The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in apps (20)

Saturday
Aug282010

Navigating Your Airport Experience

With fewer direct flights, weather delays, and long security lines, there are more chances than ever that you’ll find yourself with time to kill in an unfamiliar airport. The boredom of waiting will inevitably lead you to twiddle your thumbs on your smartphone. If you're not texting—or triaging your inboxyou could be using the new FLYsmart app for Android and iPhone to look for the closest newsstand, restroom, souvenir shop or ATM.

FLYsmart is the result of a partnership between outdoor advertising giant ClearChannel Outdoor, and Geodelic (a client of Waldo Finn, a company which employees this author), a mobile, location-specific media platform powered by a network of informative and relevant guides to local attractions, businesses and services.

FLYsmart customers will also be able to linger in a bar or bookstore longer - and with less stress - because they can check arrival and departure times right from their smartphones, instead of running out to the concourse to check the displays.

"By combining Clear Channel's enormous airport footprint with the simplicity of Geodelic's mobile experience, we can provide consumers with a new level of convenience that comes from having personalized and relevant location-specific information at your fingertips," said Rahul Sonnad, founder and CEO of Geodelic. Sonnad says the app will be available for Blackberry in the near future, as well.

Location-based marketing is a growing category for businesses looking to maintain traffic into physical locations, like retail stores, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Companies like Gowalla and Foursquare have popularized "check ins", while social networking behemoth Facebook has just launched Places, a feature for connecting  with friends based on their location.

 The FLYsmart application takes a different approach, providing location-specific services and information to improve a transient customer's experience through an airport terminal.

“Airports are always looking to improve the traveler experience and find new ways to garner the attention of transient passengers in promoting food, retail and advertising sales,” commented Toby Sturek, President of Clear Channel Airports. “FLYsmart will do all that in the most relevant, convenient and contemporary way.”

The FLYsmart app will initially be launched in ten of North America’s largest airports including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix San Francisco and Seattle. New airports will be added each week.

I used the app the first day it launched, on my travels from Seattle to Los Angeles. The app was very helpful in keeping me informed about flight departure times for my home airport. Although the Los Angeles Airport guide hadn't yet launched, I could still see relevant local information for my stay in Los Angeles through the Geodelic national directory, that comes with every FLYSmart app.

Sunday
Apr252010

Favorite Tweets of the Day

RT @DesignerDepot: The Dos and Do Nots of Mobile Applications http://bit.ly/cxyhNs Sez don’t mix mobile app and mobile web

RT @ tonyadam My thoughts on the hot topic - A resume doesn't tell the whole story - http://bit.ly/ci4jIUhttp://ow.ly/1CRtv Well said.

Tuesday
Apr202010

PANEL: What iPad Means For The Future of Mobility

On the eve of attending adTech in San Francisco, I attended a local panel discussion for app developers organized by Noah Kravitz of PhoneDog, a mobile blog that's part of the NetShelter Technology Media network that includes IntoMobile and, my personal favorite, AllShadow.com. Panelists included:

  • Will Park, Editor-in-Chief, IntoMobile.com
  • Damon Brown, Daily Media/Tech Blogger, Bnet.com; Author of “Damon Brown’s Simple iPad Guide”
  • Aaron Watkins, President, Appency Press
  • Jesse Lindeman, Director of Product and Technical Marketing, Mobile Iron
  • Anthony Ha, Assistant Editor, VentureBeat
  • Nitin Chitkara, VP, Business Development, Mobclix

As is often the case in these intimate sessions with this many panelists, the evening took a while to take shape. But Noah did a stand-up job managing his moderator duties - talking to the live streaming audience and tweeting fans on his iPad and juggling a panel that was insightful, if not articulate. After a bumpy beginning talking about whether iPads legitimize "man-bags" and rambling panelist self-introductions, Noah steered the discussion to elicit a few interesting comments and insights.

On the topic of app pricing: "$4.99 is the new $.99". Panelists were divided about if and how the iPad will normalize pricing for paid apps on the large screen iPad versus the iPhone. One panelist remarked that the extra screen real estate will not be enough to justify a higher price for an iPad app than the same app on an iPhone/iPod. IntoMobile's Will Park noted simply, "Crappy apps will only look crappier on a bigger screen."  However, there was little consensus about how developers should consider setting prices for iPad apps to harmonize costs and volume.

