Tag Archives: Mobile News

Sony Ericsson PlayStation Phone to Get Xperia Branding, New Pictures Leaked

Last time, Sony Ericsson angered many of its fans by announcing the Xperia X10 several months before it was ready. This time around, SE has been keeping its mouth shut. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any idea regarding what Sony Ericsson has been cooking. The steady stream of leaks have already outed the successor to the Xperia X10 and the X10 Mini, besides revealing a new Android powered gaming phone.

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-Play-2

A couple of weeks back, we reported that the PlayStation phone from SE, codenamed Zeus, might also get the Xperia branding. Now, that has been confirmed through a fresh set of pictures leaked by a Chinese forum.

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-Play-1

At this point it’s not clear if Sony Ericsson will unveil the PlayStation phone at CES 2011 or MWC 2011. However, the newfound polish of the hardware buttons suggests that the phone is ready for manufacturing.

Interview: Level Up’s CEO on the Viability of Paid Apps in the Android Market and More

Yesterday, Peter Vesterbacka from Rovio Mobile created a flutter with his remark that "paid content just doesn’t work on Android". Rovio Mobile is the highly acclaimed developer of Angry Birds, which has literally taken the world by storm. However, his comments didn’t sit well with many fans, who have been pointing out that Rovio didn’t even try the premium app route before opting for the ad-supported freeware option.

LevelUp Studio Logo

We reached out to Ludovic Vialle, CEO of LevelUp Studio. LevelUp Studio is one of the very few high quality publishers who have opted to limit themselves to Android. Beautiful Widgets has been consistently topping the Android Market charts (for paid apps), while Plume (previously Touiteur) has won the adoration of many a Twitter user. Having tried both the premium and the freemium business model, Vialle is uniquely qualified to comment on the state of the Android ecosystem.

Ludovic VialleMe: Why Android? Most publishers believe that the real money is in iOS. LevelUp Studio is amongst the very few publishers who have opted for an Android only strategy. What prompted this?

LV: Android was really new when I started to work on it, paid applications were just added to the Market, and I just had a feeling that being the first on a new platform could be a big opportunity. Before that I was an early iPhone user, but I started to dislike Apple’s methods of having everything closed in their eco-system. I was attracted by the different approach from Google with Android.

Me: How big an issue is fragmentation for Android developers? Moving forward, do you see fragmentation getting worse or getting better?

LV: Fragmentation has never been a problem, you just need to think and develop a little more in some rare cases, but otherwise Google did an incredible job to make it possible for everything to work without really paying attention to fragmentation.

Me: In an interview, Peter Vesterbacka from Rovio Mobile (developer of Angry Birds) claimed that Nobody has been successful selling content on Android. I suppose that as a company with multiple paid apps LevelUp Studio will have something to say about that. Vesterbacka also remarked that Paid content just doesn’t work on Android. What is your perspective on paid apps for Android?

LV: I can say that paid applications can be successful, I cannot really compare with iOS because we do not have equivalents applications on the platform. Beautiful Widgets has been the #1 paid application on the market for almost a year (with the exception of a new application occasionally borrowing the first place for a few days), and it certainly helps. Also people do like customizing their devices, and Android is the king of customization. You can make a lot of money from Android, quality and continued support/development is the key.
LevelUp Studio started as a hobby, and now we are an independent software producer, with three employees (two developers + my wife who assists me mid-time in paperwork) and myself. We will probably expand in the future, very soon, at this rate.

Me: Recently you made the full version of Plume (previously Touiteur), supported by advertisements, available for free in the market. What prompted this change? Based on initial results how has this affected the bottom-line?

LV: Previously we were using a Freemiumconcept, a free applications and a Premium version with more features, but to be honest, the revenues were not the same as Beautiful Widgets, very far from it, and developing Plume (Touiteur) was costing more money that it would provide.
So we decided to test advertisements and see how it works, we paid attention not to disturb the users, that was our priority, so we went with 140Proof, which is an incredible partner. In the end, the advertisements are not invasive, and they are providing really interesting content (not ringtones or antivirus advertisements that we are used to seeing). On the other hand, free users with advertisements now benefit from all of the premium features, and premium users don’t get advertisements.
I do not have the numbers yet, but I am confident that it will cover our costs at the very least.

Me: The general perception is that ad-supported free apps work better than paid apps in the Android market. What does your experience suggest?

LV: Unfortunately we do not have enough experience on this yet, but if properly implemented, it can certainly be an interesting model, but not necessarily for everyone. I have feedback from some Android developers who are saying that advertisements are not working at all, and they are going to leave that model. I tend to think that a paid only model with a good application/game could be interesting too (with no lite version).

Me: Both as a developer and a user of Android, what is your take on the recently introduced 15 minute refund window?

LV: As a user and developer: it is too short, sometimes we do not even have the time to understand how an application works within the stipulated time. People are not able to really test and quickly take the decision to refund before the end of the refund window. I think that one or two hours could work, but I understand that it might not be a good solution for game developers. Maybe this could be a developer setting?

Me: What is the one big limitation of the Android Market that you believe is hurting developers?

LV: The lack of a desktop version. I know this is coming, and hope that it will help people to choose applications. Also the limited payment methods (credit card only) .

Me: What is the one thing about Android that you love the most?

LV: Customizations, you can make your phone your own phone. I can even make my phone remain silent when I sleep, automatically! So many possibilities!

Me: Finally, what are you guys currently working on? What can we expect from LevelUp Studio in 2011?

LV: We are working on improving Beautiful Widgets (with some big updates coming soon) and Plume because there is always room for improvement. We will probably be starting a new project in 2011, but we will see how we perform at that moment and if we can afford to do it!

ADWLauncher EX Brings Insanely Cool Transition Effects to Android

If you are an Android user, you are probably familiar with ADWLauncher, which is one of the most popular home screen replacement apps for Android. Why would anyone want to replace their default launcher? The simple answer is – convenience. Third party launchers like ADW and Launcher Pro support more homescreens, more icons per screens, dockbars, more widgets, gestures and other convenient features.

As mentioned earlier, ADWLauncher is already one of the more popular home-screen replacements available on Android. ADWLauncher EX takes things to the next level by adding oodles of cool features, while achieving huge performance improvements.

Launcher EX features five app drawer styles – the default vertical one, a new smoother vertical drawer, the cube style implemented by Launcher Pro, the horizontal drawer seen in Galaxy phones, and a new flingable continuous horizontal drawer. The best thing is that irrespective of the style you are using, scrolling through apps (even when you have hundreds of them) is crazy smooth.

ADWLauncher-EX

ADWLauncher EX also ships with numerous dazzling transition effects to wow your friends with. There are eight of them at the moment, and I love almost all of them. Once again, the transitions are fast and smooth and never get in your way. Check out the video below to see some of them in action.

Techie Buzz Verdict

ADWLauncher EX - TechieBuzz Reccomends Launcher EX is not a freeware. It’s priced at €2.50, which works out to approximately $3.50. In my opinion, the performance benefits alone make ADWLauncher EX worth buying. However, if you need more reasons, you should be pleased with the editable desktop icons for applications, shortcuts and folders, super cool transition effects, and flexible app drawers. As far as I am concerned, ADW Launcher EX is the best launcher/home screen replacement app for Android.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
[ Download ADWLauncher EX ]

Opera Launches Widgets Runtime for Android

Opera As we enter a new decade, web-apps are shaping up to challenge traditional system dependent applications. Google is possibly at the forefront of this change with its highly anticipated Chrome OS. However, several other players are keen to leverage the benefits offered by web apps. Back in October, Opera joined the Wholesale Applications Community, while Mozilla announced its new Open Web App platform. Now, Opera has released a preview build of its Widget runtime for Android, which is based on the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) 1.0 specification.

WAC is an alliance of the world’s leading mobile operators and OEMs, such as Vodafone, Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, Huawei and others. Its fundamental aim is to promote the use of web technologies to enable developers to write an application which can execute on a web runtime upon multiple mobile device platforms. The benefit of using WAC specification is that the same widget will be able to run on multiple phones, irrespective of the underlying operating system. This makes things easier for both developers and publishers.

