SiliconFilter

Study: Mobile Web and App Usage Now at Parity

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The online analytics company comScore released its annual "Mobile Future in Focus" report earlier this morning. Just ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, comScore is taking a closer look at how consumers in the U.S., the five largest European markets and Japan are using their phones. The report is far too long to be summarized here, but here is an interesting statistic that I don't think most people are aware of: mobile Internet users now use apps at about almost exactly the same rate as they use the web on their devices.

ComScore 2012 mobile browser and apps

 

 

European Smartphone Users Still Different from their U.S. Counterparts

There are some interesting differences between the U.S. and the top European countries. Even though the overall smartphone penetration is about the same in the U.S., Germany, Spain, France, the UK and Italy (41.8% in the U.S., 44% in those five largest European markets), Europeans don't quite use the mobile web and apps at the same rate as their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.

Maybe this is due to the fact that European and U.S. users do have slightly different usage patterns, with European users, for example, using mobile email significantly less than U.S. users (30% vs. 41%). They also seem to be less interested in using social networking platforms and reading blogs while on the go (26% vs. 35%).

Another factor may be the higher popularity of tablets in the U.S. when compared to every other major market. According to comScore, more than 14% of U.S. smartphone owners also own a tablet. In Germany, that numbers is just 7.4%, while the other European countries fall in between the 8% to 11% range.

ComScore 2012 Mobile Future in Focus pdf  page 28 of 49

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9:59 am


Browsing the iTunes Store Just Got a Little Bit Easier with “Quick Look” Previews

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Here is a small but handy update to Apple's iTunes store: when you hover over an icon for an app, a new little 'i' icon will now appear in the bottom right corner of the screen. Click on it, and a small preview window will appear with all the regular info about the app. You can see screenshots and, of course, also buy the apps, songs and videos right from these previews.

Previews for Apps, Videos and Albums

For videos, a small play icon now also appears when you hover over their respective icons. Press one of these, and a preview of the song or video will start playing. For albums, the preview windows displays the contents of the album.

As Cult of Mac's Alex Heath notes, this looks quite a bit like the "quick look" feature in Apple's Mac OS X.

Here is what it looks like:

ITunes previews

 



3:37 pm


Connect Your Car to NPR: Ford Brings Voice-Controlled NPR Streaming App to SYNC

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Here is another nail in the coffin of traditional terrestrial drive-time radio: Ford and NPR just announced the launch of NPR's updated Android and iPhone apps with support for Ford's SYNC AppLink service that connects your phone to your car's built-in infotainment system. With this app, Ford drivers who own compatible vehicles will, for example, be able to get on-demand access to NPR's newscasts by simply using a voice command like "hourly news" to start the program.

Control NPR With Your Voice

Ford is deeply invested in making voice control a central feature of its in-car user experience (partly for safety reasons), so the NPR app, too, will make heavy use of the built-in voice recognition features that are part of SYNC. Some of the examples Ford notes are the ability to select programs like Car Talk or Tell Me More by just asking your car to play them. In addition, you can also get access to recent stories from NPR's many programs by asking for "stories" and then the topic you are interesting in (say "science").

You can also use the app on your phone to create your own custom playlist before you start driving, of course.

While Ford has launched a number of AppLink-compatible apps in recent months, this is the first dedicated news app for the service and NPR's first foray into the world of connected cars. As with other AppLink apps, you do bring your own wireless connection to the car. This is Ford's model for in-car connectivity in general. Other car makers have opted for partnerships with wireless carriers to bring the Internet to their cars.

Given how many people already stream music and radio programs over the Internet in their cars, we can only hope that others will follow suit (iHeartRadio seems like a natural partner).

More New SYNC Apps from TeleNav and Ford Itself

Ford today also announced two other apps that support AppLink, including one for TeleNav's newly announced personal navigator Scout.me service and a new version of Ford's own SYNC Destinations App.

Ford's SYNC AppLink is available on a range of 2012 models, including the Fiesta, Mustang, Fusion and F150.

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5:00 pm


Google+ Now Available for Google Apps Users

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Google just announced that Google+, the company’s new social network, is now available for Google Apps users as well. That means all of you who have Google Accounts through work or school (or simply because you use the free version for your own domain) can now finally access Google+.

One of the tweaks for Google Apps users is that you can’t just share content publicly and with your circles, but that you will also have the option to share with everybody in your organization. Google+ will automatically create a circle for your organization.

