Tag Archives: apps

From Desktop to Pocket: Why Americans Are Making the Switch to Mobile

Reaching a Breaking Point

In the years since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the way that people are accessing the Internet. The landscape has changed so swiftly, in fact, that many have been left in the dust. In 2014, an incredible milestone was reached: for the first time ever, users spent more time accessing the Internet via mobile devices than they did on their PCs. Here are just a few reasons to believe that a movement to mobile is more than just a passing trend.

A Short, Snackable Experience

Since the rise of the smartphone, we’ve seen an influx of content that’s designed for a quick visit and nothing more — what some are referring to as “snackable” content. This could be anything from a short video to an infographic to a concise, easily navigable list.

We already know that peak Internet usage happens during lunch breaks, commutes, and decompressing time at home. But in a U.S. market where more than a whopping 178 million consumers now carry smartphones, content is often consumed in even shorter increments. More and more, users are harnessing just a few seconds to tune into the Internet on their mobile devices — and content generators are taking notice, churning out shorter, more digestible tidbits.

Apps on the Rise

Much of the newest research and data on user behavior suggests that users prefer smartphone apps to traditional browsers, and why not? Apps are elegant, to-the-point, and mobile by definition. The best ones make comparable websites seem bloated or even obsolete. In 2014, mobile app usage grew by 76%, and smartphone owners now download almost 9 apps per month on average.

Mobile Can Do It All

Last but certainly not least, users are ditching their PCs for mobile devices because phones and tablets can, simply put, do everything. Look at the device in your own pocket: chances are it can get you in touch with loved ones, snap a high-quality video, help you make an important purchase, check a flight time — the list goes on and on. Once upon a time, consumers felt a need to balance mobile devices with the desktop experience in order to meet all their computing and Internet needs. But PC sales have been declining as more users find their demands met by a slim, lightweight device that’s always within reach.

Looking Toward a More Mobile Future

Make no mistake — the mobile Internet is here to stay, and its reach and popularity is growing daily. Facebook and Google are still the biggest playmakers, with dominant lineups that include YouTube and Instagram. If you’re looking to build a following online, those remain the best places to start.

But don’t discount emerging mobile platforms, including lifestyle and shopping apps, which grew more in 2014 than any other category. It’ll also be in your best interest to refresh and update your traditional website — users still need to visit them, but they’ll be looking for a streamlined, simplified, and responsive interface that more closely resembles the mobile experience.

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Behavior-Changing Apps: A Vanguard Direct Survey

Behavior Changing Apps

Steve Jobs and Apple revolutionized how we understand communication and information. He completely shifted our society. It was his products that transformed, in a way, how we think and behave. And it’s this last point that is the most fascinating. Behavior. Our behavior is different simply because of a small, handheld device. This was enough to drive Utterly Orange to ask: How else has our behavior changed as a result of technology? And in particular, which applications have leveraged the mobile platform and really changed our world?

We surveyed over 100 Vanguard employees on this topic and received, as you might imagine, a plethora of opinions. I’ve done my best to collate those opinions into something more chewable. However, one can’t help but wonder what makes one app’s utility more important than another’s? Yelp has blown away Zagat as the number-one restaurant-reviewing site/app. Foodies live and die—and, likewise, restaurants—by Yelp and its five alluring stars. But is it more transformative than, say, the flashlight app? Did you ever think you’d be bringing your phone camping in order to properly navigate?

So while I’d like to say our list is exhaustive, it’s limited and inherently subjective. And oftentimes it’s like we’re comparing Apple and oranges.

Banking & Financial Apps

The day that I heard I could deposit a check without having to go to the bank, I pretty much flipped. Or transfer money to a friend simply by typing in her email address? Who knew? There was a time when one would scan through thousands of ticker symbols in order to see if his Kodak stock went up a half point or not. Today it streams in real-time on the home screen of my phone.

These financial apps may not be the sexiest, but they certainly have changed our behavior.

Honorable mention goes to mint.com and its highly intuitive, highly beautiful app. Connect with every financial account you maintain (if you have the gumption) and see your net worth. From setting budgets to tracking your spending trends, your eyes will awaken to how you spend a dollar. You can’t help but want to modify your behavior.

News-aggregate Apps

We’re living in a content-driven world, and Vanguard is a content-driven girl. The Information Age is a tired expression, but it’s still undoubtedly accurate. Our survey suggested Vanguard has an overwhelming enthusiasm for apps that curate content.

That said, our sample comes from digitally savvy New Yorkers who have the subway free-time and industry knowledge to be interested in these sorts of apps. However, you cannot deny how we think about information today. It’s completely different from ten years ago. And without getting too grandiose on you, think about what this says about our evolution as human beings. I can barely fathom the implications.

Honorable mention goes to Flipboard. It’s intuitive. It’s user-friendly. And it works. Our senior management team loves it––and if they get it, you will.

