Opera has released a free new version (9.5) of its full mobile browser, as opposed to the Opera Mini. I downloaded it and am so far impressed with its speed and usability. It offers tabbed browsing, like on the desktop.
Now you've got both Opera and Skyfire (Safari on the iPhone and soon Mozilla) going head-to-head with features in a bid to bring "the real Internet" to mobile devices.
Zumobi has launched its widget-based application for Blackberry. Conceptually similar to Where or the iPhone, the app provides distribution for a range of content partners (via "Tiles") on an customizable interface. Those partners include NPR, AP, Twitter, Facebook and a range of others. In addition, the widget format offers a range of interesting brand and merchant promotional opportunities.
Where just launched a successful application for the iPhone that incorporates its content partners, who in many cases (i.e., Yelp, Eventful) have their own independent iPhone apps. A Where executive told me yesterday that the people seem to be responding to the convenience of having lots of content (local metasearch) in a single iPhone application.
Zumobi should thus follow in Where's footsteps, if it isn't already.
Blackberry benefits from having the largest U.S. smartphone market share, but it doesn't have the developer or applications ecosystem (yet) to rival the iPhone. Here's a side-by-side comparison between the iPhone 3G and Blackberry Bold.
Google some time ago introduced the ability for Maps users to write their own ratings directly on Google (as opposed to simply seeing aggregated ratings from third parties). The company is now enabling users to write reviews of restaurants from a mobile browser.
Once the desired restaurant is located users navigate to the "sign in and write a review link" (which appears further down from the listing on the details page):
Star ratings are provided via a pull-down menu and then people have the option to include a narrative. Presumably these ratings would also be incorporated into Google Maps on the desktop.
One might think mobile reviews would be inhibited by the "form factor" and resistance to typing on a mobile keyboard. However, Google's emphasis on stars (with optional narrative) makes it quite easy to complete a review in a few seconds. Notwithstanding the fact that it's a little buried, this capability should generate lots of additional reviews content for Google. People will likely do this while they're in the restaurant or just after they've left.
I would also guess that these star ratings will eventually make it into Goog411 as well ("sort by rating").
Avot Media conducted an online consumer mobile video survey (sample size not specified). According to the press materials "Survey takers were asked to test-drive Avot Media’s mobile video delivery service. After watching a video they answered 10 short questions about the overall experience."
It's not at all clear how well these findings can be generalized beyond the respondents themselves. But there's clearly a "half empty" or "half full" story to tell from the results. Avot tells the half full story.
Here are some of the findings (for those 29 and younger):
On the half empty side, depending on your perspective, the following respondent percentages expressed "concerns" about:
Without specifying any numbers the release also says: "The study uncovers users' concerns and interests regarding mobile media quality, start-up time, costs, and content choice."
Mobile video still has a long way to go (mobile TV in particular). But I must clarify my remarks about the recent Nielsen Mobile study about video viewing. I was told that the 3+ hours of mobile video included downloads/sideloads (not just TV subs) and was a median number not an average.
Though it's tiny, USAToday presents a mostly upbeat profile of VirginMobile, which recently bought Helio's business for roughly $39 million in equity. The company has some innovative marketing and retention programs and is focused squarely on the youth market.
Here's an interesting tidbit in the USAToday piece about the company's ad subsidized minutes/texts program "SugarMama":
Its "Sugar Mama" service, aimed at fusing ads into the mobile experience, rewards customers — with wireless minutes — for watching ads. So far, about 750,000 customers have signed up, earning 23 million minutes overall. (Customers are limited to 75 free minutes a month.)
Blyk in the UK reports phenomenal success with its program, which is more central to the overall value proposition.
Reuters and others are reporting that Korea's SK Telecom, one of the two partners in the now defunct Helio MVNO (acquired last month by VirginMobile), is going to make another run at the U.S. market with a potential strategic investment in Sprint. Some outlets had reported that SK Telecom was seeking to acquire Spint outright; however, that outcome is highly unlikely.
Alternatively, the discussions could be exclusively about technology collaboration.
Sprint, the number three U.S. carrier (52 million subs) lost just over a million subscribers in Q1, but has said sales of "iPhone Killer" Samung Instinct have exceed expectations.
The Guardian UK is reporting that SK Telecom has denied that it's interested in a "controlling stake" in any U.S. carrier. That doesn't preclude an investment of some sort however.
From the press release:
Yell.com mobile maps, a downloadable application that offers a range of market-leading product features, enables consumers to locate any address in the UK, get walking or driving directions displayed right on the map, and search for any of the 2.3m businesses available on Yell.com.
Features unique to Yell.com mobile maps offer consumers the ability to save business names, addresses and phone numbers directly to the phone's contact list and also to share this information with others via text messaging – ideal, for instance, when organising a night out. People can also contact businesses directly from the application with a simple click to call.
Walking directions is a nice feature. Yell also offers a more "traditional" WAP-based search tool. According to Nielsen Mobile, the UK is second to the US in terms of mobile Internet usage:
Where (uLocate) put out a press release today to promote its early success as one of the more popular iPhone applications. On the top 100 list of free applications, it comes in at number 19:
WHERE, is among the most popular applications on the new iPhone App Store pulling in as many as 100 activations per second. Since the launch of Apple's new App Store on Friday, WHERE has received over 125,000 downloads, surpassing all other GPS applications on the App Store.
Among the location aware iPhone apps that we cataloged, only WeatherBug, the Google Mobile App (partly local) and movie finder BoxOffice were ahead of it.
Where/uLocate marketing VP Dan Gilmartin just indicated to me in email that the service had 135,000 downloads this evening.
The New York Times writes at length about the Urbanspoon iPhone app.
When the "Twitter buying Summize" rumors first appeared I wrote this post:
Twitter is a service that I do not use, but others love it. However, Twitter (or Twitter plus Summize) could become a very useful mobile search engine (for recommendations) or real-time “mobile social DA.” What I mean by social DA, as in directory assistance, is a distributed base of users who substitute for the function of directory assistance.
Rather than the self-indulgent string of “tweets” (I’m in the car, I’m now getting out of the car, I’m now opening the front door . . .) one could ask the community for local recommendations. Alternatively, if an engine like Summize could filter out the “noise” among the tweets it might create a very valuable database of content that could be accessed on the go.
Now that the acquisition has been confirmed (for an estimated $15 million), this is the path that I believe the company must pursue to really become useful. In addition, a searchable archive of recommendations would enable the service to broaden its appeal.
There are several advertising scenarios, but that all probably revolve around contextual and geographically targeted ads.
Bolstered by its recent acquisition of M:Metrics, comScore put out new mobile usage figures for May 2008:
Note the discrepancy between the iPhone population and the general market. Competitor Nielsen says that 40 million U.S. mobile subscribers (15.6%) access the Internet on mobile phones at least once per month.