Update: The deadline to sign up has been extended to March 10! Be sure to sign up now here!

Citi Mobile Challenge participants

Last year, I had the honor of being a judge at the second iteration of the Citi Mobile Challenge, a development contest put on by Citi where developers from all over the world compete in a hackathon-like competition to come up with the best banking-focused solutions to support the next generation of mobile-friendly consumers. Citi has already begun working with some of the 2014 winners to integrate their ideas into real world products and are supporting those teams with funding, resources, and consulting. The team here at Appency is donating consulting time to help some of the winners through mobile marketing tactics such as ASO and app launch best practices.

The Contest
While the American challenge winners were selected only a few months ago, Citi has already opened the challenge to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (EMEA) with a brand new contest. Developers have until March 6, 2015 to register as participants. Once registered, developers must get their ideas on paper by March 13. After that, it’s go, go, go: Final concepts will be expected by March 27.

Once finalists are chosen they will be invited to present at one of four demo days at the end of April in London, Warsaw, Jerusalem, or Nairobi. Entries are being accepted from all over the world so developers don’t have to be located in an EMEA country to enter. Some of the best entries to the American challenge were international developers who traveled thousands of miles to pitch their ideas! It’s definitely worth the trip: There is $100,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, plus Citi and its partners like IBM, MasterCard, Uber, and even Appency will provide support and feedback to help hone the final product.

How to Win
As a past judge, here are a few tips on how to win that prize money. To start, you must understand that entries are being judged at every step by Citi employees. It’s only at the last step, the live demo, that the judges will be both Citi employees and outside consultants. To make it past those first hurdles you have to put yourself in the shoes of Citi and their consumers. How does your idea help Citi customers? How does it help Citi itself? If your idea cannot answer both sides of the question, then you need to head back to the drawing board.

Make sure you use the APIs that Citi provides. There are a number of data feeds to tap into that will allow your app to really become a part of the user’s banking life. Think about both consumer customers, and business customers — they expect less entries into the business customer area so the competition will be less fierce in that category.

Design is vital. If you do not have a quality designer on your team, get one. The presentation of an idea can by as vital to success as the idea itself. Both solid ideas and solid presentation are needed to convince the judges that your team and your app have what it takes.

Many entries come from experienced development shops, but I must caution them against shoe-horning banking or Citi-focused features into an existing project unless there is a clear, salient reason to do so. As a judge I saw — and, frankly, didn’t vote for — too many presentations that looked like a pre-existing app with Citi-specific features slapped on in hopes of sliding by and winning. Usefulness is rewarded in this competition.

Lastly, if you do make it to the finals, be sure to practice your presentation several times in front of real people who can give you good feedback. This will ensure your presentation flows well, anticipates questions or criticism, and fits in the limited amount of time allotted. Practicing your presentation in front of people outside your development team can also help prepare you for potential audience questions you may have to field after the presentation.

The chance to have a big brand get behind your work with this level of support does not come around very often so the competition will be brutal. Best of luck to all the entrants, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions! I am more than happy to give tips to anyone who asks — just shoot us an email at contactus@appency.com.

 

Aaron Watkins is the founder and president of Appency and was a judge at the 2014 Citi Mobile Challenge. He’s a big fan of apps that work.

Yahoo’s first Mobile Developer Conference took place in San Francisco last week. Over 1,000 attendees—including Appency—gathered  to learn about Yahoo’s new and improved mobile offerings, and the results lived up to the hype. Yahoo launched of a new suite of products to help developers analyze, advertise, and monetize their apps. These products combine Yahoo’s years of advertising technology with the mobile expertise of Flurry and BrightRoll, which joined Yahoo in 2014.

Flurry’s been around since the launch of the iTunes App Store. They provide developers the data they need to understand their audience, benchmarked with data from over 630 billion apps. Partnering with Yahoo gives them access to an enormous audience across multiple device platforms and technologies. Appency has used Flurry analytics for years, and we find these new updates very exciting, providing plenty of opportunity for our clients.

BrightRoll provides solutions for the entire video ecosystem. Their partnership will help create a complete suite of solutions.

Yahoo's new suite of tools

Flurry Analytics Explorer
Flurry has updated their analytics and now allows users to ask even more complex questions about their data than before, and the platform shows insights immediately. Developers can create custom events relevant to their specific app and reference them against any other piece of data Flurry gathers, and see immediate results. For instance, Instagram could track engagement by monitoring when users upload a photo, then cross reference that even against time of day to see when users are most engaged. As we have come to expect from Flurry, these new features have an easy-to-use interface and provide in-depth graphs. Importantly, these new analytics tools are free and require no new codes or new SDKs.

Flurry Pulse
Flurry Pulse makes it easy for developers to share app signals with partners using their existing Flurry SDKs. Pulse shrinks the app’s size and saves developers time: With fewer SDK implementations, developers can get an app out the door faster and still work with a broad range of partners. A partnership with comScore helps make this possible.

Yahoo App Publishing
Yahoo announced that developers now have the ability to monetize their apps with video ads, display ads, and native ads using Yahoo Gemini, BrightRoll, and Flurry. These are the same tools that Yahoo used to revamp their apps and they have seen a huge increase in their click-through rate and engagement, so it will be interesting to see how these tools translate from web to mobile.

Yahoo Search in Apps
This feature allows developers to integrate Yahoo Search into their apps. It improves experience by allowing users to search in the app instead of leaving the app to search. During the past few months Yahoo’s has seen an increase in retention and engagement with Search in apps, so we may see Yahoo coming back as a mobile search competitor, especially after users shared concerns about privacy and Google Chrome.

Yahoo App Marketing
Developers can now buy targeted native and video advertising across Yahoo’s network of 75 million monthly users with Yahoo Gemini’s native and mobile search marketplace, which could be a good opportunity to easily reach a broad audience.

To learn more check out www.developer.yahoo.com, or contact us here at Appency to get help with your own mobile advertising campaign.

Back in February, we blogged about how excited we were for Mobile App Europe, a new, app-exclusive weekend conference taking place in the heart of beautiful Potsdam. Now Mobile App Europe is less than one week away! The event will take place at the Dorint Hotel Sanssouci Potsdam from September 29 to October 1, 2014.

Appency is looking forward to attending and hearing what other experts in our field have to share, but we’re also proud to announce that our president, Aaron Watkins, will be speaking on the difference found marketing apps in Europe vs. the United States. With over ten years in the mobile industry and having worked with many European clients, Aaron brings his expertise to Potsdam to educate attendants about how to best take advantage of Europe’s attractive app market.

“The EU is a great place to launch an app—smaller countries mean smaller budgets are needed to achieve app rank, and they provide a good testing ground for apps before they attempt global reach,” Aaron says. His talk will cover some of these testing methods.

Beyond Aaron’s talk, some of Mobile App Europe’s keynote speakers include people from Google, AQuA, and Amazon Apps and Games. The conference offers six additional keynotes, 30 talks, and eight workshops. With conversations for app developers, managers, designers, and marketers, and testers, here are topics for discussion attendees can expect:

  • Android vs. iOS Design: the Double Effort?!
  • Phone Gap: How to Develop an App for All-Platforms
  • Mobile Retargeting for App: Increase Revenue and win back Dormant App Users
  • Apps without Borders: Making a Global App Network work for you
  • Tackling Fragmentation in the App Industry

The final day of Mobile App Europe will be an all-day, hands-on tutorial session with Jonathan Kohl of Kohl Concepts, Inc. Jonathan will teach attendees how to create an overall great user experience, and vigorous discussion is more than welcome. This seasoned expert will show teams how to thoroughly integrate a mobile experience to replace the once-dominant web and PC user experience.

We hope you are as excited as we are. If you’d like to meet up during the conference, get in touch by leaving a comment, or email us at contactus@appency.com. If you’ve already started looking at registration, we’ve got you covered! Use the code “MobileApp” during registration for a discount rate.

Auf Wiedersehen! Wir sehen uns bei Mobile-App Europa!

(Goodbye! See you at Mobile App Europe!)

Get more apptastic details at the conference website, http://mobileappeurope.com/

Last week, Amazon announced brand new additions to its popular cloud computing and storage branch, Amazon Web Services, expanding Amazon into mobile analytics, app data synchronization, and user security. Their existing services are used by thousands of developers to store information or perform calculations to help make their apps run faster. Amazon’s global infrastructure and pay-as-you-go pricing have made them a popular choice, though Google has been trying to give them a run for their money.

These new services will be accessible through a SDK that will work across iOS and Android OS, so developers don’t have to reinvent solutions every time they move to a new platform. The services will also be pay-as-you-go, with no up-front investment, and the pricing is fairly cheap, consistent with their existing price structure. In a preview webinar before the launch, Amazon was happy to point out that they had frequently lowered their prices, though some analysts say this was in response to pressure from the wider market.

