Tag Archives | Apps

StumbleUpon’s New iPad App is Neat, But Can We Skip the Social?

StumbleUpon has always been one of my favorite iPad apps, an endless time-waster that with the press of a button sends you to seemingly random corners of the Internet. Now, it’s received a facelift.

The new app includes sorting options for photos, videos and news, along with a category view that makes it easier to find pages based on your topics of interest. StumbleUpon’s iPad app has also gained a couple of swipe-based gestures, allowing you to move forward and backward by dragging a finger across the screen.

So far, so good. But there’s one feature I could do without, and would like the option to disable: Every time you stumble to a new page, a message on top of the screen lists the username of a stranger who liked what he or she saw. Tapping the name takes you to that user’s profile, which lists age, gender and recent activity, and provides options for following that user.

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Mozilla Gives Web Apps Some Purpose

Slowly but surely, Mozilla’s laid back approach to web apps is blossoming into something with a lot of potential.

The latest web apps update from Mozilla Labs, available as an add-on for Firefox, gives the experimental project a new look and helps individual apps communicate with one another.

Web apps now appear in a tray at the bottom of the browser window. Once opened, they become pinned tabs with no URL bar, giving them a more app-like feel. Mozilla also wants to aid app discovery by letting web developers notify visitors when an app is available — kind of like the App Store link that appears when you visit Yelp’s mobile website.

The bigger improvement in this release is “Web Activities.” This is basically a calling service for web apps to pass data back and forth. So for instance, if you’re using an online photo editor such as Pixlr and want to import an image from Dropbox, neither service would have to support the other specifically. The Web Activities calling service would handle the file transfer.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Will Put Apps in Your Apps

Samsung may be onto something with the TouchWiz interface that it plans to release for the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

A new promotional video for the tablet shows off what Samsung is calling “Mini Apps” — a collection of utilities that can be launched on top of other Android applications. These include a notepad, calendar, task manager, clock, music player and calculator. They’re the kind of utlities you’d find on a desktop OS, coming in handy for other tasks.

Tablets need more of this. One of my big frustrations with current tablet software is how inconvenient it can be to perform one task that requires two programs, such as taking notes off a web page or adding up numbers from an e-mail. Switching between apps can be a chore if you have to go back and forth several times.

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Talking Tom and Friends Aim for the Big Time

Outfit 7's Talking Ben

Characters from video games have been showing up in other media since…well, at least since Hanna-Barbera’s dreadful 1982 Pac-Man TV series. Now Outfit7, whose apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android have been downloaded 135 million times, is getting in on the act. It’s signed up William Morris Endeavor, the talent agency headed by superagent Ari Emanuel, to represent Talking Tom Cat, Talking Ben the Dog, and the other characters from its programs.

Outfit7, which was founded in Slovenia and started releasing apps last year, doesn’t make games, exactly–its apps let you interact with puppet-like digital creatures by poking them, petting them, and speaking to them (they repeat what you say in their own voice). The programs are fun, the quality of the animation and the quality of the animation is good given the devices it runs on. The company has aspirations to become a Pixar-like powerhouse whose creations appear everywhere from movies to books to toys.

The most iconic characters to debut in a phone app to date are, of course, the Angry Birds. They’re already licensing superstars. The Outfit7 troupe hasn’t seeped into the public consciousness to that degree. But they were meant to be personalities from the beginning (unlike the Birds, who–let’s face it–are weaponry more than characters). I’ll be interested to see whether their appeal transfers to other media, and whether it’s possible to give them a bit more depth so people keep on caring for them throughout a film or storybook.

 


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Yahoo Tries Its Hand at App Discovery

The iOS and Android application marketplaces may both stock hundreds of thousands of programs–a reasonable percentage of which are pretty darn impressive–but it can be surprisingly  tough to find the good stuff. Neither Apple’s App Store nor Google’s Android Market does a fantastic job of steering you towards every program you might find useful and/or entertaining, giving third parties such as Chomp an opportunity to full the void.

Now a very large third party is entering the fray: Yahoo. It’s launched an app search engine for iOS and Android designed for desktop browsers, plus an app called AppSpot, available in iOS and Android versions, that recommends apps and lets you search for them. I’m glad it’s doing it–this is a logical challenge for a search engine to take up–but the results so far are mildly pleasant at best.

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Serendipity, Guaranteed

Serendipity is wonderful, but it doesn’t happen often. For every enriching coincidence – meeting someone who becomes a lifelong friend or lifelong partner, finding that fantastic hidden restaurant – we miss how many? Dozens, maybe hundreds of other lucky opportunities?

Now several tech startups are trying to increase the odds of connection.

How? By combining intimate knowledge of your comings and goings with understanding of your likes and dislikes – then connecting you with likeminded people and perfect places.

What do they ask in return? For most, an opportunity to push hyper-specific ads or discount offers.

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Windows Phone “Mango” Pushes Apps Off the Pedestal

As I read This is My Next’s liveblog of the Microsoft Windows Phone event today, one quote from Microsoft’s mobile president Andy Lees resonated: “The problem is that today smartphones only include basic communications — everything else is an app,” he said.

That remark sets the tone for nearly every feature that Microsoft will bring to the next Windows Phone upgrade, codenamed “Mango.” The gist? Apps aren’t everything.

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Netflix Comes to Android, But Not Really

As promised, Netflix is finally available on Android devices — but not all of them.

Right now, the Netflix app for Android only supports five phones running Android 2.2 or higher: HTC’s Incredible, Nexus One, Evo 4G and G2; and Samsung’s Nexus S. According to Android Police, Samsung’s Tab 10.1 is also covered, but Motorola’s Xoom is not. What’s important to note is that Netflix support is tied to specific devices, not to any particular version of Android.

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Free Android Tethering Blocked by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile

So much for free tethering apps on Android phones, at least in the Android Market. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are now blocking these apps, which offer a free or cheap alternative to the carriers’ official, subscription-based offerings.

As Engadget points out, you can still see tethering apps like PDANet in the Android Market, but if you try to install them on any of the major U.S. carriers besides Sprint, you’ll be told that “This item is not available on your carrier.”

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Word Lens is Like a Great Google Audition

I’m no business guru, but from the moment Word Lens splashed onto the iPhone App Store, developer Quest Visual seemed like an obvious candidate for a Google acquisition.

Quest Visual’s iPhone app translates text in real time when held in front of the phone’s camera. And Word Lens doesn’t just give you a plain translation, it literally swaps old text for new on your screen, as if the thing you’re looking at was never in a foreign language at all.

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