Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Sebastian Brannstrom of Lyft | Android Apps

Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Sebastian Brannstrom of Lyft

Sep 19, 2012

Android. They both do one thing really well and look gorgeous.

And I found Google Now in Jelly Bean to be very impressive, how it integrates all kinds of sensor-based data which gives it that magic feeling.

APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

SB: The sensor integration I just mentioned has almost infinite potential. Apps that harness knowledge of where you are, what you’re doing and are about to do together with whom are going to blow people’s minds. It’s gonna create an even stronger emotional bond between a person and their smartphone.

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

SB: We constantly look for ways to simplify the experience and make it that little bit more magical, by trying to infer user intentions and helping them along the way. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could tell you that a Lyft driver is nearby and can take you to your dinner reservation in time? It’ll happen.

Our team has two brilliant data scientists that help us figure these things out. There is a lot of knowledge to be learned from usage patterns that we can use to improve our service and the app.

APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

SB: We’ve designed happiness into every aspect of the Lyft app and experience, so people are excited to share it with their friends. There are also fun pink mustaches on the front of every car in the Lyft community, which adds to the word-of-mouth. People see them and instantly smile.

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APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

SB: There are still hardware limitations. Battery life is basically an unsolved problem. And 3G networks are not good enough yet. LTE is definitely a big step both for coverage and speeds.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

SB: The app is free to download, and drivers accept donations for their rides through the app. We keep a percentage of the donations made on our Lyft platform.

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

SB: Build an awesome solution to a very simple problem. Release early, release often, and keep polishing. People can already do almost everything on their smartphones, but not everything is as easy and convenient as it should be.

APPO: Where do you see the app sector one year from now? Five years from now?

We just saw the iPhone 5 announcement, which kind of sets the tone for the coming year. Smartphone penetration will keep rising, but the carriers will have to lower their prices a lot before we’ll see 100% adoption. And it still remains to be seen if Windows Phone can break into the mainstream or if the market is content with only two platform players.

In five years, who knows where we’ll be. There will be self-driving cars and Google Glasses and whatnot. I believe HTML5 will take over gradually, it is a vastly more productive environment than native apps, but performance isn’t quite there yet.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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