Expecting more from LinkedIn

I got an invitation to take a survey from LinkedIn this morning and since I recently upgraded my account, I figured I’d give it at least a moment … though when I clicked through I discovered this ridiculous first question:

As someone who works in the marketing field, it’s rare that you get to complete surveys like this, but LinkedIn actually knows not just who I am but where I work and my full work history making it pretty easy to filter this from even hitting my inbox.

No Early iPhone 5 Upgrade for You … or Me

Like I’m sure many people did yesterday, I checked the upgrade availability for the new iPhone 5 on Apple’s site, but I was surprised to see that unlike previous years, there is no early access.  Instead, what I found was that I am “eligible” for the unsubsidized price until May which is obviously disappointing.

I have no intention of paying $649 for the 64GB phone or even $449 for the 16GB option. I can’t imagine I’m the only one in this situation as I bought the 4S when it was initially released.  Not sure what this might do to those anticipated holiday sales, but it’s likely to slow a large portion of the potential upgraders into next year as a result.

Now would be a great opportunity for another carrier (hello, VZW, Can you Hear me now?) to swoop in and offer a competitive switch opportunity.  It could generate a great deal of good will, brand love and of course a new base of recurring payments on the network.  This is common in car sales where a competing brand might offer a dealer incentive to get you out of another car’s lease early.  I don’t believe there is any precedent in wireless for this, but hey no time like the present!

Mobile Wallet format wars

First a bit of a disclosure. Through work, I have a business relationship with Google and previously MasterCard and over the past few years have spent a pretty considerable amount of time working on and thinking about payments. I’m don’t think I am biased but you can be the judge…

This week another consortium was announced to develop a mobile wallet solution. Merchants like Best Buy and Target (among quite a few others) are looking to develop a format and technology that would allow consumer payments within their stores. It’s not clear how this will work or even when it will arrive. Today it’s simply a press announcement.

Previously, we’ve seen quite a bit of press from Isis a joint effort between Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. While Isis has gotten some solid press, released their web site and some pseudo demo videos try also have yet to launch. Their proposed launch markets of Austin and Salt Lake City still wait …

While Google Wallet has been live for a year growth appears limited by only being directly offered through Sprint on about half a dozen phones. There’s a lot of opportunity for other carriers though the Isis partnership seems like a pretty clear obstacle until that at least makes it out of the gate.

There are other methods of paying with (tapping) your phone today but they involve the use of a sticker as a proxy for your card and in most cases do not offer any proper interface on the phone to receive back the transaction. An SMS is a start but is pretty lame by today’s standards.

Because the traction on NFC has been slow — and depending on which analyst you ask we are anywhere from 3-5 years from mass adoption — there are some rather interesting bridge solutions ready today that add technology into our traditional card mix. The two that get the most attention are Square and LevelUp. Perhaps PayPal deserves a mention here as well as they are pushing rather hard to break through the virtual barrier into traditional commerce. Though even with theor recent merchant deals it seems like a long road ahead. Both Square and PayPal offer dongles to accept card swipes but also have other methods like phone number (PayPal) or simply your name (Square). LevelUp uses the phone screen to present a QR code much like Starbucks does for it’s own system. While Starbucks an Square announced a recent deal (and investment) one won’t replace the other from what I’ve read instead you will simply have another option in store.

The payment networks and banks are also playing here with wallet tech they hope will be adopted though appears to be a very slow train.

And of course the elephant in the room is Apple. They’ve shown about 80% of a wallet in iOS 6 via Passbook. Like many people I’m hopeful that they will go all the way when the next iPhone shows itself in September. While Apple is likely to light a fire it’s unclear if they will stay proprietary or try to define the industry. It’s likely that we will see some quick arranged marriages following their announcements and the organizing committee is already forming.

The worst possible scenario and frankly the direction a lot of this seems to be heading is that the choices create a stalemate. There are already too many similar potential options and not enough differentiation both between players, but even more importantly from today’s way to pay. Unless an actual problem is solved or benefit added its like the industry is simply talking to itself.

TDF Marketing

There’s a pretty high rotation of the commercials on the Tour de France broadcast, but the one I don’t seem to mind seeing is this great spot from Specialized.  It captures the purity of riding …

The other really strong piece is this one from Strava featuring Tim Johnson which captures both the essence of the service remarkably well along with the spirit of riding.

If more companies focused on connecting with their audiences like this, people would probably be more likely to react to the messaging. I know I’m over biased here, but these are really both very solid spots.

Good Try, Sprint

This ad from Sprint really bothers me.  It’s not the completely smug attitude from the boss – I like the cheeky style.  What’s bothersome is the complete miss by Sprint on who’s paying the bill.  While it’s certainly possible that the bring your own device user base is growing, I can’t imagine that an international business would expect employees to carry their own weight for for data intensive things like video conferencing.  Who’d want to work like that?  Maybe Sprint’s business accounts are limited … 

Chrome – Keep my Opt-Outs

As someone who works in marketing, I’m a bit torn on removing myself from the selection process in targeted advertising.  That said I was rather stunned to see the sheer number of sites (230!) apparently looking to target against me – according to this helpful Chrome extension.  If interested in going incognito, this might be just the thing for you.

No Cablevision, no.


Cablevision has been running floating ads when connected on their metro-fi on top of pages to promote their core services. The problem is that these are seriously annoying to existing customers. Our house is a multi-DVR, broadband, and phone triple-play. Cablevision even has the MAC addresses of 4 mobile devices of ours so we can connect automatically (no captive portal) and yet they can’t suppress this messaging.

It’s impossible for me to even sign up for more service. Cablevision knows this. These ads need to go. Wake up Cablevision!

About Strava

Cycling Tips has a great interview with Michael Horvath, the CEO and Founder of Strava.  If you’ve been around me at all you know I love Strava and use it passionately to track and share my rides as well as my (less frequent) runs.

Strava very smartly filled the hole left by Nike+ for cycling though took it up a notch as well given the upper end athletic focus.  The somewhat recent addition of running makes it ideal for the multi-sport athlete and the social features and data viz make it habit forming.   Just about everyone I ride with uses it and speaks Strava as well.  I recommend the interview and of course the service as well.

Are the carriers driving complexity in device selection?

An interesting post popped up at The Verge last night where Motorola’s Sanjay Jha starts to reveal that the Carriers are what’s driving so many variants of user experience on Android.

We also talked about OEMs’ perennial press to skin the operating system — a trend that looks poised to continue in Android 4.0 — which developed into a full-blown conversation about the conflict between the mythical “stock Android device” and the realities of business between manufacturers like Motorola and carriers. “Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves,” he said, insisting that he “has to make money” and that there simply isn’t a way to profit on a device that isn’t differentiated. “The vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements that carriers have.”

There are a few considerations that come to mind for me… For starters, how about selling fewer devices? Part of the issue is trying to show you have a massive library of devices when I’d be willing to bet that 10-12 smartphones would be plenty (not counting storage differences in certain models like the iPhone). A quick look on the carrier sites at smartphones and I can see that Verizon offers 56, AT&T has 43, T-Mobile 34 and Sprint 38. (there are few extra with SKU nuances).

They don’t all sell all operating systems, nor do they really need to but using my quick ignorant math we can cut the number down drastically … iPhone (2), Android (5), Blackberry (2) and Windows Phone (3). Imagine walking into a store and being able to quickly decide on a platform and then quickly make a choice between a few key differences. Today that decision is challenged at best for the average consumer. We know the carriers force / suggest / demand that OEM’s rename their devices so that each service has a “unique” device even though they are exactly the same. This illusion of difference complicates things for the layperson and really just does a disservice to the industry. Carriers must obviously like this in the same way they keep our billing complex.

If we maintain something like my suggested shorter list, OEMs would need to start thinking about what features to highlight as differentiating (limited specs or perhaps custom apps / services) rather than simply how many devices can I possibly manufacture as if it’s some sort of arms race.

From a consumer side, the main things that seem to matter are: Can I do email / web? Can I do apps?  Can I send pictures?  Do I really need to sort through between of 38-56 devices to find a match when every single one of them can do all of those things?

WSJ is an anti-sharing publication

As a paying subscriber to the WSJ, I’d like to share some things I read with people. I do this from a lot of publications, but only the WSJ uses the social exchange opportunity to close the paywall.  Anyone who clicks on these links gets a very limited view and no way to read the full thing.    Pretty lame.

Chase bank customer data issue

I’ve been a Chase bank customer for over a decade and they stay mainly out of the way yet with a few rather annoying exceptions.

Each month I get an email telling me about a failed transfer attempt because of insufficient funds though I have no transfer scheduled nor any record of it failing.

I also find that even though I moved 7 years ago and Chase mails me postal mail and has my information seemingly correct online I have to use my old and incorrect zip code when I use my debit card for transactions.  For some reason this seems to pop-up when I buy my metrocard, movie tickets or make an online transaction of any kind.  Chase of course has no record of this when I’ve called which makes it more annoying.

Switching banks seems like a big pain given all our online bill pay accounts and they are local when needed. I just wish they could manage my data a bit better.

Will Verizon’s paperless receipts be part of Isis?

According to IntoMobile, Verizon is about to introduce paperless receipts at their retails stores.  This seems like a great idea for existing customers though I’d love to see this get some NFC integration … tap to pay have it billed via ISIS (the VZ invested consortium) and show up in your docs and receipts.

I don’t even use VZ, but this seems like a very natural fit that could offer great customer benefit.  Isis has yet to announce what phones will be supported though Verizon does currently carry the payments-capable Galaxy Nexus.  I’m not sure you’d really even need the secure element aspect of NFC payments (opening to potentially more NFC devices) though it would benefit the Isis bit more if they focused on that for newer phones and upgrades.


Looks like the NYT is playing the link game …

As you can see with the image here, there’s a second click required to read the actual story which is pretty lame. I clicked through from Google Reader and actually noticed this on an earlier post as well. Why would we want to click through to read a story just to click through to a read a story? Oh yeah, so we use up our monthly free clicks … getting you closer to the paywall at each step.

Apparently Consumers Don’t Trust Google or Apple With Mobile Payments

An interesting study from Ogilvy … and a not so surprising response given our historical payment relationships are with the traditional payment brands. Should be interesting to track changes here though as it’s quite clear that Apple and Google will both be evolving considerable solutions. Even though Apple has yet to formally announce payments, they already have over 200 Million cards on file and are ready to roll. With or without NFC.

via Adage