The app helping businesses stake their claim


With
the impact of COVID-19 likely to hurt small businesses and consumers for some
time, an app called Claim is helping to get customers back into our restaurants
and cafes – rather than away from them like the many online delivery apps.

The app is designed
to ensure consumers keep doing what they love on a budget – such as saving on
the best deals for Pilates classes, beauty treatments or date nights out – in
tough pandemic times.

Designed by Brisbane’s Tim Langford, the app uses geo-location and customer preferences to connect businesses with potential customers nearby. “Claim was developed after we kept noticing cafe and bar staff standing around with nothing to do,” Tim says. “Every business experiences quiet periods, so we wanted to create a product which helped lure customers in during the quieter periods, or if they get a last-minute cancellation.”

“The app uses geo-location and customer preferences to connect businesses with potential customer.”

Tim sat down with
lots of business owners, bar and restaurant staff and beauty business owners
over a 12-month period to see how they thought technology could help drive more
traffic into their venue.

“The main thing they wanted was a push notification to people in the area,” he says. “They essentially saw it as a group text to people within walking distance letting customers know they’re there.”

The team developed
three prototypes that they gave to the business owners they had spoken to, to
get their feedback on which model was the best. From there they built the
product, and added more features as they got more feedback from businesses and

customers.

Originally designed for the hospitality industry, Tim and his small team recently rebuilt the app to make it practical for use in more industries such as hair and beauty, and fitness. “We even have a company pushing out cheap car parking with the aim of filling empty spots,” Tim says.

Claim has been specifically designed to cut through the social media “noise” to connect businesses with customers who are nearby and genuinely relevant to that business, using a mix of the customers’ location and their previous buying habits to target them with deals which may suit them.

Businesses who sign
up pay a small monthly or yearly subscription fee to be on the platform, and
Claim doesn’t take any commission, something Tim says is unusual in this space.

“Basically, the business signs up on our website, adds their business details then they are ready to start posting deals and information which pushes out to our android/iOS apps and website,” he explains.

Tim believes Claim will become a part of many businesses’ marketing campaigns, helping them to attract customers primarily during quieter periods. He is also planning to develop a loyalty program. “That will help assist with customer retention whilst constantly improving the offering to best serve both business and consumer,” he says. “We are aiming to roll out updates on a fortnightly basis.”

This story first appeared in issue 31 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine



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Bumble: Female-founded dating app tops $13bn in market debut



The listing of Bumble, which also owns Badoo, makes a billionaire of 31-year-old founder Whitney Wolfe Herd.

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Reese Witherspoon’s wildly popular book club is now an app


Actress and Hello Sunshine founder Reese Witherspoon is seeking to broaden the reach of her popular book club, built largely on Instagram, with a new mobile app that will allow in-app purchases of books and exclusive merchandise.

“We got asked two things all the time. One, how do I join Reese’s Book Club? And we said, follow us on Instagram,”  Sarah Harden, Hello Sunshine CEO, tells Fast Company. “The other question was, can you send books to me every month?”

[Photo: courtesy of Hello Sunshine]

The free app, which launches today, addresses both issues. Hello Sunshine can forge a deep relationship with readers via the app, and through the platform users will be able to search for Witherspoon’s recommendations, more easily buy books from their favorite retailers, and, eventually, purchase exclusive items. (All Hello Sunshine profits from in-app sales will support The Readership, a new company initiative that aims to promote literacy and diverse authors.)

The app also will host virtual events and book talks. Harden says that during the pandemic Hello Sunshine has offered everything from 90-minute book club meetings on weekends to 5- or 10-minute events. “Reese drops in to a lot of these, and people freak out when she does,” Harden says.

Reese’s Book Club will continue to maintain a page on Instagram, says Erica Green, executive creative director of Hello Sunshine. “That’s where the community really started, and we see it as a place for us to continue conversation,” she says. “But we’re going to encourage people to download the app. It’s a place for us to go deeper with a community that we know is craving even more ways to engage with us.” Reese’s Book Club has nearly 2 million followers on Instagram.

