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Android Global: South Korea Second Only To U.S. In App Downloads

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 10:41 PM PST

Screen shot 2011-11-16 at 9.23.24 PM

Research firm research2guidance this morning published a report that offers key findings from an analysis of mobile app trends in the Android Market. The first point is perhaps not so surprising: Although we think of Android as having significant global reach as a mobile operating system, the U.S. remains (by far) the largest market for Android apps. According to the study, with over 3.49 billion total downloads as of September 2011 and with 50 percent of Android app downloads (to date) originating at home, the U.S. is dominating the Android app market.

However, the research firm is quick to point out that, although the U.S. leads, there is some saturation happening here, while other markets abroad have come to represent significant potential growth areas — and hotbeds of activity. In fact, (though this may not be news, it doesn’t seem to be widely covered in the U.S.), South Korea has the second largest market in terms of app downloads — even though it lags behind the U.S. with a small-ish 9 percent market share. In fact, to date, South Korea had the highest number of total app downloads after the U.S., at 603 million.

South Korea has relatively high Android smartphone penetration and a high number of app downloads (per user). According to research2guidance Co-founder Markus Pohl, South Korea’s growing share is supported by the country’s extensive IT infrastructure, which not only is known for its high speed and extensive coverage, but also for being fairly inexpensive, around $0.45 per Mbs compared to $11 in the U.K., for example. (South Korea is also home to major OEMs, like Samsung.)

South Korea is followed by the U.K., Germany, France, and Japan — all of which are currently tallying over 20 million downloads per month. And, what’s more, the study shows that users based in the largest Android markets are not always the most active app downloaders. User download behavior varies widely between markets, but it seems that potential “cash cow” markets are to be found in, perhaps, unexpected places.

Sweden, for example, has a relatively low market share (and low smartphone penetration) compared to the rest of the world, but it has the highest average monthly app downloads per user — at a rate of over 5 apps per user per month. This is compared to the average user in major Android markets, which downloads 2 to 3 applications per month.

Obviously, higher average downloads per user show the market’s rate of absorption and growth potential, as higher numbers can indicate the society’s openness towards new apps and the fact that total app downloads in these countries could increase with less marketing efforts compared to countries with less active users, Pohl said.

On the other hand, Russia and China have very low Android smartphone penetration rates and very low app downloads per user. Granted, while a much lower rate of downloads per user might show that these markets aren’t yet ready for Android apps to really take off, the relatively young target market and their population size could have significant impact on app market development in these countries, and Pohl sees them becoming huge Android adopters in the near future.

As to apps in the Android market seen as a whole, over the past few months, the report finds, the number of apps has grown “faster than ever”. Every week publishers are releasing 11,000 new apps to the market, compared to an average of 7,500 during the summer. At the end of October, for example, the number of total apps was 365,404 — a growth of over 40K total apps since Robin wrote about the market less than a month ago.

Of the total apps, the share of paid apps dropped to 32.4 percent, as “publishers are increasingly aware that Android users are unwilling to pay for downloads”, which is, in turn, catalyzing the adoption of in-app billing and advertising. Furthermore, in
 an average of $3.06
 apps, and prices ranged from $0.99 to $14.87.

For more, check out research2guidance’s full report here.

Verizon Welcomes Users To The Opt-Out, Ad-Targeting Party

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 04:41 PM PST

Verizon Horns Finished 3

Verizon Wireless finally got around to sending a polite email to customers informing them that everything they do on their phones is now used to target them with ads. Policy changes implemented last month allow it to employ browsing history, search terms, location, app and feature usage, and demographic information it buys from other companies to power targeting. At least Verizon didn’t title its privacy demolition notice “Greater Choice” like Google did this week. Users can opt out by phone or Verizon’s website. Still, I see an alarming trend developing. Major digital service providers are implementing opt out data grabs, and their peers figure, “Why can’t we be evil too? Worst case is the government stops us all.”

In just the last two days The Rootkit Of All Evil was discovered, Facebook revealed it tracks 90 days of users web browsing with cookies, and Google hit an anti-privacy homerun  with its complicated “nomap” location cataloguing opt out. Mobile device makers and web services giant are taking an “EFAP (easier to ask for forgiveness than permission) approach. If regulation eventually comes down, they’re going to make sure they get as much data as they can first. This provides little incentive for other companies not to follow suit.

Verizon definitely scores points for titling the email “Important notice about how Verizon Wireless uses information”. Also, for laying out a clear grid of what data it’s using and how, shown below. The changes were added to its privacy policy a month ago, so even users who follow the email’s opt out instructions may have already given up data.

Most people only get automated billing notice emails from their wireless provider, so this will probably be ignored or overlooked by the majority of Verizon’s users. The privacy fun doesn’t stop with ad targeting, either. Verizon can use all the data to generate business and marketing reports of anonymized data for itself as well as other companies.

AT&T graciously asked mobile users to opt in to ad targeting a few months ago. I bet they’re feeling like a goodie two-shoes now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it and other companies join the trend and launch more aggressive strategies to slurp up monetizable data.

In Time For The Holidays, Etsy On Your iPhone

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 02:50 PM PST

Etsy hat

Hipster shoppers, rejoice.  You can do all your Etsy holiday shopping for those one-of-a-kind crafts on your iPhone, or any mobile phone with a proper browser for that matter.  Etsy just launched its iPhone app, along with a new mobile website.

You can browse everything from arty crochet, knitting, and quilts to handmade children’s clothes and jewlery.  Just like on the regular handcrafted marketplace.  Both the iPhone app and the mobile site feature large photos of the items to make visual browsing easy.  You can search by tags, or regular keyword, or browse by category.

The app has some well-thought out social sharing features also. Any item can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, email, or SMS.  The app encourages you to sign in with your Etsy ID so that you can favorite items and add them to your cart.  And of course, you can shop straight from your phone.

The search is actually really deep for a mobile app.  If you search for “hats” for instance, you just keep getting an infinite scroll of new hats (mostly knit hats, for some reason). Then you can filter the search by location (buy local!), price, relevance, or recency.

Etsy sellers can also use the app to manage their shops, see what items are selling, get alerts, and even make minor updates.

Yup, mobile commerce is going to be big this holiday season.

Shortmail Gets An iPhone App

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 12:55 PM PST

Shortmail logo

Hate long e-mails? Love Shortmail, the Twitter-esque e-mail service that caps all messages at 500 characters? Good news: they’ve just launched an iPhone App.

For those just now hearing about the service for the first time, Shortmail is an effort to make e-mail “concise, readable and conversational.” You sign into Shortmail with your Twitter account, and get an address with a matching handle. If I signed in with my @Grg twitter name, for example, I would be (Note: I’ve never signed in with that handle, so that address won’t work. Don’t e-mail me there.) You can then correspond with any other e-mail address in the world, with one twist: anything coming in or going out must be less than 500 characters.

Shortmail’s iOS app looks much more like an instant messaging client than an e-mail reader — which makes sense, given their focus on conversations. It’s light, it’s easy, and it might be enough to make me hate e-mail less.

With that said, I’m still not entirely convinced that Shortmail is the answer to all my woes. In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this post, I’ve received 8 new messages. None of them are “spam” in the classic sense (that is, they’re not trying to sell me pills and/or accessories for my man bits), but of the 8 there’s just 1 that I actually need and will read past the subject line. My problem with e-mail isn’t length — it’s quantity. (Plus, I’ve got to mention: their page explaining why the 500 character limit is so great comes in at just under 7,000 characters)

You can find the free Shortmail app in the App Store right here.

SparkFun’s Electric Sheep: For The Android-Obsessed Tinkerer In You

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 12:20 PM PST


If you think about it, your smartphone has some really nifty bits lodged inside of it. There’s a GPS chip in there, not to mention an accelerometer, and occasionally even (gasp!) a compass. The folks at SparkFun want to take all of those components and expose them to the outside world, and they intend to do it with a little something called the Electric Sheep.

The Electric Sheep is a little Arduino-based breakout board that allows users to create their own homebrew accessories and hook them up to an Android device.

Want to open your blinds in the morning without having to get out of bed? Rig up some motors and pulleys and make it happen. Want to get ambitious and create a Rube Goldberg-esque monstrosity that will turn on your coffee machine when you tilt your phone? Have at it.

Of course, rigging together your own Android-powered window blind controller will take more than just IO know-how. Users should also be familiar with writing Android applications, so it’s appeal may be a bit limited right out of the gate. That may soon change though — the Electric Sheep’s recent release means that there isn’t much in the way of example projects or code yet, but SparkFun doesn’t think it’ll be long before their community starts to do some crazy things with it.

So why would aspiring accessory craftsmen use the Electric Sheep instead of a bog-standard Arduino? Well, aside from the snazzy red color scheme and cute logo, the Electric Sheep has built-in USB host functionality so users don’t have to shell out for an extra USB Host Shield.

It may not hold much appeal if you’re already knee deep in Arduino bits (though the Electric Sheep is compatible with most of them), but it’s a nifty all-in-one kit that could help take your DIY ambitions over the top. Happy hacking!

Gmail App For iOS Hits The App Store Again

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 11:11 AM PST

Screen Shot 2011-11-16 at 11.09.53 AM

When Google finally launched the official Gmail application for iOS earlier this month, the tech world sang with joy… for all of about thirty seconds. Almost immediately, reports spilled in that the app was broken, buggy, and almost entirely unusable. Google pulled the app down within a few hours.

Today, they’re taking a second swing at it.

While Google promises that they are “just getting started with the Gmail app for iOS and will be iterating rapidly to bring you more features”, today’s re-launch is mostly identical to the original — save for all the bug fixes, of course.

One notable change: images embedded in HTML e-mails are now scaled to fit your screen and can be pinch-zoomed, instead of spilling off the screen by default.

The app is a bit tough to find in the App Store right now via search, but here’s the direct link.

Nokia CEO Elop Wants To Fight Other Windows Phones With Volume

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 10:20 AM PST

Image (1) Elop-300x235.png for post 48084

Given all the attention that Nokia’s Windows Phones seem to enjoy, it’s easy to forget that they won’t just be duking it out with Android devices and iPhones. Nokia will also have to compete with fellow Windows Phones, and CEO Stephen Elop already seems to have a strategy worked out

His plan: to gain a foothold in the market and worry about profit margins later.

The way Elop looks at it, the key to Nokia’s Windows Phones making a splash is going to be by moving a lot of units. In a brief interview with Reuters while at a conference in Barcelona, Elop remarked that is Nokia getting aggressive on price in order to meet that goal.

“You see us pricing the devices so that we can get what we think will be a good volume,” he said.

Once Nokia’s devices pick up traction among customers, Nokia plans to create more distinct models and product lines that could bring in more profit. Elop’s plan is already in action in Europe, where the Lumia 710 and 800‘s off-contract price tags are lower than those of other WP7 devices.

While it’ll certainly make Nokia’s options more palatable for certain customers, it’s highly questionable that the same plan would work here in the States where nearly every device comes with a two-year contract and a subsidized price tag. Unless Nokia is willing to let their Windows Phones go for free right out of the gate, competing with companies like Samsung on price may prove difficult.

Though Elop is understandably bullish on his company’s Windows Phones, AT&T’s Glen Lurie sees a bumpy road ahead for the platform as a whole. Lurie, the head of AT&T’s emerging devices division, says that he expects to see “a lot of challenges” for Windows Phone.

"I'm actually a fan of the Windows devices, I'm also very excited about Windows 8 on the tablet devices, but you're still going to have a lot of people competing for that space."

He isn’t kidding: the mobile platform wars show no sign of slowing down, and Windows Phone has a lot of ground to make up when compared to industry leaders like Android and iOS. Microsoft has already managed to make some headway though, as a recent report from IDC and Appcelerator show that Windows Phone is slowly picking up traction with developers. In fact, Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft is a key driver for developer interest in certain markets, which will only help Microsoft’s worldwide Windows Phone push.

While Nokia hones their strategy in Europe, we in the United States can only stand by and what to see wait they decide to bring our way. Hopefully Elop has something special up his sleeve for us because Nokia knows firsthand how tough it can be to crack the U.S. market.

GetSatisfaction Joins HTML5 Bandwagon With New Mobile Web App

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 09:58 AM PST


Just yesterday, we were applauding online retailer for finally figuring out that having a mobile app is not enough – you still need a mobile website, too. Today, another big name announces the launch of its own HTML5 efforts: GetSatisfaction. The popular customer support company says its new Web app will bring the full functionality of its online community platform to its now 3.1 million users.

At launch, the Web app (currently in beta) supports iPhone users, but support for Android and BlackBerry OS 6+ is on its way soon.

According to GetSatisfaction’s internal metrics, over 25% of the company’s users access its online communities via search engine referrals. Over the past year, the traffic from mobile devices has nearly doubled, up from 8% to 15% of total visits. GetSatisfaction has essentially been squandering that traffic until now by not providing a customized mobile experience for these visitors. (The company offers an independently built iPhone app, but it’s for business use, not for consumers).

The new Web app will provide an immediate advantage to mobile app makers, who can now link to their GetSatisfaction page from within their app in order to provide customer support. Often, app makers simply provide an email address for reporting concerns, provide a basic FAQ within their app, or worse, ignore the need for in-app support altogether. Now, without a lot of additional effort on their part, app makers can funnel users to GetSatisfaction, allowing them to report bugs, suggest ideas, ask questions and interact with the online community.

In total, GetSatisfaction says it has 63,000 communities live on its site, all of which will now be mobile-enabled. That’s up from the 58,000 reported in August, when the company raised its $10 million Series B. GetSatisfaction pages are provided for free, but companies pay a fee to claim and moderate the page, with plans starting at $19.00/month. Today, the company has over 2,500 paying customers, including Proctor and Gamble, Adobe, Spotify, Flipboard and Mint.

HTC Hit With Cease And Desist Letter Over The “Vivid” Name

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 08:27 AM PST


With the HTC Vivid garnering mixed reviews, it looks like the device's name may be the most interesting thing about it. At least one company thinks so, anyway: the porn peddlers at Vivid Entertainment have filed a cease and desist notice against the company for use of the “Vivid” name.

According to TMZ, Vivid’s legal counsel filed the notice because they are afraid consumers will think the LTE-capable smartphone is somehow connected to Vivid’s adult video empire. Yes, really. Just let that sink in for a moment.

While this all looks like a big joke, Vivid Entertainment seems awfully serious about protecting their brand. If HTC doesn’t agree to a name change by next Monday, Vivid claims that they’re ready to take their case to court. Let’s be honest here: I don’t doubt that Vivid’s got some legal muscle, but HTC’s team of lawyers has surely fought tougher battles over the years.

Whether or not Vivid has any legal standing here is sure to be debated by scores of armchair jurists, but their claims of potential customer confusion seem a tad spurious to me. While I’d love nothing more than to take a gander at to HTC’s official reply, the company has said they “won’t have any further comment” until the issue gets straightened out.

UPDATE: Vivid Entertainment has just issued a release that explains their side of the story. Here are the relevant bits:

[Vivid's attorney Mark Hoffman] said HTC America’s use of the Vivid trademarks “creates the false impression that your company and your company’s products are affiliated, connected, or associated with and or sanctioned by Vivid Entertainment.” He added, “We believe it is possible that your company is not unaware of this conflict.”

Mr. Hoffman gave HTC America until Monday, November 21 to respond to his letter and cease using the Vivid trademark or “our client will have no alternative but to pursue all legal remedies.”

“For the past 27 years Vivid has worked hard to protect and build its brand. We believe this is a clear infringement and will use all legal remedies available to protect our trademark,” said Steven Hirsch, founder/co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment.

Fanhattan TV Discovery App Migrates To The iPhone

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 08:00 AM PST


While there are plenty of Apple fanbois out there with the full arsenal of i-branded goodies, not all of us have the cash to afford an iMac, MacBook Air, iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. While Fanhattan is probably the best movie/TV discovery app on the market right now, it has thus far excluded the iPhone crowd. A huge, media-hungry bunch that aren’t used to be left out of anything (at least where apps are concerned).

Well, no more. After some hard work to rescale the app for a smaller device, Fanhattan is now available for iPhone on the Apple App Store.

For those of you who haven’t heard, Fanhattan is a video content discovery app that pulls in data from Netflix, Hulu Plus, and iTunes. Users can filter searched content to be super specific, or simply browse through the app and check out Rotten Tomatoes reviews, cast and crew bios, soundtrack info, fan gear, and reccos from their Facebook/Twitter friends.

Though the iPhone version doesn’t have access to quite as many streaming services as the iPad version does, Fanhattan promises that more services will be added soon.

ZooZ Lands $1.5 Million For In-App Mobile Payments Solution

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 07:59 AM PST


Exclusive - ZooZ, not to be confused with ZOOZ Mobile, has raised $1.5 million in funding in a seed round led by lool ventures (yes, that’s really what they’re called).

Other investors that participated in the financing round include Rhodium, Kima Ventures, Orefa Investment, Jaina Capital, A.M. Holdings and private investors Eilon Tirosh and Yuval Tal.

ZooZ offers a comprehensive end-to-end payment solution that lets mobile app developers easily integrate digital payment and checkout options into their Android or iOS apps through an SDK.

The startup claims its payment solution requires only a couple lines of code and minimal development time, but still provides everything that’s necessary for app developers to start accepting in-app payments from end users. Here’s how it works.

It’s worth noting that ZooZ is adamant about the fact that it has built its solution with security and fraud detection in mind, and stores all sensitive data in a PCI-compliant cloud environment.

The ZooZ platform is being rolled out in an initial, six-month beta phase, during which the service will be completely free. After this period, ZooZ will be charging a nominal fee for processing payments.

ZooZ was founded in 2010 by CEO Oren Levy and CTO Ronen Morecki and is based in Israel.

Qualcomm Pads Snapdragon Lineup With New High-End Chipsets

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 06:12 AM PST


What little word there was about Qualcomm’s S4 class of chipsets has been keeping spec nerds on the edge of their collective seats, and now the company is ready to announce a handful of new additions to their vaunted S4 lineup.

Here’s a quick recap for those of you who don’t have a degree in Qualcommology: the company recently revamped the Snapdragon brand to include performance tiers, and the S4 tier is where they keep all the really good stuff. The APQ8064, for example, was one of the first S4 chipsets Qualcomm announced and its processor’s four cores run at a blistering 2.5Ghz. So yeah, expect just a little craziness when Qualcomm slaps an S4 sticker on something.

Qualcomm has pulled the curtains back on three of their S4 processors in the past (the MSM8960, MSM8930 and the aforementioned APQ8064), but eight new chipsets take the stage today. They are, in no particular order, the MSM8660A, the MSM8260A, the MSM8630, the MSM8230, the MSM8627, the MSM8227, the APQ8060A and the APQ8030.


Sadly, since Qualcomm doesn’t go into specifics, there isn’t much meat for us to dig into. We do know however that each of the chipsets is powered by a Krait CPU, and that they support nearly every wireless standard under the sun, so these bad boys will likely see some play across the globe. Hopefully some more concrete details emerge soon, but for now we’ll have to take solace in the fact that the new S4 chipsets will start trickling into high-end tablets and smartphones sometime next year.

The New AIM Preview, With Group And Video Chat On Both Desktop And Mobile

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 06:11 AM PST

puppy - iphone

AOL (which owns TechCrunch) is releasing a preview of the new AIM today. It was completely redesigned by Jason Shellen’s team, which joined AOL with the acquisition of Thing Labs (makers of Twitter client Brizzly). The new AIM strips away many of the Lifestream features which were previously built into AIM, and focuses mostly on communications.

