SpotMe: A Mobile Device Exclusively for Event Engagement

Last month, at the IBM Software Universe 2011 in Mumbai, India, all delegates were given a unique device called SpotMe. SpotMe is a specialized mobile device to get all event attendees activated and engaged in event activities and the networking around it. Of course, at the end of the event, everybody was required to return the device.

SpotMe

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The device helps in engaging attendees through active participation and includes ways to gather audience response. The attendee features and location functionality make for supercharged networking experience using the device. The device also facilitates logistics and information dissemination by providing maps, navigation, agenda and venue information, and other event details.

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At the event, I met Damien Plumettaz, the Event Engineer from SpotMe. I asked Damien if such functionality can be achieved using mobile apps on different platforms rather than lugging another device during a conference. He said that’s something they have on their idea board as well but wasn’t sure if they would venture in that direction. Damien also shared an interesting trivia about the SpotMe device. The device has microphone because during the design phase they wanted to include calling functionality so that you could call other event attendees through the device!

Here’s a quick hands on of SpotMe that I recorded at the event:

Easy Shopping with eBay India on Mobile

eBay India has been working on extending their reach to mobile internet users in India. After launching a mobile website at m.ebay.in, eBay has been releasing apps for all major mobile platforms in the Indian market.

  • With the recent announcement of eBay.in’s Android app, which is releasing in the next week, it is covering grounds on one of the popular smartphone platforms. (UPDATE: The Android app is live here)
  • An iPhone/iOS app is already available and can be downloaded from iTunes here.
  • There is also an app for Nokia phones, specially customized for C2-02 and C2-03. The app is coming soon and would be made available in Nokia Ovi Suite and will be pre-loaded  in those phones.
  • For non-smartphone users, ebay.in already has a mobile website which works on any mobile browser: m.ebay.in.

The other two smartphone platforms –  BlackBerry and Windows Phone – have been left out as of now. While Windows Phone does not have enough penetration in India to (may be) justify development costs (Although, there is a nice Windows Phone app from eBay US in the Marketplace already), it is surprising that eBay has left BlackBerry users out in the cold.

Interestingly, eBay also serves mobile users who do not have Internet on their mobile devices. The eBay SMS Pricecheck’ feature allows you to find the best deals via SMS. All you need to do is to SMS EBAY’ <keyword> to 9223892238. Note that this facility has been affected by the latest TRAI guidelines, and you would need to enable partial DND to use the service.

Official Flickr for Android App Arrives: Late and Still Not Great

Flickr has finally delivered their official app for the Android platform. The app allows you to take beautiful photos with the in-app camera, enhance with filters, and quickly share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more.

Flickr Android App

The app allows browsing and navigating in a nice way to make use of maps, tags, and activity around your photos. You can stay up to date with the latest comments and activity on your photos and take advantage of full screen browsing and slideshows. It also allows you to access additional features online such as powerful organizational tools, community groups, fun photo apps, and more to engage with the 60 million members strong Flickr community. Using Flickr’s easy privacy settings, the app takes care that you share photos only with the people you want with.

However, under the hood of the great concept and feature set, the app fails to impress. The UI is painfully slow, and sometimes multiple taps are required to select a button/option. The official thread for the Android App on Flickr forums clearly indicates that most users are not too happy with the app. Although the app is available for Android 2.1 and higher, a wide variety of Android phones are not supported. Of course there are major grouses against non-availability of the app in several countries and markets, specially from paying Flickr Pro customers.

The Official Flickr for Android app is currently available in the below countries from the Android Market:
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.

Flickr Android app

Samsung Unveils The ChatON Messenger

Samsung recently launched the new ChatON messaging service. It allows you to communicate instantly with any mobile phone and share text, pictures, calendar, contacts, emotions, hand-written notes and videos instantly with your friends. ChatON will also be available on all major smartphones, tablets, notebook PCs and Samsung feature phones.

With ChatON, Samsung has vastly simplified mobile communication by allowing users to connect to our upcoming feature phones and all major Smartphones in the market,said Ho Soo Lee, Head of Media Solution Center at Samsung Electronics. Users around the world can now enjoy easier and richer interactivity with whoever they want, in the format they want—this is mobile communication reinvented and democratized.

