SkinneePix, for iPhone and Android devices, can trim from five to 15 pounds (2-6 kg) of virtual fat for a slimmer selfie look.
“Cameras add additional weight to photos and when you’re taking a selfie you’re also dealing with bad lighting, angles, close-ups and a lot of other factors that make people complain that the photo isn’t an accurate representation of themselves,” said Susan Green, co-founder of the Phoenix-based company Pretty Smart Women that created the app.
It was originally designed to help overweight adults show a leaner version of themselves, but Robin J Phillips, the other co-founder, said the app has also motivated people to lose weight.
“It’s a good reminder to get off the couch, turn the TV off, and go for a walk,” she said.
But some critics fear the $1.99 app, which only works on single head shots, could encourage an unhealthy body image.
Lauren Dickson, a social worker in the eating disorders and addiction clinic at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said the app is one of many factors that could contribute towards a young adult developing an eating disorder.
“The media obviously has some effect on people developing eating disorders, but it’s not the only variable. It’s one of many factors,” she said in an interview.
“The majority of young girls wouldn’t develop an eating disorder because of an app like this, but some might be more vulnerable and it could contribute,” Dickson added.
Green said the virtual weight loss in the app is capped at 15 pounds and the app focuses only on the face and not the entire body.
“We definitely understand that people can have body image problems and we’re not trying to contribute to that in any way,” she said.
“I think if someone who is very thin uses it and goes straight for 15 (pounds), then that’s probably not the best thing, but they could also do that in Photoshop,” Green added.
Other apps can also add or remove weight, including one called FatBooth.
More details about the exclusives will be shared during the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China. But Intel’s software chief Doug Fisher said the U.S. chipmaker wants to work “hand in hand” with vendors to develop unique content within a game or product.
The partnerships could even result in building entire software products exclusive to Intel chips, he added.
The company is trying to distinguish itself, as ARM chips remain the most commonly used processors in smartphones and tablets. Over the last four years, Intel has responded by building more power-efficient mobile processors, and optimizing Google’s Android OS for its chips.
“That’s not sufficient, we want to differentiate,” Fisher said in an interview on Wednesday. One area in which the company said it can excel is graphics, creating more detailed backgrounds in games. Another is in better multi-tasking for Android devices.
Intel is poised to make a breakthrough in the mobile processor market, Fisher said. The company has the goal of shipping 40 million Intel-powered tablet devices in 2014, four times more than the previous year.
To help bring more Intel-powered devices to the market, the U.S. chipmaker is tapping China’s tech hub of Shenzhen, a major center for electronics manufacturing. On Wednesday, Intel announced it would establish a center in Shenzhen devoted to helping vendors create mobile devices with the company’s chips.
Intel will also fund Chinese product development on tablets, smartphones and wearables with $100 million from its venture capital arm.
One area where Intel is noticing some innovation is vendors bringing Android to larger devices, including PCs. But Fisher said it’s still too early to say whether Android PCs have a future, given that Google is also pushing notebooks running its Chrome OS.
“We don’t care as long as it runs on Intel,” he added.
The Canadian company said it will continue to provide service and support to existing customers on T-Mobile’s network or those who will buy products from the carrier’s inventory.
“Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers,” BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen said in a statement.
BlackBerry said it is “working closely” with other carrier partners to provide users with alternatives should they decide to switch from T-Mobile.
The relationship between the two companies soured after Blackberry’s CEO criticized T-Mobile for sending out emails to some of its customers in February, pitching free iPhone 5s and touting the promotion as a “great offer for BlackBerry customers.
This sparked an uproar on social media forums after some of the telecommunications company’s loyal BlackBerry customers reacted angrily to the offer, which they perceived as a slight.
The backlash prompted T-Mobile U.S. Chief Executive John Legere to respond publicly, assuring Blackberry and its users of his company’s support.
T-Mobile could not immediately be reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.
BlackBerry, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, has been struggling to claw back market share lost to Apple Inc’s iPhone, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices, and other smartphones powered by Google Inc’s Android operating system.
BlackBerry had petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in late January to block sales of the Typo keyboard because it was an “obvious knock-off” of the keyboards on its phones.
In a ruling issued late Friday, Judge William Orrick said “BlackBerry has established a likelihood of proving that Typo infringes the patents at issue and Typo has not presented a substantial question of the validity of those patents.”
