Smartphones & Tablets To Be Primary Screen For Gamers, Says Analyst, Powering 64BN+ Games Downloads By 2017 (3X 2012 Figure)

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Games app downloads to smartphones and tablets are set to grow significantly over the next four years, according to a new report by analyst Juniper Research which projects there will be 64.1 billion such downloads in 2017 — more than three times the 21 billion downloaded in 2012. Key drivers powering this high rate of growth are increasing numbers of free-to-play releases (aka the freemium business model), as well as more sophisticated devices and the continued global uptake of smartphones, says the analyst.

The dominance of freemium as a games app business model is very evident from the analyst’s figures: in 2017, it expects just 7% of games to be paid for at the point of purchase, across smartphones and tablets. In-app purchases and/or advertising are presumably how games developers will be mostly earning a buck.

Juniper says mobile will become the primary screen for gamers, thanks to an increase in the number of “sophisticated games, which allow for truly multi-platform gameplay through the use of cloud technology”. Growth in the quantity of memory on devices is also enabling consumers to download more games. And while Juniper is not expecting smartphones and tablets to kill off dedicated portable gaming devices, it says there’s no doubt consumer mobiles are challenging and eroding the latter market — with players such as Nintendo cutting its sales forecasts by 14% for its 3DS, and 27% for its Wii U.

Social & Casual games will remain the most popular genre downloaded, according to Juniper’s forecast — with over half of all smartphone games downloaded fitting this genre. That’s in keeping with the key characteristics of mobile devices: always-on connectivity, which means being wired in to social services; and portability, meaning these devices are suited for short bursts of casual gaming to kill time.

Looking specifically at tablets, Juniper found their users are especially keen on downloading games, with more than twice the number of games downloads to tablets than smartphones.  ”Tablet games are growing so much because they are such an accessible way for all consumer segments to access games. In particular mid-core gamers, who previously spent a lot of money and time playing games but now have jobs, families or other commitments, are driving this trend,” commented report author Siân Rowlands in a statement.  ”These people are really embracing the tablet form factor, and innovative gameplay devices such as the mobile based OUYA console, really appeal to them.”

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Google Glass Easter Egg Introduces You To The Entire Team In A Panoramic Image Controlled By Your Head’s Movement

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As more developers are receiving their pair of Google Glass, the tinkering with the device is heating up. One developer found a very interesting easter egg within Glass itself, which introduces you to the entire Glass team.

The steps to reproduce it are fairly simple:

Settings -> Device info -> View licenses -> Tap the touchpad 9 times -> Tap Meet Team

Here’s a video demo, including the neat sounds that happen as you keep tapping:

The neat part about the photo is that you can see the entire 360-degree panoramic image by moving your head around. This was hard to show in the MyGlass screencast, since it lags a little bit. We’ve learned that Mike LeBeau, Senior Software Engineer for Google X, is the one who dropped the hidden gem into Glass’ software. He’s appeared on TechCrunch before in a <a target="_blank" href="“>hilarious Google blooper reel.

The team photo has Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, front and center.

I’m sure that more of these easter eggs will pop up over time, but this one is particularly cool since it’s the first time that I’ve seen a panoramic image on the device since I started using it. This functionality could be something that isn’t exposed in the Mirror API as of yet, but once it is, it’ll be a fun one.

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The Hero Eco A2B Metro Electric Bike Is A City Commuter’s Dreamcycle

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As a man who spends most of his time in his attic, it’s nice to hit the open roads, feel a little wind in your hair, and run over crack vials as you motor through downtown Manhattan. That’s exactly what I did yesterday as when I tried to ride a Hero Eco A2B Metro electric bike from Bay Ridge to our offices on Broadway, thereby cementing my love for electric bikes and this electric bike in particular.

The Metro, made by German manufacturer Hero Eco (formerly Ultra Motor), is a brutalist electric bike with a built-in battery and maximum speed of 20 MPH. It has pedals and a 7-gear shifter so it is technically considered a moped and does not require a motorcycle license and a built-in limiter ensures you don’t go roaring down the streets on this 80 pound machine.

The company has had these bikes in the US for a few years now but they are working on a complete rebranding – although the bikes will remain the same. You can see the brand new bikes on this absolutely awful webpage they’ve made. This particular model costs about $ 3,000 online but the build quality is excellent and the equipment – from the fat Kenda tires to the Shimano shifter – is acceptable enough. I noticed some bad reviews on Amazon complaining of damaged motors or tires and, although I didn’t experience these issues over the past week, I cannot speak for extensive use. In my 15 mile ride I saw solid performance and no skidding or fishtailing while accelerating. I did, however, experience a low battery and riding this thing home, even for a mile, on pedal power wasn’t great.

The bike is a bit big but it’s still thin enough to ensure you don’t get entangled with other riders in tight paths. I found it worked great in tight quarters and, because it is in actuality just a bicycle with a hub motor, the other cyclists didn’t give me that much of a stink eye.

I’ve avoided looking at electric bikes of late because most of them look like motors strapped to 10-speeds. This is far different and, if I were to describe it in any way, it is the exact opposite of those foldable city bikes folks are riding. My kids, in fact, have taken to calling it Super Bike.

Hero Eco is finding its footing right now and also has sub-$ 2,000 models available, including their own version of the folding electric called the Kuo which retails for $ 1,599. The company is also now calling itself HeroEco and was formerly called Ultra Motor, so you may see a bit of confusing until their full rebranding.

What are you paying for? Well, you’re paying for a solid, welded frame, solid components, and excellent acceleration. The range isn’t too shabby and for a bit more you can add on a second battery for 20 miles of range. I could also imagine a user removing the governor – though I’m sure Ultra Motors doesn’t condone this. This isn’t a sport bike. I could really see it more as a bike for folks with a 10-15 mile commute who want to hit the open air a little and don’t want (that much) of a carbon footprint.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

NY Disrupt Hackathon Hardware Find: Robots!

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The floor at Disrupt’s NY Hackathon is filled mostly with people working on software projects, but there were also some interesting hardware endeavors underway. One in particular caught my eye: a robot built from open-source components build to help anyone subject their app or device to strenuous, physical testing in a non-simulated environment.

The basic bot is built from an Arduino controller, along with 3D-printable components is a test automation device for iPhone, built by R/GA Technical Director Sune Kaae and inspired by Jason Huggins Selenium-based open source Angry Birds-playing robots. It’s a device that Kaae says is easily programmed via Node.js, meaning it’s accessible for software developers who are more familiar with web languages.

One of the big remaining challenges facing hardware startups, Kaae says, is that developers are intimidated by a perceived barrier to entry in programming physical devices. They don’t have to be, though, he explained, since it can be made relatively easy to accomplish things with programming languages they already understand.

Kaae’s robot, which positions a touchscreen-compatible stylus anywhere on a screen someone wants to place it, and can run tests that just aren’t possible via simulated virtual testing, or are too costly or boring to do human testing for. It can also help with things like testing movement for the Nike Fuel + Band, which R/GA helped design.

Right now, Kaae’s looking for a mathematician to help refine the product, to make sure that when you input a coordinate to hit, it hits exactly that coordinate and not just roughly the right area. But the little bot is a great example of how some people are trying to make it easier to make and test hardware to begin with.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

As Smartphones Reach A Global Tipping Point, Leader Samsung Shipped 71M Devices In Q1, Nearly 2X As Many As Apple

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IDC is the first of the big analyst companies to come out with quarterly mobile device shipment numbers that indicate Q1 as the first quarter where smartphones have outnumbered more basic feature phones in worldwide shipments: in a total market of 418.6 million devices, 216.2 (51.6%) were smartphones. But it is was a kind of tipping point of another sort, too: it is a sign of how Apple is not the juggernaut that it once was.

(BTW… for those of you keeping track, this is not the first quarter where Android has all but dominated the top-five rankings, save Apple’s presence. That happened in Q4 2012, according to IDC’s figures.)

Samsung shipped nearly 71 million smartphones in the quarter, giving it a market share of almost one-third of the whole of the smartphone sector (32.7%). Apple, meanwhile, shipped 37 million devices — just over half as many as Samsung, for a market share of 17.3%. With all others in the top-five — LG, Huawei and ZTE — still with less than 5% market share apiece, Samsung and Apple remain a strong top-two.

But looking at the pattern of growth something else comes out: Apple only grew its volumes by 6.6% over the same quarter a year ago. In fact, in that regard, that growth puts it far behind not only Samsung (at 60.7% volume growth), but also behind LG (110.2% growth); Huawei (94.1%); and ZTE (49.2%). As a point of comparison, Samsung and Apple were more nearly level a year ago, in Q1 2012, (44 million versus 35.1 million in Q1 2012), and respectively saw growth of 267% and 89% in shipment volumes — the only two that increased:

Today:

A year ago:

As we’ve pointed out before, shipments to those who sell devices are not the same thing as sales to users, but it is an important barometer for where the wider market is going. (The most recent figures from Kantar Worldpanel, which track sales, spell out how the difference between Android-based and Apple sales is not as wide as 2:1 in every market, but is in fact significantly wider in some.)

It’s notable that Nokia, BlackBerry, and HTC whose shipments were on the decline last year but still enough to keep them in the top-five, are now out of the picture altogether. It also shows that Nokia’s sub-10 million sales of smartphones, with 5.6 million Lumias, are not big enough figures to break out of the sizeable ‘others’ category.

With Apple still shipping more than three times as many devices as its next-closest competitor, LG, even if things continue as they are today, it will likely still be some time before it gets overtaken by the others in the list. Its performance also was enough to keep it in place as the world’s third-largest mobile handset maker overall, in a list otherwise dominated by companies that make both smartphones and feature phones:

IDC notes that LG, which shipped 10.3 million smartphones in the quarter, a rise of over 110% over the year before, was helped by three factors in the last quarter. The first of these was the popularity of the Nexus 4 device it created with Google; the second was the success of its lower-priced L Series (15 million sold in this category alone since launched); and the third was its LTE line. These three point to how those Android handset makers that can create strong enough and distinctive handsets that are set apart from the rest of the Android crowd can continue to pull away from the crowd.

Apple’s iPhone brand has never been seen as anything other than premium, and true to type, it is still not playing at the same level as others smartphone industry in creating new models that aim at the “cheap smartphone” market.

CEO Tim Cook did not discuss the prospect of a new, low-cost device, on Apple’s earnings call this week — the focus remains on selling older models, namely the iPhone 4, in markets like China as a route to bringing new smartphone users on to the platform. Other handset makers like Samsung, Nokia and many “others” are building out portfolios that hit not only at high-end users but those looking for entry devices priced at closer to $ 100 or even less. Some handset makers, specifically in emerging markets, are targeting only this market.

On the other hand Cook also left open the possibility that whatever comes next may be something different altogether: the “really great stuff” coming out in the autumn and in 2014 could be another iPhone. Equally, it could be something else altogether, and not a handset at all.

Image: Flickr

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