Alltel is going to be promoting ChaCha's mobile answers. Here's the press release:
Alltel customers need quick and concise answers to questions they may have while on the go, and we believe that ChaCha’s mobile answers services provides the right amount of information mobile users need,” said Craig Kirkland, vice president of messaging and voice services for Alltel Wireless. “We’re delighted to work with ChaCha, and our mobile users will be thrilled with the fun and user-friendly ChaCha mobile answers service.”
Verizon has acquired Alltel (for $28 billion). So that may lead to expansion of the deal to Verizon.
Out of a reported 25,000 requests about 4,000 developers were approved to build iPhone applications. Among the many location-based apps will be some from Yelp, Loopt, Pelago, uLocate/Where and Dial Directions. It will be interesting to start investigating the full range of LBS services when the apps store launches (tomorrow in all probability). ShoZu has also launched an app, which it previews in this mock movie trailer (again the movie analogy appears) on YouTube. ShoZu isn't a mobile social network but a way for users to manage media on the mobile devices across multiple networks.
Yesterday, in an email to me, Yahoo assailed the credibility and methodology behind Nielsen's mobile search market share estimate. As I look at Nielsen's mobile video numbers reported earlier this week I'm lead to ask whether they're credible in this arena. In a report on TV/video viewing across screens, Nielsen found the following:
Nielsen's findings show that screen time of the average American continues to increase with TV users watching more TV than ever before (127 hrs, 15 min per month), while also spending 9% more time using the Internet (26 hrs, 26 min per month) from last year. At the same time, a small but growing number of Internet and mobile phone users are watching video online (2 hrs, 19 min per month), as well as using their cell phones to watch video (3 hrs, 15 min per month).
Source: Nielsen Mobile (5/08)
Regarding the mobile component of this research, I simply don't buy it. I know no one -- not one person -- who regularly watches mobile video, let alone more than three hours per month. Consistently, competing data indicate most U.S. consumers are at best ambivalent about mobile video at worst completely indifferent. Mobile TV subscriber numbers are basically tiny in the U.S., though larger in the EU and Asia.
iPhone video usage and viewing data reflect that with better handsets people will watch video. But pricing is arguably the biggest issue. Before mobile video/TV can really grow into a mainstream phenomenon prices will need to come down for a la carte subscribers or be bundled as an incentive to upgrade to "everything" plans, as with Sprint.
Here's lots more Nielsen Mobile data, which argues that the US leads in terms of mobile Internet adoption. I'll do more analysis of the data later on.
The iPhone 3G launch this Friday parallels movie marketing. First come the generally enthusiastic reviews from USAToday, the NY Times and Wall Street Journal. USAToday even self-consciously uses the film analogy:
Extra, extra: iPhone 3G: The Sequel, is worth the wait. It's cheaper, faster and a lot friendlier for business. Apple's blockbuster smartphone already had nifty features such as visual voicemail, a splendid built-in video iPod and the best mobile Web browser I've ever used. With GPS newly added to the mix, this handheld marvel has no equal among consumer-oriented smartphones.
Most of the criticism is reserved for AT&T's 3G network (patchy) and pricing ($10 more expensive per month), although the iPhone battery life takes a hit from the WSJ/Mossberg review:
First, in my tests, the iPhone 3G’s battery was drained much more quickly in a typical day of use than the battery on the original iPhone, due to the higher power demands of 3G networks.
The NY Times' David Pogue lauds the software and applications coming with the new phone, which aren't limited to the new phone (they work with the original iPhone and the iPod Touch):
[T]he iPhone App Store [is] a central, complete, drop-dead simple online catalog of new programs for the iPhone. Hundreds will be available when the store opens Friday, with thousands to follow. You browse, download and install new programs directly on the iPhone; they don’t have to be transferred from a computer, and you don’t have to hack the phone to use them. Most of the programs will be free or cheap.
As we've argued before, its the software ecosystem and applications that will ultimately add distance between the iPhone and its challengers. Also among the new applications are a number that are local or leverage location:
One coming program, called iCall, will give you free phone calls when you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot. Another, called G-Park, exploits G.P.S. to help you find where you parked. Yet another, Urbanspoon, is “a cross between a magic eight ball and a slot machine:" you shake the phone, and it randomly displays the name of a good restaurant nearby, using the iPhone’s G.P.S. and motion sensor.
With the high pent up demand for the new phone and the generally favorable reviews coming out it's probable that iPhone 3G will have a strong opening weekend.
Related: Here's a Forbes piece that argues not all developers are happy with the iPhone and its apps store. This is mostly about the apparent challenges of charging for applications:
Steve Andler, vice president of marketing at Networks In Motion . . . says the problem is that iTunes ties applications to a user's iTunes account, as opposed to a device. For instance, a customer could have "three iPhones synched to the same iTunes account, and thus would only be paying for one copy of the application, but using it on three devices," Andler says.
The NY Times has a good discussion of U.S. carrier Sprint's Churn crisis and how the carrier is trying to push its "Everything" plan, sell improved customer service and change its culture. According to Sprint's publicly reported data, the company lost roughly a million subscribers in Q1.
There is an opportunity to sell and succeed with improved service, but that service hasn't yet "trickled down" to the local store level. Bad, indifferent service still prevails at many Sprint stores. If that can be changed the carrier has an opportunity to compete on price/plans and to retain and even attract customers based on service.
Underdog status and the continuing need to compete aggressively will cause Sprint to publicize and popularize its Everything plan, keeping the heat on the other major carriers. These plans will help drive mobile Internet adoption. Price is the biggest single hurdle in that equation.
Sprint in many ways is the most progressive operator (including with advertising) and its WiMax/Clearwire initiative has the opportunity to shake up the marketplace if it can be rolled out efficiently and is priced correctly.
U.S. carrier numbers:
At one point Sprint was discussed as a takeover or merger candidate for T-Mobile. There will certainly be more consolidation in the market in the near term.
BusinessWeek reports on MetroPCS enabling "unlocking."
The time between announcements and product releases can be excruciatingly slow. Such is the case with the Android platform and Android phones. We've been teased with mobile applications and pseudo-demo phones running Android. But there are no handsets yet.
T-Mobile is now rumored to be ready to release an Android-based handset in the U.S. in late fall to coincide with the national rollout of its 3G network. This is generally consistent with what Google's Andy Rubin has been saying all along about a "second half" ('08) launch. It's just hard to wait.
HTC is the first confirmed OEM to be offering one. An HTC touch-screen phone paired with an Android OS (together with a range of software) could become a viable alternative for the mobile-Internet-interested unwilling to switch to AT&T (to get the iPhone).
But it all remains a matter of speculation unless/until the handsets ship.
Wired offers a sneak preview of aspects of the 3G iPhone software.
Here's a curious finding from market researcher Ipsos (reported in the NY Times): U.S. data:
If we use a base of 250 million cellphone users in the the US, that's 45 million who text. Then there's this data that seems to fly in the face of the above: And last week there was this survey placing a very high premium on text messaging (most important features to cell phone buyers):
Reconciling these data with the Ipsos data above probably involves segmenting the findings by age.
Many handsets have claimed to be the iPhone killer. None have come close to living up to that label. However, the forthcoming all-touch-screen Blackberry Thunder, while not an "iPhone Killer," could provide the first truly viable alternative to the iPhone for loyal Blackberry fans.
Here are some screenshots, which make the device look impressive. What will increasingly separate the iPhone from its competitors, however, is the universe of software developers bringing rich, "native" applications to the device. Blackberry is aware of this and has launched its own fund to encourage software development.
However, as the leading U.S. smartphone many developers bring out Blackberry apps first (e.g., Google Maps with voice) to gain the broadest distribution they can as quickly as they can.
Related: Does O2's UK experience suggest massive "pent up" demand for the iPhone for next week's US launch? There also appears to be real traction for the iPhone in the enterprise, which is a market share threat to RIM.
Local Mobile Search Advisory
At least for now, Google has won the desktop search war. Will that translate into mobile success? Recent data reflect that Google’s brand equity and investment are turning into a substantial lead in mobile search. Will “search” become equally important in mobile and where might Google be vulnerable? The wide range of mobile devices and user experiences potentially creates openings for companies other than Google to rise in mobile and gain mindshare and market share.
Featured Research is available to registered users only.
For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Seeking to distance itself from the burgeoning field of mobile social networking sites and applications (i.e., Where, Whrrl, Brightkite and so on), Loopt is starting a more traditional marketing push -- of a sort.
This is coming in the form of product placement and demos on "The Middle Show," a Web-only man-on-the-street comedy program, with "webisodes" running approximately three minutes. As MediaPost reports:
The short videos are developed with independent production studio Black20 and feature David Price, host of the Internet-only, late night-style "Middle Show," using Loopt's mobile friend-finding technology as he rocks around New York City. Each show will start with a brief Loopt message and end with a plug from Price.
Assuming some viewership for the Middle Show it's a smart strategy for visibility and user education. As LMS research indicates, most mobile users are largely ignorant of mobile social networks and their capabilities. Many also don't see a reason to use them:
Source: LMS/Multiplied Media (3/08, n=730)