Tag Archives: facebook

Facebook turns brands into people, too

Mitt Romney was quoted as calling corporations the same as people.  The public largely saw that as an esoteric tax reference.

However, when Facebook transforms brands and corporations into people, well that’s another story.  The new Facebook brand timeline and advertising strategy has created life for brands, and likely even more fortunes for Facebook. 

Your personal timeline will have more sponsored content from the brands that you love and more importantly – “liked”.  Those annoying dental implant ads on the right-hand side of your Facebook page will be replaced with sponsored content stories from different brands. Ads acting like content, brands acting like people, and all in the socially connected universe of Facebook.

The transformation of ads into timeline content is a win-win-win for Facebook.  Firstly, it solves an obvious problem that the right hand side ads on Facebook is a odd mixture of legitimate brands and low-end junk.  The quality of their ad inventory has not been consistent. Secondly, the only real way to monetize their significant mobile audience is through timeline insertion of content (ads).  This has been obvious from the beginning for both Twitter and Facebook.  They have both now started down that path.  To date, Google has been more successful with mobile monetization through their search products.  Facebook will now try to match that with they social news approach.

The Facebook strategy has a good chance of giving Google a run for their money.  Why? What do people do with their mobile devices that brands care about?  They search and they interact with Social Media – mainly Facebook.

Lastly, this strategy focuses Facebook on large brands that support their social mission.

While there is still a place for the smaller “Mom and Pop” establishments in the Facebook Universe, the Facebook Ad engine is clearly aimed at global brands with significant budgets.  Facebook is, without a doubt, aiming for to be the primary digital ad platform of choice for brands in the future.

The Google Vs. Facebook War just got a lot hotter.

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Filed under advertising, android, Content, facebook, Google, mobile, Social Media, social networking, Twitter

Big Game Hunting for Mobile and Social – at the Big Game

The Big Game has become the “Super” event for new mobile and social promotions.

The challenge for advertisers and brands is to create a virtual social environment within the year’s biggest physical social event

The TV ad escalation for the Super bowl grew out of the need to make the Ads their own event.  The higher production value of theses ads is designed to delay that inevitable bathroom break.   The goal of social and mobile media is to make the ad a continuous event during the game.

There are three factors that I believe are important in a social application.

  • Entertainment: Examples are interactive games and passive videos
  • Social Status: Examples are check-ins, followers, and game rank
  • Contextual Information: A key success factor  of Twitter and Facebook.

Get these right and you earn the pay dirt of any social campaign…longevity.

Your app or promotion can be successful with just one of these factors.  If you have two you can be a  wild successes (Zynga). With all three you are Facebook. YouTube or Twitter.

The reason that Superbowl ads are now $7M/minute is that that audience that the broadcast aggregates only lasts 4 hours.  It is a perishable resource that commands a premium price.  What if this audience was addressable with an effective social media channel on a regular basis?  What would that be worth?  For a clue you can read about the IPO of Facebook.

Using these factors as our yardstick lets look at two of the higher profile social game plans and make some pre-game predictions.

Coke is presenting an interactive version of their Polar Bears on a Facebook application.  The bears will react to plays in the game.

Prediction:

While this app will generate a lot of buzz for its “cool” factor, I view this as a very clever branding exercise, rather than a true social campaign.   It will generate a reasonable number of views of the Coke brand and therefore should be very cost effective on an equivalent CPM basis. (As of Friday it had 21K members, but I expect that number to significantly increase on game day)

Will this aggregated application audience have any reason to come back to this app after 10:30 pm on Sunday?

Entertainment Value: High, until novelty wears off

Social Status: None

Contextual Information: Low

I have this Apple app on my iPad.  The enticement is that you get a license plate number to watch for on the Chevy Television ads.  If you see your number you win a Chevy.

Prediction:

This will get some more viewers to watch the Chevy ads closely.  If you are not one of the 20 winners, then what? The rest of the app is populated with Twitter feeds, trivia  and YouTube videos.  Similar to the Coke Facebook application, this application will likely have a half-life that ends at 10:30 pm on Sunday.

Entertainment Value: Low

Social Status:  Zero – unless you win the car!

Contextual Information: Low

My view is that these types of campaigns are still outside the “redzone”.  Once an audience is aggregated, it is a crime not to effectively and continually engage that audience, grow it and profit from it.

The most effective use of social media is still the simplest and cost nothing.  Advertisers put their Superbowl ads on YouTube. That strategy has generated an additional 360M views!

One Last Prediction: Giants 31 Pats 24

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, Content, iphone, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, Smartphone, Social Media, social networking

Social Networking with a Schmear

In the past 10 years I have managed many social media projects – some even before that catch phrase was coined.  While every company seems to want to be on the various social networks, very few seem to grasp how and why

As they say – to cut to the chase:  Social Media is and should be social.  That may seem like an obvious statement but many campaigns seem to miss that point.  Here are some examples of Social Media Myth busting and one surprising example of social media done right.

  • Signing up people to like your product or service by giving them something

I was at the New York Auto show at the Javits Center this past Spring.  One auto company was giving away tee shirts if you “liked” their Facebook page.  They probably gave away 1000 tee shirts and got 1000 likes.  If their apparel budget permitted 1 million tee shirts, they perhaps could get 1 million likes. So what?

By the way, I got a tee shirt for “liking” them. I can’t even tell you what company it was or where I put my treasured prize.

Getting random people, who are fundamentally unconnected, with no interest in each other or even the product to join a social network, just to show you have “numbers” is a waste of time and money – except for the company that makes the tee-shirts, and supplies the models to hand them out. A quick estimate for that campaign would be $10K for a consultant to “produce” the marketing event, another $10K to produce the tee shirts and likely $5K in costs for contractors (models) to hand-out the tee-shirts.  That’s at least $25K spend on getting 1000 “likes”.  It would be better to have a website that says “like me”, and I will send you ten bucks.

How many times do you think any of these people visited the company’s Facebook page?  How many of their friends decided “Gee, I better like that page also?”  How much original user generated content was created because of this campaign?

As we say in NJ….Ugats!

  • Trying to create a great social network around boring content , is … boring,  unless its not.

Let me explain.  If you put up photos and comments about little Jimmy’s second grade music lesson it may be boring to the masses, but for the little Jimmy’s family it’s interesting and fun.  One picture can generate 20 comments in a family circle.   If you take that same picture and put it on a website that sells music lessons, will anyone comment or care?  Will family members share that link on their Facebook walls or Twitter rolls? Interest in content is contextual.  Members of a social network must be self-motivated to spread the word, comment, contribute and create the viral impact of social media.

An interesting example of social networking done correctly is a delicatessen in Newark New Jersey.  Hobby’s deli has been a family run Jewish restaurant since the invention of corned beef.  The real life Hobby’s experience includes fabulous food and even better “schmoozing” between the customers and especially with the two brothers who are the owners.  From the lunch time crowd of lawyers and politicians to the enthusiastic dinner hockey fans on their way to watch a game, Hobby’s provides social subsistence along with the knishes.

To take the Hobby’s experience and bring it to Facebook was not a guaranteed success.  The owners did not pay an “expert” thousands of dollars to help them with the project.   They applied their natural real-life social networking skills and put it on Facebook.  The formula is simple.  They comment on what is going on at the restaurant.  Who is having a birthday? Feeding the Ringling Brothers Elephants, a visit from a pro athlete, little contests between the two brothers, playing the role of a Leprechaun for the holiday celebrating the Patron Saint of Corned Beef – (St Patrick) and the ever-present Devils fans.    Within this content come mentions of the daily special and photos of the food.   While the latter elements are clearly advertising, they come across more in context of the overall Hobby’s narrative.

By taking what is already happening in real life and placing it in social media they have created a tempting morsel for a loyal clientele.  They have less than 1000 likes as of the writing of this blog, but I am sure that is not bothering Hobby’s.  The likes that they do have, really  like Hobby’s.  When their patrons comment, and they do it often, it spreads virally across Facebook.

Which one is a former NJ Devil?

Which one is a former NJ Devil?

To achieve their success they did not stand on the corner of Halsey Street and hand out sandwiches to random people just to get them to like their page.  The Facebook page is becoming a contextual meeting place for their patrons and obviously drives business.  It has the right ingredients: a consumer base that has something in common, content that they find interesting, a natural willingness to generate user comments and a real ROI for the business.  Win-Win-Win

I’m hungry now – time for a trip to Newark.

Link to Video of Chico Resch at Hobby’s (Click Here)

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Filed under advertising, Circus, Content, Corned Beef, facebook, Food, hockey, humor, mobile, mobile commerce, Newark, Rangers, social networking

Windows Mobile – Just not Cool

With the holiday season upon us, my son is back from college.  Yesterday he had a dozen of his friends over to “hang out”.  Since this was costing me around 100 pizza bagels and a couple boxes of mozzarella sticks, I thought it was only fair for me to have an impromptu mobile focus group of college students.

Most of them were on the Verizon Network, with one on AT&T and one on T-Mobile.  There were 7 Smartphone class devices (1 iPhone, 3 Blackberrys, 3 Android), 3 Multimedia class devices and 2 feature phones.  Those who had the more impressive devices were much quicker to wave them in the air and show them off, while the feature phone owners were trying to avoid eye contact.

Their preferred manner of communicating with each other was text first, then voice, then Facebook, then IM, and lastly email.

I then described the features of a Windows 7 phone, without naming it.  The live tiles, music integration,  gaming system integration, etc.  I got a reasonable concurrence that those features were “cool” and was asked if they were available on their “app stores”.

More on that a little later on.

I then asked them if they heard of the Windows 7 phone and what they thought of it?  I got lots of frowns and looks of disgust,  “A Microsoft Phone?, not cool” , “That’s for computers, not phones”, “Will it work all the time?”.  You get the general reaction.  The group thought the basic features of the Microsoft phone were desirable, but had a very negative reaction to the name and software system.

I asked them if they would trade in their phone for a free Windows 7 model?  Only the feature phone owners indicated that a free Windows phone would be better than the 2006-era voice and text via t9 models they were forced to endure.

This result is similar to other impromptu focus groups I have managed with my kids’ friends.  Their phone is a social accessory. It is the most important electronic gear they own since they have it with them 24/7.  Blackberry’s have strangely entered the “cool zone” and are as socially acceptable to the teen crowd as iPhones and Droids.  Windows phones are clearly not cool, even though their features are desirable.

What does this mean for Microsoft?  They made a big mistake, another in a long list of mobile missteps, by naming their mobile phone after a PC operating system.  Did I mention that 75% of my sample group used Apple computers as their main machine?  Microsoft has been very successful with XboX, partly because it was NOT called Windows Vista Game System.  Microsoft called their mp3 music player “Zune”, not Windows music player.  Zune has been a market failure, not because of its name, but rather it was outclassed and out marketing by Apple iTunes and iPod.

Microsoft released sales figures for their mobile device on 12/21.  They touted 1.5M devices sold in the first 6 weeks.  This number, however, reflects the number of devices that are in the Carriers stores and pipeline, not how many have been sold to actual subscribers.  Verizon has over 2000 direct retail outlets and easily a similar number of resellers.  You can appreciate how many phones you have distribute to fill the distribution pipeline.

In comparison Android is activating 300K phones a day and Apple sold (really sold) 3M iPhones in its first 3 weeks on the market, over three years ago.

What should the team in Redmond do now?  I believe the clue is in one of the comments from my son’s friends.  “Where can I get these in the App store?”  If XboX gaming on a mobile is valuable, then Microsoft should develop their own apps for Blackberry, iPhone and Android and make money from their “competitors” mobile platforms.

Likewise, they could provide a Zune application for music on these platforms (well maybe not iPhone).  My point is that if Microsoft has valuable applications then sell them as applications.  If my small sampling is at all indicative of how Microsoft’s core targeted market is reacting to their mobile device, they have to seriously re-think what they have done.  Find a cool name for the phone, don’t rely on a Zune/Xbox positioning, and tout the basic phone interface as better than other Smartphone’s.  To some degree they have tried the latter with the ad campaign promoting the ease of use of their device.

The real question will be is the market willing to accept another smartphone platform at this point? What do you think?

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, Droid Incredible, facebook, Google, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Verizon, Windows, Windows Mobile, wireless, XboX, Zune

Scanning your Life

It is not often that someone shows me something in tech that makes me go “WOW!, that’s cool”.  I had such a moment recently when I met Jonathan Bulkeley, CEO of ScanBuy.  Regular readers of this blog know that I rarely promote products and services, but rather just give my “guy on the street” views.

