There’s a seemingly never-ending sea of new apps to explore at SXSW. You find out about them from marketing tricks including pop-up demonstrations when people gather around, roving folks in bright shirts bribing people with free food and drink, kiosks with flashy animations, tons of flyers left lying around, posters taped to every blank spot on every pole in town, overhearing conversations, and of course, bumping into friends. There doesn’t seem to be a “breakout app” that has captured the conversation, but I’ve discovered a few that I’d like to mention:
LevelUp is (yet another) payment app — but with a twist: it’s really easy to install, configure and use. I was standing in line to buy an over-priced slice of pizza and a cup of $10 bad wine when I saw a poster inviting me to “LevelUp and save $5 on my next purchase”. So, as I stood in line, I downloaded the app. There were only 2 people in front of me, so the test was to see if could get the app downloaded and configured to buy my pizza in just a few minutes. The download went swiftly, the app asked me if it could “scan” my credit card and then requested that I confirm a few security details. I then connected it to Facebook for login, and I was ready to go. Right as I finished the configuration, it was my turn to order. LevelUp displays a QR code, which is scanned by a device connected to the market’s cash register (kinda like the Starbucks app). I scanned, and was ready to go in seconds. For using it, I got an instant $5 off my order, which resulted in free pizza for me (although I had to fork over a lot for bad wine). The app is available for iOS and Android right now.
Highlight is not a new app for SXSW, but is getting a lot of buzz here right now. Highlight senses the area you’re in and alerts you if your friends are nearby. The idea is to take social networking to a hyper-local level. The app is simple to configure: it will search your Facebook friends and ask you to choose the ones you want it to scan for. It will also search your phone’s contacts. Highlight is available on iOS and Android.
GonnaBe is an app that lets you make plans to hookup with friends. You can quickly create “events” and invite your friends to join you. Say you just grabbed a 4-seat table in a hot bar and you want to alert your friends who are nearby to join you, you no longer have to text them individually. Just create your plan, and then share it to your followers or social channels in seconds. Scan your feed to see the plans of the friends you follow or see the feed of the public plans around you if you’re feeling spontaneous. GonnaBe is available now for iOS and soon for Android.
The Twist app is a convenient way to let people know when you’re going to arrive at an event. Their thinking is that people are constantly late, and Twist will make life easier by eliminating the stress and headaches caused by uncertain wait times and travel delays. Twist monitors your calendar and email and will automatically let people know when you’re going to arrive based on your location. Twist can automatically send an update to the parties that are waiting on you to let them know when you’ll be there. So no more fumbling in the car, endangering your life (and others) trying to peck out a text explaining you’re stuck in traffic… while you’re in traffic! Twist is available for iOS.
Tired of those sites that promise to sell your gadget for you and earn you tons of dough? They’re great, but they sure do take a fat percentage. Well, here comes Vendly — a free marketplace for you and your friends to sell and buy anything from each other. No middleman, sort of. Vendly is easy to use, simply snap a picture with your phone, add a description, share it via email, Twitter or Facebook and then wait for your networks to see and buy! Vendly is available on iOS and Android.
Foodzy promises to turn getting healthy into a game! Foodzy is yet another “personal food journal” but one with a twist. Instead of just entering everything you eat from a never-ending list of ridiculous food databases, with Foodzy you turn what you eat into an activity stream with a real-time dashboard giving you a picture of how your “food day” went. You can also connect your gadgets like a FitBit to let Foodzy know how much you’ve exercised. Foodzy translates your calories into its own “Bits” point scale and awards you badges and extra points for engaging in healthier activities. It’s available on iOS and Android.
Kismet is another “social planning” app in what’s seemingly becoming a crowded field. Kismet promises to simplify your social life by connecting you to nearby friends and letting you make plans together. When you send out an invite to friends, they can RSVP (even without the app). Everyone you invite to the event you’re planning are placed into a closed “group” where you can message each other to work out the details. Kismet is available on iOS.
Yiftee lets you send small gifts (usually $20 or less) from your phone or the web for any reason: birthdays, thank-you’s, or get well wishes. Yiftee works with local businesses to fulfill the gifts. Giftees receive them on Facebook, email or text and stop by a local merchant to pick them up. Yiftee is available on iOS.