The Widgets runtime released by Opera allows you to download and run existing widgets from widgets.opera.com. Opera’s widgets are platform independent, and already work on all popular desktop platforms including Windows, UNIX and Mac. With WAC Runtime, they will now run even on your mobile phones.

WAC 1.0 devices and storefronts are scheduled to launch at the Mobile World Congress 2011.

[ Download Opera Widgets Runtime for Android ]

PhokatCall: Ad-Based, Free Mobile Calling Service – Will It Click?

How often it has happened that you could not make that one very important call because you did not have enough balance in your prepaid cellular phone’s account. Well, PhokatCall plans to change all that. Ahmedabad based Aryan Global Networks has come up with an innovative free calling service from mobile phones, which can come handy during emergencies.

Okay, so now you will ask, how can the service be totally free? So here is the catch – In order to be able to make free calls you will have to listen to a 30-40 seconds audio advertisements on your mobile phone after which you will get connected to your desired number. The call duration is limited and will be available to the users for a stipulated amount of time on a daily basis.

Whereas on one hand PhokatCall can prove to be a boon for advertisers, given the fact that the Indian Govt. is planning to make massive changes to the way tele-marketing in the favour of consumers, while on the other hand, consumers may not be very interested in the service given the ever decreasing tariffs in India, today. Not only this, cellular service providers are nowadays providing online prepaid recharge facilities which will help consumers to recharge their pre-paid account right from the comfort of their homes.

PhokatCall is really an innovative concept and has value on investment for advertisers but only time will tell if this free mobile calling service actually picks up among users.

Microsoft’s Connector For Mac And Windows Phone 7 Gets An Update

Do you have a shiny new Windows Phone 7 device? How about an Apple computer? If you answered yes to those questions, you’re probably going to want to download the latest update to the Windows Phone 7 Mac Connector from Microsoft which is currently still in beta. It’s deemed criticaland includes numerous fixes and features, among them would be the ability to synchronize any music that you’ve purchased on your device and the ability to browse files stored on your device. Be sure to check for any available updates (if you’re not automatically prompted) or download and install it on your own from Microsoft’s official page.

Why the New Android Market is Bad News for Both Users and Developers

The Android Market might have a lot of shortcomings, especially when compared to Apple’s App Store. However, it has one big advantage – it allows users to return purchased apps for a full refund within 24 hours of the first purchase. Unfortunately, the recently rolled out overhaul of the Market will neuter this advantage by slashing the refund window to just 15 minutes.

Android-Market

Google claims that this will benefit developers, and that might indeed be true for some devs. However, it might also end up hurting several others.

For short games, comics, and (in general) apps with less content, the twenty four hours refund window led to lost sales as many users downloaded paid apps, utilized it to the fullest and then returned it. These are the apps that will benefit the most from the reduced refund window.

On the other hand, apps that regularly add new content through updates, and apps that can’t be exhausted within 24 hours (e.g. system tools, keyboard apps, media players etc.) stand to lose the most from the Market update. One of the benefits of Google’s previous refund policy was that it encouraged users to purchase and try new premium apps. I have purchased multiple apps from the Market. Some of them I liked and I kept them. While others didn’t live up to my expectations, and I simply refunded them. The twenty four hour refund window enabled me to judge an app before spending money on it. This allowed me to be more adventurous, which in turn led me to purchase a greater number of apps.

The new fifteen minutes refund period is simply too less to judge the quality of an app. Heck, on my EDGE connection, the download alone can take more than fifteen minutes to complete. The lack of availability of demo version for many apps, coupled with the truncated refund window is bad news for both users and developers. I can understand the reasons for reducing the refund period; however, anything less than 90 minutes is simply too little time for users to even get an abstract idea about an app.

Spectral Souls: Massive New RPG for Android Coming Next Month

Android already has quite a few decent role playing games like Zenonia, Dungeon Hunter and Crusade of Destiny. However, all of them fail to capture the depth we have come to associate with RPG games. The good news is that if HyperDevbox lives up to its promise, then we will soon have a truly stunning RPG for Android.

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You might already be familiar with HyperDevbox thanks to their other awesome Android game – ExZeus Arcade. They are currently working on Spectral Souls – Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires for Android, which will feature a stunning 52 soundtracks and 84 characters. All of this will amount to more than 1 GB of data and provide in excess of 100 hours of gameplay.

