Friday, 28 December 2012

connected car m2m with Torque and Bluetooth dongle

One of the most interesting apps I have come across while researching emerging apps for a client is Torque. There is a light version, that serves more than anything to check if the hardware you bought of the internet works, however the true value is unlocked in the £2.99 pro version.
Torque main screen invites further delving
The first thing it buys I suppose, is not a product, but a service: piece of mind. I do not think its just me, but even with the modern cars of today, a trip to the dealer can be an expensive outing and when you hear a new noise or the engine reacts differently to usual for whatever reason, the mind begins to wonder if you are in for another unforeseen bill! This is particularly the case as your warranty is ending. This may also mean buying a car second hand is now a much more reliable exercise, assuming the present owner gives you permission, of course. If they do not, you probably have your purchase decision made for you!
You will be amazed at the level of detail OBD2 gives
Secondly, as anyone who has ever looked longingly at a classic Ferrari centre console and seen the three dials with oil temperature, water temperature, etc will appreciate being able to have these without recurring to some after market monstrosity. enable this HUD display mode for real man-child behaviour.

more practically, you can use it to monitor your driving style and become a little more eco, which in the real world means saving money. On a diesel a heavy foot may not make that much of a difference, but on a petrol automatic you can double the fuel economy around town at least, which at £80 to fill the tank of a small car, is £2.99 well spent!

Beyond there you can also record your trip with transparent overlay, if your morning commute involves sleepy people pulling out in front of you or road rage, you can capture it in detail with your careful and considerate speed overlaid as proof or your coffee induced wide-awakeness, as well as accurate fuel economy.

I am surprised this has not appeared in car magazines so far as a much more accurate tool, not just for comparing more details on laps and getting more data, like g-forces that a driver is subjected to, how much fuel a car used to get round a track, what revs and amount of fuel were needed to get the same performance, etc. In short; how hard a car has had to work to get the same result is a strong indicator of how good it is and moreover, how good a car is likely to be in a few years - fatigue and wear and tear are not friends of the motorist.

In order to get all this detail, you need a Bluetooth (as I have) OBD-2 or OBD-ii as it seems to be often referred to, device. I got mine off of ebay for only 3 to 4 times the price of the Torque app, search for "bluetooth obd-2" and you should see them. Mine is this one, I had a choice of getting it slowly from Hong Kong, or quickly for a premium locally... I chose to get it locally as I like supporting prospectors.
Bluetooth dongle clips into car's OBD port (where your mechanic plugs in to your car)
On my car this was under a small rubber cover under the steering column.

If you do not like the idea of cheap Bluetooth, there are more expensive wi-fi ones, which you could read from your laptop from comfort of your home, if that's what float's your boat (or if you are really geeky, the vpn to your on-board mi-fi from anywhere....) and Garmin also make an official Bluetooth one called the Garmin EcoRoute HD. When speaking to a contact in the EE (the merger of UK mobile operators Orange and T-mobile, previously called Everything Everywhere) m2m department, they also had one with a SIM in it that let's you read it from anywhere.

One interesting use, if you have, or should I say for when you have a deduct old android device, is to plug an old android permanently on power in the boot or somewhere and have tracking enabled, which may be useful in many scenarios:
  1. the event of an accident, and 
  2. For security: even more useful if your car is stolen - with not only the record of where it is, but also any speed or other related crimes committed as well. If you are lucky enough to have several houses and associated cars or a collection of cars you can also ensure that nobody misuses them.
  3. if you have a family member who is on your insurance and known for accidents, or very young, you can at least incentivise good driving (I cannot see a mode to remotely disable a car being abused!)
  4. if you run a small fleet of vehicles as a business, good driving by your employees is part of your brand and image, as well as the obvious locating ability, will be very useful.
  5. if you are a control freak or technologist in general. (I am glad to say I am the latter)
So by now many will be asking: why no apple app? Well Apple, rightly or wrongly (there is a case for both) only allows connectivity from Bluetooth devices with an apple security chip in it, and no of course your $10 device from Hong Kong does not have one. For apple devotees you will need the wi-fi devices, which for some reason are ten times the cost of the Bluetooth versions.

The best consumer use of this is to get a nexus 7, for example, or an android handset and enable wi-fi sharing and you have wi-fi in your car as well as diagnostics. And no that knocking noise is not about to become a £700 bill... or is it!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Why iphone 5 apps updated so late?

Slow iPhone 5 app updates

There has been some talk on the world wide gossip web lately that the iPad mini is the beginning of the demise of Apple... obviously there was a band of Apple lovers who took grave offence and blocked sites for saying so on their iRouter, and the other band of iHaters relished the idea...

iPhone 5 beginning of Decline of Apple?

I personally sit in the middle and think it would be a great shame if it were the beginning of the decline, however it did get me thinking more about a casual observation that I have been capturing in screenshots on my iPhone 5 post release; I have noticed that that is the lag in the updates from the major app vendors, longer than iPad 3 (or new iPad) which does make me think Apple is either relaxing or loosing its grip (depending on how most people seem to be able to only look at these Apple issues) or; if we are lucky - that the app environment is finally maturing!
Major apps like Spotify are only just adding iPhone 5 support to their apps

iPhone5 developer roadmap maturity?

