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!
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.
With the launch of the Miramax Facebook App that enables streaming rental of some of their titles, it brings up a number of fascinating elements to consider. As we see the rush on video distribution formats that enable consumers to consume however they want – whenever they want, Facebook adds a new dimension that could have future implications in more ways than just watching a movie here or there.
You can check out the limited details about the release here, but these are some of those things to keep an eye on as we move further into the experiment.
- Forget about second-screen application that utilize Facebook Connect to enable conversation during movies. This application has the ability, if done correctly, to have everything happen within the same interface.
- Not just related to this Miramax deal, by being web-based, they are able to leverage the cloud and truly make the anytime, anywhere (with a connection) more seamless than other digital video streaming options out there – with an already-huge user base. The user conversion expense should be mitigated to just internal communications. And, the incremental costs of streaming should also not be as hard of a hit that other video streaming sites feel due to Facebook’s already huge traffic threshold.
- A fantastic component that provides a “wait and see” mentality is the fact that they are promoting this as an iPad feature – but only within an optimized web-version that can be viewed via the Safari browser on the iPad. It is an ingenious way to get around the 30% revenue split with Apple. The wait and see part is that we don’t know whether the quality will be consistently good with streaming/connectivity concerns and the lack of an iOS-native interface. Additionally, we are seeing a bifurcation of quality tastes among users – some wanting great HD quality and some not really caring at all.
- Another look toward the future is in the handling of the payments for this product. The option of paying $3 or 30 Facebook credits enables consumers to use virtual currency for even more goods. A key factor of this is when it comes to profit participation. How do you share that profit when it is a FB credit that might have been accrued by the user for participating in other marketing functions – where there was never any monetary transaction? Another interesting aside to this is that a user could ostensibly “earn” the currency to pay for this by watching videos or trailers from other studios. Certainly an interesting dynamic.
- We know that Facebook does not let anything slide by them in terms of capturing information about consumer usage and tastes. An embedded video player adds depth to their knowledge base about each consumer – how much they watch, what they watch, when they watch, etc. For a company that wanted to shy away from advertising at its inception, they have become masters in pulling as much information as possible to enable them to target successfully and charge for it – privacy be damned.
Ultimately, there are a LOT of business complexities that need to be shaken out in the realm of online movies – both in viewing and distribution platforms. Facebook is uniquely positioned to be the bellweather for how consumers want to consume video online due to their penetration and technical prowess. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to learn from consumer reaction to any and all of the elements listed above and move forward.
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Application, Consumers, Digital Media, Distribution, Facebook, Facebook Connect, Facebook Credits, iOS, iPad, Miramax, Movies, Safari, Streaming Video, Video
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…
Over breakfast with Ted Cohen this morning, he showed me an app on his iPad called Tour Wrist. I had seen a video of the offering before, but it didn’t convey how cool it really is. It seemed like the other 360 degree views that have been around for years with widely varying executional success. Upon seeing it on Ted’s iPad, I was excited because I thought it was a function of anyone taking their iPad out and capturing all the imagery so that they could share it and others move their iPad to see exactly what the phtographer saw. Alas, I was thinking in a blue-sky dreamland. It requires a 360 camera set up, so unless you have an app and extension for that, you won’t be sharing your images from your trip to Hawaii in this fashion.
When viewing on an iPad or other mobile device, it is truly cool as you pivot yourself and the device and it looks as if it is a window into the other location. It’s something that has been talked about with AR apps for iOS, but this one works really nicely – having nothing to do with setting anchor points in the live environment like many mobile AR executions require.
Here’s the thing, if you go to their site, it does a bad job of showcasing the user experience. It shows people moving around with their iPads and iPhones, but it doesn’t take the time to show how they truly interact with the content on the devices. While it does go into more detail about the interface, it doesn’t convey the interaction and the people shown at the beginning and end of the slick video come off as seemingly “off-balanced”, excessively happy people.
There are already a number of companies using the app to show off locations, cars, etc. and they look nice, but here’s where the Tour Wrist can take it to the next level:
- Effectively create an API so that this feature can be embedded in a company’s existing app or site – where the gyrometer functionality can still be used. It’s too daunting to try to get consumers to download an app that just shows images this way – it’s not worth it to most…Make it an offering that does not require another app download.
- Allow brands/advertisers to add notes to elements of the image to provide further details. An example would be for the automaker to add tech specs close to the speedometer. Or, a hotel pointing out the included free snack bar amenities.
- Hopefully, complete the development required for capturing the entire image from the device for the sharing of home-made experiences.
This could be quite successful for some larger brands and events, but a much slower uptake for use in general marketing. Granted, if Peter Jackson were to do this with some of the set pieces of the HOBBIT that he is filming right now, I am sure there will be a HUGE spike in downloads of the app…
Check out details at Tour Wrist and make your own judgements.