Friday, 30 November 2007

Verizon Opening Up

The big news this week was Verizon Wireless's announcement to open their network to non-Verizon issued devices next year. For those of you not familiar with the US market this is a pretty big deal for two reasons. First, Verizon is a CDMA operator and their phones don't have SIM cards. This means pretty much the only way to get a handset for their network is from them. Secondly, Verizon has historically been one of the least open networks in the US in every way possible.

While the details of how this will actually work in practice won't be clear till next year, when an operator of Verzon's size makes this type of statement its a sign that the industry is changing as a whole. Could this be a sign that Google's announcement of the Open Handset Alliance and the iPhone  are already influencing the industry as a whole?  Carlo at MobHappy goes one step further and adds Amazon's Kindle into the the mix of influencers.


Thursday, 29 November 2007

Probably the most expensive Mobile Advertising in the world?

In the lead up to Mobile World Congress, formerly 3GSM, many mobile marketers will be devising clever or innovative ways to raise the profile of their company or service to everyone attending. The big guns will normally take over most of the airport with giant ad’s promoting new phones and features, followed by a great range of selective, cheaper and more subtle marketing in around Barcelona and the conference.

As Refresh Mobile is attending, there’s been plenty of talk about how to raise awareness of Mippin. Covering the side of a building with our Mippin logo would probably do the trick but being a start up, the cost of one of those ad’s would cost more than my years salary. But in the pursuit of more imaginative ways to reach execs next February, I’ve ended up compiling a small list of advertising opportunities that I’ve come to realise are slightly out of our budget. So feel free to choose one for yourself instead, but if you do please be kind enough to credit Mippin in the advertising too.

  1. Advertising Mippin within the carrier SMS received on all mobile handsets after landing in Barcelona:

  1. Sponsoring Robert Scoble to attend and write an exclusive blog only available on Mippin

  1. Free iPhone’s for everyone at a giant Mippin stand, with Mippin as a default application on the main UI.

  1. Hiring a Megayacht and painting a bright orange Mippin on the bow. Satellite communications would ensure mobile product and service demonstrations would not be affected at sea.


Wednesday, 28 November 2007

More stats

AdMob has published the second monthly installment of its Mobile Metrics - it is certainly worth a read. You will see - thankfully - some consistency with the stats we have posted to date with the occasional surprise (a ZTE in the top 5 in the UK - really?).

We shall be posting stats on the other markets shortly too and also see tremendous growth in the iPhone, comfortably part of the US top 10 now.

For some additional insight and Q&A with Jason Spero check out the always excellent m-search groove here.

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Monday, 26 November 2007

Mobile Web Design 2.0


Designing a Mobile website that looks great on all these different mobile devices requires some planning upfront. Even though some phones seem to have the same sized display (e.g 2.2 inch) their actual pixel density varies a lot from device to device.

With CSS it is possible to design a scalable UI which works across devices BUT the actual content (images, text, videos) needs rescaling to deliver the optimal experience for the user.

There are two approaches to that issue.

The first one is to design against the smallest common denominator. This would mean to take an older Nokia phone like the Nokia 6230 (128x128px) and optimize the service for that screen resolution.

The better option is to try to categorize the handsets into certain groups based on their pixel dimensions. In the case of mippin we defined 5 groups ranging from 128px to 480px in width.

To see in which group your device falls into just type this url into your phones browser and compare it with the screens below:


We constantly check for new handsets which use the mippin service. Each device which isn't mapped triggers and alert and we will map it according to its capabilities and screen dimensions.


Full feeds please

This is an old but classic post from Techdirt. It talks about whether to include full information in a syndicated feed or whether to simply include a strapline or teaser to persuade the user to jump to the full web page.

I am going to steal from the text the following: "However, in our experience, full text feeds actually does lead to more page views, though understanding why is a little more involved. Full text feeds makes the reading process much easier. It means it's that much more likely that someone reads the full piece and actually understands what's being said -- which makes it much, much, much more likely that they'll then forward it on to someone else, or blog about it themselves, or post it to Digg or Reddit or Slashdot or Fark or any other such thing -- and that generates more traffic and interest and page views from new readers, who we hope subscribe to the RSS feed and become regular readers as well. The whole idea is that by making it easier and easier for anyone to read and fully grasp our content, the more likely they are to spread it via word of mouth, and that tends to lead to much greater adoption than by limiting what we give to our readers and begging them to come to our site if they want to read more than a sentence or two."

We have spoken to, and you may have happened across if you have mipped a site, a number of publishers that choose only to include a strapline to seek to persuade you to click immediately through to their branded and monetisable website. Now, Techdirt's article argues that this is a nonsense even from a web perspective - and increasingly in this web 2.0, community-driven, world and that those publishers that take this line will ultimately find themselves of the fringes of conversation rather than the nexus point.

The justification for a full feed is even more apparent when you consider how these feeds are being picked up on the mobile internet. Services like Mippin provide value because they can help bring the mobile internet to life for the end user - perfectly formatting the look and feel of the content for the user's device. Sending the user to your desktop web designed site immediately is a value destructive exercise as the reader will end up with a poor brand experience. Mippin also allows the publisher to control and monetise the mobile environment with the feed, so there is no justification for trying to get the user into branded or monetisable territory as soon as possible.

The responses to this Techdirt post were overwhelmingly from people who supported the policy: unsurprisingly I guess. But I do find when I discuss this point with publishers that those who actively support the view that the feed should be truncated, rather than this be a default setting of their CMS, do so because they are scared that this will end up losing them eyeballs and do not see the wider picture.

I have my eyes peeled for a web side survey which demonstrates unequivocally that this is the losing option; for mobile I can already show it with the data we have so far but clearly we need to wait until mobile becomes a more extensive part of the user's journey before this will help change policy amongst the laggards.

In the meantime, do not feel shy to reach out to your favourite sites and ask for them to make more of the content available in the feed.


Sunday, 25 November 2007

A Marketing Suggestion.

As a member of the marketing team here at Refresh Mobile I’ve been looking at different ways to reach out to the various markets that would like Mippin. Some of the biggest successes to date have been mobile advertising search, such as Google Mobile and advertising networks such as AdMob. The advantage of using these forms of mobile advertising is that Mippin has reached a large numbers of mobile data users very quickly. The click through rates have been good, which suggests there’s clearly a curiosity and desire for new for mobile content and we’re sure Mippin is satisfying these new users appetites.

Reaching a wider market is a little more problematic however, and I don’t think it’s just because Mippin is a start up. To date, the Operators have been really successful in promoting the availability of internet on mobile. In combination with the volumes of personalised content sales such as ringtones, wallpapers and so on, the general message has definitely been that the phone is connected, and can do more than making calls.

However the Operators have always pushed their own internet services forward, both independently and through brand association with big web content and services providers. There has obviously been a rise in the number of mobile internet traffic on the back of all this marketing, and yet a question comes to mind which is why hasn’t everyone started using the mobile internet yet?

There are many reasons for this, including the speed of networks, quality of phones and much more. However I think part of the problem may lay with education and the choice of message reaching non mobile internet users. Presently the Operators market the mobile web as the web, using the same brands from online to encourage people to use the web on mobile. However by focusing on generating revenues from their own portals, the mobile internet experience appears to the non-initiated to be only available via the Operators services. Although the "Web" is being promoted, the message of the mobile internet is more that it is constrained and doesn’t actually fully resemble the freedom of the internet that people are familiar with online.

This could be addressed quite simply however by marketing the availability of each phones default internet browser, combined with the costs to access online content. Promoting the fact that each phone has a default internet browser and that it simply requires entry of any URL address as with normal desktop web browser's like Internet Explorer could make the connection in people minds between the internet and what they’re carrying in their pockets. The experience of entering a URL in to a browser is a process that people are all familiar with.

I’m not sure who’s responsibility this could be – the operators, the manufacturer’s, or third party web based companies like Mippin. I know we will be doing our bit and so we might end up introducing some people to the internet on mobile as well!

