Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

sun 520x245 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

App.net is best known for being an ad-free alternative to Twitter but, as regular readers will know, there’s more to it than that. Founder Dalton Caldwell is building a social platform that lets services and apps share cloud storage, messaging, search and places – new photo-sharing app Sunlit for iOS is perhaps the best example of that vision, thus far.

Sunlit is built on App.net – that’s to say that you need an account to use it and it stores images to your App.net cloud. It also syncs up with and imports data from other App.net apps, such as check-in journaling app Ohai. That tie-up is great for App.net users but, in reality, it has less than 250,000 users, so most people will be using Sunlit for what it offers at face value.

The app lets users create photo ‘stories’ which can be shared with friends private (by default) or publicly using a dedicated Web page. In addition to using existing data from App.net, you can pick photos from Dropbox and your camera roll, make check-ins or import them from Foursquare and snap new photos (and add filters) from your phone.

sunlitx1 520x438 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

The basic version of the app is free to use, but it limits users to just one story – a hurdle that is overcome with a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock unlimited stories.

sunlitx2 520x438 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

So, beyond the technical details behind the app, is it worth your time and download?

The design is beautifully clean and the app is easy to navigate. It allows App.net users to be given collaborative access to stories (so they can add and remove images and descriptions), but stories themselves can be shared with anyone thanks to the public share option.

Here’s a story I cooked up earlier:

sunlit1 520x295 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

sunlit2 520x296 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

sunlit3 520x295 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

sunlit4 520x295 Sunlit for iOS is a neat journaling app that lets you easily curate and share photo stories

I tried sharing the URL with non-techy people who rarely use Facebook (my parents) and they enjoyed the feel and convenience of the link, but if I was going to post photos online but not to a social network, I’d put them on a blog (public) or share via a messaging app (private).

That said, I do appreciate that, in age when seemingly every app under the sun wants you to upload your entire camera roll and share it at will, Sunlit is an easy way to curate a collection of images that you actually want to share.

Sunlit for iOS

Headline image via Ricardo Reitmeyer / Shutterstuck

Google Alerts gets a card-based redesign, its first notable upgrade in a long time

It seems Google hasn’t forgotten about Google Alerts after all. The news bulletin service has remained untouched for a long period of time, but now it is sporting a new look after getting a substantial redesign.

Google has introduced a new card-style layout, made headlines more prominent and – interestingly – removed the option to click through and read more stories on a topic. Social buttons have also be added to help share content to Facebook, Twitter or Google+ easily.

Images from Search Engine Land compare the old…

 Google Alerts gets a card based redesign, its first notable upgrade in a long time

…and new version:

 Google Alerts gets a card based redesign, its first notable upgrade in a long time

Google Alerts Get A Shiny New Redesign [Search Engine Land]

Thumbnail image via hxdbzxy / Shutterstock

Breaking Bad finale coming exclusively to Netflix in UK and Ireland starting August 12

Netflix 520x245 Breaking Bad finale coming exclusively to Netflix in UK and Ireland starting August 12

The series finale of the hit TV series Breaking Bad will air in the UK and Ireland exclusively on Netflix starting from mid-August, following hotly on the heels of the episodes being aired in the US.

The online streaming service announced the news on Friday, adding that new episodes will be available each Monday following August 12 as they are shown in the US.

“We are thrilled to be bringing the highly-anticipated Final Season of Breaking Bad to Netflix members in the UK and Ireland on a first-run basis,” Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said. “Breaking Bad is a once in a generation calibre of show and continues to be a huge success on Netflix.”

That’s right folks, you’re favorite crystal meth kingpin will be back on your screens shortly to conclude the story.

As well as watching the final season, Netflix members can also play catch up by streaming any of the previous series’ episodes.

The deal is a particular coup for Netflix in the UK and Ireland specifically as it will see the shows being transmitted with the minimum of delay following the US screening of the episodes. Traditionally, content shown in the US could take weeks or even months before it was ready to be shown to a UK audience.

The move keeps pressure up on rival online services like LOVEFiLM, Amazon’s online streaming arm in the UK. The domestic market is also seeing challenges from non-traditional content providers such as supermarkets. For example, Tesco’s BlinkBox service simply charges on a per-viewing basis, rather than charging a monthly subscription.

Featured Image Credit – AFP/Getty Images

Xiaomi will make joint announcement with Tencent next week on product-related partnership with QQ

87326302 520x245 Xiaomi will make joint announcement with Tencent next week on product related partnership with QQ

Rumors typically abound in the Chinese tech scene, and Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has been bombarded by plenty recently – with one report a few days back notably saying that Xiaomi had received an investment of $2 billion from Internet giant Tencent via Russian investment firm DST.

In a bid to dispel these rumors, Xiaomi has confirmed to The Next Web that it will be holding a press conference on July 30 (UPDATE: the press conference has been postponed to July 31) to announce a product-related partnership with QQ – Tencent’s instant messaging platform.

The press conference was first announced on Xiaomi’s official Sina Weibo account, which said that it will reveal an “important partnership” next week. Li Wanqiang, one of the seven founders of Xiaomi, elaborated on the teaser by saying that Xiaomi will be collaborating with QQ – but only in terms of products and nothing else.

You can see a (very cute) poster uploaded by Chinese media outlet IT 168 that depicts Tencent QQ and Xiaomi’s cartoon figures on something that resembles a wedding invitation and alludes to a “happy marriage”, sent by Xiaomi to members of the Chinese media.

Xiaomi QQ Poster Screenshot Xiaomi will make joint announcement with Tencent next week on product related partnership with QQ

All we can do is wait and see what will be announced.

Xiaomi has been well on the rise recently, and it would not be surprising at all for more collaborations to crop up, riding on Xiaomi’s success – which has been attributed to its ability to inspire the loyalty of many consumers. Its competitively priced phones are sold in batches that, when released in phases, regularly sell out fast, often within half an hour.

The last phones it launched were the Xiaomi Mi-2S and the Xiaomi Mi-2A in April this year, which followed last year’s launch of the popular Xiaomi Mi2 phone.

The handset maker booked RMB13.27 billion ($2.15 billion) in revenue for the first six months of this year, exceeding the amount it recorded for the whole of 12 months, which stood at RMB12.6 billion. The 7.03 million devices sold in the first six months this year was also just shy of the 7.19 million units that Xiaomi sold during the whole of 2012.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Xiaomi will be closing a round of funding at the end of July that values it at $9 billion.

Headline image via Thinkstock

Yandex’s Islands goes into beta, now providing feature-rich search results in 3 countries

islands 520x245 Yandexs Islands goes into beta, now providing feature rich search results in 3 countries

Last month, Russian Internet giant Yandex unveiled Islands, a feature that brings interactive snippets of content to its search engine, and now it has been released in beta across three countries.

The idea behind Islands is to provide a richer set of search results to give users more options and details relating to websites that show up. Islands initially launched in Turkey only, but it is available to users in Russia and Ukraine too.

The feature currently covers search, images, video and the main Yandex page, but that will expand to other services in time, the company says.

Essentially website managers can make their search results more compelling for users. For example, by providing options for a site that users can take advantage before they actually click through – like logging into a Russian Airlines account from the search results page.

yandex islands Yandexs Islands goes into beta, now providing feature rich search results in 3 countries

Yandex previously explained that there are different types of Islands, ranging from search snippets, which are basic descriptions that appear below each search result. Site links can also be added to allow users to navigate to specific pages. Finally, there are interactive snippets which present more advanced options, such as logging into accounts from the search results page.

The company says that Islands is available across all devices – computers, tablets and smartphones – though it will take a while to make its way to the company’s full set of core markets. Since it has a beta tag, we can expect more features and tweaks to come too.

Islands is another impressive piece of engineering from Yandex, which previously launched Shell – a Facebook Home-like launcher app for Android devices – and partnered with Opera to promote the Android ecosystem in Eastern Europe.

The company is the dominant search provider in many Eastern European markets, but it gained worldwide attention last year when it released Wonder, a voice-controlled search app for Facebook. Despite the positive reviews it was little wonder that Facebook cut the app’s access to its API, leading to its withdrawal from the App Store.

This week has been notable at Yandex for tragic reasons. Company co-founder and CTO Ilya Segalovich passed away on Thursday after losing his battle with cancer.

Headline image via Thinkstock

Board game creator cans $123K Kickstarter project, reinforces the platform’s lack of accountability

P1040317 645x250 520x245 Board game creator cans $123K Kickstarter project, reinforces the platforms lack of accountability

After raising $123,000 on Kickstarter to develop a new tabletop board game called ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’, creator Erik Chevalier has told backers that the project has been abandoned.

“The project is over, the game is cancelled,” Chevalier wrote in an update for the project’s Kickstarter page (spotted by CVG).

“Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications. No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person.”

The remarks have been met with a wave of criticism from backers that have pledged potentially thousands of dollars to see the game realized and eventually own a copy of the final product. A number of these commenters have now filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice – the state where Chevalier’s company is based – for fraudulent activity.

Trying to make peace

A second update has since been posted by Chevalier to try to stabilize the situation. He has contacted the Oregon Department of Justice to explain the situation and will now work with them “to see what I need to do to make this right in their eyes.”

“This project has been a year of frustration on every level,” he said. “There are things you don’t know and I can’t talk about yet without first seeking legal advice, but hopefully in time everything will be made clear. I don’t expect everyone to accept my apologies, there is nothing I can say that will make every single backer forgive me.”

Chevalier has also stated that he wants to refund all of the Kickstarter backers, as well as those who pre-ordered the game after the campaign closed through his company’s webstore. He claims to have started this process already – starting with post-campaign pre-orders – although there’s no time frame as to when it will be completed.

We’ve seen this time and time again

The scenario is not uncommon for Kickstarter. Josh Dibb, a band member of Animal Collective, infamously raised over $25,000 in 2009 and never delivered any of the materials promised to backers, further highlighting the various flaws and pitfalls associated with Kickstarter.

The crowdfunding platform has huge accountability issues. It’s a tool that enables the public to make donations for projects they want to succeed. The problem lies in the ‘perks’ offered to backers with specific pledge amounts – these are often straight-up pre-orders, which come with social expectations. The main one being, of course, that they’ll eventually get the product.

Kickstarter doesn’t have a mechanism for ensuring that project creators actually deliver on their original pitch. The problem is heightened when the amount raised goes far beyond the original funding target – in the case of Chevalier, he raised well over three times his initial goal. The perception and expectation that backers have of the pitch is then changed and inevitably heightened, increasing the likelihood that the creator won’t fully deliver.

Kickstarter: Not our problem

Some projects are also downright scams. Kickstarter’s terms of use clearly state: “Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.”

It later adds: “Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.”

This would point to some kind of structural, or perhaps contractual obligation by project creators to deliver their rewards to backers as promised. Wrong.

“Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service,” it continues. “Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party arising in connection with the use of the Service. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site.”

Kickstarter is, essentially, completely disconnected and won’t hold project creators to account. Just to make that crystal clear, it later states: “You release Kickstarter, its officers, employees, agents, and successors in rights from claims, damages, and demands of every kind, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, disclosed or undisclosed, arising out of or in any way related to such disputes and the Service.”

Backers involved with ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’ are therefore on their own. Reporting the matter to the Oregon Department of Justice was likely their only option.

Sky increases mobile and on-demand viewing figures more than five-fold

BSkyB 520x245 Sky increases mobile and on demand viewing figures more than five fold

British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), or known better as simply Sky, has reported full year earnings for the last 12 months revealing that the broadcaster made great strides in growing on-demand and mobile viewing figures.

Overall, revenue for the year was at 7.2 billion, an increase of 7 percent in comparison with the previous 12 months and operating profit was at 1.29 billion, an increase of 4 percent year-on-year (YoY).

Notably, Sky said that much of its growth had come from its on-demand viewing options and its Sky GO mobile TV service.

Overall viewing figures for on-demand content had increased by five times the level it was at this time last year and now delivers more than 6 million on demand streams per week.

“Over 2.7 million Sky customers, more than a quarter of total customers, have already connected their Sky+HD boxes to broadband, a rise of 170 percent on last year. This gives them access to the UK’s biggest Catch Up TV service alongside hundreds of hours of popular TV box sets and an extensive library of exclusive movies,” Sky said in a statement.

The company also said the growth of Sky GO had helped the overall perfomance during the period. For example, of the 3.3 million regular Sky GO users, the company has converted 166,000 of them to Sky Go Extra customers – which allows users to view content on mobile and tablet devices with or without an active connection.

Content house

As part of its push to increase the number of people using its streaming services, Sky has been gradually introducing new providers and programming for its on demand content.

For example, it introduced Fox and Sky Movies Disney to the line-up, while a further 14 channels joined Sky Go including 8 kids channels (Disney, Disney XD, Disney Jnr, Nick, Nick Jnr, Cartoon Network, Cartoonito and Boomerang), 5 entertainment channels (SyFy, Universal, C&I and Star Plus) plus Channel 4 and More 4 and 4oD’s VOD (Video On Demand) content.

Particular hit shows for the broadcaster over the past 12 months have been Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Sopranos and Hannibal, it said.

In order to keep up the pressure on rival providers, such as Virgin Media and BT’s Vision packages, as well as online streaming providers like Netflix and LOVEFiLM, Sky said it would introduce another 20 channels to its catch up service over the next 12 months.

To spur the number of people using its on demand services, Sky also introduced a new 10 NOW TV box that will allow people to access content on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The broadcaster has recently been in a bitter battle with BT to retain customers that are particularly interested in football and other sports broadcasting.

Earlier this year, BT won the rights to show 38 premier league football matches this season, and added an extra lure to win over existing Sky customers by offering its sports TV service for free to customers on its Infinity fiber broadband packages. Sky, naturally, responded with its own football-orientated offers, such as broadcasting the first day of the season for free to the whole of the UK, regardless of which TV service is used.

Featured Image Credit – AFP/Getty Images

LearnVest wants to fix your poor spending habits, nabs $16.5M to scale its financial planning service

122486570 520x245 LearnVest wants to fix your poor spending habits, nabs $16.5M to scale its financial planning service

Financial planning startup LearnVest has its heart set on fixing your poor spending habits – and minting money because of them. Now, after polishing its product and launching on the iPhone, LearnVest is gearing up for expansion with a new round of funding: $16.5 million in funding, to be exact, with investments from Accel Partners, American Express Ventures, Claritas Capital and others.

Sitting nicely alongside this news, LearnVest, which offers both a money management app and advising services, is also announcing its first West Coast office. The space, located in Phoenix, will serve as the company’s hub for housing and training financial planners. We’re told LearnVest’s new space will hold about 25 people, and that the company plans to “scale up to a few dozen.”

LearnVest as a company has seen success with its product – according to CEO Alexa von Tobel “the product works; now we’re scaling [it].” Gearing up for this expansion, LearnVest tells us it has new distribution plans in the works, including partnerships with undisclosed companies that offer LearnVest services to their employees.

A “major commercial partnership” is also apparently coming, which could involve American Express, given its fresh stake in LearnVest. We’ll be sure to update you on that deal as news surfaces. Until then, you can check out LearnVest here.

Image credit: Thinkstock

Starbucks adds Duracell Powermat wireless charging stations to its coffee shops in Silicon Valley

1600404101 645x250 520x245 Starbucks adds Duracell Powermat wireless charging stations to its coffee shops in Silicon Valley

Starbucks is quickly becoming the ultimate chain of Internet caf s due to its solid Wi-Fi connectivity, free app vouchers, access to The New York Times website and now, reliable wireless charging.

Following a successful roll-out across Boston, Duracell announced today that it will be fitting the Duracell Powermat in a number of Starbucks stores across the Silicon Valley area. These wireless charging spots are fitted directly to the tables, giving consumers the ability to recharge their various electronic devices while sipping a cup of hot joe.

The caveat, it would seem, is that these charging spots require the user to own a Powers Matters Alliance (PMA) certified device or smartphone case. Duracell sells these independently for the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III, but that seems like an awfully restrictive range of devices – we’ve reached out to the company to see if it’ll support more handsets in the future.

For reference, AT&T announced in April this year that it would be integrating wireless charging within a select number of smartphones by 2014. Blackberry, HTC, LG and Samsung, among others, are also signed up with the PMA.

The selective roll-out in Silicon Valley, combined with the need for a specialist device or case, restricts the scope of the program and how useful it will be to the majority of global Starbucks coffee lovers.

What it does show, however, is a glimpse at how the company wants to expand the in-store Starbucks experience and make it increasingly tempting for people to come in on a regular basis. A fast, stable Wi-Fi connection is now a given for almost any Starbucks store – it’s easy to see how wireless charging could quickly become just as prevalent.

“We know that our customers use our caf s in a number of ways beyond buying coffee. For some, it’s their home office, for others it’s their place to get away and have some time to themselves. More and more customers are using Starbucks as their home base and they are looking to recharge in a number of ways,” said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer, Starbucks Coffee Company.

A similar effect has been achieved inadvertantly in Apple stores – consumers walk in all the time to charge their iPhone or iPad – so Starbucks would be wise to expand the number of stores offering Duracell Powermats as quickly as possible. People increasingly need to charge their smartphones in the middle of the day – we use them more and more with power-hungry apps – so more places to charge will never be unwelcome.

Image Credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

T-Mobile cuts upfront smartphone costs in the US, but ramps up monthly payments instead

164685991 520x245 T Mobile cuts upfront smartphone costs in the US, but ramps up monthly payments instead

T-Mobile made a great deal of fuss over its flexible ‘uncarrier’ contracts back in March – clearly separating the cost of the call plan and the handset – but now it’s taking the idea one step further by dropping the upfront cost of the handset altogether.

In what it describes as an “unparalleled” promotion, T-Mobile subscribers will be able to pick up a flagship device such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 for free. The network operator is then adding most, if not all of the difference to the regular monthly instalments that consumers need to pay to actually own the handset.

There’s some savings to be made here, but it’s essentially just another payment plan. Accept the upfront cost and the user benefits from lower device payments. Forgo the down payment entirely, however, and subscribers have to accept that most of the savings will be added on to their final monthly bill.

As The Verge reports, to put the price difference in perspective the Samsung Galaxy S4 costs $149.99 up-front alongside a $20 monthly fee for two years. Or, a total of $629.99. Under the new $25 tier, with no up-front cost, that comes to $600 exactly. Other handsets, such as the iPhone 5, offer even more negligible discounts.

The promotion is also compatible with T-Mobile’s JUMP! program, enabling consumers to upgrade after six months to a new handset. The catch, however, is that T-Mobile takes subscribers’ existing handsets back, nullifying the payments made up until that point.

“The number of reasons not to switch to T-Mobile this summer is ZERO,” John Legere, president and chief executive officer of T-Mobile US said. “Adding Zero Down in addition to JUMP!, and Simple Choice with no contract is all about making wireless work for consumers and shaking up this industry.”

The scheme is described as a promotion, so it’s fair to assume that it will only run for a short period of time. All of the new monthly payment amounts are listed below – if you’re strapped for cash but looking to switch to a new carrier in the US, this could be a viable option.

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 – $25
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II – $27
  • Samsung Galaxy S III – $22
  • Xperia Z from Sony – $25
  • iPhone 5 – $27
  • Nokia Lumia 925 – $20
  • Nokia Lumia 521 – $5
  • BlackBerry Q10 – $25
  • HTC One – $25
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 – $20

Image Credit: John Moore/Getty Images