Posts from the ‘Mobile’ Category
December 29, 2011
According to new data from Benedict Evans for Enders Analysis, the number of monthly active users of Facebook’s mobile apps recently passed the 300 million mark. This is primarily due to heavy use of the iOS and Android apps, but it also takes into account apps that run on BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Phone, iPad and feature phones.
That number equates to roughly 40% of Facebook’s currently disclosed 800 million active users.
What’s interesting is that Facebook announced in September that over 350 million active users access Facebook through their mobile devices – a number that includes mobile web users as well as users of its mobile apps. Explains Evans, you can track the number of app users by going to the Facebook Page for each app then adding them up. (Alternately, one could use a service like AppData to do something similar).
At the time that Facebook announced 350 million mobile users, there were 250 million mobile app users, he says. That means that over the past few months, Facebook has seen another 50 million+ become active app users. Impressive.
Evans’ findings also back up TechCrunch writer Josh Constine’s earlier report that Android has finally surpassed iPhone in terms of daily active users. But on a weekly and monthly basis, iPhone and iPod Touch are still coming out ahead. In fact, in terms of monthly active users, over 100 million are using iPhone/iPods, says Evans. (The iPad is broken out separately).
BlackBerry devices and feature phones are still somewhat holding their own, while Symbian and the practically insignificant contributions from Windows Phone trail the number of iPad users whether you’re looking at daily, weekly or monthly active user counts.
One thing we don’t know – and can’t know, unless Facebook itself reported it – is how many usersonly access Facebook on their mobile phone, never visiting the desktop site. Evans estimates that number is high, but it’s impossible to tell using currently published data.
December 27, 2011
2012 promises to be a very busy year in all things digital, but, as with any annum, there will be just a handful of big, memorable trends. Here, I’ve collected five such movements that are likely to make a big impact in our technologically-enhanced lives.
It’s now in games, location apps, business cards and coffee shops and could start showing up in cars and even eyeglasses. Augmented Reality, which puts a virtual view on top of your real world, is really just a cool way of saying, “Reality with Style.” Instead of simply viewing your apartment through your phone, you’re playing Star Wars Arcade Falcon Gunner on top of it. Instead looking up a restaurant in your neighborhood, you’re using Yelp to see its location and reviews for it and other restaurants right on top of your on-screen view of the street. 2012 will mark the beginning of exponential growth for Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR).
According to a report from Visiongain, 25% of all app downloads will feature some sort of augmented reality. Though adoption hinges on more powerful, high-speed and camera-ready mobile devices, it’s clear to me that the majority of smartphones and tablets in end-users’ hands next year will be 3G-to-4G-ready, high-def, large-screen devices with not one, but two multi-megapixel cameras. Trust me, by 2013, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t at least tried augmented reality.
The Micro-Payment Economy
App manufacturers are not the only ones who can make money selling tiny wares and incremental upgrades. The barrier to entry for starting your own small business has been effectively knocked down by a variety of online merchants who are willing to hawk your wares for next to nothing. In truth, the merchandise isn’t entirely yours. In fact, these companies are often just selling your idea on top of their wares and you get a tiny slice for each sale, or for when the numbers of sales reaches a certain threshold.
Sites like RedBubble do everything for the artist; all they need to do is upload the content. RedBubble will, for example, make the T-Shirt with your art, sell it for you, manage the distribution and, of course, collect payment. The site lets you set the price above their fixed price. Yes, you could add as much as you want onto a $16 T-shit, but most smart sellers know this means they won’t sell a single garment. Instead, you add 1%-to-5% (maybe 10% if you’re feeling strong) and then promote the dickens out of your product on the site and through various social networks.
RedBubble is just one of many destinations popping up to help the aspiring entrepreneur. They join established platforms like Lulu (self-publish books), and YouTube. YouTube has been inviting videographers into the commerce tent for years, letting them add AdSense accounts to popular videos and then sitting back and watching the pennies roll in.
As the economy sputters along, look for more and more of the sites helping you sell almost anything you can imagine and making you a “fortune”–one micro payment at a time.
