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August 01 2012

How to Turn Your Smartphone Into An Emergency Kit




Technology can help you find a restaurant, locate a parking spot, and even get you a date. But how can mobile apps impact the more crucial aspects of a person's life, like safety and well being?

While apps can’t replace your doctor or local police, there are many that can make a major difference in an emergency. Here are nine that will help you prepare for, react to, and report such situations.

Prepare
Emergency preparedness isn’t just about extra batteries and jugs of drinking water. It’s about making sure you have access to the right information when you need it most. The following apps allow you to prepare for emergencies before they occur.

pMonitor: pMonitor lets p…
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More About: contributor, features, mobile apps, smartphone


July 26 2012

10 High-Tech Kitchen Tools for Top Chefs




Most chefs will tell you that to be a success in the kitchen, you need great tools at your disposal. That's not to say the latest chopping appliances and carving knives aren't cutting edge, but sometimes you need to bring in some technology. The right kitchen tools can mean the difference between a fabulous meal and a disappointing flop.

You might start with some of the cooking and recipe apps available. Chef Wolfgang Puck is out with the eponymous Wolfgang Puck App, which features seasonal recipes, complete with video demos of techniques, which are great for the home cook. Grill masters can check out Weber's on the Grill or scan Pinterest's mouth-watering pictures for inspiration.…
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More About: The Hot List, cooking, features, kitchen gadgets, mashable, mobile apps, recipes


July 25 2012

5 Reasons HTML5 Apps are Hard to Monetize




Even though the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) doesn’t expect full HTML5 implementation until 2022, there is no shortage of great apps out there already based on HTML5. This is because HTML5 offers some distinct advantages over its counterparts, including improved graphics and animations, dynamic data storage features, and geolocation support.

That said, some hurdles remain, particularly with apps. Below are five big reasons why HTML5 apps are difficult to monetize.

1. Discovery is Difficult
HTML5 app discovery is extremely tough for one big reason: There are no well-known sites where you can find them. Sure, Facebook’s App Center and the Mozilla Marketplace offer HTML5 ap…
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More About: contributor, features, mobile apps, mobile platforms


9 Apps For Editing Video On Your Smartphone




Just a few years ago creating your own movie would have required an expensive camcorder to shoot, and your own –- often expensive -– video editing equipment in order to polish your video into something you’d want to share with others.

Now most smartphones come with built-in video cameras that can often capture high-definition videos worthy of your 50-inch high-definition television.

In addition to replacing the camcorder, your smartphone can also be used as a video editor. There are a variety of different apps available on the market today for editing video. From basic video editors that let you trim out pieces of your video you don’t want, to themed editors that let you c…
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More About: App, Video, android, iphone, mobile apps


May 10 2012

Why Instagram Won’t Be the Last Billion Dollar App

instagram-app-store-600

Ravi Mehta is vice president of product for Viximo. He drives product strategy for Social Zone, Viximo’s mobile app platform that helps developers expand their reach and increase monetization via compelling, app-specific social features. Follow him @ravi_mehta.

By now, it’s clear that mobile has arrived in a big, earth-shaking way. Last year smartphones outsold PCs for the first time in history. By 2015, mobile devices will account for almost 80% of Internet usage.

It’s also intuitively clear. There’s a whole new generation of mobile-first users who will regard PCs as bulky and antiquated. And it’s abundantly clear from successful examples like Draw Something, which hit a million users in just nine days, and Instagram, which accumulated a staggering $2 million in enterprise value per day from inception to its $1 billion acquisition by Facebook.

SEE ALSO: Why the Future of Social Is in the Palm of Your Hand

But are dramatic mobile successes just anomalies that will die down as the industry takes shape? Or are we seeing a fundamental shift in the speed at which new ideas and new businesses can grow?

There’s a very good chance it’s a fundamental shift. The telephone heritage of mobile devices is inherently social. As a result, mobile devices play a very different role in people’s lives than PCs. Savvy app developers recognize this and are tapping into a set of consumer behaviors that are specific to mobile. When combined, these elements translate into explosive growth. Here’s why.


Ingredient 1: New Modes of Usage


Mobile devices provide developers with a new set of tools, but these tools take time to master. So while the first generation of mobile apps checked off the feature boxes for things like gestures and location services, the next generation of mobile apps are weaving together disruptive innovations that couldn’t exist before. There are four trends driving the next generation of mobile success stories.

Lightweight Media Creation: Media creation on the PC is dominated by heavyweight applications aimed at a prosumer demographic. Mobile is all about keeping it light. That’s not only changing the way we take pictures, but changing every creative endeavor, including writing (iA Writer), music generation (Figure), brainstorming (Paper), painting (SketchBook Pro), movie production (iMovie), podcasting (Audioboo), and coloring (My Coloring Book).

Instant Social Sharing: Smartphones are the ultimate medium for sharing with friends. Apps like Instagram leverage the potent formula of lightweight media creation and instant sharing on this device. We’re continuing to see this formula work with apps like Viddy and Socialcam.

Innovative Input Methods: Mobile phones offer a rich palette of input methods with their multi-touch interfaces, integrated cameras, and microphones. New modes of input have been a key element in a number of app success stories. For example, Outfit7 has used microphone input and tap gestures to create a fun pet interaction experience that has resulted in more than 300 million downloads for their Talking Friends apps franchise .

