Facebook made news yesterday in a move to buy the instant messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash, stock and restricted shares. In the past five years, WhatsApp has become a stunningly popular app letting users send text, pictures, voice recordings and video messages to fellow users, while also providing the ability to set up status updates and organize contacts. Because WhatsApp works through mobile broadband, users do not pay the SMS texting fees cell phone carriers often have in their phone contracts. WhatsApp’s Co-Founder Jan Koum has kept a note on his desk reading, “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!” – a testament to how simple WhatsApp has been so far for its users.
WhatsApp has nearly 450 million active users worldwide and most of them are outside the United States. However, Facebook most likely values WhatsApp’s huge popularity among younger users who are increasingly using group texting applications to communicate with friends at a rapid pace, and we imagine it values the data acquired as part of the purchase. While Facebook is already able to capitalize on the wealth of information users post about themselves on their profiles and timelines, messaging applications like WhatsApp can provide even greater access to user information through the conversations they have on the platform. What does this mean for organizers? We hope it will be good news as the mobile messaging ecosystem continues to evolve.
Mobile messaging is evolving quickly, in part due to the reluctance of wireless carriers to evolve their own text messaging gateways. Scott enjoyed reminding us of his own 2014 prediction when the news broke yesterday. What he predicted was that, “Cell Phone carriers in the US will change their behavior on governing standard message rate SMS for mass texting. There are so many forms of messenger services getting into the mobile space that the way we message each other will evolve. Newer technology will continue to erode the US cell phone carriers’ monopoly on mobile messaging.” If yesterday’s news doesn’t push carriers to take faster action on messaging, nothing will.
Alison: Instagram was the talk of the town after Facebook acquired it for $1 billion as part of their mobile strategy. As much as I agree with College Humor’s “Look at this Instagram” (Nickelback Parody), many now are using Instagram (instead of Facebook and Twitter) as their primary social network.
David: You Don’t Know Jack. Nostalgia takes first place with a fantastic re-tooling of an addictive classic trivia game that utilizes a smart pricing system. It uses Facebook to cleverly fake the multiplayer experience by recording friends’ scores and creating the illusion that you play against them.
Eden: Mint, a savvy financial planning app that makes budgeting as fun as it can be (hint: not very).
Gabe: Canistream.it - This should really be called “is it possible to watch this movie right now without leaving the comfort of my couch?” It is also available as a mobile app to aid in mobile video consumption.
Jeff: OmniFocus. I have barely scratched the surface of what this app can do and I am already more organized at work and at home.
Jen: Duolinguo, a language learning app and website, has been my favorite of the year. In addition to teaching you a new language, the website allows users to translate and vote on text from the web.
Kate: Pinterest. After a few major overhauls, they finally created an app that allows users to repin, upload pins from photos on their phones and pin from mobile web easily.
Kayla: RunKeeper. As an avid runner and on a budget, I didn’t want to spend the money on one of those fancy GPS watches that track your distance and pace. Luckily, RunKeeper does both, as well as integrates with their online UI so you can manage your information at your computer as well.
Keegan: Ingress is the first app that has ever made exercise fun for me. While it is only available for Android, as it expands it is going to introduce a large number of people to the possibilities of augmented reality.
Rich: A refreshing trend of 2012 has been the humanization and demystification of our public officials, even when it’s less than flattering. The best example I can think of is Sunlight Foundation’s Politiwhoops. A definitive list of tweets posted – and deleted – by public officials, it gives us insight into the slip-ups and goofs of politicians and their staffs.
Sam: This isn’t very new, but the latest version of Google Maps for iPhone. The turn-by-turn directions and up to the minute traffic updates are awesome and far better than the maps feature Apple provides.
Scott: Burner – Let’s be honest, you don’t always want to give out your phone number. I would also like to highlight a past pick with TripIt. It is still the best way to organize all of your flight, hotel & car rental information in one place!
Walker: Github.com. I’ve been a member since 2008, but I don’t see this treading water or going away! It’s only going to get bigger and better as developers start getting designers on it to help them make open source software more user-friendly.
Prediction for 2013
Walker: 2013 will be the first year we see actual competition to the current Apple-domination in the mobile arena. Other companies were playing catch-up. These companies and others have the wares that finally begin to compete in user-friendliness and usability. As a side prediction: I think Ballmer will finally get ejected (or kindly swept aside) at Microsoft.
Scott: 2013 will be a true mobile revolution for politics. Campaigns will not only have to think about how email displays on a mobile phone, but also make sure their websites are mobile friendly. They will need to think more about how busy their target audience is while watching political ads on very small screens. The most successful campaigns will come to terms with the fact that news is being spread at 140 to 160characters at a time and videos are being consumed at 15-second intervals instead of 60-second intervals.
Sam: Mobile giving will become an even bigger success in 2013. Not just for non-profits, but also for political campaigns as the ability to fundraise over mobile devices becomes easier.
Rich: Many events of the past year have people concerned with public safety, both because of large-scale incidents such as Newtown and Aurora, and on a more personal level, the start-up of organizations like ihollaback.org. I predict more will be done to bring mobile technology into reporting and responding to incidents. Apps which can be activated with a single touch or voice command, can notify first responders with the location and details of an incident, or in the case of harassment, can flag an individual perpetrator as a public or private warning to others.
Keegan: Analyzing data to make smarter decisions will no longer be an option for organizations, it will become the standard in 2013. As a result, I expect the messages that reach us, and the experiences that shape our day-to-day lives, to become smarter.
Kayla: I believe that in 2013 cable will become obsolete for many more people since we all have the ability to watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and more on our Wiis and other similar devices. These services are either much cheaper or free.
Kate: Many more types of mobile video ads. It will be the most interesting to see if consumers are excited by this form of advertising, or are irritated by the fact that a video plays in between every move they make on Words with Friends or before every story they read on ESPN.
Jen: A new type of community-based organizing will emerge. Service workers will start to build power and demand respect from their employers with help from communities, unions and student activists. A large part of their success will be due to relationship building and traditional organizing techniques, facilitated by social media and mobile technology.
Jeff: The mobile space is going to go through serious growing pains. It will split deeper into different camps between web apps and native apps, and the losers will be the end users. We will see a greater adoption of Windows Phone and even more fragmentation of Google’s Android operating system.
Gabe: 2013 will be the year that the rest of your stuff connects to the Internet and starts to learn; all of it monitored and controlled by your smart phone. The Nest Learning Thermostat got the formula right in 2012; other “dumb” appliances will follow suit.
Eden: While 2012 was a very successful year for women, 2013 will see increased attention on very serious and basic women’s rights, particularly the failed passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the upcoming 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. 2013 will be the year that women fight back with new tactics.
David: Cable companies will be forced to re-evaluate their subscription services and admit once and for all that people want to watch what they want, when they want it, on the device of their choosing. Intel is allegedly introducing a set top box that will allow people to finally subscribe to a cable a la carte with cloud based DVR.
Arun: I have three – Bill de Blasio will be Mayor of NYC, Castro will live, 3D movies will die (again).
Alison: Microsoft’s Windows 8 devices will not take off and their response to the rise of the mobile web will continue to disappoint. Apple will remain king in tablet sales, despite the impressive new Windows tablet with keyboard cover, Microsoft Surface.
Text OURVOTE to 90975 to verify registration status, check voting rules, find polling locations and report potential voting obstructions
(Washington, DC) – The new Election Protection app, available on all major mobile devices, is the most powerful election protection tool available today. The app was created to empower voters and to ensure that all eligible voters can cast their ballots and have them counted this Election Day.
One of the most important features of the app is the ability to ask questions or report any type of voting problem directly to a team of highly trained volunteers and tap into a coalition of attorneys and legal experts at the national and local level to immediately answer questions and pursue remedies.
“The development of this app was a true collaboration of organizations that are each focused on helping all eligible Americans vote and determined to put the power to protect voting rights directly in the hands of voters,” said Eric Marshall of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
This app, designed and built by Revolution Messaging, turns your mobile phone into a citizen watchdog tool and gives you the ability to connect to the national Voter Protection network by downloading the app from iTunes (search: Elect Protect), or by texting OURVOTE to 90975. You can even use your phone’s GPS & camera features (iPhone users) to take a photo of the potential violation and geo-tag it to the exact location of the incident.
“As a former Freedom Rider, I know the incredible importance of exercising your right as an American to cast a ballot. I hope every smartphone holder in the country uses the power now in their hands to fight for every single American’s precious right to vote,” said Harold Ickes, president of Catalist.
The app is available on all major mobile devices (iOS, Android, Blackberry) and works on all smartphones, tablets and through the mobile web. It is easily shareable between friends and family – just tell them to text OURVOTE TO 90975 – regardless of the type of smartphone you might use. A Spanish language version of the app is also coming soon.
The mobile app allows users in real-time to:
Report problems and issues of obstructing voters rights through live hotline directly to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and use an easy to upload form to geo-tag the location if the problem using smartphone GPS, and even add a photo to the report
Verify voter registration status using links to Catalist‘s continuously updated national voter database
Submit voter registration forms through Rock-the-Vote
Look up polling locations through Google’s “VIP” service
See key voting rules & regulations for each state compiled by New Organizing Institute
Review what type of machines are used at each polling place compiled by Verified Voting
Now that National Voter Registration Day is behind us, what’s next? At Revolution Messaging, we are focused on how technology can help strengthen our democracy and we’ve put together a list of three mobile apps that would make George Washington proud.
With this app, you can register to vote, verify your registration, find your polling place, review key voting rules and regulations by state, see what type of machine you’ll be voting on, and file a report regarding any problems and to get answers. So basically, you can do it all. If this app was around in 2000, maybe we could have avoided two wars, the PATRIOT ACT, and innumerable other travesties of the GW Bush presidency because election protection activists would have known that African-American voters were being turned away at the polls in Florida and given broken machines. That’s neither here or there though. Now, we can make sure we stop this.
Our democracy depends upon every eligible citizen being able to cast a vote and have that vote counted. When that doesn’t happen, when there are problems, it is imperative that those who can do something about it find out as quickly as possible. This app allows you to communicate problems quickly and effectively, as well as check the legality of something that seems suspicious, so we don’t end up with another president we didn’t elect.
Ever watched an ad and thought, “that seems odd. I wish I knew who paid for it?” If so, Ad Hawk to the rescue. From the developers:
Ad Hawk is a free mobile app that allows you to identify political ads as they air and immediately learn about who is behind them. Want to know who is spending money to influence your vote? The app provides valuable contextual information about the candidate, super PAC and issues ads airing on TV and radio this election year. When you see a political ad on TV or hear one on the radio, open the app and click the TV set to have Ad Hawk start listening to the ad. In less than 30 seconds, Ad Hawk will create an audio fingerprint and start searching for a match. When Ad Hawk finds a match, you will get information about how much money the ad’s sponsor received or spent, where the ad is on the air and media reports about the candidate or political group.
We’ll be using that this election year – let’s see how much money the Koch brothers put behind campaigns this year.
Politicians are about as reliable as the Internet when it comes to your ability to believe everything you hear. Think of Settle It! as a lie detector test for claims made by boisterous politicians (so yes, this app will come in handy at every campaign speech, debate and event). PolitiFact.com says “The app, available in iTunes, Google Play and Amazon app stores, is known as ‘PolitiFact’s Argument Ender’ because it allows you to enter names, keywords and subjects and instantly find relevant Truth-O-Meter ratings.” The app also connects through your social media network, giving you the option to share results through Facebook and Twitter. Want to test your lie detecting skills? The app becomes interactive with its PolitiFact Challenge, “a game that shows a list of factual claims we [PolitiFact] have checked. You have to choose whether each one was rated True, False or Pants on Fire. You earn points for each correct answer and can work your way up through five playing levels, from ‘Intern’ to ‘Aide,’ ‘Lobbyist,’ ‘Pundit’ and then the highest level, ‘Wonk.’” So not only can you access important information, you can also compete with your friends, and we all know it’s more fun when someone wins. We think we can make it to Wonk pretty easily. Up for the challenge?
Now that you’re fully prepared, all you have left to do is VOTE.
Soon after Google+ was released back in the fall of 2011, Facebook quickly realized that it needed to evolve in order to keep pace with other increasingly visual social networking platforms. To keep up, Facebook developed and rolled-out Timeline to replace profiles, while making sure images and videos became more prominent in a user’s news feed.
Now Facebook has a new trend to keep up with as more of Facebook’s user base is shifting to mobile. But be assured, Facebook has a response to this too. Facebook launched a new mobile site today, as well as iOS and Android app redesigns, which make images three times larger on your screen! With the rise of social networks, such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram, social media is becoming more visual. And it’s your time to take advantage of this.
Now is the time to use more compelling images to motivate and engage your supporters and members on social networks. With Facebook’s new mobile experience (which will hopefully load faster as more phones utilize 4G), people will be extending their browsing time on their cell phone and your message will catch their eye with captivating images and videos as it now takes up their full screen.
Check out before and after pictures of Facebook’s new mobile design here.
Looking for your next challenge? Apps for Communities is hosting a contest to develop an app that helps improve daily life in cities – making local public information more personalized, usable and actionable. The contest, led by the Knight Foundation and the FCC, is looking to help people who don’t have easy access to the Internet, giving them the information they need on their cell phone while promoting broadband adoption.
The contest offers $100,000 in prizes, with $30,000 going to the winner, $20,000 for 2nd, $30,000 for 3rd and other prizes for different categories, including best design and best use of SMS.
Apps for Communities created aforum to share ideas and vote on any favorites.
Up to the challenge? Can you help improve the lives of those in your community who don’t have easy access to the Internet?
The deadline is approaching – Have your submission in by October 3!
A new messaging system is in town – one more system that the media is saying will threaten SMS messaging: Facebook Messenger. Surprised that Facebook is behind this new app? They seem to be rolling out something new every week and this week it happens to be a new way for people to text each other without paying carriers’ SMS fees.
In a past post, we wrote about the potential for Apple’s messaging system, iMessage (released in June 2011), to influence carriers to alleviate some of the costly text messaging fees on its users in order to keep people from abandoning SMS and fully adopting a free approach. Now, these messaging systems are not anywhere close to making SMS obsolete, but could Facebook Messenger be another push in the right, and cheaper, direction?
Facebook Messenger may be even more appealing to the masses since it can be linked to their Facebook account – an account we all know is used multiple times a day by most people. This part has seemed to stir up some controversy regarding the privacy of your phone’s address book. However, with this new app, the syncing capabilities will be appreciated: the text messages sent will automatically be stored in the messaging center of their Facebook account for easy access.
And what happens if the user you try to contact through Facebook Messenger isn’t signed in? It just shows up on their phone as an SMS text – a very mobile centric system. No matter whether you send a text through the app or send a message through Facebook or an IM through Facebook’s instant messaging system, all the messages will end up in one thread keeping users organized and having their past conversations in one easy location.
Is this enough to ask our carriers to start caring about losing potential users to new messaging apps that may turn people away from purchasing SMS packages for their cell phones? Verizon, why will people want to pay you per incoming and outgoing texts if they can send one for free with Facebook Messenger? AT&T, why will your customers continue to buy into expensive unlimited SMS packages when they have free, unlimited messages with iMessages? This is another group stepping into the world of messaging systems and, hopefully, this group adds more competition to the field of SMS, creating an urgent environment for the carriers to generate a more just system for the users.
Sometimes it can feel like technology is taking over. But now we have an app that puts a stop to technology – at least for 24 hours. The Sabbath Manifesto app, an idea put together by the Jewish organization Reboot, helps you unplug from the world around you – no texting, tweeting, emailing, Facebook checking. It encourages you to go out and reconnect face to face with family and friends – reconnect with the world and disconnect from technology.
