Here is a video of the exclusive app that ESPN created for Nokia Windows Phones. The app is beautiful, no doubt. It follows all of the Metro design principles with the pivots, the in-app pinning, etc. What I found out though, as an existing Windows Phone user, is that the app left a lot to be desired. Perhaps it was my high expectation level about an exclusive Nokia app, or that ESPN would take their current ScoreCenter app and raise it a notch. Whatever the case may be, it was a little bit disappointing.
The biggest issue that I saw, and I feel it is an opportunity missed at least in this version of the app, is the lack of Live Tiles. If Nokia wants to wow the new Windows Phone users, it would be fantastic if the users could not only pin an individual sport to the Start Screen, but also get toasts or Live Tile updates for that sport. As an ESPN registered member you can choose to receive text alerts, for example, at various intervals within a game. Those alerts could easily have been implemented as toasts or Live Tiles within the app.
Video walkthrough of the ESPN app exclusive on Nokia Windows Phones:
In this video, the Nokia representative is talking about the app, but is also talking about the platform in general which allows you to do many things within the context of what you are doing rather than force you to open multiple apps. What you will notice is that after going two levels deep, the links end up opening the ESPN mobile web, which is not bad. However, compared to the native app, it does look quite different.
The Nokia ESPN app is a well-designed one which looks beautiful. It has pretty good functionality for “version 1”, but I hope Live Tiles and greater in-app content gets to the app soon, perhaps even before the official ship date of the Nokia Lumia 900.
For a hands on look at the Nokia Lumia 900, see my earlier post.
This is the first in, hopefully what will become, a series of interview with independent developers. The goal is to profile developers building great apps (mobile, desktop, web) and hopefully get some honest answers about what works and what does not work being an independent developer.
Chris Sainty is an Australian software developer with over 10 years experience developing desktop and web applications for retail clients. An early and eager supporter of the direction Microsoft has taken with the Windows Phone 7 platform, Chris had an app in the marketplace and a phone in his hand at launch. A year later his app, gReadie, remains a popular choice for Google Reader users on Windows Phone 7.
Chris Sainty (CS): gReadie is a Google Reader client for Windows Phone 7. In a highly competitive segment of the app marketplace, gReadie targets powerusers who follow a lot of feeds and need to quickly scan their feeds to find the posts of real importance. This is done by using a clean and simple UI, that is well tuned for finding the posts you want and then either reading them in-app or saving them to an external services (such as Read It Later, Instapaper etc.) for later follow up.
TB: What made you decide to write a gReader client and that too for an unknown platform?
CS: Prior to Windows Phone 7, I was using an iPhone 3GS. By far, my most used app on iOS was a Google Reader client. So I knew when switching to WP7, I was going to need an app to do the same. Having prior C# and Silverlight knowledge, I was very keen to write something for the WP7 platform. So it was a natural fit that my most used app should be my own.
It was a risk to invest so much effort into a new platform, and one that has not been financially rewarding yet. However, I believe things are just getting started for apps on Microsoft platforms and do not regret for a moment the experience gained from being an early mover on the platform.
TB: What technology/ies have been used in the making of gReadie? Any open source tech/libraries? Is the gReadie code open sourced?
CS: The current version of gReadie is using only two open source libraries ServiceStack.Text (https://github.com/ServiceStack/ServiceStack.Text) for JSON processing and the Silverlight Toolkit (http://silverlight.codeplex.com/) for a couple of UI elements. Though, I am very unhappy with the latest version of the Silverlight toolkit which broke every single control I was using without explanation or documentation. Previously gReadie has used many other libraries for various purposes, but these are the only two still in use. Internally gReadie is using the new SQL Compact support enabled in Mangowhich allows it to provide excellent offline reading capabilities even with thousands of posts downloaded.
App Internet is a phenomenon that Forrester defines as “specialized local apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services” across smartphones, tablets, and other devices. A few weeks ago, I gathered a few insights on the same by Ellen Daley, Vice President at Forrester at the NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave 2011.
There are over hundreds of photography-related iPhone apps available in the iTunes app store and it’s quite hard to decide which app is the best. Here’s a list of carefully selected iPhone apps that will easily capture/edit your photos and share them with your friends.
Instagram lets you take quick photos or use photos that already exist in your iPhone, apply creative filters and share it with friends on Flickr, Facebook or Twitter. You can also tag your photos with location using your foursquare account.
Instagram has over 11 different custom filters you can apply to your photos.
PicPlz is similar to Instagram which allows you to quickly snap photos and share it among your online friends. In competition with Instagram, PicPlz also introduced filters to add some effect to your photos. You can view a live thumbnail preview of what your photo will look like with different filters.
Picture Effect Magic can transform your photos into retro photo or a picture drawn by a pencil or paints, or done in a Modern Art style by tap of a button. You can add cool filters like Vertical Quad and Subtense which you cannot find on any other app.
Camera+ shooting modes and high quality effects brings in the DSLR feeling. Camera+ has key feature like a stabilizer timer and take photos in burst mode. It has 6Ã— higher quality zoom with ability to adjust photos by flipping, rotating and cropping it.
Camera+ lets you share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and even email.
ToonPAINT allows you to easily create awesome looking cartoon-paintings with your photos and give them a fun animated look. The app offers the ability to change colors by double tapping on the color splat.
This app allows you to shoot an auto HDR just like the Apple built-in version, but allows you to capture 3 or more photos. Pro HDR captures images exposed for the highlights and another exposed for the shadows. It then merges the images to give you a 3- or 5-megapixel HDR image.
Panorama is very popular feature on most digital camera. This feature allows you to take multiple photos of a horizontal landscape which are later combined together to form one picture.
Its usually very difficult to capture multiple pictures and combining them together. This iPhone app makes your life easy. It automatically combines all the pictures for your and generates the final picture.
TimeLapse is the professional choice for automating the iPhone and iPod’s camera to help create time lapse photo sequences. It is used to create HD videos on your iPhone and store full size, GPS tagged, photos in the photo library for later downloading.
Google is entering the group messaging market with its latest launch, an app for iPhone called Disco. As predictable, the app allows users to create groups from their contacts and send them messages, letting any user who is a member of the group then reply to the message.
The app is currently available for the iPhone but not for Android devices which is pretty ironic. The only thing that may explain this is the fact that the app is developed by an autonomous business unit within Google called Slide. Slide was an independent app development house before Google acquired last year for a whopping $182 Million. Slide apparently still works on its own as a separate business unit. When you create a group, a new phone number is also assigned to your group; any messages sent to that number are visible to the whole group. Group members can also be added online at Disco.com and each group can include up to 25 members. Google acquired the Disco.com domain last year for $255,000 at DomainFest.
The app has a neat functionality but doesn’t add much innovation compared to similar apps that already exist in the market place. Time will tell if Disco follows the trend of Gmail and Android when it comes to being a success, or follows other social efforts like Google Wave and Google Buzz into obscurity. The app can be downloaded from iTunes.