Hangouts review

hangoutsHangouts is an Android and iOS app from Google. It’s now available on Google Play and the App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Google’s new Hangouts app is the next evolution of their Talk app. When first downloading Hangouts, Google informs the user that this new program will replace Talk. Users who frequently use Talk may be a bit hesitant to make the switch, but once they download and start using Hangouts, it becomes obvious that it is more than just a new version of Talk. Instead, Hangouts combines the simplicity of Talk with the level of interaction Google has been growing within Google+ Hangouts.

When first opening Hangouts, users may be prompted to sign in if they are not already. Once they have logged on, users are greeted to a screen that shows off their most frequently contacted friends on Google+, along with their entire list of contacts (both from Google+ and imported from mobile devices). Users can interact with any of their contacts by pressing their name on the list, or by using the search bar. The search bar can find current contacts via name, email, or number, and can add new contacts in the same way. Users can also connect with entire circles at once, but are not able to edit circles directly from the Hangouts app.

hangouts1Once contacts and circles are selected, users are given two options: “Message” and “video call.” Messaging works just like Google Talk’s instant messaging. Two Google users can send text-based messages to each other over the Hangouts app and in a web browser. Communication between the app and browsers is nearly flawless. The only noticeable issue with messaging is how the emoticons in Hangouts will often not load for users in a web browser. Most users won’t find this to be a problem, but those who rely on heavy use of emoticons may be somewhat disappointed. (more…)

Google I/O: Here’s how to make money on Google Play; IAP revenues up 700 percent Y-o-Y

android-logo-250-250At a Google I/O session today covering monetization in Google Play, Ibrahim Elbouchikhi, Google Play product manager for commerce and monetization, revealed that in-app revenues increased 700 percent year-over-year from May 2012 to April 2013.

Elbouchikhi also says since launching the ability to monetize through subscriptions a year ago, revenue has doubled each quarter. He notes internet radio service Pandora as a perfect example of a top grossing app which monetizes its users via a subscription model.

Android for tablets is starting to show some growth now, Elbouchikhi reveals. In the past 12 months, Google was seeing a 1.7 times higher purchase rate of apps on tablets compared to apps on smartphones. “The additional cost of optimizing your apps for tablets is well worthwhile,” he says. Additionally, there’s a 2.2 times higher purchase rate on recent platform versions compared to prior ones. “Take advantage of the latest features, whether its Google+ sign-in or all the latest APIs released at I/O this week.” On top of all this growth, average revenue per user (ARPU) is 2.5 times greater year-over-year.

Below is a chart, showing that higher-rated apps in Google Play monetize better:App ratings monetization

Google hasn’t been slowing down at all when it comes to adding and optimizing forms of payment. In July 2012, Google introduced the Google Play gift cards at retail. Google also launched promotional campaigns for Google Play credit by partnering with pre-paid phone providers, offering a $50 Google Play credit if a user purchases a particular pre-paid phone, for example. Carrier billing, one of the most lucrative forms of monetization in various parts of the world, is now available to 50 percent of Google Play’s daily active users. Google also optimized the purchase flow, making it more contextual, faster and simpler. According to Elbouchikhi, Google has dropped latency by 35 percent when users make purchases. Looking forward, Elbouchikhi says Google will invest more in expanding Google Play gift cards to more markets as well as carrier billing. (more…)

Google discloses how search for Google Play works for the first time; 12 percent of DAU search for apps daily

google-play-logoAt Google I/O today in San Francisco, head of search and discovery for Google Play Ankit Jain detailed how developers can get their apps discovered through search and other mechanisms on the Google Play app store.

“We’ve never discussed our search for Google Play until today,” Jain said.

Jain first explained major install sources for apps including browsing discovery features and search queries. Some browsing discovery features were charts (Editors’ picks, top free apps, etc.), personalized recommendations (a feature announced at Google I/O 2012), and related/cross-sell (“users also viewed” and “users also installed”). Jain then detailed two kinds of search queries — categorical and navigational. Categorical queries are broad search terms such as “free games,” “train schedules,” and “multiplayer games,” while navigational queries are exact search terms like “Angry Birds,” Hotel Tonight,” and “Beautylish.”

“For the average app, search actually makes up the vast majority of installs,” he added.

To follow up his statement, Jain reveals some Google Play search data for the first time. He said 12 percent of daily active users (DAU) search for apps daily, 50 percent of DAU search for apps weekly and Google sees six million unique phrases searched monthly. (more…)

Google I/O 2013: How to make magical Android apps

Android jelly BeanIn the final part of a three-leg series about Android development pro tips, Reto Meier, Android developer relations tech lead at Google, presented some tips for Android developers to make their apps “magical.” Meier wanted to answer the question “How do we build apps significantly enough to feel like magic?”

For his first tip, Meier says the easiest way for a developer to make an app magical is by looking at competitors.

“You can use your competitors as an eye for where you should be,” he says. But there’s a downfall when analyzing what competitors are doing. “Aiming for the past or where your competitors have been isn’t magic,” he adds.

Meier also says developers shouldn’t focus on the current breakdown of the Android operating system, which Google provides publicly at its developer dashboard.

“If you wait for Jelly Bean to hit 50 percent, you’re going to be behind,” he says. Meier adds that developers should build apps for users with the latest Android OS, especially.

An example of a magical moment is when two users hold their handsets together, tap the devices together, and initiate a multiplayer session in a game, similarly to the sharing capability in Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and newer handsets. “For regular people, this is the sort of stuff that creates magical experiences,” Meier says.

Meier provided some additional tips including not transmitting or storing contact details or location of users, supplying a privacy policy on Google Play and allowing users to delete stored data as well as not storing data that’s more than a few months old.

Meier continually drove the point home on designing a personalized app for everyone. To do that, a developer has to create context through tracking. A developer can implement tracking abilities in their apps such as location tracking, activity recognition (which can tell if a user is running, walking, cycling, etc.) and social tracking of a user’s Google+ profile. Utilizing a mobile device’s sensory abilities such as sight, sound, and touch, can create a rich sensory experience for the user that will feel magical.

New Android boss reveals future plans for Android, alludes to I/O plans

android-logo-250-250New Android boss Sundar Pichai gave his first interview to Wired today, revealing Google’s future plans for its Android operating system.

In March, Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, stepped down from his position as head of Android to pursue another role within Google. Pichai, who was the senior vice president of Chrome and Apps prior, was tapped as Rubin’s replacement. Pichai told Wired that the leadership change from Rubin to himself happened a couple weeks prior to Google’s official announcement.

People speculated that the move signaled an unification of Google’s two operating systems — its Android OS and Chrome OS. Pichai, who’s been at Google since 2004, reiterated to Wired that Android and Chrome will remain separate, but didn’t rule out a change in the long run.

“The picture may look different a year or two from from now, but in the short term, we have Android and we have Chrome, and we are not changing course,” he said.

Other highlights from his interview included Pichai’s excitement for alternative Android experiences via Facebook Home and Amazon Kindle Fire, Google’s positive relationship with Samsung (Pichai owns a Galaxy S4 handset) and his backing of HTML5 for app development.

For Android specifically, Pichai said payouts to developers on Google Play quadrupled in 2012. He also said Google is looking into changing its method when it comes to updating the Android OS, which is currently highly fragmented across many Android devices.

For Google’s I/O event later this week, Pichai said the conference will focus on “all kinds of things we’re doing for developers.” Keep it right here at Inside Mobile Apps for Google I/O coverage starting Wednesday.

Developers interested in learning more about mobile app development can register for our upcoming Inside Social Apps conference June 6 to 7 in San Francisco.

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Any Android developer can now reply to app store reviews

google-play-logoGoogle today announced that all Android developers can now reply to user reviews in Google Play. Developers can reply to app store reviews through the Google Play Developer Console. All replies are displayed publicly below the corresponding user review on Google Play. Users receive an email notification when a developer replies and can either reply to a developer directly by email, or update their review if they feel the need to.

In June 2012, Google first allowed a select group of developers — those with a Top Developer Badge — the ability to respond to specific reviews directly from the Android Developer Console. Google expanded the program to more developers in January. Comparatively, the Apple App Store still doesn’t have the ability for developers to directly respond to user reviews.

Responding to app reviews is helpful to developers because an app’s average review score is a powerful viral mechanism for app discovery as well as provide a more effective communication channel with their audience to handle any customer support requests like complaints, bugs or suggestions for new features.

Google also provided some best practices when replying to user reviews, which it collected from developers who had the ability to reply to reviews already:

  • Check reviews frequently, and involve people from all parts of your organization
  • Identify and prioritize bugs based on user impact
  • Let users know when their problems are resolved
  • Reply constructively to both negative and positive reviews
  • Refer users to documentation or other support channels
  • Get ideas about new improvements or features
  • Thank the users who are your biggest advocates

Developers interested in learning more about replying to user reviews can go here to see Google’s posting guidelines.

Google updates Google Search app for iOS with Google Now functionality

google-logoGoogle today announced the release of its Google Now feature in its Google Search app for iOS. Google Now is a personal assistant feature within the Google Search app for Android, and now iOS, which personalizes the Google search bar by providing the user with weather forecasts, driving conditions, calendar reminders, news updates, flight reminders and more.

Information from Google Now is presented through Google Now Cards. Some of the Cards, which provide different functionalities, are available only for Android. Features that aren’t available for iOS include the Boarding pass, Activity Summary, Events, Zillow, Fandango, Concerts and Nearby Events. But a majority of the other features are present in Google Now for iOS.

Google also updated the voice assistant functionality in its Google Search app, unleashing a competitor to Apple’s on-board voice assistant Siri. In the app, a user can tap the microphone icon and speak to their iOS device. For example, if a users asks, “Do I need an umbrella this weekend?” the app will answer the question by providing the user with the forecast.

It’s unlikely that Google Now for iOS will ever have all of the same abilities as Google Now does for Android since the app is a core component of the Android operating system. (more…)

Animoca: 7-inch tablets dominate the Android tablet market, Samsung the leading manufacturer

Animoca logoAndroid-focused mobile game developer and publisher Animoca today released Android tablet data gathered from its network of users, which showed that four of the five most used tablets were of the 7-inch screen variety, and Samsung devices were the first and second most popular tablets overall.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 (includes p3100 and p3113) took an 11.8 percent share and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 grabbed an 8.3 percent share. Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices also faired well, coming in at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, with a 7.5 percent share for the standard Kindle Fire and a 4.9 percent share with the HD model. Another notable tablet was Asus’ Google Nexus 7, which generated a 3.8 percent share.

Beyond the No. 7  spot, the remaining tablets each claimed less than a one percent market share. So, given an error margin of 0.1 percent and the slight differences between the No. 8 tablet onward, Animoca says it couldn’t be sure of the correct ordering.

Developers should be creating mobile apps made for their target audience, and knowing which devices to develop for like tablets, in terms of screen size, hardware specifications, and platform market share, is important.

Animoca previously released similar data that analyzed for most used devices on its network, taking a look at the top Android smartphones in markets like the U.S., Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and India.

The Hong Kong-based game company collected data for this report from 978,000 users worldwide who used Google Play and played an Animoca game on a tablet device between February 18 to March 20.

Google refreshes Google Play’s look

google-play-logoGoogle today revealed a new redesigned look for its Google Play app store on Android smartphones and tablets.

The refreshed look is one that’s simple, clean and aimed to help users find apps and media content faster. Notable changes include larger images, grouping of similar content and the appearance of content recommendations as the user scrolls through the app store. Purchasing has also been simplified, so users can go from checkout to enjoying their content as fast as possible.

The previous look of the Google Play store was more text heavy, with black as its primary color. The redesigned store changes the main colors to lighter colors, which is more akin to the look of the web-based Google Chrome Store.

The redesigned Google Play store begins rolling out today for Android smartphones and tablets running the Android Froyo operating system (version 2.2) and above. The refreshed storefront will roll out worldwide in the next few weeks.Google Play redesign tabletGoogle Play redesign smartphone

Google announces Google Keep app

Google logoGoogle today announced Google Keep, a new note-taking app for Android smartphones and tablets.

Google Keep allows users to take down notes and make lists, with the added abilities to include checklists, photos, voice memo transcriptions and a search functionality. The app features a drag-and-drop interface, so users can move around notes, for example, by priority. Notes can also be colored directly as well. All notes are saved and synced across all devices in the cloud via Google Drive. Access to notes aren’t limited to only the app, a user can access, edit and create new notes on the web here. In the next few weeks, Google will add the same capabilities to Google Drive.

Android Police first spotted the app’s existance, but it was quickly taken down by Google shortly after.

Google Keep is available now on google Play for devices running the Ice Cream Sandwich OS (version 4.0) and higher. Users running the latest Jelly Bean OS (version 4.2) can create quick notes in the lock screen via a widget. Surprisingly, no iOS support was mention in Google’s blog post.Google Keep

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