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The new Samsung ChatON service will be available in more than 120 countries, supporting up to 62 languages. It will come with with two functionality options – basic and advanced. The basic functionality option will be available only for feature phone users. It will allow them to share text, pictures, calendar, contacts and emotions through an easy-to-access client.

On the other hand, advanced functionality will be available for smartphone users. You can easily share photos and videos with your friends. You can view all the photos and videos in an automatically-generated content sharing ‘Trunk’. Smartphone users can also create their own content by adding texts, audio, background, etc, and share them as an ‘Animation message’.

Samsung will include the ChatON IM client in all th forthcoming devices showcased at IFA 2011. The Samsung ChatON messaging service will be available from October. Until then, check out the video below.

Official Facebook App for iPad Coming Soon

The was announced in January 2010, released in April 2010 and went on to become an instant hit. Over the past year and few months, Apple released the which included a new camera and several other new features.

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There are tons of apps available for the device. However, the one that was missing was the official app for the device. Facebook literally did nothing about developing an official app for iPad for over 16 months, but if the NYT’s report is right, an official Facebook app will soon be available for the iPad.

Apple and Facebook have not been at good terms since Apple launched Ping and Facebook dissed them after which they signed up with Twitter. Facebook is also said to be developing something called as Project Spartan which will run in Apple’s iOS Safari browser, allowing developers to sell apps while they bypass the App Store. However, iPad and other tablets are still an important user base for Facebook who reportedly see anywhere between 10-25% of their users visiting through mobile devices including the iPad.

If Facebook wants to dominate these devices, they have to have a presence on it and this move definitely makes sense. already has an absolutely amazing app for the iPad and have even extended the same experience to their web interface. Facebook on the other hand are planning something big according to NYT sources.

One person who works with Facebook said Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive and founder, has been heavily invested in the process, overseeing design decisions and the app’s unique features.

People who have seen the application said it has a slick design that has been tailored for the iPad and its touchscreen interface. Facebook developers and designers have also overhauled the Facebook Chat and Facebook Groups features for the application. And the app will go beyond the features available on the Facebook Web site by allowing users to shoot and upload photos and videos directly from the iPad’s built-in cameras.

The photo and video experience is amazing, offering full resolution and full-screen images,said a person who has seen the app.

Since mobile phones have already been replacing point-and-shoot cameras and iPhone also set to become a serious photography tool with iOS 5, it was very important for Facebook to have access to those user photos on the iPad too. Apps like Instagram are a big hit, and Facebook is missing out on those user photos which make a big chunk of Facebook’s daily activities.

In addition to that Facebook will also penetrate a growing market which is set to be a big contender to desktops and laptops of the future. After all, we would want to travel with smaller devices rather than carry bulky one’s and if you are not present on those, it could harm your business.

Though there are currently no screenshots of the Facebook app for the iPad, we hope that an official announcement will be made in the next few days. Stay Tuned.

Best Mobile Apps Of The Week for Android And iOS – #8

Welcome to the eighth edition of Best Mobile Apps of the Week for Android and iOS. Starting this week, I am going to list two apps each for Android and the iOS platform. Sadly, I will not introduce our readers to new Symbian apps from this week as well.

In this edition of BMATW, Android owners will be introduced to an app which will monitor their sleeping habits and an app which will help users create their own Android avatar! For iOS owners, there is a very popular Hindi news channel application and a RSS reader app.

Sleep As An Droid (Android)

Ignoring the grammatically incorrect title of the app, Sleep as an Droid helps a user to track his sleeping habit.

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Track your sleep and wake up gently with nature sounds in optimal sleep phase

Alarm clock with sleep cycle tracker. Wakes you gently in light sleep for pleasant mornings. Features: sleep graph history, sleep debt stats, sharing (FaceBook, email), nature alarms (birds, sea, storm…) with gradual volume up, music volume down when asleep, captcha, sleep talk/snoring recording.

The app uses the inbuilt accelerometer of your Android handset to track your movement while sleeping, and wakes you up when you are in a light sleep’. Users can also set mathematical puzzles as captcha codes, so as to completely wake them up from sleep!

