May 31, 2017

5 Things Brands May Not Know About Android

Sometimes, Bottle Rocket will encounter brands focusing on reaching iOS customers without realizing Android, the Google-developed mobile operating system, owns around 85% of the global smartphone OS market share. At this year’s Google I/O event, Bottle Rocket learned firsthand of the latest changes to Android that brands should know about. Here are five of the most exciting opportunities brands can use to connect to their customers.

Android Connects Beyond Phones

More than 50 car manufacturers are making more than 300 models with Android Auto built in. Although it takes time for consumers to purchase new vehicles, Google has seen 10x user growth in the past year. With recent changes in Google Assistant, this seamless integration to the car makes for compelling frictionless experiences for brands beyond the handheld device.

Android is Expanding How Connections are Made

While Google Assistant, an intelligent personal assistant, isn’t all-new, many new features were announced at Google I/O this year that brands could utilize for Android phone, tablet, TV, car, and watch, and even across iOS devices. Google has made a backend called api.ai that lets brands easily create many conversation flows without knowing how to code. Even better: you can see what people ask your app, so you can learn what types of functionality you could include in your next version. Brands can utilize Google Assistant to deliver their products as results to user queries, simultaneously improving SEO.

Android Can Serve Emerging Markets

Android Go is Google’s new initiative for handsets in emerging markets. These mostly lower cost devices will have users who are much more conservative with their data usage. Android Go introduces new opportunities to reach an often overlooked but fast-growing, market segment. As brands consider expanding into these markets, they’ll have data-friendly opportunities like instant apps to more effectively and efficiently reach their customers.

Users Won’t Have to Download to Interact

Instant apps on Android will replace the standard app acquisition process for users. Users will soon be able to tap and run an instant app (showcasing a few features of a full app), rather than searching, installing, and running an app from the store. Quickly interacting with content will provide a better user experience and deeper integration with Android for brands, all while saving data for users.

You Can Wear Android

Our Rocketeers at Google I/O talked to the Android Wear team and learned that Complications are something that every brand should look in to. Complications are displays that allow users to get information from their Android Wear devices. If there’s any data that brands could show users (days until next flight/hotel, room number, remaining balance on a gift card), it can be exposed through a Complication on an Android Wear 2.0 watch face.

As one of only 25 global Android Certified Agencies, Bottle Rocket develops award-winning mobile experiences for Android. Now that it will be easier than ever to create experiences that connect brands and customers via Android devices, we’re excited to help you realize your mobile experience vision.

Contact us to learn more about how Android can engage customers.

March 20, 2017

SXSW 2017: The Big Stuff

We sent Rocketeers across disciplines to SXSW this year to learn what the future has in store for technology and users. Art directors, client and sales executives, and our top brass absorbed all they could. They came away with a lot of information, but here’s the big stuff we found most interesting.

 

The end of "user,” a new start for “experience”

SXSW was populated with experiences. Whether to entertain or inform or possibly both, attendees were immersed in brands and concepts that sought to provide certain feelings or an understanding of something by engaging as many senses as possible. The experiences weren't about UI or overtly tactical things, but about understanding context and how to properly use that to impact people. So, we can move from "user" to “experience," because that's what is truly meaningful to people.

An overwhelming desire to create experiences that connect people

Brands and technologies use the screen to find each other and themselves. There are so many things attempting to replace human interactions- self-driving cars, robots, smart agents, virtual assistants, but we must remember we are all humans and nothing can replace what happens when humans band together. Vint Cerf, one of the internet’s creators, explained that he feels that the internet isn’t currently a safe place, but we need it to connect to one another. One of the more interesting points he made: internet architecture should be implemented alongside roads and bridges, because it is just as vital and important.

Even NASA is using the power of connection by crowd sourcing solutions to long-pondered problems. Recently, they reimagined exploration with the help of robotics and hackathons. Explorers used to take everything they needed with them in their boat or rocket ship. This only allowed us to go so far and see so much. NASA realized their travel limitations and determined reaching the farthest depths of space required sending our supplies ahead of time. With the help of a robot that unpacks our suitcases, we can take a six-month journey to a faraway planet with the hope of returning someday.

Futuristic Experiences

Remember when most of the things we use daily now were once visions of the future? There was a lot of that at SXSW. NASA showed off their use of AR/VR, including 360 video to not only deliver space experiences to the public, but also train astronauts for future missions to Mars and space. NASA, with one of the largest exhibition booths at SXSW, let visitors wear a HoloLens to experience a simulated walk on Mars.

Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University and Ryuichiro Higashinaka from NTT demoed human-robot conversation. This was a mind-blowing change from task-based bots (e.g. Alexa, Siri). These engineers posed a question, “Is sushi better than ramen?” The robots and humans went on to have a discussion with no script, and robots only responded based on their subject matter expertise. To witness this was extremely fun!

The Reality of AR/VR

From NASA to Home Depot, SXSW held many AR/VR branded experiences. We learned of Home Depot’s virtual reality experience that helps create efficiencies in their supply chain by teaching users how to maximize cargo space for shipping goods to stores. One of the most interesting examples of this was at the National Geographic Base Camp bar, featuring a Microsoft HoloLens AR experience that blended our physical surroundings with digital educational representations of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity right before our eyes.

 

What educational, entertainment, or brand experiences will we see in the future from this technology? That’s up to brands and the partners that help them make those ideas a reality (however you want to qualify that).

March 9, 2017

MWC Barcelona 2017: Jamon, Chaos, and Mobility

For those of you who couldn’t make it to MWC this year, we can catch you up with the first-person experience of Director of Strategy and Design (EMEA), Greg Flory. Here’s Greg’s run down from MWC Barcelona:

It’s Sunday and I’m still recovering from last week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. If you haven’t been, I totally get why that sounds a little ridiculous—after all, you’re in one of the nicest cities on the planet, constantly eating jamon Iberico, quaffing tasty Rioja and nibbling on that amazing bread with tomatoes and olive oil. And it’s all lovely. Seriously, you should go. But the reality is that MWC has you running around all day, and most nights, trying to make sense of the chaos created by the collision of technology, vision, globalization, the rapidly advancing future, and the rippling impact of mobile innovation on adjacent industries and technologies. It’s overwhelming. And exhausting.

So, as I gradually emerge from the dreamy Catalan fog, there are several takeaways that I’d like to quickly share:

  • Autonomy is a thing. We tend to think of this in terms of smart objects or connected cars—and there were cars everywhere throughout the exhibition halls—but it’s the impact on human experience that is truly interesting. We have arrived at a point where tools and information can remove uncertainty and the mundane, allowing us to invest our energy in what we care about the most. AI-powered bots will get better, giving us immediate access to precise solutions. Autonomous drones will inspect, map, and deliver to locations quicker, and more safely and efficiently than we can today. Even lighting, championed by Philips, will change dramatically, moving beyond simple illumination to help us heal physically and make sense of our environment in new ways.
  • Data is your business. Or your next business. Investing in mobile ensures that you will have access to information about your customers that you never knew was available. Brands such as Spotify are working with companies to help find better ways to engage their customers. Connected devices, aligned with connected cars, houses, and cities will create even more data, while revealing services and products that we couldn’t have imagined or seen previously. And there’s no excuse for not knowing your customer—the actual people—with names, preferences and an increasing array of options.
  • We all need partners. Now more than ever. Having worked exclusively in mobile for the past six years, I thought I was pretty aware of my limitations. But there are entire parts of the ecosystem that I didn’t know existed. It is expansive and there is opportunity across the spectrum. And wherever you are on the mobility journey, it is an enormous benefit to have the right people to help you manage all of the moving parts. And believe me, there is no shortage. For every one person I saw and/or bumped into on the conference floor, there were 20 trying to get through passport control on Friday morning. And obviously, I think Bottle Rocket is an excellent choice. If you think the partner suggestion contradicts my first point about autonomy, I’d just say that having the right partner allows you to focus on the areas of your unique expertise, ceding certain specialties to people best prepared to manage.

When I wasn’t speaking my unique brand of broken, largely unintelligible Tex-Mex Spanish to patient and accommodating Catlan cab drivers, I was most likely wandering around Halls 8.0, 8.1 and 3 of the Fira Gran Via prepping for and/or leading a technology tour with WPP’s Data Alliance. The tour may have been the best thing that could have happened since it forced me to explore and engage with a lot of people I would normally have avoided. It challenged some of my assumptions and confirmed others.

You can expect a healthy dose of what’s next at the world’s largest mobile gathering, but there seemed to be quite a few brands and manufacturers pushing back against the future, trying their best to pluck our taught little, nostalgic heartstrings. Here are two headliners and one wild card:

  • Nokia, with its 3310, demonstrates that you don’t really need a good reason to dredge up the past (unless this is intended for the developing world) and plenty of people crowded the table to get their paws on the retro hand candy. Looks fun. Feels great in the hand. But the proprietary OS is very much a drill down—endlessly—to take simple actions, then drill back out. This was an instant reminder that UX in the pre-smartphone era was painfully slow and often unrewarding. The 3310 has 22 hours of talk time (not that anyone really does that on their phone anymore), plus about a month of standby between charges. Seems just about right considering how infrequently anyone in the developing world would be likely to use this phone. But easily one of the most crowded stands at the show. I guess it’s kind of like stalking your old crush on Facebook. Nice to see how they’ve done over the years, but probably still pretty happy you’ve moved on.
  • BlackBerry's KEYone brings its CrackBerry heritage to the Android OS, delivering a physical keyboard to the brand's long-suffering addicts. If this quickens your pulse, enjoy, but I found the physical keyboard with its tiny buttons harder and less forgiving than a typical touchscreen. I was never a huge fan and easily moved on almost a decade ago. So, are we facing a resurgent BlackBerry that will draw legions of former obsessives out of the smartphone forest (much like the gobs of zombies in the near certain impending apocalypse)? I wouldn’t bet on it.
  • Moscow-based, Elari, producer of the self-proclaimed “anti-smartphone” Cardphone 3G, has an interesting array of products for people looking to simplify. Their phones are generally small, with the Cardphone looking like a minimalist calculator that can fit in your wallet. I think this is the phone that Walter “Heisenberg” White wishes he'd had as his second “business" phone.

November 21, 2016

TechWeek Recap: from Smartphones to Smart Cities

One of the most interesting panels at this year’s Dallas TechWeek featured Trey Bowles (CEO & Co-Founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center), Jen Sanders (Executive Director of the Dallas Innovation Center), Herb Sih (Managing Partner of Think Big Partners in Kansas City), and Tim Fleming (Director of Enterprise Sustainability at AT&T). The panel focused on the aspects of building a connected, smart city that many do not think about – data and efficiency.

When we think of smart cities we usually think of the visible changes, the science fiction stuff that’s coming into reality - drones, autonomous vehicles, robots, etc. This panel however took a different approach and discussed how to leverage data in smarter ways to improve current capabilities and make them more efficient. Trey Bowles gave us a glimpse of what a day might look like in a world where not only people are communicating with technology but machines are talking to each other. For example, what if sensors told the city waste pick-up when your cans are full…or not? What if traffic and route planning were sent directly to the autonomous car you requested since you no longer own a car. Better allocation and use of everything from power to emergency services would be invisible to most of us, but we’d see the benefits in costs and investment. Jen Sanders pointed-out that this isn’t going to happen quickly or to the same degree in every city. Some towns are better candidates for some things than others. Tim Fleming spoke to resources that we don’t consider now when he said “Cities consume 75% of the energy and produce 80% of emissions. What about the emissions of methane from Cows?” The conversation was rounded-out by Herb Sih who said “The city is a platform, much like a smartphone, that can do amazing things given connectivity.”

 

While it may be a while before we see any true smart cities, the world of connected devices continues to grow along with the benefits they can offer – contact us today to find out how to better leverage data and the internet of things for your business.

September 21, 2016

Beyond Music, AirPods, and UX

We’ve had some time to think about the event, and we’ve noticed something interesting about Apple’s new focus. We already know they’re working to create a seamless user experience across their suite of products, but now there are new opportunities to engage with users when they are not actively interacting with a device.

 

A Strategist’s Perspective on Apple’s September Event

Although there were few surprises at the Annual, hardware-focused Apple September event, the announcement of AirPods might be signaling a new form of UX. The AirPods have a brain (W1 chip) and sensors (infrared and an accelerometer) independent of the phone. Currently, the sensors are only used to detect when they are being worn or to detect a tap, but the future potential is undeniable. The AirPods will one day be much more than earbuds that simply deliver audio.

Imagine the maps app whispering in your ear to turn left, or your calendar app reminding you of your next meeting and who is in it. Push notification could be read to you. We often assume augmented reality involves visuals, what would an audio augmented reality experience be? As we move to more screens interactions, what other interactions might move to earbuds?

Most interesting is what this means to the user. There will not be a single killer wearable; users will have a choice of the wearable to fit situations and environment. As a developer (or brand) we must support the devices that the user chooses. As we expand delivery to new devices and platforms, will the functionality and content you are currently providing your users (APIs) be flexible and able to support AirPods, smart watches, bracelets, glasses, etc.?

Contact us to find out more about these new points of interaction and how to leverage them to provide a better user experience.

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