The court’s decision will be a blow to Typo, which had asserted that its keyboards were sufficiently different.
The Typo keyboard was first unveiled in January and is designed to slip onto an iPhone 5 or 5S like a protective case. It costs $99 and has received attention in part because Typo is backed by U.S. TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest.
BlackBerry quickly moved to sue Typo claiming its keyboard was a copy of those found on BlackBerry handsets.
The company currently sells several phones with a physical keyboard and plans to launch at least one more later this year.
Earlier Friday, CEO John Chen said BlackBerry would launch a new model called the Q20 “Classic” later this year that includes the trackpad and ‘Menu,’ ‘Back,’ ‘Send’ and ‘End’ buttons along the top of the keyboard that helped make the company famous.
As a next step in the California case, BlackBerry will have to post a bond with the court that would cover Typo’s losses should it eventually be decided that Typo’s keyboard does not infringe on BlackBerry’s patents.
Typo has a week to come up with a detailed accounting of how much money it could lose as a result of the injunction.
Typo could not immediately be reached for comment.
The case is 14-00023, BlackBerry vs Typo Products, at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.
In April of 2011, GameStop acquired streaming tech firm Spawn Labs because cloud gaming was the future. Today, the retailer announced it had closed Spawn Labs because cloud gaming is still the future.
Speaking with GameSpot today, the retailer’s vice president of investor relations Matt Hodges said cloud gaming isn’t a good fit for today’s consumers.
“While cloud-based delivery of video games is innovative and potentially revolutionary, the gaming consumer has not yet demonstrated that it is ready to adopt this type of service to the level that a sustainable business can be created around it,” Hodges said.
For the time being, GameStop’s cloud gaming business will be focused on selling subscription cards for programs like PlayStation Now through its retail locations.
Beyond the closure, the specialty retailer also reported its fourth quarter and full-year financial results this morning. The launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reinvigorated the console market, helping to drive sales and profits growth.
For the year ended February 1, total revenues were up nearly 2 percent to $9.04 billion. At the same time, the company returned to the black, turning the previous year’s $269.7 million net loss into a $354.2 million net profit. The company also underlined the growth of its digital and mobile business, which brought in more than $1 billion for the year.
The fourth quarter saw sales rise more than 3 percent to $3.68 billion, with net income slipping nearly 16 percent to $220.5 million. Those figures include goodwill and asset impairment charges of $28.7 million, “primarily due to the closure of Spawn Labs and store asset impairments.”
GameStop also released its first outlook for the current fiscal year and its first quarter. For the full year, the retailer is expecting total sales to be up 8 to 14 percent, with a net income between $398 million and $433 million. For the current quarter, it has projected year-over-year sales growth between 7 and 10 percent, with profits between $64 million and $70 million.
Tumblr has added two-factor authentication to its log-in system and recommended that people use it.
The firm, which is now owned by Yahoo, introduced the feature in a blog post where it compared control of a blog to control of a nuclear weapons system or a blanket.
Two-factor authentication improves your end security through adding in an extra layer. The example here is that users will log in with a password and back this up with a code generated on a mobile phone.
“The smile of a loved one. Your childhood blanket. A handsome bodyguard to take you in his arms. ‘Security’ can mean a lot of things in this crazy life, but nothing says ‘security’ like Tumblr’s two-factor authentication. It’s available as an option in your Settings page as of right now,” said Tumblr.
“You know how you need two keys to launch a nuclear missile? Two-factor authentication works like that. One key is your password, the other key is your cellular phone, and you need both to access your Tumblr Dashboard.”
The firm is joining a number of other companies that have added two factor authentication, and now sits alongside the Microsoft Xbox Console, Yahoo and Twitter.
If the Tumblr proposition sounds confusing, don’t worry because it isn’t. Users can elect to get a one-time code through their phone or through an app.
“Don’t worry about memorising that password, by the way,” said Tumblr in its FAQ on security. “You’ll only need it once, and it’s really stupid-looking anyway.”
Plus, you don’t have to take its advice. Tumblr will prefer that you do though. “Your account is far less likely to get compromised if you’ve enabled Two-Factor Authentication,” it added.
“But if you must, we’ll ask you to enter your account password to make sure it’s really you. You’ll then be able to log in to your account without the extra verification step. If you would like to re-enable it at any point, you’ll have to go through the aforementioned setup process again.”
