SMS: simple and effective

In spite of being just a small campaign for a small business, this is a classic demonstration of how SMS can be the most effective channel for marketing. A hairdressers, Headrush Salon, in Brighton started using SMS reminders for missed appointments, and reduced them by 70%. So that’s effectively a 70% increase in customers. Whilst brands and agencies always want to hear the grand examples of great bits of new technology, that isn’t always the case. More often than not mobile marketing is about being simple and effective.

Palm smartphone sales are ‘sluggish’

It’s a shame, because I really like Palm. Whilst the Palm Pre definitely had potential there were just too many factors against it. The failure to work with itunes, short battery life and so on. Palm have now announced that they will not meet their forecast sales. That will probably be no surprise to anyone. Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein “Driving broad consumer adoption of Palm products is taking longer than we anticipated”. Taking longer than anticipated? Well I hate to say this, but there are so many players in the smartphone market, I don’t see how Palm will ever reach their potential. Arguably the iphone, Blackberry, Motorola Droid and Nexus One all offer better products to their respective markets. There is certainly increased speculation that one of their rivals will buy out Palm sooner or later. The issue here is that the smartphone market is not sluggish, just the Palm market. Oh well.

Mobile Phone Battery Life

Probably the greatest barrier to the development of mobile phones is the battery life. At one point the battery life on the phone was very good – look at the worlds best selling phone, the Nokia 1100. It had 140 hrs of standby time – nearly two weeks. Obviously batteries have not suddenly become weaker, its just that mobile computing power requirements have leapt up.
The current generations of smartphones – iphones and Blackberry’s – all suffer from a relatively short battery life. It is so poor, that when I got a G1, it came with instructions on how to conserve the battery life. They basically admitted that it wasn’t very good. Probably the worst thing is the screen itself, using around a third of the total power, but some apps, video, bluetooth and especially the GPS are all power hungry.
The problem from the point of view of mobile developers, and especially those brands who are looking to enhance their engagement through things like apps is that they assume people will always have enough battery life. Location services for example will assume that your GPS is always on. In reality many of us keep those ‘extras’ turned off to conserve power. So booting up a location app may be something that we think twice about. The experience is no longer seamless.
The good news is that battery life will get better, and hopefully soon. Some scientists for example are looking at ‘air cells’, where good ole, clean air becomes the battery re-agent rather than expensive chemicals. What it also means is that battery life increase by 10 fold. So it will be back to weekly rather than daily charging for smartphone users. The other side of thing is charging time. Rather than hours fully charge a battery, we are looking at seconds to do it.
Sadly, we don’t have it just yet, so all you iphone users will just have to keep running for the power socket!

There is a good article about mobile battery life from the Independent, here

Wobble iboobs banned from app store (and 5000 other apps)

Inane and childish? Most definately. But is the Wobble iboobs app offensive? According to Apple, the iphone app certainly is offensive and the company have banned it from the appstore. Strangely though, the app does not actually feature any boobs at all. What it does, is allows the user to add their own images and the app can make the boobs jiggle. It seems to appeal to the teenager in men, and in that capacity the app is inane, however following complaints, it has been banned from the appstore. Apple clearly believed it was suitable for distribution, but withdraw the app after a few weeks, and reported sales of $300 k.
This is the latest in a number of app withdrawls for a variety of reasons and it would appear that Apple’s policy is getting becoming more draconian. Although their policy has been to withdraw or refuse apps without a detailed specification, they have now given some clearer guidelines following the banning of 5000 apps. These were reported in MobileCrunch, the list of objectionable content is almost laughable: no women in bikinis, including those in ice skating tights and for that matter no images of men in bikinis! No sexual innuendo or sexual references in content. Fine, but where does that leave the Playboy App, which, at the time of writing, is still in there?
I would agree that most of the apps that have been banned are largely childish and stupid, this kind of draconian censorship doesn’t work. For starters, most of this is just titilation (would that word be banned in the app store), we’re not talking about wholesale pornographic exploitation of women. Our world – from TV to magazines to the internet is full of images and content far more offensive than anything Apple has banned. Ultimately it will probably back fire on the appstore. More open policies by the likes of Android, Blackberry and Nokia will ultimately drive users away from the iphone and to other handsets and operating systems.