A New User Experience: Developers should re-think their iPhone app strategy for the bigger form factor to increase a consumer's engagement with their app's content. The panel seemed to agree the iPad was an immersive experience that could be leveraged for monetizable value. And there was clear consensus from the bloggers on the panel that they weren't prepared yet to ditch their laptops for the sleek tablet. "It's not that cool yet." Park was balancing his teetering iPad on his knee in its case, allowing him to tip the screen so he could (I'm guessing) type during the session.

Early Adopters Sharing: There was only a brief mention of developing apps for other tablets than the iPad, although the topic was merchandised more broadly than simply the iPad. About half of the audience indicated they owned iPads, and 90% of those seemed to have been expensed. Panelists stood in line the first day, they streamed to their blogs from the lines, and they even admitted they take their iPads into the bathroom to read. A few confessed to cuddling their iPad in bed, an experience they claimed they never had with their laptop, which gets overheated. "It's the last thing I see before I go to bed."

Apps, Books, and Stores: The most popular app among the panel was Netflix, although one panelist, Damon Brown, pointed out that Alice for the iPad was really an app, not a book. I thought that was an odd distinction. So I went to iTunes and noticed "books" appear on the App Store, and books appear in the iBook Store. There are apps that are sold to read electronics books you can read on an iPod that doesn't have the iBook store yet.  Confused yet?

As panelists summarized their final thoughts, one common theme emerged: the iPad is important to this group not because of what it does, but because of what it enables for designer,s developers, advertisers and consumers.

Sunday
Apr042010

Where 2.0 Videos Now Playing in My VodPod

If you are a regular visitor to this site, you have probably discovered my VodPod in the right sidebar on this page. It is a window into my video collection, the clips I save when I surf the web. Recently shelved in this library are a number of videos from the O'Reilly Where 2.0 conference last week. "Where 2.0 brings together the people, projects, and issues building the new technological foundations and creating value in the location industry."  Clips include presentations by Dave Fetterman from Facebook, Jack Dangermond from ESRI, Jerry Stoppelman from Yelp, and other execs from Loopt, Foursquare and Nokia, as well as Michael Arrington and Ryan Block. This is a great survey of location based tech.

Wednesday
Mar312010

A Composite View of Mobile Trends

Compiled from many different sources, this set of slides was put together by a European blogger who asked some very influential friends for their perspectives on the future of mobile.

Tuesday
Mar302010

BuildAnApp Makes it DIY Easy To Be On a Smartphone

If you are a small business owner or tech savvy soccer coach wondering how you can get in on the mobile app gold rush and aren’t sure if you have what it takes to launch and manage an app, BuildAnApp may be just the platform you need. Anders Davidson, president of MobileOn, the company behind BuildAnApp says his DIY mobile app solution will simplify the process of communicating with customers regardless of which smartphone they have, because his solution publishes apps to multiple mobile operating systems.

 

Buildanapp logo

Using standard templates and a simple six step wizard, anyone – and I do mean pretty much anyone – can create a mobile app. You simply pick the content pages you want for your app, upload images, pick styles, add links and feeds, and you are ready to publish. You can even preview the app in a nice window next to where you customize the page inputs. Davidson calls the app “morphable” because of the large variety of combinations and customizations businesses can use to merchandise themselves, and because the platform automatically configures the same content for iPhone, Android, RIM, and Windows Mobile devices. “Small businesses don’t have time to manage and support an application, even though a mobile app can strengthen their relationship with their customers.”screens

Davidson has some relevant experience supporting small business as a product manager for Microsoft’s small business portal, bCentral. BuildAnApp provides useful tips for creating your app, too, because Davidson knows Apple has been cracking down on what they call their “Minimal User Functionality.” To be a great app, Davidson says, “you need original, useful and dynamic content.”

To make it easy for any budget-conscious community group leader to see what’s required to have an app, BuildAnApp offers a 30 day free, no credit card trial. Calendars, photos, and social media feeds are simple to hook up. It’s easy to imagine how the local Little League could quickly connect and inform mothers about schedule changes this way. Team managers can create a separate app that also shows stats and standings. “Cross platform is essential to these audiences, because they are so diverse.”

Davidson wanted to remove not only technical hurdles to having a mobile app, but economic ones as well. In 30 days, your app will expire unless you convert to a subscription, and the fee is based on how often you update your app. (The definition of an app update appears to need a little refinement during the beta period, because any streamed content which is added to an app may itself get updated.)

Once your app is published, a link is generated quickly that can be emailed to your existing customer lists directly without worrying about marketplace certification for three of the mobile platforms; the iPhone application goes through a separate three to four week approval process and costs an additional $19.99 fee to publish to it.

