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Original author: 
Jon Brodkin

About six weeks ago, users of Facebook's Android application noticed that they were being asked to install a new version—without going to the Google Play app store.

Android is far more permissive than iOS regarding the installation of third-party applications, even allowing installation from third-party sources if the user explicitly allows it. However, it's unusual for applications delivered through the official Google store to receive updates outside of the store's updating mechanism.

Google has now changed the Google Play store polices in an apparent attempt to avoid Facebook-like end runs around store-delivered updates. Under the "Dangerous Products" section of the Google Play developer policies, Google now states that "[a]n app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play's update mechanism." A Droid-Life article says the language update occurred Thursday. APK (standing for application package file) is the file format used to install applications on Android.

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Original author: 
Aaron Souppouris

Screen-shot-2013-04-18-at-2-00-14-pm_large

Chinese pirate site 7659 is exploiting Apple's bulk enterprise licensing tools to distribute free versions of paid App Store applications. Bulk enterprise licensing is supposed to let businesses send in-house apps to employees without dealing with Apple's App Store. It works via a developer provisioning profile, which facilitates "sideloading" of sorts without jailbreaking.

The site is only open to users in China, but that restriction can be circumvented via proxy server. According to VentureBeat, 7659 is full of apps that would otherwise cost money. Those include our best new app last week, Badland, which is usually $3.99, and Final Fantasy V, priced at $15.99 in the App Store. In a statement on its site, Kuaiyong, the company that...

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Original author: 
Megan Rose Dickey

clear to do list app

Apple's iOS platform is typically the first choice for app developers.

While Android is right behind iOS in terms of developer preference, according to a December report from Appcelerator and IDC, it still lacks some popular apps. 

Some of these iPhone-exclusive apps have recently launched, meaning that there's still hope for Android users. But some apps, like the Infinity Blade fighting game franchise, have been around for a couple of years and have no plans to launch on Android. 

Still, that doesn't mean Apple's App Store will always be the first choice for developers. 

Even though Apple is the leader in app revenue, Google Play is growing at a faster rate, according to a recent App Annie report. In fact, Google Play seems to be on track to hit one million apps in June, months before Apple, Dan Rowinski of ReadWrite recently predicted

Meanwhile, Android is dominating consumer smartphone sales with a nearly 70 percent market share compared to iOS' 20 percent.

Clear makes managing your to-do list a breeze

Clear is a very simple, yet aesthetically pleasing to-do list app that helps you stay on task. With Clear, you can create multiple to-do lists: one for work, one for your personal life, etc. 

In order to use the app, there are few gestures you need to know: pull down to add a task, swipe to the left to delete a task, swipe to the right to check an item off the list, pinch apart two tasks to add a new one, and pinch vertically to exit out of the current list. 

Price: $1.99

Fantastical is a beautiful calendar app

Fantastical puts Apple's built-in calendar app to shame. It pulls in data from the built-in calendar, but you can also add other calendars.

The app makes it super easy to see your entire calendar and appointments for any given day. It also has a pretty nifty day ticker where you can quickly see your schedule for the day and the rest of the week. 

Price: $4.99

Tweetbot is one of the most robust Twitter clients out there today

Tweetbot is a full-fledged Twitter client that is super customizable and packed with tons of shortcuts to enhance your Twitter experience.

With the multiple timelines feature, you can momentarily block out the rest of Twitter and just read tweets from people on a specific Twitter list. 

Tweetbot also recently updated the app with inline Vine and Flickr previews. 

Price: $2.99

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

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 Haze for iPhone hands-on

Ever since smartphones have been around, there have been weather apps to go along with them. In fact, no matter how small of a platform or how few apps there available to it, there's a good chance that you can find a weather app for it. Though some may argue that you don't need anything beyond what's available on your phone out of the box, such as iOS's Weather and Android's Google Now (or the age old argument of "look out the window"), weather apps remain popular and there seems to be a new one popping up every other day. Haze, a fun and stylish new weather app hitting the iTunes App Store today, is the latest take on delivering your weather conditions to the palm of your hand.

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Trailrunner7 writes "Up to a million Android users in China could be part of a large mobile botnet, according to research unveiled by Kingsoft Security, a Hong Kong-based security company, this week. The botnet has spread across phones running the Android operating system via Android.Troj.mdk, a Trojan that researchers said exists in upwards of 7,000 applications available from non-Google app marketplaces, including the popular Temple Run and Fishing Joy games." Update: 01/19 12:54 GMT by S : Changed summary to reflect that these apps didn't come from Google Play.

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obstacles xrt app iphone

You want to get in shape but you don't have time to go to the gym. I get it—I don't have time to go to the gym either. That's why I was excited by the premise of Obstacles XRT, a new fitness app.

This innovative app, made by Chicago-based Barracuda Partners, turns anywhere with a floor into an obstacle course, no equipment necessary. There are three levels of intensity: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

If you want to up the ante, Obstacles XRT also allows you to compete with friends on the same courses.

"The idea is that we would like users to wear a heart-rate monitor or check their pulse to get a general idea of what their heart rate is, and no matter what difficulty, the challenge is to see who has the lower heart rate," Brian Atz, Barracuda's chief marketing officer, told Business Insider

Atz says he uses Obstacles XRT whenever he has the time and the notion. He's always on the road and was sick of doing jumping jacks and sit-ups in his hotel room. 

The beginner courses are only 20 minutes including a cool-down and warm-up.

We tested the app ourselves and were thoroughly impressed.

Obstacles XRT is available for the iPhone in Apple's App Store. It's on sale for $1.99 for the rest of January 2013. Barracuda's considering an Android version.

Obstacles XRT is available only for the iPhone. The first thing you'll want to do is head to the App Store.

Once you've downloaded, go ahead and tap to open.

You'll be greeted by a graphic of two individuals working out. Results may vary.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Most apps fail. This cruel reality has led many disillusioned developers to conclude, often subconsciously, that succeeding on the App Store is like striking it rich in the gold rush: you just need to get lucky.

The App Success Formula.

The idea of luck is a dangerous sedative to ease the pain of failure. Pain is a good thing. It shows something is wrong. If my app fails, I want to know why. Instead of blaming forces beyond our control, why not look at what folks like tap tap tap and Tapbots are doing to succeed again and again and again.

While applying this formula flawlessly is nearly impossible, working towards it will dramatically increase your chances of success. These concepts are based on the iOS platform, but many of the principles apply to other platforms as well.

Idea

Any successful app rests on the foundation of a solid idea, because the idea determines the ultimate potential of the execution. Avoid the temptation of jumping straight into execution after having an epiphany in the shower. A little bit of research up front can save you a lot of pain down the road.

Find a Vacuum

Vacuum

Phill Ryu (@phillryu) has an impressively consistent track record of top apps: Clear, The Heist and Classics, to name a few. His secret for validating ideas is pretty simple: find a vacuum. The App Store houses a plethora of quality, user experience and innovation vacuums. Vacuums are cool because they inherently want to be filled. A few examples:

Clear, Tweetbot and iTranslate Voice.
Clear, Tweetbot and iTranslate Voice.

Clear: among thousands of to-do apps, Clear filled a user interface (UI) innovation vacuum. Entering a crowded category seems counter-intuitive, but the biggest categories provide the biggest opportunities if you can innovate within them.

Tweetbot: Twitter bought Tweetie and dumbed it down to appeal to the masses. Tweetbot filled the Twitter power user vacuum.

iTranslate Voice: The release of Siri intrigued the world, instantly generating a vacuum for apps like iTranslate Voice that behaved like Siri but offered different functionality. Every new technology introduces a new vacuum along with it.

For sure, the low-hanging fruit is gone, but there are still tons of vacuums out there, particularly in the design department. Find a vacuum that you are passionate about and fill it.

Show Me the Money

Most apps don’t make money. If revenue is important to you, it is worth exploring what kind of apps make money and what kind of apps don’t. Building on Marco Arment’s theory of two app stores, I postulate that three categories of apps make money, and one category doesn’t.

Apps can be divided into categories by profit per user and number of downloads.
Apps can be divided into categories by profit per user and number of downloads. Large view.

Hit Apps:

  • High volume, low price;
  • Appeal to almost everybody, targeting impulse purchasers who browse the top charts and featured lists;
  • Huge launches based on intense marketing campaigns;
  • Require tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of downloads to generate significant profit.

Examples: Clear ($3) and iTranslate ($1).