Witherspoon, who founded media company Hello Sunshine in 2016 to tell stories with female protagonists, has become a force in the book publishing industry. Thirty-eight Reese’s Book Club picks have made the New York Times bestseller list. She has produced several hit films and television series based on novels and memoirs by female authors, including Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. “When we pick books [members] know we’re putting women at the center,” Harden says. “They love the books, and they know they they can feel good about them.”



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You think an app is the way forward for your business? Think again


A few years ago I met a guy whose company is a leader in app development.

I was working primarily with our text messaging platform – our Membo Noticeboard app wasn’t even an idea!

I recall he said increasingly businesses were hell-bent on building an app, and in his opinion, many, if not most, would waste their money.

In preparation for this article, I did a fair amount of reading.  Lots of people saying “mobile apps are a must-have for your business” are in the tech development space themselves – perhaps not the most objective view.

I don’t claim 100 per cent objectivity. However, with benefit of experience, I believe any business considering what can be an expensive and time-consuming exercise, must be clear about why they need an app and what to expect.

For my part, we created Membo Noticeboard
to address a desperate personal problem as we supported my mother to live with
Alzheimer’s dementia.

We were fortunate to be able to undertake our development work ourselves, while a colleague, who at the same time was developing her own app, did not have this option.

Naturally, it depends on what your app does and what’s at the back end, but for us, three years down the track, we would need to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $400,000 for development work completed to date.

My colleague spent just under $200,000 to
get to a version of her system that could be taken to market, but she continues
to incur substantial expense as she undertakes essential ongoing development.

Mobile apps – a crowded space, and users are fickle!

Statista says the Google Playstore has 4.96 million apps, Apple has 2.37 million, and 131,800 new apps are launched every month.

According to Loyalytics, in 2018 in the US, 23 per cent of apps were used once, then abandoned siting reasons like not enough space, excessive advertising and excessive notifications.

For my money, there are three questions and three considerations for any business considering developing an app.

The questions

Will your app enhance your customer experience, streamline business processes and support your existing online presence?

In truth, is your idea a solution in search of a problem rather than the other way around?

Do your competitors have an app, how do their customers rate it, and do you need one to remain competitive?

The considerations

In-house development: Anyone considering software development must understand that releasing the first version is the tip of the ice-berg.  Afterwards, there is ongoing support, and essential development including, though not frequent, new phone and tablet releases which force changes. The solution in my opinion is to bring the work in house which may mean finding a partner and importantly providing that person with the motivation to perform.

Customer demographic: There are essentially two types of apps – those for recreation and those for practical use. Proportionately Gens X & Y primarily use recreation apps, while Baby Boomers and older want functionality. You need to be sure your app fits your customers. If your app requires customers to come across you in the app store, go back and look at those statistics again!

Security: Look carefully at security, data, and privacy management and this includes not just the design of the app but also insurance, and management implications and costs.

Anne-Louise Underwood, Co-Founder, Membo Noticeboard



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How Parler, a Chosen App of Trump Fans, Became a Test of Free Speech


From the start, John Matze had positioned Parler as a “free speech” social network where people could mostly say whatever they wanted. It was a bet that had recently paid off big as millions of President Trump’s supporters, fed up with what they deemed censorship on Facebook and Twitter, flocked to Parler instead.

On the app, discussions over politics had ramped up. But so had conspiracy theories that falsely said the election had been stolen from Mr. Trump, with users urging aggressive demonstrations last week when Congress met to certify the election of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Those calls for violence soon came back to haunt Mr. Matze, 27, a software engineer from Las Vegas and Parler’s chief executive. By Saturday night, Apple and Google had removed Parler from their app stores and Amazon said it would no longer host the site on its computing services, saying it had not sufficiently policed posts that incited violence and crime. As a result, Parler was set to disappear from the web on Monday.

That set off a furious effort to keep Parler online. Mr. Matze said on Sunday that he was racing to save the data of Parler’s roughly 15 million users from Amazon’s computers. He was also calling company after company to find one willing to support Parler with hundreds of computer servers.

“I believe Amazon, Google, Apple worked together to try and ensure they don’t have competition,” Mr. Matze said on Parler late Saturday. “They will NOT win! We are the worlds last hope for free speech and free information.” He said the app would probably shut down “for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch.”

Parler’s plight immediately drew condemnation from those on the right, who compared the big tech companies to authoritarian overlords. Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican, told Fox News on Sunday that “Republicans have no way to communicate” and asked his followers to text him to stay in touch. Lou Dobbs, the right-wing commentator, wrote on Parler that the app had a strong antitrust case against the tech companies amid such “perilous times.”

Parler has now become a test case in a renewed national debate over free speech on the internet and whether tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have too much power. That debate has intensified since Mr. Trump was barred from posting on Twitter and Facebook last week after a violent mob, urged on by the president and his social media posts, stormed the Capitol.

For years, Facebook and Twitter had defended people’s ability to speak freely on their sites, while Amazon, Apple, Google and others had stayed mostly hands-off with apps like Parler. That allowed misinformation and falsehoods to flow across online networks.

The tech companies’ actions last week to limit such toxic content with Mr. Trump and Parler have since been applauded by liberals and others. But the moves have also raised questions about how private enterprises get to decide who stays online and who doesn’t, especially when it is politically convenient, with Mr. Biden set to take office on Jan. 20 and Democrats gaining control of Congress.

The tech companies’ newly proactive approach also provides grist for Mr. Trump in the waning days of his administration. Even as he faces another potential impeachment, Mr. Trump is expected to try stoking anger at Twitter, Facebook and others this week, potentially as a launchpad for competing with Silicon Valley head on when he leaves the White House. After he was barred from Twitter, Mr. Trump said in a statement that he would “look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.”

Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was understandable that no company wanted to be associated with the “repellent speech” that encouraged the breaching of the Capitol. But he said Parler’s situation was troubling.

That was because Apple and Google’s removal of Parler from their app stores and Amazon’s halting its web hosting went beyond what Twitter or Facebook do when they curtail a user’s account or their posts, he said. “I think we should recognize the importance of neutrality when we’re talking about the infrastructure of the internet,” he said.

In earlier statements, Apple, Amazon and Google said they had warned Parler about the violent posts on its site and that it had not done enough to consistently remove them. The companies said they required sites like Parler to systematically enforce its rules. They declined to comment further on Sunday.

Tech companies pulling support for certain websites is not new. In 2018, Gab, another alternative to Facebook and Twitter that is popular among the far right, was forced offline after it lost support from other companies, including PayPal and GoDaddy, because it had hosted anti-Semitic posts from a man who shot and killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Gab later came back online with the help of a Seattle company, Epik, which hosts other far-right websites.

Even if Parler goes dark, right-wing personalities like Mr. Nunes who have built followings on the app do not lack other communication channels. Many still have ample followings on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which welcome any user who doesn’t violate their rules, including by threatening violence or posting hate speech.

Parler was founded in 2018 by Mr. Matze and a fellow programmer, one of several social-media upstarts that aimed to capitalize on the growing anger of Mr. Trump’s supporters with Silicon Valley. But Parler had a significant advantage: money. Rebekah Mercer, one of Mr. Trump’s largest donors, helped bankroll the site. Other investors include Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and Fox News pundit. It plans to eventually make money by selling ads.

The app is essentially a Twitter clone. It enables people to broadcast messages — known as “parleys,” not “tweets” — to followers. Users can also comment on and “echo” — not “retweet” — other users’ posts. When signing up for a new account, people are asked to select their favorite color and are urged to follow a list of conservative voices, including Mr. Nunes, the Fox News host Sean Hannity and the actress Kirstie Alley.

These “influencers” dominate the experience on the site. On Sunday, the Parler newsfeed was a stream of their angry “parleys,” railing at Big Tech and pleading with their followers to follow them elsewhere.

