Arguably the most interesting thing about the new Kindle Fire "HDX" tablets is the so-called "Mayday" button. By pressing a single button HDX owners will see a live human appear in a pop-up window on their screens, as the picture to the right illustrates.
That individual can answer questions and perform diagnostic functions or fixes remotely. And while Amazon Kindle users can see the agent, the customer support person cannot see the Kindle owner (thereby preventing certain unseemly "chatroulette scenarios"). Amazon says most questions or issues are or can be resolved in relatively little time. Live support is free/included and available "24x7, 365 days a year."
One review of the HDX questioned how scalable this service is. I suspect it's pretty scalable, especially if they offshore the support centers. But given that one can see the person on the other end of the line, offshoring may be less viable for something like this. In his post on the Opus Research Web site, my colleague Dan Miller sees the potential for a speech-enabled, automated personal virtual assistant to populate the agent screen.
My hunch is that Mayday will become a premium service or included with a Prime subscription ultimately.
What's more interesting to consider is how Mayday might become a new model for customer service and/or sales support for tablet and mobile apps. Think about how much more e-commerce and conversions might happen if live support were available. In a mobile context "chat" doesn't really cut it.
There are various in-between scenarios possible too, where a static image might be used instead of video together with a VoIP call. That would be the "low rent" version but it could be equally effective if executed properly.
The success of Mayday and its emulation or replication by others would be a new spin on and give new meaning to the notion of the "personal virtual assistant."
When Amazon introduced its original color tablet the Kindle Fire its chief innovations were aggressive pricing ($199) and the fact that the company used a "forked" version of Android that declared its independence from Google. There have since been two updates to the line (including yesterday's), which now includes four color tablets.
Yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced refreshed Kindle hardware and software. There's a new "operating system," called Mojito (based on Android Jelly Bean). There are essentially two new tablets: Kindle Fire HDX (as in "beyond HD") in 7 and 8.9 inch versions. The Kindle Fire HD (7 inch) has been dropped to $139, which is sure to be the biggest seller, though it's effectively last year's model. There's also a clever new cover/stand called Origami.
The big software innovation is "Mayday," which is live video tech support on the tablet screen. Here's how Amazon describes it:
Kindle Fire HDX also introduces the revolutionary new "Mayday" button. With a single tap, an Amazon expert will appear on your Fire HDX and can co-pilot you through any feature by drawing on your screen, walking you through how to do something yourself, or doing it for you—whatever works best. Mayday is available 24x7, 365 days a year, and it's free.
As a practical matter Mayday is mostly a marketing gimmick, which probably won't see a great deal of actual use but will give some confidence to older and less tech-savvy buyers. What's more interesting to consider is the degree to which Mayday may be emulated by other industries (e.g., travel, shopping) for customer care purposes. That will be fascinating to watch.
North American Non-iPad Traffic Share
Source: Chitika, September 2013 (North American Android tablet traffic share)
Currently in North America the iPad controls about 84% of tablet-based web traffic according to Chitika. The remaining 16% is mostly Android tablets and really a battle between Amazon, Samsung and Google (in order of market share). The $139 price point on the Kindle Fire HD will capture buyer attention and may put pressure on Samsung and Google.
When Google introduced its new Nexus 7 earlier this year the company raised the price from $199 to $229 for the entry level model. The price increase was justified on the basis of new specs and a higher resolution screen. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is almost $100 cheaper at $139. Without ads it's $154. The Nexus 7 is a superior device (to the Kindle Fire HD) but many people will not see a difference and opt for the much cheaper Kindle.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is $199. Accordingly it will be very challenging for Google, Amazon or anyone to sell many smaller tablets at much above a low $200 price point. Whether the iPad Mini feels similar pricing or sales pressure is a question that remains to be answered. However I suspect iPad Mini sales will only be affected at the margins.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "PayPal is near a deal to buy Braintree Payments Solutions." Braintree has had great success as a payments platform and processor both for e-commerce and in mobile.
