TwitterFacebook

Which start-up could be the next big thing?

When it comes to technology startups, there are a lot of paths to success.

Some successful startups sell for a billion dollars, as Tumblr did this year to Yahoo. When that happens, it’s a windfall for the founders of the startups as well as for the investors and some employees.

Other new companies are considered successful if they attract millions of users and venture money before going public, as Facebook did and Twitter is doing. And still others are considered hot because their products attract demographic groups that advertisers want to reach or because they have come up with some new idea or technology that seems to change the way we live.

About a year ago, right after Instagram was snapped up by Facebook, a few other startups seemed poised for some degree of success. Some of them, like Pinterest, Square and Uber, are still thriving, with plenty of users and cash from investors. Others, like Path or Airtime, have lost steam, and users’ attention, and may be on their way to the tech boneyard.

This year, there’s a new class of interesting startups to watch. Some are attracting record numbers of new users and significant amounts of venture capital, or appealing to a new and interesting demographic. Some are simply working on a new idea that seems to be taking off. In the unpredictable world of tech startups, any of them could be forgotten by the end of the year. But they could also be the next big thing.

SNAPCHAT

This mobile application lets people send to their friends, family and crushes text messages and photos that self-destruct after a preset period. It sounds like something out of a spy movie, but Snapchat, which was released in late 2011, has caught on as a private messaging application among people who do not want to worry about unflattering photos or silly messages winding up online for others to see. The app is also a lightweight and entertaining way to communicate. Teenagers, in particular, seem to favor the service over traditional text messaging, email and even Facebook messaging.

The company, which has not yet celebrated its second birthday, says it processes 200 million messages each day. That number represents a lot of users.

In June, Snapchat raised a $60 million round of venture financing that pushed the company’s valuation skyward of $800 million. If that seems high, consider that Onavo Insights, a mobile analytics firm, recently reported that Snapchat was used by nearly 20 percent of iPhone owners on a monthly basis, making it one of the most popular applications available on Apple’s mobile operating system.

WHATSAPP

Paying for text messages is so 2012. As more of our daily interactions migrate to mobile, people are looking for cheap and easy ways to keep in touch, regardless of what device they are using or what country they live in.

WhatsApp is a messaging application that intends to replace the old-time system, known as SMS, and so far, seems to be doing just that. It costs $1 a year, and there is no advertising; it saves costs by forgoing any kind of archive for the messages.

Created by two former Yahoo engineers in 2009, the application is consistently ranked highly in various app stores. In early June, the company that makes it said it processed 27 billion messages in a single day.

With its focus on messaging, the company is clearly on to something: Group messaging applications, like Beluga and GroupMe, have already been snapped up by Facebook and Skype, and Google and Apple have recently introduced their own versions of messaging applications.

OCULUS VR

The Oculus Rift, a headset that looks like an oversize pair of ski goggles and that immerses the wearer in a virtual reality video game, started as a Kickstarter project to raise a quarter of a million dollars and ended up taking in more than $2 million. In June, the company raised another $16 million in venture financing from Spark Capital and others.

It recently began shipping the first versions of its virtual reality gaming machine to game developers and generated rave reviews at Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual gaming convention, in June. The device’s technology is still in its early stages – the headset isn’t expected to be released commercially until 2014 – but it could unlock a new generation of gaming and entertainment experiences, one that goes beyond the last big thing in gaming, the gesture controls of the Kinect.

WANELO

Shopping online replaced shopping at the mall long ago. But unless you know exactly what you are looking for, the abundance of places to shop online can be overwhelming. Wanelo – the name is a combination of want, need, love – offers on one site a collection of stylish goods, selected from

shops around the Web. It’s Pinterest but with a business model. The site is one of the first to figure out how to make sense of the riotous selection of goods online and how to profit from them.

Founded in 2010, Wanelo not only has a good idea, it is popular among young women – a group that clothing companies are eager to reach. The site has more than 10 million users, and it recently closed an $11 million round of financing that would push the company’s valuation to $100 million.

LYFT

Airbnb transformed the way people thought about the hotel industry by making it easy for people to rent out spare rooms in their homes to adventurous travelers.

Ride-sharing services like Sidecar and Lyft hope to do the same for drivers and riders who are looking for ways to supplement public transportation or offer alternatives to expensive private car services like Uber. With the Lyft application, users can request a ride with a tap. Another Lyft user arrives shortly after and drives the passenger to the destination.

Lyft, which was founded in 2007 and is based in San Francisco, seems to have the most momentum of these services, recently landing an additional $60 million in financing, led by Andreessen Horowitz. The company also said it helped with 30,000 rides each week. Although Lyft’s availability is limited to a few cities, the company says it plans to spread across the country by the end of 2014.

MYO

How will we interact with technology in the future – or to put this in tech speak, what will the interface of the future look like?

Apple and Google are experimenting with letting users control their phones and tablets with voice commands, while Microsoft Xbox is perfecting the 3-dimensional scanning software in the Kinect that lets players control video games by moving their arms and hands.

But a startup created in May 2012 in Waterloo, Canada, says its armband, which detects motions and muscle activity produced in the wearer’s arm and translates them to gestures on a screen, will be the real revolution in how we control our computers and other personal devices.

The company is working to develop ways to browse the Web, play games and interact in other ways online with the MYO armbands.

It says it plans to start shipping to consumers in early 2014.

MYO is small – it was started by three engineers – but it has already raised close to $15 million from some notable venture capitalists and taken more than 30,000 preorders for its cutting-edge hardware.

BRAINTREE

Online and mobile commerce is a muddled and crowded business, full of dozens of upstarts vying to be the next PayPal. But one company, Braintree, which provides the technology to process payments on the Web and on mobile devices, is quietly building an impressive list of clients – Rovio, Uber, OpenTable, Fab, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Heroku and others – which give it a boost of credibility.

Braintree, based in Chicago, was started in 2007, but the company is picking up momentum. It recently acquired Venmo, an application that lets people pay each other through text message, and partnered with Simple, a banking startup, to make mobile payments easier for people who use all three services.

The company says it processes $10 billion a year, a fraction of which is on mobile. It is a far cry from PayPal, which is on track to process $20 billion in payments in 2013. But the Braintree raised a recent round of financing that brings its total venture cash pile to $70 million, and it says it is just warming up.

KING

Every so often, a new mobile game charms the masses and becomes the vice of millions around the world. Think of Draw Something, Angry Birds or Minecraft.

Often these games disappear as quickly as they appear. Candy Crush, though, the mobile game from a London gaming studio called King, seems to have a staying power that its predecessors lacked. Candy Crush, released for smartphones in late 2012, is the biggest hit to date for King, which has been around since 2003.

The game is simple enough: Get three or more matching candies in a row. But it has 45 million players – more than Spotify, Pinterest and Zynga’s hits FarmVille 2 and Texas HoldEm Poker – and most of them are on mobile. According to the company, the game is played more than 600 million times each day on mobile devices.

When playing the game, you are cut off from continuing after a certain amount of time unless you buy extra time, called lives. But you can also advance if you just wait (the number of turns you have regenerates after a set amount of time). Players can buy so-called boosters to help advance to higher levels.

Analysts estimate that these purchases could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each month, giving the company a nice enticement for investors in an initial public offering of stock, which many anticipate. There is no advertising in the game.

 

PlayStation Mobile goes live on Vita and selected Android devices

Sony’s attack on the App Store and Android Market was released, PlayStation Mobile is Sony’s curated game shop for PS Vita and a handful of Android devices.

Users can now download the app, or simply enter the PlayStation Store,  where they can download games like Super Crate BoxAqua Kitty, and Loot the Land.

Compatible devices

PlayStation Mobile games only run on PlayStation Certified devices. Right now the following 12 devices are compatible with PlayStation Mobile:

  • PS Vita
  • Xperia acro
  • Xperia acro HD
  • Xperia ion
  • Xperia S
  • Xperia arc
  • Xperia Play
  • Sony Tablet S
  • Sony Tablet P
  • HTC One S
  • HTC One X
  • HTC One V

 

Google Releases YouTube App

Google has now launched its own official standalone YouTube app for the iPhone and iPod touch following reports that iOS 6 will remove the built-in YouTube app.

The new YouTube app has been developed for the iPhone and iPod touch to provide a more integrated experience along with improved performance and exploration features, allowing users to access YouTube either as a guest or with their own YouTube account, view playlists, subscribe to video channels, and discover content via a new integrated YouTube channel guide. Users can also play videos via AirPlay and share on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Messages and e-mail.

The new app also provides access to a greater range of content by allowing users to view videos with pre-roll advertising—a requirement that barred many videos from being displayed in the built-in app.

YouTube is an iPhone and iPod touch app requiring iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download. An iPad optimized version is reportedly under development and expected to be available in the coming months.

Augmented Reality Empowered Mobile Devices

Augmented reality glasses presents a whole new perspective to the debate on changing fashions.

Google’s vision, codenamed Project Glass, is that we will soon all be wearing special glasses that can understand spoken instructions and present the wearer with useful information, take photos and anything else you currently use your mobile phone for, all without lifting a finger. In a world where people are spending more time in virtual bubbles and losing sight of their real-life surroundings, Google has cleverly promoted this idea as being there when you need it and out of your way when you don’t.

augmented-realitySome experts, however, are unconvinced that the concept announced by Google is that close to becoming a reality. Clearly, however, the innovators at Google have realized that, beyond being technically sound, a wearable device has to be somewhat fashionable if it is to be successful, as Apple have proven many times in recent years.

AR in other forms has been around for many years and has recently seen massive growth, as technology in portable gaming devices and SmartPhones has become powerful enough to provide a pleasant user experience.

Juniper Research projects that annual revenue from mobile AR apps will reach $732 million by 2014, up from less than $2 million in 2010.

Augmented reality is just one of the many technologies that Aumcore’s mobile development team uses to make mobile apps stand out from the crowd.

Watch out!An Android army is taking over the mobile world

San Francisco: Google Wednesday announced that 500 million devices running on its Android operating system have been activated so far.

“Today is a big day for Android… 500 million devices activated globally, over 1.3 million added every single day,” Hugo Bara, Google Android’s director of product management, said in a Google+ post.

In June, Google said 400 million Android devices had been activated and the rate was 1 million per day, reported Xinhua.

Google announced the milestone just before Apple unveiled iPhone 5.

The latest smartphone from Apple features a bigger screen and support for LTE network, both of which have been available on smartphones using Android system for more than a year.

Android
According to latest data from research firm IDC, there were four Android phones for every iPhone shipped during the second quarter of this year. It is up from a ratio of 2.5 to 1 during the same period last year.

Developing apps for the Microsoft Surface tablet

Microsoft has just announced its entry into the tablet market, the Surface.

Microsoft Surface

Designed and manufactured by Microsoft, Surface will launch this Autumn and comes in two models:

  1. A more powerful, expensive, thicker & heavier (13.5mm, 903g) one running Windows 8 Pro on an Intel chipset comparable to the latest ultrabooks. This tablet will be able to run demanding desktop applications such as Office, Photoshop and others. An attachable stylus will also be available for handwriting and annotation.
  2. A cheaper, more lightweight (9.3mm, 676g) model running Windows 8 RT on an ARM chipset comparable to the latest tablets. This tablet will not be able to run desktop Windows apps, only the Metro style apps bought from the Windows Store.

Along with the tablets, Microsoft announced their own range of covers for the device, with integrated keyboards. One a thin, pressure-sensitive multi-touch keyboard in a range of colours (shown in the image above); and one a tactile keyboard with depressible keys. Both include a trackpad and Windows 8 function keys.

I mention these details because it’s important to keep the device’s form-factor in context when developing apps for Surface; the presence of a physical keyboard (as opposed to on-screen) or stylus will certainly impact design decisions.

Apps for Surface

Surface is Microsoft’s platform for delivering Windows 8 to the mobile market. Unlike Apple, Microsoft will be running the exact-same operating system on their tablets as on their laptop and desktop devices. For developers this means the Windows Store will be key in delivering applications to every Windows device, whether mobile or not.

Windows Store

Any Windows 8 Metro app on the Windows Store will be available to Surface users, and those with the higher-end model will also have the option of using the Store (or other methods) to find and install desktop applications too.

PayPal comes to Windows Phone

Here’s one more reason not to worry about carrying cash: the official PayPal app has arrived in the Windows Phone Store.

The free app lets you send and request money, check your account balance, withdraw funds, and scan past transactions. Another neat touch: the app’s Local feature shows you nearby stores using the PayPal Here service, so you can pay them via the app. If you haven’t checked it out yet, download PayPal now and try what you think.

PayPal arrives on Windows PhonePayPal arrives on Windows PhonePayPal arrives on Windows Phone

iPhone 5 Sales: 2 Million In First 24 Hours; 6-10 Million Will Sell In First Week

iPhone 5For all of the sales success that the iPhone 4 and 4S enjoyed in the past years, the iPhone 5 is set to dwarf their sales numbers — in the short-term, at least.

After the stunning push-back of the ship date for pre-ordered iPhone 5 units just 24 hours after going on sale, we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of what kinds of sales numbers Apple’s new iPhone is seeing. For as much as the sales expectations for the iPhone 5 were high before its release, the reality is that even those seemingly crazy estimates may turn out to have been conservative.

According to USAToday, iPhone 5 pre-order sales topped 2 million in the first 24 hours:

Apple on Monday said iPhone 5 preorders topped 2 million in 24 hours — more than double the amount of preorders it had for the iPhone 4S . . . Apple’s Natalie Kerris says the company is “blown away” by consumer response to the new phone. And when iPhone 5 goes on sale in stores later this week, analysts predict lines as long as the record queues seen for the iPhone’s debut in 2007.

In addition to Apple seeing massive sales on its own website, their U.S. mobile partners, such as AT&T, are also reporting record pre-order sales as well. In fact, the pre-order sell-out has been so quick and decisive that tech analysts are even seeing the unprecedented sales as a potential supply problem for Apple:

“Apple expected the pre-orders to be a one-day cycle, and they were shocked that it was just one hour. They clearly were caught by surprise by the size of the orders,” Doherty says. Had they continued fulfilling online orders, “they might have only had two phones available at stores on Friday.”

Sensing that dealing with an angry virtual mob online would be easier than dealing with an angry mob outside of urbane Apple stores (remember what happened in China?), Apple’s move to cut off pre-orders was obviously a failsafe for ensuring that their physical stores would have something to feel once the iPhone 5 officially launches on September 21st.

And yet, there are even more impressive iPhone 5 sales numbers expected.

Use any credit or debit card with Google Wallet

Since the release of  first version of Google Wallet, the app that makes your phone your wallet, is available on six phones from Sprint and Virgin Mobile, as well as the new Nexus 7 tablet. They have also partnered with more than 25 national retailers, and thanks to MasterCard PayPass, you can pay with your phone at more than 200,000 retail locations across the U.S.

Today they’re releasing a new, cloud-based version of the Google Wallet app that supports all credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Now, you can use any card when you shop in-store or online with Google Wallet. With the new version, you can also remotely disable your mobile wallet app from your Google Wallet account on the web


A wallet with all your credit and debit cards

To save a card to Google Wallet, just enter the number into the mobile app, online wallet, or Google Play when making purchases. When you shop in-store, you can use Google Wallet in conjunction with your selected credit or debit card for purchases (more info here). Shortly after making a payment, you’ll see a transaction record on the phone with the merchant name and dollar amount. You can now view a history of all your in-store and online purchases from the online wallet.

To support all credit and debit cards, they changed their technical approach to storing payment cards. The Google Wallet app now stores your payment cards on highly secure Google servers, instead of in the secure storage area on your phone. A wallet ID (virtual card number) is stored in the secure storage area of the phone, and this is used to facilitate transactions at the point of sale. Google instantly charges your selected credit or debit card. This new approach speeds up the integration process for banks so they can add their cards to the Wallet app in just a few weeks. Banks that want to help their customers save cards to Google Wallet, including their custom card art, can apply  — there is no cost.

A wallet you can lock — and remotely disable
They take security very seriously and have always had a dedicated Google Wallet PIN to prevent others from making payments with your Google Wallet. And as always, they encourage Google Wallet customers to set up the phone’s screen lock — as an extra layer of protection.

Today, they’re adding a Google Wallet security feature that makes it possible for you to remotely disable your mobile wallet on a lost phone. It’s easy. If you lose your phone, just visit the ‘Devices’ section in the online wallet and select the phone with the mobile wallet you wish to disable. When you successfully disable your wallet on a device, Google Wallet will not authorize any transactions attempted with that device*. If the Google Wallet online service can establish a connection to your device, it will remotely reset your mobile wallet, clearing it of card and transaction data. There is no way you can do that with your leather wallet.

The new Google Wallet app is available now on Google Play, and if you have a supported NFC device and are in the United States, we encourage you to give it a try.

Crossing the 50 billion km mark & giving Google Maps for Android a fresh look

Every day, millions of people turn to Google Maps for Android for free, voice-guided GPS navigation to guide them to their destination. So far, Navigation on Google Maps for Android has provided 50 billion kilometers of turn-by-turn directions, the equivalent of 130,000 trips to the moon, 334 trips to the sun, 10 trips to Neptune or 0.005 light years! When getting to your destination matters most, Google Maps for Android will get you there:

A new look for Navigation on Android 4.0+ phones In today’s release of Google Maps 6.5 for Android we’ve redesigned the Navigation home screen in Android 4.0+to make it easier to enter a new destination or select from recent and favorite locations by swiping left or right.

Left: New Navigation home screen Right: Navigation in Google Maps for Android

Crisper, faster maps for high pixel density devices

If your device has a high pixel density screen, such as those on Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, Droid Razr and others, you’ll now get higher resolution map tiles that take better advantage of the pixels-per-inch on your screen. The result is a crisper, less cluttered map that is easier to read:

Left: Previous style Right:New style in Google Maps 6.5 for Android

Compare our new map on the right to the previous map on the left. The road network is easier to see, less obstructed by labels, and has more color contrast. At more zoomed-in levels, you’ll notice a more controlled amount of maps labels to avoid cluttering the map and blocking out street names. The new style also helps maps react faster to panning, zooming, and twisting.

You’ll start seeing the new style as you navigate around new areas on the map; however, you can see these changes immediately by clearing your cache from the Maps settings.

Pick your preferred public transit mode and route option

Google Maps 6.5 for Android now lets you choose to prioritize a particular transit mode (such as the bus or subway) and route option (like taking the recommended route, one with fewer transfers or one with less walking). Whether you just need to get somewhere as fast as possible, or you want to avoid the risk of a missed connection or you prefer not to tire your legs, you can get the transit directions that best suit you. Transit directions and schedules are available for 475 cities around the world.

To start using Google Maps 6.5 for Android, download the update from Google Play. Learn more about how to use other great features of Google Maps for Android on the redesigned Google Maps YouTube channel that has 12 new videos available today.

CyberChimps