Amazon Cognito is a completely new service that helps developers cope with user identity and data synchronization in a variety of ways. First, it allows app users to securely sign into existing Facebook, Google+, and Amazon accounts as a way to establish an app account, potentially cutting out some uses of the Facebook SDK. Furthermore, these sign-ins are encrypted by Amazon and provide an extra layer of security for users. Second, it gives each user a unique ID, so their account syncs across devices and operating systems. This could potentially save developers a lot of time; with Amazon Cognito, they don’t have to write their own structure for cross-platform synchronization.

Finally, each user is assigned a unique and random ID. For most, this will correspond to their Facebook, Google+, or Amazon account, but for those users that prefer not to link their app account to a social media account; this unique ID will serve as an account, meaning they can use the app as normal and set their own preferences. If at a later point that user wants to set up an account, the user will experience no hiccups, but a smooth transition, with their preferences intact. This is an excellent, pre-built solution for the large number of users who do not want to share social information with apps – or who do not have a social media profile.

Amazon Mobile Analytics will provide many of the same analytics that other existing SDKs do. Amazon Web Services also emphasized the ease of use of the SDK; they claim that with one line of code, the developer can track active users, sticky factor, daily sessions, and various revenue tracking. With a few more lines, developers can track custom events personalized to the app. Amazon Web Services say their analytics can scale to billions of events per day from millions of users, without any back-end work for the developer.

However, with heavyweights like Flurry and Google Mobile Analytics leading the slew of analytics available to developers, the jury is still out on whether the benefits of Amazon Mobile Analytics outweigh the (admittedly small) costs. It is interesting to see Amazon premier this service around the same time as Apple rolls out new, more in-depth mobile analytics in iTunes Connect 3. One important differentiator may be that the data gathered by Amazon Mobile Analytics belongs to the developer who uses it, not to Amazon, meaning it will never be shared, aggregated, or reused.

Amazon SNS Mobile Push is an existing service that has will be getting new features. Developers will be able to send push notifications to their users in a timely manner, with expiry dates if desired, and the whole service will run much faster and will be easier to use. Amazon’s service specifically works with a wide number of push notification systems (Apple APNS, Google GCM, Baidu CP, and Amazon ADM), and the messages will be sent across the world with no problems because of Amazon’s global storage. Amazon did premier support for Baidu Cloud Push, Microsoft Push Notification Service, and Windows Push Notification Service in June, but it’s still noteworthy today, especially in tangent with the new user identity software from Amazon Cognito. There are a wide number of SDKs already available to developers to help segment users and manage contacts accordingly, including Appboy, which sees 30 percent click- through in their app’s newsfeed.

More information about the release is available from Amazon here.

 

Sara Kewin is an account manager at Appency who is waiting for the day when Amazon’s web services have server centers on the moon and Mars.

Smartphone software development is both an art and a science. Developers are incredibly protective of the great work that they produce, graphic designers have a passion for aesthetics and user experience designers have insights into the natural way that the product should interact with the user. The project manager binds it all together; keeping the communication open and the information flow between stakeholders just right. We could call this the dream team.

Then we come onto the customer. They are solely interested in a product that works. They have high expectations too and rightly so; mobile introduces a whole new set of user behaviour.

Of course, the customer has an interest of which tasks the development team are undertaking and an outline of the development methodology used. This however means nothing if it fails the core objective or doesn’t solve the problem.

They will be interested in the developments within the mobile industry and could be dazzled by the rumours of the new technology that will change the way we use a smartphone. They will buy into this and that’s a good thing. But the customer has one key goal – to make the product work for them and their customers. Anything else that came before it becomes pointless.

Become the guide
Between Apple and Android there are nearly 15 million smartphone apps available with a scary download and delete mentality. The need for the mobile application to truly meet the needs of the customer and their customers is as important as it ever was. You want longevity and you want engagement.

We must share the customer objective. We must guide the customer down the correct path and deliver the Minimal Viable Product (MVP). We must try not to dilute this with a list of features to make the app more appealing. That can come later down the line and a new release.

As a customer, if this isn’t happening then you need to think about if what you are doing is right.

The job of the development team is to challenge and question the customer brief. To ignite conversation, promote debate and create an even tighter brief. From this, we can then begin to produce the user stories, create tasks and plan out the development sprints. Does this sound familiar? Well, agile development is perfect for keeping communication between the development team and the customer ‘close’ and ‘regular’ but that’s for another post!

But wait…what about testing?
The dream team isn’t complete without a tester right? If you haven’t got a tester or product developer whose job it is to think beyond the screen then who is going to do it? Have this conversation early as it’s going to require careful planning around resource and project milestones.

Yes, we will test the application, Mr. Customer, that’s part of what we do.
I’ve heard this so many times. The reality of the situation is that if you haven’t created a separate line item of costs on your quote to the customer to test the application, then you are only testing against what you know. Generally, this tends to be on a simulator controlled by a mouse, not in the real world with real people doing different things in different locations with different software versions, battery levels, signal strength, mobile phone settings and differing memory levels all at the same time as using the app. Phew!

Quick tips to remember
The below graphic details six points to consider when developing a mobile application. We could have carried on well beyond twenty but we wanted to keep it short and sweet for you!

Six tips for mobile app development

 

Be flexible – software development is never 100% right
I started the post by saying that software development is an art and science, which is true. It’s also bespoke and no matter if you are Apple or Google, it will never be 100% perfect. So whilst you must test, test, test you must also keep testing and you must also keep iterating your product development.

There are some things that you just can’t predict. Testing wont give you the answer to these unknown situations. Humans are unpredictable but we can set expectations, minimise risk and plan out a healthy life for the mobile application.

Scott Hague is Managing Director of Integrated Change, a leading enterprise and consumer mobile app development agency. Scott has been involved in delivering over 55 mobile applications across all major platforms. You can find Integrated Change on Facebook or Google+, and Scott Hague is on LinkedIn.

Leadwerks Software today announces today Leadwerks 3, their new development platform for building mobile games with native code. Based on the technology developed for their successful game engine for PC, Leadwerks 3 brings a totally new approach to mobile game development. Applications built with native code are optimized to work with each platform. Games written with Leadwerks will run faster and be more powerful than their managed code counterparts.

 

Las Vegas, Nevada – Leadwerks Software announced today the release of Leadwerks 3, their new development platform for building mobile games with native code. Based on the technology developed for their successful game engine for PC, Leadwerks 3 brings a totally new approach to mobile game development.

While environments such as Unity and MonoDevelop use managed code – that is, code that is designed to be easily run on multiple devices – Leadwerks uses an approach called native code. Applications built with native code are optimized to work with each platform. That means games written with Leadwerks will run faster and be more powerful than their managed code counterparts.

Mobile is growing rapidly, but there still exists a gap between mobile gaming and the larger game industry, which has traditionally focused on consoles. Professional game studios overwhelmingly favor native code because of its speed and flexibility. By focusing on the standard the game industry already uses, Leadwerks provides both professional studios and indie developers with an easy pathway into mobile. Games written in C can be ported to Leadwerks 3 without having to rewrite them in a new programming language.

Leadwerks 3 brings some innovative new approaches to the table:
* The editor features tools for building game levels using a technique called constructive solid geometry. This streamlines the process of creating games, and makes it easier for artists to see what their games will look like as they build them.
* Leadwerks 3 uses automatic asset conversion. This means that images and objects can be reloaded on-the-fly, so an image can be modified in Photoshop and the result will show up in the editor right away. This removes tedious steps from the game development workflow.
* AI is supported out-of-the-box. The traversable areas AI can travel within are highlighted in the editor as you build your game level. Pathfinding is dynamic, meaning that if a door opens or a drawbridge lowers, the AI is smart enough to take the new routes that appear.
* The script language Lua is also supported, and can be combined with games written in native code. Scripted objects can be linked together in a visual flowgraph editor. This makes it easy to set up game interactions, something that can be a challenge when working with development platforms based solely on code.

Leadwerks CEO Josh Klint said that “Leadwerks 3 is a big step forward for our company and our users. We’re bridging the gap between mobile gaming and the traditional game industry.” The product received a favorable response at the GDC 2013 expo. “C is the game industry standard. Our market research at GDC 2013 revealed a huge demand for a cross-platform game engine built on native code. We found the design philosophy of Leadwerks resonates with a lot of developers.”

Leadwerks 3 can be purchased from the company’s website for $199 USD, with add-ons for iOS and Android publishing available separately. A source code license is available for professional studios. A 30-day trial can be downloaded from the company’s website.

Leadwerks 3

Leadwerks Software has provided game development tools to thousands of developers worldwide since 2006. It’s technology has been used in commercial games, education, training simulations, and military applications. To find out more, please visit Leadwerks online. Copyright (C) 2013 Leadwerks Software. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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