Category Archives: Local Mobile

Google Mobile Instant Suggestions – Search Results Before You Search

I have only been tangentially following the development of Google Instant on Mobile. As Barry pointed out upon its release in early November, on the iPhone it is not a natural search strategy and thus I only use the Google search field on my phone occasionally.

Yesterday, though, I noticed a result that made bells go off given the on going dispute raised in the recent WSJ article about Google sending traffic to itself. I am with Lisa Barone on this issue of whether Google is or should be Santa Claus, they are not. This is capitalism boys, stop your whining. Its a tough game that puts demands on all of us but particularly on stock held companies. If you don’t like it, join me in the revolution.

In the meantime it was still striking to see this Google result on my iPhone that provides not just a link to themselves as a result but as a suggestion. How long before Google starts showing Places results as a suggestion? Talk about search results before you search… this is certainly a step in that direction.

Nexus One Support Forum- RIP

This notice is now posted on the Google Nexus One Forums.

The Nexus One was/is a great phone but Google soon learned that 1) They couldn’t really sell phone without primary carrier engagemet and 2)They weren’t very good at support (no surprise there). The Nexus One was a great reference platform that defined what a “pure” Android phone could be and to a large extent has been reincarnated as the HTC Incredible. The phone provided, indirectly, a mechanism for Google to gain entree into the big leagues of the cell phone world.

Facebook Places – Where are they?

What do a popular Anaheim florist, a prominent law office in a large urban area, a rural web development firm and a large retail bank/atm location all have in common?

They all are in the Localeze index and yet Facebook Places does not know about their existence. Why this occurs and how many businesses are missing from FB Places isn’t totally clear. Given my experience, the phenomena is fairly widespread and affects some significant number of businesses in the U.S. in both rural and urban environments.

Indications are that Localeze has provided Facebook with a full data set of their index so they seem to be off the hook. Either Facebook has chosen to surface some businesses and not others or more likely, they are still struggling with the technology to match a mobile user with the many Places that are in a mobile user’s immediate vicinity.

Regardless it means that every business needs to get their hands on a mobile phone and verify whether Facebook finds your Place and if not struggle through the mobile interface to add your Facebook Place page.

I am trying to understand why this is happening so if you have insight into either Facebook’s technology, their policies, or  the limits and difficulties of coding for check-ins and can shed light on this phenomena, I would love to hear from you.

Integrating Your Bike Into the Local Social World

I am an avid biker. A low tech, drive an old clunker, commute 9 miles on a back country road to work kind of biker. But a biker none the less. I really love my 33 minute commute along the Allegany River every day on my way to work.

Going home at the end of the day is another story. I would never (well mostly never) use something like the Copenhagen Wheel to power my way too work but I would definitely consider flicking that switch after a long day.

What is even more intrguing to me is their attempt to totally integrate the device with not just your bike but with your iPhone and your social network… I have trouble imagining myself ever checking in someplace but I can imagine my bike doing it on my behalf. The idea of switching the focus of the social activity from the person to the object with which they have an affinity is an interesting shift. It is a switch that many would find more comfortable than the idea of the self absorbed check in.

The types of data that would be accumulated to the network and the value of the interaction in the local environment would be immense. Ah the internet of things will be an interesting place indeed (assuming they work and are not just one more thing that in the end slows you down).

Yelp Reviews Back in Google Maps as their .COM Growth Stops

Yelp’s relationship with Google Maps has been off and on again. Their reviews have disappeared and reappeared on Google Maps over the past 3 years as Google’s and Yelp’s relationship has waxed and waned. But the relationship now seems to be on once again. About 10 days ago Yelp’s reviews again started showing up on Places Pages. I would posit that this reinclusion reflects Yelp’s need to buttress and improve their traffic short haul while they implement the changes necessary to fend off the location based startups.

Yelp has been the hot local site from 2007 through last year and their Compete.com numbers reflected their meteoric growth on the desktop. But their .com growth in unique visitors and page views started to decline last August and has continued downward throughout this year. At the end of April, Compete shows their unique visitors to be in the 25 million range, down from the 30 million last August.

Some of the slowdown on the desktop has been taken up with growth in mobile and particularly the iPhone. Yelp notes that they had 1.4 million visitors over the past 30 days via their iPhone app. That amounts to ~3% of their total visitors and does not make up for the almost 20% decline in their .com usage.

(click to view larger)

The numbers and their decision to allow Google to include their reviews suggest that Yelp’s transition to a general purpose review site has not taken off as they had planned. Long haul, Yelp does need to keep their eye on the many location based competitors. That being said, it seems even more important that they keep their eye, short term, on their main competitor in the review space, Google Maps. It appears to me that their need for growth and traffic has won out over their obvious points of contention with Google.

From a practical viewpoint, it demonstrates why any SMB needs to continue to gather reviews from a wide range of sources as the vagaries of these corporate relationships change, you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.