Premium Niche Apps:

  • Low volume, high price;
  • Target a serious niche;
  • Users find the app through thorough research and are willing to pay big bucks to improve their lives;
  • A large profit per user makes traditional customer acquisition methods (i.e. pay-per-click ads) viable and scalable.

Examples: OmniFocus ($10) and Proloquo2Go ($190).

Premium Hit Apps:

  • High volume and high profit per user;
  • The only viable space for funded startups that need to turn a big profit;
  • Rare but rewarding.

Examples: TomTom GPS ($50), Pandora (monthly $3.99 subscription) and freemium games that make a huge average profit per user through addictive add-ons and credits.

Most Apps Fail:

  • Low volume and low profit per user;
  • Even if such an app garners some attention, the limited appeal and low price limit significant success.

Developers read inspiring stories of app millionaires, look at the astounding number of devices being sold every day and develop grossly optimistic back-of-the-napkin download projections for their relatively niche apps. They conclude that if they could only capture a fraction of a percent of the market, they could sell their app at $0.99 and make a fortune.

It just doesn’t work that way. The brutal reality kicks in when the first day of sales generates six downloads, mostly from friends and family. The app idea might have scratched their itch, but it was just too niche to be a hit.

Your app idea probably falls into this category. Don’t ignore this.

Building an app that makes money is hard. David Barnard, the brilliant mind behind App Cubby, suggests that the future of sustainable revenues may lie in true freemium, scaling the cost with the value derived. Generate lots of downloads and creatively find ways to let users who find more value pay more for it. These kinds of creative monetization ideas are relatively untested for non-game apps, but that’s what makes this industry so exciting.

Make a Statement

No, I mean, literally, write something down. Whittle your idea down to its core and create one sentence that defines your app and its target market. Apple does this for their internal apps and you should do it too.

For example:

“Grades shows college students what score they need to aim for on their next exam.”

If you cannot explain the basic value of your idea in one sentence, it’s too complex. Mobile apps need to focus on doing one task extremely well, because your target market must instantly desire your app after seeing one screenshot.

After defining the app’s core, check every feature idea against this core and remove the cruft.

Design

Apple’s culture revolves around design excellence. It’s no coincidence the apps Apple showcases are always well designed. Design is the most critical component in building a successful app.

Don’t Make Me Think

Like websites, apps are incredibly disposable. If an app doesn’t make sense immediately, users feel little pain in deleting it. The title of Steve Krug’s popular book encapsulates our task as usability designers: don’t make me think. Like a well-designed doorknob, the interface itself implicitly explains its own use and value.

A few points to that end:

Kill the Baby
Every cool feature idea inevitably adds complexity to the app. Strip the app, the screens and even the elements within each screen to their essence. Good design is more about saying no to good ideas than it is about generating them.

The to-do list app on the left let cool features get in the way of the core experience.<br /><br />
Clear (right) questioned everything and only the essence survived.
The to-do list app on the left let cool features get in the way of the core experience.
Clear (right) questioned everything and only the essence survived.

Consider UI Conventions
Users have certain expectations about how the UI on their devices should behave based on the conventions they see in the operating system and the primary apps they use every day. Pay attention to the UI guidelines (iOS Human Interface Guidelines, Android User Interface Guidelines) and be sure to understand a convention before ignoring it.

In an attempt to look unique, the grade input interface on the left neglects basic navigation conventions. A similar screen from my app, Grades, applies a unique skin to familiar iOS interface conventions.
In an attempt to look unique, the grade input interface on the left neglects basic navigation conventions. A similar screen from my app, Grades, applies a unique skin to familiar iOS interface conventions.

Think Like a Human
Users have models in their head about the way the world works. Don’t design according to your database or programming limitations, but according to how the user thinks about things.

RedLaser’s scanning interface initially required users to take a picture of the barcode they were interested in (left). The app went viral when they changed the interface to match how a real barcode scanner works. Hover, beep, you're done (right).
RedLaser’s scanning interface initially required users to take a picture of the barcode they were interested in (left). The app went viral when they changed the interface to match how a real barcode scanner works. Hover, beep, you’re done (right).

Don’t Make Me Work
Users are lazy. They don’t want to read instructions and they hate typing. The best apps figure out the absolute minimum the user needs to do for the app to function.

