Link to TechCrunch » Mobile

Sony Ericsson Sold 22 Million Android Devices To Date, Going Smartphone-Only In 2012

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 03:21 AM PDT


A day after Google announced that 190 million Android devices have been manufactured to date, Sony Ericsson this morning revealed that 22 million of those that were sold were its Android-powered Xperia smartphones.

In fact, 80 percent of the company’s sales now comes from higher-end mobile devices, which is why Sony Ericsson will be shifting its entire product portfolio to smartphones during 2012, the company said.

Sony Ericsson estimates that its share of the global Android-based smartphone market during Q3 was approximately 12 percent in volume.

As the company’s President and CEO Bert Nordberg put it recently: they probably should have taken the iPhone more seriously when it was introduced.

The company broke even – albeit barely – during Q3, after making a €49 million (~$67.6 million) profit in the third quarter last year, and reported a tiny year-on-year drop in revenue. Revenue for the third quarter of this year was about €1.59 billion (~$2.19 billion), compared to €1.6 billion a year earlier.

The company blamed the drop in net income on higher taxes and lower margins.

Units shipped during the quarter were 9.5 million, a 9 percent decrease year-on-year due to a decline in ‘feature phone’ shipments.

The earnings come a week after the WSJ reported that Sony may soon buy Ericsson out of the partnership. The company declined to comment on said report during the Q3 earnings call.

Company: Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications is a global provider of mobile multimedia devices, including feature-rich phones, accessories and PC cards. The products combine powerful technology with innovative applications for mobile imaging, music, communications and entertainment. The net result is that Sony Ericsson is an enticing brand that creates compelling business opportunities for mobile operators and desirable, fun products for end users. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications was established in 2001 by telecommunications leader Ericsson and consumer electronics powerhouse Sony Corporation. The company...

Learn more

Skype Officially Becomes A Microsoft Division As $8.5 Billion Deal Closes

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 02:57 AM PDT


Microsoft this morning announced that it has closed its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, a deal that was originally announced back in May.

They even made an infographic to showcase the importance of the deal completion. /sarcasm

Other than that, not much news to report. As previously announced, Skype becomes a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the new unit.

As I wrote back in May:

The $8.5 billion question: did Microsoft overpay for Skype?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Only time will tell. As always with these things, the many tech industry pundits and analysts will look at this deal from all possible angles and then some, and still only a handful will end up being somewhat accurate when we look back in a couple of years.

From a non-financial point of view, the acquisition makes a ton of sense today, though.

Skype digitally connects dozens of millions of people on a daily basis, enabling them to communicate with each other through voice calls, chat messages and video conferencing.

There's no doubt it's a big brand on the Web (with both consumer and enterprise appeal, worldwide at that), and is poised to keep mattering in the next decade and beyond.

Skype’s current products will continue to be offered, but over time the service will also be integrated “across an array of Microsoft products”.

Update: from another Microsoft blog post:

In the near future, Skype will be connecting on XBOX Live and VideoKinect for XBOX Live. In addition to skyping with XBOX Live gamers, Skype users with be able connect with Microsoft Lync Enterprise Voice for your school or university. Later this year, Skype and Lync clients will be available on the Windows Phone 7.5 ("Mango.")

It should be noted that the acquisition still remains under review in a limited number of countries.

Company: Skype
Launch Date: January 8, 2003
Funding: $68.8M

Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice and video calls and chats over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. Skype was founded by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis who were also the founders of the file sharing application Kazaa. Skype has also become popular for its additional...

Learn more
Company: Microsoft
Launch Date: April 4, 1974

Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Starting in 1980 Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM allowing Microsoft to sell its software package with the computers IBM manufactured. Microsoft is widely used by professionals worldwide and largely dominates the American corporate market. Additionally, the company has ventured into hardware with consumer products such as the Zune and...

