Friday, April 26, 2013

Android Gaming


Mobile gaming continues to be dominated by iOS. Games Industry reported that iOS games earned 3.5 times the revenue of Android games this past quarter. However, signs that Android is making a quiet but steady rise are everywhere, from rumors of an Android Game Center to a slew of new Android-powered game devices.

Money Matters

While iOS continues to show healthy growth of its App Store revenues in 56 countries worldwide, Google Play hasn’t exactly languished in the shadows. TNW recently reported that Google Play revenues grew 90% so far in 2013. And in fact, some estimates show Google’s revenue growth is 5 times greater than Apple’s, with Corea and Japan driving growth for the platform -- 9 of 10 of the most profitable “app revenue generators” including NHN, NHN Japan, and Kakao are from Corea or Japan.  

Still, total revenues are dwarfed by the App Store and will probably continue to be for the next couple of years. A representative from Daum, one of Korea’s dot-com champs, says they don’t expect Google Play revenues to overtake App Store revenues until “sometime in 2016.” This lack of consumption by Android users means that game developers focus on iOS first, developing for Android -- especially considering there are an estimated 3997 distinct devices with varying specs -- is just not worth the hassle early on.

Paradigm Shift?

Ouya has arrived, or at least it’s on the way. The much publicized Android-based gaming console is scheduled to hit retailers this June.  Most people know about Ouya because of its remarkable success via Kickstarter, where they raised over $8.5M from around 60,000 backers. So what does Ouya mean for Android gaming?

Hard to say, but the device is clearly targeting indie game developers in addition to high-profile titles (Final Fantasy). Ouya is making every game into a freemium product, requiring they be free to try. Some games will offer a demo, while others will surely go the in-app purchase route -- a brilliant, pay-what-you-want model. The hope for indie developers is that when they can present their work side-by-side with brand name games on a TV, they will compete better. If this holds true, we could see Android game revenues increase substantially.

There Is Another...

Ouya is not the only Android gaming system, nor are these gaming systems the only option.

GameStick is competing with Ouya to win the new, albeit uncertain, market beginning this June unless there are further delays. Gamestick also raised a good deal of money on Kickstarter, and both consoles are boasting 600 developers support their platform. It isn’t clear yet how they will differentiate themselves other than the hardware. Will it be that they negotiate exclusive games like the big boys do? Building their brand around Marios and Yoshis? Looks like it.

NVidia is also getting in the mix with the much anticipated SHIELD device. While not a console, it is a serious addition to the Android gaming world built around the incredible capabilities of NVidia's new Tegra chip.  The mobile gaming device is targeting hardcore gamers who crave high-definition. It is perhaps unfair to say that it will compete with Ouya or GameStick; rather, the SHIELD will take Android up against the like of the Play Station Vita. This is a huge win for Android if it goes well, and NVidia will do all it can to see that happen.

NVidia has already launched a distribution site for Tegra games (games built with the Tegra chip in mind) called the Tegra Zone. Important to note, the Tegra Zone is not exclusively for NVidia’s SHIELD, for any device with their super chip installed.

And indeed... Ouya boasts a Tegra 3.

A New Galaxy

As convergence to mobile devices marches briskly forward, smartphones themselves will continue to play a central role in gaming. After-all you can already connect your device to a TV, as well as a controller -- like this from Green Throttle -- leaving some to wonder what the value is in an Android console. In fact, Ouya has some people saying the console is already outdated though it hasn’t even launched. It does boast a Tegra 3 graphics processor, 1 GB of Ram and 1.7 Ghz quad-core ARM CPU. However, that doesn't compare well with many of the highend Android devices for sale.

For example, the new Samsung Galaxy S4 sports 2 GB of Ram and 1.9 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor... or Samsung’s own processor, which is apparently even faster. And Samsung isn’t the only one.

Overall, Ouya only ranked 73rd out of 258 Android devices on benchmark tests.

While Ouya is a great idea, the possibility that it will languish as a niche product seems rather high. However, the remarkable activity around Android gaming so far this year is any indication then Google Play could close the gap with Apple a little sooner than expected.







Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting Beta Users



Building in the wild. While in SV this term got tossed around a lot, so what is it? Basically it just refers to the fact that most of the time you won’t get it right the first time. You have to get feedback. Beta testing is a great way to do that, some would say it’s essential.

Why You Should Beta

If your service is released as a beta, you get to say sorry. People who signup for your beta will assume your product is a work-in-progress, provide you with feedback on features and brand choices, and forgive all the bugs and errors and system crashes along the way.

In fact, if your service is not bulletproof you should release as a beta, or else. While many product teams tell themselves “well, so it crashes; everyone crashes at first,” that is not the way consumers see it. Only 16% of users will try an app more than once if it crashes... that means MORE THAN 80 PERCENT will ignore you forever if you fail. So please, go beta if you think you are going to crash.

Finally, when you work in a bubble your ability to observe objectively becomes hindered. People tend to reinforce bias in each other, you could call it group bias. This can even lead to members of a group to ostracize those with dissenting opinions. Getting objective feedback from users solves all this. No one can argue with the market, the idea sticks or it doesn’t . Of course, that assumes you recieve objective feedback... so how do you do that?

How To Beta

There are several resources that can help get beta users. However, there are several important things to keep in mind before you start.

1. Know how much you can spend. You have to assume the cost of future iterations, as well as the value of any users you acquire. If you get all this great feedback and can’t capitalize on it by improving your product, well you’ll have to start begging for money. Anyway, if you’re beta you shouldn’t be spending a lot of money on marketing. Wait until you have a sticky product.

2. Be sure you have a way to engage with users. Believe it or not, I’ve seen people set up services and have no means to engage with users. No email, no social media, it’s really incredible. Trust me, it’s not an ideal situation. To set up your beta, you can try a landing page host like Unbounce Pages, or Launchrock. These services will collect contact information for  you. Better yet, integrate with Mail Chimp and really stay engaged with autoresponders and lot’s of other valuable bells-and-whistles.

Acquiring Beta Users

The easiest tool is you. Go to Meetup.com and find events where your target users exist. Show them your prototype and ask them to signup. They will also tell you how cool it is, and if they mean it they won’t mind signing up on the spot... so ask them to. If you get to know the organizers of a group or event, then ask them how you can participate. Offer your help and be sincere, eventually it will pay off. Organizers will appreciate your efforts and will promote your little beta, or give you the chance to as a guest speaker.

Next, use StumbleUpon Paid Discovery to direct targeted users into your acquisition funnel. This is probably the most cost-effective way to promote anything on the web. In one case study, a company got 6000 signups for $0.03 each in one week. OMG that’s cheap! You probably won’t get that good of a deal, but at most you’ll spend about $0.25 for high quality leads. Your retention will be higher if you’ve tested your landing page first (show it to people at meetups, etc), and if you are using Mail Chimp to send people autoresponders and informative email.

Beta listing services are also a good way to promote your product early on. These services let you list your beta with all the fun and fancy you desire: landing page screens, app screens, descriptions, etc. Users will discover your beta there, and try it. Here are a few:


Get Professional Help

The methods above are great because while you’re acquiring beta users you --hopefully-- build some buzz around your product. It’s a beta release, your marketing while improving your product. However, sometimes you just want to test and get it done.

If that’s the case, I recommend Center Code. They offer a variety of “managed testing” for hardware, software, and mobile. There are lots of benefits, and if you don’t have a QA team to support you (do you?) then this is probably a good idea. It’s $3000 to test a mobile app for 2 weeks... which is a real bargain considering the consequences of a buggy launch.























Thursday, April 11, 2013

Application Overload



There are more apps than anyone could possibly review, so how do you choose? Most people probably hear about new apps from their friends or colleagues, others may read about an app in the news. A few brave souls may go so far as to scour app review sites, and you can too.

Here are a few ways you can find cool apps to impress your friends.

Search Is King

Just like the web, app discovery is overwhelmingly done through search. Most of these searches are done within the App Store or Google Play. Last year Apple acquired app search startup Chomp in order to improve the App Store search results and user experience. The impact of the acquisition was almost immediate.

While the “king of search” is, naturally, Google, another Eric Schmidt-backed company is making significant headway in the world of app search. Quixey is “The search engine for Apps” and you may already be using their search solution without even knowing it. Quixey is a functional search for applications across platforms and is integrated with 3rd Party app distributors, OEMs, and search solutions like Duck Duck Go and Ask.com.

App-Discovery Apps

There are a few of these services, but my absolute favorite is Discovr Apps. If you have ever tried the Visual Thesaurus (if not, you should), it is basically the same concept. When you click on an app, a bunch of related apps pop-up around it. It’s endlessly fun, stream of consciousness search. Discovr is a huge hit with Music, Movies, and now People too.

Of course, this genre could disappear in 2013. Apple has recently “cracked down” on services like Apps Fire and App Gratis (not the same as Discovr, but app-discovery-apps nonetheless).

High-class Reviewers

There are a ton of app review sites, and most of them are paid... meaning app publishers pay to get reviewed by them. However, there are three sites that I find outstanding. They are:

#1 Overlapps

The best of the lot. Overlapps has an inspired, engaging and beautiful design, just a wonderful browsing experience. You can browse apps based on categories (there are many and the icons are brilliant), or see the latest for iPad and iPhone. Another neat feature is you can “love” an app and see which apps are getting the most “love.” Subscribe to Overlapps to add apps you are thinking about buying to your Wishlist or Favorites.

#2 Appolicious

Wow, just an immense database of information about apps. Appolicious is probably the leader in terms of sheer volume of information, and it is very well organized. Recently partnered with Yahoo, the site is filled with Recommendations, News, and Video Reviews -- they own a video review service called AppVee. Also, when you create an account for Appolicious you can “Build your library” of apps.

#3 AppAdvice

AppAdvice features news about Apps. However, there are also some pretty killer mashups of apps they call applists. These applists are based on seasons or holidays, as well as interests, games, etc. Some examples: “life solver” (like health or wedding planning), “empower your device” (apps for productivity, utilities). There are also daily video reviews, and App Guides which are really cool.

App Guides are probably the best review format available. Basically, the best apps for any category have been curated here with subcategories. For example, within Lifestyle you will find “Baby Monitoring Apps” or “Best Goal-Setting Apps.” When you click on any of these sub-categories there are reviews for several apps within that sub-category ranked as “Essential,” “Notable,” Decent,” and “Other Apps.”




App Advice








































Overlapps


Ask.com App search "powered by Quixey"

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Re-Inventing Your Phonebook



If you’re old enough, you remember having a “little black book” where you kept all your contact information on the go. For real pros, this was a necessary supplement to a rolodex. However, since the 90s “the little black book” has been transforming from an invaluable papermate to perhaps the most vital piece of software we carry. So far in 2013 the phonebook app, or contacts app (whichever you prefer), has been a hit. Here are a few I’ve taken a look at for iOS.

Xobni Pro and Smartr

Xobni provides professionals with a first-class contact management system that can be accessed from Gmail, Android, Outlook, and iPhone. Of course, it will cost you. Last time I checked it was on sale from $10 to $7.99 per month, or $47.95 per year. The pro service offers up some neat tricks for business people who are still (sadly, I am one of them) married to Outlook. My favorite is having access to Gmail, Android, or iPhone contacts from my Outlook... sweet.

For less serious folks you can get Smartr Contacts by Xobni, available for iOS and Android. Like Hacker reported on the app way back in 2011 when it was released for Android, and again in early 2012 when it was released for iOS. Smartr is pretty cool, showing you statistics like how often you appear in messages with your contacts (syncing with iCloud, iCal, Yahoo, Gmail Facebook, Twitter, and if you have a pro account Outlook).

Note: 4 Stars by Macworld, and Lifehacker called Smartr “The best address book for iPhone.”

Addappt

Addappt is new and is now available without an invite code for iOS. It has a more social personality than most contact apps, claiming to be an “up-to-date address book maintained by your friends.”

Of course, up-to-date contacts will probably mean my friends have to be using the app as well. Clearly that represents a problem for Addappt. Last year I worked briefly on an app for Android called Vell, which not only promised to keep contacts up-to-date but also provided personalized video caller-rings. Based on that experience I am certain that critical-mass will be the most important challenge for Addappt, which is probably why they were “invite only” early on.

Thread

What a beautifully designed app, for those who like the minimalist approach. It is like Any-do for contacts, and I would love to buy it. However, the App Store reviews aren’t plentiful enough to have an average, so you may want to wait for a price-drop promotion (there is probably one on the way).

Thread offers the features you would expect including Facebook and Twitter integration as well as groups. It also offers a dialer, which is cool, but not really a big deal. The big win here is the design, it looks great.

If you think of your iPhone as an extension of your personality (you might as well) and that personality loves design, this app may be just what you are looking for.

CoBook

I really like this app, though Smartr is probably better (especially if you go pro). It accomplishes most of what Smartr can do, syncs with the essentials (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin), and has a nice profile page that let’s you email a “Livecard” to your contacts. Oh yeah, and it “keeps your contacts up-to-date” too, so long as you’re friends on CoBook. Another really cool feature is the ability to tag your contacts, and the dialer is really great as it displays recent contacts’ image above the dial pad (yup, you can click them to rapid dial).

CoBook has done a really good job of making a social utility, offering a nice blend of the social UX with the practical simplicity of a utility. The Verge wrote of Cobook, it is a “revolutionary step forward for contact apps.” I have to agree, it’s pretty awesome.



CoBook Images



       



Thread Images
      



Smartr Images













Monday, April 1, 2013

Optimize for Mobile Web


While using landing pages to introduce mobile apps to targeted audiences online has become standard, these pages are not always responsive to various devices. Here are a few reasons why you should have a mobile optimized site, and hopefully make it functional.  

4 Billion Mobile Devices and 3 Billion Toothbrushes
That’s why it is hard to conceive that people would overlook the need to have a mobile web version of their service, or at least of their landing page(s). According to research by Accenture 69% of their respondents accessed the internet using a mobile device, including smartphones and tablets.

Overall, you can expect mobile internet users to outnumber desktop internet users by next year. Already 25% of Americans access the internet exclusively through a mobile device.
A to the I to the D to the A
Mobile versions of your service can do more than just introduce your service or direct people to download. They can present to potential users the core-benefits of your product by providing a generic version to anyone out there.  Not only that, these mobile web versions can be built much faster (and for less money) which means you can start building buzz -- not to mention getting real feedback.  

In other words, start building “Awareness” and getting people “Interested” by showing them why your product is better. This will create “Desire” for the product, and means that more people with take “Action” when the time comes. This centuries old model for customer acquisition, AIDA, is the backbone for most acquisition funnels.

Speed and Universal Access
The mobile web is “device agnostic,” meaning it is fairly responsive (changes size to fit a variety of screens) and works on any operating system. Chris Borgan, he co-authored The Impact Equation (NY Times best-seller, blah blah), provided an interesting case study for a sports service that chose to build both native apps and for the mobile web. The service was able to provide core features (up-to-date scores) a full 6 weeks before their native app was ready for review.

Not only were they able to reach their audience sooner, it was available to anyone whether they prefer iOS or Android. That can be an enormous benefit for a bootstrapped team.

How to do it?
First, have a website. Even it is a landing page telling people to sign-up for your beta pre-launch. Next, optimize that site for mobile... it’s not that hard to do, here’s a neat article about it: [LINK].






source >> [link]







A.I.D.A Funnel