Twitter execs say the company is developing an application programming interface (API) specifically to make it easier to associate geographic location with the content of Tweets. This is something that third-party applications like Twinkle have done for some time, providing a way for mobile Twitter users to communicate with those nearby. There have also been a number of user-driven initiatives to embed geographic "hash tags" (like #SF or #NYC) so that Twitter search could sort out geographically relevant comments, questions or queries.
Reports say that the new API is designed specifically for third-party platforms like Tweetdeck and Tweetie, and will enable Twitter users to link latitude and longitude information to their Tweets. An immediate improvement would be to associate the lat/long info with the designation of a neighborhood (using the facilities of the likes of Urban Mapping or Maponics). Associating location with neighborhood should benefit people who use Twitter to learn who's nearby, what's nearby, and what can be done without getting too specific about exact location.
There is already significant evidence that geocoding Tweets will sound the alarm among privacy mavens who oppose any openings for targeted advertising delivery. Yet there is also evidence of a critical mass of Twitterers and social networkers who enjoy publishing their specific locations for the purpose of promoting local activities. Still experience with Yahoo's Fire Eagle, Google's Latitude and Brightkite's (ahem) Brightkite have cultivated an increasingly sophisticated set of mobile users who are prepared to control (and game) the location-aware Twittersphere to serve their desired ends and objectives.
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, based on a review of historical survey data, the top daily activity for US teens is text messaging. In other words, teens text more than they do almost anything else. In addition, we've reported on mobile SMS campaigns that reflect response rates that are often 2X to 10X higher than online advertising. Yet T-Mobile has said that SMS campaigns in Europe with well-known brands were, on average, 30X more effective than online display advertising.
Here's Pew's teen activities chart:
In addition SRG reports (n=2,000) that for young women (12 -24), mobile is the technology with the greatest impact on their lives:
You should join us then for the forthcoming webinar in Thursday, August 27: SMS Marketing: Direct Route to Consumer Engagement, featuring 4Info and ChaCha. We'll provide an overview of the market and they'll provide cases and concrete examples of SMS marketing in practice.
It's free and if you sign up you get a copy of our corresponding white paper -- also for free.
On the Opus Research Web site, I posted this set of thoughts about the how Apple's shunning of Google Voice and related applications:
It reads like very old news to those of us who closely follow the trials and tribulations of Google Voice on the iPhone. Nonetheless this column by Andy Kessler in the Wall Street Journal spells out all that is wrong about the way that the App Store's staff formally rejected and expunged Google Voice and related iPhone applications and enablers. Kessler subscribes to the theory (first spelled out in detail by the folks at TechCrunch) that AT&T was the eminence grise that urged Apple to nix the Google Voice application on the ostensible grounds that it duplicates too many native iPhone capabilities (and what telephony application doesn't). Kessler almost needlessly points out that the reason for the rejection is the fact that "AT&T is dying" and wants to cripple any innovation by phone app developers while it essentially overcharges for minutes of use (for voice) and kilobytes of content (for data). Whether AT&T or Apple precipitated the rejection is irrelevant. What's more important is that a stench is building around present practices that make it hard, or expensive, for application developers to bring a host of new services to market. Kessler brings up many of the memes espoused by the Freedom to Connect (F2C) mavens, urging wholesale changes in public policy surrounding communications, especially the end of exclusivity and ownership of the airwaves. This is no time for the FCC to treat incumbent carriers like the SEC and Treasury Dept. have treated large banks and mortgage facilitators. As Kessler puts it, "new features for apps like Google Voice are only limited by the imagination." Hear! Hear!
Blockbuster Inc. today announced plans to feature the BLOCKBUSTER OnDemand movie download service in select Motorola phones, giving Motorola access to the BLOCKBUSTER OnDemand service and furthering Blockbuster's digital strategy by providing its library of premium digital entertainment to mobile devices for the first time.
Through the agreement select Motorola phones will feature an exclusive BLOCKBUSTER OnDemand application, providing on-the-go download access to Blockbuster's digital library of thousands of current BLOCKBUSTER OnDemand movies.
This may boost the OnDemand service slightly but it's not really going to help Motorola that much. Perhaps if there are two equally priced Android handsets side by side (Motorola vs. Samsung) this might be something of a tie-breaker.
As a stand-alone offering people might pay a monthly subscription, but I'm guessing it's part of a larger subscription package that provides access to mobile as a part of the larger offering.
Mobile video viewing continues to gain though subscription-based mobile TV will continue to struggle as an unnecessary product (unless or until the price becomes trivial or part of an upsell data package).
