After an early morning heading from London to Paris, and lots of walking the streets of the French capital we arrived at the Orange Labs (Innovation Gardens). A rather indifferent creamy coloured block, with a kind of garden in the middle. We made it into the venue to be greeted by nobody at the door and found ourselves wondering where the refreshments were, where somebody official was and what the WiFi password was. Not a good start, surprisingly poor from Orange.
We went through our Bloom NFC presentation with our prototype ready to roll. In the presentation hall we were able to run through our slides making sure we were under the five minutes, but to our astonishment there was no projector for demoing the app - instead we would have to crouch down by the judges or do a video. So a quick video outside was made (it has to be said the Neuxs 4 did a poor job, struggling to focus for some reason).
Eventually things started to pick up, the place filled up and we got underway. Everything was in French, this was a French competition that was accepting applications from across the world and yet some seemed positively surprised to see some Englishmen there. Oops.
The opening idea and presentation - NFC Sante (Health) - set a high standard, and for us was a perfect one to win the top prize: an NFC wristband that would contain your essential health information. Extremely usual, simple and potentially lifesaving. We were up 7th, things went well, and we ended up playing the video with Chris crouched by the judges showing off the app. No questions asked.
At the interval we got great feedback from a senior Orange employee and an angel investor. Our NFC health friends also liked it. There was always somebody that knew somebody that would use the Bloom service, we can all do with a gardening assistant. The second half rolled on, with a few nice ideas. One we liked was NFCity, a treasure hunt / mission app using NFC stickers dotted around a city to provide clues or missions in order to discover what the city has to offer. Fun, interactive and a great way to use NFC.
Well, as with every competition that uses judges, the results are a matter of opinion. Bloom NFC did not win anything, not sure an English team winning a French competition would have gone down well. Sadly though none of the ones we felt were good won either.
Still, we met some great people. Drowning our sorrows with the NFCity gang was fun, hopefully they’ll do something in London and we’ll see them here. As for Bloom NFC, watch this space.
When Orange annouced that they were holding an Orange NFC Awards competition we at LongTap thought it would be a great opportunity to get our creative heads on and come up with some ideas. Several were aired and then shot down, some were placed on the back burner and a couple were submitted. We are delighted that one of them made it through to the final with 19 other great ideas.
Our idea: Bloom NFC, your NFC gardening assistant
The video below does an excellent job of giving you an idea of what is to be expected.
Basically the NFC tag would be specific to a plant and let you know how to care for it, enable you to keep a plant diary (when you watered it, checked up on it), and if the Bloom NFC tag was to come with some seeds it would would be able to provide you with a timeline of what to expect when (very useful for veg), and again, how to care for the plant at the different stages. We will head over to Paris on the 11 June to present our app - in prototype form - to a panel of judges.. In the mean you can vote for us here: http://www.orange-nfc-awards.orange.com/les-nomines/projet-bloom
It would seem that all the QR code bashing has had an impact. I flicked through a copy of WIRED and only spotted two, and unbelievably one went to a non mobile optimised website. The fault is not with the QR code, but with the misuse of them.
I mentioned back then how there seems to be a QR Vs AR (augmented reality) battle going on. This is largely thanks to blogs and agencies pitting one against the other, which is a little bit silly. Ultimately it is down to why a business or campaign may benefit from using such technology, not that one is better than the other.
Flicking through a Time Out I noticed a Lloyds TSB advert that was using AR specialists Blippar. Curiously there was a notice to “download blippar app free” but no QR to link to a simple page that could be measured and provide links to the app stores. Instead I had to search the app store for the app and download it.
Blippar is straightforward to use, getting to work is not. There needs good light, but not too much that the glossy pages glare and the image needs to be flat. The trouble is that it keeps flashing on and off, focusing and refocusing, loading and then cutting out. Not the best experience.
The video below shows you what happens.
What is the point? It’s fun?. But it is just a waste of time. Also the website linked to from the app is not mobile optimised! Doh! Blimey.
Again though, it is not the technologies fault (this is no way a dig at Blippar, what they are offering is very interesting), but it is how it is pointlessly used that is the problem.