Braintree is behind payment processing for companies such as Uber, AirBnB, LivingSocial and OpenTable among others. The company has roughly 4,000 customers according to the WSJ piece.
Braintree processes roughly $12 billion in payments annually, about $4 billion of which come from mobile commerce transactions. PayPal, by contrast said that it would process roughly $20 billion in mobile payments in 2013.
The deal would help further accelerate PayPal's mobile business. PayPal would also acquire Venmo, a P2P payments aoo, that Braintree bought in 2012 for just over $26 million.
Among mobile wallet/payments companies PayPal is far and away the best-known brand, though US consumers still show relatively little interest in generic "mobile wallets," according to our survey data.
Google Wallet has largely failed to date and other "mobile wallets" and mobile payments providers are almost totally unknown to the public. This deal would help cement PayPal's leadership in mobile payments.
Recently PayPal introduced Beacon, a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) in-store payments and indoor-location solution that is helping, together with Apple, show NFC the door in North America.
Today 91% of American adults own mobile phones according to new data from The Pew Research Center. More than 61% (64% per Nielsen) own smartphones. In this latest survey Pew takes a look at common activities on mobile devices (including non-smartphones).
Pew found that 81% of mobile phone owners text, the most common activity, while 60% access the internet. Just under half (49%) use maps or access location-based information on their handsets. All these percentages are higher if non-smartphones are excluded.
There are approximately 250 million US adults today. If 91% own mobile phones that means about 228 million adults in real numbers. Of that group about 146 million own smartphones (per Nielsen's 64%). If kids and teens are added in we easily have in excess of 150 million smartphones in the US market.
If 60% of adult mobile phone owners in the US access the internet that would be roughly 137 million people (not counting teens and kids).
Among the 60% going online from their mobile handsets (not including tablets) Pew says the following:
African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to do so than whites. Younger adults, those with at least some college education, and those with an annual household income of over $75,000 a year are particularly likely to access the internet via cell phone. Those who live in rural areas are less likely than urban or suburbanites to have mobile internet access. Among those who use the internet or email on their phones, more than a third (34%) say that they mostly access the internet from their phone.
A recent Nielsen study found that 46% of US survey respondents relied exclusively on smartphones or tablets in conducting online research across a range of categories (i.e., retail, banking, gas and convenience). That same study found that, in the banking category, more than 50% of smartphone and tablet users did not use a PC to make purchase decisions (e.g., about credit cards).
What we're thus seeing is the emergence of a "mobile first" population in the US, which may be 50 million people on the low end and 75 million on the high end.
As I wrote last week the advent of iBeacon and bluetooth low energy may effectively mean that NFC as an in-store mobile payments standard in the US market is dead. Google Wallet had placed a big bet on NFC payments but has been thwarted in its bid for adoption by two principal factors:
Google Wallet 1.0 thus was a failure. Google is now out with a new Android version (and soon iOS) is making a renewed bid for consumer adoption with a range of new features and a partial move away from NFC. In-store payments still depend on NFC and so won't be happening at scale any time soon for the same reasons cited above.
However the new features add utility and breadth to the user experience. Here's what's new:
Exactly a year ago we surveyed 1,501 US adults and found the vast majority were not interested in the idea of mobile wallets: 71% said "I'm not at all interested . . . in using [my] mobile phone to pay for things and replace cash or credit cards." Another 15% said they had only "limited interest." Only 14% had some interest or significant interest.
In specific contexts, where consumers see the tangible benefits of mobile wallets, these numbers change. But in the abstract the public remains largely uninterested in mobile wallets.
Last week news broke than McDonald's is considering rolling out mobile payments. Currently the McDonald's app is primarily a store locator. The app also offers nutrition information.
According to a Bloomberg report, the company has been testing mobile payments in Salt Lake City, Utah and in Austin, Texas. McDonald's has roughly 14,000 US stores and 35,000 globally.
