybe I can break in there,” he said.
- You Thought A Rubik's Cube Was Hard? Check Out This Rubik's Building
Rubik’s cubes are hard. Although we’ve never tried one, we’d guess that building-size Rubik’s cubes are even harder. This morning we’re wrapping our minds around the fact that such a thing actually exists, thanks to Javier Lloret, a student in Interface Culture in Austria.
For his masters thesis Lloret designed “Puzzle Facade,” morphing an Austrian office building into a monstrous, glowing Rubik’s cube. The giant cube is meant to be cracked by a user, although Lloret’s version is even harder since the viewer can only see two sides at a time.
The Creators Project explain the logistics on their site:
Coded in OpenFrameworks, Puzzle Facade uses an interface-cube that holds electronic components to keep track of rotation and orientation. Then, the information is sent via Bluetooth to a computer that implements software to change the lights and color of the building facade in correlation to the handheld, interface cube.
We can’t decide if we’re fascinated or horrified at the prospect of the urban landscape transforming into a giant, illuminated video game. Take a look at the video above and let us know your diagnosis in the comments.
- AUDIO: Would you wear a 'SmartWig?'
If you are bald and lost – then the ‘SmartWig’ could be just the thing for you.
- PlanToPublish medical app provides step-by-step guidance on research manuscript production
The PlanToPublish medical app provides step-based guidance to guide the researcher on the many steps involved in writing up research
- Google in breach of Dutch data laws
Google breached Dutch data protection laws by combining data on users of its different services, says the Netherlands’ privacy watchdog.
- IT budgets to rise by 3% in 2014 as companies step up spending on mobile
IT spending will increase by 3% in 2014, up from 1.8% last year. But shadow IT spending will add another 40% to technology budgets
- VIDEO: The darker side of Black Friday
As Americans flock to the shops for Black Friday’s bonanza sales, #BBCtrending investigates the darker side of the day.
- Wave fingers, make faces: The future of computing at Intel
The chip giant is working on “perceptual computing” technology that will sense your emotions and your body language. Here’s an inside look.
- Inside Intel's perceptual computing lab (pictures)
CNET visits Intel’s Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters to learn more about its work with gestures, facial recognition, and eye tracking.