Learn more

Your Photos As Stories: Tracks Goes After The ‘Experience Graph’ With New iOS App

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 01:34 AM PDT


In May, a startup named Tracks debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC offering a photo sharing app that enables users to turn their images into stories. As MG wrote in our profile of Tracks at the time, Tracks offers a similar photo cluster experience to Color’s first app (which has since fizzled out) — except “it’s much, much easier to understand”.

From pub crawls to family vacations, Tracks allows users to create photo albums on-the-go with the friends that are with them, who, by the way, have to be invited into the group. These on-the-fly albums are called “tracks”, which appear both in the app and on the Web and allow users to watch the path of their “track” in map view as it unfolds.

Tracks also offers physical photo books (like Postagram and Keepsy) to create an all-in-one photo solution that meshes together both online and real world photo viewing experiences.

The startup was off to a good start, but today the team is building out the Tracks experience in conjunction with the launch of iOS 5, launching an updated version of their iPhone app that, according to Tracks CEO Vic Singh “showcases the power of the experience graph”. As “tracks” themselves are really micro-social networks based on real world experiences, the startup is taking advantage of iOS 5′s new features to give its users a richer mobile experience.

Tracks users will now be able to filter their images automatically in realtime, stream their “tracks” to iOS 5 connected devices via Airplay, get news and updates through a feed that shows activity across users’ tracks and networks, and take advantage of photo origin data that will geo-tag uploaded pictures with the location in which the photo was taken — all shown on Tracks’ interactive map.

What’s more, users can now click a link through SMS or email and be taken directly to the track on the Web or their mobile device, or share entire tracks with non-users over email.

Other features of Tracks’ new iPhone app include a new dashboard which allows users to see a quick view of each track and its members all in one place, slideshow viewing, in-line commenting, and enhanced address book integration.

While Facebook and Instagram both let their users view photos uploaded to their respective photo repositories, the real difference here is that Tracks wants to allow people to tell a story with their photos, rather than just display a random, static album or stream of images. They’ve kept Facebook and Twitter integration out of the picture, too, because the team wants the Tracks experience to remain more private, where sharing happens between the people who were involved in the events the photos capture.

And with the app’s updated look and feel, allowing users to share via text, comment on tracks, write captions, and share over Airplay definitely adds to the context of these photo-stories and gives the app a more robust user experience. Plus, sharing (within its Path-like limited networks) now works far better and will no doubt entice users into further interaction.

For more on Tracks’ updates, check it out on the app store here.

Company: Tracks

Tracks is a social publishing service for the mobile generation. Users collaborate to make ‘tracks’ - real world stories told through photos. Tracks are auto-published as magazine on the web, tablets and print.

Learn more

The Official Word: Sprint’s iPhone 4S Will Be Unlocked, But Not For Long

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 03:36 PM PDT


Alright, there’s been a lot of conflicting information floating around regarding Sprint’s iPhone 4S and its locked/unlocked status, but a Sprint spokesperson has just offered Macworld her official word. The iPhone will indeed be unlocked at first, but a SIM lock will be “pushed to the devices shortly after launch.”


She goes on to say that after the update goes out, Sprint users looking to do a bit of globetrotting can use an included microSIM to roam internationally, albeit with Sprint’s added roaming costs.

The upshot to this situation is that Sprint will unlock your iPhone 4S if you’re a customer in good standing. Presumably this means that your bills are paid promptly and in full for a certain period of time, but the spokesperson offered no further detail.

The big question here is why Sprint didn’t just lock the phone down from the beginning and perform the procedure for certain customers a la Verizon. It’s a system that’s worked just fine for all of Sprint’s other CDMA/GSM phones for years, so it certainly wouldn’t have ruffled any feathers. PhoneScoop thinks it’s simply a technical error, and I think that’s the only convincing explanation at this point.

The unlocking issue will go unnoticed by a vast majority of iPhone users who are used to signing multiyear contracts and leaving it at that. It’s the avid travellers who’d like to save a little on their monthly bills that lose here, unless someone figures out a way to block the update.

Can Microsoft Salvage Windows Phone?