Android based mobile phones from all manufacturers make up nearly 80% of all smartphones recently sold worldwide, but Apple’s iPhone and iPad still dominate when it comes to Web browsing in the U.S. and other highly developed countries.
In the U.S., about 62% of all mobile Web browsing in the last year came from iOS smartphones and tablets, according to dotMobi, a Web consulting and Web data measurement firm. The company measured billions of Web sites visited by smartphones and tablets in 101 countries, including the most developed ones.
Overall, iOS devices were used most often for browsing in 34 of the 101 countries measured; Android dominated in 67 nations.
The percentage of mobile users browsing the Web with iOS devices was higher in several nations than in the U.S. In the UK and France, that figure was 65%; in Japan, 68%; in Canada, 73%; and in Australia, 74%.
Meanwhile, Android smartphones and tablets are used more often for browsing in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, including Spain (56%) and Germany and India (both at 58%). Macedonia was strongest for Android usage, at nearly 91%, while South Korea — home of big Android device maker Samsung — had 74% of users browsing with Android.
Eileen O’Sullivan, the chief operating officer of dotMobi, said that Apple still maintains a stronghold across major markets in the world, but added, “its dominance is not guaranteed.” She said that while Apple is still considered an “aspirational brand,” its relatively high prices compared to Android smartphones and tablets could cost it market share in the countries where it leads.
All of dotMobi’s data is freely available on the Web, but users must register to see it.
The company provides maps that rank browsing by OS, even a specific device, and clicking on a country will show the percentage of use for that device in that country. For the U.S., Apple’s 62% share of Web browsing by iPhone and iPad compares to about 19% for Samsung devices and less than 4% each for Motorola, LG HTC, BlackBerry, Nokia and others.
In China, nearly 49.5% of Web browsing is done via iOS devices, with the remainder shared by Android devices from various brands, including Samsung (11%), HTC (9%), Huawei (6%) and Lenovo (3%).
Apple Inc said it would offer an iPad 4 tablet to replace the mid-range iPad 2 at the same price and the company also debuted a cheaper, lower capacity version of its plastic-backed iPhone 5C in Australia, China and some European countries.
The iPad 4 is available at $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and $529 for the 16GB Wi-Fi + cellular model at the four major U.S. carriers – AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.
The fourth-generation iPad, which has a 9.7-inch Retina display and supports 4G carriers worldwide, was launched in 2012, while the iPad 2 was launched in 2011.
Apple discontinued the iPad 4 last year when it launched its current flagship tablet, the iPad Air. The company had cut the price of iPad 2 to $399 in 2012.
Tablets based on Apple’s iOS platform held 36 percent share of the market in 2013, trailing those based on Google Inc’s Android software that had 62 percent share, according to research firm Gartner.
Apple also launched on Tuesday an 8GB iPhone 5C priced at 429 pounds ($710), 40 pounds cheaper than the 16GB version, according to the company’s UK website.
The 8GB iPhone 5C will also be available in France and Germany.
“We believe this newly configured device will have a lower gross margin as we estimate the difference in cost to Apple for the 8GB of NAND is $5 to $10,” Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross wrote in a research note.
Analysts have said earlier that the iPhone 5C, which is about $100 cheaper than the iPhone 5S, was unable to grab market share from rivals offering lower-cost phones based on Android.
Pandora Media Inc will raise fees for its ad-free service by $1 a month to almost $5 a month in May, a move to cover the increasing cost of licensing tunes that may annoy some longtime fans of the popular music-streaming service.
The company, which streams music from virtual radio stations to mobile devices such as Apple Inc’s iPhone or Google Android smartphones, said in an earlier blog post that royalties paid to artists had risen 53 percent over the past five years and will rise another 9 percent in 2015.
The increase of $1 to $4.99 a month takes effect for new subscribers in May. Existing monthly subscribers will not be forced to accept the higher charges for now, it said without elaborating.
Annual subscriptions will be discontinued however. Yearly subscribers paying $36 a year currently will move to a monthly, “loyalty” $3.99 plan once their memberships expire.
Pandora said the fee hikes should affect an estimated 3.3 million listeners, out of 250 million registered users, the bulk of whom tune in to the free, ad-supported service.
