The Tap Lab launches game-changing update for Tiny Tycoons on iOS

Image via The Tap Lab

Image via The Tap Lab

The Tap Lab has today announced a major update to its mobile geo-location game Tiny Tycoons. The game-changing update introduces an new avatar options, building customization options, an inventory system, career bonuses and more to the experience, which allows players to purchase real-world locations using digital currency.

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Keep your friends close with Socialite

IMG_2353Socialite for Facebook is a new iOS app from independent developer Bryce Satterfield. It’s available now as a free download from the Apple App Store, and also has an optional, separately-sold Pro version available that removes ads.

Socialite’s core concept is to provide an app that allows users to reconnect with one another based on their location as listed on Facebook. In order to use the app, the user must first provide their “home” location via GPS and optionally their phone number, then connect with Facebook. Once this is done, the user is then able to browse their list of friends according to geographical proximity and then interact with them accordingly.

When browsing the app’s “Friends Near Me” list, the user may view their friends either in a list sorted by proximity or on a map showing their current (or last checked-into) location. From either the list or the map, the user may tap on a friend to view a summary of their profile, which includes their Facebook profile picture, their name and their current location. From this page, it’s possible to view the friend’s Facebook profile (an option which switches to the dedicated Facebook app rather than viewing it within the Socialite app), send them a message either via Socialite (if the friend has it installed) or their Facebook profile, call them (if they have signed up to Socialite and provided their phone number) or “nudge” them. “Nudging” Socialite users provides an immediate notification; “nudging” non-Socialite users sends them a Timeline post informing them that you are in the area.

The app can be set up to automatically notify the user when their friends are within a certain distance of them. This facility can be customized — by default, the user must be 100 miles or more away from their defined “home area” before they will receive notifications of friends being nearby, and notifications will be received if friends are within a 50-mile radius. These distances may be relatively “small” for larger countries such as the U.S., but in smaller countries with smaller urban areas (such as the U.K.) the minimum distance of 50 miles is actually a significant way away — by several towns or cities in many cases. It would perhaps be more practical to have had the facility to see when other users are in the same town, or within 5-10 miles rather than 50.

This issue aside, Socialite has the potential to be mildly useful. Because it’s based on Facebook check-ins and location information rather than third-party services such as Foursquare, it’s a good means of easily keeping tabs on friends in the area. The fact it uses Facebook also means that it isn’t reliant on its own proprietary network — in fact, it’s not really all that clear why Socialite even has its own proprietary network, since all the features the app offers (sending messages, calling, nudging/poking) are already present in Facebook.

The app is free but ad-supported, with inconspicuous banner ads on the app’s main menu. The aforementioned “pro” version removes ads for $1.99 and claims to offer “additional perks,” but doesn’t elaborate on what these might be in the App Store description. At present, the ads are unobtrusive enough and the app isn’t fully-featured enough to justify a $1.99 price point. The developer should perhaps consider implementing the removal of ads via in-app purchase rather than an unnecessary separate download.

Socialite has some potential but doesn’t really do very much at present. This is fine for the free incarnation, but those paying for the app will probably expect a little more for their money. The app itself is certainly well-presented and intuitive to use — it’s just a little limited for now.

You can follow Socialite’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Placed announces Placed Affiliate, a new way for app developers to monetize their apps

Placed logoMobile app location analytics provider Placed today announced Placed Affiliate, a new way for app developers to monetize their app by providing location data to Placed for market research purposes.

“It’s a new monetization channel for app developers,” says David Shim, founder and CEO of Placed. “No one is doing this today.”

Essentially, mobile app developers get paid by Placed for allowing the company to gather location data from its users who opted-in on Placed collecting such data for its own market research. On top of Placed Affiliate, the Seattle-headquartered company currently offers a free service providing location-based data for mobile app developers called Placed Analytics. Placed also offers a product dubbed Placed Panels, which is a free stand-alone mobile app and survey tool for iOS and Android — called the Panel App in the app stores — that allows businesses to track and measure location-based data from opted-in users, who are rewarded with gift cards or entries into a prize drawing for completing surveys from businesses.

“Placed Affiliate is going to let us acquire and measure more data across a larger universe of devices,” Shim told Inside Mobile Apps.Placed Affiliate

After a mobile app developer signs up for the Placed Affiliate service, they are provided with the Affiliate SDK for integration into their app. Placed wants to make sure it covers all its bases when it comes to a user’s privacy. If a mobile app developer wants to use Placed Affiliate, they must first make sure a user enables location permissions, and second, when a user opens the app, a prompt will inform the user that the app works with Placed for market research on location data. A user can simply select “yes” or “no” if he or she wants or doesn’t want to send location data to Placed. Shim emphasizes that Placed is collecting only location data and nothing else.

“We’re going above and beyond what the legislation has been talking about,” he says.

App developers receive money if Placed can gather location data from users in a 7 day or 30 day period. Shim adds that Placed Affiliate provides incremental monetization. If an app already has monetization hooks through ads, in-app purchases, subscriptions or other means, he recommends app developers keep those and add Placed Affiliate on top of those monetization strategies.

Placed, which already launched a pilot for Placed Affiliate last month, is now allowing any mobile app developer to sign up for the service here.

Back in March 2012, Placed received $3.4 million in Series A funding from the Madrona Venture Group.

Shopkick goes visual to encourage at-home browsing

Shopkick, the location-based shopping app that incentivizes real-world shopping trips has revamped its user interface to improve its “at home” experience.

The new version of the app now comes with catalogue-style lookbooks that users can browse through and save products from. When a Shopkick user enters a participating retailer, the app displays an onscreen reminder if the store sells one of the user’s saved products. It also now includes a map feature called Out & About that shows users where to find participating retailers and deals.

According to Cyriac Roeding, Shopkick’s CEO and co-founder, the new design better reflects how the app is actually used. While the average “Shopkicker” uses the app nine days a month, only a third of those logins are actually conducted in a store.

“Shopkick 3.0 is all about inspiring our users to visit the stores they love, find products they should know about, and remember the ones they saved at home by alerting them when they walk into the store to get their walk-in rewards,” he said.

The app, which now boasts more than four million users, rewards its members for shopping, browsing and scanning selected products with their smartphone cameras with collectible loyalty points called Kicks. Users can exchange Kicks for gift cards at participating retailers, movie tickets, high-end merchandise, free song downloads and more.

Shopkick is backed by $20 million in venture funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Reid Hoffman and Greylock Partners. Since launching two years ago, Shopkick’s users have walked into its partner store over 10 million times.

Geoloqi acquired by GIS provider Esri — integrated products and new iOS mapping library coming soon

Mobile location-based services provider Geoloqi has been acquired by Geographic Information System (GIS) provider Esri for an undisclosed amount.

Although not well known in mobile app development circles, Esri is the world’s premier GIS provider. The California-based company’s ArcGIS products are used by more than 300,000 organizations including national governments and Fortune 500 companies.

According to Geoloqi co-founder and CEO Amber Case, the two companies have already begun integrating their products. While Esri already had its own range mobile of GIS SDKs supporting iOS, Android, Java and Windows, its tools were primarily designed for GIS developers and geography experts, not mobile app developers, explains Case.

“With us joining them, we’re [now creating products for the] whole range of application developers,” she says. “You don’t have to know geography or GIS to get started, but you will be able to leverage the power of those services. What we’ll be doing is exposing more and more of ArcGIS’ online features, SDKs and toolkits within our own API to make them very developer friendly and easy to get started with.”

The integration means that Esri’s existing customers can now use Geoloqi’s geotriggers and real-time location services for mobile app development. On Geoloqi’s side, Esri’s GIS database has allowed the company to beef up its geocoding services.

Developers using the Geoloqi API now have access to an improved reverse geocoding system that automatically pairs latitude and longitude information with “human readable” data like city names. Geoloqi customers are now also able to conduct address-based searches — for example, searching for “the closest museum to 500 Broadway, Portland” rather than using “the closest museum to 45.5246, -122.6843.”

Most importantly however, the newly joined companies are also collaborating on a new iOS mapping library powered by the ArcGIS SDK. This means iOS developers using maps in their applications will soon have an alternative to MapKit, the default mapping library Apple rolled out with iOS 6 when it replaced Google Maps.

Before it was acquired by Esri, Geoloqi had raised $350,000 in venture capital and had turned down several acquisition offers before choosing to unite with Esri. Case tells us it was the similarities between the two company’s cultures, philosophies and long-term product plans that caused her to change her mind about selling Geoloqi.

Under the terms of the deal, Geoloqi’s Portland, Oregon headquarters will become Esri’s new research and development center. All Geoloqi products will continue to be supported, and will retain their existing names, functionalities and code-bases. Geoloqi will also continue its partnership with Appcelerator to provide location-based services via the Titanium 2.0 development platform.

Placed adds consumer surveys to its location analytics with Placed Panels

Mobile location analytics provider Placed wants to help businesses to find out where their customers are going with its latest product, Placed Panels. The new standalone app and survey tool allows companies to track and measure real-world location data from opted-in participants.

After a business sets up its Placed Panels online, it receives a custom URL that can be used to recruit participants for its survey. Customers participate by downloading Placed’s free co-branded Panel App, which provides a single, aggregated destination for all currently available panels. Available for both iOS and Android, the app uses a triple opt-in system to ensure those using it are both aware they’re sharing their location and willing to do so. Panelists must opt in when they are initially recruited by a company, when they download the app and when they open it for the first time.

Businesses can offer rewards in exchange for panelists completing their surveys, and the app’s users can also earn points for sharing information that can be traded in for small value gift-cards or entries into random drawings for higher value prizes.

Placed beta-tested the service in August by recruiting more than 36,000 participants willing to install the Panels app and share their location data with the company. Even measuring something as simple as the most popular coffee shops in a metropolitan area revealed surprising regional trends. Placed found that while Starbucks reigned supreme in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, on the East coast it was Dunkin’ Donuts on top. In markets where consumers could choose between both, Dunkin’ Donuts was the top choice three times out of four.

While real-world location preferences might seem somewhat trivial, the detailed location information provided by Placed Panels allow businesses to understand what their audience actually likes.

This, explains Placed, can help companies customize their promotions and marketing, incorporating regional preferences and ensuring targeted promotions actually hit their target. For example, there is no sense in offering your customers Starbucks gift cards if 75 percent of them are die-hard Dunkin’ Donuts loyalists.

“If your company is not leveraging location analytics, you are at a competitive disadvantage to peers in your industry,” said David Shim, Founder and CEO of Placed, in an announcement accompanying today’s launch.

Placed is backed by $3.4 million in Series A funding from the Madrona Venture group. Since starting the free, public beta of its Placed Analytics service in June, the company has tracked more than 1 billion pieces of user-generated location data.

Urban Airship brings ultra-fine detail to location-based push marketing, promises to keep data secure

Urban Airship, the Portland, Oregon-based mobile push messaging provider is looking to dramatically improve how location-based advertising works with its newly unveiled Location Messaging Service.

Built from the technology Urban Airship picked up when it acquired location platform SimpleGeo for $3.5 million in stock last year, the product promises to deliver ultra-precise advertising that benefits both consumers and brands.

“We predicted that location and push together would be hot data,” says Urban Airship CMO Brent Hieggelke. “But surveys show that people under-check-in. it makes the consumers do the work. Geo fences can be shock collars, you walk in and they buzz, and they don’t give you real value. We think it’s off-putting to consumers.”

Urban Airship’s Location Messaging Service uses a database of more than 2.5 million geofences that range from broad — like the entire Eastern time zone, to hyper specific regions like neighborhoods or even single buildings. This, says Hieggelke, allows Urban Airship to provide what he calls thoughtful location-based advertising that gives consumers information they actually want.

For example, by using Location Based Messaging, it’s possible for a sports team to send an offer for discounted, last-second tickets to everyone who has opted into receiving score updates (signifying a high level of interest), and are currently in the city where the team is playing, but aren’t actually inside the stadium (implying they’ve already bought tickets). In the real world, a Las Vegas casino that has been beta testing the service is using it to build loyalty with its VIP customers. When one of the casino’s shows has empty seats, it sends out a message targeting VIPs who have been in Las Vegas within the last hour, letting them know they are invited to see the show for free.

Of course, the technology doesn’t work unless the customer being targeted has also opted into sharing both their current location information and location history with an app — a level of tracking that could spook many people. Our readers may remember Apple made headlines in 2011 when it became common knowledge that it had been keeping detailed records of iPhone and iPad location data since 2010.

According to Hieggelke, Apple’s approach was flawed because users weren’t aware their devices were tracking their locations. Urban Airship’s Location Messaging technology requires users to opt-in to sharing their location information with apps using the service.

“I think people will choose carefully based on what they hear in the market and their personal opinion if which apps deliver an experience they want by sharing a location,” he says. “Do I think you’re going to let 100 apps have your location information? No, not at all. But there may be 10 apps there from brands you trust, that you would be okay to track your location because they’re serving you beneficial content.”

In order to ensure anonymity, its Urban Airship, and not the apps and developers that use the company’s Location Messaging Service, storing the location data needed to make the service work. According to Hieggelke, his company isn’t using UDID or any other method of tracking that can be connected to a customer’s identity, and there is no way to connect location data taken from multiple apps, since each app using the service assigns user IDs unique to the app.

Mobile app news roundup: Chartboost, Red Robot Labs and the Tokyo Game Show

Chartboost sees iPhone 5 bump advertising costs — Cross promotion network Chartboost saw a 13 percent rise in the average price per user for its CPI campaigns during the iPhone 5’s launch weekend, the company reports. Prices peaked on Sunday, Sept. 23 with CPI costs rising 21.1 percent week-over-week.

RIM loses $235 million in Q2 — Beleaguered BlackBerry maker RIM has beat analyst expectations, posting a $235 million loss on $2.9 billion in sales. The company’s shares were up on the news, and are now trading at $7.44 — a significant increase over last week’s sub-$7 prices.

Red Robot Lab’s Life is Crime sees 4.3 million downloads in first year — Red Robot Labs has released a variety of interesting user statistics about its location-based game Life is Crime to celebrate the game’s one year anniversary. Most notable are the game’s download statistics — the title has seen 4.3 million downloads total, 2 million on Android and 2.3 million on iOS. The full infographic can be found here.

Navfree notches up over 10 million users – British company Navfree has announced its free, self-titled navigation app now has more than 10 million users. The app is available for both iOS and Android in over 30 countries. The company also reports its users make more than 1 million journeys ever day with its app.

Mobile-social games dominate at TGS — Mobile games and smartphone titles ruled this year’s Tokyo Game Show reports Tech in Asia. The blog counted 265 titles for smartphones on display, 100 tablet titles and 142 feature phone titles. Meanwhile the PS3, 3DS, PSP, Vita, Xbox and Wii had a grand total of 174 titles combined.

Future makes $8 million on iPad magazines – Magazine publisher Future has sold more than $8 million worth of digital magazines since Apple launched newsstand in Oct. 2011 according to Paid Content.

Zynga and American Express team for charity in Words with Friends — Zynga and American Express have launched the Words with Friends celebrity challenge featuring Kristen Bell, Jonah Hill, Snoop Lion, Edward Norton and other celebs. Players can join celebrity teams to help earn money for charity.

Google is working on a Maps app — In an unsurprising, but welcome piece of news, Google has confirmed to the New York Times it is working on a maps application for iPhone and iPad. The company is hoping to launch the app by the end of the year.

Kiip heads to Japan – Real life rewards service Kiip is headed to Asia. The company announced this week that Japan’s Digital Garage was one of the strategic investors in the company’s $11 million round of Series B funding. Kiip will launch in Japan in 2013.

Temple Run hits the table — Imangi Studio’s hit mobile game Temple Run will soon be a board game. The company is working with Spin Master Games, and the final product will be called Temple Run Danger Chase. The game will be out Oct. 1.

Disney turns on the cross-promotion stream in Where’s My Water — Disney is promoting the upcoming Tim Burton movie Frankenweenie in its mobile game Where’s My Water. The 10 Days of Frankenweenie promotion will see players get new Frankenweenie-themed levels for free. So far the Where’s My Water franchise has racked up more than 100 million downloads.

Toca Boca passes 15 million downloads — Swedish developer Toca Boca’s series of child-friendly apps have now been downloaded more than 15 million times reports The AppSide. The company revealed the figure in a job posting.

Barnes & Noble shows off HD Nooks — Barnes & Noble won’t be left behind in the HD tablet race it seems. The company has revealed two new products – a 7” Nook HD and a 9” Nook HD+ reports All Things D. The devices will cost between $199 and $299 and will come with anywhere from 8 to 32GB of storage. Both devices will run a modified version of the Android operating system.

[Launch] YoYo Games launches B.A.S.E. Jumper — YoYo Games has released its newest game B.A.S.E. Jumper in the iTunes App Store, the Amazon App Store, Facebook, Chrome, Google Play and other app stores. It was developed using the company’s GameMaker: Studio program.

[Launch] FIFA 13 hits iOS, sets EA sales record – EA’s popular FIFA series is back on iOS. The latest incarnation, FIFA 13 was available on iOS three days before the console version was available and is now EA’s fastest selling mobile title. EA did not disclose sales figures for the chart-topping title, but did reveal FIFA 13′s launch days sales were 62 percent higher than FIFA 12′s.

[Launch] Hoolai launches first English game — Well known Chinese mobile game company Hoolai has launched its first English language game, Rise of Olympia on iOS. The game is part of the GREE network.

