Before the invention of the iPhone and the creation of the Android device, the market leader for smartphones was Research in Motion. Through it’s main product, the Blackberry, companies and individuals could tap into their emails, make phone calls, and use numerous apps and games right from the palm of their hands. It was all the rage and everyone had to have them. Now focus on today’s market and the entire landscape has shifted away from RIM’s grasp and focus: Only 5% of US smartphone buyers chose to get a Blackberry. Why is that? It’s because more and more apps and appeal is being given to the competitors from Apple and Google. What’s worse is that for those 5% of consumers who actually bought a Blackberry, most are probably not even satisfied with their phone.
So why did they buy them? Probably for a variety of reasons…the physical keyboard, perhaps? Or maybe it’s because it’s compatible with their work email client? Maybe they don’t like the fact that potential malware could be in apps that they’ve heard is plaguing Android devices? Or lastly, maybe it’s because they don’t want to give themselves up to the Apple fanaticism? Whatever the reasoning is, there are still those people out there who wish to purchase a Blackberry…now the question is why is Blackberry still doing so poorly? Some might speculate that the phone manufacturer isn’t keeping up with the times or maybe that there’s just not enough demand for mobile apps to come out. Think about the latest and greatest mobile apps that have emerged recently, whether it’s Path or Instagram or even a proximity app like Highlight–all of which are available on iOS or even Android devices, but would they ever develop for Blackberry? At last month’s PandoMonthly event, Path founder Dave Morin explicitly said that they’d never develop for Blackberry (Windows Phone is a possibility, however).
Have you ever wanted to build your very own mobile application? Are you having trouble trying to figure out the server-side backend functionality? Well don’t waste precious time on that–a new startup has emerged out of it’s “beta” phase to help you out. It’s called Parse and it was started in June 2011 as a service designed to “provide cloud service for mobile developers. It makes it dead simple to add a backend to your iOS or Android app.” With over 10,000 developers already signed up with Parse, the goal for the company is to be, quite frankly, considered the “Heroku of Mobile“.
A Y Combinator-funded company, Parse was founded by startup veterans, including co-founders Ilya Sukhar, James Yu, Tikhon Bernstam, and Kevin Lacker. Just within their first year, Parse has raised over $7 million in funding from angel investors like Google Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Yuri Milner, Garry Tan, Don Dodge, SV Angel, and many others, in addition to a Series A round covered by Ignition Partners. With all this funding, what problem is Parse really trying to solve? Well according to Mr. Bernstam, a co-founder, many mobile app developers just aren’t “deeply familiar” with the server-side code that you need to manage things like databases, user authentication, notifications, and even other common features. Parse hopes to cut through all that angst and just let developers push out their mobile apps a lot quicker by simply leveraging the service’s extensive library of resources.
The hit mobile application Instagram is moving one-step closer to making their app available to millions of potential new users. As first announced by The Verge, Instagram has launched a brand new page on their website designed to help people be notified when the long-awaited Android version is launched and made available.
We first got wind of Instagram’s plan to roll out an Android app around the time of South by Southwest where co-founder Kevin Systrom indicated that it was “coming soon”. There’s still no Android app available right now, but this is another key milestone for those who have been keeping track of the missing Instagram Android app saga. Right now, the company has amassed a loyal following of over 27 million registered users and has made some interesting news of late, including the large partnership with another popular iOS app, Hipstamatic. And with only four employees and a pretty impressive growth spurt over the past two years, it’s amazing that the app has kept being so popular throughout its entire existence.
Right now, interested people who want to be kept in the loop about the expected launch of Android can do so on Instagram’s website. Basically it’s an email newsletter-type sign up and by encouraging others to sign up, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be the first or at least move up your spot for notification–it’s a fair and level playing field right now. So make sure you sign up today!
If you’ve ever had to register for a party or an event, chances are that you’ve had to sign up using Eventbrite. Nearly anyone who’s anyone that has hosted an event has used the ticket service. Perhaps the ticketing powerhouse that will surely rival any of its nearest competitors, Eventbrite is a juggernaut eager to help make buying tickets easy and social. The four-year-old San Francisco-based company is always on the lookout to try and find ways to improve the event registration space, and today, they’ve just unveiled what could be the crown jewel for all event planners.
Known as the At The Door Card Reader, this device will be especially helpful for those planners who are pre-charge their attendees to come by, but also understand that on game day, there will be those stragglers who realize they didn’t register and will try and get in at the door. Well, normally the person at the door will have to charge the fee, but what if the attendee doesn’t have enough cash? Then they’ll need to get cash and what if you don’t have exact change? Believe me, it could wind up being a total mess. You probably don’t want to deal with that headache–instead, just use what most people probably have on them: a credit or debit card. And that’s exactly where the At The Door Card Reader comes in. Through the use of this card reader, you can easily sell more tickets and merchandise and track those sales right through transactions done with the card reader.
Every year, companies and startups always try to come up with some clever gimmick or promotion that will really get the public’s attention at the South by Southwest conference. Some are really great, while others…well…need work on. Skype, for example, decided to have an old-town crier stand outside the Austin Convention Center and read about how people should visit their booth or tent to get refreshments and just relax. But the one thing that I want to highlight here was the efforts of another company who had wanted to plug their product, but also wanted to give something back.
Nokia, long known for being a telecommunications manufacturing company, decided to help do some social good while attending SXSW while also promoting their brand new phone, the Nokia Lumia 800. So what they did was contact a few SXSW attendees/influencers and ask if they wanted to participate and get a free phone as part of the program. Now, I should totally point out that I was asked and did participate in this program (yes, Nokia gave me a Nokia Lumia 800 phone at SXSW to participate in this campaign). But the point isn’t about the phone, it’s about the social good program that Nokia took which remains the central focal point of what they did at SXSW.
You see, in 2011, Texas was on the receiving end of one of the worst fire seasons on record. Firefighters from over a dozen states came to help battle the blaze with hundreds of counties declared as disaster areas. While the Red Cross provided assistance to the thousands affected by this disaster, there was additional room to help recover the land lost. So Nokia decided that this year, they wanted to put their reputation as a green company to the test and when SXSW rolled around, 50 Twitter fans (myself included) participated in a 48 hour marathon where by just using the hashtag #IJustPlantedATree, for each tweet, Nokia would plant five trees locally in Austin through the Arbor Day Foundation. The telephone manufacturer certainly put its money where its mouth is.
The goal was to reach 10,000 trees within 48 hours and each tweet was going to count for five–even the public could jump in, but their tweets would count for one tree being planted. At certain times, texts were sent to the participants notifying them that at these times, each tweet would count for more. What’s astonishing is that this effort wasn’t necessarily broadcast to the entire world–most people probably didn’t even know what it was about, and people didn’t have to divulge it or associate it with SXSW. Any tweet produced, whether through Twitter.com, a third-party app, or a non-Nokia phone were eligible and reaped the rewards. After 48 hours, the dream of 10,000 trees planted was quickly washed away, as the resulting total was over 44,000 tree were announced to be planted! That’s right, the amount of tweeting done by participants easily trumped their original goal and forced Nokia to continue to increase their budget and raise their total.
Brett Murray, Head of Influencer & Lifestyle Marketing at Nokia, said that #IJustPlantedATree is based on Nokia’s Nordic culture and that’s what Nokia stands for. This gamification program has definitely taken off and people were able to check out their status on the leaderboard. The program was so successful that within 90 minutes of the program launching, the hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter. Over 18 hours later, and Mr. Murray says that they’ve approached 8,000 trees that Nokia pledged to plant with 30 hours left. The rate that the tweets were coming in helped exceed Nokia’s goal by at least 3-4 times what any of the company’s representatives ever expected.
Just how much will 44,000 trees do to save the environment and the world? Over 11 million pounds of carbon dioxide will be absorbed each year, with over 2 million pounds of oxygen generated. 22,000 families of 4 will benefit from fresh air like they’ve never breathed before. And there’s a financial incentive as well for these trees: $309,000 in estimated savings, $32 million worth of recycled fresh water each year, and $54 million in air pollution control in annual savings.
A well-executed campaign for social good, I think. Instead of plugging about their new phone, Nokia decided to talk about the environment and help raise awareness about who they are and how they’re all about sustainability. As Mr. Murray says, Nokia is looking to establish a foothold in North America and this recent effort helps give them a real good promotion.
Disclosure: At SXSW, Nokia provided me with a free Nokia Lumix 9000 phone to participate in this program. At no point was I asked to write a post or required to talk about it. These words are my own. I have not been compensated for this post.