Friday, September 28, 2007

The future of Social Networks is mobile ...

This is a quote from Raymond Spanjard from Hyves speaking at PICNIC07. I picked this up thanks to Tom Hume's excellent blog, where he liveblogged the sharing your life panel discussion.

It would appear that Google having today bought Zingku agree, at least in part that mobile will be an important part of Social Networking (but their first experiment with Dodgeball did not bear fruit). Commentary on the acquisition here. There's been speculation-a-plenty about what Google were going to do about the "Facebook" problem which is already mobilised (Orkut is undergoing a facelift and this may be an addition that brings in the mobile side).

What I find interesting is the continuing trend of sharing media content between your social network. Social networks are primarily about communication but this is now being expanded to include content sharing (photos/music/video etc). This is the right way round in my opinion , communication first, then content.

From my own experience this is the main reason why I've drifted away from the personal dashboards (netvibes, igoogle, myYahoo etc..) towards the Social networking sites as my default browser homepage (although they're still useful).

Facebook / Bebo are good examples of this. You get your social network in place and start communicating, then you share fun and useful content through that network. The dashboard engines were quick to pick up on this (Pageflakes added the sharing-content option very early on) but they are still coming from a content-based approach rather than a communication-based starting point ie. get your content in place then start sharing it.

I expect we'll see more video/audio/photo/gaming-sharing functionalities appear in the (mobile) and social networking services in the very near future.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Integrated M(apps)

Here's an example of what I mean about integrated mobile applications on the device and its importance to the user experience.

I keep an eye out for examples of good mobile services that are integrated and don't make me think.

Take, LG's Viewty(KU990) mobile maps application. Note the navigation buttons and the zoom key - this is mimicking soft or hard keys on a touch screen device to navigate.. The application is ok, it's functional, but it's not taking advantage of the device touch screen capabilities (ie. no fingertip dragging). An opportunity missed...

Apple's mapping application is integrated with the touch gestures of the user-interface. Dragging a finger around moves the map. The zooming function requires a bit of learning via double tap or pinch/reverse pinch, but once known it's intuitive to use.

It's not really a fair comparison of course as Apple built the mapping application on the device and it's optimised to use the iPhone touch gestures, but someone obviously thought about this application carefully and dismissed the idea of navigational touch buttons. (This may be why it's one of the more popular iPhone apps.. A finger is easier and simpler to move the map around, not to mention faster.

I watched a friend use iPhone maps for the first time, never having used the device before (or any touchscreen device). He found his house in Devon and had zoomed in to roof-level view with minimal guidance in about 30 seconds. I didn't need to ask him what he thought, his reaction told me.

On a related note, a usability comparison between HTC Touch , N95 and the iPhone link.

Mobile Ads - experiment

Blyk the UK ad-funded MVNO launches today

... more detail at TechCrunch UK

It will be interesting to see if the saturated UK market can take another MVNO entrant albeit with a different business model. Here's commentary from the Telco2.0 team.

Friday, September 21, 2007

S60 Threaded SMS ... finally

It's a beta and you can download it here.

Supported devices are : Nokia N73. (Works but not fully tested with Nokia E50, E60, E61, E61i, E62, E70, N71, N75, N77, N80, N91, N92, N93, N93i.)Nokia N95 and 6290. Works but not fully tested with Nokia 5700 XpressMusic, Nokia 6110 Navigator, 6120 classic, 6121 classic, E90 Communicator, N76, N81, N81 8GB, N95 8GB.

Shows Nokia are listening to its S60 customers but not why it has taken ** so ** long to get this basic functionality given the number of complaints of it being missing as a feature on S60...

Next step is to get it out of beta and integrated into the S60 platform by default (not an add-on application).

Access to this functionality is either via going into the application (a bit longwinded unless you set it up in active idle or as a shortcut) or the more likely route of going into the Contacts (address Book) application where there is a new tab called "Conversation". Your conversations are grouped by people and then you can go into the conversation thread for the detailed view.

You can also remain in the context of the thread which is nice, to continue conversing via text. That's what the little pencil and dialogue box is there for.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fry's delight

For those British amongst us ...Stephen Fry is blogging.

Not only that but he's a mobile device geekhead, obsessed with smartphones who has written a whopper of a first post. It doesn't seem to be fake either... using words like expatiate, Tolkien-esque and 60's housing estate analogies it can only be him.

The depth of knowledge in his first post on smartphones is impressive for someone not in the industry. Being able to wrap that up in his highly witty sarcastic style makes for a very entertaining read.

I love his line on the device manufacturers compared to Apple "Why don’t the other bastards GET IT??". Aah, sentiments of my own (ref: earlier blog post on touch screen devices). He also comments why native apps will always be superior on the iPhone and why a keyboard is a must.

(My own request on the virtual keyboard which I can't get used to: Please Apple - take your new aluminium imac keyboard - shrink it to the iphone form factor and make it a landscape slider, - like the Helio Ocean (number pad slider not required) and have the virtual keyboard and virtual numeric keypad a la dialpad as options/preferences - ** per application **).Oh and don't make the device any thicker than it already is ...:)

His refreshing views are most welcome I hope he does one or two in his character styles - I'd love to see a Lord Melchit blog post on the trials and tribulations of mobile devices....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Engaging ?

Nokia's n-gage gaming platform marketing video ...

The quality and types of games will be crucial for launch (isn't it always with gaming platforms?), but particularly in this case with Nokia's re-launch of the n-gage brand. The games I've played so far are enjoyable enough, but that's been on an 3D graphics accelerated device (N95), what will they be like on the reference benchmark N73 I wonder.

I'm interested to see the online try-before-you-buy option and the community aspects as well, they're important components determining whether the service takes off in my view (assuming Nokia can get the device penetration in the markets quickly enough).

Or, will gamers buy alternative mobile devices with known branding tie-ins and established experience in the gaming world (PSP/Wii/XBox), such as Sony Ericsson's rumoured PlayStation phone (with motion sensing).

Does anyone choose a mobile phone based on the gaming experience of the device? I guess Nokia hope that its n-gage portal/experience might be another deciding factor that clinches the sale for the broad demographic that play games.

Here's a link to some of the titles soon to be released on n-gage. If only they would release Advance Wars :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

N95 8gb - Finding 'fings' faster

Looks like Nokia listened to the feedback and addressed some of the annoying issues with the n-series N95 handset launched earlier this year.

The prototype 8gb model I'm playing with here is not the finished product but the main improvement I immediately noticed is the speed of the interface. It's much quicker, navigating around and opening applications. The boot up time seems to be improved too. The screen size and poor battery life were the other major issues that have been addressed.

I'm particularly pleased about the speed increase as I have complained before that the N95 interface and opening applications was slower than treacle (even the N73 is faster). The new N95 8g interface albeit without the whizzy transitions (likely coming in S60 edition 3 feature pack 2 for models next year) responds much quicker now at a button press. I hope Nokia take this learning into their future models when it comes to the trade off, of selecting the hardware, memory/cpu/screen size versus cost and the overall user experience, as some might question why Nokia have had to produced two N95 models to get the experience right.

Taking photos is improved markedly over the old N95, but it's still taking too long to start the camera app. I counted 5 seconds from pressing the camera icon and by the time you've focused on your subject - she's likley wandered off as in the case of my daugther. Perhaps some software tweaks may improve it further. That said, this is a problem with lots of other camera-phones too, especially compared to digital cameras.

So far I've not had "out of memory issues" on the newer model which plague my older N95 (effectively meaning I cannot multi-task) and a familar problem for most current N95 users. The screen is also bigger, brighter and an additional shortcut has made it into the active idle applications (so you have 7 instead of 6).

A much more comprehensive review is over at AllAboutSymbian

What I wanted to look at in more detail and the subject of this post was the search application moving to the idle screen.

You can now search directly from the home/idle screen (see first photo and you will see the magnifying glass icon) both for files and content on the device (mails, contacts etc..) as well as online search with Yahoo and Microsoft search engines...This saves quite a few key presses depending on how you accessed the application beforehand.

Also what has changed slightly is the way device and online search works. In the newer version of the app, the letters/keywords you type in the box dynamically change the results, constantly narrowing down the search results as shown in the pics below on typing 'm' and then 'a', then 'p' etc...

This is similar to how the excellent Qix search application works on S60 (although you can start searches directly from the idle screen with Qix and there are some clever features where most used search keywords are dynamically reordered based on usage ie. float to the top of the results).

This general method of searching is faster, simpler and and more intuitive for the user - it is a horziontal search layer across all apps and services and makes much more sense than stovepipe-type searches.

With more and more media being stored on the device such as images, videos and music and the ability to use the search as a "shortcutting" method (eg. for texting the same contact repeatedly) I suspect this application will get used a lot by N95 8gb users...

More mobile video search

About a month ago I posted on Seeqpod - a beta mobile streaming service with a vast online music catalogue cleverly aggregated through internet links rather than holding the content themselves. To find this content you just simply started searching for a track name /artist/ album or any tag associated with the music. This means you can pretty much find any song and listen to it (assuming mobile network or WLAN coverage) when you're mobile.

vTap by Veveo is a mobile video search engine that effectively lets you find and play and video on the go. Aggregating the millions of video clips on the web, the service makes them mobile-friendly for streaming playback with a nice predictive search interface on the front to help narrow down search results quickly and dynamically.

Windows mobile and iPhone are currently supported with other phones coming soon. The service works via the mobile browser ( To get an idea of how it works there's an emulator on the website.

Add it to the growing ways of getting streaming and downloaded video (besides Youtube, Google video etc..) onto your mobile device.

Screenshots below.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Couple of Moto links ...

"Speaking to investors at a conference yesterday, Motorola CFO Tom Meredith indicated that the company is altering its strategy to regain solid footing in the wireless market. He commented that Motorola has taken note of the iPhone's success in bringing two technologies, the touch screen and Wi-Fi, to market and is considering adding them to future Motorola devices. Another part of its new strategy will have Motorola developing a wide range of devices that will appeal to all people from mass market to enterprise instead of focusing on one stand-out device." Source linked to from here here.

Motorola are rumoured to be working on a super-specced touch (smart) phone. I liked the RIZR Z8 based on Symbian UIQ (although form factor of Motos keypads is not for me) but I hope the new one runs off Linux as reported in the link.

As mentioned previously - it's not 'if' but 'when' with the other Device OEM's now. Question is will they be able to compete with the benchmark, as touch screen devices rightly or wrongly are always going to now be compared to the iPhone. We've already seen a glimpse of Nokia's prototype in the recent GoPlay event (shame it wasn't the Aeon).

It's refreshing to see Motorola bring the developers conference to Europe as well and encourage 3rd party application developers on both Motos existing and new platforms (motomagx).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cash Job

Well, well - a quick, responsive decision to the price drop announced yesterday ... an effort at appeasing the loyal Apple customer-base.

To all iPhone customers:

I have received hundreds of emails from iPhone customers who are upset about Apple dropping the price of iPhone by $200 two months after it went on sale. After reading every one of these emails, I have some observations and conclusions.

First, I am sure that we are making the correct decision to lower the price of the 8GB iPhone from $599 to $399, and that now is the right time to do it. iPhone is a breakthrough product, and we have the chance to 'go for it' this holiday season. iPhone is so far ahead of the competition, and now it will be affordable by even more customers. It benefits both Apple and every iPhone user to get as many new customers as possible in the iPhone 'tent'. We strongly believe the $399 price will help us do just that this holiday season.

Second, being in technology for 30+ years I can attest to the fact that the technology road is bumpy. There is always change and improvement, and there is always someone who bought a product before a particular cutoff date and misses the new price or the new operating system or the new whatever. This is life in the technology lane. If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you'll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon. The good news is that if you buy products from companies that support them well, like Apple tries to do, you will receive years of useful and satisfying service from them even as newer models are introduced.

Third, even though we are making the right decision to lower the price of iPhone, and even though the technology road is bumpy, we need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price. Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these.

Therefore, we have decided to offer every iPhone customer who purchased an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T, and who is not receiving a rebate or any other consideration, a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store. Details are still being worked out and will be posted on Apple's website next week. Stay tuned.

We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers. We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple.

Steve Jobs
Apple CEO