Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Distimo: Being Featured In The Android Market Can Boost Apps’ Rank By 172%

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 08:46 AM PST

android

Earlier this morning, we looked at the findings from analytics provider Distimo‘s latest report, which examined what happens when mobile apps go on sale. (Spoiler: when priced correctly, revenue goes way up). The second part of the report looked at the ranking gains that occur when an app achieves “featured” status in a mobile app store like iTunes or the Android Market.

Developers often don’t know their app is being featured until they see the large, unexplained jumps in download numbers in their preferred app analytics service. The effect can be remarkable. In the iPhone App Store, for example, a featured app sees an average jump in its ranking of some 15 spots or so, during the first three days. Some apps gain significantly more, while others see much less action. (Distimo looked at Q4 data for the top 100 most popular apps to determine these findings).

In the iPad App Store and Android Market, featured apps see even higher gains than on iPhone. iPad apps’ average gain was +27 during the first three days, while featured Android apps (i.e., “Staff Picks”) were boosted up +42 spots.

Below, the chart shows the proportion of apps that gained more than 50 ranks, more than 25 ranks and those that lost ranks after being featured (oddly, that can happen), again, during the first three days.

But not all apps immediately feel the effects of their featured status. In fact, one-third of the featured iPhone apps Distimo examined did not gain in the first three days of being featured. Given that apps are, in general, only featured for seven days in all three major app stores, these first few days are critical.

During the full seven days that apps are featured, the average gains are +65 spots for Android, +15 for iPhone and +28 for iPad apps.

Distimo cautions that even though the differences between platforms seem spectacular, the app’s overall position matters, too. For example, a jump from 10 to 5 would means a substantial uptake in downloads, but going from 50 to 45 wouldn’t matter as much.

To depict this visually, the graph below shows the relative rank gains. (A rank change from 3 to 2 is an increase of 50%, while the change from 50 to 25 is 100%. All figures are 7-day averages).

The chart shows that approximately half the apps that have been featured in the Android Market have an increase over 100% while one-third of featured iPad apps gained more than 200%. (Ranks were as follows: iPad up 252%, iPhone up 137%, and Android up 172%).

Also interesting is what happens when the featured period ends. Using an average from the following five days after being featured, Distimo found that the boost was still having an overall positive effect. On average, iPad apps were up +145%, iPhone apps were up +75% and Android apps were up +828% during this “post-featured” time period.

Note that this report only looked at the top 100 most popular apps in any category – the gains in less popular apps could be quite different.



Signature Launches To Bring A Personalized, Mobile Shopping Service To Brick And Mortar Retailers

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 08:15 AM PST

Signature

As I wrote in December, brick and mortar retailers will need to personalize and make the in-store shopping experience unique to compete with online e-commerce sites. Today, Signature is launching to help retailers deliver a more personalized experience for consumers at retail stores. The Signature mobile app is essentially a personal shopping assistant, providing a curated shopping experience, with up-to-date product information, and customer service.

Signature, which is available as an iPhone app, will deliver notifications around shopping events and information such as updates on preferred items and brands, or when new arrivals hit the floor. Customers will also get an in-store greeting with a summary of what’s new, the latest fashions on the floor, and any relevant sales or events.

The app will also deliver real-time visibility into when preferred sales associates are in-store, along with the ability to make appointments and leave messages for associates. And sales associates, using their own app, will tailor the shopping experience to shoppers' preferences, favorites, and sizes.

On the retailer side, Signature provides sales associates with iPad apps which allow them to access customer information and product catalogues at their fingertips. Sales associates can see when a customer has entered a store, and what items the customer is looking for.

Already, Signature has signed a handful of top retailers as paying customers, including Seven For All Minkind. The company is rolling out pilot deployments nationwide, and plans to launch publicly with a number of well-known retailers in Spring 2012.

As CEO David Hegarty explains to me, the value add for both retailers and consumers is clear. Signature provides a more personal, and mobile shopping experience for consumers, and offers a way for retailers to improve in-store engagement and conversion, which is going to help differentiate the experience from online purchasing. Already, startups like ShopKick are catching on to this trend.

Hegarty says that the startup offers a universal iPhone app for consumers (instead of branded store apps) because most consumers don’t want to download several different apps for different stores. This way, consumers can open one app and simply choose the store they wish to shop in.

The startup is definitely onto something when it comes to helping retailers provide a more personalized experience to consumers. Basically, Hegarty wants to be able to recreate the experience you receive at an Apple store at other retail stores, he explains.

Signature has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Triangle Peak Partners, Amicus Capital, Don Hutchison, and Dave Pell.



Tagged Begins Transformation Of Social Gaming Network hi5

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 08:01 AM PST

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Tagged first announced its acquisition of struggling social network hi5 in December. Now, the company says it’s ready to talk about what’s going to happen to the property.

