Category Archives: New Products

Yo! upgrade shows app wasn’t a dumb idea, after all


The Yo! app that everyone laughed at last year because all it did was flash a Yo! at contacts has come out with an important upgrade. It’s a new location function, said Yo! CEO Or Arbel, and it “opens up a whole world of possibilities for both users and service-providers using the Yo API.”

Yo! attracted a lot of criticism from tech experts – along with a lot of laughs. The app, created by an Israeli team working in San Francisco, sends a “Yo!,” a word akin to “hey there” or “what’s happening,” to contacts. For this app, creators Arbel and Moshe Hogeg got a million dollars in funding. Top blogger Robert Scoble called it “the lamest app around,” apparently speaking for many in the tech community, and Israeli start-up expert Eran Laniado called it a gimmick — and a “goofy” one at that.

Yo! is unique for its single-purpose functionality, but that functionality is nothing new, said Laniado, managing director of Israeli business advisory firm BMN!, which works with dozens of veteran tech companies and start-ups in Israel. “It is similar to Facebook stripped off all of its functions except ‘Poke’,” a function that allows users to let their friends know they are there, without actually sending them a message.”

As such, said Laniado, Yo! was clearly a gimmick but with a little work, it could be much more. “Users lose interest in gimmicks quickly. But if this app decides to be a little more than that, and add, for example, more types of communication (emoticons, text), well — isn’t this what Facebook and WhatsApp are all about?”

The Yo! people took Laniado’s advice – or advice from someone who thinks like him – because the app is now more than it was. With its new update, Yo! becomes much more functional, Arbel insists. The location function is available as an API for iOS 8, the new operating system announced by Apple last month, so developers can create versions of the app for specific needs.

“Service providers can now offer their users one-tap location-based solutions to their customers’ needs,” the company said. “Want to know if it’s going to rain where you are? ‘Yo’ a weather service! Want a cab to pick you up? ‘Yo’ a taxi service! It’s that simple – and the applications are limitless.”

Versions of these apps are already available on the Yo Index site. With YoYouTube, for example, users can get a Yo! notification when channels they subscribe to are updated. YoMyPackage tells you where a FedEx or US Post Office package is at the moment when you send a Yo! and your package tracking number. Send out a Yo! with the StarbucksMap app and it will respond with the location of the nearest coffee shop in the chain. There’s even one that will return the latest updates about the Kardashian clan, that favorite of gossip magazines and TV shows, if you shoot it a Yo!

And this is just the beginning, said Arbel. “I can’t wait to see where our users take this. I’m sure our platform and API will give Yo users real solutions – without having to compromise on simplicity.”

Apple unveils iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch


Apple introduced two new iPhones, its long-awaited Apple Watch and a mobile payment system as part of a marketing blitz aimed at drumming up consumer excitement. Now the question is whether the new gear will live up to the hype.

Speaking from the Flint Performing Arts Center in Apple’s hometown of Cupertino, Calif., Apple marketing chief Philip Schiller kept the audience waiting beyond the event’s scheduled 1 p.m. ET start, a fitting delay for a company that has kept its fans waiting for a new product.

First up was the company’s new larger, thinner iPhone 6, which features an aluminum body and glass front that curves around the sides. (See CNET for complete coverage of Apple’s product launch.)

The base model comes with a 4.7-inch screen and the other, dubbed the iPhone 6 Plus, has a 5.5 inch-screen. The iPhone 6 screen has over 1 million pixels, while the iPhone 6 Plus has over 2 million pixels, Schiller said, emphasizing what he called the the devices’ “stunning display.”

Gesturing toward giant photos of a lizard and a butterfly projected on-stage, Schiller also highlighted the new iPhone’s enhanced camera, which he said includes image-stabilization functionality.

The new phones will be available Sept. 19; pre-orders begin Sept. 12. With a two-year contract, the iPhone 6 will cost $199 for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, $299 for the 64GB phone and $399 for 128GB. The iPhone 6 Plus is priced at $299 (16GB), $399 (64GB) and $499 (128GB).