Take a look for yourself by entering in your phone’s internet browser today.


Friday, 23 November 2007

New features for Mippin

The tech team have completed incorporating the latest updates in to Mippin. With this release Mippin has taken a couple of impressive steps forward to becoming a self-sufficient platform. The key updates are:

  1. The new Search Engine, based on the Apache Solr project, is live. We can now service your search requests with a full text search of all the stories in Mippin, not just the titles and the results are returned faster and ranked using a more intelligent algorithm. At the same time the load on the service has been reduced by moving the search processing onto a separate server and removing the dependence on the database. All fantastic stuff, well done Ben.

  2. Mippin is now Country sensitive. Every element of Mippin is now dynamically crafted around what people in the user's country are viewing and have been viewing. Making a service that learns which content is most relevant to users from each Country. A good example of this is the England football result + match analysis that made it to the top of the most read stories in the UK yesterday, but wasn't present in the list in the US. This also means that content in different languages will be restricted to the home pages of users in Countries to which it is relevant, although it will remain searchable to all users.

Many thanks to Conor as well as this has been our most involved release by a country mile.

Apologies to any users that were adversely affected by the release as we did have a couple of minor outages and slow downs over the past 48 hours.


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Announcing the Mippin Sidebar for Firefox browser

Download Here 
(NB until we are in the Firefox directory your have to allow to download to your browser - see the pop-up appear at the top of the screen) 

Many people have been asking for this including Improbulus and Mashable - it's the ability to view Mippin on your desktop and change your Mippin phone configuration easily. What's more because it's in the sidebar you can do your normal web browsing at the same time. If you want to keep or change your phone configuration just register and login with the same username here.

You can even use the two systems (the phone and PC) side by side, so you can even add/create your own Mippsites by typing the url to an RSS feed in the search box. It is a handy cheat we have used in the development phase.
Mippin Sidebar

So, to install the Mippin sidebar just click this download and install link when reading this blog in Firefox. Once installed (it will re-start Firefox during the install process), all you do is hit Alt-M and the Mippin sidebar will appear.

Alt-M again and Mippin will go.

Have fun with it. Send us your feedback and then watch out for updates as we respond with more cool stuff.

Stay tuned...


Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The best search term ever.....

A few chuckles at Mippin this morning.

The Mippin search box can help uncover a number of things: either you can search the Mippin database for stories around a particular topic; else, enter a favourite URL and, if there is a suitable feed on the site, we'll create its mobile version for you on the fly. If you haven't tried it, please do.

However, there are limits to what Mippin can do as this user found out. Note this is exactly what was typed into the search box!

My husband was on my phone about 2weeks ago what was he searching for and can i view it

Fear not though dear user, Mippin does not respond to such requests! We might encourage you though to clear your history from time to time if you have things to hide.


Mashable promotes Mippin

Mashable screenshot

Mashable has done a nice review of Mippin on their blog.   They had some suggestion of what we should do next - we're listening so stayed tuned to see we do about these suggestions.


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Stat Attack #1

We have been live now for a little over a month and thanks to so many of you for using the service and for giving us your feedback (remember that there is a feedback link for you from every single page – we read every single one).

We have seen over 950 different types of phone use the service across more than 120 different countries in the first 30 days. An acquaintance from Informa tells me that they have registered around 2700 devices in existence globally. That is astonishing in its own right – but 1/3 of all devices have seen Mippin in 30 days – without any conscious marketing in Asia at all. I find that an incredible statistic.

I thought I would post up the most popular devices on the service in these first days – starting in this post with the UK. Other markets to follow.

1. Sony Ericsson 800 series

2. Nokia N95

3. Nokia N73

4. Sony Ericsson 810 Series

5. Sony Ericsson 610 Series

6. Nokia 6300

7. Sony Ericsson 850 Series

8. Sony Ericsson 750 Series

9. Nokia 7373

10. Motorola V3

11. Motorola C975

12. Nokia 6280

13. Nokia 6230

14. Nokia 6680

15. Nokia 6630

16. Nokia 6288

17. Nokia E65

18. Sony Ericsson 880 Series

19. Nokia N70

20. Samsung E900

I clustered together the Sony Ericsson series devices, so the D750, K750, x750 are all in the same cluster as in essence they are usually the same device but merely sold by different operators.

What did not surprise me:

That there is an overwhelming weighting towards Sony Ericsson and Nokia devices over Samsung and Motorola. I think everyone in the mobile space knows that these devices are currently easier to use and attract early adopters more than Samsung and Motorola tend to. The Motorola V3 tends only to make these types of list on sheer strength of numbers rather than quality of experience, something the Z8 looks to address.

What did surprise me:

That said, I was surprised that the Samsung D500, D600 did not make the list and by the high showing of the Nokia 7373 (so much so that I returned to the data to check). And the Motorola C975 – really! Quite odd that this makes the cut – and again in useful numbers. We are checking the user agent data.

It is interesting to note that the top 5 devices account for 25% of total volume, the top 10: 38% and the top 20 just 54%. Such a high concentration in the top 5 is not so much or a surprise perhaps but the sheer amount of devices in the UK means that the top 20 – which I expected to deliver 85%+ of the volume, delivers just over half.

For future surveys it will be interesting to see how and whether the iPhone breaks into these numbers; it is already in the US top 10! And we know we had 62 unlocked iPhones on the service in the UK prior to the launch.

Note: 12% of devices use Mippin in the UK that we have not been able to identify yet due to breakages in the user agent stream.

The Boffin


Monday, 19 November 2007

Total Film Mippsite

The folks at Total Film are using their mippsite as their main mobile site. Check it out at If you are interested in creating your own branded mippsite, drop us a line at We're looking for Mippin Maker beta testers.


Well spotted Whatleydude!


Friday, 9 November 2007

Welcome iPhone!

Today is iPhone day in the UK! At 6:02 PM GMT we can officially get our hands on the iPhone. Congratulations to Apple and O2 on the launch. We wish them much success and are really excited to see the dawn of better mobile browsing come to this side of the pond.


And where better to experience the best of the web on your new iPhone than at! In truth we’ve been hankering for the new iPhone for months and to keep busy we've gone and built a special version of Mippin specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. This version is ready now and all you have to do is point your iPhone or iPod touch browser to You'll get all the same great Mippin content with an interface that really makes the most of what the Safari browser can do.

Cool you say, but why use Mippin on the iPhone/touch when it has a full HTML browser? Simple, its all about looks and speed. Mippin pages are a fraction of the size of a full web page and optimised for the iPhone/touch screens. With Mippin on your iPhone, you'll browse the web faster than if you visit the web site directly. Mippin downloads just the freshest content and nothing else. So you can get to the good stuff with fewer clicks, or in the case of the iPhone/touch, fewer pokes of the screen.

Give it a go!


Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Promise of Android

Google has finally made their long awaited mobile announcement and its not a phone but a phone platform and an industry group that will contribute to and leverage that platform. When I first read this my take was very similar to Techdirt's; thats it?

I was expecting more. Not so much the gPhone itself, but something more revolutionary. Instead all I got was yet another platform choice for OEMs and operators. These guys already have lots of choices and these choices aren't exactly driving users to move beyond voice and text in droves. While the Google stuff is "open", its in the same way that Windows Mobile and Symbian are open, but at a much lower cost.

So my initial conclusion was that this is just another mobile phone platform and doesn't really change anything, particularly for Mippin. In my mind the issue that needs addressing is that mobile application developers can't connect with consumers to really understand what people want. The barriers to entry are very high and usually involve distribution through operators or the OEMs or both.

Google is filled with smart people who realize this problem. I think Android and the Open Handset Alliance is just the first step in a long journey. Google has entered the mobile ring and has done so in a way that acknowledges the role of the industry incumbents. They will build on this to help drive the entire industry to become more open by reducing the friction between the people who build innovative services and the adopters of those services. At least I hope that's the way it plays out. Hopefully we'll all get a bit more insight next week when the Android SDK is revealed.

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