The Sabbath Manifest app supports Reboot’s second annual National Day of Unplugging – planned for March 4 to 5 – a 24-hour window to leave your phone behind and enjoy the day technology free. Reboot is using this app as a “modern-spin on the ancient notion of a day of rest.”
To download the app, all you must do is text REBOOT to 738674 and it will be sent directly to your phone. The app allows you to automatically send out messages to friends and family to remind them you are participating in the modern way of rest – a day unplugged. These messages can be sent through Facebook or Twitter, and in return, you will get text messages reminding you when it’s time to observe the Sabbath Manifesto.
The concept of the app is meant to be interpreted differently by each person. One person might use the app to cease texting for a day while another person may avoid all types of cellular technology: emailing, calling, tweeting, etc.
No matter how you choose to use this app and observe the modern day of rest, the Sabbath Manifesto wants to hear your stories, whether you’re taking the challenge solo or observing it as part of a team.
For any organization-whether it’s a nonprofit or political campaign-there is a list of social media tools that should be kept up with.
Moving up on that list are mobile applications, created by non-profit and political organizations to connect directly to their support base.
If you think it’s social media overkill, think again. Currently, there are 45 million smartphone users in the U.S. With that, 2010 has become the year for mobile apps. In 2009, there were 2.5 million downloads for paid and free apps. Gartner Research predicts that it will increase to 4.5 million downloads, totaling to $6.7 billion in revenue in 2010.
From reading the New York Times to tracking naps, there is an application for just about anything. For political and nonprofit organizations, our biggest tip is to avoid creating a mobile app that’s an RSS feed of an organization’s Twitter or blog. Instead, view the mobile app as a way to creatively inform, entertain and engage users.
The mobile world
What do people have on hand at almost any given time? Keys. Wallet. Cell phone.
Mobile apps should include features that capitalize on information that people want to read and share on-demand. The most valuable kind of application is one that gives information that’s important and relevant to their audience.
To help educate pet owners about toxic plants, the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) created Pet Safe, an app with a searchable database of plants harmful to dogs, cats and horses. When an animal ingests a suspicious plant, a concerned pet owner can read a detailed profile of the plant, find out what actions they need to take and if necessary, dial the ASPCA Animal Poison Control with just one touch.
Location is key
GPS-enabled mobile devices gives organizations the opportunity to leverage location-based features. Whether it’s finding a local health clinic or polling office, GPS can be used to fit an organization’s cause. One example of GPS being used effectively is the new iPhone app by Volunteermatch. The app makes it easier for people to do good by allowing users to search for local volunteer opportunities based on their location.
Sharing is caring
Allowing users to share information from the app or the program itself can help spread an organization’s message to like-minded friends.
A huge driving force for the application was a free concert featuring Latino pop stars, guaranteed to users who shared the app with their friends through SMS or email. Giveaways, secret shows and meet-and-greets are a few ways to drive online and offline action.
A novel approach
Two way-communication is an important component of any social media approach. To raise awareness about their opposition to Tom Emmer, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota created Tom Emmer’s Minnesota, a fake travel app that shows what life Minnesotans would face if he were to be elected.
The section “Things to Do in Tom Emmer’s Minnesota,” gives a guided tour of Minnesota under Tom Emmer’s leadership. One of the suggestions is to visit what would’ve been the “former site of the Mayo Clinic,” a comment on Emmer’s anti-healthcare reform stance. Users are also able to contribute their own “travel tips.”
The last word
All in all, consider why a supporter would want to connect through mobile apps. Is it because they want timely information? Are there other incentives-like in Voto Latino’s case, a free concert? Could it be novel and entertaining like the Tom Emmer Minnesota app?