Source: Opus Research 4/09 (n=611)
Wireless access provider Meraki released what it called a "wireless census" this week. The data are based on "activity seen by a single set of randomly selected Meraki wireless access points in North America in 2008 and 2009 in order to understand macro-level traffic and end-user device trends."
The devices observed at these hotspots or access points includes laptops as well as smartphones and other devices (i.e., iPod Touches) that are WiFi capable:
The number of client devices, such as laptops and handheld devices, observed by the same set of Meraki access points grew dramatically by 41% from 149,687 devices in 2008 to 211,190 in 2009. The number of Apple devices observed, including laptops, iPhones and iPods, grew by an impressive 221%. Apple devices now represent 32% of all the devices seen by this set of Meraki networks in North America, compared to just 14% in 2008.
Nokia and RIM represent smaller numbers but saw growth, especially RIM. Tragically the Storm is not WiFi capable but the Storm 2 (coming soon to Verizon in the US) reportedly will rectify that error.
Related: RIM says its new browser will offer full flash support.
The new Facebook app for the iPhone is coming very soon and TechCrunch was given an earliy look. Never a site to avoid hyperbole they called the new upgrade "the most useful app on the iPhone now, period." While I'm skeptical of that claim it does offer a wide range of improvements and enhnaced functionality.
Facebook is seeing increasing usage from mobile handsets. Earlier this year, in February, Facebook reported that it had 25 million mobile users around the world, with 4 million daily mobile users. I suspect those numbers are substantially larger today.
One way to think about the Layar "reality browser" is as a parallel universe of content and applications: a visual way to discover and render content on mobile devices using the camera as a navigation and input mechanism. However the experience as it currently stands -- while very cool -- is cumbersome and not an immediate replacement for traditional search or apps, as ways to get content.
For example, it's easier and quicker to use apps from Yelp, AroundMe, Places Directory, Superpages or numerous others to discover restaurants or other business types and locations near me than it is to scan the immediate area with the camera on my handset using Layar. Beyond the visual field, I discovered that Layar also shows results and information (often from Google) from farther away than the immediate area in front of me.
However what's interesting is that third party apps and content, including dozens of brands, apps (e.g., BrightKite, Yelp) and data providers are available through Layar. An example use case involves looking at a house for sale and pulling up the "real estate prices" app/layer (I believe the data are Europe only right now) and getting price and other information there on the camera screen. (One can do this with the Zillow and Trulia iPhone apps.)
The example given in this video uses BrightKite. Raimo van der Klein, CEO of Layar, demos Layar before a live audience. He scans the crowd in front of him and finds BrightKite users and their information. There's certainly a "wow factor" that comes with the functionality.
That said, I'm unlikely to use Layar to find something to do or someplace to eat later today or this evening, somewhere else. But if I'm right in front of a restaurant, I might use it to get reviews and prices, etc. Similarly I assume that it will extend to products (reviews, prices) and other objects and experiences in front of me. It's much less useful when I'm not near the thing I'm considering or interested in.
Though imperfect -- and I'm sure it will get better -- Layar takes advantage of the camera in the phone in a way that leverages the unique properties of the handset and mobile use case vs. simply duplicating local search on a PC. In apps like Layar, Zagat/NRU, Amazon and ShopSavvy, among a few others, we're seeing how the PC and mobile experiences are beginning to diverge.
Nokia is the dominant handset maker in the world. But it has seen that position erode, especially in the smartphone market. For example, Symbian saw its global market share decline from 62.3% at the end of 2007 to 47% at the end of 2008. That number further declined to 45% as of the most recent (Q2) Gartner handset numbers.
Now an article at MarketWatch, playing off a report from investment firm Goldman Sachs, reflects that Nokia may be stumbling at a critical time:
Nokia has also taken too long to upgrade its main software platform, the Symbian Series 60, which is now deemed too bulky and complex by many users, in particular when it comes to the touch interface.
"Our experience with the N97 has convinced us that Nokia needs to start almost from scratch to create an attractive user experience, rather than following the complex menu structure of Series 60," Goldman wrote.
Nokia, however, has said that it remains "strongly committed" to Symbian. According to Dow Jones Newswires:
Nokia Corp., the world's biggest maker of cellphones by volume, said Wednesday it remains "strongly committed" to the Symbian mobile operating system.
The statement comes after the German edition of the Financial Times reported citing an unnamed source that Nokia will abandon the Symbian platform for its smartphone devices in favor of the Maemo operating system.