The administrator of your Google Apps account will have to turn Google+ on manually (unless your domain is set up to enable new services automatically), but once that’s done, you can simply sign up with your Google Apps account and get going. Google is rolling this service out slowly, so it may take a few days before you get access to Google+ for your Google Apps account.

It took Google quite a while to turn on Google+ for Apps users. Adding support was one of the most requested feature for Google+ ever since its launch. It’ll be interesting to see how businesses will use Google+ internally.

Be Careful Who You Share With…

It’s worth remembering that Steve Yegge’s infamous Google platform rant only became public because he mistakenly shared his story publicly instead of internally, so make sure you check your sharing settings before you hit that publish button…



5:28 pm


Kindle Fire: A Minor Threat to the iPad, Major Threat to Other Android Tablets

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Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet runs Android, has a nice screen, is fast, cheap ($199), features an innovative browser, and – thanks to being an Android tablet at heart – offers support for thousands of apps out of the box. I doubt, however, that it’s a major threat to the iPad. The tablet manufacturers that should be very worried however, are those who are also in the Android business, including Barnes & Noble with its $249 Nook Color. The reason for this, I think, is Amazon’s superior ecosystem and the low, low price.

Before the Kindle Fire, There Was No Android Tablet Market

My basic theory of the tablet market until now was always that there really wasn’t one – there was only an iPad market (I must have picked this idea up from someone, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I first heard it). The Android tablets on the market today are about as expensive as Apple’s iPad, but consumers just don’t want them at that price point. In terms of hardware, they are often comparable with the iPad, though the software still lags behind in some areas.

When you talk about tablets to mainstream users, though, all they think about is the iPad. That may be due to Apple’s brand and smart marketing, or the failure of the other manufacturers to position and price their devices in the right way. The result so far has been very clear, though: Apple can barely keep up with demand and the others couldn’t find buyers.

The Kindle Fire: Let The Android Tablet Price Wars Begin

At $199, however, the Kindle Fire could change this. I doubt it will hurt the iPad (though it may siphon off some users), but it will hurt the other Android tablet manufacturers.

The Fire is a pared-down tablet – no doubt about it. It’s small, doesn’t feature a camera, and there is no optional 3G connection either. It’s a perfectly capable tablet, though, and does the things most users want to do on their tablets: surf the web (with the fast new Silk browser, that shouldn’t be a problem), read books, read magazines and watch movies and TV shows. All of this, Amazon is giving users for a price nobody else can currently match. There may not be a camera on the Fire, but I don’t think that’s a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. It does what most consumers want to do with their tablet and at $199, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon ended up with supply issues ahead of this year’s holiday season.

What About the Nook?

As a 7” tablet from a company known mostly for selling books, the Kindle Fire also obviously competes directly with the $249 Nook Color from Barnes & Noble. The price difference here may only be $50, but I doubt B&N will sell a lot of Nooks (even if they reduce the price to $199, too) given that Amazon’s ecosystem is vastly superior to B&N’s.

Will Users Want a Basic 7” Tablet?

The tablet market outside of the iPad world is still young. It still remains to be seen whether consumers will really take to smaller tablets. I have no doubt, though, that many will look at the full-price competition from Samsung, Acer and others and buy the $199 Amazon tablet instead (and maybe a basic $79 Kindle as a stocking stuffer as well).



4:58 pm


Facebook Announces Major Changes at F8: Here Are All the Announcements

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Facebook kicked off its F8 developer conference with a large number of product announcements by the company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives and developers today. Here is a rundown of all the major announcements.

New From Facebook: Timeline, Music Apps, Lightweight Status Updates

As Zuckerberg noted at the beginning of his keynote, the early years of social networking were about getting people signed up and connecting them. According to him, the next era of social network is about social apps and other products that these connections make possible. To do so, Facebook introduced new ways to share more lightweight updates and also announced a completely redesigned profile page today. Instead of just “linking” content, Facebook is shifting more towards sharing everything you do. Apps can now automatically share everything you do in them automatically to Facebook – assuming you allow them to do so.

Judging from today’s announcements, Facebook really, really wants you to share everything you do – and by making more and more of these updates automatic (like the songs you listen to on Spotify), it will soon be aggregating far more information about its users than ever before. It remains to be seen how its users will react to this.
[list]

  • Timeline: Timeline is, according to Zuckerberg, “the story of your life.” Timeline is basically a wider, more visual version of your old profile. It will give users access to all of their apps, stories and a better way to express “who you are.” Split into multiple columns, the timeline basically shows all of your updates in one place and on an endlessly scrolling page. Timeline will also be available for mobile devices. Timeline will be in beta for a while. Developers will get access today and everybody else can sign up for it today. Facebook hopes to roll it out to all users over the “next few weeks.”

