We're in Day 3 of apps week, and myself, Kevin, Rene, Dan and Marcus got together to chat a little more about apps and whether going cross-platform is a necessity. Check it out!
War is a-brewin'. Video sharing has been slow to become part and parcel of our everyday schemata of social media, but with the success of Vine, competitors are scrambling to get in on the action. Among them? Reigning heavyweight social champ Instagram, which is reportedly adding video to its arsenal this month. Here's how it might be able to beat Vine at its own game.
Instagram forever altered photo sharing by popularizing filters that alter color, texture, and focus. Whether you love filters or despise them, there's no question that they've contributed to Instagram's appeal by simply making the mundane look pretty. Amateur video is often clumsy and drab, and Instagram could immediately stand out by tastefully spicing things up with filters.
Using Previously Shot Clips
Anything you post to Vine must be recorded in Vine. You cannot pull videos from your library, which is definitely limiting and, for some, fairly frustrating. It means you can't edit things in other apps or use material from other cameras. Instagram could open the doors to your previously recorded footage, as it currently does with photos, giving you more options and flexibility.
It took Instagram some time before it made users' photo libraries viewable in their own self-contained web pages. Currently, a Vine recording can only be viewed in the app, or embedded as a card on Twitter or on another website. People love centralized viewing of their media, and Instagram would fulfill that neatly by incorporating video into the current user web pages. It could also get a pretty healthy head start, given that Vine.com is a well-established preexisting brand.
Export as GIF
While not a very likely feature, the option to export a video (or portion of a video) as a small, self-contained, animated GIF would be the ultimate in share-ability. It would no doubt titillate the current GIF-obsessed internet audience, and would make for a supremely portable file.
Vine concocted an innovative way to compose a series of 'edits' using only your finger and a 6 second timer. It has been great seeing how imaginative users have stretched the limits of what you can create. But it is also very limited. While Instagram has always held to a very small degree of customizability, it could push things just a bit further than Vine in terms of editing and recording options—perhaps a way to re-order or trim clips.
Instagram will have to be careful not to disturb the streamlined aspect of their user-experience, but often simple options have the potential to open the floodgates for new and interesting types of videos.
This one is kind of a stacked deck for Instagram, which enjoys the luxury of already reaching a gigantic user base. Of course, as part of Twitter, Vine theoretically has access to a similar base. However, the Vine experience was new and distinct from Twitter, an entirely separate download. If Instagram releases a decent product, many people will use it over Vine simply because they already use Instagram and don't like the idea of having to keep track of yet another stream, yet another app.
Thanks to Apple's restrictions you can't get a perfect video player that handles all formats and performs with the same processor and battery efficiency as Apple's built-in Videos app. Nevertheless, PlayerXtreme HD does just about everything you could ask for within the confines of iOS' walled garden.
After plenty of rumor and speculation, Microsoft has quietly launched its version of Office for iOS—but as of yet there's no iPad version. Oh, and you need a subscription.
That's right, the app requires an Office 365 subscription, before allowing you to view and edit Powerpoint, Excel, and Word files which are stored on the cloud or attached to emails. You can also edit recently used files offline, and create Word and Excel documents from scratch on your device.
The app is available for iPhone and iPod Touch, and requires iOS 6.1 or later. iPad support is curiously absent—especially given that it would be a more natural device for document editing—and the app is currently only available in the US. Why no iPad? Likely because Microsoft would rather steer people to its web apps (which are, incidentally, not very iPhone-friendly).
As exciting as it is to finally see Office and iOS merge, the subscription point is a bit of a disappointment, although the silver lining is that your iPhone won't count as one of your five total installations.
There are not—nor will there ever be—any filters in Figure 1, a new iOS photo-sharing app that approximates the fruit of an unholy union between Instagram and the Discovery Health Channel. Instead, clarity is key, since the app supplies users with a steady photo stream of very real, very not-for-the-faint-of-heart medical oddities and diseases.
