BW: A Galaxy of Rumours

By on March 13, 2013

GSIV

The official launch of the new Galaxy SIV is this Thursday. Despite Samsung doing a remarkable job keeping the juiciest details (including what it looks like) from leaking, nothing can stop the rumor mill from spinning.

The Launch of Samsung’s flagship phone is big news in mobile and has been the talk of the office lately. We rounded up some choice rumours for your consideration. Keep in mind that this is all speculation and we will not know until tomorrow if any of this is true.

- Eye-tracking tech, so when you are looking at your phone it will be looking back at you. The GSIV will track your eye movements and scroll pages for you when you are at the bottom of the screen. Useful, yes. Creepy, perhaps.

- Eight-core processor with a separate eight-core graphics processing unit and 2gb of RAM. The top of the line hardware rumoured to be inside the GSIV will make it the fasted phone on the market. This could lead to battery issues unless. . .

- 4.99inch, 440ppi, Green PHOLED display. Screen technology has not evolved nearly as fast as the rest of the industry. This rumoured new tech will increase screen efficiency by up to 33% wile providing a sharper image than the Super AMOLED screen currently found in the GSIII

- 13 megapixedl rear facing 3D camera. 3D has had a hard time getting off the ground. Could putting a 3D camera on what promised to be a hugely popular phone be the catalyst it need? This seems like an odd match, but Samsung makes 3D televisions and has a hard time selling them so this dark horse rumour may be more credible than it looks. Very interesting.

Are you looking forward to the Galaxy SIV launch? What features do you hope to see in the new GSIV? Let us know on Twitter @PlasticMobile

Throughout the years, retailers have invested a lot of money in market research in order to determine some real insights on consumers shopping behaviours. Euclid Analytics has recently launched a new technology that answers all the toughest retail challenges, by providing retailers to get complete statistics about shoppers in their stores.
How may you ask? Euclid simply scans all nearby devices that are Wi-Fi enabled (so pretty much any smartphone), and retrieves information such as MAC address (which is the physical address of a network card that never changes), signal strength, and then stores the hashed MAC address in a database for review.
This simple device can track your exact movements and can also have access to your interests. The goal in using the Euclid technology is to see how shoppers interact in their stores and how retailers can use this information to fully optimize their business.
Now this all seems really amazing for retailers, but what about the shoppers privacy, is their privacy taken into consideration? Privacy seems to be respected in the way that they don’t get any other information other than your MAC address.
If you are shopping and you don’t want to be tracked for any reason, the only way to be untraceable is to either turn off your Wi-Fi or maybe even completely turn off your phone, because we can imagine that there are probably similar technologies out there that can detect 3G signals.
It’s really interesting to see how retailers have been stepping up their game when it comes to analyzing how their consumers interact with their brand and products, especially now that most shoppers prefer to shop online then enter the physical store. It will be appealing to see what other technologies will develop for retailers throughout the years!
What do you think about this new way to track shoppers in stores? Let us know! Tweet us @PlasticMobile.

You probably did not hear it from us first, however, our Technical Director let us all know this morning that the infamous “yep” has been written.

According to one of the greatest sources for clarifying Apple rumours, Jim Darlymple, Apple will reveal the new iPad mini on October 23rd.

We can’t wait to see if this rumour will prove true, and what features this new iPhone 5 / iPad in-between will offer other than being, well, in between in size.

Are you excited for the reveal? Let us know @plasticmobile.

Yes, we know that the title of this article probably sounds completely weird. But, there’s a story behind our madness.
To begin, since iOS 6 was released with its own Apple version of the Maps app, most people are noticing some bugs, quirks and problems that would indicate that it may not have been 100% ready for the market. In fact, some people have become incensed by the latest Apple app, and have been posting all kinds of crazy things that this new Apple Maps app is showing. We suppose that is must be difficult for some users who had become very accustomed to Google Maps, to now have to get used to something new.
Just the other day, we saw someone get lost because he was using the new app. And across the pond in London, England, countless iPhone users trying to navigate the London Tube system have posted comments making fun of its inaccuracies.
Another rather hilarious and ironic misnomer is seeing the app re-direct to Google Maps on the web because the service currently only exists as an app.
Some of us here at Plastic are of the thought that it was pretty poor planning of Apple – known for its high-quality products – to replace a useful service, with their own that seems to be still a BETA version.
While this also did happen to an extent with Siri (especially in the US), Siri was a new technology and ergo, was forgiven for its bugs and quirks. But the new Apple Maps is replacing a perfectly good service that already existed.

Even today, all of Siri’s bugs haven’t been worked out, for example, if you ask her to find a restaurant for you in Paris, she proudly lists 15 options – a mere fraction of the restaurants in Paris, but we’re getting there.
The good news is that even if you get lost because of the new iOS 6 Maps, you might have more fun than if you were given the correct information, thanks to a Japanese company called NeuroWear. They are working on different concept of accessories to translate your emotion from your body to electronic cat ears called Necomimi or electronic cat tail called Shippo, which will even allow you to share how you felt about places you have visited via the mobile app.
We can’t wait to hear how everyone feels about being lost because of the new iOS 6 Maps! Just kidding, Apple. We know you’ll fix it for us.

PM UX: YouTube Revamped

By on September 25, 2012

The recent release of Apple’s iOS 6 marks the end of YouTube as we iPhone users know it. With the five year licensing agreement between Apple and Google not being renewed, users running iOS 6 will no longer be seeing YouTube as a pre-installed app on their devices.

I for one couldn’t be happier about this. You see, Google has released it’s own version of the YouTube app and it addresses my biggest problem with the old app, very limited video selection.

Not only does the new YouTube app offer more in terms of video selection, it also offers some new functionality, and much better experience. The app is currently available as a free download in the App Store and, not surprisingly, it’s also sitting comfortably in the #1 spot of the Top 25 free apps’ list.

YouTube

When I launched the new YouTube app, the first thing I noticed was a cleaner, sleeker and far more aesthetically pleasing design. Only when I saw the new app in all its glory, did I realize how outdated the old YouTube had become.

The new YouTube sports an overhauled menu, larger images for your viewing pleasure, an alternative to full screen landscape viewing and a search function that not only reduces taps, but also allows users to search for videos without even typing.

Updated Menu

The new YouTube app utilizes a familiar menu style used by many other popular apps, most notably the Facebook app. The new menu also improves browsing by providing users with more categories to browse by and allowing them to do so efficiently. Users can find more content that interests them in a shorter amount of time.  The previous app only allowed users to browse “Featured” or “Most Viewed” videos, which only go so far at keeping users engaged.

Larger Images For Better Browsing

 

The new YouTube app displays much larger images than its predecessor. I find, and I’m sure most will agree, that larger images make for quicker browsing. In fact, with the new design I find that there’s less of a need to stop and read a video description, because a picture is worth a 1000 words.

I also find larger images much more enjoyable to browse through. Especially, when the app displaying those images is quick and responsive as the new YouTube app is. Take a look at the below screenshots of the old and the new, then decide for yourself.

Improved Search Functionality

 

If you remember, the older, pre-installed YouTube app had its search function tucked away in a tab menu. This meant that if a user wanted to search for a video while browsing the “Featured” list, they would first have to tap “Search” from the tab menu, and then tap the text field to enter their query.

The new YouTube places the search function in the app’s header bar, as an icon resembling a magnifying glass. The function is available throughout most of the app and the placement is consistent, making the function highly accessible and easy to find.

When a user taps the search icon, the keyboard slides up and a pre-selected text field appears. Because the text field is pre-selected, the user can begin typing right away, saving them a tap.

A cool piece of additional functionality comes in the form of the ability to dictate a search. By tapping the microphone icon next to the search text field user can simply dictate what they wish to search, then select their video from a list of search results.

When I first saw this feature in YouTube, I was sure I had seen it somewhere else, but simply couldn’t remember where. Shortly after, it hit me. It was another Google app we reviewed here, Chrome.

A Huge Improvement

There is no comparison! In my opinion, the new YouTube app is better in every way. Probably because the old app  never really saw any significant updates and was essentially the same app for as long as I can remember.

Technology is amazing. Seriously! It seems every day we wake up, there is some new incredible device, software or application being invented somewhere. With technology being developed at such an exponential rate, there are countless ideas, products or tools that can be overlooked – perhaps ocassionally in favour of ones that are more noise and hype than they are worth – just sayin’ is all.

And, sometimes, an invention just needs time to quietly permeate the consumer consciousness at its own rate before it becomes readily adopted by the masses.

One of these is “Augmented Reality.”

AR may be one the best examples of a really cool (albeit somewhat still theoretical) way to tear down barriers between people and the world. In a nutshell, AR represents being able to access information about anything, anywhere and displayed in a manner we choose. Whether it is in a digital contact lens, a mobile device or a pair of glasses, Augmented Reality at it’s heart is designed to personalize the world around us while providing only the most relevant information.

But what is being done with AR right now? Well, a few things. Brands, mostly car companies, are using AR to provide an interactive experience for consumers within their advertising channels. Volvo also recently used AR for their trade show tour early 2012. With the release of the Volvo V40, the car maker also had an app developed that would be used as a “X-Ray Scanner” for the V40. While feeling a tad gimmicky, and providing minimal real-life solutions to consumers, the X-Ray Scanner is still a fun and innovative way to capture an audience at a tradeshow. I am also a fan of how Volvo is almost saying “we’ve got nothing to hide.” Good on you, Volvo!

Publishers are also experimenting with AR to provide more interactive content by unlocking additional copy or videos, or seeing alternative views of a product. For instance, IKEA just launched their new catalogue app, which can be used in tandem with the print version to view additional content through a type of augmented reality. While it seems strange to have to use the catalogue app to use the additional features in the print catalogue, it is still a smart and attractive step in the right direction for IKEA and mobile AR strategies.

So we have two examples of AR in the market right now, but is that all? Is the future and destiny of AR to be used as a one-trick pony?

We don’t think so and neither do the people working with it. With Google’s Project Glass under development, Digital contact lenses being developed, and with Micro and Nanotechnologies regularly achieving breakthroughs, the era of Augmented Reality might be right around the corner.

Check out this video and pay particular attention to the amazing suggestions of what role augmented reality could play in our lives.

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

Let us know what you think of AR – tweet us @plasticmobile.

After reading this report on last year’s holiday shopping season, we began to wonder how many retailer’s would learn their lesson for 2012.

In November of 2011, mobile took the holiday shopping scene by storm, ravaging the purchasing stats and making a mess of retailer’s traditional approach to advertising and marketing opportunities.

The report, from JWT, is from the survey of 465 mobile shoppers and hopes to shed a little light on the potential impact of web-savvy mobile devices on retail environments, e- and m-commerce and consumer behaviour and mobile device use.

Four extremely interesting facts for retailer’s to consider when sitting down to do create their strategies for the 2012 holiday shopping season:

1. On average, 55% of consumers who shopped on mobile devices in the past year also took the same actions during the holiday season.

2. 55% used their smartphones to find price info, 46% to get more info and 38% to make a purchase.

3. Men and Millennials did the most mobile shopping during  the 2011 holiday season.

4. Of those who shop on their mobile device, 69% say the mobile shopping  experience is either “excellent” or “very good.”

Guided Access for iOS

Pending its release later this year, the new Apple OS has once again managed to incorporate features that we didn’t know we needed…until we saw them. Among many, iOS 6 features include new vector based maps, the highly anticipated PassBook app and a very convenient Do Not Disturb mode for your iPhone. Less publicized however, is Guided Access, a feature that will make it both easier with those with a vision, hearing, learning and mobility disability and educators to incorporate iOS devices in their daily routine.

VoiceOver, a screen reader first introduced in Mac OS X is now integrated with more features including maps and zoom. This will allow the visually impaired greater access to content and generally, offer more ease of use. The feature serves different functions as you change devices – for example, with every Mac computer, you can connect a braille display and VoiceOver will program the keys for you.

What’s completely new is how Guided Access plans to expand to assist parents, teachers and administrators use iOS devices in their working environments. Whether it be at home, in a classroom or on the go, Guided Access provides the functionality to better educate.

The highlighted features include:

·      the ability to selectively disable portions of the device from use

·      disable hardware buttons

·      disable certain portions of certain apps

·      transition into single app mode

These features are useful in a number of ways and for many people. For instance, in classrooms it is commonly understood that technology is more of a distraction than an asset. But with Guided Access, devices in the classroom serve as an educational tool, where teachers are provided with control as to what students can access and – more importantly – can’t access. It’s hard to cheat when you’re locked into a test!

Also, Guided Access provides an opportunity for enhanced learning experiences for those with a disability. Students can focus on the task at hand without worry of hitting mistakes.

Guided Access has has functionalities that are excellent for outside of the education space. Consider iPad kiosks, menus at restaurants and satisfaction surveys, which can all now be conducted while the user is on the go.

As our co-founder, Melody Adhami, often says, technology should help and not hinder. As Apple continues to provide us with devices that we can virtually do anything with, they continue to also increase the ease with which we do all this anything.

Everything taken into consideration, kudos to Apple once again for their efforts in equal accessibility and their efforts in revolutionizing the education system.

Love Apple’s latest efforts? Tweet us @plasticmobile and tell us your thoughts.

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.

Undercover Chrome

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.

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

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.

Thus, I immediately  proceeded to download and launch National Geographic’s National Parks app. Right away, I could see why it caught Sep’s attention and compelled him to tell the rest of us about it.

 

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.

1. Andr/PJApps-C.

2. Andr/BBridge-A.

3. Andr/BatteryD-A.

4. Andr/Generic-S.

5. Andr/DrSheep-A.

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.

WWDC 2012

In light of Apple’s 23rd annual World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco this week, the talk today at our bagel Wednesday meeting, was all about the tech giant and what they did and did not unveil.

While we all know better than to speculate about what Apple will do next, there were two major expectations for this conference: a new phone and TV.

Per usual, Apple had another thought. Here’s list of the best to come and the expected items that were not actually on their list:

Featured Highlights:

- A super-powered 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display screen that offers an extraordinary 2880-pixel by 1800-pixel resolution, sharper than high-definition TV

- Software update, Mountain Lion is set to arrive next month

- iOS 6 was foreshadowed at the conference, but likely won’t arrive until at least September

- Maps app to replace Google maps

Missing Features:

- A new iPhone 5

- An Apple TV update or new hardware

Surprisingly, Apple stock was reportedly down today – which one of our developers speculated might be because of the absence of the two big Apple products mentioned above. Tune in to our Tweets @plasticmobile to stay on top of what’s going down Southwest of us in San Fran.

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

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.

Task

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.

Added Functionality

 

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.

Missing Functionality

 

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.

 

Final Take

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!

There has been a lot of conversation about mobile payments lately, but I feel much of it is simply future predictions and speculations. While I understand why – widespread adoption on the retailer’s side, although growing, is still lacking – it’s time for some action. So when, “Pitch the Plastic: The Mobile Payment Era Has Begun,” showed up on my radar, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the title carry our company name (Plastic Mobile, woo!), but also a few examples of some great startups pushing the movement forward with innovative new mobile solutions.

The first of the two, iCache Geode, launched just a couple days ago and hopes to thin out your wallet (while bulking up your iPhone) significantly. iCache Geode is an iPhone case that carries a detachable card with a rewritable magnetic stripe within it, which performs as any of your credit cards. Also, it offers an e-ink display on it’s exterior which displays barcodes in substitution of loyalty and membership cards.

How secure is it? Each time you open the app, you must first pass a fingerprint test to enter. To use either feature, download the app and input your credit card numbers and take pictures of barcodes on existing cards. With just a few clicks, the card within the case becomes whichever card of your choosing and the barcode whatever you’d like to display. Take the card out and swipe/scan at any existing POS system. Pretty neat.

While I obviously 100% support mobile innovation, I can already see a few things potential going awry. For instance, if I purchase iCache Geode (at $199 I might add), I would absolutely have to justify the buy by not carrying my credit cards, loyalty and membership cards with me. But what if my phone dies?  What if I drop my phone and break the case? Just like that, there goes my investment.

My clumsiness aside, I’m afraid that retailers’s adoption rate will be very slow. Most retailers have been trained to be careful when accepting credit cards as it is, checking the card, name and signature. Will there be hesitation on their part when seeing the unfamiliar? Do they need a dotcom giant, Like a Google or PayPal, behind them to give them the necessary cred?

Last, many of us are anxiously waiting for the next generation iPhone later this year. If there is a hardware redesign, this case won’t do. It’s been designed solely for the iPhone 4 and 4s and that may pose an issue in the future. In addition, with rumors of Apple bringing NFC to the iPhone, this product might become all together obsolete.

All in all, it’s great to see some headway with mobile payments and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the iCache Geode delivers and hopefully helps to move this space forward. What have you heard about the iCache Geode? Tweet us your thoughts @plasticmobile.

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

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.

Retailers of all kinds are gearing up for this first-ever conference on mobile transactions. Taking place at the Old Mill Inn & Spa on June 26 and 27, 2012, Mobile Transaction and Commerce Summit, promises to be a networking and learning opportunity for every customer-based company from big name retailers and online merchants to banks and financial institutions.

With speaker sessions hosted by retail industry experts and enterprise pioneers, attendees have the chance to hear solution-focused presentations and discussions on how to better integrate mobile payment and commerce into marketing strategies.

Some of the speakers include top marketing executives from Gap, Best Buy and Deloitte, as well as the Head of Mobile for JetBlue Airways and our very own Plastic Mobile Co-founder and President, Melody Adhami, who will discuss using m-commerce to transform the retail experience.

Basically, this inaugural conference is a must-attend for any retailer with a transaction-based business model and a customer base. Why? Because mobile commerce and transactions represent a huge piece of the puzzle in retailers’ imminent future, with mobile shopping predicted to account for $163 billion of sales worldwide (12% of global e-commerce turnover) by 2015.

The Mobile Transaction and Commerce Summit is an excellent opportunity to get a deeper knowledge of focused trends and hear some practical examples of dos and don’ts from those in the know.

Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know if you’re attending the MTCS this month.

What says summer more than flying assault helicopters around the park on a beautiful, sunny day? As fodder for the tech toy lover in all of us, one of our QA developers sent around a list of new toys that are, or will soon, be available for purchase.

The first one is from Griffin, and is called “HELO TC Assault.” A missile-firing, flying machine, check out the video of this fun toy:

The second is Parrot’s new “AR Drone 2.0″ that comes complete with an HD camera with a wide-angle lens so that you can watch where you’re going! Watch the video to see how it works:

Last, if you’ve got the itch to spend all your hard earned money on a brand new toy, you’ve got to see this new RC vehicle called the “HydroView.” Just watch and learn and be awed:

Of course, all of these digital marvels can be controlled by your mobile devices. Excited about tech-y toys? Tell us all about it @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

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!

For my inaugural post as the resident Plastic Mobile intern, I’d like to focus on the eTail event we attended last week where I learned a number of interesting facts and stats about m-commerce.

First, and this one made my jaw-drop, a stat reported in late april by theeTailing Group in their annual merchant study, Making the Right Choices in a Connected World: Customer Experience Escalation: 85 percent of merchants say mobile commerce is a focus in 2012, up from 68 percent in 2011.

With nearly four out of five respondents suggesting that m-commerce is in their strategies, the mobile retail arena is about to get a lot more competitive. With so many merchants now simultaneously making the move to mobile, they will have to quickly develop effective mobile strategies that will also help engage their customers and bring their brands into the new world of mobile retail. I for one hope that the need for speed won’t hinder the need for quality initiatives.

Second, the Interactive Bureau reports in their study, Mobile Phone Shopping Diaries May 2012, that 73 percent of consumers say they have used their mobile phones in a store and that 40 percent of respondents said they want mobile ads to allow them to browse the brand’s broader product offering. This is interesting because it suggests that retailers can look to in-store mobile solutions and other alternatives to just mobile websites.

For instance, earlier this month Sephora went through a complete Digital Makeover. Their new and exciting cross-channel initiative includes a new mobile app with improved UX, sharper search capabilities, m-commerce enabled shopping and all the social network bells and whistles. Some of Sephora’s stores are seeing iOS devices being launched in-store to allow sales agents to speed up checkout times with mobile POSs. Other stores are implementing in-store iPads that provide extensive product information, style tips that customers can send to themselves via email and, of course, more social media integration.

There are definitely other brands implementing some fantastic m-commerce initiatives, but Sephora stood out to me as a leader because of the grand scale and quality of this mobile initiative.

Last, a recent study by Juniper Research estimates that mobile transaction volume will grow to $670 billion by 2015! I can’t wait to see which brands will follow Sephora’s fantastic example and make that prediction a reality.

So there you have it, a few interesting m-commerce stats and one very extensive and exciting new initiative to enhance consumers retail experiences.

Do you have your own mobile insights or thoughts on other great initiatives? Tweet us at @plasticmobile and let us know!

For more recent information on m-commerce, and to learn about the initiatives of other brands, I recommend some of the following articles:

Canada leads world in digital wallet tech, so what’s the holdup?
Key Traits of Mobile Commerce Leadership
The Future of Shopping is Mobile

Today at our weekly Plastic Mobile Bagel Wednesday meeting, one of our QA developers introduced us to Leap Motion, a company doing some pretty crazy things. Leap has developed a small USB case that offers an entirely new way to interact with your computers. They say that it’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your hand and finger movements. As our Plastic techy suggested, “you can control your computer just like Tom Cruise does in Minority Report.”

