Category: Mobile

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I Spy With My Mobile Eye, Mobile Spy v6.0

Continuing its efforts to keep children safe on their computers, tablets and smartphones, Retina-X Studios® announced last week the 6th generation of Mobile Spy® monitoring software for smartphones. This version has been overhauled and now includes new social media recording features and application blocking.

Mobile Spy (available across 5 smartphone platforms) silently records smartphone user activity of children/employees. Logs are viewable online in real time and reviewed from any web browser inside a secure online control panel. Standard features include monitoring of entire SMS text messages, actual GPS locations, call information and photos taken on the phone.

With this update they have added the ability to view 9 types of social media messengers (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry PIN Messenger, GTalk, Twitter, etc.). This gives the user the ability to make sure their employees are not sharing confidential material or that their children aren’t communicating with forbidden individuals. Also, users can now view a list of applications installed to the device and forcibly block any app remotely. Gmail App email messages and YouTube videos played are also now recorded. Another new feature is the Phone Usage logs, which show how much time the child or employee spends on each activity they perform. The software can also be uninstalled remotely.

Mobile Spy offers the industry’s only LIVE Control Panel, which allows the user to instantly view the phone’s screen and a map of the current GPS location. This optional feature also allows users to perform administration commands instantly, such as having logs emailed to their email address, initiating a silent call or SMS from the device or putting the device in lockdown.

How it works?

  • Customer purchases Mobile Spy and downloads software onto the phone to be monitored. Customer configures program according to their monitoring needs.
  • Phone user performs SMS messages, URL browsing and call activities. Mobile Spy Records the activities and then silently uploads logs to the Mobile Spy servers.
  • Customer logs into their online account from any Internet connected PC. Here they can view all recorded activities in near real time.

With all that said, would you pay $49.97 for 3 months (or $99.97 for 12 months) to monitor/spy on your children or employees?

My first concern was with privacy.
Their company privacy policy is that their customer databases remain confidential and private. They have not, will not, and won’t ever sell names to “spammers” or other parties who would like to use their databases to advertise or solicit their products or services. Their products do not collect any information from your phone other than the information required for the products’ successful operation.

My second concern would be upon purchasing the spy subscription, will users know this software has been installed or is running?
Mobile Spy uses the latest innovations in mobile monitoring to keep monitoring safe and secure. There are no indications that Mobile Spy is running while it is active. The program has no entries in the User Menu, and its files are extremely discreet. Best of all, when Mobile Spy is running, there is NO entry for it in the Task Manager. So it is my responsibility to notify any user they are being monitored.

Luckily, I have no children or employees to monitor, but this capability could make things interesting.

My next questions are; 1) Who do they allow you to monitor? and 2) Who is currently monitoring me?


With This Mobile Invitation, I Thee Wed

I was trying to find a mobile topic that I had yet to address and with my brother getting married this summer, I have had wedding on the mind. So, I did a quick search (mobile wedding apps)  and couldn’t believe what I found. While I have yet to receive one myself, people are actually sending out mobile wedding invitations.

Mobile Wedding Invitation enables you to send your personalized invitations to guests anywhere in the world! It advises that you will never run short of invitations, as they all you to send your link to as many guests as you would like. They promise you will also save time and money on postage. Not only that, but this solution is eco-friendly (no paper, printing or postage). Your order will take 7-10 working days. Your mobile invitation will remain live on their servers for 18 months unless earlier removal is requested. They do not allow search engines to index your site for privacy reasons.

Here is a link to a QR code that you can scan and experience the invitations on your phone before purchasing.

I don’t think this is a terrible idea, I just don’t know if it is for everyone, at least yet. I think this depends heavily on your generation. It would allow your guests easy access to all the information they need on the day of or days before your big day. In talking about this idea to my friends, many thought it was a very impersonal and cheap way to ask your guests to spend money on gifts and travel to your wedding and they may reconsider attending or sending a gift (thinking why couldn’t they put forth the effort to mail a real invitation).

