Will the next iPhone have a fingerprint scanner?

iPhone colorsSince the dawn of the iPhone, users have been creeping, spying, and guessing as to what the latest model will hold. Some hunches were correct, while others were a far cry from reality. However, even the most wrong guesses haven’t kept bloggers and Apple users from scouring for the next big rumor.

This time around, it’s speculation as to whether or not the new iPhone will host a fingerprint scanner.

Likely to be used for security purposes, it’s rumored that the phone will “scan” one’s fingerprint before unlocking the phone. Currently, users can enter a passcode when wanting to lock their iPhones from stranger use. And while the scan would certainly be an improvement from keyed-in numbers, there are concerns as to how well the scanner would work. Is there a possibility of faulty reads? Will it be able to accurately read a swipe/scan the first time around?

Alternate theories toss around the idea of fingerprint scanning for games or identification purposes, similar to software used on crime-based TV shows. Though this is far less likely, more futuristic and less personal is certainly the trend our electronics have been taking on.

Alternative Rumors

Another theory being tossed around is whether or not Apple will release a 5S phone, or jump straight to 6, which would be a plastic, smaller version of the 5. The blogosphere has been predicting a cheaper, smaller iPhone for months, though Apple has yet to confirm whether or not these instances are true. Known as the “iPhone mini” – like its iPad counterpart, this phone would likely be more affordable, much smaller, and host fewer of Apple’s signature features. It’s thought that this move will help iPhones appeal to a larger audience.

Unfortunately, even the scheduled release date is still up for debate (though right now the Internet says September). Until the next iPhone officially hits shelves – or Apple decides to break protocol and give away their secrets – we’re left in the dark, guessing at what new, great features it will hold.

Can $20 apps survive in the iTunes App Store?

xcomRecently, I was looking at the new apps featured in the iTunes App Store and one got my immediate attention. It wasn’t for the name (I had never heard of it before) – it was for the price. The game was $19.99.

My immediate reaction was “Wow! That is never going to sell.” Then I looked at the company making it: 2K games, a reputable gaming company. I was intrigued. I used to buy their sports games for the Xbox. The game is XCOM:Enemy Unknown and the description describes it as a game that has come from the PC and console world. A search at Amazon.com shows the game costs about $30.

The app price brings an interesting situation to the App Store. Most apps are $4.99 and less, and many of those are just $0.99. Consumers are familiar with paying low prices for iOS apps, myself included.

Now there is a $19.99 app which is probably console quality available for the iPad. Will customers be willing to pay that much for an iOS game when other ported games are priced at much less? I bought LEGO Batman for $4.99 and it was just as good as any console game I have played. Would I have paid $19.99? Probably not. If apps start having a higher price tag, I (and probably many others) will start buying a lot fewer apps.

I am not saying every app should be $0.99. I’m just saying that higher prices will mean fewer sales in the long run. Developers should be able to charge what they feel is right for their apps. It is the consumer that will decide if the price is right in the long run.

XCOM already has over one thousand ratings in the App Store, and you cannot rate an app without buying it, so it is definitely selling. How much? I don’t know and probably never will.

This app could be the experiment that other companies have not been willing to take and it might be the app that changes app pricing of the future. If it sells well, other developers might start pricing their console quality apps at similar prices.

Screen Shot 92On a similar note, Knights of the Old Republic by Aspyr was recently released at $9.99. It is not $19.99, but $9.99 is a big jump in price from the $0.99 game. That is another game I have played (on the Xbox) and it is great. Is it worth $9.99 on the iPad? For me, the answer is no. This game was originally published in 2003 on the Xbox. That makes it ten years old. While it is a console quality game, and I game I would love for my iPad, I will not be paying $9.99 for a ten-year old game and a game I have already played. However, there are many people who will buy and have bought this game for the iPad already.

Could this be the end of the $0.99 app in App Store? Only time will tell, but this is an interesting experiment for the iTunes App Store and other mobile platforms too.

4 ways to make your Android phone’s battery last longer

Android PowerageOne of the reasons why Android operated devices are highly welcome in the market is their exemplary multitasking capabilities. However, there is a price to pay for this. To maintain a good number of applications running in the background and on demand, the processor has to constantly keep a record of running apps and actively swap every now and then. As the number of services accomplished by the processor increase, so does the devices power consumption.

However, there are a couple of things that you can do to reduce your gadget’s power consumption. This freedom draws from the characteristic customization capabilities that Android devices possess. You can shut down some services and functionalities that you do not need and reduce the hardware performance to save battery juice for a nobler course.  Below are some of the basic tricks to help you accomplish this.

1. Turning off Unused Features

Most of the services and applications bundled into our Android devices do not have to run 24/7. For instance, you will not use you Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and data connection continuously. Even though these services make the device more functional, they also consume a good amount of power whenever they run, whether on active or idle mode.

