Welcome To Lightyear Wireless Cell Phone Forum For All Things Cell Phone Related!

Featured

We are a group of active cell phone enthusiasts who have set up this site as a place to talk about Lightyear Wireless and all things cell phone related. In the Lightyear Wireless cell phone forum you can ask/answer questions, discover how to save big money on your cell phone service, get tips and tricks, post cool apps, share or learn about rumors, phone accessories, customizing your phone, data, games, music, videos, cell phone trends, wireless technologies and new technologies, mobile developments, OS systems, likes/ dislikes about phone, carrier, etc… and even an unrelated forum area. To visit the Rant and Rave Cell Phone Forum click here.

 

Additionally, while you’re here be sure to check out our highly recommended wholesale cell phone service provider Lightyear Wireless. They offer “true” unlimited talk, text, and web (with no data cap or slow down) prepaid service for only $59.99 per month. No contract or credit check required! They don’t add the 28% in fee’s you typically see on your phone bill either. The only other fee Lightyear Wireless will charge you is state sales tax. For example in Rhode Island the whole bill is $64.17 and your bill will stay the same every month. In Florida there is no state sales tax so you only pay $59.99. Incredibly, they even offer customers a way to earn FREE unlimited service with their refer 5 plan. For all the details about Lightyear Wireless click here.

 

Thanks very much for stopping by and please share this site with your friends.

Tags: , , , ,

Photo: Facebook announces redesign for Android smartphone app – @YahooTech

Photo: Facebook announces redesign for Android smartphone app - @YahooTech Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pro-Russian militants continue occupation of goverment buildings in eastern Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian activists continued their defiant occupation of government buildings across eastern Ukraine on Friday, though some of their leaders said they would surrender weapons and pull back if the Ukrainian security forces also withdrew.

The pro-Russian militants occupying the Donetsk government offices said they supported an accord signed Thursday in Geneva that seeks to calm the potential for violence in the restive region. But they said they would lay down their weapons and leave only if the new national government in Kiev steps down.

“It is an illegal junta,” said Anatoliy Onischenko, of the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the organization that has occupied the regional parliament building. A separate group is occupying the Donetsk City Hall.

Other pro-Russian activists also said they would not leave the occupied buildings as long as pro-government protesters still were massed in Kiev’s Independence Square.

The pro-Russian activists did not appear to be preparing to decamp, and so the standoff looked likely to continue.

In the parliament in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday that the new government was watching to see what the pro-Russian activists would do on the heels of the Geneva agreement. The accord, reached by top diplomats from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, is intended to defuse the Ukrainian crisis and includes provisions aimed at stopping violence and provocative acts. The deal also calls for all illegal groups to be disarmed.

The prime minister said parliament was ready to pass a bill that would grant amnesty to protesters who vacate occupied buildings and put down their weapons, but he said he did not have “unreasonable” expectations that the stalemate would quickly end.

“Russia had no other choice but to sign the statement and condemn extremism,” he said. “Having signed this statement, Russia effectively asked these “peaceful protesters” with Kalashnikov assault rifles and air defense missile systems to immediately disarm and surrender their weapons.”

On Thursday, Ukrainian forces engaged pro-Russian separatists in what appeared to be the most intense battle yet in restive eastern Ukraine, killing three militants and wounding 13 after what the Interior Ministry described as a siege of a military base.

“A mob of 300 militants, wielding guns, molotov cocktails and homemade explosives, attacked the Ukrainian military outpost in the city overnight,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement. The attack, he said, was repelled by National Guard and police in Mariupol, a southeastern city on the Sea of Azov.

After a “short battle,” Ukrainian commandos and counterintelligence units fanned out into the city by ground and helicopter in an operation to round up militants, Avakov said. He said 63 separatists have been detained in the operation, which he described as ongoing. Avakov reported no causalities among Ukrainian forces.

“Weapons, communication equipment and mobile phones were confiscated,” he said. “The identities of the detained persons are being established.”

Speaking at the parliament Thursday morning in the capital, Kiev, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the pro-Russian gang attempted to storm the base three times and carried automatic weapons, according to an Associated Press report.

Avakov said Ukrainian forces opened fire only after being attacked and firing warning shots in the air. “Following further warnings, they executed ‘shoot to kill’ instructions in compliance with their charter, after they were attacked once again,” Avakov said.

A dark YouTube video purportedly documenting the clash captured the sound of gunfire and militants hurling molotov cocktails into the outpost. Separatists yelled, “Go home, Bandera,” a reference to Stepan Bandera, a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis and is seen as a symbol of the divisions between eastern and western Ukraine.

In Mariupol, a grisly tableau of bloodstains lined the scene beyond the ruined gates of the military base Thursday. A wrecked jeep — its windows and tires broken and its frame dented and partially crushed — rested in front of two military trucks being used as impromptu barricades. Remains of molotov cocktails were scattered inside the entrance to the base, where nervous young soldiers tried unsuccessfully to keep onlookers from gazing at the wreckage.

In the afternoon, the city remained calm, but tensions were high at the scene of the clash, where clusters of pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian residents were engaging in heated arguments over the future of the country. Pro-Ukrainians accused some present of being on the payroll of local Russian operatives. One pro-Russian man, who gave his name only as Konstantin, was accompanied by a man carrying video cameras, who described himself as a journalist supporting the militants who have taken over official buildings in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Waving his finger, Konstantin, who said he had formerly served in the Soviet military, accused residents who support the Kiev government of being American lapdogs. “Don’t listen to them; they are trying to turn brother against brother,” he said, referring to Russians and Ukrainians.

“Why did they open fire? These were peaceful protests!” Konstantin continued. Moments later, however, he conceded that the pro-Russians who had gathered here last night had hurled molotov cocktails at the Ukrainian troops.

The base sits only a short distance away from the Mariupol City Hall, which was seized by pro-Russian militants last week and remained under their control Thursday. Eyewitnesses and military officials said the clash began at 7:50 p.m., when hundreds of pro-Russian activists — some in green camouflage and wearing balaclava masks — marched to the gates and demanded that the military surrender weapons that had been moved to the base for safekeeping from police stations around this port city.

Witnesses said the protest seemed to start peacefully, but by 8:30 p.m. local time, the crowd grew belligerent, throwing makeshift explosives over the gates and firing bullets. A 75-year-old who lives next door to the outpost and gave her name only as Klavdia said she heard a Ukrainian military official ask the crowd to disperse.

She said the soldier called out: “Please put down the weapons and molotovs. We don’t want blood.’’

But his warning was ignored, she said, and troops fired in the air. Enraged protesters soon stormed the gates, leading to exchanges of gunfire that left the bodies of dead and wounded strewn on the asphalt outside.

The Ukrainian military set up check points around Mariupol on Thursday, and newly arrived special forces were apparently seeking to identify the camps being used by pro-Russian militants. But there was no immediate sign of an attempt to raid the occupied City Hall, where anti-Kiev militants could be seen patrolling the grounds.

Ukraine is struggling to restore order in the eastern part of the country, where it says Russian special operatives are aiding local separatists in organized and well-armed occupations of official buildings in cities including Mariupol, a municipality of almost half a million people.

Ukrainian forces have seemed to be treading carefully, out of fear both of wounding civilians and of giving Russia a pretext to openly join the fight.

On Wednesday, a squad of separatists backed by seven masked gunmen in camouflage stormed the headquarters of Donetsk’s mayor and local council. By afternoon, more than 40 pro-Russian militants had occupied the building but were allowing officials to go about their business inside.

City workers shuffled to and from meetings under the watchful gaze of militants — many of them clutching automatic weapons — who loitered in the corridors. A few police officers strolled outside without attempting to intervene, evidence of the government’s tenuous grip on the region.

The militants said they are not connected with a similar group that occupied the regional headquarters in this city 10 days ago, but they issued at least one similar demand. They called for a referendum on May 11 with two questions: whether the populace agreed with the creation of a new Donetsk People’s Republic and, if so, whether it should be part of Ukraine or Russia.

“Why should we consider Russia a hostile state?” asked Alexander Zakharchenko, a commander of the militants at City Hall. “They are the closest people to us in the world.” He commands the Donetsk branch of a group called Oplot, a pro-Russia movement that started as a fight club of young men in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, to the north.

In this region of coal mines and machinery plants, where according to a local saying, “people work, not protest,” residents often tend to vote with their stomachs.

