HTC

What’s in a selfie?

I’m not a “Selfie” person. The whole act just seems so narcissistic to me. I’m not judging you if you are a selfie shooter, it’s just not my thing. The act of taking selfies is nothing new, although with the advent of front facing cameras on your smartphone it has definitely become more common place in the last few years. So much so that “Selfie” was 2013’s word of the year.

Latching onto the selfie craze and hoping to promote their new phone, HTC gave London photographer Dan Rubin their new HTC One Mini and asked him to not only “play with it”, but put his own spin on the selfie with it. So Rubin took to the streets of London and created a very funny and somewhat telling ad campaign for the phone. Instead of shooting selfies, or asking others to take them, he took existing selfies of celebrities, loaded them to the phone and then cleverly photographed them in front of others faces.

HTC gave me a new HTC One Mini to play with and asked if I could put my own spin on the selfie — so I headed to Carnaby St yesterday and had a quick play at the expense of celebrities, especially a few with a penchant for selfies ;)” Dan Rubin

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iAds for Android.

I think this is rather ironic. 2359 Media created an HTML 5 based iAd for the HTC Desire S to run on the iPad. OK, why is this ironic? Because the HTC Desire S runs Android, Apple’s biggest mobile OS competitor.

The iAd itself is well done and quite engaging, with full interactivity and animations that take advantage of iOS’s gestures, but it’s still an iAd for iOS, advertising an Android device. This just cracks me up. The iAd, which launches from a banner ad has a clean look that even feels like the minimalist Apple aesthetic. Was the ad a success? Apparently so. 2359 Media says on their website that users spent up to 500% more time on the site exploring the features of the HTC phone thanks to the rich touch-based interactions, animations, videos, and slick images, compared to other non-rich media ads.

NFC and Your Mobile Phone, Doesn’t Simply Mean “Payments”.

If you are involved with technology, content creation, marketing or advertising, you have probably heard of “Near Field Communication”. Actually, if you watch the news or listen to NPR, you have probably seen, or heard about it because of Google’s “Google Wallet” which is now being tested in select U.S. cities.  NFC has been around for sometime, and handset manufacturers like Nokia have actually been embedding the technology in their handsets since mid 2006, although you wouldn’t have found any of those phones on sale in the U.S. outside of an importer. So why is NFC so hot right now? Because there are tens of billions of dollars in mobile payment revenues riding on it. And now with handset manufacturers, teleco’s, payment companies, marketers, advertisers, and other key players on the same page, the doors have opened and NFC-enabled phones are starting to show up in the U.S.A.

The first big announcement started at the end of last year when Google and Samsung dropped the news about the Nexus-S. Now other manufacturers like Nokia, HTC, Motorola, and Blackberry have all chimed in with commitments to release NFC enabled phones in the next year. Even Apple is hinting that NFC might be included in the next generation iPhone. If you look at the numbers and the surrounding research it suggests that 30% of all mobile phones shipped worldwide will be NFC-enabled by 2015, which seems like a fairly conservative prediction since by the end of 2011 more than half of all phones sold will be smartphones. So what does this mean to all of us, both consumer, and content creator/advertiser? Quite a bit.

Right now when you hear “NFC” it is usually associated with mobile payments, and this is really where people are pushing the technology.The ability to pay for things with your mobile phone and potentially replace credit cards is arguably the most powerful and transformational aspect of the technology,but it is not NFC’s only use. Right now mobile marketing is the fasts growing segment of the advertising industry.NFC has the potential to create newer, richer ways of connecting target audiences with a brand, and this is very appealing to agencies, marketing firms, their clients and you the consumer. Imagine being at your favorite store, and seeing an NFC enabled sign for a new product. By simply tapping your phone in a designated area of the sign, you are taken to a micro-site for the product, or you are given specific details, or you can see the product in a 360 degree view.This is where things get interesting and revolutionary. Mobile users don’t have to install an application, and hope it works since NFC is embedded in the phone itself. Is this the death of things like QR codes? Not immediately, but eventually.

