Android users, the time has almost come. Instagram, the popular photo-filtering and sharing app, is on its way to Google’s mobile operating system.

Co-founder Kevin Systrom announced at SXSW Sunday that the long-awaited Android version of Instagram is nearly here. He teased the version on stage, but didn’t provide a demo. The Android version is currently being tested in private beta and will be released “very soon.”

“In some ways, it’s better than our iOS app. It’s crazy,” Systrom said. In a Q&A following his presentation, Systrom said the app is fast, works great on large screens and can share photos to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other networks.

What took the startup so long to bring what’s clearly an extremely popular app to Android? “I don’t think it took us so long. We just had priorities. Had we tried to be both on Android and iPhone at the same time, it would’ve been tough to innovate in the way that we have,” he said.

Systrom announced, in December of last year at LeWeb, that the Android app was in development. Knowing that it’s in testing now means Instagram for Android is at least that much closer to release — but nothing more specific.

Systrom also announced Sunday that the iOS version of Instagram — which was named Apple’s iOS app of the year last year — has seen some 27 million downloads.


BONUS: The Best Instagram Photos Ever Taken


 

1. Maura Grace (@folkfibers)

Josh Riedel: “I love the way you can travel through photos. Maura (@folkfibers) travels the USA in her VW van, and her photos take you along for the ride. I like to imagine Maura pulling to the side of the road and leaning out her window to snap this shot as she’s leaving the park.”

Click here to view this gallery.

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Your favorite mobile apps should soon be making it a lot more clear when they intend to use your data.

The Attorney General of California, Kamala D. Harris, announced Wednesday a deal with Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion; the companies agreed to strengthen privacy protection for users that download third-party apps to smartphones and tablet devices.

In the deal, the companies said they would require app developers to clearly spell out what data their apps can access and what the app or company does with that data. The deal also makes app store custodians such as Apple and Google, who run the App Store and Android Market, set up a way for users to report apps that don’t provide a clear-cut explanation of their privacy policies.

According to a statement from Attorney General Harris’ office, if an app developer doesn’t meet these new privacy-policy requirements, they could be charged with a crime under California law.

“California has a unique commitment to protecting the privacy of our residents,” said Harris. “Our constitution directly guarantees a right to privacy, and we will defend it.”

Android users are well aware that developers on the platform are required to ask them for permission before accessing their personal data, but they’re not told how or why their data is being accessed. Apple also doesn’t allow any software on its App Store that takes personal information without asking, but developers haven’t been transparent on that platform, either.

In fact, Harris’ office says, only five percent of all mobile apps offer a privacy policy. And developers across both platforms have come under fire recently for coding software that transmits users’ personal data unbeknownst to them.

That controversy managed to pique the interest of some members of Congress, who sent a letter of inquiry to Apple.

Should lawmakers intervene when the creators of popular platforms like Android and iOS may not be doing enough to protect the privacy of their users? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

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android

Google announced a Google Docs update for Android Wednesday, allowing for easy native editing from your smartphone and tablet.

The new feature was introduced in a blog post, in which Google says the update focuses on remote collaboration and is aimed at increasing users’ productivity. Google software engineer Vadim Gerasimov describes how he now can accomplish everything he does in the office — such as check his email and edit documents — with his Android during his morning commute to the company’s Sydney office.

“We want to give everyone the chance to be productive no matter where they are, so today we’re releasing a new update to the Google Docs app for Android. We’ve brought the collaborative experience from Google Docs on the desktop to your Android device. You’ll see updates in real time as others type on their computers, tablets and phones, and you can just tap the document to join in.”

Google highlights an updated interface optimized for mobile working. You can pinch to zoom and focus or scroll out. Text-formatting options have been added, so you can create bullet lists and use color.

Google also announced an update to the presentation editor on the Docs Blog Wednesday, making changes unveiled in October to default settings for all presentations. The most significant enhancement is the ability to add and resolve comments about specific slides and shapes.

Do you like to get work done on the go? Will Google’s Android update help you work from more places than your office? Let us know in the comments.


BONUS: 10 Premium Android Apps for 10 Cents Each


1. Tetris

This game has passed the test of time over and over again, and today you can enjoy the Android-optimized puzzle for only $0.10.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, juniorbeep

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1. GifBoom




The free app we’re using is “GifBoom: Animated GIF Camera” from TapMojo.

It is available for both the iPhone and Android phones.

Click here to view this gallery.