“The costs of delivering this service have grown considerably,” Pandora said in a blog post on Tuesday. “We hope that you understand why we have taken these steps. Our goal is to continue to be your go-to internet radio destination.”
Pandora is already one of the world’s most popular streaming music services though it has plenty of competitors, including Spotify and Apple Inc’s iTunes Radio. It’s also aggressively investing in local sales forces to sell ad spots and on expanding its four-year-old service.
The company said that active listeners in January fell to 73.4 million from 76.2 million in December, due to normal seasonality.
However, year-over-year active users were up 12 percent.
Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Satya Nadella may announce an iPad version of the company’s Office software suite on March 27, a source familiar with the event has stated, and use his first big press appearance to launch the company’s most profitable product in a version compatible with Apple Inc’s popular tablet.
Nadella, who replaced longtime CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this year, will address the media and industry executives in San Francisco on March 27.
Investors for years have urged Microsoft to adapt Office for mobile devices from Apple and Google Inc, rather than shackling it to Windows as PC sales decline. But the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has been reluctant to undermine its other lucrative franchise, its PC operating software.
Microsoft gives up some $2.5 billion a year in revenue by keeping Office off the iPad, which has now sold almost 200 million units, analysts estimate.
Tech blog Re/code first reported news of Nadella’s event. Microsoft said in an invitation to reporters that Nadella will discuss “news related to the intersection of cloud and mobile” but declined to comment on the specifics of the CEO’s appearance.
Microsoft has had iPad and iPhone versions of Office primed for several months now, sources told Reuters, but the company has dallied on their release due to internal divisions, among other things.
Although Nadella is expected to discuss his thinking in depth next week, the company has already signaled that it will adopt a more liberal attitude toward putting its software on different platforms.
Microsoft said earlier on Monday that it would make OneNote, its note-taking software, available on Mac, a move interpreted by observers as a shot against Evernote, the popular note-taking application that has both Mac and Android compatibility.
Aside from Evernote, Microsoft also faces budding challenges from startups that have released mobile-friendly alternatives to Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
Like the music app Shazam, which identifies songs based on sound clips, new fashion apps use photos and image recognition technology to find similar clothing.
“People see items they like on the street but can’t really go up to the person wearing them and ask where they got them,” said Daniela Cecilio, the chief executive of London-based startup Asap54.
“Or they might see items they like on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter, but can’t really click through to buy them,” she added, referring to the social media websites.
With the Asap54 app for iPhone, which was launched last month, users take a photo of an item, or upload an existing one, and describe what it is to help the app identify it. The app recommends something similar from more than 150 retail partners across the United State, Europe and other countries.
The Style Eyes app for iPhone and Android also uses a photo to find the desired or a similar item, which can be purchased from its catalog of 600 retailers in Britain and 300 in the United States.
Mark Elfenbein, chief digital officer of Toronto-based start-up company Slyce, said its image recognition technology integrates with retail brands so shoppers can find things by taking a photo with their iPhone or scanning an image from their desktop.
“The way brands are trying to communicate with customers is changing. Historically, they would lure customers to their stores or websites, but now we’re seeing that brands want to create transactions in other places too,” Elfenbein said.
The technology recognizes information such as how far apart buttons are, and fabric and stitching to help power visual searches.
But image recognition is still inexact and depends on the quality of the photo and other factors, such as lighting. To overcome the drawbacks Elfenbein said, Slyce uses a mix of technology and crowdsourcing to improve its search results.
Other apps making shopping easier include Pounce for Ios, created by Tel Aviv-based company BuyCode Inc. It allows consumers to buy items directly from retail advertisements from stores such as Lord & Taylor and office supply company Staples, Inc by hovering their smartphone camera over an image.
With the eBay Fashion iPhone app users in the United States and Britain can upload an image to find similar items available for sale on eBay.
For consumers more interested in renting than buying, Rent the Runway’s iPhone app uses a photo of an item seen in a store to find something similar that customers can rent instead.
Growth in global smartphone shipments will fall sharply this year and will continue to slow down through 2018, with average prices dropping significantly as demand shifts to China and other developing countries, according to market research firm IDC.
Annual growth in 2014 is expected to be 19.3 percent and then decline to 6.2 percent in 2018, IDC said in a recently released report. That follows a 39.2 percent jump in 2013 when smartphone shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.