Spectral-Souls-Android-RPG-2

Spectral Souls is an official port of the PSP game by Idea Factory, and is a tactical role playing game. Don’t expect this to be a walk in the park, as HyperDevbox has stated that the game will be deep and challenging. Check out the video embedded below to get an idea about the gameplay. Spectral Souls will be released before the end of the year. It will require a meaty processor (although there will be a low-resolution mode), and run on Android 1.6 and above.

Spectral-Souls-Android-RPG-3

Symbian Foundation Winds Down Even As Nokia Remains Bullish

SymbianThese are tough and challenging times for Symbian, and the future doesn’t look too bright either. The Symbian foundation held its final council meeting on November 24, and the board is expected to be dissolved on December 16.

The open source Symbian project as we know it is dead. All official websites, including source code repositories, will be shutting down on December 17. For a majority of Symbian employees, Dec 17 will be their last day in office. A small transition team will be retained till Q1 2011.

Once the Symbian Foundation closes down, Nokia will once again be in control of the Symbian project. Petra Soderling, Director of Symbian Ecosystem at Nokia, has reemphasized that Nokia is still bullish about the future of Symbian. Nokia is sticking to its projection of more than 50 million Symbian^3 based devices being sold. Nokia is also looking for an alternate open and direct model for making the platform available to the community in future. They want the alternate model to be “no less open, free and flexible” than today’s. However, it will not feature a council type of governance.

The death of the Symbian project doesn’t necessarily mean the doom of Symbian. Many Symbian enthusiasts are still optimistic about the platform. MyNokiaBlog is hopeful that without the stifling bureaucracy of the Symbian Foundation, Nokia will be able to iterate Symbian faster, in order to become competitive once again. Let’s hope that they are correct. Because, unless Nokia manages to significantly improve Symbian, it is definitely doomed as a smartphone operating system.

Review: Pulse News Reader is a Gorgeous RSS Feed Reader for Android

Android apps are often criticized for lacking the visual appeal and design aesthetics of iOS apps. There are apps like Slide Screen and Touiteur and which are truly beautiful. But, such apps are the exception rather than the rule. Fortunately, more and more iPhone apps are beginning to make an appearance on the Android market. As competition increases, other Android app developers will hopefully be compelled to improve.

One such app is Pulse News Reader. Earlier Pulse used to be a paid app on iOS as well as on Android. However, a couple of weeks back, the Pulse Reader team decided to make it available for free on all platforms. I have been using Pulse as my primary feed reader for the past week (previously it used to by FeedR and My6Sense). Here’s my in-depth review.

The attention to detail impressed me the moment I started using it. On first launch, you are presented with a curated list of feeds under the “Featured” tab. If you wish, you can dig deeper and “Browse” through a larger selection of popular feeds organized into categories. I simply imported my feeds from Google Reader. One odd thing about the Pulse app is that it only supports up to 20 feeds.

Pulse-News-Reader

Pulse Reader presents your feeds as horizontally scrollable columns of thumbnails. Tap on the thumbnail and it will open the content. On websites that offer partial feeds, Pulse can strip away all additional formatting and junk, and scrape the full content. If you enjoy reading stuff in context of the original website, you can do that too with Pulse’s web mode. As you might expect, sharing options (Facebook, Twitter and more) are baked right into the application. Pulse Reader executes everything with a flourish. There are neat animations when you switch between screens (see the video embedded below). However, these animations never get in your way.

Pulse-News-Reader-Feed-View

Techie Buzz Verdict

Pulse-News-Reader Pulse is all about making consumption of information clutter-free and fun. The interface is simply stunning. Unfortunately, when it comes to features, there are a few significant lapses. The cap on the number of feeds alone might be enough to deter many users. Additionally, Pulse lacks a search function. It also doesn’t have the ability to hide read messages or organize feeds (although with just 20 feeds, organization isn’t really necessary). These drawbacks will perhaps make Pulse unsuitable for heavy duty users. However, if they aren’t a deal breaker for you, go ahead and try it. It’s definitely a pleasure to use.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

[ Download Pulse News Reader for Android ]