Basically, Tagged will continue operating hi5 as a separate site, but one that starts to look more and more like Tagged — as vice president of sales and marketing Steve Sarner put it, it will become “a Tagged.com experience with a hi5 wrapper.” Even though Sarner says hi5 won’t actually change for another six to eight weeks, hi5 users should start getting emails later today notifying them about the plans.

The biggest change will be to hi5′s gaming platform, which has been the company’s focus in recent years. Tagged will be “sunsetting” the platform for third-party game developers, and replacing it with games developed in-house by Tagged itself. Sarner says hi5′s third-party platform “wasn’t nearly as vibrant as we felt it could be or should be,” and that Tagged has been seeing better results from its own games.

More generally, Sarner says the goal was to move hi5 toward Tagged’s “proven” model, which emphasizes social discovery (i.e., meeting new people, rather than just connecting with existing friends) and makes money primarily through virtual currency. After all, Tagged is has been profitable for four years straight (although competitor Badoo disputes the company’s claim to social discovery dominance). hi5 users can also expect to see fewer ads, and they’ll be able to search for and play games with Tagged users.

But if the sites are becoming so similar and connected, why keep them separate?

“We think that in the short- and mid-term, running two separate brands makes sense,” Sarner says. “We don’t want to completely alienate the current userbase. In the long-term, there’s certainly an opportunity for merging the brands.”



Fanhattan Adds A Personalized News Feed To The Mix, Lets You Read While You Watch

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:59 AM PST

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We’ve been following the Fanhattan iPhone/iPad app from the very beginning, when it was exclusively available for the iPad and only had a handful of content partners.

But the app has come along way in a short time — migrating to the iPhone and adding new content — and the company is today announcing an update that offers up way more functionality and content, though it may not be the kind of content you’d expect.

If you don’t already know, Fanhattan is an app that lets you discover new TV shows and movies that are available to watch on the iPad/iPhone. It features a Smart Filter which makes narrowing down content super easy and the app itself is quite beautiful, but today an entirely new layer is being thrown into the mix: news.

To start, Fanhattan is integrating a news feed into the app thanks to dozens of new content partnerships between Fanhattan and your favorite news sources (full list below). With news feed integration, you’ll now be able to “Be A Fan” of certain shows or movies, and as a result see all the news on that particular movie/show and its stars from over 60 sources.

Fanhattan already offers up Rotten Tomatoes reviews and actor bios, but bringing news sources into the equation should make it that much harder for Fanhattan users to veer outside of the app.

If you’re already a Fanhattan user, the update should show up right about now on your device. Otherwise, head on over to the App Store and check out what Fanhattan version 1.2 has to offer.

New content partners:

  • BBC
  • Billboard
  • Celebuzz
  • CNN
  • E! Online
  • Entertainment Tonight
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Entertainment Wise
  • Glam.com
  • Hollywood Reporter
  • ivillage
  • KCAL Los Angeles
  • KTLA-TV, Los Angeles
  • McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Metal Underground
  • MSN Entertainment
  • MSNBC
  • MTV.com
  • New York Daily News
  • New York Post
  • NYT Music
  • People
  • PopMatters
  • Popsugar
  • Reuters
  • Rolling Stone
  • The Guardian
  • The Huffington Post
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • The New York Times
  • The Seattle Times
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • TIME Magazine
  • TMZ
  • USA Today
  • Variety
  • VH1
  • Washington Post


What Happens When Apps Go On Sale?: Revenue Up 22% On iPhone, 29% On Android

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:56 AM PST

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In a new research report from Distimo, the app store analytics provider examined two different ways that allow mobile developers to get a bump in both their download numbers and revenue. One way, which is within the developers’ control, is putting the app on sale. Within the first day, iPhone developers see an average increase of 41% in revenue using this method, and see revenue increases of 22% by the sale’s end. Android apps, however, rose just 7% on day one, but closed out the sale with higher percentage gains than either iPhone or iPad.

The second method Distimo looked into is getting the app featured in the app store. This is up to the app store’s operator, like Google or Apple, of course. (We’ll examine Distimo’s findings on featured apps in a subsequent post). 

When a developer decides to put an application on sale, there’s a delicate balance that has to be achieved. The sale price has to be low enough to encourage more downloads, obviously, but it also needs to be low enough that it encourages enough download volume to make up for the lost revenue.

To examine what happens during when apps go on sale, Distimo examined the 100 top grossing apps in the iPhone App Atore, iPad App Store and Android Market. On the first day of the sale, the average revenue increase by +41% in the iPhone App Store,  and by 15 days in, was up by +22%. On the iPad App Store, the day one effect was even greater: up +52% on day one and up +19% by day 15.

But the boost in the Android Market was the largest of all, although this couldn’t immediately be seen. By day one, revenue was just +7% on average, but by day 15, it was up +29%. These are percentage increases, though – not dollar amounts.

Keep in mind, too, that these gains are averages. Not all developers were so lucky. In looking closer at the numbers, Distimo found that 44% of iPhone apps lost revenue during the sale, with 23% seeing a decline in revenue by more than 20%. This is why the sale price setting is key to maximizing the gains. For example, a discount of a dollar on a $7.99 app lowers the revenue, but a discount of $3 increased revenue by 131%. In general, the tipping point occurred when the app’s price was cut in half or the app was offered in Tier 1 ($0.99) or Tier 2 ($1.99).

The graph below shows what happens when prices were cut by 40%, 50%, 60%, 70% or 80%. The conclusion here is that it can pay to put an app on sale, but to actually earn more revenue, you have to make a significant price cut.

This all begs the question, then: what price should a developer ask? There isn’t a simple ratio to use. The right price depends a lot on what kind of application it is, where it’s sold, what category it falls into and its overall complexity. Simple apps that are easy to make (and copy) are priced lower. You can see the variations by revenue, category and app store here:

Since this is a lot of info to take in, we’ll look at Distimo’s findings related to apps being featured in the app store in a separate post. You can find the full report here.



NewsFlash For iOS Proves That An Anti-UX Can Be A Great UX

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:55 AM PST

NewsFlash

Our industry lauds cutting-edge UX. Look no further than the exceptional work of Path. One either swoons over it, or one is blind. But what if that sends a wrong signal? Don’t get me wrong, I feel very strongly about the importance of UX, but since I’ve played around with NewsFlash, a feature-stripped free news app for iOS (iTunes link), I’ve asked myself whether more often than not users work for the UX, instead of the other way around.

NewsFlash puts the ‘dead simple’ in ‘dead simple’… Swipe-scroll for a category, tap one, and boom, you get a feed of relevant news items. Swipe-scroll past the categories and you get to languages. Tap, and boom, same category, different language.

Included are all the standard news categories, such as Sports, Business, Politics and Tech. And the app has built-in support for these six languages: English, German, Italian, Japanese, French and Hebrew.

News sources change from language-to-language. For English, NewsFlash sources from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, Reuters, AP and more.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the app fetches the news items really quickly. Definitely one of the more responsive apps I’ve ever seen.

Remember the point I made earlier about working for the UX? Well, try NewsFlash, then try Flipboard for iPhone. Sure, they’re different experiences so we’re not talking about an apples-to-apples comparison. That said, it takes user effort (the flipping) to go through news items. Fun at first, but I find it exhaustive to use (speaking only about the iPhone version, the iPad version is a home run).

NewsFlash’s UX is the complete opposite. One could argue it even looks outdated. And yet, it does exactly what it’s supposed to in the easiest way possible, meaning, with neither bells nor whistles.

So if you’re a news junkie and want the UX to work for you instead of the other way around, NewsFlash is certainly worth a visit to the App Store.



House Party Is A Serious Business, Scores $5.3 Million

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:50 AM PST

house

HouseParty.com, a site that helps people throw brand-sponsored home parties, has raised $5.3 million in Series C funding in a round led by New York-based Acadia Woods Partners.

Partiers need to apply online, indicate what type of in-home event they’re planning and take charge in spreading the word to their friends and relatives. Once selected for a house party, they receive a package of products from sponsoring brands – ‘Party Packs’ have included food, baby toys, health and beauty products and action figures in the past.

The idea is for brands to get some relatively cheap word-of-mouth marketing by gathering people in real life (who do this in exchange for freebies) in the hope that the parties will spark conversations about the brand and, ultimately, turn the people who show up into customers or even advocates.

People can also shop for party supplies on HouseParty.com.

The company has raised about $8 million to date.



Mint Competitor And Personal Finance Platform HelloWallet Raises $12M From Morningstar

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:25 AM PST

HelloWallet

HelloWallet, a personal finance software, has raised $12 million in Series B funding from Morningstar and TD Fund. The startup previously raised $9 million in Series A funding, from Grotech Ventures and AOL co-founder Steve Case’s VC fund Revolution Ventures.

HelloWallet, which launched last year, helps users track and proactively manage their personal finances from both the web and mobile. But HelloWallet aims to be a full-service financial advisor, and looks forward to proactively uncover savings opportunities and potential threats for its members.

Additionally, HelloWallet does not allow banks to advertise or promote products, so its recommendations claim to be untouched by any business interests. The startup plans to use the fund to further product development and build out its businesses development team.

HelloWallet's team of consumer finance experts have developed a platform that helps users set and reach specific financial short- and long-term goals for important life milestones including buying a home, saving for retirement, reducing debt safely, and saving for college.

For example, HelloWallet stores tuition information for nearly every college and university across the country, and models the tuition out to a users' expected enrollment date. The service is then able to make specific recommendations for the best approach to educational savings, on an individual basis.

The company has sold more than 300,000 subscriptions since it launched its enterprise application in mid-2011. During this same period, HelloWallet's personalized financial guidance has helped its average members increase their monthly savings contributions by more than 80 percent, creating about $350 in extra savings contributions every month per person.

