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Interview with of WHERE, the local search and recommendation Android Application

May 26, 2010 - Written By Mike Corbett

  • Tell Android Fans a Little about where

WHERE® is a local search and recommendation service that helps people discover places, events and mobile coupons in their area. Using WHERE, you can find everything from the weather, news, and restaurant reviews, to the closest coffee shop, cheapest gas, traffic updates, movie showtimes and coupons from local merchants. WHERE also helps you reach your destination with easy to use maps and directions and saves the locations you visit in your Placebook, an address book for your places. The WHERE mobile application synchs with Where.com as well as your social networks, enabling you to save and share information while at home or on-the-go.

  • What got you started developing Android Applications?

As application developers, the WHERE team knew we needed to cover the fastest growing mobile platform. Since Android, a product of Google, is open it gives us many chances to innovate and update the product to meet users needs.

  • How did you come up with the idea to develop where?

We created WHERE to help people save time and money while exploring their local area. We wanted to develop a service that would help people discover new places nearby and also help travelers find their way around unfamiliar areas. We used location-based information and aggregated content to create a comprehensive product that would enhance local experiences.

  • Where is getting recognition, are you surprised by the popularity?

We are very excited that we are being recognized and are not surprised because we have also worked hard to create a service that is truly useful to everyone. WHERE was created in 2007 and in these past few years we have made ourselves available on over one hundred mobile devices and have become a top application on all major smartphone platforms and carriers. We are both accessible and useful to many people. We have also developed our application to meet the needs of our consumers, adding features such as user reviews, check-in, Placebook and social networking functionality.

  • Has any other location company approached you changing something with where?

Sometimes location aware companies approach us with ideas we’re able to integrate into our product. For example, we have a complementary relationship with OpenTable, allowing WHERE users to access their services through WHERE detail pages.

  • How did you come up with the name where?

The purpose of WHERE is to answer all questions related to location and local environment. We deliver a wide variety of content, all of which is determined by where you are. Therefore, the name WHERE is the most natural title for a service that focuses on informing you about where you are and where to go.

  • With the few other location based apps out there, are you worried about the competition?

There are a lot of great location apps out there. We are not worried about the competition since all of these apps help drive adoption of location based services, growing the market. WHERE provides contextually relevant local content that helps users save time and money and connects local merchants to a local audience. Unlike many of our competitors, WHERE successfully monetizes this opportunity and is profitable. WHERE is uniquely comprehensive and offers something for everyone. WHERE also leverages unique access to network-based location along with GPS, enabling the application to find your location very quickly on all types of devices. We also built our own location management module for Android, enabling us to reduce the number of network calls by 70% thus saving the battery life. We deliver multiple services in one centralized application, without draining battery life.

  • Tell us why Android users would want to get where

If you want access to local information, the ability to save and share places, and great ways to save time and money, you want WHERE. The ability to quickly develop and update on the Android platform has enabled us to create a very engaging and exciting experience for WHERE on Android. One of our latest updates actually delivers you a coupon to a local place each time you Check-in using WHERE. When you check-in to a location, you can also easily save that location to your Placebook, an address book for your places, and will soon be able to share your entire Placebook with your friends via social networks.

  • What new features can you share with android users that will be coming to where?

Keep an eye out for WHERE 2.0. We will bring preferred functionalities from within WHERE to a user’s Android homescreen to increase accessibility. We will also be integrating with Google Navigation’s turn-by-turn directions and will continue to partner with other companies. Our goal is to develop new ways keep users engaged within the WHERE app.

  • Have you been working on a new version for Android 2.2?

Not yet, but we just came back from Google I/O so we have lots of new ideas brewing. We now know which of the rumors about Android 2.2 are true, so in the next few releases we’ll find out which of these new features we can leverage in our app. Specifically, we’re very interested in the new cloud-to-app notifications. Keep an eye out for future development.

  • Are you thinking of doing other apps in the future?

No. By expanding our application when we release WHERE 2.0 there will be no need for us to develop any other apps.

  • What do find is the easiest thing about developing for android compared to other Mobile OS’s?

One of the greatest things about the Android OS is the speed of development and release. It’s great to have the opportunity to quickly enhance our product and implement consumer feedback very easily and with great speed.

  • What can be the most frustrating part of developing on the android OS & How does all the different versions of Android OS affect you development of apps?

It’s relatively easy to build an Android app, but more difficult to build an app that is visually attractive. Now there are multiple versions of Android living on multiple OEMs and carriers, creating a fragmented environment. Android development requires increased manual work to get our product through quality assurance because we want to be thorough and test our application on each device and each version of Android.

  • What is your opinion on the Android Market? positive and negative?

We have had great experiences developing for the Android Market. We love the openness of the market which allows us to frequently update WHERE. We iterate very quickly and are able to quickly process user feedback and correct the mistakes. This process keeps our users engaged and gives us a constant stream of feedback we can quickly respond to within the product. With the recent announcement of the new Android Market it will keep on getting better.

  • What kind of Android Phone do you use personally?

My primary device changes frequently. Currently it is the Droid and Nexus One. We’re always closely monitoring user behavior and we use whatever is the most popular phone at the time.

  • What new phone from Android has you the most excited?

HTC Evo

  • Does foursquare have any competition with you?

While we have been compared to Foursquare in the past (http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/04/14/youve-heard-of-foursquare-how-about-this-start-up/), we don’t see WHERE and Foursquare as direct competitors. Foursquare is a game, WHERE is a utility. Yes, we both utilize location and have Check-in features, but the intentions of our applications are very different. On Foursquare you check-in to accumulate badges and rewards; they offer a very cool and innovative game. With WHERE, you check-in to keep track of your locations, add places to your Placebook and, on Android, get a coupon to a nearby venue to save money. WHERE is a local search service so it’s hard to label us as the competitor to a game.

  • Facebook is becoming Location aware soon, will they compete or is that a different market?

We are excited about Facebook becoming location-aware and we don’t think they will become a direct competitor. WHERE is a local search and discovery service with complementary social-networking features, we are not a standalone social network like Facebook. WHERE offers useful local content not generated from social networks like Facebook such as weather, news, movie showtimes, gas prices, traffic updates and maps – putting us in a different market category.

  • If google announces Latitude and continues with places, is that something that worries you?

The Location-based-services space is a growing field right now, so one must expect many players to join in with new products. WHERE’s unique structure makes it different from both Google Latitude and Places. Latitude is a product that shows users where their friends are physically located on a map. While we do have Check-in functionality, WHERE is not a focused on being a friend-finding service. WHERE is also different from Google Places. WHERE combines information about local places along with additional functionalities, such as the ability to look up movie showtimes, view an extended weather forecast, find the closest and cheapest gas stations, or discover hyper-local coupons. The breadth and depth of WHERE content makes WHERE a leading contender in the local search market.

  • What inspired the little UI changes

The evolving Android platform, paired with our designers’ creativity, always inspires our enhancements. In addition, we pay close attention to user feedback and change our UI to meet their needs.

  • It looks like checkins only works for activities? not for home or work? is this right and if so why?

Check-in will find all public locations and most business locations. Our data providers do not list private home addresses. Therefore, private homes are not available for Check-in.

  • Besides Your Own Apps, which apps do you use most on your Android Phone?

Shazam, CardioTrainer, Pandora Radio and Barcode Scanner

  • Will there be any other UI changes to the app at all.

Yes. We’re working on some big changes you will most likely see in WHERE 2.0. We will bring preferred functionalities from within WHERE to a user’s Android home screen, making it easier for people to interact with the app as soon as they open there phone.

Interview Completed by Serkan Ozel, Android Developer WHERE