Category Archives: Mobile

Mobilewood and FutureFriend.ly

Last March, Luke sent an email:

We should have a mobile web/responsive design/multiple devices + web retreat sometime soon. Small intimate group of folks meet-up at a conference center in the woods for a long weekend and discuss/collaborate/etc.

Josh replied:

LOVE it. Color me deliriously enthusiastic (a rather bright orange) about this idea.

Since then I’ve been anxiously awaiting this event. Last week, ten of us gathered for two intense days in a beautiful location outside Nashville. Our shorthand for the event was Mobilewood.

Working session

We set out with a few goals in mind:

  • Was there some common ground between all of the different ways that each of us is trying to address device proliferation?
  • Can we find ways to help web developers and designers start to plan for this changing landscape?
  • How can we encourage browser makers to support device APIs and other tools needed to take full advantage of new capabilities in a more timely fashion?
  • How do we break out of the browser ghetto?

The first output of our collaboration launched today. It is a concept we’re calling Future Friendly.

We realized that none of us felt like our approach was necessarily the right approach for the future. The landscape is shifting too quickly to be confident. There is no such thing as future proof.

We have principles, tools, techniques, and some gut instincts on what will work in the future, but we don’t have solutions. And that is to be expected based on this stage of mobile’s ascendence. We have a long way to go before we have push-button deployment of web technology for multiple devices in the same way we do other web services.

Thus futurefriend.ly focuses on the things that we think can help prepare people for the chaos that is sure to come. Our thinking doesn’t offer proclamations. Instead, these are the areas that we find ourselves thinking a lot about and see as keys for the future. They are the starting point for conversation, not the ending.

There’s more to come from last weekend. I can’t wait to explore some of the concepts in more detail. But for now, I simply want to say thank you to a fabulous group of people:

I’m honored to have been included.

Devices and mobinauts

Blogging More at Cloud Four

Since we started Cloud Four, I’ve had a lot of trouble trying to figure out what posts make the most sense here versus our company blog.

Recently, my co-founders have asked me to bring more of my mobile posts to Cloud Four’s blog, and I’ve started doing so.

For example, there are new posts about how the iPhone App Store flies in the face of the preceding technology trends and the iPhone App Store gold rush.

So if you haven’t done so already, please check out the Cloud Four blog and subscribe via RSS or email.

I’m still going to blog here, but the focus will be a bit more technical. The high-level mobile analysis posts will likely be posted at Cloud Four.

And I welcome any feedback you may have on how to distinguish between a personal blog and a company blog.

Update on Android Market Rejection

I wrote previously about the an Android application that had been rejected from the Android Market for inexplicable reasons. The Android Market responded to the developer to tell him that:

Your app was suspended because it seems to be a demo of what one can do with a blog. You may re-upload your app to the “Demo” section of the market as opposed to the “Reference” section.

This is good news. It is unfortunate that the first message stated that the application had been rejected because it didn’t conform to the Android Market policies instead of the real reason for the rejection notice. However, it is nice to have it straightened out and to know that Google appears to be honoring its commitment to an open market.

AdMob iPhone Download Tracking Update

I wrote recently about the new AdMob service that can tie advertising to iPhone App Store downloads. I was curious whether this feature was limited to ads in applications only or would apply to ads viewed in Mobile Safari.

AdMob clarified this via email recently saying, “as our iPhone app download tracking relies on unique user information, it only functions for ads shown within applications.”

AdMob Adds iPhone Download Tracking

AdMob announced a new feature that will tie advertising to iPhone application downloads. Good news for developers who want to evaluate their advertising budget.

I assume that the tracking can only be done for ads served in other iPhone applications where it is possible to get the UDID and not via ads served over the mobile web. (Present theory being that they use the UDID to tie the ad to the download). I don’t believe Safari provides the iPhone UDID when you browse web pages.

I sent an email to AdMob to confirm whether it works for mobile web as well as iPhone application ads.

Also notable from the announcement is this bullet:

The App Store is an effective distribution platform for free applications. The average acquisition cost for free applications is under $1.00, significantly less than average application download costs on the PC Web.

I had to reread that three times to make sure I read it correctly. I realize there are business models where paying someone to download your free app makes sense. It’s still pretty striking to see it laid out in those terms.

The “On the Go” Myth?

I recently wrote about some metrics that I’d like to see to help clarify how often people really use mobile applications while “on the go.”

Shortly after I wrote that post, I cracked open my copy of Tomi Ahonen’s latest book, Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, and found part of the answer to my question on third page.

Tomi writes:

A study by NTT DoCoMo, the largest wireless carrier (mobile operator) of Japan, discovered that 60% of all wireless data access by cellphone is done indoors, often in parallel with watching TV or surfing the internet on a PC.

Only three pages in and I’ve already found useful information. Can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

I don’t see any reason indoor usage would be substantial different in other parts of the world, but I’d still love to see some definitive information for other countries.

P.S., I highly recommend Mounir Shita’s comment on my previous post. Good insights.

Android: the open alternative to iPhone? Maybe not.

Those developers looking to Android as an open alternative to Apple’s unclear App Store rules might be alarmed to hear about an Android developer with a similar tale of rejection woe.

Nathan Freitas built a simple Android application using the phonegap framework. The application provides a version of his blog as an application that people could download for free. He wrote about the application features, provided some screenshots, and described his motivation on his blog:

“To be honest, I don’t really want or expect random people to download my app… I just want it there so I can demonstrate the possibilities of linking together a few cool pieces of tech to build a rich mobile application….”

His application was in the Android Market for a time, but has now been suspended. Google’s form letter says that it has been “removed from Android Market due to a violation of the Developer Content Policy”

Nathan links to the relevant policy sections and as far I can see, his application doesn’t appear to violate any of them. He writes:

Now, I’ll admit my app is a bit pointless, some may mistake it as shameless self-promotion, but in truth, it was meant as a proof of concept for gluing together the awesome Phonegap SDK (a mobile web appstack enabler) with WordPress and a mobile-friendly template.

Amazing how much that sounds like the developer of the fart application for the iPhone that was originally rejected for not having enough utility. He said he knew it was a juvenile application, but that it was well done and meant to be fun.

It will be interesting to see if there is any appeals process for suspension from the Android Market. My experience with Google’s support has been atrocious even when I’m playing money Google money for an AdWords campaign. I can’t imagine what recourse you would have for a free application by a small developer.

The silver-lining for Android developers is that unlike the iPhone, you can still distribute your application outside of the Android Market. There’s something to be said for that. But you have to wonder how well an application will do outside the Android Market.

In the same way that Apple’s rejection of the fart application for its “utility” gave iPhone developers pause, the Android Market rejecting this blog application for unclear reasons should give Android developers something to think about.

Mobile Metrics I’d Like to See

Nearly everyone who talks about the differences between designing for desktop and mobile talks about how you have to keep in mind that your users are “on the go.”

How true is that? How often are people walking fast down the street looking for a crucial piece of information vs. sitting on the bus, at their office, or on their couch using their phones?

Using a combination of the accelerometer and GPS, we could define some metrics as to whether or not the person is stationary or moving. We might be able to tell if they are sitting (little accelerometer movement) but in a vehicle (GPS changes).

That’s information that goes far beyond the traditional page view or user session and into information that is mobile specific and very useful for user experience designers.

I realize there are both privacy and battery life concerns with tracking this information. It isn’t a simple problem to solve.

But if those obstacles could be overcome, understanding whether or not our visions of how people “on the go” use mobile technology matches how people really use their mobile devices, would be very interesting.

Image courtesy Flickr user rustmonster licensed under Creative Commons.