Smart apps

Members of the ‘start-up nation’ have developed two products for smartphone users

hitechphone 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
hitechphone 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
The rapid pace of development in the hi-tech world can cause a lot of confusion, unless you are an early adopter who welcomes innovation with enthusiasm and embraces new terminology with ease. Over time, I’ve noticed that individuals less enamored with the constant barrage of new technologies are in a state of perpetual perplexity as to what they are good for, and have only a vague idea of the terms used to describe them.
For example, smartphones. Many people call a smartphone an iPhone when in fact the phone they are referring to is produced by a company with no relation to Apple, the company that developed the iPhone. Smartphone is a generic term and most of them run on one of two operating systems: iOS, developed by Apple for use in their products, of which the iPhone is one; and Android, developed by Google for use in smartphones produced by a number of different companies, such as Samsung (which named its smartphone Galaxy). (Microsoft has developed the Lumia operating system for Nokia, but so far it hasn’t enjoyed much success.) Most apps developed for one operating system are also supported by the other, which means that users of smartphones supported by different operating systems can communicate with each other using the same app.
For example, you can download the Facebook app to your Android-supported phone and post a message that can be read by iPhone users (so long as they also downloaded the app).
Apps for the iPhone can be downloaded and installed from Apple’s App Store; apps for Android smartphones can be downloaded from Google’s Play Store.
This month’s column describes two products for smartphone users, created by quintessential members of the “start-up nation”: young, post-army Israeli developers. The first app, Hoozin, can be used by both iPhone and Android smartphone users. The second product, Pressy, was developed for Android smartphone users only.
Hoozin Say the word Hoozin quickly and you get an idea of what it’s about. Targeting primarily teenagers and young adults, Hoozin is a virtual hangout that allows users to form groups whose members can interact with each other online by exchanging messages, videos and photos, and playing games.
Arnon Joseph, together with co-founders Omri Levy and Udi Zohar, began developing Hoozin about a year and a half ago, releasing a beta version at the beginning of 2013. “We tried to learn from the feedback our users were giving us to find out what works and what doesn’t work, and to adapt the app accordingly,” says Joseph.
One of Hoozin’s strong features is the option to communicate privately with one or more individuals within the group without having to exit the app. “Say I’m in the middle of a game with my group, and I want to ask one of my friends if he can pick me up in half an hour. With other apps of this type, I can either open another app to send a private message. Hoozin allows you to message one, some or all of the group’s members at any one time.”
However, Hoozin’s main attraction is creating a space for the group to play games online. “We’ve developed a few games – spin the bottle is one – and we’re planning to develop the platform so that groups can create their own games. Playing games through Hoozin avoids having to download the game from an outside source, register, invite my friends and then annoy them enough until they download the game, too.”
Hoozin also provides a number of animations that group members can send each other, such as a flying tomato or a high five, which are particularly popular with the app’s audience.
Says Joseph: “Hoozin is a fun place to go, where you have a group of friends and where you can communicate, share and play games.”
Visit: to download from Play Store (Android) or App Store (iPhone) Cost: Free Watch Hoozin video: watch?v=dDjnNjL6Bno Launch: December 2013. Beta version is available now.
Pressy: The almighty Android button Pressy happened almost by accident. While working on the development of another app, industrial engineer Nimrod Back was impatient at having to open his mobile device, run a search for the code, navigate to the app and then use the app – just to check that it was functioning properly. “And then I noticed that there were a number of Kickstarter projects that use the headphones jack on a mobile phone to transfer information. That’s how I got the idea for Pressy.”
Pressy is a small button that, when inserted into the headphones jack on a mobile phone, allows users to perform a number of common smartphone tasks using a customized sequence of presses. It’s designed to obviate the need to open a different app or utility on your phone each time you want, for example, to send a text, take a photo or find your way home with your GPS app.
Pressy can be configured so that one short press calls your mother, one long press calls your father; two short presses turn on the device’s flashlight while two long presses open your camera. There are 14 possible press combinations, allowing users to perform any of the actions that their smartphone supports.
Within a month of his epiphany, Back, together with partners Boaz Mendel and Gever Tal, had developed the software and produced a few functional models.
Says Back, “The main challenge was to make the button small and convenient.”
Funding for Pressy’s development came from Kickstarter, the crowdfunding resource. To the amazement of Back and his partners, they received pledges of almost $700,000, well beyond the mere $40,000 they had requested. Says Back, “We were successful because of three aspects: firstly, compared to other Kickstarter projects, ours is cheap; secondly, it’s a gadget for mobile devices, which is a hot item – we’d have been less successful if we’d been developing something for laptops; and third, Pressy has so many options, everyone can find a use for it.”
Headphones can be plugged into the phone’s jack without losing Pressy’s functionality by plugging Pressy into a specially designed key ring; Pressy software can then be controlled by the buttons on the headphones.
Pressy is available only for smartphones running Android. The software can be downloaded from Play Store or installed according to instructions included in the package.
Learn more: 556341540/pressy-the-almighty-android-button? ref=live Purchase: Cost: Basic Pressy – $17; Colored Pressy or Basic Pressy with keychain – $20; Colored Pressy and keychain – $25
The writer has worked for over 20 years in hi-tech. If you have a question about any of the products featured in this column or have developed a product you’d like to share, contact: