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January 15 2014

Mobile-App Use Increased 115% in 2013

If you used mobile apps more often last year than in any previous year, you're not alone. Mobile-app use increased 115% in 2013, according to Flurry Analytics.

The largest surge was in use of messaging and social apps, up 203% in 2013. News and magazine apps saw the smallest increase of just 31%

Statista's chart, below, shows relative increases in different app categories in 2013.

2014_01_14_App_UseHave something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Image: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

More about Mobile Application, Mobile Apps, Tech, and Apps Software

June 17 2013

'Question Bridge' Project Inspires Dialogue Among African-American Men

The Question Bridge project, a multimedia art initiative meant to "represent and redefine Black male identity in America," has taken to Kickstarter with Question Bridge Interactive. Through the funding effort, the creators hope to expand their message by developing a multimedia online platform through which the project can go viral.

Question Bridge attempts to combat stereotypes and public misconceptions about African-American men by presenting a video dialogue among people of diverse socioeconomic, geographical, cultural, and religious backgrounds and ages.


More about Video, Mobile Application, Multimedia, Kickstarter, and Apps Software

January 10 2012

Spotify to End Unlimited Free Streaming for Some Users Next Week

Spotify Founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon

Spotify’s unlimited free streaming and sharing service was music to American ears when it launched in July 2011. Now comes a dissonant note: ten-hour monthly caps will be implemented on all free accounts when the six-month promotional period comes to an end for early adopters next week.

“All new Spotify users, both in the U.S. and in all other countries in which Spotify is available, are able to enjoy an unlimited free service for their first six months. As we have previously stated, after a Spotify user has enjoyed free unlimited listening for six months, some changes to the free service will come into effect,” the company said in a statement.

Spotify has garnered 10 million users worldwide and a base of more than 2.5 million paid subscribers since it was developed in Sweden in 2008 and launched in various parts of Europe.

Free versions of the desktop app were available through invites only. An unlimited service was offered at $4.99 per month and the premium service was available for $9.99 per month. The Spotify Unlimited and Spotify Premium services were available free of ads and with unlimited music.

Spotify Premium ($9.99) offers offline playlists, unlimited ad-free music and enhanced sound.

The number of users exploded after users were able to sign in and download the Spotify music software via Facebook, avoiding the invite-only process. It was never meant to be a free service that would last forever. Unlimited free streaming was set to expire for U.S. users after they used the app for six months of streaming, as it had with the launch of the app in the UK in 2008.

Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek, while announcing the Facebook partnership at last year’s f8 developer conference , said that more people will pay for music — staying away from pirated stuff — with access to the great variety of high-quality music that Spotify provides.

SEE ALSO: HOW TO: Get Started With Spotify

Says the company’s Terms and Conditions of Use: “Spotify Service can be accessed as an ad-supported free-to-the-user service having no monthly cap on listening hours or a cap on number of plays of a unique track during the first 6 months following creation of your Spotify account, but thereafter a cap of 10 listening hours per month and a cap of 5 plays per unique track (the ‘Free Service’).”

Spotify’s popularity stems from the fact that you can stream any song or album, drawn from a wide selection of music. Playing a song on the Spotify player will automatically alert your Facebook friends, allowing them to learn what you like and discover new music. Users may also drag songs into friends’ profiles to share tunes.

Users can also take Spotify on the go — the free mobile app is available on iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone, Palm and Blackberry, which allows streaming over WiFi (premium service), offline playlists (premium service), access to your Spotify account and syncing your own music into Spotify from your phone.

Will you continue to use Spotify once your 10-hour cap on free streaming, following your initial six-month period? Let us know in the comments.

Do you plan on switching to the Spotify paid music streaming when the promotion ends?

More About: free music, mobile application, Music, spotify, Spotify apps

November 09 2010

Mobile Music: Top 4 Streaming Services Compared

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

One of the best trends of 2010 was the rise in prominence of mobile applications for popular online music services. Companies like Pandora have had mobile apps for some time, but the past year has seen services like MOG, Rdio and Spotify (whose mobile apps are, admittedly, a bit more than a year old) get into the game as well.

