Tap into the Mobile Economy

“Tap into the Mobile Economy” is a guide for people that have an idea for an app and don’t know what to do. The book draws upon our experience dealing with hundred of clients looking to be an appreneur.  The book covers:

  • Developing an Idea for an app
  • The monetization of apps
  • Finding a developer
  • Marketing an app

If you feel like you have the makings of the next Uber, this book will help guide you through the process.  The physical book is available for purchase on Amazon.  The good news is that we also have it free as a digital download.

 

 

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

9 Factors for Hiring the Perfect Mobile App Developer

9 Factors in Evaluating a Developer

Over the years, we have had several clients that have come to us asking to either fix or complete an app from another developer. One client had spent over $50 k with another developer and had nothing to show for it. For all of you that are looking to hire a mobile app developer, this post will go over several factors you should consider when evaluating a developer.

Mobile App Developer Factor #1 The Source Code / Ownership:

An easy way to weed out a developer is to find out what their policy is on the ownership of the source code and intellectual property upon completion of the project. If they won’t release and / or make a claim, keep moving. I discuss the source code issue more in this post.

Mobile App Developer Factor #2 Technical Capabilities:

Is the developer you’re looking at technically capable of completing your project? In your evaluation, realize that it takes a team. So for example, the a complex app development project will have:

  • iOS Developer
  • Android Developer
  • Backend Developer
  • U/X Designer
  • Project Architect
  • Project Manager

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Image Source: Goforthapps

Be cognizant that it’s very hard for one person to do everything and you may need to hire multiple developers with different disciplines or go with a development team that has all the capabilities you’re looking for. For better communication, the ideal situation is where all the developers are under one roof so that problems can be solved quickly.

Mobile App Developer Factor #3: Portfolio

Ask to look at the developer’s portfolio. Download their apps. Evaluate their body of work. What you see is probably a good indication of what kind of app the developer can create for you.

Mobile App Developer Factor #4: References

Ask for a list of references from your developer and take the time to contact them. Some good questions to ask them:

  • Did they have a good process?
  • Were they responsive? How was the communication?
  • Were they helpful with other issues like setting up an iOS account?
  • How was the quality of the work?
  • How well did they resolve problems?

app-developer

Image Source: JCount

Another great place to check their reference is to see if they are accredited by the Better Business Bureau. For example, Apptology’s BBB rating is summarized here. If they are a BBB member, this also gives you a venue to handle disputes. If the developer wants to keep an A rating with the BBB, they are forced to address your dispute.

Mobile App Developer Factor #5: What If You Got Hit By A Bus?

Ask your developer what happens if their main developer got hit by a bus. I know it’s a strange question but it’s important. I had a client that was developing an app and the developer they were working with just disappeared. He didn’t answer any emails and phone calls for a couple of weeks and they were forced to find another developer because they were hitting a deadline. It turned out that their developer had a DUI and was in jail for a few weeks. So, if you ask the “Bus” question, hopefully the developer will have some sort of backup plan for you.

Mobile App Developer Factor #6: Development Process

My undergraduate degree was in Industrial Engineering so I am a stickler about process. That said, when evaluating a developer; ask them about their development process. Some questions to ask:

  • How and when do you provide feedback?
  • How are scope changes handled?
  • Is there a project manager that you work with?
  • Are there regular project meetings?
  • How is communication handled?
  • What types of project management tools are used?
  • How is quality assurance (QA handled)?

In evaluating their development process, see where you fit in. Where do you fit in the design and approval process? What you don’t want is to work with a development team that goes away for 3 months and comes back with crap.

mobile-apps-development

Image Source: Appectual 

Mobile App Developer Factor #7: Maintenance Plan / Upgrades

All the major platforms upgrade their software roughly once a quarter. Unfortunately, these upgrades may actually break your app. When I first developed my app, Apple just released iOS 4 and our app was developed on an older SDK. To our horror we found that half the sound files on our app didn’t work and we had to spend the weekend troubleshooting the problems generated by the upgrade.

So, when choosing a developer, ask them how they handle maintenance. Also, your app should always be evolving. Make sure you also ask them how they handle upgrades.

Mobile App Developer Factor 8: Warranty

Ask your developer if they will warranty their work in writing. So, after the project is delivered and submitted to the various App Store, ask what happens if a bug is discovered? To be fair, the warranty can only be applied to the specific version of the SDK that the app was developed on. As discussed in the previous section, the developer really can’t be responsible for issues caused by an upgrade to the Operating System.

mobile-app-development-costs

Image Source: searlesgraphics

Mobile App Developer Factor #9: Pricing

I saved this for last. I’m not going to go with the cliché that you get what you pay for. I think you can find a quality developer that is still cost effective (shameless plug: like us). I had a client that revealed that the bids for her project ranged from $7 K to $50 K. I personally would throw out the high bid. I’ve heard some vendors just throw out large quotes to weed out their prospects. If there is a bid that is dramatically low, my gut is that they didn’t understand the scope. However, before throwing them out, talk to them first as they may have a template or process that gives them some sort of advantage.

Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought in evaluating developers for your project. If you want to evaluate how much your app will cost to develop as a whole, check out this informative blog now! 

 

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.

3 Steps to Develop Your Mobile App Idea

You’ve been thinking about an idea that you think can be the next Uber for weeks. So what do you do? Here are three steps you can take that will help you develop your idea.

1. Research Your Mobile App Idea:

The first thing you want to do with your idea is to research it. I had a client that spent a considerable amount of time having me do an NDA dance before speaking with me. Once we finally started talking, I quickly did a search on the Apple App Store and found there were over 25 similar apps listed; he quickly lost interest in pursuing this project.

Keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if you find another app that does what you’re trying to accomplish. You just have to figure out how to make your app better. Remember, before Google there was Yahoo; Before Facebook, there was MySpace. It’s not so much who goes to market first, but rather who executes best.

In doing your research, you need to also look at the market potential. For example, let’s say you had an app that was geared for veterinarians. A quick Google search shows that there are 90,000 veterinarians in the U.S. Now, you just identified your market potential.

Developing-Your-Mobile-App

Image Source: AppsCollections

2. Create Storyboard for Your Mobile App:

Now it’s time to put your idea down on paper and develop a storyboard (or wireframe). This is where the rubber hits the road and you put yourself in the shoes of the user. For instance, what’s the first thing they see once they launch your app? The first screen takes you to the main menu; the user taps the top button, where does it take the user? And so on.

To create our wireframes, our designers use a design tool called Balsamiq. I send our clients a PowerPoint template where they can either use PowerPoint’s drawing tools or they can even print it out and hand draw it.

The advantage of creating a storyboard are:

  • It helps develop your idea
  • You have something to show as you try to recruit people or investors
  • Provides direction for your development team

storyboard-login

Image Source: spordipartner

3. Develop Mobile App Business Plan:

After you’ve done the research and developed a storyboard, if you decide you have something viable, you need to put together a business plan. After you’ve followed these 3 steps diligently, I suggest reading the 5 Challenges of a Startup Appreneur to know what you’re up against and strategize accordingly. Good luck on your start up journey as you recruit co-founders, get funding, etc.

 

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.

Arm Yourself by Setting Your iPhone on Stun

I used to joke with friends that I will be impressed with an iPhone Release that shot “Frickin Laser Beams.”    Well now, I’m impressed.  Louisiana based, Yellow Jacket LLC, has a product that acts as a battery backup (ho hum) and a stun gun that 650,000 volt stun gun that retails ay $139.99.  And similar to the iPhone 5c, it comes in a variety of 5 colors including pink.  Unfortunately, they currently only support the iPhone 4/4s (they have a sign up list for the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4).

Shooting Pepper Spray From an iPhone

Shooting Pepper Spray From an iPhone

You do have other options if you’re in the market to weapon-ize your smartphone.  Sprytect offers a smartphone case that allows you to shoot pepper spray.   At a retail price of $39.95, it comes in 4 colors but as in the case with Yellow Jacket, it only supports the iPhone 4/4s (support is pending for other phones).

As a gadget guy, I think I would be inclined to get the Yellow Jacket.  Not because I fear for my safety.  Mostly because it’s cool and maybe I can test it out on friend at a party.  But alas I have kids, and I would hate for them to find that hidden achievement on my iPhone when they’re playing Angry Birds.

The other reason that I probably wouldn’t get it is that I would probably forget about it on my next flight and it would get confiscated by the TSA.   With that said, if I felt I needed to arm myself, concealing it on my smartphone is an ideal solution since I don’t leave home without it.

State of Mobile 2013 Infographic

This is a great Infographic on Mobile from the folks at supermonitoring.com.  I love Infographics.  There’s a hodgepodge  of stats on this.  Notable is the dominance of Android and the rapid adoption of Mobile  (I always tell our clients that the population has already adopted mobile.  It’s businesses, governments, and organizations that need to  adapt).

State of Mobile 2013 Infographic

State of Mobile 2013 Infographic

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Apptology is the leading mobile application development and mobile marketing company located in Sacramento, California. We offer a comprehensive suite of iPhone, iPad, Android app development solutions for the mobile applications industry. Create a mobile app for your business today! Contact us today! www.apptology.com

Will iBeacon, the iOS7 stealth feature, lead to the demise of NFC?

I was looking for Apple to announce the support Near Field Communication (NFC) with their keynote announcement of iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s.   After all, Android has supported NFC since 2010  (NFC can be used with Google  Wallet, reading NFC tags, and exchanging info between phones).  But alas, there was no mention of NFC.

I believe that many have not adopted NFC and have been waiting on the side lines, waiting for Apple to support it.  With the appearance of iBeacons in iOS 7, it is unlikely that Apple will support NFC.

WWDC iOS7 Keynote Slide

WWDC iOS7 Keynote Slide

What is iBeacon?

What’s iBeacon? Doesn’t ring a bell?  Well, it wasn’t mentioned in Apple’s recent announcement of the iPhone 5c and 5s. In fact, the only mention of it was on one slide in the WWDC keynote last June.  The only other place I found it mentioned is on Apple’s Developer’s page on iOS7 under Accessories.  However, it doesn’t explain what iBeacon is, it just points to the Bluetooth programming guide.

iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with small wireless sensors (or as Apple calls it, Beacons).  So in theory, if  you go into Target, and you have the Target App, the beacon can transmit specials  and coupons to the Target App.  Right now, the prominent manufacturer of the Beacons  is Estimote.

What’s the Big Deal?

One of the Holy Grails of  smartphone’s is  the ability to use your phone to pay for things.  NFC was seen as one technology that can do this.    However, without Apple supporting  NFC, retailers really couldn’t adopt it (well they could but only Android phones would be able to use it).

BLE does offer advantages over NFC.  It has a range of 50 meters compared to NFC very short range of 20 centimeter (yes, centimeters).

Because Apple has been really quiet on iBeacon, it’s safe to say that it’s not ready for prime time and is  still beta.   However, I believe that when Apple formally touts iBeacon, BLE will become the underlying technology for mobile commerce.  Why?  Android already supports BLE with Android 4.3.  So, put yourself in a retailer’s shoes.   You’re looking at adopting a technology ; you’ll want to go with one that is supported by the broadest population.  That leaves NFC out in the cold.

 

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.

 

 

iOS 7 is coming! iOS 7 is coming! iOS 7 is…

Like a modern day Paul Revere (or Chicken  Little  depending on how you view it), I would like to remind you that iOS 7 is coming sometime this month.  I’ve heard  rumors that the  launch will coincide with their big announcement on September 10, 2013 which we all believe will be the  debut of the next iPhone.

So what’s the  big deal?  Well in general, we find that that with any major upgrade with iOS, things tend to break with existing apps.  From personal experience, the very first app  that I worked on, the upgrade from iOS 2 to 3 broke half my audio files in the app.  Our development team had to work overtime to fix the problem and resubmit the app to  Apple.  We’ve done some testing on the apps  we developed against  iOS 7 beta and we found that the upgrade has caused some problems.

First order of business is insuring functionality.  So, if you already have an iOS app developed,  to be proactive, contact  your developer and ask them to test against iOS 7.  If they find any issues, have them fix it.  In terms of timing, you also have to remember that Apple typically takes  2 weeks to review an app (even upgrades to an existing app).

Skeuomorphic vs. Minalimist

Skeuomorphic vs. Minimalist

Longer term, you may want to consider redesigning  your app to match iOS 7’s minimalist design.  Currently, iOS 6 uses a Skeuomorphic design (where functions mimic real world objects) .  iOS 7, on the other hand,  will embrace a minimalist design.

More  importantly, in redesigning your app for iOS 7, you should consider leveraging some of the new iOS 7 features.

If you have an app  on the Apple App Store, hopefully, you’ve been aware of the debut of iOS 7 and have already prepared for it.  If you haven’t, I  recommend contacting your developer and ask them to test your app against iOS 7.

Cheers,

Rich Foreman

CEO / Apptology

 

 

SMS (Text) Marketing: An Effective Way to Reach Your Customer Base

In continuing my series on the  three pillars of a marketing strategy, the second pillar is SMS (Text) Marketing.  SMS stands for Short Message Service and  it’s  one of the primary ways  people now communicate.  To illustrate the change in communication, my cousin was complaining to me that her  kids (who are in their 20’s) never  responds to her emails.  When I talked to her kids, they laugh and basically said that they primarily text or  Facebook and that no one emails.

95% of text messages are read within 15 minutes.  Compare that with emails which has a 3% read rate.  Email use is declining and consequently, the effectiveness of email marketing.  However, I still feel that email marketing is still effective for B2B but if your business is more B2C, you really should look into SMS Marketing.

A&W SMS Campaign

A&W SMS Campaign

Here are some case studies that show the effectiveness of SMS marketing.  A&W burger chain was able to increase their revenue by a staggering 20% by using Text Marketing.    In similar fashion, Jamba Juice was able to increase their in store traffic by 10% with their Text Marketing campaign.

As a pillar to mobile marketing, SMS Marketing offers an effective means to market to your clients and if you business model is B2C, I highly recommend that you look into it.  (Shameless plug, Apptology does offer SMS Marketing packages).

In my next blog, I will look go  over the  third pillar of mobile marketing, Smartphone Apps.