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T-Mobile, Geodelic pursue unique app route

Geodelic designed its geo-browser app specifically for T-Mobile’s next Android device, the HTC MyTouch3

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When it comes to application stores, most new launches are imitations of Apple’s (NASDAQ:APPL) App Store, which is not surprising considering its success – this week it announced its passed the 1.5 billion milestone for apps downloaded at a rate of about six million per day. With 65,000 apps already in Apple’s storefront, however, it will be hard for other app store owners to differentiate themselves. One solution comes from T-Mobile (NYSE:DT), which has gone the route of signing up unique apps developed specifically for its soon-to-be-launched Android device, the MyTouch3.

MyTouch3, the carrier’s second HTC-made phone is designed around the notion of personalization of everything from widgets to apps to wallpaper on the home screen. T-Mobile is also introducing its own AppPack, highlighting – rather than preloading – a number of its apps, including some of its own like Sherpa, Green Perks, myFaves, myAccount and visual voicemail. With AppPack, T-Mobile is hoping a few standout apps will differentiate Android.

“[T-Mobile] is calling it their Hero app,” Geodelic CEO Rahul Sonnad said about Sherpa, a location-based app his startup developed to integrate a consumers’ relevant information based on location, context and personal interests. “They are touting it as something that exemplifies the personalization elements of MyTouch and takes advantage of a lot of the capabilities around location and overall user experience.”

Sherpa is a geo-browser that uses one-touch filtering and fast-performance caching to adapt to consumers’ needs as they change locations. It uses a learning engine called GENIE (Geodelic Engine for Interest Evaluation) that automatically customizes a user’s favorite locations and lifestyle behavior. The app is essentially aggregated Web-content delivered in a much richer application framework, Sonnad said, which should appeal to both consumers and companies.

“Everyone has a phone now, and you want a way to talk to people who are on your site,” Sonnad said. “Universal Studios has a Web site that they spent millions on, but it’s not relevant to you at the park. You won’t type in the Website and if you did, it’s not rendered. We give these businesses a framework that can be very simple to tell specials at PF Changs or be much more elaborate like at a theme park or hotel to show you happy hour, specials, etc.”

Working with T-Mobile, Geodelic was able to closely integrate Sherpa into the MyTouch Android-based handset to complement its focus on personalization. The app becomes more and more customized to the user over time, Sonnad said. For example, if the consumer frequently searches for sporting goods, the app can detect its affinity for athletics and seek out more REIs rather than Best Buys. For the near-term, Geodelic is focusing on Android, but Sonnad said in the future it is also interested in distributing through other app stores and with other handsets and carriers.

Developing hero apps for MyTouch is just one part of T-Mobile’s mobile devices plan, centered on driving data consumption, according to Craig Moffett, senior analyst at Bernstein Research. The MyTouch is one device in a broader range that T-Mobile has planned to rollout, while keeping its distance from blockbuster phones like the iPhone and Palm Pre. From meeting with the company, Moffett garnered that T-Mobile hopes to get additional data devices into consumer hands with more innovative price plans, including potentially device rental.

“T-Mobile USA told us that they have essentially a two pronged device strategy to increase data usage,” Moffett wrote in a research report this week. “The first part of the plan appears to be to broaden the range of devices they are offering in a nod to the limitations of the appeal of the current range and also as part of a drive to get more data-using devices into the hands of their customers to drive data ARPU. This drive does not, however, extend to pursuing any of the big-noise phones that seem destined to attract high usage technophiles or to turn normal customers on to serious data usage. The second part of the plan is to potentially introduce innovative pricing plans and device leasing plans in order to get more data devices into more hands.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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