The distinction here is that, unlike Pandora, these other services enable listeners to carry with them their entire music libraries, allowing for listening to specific songs, albums or artists, on demand.

Contrary to the iTunes approach, where listeners must pay for each track or album, they all function on the “all you can eat” subscription model. Since Android and iOS devices are finding their ways into the hands of more and more music lovers, we’ve decided to take a look how the mobile apps for these services stack up.

1. Pandora

In some sense, Pandora is among the purest of music experiences. It replicates radio in a way most of us would have paid for back in the day of FM dominance.

Through its underlying Music Genome Project, Pandora has mapped the attributes of about 1 million songs. So when you say, “I like ‘We Used to Wait,’ by Arcade Fire,” Pandora will create a station comprised of tracks with similar sequencing that usually plays close to your tastes.

Its mobile application adheres to these principles, enabling you to both queue previously created stations and create new ones. Like its wired services, you can “like” and “dislike” tracks to further personalize your listening experience.

The downside is that it doesn’t exactly allow you to listen to specific tracks, but it is unparalleled when it comes to easy listening — and, no, I don’t mean the “easy listening” genre, though you can probably get it on Pandora too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Most Pandora users opt for the free version, which allows 12 tracks to be skipped over 24 hours, and 40 hours of use per month.

Listeners can sign up for the premium version for $36 per year. Pandora One provides unlimited ad-free listening, along with higher bit-rate (better quality) audio. It’s not a necessity, but if you like the service, it’s a nice upgrade. It’s available on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm Pre and Windows Mobile 6.

Added bonus: If you own a TV, Blu-ray player or any other streaming device, Pandora is probably on it.

2. Rdio

Rdio (pronounced ar-dee-oh) is the newest kid on the subscription block, but it was founded by two guys who know how to disrupt industries. Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis are probably best known for founding Skype, but before voice messaging service existed, the duo created a peer-to-peer file sharing service called Kazaa, where (mostly illegal) music and other files flowed freely.

Fortunately, Rdio is a legitimate service with actual label relationships. For about $10 per month, users can utilize the Rdio mobile apps, which are available for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 — which was just announced on Monday.

The mobile service brings with it all of the features found on its desktop service (which costs $5 per month), but allows the convenience of listening on the go, even when there isn’t a mobile connection. Through its sync-to-mobile feature, listeners can download music directly to their mobile devices for playback anywhere.

Rdio has a fairly comprehensive database of tracks, but there are definitely gaps, particularly with some of the more indie faire. For instance, the service only features one album from Sufjan Stevens (Seven Swans), but it has most of Radiohead’s catalog.

It also suffers from a less than intuitive interface across all of its mobile devices. But because the service launched publicly just a few months ago, these factors can be partially overlooked. We can’t, however, recommend it just yet.

3. Spotify

Currently available only in Europe, Spotify has become something of an underdog in the space, despite having been around longer than many of its competitors. The problem is that Spotify has been threatening to launch in the U.S., but has so far failed to do so.

Spotify does boast a more comprehensive collection than Rdio (all of Sufjan Stevens’ albums are here, as well as Radiohead, The Pixies and many of the other bands I’ve sought). At £10 (about $16) per month for its full mobile service, it also costs considerably more than its competitors.

Having been around for a couple of years has enabled Spotify to refine its mobile applications. Like Rdio, you can sync tracks to your device for offline listening. You can also opt for 320Kbps music for higher quality listening. It’s also available for Android, iPhone, Symbian, Windows Mobile 6 and Sonos.

Despite the price, if you’re in Europe, there isn’t a better option and for what it’s worth, it is a good option — it’s just not our favorite.

4. MOG

MOG has actually been around since 2005, but not in its current incarnation. Back then, it was essentially a social network built around music. Members would catalog their collections, wax poetic about how music made them feel and share 30-second clips with their friends.

These days it’s still home to some of the features that it was built on, but the focus now rests strongly on its subscription service. It’s home to about 10 million songs (though it too only has Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans), all of which are available through its mobile apps.

While the MOG Basic online service is available for $5, you won’t be able to use its mobile apps without MOG Primo. The premium service costs $10 per month and allows both song caching for offline playback and 320Kbps audio. It’s currently only available for Android and iPhone, but both apps are well built.

MOG’s ease of use combined with its comprehensive and constantly updated database and affordable subscription make it our current top pick in the mobile music space.

Added bonus: MOG is available for Roku, so you can easily stream music collections through your home theater.

Which music streaming services do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.

Series Supported by Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

More About: Digital Entertainment Series, mobile app, mobile application, mobile applications, mobile apps, mobile music, MOG, music, pandora, rdio, spotify

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October 06 2010

13 Branded Mobile Apps That Got it Right


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Creating a branded app seems like an obvious move toward engaging potential customers. But even though 70% of respondents in a 2009 survey said that they downloaded branded apps, it’s often unclear how effective those apps really are at driving purchases. And there’s always a fear that too few people will download the app to make it worth this risk.

Successful apps as branded content tend either to be useful to the company’s core demographic, to be entertaining or to enhance the company’s product in some way. Here are 13 branded apps that got one of these three successful strategies right. Add your own favorites in the comments below.

Useful Branded Apps

1. ifood Assistant by Kraft


Since the iFood Assistant launched in 2008, it has reached the second spot in iTunes’ Lifestyle section and has been included in iTunes’ list of top 100 paid apps. It achieved this success by making itself useful to the brand’s target market. Users can browse recipes by occasion or category and can easily add the ingredients (many of them coincidentally manufactured by Kraft companies) to a shopping list. There’s also a recipe box option so that users can easily access their favorite recipes. According to the company, more than 60% of people who downloaded the app since 2008 are still interacting with it today. Kraft maximizes its benefit from this interaction not only by suggesting Kraft-intensive recipes, but also by using the app as a way to distribute coupons.

2. Oakley Surf Report


This app comes with bio pages of all the Oakley Surf Team members, but members of Oakley’s core market download the app mainly for its easy access to current surf conditions. The app contains all the information they need, including surf height, swell direction, tides and a two-day forecast, to catch the best wave at their favorite surf spots. Photos, online videos and news are added bonuses.

3. Snow and Ski Report by REI


Similar to Oakley’s surf report concept, this app helps skiers track their favorite resorts’ snow conditions. All of the vitals are accounted for: snow depth, how many lifts are open, how many trails are open, temperature, and a five day forecast. And should an app user need to prepare for a trip to the resort after spotting perfect conditions, the app also accesses the REI online store and locates nearby stores.

4. Trailhead by The North Face


This location-based app helps users find two things no matter where they are: a hike and a North Face retailer. Users can search for routes by proximity, rating and distance. Once they start hiking, the app keeps track of how far they’ve gone, their speed and their elevation. The store locator and The North Face news feed are available, but they’re politely tucked into the features section so that the app doesn’t feel like an advertisement.

Entertaining Branded Apps

5. Zippo


Tapping into nostalgia and tradition made the Zippo lighter one of iTunes’s top free apps of all time. The app emphasizes the slow-swaying concert aspect of Zippo lighters instead of reminding users about the health effects that have led to smoking bans all over the world. As smoking declines, the number of virtual Zippo downloads continues to rise. The latest version includes options to buy deluxe versions of the “windproof” virtual lighters, which flip open just like the physical lighters, for $0.99 each.

6. Audi A4 Driving Challenge


Audi wants people who download this game app (at least 3.5 million users so far, according to USA Today) to imagine themselves in an Audi. The company banks off the fact that many car enthusiasts enjoy steering virtual cars (by tilting the phone like a steering wheel) and race against their own best times. Players can choose between five different courses, but for obvious reasons, only one brand of car.

7. The Karate Kid

Promoters of The Karate Kid were able to create a promotional app that was both entertaining and unique enough to achieve five times its target downloads. The app contains five mini games that each focus on a different virtue of Kung Fu: patience, courage, endurance, perseverance and will.

8. Barclaycard Waterslide Extreme

Barclaycard first figured out how to make a credit card ad entertaining. This app piggybacks on that success. “In our TV ad, one man got to ride the waterslide,” their iTunes description reads. “Then we thought, why not let everyone have a go.”

The app version lets you experience the extreme waterslide (or change to a third-person view if it makes you woozy) as you collect objects and avoid obstacles. Two million people found this prospect entertaining enough to download the app during the first two weeks. To date, about 17 million people have downloaded the branded waterslide. Barclaycard also released a roller coaster version of the game in July that has been downloaded 9.7 million times.

Branded Apps that Enhance a Product

9. DirecTV


Research from CBS estimates that 38% of American households now have DVRs. With this branded app, those people not only don’t have to be at home at a certain time to catch their favorite shows, but they don’t need to be home in order to schedule them, either. DirecTV allows app users to set their DVRs with their BlackBerry, iPhone, Android or Palm Pilot.

A separate free app provides DirecTV customers with access to every Sunday NFL game. There aren’t many reasons for people to rave about their television company, but a diehard fan who is able to catch his or her game on the run will inevitably spread the word.

10. MLB.com At Bat 2010


MLB caters to its fans and enhances subscriptions to MLB.TV with this mobile app. The iPhone version allows users to access live video and local audio coverage, as well as video archives, game standings and other stats. The app won Best Mobile Video and Best iPad Branded App at the 2010 MOBI Awards. MLB also makes versions for Android and BlackBerry.

11. Zipcar


This app makes it easier to use Zipcar. It guides users through the reservation process, locates nearby cars and contacts customer support. It even acts as a key fob by unlocking and locking doors and by honking the horn when you’re trying to find your Zipcar car in a parking lot. The app was one of Time Magazine’s Best Travel Gadgets of 2009.

12. Chipotle Ordering


One of Chipotle’s advantages is that it’s a quick meal. By releasing an iPhone ordering app, it became even quicker. Locate the nearest Chipotle, place your order and pay without logging into a computer or waiting in line. It’s hard to say how many more burritos Chipotle has sold, but downloads of the ordering app had almost reached 750,000 this summer.

13. OasisPlaces by Thermos


It doesn’t matter how colorful, spill-proof or BPA-free your beverage container is if you don’t have an opportunity to fill it. OasisPlaces helps Thermos customers by locating the nearest public water fountain. If users are picky, they can check out the fountain’s rating, which is based on coldness, flavor, location and cleanliness.

These 13 branded apps are either useful to the company’s core demographic, are entertaining or enhance the company’s product in some way. Which branded apps would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- Why Your Business Needs a Mobile Commerce Strategy Now
- 8 Tips for a Killer Mobile Search Campaign
- 5 Tips for Utilizing Skype for Business
- Top 5 Enterprises Using Social Media
- 10 Tips for Aspiring Digital Marketers

More About: apps, audi, Barclaycard, business, chipotle, directv, iFood, iphone, List, Lists, MLB, Mobile 2.0, mobile application, mobile applications, mobile apps, Oakley Surf Report, REI, small business, the north face, Thermos, trail, zipcar, Zippo

For more Business coverage:

September 23 2010

iPhone App Uses Image Recognition to Help You Master Wine Selection

Snooth, one of the largest wine ratings and reviews sites on the web, recently launched a $4.99 iPhone app to satisfy the neediest of wine enthusiasts.

Snooth Wine Pro [iTunes link] incorporates image-based wine searching, which allows users to scan wine labels to learn more about or purchase a particular wine of interest. In fact, there’s a whole slew of options once you’ve scanned a wine label, including the ability to:

  • See which nearby stores have the wine in stock.
  • Compare prices, and view maps and directions to nearby stores
  • Add the wine to your Wishlist or Virtual Cellar.
  • Purchase the wine online through the global Snooth retail network, which includes more than 11,000 merchants.
  • Post your review or read reviews from experts and other Snooth users.
  • Browse for similar wines by winery, region, or varietal.

