Posts Tagged ‘ Apple ’

Smartphone Advertising: Harder, better, faster – yet as daft as you are punk.

The battle for your hands and pockets has reached fever pitch as the apparent pinnacle of our Technological civilisation, The Smartphone has reached a plateau in innovation.

Actually that’s slightly disingenuous, there is still massive innovation happening in the industry, but appears to appeal solely to phone geeks. Thinner screens, increased battery life, better cameras, better graphics, improved UX – all good. But who’s impressed?

Meet the new phone, same as the old phone.

However as was seen with the Galaxy S4 and to an extent the IPhone 5 launch the blogosphere, if not the public, are getting increasingly nonplused about our current crop of top end handsets.

We’ve passed the point where these new devices will dramatically change your life. Sure, you still have ‘new phone smell’ but its impact has diminished over time since that first blissful app purchase. They’ve even lost social talkability – they won’t make you the coolest kid on the block as you join the daily telephonic beauty parade with your friends, unless you are a rebel of course with a Blackberry or Windows 8 phone where there might be some mild curiosity.

Faster! Lighter! Stronger! Longer Best yet! New & Improved! Blah.

These aren’t the words of innovation but iteration. To be honest it’s more FMCG than Luxury IT. I can just see Don Draper, getting his ‘creative’ on sketching out a fifties super-mom, next to the sink, vacuum cleaner strategically place with the a new phone in one hand and Camel filterless in the other. ‘Because sometimes, a burden shared is a burden halved’.

Waiting in the wings of course is the next little thing. This years arms race is the over abundance of smart watches to be strapped to us by year end. Of course for me, the last watch I wore was a Casio calculator watch in the eighties, so it offers the opportunity to relive my geeky childhood(?!?). The joke is of course this will reduce necessity to have the latest and greatest phone, placing it even further down your priority list.

So What’s the Story?

Microsoft launched their shiny new telly ad for the Nokia 920 this week; a mildly amusing fistfight between Apple and Samsung users at a wedding, with the strapline ‘Don’t Fight. Switch’. Pretty much describing Microsoft and Nokia’s own fortunes over the last decade. Should probably say ‘Switch back’. Even though it had ‘an idea’ it still left me cold so I decided to check out the various offline campaigns from the competition and was pretty horrified.

For once I’m going to have to use some visual aids:


Objectives

Normally I would reverse engineer an individual campaign but frankly they are so much of a muchness it’s hard to discern one from the other, so instead I’ve decided to lump them all together and focus on decoding the combined objectives. Before I begin I can say, ‘I feel their pain’.

Create a positive distinction in category

Faster, more clarity, easier, more connected, less connected, sings happy birthday on voice command, tells you where to go and occasionally to get lost, stores your precious memories as you lost your own and most importantly show that we’re not Apple – even if we are!

Illustrate typical useage

Look at me you can take pictures and keep in touch with your friends! Oh yeah and Apps, Apps, and more Apps. Please make sure you never ever show anyone actually talking on it.

Demonstrate new product features

You can shoot pictures of yourself whilst stalking somebody, catch the errant bathing suit with our rewind feature, or assist in having your house burgled by constantly reminding people you aren’t at home. Not to forget the ‘with new and improved yadda yadda’!

Appeal to a broad (any) demographic

…as long as it isn’t geeks. We especially like young, white, active, healthy, thin, affluent hipster types messing around with fountains, skateboards, and on the odd mountaintop. They must all be overly attached to hugging their friends for no apparent reason whilst not appearing to be on drugs. Feel free to be ‘quirky’ to demonstrate openness but only within the bounds of ‘Friends’, not ‘Animal House’. If necessary you can throw in a bit of an ethnic mix to show that we don’t discriminate.

Build on the emotional connection between you and your phone

Please ensure there are plenty of babies, grannies, little kids, graduations, holidays, romantic dinners and sunrises all brought to you by us. Make sure they know it never happened if you didn’t take a picture of it, and update your status.

Show off the sleek lightweight design

It’s like – a screen with like really smooth edges, and like some really cool bevels, or even better sharp edges denoting precision. But the best thing is it’s so huge you will need to get new pockets to make it fit or so small you’ll need to get the holes in your pockets fixed and…Oh yeah It’s like shiny!

Reassure users that your phone is the smart buy

Show others with competing phones to be exactly the opposite of your cool, suave, white-ish hipster types. Where possible provide situations to illustrate them to be poor befuddled disempowered sheep and/or zombies with no will of their own. Especially when you are trying to convince them to switch from one brand to another.

Be Smug

Be smug.

Tips for the top

  1. The transition from life altering to commodity does not provide an excuse for abuse. Insulting the audience intelligence is rarely a good move. The same people who you target online and create those extraordinary engagement programmes for, are most likely the same people who watch your ads. Even if they don’t watch them on telly, they will see them and rate you accordingly.
  2. See 1

Are we really the people that these campaigns profess to appeal to? Do they exist? If so the world is a pretty scary place. Now I must remember to tweet that, whilst hugging someone.

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

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Thoughts on the Ipad

Thoughts on the iPad

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had an iPad for a month now and am so far amazed. I can’t remember the last time a bit of hardware has had a profound impact on my day-to-day life.

‘A Big iPhone’

Not. Anybody who says it’s just a big iphone/touch misses the point entirely –  it’s the other way around – the iPhone is a small and cramped iPad. You simply can’t dismiss the feel of it and the thought behind the gestural language that was seeded on the trackpads and phones but blooms on the glorious screen.

the ‘I’ Pad

One of the less reported traits of the iPad is that it redefines ‘Personal’ computing. The fact is – an unsullied iPad is literally a blank slate – pretty but dull – a soul less hunk of metal, glass and plastic. There is no way to talk about ones experiences of the iPad without living with it for a while and making it your own. The day it arrived my wife asked me “what are you going to do with it?” and to be honest I’m still not entirely sure but I’m going to share how I’m using it right now.

Video

The media side of the iPad was something I was extremely excited about – I’m geeky enough to want to a £500 portable telly and for my sins I got one. Using the wonderful Air Video I can connect to my network media drive and stream pretty much any video format with no waiting and no iTunes. It absolutely rocks. With the addition of Elgato’s Eyetv app (still not iPad native but works well enough) gives me live TV, wherever.  The elephant in the room with  video is the aspect ratio but I’d be happy if they simply let me choose how much I wanted to zoom because at the moment it’s either overly letter-boxed or cropped at least in Apples own video app. I imagine that would be fairly trivial to implement but what do I know!

News & Browsing

They really weren’t kidding when they talked about how great an experience browsing is – it’s just stunning and works. Everything just feels ‘solid’  and when browsing in portrait mode sites just look so much better than they do with ‘the landscape ‘fold’. I hadn’t actually noticed the ability to create bookmarks on the home screen on my iphone because frankly I didn’t browse very much but instead of waiting for linkedin and facebook to be updated to the ipad I’m perfectly happy just going to the sites themselves.  That said I still don’t actually surf that much, I prefer feeds and Newsrack is currently the best on the ipad and works a treat.

Kids

My two year old immediately picked it up and started playing. Not all together unexpected as he’s had a iPod Touch for about a year so it made perfect sense to him. The potential here for education is truly amazing. It’s here where you really feel the ‘personal’ bit tho’. On his touch I’ve simply removed all the other apps and left the kiddy stuff but now he has a million and one icons to navigate (and delete arbitrarily as is his want). I’m hoping that the folders in next version of the OS with help a little.

Work

From a day job perspective it was an exciting prospect. I work in planning and strategy and the key tools for me are sketching, organisation and presentation apps.  I’ve played around a fair bit with Omnigraffle which even though it’s very very much a version 1 it is fantastic for pulling together those little ‘planner charts’. This experience is extremely marred almost to the point of being useless by having to then plug in the iPad into Itunes to retrieve my sketches for further development. That’s not Omni’s fault – that’s Apple and to be fair something which I suspect will be addressed, across the board. Sooner the better. also worth noting is Sketchy –  a sweet little app for pulling together wireframes, doesn’t have anywhere near the flexibility of omnigraffle but if all you need to do is bosh out a few quickies in a meeting it does the trick.  The poster child for usability and portability is mega-todo list Things which wi-fi syncs between desktop, Ipad and Iphone absolutely seamlessly. Alas as I don’t have a U.S. iTunes account I haven’t been able to try out the iWork applications but in the mean time happy to be able to take notes, sketch and present as PDF’s pushed over from keynote on the mac.

Ipad & VNC

Thanks to iTeleport I can now remarkably easily remote control all the other machines I’ve got in my house. I used to screen share from my laptop into my media server and player respectively whenever I wanted to do anything more than changed the channel (which I do through my iphone). The ‘touch’ mode in iteleport works perfectly and the refresh rate is not so bad depending on atmospheric conditions in my home network. In fact I recently started helping out on a screenplay using Adobe Story – which of course is flash based and hence an Ipad no-no. However, I’ve been simply leaving the app open on a mac mini at home and vnc’ing to use, write and review – not quite as neat as a dedicated app but a nifty work around for now.

Jailbreaking & Ipad 3G

OK, I admit it- I did it. Didn’t have a good reason other than to check out what the ‘scene’ was up to and it’s now ridiculously easy with the ‘Spirit’ app. Yes I can now run apps in the background but have realised that Steve was largely right in that you generally don’t need it. I’m sure there will be some great apps out soon (especially looking forward to wi-fi sync working on the ipad which is imminent apparently). If you are brave it’s worth checking out Full-force – it forces native iPhone apps into iPad resolutions – didn’t work on most games I tried –  but on tardy apps it’s a workable stop gap – Ocado and the Guardian for instance.  However it’s actually the iphone/mywi setup which impresses – it simply allows me to tether my iphone to my ipad when I *really* need to get online. Which is rarely at it turns since all my mail, news and social stuff is being pushed to the iphone anyway. As such I genuinely haven’t missed having a 3g Ipad at all!

Designing for Ipad

From my experience so far I don’t actually see the necessity to design ‘specifically’ for the ipad –  but its definitely an opportunity. I can pretty much guarantee that if you make it look good on the ipad it’ll still look good on a desktop so there’s an argument that you might as well.

Orientation

It’s astonishing to see just how ‘traditionally’ well designed sites work on the ipad. If you stick to the current standards around navigation and page structure most things look great. The main consideration is that you now have multiple ‘folds’ depending on orientation. In Landscape mode is unsurprisingly near enough identical to a normal desktop or laptop – most sites are designed for 1024×768 anyway.  The gag is that you actually get back about 30 pixels due to the fact there are no menus and it’s not in an unsightly window.   It’s the addition of the portrait view which adds extra opportunities. In portrait it feels like and is almost double the viewable area. Obviously all they are doing simply scaling to the width of the screen so if you do the maths your fold will be at  (1024/768)*1024 = 1365.  Given this – If I was designing specifically for the ipad  and don’t need to scroll vertically it’s a logical place to ‘hard’ position a footer to frame a page and remove scrolling entirely and give the site itself much more of an ‘app’ feel.

Depth

Additionally there is a fantastic opportunity to design sites with ‘depth’. Since all you have to do is double tap to zoom you could cram in a huge amount of content – you simply would never do on a mouse based browser – and then simply zoom in and out to read.

Sideways

It occurred that since you are always swiping, that horizontal scrolling might be fun. I’ve had a play around with some sideways scrolling sites for a laugh and to be honest it doesn’t work terribly well. The ipad is optimised to condense and scroll vertically and whilst it’s obviously easier swiping than dragging mice around it’s slightly counter intuitive and clunky. I wouldn’t design like a shop for instance where you want to insure that folk actually see what you want them to see. There’s also the other fundamental problem of orientation if you designed something which was no doubt incredibly pretty at 1024×1365 to be viewed horizontally you’d of course be 4 ways scrolling in landscape mode (plus the ipad would probably get all confused about how to scale stuff although haven’t tried that yet)!

Navigation

One of the other considerations when designing for the ipad is navigation positioning – the tradition of the left hand nav is counter intuitive if you are holding the ipad in your left hand and using your right hand to navigate as your hand now covers the entire screen. (The lefties finally got one up on us!). It does beg the question for the future – do we need to start making the nav location entirely customisable?

Irritations

It’s heavy, it wants a camera and some of the interface elements haven’t been well enough thought through – but it’s version 1 so I forgive all of that. What I don’t forgive and what nobody seems to want to talk about is iTunes. It destroys an otherwise fantastic experience. It’s about time that Apple bit the bullet and ripped the bloody thing apart and rebuilt it from scratch. The iTunes store and anything to do with video or managing applications is just awful. I didn’t mind it so much with my iphone but then I wasn’t having to sync all the time. It’s slow, it’s buggy, it’s bloatware and it needs some major love.