In a recent article for Mobile Market Watch by Mikhail Damiani, he talks about how RMG Networks, a place-based media network with hundreds of thousands of digital screens across cafes, health clubs, airports, airplanes, pharmacies, and casinos announced the launch of mTAG, an NFC-enabled platform allowing users to tap their phone to discover relevant mobile content associated with the on-screen creative at their current location. This is huge. It’s like Yelp, or Foursquare on steroids. Google is also jumping on the trend by rolling out NFC enabled Recommended on Google Places window stickers in a test they are conducting in Portland Oregon. Those Google stickers, communicate localized information about the venue you are at. Rich detailed information designed to extend the overall user experience.

As for you the consumer, NFC marketing has some advantages over current mobile application based marketing. Like I said before you don’t have to download and install anything on your phone, you don’t have to enable GPS, and NFC doesn’t collect personally identifiable information about you. In addition, after you leave the NFC enabled area, you won’t have any form of advertising pushed to you on your phone. Because NFC has such a low power draw, it can remain on all the time in the background, with no noticeable impact on battery life. And all interactions are fully opt-in and secure – the only way you will receive anything, is if you proactively tap your mobile phone on the designated area. Because of all of this, marketers and advertisers will have the ability to micro-target specific locations and the audience in those locations who are most interested in the offer – thus, any such engagements are more relevant and valuable. Over the next couple of years as NFC handsets become more common, NFC based campaigns will evolve in both their creativeness, and usefulness. Instead of simple messaging, the advertisements will provide you with immediate offers, relevant information, special deals, and a rich deep user experience.

Right now there is a short window of opportunity for advertisers. The ramp up and acceptance for mobile payments is going to take some time, which gives us about 12 to 18 months to play. Hopefully your first introduction to NFC will not be a mobile payment, but instead will be a rich media experience delivered to the palm of your hand.

This type of introduction to NFC is going to be essential to the success and sustainability of NFC’s use as a marketing/advertising tool.  Americans really are creatures of habit, and if their only connotation of NFC is paying for things, it’s going to be difficult to convince them that tapping their phone for entertainment content will be as valuable if not more so won’t result in a payment transaction. In addition the content is going to have to be easy to engage, and provide value to the person opting in, especially if they want continued or return engagement in the future.

I think the next 18 months is going to be extremely interesting for the NFC world, and I expect to see a lot more engagement with it as we move forward.

Brightcove’s Recent Take on Android, Flash, HTML 5, and Mobile Video.

I am an iPhone guy. I have been since day one. This doesn’t mean that I am entirely happy with all of Apples choices regarding the phone, or the iOS. And as I have said before, I think it’s bullshit that Apple pulled the plug on the Flash Cross Compiler for iOS apps. Below is a recap of an interview with Brightcove‘s Jeff Whatcott about Adroid, iOS, Flash, and HTML 5. The challenges and opportunities and a bit of my own opinion thrown in as well.


Around the end of June, technology firm Brightcove launched its application development SDK for Google’s Android operating system helping broadcasters and media firms create Android applications that include video content. This SDK includes templates that support Adobe’s Flash Player 10.1 which was released at about the same time for Handsets running the latest Android update, “Froyo”.

In a recent interview with Mobile Entertainment, Jeff Whatcott, SVP of marketing for Brightcove, had a number of interesting things to say about the how the company sees the mobile space, Flash, Video, HTML 5, and the state of content creation for mobile devices.

Brightcove has made a name for itself by helping media companies distribute video content online, but as the technology front changes they find themselves increasingly working with mobile, and net connected TV. Brightcove sees the future of video on mobile, but isn’t placing all of its eggs in the HTML 5, iOS basket. It notes that Flash video is the medium of choice for, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Palm through our support for Flash Player 10.1.

“Brightcove allows organisations to deliver video to all kinds of smartphones and mobile devices, fundamentally helping deliver and track usage of that video, monetize it with advertising, and continuously distribute video as quick as our customers can produce it.” according to Whatcott.

It is this devices and OS agnostic approach that gives Brightcove an edge. Customers do not care if the video is delivered via Flash or HTML 5. They just want quality content, and Brightcove knows this. At the end of the day, it is like asking someone “Which is a better broadcast format, NTSC video or PAL? People don’t care if the show displays properly on their TV set, and the content is worth watching. I know this sucks for developers, because you have to author your content in 2 different formats, but the point is to seamlessly reach as many people as possible right?

Another reason Brightcove is heavily supporting Android and Flash video is the fact that 160,000 Android handsets are being activated every day, and Android shipments have exceeded iPhone shipments, and continue to accelerate.

“It’s free, pretty good – if not quite the user experience that you have with the iPhone – and the number of apps is growing, with lots of developer excitement. Clearly it’s going to be a successful platform. Within two to three years, we’re going to have in the mobile world what we had in the PC world a decade ago with Windows and Mac. The equivalent of Windows – the dominant smart phone platform – will be Android.”

Meanwhile, Brightcove is watching the progress of Windows Phone 7, Palm’s webOS and Nokia’s MeeGo platforms, although Whatcott describes them as more likely to be having “defensible niches” than taking on Android. However, the fact that they’re supporting Flash means Brightcove will be able to target them too.

The launch of Brightcove’s Android SDK follows on the heels of the iOS SDK which was launched in November of 2009. The iOS SDK has already been put to use for the FIFA World Cup application and the the Football Association’s official England iPhone app. What they are learning from the iOS SDK and the new Andoid SDK is Brightcove’s clients have slightly different expectations when looking to launch video apps or video within their existing apps.

Whatcott says that Brightcove’s clients have different expectations when looking to launch video applications or video within their existing applications. It’s a case of technical demands, and ensuring that video is delivered at the best possible quality to different handsets on different networks. But Whatcott says companies are also looking for help to bring the advertising they use around video on their websites to their mobile apps too.

“This is more complicated, because most of the advertising technology in the world has been created around the assumption of the availability of the Flash player. When you get to iOS, for reasons that are not entirely clear to us, there is no Flash player, so Brightcove has had to rely on video delivery through HTML5. The thing is HTML5 advertising technology is in its infancy. HTML5 is today where Flash advertising was in 2004, although we’re working feverishly with our partners to eliminate the disparity.” Whatcott says.

Whatcott goes on to say that clients get a rude awakening when they start to launch video on iOS devices, they assume they can do all the same stuff they do on their current websites with Flash, and they can’t.

“Media companies and marketers don’t just want to have video playback, they want to have it playback with advertising, or in a branded player with their own logos and overlays, They want to get analytics around the advertising and playback of video – how many people, how far they watched, where they were, whether they shared video with friends or not. But for HTML5, none of that technology is there. We’re having to write a lot of additional code to make that possible.”

So Bightcove is having to write additional code from scratch to make up for the current shortfalls of HTML 5. Which in a way, is a sign that Apple’s attempt to drag media firms and marketers away from Flash and into HTML5 is having an impact.

Whatcott went on to say, “When Apple said they wouldn’t support Flash, they set their platform back to 2004, and the entire industry is having to retool itself around this new open standard of HTML5. We’re not complaining – it’s important to have standards – but customers weren’t always necessarily aware of this, and their expectations weren’t managed accordingly. Our job is to make sure our customers do not become collateral damage in the platform wars.”

Part of that includes providing the templates in its Android SDK for Flash 10.1. Whatcott says that when Android users visit a website that uses Brightcove video, they’ll be able to watch it as usual if they have Flash 10.1 installed.

However, he points out that this isn’t necessarily a satisfying experience. “The screen is small, and you’re interacting with touch rather than a mouse. You may just see a little box with video, but not the button that sets it to full-screen. It’s a user experience challenge.”

Brightcove’s templates aim to help this by letting website owners redirect Android browsers to customised versions of their pages, with bigger buttons and less clutter.

Google and the Nexus One.

