Google Now Is The Killer App For Android Wear

Google’s I/O keynote may have been a bit of a jumble of different product announcements — many of which won’t be available until later this year — but Android Wear was what most people in the audience wanted to hear about. While there is plenty of Android in Google’s smartwatch operating system and while developers will be able to develop apps specifically for it, Wear in its current form is fundamentally about bringing Google Now notifications to your wrist.

While I’ve had Google Now on my phone for a long time now, the more I use Wear, the more I feel like it was custom-made for Google Now. Indeed, this is the first time I really feel Now is living up to its promise. It’s also the first time I find myself paying full attention to Now, despite its prominence on Android before.

CaptureAndroid Wear, of course, also shows you all of your notifications from your phone (and when they are interactive, Wear will automatically mimic those, too). You could push all of your phone notifications to your watch, but that would be overkill. Thankfully, Google lets you choose which applications can push to Wear. But its most useful feature — and maybe its killer feature overall — is definitely easy access to Google Now.

At this point, everybody is pretty much familiar with Google Now, but there is something fundamentally different between using it on your phone and on your wrist. Sure, the mission is the same on both platforms: Google wants to give you the right information at the right time. When you’re at work, it shows you the drive time to home. Got an appointment somewhere else? It’ll show you when to leave. At the airport? It’ll show you the barcode for your boarding pass. It’s one thing for that information to be available on your phone, but on your wrist, it suddenly becomes so much more accessible.

now_wearThat is, of course, only when Google Now gets it right — and most of the time, it does. The company has been working hard on bringing more information to Now and that has made it quite a bit more useful by regularly adding more information and new cards to it. Some cards that Google shows on the phone don’t make sense on Wear (links for topics you recently search for, for example) and those thankfully never make it to the watch.

 

Wear doesn’t always get it right, though. If you end up swiping the weather card away by mistake, for example, you can’t easily get it back. That’s a fundamental problem with Wear — and maybe the only one that really annoys me. For Google Now, at least, it’d be nice to have an easy way to flip through all of your cards at all times.

Just like Google Now brings together a number of Google’s services into one product, Wear has a similar feel to it. It’s a mix of what it has learned from Android and its ecosystem, its advances in voice recognition and its newly found design chops.

All of that comes together to bring Google Now to your wrist, and while that may sound like a minor thing, it’s actually a very useful experience. Whether that’s worth $200 to you is a different question, but after using Wear for a bit more than a week now, I can actually see myself wearing one of these watches going forward — and before this I hadn’t worn a watch for at least a decade.

In the next few months, Google will get some competition from Microsoft, Apple and a few startups in this space. For better or worse, none of them know as much about you as Google does, so it’ll be hard for them to replicate the Google Now experience. That should give Google a bit of an edge against the competition — unless the iWatch turns out to be so amazing that people will buy it even if it just shows the time and phone notifications.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

This app exchanges your free time for mobile credits, and it just raised $2.5M

pocket money pokkt india start

Indian startup Pokkt (Pocket) has come up with a unique way to enable mobile payments in emerging markets, where credit card penetrations are low.

Essentially, it has created a marketplace for consumers to get apps, games, and other digital content without paying a single cent. Instead, they pay with their time by consuming content from some 100 advertisers, who pay to plug into the platform.

Pokkt wants to achieve two things: besides giving consumers easier access to digital content, it also provides developers a way to monetize from users who use their apps for free.

To do that, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone developers get access to Pokkt’s software development kits (SDKs) which allow easy integration between their apps and Pokkt. Part of the money coming from advertisers goes to developers.

Now, the Mumbai-based startup is kicking its operations into a higher gear. It has just raised a US$2.5 million series A round led by JAFCO Asia, a Singapore-headquartered venture capital firm, along with SingTel Innov8, Jungle Ventures, and serial entrepreneur Ganesh Krishnan.

Serving time

It also launched a new product this month: Pocket Money, a consumer-facing Android app in which users consume advertisers’ content in exchange for credits. They can then use the money to redeem mobile recharges on India’s major telcos like Aircel, Airtel, and Tata Docomo.

Pocket Money differs from Pokkt’s current products by offering users a dedicated app to consume and redeem items. In the past, consumers could only receive content by using specific apps made by Pokkt’s developer network.

The startup has seen increased usage. It now has between 8,000 to 10,000 transactions a day – defined as completed redemptions – up from 500 a day in the first quarter after it launched in October last year, says Pokkt founder and CEO Rohit Sharma. It aims to grow to 100,000 transactions a day within the year.

Sharma will use the new cash infusion to push further into Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Thailand. Right now, most of Pokkt’s consumers live in India. He also plans to add between five to 10 developers to the platform a week.

Pocket Money is a stepping stone to the startup’s vision of fluid digital payments in developing countries. While users can only redeem mobile credits for now, the status quo won’t stay for long.

“Now it’s just mobile top-ups. Eventually, we’ll let users redeem games, movies, and even stuff that’s offline,” says Sharma. For instance, consumers could eventually get cash on Pocket Money, paid for by advertisers, and use that to redeem a special item in his favorite Pokkt-integrated mobile game.

-Courtesy: Techinasia

Backed By Science Inc., FreeGameCredits.com Offers Exactly What Its Name Suggests

Startup FreeGameCredits.com doesn’t have the problem of an ambiguous name — just as you’d guess, it allows mobile game developers to run promotions offering in-game credits.

The company is announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Los Angeles-based “startup studio” Science Inc. It’s also launching its first promotion later today — Vivid Games is making its Real Boxing iOS app free for the day, and users of FreeGameCredits.com will also receive $4 of in-game currency.

Science co-founder and partner Peter Pham told me that he likes to back things that are “kind of obvious” and look like they’re going to succeed as long as the team doesn’t screw it up. (He didn’t exactly say “screw it up,” but I’m trying to be polite here.)

In this case, he said it seemed obvious that mobile game developers would want to offer targeted promotions, similar to an app like Uber offering discounts to first-time users. However, it turned out that there’s no easy way for developers to do this — they can offer the same amount of free in-game credits to all first-time users, but the developer can’t give specific groups a bigger discount, even if “you know I’m a whale and I’m in the perfect target demographic.”

With FreeGameCredits, however, founder and CEO Joe Bayen said users can follow a special app store link (it works for both iOS and Android) from the company’s mobile site and they’ll receive a unique discount. The offers will be curated and run for a limited period of time, and he said they can be additionally targeted based on things like device type, geography, and gender.

To make this work, he said developers only need to add “a few lines of code in their app.”

Pham and Bayen both argued that this approach makes much more sense than rewarding users for watching an ad or downloading an app (something that Apple has recently become more sensitive about). After all, if Game A offers you Game A credits if you download Game B, you’re probably not that interested in Game B and are less likely to be a valuable player.

Oh, and speaking of really on-the-nose website names, Bayen has actually had some success with a related business, having founded FreeAppADay.com, a site that he said generated more than $60 million in revenue for developers. Following FreeAppADay’s shutdown, Bayen said he’d actually planned to take some time off, but he was working “literally a block away” from the Science offices in Santa Monica, and the Science partners convinced him to work on something new.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Foodie app Burpple gets major update, adds in ‘tastemakers’ and more personal curation

Burpple app update 3.0

The Singapore-based team behind Burpple, the social food review app, has been very quiet for the past nine months. It turns out they’ve been cooking up a major revamp (pictured above) that’s available this afternoon as an update to the Burpple iOS app.

Burpple co-founder Dixon Chan tells Tech in Asia that the latest iteration sees the team taking a different approach by focusing on the community and guided curation rather than simply building up the volume of food venue listings. Backed up with stronger search functions and a greater emphasis on curated lists, Chan says the idea is to guide users “to great food for any occasion, by locals, for everyone.” He adds: “The big opportunity here is being guided by local knowledge. People need easy access, not more obstacles to strong content.”

Focusing first on Singapore before expanding this curation to other cities, Burpple now has a ‘hot 100’ list for Singapore, which is based on data for the popularity of venues within the app. The startup is hand-picking some of its users as ‘tastemakers’ for each city and recommends people follow them for a sort of personal guide to the best places to eat and drink in Singapore.

Chan sees this as part of a strong trend towards data given a personal touch with human recommendations. “Most of our users tell us that they switched from traditional magazines, print media, and search directories because [Burpple] can be so much simpler, faster and trusted,” he explains. Burpple’s reinvention – in both the apps and its website – sees the service taking a more personal and even more social approach in its ongoing rivalry with Yelp.

All these new developments seem to replace what the startup was working on last year when it rolled out a food search engine. Burpple still has a search box, but it appears increasingly de-emphasized in favor of users getting guidance from lists and the new ‘tastemakers’. But it also means that Burpple’s vaunted monetization plans from last year, such as charging restaurants and venues for Burpple webpage customization, have disappeared too. Chan says the team is beta testing a new “business program” for Q3, but remains tight-lipped about it for now.

Chan says that Burpple was beta testing the ‘hot 100’ and other new curation features since March this year and he claims it has triggered a 500 percent increase in user activity.

Globally, Burpple has 150,000 listed locations in 10 major cities and claims to have 200,000 monthly active users in Singapore right now. The Burpple 3.0 update should now be in the iOS App Store; the Android update is coming soon.

-Courtesy: Techinasia

Path Looks To Combine Commerce And Messaging With TalkTo Acquisition, Release Of New ‘Talk’ App

It’s been a rough year for private social networking app Path. The company has seen disappointing growth in many major markets, layoffs, and the departure of some key execs over the last 12 months. But while Path has largely remained quiet, the company has been working on a plan behind the scenes to switch up its business.

Today, Path is unveiling everything that it has been working on during that time — including the launch of a new standalone messaging app, its acquisition of business messaging service TalkTo, and what could be the start of a new revenue model for the company.

Path’s Messaging Ambitions

While downloads in some big markets have slowed, Path is still seeing users come back to its app. According to founder and CEO Dave Morin, the company is seeing about 4 million DAUs per day, versus around 1.5 million at the beginning of the year. Southeast Asia is now its biggest market, with the U.S. coming second, but Path is also seeing some user growth from the Middle East.

The main thing that keeps users coming back, that keeps driving engagement, is messaging. Since launching the feature a year ago, it’s been the fastest-growing feature of the app, according to Morin.

That growth comes despite the proliferation of messaging platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. It’s also despite the fact that Path’s messaging function was mostly hidden in a drawer off to one side of the app.

With the release of Path Talk, the company hopes to correct that by making an app based solely around one of its most popular features. The new messaging app takes advantage of features that the Path team has already built. For instance, users can connect with their existing Path login credentials.

Path Talk has ambient status updates that let friends know when you’re traveling, when you’re nearby, and when you have a low battery. But it only shows the most recent — and most interesting — updates to friends.

path talk 3

The app enables swipe-based quick replies to enable users to acknowledge messages, or question things that were sent to them. Users can also send stickers, just as they could in the old Path app. It also allows users to easily send links to media, like movies, music and books, as well as maps, locations, photos and videos through a single tap.

Path Talk also includes a few new features — like messages that disappear after 24 hours and the option of sending voice messages to other users — that it hopes will set it apart from existing messaging platforms.

But at its core, Path Talk was built as a way for users to quickly express themselves through a combination of text, media, and stickers that its existing users already love.

Updates To The Core Path App

While Path is introducing a whole new messaging app, the company is still keeping its core app available. In fact, it’s updated the app to simplify navigation and increase engagement.

Path 4.0 has moved all its core navigation to the bottom of the app, rather than hiding different features in drawers on either side of the main user interface. That enables users to access their notifications, friend list, and other features from any page within the app.

Since it released Path Talk, the company has done away with the messaging feature within its original app. Now clicking through the messaging tab will open up Path Talk if it’s installed.

If not, it will show how many messages users have accrued in the meantime. It’s clearly meant to nudge users to install the new app.

One surprising change to the app that’s flown under the radar: Path has removed its limit on the number of friends that users can connect to. While it previously held users to fewer than 150 friends, now they can add as many contacts as they want.

But the big thing here is that Path will continue to support and add new features to its core app, according to Morin.

TalkTo Acquisition Brings Text Messaging For Business

For Path, launching a standalone messaging app is only one part of the company’s future business plan. The other part comes through its acquisition of business messaging platform TalkTo.

The idea behind TalkTo was based on what co-founder Stuart Levinson saw as a fundamental shift in behavior, from communicating via voice to communicating via text.

Consumers have gotten used to sending short messages and getting a near-instantaneous response from each other. But phone conversations with businesses tend to take a lot longer — especially if someone gets passed around to different customer service departments before getting a response.

TalkTo founder Stuart Levinson

To enable TalkTo users to communicate with businesses via text, the company had a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, it worked with businesses to enable them to answer questions directly from existing and potential customers.

And for all those companies it didn’t have a business relationship with, TalkTo built out a distributed workforce that effectively worked like a call center to make calls for users, and then respond to their inquiries via text.

TalkTo, which was once a Startup Battlefield finalist, was picked up in a cash-and-stock deal, but otherwise terms weren’t disclosed.

Combining Commerce And Messaging

With the acquisition, Path is hoping to eventually embed that same capability into its messaging app. In fact, Morin said that Path Talk will add “Places” alongside “People” in the bottom navigation bar in its next release, slated for later this summer.

“We want to bring a differentiated and powerful new use case to our users,” Morin said. “We want to bring commerce and messaging together in a way that is user-first.”

Not only will that mean adding a new feature to its app — messaging businesses nearby — but it also has the potential to change Path’s business model going forward.

Since the release of its first “sticker packs” about 18 months ago, Path’s monetization has been driven through the sale of virtual goods. About six months after that, it added a yearly subscription offering to its à la carte sticker sales.

TalkTo’s revenues were also based on a “Premium” model, where users paid a small fee per month to have their messages “fast-tracked” and answered more quickly.

According to Levinson, about 75 percent of all questions posed on TalkTo are expressing an intent to purchase something. To some businesses, those requests might count as “highly qualified leads” — in other words, something they’d be willing to pay for. And that could give Path a new line of business that doesn’t rely on advertising or micro-transactions.

The Reinvention Of Path?

The big question is, ‘Will it work?’

Can Path give users a good reason to download yet another messaging app? And even if they do, can it prove that people want to text businesses the same way they want to message other people?

For its part, Path seems to believe that it’s created a compelling enough experience around messaging to warrant a whole new app. Through status updates, media sharing and the like, Path Talk combines a whole lot of features that will differentiate it from other messaging platforms that are already out there.

“We had this realization that messaging is the killer app of mobile,” Morin said. “There have been a lot of folks that have approached messaging on a one-to-one basis. But we wanted to take it further… What if it wasn’t just a messaging app but a messaging hub?”

As for texting businesses, TalkTo had users — it just didn’t have a business model that aligned the interests of consumers and businesses as well as each would like. But it seems like that will change as part of Path’s new messaging platform.

Regardless of whether or not this idea of mixing commerce and messaging actually takes off, it seems like that’s not the only thing Path has up its sleeve.

Rather than betting everything on a single user experience, the company is now pursuing a multi-app strategy, according to Morin. That means it could break out other features that had once been embedded in its original core app and let them stand on their own.

Of course, that could result in a lack of focus, as Path builds and maintains multiple different apps in tandem, but hey — maybe that’s a good thing.

Maybe, after being singularly focused on adding features to the core Path experience over the last three-and-a-half years, it’s time to experiment.

Maybe it’s time for Path to throw a little spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

Pakistan startup hopes for a global win with 2014 World Cup scoring and text commentary app

2014 Football Cup Companion app for World Cup scores and live text commentary

One Pakistan startup believes that since people can’t get enough of the World Cup, they want more apps related to it. And so Pantera Engineering has come out with 2014 Football Cup Companion, which it touts as the most useful and comprehensive scoring, tables, and text commentary app for the 2014 World Cup. It’s available in English and around the world.

Yes, the app’s name isn’t sexy, which is due to the inevitable legal issues in using words like FIFA or World Cup.

2014 Football Cup Companion app for World Cup scores and live text commentary

Pantera Engineering specializes in mobile app development. The team was part of the second batch of startups that graduated from the Plan 9 incubator in Lahore. Farooq Saeed, the co-founder Pantera Engineering, explains his motives behind building the free – and ad-free – app despite there being a number of others, including one from FIFA, already out there.

We noticed that a lot of things were missing in those apps and there was no single comprehensive app which provided all the information in one single interface. Especially the live feed during the match was either non existent or was not up to the mark.

The team was further motivated by the news that the official football for the World Cup, the ‘Brazuca’ was made in Pakistan. They wanted to make an app which would not only be the best available but would also help in building a better image of their country.

Saeed tells us that the app is seeing healthy traffic from Europe and South America, as well as interest from at home.

2014 Football Cup Companion is free for Android and iPhone.

2014 Football Cup Companion app for World Cup scores and live text commentary

-Courtesy: Techinasia

Facebook Launches Slingshot, Its Snapchat Competitor

Poke, Facebook’s first attempt at building a Snapchat competitor, belly flopped. But that hasn’t stopped the social network from taking another jump.

For some time now, rumors have swirled about Slingshot, Facebook’s sophomore take on the ephemeral messaging app. Mark Zuckerberg was reportedly “personally involved” in its development, and last week the app briefly appeared in some countries’ app stores before disappearing.

Today, all the speculation can be put to rest: Slingshot is here, for real this time.

Unlike Poke, Slingshot is not a direct Snapchat ripoff. “With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the launch.

That’s right – lurkers aren’t welcome on the app.

As with Snapchat, users can send photos or videos — adorned with text or coloring, if desired — that last up to 15 seconds with Slingshot. Each message can be viewed exactly once by the recipient before disappearing for good.

Unlike Snapchat, however, opening a message on Slingshot requires that you send a message of your own back to its sender. “Here’s the deal: friends won’t be able to see your shot until they sling something back to you,” Facebook explained.

While it’s good news that Slingshot isn’t another straight-up Snapchat clone and while the intent is admirable, it’s fair to wonder whether Facebook has overestimated our collective desire to share versus our collective desire to consume. After all, plenty of people use social networks to “lurk,” spending most of their time checking up on other people’s posts instead of posting themselves. For those types, being forced to respond to a message on Slingshot might be a tough sell.

Still, Facebook is determined to try. “[Venture capitalist] Fred Wilson once said that the cardinal rule of social networks is that 1 percent of people create content and 90 percent of people consume it,” Slingshot designer Joey Flynn told the Verge, “and we want to flip that on its head.”

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

 

Intellistats, An Android App To Monitor Your Phone Usage

Just recently, I came to know that almost 70% of my calls were outgoing, all thanks to Intellistats, an Android application developed by Arbisoft, a Lahore-based software house.

Intellistats is an app that collects information about your phone usage on voice, SMS messages and data. Then it organizes the collected information and statistics in different categories, ready for analysis in the form of graphs. In its main screen, it gives a quick overview of your phone usage.

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You can set different kinds of time filters – for example, monthly or weekly filters – in order to analyze the stats according to your specific needs, or you can find out about your all time phone usage statistics in just a glance. However, the main screen of the app only tells you a small version of the story. Select any category and you’ll be presented with detailed stats and finely designed graphs with a very simplistic approach.

The voice and SMS usage categories have the same layout. You have the liberty to see the stats of incoming and outgoing calls and messages separately or in combined form. An hourly graph illustrates the hours at which you most actively have voice or text conversations. This is the best feature of this application because it helps you select the right voice/SMS plans, which can in turn help you in cost-cutting and realizing what’s taking all your credit away. You can also find out which mobile networks you are most frequently communicating with. Making calls on networks other than yours is usually more costly, so you can find out if you are making too many off-net calls. Finally, you can also see the people you communicate with the most (in case you’re getting too attached with someone).

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The data usage screen is primarily helpful for identifying the applications that consume most of the data. This way, you can decrease your usage of those applications that consume a lot of data and delete the ones you don’t even use anymore because some applications keep getting synced in background.

All in all, Intellistats is the app for you if you want to control your spending on your phone usage, or just keep track of your budget. We find the application very insightful and its graphical illustrations very helpful in comprehending the usage statistics. The only drawback is that when you specify your own billing period, you can’t set it to any of the previous months. Overall, the app is beautifully designed and well thought-out. Our rating would be 4 out of 5.

We at The AppJuice hope that its future updates will bring more insights of phone usage to the application. Let us know your opinion of the app in the comments below!

 

-Courtesy: Techjuice.pk

 

Runtastic Pedometer – An Android App For Your Daily Workout!

