DIY project converts a car ashtray into a smartphone dock

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 11:05am

iPhone ashtray/dockThe cars of tomorrow will likely rely on smartphones for a plethora of features, including streaming web radio. But perhaps your car of today isn't quite up to the task.

You can help make your car a bit more smartphone-friendly with a new DIY project spotlighted by Lifehacker. It's a way to turn a car's ashtray into a dock for your smartphone.

"All you really need for this project is a bit of scrap plastic, an old dock connector for your phone, and a few tools," writes Lifehacker. "When you're done, you'll have the perfect spot to put your phone, no messy cables required."

You can find Lifehacker's coverage here and the "how to" instructions at Instructables here.

Amazon, Apple may accelerate smartphone and tablet adoption with new rumored devices

Friday, July 6, 2012 - 11:20am

Mobile devicesNew devices rumored to be coming soon from Amazon and Apple may aim to put smartphones and tablets in the hands of new consumers, like those who have so far stuck with "dumbphones." That means more people potentially accessing apps and streaming web radio.

Amazon is rumored to be building its own smartphone. Not so far-fetched, considering it already offers the Kindle Fire -- an Android tablet device (RAIN coverage here).

GigaOM predicts the goal of a smartphone from Amazon "would be to go after the 50% of people who don't have a smartphone." Indeed, "a survey earlier this year found that consumers were more interested in a phone from Amazon than they were in one from Facebook," points out All Things Digital (here). 

"If Amazon can give consumers a dirt cheap but very capable smartphone, it could attract a number of users at launch and set it up for better success as it puts out more capable phones down the road," comments GigaOM (here).

Meanwhile, a myriad of publications report that Apple will soon launch a smaller (7" screen), cheaper (around $200) iPad. Such a move would not only hurt competitors like Google -- which unveiled its own relatively small tablet recent, more here -- but also get more consumers using tablets.


"As you drop the price point and size, you are opening up consumers you weren't addressing before," said Brian White, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets. "Having something you can hold in one hand seems to matter to some people and may matter in emerging markets," said Frank Gillett, a Forrester Research analyst.

In June, a study found that around a third of U.S. Internet users owned a tablet (more here). A recent Gartner survey found that 40% of mobile users listen to music on their devices (more here).

Respected tech VC: Mobile "where the growth is;" agile companies best suited to adapt to its unique challenges

Friday, July 6, 2012 - 11:20am

Fred Wilson"From board meeting to board meeting, we are seeing a similar pattern. Web is flattish. But mobile is growing like a weed." So writes venture capitalist Fred Wilson in a new blog post entitled, "Mobile Is Where The Growth Is."

As we've touched on time and again in RAIN, this phenomenon directly impacts the web radio industry: the major players -- Pandora, Slacker, TuneIn and others -- all have massive mobile audiences. In some cases mobile listeners are even the majority.

This transition "presents both great opportunity and great challenges," writes Wilson (pictured), who co-founded Union Square Ventures (which has invested in companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Etsy and others).

For example, there are different expectations when it comes to mobile. "Mobile does not reward feature richness. It rewards small, application specific, feature light services... The phone is the equivalent of the web application and the mobile apps you have on your home screen(s) are the features."

Another big mobile challenge is monetization, as we've seen with Pandora (RAIN coverage here). "Monetization is different" on mobile platforms, Wilson writes. "Approaches like display advertising don't work as well on mobile as they do on the web."

Not that the money isn't there. Juniper Research now projects that mobile ad spending delivered via mobile apps will reach $7.1 billion in 2015, "a nearly three-fold increase over the span of three years," says Boy Genius Report (here).

Wilson points to Twitter as a good example of mobile monetization: "The ads are the default content object (the tweet) and are delivered right in the primary user experience (the feed/timeline). It's not surprising that more than half of Twitter's ad revenue is coming from mobile."

For radio, does this mean mobile ads should be audio (radio's "default content object") delivered in between songs ("the primary user experience")? Or perhaps a different, untried and experimental approach?

Indeed, Wilson argues the winners will be those companies and services that can "make a hard right turn super fast without flipping over the car."

You can find Wilson's full blog post at here.

Research from comScore finds 27% of mobile subscribers have listened to music on their devices

Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 12:50pm

comScore's research, with key findings highlighted by Fred JacobsSmartphone-wielding folks now use apps more than mobile web browsers. So found comScore in a new study, which also discovered that growth in mobile music listening outpaced other activities like playing games or using apps in general.