This site, while focused all on mobile, has failed to optimize their own site for mobile. Ha! I do feel if you are truly trying to sell a mobile experience, that you should have a mobile site.

Suggestions for this mobile site:

  • Reduce the amount of content
  • Single column layout will likely work best
  • Present that navigation differently
  • Minimize text entry
  • Design for touchscreen and non-touchscreen users
  • Take advantage of inbuilt functionality

Also, they claim eco-friendly, but they are likely not factoring in the costs of hosting these invitations, the data plan usage or phone battery usage to view this invitation. Those all take power to run and host.

I wonder what will be next, getting a wedding invitation via a Facebook event. I wouldn’t put it past the Smartphone Class!

SMS Best Practices!

I was grabbing a quick meal before catching a flight and I saw an ad to join a text club for special offers! Since I eat here every once in awhile, I thought I would sign up. I scanned the QR code to join and got a screen that was very vague. I wasn’t even sure it had worked.

Finally, after waiting over one month, I got my first offer. The offer is 1/2 off regular priced appetizer with a purchase of 2 beverages from 7 p.m. to close and it was only valid for 5 days. Luckily, I saved the earlier photos, otherwise, I would have no idea who the offer was from.

After a class discussion and a review of the MMA Best Practices document, I have learned that after opting-in to a recurring program, a confirmation Mobile Terminating (MT) message must be sent to the subscriber containing, at minimum, the following information: a) Service description, b) Additional carrier costs (e.g. Msg&Data Rates May Apply), c) Frequency of messaging, d) Customer support information (HELP), and e) Opt-Out information (STOP). I only received the STOP in this message, plus the offer isn’t enticing enough to bring me back by 5/20.

Based on this experience and a recent class discussion, here are a few items that will help your next SMS campaign succeed.

The SMS campaign must;

  • Align with business goals
  • Offer a strong value-proposition
  • Have a clear call to action
  • Offer a quick pay-off
  • Contain mobile-appropriate content
  • Provide good UX
  • Provide users with instructions (i.e. How to opt out or help)
  • Include staff training (esp. customer service)

Upon reading a recent report (Data Analysis of Quick Service Restaurant Mobile Marketing Programs) published by Cellit, a leading provider of mobile marketing solutions for the QSR industry, I would like to share my learnings and hope that you can integrate them into your next SMS campaign.

In the report, Cellit asks, “Why is mobile marketing becoming a must-have tool for QSRs? Like any marketing technology, the main reason mobile marketing is gaining traction is the ability to generate consistant, measurable results. Mobile marketing is an ideal way for QSRs to build customer loyalty, generate instant demand during off-peak times, increase customer spend per visit and increase customer visit frequency.”

To help QSRs learn the best ways to succeed with mobile marketing, Cellit analyzed the data from about 9,000 mobile marketing campaigns it conducted on behalf of 125 QSR clients over the last year. The average mobile subscriber list size was 791 (with a max of 2,275 and a min of 37), representative of the small-to-medium sized nature of the accounts. Most clients studied are franchisees of national chains, or regional franchise groups.

Below are some findings and best practices.

In order to build a subscriber list,

  • Implement On-Premise/ On-Site – Menu call-outs, in-restaurant signage and box-toppers for delivery service/take- out are all cost-effective ways to build a mobile loyalty program subscriber list.
  • Engage Social Media and Email – Bold calls to action on Twitter, Facebook or in email newsletters complimented online signup forms to quickly and effectively drive traffic into the mobile club.
  • Leverage existing advertising campaigns, including television, print and/or radio spots.
  • Refer-A-Friend – Tapping into existing subscribers is a great way to build a subscriber list for QSRs.