"We remain strongly committed to our current open OS software strategy for cellular devices, which is based on the world-leading Symbian OS...," Nokia said in a statement.
World leading indeed; but for how much longer?
Long rumored, Dell's Android-based smartphone (dubbed the mini 3i) has been seen in China. Surprisingly the HTC lookalike device does not have WiFi and is 2G (but this is v 1). For more discussion of specs and speculation about the release date, see Techmeme.
As I said, this looks just like the HTC Magic/MyTouch Android handset, except for the absence of physical buttons on the front of the device. An interesting question to thus consider is how OEMs and carriers will differentiate these Android phones over time as more enter the market. More peripheral things such as camera, battery life and non-Android software (e.g., the HTC "Sense" interface) would presumably come into play.
Price would also be a potentially significant factor. As I've pointed out, OEMs now can't charge more than $200 for a subsidized smartphone in the US. Would multiple Android devices from multiple handset makers and carriers drive prices farther down?
It will be interesting to see who develops a $99 Android phone -- first.
Here are a couple of images of Dell's Android phone in China:
Related: China Mobile, the carrier slated to offer the Dell mini 3i, is launching an online apps store. This is analogous to other carrier apps stores (e.g., Verizon) rather than a handset OEM's (or OS maker's) apps store such as iTunes or the Android Market.
Some time ago I wrote a couple of posts arguing that Microsoft's best way to get back in the game in mobile -- notwithstanding the 30 million installed Windows Mobile phones -- was to buy Palm. Others have also argued this or some version of this as well. Most recently an opinion piece appeared in Business Week contending that Microsoft is falling farther behind with Windows Mobile and characterized WinMo 6.5 as a "minor release" -- a stopgap until WinMo 7 could come out late in 2010.
That was the line I was essentially pushing until I saw the video below demonstrating 6.5, which impressed me with its apparent improvements over 6.1.
There had been rumors of a "Zune-phone" and effectively that's what Microsoft has created. It has taken the Zune interface and moved it onto phones. Meanwhile, Zune HD boasts Internet access via WiFi hotspots.
When you step back and look at all the elements coming together here, along with the Zune HD as a mobile Internet device and the Mobile Marketplace (works I believe on Zune HD) what you have is Microsoft's iPhone, iTunes and iPod Touch equivalent. I'm sure the folks in Redmond would cringe at that characterization but it seems pretty clear. The company has gone from ridiculing the iPhone and its prospects in 2007 to emulating its strategy in 2009.
On a recent call for analysts about the state of Windows Mobile, during the Q&A session, the two repeated themes were: "How was Microsoft going to compete with or beat the iPhone?" and "How would Microsoft compete with or beat RIM in the enterprise?" The answers were flip sides of one another: the new Windows Phones (re-branded) would be offer better consumer experiences than BlackBerry and be a better "business phone" than the iPhone.
If Microsoft were to produce a truly great mobile OS and user experience, combined with great hardware, it could gain consumer attention and adoption. It's not clear that 6.5 will be that experience -- I haven't used 6.5 first hand -- but after seeing the video I no longer think that Windows Mobile is a lost cause. It appears to be downright competitive in fact.
And, finally, in an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" moment, last week Nokia and Microsoft announced an alliance to bring more productivity software to handsets -- to steal business users from RIM. In the US the prospects for Nokia are dim, absents some radical changes and/or innovations (which could include pricing). Nokia is being effectively shut out of the market in the US.
Based on a recent survey of iPhone users within the AdMob network, the company found the following attitudes and behavior regarding apps discovery and downloads (I don't know the sample size). I'm going to assume that these results are fairly representative of the larger iPhone user population.
Most people are downloading between 1-6 apps per month. They're using 4-6 apps on a weekly basis, but a substantial number are using between 7-10. The inference I draw from this is users have limited attention. While there may be 30 or 40 (or more) apps on users' iPhones, they're only going to use a number that can fit on the home screen.
What the slide above shows is that the top methods for discovering apps are:
The final two slides show that most respondents have downloaded branded apps and that users (60%) are favorably disposed toward them. Indeed, apps are proving to be a very effective tool for brands. We can expect more and more growth among branded apps.
Since the resignation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Apple's board, the new "competition narrative" among tech journalists is Google vs. Apple (nice change from Google vs. Microsoft). As representative of the new "angle," BusinessWeek discusses why Apple now has a larger market cap than Google. Similarly, Forbes discusses the growth outlook for the respective companies' businesses.
Obviously in mobile the two companies compete and contrast in their strategies: iPhone vs. Android, closed vs. open, software decoupled from hardware, etc. But one of the more interesting questions raised by the juxtaposition is one we've addressed before: is the user experience going to be centered around apps or the browser? The answer is of course, both. Actually there are a continuum of experiences: native apps, "web apps" and PC rendering through the browser.
We don't know yet how all this will play out -- if we did it would be boring. But there will be both native apps and "web apps" (where Google is now focused) going forward; apps are not just an interim step toward true 1:1 experiences on PC and mobile via the browsers.
The "Google vs. Apple" narrative is thus a stand-in for the debate about the focus and nature of the mobile user experience.
This video from the BBC showcases a very interesting proofpoint of the power of local mobile search. While "finding the nearest tube stop" is both peculiarly British and urban in nature, the demonstration of "augmented reality" (AR) is dramatic and could inspire quite a number of related applications to depict "who's nearby", "what's nearby" and "what-to-do nearby" as seen through the AR vantage point.
See also this related article: ‘Augmented Reality’ Is Also A Form Of Search
AdAge features a piece that advises mobile marketers to start looking beyond the iPhone. Yes, that's prudent advice as a general matter; the iPhone represents a tiny slice of the handset market. However, if you're talking apps then it's all about the iPhone -- at least right now. The app experience is less significant on Android; it will grow over time and as more Android devices enter the market it will become a potentially important apps platform.
Rhomobile and Appcelerator (and others) have "write once" native apps development platforms. This scenario will become more common, allowing publishers and developers to more efficiently build apps across the major smartphone platforms. Right now, however, among smartphones it's really mostly about the iPhone:
According to Nielsen (pre 3Gs), iPhone users:
As the AdAge article points out, if you want reach beyond the iPhone, you can and should think about the mobile Internet. Google itself is increasingly banking on the browser as its "cross-platform" strategy. However if you need an app to create the optimal user experience then it's: iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian (outside the US) in order of potential reach.
Related: After iPhone exclusivity ends, AT&T is looking to a "plethora" of devices to constitute its "second act." AT&T reportedly envisions a broad range of connected devices with related consumer subscriptions to the network.
MobilePeople Alum Claudia Poepperl, has started a new company called adaffix. The company's first product is Yellix. It essentially turns Facebook into "caller ID 2.0" for smartphones (except the iPhone). Here's how Yellix describes what it does:
YELLIX is a free application for your mobile phone. Once installed, it will automatically display a pop-up showing you the up-to-date status, photo and other relevant content of your Facebook friends when they call you on your mobile.
Friends must install the Yellix Facebook app and then the Yellix app on their phones:
Read the rest of this post on Screenwerk.
I'm not sure how we missed this. The Geek.com blog reports today that Microsoft's speech hosting subsidiary Tellme had some interesting research results regarding mobile multitasking. Not surprisingly, it reveals that the group of mobile subscribers who have smartphones have their phones at ready and in use when they undertake their daily activities. Eighty-eight percent (88%) say they use their phones when shopping. Seventy-eight percent (78%) use them when "walking between places". In a slight drop-off, those who are willing to admit it (68%) say that they consult their smartphones while visiting with friends. Being a speech technology company, Tellme polled its subjects to gauge their level of comfort with entering commands or search terms by talking aloud. While some indicated discomfort in certain settings (Geek.com cited "a restaurant), 71% of the overall sample indicated that they would be comfortable with voice command. The further breakdown indicated high levels of comfort while walking (93%), exercising (92%), and shopping or running errands (87%).
Tellme issued this press release with these findings on July 29.
The news comes that Google has lost market share in China to native search engine Baidu, which now has a roughly 65% market share according to a report recently issued by US investment firm Bernstein & Co (relying on third party data). Others put the Chinese market even more in Baidu's hands (per iResearch):
It struck me, however, that Android might be a "back door" for Google into increased market share.
There are going to be at least two Android-based phones in the market through China Mobile in the next month or so (from Lenovo and HTC). Smaller rival China Unicom is reportedly working with Apple to launch the iPhone in China. There are also various rumors of a Dell smartphone launch announcement in China (OS unknown) in the next several days.
China is the world's largest mobile market with 700 million subscribers -- more than twice as large as the US population. Having several Android phones in China will give Google another bite at the Chinese search market, so to speak, which may enable the company to gain search share where it doesn't seem to be able to on the PC.
Related: The rumored Dell phone is reportedly to be an Android device.
Mobile banking has clearly taken off but US bank USAA is taking it a bit further by allowing iPhone users to deposit checks with the device. According to a story in yesterday's NY Times:
USAA, a privately held bank and insurance company, plans to update its iPhone application this week to introduce the check deposit feature, which requires a customer to photograph both sides of the check with the phone’s camera.
“We’re essentially taking an image of the check, and once you hit the send button, that image is going into our deposit-taking system as any other check would,” said Wayne Peacock, a USAA executive vice president.
Customers will not have to mail the check to the bank later; the deposit will be handled entirely electronically, and the bank suggests voiding the check and filing or discarding it.
The feature won't be available to all USAA customers, only those who qualify (a majority) to protect against fraud. In the US today roughly 15 million people do some sort of mobile banking per comScore.
What's interesting in the table immediately above is the fact that such a substantial part of mobile banking is done at home, indicating a preference for mobile vs. the PC.
Google's mobile strategy, notwithstanding the Android Market, is browser centric. In terms of creating a consistent user experience that is globally scalable and cost effective, Google is banking on the mobile Web and the browser as opposed to developing app after app. In addition the recent rejection of its Latitude and Google Voice apps probably nudge Google further in this direction -- where it doesn't have to contend with "gatekeepers," something the company has never liked.
Today we released a new mobile website specifically designed to access YouTube on smartphones with capable browsers; phones like the iPhone, G1 and Palm Pre.
Just visit youtube.com from your mobile phone, and you'll be taken to a new website specially designed for your device.
These are all handsets that already have native YouTube apps. It would appear to be unnecessary then to create a mobile Web site that provides an app-like experience. What's more Google has taken the position (regarding its mobile AdSense program) that the Safari and Android browsers don't require special landing pages or sites optimized for mobile, because the browsers can faithfully render the PC site and provide a good user experience accordingly.
Yet Google has created this application-like mobile site that is almost indistinguishable from the YouTube app. The app has slightly more functionality; however the mobile Web site offers a "branded" experience that is more consistent with YouTube on the PC than the native apps. That may be part of the motivation -- to bring more consistency to the PC and mobile experiences. But, again, why is it necessary given the presence of the YouTube apps?
The new mobile Web version of the site appears to contradict or question the 1:1 PC-mobile Web vision that Google has been publicly articulating. That's because it auto-detects the browsers on the iPhone, Pre and G1/MyTouch 3G and automatically shows you the new mobile site rather than the PC site. Indeed, you no longer have the option to go to the PC site on these handsets. So the features of the PC site that are not part of the app are no longer available to mobile users.
Neither the app version nor the mobile Web version offer the full-length programming available through the PC site. That may be contractual or it may be that Google doesn't yet believe it can deliver the full-length programs on the small screen. However, that's coming from Hulu and Neflix in the near term.
These are not criticisms. I'm just mildly perplexed.
Amazon released its mobile app for Android devices, allowing users to search for products with a conventional query in a search box or to use the camera take a photo or do a barcode scan to find products:
The application includes the experimental Amazon Remembers feature that gives Android users two different ways to use their device camera to find and remember items available for sale on Amazon.com: they can either snap a photo of an item or scan a barcode, and then receive a product match. For barcode scans and many photos, matches are instant. Other items take just a few minutes.
The same functionality is available for the iPhone and BlackBerry devices (Amazon remembers).
In my limited testing the photo function was more effective than barcode scanning to identify products. For example, I took a picture of one of the Harry Potter books in my house and almost instantaneously Amazon had identified it. Other items I snapped and scanned took longer (a high end kitchen knife, an iPod stereo dock, a magazine) but the photo functionality was generally faster and better of the two methods. In one case Amazon used my overexposed picture of the iPod dock and did find the identical product (though it took about 7 minutes).
Regardless of method, these tools allow you to access reviews and product specs and potentially buy the item online (from Amazon or related sellers).
ShopSavvy, another Android app with barcode scanning capability offers the ability to buy the product or item online or locally, with maps to local stores that carry and have it in stock (though data partners such as Krillion). Google Product Search also allows barcode scanning but relies on third party barcode scanning apps such as ShopSavvy, which must be downloaded first.
It's important to point out that these apps use the camera as a search tool and it's quite a bit faster and easier than typing in a query such as "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" for example. The camera and voice will emerge as key parts of the mobile search (and content discovery) experience over time. Barcode scanning and comparable camera search capabilities will become requirements for mobile shopping apps over time.
Consumers will use these tools in stores to: Check reviews and prices and less frequently to buy products online to be shipped to their homes or elsewhere. To some degree they will boost the "look in store buy online" phenomenon, which is a minority use case today.
Amazon has also launched a new online store for mobile handsets, similar to its online shoe store Endless: