blackberry app world could have been a contender sm3What are the odds that Blackberry App World will emerge as strong player in the App Space? 

It is us, or did the big news out of last month’s CTIA (i.e. RIM’s announcement of Blackberry App World) didn’t really get much attention?  Instead, what we heard most was a great collective gnashing of teeth over the absence of new Android handsets, and of course everyone and their mother getting all lathered up over something iPhone-related.

Could this be the moment when Blackberry became irrelevant?  The moment when we’ll all look back and say, “Yep kids… before we had the iThisOrThat, we all had these funny little Blackberry dodads… they had these pesky scroll wheels and track balls and we pecked email out with our thumbs.” Perhaps so.  Here at mobilestance, however, we think the ‘Berry’s not going anywhere, anytime soon… and that their “App World” is an important development that deserves its proper due.

That said, with competition in the Smartphone space getting so fierce, so fast, we thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and attempt to forecast whether App World has real legs or not.   Our system uses a “thumb scale” of one to five thumbs (OK, the thumb metaphor breaks down a bit when we get to five thumbs, but who cares? We can have five thumbs, can’t we?).

The Experience (weak thumbs-up: 3/5).  App World’s failings, when compared to the Apple App Store, have been well covered elsewhere, but the long and the short of it is that while App World isn’t half as slick, robust or easy to use as Apple’s App Store, it does the job well enough to satisfy your average user.  Entertainment-starved BBery users are voting with their thumbs, downloading apps such as the ClearChannel iheartradio app over 257,756 times in two short weeks time – a positive sign to be sure.

Developers, developers, developers (strong thumbs-down: 1/5).  Developing for Blackberry has always been a less than ideal experience.  In addition to universally-panned, couldn’t be more cumbersome developer tools, RIM has a certification process akin to the old BREW system or Carrier model.  Sure… once your in, you’re in – and access to those sweet device API’s must be fantastic (seamless add-to-cal, push notification, etc), but having to jump thru hoops just to be an “approved developer” is a little much…  in light of *ahem* – much more open platforms… and especially since nowadays Android and Apple can match most of what RIM is offering in terms of API integration (except that pesky calendar integration – Cupertino, are you listening!?!).

Pricing (weak thumbs-down: 2/5). I’m sorry, but anyone who’s taken Economics 101 can tell you that artificial price floors like what RIM is doing with the $2.99 floor for paid downloads only serve to deflate consumption, clumsily pushing the market off the organic price/demand curve.  Yes, yes… we are aware of the argument that $0.99 iPhone app downloads have eroded the value of mobile applications to the point where the paid model is no longer viable.  To that we would say, “Come on!  How much is iFart really worth (to users)?  Let the developers charge what they want, already. Consumers will pay more for the good stuff.”

User Base (thumbs-up: 4/5).  In terms of scale, Blackberry’s clearly got the edge over Apple and Android here (I’m ignoring the Nokia app store for now, because… well, mobilestance is published in the US, and let’s face it… ignoring Nokia is what Americans do).  Even though BBery users need to be running version 4.2 or higher to use App World, that’s still a lot of Bolds, Storms (both come preloaded with the new OS), as well as those with relatively newer models that can handle the firmware upgrade.

On-device Competition (Strong Thumbs-up: 5/5).  The dark horse in all of this, and the primary reason why I believe App World will be relatively successful right out of the gate, is the simple fact that the Blackberry default browser is just terrible… and that our assumption is that Blackberry users will jump at the chance to have ANY positive on-device experience with the brands they love – and this means downloading applications from App World.  Comparatively speaking, Blackberry apps are simply MUCH better than the comparable browsing experience, far more so than on any other smartphone platform (and I’m including Microsoft here).  Quite simply, for many Blackberry users browsing is so poor an experience that (relatively) few bother with it at all.

Final score: (Weak thumbs-up / 3 out of 5 “thumbs”) . So there you have it.  When you average it all together our quick and dirty handicap on whether App World will be successful is a somewhat lukewarm “yes.”  Not exactly a contender, but a long term player that deserves our attention, and respect.

