Too much repurposed creative is being squeezed onto mobile Web pages, with ridiculous results. Few taglines even seem to acknowledge that you are seeing the ad on a phone and a specific call to action might be in order. I still run into banners that are already too small to read, rendering in half sizes on some major media sites because something in the tech went awry at some point.
For the most part, branded apps have tended to cry for our attention. There is a kind of cloying tone to many apps, as if they are trying just a tad too hard to get us to like them as something more than disembodied corporate entities that really just want to plump up their profit margins. Oops, did I just say that out loud?
Once again my phone home screens runneth over. As I researched and programmed the May 12 OMMA Mobile, which is focusing on apps and the developing platform wars among Google, Apple and the mobile Web, I have been burning up the 3G and Wi-Fi channel with downloads. It is time to do a brain dump of observations that occur to me as I spend more time with mobile apps than a grown man probably should.
The app economy is booming to the tune of 7 billion downloads in 2009, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting. But we still need to put the app in context of the larger marketing and media distribution plan. One agency executive distinguished between brands demanding their iPhone app and executing a sensible mobile Web presence. It is "vanity vs. sanity," he told me. Apps are often built to placate brand executives, but the mobile Web is where many of them will really get the most users.
Some interesting data from comScore yesterday demonstrates both how critical smartphones are to the future of mobile marketing and how much more penetration is needed for critical mass. Despite the apparent resurgence of mobile gaming in the past year, fueled principally by touch screens, the number of people playing games on their phones actually declined between February 2009 and February 2010 by 13%. This seeming dip in the market was driven entirely by a 35% drop in gaming among feature phone users, even while the number of smartphone owners who game escalated 60%.
While all of the tech dweebs in Silicon Valley are bickering over which local/mobile/social app will win out in the battle for merchants, millions and millions of us would rather put our eyes out than waste a second of our day "checking in" on these damned apps. But while this new generation of apps tries to create in us a whole new set of habits, there is a class of less-heralded apps that are riding on an existing habit. And they don't have to invent a new business model. It is the great American ritual of ordering take-out.
Nearly a week into playing with and demoing the iPad to others, my biggest surprise is how the larger Web experience tends to push the app experience more to the side. I find myself feeling a bit constrained by the current selection and attractiveness of the apps themselves.
With my daughter shipped off to Florida for a spring break vacation with her mother, it was safe to bring the iPad home Saturday morning for a weekend of uninterrupted play. Despite her previous dismissal of the new device, even she admits she will be all over the thing when she gets a chance. As it was, she was texting me from the beach asking how the test-run was going.
Was I the only one a bit puzzled by the release this week of Apple's "Guided Tour" videos for the iPad? The topics covered, from iBooks to email, photos to YouTube, have a glaring omission: the App Store. Huh?