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Customizing a camera app completely for yourself, buying smart-phones at office with C coins and a lot more…
We caught up with Puffy Liu from Camera360 team (read our review of the Camera360 iOS app) to talk about their genesis, future direction and many other things. We are excited to bring you what turned out to be an extremely interesting conversation.
Tell us a little about your genesis and journey so far….
Camera360 was firstly released on May 1st, 2010, earlier than the company was established. It is not difficult to recall how it came about. The creators of Camera360 are 2 brothers in blood Mr. Xu Ying and Mr. Xu Hao. Before they went to have a shot at Camera360, Mr. Xu Hao had tried to found a start-up 3 times and Camera360 is his fourth attempt. The love of photography goes back to the founders’ family culture. Their family runs the most famous photography agency in Sichuan and they had been working on photography for more than 20 years before they finally started to develop Camera360. Mr. Xu Ying is quiet but addicted to coding and Mr. Xu Hao is active and crazy for creative new stuff. They got their first smart android phone in 2011. They played with it and found the camera is bad and they want to take more beautiful photos. At that time, they realized what they can do plus what they did before helps to build the base of digital image processing. They started to make some effects to enhance photos and found out it is a great idea to process photos to be more beautiful with effects. Then they developed a demo of Camera360 and released it in Google Play Store (Named Google Market at that time). Shortly after its release, Camera360 became the top no.1 camera app in multimedia category in Google Play Store. Users grew quickly and their feedbacks flew to the development team. The development team updated Camera360 even every day with bug fixing and more new stuff. That is why Camera360 was available on Android platform before iOS platform. At that time, there are 3 people and a small office but a big dream in that house. After its release, the team keeps on learning and updating to make it better. Now we have a bigger office and a huge dream. We want to make people’s mobile photography life better and better.
So how big is the office now? What is the structure of the team and what are your focus areas?
We have a team of more than 100 staff, with the developing team for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Big data. Our aim is to be a global app. But in the next step, we’ll focus on south-east Asia, Japan and USA.
How do you monetize the app?
Now we are exploring our sustained business models and we will do some water test on business model in China first and then we will try to explore and start small in Southeast and other regions. As of now our app is free.
There are many Camera Apps in the App Store – how do you differentiate Camera 360?
Camera360 aims at providing users comprehensive one-stop solution of mobile photography from photo taking, edit, store, share and more. It is an all in one camera app and many other camera apps just have one feature. Camera360 provides over 100 effects for users to enhance photo and it provides 10 cameras for users to take photo and video. For all these effects and cameras, they work as a plug-in for Camera360 and that means users can go to in-app Effect Store and Camera Store to manage their own effects and cameras by installing what they like and uninstalling what they dislike. In this way users of Camera360 can customize a camera app totally as they wish. Besides, Camera360 provides many post edit features for photo like one-tap enhance for portrait photo, crop, rotate, lens blur, collage, effect replace, and more. To make users mobile photography life easier, Camera360 introduces its cloud services which is a safe and private cloud platform for photo store, manage, edit, share and more. More, photos taken by Camera360 can be shared to the world via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and more other main social sites.
So do you receive a lot of feedback regarding your app in social sites? What are the most popular features?
The Effects of Camera360 is the most popular and favored features.
Any specific effect that comes to mind? Have you ever received any negative reviews?
For effects, Magic Skin could be the most popular one.
Did any negative review ever get viral in social media sites?
For negative reviews, users want more effects, more creative cameras, more edit features, more stable, much faster and others. We’re working on these points.
Any specific posts come to mind which inspired a change in Camera360?
About posts, we’ve received many suggestions from our social sites and in-app feedback. We collect them then deliver to our product manager.
How often do you bring out new versions? What new features can we expect in the next version?
Maybe every month for a major version and as quick as we can if we need to release a bug fixed version to solve some serious bug.
You have quite a large social media following both in Facebook (1 million+) and Twitter (45 K+). Do you use any other methods for Social Media Marketing? As in any other methods to market new updates in your app?
For marketing we are mainly focused on self-marketing now. For Android, Google Play Store is our main distributing channel and App Store for iOS platform. There are also many app stores in China and we also consider them as one main distributing channel for Camera360. Besides, we are running official account on main social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Sina Weibo (mainly for Chinese users) at home and abroad. More we are doing PR releases to keep others informed if there is any massive progress of Camera360.
Plus we have welcome pages, banners, and other elements in Camera360 for feature promotion. Camera360 is frequently featured on Google Play Store or App Store and that is kind of marketing for us. We barely use paid promotion at the early stage since we would rather to spend more money on innovative tech research, tech development of Camera360 but we are searching for liable paid promotion now. We are working on paid promotion now.
For a camera app like you is it possible to follow the following business model – users can have your app for free if they submit certain number of photos every year (need to meet quality standards), else they have to pay. Then you use the submitted photos as stock photos?
No and never. We protect users’ privacy tightly. We will do whatever we can to protect users’ privacy. Actually, we cannot see photos of users even they upload them to Camera360 Cloud. We have no access to any of users’ photo actually. On one can see users’ photo unless the user share this photo on social sites or to a certain friend. There are many business models we want to try but protecting our users is our first priority. We appreciate our users’ support a lot and we will do whatever we can to protect their privacy and provide them better mobile photography service.
Do you have a photoblog where users can post pics taken through Camera 360? What do you think of the concept?
We do not have a photoblog for users to post their photos but photo can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and more main social sites via Camera360. It is a great concept and we will do it when possible.
Are there any tutorials on best usages of your apps? Any tips you will like to share?
Camera360 updates every month and every new version is different. It is hard for us to have a general tutorial of Camera360 for all versions but we do have many tutorials for our users on our main socials sites.
More, there are tutorial pages of new features in new version when users open Camera360 for first time after update. We are working on a help center now and there will be more tutorials there when it is finally released.
Any other interesting points you will like to share with our readers?
Camera360 team is an open and creative family. We have many team activities for team building. We created our own coin named C coin with which we can buy meals, snacks, candies, fruits, attend gym classes and even buy smart phone right in our office. Every month we will have some theme activities to try to make everyone happy. We like creative ideas and every idea from anyone in the team is respected and we will try our best to make it when we can. There are more I want to share but actually I hope Camera360 can make our users’ life better and better.
That was a great conversation which I am sure our readers will appreciate a lot. Thanks a lot!
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Souptik is a Futures Trader in Singapore who writes about financial apps in our website. He actually believes born in another time and another place he could have been the inspiration behind ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and we don’t even beg to differ. When he is not nurturing his amazing awesomeness, he acts as the operational dynamo behind our website, raising a storm in mailboxes and mind-spaces. In previous avatars, he has been an internet entrepreneur, MBA student at IIFT and Computer Engineer from BITS.