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 wireless (8)

Sunday
Jan092011

CES 2011 Video Moments

I hope you enjoy these two video montages of the sites and sounds of CES. It's a visual and auditory mashup, but so is walking around the show floor.

And, just in case you think it's all glam and glitter at CES, please see my post on Technorati, Ten Things I Hate About CES.

Friday
Apr302010

Favorite Tweets of the Day

A weekend reading list o' links, brought to you by the folks I follow on Twitter...

@rcrwirelessnews RCR Special Report: Mobile Marketing's Promise: A Universe of One. Sponsored by Mobile Marketing Association. http://budurl.com/MMASR

@SignificObs Concept? Rocks. Writer? Rocks. Cause? Rocks. Bid on one of the last @SignificObs http://bit.ly/9kOxI5 @girlswritenow (via @R_Nash)

@communiquepr Social Media Contests Have the Power to Drive Massive Awareness & Engagement | http://bit.ly/awaxPh

@mcuban The Bifurcation of Twitter: In case you haven’t noticed, there are now 2 Twitters. The first Twitter operates just... http://bit.ly/aoualk

 

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?

Thursday
Jan212010

Minutes, Messages and Megabytes - Making Sense of Wireless Pricing

First published on Technorati

On a recent visit to the concessions counter at the local Cineplex, my husband and I debated about the size of the popcorn tub to buy. He often argues that the best value is in buying the biggest bucket, while I maintain that it’s not a value because we consistently leave half of the bucket uneaten, since the portion size could feed a small village for a month. Inevitably when we have this debate, other couples join in and take sides, but in the end it is hard to argue that the small bag is a “good buy.”

Wireless carriers appear to have learned a lot about marketing to consumers from movie theater concessionaires. And the recent round of announcements about new unlimited wireless plan pricing from AT&T and Verizon continues the tradition. Intuitively, consumers feel good when the per-unit price of an item seems smallest. Unlimited voice plans give you the smallest per unit charge imaginable, since your phone bill is capped but your usage is not. Wasted minutes – known as “breakage” - are like uneaten popcorn in the bucket under your seat. It’s still the better deal per unit, even if you don’t take the benefit from the extra units. But some consumers wonder, is leaving a monthly pile of unused minutes and messages really a better deal?

There really is no risk that unlimited plans will drive voice consumption higher, because the truth is that voice usage is flattening and voice revenue has been declining. While carriers are hoping to spur the utilization of their voice networks and extract more revenue from their existing network assets, a minute of voice is no longer worth what it used to be to the average consumer.

Text messaging has followed the same bundled pricing strategy, although unlike voice, messaging has grown substantially in the past few years. To protect their margins, US carriers control the messaging costs by leveraging existing voice networks to control message size and offer no specific delivery time frame for messages.

While carriers appear to be giving away unbounded aciPhone mobile webcess to their mature voice networks with unlimited minute plans, they are much more miserly about giving away data. The accelerated adoption of web-enabled phones, app stores, and downloadable media has shown carriers where the demand is heading. Within 3 years, analysts believe the number of Internet-compatible mobile phones will be 1.82 billion, exceeding the number of PCs, and drive the majority of website accesses. Within 5 years, these same analysts predict mobile devices will become the main mode of accessing the web.

To protect against an overwhelming demand for data that may precede the build-out of their mobile broadband infrastructure, US carriers are much more defensive on the broadband side, and have been creating additional pricing tiers for data plans. These plans will introduce a new unit of cost for mobile consumers to assess: the megabyte (MB). Verizon, for example, will be charging all 3G phones users a mandatory $10 per month for 25 MB of web access. Unfortunately, most consumers don’t actually know how to gauge the number of megabytes they may consume while scrolling or surfing any particular site’s web pages. To help consumers prevent overages, most carriers provide a way to gauge remaining, unused megabytes, but these tools don’t give users an easy way to predict how visited sites may consume them.

Vodaphone MB Usage Calc 

Vodaphone introduced a MB Usage Calculator to help people pick a plan up front, but it isn’t specific enough to allow a customer to budget the number of pages you might be able to view, or how long you can spend on any web page. When Apple coined the phrase “1000 songs in your pocket” to describe the capacity of a 4GB iPod, they defined a unit of storage, a gigabyte, in terms any consumer could understand. To aid wireless consumers in understanding the new billing measure, Bill Shrink created a nifty graphic that applies the same approach to megabytes and data, translating these digital units into recognizable measures of usage. Bill Shrink

Thursday
Jan072010

Will I Ever Get to Be Judy Jetson?

One of the things I love about CES is how each year the optimists want us to believe that because two pieces of technology can be made to work together, consumers should be excited about the mere possibilities, if not the execution.  Instead of driving a car, we’ll be driving mobile hotspots. We’ll control every home system from a portable device that lets you program your thermostat and digital video recorder from some cloud of information that follows us from home to the car to our offices and onto an airplane.  We will never have the excuse that technology won’t connect us to people wishing to reach us, except when we have no battery power or AC outlet.

Not to worry, though, technologists are aggressively trying to solve the power problem, too. Induction charging mats, solar chargers, and charging sticks are all over the show floor. Pretty soon, we’ll all be wearing a battery belt which charges each of our portable devices while they hang from our belt loops.  Unfortunately, the market for electronic wearables has not gained much traction yet with manufacturers and retailers beyond iPod messenger bags and workout gear.

Computers have run a lot of our car’s mechanical systems for a while now, and computer-assisted diagnostics have shown consumer benefits which has enabled manufacturers to consider exposing the “operating system” and selling apps, downloadable directly to your car. Streaming video, voice over IP and shopping has the potential to make the distraction of text messaging look trivial.

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press suggest that maybe the electronics industry has it right, and consumers are ready for these lifestyle changes. About two-thirds (65%) say the internet has been a change for the better, while just 16% say it has been a change for the worse; 11% say it hasn’t made much difference while 8% are unsure.



Wednesday
Dec162009

Deja Vizit? 

Today's Wall Street Journal featured a profile of Glen Lurie, President of the AT&T's new product group charged with creating non-traditional wireless products. In the article, a new digital picture frame, called Vizit from Isabella Products, was highlighted.

I received an email from the company today, indicating the product will be available for $279.99 plus a choice of Photo Plans: aBasic Photo Plan $5.99/month  or a Premium Photo Plan $79.99/year (includes 20% more photos).

A year ago, during my tenure at T-Mobile, I led a product development team that launched the T-Mobile cameo, one of the first digital picture frames connected to a wireless carrier network. The product was highly appealing to consumers and reviewers alike. Engadget noted: "Critics were able to MMS over images from a variety of rival networks...Overall, however, it was noted that usability was remarkably high and that the process was easy enough for most anyone to grasp."T-Mobile cameo

The main challenge the product struggled with was its pricing model which integrated an unsubsidized piece of hardware with its utility coming from a monthly service. Imagine if all of a sudden your digital camera cost you $279, like it does today, but every picture you take flies automagically to your Flickr or your MobileMe account. And the whole thing only works if you pay a fee every month.

New experiences often create dissonance in a consumer's mind when they are introduced, but that is especially true when new pricing models are appended to them. How do I value having a TV that gives me 999 channels when in practical terms I only watch so many hours of television? How many consumers know their home broadband speed and how much of that bandwidth they pay for they actually use each month?

The Vizit picture frame may add a few capabilities to the cameo - screen, website management tools - but the pricing model may still be the biggest barrier to the category becoming mainstream for consumers.

Thursday
Nov052009

What is Open?

It has been a day to listen to industry leaders talk about the topics around breaking down the walls erected by the "soviet ministries", AKA the wireless carriers. Great panel at the Open Mobile Summit, moderated by Walt Mossberg. Guests were AT&T CTO, John Donovan, Palm SVP Michael Abbott, Google Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch. Conversation kicked off with a question about where in the value chain or technology stack manufacturers or developers or networks need to open. Does open require access to every component of a product's architecture? Is fragmentation simply a verticalized solution of a horizontal technology?

Also, some discussion centered around the semantic web, creating an open Internet data model, and the individual consumer's control of their own personal data history.

IMS is seen as a driver of a converged data model and is expected to require policies around the handling of consumer data to ensure security and privacy.

VoIP is a a hot topic when the industry talks about access, which is a consequence of open systems. It is still obvious that there is no shared perspective in this group.

Another interesting topic was the challenge for a user to see how their data moves around the open web and in and out of mobile devices with them. In a world of federated statuses and shared address books, consumers do get benefits from open (APIs and shared logins), but what happens to their personal data along the the way?

Wasn't Open ID supposed to provide this? As Vint Cerf reminded folks "Innovation is useless unless adopted," which Open ID has not been. So what credentials will emerge to help consumers protect themselves and their personal identity in the wild west of open mobile?

Sunday
Oct252009

Drinking Too Much Kool Aid

I am delighted to be in the San Diego area this week attending the Rutberg Wireless Influencers conference. Not only is the weather amazing, it has been a great way to feel the pulse of the wireless industry during a very interesting time in the consumer adoption curve for broadband data on mobile handsets. As the industry continues to predict the trends and possible winning technologies in the areas of location based services, mobile payments, mobile advertising and paid content, consumers are assumed to be ready and interested in each and every innovation that technology enables. 

Business models forecast unbounded adoption of smartphones within the next two years. Venture capitalists vote with their dollars and business development leaders consider that proof positive that they were correct about the next new thing simply because they've been funded. But where's the consumer in this discussion? The industry leaders must remember that while they may wish to influence consumer behavior, they can not prescribe it; consumers look for value and they need to simply understand the benefit they gain from changing to their existing behaviors or engaging in a new one.

Because over the years I have attended many conferences like this one in a variety of exotic locales and resorts without my husband and have been unable to convince him they weren't all boondoggles, this time I agreed to bring him along. He is not a technologist. He is a former COO who recently retired after the sale of his motion picture equipment rental business and lives comfortably amongst the laggards on the opposite end of the technology adoption curve than me. He reads every instruction manual, and doesn't know the difference between an email and a SMS message on his phone. "Aren't they all messages?" he'll lament. He's the guy that says "no", whenever his PC asks "Are you sure?" after he performs a deletion or submits a change. He's never sure.

Seeing the industry through his eyes, as he mingles at the receptions and social activities that supplement the conference experience, has been incredibly helpful. I know him to be a bright and capable leader, who has started business and worked in large companies. And yet he still doesn't purchase apps or pay for content or buy ringtones on his phone. His mobile device is not where he focuses his attention when he is bored. The perspective he offers me has been invaluable. Where I see possibilities, he has seen broken promises. Great intentions are not enough for him. He needs great execution. He needs an experience he can love. Which always reminds me...so do I.