Geolocation 2.0: Check-ins are a good start, but the really innovative app developers are using location to mediate how people interact with the world around them. For example, Banjo is enabling social discovery by projecting a user’s social graph onto a real-world map, and GymPact is using location, plus cash incentives, to help people get fit by going to the gym.


Ingredient 2: Hypercharged Virality


When was the last time you ran out of a meeting with your laptop to take an email or Facebook message? Probably never, but I bet you’ve run out of a meeting to take a phone call, or pulled out your phone to return a SMS. Mobile devices command a premium on our attention. With push notifications, app developers can now tap into that attention-grabbing magic.

Draw Something uses push notifications brilliantly. With a few taps, a player can strike up a match with a friend or acquaintance. Once that match is going, push notifications fly back and forth as players trade turns. The result is a conversation that has the same rhythm and social richness as chatting with SMS. When compelling social interactions are combined with the ability of push notification, what we have is a formula for virality that can’t be matched on a PC.


Ingredient 3: Business Models That Really Work


On the web, the majority of consumers hate purchasing software. In fact, web app developers only monetize a handful out of every 100 users. In contrast, the majority of smartphone users have purchased content via their devices. This change in behavior has enabled mobile business models that really work.

Micro-Impulse: With low price points, like $0.99, it’s possible to sell software and reach millions of users at the same time.

Virtual Goods: Just 18 months ago, pay-to-play games accounted for 90% of iOS game revenue. Today, free-to-play games account for more than 50% of iOS game revenue. In-app payments have enabled game and app developers to combine frictionless distribution with a business model that enables game developers to win by providing long-term entertainment value.

Try Before You Buy: Although Apple doesn’t allow trial versions of apps, some developers, like the creators of Paper, have done a great job of providing a compelling core experience via a free app and then using in-app payments to allow users to upgrade to the full experience from the same app.

More About: contributor, features, instagram, mobile app development, mobile apps


February 16 2012

February 10 2012

10 Free iPhone Apps You’ll Use Every Day

Everyone knows the iPhone isn’t just for making and taking calls — it’s a slim supercomputer at your fingertips, with the potential to improve your daily efficiency. But it can be a difficult task to sort through all of the available apps and find which ones can help, especially those that are free.

Have no fear: We’ve compiled a list of free iPhone apps that will help get you through each day, whether it’s waking up in the morning, keeping up with the news or managing your to-do list. Download these apps and you’ll be more organized and productive in no time.


1. Alarm Clock HD





Start the morning off right with this app that wakes you up to your favorite music, has built-in weather information and can be integrated with Facebook and Twitter updates.

Click here to view this gallery.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, Jorge Quinteros

More About: features, free, iphone, iphone apps, mobile apps


February 07 2012

Klout Mobile App Is One Step Closer With Acquisition of BlockBoard


Klout‘s mobile initiative is starting to take shape with its first-ever acquisition. The San Francisco-based startup has acquired BlockBoard, an app that gives people a way to communicate with neighbors.

Klout told Mashable the acquisition is an investment into local and mobile. The BlockBoard app will continue to exist, but the team behind it will be integrated into Klout’s staff.

Klout — which measures a social media user’s online influence from 0 to 100 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Foursquare — announced a new round of funding in January, saying it now has the resources to dive into the mobile world.

“The money is going to be used to really drive accuracy, transparency and utility,” Klout CEO Joe Fernandez told Mashable in January. “We want to measure influence every place it exists and make sure Klout users are recognized for their influence every place they go.”

Previously, Klout had hinted in a tweet that mobile could become a reality.

Soon after, that exchange, Fernandez confirmed Klout’s mobile endeavors.


What Else Does Klout Have in Store for 2012?


Looking ahead, Klout is still building scoring models for seven more services (YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress.com, Last.fm and Flickr) that have already been integrated onto Klout users’ dashboards. Klout also plans to add Quora, Yelp, Posterous, Livefyre, Disqus, bit.ly and other services.

SEE ALSO: The Remarkable Story of How Klout Got Started [VIDEO]

Klout likely will continue improving its Topics feature (see screenshots below) and Klout Perks platform. The Topics feature, which rolled out in September and lets you gain insights on top influencers and +K recipients for specific content areas, most recently got a visual update in December with a “sashes” and an “Add a Topic” button.

More brands are offering perks based on the topics they influence and their Klout scores. The Perks platform is an integral part of Klout’s business model.


Clickable Topics on Your Dashboard




On your Klout dashboard, you can click on a topic to open its Topic Page.

Update: In December 2011, Klout rolled out sashes and an "Add a Topic" button. A blue sash goes to users with the most +Ks for any topic, while a gold sash is given to influencers based on Klout's algorithm. People who fall into both categories receive a blue-and-gold sash.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: acquisition, apps, BlockBoard, klout, Mobile, mobile apps


January 21 2012

GO App Lets You Anonymously Share Photos, Videos or Comments [PICS]


If you’ve ever wanted to post a photograph, video or brief comment without your real name or online moniker attached to the content, a fresh mobile app now gives you that option.

GO, which rolled out Friday for Android and in November for iPhone, allows you to capture, share and discover media and text snippets anonymously (see gallery below).

The slick-looking app tags your device’s location and a subject to your content and plops it on a map for other users to find within the app or at GO’s website. You don’t have to register for an account to use the service, although you are given the choice to add a username.