On Android, RIM, and Windows phones, applications can be side-loaded directly by the user, making it quick and easy to create and download my own a sample app and watch it running live on my Nexus One in no time. You can also tweet the link and put it on your website or Facebook fan page to drive downloads.

The platform is in beta right now, but Davidson claims there have already been 500 apps built with his company's platform. While you’ll give up a little elegance on the graphics and UI side to get an app that can run on almost any smartphone, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can say, “there’s an app for that” about your business, too!

 

Get to know Anders Davidson, a small business owner himself, as a consumer (his company has 5 employees), by hearing him in his own words.

How would you describe yourself as a consumer? Anders Davidson
Very intentional. I am not an “impulse” consumer nor am I impulsive with what consumes my time. By the time I am ready to make a decision about how I spend my time or money, I know what I value and what it is worth to me.

Speaking as that consumer…

What is the first and last app you downloaded for your personal use? 
My first app was the NYTimes because it’s a news source I value and the app allows me to have better access to its content than through the Web browser. The most recent apps I’ve downloaded are: 1) an app I built using our service for my son’s school so I can keep track of their schedule and key phone numbers and contact. And 2) the NCAA March Madness app because I enjoy following the tournament results but won’t spend much time watching the games on TV.

What product is sitting in a “saved shopping cart” that you plan to buy soon? 
None. I rarely save items in online shopping carts.

Thinking of non-technology items as well, what product or service have you bought recently that most disappointed you and why? 
I can’t think of any real buyer’s remorse I’ve had recently.

What is the one true thing that exists in every product you love to use? 
Simplicity. There’s often a big trade-off of simplicity vs. features, but smarter designers are getting better at tackling both.

What one piece of technology innovation would you say changed your life the most? 
In 2000, I had a Compaq ipaq Pocket PC with a sleeve that held a Wi-Fi card and was able for the first time to have real-time data come to my handheld device without the need to sync at my PC. This was for me, the beginning of the real promise of mobile computing...

What product did your family or friends have before you did, but you eventually had to buy, too? 
Skype

Are you a Mac or PC? 
Mac laptop dual-booting Mac and Windows XP

What phone are you carrying now? 
In my line of work I carry four. :- ): a Samsung Ace (Windows Mobile), Nexus One, Blackberry Pearl and an iPhone. But I mostly use the Blackberry Pearl because it’s smaller.

Do you Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? 
I have accounts on each. For BuildAnApp we tweet with content relevant to BuildAnApp’s customers, I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family and rarely mix business into it. And I use LinkedIn to map my professional network.

What was your most unusual job? 
In the early-mid 90s I worked on political campaigns in Oregon, California, Minnesota and Washington.

Where do you like to shop? 
REI.com

Read more: http://technorati.com/technology/it/article/ceo-interview-buildanapps-anders-davidson-says/page-3/#ixzz0jiDCMrEZ

Monday
Feb152010

The 'Tapas Trend' in Mobile Continues

Last year, at Mobile World Congress, I had the displeasure of eating a precious multi-course meal of nouvelle tapas at a pretentious restaurant referred by countless culinary experts. Sadly, I wish I had known you can get some of the best tapas in the city tucked away in passages only the locals can guide you to discover. Tapas, for those who don't know, are little snacks of - well, pretty much anything. They can be cold or warm, and be composed of fish, meat and vegetables.  These bite-sized little morsels of flavor are the currency of chefs in Spain, but these tasty bits may be best served by underset expectations.

On the night of the first day of announcements from this year's MWC, therefore, it may be easier to forgive me for making an analogy between tapas and apps, and butchering a metaphor far longer than I could at other times. Since, like tapas, apps can be anything - they can be games or utilities, feed readers or miniaturized applications, it seems a small leap of faith. Apps are often bite sized versions  (see how this will go?) of bigger web properties, kind of like snacking versions to keep a mobile consumer's appetite satisfied until a bigger serving is available.

Most of the headlines from today's show focused on apps, so it appears that the 'tapas trend' will continue to be on the menu for mobile consumers for the near future.  The creation of a new alliance, the Wholesale Applications Community, is intended to create a common approval process across multiple OEMs to facilitate access to the world of mobile consumers for application developers.  But should application developers be able to use one recipe to appear on any device  with any carrier?  And can all of the chefs in the WAC kitchen ever agree on a standard recipe? Imagine getting Wolfgang Puck, Tom Douglas and Ferran Adria all to agree on a single preparation for salmon tapas.

The combination of Maemo and Moblin to create MeeGo may not create enormous benefits or greatly enlarge the app world for consumers any time soon, but the news does provide another proof point that app stores likely won't just be a phone phenomenon since the combined OS is targeted at in-vehicle infotainment systems, connected televisions and consumer electronics. This Nokia-Intel platform, however, may simply be a mash-up of two lagging open source projects, with each ingredient still needing the proper plating on a killer piece of hardware to break through with consumers.

Adobe's announcement that it has joined the LiMo Foundation shows how badly it wants in on the mobile app business, having been absent in any meaningful way from smartphones till now.  In addition to that news, though, Adobe announced its Air for Android, which in conjunction with AIR on the desktop, gives web web developers familiar tools to build standalone applications that run on the devices using Google's Linux-based mobile operating system. With the exclusion of support for Flash on the iPad, iPhone and iPod, and the failure of Flash Lite to have a notable impact on mobile development to date, Adobe has been trying to get a seat at the app store table for a while.  As an ingredient brand in websites,  Adobe has not had as much leverage to date with device manufacturers and carriers as they may have anticipated with the popularity of the mobile browser.  Apple has preferred to think of Adobe as the "trans fat" ingredient in mobile applications and browsers, positioning it as the enemy of performance and an ally of viruses.

Saturday
Feb062010

Should Apple Decide What's 'Beneficial' in an Ad?

First published on Technorati

The process of getting an application approved through the iPhone App Review team and into the App Store can be a mysterious one for application developers. Many complain the app review process takes too long, the rules for acceptance are vague, and the reasons for rejection are too subjective. Apple does produce guidelines for submissions, which highlight best iPhonepractices, tips, and rules to help developers successfully navigate the review process.

Earlier this week, Apple added a new tip about the use of location services for developers looking to get apps approved for the iPhone. According to the App Review team, the iPhone Core Location Framework, the programming interface that enables developers to “deliver information based on their location, such as local weather, nearby restaurants, ATMs, and other location-based information,” is not to be used primarily for targeted local advertising.

The wording in the Apple post continues to secure Apple’s position as content editor, and not just technical reviewer, in the App Store approval process. "If you build your application using Core Location, make sure your app first asks users for permission before you use their location to provide targeted information,” the tip suggests. “Once granted, the information you provide must be beneficial.”

What will qualify as “beneficial”? Apple goes on to clarify, “If your app uses this information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on user's location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.”

This comes as important news to the mobile marketing community, although the insight was buried in a series of notes aimed at helping developers. For many advertisers who wish to use mobile applications to engage with customers, mobile location data provides invaluable targeting information.

It’s a delicate balance of providing value versus being invasive, says Pat Binkley, VP of Engineering at mobile developer, Zumobi. Zumobi produces iPhone applications for partners and then monetizes the content with advertising. Binkley goes on, “I think in the case of applications that do not have a local component, you have to balance the perception of invasion of privacy and disrupting the user’s experience for the sole purpose of delivering local advertising to them.”

Apple’s recent purchase of Quattro Wireless, a leading advertising network and mobile marketing platform, has fueled industry pundits’ and software developers’ concerns about the intent and impact of this recent tip posted on the iPhone Dev Center. On Twitter, one software developer, @Oliverbo,  summed it up this way, “That spells trouble: Apple: Core Location Off-Limits for Serving Location-Targeted Ads http://bit.ly/dtNzcC /cc @feedly.” Some, like AppleInsider, believe that through the Quattro platform Apple intends to restrain others from using a feature it plans to keep wholly to itself. Industry analyst Greg Sterling, also known as @gsterling pondered, “Is Apple Hoarding LBS Advertising?”

A December 2009 report published by Quattro Wireless, in partnership with DM2Pro, highlighted the importance of targeting capability to advertisers. When advertisers were asked what they considered the most important criteria for choosing an ad network, the ability to target segments of consumers was listed first.

Advertisers and agencies have been trying to monetize the emerging mobile application marketplace but have yet to broadly embrace one particular revenue generation platform. One digital marketing executive, Holly Brown, SVP of IPG’s MRM Seattle office, expressed concern that Apple is attempting to micro-manage the mobile advertising eco-system. “At a time when it’s more important than ever to engage consumers with relevant value, and to build monetization strategies for application developers, Apple seems to be interfering with the natural evolution of the market created between consumers, developers and brands (advertisers).”
Research
Location targeting is not only a tool to help small regional businesses, like dry cleaners and cafes, promote services, but it also aids in the discovery of national products available locally. Location-based applications often enable national brands to target local promotions at a store level and can help customers find their favorite franchise or store nearby prompting them to visit with a coupon or in-store offer.

