Have you see Apple’s latest TV ads? We were particularly interested in the one promoting the iPhone camera.

Even though there are a few better smartphone cameras out there – for example, the Lumia 1020 boasts 41 megapixels – the iPhone camera is still pretty popular. We can’t help but think this is likely because the Apple flagship seems to be the most social device (according to this study), and the most common thing to share on social networks is pictures.

Not to mention that if you’re an iPhone user snapping amazing pics, you can now be awarded for your creative genius! Check out this website called iPhone Photography Awards. You can submit any of your pictures and compete with other people to try to win of their annual awards and some other gifts. The only bad news is that there are a few fees to submit your pictures. Check out the competition and the 2013 winners to evaluate your chances in the 2014 competition.

What do you think about this photography awards? Let us know! Tweet us @PlasticMobile.

Do you hate seeing how your posts perform against other users on most social networks through things such as retweets, likes, upvotes, +1’s? Well stress no more!

Potluck is a simplified social network with the aim of having users share links. The app is available on Web and iOS (Android coming soon) and was built by the team behind Branch, backed by the Twitter founders. It calls itself the “best house party you’ve ever been to — on the Internet,” and is essentially a place for you and your friends to hang out and talk about cool things you find online.

Basically, the Potluck app is attempting to draw out the “lurkers” who just sit back and passively read everyone else’s posts rather than engaging in deep an meaningful 140-character conversations.

The team focused on three main goals when designing Potluck: be your authentic self, push-button publishing and meeting new people without being creepy. With that in mind, they created a simple and easy to learn user interface that is integrated nicely with the Twitter account.

Potluck

potluckPotluck

When you first download the Potluck app, it gives you the option to find and add your Twitter followers. There are four simple tabs for “Activity,”  ”Notifications,” “Me” and “Post.”

When you find an interesting link, you can simply tap the Post tab, type your title or topic, followed by comments or mentions to friends, and paste the link. The Activity tab shows all the shared, commented and hearted posts from you and your friends. The  Notifications tab keeps track of when your friends mention you, heart or comment on your links. The Me page displays your profile photo, friend requests and all your activity.

By providing less emphasis on individual people and placing it on common interests, Potluck wants to be personal and less stressful by not revealing who shared what links! It shows the topic or name of the link and the number of friends who are talking about it. Only friends really interested in the article will tap on the item and will only then be able to see who posted it.

Potlucks preliminary research discovered that 86% of Internet users have never actually published a blog post or tweet, and looked to get that number down by creating the push-button publishing, which allows users to simply paste a link to share it.

They made “publishing” as simple as copy and pasting so only friends with similar interests will be willing to tap on your link.

Another major drawback to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is the mega creepster factor when you want to interact with strangers online. On Potluck, the default view is a feed of all of your friends’ activities, for example links they have posted and ones they’re chatting with their friends about. This allows you to view and talk to new mutual friends and read topics you may not have looked for, without creeping total strangers.

What do you think about this new, easy to use, stress free alternative to social media? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know!

App Store vs. Google Play

We recently blogged about the 5th Anniversary of the App Store and how it was celebrated by making 10 top paid apps, free.

Google Play opened 4 months after the App Store and took a little while to catch up, but the Android store is now a serious competitor (especially since Google Play was redesigned and revealed to support Glass).

We found this interesting infographic that compares these two stores based on uncommon metrics such as category by category, top publishers, app discovery and more!

Perhaps the App Store can learn a thing our two from Google Play about handling searches with misspelled keywords better. But other than that, the two are starting to feel pretty similar to one another.

Are there any other differences you see in the two app stores? Let us know by Tweeting us at @PlasticMobile.

Day One App Icon

Happy 5th Anniversary to the App Store!

As we mentioned in our previous posts, the App Store celebrated their anniversary early with Apple fans by making 10 paid apps and games free of charge!

So, we thought it would be fitting to do our weekly app review on one of the newly free apps: Day One.

Have you ever felt that there are a lot of things about specific events that you would like to remember, but couldn’t?

Day One is a journaling platform that can record and preserve your memories for the long term. Currently available on Mac ($9.99), iPhone and iPad (free!) with fast syncing from iCloud and Dropbox, we think that this is one of the best journal apps out there.

Day One app

What’s so special about Day One?

Well let us tell you! Social networking sites like Facebook automatically organize your activities and events in chronological order via timeline. But, there are not many interactive private places to keep track of your thoughts. With the passcode lock, you can keep your journal private if you like, or share and link your friends via email and social media. You can even store your journal on the Cloud.

The app not only focuses on helping users remember, record and track their lives in a simple way that can be easily accessed at a later date, but was built with integration in mind and a great user interface. Besides the typical journaling features like text and photo, it includes neat features such as a shortcut bar right above the keyboard  that allows you to include the weather and location, photo, favourite or markdown text formatting and a word counter with the simple swipe of a finger.

The beautiful user interface makes it an enjoyable experience when browsing or searching for a specific event. You can also set reminders in case you forget to log your day!

If you are not sold yet on this app, Apple awarded it the Mac App of the Year in 2012.

Even Jack Dorsey uses and endorses Day One:

 

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What are your thoughts on Day One Journal? If you use a journal app, what do you use and what do you look for? Let us know by tweeting us at @PlasticMobile.

