Monthly Archives: June 2011

Taxi Magic App Works Like Magic!

Taxi Magic

Since I recently lampooned an app, I felt the need to be balanced.

So today, I give props to an app I recently downloaded and used, that I found to work exceptionally well.

That app was Taxi Magic from RideCharge Inc.

I was in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, and needed to get to a meeting with a client. I had originally intended to take the bus across town, but the scheduled bus was delayed, and I didn’t want to risk being late from my appointment.

Not too long ago, I had attended a NYTech Meetup, where a Taxi Magic demo was featured, but at the time, I hadn’t downloaded the app.

I immediately recalled the simple and effortless way the app was purported to work during the demo, so I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded it.

Taxi Magic uses your location to locate taxis in proximity to you.

Upon launching Texi Magic, I was asked if the app could use my location, and was then presented with a list of cabs near the intersection near where I was standing, which I could either book directly or call.

Taxi Magic tells you when your taxi has been dispatched.

I booked a Red Top taxi, and received a notification telling me the taxi had been dispatched and was less than half a mile away.

Taxi Magic's map let's me see where the driver is while I wait on him.

There was an interactive map, which showed where the taxi was relative to where I was, and let me monitor the driver’s progress.

When I saw the taxi pull up a few minutes later, and jumped in, the driver asked if I was Stephen, and if I was going to Capital City Brewing (to which I replied in the affirmative).

Taxi Magic let me pay for my ride using the app itself.

When we arrived at my destination, I had the option of paying with my Taxi Magic account (I had set up a Taxi Magic account and input my credit card) with my credit card or with cash.

I opted for my Taxi Magic account, added a small tip and Viola! all done.

I really like the Taxi Magic app because it does what it promises to do – make getting a taxi like magic.

The interface is clean and spare, and even on AT&T’s 3G network, pages loaded quickly.

I didn’t have to work to figure out how to use it. It didn’t crash on me and I didn’t have to jump through elaborate hoops to get a taxi.

There are a few other taxi apps out there, I’m sure, but Taxi Magic is the one for me!

Note: The screen shots provided above were not of my experience, but images I grabbed from iTunes. 

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Crap App! What NOT to do with your app

If you follow any of my babbling, you probably already know that I’m in the mobile industry. Currently, I’m helping brands and businesses develop their mobile and social media strategies.

When I meet with potential clients and prospects, I’m constantly being asked about which apps I think are good examples for them to take a look at.  Every so often, I’m also asked my opinion about apps developed by other companies.

Recently, when I was pitching my company to develop an app for a newspaper publisher, I was asked about a particular app that they had decided to utilize: the Saxotech Saxoviewer.  So I took Saxotech’s Saxoviewer for a test drive.

I’ve played with their app for almost two weeks, so I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

First, the good:

1.  Nice clean looking interface. The splash page is great for branding, and replaced with the client’s logos or icons, is very impactful.

2.  Good use of space. The three (3) column layout, with the two (2) sidebars and main feature center column, is an effective use of space, and definitely drives the eyes to the content that you want (presumably what’s in the center column).

3.  Excellent use of embed video. The ‘Video of the week’ in the left sidebar is a good use of video if your brand has video content or is interested in offering video to your demographic/readership. The player loads fairly quickly, and depending upon the engine, can really enhance the overall utility of the app.

4.  Comprehensive menu capable of being accessed in multiple ways. The list icon (Change sections button) in the bottom left corner (which identifies which page you’re looking at) and the stacked pages icon (Article overview button) on the bottom right (next to the back arrow) allow a user to see the contents of the app in both list and ‘cover flow’-style layout. The second option is cool because it allows you to navigate through and preview additional pages without having to navigate away from the page you’re currently viewing.

5.  Instructions are excellent. In the bottom right corner is an ‘i’ icon (This Info button), which pulls up the instructions on how to use the Saxoviewer. It’s simple to understand and provides comprehensive information on how to use the app.

Next, the bad:

1.  Takes forever to load. Each time the app was opened, it took an inordinate amount of time to get passed the splash page into the app itself.

2.  Fails to maintain a connection to wifi.  Whenever the iPad went to sleep, was turned off or if I navigated away from the app, whenever I returned to the app, I received a warning message advising that I was no longer connected to a network, despite the fact that I was.

More importantly, this message would repeat itself over and over again (at one point over 20 times) despite being clicked or acknowledged, and in spite of the fact that I was still connected to a wifi network. I experienced this issue every time I interacted with the app (over 10 times in a two week period).

3.  The app crashed several times while I was using it. This was especially the case when I relaunched from sleep. It also crashed twice when I attempted to load the ‘video of the week.’

4.  Buttons don’t always respond to touch. In several instances, I had to tap an icon repeatedly before the underlying function was activated. I noted this primarily with the Change Sections button in the bottom left corner, but the Article overview button did this also.

5.  The featured content ‘floats’ over the ad window. In the top of the center column, is the feature window, which cycles through the featured content. Instead of being isolated in the center column, and the information loading from that area, subsequent content floats over the ‘Bernard Matthews’ ad (in the right column) before loading the feature window.

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6.  Preview text, article titles cut off. In several places, it appears that pictures are actually obscuring text.

7.  Broken characters. Several articles had nonsense characters in the place of text.

Now, in all fairness to Saxotech (and for full disclosure), I work for an application development company, so I’m definitely more critical than your average Joe.

Saxotech, if you’re reading this – check your app.

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QR Codes are cool!

I generated this QR Code using QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project.

If you’re not up on anything that’s happening in the digital world, you probably haven’t peeped QR codes.

Although you’ve probably seen these weird squiggly things on business cards, flyers or maybe even the last time you went shopping at Macy’s, it probably escaped you that these little boxes were the wave of the future.

What is a QR Code?

Well Wikipedia describes a QR Code (short for Quick Response) as a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

The QR code above was generated using a free online QR code generator. To see what’s encoded, you’ve got to:

1.  Have a QR reader on your phone. If you’ve got an iPhone, I recommend QRReader. *Download it to your device.

2.  Open your QR reader on your device. If it seems like you’ve turned on your camera, it’s ok. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

3.  Point your camera at the QR reader until it’s centered on the screen.

4.  Watch the magic happen!

You can do really cool things with QR codes beyond simply sharing your information.

For example, you can launch a video, send text, trigger an SMS or direct viewers to a URL.

Here are a few more that I think you’ll enjoy:

Point your phone at this QR code for a sexy experience.

In this example our QR code launches a video on Vimeo of a short film produced by Firststar Films/Viral Cinema for Black Box a custom accessories boutique in Tribeca.

QR Codes can be used to generate text messages too!

Although this is just a sample, QR codes can generate real SMS/text messages, delivered right to your phone.

QR codes can trigger much more sophisticated actions, beyond simply opening a URL or driving simple text messages. In fact Google’s mobile Android operating system incorporates QR readers natively into it’s architecture, allowing it to trigger more complex processes.

Brands are only starting to flirt with QR codes in the States, but I project that as they start to proliferate, you’ll find more exotic and innovative things being done.

I hope this has been instructive, and feel free to reach out to me if you’ve got questions on QR codes, mobile, apps or whatever!

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