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BlackBerry PlayBook To Come Pre-Loaded With PressReader: Instant Access To 2,000+ Newspapers

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 03:01 AM PST


RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer will soon come pre-loaded with PressReader, a digital news app from a company called NewspaperDirect.

The application offers one-click access to more than 2,000 ‘replica’, full-content newspapers from close to 100 countries.

According to NewspaperDirect, news publications often hit PressReader before they hit the newsstands in their local markets.

Some of the daily newspapers that will be available: Chicago Tribune, Daily Mail, International Herald, Irish Times, La Presse, La Tribune, Le Monde, The Australian, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail and The Washington Post.

Most individual newspapers and magazines available through PressReader can be purchased for $0.99 per issue, or downloaded in conjunction with a paid subscription on

PressReader is also available for iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets, and Windows 7 slates.

Apple Releases iOS 5.0.1 To Fix iOS 5 Battery Issues

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 11:04 AM PST

iPhone 4S

Remember those frustrating iOS 5 battery issues? It looks like they’re about to be a thing of the past, as Apple has just released an update to its iOS mobile operating system, iOS 5.0.1, designed to fix the problem. The software update includes a few of other tweaks, too, including bug fixes for document syncing via iCloud, the addition of multi-tasking gestures for iPad 1 and improved voice recognition for Australian users.

After customer complaints filled Apple’s Support Forums, the company admitted to finding “a few bugs that are affecting battery life” and promised an update shortly. It was difficult to pinpoint the cause of the battery drains, with a number of suspected culprits being called out, including a calendar bug, a time zone bug and issues with iOS 5′s location services.

No matter what the exact cause (or causes) was, it looks like we’ll find out soon if Apple has fixed the problem for good. If you’re not seeing the update pop up in iTunes, click the “Update” button to force iTunes to check for it from the iPhone’s summary page.

The iTunes download is 790 MB in size and is taking around 10 minutes to download at present. There’s also a 44.6 MB OTA delta update available that will show up for users connected to Wi-Fi sometime today, if it hasn’t already.

Nokia’s Crazy Bendy Kinetic Concept Blew Your Mind? Watch This!

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 10:50 AM PST

Nokia HumanForm

Nokia is totally ready for the future. They’ve already debuted a totally insane flexible kinetic interface concept, and now they’ve even drawn up an implementation for it: HumanForm. No, the phone doesn’t look like a you-themed action figure, but rather has a tear drop shape (probably my biggest gripe about the concept).

I’m not going to go into too much detail about what’s included in the video, as you can easily see for yourself. I will, however, say that this takes the cake compared to Nokia’s earlier flexi-screen concept. One thing that really jumped out at me is the idea of electro-tactile feedback. Seems pretty out there, but it would be pretty freaking sweet to take a picture of velvet or wood and feel that texture.

I’m not so sure how I feel about the shape, though. In the hand, I’m sure this concept is actually much more comfortable than our usual candy-bar phones. But (and this is a big but), how do you account for corners of anything? At this point we’re watching video and viewing pictures on our phone pretty regularly. Web pages happen to be rectangular, as is just about anything you pull up on a mobile phone.

I’m sure there are ways to circumvent this issue, but it seems like too far of a leap to make from rectangle to teardrop. It reminds me of when Dwight wanted everyone in The Office to sell the Sabre Pyramid, a triangular tablet. It seemed crazy, but in the fictional version of Scranton, PA people still seemed to be interested in “unleashing the power of the pyramid.” Maybe the same will be true for Nokia.

Then again, if this concept even comes to fruition, it won’t be for quite a while. Enjoy the video while you wait.

[via Engadget]

Verizon’s New LTE Promotion Meant To Benefit iPhone Users Too

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 10:47 AM PST


Verizon’s new 4G data plan promotion sounds awfully generous, but CFO Fran Shammo said at an investors’ conference yesterday that it’s more than just a way to push 4G hardware during the holidays. The deal is also meant to reduce congestion on the company’s 3G EV-DO network, so iPhone users will be able to enjoy a more consistent network experience.

“We want the iPhone user to experience what every other Verizon Wireless person experiences, which is the best, most reliable network in the United States,” Shammo said. “So, in order for them to keep that realization of that experience, we need to make sure that I don’t have to put in any more capacity to 3G.”

Under the terms of the promotion, customers can pay the regular price for an LTE-friendly data plan and Verizon will give them double the data allotment at no extra charge. The standard smartphone data plan, for example, costs $30 and nets the user 2GB. For a limited time, that same user gets 4GB to use with their 4G device for the same price.