Did you know you can whip up tasty animated GIFs on your iPhone or Android handset, in seconds, free? We’ve found a superb app that will help you animate photographs and GIF-icize video.

Whether you want to join in with a popular meme, give a social avatar a bit of motion enhancement or just create something that will make your friends laugh, we have a super-simple way to do it.

SEE ALSO: 10 Hilarious Animated GIFs that Took the Web by Storm

Take a look through the gallery for our easy-peasy walkthrough. Just remember to use your newly-found, GIF-making superpowers wisely!

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That app you use to play Words with Friends on your phone or book a reservation using Open Table might be giving the American economy a nice boost, at least according to a new survey by TechNet.

The new “app economy” has created about 466,000 jobs in the United States since 2007, according to the survey.

“America’s App Economy – which had zero jobs just 5 years ago before the iPhone was introduced – demonstrates that we can quickly create economic value and jobs through cutting-edge innovation,” Rey Ramsey, President and CEO of TechNet, said on the company’s blog. “Today, the App Economy is creating jobs in every part of America, employing hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers today and even more in the years to come.”

California took the lion’s share of growth with 23.8% of app-related jobs. The New York-Northern New Jersey- Long Island area tops the regional list with 9.2% of app-sparked growth.

Programmers, user interface designers, tech marketers and support staff can rejoice — all of these positions are impacted by the growing use of apps.

The survey was funded by TechNet, a bipartisan organization with a stated goal to vigorously promote technology, and Dr. Michael Mandel of South Mountain Economics LLC.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have the title “mobile app developer” yet, but other IT positions are projected to see major growth in the next six years. “Computer software engineers, applications” is a term used to describe a sector of jobs that is expected to grow 34% from 2008-2018.

As mobile devices and the cloud help to expand the business of apps, it wouldn’t be a surprise for that number to jump even more.

Have you been impacted by the “app economy”? How? Tell us in the comments.

More About: android, application, apps, economy, iphone, jobs

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No one is sure what Google has up its sleeve, but it could be something you’ll have at home in years to come.

Google applied for a Federal Communications Commission experimental license to test an unnamed prototype entertainment device in its employees’ homes. The company says the device will connect to home electronics through wireless Internet and Bluetooth.

The main reason for the testing is to see if the device works properly and to “reveal real world engineering issues and reliability of networks,” the company said in its application. Google says the device is still in early stages of development and will be modified after reviewing test results from the 252 devices Google would like to place into employee homes in New York; Cambridge, Mass.; Los Angeles and Mountain View, Calif.

Google asked to test the devices from Jan. 17 to July 17.

SEE ALSO: FCC Grants Google Access To “Super Wi-Fi” Broadband Spectrum

“From this testing we hope to modify the design in order to maximize product robustness and user experience,” the application — submitted by Richard Whitt, Google’s director and managing counsel for Telecom and Media — says. “Utilizing the requested number of units will allow testing of real world network performance and its impact on applications running on the device, so that any problems can be discovered and addressed promptly.”

Little has been disclosed about the what the device actually is, but GigaOM and tech bloggers are wondering if it could be related to Android@Home — Google’s technology to control light switches, alarm clocks and other home appliances through Android devices — or wearable Google Goggles.

Watch the video to learn more. What do you think Google is testing?

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Bouncer scanning software, developed by Google, is designed to search the Android market for software that could be malicious, the company announced Thursday on its blog.

With the success of Android this year, the company says it wants to protect its many users and their devices from harm.

“Device activations grew 250% year-on-year, and the total number of app downloads from Android Market topped 11 billion,” Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of engineering, wrote on the Google Mobile Blog. “As the platform continues to grow, we’re focused on bringing you the best new features and innovations — including in security.”

Bouncer will scan current and new applications, plus developer accounts. The blog post explained how the service will function.

“Here’s how it works: once an application is uploaded, the service immediately starts analyzing it for known malware, spyware and trojans. It also looks for behaviors that indicate an application might be misbehaving, and compares it against previously analyzed apps to detect possible red flags. We actually run every application on Google’s cloud infrastructure and simulate how it will run on an Android device to look for hidden, malicious behavior. We also analyze new developer accounts to help prevent malicious and repeat-offending developers from coming back.”

Bouncer was tested in 2011 and comparing the first half of the year to the second, Google Mobile reported a 40% decrease in malicious downloads.

Google says from the beginning, Android was designed with security in mind. And, although a company can’t prevent malware, it can control the amount of damage those threats can cause with a dynamic security plan.

    Some of Android’s core security features are:

  • Sandboxing: The Android platform uses a technique called “sandboxing” to put virtual walls between applications and other software on the device. So, if you download a malicious application, it can’t access data on other parts of your phone and its potential harm is drastically limited.
  • Permissions: Android provides a permission system to help you understand the capabilities of the apps you install, and manage your own preferences. That way, if you see a game unnecessarily requests permission to send SMS, for example, you don’t need to install it.
  • Malware removal: Android is designed to prevent malware from modifying the platform or hiding from you, so it can be easily removed if your device is affected. Android Market also has the capability of remotely removing malware from your phone or tablet, if required.

Google’s long been fine-tuning its security features for its various products. Although in the past Google’s products have clashed with that of other mobile service providers due to security concerns.

Are you an Android user? What do you think about Bouncer? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto

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Kieron-Scott Woodhouse was fed up with cellphones all looking alike, so he took the matter into his own hands, building his own brand of smartphone out of a solid block of organic bamboo.

The 23-year-old design student at Middlesex University in the UK created a design concept for the ADzero Android phone, posted it on a website, and soon it was spotted by investors who helped him bring the project to reality.

As you can see in the video, not only is the ADzero phone a beautiful work of finely crafted art, but it’s made of sustainable materials. The fast-growing bamboo takes just four years to grow. Woodhouse says it’s durable as well. According to Woodhouse, that bamboo is “just as strong as any kind of plastic.”

The handset has additional niceties on board as well, including a ring flash. Which, if it’s anything like professional ring flashes we’ve encountered, gives your photos smooth, even illumination, especially for close-ups.

The smartphone will be released first in China and the UK. Take a look at the video above, and hear Woodhouse talking about the phone and its unique capabilities for yourself.

[via JustAdZero]

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Paul Baldwin is the chief marketing officer of Outfit7 Inc., a subsidiary of Out Fit 7 Ltd, the leading entertainment app developer. Paul has more than 17 years of experience developing, marketing and monetizing digital entertainment content.

Spend a few minutes browsing through both the Android and Apple app stores and it’s easy to see the fierce competition for user attention. The number of apps has grown to more than 1 million, each vying for downloads and market share.

The app development world is still very top-heavy, with a very small percentage of developers controlling the majority of downloads and revenue. But that in no way means that a newcomer can’t build a successful app that captures the hearts and minds of consumers, and becomes the next big thing.

Since the app stores themselves control which apps are elevated and highlighted, how can you ensure your app gets time in the spotlight and the attention it deserves? Here are six tips drawn from experience.


1. Focus on Product


The best way to get your app noticed is to build a unique and engaging product. Although that’s an article all on its own, let’s sum it up in a few key points.

Know your exact market and who you’re competing against. This will help you understand your target user — what he expects and likes and who else is offering apps to him.  

Great apps are also usually the first in their category, or apps that completely reinvent existing categories. A big sign that you have a great app is when you start seeing copycat apps. Embrace them and use them as motivation to continue.

Another element that great apps have in common is fun. You want to make your app something that users will come back to again and again, rather than a one-time, disposable thrill. Whether that means creating lovable characters or tapping into the human desire to compete, remember to deliver fun the first time and every time after.

Also, great apps are simple. No user guides should be necessary to participate, and there should be nothing to “figure out” from a user standpoint. They are intuitive and immediately easy to grasp.

Finally, the last big hallmark of a phenomenal app product is the ability for users to make the app personal through customization features. Today’s app audience is constantly wondering what’s in it for them. Allow them to make it theirs and they’ll more likely become instantly enamored.


2. Allow Users to Engage Others with Your App


These days, more developers are using social media as part of the app as a major key to its success. Your customers’ word-of-mouth multiplies your network a hundred times over without costing you a dime, so be sure to put mechanisms in place that allow users to talk about the app and share experiences with friends.

For example, if your app enables users to create fun videos, make sure they can share those videos with others. This type of direct experience sharing will go a long way in spreading the word about your app.  

Caveat: Don’t “over-viralize” your app with too many social features that don’t make sense.


3. Get Media and Blogger Attention: Make It Simple


Media attention and especially reviews of your app can really help to spread recognition. To get that kind of attention, though, you have to have a solid app to begin with, a great story around your app, and it absolutely must be easy to talk about.