So why can this be? Well let's explore the "is it maturing" side first: proper development has a roadmap and cycles, that is; you have a roadmap of what you want to do over the next 6 - 18 months depending on many factors such as size of company, and then monthly or quarterly cycles when these features are added in priority. Unfortunately in app world this has not happened, and to be honest, UE has been impacted as a result. I only have to look as late as the beginning of this year at my Mobile Monday London event digest to see that developers in app world are still running round prioritising customer feedback features over launching new platforms, and adding them in what seems like an ad-hoc manner. Therefore, possibly, hopefully, this is a a sign that the market is maturing and the iPhone 5 new screen size is being put into the next available cycle on the roadmap rather than developers running round like headless chickens for the new ifeature as soon as they can?
4 to 5 days post iPhone 5, a major app release update does not include iPhone 5 support
Further evidence of this maturity could be seen in the shape of the native Google app for iPhone5 taking longer than anybody would have expected to go into the app store after the launch of the iphone 5 and iOS 6 with the dreadful downgrade to maps widely reported would have led to the app being in the store "yesterday" in previous times. So let's move on to:

iPhone Android app roadmap maturity is here!

The other way to look at this is that its the beginning of the decline of Apple and Steve Jobs would have not let this happen! I hope it is not, for many reasons, as Apple has pushed apps, app stores, UE and devices in the last few years further than the entire mobile industry managed beforehand (am not counting Siri in this equation)... However the fact still remains that key apps ar taking time to adapt and some could argue its sloppy management of app stores. It should also be noted people have recently moved jobs in Apple post the iPhone 5 launch: when launching a new device with a major change such as screen size and performance improvement; you do need to look at your ecosystem and identify the apps and app developers that you need to take aside and say in confidence: can I have your apps ready for the launch of my new, and let's add in here, well overdue... iPhone 5. As a user I was left seeing my bigger screen going to waste with apps I would expect to be up the in the wish list. I will also hasten to add, that this has not been during a period of low activity; I have been installing app updates almost daily since the iPhone 5 since release.

For now, I am taking thee high road and seeing it as emerging maturity in app land!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Best iPhone 5 and iOS 6 app

Best iPhone 5 app

So you have unboxed your iPhone 5, nice, or seized the opportunity to install iOS 6 finally and pretend you don't care; (yes, we see through that) and like the new integration of photos with other apps and other general improvements, or as Apple are probably calling it "a revolution all over again" of similar.

iPhone 5 map App flap

While we did not see the above headline in a tabloid newspaper or sensationalist blog (sorry, could not resist) witty exposes like these could not escape you; like this one so wittily pointed out in a London underground station recently - that you may want to pick up a paper map instead.
For some not as amusing as others - but Google maps are still to hand!

iPhone 5 & iOS6 map app alternatives

So what to do? Well, while looking (again) for a decent Google chat / google apps app I came across a golden oldie - google maps, for iPhone. I used to download this from when testing feature phones around 2005+ however never thought I would need to use it on my high end smart phone...

Ahem... enter the next revolution that changes everything again... only this time a universal view of not for the better... of is it??? I also remembered that I used to download Google maps on my Nokia N95 for long rides in the middle of nowhere as well, as I could be more sure of it caching the images I wanted along the route, without having to download the whole of the south of England and Wales...
HTML5 vs Native rages on - is google maps web app better than iOS 6 mapping?

Update: Google Maps App for iPhone available

Google took a while (or approval was slow...) or app developers more mature with roadmap but the release of the native map took its time... while its much, much better than its woeful embeded equivalent (lost me the only twice I tried to use directions) it is not exactly the most intuitive of apps when it comes to directions:
Toggling between map and directions needs refining
And then there is the directions themselves... in short, the original embed app was way slicker... and in fact I sometimes go back to the web app instead (quicker when network weak!)...

Mobile Maps Apps enter the HTML5 vs. Native fray

What this does do is it opens up the whole HTML5 vs. Native debate again, which I have heard / spotted increasingly more over the last year and with wider audiences, both in person and on social networks: with train times on android being quicker from national rail than via the already open and prompted app, and not to mention facebook and other high demand sites often coping better via html than via apps.

Take up the map app challenge and see which one is quicker to the draw (pun fully intended, and even phase constructed just to do this pun, sorry). But it does not stop there:
HTML5 web apps are not only often quicker to the draw, but they are also often quicker to add layers as well
Not only are these apps quicker to pinpoint you and draw the map around you, but they can also be quicker at adding detail, like satellite, which maybe cached differently, and even details that you may not get on other apps... like cycling routes!

And for thee record, the only way I can use aliases properly and sometimes find old emails is by signing into google apps on the mobile web as well... any others I have missed? Any more newcomers with iPhone5?

I love it when a moment of "hang on, I have not done this since 2005" turns into "hang on, this is actually better than 2012"... in many things in life, taking a step back can help you see the way forward - just not if it happens too often!

You may interested in my article on HTML5 vs. Native as well

Monday, 28 May 2012

App privacy, app contracts, apps legal issues

Apps legal Challenges Conference

I spoke on the closing panel at the apps: legal challenges conference on 24th May, and promised an update so here it is, along with another interesting development as reported by one of my two must read columnists over at wired on apps privacy.
Clueful: An app that tells you what some apps my be hiding...

App data privacy issues

I approach this subject with great interest, as, having spent tens of millions of pounds of other people's budget on 1000's of apps over the last 5+ years, the legal side has always fascinated me: My first encounter of the nitty gritty of this was doing th Nokia festival guides, in association with another 3rd party event organiser, multiple agents, agencies and 3rd party developers it could have been a quagmire. The key, I am not ashamed to add, was me: not for any other reason that I was then the "mobile director" in charge of pulling all elements together, from development to legal, to developers, to agencies, approving the technical and other content of press releases, software releases and even the promotional and other text messages meant that these nasties, like privacy issues, were spotted before they went out of the door.

