Archive for the ‘fragmentation’ tag
When Fanhattan launched its iPad app last year, it had just four content sources to choose from. With the latest release of its app, being launched today, Fanhattan’s now got content from 14 different providers, including some new cable TV offerings from networks like NBC, HBO, The CW, and Cinemax.
The whole point of the Fanhattan app is to provide a way for users to search for and browse content across a wide range of content providers without jumping back and forth through their apps. Fanhattan seeks to defeat fragmentation by aggregating content from multiple sources and displaying it side-by-side.
To do that, it hooks into different content providers’ iPad apps — like apps from Netflix, Hulu Plus, and now cable networks like HBO GO — and lets viewers find the shows or movies they want to watch, without worrying which apps that content is available through. So if you search for Modern Family, for instance, Fanhattan will show you available episodes from Hulu Plus, ABC, and iTunes.
With new content, Fanhattan is also adding new ways to discover and access the movies and shows you want to see. Altogether, there’s more than 175,000 movies and TV shows available through Fanhattan, so managing what you want to watch becomes a new challenge. For the first time, the Fanhattan app lets users add content to a watchlist, which they can use to save content for later.
Interestingly enough, it doesn’t even have to be content that is available on the iPad for viewers to add it to a watchlist. You can add future movies, for instance, like movies that are coming out next year. When they become available, either in theaters or through various online services, you’ll receive a notification telling you where you can watch those titles.
The Fanhattan app also lets you browse through content that your friends have liked or added to their own watchlists, thanks to integration with Facebook’s Open Graph. And when you add a movie or TV show to your watchlist, it will be shared with Facebook friends, so long as you’ve tagged social sharing on.
I got a demo of the new app from Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa in the video above. If you want to see how the app actually works, check it out!
The ubiquity of handsets and tablets may have helped mobile gain the attention of top brands and agencies, but it’s the impact of its advertising that is securing its place in the advertising mix. As shown by Medialets’ recently published mobile ad benchmarks, mobile rich media advertising in particular is proving to deliver exceptional metrics — the kind of numbers that can make even digital advertising blush.
Of course, mobile’s buzz-worthy performance isn’t guaranteed just because you have allocated budget to the smaller screen. Success requires a well orchestrated campaign — a smart media plan, thoughtful creative, battle-tested mobile-ready ad technology, and, last but not least, the right approach to measurement.
To ensure you’re on the most direct path to mobile success, we’ve rounded up some best practices to keep in mind as you embark on your next (or first) mobile rich media campaign.
Establish key performance metrics early on
You can’t measure your campaign until after it starts running, but that does not mean you should wait to define your measurement strategy. Key performance metrics will inform every step of your campaign execution, particularly creative. Define them in the earliest stages of your campaign — during planning and buying — and ensure that every person involved in the execution understands what those metrics are. When KPIs are established and universally understood, you’ll be better positioned to execute a campaign that will meet your goals.
Know what can be measured
Mobile rich media advertising is exceptionally measurable, providing standard metrics such as impressions, click-through rate, engagement rate, and every interaction within the creative. It’s important to understand what metrics are available to you and how those metrics may differ based on the technology or ad formats you choose. For example, if you’re running an expanding banner, will expand rate be measured? Or, will you be able to measure the percent of users that completed all or part of the videos in your ad? Can you measure what products are most often tapped on in your gallery? Find out what reporting is available to you to tell the story of your ad’s success. And, per step one above, do it early on in the campaign for best results.
Seek out consistent, cross-platform metrics
It’s no secret that the mobile landscape is complex. Different operating systems and versions, device types (like handsets and tablets), and properties (like mobile apps and websites) introduce variables that can make ad creation, serving, and measurement tricky. But don’t fight fragmentation with fragmentation; when you choose different solutions to accommodate different mobile devices, you end up with a different set of metrics for each segment. Spare yourself the nightmare of conflicting spreadsheets and seek out a solution that can provide one set of metrics for your campaigns across devices, operating systems, mobile sites, apps, and so on.
Don’t rely solely on click-through as a success metric
Click-through is a valuable metric, but it shouldn’t be the singular focus of your campaign performance. Rich media ads enable users to perform a host of different actions that bring value to the brand experience. A successful measurement strategy makes it possible for you to share the details on not just whether or not an impression generated a click-through to a landing page, but also the nature, depth, and length of time a user was engaged by the creative. If you’re only reporting on click-through, you miss out on the opportunity to tell a more interesting, comprehensive story.
