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The Researcher's Bookshelf: Mobile Magic



Article ID:
20140426-2
Published:
April 2014
Author:
Tom Eslinger

Article Abstract

This article, adapted and edited from a chapter in Tom Eslinger's book, Mobile Magic, details the main functions of modern mobile phones, which can serve as the building blocks of a strong mobile marketing presence.

The Saatchi & Saatchi Guide to Mobile Marketing and Design

In his new book, Mobile Magic, Tom Eslinger takes readers through the practical points of mobile marketing development, production, content strategy, content management and how to market digital and social campaigns. This article, adapted and edited from a chapter in the book, details the main functions of modern mobile phones. While Eslinger's primary focus is on marketing, we felt this piece, adapted and edited from a chapter in the book that details the main functions of modern mobile phones, might be useful to familiarize marketing researchers who are considering incorporating mobile approaches into their toolkit. And for those who already use mobile research approaches, perhaps the discussion of the functions might spur some ideas for new mobile-based research projects.

Camera

Just a few years ago, having a camera built into your mobile phone was something special. There were mobile phones and then there were cameraphones or videophones. Now everything is just "mobile" again because we pretty much expect all mobile phones to come with a camera that takes image and video. But that built-in camera can do a lot more than just snap selfies.

Photo and video:
If a phone has a camera, it'll also have some sort of photo/video storage and viewing capabilities. Which means it can probably receive images and video from an outside source, either via text (called multimedia message or MMS), e-mail or other wireless transmission, such as Bluetooth. Mobile cameras capture in varying resolutions, aspect ratios and bit-depths - all with accompanying file-size variations and levels of quality. Instagram is the granddaddy of photo and video right now.

Livestream:
There are several apps that allow you to livestream video content from your mobile device's camera. Or, if you're livestreaming content from a digital video camera or other non-mobile device, there are apps that will let users opt in to your live channel from their mobile devices. Professional sports coverage is a great place to see livestreaming in all its glory.

Recognition (facial, object, gesture):
Built-in software and apps can allow a camera to recognize characters, faces and even gestures. Any kind of recognition can be tricky to incorporate into your campaign, though, both in coding and actually building the thing and finding a use for it (other than the coolness factor).

Content activation:
Apps and programming utilizing the camera can recognize and process QR (quick response) codes, which are visual patterns that correspond to a specific Web address to unlock content. QR codes are especially useful for bridging the gap between your digital and physical-world campaigns because users can simply scan the QR code using their mobile phone's camera to find your material online instead of typing in a URL, character by character. What's more, some mobile phones now come pre-loaded with QR recognition apps so you can piggyback on existing software to bring QR into your campaign. Finally, QR codes are also used to make digital transactions in payment apps like Square, Google Wallet or Starbucks' highly successful mobile apps. As cameras become better at capturing data and phone processors more powerful, more sophisticated types of recognition, like face or selecting multiple objects, will become standard processes.

Augmented reality
: AR for short, augmented reality is just that. Activated through your mobile's camera, AR combines image recognition, taking your camera's images and live stream, and "augments" that real footage with superimposed digital creations. The best AR incorporates its digital images into real footage so seamlessly that, with a little suspension of disbelief, viewers can't tell where reality ends and augmentation begins.

Think of those animated lines on the football field when you're watching a game. If you were looking straight at the field, all you'd see is the grass and the painted field lines and the players but when looking through the processed, data-layered image on your TV, you can also see lines that help make sense of players' movement paths and the plays they're executing via these overlaid graphics. Such augmented reality can be done via the phone's screen as well.

Several major companies are already employing AR in their marketing content to great effect. For example, Starbucks created a Valentine-themed promotion via its Cup Magic app and Lucky Charms is using AR for interactive film.

Microphone

Remember how the characters on Star Trek could interact with the ship's computer via voice commands alone? Your customers can interact with, and create content, using their mobile's microphone to process data gleaned from their voice and commands. Aside from being an essential component to video, microphones can also be used to employ features such as voice recognition, keywords and text-to-speech or speech-to-text functionality.

The microphone can also be used to record and save sound files that can be transferred or submitted to contests or galleries. For example, say you're running a competition and you want people to send you clips of themselves singing your company jingle. Via their mobile, creating and sending audio and video files on the spot is simple.

Accelerometer and gyroscope

It's funny: Mobile phones are all about cheating physical space to interact instantaneously via the digital ether. And yet we still have to physically interact with a very real device. Say you have an app that's supposed to simulate a ball on a flat surface. When you hold your phone level, the ball doesn't move. If you tip your phone slightly to the left, the ball will start to roll slowly to the left, gradually building up speed. If you flip your phone 90 degrees to the left, the ball will all but plummet to the left. This interaction between the real-life orientation of your device and the virtual behavior of the simulated ball is coordinated via the accelerometer.

The gyroscope keeps track of a phone's orientation. It's what lets phones know to switch its screen display from portrait to landscape mode when you turn your device by 90 degrees, for example. The gyroscope can also recognize when you're spinning, shaking or waving your phone. All smartphones, and most regular phones, have a gyroscope so you can incorporate physical movements, as well as taps, typing and calling, among the ways your customers can interact with your product.

Close-range transmission

Carrier networks and Wi-Fi are not the only ways for your phone to receive wireless information. Bluetooth and other near-frequency networks also operate on a hyper-local scale, with a range of 100 feet or less. It's a great way to send location-focused messaging to your potential customers, especially in tandem with posters and other advertising.

Bluetooth:
Bluetooth is a means of wirelessly transferring data over short distances. A Bluetooth receiver is now a standard part of most mobile phones, though some users might keep theirs switched off to save the battery.

Near-field communication (NFC):
NFC is a term for extremely close-range wireless data transfer being made popular in the latest smartphones. The ability to transfer videos, pictures and other media from one phone to another, seemingly by just tapping them together, features heavily in Samsung's marketing strategy using Android's Beam functionality.

Samsung has done cross-promotions with musicians, where they invite Samsung users to hold their phones up to a digital poster/broadcast-point and then "beam" the music straight to the phone.

Processing power

Mobile phones are pocket-sized computers - an impressive amount of processing power for their size. Their ability to multitask is what makes them able to support and run apps. So remember, as a mobile marketer, your medium may not be a PlayStation but you do have a good amount of power at your fingertips. Don't be afraid to take advantage of it.

Streaming:
If you want to watch a video that isn't actually saved onto your computer, you're probably streaming it from a server via the Internet. Streaming saves time to retrieve and view files, making it a preferred way to get video onscreen fast that can be played back in varying levels of quality, speeding up the stream. If you've ever used YouTube on your phone, you've done some streaming.

You could download the file onto your computer but it's much more likely that you'll choose to stream it from wherever it's currently saved. Streaming is useful because it allows users to begin watching or listening to content before it has reached their device in its entirety. In other words, you can start watching the beginning of a streamed movie before the end has finished loading. However, streaming does require a strong, persistent Internet connection or else the stream will be cut off. If you want your customers to watch a video or other type of media, you'll probably be asking them to stream it from your servers.

Rendering:
This refers to the process of turning a digital model into an image. Computer-generated video is what's called pre-rendered - the hard work of turning data into visuals has already been done on another machine and what we're seeing when we watch movies like Toy Story is the final output. With video games, though, rendering has to be done in real time because the models' movement is responsive to player control and hasn't been predetermined. That's the challenge for making video games and other digital experiences on mobile: You need to balance graphical quality with the device's capability to support it.

Mobility

A mobile phone's biggest feature is its mobility. It goes with us wherever we go. Whatever we see, it can see and potentially interact with. Keep in mind that your customers' mobiles can activate all or any combination of the features and processes listed. That's an incredible amount of marketing power right at your fingertips. Above all, keep your customers at the center of every interaction you create that utilizes these features. Make the interactions simple, provide a great experience and enhance the viewer's interaction with your brand and products.

Five things to do right now

1. Get on YouTube, type in your phone's model and operating system and watch some tutorials about how to use your phone. Learn what distinguishes your phone from the rest.

2. Find out what other people are saying about your phone. What do your fellow owners like about their mobile phones? What do people wish they could change? Which features do you want to make use of to tap into and address the needs of your customers?

3. Who are your peer companies? Your rivals? What are they doing on mobile? Search around in the App Store, Google Play and online to find out.

4. Download the top AR and QR code apps on the market (RedLaser right now). Use them until you feel comfortable with what they can do.

5. Add news aggregator apps like Pulse, Resultly, Google Currents and Flipboard to your mobile devices and subscribe to feeds like Digital Buzz Blog, All Things Mobile, Google's GoMo, MMA and Mashable Mobile and regularly check out the FWA Mobile Site of the Day where you can see some of the coolest and newest innovations in the technology sphere and figure out which to bring into your mobile marketing campaigns and services.

Reprinted by permission from the publisher Wiley from Mobile Magic by Tom Eslinger Copyright © 2014 by Tom Eslinger.

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