Now… anyone want to take a stab at the over/under for total downloads in the first six months?  Medialets?  Pinch?  comScore?  I’m looking at you, Eric.

wellsie halloween costumeMobilestance.com is back!  Now with More Polling (our homage to the polled out US Presidential election cycle, see end of post!)

After a disastrous night spent marching as a human mobile in the NYC Halloween Parade (note to self: find a new place for the “zero” button), I have successfully exercised the demons of Summer and am ready to return to blogging.   I sincerely apologize for not “returning in September” as promised, but there were… well, complications.

So much has happened in mobile during my three or so month hiatus!  Android arrived in the form of the HTC G1 on T-Mo, and so far hasn’t (yet) taken over the known universe…. The mobile-centric top level domain “Dot Mobi” passed the one million mark in registrations, as thousands of major publishers and brands launched mobile-specific versions of their websites… The AT&T Blackberry Bold was announced, then delayed, then announced, then delayed, then recalled (on Orange in the UK), then announced for release in the US sometime next week.

With all that, the biggest story by far was the iPhone going 3G (I was in St. Petersburg at the time, and it even made the headlines there).  The iPhone juggernaut, and it’s partner the iPhone App Store, have been fueling excitement in the US and (to a somewhat lesser extent) across the globe.  All of this – the growth, the applications, the new business models, are exciting enough – but what really turned my head was story in the new iPhone comScore study, which found that since July sales of the handset have been driven by relatively low to middle class households – those making between $25-50k (+48% growth).

Some have theorized that the recent economic “downturn” is spurring many low income households to substitute iPhone for not only their landline telephones (as expected), but also their landline broadband lines as well (fixed line broadband revenues have also been declining with this same income segment, over this same period).  If this were true, it would place the US Middle Class on par with that of many emerging nations, B.R.I.C. and the like – where most people, even the “rising middle classes” simply cannot afford both a mobile and PC internet connection (or fixed line internet simply isn’t widely available, again ultimately due to price).

In my opinion this may be a bit of a stretch.  I for one absolutely LOVE my iPhone… and I use it for many, many things that I once did exclusively on my desktop PC.  But as a total replacement?  I suppose there have been other, less expected affects resulting from the current economic crisis than a shift from fixed line to wireless broadband subscriptions among the US lower middle class.

What say you?  Please take 5 seconds and weigh in!

Poll:

Is the Recent Surge in Popularity of iPhone Among the US Lower/Middle Class…

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ps – It feels great to be back! – j

ctia-vegas.jpgHonoring The Very Best in CTIA Show Floor Swag!

At first glance it might seem odd to honor those little branded trinkets given out on the show floor – hardly worth one’s time to pick up – let alone to honor with an award. Yet, the creation of a truly quality show floor giveaway is a highly challenging task – a process laden with strict, yet unwritten rules that one must follow if one is to succeed in this oft derided genera.

First, there is the cold Swagonomic reality that these artists must face: Swag items are usually confined to the “less than $3 per item” category – not exactly the hottest area of the catalog. Second, conference swag must reinforce several (often competing) brand messages: there is the company’s brand itself, the industry the company is in, as well as the city where the conference is being held. Then there is the question of utility: Will the prospect find the item useful? Finally, there is the need to stand out and get noticed – in a conference otherwise awash in a sea of like-minded exhibitors.

Considering all this, as well as a final factor dubbed “industry timeliness” (i.e. how well does the Swag item capture “the moment” of the wireless industry), we’ve scoured the show floor at the CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas to bring you the best of the best.

Therefore, without further delay, Mobilestance.com is proud to present the winners of “The Swaggies” – our homage to those seemingly unimportant conference freebies and a heretofore neglected form of commercial artistry that may very well portend the direction of our fledgling industry.

Note: Hi-res images of all winning Swag items can be found at bottom of the post.

  • Winner, Best Writing Implement: Call2Recycle. Very few areas of the show floor are as competitive as the “Writing Implement” category. Nearly every other company at the conference offered attendees endless varieties of branded pens, pencils, markers and crayons. That said, Call2Recycle, a non-profit ” promot[ing the] recycling of nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable batteries,” successfully captured the palpable “green vibe” of the conference by crafting a pair of cleverly designed writing utensils created entirely of recycled materials (click here to view). The pen sports a smartly crafted cardboard body complete with wooden “pocket-protector”-style clip, while the pencil was created entirely from recycled currency.
  • Winner, Best Mobile Accessory: Reagan Wireless. Until now this category has been a non-starter… plagued with inane creations such as the ubiquitous mobile “screen wiper” and equally ill advised “mobile caddy.” Padded cell covers and other trinkets are of equal value, with the litany of handset models in circulation it becomes next to impossible to create something of mass interest. Samsung (as they have done in previous shows) was offering free batteries and other valuable items to visitors owning their handsets – the catch was that you had to produce a Samsung handset as proof of ownership. In a move seemingly pulled from the corner of Mott and Canal, the upstarts at Reagan Wireless took this basic concept and turned it up a notch – offering free Blackberry and Motorola cases and chargers to anyone who dared reach into a pair of large, unmarked cardboard boxes – no questions asked (see image here).
  • Winner, Best Plush Toy: NSTL appRelay. The guys at National Software Testing Labs may hate bugs, but they’ve made this one famous… bringing him/her to show after show and no doubt in front of the children of many a conference-worn, wireless exec. It’s been rumored that the NSTL bug (and flyswatter companion) have their own Facebook page and have been spotted throughout the world, posing in front of scenic landmarks. No sightings yet of the alleged Facebook profile – but anyone who finds it please leave a comment and pass it along.
  • Winner, Best Travel Accessory: Acme Packet / Novara (tie). Branded travel items are a popular category, as companies vie to meet the needs of weary, far-from-home conference attendees. While both winners sported a nearly identical “Luggage Spotter” giveaway (all that differed was the logo and the color), the item is so useful that it could not be ignored. Not only does it make it easy to find your bag in the airport luggage carousel when wrapped around a bag’s handle or strap, but it doubles as an extra layer of padding and holds a business card to boot.
  • Winner, Best Multi Tool: Talley Communications. An offshoot of the “Travel Accessory” category, the rising popularity of branded, MacGyver-esque contraptions at CTIA warranted the creation of a dedicated award. Talley left little on the cutting room floor in selecting this rugged behemoth. The tool offers office workers the option of stapling, taping and labeling… all from the convenience of one compact (and branded device). Doubles as a weapon of last resort if [insert office cliche here]…
  • Winner, Best Koozie: Opera Software. While usually this conference mainstay stays stubbornly on the more blue collar side of the conference, the geeks at Opera took one back for the Tri-Lams as they captured the coveted “Best Koozie in Show” award with their (now classic) black, fou-leather rocker-style “Opera” koozie. See ya in paradise, Booger.
  • Winner, Best Incorporation of Local Flavor: Openwave. After rifling through countless branded poker chips engraved with such witty slogans as “You can bet on [company X],” we finally came across this little gem – a stylish, mock-silver money clip. If only I had something to put in it after leaving Sin City…
  • Winner, Totally Useless Objects, Lit: DRT. There’s a special place in our hearts for totally useless objects that light up and sparkle – and DRT made sure we didn’t leave empty handed. This lava lamp-looking doodad shines multi-colored light through a heated liquid, which moves about suspended metal particles that scatter the light every which way. All in it’s less than three inches high, and carry-on friendly with less than 3.4 oz of liquid. Such pretty, pretty colors…

food3-copy.jpgWinner, Best in Show; Food & Beverage: Yahoo! Mobile. Congratulations to Yahoo! Mobile for capturing the fiercely competitive “Food and Beverage” category as well as our Best in Show award with their extravagant on-site Gelato parlor. The delicious treats, offered in twelve eye-popping varieties, were the hit of the show, and were just the thing to cool off with after a day spent sweating in the Las Vegas sun. The dessert successfully captured the oral fixation of this year’s show (read: the continuing evolution of voice recognition – get your minds out of the gutter!), and easily trumped the three varieties of smoothies offered at the AOL booth. Thanks to Ricky Montalvo at Yahoo! Studios for the photos.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge photos:

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