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1667 days ago
 

Ten reasons why 2010 is NOT the year of the mobile in travel

This is – yet again – the year of the mobile in travel. There is a real reason that mobile doesn’t work. Let me highlight just some of the ones that in my humble opinion are causing issues.
Before we even start with the applications themselves let’s review what I call the infrastructure environment.
Platforms – the splintering of the platforms is far greater than in the PC based world.  (see chart 1) and even within application platform there are so many splinter forms that the consistency of the user experience is WAY less. Not only is it less there are radical differences between platform types. For example the iPhone and the Crackberry have really different UI/UE. Good news 80% is concentrated onto 3 platforms Android, iPhone and Crackberry. (Canalys).
234 million people in the USA used a mobile device in December 2009. (Comscore) However only 47 million smart phones (Canalys Research) were shipped with the number of Smartphones in actual operation estimated at 65 million. Vs 308 million people in the USA. (2009 December US census).
The variations in performance mean that for the vast majority of time (and this will not change in the near future) the performance of the UI due to vagaries in the network performance mean that the impatient user will have to wait for some times minutes for a response. IE compare dial up with broadband. I am not talking about theoretical speeds – I am talking about the real world experience when I try and get information.
Connection breaks – not a secret – you have to recover the connection and start over…. You know what I mean.
Consistent mobile broadband speeds mean that the amount of time when a smart phone is able to actually get acceptable signal/performance to operate will come down significantly – we estimate that this number exceeds 40% of the time – this is based on my own experience to take it as you will.
Physical window aperture on the device. IE the ability to view the application on the screen.
Vision impairment… yes this is a big deal. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. About 64% of them wear eyeglasses, and about 11% wear contact lenses, either exclusively, or with glasses. Over half of all women and about 42% of men wear glasses. Similarly, more women than men, 18% and 14% respectively, wear contacts. Of those who use both contacts and eyeglasses, 62% wear contact lenses more often.
Dexterity impairment, juggling impairment…. I think you know what I mean.
And by no means least THE HIGH COST OF ROAMING. At a recent PCW conference I described the iPhone as the devil incarnate. For the next few years until our favorite EU commissioner Nelly Kroes gets her way – AND its adopted by other countries then this will be the biggest impediment to adoption of travel apps.
OK so having taken those into consideration now let’s consider point 10)
What would be the possible usefulness of a travel application?
So far what we see is that users are finding that they like “applets” such as the iphone based applications. At the end of November 2008 there were 10,000 iphone applets. By Feb 2009 that number exceeded 26,000. As of 1 week ago the numbers are as follows: Total Active Apps (currently available for download): 159,611, Total Inactive Apps (no longer available for download): 21,234, Total Apps Seen in US App Store: 180,845, Number of Active Publishers in the US App Store: 32,183, Source: 148apps.biz.
So fighting through the clutter is not easy.
What now becomes a characteristic is that there is no clear portal for mobile apps. The major portals of the web going back to the early days were the search engines and early value-added apps – eBay, Expedia etc etc.
These don’t have anything like that level of reach in mobile and there are no clear “pioneer proving grounds” that demonstrate that value to the user.
My point is that there is so much fragmentation on the web that the ability of a compelling app to cut through the clutter and become a clear value winner that then forms the model for others to follow just doesn’t happen.
So there are some interesting apps – for example Foursquare that make that work. But again they barely rise above the crowd. And their longevity is – well at best inconsistent. All the top 20 apps that are paid for are games (I guess you could question whether iFart is a game). Of the freebie apps – Facebook and GoogleEarth are still 1 and 2.
Less you think I am a Luddite on this subject – I am just trying to be a realist. According to data from Compete, more than four in 10 smartphone owners would find trip planning apps useful if they notified them of schedule and rate changes, consolidated itineraries or helped manage loyalty programs. I suspect that the answers would be different if the question that was asked was – which app would you find most useful. (one choice possible) trip planning vs schedule updates? (Cited in eMarketer – http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007606). HEBS in another study cited by the same emarketer piece estimates that only 33% of Hoteliers admit that they do NOT have mobile initiatives in 2010.
My conclusion is that this is the year of more mobile confusion. With only 65 million new smartphones to be shipped in the USA at least 50% of which will be replacement devices in my opinion means that the market is only growing at a much smaller pace than people think.
The value of these apps is still not clear and the ability to employ them remains questionable. And let’s not forget software bloat.
Already coders are getting lazy and developing apps that are both data and space hogs. Let’s not forget that the iPhone and its companion the iPad are both SINGLE tasking machines (or will be at least for a few more months until OS4 arrives).
Last week at Minneapolis St Paul Airport (MSP) – I watched a very frustrated barely 20 something tech exec arguing with the TSA guy as to why he should be allowed through security with his mobile boarding pass.
The rather stern 50+ agent was having none of it…. He sent the chap back to print his boarding pass and wouldn’t let him cut in line afterwards…
So there you have it – technology thwarted by humans. Who would have thought that?