And there is no doubt that bread-and-butter issues are influencing the debate here. There are mixed feelings in the east, for instance, over the new government’s move to sign a trade deal with European Union that could lead Russia to slap higher duties on Ukrainian imports.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Week in Tech: 5 must-know things

Jefferson Graham runs down the week's tech headlines, highlighted by Google Glass, Joe Biden's selfie and a new Family Guy app.

SHARE 1 MORE

LOS ANGELES — Search giant Google dominated the week's tech headlines, both up in the skies and down on the ground.

On Monday, Google said it would acquire drone maker Titan Aerospace. The hope is that the release of drones one day could bring Internet service to little-served rural areas.

On Tuesday, Google really got people going when it offered its Glass computerized eyewear for sale to the general public, for the first time. The price tag: a whopping $1,500 a pair. By the end of the day, Glass was sold out. Google still won't say when Glass will be readily available, but our best guess is sometime by the summer.

Later in the week, Google unveiled a new photography app for Android devices, Google Camera, which simulates the blurred background look that you get with DSLR cameras. The company also announced earnings, reporting sales of $15.4 billion, up from $12.95 billion in the first quarter of 2013. But Wall Street expected more and was disappointed with the results.

Meanwhile, other headlines from the week:

A MOBILE PLAY FOR FARMVILLE

From new products to an old one. Remember the game FarmVille that we used to play for hours on Facebook? You know, the game where your friends used to bug you to buy livestock and acres for their farms? Well, game maker Zynga is trying to revive interest, with an all-new version of the game, this time aimed at mobile audiences. The big difference for FarmVille 2: Country Escape is less emphasis on sharing on Facebook, and more on using your iPhone or Android device.

FACEBOOK FRIENDS, FLICKR NEWS

Many popular apps got updates. Facebook will add a new "Nearby Friends" feature in coming weeks, letting you discover the whereabouts of your pals in real time. And Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing app got a major update, bringing it more in line with photo app powerhouse Instagram and letting you share images across multiple sites. Like Google +, the new Flickr makes an automatic backup of your camera phone images, and invites you to post them to Flickr, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

BIDEN JOINS INSTAGRAM

Speaking of Instagram, the Facebook-owned app got a new, high-profile user this week: Vice President Biden. So far he's posted a handful of images. The highlight: a selfie with the VP and President Obama.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden(Photo: Instagram)

Bonus: APP CHARTS

Finally, speaking of apps, a new one based on the hit TV show Family Guy is zooming up the Apple and Android charts. Family Guy: A Quest for Stuff lets you dress up your favorite characters with silly outfits, and send them on new adventures.

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter.

SHARE 1 MORE
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to cut the costs of TV viewing

Kim Komando , Special for USA TODAY 7 a.m. EDT April 18, 2014

SHARE 3 MORE

I suspect you're like me. You just want to sit down in front of the TV and find something interesting to watch. Fat chance of that these days. Watching your favorite shows is getting more complicated. It's also getting more expensive.

What's wrong with this picture?

For starters, let's look at the current TV landscape. We've got cable, satellite and over-the-air broadcasts. We've got basic stations and premium ones. We've got online video-streaming gadgets like the Apple TV, the Roku box, Google's Chromecast and smart TVs, which can sidestep cable TV.

If you ditch cable for streaming, though, you'll need to choose from the iTunes Store, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and many other streaming services. Each has distinctive pros and cons but overall inconsistent support on the streaming hardware.

(For you technically astute, I know that there are also the game consoles that offer programming, but let's not even go there.)

If that wasn't enough, Amazon debuted a new box dubbed FireTV for movies, television shows and games. There are also reports of a new Android set-top box from Google that does the same. And not to be left out, there are announcements of a new slate of high-end shows, from Yahoo and Microsoft, getting into the original video programming area.

I suppose I should be thankful for all of this variety, but I'm really just tearing my hair out.

It's a free country, and any company that wants to get into this crazy game can. I understand that there are a lot of interested parties. On the one hand, there are old-school operations like the big cable companies (who want to keep subscribers tied to their big monthly fees) and the hardware makers (like Sony, which makes TVs, high-end game boxes and also owns movie and TV studios).

On the other are the economic disruptors, like Netflix or Apple or Amazon, that have the desire to bring this whole business into the 21st century and have the money to elbow their way into the mix.

