According to Ars Technica, sources tell them that voice/speech is coming to the next software upgrade for the iPhone: iPhone OS 3.0:
Sources speaking to Ars have discovered evidence of new voice control features coming to iPhone OS 3.0. Apparently going by the code name "Jibbler," it looks like it will provide not just voice synthesis, but also voice recognition for the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0.
Beyond the rumor itself it's not clear how deeply integrated speech will be with the device or whether apps developers will have access to voice/speech (as they do with location). We can at least expect voice dialing and perhaps access to apps via voice. Assuming it's true it will be quite interesting to see what appears in June.
Gomez, Inc. and dotMobi have come out with competitive benchmarketing of site performance for three categories on the mobile Web: search, banking and airlines. The criteria used and ranking methodology were as follows:
Yahoo was the top performer in the mobile search category. Here are the complete results:
In the two other categories Bank of America and AirTran were the winners:
As the five criteria above suggest, this study measured overall mobile web performance. The irony of this study is that dotMobi is a domain that will be almost worthless as more of the mobile Web is about "full HTML" and mobile applications downloaded directly onto devices.
Google released Q1 earnings yesterday, beating expectations but posting its first quarterly decline in revenues. There was a fair amount of discussion on the call about mobile, which was identified as one of three growth areas for the company. The other two were apps (enterprise) and display advertising.
Mobile continues to be a major area of strategic focus for the company and it appears there will be many more devices running Android (or announced) by this time next year. The following are comments from the earnings call transcript relevant to mobile.
CEO Eric Schmidt
Look at the success of Android and the mobile space in general. By improving the mobile web experience people search many, many times more than they did in previous mobile devices. We benefit both in terms of end-user happiness as well as ultimately in strong revenue growth from that area.
SVP Jonathan Rosenberg
Patrick highlighted in his remarks that Google has rigorous management of expenses, but we also have a history of making big investments based on technical insights and we are going to continue to do that today, especially in areas like display, mobile, and Android . . .
On the mobile side, more people are accessing the web from their phones. The number of mobile searches has gone up five times in just the last couple of years and this new generation of phones has eyes, a camera; ears, a microphone; skin; a touch screen; and they know their location. This makes them a great platform for very compelling applications.
We launched Google Latitude which you can use to share your location with friends with a fun Google news cluster just this morning on Latitude helping catch a thief in San Francisco. If you go to Google news and type in Latitude thief.
We are also investing in Android to make a great mobile web experience available to everyone and over 8% of mobile browsing is now conducted through Android, which is second only to the iPhone.
Spencer Wang - Credit Suisse
On mobile, can you give us a sense of what the click view rates look like on mobile relative to traditional search?
I don’t have specific data on click through rate. We are certainly seeing more advertisers are choosing to run their ads on mobile devices. You can see examples if you query auto insurance on the iPhone or an Android device. And the RPMs on the iPhone and Android are high, even though we’re in very early days of the mobile ecosystem, but I don’t have any specific data on how click through rates differ.
Sandeep Aggarwal - Collins Stewart
[W]hat kind of traction you are seeing for Android on mobile and what do you think about the potential of Android on the netbook?
Overall it looks like Android is going to have a very, very strong year. We are already aware of many, many uses of Android, which as you know is open source, where literally the devices we hear about near the announcements, so the open source part of the strategy is working. We have also recently just announced an upgrade in new software for Android which is out now among the technical community and again, the stability, the proof points are really there now.
There are announcements happening between now and the end of the year that are quite significant from operators and new hardware partners in the Android space, which I won’t preannounce except to say that they really do fulfill much of the vision that we laid out more than a year ago.
On the netbook side, there are a number of people who have actually taken Android and ported it over to netbook or netbook-similar devices. So we think that’s another one of the great benefits of the open source model that we’ve used. We’re excited that that investment is occurring. And again, largely outside of Google, which we think is great.
Nokia announced its Q1 numbers, which look pretty bad, but are better than lowered analyst expectations. Sales fell 27% and net profits were down a staggering 90%. Nokia still has a 37% global handset market share, which is unchanged from Q4 and down two points from a year ago.
The economy and intensifying competition are the culprits.
In the press release, Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said:
I am especially pleased with the performance of our first mass market touch product, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Together with Comes With Music, it is a great example of Nokia providing solutions that consumers value.
Dubbed the "poor-man's iPhone," the 5800 is cheaper than its rival. As we argued yesterday that strategy is likely the key to any hope of market share gains in the US.
JumpTap debuts a new PPC mobile ad marketplace today called tapMatch. CMO and agency veteran Paran Johar says that tapMatch is distinguished from other mobile marketplaces (e.g., Google mobile AdWords) because it offers the most sophisticated targeting available: content, keywords, demographics, handset type, carrier, location and publishers.
The demo video shows the creation of a mobile banner campaign but the system equally accommodates text ads. What was impressive to me was its simplicity:
When JumpTap briefed me a couple of weeks ago, we digressed into a number of other discussions related to mobile advertising. One of the issues Johar and I discussed what whether it was desirable to make the click the coin of the mobile marketing realm in the same way it is online. That metric may be appropriate for mobile search advertising but not necessarily beyond that. However in a bad economy people are more inclined to pay on a PPC basis rather than CPM, as a general matter.
Clearly Johar personally believes that a broader range of considerations should determine mobile ad performance -- he discussed those at our Internet2Go event earlier this year. But online marketers live and die by CTRs so it makes sense that the metric would transfer over -- marketers already "get" it.
However mobile offers more options to advertisers and agencies than simply direct response. I believe it's wise to reflect and be a bit cautious about turning the click-through into the uber-metric of mobile marketing.
According to the Android Developers Blog, the new Android SDK ("cupcake") includes some anticpated upgrades and other features:
This new version (which will be 1.5) is based on the cupcake branch from the Android Open Source Project. Version 1.5 introduces APIs for features such as soft keyboards, home screen widgets, live folders, and speech recognition. At the developer site, you can download the early-look Android 1.5 SDK, read important information about upgrading your Eclipse plugin and existing projects, and learn about what's new and improved in Android 1.5.
There are a wide range of improvements, notably a virtual keyboard. Here are just a few from the long list:
In addition, VentureBeat offers a thoughtful article on why Asia may see more Android phones and devices than the US or Europe. (Hint: cost.) The authors cite a prior Qualcomm statement that part of Android's strategy is to push down the overall cost of smartphones (to drive adoption). Adoption of smartphones equals more mobile Internet usage and search. Google is currently the mobile search leader.
In our most recent mobile consumer survey (not yet published), 19% of North American respondents who didn't currently have a smartphone indicated that they were thinking about getting one in the next 12 months. Another 21% indicated a similar intent but weren't clear on the timing. Pricing of dataplans and quality of experience (handset, speed) are the major factors driving mobile Internet usage.
HTC and Samsung will be releasing new Android devices this year in the US and EU. We may in fact see the G2/Magic (HTC) from T-mobile announced later this month. Samsung has said that it will be developing phones on the Android platform but not making "Google Experience Devices."
Android will eventually show up in Netbooks and other devices. CNET reports that there's a set-top box based on Android coming.
Like with most other social networks, communities form around certain services. Where Loopt seemed to be full of gay men, Brightkite seemed chock-a-block with savvy Web 2.0 marketers, pitching their brands, something personal users have grown wary of. I followed three couples on their meetup escapades, and here’s what happened:
The mildly mocking video associated with the article argues that location-aware social networking is mostly about dating. There are two forms of "mobile social networking": accessing social networks (e.g., Facebook) on a mobile device and finding out who's nearby right now (e.g., Loopt, Brightkite, Latitude).
In LMS/Opus consumer data just pulled (and not yet published) we found that just over 15% of social network user-respondents were accessing their network(s) from mobile devices. That's more than double the number we found at roughly the same time last year (6%).
ADCENTRICITY is a digital out of home (OOK) technology provider and aggregator of ad inventory. There are literally more than 100K digital OOH screens at various locations around the US (supermarkets, franchise stores, gas stations, malls, retail stores, movie theaters, etc). ADCENTRICITY makes it easier for brands and advertisers of all stripes to buy these screens and get access to the audiences in these places.
With Impact Mobile as the mobile service provider, this offering will provide advertisers with hyper-targeting capabilities to increase interaction with audiences on-the-go through mobile devices and help extend campaigns across even more channels. Capabilities include:
- Call-to-Action: SMS, votes, polls, sweepstakes, contests, promotions, coupons, call-back request, text4info, surveys
- Retail & Redemption: Mobile coupons (bar codes), unique PIN numbers (drive2web), ticketing
- Content Deliver: Rich content, ringtones, wall papers, games, videos
- Mobile Applications: Mobile Internet Sites (WAP) & Smart Phone Applications (more comprehensive and customized solutions)
Consumers engaging with digital out-of-home media are on-the-go and the interaction with mobile can be used for example, to send pre-programmed, customized messages to specific geographic targets throughout the life of the campaign. A mobile component to any digital out-of-home campaign can also help to drive a call to action, increase brand awareness and point-of-purchase sales.
