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New Auto-Play Video Ads a Boon for Both Facebook and Brands

Users may become annoyed by the insertion of new auto-play video ads into their Facebook news feeds. However brand marketers are going to love the new ad units. And Facebook's investors are going to love the revenue -- especially from mobile. 

Facebook is promoting video in the news feed as a potential source of "high quality" ads for users. While that might be true in some cases, it's all about giving brand advertisers new ways to "tell stories" on Facebook -- and Facebook new ways to generate revenue across platforms with TV-style video advertising.  

It will work on both the PC and, most importantly, in mobile. Here's how the ads will operate according to Facebook:

  • Rather than having to click or tap to play, videos will begin to play as they appear onscreen - without sound - similar to how they behave when shared by friends or verified Pages. 
  • If the video is clicked or tapped and played in full screen, the sound for that video will play as well.
  • At the end of the video a carousel of two additional videos will appear, making it easy to continue to discover content from the same marketers.
  • On mobile devices, all videos that begin playing as they appear on the screen will have been downloaded in advance when the device was connected to WiFi – meaning this content will not consume data plans, even if you're not connected to WiFi at the time of playback.

Facebook is carefully trying to balance advertiser and user interests here. Most notably there's no sound when the videos start to "auto-play." This is a key decision to minimize user backlash. In addition the "no data-plan impact" of mobile ads is also critical. 

These ad units -- assuming that there's no sustained user uproar -- will bring significant new revenue to mobile for Facebook. They'll also give brand advertisers a potentially compelling and simple way to reach mobile users. The genius of these ads is that they automatically work across platforms and marketers won't need to change the creative to address the mobile audience.

The decision to keep the sound off is smart both to minimize the backlash, as I said, but also to indicate true engagement with the video units -- users will have to click to hear the sound. But these units will also likely have a "brand effect" and influence even if the sound is not engaged.  

I've argued in the past that video is a key format for mobile ads. If I'm right, Facebook may have just created its "killer" mobile ad unit.  

Expect Labs' MindMeld App Showcases Dynamic 'Assistant' Technology

Startup Expect Labs has launched its MindMeld app after months of being in private beta. A crude but quick way to describe it is: Google Now meets Skype. Expect Labs, founded by Tim Tuttle, describes it as a "voice assistant." But that doesn't really do it justice. 

Many bloggers and tech sites are reviewing MindMeld. In a way that misses the bigger picture. The app is really a "technology showcase" or demo for something larger and more forward looking. Expect Labs, which charges $4 for the app, doesn't see MindMeld as a money maker and isn't staking its future on the success (or failure) of the app. 

First, here's what MindMeld does: it listens to your conversation, with one or several people, and in real time shows you pages and websites that are relevant to the discussion. The sites and data are coming from various APIs and the internet broadly. If you and your friends are talking about going to New York on vacation, for example, it will start showing hotels, restaurants and things to do based on the specifics of your conversation.

The key challenge here is filtering "signal" from "noise" and finding relevant pages and sites. Expect Labs' CEO Tim Tuttle says that the technology has significantly improved over time and the app has changed somewhat from its inception to its launch today. For example, it used to listen to the entire conversation. However now it will pause and users are required to initiate "searching" via an "OK MindMeld" wake up phrase. 

The underlying technology seeks to deliver a better search and discovery experience on devices where the keyboard isn't particularly useful or there's no keyboard. There are myriad inputs into "search results" (anticipatory search results): time of day, location and "context" broadly speaking. If you sign in with Facebook it also grabs other information about you as another relevance input. 

Expect Labs' technology, while imperfect, is really the fulfillment of the vision behind Google Now: real-time, useful information that dynamically changes based on context. MindMeld is the "1.0" expression of that vision. Speech recognition is from Nuance but the natural language understanding is Expect Labs' own technology. 

There are a number of enterprise use cases in development; and one can see this technology being incorporated into a wide range of general and vertical applications. Google Ventures is an investor, as is Intel. Those are two potential buyers of the company. 

The technology is impressive and the major practical question for Expect Labs will be where to focus and how to fully express what the technology can do in a commercial context. 

By 2016 Mobile Will Be the World's 4th Largest Ad Medium

Earlier this week ZenithOptimedia released a new global ad forecast that argued "Advertising is set to see the strongest sustained period of growth in ten years." The firm identified mobile as the "principle [sic] engine of this growth." 