The AIM preview is launching simultaneously on the desktop, web, iPhone and Android. (The mobile versions will be available later today). The buddy list is gone, replaced by recent chats (kind of like Skype). In addition to AIM buddies, you can chat with your Facebook and GTalk contacts all within AIM. It also shows your Twitter @mentions and new followers. But it does not support Yahoo Instant Messenger or Microsoft Messenger (interesting). Be careful when you add your Google contacts, in the preview version they all get spammed with a message asking if they want to chat messages to be on or off the record.

Photos and videos can be embedded inline, and chat history get synced between the mobile and desktop versions (again, much like Skype). It also includes a feed reader with news headlines

I keep mentioning Skype because many people use Skype primarily as an IM client. I certainly do. AIM doesn’t do phone calls. But it does do one-on-one video chat. And it also does group chat (which Skype doesn’t do very well). But here, AIM is responding to GroupMe, Beluga, and the like.

The one feature that seems like a legacy from the old Lifestream strategy is a news feed, which is helpful enough, except it only includes feeds from AOL-owned properties (mostly Huffington Post channels, TechCrunch is in there too). There is no obviously way to add more feeds, which is pretty lame. Either make it a full feed reader, or get rid of it is my two cents.

Check out the preview and share your feedback with other readers in comments.

Shazam Continues Reversing Freemium Model, Brings LyricPlay To Free App

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 06:04 AM PST


The folks over at Shazam have been busy little bees recently. After announcing Shazam for TV, offering up the ability to purchase products seen on television programming courtesy of Delivery Agent, and finally ditching the tagging limits for iOS devices, a brand new feature is making its way into the app. It’s called LyricPlay, and it lets users read the lyrics of the song they’ve Shazamed as its playing with interactive visual themes.

Shazam has been reversing its freemium business model a bit lately (which is made obvious by the return of unlimited tagging). This latest feature was once an exclusive feature of the paid version of Shazam, Shazam Encore. The goal, according to Shazam, is to keep users in the app longer. Shazam, at least when I use it, is really more of an occasional app that I whip out the moment I har an excellent song, but I don’t tinker around in the app after its tagged. In fact, the only reason I spend more time in the app is to pop over into iTunes and buy the song.

Users interested in getting their LyricPlay on should check in the App Store or Android Market for updates to the app. After downloading the update the new feature should show up within the app immediately.

Adding an interactive way to listen to (and inevitably read) entire songs while tagging could really boost the length of most app sessions. Plus, who among us can honestly say they don’t need just a little help understanding lyrics?

Except Ellen, of course:

Nokia Manager Talks About Upcoming Windows 8 Tab, Slated For June 2012 Release

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 05:49 AM PST


Nokia is firmly a member of Team Microsoft. The Finnish telecommunication previously dumped most of its internal software OS development and in favor Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 system. But Nokia is seemingly jumping on another Microsoft platform bandwagon: Windows 8.

Paul Amsellem, Nokia's French general manager, recently sat down with French Newspaper Les Echos. The interview of course covered the firm’s recently-announced Windows Phone 7 handsets but Amsellem also brought up the Windows 8 Tablet. “In June 2012, we will have a tablet that runs on Windows 8," he said. That echos Nokia CEO Stephen Elop recent statements that the company sees a new opportunity in an upcoming tablet.

The user experience of Windows 8 is essentially a supercharged version of the Nokia Lumia experience that you saw on stage today. And you see the parallels and opportunity for commonality from a user perspective. You say wow, this is more than just smartphones, there's a broader opportunity here. And clearly we see that broader opportunity as well, without specifically commenting on what that may mean in the future.

This isn’t Nokia’s first go at a tablet. The company long talked about a tablet that would compete with the iPad. However, with Nokia’s mobile platforms floundering in the marketplace and Meego not feeling love from developers, the company seemingly decided not to out a tablet. Windows 8 is a perfect fit.

Nokia clearly sees its future with Microsoft. The company missed the wild and crazy early days of Android. Microsoft then made the decision to develop WinPhones easy by offering a billion dollars up front. As Elop pointed out, there’s a clear similarity between Nokia’s new phones and the Windows 8 user interface. If Nokia works it right, the company could quickly become the favorite within Microsoft’s entourage. And that’s a great place to be.