Unless you are George Bush Senior, you know that there are barcodes on everything.  There are the ubiquitous  1-D UPC codes that you see in the supermarket and a host of new 2-D barcodes.  With the inclusion of barcode readers in smartphones (my Android is very capable in this area) you can go to a store, scan the barcode and be linked to product information websites, Google shopper, Amazon, etc.  You can do instant online price comparison in a store, and if you like purchase the product.  It seems that stores are catching on and are starting to put there own barcodes on products that then links back to their own website, not a competitor’s.  This is not the “WOW” part.  I’ve been doing store scanning  for some time.  Its fun and seems to thoroughly annoy sales staff (and sometimes my wife!)

The company that Bulkeley runs is the one that produces the Android app that I use to scan barcodes.  You can think of a barcode as a web url that directs the application to go to some specific website or activate an application.  You can imagine that the directory service of linking codes to a website is an interesting business area.

Now for the “WOW” moment.

When I was talking to Bulkeley,  he showed me his business card that had a 2-D barcode on the back.  He said, “go ahead scan it”.  When I scanned it, the application opened up the contact manager on my phone and auto-populated all of his details and asked me to confirm.  That was WOW.

You see ScanBuy and its consumer facing ScanLife website gives you the opportunity to have your own personal 2-D barcodes that link to a website or launch a contact application.  There are codes you can make for websites, phone numbers, SMS, Twitter, and even a menu of items.

Here is my contact 2-D Barcode:

And here is another that links to my personal Website:

And yet another that I made to link to my favorite Youtube video. I bet you can’t guess which one?

You can even change the destination website of any barcode on the ScanLife website.  If you have a smartphone with a ScanLife application, you can scan these codes directly from your computer screen.

He told me his daughter has a barcode on her dorm door and changes the website with her mood and likes.

I could envision a whole new market in fraternities, sororities and dorms.  No need to put a piece of clothing on the door knob as the signal of an “overnight” guest.   Just make sure your roommate scans before he enters!

But as they say – Wait –there’s more to this story….

A day later I was taking the train back to New Jersey from New York.  The train was full and I was sitting alone in two facing seats.  Three others came to occupy the other spots.  There were two young women – maybe 22 – one with bright purple hair and lots of interesting body art and the other very blonde and pixie-like.  Their androgynous boyfriend rounded out the group.  Needless to say, I did not have much in common or much to say as the went on about their art exhibits and music performances.  This was not the “Hey! how about those Yankees?” crowd. And I was not up on the latest exhibit in the Village.

This all changed when Miss Pixie took out her Android phone.  Ah!, now something of a connection.  We had a long discussion on apps and her favorites. Her two interesting friends also had Androids, but older models (at least 6 months) and seemed behind the curve.   Pixie liked the same apps I did.  I am not sure what to conclude from that, so moving on…..

She had Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Skype and Google Navigation.  Her really favorite “cool” app was, you guessed it –  ScanLife.  She did not even know the name of the company, just that she could use it when she shopped.

At this point her rather purple,  pierced  and tattooed friend perked up and said , “I always wanted to get a barcode tatoo.”

Not wanting to waste a good promotion opportunity for Mr. Bulkeley’s company, I explained how she could have her own personal barcode that linked to something that she could pick, and even change.  She was delighted and copied down the info.

For this group of avant-garde artists, it was one more cool thing to adorn their body with , and something they could scan with their phones.

The train pulled into my stop and my new friends, who were brought together by our Droids and barcodes, parted ways.

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, facebook, Google, iphone, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, mobile games, new media, New York, Rangers, sex, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, social networking, Twitter, wireless

Twitter as Mainstream Media for Israeli/Gaza Conflict?

It was 18 months ago that I first wrote about the extension of real, shooting wars to the social media battleground.  This past week saw a return of cyberspace prominence in the Israeli/Gaza blockade.   The first story that flooded Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was the violence that occurred on the Mavi Marmara.  As this story exploded across the traditional press outlets, videos were available on YouTube showing the actual helicopter boarding of the ship and the attack on the soldiers, which was followed by deadly violence. In this case social media added some perspective to a very volatile issue.

What I found particularly interesting was the coverage of the next ship that attempted to land in the Gaza, the “Rachel Corrie”.  The name of the ship is a reference to an American woman who was killed in Gaza in 2003.   This ship was due to meet up with the Israeli navy early Saturday morning.  I was quite interested in what would happen and tried to get information from traditional media websites throughout the evening in New York.  Much of the information I found was old.  Old in this case means at least 12 hours.   Around midnight NYC time ,  Twitter seemed to become the major news source.  This was fascinating.  Tweets were coming in fast and furious.  This is the first time I experienced the “fog of war” in real time social media.  Reports came in about the ship being boarded, stopped, not stopped, trailed by naval ships, proceeding to Gaza, going to Ashdod, being inspected by International representatives, and so on. Rumors followed Rumors.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the ship had been boarded three hours before the actual event.  This report seemed to be in response to an earlier Tweet that seemed credible.  A credible Tweet as a source?  The Jpost eventually retracted their story, but not before their report was Tweeted 1000’s of time as credible.    The problem is what is a credible Tweet?  Twitter is an environment where anyone can broadcast anything.   The need for instantaneous news on any world event has put news organizations in the position of trying to sift through 1000’s of Tweets to determine what may or may not be happening.  Most Tweets about the Rachel Corrie were re-Tweets of other rumors that were then reinforced by their sheer volume of messaging.  As the trending stats of the Rachel Corrie become higher and higher, it attracted the spammers and the truly crazy people.  Yet through all of this,  I was updating the Twitter role of info on the Rachel Corrie.  The information pipe became even more stuffed with offers for good, services, merchandise and other threads about the ship that described  what was or was not happening.

For the record, the ship was eventually boarded and led to the port of Ashdod where the crew and passengers were deported from Israel and the goods inspected, before shipment to Gaza.  The ruling Hamas Party in Gaza has subsequently refused to accept the aid from the Rachel Corrie becuase it was trucked through Israel. This ship made less worldwide headlines because there was no attack on the naval boarding party and the ship sailed peacefully to an Israeli port.  However, this crisis is far from over as Iran now proposes to use its Navy to escort blockade running ships.

Will we continue to rely on Twitter as the front line of information gathering if this situation escalates even further?  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) maintains a Twitter account to answer journalists questions and give them real time information on fast moving stories.  During the Rachel Corrie event they responded to a false story in the Jpost as follows:

Twitter is a mix of first hand accounts, rumors, government accounts, and just plain  propaganda.

In the case of the Rachel Corrie what would have happened if Twitter had been flooded with purposeful and coordinated false information?  Suppose Tweets circulated that the Israeli navy blew up the ship?  These false Tweets get re-tweeted thousands of times.  Mainstream media picks up the story and then reports the false reports.  Riots occur, real people get killed; Politicians take public stances that are difficult to back down from.  Fantasy become reality.  By the time the truth is known, it is too late and a real war has begun.   Sound fantastic?   This has happened, almost….

It was October of 1939 when Martians invaded the State of New Jersey.  Panic ensued.  Orson Wells and his epic War of the Worlds was of course just radio fantasy.  We could only imagine what might have happened if he had a Twitter account at the time.

Here is Russian Television’s Report on the Rachel Corrie Ship

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Filed under Aljerzera, facebook, Gaza, IDF, Iran, Israel, mobile, New York, politics, Rachel Corrie, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

“Where” is that Secret Facility on Foursquare?

One of the really interesting aspects of smartphone apps is the innovation and product mutation process.  Over the past couple of weeks I have downloaded over 100 apps on my Droid.  Some apps were good, many were not.  With the exception of Skydroid (99 cents), all were free.  For the record the Skydroid golf GPS program worked really well on my recent golf outing.  It did not help my game at all, but it was useful ad fun to use.

"Where" Local Information Portal

One of the more interesting and useful apps I have been using is “Where”.   “Where” aggregates all the most important mobile search and information functions in one app that utilizes your location for giving you the most relevant results.    Weather, News (including micro local news!), Places (a combination of restaurants, hotels, shopping, bars, etc), Movies, Gas prices, Yellow Pages, Traffic, and even a dedicated icon for the nearest Starbucks.  For the city-folk, it includes an app to locate a Zip Car.  All of these come with easy lists, or are searchable via text or voice input.

Instead of going into several dedicated apps to do the same “on the fly” searches, you can just stay within the “Where” dashboard.   They also have a widget for the Droid that will give you the latest alert on any of the categories you have displayed.  The widget still needs some work, but is useful.

There is a similar function to “FourSquare” that encourages venue checkin and reviews. Foursquare is  the much bigger app for the “hey look where I’ve been crowd”, but “Where” should be watched.

What is interesting about both “Where” and “Foursquare” is how they took a

Foursquare places near me - Interesting...

working model on mobile and morphed it into something more useful.   “Where” actually went backwards to go forward.  They observed that the single function search and LBS apps were good but cumbersome to use in a real life use case.  For example, let’s find a movie to see, a place to eat and maybe a club later on.  “Where” handles that use case.  “Where” re-invented the information portal.

For the record I have no idea what the top secret Delta Facility or the Mothership are in my list.  But I will now have to check them out!  If this is my last blog article you will know why!

My Mother's Day Trip - on Foursquare

Foursquare capitalized on the fascination with Twitter and tweeting your status and focused it on venues.  This creates a social scene network.  Where are your friends?  Do you want to see them?  What do they think of that bar, restaurant, deli, etc?  It is a real time social networking app that is part Twitter, part Zagat’s, and part dating and hook-up.  Foursquare also uses location based services to locate you and give you a list of close by venues for you to check-in.

Both of these apps are using geo-located search technology to make their apps very easy to use.  They are both ad supported.  “Where” has a coupon tray for local coupons on products and services.  They both provide functionality that is superior to a vanilla Google search.

So what do they need to move to the big time?

Foursquare is clearly in the Zagat space.  Foursquare is what the mobile version of Zagat should be.  Foursquare and Zagat announced a partnership in February.  The combined application should be interesting!  To the leading edge augmented reality crowd –  yes I have tried Zagat on NRU – its very cool and the whole subject of augmented reality will be the topic of a future article.

“Where” needs the venue reviews and overall utilization that Foursquare and Zagat enjoy.  Additionally “Where” can benefit from the social networking features of Foursquare.   What I am not to subtly suggesting is that while Foursquare and “Where” have definitely moved the bar (no pun intended 🙂 ) , they are much more compelling together, and eventually even more compelling in a real partnership with Zagat.

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Filed under advertising, android, blog storming, cloud computing, Content, CTIA, Droid, Droid Incredible, facebook, HTC, HTC Incredible, Love, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, reviews

HTC Incredible – The Bright Side

After getting lots of comments on the frank discussion of my new Droid, I decided it was time to give the other part of the story.  In general, I really like this new superphone.  Yes, I’m still having battery issues.  I  recently had a day in NYC, away from my home office, and I was down to 15% by noon.  But lets not dwell on that.

I have downloaded about 30 free apps for my phone.  I have kept about half of them and trashed the rest.  My advice is to stick to brand name content and carefully reviewed apps.  If you just browse and download whatever you like, you will have many apps that don’t work or worse…

While the HTC Friends widget gets lots of publicity, the individual Facebook and Twitter Apps are better for me.  For the record I use “Peep” for Twitter.  The Foursquare app works well, the LinkedIn app – not.

Many of the most useful apps are targeted at managing your Droid phone.  Among these I recommend “Lookout”.  This is a combined virus scan, backup and lost phone locater – and is presently free.   As I mentioned in my first review a Droid is more like a PC.  When you download  “Caveat Emptor”   For the lost phone feature, you can locate your phone on a Google Map on the Web and even have it emit a siren sound.  Warning- don’t give your web lookout password to anyone or you will likely have a siren in your pocket at the worst possible time!

The widgets that come prepackaged for managing Bluetooth, WIFI , GPS and mobile networking are very useful in managing battery life.  Just keep everything off that you really don’t need.  I have found the GPS is a particular battery hog.

For syncing music, I finally got SallingMedia to work.  The trick is to create playlists for anything you want to sync and then to just sync those lists.  For video you can just drag an mp4 into the video folder on your phone.

One of the pleasant battery surprises was that I was able to watch a 2-hour movie on my phone and still have over 50% battery left!  There are a couple of decent free video players in the app store.  You should try mvideoplayer or stream media player. ( A free shout out to anyone who correctly guesses which movie I debuted on my droid –  there is a hint in this article)

A key to the usability of my Droid is mastering the notification pull down.  Just slide down your finger from the top Verizon logo and you bring down a list of recent emails, messages, program alerts, etc.

For sheer fun there are many “soundboards” in the app store.  These soundboards provide famous sound clips for many movies and TV shows.  I downloaded several and keep them in a folder.

Another app that I like is “barcode”.  It is a build in barcode reader that auto generates a search and shopper price comparison.  Don’t know if I ever will really use it “in real life”- but it’s pretty slick.

I also downloaded “SkyDroid”.  This is the one paid app I have.  It cost 99 cents.  It provides a GPS function linked to golf courses.  I am playing a round on Friday, so I’ll let you know how it works.  The website has a nice interface to map out any golf course that is not yet in their database, and of course it uses Google maps.  It took me about 30 minutes to enter the local course.  I am sure it will not help my golf game, but it is a cool thing to have.

There are apps that are un-Verizon-like in the store.  These include porn, a way to download “free” mp3s and a program to turn your Droid into a broadband modem for your laptop.  The former is surprising for the normally protective Carrier, the later 2 are ways to violate your contact TOS and bypass Verizon’s own broadband connect service.  The world of openness has its consequences.  You have to exert personal responsibility – just like the real world.  Just be careful if you give one of these to a minor.

Lastly, my absolute favorite feature on my Droid is the voice recognition with speech to text.   This is really great.  I thought my biggest issue would be with the virtual keyboard – however I respond to most messages and emails by speaking into the phone.  Imagine – a phone you can speak to!  What a concept.  The voice recognition can be used for almost any text input field. I have used it for emails, SMS, Google searches and contact searches.  Its accuracy is very good – although it needs a little work on its Yiddish!

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Filed under blackberry, Droid, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, HTC Incredible, iphone, Ipod, location based services, media, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, new media, New York, Open Network, opensource, porn, reviews, sex, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, social networking, Twitter

HTC Droid Incredible – The Rest of the Story (Spoiler Alert!)

What Droid Incredible Really Does – and Does Not (Unofficial Review)

After resisting Droid-Rage during the holiday season, I succumbed to the uber- hyped latest Android super phone – the HTC Incredible.  My venerable Blackberry Curve just was not as sleek or sexy and clearly did not have the cool robot graphics.

There are numerous blog reviews and YouTube videos that will espouse all the virtues of Verizon’s number 1 smartphone.  While they are largely correct, they do not tell the whole story.  Yes it is fast, works on a great network, has more features that a human can possibly comprehend, or use – and even makes phone calls.   I will provide another article with my fav Droid features – this article is about the other side.

To quote Paul Harvey  – “And now the rest of the story….”  Here are my top six issues with my Droid.

1. Speed comes at a cost – The Achilles Heal of the Incredible

All the blazing application response and connectivity comes at a cost in battery utilization.  The first day I had my Droid I had to charge it 2 times.  What good is all that capability if the phone is dead?  If you get a Droid you must stay close to a charging source and become an active energy manager.  You should turn-off the GPS when not needed, limit the number of running applications and even re-consider all of those really cool active widgets which use periodic connectivity to update themselves.   If you need an icon of the sun to let you know its sunny outside, perhaps you need more than a new phone.

2. The display rocks – unless you want to use it outside during the day

The AMOLED technology used in the HTC screen is the latest, but not quite the greatest.  The display is great when used inside.  I just got back from a round of golf and the phone was practically unusable in the sunlight.  The bigger issue is using the super Google driving directions app with a map view.  The map will not be viewable in a car during the day!

3. Its not the number of Apps that matters – its having the right ones and ones that actually work

I never got that impressed with the claims of absolute number of apps on device platforms.  If the iPhone has 300K and the Android 30K , what does that really mean?  It’s a little like counting the number of Nukes that the U.S. and Russia have in their arsenals. .  Quality, not quantity really matters. Android has the basic Facebook and Skype apps.  Its the other 30K that may need some help.  My impression is that the apps on the iPhone are not just more numerous, but are generally of higher quality.   Perhaps the Android platform chased absolute numbers to claim lots of apps without as much quality consideration.  Several apps just did not work at all and others just stopped working.  I tried to download the linkedIn app and had a failure.  This is an area that the Android platform will likely get right at some point.

I want quality apps for the handful I will actually use.  Android has to close the app quality gap with Apple.

4. iTunes Integration – Music and Video – ???

The iPhone clearly excels at music and video desktop integration.  The challenge for any other platform is to create seamless integration for their platforms with the defacto standard for online music. Given the critical nature of this feature, one might assume that HTC or Verizon would provide a solution that makes this happen.

And you would assume wrong.  There are a couple of solutions that purported to achieve this function.  I tried both SailingMedia and DoubleTwist.  Both of these third-party solutions did not work.  While I could probably play with them for another hour or so and figure out what the issue is – why should I have to do that?  I did load my music directly by dragging my music to the mp3 folder on my device.  The music plays fine and the external speaker is loud –if that matters to you.  There does not appear to be a pre-loaded video player and I have yet to get a video, other than YouTube to play successfully.  Again, I’m sure I will figure it out – but why should I have to?

5. Gmail Good – Gmail Bad

I use gmail for my personal email domain, I figured that the Android platform would be a good choice for my use.  For the record my Blackberry worked perfectly with my gmail account.  As expected my gmail account integrated easily with my Droid.  My issue with email is the rather poor gmail app on the device.  I tried to use the HTC mail app and for whatever reason it does not seem to work when my gmail application is active.  As with my other issues, I am sure with a little time I can get it to work.

6. Steve Jobs is right – One button is enough

The Incredible Droid has 7 physical buttons -Home, Menu, Back, Search, optical trackball with click, volume and power/wake-up.  In addition to these physical inputs the standard screen has four soft keys – an up arrow to access all programs, a phone button (yes it can make a phone call!), a “+” key for adding widgets, programs and folders to a screen, and lastly a hidden slide down at the top of the screen that gives a list of alerts and running programs.  Wow – that’s a lot of things to keep straight!.  The really annoying input is the totally useless optical track ball and click selector that just happens to occupy the same spot as the single “home” key on the iPhone.  Needless to say, I have been pushing that click selector by accident through pure muscle memory from my iPhone and iTouch.  An optical trackball on a touch screen device?  Why?

Despite these issues, I am sure I will get around the downsides of this device and make it into a very useful tool for business and personal use.  However, how many customers will take the time to become an I.T. manager for their phone?

For the past several years I carried my Blackberry for phone use and light Internet use and an iTouch for fun.  The true test will be if I go to one device.

The iPhone, like all Apple products – just works out of the box.  The Droid can work, and even do more, but you have to know what you are doing and be willing to investigate the necessary solutions.  The Droid is clearly still rough around the edges.

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Kudos to Verizon for taking on Leadership – Mobile without Phone Numbers

Approximately one year ago I wrote an article entitled “The Future of Mobile – without phone numbers.” In my discussion I put forth the proposition that social networks would take over the fundamental connectivity for individuals and that phone numbers would be a network “IP address”.   This article generated 100’s of emails and questions, some supportive, some not, but all thought provoking. It was clear that I had hit a nerve.

A major step towards my view of the future of mobile communications was taken by Verizon in the last week.  Verizon Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and later confirmed and launched at CTIA 2010, an integrated Skype calling service.  This service enables users to click any Skype username, make a call, and not be charged for mobile minutes.  This service even uses the mobile voice connectivity of Verizon for the wireless network of the call.

This is a major watershed event for the industry.  A major carrier embracing voice as a data service, with calls completed outside of the carrier’s equivalent phone number – DNS.

In fact, this capability had been  available by such applications as ISkoot.  What is big news is that Verizon is openly promoting this service and not charging for mobile minutes.   Another advantage of the Verizon version is that it is “always-on”.  I received my first Skype call on my mobile yesterday.  It just happened like any other mobile call.  It was an important business call and all I could think about at the conclusion was – that was cool.

The use of social networks and non-phone number connection services implies that that contact DNS aggregation services will become even more important.  My network contact list will be an amalgamation of my Facebook, Linkedin, Skype, Twitter,  existing phone books, AOL IM list and likely several others.  Aggregating my contact lists, storing them in the network cloud and presenting them to me on demand in a usable form is essential.

While at CTIA I was on a panel discussion with   Mike Mulica, CEO of FusionOne.  FusionOne is a leading example of such a network based contact/address book that spans social networks.  They are certainly a company worth watching in the future, as they appear to be “on the right side of the technology curve”.

A question that remains is how does Verizon generate revenue by connecting calls for free?  Simple answers include increased data subscriptions and greater subscriber growth via churn from other carriers.    In the U.S. market, with mobile penetration approaching 90%, carriers can only increase subscribers by churning their competitor’s customers.   Since the Skype app on iPhone is not as full featured and cannot be “always-on”, VZW has given leading edge users a reason to switch NOW.

In the future I would expect connections between Skype calling capability and other applications on Verizon, especially those provided through the Verizon’s own app store.  I also expect that full mobile video calling and even video conferencing via Skype is no doubt on the roadmap.

This feature is only available to VZW smartphone subscribers , and that means a $29.99/mo data charge.

Regardless of the long term revenue sources, VZW has taken a clear leadership position in its market and now has the their competitors determining a catch-up strategy.  Kudos to Verizon on this move.

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