In August, the founders of TechCrunch Disrupt finalist Hmmm announced their plans to shift their attention (dare you to say pivot!) to a new app discovery service called Hubbl. Today, Hubbl is available for download on both the iOS and Android app stores. Although the new app is participating in a crowded space, Hubbl has a unique and engaging design, and makes clever use of the now-familiar hashtag for organizing and sharing your opinion around mobile apps.
Hubbl, as you might have guessed, is named for the famous telescope, and it uses the idea of “star-gazing” to inspire its theme and design. A feature in the app called “SkyView,” for example, lets you gaze at the universe of mobile apps with different lenses. App icons are laid out across the night sky, and you can move a slider to showcase apps which are now popular in the news, apps popular among your friends and others in the Hubbl community, and apps seeing activity among your friends specifically.
While the SkyView section allows for a more serendipitous form of app discovery, the key feature in this app is its use of hashtags. You can search for apps based on how users have hashtagged (labelled) them and you can use a “Suggest” option to recommend apps to others by tagging the app with what you use it for the most. Unlike in the iOS App Store, where developers create the keywords which enable their app to be discovered through search, Hubbl turns over the keyword creation process to its community of users, via crowdsourcing techniques.
This could end up being a better tool for discovery than the official App Store because sometimes, developers fail to understand how users perceive their application. So they might categorize their app for “note-taking” and “reminders,” perhaps, while a good number of users have decided it makes for an excellent “grocery list” application. With Hubbl’s hashtags, a search on its platform could retrieve the app based on hashtags related to the latter term, while the same search on the iOS App Store, for example, may have never retrieved the application at all. (That’s also why this news from earlier this morning related to Apple’s possible termination of app discovery apps is concerning. These have the potential to do offer better ways to find new apps than the official App Store).
During Hubbl’s private beta, the app saw some notable traction among testers: 40,000 apps were discovered via Hubbl, 20,000 apps were hashtagged, and 55,000 social interactions took place, which includes adding apps to favorites, among other things. The average session time was at a remarkably high 9.5 minutes as well.
In the version of Hubbl launching today, there’s also a gaming layer that features a leader board with “Appstronaut” (get it?) positionings. Further down the road, Hubbl will begin to award Top Discoverer and Top Contributors with real-world rewards, through in-app contests and other activities meant to encourage continual participation. Today’s launch also includes a developer program, which will allow app publishers to come in and claim their apps in order to gain access to a custom dashboard where they can learn more about user engagement around their app on Hubbl’s platform.
Be Warned: Still Beta, Still Buggy
Hubbl’s design has changed somewhat since its beta, but it seems a bit less cluttered now and therefore, easier to use. As a beta tester myself, the app was fun, and I enjoyed the concept of app discovery via hashtag. I’ve been looking forward to the public launch, but was really disappointed this morning to find that Hubbl is now plagued by a bug on iOS which leads the app to crash quite a bit. Hubbl’s founders, Archana Patchirajan and Kusha Choksi, assure me there’s an update submitted to Apple to address this, and it should be fixed ASAP, but you should definitely be aware of this in the meantime. Honestly, you may even want to hold off on launching this thing until they get it stable.
To be fair to readers, I would normally refrain from covering a buggy app, but because the app is live now, because it’s cross-platform (Android and iOS), because the bug is limited to iOS 6, and because the founders previously had what it took to make it to the Disrupt stage in the past, I’ve decided to go ahead and put this news out there, and let you decide whether or not it’s worth bookmarking Hubbl for later use.
I think there’s potential with Hubbl to be an interesting tool in the emerging and busy app discovery market (see also AppFlow, Kinetik, Crosswalk, Discovr Apps, AppsFire, Xyologic, etc.), but all will hinge on whether or not Hubbl’s crew can work out the kinks and grow its user base significantly after doing so. And that’s still a big unknown.