The Rise of the UltraBook
Tablets dominate the tech conversation, but that doesn’t mean the PC is dead. No, it’s alive and well, but in a form that will closely mimic some of the best features of tablets. I don’t have numbers yet, but I’m betting Desktop PCs were not big sellers this holiday season. Laptops may have done a little better, but who among you was willing to give junior an end-of-life netbook instead of a sexy, touch-screen tablet? (I’m imagining no one raising their hands).
A term coined by Intel, Ultrabooks describe exquisitely thin and light, yet pleasingly powerful laptops. Think MacBook Air and you get the idea. No, they don’t have touch screens or apps (though that’s changing, too) and Ultrabooks usually have just one HD camera. Still, with just a little more heft and girth than your garden-variety iPad, an Ultrabook adds a full-sized keyboard and far more powerful components. In other words, they’re perfectly designed for getting real work done, but no one will be embarrassed to carry one around. 2012 will witness an explosion of these devices as manufacturers pin on them their last best hopes for regaining consumer computing interest.
Facebook will break the 1 billion user mark in 2012, but its numbers have flattened out in the U.S. Twitter is growing; it may have as many 450 million users, but no one knows how many people are really active users. Google+ is growing steadily, but is still well behind the two most established networks and much of the public is unaware of its existence. There is the now persistent, with good reason, backlash against mobile phone usage in cars and on streets.
In general, more and more people seem to be reevaluating their social and digital existence. Even the SOPA battle is revealing some unforeseen schisms. The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bad idea, not because piracy is good, but because of the plan for enforcement is wrong and dangerous. That said, no one who creates content can deny that the digital revolution hasn’t forced them to rethink how they create, sell and distribute content. There are no easy answers here and 2012 will be a year of introspection; one where we possibly rewrite the rules of content, copyrights and social interactions.
Mobile Chip Wars
The tech industry is gearing up for a rather intense battle—on a micro scale. With ARM-based CPUs in virtually all of today’s tablets and handsets, Intel, the dominant system CPU manufacturer, has no presence in the mobile space. It’s a situation the company promises to change in 2012 with Medfield—its rethinking of the Atom CPU (popular in netbooks). Meanwhile a consortium of Pacific Rim manufacturers have just banded together to produce new mobile CPUs for phones and tablets.
These efforts may not mean much, though, as Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Motorola, Marvell, Nvidia and others all license the ARM architecture and show (along with the hardware partners) little interest in switching to a new or once-established platform. Even Microsoft is developing Windows 8 to run on ARM-based CPUs in addition to traditional Wintel machines.
What do you think? Are these the right trends? Will there be other defining movements in 2012? Chose the biggest trend in our poll and then let’s talk about it in the comments.
November 28, 2011
It has been said many times that 2011 was the year of mobile. But was it really? By now, most of us have realized there is no such thing. To say that would mean the best is behind us, when that is far from the case. Don’t think in terms of the year of mobile or even the decade of mobile. It’s much bigger than that. Communication has been redefined. Mobile has fundamentally changed how we communicate every minute of the day in countless aspects of our personal and professional lives. The result is a sweeping cultural shift — on a global scale.
Reflecting on the most successful mobile marketing campaigns this year, the ones to admire aren’t the ones you might think. Too many mobile campaigns are still about the fascination with a new shiny object. Sure, those were fun and intriguing for a brief moment in time. But, while interesting new technologies are inspiring, mobile is not just a flash in the pan.
The most notable campaigns serve as evidence that mobile is big — that integrating mobile strategy across the entire marketing strategy will drive customer value. 2011 did mark a significant milestone in mobile marketing and not by chance. From one marketer to another, we need to recognize that successful mobile marketing programs take considerable effort, time, and even a reassessment of the value that a brand provides to the consumer.
Of the mobile programs we evaluated in all major consumer-facing industries, three stand out. These companies have established a meaningful brand-to-consumer engagement by delivering sustained, personalized value to the consumer. They are properly executing across the four pillars of mobile marketing by:
- Planning out mobile strategies
- Clearly identifying the target audience and how to engage the consumer by integrating mobile with the media mix
- Delivering not one but several mobile tactics that work in concert to provide a mobile presence
- Employing connected customer relationship marketing (CRM), which enables the marketer to segment, target, and develop valuable marketing insights.
It is important to remember that success is found using mobile not as a stand-alone media but as an integrated, multi-channel engagement vehicle. Let’s look at the campaigns that best embody this premise.
It has only been a few years since Starbucks founder Howard Shultz had to step back into the business to turn the company around after several consecutive quarters of negative growth. The brand that put a coffee shop on nearly every corner seemed to have saturated the market. In fact, it turned out that Starbucks’ best years were just around the corner.
The answer is simple. Starbucks sharpened its focus by moving away from mass marketing to a one-to-one focus, putting the customer at the center of its marketing efforts. This thinking led to a mobile marketing strategy that is now an integral part of the overall marketing mix.
After working through years of testing and trials to get it right, Starbucks has developed a mobile marketing program that successfully blends loyalty, incentives, and commerce. What immediately comes to mind for many is the Starbucks store finder app that’s been in the market for a few years now. In fact, the company’s mobile marketing program is much more than an app or two, and it continues to delight consumers.
Starbucks has developed mobile programs that allow consumers to shop, search, and purchase through contactless payments. The significance of this mobile program is based on a fundamental understanding of consumer mobile habits and behaviors. But it goes further with the ability to personalize content. What’s also very interesting is the media integration of web, app, text messaging, out-of-home, display, location-based services, in-store, and direct mail — all leveraged as touchpoints to engage the consumer and drive people to the stores.
The mobile loyalty program is an extension of the CRM strategy — it works with the loyalty card and is tied into commerce. Below is a high-level description of notable capabilities:
- The integrated 2D barcode capability turns an iPhone into a Starbucks card, allowing consumers to check balances and reload cards from the app.
- The app allows registration and includes a store locator and My Favs. It even puts nutritional information at the consumer’s fingertips.
- The program launched in September in 16 test markets. In certain stores, consumers can tap and pay with their mobile device.
In a development that might be surprising to many, JCPenney is one of the most well-rounded and consistent mobile marketers within the retail space, continually integrating mobile into key media channels. From QR codes and text messaging (SMS), to social, mobile internet, and apps, JCPenney is paving the way for mobile in retail.
JCPenney has developed a clear mobile marketing strategy that appears to closely align with business goals and marketing objectives. The mobile program takes a 360-degree approach by integrating mobile with traditional and digital media. Social, in-store, direct mail, display, search, television, and mobile preference centers are incorporated within the internet and Facebook. Mobile programs are refined based on consumer adoption, while JCPenney continually tests and tries new mobile marketing tactics to enhance the consumer experience and establish a deeper relationship. This is accomplished through the use of:
- SMS coupons with some testing of multi-media messaging service (MMS) coupons
- Core tactics that include SMS, MMS, mobile web, apps, social, and scannable codes
One of the best holiday mobile campaigns was from Target, which used a multi-channel mobile approach to meet consumers’ needs. Target was the first big-box retailer to implement mobile barcode scanning in all its locations nationwide, setting the bar high for other retailers.
Going further, Target has recently delivered e-circulars to a target audience by providing a rich media ad format leveraging key functionality based on the device and location. What impresses us the most is that Target is taking a long-term approach by implementing mobile solutions well ahead of the market at scale, putting other retailers in catch-up mode. The mobile strategy includes text message marketing, 1-D and 2-D codes, consumer shopping apps for all devices, a mobile preference center, and a mobile site with the aim of making shopping at Target an easy and enjoyable experience.
Target continues to find success integrating mobile into its marketing strategy for several reasons:
- Mobile is part of its core value proposition.
- Target has a clear understanding of consumer needs and wants.
- The core program was developed as the consumers adapted.
- The foundational approach uses SMS and MMS to position coupons effectively.
- The program began with basic tactics and evolved to advanced tactics, such as mobile web, apps for all operating systems, location-based service offers, and the retailer’s own proprietary QR and barcode program.
- Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) “tap and pay” services are being tested and coming soon.
- The mobile preference center on the site allows consumers to pick how they want to engage with Target.
Retailers like Starbucks, JCPenney, and Target are proving that the integration of mobile into the overall marketing strategy is a powerful and large-scale way to engage consumers and increase customer value. The commitment shared by these trailblazers is proof that mobile will continue to be a key business driver well into the future.
November 9, 2011
Research firm Ovum doesn’t think so, and expects hits such as Angry Birds to drive growth in the digital gaming market. The firm predicts that the market, which comprises any online games played on the PC, console, or smartphone, will double over the next five years to $53 billion.
The market for mobile gaming alone is expected to triple to $17.5 billion by 2016, Ovum said.
“With the addition of more and more casual gamers, the market is no longer the sole preserve of the teen male hardcore gamer,” said Ovum analyst Mark Little. “Gaming is fast establishing itself with a much wider mainstream audience, with serious ramifications for other rich-media entertainment such as TV, video and music.”
Just take “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” which launched this week amid massive fanfare and a blockbuster film-like marketing campaign. Gamers are expected to flood the virtual battlefield to fight it out, as well as pay for premium Elite offerings that provide advantages and additional services.
Activision, which publishes Modern Warfare 3, is expected to bolster sales with additional downloads and maps, for a price.
“Game publishers’ evolving strategy is turning game products into game services, extending product life with downloadable content that continually refreshes a title’s ability to engage the gamer,” Little said.
The online bonuses typically yield higher margins than the game itself, he added.
On the mobile side, developers are expanding the market by offering games that can be played for free, offering up incentives, new levels and upgrades as premium products. The free-to-play model has driven further adoption as more casual gamers use their smartphones as entertainment devices.
October 17, 2011
At a time when Google defies the global economic slowdown by posting a 26% rise in net profits for the last quarter, it may seem curious to challenge the behemoth’s future. As Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and chief executive, declared “we had a great quarter”, before going onto highlight the progress made with Google+: “People are flocking into Google+ at an incredible rate and we are just getting started.”
Amongst analysts there is palpable excitement that Google may challenge Facebook’s dominance and this is before one considers the incredible success of the Android platform and various other projects, applications and revenue lines.
But. And there is a but. What about “Search”? Larry Page once described the “perfect search engine” as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” Equally, one of Google’s core principles is, “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” That in mind, all the superlatives gushing from the world’s financial press suddenly appear misplaced.
That’s because despite being used by hundreds of millions of people every day, Google has not mastered Search. The sector as a whole remains in its infancy. Well over a decade since inception, it is clear that Google (and every other popular search engine for that matter) has not mastered even in the basics of semantic search: it remains completely unable to understand users’ queries or web pages (Google’s main information source).
If it did, it would respond with an answer to user’s questions. Instead, users are forced to spend time browsing several blue links that may or may not provide the answer to their questions. This mismatch of supply with demand presents itself clearly as the first words of every search: “About x,xxx,xxx results (0.yz seconds)”. So what?
This fundamental flaw in Google’s core business looks set to become more challenging with the exponential growth in Search via mobile handsets. Users do not want results determined by the Google parameters (relevance, freshness, comprehensive and speed). They just want answers.
Almost all mobile handset users seek local information, and a lot of it: questions around restaurants; shopping; sport; food; travel and weather dominate. Mobile information seeking is action-oriented and users want what they are looking for directly. Browsing hundreds of web pages from a mobile screen is not practicable or desirable. Information is for the here (contextual) and now (immediate). Statistics-based, index- powered search fails this mission.
The challenge in Search has moved on from “indexing the world’s information” to enabling greater access to information. No longer is the consumer concerned by the availability of information but rather the fast simple retrieval of it. This trend is acknowledged by Google. When asked what the perfect search engine is, Google’s Marissa Meyer replied:
It would be a machine that could answer that question, really. It would be one that could understand speech, questions, phrases, what entities you’re talking about, concepts. It would be able to search all of the world’s information, [find] different ideas and concepts, and bring them back to you in a presentation that was really informative and coherent.
Last week also saw the technology world aflame with news of the latest iPhone arrival. Much to the dismay of many, it looks identical to the last Cupertino release. But as commentators, reviewers and the fortunate few who found themselves at the front of Apple Shops around the world discovered, the iPhone 4S includes a remarkable new software application called Siri: in Apple’s own words, “your wish, is its command.”
The user can “ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back.” What Siri does is analyze unstructured “natural language” queries and deliver results in ways that are “actionable.” This is “Search” as it should be: ask a question, receive an answer.
Q: “Is traditional web search dying?”
A: “Yes. And fast.”