Behind the App: Top Software Tools

Behind the App: Top Software Tools

At the recent Casual Connect show in San Francisco, we were excited to see video game makers offering a variety of products with broad appeal that even the most inexperienced and casual of app users could enjoy.  Surprisingly, the way in which they attack this problem – making games more intuitive and approachable – requires some unexpectedly complex technology and tricks that most users will never get to see.

While there are more than a few services, products and apps the average smartphone, social network or tablet PC user might be familiar with on display at Casual Connect, (such as life-sized Candy Crush Saga pieces walking around to promote King’s meg-ahit app) much of what was present at the show in San Francisco are behind-the-scenes services that help track users, integrate ads and maximize revenues for game makers.  That’s great in the majority of cases if you’re a developer who’s created an app, but of considerably less interest if you’re not a professional software maker. However, there are always some fun exceptions to the rule.

Following are six behind-the-scenes app services which quietly work hard to make players’ lives more fun and enjoyable. You may not recognize their names, but you can be glad these products are around, because they make the everyday experieneces we enjoy playing our favorite applications that much better.

Playphone – There’s probably an 83% chance that you’ve used PlayPhone’s service, and you may not even realize it.  That’s because the company now provides mobile app download solution for that percentage of the North American carriers’ mobile and smartphone products. Playphone designs app stores and the delivery platform for you to search and receive recommendations directly from your phone carriers.  With partnerships with AT&T, Verizon and the newly announced Sprint, the service they provide unwittingly touches the vast majority of app downloaders by providing the method for accessing content.

http://www.playphone.com/

Arkadium – Every month, millions of Americans play crosswords on newspaper websites, AARP.com, cable network pages and more.  But the LA Times, Discovery Network and dozens of more of these websites aren’t creating these games themselves.  A company named Arkadium creates, curates and manages the “Games” page of many of the country’s most popular site, and does so behind the scenes.  They’ve got hundreds of titles they rotate on these pages, but Sudoku and Crossword Puzzles are two of their most popular. 

http://www.arkadium.com/

Lootsie – While many are familiar with the concept of virtual achievements to help engage player interest in games, platforms like Lootsie are emerging which are translating in-app activities into real-life rewards.  Instead of working hard to earn virtual currency that is realistically worthless, Lootsie negotiaties with major brands to provide real-life benefits, such as Starbucks or Best Buy, and works across a number of different games.

https://www.lootsie.com/

PaeDae – Pronounced “PAY-day,” this service takes offering real-life rewards even further by allowing users to enter sweepstakes and giveaways without detracting from the in-game experience.  They work with advertising agencies and game developers to make any advertising fun, instead of obtrusive, and only collect users e-mail addresses instead of pages of “lead-generating” personal information. For example, in the wildly popular “Car Town” Facebook game, PaeDae integrates a giveaway with Jack in the Box that to the user seems just like another fun part of the game, with real world benefits.

http://paedae.com/

Tango – While many may be familiar with a business who provided face-to-face chat functionality before FaceTime stole its thunder, the company still has hundreds of millions of users of their chat client and has begun expanding their reach into the app market.  In addition to simple-to-play games that are contained within their chat client, they’re seamlessly integrating with other app publishers the ability to track, challenge and interact with your Tango friends in games like Candy Block Breaker and Jetpack Jinx.

http://www.tango.me/

FreeMyApps – If you download a lot of apps, you may want to consider getting them through FreeMyApps.  The company provides “points” for getting these through their service, and these points can be redeemed for iTunes credits.  The service is especially useful for kids who may have an iPod touch or an old iPhone who don’t have any money in their iTunes account as a way to earn credits that can be used to purchase a handful of paid apps. WEBSITE

http://www.freemyapps.com/

Summer Tech: Top Apps, Gadgets and Trends

Summer Tech: Top Apps, Gadgets and Trends

Whether you’re planning on road tripping it, hopping a cross-country flight, or simply enjoying a relaxing staycation this season, technology continues to play a growing role in many individuals’ summer plans. Thank meteoric growth in apps, tablet PCs and travel-ready mobile devices, which increasingly allow leisure seekers to stay connected wherever they go, and cram an entire household’s worth of ways to unwind into sleek, easily transportable carry-ons. We’ve teamed up with some awesome companies to take a look at the latest technology trends that can help heat up the coming weeks. Several worth keeping in mind off the bat include:

  • The rise of home automation systems, multi-purpose mobile computing devices, and interconnected gadgets, quickly becoming more fully-featured and accessible through a growing range of apps. It’s getting to the point where you can control your home, DVR and entertainment collection remotely, and even your scale and refrigerator are starting to conspire together to help keep you looking trim by the pool.
  • Rising advancements in mobile devices, leading to larger screen sizes, higher resolution graphics, and a growing range of choices in every shape, style and size. Thanks to promising handsets from the Samsung Galaxy S4 to Sony Xperia Z and HTC One, be on the lookout for improved battery life and better computing performance, as well as enhanced multimedia capabilities and download speeds.
  • Massive strides in cell phone digital camera capabilities are also being made, meaning it’s easier than ever to capture or share vacation moments and memories. But dedicated waterproof and shockproof cameras from the likes of Olympus, Pentax and Panasonic are also growingly worth considering as an alternative, given shrinking prices and superior performance at capturing underwater or fast-action shots.

