Mobile diary: who do you trust?

According to the New York Times, Facebook is rolling out an improved social login platform that will let users control how much information they share with sites they log into. Of course, Facebook will still collect lots of info about which sites you choose to connect with, but that’s to be expected. One goal of this, obviously, is to make social login with Facebook preferable to social login with other services (or creating unique accounts for each service) so that Facebook has that much more data and a more important part in your activities on the Web.

Google phone

This got me thinking; I tend to not use social login much, preferring to just set up separate accounts with different services. I’m not sure this really matters, but at least I have the perception that I’m sharing less data that way. When I do set up social login, I generally prefer to use Twitter rather than other services. For some reason, I am less worried about Twitter (compared to Facebook and Google) using my personal data for aggressive marketing and other purposes.

Is this justified? Am I just fooling myself? I’d love to hear what you think.

Note: I included this image (from 2006) in part to commemorate the official closing of the Nokia/Microsoft deal, and the end of the Nokia mobile phone era. I spent 10 years at Nokia, developing software, writing standards, and marketing platforms through the rise and fall of Nokia’s smartphone business. I’m proud of the company and my role in it; I learned a lot and we changed the world.


Mobile diary: do you want to stop using cash?

Tim Harrabin, the former Vodafone executive who built the fabled M-PESA service in Kenya, has a new goal, which he described at the GSMA NFC & Mobile Money Summit in New York: “My mission is to replace cash for everyone, not just those badged as unbanked,”

Money cash money change coins moneyI can understand why a mobile executive wants to replace cash with mobile money, but I’m not sure that consumers want it as much as the mobile companies do. Cash has two big (and possibly unique) advantages: it’s not dependent on technology, and, more important, it’s anonymous. I know that many of my northern European colleagues have given up cash, but I still find it very convenient and easy, especially for small transactions and other “cash transfers,” like leaving tips, where a mobile solution could be more cumbersome.

What do you think?

Photo by Doug Wheller from flickr

Mobile class consciousness

More evidence of the class, or at least income, divide in the smartphone world in this article about the big difference in mobile ad revenue between Android and iOS devices. The data, based on numbers from Facebook ads purchased by Nanigans, show that “(f)or the first three quarters of 2013, RPC [revenue per click] on iOS averaged 6.1 times higher than Android and ROI [return on investment] on iOS averaged 17.9 times higher than Android.”

Even though Android accounts for over half of US smartphone market, those numbers do not appear to be an advantage for advertisers, if one can generalize from this study. One uncomfortable conclusion from these data, noted in the article, is that “iPhone owners simply tend to both make more money and spend more money than Android owners.”

Should this be a cause for concern?


Mobile Diary: Not enough keyboard love?

BlackBerry announced very disappointing results today, including a loss of almost $1 billion on sales of $1.6 billion in the most recent quarter. Most of the bleeding appears to have come from poor sales of the new Z10 smartphone.

Here’s a thought: could BB have done better by focusing on its QWERTY Q10 device first, instead of trying to play touch-screen catchup with the rest of the industry? With all of the nearly-identical black rectangles in the market, the physical keyboard was BlackBerry’s best differentiator, and perhaps one they should have done more to promote.

Mobile Diary: PalmOS: right, but not convincing

The theme of the recent Fierce Wireless interview with former Palm head Jon Rubinstein ( via Engadget) can be summed up in the Hebrew phrase “you’re right, but not convincing.” According to Rubinstein, Palm made a mistake in selling the company to HP, but the PalmOS team turned out to be right about their vision of how the smartphone market would evolve:

“[A] lot the stuff we were trying to do with Palm and a lot of things we told carriers they were wasting effort on has turned out to be true. … Forcing us to take our address book and expose it to them. The industry went away from them. I think we were also very prophetic about the growth of the smartphone market. I think that’s clearly been validated. If you go back at look at our original premise for a lot of the stuff we did at Palm when I got there, I think it’s all really played out as expected.

I don’t know why PalmOS didn’t succeed while other platforms did, but it’s clear (and perhaps obvious) that it takes more than just good technology and an accurate vision of the market to succeed in the smartphone business. I suspect this is a common fate of consumer businesses with an engineering mindset (Nokia falls into this category as well); they underestimate the importance of emotion and other “irrational” customer behavior in determining the success of a product line.


Today’s reading: VisionMobile on the “profit share trap”

Always worthwhile to read what the VisionMobile team is writing, and their latest blog post is no exception. This time they analyze the focus in the tech media on the “profit share” held by various players in the smartphone space, notably the huge percentage of total profit held by Apple, thanks to ongoing sales on iDevices.

Sameer Singh makes what should be an obvious point, that profit, and hence “profit share” depends as much on internal corporate issues as external consumer behavior. It indicates how well a particular company may be doing now, but not necessarily how successful they will be in the future.

For example, Apple dominates the smartphone profit rankings, due to the huge margins they earn on (mostly subsidized) iPhones and (mostly un-subsidized) iPads. Singh suggests that as smartphones become more mainstream, and hence less “cool”, those high prices and margins will be hard to sustain. The feature sets of different devices will converge, and price pressures will increasingly dominate consumer decisions.

On the other hand, I suspect that Apple has more flexibility in pricing because its products, iPads in particular, are more like “Veblen goods“, or luxury products that get more attractive at higher prices. Users of Apple mobile devices also consume more data and use more apps and web services than, for example, Android users, leading to further distortion of the app ecosystem, where enterprises favor iOS development even though Android has a higher market share.

We heard one example of this in a recent Mobile Monday DC panel on HTML5 vs Native Apps. Nancy Proctor, who heads mobile activities at the Smithsonian, reported that their development priorities are web first, then iOS, because they found that the people who use museum apps and web sites tend to be “culture consumers” who favor iOS devices.

I find this a bit worrisome, as it hints at a vicious cycle of app usage by “elite” (i.e. rich, educated) consumers, that then drives more development targeted at those elite users, and excluding the wider audience on other platforms who both use less data and have fewer options.

Mobile Monday DC recap: Mobile Privacy

Finally getting around to the recap of our last Mobile Monday event, Mobile Privacy: Policy & Practice, which we held at the Venable LLP conference center in downtown Washington on Oct. 15. Our thanks go to Rick Joyce from Venable for moderating a superb panel discussion about privacy law and policy and its impact on mobile application and solution development.

Our panelists:

Here’s a short summary of a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion. If you were there, please add your comments and thoughts about the event

  • Privacy, or to be more specific, managing personal information and who has access to it, is hard.
    • It’s hard to be sure what should be private and what shouldn’t. Jules noted that what used to be considered intrusive is now common practice. Not only that, but we can be be easily influenced to change our privacy preferences based on peer pressure and other “non-objective” factors
    • It’s hard to know what others are doing with our information. Bryan noted that most mobile apps in app stores use questionable privacy techniques.
    • It’s hard to manage our own information. Bryan explained that we all have multiple personas on line, and need to understand where our boundaries are and how we want to manage the balance of usability and privacy
  • Protecting the privacy of children on line is even harder
    • Many services (iTunes, Facebook) have rules that prohibit young children from using those services, but parents help their kids use them anyway. As Mike noted, his kids sometimes want to see Dad’s iPad more than they want to see Dad. Parents download apps for their kids from iTunes, and create accounts for them on Facebook
    • As Jennifer noted, PBS prevents violations of privacy by not collecting analytics on its kids apps, but this then makes it very hard to learn what works in those apps so PBS can improve the educational and overall experience
  • Government regulation is already happening, but may not be ideal
    • As several panelists noted, law and regulation cannot keep up with the pace of technology, and most legislators don’t have the necessary technical expertise to understand the issues
    • Despite this, when legislators and regulators see problems, they want to fix them, and will create solutions if industry does not do so first
  • Industry has the right know-how to act, but that’s hard as well
    • Jennifer remarked that there are industry standards, but not everyone follows them. The mobile app space is still in many ways the wild West.
    • How you do something can be more important than what you do. Jules explained that good privacy systems require building the right kind of relationships with customers (and people in general). Those systems need to be built gradually, considering people’s responses along the way. His advice: Do things for people, not to them.

The tone of the discussion and the overall mood of the panelists was not nearly as negative as this summary may imply. The situation is improving, and business, government, and people are working out solutions to the challenges of privacy in the mobile world, as they have in other areas at the intersection of technology, policy, and law.

We will be back in 2013 with more interesting Mobile Monday DC events. Stay tuned!