October 13, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
The name OneLouder may not be immediately familiar to most Android users, but it should be. That’s name of the company that has carved out a niche as a builder of apps at “the intersection of social and mobile.” So while you may not immediately recognize the OneLouder brand, you most certainly know its apps TweetCaster, FriendCaster, ChannelCaster, and SportsCaster. Androinica.com has covered all of OneLouder’s apps, so we reached out to the company to participate in the second edition of our developer interview series. Below is a recent chat that I had with Evan Conway, president of OneLouder, about the company’s decision-making process and plans for the rapidly-changing Android social apps field.
You focus on social apps, but that’s a very crowded space right now. Why build a Twitter or Facebook app when there’s so much competition?
We launched TweetCaster over a year ago and it’s become the highest-rated Twitter app in the Android space. To be blunt, we’ve tried to stay a step ahead of our competitors and give [consumers] capabilities that don’t exist anywhere else. We first launched “zip it” to mute a user or topic when you’re tired of it. That was big because I’m not personally a big baseball fan, so the ability to zip baseball topics is something that you couldn’t even do with the Twitter website. More recently, we’ve added smart lists that no one can touch, and we’ve got half a dozen other things on the drawing boards or in the works. That’s been the preface to literally be the best app out there. Going forward, we don’t have any interest in being a “me too” app, and it’s not good enough just to be marginally better than the other things out there.
In the back of your mind, is there a fear that one move by Facebook or another company could force you to drastically alter your business?
More so in the past than now. When we were first building up and Twitter and Facebook weren’t openly communicating where they were going, it was scary; no question about it. We’re much more comfortable now… That being said, we think our new products go way beyond that and are being embraced by companies like Twitter. For something like Sportscaster, you don’t even need a Twitter account. We’re bringing a whole new audience of people who may choose to use Twitter in a much broader experience than just sports. We’re putting something that makes it much more manageable and easy as opposed to the techie, geeky thing that Twitter can be if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Regarding Sportscaster, it didn’t launch with all of the major sports. Will that change next season?
Within a week, we’ll have baseball, NFL hockey, NFL football, and college football. We’ll have basketball, both college and NBA – if we’re lucky enough to get NBA this year – within 30 days. We’ll have most of the key american sports covered. I’m a big soccer fan, so soccer is coming for sure. We’ll have not just MLS, but international key leagues around the world, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and UFC…Originally, we were going to launch new sports at the beginning of each season, but we decided to accelerate that based on the early success we’ve had with the app.
One thing I noticed about OneLouder is that you are quick to plug holes – like a tablet-optimized Tweetcaster and Friendcaster. How do you weigh resources? Do you develop to be first or go to the largest audience and compete?
We’re not looking for the quick hit to get a month’s jump on competitors and temporarily exploit that. It’s certainly nice to have from a competitive nature and ego. We’ve got some good ideas and a team with more mobile experience than any company in this space. It sounds cocky, but we’re really good at that. As far as the decision, the particular products you’ve seen – Tweetcaster, Sportscaster, ChannelCaster – are things that we are really passionate about. It’s developed with a particular vision of ‘here’s something we can build that has the potential to be great.’ A year from now, these will still be key things.
Sportscaster is not just a flash in the pan; it’s a new way of watching sports. ChannelCaster has just as much in common with YouTube as it does with the tablet news reading apps. We’ve taken a very different approach and I’d be very disappointed if a year from now, I’m not talking to you again about how well these products are doing. I had the original idea for ChannelCaster over a year ago and waited 6 months with various twists to make sure we didn’t come out as just another Flipboard, or another Pulse, or the dozen other ones that are “me too” in that space. We’re looking for something that will give us longevity.
ChannelCaster is great because it syncs across mobile devices. Are there plans for a web or desktop app for marking items to be read later or browse online?
Absolutely, [because] everything that we do has a backend. We’ve built technology under the hood so you can sign-in as a ChannelCaster, like you said, and your favorites are there waiting for you. We plan to add more devices, namely iOS support, even though we chose to go with Android first. There are lots of people who have an Android phone and an iPad, and want to use them back and forth where it’s more like a YouTube community experience. What you’re describing – we were not planning on talking about it early, but I don’t mind mentioning it to you, absolutely. I want to see a web-based products for these as well, Sportscaster and ChannelCaster in particular.
How do you think Ice Cream Sandwich is going to aid your development process?
Well, with Sportscaster for example, we’re going to probably wait for Ice Cream Sandwich to offer a more tablet-optimized experience as it relates to Android. Right now, it works fantastic on phones and great on a 7-inch tablet. It’s okay on the bigger tablets but not as good as it should be. I am hoping that [ICS] will be easier for us, in that we won’t have to pay attention to the two different versions of Android. I’m not sure if it will be dramatic for us, but we definitely view it as beneficial from a labor standpoint.
I know my readers will want me to ask this last question. With the right API’s, what are the chances that we see a Google Pluscaster?
Chances are incredibly good. [Laughter] I suspect that [rather than] launch it as a standalone app, my guess is we’ll build those capabilities into existing products. For example, right now with Tweetcaster, you can choose to update on Facebook as well as Twitter. It’s one of the things that several of our competitors aren’t going to do and the big networks aren’t going to allow you to update each other. We’ll probably add the ability to update to Google+ from Tweetcaster, so you can update Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ in one stroke. That’s one of the themes for me; I don’t want to have to update three times. One part will basically be just adding the capabilities to it, and then as a separate decision, will it justify its own free-standing app? Possibly.
There’s no question that we’re good partners with Google and we want to do it. We’re playing around with the existing API’s but we’re waiting on more robust API’s to be made available. To that extent, not even just “Google Pluscaster,” we will add some of those capabilities to ChannelCaster as well. We’re about to add Google Reader as another ChannelCaster source, and there’s no question that if we’re going to have Facebook and Twitter as a source in ChannelCaster, Google Plus would absolutely be on the list. I’d say the chances are 100% to all of the above as long as the API’s are done in a robust enough way to allow us to deliver a high-quality and interesting, differentiating product.