Candy Crushed? King opens below IPO price (@pandodaily)

The initial public offering for King, the video game company behind the uber-popular “Candy Crush Saga,” opened trading 10 percent lower ($20.50) than the company’s offering price of $22.50. That’s hardly a good sign. While the stock price could rise before the market closes today, the instant drop suggests that Wall Street still hasn’t gotten over the flash-in-the-pan prospects of hit-driven wonders like King.

Not surprising.

Nate Westheimer of Picturelife: 7 Ways to Ask for App Store Reviews

Some good, non-intrusive/annoying strategies here, e.g. asking in e-mail communications passively, rather than coming at you in-app. Although I think I like Threes’ strategy the best. Remember, as a developer, you’re asking for a favor. You’re not entitled to a review just because someone downloaded it, just like an author isn’t entitled to a review on Amazon even if their book is a best-seller. Most people don’t know how much of a factor ratings are in the App Store algorithm and even if they did know, they probably wouldn’t care. Being aggravating, however, as Gruber has written about, is a sure-fire way to get people to actually take the time to leave you something negative.

Ultimately, if we collectively pledge to not bow to the lowest common denominator in app store reviews, all of our apps and our customers would be a lot better off.


The Mobile Identity Question: I still think it’s Facebook for now

Another thoughtful post from Ben Evans re: mobile, Facebook & what will ultimately act as the identity on your phone:

I also think that retailers should be thinking about how they can leverage the social platform aspects of smartphones – shouldn’t the Zappos app show you which of your friends have it and let you share shoes directly? Again, doing that well on the desktop would be really hard, but on a smartphone it’s just a tap or two away.

I’m all for it, in fact I had a similar use case pop up yesterday when I was away from my desktop, browsing for tickets to a game on Stubhub’s app on my iPhone. To have been able to easily share a potential seat location with my friend prior to purchase (complete with seating chart visual) in a seamless way, via a card or some other form of atomic content would have been fantastic. Instead, I have to take a screen cap (or several, depending on whether or not I can get all of the pertinent ticket information in one shot), go through my address book, find the person I’m texting, find the screenshot in my photos, pass the screenshot on and hope/pray that it gets their without failing, while I’m at a bar with no wi-fi to speak of.

Of course this also speaks to the larger point Ben brings up in this piece which is identity and how it evolves in a mobile context: who owns it? Facebook? The retailers (or whomever) themselves? Someone else? Of course like Ben, I think there are no winner-takes-all dynamics here. But I also think that it remains tied to Facebook for the time being just because there are already so many other apps & services that utilize it already as a central login and I’m not sure Apple or Google, while they certainly have the leverage, want to get into the larger identity game. I think Zuck has realized for some time now that Facebook as a company needs to evolve beyond Facebook the service as its been traditionally known for the last 10 years. One of the methods for remaining not just top of mind but tangentially connected to the Facebook ecosystem is to allow other companies the ability to leverage its platform to connect people to other native app experiences. The other of course, which Zuck is engaging in right now, is to use the cash at FB’s disposal to make strategic acquisitions in growing mobile-social platforms that allow FB the company to rely less on FB the service to serve up ads. Indeed, there may well come a point where the majority of Facebook users don’t engage with the platform at all, aside from Messenger (which is already its own de facto service); where it simply acts as this central gateway to point you to everywhere else in the mobile landscape. A more seamless version of the old portals (Yahoo, Excite) or AOL’s home screen.

Funny how these all come back around to services that existed a decade or more ago. But hey, everything is a remix, right?

What Chess and Moore’s Law teach us about the progress of technology (@praxtime)

Thoughtful article comparing the exponential growth of aggregate chess ratings to similar growth patterns in technology relative to Moore’s Law. Similar to what I’m reading now in “The Second Machine Age,” which was released a few months ago. Chapter 3 is devoted to covering this kind of thing and plotting out the different dimensions using not just microprocessors per chip but internet download speeds, supercomputer speeds etc. to show how technology (particularly in mobile) has made the kinds of apps, services etc. possible that weren’t only a few years ago.

Change In Tax Law Could Raise Price Of Music And Apps In The U.K.

