In anticipation of the upcoming Crunchie awards, TechCrunch released the list of nominees, er, finalists for the Best Mobile App of 2015. This award will go to “the mobile application that made the most waves in the mobile app landscape in 2015.” That’s quite an accolade so let’s take a closer look at these finalists, shall we?
CityMapper: Ever since visit to New York City last year, during which I relied on the subway for an entire week, I’ve touted CityMapper to everyone relying on public transportation in a big city. CityMapper proved to be indispensable while on the go in New York for three reasons: one: it’s very easy to use and requires a minimal amount of clicks to get a planned route; two: it’s reliable, and the routes offered are truly the fastest and simplest ones to take; three: it’s smart, remembering locations and having a robust database of locations and right search algorithm to find them. It also has alternative transportation options so that users can make their “how to get there” decision in the most informed manner, including walking and biking directions,including calories burned, taking a cab, and every conceivable mix of public transportation options, all including estimated cost. No other mapping app comes close to CityMapper’s ease of use in providing directions in a city.
Facebook Messenger: I’m not an avid user of Messenger and when I do use it, it’s mostly via Facebook’s site. That’s because most of the people I usually contact via a chat are either on Google Hangouts, Twitter DMs, or (gasp) plain old text messaging. That said, I appreciate Facebook’s push to integrate every social interaction, including video hangouts, payments and ride-sharing into Messenger, making it a convenient one-stop-app for coordinating with friends. Still, it would be nice if messaging in general became less fragmented and users wouldn’t need to think every time they wanted to chat with someone what messaging service that person was on that the user was on as well. This is the main reason I find myself reverting to text messages: I know my contact has that app on their phone!
Periscope: It’s hard to talk about Periscope without talking about its predecessor by a few weeks, Meerkat. Meerkat launched during SxSW in March and took over everyone’s Twitter timeline. It was easy, even without an app (the full Android version only launched on May 1st) to follow my Twitter contacts as they livestreamed themselves running around the conference. Then, about two weeks later, Twitter blocked Meerkat’s access to its social graph making onboarding a bit harder. This move came after Twitter bought Periscope, a similar live-streaming video app. Periscope launched a week later and, for a while, both were used equally. Gradually, maybe because of content deals, Periscope gained more prominence. I’d say both are similar product-wise but the Twitter integration makes Periscope a winner. That said, both apps would deserve to win as this is a brand new category which both implemented well. The uses for live streaming, from U2 concerts to the Baltimore protests, is just the beginning of how these apps will change broadcasting.
Robinhood: I have to say that I hadn’t heard of the Robinhood app or even heard about it until today. I don’t trade much but I can definitely see the value of a “three click trade” that is also commision free. It also makes sense to create a good financial app as Yahoo Stocks has been a popular app so the need for information and buying and selling abilities is there. What’s interesting about Robinhood is that most of the financial trading apps were built by the various existing brokerages and were designed to fit the way they have always done business. Robinhood has built not just an app but a business from the ground up, one that doesn’t have to rely either on existing infrastructure or internal policy. It seems poised to disrupt the industry just as ETrade did 20 years ago.
Wish: Among all these finalists, Wish is the one app that seems to be more of a service than a revolutionary new app. With what industry experts are calling a fine-tuned advertising algorithm aimed at getting the right product offering in front of the right people at the right time, with cheap prices and unbranded products sourced mostly from China. The attractive pricing and discounts offered for orders completed quickly managed to get Wish a lot of customers during the holiday season. The only reason I can see for Wish being a popular app (as opposed to just another ecommerce service) is their minimizing of the number of clicks between a user seeing their highly-targeted ad in a social media feed and completing the purchase on the app. If Wish sent users to a browser to complete the purchase, the rate of completed transactions would probably drop. As with Robinhood, it’s interesting to see what a newly imagined ecommerce business looks like in 2015 and how different it is from Amazon and WalMart.
So which is my favorite app?
CityMapper because out of the three apps that I’ve used in this list, I’ve found that I use it all the time and I love the interface. I’d give Periscope second place just because they (and Meerkat) invented a completely new space. It will be interesting to see which one of these five wins this category.