This week a friend of mine finally got herself a smartphone. Even using the term ‘smartphone’ feels out-of-date, let alone getting your very first one ever. She remembered me obnoxiously praising this app or that so asked me this morning for my top picks. Thought I’d share with you too. Hopefully you can do the same in the comments.
- Posterity – never forget an adorable phrase or expression your kid says again. Posterity saves it, dates it, and allows you to add a photo from the moment.
- MyFitnessPal – exercise and calorie tracker extraordinaire
- Starbucks app – (if you go to Starbucks) this app allows you to use your phone to pay for drinks; handy!
- UrbanSpoon – identifies good restaurants in your area and shows you what other people have tried and liked/hated
- Uber – (you have to subscribe to this service but it’s essentially a personal driver that will pick you wherever you are + take you where you need to go. You don’t have to pay at the time of the ride, rather you pay online) Use the app to tell the Uber driver where you are and find out how far away your ride is. UPDATE: Thanks to @kcclaveria for letting me know Uber has been shut down in Vancouver – but is still alive and well in other cities. Read more here.
- Songza – incredible selection of music playlists at your fingertips. Every type of music is represented. This app is my personal favourite!
- TuneIn Radio – allows you to listen to any radio station in the world
- Smule – cheesy, fun karaoke with a twist: you can choose to sing with other users or solo; people find you and follow you if they like your singing. This one is a guilty pleasure of mine.
- KidArt – no longer do you have to feel guilty about throwing out that wonderful painting your son did. Snap a photo of it, date it and start creating a file of your kid’s art.
- Instagram – if you’re into that sort of thing.. which I am. Makes your photos look amazing but keep in mind, every photo is public. (And Instagram is now owned by Facebook.. which likely means nefarious changes are on the horizon)
- Percolator – a fun, mess-around-with-your-photos app
- Mosaic – make a quick and snappy mini photo album with select photos on your phone. Easy. Cheap.
- DuckDuckGo – a search engine I highly recommend you use. Unlike Google and Bing, DuckDuckGo won’t track your activities or serve you up filtered search results.
- Foodie – grocery list app; as you shop you can check off what you’ve purchased, then shake your phone. All still-to-get items will rise to the top.
- Google Maps – even though your phone comes with a pre-installed map – it’s <ahem> less than good. You want Google Maps.
- Last but not least: “Reminders”. You don’t have to download this one from the app store, it’s already on your phone. I can’t praise this feature enough. It’s literally the sole reason my life doesn’t fall to pieces. Any and every little detail goes into my reminders. When I input something new, I also set a time & date to be reminded. This app is a blessing for school-related forget-me-nots, and anything else you can’t afford to forget.
I would love to hear what apps you use and why. I need some new goodies!
I used to believe having a mobile version of a website was forward-thinking, advantageous and just all around smart. A year+ later, I’m changing my mind. And I should. Things change. Habits change. Smartphones are pretty smart. I’m now prepared to argue that many websites, can serve audiences well without the aid of a mobile version. In other words, it’s not a “given” that every website needs a mobile version.
What is a mobile website? Not a silly question. You’ve likely encountered mobile sites and not realized it. Mobile sites are pared down versions of a full website. The content on a mobile site represents a small percentage of the content you can find on a full site. The advantages of such a version are listed below, but the main advantage is it is designed specifically for a small screen and on-the-go viewing. Take WestJet’s website and mobile site as an example:
You can see how the mobile version of the site (on the right) simplifies and directs the experience for those on a handheld device. This is an example where a mobile site makes a lot of sense. “Big” websites that are photo-heavy, flash-based, and/or content-jammed may better serve its audiences with a mobile version for mobile visitors. Websites for festivals and outdoor events would also benefit from a mobile site as the audience is more likely to need to access the website while at the event.
However, in many cases mobile visitors (on tablets, iPads, Androids and iPhones, etc.) can comfortably and easily navigate around a website, expanding on hard-to-read menus and other features without the need for a mobile-designed site. Indeed, some visitors can become annoyed with how limiting mobile sites can be. Take this local bike shop as an example: (Sorry Obsession: Bikes. You’re a terrific shop.)
As you can partially see here on the top image, Obsession: Bikes has a well-branded, fun mobile version of the main website. However, the mobile version only offers ways for visitors to get in touch with, or physically find the shop. Sure, mobile sites should focus the experience, but in this case visitors don’t have the option of clicking through to the main website. That means mobile visitors will not be able to browse through “Stuff We Sell” or “Services”, like they can on the full site (shown on bottom image).
To recap then, there are solid arguments for having a mobile version of your website. Some of those points include:
- It can create a better user experience.
- A mobile site loads faster than a full size website.
- Visitors on a mobile device may spend more time on the site if it’s optimized for the way they’re viewing.
- A mobile version of a website may contribute to positive brand perception, as in: going the extra mile.
Then again, the downfalls include:
- Mobile versions of websites are (most often) stripped down and simplified, limiting what visitors can see and do.
- Because of point #1, mobile sites can look less polished, and sometimes less on-brand.
- Having a mobile site in addition to a regular website means managing two sites.
- Cost. Some mobile websites incur additional costs, although some programming platforms have plugins available.
The bottom line can be found in web data. If your web analytics point to a surge of mobile visitors, who are bouncing en mass because you don’t have a mobile site – or are sticking around and converting, because you do – then you have your answer.
What do you think? What have your experiences been like on mobile sites or on websites you felt should have had a mobile version?
Shove over QR codes. There’s something faster and slicker moving in on your turf.
Yesterday I picked up a drip coffee from Starbucks. It came in a Valentine-themed cup. The fine print underneath the cup’s giant love heart was a message instructing me to download the free “Magic Cup” app. I did so of course and when I held my phone up to the cup – suddenly I could interact with that giant heart on my cup, peeling it away and having it fly toward me. This was followed up by a bunch of smaller, fluttering hearts flocking wherever my finger moved on the screen. (See the video demo below) Pretty cool foray into augmented reality for Starbucks, but I would argue this may also represent a significant shift away from the need for QR codes. The steps involved to connect audience to content with augmented reality (AR) are similar to those involved with QR codes. However, I would suggest the impact of that connection is more interactive and potentially more powerful. Do you agree? Have you tried both a QR code and an AR experience?
One caveat, the prices involved in creating a QR code vs. an augmented reality offering, are vastly different: virtually free vs. virtually prohibitive.
If you haven’t claimed your foursquare profile yet, you might want to get on that asap! If the fact that the site’s database has 1.5 billion check-ins logged into the system isn’t enough of a an incentive, then perhaps knowing that foursquare has gone “search” online with their newest feature Explore with the website garnering 1 million unique visitors per day already could entice you.
By claiming your foursquare profile you can personalize it to suit your business and take advantage of integrating this platform into your social media (geo-location) strategy. In addition to checking-in, claiming badges and mayorships, now users can search for locations, deals, and places on their desktop using the Explore feature. Some people don’t like having a Foursquare account on their mobile phones and “checking-in” all the time, but would like to use this feature to see where their friends are checking-in and what they recommend. Foursquare Explore allows you to go online and search without having to use the platform as a check-in tool. It is useful for the end user to go through the 15 million tips that are gathered on the site already when deciding on where to go and what to eat… or drink!
Here are five tips to include in your strategy in order to ensure increased visits from Foursquare Explore to your company’s profile page:
- Regularly monitor your foursquare account. Review check-ins, comments, and tips to see what users are saying.
- Use QR codes to encourage check-ins, tips, and submissions.
- Promote Foursquare ads to encourage check-ins.
- Include sentiments and adjectives in your foursquare ad strategy (i.e. romantic, Friday, sweet, summer, wine list, etc…)
- Use keywords when posting deals on your foursquare account to help with search queries.
As the world’s most influential icon in business and technology, Steve Jobs leaves behind decades of personal trademarks. Steve Jobs had a vision to change the world and he lived that vision right up to his final days. Steve Jobs transformed our lives further and faster than many of us were able to keep up with.
Steve Jobs’ legacy isn’t how he changed Apple Computers into Apple. It isn’t how he revived Apple Computers with iMac and iBook, Mac OS X and iOS, or how he revolutionized the music industry with iTunes and the App store. Although those are all amazing achievements, Steve Jobs should be remembered for fundamentally and forever changing the role of mobile devices. Jobs altered how we humans interact with mobile technology, information, and content, on the go. Mobile in many ways is, Steve Jobs.
Before the iPhone, mobile technology was limited to certain gaming devices, RIM’s Blackberry and the Palm. Jobs took his own vision of touch-screen interaction, ignoring the “nay sayers”, and launched the iPod in 2001, followed by the iPhone in 2007, and iPad in 2010. In one decade, Apple forever changed how we interact with content and information through a touch screen interface.
From music to videos, the way we interact, capture, watch, and listen to content has forever changed culture, society, and individual lives. Some may argue or see it differently, but to the masses, the world is a better place because of Steve Jobs. Today’s startups such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare all have Steve Jobs to thank for reinventing the way people interact or connect with mobile devices.
In 2010, Jobs again made a daring move, acquiring Siri for $20 million. Consumers may knock the iPhone 4S as a minor upgrade, but 20 years from now, I believe we’ll look back at Siri as teve Jobs last, but most important innovation. Siri is potentially a game changing app that enables us to interact with our phones in more human and intelligent ways.
Yes, you can now talk into your phone and get an intelligent answer.
Need a reminder when you get home? It does that too.
We’ve heard that companies have been testing artificial intelligence in technology from fridges to consumer electronics, but Apple is one of the first to hit the mainstream market with such capabilities.
Next up? Most likely the TV with integrated voice commands. For example,
“Please turn on TV and change channel to CBS for Two and a Half Men”
Or what about a voice command PVR?
“Rewind and show in slow replay.”
You get the point. Once again, consumer electronics is about to change – and change the way we live in a busy mobile world. Business is going to need to change, too. Processes will need to be put in place that allow employees to respond to voice review boards instead of online review boards that require typing (think TripAdvisor and Google Places). Siri is strictly seen as an “Assistant” to the user right now. In the near future, a Siri API will likely be released allowing developers to build Siri enabled apps. At that point, business will need to adapt again to an evolution in the intimacy and speed of communication that allows customers to voice their opinions, good or bad, to companies and other consumers.
As Wayne Gretzky famously put, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is.” Steve Jobs skated ahead throughout his career and in so doing changed the world.