Retail powerhouse Amazon is offering a free iPhone application that, in addition to accessing and purchasing products from a store, allows you to photograph the item. If it is sold on Amazon, you’ll receive an email with a link to buy the product. The service, called Amazon Remember, takes the posted pictures to a cloud where real people review them and match the pictures with products. The inclusion of real people into the process may greatly reduce the amount of errors that occur in other barcode scanning applications. While Amazon already offers an iPhone-optimized web site, this mobile application is slicker, faster and it provides more product information on one screen.
For Blackberry users, mobile shopping is provided by Digby — a company that allows retailers to quickly set up stores accessible to the more than 250 million Blackberry users. To make it even more enticing, Digby claims most purchases can be made in under 30 seconds. Now, the platform is being adopted by retailers to go beyond simple access to products. For example, it offers an SMS alert feature that sends special offers and gift ideas for those hard-to-shop for people.
Though still small in terms of market penetration, the new G1, running on the Android platform, is already creating a stir. ShopSavvy, developed by the company Big in Japan, allows users to scan barcodes and compare prices while shopping in a store. The application also provides links to online retailers as well as pricing from stores nearby based on GPS readings. The application won first prize at the Android Developer Challenge and was a featured application when T-Mobile launched the phone in the US and UK — it was downloaded over 10,000 times the day the Android Marketplace opened.
Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with a consumer’s ability to price check in stores. One user reported two experiences using ShopSavvy. The first happened when he looked up a product price and then drove to the nearest Sam's Club to buy the product. When he arrived, the price in the store was higher than reported. The consumer used the application to show a manager the difference. While the manager decided to match the price, he was confused by a consumer’s ability to access such information. Later that day, things got worse at Target. While scanning a product, the consuer was approached by an employee and told that barcode scanning was against Target's shopping policy. The consumer contacted Big in Japan, who followed up with Target only to find that the company has no stated policy against in-store barcode scanning.
As always, new technologies lead to new behaviors that can impact how business is done. And since it’s the season to shop, why not try out a new way of checking off your gift list? You may just find yourself saving time and money.
In an election day meeting yesterday, the FCC approved the whitespaces proposal.
From the release (PDF)
"The rules adopted today will allow for the use of these new and innovative types of unlicensed devices in the unused spectrum to provide broadband data and other services for consumers and businesses."
Larry Page commented on the Google blog:
" We will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids," since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations resulting in better coverage at lower cost. And it is wonderful that the FCC has adopted the same successful unlicensed model used for Wi-Fi, which has resulted in a projected 1 billion Wi-Fi chips being produced this year. Now that the FCC has set the rules, I'm sure that we'll see similar growth in products to take advantage of this spectrum."
"The opening of white spaces in particular could lead to more connection points for mobile devices, ones that form an attractive alternative to those provided by wireless carriers. And Android-powered phones could be among the first to take advantage of a flexible connections system."
This is really big news, especially for rural markets.
Motorola is developing a social network for use with Android handsets. BusinessWeek reports, "Motorola declined to elaborate on its plans, but said in a statement: "We're excited about the innovation possibilities on Android and look forward to delivering great products in partnership with Google (GOOG)" and the community of developers known as the Open Handset Alliance that are working on the Android operating system"
The article has drawn comments around the net.
From Moconews: "If Moto is going to try to recapture some of its declining market share, it has got to get new phones out quicker than that. Everyone in the handset business is supposedly working on an Android phones, and as Businessweek argues, the longer the launch time, the more time rivals have to gain traction."
From GigaOM: "By focusing on fewer operating systems, the company can help focus its resources on phones that are competitive with newcomers like Apple. The big question now is: Can Android provide Motorola the chance to make a comeback and become a player in the lucrative high-end smartphone business?"
From Techcrunch: "According to BusinessWeek, Motorola is putting $50 million into its Android project, which is being run by a team from Good Technology, a mobile e-mail company that Motorola bought in 2006. The first phone won’t come out until the second quarter of next year, it will have a touch screen like the iPhone and a slide-out keyboard like the HTC T-Mobile G1 launching on Wednesday, but will look more like the Motorola Krave. It is also expected to be cheaper than the G1’s $180 price.
Is the idea of a Facebook phone or a MySpace phone interesting enough in and of itself for people to want to buy it? And, more importantly, can Android save Motorola?"
Mobile data connectivity has been a slow road. Municipal Wifi did not catch on and the whitespace efforts have been jammed up by the NAB. A report by Pew this year "shows that 62% of American adults have either accessed the internet wirelessly or used non-voice data applications, such as texting, emailing, taking a picture, or recording video, with a handheld. On the average day, 42% of those with cell phones or other wireless-enabled handhelds use the devices for at least one non-voice data application."