Lastly, mobile apps are only as effective as their user base. When making an app, consider that even though iPhone and Android sales are on the rise, they still only make up a small percentage of phones in use. comScore’s recent report shows that non-smartphones are the majority. Devices created by Samsung, Motorola and LG make up about 60 percent of the market. So when developing a mobile app, it is possible and important to create one that can operate on a cell phone with a basic data plan, as well as high-end smartphones. The larger audience the app can reach, the bigger impact it will have.
Why all the nasty words? Since Apple entered the mobile market with the iPhone, they’ve got the hold on the mobile world, with 51.15 million units since it’s creation, and 8.75 million sold last quarter–their most successful to date. As the Fonzie of mobile phones, Apple’s set the playground’s rules, isolating people who’ve been in the game, and in turn, and creating unhappy days for some.
Apple’s App store has garnered 15.6 million unique views from iPhone and iTouch users. Although Apple has only a minority of mobile users, their popularity is undisputable: over 140,000 apps have been developed with 3 billion downloads in its two years of existence.
With that hold, Apple have been increasingly particular about how Apps are made, and who gets in the club. They’re infamous for having a stringent review process and sometimes rejecting apps for arbitrary reasons. A safeguard for consumers, but a nightmare for some developers who are waiting in the long line to cash in.
Different Flash for Different Folks
One of the biggest scuffles is Apple’s move to flush out Flash, a tool used to enable web videos, on iPhones and iPads. Apple’s iPhone is the only smartphone that isn’t Flash-compatible, making websites that contain Flash-based content inaccessible. CEO Steve Jobs says it’s too slow to be useful for Apple products and opts for HTML5 for video purposes, which doesn’t make Adobe, it’s producer, all too happy.
But in the past few weeks, Apple’s taken it one step farther by banning outside development tools. So Adobe’s new Flash Developer for iPhone a part of CS5 is instantly obsolete, leaving Adobe to pull the plug.
Despite criticism, Apple stands their ground, easily and understandably: they want to keep their share of the market, and they want it done their way. When criticized as being a walled garden, Jobs responded that “…intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.”
Google is taking the polar opposite approach, working cross-platform and wooing developers. So far, they’re growing at a faster rate with 25,000 apps since its inception, and 9,000 apps in March alone. Oh, and they’re Flash-friendly: in late 2010 Android phones will become enabled with Adobe Flash 10.1 and Air 2.0, and the two companies are rumored to work together on the upcoming Chrome OS. Google has an open arms approach compared to Apple and it’ll be interesting to see the alliances and innovations that develop.
In February, the world’s 24 largest wireless carriers announced a collaboration called Wholesale Applications Community, which aims to wants to “unite a fragmented marketplace” making it easier for mobile app developers to create applications that would work across multiple carriers, devices and operating systems.
The new consortium includes Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint as well as the biggest international providers in countries like France, India, Britain, China and Brazil. Phone developers LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Sony Ericsson voiced their support. This collaboration will tap into a three billion user market currently untouched by Apple. How they’ll wrestle in customers and developers is yet to be seen.
Microsoft is playing a whole different game. They recently unveiled the Kin One and Kin Two, two phones that bring information from a user’s social networks onto the phone and eliminating third-party apps. So instead of downloading an application to view what your friends are doing on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace, the user has it all there on their homescreen, an innovation definitely worth taking a look.
Inside Apps: Advertising
The mobile world is evolving as more people obtain increasingly smarter phones and larger mobile devices, it’ll be a constant race to see who can own the playground. The iPad’s popularity was unprecedented, with 500,000 units sold the first week. Google is rumored to soon have its own version.
And with that, the two technology giants will again compete for another faction of apps: advertising. Google’s acquired AdMob after Apple’s failed attempt. However, Steve Job bought up Quattro Wireless and introduced iAd, Apple’s own advertising platform that will offer rich in-app advertising.
When it comes to mobile development, open-source and collaboration between carriers, phone devices, operating systems is ideal for reaching the most users. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that there are 5 billion mobile subscribers this year. Mobile is the way to connect to people, so the key is to make applications that would work on any device or carrier. It’s not just about Apple or Android, but developing content accessible to the most mobile consumers possible. Can’t we all get along?