It seems that many apps and digital offerings have been updated since the beginning of the year – and an interesting trend has taken shape. What once was so wonderfully free – with few ad breaks and just slightly more privacy – has turned the corner and has become, well… less. Additionally, a huge sector of mobile users that excitedly upgraded to Android 4.3 before the end of the year have only further lamented the multitude of issues they’ve encountered since (with battery life reducing drastically being a consistent theme). All of this leads to the question – To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade? Unfortunately, in many instances, the consumer never gets the chance to question and the brand is damned to stumble.
The gray area is meant to have content served within.
In the case of ESPN, they chose to re-brand their scores and news app to be more aligned with their colossal SportsCenter brand – changing it from Scorecenter to SportsCenter. That change makes sense – as does the twitter feed from their on-air personalities. What’s more challenging is that the app is much more volatile (see above) with nothing showing much of the time. Even more annoying is the fact that users now have to log in or register in order to automatically keep track of their favorite teams. For most, this might not be an issue, but for those trying to hold on to the last piece of privacy, that component might be a deal breaker. The fact that there’s now far more advertising with page overlays and in-feed ads only adds salt to the wound.
Diminished revenue generation is definitely an issue for all content providers, but it will be interesting to see how conversion plays out as more and more previously free apps move into the paid model. Since the new year, at least 4 of my news apps have moved behind a paywall – with only headlines available for free – rendering it useless. Hopefully, we’ll soon see the ramifications – one way or the other – on this change soon. We’ll definitely see if people have an appetite for paying in multiple places for content.
Even in the free realm, questionable choices have been made:
- ABC force upgraded the app leaving users with a lot less content choices and a lot more ill will. Checking the ratings on the App Store and Google Play shows a very large distaste for something that was the standard bearer for innovative video presentation. With the previous usage and inability to skip through commercials, it made sense. Who knows what will happen now.
- Yahoo! changed their mobile product to supposedly simplify their content delivery. The only problem is that the UI leads one to believe that if they click on search, they’ll be able to search within the category (i.e.,Entertainment, Sports, Life), only to find that it takes them out of the app environment and to their general search interface.
- Sporting News is struggling to keep from crashing as they deal with issues stemming from iOS 7 in their newest update. The fix might come with the supposed release of iOS 7.1 in March, but that brings us to the next issue.
With all of the concerns users have with upgrading already – and the worries of what they will have to learn or not have access to – is the update to iOS 7.1 or Android’s 4.4 KitKat one that people will venture into widely or quickly? Microsoft is having it’s own issues getting consumers to upgrade Windows OS – especially as people realized how much was still left to be done with each release. Is the same lack of concern for the user experience – and the interest of meeting ambiguous deadlines worthwhile for consumers who are quick to pull the trigger and move elsewhere? A concern is that, among developers, there is an excuse permeating that everyone expects issues. How sad is that?
The debate can continue as to whether it’s human nature to always want the new bright and shiny object. But, it is pretty clear cut that when forced to the new, something good should be delivered. If companies/brands keep forcing the issue, they might be damned to losing the loyalty of those who just want to keep interacting the way they always have.
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged ABC, Android, App Store, Apps, Brand, Consumer, Conversion, Delivery, Digital, ESPN, Feed, Google Play, iOS, iOS 7, KitKat, Microsoft, Mobile, Paywall, Revenue, ScoreCenter, Sporting News, SportsCenter App, Technology, Transactions, UI, Upgrade, Windows, Yahoo!
Throughout the recent iMedia Video Summit, there were many mentions about penetration, reach, targeting, disruption and scale, but the discussions about actual audience experiences or emotional connections were limited. The question pertaining to what the user would get out of the impressions was usually answered with a reading of stats, samplings and other tidbits, but nothing conveying the emotional connection – no matter how hard that is to quantify. Even in the section with the creatives shown, there were some cool looking things and some stats. But many didn’t marry the the impressions/penetration numbers with the user experience to enable us to delve deeper into what the benefit of the perfect storm of good placement and good creative. Just yesterday, there were a couple of announcements that related to the same ideal for mobile – additional inventory available for reaching consumers with the question of the user’s experience. Because of the user experience related to these platforms, should these mobile bits of ad inventory be leveraged?
Ipsos recently posed the questions to consumers whether they would prefer to receive SMS messages to their mobile or emails to the in-box. 75% said they would prefer the latter. It used to be more of a legal issue as people had to pay for each SMS message they received or sent. Therefore, companies could find themselves in trouble as users were effectively paying to receive their spam. Now that many mobile providers offer unlimited packages for text and then cap their access to data before charging more, some might think its better to send SMS messages. The thing is, that while there might be a cost difference for the consumer in the free text/limited data model above, the real question comes down to user experience and preferences. SMS is more intrusive and is the norm for getting communications from friends – not from businesses.
Courtesy of Conduit
Along the same lines, Conduit has announced their new product that allows for graphic – and even app – placements on mobile lock-screens. Currently, they are just touting the availability for Android phones through a downloadable App. The future could see opportunities to provide free phones in exchange for this type of inventory being locked to the phone. Other than that, I would be hard-pressed to see there being a demand to download these just so one could have ads pushed to them whenever they go to unlock their screen. The exception might be if the user can select something like a sports app that shows their team’s scores at the onset. Currently, the only thing similar for most people is when they see SMS messages easily. That functionality is generally seen as a benefit to the user – will ads be felt in the same way?
In both, the consideration clearly needs to be focused on the end-user. There may be situations that are perfect for serving out advertising using this type of inventory. It could just depend on what you’re pushing out. There might also be a high risk factor to turning people off. Interestingly, in the Ipsos study, they found that there are some markets that would absolutely prefer to receive SMS messages rather than emails.
Ultimately, it’s not about how you put it out there. It’s about your audience and how they would most want to accept the message. You might have the coolest or most beautiful execution ever, but if the audience perceives it as being too invasive, you’ve lost. Just because you’ve got some open space to tout some wares doesn’t mean that you should jump on it.
Posted in Core
Tagged Advertising, Android, App, Conduit, iMedia Video Summit, Innovation, Ipsos, Lock-Screen, Marketing, Media, Mobile, SMS, Strategy, Text Messaging
The OS race is running neck and neck with Android Smartphones nearing the 50% point. Certainly, the iOS platform is sexier and more consistent for developers of apps, but the adoption of Android and iOS has highlighted what a huge mistake RIM made. Due to meetings and travel, this post is essentially just a repost of Steve Smith’s MediaPost blog entry. The numbers are good to know and we will see what happens when iPhone 5 comes out – supposedly in a few weeks. What can’t be dismissed is that all of Android is across multiple handset and manufacturers, while all iOS is on Apple manufactured phones. The market share of Apple with both phones and tablets will continue to grow as no other tablet products have gained any traction as of yet. Perhaps the biggest challenge emanating from Android OS growth is just how much more complicated app developers’ work will be as the Android OS display is far from standardized. All phones running Android are certainly not equal – while most iPhone and iPad users would say all iOS units are equal only amongst themselves, ahead in the race – and working to keep it that way. Certainly, we can all learn a thing or two from the distant follower in this pack, RIM. Read on…
If raw reach was the strategy, then Google’s open-platform mobile OS running across multiple OEM hardware and carriers is performing according to plan. The latest Nielsen survey of U.S. consumers shows that the Android may be a friendly monster robot, but it is eating the market. Among those polled, 43% now own a phone based on the Google mobile OS. And the momentum is with the platform. Among those who have purchased a smartphone in the last three months, 56% bought an Android model.
Apple continues to hold its market share by strategically expanding its base with new carriers and major hardware launches. Nielsen pegs the iPhone with 28% of the market right now, and also 28% of those who recently purchased phones.
Of course if you look at the Apple market share more in terms of iOS and its reach across millions of iPads and iPod Touches, then the perspective changes and Apple has a tremendous growth story.
The smartphone march continues as well. We are fast approaching the 50% tipping point, with 43% of current phone owners having a smartphone and 56% of last-quarter buyers getting these models.
The big loser in this two-OS race is the usual suspect, beleaguered Research in Motion, whose once-dominant BlackBerry OS is now down to an 18% share. The trending for BlackBerry is just atrocious; nabbing only 9% of recent buyers.
In decades to come, there will be reverse case studies written about RIM. From dismissing the importance of the touch screen early on to mistaking its email dominance with enterprise IT its ace in the hole, few companies in modern corporate history have blown a lead so thoroughly and quickly as these guys.
