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Apple's Best Apps of 2014: Top Free, Paid and Grossing Apps

It's always interesting and valuable to explore Apple's Best of 2014: Top Lists. Below are screenshots of the Top Free, Top Grossing and Top Paid iOS Apps. You'll notice a few things:

Top Free: it's a list dominated by big brands. - Facebook has #1, #4, #5 and #11 with Messenger, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp respective. - Snapchat is #2. - Google has #3, #7, #12 with YouTube, Google Maps and Google. - Pandora is #6. Spotify is #9.

Top Paid: There is some variety here, Of the top 20 - 14 are games - 4 are Photo and Video - 2 Health and Fitness

Top Grossing: This gets slightly more interesting. - All of the top grossing applications feature in-app purchases. - Games still dominate: 18 of the top 20 are games. - Pandora is #3 overall and the only of the Top Grossing to also be a Top Free app. - Zoosk is the lone other top 20 app that is not a game. - Of the games, big names matter: King owns 3 of hte top 8 apps and SuperCell has 3 of the top 11

best of itunes 2014

My Favorite Products of 2014: From Applications to Gadgets

For the past several years, I have used December to write about my favorite products, digital habits, etc. And here again is my annual list of things I habitually use, love and rely on. There are obviously many, many other great products, apps, tools and gadgets - some fun and others meaningfully important to tech trends... this is simply a list of those things I use each and every day.

Applications, Tools and more...

Nuzzel and Pocket Both of these are new habits in 2014: Nuzzel is a new product and I simply find it to be the most effective and most efficient way to find and consume great content. And while, Pocket has been around, I have found myself using it daily in part because Nuzzel and Pocket work so well together, because Pocket works so well across device and Platform (iOS, Android, MacOS, etc) and because it works offline (great for reading during travel).

Spotify Spotify has been on this list since it launched… and in terms of daily minutes consumed, it is probably my most used product. We use it as a family and it's as much a part of my routine as my kids' (Raffi was our #1 artist of 2014… says a lot, right?). Once you spend the time to set playlists and explore new artists - the switching costs are also very high. I cannot imagine moving my music activity outside of Spotify: not only is it a great experience… it would be a great deal of work.

SportsCenter & WatchESPN Naturally I am a sports nut and am quite biased, but... I use these applications daily. SportsCenter for scores, stats, news and highlights (which has a major update coming in a few weeks) - and I use WatchESPN to watch Duke Football (whether on phone, Apple TV or other connected devices).

sportscenter widget

Overcast, Audible & iTunes Audio Books From Bill Simmons & Grantland to Serial to books on tape - I listen to a lot of audio content. I use: - Overcast for podcasts (like Serial and Bill Simmons) - the SportsCenter App's new On-Air functionality for live ESPN audio (like Mike & Mike and live games) - Audible and iTunes for audio books

Camera+ Gets better and better… Lots of other great options like Litely, but I eventually find myself happily returning to Camera+.

Twitter Notifications and Facebook Groups & Facebook Messenger Writing that Twitter and Facebook are part of my digital life would be rather obvious. So a couple features I now routinely use: - I actively manage and use Twitter Notifications to stay atop of news and content. Examples include getting notifications for @NikeStore (read more here), @BillSimmons, @BenedictEvans, @CNNbrk, and @AdamSchefter. - On Facebook, I use Groups regularly (both on web and now via application). We use it actively at ESPN for in-group communication and sharing. And I use Messenger more and more each month… particularly with friends who I do not regularly SMS with.

facebook groups app

iOS8 Widgets and... iOS8 Extensions - Pocket, Buffer, etc Extensions and Widgets have been a part of android for a while (or the capability) - but with ios8, this functionality opens up so many different use cases for users and app publishers. Pocket, Evernote, Pinterest, SportsCenter, Nuzzel, Wunderlist, Buffer and others suddenly become more routine / daily behaviors for me.

pocket-extensions

Travel Bundle: United, Uber, Passbook, Tripit, HotelTonight I've been on the road quite a bit recently and each of these apps is used with each trip. The United App is totally redone, reliable and integrates nicely with Apple's Passbook. Tript is terrific and I forward plans and confirmation reservations to the plans@tripit email service. Works perfectly. I have also used HotelTonight several times this past year and been pleasantly surprised by how elegant and easy it is… and they answered my biggest ask: the ability to book multiple days ahead.

Health Bundle: MyFitnessPal, Argus, Pedometer+ and Instant Heart Rate by Azumio No rhyme or reason as to how I use each of these together… but 2014 was the year for me where I moved entirely from hardware tracking to software. I use MyFitnessPal for tracking nutrition habits and logging activities. Pedometer+ is the simplest way to view movement (I use their simple iOS8 widget. And I use Argus and Instant Heart Rate to simply monitor and log simple performance during cardio workouts.

Video Bundle: iTunes, Netflix, Watch Disney Junior & Watch Disney Channel, Apple TV Maybe this is more a habit of the kids… but they have amassed quite the library on iTunes and a queue of favorite characters and shows via Disney's Watch apps and Netflix's playlist.

watchdisneyjr

Dropbox On this list year after year… deserves to be on this list more this year than any before - between file management, photo backup, and team collaboration.

Skitch Old reliable. Use it several times each day.

Evernote Skitch's parent company and product - Evernote is also old reliable. They are a great example of platform ubiquity and interface consistency across all of those products. From iOS native application to the MacOS Desktop App - Evernote works seamlessly across all of my devices and the content is readily accessible and editable.

Also of note: Evernote's product marketplace is very unique. The products within are of terrific and surprising quality. The Pfieffer product line is really fantastic.

Mobile Day I wrote about Mobile Day last year and am still shocked by how few people know about it. If you take a lot of phone calls - you'll just love the app. Note: As of this past week, MobileDay has introduced a freemium model for users who place more than 10 calls a month.

Wunderlist I love the interface, shared lists and the new integration into ios8 widgets / extensions. Easy integration with other users (family or teammates) and easy integration via email (simply forward tasks or emails to me@wunderlist.com). I have fiddled with several list / to-do services and this has become my favorite. An ask for 2015: the ability to send tasks from multiple email addresses.

Screenflow & Android Screencast Both excellent tools to capture, share and test product design and functionality. Screenflow allows editing and Android's Native Screencast makes it so, so simple.

Gadgets and Gear and Misc...

iPhone 6+ The size discussion is polarizing for many, but the benefits far outweigh any perceived size inconvenience: - more real estate and new usability formats from developers - bigger and better battery live - amazing, amazing camera (can't be overstated how good it is)

OnePlus I love this Android device. I love the build, the size, the feel. I really like the Cynogen / Android install and the customization opportunities. Really well done. And perhaps most importantly: I love price. Unlocked and 64GB for $349. The price is a game-changer.

Tile Took a little longer to ship than I had hoped - but the product is really well made and the software pairs easily and nicely. I have a Tile on each of my keychains and find myself clumsily having to use the app once a week. Also a great, fun gift.

iPhone & iPad Connection Cables I give several presentations and demos in a given week.... And I almost always prefer to give it as a live demo and off of the actual device. These cables are life savers and I keep a pair (hdmi + dvi) in the office and in my bag.

Bose Wireless Headphones Note: I am NOT an audiophile. I look for comfort, ease, sound, and size.

I bought these bluetooth early in the year and, while other headphones might have better sound quality, I really enjoy them. I really wanted a pair of wireless, bluetooth headphones for travel - and ones that would be comfortable after many hours of usage. The Bose headphones work terrifically. My only critique (but I think newer models are improved) is around battery life.

If you want more research, here are some good comparisons by The Verge and Gizmodo.

NiteIze Gear Ties These things are brilliant and I go through them like candy… simple way to keep your cables organized. With daily use, they last 6-12 months and are an easy add-on to any Amazon order.

Bobo Bars and Raw Revolution Bars I eat the same thing each morning for breakfast: either a Bobo Bar or a Raw Revolution Bar. Both are great (although everyone's tastes are obviously different).

Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee I eat the same thing every morning and I drink a lot (yes, a lot) of coffee. THe new Nespresso Vertuo machine is just terrific. Unlike past generations which only brewed espresso - this now also brews coffee. It's delicious.

Lists from others...

Some related "best of" lists from other sources... what did I miss?

- Mashable: 11 Most Useful Tools of 2014 - The Verge: Best Gadgets of the Year - Cult of Mac: Best Apps of 2014 - Slate: Favorite Apps of 2014 - CNET: Best Products of 2014 - The Verge: This is my Next (a general collection of gadget "best of's") - TheNextWeb: 65 of the Best iOS Apps Launched in 2014

Note: I am an investor in Nuzzel and MyFitnessPal.

Alex Schultz's Fantastic Lecture on Growth

YCombinator and Sam Altman have put together a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs, product managers, product marketers, etc... they have made available a series of lectures around YC's "How to Start a Startup" course and it is truly excellent. Not only are the topics spot on - and relevant to all aspects of founding, building and growing and business - but they have phenomenal leaders giving their talks.

I will ultimately do a couple of these posts - but wanted to start by embedding Alex SChultz's talk on Growth. Alex is an old colleague from eBay, a friend, and an absolute wizard of growth mechanics, product marketing, user scaling, etc. That's what he does at Facebook and has been doing it (very successfully) for quite some time there.

This is a must watch video - Alex has an ability to distill complicated numbers, tactics and ideas into something that is very clear and actionable. And again, it is relevant far beyond the earliest-stage companies.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_yHZ_vKjno&feature=youtu.be]

Nike Merchandises Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods & the PGA Championship

I love golf. I love Nike. And I love Rory. Unsurprisingly, I've also written a fair amount about each - particularly Nike and its use of social media and commerce. Here's on more to add to that collection - Rory McIlroy is the world's #1 golfer and tees off at the PGA Championship today. He also is a Nike athlete.

