Location-based services

March 2, 2009

I don’t necessarily think that location-based services will be the next big thing for the mobile market, as Mark Lowenstein discusses in his short report on Fierce Wireless. At least not those that try to sell items to cell phone users.

First of all, it will take a long time for a reasonable number of cell phone users replace their devices with those with Internet and GPS-capability, as well as adopt plans with data services, and if you have a GPS-capable cell phone it doesn’t necessarily mean that the carrier will always enable it.  Also, because if there are no users to “locate”, there will not be incentives for companies to invest in these applications. Another reason is that not all cell phone users may feel comfortable with these ads, which in most cases will target impulse buyers.

However, a non-commercial location-based application type that I think it could be very beneficial for its users is security functions.  An example of this kind of application is “SafetyNet”, as reported about in Inside the GPS Revolution in the edition of Wired published last February (2009-02-27). The app has a map of bad neighborhoods and it goes into a “watchdog” mode if the user enters potentially dangerous locations. If something bad happens, the only thing that the user needs to do is to shake his or her device, and it will send alerts to friends and family, take a picture of the location, turn on its speaker, and dial 911.

 

Questions:

1.      Is there any location-based application that is becoming increasingly popular among cell phone users? If so, what is attracting more attention to it than others?

2.      What are the main challenges for application developers when building a location-based app?  

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Mobile Web Best Practices

February 16, 2009

The Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 is a useful and detailed guide directed toward Web Site owners, developers, and operators, who intend to improve the user experience when accessing the Web by mobile devices.  The document was prepared by the Best Practices Working Group (BPWG) and it is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Recommendations.

I was most impressed by the amount of restrictions that website developers have to cope with in order to create a pleasing user experience. Some examples of these limitations – or recommendations, presented in the document are: minimal navigation at the top of the page, identification of target links, limitation of scrolling to one direction, use of sufficiently contrasting colors, and division of pages into usable but limited size portions. The document emphasizes the importance of readable content in different types of devices and the need of creating an optimal user experience, considering screen size and users’ difficulty to enter text into their cell phones.

The Mobile Web Best Practices guide is interesting because it explains what the best alternatives are, how to configure a web page for mobile use, and what to test. The document provides very good insights of what to stress and what to leave out when creating a page that may be visited by mobile users.

 

Questions:

1. In the 5.4.6 Image Size topic (p.21), the authors suggest the resizing of images on the server because it reduces the amount of data transferred and the amount of processing the device has to carry out. How does this process occur?

2. New application markets have been emerging recently and, consequently, more independent and amateur applications and content are available for cell phones. Do amateur pages usually respect the mobile best practices? Is there also a Mobile Applications Best Practices’ guide?  


SkyMarket

January 27, 2009

Reading this article for the Mobile and Communication class, I found interesting that several companies (Google, T-Mobile, Microsoft, Rimm) are focusing on wireless applications market places. It seems that with the organization of these markets, opportunities in the mobile industry will expand even faster, especially for mobile application developers. For Microsoft, that “presents a philosophical dilemma” according to the article’s author, Skymarket may represent a new and completely different strategy, which “embraces the democratization of software revenues with 3rd party providers”. As we know, Windows Mobile has been struggling for years with customer experience, so I believe that a neat, democratic, and profitable change will be more than welcome.

Questions:
1. Apple iPhones have been working well with several Google applications, such as the YouTube channel and Google maps. How are things changing with a fiercer competition between Google phone and iPhone?
2. Microsoft Live Search is being used as search engine on all Verizon phones, including BlackBerry (RIM) models. Is it likely that Rim will utilize Skymarket? Or will they prefer to develop their own applications market place?


Growth in Mobile Services

January 19, 2009

Understanding the Mobile Ecosystem”, a white paper written by Strategy Analytics, explains in detail the roles of the key players in the mobile industry. The paper emphasizes the rapid growth of the use of mobile phones all over the world, and especially the continuous development of technologies to provide users with data services and content. The report also examines the market opportunities for content owners, designers and developers, publishers and aggregators, hosting partners, and delivery agents. I will briefly comment on two topics discussed in this paper: the mobile phone as the most widely-used electronic device and the distinct uses of cell phones world-wide.

The numbers shown in the report are not surprising: there are approximately 3.5 times as many mobile devices in use as there are PCs. Mobile phones are cheaper than computers, even though used computers may be cheaper than high tech brand new mobile devices. Nowadays, mobile phones encompass several functions that only online computers were able to offer in the past. They are being used as aggregators, and they are making us put many other tech gadgets aside. Cell phones are not only used for voice communication; they are mp3 players, video cameras, televisions, radios, GPSs, and, of course additional Internet navigation portals. One of the charts presented in the report shows that 800-900 million phones equipped with cameras and/or music are expected to be sold in North America, Western Europe, and the Asia Pacific by the end of 2010.

Another interesting topic in the paper is the diversified uses of cell phones in distinct parts of the world. The report mentions that Japan and Korea are globally known for use of data services. In these countries users spend twice as much per month on data than users in Western Europe and North America. In Brazil, for example, the data service opportunities are still pretty small. The 3G technology has already arrived, but the price of smart phones and other technological devices are still very high. The iPhone was released in Brazil last year at seven times more its price in the US for prepaid plans. In my opinion, the level of technology penetration in a country is a decisive factor for the success of data services business. Another barrier for the expansion of data services is piracy and lack of control of illegal downloads.

Questions:

1.      How does an international channel such as CNN produce mobile content having to take into account regional differences of data service use, and many other variables such as diverse types of content consumption, device storage capacity, platforms, sizes of screen, etc?

2.      One of the advertising delivery options presented in the report is “display space on websites accessed by mobile users (p.11).”Smart phones users, for instance the iPhone users can zoom in and zoom out parts of the navigation page to facilitate their reading. However, having this option, will they not skip the ads in those pages? And in the case of users with devices that don’t have this option, will the ads placed on websites not be too small?