Ottawa is a great city for BlackBerry and smartphone development. RIM’s App World team is located in Ottawa, and being a capital city, there are plenty of BlackBerrys floating around. There is also a large talent pool for mobile in the city as well and some of those bright individuals got together to demo their latest smartphone applications. The event was hosted by Rob Woodbridge, former CEO of Rove and the more interesting half of BlackBerryCool Untether’d.
The App Showcase event was a success and after the jump you can read all about the presenters and what they’re doing in the space. Stay tuned for the next event, where there will be more local companies showing off their applications. If you have a similar event in your area, send details to BlackBerryCool and we’ll help promote these companies as well.
Collectively, the following app presenters have apps that have been downloaded 12 million times! Be sure to check them all out.
Planets by Dana Peters of QContinuum
Planets is a pretty cool application for the iPhone and iPad that has been downloaded over 3.7 million times. It is a free, non-commercial application that has been available since 2009 and is localized in 10 different languages.
When showcasing some of the media coverage of Planets, Dana began with a front page story about Planets in The Ottawa Citizen. It was funny to see that on the front page there was a big picture of Dana holding an iPhone and to the left of the article the headline read “the sky’s the limit” and to the right of the article, the headline read “RIM Quarterly Financial Results Fall Short”.
The first tip Dana gave for a developer looking to make an app is to check out your competition and buy all of their apps. Purchasing and trying all of your competitors’ apps will give you a good understanding of what features you can offer in order to position yourself in the App Store effectively.
The second tip was to constantly check your download statistics. It’s important to look for spikes and find explanations for these spikes, in order to learn more about why your application is selling, and what you can do to increase the frequency of these spikes. One interesting result of this analysis, was that Dana found his Planets app sales spiked in Japan as a result of a solar eclipse. Product launches can be big for downloads as well.
Overall, Planets is a really cool app. It is also really indicative of the iPhone app economy, as it leaves you saying “that’s really cool, but why would I download it?”. While a lot of astronomy hobbyists download this app, I’m sure there are thousands of people downloading it simply because it’s cool. It’s this simple entertainment factor that makes up for a lot of Apple’s word-of-mouth app promotion.
MoreCalendars and MoreContacts by WICKSoft and Will Hickie
If Planets is indicative of the iPhone, WICKSoft is indicative of the BlackBerry. WICKSoft is all about extending the desktop to BlackBerry and providing tangible value to large organizations. Whether it be managing file servers, emailing sales and pricing info, or integrating with SharePoint, WICKSoft lets you do it all from your company’s BlackBerry.
MoreContacts and MoreCalendars is exactly that – a better contact system. What if you have a contact database of 40k plus? You can’t easily search through that database on your BlackBerry; it’s just too much. With MoreContacts you can simply begin to type some small details or a few letters of the contact, and MoreContacts will accurately display the possible results. This gives you fast access to a contact that you may vaguely remember in a very large database.
MoreCalendars is in the same vein as MoreContacts, as it gives you more functionality for the native BlackBerry applications. The BlackBerry only let’s you access one calendar, which isn’t great in a large organization with many different types of calendars. With MoreCalendars, you can access any calendar, on the go. Imagine a boardroom calendar for a big office or an assistant seeing the CEO’s calendar – this is possible with MoreCalendars.
Nothing is flashy in terms of UI design in MoreContacts/Calendars, but that’s the point. When you roll out an enterprise grade app such as this, you don’t want support calls because the UI isn’t intuitive. These applications look just like the native BlackBerry experience, allowing the user to get familiar with the app very quickly.
Peek-A-Go and Baby Go by Anthony Rizk and Dan Gagliardi of Zeebu
Zeebu are a unique company in that they make games for toddlers. The company is pioneering a new market in the app economy, and their products are doing very well. Zeebu have had their best success on BlackBerry. According to Anthony, the BlackBerry provides some functionality that other smartphones do not, making it a great gaming platform for Zeebu in particular. One of these helpful BlackBerry features is the ability to lock the keys. This is something you can do on a BlackBerry that you can’t do on other smartphones.
Baby Go was released for free and the company received a lot of feedback. With this knowledge, they took the app to market with Super Baby Go. With Super Baby Go, you get the same great fun for your child, but there are more activities that act as lesson plans. Kids playing Super Baby Go are learning as well as having fun. Activities are hosted on Zeebu’s servers so they can update activities and push them out to customers, extending the product’s life cycle.
Bluesfest app by Select Start
The Bluesfest app is pretty robust and allows you to browse and discover acts, as well as share your location with friends and generally discover everything that Bluesfest has to offer. The company that developed the app, Select Start Studios, are very talented developers and the application looks really nice. According to the Bluesfest team, “iPhone was natural move”, which doesn’t make much sense in a government city filled with BlackBerrys. This is something RIM really needs to address since those in control of app budgets are consistently forgetting that you can make great apps on BlackBerry.
The Bluesfest app has a lot of Facebook integration which is important for a social app such as this. You can also buy tickets, view your calendar, check out acts and view a map of the festival. The Bluesfest app also has a check-in system. There was no word as to whether it uses the foursquare APIs but it’s a useful feature for this context.
BarStar by Wes Tam of GlitchSoft
Wes is an industry veteran here in Ottawa. We worked with him a lot back in the day doing podcasts about mobile games for QuicklyBored. His company GlitchSoft is a Wesley Clover company and thus part of the Terry Mathews digital media division.
BarStar is a really great looking game that focuses on the 18 to 24 year old female demographic. It’s a time management game sort of like Diner Dash, that has become a Top Paid Game in Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand and more. In Hong Kong, it became an overall Top Paid App. The game has had several million downloads and amazingly, only 2 support requests!
Some of the key factors for BarStar’s success was that it looks good, it’s easy to play and it’s entertaining. The app uses clean cartoon animations that are surely a hit with a young female demographic as well as a language that’s familiar. The game was also put through focus groups, where they discovered that over 95% of users were able to immediately understand how to play the game.
A really cool part of BarStar is being able to buy virtual goods. Using points you can hire staff to help you and spend game points. This system would allow the company to make significantly more money by selling these points and perhaps the company will look at this as a new revenue stream.
Texas Hold’em King 4 (THK4) by Magmic
Magmic are best known for their games Ka-Glom, NYT Sudoku/Crossword and the Texas Hold’em King series. At the app showcase, Texas Hold’em King 4 (THK4) was demoed on BlackBerry. THK3 is a great game that has tremendous success on BlackBerry and users can expect some really innovative work on the next iteration.
The challenge for a good poker game on mobile is to fit everything on to a small screen and make the play experience fast and smooth. This is why THK uses a 6 player table instead of 9. The gameplay in poker needs to move fast and there have been significant server improvements to boost speed.
The biggest update to the THK series is that in THK4, users will be able to purchase chips in-game. This purchase system is integrated with Bplay and premium SMS. When App World 2.0 launches along with the proper SDKs, it will be fully integrated with carrier billing, PayPal and more. Another cool feature is the in-game advertising that will be used to offer Magmic games to user from within the game. Magmic will therefore be able to cross-promote their apps in-game to millions.The new THK version arrives in App World in the fall and the game is supposed to launch late July to mid-August.
Magmic’s THK4 is going to set a new standard for BlackBerry gaming. The game looks like it has all the elements of a Super App and is on par if not better than games on other platforms.
I encourage all developers to get together and run similar events. It’s great to team up with local talent and discover what’s going on in your city. Tell us about it and we’ll be happy to promote these companies and your event further on the site.