If you happen to have one of the later generations of the iPhone, you’ve probably spent at least a little bit of time goofing around with the voice assistant Siri, testing her limits, asking her about the meaning of life, etc. The game gets old eventually, as you become more and more familiar (and more and more frustrated) when Siri throws up the white flag, admits she doesn’t get it, and offers to look it up on the Internet.
Recently, however, some innovative thinkers started thinking bigger, or at least differently. Consider, for example, Volio’s new “Talk to Esquire” app. Talk to Esquire doesn’t try to make the voice assistant more like human beings, but instead tries to make human beings into decent digital assistants. One of Esquire’s editors refers to the app as a “voice guided choose-your-own-adventure,” where you select a topic and then engage in a Siri-esque conversation with one of Esquire’s columnists.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re looking for hair-styling advice. You’ll be directed to Rodney Cutler, Esquire’s resident hairstyle columnist, who will then ask you a series of questions as to what your hair is like (long, short, straight, curly, etc.), what you want to do with it, and what products you use. He’ll assimilate your answers and advise accordingly, and he’s not above tut-tutting you should you choose the wrong type of shampoo. And naturally, other experts are there to help you with fashion, bartending, etc.
Another company called iSpeech asked the question, if Iron Man can have a conversation with his house, why can’t everybody? At the moment iSpeech is hoping to integrate voice recognition technology into major appliances, but ultimately the goal is to bring it all together, quite literally under one roof. So instead of separate commands for lights, window blinds, home alarms, and so forth, in iSpeech’s ideal home all you’ll have to do is say, “I’m ready for bed” and all of the pertinent commands will be given simultaneously, much like it does for S.A.R.A.H., the “Self-Actuated Residential Automated Habitat” featured in the science fiction show Eureka.
With the seeding complete and the action underway, March Madness 2013 is in full swing. Whether you’re a die-hard college basketball junkie or a gambler or just a more casual fan, however, unless you can be in several places at once you won’t be able to catch all sixty-seven match-ups live, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite iOS apps that’ll help you keep abreast of the action:
- NCAA March Madness Live: NCAA’s official app allows you to stream games live, listen to live radio broadcasts, set up alerts, check scores and track your bracket. Unlike last year, the 2013 March Madness app is free; you’ll be able to stream any game aired on CBS, although you will need to log in with your cable subscriber information for any game aired by TNT, TBS, and truTV.
- Thuuz: This is perhaps one of the best examples of what modern technology can do for sports fans. Thuuz uses a complex algorithm that analyzes live feeds of play-by-play statistics that include metrics like pace, closeness of score, and novelty of the plays, and alerts its subscribers when a game starts to heat up. Believe it or not, someone’s finally managed to develop a live highlight reel.
- PocketBracket: Brackets remain a long-standing March Madness tradition (in spite of the fact that most of us never get half of our picks right). With PocketBracket, you can create separate March Madness tournament brackets for friends, family, or the office. Users can also download pools, scoreboards, and chats, and sync those pools across multiple platforms. Once the tournament gets underway, your brackets are automatically scored, ranked, and updated after each game.
- Off the Hook Excuses: Of course, some of the die-hards are going to be conspicuously ill in March, so they really can try and catch all 67 games. If you find yourself among them, then Off the Hook might just be able to help you come up with a convincing excuse to play hookey.
Enjoy the games!
So it turns out there are 9 billion dollars worth of unused old iPhones out there in the world, and what you may not know is that in spite of the fact that they’re not latest-generation, they’re still worth quite a lot of money. And if they’re still worth so much, why are people holding onto them, even after they’ve upgraded?
For all sorts of reasons, it turns out. Parents sometimes give earlier generation phones to their children, other users are afraid their personal data might be retrieved from the device, still others believe that, like themselves, nobody will want an old iPhone once a new one hits the shelves, and twenty percent of those asked replied that they were just “too lazy” to do anything with their own devices. Considering that 83% of iPhone users plan to upgrade in 2013, there will be an awful lot of iPhones out there gathering dust.
Which is a pity, really. Just because the iPhone 5 is pretty cool doesn’t mean that the iPhone 4S (or even the iPhone 4, for that matter) is worthless. Quite the contrary, both earlier iterations are still fantastic and revolutionary pieces of technology that can be of considerable value. Consider this: a two-year contract with Verizon for an iPhone 5 starts at $199. If you take, say, your iPhone 4S (16G, good condition, with USB and charger) and sell it at a site like Gadget Salvation, you can earn as much as $291. In other words, if you take care of your phone, you can completely defray the cost of an upgrade and still have enough left over to take the family out to celebrate.
Gadget Salvation isn’t the only place you can sell your old iPhone. Companies like Gazelle.com and BuyMyTronics.com offer the same service, and there’s also a company called SellCell.com that aggregates purchasers and provides you with a range of bidders.
It’s a pretty good deal that not too many people are talking about, and of course if people do start talking about it and selling their old phones, the prices will drop. So if you need an iPhone upgrade, consider selling your old one sooner rather than later, and whatever you do, do make sure you transfer your mobile apps.
There’s not a single popular mobile app game that is exclusively available on Android. If it’s on Android, it’s also on iOS, and what’s more, the odds are it was on iOS first. Here’s why:
- Time: If you’re a meticulous mobile app developer with an idea for an awesome game, you want to make sure you get it right, but you also want to get it in the app stores as soon as is humanly possible. It takes considerably less time to develop and calibrate a game app for the 20 Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, iPod touches) than it does for the 3,997 Android platforms currently in use. When you also consider the fact that most Android users aren’t running the latest OS, it turns out that developing for iOS platforms requires considerably fewer resources and less time.
- Money: Android app users are notoriously stingy when it comes to paying for mobile apps, but just as importantly, they also have lower platform utilization rates. In other words, Android users don’t use their smartphones to their fullest potential as mobile platforms, and as a result, games fare better financially on iOS devices. How much better? In spite of Android’s considerably larger market share when it comes to hardware, iOS games earned 3.5 times more than their Android counterparts.
- Security: Fragmentation of Android devices means that Android mobile apps tend to be less secure than their iOS counterparts. In a guest post on Wired, game developer Miles Jacobson remarked that only about 10% of the people playing his popular soccer management game had paid for it. Jacobson noted that many Android users felt pirating the game was justified because it was “too expensive,” but nevertheless the open-sourced nature of the Android ecosystem leads to a dynamic where theft is substantially easier to get away with than it is in Apple’s App Store.
Of course, the big game developers like Rovio can afford to develop games simultaneously for both platforms, but for new developers, doing so just doesn’t make good business sense.
There’s been rather a lot of talk in recent weeks about the size of the mobile app market, talk that suggests that there’s only room left in it for the big names in tech. In spite of the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of mobile apps in the App Store, many would-be developers are reconsidering creating one themselves, as the good publicity all seems to go to major, well-established brands like Angry Birds, Temple Run, Google Maps, Fruit Ninja, et cetera.
And Facebook and Twitter, of course. Just about every online article comes with options for Facebook “likes” and retweets, but as the new social networking app Pheed demonstrated, an entrenched brand name and broad customer base won’t protect you if someone comes along with a better idea. Pheed is now ranked as the number one social networking app in the App Store, surpassing both Facebook and Twitter. Evidence suggests that the growth explosion was largely driven by, you guessed it, teenagers.
Strangely enough, Pheed doesn’t really do much that isn’t already being done. What it does do, however, is to incorporate the features of a variety of different mobile apps – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, SoundShare, et cetera – and put them all in a single app. If you want to keep up with your friends and acquaintances by text, photos, videos, audio, voice, or live broadcast, you can now do so all in one place. This is one of those ideas that seems so obvious after the fact that it’s a wonder it took somebody so long to come up with it in the first place.
One new feature that Pheed brings to the table is its paywall; users can charge per-view or per-month, and split the proceeds with Pheed. Users can also add a watermark to their content, showing their ownership of that content.
Most importantly, however, the story of Pheed is an inspiring one; when it comes to the mobile app market, it’s nice to know that David can still bring down Goliath.