When offering a coupon,

  • The Most Effective Offer is BOGO – Cellit sent out a text message survey to 796 individual subscribers of a national QSR campaign to determine what type of offer they preferred. Overwhelmingly, 68% indicated a preference for a Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO) offer as opposed to “free with purchase” (6%) and “% off” (22%).
  • Redemption Not An Issue – Due to mobile couponing’s infancy, widespread adoption of mobile standards by point of sale system suppliers has not yet caught on. To mitigate this, Cellit provided their clients with numerous redemption options that include web-based interfaces, widgets, smart phone applications – and in some cases, direct integration with leading foodservice point of sale systems.
  • Extremely High Mobile Coupon Redemption Rates – For the 2 QSR clients that did use Cellits redemption tools, Cellit found high redemption rates that were consistent with other industries.

Cadence: Timing & Frequency

  • Cellit found that the best days to send messages are weekdays.
  • Cellit also saw higher engagement for QSR customers when messages are timed to make sure they are targeting their customers during periods when they are most likely to be interested in the offer.
  • Cellit finds that QSRs typically follow the Rule of 1’s: no more than one message a week, and no less than one message a month.

SnipSnap Coupon App

What if an app could combine sms notifications, mobile payments and bar/qr codes? I think SnipSnap is almost there. Plus, with couponing continuing to be a hot topic due to the current state of the economy, this app is right on target.

With this app, users can take photos of coupons and store them within the app. The app will process the bar code and turn it into a scan-able image, all while retaining the original photograph. I like the idea of SnipSnap Coupon App! In addition to scanning your own coupons, you can also see coupons that other people have scanned, too. You can select coupons to add to your favorites list and once you’ve tried using them at the store, indicate if you were successful or not.

However, it is missing two crucial pieces in order to make it really survive in the marketplace. First, this app still needs buy-off from more retailers. Not all retailers are accepting mobile coupons, causing the user to be frustrated and to lose faith that they can completely get rid of paper coupons. On their site they are open the while some supermarkets accept digital (or paperless) coupons, many still require a printed coupon to redeem. Second, while retailers place coupons in newspapers throughout the country, I can forsee trouble with coupon sharing feature, as more and more people are redeeming the coupons. Could consumer savings get out of hand for the retailer/manufacturer?

The best feature I have found is that the app reminds you when you walk in the store that you have a coupon or that a particular coupon is about to expire. Extremely handy! I often have a pile of paper coupons and half of them expire before I remember that I had a coupon.

Anyone using this app? It has a 4+ rating through the App Store. I have downloaded it and here is a quick walk through.

Smartphone Class: Always On, Always Consuming

In a recent article from eMarketer, a new class of consumers was highlighted, the Smartphone Class. They are armed with fast, high-powered smartphones and are 100 million strong and growing. This class is ‘rerouting the path to purchase and redefining cultural norms in the US.’

Below are a few things to note about marketing to the Smartphone Class.

  • Spare time is snack time!
    •  “Snackable” content is preferred creating bite size marketing moments.
    • They DO NOT tolerate dull moments and are looking for instant gratification.
    • Notable for those who are producing mobile video.
  • Functionally impulsive!
    • Based on their on-the-go nature, if they need to get something in short order, they will buy it via their phone.
    • Notable for those who are engaged in mCommerce and are attempting to reach people that may be planning short term activities and don’t have time to drive to a specific location.
  • Uber Communicators!
    • The actual phone functionality is the least used.
    • Texting and social media are the norm with people sharing every little detail.
    • Notable for those who who are promoting concerts, sports or larger events, as members of this class are NEVER at a loss for something to share through their phones.

Cloud City Coffee are Smooth Square Operators

This was a groovy experience!

I went in to order a coffee and snack, but little did I know how smooth this transaction would go!

First, I placed my order.
Second, he took and swiped my card.
Third, he turned around the iPad and I was prompted to sign the screen and leave a tip (preset numbers at the bottom of the screen).
Next, I was asked if I wanted my receipt printed, email or ignore it completely.

I was so impressed that I wanted to get back in line and try it again, but to avoid complete ‘mobile dorkiness’. I asked if I could simply take a picture for my blog.