TripIt is great but the opening screen offers little motivation for users to sign up. If an app works without an account, let users explore the app and sign up later; otherwise provide an appealing walkthrough to entice users to sign up like TuneWiki.
TripIt (left) is great but the opening screen offers little motivation for users to sign up. If an app works without an account, let users explore the app and sign up later; otherwise provide an appealing walkthrough to entice users to sign up like TuneWiki (right).

Do Usability Testing
Don’t let eye scanning and focus groups intimidate you. Do whatever you can! Most basic usability problems surface by simply getting the interface in front of some potential users. Ask a few questions (“what do you think this app does? How might you do X task?”), and watch them. Do it early and often throughout the entire design and development process.

Get Emotional

The sliding pane opening animation in Weightbot, the humorous copy in Everyday, the satisfying ascending charms when you check off items in Clear; though offering little utility, these tiny details elicit a powerful emotional response. These apps exhibit a personality. You either love them or you hate them, but you definitely don’t forget them and you are much more likely to share them.

Usable isn’t good enough any more. The best apps go the extra thousand miles to pay attention to the details that make an app enjoyable. Simon Schmid wrote a thorough treatment on emotional design, but here are some basic points relating to apps.

Visuals Matter
Beautiful apps sell better, are more enjoyable to use and feel more valuable than bland apps. Though beauty can be found in rich gradients, textures and shadows, strive for the subtler attributes of elegance, readability and tasteful layout. Use skeuomorphism (UI that mimics physical objects) only where it enriches the experience and doesn’t distract from it. If you’re unfamiliar with basic graphic design principles, The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams is a great place to start.

Paper for iPad by Fifty Three.
Paper for iPad by Fifty Three.

Experiment With Sound
Sound in a UI is a delicate, powerful and largely unexplored tool. Experiment to see if sounds can improve your app.

Tapbots’ apps beep, click and buzz just like you would expect from robotic controls.
Tapbots’ apps beep, click and buzz just like you would expect from robotic controls.

Touch Is Magic
Apple’s engineers don’t stop working until their products feel right. It’s why the first iPhone’s bouncy scrolling “scrolls like butter.” If an object doesn’t respond immediately to the touch, it reminds you that you are using a computer and not actually directly manipulating the object.

All pictures and objects in Our Choice can be directly manipulated with your fingers.
All pictures and objects in Our Choice can be directly manipulated with your fingers.

Gestures can provide a powerful connection between the interface and the user but can also be frustratingly undiscoverable if not implemented correctly. Experiment with new interactions and don’t stop working until every interaction, transition and metaphor makes sense and feels right.

Spice Up Your Words
Users generally dislike instructional copy, error messages and notifications. Why not make their day by writing quirky, witty or maybe even humorous copy! Users will appreciate the unexpected pleasure.

In my latest app, Languages, a witty error message not only softened the blow of a download error, but made people want to tweet about the experience.
In my latest app, Languages, a witty error message not only softened the blow of a download error, but made people want to tweet about the experience.

Animate With Class
Whether it’s elements moving on the screen or transitions between screens, animation can express personality and give users a sense of continuity and polish as they navigate the app.

Users opening Weightbot for the first time enjoy watching the bot unlocking itself.
Users opening Weightbot for the first time enjoy watching the bot unlocking itself.

Don’t Neglect Your Icon
The icon is most people’s first impression of your app. It also occupies a space on users’ precious home screen. The best icons are simple but memorable; they stand out without being garish. The icon should look beautiful at large sizes, yet iconic enough to be recognized within an app folder on the home screen.

Clear’s icon stands out using a bright color scheme and one simple shape. The icon on the right has too many conflicting colors and shapes to be recognizable or attractive.
Clear’s icon (left) stands out using a bright color scheme and one simple shape. The icon on the right has too many conflicting colors and shapes to be recognizable or attractive.

Programming

Your technical choices influence the experience of the app, and thus, its success on the App Store.

Go Native

The “build once, deploy everywhere” method is a terrific recipe for mediocre apps.

To start, the method itself is a myth. Different operating systems have different UI conventions and patterns. With the exception of games where a custom interface is desired, one interface that deploys to all platforms results in a foreign experience on each platform.

Facebook tried HTML5 for years. When they recently switched to native code, they were able to improve performance by 200% and increase their average user rating from two stars to four stars.
Facebook tried HTML5 for years. When they recently switched to native code, they were able to improve performance by 200% and increase their average user rating from two stars to four stars.

