Crittercism launches the Fathom Mobile Command Center to help large companies manage the shift to mobile
No one has ever died because Seamless crashed just as they were about to place an order. Most people would either relaunch the app, use another delivery service, or — horror of horrors! — order directly through the restaurant. The only real loser is Seamless, which could lose a sale every time its app doesn’t work as intended; becoming a nuisance to users is simply bad business.
Crittercism, a mobile application manager that monitors apps installed on over 500 million devices, wants to help companies like Seamless figure out why their app is crashing and how those problems might be affecting their business. The company is today announcing the Fathom Mobile Command Center, a tool that allows companies and developers to see how often their apps are crashing, why they’re crashing, and what they might be able to do to fix it. We’ve all got smartphones in our pockets, and Crittercism is hoping that it can help companies survive this shift to the age of mobile.
It’s easy to see how the Fathom Mobile Command Center (hereafter referred to simply as Fathom) could help consumer applications. Many smartphone users are fickle customers living in an age of abundance — a few crashes, error messages, and arcane bugs are all it takes to convince them to use a different product. Being able to identify why those customers are experiencing those issues and how many of them are struggling to use an application can mean the difference between app store supremacy and obscurity. Fathom can handle all of those issues, and even determine how platforms and services over which a developer has no control (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, ad networks, etc.) are affecting their application’s performance.
Crittercism CEO Andrew Levy says that the company was able to help a retailer — he wouldn’t say which — determine that its application wasn’t allowing users to place orders for a half-hour during “primetime buying hours,” which had a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. A malfunctioning app had cost this company, and could cost many more, millions of dollars.
But that isn’t to say that Fathom was developed solely for consumer-focused companies, however. Crittercism recognizes that many companies are starting to rely on smartphones to serve a variety of functions, whether it’s through Lowe’s employees using iPhones to find products and information or Pepsi employees using smartphones to manage their distribution centers and deliveries. Smartphones have worked their way into every aspect of our personal lives, and they’re starting to become an increasingly important tool in the workforce, too.
“In a business environment, if you’re managing your inventory and suddenly there’s a failure within the application or within the device, that can actually have a detrimental impact on their operations,” Levy says. If your company replaces dedicated scanners with iPhones, relies on an iPad for a point-of-sale system, or hinges on a properly-functioning Android application, you’re going to want to know if those applications aren’t working properly. Consumers can simply use a different product or put their phone away and get what they need somewhere else; workers, in many instances, can’t.
So, no, you probably won’t die if Seamless crashes. If Walmart’s app doesn’t work there’s always Amazon, Target, eBay Now, and probably a dozen others. You have hundreds of thousands of apps in the App Store and Google Play Store to choose from — and, according to Flurry, you’re already experimenting with all kinds of apps anyway. But the person who has to use an iPhone to to manage deliveries, gather information, or process customers’ credit cards? Those are the people who are stuck with just one solution and the ones Crittercism wants to help.
By now you’re probably familiar with Paper, a drawing application that has won an Apple Design Award and plenty of attention for its user interface, which has rethought the way basic interactions like pinch-to-zoom or color selection should work on a touchscreen. The app has been featured by Apple in the App Store, on its website, and in commercials; described as an “Instagram for drawing“; and often included in discussions about user experience design. Physical notebooks are boring — Paper is anything but.
But you might not be as familiar with FiftyThree, the company behind the app that has contented itself with staying behind the scenes while the spotlight follows its creation. That’s about to change. The company is today announcing that it has closed a $15 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz* so that it can hire engineers in Seattle and New York, expand its product line, and start to become something more than “the company that made Paper.”
“Paper is just the beginning,” says FiftyThree CEO Georg Petschnigg. The company is currently working on a service meant to encourage collaboration between artists, Petschnigg says, and plans to begin working on hardware accessories as well.
“When we think about our mission of building essential tools and removing barriers to creation, it’s clear that to build integrated, high-quality solutions you have to be able to look across hardware and services,” Petschnigg says. Hence the funding. FiftyThree has been developing new services and hardware products for a while now, but raising the funds will allow the company to hire and develop new products at a faster rate.
The last two years have been all about Paper. FiftyThree released the app, updated it with some oft-requested features, and has since focused on maintaining the application while simultaneously working to develop new products. This year is the first to be about FiftyThree as a company that exists beyond Paper, and Petschnigg says that the funding –and the products FiftyThree will be able to release a bit faster because of it — is the first step towards becoming something more. (Or, to stick with stereotypical startup-speak, “take it to the next level.)
This should be made apparent by the company’s name. The average length of a person’s forearm, Petschnigg says, is 53 centimeters. “We want to build tools that people keep within arm’s length.” Paper was the company’s first product to become just that; FiftyThree is hoping that it won’t be the last.
*Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, and Jeff Jordan are personal investors in PandoDaily. SV Angel, which also participated in FiftyThree’s funding round, is also an investor in PandoDaily.
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.
You can do a ton of great things with just an iPad, but some of the best uses are using it as an external controller for your computer. From using your iPad as a second display to turning it into a remote, here are a bunch of ways to augment your computer using an iPad.
Return of the joystick: Apple’s decision to build controller support into iOS 7 could benefit indie game makers and consumers
Many of the most popular games on iOS, from “Angry Birds” to “Dots” and “Candy Crush,” are little nothings meant to occupy a few moments while you’re standing in line at the grocery store, waiting at the bus stop, or sitting atop your porcelain throne. Console games, on the other hand, are complex and take advantage of a variety of buttons, motion-sensing capabilities, and even balance boards, while iOS games, and mobile games in general, are typically played with a lone fingertip. But that all might be about to change.
Apple has built support for officially licensed controllers into iOS 7 (and OS X Mavericks), which will allow accessory makers and game developers to move beyond the touchscreen. Other companies have tried to build controllers for iOS devices, but incorporating them into a game required that game makers build support for the device on their own. It was possible but hardly ideal for small studios that would have to develop support for a product — or variety of products — that you might not even use. It was, essentially, a hack that might or might not be worth the effort and failed to gain any significant traction with consumers, with few notable exceptions.
Some games, such as “Shadowgun” and the “Modern Combat” series (a “Call of Duty” homage-slash-knock-off) have tried to bring console-like gaming to mobile platforms before, with mixed results. Trying to control a character, explore a world, and perform the complex functions associated with console games is maddeningly frustrating on a touchscreen. I’ve had to delete these games and games similar to them after wanting to throw my iPhone out of a moving car after a particularly bad experience; you might have experienced something similar, or known someone who has. The virtual buttons meant to simulate a real controller fail to respond to a touch, or your sweaty palm slides against the screen and forces an action you hadn’t intended, or a game simply has too many on-screen controls to reliably find and touch with 100 percent accuracy. Some games, or entire game genres, just weren’t made for touchscreens.
This effectively limits what game makers are able to do with the iPhone or iPad. Some of the most popular games available on the platform barely rely on the player to function, requiring little more than a single tap or swipe at the right time in order to keep what might as well be a barely-interactive movie going. It’s no wonder that children, cats, and other animals — not that your kids are animals, I swear — are able to play these games. They’re immensely enjoyable but not nearly as sophisticated as their more mature console counterparts.
Better to make a simple game that works well with a touchscreen than to develop something that might be at home on a dedicated gaming device and have someone delete the game because they couldn’t make it work properly. Supporting physical controllers with iOS, and possibly selling those devices within the Apple Store, could allow Apple to expand what game makers are able to do with iOS — and attract more of them to the platform in the process.
Independent game developers are, according to the Game Developers Conference, already wildly interested in tablets and smartphones. Some 58 percent of developers polled by the GDC considered tablets to be the most interesting new market; 56 percent said the same for smartphones. That’s more than are interested in the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (though the report was released before either console was announced), PC gaming, browsers, or any other category. Only 12.18 percent of respondents were interested in the PlayStation Vita or Nintendo 3DS, the leading handheld gaming consoles. Smartphones and tablets win by a mile. And they should: Flurry reports that games are the most-used applications on the iPhone and iPad throughout the entire day.
Adding controller support could allow all of those fascinated game makers to develop something more than another “Temple Run” or “Canabalt” knock-off. Genres requiring quick-twitch controls, like platformers, action games, or first-person shooters could finally become viable on Apple’s platforms. In the same way that games improved as controllers expanded beyond the “A” and “B” buttons of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, introducing controllers to the iPhone and iPad could allow mobile games to evolve and improve.
[Image courtesy philipjbond]
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.
This week on the podcast we're talking about all of Apple's big announcements, the unseen beauty of voice commands, and government spies. We're also answering your questions about downgrading an iPhone, calling a coworker out on his or her BS, and common MacBook Wi-Fi issues.