According to the agency mobile is expanding overall media consumption, "without cannibalising any of the other media platforms." That's not exactly true. Mobile and mobile video are fragmenting audiences, which makes it more complex for marketers to reach them as well as to track the efficacy of different channels and media.

Cross-platform and multi-device shopping is an example of this phenomenon.  

ZenithOptimedia explained that notwithstanding its mobile ad growth figures, it only contributed 2.7% of global adspend in 2013. By 2016 that number will reach nearly 8% (7.7%) according to the forecast. If that indeed comes to pass mobile would become, according to Zenith, the "world’s fourth-largest [advertising] medium." It would then exceed traditional radio, magazines and outdoor advertising. 

For purposes of the forecast "mobile advertising" is considered to be any ad shown on a mobile device whether or not the ad was specifically purchased for mobile distribution. Accordingly the sheer number and usage of smartphones and tablets -- and their anticipated growth -- is driving up ad revenue attributed to mobile. 

Surprise: Nokia Developed "Forked" Android Device, Will It Survive?

I've argued a number of times in the past that had Nokia from the beginning embraced Android it wouldn't have had to sell to Microsoft. It turns out that Nokia had/has developed an Android handset, apparently code-named Normandy. It uses a customized or "forked" version of Android much like what Amazon has done with Kindle devices, taking them out of the realm of Google standards and control. 

Reportedly it's a low-end device designed for emerging markets, where Nokia has had some success with its pseudo-smartphone Asha devices. Other details are scarce.

Microsoft bought Nokia's hardware business (for $7.2 billion) for multiple reasons. One of them was clearly defensive; it wasn't only about "bringing hardware and software together." 

Nokia sells most (80% or more) of the Windows Phones on the market today. The continuing strength of the Nokia brand in Europe is responsible for Windows Phone's roughly 10% market share there now. Had Nokia embraced or "diversified" its lineup with Android devices Microsoft might have felt the potentially negative sales impact as Nokia split its focus and marketing. 

The conventional wisdom is that Microsoft will kill the Normandy device when the acquisition formally closes -- it has been approved by regulators. Some are making the argument, however, that Microsoft might not immediately terminate the project because the version of Android being used is outside Google's control. 

That remains to be seen. Yet the existence of Normandy lends further credibility to the theory that Microsoft bought Nokia's phone business to prevent it from turning to Android.  

Indoor Location Examples Show Improved Customer Experience

According to an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, The Future of Privacy Forum has estimated that roughly 1,000 retailers are using some form of indoor location for analytics and/or customer experience purposes. That will only increase because the benefits to retailers and shoppers are too significant to ignore. 

Companies mentioned in the WSJ article include: 

  • Prism Skylabs
  • Forest City
  • Euclid Analytics
  • Shopkick
  • Swirl
  • Macy's
  • Walmart
  • HomeDepot
  • Timberland
  • Kenneth Cole

More interesting is the discussion of some of the use cases in the article: 

  • Moving items from lower traffic areas in stores to more high traffic areas; moving hot selling items to less busy areas to relieve in-store congestion.
  • Better managing check out lines
  • Moving items to rear of store in apparel boutique where data showed customers tended to spend the most time (this was an SMB)  
  • Opening restaurants in mall earlier to better accommodate hungry late night/early morning shoppers on Black Friday based on prior year's data showing a mall exodus at 6 am (presumably for food)  
  • Creation of a "virtual Santa queue" where smartphones are pinged at an appointment time to enable consumers to keep shopping rather than waiting in line for hours. 

The article also contains the requisite discussion of privacy and concerns over "tracking." Those concerns can be managed through disclosures, opt-in apps and education that explains the benefits of indoor location to consumers. The virtual Santa queue is one such example that will immediately be understood and resonate with consumers looking to avoid lines. 

Among many others, Forest City (and Path Intelligence) and Euclid Analytics were speakers at our Place Conference in October. See our recap and session videos

Apple iBeacon Deployment Lends Further Cred to Indoor Location

Earlier this year Opus Research held the first conference dedicated to indoor location and its marketing implications: The Place Conference. The theme of that event was how indoor location technology and mapping would change online and mobile marketing across the board, bringing the digital and offline worlds closer together. 

At the event we explored the technology, marketing scenarios, privacy considerations, analytics and customer experience improvements that flowed from use of indoor location technology. Three months later we're starting to see increasing momentum in the segment, with new deployments, announcements and some acquisitions (which will increase next year).

Indoor analytics provider RetailNext, one of the speakers at the Place Conference, recently announced the acquisition of Nearbuy Systems. And earlier today AP reported that Apple was now rolling out Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to all of its 254 retail stores. That will pressure and/or embolden other retailers to follow Apple's lead. 

Under the radar, most US retailers (and others) have to varying degrees been experimenting with indoor analytics and location. However they've been hush-hush about it, for fear of being criticized as Nordstrom was when it disclosed it was using indoor analytics. But greater public discussion and education around indoor location will change the tone of coverage from "spying" to focus on consumer and B2B benefits. 

Apple's March 2013 acquisition of WiFiSlam helped raise the profile of indoor location. The company's new rollout of iBeacons across its retail network will further legitimize the segment.

Indoor location is one element of a larger "ecosystem" of proximity marketing that includes geotargeted mobile advertising, notifications, analytics and online to offline ROI tracking. Mobile payments are also in this mix (see PayPal Beacon). Next year will be an eventful and exciting one for indoor location and place-based marketing. 

Place 2014 is coming soon. 

China Mobile Gets the iPhone, US Smartphone Growth and 'Nokisoft' Approved

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that China Mobile and Apple had struck a long-anticipated deal to offer the iPhone to China Mobile's massive customer base (estimated by the publication at 7X Verizon Wireless). Neither company has confirmed the deal.

China Mobile is the largest carrier in the world's largest mobile and internet markets. The company has more than 750 million mobile subscribers. According to several estimates Apple has about 5% of the Chinese mobile market. Various flavors of Android are by far the dominant mobile platform in the country, with nearly 80% share. 

Many financial analysts think that the iPhone 5s and 5c are too expensive for China. However there appears to be a meaningful appetite for Apple's devices there. Apple's "greater China" revenue this past quarter was $6.8 billion. That number could easily double through the China Mobile deal -- if it's confirmed. 

October OS share

Back in the US comScore released September smartphone market share data. The firm estimated that 149.2 million American adults now own smartphones. Comscore's figures put smartphone penetration at or just under 64%, generally in agreement with Nielsen's estimates. 

Apple, Samsung and Motorola were the top three smartphone OEMs in the US. HTC and LG lost share and BlackBerry is out of the top five. Android is the top OS, gaining nearly half a point. Apple and Windows Phone also gained modestly. 

I was surprised not to see more of a bump for the iPhone given all the discussion of iPhone sales momentum. However it hasn't really materialized in comScore's data.

In the US Windows Phone share is 3.2%, growing but very small. By contrast, in Europe, Windows Phones now enjoy a 10% share across the EU5 (driven by UK, France and Italy) according to Kantar survey data.

Windows Phone's success in Europe is due almost entirely to Nokia and it's continued brand strength, which doesn't equally exist in North America. Nokia sells the overwhelming majority of Windows Phones globally, which is why Microsoft bought the company -- also to prevent it from starting to make Android handsets. 

That largely defensive acquisition has now been approved by US regulators, with European regulatory authorities likely to follow and permit the transaction. 

Report: Big Increase in iPads After Black Friday Weekend

There has been a near avalanche of shopping data released over the past several days, much of it documenting the rise of mobile devices in driving traffic and e-commerce purchases. Various estimates ranged from 23% to nearly 40% of traffic coming from mobile over the course of the weekend. 

One of the clear winners of the Black Friday weekend shopping bonanza was the iPad. Apple and other retailers offered gift cards as incentives to buy the devices. In combination with general consumer demand that strategy seems to have paid off for Apple. 

According to Localytics, which looked at over one million devices before and after Black Friday weekend, the iPad Air in particular saw very strong growth: 51% vs. the week before. So did the Mini and iPhone 5c. Admittedly the iPad Air is growing from a smaller base, although the device had a very strong launch

The data in the chart above also don't reflect iPads purchased as holiday gifts and not yet opened/activated. So there are probably many more that were purchased than what's represented on this chart. 

The top Android tablet was the Kindle Fire, which saw its own aggressive $50 discount from Amazon. The only other Android tablet to show growth is the Galaxy Tab 2, which was heavily discounted online and at several retail stores.

In October Apple announced that 170 million iPads had been sold to date. Given the momentum being reported, it's very likely that Apple will sell 20 million iPads (collectively) in the holiday quarter. 

Steve Jobs Was Right: People Aren't Searching in Mobile Like on the PC

Roughly three years ago Steve Jobs opined that search wasn't as central to the mobile user experience as it is on the PC. That sentiment elicited dismissals as naive or self-serving and was generally disputed. This is what Jobs said verbatim:

On the desktop search is where it’s at; that’s where the money is. But on a mobile device search hasn’t happened. Search is not where it’s at, people are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop.

It turns out that when you consider what he actually said, Jobs was exactly right.

Various surveys have found that search is widely used on smartphones. But it's not used as often or as centrally as on the PC. Indeed, search is a more occasional or peripheral experience on smartphones (especially the iPhone), whereas people search many times daily on the PC.

Most popular mobile apps

Earlier today Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released survey data about most frequently used mobile apps among US smartphone owners. The survey measured frequency not reach. This is very important to understand about the data. The firm asked mobile users to identify their "three most frequently used [mobile] apps."

CIRP found that Facebook was the leading and most frequently used mobile app. That was followed by Twitter, Candy Crush and Instagram. The surprise is how low Google Search and Google Maps rank on the list. 

Google Maps is #12 and Google (the search engine) is #10. We don't get an analysis of usage by platform (i.e., iOS vs. Android). However I suspect we'd see different rankings on the two platforms, with Google doing better among Android users given search's prominence on the Android OS. 

It's unclear how large the sample in this survey was and so we can't tell how reliable these data are. In addition these are self-reported data and not behavioral or traffic data. People often report one thing and do something else. 

Having said all that, these data strongly argue that what Jobs said is accurate: "People are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop." Although this has been written about at length in the past, if accurate, this more modest mobile search frequency represents an obvious problem for Google as migration from PCs to tablets and smartphones continues. 

Report: the iPad Drove Nearly $500 Million in E-Commerce This Weekend

It makes sense that traditional retailers would handily beat their online only counterparts (save Amazon) this past weekend. That's according to data from Adobe.

We now live in a multi-platform, multi-device world. People move between PCs, tablets and smartphones just as they move from online to stores and back. They also generally prefer the tactile and social experience of shopping offline. Roughly 95% of retail spending happens in physical stores according to the US Census Bureau. 

According to Adobe's data, "Traditional brick-and-click retailers are outselling their online-only competitors so far this year at nearly a 3-to-1 ratio." That's because they offer more trusted brands, and online shopping experience and a way to physically examine and immediately buy products and gifts offline. 

Location analytics company Placed offered the following data on the most-visited offline stores on Black Friday:

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 7.43.02 AM

Consistent with others, Adobe reported that 24% of online sales this past weekend took place on mobile devices. The iPad was the preferred "shopping companion device, representing nearly half a billion dollars ($417 million) in sales during these past two days, followed by the iPhone and Android phones at $126 million and $106 million, respectively." 

Adobe estimated that Thanksgiving and Black Friday saw just under $3 billion in online spending, which was an increase of 30% over last year. The company projects that e-commerce sales today, "Cyber Monday," will exceed $2 billion ($2.27 billion). 

Mobile Devices Drove Nearly 40% of Online Traffic Black Friday Weekend

Consistent with pre-Thanksgiving weekend surveys, mobile devices (at home and in the store) played a big role on "Black Friday" and will continue to do so throughout the holiday season. Among others, IBM released a trove of US e-commerce and traffic data for Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend shopping.

Here's a snapshot of some of the IBM data: 

  • Mobile devices drove more than 39% of online traffic (smartphones 24.9%, tablets 14.2%)
  • Mobile e-commerce was 21.8 percent of total US online sales on Black Friday (tablets: 14.4%, smartphones: 7.2%)
  • iOS devices generated 28.2% of mobile traffic; Android 11.4%
  • iOS was responsible for 18.1% of overall e-commerce sales vs. 3.5% for Android

Separately, e-commerce analytics provider Custora reported that "almost 40%" of online buying on Black Friday came through mobile devices. I'm quite skeptical about the accuracy of this figure; it seems inflated or drawn from too small a sample. IBM's mobile commerce figure is 22%, which is more plausible.

Below is the Custora breakdown of overall US Black Friday e-commerce sales by device category:

  • PC: 63%
  • Smartphones: 23%
  • Tablets: 14% 

While comScore has argued in the past that smartphones are outpacing tablets in terms of mobile commerce -- which makes logical sense because there are many more smartphones -- I'm doubtful of such claims. IBM's figures seem more (directionally) accurate: tablets: 14.4%, smartphones: 7.2%.

Custora said the following about the distribution of mobile commerce by platform:

  • iOS: 84%
  • Android: 16%
  • Other: 1%

We could look at a bunch of other reports and try to determine a consensus about how much e-commerce actually took place via smartphones and tablets. What's more important is the recognition that mobile devices are being widely used by US consumers for shopping and product research, and that serious "m-commerce" is now starting to happen (especially on tablets).

Another interesting fact from the IBM data: "on average, retailers sent 37% more push notifications . . . during the two day period over Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday when compared to daily averages over the past two months." The company also said that retail app installs grew by 23% compared with daily averages over the preceding months.

HP Tablet Will Be $89 on Black Friday

Reportedly Wal-Mart will be offering the HP Mesquite 7” Tablet for $89 on Black Friday. This is a "3.5 star" tablet but should sell out, given the HP brand and the aggressive price.

There are dozens of sub-$150 and even a surprising number of sub-$100 tablets now available. Most of them are "no name" brands and thus may hold US consumers back. That's why the HP brand matters at this price point.

Many of the low-cost Android-based tablets will be bought by parents for kids this holiday season. But the flood Android tablets, of varying levels of quality, inevitably means that the iPad's market share, with its much higher price points, will decline. That doesn't mean that iPad users won't still generate most of the traffic. Currently the iPad is responsible for more than 80% of US tablet traffic. 

The tablet race in the US is between Apple, Samsung, Google/ASUS and Amazon. A quick search on Amazon for tablets reveals page after page of inexpensive Android tablets

It's not clear right now how these aggressively priced Android tablets will impact the market, beyond bringing more users into the tablet realm (to the likely detriment of PC replacement cycles). But will they cut into iPad sales? Perhaps at the margins. Someone buying the $89 HP tablet is probably not in the market for an iPad Air or Mini, however. Such low-cost Android tablets are more likely to impact other Android OEMs such as Samsung or Kindle (Amazon doesn't classify Kindle Fire as an Android OS device). 

Amazon threw down the pricing gauntlet for tablets when it introduced the original Kindle Fire for $199. Now there's increasing price pressure on 7-inch tablets (other than Apple) to enter the market at $150 or less. If this HP tablet and similarly priced others prove to be successful that $150 price point may become "institutionalized" for 7-inch Android devices.

Profits be damned.

With iBeacon Adoption, Macy's, Apple on Vanguard of Indoor Marketing

Last week ShopKick introduced "shopBeacon," which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) indoor positioning technology. The company is testing it with Macy's, which has also independently been using indoor location for some time (mainly leveraging WiFi) to enhance its in-store app experience for customers. (See ShopKick demo video.)

ShopKick's adoption of iBeacon is an important move to insert the company back into the in-store shopping conversation. It had been an early pioneer in mobile loyalty, seeking to help retailers drive consumers into stores. But as indoor location has gained momentum ShopKick has largely been on the sidelines -- until now.

ShopKick has a wide range of brands and national retail partners, including Target, BestBuy, Sports Authority and JCPenneys. The company seeks to serve retailers but also "own the customer relationship." Accordingly there's some tension between working with ShopKick and providing a direct indoor-location experience, as Macy's does through its app.

A less-well-known company seeking to do something very similar for retailers is Swirl. Swirl has both a consumer-facing multi-retailer app but also powers the indoor experience for retailer apps through an SDK. Timberland is the company's best-known partner. ShopKick is now also an indoor-location enabler with its shopBeacon BLE beacons. 

Apple itself is going to implement iBeacon in its own stores. There are a range of obvious and secondary use cases, including providing enhanced product information and notifications about Genius Bar appointments. Beyond an improved in-store experience, Apple hopes to boost sales through iBeacon. The product can also be used to support in-store mobile payments (see, PayPal Beacon).

It's well established that a majority of consumers have used smartphones in store for research purposes and many are interested in indoor/in-store information. However recent research from ISACA suggests that retailers will need to be judicious about how they use in-store notifications and personalization and not become too "pushy" in trying to upsell and cross-sell consumers. 

targeted marketing 1

Another challenge of sorts for retailers with indoor location is the fact that majorities of smartphone shoppers use retailer mobile websites. Indoor-location features are much harder to deliver via websites. Smaller numbers of consumers use retailer apps. This makes sense because apps are typically downloaded and used by a store's most loyal customers, which represent a minority of overall store shoppers. 

According to NPD survey data, 71% of smartphone owners access retail websites but only 57% use apps. Many of those apps fall into disuse shortly after they're downloaded. In addition, the survey found that a majority of smartphone shopping-related research was done at home and not on the go, suggesting "that engagement on their smartphone is more of an alternative for online shopping rather than a showrooming tool."

Accordingly in-store information directed at enhancing the customer experience is a way to make apps more relevant and engaging. But as the ISACA study indicates retailers (or mall and venue owners) will need to develop information, content and indoor experiences for customers that are informational and not merely about trying to sell things. 

This is a complicated arena for retailers and would-be providers of indoor location and marketing. Experimentation and testing are necessary to determine what's going to "work" for consumers, vendors and venue owners. Macy's is very smart and to be applauded for "getting out in front" of the issue and trying things, notwithstanding the potential exposure to "indoor surveillance" criticisms.

Isis Mobile Wallet Launches, Most Americans not Interested

Last week, Isis, the NFC-based mobile wallet initiative from a joint venture of mobile carriers, launched nationwide. It only works on smartphones with an NFC chip, which essentially excludes the iPhone.

While most people expect mobile payments to become mainstream at some point, the outlook for Isis in particular is murky at best, if new survey data from Harris Interactive are reflective of general public opinion. 

Harris Interactive surveyed 2,577 US adults in September about their attitudes toward "mobile payments," generally. Scenarios described in survey questions included Square-like smartphone card swipes and "tap-to-pay" NFC systems. Broadly the firm found that more Americans were exposed to and had used some form of mobile payments vs. previous years.

A majority of respondents said they believe that mobile will replace cash and card payments "within five years." However a substantial minority (34%) believe that NFC systems (tap-to-pay) will never become mainstream. Among those who expressed a lack of interest in mobile payments, a "lack of compelling motivation" was cited as the main reason:

Among those not interested in using a smartphone to process payments, a simple lack of compelling motivation remains one of the top factors impeding interest, with 53% saying they don't see any reason to switch from cash or payment cards. This also holds true for smartphone users where a majority (58%) don't see any reason to switch from cash or payment cards either . . .

Simply put, large numbers of people don't see mobile payments, especially NFC-based approaches, as solving a problem. The people behind Isis are conscious of this and are trying to overcome consumer indifference by offering discounts, coupons and cash-back rewards for using it. For example, Amex is offering a 20% cash back award (up to a maxium of $200 total). 

However before Android (and Windows Phone) owners can start using Isis they'll need to get an enhanced SIM card. Then they need to download and install the app. Then they need to find merchants with NFC-enabled point of sale systems. 

The Harris survey data also reflect that interest in mobile payments in the US has fallen somewhat since last year. Security remains a top concern among a majority of survey respondents: "62% listed the fact that they don't want to store sensitive information on their phone as a reason for lack of interest."

Still the fact that most people believe mobile payments in some form are inevitable means there will eventually be consumer acceptance and adoption. As we've argued before the entry point for mobile payments is not these broad "horizontal" payment platforms but "point solutions" and vertical scenarios featuring a stored payment card (e.g., Uber, Amazon, Starbucks, AirBnB, OpenTable, parking, etc.). 

In such situations the convenience and efficiency of paying with an app are obvious to the end user. Indeed, the missing "compelling motivation" is present. Those vertical payment scenarios or point solutions will be the ones that familiarize people with mobile payments, ultimately paving the way for more horizontal payment systems. 

The question for Isis is whether it can survive until that day comes or whether it will have to change its approach or otherwise broaden its capabilities to attract more users, especially iPhone users. 

Can Apple Make a Bigger Screen iPhone but Preserve One-Hand Control?

One of the maddening things about the cult of iPhone news coverage is that immediately upon the release of this year's product the cycle of rumors and speculation begins about next year's product. So it was and is with the iPhone 5s.

Essentially the day after the iPhone 5s was announced the iPhone 6 rumors began. Part of that was fueled by disappointment about the iPhone 5s' current 4-inch screen and anticipation of a larger-screen in the iPhone 6 (or "Air" as it's now being called). 

Indeed, one feature that most US -- perhaps all -- current and would-be iPhone buyers want from the device is a larger screen -- though longer battery life might be a close second. One of the primary ways that Android handsets have successfully competed with the iPhone is by offering larger and high-resolution displays.

Many iPhone owners now have what might be called "screen envy."

Yet Apple has set a very difficult task for itself. It wants to offer a larger screen on the next iPhone -- speculative reports have asserted that there are 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models being tested -- but the company still prizes "one-handed control." 

That would seem out of the question for a 5.5-inch device; but it might be possible with a 4.7-inch screen. It's difficult to imagine what a one-handed, 4.7-inche phone would look like.

Might it be even "taller" than the 5s, which lengthened but didn't proportionally widen the screen? Most larger-screen Android models (4.8-inch and above) can't be entirely operated by one hand. But they preserve proportionality, which in my view is lacking in the "tall" 5s.

The largest a smartphone screen can stretch before it becomes a "phablet" is about 5-inches. Apple's next phone needs to reach about 4.7 or 4.8 inches to be competitive; 4.5 won't cut it. And despite rumors of curved displays it's not clear how Apple is elegantly going to attain that objective and still make one handed control possible. 

Moto G Set to Shake Up the Smartphone Market with Rock-Bottom Pricing

Android is the world's dominant mobile operating system. In Q3 IDC estimated that Android represented 81% of all smartphone shipments globally.

Android's lead may further expand if the forthcoming Moto G smartphone from Google is as successful as I suspect it will be. The phone carries fairly strong specs, including a long battery life and 4.5-inch display. But it's the price that will drive sales volume.

Pre-empting Amazong and poking a finger in Samsung's eye, the unlocked phone will cost $179 (8GB) or $199 (16GB). Google must be planning to sell the phone at cost or even at a loss. We'll find out when the iFixit people get a look. 

 comscore Sept smartphone share

Motorola has continued to lose market share over the past few years. The Moto X was the first phone designed by Motorola after Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of the company. However its sales have been lackluster. Absent some major flaw the Moto G looks like it could be an antidote for Motorola's brand and sales woes.

Moto G's low low pricing also puts pressure on Amazon (as well as everyone else). The latter had been rumored to be building a low-cost Android handset. But it will be challenging for Amazon to match Moto G's price and apparent quality without losing money. 

The fact that Moto G is unlocked and so inexpensive could change the broader dynamics of the market -- motivating more people to buy pre-paid carrier plans and get away from contracts (which is a broader trend anyway).

Apple is unlikely to try and answer the handset's pricing but other Android OEMs may be forced to. That's potentially bad news for Samsung and especially bad news for HTC, which is under tremendous pressure and may be forced to sell itself (or into bankruptcy) eventually.  

Mobile Impacting Retail Design -- Just Don't Forget Indoor Location Data

A provocative article in Mobile Marketer this morning discusses how the aesthetics and layout of retail spaces are changing to accommodate the mobile shopper. Here's a representative excerpt:

AT&T recently unveiled a new store format intended to reflect customers’ mobile lifestyle where café-style learning tables replace cash registers.

The store layout highlights products and services in three different thematic areas. In the Connected Experience, shoppers can see how solutions can be used in their everyday lives. The Community Zone features an open and interactive space where customers can test products. In the Explore Zone, there are digital monitors to highlight AT&T’s lineup.

This sort of "customer experience" was largely inspired by or modeled on Apple retail stores -- especially the replacement of cash registers with free-roving sales associates. However beyond improving the "flow" and "engagement" of retail spaces there are other considerations to be factored in. 

The article doesn't at all discuss how data gathered from indoor analytics can help retailers do a better job with layout and usability of their stores. Indoor location data and usage patterns should be included in the "aesthetics" and layout discussions because they will lend empirical grounding to what is otherwise a relatively speculative discussion.

How do consumer actually behave in stores? How are they interacting with displays? These sorts of data are readily available and can inform the broader debate about how to reconfigure retail environments.

Another interesting angle here is how mobile payments will be affected by retail store redesign. My belief is that low-skilled and poorly paid store (and QSR) cashiers will be increasingly replaced by mobile payments and self-checkout kiosks.

Loyal store customers will increasingly have a mobile app with stored credit card information. That scenario will become increasingly prevalent in stores. For those customers without a retail/payment app, Apple-style mobile in-store checkout will prevail.  

Apple Makes Incremental US Share Gains Against Android

Earlier this afternoon comScore reported its September US smartphone market share numbers. Nielsen has said that 64% of US adults now carry smartphones; however comScore asserts the number is 62%.

Android continues to be the dominant operating system, followed by the iPhone. However Android lost some ground this month though Samsung gained share. All the other Android OEMs are basically a diminishing sideshow to Samsung. 

 comscore Sept smartphone share

Microsoft also saw a small bump for Windows Phones. It has had considerable success in Europe because of the continuing strength of the Nokia brand but little success to date in the US market. Perhaps that will improve as BlackBerry users are forced to change platforms as they upgrade.   

The numbers above probably still do not reflect sales of the iPhone 5s and 5c, which went on sale on September 20 in the US. The October figures should better reflect the iPhone 5s/c impact on the market. 

comscore Sept smartphone share

Perhaps most interesting is the data about leading mobile apps and web properties. Overall Google has the greatest mobile reach, although Facebook continues to have the single most popular app. This is very analogous to the iPhone and Android, where Facebook is like the iPhone in this example.

Google Maps saw some unexpected loss of usage and reach vs. last month, dropping from the fifth most popular app to eighth position.  

. top mobile properties September 2013

Google Updates iOS Apps with Hands-Free Voice Search

Google updated its iOS search app today for both the iPhone and iPad. The new app brings some additional functionality to Google Now, which is embedded within the app: 

  • Notifications (appear on home screen)
  • Reminders
  • New Google Now cards

The update also enables hands-free voice searching through the trigger/wake-up word "OK Google." This capability started on Google Glass and has migrated onto Android handsets such as the Motorola Moto X and LG Nexus 5. It's now available to iPhone 4S and above users. 

New Google Now cards include:

  • Tickets for movies, concerts and events
  • Airline boarding passes
  • Reservation confirmations for car rentals
  • Transit information
  • Local event listings

The combination of voice search and Google Now has turned "Google Search" into the "Google Assistant," without being rebranded as such. The combined Google capabilities rival Siri and arguably exceed it in some respects.

On iOS hands-free voice searching (OK Google) isn't as readily available as on Android. Users must first launch or open the Google Search app, which can be done with Siri, ironically. Then the hands-free searching can be initiated. That sort of defeats the point. On Android handsets voice search is immediately available on the home page. 

While probably no single feature launched today will generate massively more Google searches from iOS devices, collectively they may bring more user engagement. 

The new hands free search capability may have the biggest impact on the iPad. While users could perviously perform voice queries from Google's iPad app in the past, this new purely speech activated feature may generate more searches for Google from Apple's tablets -- which drive about 80% of all US tablet traffic.  

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pandora Combine for 90% of Mobile Ad Revenue

Google is the world's largest mobile advertising company. However after Google there are only a few big players on a US or global basis. Google doesn't disclose mobile revenues as a separate line item.

According to the IAB, US mobile ad revenues in the first half of 2013 were roughly $3 billion. That means we can probably expect between $6.5 and $6.8 billion for the full year 2013. 

Online just 10 companies accounted for 70% of total online ad revenue in Q2 2013. In mobile, ad revenues are even more concentrated in a smaller group of companies. 

IAB IH numbers

Google's mobile revenues are probably, conservatively, in the range of 15% of its total ad revenue, which will come in around $49 or $50 billion globally for the full year. Let's also assume that roughly 50% of Google's mobile revenue comes from the US market. That would all mean Google would have about $3.6 billion in US mobile ad revenue this year. It could be more, however. 

Facebook, Twitter and Pandora all report the portion of their advertising revenue that is generated from mobile devices. Facebook has by far the most mobile ad revenue of the group, which is likely to come in a little over $3 billion for the year. Twitter has said that 70% of its revenue is coming from mobile -- and most of that is from the US market. 

The mobile component of total ad revenue for Facebook, Twitter and Pandora collectively will be roughly $4 billion for calendar 2013. It's not clear what percentage of Facebook's mobile ad revenue is from the US; however it's likely to be a substantial portion at this stage. 

Accordingly, putting together my estimates for US mobile ad revenues from Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pandora takes us to about 90% of projected US mobile ad revenue for the year. Ad networks such as YP, Millennial and a couple of others fill in the rest.