This is not a rumor, but a fact. The iphone will have to get bigger.
When I wrote the weener article a while back there was still uncertainty as the whether or not Apple would release a phone with a larger screen. Now we all know that they did, but was it too little and too late?
Reports have been flying around that Apple will make a ‘cheaper’ handset and that it may also make the screen larger. Whilst I personally do not see any reason why Apple should want to make a cheaper handset, I can see that the screen will get bigger.
The reasons are the same as the previous ones, namely how people use their phones and what other phones are offering. The trouble is with the current iphone 5 size it that is neither the usual premium size (4.7” - 5”) nor a standard smaller size (3.5”ish). The problem with this is that they failed to fully commit to a larger size screen, as they wanted to keep the width of the phone unchanged. This was a mistake and one that they will have to correct within the next couple of years.
Probably the annoying message on the internet right now. Quite how Google have managed to so monumentally make a mess of this is unclear. Some would point the finger at LG, others at the internet, I mean Google, and some at Apple, just because, well why not?
Who ever it is that needs to sent to the naughty corner, it is Google and the Nexus brand that has suffered because of this. Last year the Galaxy Nexus launch - certainly in the UK - was handled as well as the London riots of 2011 were, bloody badly. However even by those low standards this launch takes the biscuit.
What was thinking? You have got a top end phone with a mid-phone price running the latest version of the hugely popular Android OS. Oh, and Christmas just around the corner. Put all that into a mixing pot and you have a phone that is sure to have huge demand. Quite how many were in stock will probably never be known, but why oh why they weren’t stocked to the rafters with these handsets is unbelievable. It is a handset that will sell.
Instead it sold out in most places within an hour.
Google you should hang your heads in shame. Everything about this launch has been a total washout. The Play store couldn’t handle the traffic, the Play store crashed, the experience was rubbish, orders made, but orders not sent, delivery expected in two months, and so on. On top of that the handset is getting a bit of bad press from the glass on the back cracking. What a shocker.
What has Google had to say about it all. Precious little. Put down the tofu burger, stop hanging out in Uncle Randy’s basement and give an explanation.
Update (4th Dec)
This article has been waiting to go on for a couple of weeks now. Just as I was about to publish it my inbox had a message from Google, the Nexus 4 will be back on sale from 5pm (4th December). Great. Despite a bit of a false start I did eventually manage to complete the transaction. The shipping status was 1-2 weeks on the Play store, if you check now it is 5-6 weeks. I was very surprised to be charged £9.99 for “2 day” delivery. To have any charge on an item that costs over £200 is a surprise, but to be charged that knowing full well that the delivery will not be in two days is even more grating. The delivery is two from when UPS receive the item to deliver, which could be anything from 1 week to 2 months! My order status has now been complete since the 4th, and as yet not a peep from anybody. Very, very disappointing.
Like a small early Christmas gift Google Play emailed me on the 19th to let me know that the £9.99 postage had been refunded. I have to congratulate Google for issuing a refund, a small acknowledgement that things should have been done better. And speaking of acknowledgements this refund came a couple of days after Mr Google UK Dan Cobley issued an apology on his Google+ page, via a comment on a post of his in which he slings a bit of mud back at LG claiming that: “Supplies from the manufacturer are scarce and erratic”. Quite why he did not see fit to make this apology a standalone post seems to typify how this mess is being dealt with, but at least it does appear to be being dealt with.
Mike Elgan is an avid google Plus user, I have him in a circle and am interested to see what he posts and what he has to say. So the problem is not the man himself, the problem is that users like him expose the greatest floor in the Google Plus system.
People / personalities use Google Plus as an elaborate twitter. It’s a great way to build your own personal web authority, link backs and all that SEO kind of stuff. This is great. However, Twitter is Twitter. It is just a mass of people craving followers, sharing interesting posts and engaging with other, like minded people. It is an endless stream of shares, re-tweets and the occasional one-line snippet of opinion / abuse. Again, this is fine as that is, more or less, what Twitter is about. People use Twitter in a different way to how they use Facebook. People would tweet stuff that they would never want to put on their facebook wall (timeline). If you follow somebody on Twitter you expect that they would tweet on topics related to their area of expertise or interest.