More than half of mobile subscribers (51.1%) said they used apps, compared to 49.8% who said they used the web browser, according to comScore. App usage grew 1.6% from the three month period ending February 2012 to the three month period ending May 2012.

That growth was surpassed by the usage of music services on mobile devices, which increased 2.2% over the same time period. Now 27% of mobile subscribers say they've listened to music on their device. 

"All of this spells opportunity for big radio brands and smart broadcasters, most of whom have plans and strategies in place for mobile presence," writes Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs in his jacoBlog (here). "Our stations can be in the starting lineup of the greatest tech game of all time."

TechCrunch has more coverage of comScore's findings here.

The Atlantic: Still "huge gap" between mobile adoption and ad budgets, but that's changing

Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 12:05pm

Pandora ad on iPhone"We are actually beginning to enter the golden age of mobile," writes the Atlantic. Looking just to the Internet radio industry, it's hard not to agree.

Two out of three registered Pandora users have accessed the service on a mobile device (more here). Aggregator TuneIn says mobile is its most popular listening platform, "dwarfing" all others. More than half of Slacker's audience reportedly comes from mobile devices. And Spotify just launched a new mobile radio offering, targeted at free users (RAIN coverage here).

"Mobile is poised to surpass television as the dominant consumer access point for all media," writes the Atlantic. "How we experience life, relationships, entertainment, education, exercise, and work have been completely transformed (for better or worse) because of mobile." More than half of U.S. cellphone users now own a smartphone, Nielsen recently discovered (more here). And one in four mobile users have listened to music on their devices (more here).

But monetization has notoriously lagged behind adoption. It's arguably the number one problem facing "industry behemoths" like Pandora and Facebook (RAIN coverage here). Indeed, recent analysis found that "consumers are spending 10% of their media attention on their mobile devices while the medium only commands a mere 1% of total ad-spend," reports the Atlantic. Radio stands at 15% and 11%, respectively. 

The Atlantic

But the Atlantic argues, "we're still only at the beginning of the golden age of mobile. There is still a huge gap between the rapid adoption of mobile and the budgets assigned to it... the advertising spending will follow." The Altantic points to the widespread diversity, quality, innovation and experimentation in the mobile industry as reasons why it will soon attract more ad revenue.

"Imagine a world in the next 2-3 years, where smartphones are in the hands of every consumer and tablet sales will exceed PCs. It will be a world where global Internet users will double, led by mobile usage. At that time, mobile will no longer be a support medium, it will be THE medium.

"At this point, not having a mobile strategy / roadmap in place for your brand is a recipe for disruption."

You can find the Atlantic's article here.

GigaOM: Automakers' bring-your-own-connection strategy may be more beneficial to consumers

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:40am

In-car stereoThe current in-car Internet radio landscape is dominated by dashboard systems that let users control services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn...provided there's a smartphone connected.

Lately, Verizon has reportedly pushed aggressively for a different future, one where cars connect directly to the web via 4G LTE. GigaOM reports Verizon Wireless' parent company recently purchased a machine-to-machine telematics company, while Verizon itself has formed a 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars.

BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Kia have joined the forum, but absent are automakers from Detroit. GigaOM writes their absence "might be attributable to the fact that U.S. automakers’ visions for the connected car aren’t entirely aligned with Verizon’s."

That is, they would prefer the current bring-your-own-connection set-up.

"The logic is sound," comments GigaOM (here). "Consumer vehicles have long replacement cycles. Meanwhile consumers trade in their smartphones for more-sophisticated models every 18 months. Any radio, processor or platform technology an automaker embeds in a car could become obsolete within a few years."

But might requiring a separate device end up being a roadblock to in-car web radio adoption? Perhaps not. Nielsen recently found that more than half of mobile users in the U.S. now own a smartphone (RAIN coverage here). Meanwhile, Forrester Research has predicted U.S. consumers will own 257 million smartphones by 2016 (more here). 

As Auto Magazine commented last year (here), "Millions of drivers already pay for powerful mobile devices and data plans, and most new cars, even those as inexpensive as the Kia Forte, are set up to connect with them via Bluetooth and USB inputs."

But it will be up to automakers to make the integration between their dashboards and the increasingly diverse world of smartphones as seamless and painless as possible.

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