Sunday, November 26, 2006

One Step Forward, One Step Back

One of the many QR code reader companies, Kaywa, have now struck a deal with Kerrang magazine to link articles to mobile content. Whoever knew Technokitten was a Kerrang fan? But I digress...

She states exactly what I have maintained for a long time: QR codes are great if they are transparently integrated into the phone, as they are in japan where they are immensely popular and rightly successful. If the reader is separate from the handset's camera function requiring the user to learn a new set of behaviour to use it, it will fail - particularly when that path is longer than the path to the camera.

I see three possible ways to present a QR reading application:
  1. The best - you take a photo as normal, the phone tells you there's a link embedded in it, done.
  2. Second best - press whatever button(s) you need to get to the camera function, one of the options (next to 'take a pic' and 'record a video') is 'read a QR code', click it, done.
  3. Won't get used - any function that does not sit on the camera menu. This includes, sadly, Java apps.
Japanese phones use 1 and/or 2, depending on the make.

If the app is awkward to use, or it is not stored where the user expects it, the user won't use it. If the app is easy to use and is stored where the user would logically expect it, the user might use it, if they remember it's there and it offers sufficient value.

Sadly today, that means 3rd parties can only offer this functionality on some smartphones, ie. well under 10% of the market. For all other phones, the manufacturer must put it in the firmware - at the operator's behest (pioneered by DoCoMo in Japan) or their own.

I'd love to see a world where Java could be used for this type of phone extension effectively, but it isn't an area even being addressed currently as far as I can see and certainly it isn't practical with today's phones. VCs should perhaps bear this in mind before pouring cash into the latest bandwagon.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Roger said...

Hi,
So far I only have seen QR Code Reader on the top deck of Japanese Phones. So you have always to open the QR Reader first and then snap a code.

On my phone I have it also on the first deck, so it works absolutely the same as in Japan. And then - we access all the other stuff also by searching on the phone.

As for Java phones. For a telco like Swisscom for example it's shouldn't be too difficult to bring it on the first deck, if they are convinced that this has a potential. And I also think that handset manufacturers like Nokia and Microsoft (both have already or have announced QR-Code apps) are essential.

But personally I think it's the content side which is important. If there is enough compelling mobile content, then usage will follow:)

2:12 pm

 
Blogger raddedas said...

The phones I've used have it generally available under the camera menu, not as a separate item, but there are so many out there I can't be sure about them all...

If you have your QR code reader on your main menu I assume that you are using an S60 device, or possibly UIQ or Windows Mobile - I haven't seena ny non-smartphones whichi allow you to do that, though it would be great if there were.

Content is ultimately a very major part of the equation - once baseline ease of use is established in quite a lot of handsets, it will certainly be the driving factor to carry QR codes into the Western mainstream.

5:58 pm

 
Anonymous Roger said...

I have several devices and with Nokia Series 60 phones it is easy to bring the Kaywa Reader on the main menu. With my Sony Ericsson I left it in the application folder, but I didn't try to bring it forward.

For companys like Vodafone it would however be easy to install it on the main menu as well as you can see here (J-Phone example).

10:55 pm

 
Blogger raddedas said...

I think outside of UIQ, SE phones won't allow a user to dictate what's on the top-level menu: ditto with almost any other non-smartphone.

However you could be right, an operator might well be able to specify it for a lot of handsets as part of their standard customisation (depends on how flexible the native UI is) - which I think reinforces the idea that either an operator or a manufacturer has to get fully behind a feature like this to make it really fly in a country (as in Japan).

It's a shame, but until Java, Flash Lite et al are allowed equal status with native functionality, applications written in them will always be relegated to the Apps folder 3 or 4 clicks down through the menus. Because allowing a user to totally reconfigure top-level menus is hard to do well and could lead to all sorts of problems, this is unlikely to change anytime soon; the only exception is where the OS allows massive long top-level menus like S60. No other OS has copied this, so you have to assume users don't respond so well to it in UI tests.

3:33 pm

 
Anonymous Roger said...

Now that Motorola and Nokia (and Windows Mobile apparently as well) put in QR Code Readers, I think that this will be a non-issue in no time.

By the way, Jérôme wrote how you can bring forward the Kaywa Reader:
http://smoothplanet.kaywa.com/mobile-application/how-to-launch-quickly-the-kaywa-reader.html

On a more personal note: I use my own Reader a lot, not only for scanning, but even more for bookmarking. And I'll go there fast.

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