Created by former NASA scientist, David Holz, the innovative new gesture control product can be pre-ordered for e mere $70. Mr. Holz says that Leap is 1000 times more accurate than any other device recognition 3D gesture control and its technology already interests many other companies that are ready to integrate it into mobile devices. We can’t wait!

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

In my original review of Clear, I noted that I really enjoyed its minimalistic gesture based function and how it makes task management simple, easy and even a little fun.

I am still a big fan of Clear and continue to use it today because of its unique approach to task management. If you recall, the simplified feature set and absence of conventional buttons or navigational menus, like back or home buttons, allow users to navigate through the various sections of the app using touch and multi-touch gestures, which is pretty fun.

But I digress, and I’m sure by now you’re wondering why I’m bringing up Clear again. The answer is an app I recently came across called Well Done. The image on the left is Well Done, and the image on the right is Clear. Is anyone else seeing double?

Mobile Cloning

I discovered Well Done a few days ago while doing some reading on Flipboard (my #1 go-to news app). As I was browsing, I saw an image of the above left app icon that instantly grabbed my attention because of its uncanny resemblance to Clear.

I was curious to know more, so I started reading. I quickly learned that Well Done was a Clear “copycat,” and that the two apps have much more in common than just similar icons.

At that point, I had to see the app for myself and I can only describe what I found as a hilariously blatant knockoff. In fact, absolutely no effort was put into trying to hide the fact that Well Done is a total rip-off of Clear. Everything, including the UI and the gesture controls, are exactly the same!

WELL DONE

CLEAR

WELL DONE

CLEAR

As you can see from these images, all the various navigational levels share extremely similar design elements. Even the colour-coding, which represents the importance of each individual item on the list, has been mimicked.

From the below screenshots, you can see how both apps allow users to check-off items on their lists by swiping to the right, and remove items by swiping to the left. Even the visual feedback cues given to users after performing those actions are very similar.

WELL DONE

CLEAR

WELL DONE

CLEAR

No Competition

 

Unfortunately, not only were the folks who created Well Done un-original, but they’re attempt just didn’t measure up. The Well Done experience feels a lot less polished and somewhat unrefined. There were a few things that I think could have been done (or at least copied) better.

First, Well Done only allows users to have one to-do list, while Clear users can create multiple lists. Not having the ability to create more than one list means having to combine different types of tasks and list. Personally, I’d rather not have work related tasks hidden between items in my grocery list.

I noticed another issue while creating new items in Well Done. The process felt slower and even more tedious when compared to that of Clear. This is because Clear users can just pull down on their list at any time to create new items, while Well Done users have the extra step of tapping a “done” button between typing in each item.

Last, I noticed that Well Done had a lot of non-English content for an app being sold in the Canadian App Store. It didn’t make for a good experience to not know what I was looking at. To see what I mean, try tapping Feedback, More or Share in the top-level navigation.

Bang for your Buck

 

Even though I wasn’t very impressed with Well Done, I should point out that it is selling at a third of Clear’s price, making it the cheaper alternative. Moreover, it offers a couple of additional features not found in Clear. Well Done users keep their to-do lists in the iCloud, allowing them to sync lists on multiple devices and/or retrieve lists after losing a device. The app also gives users the ability to set up reminders and receive notifications for time sensitive tasks or items on their to-do lists. Try out Well Done and let us know what you think @plasticmobile.

eMarketer’s Piece on our Mobile Wealth Study

We’ve been busier than usual here at Plastic Mobile (is that even possible?), with a whirlwind of events and releases. In the past few months,we have published the results of our highly anticipated Mobile Wealth Study in partnership with New York based Luxury Institute, participated in the Mobile Shopping Summit in San Diego, released the Forrester Research Pizza Pizza case study and headed back to Toronto to attend eTail Canada – we’re glad our media pals have been able to keep up!

Our Mobile Wealth Study has been particularly popular, catching the attention of both bloggers and major national publications. When we partnered with Luxury Institute to learn more about how wealthy consumers are using their mobile devices and luxury brand applications, we had no idea the results would ignite such widespread conversation. Check out what people are saying below.

Mobile Wealth Study in the News:

GigaOm, http://gigaom.com/mobile/redefining-luxury-for-a-mobile-world/

USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-04-15/cnbc-luxury-retailers-apps/54262362/1

Wall Street Journal, http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2012/04/03/wealthy-smartphone-users-like-angry-birds-and-facebook/

Fox Business, http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/04/05/make-purchases-from-our-iphones-wed-rather-not-say-wealthy/

eMarketer, http://www.emarketer.com/Mobile/Article.aspx?R=1009033

Luxury Daily, http://www.luxurydaily.com/affluent-consumers-favor-brands-with-apps-study/

Mobile Marketing Magazine, http://m.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/mobilemarketing/i/article/targeting-rich-theres-app

Tech Vibes, http://www.techvibes.com/blog/wealthy-consumers-favour-luxury-brands-that-go-mobile-canadian-startup-discovers-2012-04-24

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

This past week over 15 apps found their way onto my iPhone. Sadly, most of them were deleted just as fast they were downloaded with a sparse few allowed a place on my screen to crash for a couple of nights. Come Monday, though, only two of them now call my phone home for good.

The first app, Logos Quiz, did a great job keeping me entertained during a four-hour flight to Las Vegas. The other, TikTok, is a sexier alternative to the standard iOS clock app that delivers varied functionality to users.

1. Logos Quiz

Logos Quiz is a fun little game that has very simplistic UI. The game tests the user’s knowledge of brands in what is a surprisingly entertaining way given its basic presentation. The game asks the user to identify various logos, but is actually more challenging than it sounds because, with a few exceptions, users are only shown partial logos that are missing some of their identifiable elements.

I only had one small problem with Logos Quiz. Even though I enjoyed the fresh and different look of the keyboard, I found it to be very unforgiving and highly prone to fat-finger mistakes.

Right off the bat, I noticed that the keys were smaller than those of the standard iOS keyboard. However, only after comparing the keyboards side-by-side, did I realized how much smaller the keys actually were. Not to mention that the space between keys was also considerably more narrow.

If a real-estate shortage was the issue, I believe that reducing the size of the keyboard should not have even been considered as an option. Users interact with the keyboard more than any other single element in the interface. To me, that means that a good user experience here should have been top priority.

One possible alternative to a smaller keyboard could have been reducing the length of the “Check!” button. Not dramatically, but just enough to make room for the “hint” button to be placed directly to its right. That would allow for everything else to be higher up on the screen and ultimately could have increased the amount of real estate for the keyboard.

2. TikTok

TikTok is a clock app for users who are tired of the standard iOS clock app and want to shake up time telling and replace their bedside alarm clock.

It should be mentioned that it is not an app that can completely replace the IOS clock, as it lacks some features (world clock, stopwatch, timer). On the other hand, it does offer some cool features of its own and is an app that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

I really enjoyed the level of customization available to users. You can choose between digital or analog clock displays, then customize pretty much everything to your liking.

Some other cool features include: weather (displayed along with the time), sleep timer (allows users to select and play tracks from their iTunes library for a pre-determined amount of time), month and week calendars (displayed along with the time).

If you follow my blog posts, you’ll know by now just how much I apprecaite the use of gesture controls. This app was no exception. The above-mentioned features were great, but what impressed me the most about this app was its creative use of gesture controls and the iPhone’s gyroscope.

Users can swipe up or down to increase or decrease the screen’s brightness level. They can also toggle their flash on and off just by shaking the phone, which comes in handy for those 2am bathroom trips.

The only downside is that to fully benefit from all the features, users must leave the app running throughout the night and disable the screen lock. This means that they must also keep their phones plugged in so that they don’t wake up to a dead phone.

Are you playing Logos Quiz or using TikTok to find keep you on time? Tweet us with your thoughts @plasticmobile.

Plastic Mobile’s Candy Shop Visits eTail!

Plastic Mobile and our infamous Candy Shop are sharing our sweet treats and mobile innovations at eTail this week. There to show attendees of the electronic retail conference how mobile is poised to change the face of the storefront, the Candy Shop team is handing out delish sweets and working on changing the way retailers connect wit their customers.

Melody Adhami is also there, chairing the conversation about the rapidly evolving retail space and what’s in store for the future of shopping.

Stay tuned for our follow up on highlights from the conference later this week.

Are you at eTail this week? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know what you’re finding interesting – and don’t forget to stop into the Candy Shop to say high and get some Blue Jellies and Berryliciousness!

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

This week, I want to change things up a bit. Instead of just discussing one app, I’d like to review two of them and highlight some things that caught my eye. I will be focusing less on each app as a whole and more on individual features or elements that influence the overall UX.

Let’s get started:

1. iThrowU

 

IThrowU is one of the more popular photo/text sharing apps available these days. It delivers an enjoyable experience packaged in a neat and simple user interface that’s also nice to look at. What I like most about this app, and the reason it caught my attention, is the use of iPhone’s gyroscope technology.

In iThrowU, users don’t just tap a button to share like they do in other similar apps. Instead, when they are ready to share, users simply hold their phones (tightly!) and make a throwing motion.

I think interactions like this are fun, engaging and make for a pleasantly different experience. I also believe that thinking outside the box in order to creatively employ available technologies, goes a long way in creating an app that stands out from the crowd.

2. Chattr

 

Chattr is an all-in-one messenger app that allows users to carry out coverstations on Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger, all at once.

Now, while there are many apps out there with similar levels of functionality, simply put, I like Chattr because it looks nice. What I’m getting at, is that with all else being equal, visual appeal can play a big role in the overall user experience.

Chattr’s secret is a well-designed UI coupled with beautiful themes (backgrounds).  Users can select from a list of pre-loaded background images, take a picture or import from their camera roll.

I also really liked Chattr’s use of gestures controls for navigating between chats and managing open chats. I’m definitely a fan of gesture controls and I believe them to make apps more fun and interactive. I sometimes find that apps can get boring when all you’re doing is mindlessly tapping away.

Again, we go back to the whole taking advantage of available technology thing. I am a strong believer that when you are developing an app for a device such as the iPhone, with its beautiful high-resolution screen, it would be silly not to ensure your design uses that screen to its full potential.

For example, and for the sake of argument, let’s just pretend that Chattr and Facebook Messenger did the exact same things, in the exact same ways. Let’s take it even further and say that the only difference between the two apps was the way they looked at a glance. From the screenshots below, which would you choose?

My point is that the more technologies an app takes advantage of, and the more innovatively those technologies are used, the better the experience that app will deliver.  That’s not to say that app developers should force this, but instead should consider which technologies could possible be used, and determine if they will actually enhance the end user experience.

However, it should be noted that there are multitudes of other things to consider while developing an idea for an app, or while designing and developing the app itself. Focusing too much on any one facet can possibly cause others to be overlooked. So what I am saying is, make it fun, memorable but perhaps not gimmicky – i.e. don’t force them to shake the phone each time they want to delete a letter. Find the balance and you shall succeed.

ComScore Mobile Metrix 2.0 released a report on Monday that looked at mobile media usage across both apps and mobile web browsing. According to the new data, Google is the #1 site used across iOS, Android and RIM devices, followed by Facebook, Yahoo and Amazon.

But in terms of usage, apps took home first prize. The New numbers from Comscore indicated that of the smartphone users on the web while mobile, nearly all of them are using apps and not a browser, with four out of every five mobile media minutes spent in apps.

There was little surprise as to which apps were being used most with the built-in system applications winning and Facebook following as a close runner up.

The first spot on app usage? Well, given the information above, it seems obvious that – platform dependent – the App Store or the Android Market are most used.

What does this mean for mobile commerce, we wondered? It’s hard to say from the report statistics, but we’re excited to see more mobile users moving away from just browsing on their phones and using apps to do their research, stay connected and get immersed in the wonders of mobile.

What do you use most on your mobile device? The web browser or apps? Tweet us and let us know @plasticmobile.

Check out comScore’s latest mobile report from Mobile Metrix 2.0

Our pals at Mashable.com are already looking to a post-mobile world, where these five trends will determine who succeeds and who gets left behind.

1. Augmented Reality - Look in the mirror and what do you see? Today’s weather? Your day’s appointments? Then you must have the latest mirror from Cybertecture, a Hong Kong firm that’s making tomorrow’s smart homes a reality today. We may not all have money to burn on a high-tech mirror, but brands are certainly looking at ways to capitalize on this technology and make it the norm.

For example, the wizards at Corning provided an inspiring look at how touch screens made of glass might soon be seamlessly integrated into our environments. Brands such as Starbucks are already seeing strong revenue from their mobile AR program.

2. The New Biotech - When I say biotech, I mean data comes from everywhere, including from within. Companies like FitBit andNike are finding new ways to record and utilize that data. For now, they seem to be focused on helping athletes (and wannabes) build better workouts, but it’s only a matter of time before brands begin to look more closely at how such data might be used to develop new customer relationships.

Nike has already opened its FuelBand API to allow music platforms to experiment with incorporating personal physical data. As these technologies gain traction and developers look at new ways to leverage information, one day soon we could see insurance companies providing discounts to individuals who share their device data. This would be the equivalent of auto insurers, such as Progressive, offering savings to drivers who share their driving behavior.

3. Consumer-controlled Media – One of the most interesting trends we’ve seen is the fragmentation of ownership. Technology has empowered the masses, and they’re leveraging that power in new ways. If brands want to remain relevant to their audiences, they’re going to have to engage in these contexts and in a media landscape where the traditional publishing model no longer exists. In this not-too-distant future we will watch all of our programming online in whatever form that takes. And we will engage with media that we create (not what the media “owners” create) or remix, re-purpose, and pass along.

4. Multi-platform Marketing - Consumers don’t think in silos, so neither should your company. Prepare your brand to work on multiple platforms. As you do that, consider what unique aspects of your offering, your history, and products will resonate with the consumer of the future?

Communicate your brand’s essence through new channels and devices, in an integrated, cohesive manner. But be aware of how and when they want to interact with brands, and the new possibilities to bring them value and not just marketing noise.

5. Innovation Without Borders - Brands and products are no longer geographically confined in the way they once were, and neither are marketing campaigns. Big brands are increasingly tapping into local talent and culture, testing new approaches in one market, and re-purposing them elsewhere.

Coca-Cola took the best of gamification, Shazam, and the second-screen experience and ran with it in China. Tesco is testing out interactive mobile shopping experiences in Seoul that the U.S. is not quite ready for, technologically or socially. It is clear that in the near future, brands will pitch locally but think globally

While all of the above insights offer a tremendous amont of food for thought for the future, it was the fifth point that struck us as the most interesting. Not only are brands and their marketing campaigns no longer geographically confined, but neither are their users. We can now shop in Japan and talk to friends down under straight from our mobile devices while picking up our morning copy.

What does it all mean, you might ask? A lot. While mobile has stealthily been infiltrating our lives over the past few years, it has also been evolving in ist own right. As experts start to look at future mobile trends, they are more and more recognizing how mobile is poised to transcend our actual devices and start to shape our worlds in other ways, through alternative channels.

Take m-commerce, for instance. Not only has mobile changed the way we are able to shop, allowing us to browse and buy from our smartphones, but it is now gearing up to change the actual brick and mortar shopping experience, with mobile devices powering NFCs so we can pay with a swipe and file our receipts in an app, as well empowering sales people to know more about the customers walking through the door by giving them devices that connect with our devices.

The future is mobile and we can’t wait! Can you? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know what you think about Mashable.com’s points, or taking mobile out of the phone and into other devices.

Who will be the first Data Carrier?

The biggest topic of conversation at today’s Bagel Wednesday sharing of mobile news was the possibility of Google and Apple to start carrying their own data.

While not exactly news, or even anything imminent, we couldn’t help getting all excited at the prospect of a solution to our pricey Canadian carrier plans. And so, we started pondering – a wishin’ and a dreamin’ – about Google, Apple or Microsoft finally purchasing their own data plans.

While there has been a lot of speculation about who will be the first to buy a data carrier, we started wondering why they hadn’t. Clearly they have the necessary funds, with an article in The Next Web putting purchasing a data carrier as at the top of the list of things that Apple, and others should consider doing with their $65 billion dollars of cash reserves.

The same article notes that Google has been rumored to be looking at buying Sprint and also Verizon FiOS and that  Microsoft might pick up an ISP from their recent location based advertising and purchase of Skype.

Since the vast majority of our favourite device creators’ headaches come from dealing with the data carriers, and most of the pains we have with our devices are a result of our data carriers, why not just cut out the middle man? In fact, we’re like the sound of faster and cheaper service with a direct channel to both device and service provider. We like it a lot.

What are your thoughts? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know what you think about Apple and Google getting into the data carrying game.

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

A couple of weeks ago, we covered the success story of the Instagram app, which allows users to snap photos, add various filters and share over a plethora of social networks – including one of its own.

As Instagram gained momentum, climbing the App Store ladder all the way to the top, I started to see the magnitude of its potential. I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw similar apps for sharing video. What I didn’t expect, however, was the incredible speed at which this new style of app-only social network would fully catch on.

Enter Viddy, a multi-celeb backed, Instagram-style app for sharing video that climbed to #1 in the App Store’s Top Free list in no time flat.

Viddy! The new Instagram for video

How it Works

The entire process, as well as the interface is very similar to that of Instagram. Users can shoot a video (or import from their camera roll), add a filter and then share the video with their friends over a number of social networks. Also like Instagram, Viddy is its own social network. Users can follow friends’ videos as well as popular and trending ones from across the entire Viddy network.

Cool Features

 

Unlike Instagram, Viddy gives users the ability to adjust how heavily a filter is applied to a video. Also, users are not limited to the pre-loaded filters. They can download additional filters within the app for free.

Moreover, filters come with their own corresponding soundtracks and users are given the ability to adjust the balance between those soundtracks and the audio in their recordings (so cool!).

Super Cool.

15 Seconds of Fame

 

One downside to Viddy is that it limits the length of videos you can record to 15 seconds. Also, any imported video has to be trimmed using the in-app trimming tool.

Having to trim imported videos in Viddy reminds me of having to crop imported photos in Instagram. I can’t help but wonder if this is mainly done to minimize file size for quicker uploading, or to keep things more uniform and consistent?

Nobody likes to wait!

Users can watch their videos instantly before applying a filter, but have to wait for the filters to be applied. As users don’t like to wait, especially on a smartphone, wait times should be minimized. Failing to do so will negatively impact user experience.

SO, to make the wait a little less noticeable and annoying to its users, Viddy encodes the video in the background and allows users to navigate elsewhere by tapping the minimize button. Users can always keep track of the encoding progress, as it will be displayed in the iPhone’s status bar.

While being able to complete other tasks helped, I never truly forgot that I was still waiting for something.

Interface

 

Viddy’s interface is polished and aesthetically appealing, but can sometimes feel a bit cluttered – especially when compared to Instagram’s interface. Although very similar in layout, Instagram’s interface feels less cluttered and distracting.

We all know that a simple, uncluttered and intuitive interface is extremely important to providing an overall great user-experience, particularly for new users trying to explore and learn an app.

 

 

 

You Heard it From Plastic:

An Israeli based company has created an app called Mobli, which allows users to share a combination of photos and videos. Mobli is gaining popularity and is building a substantial user base at a rate of 10,000 new users daily. Look for Mobli to be one of the next up-and-comers in this space.

 

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine


This week we’ll be looking at Figure, a neat and super simple music-making app by Propellerhead Software. Figure allows even the most off-beat, tone-deaf, musically challenged individuals to create fairly decent sounding music.

Unlike other music apps, such as Garageband, Figure takes a much more simplistic approach that lets users pick up and play without much of a learning curve.

 

 

How it Works

 

Figure keeps things easy by minimizing the functionality available to users, making it more of a beat making app than a full-out music production tool.  It only gives users a variety of bass, drums and lead synths to work with.

Users also don’t have the ability to input notes as they can with other more complex music production apps. Instead – and we think for their own good – they are limited to using a pre-quantized range of notes.

Figure provides users with some pretty cool rhythm wheels, which play notes in preset patterns and rhythms. The use of these rhythm wheels makes it very easy to stay on the beat and not stray off into the weird noise area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touch Away

 

Figure is all about interacting and touching, which I believe makes the experience more engaging and enjoyable. It utilizes the iPhone’s touchscreen beautifully by using every last bit of touchable real estate.  I was impressed with how intuitive the touch controls were and how natural it felt to tap, drag, swipe and draw while making music.

 

 

Great UI

The interface in this app was simple, intuitive and looked pretty darn cool to me. Th colour coded tabs to spread out the functionality worked well as I never found myself taking time to search for anything. I could always see where everything was and didn’t need to put any thought into how to get there.

At first, I found the blue touch fields in the pattern tab to be a little too small for my liking. Then I learned that by rotating my phone into landscape view, I could have just those four touch fields take up the entire screen, making it much easier to tap out some beats.

Pattern tab in landscape view.

 

Save? Share?

 

After creating my first masterpiece, I was pretty disappointed to discover that I couldn’t save or share my craftsmanship with the world. At the very least I think we should be able to save a few of our creative audio endeavours, but find the lack of sharing particularly perplexing as most apps have some sort of social networking element built in. I’m curious to know the reason behind this and if these options were even considered. The search for answers continues. Have any insights? Tweet us @plasticmobile and put my curiosity to rest.

 

 

The Final Beat

 

Figure is a fun way to pass time and be creative. It doesn’t require much to learn how to use it and, more importantly, doesn’t require any musical talent to use.

However, it is missing two pretty significant and obvious features. The option to save would give users the ability to go back and listen to their creations, and the option to share would let them brag to all their friends about their beat-making skills!

1 of 41234»