CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire App

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) fights over 5600 calfireiconwildfires that plague California annually.  CAL FIRE has a new weapon in their arsenal to help prepare the public for when the next wildfire strikes, it’s their new mobile app called CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire.  The app is currently available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.  The app has three primary functions:

  • Providing Educational Content on how to prepare for and help protect property from wildfires
  • Notifying citizens of wildfire incidents with custom alerts
  • Providing incident information and maps on California wildfires

Education

The main purpose of the app is to help educate residents and property owners in high risk wildland areas on how to prepare for wildfires.  The app has a series of checklists that is broken down as follows:

  • Ready (Maintain Defensible Space and Hardening Homes)
    • Create Defensible Space
    • Harden Home
    • Prepare for Bark Beetles
  • Set (Create a Wildfire Action Plan)
    • Wildfire Action Plan
    • Emergency Supply Kit
    • Design a Family Communication Plan
  • Go! (Evacuation Guide)
    • Pre-Evacuation Guide
    • When to evacuate
    • What to do when trapped

 

The app has nine separate check-off lists that also provide educational material in the form of articles and videos.  The videos can be viewed as part of the checklist or in the video library.

Cal Fire education

Notifications

The user can sign up to receive custom wildfire alerts for a physical address and/or for the user’s device location.  The user can opt-in for push notifications and/or SMS messages for wildfires that are reported in selected California counties, or within 30 miles of the user’s device, using location services.

Push Notifications

Push Notifications require the user to have the app.  The push notifications are generated using integration with Urban Airship.

SMS

The user can also opt to receive text messages about latest wildfires.  The advantage of using this option is that the user doesn’t need the app to receive the notification.   The SMS messages are generated through integration with Twilio.

CAL Fire alerts

Information

Basic information from CAL FIRE can also be found on the app.  The app has embedded CAL FIRE’s mobile website for incident information, and there’s a feed from CAL FIRE’s Twitter account.  In addition, there’s a Statewide Fire Google Map that displays all the active wildfires in California.

Cal Fire Info

CAL FIRE launched a campaign to promote the app that directs residents to this resource as tool to prepare their Defensible Space in advance of the 2017 wildfire season. The campaign also includes an incentive for user downloads through an App Sweepstakes that is available now through May 21, 2017. The Sweepstakes offers users a chance to win a home hardening prize package. The Sweepstakes is co-sponsored by Apptology and iHeartRadio. No state funds are used for promotion or prizes. The CAL FIRE app was developed by Apptology as a contractor to CAL FIRE’s marketing agency, Sagent. For more information on the Ready For Wildfire Campaign, visit www.readyforwildfire.org

Tips for Apple App Store Marketing

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The app marketplace is highly profitable, highly competitive, and highly cluttered. Because of this, app developers absolutely need an app store marketing strategy to realize success in the app marketplace. Optimizing your application for success in the app marketplace should be a vital part of your overall app development strategy.

App Store Marketing Tips

According to a Statista worldwide mobile app revenue forecast, 41.1 Billion dollars in revenue was generated from mobile apps worldwide in 2015. This year, app revenue is on track to reach 50.9 Billion dollars. Even more astounding, 2020 is projected to see over 101.1 Billion dollars in mobile app revenue worldwide. With this continued rise in profitability, the app market will continue becoming cluttered with an influx of mobile applications. Here are some tips on developing a rock solid Apple App Store marketing strategy to ensure your app stands out:

Identify Your Advantage

Lay out your competitive advantage clearly and concisely. No one is going to read a long-winded statement about your app. They want to know exactly how the app is unique, what problem it solves, and how it improves on what’s already on the market.

Is the Price Right?

When pricing your app, find the sweet spot. You can decide between different pricing models depending on what kind of app you are looking to build. For example, some popular pricing models include flat price to download, in-app purchases, and in-app advertising. Charging to download is going to limit the amount of people who download your app since a free download is almost always more alluring to the user. In-app purchases allow the user to download the app for free and pay for upgrades within the application. The feasibility of this will vary depending on the nature of the application. In-app advertising is another popular pricing model. This model keeps the application free to the user in exchange for them viewing advertisements. Finding the right pricing model will depend on how you want users to interact with the application.

App Store Optimization

App store optimization (ASO) is very similar to its web-based counterpart strategy, SEO. ASO involves making sure that your app is showing up first for relevant keywords within the app store. Most users download an app after using the Apple App Store’s search feature. Therefore, your app will get lost in the marketplace if it isn’t showing up for related keyword phrases. A successful ASO strategy requires:

A common-sense title: According to app development company Enola Labs:

People sometimes forget just how important choosing the right title really is. For one, your app title will give you the heaviest search traffic. Second, you don’t want to have to change your title; It’s extra work, updates take time for Apple to process and most importantly it hurts any progress you’ve made in any initial marketing efforts.”

So, don’t get too creative with your app title. The title should be searchable and include the targeted keyword.

Bullet point features: Quick, important details about your application that will help the user decide if they want to download it or not.

Relevant keywords:  Because relevant keywords are so important, be sure to include specific keywords that relate to your application and its functionality.

High-Quality Screenshots: These help the user “experience” the application before deciding to download.

Your Marketing Strategy Will Evolve

Most of all, it is important to note that the app store is still very young and will continue to evolve. Therefore, your app store marketing strategy needs to continue to evolve right alongside it.

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.

Apple Keynote Conference 2016: Apple Reveals iPhone 7 and Wireless Earbuds

On September 7, Apple hosted their 9th annual Keynote Conference at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Although newer versions of the iPhone and Apple Watch were shown for the first time, this year’s event was a little different. Instead of introducing state of the art innovations, Apple showed some additional features they’ve added to existing products. Moreover, these features weren’t anything extraordinary but new for Apple nonetheless.

Image Source: i.ytimg.com

Apple Music & the App Store

Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his passion for music and the important role it has played in the brand’s development saying that they now have 17 million paid subscribers on their own Apple Music. They plan on partnering with more musicians this year as well. They announced its collaboration with Nintendo and will have classic games such as Super Mario and Battle Toads available on the App Store. Awesome! Its ‘ConnectED’ Program improved ‘iWork’ introducing real-time collaboration so users can work on numerous docs and presentations simultaneously. By doing so, Apple will now rival competing products such as the Google Chromebook and hope to gain a solid presence in productivity/educational environments.

Image Source: cdn1.tekrevue.com

iPhone 7 & the iPhone 7 Plus

The designs of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is virtually the same as their 2 previous models with one discrete addition. The iPhone 7 does not have an aux port because it only accepts wireless earbuds called ‘Airpods.’ Therefore, the lack of aux abilities is more of an exclusion than an addition. Its updated processors grant longer battery life whether at home or on the go. In addition, its internal stereo system has been improved for crisp audio playback. They’ve also made them water resistant and adjusted the home button for force sensitivity.  Last but not least, they’ve upgraded to a dual-lens camera system that enhances its already pristine picture quality. The price for the iPhone 7 is a little less at $649 in comparison to the 7 Plus at $769. Preorders will start on September 9th.

Image Source: 1reddrop

Apple Watch Series 2

The Apple Watch has updated features most beneficial for athletes and particularly swimmers. The new models are now swim-resistant, integrated swim workouts into its system and even repel water while swimming. It also has a built in GPS and comes with their new hiking app ‘View Ranger.’ Additionally, they partnered with Nike to create an exclusive Apple Watch with a cool running band design. Pokémon Go is now available for the watch as well. Lastly, its brighter display and faster processors tally it up to the asking rates of $269-$369 available September 9th for preorder.

Image Source: A Blog to Watch 

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 7 Mobile App Monetization Models

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Something I typically ask my startup clients is “how do you plan on making money?”Sometimes, I get a stunned silence in response. They’re so caught up in their idea that they never think about the monetization model. This is especially true for startups that include an app as part of the business model. So, if you are at the napkin stage of your next app venture, here are seven app monetization models to give you food for thought.

1. The Price of the App

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 take 30% but have pretty good systems that will deposit the funds directly into your bank account.

Although from what I’ve observed, putting a price on your app is often a barrier for people to download your app. We had a client that had a fairly successful app with thousands of downloads a week (as a free app). As soon as they charged 99 cents for their app, it went from thousands of downloads to forty. If your goal is to make a profit, my suggestion is to figure out how to monetize a free app. However, if your app solves a business problem and there’s a definite ROI (Return on Investment), then you should charge accordingly.

2. In-App Purchases

Typically, in-app purchases for a free app allow users to:

  • Unlock features

  • Purchase a subscription

  • Buy virtual goods

  • Purchase additional content

Just as in the price of an app, Apple and Google Play take 30%. If you look at the top grossing apps in the Apple App Store, the top 30 apps are all free but offer in-app purchases.

3. Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising nears $100 billion in 2016. There are 6 mobile advertising models and I discuss them in this article.

4. License

Essentially, if you build an app that solves a problem, you can license it. A good example is event apps. There are a number of companies with an app template that will create custom apps for organizations in need of an event app. They typically charge a setup fee and a monthly subscription. This follows a SaaS (Software as a Service) model.

5. Improving the Business Process

Although this isn’t exactly a monetization model, effectively implementing a mobile app can substantially improve business revenue. A good example is Fandango. Their revenue increased by 57% after they launched their mobile app in 2012. If you have an existing business or startup, implementing a native app that improves your business process may be a way to increase revenue.

