San Francisco-based Fleksy has launched its in-app SDK integration for iOS via four new partners who implement the software in their own apps today. These include Launch Center Pro, Wordbox, GV Connect and BlindSquare, and were chosen from a number of potential partners to help Fleksy demonstrate the power and range of its virtual keyboard.
Operating on iOS as a replacement for a default system component like the keyboard is not an easy task; Apple will not allow third-party devs to replace some system features like the keyboard, browser, messaging or calling app in the same way that users can do so on Android. Fleksy is attempting to get around this limitation by providing an SDK that third-party devs can use to build Fleksy into their own apps one at a time, in much the same way that Google makes it possible for devs to build in an option to have their software open links in Chrome on iOS.
These four launch partner apps are all available right now in the App Store, and take advantage of Fleksy’s unique ability to interpret a user’s intended input regardless of where they strike on the screen to different ends. Fleksy co-founder and COO Ioannis Verdelis explained to me the selection process for this first batch of apps in an interview.
“We’ve had a lot of interest [from third-party devs] really since our first release of the app on iOS,” he said. “We’ve picked four partners who worked with us through the beta process of the SDK, and we’ve tried to have one app that addresses the accessibility market, BlindSquare, and then we picked other popular apps that we think have meaningful use of text input in their design.”
Click to view slideshow.
GV Connect is a Google voice client where you can use Fleksy to send SMS messages; Wordbox is a text editor; and Launch Center Pro is “a bit of everything,” says Verdelis, with shortcuts that help people navigate iOS and get things done quicker. For these first four partners, he notes that it was important not just to get partners who would use the keyboard in interesting ways, to help showcase the possibilities for others, but to use people who helped define the product, too.
From here, Fleksy intends to continue to be selective about SDK partners and work with third-party devs to launch their integrations for a little while, but eventually the plan is to open it up for anyone to use independent of Fleksy’s involvement. Revenue for Fleksy differs depending on how each dev makes their revenue, Verdelis says, with some like Launch Center Pro trying things like offering it up as an in-app purchase and then sharing revenue from those sales, and others going for a more straightforward licensing fee.
Fleksy launched as a standalone third-party keyboard on Android out of beta last week, and Verdelis says they’ve racked up over 100,000 downloads since then. On iOS, they’ve had over 500,000 since launching their standalone app, but the SDK is the focus here in terms of business targets, so watching to see how the stable of Fleksy-using apps grows from here will be key.
apple · design · fleksy · ios · launch · launch-center · partners · sms · verdelis · virtual keyboard
After a brief hiatus, we’re back with a very special episode of the TechCrunch Droidcast. Recorded with both myself and Chris Velazco in the flesh in our studio offices in sunny, warm (actually freezing, dark) Toronto, Canada this week is a pleasantly brief sojourn into the world of Android.
We deal mostly with the new Google Play edition devices launched this week, which include a stripped down, virtually stock OS running on Sony’s Experia Ultra Z (though it loses the ‘Xperia’ for some reason) and the LG G Pad 8.3-inch Android tablet. Google’s going a little wild with those ‘blessed’ devices, which have the benefit of having all manufacturer bloatware stripped out, to show just how dumb OEM skins actually are.
We invite you to enjoy weekly Android podcasts every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and 2:30 p.m. Pacific (generally speaking), in addition to our weekly Gadgets podcast at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific on Fridays. Subscribe to the TechCrunch Droidcast in iTunes, too, if that’s your fancy.
Intro music by download » rel= »nofollow »>http://traffic.libsyn.com/tcdroidcast/droidcast-ep-17.mp3″>download available here.
chris-velazco · edition-devices · experia-ultra · gadgets · gadgets podcast · google-play · mobile · play edition · sony ultra z · though-it-loses · toronto · virtually-stock · week
Square has just announced that it has acquired Evenly, a company that was built to make it easy for friends to send and receive payments for splitting bills and other expenses. The company was founded in 2012, and was similar in concept to Venmo, an NYC-based startup that was acquired by Braintree last year.
