Google launches new Google+ Hangouts with focus on conversations

The rumors were apparently true: Google's unified chat platform (widely nicknamed Babel) is launching as part of a Hangouts redesign. The new service focuses on conversations that carry over from device to device, including notifications and shared photos; contacts are still there, but they're pushed to the side. Live group video is new, too, while text chats make it clearer as to who has been reading and typing. Android, iOS and web users all get access to the updated Hangouts today.

Source: Engadget 

Social Gaming on iOS

Social gaming is big business nowadays, even I find myself drawn into playing these addictive iOS based games on a daily basis. Games such as Draw Something are really fun and interactive and I think the reason I love it so much is because I get to play with my friends. This is normally the case for most apps for the iPhone and iPad and I think that is why so many people I know love the social aspect of gaming. The fact that it's so simple and easy makes it much mor enjoyable, all you have to do is pick a word to draw that your friend has to guess in order to collect a certain amount of coins. You can spend your winnings on more colour palettes within the game, which gives a sense or reward and acts as an incentive to play it more and more. Playing this in my spare time is very enjoyable and other apps such as Words with Friends makes social gaming a lot more challenging and dare I say it, educational.

Another very addictive game that links in with sharing via Facebook is the Bejeweled series. Senior franchise director of the app Bejeweled says that a good social game needs to engage players over a period of time. He has also said in the past that "This is obtained either through compelling core gameplay that’s endlessly repeatable — a feat achieved by a small minority of games and possible only in certain genres — or by constantly adding content to the game, which requires a very disciplined release schedule, and requires the developer to be able to produce content as fast, or faster, than the most active players are consuming it." (Erica Swallow, Forbes

We can therefore conclude from this that a sucessful app would need variety and have ongoing content that would attract our attention. There is also a growing trend toward apps both on our iOS devices & the internet, that allow you to try various Casino Games online such as bingo, horse racing, Black Jack, roulette and so many more. These offer up a social aspect too, whilst at the same time allow us to possibly win a little extra cash too.

Twitter #Music app helps you find tunes by who you follow

With so much competition already existing in the streaming music world, the Twitter #Music app faces the same problem as every new service -- how do they set themselves apart from the competition? The answer for Twitter is discovery; more specifically helping users discover new musical artists along the lines of the ones they already follow.

It takes a few minutes to learn how to navigate the app, but once you understand the ins and outs you'll be flying. There are four screens: Popular, Emerging, Suggested, and #NowPlaying.

Popular features the artists who are currently trending on Twitter. Emerging showcases smaller artists who are building twitter buzz, although at the moment it's not clear how they judge if someone is "emerging" or not. Suggested compiles artists based on who you already follow. And #NowPlaying is based on the music your followers are listening to.

Music is displayed on tiles with the artist's picture or logo. Simply click on the tile and hear the song by that artist. It's a little disappointing that you're limited to only one song per artist to listen to, especially if you're using the most basic function where the music is simply an iTunes preview clip. The service allows you to connect your Spotify or Rdio account to listen to full songs however. Using the app with just iTunes clips feels like a waste of time, but when given access to the full song the potential for music discovery increases dramatically. For instance, I had no idea M83 recorded new music for the upcoming film Oblivion and now I do. Thanks, Twitter #Music.

#NowPlaying is the most actively social component of the service. It shows you what your friends are listening to and specifically which friend recommended it. Given the limited use of the service right now there weren't a lot of recommendations available for checking out, but it was neat to see what one of the obscure rock bands I like was sharing at the moment.

Whether this service strikes you as merely a fun distraction or an exciting new way to discover music will probably depend on how much you use your Twitter feed to discover music. I tested it with two different Twitter accounts, one for a music blog I write for that mostly follows bands, and my own personal account that basically only follows a punk band and rappers I think are funny.

The end result is easy to predict. The more artists you follow on Twitter the better the suggestions proposed for you are going to be. Otherwise you're going to find the to-be-expected list of Top 40 and popular indie rock acts you find in every streaming services recommendations.

It's also worth noting that suggested songs tend to pick older tracks for some artists. The band Alkaline Trio is represented by their newest single "I Wanna Be a Warhol" while indie rocker Kevin Devine brings up his 2005 song "Cotton Crush." "Cotton Crush" is a great song, but Devine has put out three solo albums since then. On one hand I appreciate including deeper cuts in an artist's discography; on the other it seems strange for a new music discover service to reach that deep when it only offers one song by an artist at a time.

Twitter #Music is a clever new way to discover music based on the stuff you already like. It's hard to judge the suggestions too harshly when you take into account they are largely based on the suggestions of mainstream Twitter users. The app more than makes up for it with their personalization based on your own personal use. I'd like to see future updates add the ability to listen to more than one track by a single artist, but even in its current form Twitter #Music is going to be getting a lot of use on my iPhone.

[Source: TUAW]

It Sounds Like Twitter Music Will Integrate With Some Big Services

Twitter’s new music app may not be available for us mere mortals, but that’s not stopping folks from snooping into its details. Right now, all that’s available to everyone that’s not Ryan Seacrest is a landing page, but not much else. Thanks to designer Youssef Sarhan, information on Twitter’s new initiative has been made available, and it looks like the service will connect with pretty much every big name out there: Spotify, Rdio, iTunes, Soundcloud, Vevo and YouTube.

A few of the connections were already mentioned in a previous rumor, though we didn’t know 100 percent how deeply the integration would go. Aside from some code elements detailing which services #music can connect with, Sarhan’s finding also reveals users will be able to purchase songs, suggest music, see artist biographies and follow users for easier music discovery.

In addition to an incoming app, it sounds like there will also be a Web interface to match, so every Twitter user can hop into the service once it launches (in a week). A lot of information has been extracted from the site itself, and it hasn’t even been made active. We’re bound to hear more throughout the weekend and week before the service officially launches to the masses.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Facebook Introduces Facebook Home for Android

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage in San Francisco today and said Facebook is going to focus on Android moving forward.

“The great thing about Android is its so open,” Zuckerberg said. “You can have apps that can be your keyboard, can be your home screen of your phone, you don’t need to fork Android to do this, you don’t even need to modify the operating system. The home screen is the soul of your phone.” Home will takeover your lock screen and your home screen and will provide all sorts of status updates that would otherwise populate inside a dedicated Facebook app.

Zuckerberg guaranteed that it’s still easy to access applications, however. You can tap a photo of your face at the bottom of the screen and swipe up to see all of your applications.

We expect Facebook will also introduce a smartphone, but we know that at least part of the experience is designed for multiple Android devices.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Facebook Phone Coming on Thursday With New Android App

Backing up the Wall Street Journal’s report from last weekAndroid Police has allegedly received a complete system dump of Facebook’s upcoming BlinkFeed-like Android software. Basically, the social network’s new home on Android will act as your constant connection to your News Feed, always there when you unlock your device. It sounds and looks like theWSJ’s sources were spot on.

The prospect of a Facebook phone built, planned and commissioned by Mark Zuckerberg always seemed like a strange proposition, but it’s been one of those rumors that just won’t die. However, with much of Facebook’s userbase going mobile, the company has very candidly announced its intention to focus on the mobile market. An actual (probably cheap) Facebook phone will definitely appeal to the younger first-time teenage buyer, and further encourage use in the mobile space.

The file Android Police acquired doesn’t allow for much digging because they couldn’t login, but it did unveil what kind of device the ROM is designed for. HTC’s oft-leaked Myst device, which appears to be heading to AT&T, is name dropped with a 4.3-inch 720p display, a 5-megapixel camera, 1GB of RAM and a dual-core MSM8960 chip. Those specs aren’t revolutionary, but the biggest spec will likely be price; we’d expect it to fall below $100.

The Facebook Home aspect is essentially a specially designed app, and it sounds like the plan is to make it available in the Google Play store. “Imagine if the regular Facebook appmutated an extra ‘home screen’ limb,” Android Police explained. The app itself will boot as soon as your phone starts, with other Android permissions such as changing Wi-Fi, changing system settings and more. If that app exists, though, there needs to be a reason for consumers to buy the phone instead of simply downloading it on the phone of their choice.

Since Android Police couldn’t login, the site couldn’t take the actual experience itself for a spin. An actual physical mid-range Facebook device appears to be on the way, though, with a tweaked Facebook app and not an outright Android skin.

Facebook has an event planned for Thursday, April 4, so we’ll find out more information then. For a more in-depth look at the full Facebook Home and a breakdown of the file, head on over to the source.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Vine now lets you embed your 6-second clips on Websites

Viners rejoice -- you can now embed your 6-second mini-movie masterpieces on Websites. The Twitter-owned service has just added the functionality, itannounced in a blog post.

If you want to give your movies a home on a site, you'll just have to enter some simple code. You can choose from three sizes: 320px, 480px, or 600px. Choosing the "simple" option will embed just the video, while the "postcard" one will retain the clip's original format, complete with text description and location.

Or you can embed your clip using the iOS app, which has just been updated to include the feature. Tap the ellipses in the bottom-right corner, then "Share this post", then "Embed". It might not work on all sites though, so best check before you start shouting about it too much.

Head to our US cousins' site and you'll see our very own Ken German's brief retrospective of old mobile phones. It's like a sped-up shuffle down memory lane.

Vine launched a couple of months ago, but is still only for iOS. Hopefully us Android users will get a version soon. It's been a massive hit though, with 6-second clips springing up everywhere. The new Wolverine film even had its very own trailer on the service. At least it didn't give away the whole story, like a lot of trailers.

If you fancy seeing what people are making vids of, a site called Vinepeek will give you a glimpse. It's pretty addictive viewing, though I don't want to be held responsible if anyone posts anything not safe for work. Viewer discretion is advised, as they used to say at the start ofWorld's Scariest Police Chases.

[Source: CNET]

iMessage Spam Exploit Rears Its Ugly Head

Apple’s iMessage system is being exploited by a supposed AppleScript that has the potential to flood up a user’s account and crash the service. A report by The Next Web says the denial of service lock up is being targeted at a group of small developers right now, but paints a larger potential to reach a wider userbase.

Right now, the incident seems confined to the jailbreak community (any device, jailbroken or otherwise, can be a target). The AppleScript, as demonstrated by app developer iH8sn0w, is capable of flooding a person’s iMessage account so severely that the app could crash. Or, at the very least, messages could come so frequently that it would make the experience very limited because of the amount of notifications.

“What’s happening is a simple flood: Apple doesn’t seem to limit how fast messages can be sent, so the attacker is able to send thousands of messages very quickly,” said iOS developer Grant Paul. Paul also explains that users can send complex message using unicode characters to crash the app to crash and unable to reopen.

While this issue is so far only confined to a small number of users, the potential to be used more widely is there. Right now, there’s no way to block a specific iMessage sender, so if someone knows your account info, you’re open to attack. Of course, you can disable your iMessage number and handle, but that’s not exactly the solution people will be ok with in the long run.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Google’s Unified Messaging Service Will Work Across Five Platforms

A new report from Droid-Life details Google’s upcoming Babble—or Babel, sources say— messaging service, and how it’ll unify across five different platforms. The platform is allegedly being tested internally by Google across Android, iOS, Chrome, Google+ and Gmail, and willsync across all five seamlessly in a conversation-based UI. If ever there was one, this is Google’s answer to BBM and iMessage.

Google is allegedly going to push these bullet points when the service officially launches (date is still unknown):

  • Access the same conversation list from anywhere
  • A new, conversation-based UI
  • Advanced group conversations
  • Ability to send pictures
  • Improved notifications across devices

If this new Babel service turns out to be legit, I’m already a fan. We currently use a few different methods to communicate at work, and it’ll be nice to have something that unifies across five separate platforms. Of course, this is still a rumor at this point, but many of them hammer around the same main points. If this is something Google has planned for I/O in May, we don’t have too much longer to wait.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Netflix Gets Social With Facebook Integration

Netflix has announced integration with Facebook that will now make it possible to get social recommendations of what you should watch next.

At long last you can see what your Facebook friends are watching on Netflix, and, in turn, you can share with them what you have enjoyed from the streaming service. Once you’ve connected the accounts the information from your friends will be shown in social rows of recommendations and is restricted only to the items that they have rated four or five stars.

Netflix has done some very smart things with this integration to make sure you have as much control as possible. For instance, the information will only appear in Netflix and not on Facebook unless you specifically tell it to do so. Additionally this isn’t an all-or-nothing scenario as you can choose to hide your guilty pleasure programming from the process, and even go back and make sure to do the same with items you have watched and rated before this was integrated. Feel free to keep watching the complete run of Basketball Wives while only sharing your love of Fellini films.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Twitter Killing TweetDeck for iPhone and Android

Twitter will shut down multiple TweetDeck apps to focus on the product's web-based version, the microblogging service announced Monday.

In yet another sign of the battle between social media's two biggest players, Facebook integration will be removed, too.

The announcement was met largely with a chorus of "nooooooooo," "whyyyyyyy" and "gaaaaaaaah" on social media, reflecting TweetDeck's widespread popularity with hardcore Twitter users.

TweetDeck AIR, TweetDeck for iPhone and TweetDeck for Android will be removed from their respective app stores in May, and stop working soon after, according to a TweetDeck blog post.

"To continue to offer a great product that addresses your unique needs, we’re going to focus our development efforts on our modern, web-based versions of TweetDeck," the post says.

TweetDeck is a well-regarded Twitter client that the microblogging network bought in 2011.

Moving forward, TweetDeck's web and Chrome apps will be the first that Twitter enhances with updates and new features, while the Mac and PC apps will continue to evolve as well.

Your final couple months using TweetDeck's AIR, Android and iPhoneversions may not be smooth sailing, either. Those apps will continue to rely on version one of Twitter's API, which will be retired this month. Blackout testing on version one begins March 5, so mobile TweetDeck users will likely begin experiencing outages with their apps on Tuesday.

"In many ways, doubling down on the TweetDeck web experience and discontinuing our app support is a reflection of where our TweetDeck power-users are going," the post reads before later adding: "And for those of you who are inconvenienced by this shift, our sincere apologies."

Is this a pain, or not such a big deal? Give us your take in the comments.

Photo courtesy Flickr, Andy Miah

[Source: Mashable]

Facebook Will Show Off a Redesigned News Feed on March 7

Facebook’s constantly evolving face will get yet another overhaul at an event scheduled for March 7. One of the biggest complaints users have with Facebook is the cluttered and painful to look at News Feed—it’s an absolute mess, and has been that way for awhile now. Zuck and friends obviously feel the same way.

First Timeline, then Graph Search, now this. What kind of redesign are we expecting? We’ll find out next week.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]