The promotion is more-or-less brand new so there’s still no detail on how many customers have taken the bait, but Verizon is probably hoping for a mass exodus away from 3G. By providing an incentive for customers to ditch their old hardware, Verizon hopes to reduce the amount of money they need to spend in order to maintain their older, slower network. In fact, they’ve already begun to trim their 3G maintenance budget — the company reduced the amount of their wireless capital expenditures by $1 billion between Q2 and Q3 2011.

Verizon has had their LTE network lit up for just under a year, but this upcoming holiday season signals a drastic shift in momentum for their 4G portfolio. Motorola, Samsung, and HTC have revealed a string of LTE-capable smartphones whose launches will coincide with the data promo period, and according to Frammo Verizon now has more 4G devices for sale than 3G devices.

Ngmoco And TinyCo Partner To Bring TinyCo Games To Mobage

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 09:08 AM PST


Social games outfit ngmoco, now a DeNA-owned company, is partnering with indie mobile game developer TinyCo in order to bring TinyCo’s games to Android and the Mobage social gaming platform. The first two titles to be ported over are Tiny Chef and Tiny Nightclub.

Mobage, as you may remember, arrived in an English version on Android in summer 2011 following Toyoko-based DeNA’s December’s acquisition of ngmoco for $400 million. The social gaming platform now serves over 30 million users with more than 1,000 game titles for smartphones, feature phones and PC’s. DeNA is now working to expand Mobage globally by building up a presence in the U.S., European and Asian markets.

Currently, Mobage offers developers shared currency, a virtual goods bank system, a payment API, plus advertising management and analytics tools.

San Francisco-based TinyCo is an up-and-comer in mobile gaming, having raised $18 million in Series A funding in February in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. At the time, Marc Andreessen detailed TinyCo’s “impressive execution,” saying it took “the best elements of Facebook gaming—continuous product updates and content additions, virtual currency and goods, and constant, relentless review of user data to improve the overall experience—and optimizes them for mobile devices.”

TinyCo has several App Store top 10 titles now, including Tiny Zoo Friends, Tiny Pets, Tap Resort and VIP Poker.

Any.DO Launches A Social To Do List App With $1 Million In Funding

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 09:00 AM PST

Any.DO Logo + Name

It’s not often that an iPhone user gets jealous of an Android application, but that’s definitely the case here with Any.DO, the gorgeous new social To Do list app for Android launching today. The app comes from the team behind Taskos, one of the most popular To Do list applications on the Android Market.

More notably, Any.DO is backed by $1 million in angel funding from Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Blumberg Capital, Genesis Partners, Palantir (Joe Lonsdale), Felicis Ventures (Aydin Senkut) and Brian Koo and includes Erick Tseng, head of mobile products at Facebook, and Elad Gil, Director of Corporate Strategy at Twitter, as advisors.

Any.DO was founded in 2010 by Omer Perchik, Yoni Lindenfeld and Itay Kahana and now has offices in both Palo Alto, California and Tel Aviv, Israel.

The interesting thing about this team’s first app, Taskos, was that it was meant to serve as market research only. The founders were surprised how popular it became - something that may serve as a reminder about the need for quality apps on the Android platform. Taskos now has 1.3 million users and handles 150,000+ tasks per day. Those users will now be invited to try Any.DO instead, Perchik says.

When you launch Any.DO, the first thing you’ll notice is its attractive design. After having been on Android myself for over a year, I can say with confidence that this is still somewhat a rarity for the platform. (Go ahead, flame away). But Any.DO looks great, offering a default white theme and a more “Android-y” black theme.

Like any to do list, Any.DO supports the basics, like adding tasks, marking them complete, setting priorities, etc. But it does a number of other things which make it stand out from the crowd. For example, you can create tasks using voice input, it syncs with Google tasks, and you can use gestures to manage your tasks like drag-and-drop for assigning task priorities or organizing tasks into folders or swiping to mark tasks complete. You can also shake your phone to clear off the completed tasks from the screen.

However, the most important feature is the app’s backend. This task list app is actually intelligent, offering to auto-complete entries as you type. The suggestions of common words and phrases are gathered through the analysis of aggregate, anonymized data from the app’s users. For example, start typing “ca…” and the app may suggest “call mom,” “call dad,” “car wash,” etc. It’s like Google’s auto-complete for tasks.

