June 25, 2010
With the success of apps like Gowalla and Four Square, it seems like everyone and their Moms are incorporating some geo-based goodness into their apps lately. But transcending beyond the obligatory check-in functionality, we’re starting to see a lot more variety in how location data is being employed to increase engagement and customize user experiences.
A road trip app who’s UI and downloadable maps change as you move cross country, was an interesting example we saw at this year’s WWDC. Nevertheless, with increased privacy concerns and an updated Apple TOS, developers are going to have to convince more than just users about the utility and security of sending back tons of geolocation data.
Virtual Currency/In-App Purchasing
Freemium, premium, or all of the above? As mobile payments continue to give online and traditional brick-and-mortar stores a run for their money, more and more apps are maintaining pace by incorporating in-app purchasing or virtual currencies to allow users to purchase everything from additional levels and special characters to exclusive sound tracks and enhanced features.
For developers, the freemium model is great way to keep users interested with regular updates, the ability to customize their apps exactly how they want them, and recurring revenue streams. For users, not only do they get the ability to selectively pay for only the features they want, it’s an opportunity to test drive an app without having to drop some serious ‘mojo.’
In terms of mobile usage, social networking has seen the largest amount of growth this year, and Apple’s Game Center is hoping to push that even further. Attempting to create the one social gaming platform to rule them all, Apple is taking on the likes of Open Feint, Plus+, and Crystal, to bring social connectivity to the app masses; the way games and entertainment go, so goes the rest of the app store.
Connecting with friends directly or via online communities isn’t limited to games anymore, as more and more users are looking to all categories of apps to feature some sort of social integration whether through Facebook, Twitter, or some other third party social platform. Expect to see those ubiquitous like and send buttons prevalent online, start popping up in apps sooner than later.
Augmented reality apps have been around for a while now, but the verdict is still out as to whether their utility really outweighs their novelty. Overlaying points-of-interest on to your camera’s visual field is a great way to easily find what you’re looking for, but where do we go from here (pun intended)? Despite the success of apps like Layar and Sekai Camera, it seems the entire category has slowed to a crawl in terms of innovation and new applications, but renewed interest in 3D is promising to change that.
With movies, televisions, and handheld devices (see: Nintendo 3DS) leading the charge, mobile can’t be too far behind. But don’t look to Apple to put out a 3D enabled screen or special glasses anytime soon; developers will have to get creative in recreating the 3D experience without specialized hardware if they really want to stand head and shoulders above the upcoming competition in this category.
iOS4 ushers in a new era of simultaneous app usage – pay no attention to the throngs of jailbroken iPhone and Android owners and whatever they may claim. Alright, let’s face it; Apple was painfully late to the multitasking party and their answer to backgrounding is a clunky, haphazard attempt at best. However, now that multitasking has been made pseudo-mainstream, the challenge for developers is going to be creating apps that can run in the background without draining battery life, sucking up memory, or dominating WiFi. It will be interesting to see how multiple apps interact with each other in the background and foreground and how the phone allocates resources accordingly.
For example, at a recent event we caught up with a developer trying to create an über assistant – an app that plugs into the major features of the iPhone (GPS, calendar, text, e-mail, app store) and relays information between them all.
Let’s say you have a meeting in the city; while on your way, you receive up to the minute traffic updates, a recommendation on the nearest place to park, and your phone automatically marks the time when you do park, so you know exactly when to come back and pay the meter. You get a notification informing you that you wrote yourself a reminder to “pick up milk,” and there happens to be a Whole Foods only one block away from the meeting location where your favorite brand is currently on sale. Once in the grocery store, your phone picks up recipes from the Whole Foods apps and makes recommendations based on where you are in the store, how much you typically spend on food, and how much you’ve already eaten that day.