Facebook's "launcher" Home isn't available for any of the smartphones I own: HTC 8X, Nexus 4 and iPhone. Thus I haven't been able to "live with it."
But when I saw it unveiled several weeks ago at the Facebook Home press event I was impressed by the design. I found it very imaginative and creative. I thought also that it might represent a new way forward for some developers and publishers with smartphone software. I even suggested that Yahoo might want to emulate it.
Apparently most people who've actually used Facebook Home for any length of time don't share my enthusiasm. The app is overwhelmingly negatively reviewed on Google Play. Out of more than 14,000 ratings and reviews it gets an average score of 2.2 -- with the single largest group (7,576 users) giving it 1 star.
This isn't merely the work of "haters" as some of the favorable reviews and comments suggest. There are significant flaws in the user experience.
While many people praised Home as a good initial release, others complained about poor performance and a negative impact on battery life. Still others complained that it made other Android apps and widgets difficult to access. And some wanted more capabilities and functionality than what Facebook is currently delivering.
There's lots of highly specific feedback for Facebook in the comments offered. If Home is to avoid a quick death and survive the company should look closely and adopt some of the suggestions.
Whether we call Google Now "predictive search," "anticipatory search" or a "virtual assistant," the capability is highly useful and improving regularly. Previously exclusive to Android devices with OS 4.1 or higher ("Jelly Bean") Google Now is now available for the iPhone and iPad.
You'll need to download the latest version of the Google Search app to get it.
Google Now is partly Google's answer to Siri (and Passbook) and partly a wholly independent development that takes your search history, your Gmail entries, your calendar, your location and other "context" to deliver a range of personalized information without having to actively search for it.
Google Now for iOS operates in essentially the same way as it does on Android devices: users swipe up from the bottom of the screen to receive customized information cards. The cards feature weather, traffic, stock quotes, recent sports scores, local places of interest, movie showtimes and so on. Below is a complete list of the content/data available through Google Now.
The cards on the chart above "missing" from iOS are newer cards that will soon come to iOS. Google confirmed this.
Those who download and use the service will likely find themselves using it regularly (as I do). While it can sometimes be flawed or inaccurate -- if you travel a lot it will often give you information about the city you just left rather than where you are -- it offers a growing corpus of useful information. As mentioned, it continues to expand and improve.
Google requires users to sign in to get access to Google Now, so the company will gain mobile usage data it wouldn't otherwise have in the process. It's a very effective way for Google to get iOS users re-engaged with search on their iPhones and iPads.
A survey we conducted in June of last year (n=503 US iPhone 4S owners 18 and older) found that most people who searched Google on their iPhones didn't use the Google Search app:
Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?
If this survey were done today we might see slighly different percentages but directionally the results would be similar. It will be interesting to see whether and how the numbers change several months from now -- and whether the introduction of Google Now for iOS has had a meaningful impact on user behavior.
The iPhone 5 introduced a 4-inch (diagonal) screen that in my view distorted the proportions of the handset. (I wanted it to be slightly wider as well.) That was an upgrade from what was essentially a 3.5-inch screen on the 4S. Yet at the time of launch the 5's new larger screen already appeared small next to some competitive devices.
Samsung's Galaxy S3 and others were at 4.8-inches or beyond. The newly released Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch screen and the Galaxy Note 2 offers a 5.5-inch screen. Samsung has also made an 8-inch tablet that works as a phone.
Earlier this week during Apple's earnings call CEO Tim Cook was asked about a potentially larger iPhone screen, which several surveys indicate iPhone buyers want. Here's the exchange:
Analyst: [D]o you think there is a long-term case for a larger screen size or at least the larger variety of screen sizes for iPhones and for the smartphone category in general?
Tim Cook: The iPhone 5 offers as you know a new 4-inch Retina display, which is the most advanced display in the industry and no one comes close to matching the level of quality as the Retina display. It also provides a larger screen size for iPhone customers without sacrificing the one handed ease-of-use that our customers love. So, we put a lot of thinking into screen size and believe we’ve picked the right one.
Tim Cook acknowledged that “some customers” value screen size. He explained that larger displays require trade-offs (technically speaking). He added that the company won’t ship a larger iPhone display “while these trade-offs exist.” That implies the company has larger screen iPhones on its roadmap somewhere in the future.
However Apple is indeed putting itself at a disadvantage by not offering a larger-screen iPhone. Perhaps not everyone wants it but lots of people (including me) do. An ideal device would marry the LG Nexus 4 (4.7-inch screen) form factor with iOS as its operating system.