“They’re definitely targeting the more professional user and the ‘phablet’ user,” observed CNET Editor-at-Large Tim Stevens.

The technology giant has much riding on the popular reception to its new iPhone, sales of which drive most of the company’s profits and which account for more than half of its revenue. But Apple’s new offerings may be even more important, as the company seeks to entice customers with an expanded lineup of products and services designed to keep them within its technological ecosystem.

To that end, Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the company’s new mobile payments tool, called Apple Pay, which aims to let users make purchases from their iPhone or Apple Watch. He noted that Americans make roughly 200 million payments per day, but called the process “antiquated.” With Apple Pay, consumers can pay for goods without sharing credit card, address and other personal information with a merchant, Cook said.

Apple Pay uses short-distance wireless technology called near-field communication, or NFC, to enable users to make purchases — a system already built in to many Android phones. Apple has teamed with financial industry heavyweights including American Express (AXP), Mastercard (MA) and Visa (V) and says Apple Pay will work at more than 220,000 retailers nationwide. Apple has been working with companies like McDonald’s, Disney, Target, Subway, and Whole Foods to integrate its service as well.

Then, finally putting an end to months of rumors and speculation, Cook presented Apple’s new wearable device, the Apple Watch, describing it as the “next chapter” in the company’s history and a “breakthrough.”

The watch, which is available with six interchangeable bands, comes in stainless steel, aluminum or 18K gold and is priced at $349. Users navigate by tapping and swiping the face, as well as through a crown on the right side of the watch that brings up apps. Apple Watch, which works with the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s, as well as the iPhone 6, will be available early next year.

“Apple Watch is the most personal device we’ve ever created,” Cook said. “It will redefine what people expect from a watch.”

Ian Fogg, senior director for research firm IHS, said Apple wants to validate wearable gadgets in the same way the iPhone in 2007 established a mass market for smartphones.

“However, moving into a new category is a bold, expensive and risky effort,” he added in a client note. “This Apple Watch is a first-generation device, and whether it is successful or not Apple will aim to iterate and make it a must-have companion for every iPhone owner.”

Although Apple has posted solid financial results this year, investors and even some of the company’s famously rabid fans have seemed underwhelmed by recent product launches. The last iPhones and iPads, while commercially successful, have been deemed only incremental advances — pleasing refinements that remain well short of the big leaps forward Apple has made in the course of growing into the most valuable company in the world.

That’s of particular concern for a company that, under co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, was vaunted for its design prowess and ability to discern consumer tastes even before those were fully formed. Apple is also eager to reclaim market share taken in recent years by Samsung and other makers of mobile phones based on Google’s  Android platform.

For Cook, the Apple Watch could prove either a canny move into a lucrative new product segment, or a dead end. The gadget — which fans referred to as the Apple iWatch as rumors intensified in recent months that a device was imminent — is the first developed entirely under Cook’s leadership since he succeeded Jobs as CEO in 2011. For both Apple and other companies making smartwatches, it also represents a key test of consumer interest in a technology that to date has failed to dazzle customers.

A critical challenge for Apple, experts say: Building a device that — like the iPod, iPhone and iPad before it — compellingly fills a need users may not know they have. No surprise, then, that Cook touted HealthKit, a software development tool that integrates health and fitness apps through the Apple Watch while giving consumers control over what health data they choose to share.

Although the company could benefit from expanding into new product segments, in the short-term it remains highly dependent on rolling out devices that push the design envelope and capture the public’s imagination. Indeed, until today Apple hadn’t released a brand new product since launching the iPad four year ago.

In the interim, Apple’s competitors have stormed into a range of areas ripe for innovation, with Google working to develop driverless cars and Facebook pushing the envelope on virtual reality. That has raised concerns that, without Jobs, Apple risks losing the vision that powered its rise.

Perhaps more than any tech provider, Apple is under the gun to innovate. And to be sure it is trying mightily to do that. Along with expanding into the wearable computing segment, Apple is developing Internet-enabled tools people can use to control lights, thermostats and other parts of their home. For enterprises, meanwhile, the company wants to let employers harness the power of “Big Data” from their Apple devices.

“A lot of other companies don’t need to be as bold on a frequent basis as Apple,” Soumen Ganguly, a director at consulting firm Altman Vilandrie & Co., told CNET ahead of Apple’s latest commercial launch. “But people have come to expect it from Apple. They’re only as good as their last great product, and we’re four years away from that.”

A sense that Apple may be losing its bite hasn’t kept investors from bidding up its shares, it’s worth noting — the company’s stock has risen nearly 26 percent this year. The shares edged up $1.65, topping $100, shortly after the presentation began.

If there are questions about Apple’s creative mojo, it is clear from Tuesday’s event that its marketing instincts remain intact. Winding up the event, Cook brought out the band U2 to play a tune and pitch the group’s new album, which the executive said will be available for free download for all iTunes users.

The Fastest Mi Phone – Xiaomi Mi 4 Launched Ahead of iPhone 6


Xiaomi the so called “China Apple” has already launched its flagship product, earlier than Apple Inc’s flagship product, at the company’s “The Journey of a Piece of Steel” event yesterday.

While iPhone 6’s launch date is yet to be confirmed, Xiao Mi 4 was already launched this week together with the Mi Band, Xiaomi’s first wearable device. The Mi 4 was named as “The Fastest and Most Gorgeous Mi Phone Ever”. Mi 4 will also be released this July.

Lei Jun, the founder of Xiaomi, stated on the event that the company sold 57.36 million phones in its first three years of operation, TechinAsia Liveblog reports.

Xiaomi Company sold 7.9 million Xiaomi Mi phones – 17.4 million Xiaomi M2 phones, 10.5 million Xiaomi Mi 3 phones, 18 million Hongmi or the so called Redmi outside China and 3.56 million Hongmi Note or Redmi Note.

The company claims that Xiaomi Mi 3 was sold out 40 minutes just after its release in India, NDTV reports. The company is expecting to have greater revenue for the newly launched Xiaomi Mi 4.

According to XiaomiChina, Mi 4 will feature a stainless steel frame that has an unbelievable craftsmanship and polish. Its hardware has a 2.5gz Quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset processor, 3 GB RAM and can choose from 16 or 64 GB internal storage. It has a 5 inch screen size with a 1080x1920p full HD resolution and a very high colour gamut.

The company also posted that Mi 4’s stainless steel metal frame features have undergone 40 processes and 193 steps.

For its camera specifications: 13 megapixels is installed on the rear camera with real-time HDR and 4K video recording. While the 8 megapixels front camera has an 80-degree wide angle. The smartphone has a durable 3080 mAh internal battery with a quick charging ability.

“The Xiaomi Mi 4 has Android 4.4 under MIUI V6 – so that’s the first time a Xiaomi phone launches with the very latest version of Android in China.” says on TechinAsia Liveblog. “The new Mi 4 has a very slim bezel at each side, but the company assures people that the screen will ignore accidental inputs on the side.”

The 16 GB Mi 4 is available for US$322 or AU$342.91 while the 64 GB Mi 4 will be available at US$400 or AU$425.97.

LeTV teams up with domestic production houses


Online video streaming website LeTV announced partnerships with several domestic production houses and TV presenters in an effort to beef up video content and attract more viewers.

Taiwanese TV anchor and producer Jacky Wu joined a number of TV variety show producers who will be providing exclusive programs for LeTV in the next few years.

LeTV Chief Operating Officer Gao Fei said at a media briefing yesterday that it will focus more on short videos that are easier for viewers to watch on the go.

Demand for short video clips is picking up due to higher mobile data connection speeds and the popularity of smartphones and mobile devices.

It will also provide self-produced variety shows.

Last year, LeTV unveiled its first TV set, following other Internet companies into the hardware market.

China’s online video sites are expanding into producing their own content as they are no longer satisfied with just being a distribution channel for TV series and movies.

E-commerce giant Alibaba Group last month completed the takeover of Hong Kong-listed film production company ChinaVision Media.

‘Flappy Bird’ Creator Says He’s Taking The Game Down

Flappy Bird2

In a bizarre turn of events, the Vietnamese creator of the maddeningly difficult #1 Android and Apple iOS game Flappy Bird is saying that he’s taking the game down within the next day.

Developer Dong Nguyen announced the decision on Twitter just a few hours ago:

“I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.”

“It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore.”

“I also don’t sell ‘Flappy Bird’, please don’t ask.”

“And I still make games.”

Nguyen has been the target of a lot of internet hate for creating what many deem a pretty terrible game. In my own teardown of Flappy Bird, I didn’t say I begrudge Nguyen for making such a game, but rather the public who would elevate the title to such popularity. But is criticism alone enough reason to take down the game entirely?

This sort of move is perplexing as Nguyen is reported to be bringing in $50,000 a day from in-app advertising revenue. It would be understandable if say, Nintendo was suing him for ripping off their art, but he claims that isn’t the case.

He also says he’s not interested in selling Flappy Bird, and he still makes other games, many of which are also quite popular on the Android and iOS app stores.

Is this really just a guy who can’t cope with sudden fame and success, or is something else going on here? Is there really a level of internet vitriol that can make someone simply throw away $50,000 a day? I suppose with the amount of flack Nguyen has taken, it can wear on someone, but why delete Flappy Bird and not his other popular, also simplistic titles? If his other games become even more popular and are subsequently also criticized, will he take those down too?

The majority of his Twitter interactions are actually positive conversations with individual fans, thanking them for their support or answering their questions. I was hard pressed to find actual hate-filled comments responding to any of his tweets, even in his most recent ones about taking the game down. That said, I’m sure he’s seen negative things said about him or the game elsewhere on the internet, and one hurtful comment can offset a hundred uplifting ones.

A tweet from Nguyen earlier today says “I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.” Perhaps this really is just an ordinary guy who will do anything to shed the spotlight that was inadvertently cast on him by the public. Still, I’ve never seen anything like this.

I’m not sure I see Nguyen as an entirely sympathetic figure here. While no one deserves personal threats or attacks (if that’s what’s happening), I think criticism of the game or his design of it is valid. The idea is lifted from a thousand other similar games before it. The art and sound effects are taken almost directly from Super Mario Bros, while the bird design and tap mechanics are from 2011′s Piou Piou. These are typical mobile games problems, and the fact that Flappy Bird has been so popular only reinforces the idea that other developers should try to clone their way to the top of the charts.

This all seems very strange, and the story is still developing as we speak. I’ll post updates if any further information comes to light. In the meantime, feel free to suggest your own theories about what exactly is going on here.

Well, I thought there’d be some new bit of information about this by the end of the day, but Dong Nguyen has gone silent and isn’t responding to requests for comment from what I can tell. He’s just one man with no PR representation, and he may not fully comprehend the scale of what he’s announced. He expressed a desire to be rid of the fame Flappy Bird has brought him, but saying he’s going to kill the most popular app in the world has only skyrocketed interest in both him and the game. Since saying he was pulling the game in the next day, he’s amassed another 45,000 Twitter followers and I can’t even imagine what his inbox looks like. As the takedown of Flappy Bird is supposed to happen tomorrow, we should presumably hear more from him then. 

The Ten Commandments Of Efficient Design In Axure


Axure is a powerful tool for creating software prototypes quickly. Getting started with it is really easy; however, therein lies a danger. The tool is so intuitive that many users can be productive without undergoing any formal training. What they might not be aware of is that they probably aren’t using Axure optimally.

In my experience as a UX designer, I seldom draw a page and get it right the first time. Most of the time, I go through five to ten iterations. When your UX design is used as the blueprint of an agile project, you might need to keep the entire project up to date with the scope of development. Sometimes these changes will affect a dozen or more other pages. It is at these times when some of the less evident features of Axure can become huge time-savers.

I generally work in teams to create wireframes and prototypes. To do this, I make use of Axure’s “shared projects” functionality (“team” projects in Axure 7). Multiple people being able to work on a design project at the same time remains my favorite feature of Axure, but it does demand a tidy and structured way of working. You will undoubtedly find someone else working on a page that you’ve designed or yourself working on another’s page. I’ve written these commandments with Axure in mind, because that is the tool I presently work with, but I’m certain many of the principles apply to other tools.

