The right type of mobile content: think social

May 21, 2006

There's been a lot of talk lately about the "slowdown" in mobile content as user adoption seems to have (temporarily) stalled. M:Metrics came out with a press release attributing the slowdown in mobile gaming adoption to "pricing, choice and lack of interest". MocoNews cited a Forbes article in which Rob Tercek points to the carriers, including their lack of focus on mobile content relative to voice and one-size-fits-all merchandising / marketing.

The NY Times also has an article profiling Trip Hawkins's view on mobile content. His take: mobile content needs to enable social connections,"because it's when you're mobile, you're the most socially needy and vulnerable and insecure, and that's when the one platform you have is the mobile, wireless platform." As the article notes, his company, Digital Chocolate, has created games that "appear decidedly low-tech, the easiest-to-use games possible without fancy graphics or elaborate storytelling;" in other words, their games are tailored to fill people's social need for interaction while mobile – not designed to cram the most visual firepower or complexity into a mobile video game.

I think Digital Chocolate has got it right. What ails mobile content isn't all the carriers' fault (as most people would lead you to believe). What ails mobile content is the wrong focus on why people will want to consume mobile content.

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What services could drive sharing of camera phone pictures?

May 7, 2006

Not surprising to see this NPD report about the missed opportunities in sharing camera phone pictures: 50% of U.S. subscribers have camera phones, but only 20% of consumers with camera phones actually share them wirelessly. 80% of the time people just leave their camera phone pictures on their handsets. That's a lot of potential dollars being left on the table.

Others have talked about ways to improve the adoption of MMS, which usually come down to making it easier and cheaper to share. It seems so obvious, but a couple of years into MMS and we're still pointing to the same inhibitors.

An equally important question: besides moblogs, what are some other potential services that could drive camera phone picture sharing? An overlooked potential application is using camera phone pictures as a valuable indicator of presence information. If the goal of sharing presence information is to communicate one's "present state" (where are you, what are you doing, what is your availability to interact), then camera phone pictures could be ideal presence indicators because (a) people can share presence info using their camera phones anytime, anywhere and (b) people can often communicate richer presence information by sharing a picture than they could by sending text ("a picture is worth a thousand words").

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More feedback on kid locator services

May 5, 2006

Sprint Family Locator (image from USA Today)USA Today reviewed Sprint's Family Locator service that I wrote about previously. As you might guess from the title – Sprint Family Locator needs to work on accuracy – it's not a glowing review of the service.

Even if you got over the privacy issues of "always-on" location tracking and assumed kids would dutifully use the service (to avoid being tracked, kids could simply turn their phones off), you still have an issue with GPS location as USA Today writes: "GPS doesn't do as well in congested areas with tall buildings, including midtown Manhattan, one spot where a Samsung MM-A920 was tracked. Accuracy measurements came within 442 yards, 718 yards and 997 yards, several city blocks from the phone's actual position in an office much of the time."

Kid tracking not the answer for LBS blues

April 30, 2006

I've been a little late on the recent carrier announcements by Sprint & Disney (via MocoNews & Techdirt Wireless, respectively) for kid tracking services.

The MocoNews post referenced this Reuters article that quoted Yankee analyst Marina Amoroso as estimating that "about 2 percent of U.S. subscribers are interested in people-locating services" [such as kid tracking]. Whoa! Two percent is beyond low.

Am I surprised? No! Ask anybody if they'd like to use a leash-type tracking service and I'd be surprised if you even got 1% interest. It just sounds creepy and too much like "Big Brother". I know it's targeted to parents who are worried about their kids, but most kids won't think it'd be cool to be spied upon by their parents (it'd take the fun out of being a kid!).

The right type of consumer LBS service has got to give the user the power to opt-in / disclose their location when it's advantageous for them. People are not going to want to have their every step tracked by someone else (outside of e911 or similar emergency apps)…Give them value for disclosing their location, like making it easier meet up with friends or helping them acquire social capital for being at cool places. Those types of social services are going to ultimately drive LBS, not things like kid tracking…

Still waiting for mobile video

April 25, 2006

Not surprising to see the results of an NPD Group report suggesting that only 1% of cell phone users are watching mobile video (via NY Times). As I suggested here, mobile video has got a long way to go before it comes close to matching all the hype about it.

Instead of heaping so much attention on mobile video, mobile music and mobile games, I think the mobile community should focus more on apps / services that hold true to the mobile phone's primary purpose: helping people communicate & connect with other people more easily. After all, the mobile phone is a communications device.

CNET article on mobile social

April 5, 2006

After all the attention people have been giving to mobile video, it looks like mobile social might be gaining some currency. People may finally be realizing that the cell phone is so ubiquitous b/c it lets people communicate & connect with others. That's why I think mobile social communities (and not something like mobile video) will be the next big thing in mobile: the most popular apps / services have historically been those that enable people to communicate & connect with others (ex. email, IM, VOIP, social networking sites) and mobile social has the potential to enable new types of social interactions.

CNET has a good article that frames why mobile social may be ready to take off: improved mobile infrastructure that can support more robust data services (3G), cell phones are ubiquitous, and same people who "socially network" are also the heaviest users of text & picture messaging. My favorite part of the article is the end: despite the potential, mobile Internet apps still don't work well across different carrier networks / handsets and a prominent research analyst voices doubts about the cell phone when compared to the PC.

Stay tuned to see how this script plays out…

Pew: How Americans use cell phones

April 3, 2006

Pew released a good report on how Americans use cell phones. There were some pretty interesting findings in the reports. But, of course, I guess it always depends on your vantage point. For example, I was a little surprised to see all the excerpts from the report highlighting how everybody seems to want mobile maps; here's a graph taken from AOL Mobile's announcement of the report:

Since AOL owns MapQuest, I guess it was in their best interest to hype the findings on mobile mapping. What was "hidden" in the actual report, though, was that only 4% of adults are using mobile maps today – compared to 35% of adults using text messaging today or 28% of adults taking camera phone pictures today. So while AOL hypes it as an opportunity, I think it's probably a bigger indicator that it's kinda tough to use current map services on your cell phones. Here's hoping that MapQuest's new service hits the mark.

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Mobile marketing + mobile video? Hmm…

March 31, 2006

Just saw this Magna Global report (through MobHappy and eMarketer) on corporate interest in Mobile Marketing. IF it's done in the right way (now that's a big IF), marketing to the most personal & pervasive device (your mobile phone) makes enormous sense for companies in an increasingly fragmenting media world.

Here's an excerpt from the Magna Global report (apologies if I'm taking this out of context, but I haven't seen the report and don't have the money to spend to purchase it):

"With this footprint, we expect that advertising will ultimately play an important role in the mobile video world. The best opportunities to market to consumers in mobile environments will be through integrated mobile communications devices, and the industry will likely require ad-support to reach the widest possible audience."

Linking mobile marketing and mobile video together seems like a leap right now; can't we at least get one of those markets to take off before we start talking about them together? There are a lot of other ways that companies can experiment with and launch mobile marketing campaigns without having to wait for mobile video to take off.

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