Smartphones… Now What? A Smartwatch?

By Logan Arnett and Todd Bacile | January 31, 2013

Pebble Smartwatch

A New Mobile Device

Pebble just might be the answer to the title’s question. The Pebble is a “smartwatch” that connects to iPhones or Androids via Bluetooth. The watch is customizable just like your smartphone with the various apps that are available in the “WatchApp” store.

The notion of wearable computer devices has been around a long time. Some of you may remember back in the early 1990s a company by the name of Xybernaut Corp. as an early pioneer of wearable computer devices. Demand for its products never took off and the company ultimately filed for bankruptcy. Perhaps this idea was before its time, considering that today’s mobile device functionality has greatly changed since the 1990s.

Back to the Pebble: the simplest apps will allow the user to customize the watch face display and the overall theme of the watch. From there the possibilities seem to be endless. The team behind the Pebble is releasing an Open SDK for app developers to use their creativity to test the limits of the watch.

Compatibility with Mobile Apps

The Pebble already boasts a strong base of applications. Fitness-based applications  for biking, running, and even a rangefinder for the golf course each use the GPS from your phone along with the built-in accelerometer to monitor your movement. There are numerous push-notifications (Facebook, Twitter, Weather Alerts) that you can set your watch to vibrate. If your hands are full during a task and someone calls, texts, or e-mails you, one quick glance at your wrist can tell you how urgent that notification is.

The Pebble can also be used to play music or even as a controller for your music apps. Put your iPhone on the dock to your speakers and you can change the song or control the volume from your wrist. This initial base of apps appears to cover the basics and only time will tell what unique designs and apps will come from this new platform.

Appearance and Display

The watch itself has a very sleek and stylish appearance. The Pebble is available in three colors; Arctic White, Jet Black, and Cherry Red, and a fourth color that is being voted on by the companies kickstarter backers. The screen /watch face does not appear to be bulky at all, which allows for more comfort.

You can view the time or your notifications on the E-Paper display, even in direct sunlight, and the battery can last for over seven days with the display being in constant use. The display uses a scratch and shatter resistant lens to go along with the anti-glare E-Paper screen. The Pebble is even water-resistant, but they have not determined the exact certification level for this.

Is the Pebble the future of the digital and social world? We will have to wait and see as this “smartwatch” progresses through the preliminary generations. There are already rumors of some complications with production of the Pebble, but the first 500 were shipped out to kickstarter backers on January 23, 2013.

What apps would you want on your “smartwatch?” Leave your comments below.

Logan Arnett is a Director of Sales, Marketing, and Social Media in the hospitality industry. He enjoys keeping up with and trying to find the future of digital trends. You can connect with him on Twitter @Logan_Arnett and LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/loganarnett/. Todd Bacile teaches Electronic Marketing at Florida State University and is one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile

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Transitioning from Mobile Websites to Mobile Apps

By Todd Bacile | January 28, 2013

Mobile Apps

Mobile ubiquitous connectivity is changing how consumers connect with brands. The proliferation of consumers using mobile websites is ushering in widespread mobile app usage. Whereas mobile apps were once considered quirky, fun, time-saving applications, the truth of the matter is that some website offerings by firms are better through a company’s mobile app. It’s possible mobile apps may ultimately become the preferred method for consumers to connect with a firm via smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Usage of Mobile Apps Increasing

The increasing availability of apps and consumer usage time of apps signals a seismic shift is about occur: mobile website browsing will eventually be supplanted by mobile apps. The infographic below illustrates the percentage of brands using the following different forms of mobile interfaces to reach consumers: brand websites, iPhone apps, Android apps, Windows Phone apps, and BlackBerry apps. As shown below, 95% of firms have a mobile compatible website while less than half offer a mobile app.

Mobile Website vs Mobile Apps Infographic - Copyright 2013 Todd Bacile

Despite the availability of firms’ mobile websites dwarfing firms’ apps, two factors suggest app growth is exploding. The first factor is the growth in availability. Mobile compatible websites increased by 157% from 2010-to-2011. During this same period of time the growth rate for each respective app was iPhone 100%, Android 230%, Windows Phone 233%, and BlackBerry 200%.

Mobile websites are close to a saturation point, while mobile apps are experiencing phenomenal growth. Ultimately, it would not be surprising to see 90-plus percent of firms each offer a branded mobile app to consumers.

The second factor supporting massive app usage is time. Even though the number of firms which have a mobile compatible website strongly outnumbers firms’ mobile apps, consumers are spending a greater amount of time with apps. The infographic below illustrates this fact: during 2011-12 the time spent using mobile websites remained relatively flat, while time spent with apps increased dramatically. This surge in usage time suggests the way consumers use smartphones and tablets to connect with brands is transitioning to mobile apps.

Time spent using mobile apps vs mobile websites - Copyright 2013 Todd Bacile

How Mobile Apps Differ From Mobile Websites

The spike in app usage is not surprising when one acknowledges that apps play to the strength of mobile devices by seamlessly adapting to a device’s native features, such as the camera, GPS, calendar, text messaging, and processing power. This is an important aspect when considering how firms are trying to reach consumers via rich multimedia social network campaigns and location-based marketing.

However, apps differ from websites in ways that must be addressed, such as installation on a device by downloading from a provider. Plus, different versions of the app must be developed for different devices (i.e. an iPhone app cannot be used for Android). In addition, each app must go through each app store’s approval process – something that can take several weeks or months.

How To Create Mobile Apps

Firms can develop their own mobile apps “from scratch” with in-house programmers, choose off-the-shelf boilerplate software, or hire a mobile marketing development firm which specializes in customizable, feature-rich apps. While the last option may sound expensive, it actually may be the most cost efficient option.

One such firm app development company is App Innovators based in Tallahassee, Florida which has a large library of pre-approved features from Apple and Android, The pre-approved status means the lengthy approval process can be cut from months to less than a week. In addition, apps are developed from dozens of feature-rich templates or customized by their programmers. Costs range based on custom requests, but most apps cost very little – similar to the expense of setting up a website – along with a small monthly hosting fee.

Firms must assess if their mobile consumers’ experience will be enhanced with a company’s own mobile app. While not everyone believes apps will prevail over sites, many signs are pointing to this possibility. But this much is certain: consumers love using mobile apps and firms typically cater to the preferences of large masses of consumers.

Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile