South by Southwest is the biggest, most important digital conference in the world. IT’S ACTUALLY AMAZING.
It’s also a launching pad for some pretty great apps. This years edition wrapped up last week to some mixed reviews and no true stand-out show stopper. However, we have picked out a handful of apps that caught our eye.
Thread for Android takes caller ID and makes it amazing. Thread will pull information from all your social networks about your caller for you to see before you answer a call. Don’t know why this person is calling? Thread will show you their recent Tweets, status updates and text exchanges with you to give you a snapshot of where you left off. It’s only available on Android right now, but something this useful (and that completely replaces and improves upon an existing phone function most people pay for) should take off in no time.
Hater is a social network for Internet trolls. If you have spent any time in the comments section of Youtube, you know the internet can be a dark and scary place full of, well, hate. Hater caters to those that want to complain, gripe, cry, cuss, dis and diminish. It takes Facebook’s “Like” and turns it on its head. Although it’s questionable if we should really be creating more space online for people to be negative, Hater is an interesting concept that could prove to be incredibly popular.
Finally, Hinge will help you find a date. Internet dating is big business, so it was only a matter of time before it invaded our phones. Hinge looks at friends of friends on social networks and gives you a handful of profiles to rate. They have pictures and basic details, nothing too extensive. If you rate somebody highly, you will show up on their feed. If they rate you highly Hinge introduces you through email. It’s very simple and only introduces you to people you already have a connection to. It’s only available in Houston right now, but if it works it could only be a few months before that cute co-worker or classmate is finally going on a date with you.
Did you see anything that caught your eye at SXSW? Let us know on Twitter @plasticmobile
Nowadays, with smartphone image quality nearing that of most point-and-shoot cameras, along with the inherent convenience of mobile, more and more people are using their devices as their go-to camera.
As a result of this trend, we are seeing a constantly increasing amount of photography apps popping up. These apps offer users a variety of innovative features not found in native apps. One such app is creating somewhat of a buzz latley, by offering its users an opportunity to make money doing something that they are already doing for free.
Much like Instagram, Foap allows users to create profiles, upload photos, rate photos and follow other users. AND, remarkably similar to a stock photography site, Foap has created a marketplace where photographs can be bought and sold.
That’s right! Users can actually make money selling the digital photos taken with their iPhones – capitalism wins again!
However, it should be noted that uploaded photos must first be reviewed by someone, we assume a photography expert, at Foap. So, only the approved photos are uploaded to the Foap market and put on sale for $10, with all transactions processed through PayPal.
When a user’s photo is sold, the generated revenue is split 50/50 between Foap and the user. I know $5 doesn’t sound like much, but just consider what Instagram users get for uploading their photos (hint; the answer is nothing).
It’s not very clear exactly what Foap looks for when reviewing photos, but from what I have read in the app’s FAQ section, photos must be clear and of good quality, and of course free of any sexual or violent content.
I have also read elsewhere, that editing photos decreases the chance that they will be published. I, myself was unable to upload some cropped images. I received an error message stating that either the width or length of an image must be at least 1000 pixels.
Once photos are successfully uploade, reviewed and published, they are showcased in the app’s market section. Users can access the market through a tab menu found on the home screen. The home screen is very easy to learn and navigate, making for speedy discovery and exploration of the app.
Once in the market, users are able browse through published photos, leave comments and rate them out of a possibe five stars. Top rated and recently sold photos have their own dedicatd sections in the market, while the entire selection can be found under the “Explore” tab.
Users are not actually able to purchase photos directly from the app, but I predict that will change eventually. Until that time, however, anyone wishing to purchase a photo must do so through the company’s website.
However, while viewing a particular photo, users can tap an arrow icon loacated at top right of their screens, which gives them a few options. Selecting “View on Market” will launch Safari and take users to that particular picture’s page on the website.
I have been playing around with this app for a few days now, and I must admit that I have become a bit addicted. For the purpose of this review, I actually snapped this photo and uploaded it. Once it was approved and published, my picture quickly picked up a few five-star ratings and made its way onto the top-rated chart under the “Today” category. In fact, it made it all the way to #2!
Every since then, I have been snapping away, trying repeat my accomplishment. I have introduced a few friends to Foap who are now also hooked. We’ve even mafe a friendly bet between us as to who will be the first to actually sell a photo.
