Qualcomm’s IQ2012 EU event this year moved to the Kosmos Centre in Berlin. An annual one-day shindig designed to give a more regional feel to Qualcomm’s roadmap presentation, it’s well attended by operators, app developers and partner hopefuls.

IQ2012 at the Kosmos Centre, Berlin

Steve Mollenkopf (President and COO) gave a good overview of the status of the mobile market and particularly how things were going for Qualcomm. In summary – very well. More chips, more devices and more innovative technologies that Qualcomm are integrating into their chip designs. Some useful demos, particularly of the next-generation SnapDragon processor and of the Augmented Reality Vuforia SDK, showed that Qualcomm are not just good with VHDL.

The highlight, however, was a segment by Nokia’s Jo Harlow (Exec. VP). A lot of questions persist about how Nokia will compete and whether it is worth app developers spending effort on redesign and reworking their apps to suit Windows Phone 8. Jo’s presentation showed that there is still plenty of fight left in Nokia, with clever technology pieces such as wireless charging, exchangeable covers and clever hardware/software tricks in video stabilisation. Of course, Nokia gets key billing because it has included the latest Snapdragon processor in the 920 device – which received a good plug from Jo.

Nokia still have an uphill battle, but with the key gadget purchasing season round the corner they are well placed to compete. Notable by their absence, though, are Apple. By fiat, no Apple devices are shown in any slideware, by anyone, in anything, despite the fact that most attendees have at least one, possibly two Apple devices in their possession. When Apple unleash their latest tomorrow, we’ll see whether Nokia – or anyone else – are doing enough to convince consumers to choose them instead.

 

After a three year hiatus, I’ll be visiting the Mobile World Congress 2012 (MWC) from next Tuesday to see how the landscape has changed after the “app revolution”.

MWC, the mobile industry’s annual get-together, starts on Monday, February 27th. About 60,000 people will descend on Barcelona from all parts of the globe hoping to hawk their wares, find suppliers, establish new relationships or renew old ones. It’s like a week of corporate speed dating.

For small developers, especially those who self-fund and lack the deep pockets necessary to set up a stand, MWC represents a yearly dilemma.

  • Attending MWC can be expensive (see my earlier post on avoiding extortion).
  • It’s a huge stage for a small developer so it’s easy to blend into the background.
  • Even if you do get there, most people on stands are there to sell, not to be sold to.

So what’s the point in turning up?

When Airsource started 5 years ago, it was virtually impossible to make money selling software directly to consumers. The only hope you had was to establish a relationship with an operator or a handset manufacturer. There were so many people trying to do this that only the well-funded – with significant sales teams – could hope to endure the year-long sales cycle.

Today, app stores allow developers to find customers and sell to them without needing to engage with either operators or device manufacturers. What makes or breaks a device for a consumer is less about the whizzbang hardware features and more about how users can extend the experience of ownership by buying apps. The balance of power is shifting away from the few organisations who can license radio spectrum or build mass-market mobile phones and towards the developers who write the apps.

The last time I attended MWC was 2009. Apple’s appstore was growing fast. The iPad did not exist. Small software companies were viewed with mild amusement and general skepticism.

Today I can tell my barber that my company writes apps and he understands me. Everybody seems to have ideas for apps. An explosion of creativity is taking place. Possibilities seem endless.

So I want to see how this new reality is changing things. Over the next week I’ll be posting regularly as I investigate the effects on both the mobile behemoths and the little guys, Airsource included.

My freebie ticket this year is thanks to mobile device management company MFormation (via a giveaway at Mobile Monday London).

Today we released the latest revision of Optiscan to the App Store. With an all-new look and some greatly enhanced features, this version is the king of QR Code scanners on your Apple device!

Create a QR Code
Create a QR Code – so many options!
Optiscan 2.0 Scanning screen
Optiscan 2.0 Scanning screen

What’s new in 2.0:

  • No more tap to scan! Optiscan now launches straight into scan mode for ease of use.
  • Icon and UI redesign. We thought it could do with a sprucing up, so we tweaked the look to be more up-to-date and utilitarian. What do you think?
  • Enhanced scanning engine. With every release of Optiscan we tweak the scanning software more and more to cope with the plethora of designer codes and locations. After testing, we scan more QR Codes than any other app!
  • Scan from clipboard.“I can’t scan from my mobile browser!”, we heard you cry. Well now you can!
  • QR Codes for Events. We wanted to include this last time, but we just weren’t happy enough with the way they where dealt with. Now we are!

We hope you enjoy using this version of Optiscan. Show us what you’ve done with it and we’ll pass it on!

Today we released the latest update for Optiscan, our QR Code scanner and generator, on the iTunes App Store.

Optiscan 1.9.3 Create screen

You’ve always been able to create a plethora of QR Code content types with Optiscan, but now we’ve made it even easier for you with a new menu of options. These include:

  • SMS Create a QR Code containing a message and the phone number to SMS it to – great for marketing!
  • Location To our knowledge Optiscan is the only QR Code generator app that lets you pinpoint a map location without having to type the address in!
  • Email Similar to the SMS option, setup an email message, subject line and recipients all in one QR Code
  • Telephone Keep it simple – your phone number in a QR Code
  • Wi-Fi Need to share your wi-fi details easily? Put them in a QR Code and pass it round!

All these options have been added at the request of our users in addition to our standard Contact (with vCard or MeCard options), URL and Text note options. We hope you enjoy using Optiscan even more now to scan and create all those QR Codes!

Coming to an iPhone near you soon: Optiscan 2.0: The Scanner Strikes Back!

Well – this is it! After a fantastic 9 week internship it’s sad to be leaving behind the code, co-workers and, of course, coffee machine I have got to know so well. From the very first day I was plunged straight in the deep end, coding new features and fixing bugs. It’s been fun, frustrating and interesting in equal measures, but I can assure you that an internship here is never dull!

So what is it that I’ve been doing? My first few weeks were a steep learning curve, as I battled to comprehend the delegate design pattern while also trying to work out why there’s a small toy bear which lives in the office. (Though I am now completely au fait with the former, the latter continues to bemuse me)! A couple of code reviews later I had free reign to amend or add code, and moved onto adding social media compatibility to several of our apps. If you’re planning to do this yourself, I would recommend ShareKit as a good starting point.

By mid-August I was working full time on Optiscan. There’s a host of new features which will arrive on the AppStore soon, including much more support for creating QR codes. As a member of the engineering team I played a big role in delivering this functionality, both from a coding perspective and by participating in numerous (friendly if raucous) office arguments! The last couple of weeks have seen development give way to testing, so I’ve been scrambling to fix any bugs before I leave. For any of you who are newbie iPhone developers I’d have 3 words of advice – watch out for memory warnings, be careful when using UITableViews, and always keep an eye on your reference counting!

It hasn’t all been coding though. I’ve spent many a lunchtime dreaming up app ideas on the office kitchen whiteboard, with concepts ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. The company lunches and barbecues were a particular highlight, as was a (slightly surreal) morning of set theory in order to write a Python script. These and other amusements unique to a small company like Airsource made this summer particularly enjoyable, even on the odd occasions where I did stare at the same bug for hours before seeing the simple solution!

Time to say farewell to everyone here, and thanks for a great summer. Keep an eye out for future releases of Optiscan and Cellar (there’s some quite cool stuff to come, by the sounds of things in the office). Adios!

(Oh and I must ask someone about that bear before I go…)

Last night, during the 19:30 ad break, More 4 ran a sting for their sister channel, 4Music. The surreal set included a QR code on a TV in the left hand corner and, in a change from previous televised QR codes, the voiceover dialogue was doing nothing more than hinting that the viewer “knew what to do”. The code was onscreen for the majority of the 30 second sting. When scanned the code takes you (via a bit.ly shorturl) to an article on the 4Music site where you are congratulated for being tech-savvy and ‘rewarded’ with a free N-Dubz download. Sounds good, right? Almost. Just two minor points:

  1. The website isn’t mobile.
    This is supposed to be the (quote) “new and improved” 4Music site – so why is there no mobile optimised version? Surely a consideration for your average site now, but a must for a youth oriented site such as this.
  2. The track cannot be downloaded on all mobile phones.
    Yes, if you are running Android or Windows 7 there should be no problems but, in a about face from the usual turn of events, iPhone users are denied the free track. Why is that? It could have easily been included on iTunes, no?

It’s a shame to see a QR code campaign that looked promising to begin with, be let down yet again by the end result.

4Music QR code sting image
4Music QR code sting

Everyone seems to be talking about a guy getting a QR code tattoo, from Paris based artist K.A.R.L., that scans to reveal an animated version of said tattoo. It’s a video created for Scotch whiskey producer Ballantine’s’ ‘Leave an impression’ campaign, designed to coherce a younger market to drink their product. All well and good ,except for one small fact – it’s not a QR code!

The tattoo is of an EZ Code, a proprietary 2D code format from Scan Life and is not a QR code at all. We were amazed to see the number of people retweeting and blogging about the story, with not one single person picking up on this salient fact. What gives? Nobody thought to scan it? Nobody recognised the different pattern style?!

We did.

EZcode tattoo
Tattoo closeup

Example of QR code and EZ code

Royal Dutch Mint 5 Euro coin
Royal Dutch Mint 5 Euro coin, collectors pack

This morning I finally took delivery of the 2011 Five Euro coin from the Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (Royal Dutch Mint). This coin has received plenty of coverage over the last few weeks due to the inclusion of a QR code in it’s design – the first time we have seen the codes being used in such a permanent and far reaching way. Permanent in that these coins will be in circulation in the Netherlands long after many QR code campaign will have been and gone, far reaching in that they will pass through many hundreds of hands over their lifetime.

That’s all very interesting, but the big question for those of us who have been following the progress of QR code usage is, does it work? By that I don’t just mean, “Does it scan?”, but “Does it lead somewhere with added value?”. Does it give the user a reward for taking out their mobile phone, opening their scanning app (Optiscan for you iPhone users of course ;)) and capturing the QR code? Well, sort of.

Dutch Mint QR code site initial video
Dutch Mint QR code site initial video

When scanned, you are prompted to watch a short video. An overclocked journey in through the front door of the Mint leading to a bin full of the new coins, with a soundtrack straight from a suspense thriller. Odd, but better than an overly long video. Most people scanning the code (in the long term) probably wouldn’t be interested in the process of decision making and creation that led to the QR code use anyway (although a link to that on the page would be good). You can see the video by clicking the image to the right.

Then we are presented with the site – a non-mobile site! A bad start, perpetrating the most complained about aspect of many QR code marketing campaigns. You would think that, if they were going to add a QR code to something as important and representational as their own currency, the homework would have been done on how best to implement it. This can of course be rectified, and hopefully will, but will it have already put too many people off?

Once zoomed in, we can at least still play the game they have embedded here as it is not Flash based. It’s a simple game of memory, matching pairs of cards – all front or rear designs of commemorative Dutch coins. A nice enough distraction for a few minutes, but again, there is no further incentive. Where is my option to post my score online and share the link with friends? Maybe winning games could open up more of the website or other, more marketable incentives? What do you think?

Dutch Mint QR code site, memory game
Dutch Mint QR code site, memory game

It’s good to see QR codes used in this way, but I hope that the Royal Dutch Mint are paying attention and make suitable alterations to the landing page. There is also scope for them to change the destination over time, allowing for the QR code to have more longevity as people scan it to see where they are taken next.

 

So there I was, scanning for the latest in the world of QR codes and what should pop up? A mention of The Sunday Times recommending three QR code apps. Curiosity got the better of me so I paid the ferryman and jumped behind the paywall for a day to see this article for myself. Planet of the Apps is The Sunday Times apps blog reviewing “the best and the brightest” on smartphones. Yesterday they chose three apps to talk about QR codes and guess what? The only paid app being recommended was – Optiscan!

We like that.

Not using Optiscan yet? Get it on your iPhone today.

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