    For Facebook, the timelines is all about giving people a way to tell “the story of their lives.” It’s somewhat similar to the old wall, but with a stronger focus on all the important things you did in the past. As you go back in time, Facebook will summarize more of your events, though it’s not quite clear how the company decides which events were really important to you in the past.More from Zuckerberg: “People feel an intense ownership over their profile. Millions of people have spent a ton of time telling the story of their life on their profile. Timeline is an important next step in telling the story of your life.”
  • Reports: instead of just showing you everything you have done, these new reports will summarize how you use apps over time (think reports for your RunKeep updates).
  • Next Version of OpenGraph and a New Class of Apps: “Connect to anything in any way you want.” With the new lightweight sharing feature, Facebook wants to give its users the ability to share more things without annoying their friends by putting all of these updates in their newsfeed. All your media, news and book updates from web and mobile apps will go into the recently launched ticker feature but not into the newsfeed. This new class of apps will also automatically share your updates to the ticker without prompting you to share things every time it does so.
    • Music/Movies: Facebook has partnered with a number of music and online video companies to allow users to listen to music and watch movies together on Facebook. Among these are Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, Rhapsody, turntable.fm, MOG and others. Thanks to the new lightweight updates, you can now see what your friends are watching or listening to right now.
      The fundamental shift  these updates really show best is the move from just “liking” things to participating in events together.
    • Social News Apps: besides these media companies, Facebook also partnered with publishers like the Guardian, digg, The Daily, Slate, TPM, Yahoo, Flipboard and others to allow their users to easily share everything they read in their respective Facebook apps. One interesting announcement here is that The Daily, which until now was an iPad-only publication, is bringing its app to Facebook.
    • Social Games: Unsurprisingly, Facebook game developers will also be able to hook into these lightweight updates that will automatically push content to the ticker.
    • Lifestyle Apps: Facebook worked with companies like AirBnB, Byliner, Color, Foodspotting and others to bring lifestyle updates to the ticker as well. This means you can now share every recipe you cooked from your favorite recipe app automatically to Facebook and then see everything you cooked in your Timeline and the new reports feature later on.[/list]


4:56 pm


Amazon Launches HTML5-Based Kindle Cloud Reader to Sidestep Apple’s Rules

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Amazon launched Cloud Reader today, a browser-based eReading application that allows it to work around Apple’s rules for in-app purchases and subscriptions.

Apple has set strict rules for how vendors can use its platform to enable in-app sales and subscriptions. To work around these rules, Amazon and many other e-book vendors recently removed links to their websites from their native iOS apps, allowing them to skirt some of Apple’s rules and avoid paying extra fees to Apple. This, however, also degrades the user experience significantly. Thanks to Apple’s rules, though, we are now also seeing even more development efforts around HTML5-based web apps for offline reading of books, newspapers and magazines. As these apps run in the browsers, they don’t have to follow Apple’s rules and don’t have to go through the App Store approval process.

The Financial Times, for example, decided not to give Apple 30% of the money it makes from in-app subscriptions and launched an HTML5 app instead. Today, Amazon joined the fray by launching Cloud Reader, a web-based e-book reader that can also be used offline thanks to HTML5’s built-in caching mechanism. Cloud Reader works in Safari and Chrome, but not in Firefox. It looks especially good on the iPad, but doesn’t work on the iPhone (yet).

cloud_reader_large

HTML5 vs. Native Apps

Cloud Reader is, without doubt, one of the finest examples of how a well-designed HTML5 app can easily compete with a native app. The fact that the focus here is on text, of course, helps, as an e-reader doesn’t need fancy animations to work well. The app does, however, feature some nice animations here and there and, most importantly, offers deep integration with Amazon’s Kindle store, something that is still missing from the company’s native apps.

Among the few things that don’t work in the web app are swipe gestures (to skip pages, you can only click on the edge of the screen), but otherwise, every feature you would expect from a Kindle app is here. Once you add a bookmark to the app to your iPad homescreen, you wouldn’t even know that you’re not using a native app if it wasn’t for the slower response time when you skip pages.

Right Now, Mostly Developed for iPad – Coming to Other Devices Soon

In the long run, Amazon will likely bring Cloud Reader to other platforms as well. Right now, it seems specifically targeted at iPad users, but the beauty of a web app is that it could allow developers to bring the same service to virtually every web-capable device.

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3:28 pm