Even is you have little interest in selling your images, I would still recommend giving this app a try. Foap is well designed and easy to learn and use. It can also be alot of fun and can even possibly get you paid for your amateur photography! Yay!
So far in 2012, Plastic has been a big hit in the awards circle. We have won 10 awards, and the year is only half over!
Most recently, we won a Gold award for Pizza Pizza’s iPhone ordering app at the Applied Arts Interactive awards.
And the Creativity International Media and Inteactive Awards liked us so much, they gave us four awards:
And the Horizon Interactive Awards toasted us three times for:
Pizza Pizza also brought in yet an additional two awards including a Silver from the Communicator Awards as well as an Official Honouree Award from the Webby’s this year.
We can’t wait to see what the second half of the year has in store for us, and we want to take a moment to send out a huge thanks to everyone involved in all our mobile solutions – we know it takes a village to raise a child, and we couldn’t have done it without you – you know who you are!
Last week at Google I/O 2012, it was announced that Chrome, the popular internet browser, was coming to iOS. Hours later, it was available in the App Store for all iOS devices.
I’ve been using it for the last few days and have found it to be a very easy transition from Safari on my iPhone – though, I should mention that I use Chrome daily as my go-to browser on my Mac. In fact, with the exception of a few minor differences, the iOS version doesn’t look or feel much different.
Google Chrome on the iPhone
Upon launching the app, I was first greeted with a screen displaying the Google Chrome Terms of Service that I had to agree to before I could continue any further.
Once the formalities were out of the way, I was given given the option of signing in using my email address and password or continue without doing so.
I chose to sign in, as doing so gave me access to my open tabs, and bookmarks from my laptop. I found this feature to be very useful, as it allows for users to grab their phones and pick up right where they left off on their computer. Meaning that, in a sense, the Chrome application for iOS bridges the gap between the desktop and our mobile devices. Finally!
To access bookmarks and open tabs that exist on other devices, users select the corresponding tab near the bottom of the screen while in a new tab. Alternatively, they can tap the menu icon to the right of the address field and select the “Other Devices” option.
Another thing I like about Chrome is something called “incognito mode,” which is basically the equivalent to Safari’s private browsing. The main difference between the two is that Chrome makes switching between regular and incognito browsing easy and quick, while Safari users are forced to navigate away from the browser and make the change in Settings.
To enter incognito mode, users tap on the menu icon next to the address bar and select “New Incognito Tab.” This opens a new tab where users can browse without having their browsing history, searches and cookies saved.
Incognito tabs have a dark grey menu bar at the top of the screen, while regular tabs are light grey. This colour coding helps users keep track of which tabs are incognito and which are not. I really appreciated this feature since you’re probably broswing a la incognito for a reason, so confusing the two could result in bad news.
For me, it’s the simplicity of Chrome that makes it a good browser. Unlike Safari, which has two separate fields for URLs and searches, Chrome has one universal text field for both. Because Chrome can detect what it is you are trying to do, with the Google guess, there is no need for two separate fields. Chrome will either navigate to your desired site or provide Google search results for your query.
Users can also speak to Chrome to tell it where to go or what to search. Just by tapping a small microphone icon in the far right of the URL/search field, then dictating either a URL or keywords, Chrome will produce your results just like that.
Make the switch?
Overall, I enjoyed Chrome and believe it to be a fairly good alternative to Safari. Particularly for users who are already using it on their desktops.
But in the end, it ultimately comes down to preference. Users know what they value and what they like. For example, it has been reported that Chrome is the slower of the two browsers, making Safari a better choice for those who value speed. However, I’m sure any difference in page loading times is minimal, as I did not even notice it.
The biggest problem with Chrome for iOS is that there is no way to set is as the default browser, which means that links from messages, emails and other apps will continue to be opened in Safari. Leaving Chrome secondary browser. Boo.
What do you think of the Chrome app? Love it? Hate it? Tweet us @plasticmobile and share your thoughts.
A few weeks back, Plastic’s CEO, Sep Seyedi, was attending WWDC 2012 and sent an email to us here at the office recommending we checkout a specific application. Right away, I knew it was going to be something great because Sep wouldn’t waste our time with anything less than fantastic.
National Geo’s Parks in an App
National Parks has all the elements of a great app. It is beautifully designed, easy to learn and use, and the attention to detail is impeccable. It also offers substantial amounts of functionality for those want it. However, what impressed me most about this app was its clean, intuitive and uncluttered UI, coupled with its cool transitions and animations. Not to mention the stunning photos that utilize the iPhone’s retina display.
This app is perfect for those who want to plan their next great camping trip. Users are given all the basic park info that is necessary to plan a getaway to any of the 20 most visited national parks in the United States.
This includes information on how to get there, when to go, entrance fees, special advisories and of course the parks contact info. Users are also given weather conditions (current and a five-day forecast), stats about the park (number of annual visitors and park size) and some amazing photos of the scenery.
Additional information is available in the form of park guides, which users can purchase in app. The first guide is free of charge and subsequent guides cost anywhere from $0.99 – $1.99. With the guides users get additional photos, park secrets, suggestions of what to see, what to do and photo tips.
Photo tips are a great feature of this app. The National Geographic Society is known for amazing photography and now, with this app, users get all the information they need to snap their own masterpieces.
With the photo tips, users get the location (GPS coordinates), time of day, camera details and difficulty levels for each individual photo. They also get an overview and some fairly detailed instructions from the actual photographer who took that particular photo.
All in all, National Parks delivers a great mobile app experience. It offers a bunch of features wrapped in a very pretty package and believe it has a little something for everyone.
Granted, not all people are into camping and the outdoors. However, most people do appreciate the beauty of nature, and some people, myself included, value the beauty of a great app.
I have discussed this app with some colleagues and, as people who truly appreciate great design, attention to detail and great usability, we know that those elements are extremely important to producing a great experience for the end user and we all agree that the Apple Design Award was well deserved
The latest in Android anti-virus, called Sophos Mobile Security, has produced a report identifying the top five most frequently encountered scary problems on the platform. The first, PJApps-C, is Android’s most significant chaos causer. See the chat above and the list below for more on Android’s scariest viruses.
Read more in depth about each of them HERE
While many people may not give a second thought to the mobile computing threats emerging as the mobile industry continues to grow and expand, there is some cause for concern. Thankfully, the company Veracode has got our backs. They’ve recently released a free ebook about mobile security that offers 10 simple ways to ramp up the company protection against a very real growing mobile threat. Get the free ebook HERE.
This week, I want to discuss yet another Clear-like task management app. This one is different from the rest and I definitely recommend checking it out (especially if you are a fan of Clear and, well just apps in general).
If you remember, a few weeks ago I wrote about an app called Well Done, which in my opinion was a cheap knockoff of one of my all-time favourite apps (Clear). Overall, I thought Well Done showed some potential in the added functionality it offered, but failed overall because of a lack of refinement and fine-tuning.
This brings me to Task, which is another task management app that has recently come out of the woodwork following the success of Clear. Task, however, is the only app that I think can stand in the same shoes as Clear.
Task offers a simple and intuitive interface, fun gesture-based interactions and allows users to add to do items quickly and with ease.
Same Same, but Different
Yes, Task has obviously been heavily inspired by the Clear app – the similar interface and the use of some of the same gesture-based interactions are very evident. However, I believe enough significant changes were made to give the app its own unique look and feel.
For example, the colour coding in Clear, which signifies the importance of each task, has been removed and replaced with a small yellow badge that appears on a task when it is marked important, taking away the range of importance levels and leaving the user with just the options of important or not important.
The benefit of removing the colour coding is that, in some cases, it may simplify things a tad. For example, when all tasks on a list share the same level of urgency, Clear’s rainbow colour-coding loses its value and may even become somewhat of a distraction to users.
Another difference between Task and Clear lies in the manner in which users add new tasks to their lists. In Clear, users perform a downward swipe, which would pull down on the list exposing a blank task at the top. However, Task users swipe upward to expose a blank task at the bottom of the list.
While the gestures for creating new tasks are different within either app, the gestures for marking tasks as completed and for deleting tasks remain the same. However, the transitions and visual feedback cues are slightly different. The transitions in Task are reminiscent of the fold-to-unlock jailbreak.
Task users have the added ability to mark tasks with dates and set up a notification for a certain time on that day. Using this feature is very intuitive and easy. The combination of gesture-based interactions, coupled with the fold-to-unlock transition, makes this feature also very enjoyable to use.
Another little feature: Task has a nifty gesture-based interaction for checking the time and date. Users pull down on the list to see the current time and date and simply let go when they’re done.
One thing I really missed in Task was the ability to create multiple lists to better manage and organize my many tasks. Clear allows users to do just that, and also made navigating between lists easy and fun with its use of the pinch gesture.
Overall, I like Task, but not because I think it’s anything new or particularly innovative. Rather, I like Task because it’s a further refined take on something that was both new and innovative.
I think Task succeeds where others, like Well Done, have failed. Meaning, it has succeeding in re-creating Clear in a way that captures its essence (minimalist, simple and fun), offers a comparable level of UX and can still be differentiated as something relatively new.
Do you have the Task app? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know what you think!
I recently experienced one of the worst cases of smartphone withdrawal after losing my iPhone while fishing on Balsam Lake in Ontario. I’m not sure exactly when and where it happened, but I’m fairly confident that my phone is currently baffling a school of minnows.
The following two days without a phone proved difficult, to say the least. I found myself reaching for my nonexistent phone every time someone else’s started ringing. Finally, on day three, I was able to find a replacement. Much relieved, I then proceeded to devote more than four hours playing around with my new device as though trying to make up for lost time.
I first recovered all my data from a backup, then reacquainted myself with all my go-to apps, setting them up just as they were prior to losing my phone. Once I had finally got that out of my system, I moved on to installing and trying out a collection of new apps. Frankly, it had been a while since my last visit to the App Store, so I needed my fix.
During this App Store binge I cam across some pretty cool apps – two in particular. The first app, Timegg, is a fresh alternative that is perfect for those who have grown a little tired of iOS’s native clock app and are craving some change. The second is a great photo-editing app that uses gesture controls to deliver a great experience.
Timegg is a sexy and well-designed app that can be a fresh alternative to the native iOS clock app. The interface and the navigation are extremely simple and intuitive. Especially, when you consider all the functionality that is essentially displayed and accessible from a single screen.
Users can easily navigate between the colour-coded Alarms, Reminders, Timers and D-day sections by either swiping horizontally near the header section at the top of the screen, or by tapping the corresponding corner in the bottom portion of the screen.
I especially liked this because it works great as an alternative to the conventional iOS style tab navigation that you usually see at the bottom of the screen. Moreover, it allows for better consistency among all four sections. This consistency makes learning to use and navigate the app extremely easy (once you learn to use one, you have essentially learned them all).
I’ve been using Timegg mostly as an alarm for the past few days and am very pleased with it. You are able to set up to 8 alarms and doing so is very fast and easy.
You are able choose from one of 16 pre-loaded wake-up tones, or set a song from your music library, as I like to do.
I really enjoyed how easy it was to set up repeating alarms. It was much quicker than the native clock app and delivered a superior experience. Instead of being taken to another screen to individually tap each day that I want my alarm to go off, I could quickly select multiple days without multiple taps. More importantly, I could do it without having to be taken to another screen, only to be returned to that initial screen.
Overall, Timegg is fun and a little refreshing. It may not offer some of the functions that the native Clock app does (World Clock & Stopwatch), but it offers its own unique set of functions and does so in a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way.
I have read one review complaining of unreliability. Citing that the app sometimes fails to deliver notifications if left running in the background for long periods of time, and only delivers those notifications once the app is re-opened.
I haven’t experienced any such problems myself, but I also haven’t been using the app for that long. I’ll keep you posted as I continue to use it, and will let you know if I come across any reliability issues in the future.
Snapseed is one of many photo-editing apps that can be found in the App Store. In Canada, this app is currently sitting in the #5 spot on the Top Free chart, and I can see it climbing even greater heights.
Even though I found the overall app great, the selection of tools and filters to be extensive and the sharing capabilities to be on par with other similar apps, the thing that impressed me most and made Snapseed stand out, was the use of gesture controls.
These gestures are intuitive and don’t take much time master. They make switching between adjustment options within each tool or filter very simple and fast. Users can swipe up or down to switch between the various adjustment options and swipe left or right to adjust how heavily that option is applied.
I found that the use of gesture controls in the app worked great to increase efficiency and enjoyment. I almost always enjoy using apps that employ gesture controls, because I find that tapping has become slightly repetitive and mundane.
There finally seems to be a general consensus amongst most mid- to large-sized retailers that mobile is going to be the primary channel through which they will communicate with their customers in the next five years.
Statements like that one often get me the, “how can you be so sure?” look.
So I’ve come up with a short and simple explanation for my certainty:
Your mobile phone is on you for approximately 16 hours a day. It’s the first thing you look at in the morning (for time, weather, news) and the last thing you plug in before you go to sleep. You’re so acutely aware of its constant presence on your person that if you don’t touch it or look at it every 10 minutes, a quiet but serious panic sets in.
So, I ask you: is there any other medium that can compete with that kind of intimate relationship?
Billboards, TV, even radio don’t come close to having that kind of face time with an audience.
While most retailers are now grasping this concept, they’re still not producing mobile experiences that their customers appreciate. Part of this can be attributed to the novelty of the mobile platform, and the other part of it is because customer expectations are rising at unprecedented rates. When your customer clicks on a link that takes them to your site, they expect it to be optimized for their device. If that expectation is not met, well frankly, they feel betrayed. Yet only 36% of the top US retailers of 2011 (as per stores.org) have a mobile offering on iOS, Android and mobile web.
Mobile has given the customer more power than ever. The average consumer can tell a brand, and millions of other customers, exactly when and why they’re happy – as well as when and why they’re not. It’s the age of the customer; so why not give them what they want?
Here are a few basic guidelines for retailers to consider when going mobile:
1) Browsing in app should be as easy as browsing in store.
2) Provide some value through smart innovative functionality. Use device intel to create context-rich experiences.
3) Either optimize existing sites for mobile, or build stand alone mobile sites. This is not an option – it’s a necessity.
4) If you’re selling beautiful things, make them just as beautiful in the app. Don’t let your IT team tell you it can’t be done – Plastic’s team will tell you, it can.
5) Promotional notifications are secondary.
While most retailers are missing out, few are getting it right. Amazon makes it so easy to purchase on your mobile device that it has enraged the rest of the retail community. Starbucks is taking mobile to where it ought to be, right into the store.
The success stories that are spread far and wide are the ones that made some little detail of life better for the customer. When you start with what your users want, and now demand, your user will continue to use your offering and will share their happy story with others.
Do you have some more tips for retailers? Tweet us about them @plasticmobile.
At our weekly Bagel Wednesday meeting, the topic du jour was, of course, Facebook. Over and above all of the buzz surrounding their apparently over-inflated IPO, there is no shortage of gossip and speculation about the social networking giant.
From creating their very own mobile device, to paying millions for facial recognition, Facebook seems to have a hand in everything lately. While some of the rumours seem a bit farfetched, or at least a little odd, the potential acquisition of face.com, makes perfect sense.
Face.com offers an API to developers and publishers that allows them to create apps that have instant facial recognition on their photo services for users. This particular rumour is garnering a great deal of attention from Tweeters and Bloggers, and thus far, the general consensus among analysts is that this is a smart move for Facebook.
Tom Cherader of VentureBeat states:
“Being able to easily identify those faces would easily translate into a higher traffic return, and hopefully higher ad revenue. There’s also the fact that Facebook would be gaining a pretty wonderful domain name that encompasses half of the social network’s own name.”
The deal, which is being confirmed by multiple TechCrunch.com sources, is speculated to have the pricetag of around $100 million and could mean the sale of Russian search engine, Yandex.com’s, shares in Face.com to Facebook, or a full out acquisition. But these and other finer details have not yet been confirmed. TechCrunch lays down the evidence clearly in their recent blog post.
• Israeli business publication Calcalist first reported (in Hebrew) that Facebook was looking to purchase Face.com.
• The deal size has been put at $80 million and $100 million. We’re calling it at $100m.
• Face.com’s technology is a natural acquisition target for Facebook. Photos are core to Facebook’s lock-in strategy and facial recognition allows tags to better reflect the social graph, which then feeds into making its advertising platform more efficient.
• There is evidence the two companies have been talking for some time (after all, Face.com appeared in 2007), but a price was never agreed until now.
• Face.com’s popular Facebook application Photo Tagger, allows people to scan their (or their friends’) photo albums for known faces. It also has the iOS facial recognition app KLIK and a public API that could benefit Facebook.
• Facebook’s own camera app could integrate the Face.com API.
• Face.com has so far raised $5.3 million from Yandex and Rhodium
What do you think of Facebook’s proposed purchase? Savvy or shifty? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know!