apps

I’ve only recently discovered this, but it’s already one of my most favorite things on the phone: it’s the Freakonomics Radio podcast and it’s awesome.

The podcast is by the same group behind the Freakonomics book, and the show is in the same vein. It tries to answer questions like “Why do restaurants give free bread?” and “Are people who tithe to church happier?” with data, research, economic theory and guests who specialize in the subject.

The show is produced — it’s not a bunch of guys riffing off their thoughts — and it’s not only educational, it’s downright entertaining. I can’t recommend it enough.

I’ve tried podcasts before and never found them compelling enough to make part of my routine. Freakonomics is the first.

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The creator behind the enormous hit Flappy Bird recently released its spiritual successor, Swing Copters. So how’s it doing? Apparently, very well on iOS, currently ranking #2 overall on the US app store. Surprisingly, it’s not faring as well on Android, at #299 overall and actually a decline from a peak of #176 on the US Google play store.

Is this another sign iPhone users are more clued in? Or are there simply better alternatives on the Google play store? Given the enormous attention Flappy Bird and the mainstream press coverage Swing Copters both received, I would guess the former.

So is the game any good? Swing Copters retains a lot of Flappy Bird’s charm, the only question is whether you still find a game like Flappy Bird charming.

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A couple days ago, we referenced a comScore study on mobile apps. Since then, more articles about its findings are surfacing. Quartz has an overview of the top 25 most used apps by US consumers. Highlights:

  • Facebook is unsurprisingly the #1 most used app
  • Pandora is surprisingly #5…no Spotify
  • Google is the top mobile app publisher
  • Facebook Messenger is the top messaging app, ahead of Snapchat, Skype and Kik…no Whatsapp, no Google Hangouts
  • No games made the overall top 25

The study also breaks down popularity by age segment, which The Atlantic graciously provided. Highlights:

  • Facebook, Youtube and Pandora are universally popular
  • The younger, the more popular is Instagram
  • Older folk use Facebook Messenger more than Snapchat or Kik
  • Email didn’t make the top 10 for 18-24 year olds

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Facebook is in the press lately because the company is forcing users to communicate with friends through a separate Messenger app instead of the main Facebook app. The former is #1 on the app store but people are rebelling by slamming it with 1-star reviews. Privacy is also a common rallying cry, the accusation being that the app is too aggressive with permissions.

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Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, so it’s not surprising to see people react negatively. Many are still wary about online privacy, even as it is an increasingly illusory concept.

We think those knee jerk reactions are overblown. Facebook Messenger is a decent product and it’s no more aggressive in its privacy policies as other messaging apps.

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I purchased the Chromecast eons ago, partly out of curiosity and partly because the price was low enough to be an impulse buy.  I haven’t used it much as my PC is directly connected to my big screen TV so the Chromecast’s raison d’etre doesn’t apply in my case.

Recently, I discovered a killer app for the Chromecast – all you hardcore people probably know about this already; I was late to the party because of the iPhone 5S – and it changes everything for the dongle.

It’s called Popcorn Time for Android.

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The new Foursquare 8.0, just released today and after unbundling, is of particular interest to me as it was basically what feecha versions 1 and 2 tried to do starting from two years ago. Feecha had a broader scope: it wasn’t just about food and places but about news, events and activities too. Our implementation was also a lot less structured with a feed approach, instead of the lists and directories you see in Foursquare.

The similarities are there: Default content is about what’s around the user. Users’ experiences were personalized by who they follow and what interests (i.e. tastes on Foursquare) they have. They get alerted when something relevant and interesting is nearby without needing to open the app. Foursquare’s “Tips” section was basically our main news feed and you level up (i.e. expertise on Foursquare) when people appreciate your contributions.

Sadly, we gave up on that ambition when it came to version 3 because of one key reason: we just couldn’t get enough good data. We relied on users to create useful content and that proved exceedingly difficult. Foursquare 8.0 — at least for food and places, and with their archive of 55 million tips — is executing that vision a lot better than we could.

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Instagram is testing their new app Bolt in Singapore, New Zealand and South Africa for iOS and Android, and I got my grubby hands on it.  Bolt is one-tap photo messaging, like a simpler Snapchat.  And you know what…I kinda like it, though I don’t know how defensible it would be as a business.

It’s attractive and single-minded.  There’s no confusion to the app’s purpose.  One tap to send a photo or video might not seem much different than say, Snapchat’s three taps, but surprisingly it’s increased the number of messages I usually send.  Maybe that’s because testing Bolt is top-of-mind, but I don’t think so.

One tap messaging feels so effortless — it’s easier than typing a text and yet can say so much more.  Sending dozens of photos and videos throughout the day to let someone know how things are going doesn’t feel like work.  With Bolt, it feels natural.

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