Apple and Tim Cook seem to be nearly alone in their belief that the iPhone's screen is vastly superior to competitor-device screens. Third party analysis shows that this is not the case. However it does come out on top in some areas. Yet the public may not be noticing these relatively subtle differences. And Samsung's display has been found to have superior resolution and better blacks.
What consumers probably notice more is that the iPhone's screen looks small and by some measures inadequate vs. other devices. One-handed operation of the iPhone is great in a few instances but not entirely necessary. Indeed, it may not be an important feature for most people (though that's an "empirical question").
It does seem to me that screen size is one case of Apple (if it's to be taken at face value so to speak) "making the perfect the enemy of the good." And I think a "5S" without a larger screen option will be a significant disappointment to many.
The challenge of "showrooming" has been met by traditional retailers with either indifference and inaction or its opposite: aggressive price matching. Best Buy and Target are examples of the latter approach. They decided in February to match any price on Amazon year round.
However this strategy lacks "depth."
Price matching alone will not successfully address showrooming; it will in fact encourage it as more smartphone shoppers check Amazon and other sources to see if in-store prices are the best they can do -- and to demand a lower price in store if they find one online.
Signs like the one below invite someone to go to Amazon (if they weren't thinking about it already) and compare prices.
It may be necessary to price match in selected categories such as electronics. But price matching is not a panacea. Instead the retail industry can take a lesson from the hotel industry, which is doing some very creative things with technology.
The New York Times ran a story today about how hotels are using technology to improve the customer experience (including personalization) and lower costs in many instances:
Hotels around the world are using technology in new ways, with the goal of speeding up or personalizing more services for guests.
David-Michel Davies, president of the Webby Media Group, said he visited Internet companies around the world each year for the Webby Awards, which honor excellence on the Internet. He said he had found that hotels were using technology as a substitute for human hospitality.
Instead of the staff at the front desk offering advice on where to go for dinner, guests may be lent an iPad loaded with maps and suggestions for local restaurants and sightseeing. A hand-held device in the room might control the television, blinds and temperature, replacing the role of the bellman who would describe how the features in the room work when he dropped off a guest’s luggage. “Hotels are transforming service into a digital concept,” Mr. Davies said.
There are an enormous number of ways that technology, and mobile technology (apps) in particular, could improve the in-store retail experience. Personalization, notifications, offers, product information and reviews, loyalty, payments and other use cases, if creatively implemented, could make the in-store experience richer, more fun and more rewarding for shoppers.
This creative, "diversified" approach to mobile and the in-store experience holds great promise against showrooming. Retailer size and resources would affect the scope of what might be pursued -- but every brick and mortar retailer could do something more interesting and creative than simple price matching. And the hospitality industry points the way.
Mobile payments -- as in buying things in a retail store with a mobile device -- still appear to be years away. Two weeks ago the IAB and InMobi released survey data that showed a range of payment and financial-related activities in mobile.
The survey, conducted in Q1 this year with roughly 1,200 US adult respondents, showed that there were pockets of mobile-financial activity: people capturing coupons, buying digital content and paying selected bills via smartphones. But the road to in-store mobile payments adoption is much longer (say 3 years or more).
In contrast to other types of "mobile payments" and financial services, mobile banking has taken off more rapidly than financial institutions anticipated. However mobile banking is really a case of people accessing information via tablets and smartphones that they already get from a PC. There's essentially no new behavior here, with the exception of mobile deposits (not yet widely performed).
Are you aware of any mobile financial services features from your bank?
Source: IAB, InMobi (n=1,242 US adults)
Capturing and redeeming mobile coupons was the most popular financial-related activity among this pool of respondents (57%). There's no surprise in that finding; mobile coupons are hugely popular.
There's also a significant amount of mobile bill paying (probably credit-card bill paying) according to the survey (46%). Mobile phone bill payment is also popular (42%).
In terms of in-store/offline mobile payments, 34% of these respondents said they had conducted such a transaction. This number is probably higher than the "real" number if we were able to look at a nationally representative sample of mobile users. I suspect the number is much closer to 10% or 15% perhaps (unless everyone is talking about a loyalty app such as Starbucks).
Have you ever used your mobile phone to make a payment?
Source: IAB, InMobi (n=1,242 US adults)
It would also be useful to get some additional insight into what "Paid a business for real-world goods/services by mobile" actually means. Unfortunately the survey doesn't further unpack the finding. For example, is it PayPal usage; is it use of a credit being accepted or read by a Square dongle? Is it a loyalty app, as I suggest above?
Among financial-related apps, PayPal is easily the leader. (The company is now rolling out its in-store payments system through the Discover network.) In the chart below 37% of survey respondents said they had PayPal on their phones. The survey asks about "downloads" rather than active usage. Thus we don't know how often or whether people actually use these apps.
Downloads without more insight into active usage is an almost meaningless statistic.
Have you downloaded any of the following apps to help you make payments or keep track of your finances?
Source: IAB, InMobi (n=1,242 US adults)
Square, which is probably the only other mobile payments brand known by consumers, stands at 8% penetration. This of course is not Square the credit-car-reading smartphone dongle, but the "Pay with Square" app that permits a "contactless" payment where both sides have a Square account. (The "Paid a business for real-world goods/services by mobile" answer probably includes use of the Square dongle.)
Google Wallet seems completely stalled at 7%. The widespread availability of NFC in Android and Windows Phones is unlikely by itself to jump-start NFC payments in North America. However that could change if the iPhone 5S were to include the capability.
The data above present a picture of increasing, incremental usage of mobile financial services and "payments" by the US smartphone population. That will continue as more services adapt to mobile and consumers become increasingly comfortable with using their mobile phones for a range of transaction types.
However the much-anticipated day when everyone is carrying a digital wallet and using it to buy goods and services in the real-world is still much more hype than reality.
Late last month Yahoo acquired news app Summly for the underlying technology, developed by SRI. It was just the latest in a series of mobile startup acquisitions (mostly for talent) Yahoo has been making.
Today the company rolled out the fruits of the Summly acquisition: a new iOS (iPod Touch, iPhone) flagship app. This follows last week's release of Yahoo Mail for the iPad and a new Yahoo weather app.
The Yahoo blog, in a post by CEO Marissa Mayer, announced the new app this morning:
The new Yahoo! mobile app is also smarter, using Summly’s natural-language algorithms and machine learning to deliver quick story summaries. We acquired Summly less than a month ago, and we’re thrilled to introduce this game-changing technology in our first mobile application. And, with the immersive imagery of our virtually endless newsfeed, the new Yahoo! app has both great technology and beautiful design front and center. Because searching for great content is also core to the Yahoo! experience, we’ve also improved the search experience with better video and image search.
The app offers essentially two views of stories, a kind of list view with thumbnail images (top left) and a more immersive (Summly like) visual view of stories (top row right and below left):
Yahoo enables personalization of news content in the app. If you're signed in each story allows users to select "more" or "less" news about the topic (lower right images). That personalization will also be reflected in the stories presented on the Yahoo PC site. However personalization is far from obvious in the new app and its not clear how many people will notice let alone use it.
The "visual" dimension of the experience is not as engaging or successful as Yahoo's new weather app (images below). However it's quite a bit more challenging to duplicate the experience of the weather app with news content, whose stories and images are constantly changing. In addition the list view of news is kind of flat and uninteresting.
Yahoo is making good progress in updating and mobilizing its user experience under Marissa Mayer. Things are definitely on the right track. However with the new Yahoo flagship/news app it will probably take a few more "iterations" to get things right.
Microsoft is in a tough spot: Windows Phones aren't selling well outside of a couple of EU markets and data indicate that neither is Windows 8. Windows RT and Surface tablets have so far been a major disappointment as well. While it's way to early to "count Microsoft out," clearly the company is in trouble as mobile internet access and mobile computing accelerate at the expense of the PC.
There have been persistent rumors that Microsoft was bringing a version of Office to iOS and specifically the iPad. You can use Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based product on the iPhone or iPad. (I have not.) But the experience will not be as rich as with a native app.
There are two theories about why Office has not come to iOS as a native app: Microsoft won't pay the 30% "tax" to be in the iTunes App Store and, perhaps more significantly, if Office came to the iPad (or Android tablets) it would undermine the sales outlook for Microsoft's own Surface tablets -- currently the only tablet that offers Office.
Microsoft's compromise may be to offer Office 365 through the browser to iPad users. However by not offering a native app it risks ceding the centrality of Office to a range of apps. Offering a native-app Office would potentially cloud the future of its own tablet devices, which may not be so bright anyway.
Last week there was a Reuters report asserting the next Google-ASUS Nexus 7 will have an improved screen and may cost as little as $149. The current entry level Nexus 7 is $199. Reuters also said that if it's not the new Nexus 7 than the existing tablet's price may be reduced. The current entry level Kindle Fire from Amazon (with ads) costs $159.
As this all indicates there's a kind of "race to the bottom" going on that may radically depress margins on Android tablets. Furthermore we're likely to see a decent $99 7-inch Android tablet in the next year.
