Google Targets Children and Launches Kiddle

In News // By
Kiddle Home Page

If you were born in the 80’s or earlier you probably remember going to the library and looking up information in actual books to do your research projects. The thought of your own children researching through google likely freaks the hell out of you, and why wouldn’t it? One search for something as innocent as ‘Justin Bieber’ could lead your kid to a full frontal picture of the pop star. And that’s on the tame end of what could easily be found through innocent seeming keywords.

This is precisely why Google has now launched Kiddle. It’s a safe search engine specifically targeted towards kids, and to ease the fears of their parents. It works by using a filter for explicit or deceptive content. It delivers search results in order of: specifically written for kids, safe content written in a simple way, and finally safe content and famous sites specifically written for adults.

I wanted to see what would happen if I typed in the word ‘nude’ to the Kiddle search engine, and I ended up getting an image of an angry robot telling me I was using bad words.

Another nice function of Kiddle is that it highlights image thumbnails in the search results, along with larger easy to read font, for a more visual experience (especially for younger children). Here is an example of what I saw when I searched ‘horse’:

Kiddle also allows parents to take control even further by allowing site and keyword blocking, so for instance if you really hated Justin Bieber and didn’t even want your child to know of his existence, you would have the ability to block everything to do with him.

One thing that is a bit of a turn off is the kid-centric advertisements on the search results page. I guess this opens up a conversation parents should have with their children about paid content and advertising in the digital world. But it does seem a bit shady to me considering kids are much more susceptible to clickbait.

I certainly am not diluted enough to think that Kiddle is going to solve all the problems parents face with their children online, but it is nice to know that advancements are being made to accommodate a more protected, safer way of searching and doing research.

Now if only Google could figure out how to encourage kids to go outside and play…

Why We Don’t Care About Your Voice Command Innovation

In Rant // By
Voice Command

Google Docs just announced a big update to their voice command system, and across the web people are praising it as an excellent development for the search giant’s empire. And although the thought of voice control for documents is interesting and intriguing, is it anything more than a novelty at this point?

Voice command has been around for many years now in phones and other applications, and while there is a lot of hype when a new voice activation product launches, the sizzle is often more than the substance. We have been able to use voice typing in Google Docs for about 6 months now, but didn’t have any editing capabilities. New editing features allow text size adjustments, add in lists, and the ability to move things around. While this all sounds great, who is actually going to use this?

I see the amazing helpfulness of voice command for someone who is unable to use their hands, but for people with both hands and all ten digits, the drawbacks and huge learning curve seems too steep to be convenient.

In general I don’t really get why I should care about voice command. First of all, you have to be in a space where there is no other sound interruptions for voice control to be worthwhile, which limits many places including open office environments and cafes. And then there is the question of accuracy. I don’t know about you but one out of three times when I attempt to use voice activation, I don’t get what I want. That is a pretty big failure rate.

“THIS SUCKS!”

So awesome job with beefing up your voice command system Google Docs, but I for one will not be bothering as my fingers are faster, more accurate, and I can type a blog (such as this) in a coffee shop without people staring at me like a freak because I’m talking out loud to my computer. Maybe one day when we are all in relationships with digital beings, and voice command is flawless I’ll finally switch over to voice activation. Until then, no thanks.

Cool and Crazy Reasons to Pay Attention to the Mobile World Congress

In Industry // By

The Mobile World Congress is currently underway in Barcelona. It’s a massive 4 day exhibition that projects the mobile and technology trends of the future. All of the leading players in Mobile are there right now, and many of them are revealing previews of their latest products and ideas.

Many trends are expected to be pinpointed over these 4 days. Of course, being the MOBILE congress, phones are in the forefront of these trends. Already, just one day in, Samsung has revealed it’s flagship Galaxy S7 with the microSD storage expandable unexpectedly making a return, and the much speculated L5 was unveiled by LG. SO far consensus is the S7 is pretty awesome, and the L5 takes a few interesting departures from the norm with an all aluminum case and massive expansion slot.

But the biggest trend going down at the MWC (and in tech in general right now) has got to be virtual reality. HTC divulged all the details on their headset – including the cost… $799! LG has even thrown their hat in the VR ring with the LG 360 VR headset, and it’s already receiving scathing reviews. To exhaust the point even more, Samsung did their S7 reveal by having over 5,000 people all watch the launch on a VR headset.

