Twitter’s Crashlytics adds Velocity Alerts to warn developers about critical problems

Twitter today is announcing an enhancement to its Crashlytics crash reporting tool. Once developers have turned on the Answers mobile analytics tool within Crashlytics, they can now receive special Velocity Alerts that are meant to stand out from all other alerts, because they’re probably the most important.

“Now … our system will proactively check to see if there is a statistically significant number of sessions that have ended due to a crash related to one issue on a particular build,” product manager Jason St. Pierre wrote in a blog post. “If so, we’ll let you know if that issue is a hot patch candidate and needs your attention immediately right on your dashboard.”

Crashlytics will also send an email and a push notification from the recently launched Twitter Fabric mobile app about a new Velocity Alerts, St. Pierre wrote.

Crashlytics is one of the pieces of Twitter’s Fabric development toolkit, and it has contributed to Twitter’s ascent into a key player in the mobile development toolchain since Twitter acquired it in 2013.

Twitter has also redesigned its Crashlytics notification emails in order to make them “more actionable,” St. Pierre wrote.


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Instagram starts showing notifications on the Web for all users

Instagram's new notifications on the Web.


Facebook-owned Instagram has begun showing notifications in a new drop-down box on its website. The box shows likes, people who’ve followed you, and friends who have recently started Instagram accounts.

The update is available now for everyone, an Instagram spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email. (Hat tip to Rob Poitras for pointing out the update.)

The change is interesting, because Instagram keeps its photo-editing and sharing features restricted to its mobile app.

To be sure, the web service remains a second-class citizen, but the update definitely enhances Instagram’s presence on the Web. It could drive greater usage on desktop and hint at more desktop Instagram improvements to come.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp arrived on the Web last year, and last year Facebook also launched a dedicated website for desktop usage: messenger.com.

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Twitter looking to see if stickers are right for its future

Twitter logo Christopher Flickr


Twitter may be jumping into the stickers game. The company is testing a new product called “Stickers,” which will allow you to affix these graphics right onto any photo before you tweet it out. What’s more, it’s said that there’ll also be a feature suggesting other edits that have been made to the same photo, likely to encourage users to participate in furthering a meme.

First reported by Re/code, Twitter is still researching “Stickers” to see if they have any potential on its service. Twitter certainly wouldn’t be the first to utilize stickers, as other companies like Line, Facebook, Path, and Snapchat have made them available and, in some cases, are even seeing quite a bit of engagement as a result. This wouldn’t be a first for Twitter either, as its Camera app for celebrities and partners already has similar functionality.

If publicly launched, this would represent the latest push by Twitter to boost its photo offering. Over the past couple of years, the company has added filters, along with updates that allow users to include photos in not only the timeline but also in tweets, such as by displaying media in-line.

A spokesperson confirmed the news and provided VentureBeat this statement: “We’re always researching potential new ways to make Twitter more expressive.”

As Twitter deals with a sluggish user growth, perhaps it feels that stickers will help people reconnect with the service. But the more interesting part of this offering is the feature that tells you what others have done with that exact photo. Find a goofy-looking picture of Donald Trump? Twitter could tell you what people have done with it so you can follow along or make your own variation, thereby potentially fostering a meme in real time.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, as this is still in the research phase and there’s no telling whether Twitter will actually make this service available to the rest of the world.

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Facebook is said to have withdrawn its bid to stream big NFL games

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's F8 2015 developer conference


Facebook has withdrawn its bid to stream NFL games, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook’s vice president of partnerships, Dan Rose, had previously confirmed to Variety that Facebook was in talks with the NFL about streaming “Thursday Night Football” games. It was competing with other bidders including Amazon and Verizon.

Sources told Bloomberg that Facebook “balked” at the NFL’s advertising model, and wanted its live video to be commercial free.

Facebook had previously said it would tackle NFL games differently than other media companies.

