Omega Mobile: Mobile Experience Design Blog
We’re Passionate about Mobile User Interfaces, Experiences, Interactivity, and more!

Archive for July, 2009

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting! noted an unusual campaign for the Google Android-powered Vodafone HTC mobile phone.  Users upload what they “wish” their handset could do to a website where the wishes are ranked. The brand says it will work to make one of those wishes come true. The Wish Factory campaign went live in June and early results have shown an average of 1,500 campaign site visitors per day. This is a clever way to get lots of input for mobile design.

Mobile Design Crowdsourcing

Of course, getting valuable marketing information is one of the immediate benefits of this campaign. I think a reward system would make a visit to the website even more attractive – perhaps the end users who submit the most popular ideas could be rewarded with additional services, free devices or some type of monetary payment. 

It would be interesting to apply this concept to improvements for major handset apps or services. Users could submit ideas for the apps on their device about improving usability, features, or mobile user interfaces. Again, the reward system would be an incentive to participate. Power users or top contributors could be rewarded with special access to beta programs to get the features first. 

As devices advance, marketers could take this a step further by allowing users to access collaborative technologies to custom design their own features. For example, someone with a good idea could do collaborative whiteboarding – multiple users tapping into a virtual space together – to share skills to improve a device. This could be anything from sketching wireframes or creating a full mockup. 

I’m looking forward to more user input campaigns and the creative rewards companies will offer to get creative feedback.

This week, several sites, including Fast Company, reported the new partnership of Google and Visible World, a software company that provides customized TV ads based on an individual subscribers demographic data. 

Smart Mobile TV Ads

For example, three families might be watching the same network program. The family with children gets an ad for Sea World, the newly weds see a Las Vegas vacation package while the retired couple watches a golf resort promotion. 

Mobile design possibilities would be a great fit for this type of targeted advertisement. Advertisers reach their desired niche audience and users benefit from information they actually want and can use. Adding in a mobile specific component could be even more valuable for everyone – especially since a recent study suggests that mobile video users are the most valuable marketing audience.

The ability to collect valuable viewer data will be greatly expanded as convergence becomes more prevalent, particularly in interactive television. Instead of relying solely on information provided by a subscribers cable box, a variety of information could be collected from a “composite user” across multiple screens such as mobile and computer. And perhaps using other platforms to expand targeted advertising could avoid the TiVo commercial zapping feature? 

Google Voice could be another rich source of mobile TV ad demographics. I think additional bonuses should be available for users who divulge more demographic data. Perhaps premium content is discounted or special offers are exclusively available. 

So in the near future, an advertisement that entices you to pick up the phone or go to the store will probably be fine tuned to your specific needs. It’s a win-win situation for advertisers and users and will only be more successful as useful designed-for mobile components are added.

Fierce Mobile Content has a post about the launch of Hallmark Mobile Greetings. “When you care enough to send the very best” has been Hallmark’s slogan since 1944 and it looks like the greeting card giant is ready to take on the mobile world. Mobile Design Greeting Cards

I don’t know about you, but getting a stamp and physically putting something in the mail is a huge hassle so this is good news. The mobile app (which you can download here) combines text messaging with creative design and more than 500 greetings in categories including Birthday, Love, Holiday, etc. Senders can also add their own personal message to any of the greetings.

Of course, what good is a fantastic and creative message if it comes too late? I’ve been known to forget important occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. I’d like to see additional features like the ability to program in dates and get a reminder. 

Let’s say I get a “Mom’s birthday next week” reminder. In addition to creating and sending a card there could be additional opportunity for Hallmark to upsell with appropriate content. A nice offer would be an ad for flower delivery in conjunction with a coupon.

Of course, not everyone in your life is wired up. So the ability to purchase an actual stamped card that’s mailed for you would be nice. Several companies, like Send Out Cards, do this but adding the mobile component and the Hallmark quality seems like a natural fit. 

I’d also like a potential one-to-many distribution. If I have a group of members like “family” I could upload my own photo, choose a frame, add some overlayed text, and sent it to everyone on the list. Maybe there’s a discount when blasting multiple people. 

Hallmark could also enable creative tools so users could design their own cards for the entire community. Top creators could be reworded with money, credits, or professional creative tools.

Fierce Mobile Content had a post on Universal Studios Home Entertainment adding a ton of iPhone and iPod touch enabled features on upcoming Blu-ray releases, the first is Fast & Furious. One of the bonus features is a “Virtual Car Garage” where users can control 360-degree views of street-racing scenes. Integration with Twitter and Facebook is coming as well.

iPhone User Interfaces Bluray Content

The feature I really like is letting users use their mobile devices as a “virtual remote” to control Blu-ray disc features. This allows you to design any mobile user experience as opposed to being restricted to hardware buttons. Interactivity can be more finite and each screen/device can have its own unique features and experience.