Vive Virtual Reality System

Is it just me or is all this virtual reality stuff reminiscent of the recent 3D craze that hit movies over the past 5 years. Remember when we could watch a movie and not get a headache? I’m skeptical that any of these headsets are going to give a true uninterrupted seamless VR experience. And with the cost of something quality being anywhere from $600-$800 to find out, I may just wait until the technology is proven and more than just a fad to invest.

At any rate – it’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of the next 3 days of the Mobile World Congress. Live streaming of the MWC is available on mobileworldcongress.com. You can be sure that is you pay attention, you will be up on the newest and most intriguing mobile trends of 2016.

The Benefit of Gathering User Data

Gathering User Data

Developing an app has many benefits to your company, clients, and customers, but there is an added benefit which, if used correctly, can help you in all aspects of your business, and give you the tools to anticipate the needs of your users: Gathering user data.

In this online age so many people are wary of privacy issues, yet people are willingly giving up their info all the time. You know all those quizzes on Facebook that go through surges of popularity…

What 3 pictures describe you?
What does your Vegas trip look like?
Who is your soulmate?

They all require users to give access to their info before seeing results. And droves of people do it! In spite of the vocal minority speaking out against privacy issues online, either many of us are unaware of privacy concerns, or we just don’t care.

So how does gathering user information benefit your business? In countless ways. Here are just a few:

Marketing

The most obvious use of user data is through marketing. Knowing a user’s demographics, location, and desires gives you the ability to target your advertisements to your key audience. Tracking what they are interested in and actually using on your app highlights your projects successes and failures, and gives you the tools to improve things in a targeted way.

Anticipating Needs

One thing you can and should be doing with your app is tracking what your users are clicking on, how long they are on each module for, and what they are attracted to. You can even see the peak times of day your app is used. This gives you a massive opportunity to learn about your user and, before they are even aware of it, you can give them what they want.

Privacy Policies

It’s important to note that each app store has privacy policies which every app must adhere to. For instance Apple’s privacy policy forbids the gathering of e-mail addresses, serial numbers, and other information that can be used to track users. Make sure you are fully aware of these regulations before launching your app.

Better User Experience

Gathering user information is not only beneficial to the app administrators, but also to the users. In obvious cases you may need permission to access a user’s location, contacts, camera, or be able to deliver push notifications in order for the app to properly function.

But other aspects of learning about your user will help them have a better user experience as well. Discovering what your users are drawn to can give you the ability to target your newsletter and emails to their needs, giving them what they want, instead of guessing.

Knowing that a majority of your users are reading or listening to something can help you speak to them as well, by featuring stats that include them. For instance you could have the ability to say “70% of you listen to the new Adele album…” showing users a sense of inclusiveness.

Right away, or wait?

So should you start collecting this information right away, or wait until your app is beyond a MVP? Most sources will tell you to start right away. Even if you don’t know what to do with the information you gather, it will be extremely valuable at a later time when you know what to look for and do with it.

Many people who now have successful online brands regret not getting a database of user info – in particular email addresses, from users who came to them in the beginning. Having a way of gathering contact info for your users, while maintaining privacy guidelines, is so important. If you don’t do it from the get-go, you are missing out on a way of reaching thousand of potential customers in the future.

Getting the Info You Need

How does one go about gathering the user info and making sense of it?

Many people do something as simple as having a form each user needs to fill out when signing up for the app. This would automatically target the areas you are interested in learning about your users, and could be anything from age and place of residence, to household income and how many pets they own. What goes in that form is up to you, but some people will warn against this type of information gathering as many people are lazy and/or suspicious, and could back out from signing up with such an in-your-face request.

A very common way of gaining access to important user information nowadays is by logging in with a social media account rather than creating a new account specific to your app. This not only is more convenient for the user because it is as easy as the click of a button, but it gives the app administrator access to aspects of their profile.

Others simply include their data gathering in a terms of service that the user needs to agree to before using the app. While an easy way to get access to the information you are looking for, many experts say it is better to be upfront about the data you are requesting.

Whether you are a startup, or you missed the boat on gathering this information from the start, talk with your developer about what you are hoping to learn about your users, and how to access that database. Get on it as soon as you can, for the benefit of your company and your users.

Mobile App Stores Market Cap

In Industry // By

Total Apps Available on Each Store

This chart does help you make some rudimentary conclusions, but I do not believe that solely quantity determines a winner, as there is many other variables that go into the mix. You also have to consider the hurdles for development, the ease of use for the consumer, ability to promote and get noticed, and most often competition!

All app stores are growing every month, each one trying to provide a better services or experience than the other to gain market share. While each one caters to different markets and groups, the only standard you can compare them is in number of available apps. By having a better understanding of these markets, you will end up being more successful.

Top 5 Industry Leading App Stores

  • Google Play store
  • Apple App store
  • Amazon App store
  • Windows Phone store
  • Blackberry World

$8.3 BILLION US DOLLARS

The worldwide revenue from app stores (2008-2014)

App store charted rankings

Below I have compiled a easy to understand chart, so you can see the app stores sizes based on number of available apps and the data is current as of September 2015. Also for a extra bonus fun, I also added in how many of those apps are games specifically so you can see what portion of the market games are. *note* Amazon and Blackberry do not have reported game numbers.

What Apple’s App Price Increase Means For Subscription Users

In News // By

This past week Apple raised the price of all it’s apps in the Canadian App Store by 17% as a result of the declining dollar. Recently the Loonie closed below 70 cents for the first time in 13 years. But what is the reasoning behind this decision from the mega brand, and more importantly, what does it mean for users who agreed to a subscription based app?

Subscription Based App

A subscription based app is one of a few pricing models you can choose from when buying (or developing) an app. It basically means the user agrees to pay a fee for a specific time frame the service chooses. For newspapers and magazines this could be monthly or seasonally, and the subscription is most often auto-renewed.

Paid Apps

Paid apps are simply that – the user pays outright to purchase the app from the get-go.

Free/Freemium Apps

Free or Freemium apps make money with in-app advertising. They can lock certain aspects of the app unless the user pays to upgrade, or have the user pay to upgrade to an advertisement-free version. Freemium apps also can be free for only a specific time, and then ask the user to pay if they want to continue on using the app once the trial has ended.

In-App Purchases

In-app purchases has become a very popular pricing model (we’ve all heard the stories of kids getting a hold of their parent’s candy crush or flappy birds game, and unknowingly racking up the bill buying lives).

Subscription Users Screwed?

While I’m sure no one in Canada is too happy about Apple’s increase in pricing, the worst hit are going to be those that use subscription based apps. Apple addressed the subscription issue in a memo sent out to developers saying:

“Subscriptions will not be interrupted in Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and Singapore. Shortly before their existing subscription renews, subscribers in these territories will receive an email from us to let them know about the price increase with the option to turn off their subscription.”

– Leaked Apple memo sent to developers

Problem #1 – Do you ever read the emails Apple sends you? If you are like most people, when Apple sends anything, even updated terms, you blindly click ‘Agree’ and get on with the rest of your day. If you subscribed to your favourite monthly newspaper at one price, it’s going to be a pretty big shock to see that agreed upon charge go up by 17% on your next bill.

Problem #2 – Often subscription based apps require a lot of time invested on the user’s part. For example, the Ancestry.com app now charges either $14.99 or $29.99 a month depending on the subscription package chosen by the user. If you had opted in to this service, and invested time into inputting and gathering data about your family tree, would you really decline the rate increase? Likely not, as your time invested is worth more than the 17%.

Not Just Apps Raising Prices

It’s not just the App Store that announced a price increase in the past few days – Canada’s big 3 mobile carriers have also released new pricing guidelines. Telus will raise the price of new contracts and any renewals by $5, Bell is also increasing new customer plans by $5, and Rogers has upped rates on various plans across the board.

What About Google Play?

At the time of this publication there was no world if Google Play would follow Apple’s lead and raise app prices. If they don’t, it will certainly appeal to their client base, who access phones for a fraction of the cost of an iPhone.

Why Now?

It’s not only Canada that is affected by the price increase. Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and South Africa are also getting rate hikes. Customers who purchased subscription based apps in Russia and Africa will be forced to resubscribe at the new price. This might be a better option at making customers aware of the rate change, but it’s yet to be seen how subscriptions will be affected.

The Canadian dollar has been steadily dropping, and hitting that -30cent point this past month was a clear sign things aren’t going to get any better any time soon. On top of this, the price of oil has dipped below $30/barrel for the first time since Jean Chretien was Prime Minister.

We would all be living in la-la land to think that Apple investors were going to just eat the cost resulting from all of these countries declining currencies.

What We Can Takeaway From Uber (Beyond The Controversy)

In Industry // By

One of the most divided hot button topics of late has been the controversy surrounding Uber. Here in Calgary Uber has been banned, awaiting new regulations that are to be presented in February. Taxi companies are (rightfully) fearful of what the new technology means for their industry, because on the surface clients are having a much better user experience using Uber’s app to find a ride than the usual flag on the street method. But regardless of all this chaos, whether you are for or against Uber’s business model, one thing that can’t be overlooked is the usefulness of the technology behind the controversial company’s app.

With Canada Post’s eminent axing of home delivery service, one can only assume door to door delivery will soon be taken over by other companies. And with online shopping becoming bigger than ever, package delivery could take on a new form that has never been seen. Give it some thought; does it make sense to have dedicated drivers work an 8 hour day, 5 days a week, when it could be a supply and demand service through an easily accessible and high functioning app?

What about that pizza delivery guy who goes through periods of overwhelming demand, down to zero requests during off hours? Wouldn’t it make more sense for restaurants to outsource deliveries to drivers waiting to accept a job? It would eliminate paying someone when their service wasn’t needed, and maybe more importantly, stop long waits for customers during periods of high volume. It would also give customers a more convenient way of paying, and better knowledge of their expected delivery time.

The possibilities are so vast with an outsourcing delivery/service app using the Uber model. In fact it could go way beyond deliveries with the right mind behind it. Here are just a few of the features from Uber’s app model that could be utilized by many businesses:

Mobility

Having your service be in the hands of your customers at any time is as convenient as it gets. With the tap of a button and some basic information, getting what you want when you want it has never been easier. Having a service on call at your demand, with the capabilities to track and pay so the customer always feels connected is so simple, it’s brilliant.

Utilizing GPS

Watching your delivery happen eliminates any guesswork about arrival time. Your customer knows when they can expect whatever they are getting, and your driver knows their route is being watched. This creates accountability and accessibility.

Payment Estimation Based On Destination

Yes, it rhymes. But the really cool part about this feature is that with a simple start and end location entered in you can provide a pretty decent estimate to your customer about how much whatever they need will cost to get to them. It eliminates unknown expenses, and raises a red flag when something is way off budget.

Linking Payment

Is there anything more frustrating than being expected to have paper money in today’s cashless obsessed society? Having a linked credit card (or PayPal etc) to your app is the ultimate in convenience for any customer. It even eliminates having to pull the card out and pay the driver, or the frustration of tipping when you don’t have change. Going cashless also means a safer work environment for drivers, as they don’t have to be carrying large amounts of money around, and it creates a gap between them and your company’s finances.

Receipt Sent Electronically

Sometimes you need to have a copy of your transaction. Often times customers refuse a receipt only to wish they had one later because of unforeseen issues. With an app utilizing something similar to Uber’s model you never have to worry because a copy of every transaction is sent to the customer’s email. And think of the paper savings!

Optimization For Service Providers

No need for 3rd party direction services, or GPS units. Drivers can utilize the same directions in app that the customer sees. It connects the client and service provider, and keeps the driver on track. Also, an on demand system prevents burnout and mistakes, as they only accept jobs when they are able to. They don’t have to remember many tasks at once – it is literally supply and demand.

Better technology will create better service for people, and Uber is proving that. Taxi companies around the country are scrambling to create competing apps, and so they should. In a way the taxi industry is lucky that Uber has come along and caused so much controversy, because they now have the time to respond if they act quickly.

In reality there are so many industries that are just plugging along, unaware of the threat the business that hasn’t even been thought of yet will have on their profits. If you want to be ahead of the curve, a leader in your industry, you best start thinking like Uber, and less like the people afraid of them.