Mobile payments would allow McDonald's patrons to pre-order meals online and then pick them up at the drive-thru window. Other fast-food chains have tested, are testing or now using mobile ordering/payments. The McDonald's app will also feature deals and rewards according to Bloomberg.
A mobile ordering/payments capability may also help McDonald's attract younger users and Millennials, who are less inclined than others to visit the QSR chain. According to an AdAge write-up of an NPD Group survey:
Millennials are indeed going to burger chains, but they are going less often. The hamburger category, which includes McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King, still receives 29% of all millennials' quick-service visits, according to NPD, more than any other restaurant category. Fast casual, which includes chains like Chipotle, gets 6% of millennial quick-service traffic.
But hamburger chains have seen a 16% decline in traffic from Millennials since 2007, NPD said. In the year ended November 2012, Millennials made 3.6 billion visits to hamburger chains, down from 4.2 billion visits in the year ended November 2007. There was a 12% decline in quick-service restaurant visits by Millennials in the same time period.
Ultimately all QSR chains will offer mobile ordering/payments. And that will help acclimate a generation to using their smartphones as wallets to pay for things.
Once people are familiar and comfortable with mobile payments in a specific context (e.g., ordering food) they will be more inclined to embrace them in other scenarios.
Jumptap (now part of Millennial Media) and comScore released a report last week on cross-platform device usage. The report contains considerable data about smartphone and tablet penetration, day parting and device usage by content category and demographic group.
Much of the data is from comScore and has already been released in other contexts. However there were a number of interesting data points in the report worth revisiting, including the fact that combined smartphone and tablet time online now exceeds time online with PCs.
As a general matter smartphones and tablets have increased overall time spent online rather than simply cannibalizing PC time, though there has been some of that (e.g., maps, local).
Another interesting set of data in the document explore device share of online minutes by content category or vertical. The PC is dominant (more than 50% of time spent) in a little more than half the categories examined.
PC usage is highest in the automotive segment and lowest in "radio" (think Pandora). Retail sees slightly more mobile than PC time.
The numbers above are aggregate data. Demographic segments are going to display different device behaviors. For example, those in the US under 30 are likely to be more involved and spend more time with smartphones than those over 50. That pattern has been repeatedly shown in our surveys and other third party data, including this report.
Below are the demographic groups profiled in the report:
Age 18 - 24:
Women 25 - 49:
Men 25 - 49:
There's quite a bit more data in the report, which can be downloaded for free.
As a broad takeaway marketers can now assume almost everyone above a certain income threshold is "cross platform." The minority are "smartphone only" or "PC only" (select younger and older users respectively).
Marketers can also reliably make the assumption that those under 45 are going to favor smartphones vs. PCs as primary devices in a wide range of categories. However people are also rational and prefer larger screens in many contexts (at least until mobile user experiences are improved).
By comparison tablet behaviors are still being established. However the tablet is typically used as a PC substitute (provided a larger screen) in the home.
Microsoft is reportedly readying its answer to Siri and Google Now: Cortana. Named after a central character in the game Halo, Cortana aims to go beyond both Siri and Google Now by being a more comprehensive way to interact with Microsoft devices.
According to Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley:
Cortana, Microsoft's assistant technology, likewise will be able to learn and adapt, relying on machine-learning technology and the "Satori" knowledge repository powering Bing.
Cortana will be more than just an app that lets users interact with their phones more naturally using voice commands. Cortana is core to the makeover of the entire "shell" -- the core services and experience -- of the future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox One operating systems, from what I've heard from my contacts.
A comprehensive personal assistant powered by AI across all Microsoft systems and devices is a very ambitious plan. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can do it.
Yet in order to not be perceived as more than a me-too product Microsoft will have to roll out something truly impressive and more utilitarian than Siri or Google's mix of voice-enabled search and personalized data features.