The tendency is to come up with the most ingenious, compelling app, filled with loads of features but none that really stand out. This is called “feature creep” and usually spells disaster. Remember, the launch is just the beginning. Successful apps are always adding new content months after launch. If reporters and bloggers (and users for that matter) have a hard time explaining what your app is, what it does or why they like it, they’re less likely to talk about your app. Keep version one simple.

To make your app easier for media to cover, provide materials like press kits, beta codes (if necessary) and reviewer guides. It also helps to identify technology and pop culture trend stories that your app can fit into.


4. Continue Your Marketing Efforts


When your app launches, you’ll definitely want to have a marketing strategy in place to seize your launch window of opportunity, but it’s also important to continue marketing long after launch.

Many developers find pre-launch strategies helpful for grabbing attention. This includes creating a “coming soon” page that teases your app a bit, collecting emails for those interested in the first look, and even extending first invites to target publication audiences.

Make sure you exhaust every “co-marketing” opportunity out there with other app developers. Some major publishers will trade their app installs for your app installs. Everybody is in the same boat, in the same huge ocean of apps. You might be surprised to find that other developers are more than happy to participate in reciprocal marketing.

The important thing to remember is that app marketing windows are perpetual, meaning you should establish marketing vehicles that you can trigger at your discretion over long periods of time. That means plan, plan, plan.


5. Use Analytics 


When developing apps, you have all kinds of data at your fingertips to evaluate how your app is being received. Use analytics to monitor your ranking and as a marketing tool.

Become a student of the Android and iOS category rankings (e.g., entertainment vs. games). Each category has its own nuances for determining “top” rankings, so be sure to evaluate each one. Understand why the app moved up in the rankings in order to iterate and improve your own ranking over time. Additionally, if you have a good sense of what is moving the bar for your app, you can also learn from what the top developers are doing.

More importantly, in my opinion, is that you leverage the wealth of analytics available from your app to make your app better over time. Not only will the data help you iterate and improve your app from a technical standpoint, but it will also allow you to create the right content to which users connect. Once the app is live, analyze the data to update your release schedule and product roadmap.

You can also learn when your customers are willing to “rate your app” or be pitched another app in your portfolio. Analytics can shed light on how frequently you should attempt to cross-sale or suggest another item for purchase.


6. Prepare for Success


This tip may seem a little strange at first — who wouldn’t be thinking about success? But in reality, many apps start strong then fade and fizzle. Preparing for success is as much about your product as it is about the team behind it.

It’s crucial to structure your team in a way that supports hyper growth. It’s good to rely on a more fluid and dynamic network of expertise and project teams than a rigid structure.

Think of your app as a brand that will enable you to leverage brand extension opportunities. Build your apps to welcome future cross-promotion opportunities, rather than intrusions on the user experience.

The best way to prepare for app success is to constantly focus on keeping your users engaged. Give them more than just product updates once they’ve downloaded and become fans of your app. Give them instant fun, addictive experiences that they will want to share with friends.

Whatever your secret sauce is or has been, be sure to nurture it to keep your users wanting more — and deliver your app in a way that surpasses user expectations.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto, Flickr, ItzaFineDay

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1. Northrop X-47B Stealth Drone

This stealthy X-47B unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is the size of a fighter jet, and will be taking off and landing from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This is an unusual overhead view of the scary looking plane, which was mistaken for a UFO last month. When will it be ready for battle? Unknown. It’s a concept plane so far, but as you can see, it’s in the midst of flight testing.

[via Gizmodo]

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If you scanned across the tech and gadget world this week, you’d think the future had already arrived. We found so many great products and devices, it was difficult to narrow them down to our Top 10 Tech This Week.

But we persevered, finding conveyances that roll on the ground and fly through the air, a gaming mouse that looks like it might take off at any moment, new software from Google that makes us feel like were flying in space and a bulbous car that was once fiction that’s now reality. We even found a brand new view of a scary, lethal and stealthy weapon for your perusal.

SEE MORE: Previous editions of Top 10 Tech This Week

Even everyday objects didn’t escape the futuristic treatment, including a USB cable that shows you which direction its data is flowing, a 55-inch OLED TV that seemed like a fantasy just a couple of weeks ago but now has a more well-defined arrival date, and then there’s the craziest-looking lamp we’ve ever seen — built by a printer, of all things.

So strap yourself in and prepare to be impressed, amused, amazed and perhaps even filled with want — as we bring you the latest edition of our Top 10 Tech This Week.

Here’s last week’s Top 10 Tech.

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