Friday, September 26, 2014

The Tile GPS Tracker - Find Your Keys!


When is the last time you misplaced your keys or wallet? It may have happened this AM or maybe it doesn't have too frequently. Regardless of how many times you lose your belongings, it's always alleviating to quickly relocate them.

In an effort to help keys and belongings be rightfully returned to their owners, Tile, a GPS tracking device, has launched new Bluetooth GPS device to help users locate their belongings. Launched from a Kickstarter campaign last fall, Tile started shipping its device to early founders this summer. I received mine a a month ago and have enjoyed testing it out.

From the past month's experience, here is my initial feedback:

Pros:
  • Easy to Set-Up: I was able to sync the Title to my phone in a matter for a few minutes.  
  • Connect Multiple Tiles: Users are able to connect up to 8 Tiles to their devices.
  • Seamless Application Interface: The iOS application's interface is clean and easy to navigate. 
  • Helpful: I did use Tile once to locate my keys, which were in my front door.

Cons: 
  • Novelty: Although, I did user the application once to locate my keys, the other two times I used the application was to demonstrate how it worked.  
  • Size: Although the size is slightly larger than a quarter, it's still fairly large and cannot fit comfortably in other personal items, such as a wallet.  
  • Volume: The alarm sound of the keys is still fairly quiet, which requires users to be close by when the keys are in locate mode. 
  • Lifespan: This is my largest complaint, as the Tile is only guaranteed to last one year. It may be part of Tile's business model to encourage users to repurchase each year. However, if I only use the functionaly once or twice during the year, I may not renew. If electronic car keys are able to work for 8-10 years without replacing the batery, the same technology should work be integrated into the Tile to increase the product's life cycle.
  • Not Waterproof: If you accidentally wash your jeans and your Tile is in your pants, you're out of luck!

If you are interested in checking out the Tile for yourself, get yours here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Your Morning Routine

Every year, various periodicals and magazines publish articles about successful people's morning routines. The articles generally highlight a mixture of a healthy breakfast, checking late breaking news or mediation and/or exercise, including yoga, running or swimming.

Through the titles, the articles inadvertently imply that successful people wake up early. I'm sure there are countless successful people who either wake up later or don't even wake up in the morning, because they are either night owls or just prefer it. However for the most of us who work a 40-60 hour/week job, it's typically for us to not have a morning routine.

As our morning lives are ofter intertwined with preparing lunch, cooking breakfast, completing the dishes, sorting through the laundry, checking email, sending the children off to school, showering, sneaking in a game of Candy Crush, or finding the perfect outfit for the day, it can be difficult to have a regular morning routine.

Lately, as I've been trying to cherish the earliness of the morning hour and not just rush off to work, I've found the easiest way to add a morning routine is to take the few minutes when the coffee pot is brewing. I turn on the pot and use these 5-8 minutes as "me" time and mentally prepare myself for the day; by stretching and focusing on the day ahead. I remove myself from electronic distractions, such as TV, cell phones and the radio and completely focus on the day ahead as I stretch out my body and awaken to the world around me. Since I'm an early riser, there is typically no one else up on my street and I'm able to enjoy the peacefulness of the neighborhood. 

5-8 minutes may not sound like a lot of time, but it's a short enough period of time to easily integrate into your life, yet long enough to get a good boost of personal reflection to help power you through the day.

Tips to help find "Me" time: 
  • It can take 60 days to develop a habit. At first, It may be challenging to remind yourself to take "me" time at first. However, using the time it takes for your coffee to brew is a good reminder. If you don't brew coffee in the morning, use the time that it takes for your tea to get ready or simply just pause and reflect for 5 minutes.  
 
  • Unplug, remember we already spend on average 11 hours a day with digital media. If you can't pull yourself away from your iPhone in the AM, check out the application, "CALM." It has short 5-10 minute guided meditations and nature sounds to "add a sanctuary in your pocket." 

  • It can wait. The dishes, laundry and urgent emails will still be there in 5-8 minutes; it's okay to put them on hold and wait until you get your day started. 

 What's your morning routine? Leave a comment and share any helpful tips below. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cell Phone Roulette

Americans spend 11 hours A Day with Electronic Media, Source Mashable

According to a recent Nielsen study, the average American spends 11 hours a day with electronic media. Let's pause at that statistic for a moment! It's almost a 1/2 a day of our lives that we spend checking email, sending texts, browsing Facebook or watching TV.

Now this statistic may not hold true for you, but think about it for a moment. How much of your day do you spend just on your smartphone?

In today's digital era of hyper connectivity, the need to stay connected or entertained descends so far our lives that can impact the time we spend developing and maintaining real life relationships. Often the need to capture the perfect moment to post on Instagram or Facebook, can distract from the perfect moment that we are spending with our friends and family.

In 2014, it's rare to spend 1 hour with a group of friends, where one person hasn't snapped a picture for Snapchat, responded to an email, sent out a group text or checked for a sports update. The need to check the phone is so pervasive that it has become second nature in group social settings, including time at the beach or eating out at a restaurant.

The next time you are at a restaurant with a group of friends, I challenge you to play Cell Phone Roulette, where each of you places their phone in the center of the table. If one person reaches for a phone and checks it during the meal, then he or she pays the entire bill. If the group makes it through the meal without checking or reaching for their phone, then group equally splits the meal.

I tried it with a group of friends over the weekend. The first time we were trying to cohere each to look at each others phones, however by the second, third and fourth time, we were engaging in deep conversation, making eye contact the entire meal and staying unnplugged. We may have missed a few posts on Instagram, but the conversation and relationship building far outweighed any missed calls, texts or social media likes.

Now, it's your turn to give it a try!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2015 Calendar



Earlier this year, I ventured to Phuket, Thailand with my fiance. We had an incredible adventure, as we ventured to remote beaches, desolate bays and ancient pirate caves. Our eyes were opened to Thailand's rich and vast culture and landscapes.

From our epic journey, I compiled the best photographs and placed them in this 2015 Calendar. Included in the calendar are beautiful images from Maya Beach, Pga Bay and the Phi Phi Islands.

The 2015 Calendar is available on Amazon's kindle or electronic devices, such as an iPhone or iPad. It's free to borrow, if you are an Amazon prime member. To get your copy, click here


Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Create an iPhone Application - Lessons from 430,000+ Downloads!

If you desire to learn how to create your own iPhone application and have little or no programming experience, then this blog post is for you!

Background:
A year and a half ago, I launched my first iPhone application, Parlay Calculator Pro. It was a rush to have my idea released to the public and see its initial response. I launched a calculator application, because I read online that calculators were easier for programmers to develop. I really don't have an interest in sport parlays, but after some initial research I realized that there were only 5 parlay applications at the time compared to thousands of mortgage or car loan calculators.

Within the first day of its release, Parlay Calculator Pro reached over 50 downloads! This meant that there were more people than the 10 or so friends that I texted who downloaded my application!

...Little did I realize that 50 free downloads is actually insignificant. A year and a half later, I have accumulated over free 430,000 downloads from 9 applications! Although 430,000 downloads sounds impressive and might allure images of expensive new cars, most of these were free downloads.

Below is a screenshot of my 8 iPhone applications. Technically, I have 9, because I released Pro Photo Layout in a Chinese Version.



What Inspired Me: 
At first, I was intimated to create an iPhone application. I felt I had several good ideas, but I didn't know where to start. After listening to Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income Podcast and learning how Chad Muerta launched an app empire from a hospital bed, I was inspired.

Flyn interviewed successful app-preneurs, entrepreneurs that create mobile applications, who shared how they were able to transform an idea into a finished iPhone application with little or no programming experience. These app-preneurs hired third party programmers and graphic designers from outsourcing sites, such as oDesk and Elance to help develop their ideas. In essence, they were acting as project managers, making sure that their team stayed within budget, scope and timeline. With my prior work experience, I felt that could select, manage and navigate a team through my app ideas.

Chad Muerta's story motivated me a little differently. Muerta was involved in a serious car accident. While recovering in the hospital, he started developing his own iPhone applications. He outsourced his development and launched several utility applications, such as a flashlight. As Muerta became more experienced with his ideas, he found great financial success, earning over $6 million. What motivated me from Muerta's story, was not his financial success, but that he started out from a hospital bed!

When I learned about Muerta's story, I was also recovering from a serious bike/car accident. I felt that if Muerta could develop his ideas while recovering from a car accident, I could also do it. With some of Pat Flynn's iPhone development tips and Muerta's inspirational story, I felt I was ready to become an app-preneur! As I was in the midst of my physical therapy, I started to outline some ideas and expand upon traction that I saw with my first few ideas.

Fast forward 1.5 years and here are below are 9 important lessons from the experience of creating 9 iPhone apps.

9) It's easier than you think!
You can get started today! Yes, today! All you need is an idea!

After you have an idea, spend time in Apple's Application store and research your idea. Does it already exist? If there are hundreds or even thousands of similar ideas, you may want to expand upon your idea or explore another option. It's also important to look at the top chart lists to see what is currently popular. Some of these charts may inspire some new ideas. 

After you have an idea, wire frame or draw out the main user steps of your iPhone application idea.
  • What is the first page that users would see when they open your application? 
  • What are the main navigation buttons? 
  • What happens when a user clicks on one of those buttons? 
  • Are there similar steps in other applications that you can use as reference? 
If you can spend time drawing out each step (it's okay if they are simple sketches), then it will be easier for a designer and programmer to develop your ideas.

After your idea is develop, you will be ready to select a designer and programmer on a freelance website, such as oDesk or Elance.
  • I recommend posting the job as a "fixed" project cost, instead of paying someone per hour. This way a programmer or designer is motivated to finish the project quickly and not bill for extra hours. 
  • Determine a budget for your project. You will need a budget for a designer and programmer.You may be able to hire a designer for $150-400, depending on how much design work you require and hire a programmer for $400-several thousand depending on the overall idea of your application. The general rule of thumb is the simpler the idea, the smaller the budget. With the freelance sites, you can always post a job for a low budget and see if you get any bids for the work. If you don't, then you will need to adjust the project budget.
  • When you post the job/s, you can ask candidates to include links to prior applications they have created. This way you can download the applications and see if they are up to your standards for work. 
  • Hire established work. Read the reviews of your applicants and see if they have done good work with other clients. Prior success is often an indicator of future success. Personally, I try and stay away from candidates with zero reviews.  
  • Ask to sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement). You can download a NDA template form online and customize it to your needs. If the programmer or designer doesn't want to sign these forms, you may consider hiring another party. The NDA will help you establish trust with the programmer/designer and see if they feel comfortable exclusively working on your idea before you commence.

8) Volume matters

If your goal is to make $$$ with your iPhone application, you will need a signification amount of downloads as well as regular use of your application. Although I have had 400,000+ downloads in the past year and a half, a large amount of  these are free users that only use the application 1-5 times.

That may sound surprising, but think of how many applications you regularly use in your own application? You may have a handful of favorite social applications, such as Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat and a few news or utility applications, such as mobile banking, that are regularly used. However, think of the dozens or hundreds of other applications that you may have download, which just sit and collect digital dust on your iPhone. What value did these applications serve you?

On the flip side, with a significant amount of downloads, you will also find users who hopefully enjoy and regularly use your application. This is your core audience that will make in-app purchases and allow you to make recurring revenue off advertisements.



7) Have fun

The entire process of creating an application should be fun! Yes, it can be a little stressful and uneasy at times to figure all of the steps, especially if it's your first iPhone project. However, with a little trouble shooting, you can navigate your path and hopefully arrive at a fun destination.

If you don't enjoy the ride, get off the bus!


6) Push it ...to the consumer 

What's your main goal?
  • Is it to get people to use a certain function of your application, such as a check in feature? 
  • Is it to make money? If so, is it through an in-app purchase, such as additional application features? 
  • Do you want more reviews? 
  • Do you want people to share on Instagram of Facebook? 

