Ontario_Minister 001

With the sound of cameras clicking, the bright lights, and the team beaming on stage at today’s press conference, Plastic Mobile was recognized by the Minister as a leading employer in Ontario.

In just five short years, Plastic Mobile has grown exponentially each year, developing talent and expertise in mobile technology and user experience and becoming a leader in mobile innovation.

Minister Michael Coteau put Plastic Mobile in the spotlight saying, “I think this is a great success story and these are the types of businesses that we need in Ontario to continue to add to our robust economy.”

Following the press conference, Minister Coteau was taken for a tour of the Innovation Lab where he had a chance to win some candy from a mobile app enabled vending machine, and play with some other cutting-edge BLE beta technology.

The press conference and tour embodied the Plastic Mobile ethos to work hard and play hard.

Plastic Mobile thanks Minister Coteau for showcasing our story as a trailblazer in mobile innovation. We are honoured to be recognized as a leading employer in Ontario.

The Pizza Pizza iPad App received a lot of love from Twitter fans when it first hit the app store. And the media has had great things to say too!

In fact, “pizza cravings” are being satisfied and delivered across Canada, and a write-up in ITBusiness notes that the Pizza Pizza app is definitely what pizza lovers want!

As our President and COO, Melody Adhami, states in the article, “the main focus of the app was to create a better user experience, and to make it easier for mobile Web users to order pizza.” Read the whole article here.

For more on the Pizza Pizza App, read any of the articles listed below or download the app and try it out yourself!

Reuters

iPhoneInCanada

Finanz Nachrichten

iPhoneBlogDaily

MarketWire

TD Waterhouse: Markets News and Commentary

StreetInsider

Virtual Strategy Magazine

WALB News 10

PR Web

Yahoo! Finance

The Next MOB

Dx3 Digest

I4U News

Somalia Report

Pizza Marketplace

Mobile Marketing

SPORT Balla

Road Runner

Mobile App Frog

Hellman Marshall

Cash Expand

The Best Apps for iPad

Infotrade

Times Union

iOS App Share

Foodservice and Hospitality

Over the past few years, brands have been including various mobile and digital elements such as SMS, QR codes and augmented reality into their marketing efforts to drive user engagement. Last year it seemed as though mobile video was incorporated into everything. But, as we near the close of 2012 this trend appears to be slowing down. What’s the deal?

We can’t help but think that mobile advertising videos are not being implemented enough into multi-channel efforts. Marketers should be embracing this increasingly popular medium into efforts, not neglecting it.

It seems that the number one concern about mobile video advertisements is the fact that they are directly tied to your brand, so poor performance could present a huge liability that could discourage businesses from pursuing them completely.

We understand why brands are hesitant to go full-throttle with a medium that’s not fully understood. But, in this day of rapidly evolving digital and mobile mediums, advertisers and marketers need to increase their brand awareness by being creative, relevant and targeted.

Marketers shouldn’t shy away from this medium, they just need to understand performance from an end-user perspective. I mean who doesn’t love watching videos on their smartphones and tablets? Visual has an enormous potential due to the sight, sound and motion experience. It can increase ad awareness, brand association and purchase intent. Ergo, mobile video just makes good sense!

Do you want your favourite brands to pick up the pace with mobile vids? Let us know what you think @PlasticMobile.

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.

We got a book in the mail! And not just any book, one that we’re in!

Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Centre of your Business, published by global research firm, Forrester, exemplifies our work with Pizza Pizza on pages 110-112 of the design chapter. Go plastic!

The book, authored by two of Forretser’s leading researchers, talks about how putting the customer (or user) first, can have a tremendously positive impact on your business model.

This user first perspective is something that Plastic holds near and dear to its heart – it’s basically our mantra. We not only adhere to it with our internal work, but try to spread the good word about the importance of creating with the user or customer in mind.

Plastic’s President and COO, Melody Adhami, is our most passionate ambassador of UX, and frequently speaks about its importance. For example, at the Mobile Shopping Spring Summit, she talked to a riveted audience about how the ost important stakeholder in any mobile initiative is the user, as noted in this Mobile Marketer article.

The book is avilable for purchase on amazon.com and has received some fantastic press to date.

Have you read the book? Let us know what you think @plasticmobile.com

Welcome back! This week we will be taking a look at an extremely minimalistic weather app called WeatherNeue and a very welcomed update from one of my favourite apps, Figure.

WeatherNeue

While most weather apps are packed with tons of weather data and features, WeatherNeu, for a lack of better term, cuts the fat and delivers a bare bones weather app experience.

WeatherNeue’s minimalistic approach allows for a very clean and therefore uncluttered UI, which is uncommon in the realm of weather apps. Rather than overwhelming users with a plethora of stats on a single screen with limited real estate, users are provided with weather data that actually matters. What does this mean? No more scanning several screens and features to find what you’re looking for.

Upon launching the app, users are geo-located and presented with current weather conditions as well as a three-day forecast. Weather stats are displayed clearly and in large font in a hierarchy that allows for quick use.

The last of the feature’s available is the option of selecting a theme from the four available and the ability to switch from Celsius to Fahrenheit. There is also a shake to update feature, which allows users to manually get updated weather info.

While I personally like this app and appreciate its minimalistic nature, I can also see some users becoming frustrated with its lack of functionality. For example, if users want the weather forecast to plan for a weekend on a Monday, they are out of luck. If they are travelling and want to check the forecast for their destination, again they’re out of luck.

Personally, that’s why I believe a combination of weather apps works best. I use WeatherNeue in the mornings for a quick check of the weather and The Weather Network app for times I need a long range forecast or any addition information.

Figure V1.1

A while back, I reviewed an app called Figure, a fun beat-making music app that’s easy to use. In that review, I mentioned how the app was missing the ability save and share songs.

Well, earlier this month, Propellerhead released Version 1.1 of Figure. This update come with added functionality that allows users to name and save songs to their device, export songs through the apps tab in iTunes and even change the number of looped bars (1, 2, 4 & 8).

I found saving and browsing songs to be quite simple. Users can name their songs or have a name generated by the app. I recommend avoiding the generated names if you plan on saving more than a few songs. I don’t see it being much fun trying to find a particular song when you have names like Henigo and Neruke to work with.

There’s still no share function, which is a bit disappointing, but at least users can export and share from there. I will keep an eye out for any more updates and let you know if anything changes.

What do you think of WeatherNeue and the Figure updates? We’d love to hear! Share with us @plasticmobile

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:

  • A Gold Award for Pizza Pizza iPhone ordering app
  • A Gold Award for our AIR MILES app
  • A Silver Award for our Team Buy consumer app
  • An Honourable Mention for our Exchange Trade Fund app, ETF Central

And the Horizon Interactive Awards toasted us three times for:

  • A Gold Award for the Pizza Pizza iPhone ordering app
  • A Silver Award for the Royal LePage mobile website.
  • And a Silver Award for our Exchange Trade Fund app, ETF Central

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

We have always known that putting the user first is the cornerstone to any successful mobile solution. And we know that our clients have the utmost confidence in the quality work that we do. That being said, a little nod like being profiled as Forrester Research’s poster child for mobile UX/UI and design gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling all over.

But we won’t gloat too much – mostly because we are just really excited to see mobile UX getting its day in the sun. The international research giant put out their case study, “Pizza Pizza Cooks Up a Successful Mobile App” because they felt that “Firms new to mobile and even those that are planning second- or third-generation mobile offerings can learn from Pizza Pizza’s example.”

Plastic Mobile’s award-winning Pizza Pizza iPhone ordering app revolutionized the pizza ordering game by pairing down the ordering process to give the user what they want, faster and simpler. The app offers a complete and immersive m-commerce experience that allows customers to customize their pizza, repeat a previous order and save their favourite locations in just a few quick taps.

Reports such as this Forrester study really highlight the distinct gap in the market between mobile solutions that are approached with user TLC, and those that are built quickly and technically, without designing for the user.

Our president and COO, Melody Adhami, has been talking about these missed opportunities for a while and often says that as a result of approaching mobile from a technical perspective ”agencies are not putting enough focus on usability and design, and the end user is left unsatisfied – tech should help, not hinder, the user’s experience with mobile.”

The Forrester Research report details the challenges, best practice guidelines and some of the tremendous results of the mobile app. Read the entire report on our site, and learn more about the importance of designing for mobile UI and UX.

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.

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.

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.

Mobile Shopping Spring Summit 2012

From our luxury press release on Tuesday in Toronto and New York City, to our presence and presentation at San Diego’s Mobile Shopping Spring Summit, this week has been a flurry of cross-continent activity for Plastic.

For the Mobile Shopping Spring Summit in San Diego this week, Plastic Mobile took our Candy Shop on the road to spread the word about retail’s new store front – mobile! For the second time since Dx3, the Candy Shop has been a success. Mobile Shopping Spring Summit attendees left the candy shop with an insightful message, and a serious sugar high. Attendee’s flew in from across the continent and a few of our fellow Canadians from Beyond the Rack, Montreal, and Central1CU, Vancouver, joined us in the not-so-sunny San Diego. Locals assured us their weather is normally more balmy, but at least bad weather is always a good ice breaker!

Also at the Summit, our president, Melody Adhami, spoke in an impact-full presentation on making mobile UX count. Read the article in Mobile Marketer.

Last, a big thanks to our on-location promo team, and to anyone looking for the Forrester Case Study on Mobile UX – it’s in the works and should be up next week.
Were you at the Mobile Shopping Spring Summit in Cali? Tweet us an let us know what you thought @plasticmobile.

PM UX: The $1billion App

By on April 17, 2012
The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

If you haven’t already heard about Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for a reported $1billion, you must have just come out of a weeklong coma, or possibly recently found your way home after being lost at sea. For the rest of us, it has been next to impossible to miss the headlines.

Instagram has been around for over a year, and in that time has built up a substantial user base (over 40 million). However, with its recent release on the Andoid platform, and the current buzz surrounding this app, that user base is sure to grow.

That’s why I chose now to hop on the Instagram band wagon and try out this super app formyself.

The Gist of It
Simply put, Instagram is a social network for photo enthusiasts. Users can take photos, add filters, include geo tag captions and then have their photos posted for other Instagram users to like or comment on. They can also share their photos on other popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and Foursquare. What makes Instagram so special is how easy and quick it makes the process of taking and sharing great pictures. In a matter of seconds, users can take a picture, add a filter and share that picture for all the world to see.

New User Experience
I found Instagram to be relatively friendly to new users, as the interface was simpleand uncluttered. Also, I liked how the app walks you through the process of getting started in five easy steps.

I used the app on my iPhone and found that the icons and UI elements felt very iOS-centric, making it fairly easy to navigate my way around the app. However, I felt that some icons could have been designed to be more intuitive.
After doing a little research, I found that the icons and UI elements had been different in previous versions of the app and while the newer icons were moreesthetically pleasing, the previous used icons were more intuitive and user-friendly because they included titles.

Take for example the feed icons from the above screen shots. The feed icon in the screenshot to the left (older version) would be very hard to misinterpret. However, the one on the right (newest version) can fairly easily be seen as a home screen of sorts.

Filters & Photo Quality
I was impressed with the quality of photos that can be produced with Instagram. Just by adding one of the 18 available filters, one can dramatically improve the quality of an average photo. The trick is to experiment and learn when to use which filter.
I enjoyed not having to wait until after taking a picture to apply a filter. I could see what the picture would look like before actually snapping a shot. On the downside, one thing I felt was missing was the ability to apply multiple filters to a photo as you can with other photography apps.

I liked the use of a carousel style pop-up menu for the filter options. It was a great way to pack 18 items into a list while minimizing real estate usage. I also appreciated how the icons for each of the filters gave me an idea of what that filter did. I didn’t have to go through each filter individually until I found the desired effect.

Share and Share Alike
Another thing I liked about Instagram was the ability to import pictures from the camera roll. Users that already have a favourite camera/photo-editing app can use their preferred app to capture and edit a photo, then import it into Instagram to share with the Instagram community or on other social networks. However, it should be noted that photos imported from users’ camera roll need to be cropped to match thestandard square (1:1) images produced by snapping picture using the Instagram app itself.

Android Version
Since Instagram was also just released in the Google Play Store, I also took some time to check it out on the Android platform. Right away, as expected, I noticed that all the UI was now appropriately Android-centric, but I also couldn’t help but think that the app wasn’t on par with its IOScounterpart and here’s why:

  • Every image must be cropped (IOS version only requires cropping of images imported from camera roll).
  • Android users have to wait until they have captured and cropped their images before they can apply a filter to the image (IOS version gives users a preview).
  • Not all devices are supported.

Overall, Instagram on Android offers a noticeably less streamlined experience by lengthening the process of creating and sharing images. I must also include that the short comings of the Android version of Instagram are most likely a result of technical limitations due to the many variations of Android.

Are you loving Instagram on Android or iOS? Tell us about your photo-sharing love at @plasticmobile.

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

There are plenty of alternative keyboards available to Android users in the Play Store. However, only a select few of these keyboard apps offer a totally creative and different mobile typing experience.

One of these rare apps is called, “Siine Keyboard.” Siine adds several interesting twists to the conventional QWERTY keyboard, including shortcuts (siines) for times, dates and commonly used words and expressions.

PM UX: Plastic Mobile Reviews the Siine Keybord App from Plastic Mobile on Vimeo.

Check out our video (Vimeo) demonstration of the Siine Keyboard App available on Android’s Play Store. Watch as Plastic Mobile walks you through the good, the bad and the ugly of this Android app.

Practice Makes Perfect

 

Using the shortcuts in the Siine Keyboard allows users to type common messages like “hey, what’s up?” with only two taps and two swipes of a single finger. In theory, this should make typing messages easier and faster. However, as a first time user, I spent more time looking for the shortcuts than actually using them!

To mediate this, I found it was helpful to take time to edit and customize existing shortcuts or download new sets of shortcuts to match your texting repertoire and messaging style. Eventually, after a little time spent practicing, I became comfortable with this new way of typing and found it to be a refreshingly different experience.

 

Time & Date to a “T”

The time and date features in Siine are brilliant. They are highly intuitive and feel quite natural to use. Unlike the vocab shortcuts, they do not require any getting used to.

The time feature makes adding times to messages easy and fun. It is definitely one of the best features Siine has to offer, but – in my opinion – the date feature is the most innovative and useful because it allows the user to check and post dates in one easy step. No longer do we have to navigate to a calendar app to find out which day the 1st of next month falls on.

Trash it Fast

Siine gives users three options for deleting text. Tapping the delete button will delete one character at a time. Holding the delete button will also delete one character at a time, but it’s slightly quicker and doesn’t require multiple taps.

The best option for trashing large chunks of text is the quick delete function. I like to describe it as a “delete button on steroids.” Basically, users can hold the delete button then swipe their finger back and forth across their smartphone screen to delete text. The faster they swipe, the faster the app deletes the text. It’s deleting with muscle!

I found that the quick delete function felt very natural to use and was surprisingly fun. It reminded me of using rubber erasers in art class.

 

 

Thumbs Up:

  • Very innovative keyboard
  • Well-designed User Interface
  • Variety of FREE extra downloadable sets
  • The time & date features are great
  • Fun and different alternative mundane keyboards
  • Also functions like standard QWERTY keyboards
  • Fun quick erase function

Thumbs Down:

  • Requires some practice in order to fully benefit from the functionality
  • Buttons are quite small in portrait mode
  • The quick word shortcuts have potential, but require some setup to be truly effective

Do you have the Siine app? tweet us @plasticmobile and give us your review!