The forecast reinforces concerns on Wall Street that the explosion in smartphones that began with Apple’s iPhone in 2007 is coming to an end, at least in the United States and other developed countries where consumers favor pricey, top-tier handsets.
Smartphone growth in North America and Europe is expected to shrink to single digits and Japan could even see a slight slowdown in shipments in the next few years, IDC said.
Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on China where many consumers are upgrading from basic cellphones to smartphones selling for under $300.
“New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and ‘premium’ will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a report.
The average selling price for smarpthones last year was $335, already far below flagship devices like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, and will fall to $260 by 2018, IDC said.
In a keynote conversation with Entertainment Software Association boss Mike Gallagher at the Digital Entertainment World conference, Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore talked about industry lessons learned as the business transitions more to digital games.
For now, games remain a hybrid of physical and digital, and the quick sales of the new consoles are enabling the industry to coalesce around two great platforms that offer a tremendous competitive environment, which ultimately benefits the market. While he believes the console sector’s in great shape, Moore does see mobile gaming thriving, and digital revenues should surpass that of physical game sales in just two years, he said.
Looking back at the music industry’s transition to digital (which it still hasn’t recovered from), Moore said that the games industry must embrace “creative destruction” – there’s nothing an industry can do to stop a shift in consumer tastes and habits. The most important thing for EA – and much of the industry is headed this way with the digital transition – is that games are becoming live operations. That means they require a massive infrastructure with customer service and global billing. Moore noted that it’s a completely different industry now, with a global network running live ops, and gamers deserve their games to be always up and available, and it’s EA’s job to provide this access. Moore acknowledged that EA is still learning a lot about what that takes.
The online environment has been incredibly valuable to EA in building a direct customer relationship. Moore said that EA’s customers used to be the retailers, but now they’re the gamers. In fact, EA has tripled its customer facing support staff resources in the last five years. It’s changing how the publisher interacts with, and markets to, gamers. He eschews “marketing” and prefers “engaging”. Social media has become crucial to success, and Moore noted that on Twitter a gamer will get a response from EA within 30 minutes to resolve a problem.
On the marketing end, Moore said that EA’s TV spend is down 20 percent while the company has actually doubled its digital spend and engagement. Social media and community management are changing the rules. Don’t spend tens of millions on TV to see if it lifts sales, Moore said; instead game companies can more effectively use digital channels and focus on performance-based marketing.
“TV ads today are chum in the water. It attracts customers, then reel them in with digital media so you can engage instead of pushing a message out,” he remarked.
BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM, is a messaging platform that offers collaboration tools such as BBM Groups, BBM Voice and BBM Channels and competes with services such as WhatsApp, which Facebook bought last week for $19 billion.
BBM will be available as a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer, while BBM for Nokia X will be available from the Nokia Store when the Nokia X platform launches, BlackBerry said in a statement released to the press.
BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp and other upstarts, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.
WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, on the other hand has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system and with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.
BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the number of the service’s active users has grown to more than 80 million.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which has built a lot of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has struck a deal with Google to build robotics for the company.
Google declined to comment this afternoon and Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Andy Rubin, Google’s former Android lead and now the head of the company’s robotics efforts, recently went to Taipei to meet with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou about the deal, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources.
The deal would benefit both companies, giving Google a robotics manufacturer and giving robotics technology to Foxconn for its manufacturing business.
“Well, that should speed up development cycles for Google,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “Foxconn is one of the industry’s largest contract manufacturers and what they do best is build things. Google, on the other hand, invents things but its core competency isn’t building things, particularly hardware, quickly and efficiently.”
The pact, he added, would bring hardware manufacturing scale to Google — a must, if Google wants to mass produce robots at an affordable price.
“Pretty soon we’ll have an army of Google robots, like in Star Wars II,” said Kerravala.
Google, a company known worldwide for search, Android and its ubiquitous Maps service, has been taking a deep dive into robotics in the past six months or so. The company announced late last month that it was acquiring DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company.
In December, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a robotics company known for its four-legged BigDog robot, as well as six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, Atlas.
Those acquisitions came on the heels of a six-month buying spree in which Google bought seven other robotics businesses.
In addition, Google has been working for the last several years to develop autonomous automobiles. The self-driving car effort has logged thousands of miles on the road and even had Google executives approaching Detroit car makers in the hopes of finding business partners.