I was going to write about brand clutter on the mobile deck in this column, until I flipped my phone open to start researching it. In that weird way that only a serendipitous encounter with interactive content can do, I took an unintended detour into the new Namco game "Snoopy the Flying Ace." I ended up staying in PeanutsLand for a long while, and I think I learned a lot about why so many other mobile games (and perhaps the mobile experience altogether) suck so badly.
For the advertisers that were smart enough to experiment last year with getting mobile users just to respond to a call to action, this seems to be a year where the cutting-edge moves forward. Now we have to figure out what these hand raisers want to do on the mobile platform after that first click-through. Now we have to transcode for mobile the same question that occupied us on the Web five years ago: How do you move from being noticed by consumers to being of use to them?
Being a veteran of the pre-bubble Web years, I love a good new media crash-and-burn as much as the next guy. From theGlobe to PseudoTV, TheDen to that insufferable sock puppet, I watched many descend from the heights of dotcom hubris with requisite holier-than-thou glee. After a while, it became a ritual. But I am not especially happy to see history repeat itself with the end of Amp'd. There were a lot of things to like in the service that are worth preserving.
My guess is it will be unclear for a while whether Apple made a wise decision in restricting iPhone development to Web-based widgets. To its credit, the company is trying to preserve usability by keeping third parties (other than YaGoogle, of course) off the deck. But even the best early apps designed for the iPhone Safari browser are nothing more than Web bookmarks that you have to recall you have.
One of the real problems with the major carriers throughout their content and marketing chains is their sheer scale. When multimillion-subscriber companies are going head to head for market share, it is difficult to focus on your own segments. Branding messages for the tier-1 companies have been hopelessly broad for years (more minutes, better network coverage, free phones), with little effort to target specific groups very effectively, even though a range of age and ethnic demos come at their phones very differently. There is a real need here for content and service companies to cultivate the segments.
I don't consider myself the brightest bulb in the box, but I am not the dimmest guy to flip open a cell phone, either. Well, unless you ask my daughter... or my significant other... or my ex-wife. But those notorious detractors aside, I am confident that I can navigate around most mobile apps pretty well and understand their purpose without a map. But this branded Sprite project The Yard has me pretty much befuddled. I can't figure out what I am supposed to be doing here -- let alone why I am here. One rarely sees such a terrific misfire.
Just about anyone will tell you he hates advertising. My father has been complaining about the increasing number of ads he insists are polluting prime time for twenty years now. I don't think it has shaved a minute off his viewing time. And so it comes as no surprise that in the latest Ingenio/Harris Interactive poll of mobile phone users, 68% of us who got a cell phone ad of some sort simply deleted it. The survey of over 4,000 adults found that 74% claim they most likely would ignore or delete an ad they received on a cell phone.
I told you so. I was sorely tempted to write this column from my iPhone just to demonstrate how hard it really is to type without tactile feedback for extended periods. Worse, Apple only lets you use the virtual keyboard in portrait mode, which makes each key an even tighter target. But I've already had to wait for YouTube, Google Maps and this column to load via the AT&T (rusty) EDGE network. How much pain can an aging critic handle? I only have so much time left on this earth, and I don't plan to spend much of it typing …
I am starting to feel as if I am reporting on Paris Hilton. Any mention of the iPhone in the trade press is like the cheap and easy exposure the consumer press gets from another item about the socialite ex-con. My last column outlining reservations about the iPhone netted more than twice as many comments from readers as any previous Mobile Insider column. And when the e-letter itself appeared in my own in-box it was followed by a line of e-mail responses, some of which were from Apple believers who just had to tell me personally what an idiot I …