2017 Google I/O Keynote Highlights

Google hosted their annual developer’s conference, Google I/O on May 17 in Mountain View, Ca.  CEO Sundar Pichai broke down the latest insight on Google’s activity and how their focus will be further defined later on this year.  Here are some of the highlights of the 2017 Google I/O Keynote:

2 Billion Active Android Users

Google’s Android OS continues to stake its claim in the tech industry with 2 billion active users and Pichai threw out even more impressive quantitative data; they have nearly 1 billion active users on Google Drive per month along with 500 million users on Google Photos accumulating 1.2 billion uploads on the daily.

Google Assistant & Google Home Updates

Google Assistant is now not just exclusive to Android but will be available on iOS as well. In addition, Google Home is allowing users to make phone calls directly from the device with a blocked number as default or your personal phone number. For now, they’re only allowing outgoing calls to prevent issues with privacy. But that’s not all, Home can now become a Bluetooth radio and interact with a plethora of apps like Hulu, HBO Now and Soundcloud. Lastly, its debuted “visual responses” can communicate with smartphones, smart TVs etc. enabling your requests to be displayed on preferred outputs.

The Google Lens Puts Life into Perspective

Now with the aid of your smartphone camera and the company’s own AI software, Google Lens, can more accurately perceive the environment around you. Their newly announced “Google Lens” interprets what is detected through their screen while connecting related information useful to its users. For instance, by scanning a Wi-Fi’s network login, Google Lens will automatically sync the data with your Android.

Android O Beta

Although this isn’t the official name of Android’s latest OS, they released the beta with previews of their newest features such as notification enhancements, pic-in-pic abilities etc. It’s recommended to try it out with a compatible Pixel or Nexus device.

Google’s TPU Chip

Acknowledging that AI is the future of Google’s innovation, their new Tensor Processing Unit could effectively merge AI and Cloud as one. This specially designed machine learning chip will operate with the TensorFlow platform in hopes of making Google the leader in AI-based hardware and software.

Android Go

This entry-level device is intended to close the gap between them and 1 billion more users. Google intends to offer more while still using less than 1GB of memory. Aimed at multilingual demographics with lower access to connectivity, Android Go wants to provide users with a quality smartphone experience free from limitations.

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

The 2016 Presidential App War: Clinton vs. Trump

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The 2016 Presidential App War:  Clinton vs. Trump

As the 2016 Presidential Campaign comes to a climax this Tuesday, as an app developer, I’m going to take a few minutes to compare the official apps from each campaign.  Because of the importance of mobile, I see that apps will be a crucial tool for political campaigns and it’s interesting to see how the major party candidates have implemented their mobile app strategy.

Hillary 2016 

Debuting last July on iOS and now available on Android, the Hillary 2016 App is about making the election fun. It has the feel of a mobile gaming platform while incorporating strategies similar to Duolingo to rapidly gain support and simplify the ways in which users can do so. Over 100,000 people have downloaded the app and completed over 800,000 built in activities. For instance, users can be quizzed on Trump’s controversial statements or share Clinton’s photos on social networks. There is also the option of earning points by, for example, registering to vote. Users are also able to get a lot more interactive and make them feel as if they play an active role in the campaign. Gamers can experience the view of her office by swiping away on the touch screen. They can even water the plants and pet the presidential dog, Winnie! Lead developer, Stephanie Cheng, said that users pet the virtual Winnie dog an average of 5 times per day. People also have the option of contributing to the campaign, signing up for future events, checking in to current ones and read related news. The Clinton administration said that the app has caused thousands of new supporters to step up and get involved.   The app has a clean and crisp look and is definitely geared towards millennials.  It uses gamification and encourages users to do political focused activities with both virtual and real awards.  The top award includes a signed post card by Hillary Clinton.

hillary2016-app-lineup-points-02

 Trump America First 

Trump’s team responded shortly after Clinton’s app launch with their own called ‘America First.‘ It providers users with news, videos, articles, a donation processor and social networking links. The last option allows people to contact other Trump supporters in their region. There’s also a countdown with the words that explains ‘Time Left Until We Defeat Crooked Hillary.’ The more that users participate and use the app, the higher they climb the rankings. There are a total of 8 levels starting from the ‘apprentice’ and ending with the ‘Big League.’ Users can earn points as well and even compete with others based on how deliberately they show support. The app is a lot more simplistic and was designed for an older audience despite the main consumer aged 18-29.

trumpappAnalysis

The main difference between the apps is the audience it targets.  The Clinton app is geared towards millennials with a big focus on gamification and it has a much crisper look.  As a Gen Xer, I found the app a bit annoying; I would be more interested in getting news and information which is a layer below the gaming aspect.  The Trump app is geared towards an older crowd with news being in the forefront which I found more useful.  With that said, I found the Trump app to be a bit cluttered and dated from a visual aspect.

One of the things that Trump app does consistently is that it sends out regular push notifications whereas in the Clinton app, I haven’t received any.  I actually do wonder if the Clinton app purposely avoids sending out push notifications in fear of the user deleting the app for being annoying.

Where the Clinton app beats the Trump app in a landslide is ASO (App Store Optimization).  When I searched for “clinton” in the Apple App store, as expected the official Clinton Campaign app appears first.  Whereas a search for “trump” the official Trump app appears 9th (after 8 Trump satire apps).

clintontrumpaso

Similarly, on Google Play, the official Clinton app comes up first and the official Trump app comes up 5th.

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Recommendations for Future Political apps

In conclusion, for future political campaigns that are thinking about developing an app, here are some of my recommendations:

  • Focus on ASO:   Don’t make your supporters have to search for your official app behind a sea of satire apps.
  • Engagement is crucial: Give a reason for the user to continually use the app.
  • Know your audience: design the your app for you’re the demographic that you’re targeting

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

Augmented Reality Use Cases (That’s Not Games)

Image Source: Gov Loop

Augment Reality (AR) has received a lot of attention with the success of Pokemon Go. AR aims to extract animations and place them into real-world environments. It has essentially merged the gap between reality and computer generated simulations by manipulating what the user experiences via sight, sound, smell and touch. In brief, AR integrates animations into your reality so the general setting looks the same but with some few added details. Although AR is related to Virtual Reality (VR), the two technologies are not synonymous. VR produces computer generated simulations of an environment that users can experience by wearing a helmet or gloves with built-in sensors. Read my previous blog on VR for more insight. AR on the other hand allows users to experience the technology simply by glancing into the screen of an Android, iPhone or other mobile device such as a tablet. AR is altering the world as we know it or at least changing the way people experience the world. The Pokémon explosion is probably the most well-known platform that has utilized AR for gaming. It may sound silly to some, but the game is highly addictive. To understand specific reasons behind this obsession, read my previous blog to learn why Pokémon Go has become so successful. To gain a better understanding of how app developers have taken advantage of this innovative technology, we will look at a few providers who have successfully used AR for non-gaming purposes.

Health and Education with AR: Anatomy 4D

This app is a cloud-based, interactive examining simulation resource for academic uses. It offers users with online access to anatomy data while analyzing detailed bone structures and organ systems. This can be done by downloading specialized research templates or by enabling structure projection and layer blending. Anatomy 4D allows project structures to synch with skin to analyze coordination and position. Users can also adequately balance the layers to reveal discrete anatomic implications. You can also hover over objects or images to reveal detailed information via label view. It is these perspectives that produce enhanced learning retention by granting students an in-depth look at any part of the body they are studying. This also is useful for medical instructors who can organize image and structure curriculums along with managing lessons and tests.

Image Source: mzstatic

Shopping with AR: Pair

This app enables users to place animated images of furniture into their space so they can perfectly visualize how it would look in real life.  Pair’s tag line is “The New Way to Try Before you Buy with Augmented Reality.” Indeed the app grants prospects an easier method to experience the end result of their interior design project. For example, let’s say you just purchased your first home and the space is completely empty. You would be able to walk room to room while viewing how you would want it to look through your mobile device. You’d be able to put furniture, pictures and other items in designated areas of the space, swap them out, switch them around etc. Cool right? Still, Pair has a much more expansive purpose than simply furniture and can enhance scientific, educational and commercial projects by giving spectators a 3D demonstration of what a particular vision would look like. I was able to see Pair in action during 500 Startups Batch 18 Demo Day and it’s pretty impressive.

Graphic Source: Google Plus

Mechanics and Construction with AR: AMA XpertEye

This month, AMA XpertEye will supply workers of the Keolis Commuter Services (KCS) in Massachusetts with AR smart glasses to improve communication and boost efficiency on their railway transportation system. These specialized glasses stream the video being recorded tethered to a mobile device. The remote supervisor monitors the recording over a laptop. From there, both parties can “exchange written messages and take screenshots of the video, annotate the images, and send them to each other.” Ultimately, their goal is to speed up delays caused from train repairs and other technical difficulties that may get them off track. Additionally, Keolis is considering the technology for training purposes so newcomers can literally see through the eyes of their seasoned field workers.

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Image Source: AMA XpertEye

Sports and Play with AR: RideOn Vision

This cutting edge technology created by Heads up Display is seen with their RideOn Ski Goggles. These one of a kind specs allow users to access heightened assistance while skiing or snowboarding the slopes. Map navigation systems can guide users easily through the rough and diverse terrain better than ever before. You can also communicate with other riders, see their whereabouts and even text them hands-free. In addition, the goggles allow riders to capture their surroundings and share them online for others to see. The company is also developing games that can be played directly through these exclusive lenses. And of course, users can jam to their own personalized soundtrack as they ride, jump, flip and recover from a wipe out.  Although the technology is geared for the snow, it’s useful for motorcyclists, ATV riders and other similar vehicles.

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Image Source: Pintrest

As technology progresses, it will be interesting to see what other AR use cases are developed.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Who Owns the Source Code?

Source CodeA client had developed an app and asked us to do some minor work on their existing app. I told him that we would need access to the source code so the client went back to the original developer to get the source code only to find that the developer claimed the source code as his intellectual property and refused to provide it. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve seen this source code ownership issue. Here are some of the implications of not having the source code to your app:

  • You are forever tied to the developer. Any modification, bug fix, or upgrade has to go through that developer. This is problematic because the developer could raise the price of development and is problematic if that developer becomes sick, busy with other projects, etc.
  • Raising funds or selling your project becomes more difficult because there’s a question of who owns the intellectual property.

Common Law

(Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer; if this is a concern, please get good legal counsel). In general, the author of content owns the copyright. In the case of a software developer, it’s the person physically typing on the key board to create the code. An exception occurs under the “Work for Hire” doctrine where the work is developed by an employee with the scope of their employment. However, when contractors are used, this becomes a little more unclear.

Personal Opinion

If I hire someone to buy a house, at the end of the project, I want the keys to it. In a similar fashion, if I pay someone to develop an app for me, I would expect to have the source code upon completion. At Apptology, this is our general policy. The exception is when we develop an app based off one of our templates. In which case, the template is our intellectual property.

Recommendations

If you are having an app developed by a contractor, have an open discussion about the source code ownership as part of the vetting process. If you don’t agree with their source code policy, move on. If you decide to go with that developer, make sure the ownership of the source code is spelled out in the contract.

The Three Basic App Monetization Strategies

If you are thinking about making money from developing apps, there are three basic app monetization strategies that you should consider:

1. Price: The most obvious way to make money is by selling it on the app store. On the Apple App store, the price can range from .99 to $999.99. Both Apple and Google will take 30% but they both have pretty good systems that will deposit the funds directly into your bank account. From what I’ve observed, putting a price on your app is a barrier for people to download your app. If your goal is to make a profit, my suggestion is to look at the freemium model. However, if your app solves a business problem and there’s a definite ROI (Return on Investment), then you should charge accordingly.

2. Freemium Model: The freemium model is where the user can download the app for free and monetization is done by using in-app purchase. There are typically three categories for in app purchases:

  • Trial version or limited function app where the in-app purchase unlocks the full functionality of the app
  • Virtual goods in a game (this got a lot of bad press when kids spent thousands of dollars on smurfberries)
  • Subscriptions for a newsstand app or content related app

Here’s a snapshot of the 27 top grossing apps on the app store. Only 2 apps in this group are paid. As such, I typically advise client to go the route of the freemium model.