Of course, summer is also always a prime time for workout apps which promote fitness and exercise, several of which even use the GPS or other features of your mobile device to track distances and workout performance so you can compare progress with friends. Music apps that offer streaming audio from your favorite artists or quickly help identify songs playing in the background at BBQs and beaches should also prove popular as well. Expect deal apps to come in especially handy as well, potentially saving you tons of money and keeping you connected to the best activities and vacations available this summer.

As an example, if you’re looking to get away, definitely check out Expedia’s free mobile travel app. Not only can you book killer last minute deals at rates up to 60% off, but also track and manage travel itineraries with ease as well. Besides getting real-time updates on things like flight status, you can also add activities and car rentals if your plans change, plus access useful information like airport maps, addresses and confirmation codes on the fly. Plus, if you’re already on the road, it’s super easy to find and book last minute hotels with mobile-exclusive deals.

Like we mentioned earlier, tablet PCs are also increasingly becoming a preferred choice for many shoppers. Systems powered by the Windows 8 operating system like the Acer Iconia W3 make a great choice, letting you enjoy a full range of entertainment options – music, movies, TV shows, books, games, etc. – wherever you travel, without having to pack multiple devices. A great way to keep kids occupied watching movies or playing games, it can lie flat on any surface and two people can touch the screen at the same time. As with any Windows 8 system, you get power, performance, and the ability to customize your interface using live tiles with downloadable apps from the Windows Store, making for great times and great value.

While we touched on new features that are hot in phone technology previously, many of the most crucial new advancements are being made in processors, the heart of these devices, which directly impact performance, as well. As an example, the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor has steadily been raising the bar for mobile devices. Already in more than 800 phones like the super-popular Samsung Galaxy S4 and many other Android and Windows Phone devices, the Snapdragon processor provides the best mobile user experience possible. This means enhanced GPS, web browsing, music playback and gaming capabilities, as well as better battery life. When shopping for a mobile device, you’ll want to know if one’s inside, and can check out this handy tool to find a good fit.

Be sure to tune back in regularly for more of the best new high-tech gadgets, apps, online services and accessories. With so many promising ways to relax and recline, we’ll keep you posted as more news breaks.

Technology for Dads and Grads

Technology for Dads and Grads

Looking for great gifts for the Dad or grad in your life? Start with technology – loads of cool new innovative gadgets and accessories offer fun ways to connect with them and provide memory-making presents. We’ve partnered with some top tech companies to help you find several exciting high-tech options for every interest.

If your Dad or grad is looking to stay connected while on the go, definitely consider picking up a new laptop. Great for both entertainment and productivity, the ATIV Book 9, new from Samsung, makes travel incredibly convenient and delivers great computing performance. Just a half-inch thin, it weighs only 2 ½ pounds, but boots up in under nine seconds and packs a gorgeous 1080p HD display that’s great for watching movies, playing games, or getting work done while on the move. Packing six hours of battery life, it makes a fantastic traveling companion on cross-country flights.

For fathers who love the latest in home theater advancements, you might consider picking up a remote like the new Logitech Harmony Ultimate, which can control all his gadgets. An awesome addition to any setup, the advanced universal remote provides one touch control of all Dad’s devices including video game consoles – even through cabinets and walls! One of the Harmony Ultimate’s coolest new features is the ability to control lighting, so with a single touch Dad can turn on the TV, start up the Blu-ray player and dim Phillips Hue lights to the perfect brightness. It also comes with the Harmony Hub receiver, which – if you download its free companion app – can connect with mobile handsets, so everyone in the family can turn their smartphone into a universal remote.

If you want to send a grad off to school this fall in style, also check out Eye Candy Color Collection, new from Logitech as well, featuring some of the company’s most popular mice in bright candy colors and patterns. Two examples of readymade gifts here include the Wireless Mouse M325 or the Zone Touch Mouse T400, both of which make a fun fashion statement. Both offer up to 18 months of battery life, and the T400 even supports Windows 8 navigation with both a touch zone and traditional mouse buttons.

For Dads and grads who own an iPhone, definitely keep the Duracell Powermat iPhone 5 solution in mind, which more than doubles the life of your iPhone 5 so that you are never caught without power. Its snap-on-snap-off battery lets you stock up on energy, and take just the right among of power along for the day while leaving bulk behind. Recharging is easy too, as you can charge wirelessly at home or tap into a growing network of Duracell Powermat public charging stations.

Gift givers looking for a unique present might consider giving the gift of stock as well. It’s almost like giving recipients two gifts in one, as you can invest in their future while providing a fun and engaging way to learn about personal finance. Over at Sharebuilder.com/stockgift, Capital One is running a great graduation promotion going on where you can open a free account and enter a promo code to get an automatic $50 account bonus. There’s no minimum fee to get started.

As you can see, courtesy of a growing range of gadgets, gear and high-tech gift ideas, there’s no shortage of great options for those hunting for the Dad or grad on their list.