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

Draw Something is currently one of the hottest games to play on your Android or iOS device – and we know because it has invaded our office, resulting in all kinds of hilarious images and sudden burst of “ohhhh… I see it now!”

Best described as a combination of Words with Friends and the classic game, Pictionary, the game is incredibly fun and highly addictive. In fact, after three weeks of use, I am considering checking myself into anti-gaming rehab.

How it works

1. You start a game with friends by connecting the app to Facebook or by using their email address or Draw Something username. You can play multiple games with different friends simultaneously. You can also play with random Draw Something users if you find you don’t have enough friends to sufficiently support your habit to the addictive game.

2. Once you have selected a friend to play with, you choose one of three words that vary in difficulty from easy, medium or hard. You then draw a picture of your chosen word and send it to your friend. They then have to try to figure out what you’ve drawn using a subset of the letters shown on the screen. Based on the fact that few of us are anything remotely close to artists, this is the fun part.

3. If your friend guesses the correct word, you are both awarded coins that you can use to purchase more colours or bombs. The number of coins you receive depends on the difficulty of the word your drew. You get one coin for easy, two for medium and three for the hardest word.

4. It’s then your friend turn to draw and your turn to guess. This cycle continues indefinitely, even if either person fails to guess correctly.

Plastic Mobile User Experience Draw Something App Review from Plastic Mobile on Vimeo.

Despite the addictive nature of the game, and how much the Plastic Mobile team seems to love it, we decided to take an objective look at its overall usability.

Usability Issues

 

I encountered one minor usability issue while using this app. I found that while trying to guess words, the bottom portions of some drawings were obstructed by the semi-transparent overlay showing the number of letters in the word.

Only after repeatedly becoming frustrated with this, I realized that I could pull up the image and uncover the bottom portion.

 

A possible solution for this issue could be a “hide” button that would toggle the visibility of the overlay, or a more evident and intuitive scrolling option.

 

Pros

  • Play with friends or random players
  • Seeing replays of your friends guessing and drawing (so hilarious at times!)
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Simple interface
  • Highly entertaining and interactive

Cons

  • Limited dictionary (words are repeated among different players)
  • You can write instead of drawing (takes the fun out of playing)
  • Obstructed view of some drawings

 

 

Suggestions for Improvement

  • Give users the ability to pause and navigate away from a game that is in progress. Right now, in order to leave a game with one friend and move to the next, users must finish guessing and drawing. The only other option available to users is shutting down and re-launching the app.

 

  • Provide users with an option that would allow them to undo their last action while drawing. This would save users from having to erase parts or all of their drawings in order to correct any mistakes.

 

 

Side Note: Back to the Stylus…

Here at Plastic Mobile, we are in the midst of an ongoing debate regarding the use of the stylus. We generally believe that the introduction of the touch screen should have been the ultimate demise of the stylus. We agree with Steve Jobs’ belief that we are born with 10 of the best pointing devices in the world.

However, after playing Draw Something, I could see why sometimes a stylus could be useful.

Are you as addicted to Draw Something as the Plastic Mobile team? Tweet us @plasticmobile.

Plastic Mobile and the Luxury Institute banded together to conduct a study of affluent Americans and their smartphone use. The study covers everything from how many wealthy folks are using mobile, to what they are using it for.

Yesterday, the luxury institute announced the study in an initial press release, to be followed by a more comprehensive report on the findings. The study produced some information that even shocked our team here at Plastic Mobile – who just assume that everyone is on mobile ALL the time because, well, we are!

Check out the initial press release below and stay tuned for the complete findings to come out in the next month:

Wealthy U.S. Smartphone Users Reveal Details on Shopping, Spending and Use of Mobile Apps; Facebook, Angry Birds and Words With Friends Top List of Favorite Apps

1 of 3123»