If you have been paying attention to technology news this week, you undoubtedly heard by now that Google is releasing its own cell phone next month called the Nexus One.  So why is everyone so hyped up about this and what does it mean for you?

The evidence began to mount starting over the weekend to the fact the long rumored “Google Phone” was finally real and will be launching early next year.  And the phone will be based on the new HTC Passion that is due out on T-Mobile next month. The big differentiator here is what’s under the hood, and that will make this a totally different phone, as well as how Google is going to sell it.

The Nexus One will be running Google’s Android operating system, which is nothing new since a number of smart phones are running it now. What will be different is that Android won’t be broken by carrier tweaks to the OS.  As Android has rolled out to the various carriers, they’ve all gone in and made little tweaks to it. Tweaks that have caused it to behave differently on different mobile handsets, and on different carriers. This in turn has made it hard for application developers to make sure their products work across all the different versions of Android running on all the different carrier networks.  The copy of Android that will run the Nexus One will probably be the truest version of the Android OS we’ve seen to date.

Rumors are suggesting the device would be launched by Google in early January, but there’s also some speculation that the Nexus One could just be a test device for trying out the latest version of the Android platform. In addition it’s  also possible that Google could be developing the hardware and software, but won’t produce or brand the device. Instead, the company might decide to license its design out to other manufacturers, in a very Microsoft-like move.

If Google does actually produce the phone, the way it is being sold is where things will get good.  All the rumors currently point to Google selling it themselves via the internet as an “unlocked phone”.  This means that the phone is not tied to any one carrier, so you can buy the phone from Google, walk in to any GSM network carrier, sign up for their service, get a SIM card from them, put it in your phone and it will work.  Right now almost all phones have a carrier logo on them, because the phone is subsidized by the who ever you have service through. It’s why you get your phone for next to nothing, and it’s why you can’t take a BlackBerry you buy from Sprint and expect it to work on the T-Mobile network and vice versa.

While many companies such as Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung have been selling unlocked versions of their phones for years, none of them have had the name “Google” and “Android” attached to them which is going to make this a highly desirable device.

One problem consumers may encounter is going to be in the price.  If you have ever tried to buy a cell phone that isn’t attached to a contract, or a phone that is unlocked and unsubsidized, then you know that those phones cost more in the range of $300 – $600 depending on the phone.  So, unless Google finds a way to subsidize this phone, most people won’t be running out to buy it.

One rumor floating around right now is that Google will sell the phone at a lower price, or as a loss leader,  and will make up the loss through advertising on the phone.  It’s the same way they bring you services like Gmail for free, so the company is well versed in the online advertising revenue business model.  Will it be enough to make the phone affordable though, and will it be the kind of user experience that customers are willing to put up with?  Only time will tell. The real thing to look for is how long will it take people to break down and say “how much do  I have to pay you to not see the ads anymore?” Look at all those “Free”, or “Light” versions of iPhone apps that end up getting upgraded just to lose the advertising.

Quite possibly the Nexus One could end up being a game changer for the cell phone industry in more way than Apple’s iPhone.  You have a highly desirable phone that is not tied to any one carrier. This is the kind of thing that will force cell phone carriers to compete for your business and that is a good thing. When the iPhone was first announced, the rumor was that it was going to be an unlocked phone. How many more units would Apple have moved if you could have used it on any GSM network in the world? How much less might you be paying for your cell phone service, if the carriers were forced to honestly compete in pricing structures in order to get you to sign with them.  If the Nexus One is truly sold as an unlocked phone from Google, I could easily see the carriers running “Nexus Pricing Deals” where they try to undercut each other in pricing in order to woo the most Nexus users to their network.

Firm details confirming that Google would launch the Nexus One/Google phone on its own are still pretty scarce, and there are also a lot of arguments against Google coming up with its own device. The primary argument being that if Google produces its own device, they would scare off or upset Google’s Android adopters like as Motorola and HTC. None the less, a Google-developed and sold phone could be a very interesting addition to the continuing smartphone battle.