Digital OOH is a fascinating (and effective, according to reports) marketing platform that can be used for both branding and direct response. Combining it with mobile makes it more actionable and dynamic in a range of ways implied by the release excerpt. For example, it can motivate someone to go to a point of sale (POS) and buy immediately with an offer or discount; it can get someone to sign up for alerts; it can motivate someone to download an application and so on.
Mobile can do this type of thing in general for traditional media (i.e., newspapers, mags, TV, radio) as well. And, eventually, most traditional media will (or should) offer some sort of mobile tie-in both to extend reach and to measure effectiveness. However, digital OOH is like combining TV and mobile at or near the POS.
Yet these dynamic capabilities and the integrated marketing campaigns they imply are still quite a bit more sophisticated than the advertisers who would potentially be buying them.
Related: Here's some additional color on the announcement from MediaPost.
Apple says it's rapidly approaching its billionth app download. It also made a list of the top 20 downloaded apps to date in both the free and the paid category. In the paid category it's all about games, although Smule's Ocarina appears as well as iFart mobile.
In the free category, here are the top 20 according to Apple:
Compare comScore's list for February (only).
A review from FoxNews argues that the Palm Pre will be the first true competitor to the iPhone. However, the Pre is not likely to see the iPhone's success in hardware sales or potentially in app development. It's somewhat late to market and exclusively on Sprint, initially.
An article on VentureBeat has some anecdotal feedback from developers regarding their attitudes and frustrations with the various non-iPhone smartphone platforms (bad news there for WinMo, RIM, Palm and Symbian). But it's anecdotal so don't generalize too much.
Here's the Skyhook data about developer interest in the various mobile platforms.
Related: MediaPost reports on iPhone app usage frequency based on a new report from Compete, Inc:
According to an upcoming report on smartphone usage by online market research firm Compete, 39% of iPhone users cited weather-related apps as one of the three kinds of applications they use most frequently. (The Weather Channel app specifically was cited by 13%.)
A quarter of iPhone users said Facebook's was one of three apps they accessed most often, followed by game apps, at 20%. More than 10% pointed to music-related apps. After that, the more than 100 individual apps or types of apps cited by users fell to single-digit percentages, with most less than 2%.
There's an impending branding change coming to Microsoft's Live Search. But for the time being Live Search is still the Microsoft brand online and in mobile. And Microsoft is making its Live Search client app (with voice search) available on a broader array of BlackBerry devices including the Bold and the Storm.
I haven't been able to use it for awhile given that my WinMo HTC phone's touchscreen phone broke. However I like the Live Search app and used it when I had the phone. Until the Pre comes out I'm using an iPod Touch for WiFi mobile Internet access and a very low-end feature phone on the go.
Separately, Yellowpages.com (AT&T) is the direct beneficiary of Microsoft's mobile distribution when local searches are performed:
When the iPhone and apps store first launched it was unlikely that the device and its sibling the iPod Touch would become such a hot mobile gaming platform. Consistently, however, the most downloaded apps are games, according to the "top lists" on the iTunes store and comScore, which put out some new data on the subject yesterday.
The following chart reflects comScore data on the top iPhone apps for February:
Among the few non-games here, in order of popularity, are:
Here are today's top free and paid apps, according to Apple (note Skype at #2 and Yahoo! Mobile at #10):
comScore also offered the following observations about the apps audience:
Skyhook Wireless, which provides location aware WiFi and cell-tower positioning to the iPhone, chip makers and mobile developers generally, has released results of a survey of mobile developers. It's a small sample (n=100) but it's likely representative of current attitudes among mobile apps developers. What it shows is that they don't have equal interest in all platforms:
56% of all developers surveyed will port their app to other platforms. Developers are most interested in Android. 58% of non-Android developers plan to port to that platform, while 40% of non-iPhone developers plan to port an app to that platform. 26% will port to RIM, and 20% will port to Windows Mobile.
Developers are least interested in Palm and Symbian, with only 8% and 9% of developers planning to port their applications to those platforms, respectively.
This could of course change, but it suggests that the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry will have the strongest apps stores and offerings and that Symbian and Palm will suffer and lag behind.
If, for example, the Pre really sells well it would likely attract developers to the platform. But there's a catch 22 of sorts potentially operating here. The lack of a competitive apps offering could impact demand for the hardware, which in turn could affect developer interest in the platform. First movers have an advantage, assuming they continue their momentum.
While Symbian and Palm might see these data and be very concerned, Microsoft also might find some cause for concern with only 20% of the developers saying they were going to build Windows Mobile versions of their apps. Attitudes and behavior are two different things. But Windows Mobile is an established platform in the US with millions of existing users. So the apparent lack of interest should be of concern. (To its credit Microsoft is trying to be highly responsive to developer feedback.)
Here are some additional findings from the Skyhook survey:
Here are two charts from the Skyhook report, showing the distribution of location-aware apps across platforms and the level of location targeting required by the apps:
Source: Skyhook Wireless
Two independent location-based mobile social networking providers BrightKite and Limbo have merged. The Brightkite brand will be the surviving one, but the company will be headquartered in Burlingame, CA (Limbo's offices). The companies also have access to the $9 funding round that Limbo recently received.
The two services combined will have several million reported users on a global basis. Both offer location based advertising and their merger is an attempt to gain more scale on the user side and to offer a stronger play for advertisers.
Mobile social networking is a segment ripe for consolidation, as the combination above suggests. It's a space that will be dominated (it already is) by established Internet brands such as Facebook and MySpace.
There will be a few independent companies that succeed but most will not. Loopt is probably the highest profile independent mobile-LBS company in the US, while Mocospace is on the pure social networking side. However the quality of ad inventory on Mocospace has been repeatedly criticized in private conversations I've had with people.
Recently Whrrl, a mobile-centric site like Yelp reinvented itself around the concept of storytelling (tied to place). As more and more people adopt the mobile Internet, the desktop brands have the advantage of a built-in user base. The audiences are thus theirs to lose. Independent, mobile-only companies must offer a user experience that is especially compelling and/or the PC-based companies moving into mobile must essentially botch the mobile user experience to create an opening for the independents.
Expect more such consolidation in the coming months. (As they used to say in the earlier days of blogging, hat tip to Perry Evans for alerting me to the merger via Twitter.)
Verizon announced that it was integrating 411 with VZ Navigator in those instances when the wireless caller is a VZ Navigator subscriber. According to the release put out by Verizon it works as follows:
After using 411 Search to find a phone number or address, Verizon Wireless said its customers with VZ Navigator-capable phones can now have a Place Message with that destination sent to their phones, simply by pressing "1" when prompted. The customer can then use VZ Navigator to display the location on a map or navigate to that location. Connecting these two services means that details for a listing found with Verizon Wireless' directory assistance can be provided to Verizon Wireless' VZ Navigator location-based service (LBS) so that customers can access audible turn-by-turn navigation to their destinations, the company noted . . .
Jon Wells, vice president for product development at Verizon, said, "We found that many customers were using the 411 service with the hopes of finding directions to that location, so we launched the integrated VZ Navigator with 411 Search nationwide to provide customers with a one-stop shop for listing information and directions. The service offers convenience and value while eliminating the need for customers to manually enter their destination information, especially when driving."
This is a novel tie-in between 411 and directions. We wonder if Google will do something similar for Android with the GOOG-411 service. (VZ Navigator functionality is provided by Networks in Motion.)
Users will pay $1.49 (411) + their VZ Navigator subscription fees ($9.99 per month) for each use. As smartphones like the iPhone and Android start to offer improved turn-by-turn directions capabilities the market for subscription services like VZ Navigator will be diminished. Indeed, smartphones with GPS threaten the entire PND market over time. That's why Garmin has become a smartphone maker.
Google has upgraded its mobile Web-based Calendar and GMail for the iPhone and Android. GMail now has added features that make it more like the Web-based version of GMail. Most of the upgrade is on the back end, making the system faster and perform better.
The company is trying to make the PC and mobile experiences as similar as possible. Here's a video of the new version of GMail in operation.
In addition, Google Calendar now allows users to respond to meeting requests, something that wasn't previously possible.
Separately, Google is bringing Google Voice (formerly "GrandCentral") to the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
These moves reflect the degree to which Google views the mobile experience -- as well as the linkages between PC and mobile ("the cloud") -- as critical to its success going forward.
Even though the iPhone, Android and, to some extent new WebOS from Palm have captured the hearts, minds and resources of application developers, Java remains the common denominator for running apps that serve the hundreds of millions of wireless subscribers with "feature phones". That's why it is noteworthy that Pongr - with an "image recognition and price comparison" application that already runs on the iPhone, Blackberry and low-end (text-only) phones, has joined the developer network operated by Java specialist Everypoint. It highlights the developer's dilemma when looking to reach the maximum number of subscribers worldwide with "rich" applications.
