Archive for January, 2014


1600404101 645x250 520x245 Starbucks adds Duracell Powermat wireless charging stations to its coffee shops in Silicon Valley

Starbucks is quickly becoming the ultimate chain of Internet caf s due to its solid Wi-Fi connectivity, free app vouchers, access to The New York Times website and now, reliable wireless charging.

Following a successful roll-out across Boston, Duracell announced today that it will be fitting the Duracell Powermat in a number of Starbucks stores across the Silicon Valley area. These wireless charging spots are fitted directly to the tables, giving consumers the ability to recharge their various electronic devices while sipping a cup of hot joe.

The caveat, it would seem, is that these charging spots require the user to own a Powers Matters Alliance (PMA) certified device or smartphone case. Duracell sells these independently for the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III, but that seems like an awfully restrictive range of devices – we’ve reached out to the company to see if it’ll support more handsets in the future.

For reference, AT&T announced in April this year that it would be integrating wireless charging within a select number of smartphones by 2014. Blackberry, HTC, LG and Samsung, among others, are also signed up with the PMA.

The selective roll-out in Silicon Valley, combined with the need for a specialist device or case, restricts the scope of the program and how useful it will be to the majority of global Starbucks coffee lovers.

What it does show, however, is a glimpse at how the company wants to expand the in-store Starbucks experience and make it increasingly tempting for people to come in on a regular basis. A fast, stable Wi-Fi connection is now a given for almost any Starbucks store – it’s easy to see how wireless charging could quickly become just as prevalent.

“We know that our customers use our caf s in a number of ways beyond buying coffee. For some, it’s their home office, for others it’s their place to get away and have some time to themselves. More and more customers are using Starbucks as their home base and they are looking to recharge in a number of ways,” said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer, Starbucks Coffee Company.

A similar effect has been achieved inadvertantly in Apple stores – consumers walk in all the time to charge their iPhone or iPad – so Starbucks would be wise to expand the number of stores offering Duracell Powermats as quickly as possible. People increasingly need to charge their smartphones in the middle of the day – we use them more and more with power-hungry apps – so more places to charge will never be unwelcome.

Image Credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

164685991 520x245 T Mobile cuts upfront smartphone costs in the US, but ramps up monthly payments instead

T-Mobile made a great deal of fuss over its flexible ‘uncarrier’ contracts back in March – clearly separating the cost of the call plan and the handset – but now it’s taking the idea one step further by dropping the upfront cost of the handset altogether.

In what it describes as an “unparalleled” promotion, T-Mobile subscribers will be able to pick up a flagship device such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 for free. The network operator is then adding most, if not all of the difference to the regular monthly instalments that consumers need to pay to actually own the handset.

There’s some savings to be made here, but it’s essentially just another payment plan. Accept the upfront cost and the user benefits from lower device payments. Forgo the down payment entirely, however, and subscribers have to accept that most of the savings will be added on to their final monthly bill.

As The Verge reports, to put the price difference in perspective the Samsung Galaxy S4 costs $149.99 up-front alongside a $20 monthly fee for two years. Or, a total of $629.99. Under the new $25 tier, with no up-front cost, that comes to $600 exactly. Other handsets, such as the iPhone 5, offer even more negligible discounts.

The promotion is also compatible with T-Mobile’s JUMP! program, enabling consumers to upgrade after six months to a new handset. The catch, however, is that T-Mobile takes subscribers’ existing handsets back, nullifying the payments made up until that point.

“The number of reasons not to switch to T-Mobile this summer is ZERO,” John Legere, president and chief executive officer of T-Mobile US said. “Adding Zero Down in addition to JUMP!, and Simple Choice with no contract is all about making wireless work for consumers and shaking up this industry.”

The scheme is described as a promotion, so it’s fair to assume that it will only run for a short period of time. All of the new monthly payment amounts are listed below – if you’re strapped for cash but looking to switch to a new carrier in the US, this could be a viable option.

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 – $25
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II – $27
  • Samsung Galaxy S III – $22
  • Xperia Z from Sony – $25
  • iPhone 5 – $27
  • Nokia Lumia 925 – $20
  • Nokia Lumia 521 – $5
  • BlackBerry Q10 – $25
  • HTC One – $25
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 – $20

Image Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

tnw blog image 520x245 Infographics: Separating the great from the mediocre

18 months ago, if you made an infographic, chances are that it was going to get widely spread. But people grew tired of the format quickly, perhaps largely because most of the examples were light on both info and graphics. But Column Five Media co-founder Ross Crooks thinks that there’s still plenty to be done in the space. His upcoming TNW Academy course can teach you what works, what doesn’t and how to make the favor fall toward your content. We had a chance to talk to Ross, and his insights are pretty fantastic.

Infographics have perhaps gotten a bad rap because of over-use. What separates the good stuff from the mediocre?

The infographic medium has gained popularity over the last few years as marketers used them as editorial content to drive traffic and promote their brands. While this can still be effective if done right, this is the use case that has become a bit hackneyed. However, infographics as a medium of communication are nothing new. Weather maps, reporting dashboards, anatomical diagrams- these are all examples of informational graphics as well that have been used in newspapers, reports and textbooks for years. The common familiarity with infographics is in need of expansion – the realization that there are more tools in the belt that can be used.

The popularity of any medium often leads to a saturation of poor quality content (looking at you, YouTube) – but this shouldn’t discredit its efficacy altogether. What separates the good from the bad? The same factors that apply to quality video or articles – an interesting and unique concept, sound research/data collection and engaging copywriting. Beautiful design also helps attract viewers by appealing to them aesthetically. Those that give infographics a bad rap are poorly thought out and quickly thrown together, lacking a compelling narrative and advanced design, ultimately failing to achieve the communication objectives.

When you talk about building trust through visualization, how do you do that?

Visualization can provide context that helps people gain a holistic understanding of a topic very quickly. When people are given this context, instead of just a sound bite statistic, they are able to form their own opinions about the content. This relationship with the information builds trust.

For example, if I told you that unemployment has decreased 10% in the U.S. – some people might think this is good, while many others would want more information in order to make a judgement. What is the trend over time? How do various geographic regions differ? Does male vs. female unemployment differ dramatically? Is the total number of unemployed people high or low historically? All these answers and more can be visualized in a concise way – allowing the viewer to extract the information they feel is necessary to come to their own conclusion.

What’s the most interesting use case of visualization that you’ve seen so far?

Certainly there are many diverse uses of visualization that can be interesting. From a technical perspective, I am particularly interested in how the combination of animation and interactivity can combine to tell better stories visually. Some really cool things can be done using a combination of passive and active user experience. Topically, I have seen a lot of interesting use cases in the financial industry as well as the communication of environmental and social issues. In both cases, there are complex concepts that need to be communicated clearly in order to incite audience action. This is visualization’s sweet spot.

Nightingale mortality 730x458 Infographics: Separating the great from the mediocre

I am also enamored of old graphics such as Minard’s Map of Napolean’s March and Florence Nightingale’s Diagram of Causes of Mortality because of the social impact they had. In a time when data and information was much less accessible to the common man – this type of public insight, portrayed in a clear visualization, must have been like seeing in color for the first time.

What common mistakes are companies making when trying to push out graphics?

The most common mistakes I see are brands not knowing their audience, or not being disciplined about targeting their content to a specific audience. As brands increasingly become content publishers, many are still getting used to creating and distributing editorial content. They are tempted to inject typical marketing messaging that plays up the brand, as this is what brand communication has always been about. They fail to realize that this is not the purpose of this content type, and their audience will not respond well to it. It is essential to understand when it is appropriate to talk about your brand, products and services, and when to be purely editorial and educational to attract and engage a broad audience. Both can utilize infographics and data visualization, but the objectives are much different – thus requiring a unique approach to each.

With the shift toward responsive design, how do infographics and visualization work within these confines?

Great question. We already see a lot of companies wanting to create content in a modular way as to be utilized in various contexts. An example of this is the design of a long-form infographic in a way that can be easily divided into a slide show format. This same approach can be used to divide and reorganize layouts into sections to optimize for varied display dimensions.

How do you see companies using infographics in new ways?

Progressive companies are finding great use for infographics outside of the content marketing and editorial application. Many are incorporating visualization into their products, presentations, collateral, and reports. Adding more data and information into these experiences and displaying it beautifully can transform these communication channels and change how people perceive and understand the company and their work.

What is the best way for a company to approach infographics?

It is really beneficial for companies to take a holistic look at their visual communication strategy, not just infographics as they relate to content marketing. Developing a consistent style of visualization across the company ensures that visualizations are not only impactful in their message, but also support their association with the brand. Having focus and understanding of how visualization can impact various parts of your business and taking a strategic approach to implementation will pay dividends over time.

Make sure to catch Infographics: Build Trust Through Visualization, an online course via TNW Academy. There are still a few seats left, so get yours while you can.

NOWTV 520x245 Review: Skys NOW TV box. We put this tiny   10 Roku device to the test

Sky’s NOW TV service might not be as well known as others under its auspices, such as Sky Go, for example, but at under 10 for a little white box that promises to make your boring old TV an internet-connected one, it sounds like a no-brainer. Plus it introduces the option to pay for on demand access to Sky’s sport and movie channels too.

The one thing that’s critical for an internet-connected TV is….yep, an internet connection. This is where my experience with NOW TV started: with a failure to connect.

Opening up the box, you’ll find the unit itself (which will be very familiar if you’ve seen or used Roku’s little streaming player), an HDMI cable for connecting it to the TV, a remote (plus batteries) and a power pack. Naturally setting it up is as easy as plugging all those things in.

NOWTV rear 730x391 Review: Skys NOW TV box. We put this tiny   10 Roku device to the test

Once you’re ready and the unit is switched on, you’ll see a welcome screen asking you to connect to a WiFi network. Despite trying several times, having double and triple checked that I’d put in the correct password, it simply wouldn’t connect to my (Virgin Media) router. I tried disabling security on the router altogether, to no avail.

However, tethering it to my phone worked no problem at all. First time, in fact.

Once connected, the software will update itself and then ask you to sign in to NOW TV. If you don’t have an account you’ll need one, and you can’t set one up from the box, so you’ll need a laptop or tablet or something.

Once that hurdled has been safely cleared you finally get to the NOW TV menu screen which provides access to all installed channels (apps) and the settings menu.

Now TV Menu 730x422 Review: Skys NOW TV box. We put this tiny   10 Roku device to the test

Navigation is simple enough, all performed via the arrow and enter keys on the remote and it’s responsive enough to keep you from being frustrated at having to wait around.

New apps can be installed by pressing the apps button on the controller and then navigating to the desired option, whether that’s dedicated channels like BBC News 24 or things like Spotify or the Facebook photos and videos app.

apps1 730x482 Review: Skys NOW TV box. We put this tiny   10 Roku device to the test

Actual streaming performance, which will undoubtedly vary depending on your connections – tethered to 4G in this instance, was without problems and it didn’t balk at the BBC iPlayer HD content, though it only supports output at up to 720p.

Obviously, Sky’s hoping you’ll shell out for its on-demand Sky Sport and Sky Movies. Pricing has been set at 9.99 per day for all six Sky Sports channels and subscription to the movies channel is being offered on a 30 day free trial for new customers, followed by a one month introductory price of 8.99, which then rises to 15 per month.

Essentially, the unit is a rebranded Roku unit with Sky’s software on board and a few services removed. While Roku devices tend to retail for a little more than the price of the Sky branded-offering (which is around $15), Sky’s not really in this for the hardware cash. To it, the value of those ad-hoc daily sports, or monthly movies are far more important.

Personally, I’m not that interested in Sky’s movie or TV offerings, and with no access to services like Netflix, LOVEFiLM, ITV Player, and 4oD (for obvious reasons – as competing on-demand streaming platforms) it’s slightly less smart than I’d like, but to be able to turn a normal HD TV into an at least semi-smart TV for 10 has got to be worth anyone’s money. Providing it’ll play nicely with your router. I’ll let you know if I get it working with mine.

Update: After much wrangling the WiFi connectivity issue was eventually resolved by accessing the hidden menu (press home button 5 times followed by fast-forward, play, rewind, play and then fast-forward again) and selecting “disable network pings” in the options.

NOW TV

152303724 520x245 500px integrates MapBox to vizualize photos geolocation data and help users find shots taken nearby

Photo sharing platform 500px has integrated MapBox maps across its site over the last couple of days, giving users a better idea of where their newly discovered or all time favorite shots were taken.

Users will notice that on individual photo pages, a new Location tab is highlighted alongside the image’s licensing information, upload date and other default details. Selecting it reveals a small window with a blue arrow icon depicting exactly where the photo was captured.

It’s a bit small though and difficult to make out the country or region in question. Thankfully, clicking on the map again triggers a far more expansive window which can be used to examine the location in greater detail.

Screen Shot 2013 07 26 at 16.32.36 730x383 500px integrates MapBox to vizualize photos geolocation data and help users find shots taken nearby

In addition, viewers can also see other photos uploaded both by the original photographer and other 500px users in the surrounding area. It’s a far more organic way of navigating the site and adds a sense of context to users’ photos.

The new Location tab isn’t present for every image uploaded to 500px. That’s because the majority of photographs won’t have geolocation data attached to them automatically. Users can set this manually when they upload a photo to the service, or at anytime by hitting the edit button from the dashboard.

Rival services such as Flickr and Google+ offer similar mapping functionality, but MapBox’s integration with 500px is particularly slick. For those who like to spend hours just commenting and Liking on a seemingly endless number of photos, it’s a nice if not particularly innovative addition.

500px launched its new, redesigned Professional Photo Portfolios in May this year, following pretty significant updates to both its iOS and Android apps in the months prior.

Image Credit: OLIVER BERG/AFP/GettyImages

IMG 0180 1280x960 520x245 Boombot Rex review: Great sound meets durability in this life proof Bluetooth speaker

Let’s talk about Bluetooth speakers for a moment. The simple fact is that most of them suck. A lot. There are some notable exceptions, such as the Jambox and Big Jambox from Jawbone, but they’re definitely the exception and not the rule. I’ve tested no fewer than 20 different Bluetooth speakers for TNW, and most of them never see the light of day on the site, so you can understand my hesitation when the guys from Boombotix got in touch to ask me to review the Boombot Rex. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised, so I thought it was time to tell you why.

A couple of things set the Rex apart from the competition. The first thing is that it’s considerably more durable than other speakers I’ve tested. That’s done so that you can clip the Rex onto your backpack, belt or even your bike so you can take sound with you. I’ve thrown my demo unit around quite a bit, and I’ve not had any durability issues with it. I even went so far as to “accidentally” leave the Rex on top of my car when I was driving off, and then I admired the fact that it survived a 15 mile-per-hour impact onto the road.

The next factor is that it has a built-in microphone, so that essentially means that it’s a Bluetooth speakerphone. Boombotix touts this as “Siri integration”, but chalk that up to marketing speak. At any rate, it works well and the microphone sounds plenty good enough for telephone conversations.

The final factor that sets the Rex apart from the competition is the biggest one – It sounds good. It’s easily on par with the Jambox, but not quite up to the Big Jambox. You’re not going to replace your home stereo with a few Rex devices chained together (though plugs on the back would allow for that), but you’ll be more than happy with it in a hotel room or while riding down the street.

IMG 0181 1280x960 730x547 Boombot Rex review: Great sound meets durability in this life proof Bluetooth speaker

The clip is heavy duty, allowing for secure placement of the Rex anywhere that it will attach. With the wealth of accessories, you can replace the clip, the grille, add even more protection and get a mount for your bike’s handlebars. The Rex ships with a 3.5mm audio cable, as well as a micro USB charging cord. Replacements for either of these will only run you about $6, and kudos to Boombotix for not using proprietary cabling.

At $119, the Rex isn’t the cheapest Bluetooth speaker on the market, but its performance matches its price. I’ve not found a better one for less money. It also has the distinction of being featured in Apple retail stores, which should help boost sales and keep the company on its toes. If you want to pony up $10 extra, there are some limited edition Rex designs that you can grab as well.

In all, I’m duly impressed with Boombotix and the Boombot Rex. Great sound, a rock-solid design and customization make for a killer combination.

The Boombot Rex, from Boombotix

Bill containing cuts which could affect nearly a million households could go to a House vote on Wednesday

Paul Lewis

Government also plans to back amnesty for arrested activists, but it remains unclear if moves will placate opposition

Ukraine’s beleaguered president has agreed to scrap anti-protest laws that set off a wave of clashes between protesters and police over the past week, a potentially substantial concession to the opposition that stopped short of meeting all of its demands.

After more than four hours of talks on Monday, Viktor Yanukovych agreed to abolish anti-protest laws passed on 16 January, the country’s justice minister, Olena Lukash, said. She also said the government was ready to support an amnesty for arrested activists, but only after protesters free all the occupied buildings and roads.

It remains unclear if the propositions by the presidency will be enough to placate the opposition, let alone impatient protesters on the streets, ahead of a key session of parliament on Tuesday.

The opposition, meanwhile, confirmed their lack of interest in joining the government after an invitation from Yanukovych to take the post of prime minister. They also warned the authorities against imposing a state of emergency, a much discussed issue in the last days. Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader, said after the meeting: “Imposing a state of emergency will lead to a new stage of escalation of the crisis and will not bring anything good.”

In a potential major sticking point, a proposed amnesty for arrested protesters would not be offered unless demonstrators stopped occupying buildings and ended their round-the-clock protests and tent camp in Kiev’s central Independence Square.

Yanukovych has been under increasing pressure since he pushed the tough laws through parliament, setting off clashes and protests in other parts of the country in a sharp escalation of tensions after weeks of mostly peaceful protests over his rejection of a deal to deepen ties with the 28-nation European Union.

At a meeting between top opposition figures, “a political decision was made on scrapping the laws of 16 January, which aroused much discussion”, Lukash said.

She made no mention of a key opposition demand – that Yanukovych resign.

One of the opposition figures, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, turned down the prime minister’s job, which Yanukovych had offered him on Saturday.

Eliminating the laws, which is likely to be done in a special parliament session on Tuesday, appears to be a serious step back for the government. The session is also expected to include a discussion of government responsibility in the crisis, suggesting a cabinet reshuffle could be imminent.

It was not immediately clear how the announcement would be received. In Independence Square, there was no immediate reaction from the relatively small crowd gathered in bitter cold near midnight.

A key issue will be the amnesty offer, which could allow for the release of dozens of protesters currently being held in jail in exchange for an end to the demonstrations.

The statement did not say the opposition would agree to those terms. Doing so could infuriate radical factions within the broad-based protest movement, such as the group called Right Sector, which has driven much of the recent violence.

Several hours before the statement, Right Sector issued its own demands, which include punishing officials responsible for the deaths and abuse of protesters, disbanding Ukraine’s feared riot police, and locating all missing opposition figures.

Protest leaders say scores of people have gone missing, presumably arrested.

Three protesters died in the clashes last week, two of whom were shot by hunting rifles, which police insist they do not use.

Protesters have been afraid that authorities were preparing to end the spreading demonstrations by force, but the foreign ministry said earlier the government has no immediate plans to declare a state of emergency.

With protesters now willing to risk injury, a state of emergency would be likely to set off substantial fighting on the streets of the capital.

“Today, such a measure is not on the table,” foreign minister Leonid Kozhara told journalists.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that she was alarmed by reports about the government considering a state of emergency and warned that such a move “would trigger a further downward spiral for Ukraine which would benefit no one”.

The protesters still occupy three sizable buildings in downtown Kiev, including City Hall. One of the buildings was seized in a spectacular assault early on Sunday, when hundreds of protesters threw rocks and firebombs into the building where about 200 police were sheltering. The crowd eventually formed a corridor through which the police left.

Lukash, in a televised statement, noted that protesters seized the building as justice employees were working on the measures to grant amnesty to protesters.

The fears of a state of emergency come after other official statements suggesting the government is considering forceful moves against the protesters.

Interior minister Vitali Zakharchenko, an official despised by the protesters, on Saturday warned that demonstrators occupying buildings would be considered extremists and that force would be used against them if necessary. He also claimed demonstrators had seized two policemen and tortured them before letting them go, which the opposition denied.

The protests began in late November when Yanukovych shelved the EU deal and sought a bailout loan from Russia. The demonstrations grew in size and intensity after police violently dispersed two gatherings. Demonstrators then set up the large tent camp.

After Yanukovych approved the anti-protest laws, demonstrations spread, including to some cities in the Russian-speaking east, the base of Yanukovych’s support.

2013 05 07 15.14.46 645x250 520x245 Photo editing app Hipstamatic Oggl lands on Windows Phone 8 with direct sharing to Instagram

Hipstamatic Oggl is out now for Windows Phone 8, providing somewhat of a stop-gap for handset owners still craving for an official Instagram app.

The photo-sharing service has been available for iOS devices for a couple of months now and expands upon the original Hipstamatic app with a refreshed interface, social features and vintage filters.

manual thumb 3ED7A5B8 220x366 Photo editing app Hipstamatic Oggl lands on Windows Phone 8 with direct sharing to Instagram

The Windows Phone 8 version, announced in May alongside the Lumia 925 is much the same, enabling users to mix and match various analog-inspired lenses and films. Square crop photos are a requirement here, again taking after its hugely successful rival Instagram.

There’s no official Instagram app for Windows Phone 8 at the moment, but Hipstamatic does offer users the ability to post images directly to Facebook’s wildly popular photo-sharing service. That’s a huge step forward for Microsoft’s mobile platform and should enable users to side-step third-party clients such as Instance.

Hipstamatic is also offering a PRO version of its new Oggl app for Nokia Lumia 1020 owners. It’s almost identical to the entry-level version, but packs in some impressive new manual controls including exposure, white, balance, IOS and shutter speed adjustments. Users also have the ability to reframe shots thanks to the handset’s monstrous 41-megapixel sensor, as well fix framing problems with an auto-leveling feature.

fef817a6 2a42 40a7 be1f 6d9d931917d0 220x366 Photo editing app Hipstamatic Oggl lands on Windows Phone 8 with direct sharing to Instagram

Video aside, these features actually push Hipstamatic Oggl far beyond Instagram’s native apps for iOS and Android. By blending both a professional camera interface and stylish photo-editing options, this could truly be the silver bullet for Windows Phone 8 users. Even for those who are disinterested in the Lumia 1020, it’s still a solid replacement for Instagram – albeit without the huge community.

Both the standard and pro versions of Hipstamatic Oggl are free. They come with 5 preset lenses and films, with additional filter packs requiring a premium subscription. Anyone that creates an account before August 9, however, will have access to the entire library over the next 60 days. Once that’s over, it costs $2.99 for three months or $9.99 for the year.

Is it Instagram? No. Hipstamatic Oggl is a robust alternative though which Windows Phone 8 users should check out without question. Pick it up in the Windows Phone store now.

Hipstamatic Oggl | Windows Phone 8
Hipstamatic Oggl PRO | Windows Phone 8 (Nokia Lumia 1020 exclusive)

magazine 520x245 Relax... The new issue of TNW Magazine is available to download now

The latest issue of our monthly magazine for iOS devices is out now, so why not kick back and relax while you read it? After all, this month’s theme is… relaxation.

Yes, this month we have exclusive articles for you about the art of chilling out. Download the magazine from Apple’s Newsstand and you can enjoy:

  • Relaxation in the Age of Beautiful Noise by Alex Wilhelm (no longer of this parish, but we have long lead times on these things)
  • Meet Melon – The quantified self headband to help calm your brain and get you focused again by Ken Yeung
  • …Aaand relax: 10 apps to help you de-stress by Paul Sawers

As always, there’s more great content courtesy of our partners at Kuvva, Wappzapp, The Next Speaker, 22tracks and Betalist. And we’ve got the best apps, books, gadgets and movies to help you relax.

So, fire up an iDevice and get downloading. As ever, TNW Magazine is completely free.

TNW Magazine

cover 520x693 Relax... The new issue of TNW Magazine is available to download now

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