Vodafone AppStar Competition

One of my apps was short listed in vodafone #appstar competition and even though I didn’t get to win I ended up spending a really pleasant day with fellow developers presenting the other 22 apps being considered. Some were quite impressive, others were impressively bad. All the competing teams were quite inspirational, knowing that our country is full of hope and young people who know how to build market and even sell their own products. The first prize- a substantial 100k EGP- went to the worthiest competitor, Loaded with potential I hope he uses the money in developing his concept further.

The winners and the finalists

The competing apps, not all are published and some aren’t android :

  • actNguess : Draw something spin off
  • Allin1Remote : Control your computer remotely using this highly versatile remote, disqualified since the developer is working in vodafone.
  • Bkam (3rd): Price comparison app with Geo-Spin
  • CairoMetro : Metro maps for cairo.
  • DriverBuster : Driver rating app.
  • EZScratch : Reads prepaid scratch cards through the camera, interesting concept but it didnt work.
  • EgySmartTrans (1st) : Helps you figure out how to get from point A to point B in cairo using public transportation.
  • iPasswords : another password keeping app.
  • Matchatak : Track and review football matches.
  • Medical Reminder (2nd): Medication reminder, keeps track of what pills to take and when.
  • Mobile Finder : GSM arena spin off.
  • NonoGai : Baby center/super mama spin off.
  • Sand Art : Draw things in sand, not using physics or open GL.
  • Se7ety : Medical tips and advice.
  • So2aly : ask.google.com spin off.
  • Swift TV guide: TV guide with reviews.
  • Talk2Me : Text to sign language, however it didn’t work as expected.
  • Toddler Fun : Nokia only, another toddler game pack.
  • Touch Point : Control your computer remotely.
  • Treasure Hunting : Geo-caching.
  • Where Am I
  • Yadget : Pinterest with Geo-Tagging Features, a flat6labs sponsored project.
  • Zagel Auto-SMS : Schedule sms to be sent based on certain rules.

Presentations went on for hours, with every competitor getting exactly 5 minutes to present his app (including a demo if he chose to) then 2 minutes of questions from the panel. I’m not going to review all apps since there are too many of them, instead I’m going to talk about the apps that really caught my attention.

1. Smart Trans the first prize winner, helps people get through cairo by knowing exactly which micro-buses and public buses to take. Google already offers that in 1st world countries, but in ours we dont have the database required to do so. The developer put a huge effort into building his own Database. He contacted municipalities, they didnt have all the info he needed so he started asking people to build his seed database. The application itself is lacking on many aspects, but what it lacks in presentation it makes up in Data. Now that it has won the first prize I hope he turns this into something

2. Toddler Fun Had a really impressive interface, well built and tastefully designed. However its as innovation free as possible, the developers didnt even consider adding in Arabic, there are hundreds if not thousands of alternatives out there. why would anybody build another copy of something like that ?

3. AllinOneRemote The developer is working in vodafone so his application was disqualified, even though he wasn’t working there when he first published it. The application is quite good, does what it promises to do and does it really well. There are many alternatives available however this one would easily beat most of them.

4. Yadget being another flat6labs sponsored project it had the most superior business plan, the developing team didn’t attend and sent a representative instead, obviously they are on a silicone valley trip trying to get that first round of investment, had they presented it themselves they’d have definitely won the first prize.

5. Medical Reminder has one 4 awards already, this being the fifth. I’m quite surprised its won since its quite lacking when it comes to innovation, there are hundreds of apps that do just what this app does a lot better, and it doesn’t even include Arabic.

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Generally speaking I was surprised by the lack of innovation in the submitted apps, most of them were spin offs of apps that already existed or just a website turned into an app, which doesn’t make much sense since you can have the same functionality by logging into the website. Most apps were under developed as well, you could easily tell most of the apps didn’t have a designer on board, and that impacted the product’s quality.

The panel mainly judged the apps more on the concept rather than the implementation. Hence app quality in the sense of being well coded and bug free wasn’t a factor, also the number of downloads and reviews on Google play wasn’t considered, which makes sense since a lot of the apps weren’t published on the store, and we all know how easy it is to generate false reviews and ratings.

I have this comment to make on social apps assessment  The user base for such apps is an integral part to the app quality since the experience varies greatly depending on the number of active contributing users. The marketing plan behind such apps and getting that initial critical mass of users should be taken in consideration while assessing such apps. There are 10s of Cairo Traffic apps out there however bey2ollak is the best and most popular, or rather its the best because its the most popular, even though other apps maybe be technically superior, Bey2ollak user base is their main selling point.

During the competition I talked with several of the competing teams, we all agreed on that none of the applications were as impressive as we expected them to be, considering the substantial award and all, most teams expected companies to compete for the prize, however the company’s turn out was minimal. Most of the competitors were amateur developers who either developed their app on their own or in teams of two. Perhaps mainly due to the fact that #appstar wasn’t that well announced, most people knew about it too late or only after the submission stage has ended. Vodafone posted it on their fb page thinking that since they have 2 million likes 2 million people would see it, which is theoretically correct but with the recent changes in Facebook page rank system that’s not how things happen any more. Personally I believe they should have announced it in an event such as EGJUG or even better set up their own event invited people, had a couple of speakers talk about mobile development and then called for submissions. Hopefully next year’s #appstar is going to be a bit better and would include at least a handful of impressive apps.

*My presentations :

Note: originally I intended to present HummingBird widget but for some reason it didn’t exist in their database, still you can always download it and tell me what you think.

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