This list of 10 commandments is what I’ve found to be crucial techniques to save time in the long run. This way of working does not always provide the quickest results in the short term, but it does allow for optimal flexibility further down the line.

I) Thou Shalt Never Use Two Widgets When One Will Do.

The most common time-consuming behavior that I see with beginner and advanced Axure users is the use of unnecessary widgets. I still catch myself making this mistake and have to remind myself constantly of this first commandment. Each widget that you add to your project will require a bit more work when you need to make changes in the future. All of these little bits of work start to add up after ten iterations. Below is a simple example of how two visually identical objects can be built up in different ways.

II) Thou Shalt Not Duplicate, But Rather Make The Object A Master.

When I find myself in a late stage of a design and realize that we need to change the main navigation on every single page, I experience tremendous joy. Not because I enjoy a big pile of repetitive work, but because all I need to do is edit my single master object and — presto — the whole project has been updated.

III) Thou Shalt Place Styles Before Masters.

Masters are great for creating reusable elements, but they do not allow for variations. Each instance of a master will be exactly the same as the others. This is where styles come in. Suppose you have a button design that needs to be replicated on multiple pages, but the labels on the button need to vary. Styles can help you achieve this easily. Every property of a button can be managed through styles; all you need to do is change the label.‘

IV) Thou Shalt Keep Thy Project Organized And Shalt Name Clearly.

Axure provides many options for keeping things organized. Every element that you place on a page can be given a unique name. Pages may be named and organized in a tree structure. Masters may be given names and sorted in folders and so on. But why go through the effort of giving everything a clear name?’

V) Useth Always Global Guides And A Grid.

Axure allows users to create two kinds of guides: local guides, which exist only on one page, and global guides, which are visible on all pages. The guides can be set up using the “Create Guides” dialog box. If you set up guides in, for instance, a default 960 grid, then consistently positioning elements over the different pages becomes a lot easier. Also, your team members will see these global guides in a shared project.

VI) Forgeteth Not The Import Tool.

In most projects, people create elements that are useful in other projects. Instead of reinventing the wheel for each project, reuse things that have worked in the past. Many of the basics will remain the same throughout projects, such as styles, guides and certain masters. Although copying and pasting objects from one .rp file to another is possible, not all information would be carried over. When you paste a button that has a particular style, that style will not be pasted along with it.

VII) Thou Shalt Keep Old Versions Of Pages.

I often find that I need to go back to an old version of a project. In the “good” old days (I won’t bore you with the reasons why “good” is in quotation marks), when I was often required to create wireframes in Visio, managing projects with many pages was difficult, so I would end up taking out the legacy pages. I would also save a new file every few days with an incremental number, so that I had some sort of history of the project. In other words, I ended up with a folder of hundreds of pretty large files, wasting space.

VIII) Thou Shalt Not Make Unnecessary Interactions.

First-time users of Axure are often impressed by the ease with which interactivity can be added to a prototype. When I started out, I couldn’t resist creating every possible interaction on my pages. However, in many cases, my designs could be clearly communicated without any interactivity — simply as still images. I now add interactivity only if the answer to one of the following questions is yes.

IX) Useth Font Icons Instead Of Images.

Another simple but often overlooked way to keep Axure projects manageable is by minimizing the number of images. To change the color of an icon image in a prototype, you would have to go through several steps. You would need to open an image editor, make the changes to the icon, export to a new bitmap, and finally import into your Axure project.

X) Previeweth Thy Prototype In The Browser Or On A Device.

Designers get frustrated upon learning that their prototype doesn’t look the same in the browser as it does in Axure. In particular, text spacing and positioning look off. What’s more, there are even differences between browsers. To avoid surprises, constantly preview your prototype in a browser or on a device if you are designing for mobile.


A few of these commandments bring results in the short term, but most yield benefit in the long run. All will save time and, perhaps more importantly, keep your work pleasurable.