Smartphone Market Share – December 2009

Compete.com’s December US Mobile Subscriber Market Share report has been released. Of particular interest to me is the shifting sands of the Smartphone Platform Market Share. The numbers reflect the December release of the Droid by Verizon (and their heavy advertising) but not the release of the Nexus to T-Mobile which occurred in January.

I have made the point before, and this chart strongly reinforces it, that initially Android is going to take share from RIM, Palm and Microsoft and not so much from Apple. Clearly, RIM has a lot to loose in this battle although Palm perhaps has even more to loose in that their survival is at stake. Apple will soon respond with a new phone and other tactics to increase market share.

Because this is as much a battle of providers as it is phones it seems likely that Apple & Android will continue to be favored alternatives at ATT & Verizon leaving little breathing room for the current alternatives to gain or even retain market share. The Compete.com numbers:

Smartphone Platform Market Share

RIM was the leading mobile smartphone operating system in the U.S. in December 2009 with 41.6 percent share of U.S. smartphone devices. Apple ranked second with 25.3 percent share (up 1.2 percentage points), followed by Microsoft with 18.0 percent share, Palm with 6.1 percent share, and Google with 5.2 percent share (up 2.7 percentage points).

Top Smartphone Platforms
3 Months Ending Dec. 2009 vs. 3 Months Ending Sep. 2009
Total U.S. Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
Share (%) of Smartphone Devices
Sep-09 Dec-09 Point Change
Total Smartphone Subscribers 100.0% 100.0% N/A
RIM 42.6% 41.6% -1.0
Apple 24.1% 25.3% 1.2
Microsoft 19.0% 18.0% -1.0
Palm 8.3% 6.1% -2.2
Google 2.5% 5.2% 2.7

Nexus One- The Second Coming Part 2

As I pointed out yesterday, the Nexus One is a great phone. Given its limited distribution and status of an iPhone-near-equal, it is not an iPhone killer. That being said, it certainly demonstrates Google’s path to the near future.

Google is, like Apple several years ago, trying to break into an exclusive club…the oligopoly of cell phone service providers that controls access to the mobile internet. For Google, gaining this access is a down payment on their long term need to guarantee their future ability to deliver ads.

But Google is entering a smartphone market that is different than Apple found and it is one that is more and more being defined by Apple. For both Google and Apple, success in the US market will be assured when both are represented at the two major carriers. This is no mean task as the market leaders (ATT & Verizon) really have little interest in ceding any more control of their networks than they already have. Google needs a different path than Apple but their need is no less compelling than Apple’s to “break in” to an internet world that could offer two times the size of the desktop internet.

Apple was able to use the iPhone to break into the ranks of the major cell service provides and in doing so gave ATT the power to attract new customers at a rate faster than Verizon. Verizon, I think, hoped that RIM, MS or Nokia might provide an alternative to the iPhone on their terms but none did.

Verizon needed to stop the bleeding. In a mature phone market with few new customers coming in, nothing is worse than losing customers coming off contract and they were loosing them to ATT & the iPhone. The recently introduced Droid, while not quite the equal of the iPhone, gave Verizon a credible story to stop the bleeding. And it gave Google a needed entree into one half of the the big leagues.

Google still needs to convince the AT&T that it is in the carrier’s interest to play ball in a way that Google wants and needs. I would imagine that for Google to make their Android OS a success, the process of dealing with the likes of Verizon & ATT is part compromise, part bravado and part engineering brilliance.

Google, by creating a phone that is directly compared to the iPhone and being the first company to deliver a phone that is widely considered a contender in this game, has proven that they can offer big cell companies an alternative. Big cell phone companies can’t abide by wannabes. They need winners to attract new sign ups. And Google needed a winner to even sit at the table. Like the iPhone before it, Google doesn’t need to have dominant market share for the phone to be considered a success. At least now, Google has their attention and has successfully positioned themselves as an alternative for ATT.

Apple though, is not a static entity in this complex dance. They can, and will likely soon, add new hardware features that will surpass the Nexus. They can and likely soon will add new hardware that makes their iPhone compatible with the Verizon’s CDMA network. Apple wants and needs additional distribution to keep growing. It is estimated that the iPhone market share could double once they are available on the Verizon network.

Once Apple has in fact delivered a Verizon compatible iPhone, AT&T will have lost its exclusivity. It need to fill the gap and compete with the Verizon that has both an iPhone and the exclusive Droid. In that scenario, the Nexus One becomes a reference platform that can provide Google a place at the table with AT&T. For AT&T, Google is demonstrating that they can create, build, market and support(?) a phone that just might offset any gains that Verizon will get from its own iPhone

Assuming that Google and Apple are successful in meeting their own needs and the needs of the big carriers in this intricate kabuki, we will see a different cell landscape going forward. It is as much a landscape that is more hostile to the other manufacturers of cell phone hardware/os as it is a landscape where Apple and Google can be more successful. It portends a further loss of smartphone sales & market share for Palm, Nokia and Microsoft. It could even portend the demise or merger of Palm and a more difficult road for RIM. Once the Nexus (or its equivalent) makes it to ATT and the iPhone to Verizon, it is these other brands of smart phones that will suffer the most, not the iPhone and not the Nexus.

If iPhone/Android do in fact become the smart phones of choice at both major cell providers, it also foreshadows a market where the cell carriers look to control the pipe rather than the platform. They need to control something. After all, they like being in an oligopoly. There is nothing like super profits and minimal competition with few government regulations to keep them and their stockholders happy.

So in the Nexus we see a phone that shows Googles as a near-equal of Apple as a software/hardware provider, capable of satisfying the needs of the Verizons and possibly the AT&Ts of the world, able to deliver on a single, sustainable and attractive platform that positions them well into the future.

While there is a battle brewing between Google and Apple, and there may be a time when talk of an iPhone killer is appropriate, that time is not now, and the Nexus One is not that phone.

Note: A special thanks goes out to Miriam Ellis of Solas Web Design who has provided me with incredible editing and feedback over the years and on this article. I would strongly recommend her as both an editor and copywriter. All too often, my writing has both spelling and grammatical errors as well as issues of clarity. Miriam helps on all fronts and has been a godsend when I really want to get the story right!

Nexus One: The Second Coming but Not An iPhone Killer – Part 1

I have a had few days to play with the Nexus. Its an incredible phone, not so incredible that it will shake the iPhone from my grasp but incredible enough that it will have a huge impact on the cell phone industry.

Compared to the iPhone, my Nexus* has a beautiful screen, incredible speed, much better integration of online social networking tools and a better Maps experience.

By the same token it is more complicated to configure and operate and functions best in the cloud. It is missing the simplicity of single button control, tight iTunes integration, doesn’t work well with Exchange and is still missing some basic features that Apple has defined as the new standard for smartphones like copy & paste and multi-touch. With but one upgrade of hardware and software by Apple, most of the Nexus’s current advantages will be gone.

It is a gorgeous phone, with a beautiful implementation that doesn’t quite match up the iPhone’s overall usability. So is the Nexus One Google’s “iPhone killer”?

While it may be a TeleAtlas killer, an iPhone killer it is not. Not just because of the hardware though.

The telling fact is that the Nexus really only runs well on one second tier cell provider in the US. T-Mobile is, at the end of the day a minor player, with but a fraction of ATTs or Verizon’s subscriber base and roughly an 8% market share. While the phone does run on the ATT network, very few will pay $600 to run it at the slower Edge speeds to which it is limited on their network. It is difficult to kill the iPhone let alone conquer the world from the diminishing market share of T-Mobile.

Something much more subtle and nuanced and simultaneously bold is going on here.

The iPhone when first introduced was viewed by market pundits as a long shot. In a few years, it has become the de facto standard and in doing so has threatened not just Microsoft, Palm and Nokia but RIM as well. It has taken the hardware market a long time to catch up. Microsoft didn’t do it, RIM didn’t do it, Nokia didn’t do it. Palm came close but nobody believed that they had the staying power nor presence to make a difference.

It took two years and a non-traditional player in the phone business but Google seems to have finally matched the iPhone with quality, features, panache and staying power. In succeeding where others have yet to succeed, the Nexus One is, in some sense, the second coming of the iPhone. It’s the first iPhone that isn’t an iPhone.

It may not be the iPhone killer that the press seems to want for but more importantly it could very well be Google’s admission ticket to a relationship with AT&T and the big leagues of the cell wars.

*Note I was given a Nexus by Google so please take any positive comments that I make with a grain of salt and as a potential conflict of interest.

Guide to Choosing a Smart Phone for Local

In early January, Miriam Ellis of Solas Web Design asked the Local Chumps (an email salon whose members vary depending on the weather but that day included myself, Miriam, David Mihm, Matt McGee, Andrew Shotland & Will Scott) what smart phone should she buy. In doing her due diligence, she wanted to know which had the best features, the lowest price, the highest performance, the comparative benenfits etc etc….but mostly wanted something that would browse the internet well. All the reasonable questions that a conscientious consumer would typically ask about buying a piece of technology

Initially, many of our answers were single “phone” answers. The more complete answer, in the end, was that the choice needed to really include considerations about the service provider. The conversation took a “which cell provider sucks least” bent. (“Mine sucks less!” “No mine sucks less!”)

Picking a phone is not a straight forward technology purchase but a complex dance between choosing the service provider, your data and communication needs and picking the right smartphone.

It is impossible to choose a phone in the US without also choosing a provider and a (not so good & expensive) plan. Picking the phone should be the hard part but in reality it is picking the plan that requires a degree in systems design, accounting and social theory.

So with that in mind I have developed this scientific flow chart to help confused consumers in today’s marketplace pick a smart phone that browses the internet well:

I will leave it to Miriam to divulge to the world which phone she purchased (but I will say that she is the proud owner of a shiney new toy). Now, if we could just get her onto Twitter….