There comes a point in every app's teenage years where you need testers to refine your product, but where do you go? You can bug your friends and family for their "oh, it's really nice" advice, but for many app makers need someone professional to dig through your product to test usability and find bugs and quirks you may have looked over.
Stockholm-based Beta Family was built to solve this problem by building something like a 99designs meets Yelp for testers. Digging through their directory you can find 14,000 testers from 142 different countries, and if the tester has worked with a product before, you can read reviews from previous developers about how useful they were. With the new iOS 8 features released by Apple for testing, it's good news for Beta Family that the friction has been lowered.
If you’re a music fan old enough to have lived through the years of the Sony Walkman, the boom box, and New Order, you’re probably familiar with the shortcomings of the cassette tape. You remember that irritating hissing noise that seeped through the speakers? How about the tape jam that cut you off in the middle of your favorite Echo & the Bunnymen song? Who would ever want to bring back that horrible music format, right?
The Unified Remote app, which allows you to control most functions of your PC through your phone, has recently become available for use on iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch and Macs.
iPhone users - do you actually use the built-in reminder app that Apple gives you? Or do you set reminders though iCal? I noticed I don't, it just doesn't fit into my workflow (as much as I need reminders in my day to day life), and after talking to the Latvia-based Later App guys I realized I'm not alone.
But as a business decision, why enter the reminder space? It's heavily contested already with Apple's built-in products, and since they're dead simple to make, they're almost a dime a dozen like weather apps, for instance. "Reminders are big, says Davis Siksnans, co-founder of Later App. "Down the road we want to make more apps, but we wanted to go into this big category and see where it goes from there."
There’s a colourful selection of video messaging apps available, each of them having their own speciality; Just to name a few of the bigger players out there, Oovoo offers group calls for social animals, Tango combines IM, chat and video messages into a tight package while Camfrog connects you with total strangers.
Finnish ClipMe has a speciality of its own. As an application it’s more shifted towards recreational than practical use but that hardly defines how popular the app turns out to be.
A team leader's job is to make sure people get things done, and you can't improve what you don't measure. Enter Weekdone, the Estonian productivity and task completion application that now announces it has launched on iOS and a major new web version. The app, and now mobile app, helps managers use popular management methods, such as PPP and OKR (or to the uninitiated, "Plans, Progress, Problems", and "Objectives & Key Results") to keep track of all the moving pieces.
Today online publishers have to earn their audience through catchy headlines in social media, but it's rough to gauge your Twitter engagement, aside from retweets and favorites. Twitter's new analytics page gives you some idea of the metrics you can easily derive, but twheel, a Finnish mobile Twitter client, can provide more information to publishers and brands about the actual attention each one of their tweets receives.
"Media doesn't own the reader anymore," says CEO Kalle Määttä, referring to how back in the day media consumers were locked into a newspaper subscription or three TV channels, but today online media consumers pick and choose the headlines that are interesting.
App Annie’s data for November is in and for the first time Supercell is now in first place, surpassing the gaming giant, EA, in terms of monthly iOS revenue.
“I am out of words. Supercell was the largest publisher on the Apple platform in November, measured by revenue. And with just two apps!” was the message on Ilkka Paananen’s , Supercell CEO’s Facebook timeline this morning and rightly so. Electronic Arts, the runner up, has 969 titles on iOS.
Even in this digital age, we're hanging on to handwritten lists for things we need to get from the store. I've downloaded to-do list apps to help me get things done, but none of them seem to stick - there's still something time consuming and inconvenient about typing in lists into your phone. But Helsinki-based Snipbase, run by Silver Elephant Ltd., seems to have found a solution for shopping that is visual, quick, and easy.
The app leverages your camera to help make lists, and is easy to use in practice. For grocery shopping I just opened my fridge and pantry and took pictures of things I was running low on, which I found easier than typing items into the app. For things you don't have in front of you, Snipbase uses an image search as you type in text to help you quickly grab pictures of the things you need.
The rise to prominence of the freemium business model is indisputable: freemium apps now comprise 77% of the App Store, up from just 4% in 2010. But despite this near-sudden and near-complete shift in commercial strategy, dissent still exists within the mobile gaming industry regarding the strength of the freemium model; some believe that freemium (called free-to-play in gaming) is merely a temporary fad that will soon recede, like a high tide.
I don’t agree with that sentiment; I believe the free-to-play model, when implemented correctly, produces the best experience for both players and developers. And I believe this Christmas will affirm the free-to-play model’s position as the prevailing business strategy in the hyper-competitive iOS App Store.
Vamos, the event app, has secured an "undisclosed €6-digit friends and family round" to hire more freelance developers and continue their expansion. We covered the Berlin-based startup created by a team of Swedes last August, when they announced their public launch. But if you missed that coverage, the concept is pretty simple and handy.
Vamos aggregates public Facebook events through an iPhone app - meaning when you connect your Facebook account to Vamos it shares your public events in a list or map view. As a result, on a given night you can see gallery openings, music at restaurants, and other events that might interest you, even though you aren't connected to the event on Facebook. The app also offers a few other features, like directions to the events and pictures of the people who have publicly said they are attending, giving you a better impression of the vibe at the event.
Nowadays I'm a little disappointed in you if you send me normal text message. Data rates are so cheap these days that I hate the concept of spending money on texts when a slightly different pipe on my carrier's network is basically free. As the world began to ask itself "wait, why are we paying for texting?" free(er) services like WhatsApp, Voxer, and Viber lured us in with cheap one-time fees or completely free services.
Perhaps this is just observation bias, but the market seems to have decided WhatsApp will be the standard. It's not fancy, it's not beautiful but it works. But Jongla, a Finnish mobile instant messaging startup, thinks theres still room in this market.
Editor's note: Please see correction at the end of the article for an update.
We covered Jolla in July as they set about an ambitious task to build a MeeGo phone. Nokia built N9, which was their first MeeGo phone and discontinued the line later on. This meant that N9 was their only MeeGo enabled phone. Many thought that this was a crucial mistake for Nokia as the phone immediately received fans around the world for its UI and usability. One thing that was missing though, at least to the comparison of iOS and Android, was the app ecosystem. Jolla, a new Finnish based venture has picked up the pieces and is planning to release a MeeGo enabled phone later this year.
One of the questions, and perhaps the most important one, that has been asked from Jussi Hurmola, the CEO of Jolla, is that of: "How do you plan to solve the problem with building an app ecosystem for the phone?". Tero Lehto from Finnish 3T publication interviewed Jussi Hurmola and learned that the company will be enabling Android (although he does not want to officially disclose it just yet) as well as Qt-applications.
and HTML5-applications to their platform through something that is called ACL (application compatibility layer) Jolla PR got in touch with us and told us that the use of ACL is currently speculation. They will be announcing more information regarding this later this year.
Turku, Finland based TicBits has been growing steadily since we last covered the release if iAssociate 2, their popular word association game. Their team has grown to nine employees without any outside funding, and today announces the release of another title, Cruel Jewels.
The new game can be described as a match-three game with a twist. The evil villain Leonard St. Vile has challenged you to a game alternating between three different modes: regular, timed and versus. The versus mode is where it gets interesting with you taking turns in order to do damage to the opponent.
Helsinki-based Fluid Interaction is using mobile screens to fight a war with the world's leading source of information overload: Twitter. Rather than the endless scroll of tweets, retweets, and replays, they've created a wheel-based UI for Twheel, their Twitter client, that's easy to scroll through while also providing context on how important each individual tweet is.
The Fluid Interaction team has some background in cognitive science, and they base their UI design on the fact that humans can spot differences in round shapes very quickly. On their wheel they provide a relevance bar for each tweet. CEO Kalle Määttä explains, "When you're looking for content, it's not the content but how others have reacted and what's your relationship to your source.
Twheel has now launched on iOS can now be found in the app store.
The Helsinki, Finland based startup Transfluent has launched Transfluent for Apps. It is a cloud based service where app developers can tap into the network of 15000 translators that work in 60 languages. The traditional or more common way to translate applications into multiple languages is to finish the app and towards the end of the development cycle, send all the text strings for translators. Transfluent helps in speeding this up, but making the translation process a part of the development cycle and will thus improve time to market.
Transfluent for Apps works through the company's API. The company's backend has been prepared in such a way that it works well with lean development processes where multiple iterations take place each day. All the texts can be sent to translators multiple times per day, but only those where changes have taken place are translated as Transfluent's system keeps track of different iterations.
As people were beginning to wind down for the long midsummer weekend, the Helsinki, Finland based Supercell went on to launch their new game Hay Day. Hay Day is a farming game like no other. One might think that the world has seen enough of annoying farm game advertising on Facebook from the likes of Zynga, but having played Hay Day through out the weekend for about 10+ hours in total I can say that there is demand.
Hay Day is also Supercell's first mobile and tablet only game, meaning it has been designed for the iOS platform. You can play it on your iPod Touch, iPhone as well as the iPad.
According to Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell, the launch has been quite phenomenal despite the challenging launch date.
Just during the long weekend, the game has shot to #7 in the US iPad listing while pushing to #13 on the iPhone. Paananen also disclosed that according to their own analysis, they are going to be achieving similar places in their key markets in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. In many countries they're already in the top three spot.
Helsinki-based Kapu Toys has released their first title, Kapu Forest on iOS. Kapu Forest is aimed at younger folks aged 1-4+, and they're staying true to their name in the sense that they're trying to be a digital toy box, rather than a collection of games.
The company itself is the brainchild of five international creatives from the wold of digital design, development, and planning. The idea for Kapu Toys arose in 2011 when the founders noticed that their own children had discovered the use of touch-screen devices, and were mimicking their actions. After more research and discovery, they noticed that many smartphone apps didn’t succeed in providing suitable content for kids.
Helsinki-based Grafetee is looking to become your home for location-based information. They're positioning themselves as both a billboard for posts of location-based information, and as well as an innovative service that sends things from the web to a location-based feed on your phone. Grafetee just soft-launched last week, and is available for iOS and Android.
Just opening up the Grafetee app doesn't give you a complete picture of where the company is going. The app is currently like a collection of location-based feeds; opening it up gives you a chat function, where anyone can post pictures or updates based on location.
Groupnavi is a location-based iOS app for Facebook communities. It allows community members to post to their Facebook group's wall, but have the post geo-tagged and viewable on a map through the Groupnavi interface. By doing so, Groupnavi CEO and founder Petri Pennanen tells us that they're able to bring context into the location-based discussion by adding a location-based layer to your Facebook communities.
If you leave a message on Groupnavi, it functions as leaving a post on your Facebook community's wall. Members with the Groupnavi app can also see the location of where the post came from. And aside from posting messages, in Groupnavi users locate their selected communities in a privacy-friendly way without any identifying information on the map. This way you can see where other Groupnavi users (who are also in your Facebook groups) are hanging out. Pennanen tells us that this makes it easy to locate outdoor happenings such as summer festivals or the London Olympics.
Launched today is Fourchords - a new app designed to make playing the guitar accessible, especially for when you want to play and sing songs you're not so familiar with. The main point of the app is to break down songs to their simplest level to make it easy to start playing songs you know, especially when you want to play and sing familiar hits with friends. This isn't some app for precise fingering, the motto behind FourChords is that close enough is good enough.
Co-founder and CEO Topi Löppönen gave a demonstration of the app to me, and says when creating the service he kept two things in mind. "There should be a lower barrier of starting to preform music, as many people could play music as possible. But the app should also connect people."
Lord knows everyone has a shoebox, folder, or some messy way to store receipts and warranties. Helsinki-based Warrantify seeks to take us into the paperless future, and just came out with a nice, clean redesign to their website as well as a free android app that plugs you into the Warrantify service on-the-go. An iPhone app is also in the works. The mobile app is a great extension of the service, which allows you to scan, store, and manage receipts and warranties on products, without being tied to a computer.
Rovio has announced that Angry Birds will expand to Facebook on February 14th. They did this in a very subtle way, by inviting people to an event on Facebook itself. Angry Birds has been anticipated to arrive on Facebook since last spring. At the time of writing this there are only a little over a thousand people invited to the event, but this will surely grow as the date gets closer.
The Estonian startup scene isn’t exactly known for its mobile game developers, but Tallinn-based Creative Mobile is doing its best to rectify the situation. Founded in 2010, the company is the developer of freemium hit Drag Racing, a simple but addictive online racing game for Android and iOS that has garnered over 31 million downloads to date.
Sweden-based Freephoo is a fairly new entrant to the fiercely competitive VoIP market. Going up against the likes of Skype and Rebtel, Freephoo is very similar in concept, offering free calls through 3G/WiFi and low-cost “premium” calls to mobile or landline numbers. The company does have some additional tricks up its sleeve though.
In our series with Nokia we continue to discuss possibilities of developing for Symbian. This time we interview Kalle Koutajoki of Foodie.fm about their application and why they decided to go ahead with development on Symbian. Foodie provides an online service around recipes and shopping. Their application is able to give you a shopping list based on the recipe and also helps you see where the products are in the actual store and order the goods to your home door. Let's go ahead with the interview!
There’s a lot of noise lately about whether or not mobile apps are sustainable, or have any future. But so far, and despite some real challenges and issues, mobile apps have been nothing short of success.
The challenges for developers working on mobile apps range from visibility and pick up rates to loyalty and monetization. The majority of revenue generated by app stores today still comes from the top 100 apps and the “long tail” is often ignored. As the demand for smartphone real estate increases, the cost of acquiring new mobile customers is rising rapidly as well. Seamless payment and customer acquisition methods are other big challenges that apps are struggling to solve. Not to mention how inhomogeneous the two leading platforms - iOS and Android- are.
The Wooden Labyrinth 3D was one of the more popular Finnish mobile apps before the arrival of Angry Birds from Rovio. To this date, Wooden Labyrinth has been downloaded some 10+ million times. The app was developed in 2009 by Elias Pietilä in February 2009. We've covered Elias Pietilä before when he ran into problems with a game called Pajazzo with the Finnish Moneygaming Association (RAY). We talked to Pietilä about the success of the game.
Since the launching of the game, it has generated a couple of hundred thousand euros for Pietilä. In the beginning of 2009 the game was immediately being sold for a few hundred euros a day. After giving out the free version of the game, the paid version improved sales as well.
Scoopshot is a service by a Helsinki, Finland based startup PS2 Media Group Inc that changes the way media companies work with photos. It's a lot said, but I'm willing to back it up as a person running a media company myself. In all simplicity, Scoopshot makes smartphone owners photographers for media companies. Users can take newsworthy photos and send them to the service through the Scoopshot mobile app and sell them at a set price. Journalists writing stories can purchase the photos at the price the photographer has set. If they wish to purchase the exclusive right to use the photo, they pay ten times the set price. I talked with Petri Rahja and Jussi Liimatainen about the service and what the company is up to.
PhotoPoll is a new iOS application being developed by Nils Forsblom, one of our speakers coming to Arctic15 in September. The idea is really simple and appealing: you can create quick polls for your friends to comment with the help of images. Furthermore, if you're a bit more open with your privacy, anyone in the application can comment on your polls.