Noted with Begrudging Pleasure... Dammit

My daughter now has multiple communications channels through which to tell her father to LIGHTEN UP! Now I get SMS nudges: "Did you eat today?" Fall is the busiest time of year for me, and she has had to navigate my shameful workaholism for a long time now. By the age of 4, she had devised a way of getting through to me without interrupting a business call. She would write a yes/no request on a Post-It and slip it under my nose: "Can I go to Kelsey's to play?" And she even drew little check-off boxes next to the multiple-choice replies to make the process easier.

This child has been leveraging communications technologies for a while. Now it's a game designed to embarrass me with the depths of my obliviousness. Sitting at the dinner table, she and my partner will see the glaze come over my eyes and say in unison, "He's gone. He's writing. He doesn't even know we're here." She texted me once while we were at the same dinner table to snap me out of it. "Why don't you just go back to work. You're doing it anyway."

I have been officially advised I am getting grumpy and need to lighten up. "Remember to eat and then sleep and need those," my teen daughter advises her father by SMS. The permission Post-Its have evolved into life coach messages from my own kid. I've got my own little Deepak Chopra texting in life lessons. So what makes me smile? What makes me find bliss? Well, good mobile content, of course. Time for a brain dump.

Chegg: The college textbook rental service just launched a great mobile site at that lets your pricey college student enter an ISBM number or book title at the bookstore and get rental prices on the spot for that outrageously overpriced text she is about to charge to your account. The only weird kludge is that the site doesn't complete the loop on the phone. It emails the shopping cart to you for completion online. This is precisely the kind of market disruption we need. One search box of just the right kind in just the right place at just the right moment, alerting you that an entire education industrial complex is about to rip you off.

Palm Pre Apps: In the few apps now trickling onto the Palm Pre, there are some nice design principles at work and a couple of cases where the Pre version is superior to the iPhone version. AP Mobile's Pre app is slicker looking and has a less cluttered navigation scheme. Three round icons on a translucent bottom bar are all you need to move across most content areas. Arguably the iPhone app has more features, like forwarding a story to more outlets, but it is also more cramped and busy. The new app is similarly clean and simple. It has a top line drop-down menu that lets the user navigate laterally across a ton of the brand's vertical content categories. It is more natural and efficient than that customary "More" button on iPhone apps. While the platform is still a minor player in the smart phone universe, it is giving developers a chance to get out from under some of the iPhone's already tired conventions.

i.TV: I am not sure why I don't hear more people talking about this superb TV grid taken to the next dimension. The design starts with the familiar viewing grid for your area and TV service. But once you drill into a particular show, a nest of related materials is there, from galleries of the stars to video downloads from iTunes, related NetFlix rentals, remote Tivo control and online video. This is a great example of a mobile app that is more compact and thus easier to use than its online counterpart. Even more interesting is that i.TV is also home to some of the more attractive entertainment ads around. If you are looking for some of the best and most recent examples off full page takeovers or nice simple ad integration, this is a place to start. Sometimes I just come for the ads. Even though there is a tremendous amount of TV and film content here, the surface navigation is always very clean, with badges that indicate how much content is available under every icon. This is also one of the few mobile locations where the ads are almost always on target. Well, until the Google AdSense banners started creeping in.

"Return to Mysterious Island 2": I have been listening to game developers promise synchronized video game play across mobile and PC or console platforms for years and have yet to see a satisfying example. This rather mundane puzzle-style adventure game for the PC synchronizes the game play with an iPhone app. The iPhone game knows where you are in the PC game and which puzzles you have uncovered but left unsolved. You can solve some of the puzzles on the phone and have it accomplished back in the main game experience. I am still trying to play through enough of the PC version to see how well this works in practice, but the concept is spot-on. How many stumped gamers have left their PC or console, only to have the game problem swirling in their heads? The TRMI2 model scratches the itch. And talk about a great sponsorship opportunity. Why not be let a brand underwrite the mobile piece of the experience? Rather than interrupt the gameplay someone loves, why not get credit for enhancing the experience in a tangible way?

But since I am on a feel-good program of rooting out good mobile ideas that make me smile (instead of grousing about all the mobile missteps I keep finding), what are your favorite mobile finds of late, dear readers? What has gotten you enthused about the platform? Tell us -- or you will start getting guilt-inducing SMS alerts from my daughter. I think she has found her calling.

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