“There’s a lot of interesting things we can do with sports,” Rose told Variety. “If you think about how people engage on Facebook today, it’s not really around watching three hours of video … There are a lot of different cuts you can imagine.”

Live video has been a big push at Facebook recently. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly “obsessed” with making Facebook’s live video service a success.

Why?

Facebook is so focused on live video because of its high engagement, Rose told Variety; users watch live video for three times longer than they watch recorded video, he said.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.


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Email took an almighty beating this week, but it’s far from dead

Email


While 2016 is shaping up to be the year virtual reality and the Internet of Things went mainstream, it could also go down in history as the year email’s much-touted demise cranked into overdrive. At least, if this week’s events are anything to go by.

With the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, and a myriad of communication conduits springing up over the past decade, there’s little question that people use email less than they once did for personal communications, and when you swing the demographic dial down to teenagers, the shift is even more pronounced. But email has remained in rude health despite the rise in mobile messaging, and this has been in no small part due to businesses — within companies, between companies, and between companies and customers. But things are changing.

KLM & Facebook

Above: KLM & Facebook

On Wednesday, Uber revealed plans to phase out emails for customer support and replace it with in-app support instead. Moving forward, if you email Uber, you’ll receive an automated response telling you to submit your issue through the app instead, with much of the subsequent help offered as automated processes too.

On the very same day Uber stuck the knife into email’s gut, Facebook announced its very own nail for email’s coffin in the form of a KLM partnership that will allow the airline’s customers to receive flight confirmations, boarding cards, reminders, flight status updates, and customer service directly through Facebook’s Messenger app. This was nothing new, of course — Facebook had already gotten a handful of retailers on board using Messenger for commercial and customer relation purposes. But by nabbing a major global airline, this became a symbolic boot into email’s future prospects — the bigger the company, the more the customers, and the faster a “new way of working” becomes the norm.

In related news, Facebook also ramped up its enterprise-focused social network Facebook at Work this week, with global marketing agency Weber Shandwick committing its entire 3,500-strong workforce to the service after a few months of testing. Other big-name firms currently using Facebook at Work include Heineken, Royal Bank of Scotland, Century21, and Telenor.

Facebook at Work

Above: Facebook at Work

Elsewhere this week, Samsung turbocharged its dedicated customer support app with a bunch of new features. Samsung Galaxy owners in the U.S. could already use the app to request technical support, including voice and video chat, but the Korean tech titan opened things up to cover all electronics and home appliances such as TVs. And consumers with a newfangled Galaxy phone can now give Samsung tech experts remote access to their device too — they can chat to Samsung representatives over video chat and also pass over control of the device if verbal instructions are no use.

Yesterday, email-killing team-collaboration upstart Slack nabbed another $ 200 million in funding, valuing the company at $ 3.8 billion. But perhaps more importantly, Slack now claims 2.7 million daily active users, up from 2.3 million just last month, with big-brand customers including CenturyLink, CBS, Dow Jones, Harvard University, Samsung, the U.S. State Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Throw into the mix the rise of Twitter as a customer support tool — even Apple’s on board with this as of last month — and it’s clearer than ever that email’s last vestiges of salvation are on tenterhooks.

There is little question that email will probably fade away one day, but people tend to exaggerate the speed at which this will happen — it will be a generational gift. Facebook in particular has been keen to kill off email for some time, with varying degrees of success. Back in 2010, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg predicted email’s demise and put the reasoning in the simplest possible terms, completely separate to any vested interests held by the company she works for. She said:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in consumer technology, if you want to know what people like us will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today. And the latest figures say that only 11 percent of teenagers e-mail daily.

So e-mail — I can’t imagine life without it — is probably going away. So what do teenagers do? They SMS and increasingly, they use social networking.

Fast-forward six years and you could now say that SMS is also on the way out, replaced by a plethora of Internet-based messaging services. But Sandberg had a point — looking at the methods of communication that permeate the lives of young people gives the biggest clue as to where we’re heading. But it will be a gradual process guided by the demographics of people who use a given service; Uber may be phasing out email completely, but that’s because the majority of its users — in the U.S. at least — are under the age of 35 according to recent reports. But an airline such as KLM will have customers spanning all age groups, so it would be less likely to switch off telephone or email support quite so quickly.

We’re only three months into 2016, and we’re seeing clear signs that email as a communication form is in decline. As young people go to university then head out into the workforce and gain senior positions in companies, they’ll be keen to impose their preferred communication tools on the corporate culture — and you can bet that email won’t figure highly on their list of priorities.


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We need a new username system

usernames


What do Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and a gazillion other digital platforms have in common? They all treat usernames like a baby treats a diaper instead of the precious and lucrative resource they are.

Because usernames are dished out using an archaic first-come, first-served model, early adopters snag the dictionary-friendly handles. Everyone else gets smacked with alphanumeric nonsense. Soon perfidy and confusion take over as the black hats win and power users settle for names like “boogie2988”, “Rclbeauty101”, and “realDonaldTrump” even while “boogie”, “beauty”, and “trump” languish.

How did we get to this point?

First-come, first-served emerged with domain name registrations. Back then, claiming a domain name was an esoteric chore, so anyone who figured out the hows and whys deserved their three-letter dot com. As demand and accessibility grew, the flaws of first-come, first-served became obvious (more on that later), but by then it was too late. Early tech companies had already adopted the domain model for their identity systems, and later companies thoughtlessly followed the tradition. So here we are with almost every web service severely misallocating a key asset.

What’s wrong with first-come, first-served?

The underlying assumption behind first-come, first-served is that early users are more valuable than late users. This is not only false, it’s backwards!

When you’re desperate for your first 1,000 members, you figure your best usernames to be a small price to pay. But remember that you haven’t completely figured out your product yet, your onboarding process is untested, and your service is light on content and features. In other words, your early retention rate will be terrible, so all your good names will end up like a clump of dry hot chocolate powder goo at the bottom of a cup. While early adopters are great for buzz, they’re not motivated by usernames and have a one-night-stand mentality anyway; they’ll spread your product for a day and then leave you in the morning for the next shiny service. Save your best names for later!

Abandoning first-come, first-served won’t be easy; three types of members will revolt: Squatters will hate you, scammers will abandon you, and spammers will betray you for someone else. Think of the starving server admin in China who can’t register hundreds of your best account names at a time. Or the copyright infringer in Kentucky who misses rent because he can’t snag “apple.”

Michael Lee, partner at law firm Morrison & Lee LLP, has spent many years cleaning up after haphazard registration systems. “The effort needed to maintain the status quo is staggering. Dummy pages clog up search results, customers don’t know what they’re liking or following, and increasingly desperate brands have to resort to expensive lawsuits. There are big question marks abroad, too, especially in China where their trademark system is not always equitable.” He points to a recent lawsuit between GoDaddy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where the Academy, in essence, tried to unsuccessfully block the registration of all domains containing the word “oscar” and “academy awards.”

First-come, first-served even turns benign members into villains. When Pinterest launched, I registered “nimble” with high hopes. Years later, my Pinterest page is, well … sparse. Meanwhile, legitimate companies like Nimble CRM, Nimble Systems, and Nimble Storage are sunk. Did I deserve “nimble” because I got in early? Obviously not. Will I ever let “nimble” go? Hahahahaha, that name is my retirement plan!

What about implementing a verification system?

Twitter’s famous blue check mark isn’t the solution to first-come, first-served; it’s a desperate and clunky hack that proves the system is broken. Consider it a warning: Build your identity system the right way or suffer the wrath of endless whining support tickets (“But, but do you know who I am, Mr. Dorsey!??!”).

What’s the alternative?

I wrote this post to inspire brainstorming about alternative systems. To kickstart the process, here’s an idea in three simple steps:
Step 1: De-emphasize usernames by asking members to login with their email
Step 2: Members start with a three-word username, so my Pinterest account would be: pinterest.com/adam-is-nimble
Step 3: Let members earn their way to two-word and then one-word usernames. After six months and 1,000 pins, I can shrink my name to pinterest.com/adam-nimble. After 2 years and 5,000 pins, I can transform into pinterest.com/nimble. It goes without saying that anyone who types in “adam-is-nimble” will be redirected.

With this system, your best users will own the best names and the majority of one-night-stand types and scammers will give up before they cause any harm. And that’s just for starters. With a little effort you’ll:

  • Drive participation. LinkedIn is pushing its members to write articles. I’d submit a dozen today if it meant I could get a better username out of the deal.
  • “Game-ify” your service. Earning a better username will be fun! Fun makes your product stickier.
  • Improve retention. If someone’s worked hard to upgrade their username, they’ll have more to lose by leaving
  • Create envy and curiosity. A person who sees another member with a short name will grow curious. What’s going on? How can I do that too?

But wait, there’s more!

Copyright enforcement becomes MUCH easier because you’re handing out fewer one-word names per day and can more closely monitor them. People will also be hesitant to request potentially infringing usernames, knowing that they could lose years of work if they get into trouble.

Share your own idea

Know anyone with a novel identity system? Devised a clever one of your own? Tweet me and I’ll post the ideas in a follow-up. (I know there’s no blue check mark next to my name, you’ll just have to trust it’s me.)

Adam Ghahramani is head of digital product for a creative agency in New York City. Find him at adamagb.com or make friends on Twitter (@adamagb).


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Google is building YouTube Connect, a livestreaming app to take on Periscope

The YouTube app on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.


Google has quietly been building a new livestreaming app called YouTube Connect, VentureBeat has learned. This service highlights the company’s efforts to double down on live video while also placing it in a position to compete directly against Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live. YouTube Connect will be available on both iOS and Android devices.

Google did not immediately respond for comment.

YouTube Connect has much of the same functionality that you’d already find with Periscope and Facebook Live, according to a source close to the matter. You can log into the app using your Google or YouTube account and immediately begin streaming from your mobile phone. There are chat and tagging features, and a “news feed” that features the latest clips from your friends or those that you’ve subscribed to on YouTube.

Videos will be viewable live within the app, as well as on the YouTube site in their respective channels. It will also be possible to store previous broadcasts in the app, quite possibly as something you can opt into after you’ve completed the live stream. This will make it possible for you and your friends to watch the replays. The app does not yet have the integrations with Facebook or Twitter that would make it easy for users to share live streams on other social networks.

YouTube Connect comes at a time when Google has fallen behind in the livestreaming space, having lost ground to apps like Periscope, Meerkat — which recently pivoted — and Facebook Live. YouTube does offer livestreaming, through its Creator Studio offering, but it’s limited in terms of access. Now this new app could open the capability to a much larger audience.

Live streaming from YouTube's Creator Studio

Above: The livestreaming feature on YouTube’s Creator Studio.

Image Credit: Screenshot

In an interview with Wired, Manual Bronstein, the company’s head of product for consumers, said that “Broadly speaking, we think about YouTube being synonymous with video…live has always been a part of video, and it’s actually always a very exciting part.”

A livestreaming app makes sense when thinking about future directions for YouTube, a platform that houses the world’s collection of user-generated videos. Giving content creators the ability to interact with their fans in real time while on the red carpet or at a major event is valuable — why ask them to slink off to create videos that are posted on Facebook or on Twitter?

Both Twitter and Facebook have invested quite a bit in livestreaming events. During Twitter’s Q4 2015 earnings call, as CEO Jack Dorsey highlighted his vision for the company, he indicated Periscope’s importance — he’s even added the service’s CEO to his executive team. Dorsey: “Twitter is live, live commentary, live conversations, and live connections, whether it’s breaking news, entertainment, sports, or everyday topics, hearing about and watching a live event unfold is the fastest way to understand the power of Twitter.”

