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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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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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Filed under Apple, Droid, HTC, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Steve Jobs, Verizon, wireless

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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Clouds can make it rain, and follow you – Your Personal Cloud

Cloud computing is in the air. Wherever I turn people are talking about public clouds, private clouds, enterprise clouds. It seems that the makers of cloud technology can be the next generation of rainmakers. Truth be told, the computing concept of virtualization or even time-sharing is hardly a new one.

The natural ebb and flow of computing power and application requirements has swung to the point where most applications can share a single physical platform, thus virtualization and cloud computing. This trend coupled with a high speed connected internet enables cloud computing to become a metered utility.


All of that dark fiber and infrastructure that was placed during the dot.com boom is coming into play. But, as I said , nothing really new here.

Back in Graduate School, in a time when Carl Sagan was still gazing at the billions and billions of stars, my personal computing account was metered by compute cycle. If I designed a particular program poorly and ate up a lot of compute time, it might be time to whip out the credit cad and recharge the account. This methodology certainly made you a precise and careful program designer!

While this cloud trend is particularly relevant and profit making for companies such as Amazon, RackSpace, VMware, Microsoft, etc – what does it mean for the guy on the street?

The companion trend that will have more far reaching implications for the consumer is personal clouds. A personal cloud is a collection of your data and applications that is accessible from any device, anytime. This includes documents, photos, videos, games, TV and movies, applications and personal preferences. Everything that now sits on your semi-connected home or work PC, mp3 player or smartphone  just waiting for a hard-disk crash,  or the device to break or be lost ,will now be available in your personal cloud.

This has already started. Gmail, Hotmail, and other online mail providers store and manage your email accounts. Goggle docs can store any document type and has online versions of word processing, spread sheeting and presentation software. The majority of my TV viewing is done online. I do not even know the original air date of most of the shows that I retrieve form Hulu or the network sites.

The personal cloud has been complimented by netbooks and recently the iPad. (I will share my thoughts on the iPad in my next article).
A netbook should more accurately be called “My Cloud Viewer”.

What a netbook does well is get on the Internet and get to your stuff. The personal cloud does for the individual what enterprise cloud computing does for the corporation – it turns computing power and storage from device centric (PC, Laptop, Phone, TV) to a network utility. Display and connectivity is what will be needed in the future.

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Filed under advertising, cloud computing, Distribution, iphone, mobile, netbooks

Marketing is about choices – or is it? You decide

Marketing is about choices – or is it?

I recently went through a mental exercise of trying to determine what makes great marketing companies…. well…. great.   There are the obvious, and historic , iconic brands of the last 100 years – Coke,  Ford, AT&T,  McDonalds, Bud,  Chevy.  These brands have become part of the American DNA.  They will not necessarily be the great marketing giants of the next 20 years, but like that old pair of jeans, somewhat comfortable,  but  not what you will brag to your friends about.


None of these companies excelled at consumer choice.  Coke gives you with/without caffeine and  with/without sugar .  Ford and Chevy have nearly gone out of business by trying to offer too many choices, or more correctly, dictating what the consumer should choose.  Bud gives you regular or lite.  McDonalds is about the burger.  These companies have used massive advertising to direct the consumer choice to their pre-determined, limited set of options.


The companies that are dominating consumer choices now are Google, Apple, Facebook, Your Cable/Internet Providers, and Amazon.com.   They all seemingly put choice back in the hands of the consumer.  Google presents you with literally whatever you want.   Apple provides endless apps on the first really open smartphone.  Facebook opens a world of new and past friends and lets you choose who you want to be friends with, or not.   Cable television began to break up the monopoly of the networks by providing consumers 100’s (and now 1000’s) of channels of choice, coupled with video on demand.   In this era of consumer empowerment, does brand matter?


The conclusion I came to is yes , and now more than ever.  Fundamentally, marketing is about directing a consumers choice to a specific product or service.  Google only makes money when you choose to click on a product search that was highlighted via advertising.  Apple needs you to choose their marketplace for apps.  With thousands upon thousands of apps, what will be the mechanism for consumer adoption?  The featured list of apps on the iphone is really what? It is a mechanism to show you that you have unlimited choice , but then direct your choice in a specific manner.     Facebook is a huge social marketing machine that tries to influence your choices by having your friends influence you.  Influence the Influencers, and you direct choices.

Your Cable providers can offer you 100’s of channels, and as has been seen in recent days, can take those channels away.  They do however; seem to come the closest to providing relatively influence free choices. (Their advertising for paid VOD movies aside).