Pongr supports comparison shopping by allowing shoppers to use their mobile phone to do global price checks. For text-only shoppers, it keys off of a manually entered bar code. For phones equipped with cameras, it will key off of an image of the item that a shopper is looking at. The service then allows the shopper to buy the item from his or her phone, or through MyPongr.com, its on-line portal. Turning to Everypoint to extend its footprint reflects some dissatisfaction with the reach provided by a decidedly bi-modal strategy. SMS may prove too clunky, while high-end smartphones may remains too exclusive. In this case, support of Java through a device-neutral platform may be just right.
Someone said to me last week that he thought Twitter was "primarily a desktop thing." If you listened to last week's Stephen Colbert interview of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, you'd have heard how mobile-centric Twitter actually is, from inception to its future ambition.
Much of the discussion of whether Twitter came from and where it's going focused on mobile phones.
The inspiration behind Twitter is instant messaging "connected to mobile texting such that it was available everywhere -- totally ubiquitious," said Stone.
Where do the 140 characters come from? SMS messaging according to Stone: "The limit on texts are 160 characters and we wanted to reserve a little bit of room for a username." And he specifically cites mobile as part of the larger growth strategy for the company. "There are over four billion mobile phones," observed Stone.
Though not asked, Stone impliedly rejects the notion of an acquisition: "We're going to become a strong, profitable independent company."
Canada's Yellow Pages Group has launched iPhone and BlackBerry applications. The straightfoward, though nicely designed applications -- I've only seen the iPhone app -- offer local business search, reverse lookups and people search. Location can be manually entered or found via GPS. Results can then be saved under "My Favs" or shared via email or SMS.
There's also voice-based search, although I haven't been able to use it because I have an iPod Touch rather than an iPhone. I was also unable to get any results for the US market, which makes sense.
In addition to yellow pages, Yellow Pages Group also owns Trader Corporation in Canada, publishers of vertical advertising directories and classifieds. It also owns and operates a range of Canadian cityguides (e.g., MontrealPlus.ca). Consequently the company has a range of "vertical" options and could develop other types of apps around restaurants and entertainment or some of its Trader categories.
In the US, AT&T has developed several vertical apps (downloading one ties into the others), which represent a kind of back door into the YPMobile app. None are branded "yellow pages;" they're called Have2Snack, Have2P, Have2Drink, but they essentially repurpose other Yellowpages.com/YPMobile content and offer another way to drive traffic to AT&T listings and advertisers.
Unlike its US counterparts, Yellow Pages Group owns the "yellow pages" trademark so no other app developer targeting the Canadian market can use that term.
Google has introduced the "places" layer of Google Earth on the PC to the iPhone. Tapping a blue, square icon on the map brings up a range of different content types (video, Wikipedia entries, images) for the particular location. All this remains within the Google Earth experience.
Google Earth has never been a particularly good local search tool on the PC. Though a terrific educational tool, it's large and much slower than Google Maps. But on the iPhone one can efficiently use it to find information about places, businesses and venues. And because of the variety of content type on Earth, it's a more interesting tool than the iPhone version of Google Maps.
Samsung has said that it will be launching three Android-based phones this year, one in Europe first and then two in the US later. Sprint and T-Mobile are the US partners in all likelihood.
Forbes has more detail, including this interesting bit:
Samsung is known for its ability to hustle important products to market. So why hasn't the company released an Android phone already? Hong said Samsung was waiting, in part, for a go-ahead from its operator partners. "Some operators were concerned about the vision Google has [and] that affected [timing]," Hong said.
Samsung also wanted to put its own spin on Android. Hong drew a distinction between devices built on the Android platform and "Google Experience" devices, which not only use Android but are also Google-centric, packed with the search giant's own applications. "Our commitment is more to the Android phone than the Google Experience device," [Won-Pyo Hong, executive vice president of global product] said. In other words, Samsung is doing plenty of customization work on top of the Android platform to make operators happy.
So Google will reportedly be very much in the background on these Samsung Android devices, at the behest of carriers (though not T-Mobile presumably). It will be quite interesting to see how that approach plays out and the differences in the user experience.
Samsung is the number two global handset OEM, after Nokia. LG and Motorola are in third place or third and fourth place, depending on whose numbers you consult.