Evernote's Hello app for iPhone and Android devices helps you remember people you meet. But here's the rub: Each platform offers different features. In fact, the Android version, released today, leapfrogs the older iPhone app with a bunch of cool goodies. Why not give the iPhone the same love? Evernote CEO Phil Libin explains his multiplatform strategy.
The Address Book Is Broken
Evernote launched Hello for iPhone in December as a standalone app that syncs with Evernote proper. It seeks to solve a simple problem: We're not good at remembering people, and the alphabetical address book doesn't help.
"Everything we build at Evernote, we build for ourselves," Libin says. "We build things that we want to use." Libin wanted a better tool for remembering people he met by chance. "I'm just terrible at remembering people. It always gives me a lot of stress, and I worry about it."
He's surely not alone there. Except for those people who have the magical gift for names, this is a hard and embarrassing problem with the human brain. We've got technological aides, but Evernote doesn't think the old ones do the trick.
"The old metaphor for remembering people was an address book," Libin says. "That's flawed because it's alphabetical. Your brain doesn't naturally remember people in alphabetical order by name. You remember people based on kind of what they look like, plus the context: where you met them, what else happened, who else was there."
So Evernote Hello is designed around the actual encounter. You snap a photo, type in a bare minimum amount of info, and it creates a note in Evernote for that person. In Evernote proper, you can see all the related notes, which means that if you meet a bunch of people at the same time, they'll all be connected in your outboard brain. In Hello itself, it displays the images as a rich mosaic of all the people you've met, which helps you get familiar with them.
Android Versus iOS
The basic experience of Evernote Hello is the same, but today's new Android version brings in a bunch of new features that iPhone users don't yet have. It looks at your calendar, call and SMS history and suggests encounters from there. So you don't have to hand your phone to someone or even meet them in person. (If there's someone you meet with regularly, you can filter them out in the app.)
It also connects with LinkedIn, which can make saving encounters even faster in professional situations. You can just type in the person's email address, and Hello will pull their information from LinkedIn. It will even grab their photo, but Evernote recommends you take a pic anyway, so you can remember the face from the moment you actually met.
"It's a pretty different experience" from the iPhone version, Libin says. So why didn't these features come out in the iPhone version at the same time? It's deliberate. Evernote has two different teams building each version of the app, playing to the strengths of the two platforms, and learning from each other's performance.
"It's two independent teams that are really trying to talk to each other while learning from [each other's] best designs," Libin says. "It's a cooperative and friendly kind of competition. This way, [our teams] aren't doing lowest-common-denominator stuff. They're actually building full, native apps that learn from each other."
Due to the differences between iOS and Android, the two versions are bound to be slightly different. iOS doesn't currently offer a way for Hello to hook into the phone's call and message history like Android does. "In terms of the actual features, I think it will be like the platforms themselves," says Libin. "Android has more stuff. There's more hooks that make it more powerful for people. iPhone is more beautiful; it has better animation and a smoother experience."
By iterating one at a time on different platforms, Evernote gets to see which kinds of features work and which don't for two different user bases. Each team can adapt the other's findings. But it also lets them play to the strengths of each platform, rather than compromising. As a result, Evernote makes its whole app better, but it also serves its users in a smarter way.
After all, these differences in platform are not just for developers to think about. As Libin points out, "That's how people decide which phones to get, too."
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock