First phase of app for Network Norway released


An app for a mobile operator is about empowering their customers. Enabling them to keep an eye on their consumption, as well as administering and accessing their subscriptions and telecom services on the fly.

The Norwegian mobile operator Network Norway (NwN) came to us with a wish to merge functionality they had in two existing apps. Namingly an app for showing usage and administrating subscriptions and another app providing various business functionality. Network Norway also had a goal for the user experience on mobile and web (MineSider) to bear resemblance to each other.

We set out to derive a new scalable design and make some tough prioritizations in the favor of usability and end user value.

We are now happy to see the first phase of the app released, with the following functionality:

  • Consumption overview, both domestic and abroad
  • Detailed consumption overview
  • Roaming price plans
  • Purchase more data (domestic)
  • Subscription details and list of active services
  • Edit contact details
  • Wizards on how to alter PIN/PUK and other settings
  • Receive important messages and notifications from NwN
  • Locate nearest dealer
  • Various means of contacting NwN

More business functionality like administration of queues, setup of phone conferences and profile & absence handling will follow in soon to come updates.

Mitt NwN can be found in the Apple AppStore.

 

World wide recognition for VG+


When we set out on a journey in 2010 with VG, the largest newspaper in Norway, it was to create a world class news experience on mobile. Now several years later, after numerous iterations and in parallel developing our own multi platform publishing solution called IvyEngine, VG+ 2.0 is starting to gain recognition across the world.

When we set out on a journey with VG, the largest newspaper in Norway, in 2010, it was to create a world class news experience on mobile. And seemingly we managed to do so. The following year VG+ won the prize for Best Paid News App at the WAN IFRA XMA Cross Media Awards 2011. However, we weren’t content. The product had a few shortcomings. It was somewhat generic-looking and had too few subscribers. In order for VG+ to become profitable, we decided to reboot the concept. To convert people into becoming paying subscribers, we needed to convince them that the product was better than the free web version of VG. The only way we could do that was by delivering a top-of-the-line product, both in terms of design, user experience and editorial value. After a lot of hard work the 2.0 version was finally released early 2013. 

Now, one year later and with several 100 percent increase in the subscriber base as well as becoming profitable, VG+ 2.0 i starting to be noticed around the world!

At the WAN IFRA European Digital Media Awards 2014 VG+ 2.0 got the Special Mention in the Best in Tablet Publishing category.

And now VG+ 2.0 is a finalist nominee both for Best Consumer Magazine/Newspaper App at the Appy Awards 2014 and for Best New Mobile App or Web Site at the INMA Awards 2014. We are crossing our fingers…

 

Also check out our VG+ case study and our mobile multi platform publishing solution IvyEngine.

Need. More. iOS, Android & Windows Phone developers.


At Agens HQ, things are getting more and more exciting these days.

More contracts and more work means a new opportunity to hire gifted people. Yeah, we’re looking at you.

We see ourselves as the safe haven for developers that don’t do half-assed stuff. Developers on a relentless search for better ways. For great architecture. For writing beautiful code. For turning handcrafted frontend designs into pieces of tactile art. For making digital goods that are a complete joy to experience.

In short, we are looking for more digital craftsmen and -women, at both our Oslo HQ and in Grimstad.

If you’ve got the talent, the attitude and the independent, startup-esque mindset we’re looking for, we can offer you:

  • Great colleagues.
  • A creative, fun working environment.
  • The most complex, challenging and vibrant digital projects in Scandinavia (some of them being purely our own).
  • An innovation-driven culture, fed with crazy ideas and mammoth-sized ambitions.
  • At least 5 different coffee brewing methods on-site (OK, a couple of them aren’t that good, to be honest).
  • Nice salary (in fact, the very same salary as everyone else at Agens).
  • A yearly trip abroad. Half vacation, half work.
  • Flexibility. Lots of it.
  • Hope.

And we can offer it now. Instantly.

Don’t just sit there writing boring code on some random project. Drop us a line instead.
Be part of the Agens family. Contact our CEO Håvard Måseide at havard@agens.no.

Share your style with the InstaFashion app


Capture. Add specifics. Share.

Instagram is one of the most widely used photo (& video)-sharing social networking services out there. What we noticed is that tons of people use these kind of services to show off their daily outfits and newly acquired garments and accessories. As of today there are over 10.5 million posts on Instagram utilizing the hashtag “instafashion” (#instafashion).

We wanted to make an easy-to-use tool to help people share additional product information together with their photos. An app to enable fashionistas, brands and shops to add sleek text-overlays to their fashion photos.

Capture your style. Toggle through nice themes and add the specifics to go with the picture. Share with the world via the social services of your choice. Voila! It was only natural that this app should be named: InstaFashion!

Now freely available in the AppStore.

Stay tuned for future updates. More themes to follow…

Single vs. multiple app strategy


Your app should be the gate to your combined brand experience

As Apple’s AppStore turns five years, it’s about time a lot of big brands rethought their app strategies.

In the early days of apps, Apple told everyone that they had to be careful not to cram too much functionality into one single app. Sort of; don’t expect to merge the whole totality of Photoshop into one app. You have to carefully design your features to fit with the mobile medium and especially the limited screen size. This is still a valid tip, but should not be confused with watering out functionality into several apps.

First of all you are forced to maintain all of your single-purpose-apps, which over time will result in a lot of overhead.

You should utilize the fact that a user has chosen to engage with your app for a distinct purpose and tease them with additional features beyond the reasons they first entered the app

Secondly– and most importantly– you are not thinking of your app as a full-blown channel. A gate to your combined brand experience. You should utilize the fact that a user has chosen to engage with your app for a distinct purpose and tease them with additional features beyond the reasons they first entered the app. If you place features and functionality accross many apps you completly lose out on this opportunity. The logic is very similar to how a physical store is set up.

An app can be used for informational purposes, two-way dialogue with customers, marketing, campaigns & promotions, customer self service, as an admin tool/dashboard for features, for sales, upsales and more. Keep in mind that a mobile service resides on a phone. A device which normally accompanies its user at all times. This gives you the opportunity of catering for the immediate needs of a customer regardless of location and time. The interactive feature set often provided to customers via an app also give the customers a sense of empowerment, control and transparency towards the service provider which they’ve never experienced before.

Of course these points aren’t valid on a general basis, for every app concept and brand moving into the mobile space. The point is merely to get you to focus your mobile presence so that you to a greater degree manage to cater for your customers’ needs and at the same time manage to maximise your own value in a consistent way. This is in most cases not done by functional (app) fragmentation. Use time to scope your concept so that the design and navigation takes future expansion into account.

Think purpose. Think usability. Think modular. Think beyond (the first version). Think that being present in your customer’s pocket at all times, is something you aren’t going to miss out on.

Tablet sales bypass computers


Inexpensive tablets are displacing the low-end computer market used primarily for consumption.

In April (30.04.13) BlackBerry’s CEO, Thorstein Heins, predicted the death of tablets. The basis for his statement was obviously BlackBerry’s failing attempts in this product category, but also a strong belief in the mobile phone as the prevailing form factor. As analysis firm IDC recently presented their quarterly PC and tablet sales figures (1Q13) for the Norwegian market, nothing is backing BlackBerry’s predictions. What is certain is that the future has room for both small and medium/large sized devices. The question is if the latter category is called PCs or tablets -or if they by time merge into one.

1Q13 Sales, Norway
YOY change (%)
Tablets 230 000 +150
PC 225 000 -30
Total 455 000 +9

 

The numbers show that for the first time (!) there were sold more tablets than computers during a quarterly period in Norway. Taken into account that the iPad, as the frontrunner in the tablet category, only was introduced during spring 2010 the displacement effect is staggering. 230 000 tablet units were sold during 1Q13 vs. 225 000 computers. This represents an 150 % increase in tablet sales versus a 30 % decrease in computer sales. If we see tablets and computers as a conjoint market there was an overall increase of 9 %. Web traffic statistics from Norway’s leading online classifieds site, FINN.no (Traffic rank no. 5 – Alexa.com), equally illustarte the strong year-over-year (YOY) growth in mobile (mobile phones + tablets) visits the last three years. 37 % of all traffic is now coming from mobile.

Gartner’s preliminary second quarter (2Q13) figures show a 11 % decline in global PC shipments. This marks the fifth consecutive quarter of declining shipments, which is the longest duration of decline in the PC market’s history. All regions showed a decline compared to a year ago. The fall in the Asia/Pacific (APAC) PC market continued, showing five consecutive quarters of the shipment decline, while the Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) PC market registered two consecutive quarters of double-digit decline.

It is believed that the inexpensive tablets are displacing the low-end PCs used primarily for consumption in developed and mature markets. First eating into the number 2 and 3 computers in the home and by time might even start displacing the home computer completly. In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC.

As consumer’s preferences towards the equipment they use to consume digital content with, is changing rapidly -it is more important than ever that this content is tailored for smaller (multiple) screen sizes and/or made available in the form of apps. The fact that tablets often are referred to as digital consumption devices, merely stresses the fact that people, to a lesser degree, do cumbersome creational tasks on these devices. This should not be confused with passivity. Tablets are wholly interactive devices and numbers are showing strong growth in the area mobile eCommerce. The phrase “mobile first” has never been more valid than now!