Netsize Guide: good source for mobile stats

One of the best sources of mobile stats is the annual Netsize guide. The French-owned company has details of 41 countries covering the market size and operator share. They also have a number of articles from brands and agencies. This year, M&S are represented, who mention a project that I am developing, called MobileSafe – set of marketing standards for the the mobile consumer. You can download the guide for free from their website.

Mobile users want simpler tarrifs. No kidding?

A recent study by Volantis and YouGov found that nearly half of those surveyed would be more likely to sign up if operators offered a simpler contract. No surprise really. Anyone who has had to renegotiate their contract, which is basically all of us, have had to go through a mine field of confusion and arguably misleading information to find the right contract. Underlying it seems to be a rather cynical approach by many networks to find as many revenue streams as possible.
From a mobile marketing perspective, this may not appear to have an impact, but the potential is significant. If consumers get their way, then the likely effect is that mobile revenues will be further squeezed. As a result the mobile marketing channel will become a more significant source of revenue.
More worryingly from a mobile marketing perspective, is the fact that 33% of those with internet capable of phones do not actually use internet access at all. Of those who do, three minutes is the average surfing time. Considerably less then the fixed web. The fact that so many people choose not to use the mobile internet will inevitably be a barrier to the mobile marketing and advertising channels. Whilst SMS will remain king, for mobile marketing to come of age it will have to move beyond just 160 characters of text.
Whilst we will never see 100% mobile internet usage, Volantis believe that it is now reaching the tipping point: ubiquitous enough to be used for most advertising campaigns.

Realtime appstore statistics

Any post that I write about mobile sales stats gets the most hits on this blog. So judging by that, it would seem most readers are stats obsessed. UK firm ustwo have launched a nice little iphone app that will satisfy any appstore stats curiosity (or should I say obsession). The PossitionApp surveys the store every few minutes and brings back real time stats on app downloads and a charted position for the last six months.
What’s more AdMob (that’s Google to you and me) have sponsored it for two months, so you can download it without having to pay the standard £7 fee. It won’t become a top selling app itself, but it provides a useful tool for developers.

Operators to charge search engines?

A massive can of worms has been opened by the comments from Telefonica’s CEO about charging search engines for access to the mobile networks.

As we see more internet-y type acitvity through the mobile networks, we are heading for a major clash of business and culture between mobile operators and the internet. The basic problem is a simple one: the mobile business model is to charge for stuff, the internet business model is a free one.

I will qualify this a bit more. The problem for the mobile networks is that they have to run massive engineering operations. They need 1000s of base stations, switching networks and so on, all running 24hrs a day. Not only that, but they have to pay governments billions of pounds to buy a licence to run their network.
On the other hand, Mr Google does not to set up an infra structure to have their search engine. They do not have to buy a licence to run their search engine, nor for their PPC or anything else they do. Of course, Google in particular do have some infrastructure costs – millions of servers for starters, but the basic communication infrastructure, The Internet, already exists. And it’s essentially free. The free model of the internet goes back to its inception first with The Well and then the decision of Tim Berners Lee to give away they key software: http/html to the world. The internet was essentially established by hippies and anarchists (hoorah).
On the flip side, most telecoms companies are from a very non-hippy, non-anarchistic background: in the UK the first providers represented Cellent (by BT, newly privatised ex-nationalised industry), and Vodafone (ex-Racall, the communications company specialising in military comms in particular). ‘Free’ never entered into the thinking of these companies.

So now we are seeing a real clash of these cultures. The telecoms companies do not understand why things should simply be ‘free’. However, most of us are used to the free-ness of the internet, and it makes no sense that we should have to pay to use it, even through our mobiles. The operators began to address this well a few years ago. Introducing flat-rate data plans mirrored the traditional landline experience where you pay one charge and for that you get your internet access.
The problem for the operators now is that they will pretty much max out their data revenues in a few years. In other words, anyone who wants a flat rate data plan, probably has one by now, or will be getting one shortly. However, for operators, internet access (or data), is an expensive thing. The O2 CTO (parent company, Telefonica), pointed out a couple of months ago that downloading one YouTube video could use as much data as 500,000 text messages sent simultaneously. Arguably, they missed a trick some years ago when they set up the 3G networks. It seemed obvious that data, as in internet connections, would be big, yet it seems like the operators never really planned for it, or at least not for the size it would turn out to be.