The Game-Shifting Paradigm-Changer.

Being a 1.0 digital dude I miss that days we used to talk about paradigm shifts and I believe that this is one of those. Everything we knew or thought we knew about the relationship between a carbon and silicon based life forms is in flux and the iPad is the catalysing expression of a frustration with technology you didn’t know you had.

At least for me, you will probably think differently, but that’s the point.

Adobe Flash, an identity crisis?

See, this is what you get when you have too much time on your hands 😉

I had the honour of attending an absolutely fantastic dinner last week hosted by Robin from Adobe to get feedback on how Flash is doing and how it can be best used by UK digital agencies. Attending were a bunch of well known industry miscreants from Lightmaker, Kerb, Hi-Res, Lbi, Underwired, Us two & Iris Digital plus my unemployed self.

It was a great opportunity to think and discuss the role of Flash in 2010 and I thought I’d share!

Disclosure: 1) I use a Mac and 2) I installed click2flash some time ago and my laptop battery has thanked me for it.

There has been much discussion about Flash in recent weeks around Apple & Adobe’s relationship – I’m not terribly interested in that, to be honest it’s more about dollars and cents than providing a better user experience, so I’m not going to add to the muck slinging.

As I see it and what I find interesting is that Flash is entering a stage of it’s development that isn’t dissimilar to where Director was a decade ago.

Whilst the technology is mature and well adopted it’s not clear exactly what its purpose is anymore. Lets think about what it currently is used for:

In Browser

Banners / Overlays – Face it, folk hate overlays and their effectiveness is plummeting plus ad blocking is now common place so that’s not a future.

Flash Sites – It’s been a very very long time since a client turned round to me and requested a big bloated multimedia experience – which is where Flash excelled. In fact in the last year I’ve had more clients express a preference as say that they didn’t want flash on the site which tells you something.

Flash Navigation – Accessibility and common sense did away with that, not going to miss it.

Flash Components on Sites – yep, they are everywhere but the vast majority of them (at least the sites I look at) are simply glorified news tickers which could be quickly and easily implemented is HTML these days

Flash Video – There were no alternatives, but now there are just look at Vimeo & youtube. Realistically video playback should be have been browser native for the last few years anyway.

Games – Ah – well here we go – there isn’t anything (with the exception of Silverlight) that allows you to make (certain types of) games well in browser – definitely scope there if you are into that kind of thing. Casual & Social gaming is peaking right now and Flash is a great tool for these kinds of things.

On Mobile (in Browser)

See above. The launch of 10.1 is nice if you want that ‘rich’ mobile experience but I’m happy with the stripped down gimme-the-fact’s and get rid of the bling efficiency that’s required when wandering down the street.

On Mobile (Applications)

Definitely something in this, whether it’s “Appstore” or the newly announced multi-provider “NotAppStoreHonest” there is no getting away from the fact that having a solid and familiar development environment to develop mobile applications is extremely compelling. I’m both excited and scared to see what the mobile output from CS5 is likely to be. Unfortunately, and this has absolutely nothing to do with Flash, the problem with Apps in general is the rapid commoditisation of the whole sector and general inability to find good ones.

Desktop Applications

As with mobile apps, Air apparently (not a developer) allows reasonably quick and painless cross platform development – at least for certain types of Apps.

Console (Browser)

The implementation of flash at the moment on all three platforms is a few steps behind the current ones I’m sure that’ll be addressed at some point but if you look back at the first point, all the same things apply plus you’ve got the 10 foot view to consider, not least it’s a pain in the arse navigating a flash site (or any sites for the most part) on a console

Console (Games)

Not applicable. Eh? So you can’t just simply port your lovely little casual game to Wiiware, XBLA or PSN? Missed opportunity or what – casual gaming is all the rage right now, surely you would want to continue the experience from playing at work to playing at home?

Anyway the point I’m trying to make is that Flash has reached a cross roads, it’s been all things to all people for a good decade. I have this feeling that Adobe should be focusing on where the strengths of the platform lie and what contexts are most appropriate. Is it a browser plugin or an app development environment?

Simply put what is Flash for these days?

Hence the identity crisis: I’m sure there are a few of you out there who have an opinion, bring it 😉

j

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