The new funding will be used to expand its client base.



BookPlace DB50: Toshiba Introduces Android-Based Color E-Book Reader

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:22 AM PST

Picture 2

Following Fujitsu, another Japanese electronics maker is ready to sell color e-book readers: Toshiba announced [JP] the so-called BookPlace DB50 today, a 7-Inch device that comes with direct access to big T’s BookPlace store (which currently offers around 43,000 different Japanese e-books and magazines).

Toshiba says they plan to expand the range of available titles to 100,000 by March this year, the largest in its home market. The store has been available in America since 2010.

The device runs on special versions of Linux (Toshiba hasn’t revealed details yet) and Android 2.3.4 (heavily modified).

It has the following specs:

  • 7-inch color TFT LCD with 600×1,024 resolution and LED backlight (touchscreen)
  • Freescale i.MX535 CPU (1.0GHz)
  • 8GB memory
  • 1GM RAM
  • IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 5 buttons: HOME, MENU, BACK, CONTINUE, VOLUME
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • micro USB 2.0 slot, microSD slot
  • mono speaker (for MP3 playback)
  • 7.5 hours battery life
  • size: 190×120×11mm, weight: 330g

Toshiba is planning to sell the Bookplace DB50 on the Japanese market on February 10. The price will be US$284 (every buyer will get a US$64 coupon for use in the company’s e-book store).



SittingAround Launches Service To Help Parents Find & Schedule Trusted Sitters

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:15 AM PST

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SittingAround, a new service that allows parents to quickly and more easily find and schedule a babysitter, is launching today. The business is the creation of CEO Erica Zidel, a former management consultant in the Boston area (and mom) and CTO Ted Tieken, who, like Zidel, is a Harvard grad.  What’s unique about SittingAround is how it leverages users’ social networking connections – like those on Facebook – in order to build trusted relationships between parents and sitters.

If you’ve ever used a traditional childcare-finding service, like Care.com, for example, or even Craigslist, you know the feeling of having to wade through dozens of listings, without really knowing which caregivers are better than others. Who have your friends used? Did they like them? Traditional sites can’t tell you.

However, on SittingAround, the site pulls in data from popular social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, to help you immediately see who your friends would use and recommend.

“Babysitting is a complex and unique problem. You have a need that is irregular, generally, but you also want a high level of trust,” explains Zidel. “What we do is we allow people to see how they’re connected to each other, including the people in their community, the sitters that they use, and how the sitters are connected to each other, to really pass trust along the social graph. You’re able to form your own network of sitters.”

SittingAround, which grew out of an earlier site that helped parents find local babysitting co-ops (parents who trade sitting duties with each other), doesn’t just help you find a sitter – it also helps you schedule them.

Using the site’s free tools, parents can send out a single message to their network of sitters when they’re in need. To reach sitters not on SittingAround, the site supports entering email addresses, to save you time.

The sitters themselves can also maintain their own schedules on the site with calendars showing their availability, allowing parents to quickly see whether their favorite sitters are free that day or not.

While those are the main points, SittingAround has many other notable features that give it a unique edge. For example, it has partnered with a service to provide free background checks to sitters and parents alike, which will help immediately weed out less desirable quotient. (After all, if it’s free, why wouldn’t someone do the background check?) They’re also working on curating daily deals for select areas, to provide a source for “date night deals,” which could help SittingAround expand from just a care-finding resource to an entire “night out” planning tool.

For now, SittingAround is a freemium service. For $15/year, you can eliminate ads and have access to priority support. But the business model is still in the experimental phase.

SittingAround’s initial product, a babysitting coop, now has 3,000 families in 6 countries trading care with each other. The sitter-finding aspect to the service, meanwhile, is launching now in New York, Boston, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, where it has a waitlist in over 1,000 sitters. While not officially live in other locations yet, the Sitter Marketplace is open and available for anyone interested to sign up.

The service will launch both a mobile web version and mobile apps (Android first) in early 2012.

The company is currently in due diligence with angels in the Boston area, while raising a $600,000 round of funding with a targeted close in February.

 



ShoeBox App Now Integrates With Facebook Timeline, Lets You Add Photos To Years Past

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST

iPhone_0_3Phone_display

ShoeBox, the mobile app that lets you scan old photos and post them online, is today announcing Facebook Timeline integration. Using the newly released version of the ShoeBox iOS application, users will be able to scan photographs of family and friends using their smartphone, tag users by name, and then share those photos to Facebook.

But here’s the really cool part: ShoeBox is one of the first Timeline-integrated apps that’s letting you post photos into the past. By that, I mean you can edit the date on your photo, and it will post to the correct place on your Facebook Timeline. Nifty!

I’ll admit to being a huge fan of what 1000memories is doing with its ShoeBox app, something which probably shows my age. I, like many of you (old people), didn’t “grow up” on Facebook. My childhood and young adulthood were captured by flash bulbs, printouts, and trips to the drug store to pick up prints – not smartphones and social networks. ShoeBox provides an easy way to get those old photos online so they can actually be shared and enjoyed.

In its first release back in October, the ShoeBox app allowed you to quickly snap a smartphone photo of a printed photo, crop, flatten and rotate the image, then fill in missing information, like that which might be scrawled on the back of the printout (where the photo was taken, who’s in it, what you were doing, date, etc.)

However, until today, none of that information actually appeared in the correct format to be useful on Facebook. It only worked to supplement on 1000memories’ own website, its social network of days past at 1000memories.com.

With today’s launch of the new iPhone application, things have changed. Now you can find and follow Facebook friends in the app and tag your Facebook friends by name so they’re alerted when the photos go online, a much-needed addition. You’re also now able to edit the date on the Facebook post to send it “back in time” to the date you specify.

Interestingly, this process of posting to the past could have been automated, but 1000memories says the team decided to use Facebook’s Photos API and not the OpenGraph API. Since the Photos API allows posts to appear on the Timeline in a different way – big and beautiful like Instagram now does – they decided to use it instead.

But the company is pushing Facebook to revive support for EXIF data for the ShoeBox app itself, which would allow users to automatically post pictures to the right spot while also still appearing in the attractive, larger format. EXIF (exchangeable image file format) is a standard format that contains a digital photo’s metadata information, – e.g., details about the camera’s make and model or the photo’s timestamp.

Facebook briefly supported EXIF data during Timeline’s tests, but stopped doing so because users were “freaked out” that Facebook knew when a photo was taken. Now Facebook is now more cautious about when and where it supports EXIF.

However, in a case like ShoeBox’s, using EXIF data would simplify the process of time-stamping these photos appropriately. Although the photo in question wouldn’t have been a digital photo to start, ShoeBox could still send Facebook EXIF data that relates to the scanned-in photo’s actual data of capture as indicated by a user’s caption (e.g., “Halloween 1985,” “beach trip 1997,” etc.).

The updated ShoeBox app is likely to be the first of many Timeline-integrated apps to come, now that the Facebook Timeline is mandatory. Although not everyone is thrilled about Facebook’s new look, when you can get past the knee-jerk “change is bad” mentality, there’s a pretty compelling use case here with the idea of filling out the missing Timeline dates with old photos. With Timeline, Facebook is no longer just a utility for social networking, it’s a digital representation of our lives. For it to be a truer reflection those lives, however, properly supporting the 4 trillion printed out photos in the world would be a good start.

The new version of the ShoeBox app is available here. (And yes, Android is coming).



Sprint’s Epic 4G Touch Gets Stripped Of Carrier IQ

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 06:43 AM PST

Sprint Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch

Sprint has been spending the past few weeks quietly pumping out software updates that remove Carrier IQ from affected devices, and now it looks like Sprint’s flagship Android device (for now) will be able to run wild and free.

Thanks to an update that started making the rounds yesterday, Samsung’s Galaxy S II variant the Epic 4G Touch joins a handful of Sprint devices to get the Carrier IQ cleanup treatment.

Aside from giving Carrier IQ the boot (which Sprint refers to as a “security update”), the new build also includes updated modems and a fix for an issue involving multiple calendar alerts. The only other notable addition in the new update is support for the Commercial Mobile Alert System, which allows Sprint to push out critical public safety updates to customers in the event of an emergency.

While this release is the first official one that removes Carrier IQ from Sprint’s Galaxy S II, Samsung has been working on a clean build for some time now. To wit, a Carrier IQ-free software build for the Epic 4G Touch was leaked one day prior to Sprint’s announcement that they would discontinue use of the oft-maligned diagnostics tool.

If your Epic 4G Touch hasn’t yet been graced with the update, it’s only a matter of time — according to Sprint, the OTA rollout will should be complete within 10 days. Of course, if you’re really impatient, you could always load up a flashy new custom ROM and be done with Carrier IQ for good.



It Only Makes Sense That Samsung Would Delay The Galaxy S III Launch

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 06:27 AM PST

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Every once in a while something comes along that’s worth a wait, and I think the Samsung Galaxy S III will be one of those things. We’ve all been expecting Samsung’s next flagship to show its face at MWC in February, but according to the Verge, Samsung may have other plans.

Anonymous sources who spoke with the Verge claim that the SGSIII will still be available “before summer,” but that Mobile World Congress in Barcelona may not be the most beneficial launch venue. Last year, the Samsung Galaxy S II was debuted at MWC and though it was available in Europe almost immediately, the U.S. had to wait quite a while before AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile were all comfortable with their model.

That said, the Galaxy S II still has a little life in it yet, and it would be just plain silly for Samsung to interrupt its success too early. A look at the numbers, if you don’t mind:

  • In less than a month, Samsung sold 1 million Galaxy S IIs in its home country of South Korea
  • Samsung sold 3 million units of the Samsung Galaxy S II in its first 55 days on the market
  • After 85 days on the market, units sold jumped to the 5 million mark
  • By September, the company shipped over 10 million units
  • At this point, 1 in every 10 South Koreans is carrying a Galaxy S II

Meanwhile, the original Galaxy S is still selling well, topping 20 million units sold.

No doubt the Galaxy S III will be a beast, and Samsung is well aware of its mobile prowess by this point. A bevy of new phones — most of which are meant for the European market — will launch at MWC. Still, after the success of earlier generation Galaxy S models, Samsung knows its consumers will wait a tad longer to hear about the SIII as long as it shows up on shelves shortly thereafter.

From the report this morning, we believe that will be the case.



Nintendo Reports US$630 Million Net Loss Between April And December 2011, Announces Wii U For 2012

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 06:08 AM PST

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3DS sales have picked up lately, but Nintendo‘s financial numbers are still weak. Big N today released [PDF] another set of disappointing results for the first nine months of its fiscal year (April to December 2011). The company lost a whopping US$630 million, compared with a profit of US$635 million in the same time frame last fiscal.

Sales were down 31.2% year-on-year to US$7.2 billion.

Nintendo says there are three main reasons for this performance: weak Wii sales, the unprecedented price cut for the 3DS in spring last year, and losses on its foreign currency holdings coming from the very strong yen.

But today, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was able to announce good news, too: Iwata said this company is ready to phase out the Wii and to start selling the follow-up console, the Wii U, in Japan, America, Europe and Australia by the “year-end season” 2012.



Google, Look Out Behind You!

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 06:01 AM PST

Rhino charging

Editor's note: Guest author Keith Teare is General Partner at his incubator Archimedes Labs and CEO of newly funded just.me. He was a co-founder of TechCrunch.

Google has been fighting the threat of Facebook for some time. It is now fighting for its life on two fronts! Facebook and now Apple loom large as it attempts to chart the future.

The past two weeks have seen some astounding changes in the software landscape. The current earnings season gives some clues and confirms some of the mega-trends that are leading to the need for change for Google in particular. As I wrote some months ago in Smart Mobile and the Thin Cloud.

The next 10 years are going to be wonderfully interesting. And the thanks goes to . . . Apple and Steve Jobs. Think different is no longer a choice.

Earnings hit and miss!

Google missed the streets numbers for its Q1 earnings last week and has seen its stock decline from $670.25 to yesterday’s close of $569.49. Apple, by comparison, has just beaten, no annihilated, the Street’s predictions and its stock has gone from a low of $363 to yesterday’s close of $446.66 in the same period.

It’s all about mobile!

The cause of Google's relative failure (and it is only relative) is that it failed to hit the "Cost Per Click (CPC)" target expected by analysts. The reason for this seems to be connected to the rapid growth of mobile traffic and the subsequent decline in paid clicks on Google searches.

The same trend – the growth of mobile – that is driving Google to despair is responsible for Apples staggering growth. Rising iPhone, iPad and associated revenues such as the App Store, drove Apple’s profits for the quarter above $13 billion, a number larger than Google's revenues for the quarter.

The growth of mobile is the key driver of almost everything happening in the software ecosystem today. Consumers and enterprises are turning their backs on the desktop and the laptop at an accelerating rate as they embrace tablets and smart phones. This trend is exponential and global.

Google's reliance on search revenues derived from web searches in a browser, its former strength, is now not sufficient to guarantee growth.

Google's focus on Android is a necessary but not sufficient part of confronting these trends. It gives the company a platform into mobile, but it does not do enough to offset the impact of the relative shift in traffic. This is compounded by Android's essential nature. Originally conceived as a client distribution strategy, making Google apps and services available on a best in class mobile operating system, it lacks the app-store like ecosystem that Apple has created and the consumer-friendly experience that Apple's approach embodies. A mobile web client to a cloud service just isn't as fast, or as friendly, as a native app. And whilst third parties are producing native apps, Google is heavily invested in making its cloud based apps and services available on the Android and iOS devices and is paying the price for that.

Social – a threat for sure, but not the only threat, and not the main threat.

Google is also threatened by the inexorable rise of the social internet. Its admirable roll-out of Google Plus over the recent past is almost entirely related to that threat. And at now 90 million users and growing, Google Plus is definitely off to a good start. The decision to change Google Search into a "Search plus Your World" experience this week is probably a necessary part of the response to Facebook also. The controversy that led Larry Page to reportedly suggest that employees who are hanging onto the old Google to go and work elsewhere is a misplaced loyalty to a model that can no longer be sufficient to ensure Google remains relevant. However, by focusing on the strategic threat posed by Facebook almost exclusively, Google may have waited too long, and have the wrong strategy, to beat a more serious challenger – Apple.