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 03:22 PM PDT


When Microsoft launched Windows Phone last year, I was of the opinion that it was a platform that would never build steam. The entrenched players – iOS, RIM, and Android – already controlled the market, and the hiatus between the last Windows Mobile phone and the first Windows Phone was too long for even the most dedicated or curious customers to wait.

It seems that this was uncharacteristically prescient as both Gartner and Horace Dediu both estimate that Microsoft sold 1.4 to 1.7 million Windows Phones this last quarter. As Gruber quips: “In other words, for that entire quarter, they sold about as many total Windows Phones as Apple sold iPhone 4S preorders last weekend.”

The WinPho Mango update recently reached our shores and thus far everyone has been quite happy. That’s the odd thing: no one I know, no one I’ve spoken to, is particularly disappointed by Windows Phone nor are they particularly interested in picking one up. Like Palm, the consensus is that the platform is solid, charming, and aesthetically pleasing but that nice phones finish last. Even Steve Ballmer admitted that year one sales have been far below expectations, not a particularly rousing endorsement of the platform.

Alternatively we can follow the money. Microsoft pledged $1 billion to Nokia in order to promote Windows Phone and part of this cash will go towards sales incentives. Throwing money at a problem is Microsoft’s traditional MO and I don’t doubt this will be successful. Every phone will be a smartphone in the next few years and the only thing standing in the way of Microsoft’s ascendency is price when compared to similarly outfitted Android and iOS models.

Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do. Although I can’t refute their massive lead in the PC space, Google and Apple have a commanding lead in mobile and it will be hard for Microsoft to buy its way to the top. It seems that the old way of doing business – subsidies, bundling, and a healthy dose of scare tactics and FUD – will not help Microsoft in this case. It used to be that you’d never get fired for buying Microsoft. While I can’t speak for the mass of IT departments, it seems like that is increasingly not the case.

So whither Windows Phone? I can’t see the platform going away, especially with the improvements we can expect from Windows 8 and the Metro UI and how the PC and the mobile interfaces will eventually merge. My concern, simply, is that it still is too late to come to dominance, which I suppose is fine.

Looking at the numbers and general sluggishness on Microsoft’s part, a pessimist might call this platform dead. I don’t agree, but I think it definitely needs a shot of adrenaline to the heart. Nokia has been slow to bring its devices to market, but they’re set to debut at Nokia World in two weeks. If the fruits of that collaboration doesn’t provide the boost WP7 needs to succeed, it may be that nothing ever will.

[Image: Huguette Roe/Shutterstock]

Company: Microsoft
Launch Date: April 4, 1974

Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Starting in 1980 Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM allowing Microsoft to sell its software package with the computers IBM manufactured. Microsoft is widely used by professionals worldwide and largely dominates the American corporate market. Additionally, the company has ventured into hardware with consumer products such as the Zune and...

Learn more

How To Hide iOS 5′s Annoying Newsstand Icon

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 02:11 PM PDT


So, you’ve upgraded to iOS 5. Look at all the new shiny things! iMessage! Notification Center! Newsstand!

Wait, Newsstand? A special folder just for digital magazines and newspapers? Meh! Lets just go ahead and delete th… oh, you can’t. It’s okay, we’ll just put it into another folder and… nope, you can’t do that either.

Well, you can — you’re just not supposed to. The Internet Hivemind has found a way.

The trick (as first noted by The Coding Massacre) is simple (no jailbreak required!), but requires some lightning quick fingers. In what is quite obviously some sort of bug, it appears that there’s about a half second window after the creation of a folder wherein it’s not set to automatically reject Newsstand.

Here’s How To Do It:

  • Drag one non-Newsstand app onto another non-Newsstand app. This will create a folder.
  • While the folder is being created and the little animation is being played out, immediately drag the Newsstand app onto this newly created folder. (It helps to have the apps you’re creating a folder from already close to wherever the Newsstand app is sitting. The trick is to get it in there before the new folder automatically expands on screen)
  • Bam! You’ve got a new folder, complete with the Newsstand app inside. So much room for activities!

As it’s a bug, the trick has a catch or two: Newsstand not only becomes completely non-functional when tucked into another folder, but it’ll actually make the homescreen freak out and quickly reset if you try to open it. Still, it’s better than having an icon you never use on your homescreen until the end of time.

Also, you probably shouldn’t expect this trick to work indefinitely. Given the whacky homescreen-crashing side effects, Apple will undoubtedly fix it before too long — but hopefully, they’ll supplant it with something a bit less hacky.

Company: Apple
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 14, 1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod (offered with...

Learn more

Will The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Create Jobs? (Update)

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 01:48 PM PDT


There have been plenty of questions over whether or not the proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T is in the public interest. We’ve heard from competitors, senators, attorneys generals, and even the DOJ, who formally filed a complaint in federal court saying that “AT&T's elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market.” Today, it’s the FCC who’s asking the questions, and it seems AT&T has been avoiding them.

According to GigaOm, the FCC sent a letter to AT&T today asking for clarification on the number of jobs AT&T promised the merger would yield. The letter mentions that AT&T has yet to fully respond to the question of how consolidation of two companies into one would create more jobs.

“Our review of the information currently in our record suggest that AT&T's responses on this issue remain incomplete. Indeed, AT&T to date has produced almost nothing in response to Question 36,” read the letter from the FCC.

One of the greatest critics of the merger, Sprint, recently commissioned a study that aims to deconstruct AT&T’s argument for job creation through the merger. However, AT&T snapped back at that study quickly, calling it “woefully flawed.” In truth, both have quite a bit to gain by casting this deal in a certain light, so we’ll just take their claims with a hefty helping of salt.

Update: AT&T has also filed a letter with the FCC, which mentions that “AT&T is aware that the Commission has requested additional information about the job-related effects of the transaction. AT&T intends to respond fully to that request. In the meantime, AT&T submits the instant letter in response to the filings by Public Knowledge and Free Press discussed below.”

The following is another excerpt from AT&T’s letter to the FCC:

In the process, the merger will spur billions of dollars in additional investment, create thousands of jobs, and significantly narrow the digital divide while advancing the Administration's rural broadband objectives – all of which will aid the nation's economic recovery and future economic strength without the expenditure of public funds. On top of that, AT&T has made significant job commitments, including our commitment to make a job offer guarantee available to existing T-Mobile USA non-management employees, our commitment to retain the two companies' U.S. call center employees, and our commitment to bring 5,000 call center jobs back to the U.S.


Learn more
Company: T-Mobile

T-Mobile is a mobile telephone operator headquartered in Bonn, Germany. It is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. T-Mobile has 101 million subscribers making it the worlds sixth largest mobile phone service provider globally.

Learn more

Google Translate For Android Gets Upgraded “Conversation Mode”

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 01:28 PM PDT


Itching to strike up a conversation with a certain foreign someone, but the language barrier is too much to overcome? Never fear, you wannabe polyglot: the latest update to the Google Translate Android app adds 12 new languages to conversation mode.

Conversation mode, if you haven’t seen it, is a nifty feature exclusive to the Android version of Google Translate. It takes a user’s voice input, translates it into a different language, plays the translation out loud, and repeats the process in reverse. It sounds a bit cumbersome, but it works reasonably well and provides a (nearly) real-time way to converse with your foreign friends.

Google rolled out a very early version of Conversation Mode back in January, but it only supported translations between English and Spanish. Thanks to today’s update, you can now gab away in French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Dutch Russian, Czech, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Polish.

Oh, and lest I forget, the update also packs a few minor tweaks like the ability to zoom in on bits of translated text — perfect for brushing up on your hiragana.

As useful as conversation mode can be, all of these new languages are firmly in alpha, so don’t expect flawless performance all the time. The updated app is now live in the Android Market, so all the globetrotting chatterboxes in the audience can get cracking.

[via Thisismynext]

Microsoft Inks Another Android Patent Deal, This Time With Quanta

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 10:52 AM PDT


The list of Microsoft’s patent buddies has just gotten a little longer today: the company has announced that they have entered into yet another patent protection deal, this time with Taiwan-based Quanta Computers.

Readers may recall that Microsoft’s past partnerships range from big names like Samsung and HTC, to less prominent firms like General Dynamics Itronix.

Unfortunately, the release is vague enough to ensure that we aren’t privy to any specifics. It does mention though that in exchange for the company’s patent coverage, Quanta will pay out royalties on smartphones and tablets that run on Android or Chrome OS.

That could be absolutely huge. The Quanta name may not ring many bells, but they’re the one of the largest contract PC manufacturers in the world. On top of that, they handle tablet production and manufacturing for more prevalent companies. Remember the Amazon Fire? It’s probably one of theirs.

That’s where things start to get cloudy. If Microsoft’s deal allowed them to collect royalties on any Android or Chrome-powered product sold under the Quanta name, that’s one thing. What would really count as a Redmond win is if the deal gave Microsoft a cut from any Android or Chrome-powered product they make for another company.

The licensing deals Microsoft has inked in the past don’t shine any light on the royalty structure. They signed a similar agreement with Wistron, an Acer spin-off company that also manufactures products for sale under different brand names, but the terms were never disclosed.

In any case, Microsoft is playing hardball with these licensing agreements, and they’ll likely make bank off of them. Google historically hasn’t been a fan of Microsoft’s practices, so we’ll see if the folks over in Mountain View have anything to say about this.

AisleFinder Launches Supermarket API, An Open Source API For Groceries

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 09:30 AM PDT


Ask any developer working in this space, and they’ll tell you that accurate grocery product information is hard to find via an API. To help solve this problem, the team from shopping list creator AisleFinder have launched Supermarket API, an open source API for the grocery industry.

The new API contains product details on over 150,000 grocery items as well as aisle info for over 2,400 supermarkets in the U.S.

Currently, the API provides access to supermarket aisle info from Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Safeway, CostCo and Wal-Mart in the U.S. and promises additional data for stores in Canada and Europe soon.

In terms of product listings, the API offers descriptions, photos, categories and aisle numbers for over 150,000 grocery items. And because it’s open source, the team promises there will always be a free version of Supermarket API to use.

It should be noted that Supermarket API isn’t the first product info service to attempt to solve the difficulties surrounding accessing grocery data info through programmatic means. In August, mobile app makers Pushpins, Inc. launched SimpleUPC, which contains data on over 120,000 food, beverage, personal care and household goods from over 15,000 brands and nearly 5,000 manufacturers. The difference is that SimpleUPC does not contain aisle information, while Supermarket API does. It’s also designed more for use with UPC and barcode scanner apps, than with shopping list or aisle navigation apps.

Supermarket API is still in the early stages of development, but if you’re in need of a service like this, head over to for more info.

Company: AisleFinder

AisleFinder provides an Online and Mobile solution that gives customers the aisle numbers of where to find those items.

Learn more

ThingLink Launches Labs, First Project: Printable NFC-Enabled Images

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 09:28 AM PDT

ThingLink logo

ThingLink, a startup that lets you add rich media tags to online images, is today announcing the launch of an internal incubator called ThingLink Labs which will be a dedicated environment to create and productize innovations in the field of image interaction.

The Labs’ first project is Rich Media Notes, a printed version of ThingLink images, which will also include NFC tags.

The new Notes, built-in collaboration with designer Klaus Haapaniemi, are being shown off today and tomorrow at the Wired 2011 conference in London. Delegates will receive their own Rich Media Notes, which, when read by an NFC-enabled smartphone, will link through to an online profile on

In case you’re unfamiliar with ThingLink, the company lets you add tags to online images that show up as small blue dots when you move your mouse over the image. The dots can link to URLs, include text, or link to a number of services, including  Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, EventBrite, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr, SoundCloud, Spotify, Wikipedia, Etsy and more.

These hotspot-laden images have been popular so far with indie record labels, big-name bands and promoters, including, for example, music artist promoter TopSpin. There are a couple of big deals with labels in the works, too. Some artists use ThingLink images that allow users to play tracks directly from the photo itself, while others link out to the artist’s social networking presence elsewhere on the Web.

By turning these ThingLink images into printouts, there is the possibility of wider distribution with NFC-enabled posters, flyers, handouts, and other material. Record labels may even use them in the future to create interactive physical album covers, to bring back that sense of engagement that used to come from perusing a CD or record’s liner notes.

Rich Media Notes have been created in collaboration with UPM RFID, providers of NFC tags, and TagAge, providers of NFC printing solutions.

Company: Thinglink

Thinglink is an image engagement tool that makes it easy to add clickable tags to any image on the web and share the tagged images on social networks. Any publisher or brand can distribute tagged images to bloggers and other publishers and still receive traffic back to the original image source.

Learn more

iPhone 4S Pre-Orders Sold Out At Sprint, Verizon, And AT&T

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 09:01 AM PDT


Heart set on that brand spankin’ new iPhone 4S? Sorry, but I come bearing bad news. Your window for placing a hassle-free pre-order may have just closed, hard. AT&T has extended its shipping time to 3-4 weeks, while Sprint and Verizon are fresh out of the 16GB model. In other words, it looks like you may be bundling up for a wait in line.

According to Bloomberg, it’ll be a 3-4 week wait before your iPhone 4S ships when you order from the blue carrier, and a 1-2 week wait from Apple. Verizon says its shipping date is slated for October 28.

If you’re headed out to an Apple store, might as well get yourself packed up now, ask off work, and head over early. With over 1 million pre-orders recorded in one day, you can bet tomorrow will be a long day.

New Mobile App Eye-C Lets You “Play” Twitter Hashtags

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 08:51 AM PDT


Eye-C is a new mobile application for iPhone and Android that lets you “play” Twitter hashtags on your phone, TV, PC or set-top box. The service looks for any media associated with a particular hashtag, then creates a playlist of sorts (a “taglist”) which allows you to watch the videos, listen to the music or view the photos associated with a particular hashtag. For example, a search for #occupywallst brings up a playlist of photos and videos of the protests alongside associated news reports.

I have to admit, the pitch for this service left me a little underwhelmed at first. The company clearly struggles to define what this service is and what it does in layman’s terms. Don’t believe me? Read the app’s description in iTunes or the Android Market. Better yet, read the press release, if you want to see overly flowery PR speak gone bad. (People, why is it so hard to say “it does X?” It doesn’t “take the work out of deciding what to play next.” It plays the media associated with a hashtag. KISS.)

As I understand it, though, the new app lets you search for keywords or Twitter hashtags in order to find media people are sharing, like YouTube videos on online photos. Then, you press the “play” button at the bottom to begin watching. The content can also be streamed to other devices, like TVs, via DLNA or AirPlay.

UGH: See update below. 

Because Apple’s iOS5 has built-in Twitter integration, the idea is that people will begin tweeting a lot more about the multimedia content they’re viewing on their phones. This app makes that content easier to find and watch, in theory.

The idea itself is not a bad one – turning Twitter hashtags into a playlist. But the app itself, like the pitch, needs work. In tests, I found things were slow to load and the interface confusing. (Why does the Timeline include some non-hashtagged items, for example? Why does the hashtag show up underneath the “taglist” in some search results? Aren’t they the same thing? See photo to right.) Frankly, the app’s design wasn’t all that appealing, either.

That said, there’s still promise in this idea of making playable Twitter lists that can be streamed to iPads and TVs in addition to being played on mobile. I was just hoping for something a bit better executed than Eye-C.

More info on Eye-C is available here.

The app is the creation of Eyecon, which has been focused on more geeky “connected home” offerings until now. That explains a lot.

