Weekly Round Up

Michael-H-Head-shot-TVApps “the Lifeblood of the Apple Ecosystem”

Digital Journal reported on evocative words from former Apple executive Michael Hageloh this week. It’s a fantastic article, which we suggest reading in full here – but the long and the short of it is that Mr Hageloh is saying apps now have a pretty special and important place in the world. And for anyone involved in the app industry, that is good to read.

Apple has come on a long journey yet its app store is only six years old, so to say that apps have effectively become the beating heart of one of the world’s biggest brands is a significant statement to make. One of the key remarks made by Hageloh was this: “The App Store represents a turning point in the democratization of technology. It represents the iOS platform being opened up for collaboration and creativity. It’s not just Apple developers telling consumers what they can and can’t do with their devices, but also enabling them to have an input in shaping what Apple devices are capable of.”

downloadNo Such Thing as a Free Lunch

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is an old saying that dates back to the 19th century, when American bars would offer a “free lunch” to get patrons through the door and buying drinks – the saying lives on to this day and is applied to pretty much anything where there’s a cost or “catch” involved in something that’s promoted as free.

The phrase could be applied to certain apps on the market. Those where you download a free game, but then find yourself constantly prompted to pay for upgrades and enhancements.

Well, the EU Commission is making it slightly trickier for app stores to advertise such apps as “free”, with a lengthy directive that includes the recommendation “Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved.”

It appears that one of the main prompts for this move has been the old issues of children being advertised to, and children making accidental purchases.

A number of sources reported this week that Google Play has already conducted a review and removed the “Free” tag from any apps that feature in-app purchases.

There Are No Words

A shameful piece of app news reached us this week. A number of media outlets were understandably outraged when a game entitled “MH17 Strikes Back” appeared on Google Play, following the fatal crash of the Malaysia Airlines plane carrying that flight number.

It appears that the developers of the existing game “Transporter Plane Strikes Back” decided to do a spot of re-branding as the world reeled from the tragedy. The game involves an aircraft flying over terrain and trying to avoid missiles fired from below, as well as firing back at targets on the ground. A message on the game states its condolences to the victims and proposes that it is a way to “express your anger and rememberance of all passengers and crews.” It is also said to be loaded with pop up ads, which further undermines an already weak attempt at making this look like some sort of tribute.

We’re not ones for getting on high horses here, but this oversteps the mark. The main issue is of course the offence to the grief stricken relatives of the victims, but as a footnote it is also an insult to everyone in app development who works hard to provide genuine entertainment, information and services to the world when the market is abused in this way.

The Common Touch

The 20th Commonwealth Games opens in our home city of Glasgow today, bringing together thousands of athletes from 71 nations for 11 days of world class sports.

Like many of its peers in the world of multi-sport events, Glasgow 2014 has also generated a handful of spin-off apps. We take a look at them here…

screen568x568My Games

The Games organisers have created three official apps, “My Games” being one of them. It’s a nice, colourful piece of work designed to guide residents and visitors through the event, letting them know what’s on where each day – looking at not just the sporting fixtures, but also the cultural strand of the event.

Other features include a link to the Glasgow 2014 shop and – in a neat touch – events for which the user has tickets are marked on the schedule. Perhaps a little pointless is the alert which goes off when your event starts – you don’t really need a reminder when you’re sat in the stadium!

My Games is available on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon.

screen568x568 (1)Glasgow 2014 Results

This app does as it says on the tin – it’s all about the results.

If you’re simply a die-hard sports fan and don’t want to know how to buy a Glasgow 2014 beach towel or find out where there’s going to be a recital of gaelic music, this is your one stop sports centre.

Simply click on the relevant sport to dig into all the results.

It’s also a great way of keeping up with the all important medal tally…

screen568x568 (2)Glasgow 2014 Postcards

The idea of this one is nice, if the practicality of it is a little questionable.

Basically you take your photo or – word of the moment – “selfie” and then personalise to send to your loved ones anywhere in the world.

But this isn’t just your standard posting of a picture on social media… You add your message and the recipient’s postal address, then Glasgow 2014 print and dispatch it as a real postcard the same day.

The postal service used appears to be Royal Mail 2nd Class, which can take a couple of days to reach its destination in the UK alone. No-one likes to arrive home before their postcards, so if you’re just on a short break to Glasgow or an athlete from a remote part of the Caribbean or Pacific this might not be the most ideal way to show the folks back home what a great time you’re having.

On the other hand, UK based individuals – athletes, media, volunteers – who are staying in the city for the duration of the event will find it an appealing way to make a memento with a difference.

clydeCatch Clyde

In the run up to the Games, Glasgow 2014 has been reaching out to as many sections of Scottish society as possible – and kudos to them for recognising the app developer community as an important part of that.

They organised a “Digital Sprint” competition, inviting developers to produce an engaging Games-themed mobile experience for residents of and visitors to Glasgow. The winning entry would earn the right to partner with Glasgow 2014 in promoting their app.

The winning app was “Catch Clyde”, which centres around Glasgow 2014’s loveable mascot – a walking, talking thistle (actually he doesn’t talk, but let’s not split hairs).

Catch Clyde has been developed by Glasgow-based IC Mobile Lab and utilises their PrintAR augmented reality platform. In this instance the augmented reality is used to place a 3D animation of Clyde in the user’s own real world settings. The interactivity part has been well thought out. By making your way around the city, you can scan Glasgow 2014 banners and in doing so unlock Clyde doing different sports – you’ll get him playing badminton, riding a bike and so on… There’s also the option to conjure up 3D images of key Games venues, so you can place a tiny Hampden Park on your coffee table. As you would expect there’s an option to capture these images and share them on social media.

Clyde appears to be proving a hit with young and old already, so we reckon this app will go down well. The interactive element will get families out and about, and with no hidden charges it’s everything the parent of a tablet obsessed child could ask for.

Weekly Round Up

Champagne on Ice All Round

google-vs-apple-app-storeOne of the really big stories in the app world this week was the release of figures by analyst App Annie. According to their Q2 2014 Market Index, Google Play downloads increased by 15% compared to the same period last year.

Even more significant was the news that Google Play’s downloads trumped those of the Apple App Store by a whopping 60%!

So the champagne corks will be popping at the Googleplex, right? Not necessarily. You see, despite the gulf in downloads Apple’s app revenue actually managed to outperform Google’s by 80%. Does this suggest that users regard the output available in the Apple App Store as better quality, what with them paying more for fewer apps – the quantity perhaps dictated by less need to replace with alternatives too? Either way – at the end of the day at most organisations it’s the money that matters and therefore in this case it would seem that Apple will be regarding themselves as the victors.

However the fizzy stuff will be remaining on ice at Cupertino as well for now. While the Apple App Store Q2 revenue may outperform that of its biggest rival, the figure is in fact a drop of 85% compared to the revenue for the previous quarter.

Treasury Tinder!?

The Thick Of ItWe couldn’t believe our eyes yesterday when the above term appeared in Money Marketing. Treasury Tinder? Really? The news outlet kept us in a state of shock when it opened its report about the new app being used by HM Treasury officials by describing it as “an office dating system”.

What has the world come to? We thought that – according to Spooks – MI5 was the only government agency where you were only allowed to have relationships with your co-workers.

Fortunately it’s not as sinister as it sounds. 1,300 Treasury staff have been given access to a networking app that will match them up for informal meet ups around the office by locating nearby users, in much the same way as Tinder does. The aim of the app is to “promote the exchange of ideas, improve inter-departmental relations and ultimately develop greater efficiency”. If anything else blossoms out of it then hey, that’s a bonus! (although “the taxpayer” may think otherwise).

