How Zipcar turned the ignition on its Android app

Jun 1, 2011
Tech
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You might say LM: Zipcar’s iPhone app remains a huge member benefit to Zipsters with iPhones, and still gets a lot of buzz both in traditional media – recognized by Time Magazine as one of the “Best Travel Gadgets of 2009” and one of the “50 Best iPhone Apps in 2011” – as well as in social media.  We maintain momentum and continue to drive downloads by making ongoing enhancements based on member usability and feedback. We released version 2.0 in February 2011, and feedback as been great so far. The app is a great utility for both new and existing members to get the most from their car sharing experience. We have had over half a million users download the iPhone app since we first launched, and that number continues to grow.

APPO: Compare that to launching the new Android app, and the marketing opportunities (and challenges) of launching an app on that platform.

LM: On the one hand, there’s more complexity because you need to test for many different types of Android devices; a challenge we accommodated by introducing the Android app as a private beta. The launch of the public beta gives us the opportunity to learn from thousands of members on their user experiences on a variety of devices and operating systems as we engage with our members to gain their feedback.

On the other hand, it has been much easier to make enhancements to the Android application on the fly, since there isn’t a formal review process for Android like there is for iOS.

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APPO: How important is it to provide “gee whiz” functionality (like the ability for users to turn on a car’s headlights and open its doors from the app) in addition to the core utility of locating and reserving Zipcar vehicles?

LM: All of our functionality has a purpose to deliver an easy and seamless member experience. What some may consider a “gee whiz” function actually matches the needs and behaviors of our many of our urban dweller members.  Being able to honk the horn and flash the lights from your smartphone is cool and fun, but it also helps members find their car in the middle of a Ziptrip when they’ve forgotten where they parked, or if it’s dark out and they’re having trouble recognizing the car.

APPO: How large is the mobile media team at Zipcar and how much (if any) development is handled by third-party agencies?

LM: Zipcar has a talented group of product managers, engineers and designers who do end-to-end development across the member experience – web, mobile, phone, car, support. The Zipcar Android app was created entirely by our internal team, and the iPhone app was largely created in house, with some assistance from external partners

APPO: When looking at the mobile media space at large, what are the three biggest things that can you up at night?

LM: The only thing that keeps me up is the growth, excitement, and potential of mobile platforms, and making sure that what we deliver for our members is not the latest fad, but a purposeful experience or feature that aligns with how they interact, and wish to interact with, our service and our company.

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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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