Embrace engagement rate
Engagement rate, the “power metric” of mobile rich media, measures whether or not an impression generated a desired action. The beauty of engagement rate is that the desired action could be anything that happens in the ad, from playing a video to tapping an image gallery or shaking the device. For example, a recent ad for Johnny Walker Blue Label ran on The New York Times invited users to digitally engrave a bottle for Father’s Day. (Users could then order that engraved bottle as a gift.) Another recent campaign for Mazda CX-5 prompted users to slide to “x-ray” the vehicle. In each case, when a user performed the core action — digitally engraving the bottle or sliding to x-ray the vehicle — an engagement was counted. In this way, engagement rate provides a standard metric by which to measure non-standard activity, making it easier to get a high-level view into the success of a creative and compare performance across different creatives.
Mobile rich media ads may be the new kid on the block, but that doesn’t mean that its measurement should be daunting. By following these basic practices, you’ll be better positioned not only to succeed in mobile rich media advertising, but also to share the story of that success.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
“Success speedometer” image via Shutterstock.
If you’re an Android geek, you’re probably sick of hearing about Android’s “fragmentation” problem. If you have a non-Nexus Android phone, you’re probably even sicker of dealing with it. We’ve heard promises from Google time and time again, but it’s time to bite the bullet and accept that for us Android geeks, the Nexus is the only phone worth buying. More »
A little confessional today:
So I’m teaching a five-week “Intro to Ad Copywriting” class at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. It’s only a five-session course, part of a “Summer Boot Camp” for the business. It’s not much time. So we’re starting with the basics: Headline writing, concepting, making persuasive arguments. We’ll move into visual thinking, writing for the web and radio/video later on. Really though, that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what today’s copywriters need to know to be successful.
I’m starting to think that teaching the basics, in this era of so much fragmentation, is a little like walking my students to an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m the one who has to give them a fork, a knife, and a plate. Otherwise, they can’t go any further.
A while back on Talent Zoo I asked the question, Are the Fundamentals of Advertising Fundamental Anymore?. And the truth is, I have no idea. Some of the best ideas in advertising and marketing, if you believe what you read and what’s getting awarded, has little to do with the art of copywriting.
But I gotta start somewhere. Right? What would you want aspiring copywriters to know?
Microsoft made a boatload of announcements today regarding Windows Phone 8, its new mobile operating system coming this fall. And it’s clear the company is making a huge push to get more developers involved with the platform.
See, if it gets the developers, it gets the awesome apps. And if it gets the apps, it can (possibly) get the users — an audience that’s so far been sorely lacking for Windows Phone.
In a developer and press preview, the company showed off eight big platform features and two major changes in how Windows Phone will work for developers. So we reached out to a few Windows Phone developers to see how these changes will affect their experience and business.
One kernel to rule them all… ish
First things first, Microsoft is making some big claims about compatibility between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. In fact, an executive said the two platforms share a common kernel and that the same code could run on both. (The old Windows Phone OS had a kernel based on the Windows CE kernel.)
Developers are decidedly undecided about what this means in theory and in practice.
“It’s not necessarily PR fluff, but it isn’t anything new. With Windows Phone 7 and XNA, you could target PC, WP7 and Xbox 360 with the same project,” said Tyler Schacht, who develops a successful video poker app for Windows Phone and iOS.
Josh Smith, a developer who works on the Windows Phone platform at Appsmyth, further noted that regardless of operating system (theoretical) interoperability, a mobile app would still need specific development and design.
“The desktop and mobile devices are fundamentally different forms of interaction, and there is very little to be had in common. Mobile apps are about unique interfaces, utilizing interesting technology (like the mobile wallet in the Windows Phone which provides the potential of a brand new loyalty experience), and creating an engaging experience on the go,” said Smith. “That simply does not replicate into a desktop app if you’ve designed your mobile app correctly.”
Still, Smith said, the new kernel means new benefits. “The new kernel can run native code, which means better performance… The old CE kernel couldn’t support some hardware easily. The new kernel will make it possible to offer more hardware than was previously available.”
Native code in C++/C
Another big announcement today was that Windows Phone developers would be able to write apps and games in C++/C — a particular boon for game developers.
“Existing high-powered game engines can come across to Windows Phone with ease,” said Matt Cavanagh, another Windows Phone dev. “Lots of game companies didn’t want to rewrite their whole codebase (and in some case couldn’t because of the lack of native access).” The result was fewer Windows Phone games and a smear on Windows Phone’s image in game-dev circles.
