Free texting apps are just about saving money. Apps like PingChat! give users rich, social and just plain fun experiences the SMS platform just can’t provide.
The biggest challenge, of course, is making texting apps easily accessible between users of multiple platforms. With more than 15 million downloads via Android, iOS and BlackBerry devices, PingChat's Canadian-based developer Enflick, Inc. understands how to own this still emerging market.
In this edition of Meet the Makers, Enflick CEO Derek Ting discusses the value-add services PingChat provides behind the free price tag, how his company makes money, and how he and his partner haven’t raised a dime to fund the business since an early $10,000 investment.
Appolicious: With free messaging apps like yours, why do you think consumers still pay their carriers every time they text?
Derek Ting: It is a very good question. I think many consumers still are not aware of all the alternatives to text messaging plans yet. With your help, that will change!
APPO: Aside from the price point, what additional services do you apps provide that users are most drawn to?
DT: PingChat! offers more than just cost savings. Additional value we provide over standard messaging includes group chats, read notifications (so you know when the other party read your message), as well as the ability to know when the other party is typing a message. The app also lets users exchange all kinds of media (video, photos, voice notes, location), include emoticons in their messages, and share profile pics and status with friends.
APPO: How do you make money?
DT: We monetize our applications by placing a small un-instrusive banner ad in the application. By doing so, we are able to provide our services to consumers free of charge.
APPO: You have apps available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry platforms. Describe the unique marketing challenges and opportunities that exist on each platform.
DT: As far as marketing challenges go, being cross-platform actually makes marketing more of a blessing rather than a challenge for us. By being cross-platform, our users are able to spread the word about our product to more of their friends.
APPO: What about the development challenges - particularly on Android with so many types of smartphones available across multiple carriers.
DT: The biggest challenge is designing a cross-platform product. The challenge is making sure the app has an uniform experience on all platforms while making sure the app also keeps its native look and feel on the platform it is on. For example, while we want our BlackBerry application to have a consistent experience as the iPhone one, we also want our BlackBerry application to feel like a true BlackBerry application and have the native BlackBerry look and feel (vs. having the iPhone look and feel ported over).
Testing is slightly more challenging on the Android and BlackBerry platforms because of the variety of hardware we need to test on. However, both Google and RIM are extremely helpful in providing the necessary tools for developers to overcome these challenges.
DT: We are expecting to release something new in the fall. Stay tuned, it will be exciting.
APPO: Talk about your company's makeup including number of employees and whether or not you have raised any outside funding.
DT: We currently have a headcount of 30. We have not raised a dime of capital to date. The company has been completely bootstrapped using the $10,000 my partner and I initially put in the company
APPO: What are the three biggest things about the mobile media industry that are keeping you up at night?
DT: I can't think of three things right now that is keeping me up at night. I am extremely optimistic about the growth potential of the industry.