Update: TheVerge offers a series of relatively bland Cortana screenshots.
I wrote several days ago on my Screenwerk blog about PayPal's new Beacon payments and indoor location initiative. I explained that Apple's decision not to include an NFC chip in the new iPhone means essentially that NFC is marginalized if not dead in the US market. In its place Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may become the mainstream alternative to what NFC would have enabled (e.g., mobile payments).
PayPal Beacon relies on BLE. At those businesses where a Beacon device is plugged in PayPal users simply check-in. Beacon identifies them and payment is automatically transferred from the default account. Payment happens “hands free” without a tap, swipe or other app interaction.
Beacon is also PayPal’s entry into indoor location. PayPal will obviously know you’re in a venue and then can do any number of things, including delivering highly specific, indoor marketing messages or ads. PayPal is also making Beacon available to third party developers, who will be able to do similar things accordingly.
Apple's iOS 7, which will be available on September 18 (to older iPhones as well), will permit all eqipped devices to interact with BLE iBeacons in malls, airports, stores and other venues.
Apple acquired indoor mapping company WiFiSlam earlier this year. That was the "wake up call" for many people to take indoor location seriously. One of the first and obvious applications of iBeacon is indoor mapping. But it doesn't stop there.
Just as with PayPal's BLE initiative, iBeacon will enable Apple to move into payments and indoor marketing and allow third party developers to leverage those capabilities. With its more than 600 million credit cards on file I've got to believe that Apple will enter mobile payments eventually and BLE will be the way in all likelihood.
More broadly I suspect that iBeacon will popularize and jumpstart indoor location for a host of third party developers.
For a comprehensive introduction to the indoor location and marketing opportunity, and its broader implications, come to Place 2013.
The Apple iPhone event just concluded. Everything that was announced at the event had been leaked or written about beforehand, including:
However that last item, the "Touch ID" fingerprint sensor, was the stand-out announcement in my view. It will enable users to both unlock their phones and confirm iTunes purchases instead of entering a password:
Put your finger on the Home button, and just like that your iPhone unlocks. Your fingerprint can also approve purchases from iTunes or the App Store.
What I mean by the headline is that Touch ID is to the 5S what Siri was to the 4S: a kind of "wow" feature that helps it stand out from other smartphones. It partly compensates for the fact that Apple didn't introduce a larger screen, which everyone now wants. That's coming with the iPhone 6.
Both Opera and Yahoo introduced splashy new apps for the iPad today. Opera introduced a new browser called Coast. On first glance, the browser has some nice features. In particular users can pin icons to the home screen, much like they can on the iPhone and close pages by swiping them away (like the old PalmOS and Android today). Most of the nagivation is based on swiping or the touch of a single button.
Opera calls Coast a totally new tablet experience:
The result is a completely designed-for-iPad browser, subtly elegant, made to fit tablet users in every respect. Crafting Coast meant redesigning the complete experience. We focused on how iPad users actually interact with their tablets. Coast is the perfect companion for your iPad, allowing a more relaxing and lean-back browsing experience when you are on the go or just hanging out on the couch.
The iPad is nearly buttonless; why shouldn’t the apps for it be? Elements such as back and forward buttons are gone from Coast. All navigation is done by swiping the way you naturally would on an iPad – just like in a good iPad app. A single button takes you to the home screen, and another shows the sites you have recently visited – that’s about it for buttons in Coast.
When using touch-based navigation, small buttons that work on a regular computer don’t work well on a tablet. It’s not about just enlarging already existing elements; it’s about making the design interesting and uncluttered . . .
Designing for iPad means rethinking everything. Tablets have a lot of screen real estate, and we thought it was about time to put it to good use. Coast does way more than merely migrating the lessons learned from desktop computers to a tablet.
