App of the Week: Prismatic


Compatible with:
iPod Touch


iOS 5.0 or later



Available here

We live in a world of constant stimulation.

At no point in the day is the average person but mere moments away from an entire universe of information and entertainment both classic and current. You could call it overwhelming, but that doesn’t really seem fitting. Overwhelming would imply there is some kind of burden, when really it’s enjoyable how much we have access to, even if there is no good way to sift through it all, and find the bits most relevant and interesting to you.

New app Prismatic may have the answer to this dilemma. After you create your log-in through Facebook, Twitter, or G+ the app immediately starts learning about you and what you’re interested in. From there it begins to pull news stories from the world over and deliver them to you based on your interests. You can influence this story selection further by letting the app know what stories you like, and telling it various subjects, people, locations, or anything else you may be interested in. What’s even better is the app begins to  learn, and varies its selection eventually creating a constant flow of news made just for you.

Call it Spotify for news, and you’ve got the right idea. What’s even better is that it works as well as the famous music app. Of course, this isn’t a completely new idea for a program, as Google Reader and some other, similar apps have been offering this same feature for a while. Prismatic, though, is different because of how organic it feels. The layout of the app allows you to smoothly move between the stories themselves, and the features that let you input information to expand the stories the app suggests. When the app is working at its best, the effect truly feels like a virtual newspaper meant just for you. Better yet, you can share stories you find with friends, and them with you, allowing you to expand your interests and horizons even further.

Even in its early stage, Prismatic is an essential app. Even if you use it for nothing more than to gather your favorite topics in one place, it does it better than any of its competitors. But if you take the time to truly explore the abilities of Prismatic and create a news network with you at the center, then you are rewarded with a program that becomes as essential to check multiple times a day as your e-mail is. While I’m still waiting to see what great additions further development of this app will create, for now it’s still newsworthy enough for my app of the week.


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Is the Facebook Phone a Microsoft-grade error?

Facebook logo.

With all the buzz about Carrier IQ, most of the tech world’s attention has already turned away from “Buffy,” the rumored-and-all-but-confirmed Facebook phone. The shift is appropriate. Frankly, the Facebook phone is a mistake, and if Facebook really has been working on the project for two years, a colossal mistake. A Windows Phone grade mistake.

Don’t try to tell me Windows Phone was a success, either. Despite the recent upturn in market share, WP7 is still in dire straits. Some estimates put WP7 market share lower than Symbian. Yeah, that’s Nokia’s old OS. With the new deal between the two companies that will obviously shift, but Nokia hardware doesn’t have a shot in hell of saving Windows Phone. The operating system is already on some really nice hardware and it still won’t sell.

Here’s the rub, at least for Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 is a great OS. I mean that. It’s solid. It’s pretty. It’s fresh, certainly when compared to the increasingly homogeneous Android and iOS platforms. It still isn’t doing well. Microsoft may have spent as much as 500 million dollars marketing Windows Phone 7, to say nothing of the massive development overhead. It still isn’t doing well. Why is Facebook so ready to make the same mistake?

The easy answer: Apple and Google. Those two companies have a stranglehold on mobile computing. Facebook is on both platforms, but my guess is that Facebook is worried about one of those companies making a play that could push Facebook out. The Galaxy Nexus is shaping up to be a beautiful phone, a phone that Google is planning for serious Google+ integration. But Google+ is dead. A nursing home at best. Is Facebook really worried about that?

It also seems reasonable to wonder if Facebook branding will really sell a phone, and to whom? Unless Facebook can pull an Apple-style keynote that warrants the existence of the phone, I don’t see the appeal. Apple has sexy mobile locked down. Android has the nerd factor. Both of those brands carry weight across demographics. Where does Facebook play? The tween market? Yuck.

As long as Facebook remains easily accessible on every Android and iOS handset, a phone with deep Facebook integration won’t really have a market. Not anything significant, anyway. Not enough to offset the cash Facebook has dumped into big names and a severely protracted development cycle. Not by a long shot.