Indeed Facebook itself may be a victim of the growth of Mobile, and thereby a victim of Apple's success. Yesterday, it was reported that Facebook would file its IPO before April 1st in order to comply with US Securities laws requiring companies with more than 500 shareholders to report their financials. Its shares traded for $34 on the secondary markets, implying a market capitalization of $80 billion, down from $55 per share at the peak about 12 months ago (see Sharespost.com for details).

Apple has a platform that will soon be numbered in the hundreds of millions. Every device has communications built-in, personalization built-in, media capture built-in. And with iCloud, there is now a place to store the output of each device. How relevant is the Facebook hosted social graph in that world? How relevant is the web ecosystem that Facebook connect has helped penetrate? It seems likely that Facebook will have many of the same challenges as Google as it contemplates the rise of Apple, and the rise of mobile.

Only one winner this week.

So, as the earnings calls recede into memory, the fact of Apple;s growth and the moment for Google and Facebook to think through their response is now! The results of the past few days paint a clear picture of the future. Pivot may no longer be a word reserved for young startups. The big guys, who are more than capable of understanding the trends, need to step up right away. Failure will mean that Apple – the worlds most valuable company – will be many times bigger 5 years from now. Product thinking needs to be at the center of this reflection. What does mobile mean for us? That needs to be the only question on the table.

 

 



Drchrono Raises $2.8M From Yuri Milner And Others To Help Bring Medical Records To The iPad

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST

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Drchrono, a startup that simplifies the professional lives of doctors by bringing electronic health records and much more to the iPad, has raised $2.8 million in funding led by Yuri Milner, with Google’s Matt Cutts and other investors participating. The startup had previously raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Milner, General Catalyst, Charles River Ventures, 500 Startups, Gmail creator and FriendFeed cofounder Paul Buchheit, Cutts, and the Start Fund.

Y Combinator-backed drchrono streamlines the professional lives of doctors and medical professionals by bringing electronic health records and much more to the iPad. The free iPad app allows doctors to schedule patient appointments, dictate notes via audio, take pictures, write prescriptions and send them to pharmacies, enable reminders, take clinical notes, access lab results, and input electronic health records.

The electronic medical records element is key because the Obama administration is currently offering strong incentives for doctors to start moving their health records online. Drchrono will help doctors start, finish and manage this process. Last year, the startup received official government certification, allowing participating doctors to receive $44,000 in incentives when they use drchrono as an electronic medical records platform.

Doctors can upgrade to more storage for records, and complete medical billing. The billing component is another win for doctors, who spend hundreds of dollars each month for medical billing processing. Drchrono’s system integrates with all U.S. insurance companies, even the insurance agents that only use paper billing.

With Billing Center, physicians can sign up to do medical billing and start getting payments within days directly from their iPads. The platform is already compliant with the government’s new payment standards, 5010, which supports ICD-10 and ICD-9 medical codes.

In August, Drchrono released another iPad app, called OnPatient, which replaces the patient check-in process. So, as soon as you enter a medical office, you are generally given a clipboard with a number of forms to fill out in the waiting room, including general information, medical history, confidentiality agreements and more.

Offices can give users Drchrono's free iPad app instead of a clipboard, which allows patients to complete family medical history, demographic information, and insurance information; take a profile photo and sign the HIPAA consent form with a digital signature. With the app, you can only fill out your form and are locked into this interface so patients won't be able to switch to other apps or access other patients' information.

And to make doctors' lives easier, the app integrates with drchrono's medical records interface, so medical personnel don't have to type in all the patient information. On subsequent visits, patients do not have to complete duplicate forms—they need only review their information and make any necessary changes on the iPad.

“The drchrono team has built an incredibly exciting product that helps physicians modernize their practice and enhances quality of care for patients”, said Milner of the startup. “…I’m looking forward to the journey we are embarking on that will revolutionize healthcare IT.”

The company also announced it now has more than 15,000 registered providers, and more than 400,000 patients using the drchrono platform.

Drchrono playing the online medical space in an interesting time, as medical records move online, and mobile technologies are making their way into both the operating and exam room. Doctors are increasingly bringing laptops into the exam room to take notes, write prescriptions and more. But laptops can be cumbersome, and the iPad has emerged as a popular device for medical professionals.

But the electronic medical records space is still evolving. For example, Google recently shuttered its online health platform Google Health. However, others in the space are growing. Practice Fusion has become one of the biggest providers of EMRs in the country, with 25 million digitized to date. Kaiser Permanente just released an Android app to help take patient electronic medical records mobile.

Clearly, investors are betting on drchrono as a viable option for doctors to manage electronic health records and medical data on mobile and web platforms. Stay tuned.



Airbnb: 5 Million Nights Booked, Opening 6 New International Offices In Q1 2012

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 05:59 AM PST

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Airbnb is growing like a weed.

The young company is today releasing a ton of statistics about its business to showcase its growth, accompanied (of course) by a fancy infographic.

