In reponse to Fred Wilson’s post:
First, I think you can’t abandon mobile. It is the future like it or not. And second, I think it is critical to design for mobile first and then build a web companion.
Which was a response to a post I really enjoyed last week from Vibhu Norby:
We want to place our chips where we believe we have the best chance of succeeding based on our theories and data. For us, mobile is not that place, which is why our new product is going to be launching web-first in the next couple months, with mobile as a companion app. We are taking a big bet on the web and the Internet in general, as you’ll see by how it functions. We are also going revenue-first because we believe in privacy and we’re willing to trade a smaller, slower-growing audience for it.
Here are some consumer companies who I wished had a mobile first product, cause they would totally rock.
… Wow, it was actually really hard for me to come up with companies who aren’t building mobile as their primary platform even if they should. Instead, I can think of lots companies I respect who are mobile-awesome:
What’s more interesting are companies that evolved to kick ass on the web, and their opportunities on mobile isn’t clear cut. Transferring everything you can do on the web to the mobile screen is a recipe for bloat and a messy incoherent product. They all have great mobile apps and I’m curious to see how their mobile footprint plays out, because they have opportunities to tweak and selectively dice up their ecosystems in wonderful ways (or even go in a new direction) depending on the platform.
“The app works with a ‘three taps or less’ principle in mind, meaning that if a user needs to find any info, they can access it in, that’s right, three taps or less. This means the app is incredibly simple, and very easy to navigate through. The highlights of the app are definitely its ease of use and the professionalism of the presentation; Lonely Planet have clearly focused on design and ease of use, both of which are top notch.”
I’m liking the act of reading, highlighting and note-taken on iBooks more and more since I got an iPad. However, I never could let go of the paper books on my travels — the hassle of keeping watch over my phone, the rigors of the road and the attention that it would attract was a bit too much for me to deal with.
I still think this is true in some cases of hardcore backpacking (I’m thinking of trips in backcountry China, the Middle East or the jungles of Malaysia).. but in a few tests recently, for most of my urban travels, I think having travel guides on my phone really works.
For my recent trip to New York, I got the new Lonely Planet version of the city guide (disclosure, my fiancee was the product lead for the app). The maps could be loaded offline and the filter system for restaurants, pubs, sights, activities worked so much better on the phone versus the old way of flipping through the chapters, etc. But I was familiar with New York — and there are many services (not to mention the web) out there that together can fulfill a traveler’s need to do things (Yelp, 4sq).
What about cities further away from home, ones that I’m not familiar with? In another trip to Buenos Aires, I turned my iphone’s roaming prefs off and turned the airport mode on. The city had a lot of wifi spots — cafes, restaurants, bars, etc. so getting access to the internet wasn’t hard — but it wasn’t prevalent since I didn’t have a carrier’s data plan. LP’s offline maps were a godsend when I was finding bus routes, shopping districts and restaurants. Most of the listings were really in tune with current hot spots and things that I found on the web. So for me, the venerable guidebook — digitized — may still offer the best way to explore unfamiliar cities.
The app isn’t perfect.. it’s still a bit content heavy I think and can be streamlined into different ways to experience the surroundings when you’re on the road — more push notifications versus just tasking the user to figure out what they want to do, etc. But it’s a good start and I think out of all the verticals, travel has the most to gain from the mobile revolution. It’s a great way to connect to useful data on the road without lugging a bunch of books around… but on the other hand:
Sometimes getting away means disconnecting —so that’s one thing I can say for paper-bounded travel guides: they still offer the traveler a way to totally remove themselves from their plugged in world. It was really hard not to stop by every wifi spot, plug in and get my daily dose of the internet when I was traveling with a phone.