Update: Actually, the ability to search for Twitter hashtags and related content comes in a later release. Today, the app only supports hashtags placed in comments on items shared in the app. I have yet to discover the in-app sharing mechanism. And the whole thing just went from bad to worse.  

BlackBerry Service Is Restored As RIM Co-CEOs Field Questions

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 08:42 AM PDT


In a press conference held today RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie confirmed that BlackBerry service has been restored worldwide, and users will be receiving all of their delayed emails and messages shortly.

Other than that the press conference was light on answers, mostly because it seems RIM’s upper brass don’t have any yet. In fairness, they’ve had a lot on their plate during the past few days. Lazaridis was reportedly overseeing the response team himself, and only managed to tear himself away from the goings-on early this morning.

The outage was the largest in RIM’s history, and the company is still trying to figure out why the backup system didn’t kick in when the core switch failed and knocked out service on three continents. Not exactly heartening news for the millions of BlackBerry users who were stuck without data service for over three days.

The pair was also asked if the company’s network woes could have been brought about by a spate of recent layoffs. Balsillie and Lazaridis quickly denied any connection.

Travis Eldridge
Thank you Blackberry outage for making me go ahead and pre-order the iphone….can't make the switch soon enough

The issue of compensating customers was raised a few times thanks to scores of upset BlackBerry fans taking their complaints to Twitter. Thanks to the outage, many once-ardent users are now considering switching to other platforms, something the already-ailing RIM can’t really handle.

Lazaridis and Balsillie admitted that the service issues have affected customers’ trust in the BlackBerry brand, but wouldn’t go into specifics about compensating affected users other than mentioning that it was a “priority.”

The press conference came right on the heels of a video apology filmed by Lazaridis.

HP Turns To Bing For New webOS Maps App On Smartphones

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 08:09 AM PDT


Though webOS products have been somewhat shelved going forward, there are still plenty of people out there using HP and Palm phones running the OS. For them, getting map information and directions has been quite the task with the webOS Google Maps-powered app. But today that should change, as the company has opted for a Bing Maps-powered mapping application for the OS.

This is the same Maps app you’ll find on the now discontinued HP TouchPad. According to MobileBurn, the app loads much faster, and comes with new features from Bing. For instance, users can choose between standard map view, satellite view, or birds-eye view, which are pretty gorgeous as far as maps go. The app now provides driving, walking or public transit directions, along with access to your address history and saved locations.

The new app is available for all webOS smartphones, which includes the original Pre, Veer, and Pixi smartphones. Just search “Maps” in the App Catalog and download the new app.

It’s really wonderful to see that HP hasn’t washed their hands of webOS entirely. Plenty of loyal webOS customers deserve a solid Maps application, especially since their OS of choice is on its way out the door.

Crashlytics, A Crash-Reporting Solution For Mobile Developers, Raises $1 Million

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 07:01 AM PDT


Crashlytics, a crash reporting solution for mobile developers, today announced it has closed $1 million in seed funding in a round led by investment firms Flybridge Capital Partners and Baseline Ventures. The new service, available as an SDK for iOS developers (Android soon), is currently in private beta testing.

Angels investors in the round include David Chang (COO at Where, a PayPal company), Lars Albright (cofounder of Quattro, now Apple iAds), Chris Sheehan (Managing Partner at CommonAngels), Ty Danco (Founder, eSecLending and FX Aligned), Jennifer Lum (former VP at Quattro, now Apple iAds), Roy Rodenstein (founder of and a former Director of Business Planning at AOL), Joe Caruso (Managing Partner at Bantam Group), and others.

Crashlytics aims to address the needs of app makers to better understand what sort of bugs their mobile applications are experiencing. Today, when an iOS app crashes, the user does one of a few things – they delete the app, they head to the App Store and leave a bad review, or they do nothing at all. Although Apple has a built-in mechanism for handling crash reports, the roundtrip takes a couple of weeks before it shows up in the developer’s dashboard. That’s a long enough take to fully infuriate a lot more users, while the developer is oblivious to the problem.