No matter your goal, it's important using push notifications or in-app messages that appear when a user logs into the application, are important to help your guide users and convert them to your goal. The first few versions of my applications did not include these push notifications and as a result had very few user reviews and in-app purchases. Afterward adding these notifications, both the amount of reviews and in-app purchases increased.
Tip: You can use a message frequency rotation to limit how often these messages are seen by the consumer. For example, you may have the programmer code the message to appear 1/3 or 1/5 (appears one out of three or five) sessions, this way the message does not overwhelm the user.  

5) Charge! You can still make money in the noise

There are hundreds of thousands of iPhone applications. Despite the competition, you can still generate passive income with your application idea: either with advertising revenue, in-app purchases or charging users to download your application.

Google's Admob provides a great starting point for mobile advertising. Admob features different size banners that be integrated into your application.

If your desire is to generate revenue by charging users to download your application, it's recommended to charge between $1.99-2.99. At first, I started off charging $.99 for an application, but I a didn't notice a conversion difference when I increased the price $1-2. In fact, the perception of the application's quality and value may increase. However, don't get carried away if your pricing strategy. If you charge more than $2.99, you may lose a large amount of downloads.

The best strategy for charging is to test on your own. You can make the application free one week, $.99 another week and $1.99 for the third. Apple makes it easy to change pricing fee on the back-end without updating your application's version.

Before you hire any programmers or designers to start working on your iPhone app, complete a break even analysis. For example, your budget may be $800 ($600 programming + $200 design). It would take $1,040 in revenue (Apple takes 30% of sales) to break even. This means, you will need approximately 522 downloads at $1.99 to break even. This may take awhile to reach, if you application only reaches a couple of downloads a day. 

Tip: Apple pays on a net-30 basis. Meaning after the current month closes, you will typically receive the payment for your applications by country sales in 30 days.

4) Don't reinvent the wheel 

You may feel that you need the next "BIG" idea to make an impact and disrupt the marketplace. However, it may be easier to create an iPhone application that adds additional value to the user. For example, maybe you can make a different photo filter application that includes additional themed layouts or filters to use.

Tip: There are several APIs that can be plugged into your application, that include pre-built functionality. For example, Aviary is a photo filter plug in that I use. It includes several of photo filters, which as similar to the ones Instagram uses. Using Aviary, allows me to focus on creating additional photo editing techniques, which expand upon the Aviary platform.


3) Analyze!

As much time as you spent brainstorming, designing and creating your application, you should spend equal time analyzing your application's performance. Flurry Analytics and App Annie are excellent resources to support your efforts.

Flurry Analytics is an analytics SDK (code) that can be added to your application. Flurry can share how many users regularly use your application as well as what types of interactions they have in your app. This data can be used to refine the inner workings of your application.

App Annie provides a high level or bird's eye view of your application/s performance. It can show how many downloads, reviews and the current rank of your application. Additionally, it can provide a great portal to research competitors and see their historical performance.

In addition to seeing your countries performance, App Annie will show how your application globally ranks. The iTunes store is a global marketplace and frequently pockets of traffic may come from countries that you may not have thought would be interested. For example, one of my applications quickly rose to the top of the Italian charts after it was released in a free format.


2) Ask! ...Well, ask for anything you

With a little help from Google and other search engines, it's easy to figure out pitfall or roadblocks that may occur in the development process. If you don't enjoy researching and exploring new ideas, then creating an iPhone application may not be for you. However, if you enjoy a little research or detective work, it's possible to discover the next step. Additionally, asking your programmer may help with the overall creation of your iPhone app. Depending on their prior experience, he or she may be able to provide additional input and help you develop your ideas.


1) Consumers first

Always focus on the creating the ideal user experience! Make this your primary goal and you will ultimately achieve success.

If you want to learn more about the step-by-step process for creating an application, check out my eBook, HOW TO MAKE AN IPHONE APP. It's a short read with only 777 words (yes, it's lucky!) and includes step-by-step instructions.