Bump App Retro: The Rise and Fall of Bump

Remember Bump, the app that let you share your contact information (and more) simply by bumping your phones together?

While researching enabling technology for Convey, we came across many methods of data transfer, but the one we kept talking about was the technology used in the Bump app, which used the phone’s built-in accelerometer to transfer information from one phone to another. And while we are not currently using this technology for Convey, there is a lot we can learn from the story of Bump.

Bump Rising

Bump was a dual platform (iOS and Android) app that gave users the power to transfer contacts and other files between their devices by bumping their phones together. This was a brand new technology that users loved, so much so that between 2009 and 2011 the app was #8 on Apple’s all-time most popular free iPhone apps list, and by February 2013 the app had been downloaded over 125 million times. The team at Bump had managed to make something so mundane, the act of sharing your contact information, a fun experience.

You might be asking, “If they were so successful, what happened?”

The Acquisition

Google is what happened. Google was and still is notorious for buying up companies like Bump, then poof… They’re gone into thin air. The logical thought would be that Google bought the app to take it to the next level, but soon after the acquisition, the app was off the Apple and Android app stores, leaving its 100+ million users abandoned. (Read the farewell blog post here.)

The truth is, we don’t know exactly why Google bought Bump. Some say it was for the talent behind the app, whereas others think Google wanted Bump’s technology and patents to better compete with photo sharing competitors Apple, Facebook and Dropbox.

The Legacy

Although the app hadn’t quite reached super stardom, it definitely wasn’t a failure. Google forked out $35 million to acquire Bump – hard to pass up. Although I have to think that if this deal were to happen today (early 2017) it could go for 10x that amount. Besides, some of Bump’s technology is still being used by Google in features like Android Beam and possibly Android Pay.

Overall, Bump was a pretty cool little app, but I always thought the idea of physically bumping your phone against someone else’s was a little unnerving. If someone could do the same thing bump did, but even better, then they would definitely be on to something 😉

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