Hottest new apps out of SXSW 2012

The Austin event has become a springboard to start-up success, particularly for mobile apps. Here are some app-related SXSW 2012 stories we're particularly excited about.

Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley playing four square outside the Austin Convention Center during SXSW 2009.
(Credit: Caroline McCarthy/CNET)

Think of SXSW, or "South-by" as it is affectionately known by its attendees, as a sort of amalgamation of film, music and interactive media conferences, but topped with copious amounts of booze and barbecue sauce, and neatly packaged in a charmingly chic week-long festival. It is a geek-gathering like no other.

But more than just the expected parties, panels and conference sessions, SXSW for the past few years has also been seen as a potential springboard to start-up success, particularly for mobile apps. Considering the well-documented launch of Twitter at SXSW 2007, and the less epic, but still successful follow-ups by Gowalla and Foursquare in 2009, it's no wonder why. Thus, we are expecting app developers to come strong this year, all converging on SXSWi (the interactive arm of the festival) on a mission.

This, of course, makes for a potentially eventful week for us of the CNET digerati. So, as we make our way through the festivities, allow us to share with you some app-related SXSW stories that we are particularly excited about.

(Credit: Math Camp, Inc)


Robert Scoble has written effusively about it, venture capitalists are psyched, and a lot of movers and shakers in the industry are already crowning this location-aware people-discovery app the next big thing in mobile. What Highlight does is notify users to the nearby presence of others with similar connections and interests. This makes it a whole lot easier to forge a meaningful connection ... with a stranger. If you're not creeped out by the idea, then it sure is a clever way to dial up the serendipity in your outings, or in CEO Paul Davison's words "give you a sixth sense about the world around you". As you can imagine, such a sense will be incredibly useful in Austin, Texas over the next week or so. And Highlight's founders are betting on it.


This one is similar to Highlight in function, but seems to be getting slightly less buzz (and I do mean, slightly). Perhaps it's the arguably more clunky interface. Who knows? In any case, we will soon see which of these people-discovery apps (if any) emerges as the darling of SXSW 2012.

Angry Birds Space

While "people discovery" apps are certainly poised to be all the rage at this year's festival, we're still saving some excitement for our old friends from Rovio. At this point, we don't know much about Angry Birds Space, but I think we can safely assume that it will involve some tricky gravity manipulations and extra-terrestrials. If these assumptions are correct, then I am all for it.

At this year's SXSW, Samsung is planning to give the world its first live demos of the anticipated game on the over-size screen of the Galaxy Note. It's a clever bit of cross-promoting that Rovio hopes will reinvigorate dormant Angry Birds enthusiasts, and Samsung hopes will help sell its enormous stylus-toting phone-tablet thingies. We'll see how it all shakes out.


While it's not an app you can download (yet), at this year's SXSW CardSpring is offering a new API that developers can use to create coupons and loyalty discounts (in an app or on a website) that are tied to your credit card. Check out the linked CardSpring site for more info.

The way it works is, you might sign up for a particular discount website or in a smartphone app. By entering your credit card number at this CardSpring-enabled site, you could then go to the advertised store that offered the product and when it was time to purchase the item, you would swipe your card, and the discount would automatically be deducted from the price. This would allow website and app developers to offer coupons and loyalty discounts that are tied to the credit card rather than having users physically bring a coupon with them or present a bar code on their phone.

We can envision a ton of uses for this technology, like discount apps on your phone where you could sign up before a big purchase, then get the discount as soon as you swipe your credit card. We'll be excited to see what developers can do with this API and what other features they'll be able to come up with.

(Credit: NewBlue)

Vibop 2.0

Made specifically for iPhone and iPod Touch, the new Vibop app essentially lets you create video postcards with your mobile device. To give you an idea, the app offers love note, Super 8, and comic book themes among others to wrap around your footage. In addition, at this year's SXSW, Vibop's developers are pushing its brand-new Twitter theme, which styles your video with elements from your Twitter profile. Sounds interesting, sure, but useful? Not so much.

Anyway, we think an app that can quickly stylise your videos before you share them is a fantastic idea. While we won't yet peg Vibop as the Instagram for video, we are interested to see how users — particularly those at SXSW — feel about it. In any case, we'll be keeping an eye out for any other standouts in this category.


Arguably hovering just below Glancee in terms of buzz at SXSW, Sonar has revamped its people-discovery app with a new interface. Now the front page of Sonar has a People tab that lists all friends and relevant people in your vicinity. This is a welcome improvement from the previous iteration of the app, which apparently hid the people recommendations beneath the Places tab.

Also, just in time for SXSW, Sonar has announced that its previously iPhone-only app has finally made its way onto Android devices — sort of. Sonar for Android is in invite-only beta.


UK-based start-up Uberlife officially launched its iPhone app at SXSW in hopes of generating buzz for its offline hangouts functionality. The Uberlife app lets you create and join hangouts wherever you go, and broadcast them to your networks. While the app's design and functionality do appear to be pretty solid, we'll have to wait and see if this lower-profile iPhone-only app gets lost in the South-by shuffle.


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