Archive for the 'iPhone' Category

iPhone: a great companion at home too

There is general agreement that 2009 was (finally!) the year of mobile.  And there are many predictions about how important location awareness is going to be in 2010.  Agree with all that and share in the excitement.

But the thing that surprises me about my iPhone is that it has become a great in-home companion for me.  It’s pretty much always by my side or in my pocket.  Here’s some of the things I do with it at home:

  1. It has replaced my watch, my alarm clock and my kitchen timer.  It’s easier to use for all these functions.  It automatically remembers to change time zones when I go from Edmonton to Vancouver.
  2. I use it as a remote to control my Macbook connected to our TV to watch programs I’ve downloaded from iTunes.
  3. I use i.TV to look at TV listings.  I look up the sad statistics on the Edmonton Oilers.  I still check to see when their next game is despite the apparent futility of it all.
  4. I check in on Twitter and Google Reader while having my morning coffee.
  5. I bought my wife a Kindle for Christmas.  This lead to me downloading the iPhone Kindle app.  Now I read books on it too – surprisingly good at this.
  6. I use Skype to make phone calls.  I can wander around the house and make a cup of coffee while on a call.  This is the way Skype was meant to be deployed  (And not to worry – I refrain from using the washroom.)
  7. I get directions to a place before I go out to it.
  8. I look stuff up.  Often.  Weather.  Stock prices.  What something is.  Where some place is.
  9. I listen to music on it (through one of those sound system docks) – most often with last.fm.
  10. I send and receive email; update or check my schedule; see what’s happening on Facebook.

Let me know in the comments what else you do with your smart phone at home?  I know my son plays games on his while at home.  I do that sometimes as well – but to be honest it’s not a primary use case for me.

I’m thinking there is a lot of ‘untapped’ potential in the smart phone as an ‘in-home companion’.

Welcome to 2010.

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Apple: Purveyor of Remote Controls for Our Lives

Last week Apple marched on announcing price reductions across the iPod line and various new features.  The highlight was the addition of a camera and FM radio to the iPod Nano.  They high-lighted the importance of the iPod Touch (an iPhone without the phone) as a gaming platform.  The technocrati responded with a collective yawn — since there wasn’t anything sensational announced.

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To me it seemed like a well executed release of incremental products as part of a clear long-term strategy: Apple wants to the the dominant supplier of the remote controls for our lives.

Mobile devices allow us to interact with the virtual world while simultaneously interacting in the real world.  In fact, with the coming explosion of Augmented Reality applications – the line between the real world and the virtual one is becoming increasingly blurred.  Mobile devices allow us to consume media, produce media and communicate with people.

In Apple’s case, the original iPod focused on the consumption side of the equation – allowing us to consume first music, then videos.  The ability to further consume media has been expanded to include games and the internet.  What’s more, many applications are creating brand new categories of things for us to consume – like specialized maps and services such as navigation.

Of course, the iPhone also supports the creation of media and communication in many different ways.  Some of these – such as voice and text – are traditional mobile features – while others are again enabled by the App eco-system – think Facebook and Skype.

The iPhone is the all-singing, all-dancing remote for our lives, followed closely by the iPod touch.  But these devices are expensive — so Apple has to provide less capable devices at other price points – at least for the time being.  The thing about technology is that it’s only a matter of time before iPhone capabilities become available at truly mainstream prices.

So, the significance of the new iPod Nano is simply that Apple has expanded this mass market device into one that is now capable of capturing and sharing media as well as consuming it.  In some ways, this can be seen as a pragmatic interim step.  One which extends Apple’s reach as the purveyor of remote controls while holding firm on a well understood price point.

I sometimes wonder why Apple doesn’t introduce more of an ‘entry-level’ iPhone.  I think perhaps the answer is that they don’t have to — they simply have to wait for the economics of silicon to get there instead.  When the time comes, people will gladly ditch their cell phones for a shiny new remote control for their lives.  In the mean time, they can satisfy themselves with Apple’s partial remotes.

In Mobile: More Menus Less Search

Mobile Applications on the iPhone are increasingly emphasizing the use of menus over (or in addition to) search boxes providing quick access to frequently needed items.  This has implications for how we need to think about advertising in the mobile, local environment.  I’ll present a few examples of the ‘menu trend’ and then discuss the advertising implications.

Exhibit Number One: Mapquest 4 Mobile

The new Mapquest application for the iPhone features a menu of items you are likely to need while out and about.  You can turn them on or off.  This is a simple, slick and effective approach — the best one I’ve seen so far.

The Mapquest 4 Mobile menu bar

The Mapquest 4 Mobile menu bar

Exhibit Number Two: Where

Where was one of the first local search applications on the iPhone and has always emphasized a menu based approach with an eclectic collection of applications — though one of the options is search.

Where iPhone App Showing Service Stations

Where iPhone App Showing Service Stations

The thing I like better about the MapQuest approach is that I can turn multiple layers on or off — though it’s easy enough to change selections within Where.

Aside: I selected the Bing ad and it took me to a screen showing the weather for Toronto.  I’m in Edmonton.  And every Canadian already resents Toronto centric things.  Fail.

Yelp: A Bit More Old School

The Yelp home screen also utilize a menu based approach.  It’s a bit boring and feels like a return to some of those awful early generation mobile apps.  It’s effective, but something like the MapQuest approach where I could actually see what nearby means would probably be better.  In fairness, Yelp’s emphasis is on presenting you with the review content.

Yelp Home Screen

Yelp Home Screen

An Advertising Perspective

This menu based emphasis presents new advertising opportunities.   One potential approach, is to ‘sell’ featured or sponsored locations.  Looking at the configuration screen of Mapquest’s app, I’d say they are already well down the path on this — notice the branded entities — and lots of space for more of them!

Brand advertising in MapQuest 4 Mobile?

Brand advertising in MapQuest 4 Mobile?

Epicurious: Another Menu Based Approach to Advertising

Epicurious recently launched a very interesting application for the iPhone.  It let’s you browse recipes and then create shopping lists for your trip to the grocery store.  Nice!

They’ve integrated brand advertising in a very nice way:

Brand advertising in the Epicurious iPhone app

Brand advertising in the Epicurious iPhone app

The bottom item in the menu has branded recipes from Stella Artois.  Local advertising – in the form of places where you can actually pick up those ingredients or perhaps coupons seems like a logical extension.

Augmented Reality as a Form of Menu

The evolution of Augmented Reality that I wrote about in my previous post can also be seen as a very clever way of overlaying menus.


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