To save on power, only turn on wireless connectivity when you intend to use it. Additional functionalities that may look cool but are unnecessary and power consuming include vibrations. Only use haptic feedback where necessary to conserve power.

2. Filter your notifications and reduce the number of apps that can ‘Auto-sync’

In bid to keep smartphones smart, most designers give them the power to ‘talk’ to the internet. The basic idea behind this is to allow the phone to access and process data on your behalf. However, such powers would be useless in some instances.

To ensure that your phone does not consume power processing unnecessary notifications or accessing the Internet every now and then for futile synchronization, you could turn off auto-sync and report generation for most of the apps and only let the most important applications retain this capability. This will help your device will stay alive for longer due to reduced power consumption.

3. Make Use of Power Control Widgets and Task Apps

Even though statistical reports show that the number of people purchasing smartphones is on the rise, not all of them know how to optimize their power settings. Developers seal this gap by releasing applications that help you regulate the number of processes your phone executes per unit time and the speed of execution to cut down on power consumption.

With a swift and convenient way to access most of the native setting from under the same roof, you are in a position to optimize your device to best suit your environment and requirements. The most basic things that you can change using these applications include screen brightness, processor frequency and allowed limit of process per unit time.

4. Power Efficient Customization Techniques

As device manufacturers struggle to create better display units, the power needed to run the high-resolution screens increases exponentially. Rendering high quality graphics on the screen at high brightness levels consumes more power than rendering still and dull graphics. When selecting your wallpaper and themes, go for something dull and simple to cut down on power hogging.

These are just some of the things that you can do to your smartphone in a bid to cut down on its power consumption. Though these measures might reduce your device’s performance, they are helpful especially if you do not have the opportunity to recharge every now and then.

Why are unlocked smartphones so expensive?

locked iphoneWhen signing a new contract plan, users can walk away with a brand new phone for only a couple hundred dollars. With the right options, rebates, and carrier, users may end up with a free, or nearly free version of their favorite smartphone. But it’s the stipulations that provide a good deal. Factor in contract fees and a lack of flexibility, and there’s very little room for wiggling.

Enter the super expensive “unlocked” phone. Phone service providers saw that their customers needed the option to come and go as they pleased, and they decided to let them. By charging them exorbitant amount. Purchasing a new, unlocked iPhone 5 will cost a hefty $649.99 – $600 if buying from a private party. And that doesn’t even include any service to go with it, phone or Internet. In contrast, signing a two-year contract will bring the same phone to $199.99.

What Gives?

A computer can easily be purchased for the price of an unlocked smartphone. It may not be the best or biggest, but it’s still a computer with all its working functions, software, available updates, and whatever else that makes electronics so expensive. Tablets – the fancy ones – even cost less than an unlocked smartphone. Therefore extra fees can’t be chalked up to hardware, parts, or even display.

So why are such large price tags being slapped on our phones? Many argue that users actually pay more over time with their contract deals, as there is a monthly fee built into service agreements. But unless that charge is named “sales tax” or “4G service,” most users would argue against said claim. Others state that the cell phone companies are subsidizing phone company expenses. True or not, this doesn’t account for why phones cost so much more than tablets and computers. If simple cell phones are given away, it can’t be the calling feature racking up the fees, right?

Is it really just about convenience? Even after one’s contract has been fulfilled, the phone belongs to Verizon, or AT&T, or whatever other service provider has stolen the device’s soul. Users aren’t locked into that phone indefinitely, per say, but without some possibly illegal adjustments, the devices are.

While the public may not understand these serious price hikes, it doesn’t look as though they’re going to reduce anytime soon. Fans of the iPhone simply have to decide whether it’s worth paying a few extra dollars, or sitting heavily under someone’s thumb.

Music discovery app Shazam raises $40 million in preparation for IPO

Shazam

Shazam, in an effort to prepare itself before going public, recently hired a new CEO.  The company, which is well known for its music discovery app, has more good news to share before finally going public. The company has raised $40 million from America Movil, and enters into a business partnership with the company, which is seen as a move to bring its media products to the carrier’s subscribers, and in turn, boost its user base.

Shazam’s growth has been astounding, currently standing at 350 million users, which is twice the number of users it had just two years ago. Active monthly users have also increase, up from 22 million two years ago, to 70 million.

According to the executive chairman of Shazam, Andrew Fisher, the company is growing incredibly quickly prompting the need to purchase more capacity to support this growth as people spend more time using the service. He also said that the company is looking to innovate much faster as a result of this growth and the funding should give it the needed boost to move in this direction. Some of these innovations include the introduction of notable updates in its television product which should enable users discover ads and programs playing on screen. Other notable improvements include the application of emerging technologies such as audio and image recognition, which should make it much easier for people to engage with media and brands that they are interested in.

According to Fisher, the new funding will not change the company’s IPO timetable. While not disclosing more details as to when it will go public, he gives the assurance that the company will be ready once it goes through another phase of growth.

Shazam was founded in 2000. In 2011, it launched its Shazam for TV service which shows specific mobile-optimized content including social features. Shazam is currently in use in more than 200 countries.

An introduction to developing software for Google Glass

glass development

Now that Google Glass is quickly becoming a mainstream product, have you wondered how you can develop for Glass? Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore because Google has made available the Google Mirror API to help developers build web-based services that interact with Google Glass.

The developer guide gives a detailed explanation of how to develop timeline items, menu items, create subscriptions, enable location data, access to contacts and enable authorization. However, despite the ease of development for Glass, Google has also published developer guidelines to ensure that developers create applications that offer the desired user experience.

Timeline Items

Timeline items or cards, display content on Glass and can either be swiped forwards or backwards to reveal more cards in the past or future. The guideline shows how to insert, attach update, read, and delete timeline cards.

Menu Items

In order to make your services interesting, you need to allow users to interact with timeline cards. This can be done through menu items where users can tell glass to read a card aloud, navigate to a location, share the card contents, or reply to a message. Menu items can populated from a list of built-in items or custom created.

Subscriptions

When a user takes specific timeline actions or changes location, you can subscribe to such notifications. There are different notification types for different events. Some of these notification payloads include Shared timeline item, a reply,  a delete notification, a custom menu item selected, or a location update.

Location

User’s location be requested using the Google Mirror API including their last known location and periodic location updates. The API can also render maps and overlay makers and lines to signify important places and paths.

Contacts

The Glass API can allow users to share your timeline items with other contacts by allow them to tap a share menu item which displays a list of possible contacts to share with. It can also allow users to share timeline items with Glassware where you create a contact that represents Glassware and allow users to share with this contact. This can be declared to limit sharing for only specific cards.

Authorization

All requests to the Google Mirror API must be authorized using OAuth 2.0 credentials. When users load applications for the first time, they are presented with a dialog to grant permission to access their Google Glass account.  This one-time authorization is all that is needed even when your app is being used offline.

Developer Tools

Google has made available developer tools to help you get started with Glass Apps. The Google Mirror API Playground lets you experiment with content display while the Subscription Proxy can be used to subscribe to notifications in a production environment.

Looking for an iTunes store replacement? Check out Amazon MP3

If you use a Mac, iPod, or iPad did you know that the iTunes Store is not the only place you can buy digital music for your device? In fact, Amazon.com has a great MP3 store which will work with those devices in a couple of ways. Basically, if you can get a DRM free music file compatible with iTunes, you can buy your music almost anywhere. This article, however, will be focusing on Amazon.com.

The old way: Download music to iTunes

Until recently, Amazon only had one way to get music onto your devices, which required you to download the music on your computer, then transfer it to your device. To use this method, you can download songs or albums from Amazon.com and using the Amazon MP3 Downloader, which you install on your computer. After the music has been downloaded, it will be instantly sent to iTunes with the names, artwork, etc.

amazoncloudapp

The new way: Use the Cloud Player App

As I said, this used to be the only way to get these tracks onto your devices. “Used to be” is the key there. Amazon recently released their Cloud Player and a Cloud Player app. The app allows you to have access to all of your purchases for streaming and/or downloading on your device when you log into your Amazon account. The only problem with this is that you can not mix and match tracks from iTunes. If you want to do that you will have to download the tracks to your computer and into iTunes using the downloader tool mentioned above.

Bottom Line: Price

You might be wondering what is the benefit of using Amazon if you have to go through all of this trouble? For me, the benefit is price. There are many time when Amazon will have a cheaper price on an MP3 album than iTunes. In some cases it is a lot cheaper. For me, it is worth the money to buy from Amazon and download the music to iTunes. Once it is in iTunes I don’t notice the difference, or care.

iTunes is great, and I buy most of my music in iTunes. However, it is nice to know there is another option out there for users.

Can you “train” your batteries?

dead batteryAs a lover of technology, it’s likely you’re constantly carrying around one or more chargers. A charger for your phone, one for your tablet, your computer, and any other tech-y items that may require an extra dose of juice. Extend any trip for more than a day, and the necessary charging items and accessories grow tremendously.

But what if there were a way to extend the battery life? Sure there’s phone cases that double as an extra battery, or even solar panels that work to add power, but what about the batteries themselves?

The Fix

For whatever reason, over time, rechargeable batteries lose their holding power. By implementing a charging routine, however, you can work to “retrain” those batteries. No more once-a-day charging, sudden loss of juice, or running in the red. By fully charging a device and then allowing it to deplete itself naturally (use it until it dies), the battery can “reset” itself. While this isn’t necessary every time a charge takes place, waiting until it’s on its last legs can increase power later on.

Why Batteries Die

While it may sound dramatic – electronics power off, batteries die – the loss of electronic fuel can actually be a learned habit. The more batteries become accustomed to receiving more power, the more they will rely on it. Think of your eating habits – if you’re used to having a snack mid-afternoon, your stomach may growl or begin churning in preparation. If you don’t have a snack, however, the stomach remains patient.

Much like digestive systems, batteries follow a pattern. The best way to get the most out of each pattern is to starve them until they can no longer function. (Though you certainly shouldn’t eat this way.) During this power-extending pattern, the battery doesn’t expect added help and electronics can hold power in a more efficient manner.

Fool Proof?

In some cases, batteries may just need replacing. While this “training” method is a great cure for many instances, it’s no substitution for damaged or aged models. When in question, check out chat rooms with those who’ve dealt with the same models, or contact the manufacturer for more details.

To lengthen any electronics’ battery life, try this training method to reintroduce a pattern of full vs. empty. It’s a great (free) way to make your smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, or any other mobile device more efficient. No cords or tag-along chargers needed.

Qwiki becomes Yahoo!’s 11th acquisition under Marissa Mayer

Yahoo-acquires-QwikiYahoo! recently announced that it has acquired the New York startup Qwiki, bringing the total number of acquisitions under the tenure of Marissa Mayer to 11. Originally a video search engine web platform since 2010, Qwiki shut down its web platform early this year and launched a social mobile video app after its iPad version of the app got about two million downloads.

After moving migrating back to New York from San Francisco, the company adopted the new focus in an effort to work with media brands such as ABC News. Qwiki works by organizing your photos and videos by date, location, and time of day and clumping it all together. It selects a song from your iTunes library based on your listening behavior, adds media, and allows you to edit the filters and captions before rolling a minute-long Qwiki with all of your iOS device’s camera roll. According to the founder and CEO, Doug Imburce, Qwiki was never intended to be a video-sharing app, but rather, a storytelling app.

What The New Acquisition Brings to Yahoo!

QwikiAs it has done with most of its acquisitions, Yahoo! will not kill off the brand. Instead, it will continue to support the app while the team joins the company in New York to reimagine the company’s storytelling experiences.

The mayor of New York city, Michael R. Bloomberg was also kind enough to comment on the new acquisition saying: “Qwiki is a great example of the momentum in New York City’s booming tech sector. While the company was started out west, they relocated here to be a part of our surging tech community… We congratulate them on their partnership with Yahoo!, and hope they continue to grow and thrive in New York City.”

Since taking over as CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer has spearheaded the acquisition of nearly a dozen startups that cost less than $100 million. These include Alike, Astrid, GoPolloGo, Jybe, Loki, Milewise, OntheAir, Snip.it, Stamped, Summly and now Qwiki.

What’s next for Yahoo!? As of this writing, Yahoo!’s Tumblr blog was updated with the news that the company had acquired Xobni, an address book app creator, bringing the total number of acquisitions by Mayer to 12.

Vine continues to explode after Android release

vineNow that Vine for Android is a few weeks old, users are finding more and more uses for the six-second video app. Owned by Twitter and essentially creating the video form of tweets, Vine is taking the app market by storm. At a year old, Vine even topped Instagram for the most downloaded app among Android users. And the more users that are signing up for the app, the more uses that have been found for this handy little app.

In fact, it’s being used for almost everything. Entertainment, creative resumes, just-for-fun posts, even educational ventures, like sharing recipes or cooking instructions. By using the record feature only when it’s necessary (for instance, to show ingredients or important work history), viewers are able to fill in the gaps between shots. This cuts down on share time while creating unique and creative effects. The hold-when-necessary also provides a unique GIF-like appearance, showing the effect of jerky camerawork without giving viewers motion sickness.

Using the Vine

Because of its unique features – which include sound, stop motion, time restraint, and the ability to share directly to social media sites – Vine has been used for a number of creative video ventures, even more so than its competitors. Reporters are even using the app to share news events as they happen; while video can be recorded, emailed, and posted online, but why not upload a Vine recording directly to Twitter? This feature allows the timeliest of news to be shared while eliminating minimal technology delays.

Like Twitter, users cite one of the biggest perks is the time restraint. Users are becoming far more creative with their time without the ability to drag out pictures or instructions. For instance, with cooking-related Vine videos – ingredients are shown in sequence, along with the recipe in progress, until the final project is reached. During a cooking show, a viewer would have watched 30 minutes of program to see the finished product. But with Vine, instantaneous cuts down on all of the in between nonsense, like rambling or commercials.

Whether you sign up for Vine for a creative new way to explore social media or you’re looking for a trendy way to share information, this app seems to have something for everyone. Just click, record, and share.

To find out more about Vine or to start creating your own stop-motion videos, check out the app on Android and iOS.