Barcode-based Apps

Genius. There’s no other way to describe the utility of these apps other than to say simply: Genius. Want to know if that protein bar isn’t actually filled with carbs and sugar? Scan it. Want to sign up for a chance to drive a Lamborghini? Scan it. Want to know if that product was made in a child sweatshop factory in China? Scan it. Boycott it.

Never in a million years did someone think a telephone would have this sort of function. And yet, here we are. Honorable mention goes to Fooducate. This handy app scans your food and assigns it a letter grade. Skippy peanut butter gets a C? The app suggests a more healthful, A-rated alternative.

Music-driven Apps

Regardless of whether you hate all its ads or not, Shazam is 100% a unique game shifter. You can call it an app, but it’s an invention that has revolutionized our relationship with the sound waves coming out of your bar’s speakers. The minute you even hear the concept behind this app, you’ll get goose bumps.

Honorable mention goes to apps like Spotify and Pandora, which have changed radio forever. They’re like the news-aggregate apps from above, but for the soul.

Google Apps

Google is a category of its own. One cannot put down in writing the impact that its array of products have had on our organization, our culture, and our world. Your phone tells you when to turn left and when to turn right. Thanks, Google Maps! Your phone tells you that the phallic object in the middle of Buenos Aires you’re viewing is the Obelisco de Buenos Aires. Thanks, Google Goggles! And on that note, what does “Obelisco” mean in English? Obelisk. Thanks, Google Translate!

Google Now, a new app designed to adapt to where you go and what you do to predict behavior, is creepily amazing. But wait, there’s more!

I won’t go on, but this stuff is incomprehensible. And there are plenty of honorable mentions for me-too products, but we all know they’ve just been modeling themselves after Google.

These five categories and their top apps were chosen because of their utility and surprise. Did we think that we’d be talking to people using video someday? Well, yeah. It was in Back to the Future Part II. That isn’t to say it isn’t impressive; it really is. Social apps and game apps have altered how we interact with peers and friends. We are social beings, and these apps have encouraged social behavior. As I said in the beginning, this list is certainly nowhere near exhaustive––if you had to suggest another, what app has surprised you most?

Author: Eric Swenson

Do You Ever Find Yourself Asking, “How Can I Stay Ahead in This Fast-Paced, Competitive Marketplace?”

For most people, the answer would be a resounding “Yes.” In this day and age, the key to success is making the most of your time, ALL the time. With so many suppliers optimizing their sites for mobile browsing and creating apps for your smartphones and tablets, you can get pricing, specs, and inventory levels with just a few taps. Instead of spending your commute sitting idly, you can utilize this new technology for your benefit. Now you can actually knock off some of the items on your to-do list before you even arrive at the office and get a jump on your day. Or you can hammer away at that pile of work while you are away on vacation before that dreadful Monday morning hits.

For example, armed with just an iPad and my cell phone, I can fulfill my current role at Vanguard of finding the best suppliers and quoting the best possible pricing for our customers no matter where I am. Mobile sites are popping up all over––just check out a few of the leaders in the promotional items industry.

These apps and mobile websites also allow you to see orders in the proofing and production stages, as well as their shipping status, so you can have answers for your clients before you even fire up your desktop at the office. Additionally, you can now check pricing, inventory, and turnaround time remotely, allowing you to easily type up a quote while on the go. Gone are the days of train or flight delays slowing down our productivity when these little challenges come our way. With more and more companies developing these types of user-friendly options for our mobile devices, we can not only improve our time management skills, but deliver superior customer service as well. Soon, we just may be able to steal that famous Army quote: “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.”

Author: Amy Carroll

Nook, Your Tablet Set My iPad on Fire. Are tablets killing the adoption of mobile computing?

Shortly after the iPad 2 launch, the late Steve Jobs welcomed the iMasses into the “post-PC era.” So, post-PC netizens, where are we now?

Let’s review. Apple has a mountain of apps, Amazon has its thunderous cloud, and Barnes and Noble has stacks of books, but who will win the battle of the single-purpose e-readers? The Kindle Fire has Amazon’s huge cloud presence plus some of the cloud-processing and storage services missing from the competition. The Fire lacks cellular data, which means you are tied to Wi-Fi with a petite data stomach; the Fire may leave heavy data-storage users hungry. The tablet and, more importantly, mini-tablet markets are changing, but does it really matter? No. Here’s why.

Mini-tablets comprise the growing market of devices that aren’t iPads or smartphones or laptops or netbooks. These devices tend to be large, pocket-friendly units that are multimedia consumption devices with single-use potential. Encouraging users to consume media and providing a pipe to the mothership’s storefront (an app store) is the operating strategy of these low-priced devices. Much like cigarette makers, the tablet manufacturers and marketplace shopkeepers hope to get users addicted to content for the shiny, colorful screen and then make them pay for all the new, delicious media pieces that the never-ending publishing, music, and movie industries can churn out.

Just how preposterous is this idea of mini-tablets? Let’s examine a few analogies.

Take, for instance, the car industry; assume that every car manufacturer also manufactures all the gas. In order to use your car, you must buy gas from your car manufacturer’s station in order to drive. I don’t think so!

What about a newspaper publisher? What if every publisher owned the store that sells the paper and you could only buy certain brands at one store or face paying a higher premium at a competitor for the same title? Doubtful!

But wait, there’s more.

Take my personal favorite, the desktop printer. First, when a consumer buys a printer, he or she is buying a single-purpose device to be used for one primary function: PRINTING! Yet in order to print, you must spend gobs of money on ink every time one of the colors runs out. (Check out this dated piece by PCWorld on inkjet costs.)

The tablet market is essentially the same. User buys tablet, user becomes addicted to multimedia content from the comfort of his or her lap, user shells out mountains of cash to consume the most current content. This is all fine and dandy until the user wants something that is exclusively tied to another marketplace or device. Then the user waits for the content to be available or consumes it via a different medium, say from a, gasp, bookstore or, double gasp, physical video distribution method like Redbox, Netflix (by mail), or a theatre. Add in the complexity of the app, not just the media content, and the tablet market is even messier.

Why are single-use devices to attractive to the byte-obsessed, always-connected, touchscreen-loving, SMS crowd?
Simple. They do one thing well (or so the advertising tells us). The lower the price at which a user can buy a device that does one thing well, the more attractive these media-consumption portals appear to be. Little do the users know (well, they probably do, but go with it) that once they get addicted to the sweet taste of femur-supported, organized pixel displays of pleasure, delivering virtually all their media requests, that either a big credit card bill or heaping pile of disappointment and frustration lies ahead. They have to choose: Cough up the greenbacks for more digital editions of Wired or The Daily or Mad Men or be left out in the Wi-Fi-required cold with too small a tank to hold their media fuel and no fuel in sight.

Warning, the following content is not suitable for all viewers. Viewer discretion is advised for those who can’t handle the truth.

Segmenting content into different marketplaces may be a great way to make a buck, but it kills the adoption of new technology.

Tablets lack innovation.
Other than the Motorola Xoom, no one has brought anything really cool to the table. Apple gave us the iPad and added gimmicky software, such as gestures and a magnet in the body of the tablet to turn the screen off. Don’t get me wrong––these are great, innovative features––but other than the iPad being the first device to feature them, what is their wow factor? Nothing yet. Make media consumption on my single-purpose device better, damn it. Maybe the 3D obsession was supposed to be a new source of amazement. Yawn… Palm was onto something with the TouchPad and its ability to transfer applications from one device (the Pixi or Pre) to another (like the TouchPad), but bad timing and poor management killed that tech. All we can hope for is that HP may revive it.

Non-smart, non-connected, non-location devices are pointless.
If the phone is the rowboat to all that is digital, then the tablet should be the luxury cruise liner, right? Well, why doesn’t what is on the market match the expectation that bigger should mean more functions? Ford Taurus drivers who upgrade to a Porsche expect more features, so when I upgrade my clunky desktop, laptop, VCR, or library card to a tablet, I should get more features (and not content fences). Likewise, users who have an iOS or Android phone expect more when upgrading to a tablet, but these expectations fall short with the Fire and Nook Tablet. Then again, it may not be an upgrade but rather a segmentation of function, essentially taking reading and watching from a phone and moving it to a tablet. The lack of GPS and cellular data kills the mobile function. Part of the enhanced reading experience is the ability to interact with rich multimedia and content from the web or to pop out to a web browser to follow a call to action in a piece of media. One question: Why don’t advertisers focus more on selling ads for rich, location-enabled devices and the platforms that they use?

There is planned tech obsolescence.
OK, planned obsolescence may be a bit extreme, but users who buy a mini-tablet and want feature upgrades like GPS and cellular data are left hanging. Their addiction to content makes them reliant on one marketplace, with few options for upgrading.

As of yet, we haven’t seen a tablet that changes the model with which we interact with content on a mobile platform. Many would argue that the mini-tablets and tablets have taken media consumption out of the house and moved it anywhere the user wants to go. This is true as long as the user has planned all the content he or she wants to consume before leaving the warm comfort of Wi-Fi. Single-purpose media consumption devices serve just one purpose––media consumption––but without data connection and a rich feature set, these simple devices are changing the behavior of users. What the future impact of these changes will be, we shall find out, but competition in the market is a good thing so far, as long as the jump from mini-tablet to smart tablet becomes shorter and filled with more options.

What say you––are single-purpose mini-tablets useful in widening the adoption of mobile technology and media consumption?

Check out some comparisons of the iPad2, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire here, here, here, and here.

Author: John Carew

15th Annual Webby Awards: Vote Now!

Be part of the 15th Annual Webby Awards by voting for who deserves to take home a People’s Voice Award.

The Webby People’ s Voice Awards honor the year’s best work in websites, interactive advertising, online film & video, and mobile formats. You have an opportunity to view some truly amazing art from great agencies, designers, writers, developers, and others.

Step up onto your soapbox and let the web know who rules your digital world. Voting’s open from
April 12 through April 28, 2011. So get voting now to have your say on who should win.

Kudos and good luck to all who have entered!

Author: Eric Swenson