At very best, we can build once and optimize everywhere. Apps like Zipcar have successfully used this approach. Unfortunately, Zipcar is an exception to the rule of suboptimal apps built using this approach. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Build once, optimize everywhere encourages a bottom-up design approach where the programming heavily constrains the design of the app. It stifles design innovation by tempting you to cut corners in order to satisfy the lowest common denominator.
  • Technologies like PhoneGap essentially turn your app into a browser window that runs JavaScript code. Avoid these. JavaScript apps tend to feel slow, choppy, unnatural and error-ridden because JavaScript just isn’t ready to match native experiences.
  • Tools like Appcelerator compile native code. These perform much better but still lack the flexibility and robustness of pure native code. Since you do not have direct access to the code that is running on the phone, errors can be more difficult to locate and squash. They can also make it difficult to implement new technologies right away, giving you a disadvantage against competitors who can tie into new technologies from the day they are announced.
  • The bottom line: choose your technology based on the design, not your design based on your technology. Design your apps for the various platforms first. Then see if something like Appcelerator is capable of executing those designs without compromise.

For an in-depth view of cross-platform trade-offs, read Aral Balkan’s comprehensive treatment on the subject.

Code Quality Matters

While perfectly-formed, well-documented code does not directly affect the user, it certainly affects your ability to push out timely, robust updates, something that can be critical to continued success.

In addition, laggy, bug-ridden code definitely affects the user. The user doesn’t care if there is a good reason why the app crashed or deleted their data — it’s still the brand’s fault. I have seen cases where this alone has stolen the thunder out of the launch of otherwise promising apps.

Hourly rates can be deceiving. In the time it takes a poor coder to build one component sloppily, a quality coder can build three components robustly. If you decide you don’t like the poor coder, a new coder will most likely have to start from scratch because the legacy code only makes sense to its author. On the other hand, quality code can be reused and built upon easily.

Marketing

If you have a marketing department, good for you, but grassroots marketing by a developer or a designer can often be even more effective. Believe me, when I started, my name didn’t mean anything to anybody that mattered. Now my work has been featured by Apple, Mashable, TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, Fox News and dozens more. All this without spending a dime on marketing, aside from a few website costs.

Start Early

Many developers think of marketing as something to do after an app launches. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A huge launch is critical, especially for inexpensive apps. If your launch does not propel your app into the top charts, the app will most likely fade into oblivion almost instantly amidst the thousands of apps launching every week. An app that is not on a top chart is nearly invisible to most consumers.

After the launch, a review here and there doesn’t help much to propel your app up the charts. It’s just the way the App Store rankings work. Ranking algorithms constantly change but they are roughly based on sales in a window of time, say four days, weighted towards the latest day. This means that marketing you do today will not affect your ranking a week from now, making fragmented press all but worthless. Only concentrated marketing blasts work. The launch constitutes your number one chance to show your app to the world in a concentrated way.

With this in view, App Savvy author Ken Yarmosh characterizes the marketing of apps as a crescendo. Marketing an app should start at the very beginning and continually develop as it consummates in a huge launch blast.

Make Friends

Connections are everything. They power your marketing machine. No connections means no warm doors, and, with thousands of apps vying for press attention every week, a warm door is gold.

I have created Twitter lists of Apple employees, members of the press and remarkable iOS developers to help me find opportunities to connect. Feel free to use them!
I have created Twitter lists of Apple employees, members of the press and remarkable iOS developers to help me find opportunities to connect. Feel free to use them!

Connect With Apple Employees, Tech Writers and Influential Designers and Developers in the Community
Realize that actual human beings run companies like Apple, TechCrunch and tap tap tap. A lot of these people are really cool and love to meet and promote people with great products and ideas. Make a list of people to connect with and actively seek opportunities to do so.

Go Where They Are

  • Twitter is a good place to start — nearly every influencer in the tech industry tweets.
  • Commenting on influential blogs or emailing the author can be a great way to initiate contact.
  • Face-to-face connections are the most powerful, so be sure to hit up the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and other conferences that the Apple community tends to congregate at. Local meetups are also a great place to meet people.

Be Cool, Don’t Spam
Just because you get the opportunity to talk to someone doesn’t mean they are instantly interested in your pitch. Build a meaningful connection first. Then they’ll be asking you what cool things you’re up to. When you do show off some work, do it in the way of seeking advice and feedback rather than pitching. It comes off better and often elicits great feedback.

