Emotions play tricks on our memories, making our recollections of events much happier or heart-wrenching than they actually were. Smartphone app Expereal seeks to cut through those cognitive traps by allowing you to rate your day on a 10-point scale and organizing that data into easy-to-read charts.
The iOS app (Android and Web-based versions are planned) is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based digital strategist Jonathan Cohen, who was inspired by psychologist Daniel Kahneham’s 2010 TED talk “The riddle of experience vs. memory.” Kahneham argues that our memories are often distorted by cognitive biases. For example, one bad day can completely spoil someone’s memory of an otherwise pleasurable two-week vacation.
When designing Expereal, Cohen decided to stick to a 10-point scale to help users keep their ratings objective.
“I could have potentially asked people to pick a word to describe their mood, but what I like about numbers is that in order to get the full breadth and benefit you also have to enter tags and give meaning to it,” says Cohen.
Expereal’s first screen allows you to rate your day (or part of the day, depending on how often you use the app). Then you can note your location and the people you are with, add tags and snap a photo. A drop-down menu takes you to a set of charts that visualize your ratings by day, week or month, and compares your numbers to all of Expereal’s users or your Facebook friends who also use the app (data is aggregated anonymously). The “Expereotype” option is an album of your in-app photos with embedded ratings, tags and locations.
Cohen says Expereal fills the gap left by journaling apps and life-tracking wearable tech products like Jawbone UP and Nike Fuelband.
“None of these services in my mind really address the fundamental question–’how is my life going and how is it trending over time?’ I thought that by having a better understanding of this over time, it would be an interesting way to look back in order to move forward,” says Cohen.
Of course, Expereal is only as useful as the data you enter into it. The app’s notifications can be set to remind you to use it 1-5 times per day. While testing the app out, I found I was more likely to enter a rating if I was having a bad day because adding tags allowed me to vent. If my day was going okay, however, it was tempting to ignore Expereal’s prompt on my iPhone.
“It’s not immediately sticky,” Cohen admits. “But for many of us who are relatively happy in our lives, I think there is value in those moments of self-reflection.” He adds that Expereal is meant to “counterbalance to the immediate promises of contemporary best-selling self-help books and programs.”
I committed to using the app five times a day for two weeks and was surprised by my data charts. A couple days I had written off in my memory as a total waste of time (because of a headache or a task left undone) were actually rated quite high, and I realized I’m much more pessimistic than I thought I was. I already use Timehop as a scrapbook and Step Journal to keep track of my daily activities, but I like Expereal’s focus on mood tracking because it’s already motivated me to stop being so negative.
Cohen tells me he is continually working on the app’s data analysis so that the aggregate numbers aren’t skewed toward any particular part of the day or people who log onto the app more consistently than other users. He declined to give me specific numbers, but says Expereal currently has several thousand users.
Aside from being a handy life-tracking tool, Expereal is also beautiful, with minimalist graphics inspired by mid-century California design, graphic designer Reid Miles and Monocle magazine. The app was bootstrapped by Cohen, who is currently looking for investors and investigating several revenue models. Cohen envisions Expereal as part of a larger ecosystem that will eventually include books, seminars and other tools that tap into people’s desires to improve their lives.
“If you look at the world of self-help, that segment of the marketplace, there are all of these amazing books by behavioral psychologists out there,” says Cohen. “If Expereal can capture a piece of that marketplace, I think the potential is huge.”
Dhingana is stepping up its efforts to monetize its streaming service for Indian music after it introduced video-roll advertising, initially for its iOS app only.
The company — which has offices in Pune, India, and Sunnyvale, California – launched its advertising platform in August 2012 and it also offer a paid-for subscription for those who prefer an ad-free experience. The company says that its new ‘Premium Video Advertising’ feature is targeted at brands looking to reach its music-loving users with “TV quality commercials”.
Companies are now able to run 10-30 second pre- or post-roll clips that are integrated into the app, taking the place of album cover art or anything else that is on-screen. Since Dhingana provides only audio, the ads are displayed when there is a pause in a user’s activity, meaning that they are likely to come into contact with the device’s screen.
That is designed to keep the listening experience unaffected, CEO Rohit Bhatia explains:
Video is one of the best forms of advertising, delivering two-to-four times higher performance over regular display banner ads on mobile devices. Our video ads are carefully integrated to be shown when the user is already engaged with our music for several minutes to maximize the impact for the advertising brand without compromising the listening experience.
Launching for iOS — both iPhone and iPad — the ads will come to the Android app soon, but, already, Dhingana has recruited a major name, Coke, to kick things off (update: Dhingana tells us that although Coca Cola is an advertiser, it hasn’t specifically agreed to video ads at this time).
The move to introduce more interactive advertising comes three months after the hiring of Bhatia, and the company is likely to have solicited the opinion and feedback of Gokul Rajaram, Facebook’s product director for advertising, who joined its advisory board last year.
Bhatia has a number of ambitious goals and, in his first interview as CEO, he told TNW that he wants to make the service compelling enough for its users to listen for 2 hours each day. That’s roughly 60 hours per month, and would some way ahead of Spotify, which logs an average of 15-20 hours per month per user.
“I’d like Dhingana users to wake up and go to bed with Dhingana music, using it all through the day,” he said.
Founded in 2007 by twin brothers Swapnil and Snehal Shinde, Dhingana offers more than 500,000 songs across 35 languages and claims a monthly active user base of more than 15 million. The service is available for iOS, Blackberry, Android, Symbian Windows Phone and via a Web-based player.
Headline image via scubabrett22 / Flickr
Microsoft on Tuesday announced Windows Blue will be officially called Windows 8.1. Furthermore, the new version will arrive as a free Windows 8 update via the Windows Store.
The news was revealed at the JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Boston, by Tami Reller, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Windows. Microsoft also noted there are more than 70,000 apps in the Windows Store, a noteworthy number but still a far cry from Android, iOS, and even Windows Phone.
On the Blogging Windows blog, Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft’s Communications Manager for Windows, detailed where the company is coming from with its Windows 8.1 vision:
During her remarks today, Tami reiterated our goal of delivering continual updates to create a richer experience for Windows customers. Windows 8.1 is part of that and continues the journey we first began with Windows 8 last fall. Windows 8.1 will help us to deliver the next generation of PCs and tablets with our OEM partners and to deliver the experiences customers— both consumers and businesses alike —need and will just expect moving forward.
That doesn’t say much, now does it? LeBlanc says Microsoft plans to share more about Windows 8.1 “in the coming weeks.”
A public preview of Windows 8.1, for both Windows 8 and Windows RT, will be available starting on June 26. This is timed with the first day of Microsoft’s Build 2013 developer conference in San Francisco, where the first major details about the operating system update will be released.
Rumor has it that Windows 8.1 will also launch along with multiple devices featuring smaller screen sizes. All of this will likely be slated for the 2013 holiday season.
Top Image Credit: Dell Inc.
Q: Why does a to do list application need $3.5 million in funding? A: Because it’s becoming more than a simple to do app. Today, Any.DO one of the more popular to do list applications for web and mobile, announced a seed round of funding led by existing investor Genesis Partners, with participation from both current and new investors Innovation Endeavors (Eric Schmidt’s fund), Joe Lonsdale, Blumberg Capital, Joe Greenstein and others.
The company had previously announced $1 million in angel funding in late 2011 from Innovation Endeavors, Blumberg Capital, Genesis Partners, Palantir (Joe Lonsdale), Felicis Ventures (Aydin Senkut) and Brian Koo.
For those unfamiliar, Any.DO got its start on the Android platform after the success of the team’s first app, Taskos, which proved the market was ripe for such a concept. That app had grown to 1.3 million users by the time Any.DO arrived in November 2011, and today has more than doubled its install base.
Any.DO, however, has since surpassed it. The company says its flagship application now has more than 5 million users across iOS, Android and web. Referencing data from Onavo Insights, Any.DO claims to be the market leader in the to do list app space. (Its nearest competitor, Wunderlist, announced earlier this month having more than 4 million users.)
Unlike many apps, Any.DO has more Android users than iOS, having initially taken advantage of that platform’s popularity, its need for well-built apps, and the potential built-in install base coming from Taskos, who were encouraged to switch over to Any.DO when it first debuted.
Any.DO is beautifully designed, which has the side effect of making the app appear deceptively simple. But in reality, there’s some heavy lifting going on under the hood.
“We believe the tools you have on your homescreen are going to be smarter and smarter over time,” explains Any.DO founder and CEO Omer Perchik. “In terms of the to do list…it will help you accomplish the things you have on your list, and we’ve developed a semantic engine that extracts intents and tries to find the relevant action,” he says. “And on the other hand, it’s basically predicting what you’ll be interested in doing.”
So for example, if you tell the app today that you want to plan a trip or workout at the gym more often, it will recommend other applications that will help you complete those tasks, including things like Kayak, TripAdvisor, MyFitnessPal, and many others. Also, if you tell the app you need to do something like “pay taxes,” it’s smart enough to start reminding you about that task in advance of tax day, even though you never provided an exact date or time.
In some cases, Any.DO has affiliate relationships with the dozens of apps it points users to, but in other cases it does not. Perchik says that conversion rates are high – more than three times above the market average of 1 to 5 percent, in general.
Asked whether or not the company had the intention of using the funding to further develop Any.DO or to expand its lineup by launching more apps in the personal productivity space, Perchik says “possibly both.” However, the company isn’t heading into other spaces like email or calendaring just yet, he adds.
That being said, Perchik did cite the recent trend in startups developing alternatives to the core applications on users’ homescreens – things like email (Mailbox, Triage, e.g.), calendaring (Sunrise, Tempo, e.g.), and messaging, etc. “There’s a lot of things in the day-to-day personal productivity space that are relevant [to us], but we’re less working towards building something like Google Docs or Office for mobile – we’re focusing more on the individual,” he says, defining Any.DO’s interests.
The company will have some announcements around what its future plans may be in about a month’s time, Perchik also notes.
In the meantime, the 12-person startup is using the funding to staff its new San Francisco-based office where Perchik now works. The R&D and product team remains in Israel, but the new office will hire those on the marketing and business development side of things.
In addition, an update to the Android version of Any.DO is rolling out now which will allow Astrid app users (one of Yahoo’s many recent acquisitions) to import their data in advance of the app’s shutdown.
It seems like every other day an upstart wireless service provider inks a wholesale deal with someone like Sprint or T-Mobile and effectively sells access to those big carrier networks under a different banner. And every other day, I ignore most of them, because they’re just so damned boring.
Zact isn’t boring. In fact, Zact — an upstart service provider created by Andreessen Horowitz-backed ItsOn that uses Sprint’s network — has the best approach to wireless plans I’ve seen in a long time.
Consider this scenario: you’ve signed up with Zact (no contracts here) and chosen a plan, say, 500 minutes, 1,000 text messages, and 1GB of data. That plan’ll cost you just shy of $40, and once you’ve signed up, you use the plan just as you would any other.
At the end of the month though, it becomes apparent Zact’s approach flies in the face of how more traditional carriers handle billing. While carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and the like are happy to keep quiet and accept your money for minutes, messages, and data you haven’t even touched, Zact goes back and credits you the difference between what you’ve paid for and what you’ve used. Yes, these people are actually trying to build a business by giving your money back to you.
Now as neat as that is, that sort of no overage approach isn’t exactly new — MVNOs like Ting have been running with that model for over a year a now. Zact manages to take things a bit farther than Ting thanks to some interesting feature-centric plans for people who don’t need gobs and gobs of data each month because they only need to do a few things. Take Facebook for instance: Zact offers a $5/mo feature that offers unlimited access to the social network that bars users from using the data connection for anything else. After all, some people may never use their smartphone for anything else anyway, so why charge them for all the extra cruft? Mixing and matching features is certainly more work than what most carriers have us doing now, but I’d much rather have the option at least.
Users can also tweak those plans by way of some deeply-integrated Zact software with a surprising level of granularity at any point during the month, and those changes go into effect immediately — no chatting with customer service drones required. Those plans are intrinsically shareable too so if you and four friends can scrape by on 200 minutes a month, well, feel free. Getting close to your minute or message limits? You’ll be notified while you’re gabbing on the phone or when firing up the messaging app respectively.
Throw in some savvy, instant-on parental controls (you can remotely disable apps on other devices on the account if you’re an admin) and you’ve the makings of a very promising service. The folks Andreessen Horowitz and seem to agree, as they collectively pumped some $15 million into Zact parent company ItsOn last October.
Curiously, ItsOn’s ambitions extend beyond just running its own MVNO (except they really don’t like it when you call Zact the “m” word). CEO Greg Raleigh told TechCrunch that the cloud services that make those on-the-fly plan changes and suggestions possible has garnered ItsOn attention from carriers around the globe, a few of which can be found right here in the States. According to Raleigh, the vision isn’t so much about giving all those carriers a run for their money, it’s about getting them to adopt the same sort of granular approach to plans.
Ah, but there’s a catch (isn’t there always?). As a Sprint wholesaler, Zact only has access to two Android smartphones (well, three if you count a color variant) right now, and either of them are terribly eyecatching. Ting is a slightly more attractive option right now if only because of the wider array of hardware available, but I’ll be keeping my eyes on ItsOn and Zact — they’re definitely on to something here.
See the rest here: ItsOn’s New Zact Service Is Rewriting The Book On Wireless Plans