Mark Zuckerberg also shared that Facebook’s livestreaming option is something he’s “excited about.” It’ll likely grow in popularity as more people gain access to it.

YouTube has been losing a bit of its luster against these growing services, particularly Facebook and Snapchat — both of which have been in the news over the past few months as their video-viewing numbers continue to expand. In February, Snapchat reached 8 billion videos viewed, bringing it nearly equal to Facebook. If YouTube wants to pick up its viewership, a livestreaming app is a logical way to go.

YouTube Connect would be the latest standalone app in the YouTube family, joining not only the core service, but also YouTube Capture — which allows you to record and edit footage right on the mobile device — and YouTube Gaming.

Although timing for the release has not been divulged, a launch before Google’s I/O developer conference in May seems likely. It also wouldn’t be farfetched to think that the company might unveil the app with its YouTube stars, just like Facebook did with its livestreaming option — getting the biggest names on board to lead the way.

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Skype will launch its universal Windows app preview in the coming weeks

Skype's upcoming universal Windows app.


Microsoft today announced that in the next few weeks it will roll out a preview of its Skype universal Windows app to people participating in the Windows Insider program.

The current Skype app will still work on PCs running Windows 10, but Microsoft will be gradually bringing the existing app and the new one together. The new version will bring over many of the existing features, including a contact list, an option for logging out, Moji and emoticon support, and a way to change your availability. It will also introduce new capabilities, like the ability to chat with people whether or not they use Skype, group chat, group voice and video calling, and a means to deal with notifications individually for every single chat.

“We’ve simplified the look and feel by removing duplicative and unnecessary menus to prevent confusion between them,” the Skype team wrote in a blog post. “The global menus are now in a new, single Settings menu, and you’ll see contextual menus appear in upcoming releases.”

With hundreds of millions of users, Skype is a big product for Microsoft, and it receives updates frequently. But with Windows 10, Microsoft introduced the notion of Universal Windows Platform apps that run on many types of devices, even smartphones and tablets. Now Microsoft is finally ready to make Skype universal.

This Skype universal Windows app preview will first be delivered for PCs, and later it will appear in preview for Windows 10 Mobile, according to the blog post.

To try out the new Skype universal Windows app in forthcoming Windows 10 builds, you need to be a Windows Insider. If you aren’t one yet, you can sign up here.

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Twitter makes images better for the visually impaired

How to add alt text descriptions to images within Twitter's iOS and Android apps.


Twitter is taking a step toward making its service more accessible to visually impaired users. The company is launching support for alternative texts to accompany images across its iOS and Android apps, which means that any image descriptions will be available to those using screen readers. This feature can be used by not only the service’s 320 million monthly active users, but also by publishers and developers — Twitter has updated its REST API and Twitter Cards for the occasion.

This release is also a sign that Twitter is looking to make peace with the developer community. At last year’s Flight conference, CEO Jack Dorsey publicly apologized for the strained relationship between his company and developers, inviting them to submit suggestions and feedback using the hashtag #HelloWorld. Twitter said that supporting alt images was the fourth most-requested feature.

When you enable the feature through Twitter’s accessibility settings, the thumbnail of any image you tweet will contain an “add description” button that, when tapped, will open up a dialogue box. Here you can include a description of up to 420 characters.

In 2006, when Twitter was a text-only service, its “content was easily accessible to people who are visually impaired,” the company said in a blog post, adding, “Over the years, we’ve extended the platform to support a range of media, but we haven’t provided our users and developers with the tools to provide alternative text to images in tweets.”

To emphasize why this update is important to developers, Twitter explained that the community has tried to solve this problem before. In 2014, a workaround was created to allow EasyChirp users to post short and long descriptions of images. Then there was the Alt Text Bot, which allowed people to mention @alt_text_bot in a tweet or retweet with an attached image to receive a reply containing a text description.

Now there’s official support for this accessibility standard.