Users now “can hold the future of personal mobile broadcast in their hot little hands,” GO’s creative director Justin Dionisio told Mashable. They can also share GO content on Facebook and Twitter.

To discover what’s happening around the world, just click any location on the global map under the “GO” tab. A pop-up will list all of the items uploaded in that area, and then you can choose to view by subject or everything at once. You can also search for specific tags or learn what’s trending under the “FIND” tab.

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators with iPhones have used the geo-based app to coordinate protests. Additionally, GO let them avoid any unnecessary attention from police or media, Forbes reported in November.

Just in time for GO’s launch into the Android Market on Friday, the app’s creator — Hollr — has partnered with Verizon and Casio, which have included GO as part of their new marketing initiatives for the G’zOne Casio Commander smartphone in Aspen this year, Dionisio says.


GO App




GO, which rolled out Jan. 20 for Android and in November for iPhone, allows you to capture, share and discover media and text anonymously.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Android apps, location-based, mobile apps, sharing


January 10 2012

iHeartRadio Releases API for Third-Party Developers


Clear Channel Radio just unleashed iHeartRadio’s application programming interface, which will allow outside developers to infuse the music-streaming service’s content and features into their apps or other platforms.

After undergoing a face-lift in 2011 with a new logo and web site, iHeartRadio is looking for new ways to grow its user base and share its features in more places. iHeartRadio began that push by hopping on Facebook‘s Open Graph in September. The partnership let Facebook users share their iHeartRadio activity on their Timeline and ticker.

Now, iHeartRadio is opening the doors to the API that powers more than 800 stations and 11 million songs.

Third-party developers will need to sign up for the Developer Program to use the API. Once registered, developers will have access to API documents and brand guidelines to begin tinkering around with social media integration, custom stations, broadcast and digital-only stations, or other iHeartRadio features.

Rival music service Spotify shared its API in August and has since launched an app platform that grants users access to third-party applications such as Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Billboard, Last.fm and The Guardian.

SEE ALSO: 8 Great iPhone Apps for Music Lovers

Spotify became available in the U.S. in July and delivered its API to developers a month later, whereas iHeartRadio has been around since 2008 — the same year it released an iOS app — and just revealed its API Tuesday. Since 2008, iHeartRadio has created apps for BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Xbox.

“This move also builds on our commitment to be everywhere our listeners expect us to be, with the best products and services,” said Brian Lakamp, president of Clear Channel Digital, in an announcement.

More About: api, clear-channel, iheartradio, mobile apps, Music


January 09 2012

Vimeo Brings New Apps to Android, Windows Phone and iPad


LAS VEGAS — Just in time for the newest crop of tablets and smartphones at CES 2012, Vimeo is making its mobile app available for Android and Windows Phone.

The Android and Windows Phone apps come nearly a year after Vimeo released its first mobile app, Vimeo for iPhone. In addition to the new platforms, Vimeo is also rolling out a fully iPad-optimized version of its iOS app.

Why the big focus on mobile? According to Vimeo, 15% of its traffic now comes from mobile devices. Moreover, Vimeo’s creators are more frequently using smartphone devices as their cameras of choice. After all, when you can create footage like this on a smartphone, why not?

The Android and Windows Phone apps include the following features:

  • Upload raw or edited footage in HD or SD
  • Pause/Resume videos
  • Replace existing videos
  • Edit tags, titles, descriptions and privacy information
  • Share via Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, email or SMS
  • Download your Vimeo videos to your Camera roll
  • Watch videos from the Vimeo Inbox and Watch Later queue
  • Access stats

The Android version of the app is available in the Android Market and in the Amazon App Store and is compatible with all Android devices running Android 2.3 and higher. This means that devices like the Kindle Fire can get in on the fun.

The Windows Phone version of the app is available in the Windows Phone Marketplace and works with any Windows Phone device running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.

The new iPad-optimized version of the app offers a tablet-optimized view of browsing and discovering video. It also brings over the popular video editing functionality of the iPhone app to the bigger screen iOS device.

In the past 18 months, Vimeo has increasingly focused on streamlining its offerings to provide a consistent user experience across devices and platforms. Vimeo was one of the first major video services to embrace HTML5 and it started targeting the connected device. Vimeo’s Roku app continues to be one of our favorites and we expect the company will continue to target connected devices and platforms.

Let us know your thoughts on the new Vimeo mobile apps in the comments.

More About: android, CES, CES 2012, ipad apps, mobile apps, Vimeo, windows phone


January 01 2012

8 Simple Digital Tools for Scanning Documents


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

Small business and startup employees are constantly on the go. They need quick, mobile solutions for scanning, storing, organizing and sharing important documents.

Eager to empty that box full of receipts? Looking for an easy and secure way to send signed documents? We’ve found eight apps and tools that seamlessly scan and file your most important documents and keepsakes. Best of all, most of them integrate with proven file hosts Dropbox and Evernote.

What other tools have proved useful when scanning and integrating your own documents?


1. DocScanner




One of the most universal apps out there, DocScanner works across iOS, Android and Symbian platforms. Just take a photo of a document, receipt or notebook page and email it as a PDF. Integrate with Mobile.me, Dropbox or Evernote.

Price: $4.99

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: features, mashable, mobile apps, scan, scanners, Small Business, web apps


December 26 2011

December 21 2011

10 Most Popular Actors on IMDb’s Website and Apps


The crown for Internet Movie Database’s most-visited profile no longer belongs to perennial chart-topper Johnny Depp.

Natalie Portman attracted the most page views on IMDb.com and the service’s slew of mobile apps, making her the queen bee on IMDb’s Top 10 Stars list this year.

But why Portman? “You can see why,” says IMDb managing editor Keith Simanton. “She won a Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan, was in the news welcoming a son into the world in June, and appeared in three films (No Strings Attached, Your Highness and Thor).”

Depp, who has topped the annual rankings for six of the past seven years, fell to third. Sandwiched between him and Portman as runner-up is Mila Kunis. The Black Swan co-stars’ one-two punch helped push the gender ratio of the list to 50% female — opposed to 2010 when women secured only three spots.

  • 1. Natalie Portman
  • 2. Mila Kunis
  • 3. Johnny Depp
  • 4. Emma Stone
  • 5. Chris Hemsworth
  • 6. Olivia Wilde
  • 7. Jennifer Lawrence
  • 8. George Clooney
  • 9. Ryan Gosling
  • 10. Christian Bale

Bumped off the top 10 list this year were Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Gerard Butler, Megan Fox and Zoe Saldana.

Up until a few years ago, IMDb created the rankings based on page views to its website. In the past two or so years, though, the Amazon-owned service began offering mobile options starting with the official iPhone app in 2009. The app selection soon expanded to the iPad, iPod touch, Android devices and Windows Phones in 2010. The rankings now account for page views on those mobile apps, which combined with the website garner 110 million unique visitors per month.

This year, 21-year-old IMDb released a trivia app as well as IMDb Buzz, which gives users entertainment news.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, IMDB, mobile apps, Movies


December 13 2011

6 Mobile Apps to Simplify Your Holiday Shopping


1. Christmas List Gift Planner




Was it Tom who wanted the iPod touch? Or was it Kristy? Never leave home without your wishlist, thanks to The Christmas List Gift Planner for Android. Create profiles for all the good little boys and girls, and categorize them by group (Immediate Family, Friends, Co-Workers). Then set a budget for each person. Start adding gift ideas manually or simply scan an item's barcode.

The app will track whom you've purchased gifts for, as well as your individual and overall budget. A free version of the app exists, but if you want all the best features, pay the $1.99 Android Market price. Your sanity is worth it.

Price: $1.99

Click here to view this gallery.

Mobile devices accounted for 14.3% of all online Black Friday traffic in 2011. It’s clear that smartphone and tablet holiday shopping is making a huge consumer impact.

If you’re among the 14.3%, chances are you already know about specialized apps from big stores like Target, Best Buy and Amazon. But those aren’t the only ones that can help with your holiday shopping on the go. Here are six useful apps that even Santa can’t do without.

Image courtesy of Flickr, premasagar

More About: android, apple, contributor, features, Holidays 2011, iOS, iphone apps, mobile apps


November 14 2011

Myxer Launches Free Social Radio App [VIDEO]

Myxer has entered the crowded Internet radio market with Myxer Social Radio, an app aimed at providing a music-listening experience where you’re never alone.

The app offers several interactive components (see gallery below), including the “Song Stories” feature in which you can record 15- to 20-second videos of yourself telling stories about specific songs, or watch other users’ Song Stories. Those videos will appear on each song’s info page.

“Users want to be connected and be social with whatever they do,” says Myxer CEO Myk Willis, who envisions his app competing alongside heavyweight services Pandora, iHeartRadio and Last.fm as far as listening hours.

Once you sign up with your Facebook account, Myxer Social Radio also lets you listen and chat with friends in real time, create and enter public listening rooms and see what they’re playing. Akin to Turntable.fm, people in Myxer rooms can thumbs-up or thumbs-down songs being played. If a song gets too many negative responses, Myxer skips the track and puts on another. Your friends’ responses will influence the app’s recommendation algorithm, which in turn will learn what type of songs or artists to play.


iOs, Android and Web App





Myxer Social Radio lets you listen and chat with friends in real time, create and enter public listening rooms, see what they’re playing, and create "Song Stories."

Click here to view this gallery.

Myxer Social Radio has 12 million songs from the four main record labels as well as large indie labels. Played songs and user activity will be pushed to Facebook, just like Spotify, MOG, Rdio and slew of other music-streaming services that are taking advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Users Shared Their Songs 1.5 Billion Times in 6 Weeks [STATS]

The desktop browser version is available now. The iOS app comes out Nov. 14, and the Android app comes out later this week.

Myxer hopes to leverage its existing 14 million monthly unique users to build buzz for the app. Although the app just launched, Willis says his team is already working on improvements. For example, they want to allow users to tag Song Stories into categories. The “Authoritative” category would feature videos from artists.

Although the app is free and “always will be,” it will be profitable for Myxer from day one, says Willis, because of a three-month sponsorship from Geico. Not only does Willis want the service to appeal to users, he is striving to attract advertisers by giving them special ways to advertise. Geico, for example, used the Song Stories feature to make video advertisements, some of which will star Geico’s famous animated gecko. Advertisers will also be allowed to create listening rooms in addition to 7- to 15-second banner ads. These moves will help ensure the app remains free.

