Hindu Calendar : A Vedic Calender for your cellphone.

 
Traditional wisdom in Telecom  industry is that Indian customer only pay for only four type of content and services Astrology ,Bollywood,Cricket & Devotion.Collectively referred as ABCD of Indian mobile VAS.Most of the time when we speak of ABCD in general and Astrology specifically  we think of it as an subscription services like Daily Horoscope alert on SMS. But relationship between Astrology and Mobile goes much deeper than that . A little known fact about Mobile apps in India is that one of the first application which got significant traction in India was an astrology app for panchang and horoscope matching.  it was way before the smart phone era .Long back in Late 80s and early 90s an application by Name of "Leo Palm" from Future Point was a de-facto tool for any Astrologer worth its name . It was initially developed for Palm devices and later on available for Windows Mobile devices too. Many practitioner of Panchang and Vedic astrology (and i know some of them )still swear by it. However in the current wave of mobile apps there I didn't come across many decent application on Vedic Astrology and panchang. So I was understandably excited when I discovered an Panchang App for 2010 in Ovi Store.


Developed by Adarsh Apps, Hindu Calender 2010 is your handy reckoner for Indian vedic calender. Just for € 1.00 you can download it from Ovi store (link),a free trial version can also be downloaded from their website (link). At 2.08 MB of file size it was hard for me to download it on GPRS so I installed the trial version on my Nokia N97 by side loading it from my PC. Installation was a smooth process of couple of steps.where you are asked to specify location and language preference.
 
 
This app has got a rich UI with high information density.All the menu options can either be in  between Hindi and English. Home screen is a regular calender view for vedic calendar. It maps Gregorian dates to corresponding Hindu dates. you can expand a particular date by expanding it by taping on block. Expanded view provides many information for each day like Sunrise and sunset,Moonrise,Paksha,Tithi,Nakshtra,Yoga,Sun Sign,Moon Sign etc . It also provides list of Hindu festivals including major events like Ekadashi, Shraddha, Eclipses, etc.  All timings in extended view are local to current location specified at the time of installation .The Daylight Saving Time (DST) is adjusted for all locations supported by App.You can also see festival view of month and week.In this view all the Hindu festival occurring in that particular week / month are listed.Panchang provided by Adarsh apps works  for more than 125 cities which include cities from other countries.This makes it an excellent value proposition for Indian diaspora around the world.I wasn't able to figure out a way to set an alert/alarm on panchang.This can be a good value add for the users.
 
Their website offers an extensive FAQ section covering various aspect of using the app.which shows a deep domain knowledge and focus on the part of developer .Like Mr.Expense,this too seems to be an app developed by someone who has been in the domain for sometime . On a slightly patriotic note I would like to say that sometime back an industry colleague made an remark that most of the apps in world are made by Indians but very few of them are made (exclusively ) FOR Indians. Hindu Calendar 2010 is one such app. Do give it a try.

Comics Creator : Now Everyone Can Create Their Own Mobile Comics .


Most of the times When we think of Multimedia capability of mobile phones we think of things like Audio and video playback.But there is more to cellphone than just that. One underutilized set of capabilities is the capability to render image and text . this combination of text and Image to narrate a story is very captivating . As children we all were hooked to comic books like TinTin, Archies,Nagraj,Dhruv etc.which used to tell great stories  through picture and text .With everything moving to digital  there is no reason why we shouldn't see the same for comics and this shift is happening as we speak .

Being a mobile app professional I was aware of the fact that Mobile phone is being used as a distribution channel for Comics. But there is more to it than just distribution . some innovative mobile applications are trying to leverage mobile to bring a fundamental change  not only in the way comics are distributed and consumed but also in how they are created. Comics Creator from Chennai based NextWave Mutlimedia is one such application.

Comics Creator is a tool to help you create your own comic strips .It is a mobile version of a web app available at comicshead . some features of app has been modified to better leverage the mobile environment .you can create comics by using your own imagery and artwork or with the help of pre bundled characters. currently this app is supported for Nokia Series 60 5th edition phones .you can download it free of cost from Ovi store (link). with 6.28 MB of file size it was a bit hard for me to download it on my Nokia X6 using GPRS. so after two failed attempt , I switched to Wi-Fi and downloaded it in a snap. Installation was a no brainier 2 step process.

