Learn About Mobile Dark Social

December 10th, 2014

fusion.pngThere’s an interesting article on fusion.net on dark social and mobile dark social. This isn’t some illicit part of the Internet but instead is about traffic on web sites that has no referrer. i.e. The previously visited ‘place’ wasn’t a conventional web site and hence isn’t known for analytics purposes. For example, the user might have typed a URL into their web browser, cut and pasted a web address or clicked on a link in an app.

The article explains how we already spend more time in apps than in desktop or mobile web browsers (originally from Benedict Evans)…

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The article then continues to make a case for much of the mobile dark social (traffic) to be coming from Facebook and the Facebook’s mobile apps. If true, this has consequences for Search and the continuing prominence of Google. Coincidentally, only yesterday there were many media articles on how the new, much better, Facebook Search might also be a threat to Google.

What does this mean for app developers? There are two main areas, linking out and linking in…

  1. Apps with links. Users are increasingly getting used to linking out from apps to web sites. What about in your app? Think how you might leverage this for your own app’s purposes. As I previously mentioned, using webviews has usability and security implications. Hence, I prefer linking out to the mobile web browser rather than opening your own or 3rd party sites within the app. You might, for example, link out to your own ad funded or affiliate link funded sites in order to gain indirect revenue. Alternatively, if you are a brand or offer a service, the app might just be a lead in to your main content offering on the web.
  2. If Facebook is becoming the new Google, it makes sense to market your app via Facebook. Apart from having a Facebook presence for your app, consider Facebook’s Open Graph API to increase app uptake. The idea is that an iOS or Android app can create actions that are published to the user’s timeline. When their friends click on the actions, they are either pointed to the app or deep linked into the app depending on whether they already have the app installed. Many top apps use this mechanism. 

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Beacons Need Content

December 5th, 2014

prismatic.pngThere’s a thought-provoking story at prismatic that explains Why the beacon revolution has been postponed. I worked on an iBeacon client project (on Android) this past year and some of the observations are similar to mine.

If you don’t know what beacons are, at their simplest, they are just Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that don’t need conventional Bluetooth pairing. This means iOS and Android devices can easily detect them and apps can perform actions when they are detected. The (i) in iBeacon is mainly only a Bluetooth custom packet (data) format defined by Apple, an extra interpretation of the signal strength as a range of intermediate, near and far and the ability of iPhones themselves to become beacons. Hence, (later) Android devices can also see iBeacons and the signal strength can be used to determine range.

Back to the story, Tim Dunn says that beacons need a lot more than installing small beacon devices into stores or venues. The system requires "wholesale changes in data management, user identification, merchandizing, messaging and the build of a new set of CRM rules". It "requires commitment in CRM and content generation".

I agree with Tim. It’s not just about installing beacons and creating the iOS and Android apps which can be (human) resource intensive in themselves - although 3rd parties now offer SDKs and backend systems to ease integration. The clever and innovative parts are in associating the right business objects (Stores, venues, rooms, products, even people) with beacons and continually creating appropriate and timely content. The last part, "continually creating appropriate and timely content" can be hugely (human) resource intensive and I think there are many opportunities in this area to automate content generation for specific industry areas.

$65 Android Single Board Computer

December 4th, 2014

imagination.png Imagination have a new CI20 development board that can run Android 4.4. It uses a MIPS-based 1.2GHz dual core processor, includes 1Gb RAM, 4Gb flash and SD card support. There’s also HDMI, audio out, a camera interface, Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth. There’s also connection via 2 x UART, 25 x GPIO, 2 x SPI, I2C, ADC, expansion headers and the 14-pin ETAG connector. All for $65 (£50) inc VAT + delivery, available from the end of January.

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I seem to be increasingly working for clients on custom, vertical, products made from general-purpose Android hardware. Over the last few years I have worked on five such projects. Android is a great way to program at a high level on a Single Board Computer (SBC). The only thing I would say is to program as little as possible that’s specifically for the board. Boards tend to be here today, gone tomorrow so if you do end up writing board specific code then abstract it away (separate into a particular code area/library) so that replacing the board doesn’t become so problematic.

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Mobile Commerce Transactions, NFC and mTicketing

December 3rd, 2014

juniper.gifJuniper has new research that says that Mobile Commerce Transactions will Approach 200bn By 2019. If you want to be part of this, Juniper say that NFC and mTicketing are likely to be the top growth areas.

However, if you get involved with NFC and ticketing then make sure it’s secure. As Trend Micro recently demonstrated, poorly designed/implemented systems can easily be hacked. There’s probably a great business waiting to happen (or already happened) for the right company that can white-label secure NFC/mTicketing solutions.

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IDC Smartphone Predictions for 2018

December 2nd, 2014

idc.gifIDC has new research into Smartphone shipments and predictions for 2018. 1.3 billion smartphones will ship this year representing an increase of 26.3% compared to 2013. However, this growth is set to decline to about 9.8% compound annual growth between 2014 and 2018. The respective Android and iOS market shares are expected to stay at about the same order of magnitude over this period.

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If IDC are right, this means we will be entering a relatively stable period for mobile developers with no major differences in market share likely to cause developers to switch between platforms.

Generally speaking, if you are selling something then iOS will continue to be your most important platform as it’s a self-selecting group of users who have higher disposable income. If you are providing a service and need reach, then Android is your most important platform as it represents 82.3% of devices in use. However, my usual advice applies - survey your intended users and see what devices they own. Depending on your industry, you might be surprised.

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Twitter Paranoia

November 27th, 2014

twitter.pngPeople seem to be over-reacting to the news that Twitter will be using what apps you have installed to tailor content. Stefan Constantine has an interesting view on this…

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However, what people haven’t picked up on yet is that Twitter already potentially has access to much more data on them through Crashlytics, now owned by Twitter, that is increasingly becoming the default crash reporting solution for many apps… and end-users can’t turn that off.

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Tablet Growth Slowing

November 25th, 2014

idc.gifIDC have new research showing that tablet growth is slowing significantly. It also shows Android is expected to have 67.7% market share this year and iOS 27.5% market share. IDC explain that the decrease in tablet shipment growth is being caused by people holding on to their devices. Ironically, this is due to OEMs updating the OS to keep it fresh, especially on iOS.

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I also suspect tablets aren’t replaced as often as smartphones because they are not tied to carrier contracts. The carriers are good at promoting replacement at the end of contracts. Also, they tend to not have as ‘wild’ a life as phones and are less likely to to need replacement due to being damaged or stolen.

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Security Incentive For Device Upgrade

November 21st, 2014

android.gifTwo Android security problems have hit the news over the last few days. The first is a problem with java.io.ObjectInputStream on ALL devices prior to Lollipop. It’s not a problem in itself in that the user needs to somehow accidentally install a malicious app. The second is one such app, NotCompatible, that has been around a long time but has recently made the news due to some posts on popular sites.

The thing is, the user has to actually say yes to downloading and installing an app when they are web browsing. A bigger question is why Android’s anti-malware tool, Bouncer, hasn’t detected this side-loaded app. I suspect it has. Bouncer has only worked on side-loaded apps since Android 4.2 and I suspect the majority of infected devices use earlier versions of Android.

The best defence is probably to only use devices running Lollipop. As I have previously observed, in some ways it’s odd that one of Android’s failings, that of slow or non-existent OEM OS upgrades, might cause more people to buy a new device to be on a more secure Android version, which, in turn, will reduce OS fragmentation to the benefit of the platform.

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