apps

Yahoo has acquired Flurry for a reported $200 to $300 million.  Ostensibly it’s for Flurry’s targeting ability and fledgling ad network; but I have a more sinister suspicion, totally unfounded.

To wit: Yahoo’s ambition is to be your daily habit, whether that’s mail, news, weather, etc.  Increasingly, that means mobile.  However, their impact there so far is questionable.  What Yahoo app is a must-have?  None.  How can they be smart enough or visionary enough to create the next Snapchat?  The next Instagram?

Flurry can be the answer.  Mine the Flurry database and analyze which apps are doing well — based not on fluff like hype and press coverage, but on the actual metrics that count like growth, retention and engagement.  Study those apps and then decide whether it’s something Yahoo should clone.

Nutty conspiracy theory?  Maybe.  Given Yahoo’s disappointing results so far, Marissa Mayer may decide it’s time to change the rules of the game.  “What matters is we build products that people love,” she said.  If Yahoo can’t do that on a level playing field, maybe it’s time to cheat a little with Flurry.

With Microsoft in the news recently (18,000 in layoffs!), we thought we’d check in with Skype 5.0, which launched last month for iPhone and will soon debut on Android. Skype used to be the name in messaging, but in today’s mobile world the venerable brand has become an afterthought to Whatsapp, LINE and even Google Hangouts. So how does Skype 5.0 fare?

The Skype team apparently rebuilt the app from scratch with a focus on speed. I’m glad to report the new version doesn’t feel slower than its competition. It looks good too. Microsoft wisely decided to stick to one common design (Windows Phone) and apply it everywhere. One nice upgrade is that if you use Skype for both desktop and iPhone, if a message is read on one it’s automatically marked as read on the other.

However, Skype remains as unusable as ever. Why? Contacts still works like it’s from the 90s. To message a new contact, I have to first search, hope the right person shows up and then manually add her. What makes it worse is that I haven’t used Skype in a long time, so most of the contacts in the “people” section are outdated.

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Oh Samsung.  Did you know the Korean giant has its own Android app store?  The friendly, local Samsung team asked us to put feecha on it and we were happy to oblige.  Just a few hundred downloads later over the next three months, we’ve been neglectful about uploading new version updates.

Perhaps our experience wasn’t the exception, because Samsung recently revamped its app store from the ground up.  It’s called Samsung Galaxy Apps now with a fresh coat of paint.  The cool thing about it supposedly is that it has “hundreds of apps” that are exclusive to Samsung Galaxy devices.

Guess how good those apps will be?  If you guessed “not very,” you’d be right.  The best Android apps won’t limit their potential market by being exclusive to a second-rate store; it’ll be on Google Play.

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Perception is a powerful thing.  When something isn’t popular, like Path anywhere outside of Indonesia, people have a lot of opinions on why it’s a lousy product.  When something seems to be a hit, like the Yo app, people have a lot of opinions on why it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

It’s all done on the altar of success.  Traction is the only truth that matters, and people will do whatever mental gymnastics is required to work their way backwards to explain that success (or lack thereof).  Our tech culture prides itself on being smart, but it is still one where outcome rules logic.

I already wrote about Yo, an app so unsubstantial that Apple didn’t even want to publish it to their store.  Yo didn’t make some kind of technological or usability breakthrough — it is successful because it’s so stupid in its simplicity that people find it a hoot to download and talk about.

Remember those “wassup” Budweiser ads that got everybody going wassuuuuup?

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Windows 8 is smart enough to know when a user is typing from a physical keyboard or an on-screen one, so why oh why can’t the OS turn off auto-correct for physical keyboards while keeping auto-correct on for the on-screen one?

Auto-correct makes sense for the on-screen keyboard.  Without it, touch typing is frustrating.

But for most decent typists, you don’t need auto-correct with a physical keyboard.  Plus, I  prefer the freedom of typing words that aren’t entirely kosher, like fark or kekeke or lol.  No auto-correct also comes in handy when typing in a different language.

Currently, on Windows 8 for Modern side programs, auto-correct is either on or off for both keyboard types and that doesn’t make much sense.  For hybrid devices to transition smoothly from tablet to laptop and vice versa, auto-correct should also automatically turn on or off.

