UK Mobile Coverage

December 18th, 2014

telecoms.pngUK mobile coverage is in the news today with the Government and network operators claiming it’s a win for consumers. However, as the article says, the money is "unlikely to be any more than the operators were going to spend anyway in that time period".

From a consumer angle, I have suffered from the network operators trying to get away with a minimal rather than comprehensive coverage. I don’t even live in a rural area or "not spot" as they call it. I live in an semi-urban area close to London.

The main problem at the moment is that operators are swapping out or moving 3G masts for 4G masts. At one time, my home, where I mainly work and hence use mobile data for testing apps, was well covered by T-Mobile. 18 months ago, the low signal became unusable. After a 45 mins talk with 4 people at EE (T-Mobile and Orange are now EE), I got through to someone technical who told me the 3G mast had been reconfigured for 4G and even the new projected 4G coverage didn’t look that good at my location. I obtained/purchased SIMs from all the non-MVNO UK network operators and did a survey. Vodafone came out best so I moved all my test SIMs.

18 months later, I am back where I was. The Vodafone signal is poorer, I suspect due to 4G ‘improvements’. The difference this time is that 4G SIMs are not extortionately priced any more and the 4G signal is actually excellent. The cynical side of me wonders if poorer 3G signals are being used to gradually move people to 4G.

Back to the article and it says the money will "provide reliable signal for voice over 2G, 3G or 4G, all by 2017". On all of these? I don’t think so. Also, what about data?

Smartphone Sales Grew 20%

December 15th, 2014

gartner136.gifGartner has some new research that shows smartphone sales grew by 20% for Q3 2014. However, the respective OS market shares stayed roughly the same…  


What’s more interesting is that three of the top five smartphone vendors are Chinese: Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo. Samsung continues to see a double digit decline in percentage market share. I suspect we might eventually end up in a situation of Apple vs Chinese Android.

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State of Mobile Commerce

December 11th, 2014

criteo.pngCriteo has some new analysis "State of Mobile Commerce Q4 2014", covering over $130 billion of annual sales across more than 3,000 online retailers globally. There are lots of insights and the research upends many assumptions.

Consumers are buying on mobile. Smartphones have overtaken tablets and the average order value is reaching desktop level. Criteo say "It’s now important to reach Android shoppers"

If you are using apps to sell something real then you can’t ignore mobile and you can’t ignore Android.

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Learn About Mobile Dark Social

December 10th, 2014

fusion.pngThere’s an interesting article on 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)…


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.


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.


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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