Field Service Management Apps are growing

Field service apps are a large part of many companies these days and they have been incorporating mobility solutions more and more over the past few years. Now field service based mobile apps are replacing all the old school paperwork that needs to be filed and reviewed. However the biggest benefit to using these types of apps is that all the information is securely accessible and stored in the cloud, so that it can be accessed almost immediately from the head office or collaborated on with other workers.

Field Service Apps Are Growing Industries

Over 80% of our workforce does not have a typical desk job and that number is growing by the year as more and more companies adjust to the new economic climate and try to be more agile to meet the demands of modern business. With the advent of mobile apps for field service and management based solutions, clearly this is not a trend that is going to slow down anytime soon.

Research (IDC) shows that the world’s growing mobile workforce is expected to grow to 1.3 billion before the year is out. In North America (United States, Canada, and Latin America) alone we have seen the growth of these mobile workers grow near 30 million over the past 5 years to a new high of nearly 210 million workers to date.

The mobile workforce differs from those traditional desk jobs and their needs must also be met utilizing newer and modern technologies such as field service apps that support them and their roles. Studies (Gartner) predict that by 2020, more than 30 billion (Yes, BILLION!) devices will be active, which will support and enable over $2 trillion worth of business transactions worldwide.

Service Leaders Depend On Mobile Solutions

Over 39% of companies have already implemented a field service solution in one form or another, which means the other 61% of companies are falling behind the competition. By the chart below you can see that 58% of established companies already schedule field techs in real time and only 45% of newer companies, clearly there is a solid demand across the board to provide field service techs and support and a system to manage those effectively.

5 Leading Reasons Why Companies Have Adopted Field Service Apps

#1. Staying connected was the number one reason for companies! Workers that spend a large portion of their time in the field have a plethora of paperwork and prep work to complete even before starting a call, and equally as much when they complete a job. By adopting mobile field service apps, companies are able to keep these workers efficient and organized which is a major factor in maintaining profitability. And keeping them connected allows the office to stream line the process and provide faster and better customer service.

#2. Mobile is a standard in most industries these days, and your customers demand faster reaction time and more detailed information on the go. Traditional method are not able to keep up with the needs of your customer, let alone your field works that are trying their best to satisfy your customers with the tools at their disposal.

#3. New technologies adoption are being developed every day and are expanding opportunities of your business…and your competitors on a daily basis. You must adopt these new mobile app solutions and tools in order to stay current and improve how efficient you are.

#4. Customer relationships is key to building long term revenues and reducing the cost to quire new customers by building a strong brand name. By developing a key field service tool, you are able to manage this relationship on a more consistent basis across all members of your team, which will allow you to ensure every customer has a ideal experience while interacting with your staff.

Industries That Already Use Field Service Solutions

The chart below depicts the leading 5 industries and their current adoption of field service apps. A large trend you can see is that a solid 40%~55% of companies already manage their field work with some sort of solution already.

Are You Ready To Improve Your Field Operations

With the increase of mobile workers and the ever increasing growth of field service solutions, your business needs better access to clients, measurable improvement to work processes, and more flexible systems in order to improve your business at all levels in the field.

Now developing Apps for Apple TV / TVos

It has arrived! Our very own Apple TV (gen4) Developer kit has come in and we are excited to see what we can build for it. While the Apple fan boys will obsess over the new remote and the smooth interface, we are excited about what is happening behind the scenes.

While there is more programming languages to learn, new things to understand, and more hurdles for us developers to overcome, I really think there is some exciting benefits for end consumers. From business solutions, to games, to just having a new channel to reach out and connect with users.

Real World Solutions

Fitness / Health – I envision a explosion of exercise and fitness related options in 2016. Because a large portion of people that exercise at home already use DVD’s and videos to motivate themselves. But by using TVos, they can not have on-demand fitness content and videos, which will really change the way users consume health content.

Music / Entertainment – While Apple will always want to control music & concerts, I think the TVos is really going to break that construct and blow up. Through iTunes Apple has always had a tight control over music, because its really just been a simplistic media player. But with TVos, I see the social portion of Music really pushing the limits in how users interact with fresh music and even live concerts and shows.

Children / Games – While I don’t advocate TV as a way to babysit your kids, I think the Apple TV platform can definitely open the world to children and really bring social interaction back into their lives. Too many parents rely on iPads and Tablets to distract their children, but I image a world where the iPad is just a input device or controller, while the child can have live video calls with other families and children. Just image children having live webchat sessions, talking and laughing with other kids while they play word games or memory games face-to-face with other kids..live!

I am excited to see what sort of exciting apps and projects we get to work on in the coming year.

Avoid being a Mobile App Horror Story

In Education // By

Recently I met a new client who had already hired a app developer for his project. The problem was, after thousands of dollars and months of delays, he has nothing to show for it. And this could very easily happen to you!

I am running into more and more clients everyday that have had bad experiences for a range of different reasons. Some have dealt with larger companies here in the city and ended up with a useless app, other have hire ‘coders’ and ended up way over budget with lengthy delays.

The big question is, How do you choose an app development company?

#1 – Portfolio

Never hire a app developer without a portfolio! This might seem like common sense, but most people end up hiring the first company they reach out to and buy based on personality! 75% of the time, they don’t even bother to do a bit of research to see previous apps they have built.

Three simple ways to understand their portfolio:

  • Does their website have a portfolio of apps? If they do not have any apps to show you, then this is not a good sign from the start! Every developer is proud of their apps no matter the quality. Lots of time and energy is put into every app (no matter how small), which makes it a success story when it gets published!
  • Are the names of the apps clear, and can you find them on the app store? Some developers just show a picture of apps they have copied from other websites. I have seen a few local companies trying to break into the market by using a bait and switch technique, pretending to have apps they have built when really they are just images they have copied.
  • Take 5 minutes and install 2-3 of their apps! Just by installing 2-3 of their previous apps, you can get a good feeling for their quality of work. Also you can quickly see how their finished products come out. Is this final product something you want, and something your company would be proud to publish?

#2 – Experience

Many app developers I have run across this past year do NOT have the experience in the industry, which sadly will lead you astray. The problem is that you will be the one paying for the lesson; in time and money. Very recently I ran across a local charity that was building a API for donations, the problem is that it was developed with 19 year old principals which are rarely used today in the app industry. I am sure in 12 months time when they will realize this, they will regret the advice they were told before the project.

Two quick ways to see if they are experienced enough:

  • How long have you been in the IT industry? If they have been working totally different industries and only recently got into IT, they might be lacking the hands on experience you need. While it’s important that they have many years in the industry, its also just as important to make sure they are up to date with all the new technology changes.
  • How many languages and platforms have you worked with? Over the past 20 years I have worked with over 50 different languages, because almost every platform has its own languages. While transition from one to another is not difficult, having that experience sure helps ensure things are designed correctly from the start.

#3 – Developers

Does the company have developers here in town, or are they all overseas and outsourced? Just from asking this question, you can quickly understand the company better. If they are a new firm, and all their developers are outsourced, then they might not have the experience or knowledge needed for your project. While this can put hurdles into your project, at the end of they day you are most likely overpaying for something you could get cheaper for the same quality.

Two easy questions to ask:

  • Am I able to meet with your developers? I personally feel that meeting with your developers is a key part of your project. They are going to be the ones creating your app, so why not open lines of communication just to enable better transparency.
  • Are your developers outsourced? While this is not always bad, it will add additional delays and problems to your project. One very common issue is time delay when you have problems. Imagine having your app live, and then some problem brings it to a screaming halt, and now you have to wait 12-24 hours before they can get ahold of the developer to fix the problem.

#4 – Templates

MOST companies I see around town are just reselling template apps. While these may work for smaller companies, they are a far cry from a custom apps! Any development company that is selling templates and has no custom apps to show you, may not be the best company to develop your custom app.

Two things to look out for:

  • All their apps are the same! Companies that have no development experience, will only be dealing with template apps. Almost all their apps with be the same looking, or have very similar layouts.
  • Source Code! Ask if you will own the source code when your app is done. Almost every template app does NOT have source code, only the finish product. The problem with this, is not you are tied into that developer for life. And if you want changes in your app, only they can do it. Once you move to a different developer, then all of that is a waste and you must start from scratch.

While there are many great companies out there, over the past 12 months I have seen a large influx of startup getting into this industry. I hope you are now able to distinguish the difference and have a better insight of what to look out for when you talk to a app developer. Hopefully I can educate more people, and avoid more of these horror stories I am hearing more often.