Color became infamous last year after it raised $41 million from Sequoia and other venture firms, only to release a really confusing smartphone app.
The company pivoted last fall, releasing a new app that lets users shoot and real-time video clips (up to 30 seconds) on their mobile phones and share them in real time via Facebook.
But the app was limited by wireless bandwidth and constraints — the resolution was so-so, and it couldn't send audio — and it didn't take off. Recent stats suggest it only has 30,000 daily users.
Color founder Bill Nguyen has high hopes that the Verizon deal will change the game.
The new version of Color for Verizon customers features audio as well as video, the resolution is much higher, and users will be able to take any section of the video and save it as a high-resolution photo.
(Color is updating its app for iOS and Android for ALL customers, with new user interface tweaks, but only Verizon customers will get audio and higher-resolution.)
Verizon is giving Color direct access to the hardware on upcoming Verizon phones, which will let Color write its video encoder directly to the phone, not to a platform layer (like Android). That's necessary for encoding high-resolution video on the fly.
Verizon's 4G LTE network also has the bandwidth and stability necessary for sending all this high-res video around, while Color says that other wireless networks do not.
Most important for Color, Verizon is the leading U.S. wireless carrier, and ships more than 30 million phones per year. Some of those phones — with the major exception of the iPhone — will begin to include Color in coming weeks.
Verizon also benefits by giving customers another reason to upgrade to the faster network, which it's spent billions building out. Verizon has converted only 9% of its user base to 4G after a year on the market, as PC Magazine reports. (Mainly because the current iPhone doesn't support 4G, and that's Verizon's top-selling phone.)
This is all still in the promise stage at this point — the app demoed well when Nguyen showed it to us, but Color wouldn't say exactly how many phones, or which phones from which manufacturers, will include it. (Blame Verizon, which doesn't reveal much about upcoming phones before they're available.) Plus, we'll have to see if it actually scales when a bunch of Verizon users start trying to share video streams with each other.
But regardless, count on Verizon and Nguyen to continue pressing on.
And they certainly have the money to keep at it for a long time. We asked about the financial details of the deal, and Nguyen didn't give details, but he said that Verizon is NOT taking a stake in Color.
"We're fully funded. We've been fully funded," he said.
So what about the iPhone? Will Color have similarly deep integration there someday?
Color had no official comment, but recall that Nguyen sold his last company, Lala, to Apple. So it's safe to assume he has Tim Cook's phone number.
Here are a few screenshots of the new app. This is the launch screen:
Here's how you set up to take and share a video:
Here's what a video looks like:
And here's a screen showing all live videos being broadcast by your friends:
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