"I am a critic. I get paid to be grumpy."
"Well, you're married now, so you can't snarl at everything -- and everyone."
"I don't recall that being in the vows. I didn't sign up for gaiety."
"Watch, it, there! What makes you happy? You just got new home theater speakers, so now we can hear every leaf rustle in 'Avatar.' Did that make you happy?"
"Well, it has got a subwoofer that is going to bug the hell out of the neighbor who already hates us. I like that."
"OK, you know you took that in the wrong direction. You need to remind yourself of the little things that make you happy. It is supposed to be a mood enhancer."
OK, so consider this column a bit of therapy -- focusing on the little things in mobile media now that make me happy.
HBO Go: Far and away the best TV anywhere execution I have seen, and a real value-add for HBO subscribers that is likely to keep them on the farm. I have access to all seasons of all the major HBO shows on demand, synchronized across iPad, iPhone and even Google TV. This is Netflix but with a finer interface, all premium product and exclusive like advanced viewings of new episodes. Now we are starting to see TV companies leverage mobile in ways that are sure to affect their bottom line. I don't even watch HBO itself very much anymore on TV. But the richness of this app will make me think twice before canceling.
Google: Take a look at the current state of the mobile Google experience. The basic interface comes with Places shortcuts to food, drink, ATMs and gas, etc. The localized search results have a map designed to stay on the top of the screen while the listings scroll beneath. And as each listing is highlighted, any image associated with the location is superimposed in the lower corner of the map.
This is an incredibly smooth and streamlines mobile search experience from what was available just last year. Dropdown menus give you even more direct access to directions and other resources. It is fascinating to watch search on mobile start to revive the more directory-like structure that started the model at Yahoo 15 years ago. In many ways I find the Google Web experience easier to use and more relevant than the app model (at least on iPhone).
Codes that Deliver: I have already written in recent columns about how 2D codes and other means of using mobile to bridge physical and digital worlds are starting to make sense. The basic awkwardness of code snapping too often is compounded by weak results for the user. I am not sure why MMS hasn't played more of a role in mobile marketing in the U.S. generally, but it can be a more seamless way to circumvent the usual app go-between when snapping and sending.
Ocean Spray today is launching a cross-country mobile tour where they will visit fairs and events around the country and sport signage with a SpyderLynk SnapTag code. AT&T, Verizon and Alltell users can just take a standard camera shot of the tag with Ocean spray logo and send it by MMS as they would any photo to a friend. Arguably, punching in a five digit shortcode is no better than having to root through your apps to find the damned QR code reader or download that Microsoft Tag app. But it does let the marketer know you can receive in return an MMS.
In this case, in seconds I got a pretty attractive image of a smoothie accompanied by a full recipe idea. I would call that a good use of creative, providing value as a result of a natural mobile phone activity that doesn't feel so much like jumping through a marketer's hoops.
Killer Time-Killer: My favorite new totally pointless use of mobile time is ChaCha's app. The human search engine, which answers direct questions from users online and via text, has turned its answer machine into a wonderful way to engage radically random information. The latest iteration adds a Near Me feature that gives you all the questions being asked from people in your area, in real time. In some cases I can glean some genuinely useful news here, like local events, but the real fun is just trivia fishing. To make it more engaging, the app also parses the recent answers into topical categories.
"There, don't you feel better?" my wife asks as I try to reel off a few things about life I enjoy.
"Warm puppies? The sound of light rain falling on slate roofs? The loving smile of my new wife? Mocking instant feel-good therapies my wife hears on Dr. Oz?"
"OK, ya know you just bought yourself tofu burgers for dinner."
"I just got the Kubrick film collection on Blu-ray. Can I crank up 'Clockwork Orange' on the new speakers? I think our neighbor might like a bit of 'Ludwig Van' surroundsound street-brawling. That would make me happy."