3. Advertising: Mobile advertising is expected to balloon at a rate of 75% this year to $31 billion. Typically people think of banner ads. Facebook has done a superb job of monetizing using native ads. There are other creative adverting mechanisms like Kiip which rewards developer and users when they make an achievement in a game and AppEnvoy which puts the advertising in the push notification.

Everything Else

I also want to point out that the monetization strategies in this post does not include apps that deliver a service like Uber.  Another way to make money from your app is get acquired. WhatsApp is the entrepreneur’s dream when it got staggering $19 billion from Facebook. If I look at WhatsApp, I’m actually puzzled by their revenue model. They don’t have advertising nor do they really have a subscription base. My theory is that they somehow monetize from the user data; but since they don’t respond to my inquires (I’m kidding), we may never know.

Final Thoughts

So in conclusion, if you want to make money from your app, make it so that your app will get acquired for some staggering amount by Facebook or Google (if you figure this out, please call me). If that fails, my recommendation is to go the freemium route and then figure out whether you’ll use in-app purchasing, mobile advertising, or a combination of both.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy. Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Go You Chicken Fat Go: The Trend of Wearables and Health Apps

Apple debuted their new TV Ad, Strength, during the NBA Finals which was accompanied by the odd song, Chicken Fat (personally, I find this ad very disappointing compared to their last ad, Powerful, which I actually love and usually will stop and watch).

This ad illustrates a couple of trends that I’m seeing; health apps and wearables. Apple announced their Health app at WWDC. Essentially, their health app is able to collect data from other health apps and acts as a dashboard. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Google is expected to announce Google Fit which sounds pretty much identical to Apple’s Health App.

From a personal perspective, Apptology has received several request for quotes to develop health apps. The buzz in the Silicon Valley start-up community is wearables. Validating this trend,our hardware partner, Ansync has recently completed three Blue Tooth LE projects that involved wearables.

Well, it’s time for me to go and work off my chicken fat. Hmmm…is there an app for that?

Using Smartphone / Tablet Apps to Improve Your Business Process

 

The New Way to Deposit Checks

The New Way to Deposit Checks

In a previous blog, I talked about ways that smartphone apps can enhance a business.  Specifically I focused on apps being used as a marketing and branding tool.  In this blog, I will discuss how apps can become part of the business process.  I’ll break this down into two areas:  External and Internal.

External Process

One of most impressive examples I’ve seen on how apps have improved a business process is the Chase Bank App.   With their app, a user can deposit a check by taking a picture with it on their iPhone or Android device.  The impact to their business has been stunning.  I’ve talked to a few Chase employees and they estimate traffic into branch offices has decreased by 40% after with their app.  I’ve noticed personally that despite having 6 bank windows, they never have more then 2 tellers.   If a line does start to form, the bankers (the employees that don’t sit behind the teller windows) have been trained to pick people from the line and help them with their transaction.  While doing so, they actually have an opportunity to upsell their customer with other banking services such as new credit  cards or a  loan re-finance.

For smaller business, the function that makes the function that makes the most sense in changing the business process is allowing their customers to order product from their phone.  A good example is a restaurant having an app that allows their customer to order food.  People are inherently lazy and tend to go to the path of least resistance.  So, if you can make it easy for your clients to order from the convenience of their smartphone, they will continue to do so over and over.

Internal Process

We’ve talked to a number of clients that are looking for apps / mobile devices to improve their internal process.   For example, we did a project for  a hospital system where we developed an iPad app for a primary care physician to quickly and easily refer a patient to a specialist during a patient visit.  Prior to this , it was a cumbersome task that was typically done by a medical assistant on a desktop computer after the patient had been examined by the  primary care physician.

We did another project for a construction company where the app significantly improved their punch list process.  At the end of a construction project, an inspector will examine a project looking for things that need to be fixed.  The inspector would typically take notes and pictures then go back to the office and put together  a punch list report.  With the app we developed for our client, the inspector can take  pictures with  their smartphone, add notes and at the end of the walk through push a button that generates a report in a PDF format.  The client has reported that this  has saved them four hours per project.

If you are looking to improve your business  process with an app on a tablet or  smartphone, my recommendation is to study your current process and get feedback from the people that  do the work.  They typically will have insight on a problem since they do the work on a daily basis.