Comics Creator offers you an assorted set of tool to help you create your comic strip. there are tools, like an gallery of characters which can be modified to fit the need of story. user can also upload her own artwork . You can also customize the gesture ,color,size,background, Add and edit text ,share your comic strip with your friends via MMS or email etc . You can add text bubble to denote the conversation.You can have multiple frame in same comics strip and these frame can inherit background or characters from previous frame to new frame .There by reducing the  effort needed to duplicate the scene from frame to frame. I created couple of comics strip using it and process was intuitive and fun. you can see one of them below . This is inspired from a recent series of blog post on Ovi blog.



What excite me about this app is the fact that it enable  masses to create comic strip . with a tool like this anyone with a story in his head can create a  story board.something which was earlier limited to few who were artistically blessed. fact that it allows you to do this on a mobile phone only increases its reach and scope . they also have a marketplace online where you can publish your comics and put it up for subscription.  it is effectively  democratizing the complete value chain end to end . if executed well this can be a very disruptive idea. As I write this I have created six comic strips using this tool and told two of my folks about it.So it goes without saying that I am pretty jumpy about it (there I said it ) . Check this out and I am sure that you will feel the same way about it. If you create a comic I request you to share it with us . lets hear your story :) .

FlyScreen : Zero Click Content Access on Your Mobilephone

 
Lately I am noticing that thanks to some cool content apps  my cellphone has replaced PC as my primary medium of content consumption online. But this shift of medium also comes with a subtle but important shift in my content consumption habit . Earlier I used to devote a fix time ( 2 hours post dinner ) to catch up on my reading list in feed reader. Its not that I didn't have time during the day or something but in most cases window of free time  available was very short, not enough to fire up a browser , load the feed ,read a post and all. Doing same on mobile phone is slightly more difficult . So I always wanted to have a cellphone based feed reader of sort where first I can read snippets of my RSS feeds and if I like the preview,go to the full text . My fave metaphors to explain this usage behavior is of content snacking . On mobile phone, user love to snack on content in his/her free time and very rarely he/she choose to have a full fledged four course meal( ie read the complete post and accompanying discussion) . But most of the mobile RSS application were merely a port /optimization of desktop web experience on cellphone  without taking any advantage of cellphones capabilities.
 
Flyscreen is different.Its a RSS reader application with an interesting twist .It enables you to have zero click access to your news feeds by idle/sleep screen utilization. what it means in plain English is that it keep syncing the content in background and displays the snippet of your RSS feed content when your cellphone is in idle mode . so you can have a look at latest update from your face feed just by glancing at the screen. This is a very elegant use of most prominent and most underutilized onscreen real estate of your mobile phone.
 
 
Developed by celllogic , Flyscreen is a free app supported for majority of Nokia devices .It can be downloaded from Ovi store (link)  or side loaded using a PC from celllogic website (link)  you can get it directly on your cell by pointing your mobile browser to: http://myf.ly/m . I downloaded it on my Nokia E63 and N95 . Installation file was of 225 KB in size and it took me couple of minute to download them over a GPRS channel. Installation work flow was glitch free and intuitive .you need to go through a registration process after installing the app . which is followed by configuration of the feeds of your choice .Here you can choose the pre-selected sources or add custom RSS feeds that you set on your own.There are 8 categories of content to choose from . You can set up a maximum of  10 different Feeds.You can integrate your Twitter account, and Google Reader with the app. Flyscreen allow you to define the frequency of sync(i.e. : how often application should fetch new content . once the configuration is done , flyscreen stay in background and display feeds on sleep screen of your device . its like having a full screen news ticker on your cellphone. If you like a specific news snippet you can expand it , see the complete story in browser and share it with your friends vial email ,facebook ,Twitter etc.


What I like about Flyscreen is its excellent user interface and sleek intuitive  work flow. Much of the technical complexity of fetching and optimizing the content for mobile screen is hidden from user and best part is that this usability hasn't been achieved at the cost of speed . I found Flyscreen to be faster than most of the other app in its category. This is by far the best use of sleep screen I came across. so if you think that you are hard pressed for time to catch up on your reading list and (like me ) you want to squeeze some hassle free reading  in to your lunch hours than Flyscreen is just the right app for you. do give it a try I am sure it will help you to be on top of all the news.

Mobiesta : Your Mobile Fun Guide


I have reviewed couple of  Mobile local search application at Lab Report . Each has its own feature mix and each of them serving a certain set of use case(s).But none of those applications did a thorough job of catering to use case of event search. To a certain extent that is understandable , event listing  is a very  data acquisition heavy business .You need to keep refreshing /updating your database  on a weekly or sometime daily basis. There is very little syndicated content available for this domain . Lately there has been a lot of activity in the web( as in desktop web ) side of this domain sites like Buzzzintown, Bookmyshow has done a good job of creating mainstream awareness. But these sites were primarily web focus and I think there is a big enough market need for a pure play Mobile based event directory .

 
Mobiesta from Delhi based Mobiesta Technologies is a step in that direction .Its a little java app which you can download Mobiesta by submitting your cell number at their website or sending an SMS with keyword "Mobiesta" to 56677 . you will receive an download link as an SMS . clicking it will start downloading app on your cell phone . You can also download it straight to your device by  pointing your handset browser to http://mobiesta.com/down.php . It runs through GPRS and is compatible with all the Java enabled phones.It took me a couple of minute to download the installation file to my Nokia E63 and N 95 . Installation was a straight 3 step process and I was ready to use the app.


Mobiesta provides you with all the latest information regarding sales & shopping offers, happy hours in restaurants/pubs, exhibitions & fairs, musical concerts, stage shows, kitty parties, kids events,college fests, movie timings etc. Content is divided across 9 categories and you can browse it in according to locality ( Noida ,Gurgaon,Delhi) , Preference ( Exhibition,Pub ,Music concert ) and Bargain Hunting ( Coupon ,Discount sale ) .user can also view the event listing chronologically where by you can see the event on a specific date on calender interface .  Each entry has an contact number listing . you can make a call straight from the application itself. Mobiesta currently has its operations in Delhi and NCR but very soon launching its operations in various cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata.I looked for happy hour deals in Noida and discovered one good offer . will try it out coming weekend.

Mobiesta has a jazzy but functional user interface which will appeal to its targeted audience of Young working professional . Apart from few minor glitches my experience of using the app for last two days was by and large smooth. Much of the success of the app will depend on getting right set of partnership in terms of content and distribution. another subtle differentiators can be the virality factor . As of now there is no way I can share the event info with my friend . I would love to have a sms integration where i can send the event detail to my phone book contacts . similarly a comment /review from other Mobiesta users will be great too. All in all Mobiesta looks like a decent app for early stage .  I am sure we shall see some innovative functionality in days to come . Do give it a shot and let us know how mobiesta helped you discover something in your neighborhood .

Mr.Expense :Your Anytime Anywhere Expense Tracker


In my previous life I used to sell software , that job involved a lot of traveling to clients offices all over the country .Thanks to that job I ended up visiting a lot of cities in India.While I liked the traveling and meeting new people part  of it . Keeping track of expense was a pain . I hated keeping track of expenses,stuffing  receipts into  pocket, purse,planner diaries and other places,scribbling un documented expense in spiral pocketbook and then sitting through the drill of reporting all that to folks in accounts dept back home and convincing them to reimburse them before I go broke ( I never liked them in fact as far as I know ,Nobody likes them). Being a Mobile enthusiast that I am ,I often thought of an app where I can maintain a list of expense occurred and export it to excel( our ERP demanded submission in excel).

Mr.Expense is nearest to my idea of a simple and functional expense tracker for your mobile phone. Developed by sonipat( Yes! you read it right, sonipat)  based Sinew Software Systems , Mr.Expense is a nifty app of just 110KB. Its supported for Nokia Series 60 3rd & 5th edition devices.Its a paid app You can download a paid version from OVI store (link) for 2 euro. A  7 day free trial version is available  at SINEW website . You can download it here. I installed trial version on my Nokia E63 . After a quick 2 step installation process and I was ready to use the app . 


Mr.Expense offers wide set of functionality arranged in a surprisingly  minimalistic user interface. It offers classification of common types of expenses like breakfast ,Biz dinner, Car Rental ,Flight ,Hotel Rent,Entertainment etc. you can also add your own expense type into the list.  for every expense entry you have choice to  enter your mode of payment like cash, check, Visa, Master card, American Express and such.you can also record your expenses in different currencies. Mr.Expense offered you a good set of functionalities in creating reports on top of your expense data. you can segregate your business expenses from your personal expenses . export this information as Comma separated values (CSV) so that you can open them in excel.

What I like most about this app is its simplicity . This gives a feel that designer of the app has been out in field and used "Other" method of expense tracking and like me  and He/She too ,was frustrated by them . Some subtle features like multiple accounts , classification of expense as personal and business , having a separate entry for business lunch , report,support for CSV export shows a clear and precise domain understanding by app developer. As someone rightly said "Most good products in technology business are created by the guys who are trying to solve their own problem and addressing their own pain point" . Mr.Expense seems to be an example of that . Do give it a shot  and share your finding with us.