The image recognition technology is powered by TinEye, a reverse-image search engine, and uses specialized digital image fingerprinting to find image matches. Snooth’s Engagement Manager Jesse Chemtob explained, “Since most wine labels are on a curved surface, it can also find images that are slightly rotated, warped, cropped, blurred, have skewed colors, or those that are taken in poorly lit areas.”

Snooth catalogs 2.2 million reviews and 1.2 million wines on the site, making it the world’s largest wine database. Of those wines, 820,000 are searchable via the image recognition technology.

If you’re not quite ready to make a whopping $4.99 purchase for an iPhone app, check out the free, ad-supported version [iTunes link] also launched last week in the iTunes Store. Chemtob noted that it was “totally rebuilt from the ground up” and includes all of the features of its premium version, except the oh-so-cool image-based wine search functionality. You can still use the location-based store search (with maps and directions), purchase wine, view your wines and reviews offline, and browse by color, price, region, and varietal. That’s still a win for most wine lovers.

Android and BlackBerry fans, jealous yet? I thought so. Chemtob said that Snooth is happy to launch apps on other mobile operating systems if the numbers are right: “Pending adoption, engagement, and user support we’d love to roll out to other devices and platforms in the near future.”

For all of you would-be purchasers who are still wary of the price tag, check out Snooth’s current contest. The company is giving away one brand new iPhone 4 loaded with Snooth Wine Pro and six promo codes to download the Snooth Wine Pro app for free. Enter by September 30 via Twitter or by signing up for Snooth and referring your friends.

Let us know what wine apps you’re using to find, review and purchase wine in the comments below.

More About: iphone, iphone app, iphone application, iphone applications, iphone apps, mobile application, mobile applications, mobile apps, snooth, Snooth Wine Pro, wine

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July 07 2010

5 Things to Consider When Designing Your Mobile App

This series is supported by Webtrends Mobile Analytics, which lets you monitor the adoption and usage of your mobile apps and mobile sites. To keep up with Webtrends Mobile, add their blog to your RSS reader.

Thanks to the slogan “There’s an App For That” and the surging iOS, Android and BlackBerry markets, it seems like practically every company has a mobile app. In fact, in many ways, the mobile app today is what the website was ten years ago — one of those tools that has transferred from being a luxury into a necessity for businesses of all sizes.

Of course, wanting an app and building and designing an application are two very different things. In fact, even companies and brands that already have a strong online presence often struggle with crafting and optimizing their mobile applications. The discipline of mobile design can differ in many fundamental ways from traditional or even digital design and these differences are often what can separate a killer mobile application from a mobile app that fails to deliver.

Here are five tips you should keep in mind when designing and developing your mobile application, regardless of platform.

1. Weigh the Options — Mobile App or Mobile Website

Do you need a mobile application, a mobile website, or both? Before even starting the design process, you need to figure out what format or formats are best suited for your goals. Sometimes this can be really easy. For example, if you want to build a utility or game, you may be better served building a native application rather than worrying about how different mobile browsers will interpret your content.

Other times, the distinction isn’t as clear. For instance, at Mashable, we have both a mobile optimized website and applications for the iPhone and iPad. The mobile optimized site is available on a variety of devices, while the iPhone and iPad apps are designed to provide a more full experience to our users on those platforms. Because Mashable has a tech savvy readership, it makes sense for us to have our own standalone mobile app. However, depending on the app idea or business at hand, a mobile app may not be fitting.

Here are some questions to think about when deciding between an application and a mobile-optimized website:

  • Do you already have a full-featured website? If the answer is yes, how many of those features are you looking to integrate into the app? If your app is going to be largely a re-creation of your website, you may want to focus on creating a mobile site first.
  • Is this an app that can be used without an Internet connection? Some examples include note-taking or calculator apps. If so, a mobile application makes more sense.
  • Are you going to be integrating with other parts of the mobile operating system, like the dialer, the GPS and the mail client? If this is the case, consider building a native app.

If you’ve decided to move on with making a mobile app, the next four tips will help you with the design process.

2. Consider Where Your App Will Be Used

Once you’ve decided to make a native mobile app, you’ll want to consider where your application is most likely going to be used. This is important because where and how an application is used can directly impact how it can be designed.

