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Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

The best of iOS 8

Posted Friday, June 6th, 2014

Apple added some much-needed and much-appreciated new functionality to its popular mobile platform this week. here they are

1. QuickType / Third-party Keyboard Support

Text input gets two major improvements in iOS 8.

First, Apple is finally improving its auto-correct technology — and it only took seven years!

Apple’s new QuickType feature adds word prediction above the keyboard (don’t worry iPhone users, it’ll look much nicer on the larger iPhone screens coming this fall). The keyboard also now learns the language you use in different apps and when messaging different contacts, and it adjusts its predictions based on past messages.

2. Actionable Notifications

Simply put, actionable notifications allow users to perform tasks by interacting with a notification pop-up.

So, for example, instead of having to open the Messages app to reply to a new SMS, users can simply pull down on the notification at the top of the screen (or swipe on the lock screen) and type out a reply right there.

As another example, users can accept or decline a calendar invite without opening the Calendar app.

3. New Messaging Features

There are many more new messaging features in iOS 8, of course, including an awesome voice chat feature that lets users send voice messages back and forth right from within the app. Or, even better, users can play voice messages right from the lock screen simply by lifting the iPhone to their ear, and they can reply by voice with the same lift gesture.

Users can also mute notifications for a specific messaging thread, and sharing photos is far easier in iOS 8.

4. Continuity

Continuity opens an active connection between devices. So, if you’re working on your Mac and you get a new SMS, a notification will appear on your Mac’s screen. You can even reply to the SMS right from your Mac.

5. Widgets

Apple finally added real widget support in iOS 8, but unfortunately not to home screens. Instead, users will be able to add widgets to the Notification Center.

This is a decent compromise for Apple. It allows the company to support iOS widgets without worrying about clutter and battery drain.

Were you excited or disappointed by the updtae?


Reskinning Apps- the opportunities to reskin differently

Posted Friday, April 4th, 2014

Here’s a blog post I wrote for an app blog which is about to go live and I thought I’d share. It looks at how many indie app developers are reskinning apps with he same old code and having trouble standing out in the app store. Here’s thoughts about a different approach and how reskinning could even help people around you.

Smashing Apps

We’re all in the app reskinning business and hopefully everyone is smashing it! It took me some time to get my head round how it all works and implementing the systems that helped me release quality apps quickly. But as I’m sure many people experienced, I hit some early financial losses when I started which I couldn’t afford and what’s more, I was worried whether the app business would work for me or I would get it right.  It forced me to find a way of making guaranteed income from reskinning before I spent all the money I had to build apps

I’d love this article to be about how I’ve cracked it, instead it’s a couple of thoughts on the opportunities reskinning offers and how I’ve used what I’ve learnt to make alternative revenue. Initially I needed to find a way to cover my costs to reskin my own apps but eventually I realized how reskinning could apply to any new business. Hopefully there’ll be a follow up message on how I’ve nailed it!

The Background

I run a company called SWARMbuzz which helps businesses with their online, social and mobile strategies. I’d been running the business for 3 years when I discovered how to build an app, I love everything mobile so I thought I’d give the app game a go. But I took a massive early hit; I made some poor decisions on my first app, severely overspent and finally got nailed by the developer. It was a disaster. But I tried again and whilst I’d learnt a few lessons, I still made mistakes and made a loss, poor developers and my own inexperience were costing me. By my third attempt I had an app released which saw some good early downloads but it would have needed to be a smash hit to recover expenditure on 3 apps, 2 of which didn’t even get released!

I couldn’t afford to keep losing money but I wanted to continue having a go at building apps as I believed it was a great market and I enjoyed it. I needed to find a way to cover my early losses and get some quick income to fund further projects. I continued to release some small games which were making money but my P&L sheets weren’t looking very healthy and I needed to do something about it

 

How can I play the reskinning game differently?

Initially I thought that the reskinning game was a secret I should keep. As I’d spent the time and money learning only I should know about it. But this didn’t last, partly because I think it’s better to share knowledge and secondly I’m not very good at keeping secrets! The more people I told, friends and clients, the more they were interested and saw the sense in it. Until a friend who owns a successful company asked me to produce monthly games for his business targeting families. He knew they were reskinned apps and he was happy they were, I wasn’t cheating him, I was helping him. He’d been producing apps for his other companies paying tens of thousands of dollars but I was telling him I could produce apps at a fraction of the cost and quicker, he was naturally very happy and I now produce small games for him each month. You may ask why I wouldn’t just produce these games for myself but in the early days the money I charged allowed me to recover my loses, I liked working with his company and we’re about to start new mobile businesses together because it has worked so well

When we think reskinning we think of games immediately because that’s what we’ve seen our teachers do and what we’ve read most about. But I’ve come to realize that the opportunities are truly endless, so far I’ve found a source code that has suited all of my crazy ideas! As an example, my family run a charity to help educate children less fortunate in India and Africa so I decided I could take a wallpaper source code I owned and use it to build a charity app. I wanted to offer it to other charities so I contacted local charities to show them the app I’d built and how I could do the same for them. I covered my costs and time and whilst it made a little money, it was the chance to help charities reach a mobile audience and acquire donations via an app which was all for good causes.

Where are these opportunities?

Networking networking networking! Speak to new people on social media, forums and friends at the bar!. Reach out to new people and speak to your friends to share your app knowledge because mobile is still very new to many people. I made a point of listing the people I knew who ran a business which could best benefit from apps. I sent them an email and just asked if we could meet for a chat. All of them agreed and those who understood mobile liked apps and they loved reskinning because quite frankly, it makes sense! Keep in contact with the people you know who own or work in a small business with a simple email or text message; majority of your business will come through people you already know.

To help my online business I took out a $1500 loan from my family and joined a networking group which could be hard work as it started at 6.30am once a week, but it gave me the chance to meet local businesses and talk about the online and mobile world. Remember we’re tech ninjas, there are a lot of people, even young people, who don’t understand the mobile game and how it’s conquering everything! When I decided to offer reskinning commercially I arranged meetings with fellow members and we discussed how I thought apps could help them. Over the course of my two years with the group I did $25000 in business (a mixture of mobile, social and app work) so I was thankful the investment was worthwhile.

It’s not as though my time is now filled with building other people’s apps, I still have plenty of time to build my own. But it brought in some early money to help cover my mistakes. What I’ve enjoyed the most is being able to help companies build a low cost app that is equally effective as one that would’ve cost far more money. It also started conversations with successful business owners who now want to build other mobile businesses together.

The fighting talk

What’s cool about all of this is that I’ve never written a line of code, I can’t design an icon or implement a chart boost SDK. That’s not what I do, a property developer doesn’t build the walls, they try to spot the opportunity and that’s what I enjoy the most; now and again it pays off!

It might not be your bag getting involved in other businesses; personally it’s what I love to do. If you’re in reskinning just as a passive income then you can still consider how your app flipping knowledge could pay for your first app, your next app or a big app you’ve been dreaming of releasing. You could reskin an app for your local restaurant or even your or your kid’s school and then multiple schools in your area. Charge whatever you’re comfortable with or enough to pay for your next app. Or simply find fun opportunities to utilize your app reskinning knowledge.

How cool would it be to build fun apps, extraordinary businesses and potentially help others, with the app reskinning lessons we’ve been taught, there’s no reason why we can’t!

Good luck to you all!

Get in contact:
Twitter: owhittle

 


Leaked Google Documents Reveal How Much Big Brands Spend on Search Ads

Posted Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Ad Age has obtained an internal Google document that highlights some of the biggest AdWords buyers for the month of June 2010, offering insight into how big brands are using Google and how much they are spending.

Mashable, 8th September 2010

According to the documents, the biggest buyers of AdWords in June included AT&T Mobility, Amazon, eBay and BP. Although most of those companies are frequent big Google spenders, BP was a newcomer to the list, spending $3.59 million on search ads in the wake of the gulf oil spill (compared to just $57,000 in the two months prior).

Top Spenders

The top spender in June, AT&T Mobility, spent $8.08 million on search ads to coincide with the release of the iPhone 4. According to Ad Age, AT&T’s the third-largest U.S. advertiser overall, so its Google spending is not a big surprise.

Other companies that made up the top 10 include:

Apollo Group – You know them as The University of Phoenix and they spent $6.67 million in June 2010
Expedia – $5.95 million
Amazon – $5.85 million
eBay – $4.25 million
Hotels.com – $3.30 million
JC Penney – $2.46 million — we’ll admit, this one surprises us
Living Social – $2.29 million
ADT Security – $2.19 million

Why Brands Buy Google Ads

The data shows us that for big brands, a heavy investment in Google is usually tied to revenue that comes directly from search traffic (as in the case of Amazon, eBay, Expedia, Hotels.com) or in instances where companies are trying to build awareness (AT&T) or weather a PR crisis (BP).