A change in UK tax law that may take force at the start of 2015 would push the price of apps, music and other downloads and “e-services” higher in the United Kingdom. The legal shift would see downloads in the United Kingdom charged the value added tax (VAT) of that country. Currently, The Guardian reports, companies like Apple and other digital store owners “are allowed to sell digital downloads through countries such as Luxembourg, where the tax rate is as low as 3%.”

Rethinking the content management system for mobile (@venturebeat)

Jason Baptiste, founder of Onswipe: 

Ask most writers and they’ll tell you that they never “write” the article in the CMS. Writing in a CMS is often surrounded by features made for a power user and much more unwieldy than, say, a text editor. The CMSs of today don’t work well at all on mobile. Yet writers should be able to author content from a phone with the same simplicity with which they compose a tweet … maybe even from the same interface.

Literally exactly what I talked about yesterday in reference to Medium.

Invaluable (@asymco)

Horace Dediu:

To earn profit is hard, to do so in an outsized way is very hard and to do so with consistency shows a defensibility of market access that is rarest of all. The only cases where this typical is in a monopoly or protected market situation (aka cronyism.) Apple’s lack of market monopoly coupled with a (near-) monopoly in profits can only be explained by disproportionate value creation.

And as long as that value creation continues, I can’t see market share of the smartphone market as a whole being something that concerns Apple, even if Android continues taking a larger and larger share. (they very likely will)

Medium Launches Simple iPhone App That’s Just For Reading (@techcrunch)

Twitter co-founder and Medium creator Ev Williams has posted an article about what the Medium app is about, and he says that, after consideration, the team decided to produce an app created just for reading.

“When we started working on this six months ago,” says Williams, “we debated a lot about the purpose of the app. Was it just for reading? Should you write on it? If just for reading, what would be better about it than just using the mobile web.”

Makes sense, particularly since most people end up on Medium to read anyway. Publishing content via mobile is still pretty clunky: I have yet to experience an app that’s really nailed not only the ability to write (and format) content the way you want but incorporated all of the bells and whistles that enhance the content publishing experience. Take WordPress, for example. The app is seamless, responsive and well laid out but the plugin that makes it possible for this blog to function as a “link blog” and the custom field that it renders as a result doesn’t show up in the app. The only way I can get that functionality is on desktop. And since so many articles I post are in this format, it makes it hard to justify even picking up the iPad at all when I sit down to write. Which sucks because I still do a lot of my reading on it and I’d love to share what I’m reading in a more seamless way to this site.

If you think you’ve nailed it though, you should get in touch and I’ll review it. 🙂

FireChat is a new way to chat “off the grid” but caution is advised (@tuaw)

FireChat (free) is one of the new generation of apps that lets you communicate to nearby iOS devices without Internet or mobile phone coverage. It shows you other people who are local to you, say on the same camping trip, and you can chat or share images using Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework, which can use WiFi or Bluetooth to connect two or more devices.

There are no logins or accounts required, and no setup. Everything is open, and that is the blessing and the curse of this app. You have no way to filter who contacts you, so at a venue like a basketball game you could be deluged with abuse. The range of the app is about 30 feet.

Cards, code and wearables (@benedictevans)

This question of where the code lives also of course applies to TVs and to cars as much as to wearables. With AppleTV and Chromecast and Carplay, Apple and Google are saying that though everything is becoming a computer, actually the ‘smart’ part should be concentrated in the smartphone or tablet – something that’s easy to update, that’s replaced every couple of years, and that has a rich touch interface, and everything else should be a dumb sensor or dumb glass or both. And so the apps should only be in one place, and whether it should be an ‘app’ in a strictly technical sense is also up for debate.

How Steve Jobs Got the iPhone Into Japan (@Bloomberg)

Two years before Apple had officially acknowledged the iPhone’s existence, Son called Jobs and arranged for a meeting. Son showed up with a rough sketch of what he thought an Apple phone should look like.

“I brought my little drawing of an iPod with mobile capabilities. I gave him my drawing, and Steve says, ‘Masa, don’t give me your drawing. I have my own,'” Son recalled during the “Charlie Rose” interview. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t need to give you my dirty paper, but once you have your own product, give me for Japan.’ And he said, ‘Masa, you are crazy.'”

iOS Now Alerts App Downloaders of 15 Minute No-Password-For-Purchases “Grace Period” (@TechCrunch)

Following an in-app purchase, such as virtual coins or fake cat food, a message now appears in iOS 7.1 stating that unless changed, for the next 15 minutes, more in-app purchases can be made without needing a password. A button to iOS device Settings is also visible.

This is a reaction to some of the recent lawsuits levied at Apple in recent months from angry parents who have allowed their children to download a game, only to find out a short time later that they’ve racked up a giant bill of in-app purchases. It’s a setting that can be changed although I’m sure most parents aren’t aware of how to change it. So Apple now has additional “ass-cover” in the event of future lawsuits, although I wonder if it would be less of a headache for them if the 15 minute grace period was opt-in and not turned on by default. Speaking as a non-five year old and just looking at my own behavior when I engage with freemium games, I don’t normally make a purchase in the first 15 minutes anyway. But I guess enough people do that Apple wants to continue making that option as seamless as possible for people, parental backlash be damned.

700m smartphones & tablets in China (@BenedictEvans)

Umeng’s 2013 report has just come out, and it’s full of fascinating data. (Umeng is an app analytics firm, much like Flurry, and has its code in a very large share of apps in use in China.)

Premium handset market still a minority in China but growing fast. A lot of interesting stuff here.

Tim-Berners Lee on Mobile Apps vs. The Web

Great interview with Tim Berners-Lee by Steven Shankland of CNET. Definitely worth reading the entire thing.

On the rise of mobile and its relationship with the Web:

Q: So much development effort nowadays is going into mobile apps distributed through Google or Apple app stores, often vertically integrated with various services. It’s very antithetical to the open, interlinked world of the Web. How much does that concern you, and what can you do to reclaim the developer momentum that’s being lost?

Berners-Lee: It does concern me. I think of those as legacy applications. At conferences, I encourage people to develop Web apps. I think people notice if they take a magazine, developed as a native app, it doesn’t interact properly with the Web. There are fundamental philosophical reasons it’s less powerful. If you don’t give it a URL [Web address], people can’t tweet about it. If people can’t tweet or email about it, then it’s not part of the discourse. So your article, beautiful though it may be on a native app, is not part of the scene. It’s not part of the discourse, it’s not part of life, it’s not liked or despised. Being part of the Web is going to be important. The idea is to work toward the best of both worlds — all the advantages of a native app and all the advantages of the Web. With my fitness tracker, I want it to run all the time, even offline like a native app. But every day of my workout history will have a URL and I can link my friends to it.

As an industry, we were willing to sacrifice openness & connectivity for productivity: HTML5’s performance issues pretty much killed off the concept of the mobile web app, at least in the immediate near-term. That said, I would be willing to bet that someone will have another go at it, perhaps with a different programming language that can bridge both worlds and connect app content with the rest of the Web without sacrificing the speed and responsiveness that we’ve all become accustomed to.

This debate still has room to run and there’s a lot more that’s uncertain about how this all shakes out. As Ben Bajarin wrote yesterday on the future of mobile content & connectivity:

What stage of the mobile web are we in today? It seems as though we are out of the very early stages but are we even at the middle stages yet? What if we translate web pages into Apps? Are we still in the early days of apps? We are in the process of connecting the unconnected. For the next billion people, the web will be fresh. Apps, browsing, media, it will all be brand new. We are moving into an area of explosive growth driven by consumers who never owned a personal computer, or even any electrical gadget of any kind before.

Luna: A nighttime delivery solution powered by iOS (@UseLuna)

When it comes to receiving packages in the mail, we want the best of both worlds: we want the safety and comfort of knowing that our package is being shipped on-time and isn’t being left unattended somewhere to be stolen or damaged by inclement weather etc. But we also don’t like the inconvenience of carving out time to be at home or at the office at a particular time, provided we’re fortunate enough to even able to make that decision in the first place. (busy schedules and all). Unfortunately, this is how delivery through USPS, UPS, FedEx etc. has traditionally worked: for most people, if you’re not there when the package is delivered and can’t sign for it, you’re SOL. Luckily, I happen to live within a short driving distance of a FedEx distribution facility and can pick up any FedEx-shipped package up to 8 PM. But most people don’t have that luxury and it still requires an extra trip.

A team in San Francisco is trying to solve this dilemma with a mobile app and accompanying service called Luna. Your package is shipped to Luna’s distribution center and delivery is made in the evening, at a time of your choosing, anytime between 7 PM and midnight. According to their website, they’re able to handle deliveries of all sizes (within reason, I’m sure) and provide insurance of up to $1000 on each package.

c/o Luna

Product Hunt recently featured a Q&A with founder Zack Shapiro, who was asked the question of how the service compares to the recently-shuttered Bufferbox, which provided an on-demand locker system for missed packages:

Locker solutions I see as a half-measure to solve this problem. It’s still an errand you have to run. The place that houses the locker still has to be open when you’re done your day. That’s fine if it’s in a 7-11 but worse if it’s in a coffee shop that closes at 7 or 8.

The app is currently available for iOS and can be downloaded here. Like much of the technology-driven, on-demand delivery market, the service is only available in San Francisco for now; however, assuming they can scale the business, I imagine they’ll begin branching out to the other major metros in due time.

Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks to Rolling Stone

Few games, however, captured the simple power of the Nintendo games of his youth. Angry Birds was too busy, he thought. “I don’t like the graphics,” he says. “It looked too crowded.” Nguyen wanted to make games for people like himself: busy, harried, always on the move. “I pictured how people play,” he says, as he taps his iPhone and reaches his other hand in the air. “One hand holding the train strap.” He’d make a game for them.

Flypay Raises £1M To Make Settling Your Restaurant Bill “Waiter-Free” (@techcrunch)

Steve O’Hear:

So, how does the Flypay iOS and Android app work? Aiming to get the time it takes to ask for and settle a restaurant bill down from an average of ten minutes to closer to a minute, you simply scan an on-table QR code/NFC tag to first recall the bill. Then, using the app, you can check the bill and pay using a credit or debit card, including the option to split the bill with others at your table — either by paying off specific items or splitting the bill equally.

Lots of competition in this space: MyCheck, as Steve mentions, as well as Dash, Cover & probably several others. Two observations:

-The winner is, rightly or wrongly, probably going to be the one with the largest salesforce to reach out to restauranteurs in order to adopt this, unless Square or another payment facilitator gets involved specifically in this space. (very possible)

-Regardless of whether a receipt scan or an entirely streamlined solution (pay-and-leave) wins out, QR is not going to be a long-term solution for authentication & payment. Nobody uses it, mostly because phones aren’t equipped with native QR readers. Same goes for NFC.

Digital Hub 2.0 (@stratechery)

Ben Thompson:

Imagine a device that initially launches with limited functionality and is dependent on an iPhone (similar to the iPod, or the first iPhone). Perhaps it monitors fitness and health, and slowly, year-by-year, adds additional functionality. More importantly, assume that Moore’s Law continues, batteries make a leap forward, flexible displays improve, etc. Suddenly, instead of a phone that uses surrounding screens, like the iPhone does in the car and the living room, why might not our wrist use a dumb screen in our pocket as well? All of our computing life, on our wrist, ready to project a context-appropriate UI to whichever screen is at hand. Moreover, by being with us, it’s a perfect wallet as well.

I guess the question becomes how small do UIs get before they become too difficult for the user to consume content or perform a specific task? Or will they? From a content perspective, we asked a similar question when the desktop migrated to the small screen: will people continue watching videos, reading articles etc. on a device a fraction of the size of your standard PC monitor? We got our answer. For certain services, the jury’s still out: spreadsheets and word processing haven’t become ubiquitous on mobile as of yet. When you get down to the level of a watch, it becomes an even more sobering perspective. But as Ben mentions, there is plenty of room to run here: we haven’t scratched the surface of the possibilities here re: the digital hub, the Internet of Things, the Universal Remote or however you choose to define it.

The Google Glass of Helmets Wins at SXSW (@dothingscon)

From the Designers of Things blog:

It’s interesting to see a heads-up display specific for driving in light of the backlash Google Glass has received when used in the car, but this isn’t the first wearable HUD for people on the move. Vancouver’s Recon Instruments has already seen success with its HUD for snowboarders and skiers, the Recon Snow. And Recon’s upcoming wearable for bicyclists, the Recon Jet, is a much anticipated device for later this year.

Video below: