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Springtime Apps ~ Push Interactions on CTV Morning Live

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 08:00

When selecting apps for my CTV app reviews I always start by thinking “Is there a major holiday or festive day coming up?” If there isn’t, I usually go to my next question “Is it the beginning of a season?!”  Usually I can answer yes to one of those questions which will launch me into my research for the best apps for that holiday/season.

I found the following 3 apps and thought they would be perfect for the kick off to spring!

BrightNest

Free for iPhone

Spring cleaning time!!  When the snow melts away and the sun begins to shine, there is no better time to get your house in tip top shape.  BrightNest can help you not only with cleaning suggestions, instructions and tips, but they can help you organize, save money, go green, reduce clutter, maintain your home, live healthier and be more creative!

What I really liked about this app was it’s simple set up process. It took me through a series of questions about what I would like to accomplish (clean, maintain, organize, etc.) and then gave me suggestions for tasks to accomplish.  One of the main appeals of this app is that it is bright and friendly and shows you visually what the tasks is as well as the time it should take to accomplish.  Once you have selected a tasks it tells you “Why do this?”, “What you’ll need” (supplies)”How to” and the level of difficulty of the task.  Once you have completed your tasks you can share or see other related topics.  You can also add tasks to your favorites list so you can explore them later.  I am actually really glad I found this app and am looking forward to exploring all of the tasks it suggests!

 Gardening Toolkit

$1.99 for iPhone & iPad

One of the best things about spring is all of the garden-fresh veggies and fruits!  I myself have never grown a garden as I have more of a brown thumb than a green thumb, but I certainly appreciate the art of growing a garden!   Our Interaction Designer, Andre Doucette, is a certified Green Thumb and found the Gardening Toolkit app that can give you advice on what to plant and where to plant it.  The app also tracks what you have grown, allows you to keep notes, and has a photo-filled encyclopedia of more than 1000 plants.  The toolkit takes into account where you live, what season it is and when frosts are likely.  It uses this data to make a list of suggested plants for your garden so you don’t have to spend hours pouring over gardening books.  Get out there and start gardening!

 

Tastemade

Free for iPhone & coming soon to Android – Click HERE to be notified when Tastemade for Android is launched

With the return of the nice weather a thought usually hits most of us “It’s PATIO SEASON!!”  (well, those of us who live in a cold climate!).  For some reason sitting on a patio or a deck just makes food tastier and drinks yummier.  This patio excitement led me to find the Tastemade app. Tastemade wants to connect the world through food.  They’re empowering a new creative class to create amazing video programming for the modern media age. Tastemade allows you to make beautiful videos of the restaurants that you visit.

Though Tastemade has only been launched for a few months people have posted videos in over 300 cities and in over 13 languages!  I had the pleasure to chat with the Tastemade founders on the phone and they expressed how they wanted to share their passion for destination and dishes and make something possible that wasn’t possible before.  They wanted the app to be fun, simple and fast for anyone who wanted to their their passion.  After creating my own video for Moka Coffee Bar I can tell you it is very simple, fast and most of all fun!  The app walks you through all of the steps it will take to produce an amazing video.  You start by giving an introduction, followed up shots of the food, ambience, friends eating and laughing, and finally wrap up with a closing shot.  The app couldnt be easier to use and very customizable with different filters, music and fonts.

I’m excited to be the first one to shoot a video in Saskatoon, but with so many awesome places to eat here I can’t wait to see everyone else’s videos in Saskatoon!  You can watch my Tastemade video HERE

 

Hope you enjoyed these apps and that they got you in the mood for spring!  Make sure to share your Tastemade video with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting your users to create your app content

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 08:00

As my PhD supervisor, Carl Gutwin, says: “Ideas are cheap. Good ideas are hard”. Through my years designing mobile apps, I’ve thought hard about what it takes to make a compelling app. What, exactly, makes an app a hit?

This is, of course, a loaded question. Apps that fulfill a real human need are easier than those that are just entertainment. For example, productivity apps solve real human needs: people need to track expenses, so spreadsheets; people want to make their photos awesome, so Photoshop; people need to manage their huge inboxes, so Mailbox.

When an app is for content creation, you give people a set of tools, and they use them to solve their needs. This is clear in the productivity examples above. In the app world, though, most apps are not for content creation: the huge majority of apps are geared towards content consumption, like book readers, news aggregators, and social media networks.

The main problem in content consumption apps is: where does the content come from? It is incredibly time consuming to create new content for your users every day, as any blogger will attest. Yet, to ensure users continue to re-engage with your app, you need to give them something new.

One trick becoming more and more common is to get your users to create the content for others to consume. Social media networks are a great example of this. Facebook and Instagram don’t have to sit down every morning and come up with something compelling: their users, while engaging with their platforms, create the content that others consume. This sounds like a big of a trick, but given how successful these platforms are, you would be hard pressed to say it doesn’t work.

So here’s the lesson. One kind of great app is to solve a real human need (like productivity apps), while also getting your users to create the actual content. GasBuddy is my favourite example of this concept. GasBuddy solves a real need: people want cheap gas, so let’s show them where can they get it today. Instead of getting a crew to call around every morning, the app depends on its user base to produce this content by posting prices they observe in their daily lives. Essentially, by tricking their users into creating content for others to consume.

Genius.

 

Andre Doucette is the lead interaction designer at Push Interactions. With his background in human computer interaction, he believes that thoughtful design can delight users in ways we can only thus far imagine.

SSL HeartBleed

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:13

The SSL HeartBleed bug is a serious vulnerability in the security layer of the internet.  It has been around since December 2011 and it is estimated the “bad guys” have known about this vulnerability since about mid 2012. The vulnerability allows attackers to read secure traffic while it is in transit.  It affects approximately 20% of the websites on the internet including many popular websites such as Yahoo, Amazon, Tumblr, DropBox and others such as the CRA website.  You can test if a website is effected or not by using the following redirect we setup:

https://www.collegemobile.com/test

You can use this to test any websites you are using to see if they are affected. Any traffic which you sent to these websites you should assume that the traffic is compromised.  Information such as passwords, credit card information you should assume is compromised and to protect yourself you should go through and change your passwords and get your credit card issuers to reissue you credit cards if you used credit cards with these websites.

You can find more information about this online here:
http://heartbleed.com

2014 – The Dawn of Indie Game Development


Wed, 04/09/2014 - 14:49

Most people who enjoy video games can recall the first one they ever played which for me, was the classic Super Mario Bros. Since then, I’ve grown increasingly infatuated with playing video games, buying consoles as they come out and playing as much as I can after school. Thankfully as I grew older I reduced my obsession of video games to a healthier state (except whenever a new Grand Theft Auto game is released, in which case my resolve falters for a few straight days). At some point in my studies as a student programmer however, I began to gain a different perspective of video games. What was once a means of completing the objectives devised by the game to elevate my status against fellow gamers or simply passing the time when I’m bored, I now find myself spending more time analyzing and ultimately appreciating the technical work involved in crafting the means to my pleasure. To summarize, my current love affair of modern video games stems from my personal perception of what it is; a harmonic blend of logic and artistry. This change of thought inspired me to transition from being a game player to a game maker.

 


The CryEngine 3 Editor

So what does all this have to do with the title of the blog – a lot actually. Booting up a game, you’ll often see an image on the screen showing off the game engine used to power these amazing titles, like the famous Unreal Engine logo before ever reaching the main screen. But alas for those that were as curious as I was at the time, it wasn’t even worth considering trying to obtain a license. Companies need to protect their assets to have an edge over their competitors as well as maintain profitability, hence a kings ransom was the toll to pay for the luxury of having the best tools. Though lesser known alternative game engines existed, it didn’t have the same polish and capabilities that I yearned for in my vision of a game and so for the longest time I set aside my ambition in life. Then something magical happened.

 


The Elemental Demo running on Unreal Engine 4

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the industry to ignore the traction being made by indie developers who are making critically acclaimed games, a sign showing that a growing number of people had what NASA calls “the right stuff”. Companies continue to churn out rehashes of games in the form of yearly sequels in the name of risk mitigation and guaranteed profitability, but a lot of the best scoring games on Metacritics (and to an extent, higher revenue generators), were independently made games (case and point, Minecraft). So it made sense that at GDC 2014, Crytek and Epic games released a complete version of their flagship game engines with strong community support and Unity announcing the next major version of it’s own while charging next to nothing for these services. No longer can aspiring game developers complain about a lack of resource for making their ideas come to fruition, myself especially. Now it’s not to say that it’s smooth sailing from here, far from it in fact. A game engine on it’s own is nothing more than a suite of tools and so it’s up to you to provide it with the art assets, animation, audio, and instructions in the form of code to dictate how the game operates. But these framework typically provide a lot of key features including rendering, asset management, networking, lighting, physics, particle systems, AI and so forth all while abstracting the hardware level so that the majority of code written works seamlessly on other device.

 


Bad Piggies powered by Unity 3D

The last point is what I love most about the aforementioned game engines in that they not only work for windows, mac, and consoles, but for iOS and Android as well (and in the case of Unity, Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone). Chances are at least one of the games on your smartphone is powered by one of these game engines. The graphical divide between handheld and stationary computers is tightening up and these game engines are updated periodically to account for the extra leverage available to developers. Now I want to switch over and play the devil’s advocate. The majority of blog thus far has been about bringing to light these powerful game engines in hopes that more people utilize them, but the truth is it’s not always the best option. Great indie-developed games circulate the digital space already without third party engines. Reasons vary for each situation and can include financial constraint, too steep a learning curve, lack of critical features, or even for the sake of pride in building something entirely independently. Ultimately it boils down to a choice, and now we have a surplus of options.

 

 

References:

Unity 3d: http://unity3d.com/
Unreal Engine: https://www.unrealengine.com/
CryEngine: http://www.cryengine.com/

Mobile Monday – TACT

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:35

The Auditory Concentration Test APp (TACT) is a great example of one of our apps that truly improved the quality of life for the user.  Designed by Declan Quinn, Mb., FRCPC, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, the Auditory Concentration Test is a continuous performance test used to measure sustained attention in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders.  The test is designed to show patients and families the responses to the use of a stimulant medication in ADHD (however is not diagnostic for ADHD).

 

 

 

  1. The TACT is a continuous performance test designed to measure errors of commission, errors of omission and variability of scoring over a 15 minute time span.
  2. A total score is given with the number of accurate responses (omissions) and mistakes (commissions) as well as a score minute by minute.
  3. It can be used to demonstrate clinical response to stimulant medication for patients and families.
  4. It is not a diagnostic test for ADHD. It demonstrates clinical improvement 90 minutes from baseline after medication has been taken.
  5. It should be administered by a physician or a specifically trained healthcare professional such as a nurse or psychologist in association with a physician.
  6. It can be considered part of the assessment and treatment of ADHD and the response to medication.
  7. It does not replace a comprehensive clinical assessment and evaluation.
  8. It can be used for research purposes.

 

 

 

4 best practices for mobile app success

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 15:23

With billions of apps on the app stores it is beginning to be a rather competitive environment! By now it is clear that simply putting an app on the store isn’t enough.   Here are the top 4 things to consider when releasing an app (whether it is free or paid!):

1) Marketing

The days are gone when you could just put an app on the store and that alone would be enough to make it flourish.  In the early days being “first” was often enough to ensure success.  There was nothing else like what you were offering, so you won the race by default. However, this is no longer the case. Even if you release an app that has no competition or direct comparison (difficult now) you are still competing for attention with millions and millions of other apps out there. When considering your strategy I would suggest you choose your position in the market in line with the strategies espoused by Al Ries in Positioning: The Battle for your mind a classic book in marketing. This was also covered in one of our earlier blog posts 5 Tips to Help your App Make More Money

2) Have a Long Term Strategy

It won’t often be the case that an app is an instant success the moment it is put on the store – this rarely is the case anymore. You often have to put it out there, market your app and then build on it and fix and amend the app as customers recommend. This will help build the app that the market desires. To do this of course you need to make sure you are willing to make not just a investment in your app but a long term investment with ongoing development and marketing.

3) Do a Pilot Prior to Launch

Related to the above feedback is one of the most important things to do when launching a mobile app: Developers and designers do their best to guess what users will want but only actual users will know. We suggest doing a pilot prior to launch with your target base. A pilot test will help to determine the thoughts of your real users.

4) Build a Quality App

All of the above relate to quality in different ways. Whether it is building the app that users want, or informing them about the app in the marketplace. These practices all lead to determining if an app is quality or not and having a quality app is very important. If two apps are in the market and one is quality and one isn’t, the quality app will inevitably win the battle. Before we commit to working with a client we want to ensure their visions of quality matches with ours.

If you want us to help you build a quality app, don’t hesitate to call us toll-free at 1-800-298-7081 ext 720 or email us at contact@pushinteractions.com

How can our Interaction Designer help YOU?!

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:26

As the lead interaction designer at Push, my primary job is to ensure we build the right app. This includes ensuring the app solves the business needs of our clients, while providing a pleasant, efficient, and effective experience for your users. More to the point, my job is to help you create the product you are picturing in your mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this post, I describe five parts of my job showing how I can help your business create the best app.

Research other apps
Some app ideas are so good, they have already been done!

One component of my job is to find competing apps or websites. When there are no competitors in a space, this is a good time to jump in to grab initial marketshare. When there are established competitors, there is often two a two-pronged approach. First, what are the features provided by the competitor, and which of these will be deal breakers if we do not replicate them? Second, how can we differentiate your product from the competition? Some of this should come from your product team, as you know your users better than I; however…

Brainstorm new ideas
After years of designing apps, I have a keen idea of what is out there and, more importantly, what is not out there. I can provide you with new ideas, different approaches, or alternate business models you may not have thought of.

Generally, we have two kinds of potential clients. Many come to us with just a seed idea (e.g., “I want to use digital forms in our office”), and require a structure around the seed idea to make it an app. Based on my previous experience, and on the research described above, I can help you visualize what a full app experience could look like.

The other kinds of clients are the “We need an app” type. This often happens when a competitor releases a product, and the potential client now feels the need to one-up the competition. These are my favourite clients, as they are often open to novel ideas and openly encourage me to think of ways of truly enriching their users’ experiences. These are also challenging, as just reproducing existing functionality from a website does not make for a very compelling user experience.

Branded projects
One main benefit of working with Push Interactions is that we can completely customize an app to fit within your existing branding. This includes obvious elements such as logos, fonts, and colours, but also includes the marketing copy (e.g., specific terms in your industry) and the feel of the app experience. If your company is playful and relaxed, the app experience should follow, being less rigid than say one for a bank.

Of course many of our potential clients are creating a company from scratch, and thus do not have existing branding. We can help you with that as well!

Usability
My background in human computer interaction (a specialization of computer science) means that my primary focus is on the people, instead of on the technology. My design philosophy is simplicity: apps should be straightforward, by reducing interface complexity as much as possible. Often, this means sticking to established patterns, replicating how other apps already function on that platform, while still pulling in appropriate branding and experience as described above. This is a challenging component of good app design, and I’m happy to take on this challenge for your product.

Bridge between development and business
With my background in computer science and design, I can also be your bridge between our developers, your product team, and any IT staff you have that will be involved in the app development. During development, I am your champion, ensuring that decisions made during development match our discussions, that our app will fulfill the business needs you are focusing on, and that your users will have the best experience.

Conclusion
Creating a good app is hard, and is what we specialize in at Push. We have an incredible set of developers that love solving hard problems and creating novel user experiences to solve real business needs. As the lead interaction designer, I strongly believe I can help your business by working with your product and IT teams to create the best possible user experience.

Do you want Andre to help you with your app?  Contact us at contact@collegemobile.com or toll free at 1-800-298-7081 ext 720

How much does an app cost?

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 13:11

One of the most common questions in our line of work is: How much does an App Cost?

This is similar to asking a car dealer how much a car costs? The answer to the question is very dependent on what kind of car and features you are interested in. Are you going to buy a Porsche, Lexus or a Ford Focus? What are the features of the car? Does it have heated seats? Does it have air conditioning? Do you want custom painting or any other custom features? All these questions are built into the price of a car and need to be answered before a price estimate can be given.

This is the same way it works with apps.  Questions such as “Does it have air conditioning ” are replaced with: “How many screens does your app have?”  ”Are there any complicated animations or interactions?” “Does your app support multiple platforms such as iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone?”  ”Is there a server component to your app?”  -  These questions are equivalent to the ones above about the car and answers are needed before a price can be determined.

Apps can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 or more and depends on how complex and involved the app is. With a typical range in the $20-40K range. It’s also important to remember small touches can sometimes be expensive.

When considering app features it is always important to consider the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. Your MVP is a product which contains the smallest and most common set of features your users will find useful. Often times you can go through the process of discovering exactly what your customers want by putting out an MVP and then building out based on customer feedback. That is how iUsask was developed as well as the Coop app and many of our more successful apps. So the question of “What does an app cost?” really comes down to what features and properties are necessary for your app in its MVP phase.

A related question we get is how long an app take to develop? Again it depends on the answers given to the above questions.  Apps can be built in a few days to six months or longer with the typical timeframe being 2-3 months. But again always keep your MVP in mind as it helps drive long term success of your app.

 

If you want us to help you find your Minimal Viable Product, don’t hesitate to contact us: contact@collegemobile.com

To allow, or not to allow, that is the question: Push Notifications Part 1

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 15:16

A while ago I read an article entitled “How WalMart, Asda and The Rolling Stones use mobile push notifications“, written by David Moth.  The article explored how these mega brands use push notifications to strategically gather their users attention.

The article got me thinking about all of the apps that I have on my phones (yes phoneS - one personal and one work phone) and how effective those messages are.  I have to say that I often don’t even allow push notifications in the first place.  When that little message pops up “App XYZ would like to send you Push Notifications. – Don’t Allow or OK?” I always panic and hit “DON’T ALLOW!!!” because I have this irrational fear that I will not be able to figure out how to turn them off and they’ll send me crazy messages at all hours of the day and night!  Upon exploring my phone today I realized the only app I allow push notifications from is HauteLook, which I actually really enjoy getting because some of those alerts have allowed me to score some sweet deals on clothes and beauty products.

The article also got me thinking I would do my own push notification experiment and determine the best and worst ways to use push notifications.  Also I am interested in knowing what content is valuable for users to be “pushed”.

If you have any suggestions on apps that I should download to review please let me know – give me the good, bad and the ugly, I’ll put them to the test!

Stay tuned for Part 2 when I will reveal which apps I have chosen to test!

 

 

Mobile Monday – Space Stretch

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 15:59

What better way to celebrate the start of the week than by featuring one of our CollegeMobile-made apps (soon to be Push Interactions-made apps!).  It occurred to me the other day that I never really talked about this awesome app when we launched it last year.

The Space Stretch iPad App made for little ones to help them explore our solar system while practicing yoga!  This app is based on the television show Space Stretch created by Cheshire Smile in Saskatoon.  I love that this app not only teaches kids about our solar system, but also keeps them moving and in shape through yoga!

Children pilot the space ship, The Century Condor, around the solar system and discover planets in crisis.  Most of the problems are caused indadvertedly by captain Crash Tanga’s kooky family!

 To save the planets from the Tanga family children must generate stretch and concentration energy through yoga postures.

 The app combines short interactive yoga sequences and videos with playful outer space discoveries and touch-based activities to engage children in the creative animated world of Space Stretch.

All of the Space Stretch characters are likable and great at leading the kids in all of the different yoga poses.  I also really like the adorable planets who come to life in the show and the app!

You can watch all of the Space Stretch episodes on City TV’s website HERE and you can download the Space Stretch app for FREE HERE!

 

As always if you have an app idea or would us to give your creative content a second life, please don’t hesitate to contact me: contact@collegemobile.com or 1-800-298-7081 ext 720.  

New Office, New Us!

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 08:00

Back in September we made the move from our shared office at Ideas Inc to our very own office!  I have waited until now to blog about this monumental event because we revealed our new name and identity to the team that morning.  After the big reveal the majority of the day revolved around celebrating our new name that we launched publicly this spring.

Our former office at Ideas Inc.

Ideas Inc had been our “home” since 2010, nearly 3 years in total.  The Ideas Inc building helps start-up companies by providing reduced-rate office space and also provides different programming to help new entrepreneurs.  Initially we had three small rooms on the top floor but quickly grew out of that space and moved into 2 larger rooms on the ground floor.  We certainly enjoyed our time at Ideas Inc and we are proud to have “graduated” to our very own office space.

Chad Jones (centre) with other Ideas Inc Graduates

 

As we grew and attracted new clients we knew we needed to venture out and have a space to call our own.  We now have a 2,300 square foot office on the south side of the city.  We have 2 separate offices up front with a board room where our whole team can gather.  In the front foyer we have displayed awards and news articles and also have a “Collaboration Station” where our developers can pair code.  We have our own kitchen where everyone can eat,take a break and we have even hosted a potluck or two!  The back area holds all of our developers and is a nice sized space where everyone can work as a team (with a bit of room to grow!).  We even have a small back room that we call “the chalk board room” because we painted an entire wall with chalk board paint so we can go crazy and brainstorm app ideas and flesh out technical requirements.  This is also a great space for pair coding and small team meetings.

Push Developer’s space

New Kitchen!

The day we moved into the new office we had the team wait out on the front steps until every person had showed up. Once everyone was together we ushered them into the board room in the front of the office.  Before we committed to the space the entire team saw it and really liked it, however, there had been work done since they last saw it so it was all fresh and new for our big move in day!  We had set up a little breakfast station so everyone could grab some cinnamon buns and coffee for the big presentation.  Shane our COO and I presented the new name to the team and got great reactions from the whole team.  It truly was a completely fresh start for us – new office, new name and new us!!

A piece of the presentation given to the team to reveal our new company name and identity

After the presentation we set the team loose to explore the office.  One of the coolest moments for me was hearing the team’s excitement as they opened the cupboards and discovered our new brand name on rows and rows of mugs!

Every marketers dream: the team finding the new Push branded mugs amidst shouts of excitement!

The team ventured into the back room where I had set up each desk with a CollegeMobile T-shirt (can’t forget where we come from!!), Push business cards with everyone’s name on them, and a Push-themed welcome basket with mug, pens, notebooks, cookies and candies.

Push Interactions Swag

One of the cool things we were able to do is Skype-in one of our colleagues that was visiting family in China.  He didn’t want to miss out on the fun so we included him by video-conferencing him in.

No one is left out! Our developer, who was visiting family in China, Skypes in to the festivities.

We spent the rest of the day getting settled into our new office, getting our desks set up and generally celebrating.  We wanted the team to be proud of how far we had come and celebrate this day as a huge team accomplishment.

I am  proud of our team for how far we have come and so hopeful and excited for the future as Push Interactions.  We will never forget where we came from and will celebrate our past, current and future successes as a united team.  Our name and location may change but the heart and souls of those of us who work here will remain the same!

The Push Interactions Team

 

Post-PC Era – Is the PC Dead?!

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 09:40

The PC… one of the most dominant technologies for multiple generations. A seemingly unstoppable power. There were those that said it would never die. If you asked someone before 2007 what the PC meant you would get an entirely different answer than you would today. What was once the dominant computing device in everyone’s home is now a mere remnant of the past. A forgotten technology, lost in time. What happened to it? Do people still use them? Are we really in a post-PC era, and is the PC truly dead? Answers and insights await.

The Traditional PC Role
Before we touch on what exactly happened to the PC we need to examine what the PC did before 2007; the year everything changed.

We live in a day in age where nearly everyone in developed areas of the world has access to technology, the internet and a computer. Such was the case back then, and for the most part today. To do work you needed to have a computer. To socialize you needed one. To play games you had to have one. Basically anything you could think of technology wise required a computer. And as such, just about everyone had a PC.


The typical computer user would need access to email, to contact people, to browse the internet for information or to quickly type up a document in their editor of choice. A significant portion of the population desired the devices for social networking, as Facebook proved to be very popular. With all this it’s easy to see the computer did everything, so how exactly did it fall to the way side? What happened?

2007 and Steve Job’s Post-PC era happened.

