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iOS 7 - One More Thing...

iOS 7 - One More Thing...

The excitement of Apple announcements has been rooted in rampant speculation. Consumers, industry observers and competitors guessed, anticipated and - in some cases - dreamed of what might be part of the "one more thing" moment. Since the recent announcement and release of iOS 7, most of the conversation has focused on the colors, the stock price and the death of visual skeuomorphism as part of the user interface.

Instead, publishers should focus on two capabilities that have received limited attention: Background App Refresh and iBeacons.

Background App Refresh
Apple quietly introduced the Background App Refresh capability as part of the iOS7 launch. Applications must explicitly implement this multitasking feature, and users have the ability to enable/disable this feature on a per app basis.

When publishers review how to improve engagement of video playback for the desktop (typically Flash), mobile Web or within native applications, they often focus on video startup and the desire to minimize the time it takes for the first video frame to appear. This process focuses on measuring (and ultimately minimizing) the time to load the player and related assets (e.g., styling/chrome, plug-ins), associated metadata (e.g., images) and associated video files (e.g., m3u8 manifests for HLS).

While a recent UMass and Akamai study detailed the impact of start-up time on viewer engagement, and my previous post on quality of experience extended this to the video consumption experience--in the case of Background App Refresh, it extends to the video consumption app experience.

Digital consumers are anything but patient. An entire industry was born from the desire to minimize the desktop browser experience through caching, now a much more sophisticated content delivery capability that spans client-side cookies to peering a la Open Connect.

At the app level, developers balance what information to cache (for offline use or to reduce subsequent requests) and what information not to cache (to improve the timeliness of content or to enforce security measures). The default behavior of many apps is to refresh this content during startup or during access to specific content. Synchronous requests cause serial delay but asynchronous requests often result in network contention. In the best case, over a high-speed connection and anticipated as part of the UX, content updates are incremental and unobtrusive. Over 3G connections and when initiated serially, content updates can result in the viewer staring at a spinning icon or - in the worst case - switching to another app.

By utilizing Background App Refresh, publishers can more intelligently control when and how content refreshes occur, ensuring that the user - from app start to content playback - has access to timely content while minimizing the perceived wait time.

For those who haven't found a Hidden Mickey before, you may not be aware that Disney has introduced two new location-aware devices for engaging their park-goers: Magic Bands and "Glow with the Show" hats. The "Glow with the Show" hats are lit using LEDs and controlled when synchronized with specific shows. Using infrared, Disney uses zones to send commands to the hats to create geospatial lighting effects with individual ears or groups of ears. The hats react to specific locations in the parks and can even interact to nearby hats.

Why is this relevant to iBeacons? With iBeacons, iOS 7 uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to enable micro-location. BLE provides more range (up to 50 meters) than NFC and more coverage (indoors) than GPS. Publishers should not relegate iBeacons to gimmick status. Instead, just as Disney uses glowing mouse ears to create an immersive experience for their audience, publishers should consider how micro-location can create a unique form of engagement, one that is aligned with the literal notion of a mobile audience.

A few examples:

  • Art museums could extend their storytelling about artists, paintings, and sculptures. Science museums could surprise visitors with an interview with Carl Sagan or a showcase erosion through a time-lapsed video.
  • Zoos and aquariums could provide additional insights to their animals and aquatic inhabitants. Visitors to the Monterey Bay Aquarium could view African blackfooted penguins in person and view live streamed Gentoos, Chinstraps and Rockhoppers.
  • For anyone who has been overwhelmed by the options at Home Depot, consumers could access tutorials. Similarly, grocery stores could entice consumers with how-to videos with sponsored advertising - and a coupon for good measure.
  • Hugo Boss could turn a retail store into an interactive runway. And speaking of runways, a walk through LAX could preview the Starwood hotel for each flight destination from gate to gate.
  • Movie theater one-sheets could promote the film with a trailer and a discount on the extra large tub of popcorn.
  • A viewer walking down Broadway might watch a promotion of a new seasonal flavor from Starbucks, a commercial introducing the new evoSPEED from PUMA, a shout out from Triple H to shop at the WWE store, exclusive Gamespot videos for Grand Theft Auto V and a sneak peak of the latest Katy Perry video when walking by MTV.

Initially, iOS 7 may get most of the attention for its colors and interface, but publishers have a few new tools to enhance the mobile video experience, increasing consumption and maximizing monetization.