With a few days to go until Apple’s App Store 5th Anniversary on July 10, we have already seen Apple begin their celebrations starting with neat posters mapping their 5 years of the App Store being sent out to the media outlets and reporters and now there’s one for the loyal Apple fans and avid App Store users!

A bunch of highly regarded iPhone and iPad apps and games have been listed today as being free! This could be the App store’s early celebration for their 5 year mark, although Apple has yet to make any announcements regarding these offers. But why wait for an announcement? Head over to the App Store today and check out what popular apps are available for free!

Here’s a quick list of paid games/apps gone free:

Try your hand at DJing and mixing your favourite tracks! We will definitely be playing around with the Traktor DJ this week!

Check out the demo video below to view the user experience and interface:

Which apps do you have your eye on? Tweet us at @PlasticMobile!

Do you know what it was that Steve Jobs introduced 5 years ago on July 10, 2008 that changed the whole mobile industry, and, well, the world (a little bit)? The App Store!

Not only was the App Store released on iTunes on this date, but a day later, iOS 2 was launched and shortly thereafter Apple released thr iPhone 3G.

On this same day, Steve Jobs announced during an interview that the App Store contained 500 apps and 25% of them were free. The truly amazing thing? 10 million apps were downloaded in only the first weekend!

Recently, Apple announced that the App Store has more than 900,000 apps with over 50,000,000,000 downloads. From day one to today, that works out to about 500 new apps released each day!

Tech reporters such as Tim Bradshaw received posters from Apple celebrating the upcoming 5 year anniversary of the App Store.

Check out his Vine video of the poster:

With almost a million apps available, what is the best app that you found on the App Store? Let us know! Tweet us @PlasticMobile.

Ever wanted to bring all your web and video content into a screen and move it around like Tom Cruise in the Minority Report?

TouchCast set out to reinvent the way we interact with online content, like videos, by turning it into an engaging and interactive experience. They believe that by merging video and the web together, it will become a super medium that can create and watch videos that are layered with live and real time information from web pages, YouTube video clips, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook streams and other digital touch capabilities that viewers can expand, move around and turn on and off with their fingers. Other features that the app can do is turn your iPad into an HD recording device, choose from a variety of effects, draw on the video and broadcast titles.

What separates TouchCast from other video apps is its built-in feature of vApps (video apps) within the platform allowing users to view the web inside a video via web pages and interactive HTML graphics. In addition, users will be able to create video that require no post-production editing and can be enriched using its vApps. They have created over 20 vApps, but plan to allow other developers to add their own vApp on the platform. The videos will be watchable on TouchCast’s own website, and eventually on all websites.

Touchcast is currently free and available for only the Apple iPad in the iTunes App Store.

Check out the video below to see TouchCast in action:

Do you think TouchCast is the future of how we interact with the web? Let us know what you think! Tweet us at @PlasticMobile.

SoundwaveSoundwave is a music discovery app that allows you to easily and instantly share what you are listening to on your phone and see what your friends, family and favourite musicians, celebrities or athletes are listening to on theirs. Available for iPhone and Android, it is not the first music discovery app with similar features, but it was endorsed by celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Steve Wozniak who used the app during pre-launch beta test and provided great reviews in the app stores.

SoundwaveSoundwave

After signing in, music can be tracked from your smartphone and streaming services like Spotify and Rdio as you play them. Tracks can also be played from YouTube and Soundcloud, rated with a thumbs-up or down, saved as favourites or shared to Facebook or Google+.

The activity feed is a window into your music world. Soundwave also provides filters so you can just explore the top liked, disliked and played charts, taking out the individual plays to reduce clutter in the feed.  There is also a neat Music Map feature where you can draw a circle with your finger over a map (any city, street or building) to see what songs people have been playing within that location in real time.

Soundwave allows you to preview and play songs as well as view their videos and purchase music through the app.

How do you discover new music? Will Soundwave become the go-to music discovery app for everyone? What do you think? Tweet us at @PlasticMobile.

Samsung Device InfographicThink about the last time you visited a mobile store, you probably noticed that Samsung is offering the most devices (phones and tablets).

If you have been feeling that Samsung is releasing a new device every week or month, you are not alone. Take a look at this infographic created by British mobile news website Which? illustrating how many mobile devices have been released in the UK this past year.

With 26 devices released in one year, it is like a new device every two weeks! The good thing about this is that they offer many screen sizes at different price points, allowing all customers with any budget to find the right mobile device for them. On the other hand, it may be super confusing for the user to understand the real differences between all these devices.

Comparing with Samsung’s main competitor, Apple has released only four devices in the past year (iPhone 5, iPod Touch 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini). With this huge contrast (26 vs. 4) and knowing that Apple made a choice to make only a few devices, we can really say that these two companies have two very different approaches in this market. Though, we can’t help but wonder if Samsung’s strategy isn’t working a bit better given the significant increase in Android sales we have been seening lately.

What do you think? Is the Samsung’s Galaxy getting too big? Let us know! Tweet us @PlasticMobile.

 

ios7The latest version of Apple’s mobile software, iOS 7, was unveiled today at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) along with the new Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks. We were happy to hear that Apple has decided to retire the cat-related names for more California-themed titles, such as Mavericks. New updated models of the Macbook Air line were also updated to offer all-day battery life and a three times faster wifi support. In addition, the new MacPro was announced to be an all new cylindrical shape with the Intel Xeon chip and up to 12 cores.

If you weren’t able to tune into WWDC today, here is what you missed on the iOS 7:

iOS 7 – Major UI Redesign

The new iOS 7 brings a completely new user interface to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The design was refreshed enough for users to see a difference, but the new iOS remains intuitive so current users do not need to worry about relearning the operating system. This feels like a new iOS device without replacing it. A major design overhaul replaces most of the skeuomorphic elements found in the earlier versions with a clean and gloss-less “flat” look with bright new colours. This means that apps such as the Calendar and Game Center no longer have the leather stitching, felt and wood elements.

In addition, the new iOS features a new colour scheme with translucency to “create a sense of depth and vitality.”

Demos of all the apps can be found on Apple’s iOS 7 website.

New Features

Motion Tracking Capabilities – As your device is moved with hand, the motion is tracked and the screen moves with that motion.

Dynamic Weather App - Incorporates live weather elements depending on selected city so if it is storming outside, the app will display rain.

Notification Center - New daily overviews that let users know about new mail, missed calls, tasks and much more. With a downward swipe, it can be quickly accessed on any screen, even the lock screen. Notifications are also synced across devices.

Control Center - New preference controls allow users to swipe up to access things such as Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode, adjust brightness and volume. An interesting functionality added to the iOS is the flashlight.

Multitasking - Available for all apps, the iOS 7 determines which apps are being used most frequently and keeps those apps up to date in the background. This features a new app switching screen that displays large-sized app cards which resembles WebOS. This will also be able to maintain great battery life.

Safari - New “omnisearch bar” that includes a new smart search field with “Share Links” provides improved social integration that pulls stories shared by friends on social media sites such as Twitter.

Airdrop - Available on Apple’s newest devices (iPhone 5, 4th Gen iPad, iPad mini), users can now easily share photos, videos and other content with others.

Siri – In addition to the new interface, Siri has been given a new voice options: male voices and voices for French and German. Siri can perform tasks like turning on Bluetooth and new service integrations such as web search results.

in-car iOS – This service will bring more functionality to the consoles of some vehicles through a partnership with several car manufacturers. This integration will let you make calls, have better control of Siri and view maps.

Activation Lock - In addition to the well-known and used “Find my iPhone” feature, the new Activation Lock prevents thieves from turning off that features off and wiping your device’s memory. It can not be reactivated unless the user’s iCloud information is provided.

Tim Cook stated the following data on the state of iOS:

The world’s most advanced mobile operating system by the numbers

  • 600 million devices sold#1 customer usage

  • 50% more usage than Android users

  • 60% mobile web share

  • 82% tablet market share (iPad)

  • 10% iPad,  8.7% iPhone Black Friday mobile shopping traffic 2012

  • J.D. Power & Associates #9 consecutive awards

  • 97% overall satisfaction for iOS

  • iOS 6 install base 93%, 33% Jelly Bean on Android (latest OS adoption)

iOS 7 is available for developers today on the iPhone and iPad support at a later date. The new iOS 7 will be available for everyone else this fall.

What are your favourite features on the new iOS?  Tweet us at @PlasticMobile.

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With summer just around the corner (even poking its head out from time to time), people are stretching their limbs and getting outdoors and active again.

Whether cycling to work, taking long evening walks or getting in touch with our inner ranger by hiking the trails, summer was made for getting outside.

In todays climate of big data and tracking every single piece of information, wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how many steps you took while running headlong in the opposite direction of that woodland create (a.k.a. bunny rabbit) that sprinted across your hiking trail (hey, those things can be dangerous, we get it).

Moves wants to do just that for you. It keeps track of your steps, how far you’ve biked or driven and does it all automatically just by sitting in your pocket. It’s pretty good at knowing what you are doing and fairly accurate when it comes to measurement.

Such information is definitely interesting, and probably useful. Running a persistent GPS in the background will drain your battery pretty fast though, so make sure you are fully charged each morning (and probably bring a charger with you). If you are more concerned with how long you can run than your battery, you should totally check out Moves.

What are you thoughts on Moves? What is your favourite gadget/app to track your fitness? Let us know on Twitter @PlasticMobile

Apple CEO Tim Cook is a busy guy and everybody wants some of his time, but it’s not an easy ticket to get! A coffee date with him goes for $610,000 and even several U.S. senators wanted to have a talk with him.

Assuming you don’t have half a million or subpoena powers, the chances of you getting to sit down with Tim is pretty unlikely.

Fortunately The Wall St. Journal’s tech blog “All Things D” was able to sit down with him at their D11 conference. At the going rate they got $825,000 worth of his time and you are able to watch the whole interview here.

As usual for CEOs, there wasn’t much new information that came out. Despite the interviewers best attempts, Tim wasn’t giving much in the way of the upcoming iWatch or what an Apple TV would look like, or do, or when it would be released or, well, anything. . .

While the video isn’t big on actual information, it’s also not that often that we hear the CEO of Apple chat it up for over an hour about the future of tech.

Do you have any thoughts on what Tim said? Let us know on Twitter @PlasticMobile

ipad

As the highest selling tablet in the world, the iPad is everywhere. Here are three incredible iPad stories coming out of the US last month.

1) Saved by iPad

A man was trying to get some nice pictures of a softball game in Iowa when an errant foul ball came directly at his face! The backstop netting between him and the field didn’t stop the ball but the iPad in front of his face probably saved him an injury. Don’t believe it? See the video.

2) An iPad stuck in a car’s bumper

A woman in Georgia drove for nearly one hour with a stranger’s iPad wedged in the bumper of her car after the device flew off the roof of another car, bounced on the roadway and landed in her car’s bumper. Amazingly, the iPad still worked and the woman was able to return it to its rightful owner. More details here.

3) Sworn in on an iPad (through the bible app)

Four firemen from New Jersey were about to be promoted to the rank of battalion chief but when officials at City Hall couldn’t find a Bible for the oath of office, it was looking like they would have to postpone. That is until they decided to simply use an iPad running a Bible app. More details and the video here.

Do you know of any other incredible iPad stories? Let us know on Twitter @PlasticMobile

2012 For Mobile’s World

By on February 15, 2013

It seems like Samsung finally became “the king” of the mobile space in 2012 by selling over 384,631,200 phones. Surprisingly, for the first time in 15 years, Nokia is finally not the biggest mobile distributer in the world. Nokia followed behind Samsung, only selling 333,938,000 units, with Apple in third, only selling 130,133,200 phones. Even though Samsung is not as appealing as the iPhone in the US, Samsung still ended up getting 80% of Android device sales for 2012.

Another important fact is worldwide sales for mobile phones declined by 1.7% last year. This sounds realistic because more and more people already have a mobile device, and not everyone purchases a new phone every year. For more information, see Gartner’s article here.

In terms of Internet usage on mobile devices, Apple took the lead for the first time with 25.86% of total usage, ahead of Samsung (22.69%) and Nokia (22.15%). For further information click here.

It seems that the year of mobile for 2012 consists of several episodes of the series “Apple vs. The World” which you can review through a really interesting info-graphic on this website.

What are your predictions for the mobile world of 2013? Do you think Apple might get more market share by starting to launch “low-cost” smartphones? Or maybe Windows Phone or the new BlackBerry might switch up the game? Let us know what you think! Tweet us @PlasticMobile.

Apple kicks off its annual 12 Days of iTunes Giveaway! From December 26th to January 6th, Apple will be giving away free media on iTunes! Gifts include rare singles, exclusive live tracks, music videos and classic TV programs. Not all of the gift giveaways will appeal to everybody, but there is likely to be something of interest for the typical consumer (I mean who doesn’t love free media?).

So the question really is: why is Apple being so generous? The crafty design behind this generous promo is a sneaky way to encourage new Apple users to understand how to use their downloading services on their new iPhone or iPad. Smart thinking, Apple. The digital giant also wanted to voice a little altruism, thanking it’s many loyal users for their years of fanatical love.

Gifts can be redeemed either through iTunes, or through the 12 Days of Christmas app. If you’re like us and have a hard time committing to a daily check, register for push notifications on the app so that you can be alerted when a new freebie is available for downloading.

Just a reminder – as soon as the day is over, so is the offer! Don’t miss out on some great stuff still up for grabs, get the app here!

The Google Maps Comeback

By on December 14, 2012

After millions of angry Tweets, Samsung guerrilla marketing and government issued warnings, Google Maps is back on iOS devices (hurrah!).

It’s still difficult for us to face the fact that even Apple can mess up sometimes. Of course, Apple’s geographical mapping blunder isn’t the WORST thing that could happen, we can’t help but wonder about the million dollar question beckoning from beyond the grave: would Steve Jobs have let this happen?

We will never know so enough of these ponderings! Let’s just be thankful that Google and Apple have worked it out this round. Now quit getting lost and download this thing already!

This holiday season, cross everyone off your list with a few quick taps and swipes using the all new AIR MILES iPad app.
This morning, AIR MILES and Plastic Mobile launched the iPad app as the latest addition to the AIR MILES mobile family.

The new iPad app allows Collectors to earn reward miles and shop at their favourite Canadian and American online retailers directly through the new airmilesshops.ca feature.

Modeled after the award-winning iPhone and Android AIR MILES apps, the AIR MILES iPad app also boasts a beautiful interface for browsing rewards, and still lets Collectors Check-in to Sponsor locations for the chance to double the rewards earned each month.

Watch this video on just how amazing the new app really is.

The AIR MILES iPad app is the answer to all your holiday shopping prayers! At least, it is to ours. Thank you, AIR MILES!

BW: Flexi-Phones for 2013?

By on November 21, 2012

It has been over a year since Samsung released a flexible smartphone prototype. The Galaxy Skin looked really cool and very bendable but we haven’t heard much about it since.

Until now.

The Wall Street Journal posted a video with an editor from Asia Today, which discusses the durability and light weight specs of the Galaxy Skin prototype. This display technology will differentiate them from other large competitors – a.k.a. Apple – if they can pull it off. Currently, mass production is set to happen in mid 2013, but so far they aren’t having much success.


There is no doubt that this would be one of the coolest mobile releases of the decade. Even if the flexi-phone turns out to be a bit of a gimmick or a failed fad, a product like the Skin would show incredible engineering and technological innovation.

Either way, we can’t wait to see Samsung role the Galaxy Skin out in 2013.

Would you buy this? What are some interesting ways you would use a bendable smartphone? Tweet below to let us @PlasticMobile.