So what does Mike Elgan have to do with this? Imagine for a moment that you actually did have friends and family using Google Plus (now, come on it’s not that funny!) and Mike, or Mikey as you know him, is a long time buddy so you drop him in your friends circle. What do you get? You get subjected to his professional persona, his tech insight with - hopefully - a sprinkling of posts that are more personal. Now if you were following him on twitter, or indeed following him on Google Plus, you’d expect this, but if you are friends with him and are wanting to replace your use of Facebook with Google Plus you really do not want this. You want pictures of “mad Mikey” on nights out, banter and general high jinx. Sharing pics, posts and links with friends should be very different from those posts that you want to publicly share and yet if you circle somebody you have to put up with both.
Vic Gundotra recently announced that 400 million users had “upgraded” to Google Plus and that 100 million were actively using the website and / or mobile app. These are impressive figures, the growth is rapid, but is it being used as a social network or as a networkers network?
In order to really take on Facebook - which has to be what they want to do - they have to find a solution to the conundrum of how to mix business and pleasure. Facebook users are not diehard supporters of the site, or of Zucherberg, in fact probably the opposite. However they will carry on using the service as there is no real alternative. In order for Google Plus to really matter, in the same way that Facebook does, it has to focus on the service it provides for friends and family and how to exclude the professional side of it.
I am a huge fan of Google Plus, I wish I had friends that actually used it. I had a recent conversation with a Canadian girl that I had just met, she want to see some photos I had taken from a gig. Obviously I grabbed her email address and on noticing it was a gmail account:
“Ah you use Gmail, are you on Google Plus?”
A moments thought as she wondered.
“Errr… yeah, I think so.
“Ah. so you are on it but never use it?”
“Yeah, does anybody actually use it?”
So to Vic, here are some ideas:
Create two mothership circles: Business and Personal in those two circles your usual circles can be placed. Then when making a public post the author can select to exclude either the Business or Personal mother circle from seeing the message. The post is still a public post, so a friend could still have the option of seeing it if they visit their friends page, or in the stream there could be one line: “Mike Elgan made a Business post”. This would make the professional persona less intrusive.
Instead of a + you use a - to exclude circles from seeing a public post in their main stream. As before it is still public, so a friend could still see it, but they will explicitly have to want to see it.
A user can select not to see public posts by default on selected circles (circle settings). (Although I personally think the onus should be on the person making the posts)
Get this sorted and it will be a step in the right direction for getting that mix of business and pleasure just right.
Tuneably was one of our first apps, it was this app that popularised the sliding tab UI that Google now frequently uses.
The app was once described as “a must have app for music fans” -androidapps.com - so we thought it was about time to take this app to the next level.
Well after the brilliant (award winning) Google TV / YouTube Hackathon we thought we would marry our new star DJ, Mr VJ with Tuneably. We are using the brilliant echonest api, some YouTube player magic and we will be making it a GoogleTV app so that the artist YouTube playlist can be played on your TV and controlled from the phone.
We are excited about it. It’s not quite ready yet, but we just had to share the news.
We recently headed down to the "Silicon Roundabout" in London for a weekend of hacking with YouTube and GoogleTV at The Google Campus. We got to play with the YouTube player api and our own Logitech GoogleTV set top boxes, which was nice.
It was a great chance to meet a bunch of Google and YouTube people and fellow developers, loads of cool ideas around TV and two screen action. We came up with out own app that would win an award for best mash-up.
Hey Mr VJ used the YouTube, YouTube Player, EchoNest and Anymote APIs to create a Video DJ like no other. The app can run on a tablet, TV and of course a phone. The user can get Mr VJ to create a video playlist based of mood, style, or artist (similar). If the user happens to have a GoogleTV they could pair the tablet / phone to the TV and enjoy the video full screen whilst using the handheld device as a control to get another playlist going or to skip and pause video playing on the TV.
We were very honoured to be awarded a prize (A lovely Samsung Galaxy S3) for the best mashup. We are very excited about TV are keen to build on what we learnt during the event. Watch this space…
StreetSpot.it can now be found in the Chrome Web Store, so what are you waiting for?
A crowd sourced gallery of street art StreetSpot is a crowd-sourced gallery of street art. Street art is often ephemeral and soon lost to the ravages of weather, time and councils - we hope that StreetSpot will provide a permanent home for the pieces you spot so that others can find out more about the art and their artists.
Anyone with a twitter account can add spots, and add tags to existing spots, with plenty more features in the pipeline. The site works on all modern browsers on all devices, from mobiles to TVs, and users with a touchscreen can swipe left and right to navigate between spots. Happy street spotting!
Well they could do if they used a idea I came up with whilst consulting for an agency. This is an example of how a QR code can be put to good use, not AR or MVS, but a quick response code.
QR Commission (QC code - Quick Commission) Idea:
To give commission to customers that refer people to get a quote via a QR code displayed in their car window.
1. Send a customer (new or current) a car sticker to be put on a window. (This car is insured by XX. Scan here to get a quote - we will call you.
2. When scanned a mobile optimised form is displayed to request a call back to receive a quote.
3. Call back made, once a quote is received the customer is rewarded with a £10 voucher
The commission is received once a quote is given, not just for a call back. This should avoid people phoning up and getting their mate a tenner. The users details should be unique, telephone number, name, address, car. Obviously there should be no way in which a person can repeatedly call up and get a quote.
The form could have further option to obtain the address (postcode / geo location), make and model of the car to make the process faster. These should not be compulsory.
If a person takes out insurance consider an extra bonus reward.
Offer monthly rewards for the most scanned QR code.
Enable customers to see the QR scan stats. This is easy to do if a URL shortening service such as goo.gl, bit.ly is used as they provide stats.
The QR codes has to be unique to the customer, therefore each sticker would be individual. The mobile call back form would have identify the referring customer by their current customer reference number.
As the facebook IPO comes steam rolling on it seems that people have suddenly become aware of the fact that facebook need to make money via mobile, as 450 million (ish) of their users are regularly accessing the service on their smartphone (via the browser and / or app) and of those 58 million users (13.4%) only access the service on a mobile device. The trouble for facebook is that it seems that more and more people - certainly in the US - are viewing facebook using their smartphone rather than on a desktop, it’s a 52.8 percent / 47.2 percent split. Facebook reported in their IPO documentation that facebook users, in December 2011, spent a combined 10.5 billion minutes on the site everyday, roughly 12 and a half minutes per user on the site via a PC, this figure does not include mobile. ComScore recently reported that users in the US over 18 years old spend just over 14 minutes per day using the service on a smartphone. So using that figure as an average that is 450 million mobile users times 14 minutes, that is an additional 6.2 billion minutes, so a grand total of 16.8 billion combined minutes a day spent on facebook. Worried? I wouldn’t be.
However the real reason not to worry is simple; Tablets. Whilst smartphones are going through explosive growth, tablets are like a nuclear bomb. These highly portable seven to ten inch mobile devices may well be the saving grace for facebook and their perceived mobile monetizing woes. A recent report from Adobe showed that tablets are trouncing smartphones in the growth of mobile web browsing, 200 times faster when compared at launch.
“…this means that one year after the Ipad was released tablets had around one per cent of the total web browsing market, while two years later tablets had over three per cent. By comparison, it took the Iphone a full three years to reach one per cent of total web visits." Source: The Inquirer
Tablets have been helped by the fact that the infrastructure (3/4G, WiFi) is there and always improving. As it stands, according to Adobe, mobile browsing accounts for 10 percent of web traffic, this is a 60/40 split in favour of smartphone. However Adobe predict that by the beginning of next year tablets will overtake smartphones, and by 2014 will account for 10 percent in its own right. I think this will probably turn out to be a conservative guess.
With Apple looking increasingly likely to release a sub $350 seven inch tablet and multiple manufactures releasing affordable tablets running Android (and Windows 8 will join the party) there is no reason to think that the growth of tablets will show any signs of slowing.
It is a matter of convenience that users will check facebook on their smartphone, and to be fair if you are at work it is highly lightly that the nerds in IT have fixed it so you cannot get access to facebook, so there is no other choice. If you own a tablet and you have the choice of viewing facebook on your tablet or phone you’d go with the tablet. Even a seven inch tablet held portrait provides facebook with the space it needs to place several ads on the side. So Zuck and the Fat Cats, don’t stress about mobile, tablets will save the day.
People with small things will tell you the size doesn’t matter. The design conscious iphone users have been saying this in the last year as their uber cool piece of kits remains small in screen size. As every manufacturer is producing a device with a larger screen last year Apple opted not to increase the screen size of the iphone. They just made a slightly better phone than the previous one, stuck an S on the end and introduced Siri. So underwhelming was the phone (compared to the hype, although the camera had a good make over) that Siri rode the wave of fad for a while as tech writers couldn’t think of any other way to fill their quota of positive Apple related news. (Looking at you TechCrunch and Mashable)
If a fraction of the rumor mill is to be believed it does seem as though Apple will this year be giving the iphone a larger screen, at least a four incher. By comparison to other flagship phones this is at the small end of the scale, but it may mean that the body size does not have to change.
Developers will tell you that the size will not change. The ease of iphone / ipad app development is thanks in part to the fact that unlike the chaos of Android, the screen size, the dimensions, are set in stone. Well perhaps Apple will upset a few developers, as they really have to make the screen larger in order to keep their users happy. (It appears more and more likely that a 7” - neither here nor there “tweener” - iPad (mini) will come out, so why not make it a double whammy for developers?)
I say they need to keep their users happy, and here’s why; a smartphone is not just a phone, it is an entertainment centre, and as time goes on this will become more and more the case. Consider that 400 million YouTube videos are watched every day on a mobile. Moreover 78% of videos watched on mobile are done so using iphones. Recent figures from Juniper forecasts that 240 millions users (which to me seems low) will stream TV using their smartphone by 2014. Also games, nine of the top ten paid itunes apps are games. If people want a small phone then get the Sony Xperia X10, but if - as iphone users do - people want to play games and watch videos then the days of the 3.5 inch screen are surely number.
I recently was chatting with a guy from SoMo - the aristocrats of the UK mobile advertising industry - and I was quite surprised by his opinion on QR codes. There was a distinct sigh about them, they are ugly and backward. What is an alternative? AR (augmented reality) was the response, and NFC (although Apple need to give their blessing before that is pushed harder). Yeah, both of those things will probably grow, but AR has been around for a while, but is still seen as a bit of a gimmick. Blippar are offering their services all over the place, but does it really solve a problem that mobile phone users have? It’s never that I have caught myself thinking “Oh if only that Tesco poster had AR that enabled me to buy stuff”, er no.
The trouble with both of these is that they should not be viewed as alternatives, they are what they are. NFC is going to grow, but it still requires more setting up and it requires hardware, both in the phone and the surface that is being tapped. Moreover NFC is near field, so you have to be close, 4cm or less. AR has a high entry barrier, and a lot of fiction to even have the AR experience.
It seems fashionable to bin QR codes as an ugly fab, and it is sad that people in large agencies want to be part of that crown. However, like a no nonsense defender, they serve a great purpose and should not be ignored simply because they aren’t attractive. Practically all smartphones will come pre loaded with a barcode reader and a camera, so the user only has to open it and scan. The setup cost of a QR code, nothing. There are countless free QR code generators out there, it just needs to be added to the artwork.
When I was consulting for a small agency we were coming up with fun ideas for a large alcohol multi-national, and many of them revolved around AR campaigns. For example, a game using beermats for markers, but the trouble is that the user would need an app in order to see the magic. This in itself is a stumbling block, but if they were interested to get the app how would you get them there? A QR code. A quick scan would take the user to the correct page on the relevant app store. This is far better than “search: I am a cool AR advert” and forcing the user to type and search.
If you are thinking about how to get a QR code campaign going, or when and where would be good to place them, then just think about how you can ease the friction for a user, what added value will scanning the QR code provide? We have our own service called www.qrlme.com that massively eases the friction of getting a twitter follower, facebook fan and / or downloading a vCard, as they are all on one page. (Hence it is called Quick Response Like, because it’s quick.)
If you have any question regarding your own QR usage feel free to get in touch.