Any.DO also lets you collaborate on tasks with family, friends and colleagues, potentially displacing group texting, email threads and other more socially focused apps like Facebook or GroupMe. It can offer contact suggestions when building collaborative tasks, and for those who are not Any.DO members, the app supports communication via email and SMS. A future version will send non-users’ replies back into the app, too, similar to how GroupMe works today.

As far as the bigger pictures goes, Any.DO is working towards building out a smarter, more intelligent system that can help you actually get things done, not just list the things you need to do. Details on how exactly that will work are sparse, but a comparison to Siri’s capabilities was hinted at in our conversation with co-founder Perchik.

And no, fellow iPhone users, Any.DO isn’t going to be an Android-only app for long. The iPhone version is just a few months out. In the meantime, Android users, congrats, you can grab the new app from here.

Will An LTE-Friendly Lumia 800 Hit U.S. Shores Next Year?

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 08:18 AM PST


The Lumia 800 may not have a gargantuan screen or a front-facing camera, but according to The Verge, the U.S.-bound version of Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone may play nice with some of our LTE networks.

It’s a welcome surprise for domestic Nokia fans — when the Lumia series was first announced last month, Nokia slyly omitted any release details for the United States. Nokia U.S. boss Chris Weber also mentioned not long after the big event that the company is preparing to bring a “full portfolio” of Windows Phones to the States starting in early 2012, but wouldn’t shed any light on the Lumia situation.

According to The Verge’s sources, that delay is due to Mango’s currently inability to play nice with LTE out of the box. As such, it’s unclear whether Mango will be tweaked to handle the change or if the LTE Lumias will run on the forthcoming Tango software build.

The Verge does seem pretty confident in saying that AT&T will get an LTE-friendly variant of the Lumia 800 (which is great news considering their new LTE network seems rather snappy) Meanwhile, details regarding other LTE carriers like Verizon are still murky, though Nokia going full-bore with LTE support could only help as the networks continue to grow.

I’d advise everyone not to get their hopes up too much — after all, a lot could change in the next few months — but the prospect of a 4G Lumia has me more than a little giddy.

Appitalism: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place For Apps

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 07:49 AM PST

Screen Shot 2011-11-10 at 9.22.05 AM

We’re lucky here in the old U.S. of A. App stores are pretty much monolithic and aside from a few odd stragglers, there’s really only one place to find apps for each of the platforms. However, what if your country does’t support a certain app store or what if you want to send your friends to a certain app, knowing that they each have different phones? That’s where Appitalism comes in.

Created by Simon Buckingham, the founder of, Appitalism is a one-stop shop for apps. The system allows you to buy apps for every major platform in one place. For example, you can buy Angry Birds for almost any phone, including Symbian, WebOS, and Android. The system seamlessly submits your order to the official app store in question and, when applicable, supplies a file for side-loading.

The service also offers discounts for new users, including 50 cents just for signing up and a few dollars for connecting your Facebook and Twitter streams, effectively allowing you to grab a few free apps just for logging in.

While this may seem fairly useless in a sophisticated market, it is definitely helpful for developers and marketers. For example, the service offers a link shortener that takes you to a single page for your app, allowing users to pick up the ported app of their choice while reducing the number of links they have to scroll through to find the right app. Appitalism is also the default app store for many countries and their Wings program allows developers to select where their apps will appear, including in the stores of carriers around the world. In countries like China where there are 70 or so different app stores, this definitely helps reduce clutter.

The service is now available in over 50 countries and it works with almost any phone. There is also a Facebook “app” that recreates much of the regular site’s functionality but allows you to share favorite apps with your friends.

The company is a subsidiary of Mobile Streams, a digital content retailer.

Hotspot Shield VPN Has Your Back For Mobile Browsing

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 07:39 AM PST


Hotspot Shield has long offered VPN services to Windows and Mac users alike, but the company has set their sights on a more secure mobile space with the release of their eponymous iOS app.

As Ron Popeil would say, Hotspot Shield for iOS is a “set-it-and-forget-it” solution. Once the app is launched, the secure connection it creates persists unless you specifically turn it off. Until then, Hotspot Shield encrypts all the data moving between your iDevice of choice and the internet, including data coming from apps running in the background.

Hotspot Shield also packs a data optimization feature that should help stretch your monthly data allotment. The app spots three different levels of data compression, with the most spartan settings stripping out cruft like extraneous photos and ads.

The new app works on any iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad that runs iOS 4.0 or later but the extra peace of mind will cost you. The app itself is free, but the service will run users $.99/month or $9.99/year for those who like thinking long term. The paranoid penny-pinchers among you will be glad to know that one subscription carries over to multiple iOS devices, so you’ll never be caught without a secure connection again.

