SMS is the new black

A review of mass market mobile apps

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

“I like to say that all my friends loved it, but all my friends were engineers.”

Posted by Admin on February 7, 2009

I saw that quote in an article on Nolan Bushell, the founder of Atari, in yesterday’s Guardian. The quote describes the first game that Bushell sold – or in fact didn’t sell very many of.

“I like to say that all my friends loved it, but all my friends were engineers.”

If Bushell had continued to just create games for his friends would the gaming industry be what it is today? The answer is probably not and certainly Atari wouldn’t be the household name that it is.

Yet, the mobile industry to a certain extent is still guilty of this – creating things that appeal to people already within the ecosystem. If we want to create more companies with the reach and recognition of Atari that model has to be scrapped and people have to look at products and services that can reach out to a mass market.

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Carnival of the Mobilists #159

Posted by Admin on February 2, 2009

I’m really pleased to say that a recent article by SMS is the new Black has been selected to appear on this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists hosted by the Mobile Broadband Blog.

I wrote about battery life and there are a range of other articles about the world of mobile, including a number about mobile advertising and the Superbowl. And a great post about the strategies a mobile entrepreneur should adopt.

Check them all out here.

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Twitter – an opinion

Posted by Admin on January 28, 2009

Another chance to read this Christmas post on Twitter.

– – –

This blog was set up to kinda be the antithesis of Twitter (“I know for a fact that my mum will never Tweet – yet her demographic still makes up a huge percentage of an operator’s core subscriber base.”), so I thought that it’s probably about time that I said something about it.

The first thing to point out is that I don’t actually have anything against Twitter itself – you can even find me @patrickjpr (although I don’t tweet much). No, it’s not the service itself … it’s the rabid following it has gained from people in the industry and the fact that it was deemed (by some, many, all?) to be the saviour of the world and the best thing since sliced bread. Someone may even have said it was the new black!

And that’s my issue with it. Simply put, it’s that everyone else seemed to love it so much.

Part of it is certainly down to my contrary nature – ‘if they all love it, I’m just going to hate it to be different’. But once I’d grown up and got over that I realised that it was actually do with the fact that yet again the people at the heart of this [mobile] industry were in danger of making it a club for themselves and not making this something that a) everyone can benefit from and b) an industry can make some real profits.

At this point I’m going to highlight Helen Keegan’s excellent post, following her excellent speech, after the Future of Mobile conference. Check it out here and in particular look at point 3 – ‘We create applications and services for people like us’. To my mind, that sums up Twitter.

Of course, not that there is anything wrong with that – as long we understand those limitations.

Ewan (@Ew4n) at Mobile Industry Review has recently written a really interesting post about this subject. In the comments Ben Smith gave a perfect description of Twitter:

“Twitter is the crap pub you keep going to because that’s where your mates hang-out. It isn’t the place to go if you want to focus on conversations that are all interesting to you, but neither’s the pub.”

What we have to realise is that Twitter is about socialising with mates, overhearing conversations from Stephen Fry or other celebs (but let’s not pretend they are really our friends), talking rubbish and maybe the occassional nugget – just like a night down the pub (without the celeb in my local).

It’s good fun, but it’s not the future … or at least not a future that will include the masses.

That said, there’s a good article here about the kind of people you’ll find (and should avoid) on Twitter.

Posted in Opinion, Twitter | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Is battery life making the term ‘mobile’ redundant?

Posted by Admin on January 23, 2009

Here’s a second chance to see another post that originally appeared over Christmas.

– – –

I’ve recently bought a G1 and the battery life on it is shocking – less than a day of normal use seems to be the average so far. And if you use extra functions like GPS it seems to be even less than that. Fortunately for me I don’t use it as my main phone – I use almost exclusively for data and it’s not ‘mission critical’ to me if it’s dead for a while.

The G1 isn’t the only phone with poor battery life. There have been numerous reports of the iPhone’s poor battery – especially the 3G. If you search on Google under ‘iPhone poor battery’ you get over 250,000 results.

If you want to read a more detailed analysis of some of the technical issues, you can read Dean Bubley’s post here.

But I’m not interested in the technical background to this. Like the majority of mobile users I don’t care whether it is the fault of the hardware manufacturer, the software, the network or any other reason. What I do care about is that I’m getting a poor performance from my phone.

