The Israeli App That Said No to iPhone

Everything.Me extracted itself from the warm bear hug of Apple because the operating system on iPhones was just too rigid.

Apps are booted out of the iPhone store all the time. But when did you last hear of a firm that opted to withdraw its application from Apple? The mobile search engine company Everything.Me is one.

 “We realized that our vision of a dynamic smart phone could only be realized with an open operating system. iOS, which is a closed system, is incompatible with our product and vision," stated the company on its blog, in announcing that it is parting ways with Apple. iPhone users who have already downloaded and used the app will soon find that it is no longer working. Everything.Me has been removed from Apple’s applications store.

Not many companies are willing to extract themselves from the warm bear hug of Apple, but Everything.Me may have had no choice. The company’s new product is a launcher for smartphones that allows your device to change its character by presenting new applications that adapt to what you are searching for at any moment – whether you are looking for a place to eat or contemplating which movie to go to. This service worked in only a limited fashion with iOS, the operating system used in iPhones and iPads. In a company built on a Steve Jobs model of obsessive control, the ability of app developers to control smartphone operation is limited. With androids, the operating system is much more open, enabling companies such as Everything.Me to substantially alter the way our smartphones operate.

Just compare the results. Since the company released its iPhone application a few months ago, it has acquired tens of thousands of users. But in the five weeks since the android-compatible app came out, a quarter of a million users have signed on.  Consumers with smartphones and tablets using the new Firefox OS operating system – on which Everything.Me is based – will also be able to download the app soon.

“I don’t blame Apple users," says Ami Ben-David, a partner responsible for the product and for company strategy. “There is a big difference in the quality of our product in Androids and in iOS systems. With iPhones we only used part of our capacity, subject to what the system enabled us to do. The response of Android users surprised us. We launched a beta (non-final) version, expecting a few hundred users, but within five weeks we have 250,000.  

“The average smartphone user downloads 100 apps and ends up using only 10. What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong is that our phone cannot present us with the apps we need at the right moment," explains Ben-David.  "We want the device to bring up the right apps even if you haven’t downloaded them. These will operate from the Web, with the device magically bringing to you what you need. It works with androids. Users tell us we have re-invented their phones. I feel that at Apple the novelty of our product was blocked.”

Does losing iPhone hurt you?

 “Not really," says Ben-David. “iOS is a wonderful system, but not for everyone. The Android market is huge, infinite as far as we are concerned. We’ve got our hands full."

Everything.Me is a launcher, replacing the usual android interface, in which applications and shortcuts are immobile on the smartphone screen, arranged in the manner you’ve set. This launcher changes its appearance according to the user’s search at any given moment. For example, a search for this writer’s favorite actress, Tilda Swinton, will fill the screen with apps that are relevant to movie and trivia buffs, such as the app for finding movies Flixter, as well as apps for YouTube, Flickr, Amazon and IMDB. The background image will also change, showing Swinton in all her 1.79m glory. Pressing any one of these apps will reveal that Swinton’s name has already been fed into it. Another example: Searching for "polenta" will bring up apps for recipes, including a calorie-counting one, while searching for NBA will bring apps such as the official league one and the TV sports channel ESPN.

The applications do not need to be downloaded. Most work directly from the Web, or, as it’s now called by older children, “from the cloud”. A disadvantage of Everything.Me is that it was adapted for American users and not for Israelis. This is evident when searching, for example, for "pizza." Your screen will immediately fill up with services in the United States such as Yelp, a restaurant ranking service, as well as links to the U.S. websites of Pizza Hut and Domino's. Ben-David says that they are developing an Israeli version that will also work in Hebrew.

Everything.Me is particularly successful given the failure of other similar ventures with more famous parents such as the Facebook Home application,  which was launched in April and attempts to replace your interface with one that provides incessant updates from social networks. Facebook Home has been heaped with scorn since its launch. Critics claim that it is annoying and disruptive not only of life outside these networks (which we’re used to) but that it also disrupts smartphone services, which is totally unacceptable.

Everything.Me, in contrast, navigates elegantly between its unique interface, taking into account that users already have their preferred icons on their screens. It’s easy with this product to import existing applications and shortcuts, and it is adept at guessing what you’ll need. It’s worth trying it, unless, of course, you have an iPhone.

Bloomberg