More About: android, apps, internet radio, iOS, mobile apps, Music, music apps, music-subscription-service, myxer, Open Graph


October 19 2011

How to Communicate With Users When Your App or Site Crashes


The Mobile App Trends Series is supported by Sourcebits, a leading product developer for mobile platforms. Sourcebits offers design and development services for iOS, Android, Mobile and Web platforms. Follow Sourcebits on Twitter for recent news and updates.

From Facebook to Google to BlackBerry to that little startup you haven’t heard of (yet), everyone experiences downtime, crashes, bugs and other issues from time to time.

It’s how you handle downtime that counts.

There are two fronts in the battle of the bugs — in-app communication and community management. Here’s a look at both sides, with some best practices and examples.


In-App Communication


Users love their apps. When an app faces a problem, many users are eager to do their part to help get things up and running again. That’s why it’s key to make it as easy as possible for those users to get in touch.

In-App Help Section

Every app should have an “about” or “help” section with instructions for getting in touch. It can be a form for users to fill out or something as simple as listing a support email address. You can’t go wrong setting up support@yourapp.com.

App Store Notes

You should list your support email address or support URL in your app store listing and encourage user feedback. This also provides users an alternative to the ratings section where they can vent their complaints.

In-App Alerts

Though it takes a bit of work to build into an app, there’s no better way to notify your users than with an alert that pops up inside the app. It’s also a great way to notify users of phone or carrier settings that hinder the app’s functionality (as opposed to a bug). For example, Foursquare built a proprietary in-app alert system that notifies users to server downtime, and reminds them when the app isn’t working because their phone lacks a signal or because GPS permissions have been disabled.


Community Management


In-app communication channels are key, but they tend to be one-way and a bit unfulfilling for users. Your most dedicated fans want a full explanation and accounting of downtime and bugs. Your power users want to have a conversation, not just and alert.

Be Easy to Find

Make the “support” button easy to find on your website. Be sure to include links to any other platforms you’re offering support on, like Twitter, your blog, etc.

Nurture Your Power Users

Your super users — the ones who use your app all the time and maybe even rely on it — are your eyes and ears on the front lines. They’re going to be among the first to report bugs, crashes and other issues. They might be a bit overzealous and make lots of feature requests, but don’t treat their love of your app lightly.

When they email you, reply promptly and personally. If they notice a minor bug, knowing that they’ll receive a personal response from a real human being can make it worth their while. Venmo, the peer-to-peer payment platform, does a great job of this, and even lets you report the bug as a payment request to their co-founders, netting you a couple bucks if the bug report turns out to be legit.

Setting Expectations

Regardless of the platform by which you communicate with users, it’s important to set realistic expectations. Honestly explain to users what’s going on and let them know that you’re aware of and working to fix the issue. Promise that you’ll update them as you know more and, if you are confident about a timeline, give an estimate. However, avoid promising when things will be restored.

Train Your Team

Your customer service tactics may come naturally to you, but that doesn’t mean your team is on the same page. Don’t underestimate the value of running them through a training session where you cover message, tone, technique, talking points and standards for responding personally and quickly to users.

Open Social Media Channels

Use your Twitter account to broadcast alerts and messages about what’s going on with your app. Your tweets should include a short acknowledgment and description of the issue with a link to your blog, where there should be a fuller explanation.

Customer Support Systems

When you’re receiving five or ten support emails a day, which is typical for a small startup’s app, handling the workload requires little more than setting up a Gmail filter. But as the volume increases, you’ll need to turn to a ticket-based support system. Foursquare uses Zendesk, but other popular options include Get Satisfaction and the beautifully designed HappyFox.

Video Responses

Blogs, tweets, and email alerts are nice, but a heartfelt video from the CEO is a great way to reach out to users and apologize for downtime or serious bugs in an application. Traditionally, videos are used to apologize after serious downtime, like BlackBerry’s recent boondoggle.

Offer the Full Story

Your users really care about your product. And a certain subset of users care really, really care. For the sake of those power users, it’s often helpful to write up a detailed debriefing of what went wrong, how you fixed it and what you and your team are doing to make sure that problem doesn’t come up again. Such transparency will be appreciated by your users and can go a long way toward helping you earn the trust of your users.

Cute Characters

There’s a trend among tech startups to have a cute character break the downtime news to users. Twitter famously has its Fail Whale, which has inspired t-shirts, Halloween costumes and more. According to Chrysanthe Tenentes, community manager at Foursquare, her company created the Pouty Princess as part of its prioritization to “communicate really well as a company.”

Full-Time Status Updates

If you have many users relying on your service, it may be appropriate to open up a Twitter account and blog dedicated to covering server status 24/7. Many services use subdomains like status.yourapp.com for such purposes. But when something major happens, it’s important to mention it on your main blog, where more average users will be able to find it.


Tools of the Trade


Handling a problem when it creeps up is important, but here are a few tips for stopping issues in their tracks, before they become a problem for your users.

Bug & Crash Reporting: BugSense and Flurry are services that can be integrated into your apps and seamlessly provide you with near real-time crash data. Using this kind of service should be a standard part of any developer’s process.

Server Ping: Server ping options like Pingdom allow you to monitor your server in real-time and even receive a text message if it goes down.

Apple Expedited Review: Android apps can easily be updated by the user, but iOS app updates must be reviewed and approved by Apple before they’re ready to deploy through iTunes. That can be a problem if developers need to make an urgent fix. For such emergency situations, Apple has created an Expedited App Review request form.


