Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mobiles and advertisers...

In a recent edition of London's Financial Times, one of the world's biggest ad agencies made the comment that mobiles will become more important than television. That's an interesting admission from an ad agency.

The problem is they (ad agencies) don't really have a clue about how to tap into the "mobile channel". There's no concept of paying to broadcast at peak time. Moreover, mobile users aren't about to tolerate spam ads, or any ads for that matter.

I guess what's potentially encouraging about this realisation by a major agency is that we are surely going to see some creative attempts to cease the opportunity. One hopes that this is a good thing.

I shall return to this topic, but one other interesting nugget of information in the FT article was that 60% of mobile users take their mobiles to bed with them. The article said this is out of anxiety to receive any late (or early AM) messages and calls, although they failed to mention the alarm clock factor. Many straw polls have shown that the alarm clock is a favourite app for many phone users. My hunch is that there must be some useful ways of exploiting this nightly mobile habit....(another topic for the future)....

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mobile email versus texting...

RIM recently announced some impressive growth figures for Blackberry. But, in true mobile-is-dominator form, our friend Tomi Ahonen pounced on this "trivial niche device" with his impressive recall to statistics:

"..a drop in the bucket compared with the 1,600 Million mobile phone users - nearly all of whom can use SMS text messaging - and especially the 1,000 Million who actively use text messaging :-)"

True, the BB numbers are low compared with mobiles and the aggregate growth rate is very slow, bearing in mind that the BB has been around for a long time in mobile device history.

However, I don't think that it's right to compare email to text and declare text the winner. These apps aren't competing and we are missing some important differentiators.

The problem with email on mobiles is that without push, it's very disadvantaged, especially compared to text. The reason that push remains problematic is not so much due to technology and IPR issues, but because of commercial ones.

To receive emails, someone has to pay for it. Thus far, it's the user, but without an affordable flat-rate (or otherwise predictable) tariff, this is problematic, which is why push email (i.e Blackberries) remains an enterprise-user luxury.

The greatest advantage that email has over text is that so many information streams are available via email, such as news bulletins, newsletters, fan mail, system alerts, Ebay messages, Amazon messages, etc. The list is endless and practically any IT system can send information via email. The number and variety of email "notifications" (i.e. messages from IT systems) far outstrips text "notifications".

The importance of this is that were this email feature easily extendable to mobiles (i.e. in an affordable push scenario), then this would be a major step towards a better mobile-information future.

Currently, if you happen to own a Blackberry, one of the easiest ways to get information on the go is via email, not WAP or text. I am on a constant feed of information via my Blackberry and I can testify that I have signed up to many new email services (like Google alerts) ONLY because I have mobile access. I read all my alerts on my Blackberry, but never bother to look at them on the PC.

I also get to receive alerts that tell me when new postings are made to various forums I participate in, which is the ONLY way I get to know that Tomi has posted something interesting. And, to give an example of its potency, after Tomi posted about a feature in The Economist, I was able to pick one up whilst I was at a shopping mall. Ditto, today on the way back from a client I picked up The FT after another tip-off about some great articles. Thanks to Tomi for your posts, thanks to my Blackberry for dishing them up on-the-move....

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bar-code tagging, not reading...idea #44/100...

Recently I returned a book to the library. Yes! I still get books from the library (and not the Net). The library wouldn't renew over the phone as they had a reserve on the book from another customer.

The book was a self-help book for eczema sufferers (which includes me). My immediate feeling was to "reach out" to the other reader. Perhaps I could help them, or vice versa, or we could "swap notes" about the technique discussed in the book.

I thought whether or not it would be a good idea to scan the barcode of the book as an anchor-point for leaving a message. What intrigued me was that I don't need to know what the barcode actually represents within the library's IT system so that I can perform a look-up (i.e. for price comparison applications, or an online bookseller e-commerce application etc). All that matters is that it is unique within the context that I intend to use it for, which is to share tags between other readers.

Another reader can check for tags and find mine, or leave their own. Either way, we can end up finding each other and making contact based upon our common interest.

I wonder how many such tagging opportunities exist?

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Thinking of you...idea #43/100...

In my previous post, I wrote about the possibility of using mobiles for non-verbal communication, especially to enhance emotional ties. For example, how might we send to a loved one an "I'm thinking of you" message, or sentiment?

Just to clarify, I'm not interested in texting (including MMS) or calling. These are not immediate enough. This also rules out ringing once and hanging up (I forget the slang for it), which can be used as a kind of "thinking of you" app.

Let me give an example of an idea that has the feel that I'm trying to explore. Imagine that a mobile can be made to glow. I visualise this as a white plastic shell that glows pink, turquoise, or red - something like that. The colour would ideally be selectable. Two such devices can be mated. Touching one device - or holding it - causes the other device to glow.

The idea has limitations and would only work under certain conditions, but I like the immediacy and the intimacy. A user could be sitting in an office with the phone on the desk and simply watch it glow when their loved one touches their device. Touch seems important here, as it represents actual physical touch between the two parties.

A similar mechanism could be achieved through the use of a photo. Perhaps by displaying a photo (of the recipient) on the "sending" device and having the user stroke it, the user's photo would appear on the "receiving" device. This is, of course, not much different from MMS in function, but the immediacy and the touching might produce a greater sense of bonding and attachment.

With MMS, like any messaging, the mode is very much "fire and forget". There is no sense of lingering attachment to the sender, except an imagined one. Whereas, with "stroke messaging", or "touch messaging", there is an explicit real-time connection: the link can only be established and maintained by active participation.

I hope to come back to this theme ("Thinking of you...") in some future posts.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Pope, mothers, psychic links...

I'm not a Catholic, but I knew every moment of The Pope's health decline. This was because I was receiving "breaking news" alerts on my Blackberry from the BBC. They placed a lot of emphasis on this particular story as it unfolded, so I got to read about it.

What struck me was the intimacy that can be achieved via a mobile, even in this case with someone I don't know. The point of emphasis here is that The Pope wasn't sending me messages. The process of being in touch with his predicament was automatic (albeit with human intervention - BBC staff - somewhere) and mobile-assisted; immediacy seemed an important factor.

What if this "breaking news" effect were possible with people we know, perhaps people close to us? How might our emotional connections be enhanced by mobiles?

This was my first thought and then...

Recently, I watched "The Forgotten", a film about alien experiments on humans. The principle in the film had her son taken by aliens. Towards the end of the film, it is revealed that they were interested in investigating the emotional (psychic?) link between a mother and child.

This got me thinking about relationships between loved ones and how mobiles might amplify non-verbal links between two people who love, or care for each other.

Getting "breaking news" updates about a loved one is probably impractical. I can't see workable mechanisms for it (although they might exist), nor I am entirely sure about what this would mean.

Is there the possibility for a "thinking of you" app (besides the usual call/messaging candidates)?

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Stark words...

This morning I read a message from Tomi Ahonen, 3G Marketing guru, concerning a 14-page special in The Economist about digitally-connected and aware consumers...

"The Economist - a conservative business peridical not known for overhype - makes this remarkable statement to conclude its Leader/Editorial: "Only those firms ready and able to serve these new (empowered customers) will survive."

Within the coming 3G era, mobile will be centre-stage. Some of us ("Mobilists") this past week have been debating about how significant the mobile will actually be in the digital-convergence process. There are many facets to the discussion, but a key comment from Ajit Jaoker, publisher of Tomi's new book "Communities Dominate Brands" was:

"While the mobile device will not cannibalise the specialised device, it will be the device ‘most often used’ by consumers to access digital content"

I think Ajit's point about frequency is key. We might use PC's to consume masses of Megabytes per session, but at a much lower frequency than consuming a few Megabytes (currently Kilo-bytes) on our mobile devices. The mobile is the only computing device that we carry with us at all times. I think it is useful to think of it in these terms.

Each time a mobile user experiences a mobile interruption, or an urge for a "mobile moment", almost always, revenue flows. The mobile ecosystem has demonstrated that users relish immediacy and are willing to pay for it.

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