Emarketer predicted in April "that over 800 million users worldwide will access and participate in social networks via their mobile device in 2012, up from 82 million in 2007.
Although the total mobile social network user base in 2012 will be under 20% of the worldwide mobile user population, it is likely these users will have a disproportionate impact on marketing, media and mobile communications because creating and sharing digital content represents much of the social networking experience."
An ABI report out this month shows a strong correlation between mobile social activity and users of Facebook or MySpace.
From the report:
“The social network is increasingly becoming a central hub for communication across online and mobile domains for many consumers,” said research director Michael Wolf. “To a degree, it allows them to centralize messaging, communication and even digital media consumption through a centralized property on various screens. We believe this centralization of a consumer’s digital lifestyle through social networks will only increase adoption of mobile social networking in coming years.”
As next generation wireless technology begins to fall into place the desire for mobile data applications is sure to increase. Samsung recently demonstrated a new WiMax system capable of 149Mbps down and 43Mbps up, which would certainly be a game changer when available.
With the consumer desire and technical capability starting to line up companies are begining to aprove more demanding mobile applications. One such company is Next2Friends.
From the site: "Next2Friends, the mobile social media platform, was created to deliver content and connections that entertain, engage and enhance life. Bringing together the full capabilities of both mobile and PC-based internet technology, the comprehensive suite of applications and features provide rich media, commercial and communication services to today’s connected consumer."
Next2Friends community provides the ability to do two click photo uploads and location based social networking.
Key features include:
Mobile social networks will greatly increase the range of lifecasting projects like Justin.tv and Kyte.tv. As more wireless providers preinstall applications like Qik and Zannel, sharig video elements of your daily activites is going to become even more pervasive.
A Reuters article on mobile marketing highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses of Bluetooth and QR Code marketing for mobile devices. Overall the carries don't like Bluetooth solutions because they don't require a data plan.
The carriers favor another method called QR Codes or Code 2D: "These bar codes, already used in Japan, are read by camera phones and send the user directly to a Web page. Accessing a Web site requires a subscription to a wireless Internet connection for which users usually have to pay."
Either method still has work to do to. "It (mobile marketing) has the potential to become a significant player in the marketing world as TV advertisers struggle to get people's eyeballs," says Jon Hudson, senior vice President of PC, automotive and consumer business units at CSR, "But it has to be more than 'your next McDonalds is 200 meters on the left'."
Reuters reports that since the introduction of the iPhone Google has seen a 40 to 50% jump in the use of its mobile services.
"We are seeing more and more mobile activity," Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products, told a Web marketing conference in Silicon Valley. "I think this is sort of a sign that people are becoming savvier with their mobile devices, and that there are better devices. The technology curve is catching up," she told reporters after the presentation. "The phones are just better."
Strategy Analytics has some new findings on "portal discoverability," (via Go Mo News) which in a nutshell means "Just how much work is it to find something on your mobile portal?". Turns out Sprint/Nextel, our most troubled mobile operator, comes out on top -- and ATT (nee Cingular) dead last.
Service providers work awfully hard to get onto the carrier decks -- time for the carriers to start to care about the experience. Oh, wait -- I forgot -- we're talking about the phone company. What was I thinking?
comScore released new numbers on mobile web usage in the UK and US. In the US 17% of the total 135 million web users also use the mobile web.
“Similar to the Internet 10-15 years ago, men under the age of 35 are the early adopters of new technology and more likely to use mobile devices to access the Mobile Web than women or men aged over 35, ” commented Bob Ivins, managing director of comScore Europe.
“The Mobile Web is at an early state of development, but we expect Mobile Web usage to grow as phone performance improves, sites optimise their content for the small screen and operators fine tune their tariffs, enabling consumers to take full advantage of mobile phone capabilities, content and convenience,” Ivins continued.
In the US, AOL and The Weather Channel lead mobile sites. "The Weather Channel in the U.S. has a greater reach via the Mobile Web than it does via PC-based Internet, highlighting how the success of sites that provide content for people on the move by optimizing their content for the small screen."
Through history, moments of great adversity have often increased the speed of adoption of transformative technologies. Wars have given us widespread availability of radar, sonar and reliable wireless communications, Katrina drove expansion of the use of social networking and other self-publishing tools, and so on.
Will one outcome of the horrors at Virginia Tech be a sea-change in the adoption of text messaging networks? VT will join other schools such as Penn State in offering students the ability to register for text messaging, via offerings from vendors such as Rave Wireless.
But that's really the tip of the iceberg. What we should be looking at is the widespread adoption of text messaging for up-to-the minute alerting of critical news based on affiliation or place-based context... if: