T-Mobile UK restricts data usage

T-Mobile UK has announced that it will restrict mobile data usage as from 1st Feb. In a strange twist, the restriction applies to watching videos, downloading content and playing games once the usage goes over 500meg. In these days, half a gig isn’t much to use in a month. As with O2, it is probably only a few percent of people who spend their time watching videos, but nonetheless the content restrictions will be likely to anoy their customers. I wrote in my mobile predictions for 2011 that data limits would be applied across most operators – looks like it’s happening already.


UPDATE: With a great deal of confusion over the T-mobile data restrictions, The Guardian spoke to them to attempt more clarification. It seems that it’s illegal to restrict those on existing contracts, so the new data regime only applies to new or renewing customers. According to the interview once you hit your 500 meg limit, you get a restricted service. You can’t get streaming content such as YouTube, but you can browse websites. You can get emails but you can’t download attatchments. Unlike other network providers the one advantage with T-Mobile is that you will not be charged extra for going over your limit, but just restricted. In the UK Three are now the only network provider (outside of MVNOs) to offer unlimited data to their customers.

The Problem with QR Codes

Update: for examples of good and bad use of QR in advertising see:

QR Success and

QR Fail

See new article, How to Make QR Codes Work in Advertising

Whilst writing an article about using 2d or QR codes in direct mail, I started to think about why they haven’t really taken off. OK, in Japan everything has a QR code on it, from ad response, to sandwich wrappers (these will show the nutritional information), but the Japanese attitude to technology is very different to other countries. And have you ever tried texting in Japanese? There is evidence that QR codes are being used elsewhere in a variety of interesting ways. In France, magazines such as Public (like the French Heat magazine) use QR codes at the bottom of each page. Scanning them takes the reader to more content from the article. Recently in the UK, the free London paper, Metro has used QR codes in the same way. In the US, the codes are used in direct response TV, where a 45 second commercial is extended into a longer engagement with the user being taken to more videos and offers. In the UK Pepsi used QR codes on their Pepsi Max cans 2008. Although there are no figures reporting their success, if it had worked well I think we would have been told. Marks and Spencer experimented with QR vouchers on their juice packs in 2009. Again, the response appeared to be low. In many ways, QR on food packaging makes sense. With all the nutritional information, there is little room to put things like offers, but a 2d barcode can include nearly 700 words of information in a space as small as 25mm. The problem is that they are just not catching on with mobile users.

Effort vs Reward

When looking at the adoption of any technology it’s always about the relationship between effort and reward. SMS, for example required very little effort, but the reward was a cheap, fast means of communication. When teenagers got onto it, there was no stopping SMS. With QR, the effort is both downloading the reader (few phones have them), taking the picture of the code and awaiting the response. A few years ago, most of the industry thought that QR would take off when the readers were available in all phones. Since then, we have seen a shift in mobile usage where downloading and installing apps is common-place. If smartphone users want to use QR then they will download the app, without question. So, lack of QR readers on phones isn’t really a barrier. The reason they don’t use them is that the reward simply isn’t enough. Whilst it may solve problems for brands, 2d barcodes doesn’t solve anything for the user. Take the Pepsi QR code. All it did was link to a WAP site with more content. There was no offer, discount or anything engaging enough to bother to take the picture of the code.

The other problem that many users have with QR is that it simply doesn’t work very well. For a code to scan well it needs to be done it good light, on a high contrast background. I tried to scan QR code on a pavement in Paris a few years ago. The white, slightly fuzzy code on the dark grey pavement refused to scan. And there’s nothing to drive people away from technology than a poor user experience. That is particularly the case in mobile. For many response campaigns the alternative to QR are SMS shortcodes. We are all familiar with those, and you only have to look at things like reality TV voting to see that people will use them. After all, when you send an SMS it works 100% of the time. From a user perspective, why bother with QR when there is a much better option that is just as faster and far more effective?

Magazine Circulations on The iPad

When the iPad came out last year, it was touted (amongst other things) as creating a revolution in publishing. The same kind of revolution that the mp3 and iPod brought to music. Whilst publishers have putsome  considerable money behind developing tablet-based versions of their publications, the sales are not being realised. Wired is probably the most successful iPad magazine. And so it should be, as the iPad generation are by very definition Wired readers. The first edition in June 2010 sold 100,000 copies. The circulation is now down to 25,000. That’s good compared to others though. Vanity Fair and GQ sell just 10,000 copies each month, and Glamour just 3,000 copies. In short, when it comes to iPad editions, the novelty has worn off.

To put the circulations in in perspective, this blog (which is a relatively minor one) is read by more people each month than read Glamour. OK, this blog is free, but therein lies one of the problems for iPad magazines. The subscriptions are too high. Like it or not, people do not value digital publishing in the same way that they value paper-based publishing. There’s lots of reasons for that. It’s high res, highly portable, very robust and the batteries do not run out.

There is a big difference between mp3’s/iPods in the music sector, and iPads and magazines. The CD was essentially a carrying device. It was a means of getting digital music from one place to another. When the mp3 came along music itself didn’t change, just the means of moving it around from one place to another. However with magazines, it’s different. The paper is more than just a means of transportation, it is the medium. And with paper-based publishing comes a significance and permanence that digital just cannot offer.

There are opportunities for magazine-type publicitions on tablet devices, but things have to change. Aside from the subscription models, the content has to take advantage of the digital device itself to become more content rich and more engaging.

ebay’s mobile sales increase three fold in 2010

ebay have been regularly reporting on the success of their mobile-based sales. In 2009 that was $600 million, but in 2010 that lept up to $2bn. These figures are the merchandising turn over, rather than revenues, but however you look at it, the company’s early entry into mobile has paid dividends. Interestingly 1/3rd of these sales came from the UK and Germany – it seems that the British were quick to adopt ebay’s mobile app and website. 30 million versions of the ebay app have been downloaded, half of which are for the iPhone. It was only a few months ago that ebay were predicting $1.6bn revenue for 2010, surpassing these predictions led the VP of ebay Europe said, ‘it’s staggering to think that $2billion worth of sales has been generated through a platform that didn’t exist a couple of years ago, and on a device that didn’t exist three years ago’.

Mobile Battery Life Problems: could they be a thing of the past?

It’s a problem that plagues all smartphone users: the daily charge. There was a time when a visit to the plug was a weekly event for mobile users. Then came smartphones, and it was back to the 80s with daily phone charging. Scientists and handset manufacturers have been addressing this problem, but it looks like the solution is some years away. However, the Guardian has reported that a simple (and rather old) technology could offer the solution. It’s a kenetic device that lives in your case or backpack and charges your phone as you walk around.

Tablet Sales to Eclipse laptops by 2015

In my predictions for 2011, I suggested that the tablet is an interim device, whilst mobile screen and interface technologies catch up. This goes against the grain of most predicitions! The latest forecast of tablet sales by Forrester predict that they will overtake those of the laptop within the next four years. And most of them will have an Apple logo on the back. Certainly, 2011 looks to be the year that everyone will jump on the tablet bandwagon, with new devices announced on a weekly basis. The forecasting company estimated that there would be 195m of the devices sold by 2015, though sizable, it is considerably less than the figures estimated by Gartner and eConsultancy. The Forrester predictions are shown in the chart below:


iPhone Alarm Error

iPhone users awoke on Jan 1st to find that their alarm didn’t work … or more accurately, they didn’t awake on Jan 1st. The glitch affected alarms set to repeat ‘never’, and complaints were widespread. Some were late for work, but others missed flights and had to fork out for the additional cost. In spite of Apples assurance that the clocks would work from Monday 3rd, some people still had difficulties getting it to go off.

What is interesting about all of this is the number of people who use their phones as their alarm. In mobile marketing we talk about the mobile phone being an always there, always on device. This episode seems to confirm it. Not only that, but the outrage at the failure shows the extent to which people rely on their phones, not just for calls and SMS but for many other things.