Special thanks to Chrysanthe Tenentes and Mari Sheibley from Foursquare, Chris Fei from MeetMoi, Paulo Ribeiro from HumanSpot’s Nostalgiqa, and Jason Schwartz from Matchbook for their insights.


Series Supported by Sourcebits

The Mobile App Trends Series is sponsored by Sourcebits, a leading developer of applications and games for all major mobile platforms. Sourcebits has engineered over 200 apps to date, with plenty more to come. Sourcebits offers design and development services for iPhone, Android and more. Please feel free to get in touch with us to find out how we can help your app stand apart in a crowded marketplace. Follow Sourcebits on Twitter and Facebook for recent news and updates.

More About: crash, features, mashable, Mobile App Trends Series, mobile apps


September 12 2011

13 Branded iPhone Apps That Enhance Their Company’s Products


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

Branded mobile apps come in a variety of types — they tend to focus on entertainment, utility or product enhancement.

Entertainment and utility apps don’t necessarily highlight a company’s offerings in a lot of cases. But apps developed with product enhancement in mind generally introduce services beyond those already offered by businesses.

Using a mobile phone’s top features — such as its camera, GPS and Bluetooth — brands have created a number of innovative branded mobile apps that enhance their products and services. Here are 13 apps that do just that. Let us know about your favorites in the comments below.


Airbnb




Airbnb is a startup that enables users to seek out non-hotel travel accommodations listed by other users.

The mobile app features an added functionality for travelers on the go. Under the "Search" tab, the "Help! I need a place, tonight!" button helps users find and book nearby apartments that are available at the last minute.


ColorSmart by BEHR Mobile




Building upon its ColorSmart web app, paint producer BEHR introduced its ColorSmart mobile app, which lets users create and browse color palettes before buying paints.

The "photo match" options enables a user to take a picture or pick an existing picture from his or her photo album in order to choose colors for building a color palette. Once the user chooses a color or multiple colors, the app recommends color palettes.

Besides the "photo match" feature, the app also features a paint calculator that helps users determine costs and a store locator that finds nearby Home Depot stores, where app users can purchase their paint selections.


Chase Mobile




Chase bank announced a big update to its mobile app last July with the addition of Quick Deposit, its mobile deposit feature.

Using the app, Chase customers can snap shots of the front and back of a check, confirm details about the amount of the check and then deposit it into an account from anywhere.

The app also features Person-to-Person QuickPay, which allows users to issue payments to other individuals, as long as he or she has the person's email address.


Chipotle Ordering




Chipotle enables die-hard burrito fans to order from their phones with its Chipotle Ordering app. Users simply choose the nearest Chipotle, customize their items, enter payment details and pick up their orders.


Domino's




The Domino's mobile app lets users order and track their pizzas all from the comfort of their homes. It boasts "more than 1.8 billion pizza combinations all in the palm of your hand," and its patented Domino's Live Pizza Tracker lets customers follow the step-by-step progress of their orders.


eBay Mobile




The eBay Mobile app's integration of a bar code scanner allows users to scan products in a store for price comparisons while shopping or even scan products that they plan to sell. In both cases, the app pulls up all relevant products and lets the user go from there.


Pizza Hut




Like Domino's, Pizza Hut lets hungry locals order via its mobile app. Users can log in or checkout as a "guest." Logged in users benefit from having orders automatically saved to their accounts for easy reordering. Unlike Domino's, though, Pizza Hut does not enable users to track the progress of their orders.


Jones Soda




The Jones Soda mobile app lets fanatics make a custom-labeled Jones Soda. Users personalize the label by adding in a mobile photo. They can also choose from 16 flavors and order 6-packs or 12-packs with their custom label right from the app.


Kodak Pic Flick




Are you one of those people who takes smartphone pictures that never see the light of day? With the Kodak Pic Flick app, that's no longer a problem -- well, as long as you have a Kodak Inkjet printer.

The app lets a user print pictures directly from his or her phone to a wireless Kodak Inkjet printer. It can print sizes anywhere from 2x3 to 8.5x11 inches and is compatible with the Kodak ESP 9200, 7200, 5200 Series and ESP Office 6100 All-in-One Printers.


Juice It Up




Domino's and Pizza Hut have cornered the pizza-by-phone market, but smoothie chain Juice It Up is hoping to make waves in the juice bar industry with its ordering-enabled mobile app.

The app lets smoothie lovers order and pay via their smartphones. Diehards can even save account information for subsequent orders.


Go Barefoot by Merrell




Shoemaker Merrell aims to revolutionize the way people walk, run, hike and play. As a result, it launched a minimalist line called Barefoot. Sure, people can buy the shoes, but do they really understand how they work and how to get the best out of them?

As Merrell explains on its website, "While going Barefoot increases balance, endurance and agility, the benefits of this groundbreaking exercise cannot be realized without the proper education, training and commitment."

As a result, the company launched the Go Barefoot app to train new shoe owners how to best wear the shoes. Featuring the "Merrell Barefoot Challenge," the app takes users through a step-by-step training program and tracks their progress. The app features more than 40 days of workouts, exercises and challenges, leading up to the ultimate challenge -- a 1.5 mile run in the Barefoot shoes.


W Hotels Worldwide




A number of hotels have introduced mobile apps, and most of them feign the ability to order room service in-app - they merely enable users to call room service from the app.

The W Hotel Worldwide app, though, enables hotel guests to order room service, such as meals or new towels, via the app. The navigation is a bit confusing, but the functionality is there.

The app also lets users stream custom music mixes compiled by emerging global DJs as an added bonus, courtesy of W Hotels Global Music Director, Michaelangelo L'Acqua.


Zipcar




The Zipcar app is chock-full of product-enhancing features. First off, a user can find and reserve available Zipcars using a map of his current location. The user can also view upcoming reservations (and extend or cancel them on the go). Once a user's rental time has come, he can use the app to locate the car by honking its horn. The app also lets a user lock and unlock the car's doors after scanning his Zipcard at the start of the reservation.


More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:


- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

More About: apps, branded apps, Business, Mobile, mobile apps


September 08 2011

10 Free Mobile Apps to Kick Off the Football Season

football image

It seems odd to turn on the TV and already see large, heavily-padded men running around a well-manicured field with pigskin, but NFL opening day is already upon us. It’s hard to believe that the summer has passed so quickly and we’ll soon we watching football games with autumn chill in the air and hot chili on the stove.

The 2011-2012 football season, like every other, will be rife with excitement, drama and some damn good plays. In preparation for what’s sure to be another great five months of pro football, the following 10 mobile apps will keep you informed and prepared to savor everything the upcoming season has to offer.


1. Yahoo Fantasy Football




Ah, Fantasy Football. The relentless (and time sucking) hobby of many who aim to create the ultimate roster of players. There are a couple of Fantasy Football leagues out there, but Yahoo’s is one of the most popular. This mobile app provides live scoring, roster management and the ability to add and drop players with a few clicks. Also available on Android.


2. ESPN Score Center




ESPN Score Center is an easy, go-to resource to get immediate access to scores in real-time from the NFL and any other league that tickles your fancy. You can personalize which teams you’d like to receive push scoring alerts on and keep track of breaking news and analysis. Also available on Android.


3. NFL Mobile




NFL Mobile provides iPhone-toting Verizon users with any and every NFL detail at their fingertips. This app offers live audio of every game, real-time stats and network coverage of the live Thursday and Sunday night games. NFL Mobile will also provide comprehensive draft coverage and alert users to when their prospects are selected. Also available on Android.

Note: NFL Mobile is only available to Verizon customers.


4. NFL Message Boards Huddle Up




You have plenty of opinions on the way your team is playing, but what are other fans thinking? This app gives you the opportunity to read up on more than 100 NFL message boards and see what kinds of predictions people are making for the season. The app even includes Twitter feeds from major national media and fantasy news outlets so you have full visibility on real-time comments.


5. NFL '11




NFL ’11 is the official app of the league and gives you a full schedule of upcoming games and up-to-date developments of any team you want to follow. You can preview all teams’ news or you can filter specific teams you are interested in. It also gives you full pre-season and regular season game schedules for every team in the league. Also available on Android.


6. Air Horn




There’s no mistaking the blaring call of an air horn. This app simulates the sound pretty well, allowing you to cheer even louder when your team scores the winning touchdown. Just don’t hold the phone too close to anyone’s ear. Also available on Android.


7. Super Bowl Winners




It seems the entire season builds up to the Super Bowl. As huge as it is, can you really remember who won last year or the year before? How quickly we forget. For a quick and simple guide on past winners, check out the Super Bowl Winners app.


8. Sports Venue Finder




If you’re getting tickets at a stadium you’re not familiar with, Sports Venue Finder is a simple app that lays out the seating map for many venues and stadiums in the country. There aren’t any super cool graphics, but a visual map of the section layout can be helpful when you’re trying to figure out which section to buy or to find out where you’re sitting.


9. Tailgating




Gearing up for the big game is so much better when you’ve got your tailgate on. Nothing says football more than an outdoor grill, a well-stocked cooler and lots of excited football fans nearby. This app provides you with a checklist of everything you need to have a successful tailgating party. There are predetermined lists of things you need and it also provides suggestions on what food you should bring.


10. Kluckr




If tailgating is too ambitious for you, use Kluckr to keep things easy and find the nearest chicken wings locale. This handy app is great to have, in season or out, and uses GPS to find the closest restaurant selling wings. There are categories you can sort by (atmosphere, heat, value, distance), as well as user ratings. The Kluckr database currently has about 20,000 locations and is continually growing.

Image courtesy of Flickr, MandaRose

More About: apps, football, Mobile 2.0, mobile apps, sports

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How One Mobile Startup Plans to Connect Music & Location


The Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series is supported by Diet Coke®. Now, the drink that helps you stay extraordinary brings you extraordinary people. Find Diet Coke® on Facebook for access to a whole lot of extraordinary.

As any music lover can tell you, tunes and location are often tied closely together — every landscape has its own musical mood. For the last six months or so, renaissance man Steve Jang has been tapping into the location-based craze, allowing any music fan with a phone and an inclination to share their musical journeys with SoundTracking.

For those still stuck in the dark ages — you know, sharing filtered snaps and pics of your food — SoundTracking is an iOS app that allows users to share songs (either via search, music recognition or what’s playing on one’s iTunes) with location and a photo attached.

Mashable spoke with Jang about how the app came to be, his inspiration and his myriad stitches — none of which were inflicted in the line of entrepreneurial duty.

Name: Steve Jang

Company: Schematic Labs

Year Founded: 2010

Fun Facts: I co-produced music videos for The Strokes and J Dilla, and have produced DJ battles and showcases for more than 10 years. I’ve been a skateboarder and surfer for more than 20 years and have had more than 150 stitches and 20 staples in my body. I learned how to program in PASCAL in 1987.

What inspires you?

I find a ton of inspiration in industrial design. I’ve always been fascinated with the emotional power of a great industrial design. I can tell you what my first Sony Walkman, my first surfboard, my Braun shaver, and my first iPod not only looked like, but how they felt in my hands for the first time and what kind of emotions I experienced as I used these imaginative, simple and man-made objects. For example, I collect vintage radios and recently refurbished a 1958 Clairtone wood stereo console, and it was that work that actually influenced some of the UI elements of the SoundTracking app.

What is your vision of success?

When I visualize success for our company, I see us working together, designing and building great products that make a lot of people very happy, including ourselves. I’ve seen teams of really smart, talented people get steered into building products that they don’t enjoy themselves and I think it’s important to not only enjoy what you do, but also love the product itself for what it does. For our first product, the SoundTracking app, we’re really excited about giving people a powerful and authentic emotional experience using their mobile phone, around sharing the music that moves them and connecting with the world via the songs and artists they love. If we can accomplish that, then we’ve done something really cool.

What about your startup idea was game-changing?

My co-founder and I started the company because we were excited about creating new social experiences using the mobile form factor, sensors and social software. With regard to SoundTracking, I think the innovative thing we did was to rethink, from the ground up, how to build a social music service designed specifically for mobile devices and combining pre-existing technology and features to do so. We combined search, music recognition, geo-location and photo capture to create a totally new way to share your music moments in the familiar form of a playable music postcard. We have some other mobile product ideas beyond music that we are excited about as well.

What was the pivotal point in your early startup days?

We’re still in our early days, since we just launched six months ago, but I can think of two moments that really stand out. The day Matt Paul (my co-founder) and I had built the first functional prototype on an iPhone was an important day. When your first prototype performs that one basic function and you say “it f**king works!!!”, that is the most pivotal point in the early days of a startup. The second point was when we hit 250,000 users after just six weeks — it was clear that we had struck a nerve with our app idea and dropped all other prototype ideas.

What was the biggest challenge you faced with your startup?

I think the biggest challenge is always prioritizing the different steps you feel are all absolutely essential to building out your vision. It’s funny because everything seems crucially important when you’re looking ahead from step one in a young startup. Paradoxically, you have to be both wildly ambitious and steadily patient to a certain extent as you try to design, build and ship, often at the tip of an extremely huge iceberg of awesome and totally amazing things you’d like to build.

What are the biggest influences on your business model?

I think we’re squarely in the quadrant of products that are simply just trying to build a great service that people understand, love and use frequently. From a historical perspective, I think there are a lot of great learnings from the Google model. They built a singularly great search engine and developed a business model that allowed them to efficiently connect companies that provide products or services relevant to what people were actually searching for. It was not an obtrusive way of creating a business model, rather it was actually additive in terms of the quality of user experience.

We’d like to figure out a similar way of creating a business model that generates revenue in a way that our user community actually appreciates. In these early days, we have begun testing in-app payments in the form of a song purchase button at the peak of excitement when a user views a soundtrack post they love. We’re seeing 10% conversion after someone taps that buy-a-download button, which is promising but still just early data.

How did your social network of peers influence your business?

It’s been super helpful to have a group of product-knowledgeable and articulate peers to rap with about your vision and question your assumptions and ideas. For SoundTracking, we stand in a Venn diagram of mobile, social software and music, so I make sure to include friends from those fields in our beta test group and advisor list. I’m also an advisor and early investor/shareholder to some great startups developing mobile products, such as StackMob, Animoto, StumbleUpon and Uber, so I learn a great deal from those entrepreneurs as well.

How does your startup utilize social media?

For us, social media is not only important in terms of the typical word-of-mouth and user feedback benefits, but also for measuring actual user behavior data beyond the SoundTracking app’s boundaries. One of the popular uses of SoundTracking is to share your music moments and opinions of songs to friends on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. We can see how they share these posts into their feeds, how their friends and followers react, and the traffic flow between our services. Currently, we are seeing great reach for SoundTracking on those three services, with more than 8 million daily impressions posted, and then we can compare that to the amount of measurable activity data that is happening within that social media platform and within our own service.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Try to work with people that are extremely smart, talented and ambitious. If they are missing any of those three attributes, it will show immediately in a startup. If they have all three, they will make a huge, positive impact on not only product execution, but also your startup’s vision. And absolutely don’t BS yourself — make sure you work on a product that you truly love, not that you just kind of like and think “makes a lot of sense.” Think of it as a long journey in a small boat with a few people across a wild ocean. You want to make sure you have the best sea-mates you can depend upon and a destination that is worth the fun, but tumultuous journey.


Series Supported by Diet Coke®

The Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series is supported by Diet Coke®. Now, the drink that helps you stay extraordinary brings you extraordinary people. Find Diet Coke® on Facebook for access to a whole lot of extraordinary.

More About: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series, Mobile 2.0, music, soundtracking

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