I want my phone to allow me to be connected while mobile. The main form of connection obviously is that I want to be able to make and receive voice calls – I want to be able to talk to people while I’m away from a landline. I also want to be able to send text messages. Now, I’ve got a ‘clever’ phone which also allows me to check email, go on the internet, check my location or get directions, play games and a whole host of other cool stuff – I’d like to be able to do that while I’m out and about too.

But it seems that I can’t – I can’t be truly mobile because I’ve got to make sure that I’m close to a power socket every 24 hours or so.

So what to do … Well as a user I start to rationalise my usage. What’s most important to me – well firstly it’s being able to receive calls, then it’s the ability to make them, then it’s all the other stuff. So I just cut back. Firstly on all the other stuff, then if the battery’s low on making calls too.

If my battery’s low, I’m effectively carrying around a pager.

I’m not sure that’s what all the new, exciting smartphones were intended to be … but without decent battery life that’s all they are.

Posted in Annoying, Handsets, Opinion, Voice | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

12 Days of Christmas – Is battery life making the term ‘mobile’ redundant?

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2008

I’ve recently bought a G1 and the battery life on it is shocking – less than a day of normal use seems to be the average so far. And if you use extra functions like GPS it seems to be even less than that. Fortunately for me I don’t use it as my main phone – I use almost exclusively for data and it’s not ‘mission critical’ to me if it’s dead for a while.

The G1 isn’t the only phone with poor battery life. There have been numerous reports of the iPhone’s poor battery – especially the 3G. If you search on Google under ‘iPhone poor battery’ you get over 250,000 results.

If you want to read a more detailed analysis of some of the technical issues, you can read Dean Bubley’s post here.

But I’m not interested in the technical background to this. Like the majority of mobile users I don’t care whether it is the fault of the hardware manufacturer, the software, the network or any other reason. What I do care about is that I’m getting a poor performance from my phone.

I want my phone to allow me to be connected while mobile. The main form of connection obviously is that I want to be able to make and receive voice calls – I want to be able to talk to people while I’m away from a landline. I also want to be able to send text messages. Now, I’ve got a ‘clever’ phone which also allows me to check email, go on the internet, check my location or get directions, play games and a whole host of other cool stuff – I’d like to be able to do that while I’m out and about too.

But it seems that I can’t – I can’t be truly mobile because I’ve got to make sure that I’m close to a power socket every 24 hours or so.

So what to do … Well as a user I start to rationalise my usage. What’s most important to me – well firstly it’s being able to receive calls, then it’s the ability to make them, then it’s all the other stuff. So I just cut back. Firstly on all the other stuff, then if the battery’s low on making calls too.

If my battery’s low, I’m effectively carrying around a pager.

I’m not sure that’s what all the new, exciting smartphones were intended to be … but without decent battery life that’s all they are.

Posted in Annoying, Handsets, Opinion, Voice | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

12 Days of Christmas – Twitter

Posted by Admin on December 28, 2008

snowman1

This blog was set up to kinda be the antithesis of twitter (“I know for a fact that my mum will never Tweet – yet her demographic still makes up a huge percentage of an operator’s core subscriber base.”), so I thought that it’s probably about time that I said something about it.

The first thing to point out is that I don’t actually have anything against Twitter itself – you can even find me @patrickjpr (although I don’t tweet much). No, it’s not the service itself … it’s the rabid following it has gained from people in the industry and the fact that it was deemed (by some, many, all?) to be the saviour of the world and the best thing since sliced bread. Someone may even have said it was the new black!

And that’s my issue with it. Simply put, it’s that everyone else seemed to love it so much.

Part of it is certainly down to my contrary nature – ‘if they all love it, I’m just going to hate it to be different’. But once I’d grown up and got over that I realised that it was actually do with the fact that yet again the people at the heart of this [mobile] industry were in danger of making it a club for themselves and not making this something that a) everyone can benefit from and b) an industry can make some real profits.

At this point I’m going to highlight Helen Keegan’s excellent post, following her excellent speech, after the Future of Mobile conference. Check it out here and in particular look at point 3 – ‘We create applications and services for people like us’. To my mind, that sums up Twitter.

Of course, not that there is anything wrong with that – as long we understand those limitations.

Ewan (@Ew4n) at Mobile Industry Review has recently written a really interesting post about this subject. In the comments Ben Smith gave a perfect description of Twitter:

“Twitter is the crap pub you keep going to because that’s where your mates hang-out. It isn’t the place to go if you want to focus on conversations that are all interesting to you, but neither’s the pub.”

What we have to realise is that Twitter is about socialising with mates, overhearing conversations from Stephen Fry or other celebs (but let’s not pretend they are really our friends), talking rubbish and maybe the occassional nugget – just like a night down the pub (without the celeb in my local).

It’s good fun, but it’s not the future … or at least not a future that will include the masses.

That said, there’s a good article here about the kind of people you’ll find (and should avoid) on Twitter.

Posted in Opinion, Twitter | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Colly Myers, CEO of AQA on Texperts acquisition

Posted by Admin on December 19, 2008

In the world of text based answering services the news that Texperts has been bought by the owners of one of its rivals 118 118 was big news this week. I was lucky enough to get a response from Colly Myers, CEO of AQA on the story.

– – –

Colly Myers

On the reasons why Texperts might have gone down this route:

“Texperts really struggled to achieve scale and in the current economic conditions have decided to end their independence.”

So what about AQA now:

“AQA 63336 will continue to focus on providing Brilliant Answers which is what is needed to be successful and to grow what is still an emerging market.”

– – –

Thanks for that Colly. If you want to test out the AQA service text a question to 63336. It could be serious (How many minutes did Geoff Hurst play in the whole of 1966 World Cup Tournament?), a bit of fun (Should I wear the red or blue shirt when I go out tonight?), or the most important question of all (What do you think of SMS is the new Black?).

Although you probably don’t need to answer those exact questions as I’m sure the bods at AQA will answer them here for us.

Posted in Opinion | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Smartphones are sh1t: I’m going back to a real phone

Posted by Admin on December 11, 2008

Ewan at Mobile Industry Review has written a rant today about smartphones – and the fact that they just don’t do their primary function properly. The whole point of a mobile phone is so that you can have a conversation on it – a real one – with your voice and the other person listening. All the other stuff is just extra fluff around the edges. Some of it is good, some not so. But if the phone can’t perform the basic function of providing voice calls properly then that fluff around the edges starts to look a little pointless.

What I find interesting about Ewan’s rant is that he’s a real champion of the industry, the innovation and the cool stuff you can do with your mobile (go on, read the site and have a look). So if he’s saying he’s had enough with smartphones what hope is there for a normob (Ewan’s term)?

I’ve pasted his whole article here:

– – –

I’ve had enough.

There is ONLY so much time and energy I can give a sodding ‘Smartphone’ before it winds me up.

Nothing on Earth in the Smartphone category seems to satisfy me.

I want all these whizzy mobile ‘toys’ — applications, extensions, fast data, decent camera — and whilst your average iPhone, T-Mobile G1 or Blackbery Bold do certainly meet the grade on paper, they don’t make the MacLeod cut.

No way.

Ultimately, business is all about talking. It’s about the spoken word. It doesn’t matter how many texts or tweets or do, at some point you need to close the deal or discuss the offer. People like it. Still. It’s rare to do business entirely electronically, even today.

So I need my phone to actually work. As a phone.

Here is what I need:

– When I want to phone somebody, I should be able to locate them in my phone book and hit dial within 5 seconds.

– I should be ‘connected’ within a further 2 seconds (whether it’s voicemail, busy signal, or a ringing line).

– My phone call should never, ever be terminated because of network-busy or the handset flucking up.

– The other party should be able to hear me. Continuously.

– I should be able to reach my calling menu — recent calls, missed calls, immediately and be able to place a call to a recent contact immediately. Sub 1 second.

– I should be able to talk for an hour without my handset battery going from 100% to 15%.

– I shouldn’t develop shoulder strain carrying it.

– My suit jacket shouldn’t look out of shape if I put it in my pocket.

No Smartphone can do all of the above, on a continuous basis.

Not a single sodding Smartphone on the market today.

If it’s not the sodding battery flucking up, it’ll be continuous disconnections. Or stupid shitty menus. Or an operating system that simply cannot handle it.

I think my issue is patience.

