"Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the phone?"

Forever the innovator, Steve Jobs once scoffed that market research was for companies that couldn’t predict what their audience would need in the future. In the spirit of reinventing the wheel, we’ve found five apps that went above and beyond what people thought would work, finding success in the process.

A Yo! speaks 1,000 words

For all the talk about how Messaging Apps are the future, its biggest innovator centred on one two letter word: Yo! Released as an April Fools’ joke in 2014, Yo has one simple function: Send the phrase ‘Yo’ to your contacts around the world.

Why it’s a game changer: Yo’s success boils down to surprising audience behaviour: Yo can mean anything from ‘where are you?’ to ‘let’s grab a coffee’. Yo is one of the first apps to take up emojis as a communication tool, and with around $10m in funding behind it, is proving one of the most lucrative April Fools’ gags.

What we learnt: The medium is the message: Your audience will adapt the purpose of your platform whether you like it or not.

See Also: Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, Skype

Waze: crowd-sourced navigation

Sure, mobile maps are nothing new, but the initial reliance on a ‘higher power’ abandoned the sage wisdom of locals, lengthening trips in the process. Waze allows users to input local knowledge and by-the-minute traffic updates for drivers, walkers, and riders in the area so you can know where you’re going — fast.

Why it’s a game changer: Google Maps can’t tell you when there’s wet cement on the bike path to work, or that the right lane on the ANZAC Bridge is closed.

What we learnt: People trust people quicker than they do an industrially designed navigation app.

Robinhood

RobinHood is a people-centered digital brokerage that takes the commission out of stock trading, with real-time updates and execution.

Why it’s a game changer: RobinHood opens up the world of stock trading to the public via free access to financial markets, inspiring a new generation of investors. Founded by two Stanford roommates and backed by over $65m USD in funding (their latest round was worth $50m USD), this previously US-only service is going to change stock markets forever.

What we’ve learnt: In the digital age we have the power to simplify, and therefore, democratise, what we understand to be complex tasks.

See also: This is a new service due to launch in Australia soon, but RatesetterSquare and PocketBook are nailing the local fintech scene.

Google Now/Assistant

“Would you like me to organise that for you?”

They’re the words you’re likely to hear a lot more of with Google Assistant (a successor to Google Now), a two-way personal assistant that knows your environment better than you do.

Why it’s a game changer: Your phone becomes your pocket personal assistant. More than organising your day, soon your mobile will connect and streamline your world so work, transport, and home life interconnect seamlessly. Between 5G data, the potential of IoT, and assistance services like this one, the future is looking pretty comfortable.

What we’ve learnt: Indexing human behaviour can have a huge benefit for a single person and the world around them.

 See also: The film Her.

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Tanya Phull

Head of Social Media

Tanya Phull,
Head of Social Media

As head of social media at Vodafone, Tanya is an expert in customer engagement and emerging platforms. As an American-born expat and wanderluster, Tanya is always equipped with the best tech tips for travellers.

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