Give and You Shall Receive
Build meaningful connections with people by getting into their mind and thinking about their needs and wants. Maybe an influential person asks a technical question on Twitter that you know the answer to, or writes a post you have thoughts on. Be sure to respond! Do this a few times and they might just notice. Finally, remember that people have egos — be sure to let them know when you appreciate their work.

Post Interesting Stuff
Link to insightful articles and maybe even write your own blog with the things you learn about. People love to read honest journaling and analysis of apps. Websites like iDevBlogADay promote your articles to the community.

Build Buzz

You don’t want your launch to fall flat, so a few weeks before launch, start revving up the hype machine. The idea is to build up a fan base who will be the first to download your app on launch day.

Teaser websites like this one can help build anticipation and collect email addresses.
Teaser websites like this one can help build anticipation and collect email addresses. Large view.

  • Set up Twitter and Facebook accounts for your app. This gives potential fans an easy way to follow and mention your app. Use the account to post sneak peeks, updates on progress and contests. You can even use the account to follow people you think might be interested in the app. They’ll see you’re following them and might even check the app out.
  • Build a teaser website with a form to sign up to your mailing list. Include something to entice people — an attractive Web design, a beautiful screenshot and maybe even a video.
  • Create a video. Nothing builds buzz like a well-done video. The buzz behind the Clear video exemplifies that. It’s also an easy way to show the press what your app is all about.
  • Run a private beta. Your beta testers will be your biggest fans going into launch because they feel invested in the development of the app.

Get Featured

After winning an Apple Design Award, my app was featured in nearly every tech publication I had ever hoped for, but all that press combined generated fewer downloads than when Apple featured it.

So how does one get featured by Apple? Thousands of apps come out every week, and only a select few find a place on the App Store homepage.

Only a small number of apps are featured on the Apple App Store homepage.
Only a small number of apps are featured on the Apple App Store homepage.

First, the app has to be “featureable.” It must interest Apple in some way. Does it have a polished design? Does it show off the Apple platform? Is it something you cannot find on other platforms? Any of these characteristics boost your chances. The good news is that out of the thousands of apps coming out, very few feature the kind of design discussed here, making it relatively easy to stand out.

Second, you need to get Apple’s attention. Making connections within Apple can be invaluable. As a general rule, though, you need to make your own splash before Apple will make you a bigger one. Apple has an editorial team. They find apps to feature. You need to get to the places they are looking. Based on my experiences, they probably look at new apps that are “charting” — moving up the charts. For that, you need to generate a good number of launch-day sales. It takes at least a few hundred sales to chart in most categories. Besides that, think of the places you might go to find new quality apps; they probably visit the same websites.

Pitch the Press

Press reviews help establish credibility, an initial stream of downloads and visibility to influential people or Apple employees. Seek press attention at least a week or two before launch — these people are busy and you want to try to have reviews lined up to publish on launch day.

Getting the press to review your app is an important part of a good marketing strategy.
Getting the press to review your app is an important part of a good marketing strategy.

This is the part where you contact all those really great friends you’ve made within the press and tech community, giving them a sneak peek of your app and asking if they want to hear more.

After exhausting your warm doors, start cold calling. Have a story, keep it short, make it personal and don’t forget to follow up.

Build a Fan Base

The most powerful app company is one with a fan base. Sonico Mobile, a partner on our latest app, Languages, recently released an app called iTranslate Voice. The app became an instant #1 hit with very little promotion from the press or Apple. How? Sonico advertised iTranslate Voice to their 30 million strong iTranslate user base and sent out an email to their massive mailing list.

All of Sonico's apps allow users to easily follow the company on Twitter or subscribe to their mailing list.
All of Sonico’s apps allow users to easily follow the company on Twitter or subscribe to their mailing list.

A fan base takes time to develop. Be sure to make it easy for fans to join your mailing list, like your Facebook page and follow your Twitter account. In addition, consider a mass-market free app as part of a strategy to gain millions of fans. Ad bartering services like Swappit allow you to build up ad impression credits and use them all at once on a big launch.

Conclusion

Success is measured in different ways. The first version of Grades made less than $10,000, but it was a stepping-stone to an Apple Design Award, and dozens of invaluable connections. Now our company is positioned to launch top-selling apps like Languages, which is more than making up for Grades pecuniary issues.

