Polar Hits 1 Million Votes, Illustrates How To Develop A Truly Successful Mobile-First App

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We told you about the super-simple and super-sticky voting app Polar for iOS a few weeks ago, and since then, the app has taken off quite nicely. When you use it, you’ll instantly see how people are exploring the platform to learn what they think about the things that they’re interested in. Sure, it’s a “polling” app, but calling it just that is selling it short. It’s quite addictive in a “Hot Or Not” way, to boot.

The best part is that the app collects all types of fun data to start building out a friend and interest graph for you that can match you up with like-minded people. Yes, there are already companies doing that, but not in such a speedy way.

We spoke with its co-founder Luke Wroblewski about the 30 percent faster increase to 1 million votes than the half-million milestone it had hit before. He told us that Polar has had an average of 60 votes per user per day in the past seven days. That’s engagement. On this impressive feat, Wroblewski told us:

Interesting because I talked to an exec who used to run a popular desktop web contest/voting site and they were getting 20. So we’re 3x. I think it’s because of mobile and optimizing product for mobile.

Since Wroblewski is a self-professed data addict, he tells us that of the people who downloaded the app, 84 percent of them voted on a poll. Basically, this means that the onboarding for Polar is a snap, and users are getting it right away. He says that this shows the power of a “mobile first” strategy, which some say might not be so valid.

To further support this, Wroblewski shares that 99.3 percent of the votes are coming from its iOS app, even though its landing pages on the web are pretty awesome and lightweight. That means that people are jumping right to downloading the app, rather than voting from the web. Sure, Polar could be an edge case, but it’s fascinating, regardless:

It illustrates what engagement on iOS is like. As many have pointed out – it’s huge. Again likely because people have their phones always with them, always on, and use them in little bits throughout the day. We designed Polar for this environment.

It’s a breath of fresh air to speak to an entrepreneur that isn’t so secretive about the numbers within his app. In fact, Wroblewski has shared quite a few insights with us, and not to show off, either. He truly enjoys using his own product and seeing what his users like and do.

With 50 percent of its polls having over 80 votes each, the information below is quite interesting.

Based on similar polls, Wroblewski has shared some tech-related trends based on Polar voters. Regarding the huge Google Maps for iOS launch last week:

  • 70% trust Google Maps over iOS
  • 26% personally had a problem using iOS maps
  • 15% did not upgrade to iOS6 because of maps
  • 77% would not have paid for Google Maps on iOS
  • 80% don’t think Steve Jobs would have released Apple Maps

When it comes to what people do in the morning when they wake up:

  • 75% grab their phone before their partner in the morning
  • 71% get on mobile device before they get on toilet in the morning
  • 88% check Email before Twitter in the morning
  • 70% check eMail before Facebook in the morning
  • 89% think Han Solo (not Greedo) shot first

With this type of traction, especially on a mobile-first product, I was intrigued to find out how the feedback from the community, other developers and potential investors are feeling about what Polar is doing.

photo-11TechCrunch: Are you surprised by the engagement and quick start of the app?

Luke Wroblewski: Everyone knows mobile is a big deal and people use their phones all the time and everywhere. But we explicitly designed for this new reality — by focusing on “everyday q&a.” So we had some confidence that our approach to the problem would work well in this environment. Despite that, we’ve been thrilled with how much people have embraced the format. Honestly, I did not expect the interactions to be this “addicting.”

TechCrunch: What feedback have you heard?

Luke Wroblewski: Polar is for collecting and sharing opinions. So it’s been awesome to see people using the product to give and collect feedback about the app itself. We get a few polls each day about Polar — suggesting new features, promoting different ways to use the service, asking questions, etc. We actually made an internal tool for tracking these kinds of questions so we can respond to them. For example:
http://polarb.com/13900-is-there-a-way-to-get-polar-notifications
http://polarb.com/11061-what-is-polar
http://polarb.com/10990-when-do-you-polar-the-most
http://polarb.com/11117-polar-make-the-option-to-have-multiple-choices-as-responses

TechCrunch: Have you been approached about funding, or are you looking for any?

Luke Wroblewski: We’ve gotten inbound interest, but we’re still focused on the next set of iterations for the product. Once we’ve gotten through those and seen the impact, we’ll look up and assess the need for funding. So far everything we’ve done has been boot-strapped.

TechCrunch: What are some plans heading into 2013 for Polar?

Luke Wroblewski: We’ve got two big areas of focus right now: increasing relevance and the Web opportunity. As more and more people have come to the app, they’ve brought their own areas of interest with them. We’re in the midst of tuning things to connect people with questions and other users that are the best fit for for them. As I mentioned in the stat above, 99.3 percent of all votes are coming from the iOS app. That leaves a lot of opportunity open on the Web. We’ve got two projects in the works to address that. Stay tuned.

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What you’re seeing with Polar is that new mobile apps are doing well, if designed the right way and as long as it taps into a native function of what we do on a daily basis. The key for Polar is that it continues to listen to its community, keep the app fast, and not bloat it with too many features.

A company like Facebook or Google would love to get its hands on the type of data that Polar is collecting, if only to learn things about what people like, or help introduce brands to new users in a way that’s not completely off the wall. You know, based on what they really like.

[Photo credit: Flickr]