3 Most Important Steps to Creating a Killer App

At its FbStart event in New York City on Thursday, key members of Facebook’s development team revealed what makes for a successful product


IMAGE: Courtesy Company

Mobile apps may be simple to use, but as founders and developers are well aware, the best ones are far from simple to make.

As part of its nascent FbStart mentorship program for developers, Facebook invited early-stage ventures to an event Thursday at a reclaimed warehouse in New York City’s Dumbo neighborhood. The program aims to empower those startups to create apps that “help people have experiences,” explained Facebook’s platform product manager Eddie O’Neil. O’Neil, for the record, knows a thing or two about the topic: His team created Facebook’s log in and sharing features, among others.

FbStart offers many potential benefits to the members it accepts, including up to $80,000 in resources as well as mentorship and support from staffers at Facebook. To date, it has nurtured 3,800 businesses worldwide, with plans to ramp up its international presence next year. It’s also worth noting that 90 percent of the top 100 grossing iOS and Android apps in the U.S. are integrated with Facebook.

Thursday’s event drew an eclectic crowd, from up-and-comers such as Jumpstart Games to the social video network Keek to the dating app Hinge. Hinge stood out from some of the scrappier attendees: To date, the company has raised over $20 million in funding for a roughly $70 million valuation. As Hinge’s head of engineering AJ Bonhomme explained, FbStart is a good way for him to see what’s “coming down the pipeline” from Facebook. (The Hinge app, which connects users to potential dates by way of mutual connections, accesses those connections through Facebook.)

In-between speeches, Inc. caught up with O’Neil and Michael Huang, who works on strategic partner development at Facebook, to learn the distinguishing characteristics of successful apps. Here’s what they say all developers should keep in mind:

Make your customers feel something.

First and foremost, you want to be creating something that can “touch people in their lives,” says O’Neil. “What I like is sitting inside of an app and feeling inspired by something.” One example he cites is the running and cycling app Strava, which not only tracks how far you’re traveling, but also lets you share photos and videos with your friends. “Whether it’s running, music, photos… we’re looking for things that make us feel them,” he adds. Another big winner: The game Monument Valley, which O’Neil describes as “almost like playing a piece of art… it was an experience that I had never had before.”

While not every app has to be beautiful, it does need to engage users in a unique and meaningful way.

Question what you think you know.

It’s also important that you “question your assumptions [about] how people perceive [your] apps,” says O’Neil. What works for you–or what you assume works for a niche client base–may not necessarily be effective. Rather than guessing, go out and meet potential customers to learn what they like.

Focus on your mission.

The most common mistake that developers make is not focusing on a single goal, says Huang. They’re often “trying to be too many things to too many people,” he adds.

Ultimately, your mission is simple: “Solve the problem, solve it really well, and see where that takes you,” O’Neil concludes.

Inc Magazine


Asus’ ZenWatch 2 will be available in two sizes

It may have only been a little over six months since we reviewed the original ZenWatch, but Asus is already back with a second generation of its wearable. The ZenWatch 2 has a similar design to its predecessor, but offers significant customization over two different case sizes.

While the original ZenWatch was only available in a single, stainless steel and leather strap combo, the new model follows closely in the footsteps of the Apple Watch, giving the user the opportunity to pick up a smartwatch that’s more specifically tuned to their tastes.

The new watch is available in two different sizes to fit either 22 or 18 mm bands. It has an IP67 water resistant case (the original was only IP55) and measures 49 x 41 mm (1.93 x 1.61 in) and 45 x 37 mm (1.77 x 1.46 in) respectively. Asus hasn’t provided details regarding the exact sizes of the displays fitted to the two bodies, but we do know they use AMOLED tech and are coated with very slightly curved 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3.


Built from stainless steel, both models will be available in a silver, gun metal or rose gold finishes, with a choice of metal, leather or rubber straps. Just like the first generation ZenWatch, the new entry runs the new 5.1 update to Android Wear. It’s powered by an unspecified Qualcomm processor (most Wear watches to date have run Snapdragon 400 CPUs).

Asus has made a number of other improvements with the new release, packing in a faster performing remote camera app and an updated version of its Wellness fitness tracking smartphone companion app. The new ZenWatch also features a metal crown button – something we didn’t see on the original release.

There’s no word yet on pricing or release, but while you waiting to find out when you can get your hands on the new smartwatch, you can take a look at the video below for a closer look at the second generation product.

Source: Asus

Can Wearable Tech Measure Our Stress And Calm Us Down?

A growing number of devices are trying to gauge when we’re freaking out. But as the latest entry into the market shows, that’s a harder task than we think.

Part of the premise behind a new wearable called WellBe is pretty depressing: Many of us are so continuously stressed out—or so disconnected from our feelings—that we can’t actually tell which parts of our day are making us most anxious.

So the WellBe, now on Indiegogo, was designed to make those feelings a little more obvious. In theory, if you slap on the new wristband and sync it up with your calendar, it will tell you who and what is stressing you out most each day. Then it gives a series of simple meditations and exercises to help you better deal with those situations.

“We believe that when you know the triggers and have the solution, this is how you really reduce stress,” says Doron Libshtein, chairman and co-founder of WellBe.

One problem, however, is that it’s not yet clear that the wearable can accurately measure stress. The WellBe is designed to track heart rate variability, which can correlate with how upset you are, and it uses a custom algorithm to analyze changes in heart rhythm. But heart rate variability is notoriously difficult to measure—especially through a gadget like a simple wristband.

“If you’re off by milliseconds then that’s problematic,” says Erica Simon, a researcher in respiratory psychophysiology at the National Center for PTSD. “It can really be thrown off by things like movement.”

The WellBe only works when someone is sitting down, as an attempt to improve accuracy. (That in itself is a drawback—as someone who walks and bikes, I’m pretty sure some of the most stressful parts of my day are when I’m trying to avoid being run over by cars). But even small movements can ruin data.


“Movement isn’t just somebody walking,” says Simon. “Movement means I moved my wrist because I’m typing, or I went to take a drink from my coffee, or I’m talking on my phone…even gesturing. Any of those things can completely reduce the accuracy.”

An algorithm that works for one person might not work for another, she adds. And even if the device can accurately track heart rate variability, that doesn’t automatically mean that it knows how you feel—someone who’s excited and happy, for example, might have similar patterns to someone who’s freaking out about a missed deadline.

“It’s really tough to use heart rate variability as a measure of stress, because you can’t really disentangle the different emotions,” says Simon. It’s also not the case that people are typically either “stressed” or “relaxed”—instead, our bodies are usually in complex state of both at the same time, making stress even harder to measure.


Other wearable startups try to measure stress in different ways, like Spire, a gadget that tracks breathing patterns instead of your heart or the Neumitra, which measures electrical properties of the skin as a proxy for brain health. These methods, too, can be prone to error. For example, the temperature and humidity of the room and the medication someone is taking could skew the Neumitra’s results.

Though WellBe plans to do an independent study, it’s not clear yet that their algorithm can solve the device’s challenges. It also only gathers data for three minutes each hour, so it isn’t clear how it can necessarily catch each stress trigger. It’s possible that the app might work better if it just asked people to rate their own stress—and then offered the same relaxation techniques. Still, the rest of the app seems like it could be useful: The company offers a library of over 1,000 different meditations and other relaxation techniques, and the app tries to quickly learn which methods work best for each person.

“Our passion is to bring it to more and more people,” says Libshtein. “Especially people who never meditate, who never took the time to reduce their stress, and to help them start this kind of practice. What we’re telling them is that we can help them choose the right method for them. It’s not one mantra, or just sitting and trying not to think. There are easy ways to reduce stress.”

The lesson is that there’s no one magical way to measure stress, though it may be more possible with more streams of data. Anyway, for some people, it may not even be desirable. Stress is often a side effect of actual work getting done.


Using Android Pay: 5 things you need to know

Goodbye, Google Wallet! It’s Android Pay’s time to shine. Google has finally souped up its mobile payments system—though not too much. It’s a pretty straightforward upgrade, with a few new features added to make it more secure than its predecessor. If you’re interested in using it yourself, here’s a quick primer on what you need to know about Android Pay.

What is Android Pay?

Android Pay is Google’s new mobile payment platform. It uses the existing NFC chip in your phone, just like Google Wallet. If you had Google Wallet setup beforehand, all of that existing payment information will transfer over to Android Pay—it’s essentially the same API. Android Pay will also work for person-to-person payment transactions and the app will also let you store any supported loyalty cards.

How does it work?

Let’s say you’re at a vending machine that accepts NFC payments. All you have to do is hold up the phone to the machine to pay for the beverage. An alert on the vending machine’s small display will let you know if the transaction was successful. Just make sure to aim your NFC chip at the machine.


Florence Ion

Android Pay works with even the most common of transcations—like getting a soda from a vending machine.

Those setting up the payment system for the first time will have to enable a device lock—either a numerical passcode, pattern unlock, or fingerprint unlock, if the phone has the hardware.

Will Android Pay work with my non-Nexus device?

Yes. Android Pay works with any Android phone, regardless of manufacturer, as long as it’s running KitKat or higher. Non-Nexus phones with integrated fingerprint scanning will also work—like the Galaxy S5 and S6, for instance.

As for carriers, Google has only announced that it’s working on Android Pay with AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. Sorry, Sprint folk.

How does Google keep my information secure?

Android Pay is very straight forward, and you can choose it as a payment option in supporting apps.

Android Pay uses a specialized virtual card for your transactions, so the merchant on the other end will never see your credit card number. It will, however, know if you paid with a Visa or MasterCard, for instance.

What’s the difference between this and Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay doesn’t actually use NFC. It works a lot like LoopPay, which we tested against Google Wallet back in February. (You can read all about that experience here.) Anyway, Samsung’s mobile payments system won’t go live until this summer.

Google said that Android Pay will work alongside Samsung Pay on the Galaxy S6.

This story, “Using Android Pay: 5 things you need to know” was originally published by Greenbot.

Moky Bluetooth keyboard is also a trackpad

We’ve seen a number of ideas for making Bluetooth portable keyboards that are compact yet still not frustratingly tiny – these have included devices that project virtual keys, devices that fold, and that can be rolled up. The Moky keyboard, however, takes a different approach. It saves space by allowing its keyboard area to double as a multi-touch trackpad.

According to the Seoul-based Moky company, the device uses “infrared laser sensors” to overlay an invisible trackpad on top of the keyboard. It lets users perform actions such as clicking/dragging, scrolling, swiping, pinching in and zooming out, simply by making the traditional finger movements directly above the keys.

While it isn’t clear exactly how the system works, the principle appears to be the same as that used by Continental’s “infrared curtain” technology for multi-touch displays in cars. In that case, a raised rectangular frame around the display has a series of LEDs along two adjacent sides, and a series of photodiodes along the other two. Each LED emits a beam of infrared light, which is picked up and converted into an electrical signal by the photodiode located in the corresponding spot on the opposite side of the frame.

When the user reaches through the grid of infrared light beams in a given location, their finger blocks some of the beams. Those beams’ photodiodes temporarily stop receiving light, and thus cease sending a signal. By analyzing the combination of affected photodiodes, the system can determine the location of the user’s finger relative to what’s being displayed on the screen, in real time.

Some of Moky’s other features include pantograph (i.e: individually spring-loaded) keys, an aluminum body, a folding cover that also serves as a smartphone/tablet stand, and a rechargeable battery that should be good for a claimed three months of use per charge (based on about four hours of use per day). The keyboard utilizes Bluetooth LE, and is compatible with iOS, Android and Windows devices.

Moky is currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, where a pledge of US$69 will currently get you one – when and if the keyboard reaches production. You can see it in use, in the pitch video below.

And although Moky may end up being the first true keyboard/trackpad hybrid to make it to market, this certainly isn’t the first time that the concept has been conceived of. Microsoft Research’s prototype Type-Hover-Swipe keyboard uses an array of infrared proximity sensors located between the keys to achieve the same ends, while Apple’s patent for the Fusion keyboard incorporates touch sensors in the surface of the keys.

Sources: Moky, Indiegogo

Google announces its plans for virtual reality at I/O 2015

Google has unveiled some big virtual reality plans at I/O 2015. Not only did the company announce an updated version of its low-cost Cardboard headset, but it also unveiled a new feature designed to allow teachers to take their students on virtual field trips, and a new project that allows users to create their own 360-degree virtual reality experiences.

You’ll likely remember Google’s Cardboard VR headset from last year’s I/O press conference. The headset, which true to its name is actually made of cardboard, offered a low-cost entry point to VR, and was pitched as a great way for developers to easily get their claws into making virtual reality experiences.

The company is back with a brand new model this year, adding support for larger phones (up to 6 inches), replacing the magnetic switch with a cardboard one that will work with any smartphone, and providing a streamlined setup process, with assembly in just three steps. Google is also opening up the platform, with the Cardboard SDK set to support both Android and iOS.

An updated Cardboard headset isn’t the only new thing that Mountain View had in store when it comes virtual reality. It also announced a new feature called Expeditions, that’s designed to bring VR to the classroom. Schools can apply for packs which include numerous Cardboard headsets that can be linked together, with the teacher guiding students through virtual tours of supported locations such as the Great Wall of China and Venice.

Lastly, Google announced a new project called Jump, designed to allow people to create and share virtual reality experiences. The company has partnered with GoPro on the project, with the actioncam maker producing the first Jump-ready 360-degree array, comprised of 16 individual cameras.


The project includes software that compensates for the depth of different objects, cutting together the footage from the different cameras to produce a seamless VR experience. YouTube will start supporting Jump VR content this summer, viewable through – you guessed it – Cardboard VR headsets.

Source: Google

How wearables will shape the future of mobile payments


Credit: Apple

Three finance executives discuss the essential role wearable technology will play in the evolution of mobile payments.

Last week, at the Wearable World Congress in San Francisco, executives from Capital One, MasterCard and PayPal participated in an animated discussion about the future of mobile payments and explained why wearable technology is an important part of their companies’ game plans.

Speaking from a shadowy stage in the city’s Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, just spitting distance from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, Stephane Wyper, MasterCard’s vice president of startup engagement and acceleration, said MasterCard is focused on leveraging the latest and greatest gadgets, including wearables, to create loyal customers.


“As we look at the future, consumers are clearly interacting with a whole host of new devices that extend beyond plastic or the devices in their pocket,” Wyper said. The question for MasterCard is, “How do we enable all of those connected devices to be payment devices?”

Wearables improve, enhance mobile payment experience

The number of wearables in the market is proliferating, and Capital One thinks it can use them to draw and retain customers. Angie Moody, Capital One’s vice president of new product innovation, says her company is looking to wearables to “reinvent the way consumers interact with money on a daily business.”

Capital One wants to extend the payment experience to help its customer make more informed, responsible payment decisions, by using data collected by wearables, including location and behavioral information. Wearable technology presents a unique opportunity because of the types of data it collects, according to Moody. “Wearables offer new ways to learn who you are, when you are and where you are.”

PayPal’s Varun Krishna, senior director of its consumer wallet division, sees wearable computing as a significant opportunity for the company that will eventually “give rise to more connected, more personal experiences.”

“Wearables provide connectivity at a point that mobile apps can’t,” Krishna says. “By nature, they’re more connected to the user than a phone can be.”

However, Krishna stressed that the mass adoption of wearables for mobile payments will hinge on the size of the “acceptance network,” or the number of retailers and destinations that support a wide variety of digital payment options. PayPal is aggressively trying to develop and expand that acceptance network, according to Krishna.

Big data, analytics key to success of wearables for mobile payments

Advances in data analytics will also play a crucial role in the evolution of wearable-based, or wearable-assisted, mobile payments, because they’ll help finance companies put consumer data to better use. “The amount of data that we have about how consumers spend money is astronomical compared to how we’re actually using it,” Krishna says.

“Data analytics will be huge,” Wyper says, because it will let payments companies “take all the information that’s collected and turn it into useable insights. The future [of mobile payments] might be predictive based on context, so if you always use the same service in a location, it might be able to predict which to use when.”

For example, if you frequently work in Manhattan, and you always use your corporate credit card while in New York City, it could be automatically served up a payment option on your smartwatch when you arrive at your favorite bar or dining spot, based on your location and past behavior.

Today, payment companies mostly request data about customers, and they then enter as much (or as little) information as they’re willing to share into mobile apps or websites. In the future, wearables and other devices will automatically collect data (after users opt in) and deliver relevant, contextual information. It will be “less of a pull and more of a push,” Moody says.

Challenges for wearables in mobile payments

Wearables can improve and extend the payment process, but there’s also a balance between ease of use, or “friction removal,” and the need to provide all information necessary to make informed financial decisions, Moody says.

“You have to balance reduction of friction with the need to make people understand the process,” Moody says. “People today spend money without even thinking about it. By removing friction, you take the customer away from the tangibility of cash.”

Moody cites Uber’s recent decision to make its customers confirm that they’re willing to pay for “surge pricing” before they can request a driver. That additional confirmation was added because Uber had “removed too much friction,” making it too simple for people to request a ride during peak hours and then get stuck with huge fares, according to Moody.

A balance between ease of use and providing the pertinent information protects consumers and helps build trust between service providers and their customers. “If you break that trust, it’s really hard to get it back,” Moody says.

Future of wearables and mobile payments

The panelists agreed that there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile payments or mobile wallets. Just as people carry multiple credit, loyalty and membership cards today, they’ll likely use more than one mobile wallet or payment option, on multiple devices, in the future. “It’s hard to say there will be one solution that solves all [the challenges],” Wyper says, and a number of different apps and services will provide built-in payment options.

Beyond payments, data collection and predictive analytics, wearables will also play a key role in the future of customer loyalty and ticketing, according to Wyper.

The application ecosystem for both wearables and mobile payments is relatively immature today, and providers will learn from their early mistakes. As they do, the user experience and overall value of the offerings will skyrocket. “I get most excited about this space becoming ‘sexy,’ developers wanting a piece, [because that] breaks down the ‘walled garden’ and brings more innovation,” Moody says.

Capital One is also actively trying to establish itself as a player in the mobile payment space by offering promotions and discounts in popular mobile apps, including Uber.

“We’re just starting to learn,” Moody says. “You don’t see the gaps until they’re in market.”

“Today there are lots of disparate pieces … A lot of the small pieces will come together” in the not-too-distant future to create something highly contextual and relevant, according to Krishna.

CIO Magazine