The Mobile Revolution

Prior to 2007 if you wanted to browse the internet or do just about anything technology related, you had to have a PC. When Steve Jobs took the stage at Macworld on January 9th, 2007 that all changed. In the words of Steve Jobs on that day, “An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator”, three ideas conveyed into a single product seemed unheard of – partly because nothing like it had existed before. On that day the mobile revolution began, or as some like to call it: “The Post-PC Era”.

 



It didn’t take long after that day for vendors across the world to jump onboard. Smartphones were now a thing, easy to use and powerful for most everyday tasks. The idea of a touchscreen device that can do everyday tasks was so intuitive that consumers began to take notice, to jump on board and start using them at an alarming rate. Fast forward to April, 2010 and another device is added to the mix: The iPad.

Now we had another device that was much like the iPhone, except much more useable in a sit- down computing session. Large screen, nice touchscreen keyboard, wide array of apps to do just about anything computing related. Email, internet, social networking, games, utilities, etc – it was no surprise that the phrase “there’s an app for that” was coined.

Between the smartphone revolution and the rise of the tablets it was clear: most of us no longer needed a big bulky PC in our household… we can use a smartphone or tablet for our everyday computing needs. Not only did it do every common task a computer could, it did it really well. It was intuitive, relaxing, safe to use and far less error prone than the PC. No-one wants a frustrating computing experience.

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Tablet and smartphone sales have been rising ever since, while PC sales have been plummeting. We can now see the rough idea of what happened to the once mighty PC. It got replaced for the common computing task. But is it truly dead? Is it truly a lost remnant of the past never to be used again? Read on

 

The PC Paradigm Shift

With the advent of intuitive, easy to use products such as tablets and smartphones there was no longer a need for most of us to have a PC anymore. Why bother with the hassle and setup when all you needed to do was purchase an iPad, turn it on and start using it. Nothing is easier or more intuitive.

With a PC you had to be concerned with system specifications, to run your programs that had those dreaded system requirements. Consumers didn’t like the idea of having to know the intricate details of what a quad-core processor meant. How many stream processors, ROP’s or VRAM their graphics card had. What’s an L2 cache on a CPU? What does DDR3-1600 mean? What is cas latency 8-8-8-24 and why does it matter for memory speed? It’s too much! Who actually knows these things, and why should consumers be concerned with all this when they just want to use the device, write up a quick email or finish a document? Chances are, unless you’re into PC building for that fancy new gaming rig or otherwise, there is no need to know.

This is one of the catalysts for the shift of everyday computing moving from PC’s of the past to tablets and smartphones of today because they are more intuitive and easy to use for the everyday computing tasks people do today. A focus on just getting what you need to do done, without all the hassle and setup to do it is much appreciated.

The question now becomes is the PC truly dead? After all, the majority of the population has already shifted from it so its future doesn’t look good. The answer is essentially the PC is not dead, just the user base for it has fundamentally changed. It is no longer the device for everyone’s household. It is now the device for those that need the raw computing power, such as power users, that can only be provided by a PC. Heavy PC gamers that like to play at really high settings with high-end setups, or those that have multi-monitor setups for professional work or similar will always have a need for PC’s. These are the users of PC’s today, and likely will continue to be in the future.

The Survival of the PC, or The Gaming Revolution?

So we know that the PC isn’t for everyone anymore, its more for professionals and gamers who need the computational power that only a PC can provide. How then does the PC survive if a significant majority of consumers are no longer purchasing them? After all if only professionals and gamers are buying them, albeit expensive machines, that is still a relatively small market and pales in comparison to the size of the mobile market.

The only way for the PC to survive is for those in the professional industry that need them, and gamers who desire the power they provide, continue to regularly purchase the hardware (full systems or pc parts) at a rate high enough to sustain an effective business for vendors that produce them.

The real kicker in all this is the gaming industry. While professionals will likely always need to buy new systems, they don’t do it anywhere near the rate that gamers do. Game developers are constantly pushing the graphical envelope, raising the bar in what is required to run the latest and greatest. The 4K revolution is approaching which will demand an exponential increase in graphical power. As time goes on this leads to those who want to play the newest titles to acquire the fastest hardware. But is it enough?

The ultimate question becomes is it sustainable, can professionals, gamers and game developers continue to push the industry forward enough to keep the PC alive? If not, then the PC as we know it will likely die off. And if it does die off, what does that mean to Moore’s Law and innovation in performance if there is no longer a desire for it. What does it mean to society if we no longer push technology forward, at least in terms of power and performance. It’s an interesting dilemma, and it will effect our future.
 
Jordan Johns is a software engineer at Push Interactions.  His day-to-day work involves architectural design and implementation of iOS and Android apps.

NSBA Business Builder Team Building Award Recipients

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 10:14

Our company vision is “To improve quality of life, through quality technology.”  We would not be able to achieve this vision if it wasn’t for our dedicated, profession and innovative team.  A few months ago we were nominated for a North Saskatoon Business Association Business Builder Award for Team Building.  The award goes to the NSBA business whose management and staff promote and foster a team working environment.  The team must have set, pursued and achieved team-driven objectives or goals; demonstrated challenges the team has overcome and results of the team efforts; worked together in a productive manner; and contributed to the community.

Last Thursday, March 13th we attended the Business Builder Banquet with 8 of our team members.  The evening began with a VIP reception for award finalists and included a “Pitch Zone” with 5 young entrepreneurs pitching to attendees.  The young entrepreneurs had the chance to pitch their business idea and we then voted on the best pitch!  The winner was later announced during the award ceremony.  After the VIP reception the dinner and the award show began!

Our team was excited to be nominated but also humble and realistic because we were up against some very steep competition: Parr Autobody, STARS and Adecco Employment Services.  When our category was called Chad went up onto the stage with the other finalists.  Sasktel was the sponsor of our particular award and  we were all blown away when they announced “and the winner is: COLLEGEMOBILE!”.  Our whole table cheered and clapped and Chad went up to the mic to give a great speech about our team work and coordinated efforts to deliver on our company vision.

We are so honoured to receive this award and congratulate all of the other finalists and winners in every category.  This award further motivates our team to deliver the highest quality mobile apps and to continue finding ways we can work together even better. Special thanks goes to the NSBA team for organizing such a great evening, the judging panel for selecting our company as the Team Building winner and the sponsors of the evening (in particular Sasktel for sponsoring our award category).