It is recommended that one should walk 10,000 steps daily to stay fit all round, so how would you switch to an active lifestyle and track your workout? Well, Runtastic Pedometer is the answer. It is a pedometer app, which tracks your steps, while you are walking. It can work while your device is in your pocket, purse or bag, as long as you are carrying it with yourself. The app uses accelerometer for the tracking of steps. The app tracks your daily goal of 10,000 steps and the steps you have walked; also it keeps a record of your daily workout, syncing it with your online Runtastic account or MyFitnessPal account.

The app also notifies you of the speed you are walking at, as well as the distance you have covered. The workouts are tracked in the form of sessions. Each session is initiated and terminated by the user itself. The app starts the timer, noting the time of the session and starts tracking the steps you have covered, the distance you have travelled and the speed at which you are travelling. At the end of every session, the app asks you for certain information, which includes information like the temperature of surroundings, the weather conditions and the surface on which you were walking, your mode and your average heartbeat. Then it gives you an overview of the whole session and syncs it to your Runtastic account. Details of the sessions can be recalled at any instance from ones account.

Social network integration in the app is quite good as well; it would let you share your workout session details on Facebook, twitter or Google+. There is pro version of the app also available, which unlocks even more features which include the details of the calories you have burned, the frequency of your steps (basically the average number of steps you walk per minute), and no ads of course.

To sum up this is a great app, as I am a University student and have to walk a lot around the campus, I love to track my steps and tell myself that I have walked enough steps for a day to keep myself fit. Also, many people simply love to walk as well, this app can be great for them as well and after all it is a great app for those who are health conscious and want to track their workout sessions.

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-Courtesy: Techjuice.pk

Spin It is the new Pakistani iOS Game in Town

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Made to impress, Spin It, the new cool matching game is now live on iOS App Store. It is simple, fun and if you have what it takes to solve deceptively easy puzzles, almost addictive. Apart from its uncomplicated game strategy, Spin It is a step in forward direction where developers are beginning to focus on simpler games which are clutter-free and pleasing to the eye. The recent success of Flappy Bird has led many to rethink extremely difficult and complicated game strategies as many now feels that the audience’s attention can also be captured using relatively easier techniques provided they are witty enough. Spin It combines the ease of playing with some cool, flat design graphics that look great.

Spin It is Easy Enough to Play

Remember those laborious levels of Candy Crush where you had to devise intelligent methods to to bring down the all powerful candy? Well, Spin It is similar and it depends on your attention to detail. Featuring a four tier wheel with color blocks, Spin It asks the users to match three or 4 color bits to score but there is a catch: the colors flip quickly. You barely bring the same colors together when the colors flip and the matching is gone, taking your score with it. The interesting thing about Spin It is that it tests whether you can visually put together similar images in a rather short amount of time or not.

Brag About it on Facebook

The game includes feature which allow you to incorporate your existing social media circle in the game. You can brag about your scores on Facebook or challenge your friend to do better. There are also global ranking boards where you can see your position in the charts. Thus you can compete with people all over the world and show off your gaming skills!

Flat, Minimalistic Interface

This game doesn’t feature heavy graphics. Instead it uses the Flat design and basic colors to bring to life a simple user interface. The options are limited, preventing cluttering. The wheel itself dominates your game screen with simple bonus meters on top and a score counter below. It loads fast and runs smoothly.

The Review

we r play

Spin It is the latest product from WeRPlay, a Pakistani Game Development company that has many amazing games to its name. Most of their games feature mind-blowing graphics and complex strategy but this one is completely different, showing that the company isn’t afraid of venturing into new areas. While the attempt is to be appreciated, Spin It is still no Flappy Bird. Indeed, the pressure to be the next internationally addictive game increases with each game release. There is no telling what will take the world by storm. From levels of Temple Run to those of Candy Crush to simple scores of Flappy Bird, if anything can be taken as an indicator, it is that trends in viral gaming are largely unpredictable. However, Spin It is a good attempt and we hope it is received well in the App Store. The change in game strategy can helpWeRPlay learn more about its audience and gather valuable data about gamers’ preferences. Who knows, the next viral game may be made by a Pakistani Developer…

-Courtesy: Techjuice.pk