Mobilestance is proud to host the 172nd edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists
For the uninitiated, the Carnival of the Mobilists is a weekly roundup of the very best in mobile writings from across the blogosphere. It’s been over a year since we last hosted the Carnival, and we’re happy to say that it’s still going strong… with over a dozen of posts to choose from we’ve got our work cut out for us, so let’s get started!
Allaboutiphone.net does a great job breaking down why barcode scanning is easier on Android than it is on iPhone in Barcode Scanning and Shopping with the iPhone, including some alternative approaches developers have taken to work around limitations in the current iPhone SDK. Hopefully things will change with the release of the “new batch of iPhone goodies” heavily rumored to come out this June/July?
Finally, Wild Illusions lays down some quality coverage of the medical App and services landscape in Mobile Pearls vol. IV: Mobile Healthcare Edition. This sector is about to explode with the release of iPhone 3.0 this summer and its support of external hardware, so a very timely post to be sure.
Mobile Marketing & Advertising. Over at London Calling: the Mobile Advertising Blog you’ll find a mobile marketing cautionary tale worth reading, or – why marketers need to REALLY pay attention to privacy in mobile, and not just give it the lip service that usually passes for “privacy concerns” in other digital channels. Consequently, it’s experiences like what’s described in this post that have informed my decision to never do business with SMS list brokers, regardless of what they tell me of of double, triple or even quadruple opt-in. Sorry list-brokers, not only do I just don’t believe you, but all that opt-in language largely misses the point that consumers aren’t ready for most mobile push tactics, period.
Handsets and Hardware. Only one post this week on the hardware side of the house, but it’s a real gem in “From MotoLozr to MotoRcvr via MotoTxtr: How to Prevent the Slo-Mo Suicide of Moto the Grand” from Communities Dominate Brands. In this age of commonplace bankrupcies of iconic American brands like Chrysler and Citibank, this is a very well thought out, well written and poignant piece on the OEM so close to our hearts. Our RUNNER UP FOR POST OF THE WEEK, and just by a hair!
So there you have it. Carnival #172 in all it’s glory. A shout out to next week’s carnival host, RadVision VoIP Survivor… and as always, to get in on all the hot blog-on-blog action submit your mobile-related stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.
New York-based Scanbuy, the maker of the proprietary “ScanLife” Mobile 2-D Barcode Reader and “EZCode” code format, has been on a tear of late, scoring a series of high-profile campaigns that have buoyed the prospects of the nascent channel and rekindled the “open” versus “closed” mobile barcode debate.
Scanbuy’s recent announcements include an OOH integration campaign with American Airlines at four major airports, including LaGuardia and O’Hare. American Airlines also joined Car & Driver, Citysearch, Discovery Communications and Sears in participating in Scanbuy’s “cross-carrier pilot.” Additionally, Scanbuy has also found success in Europe, launching with MTV France’s “Crispy News” and landing a few handset pre-load deals in Spain. The company also recently announced their ScanLife reader has been ported to the iPhone and will be available for download upon launch of the iPhone App Store (expected June, 2008).
While all of these are obviously positive steps in driving mass adoption of 2D barcodes, it needs to be pointed out that the Scanbuy technology suite is a proprietary (closed) system, meaning that the “EZCodes” in question can only be read by ScanLife’s reader; Consumers attempting to read the EZCodes with other, so-called “open format” readers will not be able to interact with the code. The “open” format, which is used by the Android “ZXing” and many popular European and Asian reader brands, is based on a design by the Japanese Denso Wave company, and it is “open” in the sense that the company does not exercise their patent on the technology – meaning that the standard is essentially “free.”
Business Models. Companies like Scanbuy and ShotCode that utilize a proprietary code format primarily make their money by charging brands to create the codes, as well as redemption fees (which are levied every time a consumer scans one of their codes). This is in stark contrast to the “open” format model, where the printing of codes, “scans” and even some cases the readers themselves are all essentially free. These companies primarily make their money by either bundling in other, related mobile marketing services (such as SMS or mobile website creation and hosting), as well as charging for analytics services quantifying QR campaign performance.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would a brand would pay to use a proprietary 2-D code format when they can essentially use an open format for free?” Well, for now the issue is scale: The install base on proprietary readers is greater than that of the “open” readers. That said, with the coming of Android handsets this Fall (all of which will include an “open” QR reader preloaded on the device), the real question is how long will the proprietary readers be able to maintain their advantage…
In the meantime, competing standards are the price one pays for innovation. Let us hope these issues resolve themselves soon, as the quickest way to kill this exciting new market is with fragmentation. I think we can agree that requiring users to have a half a dozen or so readers installed on their phones is a nightmare we’d just as soon avoid.
iPhone, Android Developers Race to Bring Highly Anticipated Technology to Masses.
While we here at mobilestance prefer to poke fun at market predictions rather than make them, we’ve decided to go out on a limb and draw a big ol’ line in the sand: 2008 will be the year that QR codes become viable in the US, thanks largely to the efforts of Apple and Google.
While recent efforts by Scanbuy, Discovery Communications and Citysearch have been impressive in terms of ambition and overall scale, they were nevertheless hamstrung by two significant flaws: (1) they’ve relied on a non-standard, proprietary code format, and (2) nearly all participants were required to download a java app via SMS prior to engagement – a tall order if you’re activating an OOH general market ad campaign. That said, in either an odd coincidence or boldfaced market collusion (kidding), both Google (directly) or Apple (indirectly) have taken the necessary steps to breakdown both of these barriers… the results of which will begin to take affect in and around the third quarter of this year.
All of which makes for extremely fertile ground for the (third party) development of an iPhone QR reader, and develop they have. Even without a user-friendly distribution model in place, developers have been busy porting their existing QR readers for use on the iPhone. iMatrix has already developed an iPhone version of it’s dual use (proprietary shotcode + EZcode / standard QR / Datamatrix) reader, and no doubt many more will follow. The iMatrix reader utilizes the iPhone SDK’s relatively robust API set to not only launch web URLs and initiate messaging and voice call events, but can also “add contacts to your Address Book, add events to Calendar [and] add new notes to Notes.” Until the iTunes App store is online the only way to install the reader is a via a fairly manual process (and only on unlocked handsets), but it won’t be long before the average user can easily download and install the reader via what is sure to be a dummy-proof, Apple-branded experience.
Compared to Apple’s laissez faire attitude towards QR, Google has been far more proactive. In addition to make sure that every Android phone will include a non-proprietary reader preloaded as part of the standard application set, Google is also championing an open-source J2ME reader project dubbed “ZXing” (which supposedly stands for “Zebra Crossing”). Not only is Google helping the app’s development in terms of hosting / distribution, it has also been actively recruiting developers to help with the project (I witnessed this first hand at the Nokia Barcamp in New York last November, when Google’s Sean Owen led a packed house through a four-minute ZXing presentation that abruptly ended with a pitch to java developers to aid in its development).
So which will have greater impact on the market? Well, while Google’s approach has the advantage of having the reader app reloaded onto the handset, Apple has the (short term) advantage of actually having handsets on the market! Also, (as stated earlier) Apple could always add a reader app to the next firmware release and instantly increase the size of the US QR-reader install base by a factor of twenty or so. This scenario is not (purely) speculation, as Apple has been known to “pull a Microsoft” and co-opt a particularly useful software app or two… all in the name of “user experience.” Watson, anyone?
More to the point, the reason all of this is so interesting is because of the perfect intersection between technology and lifestyle. Start with the iPhone user base (mobile-dataphilic, upscale, big spending, early-adopting, Gladwell-style alpha-influencers), then add what we can assume to be first Android buyers (ubergeeks, tinkerers, mavericks and malcontents – i.e. current Linux users) and you’ve got the perfect launching pad for a QR movement – and not just any old QR movement, but one of the advertiser-friendly / “interesting to Sandhill road” variety.
Proof of concept video, iPhone QR reader, below:
Achung! Clip is punctuated with annoying whistling, nauseating camera movement and a few failed demos to boot!
Welcome to Carnival of the Mobilists #117, the greatest posts on mobility from across the blogosphere – hosted for the first time on mobilestance.com.
With so many excellent posts this week it was difficult to pick a favorite, but after much hand-wringing and great gnashing of teeth, we’ve chosen Matt’s post on gaming over at AllAboutiPhone.net.
Honorable mentions to Open Gardens and Andrew Grill’s blog.
Post of the Week: Mattat AllAboutiPhone.netheaps a healthy dose of contagious entheusiasm in “Awesome and innovative games are coming” – a look ahead at a not-so-distant future that includes “innovative gaming” and “Apple” in the same sentence! Goes to show you that if you live long enough anything can happen…
Over at Tarekesber.com you’ll find a highly comprehensive list of mobile web design and development resources, including specifics on designing for iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia handsets, as well as overall style guidelines for the both WML and XHTML mobile websites.
Speaking of designing and coding for the mobile web, Denis at WapReview reviews Nirav Mehta’s new book, Mobile Web Development. Least Common Denominator Design, Mobile AJAX, “Web Rich” apps and Widgets are among the topics covered.
Bernardo Carvalho over at rawsocket dot org writing a writes an amusing and educational piece on the potential of QR codes. Extra points for the CueCat reference.
Mark publishes a roundup of papers focused on education and mobility over at Ubiquitous Thoughts, along with (the now infamous) clip highlighting safety measures that may one day protect us all from the dangers of WWTM (walking while text messaging).
Judy at the GoldenSwamp uses an instructional video to make an interesting case against banning mobiles in schools. File this under “Another Reason Why Carbonated Beverages and Education Don’t Mix.”
And what exactly is this thing we’re calling “Open?” Find out this week on Open Gardens, where you’ll get fully briefed on the “It” subject in mobility just in time to impress the ladies (and gentlemen) at this year’s CTIA Wireless, which kicks off tomorrow in Vegas.
Regular carnival contributor Andrew Grill looks at how mobile social networking meets crowd powered media on the back of his experience at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 on opening day. It is amazing how a simple set of photos taken during a live event can become distributed around the world – thanks to the power of mobile social networking applications.
Scanbuy, Discovery Communications and Citysearch Establish the First Permanent QR Colony in the New World.
In a truly monumental moment in (US-based) mobile marketing, New York-based Scanbuy has teamed up with Discovery Communications and Citysearch to launch by far the largest, most useful and altogether impressive application of QR Codes ever deployed on the North American Continent.
The program focuses on two key areas of QR Code activation: Restaurant reviews and other location-based user generated content (supplied by Citysearch), and “walking tour” audio guides that relate to specific San Francisco landmarks (courtesy of Antenna Audio, A Discovery Communications company). Consumers access both services by scanning an “EZcode” (Scanbuy’s 2D barcode format) with Scanbuy’s “Scanlife” QR Reader. Those without the reader installed on their handsets (read: most people) will first need to download the reader to their device, which is done via a simple text-message / WAP-push mechanism.
Restaurant / Business Guides (Citysearch). Scanbuy announced that “more than 500 restaurants and businesses in San Francisco will display ScanLife 2D barcodes” by way of window clings (see image, below). Scanning the codes will then “deliver Citysearch’s original and consumer-generated reviews directly to a user’s phone, allowing immediate access to relevant information and eliminating the extra steps of typing lengthy website addresses into mobile browsers.” Citysearch is distributing the window clings to San Francisco businesses, inclusive of the prominent EZ Codes specific to each restaurant or business.
Audio Guides (Discovery / Antenna Audio). Visitors to the City by the Bay will have the opportunity to access “walking tour” style content in the form of audio clips, images, maps, and other information relating the city and its more noteworthy landmarks. In this case the EZ Codes are being promoted in posters, bus shelters, street teams and other outdoor media (see images, below), with eventual plans to place the codes on or (most likely) near the city landmarks themselves. Scanning any of these codes will automatically launch the Discovery Audio mobile site in the phone’s browser, a snappy little portal that renders quite well in tested handsets. Content is organized by first neighborhood (Downtown, North Beach, and The Wharf / Marina) and then by landmark. The brief audio clips are quite good, framed as an “insiders view” to the city, and are rendered in the .3GP format. A few samples of the audio clips are as follows: sanfranciscoferrybuilding.3gp, palacehotel.3gp, baybridge.3gp and chinatown.3gp.
Commentary. While 2008 was the year that many anticipated mass use of QR codes would begin in the US, it is doubtful that anyone would have predicted an implementation approaching this scale or utility. Many thanks to Shab, of whom I owe $5 for giving us the heads-up on this. This is a big one, folks…
Last week was punctuated by a steady stream of mobile marketing-related announcements, studies, partnerships and launches – some interesting, some not so much… and none of which truly worthy of a dedicated post.
Nevertheless, taken in aggregate these moves represent an ever-advancing industry, charging forward on the backs of the innovators, the followers, and the “never say hype” over-enthusiastic forecasters.
We give you then, the first of mobilestance.com’s “This Week in Mobile Marketing”
TWIMM: We read the domestic Mobile Marketing trades, studies, announcements and insane market forecasts… so you don’t have to!
Meanwhile in related news, Nokia’s head of search Jussi Pekka Partanen simultaneously hyped local search while taking shots at Google, as reported moconews.net. At the the Visiongain mobile search conference in London last week the handset giant contended that mobile search will be more context-focused than the existing page rank-driven engines currently dominating the desktop search market. Nokia’s current “Nokia Search” product seems more evolutionary than revolutionary, combining web search with local (meaning: on the device) content search.
The Mobile Web. 40% of web publishers have launched mobile sites, with another 25% planing to do so in the next year, this according to Jupiter Research in a report entitled “Mobile web sites: Designing for mobility.” The number is somewhat misleading, insomuch as “this number… likely reflects mobile versions that consist of frames and offer a kludgy user interface,” or so says Mediapost. The report states that only 3% of the above mobile sites are “mobile advertising enabled” – in that they have the ability to optimize ad delivery based on whether the user is viewing the page via a mobile device (versus a PC). Mediapost also notes that up to 1/3 of these pages enable mobile commerce of some sort, such as “instant transactions and the ability to drive shoppers into nearby stores” – a fairly vague definition of mobile commerce to be sure.
Notable Mobile Website launches included a dedicated mobile version of FIM’s Photobucket (m.photobucket.com), Discovery Mobile’s new mobile portal (discoverymobile.com, which houses the all of Discovery Communications’ mobile sites, such as Discovery Channel Mobile, Animal Planet Mobile, and TLC Mobile), and USA.gov Mobile (http://mobile.usa.gov – which seems to be a fairly straightforward RSS fed Gov’t info formatted for mobile).
Mobile Content. The NBA announced that they are partnering with Turner to handle all of its mobile-related content offerings, this according to Fierce Mobile Content. Fierce reported that “the cable network will assume operational control of the league’s digital efforts, including its mobile and broadband businesses. The partnership, effective for the 2008-09 NBA season and continuing through the 2015-16 campaign, also calls for TBS to take over programming, marketing and technical operations of NBA TV, the league’s 24-hour digital television network, and host and operate the NBA.com Network, which includes the NBA.com, WNBA.com and NBADLeague.com websites. In addition, TBS will operate NBA League Pass, the league’s out-of-market game package. TBS, Inc. and the NBA will jointly sell advertising for all of the league’s digital assets.”
QR Codes. In a rare break from our “US Bias,” mobilestance.com continues to cover The Sun’s “Babe-Infused” QR Code efforts (UK). This week the Sun announced the results of its experiment with the promising mobile marketing technology. According to the Sun, the “new mobile content service has achieved early success with around 11,000 users registered so far.” Buoyed by these numbers, the tabloid plans on publishing “another pull-out (supplement in The Sun) to further inform people on how to use QR codes.”
Research-Driven Market Hype. The results of two “hypefull” Mobile Marketing studies were announced last week. The first was on Monday from ABI Research, who announced that “mobile marketing is expected to grow to over $24 billion worldwide in 2013, jumping from just $1.8 billion in 2007,” this according to the research firm’s study/product entitled “Mobile Marketing and Advertising” (retail price: $4500). The second came from Advertiser Perceptions, who reported on Wednesday that “26% [of advertisers] said they were currently using mobile, 20% said they planned to use it in the next six months, and 54% said they are not currently using mobile,” as reported by Ad Age. These numbers were based on surveys of “2,000 brand marketers and agencies” as part of their “Wave Eight” study that seems to cover both “hot” hand held media channels, such mobile video and search -as well as “not so hot” channels such as podcasting.
Miscellaneous News. The FCC launched a probe to “determine whether mobile phone text messages and short codes are covered by non-discrimination provisions of the telecom act,” this according to RCR Wireless News. The FCC move comes in wake of Verizon’s recent high-profile decision to block text messages from NARAL Pro-Choice America – a decision it quickly reversed under pressure from from a successful grass-roots campaign the organization launched against the carrier. Finally, Steve Jobs announced an underwhelming firmware update to the iPhone at last week’s Macworld 2008. Among the updates included features that now allowing users to send group SMS messages (something I can do on my two year old RAZR) and the non-GPS-based “Blue Location BEacon” feature in Google Maps (something I’ve been able to do on my Blackberry since Google launched the service late last year). Baby steps, to be sure. Forget a 3G version… I’m still waiting for such standard “features” as Cut and Paste!
Starting December 20th, print ads for Wine Enthusiast running in the WSJ will incorporate SnapTell’s “Snap.Send.Get” technology, reports Mobile Marketer.
The promotional mechanic is very simple and works as follows: Readers “snapping a picture” with their mobile phone and sending it to SnapTell (presumably via email or MMS) will “receive 15 percent off of any purchase on www.wineenthusiast.com.” It is not clear how the discount offer will be returned to consumers, but it is likely to be delivered via SMS in the form of a promo code to be redeemed on the Wine Enthusiast website.
If all of this is sounding at all familiar, it should. Boston-based Mobot, one of the first companies to activate the mobile pattern recognition space in the US, has been powering similar campaigns for Jane Magazine, Vibe and Elle Girl since 2005. What makes the WSJ SnapTell campaign significant is that (to my knowledge) this is the first MMS-based campaign to launch in the US targeted to an audience over 35 years of age. Could it be that recent studies indicating the rising popularity of MMS in the US are to be believed?
One of the reasons that SnapTell’s solution is attractive to marketers is that consumers can engage with these campaigns without first having to download a separate mobile application to transcode and/or identify the pattern to be recognized. The idea behind both Mobot and SnapTell is that all a consumer has to do is send an MMS or email an image to their servers to engage with a campaign; all images / patterns are identified on the server-side. The upside to this approach is that most handsets now have cameras integrated into the device, greatly increasing the potental reach of the tactic.
On the flipside, decoding the image on the server inherently builds lag time into the experience, and response times can be further impacted by message delays on the carrier side. The QR code mechanic, where the image (in this case a one or two dimensional barcode) is decoded on the handset rather than on the server, has been shown to greatly reduce these latencies, providing a much better user experience. However, since most handsets do not (yet) come with reloaded barcode readers (and trying to get consumers to download applications on their own is a fairly challenging task to say the least), the impact of domestic QR campaigns remains limited to an extremely small install-base.
Props to the The Sun (UK) for making QR codes sexy. Today’s publication features a full page “spread” (sorry, couldn’t resist) introducing readers to QR codes, which they tout as “a new kind of barcode, [that] will revolutionalise the way you use your mobile – and the way you read your Sun.” By snapping a photo of the above QR code with a QR reader (a mobile application that can read and decode QR codes) the SUN’s mobile site will automatically launch in the reader’s mobile web browser. In addition to linking to a web page, QR codes can initiate an SMS, MMS or IVR event, or can be used to initiate the transfer of web based content, such as mobile wallpapers, games or video clips.
Personally I’m bullish on QR in 2008 here in the US, as they provide an excellent work around to the UI / URL issue inherent in non QWERTY mobiles (as well as the fact that you can’t WAP push on the Verizon network), and are in fact much easier to use that even the (somewhat) popular Shortcode / keyword mechanic. The barrier to QR code usage has always been getting the readers on the devices (historically only a few Nokia handsets have shipped with preloaded readers, and to my knowledge never in the US).
It seems that this barrier may be (slowly) coming down. I’m told many of the major US carriers are getting behind the technology, giving the downloadable readers some fairly prominent deck placement over the next few quarters (sources confidential). Also, Google has stated that Andriod will feature a basic, but functional “format agnostic” QR reader, to be preloaded on all devices shipping with the Android Open OS. More preload deals are apparently forthcoming in the next 12 months.
All of this bodes well for activating “physical world” QR-driven mobile marketing applications, including QR integration on product packaging (for product information, or eventually purchase), print, outdoor, and even television advertising (yes, you can scan a QR code from a standard def LCD, plasma or even CRT monitor).
$5 to the first person who spots a QR being used in the US and posts it here… and $10 if it’s being used in a “scavenger hunt”-type activity.