The growth of smartphones and the emergence of these reasonable-quality low-cost tablets such as the Nexus 7 are accelerating a trend toward mobile device adoption at the expense of PCs and further extending PC replacement cycles. In developing countries PCs will likely never reach penetration levels seen in North America or Europe.
In its latest device forecast Gartner joins the party, affirming what we already know about PC erosion in favor of smartphones and tablets on a global basis. In its projection Gartner sees Android as the big winner, effectively replacing Microsoft as the dominant OS on tablets and smartphones.
The particulars and timing of this forecast will undoubtedly turn out to be wrong. However the direction of the forecast is probably accurate. With its resistance to matching price competition (probably wisely) Apple iPads will not reach tablet penetration levels of low-cost Android based tablets (though the company is considering a lower-cost iPhone).
So far, Microsoft's "2.0" efforts in mobile, Windows Phone and Surface tablets, have only made modest gains in selected markets. However Microsoft still makes money from Android OEMs via patent licensing fees. If it has to rely on licensing the company's future will be pretty grim.
If these figures are anywhere near accurate tablets are poised to become the primary computing (and advertising) platform. Yet we're likely to see quasi-converged devices (i.e., tablets with keyboards like the Surface Pro) become laptop replacements in the near term.
Yesterday Facebook introduced its homescreen Android makeover-takeover strategy: Facebook Home. It comes both fully integrated into a phone (HTC First) and as an app download. As you know it replaces the standard Android home and lock screen experiences with a proprietary Facebook environment.
Mark Zuckerberg and others at the press event yesterday confirmed that there would eventually be ads in its "Cover Feed." Cover Feed is the new photo-centric dynamic feed that constitutes much of the experience of Home. It includes Facebook content and select "Open Graph" partner content (e.g., Foursquare, Instagram).
Facebook stressed that it was working to make sure that any ads that eventually do appear (probably within a year, depending on adoption) would be consistent with the aesthetic experience and of sufficiently high quality. We're starting to see more ads in the mobile news feed that are of, shall we say, uneven quality.
However Cover Feed ads have the potential to be quite effective. If they're scarce and if Facebook uses strict standards they could become the equivalent of "Super Bowl ads for mobile." That of course will largely depend on how widely Facebook Home is adopted. There's early survey data that suggests limited demand -- but surveys don't always tell the whole story and can be contradicted by actual behavior.
In the past there have been several startups that sought to offer home or idle screen ads on mobile devices. All failed for various reasons (not enough scale, insufficient ad quality, limited advertiser demand/adoption). Today, to my knowledge, Amazon's Kindle (multiple devices) is the only place where such ads exist at any kind of scale. The picture above, at right is an example of a "Special Offer" on Kindle Fire.
I could find no data about the general consumer attitude toward these ads -- though there is plenty of online discussion about opting out. I also was unable to find any discussion or data about the efficacy of these ads and whether they perform for advertisers.
For many of the reasons already cited it's way too early to project how much Facebook could earn from Home ads. But if there are millions of users who adopt Home in the US and around the world, the ads could generate broad exposure (like TV advertising) and significant potential revenue for Facebook.
An interesting secondary question arises: if the most active mobile users migrate to Home (and use the app less often), do ads on Home then effectively cannibalize ads on the Facebook app in the conventional news feed?
Image credit: lovemyfire.com
In what might be considered something of a breakthrough, AdAge is reporting that agency Starcom MediaVest will be working with location-data specialist PlaceIQ to document what "percentage of customers served a mobile banner ad for a retailer subsequently visited one of that retailer's stores."
This is part of a new real-world ROI metric PlaceIQ is introducing. The company's new measurement is called "Place Visit Rate."
I spoke to PlaceIQ founder Duncan McCall about this several weeks ago but it was pre-case study release and so non-public at the time. PlaceIQ uses an unique but anonymous ID to connect users in the aggregate who've seen mobile display campaigngs with in-store visitors. Here's how the company explains its methodology:
PVR is measured by aggregating all of the devices that were messaged during a campaign and analyzing the number of those same devices that were later seen within a specific location or place footprint. Additionally, PlaceIQ can also set up A/B testing to measure PVR lift by identifying control groups or messaging additional PlaceIQ audiences.
PlaceIQ emphasizes that it doesn't track individuals:
Place Visit Rate does not track individuals, but rather measures if a set of anonymous devices moved to a certain location. All location data, device data and histories are disposed of by PlaceIQ after the campaign completes.
