Tell Android Fans a Little about Aloqa
On April 12, Steve Jobs said on record – “Search hasn’t happened on mobile Phones“. Aloqa is exactly about solving this “search is hard to do” problem by using what the phone inherently is – an “interrupt” based device. Unlike a PC / browser which is “pull” based and you are constantly typing into it to get results.
What that means is that instead of users having to search by typing or saying something into their phone, Aloqa “proactively notifies” them of everything in their surroundings they could possibly care about – from coupons to restaurants, to movies, real estate for sale, hotels they can book – hundreds of live, dynamic and constantly up-to-date “channels” of information. We also allow brands and publishers to create their own channels using our API – dozens of them use it so Aloqa now has over 200 channels globally (we are available in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Austria, and Hong Kong under the name “Yiyi”, coming soon to China and other countries)
This does three things for users:
– Make search on the phone MUCH easier because it mostly eliminates the need for user input
– Enables discovery of content – places, events, people – you may never have searched for and therefore missed an opportunity to find out about
– Contextual Recommendations: Over time we learn about you and the surroundings you are in and can make more and more personalized recommendations based on who you are, where you are, what you like and what your friends like
Net net, we believe that your phone should be a local social mobile device that constantly provides you with a personalized feed of relevant location based opportunities.
What got you started developing Android Applications?
We took an early bet on Android in late 2008 based on three reasons:
– what we knew then about the openness, multi-threading and background capabilities of Android (particularly access to location and “push”)
– we wanted to be cross-platform and global
– we expected the platform to take off and wanted to be early adopters
How did you come up with the idea to develop Aloqa?
The Aloqa platform has existed since 2007 and what we are able to do better than others is to push rapidly changing location based content efficiently to mobile devices. In 2007 and 2008 we deployed this capability in cars (on Personal Navigation Devices) and other mobile screens – pushing for example real time traffic, weather, parking spot information onto PNDs.
It was late 2008 when we looked at search on mobile and found there was a real problem to be solved here: making local mobile search easier and personalized contextual discovery possible. That’s when we decided to go down the path of building the end consumer Aloqa application.
Aloqa is getting recognition, are you surprised by the popularity?
Not really. We have had highly sophisticated technical teams like those from Google Android and Window Phone recognize some of the difficult technical problems we have solved. We have also worked very hard on the UI / UX to make the experience simple and quick. This is also why we have gotten good traction with carriers and OEMs. Our API is also being used by several dozen high class publishers globally and 800K+ happy users later it isn’t surprising we are getting some accolades.
In particular, it is very heartening to get feedback from our users who both bring us great new ideas but almost always tell us “wow, Aloqa is awesome, it makes my life so much easier!”
Has any other location company approached you changing something with Aloqa?
Not sure I fully understand the question. But if you are asking whether what other companies are doing is influencing our approach, clearly we are aware of the market, want to learn from others’ mistakes and take advantage of what the ecosystem offers. For example, we are leveraging Facebook Connect to be able to build a community without having to build our own from scratch. Similarly with the “Facebook Like” feature and open APIs of a number of content providers.
How did you come up with the name Aloqa?
Aloqa stands for “Always Be A Local” which is our promise to our users – wherever they are they can feel like and act like locals. To be honest when we were looking for a domain name we wanted one that communicated this mission, was short, and met the most limiting criteria: a name that wasn’t taken already.
With the few other location based apps out there, are you worried about the competition?
You can’t build a company obsessing about competition or making product / strategy changes every time a perceived competitor introduces something new. What we try and do is stay abreast of what most location platforms and apps are doing, learn what we can while staying focused on our unique capabilities to bring more and more value to our users. We bring a very unique experience and our platform has been developed based on decades of IP so we are quite confident in our mission and capabilities.
Tell us why Android users would want to get Aloqa
We have nearly 500K Android users who have given us an average rating of 4.5. Here are a few reviews of dozens that you and they may want to see too:
In short, no matter where a user is in any of 6 countries (US, UK, Canada, Germany, Austria, Hong Kong under the name “Yiyi”), we can make their lives a lot easier. Once they download Aloqa, they will be proactively notified of interesting places, events, music, movies and other activities near them. Instead of having to search, the user can just look at theiur phone and see their favorite hotspots, activities, events of interest, and recommended bargains close by. They can also join their local community in seeing what the hottest places and events are around them.
What new features can you share with android users that will be coming to Aloqa?
We are making launching quite a few interesting features very soon – in particular about a week or so we are launching a social feature we are excited about. Also we will be adding channels for lots more interesting local content e.g. more coupons and deals, jobs etc. We are also launching in China soon (under the brand Yiyi like in Hong Kong).
Have you been working on a new version for Android 2.2?
We are testing 2.2 and should have Aloqa running on it soon. I would imagine it should be already but if it isn’t our team will have it ready pronto.
Are you thinking of doing other apps in the future?
Aloqa as a platform has been used by several others to build applications.
– An example is Payback.de in Germany – their mobile app is built on the Aloqa platform (see payback.de/app).
– Another in the US is GreatDad (http://www.greatdad.com/mobile).
– Our SDK can be used by OEMs and other apps to embed Aloqa into their own experiences
– We have a REST API that allows developers the ability to build personalized applications, location based games and similar apps.
So while we may ourselves build other apps, we are already actively seeing the usage of our SDK amongst the ecosystem as developers, OEMs and publishers start to use and understand the Aloqa platform.
What do find is the easiest thing about developing for android compared to other Mobile OS’s?
There are quite a lot of things which are a huge pain on other OS’s and just work on the Android. Among these, the perfect integration into eclipse and the easy connection to real hardware are our favorites.
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?
The question seems to suggest that developing for the different OS versions was the most frustrating part of development but that works actually pretty well (at least in comparison to BlackBerry development for example)
What would you like to see in future Android OS versions or Changes?
Foremost, better control over Task stacks: For simple or heavily integrated apps it works like a charm; but for more complex ones, where you call your own Activities most of the time, the system increasingly becomes a hurdle. When this sphere is reached, it would be nice to have the ability to manage your own Task stacks.
What is your opinion on the Android Market? positive and negative?
All in all, the Android Market works pretty well. One thing that could be improved, though: Developers can only enter one version of an app for all OS-versions and hardware configurations. This on-size-must-fit-all approach leads to bloated installation files because they must contain resources in different resolutions and some modules, which make use of newly introduced features, always need a lot of checks whether a feature is actually available.
What kind of Android Phone do you use personally?
What new phone from Android has you the most excited?
The HTC Incredible is quite nice as is the EVO 4G
Besides Your Own Apps, which apps do you use most on your Android Phone?
Personally I use Facebook, Google Voice, and Google Talk.
Will there be any other UI changes to the app at all.
We have played around with several versions of the UI, different kinds of views and alternative layouts. So if we find something our users like more, and / or if a particular layout / feature / UI makes it even simpler to use and navigate through Aloqa, we will change it as appropriate.
Does foursquare have any competition with you?
There are a lot of players in broadly the same location space, including Foursquare and us. Their approach is more game based, ours is more direct, giving users access to places, events, sales through “push”.
Facebook is becoming Location aware soon, will they compete or is that a different market?
We use the Facebook API and our expectation is that as a platform company Facebook will continue to in fact give companies like us even more value added features and content to work with. Location based social applications on the facebook community would be great – we are one!
If Google announces Latitude Changes and continues with places, is that something that worries you?
No because there are several key differences between us and Google places:
i. We are about Discovery, not just search – the fundamental difference in the push vs. pull approach
ii. We have a lot of content Google Places doesn’t especially dynamic content be it movie showtimes, concerts and shows around you, real estate listings, golf tee times etc.
iii. We give brands like Yelp, Last.fm, their own presence. That’s why publishers love to work with us
iv. For a lot of our channels we help the user transact and “close the loop” e.g. book a hotel, followup with a realtor
v. Social experiences like “Facebook Like”
vi. The user can configure their main deck on Aloqa through the extensible channel store
What inspired the little UI changes
We are constantly looking at how our users use Aloqa, what they find easy or difficult and what they tell us they’d like. Some of them are features like “let me place myself at a virtual location” to others like
It looks like checkins only works for activities? not for home or work? is this right and if so why?
Do you mean “Facebook Like” on Aloqa? That works on all channels, and you can “Like” any result.