Posts Tagged "mobile apps"

My startup has a mobile app, which makes us a prime candidate to receive some pretty sleazy advertising. Here is one. Click to enlarge.


That’s right. Very quickly, my app can have a bunch of fake ratings. Some sweatshop somewhere will download my app and rate it, and that will help me.

That doesn’t help me be honest with you. It just means that when you see all these downloads or ratings, they might be fake. Completely fake. Just to make you believe this app is popular or well-liked.

Take these with a grain of salt. And read app reviews. I’m sure some of those are fake, but you will probably be able to tell better with those. It would be hard to know which 5 star ratings were real and which were bought.

PS: When I got that email, my app (in public alpha at the time) had two ratings in Google Play. Both were real and both were 5 stars.

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I love Rhapsody. I swear by it. I’ve been paying for it so long, I was paying for it when it was Yahoo Music. Years and years. I think everything pales in comparison. iTunes and Spotify can suck it compared to my Rhapsody.

I like the phone app. It’s easy to search, work with my playlists, and grab songs I feel like hearing in the moment. When I’m playing a song, it looks like this (click to enlarge):


If I want to get back to my playlist, I hit the bottom right icon of horizontal lines. The album art flips around to reveal my playlist, which I can scroll (click to enlarge):


But their tablet app needs a serious redo.

I would LOVE it if the Rhapsody tablet app were just a giant version of their phone app. Really. It’s that good. I don’t need a special “tablet experience” here. But someone decided I did. Here is what it looks like if I’m playing the same playlist, and happen to search for artist Midge Ure (click to enlarge):


UX problems…

  1. The table app forces landscape mode. I use my tablet nearly 100% in portrait mode. So the whole thing swivels just for Rhapsody. I’d like to be able to use it in the portrait orientation.
  2. My playlist is a tiny bacon strip down the side. Tiny bacon strip!
  3. In the phone app, when I’m looking at a play list, I can long press on a song to get a “right click menu” style menu of options about that song. Add to library, add to a playlist, remove from the play queue, more from this album, more from this artist, and share. Very useful! When I long press on a song in the Bacon Strip in the tablet, NOTHING. No menu. Nothing happens. That’s inconsistent with the phone experience, and it’s removing features I use all the time.
  4. Did you notice something else missing? The timeline or whatever you call the module that shows I’m 12 seconds into a 3:09 song. That slider lets me jump to any point in the song. It’s in the phone app. Not in the tablet app. I can’t jump to a specific point in a track on the tablet.

Once upon a time, a guy who worked for Real was considering having me work on the Rhapsody app. That would have been WONDERFUL. I welcome the challenge. But weeks later, Rhapsody was bought by MTV Networks, and I never heard from the guy again. I would LOVE to work on this tablet app and make it better. It should at least be as good as the phone app, and with the extra real estate, why can’t it be remarkable… especially with competition from Spotify and other music apps.

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Peel Smart Remote App is Infuriating

Posted By on Feb 12, 2013

The story starts with my old tablet dying (sniff) and me getting a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet to replace it. Nice piece of equipment. Been happy with my Galaxy S3 phone, so I expect to love the tablet.

Preinstalled on the tablet is an app called Peel. Setting Peel up was easy. The step by step instructions were clear, and the product worked right the first time. This is REALLY nice.

As quoted from their Google Play entry, here is what Peel is looking to solve:

Let’s face it – finding something you want to watch can be frustrating. Whether you’re flipping through hundreds of channels or scrolling page after page of the clumsy channel grid, it’s a painful process. Now, Peel brings you a better way to find great TV.

And here is one of the pictures they show among the app screenshots:


Looks neato.

But that’s all it does.

If a TV remote control app doesn’t make me never need my TV remote again, then it’s a failure. When the setup process made sure it could turn my TV on and off and control the volume as well as cable channels, I was thinking I’d never touch the original remote again. When I made sure it connected with Comcast’s lineup for my zip code, and asked if I got the HD channels, I thought I’d never need the original remote again.

It turns out I can only browse by show genre. I can look up all the comedies, and it shows big boxes of the shows on at that time. I can look up all the documentaries. The genres seem a bit weird. A cooking show I watch was under comedy. There are no genres for cooking or travel. What’s Mythbusters? A documentary? So this is not really that obvious, intuitive, or clean.

So then I was hoping I could just go to a channel guide…

Since trying to shop TV shows by genre was tough, I was hoping I would just be given a giant channel guide where I could fave some shows and fave some channels. This can then show me everything or just my faves. It could even tell me when a fave show is coming on.

It COULD do this, but it doesn’t. It only lets you pick TV shows by genre. Holy cats, Peel, please hire a UX person. I love flipping through JUST my fave channels to see what’s on. Why can’t yours show me that, and then let me switch to those shows?

Looks like if you want this done right, you have to get something like Beacon. I didn’t try Beacon. I’m just assuming they got it right. But they want $70, so I’m unlikely to find out soon. Ugh, it has a 2.6 out of 5 rating in Google Play. I guess it’ll take time for someone to get this right.

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My Dream Flight Tracking App

Posted By on Feb 1, 2013

Right now, I use the FlightTracker mobile app to keep me updated on my flights, their timing, and gates. But there is something this app doesn’t do that I wish it did.

Every plane has a number on its tail. It’s like a license plate. It’s a unique number that identifies that exact plane. And when airlines schedule their flights, they assign specific planes for each trip. Seems pretty obvious!

When it’s flight day and I’m NOT taking the first flight of the day, I like to try to trace back the day’s schedule for that plane. For example, I may have an afternoon flight from San Francisco to Vegas. But earlier in the day, that plane may have flown Pittsburg to Chicago, Chicago to Denver, Denver to Reno, Reno to San Francisco, and then it’s my plane.

Any serious delay for any of those trips can delay my flight. Why. Because they are going to fly THAT exact plane, and I have to wait for it to pull into my gate. Yes, sometimes flights get so messed up that airlines change what plane will go where. And my dream app would keep up with those changes.

But my dream app would let me map out the whole day for my plane. Not my flight number since that might not be the same plane all day. I want the app to show me what plane is scheduled to be mine (by tail number), and then trace back all of its flights that day. It’ll keep track of if those are running on time, and warn me if they’re not.

I often do this manually, and am often the first to know my flight will be delayed. I’d love an app to do this for me. Flight Aware is close as it traces flight number. I’d like to go the extra step and trace flights by equipment (plane registration number).

Someone make that! I would pay for that app.

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As I’m looking at possibly moving, I downloaded a Craigslist app. I was hoping that on the go, it would be easy for me to search through houses, and maybe check saved searches over and over. Once I installed it, this is what I saw (click to enlarge):


My first thought was, “Let’s narrow categories down to housing.” I tapped on “Category,” and was told I had to pick the Location first. I guess that makes sense if different Craigslist regions offer different categories.

What DIDN’T make sense was taking what you needed people to do first (choose their location) and put that third on the screen. That means if I had just started typing my house requirements into the keyword search field, I also would have been stopped and told to pick a location first.

UX Tip: Put the location first. 🙂 That way, it’s less likely that someone will bypass it. Or make it so that the other two are greyed out until you pick the location. Then, once you’ve got your “sfbay” in there, the other two come to life.

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I flew home from an AZ visit on Xmas Eve. I am crazy about tracking flights, and I use Flight Track Pro for Android by Mobiata.

Normally, they have a map view of flights. As the flight is in the air, you can see it moving along the map towards (hopefully) its destination.

But for Xmas Eve, they got festive, and it was cute. I’m not into holidays that much, but even I smiled. 🙂 Click to enlarge:


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I was at a conference last week showing off my startup, which has an Android app and an API. The focus of our biz is our platform and API. The smartphone app is nice and can make money, but I think of it more as a testing ground for our ideas and features. So it’s our in alpha in Google Play so people can try our core features.

A guy came over to my demo table to tell me about his company, who I won’t name. He started telling me that his company can get me more customers for my Android app. OK, that’s interesting. So it’s some sort of marketing? Yes. And can I say that I want to target Moms or Realtors to check out our app? Well, he tells me that’s like 5 levels into customising the demographic, so that’s going to cost me. OK, tell me about what this costs.

He starts telling me that if I want his customers to download my app from Google Play, and let’s say I’m open to it being anybody (without getting specific on the demographics), it might be 50 cents a user. If I want them to actually OPEN the app and try it, that’ll cost more. IF I want them to actually REGISTER and become a customer, it’ll cost more. He went on a bit more, but by now, I was pretty disgusted. I’m sure you can pay for those uninterested people to leave fake 5 star reviews too.

Maybe that explains the happy reviews I see of crappy apps. Someone bought those reviews.

“So these aren’t real people,” I said. No, he was sure they are real people. Their company gives them rewards in their own company’s currency (oh Lord, shoot me now) to do these things. He says he’ll show me more. I said, “No, please don’t. This is not a match to me.”

He acted like I must not want to market my app to people. I told him that 1) the public and my investors will NOT fall for fake vanity metrics about Google Play downloads or installs. These are not real customers. 2) As a UX person who cares about my product, I want REAL users to REALLY use it and give me feedback. I don’t need to artificially bump up my Google Play numbers. I need, more than anything, to get honest feedback from people who like our idea and want to try our app.

I wrapped that up and was still disgusted. This is cheating and lying. At best, it’s trying to fake popularity and make people think your app has more of an audience than it does. At worst, it’s lying to investors or potential investors, which I find unacceptable. I’m against lying. But lying ALWAYS comes back to bite you in the butt. Cheaters never win. Transparency and honesty win, at least in my book.

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I’m a fiercely loyal user of SlideIt on my Android phone and tablet. You had better have a really amazing keyboard to get me away from the wonderful SlideIt. I’m wildly fast at the swipe-style typing, and I love the shortcuts, which are like macros.

Then, Swiftkey X came along. It claims to read things you’ve typed before, figure out your style, and predict what you’re going to say before you say it. Psychic! Sure, let’s try that.

As you type, Swiftkey X shows 3 words it thinks you mean. The middle word is bold and green since that’s the one it REALLY thinks you mean. So I decided to run an experiment. I installed it. It combed through things I’ve written. And then I just kept clicking on the middle word to see what it think I’d be typing.

Before I show this to you, let me defensively say that I’ve never typed ANYTHING remotely like this. More after the quote.

    I am a beautiful person. The creator of the most popular and the other hand, the first time, and the high street shops.

I have NEVER told anybody I’m a beautiful person. I live in the USA. I don’t say “high street shops.” I decided to try to fool it. In the middle of the sentence about “the most popular,” I chose the word “will” instead of “and.” This is what it ended up typing:

    I am a beautiful person. The creator of the most popular will be able to do that. I just wanted to say that the information you need to be a good idea to advertise your company slogan.

Hmmm. I know I’ve never said that. I DO know that I say, “I just wanted to say,” a lot. The rest is wackadoo wackiness.

I don’t see how this would help me type faster. I say lots of different things, not just the most popular in the high street shops. I appreciate that Swiftkey X wants to help me with a daily affirmation about how beautiful I am! That’s lovely.

But I reactivated SlideIt. I just can’t see changing, and I can’t see losing my speedy swipe-style of typing for what seems like brain mad-libs.

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American Airlines iPad App: FAIL

Posted By on Jan 13, 2011

Last night, my boyfriend and I were trying to book flights on his iPad. We had already researched options, and knew we wanted certain flights on American. He opened the American Airlines iPad app, which in many ways is a lot like their website. So this is double fail, if you ask me.

I don’t have an iPad. I’m one of those “iPad haters.” Every time I’ve touched one, I’ve ended up furious at something in the UI or experience. But I have seen my friend, Mike, book zillions of flights from his iPad, and he makes it look like sliding down a hill covered in butter. So I was ready to be thrilled.

American Airlines, not a lot makes me yell out loud, and you had both of us yelling out loud. Here are some screamers:

  • When a list of flights come up, it’s not obvious that there may be pages more. Those choices are in -10 point font at the bottom of the page, below the fold.
  • The “continue” button is also at the bottom. It’s small and red on a website where everything is bold blue and red. Not easy to find. And if I wanted the first flight on the list, I still have to scroll down to continue. How about a continue button at the top too?
  • The back button in the app doesn’t take you to the screen you were last on. It takes you to the splash/welcome page of the app. So we were JUST about done buying the flights when we got stuck on a screen that wouldn’t take us back. I hit “close window” over and over, and it sat there. I finally hit “back,” thinking it would go back to where I was. Nope. We lost EVERYTHING we had done, and had to start over. That was when most of the yelling happened, but it was at American Airlines, not at each other.
  • Choosing seats happened AFTER I bought the tickets. This tells me that your seat options are often stinky, and you don’t want me to know that until I’ve already committed to buying. OK, but then you may have an angry and frustrated person who committed to buying, and now doesn’t want to fly you next time, or needs customer support. Why create more need for customer support? Show me seating during the booking process so I can make sure you have what I want. Who knows. I might switch to a more expensive flight just to get the seats I want.
  • I’m surprised at the default seating choice. There are two of us. In an MD-80 (2 seats on the left, 3 seats on the right), you put us in an aisle and window in the back of the plane, knowing we have a tight plane change. You could have put us in the 2 left seats 10 rows forward of that. I think the default choice is quite strange, and not great for travel!

That was very frustrating. I’ll never book from an iPad app again, if I don’t have to. That was a multidimensional user experience failure. We bought the tickets, but furiously.

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As an Android lover, I can’t help but love the commercial Amazon is showing again on TV. The point of the commercial is that Kindle is Kindle, whether you are reading your books from your computer, a mobile phone with a Kindle app, or the actual Kindle device. Yes, that’s cool! And good to know. Thanks for the ad. 🙂

But rather than just saying that, the story in the commercial is a woman who had an iPhone, and read her Kindle books there. She then switches to Android, and behold! All her Kindle books show up right there, no need to buy them again! Here is one variation of the ad:

Cheers to Amazon for imagining that most of the move in mobile is from iPhone towards Android!

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