Unique experiences are key for attracting die hard fans of a film. They love the opportunity and ability to be creative with beloved characters (or cars or aliens, etc) and storylines. From a profit standpoint, this is a great opportunity to make money on a popular and costly release long after the domestic and foreign box office premiere. A few upsell examples for these high profile titles might be the ability to buy a video game, ring tones, soundtracks, etc. from your mobile device or console.

Viral promotions from within the title itself could infuse a “must buy” element for hard core fans of the movie. Imagine the user being able to customize a Fast & Furious car as an animated MMS or video with text overlay. They could then send it to a fellow fan and invite them to join you on the Blu-Ray experience. Additionally, if you send the content to a friend without the Blu-Ray release, they are given an ability for an easy one-click purchase from their mobile device. 

Integration with social networking apps works really well to promote the title also. Users can update their network while they’re in the middle of an experience without a break to go to another device. 

This is an excellent example of convergence. I like how the exclusive content will encourage users to choose specific mobile devices to access Blu-ray titles. And users will want to buy specific Blu-Ray titles with the exclusive content to access features on their mobile device.

The mobile user experience for members of the Comcast family is about to improve. According to a Mobile Marketing Watch article this week, the cable, internet and digital voice provider giant has announced a new iPhone application that brings that brings convergence managament to your mobile device.

Comcast iPhone User Interface

The free app includes access to email, visual voice mail, address book sync, and a host of entertainment options. Features include the ability to check Comcast email and listen to home voice mail in one combined inbox, forward home phone calls to the iPhone from the iPhone, view call history and manage home phone settings, see what’s on TV tonight, tomorrow or next week, including program details as well as the ability to watch video-on-demand movie trailers.

Personally, I like how users have the ability to forward home calls to the iPhone where they can be better organized and managed. Actually, a lot of the initial information about this app centers on the “organization” aspect. However, I think what will make this app popular is the creativity users have while personalizing Comcast’s many services. Of course, being free and tapping into Comcast’s already huge customer base (24.1 million cable, 15.3 million high-speed Internet and 6.8 million digital voice) won’t hurt either. 

I’d like to see some additional features such as the ability to bookmark film trailers from television. Let’s say you see a trailer for the new Harry Potter film but you’re not able to catch it in the theater. You could program the movie into a future on-demand queue with a “now available” alert. 

I would also love the ability to use a mobile device to program my DVR or set a reminder about a certain program to popup on the TV. The ability to watch content from the Comcast DVR on your phone would be very cool as well.

The Comcast Corporation website states: “We want to continue to provide people with the communications products and services that connect them to what’s important in their lives.” It’s mobile apps like these that could be differentiators in triple-play competition.

Ah…revenue. The often elusive component of really cool free services. But looking at creative ways to generating income is also becoming pretty cool as mobile technology takes off. In a recent article, MobiADNews explored some interesting possibilities by looking at a patent application that could be used with Google Voice.

Mobile User Experience Voice Ads

The patent describes features such as an auction based ad selling system, caller location determining ad selection, category ad choices and the ability to charge advertisers by how much of the ad is actually heard. 

I have a few ideas about creative ways to capitalize on ringback advertising. While Google gives you free service, you get: 

  • Gentle reminders. Use transcripts to target a don’t-you-dare-forget event (Mother’s Day, anniversary, birthday) and offer specific contextual voice ads. A reminder coupled with a coupon or special offer would probably be appreciated more often than not. 
  • Relevant content. A call from your girlfriend might include a florist ad, a call to your doctor could show specials at your pharmacy 
  • Recommendations. Google could integrate the ads with Google checkout. For example, if Google remembers you’ve purchased movie tickets, Google Voice could present ads to buy tickets on Thursday afternoon for the Friday release of a new film.
  • Special offers. Movie tickets purchased through Google Checkout trigger special discounts on related merchandise or buy-one-get-one coupon at the snack bar.
  • Targeted product information. The video games you are interested in trigger popup reminders about game release dates and nearby stores that carry them. 

 Of course, the ultimate goal should be to add to, not compromise, the mobile user experience.

I’m a fan of mobile user experiences that have real world benefits. This week, Fast Company had a story on unique applications that are, quite literally, life savers. The American Heart Association and Bayer are leveraging vital medical information and devices to make them more accessible and easier to use.

Mobile User Experiences Save Lives

A University of Alabama professor has received a $50,000 grant from the American Heart Association to develop a program that will use the Wii remote to teach CPR. The mobile component is vital – imagine being at a major public event like a baseball game. If a person goes into distress, precious minutes could tick by as a doctor is located and makes his way through the crowd to reach the patient. Now everyone with a mobile device can quickly access this program and start treatment till the pros arrive. 

Just a quick look at the Heart Association’s websites shows a huge host of information that is vital for healthy living. Making this available in a creative way might encourage more people to pursue a healthy lifestyle. 

The next real world app mentioned in the article is a great idea for kids struggling with diabetes.Bayer has created Didget, a blood-glucose meter that plugs into the Nintendo DS. Regular monitoring wins points which kids can spend on in-game items. Again, the mobile component for this is great – kids could access and use at school, on the soccer field or anywhere they need to make sure they are in the right range. 

I’m wondering if these devices could be paid for by insurance carriers? To look at this on a global and altruistic level, a society of healthy people is a better society. And if mobile user experiences help us get there, then bring it on!

How can virtual goods turn into cash? Check out this recent article from Fast Company that gives a detailed list of how corporations are turning healthy profit with virtual products. $200 million in virtual goods were purchased in the U.S. last year. Tencent, China’s largest internet portal, made over $1,000,000,000.00 last year. 88% of that billion was from virtual goods.

Virtual Mobile User Experiences

This made me think of ways, other than direct-to-consumer sales, that individuals and corporations can reap financial rewards. 

Interesting when more companies provide a virtual environment and virtual tools as well as a marketplace to sell stuff for financial rewards. Creative users could “co-creating” a product with an established brand or celebrity. Both could profit from the sale. 

For example, focus groups and consumer testing are invaluable for new product development. Instead of costly prototypes and time consuming market research, corporations can roll out brands in a virtual environment like Second Life. If there is anything true about today’s online user, they love to give feedback that can yield precious information from specific target audiences. A great response to new packaging or a concept could even help attract investors while a tepid reaction could save millions by scrapping a dud project early. 

When I think of the young and computer savvy, I can see how virtual experiences can have a direct impact on their future earning power. For example, imagine a fashion crazy teen designing virtual clothes and having online fashion shows for her high school friends. When she applies for design school, she’ll be way ahead of the game and already on her way with experience that includes material choices, budgeting, production and target audience awareness. 

Could the next media mogul use mobile technology and virtual goods to make their millions?

InteractiveTV Today had a fascinating article about the extensive multiplatform initiative CBS has built around the 11th season of reality-TV show, “Big Brother” (It premiered last Thursday, July 9th).

Interactive TV Remote Control

I don’t even know where to begin with all of the interactive elements available to fans. A few of the most interesting elements include:

  • A fantasy league that will allow viewers to compete for “real world” prizes.
  • Episodes will be simulcast on the CBS mobile channel as well as the FLO TV mobile service
  • Viewers will be able to interact via SMS
  • A mobile SIM game
  • Video clips will be available on major carriers

From a mobile standpoint, I can’t wait to watch user experiences become more innovative. For example, when I’m watching a network show, what could a mobile device allow me to do simultaneously that is both unique and adds to the experience of the program.

Some possibilities include an integrated chat session with my friends across multiple platforms like IM, twitter or text messaging. Researching products featured on the show and having the ability to buy would be another creative (and for the network, profitable) function. Additionally, buying additional show media might be interesting if it was not too intrusive.

The home entertainment landscape is evolving quickly. I think the challenge for “traditional” entertainment like network television or books (see my post on Kindle ads) will be to add to the user experience without being too intrusive or pushing a hard sell “buy this/buy that” message.

I watched a video of the first public demonstration of the Siri Search Interface presented at the D: Conference. Siri is a search engine billed as a “virtual personal assistant” for the Apple iPhone or computer. “Not another search engine!” you might be thinking, but Siri is different in a smart way. 

Instead of passive information, users get actionable results. For example - searching for a movie currently in theaters will presented by Fandango (a Siri partner) with the ability to immediately buy tickets. Another example “Find direct flights from Chicago to San Jose” yields flight results. Siri’s results are based on partnerships via APIs. As Siri secures more of these partnerships, they’ll evolve into an extremely useful search perfectly designed for the mobile user. 

I’ve always felt that voice interaction was a missing piece of the mobile device puzzle so I was thrilled to see that a portion of the demonstration including searching via the users voice. I predict that faster devices and better speech recognition will lead to two way voice interaction – a user will be able to search hands-free while multitasking or driving and have the results read instead of just displayed. Interacting with the results would be another huge step forward. Imagine searching for a plumber and be able to filter your search based on voice. Via your voice an intelligent search agent could select the top 3 plumbers, call them for you, and ask them to call you with their availability at a specific time.

I’m a big fan of voice interaction and how it can be inserted into existing technologies, gadgets and devices. I’ll be posting more about this feature and my thoughts on how it will impact the future of the mobile industry. As a matter of fact, this post was dictated with MacSpeech Dictate (and edited afterwards).