It’s also interesting to note some of the brands that aren’t on the list. The documents obtained by Ad Age indicate that companies like GM, Disney and BMW spent less than $500,000 on Google ads in June. Even Apple spent just less than $1 million on Google ads, despite its high-profile launch of the iPhone 4.

However, we also think it is possible that some big brands are spending money on search, but not directly with Google. For instance, although Ad Age cites Walt Disney as one of the companies that spent less than $500,000 on Google ads in June, the movie studio released Toy Story 3 that month, a film supported by a massive ad campaign. The film has gone on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide, making it one of the most successful animated films of all-time. It seems odd that Disney would spend only $500,000 on search terms for its big summer release.

What seems more likely, however, is that Disney purchased advertising through companies like Fandango or MovieTickets.com and those companies have their own arrangements with Google. In other words, when it comes to evaluating search spending, don’t count out the potential middle men.

This also makes sense when taking a big-picture approach to Google’s own revenue. The top 10 brands only accounted for 5% of U.S. revenues for the month.

Google is a big target for advertisers because of its strength in search and because of its ubiquity across devices. We do wonder if ad buys will shift to other outlets, like say, Facebook, as users spend more and more time on those networks.


Google Launches Real-Time Search

Posted Friday, February 12th, 2010

We knew it was inevitable, and now it’s here: Google has just launched real-time search integrated into search results pages.

Mashable, January 31st

Google real-time search updates as stuff is happening around the Web — for example, live tweets, Yahoo Answers, news articles and Web pages now stream in on the actual result pages for your query. It works on mobile too (at least iPhone and Android for now).

MySpace and Facebook Deals

That’s not all, though. Google’s announced that they’ve inked partnerships with both Facebook() and MySpace() to pull in data in real-time. For Facebook, that means public Facebook Pages, and for MySpace, it means any stream data that is publicly available. This is on top of the partnership that the company announced with Twitter back in October.

Live Within Days

Google says the features aren’t available to everyone yet, but will be within the next few days. However, all users can see it now via a “Hot Topics” feature that’s been added to Google Trends. Click on any trend, then click a “Hot Topic,” and you’ll see the new “Latest Results” area of Google search results. For example, you can currently see real-time updates for the Tiger Woods story.
http://mashable.com/2009/12/07/google-real-time-search/

Staying in Front of the Inevitable

For some time, it’s been clear to us that search has been moving to real-time, but until now, Google was seemingly falling behind Twitter(), and even perhaps Bing() (who inked its own search deals with Twitter and Facebook earlier this year).

Now, with one sweeping stroke, Google has grabbed the lead in the real-time search space, and it appears that Facebook and Twitter have both conceded that they aren’t going to outbuild Google when it comes to search. These are significant strategic decisions for all of those involved that will dictate much of where these companies head in the years to come.


40% of People “Friend” Brands on Facebook

Posted Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

readwriteweb.com, November 10, 2009

see link to view charts: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/survey_brands_making_big_impact_on_facebook_twitter.php

Digital marketing company Razorfish has just launched its third annual FEED survey of 1,000 “connected consumers.” The survey is focused on online consumer behavior. This year Facebook and Twitter feature prominently. 40% of respondents “friended” brands on Facebook, while 25% reported following brands on Twitter. What’s more, Razorfish found that consumers access brands on Twitter and Facebook mainly for deals and promotions.

Of those who follow a brand on Twitter, nearly 44% reported that access to exclusive deals is the main reason. On Facebook or MySpace, 37% said that access to exclusive deals or offers was their main reason for friending brands.

Over 1/4 of respondents reported having followed a brand on Twitter, which is encouraging news for companies wanting to use Twitter to promote themselves.

 43.5% reported following a brand to get “exclusive deals or offerings,” which again is a statistic that companies should take note of.

 An even higher percentage of respondents have “friended” a brand on Facebook – a whopping 40%. Considering that Facebook is a social network that started out as a way for college kids to network, this is a statistic that will make companies and organizations take note. If you want brand recognition on the Web, according to these statistics there’s a very good chance that Facebook is a place you want to be.

 A smaller percentage follow a brand on Facebook for exclusive deals or offers (36.9%) – but still a majority.

 Is this “connected consumer” crowd mainstream? Well, about 62% of the respondents still use Internet Explorer as their browser, with 30% on Firefox. So yes, they are.

It’s interesting then to look at what are the homepages of these people.

 While Google is unsurprisingly number 1 with 32.6%, Yahoo is close behind at 29.7%. MSN is still well used at 11.9%. We were most surprised that AOL is now only 7.9%. These statistics show that Yahoo remains a force among mainstream consumers, whereas AOL is slipping further behind.

We reported last week that smartphones have almost overtaken ‘feature phones’ as the cellphones of choice for consumers. Razorfish‘s survey shows that 56% of connected consumers now use a smartphone – i.e. one that has email and web capabilities.

 As with the ChangeWave Research survey recently, Razorfish puts Blackberry (29.5%) ahead of Apple’s iPhone (20.1%).

 Another illuminating statistic is the number of people who now get their news from Twitter and Facebook. While nearly 80% of respondents still access “traditional news web sites,” 33% get news from Facebook and 19.5% from Twitter. Only 27.3% get news from “alternative news web sites” – by which we presume they mean blogs.

 Overall, these figures from Razorfish show that Facebook and Twitter are now major places for brands to be; as well as online sites where consumers get at least some of their news.


Curtain twitchers, the CIA and the rise of Facebook

Posted Thursday, October 1st, 2009

New technology and old-fashioned curiosity have made social networking so hot that everyone is cashing in. Nico Macdonald helps you sort the tweets from the bots

 Design Council

If everyone felt like Jerry Seinfeld, Facebook wouldn’t exist. The comedian observed: “As an adult, it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever group you’ve got now, that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications.”

Yet, for most of us, the social instinct is deeply ingrained. So deeply that, by the age of seven, research suggests, two thirds of American children have an imaginary friend. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with real friends in undreamt of ways. When Tom Coates, a staffer in a London office of Yahoo!, needed a break, he decided the best way to round up some company was to post this message on Twitter, a hip social networking service: “I need to go for a walk to clear my head. Yauatcha for macaroons anyone?”

Social networking is such a phenomenon that many employers – even the CIA – now have Facebook pages and use the site as a recruitment tool. The agency plans to launch its own staff social networking site called A-Space.

The wisdom of friends: the psychological argument for using social networking sites full of ‘people like us’ is compelling. But how long with the fashion last? And what do sites need to do to increase their reach?
Asking all your friends if they’d like to join you for lunch would once have been impractical. But sites like Facebook allow us to gossip and curtain-twitch online, be bored by someone else’s holiday snaps without visiting their house, plan a business meeting and accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. Instead of taking months to realise that a new acquaintance, like you, can quote Seinfeld scripts verbatim, you can join a group of like-minded souls in minutes.

New technology, old-fashioned curiosity and a dollop of ‘wisdom of friends’ psychology have made sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo immensely popular. A 2007 survey found that 48% of American teenagers online visit social networking sites at least once a day and 72% use them to make plans with friends. In the network age, computing power is in the hands of more people and is tackling new challenges. We’ve moved from using computers as work objects to the widespread use of computing-enabled things – laptops, mobile phones, games consoles – to manipulate emails, diary entries, instant messages, contact information, URLs and blogs wherever we are.

Social networking is driven by significant technical developments and rapid social change. The current fears for – and of – teenagers – may explain why they have become core users of social networking sites, spending more time at home on the internet. As a rule of thumb, for every hour we spend on the web, we typically spend 23.5 minutes less with friends and family.

The culture of fear and decreasing trust have made some wary of encounters with strangers and reluctant to embark on deep personal relationships. Surveys show that a record one in four Americans say they have no close friends at all. Many prefer ‘safer’ relationships mediated, to an extent, via a screen, where they can connect with a wider circle of friends in a non-committal fashion. Consumer trends analyst Linda Stone calls this “continuous partial attention”, adding: “To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognised and to matter.”

Cheaper travel and a more integrated global economy, where staff change jobs more often and are more likely to work abroad, have played their part too.

Keeping in contact, avoiding cowboy plumbers
The functions social networking best supports are, in a nutshell or seven:

Familiarisation and maintaining contacts. From status updates and edited profiles you build a rounded picture of an individual. People you know may share this with you – to varying degrees – if asked. Essentially, human knowledge is being connected by the network (rather than embedded in it – the goal of so many past computing visions).
Swapping, sharing and storing of ‘objects’ – photos, movies or songs – online. We can be told when something of interest has been uploaded.
Group discussion, which is moving to social networking sites. Contributors’ real names and pictures can be displayed and you can check their profile.
Finding and hiring skills. The self-employed already use sites like LinkedIn to get in touch with businesses and customers regardless of location.
Online or internet-enabled applications which allow us to manage tasks, meetings and diaries. You can, for instance, open up your diary to contacts.
Campaigning. You can network with people with the same ideology. But the likes of Facebook can’t, by themselves, reinvigorate the democratic process.
Searching the web. Social networking can reveal, filter, enhance or shape the data we find when searching. We can link, recommend or rate almost anything and form an opinion influenced by our knowledge of the contributor or the number of recommendations. In a world full of cowboy plumbers – or so reality TV shows would have us believe – we might be relieved to find one implicitly recommended because they’re linked to someone we know. Friends or contacts are acting as ‘trust engines’, and by answering, friends build their relationship with you and increase their kudos with others.
While Google focuses on computer science, engineering and performance, Yahoo! has focused on what Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product strategy, calls “better search through people”, buying bookmark-sharing tool del.icio.us and photo-sharing site Flickr and developing such services as Yahoo! Answers.

Junk mail, smart address books and over-engineering
Social networking sites need to improve. As Facebook’s personal profile – which includes favourite music, TV shows, films and books – is completed manually, it is of limited use and soon out of date. Profiles would be richer if they drew on actual activity, such as the music we buy or play. Artificial intelligence-based tools could help others access a user’s locally stored information. There is a risk of over-engineering, though. An element of a profile or relationship can be extracted or inferred but do we want to share it with everyone? Giving users visibility on – and control of – what they share is a design challenge. Already LinkedIn lets you ‘View my profile as others see it’.

Sites need to be accessible and to hand, as easy to use as a stapler. Modern mobiles and smart phones like the iPhone have feature-filled browsers. A site such as Jaiku offers a dedicated application for modern Nokia devices that identifies your geographic location to your circle of friends. You could have a smart address book that tells you if a contact you plan to call is busy or abroad. Giving physical form to such ideas is the Availabot, a pop-up figure that stands up on your desk when the contact it represents comes online and falls into a flaccid heap of despair when s/he goes away.

Exhaustion, Rupert Murdoch and evolutionary psychology
The subtlety of human relationships can’t be over-estimated. We finesse what we tell different people, even lie. There is a danger that concerns about privacy, and scares based on extraordinarily rare – but shocking – abuses of social networking tools, may deter people from using these sites. Worries over security, time wasting and other abuses has led employers to block access to Facebook.

On a practical level, there is a danger of exhaustion. Coates says: “The amount of sites using social networks is so substantial that [registration] is no longer something people will go through again for no obvious reason.” Sites could be integrated as an external service to other sites. If LibraryThing could access your Facebook profile, it could show you books your friends liked. Profiles could be abstracted so they can be ‘applied’ to any site or service. So far, this has had little success, but as social networking profiles are made easier to edit and when this approach presents a competitive advantage, the ‘abstract’ approach may flourish.

Rupert Murdoch’s strategy for MySpace raises another issue. MySpace plans to run a TV series about showbiz wannabes as it strives to persuade users to linger longer, so they can be targeted by ads. If these sites are not full of user- generated content but have content developed by professionals, does that extend their appeal or fatally undermine it? Facebook has announced it will start targeting ads based on user profiles. Will users be deterred by advertising or welcome it? Concerns about privacy have been heightened by Facebook’s plan to allow (user-controlled) elements of profiles to be indexed by Google.

Historically, human relationships have built over time from face-to-face encounters, in which we use body language and other cues to assess honesty. By contrast, the ease with which we can indicate friendship with social networking allows us to appear to have a cohort of friends. There is some science behind Seinfeld’s gag. Evolutionary psychology suggests we are hardwired to remember no more than 150 people. These smaller, more intensely focused groups have often been responsible for scientific, technical and intellectual breakthroughs. The trajectory of social networking is in our hands. Will we, as a society, take these services seriously – or be satisfied to play online with our new ‘friends’?


 
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