Smooth Checkout

This technology, if you haven’t seen it is Sqaure. This is a Square Register and it claims to be the simplest way to accept credit card payments, and has all the features you need to create an elegant experience at your counter. I was definitely impressed.

When you sign up as a business owner, you get a free card reader, one simple rate for all credit cards, custom inventory and fast checkout. As a retailer this system will also help you create a loyalty program to keep your new and existing customers coming back. Deeper into the app, the retailer will discover insightful analytics, employee permissions, easy tipping features, smart receipts, and integration with your cash drawer.

Square Screenshot

Now that I have seen Square on an iPhone at craft shows and on a iPad at a busy coffee shop, my mind is busy with the possibilities. I sure would love to see more places using this technology.

The sector that keeps coming to my mind is non-profits or those seeking donations. How easy would it be to buy tickets to a show or exhibit and then at the bottom (where the tipping portion was for retail) have it be donation to the museum or a particular cause the show is related to? I personally, found it so easy to just tap the $1 button to add a tip to my transaction total and know that I would likely do the same for a donation, but in a higher denomination.

I have yet to have a bad experience with these devices and would love to hear more about your thoughts on…

  • Where you would like to see this technology? Non-profit, pizza parlor, grocery store, etc.?
  • What the drawbacks could be ? Employee/customer iOS adoption?
  • Why aren’t more business owners using this technology? Cost of device?

QR Code: Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

Poster frame As a beer fan, I am always trying new pubs and tasting new beers. I was recently at the Pillager’s Pub in Greenwood (enjoying a Blood Orange Wit), when I came across this poster frame in the restroom.

I thought to myself, why is this poster frame empty and what is this tiny QR code doing on the empty frame.

So, I scanned it and was taken to the following site.

QR DestinationWhile the idea of a cooperative brewery sounded intriguing, the landing page was not optimized for use on a mobile device, making it difficult to navigate. Plus, the three large buttons (Own It, Craft It, and Drink It) went no where. After visiting the site on my computer the next day, I think the cooperative would benefit from a mobile site, if they continue to advertise in bar restrooms. A few items they should consider including could be who they are (since they are not well known), how to sign up to be apart of the co-op, and get those three buttons functioning or make them look less like buttons.

In class last week, I was given a few best practices in considering and implementing 2D codes, so I thought I would share them with my readers.

What can a 2D code do? They connect the physical and digital worlds. Standard uses for a code can take a user to a URL, send an SMS message, send an email or make a phone call.
Who is scanning them? 6.2% of US mobile users, 17% of smartphone users, 61% male, 53% are 18-34 years old, and 55% have household income of greater than $75k
When and where to use them? Use them when you want to capture impulse, augment an experience on printed material or for live events. They can also be used effectively on business cards, product packaging, flyers, posters, etc.
Appropriate use of a 2D code. Size does matter (Consider how close or far away will the user be from the code?), give the user a reason to scan to code, provide instructions on how to scan, also provide a SMS call to action for those who do not have smartphones.
How to fail.  Direct the user to a non-mobile URL, put QR in inappropriate places, and not testing the code.
How to be a winner! Direct to a mobile URL, add value to the experience, produced a good reason, testing the code on various devices at all stages of the process.

Creating a ‘How To Video’ with Snapguide

I found Snapguide through iTunes ‘App of the Week’ and I am fairly impressed.

It is perfect if you are looking to learn how to do something new and are frustrated with trying to find it on YouTube or prefer a more friendly interface. The app is filled with user-created how-to guides, which can teach you to do any number of things with a combination of text and photos to show you what to do and how to do it at each step of the way. As more users participate, the more content that becomes available.

I found everything from creating an Easter egg pop to assembling a bicycle! All very helpful and detailed. There are all a few funny characters out there that have uploaded videos about how to eat McDonald’s with maximum enjoyment (not sure that’s possible).

Snapguide is also social, giving users the ability to share the content on Twitter, Facebook or via email. The app also always users to learn with others by chatting with people who share your interests.

This app not only allows you to read and learn from others’ guides, but to create your own. Guides are created by typing out steps or recording audio and pairing them with photos, and they can be shared over Facebook and Twitter as well as within the app for others to learn from and use.

Snapguide Create    Snapguide Explore     Snapguide Title    Snapguide Editor     Snapguide Publish

Overall, this is a great app and has been getting great reviews on the app store. Unfortunately, after reading a few reviews there seems to be a constant prompt asking you to rate the app.

There are only a changes that I would make. First, I would include the ability to share on Pinterest, as this a place where people go to explore and post great ideas! I would also make the ‘Explore’ section, not just show popular or recent videos, but give the user the ability to navigate/narrow their search by categories. For example, if you were looking for what to have for dinner, this function would allow the user to narrow the possibilities, in order to get ideas for dinner and not specifically get directions for grilled chicken.

Just curious, has anyone else heard of this app or used it to create a ‘How To’ video?

WSDOT Traffic Website & Mobile App

As a daily commuter, I often rely on the WSDOT traffic maps to understand how long my commute might take and what areas are backing up, so I can strategically determine the quickest and safest route.

For a long time I used their website (from a bookmark in my browser), that is not mobile optimized. I know the idea is that people are checking this site before they leave and not from the car, but to be honest, I only check it once I am in the car. They have recently added display advertising to their page, which makes it even more difficult to attain the information I need on my mobile phone. Since their website is not optimized for mobile, I must zoom in to get the details I am looking for and in doing so the banner ad consumes a quarter of my screen.

Seattle Area Traffic Map

Because of this addition, I decided to check out their mobile app. I hadn’t before because I had been advised by other commuters that it wasn’t very accurate. In comparing the maps over the last week, I find them fairly similar in traffic volumes. However, I am not thrilled with the user experience on their mobile app.

The most frustrating part is that I am not able to favorite a flowmap for a particular area. For example, I open the app, and I am sent to a menu that has traffic maps, ferries, mountain passes, social media and border information. I select traffic maps, from there I get another menu where I can select from 13 different cities/areas. I select Seattle Area and arrive at the flowmap, which I find the most helpful in determining my commute. This is where I ask, “Where is the favorite button? I want to put this on my flowmap on my home screen for quicker navigation!” While I have done away with the obtrusive display ad, I have to navigate through 2 menus to get to the 3rd screen that I find most helpful.

WSDOT Mobile App   WSDOT Traffic Maps Screen   Seattle Area Flowmap

I am particularly passionate about traffic because I commute over 60 miles, 5 days a week. I recently joined a vanpool (always a passenger), which has allowed me to be more involved socially with traffic than before (passenger half the time). As a passenger, I am able to photograph, retweet updates and give insight to daily commuters. With this said, I would love more social capabilities within the app. For example, I would like to tweet the flowmap or updates I see from the WSDOT instead of the app being a one way street of information to the user.

Another great idea that I found, in the app reviews on iTunes, is to incorporate the ability to report carpool lane violators, instead of calling the HERO phone line. I find myself calling the HERO line at least once a week.

Also, with the recent addition of tolling to the 520 bridge, it would be great for the app to tell the user the current toll rate, so that drivers can decide if it’s worth taking 520 or not.

It might also be interesting if they could generate a screen, where I could go as a regular I-5 commuter, to get tips and tricks for traveling the corridor from other users. They currently have a screen where you can see Seattle Area alerts, but what if I could post a tip that there was a giant pothole in the right lane at the mid-point of the Ship Canal bridge. This way other commuters could be aware of the hole before they slam into it and the WSDOT would be able to gather road conditions first hand and take the steps to fix it.

Altogether, good app, I only have a few suggestions for the WSDOT. First, optimize their area traffic map websites for mobile use. Then, add a favorite option for your area flowmap within the app.