“The problem… with WP7 was that is was lacking the big-name apps that iOS and Android users were used to,” Schacht concurred. “Sure, Microsoft supported (or ‘sponsored’, in my opinion) apps like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, but now we could see many more ‘tri-platform’ titles without direct intervention from Microsoft.”
Schacht also noted that game engines and frameworks such as Corona SDK and Unity can now be ported to Windows Phone 8. “This will make it much easier for existing apps on iOS and Android to be released on Windows Phone 8,” he said.
Smith said the new languages (not to mention the lovely Metro UI style) may also serve as iOS dev bait to lure Apple fan-devs into the dark side.
“This is generally a lot easier for developers than developing on the traditional Windows platforms,” he said. “Developing in C/C++ means people with Objective-C experience can pretty easily cross the gap and Windows Phone can be supported by an already established iOS team that is willing to learn some new conventions.”
Fighting Apple and Google for developers’ time
Overall, we were pretty impressed with Microsoft’s bid to win developers’ time and attention. Today’s presentation was glossy as all get-out, and the executives gave us plenty to be excited about.
But can Windows Phone 8 compete with Android’s popularity (and money-making potential) or Apple’s “it just works” magic between the desktop and mobile experiences? More importantly, can it avoid pitfalls such as fragmentation and stagnation?
For many devs, even ones who have had success on Windows Phone in the recent past, WP8 is still a “wait and see” platform.
“Microsoft may be aiming to avoid the fragmentation in the future, but they badly fumbled the ball with WP7,” said Schacht. “As of this announcement, every WP7 phone sold is technically ‘last gen’.” And none of those phones will be able to run Windows Phone 8, we were told by Microsoft this morning.
“One of our biggest pain points right now is developing across all manner of different Android devices and versions,” said Smith, echoing other’s hopes that tight links between desktop and mobile operating systems would lead to Windows continuity across all devices.
“Windows 8 is a sufficient improvement on earlier variants that we will begin to develop for it shortly,” he said. “If anything, this makes it easier for us as we can use some of our iOS talent to support and don’t have to worry quite as much about the lower installed user base that Windows Mobile had to deal with.”
That small Windows Phone 7 userbase is a boon according to Cavanagh, as well “They can easily discontinue all WP7 devices right now while they have around 1 percent of the market, and there will be very little backlash,” he said. “The alternative would be to waste money trying to support the old stuff. I’m all for them killing off the older hardware, and think it will go a long way to avoid fragmentation.”
Overall, today’s announcements “could drastically help the app ecosystem, which is where WP7 is lacking ‘curb appeal,’” said Schacht. Getting devs on Microsoft’s side is, indeed, a huge part of making the platform a hit with consumers, but it can be a chicken-egg scenario (devs don’t want to build apps for ghost-town platforms; users don’t want to buy phones without great apps).
“It is apparent that Microsoft realizes it still needed some big changes to compete with the big two,” Schacht continued. “Some of these changes are painful (especially to those who currently use WP7), and the future will tell if they will pay dividends.”
Design is determining the winners in everything mobile. The most successful players are focusing on one thing: How to make products, services, and devices as compelling and delightful as possible – visually, and experientially. MobileBeat 2012, July 10-11 in San Francisco , is assembling the most elite minds to debate how UI/UX is transforming every aspect of the mobile economy, and where the opportunities lie. Register here.
When iOS started to gain momentum, soon after the first iPhone launched, many businesses started to pay attention to apps. The number of apps for iOS grew exponentially, and every company, big and small, rushed to create their own app to support their business.
For some time, iOS was the only platform you really had to care about. The audience was there. For a few years now, there has been another player in the market. Android’s marketshare growth has been phenomenal, and it simply cannot be ignored anymore. There are over 200 million Android users in the world—almost double the numer of iOS users. For businesses, reaching the Android crowds is potentially a very lucrative investment.
Android as a platform can appear intimidating to new players. Blogs and media are littered with articles about Android fragmentation and malware. The Android platform can feel complex, although it is very flexible. However, before getting started with an Android project, understanding the platform and ecosystem is imperative. Trying to apply the methods and tools that work on other platforms could lead to disaster.
In this article, we’ll explain parts of the application-building process and ecosystem for Android that could cause problems if misunderstood. We’ll talk about an approach to building a scalable app that looks and feels right at home on Android, and we’ll cover how to test it and your options for distributing it. The following topics would each need a full article to be explained fully, but this article should provide a good overview. After reading this article, you should have a good understanding of what kinds of decisions and challenges you will face when creating an Android app.