To access crash logs faster, many developers today are using open source or ad-hoc solutions of their own, like those that send crash reports via email, but often quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of data there is to parse. Which crashes are the top issues? Is the app only crashing on jailbroken devices? Maybe it’s just affecting those running older versions of the iOS software? And so on.

With Crashlytics’ service, which includes its own online dashboard, crash logs are distilled down, highlighting the real issues, detailing the device’s state at the time of crash (software version, orientation, model, etc.) and it even shows developers the exact line of code that the app crashed on. That feature alone will probably make the service worthwhile for many.

The lightweight Crashlytics SDK (around 75KB) works alongside other SDKs without any problem. At launch, the pricing model will be freemium, but details are not yet available. An Android version is also in the works, but is not available at this time.

Crashlytics was founded by Jeff Seibert and Wayne Chang, both serial entrepreneurs. Seibert co-founded Increo Solutions, Inc., which was acquired by in 2009. He also worked for Apple in the past. Wayne Chang founded i2hub, a popular file sharing company, in the mid-2000′s. He’s also an active angel investor, a mentor at TechStars, and serves as an advisor to startups.

Chasing Skype: Rebtel Looks To Put An End To Dropped Calls With New iPhone App

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT


You may not be well-familiar with Rebtel, but the company is currently the largest independent mobile VoIP provider now that Skype is under the Microsoft umbrella. Rebtel, which routes international calls made from mobile phones and landlines to local numbers (specifically to minimize the cost of calling abroad), counts more than 13 million connected users and offers its services in more than 200 countries around the globe. (Not to mention an expected run-rate of $75 million by December of this year — and profitability since 2010.)

When Robin interviewed Rebtel CEO Andreas Bernstrom back in June, he expressed respect for companies like Viber “and the speed at which their mobile applications have gone viral”, but he held that dependence on WiFi and 3G would continue to “make for a poor user experience”.

“VoIP is essentially an improved fixed line service”, Bernstrom continued. “Mobile VoIP, however, has not been cracked due to the limitations of the data network”.

Well you can guess Rebtel has had a little something to say about that. The company launched its first versions of its iPhone and Android apps in 2010, followed by Blackberry in 2011, and today is announcing the launch of version 2.0 of its free iPhone app, which allows users to make and receive free international calls using WiFi, 3G, or local minutes. The app also allows texts and calls to be made to any non-Rebtel users (on any phone) for what Bernstrom says are 90 percent cheaper rates than standard international calling on an average carrier.

And perhaps the coolest feature of Rebtel’s app is a new proprietary technology called “KeepTalking”, which allows users to transition (mid-call, mind you) from WiFi/3G to local minutes. The iPhone and desktop apps will add to the Rebtel free call network already including Android and Blackberry apps, as well as facilitating free calls between existing platforms.

With the mobile VoIP market expected to reach $36 billion in revenues by 2016, and with 70 million mobile VoIP users expected to be in operation by the end of the year, Rebtel’s ability to call any phone or PC anywhere over WiFI/3G or local minutes and seamlessly switch between them if coverage deteriorates, seems to lend it a significant value proposition.

What’s more, the app also enables platform-independent free calls between Rebtel users, labeling these contacts as “free” in the app’s contact list to make it easy to see who’s already using the service. Whenever someone downloads Rebtel, the app automatically sends you a push notification and enables SMS to any mobile phone number, with an average cost savings of over 60 percent, according to the Rebtel team.

For more, check out the Rebtel app here.

Company: Rebtel
Launch Date: January 7, 2006
Funding: $20M

Rebtel is a mobile VOIP company offering cheap long distance calling FROM mobile or landline phones TO mobile or landline phones by changing international phone numbers to local numbers (rebtel numbers). There is no need to download anything which is a huge plus especially for mobile phones. And the biggest plus is you don’t need a WIFI or internet connection to make the calls. Competitors include Skype, barablu, ConnectMeAnyWhere, jajah, [GizmoProject] (, [Vopium] (, truphone.

Learn more