Tagg For iPhone Uses Facial Recognition To Tag And Share Photos On Facebook & Twitter

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 07:25 AM PST


Tagg is a newly launched iPhone application that uses offline facial recognition to detect the faces of your friends in your photos, so you can tag them and upload them to Facebook or post them to Twitter. The app takes advantage of new frameworks in iOS5, like CoreImage, for example, which among other things also enables dead simple face detection. Because of this, Tagg only works on devices running iOS 5.0 or later.

The app itself is really easy to use. You add people from your address book on your phone, Facebook or Twitter to start, then you either snap a photo or choose one from the camera roll to begin tagging. Tagg automatically recognizes the faces in the photo and highlights them with a red square. You just tap on the square and enter the tag.

When picking the person’s name you want to use as the tag, you don’t have to scroll through a long list – you just start typing to automatically filter through the contacts you imported into the app. Alternately, you can use the iPhone’s voice input to speak the name of the tag instead. When tagging is complete, you then share the photo on Facebook or post it to Twitter. It’s all pretty straightforward, and thanks to Tagg’s simple design, you don’t need a tutorial to figure it out.

For the most part, Tagg worked well for me during tests, but I have to note that it did completely crash more than once, dropping me back to the homescreen. Clearly, there are still some bugs to be worked out here. It’s also not quite as advanced as its competitor AutoTagger, but then again, that app, too, has been hit or miss in terms of accuracy and stability. The great thing about AutoTagger, however, is that when it works, it automatically recognizes the faces for you, so you don’t have to tag them yourself. But unfortunately, AutoTagger doesn’t always see the faces in my photos, so it’s hard to recommend it. (I’m also not a fan of the big banner ad at the top).

Instead of monetizing via ads, Tagg is 99 cents, and is available here on iTunes if you want to give it a try. Tagg isn’t perfect, but after a little more bug fixing, it could easily become a regularly used utility for posting tagged photos to social networks with minimal effort.

MinoMonsters Nabs $1 Million From Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, And More For Mobile Monster Battles

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 07:07 AM PST


At the beginning of the year, Josh Buckley and Tyler Diaz were busy building their new Pokemon-inspired social game, MinoMonsters, among Y Combinator’s spring class of startups. At 18 and 17 years of age, respectively, Buckley and Diaz were the youngest pair of founders the accelerator had ever accepted into the fold, YC Founder and Partner Paul Graham said at the time. And today, Buckley can add another accolade to the list, as he is now the youngest CEO that Andreessen Horowitz has invested in to date.

Yep. The MinoMonsters team today announced that it has raised a total of $1 million in seed funding over the course of 2011 from an impressive group of investors, which includes the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, Y Combinator, Yuri Milner, General Catalyst, Ignition Partners, Raymond Tonsing, and Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Backed by this infusion of new capital, MinoMonsters has opened offices in downtown San Francisco, has expanded its team to eleven, and will finish off the development of its eponymous, flagship social title, MinoMonsters, which is set to make its iOS debut on the App Store on December 6th. (Android and Windows versions are on their way.)

When we first profiled MinoMonsters in March, Buckley (now 19) told us that the startup had just hired one of the youngest engineers from “one of the biggest companies in the industry”.

Well, today, MinoMonsters is officially revealing that it has added 25-year-old TJ Murphy as a co-founder and chief of tech. Murphy is a former product manager at Zynga and is the co-founder of the Social Gaming Network (SGN), where he helped create Warbook, one of the early social games to use Facebook as its core platform. (SGN was later acquired by Myspace.) The founders said that Murphy will lead MinoMonsters development as well as the company’s technology strategy — and original founder Tyler Diaz has opted to be cool, and finish high school.

Back in March, MinoMonsters soft launched with a web client, and following Zynga’s lead, took to Facebook. But the meteoric growth of mobile games and mobile technology has been impossible to ignore, so the founders decided to pivot, removed the game from Facebook, and got busy transforming MinoMonsters into an exclusively-mobile title.

The core of the game remains, however, as the $1 iOS app will introduce players to a series of crazy creatures, which they must capture and train to use in a series of one-on-one battles in an effort to protect the peace of the “legendary Kingdom of Zancardi”. As the story goes, a thousand years in the past, some tremendous cataclysm shook the kindgom and created the so-called MinoMonsters and imbued them with special powers, leaving them to fend for themselves on a series of islands. But, as is so often the case, evil is descending on the land, and gamers must train these monsters to harness their powers and defeat, well, my guess is: The encroaching forces of evil.