Just ahead of Rory's opening round tee off, Nike released the following Facebook post - which includes Rory's attire and gear for the entire four-day tournament. That then links to a custom short URL (http://gonike.me/Valhalla) with all of Rory's gear and the wider Nike offering.

Nike of course did the same for their other major star: Tiger Woods (also shown below).

wpid-wp-1407440434792.png

tiger woods nike gear

Android / Google Play: Top Free Apps

Messaging rules the app stores these days... as does Facebook. Here is a screenshot of the Google Play Store's Top Free Apps: #1. Facebook Messenger #2. Facebook #4. Instagram (Facebook) #5. Snapchat ... #9. Skype #10. Kik #13. Twitter #16. WhatsApp

Notable others: music has #3 and #11 with Pandora and Spotify, respectively. King has games at #8 and #12 with Candy Crush and Bubble Witch 2. And Netflix is #7.

Android Top Free Apps

Facebook Extends Mobile Ad Units from Likes to Installs to Downloads to Purchases

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Facebook's mobile "Install" ad units now driving movie downloads. Over the Christmas holiday, another format arrived: "Shop Now". The unit itself is the same: a glossy, mid-stream ad that asks users to "Shop Now" (rather than "Install" or "Download"). Clicking the units keeps you inside the Facebook Application - which is a little confusing since it is an App Store icon and says "open in app". The landing page is a gift store for iTunes gift cards - like other Facebook digital gifts.

The interesting point is less around the unit / action itself... rather, it is that Facebook has successfully created single in-stream, mobile-only unit that is flexible enough to drive "Likes" (purchased by brands), drive Installs (purchased by developers), drive Downloads (purchased by media) and now drive sales (purchased by e-commerce companies).

photo 1

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Wordpress + Facebook [Embeds]

Facebook recently enabled embeddable posts (see announcement here) - theses embeds can include public status updates, images, videos, etc and enable social sharing directly within the unit. On Wordpress, it's particularly easy: simply paste the Facebook URL between the Wordpress embed tags. That easy. For Facebook, this is important for two obvious reasons: first, it encourages public posting for users and celebrities (brands are already public). And second, it gives publishers and brands a simple way to amplify their on-Facebook content - which in turn enables social sharing directly on the publisher site. Twitter has had great solutions here for years - Facebook's embeddable post can be an equally powerful mechanism (content dependent of course).

[embed]https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=638282669523912&set=a.166942843324566.37299.147262525292598&type=1[/embed]



[embed]https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=613289692051124&set=a.114588455254586.5908.104266592953439&type=1[/embed]

Facebook Premium: It's in the Product Experience

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, took to Medium this week to share some thoughts on Facebook: "Now that I use Facebook more regularly, I started having some ideas for the service—here’s one... They could offer Facebook Premium. For $10 a month, people who really love Facebook (and can afford it), could see no ads. Maybe some special features too." First off, I like that he's doing this on Medium - a service / platform that I am really growing fond of... and a service / platform that encourages this kind of discussion from thinkers like Biz. (The other service I am enjoying: Branch, which enables discussion in a different, interesting way).

On Facebook Premium - it's the right idea, particularly for a service that so many users are so passionate about and dedicated to. At ESPN, we have a premium service called ESPN Insider that is sneaky-big itself and a combination of premium tools and content (ie Fantasy Football product enhancements and unique articles on recruiting, etc).

For me to pay a monthly subscription to Facebook - which I gladly would - I think it has to follow suit: it would have to be some specialized feature(s), enhancement(s), etc. My guess is that mobile and the mobile application are the biggest opportunities for those sorts of features.

And then there are single-use purchases as well: while Path is a much smaller community, my network has been gobbling up premium stickers ($1.99 each) to make conversation richer. And there are filters, etc. This is different than Facebook Gifts - which is really a one-to-one transaction rather than an enhancement that adds value to core product. Path's stickers, for example, have become mechanisms for comments / conversation... which of course has a viral loop.

The trouble with marking premium as ad-free is that it changes much of the Facebook experience. Sure there are ads that are not much different than traditional CPM advertising... but most are hybrids of advertising and social interactions. A couple questions arise including the central point that many of Facebook's units, while paid advertisements, are actually value-add to the consumer - for instance, the mobile application installer ('your friends are using xyz') is quite useful. What happens to the social and advertiser economy if certain friends pay to opt out? What happens to fans who want to follow brands onsite? Many brands are hybrids of paid and organic content, activity, etc. How does this effect Facebook's relationship with advertisers - whose network of users (and likely the most active, influential users) shrinks?

In short: if Facebook's ad strategy were solely traditional banners and units, it would be a far easier proposition to all (users, advertisers, etc). But the deep blending of advertising with social layers & interactions makes it far tougher. And that's a credit to Facebook because they are innovating on the ad experience. The premium opportunity better exists within premium features and products.

Path Stickers Facebook