Monetary success is hard, but it gets easier as you go. As you consistently produce quality apps, your brand becomes recognized by the press and Apple, your team gains critical hands-on experience and you develop a fan base. This is definitely a long-term game, but the payoff can be incredible. It’s a great feeling to know that millions of people are enjoying the fruit of your hard work. Learn the lessons, don’t compromise and make a dent in the universe.

(cp)

© Jeremy Olson for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Ten days ago, the social video app Cinemagram was hovering around No. 50 in the iOS U.S. photo and video category. The company needed about eight Amazon servers to keep itself running. It had a respectable number of downloads, but no real pop.

Then it released a new version that, among other tweaks, required users to create accounts in order to use the app  – effectively making Cinemagram a social network rather than just a GIF creation tool.

Temo Chalasani

The pickup was nearly instant. Cinemagram shot up to the top of the App Store — it went as high as No. 2, and is currently No. 4. The five-person company needed as many as 720 Amazon servers before figuring out how to be more efficient. They’re now at about 300.

Today, the app is nearing five million downloads, with hundreds of thousands of daily active users growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent per day, according to internal metrics.

(Check out the App Annie charts to see how things shot up shortly after the new release on Oct. 10.)

I met Cinemagram founder Temo Chalasani for a hurried lunch amid Amazon outages on Monday, during which he described a bit more about how his company emerged from relative obscurity to madcap momentum.

To be sure, it’s entirely unclear what angle this particular growth event will look like in a few months. Will this be the beginning of the Cinemagram hockey stick? A spike that recedes back to normalcy? Will everyone get caught up in the “is-it-the-next-Instagram?” hype and then regret it?

Chalasani is the first to admit that there are many mobile social video apps. And many of them are trying various tricks to make video more snackable and mobile-friendly — for instance, Vine, which was recently bought by Twitter before even being released, promised to make it simple to make little video summary highlight reels.

And, actually, when I first talked to Chalasani in April, he wasn’t calling Cinemagram a video app. Rather, it was a GIF creation app. Basically, you could make a sort of hybrid photo-video where you animated one part of a photo while leaving the rest frozen by “masking” it. The effect can be really cool and mesmerizing when done right.

It turned out that people liked creating these nifty, artsy GIFs, but they also just liked making short, silent personal videos. A few months ago, Cinemagram started offering the option to post straight videos without doing the GIF animation trick. Today, 75 percent of Cinemagram videos have no masking effect.

Still, the original concept of animated GIFs provided some constraints for videos that actually work nicely on mobile phones. Cinemagram’s “cines” are limited to two seconds, and are silent. They’re so short that they’re basically just moving pictures. And they automatically repeat, so they’re easy to tune in and out of.

“This is not the kind of video you would find on YouTube,” said Chalasani.

Rather, it’s the kind of video that’s incredibly easy for people to make and watch on mobile phones.

Chalasani pointed out that two seconds is actually a normal limit for the length of a shot you’d see in a movie — only a professional editor would cobble tons of these little shots together.

A couple seconds is not enough for a plot, but you can maybe get across an emotion or a mood.

As such, cines tend to be quite personal. But like any other social network, Cinemagram benefits from the halo of celebrity users. Below is a popular cine of rapper Tyga’s brand-new son, from a few days ago.

So is that the lesson, then? Slap a social network onto a nifty video app and you’re done? Maybe, but it wasn’t just that, Chalasani said.

For instance, one other recent trick that helped boost Cinemagram growth was better social sharing. Of the major social networks, only Tumblr supports GIFs. So Cinemagram made a sort of widget that makes its videos play in Facebook news feeds.

TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler also notes that Cinemagram isn’t the only mobile social media iOS app that seems to be growing like a weed; Snapchat is another recent standout. (Super-secret tip: For more on Snapchat, come to our Dive Into Mobile conference next week.)

Cinemagram raised a $1 million convertible note over the summer, and much of the team is in the process of moving from Montreal to San Francisco. Currently, my Cinemagram feed is jam-packed with Silicon Valley investors giving it a whirl.

Besides the VC money, Chalasani and the team do have some semblance of a business plan. They already have a relationship with Red Bull to make highlight reels out of user-submitted cines.

But right now they’re just trying to keep up with hypergrowth.

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