I wish I could tell you things are going to get better. For now, they are not. None of these parties has a vested interest in making things easier for us, the consumers. The digital companies, I'll grant you, probably are a bit more idealistic about getting us together under one easy-to-use roof. But they've been frustrated by the old guard in the past and have basically just declared war.

In this analogy, that makes me and you the folks who duck and cover.

What to do in the meantime? To start, try to bring down those cable bills.

Call your cable company. Tell them, sincerely, your cable bills are too high and you need to cut some services; you might come out with a good deal. Or threaten to go to satellite or cut the cord entirely.

Next, consider whether you actually can live without cable. A lot of shows are available online.

If you're a news junkie, a little bit of time figuring out the browser called Tor will let you stream a lot of news programming live. Most cable providers don't let outlets like CNN stream live. They can be seen overseas however, and Tor disguises your country of origin.

If you're with me this far, and you don't have a streaming box yet, that's where your next decision lies. With all these companies vying for consumers, their products are reasonably priced, and quite powerful.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com.

SHARE 3 MORE
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Q and A: Making money on YouTube

Kim Komando, Special for USA TODAY 7 a.m. EDT April 18, 2014

SHARE 1 MORE

Q. My boys, ages 11 and 12, are visiting relatives in China and have been making great movies on their journey. Is there a way they can make some money with these videos?

A. There are lots of people making millions on YouTube. It's a matter of getting something to go viral. So where do you start? Most viral videos tell a story, spark emotions, are awe-inspiring, funny or a combination of these. They are usually between 45 seconds to 2 minutes. You should submit your videos to a site like No Entry Fee Festivals or Vimeo.com. If either of these sites pick up just one of your videos, you will be all set. Otherwise, keep your YouTube page up to date and keep the content flowing. You will want to post at least one new video per week to keep your audience engaged.

WINDOWS TABLET TO REPLACE AN ANDROID

Q. I recently bought an Android tablet for work and have been very disappointed. It doesn't work with the programs I need, such as QuickBooks and Microsoft Office. Are Windows tablets better at handling this type or work? If so, which one do you suggest?

A. The Surface Pro 2 is like a laptop in tablet form. It runs a full version of Windows 8, meaning it will run any Microsoft program. Of course, it's a laptop price starting at $900. Depending on your budget, that might be a little steep. You might be better off getting a bulkier — but still fast — Windows laptop for $500 to $600.

WIRELESS WAYS TO LOCK UP

Q. I think I heard that there was a new wireless keyless door locking system introduced at the Las Vegas tech show a few months ago. You could control it with an iPhone or iPad. Do you have a link to any information about this system?

A. Not only was Kevo at The Consumer Electronics Show this year, it won the 2014 CES Innovations Award, and also featured on the show "Shark Tank." This system turns your iPhone 4s, 5, 5c and 5s (support for other phones is still in development) into your house key – although you can also opt to get a key fob if you wish to keep smartphones out of the equation. You just need to get the Kevo app and keep your phone in your pocket or purse. When you want to get into your house or office, simply touch the lock to open it. It's as easy as that. However, you will need to pay for the special lock, which is around $200 and some change. The upside to Kevo is that you can give out an unlimited number of keys, so if you run a large office or warehouse, giving out multiple keys to employees won't be a problem.

REARRANGE YOUR MONITOR FOR COMFORT

Q. I have to strain my eyes to see text on my monitor. Am I sitting too far away?

A. Possibly. Try tinkering with your font size before you arrange your monitor, though. In Windows, go to Control Panel>>Appearance and Personalization>>Personalization>>Adjust Font Size. For Macs, go to Apple>>System Preferences>>Universal Preferences>>Seeing. For ideal comfort, your monitor should be about an arm's length away from you. Adjust it so the top of the screen is at or just below your eye level. Of course, make sure your monitor is pointed away from any glare that could reflect off of it for maximum comfort. There are also plenty of apps that can help you fight eye strain. Click here to see what they are.

UNDERWATER CAMERA FOR VACATION

Q. I'm going to the Dominican Republic for my 25th wedding anniversary. We plan on doing a lot of snorkeling, so I was wondering what kind of underwater cameras out there and what kind I should get?

A. You have a couple of options. Most point and shoot cameras can get the job done when you add a waterproof casing. But since it's a special occasion, the Go Pro is the highest standard for these types of cameras. Go Pros can be a little pricey (The GoPro 3+ is $400), so if you want a similar camera for a little less, you can try the Garmin VIRB, priced at $300.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com.

SHARE 1 MORE
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Commentary: Envisioning a brave new world of e-commerce

Rob LoCascio, SPECIAL FOR USA TODAY 3:38 p.m. EDT April 18, 2014

SHARE 3 MORE

NEW YORK -- With all the exciting advancements in consumer technology, why is it that innovation in e-commerce is stagnant?

The status quo of the digital shopping experience has not changed since the dawn of the Internet. Today's consumer experience still consists of a two-dimensional, unimaginative website. Yet, when you look at consumer technology, there is an exciting world of wearable's, "smart" technology, and even virtual augmentation.

Why the disconnect?

With all the capabilities we have today -- power of big data and the proliferation of communication platforms and technologies -- the digital shopping experience has the potential to be exciting. Yet, it makes up only 7% of U.S. retail sales, according to Forrester Research, and conversion rates hover around 1% to 2% -- virtually unchanged since 1995. Additionally, up to 70% of traffic driven from search bounces off the first page of a website, never making it past one click.

Search is the main culprit. Companies, namely Google, emerged early on to provide consumers a better way to navigate content. Simultaneously, it began to shape the rules of e-commerce that we know today. Brands now have to play by certain rules to be "searchable," focusing on SEO content and keywords versus the consumer experience itself.

Marketers seeing fewer returns on search spend and also getting less data, leaving consumers increasingly dissatisfied.

It's hard to believe we have some industry leaders bold enough to predict "The end of the Internet" by crowning the app era. But, with consumers spending more time on their mobile phones versus their PCs and laptops, according to Nielsen, it's apparent mobile commerce does not face the same challenges of e-commerce.

That said, it is the mobile movement that is going to transform communication. Consumers today are choosing to connect via mobile messaging platforms over email, voice, or SMS. In less than three years, more than 1.5 billion consumers around the world are using these mobile platforms.

While cost may have initially driven adoption for regions outside the US where SMS is costly, the reasons these apps boast high rates of engagement is because it enables consumers to have rich, real-time, one to one interactions, wherever they are.

The 1.5 billion consumers using platforms today are the digital shoppers of tomorrow, and they'll expect the same experience from their favorite brands. This will be the new standard.

While challenging Google's model seems like a daunting task, many brands are already looking to challenge it.

One example is eBay, who commissioned a survey challenging the effectiveness of paid search. It found if it shut down keywords, in which it spends $51 million annually, it would lose less than 3% of its traffic. Its findings suggest "the efficacy of SEM is weak, a conclusion that is likely to apply to other large brands that together spend billions of dollars a year on Internet marketing."

So, why should brands continue to invest in paid traffic, which is arguably becoming less and less qualified, rather than putting dollars towards delivering an exciting, one-on-one experience to its consumers?

Companies need to invest in a strategy that lets them build powerful, one-to-one relationships with their customers across all digital touch points, so that search eventually becomes an unnecessary step between consumer and brand. An e-commerce experience should be more like a high-end boutique versus a vending machine.

Wherever your consumers are connecting with you, they should feel excited about engaging with your brand directly and eager to spend time and money with you.

With all of the technology, connectivity and multi-channel functionality at our disposal, we have the power to create a brave new world of e-commerce: an emotional experience that truly creates lifetime relationships.

Robert LoCascio is founder and CEO of LivePerson, an online marketing and web analytics company.

SHARE 3 MORE
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Zynga bets the Farm(Ville) on mobile

After spending years building its wealth through the desktop computer, Zynga is ready to bet the farm on mobile.

On Thursday, the video game maker launches its next title starring its biggest franchise, FarmVille, at what might be the most critical point in the company's seven-year history.

FarmVille 2: Country Escape, available Thursday for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, represents the vision of new CEO Don Mattrick, who took over nearly nine months ago to revamp Zynga's games business.

This next installment of FarmVille, which has attracted more than 400 million players since it launched five years ago, also marks a new approach for Zynga: building games focused first on the surging mobile audience.

"I feel we've made good progress on what's a long journey," Mattrick says of the company's attempted turnaround. "This market is a really exciting market to participate in. The growth of mobile devices, the success that we're seeing from other companies, is inspiring to myself and to our team. We recognize that the opportunity is there to compete and win."