The methodology is imperfect and can only identify a portion of users who seen an ad and then shown up in a store. An article in AdAge claims PlaceIQ is only able to track "15% to 25% of all mobile ad traffic it monitors." Beyond this, as we all know, "correlation doesn't equal causation." However this is a big step forward in terms of being able to measure the efficacy of mobile display advertising.
Historically, coupons have been the most reliable way to measure online-to-offline impact. And mobile payments may one-day make "closing the loop" on online or mobile ads fairly routine. However most ad networks and marketers have had to use proxy data (calls, map lookups) to determine the offline impact of mobile ads.
Telenav/Scout can track users who see an ad and then navigate to a store location. It's not clear however how often someone sees a mobile display ad and then invokes navigation to a store.
There are others such as ShopKick and Placed, which measure in-store visits. And there are a "2.0" group of startups working on various flavors of in-store vists and activity measurement. Among them are Euclid Elements and WirelessWERX. The latter uses indoor location to provide business intelligence and analytics services for retailers.
Accordingly there are a range of methodologies now to try and track or capture online-to-offline ad impact. PlaceIQ's approach is a significant new entry into this arena and others may quickly try to match or approximate it.
Bringing new meaning to the term "conversational marketing," voice services provider Nuance has introduced mobile "Voice Ads." The new units use the Nuance voice platform to enable smartphone (and presumably tablet) owners to interact with these ads. It's not clear right now whether these interactions would occur exclusively on display landing pages or in the initial mobile display ad creative.
In a Siri-like way users talk to the ads and potentially receive one of several pre-programmed responses. In one sense these new Voice Ads are not unlike more traditional audio/radio ads (think Pandora).
However the interactivity -- if done well -- could create much more engagement and "lift" for the campaign. Coupled with a campaign such as Old Spice something like this might have worked extremely well. Indeed, the campaign creative and concepts are key. Poorly executed ideas could quickly backfire and become fodder for brand parodies.
Nuance is promoting a range of benefits from using Voice Ads including engagement, brand lift and better recall.
The company says that it has already partnered with leading agencies and mobile ad networks to ensure the units are widely available:
Nuance Voice Ads gives mobile advertisers and creative agencies an opportunity to go beyond the limitations of the four-inch mobile device screen and create a conversation with consumers through the power of voice recognition. Voice Ads finally creates an opportunity for brands to deepen the relationship with their consumers, with targeted interactive ads that deeply engage their core audience – much in the way that the world’s most popular mobile personal assistants have deepened consumers’ relationship with their mobile phones.
Nuance has partnered with many of the leading companies in the mobile advertising ecosystem to ensure broad reach and distribution for Voice Ads – a completely new format for mobile advertising. Creative advertising agencies include Digitas, OMD and Leo Burnett, while mobile advertising companies such as Millennial Media, Jumptap and Opera Mediaworks (AdMarvel, Mobile Theory, and 4th Screen), will provide distribution to more than 100,000 app publishers and hundreds of millions of consumers globally. In addition, mobile rich media ad servers such as Celtra are providing tools for rich media production and analytics on mobile devices.
One could also imagine clever integrations that tie into call centers at the end of the interaction to close a sale. Again, everything is going to depend on strong concepts, execution and user experiences. Nuance offers a relatively tame mock campaign example using Voice Ads in this video.
Earlier this week IDC issued its new projections regarding hardware "shipments" through 2017. The bottom line is: continued growth for smartphones and especially tablets ("connected devices") but negative growth for PCs.
IDC said that in 2012 tablet shipments "surpassed 128 million" and sees increasing demand across markets. While "shipments" is often an inaccurate and misleading metric for market-share purposes, it does indicate the "directional" trend in the market.
Even in emerging, immature markets PCs will only see "moderate single-digit growth" according to the forecast.
The company said that replacement cycles are getting much longer for PCs as tablets and smartphones make more frequent replacement unnecessary. However IDC does continue to forecast laptop growth. I suspect that projection may turn out to be optimistic at least in non-emerging markets.
Device penetration drives internet usage patterns. And while online publishers and marketers "intellectually" understand what's happening they have been generally slow to adapt their strategies and tactics to match the radical changes taking place in the market.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins recently got a lot of coverage, in anticipation of the BlackBerry Z10 launch, for the remark that the iPhone was now outdated.
The much-hyped Z10 is now available in the US from AT&T (soon from Verizon) and a range of carriers in international markets. I went into an AT&T store this weekend to take a look at and get a "hands on" sense of the device. Unimpressive.
It was immediately clear that this handset may keep some number of BlackBerry customers from "defecting" to the iPhone or Android. However it's not sufficiently exciting to lure existing iPhone and Android users to the BlackBerry platform. The UI and software are not entirely intuitive for iPhone and Android users. In addition, the collection of apps is limited.
The phone resembles an HTC device and is generally unremarkable otherwise. Indeed it has a "generic smartphone" quality.
Much has been made that AT&T employees haven't been trained to promote the phone. That seemed evident in my visit. In the store I entered there was not only a lack of promotional signage but the phone was placed in a far corner almost as an afterthought. It was simply there among a row of competing smartphones -- not highlighted in any way. I had to ask store salespeople multiple times where it was to locate the phone.
It's almost 100% certain this device will not be the engine of new growth for BlackBerry and that the device maker will continue to fall out of favor in the US market.
As Apple reportedly prepares to release a less expensive, plastic version of the iPhone to boost sales in the developing world, it's trying to strike a balance between cost and quality. It will simultaneously have to make the phone appealing (perhaps with a slightly different design and color) while not cannibalizing its flagship.
The perception of higher quality is one of the few remaining advantages that the device has over Android rivals, who over the past three years have dramatically closed the quality and features gap. Despite these gains, the iPhone has consistently beaten its smartphone competitors in customer service ratings from JD Power. The latest survey is no exception.
JD Power surveyed nearly 10,000 US smartphone owners. The satisfaction criteria, in order of importance, were the following:
This is the ninth consecutive time that the iPhone has ranked #1. JD Power said the Apple device did particularly well in the areas of design and ease of operation.
In a bit of a surprise, Nokia edged Samsung in the survey. However Nokia has many fewer users (by an order of magnitude) than Samsung, whose Galaxy smartphone line is the best-selling Android handset in many markets around the world.
It's interesting that LG performed so poorly given the success of the LG-made Nexus 4, which repeatedly sold out and to date remains overall best Android handset on the market. In contrast, among feature phone OEMs, LG performed best, which is somewhat curious.
Last night in New York Samsung formally announced its much anticipated Galaxy S4 follow-up to its hugely successful S3. The hardware update was relatively modest: a somewhat larger high-resolution AMOLED screen, more CPU power and thinner body. It will be challenging to tell the S4 from the S3 without a close look.
Much of the evening was about software though decidedly not about "Android" or "Google." Android got a single mention and Google was never mentioned.
Here are the S4's major "specs":
With its splashy, Broadway inspired show last night Samsung entered Apple's "big launch" turf. It also perhaps unwittingly emulated Apple's "incremental" handset update cycle. Indeed, we might call the S4 the "S3s" because of its "evolutionary" changes over the S3.
There were tons of software updates and new additions to the handset; many of them related to the camera and many of them were impressive seeming. However today several outlets are reporting that the Samsung software didn't always work as promised. In fact the S4, which will undoubtedly be popular, has received some quite mixed reviews -- especially from Gizmodo last night, which called it a "missed opportunity."
Samsung has taken a bit of an "A/B testing" or shotgun approach, if you prefer, to developing mobile devices. Over the past three years it has released a wide range of tablets and handsets vs. Apple's much more deliberate and controlled pipeline. Yet through its experimentation with larger screens and a range of devices (as a differentiation strategy) it has helped cultivate in consumers an appetite for larger smartphone screens.
But for that shift in the public's appetite, Apple wouldn't have made the "taller" iPhone 5. Yet there's considerable pressure to make still larger iPhones.
A larger screen has become one of the key hardware features and differences between the first-tier Android handsets (especially from Samsung and HTC) and the iPhone. Thus Apple will be rolling out an even bigger iPhone (probably at 6). Apple would do well to bring that larger phone this summer and not wait another full year to do so.
Apple is not used to compensating and being on the defensive. It normally leads the market with design. But it has been playing catch-up recently.
The unexpected success of smaller tablets forced it to create the iPad Mini. And the unanticipated development of giant-screened smartphones (Note II, S4) forces Apple to offer a larger iPhone, thereby betraying Steve Jobs' "single hand" operation philosophy. In addition the need to sell more iPhones in developing markets (vs. less expensive Androids) has given rise to rumors of a cheaper, "more plastic" iPhone.
Samsung clearly emulated, imitated or copied (take your pick) the iPhone's look and feel at the outset. But the Korean company has now gone beyond it in several ways -- including in the hyperbolic claim that the S4 is a "life companion." And, ironically, Apple is now being compelled by the Galaxy line's success and by public demand to make the iPhone much more like Samsung handsets.
Many developers and digital marketers still cling to the assumption that HTML5 and the "mobile web" will eventually win out over native apps. There's a kind of logic to that position. However they may be waiting a very long time for that to happen.
As has previously been written, the overwhelming majority of consumer time spent with mobile devices is spent in apps ("4 out of every 5 mobile minutes," per comScore). And according to a new survey from Compuware the majority of international respondents (85%) preferred apps over mobile sites.
The survey had a total of just over 3,500 respondents from the US, UK, France, Germany, India and Japan.
Despite the positive news for app developers the survey also had some harsh findings. For example 59% of respondents said that an app should load in two seconds or less. In addition, poor user experiences result in app abandonment, switching to competitors' apps, negative word of mouth and erosion of brand perception -- among other negative consequences.
The most common problems encountered were freezing/crashing (62%) and slow load times (47%), as well as the more generic "didn't function as expected" (37%). A majority of users had encountered one or more of these problems in using apps. Users expect apps to load faster and perform better than mobile sites: "78% expect mobile apps to load as fast as — or faster than — a mobile website."
Nearly 80% of the survey respondents said that they would give an app one (maybe two) more chances if it didn't work correctly the first time. And app-store ratings are being taken very seriously by users: "84% users say app store ratings are important in their decisions to download and install a mobile app."
The survey report cited third-party data for the proposition that the average number of apps on users' smartphones is 41.
This morning Google released the results of an extensive study conducted among US mobile users with Nielsen in Q4 2012. The survey explores mobile search behavior in particular and uses a combination of interviews, online survey data, diaries and search query logs to get a holistic picture of search activity on smartphones. Tablets weren't part of this research.
Among the many interesting findings there are two big ones that stand out: 77% of mobile searches happen at home or work, even when there's a PC nearby. And 55% of mobile-search related conversions (call, store visit, purchase) happen within "one hour or less" of query completion.
These two stats illustrate two larger "truths" about mobile. The first is that mobile devices are increasingly "primary" for people as a method of internet access. Speed and convenience were cited by respondents as reasons for substituting a smartphone for a PC in a search context.
Marketers need to be cognizant of the fact that large numbers of people will be using their smartphones (and tablets) at home to search for things, whereas before they might have used a PC. At work people may be motivated by other considerations, such as privacy, to use mobile devices vs. corporate-provided PCs.
The other "truth" is illustrated by the 55% figure: conversions often happen very quickly after a mobile search. This reinforces the notion of the focused, "need it now" mindset of many mobile search users. Mobile searchers take a variety of actions after completing their queries. They go to websites and do additional research, they make phone calls and they go into stores. They buy things.
But marketers can't see most of that activity, hence the complaints about mobile ROI. Most marketers get confused and "lose the trail" when users go offline. You can track calls and site visits, you can capture email addresses and you can monitor e-commerce transactions via mobile. However it's challenging to get complete visibility on all the ways that mobile is influencing purchase behavior.
The slide above illustrates the range of activities mobile search triggers. But more importantly, Google and Nielsen found that 45% of mobile search queries were undertaken to help make a purchase decision -- so-called "goal oriented" searches. And most of these will result in a conversion, often offline.
The totality of the data released in this study (download the pdf) show that mobile users are more focused and are typically farther down "in the funnel" than PC users. Mobile (search at least) is clearly driving lots of conversions. Marketers just need to open their minds about what constitutes a "conversion" and get creative about ROI and attribution.
Otherwise, they're not seeing what's really happening with their customers and how critical a role mobile is playing in the overall marketing and sales process.
Many of the Q4 reports released by the ad networks and major agencies showed the growth of tablet-related ad spending. That's a trend that will further accelerate under Google's new "Enhanced Campaigns" regime in which tablets are grouped with PCs for paid-search advertising purposes. In other words, marketers cannot separate PC and tablet paid-search campaigns.
Last week Adobe reported that tablets had passed smartphones for share of global traffic.
In many ways tablets are the new PCs, taking their place for many at home use cases. Tablet owners tend to behave more like PC shoppers, including displaying a greater willingness to covert online. By contrast, smartphone owners typically don't convert on the small screen making ROI harder to track for marketers targeting those devices.
Because online conversions are more likely and prevalent for tablet users, the "danger" is that marketers will neglect smartphones or that smartphones will be "ghettoized" and considered good for only a limited number of purposes. In fact mobile/smartphone advertising is great for both DR and branding purposes.
Mobile DSP Adfonic now offers data that show, across most categories, tablet advertising appears to outperform smartphone ads in terms of CTRs (though ultimate influence on conversions isn't measured).
As the chart above reflects, "tablets achieve especially strong CTRs for advertisers in the Style & Fashion, Lifestyle & Health, Entertainment & Media, and Travel verticals." Smartphones are stronger in other categories such as retail and automotive. People tend to use tablets in the evenings and on the weekends.
Over time marketers will determine which devices are better suited to which types of advertising. However companies need to have a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the "multi-screen" consumer, who will move from device to device before converting.
Although Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 are gaining, Apple tablets continue to dominate web traffic. The following chart shows North American traffic over the past three months, comparing the top-three devices on Chitika's ad network.
According to Adobe's marketing group tablet growth is outpacing that of smartphones. This trend also showed up in several Q4 reports from other online marketing firms such as Marin Software.
Adobe says that on a global basis, mobile devices (smartphones + tablets) generated 15% of all internet traffic. Of that 15%, tablets edged smartphones with 8% of traffic. The company also says that tablet users spend much more time and are much more engaged than smartphone users: "on average internet users view 70% more pages per visit when browsing with a tablet compared to a smartphone."
Among the countries measured, the UK is seeing the highest share of internet traffic from tablets followed by the US and Canada.
ComScore previously reported that about 36% of total US internet time is being spent on mobile devices, even though they're generating less than that in terms of overall traffic. Part of the reason for such a discrepancy may be apps, which are often not measured but where "9 out of 10" mobile minutes are spent.
While 6 and 7-inch tablets exist somewhere between a smartphone and a full-sized tablet (i.e., iPad Classic), tablets are increasingly replacement devices for PCs. PCs still have the largest installed base and a home in the enterprise, among business users and for more selected purposes in the home. But the centrality of the PC as the gateway to the internet is over.
Using Gartner data, USAToday chronicled the decline of PC sales (which aren't coming back):
The "problem" with tablets is that many marketers treat them like PCs (including Google AdWords) and don't give them special attention. A study released in Q4 last year found, for example, that only 7% of retailers' websites were tablet friendly.
Yet tablet-app mobile ad creative can be very effective. In general tablet ads (in apps) are much more engaging than smartphone ads right now.
As tablets continue to gain momentum as PC replacements we may see a very odd situation develop. That is: smartphones might be given perfunctory treatment as an ad platform or otherwise neglected in favor of tablets with their larger "canvas." However, as suggested, the bulk of marketers may treat tablets like PCs and not address them with specialized ad units.
Accordingly, as mobile devices take more and more consumer time and engagement "online advertising" could become considerably weaker than it is today.
This morning mobile ad network xAd released its year in review report. The document contains a range of information and data about the company's offerings, including the performance of ad campaigns on its network. The focus of the report is on national advertisers (rather than SMBs). And it presents a picture of marketers getting a great deal more sophisticated about local ad targeting on mobile devices.
As laid out in the report, xAd is now offering a range of local targeting flavors on mobile: behavioral, place-based, POI and event targeting.
In the graphic above you can see that from Q1 to Q4 the number of national advertisers using more sophisticated forms of geotargeting increased dramatically from 27% to 81%. In other words only 13% of xAd's national advertiser campaigns in Q4 were using "standard geo," (zip, city, DMA). The remaining 81% were using one of the other more complex targeting methods (all involving location) such as behavioral.
Of the 81% using a more precise form of location targeting, here's the breakdown:
In the report xAd offers performance metrics for these approaches compared to industry averages. The company says that its targeting methods provide a substantial performance improvement over traditional (non-location targeted) mobile search and display advertising.
In particular on the display side xAd breaks down how each of its more elaborate forms of location targeting perform. Behaviorial does the best, followed by place-based targeting.
Finally the following are the top consumer search categories for all of 2012 and the top advertiser categories on the xAd network. The latter are national advertisers and don't include small businesses. There's a general alignment across both columns but it's obviously not 1:1.
The company's advertisers tend to be more sophisticated about location and more inclined to experiment with it. It would be great if these advertisers were representative of the entire industry. However they're not. A recent CMO Council survey showed how many agencies and national advertisers still don't "get" location.
The CMO Council survey explored national advertiser "localization" tactics. The overwhelming majority of survey respondents (over 80%) didn’t make the connection between mobile and local:
Source: CMO Council/Balihoo (n=296 national marketers/agencies)
Perhaps once more national advertisers become aware of the performance lift and case studies associated with location targeting they'll wake up to its potential. In the interim those national advertisers using more sophisticated local-mobile targeting are "conquesting" their competition.