I’ve been using Facebook’s new app, Slingshot, intensely since it launched last week.  It was initially thought of as a Snapchat competitor and the successor to Poke – which I argued could have beaten Snapchat – but it’s actually quite different.

It’s hard to describe Slingshot and that’s the biggest problem.  It’s difficult to understand its purpose, and few will invest the time needed to do so.  Even after much thought, it’s still not clear why one should use Slingshot over other apps.

Get_Facebook_Slingshot_small

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I’ve resisted writing about Yo because, well, it’s a dumb app and I didn’t want to give it more PR than it already got.  You can use the app to send a Yo message to a friend.  Aaaaand…that’s it.  The app took one developer 8 hours to make.

Even Apple thought the app was stupid.  According to this excellent Business Insider’s article:

Yo launched quietly on April Fools Day, but Apple rejected its App Store application. Yo lacked substance, Apple argued. The pair fought back and defended Yo’s simplicity. Eventually, Yo was published.

And yet, today, over 500,000 people are using Yo.  The app reached #4 on the US iTunes app store and raised $1.2 million in funding.  Supposedly, they could have raised a lot more money if they wanted to.  Argh!  And what’s worse — Yo has even spawned copycats.

The tech industry can be a bit of a joke sometimes.

Yo is a marketing gimmick that people latch on to because using something really dumb can be really funny, and for many that’s real value.  I get that.

Yo isn’t even the first to hit humanity’s ironic goldmine.  Make it Rain and yes, Flappy Bird are two other examples.

As an industry outsider I’d find this app’s success hilarious.  Not so much as an insider, working hard to get our own app noticed.

There was a great story on re/code about how Apple’s iOS8 has replaced Yahoo’s weather app with one from the Weather Channel.  This is an embarrassing loss for the purple icon.

The real value of Yahoo Weather isn’t in its fancy design; it’s in its data and distribution.  Neither of which belonged to Yahoo.  The data for weather was provided by — you guessed it — the Weather Channel, who unsurprisingly supplied better data for its own app.

Apple provided the bulk of the distribution.  Marissa Mayer wants “daily habits” to be the cornerstone of Yahoo’s strategy, but in this case iPhone users didn’t have a daily habit of using Yahoo Weather; their daily habit is to use whatever weather app Apple provided.  Discovery remains the biggest challenge of the apps business and Yahoo Weather is no exception to it.

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Yesterday, Path launched version 4.0 of its app.  Version 4 is an incremental improvement over version 3 and there is now a new standalone messaging app.

Path is supposedly doing alright, growing from 1.5 million DAUs at the beginning of the year to 4 million.  A TechCrunch article further states that:

Southeast Asia is now its biggest market, with the U.S. coming second, but Path is also seeing some user growth from the Middle East.

While TechCrunch will readily accept Path implying it’s popular in South East Asia, data from App Annie shows that it’s really just Indonesia.

I spoke to a couple of friends in Indonesia on why they use Path.  The country has distinct characteristics that make Path a useful product there — perhaps uniquely — but that usefulness isn’t in messaging as the company believes.

It would be a mistake for Path to extrapolate too much from Indonesia into a company-wide bet.  Though I suppose they have to go somewhere.

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e27′s Echelon is the TechCrunch Disrupt of South East Asia; it’s the region’s largest and arguably most influential tech conference.

Echelon also has its own start-up battlefield, and in cornerplay tradition, we’re giving our high level assessment on the winner: Taamkru, an iPad educational game for kids five and below (iOS only for now).

In the words of the company:

Taamkru helps your preschooler achieve academic success in both an enjoyable and productive way while allowing parents to monitor achievement with personalized progress reports…Taamkru’s kid-tested inventory of nearly one million creative learning exercises has been developed by trusted child development experts and aligned with Ministry of Education standards. Our productive learning app has been carefully designed for preschoolers to use and help them achieve academic success with fun, interactive and premium quality educational content of increasing difficulty.

Taamkru is a worthy winner, but it wasn’t my first choice for the competition.

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