I have NO patience whatsoever when it comes to phones. The ONE thing a phone in my possession must do is make calls. Quickly. Reliably. If it fails to do this, then I start questioning the whole point (along the lines of ‘what the hell has changed in 10 years?’).

My major annoyance is that manufacturers seem to have, alas, dumped the original concept of a phone — i.e. placing calls — and paid more attention to other features when it comes to many smartphones.

Let’s talk Blackberry. Useless as a phone. It *works*. In fact it’s one of the class-leading Smartphone-That-Works-Ok-As-A-Phone devices. But the recent Blackberries? Rubbish. It looks to me like they’re too busy trying to figure out how to process 3G data to worry about placing your phone calls properly. Without hanging up mid-way through. Or forcing the other party to have to go seconds and half-minutes without hearing you.

The T-Mobile G1 is a big disappointment as a primary device. Obviously the battery can’t take much data use, but the killer is when I’m trying to navigate around it to make calls. And trying to STAY connected to someone for more than a few minutes. And trying to wait for it to place a call. And answer a call.

I won’t bore you with my Smartphone analysis.

Won’t even start on the iPhone.

Suffice to say I’ve dug out my Nokia N95 8GB. That is my handset of choice for talking.

– – –

Or you can read it here.

Posted in Annoying, Handsets, Opinion | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What’s happened to mobile gaming?

Posted by Admin on December 4, 2008

What I’m hoping is that after reading this a few people will get in touch to try and prove me wrong – but my theory is that mobile gaming is a sector that has massively failed to deliver its full potential. I also think that the mobile gaming industry is symbolic of the rest of the mobile world and arguably a lesson for everyone.

A few years ago mobile gaming seemed to be ready to explode and prove to be both an incredible revenue generator for everyone all along the value chain, as well as providing content that the public genuinely wanted … and then … well not a lot.

Mobile gaming is a classic example of something that my mum should do, as well as my younger brother, my cousins, my gran etc etc. What I mean is that there should be something for everyone and there should be a plethora of content for the mass market.

Mobile gaming will never rival console gaming (no matter how good the screen resolution gets on a mobile – it’s still a tiny screen after all), but it is perfect for people wanting to ‘snack’ on gaming while they’ve got ten minutes to kill. And everyone (including my mum) finds themselves with ten minutes to kill occasionally. So if your favourite game is Sudoku, Poker or a go-kart racing game, you should be able to get it onto your phone and play it in those moments.

A few years ago I helped to increase the profile of iFone as it grew and was eventually bought out by Glu – it was great fun, but also frustrating at times. iFone was successful with traditional, casual games such as Monopoly, Cluedo but most of all Tetris. What it found was that as mobile gaming started to take off the operators felt they knew best. More and more operators wanted to know about what new technology iFone was going to employ, or which console game brand they would bring to mobile.

Despite the fact that Tetris was regularly the most popular game in the charts, operators pushed for innovation for its own sake. Eventually this started to strangle the market and the general consumer turned away.

Obviously mobile gaming always struggled with the 3 Ps – pricing, placement and porting – but these could have been sorted. However, with the operators pushing for gimmicks that consumers didn’t want, games publishers never had the chance to sort out these issues. Nowadays, the mobile games sector just dribbles along talking to the converted and not really opening up the huge potential audience that it could and should have.

I personally think that this is a lesson to the rest of the industry and that other sectors of the industry need to be careful not to leave their audience behind as they push for innovation for its own sake too.

Obviously, you’re welcome to tell me that I’m wrong and I will publish some of the best rebuttals – email me at smsblack [at] googlemail.com.

Posted in Mobile Games, Operators, Opinion | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Text is more – by Peter Tanner, TMC

Posted by Admin on December 3, 2008

Peter Tanner is the MD of TMC (Text Messaging Centre), a company which ‘provides controlled and managed autonomous web-based text messaging solutions for business’.

Below, Peter has written about his view of how text messaging can be used by businesses.

– – –

TEXT IS MORE

peter-tanner_approved1Effective communication with employees, customers and partners has become the cornerstone of the service-led organisation. Owners and managers are now reliant upon email, PDAs and Blackberries to support the new, ‘always available’ business model. Yet just how effective are these tools? How quickly do individuals read and respond to emails? And, in the current climate, can any business really justify the expensive deployment of PDAs and BlackBerries to all but the most senior staff?