Basically, to succeed in the series of battles that makes up the gameplay of MinoMonsters, gamers have to learn how to train and control these monsters, which each have their own distinct personality. The goal is to gain control over the monsters’ special powers (be it fire, water, earth, etc.), and as players become more adept at managing their beasts, the further they advance in the game.

The game offers both single player and multiplayer mode, but the latter is obviously where the team is focused, as they want MinoMonsters to be one of the first iOS titles that nearly forces gamers to play with their friends.

Not only that, but the founders told me that they have their eyes set on building not just a mobile games development company, or a social games enterprise, they want to build MinoMonsters into a mega brand in the line of Angry Birds. So, for now, the focus is not on adding further titles to a suite of games, (though that’s still in the cards) it’s on pushing out an engaging, socially-enabled game that could lead to stuffed animals, animated cartoons, etc. down the road.

It really is straight out of the Rovio/Angry Birds playbook. And, with these millenials having watched Pokemon focus its brand on the development of console games, they think they have a leg up on Nintendo’s uber franchise by focusing their attention on mobile, an area where Pokemon games really haven’t taken off.

Of course, in the end, funding from big-name investors and having an intimate familiarity with Zynga’s strategy is only half the battle. The key is to offer engaging gameplay, an original narrative, and avoid repetitive characters, levels, and controls. Based on an early look, the animation seems to pop, and it’s a blast learning to control the special powers of your pet monsters. The question is whether this will have broad appeal to young and older audiences alike and if multiplayer mobile gameplay is ready to carry monster battles to widespread adoption and past the tipping point.

That remains to be seen, but so far, so good. Definitely worth checking out when MinoMonsters claw onto the App Store. Chime in to let us know what you think.

The Courageous Tale Of The Nokia Lumia 800 (Video)

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 06:37 AM PST


Gather round, dear friends, for a tale of courage and heroism is about to unfold. Rising from a year’s worth of ashes, the Windows-powered Nokia Lumia 800 stands to rewrite Nokia’s potentially devastating fate, which is why Nokia dedicated eight whole minutes of video to its design process.

As I said, this isn’t a bite-sized clip so feel free to settle in and learn a little something about how Microsoft and Nokia came together. The video is actually quite interesting once you get past the numerous references to courage and bravery. (It’s a phone; not a bomb that needs to be diffused.) Still, Nokia has been in quite the crunch lately and has put nearly all their eggs in the Microsoft basket, so I guess the Lumia 800 is a bit of a life-or-death situation over in Finland after all.

In any case, I found the bits about the phone’s polycarbonate unibody interesting, as well as the collaboration between the Redmond folks and the Nokia designers. Windows Phone 7.5 Mango is one OS I’m truly excited about, and I’d say the only thing missing from this video is a heartfelt proposition to developers. So I’ll ask instead:

Dear developers, please build some cool applications for Windows Phone 7 if you can. Thanks, Jordan.

Recipe Search & Sharing Service Foodily Arrives On iPhone

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 05:55 AM PST


Recipe search engine Foodily is arriving on mobile today, with an all-new iPhone application that will allow users to search recipes while on the go, see what recipes their friends have liked and share their own recommendations via photos snapped with the iPhone’s camera.

In addition to the social features, the app provides mobile access to Foodily’s recipe search engine, so you can find the ingredients you need for a dish while you’re out and about.

There’s a little bit of a Foodspotting feel to the new Foodily iPhone app, as it also lets you snap and share photos of delicious creations and share them with friends. Recipes and photos can be shared directly to Foodily’s website as well as to your wider social network via the app’s Facebook integration, which takes full advantage of the new “Open Graph” features introduced at F8. But while Foodspotting is about finding and sharing great dishes at local restaurants, Foodily’s photo-taking feature is about sharing dishes you’ve created yourself.

It’s not just about bragging, though. The photos you take via Foodily are attached to the recipe online, so people can see how it actually turned out. There’s even a so-called “Yummify” feature that enhances mobile photos so they appear more like high-quality pics when shared on the network. (Specifically, the app increases the contrast optimizing for white point, sharpens the image and increases the color saturation, if you must know).

To discover new recipes, there’s the Foodily recipe search engine which supports email, in case you need to remind yourself, a friend or family member about the ingredients you’ll need to buy later on.

Although there are plenty of competitors in the recipe search space, Foodily has some momentum, having already raised $5 million from Index Ventures. The service was founded by former Yahoo’ers (Yahooligans?) Andrea Cutright and Hillary Mickell.