Tag Archive - iPhone

The Perfect Wine “App”

Day 18: Most Used AppsOne of my favorite podcasts is NPR‘s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Wait Wait is a weekly new’s quiz show, based out of Chicago, that invites various guests to answer a series of satirical questions.

This past week, Ev Williams of Twitter was invited onto the show as a guest, and he echoed a comment I happened to make recently when talking to a friend about wine apps for mobile. People often complain about the mundane tweets that happen on twitter, with a occasional traffic update or news item. What’s interesting is that this worked to train the users to use twitter to communicate. If you had built an app  for these “traffic updates”, people wouldn’t use it since it was not part of the way they communicated. They’d forget it’s there and therefore, not tell everyone what’s happening on the freeway.

From the Show: It turns out it has a lot of different facets, because while there’s many people doing stupid narcissistic things, that gets you to use it(twitter) on a regular basis and it gets you familiar with it. But then when you see an accident, you’re trained to tweet that you’ve just seen an accident, and suddenly that’s a useful piece of information. Whereas, if we told you that this was a program only for reporting accidents, you’d never think of it. – Ev Williams

When my friend asked, “what is the best wine app”, my response was, bluntly, that they all sucked.

I might want to clarify and say that they all suck for 99% of the population of wine drinkers. The current wine apps are all what I call “destination apps”, meaning you need to make them your destination for information you need. The truth is that we need apps that are not destinations, but rather locations were we hang out. I mentioned to him that if you want to make a wine app that works, try making a “life app” that includes wine.

For me it comes down to a few apps that already exist. Evernote: a place where I share all my wine notes and store information that I find online. I use it everyday and would feel as though I was missing an arm if I didn’t have it at the ready. It’s a tool that I use for organizing my life, and wine is one aspect of my life (shocking I know, I do enjoy other things too!). Then you have the other arm of social: Twitter, Facebook and to a growing extent Google+, all of which are places where I share my life with friends and family. Since wine is a social lubricant, it only goes to show how natural it is to talk about the various wines I’m enjoying.

I don’t want to get too detailed, but I do want to offer up a challenge to wine app creators. What we need is a lifestyle app that builds wine into its core, or an app that allows for conversations, categorizations, or amplifications of things other than wine. Do this and you’ll have an app that normal folk can relate to. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for specialist apps, each discipline needs these, but they are not going to grow an audience much bigger than the niche they are built for.

Till soon,

Ryan Opaz

Read the full transcript of Ev Williams on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me 

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Does your website have a mobile version?

photo credit @Flickr .m for matthijs

It was reported today that consumers spend more time on mobile apps than on the web. Really this is no surprise. It is the way the world works, big things become smaller and smaller as technology gets better and better. If we could go back in time and start the computer revolution today, no-one would design a big box that sits in a special room in your house as a way to get online. If we started from scratch, we’d probably begin with something a bit more “iphone-like”. Small, portable and always connected to the web.

Laptops are shrinking into “pads” and desktops are more and more specialized professional tools, which brings me to today’s question:

Do you have a mobile version of your website, version that looks good on a small screen and is easy to navigate? Have you even checked?

If you’re working with an open CMS system like WordPress, or something even more cutting edge like Posterous, you are probably fine.

If you know what a wordpress plugin is, you might try one of these out.

If these don’t mean much to you, then go and check out your website on a mobile app.

Here’s a tip: if your site has pretty moving things on the screen when you look at it, it’s most likely using Flash. And what does Flash mean? It means that no-one with an iPhone can access your site, and many others will quickly lose patience and go elsewhere rather than watch your site load. If you’re using flash, get a new site.

Your customers are more likely today to find you while navigating on their phone, than on a laptop. If they can’t interact with your site you will be losing customers and fans!

Any questions?

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An update on the ASUS Transformer in action

I’ve had the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer for a little longer now, and it was time for an update on what I’ve been enjoying as I have had lots of conversations in the wine business with people who have been interested in its potential. I also see that Simon Woods is doing the same.

Vrazon on stage at LIWF with ASUS Transformer

Overall, I’d say I am enjoying using the Eee Pad (calling it the Transformer seems wrong, my daughter is more into Ben 10 anyway). The Android device and apps act like gawky teenagers full of promise; new, fresh, attractive but a little ungainly, awkward, still feeling their way and lacking confidence.

On the other hand, Apple devices are like young geniuses, preciociously jumping straight from obscurity to stardom. They just work, … but I am beginning to feel like we’ve seen what they can do. Their promise is less exciting, especially if Apple continues to limit and control developments.

[Aside: How did Apple go from being the coolest kid on the block to the "establishment" that we all want to knock?]

First, the things that are not so great about the Eee Pad, Android and the Apps:

  • Text input it nowhere near as easy, on the screen, as it is on my iPhone (I have not tried an iPad for very long). Swipe is OK, but fails to recognise MANY words I use for the wine business. It certainly does not come pre-loaded with wine tasting vocabulary!
  • The auto-correct features are again not as intuitive or intelligent as on the Apple, and I’m realising how lazy I have become, with apostrophes, capitals and other input being done for me.
  • Apps do not load particularly quickly. I’m not sure if this is a result of the processing on the Eee Pad, the apps themselves, or that this is Android 3.0 (and 3.1 has not yet arrived, but is due I believe)
  • Many apps, particularly Facebook, are really not designed for the larger tablet interface and either look bad, lack features or simply do not work. This is not ASUS’ issue, but it is hard to make this my main tool if the apps are not keeping pace
  • On that note, I’ve had issues with lots of apps crashing. It looks like a memory issue, but probably related to how compatible these apps are with this version of Android. Hopefully this will improve soon
  • It is surprisingly difficult to manage multiple gmail accounts on this machine. To be fair it is difficult even on a laptop, but this IS GOOGLE. C’mon guys, wake up to the fact that we have multiple addresses and accounts (you force us to in many cases) so Android should be able to handle this. I have a personal gmail account, one each for my businesses using google apps and even some other ‘ancillary’ accounts. I can access them all on my iPhone …..
  • The video quality (as proven lasttime) is not that great to use as a single device. In particular, the audio pick up is awful. A last-resort tool for now. However, I gather that firmware updates are due that will improve these
  • I had a strange bug trying to update mt wordpress blog via the browser. I could see the dashboard, access posts and delete letters/words, but not add or insert any new ones. Makes it VERY difficult to blog, but I have not yet tried the wordpress apps
  • I tried updating the firmware on the keyboard unit (strange to do this separately). On one machine it worked fine, on another it failed and the keyboard died. It is having to be replaced. Shame. I gather I was not alone in this, but this stuff happens – however, I will worry every time I have to repeat the process in future

Now, despite that long list of issues, I had better remind you that I started out saying that I AM enjoying using it.

  • The large screen is very useful. At the recent London Wine Trade Fair I carried it around the fair and the ability to see my Google Calendars (all combined in one view) on the screen at once was wonderful. A bit like carrying around the world’s most useful clipboard.
  • I am enjoying having a full browser that allows me to watch the films on the sites I visit most, such as the BBC News site, and to watch YouTube videos in great detail
  • The combined list of updates that appear in the bottom of the screen, for facebook ,twitter, gmail, etc. is very useful for at-a-glance catch ups
  • the battery life seems pretty decent and have had no issues with it so far, though I have not really put that to the test
  • And when I suffered the issues with the firmware failure (mentioned above) it was great to have all my settings and apps backed up on the cloud on my Google account to quickly restore it.
  • From a work perspective, it is a tool that has been useful at wine tastings, particularly with the help of the Evernote app to capture and store images, tasting notes, recordings, web pages and more. I see this as a very powerful combination of capabilities (see this post on Tio Pepe En Rama for example)

Overall I am still enjoying using the Eee Pad transformer. Many of the issues I’ve listed above are niggles of a new operating system and apps that have yet to be fully adapted to it. I expect (or at least hope) they will be resolved very quickly. In retrospect, trying to test it during the madness of the London Wine Trade Fair was also a bit much. However, now that this is over, I look forward to finding more fun ways to use it (assuming my new keyboard arrives soon).

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Facebook Deals with Wine

Another week, another bit of our world is touched by Facebook, as Facebook Deals launches in the UK as well as in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

kid in a candy shop.
Image by rhoadeecha via Flickr

Facebook launched Facebook Places in the UK a few months ago but if you’ve never heard of it, I’m not TOO surprised. It followed the path of two much more focused players in the location-game – Foursquare and Gowalla. These two, particularly Foursquare, have been very successful social networks for users of smartphones with GPS, such as iPhones and Android devices, that allowed people not only to chat to friends, but also let them know WHERE they were.

HIDE AND SEEK

If you are not already involved, it sounds creepy. It can be! But then remind yourself that so did blogging, Twitter and Facebook itself until you became involved (as I guess you will have by now). Negative, pleaserobme games aside, these location based services offered several benefits:

  • USERS could add SPECIFIC location information to their messages to friends. When you “check-in” you are not just broadcasting a location, you are adding location information to a message. Subtle, but important difference
  • FANS could share their favourite locations, or those that they discovered, with more people in order to promote the location – doing a free marketing ‘favour’ for the location
  • BUSINESSES could reward fans by offering them discounts for their loyalty and for sharing the information with their friends
  • BUSINESSES could also gather information on who was visiting and when, what they liked/disliked and what they were interested in, in order to improve their services

Remember, you can check in and NOT broadcast every single one to the world on twitter – only do so if it adds value to the conversation!

