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Mas on the Blackberry App Store
Two free software downloads were developed for Carnival loving Blackberry users for the 2011 season; both offering live updates of Carnival events to anyone willing to download the software from the Blackberry App store. Carnival World, from Triniscene.com, brought updates in an ambitious interface that still to reach its full potential, while the much-simpler Stag Carnival Calendar app delivered a fast loading list of daily events which users could click on to view more details. Both apps are focused on their demographic, partygoing young people and offer no information about, “old people” events like the King and Queen preliminaries, and really, virtually everything going on under the official and sanctioned rubric of Carnival. A Carnival purist might wonder if these omissions make these apps less suppliers of Carnival information than a listing of popular party events, but for the target market, they are bang on in terms of supplying information to young people keen on planning an evening out.
Triniscene’s Carnival World
“There was a moment when we considered developing it in-house,” said Triniscene’s technical director, Edson Reyes, “but the learning curve was out there and we realised that even with local developers, we wouldn’t be able to learn and deploy the software in time.” Reyes went to a BlackBerry conference in San Francisco last year and met with the company’ representatives for Latin America who offered a short list of possible developers. The Carnival World app was developed by Mexico’ Sferea Mobile, targeting two BB platforms, Java for the more prevalent pre OS6 devices and Web kit for more recent Blackberry smartphones. That led to its own hiccups (see Hands on with mobile Carnival), and the bugs were progressively squashed as the Carnival World app went through rapid development over the last couple of weeks.“Version two?” Reyes responds to my question laughing, “I’m still trying to get to the point where I’m happy with what I envisioned for version one. We want to make a “super app” one that’s social, always on and deeply integrated.”
By the end of March, Triniscene hopes to introduce Blackberry Messenger (BBM) integration into the software, which would allow Carnival World users to invite everyone on their BBM lists to an event.
Development began on Carnival World in October 2010, and the first working version of the software was done in early January. What would Reyes do differently with his earned knowledge? “More stringent beta testing,” Reyes responds. “Beta testing is the toughest thing for BB developers. We tested on optimal devices, and our developers weren’t on the ground in T&T, they didn’t know the networks they were developing for.” Triniscene worked closely with Bmobile to market and distribute the app and the telecommunications giant has an ad running along the bottom bar of the software’s interface. That’s one reason why Digicel users won’t find the app on their mobile phones. It’s possible to install it, but Blackberry devices tied to the rival network will have to do some workarounds to get access to the software.
After Carnival 2011, the software will begin featuring information for carnivals throughout the region and diaspora. A separate app to feature Triniscene content is also in the planning stages. For Edson Reyes, developing the Carnival World app was like doing Triniscene in 2000 all over again, providing rich content on devices on connections that are too slow to support it. This time, it isn’t on dial-up, though the speeds are similar and the devices are handheld and most of the users are more tech savvy than they were a decade ago. “I love to learn,” Reyes said. “I come from a Web background, and this was an opportunity to explore a new platform. We’ve been shortlisted for consideration as a featured app at the next Blackberry conference, and we really want to be there and to say, hey, this came from T&T.”
Making the Stag Carnival Calendar
The Stag Carnival App was a customer request from the Carib Brewery Marketing team and the focus is very much on the party hearty ready to swig and wine. The festive opening screen leads to a simple text listing of current and upcoming events which reveal more detail when clicked on. The app was created by Simply Intense Media, a Belmont based digital media development company using the Java programming language. “We stuck to the Java as it makes the interface and experience is seamless,” Miles Abraham, digital strategist for Simply Intense Media in response to e-mailed questions. “The experience of the Web-based Apps for Blackberry doesn’t feel right. As for many versions of the OS we used an industry standard compatibility approach that saw us reach the majority of handsets in terms of compatibility.” “The App serves a very specific purpose as most apps do. The idea was to provide up to the moment happening on the fetes in Trinidad as well as provide a few other ‘trinkets’ from the brand.” “The data is mostly text based so no serious bandwidth constraints; however a faster network would definitely have left room for exploration. We believe that providing the right data in the right environment to the user is key. People out and about who want to find out what fetes are on which days can quickly whip out the app and use it.”
Asked about development problems, Abraham could report no major issues. “My team were quite adamant that we think everything through before we built anything,” he explained. “Ensuring client expectations, customer experience and the interaction design was simple, sound and added value for the brand. For release 1.0 we hit the deadline and met the expectations of the client. The beauty of an installed app is that we can push updates to it and totally change the functionality when we like so we are pretty happy with that as the plan is to grow the app.” Like Carnival World, the Stag app is being envisioned as a platform to be improved on and the software will continue to provide valuable information to its users beyond Carnival 2011. What exactly that would be remains shielded by “client confidentiality” according to Abraham, but he promises it will be “useful, beautiful and cool.”
Hands on with mobile Carnival
Both the Stag Carnival Calendar and the Triniscene’ Carnival World are easy to download to a BlackBerry device. I went the route of e-mailing myself links to the software and using those links on the BB to pull the apps down. Digicel users interested in accessing Triniscene’ Carnival World can do the same thing by visiting the online Blackberry store on a computer, copying the link to the software (control click on the Download button and copy link), pasting that into an e-mail and sending it to their mail on the BB device. Carnival World is roughly half the size of the Stag Carnival Calendar on the Blackberry Bold I used as a testing platform, but the Stag app had the distinct advantage of actually working. For weeks, Carnival World refused to download any content until Triniscene Technical Director Edson Reyes sent me two software tools to troubleshoot the connection.
One of those didn’t run either, but the one that did provided detailed and quite user unfriendly logs of what the app was up to in the background. I sent those off to him and to the software developer. Two revisions and some discussions with Bmobile about permissions or something of that sort later, I was getting the party planning feed from Triniscene. This rather obvious hiccup, which was likely to affect most potential Blackberry users using OS4.6, was reflected on the reviews for the software on Blackberry’ Appworld (http://appworld.blackberry.com/). The Stag Carnival Calendar app is slower to launch than Carnival World, but faster to display its feed. If the Stag app could be persuaded not to keep insisting on installing its wallpaper on every launch, it would be significantly less annoying to use. No, I don’t want the wallpaper, please remember that I declined the option and let’s move on, shall we? In terms of layout, the Stag app is more readable to my older eyes than the insanely tiny text of the Carnival World app, but I’m good with acknowledging that I am absolutely not the market for this software and much keener eyes than mine will be peering intently at this information. Both are free, so there’s no good reason not to try both and see how they work out for you.
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