For instance, if you have an application that is going to be used while walking around — a geo-location app or an app that takes advantage of a device’s GPS — making sure that core app functions are easy to see and access is very important.

Likewise, if your app is used to sell products or services, make sure that the price and the “buy” or “add to cart” buttons are large enough so that they can be easily accessed.

If you have designed an app that may be used while sitting on a train or in a stationary spot, make sure that text is readable and legible and that it is easy to move through content.

3. Be Aware of Various Screen Sizes

Even on the same mobile platform, screen sizes and resolutions can vary based on device type. For instance, the screen size and resolution on the HTC Incredible is different than that on the HTC EVO 4G. Consequently, for an application to have a consistent look and feel across both devices and across a variety of other devices, user interface elements and graphics need to be scalable.

Likewise, the iPhone 4 sports a higher resolution screen than the displays on the iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. However, because the big difference is in pixel density, the same amount of screen real estate is used. Basically, two pixels on the old iPhone displays equals one point on the new retina display. Josh Clark, author of the fantastic new book Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, has written a must-read post about designing for the iPhone 4’s retina display.

The Android Developers site has a great guide for supporting multiple screens on Android and a look at how to best achieve screen independence so that your apps will run and display properly on a number of different display types.

The Android Developers site also has tips for how to test your app in different resolutions with an emulator.

4. Follow Existing UI Conventions

On desktop computers, there are certain user interface elements that make a Windows app a Windows app or a Mac OS X app a Mac app. There are user interface conventions tailored for mobile apps as well. While you don’t have to follow these guidelines 100% of the time, sticking with consistent methods of displaying data and interacting with content will make your app easier to pick up by end-users. Following these conventions will also ensure that your app is consistent with the other applications already on a mobile device.

Each major mobile platform has documented user interface guidelines. Apple, for example, has a very extensive overview of iPhone Human Interface Guidelines, detailing and offering examples of standard UI conventions that should be considered when building an iPhone app.

While not nearly as complete, the Android UI team has its own User Interface Guidelines, complete with overviews of icon, widget, menu, and activity and task design guidelines.

Likewise, RIM has a complete section on its site for UI Guidelines for BlackBerry devices, including sections on touch screen BlackBerry devices, the different theming systems available for BlackBerry, and how to handle the trackball or touchpad.

5. Design for Touch

In almost all cases, mobile apps are going to be used while in someone’s hand. Therefore, designing your mobile app around touch and ergonomics is very important.

Think about how you hold your phone in your hand. Now, think about where you thumb sits. That’s why many applications have main menus and selectors at the bottom of the screen and content near the top of the screen. Apps with that type of layout are designed for touch, and yours should be too.

Beyond button layout, think about how you want to indicate touch feedback — physically or visually. While the BlackBerry Storm tried the whole clickable screen thing, the truth is, haptic feedback (such as vibrations), while great for games or for alerts, doesn’t usually work very well for touch-based devices like mobile phones.

Instead, use visual cues to show that an item is either touchable or has been touched. For instance, think about how the various keys on the iPhone keyboard grow in size when you touch them. That increase in size is feedback.

Lastly, designing your apps so that they take advantage of gestures, like swiping forward and back, pinching to zoom and pulling-down to refresh, can add a lot of usability to your applications without taking up tons of space for a designated button.

Your Thoughts

What do you think new designers and developers should consider when designing a mobile application? Whether your tips are from a designer, developer or user point of view, let us know in the comments below.

Series supported by Webtrends Mobile Analytics

This series is supported by Webtrends Mobile Analytics, which lets you monitor the adoption and usage of your mobile apps and mobile sites. It provides near limitless customization in terms of the data gathered and depth of analysis across iPhone, Android and Blackberry. And the data resides side-by-side with your website analytics. To keep up with Webtrends Mobile, add their blog to your RSS reader.

More About: android, blackberry, designers, developers, iOS, iphone, mobile app, mobile application, mobile applications, mobile apps, mobile design, Mobile Sites and Apps Series, mobile web, mobile web design, touch

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