What is the mobile app privacy issue?

As apps have become more common place, they have been treated more and more as just the same old digital, like the internet but on the mobile, which is right, legally they are, however technically they are not, and while you can visit internet privacy law every so often (every supplier change usually!) mobile is more fluid, and things like the Path (and others) talking data from devices and on happens, and I have seen it do so for the following reasons which make mobile different:
  1. somebody says: "we need to be on these devices by x day" the developers say we cannot because... the report goes back to somebody who cannot be bothered or to be fair is too busy to get their hands dirty as they not just "mobile director" but also "digital director", "innovation director" "all things shiny-and-new director" :) and so he says "make it happen. in this situation good people will usually do what is best from either, a) a timescale point of view, b) a technical point of view,  or c) a user experience point of view, almost always in that order. In the case of Path et al, taking complex user details from the battery, memory, connectivity and CPU constrained handset and putting it in the ever more powerful cloud made technical, time and even User Experience (UE) based sense - this was an all round better experience, however... nobody in legal would have been, nor have a process to be consulted.
  2. lawyers who are consulted very rightly point out these issues and so are either a) not consulted or b) somebody goes over their head and says "make it happen" in which case the lawyer has his options covered (there is a more common term I shall refrain from using). Really, in-house technical staff are usually allowed the luxury of external specialist help for issues mobile, that is what I do for a living, so why are in-house of even external legal not allowed that luxury: you chose your in-house or external legal to cover your core business, its quite reasonable to assume that you or they may benefit from some specialist help as well
  3. The whole process is almost entirely outsourced to 3rd party developers so internal people really do not know even what code that the developer is using could even be accessing other client's data, etc...

Why Mobile App privacy issues arise

In all these cases, no single person, or even team, has full end to end ownership of mobile, or if they do they seldom have the time to keep themselves up to speed with all the developments in legal, technical and more,  as they are often wearing some other digital / technical / legal hats ... and so, there is no "mobile director" who takes responsibility for the end to end process.

A big part of this is that, while mobile is now surpassing web in terms of access even on key social network sites, the team size in any organisation no where near reflects this, and indeed in many parts of the industry (mobile advertising for example) many players are still just relatively dabbling in mobile.

A second part is that, just like companies who provide our services cannot keep up, neither can we the consumers, and we are just dabbling in mobile security most of the time: it's all well and good that we get a bit upset at Path and others for taking our data (or did we, really??? TBH I think my data is probably safer on Path's server, assuming its saved in a PCI compliant way, that it is on my own phone where its impossible for all the data to not be associated with me the user...) we did not mind the better user experience and it probably was in the T&Cs... somewhere: Yes I am talking to you, and me, the iphone user who has never read the 64 pages of T&Cs that apple throw at us every few weeks, the app user on any platform who does not read even the APIs and app wants if we want it badly enough, and so on...
Clueful UE: wot no "privacy" page :)

Avoid & be aware of app privacy issues

So in the meantime, the best we can all have is an app that we may uses every so often to have a peek and see that we are all ship shape, like clueful. Essentially, like now a spyware detector has surpassed the need for an antivirus for the tech savvy, an app (for end users) and a policy for app providers and an app store owners and even mobile operators is probably the safest way forward. Spybot mobile operator edition anyone?

If you like this article, please like us or +1 on Google+ or or tweet, retweet etc, follow me on twitter or whatever social means of showing appreciation takes your fancy... yes, even like me on the fancy if you so wish :)

If you want to discuss issues around privacy, legal issues surrounding apps and app stores (I can only point out issues I have come across, cannot offer legal advice!) of just the trials and tribulations of enabling mobile for your company then use the contactify button above right

Friday, 18 May 2012

New G+ App for iPhone

So Google+ finally gets some love and gets and update that brings it into killer app territory.... and it has made it into the iPhone killer apps list as well as the Android killer apps list this was much needed, as in a report on my MVNO blog on Facebook activity being mainly mobile and the Mobile App store blog on even low end phones now getting Facebook integration: mobile social is now big business, in case you still had not heard!

So, without a decent app, Google+ may have been missing a trick for a while. yes, the tech savvy will create a shortcut to their homescreen, but this does not give you notifications (see my native vs. html5 debate for more on this) and for many people you still need "an app for that".

So what is all the fuss about?

Well firstly, it looks good. There is no denying, clean simple design is what Path, Flipboard and pulse have been soaring in popularity on, and this app now has it...

Secondly, it gets it... for a while I have seen posts on the point that Facebook photo implementation on the web is awful: Its true, while Facebook generally have great UE, the images are handled in a very "we installed this 3rd party tool" way; and the mobile app (with the exception of the windows Facebook app version with its panoramic view) did not show off photos as well as they could either. Even The Sun newspaper caught onto this a few decades ago: many people just look at pictures, especially if the content was written mostly by chimps, a point which both Facebook and The Sun newspaper largely share (sorry, could not resist, but at least Facebook has the excuse that its UGC (User Generated Content))

So yes, boys and girls, if you got pictures, show 'em off, and that is what Google+ app has done very well.

People living in UK will be able to pinpoint which day this was in the whole year :)
Here is my colleague Keith getting some inspiration, on one of the few days when a) there was sunshine and b) the lawn was actually mowed :) In fact, Google+ got it so right, that a certain other social network soon followed:
I wonder where Facebook got the inspiration for this "wide photo" update???
It would not be fair at this point if I did not point out that the Google+ app widescreen images, with subset picture of the poster, does not have influences from timeline on the web, its just amazing that these days, with articles like at the top of the page showing mobile has surpassed the web in terms of interface to all things social, that the apps are so neglected - but then I have always argued, that nothing makes a business take its eyes off the ball like having to pander to (still potential) investors...

if you want notifying when more articles like this come out, my Google+ and my company, Virtuser's Google+ or like Virtuser on Facebook for updates

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

instagram for android added to killer apps list

Instagram is now on android and what an app, and have added it as soon as I have played with it for a week to the andorid killer apps list. Very few ports are better than the original, but hat's off to the instagram team, they deserve their new found bounty as they have done what few people do and I have spent millions of my clients' money ensuring: that the port is better than the original... read the full article here

Thursday, 5 April 2012

get your 15 mins of Warhol fame: Warhol DIY app

Get your 15 mins of Warhol fame!

I have just added the newly revised Warhol : DIY app to my list of the best, killer iPhone apps, although it's been around for a year, updates to enable exposure, crop and backing and forthing within the app make the process less frustrating as the process warhol went through, and more mobile camera friendly, so your 15 mins of fame can be done in less than 15 mins now ... read the full thingy here
get your own 15 mins and make your own warhol

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

best app for weeks... pair app

Pair app - iPhone only to date, forgive pun ;) and what it means for social mobile networking

I have just come across a great app via allthingsd, and one that hits on something I have been mulling over for a while - the diversification of social networks, which will be another post at some point. Basically Facebook and all are great, but Foursquare clearly tapped a niche market for smaller groups, mostly close friends checking in to places where they may not always want their wider friends, bosses, parents even seeing; bars, pubs as well as just boring places like where you prefer to have coffee...
Social Network Interaction by frequency / Audience © Christian Borrman 2012
How social networks fit by frequency and audience
I had for a while being playing with the idea of creating other "circles" and funnily enough called them circles, and at the time I was working with my colleague Keith on a mobile social network for a client (so have a witness!) and then Google launches G+ with circles as its main theme. While for many it seems popular to be a detractor of G+, I see it as firstly a great development and move away from certain monopoly in social networks, but secondly, 100 million users in a very short time is endorsement that the concept of circles is a winner, as just because a big company does something, if it does not get taken up, then the idea was not that great after all. Now many people get disheartened when you had a good idea and it becomes a bigger success than you could ever imitate, and of course, you know you have to come up with a new name now; but having someone as big yet dynamic as Google thinking the same way about concepts that are not in the public domain, is in fact the best endorsement probably even above imitation: it means you are on the right track!
Pair is a great and welcome addition to apps and social networking
So along comes pair, targeting the smallest of circles - the couple. In a very short time it has had a lot of downloads, which is a good sign, especially given its woeful engagement process (more on that in a minute) and I very much hope it is a success before its USP just gets copied by the big boys, again... yes you know who you are! I am sure everybody has had a moment where Facebook, the comments made or the time spent on, has become an issue between couples... Pair could make a difference.

In terms of an app, it has killer app potential, however lacks (at the moment) some key emerging app success criteria, namely great engagement. Part of Path's appeal, as described in my list of iphone killer apps is its seamless UX in terms of engaging users: Pair is very different: the background is a plain colour. Whilst this is no biggie, and better than a pastiche image, a well chosen image or a more inviting colour or gradient like a big blue sky or a large green field.. anything would be better than Dorset Cereal's box olive green/blue... however as a whole it is not that bad, it is not crowded, does not have irrelevant feeds and does have the right concept, its just the execution needs a bit more thought and/or the input of someone else....
Engagement process had me scratching my head though...
 I say this as, a) I do this for a living, but even if not, b) like many people now, I have been here a few times before and so know what good looks like!,With pair I was left scratching my head as where to start, and ended up pressing "sign-up" a few times, then entering my details and pressing "sign-up" a few times, and it was not until I pressed next (my last option before abandoning the app!) that I got an error message telling me the way forward... where Path has a clear centre stage"enter your name here first" then there is the engagement process
Finding out how to progress via an error is not great UX, but easily solved
Another annoying element was that it asks for a photo, but could only take a photo, not chose from library: this a) places you in a terrible situation of there being a slim (in my case very) chance of me being as presentable as I would like at the point of engagement! you have to remember that much mobile interaction happens during what is referred to as "downtime" - waiting for a plane / train, having your first coffee(s) of the day, in bed still, etc, etc. very few of which will have you looking your best. moreover, b) it means you can only use the front facing wide angle, low res camera - even George Clooney does not look good pictured with a wide angle lens 5cm from his nose... There is more, it then asks you to send a video, which while seeming a bit "speed networking" or worse "speed dating" I persevered only to get a warning that its only 15 sec. This should be referenced above the recording as an instruction, not relayed as an error message. As it happens my video was done by 15 sec, but the app had only recorded the first 13 sec...

So, I don't want anyone to think this is bad, its actually very good, they are small floors in what is otherwise still a gem, and can be changed with a bit of thought, a slight change of flow and some instructions which will no doubt come from incorporating feedback over the next few days, weeks and months... and I really, really look forward to see how it progresses. On a more fun not, also how it may diversify: maybe an app called "trio" for the French market, "dozen" or "centernar" for the more promiscuous and "uno" for the divorcee or dumpee in denial :)

I shall be adding more in the coming months and pasting updates via my G+ or the Virtuser Google+ and Virtuser Facebook pages, so please like us on Facebook and +1 us if you have found this article interesting, useful or helpful.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

mobile commerce strategy: via apps or mobile internet

I read an interesting article today courtesy of Tomasz from Moben Google+ which is similar to a question that I was recently by an old client and friend over a glass of wine; whether mobile apps or mobile internet are winning the m-commerce war... it is an interesting question, however I fear one that if you try to answer it by questioning 5,000 in a particular time and place will not give you the right answer. At best it can give you an indication for that time and place, but one which will quickly expire or may even be relevant only to that period of time, in this case the holiday season that they used, where shopping habits may be very different to usual.

You then have the issue of mobile perception, where if you ask people which apps they use the most and which sites they use the most on mobile, the answer is completely different to actual usage, this has been the case since the first WAP surveys of 1999 and the gap just get's bigger as phones get smarter and the app stores and mobile internet sites grow

So rather than  try and answer a question, which requires a bit more work, and we have done for retail organisations by looking at actual usages and trends for that product, in that location at that time, let's look at the general questions that need to be asked to get to a strategy, which at its heart is an extension of the age old "native vs. HTML" debate elsewhere on this blog.

The first things to bear in mind are:

  1. people want to shop on mobile and tablets, and they do so even on e-commerce sites despite it taking two or three times as long, as other convenience factors play a bigger part here (location, access to pc, dead time waiting for a friend, etc).
  2. The key is to make it as easy for your customers and your organisation as possible, not fulfil some wonderful strategy or vision. This is a key fail point for most innovation we take over or try to rebuild as innovation consultants there is no point having a great solution (ridiculous things I have heard are "we have a V8 billing engine we need to leverage" or "we have a mobile strategy (designed for another purpose) that dictates apps but not mobile internet") or the other "we have just implemented a mobile CMS....
  3. Mobile usage of apps vs. mobile internet varies wildly over time, location, handsets sold the previous quarter, the mobile network your customers are on and more: so just looking at your server stats, which is a start, is not enough to keep abreast,
  4. The two give different experiences: an app can easily remember your preferences over multiple devices, use interesting animations and access deeper APIs more easily (though html5 is changing this to some extent)
  5. users will change over time: mobile internet is a first point of engagement, and many customers may be happy with that, and app gives a higher level of engagement, but only for some users on some devices.
So what does this mean? in short, some examples: if your stats show the same users buying over ipad, PC, and an iphone, and iPhone/ipad app is going to work now, but what happens if their next smartphone is an android or windows smartphone? what happens if they like your product so much they recommend a friend but he is not on that platform? 

You then also have to remember that the frequecy with with which people engage over mobile can vary over time, users may use your mobile app for example in the summer months and then the PC over the winter as they spend dark days inside with a PC. It is harder to come back to an app after a few months than it is to a website - the app may have been deleted, the phone replaced, or worse, the app needs updating which uses the 5-10 minutes the user had put aside to buy something from you and you lose the sale:
Mobile apps can be more difficult to return to than mobile internet
In short, if you do not have an m-commerce solution today you are missing a trick. The best practise for this should be html5 and be formatted to give the closest experience possible across all devices, smartphones and tablets, and if possible it should not be too different from your web experience. This can be done by clever use of tabbing and some UI and UX testing. However, this is no good of the solution does not allow you to do the same things you can do on the web.
A mobile internet site is the tactical start, but one that just mimics your web is not likely to work
Don't get sucked into doing an app because there should be "an app for that", fragmentation is rife and the last thing you need is a successful app and base, tied into a an app that is huge and can only be downloaded over wi-fi. This is great for the Ikea app, for example, which you download once like getting a huge quarterly catalogue, however for a supermarket, like Ocado I would question if this is wise, especially in the post iPhone era of Android and increasingly windows mobile taking market share. The chances of getting the same experience with a native app are low.

Don't just mimic one of the browsing methods from your web. here wiggle have just take the horizontal filters from their website, as they probably fit better than all the vertical filters, but their stats will show that at best only a proportion of their web customers use this method of finding products, and so leaves a big proportion of their base dependent in the cold and dependent on the search box, which I they check their web stats most likely do not provide the best customers at all! 

Don't resort to a "view all" tab, people do not browse on mobile, you would be better having a "go to main site" or at least "see offers" or "see most popular" here...

Do think and look at the stats of what people buy on mobile, in the case of wiggle it will be forgotten essentials on a Wednesday night to arrive in time for the weekend ride, for example, so try and focus your site around that, if that is the case

Do keep abreast of usage and see what users are doing, and keep abreast of mobile trends in retail, you can very quickly get outdated

Do keep an open mind and look at what is best for your customers and your organisation. if the UX is ten times better in theory one way but requires a complete redesign of your systems,  you risk creating a mobile channel that is successful, but with a terrible ROI and so is doomed!

I shall be updating this article as more interactions with clients and colleagues provide more scenarios, and will announce those changes here at my Google+ and my company, Virtuser's Google+ or like Virtuser on Facebook for updates

Monday, 27 February 2012

Updated iPhone killer apps list

I have just updated the iPhone Killer apps list with a why-so for Pinterest, and why, like Path and Pulse (all beginning with "p"???) is not only important, but may replace Facebook as a benchmark app for an app store. Pinterest has the editorially defined quality of new, post-digital publications, like wired, wonderland and wallpaper (all beginning with "w"???) except its crowd sourced and allows instant interaction, its now not hard to see why pinterest already the top social network on global page impressions behind stalwarts Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Monday, 6 February 2012

Killer Apps Ecosystem

I have just updated the section on killer apps in general, as a) I read a good quote that gelled some thoughts on it, and b) had a discussion with a colleague in the industry that got me thinking, as well as the fact that I have as much more work in 2011 on SMS and HTML5 than on apps in 2009 and 2010...

Friday, 3 February 2012

HTML5 vs. Native app development

The HTML 5 vs Native debate was raging yesterday in the Mobile Monday London event (see my digest on this blog) and will continue to for a long time, just as the java vs. native did and the widget vs. native did, and just as much as the "which OS choice/debate" I discuss here in my blog as well

The reality is blurring with recent announcements of high profile games on HTML5 like cut the rope however the issues that I found when heading up the iPhone porting for Voda 360, the first major W3C HTML with APIs if not HTML5 still remain even with these successes.

Then I go out into the market and hear some game developers doing cross platform, some adopting HTML and other focusing on the multiple approach of iOS and Android, looking at HTML5 to cover the rest. That is with games at least, and will be the case of many apps with access to low level functions and APIs (beyond GPS, audio, video, etc).

With certain apps it is much clearer:  I spoke to a developer of a major social network that was launched recently who said they would never have gone native if they did it over again: the user experience is just two fragmented between the web, tablets and the main app OSs and then mobile web. I also know users who have ditched native apps for social networks in favour of the HTML5 experience: quicker, closer to the web, the same on tablet as smartphone and the closet to their web experience... and as a result I specified a social network for a client recently in html5 with native in potential roadmap...

Then there are the mobile operator clients considering portals and app store, more relevant to my portal blog, but still very interesting for the case in hand: Its important to maintain flexibility in these situations, and fix your roadmap (in scope) only for one or at most two quarters ahead. Just recently, for example, a mobile operator client was faced with a situation where their development on an app store/portal was lead natively on two platforms with another two following and another two in roadmap... when Microsoft announced that W7 was going to be a closed environment, symbian split, meego was sidelined and RIM became evidently more fragmented (bb5 vs bb6 vs bb7, etc) then the option was very clearly android plus... native or java or HTML5. It was still a little early then, but the answer would be much clearer today.

So, with so much depending on what you are doing where and with whom... and so much social, regional and international fragmentation, however there are some key considerations to take into account:
  1. what device is it running on? which will affect many things, but in short, running in  a sandbox without native extensions will be slower on things like
  2. refresh rate: while low end Java devices and even proprietary runtimes like Offscreen Media's were running 50-100 frames per second, the first web runtimes were at 3-5, with the best developers on best devices eeking out 10-15. Even if you get this much higher, its still a limiting factor over native, and those pushing the boundaries will always prefer native
  3. how many platforms are you going to distribute on. Its all very very well having a cross platform app and cross platform intentions, but do you have the time and resources to update APIs across 20 stores, check 100's devices, upload across many platforms, have the project management and roadmap skills to manage the process, etc, etc.
  4. What is your target audience now and later. if you are going after advanced users and then mass market then native first, html5 later maybe an option, if revered, then reversed, obviously. if you have a product like Sonos, why go to the extra effort of making the platform universal when all your customers will have at least one android or iOS phone or tablet at their disposal?
  5. What regions are you looking at? HTML5 will play better to strong growths in ever cheaper smartphones, like Africa, vs those with a solid smartphone base (Nokia in parts of Asia and Latam, others varied in US, Europe and ROW)
  6. Do the stores you are planning to roll-out on have the features and APIs you want? There is no point creating your freemium app that requires in-app upgrades or subscriptions in HTML5 for flexibility if it would have been quicker to do it natively in the two stores that support what you want to do, and the ad serving and other APIs are completely different in each deployment
  7. Do you want to be off-line?
  8. Do you want to obfuscate and/or only have certain functionality using server based algorithms for extra security.
Its interesting times, I shall be updating this article as more interactions with clients and colleagues provide more scenarios, and will announce those changes here at my Google+ and my company, Virtuser's Google+

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Mobile Monday London 30 Jan 2012 Digest

I decided to join a few old colleagues to the Mobile Monday London yesterday evening and was quite glad I did - there were a lot of interesting points raised, which I will try and digest as concisely and impartially as possible, having worked with all parties involved: developers, store owners, companies of all kinds commissioning development of apps and games and lastly handset manufacturers and mobile operators.

The subject was: Mobile Games; current trends and what are the lessons for other sectors? This is very interesting as I have often seen games as an indicator of where apps may be going and sometimes even vice-versa. The panel had a broad and interesting background, the moderation animated and the questions slowly built up to a frenzy towards the end when beers were calling, so without further rambling, my bullets are:

Key Highlights
  • 16% of 5.4bn mobiles sold last year were smartphones
  • Fragmentation: One person in the audience remarked that they still remember the days of 14,000 Java SKUs and we seem to be heading the same way with Android. The panel commented that most developers they know are developing 6 SKUs for Android vs. 4 for iOS, so it really is not that big a deal. 
  • You can buy your way to the top of the (apple) app store 
  • Android was seen as more likely to promote an innovative idea...
  • the Android market is more freemium but the iOS market still quite premium, however, 
  • both the way you develop freemium as well as the gameplay is different to the way you develop premium apps, from the start, for the former marketing people are involved from the beginning and the game play is quite different
  • Developers are trying to diversify (more below) but none of them use a roadmap, and those that do only do it to launch and then follow public demand. (CB: I have seen this a lot shall write more on this later on this blog)
Other key points
  • Emerging market is still seeing a lot of Java vs. the two horse Android / Apple race of the ROW
  • despite 500,000 apps on the Appstore, the amount of copycat games is now growing rapidly
  • While developers are tying to get out of the "apple bin" they are still looking for incentives to get out and into Android, these maybe grants from the likes of Tiga, as well as other incentives such as pay for hire...
  • Developers are trying to get away from one big hit on on the app store
  • Piracy was seen as a barrier to Android market early on (CB: assume they mean rooting, however you can jailbreak an iPhone, so not sure how founded this is)
  • Mobile Ads are a part of a freemium strategy, typically can be 20% of revenue??
  • The big screen coming into play: yes (CB: even more need for a a roadmap!)
  • Gamification: is it a threat? the quorum was that gamification is for people who don't know how to develop games. 
  • Social gaming is growing 
  • developers are still spreading their developing bets between cross platform and not
  • The App Store is "more predictable" (CB: I think reading these bullets again its just that most developers, audience included, know the app store better, and of course, it is an older model)
So that's what I took away from the event, I would be interested to hear and points I may have missed, and comments people may have, etc. I recently moved this blog over from a tired 2006- html design of my own, and with it did a bit of a clean-up, but will be adding content back over frequently now, and will post updates on my Google+ profile, so please feel free to follow should you wish

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mobile App OS choices

When deciding what OS to go out on there on are a number of factors to take into account, unfortunately, as with most things apps, all most people is see is numbers. Numbers are important, if you want distribution, but it is also important to look at the product, who uses it and its fit.

Bloomberg, for example, an app I have helped port to different OSs, is a great fit for Blackberry, Nokia and iPhone as the key business phones in the key Bloomberg markets: finance. While it may be good to be everywhere, you have to ask the cost of that and the incremental gains. Moreover is managing all these versions - they may be within budget to build, but as new services are rolled out, managing a roadmap across lots of mobile OS and their subsets (BB6, BB7, ipad, 3G and 4G screen sizes, etc) can become costly and difficult to manage.

Spotify is on Meego and the Nokia N9, as well as iOS and Android, but not on windows market; why - well the N9 has hit a sweetspot and will ship around the world to the kind of audience who will pay for a premium service, and the are relatively few apps on the device. Sonos is just on iOS and Android, probably based on the premise that while its users have other devices, if you have a premium music device, you will have either a tablet with the aforementioned OSs or a dedicated controller.

Social networks want to be pervasive, however with each OS version comes fragmentation, then there is the issue of prioritising the versions when you update an API and risk offending part of your base: the only option is to update all at the same time or plan very, very carefully and risk backlash! An developer from a social network recently told me that if they did it all again they would do probably just one or two native apps (no prize for guessing which ones) and the rest in HTML5 - he then corrected and said - no, I would do them all in HTML5 and have done: after all you get the most important APIs: location, audio and video, working out of the box, across all devices, in one go. How important is this, well very;
  1. one it means you can stay on or ahead of the curve - rolling out new services on mobile almost or even in parallel
  2. it means you avoid embarrassing issues like the iOS facebook app that recently had everybody in London posting from Walton Abbey for a while
  3. moreover, fragmentation is minimal: another developer recently expressed that his users have upto four different experiences of their product: one on a tablet at home, another on a PC at work, and then another one or two on their work and personal mobiles
A weather app, like accuweather for example will have different priorities, from bums on seats to strategic deals, which will see them having everything from bespoke versions just for the Nokia N97 and Voda 360 homescreens (yep I did that, it seems to be everywhere now, from samsung in store ads to tablet online promos - which is great) to then being on maybe android more than iOS now (how many weather apps must there be on the App store!).

So, in short there are many things to consider:
  1. What APIs if any you need and which support them and which handsets. Apple is still all inclusive (all devices have a compass, gps, etc, etc) however other devices / OS have all sorts of fragmentation 
  2. how easy is it to integrate the service you want on that platform and which platform(s) Android is not too far from Java J2ME, you may want to focus on this from the beginning
  3. How much is your app, how important are ads vs. revenue, freemium support
  4. do you have the need for fancy functionality such as in app subscription, upgrade, etc.. your mileage WILL vary by OS
  5. How important is design and brand. Apple are very aware of the style, UX, fonts, etc and encourage homogeneity with the OS, a clean experience, etc. This means not only is the experience generally more "pleasing" for want of a better word, the apps around it are generally of a high, homogeneous quality as well: no negative association. Android are now starting to do this as well, as per this new announcement of a few days ago of a style guide. Believe it or not, Vodafone were doing this in 2009 with Vodafone 360 and Nokia did it with their own beta apps but that is it.
  6. Your target audience: How many people use and will pay for your service: you may get 500,000 downloads for free on one platform vs 50,000 paid for on another... quality is generally better than quantity.. (unless you are targeted on quantity, of course!)
  7. The submission, update and approval process
  8. The stats, settlement, promotion, how easy will you be to find on the store, etc
  9. what phones your analysts have (if you are quoted :))
  10. can you do it in HTML5, get the usage and adoption stats, build on what you know, not what you think... so much time, so many wasted features have been built over the years on assumption: just get it out there!
Hope this helps...

Monday, 23 January 2012

... main page archive ...

Not a lot has changed since my first posts of 2006 from the original blog below, so here is a small update as I bring it over to Blogger; when we were doing some of the first mass-distribution apps (nokia festival guides pushed to 100,000 of festival goers on over 1,000 different devices) or 2008 when we saw the iphone taking grip. Back then, everybody who went to the festival wanted the app, just not everybody could have it.

Now, everybody wants the apps, and thanks to iPhone and then android quite a few people can have them. What has changed, I hear you cry, is that its not just the odd app, there is an app for everything. To which I will answer: yes, however, even with 500,000 apps on the app store, and 100 apps on my phone, I only use a few of them on a daily basis, and they have not changed that much:
  • News and magazines have been revolutionised by the iPad, obviously, but even on smartphones, with apps like Pulse
  • PIM is generally managed by social apps these days, but also on OS
  • Entertainment has skyrocketed: doodlebug, cut the rope, angry birds, etc need no introduction, neither do ebook apps
  • Travel evolved from apps like tripit to more social environments like PIM did: foursqaure, facebook places and more... also specific apps like tubeexits and apps to check buses, trains and even Boris (BoJo) bikes are making travel that bit more civilised, unless you are travelling low-cost by air, and then you are stuffed :)
So what else? well to be honest the world is going social, and with that you have 90% of what most people use daily, and what is driving apps:
  • Smartphones
  • Mobile social networking
  • Mobile networks driving point 1, but not necessarily directly driving point 2! MNO app strategy has to diversify post Vodafone 360, Blackberry app store, Ovi and other carrier and handset manufacturer and OS providers attempts to mimic an iPhone down approach rather than focussing on their strengths and a multilateral approach to enagaging data users.
  • Interesting apps and games by interesting people, this first revolution happened when everybody embraced iOS and then Android, but will skyrocket with HTML5 giving access to everybody, not just coders, to build great (and crap!) content

Original post from 2006 on "So what is driving mobile applications":
  • Personal Information Management (PIM), as we move from a world of "this is my laptop and I cannot work until I have Outlook and Office premium edition installed" to a world of 1gb Gmail and MSN, basically our info has become centralised. trying to access this info via WAP will be, well challenging, and if you do not know your pop3 settings for your PC, why will you for your mobile: the Gmail ODP is clearly the way forward
  • News/RSS/etc. lets face it; news WAP site are terrible, and RSS is that terrible combination of boring and complicated... get with it, I would download an ODP for The Register, the FT and the BBC tomorrow, and in doing so a) visit their site more often, and b) forget their competition forever!
  • Magazines; We all have our favourite magazines, some have tried to become MVNOs, most have email newsletters to capture our imagination mid-print. However, our consumption is changing, we now forgive print for being up to 2 months out of date for a monthly magazine because of all the glossy pictures and the ability to relax on the sofa on a Sunday or on a flight thumbing the pages... but at the moment we go elsewhere for the mid-week fix, in the form of different web-sites, weekly magazines, etc. The sensible magazine would reward and keep our custom with up-to the second info on what of their mag most matters to me, you and the guy in the lounge with the same magazine as me who will be sitting in seat 2C, but needs to know about the latest gadget as or before it hits the press releases.
  • Entertainment: Calling a number and going through an IVR system is no way to order a gig or cinema ticket, and there is no graphical means of representing the purchase, or a map, or any other potentially useful information. a cinema application, lets you browse gigs and events and even bars, see where they are, read reviews and, most importantly allows people to browse and make a purchase in their own time, as well as receive info and even original media (you only get this ringtone if you order via mobile) as well as the other keepsakes like the tickets, which can be sent in the post as usual. A mobile app also allows people to browse events after hours and on the weekends, when these kind of purchase decisions are made. If you have done your research on Channels to market by personality types, MBTI, etc. you will also know that IVR/telephone only appeals to extroverts in nature, which is OK-ish in the US, where 50% of your client base will make impulse purchases via an outgoing means, but in the UK and most of Europe that is as low as 30% of your market.
  • Travel. My problem with in the late nineties, is the same problem I have with, and every other travel provider over ten years later; who wants to browse holidays on their computer? Well quite a lot it seems, however, as with entertainment above, a lot of impulse purchases would be done via mobile. Moreover, more peripheral orders would be done via mobile, such as hire car, hotels, restaurants, tours, guides, etc. As the application already knows you are going to Rome on the 12th September. However, the other day I woke up particularly early on a Saturday and decided to see if I could get a ticket to Santander, which places you in the death grip of Ryanair only if you live in London... their website could not even sell me a ticket on the same, day. Instead there was a message to ring reservations... Reservations had another message that it was out of hours and to ring a premium number... I had to ring three times to get the number down (buying golden numbers to help your customers would just be a waste of money wouldn't it!). I finally rang an extremely expensive number 3 times to be told "the other party has hung up". You may argue that if Ryanair cannot even get their web and phone channel in order, what would they do with a mobile app? That is the glass half empty approach, the glass half full is: what is Ryanair, Easyjet and even the flag carriers like British Airways, doing without a way to browse, and buy tickets via mobile in order to gain a competitive advantage, or in the case of Ryanair, to actually have a same-day channel at all!
originally posted by Christian Borrman 22:19pm 20/12/06, updated 12:56pm 15/05/08