Yahoo has a new tablet-centric video app (though it also works on the iPhone). Called "Yahoo Screen," the app features video from multiple sources, including Comedy Central and SNL, among numerous others. It's not YouTube but an attempt to created a video destination, with lots of clips that can support video pre-roll ads. There's quite a diverse array of content from food and instructional video to sports and movie clips.
Yahoo has done a nice job with the user experience. Content is the key to success however. The company will continue to need to feed content to the app if it wants to build and sustain an audience. The company had sought to buy Hulu at one point. And now it's moving ahead with its own video product and increasingly original web-only programming.
A few years ago companies like aisle411 or PointInside were mobile apps in search of an audience and a business model. In the past couple of years, however, everything has changed.
The proliferation of public WiFi, the adoption of smartphones (now 62% in the US) and the recognition among hospitals, malls, airports, stadiums, grocery and retail stores that indoor location could bring better customer experiences (and compelling data) has radically altered the landscape. The principal business model also went from being an ad/coupon-supported one to a technology licensing model, with indoor analytics leading the way.
Today aisle411 announced a $6.3 million Series A round (Cultivation Capital, Google’s Don Dodge, St. Louis Arch Angels, the Billiken Angels, and the Springfield Angel Network). The total the company has raised since being founded in 2008 is roughly $10 million.
Most major US retailers (e.g., HomeDepot, Macy's, Wal-Mart, Target, Nordstrom, etc.) and malls across the US are now adopting indoor location, to reap the "big data" and offer more personalized, locally relevant and engaing customer experiences. We're only just at the beginning of a huge wave of indoor innovation.
One of the featured sessions at the Place Conference will showcase aisle411. I'll also be "in conversation" with Google's Don Dodge on why he believes indoor location and marketing will be bigger than outdoor maps and GPS.
The conference will also present other in-venue and retail case studies from PointInside, ByteLight and Meridian (Aruba). If you haven't yet registered for the October 8, 2013 event do so today.
On October 8 in San Francisco, Opus Research will host Place 2013: The Indoor Marketing Summit. The first event of its kind devoted to the implications of indoor location, it's shaping up to be one of the most interesting events of the year.
The Place Conference will feature Keynotes from Google and Dick's Sporting Goods (+ aisle411), as well as multiple indoor location case studies and demos (existing deployments). Panels will take on consumer privacy, in-store analytics, the implications of indoor location for ROI measurement, online-to-offline ad tracking, in-store marketing to consumers and a range of other topics of interest to all digital marketers, agencies and merchants.
If you haven't already registered, do so today. The early bird rate is gone but if you attend our upcoming webinar, Beyond CTR: Tracking Mobile Ad Impact on Store Visits, you can get access to a new discount code that will save you money off the full rate.
If you're not already convinced, here are 26 additional reasons to attend the event:
E-commerce hosting and services provider MarketLive released a mid-year benchmarketing report yesterday, covering digital marketing and commerce trends through the lens of its many clients. There are many interesting findings. I'll focus however on the mobile aspects of the report, which appear to directly contradict a comScore m-commerce report released today.
The comScore data argue that there are many more e-commerce transactions happening on smartphones vs. tablets. This was something of a surprise to me. Accordingly, comScore puts the total value of US mobile-drive e-commerce at $10.6 billion for 1H 2013; 6% is from smartphones and 3.5% is from tablets.
These numbers contradict everything I've seen about conversions and commerce on smartphones and tablets. One potential explanation may be that there are nearly 2X the number of smartphones as tablets in the US market.
However the MarketLive data, as mentioned, show something much more consistent with earlier findings I've seen from many sources: tablet e-commerce conversions are higher and tablets are driving a greater percentage of overall revenue than smartphones.
According to the very busy MarkeLive slide below, smartphones drive more overall traffic but tablets generate considerably more revenue. MarketLive says that roughly 12% of e-commerce revenue for its clients are coming from tablets, whereas only 2.7% is coming from smartphones. However 19% of traffic comes from smartphones vs. 13% of visits from tablets.
Tablet conversions are 3X conversions on smartphones.
This morning the Pew Internet & American Life project released new data on teen app usage and mobile privacy. The big "takeaway" is that teens care very much about privacy and have taken action against (deleted) mobile apps they feel unnecessarily or gratuitously collect personal information or location data.
Pew says that 78% of teens have a mobile phone (though not all have smartphones) and 23% have tablets. The teen smartphone penetration number is probably 58%, given that's the number of teens who have downloaded mobile apps.
Just over half (51%) "have avoided apps due to privacy concerns" while 26% have uninstalled an app because it was collecting personal data. And 46% of teen mobile users have turned off location tracking features (on their phone or in an app) out of concern for privacy.
Teens are more forgiving of apps that seek location data where there's a logical and clear justification for the information (e.g., maps). Girls are more likely to disable location tracking than boys; 59% of girls vs. 37% of boys have done so.
Separately but still on the theme of privacy, Facebook announced today that it would give more control to Facebook mobile log-in users over what information is shared by third party apps on the Facebook Timeline and News Feed. Here's what the company said today in its announcement:
Although Facebook Login is widely used, we understand people’s concerns about apps posting on their Timeline or to their friends. For the past several months, we’ve been rolling out a new version of Facebook Login on mobile to address these concerns.
With this new update, mobile apps using Facebook Login must now separately ask you for permission to post back to Facebook.
Don’t want to share your music playlist or workout routine with friends? You can choose to skip sharing altogether.
Clearly separating sharing means people can decide whether they only want to use Facebook Login for fast registration without also sharing back to Facebook. If you want to share later, you still can.
This involuntary sharing element was a selling point for publishers and developers but a turn-off to many users. It became a significant barrier for some to using Facebook log-in for third party apps/sites.
By separating sharing from social log-ins Facebook hopes to remove friction for many people who might log in with Facebook but don't today for privacy reasons. I'm in that group.
To say that Facebook's mobile ad revenue growth has been impressive is an understatement. It has been, what you might call, meteoric.
In the course of a 12 month period the company has gone from less than 10% of ad revenue from mobile to 41% in Q2 of this year. By the end of this year (or very early next) 50% of Facebook's ad revenue will likely come from mobile. (By comparison, in 2012 more than half of Twitter's ad revenues came from mobile.)
In Q2 '13 Facebook made more than $650 million in mobile ad revenue. If current trends continue expect Facebook to have a $1 billion mobile quarter by 1H 2014 (and possibly Q1 earnings). That would enable the company to claim a $4 billion annual mobile-ad revenue run rate.
Based on averages and simple math, Facebook made roughly $0.80 per mobile user in Q2 on a global basis -- up from $0.50 in Q1 of this year. However developed markets offer more revenue than emerging markets and so the revenue generated per mobile user will vary considerably from market to market in practice.
In 2010 we asked "How Long Before Facebook is a Mobile Ad Network?" and predicted that when Facebook turned on mobile ads it would immediately become the largest mobile "network."
As formidable as Facebook is becoming in mobile Google is still dominant globally. Incredibly, Mountain View is expected to capture more than 50% of mobile revenues on a global basis this year. Facebook claims a much smaller percentage of mobile revenues, but still ranks as the number two player in mobile advertising today.
As apps and websites become optimized for mobile commerce, and as the "credit card problem" is addressed (see TheFind and Jumio), there will be more buying on smartphones. Most retailers and brands currently assume smartphone transactions happen on the go or in stores (or on other devices). In the home e-commerce is supposed to be the domain of PCs (and increasingly tablets).
The conventional wisdom is that smartphones are more heavily used for shopping out of home and that's been supported by prior survey data. Yet data released yesterday by Nielsen tell a somewhat different and more nuanced story.
Last week the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released findings asserting that the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note II beat the iPhone 5 for customer satisfaction. The Galaxy S4 was not part of the study, which was conducted before the device's release. Somewhat Ironically, Korean consumers said the opposite: that they preferred Apple devices to Samsung's.