My favourite places to check in are local shops (I want to promote local business), the better restaurants and bars I go to that have good food and wine (because that’s what a lot of my followers are interested in) and unusual locations I end up around the world. I also like to check in (and not broadcast it though twitter) in places where I might have the time to meet up with other friends also checking in – airports, events, hotels, etc.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

When Facebook arrived, it seemed natural to add these activities to the list of things you share on Facebook, but there is so much there already it got rather lost (and was never as engaging). So why would users it on Facebook instead, … and why bother trying to use more than one network?

Gowalla offers regular users virtual “items”, “pins” and “stamps” to collect. Foursquare trumped this with “Mayorships” and then moved into location- & mayorship-based special offers.

Facebook needed to do something to incentivise users to switch, and instead of building something “better” they’ve decided to appeal to our love of free stuff.

The new service, Facebook Deals adds offers to this “check in” service, and they’ve negotiated deals with Starbucks, Yo Sushi and others for the launch.

LETS SHARE SOME WINE, HERE

I encourage businesses involved in wine to take part.

  • It helps your regular customers, who obviously appreciate you, to share information about you with their friends
  • You can reward them in some way, even if it is just a personal “thank you” for this word of mouth marketing
  • You can learn more about your customers to improve your own range of wine, your events and especially your communication
  • Producers can become engaged and learn where their wines are being sold & consumed

So what will be the first wine based offer in the UK? I’m guessing it will either be a big brand that is aware enough of these opportunities and has the deep pockets and distribution in place to do something worthwhile OR it will be a small deal by a small group of locations that can move a lot faster, such as a small chain of restaurants (any takers?). I look forward to seeing who gets in there first.

Wine offers and discounts have been the supermarket’s bait for so long that consumers are already used to thinking of wine as something to look out for only when discounted, so I would not be surprised to see it.

DEAL OR NO DEAL?

What I find worrying is that if Facebook Deals succeeds it will probably kill off the early movers which will also end the altruistic value exchange which was, for some of us at least, the best bit of these services. “Why bother checking in if they’re not offering me a deal?”

It’s the UK supermarket muscle game all over again.

They tell us “it what the consumer wants”, but when they kill off all the alternatives, we don’t really have a choice.

I think I shall hold off taking part, personally, until I see how they develop it. How about you?

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Two wine apps – a brief review

I don’t spend long enough looking at apps for the iPhone and other smart phones, largely because so many of them are based around storing tasting notes and collecting wine information – and I think that too boring for words.

However, sometimes some off-the-wall stuff comes along that captures my imagination, at least for a bit. Neither of these two apps will necessarily divert you for long, but they are both free … and so are worth every penny!

UK Wine Tax Calculator

Screen capture of UK Wine Tax Calculator app

50.6% Tax - tastes funny

(App by APPetise)

A simple app. No tasting notes, no recommendations, no points.

Plug in the retail price you are paying for your wine, plus the alcohol level, and this handy little app will tell you what (MASSIVE) percentage is going DIRECTLY to the government in both VAT and Duty. Then you can sit back, enjoy your wine, and when you hear politicians say “We are all in this together”, you can toast them with your glass of tax-revenue-in-a-glass. You’ve done your bit!

An interesting development would be to add estimated values for certain other items, such as the packaging and supermarket retail margins, so you can get an idea of what percentage of that final price might actually be the cost of the wine itself! You’d be surprised!

Wine Tonight?

Screen capture of Wine Tonight App

Wine Tonight App - yes dear

(App by Whitespace)

Know anything about biodynamic wines? What about the theory’s application to a wine tasting calendar? No?

I’ve been monitoring the idea that as well as the wines being MADE following certain lunar and natural cycles, the wines taste different on a similar schedule. I bought a little booklet called “When Wine Tastes Best” for 2010 and always thought it should really be an app. And in 2011 they’ve obliged, sort of.

In theory, the days of the year fall into 4 categories; GOOD -Fruit & Flower and BAD – Leaf & Root. Don’t ask me how they decide, but if you look up a date it should tell you whether your wine will be showing itself at its best, or be having the vinous equivalent of a bad hair day.

I had hoped the app would allow you to link up to a calendar, maybe help you plan your wine dinners and tastings in advance. It doesn’t. It only tells you the status of TODAY. Click on “Wine Tomorrow?” and you get an ad for the printed booklet.

They’re REALLY missing a trick here. The physical booklet only costs £3.99 (or less) but there are printing costs, and delivery costs to factor in. SURELY they’d make a lot more money selling it on iTunes for £0.79 and encouraging a lot more immediate, impulse buys?

For the record, the calendar is hit-and-miss. I’ve not wholly bought into the concept, … but there are days where otherwise perfectly good wines just don’t taste right, so …

Have you spotted any other wine apps worth reviewing that are NOT tasting note stores or cellar management tools?

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