This is – yet again – the year of the mobile in travel. But there are many reasons why mobile currently doesn’t work.

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Let me highlight some of the ones that are causing issues. Before we even get to the applications, let’s review the infrastructure environment.

  1. Platforms – the splintering of the platforms is far greater than in the PC based world and even within application platform there are so many splinter forms that the consistency of the user experience is FAR less. There are also radical differences between platform types. For example, the iPhone and the Blackberry have really different UI/UE. Good news is that 80% is concentrated onto three platforms Android, iPhone and Blackberry.
  2. 234 million people in the USA used a mobile device in December 2009, according to Comscore. However, only 47 million smart phones were shipped, with the number of Smartphones in actual operation estimated at 65 million vs 308 million people in the USA.
  3. The variations in performance mean that for the vast majority of time (and this will not change in the near future) the performance of the UI due to vagaries in the network performance mean that the impatient user will often have to wait minutes for a response – similar to comparing dial up with broadband. These are theoretical speeds – I am talking about real world experience when trying to access information.
  4. Connection breaks – you have to recover the connection and start over…. You know what I mean.
  5. Consistent mobile broadband speeds mean that the amount of time when a smart phone is able to actually obtain acceptable signal/performance to operate will come down significantly – we estimate that this number exceeds 40% of the time – this is based on my own experience.
  6. Physical window aperture on the device – i.e. the ability to view the application on the screen.
  7. Vision impairment – yes, this is a big deal. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. About 64% of them wear eyeglasses, and about 11% wear contact lenses, either exclusively, or with glasses. Over half of all women and about 42% of men wear glasses. Similarly, more women than men, 18% and 14% respectively, wear contacts. Of those who use both contacts and eyeglasses, 62% wear contact lenses more often.
  8. Dexterity impairment, juggling impairment.
  9. And last, by no means least, THE HIGH COST OF ROAMING. At the recent Tnooz #tcamp3 event in Berlin, I described the iPhone as the devil incarnate. For the next few years – until our favorite EU commissioner Nelly Kroes gets her way AND such moves to reduce charges are adopted by other countries – this will be the biggest impediment to adoption of travel apps.

So having taken those into consideration, now let’s consider point 10)

What would be the possible usefulness of a travel application?

So far we are seeing users like “applets”, such as the iPhone based applications. Some figures:

  • At the end of November 2008 there were 10,000 iphone applets.
  • By February 2009 that number exceeded 26,000.

A week ago the numbers were as follows (from 148apps.biz):

  • Total active apps (currently available for download): 159,611
  • Total inactive apps (no longer available for download): 21,234.
  • Total apps seen in US app store: 180,845.
  • Number of active publishers in the US app store: 32,183.

So fighting through the clutter is not easy.

What now becomes a characteristic is that there is no clear portal for mobile apps. The major portals of the web, going back to the early days, were the search engines and early value-added apps – eBay, Expedia et al.

These don’t have anything like that level of reach in mobile and there are no clear “pioneer proving grounds” that demonstrate that value to the user.

My point is that there is so much fragmentation on the web that the ability of a compelling app to cut through the clutter and become a clear value winner, which then forms the model for others to follow, does not happen.

So, there are some interesting apps – Foursquare, for example, which make that work – but they barely rise above the crowd. And their longevity is – well, at best, inconsistent.

All the top 20 apps that are paid-for are games (I guess you could question whether iFart is a game). Of the freebie apps – Facebook and Google Earth are still in position one and two respectively.

Some more reality – according to data from Compete, more than four in ten smartphone owners would find trip planning apps useful if they notified them of schedule and rate changes, consolidated itineraries or helped manage loyalty programs.

I suspect the answers would be different if the question that was asked was:

Which one app would you find most useful – trip planning vs schedule updates? [eMarketer]

HEBS, in another study, says 33% of hoteliers admit that they do NOT have mobile initiatives in 2010.

My conclusion is that this is the year of more mobile confusion.

With only 65 million new smartphones to be shipped in the USA, with at least 50% of which will be replacement devices, this means that the market is growing at a much smaller pace than people think.

The value of these apps is still not clear and the ability to employ them remains questionable. And let’s not forget software bloat.

Already coders are getting lazy and developing apps that are both data and space hogs. Let’s not forget that the iPhone and its companion the iPad are both SINGLE tasking machines (or will be at least for a few more months until OS4 arrives).