The minds behind Figure 1 created the app in hopes that the medical community at large would use it to crowdsource and share information about rare and difficult-to-diagnose cases. And in just about two weeks of being live, the app has already become a veritable cornucopia of amputated fingers, ventral hernias, frostbite, gangrene, disemboweled entrails, and everything in between. So if you're someone with a general fascination in the surgical world and/or a raging hypochondriac, you've just found your new favorite app.
Upon opening Figure 1, you're immediately shown the most recently added photos, but you can also search for a particular ailment, whether it be out of curiosity or to confirm/heighten your already irrational fears of staph infection—like I did. You can also "favorite" the images that you find most interesting, whether they simply speak to you or you're a doctor using it for more "practical" purposes.
Of course, one of the main concerns in app like this is patient privacy and confidentiality, which Figure 1 does try its best to ensure. When you go to upload a photo, you're brought to a consent form, which the patient or representative party is required to sign before being emailed the completed form. Additionally, face detection software finds any potential identifying features and blacks them out automatically, so anonymity is practically guaranteed (assuming it does its job).
For the average patient, this is still in no way a replacement for an actual doctor's visit. Nor is it necessarily brimming with factual, research-backed information. But as Dr. Josh Landy, a critical-care specialist and co-founder of Figure 1 told the National Post, this kind of sharing can be crucial for doctors:
An image with a story goes a long way. There is no question in my mind, educating doctors saves lives…. Having someone who has easier, more efficient access to information, who learns something more about a patient they are currently seeing, is going to improve the care of that patient.
So if you're strong of stomach and carry a particular fascination for innards, you're in for a treat. Plus, you've got nothing to lose; it's free! So go download Figure 1 and start browsing—it's for the Greater Good. [National Post via Digg]
With Elevatr, his tool for tracking, sharing and developing ideas for startups, David Spiro is making a bet that startup culture is mainstream culture.
The market for such a tool seems fairly niche — how many people out there have so many ideas for startups that they need a whole separate app to manage them? Surely a simple spreadsheet or text document could do the trick, right?
The answer, so far, is 40,000. That’s how many people have downloaded Elevator, the iOS app, within the first month of it going live in the App Store. Spiro says the fact that his mom calls him regularly with app ideas is proof that entrepreneurship is creeping into mainstream culture. “People are enamored with startups,” he says. I wrote about that phenomenon about a year ago:
When a tech CEO’s wedding is tabloid fodder, we know a cultural seachange is afoot. A hipster music festival now dedicates two days to entrepreneurship. Two startup-themed reality shows are in the works. Ashton Kutcher is no longer an anomaly – Adrian Grenier, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jay-Z, Shakira, and Will Smith are now all angel investors. It is very cool to be in tech.
This helps explain why Elevatr has spent its entire first month at the top of the App Store charts in the Productivity category. It helps, of course, that the app is beautifully designed (thanks to help from mobile development agency Fueled) and simple to use.
Spiro says Elevatr is purposely simple to invite anyone — not just Silicon Valley types — to develop and share ideas for startups. “The look of the app appeals to anyone, not just developers,” he says. Elevatr allows users to categorize their ideas for startups and share them with potential collaborators. These tools could be applied to other creative fields, such as book proposals, game ideas, or even restaurant concepts, Spiro says.
But for now, Elevatr’s primary focus is startups working on their elevator pitch. There is a business model there, too. Many entities want to be around companies as they are starting up — that’s when they make many important decisions about which vendors and services they’ll use. In that way, Elevator plays into the the whole “selling pickaxes in a gold rush” idea. The company is already working on partnerships with seed funds, development shops, incubators and business plan competitions. “Our goal is to become the default way to pitch anything,” Spiro says.
That’s attractive to investors; Elevatr is about to close a $500,000 seed round of funding to continue development. The next stage is to make sharing and soliciting feedback around startup ideas, target markets, product features and business plans more collaborative within the app. At the moment, sharing within Elevatr is very basic, but Spiro says he would like the app to allow for more back and forth between collaborators.
When startups selling things to other startups can become big businesses, it would be easy to cry “bubble.” Regardless of whether that is a good indicator, startups are having a mainstream moment. Some people are just capitalizing on it.