Make The App Scalable
Android devices come in many forms and sizes. The last official count is that 600 Android devices are available, and that number is growing every day. Building an app that runs on all of them is more difficult than building for just one or two screen sizes and one set of hardware. Fortunately, Android was built from the ground up with this in mind. The framework provides tools to help developers tackle the problem. But as with all tools, they only work if used correctly.
An iOS app is designed and built by placing pixels at the proper coordinates until the UI looks just right. Not so on Android! Android designers must think about the scalability of each component and the relationships between components. The philosophy is much closer to Web app design than to iOS app design.
A Continuum Instead Of A Separate Tablet UI
About half a year ago, Google rushed out the Android version named Honeycomb (3.0). Honeycomb was aimed at tablets and was never meant for anything else. The source code of Honeycomb was never released, and it never officially appeared on any phones. At the time, Apple had already established a practice by which developers provided two separate versions of their app, one for iPhone and one for iPad. Because of Apple’s model and the separate Android version for tablets, everyone seemed to assume that two separate versions of an app are needed on Android, too. Soon, the Internet was full of blog posts complaining that Android didn’t have enough tablet apps and that there was no way to search for them on the Google Play store.
Now, as Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) is unifying all Android devices to run the same version of the OS, it all makes sense. Android is a continuum, and drawing a clear line between tablets and phones is impossible. In fact, checking whether an app is running on a tablet or phone is technically impossible. Checking the screen size (and many other features) at runtime, however, is possible.
This is where Android design starts to remind us of Web design. New technologies have enabled us to build websites that adapt automatically to the user’s browser size by scaling and moving components around as needed. This approach is called responsive Web design. The very same principles can be used on Android. On Android, however, we are not bound by the limits of the browser. Responsive design can be taken even further.
Responsive Android Design
Android developers can define multiple layouts for every screen of their app, and the OS will pick the best-fitting one at runtime. The OS knows which one fits best by using definitions that developers add to their layout (and other) folders in the app’s project resource tree.
Starting from Android version 3.2 — and, therefore, also on Ice Cream Sandwich — a more fine-grained approach was introduced. Developers may now define layouts based on the screen’s pixel density, independent of size, instead of using only the few categories that were available before.
An example of the new layout specifications based on screen size. It is very similar to CSS’ media queries. Android’s documentation has more details.
Using Fragments to Implement Responsive Design
Fragments are the building blocks of Android UIs. They can be programmed either to be standalone screens or to be displayed with other fragments; but the most powerful ones are both, depending on the device that the app is running on. This enables us not only to rearrange the fragments but to move them deeper into the activity stack. Dan McKenzie has written about issues related to designing for big Android screens.
Make The App Look And Feel Android-Like
Consistency with other apps on the same platform is more important for an app’s look and feel than consistency with the same developer’s apps on other platforms. Having the look and feel of apps from a different platform will make the app feel foreign and make users unhappy.
(Remember to read Google’s Android Design guidelines.)
In Android apps, tabs should always be on top. This convention was established and is driven by Google’s design of its apps and by guidelines from advocates of Android development. Putting the tabs on top makes scaling an app to larger screen sizes easier. Putting tabs at the bottom of a tablet-sized UI wouldn’t make sense.
Navigating between top-positioned tabs on a phone with a large screen can be difficult, especially when the person is using only one hand. The solution is to enable the user to swipe between tabs. This interaction model is not new, but in its latest release, Google has made it commonplace in Android apps. All bundled apps now support this interaction on tabbed UIs, and users will expect it to work in your app’s tabbed screens, too.
Android UI Patterns Can Put Users at Ease
Some UI patterns have become popular on Android — so much so that they are starting to define the look of Android apps. The action bar, one of the most popular patterns, is now part of Android’s core libraries and can be used in any app running on Android 3.0 and up.
Good third-party libraries are available to bring the action bar to apps that run on older versions of Android. ActionBarSherlock is very stable and supports multiple versions and even automatically uses the native action bar when it detects a supported version of Android.
Another popular UI pattern is the dashboard. Many apps with a lot of functionality use the dashboard as their landing screen to give users a clear overview of and easy access to the app’s most important functionality.
Google Play (left) and Evernote (right) both put an action bar at the top of their screens to provide quick access to contextually relevant actions. Evernote’s landing screen clearly tells the user what they can do with the app, while providing easy access to those actions every time the app launches.
See Dan McKenzie’s article “Designing for Android” for more on the look and feel of Android apps.
Integrate The App With Other Apps
The Android platform provides a powerful mechanism for apps to extend each other’s functionality. This mechanism is called “intents.” Apps can register to receive and launch intents. When an app registers to receive intents, it must tell the system what kind of intents it can handle. Your app could, for example, tell the system that it can show pictures or open Web page URLs. Now, whenever another app launches an intent to view an image or a Web page, the user has the option to choose your app to complete the action.
Social Network Integration
On other mobile platforms, if an app wants to share something to Twitter, Facebook or another social network, it implements the sharing mechanisms internally in the app. Sharing requires a separate operation for each social network. On Android, this can be achieved more easily using intents. An app may launch an intent telling the system that it wants to share an image or text. Depending on which apps the user has installed, the user will be provided with a list of apps that can handle the operation. If the user chooses a Twitter or Facebook client, the client will open to its sharing screen with the text or image prefilled.
There are many benefits to integrating with social networks using intents rather than implementing sharing directly from your app:
- Close to zero effort is required to build the functionality.
- Users don’t have to log into a separate application. The social network’s app takes care of logging in.
- You don’t have to limit the social networks that users may use to share from your app. All apps installed on the user’s device are available to be used.
- If a social network’s sharing protocol changes, you don’t have to worry about it. That service’s app will be updated to reflect the changes.
- Users might be using an unofficial app for a social network. Using intents, they may continue using their app of choice with the interface they are familiar with.
- The intents mechanism offers only options that the user actually uses (i.e. the apps that they have installed). No need to offer Facebook sharing to someone who doesn’t have a Facebook account.
Think of Other Opportunities
Extending the functionality of other apps via the intents system will benefit your app, too. Perhaps your app wouldn’t get used every day and would get buried under apps that are used more often. But if your app extends the functionality of other apps and keeps popping up as an option every time the user wants to perform an action that your app can handle, then it will be thought of more by users.
Intents have limitless possibilities. You can build your own intents hierarchy to extend certain functionality to other apps, in effect providing an API that is easy to use and maintain. You are essentially recommending to users other apps that complement yours and, in turn, extending your app’s features without having to write or maintain any code. The intents system is one of the most powerful features of the Android platform.
With the massive number of devices, testing an Android app is much more difficult than testing an iOS app. This is where the fragmentation causes the most problems. Testing on one or two devices is not enough; rather, you have to test on a variety of screen sizes, densities and Android versions.
In addition to what you would normally test on any other platform, you should the following:
- Test your app thoroughly on the lowest Android version that it runs on. Accidentally using an API that isn’t actually available at runtime on some devices is easy.
- Test that the search button works on all relevant screens.
- Make sure that the D-pad and trackball navigation work on all screens.
- Test all supported screen densities, or at least extra-high, high and medium. Low-density devices can be difficult to find.
- Test on at least one tablet device. But try to test on as many screen sizes as possible.
Testing in the Cloud
New services are popping up to ease the pain of testing on multiple devices. Services such as Testdroid enable developers to test their apps on multiple real devices through a Web interface. Simply upload your app’s package and automated testing script, and the service executes your scripts on dozens of devices. Results can be viewed in a Web browser. Examining screenshots from different devices is even possible, to ensure pixel-perfect UIs.
Testdroid is a cloud service for testing Android apps on multiple devices. Large preview.
Distribute The App
Once your app is tested and ready, you need to get it to users. You’ll have to choose how to do it. Very few Android devices are restricted to one app store. The overwhelming majority of Android devices ship with Google Play, which is the most important route to reaching users on the platform.
The Google Play store doesn’t have a formal process for approving apps. Any application package uploaded to Play will appear in the store’s listings to users. App guidelines do exist, but they are enforced only if there are complaints, and even then pretty randomly. This means that your app will be swamped by hundreds of other apps of varying quality.
So, how to rise above the masses and get the attention of users?
The first 30 days are important! Your app will appear in the listing for new paid or free apps during that time. Ranking relatively high in this listing during this time is much easier than ranking high in the overall top lists. Make sure that your app’s website links to Google Play from the start, and use all social networks to tell people about your app’s launch.
Getting recognized as a trusted brand is difficult. Google Play contains many apps that use registered trademarks without permission. Users have come to learn that a logo is no indication that an app was actually produced by that logo’s company. To increase trust, make sure the “Visit Developer’s Website” link points to the official website, and if possible link back to your app from there.
Top new apps on Google Play. Large preview.
Making an app work on all devices is sometimes impossible. Some devices lack the required hardware or simply run an old version of Android for which the required APIs don’t exist. You can list all of the requirements in the app’s manifest file, telling Google Play which devices the app is meant for and, thus, hiding it from listings that are being viewed on incompatible devices. But sometimes even that isn’t enough. In these cases, Google Play allows developers to prevent certain devices from downloading their app. While this option should be used only as a last resort, it is still better than allowing users to download something that you know does not work on their device.
Alternative App Stores
Google Play is not the only place to distribute your app. Amazon’s Appstore has lately gained attention due to the launch of Amazon’s Android-based Kindle Fire tablet. Amazon’s approach is fairly similar to Apple’s in that it has a formal review process. The Appstore is also accessible to non-Amazon devices, but currently only in the US.
Multiplatform app store GetJar also distributes Android apps. GetJar has a lot of users and is a well-known and trusted source, especially among people with not-so-smart phones.
Barnes & Noble’s app store is a US-only eBook-based app store. Unlike Amazon’s, it is accessible only to B&N’s Android hardware.
Multiple App Stores, Just One, or None?
Many people’s first instinct is to try to get their app into all stores. This decision should not be made lightly, though. Distributing through multiple stores might make the app reach more potential users. However, being spread across multiple app stores could prevent the app from ranking as high as it could in the listings for downloads and ratings. Having a thousand installations across three app stores might sound better than having two thousand installations in one store, but maybe those two thousand would push the app into a more visible spot in the store and help it rocket to tens of thousands of installations later.
An app doesn’t have to be in a store at all in order to be installed on devices. Android apps can be installed directly from websites or by transferring them from computer to phone. While you wouldn’t reach the same audience and wouldn’t benefit from the update mechanisms in app stores, there is definitely a place for direct distribution. Using forums and websites, developers can distribute their apps to alpha and beta communities without having to risk their reputation or low ratings in an app store. Distributing a major update or an unstable build to a limited number of dedicated testers and fans might be worth the extra effort.
Building a scalable and functional Android app is not impossible, but it requires careful planning and an understanding of the target platform. A blind approach or simply borrowing a design from another platform would likely end in failure. Achieving a successful end requires that you use Android’s tools correctly and follow the right design approach. Writing an Android app takes effort, but if done right, the app could reach a massive numbers of users.
Supporting multiple screen sizes:
- “Supporting Multiple Screens,” Android Developers
- “Thinking Like a Web Designer,” Android Developers
- “Deep Dive Into Responsive Mobile Design,” Pushing Pixels
- Styling Android
© Juhani Lehtimaki for Smashing Magazine, 2012.
The current state of the mobile payment industry could at best be called slightly confounding, or, at worst, a complete mess.
According to Gartner research director Sandy Shen, mobile payments are set to top $171 billion this year. That’s a sixty percent jump over last year’s numbers, which totaled roughly $105 billion, Gartner said.
While much of that will be fueled by the larger companies, a significant percentage of the burden will be carried by smaller mobile payments players who will be better able to address specific regional needs, Shen noted.
Very much still in its infancy, the mobile payment industry has been defined so far by stakeholders aggressively jockeying for influence and market share. It’s a realm where Google is competing with the likes of MasterCard, and where established payment companies like PayPal are catching up to mobile-focused incumbents like Square. It’s an industry where the world is on its head.
One of the more interesting bits in the Gartner report concerns near-field communications (NFC), which has been a staple of mobile payment systems like Google Wallet. Gartner says that NFC transaction adoption will stay low until 2016, which doesn’t exactly bode well in the short-term for Google. The real progress in NFC will come from mobile ticketing, not retail purchases, Shen says.
If there’s a takeaway from the report it’s this: Mobile payment won’t reach its full potential until consumer behavior shifts and the various stakeholders find a way to cooperate. Neither one of these things has a great chance of happening, however, until a clear frontrunner emerges.
Until recently, mobile video ads have mostly been pretty boring. That’s because, frankly, they’re difficult to make and scale across all the different devices that brands, agencies and marketers want to serve them in. So instead, they serve up boring old display ads, or maybe pre-rolls, against mobile video.
Ad network Tremor Video is hoping to change all that, with the release of a new platform that will make it easier for agencies to create and serve up more interactive mobile video ads. With Tremor’s Mobile Creative Platform, agencies can avoid the problem of device fragmentation.
While online ads have pretty much standardized on Adobe Flash, there are multiple operating systems, manufacturers, processors and form factors to worry about. So there’s no real one-size-fits-all solution. That is, until now.
The Mobile Creative Platform came about in part due to Tremor’s acquisition of Transpera last year. Transpera had developed a platform for automatically recognizing the form factor of various mobile devices, and then customizing websites and video players to suit them. And hey, if you think device fragmentation is bad now, just thinking about how many thousands of different feature phones Transpera had to work with before iOS and Android took over.
Tremor is using that technology now to help marketers create ads that can play on any mobile device. Creative teams can now build ads without having to worry about the particular intricacies of one mobile operating system or another, or how different devices might have different versions of the same OS (*cough* Android *cough*) Instead, they create ads with a WYSIWYG-type editor and let the Tremor platform do the heavy lifting of formatting and delivering the correct ad for whichever device.
The platform is only available to Tremor customers, but the startup is considering opening it up and making the tool available for use with other ad networks and ad management platforms. Until then, it’ll count its mobile platform as a key differentiator in the fast-growing mobile video market.
Editor’s note: Jeremy Toeman is a founder of Dijit Media, a startup whose vision is to create the ultimate “hyperpersonalised social TV guide” mobile experience. Jeremy has over 11 years experience in the convergence of digital media, mobile entertainment, social entertainment, social TV and consumer technology working with companies like Sling Media, Mediabolic, Boxee, Clicker, VUDU, and more. Follow him on Twitter@jtoeman.
Last time I took a look at the most over-hyped topics of the Future of TV, and I thought a great follow-up would be to look at the reverse case. After all, it’s easy to sit there and critique, but what about the positive side, where’s the action happening but not being talked about as much as it could be? Here are four things going on in the TV industry that definitely don’t get enough respect…
Did you know that many cable/satellite/telephone providers have created APIs to communicate and/or control their set top boxes over either home networks and/or the Internet? That’s right, the dinosaurs who are sitting on old technology have opened access to their (formerly) closed systems. If that’s not sinking in clearly enough and I’m not saying this to pitch the company or anything, but by way of example, at Dijit we have the ability to interact with set top boxes that exist in approximately 30 million households today. Just think about it – a _insert cable company name here_ cable box is just as mashup-able as Craigslist.
AirPlay for the rest of us
First, let’s knock another topic off right here: the Apple TV isn’t about being a standalone product, it’s about being an awesome accessory to iPads (which is why it’s effectively the top selling ‘Internet streamer’ over the past 3 years). Works much better when you think of it that way, eh? The flagship feature of Apple TV? AirPlay. If you are “in” the iOS ecosystem, you know how well AirPlay works. If you don’t, you are truly missing out – and I don’t mean you need to rush out to buy one, I mean you need to see how this works: user picks up iPhone/iPad, user finds content, user hits Play, user hits AirPlay to AppleTV, user sees content playing on TV, user enjoys cool refreshing beverage while watching Internet content on TV. Win.
Compare that to any TV-based “10 foot user interface” experience, and you’ll understand the difference. But here’s where it gets interesting: there are a good half-dozen or so startups working on this, not to mention consumer electronics companies like Samsung and others who have already deployed solutions. Granted not one of them is as slick as Airplay, but the era of “fumble around terribly designed menus on your TV” is coming to end, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. I guarantee a couple of years worth of fragmentation ahead, but either way, the future of interfaces is a bright one.
Death of the content genre
The other day I was trying to reclassify some of my music, and I realized terms like Pop, Alternative, and even Rock are poorly suited to today’s immense breadth of music offerings (and WTF is Adult Alternative anyway???). We are in the age of the micro-niche, driven much due to the growth of Indie music dating back to the 90s. I believe the same fragmentation of big, generic genres like Comedy and Drama will occur in fairly short order.
Considering the rise to 500 channels with the infusion of short and long form Internet videos, the cross-over between content formats is pretty much already here. When I look at the results of most TV recommendations engines, and by that I mean Netflix, I see an increasingly disparate view on content. Am I more interested in Witty TV Comedies (which blends King of the Hill, the Dick Van Dyke Show, Black Adder, 30 Rock, Cheers, and Archer) or Dysfunctional-Family TV Dramas (featuring Rescue Me, Weeds, and My-So-Called Life)? And while I’m at it, why is Portlandia similar to Twin Peaks? Protip: it’s not.
Bottom line here is expect more and more filters, views, and correspondingly value placed on matching people with the micro-niche hipsteresque genres that describes them, uniquely. Second protip: stop trying to recommend shows because I like Arrested Development, it stand alone.
Who’s Going to Disrupt the TV Industry? The TV Industry
The Internet has disrupted a great many things, and we’ve seen startups emerge to tear down many sectors. Craigslist, started by one dude, disrupted newspapers. eBay owns Christie’s. Music was killed by, well, it seems like the Internet and poor business models, as opposed to startups per se. But when it comes to TV, it’s just not as simple as all that. I can name almost two dozen startups who thought they could just run on down to Hollywood, buy up some content, and start a business – all are now dead. I’ve seen almost as many think they could do the same thing by just trying to use some “trick” through the system to accomplish the same. Most are already dead. Even Google has now twice failed in their attempt to court the content industry.
But we can see the signs that disruption could and should occur. I’d argue, however, that the real interesting thing happening is the intra-industry battles. At last year’s Cable Show, for example, multiple cable companies showed their services running as “apps” inside Smart TV ecosystems. Comcast, as another example, has OnDemand (broadcast video on demand), StreamPix (Internet video on demand), DVR, TVEverywhere, and other ways to deliver you content. What happens if they decide to bring their services outside their existing geographical boundaries? What happens when cable co’s actually leverage devices like Xboxes to deliver fully authenticated content offerings? What happens when NBC decides Hulu is a bad investment, and creates an openly accessible content feed using third party authentication? What happens when local affiliates continue to get squeezed out of the business?
We can and should expect to see cracks in the system. But I don’t think it’s about cord cutting and little startups. This is the Barzinis teaming up with the Tattaglias to take out Vito, and I hate to say it, but Silicon Valley’s no more than a Clemenza, at best. But there is war a-coming, and there will be great opportunities for startups to rise to great heights if they understand how the system works today, and what’s coming down the pipe. Pun intended, don’t forget to tip your waiter.
Over the past six months, the folks at OpenSignalMaps have been keeping tabs on the devices that have been downloading their network monitoring app, and so far they’ve recorded downloads onto 681,900 separate Android devices in 195 countries. Now they’ve taken all that data and splayed it out for all to see, and it highlights rather nicely how big a headache fragmentation can be for developers.
For the most part, the results are as you’d expect — runaway hits like Samsung’s Galaxy S II was the most represented device among the 3,997 distinct models they spotted, and Samsung Android devices were far and away the most widely used. What really gets me is how many other devices and brands fill up the rest of that list. Seriously, if you haven’t yet, go look at it. Mouse-over some of the smaller blocks, see if there are any brands or devices that ring a bell.
It’s pretty crazy to see just how many players are in the field, and nothing against OpenSignalMaps — their app is actually pretty damned useful — but it’s not an immediate must-download for every user.
That there are gobs of Android devices floating around out there isn’t exactly a shocker, but data like this really drives home the issue. With so many devices running so many versions of Android with who knows many carrier- and manufacturer-mandated tweaks onboard, how is a developer supposed to make sure that all of their users gets a consistent experience? They can’t, unless they’re willing to test like crazy.
Google chairman Eric Schmidt famously downplayed the term “fragmentation” at this year’s CES, suggesting instead that people call it “differentiation.” It’s hard not to agree with sentiment on some level — after all, one of Android’s key strengths is how easily it fits into different niches and price points. But according to him, as long as every Android user is able to use the same apps, there’s no problem here.
That strikes me as a rather shortsighted way of looking at it. Downloading and installing apps is one thing, but what I think really counts — the user experience — can still vary from hardware configuration to hardware configuration. Not a day goes by without new Android hardware (or rumors of new Android hardware) making the rounds — hell, just an hour or so ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google will soon be filling out the new Devices section in the Google Play Store with new, unlocked “Nexus” hardware thanks to cooperation from up to five hardware manufacturers.
That’s why developers like Animoca have invested what I can only imagine is a sizable amount of money and effort testing their apps with something like 400 Android devices before pushing them out into the world. And of course, fragmentation isn’t just a hardware issue — the OSM post points out that the two most used versions of Android now only account for 75% of the devices they surveyed, down from 90% last year, yet another issue for developers to grapple with.
Does every developer need to go through a process that outlandish? Certainly not — OpenSignalMaps seems to test on a tiny fraction of that, and smaller developers can cover most of their bases with a handful of carefully chosen devices. At the end of the day though, despite the sheer amount of choice and flexibility that Android has provided users, those developers still have a choice to make — do they want to strive for perfection, or do they want to keep their sanity?