Sleep As An Droid can be downloaded for free (2 weeks trial version) from the Android Market.

Androidify (Android)

Androidify was released by Google a couple of weeks ago on the Android Market. The app allows a user to create their own Android’ flavored avatar just for fun! Users can customize each and every aspect of their Android avatar including its height, width, clothes and hairstyle etc.

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Androidify yourself by customizing the little green Android as yourself, your family, your friends, anyone! Stretch it , shrink it, add a hoody, style its hair, throw on some shades, or even give it a parrot and a pirate hat. Arrrgh!

Once you’ve personalized your Android, share it with your friends, set it as a photo in your contact book, or use it in some inventive way we haven’t thought of yet. Have fun, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Sadly, the application does not allow users to create an animated avatar which is a letdown. Hopefully, Google will introduce this feature in a future update. Android users can download Androidify for free from here.

Reeder (iOS)

Reeder is one of the most successful RSS reader apps available for the iOS platform. The app has a very slick UI and with some nice and smooth transitions. Reeder supports syncing with Google Reader and allows users to browse their feeds either via feed or folders.

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Users also have the option to share a given piece of news with their friends on popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Reeder also supports Instapaper, ReaditLater, Readibility, state saving and Image caching. The app is available for the iPhone as well as for the iPad. The mobile version of Reeder costs $2.99, while the tablet version costs $4.99.

NDTV (iOS)

The NDTV app for iOS brings the latest news and videos from the NDTV newsroom to the users. The app also allows users to watch the live stream of some popular NDTV channels including NDTV India and NDTV Profit. The video streaming works on Wi-Fi as well as on 3G/EDGE.

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The NDTV Social section allows users to read and know more about the NDTV anchors and news reporters. The app is available as a free download for the iPhone as well as for the iPad.

Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 Beta released – Adds Chat

RIM today announced a new improvised version of Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 Beta available only for Beta Zone. The new version comes after almost gap of three year and brings in tons of new features like Chat for real time conversation. It also brings in new notification bar through which you can check out notifications, friend requests, and messages. User can access these notifications even if they are not inside the app.

News Feed also has been improved with ability to add photos to friends Walls, update, check in to Facebook Places etc and makes it easier to like/comment on friends update without accidently clicking on like.

Initially the app is app is available only for Beta Zone users and only for those sporting BlackBerry OS 6 device.     All in all this is a pretty huge update from the previous version of the app and since there are very limited number of downloads available be quick to get hold of your copy of Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 Beta.

Check out the screenshots:

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Why We Need HTML5 Apps To Shut The F UP Out of Fanboys

Well, unlike the title, I am really serious about this. There is a big problem amongst people who use devices and then use apps on it and it is more than apparent today with tech evangelists like Robert Scoble saying that apps are the only way into a system.

Being a software developer and now so called app developer (which I hate as a label) I can tell you that you are wrong about it and so is Scoble because you people don’t understand the fact that developing a single app for 3 different platforms require 3 different developers and more investments. This means that if you can develop an app for the , you will have to spend more to develop it for and Windows Phone 7.

In my entire development career of more than 12 years I have developed software and apps which have worked on every platform because of 2 reasons. I used Java and I used web technologies like PHP to develop my apps, both these apps will run anywhere without a user having to do anything (unless their systems don’t have Java).

Coming back to today, I dreaded the day when my boss asked me to develop an app for the iPhone and Android. Why? Because both these systems are not the same and though Objective-C is the best way to develop apps for Apple related devices, it is not one of my favorite languages structurally and syntactically.

So what do I do? Bail out? No, I convinced my boss to switch to . Why? Because we can reuse the same code on an iOS, or an Android device, or a device or a HP Palm or a RIM device or for any other device for that matter. Period. End of discussion.

I don’t know what Robert or the rest of the world thinks, but creating an app is not easy, and creating that for multiple OS is not easy at all. There are thousands of app developers who want to develop apps for multiple systems but the simple reason is that they can’t do it, don’t know it or can’t afford to invest in developing the apps because they need to HIRE specific developers to do the job. The big shots will do it, but not these smaller developers who have put their everything into learning a particular language or platform.

I know you would say, WTF, why not have a developer that does it all. I would say, hell yea, try hiring a developer that does it all and try getting one of your products right.

The way to go ahead is to use HTML5 to develop apps that can run everywhere. As a developer, who follows Object Oriented Coding, I find it difficult to rewrite the same code to work on different platforms. Of course you might call me stupid and ask me to use Web Services and SOAP. Don’t you think that I already did it?

SPB TV Now Available For Bada Smartphones

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Earlier this month, SPB Software launched its popular application, SPB TV for Android and today the company announced the launch of this amazing app for BADA powered smartphones. SPB TV allows you to watch Live TV channels on the go. You can easily download this application from Samsung Apps. Check out the complete features of SPB TV below.

Features:

  • Full Screen TV player with picture-in-picture mode
  • Unique TV browser with fast channel launching and switching
  • A wide selection of public live TV and Video-On-Demand channels
  • Integrated TV Guide with a list of current and upcoming TV shows
  • Clever integration of mobile TV functionality with other mobile phone features
  • On-screen control panel
  • Video quality switcher
  • Setting a reminder
  • Advanced Video Codec support

A press release from the company states, “Bada’s exciting features such as 3D graphics and multipoint-touch combined with the best-in-class usability of SPB TV will make the process of watching TV on mobile device really enjoyable for the users. SPB TV for bada has recently become the winner in “Useful Applications” category in bada Developer Challenge Russia. The bada users can now get one of the best applications for bada platform the IPTV viewer with TV-like usability with over 150 channels in more than 20 languages.”

SPB TV is available for Bada smartphone users for free. This app currently supports Wave(S8500) and Wave II(S8530) smartphones. To download SPB TV, head over to this page.

Best Mobile Apps Of the Week for iOS, Android and Symbian – #1

Welcome to the first edition of Best Mobile Apps Of The Week where we will feature some popular and useful apps for different mobile platforms. From now on, every Friday we will be introducing our readers to one new application for the , and platform. We may add any other platforms such as WP7, webOS and Maemo on popular demand. So if you guys want us to feature apps of any other OS drop in a comment and let us know.

Here are the featured of the week for iOS, Symbian and Android:

Remote (iOS)

If you own any of the iOS based devices, chances are you must be using iTunes to manage media and apps on it as well. If you use iTunes as your primary media player, then Remote is going to come in very handy for you. The application basically allows users to control media playback on their PC/Mac running iTunes using their iOS device.

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However, for Remote to work users must have a Wi-Fi network and their PC/Mac must be connected to the same network as well. Users also need to enable the Home Sharing’ feature on iTunes and share their media library on the network.

iOS owners can download Remote from here.

Gravity (Symbian)

Gravity is among the few good applications available for the old sinking ship Symbian. Gravity is a combination of many apps into one. It is basically a Twitter and a social networking client. It supports Facebook, Foursquare and even acts as a great RSS reader by importing your feeds from Google Reader. The application is available for all the popular Symbian versions S60v3, S60v5 and Symbian^3.

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There is a 14-day trial version of the application available for download. The full version costs 10 Euros but is totally worth it. The developer of Gravity Janole is also very active on twitter and tries to solve all the problems which Gravity users face.

Symbian users can download Gravity from here.

Launcher Pro (Android)

One of the main reasons why Android is so popular is because it’s highly customizable. Users can customize nearly every aspect of the phone (software wise). It might be possible that you may not like the Launcher your phone manufacturer has shipped your phone it. Users can easily replace the default home launcher app in Android by downloading another one from the Android Market. Launcher Pro is arguably one of the best alternate home launcher app in the Android ecosystem.

LauncherPro-Plus-Android

The application is available for free but a paid version ($1.99) is available as well which adds a few nice features like Widget resizing, Sense Widgets and Gesture Swipes etc. However, the paid version is not available for download from the Android Market.

I will recommend all Android handset owners to try out Launcher Pro once. Not only is it fast, it offers some nice features as well like a 3D app drawer and a landscape mode home screen. The app also looks very sleek and users can easily customize the icons and the background used by the app.

So that’s it folks! I hope you liked the applications suggested by me in our first edition of Mobile Apps of the week.