In what seems like either a strong or last-gasp move by RIM to remain relevant for just a bit longer – and attempt to compete (or merely survive) with the Android and iOS smartphones that have worked together to decimate their market share – they announced they will be allowing Android Apps within new models. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear that its going to be enough.
RIM (Research in Motion) are the makers of BlackBerrys – the ubiquitous communication device for businesses only a short few years ago. They are still relative favorites of IT departments due to their secure interface with Enterprise solutions. The problem for them is that iPhones and Androids are so much more popular due to the applications that are available and their user interfaces. While RIM has provided some nice BlackBerrys with solid UI, there is just not enough development of essential apps for their platform. Developers have long lamented the challenges of programming for and distributing of BlackBerry apps. So, they mainly stopped. The Apple App Store and Android Market products dwarf the BlackBerry App World inventory.
With the addition of Android app integration in the QNX operating system they are set to release next year, they certainly solve some issues. But, the larger issue is how many people already have or had BlackBerrys and the move to iOS or Android is already made. RIM had less than stellar sales on their tablets and it begs the question whether they can still be relevant.
One of RIMs successes was their security that made IT professionals comfortable with it. By including Google’s Android products, they are possibly opening themselves up to the malware attacks that hit the Android Market recently.
It will be interesting to see if this move was also to entice Google to acquire RIM – something that has been buzzing through the blogosphere recently, but now less likely after Google’s Motorola Mobility pending acquisition.
So, while there are strong merits to the move, I feel they waited too long to make this shift. If there were a software upgrade to existing phones, it would certainly help – who knows if that will ultimately come. Heading into a weekend, I don’t want to post something stupid about RIM and gRIM reaper, so I won’t. I don’t see this as anything more than something to prolong the death – or M&A from a larger company – but I’ve been wrong before…
At the Telco 2.0 New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm in Palo Alto last month (The EMEA version takes place this week in London), the focus was more on the barriers between different telcos all having a relatively more standard system in relation to mobile apps – and more importantly to telcos, how can they monetize the app world. There was discussion regarding programming differences between iOS and Android, but it was more focused on the sharing of basic information that can make development and deployment easier across the telco spectrum.
At the conference, I posed the rhetorical question of what it would take to tear down the walls that are put in the way of developers as they try to deploy apps across multiple carriers and mltiple platforms. Not surprisingly, there was not much of an attempt to answer – but that’s not the biggest concern…
The golden egg that is yet to be developed is the magic technology that allows solid porting from iOS developed apps to Android and vice-versa AND solves the versioning issue across all Android devices.
What most clients (or people in general) don’t realize is that its not a matter of flipping a switch to release a product on all mobile operating system and all devices – there’s a bit of coding difference and a lot of tracking to make sure that the product is updated with all operating system and handset updates.
This latest report on smartphones tells only part of the story from both the clients and developer’s POV:
- Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone platform continue to gain on Research In Motion in the smartphone market in the U.S., according to ComScore. Google’s Android smartphone share rose to 34.7% in March, up from 33% in Feb., while Apple’s remained flat at 25% of the market.
Top Smartphone Platforms - Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers Ages 13+
3 Month Avg. Ending Mar. 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Dec. 2010
Share (%) of Smartphone Subscribers
Dec-10 Mar-11 Point Change________
Total Smartphone Subs 100.0% 100.0% N/A
Google 28.7% 34.7% 6.0
RIM 31.6% 27.1% -4.5
Apple 25.0% 25.5% 0.5
Microsoft 8.4% 7.5% -0.9
Palm 3.7% 2.8% -0.9
Source: comScore MobiLens
iPhone is 25% of the market and Android is now 34.7%. That would be easier to deal with if that 34.7% of androids were all the same – but they are sometimes completely different. There are certainly differences between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 (not to mention the unknowns in the upcoming iPhone 5) that the developers need to continue development on throughout the app or product’s lifespan, but at this point, that upkeep is much easier.
The cost of doing something across all platforms is a chellenge that will continue for the foreseeable future and, with that, companies should plan ahead. They should plan ahead by realizing that the development is not one-size-fits-all and prepare for the additional costs that come with that. And, unless they want to show off their app to someone and risk having it not work because it wasn’t updated, they need to assume that there will be incremental costs for as long as the product exists.
There are definitely other opstacles in Mobile App Development, but the knowledge about development costs and maintenance can remove one of the biggest ones – even if it really is just chipping through until a bigger and better solution comes along…