It’s somewhat difficult to believe that the average user would be willing to spend the time to add descriptions to images they include, but this certainly has an appeal to developers and publishers. Alt text isn’t a new thing in online technology — it’s been a standard for a while, from back when building websites was the thing to do. Its inclusion on tweets will probably be beneficial to the likes of the AP, BBC, Sky News, and the New York Times — all of which are launch partners — as it furthers the impact of their reach and readership.

If a publisher tweets out an article with an image containing alt text meta data, the image will retain the description when retweeted,. However, should someone tweet out a similar image, it will not contain the same meta data as the original.

In addition to the accessibility gains, another potential benefit of including alt text in images is that it should make it easier for search engines to identify specific tweets. Image content  is one of the things that Google, Yahoo, and Bing may look at in searches, and the addition of this feature could help with that. This could be useful not only with external search engines, but within Twitter’s search field as well, or through API partners.

The option of adding alt text to images is only available on Twitter’s iOS and Android apps, but users on the Web will still be able to read the text using their favorite application. TweetDeck has not been mentioned.

 

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Social – VentureBeat

Miitomo is a clever, Nintendo-like take on Facebook and Line

It turns out that Nintendo knows what it is doing.


Nintendo has finally entered the age of smartphones and tablets, and its first app has a lot of interesting features and quirks.

Miitomo is out today around the world for iOS and Android, and you can download it now. It is a social network with some light game elements. You spend most of your time interacting with your Mii — the cartoon avatars Nintendo has used since the Wii — and others’ Miis by answering their questions. Your friends will then see those answers over time as the come to visit your Mii or your Mii goes to visit them. The idea is to get you talking about yourself, and then Miitomo will help share these aspects of your personality with the people in your life.

And that concept works — although it may require a bit more of your time than you might expect at first.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the Japanese version of Miitomo (which is almost indistinguishable from the English version), and I’ve found that — once again — Nintendo has created something special.

And check out GamesBeat’s other reviews right here.

What you’ll like

Miitomo is polished

One of the best things about owning a Wii U is getting first-party Nintendo games in high definition. Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario Maker are so pleasant to play in part because the publisher puts polish into every corner of its products. With Miitomo, you can get some of that on your phone.

The blue text was what I wrote, and the black text is how the computer-controlled Mii responded to it.

Above: The blue text was what I wrote, and the black text is how the computer-controlled Mii responded to it.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

Visually, Miitomo is excellent. It runs at 60 frames per second, which makes everything look smooth and inviting. The Mii characters have never looked so detailed, and the animators have done a lot to ensure the avatars are simple but expressive.

But the quality here goes beyond the surface-level graphics. Nintendo has thought about the player experience in a much deeper way. When you comment on another friend’s answer, your Mii will react with an appropriate expression and animation while reading what you wrote in a funny text-to-speech voice. For example, one of my friend’s Miis asked me a 1-on-1 question (where the answer stayed between us) about “what were you doing a few minutes ago?” After I honestly answered “I was using the bathroom,” my friend’s Mii made a surprised face and apologized for disturbing me.

My friend had no hand in that. This was all a procedural action that Nintendo programmed into the character. It knew that if I said something about relieving myself during a 1-on-1 question, it should probably apologize.

You’ll find examples of the computer-controlled characters behaving in amazing, believable ways throughout Miitomo, and it is a big reason that the app is so much fun to explore.

The Miifoto tool is wonderful

As you answer questions in Miitomo, you’ll begin getting comments from your friends or you can to your friend’s answers and comment yourself. Most people just type a few words, but you can also leave an image called a “Miifoto.” These are pictures you can create using Miis and suite of simple editing tools.

In just a couple of minutes (sometimes faster than that), you can create a picture featuring up to five Miis. Since the app enables you to import any Mii that people previously created for the Wii, Wii U, 3DS, or the Tomodachi Life games using a QR code, you can also bring in famous people. Miitomo also has the option to import any image you want as a background, so you can quickly comment on the news or a friend’s vacation photos.

At this point, creating a Miifoto is my preferred way of responding to other people. It’s more fun and meaningful, and it doesn’t take that long to fire off something like this:

After a friend mentioned his favorite show right now is "Cowboy Bebop," I couldn't help but make this for him.

Above: After a friend mentioned his favorite show right now is “Cowboy Bebop,” I couldn’t help but make this for him.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

I really like answering questions 

I don’t like talking about myself. Well, that’s not exactly right. I don’t like holding an individual hostage with stories about my life while we’re talking in person. My belief is that most people aren’t interested in the details of my life, and I don’t want to put into the effort to make my complaints and my anecdotes entertaining. So, in person, I avoid talking about myself.

Miitomo is kinda meant for me. It empowers me to feel good about talking about the things I do and like and dislike, and then my Mii will go out and share that with people on their own time. If the other person isn’t interested, they can move on to something else.

Due to its smart use of questions and interpersonal interactions, Miitomo is carving out its own niche in my use of social media. Facebook is still for family and friends. Twitter is where I send off any random thought from my brain into the ether. But Miitomo is where I can talk about myself and know that others are doing the same.

What you won’t like

It’s rough on your battery and has lots of load times

So Nintendo put a lot of effort into Miitomo, but that comes with a cost.

Playing Miitomo can easily eat through your battery. It is graphically intensive, and those 60 frames per second require a lot of processing power. I’ve had Miitomo sessions that took my battery from 90 percent to 50 percent in less than half an hour. A big part of this is that Miitomo is most fun when you’re actively using it, which means you need to have your screen on. That alone is going to suck down watts. So the built-in battery-saving feature, which cuts down on visual quality and the framerate, doesn’t work any miracles.

Although, it's worth having a dead battery if you get to throw Donald Trump over a wall.

Above: Although, it’s worth having a dead battery if you get to throw Donald Trump over a wall.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

Nintendo also hasn’t quite figured out how to present the Miitomo experience so that you don’t run into a loading symbol after every screen. Nearly every action you perform comes with a small delay and the circular loading symbol. Now, we’re not talking Sega CD waiting times, but everything else on my LG G4 smartphone with Android 6.0 happens almost instantaneously. Why can’t Miitomo?

Miitomo is disorganized

If you come back to Miitomo after a day or two, you might expect that the “Recent” list would serve as the best place to get caught up on what has happened. That’s not the case. As far as I can tell, this tab offers some combination of your recent actions and not what your friends are up to.

This has left me wondering multiple times where I should start. Should I go to my friends list and click through names on that? Should I click on My Answers and see if anyone has responded?

The answer, as far as I can tell, is that you should probably just click on your character because that avatar will have some answers from friends and questions for you. But that makes all those tabs on the bottom confusing and distracting.

No easy way to add friends unless you already have a Twitter or Facebook account

Finally, Miitomo has no native way to add friends unless you are with them in person. You can’t send an invite to someone unless the app suggests them or you are already friends with them on Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t have Facebook and Twitter? I don’t know. You’re probably out of luck until you bump into someone else running the game.

Who needs friends when you can have a cat on your shoulder?

Above: Who needs friends when you can have a cat on your shoulder?

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

Conclusion

Nintendo is finally making smartphone games, and I think Miitomo is a strong start. It’s unique, which is something that I’m glad that the company is bringing to a somewhat stale smartphone scene. We’ll see how Miitomo grows from this point, but I’m enjoying it every day. I even put $ 10 into it to get some clothes that I really wanted from the store for my avatar and my Barack Obama Mii.

Will we still use Miitomo in a year? I think that’s possible, if Nintendo keeps adding new stuff to do and new ways to interact. And that’s a good sign as the company prepares to launch four other smartphone games before the end of 2016.

Score: 80/100

Miitomo is out now for iOS and Android devices. GamesBeat downloaded it from the Google Play app store. 

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