Here are the US ACSI scores by device:
Survey questions addressed the following areas:
What's interesting is that Apple rates higher than Samsung overall in the ACSI company scores -- though Samsung has closed the gap vs. 2012:
Apple more handily beats Samsung in the JD Power ratings, where the iPhone 5 contributed to Apple's overall 2013 smartphone win. In the JD Power satisfaction scoring, Samsung is at the bottom of the group. How can these conflicting scores (within the ACSI and between ACSI and JD Power) be reconciled?
The ACSI report offers no real explanation for the Galaxy and Galaxy Note wins. Other than screen specs, Samsung's phones are not the highest quality Android devices on the market. Arguably HTC, LG and perhaps Motorola have stronger offerings from an overall quality perspective. However Samsung outspends them all (combined) on marketing, which has been the chief driver of the Galaxy line's success.
My suspicion is that consumers are responding to screen size more than any other single variable or factor in rating the Galaxy S3 and Note II above the iPhone. This underscores the larger-screen imperative that Apple now confronts. The company needs to produce an iPhone with a larger screen. And according to multiple rumors, that will happen with the iPhone 6 though not the "5S," which is supposed to retain its current screen of just over 4 inches.
The new Google-Motorola Moto X chose not match the S4 and go to 5 inches after the company did considerable consumer research and arrived at 4.7 inches as the optimal screen span. Accordingly, an ideal screen size for a smartphone is probably right in-between the current iPhone 5 (4 inches) and the Galaxy S4 (5 inches).
There are a number of interesting things about Googlerola's just-released Moto X. First, it emphasizes design over specs. The latter had always been the hallmark of Motorola's previous Android ("Droid") phones. The new phone also allows for an unprecedented degree of customization:
In fact, the way the phone is presented on the Motorola site makes it effectively into a fashion accessory. However that's how many people do treat their smartphones today. The customization, which is smart, is apparently made possible because the phone is manufactured in Texas (rather than China).
But beyond those things, the phone can be activated or invoked without touching it. Users can speak commands to the phone and get responses or create reminders, set alarms and so on. Like Google Glass, Google Now can be initiated with a "wake up" phrase: "OK Google Now." This effectively turns the entire phone into a personal assistant. The TV spot linked below demonstrates this positioning and the functionality in action.
Previously Google Now and voice actions on Android devices had to be initiated by touching the screen: swiping up or touching the microphone icon. That's not required here (I haven't had a chance to use the device). Google/Motorola are using this "always ready" assistant capability to make the device stand out from both the iPhone and other Android devices. Below is one of the new TV commercials for the Moto X, which showcases how Google Now is now being "personified" -- much more like Siri than in the past.
Moto X is priced at $199 with a two-year carrier contract in the US. There will be a Google Play edition but there's no word at this point on unlocked pricing.
There's considerable data (see, e.g., comScore) that indicate Facebook is the most popular mobile app in the US market. That extends beyond unique visitors to engagement and time spent.
Time spent with the Facebook mobile app outstrips every other individual app by a large margin. Earlier this year comScore found that 23% of all time spent with mobile apps was on Facebook. Nielsen has similar figures.
Source: comScore (Q1 2013)
Confirming just how popular Facebook's app is relative to other mobile apps are new survey findings from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The company asked 500 smartphone users and 1,000 tablet owners in the US about which mobile apps they used most often.
The question was: "What are the three apps you use most frequently?" There were no suggested responses (no multiple choice answers). The question was completely open-ended. Below are the results:
Among other interesting things Google Maps doesn't make an appearance in the surve results. Yet Nielsen and comScore data reflect that Google Maps is one of the most popular apps and the most popular location-based app. Mysteriously it doesn't appear here at all -- unless it's considered part of "Google." There's no clear explanation why.
Source: comScore (Q1 2013)