Sources: IDC, Gartner, FINN.no, Alexa.com, Finansavisen, Bloomberg

The Norwegian mobile market 2012


Fresh statistics from NPT confirm increase in data usage as smartphone base reaches 75 percent. Operators manage to keep their level of (total) revenue as before due to the migration to bucket- and fixed pricing, even though voice and messaging usage is declining.

General

The Norwegian Post & Telcommunications Authority (NPT) recently released their annual telecom market report. Key mobile related take-aways show that total revenues are close to stabile with a small increase from the year before. Breaking down the numbers we see that voice (-11 %) and messaging (-4 %) revenues are decreasing year-over-year (YOY), whilst mobile data revenues are increasing (+2 %).

Graph1

Total revenue for mobile services

The biggest change is the increase in subscription revenues (+13 %), meaning that the migration of subscription types to bucket- and fixed prices are compensating for the decreased usage of traditional telecom voice & messaging services.

Graph2

Mobile revenues

In other words the Norwegian mobile subscribers have in the last 3 years gone from volume based pricing to buckets, and now only two weeks ago TeliaSonera subsidiary, NetCom, introduced unlimited usage of voice and messaging (other operators, like Tele2, were quick to follow this). The introduction of unlimited in this case isn’t anything disruptive, since big buckets in reality have the same effect -but it will get the first operators some good PR. The alterations in the subscription models is a natural consequence of the fact that customer’s preferences have changed drastically with the adaptation rate of smartphones -to the point where data is the most important parameter. Despite this shift, the operators are managing to extract the same amount of revenue from their user bases as before! We could also say that there is a slight tendency towards an alteration of the traditional role of an operator. Being the sole communication providers is slightly weakening, whilst the role as mobile access provider is strengthening. In the UK new types of operators have emerged, like GiffGaff.

It is now estimated that around 75 % of the total Norwegian handset base are smartphones. This is an 10 % increase from the year before.

56 % of Consumer customers and 65 % of Business customers have generated data traffic, whilst 15 % of Consumer customers and 30 % of Business customers have at least 1 GB of data included in their subscriptions. These stats show the great potential for uptake and usage of mobile (smartphone) services and apps in Norway, but at the same time we also see that quite a big portion of smartphone users have never generated any data traffic -even though they have data included in their subscriptions. An indication that most phones now being sold are smartphones, but that some of the buyers aren’t accustomed to the added potential in their devices.

Roaming

Regarding international roaming there is an increase in usage across all three main telecom services compared to the year before. Again, data usage is by far the one with the greatest increase -over double the volume in 2012 (99 mill. MB) vs 2011 (43 mill. MB).

Graph 3

Revenue & cost for international roaming

Since 2009 the Norwegian operators have managed cut their roaming costs substantially -generating more profit from roaming in 2012 than they have in many years. Since data usage also is the fastest growing parameter in the roaming scenario it is natural to think that (some) end users find it difficult to restrain themselves from using their smartphones as they have got accustomed to -also when being abroad. A good holiday tip is to bring an old phone with WiFi sharing/Personal hotspot functionality or a MiFi-router and purchase (and insert) a local prepaid SIM card that includes some kind of data bucket. Thereby you have a portable WiFi hotspot you can connect your phone to, but only pay local fees for the data usage :-) An example of a speedy MiFi-router is Huawei E5776.

All graphs and figures are courtesy of NPT
Sources:
Det norske markedet for elektronisk kommunikasjon 2012 [NO]
Presentasjon Det norske ekommarkedet 2012 [NO]
Tallgrunnlag ekomstatistikk 2013 [NO]

Top device sales April 2013


The two largest operators in Norway have just released their numbers for top ten best selling mobile devices April 2013. Numbers are extracted from their own sales channels

NetCom

  1. (1) Apple iPhone 5
  2. (2) Samsung Galaxy S3
  3. (4) Apple iPhone 4
  4. (3) Apple iPhone 4S
  5. (8) Sony Xperia Z
  6. (6) Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini
  7. (-) Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE
  8. (5) Samsung Galaxy Note II
  9. (-) Samsung Galaxy S4
  10. (7) Sony Xperia V

Telenor

  1. (1) Apple iPhone 5
  2. (2) Samsung Galaxy S3
  3. (6) Samsung Galaxy Y
  4. (-) Samsung Galaxy S4
  5. (3) Sony Xperia Z
  6. (7) Samsung Galaxy S3 4G
  7. (5) Apple iPhone 4
  8. (8) Samsung Galaxy S2
  9. (4) Apple iPhone 4S
  10. (-) Samsung Galaxy S2 Pluss

NetCom also state that the total OS distribution among their top ten listed handsets is 63 % iOS and 37 % Android.

Numbers in brackets = last month’s ranking. Source: NetCom & Telenor

Unboxing some new sensor toys


Sensors and peripheral equipment communicating with mobile devices gives endless possibilities

The TI multi sensor chip

Here at Agens, we also like to experiment with new technology. We just recently got hold of the Texas Instruments CC2541 SensorTag development kit. What’s so cool with this system-on-a-chip, is the fact that it communicates via Bluetooth 4.0/LE, has a SDK and incorporates 6 (!) sensors: Temperature (IR & Ambient), Humidity, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer & Barometer.
The TI multi sensor chip
Just think of the endelss possibilities this chip gives in combination with an app on a mobile device. Health/Medical, Training/Sports, Toys, Education… Any good usage scenarios anyone?

Here are a couple of videos to get the imagination going:

Bluetooth Low Energy iPhone Rocket
Oakley Airwave Goggle

The Leap Motion Controller

Leap Motion is Kinect on steroids. It enables touchless interaction controlled only by what you allready posess: Your hands and fingers. Gesture/motion controllers are sure to be a way of interaction in the near future. Only by playing and experimenting, can we be prepared for tomorrow.

Painter Freestyle with Leap Motion

If you have a great idea, but keep contemplating on how to utilize or make the mobile service itself, we are happy to help. Just drop us a line. We’re nice people.

Tele 2 and Network Norway choose Agens


Agens is about to craft the next generation of iOS / Android products for Tele 2 and Network Norway.

We are pleased to announce that we have signed an app development contract with both Tele 2 and Network Norway, two of the most prominent and interesting Telcos out there. Needless to say, we are really looking forward to collaborating with NwN and Tele 2. We share a lot of the same philosophy when it comes to product quality, and are already hard at work planning future-proof user experiences and mobile solutions for both companies.

Starting the transfer to Kanban


For a while now we’ve been using scrum, an agile software development method, on some of our projects…

For a while now we’ve been using scrum, an agile software development method, on some of our projects. That is, we’ve used what is commonly called “scrum-but”. When we started out, we stuck very closely to the principles and procedures of scrum, but quickly – just weeks or months after starting – we found we had to tailor the method to fit the needs of the different projects. Along the way, we tweaked and changed things (sometimes even coming close to using a waterfall model, which is antithesis to agile development).

After more than a year, few things remained of our initial Scrum ideals. We were still using a task board, daily stand-up meetings and retrospectives; but we weren’t time-boxing, doing story estimates, calculating velocity, having the customer prioritize work on a task-by-task basis. We didn’t really know what to call it anymore, but it worked pretty well for us.

Then we started looking into Kanban. Some of it felt very familiar, since we were already doing the same things out of necessity – such as kaizen, the regular improvement of the work process. Other things we’d been doing, but not consistently – such as visualizing workflow. Most importantly, the method gives you permission to modify and change things until they work; it’s about taking your existing process and improving it.

Right now we’re in the middle of transferring one major project to Kanban, and looking at two more. It’s an interesting experience, and so far the team is very enthusiastic about it. We ask a lot of questions, try to work out how we want this thing to work, and try to find the best tools for the job. Right now, it looks like we might have to find a new tool for our online kanban board (the old one, JIRA/Greenhopper, is not built for the type of flexibility Kanban requires). We’ve looked at our work flow, visualized it, and made a few minor improvements; but we’re taking care not to try to change everything at once.

Small steps, gradual change, and the ability to track progress.

VG+. Winner of XMA Awards 2011


VG+. Best Paid App at the World Newspaper Week in Vienna.

VG_award1

We are happy to announce that the VG+ application has been awarded the “Best Paid App” during the Cross Media Awards in Vienna. This year’s XMA Awards is WAN IFRA’s (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) own award to honor the best news app solution worldwide. And VG+ won it!

The jury consisted of gurus like Mario Garcia and Roger Fidler from Reynolds Journalism Institute in USA. Mario Garcia himself has this to say about the VG+ solution:

“VG of Norway gives us everything we wish to have in an iPad news app: The brand extension that takes us to the familiar, with the extras that exploit the potential of this great new platform; great use of imagery; simple, distinctive design; multimedia; multigenre; in my view, BEST of show.”

VG+ beat a great deal of international newspapers lik Sunday Times, Die Welt and Bloomberg News. The app scored better on all jury criteria- both content, consistency in design, integration of components and business model.

Here at Agens, we consider this a great honor. We are thankful that the jury enjoyed VG+ as much as we enjoy making it. However, there is still quite a lot of progression to be made- and the drawing board is full of ideas. We are thrilled to work on such an exiting project together with VG, the most vibrant newspaper in Norway when it comes to adapting new technology.