The Wine Blog

iPhone Wine Apps – Sifting Through the Clutter

October 8, 2009

Wine on the iPhone is now formally a hot category. When we launched Drync Wine 10 months ago, there were only a handful of wine journaling apps available. We were lucky to have been early in the market with an innovative app, and to have received the coveted “love” from Apple to jump start our journey. That was cool, we thought we were rock stars.

As with any “real” market, competitors arrive and the honeymoon ends. This has been particularly true on the iPhone because barriers to entry are low. There are now over 50 wine apps in the app store, many of which are worthy of the real estate on your phone and some that are not. Apple’s unpredictable app promotion practices have further muddied the field as of late.

But, given an equal playing field, we believe that quality wins. This week vindication arrived in the form of a “definitive” analyst report on all things iPhone + Wine. Produced by Paul Mabray at Vintank, a respected wine industry analyst firm, and published by Palatte Press in a two part series, the report reviews 50 wine apps and names the best of the bunch.

We’re proud to say that we were chosen as one of the top 5 wine apps on the iPhone. The unique thing about this report is that, unlike your average journalist who tries a few apps at dinner and writes about their experience (which is cool too, don’t get me wrong), Vintank has been intimate with the wine industry for years and performed an insightful, exhaustive deep dive on the subject of iPhone apps as they relate to wine consumers and industry.

Check out the report here:

A lot of work went into this report, not only because of the sheer volume of apps, but because it involved breaking down the key consumer use-cases related to wine and mobile, tying those to the myriad features presented, testing specific user scenarios for each app, and then looking at the overly complicated wine value chain to understand the longer term opportunity. No small affair. The net net is that from a user’s perspective, there are three key “user scenarios” that matter and are achievable today –  point-of-sale research, pairings, and journaling – and a handful of apps have been successful delivering to those use cases.

At Drync, we’ve focused to date on the “research and remember” value proposition. That is, enabling you to quickly find any wine and learn about it from probably the most exhaustive database in the industry, and then store it away with comments, ratings, and photos, in your virtual cellar for future reference. That speaks to the “POS research” and “Journaling” use-cases. We have more coming, but that’s the starting point and so far our focus seems to resonate with users.

Particularly impressive about the Vintank analysis is that they took the time to grok and test the key technologies behind the apps, and how they improve the user experience. In the case of Drync Wine, that included understanding the depth of our search technology (which we would argue is the industry’s best for wine related searches and enables the user to type just about anything to find their wine), and our data merging capabilities (used to identify duplicate records and merge them, therein reducing confusion for users).

Looking forward, we see three key “features” that were not considered in the Vintank report but that we believe will improve the user experience dramatically in the future:

  • Find a Wine Nearby – In theory, if you know the inventories of the local retailers, and you’ve got a GPS on the phone, you should be able to direct a consumer to a local store to find a particular bottle of wine. This in our view is a killer use-case, but difficult today to deliver on. The reality is that the wine industry as a whole is not particularly tech-savvy. In fact, 9 out of 10 retailers that I visit still use pencil and paper to manage their inventories. But, slowly, through the efforts of companies like Beverage Media Group, the industry is coming online. Once we hit critical mass, good things will happen for consumers. We promise!
  • Look up a Wine by Label or Barcode – people are talking about this today. The idea is that you snap a photo of the barcode or label on a bottle of wine, and the app automatically recognizes what wine you’re looking at and provides detailed information about it. No doubt this will be an amazing feature when delivered with high usability and accuracy. The reality today is this: there is no standards body maintaining barcodes for wine, wineries re-use barcodes, compared to bottles produced each year only a very few are given a barcode, and barcode scanning accuracy needs to improve significantly to address the mainstream user. Image search is equally interesting, and daunting. There are several companies with university borne technologies that attempt to mimic the human cerebral vision function. They compensate for angles, blurr, low light, curvature, and reflection. And it’s likely they can successfully be applied to “wine image search”. The problem here is that there is not definitive database of high quality wine label images. That’s the requirement – high quality images, and lots of them. There are a few companies working on this and likely it will happen at some point.
  • Purchasing Wine on your Phone – This also will happen. Online wine retailers need to support mobile web and mobile payments, and they need to get their inventories online. When that happens, apps like Drync will start to refer qualified customers to them.

It will all happen, and we’re doing our best to push the envelope!

Big thanks to Paul and the team at Vintank.

-brad rosen, ceo, drync.