Mobile phones dominate in South Africa

South africa tech

From the Neilsen blog.

As I spend half my time there and its where my family live, here’s some really interesting stats:

More Africans have access to mobile phones than to clean drinking water

In South Africa, the continent’s strongest economy, mobile phone use has gone from 17 percent of adults in 2000 to 76 percent in 2010.

Today, more South Africans – 29 million – use mobile phones than radio (28 million), TV (27 million) or personal computers (6 million).

Only 5 million South Africans use landline phones.

Quite staggering


Travel is the benchmark for mobile

Iphone travel app pack
(image from Lifehacker)

An article at Tnooz from Jason Taylor, VP of platform strategy at Usablenet which outlines why the travel industry has found itself as the benchmark for mobile with early adopters among business travellers driving the overall market forward for other verticals. There’s quite a lot I would add but this exactly why I chose to work where I do!

To summarise:

Business travelers were one of the the first to rely on their mobile phones to access the Internet for productivity purposes, and importantly, this demographic was also the first that could afford smartphones – with companies subsidizing the cost of best-in-class mobile devices to keep their employees productive while on the road.

The reality of business travelers using the mobile web in large numbers resulted in travel companies being the first to optimize specifically for the channel – with airlines to hotels to all companies in the travel ecosystem devoting significant resources to develop mobile sites and apps.

Some milestones:

1. Mobile commerce – in 2006 Amtrak became the first travel company to launch an optimized mobile site that offered transactions to all Internet-enabled mobile devices.

2. Reaching a global mobile audience – in 2007 Northwest Airlines became the first truly international mobile site by introducing support of 13 Asian languages.

3. Leveraging mobile apps for increased brand loyalty – In the hotel industry, Omni Hotels was the first to offer mobile applications for the iPhone and BlackBerry – recognizing the need for dedicated native apps on the major mobile platforms.

4. Location-aware features enhance the mobile travel experience – in 2011 Expedia was among the first to incorporate location-aware features into its optimized mobile site by leveraging new HTML5 technologies – allowing features like push notifications to be more easily accessible to the traveler.
Also Expedia is innovating in location and mobile is by leveraging the smartphone’s internal GPS to offer travelers the ability to search for hotels with same day vacancies near their physical location.

Cognitive Surplus

Screen shot 2012 01 12 at 19 03 48

Knitted brain from here

A plug.

With the publication of Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky available to buy here I thought that gave me the right to post the text of a speech he gave which I re-read often.

It’s called Gin, Television and Social Surplus from the Web 2.0 conference in 2008. It’s what “here comes everybody” is all about at it’s heart and it obviously led to Cognitive Surplus.

I re-read it because it reminds me:

Wikipedia = 100million hours of thought and by that reckoning we spend 2.000 Wikipedia projects a year watching television.

World of Warcraft Guilds – Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves – at least they’re doing something.

The things we can do and make doesn’t mean that we’ll never sit around mindlessly watching Scrubs on the couch. It just means we’ll do it less.

“We’re going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, “If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?” And I’m betting the answer is yes.”

Count me in.

Text follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing simple design isn’t always so simple


See the whole interactive panorama at Gilles Vidal’s photography site

Designing for the mobile is often seen as a process of simplification or an effort to “strip out functionality to the core essence of the service.”

Simplicity in design should be a given but is the process of ‘mobilization not miniaturisation” as straightforward?

Interesting perspective here which raises some very good thoughts.

In essence a highly complex functional product can have a “clean” interface – think Google or a product with few features can look cluttered – think Craigslist.

Interestingly portals, dashboards etc. can look very cluttered but are made up of simple elements (see pic above!) The key to making these systems easy to use is to work on matching displays to mental models, and training users on the proper mental models.

Given that growth is inevitable due to added functionality or scale (discuss? – actually I don’t agree with that) an original clean interface may simply stop working. But then pushing things too far to simplify may mean that users are unable to complete their key goals.

This puts it quite well.


Mobile driving innovation


Pic courtesy of ifixit

One of the many reasons that I choose to work with mobile technology is that it is often at the leading edge of disruption and transformation.

This is especially true of the travel industry (as I have commented here).

However, Techcrunch has a piece showing that mobile innovation is blowing away pc’s. Rapid advancement in mobile is often attributed to the natural disruption by which emerging industries innovate quickly, while established markets like PCs follow a slower, more sustained trajectory.

However, the article discusses “deeper fundamentals driving the breathtaking pace of smartphone advancement. Component vendors supplying to smartphone OEMs have evolved a much different DNA than those supplying to PC makers. Smartphones are an evolution of embedded systems, not PCs, and embedded markets have long favored vendors who don’t simply provide the most highly integrated chipsets, but who can also partner with OEMs to drive system-level integration and software at a rapid pace.”

For example, in terms of hardware/chipset integration “smartphone vendors have traditionally competed in a much more fragmented supply chain, integrating at a breakneck pace just to survive.  Today’s 3G wireless chipsets integrate GPS, Bluetooth, and 802.11n on a single chip. ”

At systems level “Dozens of component vendors fight each other to the death to win designs at smartphone OEMs. This competitive dynamic forms an entirely different basis for how component vendors approach system integration and support.”

On the software platform everyone is following Apple’s lead and Google seems committed to moving their OS forward. In addition “The competitive interplay between Apple and Google will continue to help smartphone software outpace PCs. But iOS and Android also benefit wildly from the structure of the smartphone industry. Apple and Google are pushed not just by each other, but by the symbiotic advancement in chipsets and the system integration work of component vendors”


Twitter bigbird nextnature 530x346

Really just an excuse to use the wonderful image above.

Although did remind me of this article by Tim Young: “Our Changing Information Diet” which is worth reading for a nostalgic view of (only about 15 years) the time when we probably had much healthier information diets.

“our food consumption and information consumption habits actually closely resemble each other”

Poor information diets are as calorie rich, abundant and unhelpful as their nutritional equivalents.

As we continue to increase the number of people we follow and the number of feeds we consume, we are all increasing the complexity of our information diet. The question is does Increasing the complexity and volume of information we ingest can have a similar effect to increasing your daily intake of calories?

As the saying goes “data is free, meaning has value” – or for that read – we have no shortage of food just a need to follow a healthy diet.

Mobile IS Local


Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine puts the location being at the heart of the mobile experience very well.

So here’s the key parts of it.

“The winner in local will be the one that knows more about what’s around me right now. Using my smartphone’s GPS and maps—or using Google Googles to simply take a picture of, say, a club on the corner—I can ask the web what it knows about that place. Are any of my friends there now? (Foursquare or Gowalla or soon Facebook and Twitter and Google Buzz could tell me.) Do my friends like the place? (Facebook and Yelp have the answer.) Show me pictures and video from inside (that’s just geo-tagged content from Flickr and YouTube). Show me government data on the place (any health violations or arrests? Everyblock has that). What band is playing there tonight? Let me hear them. Let me buy their music. What’s on the menu? What’s the most popular dish? Give me coupons and bargains. OK, now I’ll tell my friends (on Twitter and Facebook) that I’m there and they’ll follow”

To do all this, Google—or the next Google—needs two things: First, it needs more data; it needs us to annotate the world with information (if Google can’t find this data elsewhere on the web, it will create the means for us to generate it). Second, Google needs to know more about us—it needs more signals such as location, usage history, and social networks—so it can make its services more relevant to us.