Smule Raises a $3.9M Round of Funding

smule_logoWe here at TheAppleBlog have posted a fair bit about Smule and their iPhone/iPod touch applications. Their apps are a bit off the wall (which seems like a winner in the App Store), but pack a lot of potential under the hood (as I indicated here). Well yesterday they proved it — in case you felt my wild guesstimates weren’t trustworthy enough — by raising $3.9M in funding.

Despite the static on the web lately about the pros and cons of the App Store, there are developers making it big, as Smule has clearly illustrated here. They built up a following of a million customers within months of launching their first application, and only continue to grow in popularity.
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Zephyr: Throw Your Creativity to the Wind

As seems to be the trend with Smule’s iPhone applications, their point may not be immediately clear. With many App Store offerings, “enjoyable time waster” could be the point, but that’s not always enough for some people. There were those who didn’t see the point of Twitter when it was in its infancy (myself included), yet now it is a legitimate vehicle for information dispersion, adopted by all sorts of businesses and personal users alike. But I digress. Suffice it to say, I would almost describe the concept of Zephyr as Twitter, only created with doodles rather than text.

While Ocarina left Smule fans who owned an iPod touch out in the cold (due to the requisite microphone for input), Zephyr comes along with its wispy snowflake drawings that are strictly touch-based and available for either device. The ‘ink’, you see, is actually made up of snowflakes of varying size and shape. As you draw on the screen of your device with your finger, a tune akin to wind chimes accompanies the resulting picture.
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Ocarina Turns the iPhone Into a Real Musical Instrument

There’s no shortage of applications from the App Store that allow iPhone users to let their inner musician come out and play. We’ve got guitars, pianos, and synthesizers galore to choose from. But an important detail to point out about these iPhone applications is that each one of us could potentially play exactly the same exact tunes because the audio produced is really only a result of preloaded sample sounds. Besides your own creativity in putting the sounds together, it’s all static. Ocarina from Smule (anyone noticed that I love what these folks are doing?) however, brings us change to this category of apps.
Ocarina makes your iPhone as true to a real instrument as it could get. It does this by allowing you to dictate the audio that’s being input, as you blow into the mic of your phone. So like a real wind-based instrument, the sound that’s produced is all up to you. The obvious difference being that Ocarina is analyzing and digitizing the audio output in real time as opposed to wind through holes in a typical instrument.
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Smule iPhone Apps: Just The Tip of The Iceberg

Had you noticed that Sonic Lighter (by Smule) was recently updated to be relevant to the pending presidential election? That’s right — a simple, silly, virtual lighter, now has the capability to give you first hand political polling results from around the world, for the two lead presidential candidates. Select your party preference, light up, and view the globe to see how everyone else is voting (or would vote if they were American).
The location data from Smule’s applications can be uploaded (with your permission of course) to their servers for real time processing. The results are geographical polling results or recently lit flames. This example just scratches the surface of what Smule is capable of, and I recommend keeping in mind that when ‘playing’ with one of Smule’s iPhone applications, a boatload of ingenious potential is lurking in the shadows.
To give you an idea of the horsepower behind the team at Smule, peep their about page. Go ahead, I’ll wait… These guys have more PhD’s (and PhD’s in progress) than any of the iPhone software development shops I’ve heard of (and probably more than many indie OS X development groups as well). Point being, this isn’t just another group of high school whiz kids programming in their parents’ basement to make a few extra bucks — these folks have years of schooling to back up their incredible body of work. To me, that alone is enough to pause and find out what’s going on at Smule that’s unique enough to have that kind of talent behind the wheel.
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Exclusive: Sonic Vox From Smule – Unleash the Voices in Your iPhone

Sonic Vox, by Smule

Sonic Vox, by Smule

New this very day, Smule releases their latest audio based iPhone application, Sonic Vox. With Sonic Vox, simply slide your finger across your iPhone and slip through a range of voices from Darth Vader to Gollum.

Perhaps it’s easiest to think of Sonic Vox as Voice Candy for your iPhone. So the most obvious question that came to mind for me was, “Can I talk to other people over my iPhone as Vader or Gollum?” Based on the current constraints of the iPhone SDK, this capability unfortunately is not allowed. But as I get into the finer points of Sonic Vox below, you’ll see that it is possible to talk in these modulated voices via iChat or Skype — using your iPhone!
The visual feedback to Sonic Vox is minimal, and reminds me of the pulsing strobe from the hood of KITT (if I must explain myself, that’s the car from Knight Rider). But the point isn’t the visual, as with all Smule apps to date (and in the future…), it’s all about the audio. When you speak into your phone with Sonic Vox running, the playback can be heard from the iPhone’s earpiece speaker. (Admittedly, this was only interesting to me for the initial testing of the application. However, if you’re my boys who are Star Wars junkies, the iPhone battery will die long before they get tired of listening to their own Darth Vader voices.) If you’re interested in greater fidelity, however — or to share with a friend — you can plug in your head phones and listen. Upping the ante a bit more, connect your iPhone to an external amplifier via the headphone jack to a line-in on say, your MacBook.
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Sonic Boom Makes a Firecracker Out of Your iPhone

Smule — of Sonic Lighter fame — launched their second app over the weekend, Sonic Boom. As you can probably imagine, it turns your iPhone into a virtual firecracker that can be lit, either with your finger (as a virtual match that you actually have to strike to ignite) or a second iPhone running Sonic Lighter.

Sonic Boom, like its sister app, is more gimmicky than anything else and is hardly feature intensive. You can change the size of the firecracker or the fuse, slow down the explosion, and wrap your stick with a picture from your camera roll. You can also rummage through the debris afterward, however the graphics are nothing to phone home about and are on par with what you would expect from a 99ยข app.
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