“Please sign up for my daily newsletter today, before the tech totalitarians ban everything,” wrote Mr. Bongino, who also controls one of Facebook’s most popular pages.

Parler grew slowly until early 2020, when Twitter began labeling Mr. Trump’s tweets as inaccurate and some of his supporters joined Parler in protest. After November’s election, Parler grew even more quickly as Facebook and Twitter clamped down on false claims that the vote had been rigged. So many users signed up that, at times, they overloaded the company’s systems and forced it to pause new registrations.

In total, people downloaded Parler’s app more than 10 million times last year, with 80 percent in the United States, according to Sensor Tower, the app data firm.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Trump encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol to pressure lawmakers to overturn his election loss, starting a riot that left five people dead. The rally was planned on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. On Parler, people posted advice on which streets to take to avoid police; some posted about carrying guns inside the Capitol.

In an interview with The New York Times hours after the riot, Mr. Matze said, “I don’t feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we’re a neutral town square that just adheres to the law.”

But on Friday, Apple and Google told Parler that it needed to more consistently remove posts that encouraged violence. By Saturday, Apple and Google had removed Parler from their app stores, limiting its ability to reach new users on virtually all of the world’s smartphones.

“There is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity,” Apple said in a statement. Google said, “We do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content.”

Late Saturday, Amazon told Parler that it would need to find a new place to host its site. Amazon said it had sent Parler 98 examples of posts on its site that encouraged violence, but many remained active.

“We cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” Amazon said.

Amazon was scheduled to pull its support for Parler just before midnight Sunday on the West Coast. Amazon said it would preserve Parler’s data so it could move it to other computer servers.

“It’s devastating,” Mr. Matze told Fox News on Sunday. “And it’s not just these three companies. Every vendor, from text message services to email providers to our lawyers, all ditched us, too, on the same day.” He said he was struggling to find another company to host Parler’s website.

But Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s chief operating officer, said in an interview that the app had heard from several companies that wanted to help. He declined to name them.

“What Parler will look like a month from now, I can’t tell you,” he said. “But Parler will not be gone.”

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Parler SUSPENDED from Google Play Store, faces imminent BAN from Apple App Store — RT USA News



Google has purged conservative-friendly social media site Parler from its Play Store, calling for the need to “protect user safety” while saying the platform allows posts that “incite violence,” as Apple considers a similar move.

The Alphabet-owned web behemoth said in a statement on Friday that Parler would be suspended from its main app platform, arguing the site lacks “moderation policies” against “egregious content,” calling those mechanisms a “longstanding” requirement at the Play Store.

“All developers agree to these terms and we have reminded Parler of this clear policy in recent months,” the company said.

We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US… In light of this ongoing safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.

The announcement comes on the heels of reports that Apple had similarly demanded that Parler impose stricter content-policing, handing the site a 24-hour ultimatum to do so or face a ban from its App Store.

Apple made the demand in an email sent on Friday morning, saying it had received complaints that Parler’s platform had been used to plan the storming of the US Capitol by violent protesters on Wednesday, according to BuzzFeed News. “The app also appears to be used to plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities,” the tech giant added.

Parler chief executive John Matze confirmed Apple’s demand to both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. The push to choke off Parler comes at a time when Twitter, Facebook and other social-media giants are purging the accounts of President Donald Trump and his supporters, essentially silencing speech that deviates from mainstream talking points.

Online activist group Sleeping Giants has pressured Apple and Google, whose operating systems dominate the smartphone world, to remove Parler from their app stores for violating their policies on incitement to violence. The group reminded the two companies that it was instrumental in getting Gab, another Twitter-alternative platform, booted from their app stores in 2017. Sleeping Giants has ignored the fact that Twitter and Facebook also have been used to plot violence.



Also on rt.com
Sleeping Giants demand Google & Apple pull Parler app from stores over ‘incitement’ to violence


Parler’s user base has grown exponentially in recent months amid rising anti-Trump censorship by such mainstream platforms as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The fledgling platform was adding thousands of users per minute at some points this fall, up from a rate of 2,000 a day prior to last June. Another wave of migration followed this week, with Wednesday’s violence in Washington being used as a pretext to ban conservatives.

“This will be my final post on this anti-American platform,” radio host and Parler stakeholder Dan Bongino told his 2.8 million Twitter followers on Friday morning.

The greatest threats to liberty are the destructive tech tyrants who have acted as publishers in their ongoing wars on conservatives and free speech.

Apple, which has allegedly been a beneficiary of forced labor in China, has nearly 2 million applications available in its App Store, dominating the market for iPhone users. Google Play has closer to 3 million apps available, making it the world’s biggest such outlet.

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Service NSW App Crashed Which Lasted For 2 Hours

Customers Unable To Sign In To Venues

A major crash was experienced by the Service NSW app. Thus, this outage has caused customers unable to sign in and out of venues.

Restaurants and bars, for instance, have reported issues with the app, which means they are having difficulty signing customers in.

This is a major inconvenience as the app must be used by all businesses within the state as a part of their COVID Safety directive. This app has been also used by the NSW Health for contact tracing.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Customer Service, which oversees the app, said the outage lasted for two hours and has now been resolved.

The Department stated “This afternoon Service NSW App experienced an unexpected outage preventing some customers from checking in with the COVID Safe Check-in tool. It is vital that customer contact details are still collected digitally.”

Although the app was not usable, customers and businesses are encouraged to use the Service NSW check-in web form for all check-ins since the outage did not impact the web form, as per the spokesperson.

The Department added “Alternatively the customer record can be in the form of a spreadsheet or any other form of digital entry that can track a customers check-ins and protects the privacy of your clientele. If there are unexpected circumstances which prevent the use of electronic methods to collect contact details, any paper records must be entered into an electronic format such as a spreadsheet within 12 hours. “

The statement concluded with apologies from the Service NSW for the inconvenience caused by the crash.

(Image Source: News)

Service NSW check-in app suffers statewide outage


“My iOS face recognition usually works to log in to my account, but this time it is also asking for my pin and even when type it in, it still does not work,” wrote Ursula Ramierez.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Customer Service said the outage lasted for two hours, preventing some customers from checking in with the COVID Safe Check-in tool.

“It is vital that customer contact details are still collected digitally. In the event of an outage, customers and businesses are encouraged to use the Service NSW check-in webform for all check-ins,” she said, adding that the webform had not been impacted.

Customers can access the webform by scanning the QR Code or businesses can display the check-in webform on their own devices for customers to use.”

The outage coincided with day one of the New Year’s Test, where ticketholders were advised to check in to the Sydney Cricket ground on arrival.

It is not yet known how many cricket fans had already checked in to the SCG before the outage.

Venue owners had been allowed to choose or build a QR code platform at their discretion throughout 2020.

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However, as of January 1, the Service NSW app was made mandatory for hospitality venues and hairdressers, a ruling prompted by insufficient or unreliable data being provided to contact tracers from bespoke apps in the wake of the Avalon cluster.

Announcing the mandate in late December, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the Service NSW app had “made life so much easier for contact tracers”.

She said businesses should not open “unless [they] have systems in place to get all of the information for people walking through that front door”.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello has been the driving force behind the expansion of the app, which also houses digital drivers licences.

The app will also be the only way to access $100 in taxpayer-funded restaurant and entertainment vouchers being rolled out as part of the state government’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

The opposition spokeswoman for better public services, Sophie Cotsis, said the crash was frustrating and concerning because important information would have been lost for contact tracers.

“People across NSW have also been left without a digital driver’s licence, with some going to on social media to state they were unable to show their digital licence to police. This is unacceptable,” she said.

“The minister must have a contingency plan and ensure this does not happen again.”

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Ms Cotsis added that she had used the app after multiple attempts at a cafe around midday on Thursday, however her friend was unable to log on.

The Department of Customer Service spokeswoman said in the case of a future outage, businesses can lodge customer records in a spreadsheet or other digital format that protects customers’ privacy.

If there is no working electronic method, venues can record customer details on paper, which must be entered into an electronic format within 12 hours.

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Israel Job Interview App Startup Spetz.io Acquired by Paradox – Jewish Business News


Israel Job Interview App Startup Spetz.io Acquired by Paradox

Paradox is an American employee recruitment platform.

spetz.io

Spetz.io, an Israeli startup which has integrated artificial intelligence bot into an app which helps companies to engage with prospective employees, has been acquired by the American firm Paradox.

Paradox offers an AI platform to help firms’ global talent acquisition teams automate recruiting tasks like screening, interview scheduling, and candidate communications.

Founded in Tel Aviv in 2017, Spetz states that it helps companies to engage their talents via messaging apps with a direct, automated communication tool. Spetz boasts that its bot reduces hiring friction and increases engagement from pre-screening to hiring. By gathering and analyzing massive amounts of data, Spetz says that it makes the candidate experience “as good as it gets.”

Spetz currently has big name clients like Ikea and Sodastream.

The company creates a business profile on WhatsApp for its clients. Each new applicant for a position with a client firm triggers a Spetz bot. Spetz then automatically engages their candidates and constantly integrates back to a client’s data base.

Clients will be able to conduct a pre-screening before the phone interview. They can ask their candidates basic questions early on, and continue with only the most relevant ones, saving both sides time and energy Send automated and personalized interview reminders, attach location links and request RSVP without picking up the phone Collect feedback from your applicants at the end of the process and let them know that their opinion matters.

Yam Dvir, Spetz’s co-founder and CEO, said, “When we met with the Paradox team we immediately saw a massive opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves. Combining our expertise with Paradox’s vision and momentum as a clear category leader is really one of those ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ opportunities. We can’t wait to get started accelerating Paradox’s vision for a future where recruiting is frictionless, elegant, and people-centric.”

Launched in late 2016, Paradox is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company states that it is the leader in Conversational AI, supporting some of the world’s largest employers, including Unilever, McDonald’s, CVS Health, PepsiCo, and Aramark.

Olivia, the company’s conversational AI assistant, is helping TA teams automate tasks like screening, interview scheduling, candidate communications, and more, so recruiters can spend more time with people, not software.


Read more about: Productivity Paradox, Spetz


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This Highly-Rated Fitness App Helps You Start Your New Year’s Resolution


Get in great shape and start a healthier diet and fitness regimen.


2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.


This past year has been an unhealthy one for many of us — not just from a mental health standpoint, but from a physical standpoint, as well. An extended quarantine isn’t exactly conducive to an active lifestyle, and with so few things operating like normal, many of us have turned to Netflix and food for comfort. There’s no shame in that, but if you want to get back in shape and improve your health in 2021, it’s time to start planning. That’s why now is a great time to get BetterMe Home Workout & Diet.

BetterMe is a straightforward app that can help you get into the best shape of your life without completely overhauling your routine. Whether you’re looking to lose a little weight at home, improve your diet, drink more water, or even work out with a personal trainer, BetterMe can help. With personalized sets of exercises and nutrition plans, BetterMe helps you get on a fitness and health journey that makes reaching your goals easier than ever. The app features an engaged community with daily articles, tips, tricks, and answers to all of your exercise questions, helping you stay on track.

All of the workouts can be done at home, and all meal plans feature dishes picked according to your preferences and are easy to make with video recipes. Workouts range from advanced down to simple yoga and walking workouts to help you develop a plan that works for your capabilities and your lifestyle. It’s so flexible, it’s no surprise BetterMe has earned 4.5 stars on 88,000 ratings in the App Store and 4.3 stars on 67,000 ratings on Google Play.

Get in great shape in 2021. Right now, a one-year subscription to BetterMe Home Workout & Diet is 91 percent off $240 at just $19.99. Alternatively, you can spring for a three-year subscription for just $29.99, or a lifetime subscription for just $39.99.



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