A scene from FarmVille 2: Country Escape for Apple iOS and Google Android devices.(Photo: Zynga)

Times have changed since 2009, when Zynga began its ascent with FarmVille. Two years after Mark Pincus founded Zynga in 2007, the company launched FarmVille as a "social game" that let players manage their own farms, from harvesting crops to raising animals.

FarmVille leveraged another new player in the video game space: Facebook. The game took advantage of Facebook's growing audience to spread the word, through friend requests to start their own farms or offerings of fresh crops.

"Because they were attached to Facebook, they had almost that built-in growth right there on their doorstep," said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. "They just had to take advantage of it."

FarmVille became Zynga's biggest hit. Nine weeks after making its debut in June 2009, the game topped 11 million daily active users, averaging more than 1 million new users a week. To date, players have spent more than $1 billion on FarmVille. The franchise spawned other Zynga titles carrying the Ville moniker, from CityVille to ChefVille, although none managed to top the popularity of FarmVille.

"There was a time where (FarmVille) was sort of the 'it' game on Facebook," says Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz. "And Facebook was sort of the 'it' place to be for the casual gamer."

The rise of games such as FarmVille and the Scrabble-like game Words With Friends transformed Zynga into a gaming behemoth, leading to an initial public offering in 2011.

Then a new gaming platform started to emerge: the mobile device. Smartphones and tablets replaced Facebook as the hot spots for casual games, and some players ditched their farms for games such as Rovio's Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga, from casual games darling King, which just followed Zynga's footsteps by launching its own initial public offering last month.

According to research firm Gartner, the mobile games business raked in $13 billion in revenue worldwide last year. By 2015, it could top $22 billion.

"Out of all the video game segments, it's mobile that's growing the fastest," says Blau.

Zynga was one of countless companies caught unprepared for the mobile boom. "They've really struggled on mobile," says Creutz. "Their Facebook business has been declining for a while."

Overall, Zynga's player base shrunk from 311 million monthly active users during the third quarter of 2012 to 112 million following the fourth quarter of last year. Annual revenue dipped from $1.28 billion in 2012 to $873 million last year. Meanwhile, Zynga shares sunk after its IPO launch. Following a peak of $14.69 in early March 2012, shares have failed to close above $10 in two years.

The declines forced Zynga to cut more than 500 jobs last June, its biggest layoff ever. The following month, Pincus named former Microsoft Xbox chief Mattrick as CEO.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

"He's been very supportive," Mattrick says of his relationship with Pincus. "We were able to define a relationship where he would empower me and encourage me to be CEO, where he understood that there can only be two hands on the steering wheel at any point and time. Our relationship has been intellectually rewarding."

Mattrick's arrival was the first of several executive changes at Zynga. Last fall, Mattrick appointed former Electronic Arts colleague Clive Downie as chief operating officer. Last week, the company named Best Buy veteran David Lee its chief financial officer.

"The company needed strong leadership," says Downie. "It needed a set of principles and a strategic framework and road map to work against."

One of Mattrick's early tasks was turning Zynga's development attention toward mobile. He says 75% of the company's new titles are being developed to work best on smartphones and tablets, with a goal of more than half their revenue coming from mobile this year.

Mattrick and Downie repeatedly stress a deeper focus on customers, leaning heavily on consumer feedback in creating FarmVille 2: Country Escape. "We're finally delivering something that aligns with the new devices and new consumer patterns people are using all over the world," said Mattrick.

The most notable difference is in the game's social makeup. FarmVille was known for peppering Facebook feeds with endless notifications and requests. With the new game, Zynga is giving players more options on how to share with friends.

"We heard from consumers that social control is very important," says Downie.

Jamie Davies, general manager of FarmVille 2: Country Escape, says players will still harvest crops and manage resources, but the game will also better suit the current habits of mobile players.

"Lifestyles have changed," says Davies. "People are on the go. We take our devices with us everywhere we go. We want more real-time satisfaction. I think of it as growing the franchise by bringing a more modern take and keeping up with the lifestyle of our players."

Country Escape is only the beginning of Zynga's plan at a resurgence. "Mobile-first" versions of Words With Friends and Zynga Poker are in the works. Mattrick says the company is also working on "new things," but would not elaborate on what experiences to expect.

One of those "new things" could be linked to NaturalMotion, the mobile game maker purchased by Zynga in January for $527 million. The developer created mobile titles CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja. "They're going to develop racing games," says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

Whether Mattrick's plan pulls Zynga out of its doldrums remains to be seen. Next week, Zynga reports quarterly earnings, a potential gauge of the company's current health. But Pachter believes Mattrick can help navigate the struggling games company back to its former glory.

"He's got a textbook approach to how to grow the business, which is go after the biggest opportunities," says Pachter. "I expect he will thrive. I expect he will get it right."

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @bam923.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pro-Russian militants killed in clash at Ukraine port city

After a “short battle,” Ukrainian commandos and counterintelligence units fanned out into the city by ground and helicopter in an operation to round up militants. He said that 63 separatists had been detained in what remained an ongoing operation. Avakov reported no causalities among Ukrainian forces.

“Weapons, communication equipment and mobile phones were confiscated,” he said. “The identities of the detained persons are being established.”

Avakov said Ukrainian forces opened fire only after being attacked, and firing warning shots in the air. “Following further warnings, they executed ‘shoot to kill’ instructions in compliance with their charter, after they were attacked once again,” Avakov said.

A dark YouTube video purportedly documenting the clash captured the sound of gunfire and militants hurling Molotov cocktails into the outpost. Separatists yelled, “go home, Bandera,” a reference to Stepan Bandera, a controversial World War II era Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis and is seen as a symbol of the divisions between eastern and western Ukraine.

The incident came as Ukraine is struggling to restore order in eastern Ukraine, where it says Russian special operatives are aiding local separatists in organized and well-armed occupations of official buildings in cities across the region including Mariupol, a municipality of almost half a million people.

Ukrainian forces have seemed to be treading carefully, out of fear both of wounding civilians and of giving Russia a pretext to openly join the fight.

On Wednesday, a squad of separatists backed by seven masked gunmen in camouflage stormed the headquarters of Donetsk’s mayor and local council. By afternoon, more than 40 pro-Russia militants had occupied the building but were allowing officials to go about their business inside.

City workers shuffled to and from meetings under the watchful gaze of militants — many of them clutching automatic weapons — who loitered in the corridors. A few police officers strolled outside without attempting to intervene, evidence of the government’s tenuous grip on the region.

The militants said they are not connected with a similar group that occupied the regional headquarters in this city 10 days ago, but they issued at least one similar demand. They called for a referendum on May 11 with two questions: whether the populace agreed with the creation of a new Donetsk People’s Republic and, if so, whether it should be part of Ukraine or Russia.

“Why should we consider Russia a hostile state?” asked Alexander Zakharchenko, a commander of the militants at City Hall. “They are the closest people to us in the world.” He commands the Donetsk branch of a group called Oplot, a pro-Russia movement that started as a fight club of young men in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, to the north.

In this region of coal mines and machinery plants, where according to a local saying, “people work, not protest,” residents often tend to vote with their stomachs.

And there is no doubt that bread-and-butter issues are influencing the debate here. There are mixed feelings in the east, for instance, over the new government’s move to sign a trade deal with European Union that could lead Russia to slap higher duties on Ukrainian imports.

Ukrainian academics in the east, such as Yuri Makogon at Donetsk National University, are calling for a balanced economic relationship between Russia and Europe. Last year, Russian wrath over an earlier E.U. agreement led Moscow to crack down on Ukrainian imports. That prompted Yanukovych’s veto of the deal, which ultimately sparked a showdown with pro-Western protesters.

Fears of lost jobs if the relationship permanently sours between Kiev and Moscow run deep. For instance, Kramatorsk, the eastern city where pro-Russia residents joined hands to halt the advance by Ukrainian troops Wednesday, is home to the sprawling Novokramatorsky Machinery Plant, a manufacturer of mining equipment heavily reliant on exports to Russia.

“I don’t know how this will end, but for easterners, it cannot end with bad relations with Russia,” Ilya said.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hands-on: ‘FarmVille’ shifts to fertile mobile space

SHARE 1 MORE

There was a point in time where Zynga's cash cow Farmville was almost impossible to escape.

At the peak of Farmville's popularity, you could just log in to Facebook, scroll through your feed and find plenty of "gifts" from cows to blueberries. That's not counting the number of requests from friends to start your own farm. It bordered on spamming.

So, for the revamped Farmville appearing on mobile devices -- FarmVille 2: Country Escape -- developers took the advice of its former and current players in creating a fun game while giving them the power to regulate if and when they reached out to friends.

"Loud and clear, we heard from them that they don't want to have to connect to Facebook to play the game," says Jonathan Knight, vice president of games at Zynga. "They don't want to feel like they're having to bother friends to play this game."

MORE: Zynga bets the Farm(Ville) on mobile

When players first boot up FarmVille on their iPad, iPhone or Android device, they can choose how to connect: Facebook, Google+ or Apple's GameCenter. Then, they get started building out their farms.

Gameplay starts out simple, with players learning to grow wheat or apples, which they harvest and sell. Then, you add cows, chickens and other livestock for additional goods. As players earn money, they add windmills or ovens to make more sophisticated items like pies or biscuits, which sell for even more money.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

The primary currency is gold coins, but players also get keys to help unlock equipment or crops more quickly. Unlike FarmVille games on the Web, the mobile version offers an endless supply of water to help grow crops.

It's the standard FarmVille experience, with an updated look and feel. The touchscreen controls work great, allowing players to easily tap and swipe to harvest wheat or feed livestock.

But where this version of FarmVille stands out is in how you interact with other players. You control how and when to share information or gifts. In fact, players could quietly grow their farm on their own without ever sharing a single crop.

"It's better with friends," says Knight. "But we have listened to players and given them control over the level of social gameplay that best suits them."

However, making the experience more social has perks. Connect Country Escape to a farm in the FarmVille 2 game for browsers and you can exchange goods. Link a Facebook account to earn keys, or share your adventures with friends with more perks to help grow your farm. It's there for players to enjoy at their leisure, but not required.

And judging from my brief experience with FarmVille 2: Country Escape, it seems Zynga is serious about this renewed shift to mobile. Players can easily launch the game, spend as much or as little time as they want, then revisit their farm whenever they want. It's fun, simple and focuses on the elements of FarmVille that veteran players have enjoyed.

This approach goes back to one of the goals for CEO Don Mattrick, who took the top job at Zynga nine months ago.

"We really took a step back and decided that we were going to double down on customer, and thinking about ways to deliver surprise and delight to consumers," said Mattrick.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @bam923.

SHARE 1 MORE
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Kill switch’ coming soon to your phone

  • "Kill switch" will become standard on smartphones in U.S. in 2015
  • The tech allows users to wipe and shut down their phones remotely
  • Apple, Google and Samsung are among those signed up
  • Many states may soon make such features mandatory

(CNN) -- The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players.

Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group.

All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft.

"We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen," said Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA. "This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain."

'Kill switch' to be standard on phones
Carriers block smartphone 'kill switch'

HTC, Motorola, Nokia are among the other smartphone makers who have signed up, along with carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular.

The feature would let a phone's owner erase contacts, photos, e-mail and other information, and lock the phone so it can't be used without a password.

The feature, which will be offered at no cost to consumers, also will prevent the phone from being reactivated without an authorized user's consent. The data would be retrievable if the owner recovers the phone.

Some phone makers already include the ability to remotely wipe phones. In Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, a feature called Activation Lock lets users prevent their phones from being reactivated even if they're reset.

The new pledge marks a reversal for wireless carriers, who have resisted making the kill-switch feature mandatory. Industry representatives have said they fear hackers exploiting remote-kill technology, while critics accuse the industry of not wanting to lose revenue from replacing and activating stolen phones.

Carriers have faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, some of whom are working on laws at the state level that would require remote shutdown capability.

In Minnesota, the state legislature could pass a mandatory kill-switch bill as early as next week.

Oregon state Sen. Bruce Starr, president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, said his group "applauds today's announcement unveiling the wireless industry's commitment to reduce the number of smartphone thefts each year by providing anti-theft tools on future devices."

"This voluntary effort serves as another positive illustration of the wireless industry adapting to address consumer needs through self-regulation," he said.

But an optional deal didn't go far enough for others.

"The wireless industry today has taken an incremental yet inadequate step to address the epidemic of smartphone theft," said California state Sen. Mark Leno, who represents parts of San Francisco, in a statement. "Only weeks ago, they claimed that the approach they are taking today was infeasible and counterproductive."

Leno fears that because consumers would need to activate the feature, many phones would remain unprotected.

"While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today's 'opt-in' proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets."

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,