The iPhone Effect: Better Mobile Content

Updated: July 24, 2007

For example, ON Networks remastered each of its 10 original high-definition TV series for the iPod's small screen and 16:9 aspect ratio, making them available through iTunes. The series vary widely from "Cocktails on the Fly", in which "the Alice Waters of booze"- aka. Alberta Straub, my old bartender at San Francisco's Orbit Room - guides amateur mixologists around the world of high-end hooch, to "Zen Living," which covers healthy-lifestyle topics like organic markets, building a green home and using acupuncture to increase fertility. Other shows focus on golf, online dating, comedy and cuisine, and ON plans to gradually add others.

YouTube to Go

Apple is also aware of the need for cool iPhone content and announced in June that the devices would ship with a special application for viewing YouTube content downloaded through either wifi or AT&T's EDGE data network. Apple and YouTube claim to have encoded more than 10,000 videos in the H.264 file format necessary for viewing video.

iPhone mania has also spawned many independent content products, such as iActu, which supplies RSS-style headline feeds that can quickly be expanded into full-size articles from major newspapers.

However, while all media - books, music, movies and games - can be repurposed for mobile devices like the iPhone, some commentators caution against straight translations from existing formats. At the Communities Dominate blog, commentator Tomi Ahonen writes that content providers need to think of mobile phones as a completely new and unique class of device, not simply as a smaller PC or portable landline.

"As a Mass Media [sic], mobile has six unique benefits that are not able to be copied anywhere else. 1) Mobile is the first personal mass media (even the Internet is only semi-personal). 2) It is the first always-carried media. 3) It is the first always-on mass media. 4) Mobile is the first mass media with a built-in payment channel. 5) It is the first media device available at the point of inspiration. And 6) mobile is the first mass media with near-perfect audience information. Not perfect, but as AMF Ventures reported, on TV you capture 1% of the audience data. On the internet, you capture 10% of audience data. But on mobile you capture 90% of audience data!"

These principles interact with some specific iPhone features that developers can take advantage of. Basically, whatever app a company writes can have either a portrait- or landscape-based interface; respond to gross physical movement of the device; get data continuously over the Internet; incorporate the iPhone's already-famous slider controls; and provide 24-hour-a-day features to iPhone users who will have the device on constantly and stapled to their hand.

Ahonen really wants content providers and others to think outside the box. He gives the example of using an Internet-enabled mobile phone's camera and computing power to ‘read' a Japanese-language magazine, then not only translating an entire page into English while you stand there, but superimposing the translation onto an image of the page layout on your mobile screen.

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