Mobile Battery Life: your choice of mobile operator could be significant

A while ago I wrote that mobile battery life, alongside data connections, was one of the major barriers to mobile content and mobile marketing. Boring as it may seem, the battery life is highly relevant to brand marketing. A typical smartphone user will have to plug their device in around 4pm on a typical working day. If they are out and about and are on the last few percent of their battery, then they are likely to save their juice for texting their loved ones. The point is that the amount of power used will be a factor in whether people choose to engage with a brand through apps or the mobile web.


Another interesting fact to surface recently (well, interesting to me at least) as a factor in battery life is also the network you are on. In order for a mobile device to stay connected to the network, it must ‘poll’ a base station to do so. The point is that the phone sends the signal to find where it is, rather than the base station going looking for phones. With SMS and voice it’s pretty simple and uses a tiny amount of data for a few milliseconds. However, when it comes to connecting mobile web, and apps in particular, some of them require the handset to poll frequently, and use much more data. Imagine a Facebook app which runs on the phone in the background all the time. That app, along with weather, news etc are all looking to constantly update themselves. That means that your average smartphone is polling the networks up to 1000 per day. And each time it polls it will use a quite a bit of data and take a few seconds. If you want to see the impact on your battery life, simply turn off your connectivity when you’re not accessing email, apps or the internet and the life-span will leap up. So, even if you’re not trying to watch an HD video on YouTube, the very action of having your smartphone connected means that there is a big impact on your battery.

From a mobile network point of view, if there are thousands or even millions of smartphones polling them, it uses a lot of data and creates something called a ‘signalling storm’. The interesting bit is that some mobile operators are better at this polling than others. Whilst it may take a few seconds on some networks, others have managed to reduce this process to just a few hundred milliseconds. From a user perspective that means a longer batter – as much as 25% longer.

Significantly the networks with a more efficient polling system have more capacity and therefore better data connections. I have often joked that it was the iphone users constantly updating their Facebook statuses that has compromised O2’s data network. Although O2 puts it down to around 3% of users watching videos, that may just be part of the problem. If a majority of iphone users have their Facebook app on all the time, then it will be constantly polling for status updates etc, whether the user chooses to make an update or not. So, a large part of their data capacity may be taken up with users’ phones polling for updates. The YouTube watchers may just be the straw breaking the camel’s back.

Do we know which networks have better polling than the others? At the moment, no. But given how competitive they are, who knows when someone will start advertising their network is giving both better data and a longer battery life for their smartphone users.

Verizon fined for overcharging on data: good or bad for mobile marketing?

The US network provider has been given a fine of $25 million by the FCC for spurious data charges, following a 10 month investigation. They will also have to refund over $50 million to 15 million customers who were overcharged. Much of the case focussed on the network’s pay as you go customers who were charged for activities such as accessing the Verizon home page (promoted as free) or for accessing web pages which failed to load.

It’s good to see the FCC acting against the operators, but ultimately these kinds of activities are bad for business for brands in mobile. In the UK many of the scandals have been around Premium SMS. In spite of some sterling work by the regulator, Phonepayplus, reducing the scams to almost zero, there is still a strong public perception that shortcodes can be dodgy. Similarly, operator charges on data, roaming and roaming data have made some of the public highly wary of accessing sites or apps. A recent DMA/IAB mobile messaging study found that the main concerns about mobile marketing were the costs – percieved as both high and unexpected. That is consistent with previous studies. So, the Verizon rip-off may have a lasting effect that could hold back consumer confidence in mobile marketing. launches AR application

The property website, has launched an iphone AR app that allows users to see properties and prices by pointing their camera down the street. Further information such as photos and a viewing request are just one click away. Whilst AR can be a bit gimmicky and not an application for all brands, using it with property makes a lot of sense. Prospective buyers may be in an unfamiliar area, and the visual reference that AR gives may enhance the experience. Certainly the success of Google’s Street View in the property market shows that customers want the visual experience. The site was developed using Kilsrush, MIG’s app development platform.

Truely Wireless?

Some years ago I announced to my colleague that ‘the office is going wireless’ and I promptly installed Apple Airport and took out all the Ethernet cables. However, there was a look of disappointment when she saw the office afterwards … ‘ thought we were going wireless’ she said, pointing to the power cables. I laughed. ‘How do you think we’re going to power the PCs? Do you think that the electricity is going to arc out of the plug socket and into the back of the computer?’ I said mockingly.

I shouldn’t have mocked. The advent of induction charging has brought us wireless phone charging through pads. It looks like it’s going further as well. An article in The Guardian suggests that this form of charging is good enough for electric cars. Instead of having to plug the vehicle in at special points, it uses hidden pads under the road. You can simply park your car and leave it to charge. That’s a nice incentive to increase the use of electric vehicles, but why couldn’t wireless charging of other devices be used as an incentive for brands? What about coffee shops, resturants or even trains putting wireless pads into tables? As well as using their (free) WiFi you could charge your phone, ipad or laptop whilst drinking your latte.

Mobile friendly sites: are brands beginning to get it?

A recent report from domobi (the people behind .mobi, strangely), shows that there has been a 2000 % increase in mobile optimised sites since 2008. Given that at the height of the web explosion (1996-8) the two your growth was 1300%, it shows how quickly the mobile channel is moving. On the whole this is weighted to the most used sites: in Alexa’s rankings, 40% of the top 1000 sites are mobile friendly, including the likes of Google, Facebook and Yahoo. However, the next 1000 most popular sites, the mobile optimisation drops to just over 20% and continues to dwindle with the next 1000 sites. So, whilst the big boys are beginning to catch on, it would seem that smaller sites and brands are yet to understand the benefit of the mobile web.

More here.

mCommerce is getting big: Ebay expects $1.5bn mobile revenue in 2011

All the signs are there that mCommerce – people buying stuff through their mobile phones – is on the increase. Along with the recent appearance of some good mCommerce websites (M&S and John Lewis), eBay and Amazon have continued their mobile strategy. Ebay’s iphone app saw purchases of $350,000 sports car, a Bentley and a $150k boat. The point here is that where there is trust, mobile users will spend. Amazon are expecting to do $1 billion through mobile this year. Ebay, who made around $600 million last year through mobile now expect it to grow to at least $1.5 bn next year.

That’s interesting. But what is very interesting is that Ebay expect mobile sales to outstrip fixed internet sales within the next few years. Thinking about ebay and the immediacy of bidding on some items, it kind of makes sense.

Product manager, Oliver Cockcroft said “For eBay, mobile commerce is the future, and our plan is to innovate and hit the gas pedal—we don’t see the steep growth trajectory of mobile commerce changing”.

Who needs an app? John Lewis launches mCommerce site

Following on from Marks and Spencer’s succesful mcommerce site, that bastion of the middle class, John Lewis, has become the second UK retailer to provide a fully mobile offering. The department store currently has around 100,000 mobile visitors on their site each week, so developing a decent version makes a lot of sense. As with M&S, they have taken the mobile web route, which will work on all handsets, rather than go with the more restrictive apps. This makes sense, given their broad (but middle class) customer base. As the mobile site can deliver all of the necessary functions: browse and buy, storing credit card details and ‘find my nearest’ there seems little point (and unecessary expense) by creating apps that will only work on a few handsets. It is interesting to note, though, that some commentators on Twitter have claimed that JL have led the way (I would argue that M&S have), and that an app is sure to follow. That makes no sense. If you can do it all with mobile (which they have) then why would anyone need an app?

Whilst brands from Ocado (5% of their interent transactions come through their app) and eBay (150k Bentley bought through the mobile app) have seen success with apps, there is no question that the mobile web is right for John Lewis. Interestingly M&S reported that customers were buy beds and sofas, with values of up to £3000 through their mobile website. Strange? Well no, it’s quite obvious when you consider that people are going to buy these items when they move house. Most broadband takes up to 10 days to go live, so using your mobile to buy stuff makes a lot of sense. Making your site suitable for mobile makes even more sense to brands in this sector.

Take That and Faithless Team Up with Shazam

ShazamTwo new mobile marketing campaigns have appeared this week that are particularly interesting. First, Faithless added the Shazam logo to their TV ad. Users could tag it through Shazam and be able to buy their tickets through their mobile. Take That took and different take on it. They are using Shazam as a means of competition entry: when fans hear their new single, The Flood, they can tag it on Shazam and they are automatically entered into their Golden Tickets competition. Fans will also receive updates when the track and their new album become available on i-tunes.

Whether you’re a fan of the two bands or not, this is an interesting take on mobile response marketing. Whilst Shazam users have been able to buy concert tickets before (for example with O2 Priority), linking it directly to the band’s promotion is a new move.

For the last ten years texting a keyword to a shortcode has been a common method to engagement: whether it be voting, asking for more information or even getting a web-link, it is pretty common place. However, keywords and shortcodes do not have to be the only response mechanism. Some brands have played with QR codes and image recognition. Although the likes of Pepsi have seen some success with QR, they haven’t exactly caught the public imagination. However, the idea of tagging some music as a means of engagement is interesting. I think it has potential, so it would be good to see where it all goes.

Are mobile phone shops the new estate agents?

A survey by Retail Eyes of over 5000 shoppers has found that mobile phone retailers (that’s phone shops to you and me), perform the poorest in terms of customer satisfaction. Just 2% of customers said they were satisfied, whereas 27% of hotel customers were happy with the service. The phone retailers fared slightly better than petrol stations (0.8% satisfaction) who were ranked the poorest.

Anyone who’se been into a phone shop will understand why they performed so poorly. They are often unable to explain price packages correctly and push for the most expensive handset/monthly subscription. As a frequent traveller, I always ask about roaming and international call and text costs. Most of the time the shop assistant can’t tell me. ‘Look at our website’ was the response from one retail outlet for O2. I did, and the website still couldn’t tell me.

Having said that, I don’t want to label phone shop staff as the ‘new estate agents’. I have, very occasionally, got a good experience from a shop. The last time was when I had to buy mobile broadband. The woman at the shop explained the packages very carefully and I got a good deal as a result of that.

However, clearly that experience is the exception and not the rule, given the report Retail Eyes.