BW: An Android World

By on November 14, 2012

In the past months there has been a lot of tension in the world of smart devices. We’ve been kept on the edge of our seats. Apple vs Samsung. The fall of RIM. Misleading maps in iOS 6 and new Jelly Bean 4.2.

Well, the consumers have spoken and the numbers are in on mobile device purchasing. It looks like Samsung and Android are in the lead.

Q3 results show that while the total sales of cell phones fell 3% from this time last year, smartphones are still booming. In fact, smartphone sales have risen 47% to 169 million units this quarter and accounted for 40% of total mobile sales! That is a serious percentage. These stats show that people aren’t spending quite as much on phones these days, but when they do they are very likely to invest all the way and get a new smartphone.

Amidst these results Samsung holds the top spot in devices sold, and Android is the most used operating system. Samsung holds 22.9% of the market share, with Nokia following behind with 19% and Apple with 5%. Of course it makes sense then that Android is the leading operating system since Samsung and Nokia are both big users of the Android OS. However, it is almost shocking that 72% of smartphones operate on versions of Android, while 13.9% run on iOS.

It’s easy to forget about Android with all the Apple buzz, but these numbers speak for themselves.

On a similar note, the Nexus 4 8 and 16 GBs sold out in 30 minutes in the US during it’s first day on Google Play yesterday.

Are these numbers what you expected? What type of phone or OS do you use? Let us know @PlasticMobile or comment below!

Apple’s autumn release blitz continued today with the much anticipated iPad Mini, a new MacBook Pro, iMacs and the iPad 4.

Out of the shadow (literally) of it’s predecessor, the iPad Mini has all the functionality of the standard iPad in a smaller package. Features like 1080p HD video, LTE, faster WiFi and an A5 processor are jam packed into a 7.9 inch frame. Consumers can get all of Apple’s great mobile capabilities in a device as thin as a pencil.

During the event, presenter and Apple VP Phil Schiller emphasized the fact that the iPad Mini is not just cross between a speechless smartphone and a tablet. In fact it’s probably handier than you’d think. At $300 less than the standard iPad, the Mini gives consumers an option of how much they want to shell out for the newest Apple technologies. It offers the same capabilities as the iPad which are – as Schiller reminds us – everything from browsing to educating and gaming and is still easy to tote and type on.

Shipping starts November 2nd.

PM UX: True Skate

By on October 22, 2012

A few days ago, while browsing the app store, an app in the New & Noteworthy section caught my eye. After reading some reviews and checking out some screenshots, I decided to cough up $1.99 and give it a try. Within five minutes of launching the app I was not only happy with my purchase, but I was also hooked. The app, True Skate, is and iOS game available on iPhone, iPad and iPod. It is best described as Tony Hawk series on PlayStation. Minus Tony Hawk.

True Skate provides users with a virtual skateboard and skate park to ride around in. Using their fingers to push and steer the board, users can rip through an awesome skate park filled with ramps, bowls, railings and obstacles, while pulling of tricks that most can only dream of doing. The app sports impressive graphics, super-realistic physics and gameplay that can compete with more conventional gaming consoles.
Users kick the game off with a quick tutorial covering some of the basics. I found the tutorials very helpful, but noticed it was sometimes challenging to see the instructional text. The font size could use some beefing up and the white text blends into the light backgrounds.
Once the tutorials are completed users are free to ride through the park and work on their tricks. They can also pause the game play by tapping the pause icon at the top left of the screen. There they can find some additional functionality that allows them to take a crack at a list of missions, view a list of their achievements or check out their completed tricks.
Another cool feature allows users to rewind game play and restart from a certain point by tapping and holding the rewind icon in the top right of the screen. They can also tap the camera icon to select from one of five camera views, or tap what looks like a refresh icon to reposition a flipped or stuck skateboard.
The game is very simple, which allows for anyone to just pick it up and play. I would highly recommend this game if you are into skateboarding or skateboarding games. It is one of the best I have come across on any platform. The only downside of the game is being limited to just one skate park.Being someone who is easily bored, I know the importance of variety in mobile gaming. So, I hope to see more parks added in future releases.

Do you love the app as much as we do? Know of another similar app? Let us know @plasticmobile.

Finally, a Bagel Wednesday that’s not all about Apple.

Today the Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI introduced the new HTC J Butterfly. Google’s latest offering is halfway across the world and is quite a few miles ahead of devices in North America.

Underneath the HTC J Butterfly’s exclusive 5-inch 1080p HD “Super LCD 3” screen is a device jammed with great features. Running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the Butterfly has 16GB and microSDHC expansion, an eight megapixel camera is set up for NFC and can be used globally. And, oh yeah, it’s waterproof. The only speculated problem so far with the HTC device is its battery which may be too small to power the only 1080p screen on the market.

Battery issues and tech bragging aside, it is refreshing to see waterproofing included as an integrated feature and not as a hokey marketing position. We’ve seen waterproofing before from phones like the Samsung Rugby Smart, which is as durable as it is unattractive and low-tech. Sony’s Xperia is better looking and more capable as a smartphone but is still relatively mid-range and lackluster.

Why can’t we get high performance and all around UX at the same time? It seems that consumers have been sacrificing some common sense for the latest and greatest technology. Waterproofing seems like the biggest no-brainer necessity for consumers who are investing hundreds of dollars in something they rely on all day, every day. Improvements in durable UX that fix your phone’s phobia to water and prevent its screen from shattering are functions that companies should be making standard.

Just like us, our smartphones are exposed to wear and tear. Companies from HTC, Samsung and Apple alike claim that with their phones you can have it all. But the HTC J Butterfly seems like the first of its kind that really does.

The Butterfly will not be released in Japan until early December and there is no word so far on its arrival into the North American market. But when it does get ready for the whole package: a high-operating smartphone with durability to boot.

If you weren’t satisfied with Apple’s iPhone 5 launch last month then gear up for the debut of Samsung’s new Galaxy 3 III Mini tomorrow.

Timing for Samsung’s miniature release couldn’t be any better. Amidst a continual cavalcade of problems surrounding the iPhone 5, the Galaxy S III has gained ground and cache in the mobile world. While Apple is handling scratches and product delays, Samsung will usher in the newest member to its family tree.

If the GS III has been criticized for anything it was its 4.8 inch screen. Now a moot point as the iPhone 5 features a 4.8 inch screen, the GS III mini would fix this issue outright. It will provide the same specs that the larger version provides while giving customers an option for a smaller body and price point.

Samsung is not the only smart device that is diversifying. Apple’s newest additions, the rumoured iPad Mini or an updated iPad 4, will be uncovered later this month. With both companies opening up their lines to larger and smaller devices, digital consumers will be able to use smart technology in new and interesting ways.

Tech developments this fall have been game changing for the mobile industry. The introduction of Passbook, Samsung’s moment in the sun and the upcoming size additions will revolutionize the way that consumers interact with smart devices in the home, when shopping or on the go.

 

When the iPhone 5 finally launched last month Apple and Android fans alike rejoiced.

Apple supporters eagerly bought out its entire stock at break-neck speeds, soaking up the benefits of a modified redesign and added capabilities. Android fans laughed, pointing out that they’ve already been enjoying these capabilities for some time and carried on basking in the warm glow of their wider screen and multitasking powers.

Since its launch, the iPhone 5 continues to be massively popular but certain flaws in physical and design updates have trickled into the light. Issues with the new Google-independant Maps app have users in an uproar as 3D views and street maps leave off important landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and do not give travel times for walking, biking or public transportation. The improved camera on the iPhone 5 was also touted to be bigger (smaller) and better, but delivers only a slimmer look, minimal resolution gain and a purple glare from direct light sources.

These mistakes have opened Apple up to a world of scrutiny never before faced. Comparisons between the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy III GS flood worldwide online and print forums, causing the user respect metre to rise for Android devices. Apple’s response to accusations and complaints have been both apologetic and defensive and are in turn being simultaneously applauded and ridiculed by the media.

While Apple is redesigning the Maps app and teaching us how to take photos on our phones let’s keep something in mind:

Despite its flaws, the iPhone 5 is still great. Most of its new features are great. Like Passbook, which will implicate enormous change in the way we use phones for personal convenience and retail capabilities. But, with its mistakes and anticlimactic product arrival, two things have become abundantly apparent: Steve Jobs is greatly missed, and Apple is, after all, just like any other company.

Since this round of iPhone was not Apple’s best foot forward, we can only expect that the next version iPhone will be amazing next time around. But, only time will tell.

Yes, we know that the title of this article probably sounds completely weird. But, there’s a story behind our madness.
To begin, since iOS 6 was released with its own Apple version of the Maps app, most people are noticing some bugs, quirks and problems that would indicate that it may not have been 100% ready for the market. In fact, some people have become incensed by the latest Apple app, and have been posting all kinds of crazy things that this new Apple Maps app is showing. We suppose that is must be difficult for some users who had become very accustomed to Google Maps, to now have to get used to something new.
Just the other day, we saw someone get lost because he was using the new app. And across the pond in London, England, countless iPhone users trying to navigate the London Tube system have posted comments making fun of its inaccuracies.
Another rather hilarious and ironic misnomer is seeing the app re-direct to Google Maps on the web because the service currently only exists as an app.
Some of us here at Plastic are of the thought that it was pretty poor planning of Apple – known for its high-quality products – to replace a useful service, with their own that seems to be still a BETA version.
While this also did happen to an extent with Siri (especially in the US), Siri was a new technology and ergo, was forgiven for its bugs and quirks. But the new Apple Maps is replacing a perfectly good service that already existed.

Even today, all of Siri’s bugs haven’t been worked out, for example, if you ask her to find a restaurant for you in Paris, she proudly lists 15 options – a mere fraction of the restaurants in Paris, but we’re getting there.
The good news is that even if you get lost because of the new iOS 6 Maps, you might have more fun than if you were given the correct information, thanks to a Japanese company called NeuroWear. They are working on different concept of accessories to translate your emotion from your body to electronic cat ears called Necomimi or electronic cat tail called Shippo, which will even allow you to share how you felt about places you have visited via the mobile app.
We can’t wait to hear how everyone feels about being lost because of the new iOS 6 Maps! Just kidding, Apple. We know you’ll fix it for us.

While many mobile players are racing to come out with a mobile payment solution, the launch of iOS 6 and Apple’s new Passbook mobile application is giving retailers, airline carriers and others looking to best leverage their mobile marketing efforts a new way to engage mobile users via location-based offers, time-sensitive offers and upgrade the traditional paper based coupon.

Passbook works to enhance the mobile shopping experience, but does not (at this point) include a mobile payment aspect to it. Passbook provides Apple a means to get digital wallets in the hands of consumers now while it waits to see which mobile payments solution rises above in the growing competition.

The expectation is that Apple will eventually enhance Passbook to include mobile payments. The initial interest and partnership from some consumer brands (Fandango, United Airlines, Target and Starbucks) suggests Passbook is shaping up to be a significant new mobile service with a solution that provides utility, and that could potentially see some uptake. The basic benefit here is the ability to enhance the paper coupon for many brick and mortar retailers. Consumers will be able to store (did you catch our pun?) all their coupons, offers, boarding passes, vouchers, movie tickets, etc. in one convenient location, slimming down wallets everywhere!

With Apple’s new mapping features and GPS functionality, retailers can easily offer in-store and location-based rewards to shoppers. Passbook offers a location/time based element where consumers can be reminded when a coupon is about to expire, or if they walk past a store, they can be notified they have a coupon available to be used. Any offers or coupons stored on the app are tagged by location/time, so retailers can create coupons that are time-sensitive in order to engage and entice their customers to redeem these coupons in a certain time frame and increase in-store traffic.

Ultimately, Passbook is an interesting step forward in mobile coupons, and here at Plastic Mobile, we are really excited to see which retailers will be the next to jump on board with passbook.

Any retailers looking to connect with Apple’s ever-expanding base of smartphone and tablet users should consider developing Passbook solutions. The opportunities at this point are significant as wherever paper coupons, loyalty cards or vouchers once existed, Passbook now applies.

Are you excited about passbook? Let us know what you think of Apple’s latest endeavour to push the space forward by tweeting us @plasticmobile.

PM UX: YouTube Revamped

By on September 25, 2012

The recent release of Apple’s iOS 6 marks the end of YouTube as we iPhone users know it. With the five year licensing agreement between Apple and Google not being renewed, users running iOS 6 will no longer be seeing YouTube as a pre-installed app on their devices.

I for one couldn’t be happier about this. You see, Google has released it’s own version of the YouTube app and it addresses my biggest problem with the old app, very limited video selection.

Not only does the new YouTube app offer more in terms of video selection, it also offers some new functionality, and much better experience. The app is currently available as a free download in the App Store and, not surprisingly, it’s also sitting comfortably in the #1 spot of the Top 25 free apps’ list.

YouTube

When I launched the new YouTube app, the first thing I noticed was a cleaner, sleeker and far more aesthetically pleasing design. Only when I saw the new app in all its glory, did I realize how outdated the old YouTube had become.

The new YouTube sports an overhauled menu, larger images for your viewing pleasure, an alternative to full screen landscape viewing and a search function that not only reduces taps, but also allows users to search for videos without even typing.

Updated Menu

The new YouTube app utilizes a familiar menu style used by many other popular apps, most notably the Facebook app. The new menu also improves browsing by providing users with more categories to browse by and allowing them to do so efficiently. Users can find more content that interests them in a shorter amount of time.  The previous app only allowed users to browse “Featured” or “Most Viewed” videos, which only go so far at keeping users engaged.

Larger Images For Better Browsing

 

The new YouTube app displays much larger images than its predecessor. I find, and I’m sure most will agree, that larger images make for quicker browsing. In fact, with the new design I find that there’s less of a need to stop and read a video description, because a picture is worth a 1000 words.

I also find larger images much more enjoyable to browse through. Especially, when the app displaying those images is quick and responsive as the new YouTube app is. Take a look at the below screenshots of the old and the new, then decide for yourself.

Improved Search Functionality

 

If you remember, the older, pre-installed YouTube app had its search function tucked away in a tab menu. This meant that if a user wanted to search for a video while browsing the “Featured” list, they would first have to tap “Search” from the tab menu, and then tap the text field to enter their query.

The new YouTube places the search function in the app’s header bar, as an icon resembling a magnifying glass. The function is available throughout most of the app and the placement is consistent, making the function highly accessible and easy to find.

When a user taps the search icon, the keyboard slides up and a pre-selected text field appears. Because the text field is pre-selected, the user can begin typing right away, saving them a tap.

A cool piece of additional functionality comes in the form of the ability to dictate a search. By tapping the microphone icon next to the search text field user can simply dictate what they wish to search, then select their video from a list of search results.

When I first saw this feature in YouTube, I was sure I had seen it somewhere else, but simply couldn’t remember where. Shortly after, it hit me. It was another Google app we reviewed here, Chrome.

A Huge Improvement

There is no comparison! In my opinion, the new YouTube app is better in every way. Probably because the old app  never really saw any significant updates and was essentially the same app for as long as I can remember.

Unless you’ve been in outer space exploring Mars for the past month, you have probably heard the news about the latest iPhone 5.

While all the hype was going on around the new iPhone 5, sneaky Samsung was in the wings, preparing a very special ad comparing the specs of its Samsung Galaxy 3 with the iPhone 5 specs. While we acknowledge that this is not really objective advertising, we can’t say that we blame them for the dig since it’s technically accurate and, well, everyone else is doing it.

The best part of this is whole debacle is seeing people’s reaction online as they hear about the ad. The first was obviously from some reactive Apple fanboys with their response to Samsung. Then some Nokia users with a Lumia 920 comparison to the new iPhone came out, and from there it snowballed into a gloves-off online specs war!

Since most of these mobile devices share basically the same hardware, it is really all about the firmware.

Thanks to savvy marketing, we are all very aware of what’s going in the iOS and Android worlds. However, there’s another mobile player who may upset the status quo. Nokia and Windows Phone 8 now have the chance to make a dramatic change to the space when both the new device and Windows 8 are released in late October of this year.

Only time will tell. What are your thoughts? Apple vs. Android? Or will Nokia change the game with Windows 8? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know!

In case you’ve been living underground, in a bomb shelter, with no access to the outside world, the Apple / Samsung case was finally decided in a Californian court room. Apple was awarded more than $1Billion and their Korean rival was found to have infringed on six out of seven Apple patents. It was ruled that Samsung’s designs conflicted with interface specs such as the “bounce-back” feature, which occurs when one reaches the end of a page, zoom finger tapping, finger pinch zooming and scrolling patterns, as well as design features like the grid icon setup, edge to edge glass and rounded corners. All of the infringements were deemed willful with the exception of the rounded corners – so, just an honest mistake?

Finger scrolling? Grids? As a company that prides itself on making accessible and intuitive designs, it seems odd that Apple would be so adverse to other companies using the same or similar functions. Why not go after the engineering or mechanics? Because this fight is not about interior it is about exterior, and for Apple the biggest part of its brand identity is its appearance. While a lot of these patent infringement claims may seem a little farfetched and petty, they are key elements to the Apple brand.

Apple is now seeking to set immediate bans on eight of Samsung’s mobile designs that are in blatant use their patents. Popular models such as the Galaxy S2 and the Droid Charge are in the line of fire for shelf removal in the US, though Apple is sparing Samsung’s top seller, the Galaxy S III (for now).

Despite the fact that the company recently won a battle on its home turf in South Korea, the ruling for the American market is, of course, a serious setback for Samsung. The Korean company will now have to work with US carriers to modify existing designs, and will have to head back to the drawing board for redesigns, and postpone any upcoming releases.

While the short term for Samsung may look bleak, the new restrictions set by patent law may serve to open up new doors for the company. In an industry that seems to be moving by the guiding force that is Apple, there is definitely room for more innovation, more design and new ways to use technology in our lives. Now it is just up to Samsung to create something great.

Nowadays, with smartphone image quality nearing that of most point-and-shoot cameras, along with the inherent convenience of mobile, more and more people are using their devices as their go-to camera.

As a result of this trend, we are seeing a constantly increasing amount of photography apps popping up. These apps offer users a variety of innovative features not found in native apps. One such app is creating somewhat of a buzz latley, by offering its users an opportunity to make money doing something that they are already doing for free.

FOAP

Available on the iPhone, Foap can be best described as Instagram meets stock photos.

Much like Instagram, Foap allows users to create profiles, upload photos, rate photos and follow other users. AND, remarkably similar to a stock photography site, Foap has created a marketplace where photographs can be bought and sold.

That’s right! Users can actually make money selling the digital photos taken with their iPhones – capitalism wins again!

However, it should be noted that uploaded photos must first be reviewed by someone, we assume a photography expert, at Foap. So, only the approved photos are uploaded to the Foap market and put on sale for $10, with all transactions processed through PayPal.

When a user’s photo is sold, the generated revenue is split 50/50 between Foap and the user. I know $5 doesn’t sound like much, but just consider what Instagram users get for uploading their photos (hint; the answer is nothing).

It’s not very clear exactly what Foap looks for when reviewing photos, but from what I have read in the app’s FAQ section, photos must be clear and of good quality, and of course free of any sexual or violent content.

I have also read elsewhere, that editing photos decreases the chance that they will be published. I, myself was unable to upload some cropped images. I received an error message stating that either the width or length of an image must be at least 1000 pixels.

Once photos are successfully uploade, reviewed and published, they are showcased in the app’s market section. Users can access the market through a tab menu found on the home screen. The home screen is very easy to learn and navigate, making for speedy discovery and exploration of the app.

Once in the market, users are able browse through published photos, leave comments and rate them out of a possibe five stars. Top rated and recently sold photos have their own dedicatd sections in the market, while the entire selection can be found under the “Explore” tab.

Users are not actually able to purchase photos directly from the app, but I predict that will change eventually. Until that time, however, anyone wishing to purchase a photo must do so through the company’s website.

However, while viewing a particular photo, users can tap an arrow icon loacated at top right of their screens, which gives them a few options. Selecting “View on Market” will launch Safari and take users to that particular picture’s page on the website.

I have been playing around with this app for a few days now, and I must admit that I have become a bit addicted. For the purpose of this review, I actually snapped this photo and uploaded it. Once it was approved and published, my picture quickly picked up a few five-star ratings and made its way onto the top-rated chart under the “Today” category. In fact, it made it all the way to #2!

Every since then, I have been snapping away, trying repeat my accomplishment. I have introduced a few friends to Foap who are now also hooked. We’ve even mafe a friendly bet between us as to who will be the first to actually sell a photo.

Even is you have little interest in selling your images, I would still recommend giving this app a try. Foap is well designed and easy to learn and use. It can also be alot of fun and can even possibly get you paid for your amateur photography! Yay!

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