Because they add a layer of relevancy to the ad content, advertisements based on location can be more productive for advertisers. Brian Wilson, VP of Marketing at application developer Point Inside, which develops iPhone indoor interactive mobile mapping applications for navigating malls and airports, is supportive of the Apple position. “From our perspective, Apple’s notice only serves to reinforce the value that Point Inside is providing and the methods we’re using to provide it.”

Feel free to post a comment below and tell us what you think. Do you need Apple to decide for you which ads can be localized?

Tuesday
Jan122010

Are We At The Peak of the Personalization Nation?

While this Gravity Tank study is more than a half year old, it highlights the rapid growth in consumer awareness of mobile applications and concludes that apps are really another social phenomenon - a natural evolution of the personalization nation. Do you agree with the folks at Gravity Tank?

 

Tuesday
Jan122010

Favorite Tweets of the Day

 

RT@TechFlash Zappos' Tony Hsieh on company culture and locking in employees http://bit.ly/8X5umc

RT @ Joepemberton New post: Extending Brands in the Mobile Space: A Response to App-vertising http://bit.ly/74jRWC #mobile#branding

 

RT @frogdesign 19% of Internet Users now update their status on services like Twitter (up from 11% in April) PEW: http://j.mp/3QlZ7E (@nickbilton)

 

Tuesday
Dec222009

Trendspotting or Trendsetting?

Here - in easily re-quotable, Tweet-sized bites - is a convenient aggregation of the social media trends for 2010 from some industry analysts, and some folks with a vested interest in seeing social media platforms explode. It's a good cross-section of where the influencers are leading the industry. But will consumers follow? Or, is social media the future because it reflects the current consumer zeitgeist? You decide...

 

Monday
Dec212009

Check Your Phone Before Checking Out

I've downloaded a number of retail-related apps on my phone, and I am a sucker for those that purport to provide deals and special offers directly to my phone.  I have recently downloaded Point Inside, an app intended to help navigate shopping malls, and enables mall developers and retailers to promote store events and deals.  I also have a AAA Discounts app, which helps me find businesses that offer AAA members discounts. ShopSavvy, a comparison shopping application, was first on Android and recently became available to iPhone customers who can use the phone's camera to read a barcode and look up other stores that might offer the product for less. And I have a couple of apps from the fashion magazines I enjoy, which also provides me feeds with offers from both local and national stores.

All of these apps are free downloads, because they are largely ad-supported. I enthusiastically download free shopping apps, but with each one, I can't help but wonder if I am seeing the "best" offer? Shopping apps which represent multiple vendors - as opposed to the branded retail apps like Gap or Starbucks - often include proprietary advertising platforms intended to leverage a network of existing users or loyal customers, like AAA customers, Elle magazine readers, or mall shoppers. Advertisers who appreciate the reach of these ready-made audiences and can then choose their mix of mobile application partners.

But from the consumer's perspective, these apps aren't exact substitutions for clipping the Sunday circular or taking the Bed and Bath coupon from mailbox, because they are not leveraging the same behavior to get the customer to take the deal.  For example, I never had an app on my phone with my favorite mall's directory, so I am guessing it may help me most when I visit shopping centers in other cities, since my patterns around the local mall are pretty familiar to me. However, I used to receive a monthly magazine from AAA with coupons, which I never remembered to take with me in my car. Now these offers are always with me on my phone, which I can imagine will make them more useful. I can look at the AAA deals as easily as the Point Inside mall promos or a coupons from aggregators like app providers Cellfire and Yowza. If my local Home Depot is having a special on Weber barbecue grills, I might know now about the deal by scanning the bar code to learn I can go 5 miles to another store to buy it more cheaply. I have so many tools now to find the best value, including search and my mobile web browser, I have come to expect I should check my phone now before hitting the store check-out.

If only I could have an app to search all my other shopping-related apps for the best deal among them...

 

Monday
Dec142009

Pre-Pay, DIY and the Future of Wireless

Earlier this month, several senators banded together to introduce the Early Termination Fee, Transparency and Fairness Act, intended to prevent wireless carriers from charging a penalty to consumers that is higher than the discount on the cell phone that the wireless company offers for entering into a multi-year contract. It's a good thing, since a recent research report from New Millenium Research indicates 58% of consumers 25-34 don't know when their contract-based wireless phone penalty ends. The number increases to 61 percent with consumers ages 35-44.

When two year contracts were introduced to cell phone customers, life was a lot simpler, because carriers could look at past consumer behavior as a model for future subsidization of handsets, and not much changed in voice for a couple of years. But today, even pre-paid phones have megapixel-rated cameras, BT and access to web email and IM. The high-end smartphones and broadband data sticks that are sold with all you can eat data may be a good value for the "fat kid at the front of the buffet" (thank you, Mark Cuban), but may seem a big leap economically for consumers who are trying to manage their monthly overhead in this recession.

It's only a matter of time until a low cost Android phone comes to market in the US, and the mobile web will be consumable on an a la carte basis, making it potentially accessible to the prepaid market. Since the app marketplace on Android wll be enabled with APIs for carrier billing by the end of the year, the new pricing model for value shoppers may really be DIY, where consumers put together the apps and services on their phone each month from a buffet of apps and web-based services that can be turned on or off monthly, or based on a level of prepaid credit.

Design it yourself can give the consumer a sense of control, both in terms of how they manage what they spend on, and what they value most in product capablities and usage. In the home improvement market, do -it-yourselfers devalue the expert laborer, and believe they save money in executing their remodel or fix-it project through their own sweat and hard work.  Consumers may devalue the fancy user interface designed by an HTC or Samsung but might pay for a low cost piece of hardware if it gives them higher utility phone that can support them in their moment of need. If I run out of gas, I'll pay in the moment to know if a service station is in walking distance. I may not be willing to pay the same amount for the right to access that service just in case I run out of gas.

Most prepaid customers don't know what they are missing and are content with what little they have because in the long run they feel the simplicity of their device experience gives them more control over their bill. Unexpected billable events are harder to come by when the device is limited in its capabilities.

 

 

Saturday
Dec122009

Can An Open OS Ever Really Be Mainstream?

Nexus One via TwitpicThe recent announcement that Google plans to deliver an unlocked mobile phone into the market sometime next year has been an encouraging sign for fans of the open operating system that finally wireless carriers won't be able to control what phones their service customers can use. Many feel as the Wall Street Journal technology columnist, Walt Mossberg does that carriers have been acting like "soviet ministries" as they intermediate between the consumer and the providers of the handsets they use to connect to the carrier networks.

Having launched the T-Mobile G1 as an executive with the company, I have a great affinity for the open Android platform. I appreciate that the Android marketplace enables garage developers to create magic as moonlighting inventors, and brings innovation to the masses through the power of the open programming interfaces and developer tools Google provides online.  But I also saw first hand the customers who, after downloading 10 random apps, wondered why their battery life halved or the screen seemed no longer responsive.

The open developer model has given anyone who can code access to consumers without an accompanying process to ensure they put quality product on the shelves, and as a result more developers step in and create solutions like Astro, an Android task manager to help manage processes, tasks and files that may impact your Android device's performance. Much like on my Windows PC, I find I am delighted to have such a tool and aggravated when I have to use it. It seems I rarely find myself on my iMac, iPod or iPhone worrying about multi-threaded processes or unresponsive programs. And for most consumers, that's one more thing to love about the Apple OS. Sure, it comes with the cost that I can't have apps running in the background on my iPhone, but my iPhone rarely hangs, crashes or has a radical change in the battery life with each new app I might download to it.

Ratings and reviews of apps in the open market are meant to help consumers, but I often wonder which reviewers to trust and whether one app offers the complete solution I need or a more usable interaction model for my tastes. In the case of Astro, several apps purport to do some or all of the capabilities. Some charge. I then wonder, will the quality be the same for the developer who isn't getting paid?Courtesy of Gizmodo Will they maintain the app? Will they support me if I have trouble? Will they care if the application doesn't work well with other applications I may download? And how will I know if they conflict until I download them. A reviewer of the application may not have the same things on their phone that I do, or want to use their phone as I do.

In a world where there are infinite ways to configure a phone with settings and application combos that meet any user's specific needs, the best solution a service rep can offer when a customer complains about their device's performance is to wipe it clean and start over. But facing that experience when you need to place a call and your phone is frozen is daunting. As an example, last night, my home screen theme application was corrupted and the home screen displayed a message compelling me to force it to close. After five times of doing that and not being able to break the cycle, I removed the battery and I removed the SIM. Neither action, both typically offered as the first cure by carrier care reps who don't know what apps I may have downloaded and configured, repaired the problem. The device seemed completely inaccessible and unusable. After a trip to the T-Mobile Forums and a hard reset, which removed all settings and personalizations,  I was able to make a call more than twenty minutes later. But now, which apps to re-load? How do I know what was the offending piece of code?

As geeky as I am, I still want things to just work, and I get frustrated when I use applications that allow me to do things I really shouldn't or require me to understand arcane technical jargon. And I don't have the time to fuss with bad design to engage and interact with a solution. The challenge with open is that everyone can play, but maybe for consumers that isn't always going to be a simple way to have compelling experiences.

Friday
Dec042009

Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web - Is It Really a Competition?

There seems to be a raging debate in the mobile marketing arena about which will be the winning platform for mobile advertisers – the mobile application or the mobile web browser. I’d actually say it isn’t a fair fight.

Mobile applications should optimally use a process of integrating with the hardware and/or user interface of the software operating system, generally through application programming interfaces and a transaction engine or download manager, like the Apps Store or the Android Market. The browser, on the other hand, has limited direct access to hardware components (e.g, GPS, camera), yet depends on the software operating system for enablers like video playback. Browsers appear as a standalone application for retrieving and viewing standard web content on smartphones. The browser often requires a zoom-in to position content for reading, and different sites may or may not optimize page layout for a mobile experience, let alone for a particular device, screen size or aspect ratio. Apps tend to have a fixed layout purely intended for mobile display and can call a browser to support visualizing data outside the application UI.

The web provides a familiar metaphor to consumers for discovering content. App stores often have a merchandising architecture intended to promote new apps, top apps, of favorite apps. After that, a consumer must understand the categorization and information hierarchy to directly discover an app, so in either case search becomes the valuable solution.  It is possible from a web page to promote a downloadable app, and on Android devices there is a setting to enable downloadable apps from outside the device marketplace to have access to the device. In this case, a consumer might have an affinity with a brand, content or web service and see that there is solution to extend that relationship to their mobile device.  Added utility – capabilities enabled my the mobility of the user – can be a strong driver for a consumer to choose a mobile app.

For advertisers trying to leverage mobile, the notion that these two distinct user experiences require the same kind of consumer engagement is faulty.  The audience who doesn’t yet have an affinity for a brand won’t necessarily be motivated to discover an app on the shelf of the mobile device store unless it is highlighted and merchandised in the equivalent of a store “end-cap.”  Even though creating the mobile experience could be a tool to convert that consumer as a customer, it will not be enough to simply develop the app and get shelf space.  

First, an advertiser, publisher or content developer will need to determine the goal for their mobile experience – acquisition, loyalty, transactions, consumption – and then determine the right technical environment for accomplishing that goal.  If browser rendering can degrade an experience, then a mobile application can solve that. If there are hardware or application APIs that need to be leveraged, than an app will be better suited to integrate with them than the browser will.  If a mobile application is a desirable course of action, it does not mean that the mobile browser should be forgotten.  Consumers may still discover and engage with your brand through your website on their mobile device, and your application should at minimum be promoted, merchandised and supported through web pages, rendered in their device browser.

The initial choice for brands developing a mobile strategy shouldn’t be mobile application or mobile website. Mobile strategy must start with the consumer, and the relationship you hope to develop with them to engage with your brand. That likely leads to choosing to leverage both approaches.



Sunday
Nov152009

The Trouble With Social Apps

I recently downloaded the new version of Bump for Android. It is billed as cross platform because you can bump an iPhone and myTouch and exchange files. On both phones, the app performs similarly, except for a few differences like the interaction with the menu being button driven on a myTouch. With the iPhone in my right hand and the myTouch in my left I could tap the two phones and make a photo move "magically" from the iPhone on which I took it to the Android powered device.via intomobile.com

It all works very much as merchandised, but the problem is without both phones having the app, there's no value. If my friend doesn't have the app downloaded, it's just as simple to attach the photo to an email and send it along. In that scenario, I don't have to wait for my friend to download the app and set up their profile so they can receive my file, which I would have to do if Bump wasn't on their phone already. And what if they don't have a phone with an app store? Couldn't I use Bluetooth to accomplish the same thing? Bump without ubiquitous "bump-ability" is like the sound of one hand clapping.

Which brings me to the problem with social apps.

Click here to read more

Saturday
Nov142009

Weekend Survey - Downloadable Apps

There is so much talk about the importance of apps and smartphones, but my focus group of family and friends would tell you that is mostly what it is...talk. They don't live and die by the number of apps available once they get the handful of games, news and sports they like. If they even have a smartphone. And the agitation to download apps seems to diminish. I have often heard, "There are just so many of them it's hard for me to take the time to discover and try the ones I might like. Who has the time?

I often worry about the way we as technology innovators try to lead customers to new behaviors.  What we think is the "next new thing", many consumers talk about doing, but sometimes are not motivated enough to ACTUALLY do. To see where other folks may fall on this topic, I'm broadening the sample size by formalizing the poll below. So please vote and see are there more downloaders or a talkers. And feel free to add any additional comments around your vote below the poll.

Thursday
Nov122009

Behavioral Targeting, Will It Start to Be Creepier Than Ever Before?

Everyone hates a recommendation engine that thinks because you once bought a replica of medieval warrior for your nephew, you must be a fan of all things medieval. But we have all seen those ads on Facebook or Yahoo that seem to know where our brother went to college or when it's time to check the oil in our car. They always feel oddly relevant, yet creepy.

As advertisers migrate their communication to new channels like Twitter, iPhone apps and Facebook fan pages, behavioral targeting starts to notice my digital trail and not just my declared interest in a singular piece of content. Convergence enables the convenient amalgamation of my personal data for easy access from anywhere. I love it when I want to show a photo of my dog or a trip I didn't take with my phone to someone on an airplane over a wifi connection. Technology needs only to connect the dots in those moments to prove to me how innovation improves the quality of my life as a consumer.

Holly Brown, SVP MRM with panelists Vipin Mayar, EVP Global Analytics and Marketing Accountability, MRM Worldwide: Ben Straley Co-Founder & CEO, Meteor Solutions; Volkan Tekel,i Director Customer Analytics, Xbox Consumer Marketing, Microsoft;; Brian K. Walker Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

As a technologist, it is easy to understand the value of connecting the meta-data behind that interaction e.g., what sites i visit while on a plane, what ads I click on, what media I watch. What advertiser wouldn't want to know If their Facebook fans who also use airplane wifi are more active and engaged buyers or if a Twitter follower who also downloads games from their iPhone may likely be in New York when you open a new retail store and should receive a coupon? Targeting is highly valuable for an advertiser, but at what level is targeting creepy for a user?

When does technology enablement cross from being a benefit to stalking? I was recently followed by someone on Twitter who had a persona of a stalker. His tweets were "I see you" and "I know what you do on Monday after work'." I know, I did block MrBeanstalks as spammer, if only because he creeped me out. My rational mind knows he wasn't following me in the literal sense...but, he was following me in the digital sense, and that still felt weird.

After attending my first Digital Immersion Lab on Analytics at MRM in Seattle tonight, I couldn't help but wonder, will engagement hungry advertisers and developers of digital marketing solutions be able to responsibly meld social media and marketing so they don't seem like Mr Beanstalks?  Tell me what you think in the comment section here.

Saturday
Nov072009

Android Fragmentation is Everyone's Responsibility

In response to a post on Moconews by Tricia Duryee, "Will Google's Android Suffer from Fragmentation?", I'd like to highlight 3 areas most likely driving the variations in Android which will impact how the community being built around the open OS emerges:

1) UI/UX. Each market developer will not be compiling to each of the branded presentation frameworks that the OEMs use to differentiate themselves.  The market is a separate set of apps appended to the interaction screens created for a particular phone.
2) Device. Each manufacturer will try to optimize the way Android runs with their combination of choices for chipset, software solutions, screen and licenses. Over time the linkage between how the market apps are informed as a whole about how to interoperate with these unique stacks may get tighter, but the 3rd party app developer may not get access to APIs directly.
3) Network. OEMs and carriers will not want to enable apps to hog resources like the “fat kid at the front of the buffet line.” Because there are variances in each carrier’s network, and testing between the OEM and the carrier before the device is certified, apps that unduly use network resources may be blocked at the device or network level through configurations that prevent it from degrading all customer experiences on that network (e.g. constantly polling the network.)

Will this de facto create fragmentation? Perhaps. But for Android to succeed at open, everyone in the value chain has to believe it is a good idea to open each layer that impacts the user experience on a particular device. I would argue that it isn’t necessarily in the best interest of the consumer to do that since many consumers I have seen with Android devices can’t tell a good app from a bad app. The messages about what the app uses are so geeky that consumers ignore them, take anything and everything onto their device, and can rapidly find themselves with a sluggish, underperforming handset that is undependable as a mobile phone.

Just like with Windows, consumers may still find they have to purchase a new device to upgrade to a newer version of Android’s OS even though their handset is capable of receiving an over the air update. If their existing device hardware is unable to support the next gen features (eg, better screen resolution, ROM size), the update just won’t come to it and they will have to buy new hardware. This is a bit of a red herring, and pretty much a fact of life with most update-able consumer electronics, but perhaps just more noticeable in the rapidly changing world of wireless devices.