A short presentation showing our objectives and a use case with screenshots from our system.
A short presentation showing our objectives and a use case with screenshots from our system.
Okay, whether or not cliché sitcom catch phrases are your thing, you’ve probably noticed by now that our site has changed a little, okay, a lot, and you might find yourself a little confused. Don’t worry though, although it is true we’ve changed, we still offer the same backend as a service that you know and love, we’ve just improved our service, added some features, and shifted our focus. We are now specifically targeting game developers and have offered some tailored codes specifically to help streamline game development for game developers while also implementing our analytics tool and promotional platform directly in their app.
Backend as a service, server-side solution, cloud-based offerings, call it what you will at the end of the day the result is the same: An ever growing market that services mobile applications. It seems that every month there is a new startup coming in to the BaaS market and offering to provide you with a cloud-based backend for your app, even Microsoft threw their hat in the ring (albeit only for Windows but still, this thing has gotten real). When we first started doing this over a year ago, a lot of people didn’t even know what this thing we were doing was. Kinvey even created a diagram resembling a Boston subway map in an attempt to explain where exactly companies like us fit in the grand scheme of the mobile technology market. Now what we do is a lot more well-known and a lot more companies are offering it, and yet the question still remains: How does a developer know which company will work best for them? We’ve shifted our focus for entirely this reason. We’ve decided to expand and tailor our services to specifically target game developers and help them create apps that are not only popular, but also ones that can help them make some money off of doing what is they love to do: making apps.
Why game apps you ask? “Why not game apps?” is a better question. Mobile games make up the majority of apps in all app stores, as well as being the most popular type of app. Take a look in the Top 25 of the App Store and count how many of those apps are games. The smart money says not only do games make up the largest category in all three groups (Paid, Free, and Top-Grossing), but they also make up more than 50% of all 25 apps in all three groups as well. This is a huge market and with so many game developers out there, we want to be able to help them develop their app, and help them monetize it as well. Let’s face it, developers want to make a living off of what they do, off of their own creations, their own apps, the point is for developers to be focused on making apps, and not have to worry about how they’re going to make ends-meat from it. At the end of the day of course it’s up to the developer to implement what we provide, but the ease of use, along with the plethora of tools we have to offer makes us think that nearly every game developer would be able to benefit from our system. Even if they don’t develop games, mobile app developers in general, especially those utilizing in-app purchase or planning to do so, would benefit from working with us.
So in short, we would like to welcome you all, those that have been with us and those that are new, to our new site and hope you enjoy. As always if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section.
“What’s all this about a new way?”
It’s been over 40 years since the release of Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange, and yet that quote still sneaks its way into multiple facets of media, this blog being no different.
Okay, so maybe Backend as a Service isn’t that new when you consider the constant flux of the tech world as a whole, but let’s consider the facts: The idea of Backend as a Service (Baas), didn’t even exist two years ago (although you could make the argument for MEAP, and while certainly linked, is not the same thing), and yet now it seems that the idea is pervading all the Tech news sites in one form or another. Tech Crunch, Mashable, Venture Beat, these are just a few examples of publications that have recently written numerous pieces on the subject. So with the popularity of the notion comes emerging companies offering to be your backend provider.
Look, there is no surprise here, the fact of the matter is there exists a very real demand for this type of service, and, the more the merrier as far as developers are concerned (competition breeds innovation after all… or copyright lawsuits). The main focus (or at least it should be) of any and all of these companies, including ours, is to provide developers with an option: The option to focus on what they do best, developing their apps, without the hassle of worrying about the server side. I can’t speak for other companies, but I can speak for ours and, although an undoubtedly un-objective point of view, it still happens to be true that this (BaaS) is something we do very well.
All horn-tooting aside, the point remains that BaaS is important, and the main reason is because of the freedom it provides app developers. These are people that are on the forefront of creative, technological innovation, shouldn’t their focus be on the creative part? Yes, of course, but what if we did more? A backend is a great start but what if we could take it further, don’t we, being part of the tech community, a company composed mostly of devs, don’t we owe it to developers to offer them more? The answer is unquestionably a big, vehement, shout of a “YES!” and we are proud to be part of that voice… stay tuned to see what that entails.
Currently we support the import feature manually (send us the excel/CSV file and we’ll do it for you). Our next version will contain a self import data feature.
On Tuesday, June 25th, we at Applicasa celebrated our one year Anniversary! We were ecstatic and thought: What better way to celebrate than by taking the whole team out to… dinner? A movie? Chuck E Cheese? Well almost, but not quite. Never the type to go with the mundane (although if you’re an exceptional lover of skee-ball you probably disagree with my use of the term), we decided to celebrate by taking a bartending course. While normally that means learning how to make Manhattans with brown colored water, we opted for real liquor, and for some more adventurous drinks: Litchi Martinis, White Russians, even a couple Flaming Lamborghinis. We had a blast at our anniversary party, and although things may have gotten a little hazy towards the end, we managed to celebrate the whole night while keeping the whole team upright, and without doing any drunk coding. No small feat I assure you.
iOS developer, Benny, wants to call his drink the “XCode”
Our friend Or is looking to improve his morning cup of coffee
“Probably not what I do best.” —- Omry
“Not drunk yet, but getting there… “ —- Tzvi
Gil contemplates what life would be like if he wasn’t a programmer
We can’t tell if Lior is eager to start making drinks, or start drinking them
Helen made the strongest drinks of the night, which is saying something
Is it an iOS dev? An Android dev? No, just Itai, a drunk .NET dev
Oh Ori you’re just showing off!
First Prize Awarded to Applicasa Users at last week’s AT&T Hackathon
Recently, I was lucky enough be invited to participate as a Sensei at the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon hosted by @Alex_Donn, on the 13th-14th of June. It’s a two day event that AT&T holds every so often, in different locations, usually near a tech hub of some sort. The Hackathon is an app developing competition where judges award prizes to the top three apps; first place garnering $2,500. Starting at 6pm on Wednesday, the evening was comprised of food, drink, mini-lectures, and the all important team formation (some people came with a crew already assembled, while many others formed their own there). This was then followed by developing, that lasted until 12am (although I’d be surprised if there was anyone that actually left on time). The next morning it was all-day developing until the presentations began at 7pm. I was really impressed with what everyone was able to come up with in such a short period of time. Of course I had my own personal interests in the competition since three of the teams competing had used Applicasa. While at the event, I was able to introduce one group of developers in particular to Applicasa, and explain to them how we could help. Basically the story went as it always does: they needed a backend for their app, and didn’t have the time nor the resources to create a server side, so…let’s just say, Applicasa to the rescue. Don’t get me wrong these guys were good, nay, great (you can follow one of the team’s developers on Twitter @AndroidMuzikant, he created the app AutomateIt, which if you haven’t heard of yet, is simply amazing), but during the two day event, the 20 or so hours they spent on working on the client side of their app, didn’t leave them a lot of time to work on the server side. Applicasa was able to help them. Out of curiosity I started my watch as soon as they began using Applicasa (I literally used the stopwatch feature on my phone, they looked at me like I was crazy), 13 minutes later and they had a fully-functioning backend for their app, along with all the features they needed to make it feasible.
So what was the app? Well where I come from, parking can be a huge problem, and this solution was really ingenious: an application that allows you to search for parking through communication with other users in the area. They called it Park Somewhere and it was essentially a social networking app for parking. The app displays a map of your present location with indicators (pins of green and red) that show what parking spaces are currently vacant, and what spaces are occupied. Each user indicates whether they are currently looking for parking, or have just found parking and where, or, they indicate where they have seen available parking. For example, you indicate that you’re looking for parking, and I am currently leaving my parking space two blocks from where you are. I tell the app I’ve left a spot, and you see on the app that the spot I just left has just become available, so you go and park there. The whole thing was made possible by setting up a simple geo-location object in our DB dashboard, and dropping the customized SDK into the code. Hopefully in the future they will implement Push Notifications through us as well, allowing users to get up-to-the-second alerts about recently vacated parking spaces. Either way, I was thoroughly impressed, and apparently so were the judges: Their app took first place!
So what’s the moral of the story? A good idea is key? Hard work is a must? Use Applicasa’s backend? Well, yes. To all three (I especially like that last one). Whether you’re gearing up for the next Hackathon in July, or you have a good app, that could be a great app, if it had access to a fully-functioning, cloud-based, backend, we’ve got the solution.
1. The planning phase of an app
Defining the idea
Start by clearly defining the idea behind the app. Create a list of reasons why you are creating the app and what you hope to accomplish by doing so. Next, describe the app, the target audience, what it is for, who will use it, why they will use it and so on… Take your time and make sure you have all the answers to your questions.
Once you’re done, conduct some basic market research to discover if there are similar apps or competitors that you should be aware of.
Matching features and users
OK, so you’re ready to begin development. Now you’ll need to focus on the most important features of your app.
First of all, write down all the features you want the app to have, then prioritize them according to the different user groups and target audience. In order to understand your target audience you will need to get a clear picture of who they are. This includes finding out their age, location, gender, where they’ll use the app, when, how and if they are willing to pay for apps.
After identifying the different types of users, match them with the right features. Use mockups and iPhone/Android sketches to design the look and feel of the app.
2. The importance of graphics, user experience and user interface
Apps are all about the user experience and user interface (UX and UI). Most apps don’t invest enough in their design and as a result end up as clutter in the marketplace.
As a simple rule of thumb, if it’s not easy and fun to use, people will not use it! Use an experienced UX/UI designer along with a top notch graphic designer – it will improve your app and increase the chances of success.
Before beginning the design, go back to the research you made and learn from competitors and similar apps, making sure to differentiate your app from the others.
3. The key to user engagement
One of the biggest challenges in app creation after getting the user to try your app is for them to keep using it. It is therefore important to keep users engaged.
Social media integration such as Facebook and Twitter are key. It allows users to create wall posts, status updates, upload pictures, find friends, tweet and feel connected. While this keeps users engaged it also helps to spread the word .
Analyzing user behavior
In order to find out more about the user who downloaded your app, e.g. find out where they come from, what phone and operating system they prefer and which features are most important to them, tools such as Apsalar (www.apsalar.com) can come in handy. Apsalar allows app publishers to analyze users and their behavior.
Updates are another way of engaging the user. Whenever they’re being asked to update their app; it’ll be perceived as often used and updated in response to user feedback.
Push notifications are another tool to engage with users. But this tool needs to be used carefully – less is more. Too many notifications will cause users to either turn off the push option or even delete the app.
Push notifications can be valuable and welcomed by the user if they provide insightful information. Allow the user to choose when to get notifications and make sure they have a choice between options such as quiet time, alerts types and sound. Push notifications can also be turned into “social” features by linking them e.g. to Facebook in order to find friends, invite them to a game, post or comment on something. This creates further engagement and word of mouth.
Build your app so you’ll be able to change content, alerts and any information sent to the user dynamically. Using a backend solution (server side) that includes a content management system makes content creation and updating within the app easy and more flexible.
4. Ensuring easy and smart development processes
Every app needs a server side. Choose one that allows you to create databases, objects, use a content management system (CMS) etc. and has an easy to use user interface. Make sure that your backend is able to grow with the app and adjusts according to performance needs and app usage. We provide such a server side backend solution called Applicasa (www.applicasa.com).
So you have everything ready for upload and you’re asking: “how do I make money out of it?” There are a few options:
A free version of the app. Free versions are easy to sell (well it’s free after all) and can boost an app’s download rate.
Once users “fall in love” with the app you now have a user base or audience. This audience can be leveraged in many ways for financial gain. Some examples include click through ads, mobile payment solutions, selling in app goods, click through promotions or simply commanding a price for your app based on the success and feedback thus far.
Advertisements are another solution for monetization. Developers should make sure they use in-app ads wisely and are relevant to the user. One tool to ensure ads are targeted is InnerActive, a location based ads toolkit. Location based ad services recognize where the user is and displays content relevant to the city or venue. This will ensure app users don’t get spammed with irrelevant content and app developers don’t waste their chances for financial rewards.
Paid for App
If you’ve planned for your app to be a paid for, there are some great toolkits helping you to set the app up with in-app payment services which are fast, easy to use and secure plus aggregates various payment sources, such as credit cards and PayPal. One of these mobile payments software development kits (SDK) is offered by Zooz. ZooZ enables developers to quickly and easily add checkout and payment services on mobile devices to their app, which include secure payment features.
This is just a selection of options that exist for making profits from apps, what is most important is to remember: No app will be used and/or make money unless it’s fun to use and serves a purpose.
With the release of the iOS 5, Apple announced that the use of the UDID with apps would be limited. It was an announcement that no one really did anything about, until just over a week ago, Apple started rejecting apps based on their usage of UDID.
Due to privacy concerns, Apple doesn’t want advertisers and similar monetization platforms to be able to track users’ download behavior to improve conversion rate by targeting specific adverts to the user.
So what is a UDID? The UDID (Unique Device Identifier) is a unique serial number that every iDevice has and can never be changed.
There are three main reasons to use UDID:
1. Beta testing: UDID is used when testing beta versions of apps on iDevices. The UDID is taken from the device via the XCode or iTunes and used to create a provisioning profile in the Apple developer center. Beta testing is still allowed by Apple.
2. Distinguishing between devices: Identifying a specific device helps the app’s server side to manage users in apps such as social media and games. By doing so, personalized push notifications, multiple players, user data management and more can be easily implemented. With Apple now revoking the use of UDID, developers are looking for a solution.
How can UDID blocking be overcome? Instead of using the UDID, developers can use the CFUDID (Core Foundation Universally Unique Identifier). Unlike the UDID, the CFUDID is different in every app, even if both apps are on the same device. The CFUDID changes also when the user deletes an app and reinstalls it. The CFUDID is the best and easiest solution developers can find, and implementing it requires only two lines of code:
CFUUIDRef udid = CFUUIDCreate(NULL);
NSString *udidString = (NSString *) CFUUIDCreateString(NULL, udid);
App developers that want to manage user profiles’ and sign in from different devices will have to use an authentication method in addition to the CFUDID.
At Applicasa, we use not only the CFUDID but also a user login system to compliment it. Applicasa’s SDK takes care of aquiring the device’s CFUDID and generates a unique user ID that is used for communicating with the server. If an app developer chooses to use “log in” authentication, which our backend takes care as well, Applicasa will make the user ID as the primary key and assign to it the user’s different devices. This way the user’s profile is saved in the server also if the user decided to change device or reinstall the app.
3. Downloads tracking: Up until now, advertising companies and similar monetization platforms used the UDID to track user download behavior by saving the UDID in their database and cross referencing it with all the apps that supports the monetization platform. This way it was possible to find out the user’s choice of apps, location and more, to improve their conversion rate. In our opinion, this is why Apple revoked the use of the UDID. The ability to create a user’s profile without his or her approval creates massive privacy issues. Most companies in this space have already published a new SDK that doesn’t utilize the UDID. Appsfire (http://appsfire.com/) provides an “OpenUDID” (http://blog.appsfire.com/) and Crashlytics (http://beta.crashlytics.com/) provide their “SecureUDID” (http://www.secureudid.org/), and more solutions will pop up soon.
In conclusion, app developers don’t need to panic, there are plenty of services and solutions to replace the use of the UDID.
As for the advertising companies and monetization platform, I am sure they will find a way to avoid using the UDID and maintain their business models. We can only hope Apple will approve the changes they make, after all these companies contribute to the mobile apps eco system.
Lior Malenboim, Co-Founder and CEO