Amazon provides a brilliant mix of peer reviews and product recommendations.  They are really the more direct version of Google.  Search on what you want to buy, get a couple of choices.  If you don’t like what you see, they suggest close alternatives. While their marketing value proposition is about unlimited choice, their technology is all about limiting your choice, so that you will make a choice.


So, the older model had a marketing organization pre-determining a consumer’s choice through some form of market research and then marketing the heck out of those choices.  Now, companies give the illusion of unlimited choices, monitor and track the actual choices that are made and then capitalize on those choices and utilize more subtle earns to influence those choices.


Marketing is marketing.  The techniques evolve, but the goals remain the same.  Buy my product or service and not the other guys.

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Filed under advertising, Apple, E-Commerce, economy, facebook, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, social networking

A Special Thanksgiving Lesson – From Mobile Social Networking

Thanksgiving is a holiday that all Americans, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion and politics seem to rally behind. I decided to put this notion to a test.

A couple of years ago, I decided to run a small social experiment during the Thanksgiving season. At the time I was CEO of UPOC. I invited members from several diverse groups into a special “What are you thankful for…?” – mobile chat group. The idea was to have everyone give a “shout out” of thanks. The experimental part of this mobile chat group was the source of the member groups that were invited.

These groups included: Christian Fundamentalists, Atheists, Communists, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Anarchists, Right to Lifers, Republicans, Druids, Democrats, Red Sox Fans, Yankee Fans, Reform Jews, Blacks, Asians, Gays, Lesbians, Hispanics, Satanists, Israeli and Palestinian, Young and Old.

Yes! I even invited Red Sox fans!

I tried to get the most diverse group of individuals I could possibly imagine that had open chat profiles. In the end I invited about 5000 people and got about 500 to join.

In the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was careful to hide the sources of the groups of the members.

Different Cultures, Religions, Ethnicity, Sexual Preferences, and Sports Affiliations. None of the differences were obvious, just the similarity of giving thanks.

Leading up to the holiday, the expressions of thanks were heart warming. Many gave thanks for Family, Friends and God. Some expressions of thanks were deeply personal including being thankful for a second chance with a loved one, being paroled from jail, having recovered from an illness, having the opportunity to see a loved one for the holiday, etc. The expressions of introspective appreciations knew no boundaries of culture. If you hid the chat handles from the messages you would have had a very difficult time identifying the group that a specific message had originated. It seems that people are really just people.

Everyone has their share of joy and “meshugas”

The second unexpected part of this experiment happened after the long Thanksgiving weekend. The expressions of thankfulness stopped and biases and bigotry emerged.

By the end of the week the word had gotten out to the participants who some of the other members of this group really were. That’s another side of social networking, its tough to keep secrets.

Right and Left Wingers began to spar, Fundamentalists started to try to save the Satanists, Hassidic Jews were condescending of Reform Jews- And the Red Sox and Yankees fans – it was just too ugly to repeat…

Stripped of their diverse background identifiers, people of vastly different cultures have very similar things to be thankful about.

Once the identity veil was lifted I was thankful that everyone in the group was in cyberspace and not really in the same physical room. I removed the group a week after Thanksgiving to avoid potential bloodshed.

Maybe there is something we all can learn from this social experiment in this season of Thanksgiving.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Isarel, lesbian, mobile, politics, sex, Social Media, social networking, Thanksgiving

Google clicks in for Mobile

googleDuring the past week Google made two significant splashes in the mobile arena. Their much heralded, bombing of middle America with Stealth fighters announced the landing of the “Droid” mobile device. Secondly, their acquisition of the leading U.S. mobile advertising company, Admob for $750M announced the full legitimacy of mobile advertising. When Google speadmobaks, the rest of the industry should listen.

There was a time, not too long ago, when an entire industry seemed to get a simultaneous epiphany – that the Internet had created a legitimate “second” screen to television.  When this became “conventional wisdom”, the advertising Dollars, Euros and Yen started to shift from the “spray and pray” methods of television to the increasingly targeted methodologies of the web.

The same thought process can now be safely referred to as “conventional wisdom” for mobile.  The consumer is spending more time starring at their mobile screen, and less and less at their Web browsers, and even far less in front of the television.  With this reality, the web advertising giant is shifting more investment to the third screen  – which we should refer to as the consumers prime screen, the mobile screen.

We have transitioned from TV ad blindness (really a Pavlovian queue to go to the frig or bathroom), to web banner blindness.  We now, however, have the personal medium of the smartphone to reach consumers.

We have moved from the communal family device, the television, to a shared, yet personal device, the PC to the personal and un-shared device, the smartphone.

There will be some winners and losers in this new reality.  The winners will be companies that have invested ahead of the curve and have developed mobile and true multimodal next gen advertising vehicles.   Advertising and promotional technologies and processes that have broken with the “spray and pray” techniques of the past and capitalize on the true personal 1-1 advertising techniques, providing consumers ads that they want to view, will be the market winners.

The Android has positioned Google to be in your pocket, not figuratively, but literally.  The combined promotion with VZW and Moto, with stealth bombers creating a thinly veiled a sense of “Shock and Awe”, is a loud statement.

(Note to the Droid ad agency – Stealth bombers do not fly during the day, hence the word “stealth”)

See my other comments on the ad campaign at the end of this blog article.

VZW is a company with a great network and a lagging device lineup. Moto has raw engineering and production talent for mobile devices and has largely fallen off the radar screen in recent years.  Google, the dominant player in the present  generation of Internet advertising, is seeking to maintain and grow that position in the next generation.

So, Google is playing a pre-emptive attack strategy in mobile. VZW is playing catch-up to the iPhone.  Moto is, perhaps, playing their last “bet the company” card on Android technology.  Offense, defense and survival makes for three very motivated partners.

With the expected proliferation of Droids and other smartphones, Google’s purchase of ADMob is both stunning and obvious.   Another winner in this market shift will be, as I have written about in the past, the major social networks.

So who are the losers this past week?

On the Wireless Carrier side of the equation, Sprint and T-Mobile have to be concerned.  The gap between them and the leaders  (AT&T and VZW) is widening.   I  expect one less mobile service company in the U.S. in the next 12 months.

The emergence of Android platforms is likely the end of Palm as a mobile platform.  The Palm Pre never got the consumers attention and thus critical market share.

Too little, too late.

Palm will not be able to compete with Google and Apple in this round.  Their demise is written on the wall (in Graffiti).

500x_smartphonemarkshareRIM also has to be very concerned.  The launch of their touch screen device, the Storm was, well, stormy.   Blackberry has a strong market position and is well entrenched.  It has made significant growth in the consumer segment in recent years.  Will that growth reverse with maturing Android devices?  While Blackberry is in a much stronger position than Palm, the combined investment potential and application resources of Apple and Google will be a major challenge to RIM’s Blackberry.

All that said, RIM still commands over 20% global share in smartphones

Application developers will have to start to prioritize their porting and promotion of new applications between four major global platforms – Symbian,  Blackberry, Apple and Android.

It will be interesting to watch the global leader in the smartphone category – Nokia and their Symbian Operating System.  This platform is relatively unknown in the U.S. market, but is dominate in the rest of the world.

The next obvious question is how do these moves motivate other players in the industry to react?  Microsoft is desperately playing catch-up to Google in present generation search engines and advertising.  Their own version of a mobile operating system has made, at best, niche inroads.  Microsoft has suffered from execution issues and seems to be the biggest example of true  “innovators dilemma” in the last 20 years.

Yahoo has some mobile applications but seems to be a company unable to focus the attention necessary on any one initiative.  Perhaps some Corporate Ritalin is in order?

My conclusion is that both Microsoft and Yahoo will likely go shopping for a focused next gen advertising company.

Ad Agencies that have largely focused on managing creative production and bulk television ad buying are increasingly on the wrong side of the technology curve.  They are, however, in a good position with the depth of their industry relationships, to be a major force in the next wave of Internet/Mobile advertising,. The question is are they willing to move from their existing business models and develop the expertise in the methodologies, either in-house or through acquisition that can maintain their market positions in the value chain for the next generation.

The technology of smartphones, advertising and applications has now combined to make the next generation of consumer services and commerce a break from the past.  At least that’s what I hear from all of the “Conventional Wisdom”.

Notes on Droid Ad Campaign:

The more I thought about the Android “Stealth Fighter” ads the more I realized that that imagery was quite familiar.  I have added four additional videos for your viewing.  Theses video are the trailers for the 1953 and 2005 versions of “War of the Worlds” , the trailer for Armageddon and CNN footage of the bombing of Baghdad.

With these videos you can draw your own conclusions.  Please let me know what you think.

In my opinion, these images all have some resemblance to the Droid commercial.  In each of these cases the situation did not end well for the “entrenched” establishment.  Mass destruction was the result.  In one case a virus saved mankind.  This is hardly the message that a smartphone operating system might want to promote.    The droid-like figures eventually emerge to destroy everything in sight –they really do – you can Google it.  In the CNN footage a nation watched mesmerized by the imagery, only to learn that perhaps the wrong war was fought.

All interesting imagery for the first shot in a new generation of smartphones.

Subtle – this is not.

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Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, facebook, Google, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Twitter, Web2.0, wireless, You Tube