Vodafone reveals global €1m competition for best mobile app

24 Sep 2009

Apps developers all over the world have a chance to compete for a €1m cash prize for developing the best mobile apps for Vodafone’s new 360 Store, which the company launched today and which will target a global marketplace of 1bn mobile users.

The competition will be open to all app developers ranging from novices and students up to entrepreneurs and companies. All would-be developers need to do is download the software development kit (SDK), build an app and enter the competition.

The competition comes as Vodafone today introduced the 360 Experience – a brand new set of web applications for both the mobile phone and PC – that aims to bring the social web and user’s media all into one place.

Speaking at the unveiling of the 360 Experience in Ireland, the chief executive of Vodafone Ireland, Charles Butterworth, explained that the new strategy was the culmination of many years of R&D strategy and reflects the way people today interact with the internet and mobile in their lives, whether it’s social networking, commerce, music or maps.

“This is a new departure for Vodafone, one that will put the company at the front of an exciting, emerging new world of services that will ultimately be designed and managed by customers at the front end.”

Butterworth said Vodafone is joining forces with Verizon and China Mobile to create a combined applications marketplace of 1bn mobile phone users globally – a tantalising opportunity for any budding application developer.

Split into two phases (the first phase now and second phase during 2010), the Vodafone Appstar competition has a combined prize fund of €1,000,000 which will be shared across eight of Vodafone’s largest European operating companies to encourage innovation in the mobile application and widget space. The participating eight countries are: UK, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

In the initial round of each phase of the competition, developers from anywhere in the world can submit widgets compatible with the new Vodafone 360 phones to any one of these eight markets via a competition website.

A panel of experts from the local Vodafone operating company will then select three winning entries based on three criteria: user experience, innovation and value to the customer.

The developers responsible for the Top 3 mobile widgets will be awarded prize money of €25,000, €15,000 and €10,000 for coming first, second and third respectively. The €25k winner will also have their entry submitted into a pan-European competition to decide the best of the best.

The eight competition winners’ widgets will then be put to the public vote within the participating eight countries and the winning developer will pocket a further prize of €75, 000, bringing their total prize money to €100,000. The runner-up will win a total of €50,000. The competition format will then be repeated next year to encourage more participation.

The core of the 360 Experience is Vodafone People, the personal address book that pulls in all contacts from your phone numbers, social networking sites like Facebook, as well as other web accounts like Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger.

Soon to be added to Vodafone People are Twitter, Hyves and studiVZ.

There are two waves of Vodafone 360: it will be the proprietary user interface on the forthcoming Vodafone 360 handsets, designed and developed by Vodafone using the LiMo operating system, and you can also download the services to your current mobile phone for free, as long as it’s compatible. There is a list of compatible phones here.

The two brand new Vodafone 360 handsets are the 360 H1 and the 360 M1, both with a 3-D contacts display and made by Samsung.

These phones will be launching first in eight European countries (Ireland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK) by Christmas 2009.

“Vodafone is committed to encouraging talent and innovation in this area and we hope that this prize fund will provide a fitting incentive to help bring this talent to the fore,” said Pieter Knook, director of Vodafone Internet Services. “Our job is to bring relevant and local choices in widgets that will make the mobile internet more personal for our customers.”

Widgets or apps can range from those capable of giving you the latest news on your phone’s home screen to location-aware travel tools.

Software developers will be asked to write applications based on the latest Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) Software Developer Kit found at www.jil.org

By John Kennedy

Photo: App developers can win money in Vodafone’s competition.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years