 

 

If you would like our team to develop a mobile app for YOU, don’t hesitate to contact me at contact@collegemobile.com or at

1-800-298-7081 ext 720

Push Interactions on CTV Morning Live ~ March 13, 2014

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 13:01

Today we made our official TV debut with our new company name, Push Interactions!  It felt great to be introduced as Jess Bonish from Push Interactions!   I was also excited today because we won the North Saskatoon Business Association’s Business Builder Award for Team Building last night!  We were a finalist in the category and were super excited and surprised to be announced as the winner.  More on that award in another blog post to come soon!

Today I reviewed 3 awesome apps with CTV’s Heather Marcoux:

Duolingo

Free for iPhone and Android (Seller: Duolingo Inc.)

Duolingo won Apple’s 2013 Best App of the Year award and Google Play’s 2013 Best of the Best award – and let me tell you, this educational and fun little app deserves the titles.  Duolingo helps you learn a language (French, Spanish, German, Italian or Portuguese) by taking you through bite sized modules aimed at your level (beginner, intermediate, expert).  They have gamified the learning experience by giving you points and incentives.  Also  the app is free with no fees, ads or subscriptions.  They are able to offer the app for free because as you translate sentences and words through the app, your translations actually gets used in a productive manner on the web!  Learn more more about their innovative concept here. They also state on their website that their method is scientifically proven that Duolingo trumps University-level language learning.  Definitely give this one a try! I am on level 3 and I can hardly wait to get home to play with this app again!  Here’s hoping that I will using what I learnt next time I travel to Mexico!

Happier

Free for iPhone (Seller: Happier Inc.)

Happier is a social gratitude journal combined with a positive community.  You can keep track of and share happy moments in your life.  This happy little app was named one of the best apps for 2013 by Time Magazine.  Happier says that research shows people who focus on finding a few positive things about their day are happier, healthier and less stressed.  This is a joyful app to have for the upcoming spring season. The only piece of advice I would give you is to turn off your push notifications with this app. They tend to send notifications several times a day which can become a bit overwhelming and cause a user to be unhappy!

SnapChat

Free for iPhone and Android (Seller: Snapchat, Inc.)

SnapChat wants their users to be in the moment and have a connection with friends in the present.  They encourage you to do this by taking a photo or a video and whoever you send it to will get to view it for less than 10 seconds! A fun way to make someone smile and share your day.  If you are the parent of a child between the ages of 13 and 17 and you have concerns about images your child is sending or receiving, you can view SnapChat’s policy here.

 



 

I hope you enjoyed these apps and make sure you keep your eye out for our NSBA BBA Team Building Award blog very soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Monetize Existing App Users

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 07:30

Most companies are jumping on the app bandwagon, including established companies releasing existing products repurposed as apps and startups releasing new products, creating entirely new app categories. Regardless of the company, there is a common problem encountered: how can we make money on the app store?

It is incredibly difficult to get noticed when your app is surrounded by a billion others. Let’s think long term for a second. Let’s assume your app is successful: people downloaded your app, they are using it, and they love it. Congratulations! But now what? These users already paid for your app, so now they are essentially using it for free. Here’s the problem: how do you monetize existing app users?

 Software update cycles

In the old software model, a customer would purchase your product, use it for a year or two, and when you released a new version, they would pay again to upgrade. This is still common in operating system software (e.g., Windows) and the major productivity apps (e.g., Photoshop, the Office Suite); however, apps have broken this cycle. Customers go to the app store, purchase your app, and expect to receive upgrades for free, including those new features you released to get new people to download your app. If your app is a service with a large backend (think social networks like Instagram and content apps like a newspaper), you have costs you need to cover to support existing users, but these users may never give you another cent.

Here are the strategies I’ve seen app developers try to monetize existing users.

Ads

Major ad networks will pay you for each impression, so sticking ads on your home screen means that existing users will give you a continuous source of income (bonus if you provide new content every day, so that users re-engaged regularly). In general, users don’t like ads, and they can make your app feel cheap. You also don’t have very much control over what ads are shown, so your users may get conflicting messages. For example, if you have a strong environmental brand, it would seem weird for users to see an ad for a Hummer. Oh, and if your app is a paid app, you should never include ads. It feels like double dipping, and people don’t like feeling like they are paying twice.

In-app purchase

There are two general models of in-app purchase: freemium, and additional features. In the freemium model, users download and use the app for free, and pay minimal amounts to change a feature temporarily. It is most common in games. For example, people could pay to skip a level they couldn’t beat, to get a new costume for their character, or to get an additional spin on a bonus wheel. The other model of in-app purchase is to provide optional features (e.g., the ability to store a document on DropBox), or provide new features that users have been asking for (e.g., “now you can add friends from Facebook!”).

In-app purchases are now the main source of income for app developers. In either approach, they allow users to explore your product at little or no cost to them, and give users incentives to pay for your service. Also, unlike ads, you can include in-app purchases in a paid app without alienating users.

Subscriptions

Another version of in-app purchase is the subscription model. The most common is auto-renewing subscriptions (e.g., biweekly or monthly), where people pay for intervals of service. Subscriptions make sense for lots of apps, but Apple’s App Store policies limit what kinds of apps may use subscriptions.

“11.15 Apps may only use auto renewing subscriptions for periodicals (newspapers, magazines), business Apps (enterprise, productivity, professional creative, cloud storage) and media Apps (video, audio, voice), or the App will be rejected” (3 March 2014).

To me, this suggests that some traditional subscription models (e.g., memberships for online games like World of Warcraft) would not be allowed in the app store.

Physical products

Another great way to monetize existing users is to sell them physical products. This could be swag, like Angry Bird plushy animals. Another approach is to sell a product based on the content of the app. For example, Mosaic (http://heymosaic.com/) sells physical photo books you set up in the app.

Note that with physical products, these cannot be purchased through in-app purchase. This means you will need to have another checkout process, but it also means Apple or Google won’t take 30% of the purchase price.