6. Deliver a Service  

Uber is a great example of service delivery via a mobile app. In 2015, their revenue was estimated at $1.5 billion and they currently have a valuation of $62.5 billion.  Other examples of delivering a service via a mobile app are TaskRabbit and Doctors on Demand. For developers, one of the most requested types of apps is an Uber-style app. Essentially, the model involves connecting a resource to a demand, handling the transaction, and then taking a percentage of the transaction.

7. User Acquisition

If you look at WhatsApp and Instagram, they practically had no revenue model before getting acquired. What they had were a lot of users. At the time of their acquisition, WhatsApp had 600 million users and Instagram had 30 million users. Their apparent strategy was to acquire a lot of users then get acquired. WhatsApp was acquired for $19 billion and Instagram for $1 billion. Not bad for businesses with no revenue model.

If developing an app is part of your business strategy, then hopefully this article has helped you consider the right monetization model for your business plan and pitch.

 

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.

Announcements from Apple’s WWDC Keynote 2016

Image Source: Mac Rumors

On June 13th 2016, Apple’s first day of its annual WWDC Keynote Conference  was held in San Francisco, CA making some new and exciting announcements to its four pillars: watchOS (Apple Watch), tvOS (Apple TV), OS X (macOS), and iOS (iPhone/iPads). The event will continue until the 17th of June. Most of these items and updates will launch during Fall of this year.

watchOS 3 Updates

-Upgraded app downloads for optimized performance

-Dock interface that allows users to easily manage multiple apps that are open

-New and improved faces for watch

-Face exchange allowing users to cycle between watch faces based on preference

-New “Scribble” function allowing easy fingertip swiping

-Advanced support for wheelchair users

Image Source: Gadgets Global

tvOS Updates

-“Single Sign in” eliminates having to manually login to each AppleTV app

-“Dark Mode” for night owls or those that prefer a dim looking screen

-Automatically downloads associated AppleTV app after downloading iPhone video app

-Advanced “Siri Voice” search capabilities

Image Source: multimedia.bbycastatic

iPhone Updates

-iPhone now has remote control capabilities

-Emulates touchpad letting users to easily manage AppleTV’s Interface

-Utilize iPhone’s keyboard on AppleTV

-Gyroscope now can be used as a game controller

-Advanced lock screen and 3D touch support; “deep press” for more app details and simply move body away from phone to lock

-Automatic voicemail transcriptions

iPhone Updates

-New “Swift Playgrounds” allows users to get their feet wet in coding by offering how-tos, tutorials, and user-friendly lectures for the building blocks of app development

Image Source: 9to5mac

OS X Updates

-Rebranding OS X to simply macOS  (first name change in over a decade)

-Upcoming OS will be called macOS Sierra

-Auto-unlocking capabilities; Sierra can detect when you’re next to it by identifying your iPhone or watchOS

-copy and paste between any device; copy something from iPhone and paste into Sierra

-Advanced storage space reduction capabilities; removes temp files, old mail, etc. while auto-downloading when needed

Apple Pay integration allowing complete secure and anonymous transactions with fingerprint authentication

Picture in Picture (PIP) allowing seamless window management; watch YouTube while working without taking up space on screen

-Advanced “Siri Voice” capabilities; from generic to complex queries

-Debut of iOS 10; Craig Federighi said it will be “the biggest iOS release for users ever”

Image Source: CultofMac

Widget Updates

-Access an app’s widgets by 3D touching its icon

Siri Voice Updates

-Integrates Siri Voice for 3rd party apps

QuickType Updates

-If someone asks via SMS, “What will the weather be like this week?” QuickType will conduct an automated search and provide an accurate response

VoIP Updates

-Skype and WhatsApp will now be integrated eliminating outdated notifications when people call

Map Updates

-Maps will now have the ability to access your schedule and whereabouts to provide accurate directions

“Extensions” enabling users to integrate 3rd party apps to easily call Uber for example

Image Source: SearchEngineLand

Apple Music Updates

-Better appearance and easier navigation capabilities

HomeKit Updates

-The standard app for smart home/IoT devices now has features such as “Night Mode” that automatically locks your doors and dims the lights

iMessage Updates

-Online previews of links rather than an ugly url code

-Auto-emoji matching with text; type in “happy” and a correlating emoji will pop up

-Invisible ink; messages that will only appear when you allow via swipe

-3rd party access; allowing developers to incorporate their use into messages. For example, pay a recipient within messages via Square Cash

 

If you do decide to use “Swift Playgrounds” to develop your own mobile app, check out the 5 challenges commonly experienced by a modern appreneur to stay ahead of the curve. We don’t know about you, but we are excited for Fall to experience Apple’s new products firsthand. Check out Apple’s official website for more information and ordering process!

 

 

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.

Google Cardboard: The Best Mobile Apps of 2016

Google Cardboard

What’s Google Cardboard?