Weekly Round Up

Appy Birthday!

6cake1So, yesterday Apple’s App Store celebrated its sixth anniversary. Can you believe it?

We have that same weird feeling we had when YouTube turned 10. On one hand the store seems too new, too recent a phenomenon to have reached that age… but on the other hand it’s become such a central part of our lives that it’s hard to think back to the time that it never existed.

Happy Birthday Apple App Store!

Samsung Galaxy Apps Makeover

1_Samsung-GALAXY-Apps_icon_landscapeWhile Apple has been marking its App Store’s anniversary, PC World reported today that South Korean electronics giant Samsung has been treating its store to something of a facelift.

The new look interface has that blend of sharp and friendly, funky and futuristic that Samsung manages to pull off so well on much of its hardware and software. But this isn’t just about the cosmetics. As the dominant vendor of Android phones, Samsung has been a major source of Google Play’s business – but in upping the ante with their own product (Samsung Galaxy Apps will eventually be available to over 130 million users in 161 countries), we could see them emerge as one of the key players in the app industry in their own right.

We Need to Talk About Children’s Purchases

171623592_1405108053269_6776806_ver1.0_640_480The issue of unauthorised digital purchases made by children has hit the headlines again.

FT.com reports that the USA’s Federal Trade Commission is suing Amazon over accusations that the company unlawfully billed parents for unauthorised digital purchases made by their children.

The lawsuit could potentially cost Amazon millions of dollars and it will be a blow to them in particular having marketed the Kindle Fire as family friendly, with features like “FreeTime”.

It’s a somewhat cloudy issue – while there’s no doubt that many apps with an obvious appeal to children can be somewhat aggressive in their sales pitches for add ons etc, can it be proven in every case that purchases have indeed been made by a child or that they are unauthorised?

Not that the big companies are taking this line of thinking and forming some kind of solidarity around it – reports earlier in the week indicated that Apple had in fact suggested to the FTC that they investigate Google over its policies regarding apps and children.

Weekly Round Up

Amazon + Developers

amappdevseloct2013_616Amazon have launched something that should create a win-win-win situation for themselves, developers and customers. The Appstore Developer Select programme, which is now available in the UK, Germany, France and Spain, encourages developers to optimise their apps for Amazon and the new Fire phone in return for benefits such as an additional 500,000 mobile ad impressions.

It seems like an honest and sensible idea – Amazon is the relatively new kid on the block for apps and needs to make its presence and its reliability known; developers can always do with marketing support; Amazon’s loyal fan base want a wider choice of optimised apps – Appstore Developer Select should ensure that the first two work well together to keep all three happy.

Google Play + Android Wear

maxresdefaultThis week apps for Android Wear became available on Google Play, meaning that an initially small selection of apps can be used on your wrist. The apps can be downloaded for the new wave of Android Wear devices, with the LG G Watch being among the first such item available on the market.

TechRadar highlighted the handy app that will show you where you are on an unfamiliar bus route, just by looking at the watch face, while among the first of the big name apps to appear on Android Wear is Pinterest – which will alert you to nearby things that you have pinned.

Aisle411 + Walgreens

aisle411_Logo_HighResFor our American readers Walgreens might be just another one of many chain store names, but for us here in Scotland it’s a reminder of our trips to the USA that we so love. Whether in Manhattan or Las Vegas that retro font is up there with the kerbside newspaper vending machines and US Postal Service vans as seemingly mundane backdrops that somehow excite us because they remind us we’re in America! So on this 4th July we’re happy to report on a little bit of news involving Walgreens.

The chain is working with loyalty app company Aisle411 to test a Google Tango powered app at four stores in Chicago, New York, Seattle and St Louis, reports Advertising Age. The main purpose of the app is to help direct shoppers to the products that they are after, making for a quicker and more stress free retail experience. If the test is successful and the app is made available to shoppers, it could make its way onto our phones.

Happy Independence Day!