At the iPhone 7 event, Apple and Nintendo revealed that Mario would make his way to iOS devices this December. Well, today Nintendo revealed the exact date: December 15th. That’s the day Super Mario Run will be available to play on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The app can be downloaded for free, but you’ll only be able to play parts of the game’s three modes without handing over additional funds. To unlock the full game, you’ll have to pay $ 10.
When the time comes, Super Mario Run will be available in 151 countries (full list here) and 10 languages including English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Russian and traditional Chinese. If you happen to live in one of those locales, you’ll just need to make sure you have a device that runs iOS 8.0 or later in order to leap over obstacles, take on enemies and collect coins in a few weeks.
Don’t worry, Android faithful: Nintendo says you’ll get a chance to play the mobile game as well. Unfortunately, the company hasn’t announced when, just the vague “at some point in the future.”
Back in May at its I/O developer conference, Google introduced a pair of new communication apps: Allo for text-based communication and Duo for video calling. Allo is the more interesting of the two, with its deep usage of the intelligent Google Assistant bot — but Duo is the one we’ll get to try first. Google hopes it’ll stand out among a bevy of other communications apps thanks to a laser focus on providing a high-quality mobile experience. It’s available today for both the iPhone and Android phones.
“The genesis of Duo was we really saw a gap when it came to video calling,” Nick Fox, Google VP of communications products, said. “We heard lots of [user] frustration, which led to lack of use — but we also heard a lot of desire and interest as well.” That frustration came in the form of wondering who among your contacts you could have video calls with, wondering whether it would work over the wireless connection you had available and wondering if you needed to be calling people with the same type of phone or OS as yours.
To battle that, Google made Duo cross-platform and dead simple to use. You can only call one person at a time, and there’s barely any UI or features to speak of. But from a technology standpoint, it’s meant to work for anyone with a smartphone. “It shouldn’t just work on high-end devices,” said Fox. “It should work on high-end devices and on $ 50 Android phones in India.”
Google designed it to work across a variety of network connections as well. The app is built to provide HD video when on good networks and to gracefully and seamless adjust quality if things get worse. You can even drop down to a 2G connection and have video pause but have the audio continue. “We’re always prioritizing audio to make sure that you don’t drop communications entirely,” Fox said.
All of this is meant to work in the background, leaving the user with a clutter-free UI and basically no buttons or settings to mess with. Once you sign into the Duo app with your phone number (no Google login needed here), you’ll see what your front-facing camera sees. Below that are a handful of circles representing your most recent calls in the lower third of the screen. You can drag that icon list up and scroll through through your full list of contacts; if people in your phonebook don’t have the app, you can tap their number to send an SMS and invite them to Duo.
For those who do have Duo, tapping their number initiates a video call. Once you’re on the call, you just see the person you’re talking to, with your video feed in a small circle, not unlike Apple’s FaceTime. Tapping the screen reveals the only UI elements: a hang-up button, mute button and a way to flip between the front and back cameras.
Duo is even simpler than FaceTime, and far simpler than Google’s own Hangouts app, which the company says will now be more focused on business and enterprise users. In that focus on simplicity, Fox and his team left out a number of features you might find in other video-calling apps. Chief among them is that Duo can’t do group calls; it’s meant only for one-to-one calling. Google also decided against making desktop apps for Duo or Allo.
“We forced ourselves to think exclusively about the phone and design for the phone,” Fox says. “The desktop experience is something we may build over time. But if you look around the world at the billions of people that are connected to the internet, the vast majority have one device, and that device is a phone. So it was critical for us to really nail that use case.”
That’s part of the reason Google is tying Duo to a phone number rather than your Google account: Your phone already has your contacts built in, while many people might not curate or manage their Google contacts list. This way, you can see exactly who in your usual phone book is using Duo (and if they’re not, you can send them an SMS invite).
Perhaps the most clever feature Google included is Knock Knock. If you’re using an Android phone and someone calls, you’ll see a preview of their video feed on the lock screen. The person calling can wave or gesture or make a silly face to try and draw you into the conversation, and Fox says that makes the person on the receiving end a lot more likely to answer with a smile rather than a look of confusion as they wonder if they video is working properly. For the sake of privacy, you’ll only see a video feed from people in your contacts list, and you can turn the feature off entirely if you prefer.
It’s all part of Google’s goal to make the app not just simple but “human” as well. “It’s something that you don’t generally hear from Google when we talk about our apps,” Fox admits, “but video calling is a very human experience, so it’s very important that you feel that in the app as well.”
All of this adds up to a product that is refreshingly uncluttered and has a clear sense of purpose. It doesn’t fundamentally change the video-calling experience, but it is frictionless and very easy to use on a moment’s notice. Under the hood, the app does live up to its promise of updating the call based on changing network conditions — you can even flip between WiFi and cellular networks without dropping a call. There’s not a whole lot to say about the experience, and that’s probably for the best. You can make calls to people in your contacts list easily, not worry too much about dropping them, and then get on with your life.
That ease of use is what Google hopes will pull users into the app. It does indeed feel simpler than most other options out there. But given the huge variety of communication apps available and Google’s strange historical difficulty with the space, it’s not hard to imagine Duo being a niche app. That won’t be for lack of effort — Duo actually does make video chat easier than making a phone call.
When Walmart talked about a wide national release of its mobile payment service before the start of July, it wasn’t kidding around. Walmart Pay has launched in 14 more states on top of a slew of rollouts earlier in the month — it’s not quite ubiquitous (we count 33 states plus Washington, DC), but it’s close. This latest deployment includes heavily populated states like California, New York and Washington, so you’re far more likely to use your Android phone or iPhone to shop at the big-box retail chain.
As a reminder, Walmart Pay isn’t strictly a competitor for tap-to-pay options like Android Pay or Apple Pay. It’s more intended to streamline the checkout process using QR codes. With that said, it’s far too soon to tell how well it works in practice. Walmart’s service has only been available for about a month and a half in any state, and there just isn’t enough data to know whether or not customers will embrace it in earnest.
Shortly after its release in Iran, the country’s government banned the sale of 1979 Revolution, a game that allows players to witness the unrest as a photojournalist. Created by former Rockstar Games developer Navid Khonsari, the title combines video games and documentary filmmaker for a first-hand look at the events in Tehran in the late 1970s. The Iranian government didn’t think too highly of the project, as the National Foundation for Computer Games (NFCG) announced a plan to block sites like Steam and others that were selling the game less than two days after its April release. The NFCG called it “Anti-Iranian” and proceeded to confiscate copies of the title as well.
As another way to offer 1979 Revolution, Khnosari’s Ink Stories studio worked on an iOS version that’s available today. Bringing the game iPad and iPhone was always part of the plan, despite a PC and Mac release earlier this year. Once you download it, you’ll play through the campaign as photojournalist Reza Shirazi, the main character who returned to Tehran to document the events of 1978. As you might expect, Shirazi gets swept up in the covert happenings of the revolution, needing to act carefully to save himself and others.
Khonsari, who worked on Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise, was born in Iran and interviewed over 50 scholars on the events alongside is wife and co-producer. What’s more, he collected 1,500 photos in addition to home movies and audio recordings for use in the game. In fact, some of the audio is from speeches made by revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini. The mobile game will set you back $ 5 and it’s available now in the iTunes App Store.