Three Weeks After Launch, Google+ Now Available for iPhone

  • Google launched its new Google+ social network June 28th, and an Android app was made immediately available.
  • Three weeks later, Apple finally approved the official Google+ app for iOS (until Tuesday, iPhone users had to access a mobile Web version in Safari).
  • Similar to the Web version, Google+ for iPhone includes Circles (stream of updates from a user’s contacts) and Huddle (for group messaging within a user’s circles).
  • Google+ for iOS works on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (running iOS 3.1 or later). A dedicated iPad version has yet to be announced.

Apple Spin-Off Hosts Private Label App Stores

  • Apple spin-off Apperian is hosting private-label iOS app stores for Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Estee Lauder and others.
  • Smarter Technology reports: “Apple’s over-the-air protocol enables any enterprise to bypass iTunes and create its own private-label application store, with complete IT control of provisioning, with Apple spin-off Apperian Inc. providing the necessary cloud-based hosting services.”
  • Apperian was spun off with Apple’s blessing in 2009. One year later, Apple’s over-the-air protocol became available.
  • Apperian CEO David Patrick says the service will also be adding Android apps in the future.

Electronic Arts to Purchase Award-Winning PopCap Games

  • Videogame maker Electronic Arts announced this week it would acquire PopCap Games, maker of games like “Bejeweled,” “Zuma” and “Plants vs. Zombies.”
  • According to the deal, Electronic Arts is expected to pay $650 million in cash and $100 million in new shares.
  • EA has long been a dominant player in the console gaming market; this acquisition plans to strengthen its presence in mobile and causal gaming.
  • Mobile games, like those played on Android and iOS devices, are the fastest-growing segment of the gaming market.
  • “EA’s global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries and more channels,” explained Electronic Arts chief exec John Riccitiello.

Android OS Could Prove Big Business for Microsoft

  • Android is the global leader in smartphone platforms with over 500,000 daily activations, serving as an obvious advantage for Google.
  • However, Android’s success is also becoming a boon for Microsoft, which has negotiated agreements with several Android licensees to settle patent infringement claims, providing $5-10 for each device shipped.
  • With the potential of 500,000 activations per day, this could amount to $1 billion in value to Microsoft.
  • This amount would exceed the value of their Windows 7 and Bing businesses currently.

iPhone Users Lead the Charge in Mobile Gaming

  • According to a recent Nielsen study, the average iPhone user commits twice the average amount of time to playing mobile games as compared to other mobile gamers, suggesting that iOS may have the most engaged gaming audience.
  • The study also indicates that 93 percent of app customers have paid for games in the last 30 days.
  • The average iPhone owner spent 14.7 hours playing games during the month, while the average Android owner spent 9.3 hours (the overall average for smartphone gamers is 7.8 hours/month).
  • The report explains that consumers are typically more willing to spend money on games than other types of apps.
  • Nielsen breaks down the leading categories of most popular apps for Q2 2011 in the following order: Games, Weather, Social Networking, Maps/Navigation/Search, Music, News, Entertainment, Banking/Finance, Video/Movies, Shopping/Retail, Dining/Restaurant, Sports.

Most Popular Smartphone Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry

  • Google’s Android continues its lead over all other smartphone platforms, according to the latest quarterly report from comScore.
  • However, Apple has overtaken Research In Motion’s BlackBerry for second place among U.S. smartphone software providers.
  • Android grew from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple grew to 26.6 percent and RIM declined to 24.7 percent.
  • Microsoft and Palm both showed declines as well.
  • In terms of handsets, Samsung currently leads with 24.8 percent of the smartphones in circulation while Motorola remains in second place.

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Verizon Wireless will Offer PlayStation Phone this Month

The long-awaited Sony Ericsson Xperia Play — or “PlayStation Phone” as it’s been popularly dubbed — will finally be available starting May 26 for $199.99 from Verizon Wireless (with two-year service agreement). Pre-orders for the PlayStation certified smartphone began yesterday.

The Play features a 4-inch 854 x 480 multi-touch display, 5 megapixel camera on the back (plus front-facing VGA camera for video chats), and runs on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon II processor with 512MB of RAM. The system is based on Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” with some Sony Ericsson customizations. The specs also list support for Google Mobile Services, including Google Maps, Gmail, Google Talk and access to 200,000 apps in the Android Market. The phone will come preloaded with seven games, including: Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior (check out the video demo), Madden NFL 11Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Star Battalion, The Sims 3Crash Bandicoot and Tetris.

The Play device features a sliding screen that reveals touch-sensitive directional pads, a dual analog touch joystick and shoulder buttons for playing games. Verizon says more than 50 games will be available at launch time from the V CAST app store.

Related Los Angeles Times article (including Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior video demo): “Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, a.k.a. the PlayStation Phone, hits Verizon on May 26″ (5/17/11)

Related IntoMobile review (including 11-minute video demo): “Hands-On: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play” (5/20/11)

Related Sony Ericsson press release: “Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY to be the official mobile handset of Major League Gaming” (3/1/11)

Related In-Game article: “Sony’s PlayStation phone is for real” (1/26/11)

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Which Smartphone OS will Come Out on Top?