To summarize the blog, a well designed  app on a smartphone can dramatically improve your business process both internally and externally.

Apple’s Debut of The iPhone 5c and 5s. Seriously? That’s it?

In huge anticipation, I watched  Apple’s Keynote where they announced the long awaited iPhone 5s and  5c.  My first impression is wow, they are really padding this  presentation.  Tim Cook started off about talking the iTunes Music Festival and the new Apple Store at Stanford Mall.  Really?  Then we get a recap of iOS7 (which was announced in June).  Finally, about 20 minutes in, they presented the iPhone 5c and  5s.

The glorious colors of the iPhone 5c.

The glorious colors of the iPhone 5c.

The iPhone 5c

In a nutshell, the iPhone 5c is the iPhone 5 with different color options (white, green, blue, pink and yellow) with a price point starting at $99 (with contract).  I’m not sure if the “c” is either for color or cheap.   This addresses Apple’s need for a low  end product to compete with the huge number  of cheap Android phones on the market.

The iPhone 5s

Here’s what’s new in the iPhone 5s:

*Their  64 bit A7 Chip which Apple touts as desktop class architecture that’s twice the speed of the A6 Chip.  They did a demo of a graphic intensive game and remarked how quick the performance is.  It’s an  interesting use of a fast processor but I’m not so sure if high end gaming on a phone is a killer feature.

*The  M7 coprocessor which measures the data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass.  Apple explains this as an advantage for fitness apps because of a decrease in power usage.

*Upgrade iSight capabilities.  It seemed like Apple put a lot of emphasis on improving their camera.  I’m more of a point and click kind of a guy and the new features are probably more than I’ll use  but here they are:

-Larger Sensor

-Larger Pixels

-Larger Aperture

-Continuous Burst Mode

-True Tone Flash

-Auto image stabilization

-Slow Motion Video

-Live video zoom

-Square photos

-Panorama photos

-Photo filters

*Touch ID:  of the new iPhone 5s features, I actually found this the most interesting.  With touch ID, for device security, it replaces entering a numeric password with authenticating a finger print on the home button.  According to Apple, the authentication can be used for iTunes purchases.  Okay, initially, when I first heard about this feature, I was  ho-hum.  However, the way it is implemented is brilliant and seamless.  It’s security without having to think about it…and apparently it can be extended to other applications.

Apple’s Keynote ended with a little more filler from Elvis Costello.  Overall, I found the new features rather meh especially when compared to the features seen in the Galaxy 4.  I really was expecting a lot more.  Going forward, I  feel the Galaxy will be  the phone to beat and Apple will be playing catch up.

Using Smartphone Apps for Marketing and Building Your Brand

Smartphone apps are the third pillar of developing a mobile strategy.  It is perhaps the most expensive of the three options and really needs to be thought out.

In using Smartphone apps for promoting your business, I see two primary reasons:

1)       Apps used for  marketing and  branding your business

2)      Apps become part of your business  process (more on this in the next blog)

And of course there are apps that do both.    This blog will discuss apps used for marketing and branding.  I’ll discuss Apps that become part of the business process in my next blog.

If you do a search for “Coca-Cola” in the Apple App Store, there are more than 60 apps.  They range from gag apps like their version of the Magic 8 Ball to a virtual Coca-Cola Yo Yo.  They have apps with movie tie ins including” Cowboys  and Aliens” and “Happy Feet.”  One of their most popular apps is “Spin the Coke” which is a mobile version of Spin the Bottle.  (I dread the day when my kids become teenagers).

Promoting the Walking Dead with the Dead Yourself App

Promoting the Walking Dead with the Dead Yourself App

For apps that are used for branding, a key component for success is to get it to go viral via social media.   A great example is the Walking Dead’s “Dead Yourself” app.  Dead Yourself is a great app where the user can “zombify” a picture of themself.  The app allows the user to quickly share their zombie self on social media.   I usually don’t like to promote products on my social media account but I found myself posting my zombie picture on Facebook where a few of my friends downloaded the app and quickly followed suite.

In general, only larger companies can afford to develop an app for just branding purposes.    To develop an effective marketing app, the developer needs to work intimately with the client’s marketing firm.  Also, it  should be a piece of a larger marketing plan.