Puzzle Coaster: Design your own coasters to collect coins on iOS, Kindle

Image via Marvelous Games

Image via Marvelous Games

Marvelous Games, best known for its involvement with console games like Harvest Moon and No More Heroes, has announced the release of a casual mobile game on iOS and Kindle: Puzzle Coaster. The game takes players to the theme park and allows them to build and test their own roller coasters with the goal of safely transporting a train full of passengers from the beginning station to the end.

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You Don’t Know Jack now offers unlimited free daily play on mobile, Facebook

Image via Jackbox Games

Image via Jackbox Games

Jackbox Games has announced an exciting update for You Don’t Know Jack players on Facebook and mobile, as the game has transitioned into an unlimited free daily play format. This includes access to all current and new episodes on Facebook, iOS, Google Play and Kindle.

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Rocksauce Studios launches ReadRover app for self-published children’s authors

Image via Rocksauce Studios

Image via Rocksauce Studios

Austin-based Rocksauce Studios has announced the launch of a new mobile solutions product called ReadRover, which was designed for authors hoping to self-publish children’s books on mobile devices. The app and accompanying website look to create a user-friendly method for publishing on tablets, complete with audio support and support for reader interactivity.

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Rovio unleashes Angry Birds Star Wars II on mobile

Image via Rovio Entertainment

Image via Rovio Entertainment

Rovio Entertainment aims to steal away our free time once again with Angry Birds Star Wars II, which has launched on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 devices worldwide. The game offers a line of over 30 playable characters, and is a follow-up to the original Angry Birds Star Wars, released in November 2012.

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E-book subscription service eReatah launches private beta

Image via eReatah

Image via eReatah

eReatah has announced the private beta launch of its e-book subscription service, offering over 80,000 titles across all genres, with support from major book publishers including Simon & Schuster.

eReatah is described as the “first and only cross-genre e-book subscription service,” available on iOS and Android devices. Users can purchase one of three different monthly plans, and will gain access to e-books for 20-40% less than the average price.

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Mobile apps news roundup: AppShopper returns, Rebtel publicly launches its Voice Platform and more

AppShopper iconAppShopper returns to the Apple App Store – App discovery service AppShopper, which was pulled from the Apple App Store in December 2012 just like AppGratis recently, returned to the Apple App Store this week. The developers altered the approach of the app so that it doesn’t directly compete with the app store by focusing on social discovery through a core Wish List functionality.

Rebtel logoRebtel announces public launch of its Voice Platform for iOS and Android developers – Mobile VoIP company Rebtel announced the public launch of its free SDK for iOS and Android developers, which allows them to integrate free global calling capability into any app. The company first opened up its service in beta back in December 2012. Interested developers can go here to learn more.

Slant Six Games logoSlant Six Games releases Max’s Pirate Planet – Slant Six Games, the developer behind some titles in the SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals franchise for Sony PlayStation systems, released an interactive pirate board game for kids called Max’s Pirate Planet — A Board Game Adventure. The title is priced at $2.99 and available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire.

animocaAnimoca launches Thor: Lord of Storms – Hong Kong’s Animoca launched action-strategy defense game Thor: Lord of Storms, which is based on Norse Mythology. The title is available now for free on Android.

Plink logoPlink launches mobile app for iOS – Plink, a loyalty program that rewards users for making offline purchases, launched a mobile app for iOS. Now current Plink users from the web or Facebook can manage their account anywhere, while new users will be able to create an account and connect their credit or debit card to the account, so they can begin earning points by purchasing offline from more than 50,000 of Plink’s partners.

Zattikka logoZattikka launches Legacy of a Thousand Suns – Legacy of a Thousand Suns, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game originally for Facebook from game studio 5th Planet Games, made its way iOS this week. The mobile version of the game was developed by Spellgun Studios, which is part of games entertainment group Zattikka.

Drippler logoDrippler launches iPhone app, Android app reaches 5 million users – Drippler, the app that provides users with device-related content and information about their handset, launched an iPhone version of its app this week. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup also announced that it reached the five million total user mark across its suite of Android apps.

narr8NARR8 to launch editor tool for its motion comics app in late May – NARR8 announced that it’ll be adding a new editor tool to its motion comics app (review), which will allow users to create their own interactive stories with visuals, music and basic animation. The editor is slated to launch in late May.

Animoca: 7-inch tablets dominate the Android tablet market, Samsung the leading manufacturer

Animoca logoAndroid-focused mobile game developer and publisher Animoca today released Android tablet data gathered from its network of users, which showed that four of the five most used tablets were of the 7-inch screen variety, and Samsung devices were the first and second most popular tablets overall.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 (includes p3100 and p3113) took an 11.8 percent share and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 grabbed an 8.3 percent share. Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices also faired well, coming in at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, with a 7.5 percent share for the standard Kindle Fire and a 4.9 percent share with the HD model. Another notable tablet was Asus’ Google Nexus 7, which generated a 3.8 percent share.

Beyond the No. 7  spot, the remaining tablets each claimed less than a one percent market share. So, given an error margin of 0.1 percent and the slight differences between the No. 8 tablet onward, Animoca says it couldn’t be sure of the correct ordering.

Developers should be creating mobile apps made for their target audience, and knowing which devices to develop for like tablets, in terms of screen size, hardware specifications, and platform market share, is important.

Animoca previously released similar data that analyzed for most used devices on its network, taking a look at the top Android smartphones in markets like the U.S., Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and India.

The Hong Kong-based game company collected data for this report from 978,000 users worldwide who used Google Play and played an Animoca game on a tablet device between February 18 to March 20.

Amazon throws its hat in the mobile ad network ring

Amazon logoAmazon today announced its Amazon Mobile Ads API service for mobile developers to monetize their apps.

Amazon is entering a crowded mobile ad network market filled with the likes of Google AdMob, Millennial Media and InMobi. Even Facebook seemed poised to get into this business at one point last year before it ended its test after a few months.

Amazon did not share what cut of ad fees it offers developers, but says its service offers a “competitive eCPM.” According to the company’s publisher agreement, the portion of the advertising fees that a developer will receive “may be adjusted depending on a variety of factors, such as the quality of your inventory or deductions for various expenses.” Ads will come with mobile-optimized display ads from Amazon itself and other “top” brands, the company says.

Amazon’s mobile ads API offers ads in two different flavors. First is the “floating ad,” which acts like a typical mobile banner ad that floats at the bottom of the screen. Second, is the “simple ad,” which is a rich media expandable banner ad such as a video ad.

Amazon simple ad example

mobile-ads-simple-ad-sample._V386929004_

For now, the API is in beta and only available for U.S. users and apps for the Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and other Android smartphones and tablets. Note that for the API to work in a developer’s app, the app has to be available for download on Google Play as well as on the Amazon Appstore for Android.

Developers interested Amazon’s mobile ads API can head here for more information and to download the API.

Apple and Samsung remain top device manufacturers on Millennial Media’s platform

Millennial Media today released its 2012 year in review Mobile Mix Report, which showed Apple and Samsung remaining the top device manufacturers on its platform.Millennial Media logo

Apple remained the No. 1 OEM manufacturer on the mobile ad network’s platform in 2012, increasing its impressions share 5 percent year-over-year from 26 percent to 31 percent of the total impressions on Millennial Media’s top 15 device manufactures list. Samsung also maintained its No. 2 spot on the top 15 device manufactures list, thanks to a 5 percent growth in impressions since 2011 from 17 percent of total impressions on Millennial’s platform to 22 percent. The most notable newcomer to the ad network’s top 15 manufacturers list for 2012 was Amazon, landing at the No. 11.

Apple’s suite of iPhone devices — including the 4S, 5, etc. — also remained the top device on Millennial Media’s network in 2012, accounting for 15.59 percent of impressions, a 72 percent increase year-over-year. Impressions for Samsung’s flagship smartphone device, the Galaxy S, grew 182 percent in 2012, moving the device up five spots to the No. 2 position on Millennial Media’s top 20 mobile phones list. Tablet-wise, the Apple iPad stood pat as the No. 1 tablet on Millennial’s platform for 2012.

Based on ad impressions on Millennial’s network, smartphones were once again the leading device in 2012, increasing 7 percent for a 75 percent share of the total platform impressions. In second were non-phone connected devices — tablets, e-readers, etc. –, increasing 5 percent year-over-year to 20 of impressions in the ad network’s platform. Millennial Media attributed the majority of the growth of that category to the adoption rate increase of tablets. The feature phone category, as expected, fell from 17 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in 2012.Millennial Media Mobile Mix Report February 2013 1

Now the breakdown for the operating systems on devices was stagnant year-over-year. Android was once again the top OS on Millennial’s platform at 48 percent, which was only a 1 percent increase since 2011. iOS was the second largest OS, with 32 percent of the impression share, down one percent year-over-year. Millennial also broke down OS share for tablets, with iOS taking a 58 percent impression share among all tablet OS. Android took a 41 percent share, with Samsung as the leading Android tablet manufacture with a 45 percent share.Millennial Media Mobile Mix Report February 2013 2

Amazon Coins: good idea, awful execution

There is no better sales incentive than free money. It’s just a pity that Amazon’s new virtual currency, Amazon Coins, are not a particularly useful sales incentive.

Amazon Coins -- right, but so wrong

The company unveiled Amazon Coins on Feb. 5, explaining they could be used to purchase apps, games and in-app items on Kindle Fire tablets. Most industry watchers praised the announcement, but more than a few pundits questioned the logic of the coins.

While I’ve already made my opinion fairly clear (skip to 0:34 to get to the relevant part), Amazon’s Coins do deserve more analysis, particularly since so many people are convinced they are brilliant. The real rub is that those people are technically right. Stimulating the Kindle Fire economy is an excellent idea, more so because Amazon desperately needs to do it.

Not long after the Kindle Fire was released, many developers boasted that it monetized far better than other Android based tablets, and that its app store was much more lucrative the official Android market run by Google. As interest in the Kindle Fire has dropped off, however, so have the claims that it was the ultra-profitable Shangri-La Android developers were dreaming of. Competition from the Google’s Nexus-branded Android tablets and Apple’s new iPad Mini have squeezed the Kindle Fire’s share of the mid to low-end tablet market, and the device no longer has the “hot gift” cachet it had when it debuted just before Christmas 2011.

The Kindle Fire app store has always had a much smaller pool of apps and users than Google Play and the iTunes App Store, and as interest wanes in the device, so has the influx of excited new users ready to download apps. Amazon knows this is bad news. After all, developers aren’t interested in making apps for a platform without consumers and consumers don’t want devices with a lousy selection of apps.

Microsoft is in a similar situation; its work-around for the problem has been to incentivize development, assuming the consumers will eventually come for the apps. Meanwhile Amazon is trying the opposite approach, supplying the financial incentives to the consumers and letting developers know there will soon be a lot more liquidity in the Amazon app economy.

It’s a fair tactic that doesn’t penalize the developers that bet on the Amazon Appstore before the company started its stimulus efforts, and it’s technically giving both consumers and developers what they really want — money.

So, why not just supply money? Perhaps credit every Kindle Fire owner’s account with a few dollars via a virtual gift card? Kindle Fire owners already understand how to buy apps with real money and Amazon’s customers are already comfortable with the concept of gift cards. Even if Amazon is planning to roll out some sort of rewards program with Coins (i.e. spend $10 on Kindle Fire apps, games or in-app items and get 100 Amazon Coins), why not just use a cash-back system similar to the one many credit card companies already use?

There is also the matter of what Amazon is looking to gain by creating its own virtual currency.  Microsoft Points were designed specifically to make items look cheaper than they are (an item that costs 79 Microsoft Points actually costs $0.99). Amazon Coins meanwhile, convert one for one to real cents, so Amazon clearly isn’t hoping to target bargain hunters.

Perhaps Amazon is hoping to use Coins to convince people to spend money without having to (technically) open their wallets — after all, when Facebook introduced Credits, the idea was that a universal currency would boost conversion. Again, this is a questionable choice since in the end, Facebook Credits ended up being a mixed bag. While developers saw an increase in conversion, others reported a decrease in average revenue per paying user. In the end, Facebook eliminated Credits less than a year after they were introduced opting to use a local-currency system just like Apple, Android and yes, Amazon were already using.

Millions of people already know and trust Amazon with their credit cards, and Kindle Fire users were already using a standardized payment system with the currency they understood best — dollars. Amazon’s new virtual currency is just complicating the matter with a second payment option.

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