News & Insights

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Meerkat, Play Store and more: week that was in tech and mobile

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The lines between digital, mobile, technology and apps are blurring in today’s world. We at Robosoft are keen followers of developments in this arena. At the end of every week, we will share with you highlights of news items which caught our eye in this space.

Meerkat: product and buzz

If you thought the app development market was beginning to get stale with cookie-cutter approach to apps and app marketing, think again. There is a lot of talk in the app industry about problems of app discovery and getting lost in the clutter. Many have attempted to make a fortune in this business only to end up with apps or games which never make it to the top or create buzz. However, when apps become popular the reasons-why are clear to see. They meet a need or solve a problem, they are engaging and easy to use, they are designed well and provide great user experience. Sometimes, apps have the power to disrupt not just the app industry but related industries they operate in. Live streaming music apps, check in apps, instant messaging apps and many more have gone on to impact related industries.

Meerkat, the live video streaming app has gained phenomenal traction in two weeks and has the potential to disrupt several categories. It is remarkable that it has gained such a fan following and buzz all within two weeks.

Meerkat VC
 
BBC’s Washington bureau used Meerkat recently to cover live news events. Amateurs are seeing it as a great tool to broadcast videos live with literally no setup or investments required. Potentially it could be used to broadcast live news, music & other entertainment events, sports, training videos and so much more. No wonder Meerkat has attracted high profile investments too.

Meerkat seems to have found that happy intersection of a great product and marketing buzz. Twitter users seem to have fallen in love with it and seems to be growing despite Twitter putting some restrictions on it. Meerkat was first discovered on Product Hunt and got a bigger platforms at the recent SXSW – which are phenomenal platforms for discovery. With Twitter buying Periscope, the live streaming app scenario will see some healthy competition soon. Which can only mean good news for consumers.

Google Play to review apps by staff

Until now, the app approval process at Google Play was relatively simple, compared to the App Store process. Google revealed last week that app submissions will go through a review process – internal team of reviewers will analyze apps for policy violations prior to publication. Also an age-based ratings system for games and apps on Google Play will be in place.

Health Lab for Apple Watch

Apple gave ABC News exclusive access to its top secret health and fitness lab. The lab is fitted with ‘climate chambers’ where participants test the watch in different environments.  The watch was also test in live environments of Alaska and Dubai, apparently. Apple is making sure that the story behind the creation of Apple Watch gets through to media and potential consumers prior to launch.

Apple

Apple Watch, ResearchKit: new frontiers for apps

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As with any Apple event, there is much speculation prior to the event and analysis post the event. The ‘Spring Forward’ event held earlier this week is no different. The post analysis event is perhaps even more this time with lots of online discussions on the pros and cons of the luxury pricing of the Edition variant.

From an app development perspective the Spring Forward event presents a great new opportunity. With the Apple Watch one cannot but help compare its launch to that of the iPhone in 2007. Back then the phone was launched without the App Store and breath-taking apps. Those happened later. And the apps were the magnet which attracted users to the OS leading to the ‘there’s an app for that’ phrase. With the Apple Watch, while some apps have been showcased, they are perhaps like a trailer. The big opportunity and the creative possibilities are yet to be unleashed. The Alarms.com app which was showcased at the Apple event drew a lot of attention. App Developers can be expected to come up with more such apps spanning utility and entertainment. How about a game that utilises the glance of the watch to its advantage? Or digital touch? The possibilities are endless.

Apple’s foray into medical research, the ResearchKit initiative is another exciting development, no pun intended. To quote Apple, ResearchKit is an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps that could revolutionize medical studies, potentially transforming medicine forever. The upside of this project is the ease of signing on and usage. According to Stanford, 11,000 iPhone owners signed up for a heart health study through this, in the first 24 hours. While there are downsides to this initiative, the potential to make a positive impact is huge. And developers can play a key role in it.

destiny

The destiny of push‑notifications

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Push notifications, that magical tool that lets us speak to users even when our app is not being used. This tool started as a way to notify users when our app required an update, and it gradually extended to pushing information about new content and marketing offers. Many successful apps are critically hinged on push notifications; like your favorite messenger and email app. But in the process push notifications have also become notorious for their tendency to be a nuisance.

While designing notifications for our app, a small analogy exercise can be undertaken to analyze their efficiency and also understand this tool’s overall evolution.

What do you get when you cross Jeeves with haiku?

Imagine the entire push notification service as our user’s personal attendant. And this attendant serves the user, his master, timely and relevant information in an ultra concise manner (hence haiku). Based on this guideline we need to design and test our notifications’ significance.

1_valet

 

But keep in mind that the attendant does not represent only our app alone, but all the apps on the user’s device. The Notification Center is the attendant. And an experienced attendant is able to identify what information his master needs to know immediately or otherwise. This sense of discernment is what we need to apply to our app’s notifications (and ours alone).

If our notifications are too frequent or irrelevant, the user will promptly disable them or uninstall our app altogether. This line is often crossed by advertising, promotions, or direct marketing related notifications. This is why Apple discourages using push notifications for such purposes.

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Attending to users, better.

Returning to our imagined scenario, we so far have an attendant who is an informer. But real-life attendants also serve to carry out orders based on the information they’ve just provided to us.

A basic push-notification is like an attendant who informs us that a letter has arrived, thereafter we need to ourselves go to the post-office, draft a letter, have it posted, and return back home (i.e. launch app, compose/reply, send, exit). Instead, why can’t we just inform the attendant of our reply and have him go and deliver our letter? That is exactly why actionable notifications came into being. We now can identify for which notifications our app can take external input.

Your wish is my command.

Let’s take this up by another notch now. An experienced attendant not only informs and takes orders, but also continuously learns his master’s preferences. The attendant may learn that letters from a specific person are more important to his master than those from others. Informing about these letters hence would gain precedence. Our app notifications can be designed to learn the user’s preferences in the same manner, so as to always deliver value to every individual user. This is the path charted currently by Google Now.

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But amid all this excitement, let us not forget that sometimes even the best attendant gets it wrong. And unfortunately only the master decides when such an instance has occurred. In such a case, if the attendant is deemed valuable, the master simply corrects the attendant by outlining what is required and what is not. The attendant keeps these instructions in mind and acts accordingly in the future.

The above calls for the ability of a user to customize notifications. From making minor tweaks to completely disabling notifications, all options must be given. Google Now’s integration of third-party apps is greatly upgrading this functionality. And we can look forward to other platforms following suite.

Just call my name…

As we continue to imagine the interaction of an attendant with his master, we can further predict the evolution of the ‘simple’ push-notification tool.

4_roleplay

 

The smartwatch seems to be a comfortable place to reckon this attendant. With all the promising smartwatches being launched in 2015, users may actually live their childhood ‘Johnny Sokko’-like roleplays.

And soon we can visualize apps working in unity, and each app being a building block for each user’s very own Jeeves, Jarvis, or Humphrey Appleby. And an analysis of these three personalities will lead us to the stark question – “Who is the master?”

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