As much as I enjoy running, I often need help and motivation to get started, and keep going, and Zombies, Run! has been my savior. I’ve mentioned the fitness app several times in the past, but if you’re not familiar, it’s a sort of interactive radio play, in which episodic stories unfold in-between tracks from your playlist as you run, transforming a real-world jog into a journey through the zombie apocalypse.
Season 3 of Zombies, Run! is out next month, but I’ve found a new running app to keep me occupied until then. BattleSuit Runner Fitness is available for both Android and iOS and is quite similar in that the missions unfold in-between your running songs, but in this game you’re DeltaSuit, an exosuit-wearing commando battling against an alien invasion.
Synium Software has released a major update to its Apple mobile family history app with the release of MobileFamilyTree 7.1. Aside from gaining an iOS 7-inspired facelift, the app also adds AirPlay video support, rebuilds the interactive tree from scratch and includes a number of other major and minor tweaks and improvements.
Despite the major changes, the app remains free to all existing users, while new users can take advantage of a special 50 percent off promotion and purchase the app for $6.99 before March 31st.
Apple has rarely been first to market with a product -- it did not build the first MP3 player or tablet, but it does have a history of revolutionizing those markets, as it did with the smartphone. There isn't anything wrong with stepping into an existing market and bringing along fresh and innovative ideas. In fact, it has worked out quite well for the company over the years.
However, more recent history shows that Apple can also lose the markets, as both tablet and smartphone have fallen behind rival Android, which entered the scene later. Openness plays a part in this -- a multitude of devices to choose from, along with more customizable options, is a big deal when compared to a closed system with one device released annually.
Eleventh in a series. Apple rolled out a cheaper 8GB version of its iPhone 5c this week (in selected territories) and also replaced the aging budget iPad 2 with the newer, 4th gen iPad with Retina Display. The replacement iPad, which is available everywhere, is priced the same as the iPad mini giving potential buyers an interesting purchasing dilemma.
Featured apps this week include one of the best looking games yet released for iOS, an app which claims to boost your fitness in just four minutes a day, one which will help you avoid people you don’t want to see, and a game which could help find a cure for cancer.
OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But wearable devices are really struggling to get off the ground, at least in the UK. All of the excitement that surrounds smartwatches that can be used to read email, VPN into a home computer, check vital stats, set off The Bomb, or tell the time (imagine!) -- maybe a couple of these are a little far-fetched -- seems to be little more than manufacturers' fluff and guff. The wheels of the marketing machine have been whirring away furiously, but it has had very little effect. With a population of approaching 65 million people, only a very tiny proportion of the nation has seen the need to invest in a smartwatch -- below 1 percent in fact.
Figures from Kantar World Panel show that a lowly 0.9 percent of UK consumers have put their hard-earned money towards a smartwatch. Other statistics to come from the research are of little surprise. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of smartwatch owners are male, and 56 percent are aged under 35. There are a small number of names associated with smartwatches, and the spread is fairly evenly distributed. At the top of the heap is Samsung with a 32 percent share, followed by Sony with 21 percent and Pebble with 18 percent. There is obviously a leader, but with the numbers being so low, percentages are very easily swayed.
Tenth in a series. A big week for Apple as it released the long-awaited update for its mobile operating system. iOS 7.1 adds support for CarPlay, enhancements to Siri, iTunes Radio, Calendar, and Accessibility, and a new HDR camera setting for iPhone 5s. The big news for owners of iPhone 4 is iOS 7.1 runs far less sluggishly on the older hardware.
Of the new and updated apps that have arrived in the store this week, highlights for me include a free adventure game from two ex-LucasArts designers, an app which transforms everyday snaps into works of art, one that stops you forgetting...er… something… and a kitchen app that that will let you find, and conjure up, delicious culinary delights.
It's been a busy week for Microsoft -- and not necessarily for the reasons the company might have expected. For anyone unwilling to wait until April to receive Windows 8.1 Update, a few methods emerged that made it possible to grab a copy of the eagerly awaited update ahead of the official launch. While some of these options appear to have been stopped in their tracks, where there's a will there's a way, and numerous users -- my good self included -- jumped on the downloads as soon as possible. Some were impressed while others -- yep, me again! -- were not. Perhaps it is little wonder that Windows XP usage continues to grow faster than that of Windows 8.x. This lead to analysts suggesting that the decline of the PC will be slowed rather than avoided by the continued popularity of XP.
Windows 8.1 Update wasn't that only Microsoft download that was on the agenda this week. Brian had details of how Windows RT users can update their copies of Office 2013 to SP1. At the top of Microsoft, a quick reshuffle saw a change of faces in a number of key positions as well as the departure of some well-known characters. Skype rolled out to Outlook.com around the world and gained HD video calling as well. It is normally Microsoft that is to be found on the giving-end of a smeary advertising campaign (hello, Scroogled), but after the Oscars it was Nokia poking fun at Ellen DeGeneres' blurry selfie that was taken on a Samsung device.
Ninth in a series. This week Google updated its Gmail app, adding background refresh, so it can now fetch new mail even when it’s not open. This is a great addition, and stops you having to manually refresh to check for new messages. Google also added simplified sign-in. Log in to any Google app -- Gmail, Maps, Google+ or Chrome, for example -- and your account details will be used to log you in to all other Google apps automatically.
Of the new apps that have arrived in the store this week, there's a great, easy to use file transfer tool, an app that will help you monitor and (maybe) manage your caffeine consumption, a social local discovery tool, a dance game, and a cartoon racer that will let you go head to head against Top Gear's The Stig.
Market intelligence specialist IDC has released the latest results from its quarterly tablet tracker. It predicts that the sales growth of tablets (including 2-in-1 devices) will be 19.4 percent in 2014, down from 51.6 percent last year.
There are a number of reasons for this predicted reduction, partly the number of new releases has slowed, and in mature markets the sales pattern will switch to replacement of older devices rather than first time buys.
This is a personal account of the way I have noticed the technology markets changing over the years. It is not gospel, and you are welcome (encouraged, if you like) to disagree… It's not all that long ago that brand loyalty was a given; it was almost the default setting for many people. If you got into computing -- and it was something you "got into" rather than just having as part of your life -- you stuck loyally to whatever brand you chose at the start. We could go back to the 70s and look at the birth of personal computing, but as this is my personal account, we'll have to start in the 80s.
I did just manage to sneak into the 70s -- being born in 1979 puts me in the difficult-to-comprehend position of being 34 years old but having seen five decades -- but an interest in computing didn't emerge until some time in the late 80s. I remember there being several computing camps: BBC, Amstrad, Spectrum, Vic and Commodore to name a few. My decision was made for me at an early age when my dad decided to invest in a Commodore 16 Plus 4 (the Plus 4 referring to the fact that the OS featured four built-in applications including a spreadsheet tool, the absurd simplicity of which was not lost on me even at a young age).
I went for a 5k run before starting work this morning, and as always Zombies, Run! provided me with the motivation required to not come to a stop, bored, after ten minutes. I’ve covered the immersive app several times in the past, but if you’re not familiar with it, Zombies, Run! basically turns a real-world jog into a journey through the zombie apocalypse. Episodic stories unfold in between tracks from your playlist as you run.
There are plenty of episodes on offer for regular runners, and a radio mode will give you something to listen to once you’ve finished with the main story and side quests. However, sooner or later you’ll have listened to everything and be ready for new tales, and the good news is they’re on their way.
The tablet market is showing strong, continuous growth year-over-year. Research firm Gartner today announces that slate sales in 2013 increased by 68 percent compared to the year before. Android takes the market share crown after more than doubling its sales, iOS came second and Windows follows in third place.
Of the three, iOS was the only platform that did not post tremendous year-over-year growth. Android increased its sales, and lead over Apple's iPads, to 120.96 million units in 2013, up from the 53.34 million units sold in 2012. Meanwhile, Windows grew to 4 million units, which is, again, considerably higher than in the previous year when sales topped 1.16 million units. In contrast, iPad sales came in at 70.4 million units, marginally more than the 61.45 million units sold in the year before.
Webcam porn! Spying! Cell phones! Bitcoin controversy! Just another normal week in the world of tech news! Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox disappeared offline amid concern about missing millions and then filed for bankruptcy. After panic spread through Mac users following the discovery of a serious SSL bug in Mavericks, Apple released an update that plugged the hole -- but it was also discovered that iOS 7 has a keylogging vulnerability. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Office 2013, but anyone using Office 365 will need to force the installation of newer updates in order to reap the benefits.
Security updates are all well and good for operating systems and applications, but it will do little to protect you against the wandering eyes of government agencies. As if everything we have already learned about the activities of the NSA et al, this week's revelations about what the UK's GCHQ has been getting up to is sure to raise ire. Not content with logging emails and web searches, the UK intelligence agency apparently spent a number of years tapping into the webcam chats of millions of Yahoo users. There may be little good news in this revelation, but it was at least slightly amusing to find that the surveillers were rather taken aback by the amount of pornographic content they encountered. It makes ya proud!
Once dismissed as little more than a hobby for Apple, Apple TV seems to have quietly gathered momentum. Talking at a shareholder meeting in Cupertino, CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company has managed to net over $1 billion through the devices, leading him to quip "it's a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days." It's difficult to tell just how many sales this translates into as the figure includes content sales as well as device sales.
But while $1 billion may sound impressive, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions that Apple rakes in from its other product lines. The last figure released suggested that over 13 million apple TV boxes had been sold by May last year, but the sales figures released today relate to the fiscal year that ended in September. For anyone thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, Apple has a new incentive -- a $25 iTunes gift card for anyone who buys a set-top box by 5 March.
Eighth in a series. The app that’s got me most excited this week isn’t even out yet. Audio Defence: Zombie Arena, from the makers of Papa Sangre II, is an audio-only first person zombie shooter that promises to be awesome. If it can hit its Kickstarter target that is.
Of the new and updated apps that have arrived in the store this week, the Professor Layton inspired The Voyage is a great puzzler, and God of Light will similarly tax your gray matter. Parents worried about what their children get up to on the web while using an iPad (or iPhone), will be interested in the MetaCert browser. Google has improved its Hangouts messenger apps, and a chunk of the world's knowledge has been curated into Learnist.