BlueStacks’ GamePop Subscription Mobile Console Gets 5 New Dev Partners, Bringing Library Value To $200

GamePop Mini

The Ouya Android gaming console is already out, but its competitor from BlueStacks is picking up steam in the development phase. The subscription-based GamePop and GamePop Mini will have titles from five top new developers at launch, the company announced today. Those include TinyCo, Animoca, Game Circus, Creative Mobile and Nevosoft, and together they represent over 340 million downloads on the Google Play store as of right now.

GamePop’s entire value proposition is dependent on the fact that it can offer gamers access to a rolling catalogue of 500 premium games for a monthly subscription price of just $ 6.99, so being able to sign up devs with big-name hits is a key success factor for BlueStacks. And according to BlueStacks and its partners, this is also an opportunity for previously mobile-only game makers to explore the TV and home console market, which is a potentially lucrative shift.

“Support from the developer community is like air,” BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma explained in a email to TechCrunch. “Without it, you can’t get users, as people will have never heard of the apps. We feel very fortunate the community is lining up behind GamePop so strongly.”

Previously, the GamePop team announced that HalfBrick, Glu, COM2US and OutFit7 would be offering titles on its platform, locking down some of the most successful mobile games and apps available on Android. There still hasn’t been a major studio like EA or Gameloft announced as a partner, however, which could hurt its chances of being taken seriously by the gaming community.

As my sometime partner in crime Chris Velazco pointed out on yesterday’s TechCrunch Droidcast, game library is a key concern for any device, and the Nvidia Shield, which in some ways competes with the GamePop and the Ouya thanks to TV-out capabilities, faces problems in that regard despite major publisher backing.

There’s no question that game choice will be key to the GamePop’s ability to woo customers, especially when asking for a regular, monthly commitment. A stable of solid Android developers who’ve proven their ability to attract downloads can help, so today’s announcement is good news for those rooting for the concept, but true marquee titles are going to be the key to success here, since the entire concept is based around turning casual gamers into something a little less casual and a little more invested.

TechCrunch » android

Weekend Watch Review: Grappling The Girard-Perregaux Chrono Hawk


Girard-Perregaux, to those not familiar with watch lore, is a watchmaker founded in 1791 and that now produces handmade, manufacture pieces in the mid- to high-level range. I’ve been a longtime fan of the brand – they usually come up with designs that are timeless and more classic than, say, Concord, and less fuddy-duddy than IWC and other traditional makers. The watch we’re looking at today, the Chrono Hawk, is G-P’s lower-end addition to their catalog (if “lower end” and G-P can ever appear in the same sentence.)

First, let’s be clear: the Girard-Perregaux Chrono Hawk is expensive. It’s $ 13,800 expensive. Which makes it one of the pricier watches I’ve reviewed during my semi-regular Weekend Watch reviews, and it is, to be clear, a luxury item. Why is it so expensive? Well, it is completely made in a single factory in Switzerland to exacting standards and the time, effort, and research that go into a piece like this are akin to the efforts put into a nicer luxury car. You’re paying for a few things here. You’re paying for solid materials and a nice band, to be sure, but you’re also paying the salary of men and women who are manufacturing watches by hand at a clip of a few dozen per day. At that rate you won’t be getting any bargains.

So what is the Chrono Hawk? It is an automatic chronograph (basically a stopwatch) with two registers – a running seconds at 3 o’clock and a 30 minute counter at 9 o’clock (called the bi-compax layout) and a central seconds hand. It has a 48 hour power reserve and 44mm in diameter – quite bold for a simpler chronograph. It is very evocative of older, 1970s era chronographs where two registers and a date window were in vogue. Watch blog Hodinkee notes that the case shape comes from the Laureato, a long-time staple in the G-P line.

The tooling and design are a delight. The soft leather bands melds into the case seamlessly and the clasp is easily resized by pulling out a pair of pins under the buckle. It curves over the wrist for comfort and has a rear see-through back so you can see the handmade movement. The buttons and crown have small rubber highlights that make them easier to push and the buttons protect – and are protected by – the crown. The piece is a harmonious whole, which is an important distinction in this type of chrono.

I especially like the face. The Guilloché dial features a futuristic-looking hexagonal pattern (that is actually shaped like part of the movement) that is not too messy to render the hands illegible. It is an interesting nod to modernity, to be sure, as G-P has usually used a square engraving on its sportier watches, a change that I think is welcome.

To me a manufactured – meaning “manufactured by a single company” – chronograph like this one is tough to hate. It has just enough features – called complications – to be worth at least some of the purchase price, but at $ 14,000 you’d better be in love with this piece before you plunk down the credit card. I love watches that are eminently usable and the Chrono-Hawk fits the bill. It’s readable at almost any angle, is dripping with lume for night-time reading, and it kept prefect time for the weeks I wore it. I don’t like the lack of a third elapsed hours register and the chronograph is a bit short since it records only thirty minutes total – enough to time baking some cookies, but probably not a cake.

Thus the appreciation of this watch is a matter of personal taste. It also comes in black but the tan strap and champagne face look excellent together and the case is large without being overbearing. It is one of the nicer watches I’ve seen in a while and it’s a nice addition to the G-P line. Sadly, given the price, I can probably never convince myself to pick one up but, as Ferris Bueller said, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Motorola’s New Keyboard-Packing Droid 5 Reportedly Caught On Film


Motorola just showed off three new Droid smartphones last month (or, if you prefer, one new Droid and two spinoffs), but it’s apparently not done cranking out Verizon hardware just yet. Another new Motorola device clad in Verizon livery was spotted in a batch of newly leaked images from Chinese social network Weibo, and it seems to hearken back to the Droid line’s roots.

Unlike the trim, all-touch smartphones that Motorola has been enamored with lately, the most eye-catching feature of the alleged Droid 5 is the same sort of slide-out QWERTY keyboard its forebears also had. According to Engadget, the D5 also has a display between 4.3 and 4.5 inches and a body that’s resistant to dust and water.

I know, I know, it seems a little yawn-worthy at first glance (even for sliding keyboard suckers like me). Curiously enough, that big five-row keyboard isn’t the only difference between whatever this is and the other Droids that have just started hitting store shelves. One of the images depicts a camera interface complete with a discrete shutter button on the touchscreen, a UI flourish that doesn’t exist on either the Moto X or the Droid Ultra. That super-simple, touch-anywhere approach to snapping photos on the go is a feature Motorola brass have been talking up for a while now, so it’s quite surprising to see that the company may be mulling a reversion toward the mean.

If we’re lucky, that just means Motorola is still trying to lock down some of its UI experiences… though arguably a solution the company already worked out was the better way to go. The grimmer scenario is that the Droid 5 outright lacks some of the niceties its cousins have, which is certainly one way to compartmentalize a product portfolio. At this point there are still more questions than answers, but judging by the fit and finish of the phone in those images, it shouldn’t be too long before Motorola officially springs this thing on us and all our questions are answered.

TechCrunch » android

FitTrip Will Take You On Tours Of The World From The Safety Of Your Gym


I’m a mediocre runner at best, and I’ve taken to blaming that on the dearth of idyllic running spots in my particular corner of New Jersey. For schlubs like me, the key to true fitness may lay in something like FitTrip, a Kickstarter project that vows to liven up the experience of working out indoors.

The concept is a simple one: FitTrip is an app for your iPad that attempts to simulate the experience of running down a trail in Utah or zipping along on a bike in the Rocky Mountains from the safety of a treadmill or stationary bike. Once you lash your tablet to the workout contraption of your choice and fire up the app, you’re given the option to choose from a slew of locales to immerse yourself in. From there, you’re treated to a video of your chosen course to take your mind off the intense physical discomfort you’re feeling — throw in a few electric fans to simulate the wind whipping your hair around and it’s almost like you’re enjoying the great outdoors indoors.

Sadly, FitTrip can’t actually control your workout equipment, so there’s no way to automatically ramp up the resistance to match the intensity of the setting you’ve chosen. The team has cooked up a pretty savvy solution though — the app is capable of connecting with a handful of popular heart rate monitors, so the harder you work out, the faster your heart beats, and the quicker the video plays. The end result (they hope) is an experience that manages to approximate the sensation of exercising in a gorgeous foreign locale, or at least distracts you from the drudgery of your surroundings.

The FitTrip app is still in beta so it’s hard to get a feel for just how immersive these videos can actually be, but at the very least they’ll be better than watching Judge Judy reruns on a 6-inch television screen mounted on an elliptical at your local gym. Access to all these trips comes at a price, though: after the Kickstarter campaign wraps up, curious consumers will have to pay $ 5.99/month to access FitTrip’s library of scenic videos. Naturally, early backers can lock up longer-term subscriptions at lower rates — $ 25 will nab you a six-month package, with deals getting sweeter the higher you climb up the backer spectrum. Fortunately, the FitTrip campaign has already blown past its $ 7,500 funding goal in under a week, which means backers should receive their doses of digital escapism in a few short months.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Chrome 30 Beta For Android Brings WebGL And New Swipe Gestures To Mobile, Easier Search By Image To Desktop


Google today launched the latest beta of Chrome for desktop and Android. This release marks the first time Chrome for Android supports WebGL by default. Previous versions of the beta for Android already made WebGL the standard for rendering interactive 3D and 2D graphics in the browser, available behind a flag. It’s now enabled by default on all mobile devices that feature a relatively high-end GPU, including those found in the Nexus 4 phone and Nexus 7 tablet.

While virtually every modern desktop browser already supports most aspects of the WebGL API (with the exception of Internet Explorer, which will support it in the next version), mobile browsers have mostly lagged behind. While the BlackBerry 10 browser, Opera Mobile and Firefox for Android now support it, the mobile web is only now starting to catch up with WebGL. iOS for Safari still doesn’t support it, but the popularity of Chrome on Android will likely give more mobile developers the confidence to start experimenting with it.

If you have a compatible phone, give WebGL a try with this demo.

New Swipe Gestures

Google is also bringing a number of new swipe gestures to Chrome. You can now, for example, swipe horizontally across the top toolbar to switch between tabs and drag vertically down from the toolbar to enter the tab switcher view.

With today’s update, Google is also introducing the device motion part of the Device Orientation API in the Chrome for Android beta channel. That sounds pretty dry, but it allows developers to get information about the device’s acceleration and rotation rates. This feature has long been part of the API, but it looks like Google only got around to implementing it now. You can give it a try here.

The only other major new feature for developers is support for the MediaSource API in the beta channel for devices running Jelly Bean or higher. This, Google says, makes it easier to enable adaptive streaming and time-shifting live streams in the mobile browser.

Chrome Apps are also getting some goodies in today’s update, including APIs for webview.request and media gallery write and download support. Chrome Apps, Google says, will now also be able to use Chrome Web Store managed in-app payments.

Chrome 30 Beta For Desktop

The desktop version isn’t getting too many new features, but Google is now making it easier to search for a given image right from Chrome. Just right-click on any image on the web, select “Search google for this image” and see Google’s search results within a second.

The other interesting new features on the desktop is support for the WebRTC Device Enumeration API, which allows users to switch between microphones and cameras (just like in Skype) without having to restart the WebRTC call.

TechCrunch » android