Most noteworthy, Airbnb says it has enabled the booking of 5 million guest nights in spaces all over the world, 4 million of which were booked in the last 12 months alone (they announced their 1 millionth booking in February 2011). I’m a fan myself.

Of those reservations, 75 percent were international (where either guest, host or both were located outside of the United States) so naturally that leads to Airbnb expanding its presence in more nations across the globe, aided by business incubator Springstar.

This quarter (Q1 2012), Airbnb will open five new offices in European cities – namely Barcelona, Milan, Copenhagen, Moscow and Paris – and also one in São Paulo, Brazil. Airbnb already boasts offices in San Francisco, Hamburg, Berlin, and London.

Founded in August 2008, Airbnb says the number of listings on its website have increased by 166 percent in 2011, and that roughly 70 percent of all Airbnb listings are now outside of the United States. Today, over 100,000 properties in 192 countries are listed on Airbnb.

International expansion also translates to a need for more, personalized customer service across the board. To that end, Airbnb now offers 24-hour customer support in 16 languages through email, live chat and seven global toll-free phone numbers.

The company has raised roughly $120 million in funding to date, from investors like Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Capital, DST and CrunchFund (which counts TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and columnist MG Siegler among its partners).

Also read:

DLD 2012 – Brian Chesky: "Average Airbnb Host In NYC Pockets $21,000 A Year"

Airbnb's Brian Chesky On Expansion Efforts: We Use Our Community To Figure Out What's Next



Intel To Spend $120M On Patents, Video Codec Software From RealNetworks

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 05:07 AM PST

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Intel is to buy “a significant number” of patents (approximately 190 patents and 170 patent applications) and video codec software from RealNetworks for a purchase price of $120 million. Under the terms of the deal, RealNetworks says it retains certain rights to continue to use the patents in current and future products.

Says RealNetworks president and CEO Thomas Nielsen:

“Selling these patents to Intel unlocks some of the substantial and unrealized value of RealNetworks assets. It represents an extraordinary opportunity for us to generate additional capital to boost investments in new businesses and markets while still protecting our existing business.”

In addition to the sale of the patents and software, RealNetworks and Intel agreed to collaborate on future support and development of the video codec software and ‘related products’.



Nokia Sold “Well Over” 1 Million Lumia Phones To Date, Posts €1 Billion Q4 Loss

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 04:54 AM PST

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Nokia earnings are out, and the contrast with Apple’s blow-out quarter results is astonishing. The Finnish phone maker, still the largest in the world by volume, reported a Q4 net loss of 1.07 billion euro, down from a 745 million euro profit in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The company’s smartphone sales decline paints an even bleaker picture: Nokia sold 19.6 million units in Q4 2011, down a whopping 31 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago (even though it’s up 17 percent from Q3 2011 thanks to somewhat decent Lumia sales).

Nokia says it sold “well over” 1 million Lumia devices to date (not just in Q4) and that it plans to bring the Lumia series to additional markets – including China and Latin America – in the first half of 2012. The billion dollar question: is this good enough for Nokia’s future to start looking bright?

Nokia needs it line of Windows Phone-powered smartphones to perform exceptionally well to turn the tide – right now they’re getting crushed by Apple and Android device makers in this particular, crucial game. As a Lumia 800 owner, I know Nokia can still make great devices, and that Windows Phone is in a good position to start competing. But that’s not enough to turn the Nokia ship around.

The company will need to kick up sales and marketing efforts a notch or two, enter more markets more quickly, attract more developers (to get more high-quality apps) and continue to improve the quality and appeal of its smartphone products more rapidly. To have a fighting chance, that is.

Reminder: Apple sold 37 million iPhones last quarter.

Nokia chose not to provide targets for 2012, saying this will be a ‘transition year’, “during which our devices-and-services business will be subject to risks and uncertainties”. Well, quite.

Also read:

The Not-So-Crazy Rumors About Microsoft Taking Over Nokia's Smartphone Division Resurface

Nokia Exec: iPhone, Android Handsets No Longer Appeal To Youth



AT&T Set Sales Records For Both iPhone And Android Devices In Q4 2011

Posted: 26 Jan 2012 04:44 AM PST

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AT&T this morning released its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011. Consolidated revenues clocked in at $32.5 billion, up 3.6 percent compared to the year-earlier quarter. They recorded a huge net loss for Q4 2011: $6.7 billion, or $1.12 per diluted share.

Zooming in on smartphone sales, it’s worth noting that AT&T delivered its best-ever quarter to date, hands down.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, the company says it sold 9.4 million smartphones, nearly double the number sold in the third quarter and 50 percent more than the previous quarterly record.

This also led to 19.4 percent growth in wireless data revenues, the company said.

During the quarter, more than 7.6 million iPhones were activated, the “majority of which” were iPhone 4S, and AT&T says more than twice as many Android smartphones were sold last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. AT&T also said it sold 311,000 tablets in Q4 2011.



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