Last week at Minneapolis St Paul Airport (MSP) – I watched a very frustrated barely 20 something tech exec arguing with the TSA guy as to why he should be allowed through security with his mobile boarding pass.

The rather stern 50+ agent was having none of it…. He sent the chap back to print his boarding pass and wouldn’t let him cut in line afterwards…

So there you have it – technology thwarted by humans. Who would have thought that?

 
 
Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

About the Writer :: Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is a contributing Node to Tnooz and managing partner at travel consultancy firm, T2Impact. He serves as the lead for the airline, aviation and airport practice. He is also a Co-founder of VaultPAD an accelerator devoted exclusively to travel and travel-related startup businesses.

Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team where he headed the ground transportation and international portfolios, before founding T2Impact in 1998.

He has worked in aviation and travel distribution for more than 30 years, including time with Worldspan as head of technology where he managed international technology services from product to infrastructure.

He is also CTO and deputy CEO of Lute Technologies, a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes on the T2Impact Blog.

 

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  1. RANT OUT LOUD » The year of the Mobile in travel

    [...] O’Neil-Dunne wrote an article entitled “Ten reasons why 2010 is NOT the year of the mobile in travel” While much of what he said was interesting there were several issues I’d have to take [...]

     
  2. Samuel Pickard

    Timothy – I work on mobile travel software, and I’ve just published by blog response to your blog here – http://lovethefear.blogspot.com/2010/04/reasons-why-2010-is-year-of-mobile-in.html.

    Not all mobile software is equal, and whilst I agree with virtually everything you’ve written here, then I believe that we’ve also addressed these issues.

     
  3. Ten reasons why 2010 is NOT the year of the mobile in travel | r&d hub

    [...] Timothy O’Neil-Dunne wrote an excellent post on tnooz.com explaining why 2010 is NOT the year of the mobile in travel. [...]

     
  4. Carmic

    Comparing the results on the web? Maybe fragmented apps that a user only uses when they need them is where we will go?

    Why compare against all US phones – how many of these are actual travellers?

    Totally agree about roaming though

     
  5. Joe Buhler

    Are you sure the year you talk about is 2010? Based on the photo it’s more like 2000…!

     
  6. Stuart

    Great writeup!

    A few thoughts:
    1) Three platforms is better than four. Work with one, if that is successful then consider porting to another.
    3) Build Apps that don’t need connectivity (obviously not possible in all cases)
    4) See 3
    5) See 3
    9) See 3

    As you say, one of the biggest challenges is fighting through the clutter of trash in the store and until you establish your creds, there is no easy way around that unless you want to chuck a bucket of cash at it – and even that may backfire – especially if the punters don’t like your app.

    But even then, once you get through the clutter and get onto a device, you need to stay on the device. I just went through a report that says in part:

    “An analysis of 30-million app downloads determined that around 80-percent of free apps and 70-percent of paid apps are effectively abandoned by their second day on the device. After a month, more than 95% of the users who’ve installed an app no longer use it.”

    That’s concerning.

     
  7. David Janes

    OMG where to start.

    Accessibility (6, 7 & 8): this is an excellent point, though I would contend that the usability/readability of a mobile app is on par with that of a local map, though probably worse than a book. There is definitely room for improvement here from app vendors.

    Network Issues (3, 4, 5 & 9): there are several issues at play here. The core functions of DMO/CVB apps should never depend on a network being available. Not only because of roaming costs (BBC story), but because you lose the significant iPod Touch market. “Wrapped apps” – thick HTML/JS/CSS inside a thin app shell – are a poor substitute on first class devices.

    Of course, things like booking have to depend on a network connection being present. These sites must follow mobile best-practices of minimizing data being sent over the wire, which will alleviate many of the issues you’ve mentioned.

    Finding apps: brand-apps: Lonely Planet, Foursquare, Tripit do not need special stores to be found, they are being found. Niche apps (such as for DMO/CVB) apps do not need to depend on special app stores to be found: people research where they are going using the Internet, typically ending up at DMO/CVB websites from whence they (should) be able to quickly find the appropriate app for their destination.

    Growth of the mobile market: the first-class smartphone is growing far faster than mentioned: 21% in the last quarter and expectancy that data traffic is going to grow 40x in the next 5 years.

    Is 2010 going to be the year of mobile? “33% of hoteliers [not having] mobile initiatives” = “67% of hoteliers have mobile initiatives!”. That’s pretty good. App development is very affordable and has an excellent travel-friendly demographic of users – it’s something that should be on everyone’s radar.

     
  8. Tweets that mention Ten reasons why 2010 is NOT the year of the mobile in travel | Tnooz -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kevin May, Social Mapping. Social Mapping said: Ten reasons why 2010 is NOT the year of the mobile in travel http://ff.im/-iLAi0 [...]

     
 
 

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