New app

The last strategy I’ve seen is for large app updates. For example, when Fantastical updated their app for iOS7, they actually released it as a new app (Fantastical 2). This is following the “old style” update cycle of operating systems and productivity suites. This is non-standard in the app world, but it can be a reasonable approach if your new app is different enough from the original app to warrant users to go out and buy your app again.

Conclusion

I think each of the strategies I’ve described can all be successful, but it will depend on your app and your users. The current state of the app stores suggests that in-app purchases are the way to go, but apps are still so new that there are lots of opportunities to try new things.

Lessons Learned at Apple ~ Tips for Young Engineers

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 13:49

People sometimes ask me what I learned when I was working at Apple. The answers depend on the context of the question and who is asking and is certainly too grand to put into a single blog post. However, I wanted to share some top tips learned while I was at Apple that I would want to give to myself if I was just out of school.

Customers can be “Wrong”

You don’t have the perspective of the customer and what you think should be built and what they think should be built can differ. As a young engineer you think you know everything, so when a customer disagrees with your assessment you consider them wrong. You may in fact be correct in your assessment or you may be wrong (more likely) you can’t know for sure since you don’t understand their perspective and they don’t understand yours.  I use the term loosely because your customer can be many people: They can be your boss, team leader who will be using your code, 3rd party companies, a user out in the world or any of a number of different people. Customers can and will demand things which you don’t agree with. Things which you think make no sense. They can be right or wrong in asking for these things but often times that is what they want you to build.

If your manager at Apple asks you for something crazy you can certainly discuss it with them but if they ultimately want you to build something which you consider crazy then that’s what you need to do. Gaining experience is realizing that you won’t always agree with what your customer wants but that the person with the money makes the decisions at the end of the day when there are disagreements. I see far too many engineers debating with “customers” whether they are wrong or not on a direction.  Certainly it is good to bring up the drawbacks with an approach. However, if you bring up the drawbacks and the customer still decides to proceed, it is your job to implement that vision as best you can. You don’t make the final decisions because you aren’t the one with the money. Perhaps one day you have the money and can make the decisions and that’s fine but that isn’t today.

Go With The Flow

The best way I can explain this is with an example: One of the early tasks that I very clearly remember from my time at Apple was almost the first task I was assigned. I was working on a piece of functionality in Mac OS X related to print drivers. We were making a change in the operating system that was going to force a small number of printer manufactures to update their driver so it worked with the new version of Mac OS X. The old driver wasn’t going to work anymore and  users were going to have to upgrade to a new version of the printer driver. This was a preventable situation if Apple expended extra effort to avoid breaking the printer manufacturers but they weren’t going to do this. The task I was assigned early on was building a workaround for this problem for the manufacturers and sending out the code they would need to include in their new driver. However, I was furious that this code wasn’t just going to be included in the operating system by default to avoid this problem. It was the only task I was assigned and I could only see this problem and nothing else and of course considering only this and nothing else the best thing to do was to include this piece of code in the operating system.

I was wrong though, very wrong. I didn’t have perspective of the entire operating system and the entire Mac OS X project. Of course it would be better to not break this small set of printers and users upgrade however what I didn’t see was the bigger picture. Apple was pressing out the release of Mac OS X out the door we couldn’t include small changes that weren’t important. To maintain quality you don’t want to include lost of new features or changes towards the end as you are going through testing stages. There were thousands of people that worked on Mac OS X at that time and even more number of people that wanted to include a new feature or code change. Towards the end of any project you have to say no to maintain quality because if you are making code changes just before a project goes out the door you are asking for disaster. At the time I had no concept of this and thought there was something wrong in the world. Because I didn’t see the bigger picture I was just plain wrong.

So my early advice, and something you learn with time, is everything you are working on seems like the most important thing in the world. Just as I did with the printer driver fix. However, your task is in the grand scheme of things was not critical at all. Later on as I was more experienced I did work on things that were critically important and they did get in late, but those were important fixes that needed to be in, in the grand scheme of things. Not just in my opinion.  Without that wider perspective you can’t see that and young engineers do not have perspective. As a young engineer you will not have the perspective of the entire business and possibly not even the entire project you are working on and because of that you will think things are important which aren’t that important but you have no way of judging. So my advise is go with the flow. As you become more seasoned and able to judge what is important and n you will pick and choose battles but for now the best thing you can do is go with flow. Certainly bring it up with someone more senior if you feel strongly about it to make sure they are aware of it but if they don’t think it is important then accept it and go with the flow.

Quality is Important

I remember having discussions of how important quality is and how to tackle a certain problem. Certainly you may be constrained by time and other factors on a project that prevent you from creating the perfect solution. However, always do your best to create the best quality project you can.  You will thank yourself for this as will your customers.

Nice to Have Your Own Island

My Manager at Apple started with Apple back in 1984 and his project was Apple Lisa. He stayed with Apple for many years doing quite well for himself over time. In fact after doing well he decided he wanted to buy his own Island in the Pacific. That would be an island with electricity house and all the amenities but would just be for him and his family. He decided to buy his own island and did so even outbidding a Saudi Prince who was bidding on the same island. So while not a lesson for everyone, a lesson I learned is, it is nice to have your own island and if you do things right such things are possible.

Hard Work Pays Off

I didn’t care in school that it would take an extra four hours to do something right and the grade might not reflect the four extra hours put in. I didn’t do calculations of grade/time ratio to determine if I should put extra work in or watch TV. I wanted to do it right and I wasn’t afraid of hard work.  This should be your philosophy if you want to succeed in the long run. Do the hard work and don’t be afraid to work even harder. They didn’t tell me until after I had been at Apple for a year but they had literally hired 18 people in the position before me. The longest person had lasted was six months. All 18 had been fired or let go for one reason or another but I stuck around. In school and since I have seen young and older engineers trying to avoid hard work.  This is not the path to success. To take the short cut because someone isn’t looking or you think you will get away with it will only lead to disaster in the long run. You may get away with it in the short term maybe even a few times. But in time no matter what you do, you will be found out one way or another and then the consequences need to be paid. It just may take longer in some places than others but you will be weeded out because you don’t produce value. Mark my words. Anyone who produces value will be valued and over time rewarded. But certainly no matter where you are if you don’t produce value then eventually you will lose.  So don’t avoid the hard work go towards it and get it done. That is the sign of a true engineer and a professional.

Hard work and the right attitude can also lead to your own island (or equivalent) if you do it right. When that happens you can be the “crazy” customer who is “wrong” that wants their island house on the island designed in a certain way.

NSBA Business Builder Awards ~ Team Building Award Finalist

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 08:38

I am excited to announce that we are finalists for the North Saskatchewan Business Association 2014 Business Builder Awards.  We were nominated for the Team Building award and were delighted to find out we were selected as finalists in the category.  The North Saskatoon Business Association supports  Saskatoon’s Business Community and is a member-driven and focused organization that serves, promotes and protects business throughout Saskatoon and beyond.  We are honoured to be amongst some amazing companies in the category and wish everyone luck on March 13th when the awards will be held!

 

Chad Jones and I at the NSBA BBA Press Conference to announce the finalists

Article Quick Look ~ Fort KNOX

Wed, 02/26/2014 - 13:49

Today I was reading the article: Samsung Galaxy S4 and Knox: iPhone versus Android just got exciting again.  The article delves in to new release of KNOX 2.0.  Although I had heard about KNOX before I was intrigued to learn a little bit more about KNOX and how it is improving Samsung’s security.

Here are some quick facts to give you the basics of KNOX:

  • Allows IT admins to keep employees’ personal and work data apart
  • Knox incorporates Security Enhanced (SE) Android to create a container that separates business and personal use of a mobile device
  • Encryption at the file system level, which ought to cut data leakage, viruses and malware attacks
  • KNOX container presents a variety of enterprise applications in a secure environment including email, browser, contacts, calendars, file sharing, collaboration, CRM and business intelligence applications

KNOX will be especially beneficial for those who BYOD (bring their own device to work). Do you think KNOX 2.0 levels out the iPhone vs Android battle?!

 

Article source: ZD Net

 

 

New Year, New Us ~ What’s in a name?

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 15:32

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of unveiling our new company name and brand identity.  Since then we have received so much support for our new name and look!

We also received our first company banner and got to show it off at a career fair and to the clients who have visited our office.

So what exactly is in a name?!  Well in our name there was a lot of hard team work and excitement that’s for sure.  Remember how I told you we had a brain storming session where we threw out words or phrases of who we were and what we aspired to be?  Once we had gathered all of the words and phrases as a team, our marketing team began to sort out the ideas and phrases that would become our new name and brand identity.  The hard part was next.  We took the words and phrases that we liked and tried to see awesome potential names for the company.  When it came down to what we felt was the BEST the phrase:

“Pushing technology into small spaces of life.”

Everyone felt an instant connection to this simple phrase.  Once we had decided on the word “Push” we began to do our research into how we could legally make this name ours. We learnt that it was best to have a word attached that would give some sort of descriptor for what our company did.  After much trial and error we decided on “Interactions” because not only did it describe what our product does but also what we do everyday with our own team and our amazing clients.   Once all of the legal filings were complete, we announced our new name to the whole team on the day we moved to our new office! Stay tuned for the next New Year, New Us when I will share that first day in our new office with you!

By the way you may be wondering (just as we were) “Well WHO exactly wrote that sticky note?!?!)”  By the time we announced the new name to the team that beautiful neon orange sticky note had gotten lost in the shuffle (I remember it was orange at least!) and no one ever claimed that they wrote it!

 

 

Working in an open office

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 16:54

An open office set up is quite popular, especially in the software development world. I believe a large reason is because it’s very economical from an office space perspective. In the same way you can gain more space in a house with an open floor plan, you gain more usable space in an office if you don’t have a bunch of walled offices everywhere. However the true intention behind an open work space was to break down barriers and foster teamwork and collaboration. Unfortunately, the science is bearing out that an open work space can lead to more tension and reduced productivity. But never let scientists dictate your reality! There are things you can do to take advantage of the benefits of an open space, while minimizing the negatives.

Avoiding distractions to yourself
Everybody is in control of their own world, and so this is the first place you should look to improve. There are two key pieces that will often work to keep yourself focused and those are 1) using headphones; and 2) not allowing yourself to get pulled into unnecessary discussions.
Using headphones can be extremely helpful, even if you aren’t listening to any music. First, it signals to other employees that you are working and would rather not be disturbed. Second, it prevents you from being distracted by conversations around you. Even if you put on a pair of headphones and play some white noise, I think you’ll find your productivity will trend upwards.
If you aren’t keen on wearing some ear gear all day long, you can still work at keeping yourself in the zone by actively avoiding discussions not relevant to your work. This can be a bit tricky but over time, you’ll find it’s like being absorbed in a good book – you know the world outside you exists, but your brain is able to shut it out and focus on the task at hand.

Minimize distractions to others
In tandem with avoiding distractions to yourself, you should also aim to minimize distractions to others. One of the best ways to do this is to pay attention to your surroundings. If everybody is quiet and working, it’s probably best not to start a loud conversation that could snap everybody out of their zone. Likewise, if you need to talk to someone and they have headphones on, you may want to start by sending an email/IM asking them to talk with you when they’re available. It’s amazing how many things aren’t as urgent as they seem to be in the moment. Almost anything can wait 15-30 minutes, and I bet you can find something else productive to do in the meantime.

Set up collaboration stations
Our office currently has a very open work space and a collaborative team who enjoy solving problems together. One thing we are doing next week to keep the collaboration going while reducing distractions is to set up separate collaboration stations. These desks are set up in areas away from the whole team, so that a few employees can break away, set up at these stations and discuss a problem without inadvertently affecting the entire office. These stations are set up fairly barebones with a monitor and couple chairs, to encourage the “use it, then lose it” ownership nature of those stations.

Set the culture
You need to make it clear to your team that this is their workspace, and they need to use it as productively as possible. They can expect to get distracted at times, but they can work with each other to minimize those as best as they can. Just the act of knowing that something will happen can reduce the stress and frustration when it does happen. Try and make quiet the norm, and encourage the team to be open and honest with each other if they feel things are too loud and unproductive.

Not every company can afford enough space to house all employees in their own offices. It’s a goal of ours down the line, but for now we’re working within our surroundings to keep churning out quality software as efficiently and effectively as possible.