As the financial crisis deepens, UK businesses are looking for an opportunity to maximise existing investment without risk to gain competitive advantage. So why do the majority continue to overlook a key communication tool that is already used by 95% of the population? Texting is incredibly reliable; experiences no spam; and its immediacy provokes a rapid response from the recipient.

From one-to-one messages to field services engineers to one-to-many customer offers and updates or free inbound messages to the customer service centre, texting is a low cost, low risk killer application that will drive serious value without any capital investment.

Managed SMS

What is the business cost today of inefficient communication? From the over-reliance on ubiquitous email that all too often gets overlooked in a crowded inbox, to expensive mobile phone calls and, in the case of customers, posted appointment letters that often remain unopened. Despite a massive investment organisations are still failing to achieve effective real time and cost effective communication.

And while the mobile email facility has been hyped, especially following the iPhone launch, in reality only a small percentage of employees, customers and partners can access email via the mobile phone. As a result, urgent communications require an expensive mobile call – risking interrupting the recipient mid meeting or, in the case of field engineers, in the middle of a complex repair job.

The ‘always available’ economy is, in reality, anything but. Organisations are missing business opportunities and jeopardising customer relationships because critical, time sensitive information is consistently overlooked as individuals endure the email deluge and miss essential telephone calls.

Reliable Alternative

Very few organisations are using the highly reliable text message to support real time communications. Has SMS been overlooked in the rush to embrace the more glamorous Blackberry or iPhone, or is text’s anarchic, youth-centric perception deterring businesses from embracing this key business tool?

While businesses may not wish to be associated with a young cultural social tool, it is the success of texting in a social sense which has proved the extraordinary depth of this technology. Texting is in fact perfect as a business application, demonstrating resilience, immediacy and popularity across networks, handsets, countries, languages and age groups.

Of course, ad hoc, one-to-one texts cannot be used to deliver a compliant business communication. Using a managed text service, organisations can deliver one-to-one and one-to-many texts with a full audit trail and complete compliance.

Texts can be automated to respond to specific events – such as an emergency call-out for field service engineers or to respond to incoming texts from customers. Text can also be used to drive down the administrative burden, for example, linking in to the council tax system enables a council to automatically send payment reminders on overdue accounts – with no manual intervention and far lower cost than a letter or phone call.

Furthermore, unlike email which requires the recipient to agree to the required response message, SMS can demand an immediate, automated response from the receiving phone. This enables organisations to verify that work orders have been received on site, that customer service queries have been addressed and that internal company messages have been disseminated.

Changing Behaviour

From the small business marketing to a targeted customer list or the dentist delivering automated appointment reminders, to the corporate offering an efficient, low-cost route to customer services, SMS offers the opportunity to fundamentally transform communications.

But this technology has been around for nearly a decade – so why have more organisations not exploited the potential? One of the major constraints has been an insistence by vendors on long-term contracts, monthly license fees and a commitment to a large number of texts each month. This approach has, understandably, deterred organisations unsure just how much use and value texting can deliver.

The alternative is to look for a vendor that eschews any lengthy contract, license fee or minimum text number and simply charges on a per text basis. That enables organisations to leverage the existing mobile phone commitment without any significant investment – at around 6 pence per text, the potential benefits can be rapidly assessed.

Serious Message

The perception of the always connected society is not just a delusion; it is a dangerous delusion. Organisations are blithely assuming that staff are available; that customers are receiving the information required; and that new business opportunities are maximised. The reality is somewhat different: time sensitive communications are simply not achieving the required, real-time response.

And, as the economic downturn continues, the effects will be felt throughout the business: from the reduced investment in expensive mobile technologies to customer service where predicted staff cuts will create longer call centre queues, further reducing customer satisfaction.

Yet the simple strategy of allowing customers to use a free inbound text system, with a brief outline of the problem, can transform costs and service levels. An automated text reply ensures customers know the problem is being handled and how long the response should take. The query can then be hived off to customer services staff – often working from home – to address the issue. The approach is cost-effective and responsive.

Today over 6 billion texts are sent every month, according to the latest figures. Yet the vast majority of these are sent for purely social purposes. It is time that business took control and tapped into this free, under-utilised messaging bandwidth to deliver serious commercial benefit.

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Posted in Enterprise, Opinion, Texts work | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »