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Amazon’s Fire Phone has only been available since July, but usually the hype and excitement makes the initial launch of a new smartphone the most profitable sales period. Unfortunately for Amazon, that doesn’t appear to be the case for their device. While Amazon doesn’t release sales figures of their own (famously), analysts are able to draw their own conclusions by examining ad activity data from sources like Chitika.

Review of the ad network activity Chikita provided shows that in the 20 days following the Fire’s release, only 0.02% of activity can be attributed to the device. When combined with data from ComScore evaluating smartphone subscriber market share, these results suggest there are as few as 26,400 Amazon Fire phones in use. Using a whole bunch of calculations that would take ages to explain and possibly cause you to fall asleep, correcting for under-indexing and margins or error brings the estimated total up to a meagre 35,000 total Fire phones activated.

Amazon has yet to confirm or deny this guesstimate, but even at numbers exponentially higher, the news is bad. It might be failing because of the high price-point ($200 on contract, similar to other top smartphones), or the device’s exclusivity to AT&T as a carrier… or just as likely, consumers see it as a pet project for Amazon and not lasting or true competition.

It’s doubtful that Amazon can turn these results around in a meaningful way anytime soon, but should they decide to release a second generation of the Fire phone –they had better provide real innovation as an incentive for consumers to buy-in.

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While it may be a name unfamiliar to many in North America, Huawei Technology Co. is quickly becoming a threat to Samsung as the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer. Based in China, the company is seeing rapid growth as they market their smartphones to emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. While their business began by supplying networking equipment, they now enjoy major telcom operators as clients –making their move to smartphones very logical.

So what platform do they prefer to use? It looks like Android is really their only option. Huawei’s Chief of Consumer Business Affairs, Richard Yu, described their experience with Tizen as “been there, done that, don’t like it.” Even beyond those remarks, he also noted that he feels the Tizen platform stands no chance at being successful. He wasn’t much sunnier about his feelings on Windows Phone, with his statement that: “We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone. It wasn’t profitable for us. We were losing money for two years on those phones. So for now we’ve decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold.”

The company has voices that they are not pleased with the position they have been put in, with no choice but to default to Android –but unless they decide to change their minds and develop an ecosystem of their own, that is what they are left with.

Good news for Android, possible bad news for Apple.

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Despite our best estimates, BlackBerry has survived in the mobile world far longer than expected –which is fortunate for fans of the brand. We heard recently that there are new smartphones headed our way, including the unusual looking Passport (with a large, boxy style, and full QWERTY keyboard). It wasn’t until now though, that we learned exactly when we can expect them to hit the marketplace. It appears that Passport (“Windermere”) and the Porsche Design P’9983 (“Khan”) should be ready to purchase in the third quarter of 2014 –which may even mean in September.

For those who can’t get enough of the old-style design, the Classic smartphone will be out with the BlackBerry 10.3.1 update in the 4th quarter of this year.

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The roadmap also makes it clear which devices aren’t going to survive, with everything but the Z3 and 9720 headed to the graveyard by the end of the year.

A third-quarter 2014 launch date may be very wise, with Apple and Motorola both slated to deliver new hardware the same month; waiting much longer may have persuaded BlackBerry loyalists to switch in the meantime.

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Sources close to The Wall Street Journal are indicating that instead of Google, it is Amazon that is readying to acquire the Twitch.tv video game streaming service. Rumoured to be selling for a meagre $1 billion, Twitch.tv is considered to be a true streaming video giant. Using the service, over 50-million monthly active users are able to stream live video of themselves playing their favourite games.

When we first heard that Google was interested in purchasing the service, it seemed like a logical move for the company that controls YouTube. So what does Amazon want with Twitch.tv? So far it is just speculation. Perhaps they are going to try and compete with Google in the streaming amateur video arena, but that seems like a difficult place to succeed. Other thoughts swirling around the rumour mill wonder if Amazon may be wanting to extend their own video rental and sales offering –or if they plan on trying to sweep in and dominate the growing eSports genre.

Update: Amazon has purchased Twitch for $970 million in cash. Twitch’s founders have attempted to quell any concerns that the Twitch’s community may have about the acquisition.

“We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster,” wrote Mr Shear in a letter to users.

“We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.”

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Rounding out their business-oriented app offering, Google has launched Slide for iOS (complimenting Google Docs and Google Sheets, which were already available). Slides provides similar functionality to competing apps: Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, allowing users to create, edit, and collaborate with users on presentations.

Google has also released update for both Docs and Sheets, adding support for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel that will now allow users to open and edit documents in these formats. Becoming more competitive with Microsoft is a wise move and sure to gain market-share, when you consider that in order to use their ‘free’ apps, an Office-365 membership is required.

Discussing these updates, the official update feed from the Google Apps team, stated:

“The new Google Slides mobile app is now available on iOS, making it easier for people to quickly find, edit and create presentations on the go–online or offline. As with the Android version, the Slides iOS app includes support for editing PowerPoint files. Additionally, as announced for Android in June, the Google Docs and Sheets apps for iOS have been updated to allow for seamless editing of Word and Excel files. No need to worry about file compatibility or internet connections anymore with the new Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps on iOS–it all just works.”

Google Slides, Google Docs, and Google Sheets can all be downloaded from the App Store for free, and can be used on all of your iOS devices.

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microsoft

It shouldn’t be shocking to learn that Microsoft is trying to find a way into the wireless media streaming game. Apple started things off with AirPlay, Google is working hard to compete using Chromecast, and now Microsoft is targeting both technologies with their rumoured Miracast Dongle.

This new dongle is expected to build on Microsoft’s existing Miracast technology, currently used for screen-sharing on Windows 8.1, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8.1 (and handily, also built in to Android 4.2 and BlackBerry 10.2.1); it is expected to be capable of mirroring phone, tablet, and laptop screens to a television.

Little more is known about the device, other than speculation that the price-point will be attractive (whenever it ends up being released). For those paying attention to these new streaming devices, the most significant question that comes to mind is which third-party hardware manufacturer will be first to market with an affordable and compelling product that accommodates all three of these devices simultaneously.

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At the 23rd USENIX Security Symposium last week in San Diego, California, a new-style of Android security threat was discussed: user interface inference. This next-generation of attack technique communicates the state of any targeted application –the most intimidating example may be if malware can detect that a user has clicked a login button. Knowing that this behaviour usually results in a username and password being entered, a fake dialog box could be thrown up in front of the user to gather those details.

To be effective, the attack application has to be running in the background. The trick to getting these applications past users is to piggyback on other tasks so that they are more difficult to notice.

It will come as little comfort, but Android isn’t the only platform vulnerable to this kind of attack. Researchers have indicated that this type of exploit could be generalizable, making its way to other major operating systems, including: MacOS X, iOS, and Windows.

Detecting the presence of these UI inference attack apps is difficult, because they aren’t exploiting particular operating system vulnerabilities (also making them difficult to patch or protect against). The best defence is to remain aware: pay attention to unusual device behaviours such as a battery that drains much faster than usual or much slower hardware performance (both of which may indicate that additional processes are running).

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apps

According to a recent study conducted by ComScore, nearly two-thirds of US smartphone users aren’t downloading any new apps. Their research uncovered that only 7% of smartphone users accounted for almost half of the new apps being downloaded.

Fortunately for a few app developers, these results cannot be interpreted to mean that we aren’t using apps. Over half of users are turning to a single, favourite app, 42% of the time. In 75% of the remaining time, users were only using 3-4 additional apps regularly.

Whether the user prefers iOS or Android, the results are about the same. Users love social media, with Facebook identified as the most popular choice overall and used more often than any other app. Radio, news and weather related apps topped the charts for iOS users. Android users appear more focused on search and email (but the integration of Google Now may be skewing those results somewhat).

What the study can’t tell us clearly is why we aren’t using more apps, more often. It may be possible that as iOS and Android operating systems advance, more features are built-in and require fewer additional apps. It may also be that HTML 5 apps are starting to dominate the marketplace, requiring users to use a web browser instead of app stores. Yet another theory would suggest that users are overwhelmed by the options presented within app stores so avoid them instead. Whatever the reason, developers should pay careful attention: persuading users to download new apps may mean engaging in new styles of marketing.

Comscore boasts being one of the leading Internet technology companies aimed at measuring “what people do as they navigate the digital world.”

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harvard

First published in 1909, The Harvard Classics is an anthology consisting of 51 volumes of classic works from world literature. Compiled and edited by Harvard University President, Charles W. Eliot, the goal of the publications was simple: provide a liberal education based on the number of books able to fit across a five-foot shelf (that he felt should be read from for 15 minutes per day). If you are feeling up to the challenge, no shelf space is required anymore. The Harvard Classics are available as a free download from Open Culture to be read on your eReader or tablet.

Eliot’s intention wasn’t to create a compilation of the best literature (though clearly the works chosen are of the highest calibre), but to create a kind of portable university. Reviewing the editor’s introduction to the Harvard Classics, gives true perspective on the significance of the project:

“My purpose in selecting- The Harvard Classics was to provide the literary materials from which a careful and persistent reader might gain a fair view of the progress of man observing , recording, inventing, and imagining from the earliest historical times to the close of the nineteenth century. Within the limits of fifty volumes, containing about 22,000 pages, I was to provide the means of obtaining such a knowledge of ancient and modern literature as seems essential to the twentieth century idea of a cultivated man. The best acquisition of a cultivated man is a liberal frame of mind or way of thinking; but there must be added to that possession acquaintance with the prodigious store of recorded discoveries, experiences, and reflections which humanity in its intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization has acquired and laid up. From that store I proposed to make such a selection as any intellectually ambitious American family might use to advantage, even if their early opportunities of education had been scanty.”

This purpose is reinforced by reviewing the themes covered by the volumes, including: English poetry, sacred writings, Elizabethan drama, voyages and travels, chronicle and romance, literary and philosophical essays, continental drama, folklore and fable, and many more.

While some modern readers would argue that the collection is no longer complete, Eliot’s primary goal is still achieved by The Harvard Classics serving aptly as a jumping off point for education and discussion; imagine what his joy would be, knowing they can all be held in the palms of our hands.

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amazon_books

News that Amazon’s catalog has reached 3.4 million records sounds like a good thing, for the retailer as much as for the customers searching for their next good read. Unfortunately, this may not be the case: when a new book is added every 5 minutes (an average of 12 titles per hour), how do you manage to get yours noticed?

These rapid increases run the risk or burying existing titles, which should be a concern to mainstream publishers –with so many indie titles popping up, thousands of which being the product of robots, getting discovered is very difficult. Positive reviews may help increase the visibility of your book, but even still it doesn’t take long before you’ve dipper below the top 100.

What this really means is that the face of book sales is changing. Relying on Amazon to recommend something may not be wise –meaning dedicated readers will have to use alternative search methods to locate what they want before using Amazon to complete the purchase.

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swingcopters

If Flappy Birds wasn’t driving you crazy or taking up enough of your free time, Gears Studio has the answer with their sequel to the popular mobile game: Swing Copters. Best described as a cross between impossibly difficult and increasingly addictive, Swing Copters is the easiest game you will never master.

If you want to successfully complete this game, the goal is simple: take control of a small character wearing a propeller hat as he travels skyward –but don’t mind the swinging pendulum-style hammers.

Being reminiscent of classic video game styling is a large part of the charm in this game, but have no fear, I assure you that the game is fully modernized (and the physics is quite precise).

If you are curious enough to give it a try, and have an immense amount of patience, download Swing Copters for your Android device now.

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Google has found themselves in Apple’s App Store once more by porting their popular Photo Sphere app to iOS. Having debuted on Android last year, Photo Sphere invites you to “look up, down, and all around to revisit the amazing places you’ve encountered.”

Even if you aren’t interested in creating your own Spheres (described as being a series of photographs that, when combined, give you a 360-degree view of your surroundings), consider taking a look at a few that others have shared. While you may have seen many landmarks and locations in movies already, this feels different because they are recorded by real people not unlike you or me. It’s the ultimate form of ‘wish you were here’ to share with your friends and family when you find yourself someplace special.

Of course, it isn’t a coincidence that a huge function of Photo Sphere is the ability to share your creations with Google Maps –basically making you into a content contributor, adding value to their system. When you consider the price of the app (free), it is definitely a win-win scenario.

If you would like to try your hand at taking beautiful, 360-degree images, download Photo Sphere Camera for your iOS devices.

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