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Google Cardboard, it’s worth taking a look. For those who don’t know, Google Cardboard is a virtual reality platform that utilizes a cardboard head mount where you can  attach your smartphone.  It was designed to be a low cost virtual reality system with headsets that cost as little as $1.99.  In comparison, an Oculus Rift head set will cost around $1,000.  Moreover, developers can create their own applications using the Cardboard SDK.

Virtual Reality: You Have to See it to Understand

In his TEDx Talk, Chris Milk stated “Talking about virtual reality is like dancing about architecture.”  You have to see it to understand it.  To give it a try, you’ll need to purchase a cardboard headset.  Official Google Cardboard viewers can be purchased here.  They range from $15 to $120. On Amazon, you can find it as low a $1.99. If you’re lucky,  I’ve seen them given away as SWAG at startup conferences.

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Image Source: Digital Trends 

When you peep through its lenses, you experience a world generated via mobile app with the ability of displaying landscapes, film, video games and other multimedia formats. The Google Play Store offers a plethora of apps to choose from and is compatible with iPhone and Android devices.

After you’ve get your Google Cardboard headset, here are the best mobile apps that you can try:

iPhone Mobile Apps

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Image Source: VR Island Screenshot

Android Mobile Apps

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Image Source: Deep Space Battle Screenshot

With developers having access to the Google Cardboard SDK,  It will be interesting to see what innovative uses of Google Cardboard arises. If you still have your doubts about mobile apps, check out why the public sector needs a mobile strategy and how this could relate to the next generation of VR applications!

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.

 

Why the Public Sector Needs a Mobile Strategy in 2016

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Image Source: Open Ratio

Let’s face it; the public sector tends to drag their feet with recognizing opportunity which is why many organizations overlook the power of mobile technology. There are several reasons why non-profits and public sector organizations need to adopt a mobile strategy.

Mobile Technology is here to Stay

The main reason that a mobile strategy needs be adopted is that the population has already adopted mobile. In the few short years following the debut iPhone, these devices have had unprecedented growth. There are lots of studies and statistics to prove this point. My favorite is that there are more mobile devices than there are people in the world.

Mobile searches exceed desktop searches

Recently Google reported that there are more searches done on a mobile device than from a desktop computer. This is significant because it represents a tech trend that needs to be acknowledged and adopted. If more people are depending on mobile for their needs, it would make sense to have an effective mobile strategy.

Google’s algorithm favors mobile friendly web sites

In 2015, Google changed their algorithm that a search done on a mobile device will favor mobile friendly websites. Based on points 2 and 3, organizations that have a mobile friendly web site will have an advantage over those that don’t.

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Image Source: Deluxe E-Vectors

Mobile may be the only means of internet access

In a recent study, mobile was the only means of access to the Internet for 23% of families below the poverty level. So for organizations that deal with providing social services, a significant part of the population they serve can only access the internet via mobile device.

Web sites designed for desktops are difficult to navigate from mobile phone

A good example is the California WIC web site. This web site is hard enough to navigate on a desktop computer. If you are in the WIC program, there’s a slight chance that the only internet connection you have is through a mobile device. Try navigating the WIC web site with your smart phone and experience what it looks like to have a poor mobile strategy.

mobile-power

Image Source: Mobloggy

When developing a mobile strategy, there are 3 elements to consider:

Develop a mobile friendly website

This will address points 2 and 3 previously discussed.

Communicate via SMS

I see a lot of communication from the Public Sector done via email marketing. Sadly, with an open rate of only 22%, it’s really a futile way to communicate. SMS, on the other hand, has a read rate of 98%. The good news is that there are a lot of SMS marketing tools out there that are relatively inexpensive. I’ve actually seen a couple of organizations that realize that SMS is a better way to communicate and employees end up using their personal mobile devices to send out text messages.

Develop a mobile app

An app can be a very effective tool to communicate with the population served by a public sector organization. A mobile app that is used specifically for a platform or device is what’s called a “native app.” The reasons an organization should have their own native app are numerous and as such, I plan to write a future post on why a public sector organization would need a native app.

UYODImage Source: Esign Live

Businesses will continually develop more simplified mobile solutions to increase work efficiency and communication. One way or another, this is the direction the future holds. I want you to take advantage of this trend by staying ahead of the curve and strategize how to most effectively integrate mobile. If you manage a public sector organization, I hope this post gave you some food for thought on why you need to adopt a mobile strategy and how to go about it. If you want to read on some of the common challenges in the mobile community, check out my personal insight as a modern day appreneur. 

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. 

Highlights of Apple’s March 2016 Announcement

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If you missed Apple’s Product announcement, you can view it here.  For your convenience here are the highlights:

Overall it was a “ho hum” product announcement. If you want to check out the latest news on Apple products and future plans for the platform, read the announcements from their annual 2016 WWDC Keynote Event .

 

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.

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?