[Launch] Cartoon Wars Blade launches — South Korea’s Gamevil is expanding on the success of its Cartoon Wars title with Cartoon Wars Blade, an action RPG set in the same universe as the popular tower defense title.

[Funding] Duck Duck Moose raises $7 million Series A – Educational app developer Duck Duck Moose has raised $7 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Find nearby friends with Sonar, now on Android

Sonar is a location-aware social networking app for mobile devices. The app has been available for iOS for a while now, but has recently launched on Android devices, bringing the service to a wider audience.

This app was tested on a Motorola Xoom tablet running Android 4.0.4. No major issues were encountered.

Sonar is designed to complement existing services (including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn) rather than attempt to establish its own mobile-social network. This is perhaps wise, as despite the fact more and more mobile-only networks appear on a seemingly daily basis, users are still, for the most part, locked in to more established cross-platform services. This isn’t to say Sonar doesn’t have its own identity, however — but providing its own discrete experience is not necessarily its primary goal.

Sonar’s main use is to locate friends or nearby people the user might know. It does this by polling all the social networks the user connects to the app and then using location data to point people in the direction of nearby people as well as providing an alternative means to connect with more far-off friends.

Upon starting the app for the first time, Sonar retrieves the user’s current location and displays a list of “future friends” in the nearby area. Users are able to share short status messages via Sonar at any time, and these are broadcast publicly to anyone within range. Real names are used where possible, allowing people to potentially make real-life connections through these broadcast messages — examples could include impromptu meetings of local professionals in a particular sector, work outings where not everyone has each other’s number or social network details, or simply a means for people to find new friends.

Once a person has been located, the user can make use of the app’s Google Maps connectivity to see exactly where they are and go and find them. If the user also has publicly-visible social networking accounts visible, it’s also possible to browse information like their recent Twitter feed. If both users have connected their Twitter accounts to the app, it’s possible to share a short “I found you!” message, allowing for a potential connection. A “fake friend” known as Andy Roid also has its location spoofed near to the user’s location, allowing them for a “test run” of the social features as they see fit.

Once users are connected with one another via social networks, they show up in each others’ “friends” lists and at this point gain the capability to message each other directly with Sonar. Messages are subsequently stored in the “inbox” section of the app alongside an activity feed showing what nearby friends are up to. Friends who are far away do not reveal their specific map location to the user, but may still be messaged.

Sonar is a simple app, but it does what it does in a straightforward and effective manner. Its usefulness depends entirely on how many other local users there are in the vicinity (or whether a user is able to convince their “real-life” network of friends to download and use the app) but, assuming there is some takeup in the local area, it works as an effective means of connecting people with one another and allowing for the coordination of local events. Its functionality is, overall, a little limited — the ability to create more in-depth profiles or at least pull additional information from other social networks would be beneficial, for example — but in not trying to do too much at once it remains an elegant app with a clear function, and the addition of Android support now means it can find an even wider, cross-platform audience than before.

The iOS version of Sonar is currently ranked No. 176 in the Social Networking apps category of the App Store leaderboards. The recent release on Android means that there are not yet any download figures to review, but check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Placed adds support for mobile websites, adds marketing exec Jeff Lanctot to board

Mobile location analytics provider Placed is expanding its product suite. As of today, the Seattle-based company’s free Placed Analytics service works with dedicated mobile sites as well as native iOS and Android apps.

According to Placed, the move helps mobile website understand what real-world locations their visitors are near while they’re browsing a site. It also allows developers who have chosen to develop HTML5 websites instead of apps to receive the same level of insight already available to native app developers — something that can reveal surprising results. During the new service’s testing phase, the owners of one mobile website found that more than 10 percent of its visits occurred near banks, and 8.5 percent of visits happened near a Starbucks. This information can then be used to determine the best strategies for advertising, content, features and promotions.

As part of today’s announcement, Placed also revealed that Jeff Lanctot, the global chief media officer of interactive marketing agency Razorfish has joined its advisory board. Lanctot’s experience will help Placed solidify its leadership role in mobile analytics, according to Placed CEO David Shim, and considering Placed’s long-term monetization goals aren’t to provide location-based advertising, but to help make it more effective and better targeted, the appointment is a natural fit. Lanctot is also a member of Shopigniter, Tapjoy and Mixpo’s advisory boards.

Placed is backed by $3.4 million in Series A funding from the Madrona Venture group. Since starting the free, public beta of its Placed Analytics service in June, the company has tracked more than 1 billion pieces of user-generated location data.

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