Evenly offered a mobile app that let people send and receive requests for funds from their contacts list, organized around events and experiences. For each participant in a pool, it would list what a user owed and what they’d already paid, if any, and you could see progress towards the total cost of an event displayed visually, as well as send reminders to all parties involved that they have to pay up. There’s also an activity feed that tracks progress and adds a social element to the bill sharing.
Evenly will remain open and active until January 15, 2014 for existing users, and the team says on its own blog that it will give existing users “plenty of time” to get money out of the app and finish collections. Users can find out more here at an FAQ designed to guide those who will be transitioning off of the service. The app has been removed from the App Store, however, and new user registrations are turned off completely.
On Square’s Engineering blog, the payment company’s Product Engineering Lead Gokul Rajaram says that the Evenly team will be working on “seller initiatives,” and it seems likely this is designed to bring Evenly’s talented five-person engineering and design team into the fold to boost Square Cash and help it continue to ‘square’ off against the now Braintree-owned Venmo and Google Wallet.
against-the-now · braintree-owned · ecommerce · evenly · existing-users · find-out-more · gadgets · gokul-rajaram · mobile payments · nyc · payment · square-cash · venmo
For almost a decade and a half, mobile customers – and Americans in particular – have enjoyed a certain economic perk: phone subsidies from the major carriers. This meant you could, on sign-up, get a very expensive phone for at most a few hundred dollars and, as an incentive to hang around, upgrade that phone every few years. These subsidies seemed as God-given as freedom of speech and apple pie, but they may be on their way out.
I don’t want to stir up fake outrage at this move (and it’s not even a move, just an comment by the AT&T CEO at some conference but in the Kremlinology of online babbling that’s as good as a contract) but it smacks of perfidy. Said Randall Stephenson:
[blockquote]“When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network. But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.”[/blockquote]
Instead of allowing you to upgrade your $500 phone for $200, AT&T is already offering cheaper plans to users who don’t upgrade, thereby lengthening the upgrade cycle of phones from the traditional 18 to 24 months. This means you will miss two iPhone versions before AT&T even considers giving you a discount, if that happens at all and it means more BYO handsets.
To be clear, we need to remember that phone subsidies are actually imaginary. Europe’s refusal to subsidize phones has led to a number of service improvements including pre-paid SIM cards, cheaper, simpler handsets, and a number of roaming benefits. There’s no reason to lock a phone to a carrier if that phone is crossing borders every few days. However, the U.S. market is monolithic. We rarely roam and we rarely look for pre-paid deals.
If there are two things I agree with here it’s that we upgrade our phones far too often and that hardware manufacturers think we are stupid. I think, then, Stephenson isn’t directly addressing us, the consumer, but the handset manufacturers. They depend on regular updates to keep making money. Samsung and Apple have to release new phones for a number of reasons, primarily to maintain the perception of forward momentum and to please shareholders. Look at this panoply of Galaxy phones, for example, each destined to be AT&T’s next “free” phone. Just as a shark dies if it stops swimming, phone manufacturers die if they stop selling phones. Therefore phone subsidies are great for manufacturers and, if you think about the incremental differences between iPhone versions, not so great for us. There is plenty of supply and, thanks to subsidies, artificial demand.
This move by AT&T stops that endless circle. But it isn’t fair. Why should the consumer suffer with a bum phone for three years or pay hundreds of dollars on top of an already expensive rate plan? Carriers pay lip service to low prices but if you want their “best” plan you’d best be ready to pay. To add BYO handsets and slow upgrade cycles to this is insult to injury. Essentially Stephenson is saying that back when AT&T was still trying to get customers, subsidies worked. Now that it has all the customers it could want, subsidies are unfair. What’s really happening? Carriers got into bed with the manufacturers and now they want out. We pay the price.
apple · at&t · business · consumer · from-the-major · gadgets · kremlinology · mobile · network · perception · phone-subsidies · stephenson · traditional
Apple continues adding new channel partners to its Apple TV hardware, and now it’s rolling out four new ones today (via 9to5Mac), including Watch ABC for streaming local ABC affiliate content, Crackle for movies and TV, and KOR TV, a Korean language channel. There’s also Bloomberg, which is going to be streaming a live 24-hour news channel that provides content seven days a week.
This launch is just the most recent in what’s been an increasingly fast-paced rollout of new content partners on Apple’s set-top box, but it brings some interesting ingredients to the mix, including local broadcast TV streaming and a 24-hour news channel, which are key ingredients to what many users would consider basic TV service. Apple TV didn’t start off as a really viable cord-cutting alternative for people looking to ditch their cable subscriptions, but it’s been building up a piecemeal library of a la carte content that begins to become a truly worthy option.
It’s true that many of the services are still tied to cable service and TV packages, including the new Watch ABC channel and the HBO Go app that was launched previously, but it’s best to take all of these launches as baby steps in a larger plan that sees content unbundled from traditional sources. Apple’s Apple TV bet is a long play, and I think we’re only just starting to see the next curve around the bend on the long road to what will ultimately be a robust alternative to subscription-based bundled TV services.
Of course, that takes for granted these service providers can deliver content in a high-quality, reliable way. I’ve heard less than flattering things about the WSJ channel, which delivers live news content, but only during certain hours, unlike the Bloomberg effort. Still, the building blocks are falling into place, and Apple just needs to continue this rollout while avoiding a big blockade from legacy players along the way
apple · apple tv · at&t · bloomberg · consumer · from-the-major · gadgets · key-ingredients · news · perception
Many in the tech world and Washington have railed against the encroaching and limiting effect of patents on innovation, but when the chips are down, IP and patents remain key cornerstones in how tech companies and their founders are making sure they will be able to build their businesses and stick around for the long haul. Tony Fadell, the legendary former hardware supremo at Apple and now CEO and co-founder of new smart home device startup Nest, today revealed that Nest already had 100 patents granted, with 200 more on file with the USPTO and another 200 ready to file.
“At Nest what we did was make sure that we are putting [effort in] a ton of patents,” he said on stage today at the LeWeb conference on Paris. “This is what you have to do to disrupt major revenue streams.”
Nest, which first hit the market last year with a smart, design-friendly thermostat that you can control remotely with an iPhone app, this year added to its range with a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detection and alarm system. But the company has also had its share of patent heat.
It has been embroiled in a thermostat-related patent infringement suit brought by appliance maker Honeywell initially in February 2012, and in November 2013 saw another patent suit get filed from BRK, makers of the First Alert smoke alarms, for infringements related to Nest’s second product.
Nest has also taken steps to buy insurance from elsewhere to shore up its patent position. In September it announced a deal with Intellectual Ventures — one of the most well-known of the patent hoarders — for access to some 40,000 patents via IV’s “IP for Defense” subscription-based product. Nest can draw on these patents as a defendant or in the event of a counterclaim — as it happens to be in the case of Honeywell.
Part of the IV deal also included the acquisition of an unspecified number of patents, “in areas of interest to Nest, including systems and methods for automatic registration of devices.” It is unclear whether Fadell’s patent citation today — totalling some 500 in all if you count granted patents, those waiting approval, and those yet to be filed — include the patents that Nest would have picked up from IV.
You might argue that part of Fadell’s bullishness about patents comes out of necessity because of these suits, but on the other hand you have to remember that he comes from Apple, one of the most aggressive technology companies when it comes to using patents to defend its products, and also filing a lot of them almost as a smokescreen to mask what it may be planning next.
Patents are not the only game in town, of course. In talking about what he saw as important elements of building a business, Fadell also touched on the challenges of hardware startups, and the pitfalls of Kickstarter. You can get a lot of public support (and even financial support) for an idea, but “if you do not plant the seeds early enough” for how you will manufacture and distribute that concept at scale, he said, you will not go anywhere. (Yes, he said this last year at LeWeb, too.)
The other area that Fadell believes we are seeing a shortfall is in how disruptive products are being marketed to consumers.
“You have to communicate what the problem is and what the benefit of the solution is,” as well as giving people an easy way to purchase it, he said. That is part of how you build trust for new, intelligent devices. “If people cannot trust our brand, our things will never sell,” said Fadell. “The ‘Internet of Things’ will never take off if people do not trust the products.”
draw-on-these · encroaching · fadell · government · granted-patents · patent · patents · plant-the-seeds · tony fadell