Nick Nero provides some interesting perspective in this month’s Connected World Magazine regarding which smartphone OS will become the dominant global platform by the end of the year. The short answer according to Nick: Google’s Android.

The article provides an interesting overview regarding the progression of RIM’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, Windows Mobile devices — and the growing worldwide adoption of Android devices. It further points out that Android will continue its dominance throughout 2011 based on several key factors: Open Software Architecture (“arguably Android’s biggest competitive advantage”), Open Marketplace (consumers recognize “the benefit of a free-market approach to smartphone apps and this will continue to push Android to the head of the pack”), and More Partners (Android “is available on devices from practically every carrier in the country”).

Nick offers these final thoughts: “By the end of this year I expect Android to have a very comfortable lead in the smartphone OS market unless Apple begins to open up its model a bit. I wouldn’t bet on that happening given that a very pretty walled garden is essentially Apple’s business model. I don’t feel too sorry for Apple though — it does extremely well in the high-quality experience niche it occupies in the Macintosh space.”

Related CNET article: “Gartner: Android leads, Windows Phone lags in Q1″ (5/19/11)

Related ReadWriteWeb article (including videos): “The Future of the Smartphone: Holograms & Folding Screens” (5/18/11)

Related Gadgetbox article: “PlayStation phone coming to Verizon Wireless” (5/17/11)

Related Mashable article: “Smartphone Sales Up 85% Year-Over-Year” (5/19/11)

Related ReadWriteWeb article: “iOS Ad Impressions Up Nearly 50% this Year, says Millennial Media” (5/19/11)

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Google News: Updated OS, New Google TV Partners, Cloud Music Service

Google has been making headlines the last few days as product and service announcements continue to emerge from the Google I/O 2011 conference in San Francisco (live streaming, photos, announcements and a Twitter feed are available on the Google I/O site).

Much of the news is surrounding OS changes, the availability of cloud-based Music Beta, and a potential revitalization of Google TV.

Gizmodo reports that the Android Marketplace may have the greatest impact on Google TV when it launches later this summer: “At first, it’ll just be apps from Google-approved developers to set standards. The most awesome kind of app we’re going to see are multi-screen apps — apps specifically designed to span your Android phone/tablet to the TV. Google’s going to pushing them totally hard as a huge part of what makes Google TV special. Think things like poker games on the big screen, with individual controls on your own phone/tablet. And other crazy ways to control Google TV from your phone from app developers.”

Some of the recent Google announcements include:

  • The anticipated Google TV update to Android 3.1 will be available this summer.
  • There are new hardware partners for Google TV (for example, Samsung and Vizio are joining Logitech and Sony as hardware vendors).
  • Google has added movie rentals to the Android Market, accessible from Android devices and the Internet (similar to YouTube’s new rental service).
  • Android@Home framework for home automation is a future platform that will enable interaction with home media equipment, dishwashers, cars, lights, security systems and more via any connected device.
  • The next version of Google’s Android operating system, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, will merge the phone and tablet versions of the OS.
  • The beta version of Google’s cloud music service is now available (and like Amazon’s earlier launch of a similar cloud service, Google is forging ahead without approval of the major music labels).

Check out the posts below for more details…

Related Engadget post: “Google announces Android@Home framework for home automation” (5/10/11)

Related Ars Technica post: “Google announces Android Ice Cream Sandwich will merge phone and tablet OSes” (5/10/11)

Related ZDNet post: “Google TV getting update to Android 3.1, access to Android Market this summer. Will it be enough?” (5/11/11)

Related Gizmodo post and video: “Google Music: Upload and Stream All Your Tunes From the Cloud” (5/10/11)

Related All Things Digital article: “Google Launching Its Cloud Service Tomorrow, Without Big Music’s Approval” (5/9/11)

Related GigaOM post and video: “Google Forces Roku to Take Down Its YouTube Channel” (4/21/11)

Related WSJ article about gathering info from mobile phones: “Apple, Google Take Heat” (5/11/11)

Related Engadget post: “Google TV shows off new Honeycomb UI, plans for Market, SDK; opens up remote app source code” (5/11/11)

Related New York Times article: “Google’s Digital Music Service Falls Short of Ambition” (5/10/11)

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Apple Announces iPhone Update to Address Location Data Concern

Most of our readers have probably been following the recent news regarding consumer fears that iPhones and other smartphones are tracking users’ location information. It was recently discovered that phones operating on iOS and Google’s Android platform transmit the devices’ locations back to the respective companies.

Apple has defended the need for location data to provide optimum service and provided clarification by explaining an individual cannot be located using the data. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple defends its process, but nonetheless announced a planned software update that will reduce the size of the database cached on the phone and hopefully alleviate user concern.

According to WSJ: “Apple said it maintains a database of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers around users’ locations, a process that helps the phone calculate its location. The information is used to quickly find global-positioning-system satellites, a process that otherwise could take several minutes, the company said.”

Related CNNMoney article: “LocationGate was a ‘bug,’ says Apple” (4/27/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Q&A: Jobs and Apple Execs on Tracking Down the Facts About iPhones and Location” (4/27/11)

Related Macworld article: “How the iPhone knows where you are” (4/28/11)

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Sony Announces S1 and S2 Honeycomb Tablets

At a Tokyo press event, Sony announced a pair of Android 3.0 tablets — the S1, featuring a 9.4-inch touchscreen display, and the smaller S2, with dual-screen 5.5-inch displays that can can fold like a book. The tablets will connect to Sony’s cloud-computing library of movies and music in addition to Sony PlayStation Android-based games and digital books from Sony’s Reader store.

The S1 media tablet features front- and rear-facing cameras and what Engadget describes as “a curved wrap design that resembles a folded magazine.” The S1 also features a Tegra 2 SoC, touch panel UI, and integrated infrared for use as a remote control for Sony devices. The second tablet, the dual-screen S2 clamshell, features two 1024 x 480 pixel displays, Tegra 2 SoC, and camera. Engadget reports: “Sony takes advantage of the two screens with a custom book-style UI layout for its e-reader app, split keyboard and messaging displays for email, and split display and game controllers for PS One gaming.”

In a video report, IDG reports the S1 and S2 are PlayStation certified, WiFi and 3G/4G compatible, and will support DLNA (enabling users to buy a movie from the online Qriocity store, for example, and stream the content to a TV from the tablet via WiFi).

Sony said the devices will go on sale worldwide by September. The company has yet to announce prices, but according to Engadget: “…sources told us back in February that Sony was considering a $599 MSRP on the S1 while the S2 would likely come in at $699. Still no word on the Windows 7 slider but with the other two leaks official, it’s now only a matter of time.”

Related Huffington Post article: “Sony Shows Off S1, S2 Honeycomb Tablets With PlayStation Integration” (4/26/11)

HBO GO to Provide Streaming Content to iOS and Android Devices

HBO announced that its streaming service HBO GO will soon offer more than 1,400 titles for streaming via iPads, laptops and smartphones. According to the press release: “HBO subscribers can instantly watch every episode of classics like The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Deadwood and current award-winning series like Boardwalk Empire, Entourage and True Blood as well as blockbuster theatricals – where they want, when they want.”

HBO made its announcement with a YouTube video posted last week. The service will be available for iOS and Android devices.

The HBO promotional video suggests May 2nd as a launch date. The press release specifies that HBO GO will be available to HBO subscribers through Comcast XFINITY TV, Verizon FiOS, Cox Advanced TV and AT&T U-Verse customers. Surprisingly, Time Warner Cable is not currently included in the list of providers (HBO is owned by Time Warner).

HBO was in the news earlier in the year after senior vice president of corporate affairs, Jeff Cusson told The Hollywood Reporter that HBO “has no intention of making its content available for streaming on Netflix,” adding that the company “believes in content exclusivity, especially for high-value content.” It looks like the new capabilities of HBO GO support that strategy.

Related CNET story: “HBO Go teased for iPad, iPhone, Android” (4/19/11)

Related Gizmodo post: “HBO Go Will Bring Every Episode of All Their Shows to iOS and Android” (4/19/11)

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The Battle Heats Up over Alpha Android

The battle for control of Google’s phone/tablet OS continues to heat up. In this Bloomberg Businessweek article, developers complain about Google’s increasing demands for control over how its supposedly “open source” Android platform is deployed. One protester says he just cut a deal with Microsoft because he feels Windows Phone 7 offers more opportunity to innovate (he is, at this point, in the minority, as well as a former MS employee, but it pays to keep an eye on the outliers).

Bloomberg reports that Google has recently reached out to carriers and manufacturers that want to implement its mobile operating system with a message: “There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google’s purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google’s most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s Android group.”

Perhaps the most telling bit of information in this story is that Android’s share of the smartphone market grew, “from 9 percent in 2009 to an industry-leading 31 percent worldwide.”

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like Android in terms of gaining share,” explained Bill Gurley, general partner at venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.

Although there are grumblings from various tech companies, and rumors of complaints to the Justice Department, Bloomberg explains that the Android OS is still open — “it’s just getting more heavily policed.”

Portable, Glasses-Free 3D from Nintendo

The Nintendo 3DS has launched in Japan with plans to hit the U.S. and European markets next month. The portable device is the first of its kind to offer glasses-free 3D gaming.

Despite the sellout of pre-order stocks, gaming enthusiasts showed up in droves for the Japanese release.  However, it remains to be seen how the 3DS will compete worldwide with the new casual gaming capabilities of tablet PCs, the Apple iPhone, Android-powered smartphones, and the next generation portable from Sony (expected to launch in 10 months).

According to Reuters, Nintendo will initially run with the formula that has traditionally worked with its DS: “a dedicated portable games device with software available on cartridges that cost $30 or more.”

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