TumblPad: Tumblr Finally Releases Its Native iPad App, Sporting Enhanced Navigation & Markdown Support

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Now that Tumblr’s blackouts are behind it, the company is back to focusing on its product, particularly its mobile one. Days after adding support for Android tablets, the company has announced that it updated its iOS app, adding compatibility for both the iPad and iPad mini.

Tumblr’s mobile channel is growing and, by the way, has recently helped to propel the blogging platform to more than 20 billion monthly pageviews. The company last updated its iOS app in November to improve user experience, speed, and engagement on the iPhone by making the app “native” — i.e. integrating it more deeply into the iOS experience.

For those who’ve already been Tumbl-ing on the iPhone, the new support for iPad will be familiar. First and foremost, because the app has “native” support for the iPad, it means that you no longer have to deal with the slow load times of your local browser. So, because of that, the user experience is more frictionless, more responsive and just feels more, well, native.

Like Tumblr for the iPhone, the new app includes familiar features like one-touch re-blogging, pinch and zoom to enlarge photos (and larger photos in general), multi-blog management, offline support, and so on.

However, the upgrade also brings some new iPad-specific additions as well, like its new navigational sidebar, which remains in-view as you peruse the Tumblr universe. A new Path-esque pie menu pops out of the sidebar, allowing for enhanced posting options, as well as landscape and markdown support.

Tumblr developer Bryan Irace tells the Verge that it only took the company “a few weeks” to develop its iPad app, but the main reason it’s been so long in coming is that Tumblr spent the summer working on its recent iPhone upgrade. Once it had optimized the user experience for smartphones, it was free to turn its attention to the iPad.

After a few minutes playing around with the new app, it’s easy to see that Tumblr is well-suited for the tablet. The blogging platform has always championed simple design, focusing the attention on the visual experience provided by its millions of content creators. That’s part of the reason why it has become one of the go-to channels for posting video, images and GIFs — really for any content that requires more than 140 characters, more space, or that doesn’t immediately need to be blasted to your entire social graph.

Because it already lends itself so well to images, video and multimedia content, Tumblr looks great on the iPad, as images appear in high-resolution without being limited by the smaller screen size. It’s a pleasure to tap around your high-res dashboard and, overall, offers a far more responsive experience than viewing Tumblr on your iPad’s browser. Plus, there’s less friction around creating new content, which is a plus.

Maybe even a holiday miracle.

Check out Tumblr for the iPad here.

The Defense Intelligence Agency Is Looking For Contractors To Help It Exploit Mobile Devices

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The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency is looking for a few good contractors to help it kick up its mobile information gathering capabilities, according to a new request for information (RFI) posted to its website Dec. 12 and spotted today by Fierce Wireless. The request has the government organization soliciting information sources for technology aimed at exploiting digital media and hardware, with a special request for exploitation of mobile devices with methods not generally available on the commercial market.

The request looks to be a general effort by the government to find ways of better unlocking the potential of information on cell phones and tablets. The rush to mobile isn’t just something that startups and established businesses are trying to keep up with, in other words; the U.S. government wants in on the action, too.

The RFI is pretty broad overall, covering not just mobile, but also “exploitation systems in Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. On the whole, it looks like a fairly straightforward ask for outsider expertise in hacking and digital intelligence. But the mobile section looks like essentially an admission that truly valuable efforts on this front would take the form of portable devices that would be able to gather info from exploited media information sources.

Here’s what the whole thing has me thinking of: the scene in every episode of Person of Interest where Jim Caviezel pairs his own mobile phone with his target’s, allowing him to overhear and see any activity on that device completely unnoticed. Isn’t that real yet? If it isn’t, the government seems to want some outside help to make it so.

Millennial: Samsung’s Android Market Share Grew From 23% To 46% In One Year

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A new look back at mobile trends for 2012 from Millennial Media shows some significant gains for Samsung in particular, which has usurped the beleaguered HTC in terms of overall share of Android devices accessing apps using Millennial’s mobile ad platform. Samsung held 23 percent of impressions overall among Android devices in Q3 2011, but 46 percent in Q3 2012.

HTC was the leading player at the same time last year, but now it trails Samsung by 30 percentage points and sits in second place. The growth of Samsung reflects the success of its Galaxy S III, and also the Galaxy Note, both of which were strong performers in the smartphone market in 2012. The Galaxy S III sold over 30 million devices through November, covering five months on the market.

Other highlights from Millennial’s latest report, which include a year-end wrap-up of overall trends, show that the iPad mini has been a fast grower, rising 28 percent per day. Original iPad growth has not been dented by its rise, however, according to Millennial, suggesting cannibalization effects might not be as extreme as some predicted: original iPad impressions continue to grow at 35 times the volume of the iPad mini hits, the company says.

What else changed in 2012 in mobile? Millennial says that customers spend more time on their devices, and more advertising dollars are shifting to mobile campaigns, with some verticals experiencing especially high growth. The automotive industry grew the most on Millennial’s network, with a 318 percent spike vs. 2011 in spending. Travel, sports and education all saw over 200 percent increases in mobile ad budgets, too.

The trends for 2012 seem to suggest that there’s a lot to look forward to in 2013, especially for Samsung and its growing dominance of the Android platform. But can competitors like HTC rally and make a comeback in the new year? Samsung is likely to introduce strong successors to all of its current top-performers, including a Galaxy S IV and Galaxy Note III, but we’ll have to wait and see if an upset is in the cards.

After 3 Million Downloads, CloudOn 3.0 Now Brings Microsoft Office To iPhone, iPad Mini & Nexus 7

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CloudOn, the popular free productivity service that brings Microsoft Office to mobile devices, just launched version 3.0 of its mobile app. With this launch, CloudOn is bringing its service to the iPhone, iPad Mini and Nexus 7. This means CloudOn is now available on all of Apple’s mobile devices, as well as on Android tablets running Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich version 3.1 or higher, as well as Jelly Bean tablets running Android 4.1 or higher. A version for the new Kindle Fire HD 7 should also be available shortly.

Today’s launch isn’t just about support for new devices, though. The company is also introducing support for Microsoft SkyDrive in addition to the already available support for Dropbox, Box and Google Drive. Unlike other productivity services, CloudOn isn’t interested in running its own cloud storage service. Instead, as the company told me earlier this week, the team wants to focus on doing what it does best: redefine productivity around mobile. “With CloudOn on the iPhone, iPad mini and Nexus tablet we’re one step closer to ubiquitous mobile productivity,” said CloudOn CEO Milind Gadekar. “We continue to focus on our mission of reinventing productivity in mobile and social environments.”

To bring Microsoft Office to the smaller screen of the iPhone after mostly focussing on tablets until now, the team had to make a few changes to its interface. The Ribbon, for example, was tailored to the iPhone by simplifying it and by spacing the icons out a bit more in order to make selecting them easier. As the CloudOn team told me, the expectation is that phone users won’t use the tool so much create documents anyway.

The tablet version also puts a stronger emphasis on the file manager concept than the phone version, which focuses more on recently used files. Indeed, the team found that while its users keep coming back to the app, the sessions – even on tablets – tend to be relatively short and mostly focus on consuming content and making small edits. Very few users currently use the tablet apps to create new documents and CloudOn expects this number to be even smaller on the phone.

I had a chance to test the iPhone app for the last few days and it works just as advertised. The only real complaint I have is that it’s often very obvious that you are not looking at a native interface when you are reading and editing documents. CloudOn uses virtualized instances of Office to display documents and that means you also don’t get native fonts, making the documents look a bit pixelated at times.

HTC Reportedly Cutting New Smartphone Models, Shipment Volumes

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HTC may be making some of the best smartphones (including the HTC One X series and Windows Phone 8X devices) but that isn’t stopping it from facing some fiscal trouble, according to a new report. Asian supply chain watcher Digitimes (via BGR) says that HTC is cutting back on new models and Q1 shipments of existing devices as it tightens its purse strings.

Normally, it’s hard to put too much stock in Digitimes-sourced reports given the publication’s spotty track record. But despite its many misses, it has had hits that indicate some of its supply chain sources are well-placed, and this makes sense based on what we’ve heard before about HTC’s current fortunes.

Recently HTC announced it would be dropping the 8S from its U.S. lineup entirely, opting instead to market the down-market Windows Phone 8-powered device only in a few other global markets. Then, a second report suggested HTC was also scrapping plans for a future large-screened Windows Phone 8 handset, ostensibly because it wouldn’t be able to support high-enough screen resolution to make it worthwhile.

Whatever HTC’s reasons for streamlining its product offerings, we’ve seen that it’s already doing that. And the company has a lot riding on the performance of recently released devices. Its quarterly results for the last four reporting periods have each shown net revenue drops, after a big boost in Q3 2011. And the company’s outlook for Q4 2012 predicts further a further revenue fall.

HTC’s One X+ and Droid DNA could put some wind back in its sales in terms of smartphone shipments, but it doesn’t look like it’ll have the same kind of success on its hands provided by the original HTC One X.

In the meantime, the reality is that with successive quarterly results like the ones HTC has been seeing lately, reining in product plans is likely a move the company will have to make if it hasn’t already. It’s a shame, because the devices they are making are category-leading in many cases, but that doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact, especially in the U.S. market.

Paystik Starts Powering Charity Campaigns With QR Code Platform

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Paystikd, a bootstrapped three-person startup out of a new Stanford co-working space, is starting to power donation campaigns for 6,000 charities this month. The company makes it easy for small businesses and charities to use QR codes for payments.

It isn’t so much a competitor to other payments upstarts like Square. It’s more of a way to make paper billing and direct mail campaigns easier. Charities and businesses can sign-up with Paystik to generate QR codes for their products and campaigns.

Consumers in turn download an app where they can scan Paystik’s codes to send payments. The technology goes live this week in a direct mail campaign for Project C.U.R.E., a non-profit that delivered about $42 million in medical supplies and care globally last year. After going down the charity route this holiday season, the company’s planning to reach out to merchants next year.

There are plenty of mobile payments startups that we’ve covered that rely on QR codes like Doxo, Qriket, DigiMo and even Paypal. Although we haven’t seen one take off yet in the U.S., the company’s co-founder James Ioannidis says that smartphone penetration are making QR codes more viable than they were a year or two ago.

“We’ve done market research and scan rates have been increasing exponentially over the past few years,” Ioannidis said. “People are becoming more aware of QR codes as smartphones hit 50 percent penetration rates.”

He also says that Paystik’s focus on specific verticals like non-profits and on direct mail campaigns could help the company succeed where other QR code-focused startups have not. But they do face a bottleneck in terms of getting consumers to download the app (which is a serious problem that faces most consumer-focused mobile apps we cover).

“Obviously, the first time is the hardest. But after on-boarding them, we see consumers making repeat transactions,” he said.

Paystik is bootstrapped, and hasn’t raised any venture funding. Ioannidis was the chief technology officer at CourseHero, which collects study documents online for college and high school students. Before that, he was a program manager at Microsoft. The company is based out of the Stanford Venture Studio, which is part of the Graduate School of Business there.

LTE Phone Shipments Will Triple To 275M Units In 2013, With Amazon + Mozilla Among Those Waiting In The Wings To Pounce

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We are far from global ubiquity for LTE and other 4G networks, but carriers in markets that have implemented the faster mobile data standard are seeing a boom in growth. Figures out today from Strategy Analytics predict that shipments of LTE devices will hit 275 million units in 2013, a three-fold rise from the 90.9 million that have been shipped this year. And while a lot of this is being driven by strong competition among handset makers and carriers, Strategy Analytics predicts that the rise of 4G will bring something else to light: new entrants like Amazon and Mozilla also trying their hands at LTE devices.

“We expect Amazon to launch an LTE smartphone for the U.S. market around the middle of 2013. We think Amazon will want to get a ‘mobile shopping card’ into the hands of more consumers because the retailer wars are increasingly moving from the store, PC and laptop to the smartphone,”  Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, told TechCrunch.

However, the analysts also emphasize that it will be a challenge for anyone to break the stronghold that Apple and Samsung have on smartphones at the moment. “Apple and Samsung will dominate the global LTE smartphone market in 2013,” Mawston added. “Like the 3G market this year, 4G will be a two-horse race next year. Most LTE smartphone rivals, such as HTC or Blackberry, have a lot of catching-up to do.”

The analysts stop short of predicting whether one single hardware maker will reap the biggest rewards, giving equal weight to the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 as two “popular models.” At the moment, Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, and largest mobile handset maker overall in terms of shipments.

Other handset makers that have invested in 4G models include LG, Nokia, HTC, Motorola, Blackberry, Huawei, ZTE and Pantech.

With LTE services slowly being rolled out both in developed and emerging markets (comprehensive list here), Strategy Analytics says it will be a mix of both developed and emerging will be driving the rise in  shipment. U.S., UK, Japan, China and South Korea — where operators are “aggressively expanding” their LTE networks in fierce competition with other national carriers.

“It is clear that 2013 will be the year of 4G. LTE smartphone shipments worldwide will exceed a quarter-billion units for the first time. Multiple operators and multiple phone vendors will be launching dozens of LTE models across numerous countries worldwide,” writes Mawston. “LTE has quickly become a high-growth, high-value market that no operator, service developer, component maker or device vendor can afford to ignore.”

That trajectory, Strategy Analytics believes, could serve to catapult new players into the mix, too. But popularity won’t make the consumer sell any less challenging.

“The LTE smartphone market has become highly valuable and we believe it will eventually attract new entrants seeking a slice of the 4G pie, such as Amazon or Mozilla,” writes analyst Linda Sui. “However, we caution possible new entrants like Amazon will not find it easy to break into the fiercely competitive LTE smartphone market and they will need breakthrough products that are strongly differentiated in areas such as design, price or services.”

Amazon, of course, has never confirmed that it will launch a mobile handset — although many have speculated that this is the logical next step for the company to complement its Kindle Fire tablets, digital content, and overall consumer electronics marketplace prowess. Mozilla, meanwhile, has been long working on a new mobile OS in partnership with a number of carriers and hardware makers, but it, too, has not said anything specifically about LTE in its roadmap.

“Mozilla has clear plans for 2G and 3G smartphones, but its 4G plans are less clear at this stage,” amits Mawston. “[But] with the 4G smartphone market now growing faster than the 3G smartphone market, LTE is an area where Mozilla will inevitably have to announce some moves over the next year.”

Samsung won’t seek iPhone injunctions in Europe using standards patents

Samsung has announced that it will no longer seek injunctions over the iPhone or iPad using its standards essential patents (SEPs) in Europe. According to a statement released to The Verge, the company claims the move was made “in the interest of consumer choice.” However, dropping its motions for injunctions in Germany, the UK, France, Italy, and the Netherlands may more likely have been prompted by an ongoing European Commission investigation into Samsung’s abuse of SEPs against competitors.

Apple has gone after Samsung for what it calls “blatant copying” of its mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad. The company sued Samsung in a number of venues globally over a variety of registered designs and utility patents. The success of these lawsuits has been mixed so far, but Apple did win a $1 billion jury verdict in the US.

Samsung retaliated by countersuing Apple, claiming the company infringed its patents related to 3G cellular networking in countries around the globe. Since Samsung claims its patents are essential to those standards, any device that implements 3G networking—including the iPhone—must therefore use the patented technology. And since Apple did not agree to a license, Samsung argued, it is by default infringing the patents, and Apple should either pay up or have its products taken off the market.

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