iTête à iTête – Interview with Elena Dyatlova of SHAPE Services

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The “Jesus” phone is not only about gaming. It has the highest ratio of people using it both for business and personal purposes. And one of the most renowned companies making invaluable business apps is SHAPE Services. The creators of the best All-in-one IM on the AppStore – IM+, as well as the recent hit and the #1 business app – Business Card Reader. And today to talk to us about all things iPhone is Elena Dyatlova – the PR Manager for SHAPE Services.

Shape Services have also discounted several of their high-profile apps for the holidays. You can read about it in our Santa Claus is coming to TouchMyApps article.

As usual – my questions and comments are in the humble colour, bold.

1. Elena, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Shape Services?

I am the PR Manager at SHAPE Services as you already know.

Our company develops mobile applications for various platforms. Many users are aware of IM+ All -in -One Messenger which is and has been a top-selling app for years. Also, our new Business Card Reader is very popular, it is number one in Business category in the App Store.

Our company has about 60 people. SHAPE Services is headquartered in Germany with offices in US, Europe and Asia.

2. Shape started developing apps for the mobile market when the market was still emerging. What made you decide to bet on this market?

In 2002 we pioneered mobile instant messaging with IM+ for Symbian OS, which became a best selling app for years, and we just needed to support more platforms to keep the success.

Now we have a strong portfolio of apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android.

3. Your most well-known app is IM+ – one of the leading IM clients for the iPhone. Are you happy with how it’s doing on the market?

Yes, IM+ is selling pretty well. But these days the most selling app is Business Card Reader!

4. You have the only IM with integrated Twitter, as well as some Skype and other social network functionality. Do you see much demand for that? What additional media support are you planning on adding?

Well, our users really love Twitter, Skype and other functionality integrated in IM+. Skype is surely of high demand, every 5th user of IM+ uses it. Though the most popular service of our users is MSN, then go AIM and Yahoo.

Of course we always do our best to add more features, keep an eye on our updates!

Could you be a bit more specific? I know I miss LinkedIn most of all.

We plan to support all social networks in future, though LinkedIn support is not in our nearest plans.

And what’s at the top of the queue?

Well, we are going to extend Facebook support (newsfeeds, inbox, all friends in buddy list).

5. In the all-in-one version of IM+ you only support Skype Chat and have a separate app for Skype Voice. Why is that? Won’t the client rather choose the native Skype app if they’re going to go for it anyway?

IM+ for Skype is a separate app which was created before Skype released its native app. It is still a good choice for users who want to stay in Skype ecosystem outside of Wi-Fi areas.  And yes, it’s still popular.

Why don’t you add full Skype functionality to the main version of IM+? Maybe as an in-app purchase at least?

Maybe we’ll do it in the future, when we’ll be sure our Skype infrastructure matches the scale of our IM+ userbase.

6. You are the only company on the market to add Voice Recognition to an IM. Since it’s available for a monthly in-App subscription, could you say if it is selling well?

At this time SR is not very popular among our users, though hopefully the situation will change with improvement of recognition quality.

Btw the recent update of IM+ lite also has SR as in-app purchase.

7. What else do you have in store for us in future updates of IM+?

Group chat, Themes, More Twitter features, Faster loading…

And more… :)

More is good :) Maybe you could say what “more”? :) Btw, great job on the last update – the loading time on my phone has decreased by a factor of 3.

Not really ready to say it yet. Let’s keep some secrets ;) We’re open to suggestions though!

8. What other products would you call flagship iPhone apps?

Business Card Reader, IM+ Lite, RDM+, Mobiscope, IM+ for Skype and GPSed.

9. What are the main challenges in bringing business applications to the iPhone?

The main challenge is to create a successful business idea for the future app.

10. What can you say about Apple’s approval process? Did you have any difficulties?

There’s so much to be improved in the approval process. However, small improvements are already noticeable, for example last time Apple sent us a notification for further versions instead of immediate rejection for usage of non-public APIs.

11. In any project there are lots of funny stories. Could share one or two of them from your projects?

We have a lot of funny stories:) But we need some time to find them! Here is one funny support request “Hi I try to connect to Facebook and a message pops out saying that can’t connect to Facebook because none of my friends are online, that is a lie because I have 3000 friend on Facebook”

12. Did anything change for you with the introduction of the 3GS and iPod Touch 3G?

Sure! Business Card Reader became possible only on 3GS because it has an autofocus camera. Besides, we added Send Video in IM+ and Compass functionality in GPSed.

13. How would you compare the iPhone to the other devices on the market?

The first three platforms for us are: iPhone, iPhone, BlackBerry. iPhone is of course much ahead; more than 80% of our sales/downloads come from App Store.

14. What can you say about the future of the iPhone as a platform for business applications?

It is a good platform for business apps. But mobile the market is so unpredictable, we will see what happens later :) As for us, we see a brilliant future for iPhone as platform for business apps

15. What can you say about your future plans and upcoming releases? Maybe a scoop on planned new applications?

Also, let’s keep some secrets ;) As I have already mentioned above, we’re open to suggestions. We have some new releases in plans for early 2010. Can’t disclose yet. I will let you know when we submit it to Apple review :)

16. What do you think about Jailbreak?

I don’t think too many people use jailbroken phones since we have very small percent of jailbroken users.

What is your estimate?

About 9%.

17. What’s your take on piracy on the iDevice platform. Lately there has been a lot of hype about that.

Yes, we try to fight piracy without harming normal users.

Do you think it is a serious issue on the platform or is it blown out of proportion?

According to official reports it’s not a serious issue on the platform. It’s not a big issue for us as well.

18. Elena, thank you for your time. Could you say some final words for the TMA readers?

SHAPE Services wishes all TMA readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Stay tuned to more news with TMA! Thanks to Oleg (That’s me) for the interest in our software :)

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