Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Test Drive: MySpace Mobile via Cingular

As i am sure any one that pays attention to the MoSoSo space/ general Social Networking space has heard already MySpace and Cingular launched a MySpace mobile application.

The makers:
The offering is developed by UIEvolution, a subsidiary of Square Enix. The MySpace and UIEvolution was announced back in mid September at CTIA, so releasing an application mid December is a fairly impressive feat. That is if they went through the whole Design, Development, QA, and Interoperability process in that time. The release states that they support 20 phones and plan to add another 30 (or was it the other way around?)

The Service info:
The business model is a monthly subscription plan for 2.99 a month, on top of the data charges.
I think this will be a very smart move on Cingular's part to encourage people to sign up for a data plan package.
From MySpace's perspective this will definitely hinder adoption, i mean seriously which teen social networks charge for access ? I still hold that as on the PC the social networking demographic would much prefer ads versus payment.

The tech details:
The application is a J2ME app, that had a footprint of 114 Kb on our Sony Ericcson Z525a phone.
I would like to give Cingular some points for minimizing the barrier of downloading the app as much as possible. All i needed to do on my SE Z525 was:

1. Text MYSPACE to 396 (FUN)
2. I received a text response, "MySpace Mobile"
3. The response had a hidden URL encoded (WAP PUSH ??) and recognized so the left soft key changed to "Go To"
4. From there a WAP site walked me through the process, the only item worthy of note was that in the process it crossmarketed a series of other new Cingular initiatives.

The User Interface and the User Experience:
(check out the screenshots below) They were taken via a mobile so sorry about the quality. Actually, i used VCEL's myspace mobile "photo" commenting feature to upload all of these to MySpace (but thats for another post).

5 Things done right first:

1. The application has a very "clean" UI feel, it "feels" more like facebook then myspace.
2. They have very well done slide out menus (at least for a J2ME app). Especially i would like to complement their slide out menu, the "more" tab that is found in the inbox or friend's list screens.
3. Also i did not find any situation where the content "broke the browser/app" meaning that the pics or text did not fit into the space it was designed for, if it did it was purposefully truncated (this is something that Helios's WAP solution failed at)
4. If the server did not respond it was handled well, by providing a straightforward choice to the user wether to wait or go back to the previous screen.
5. Also the Help/About sections are done well. Clearly a professional tech writer provided some support.

5 Things done wrong:(ok its more, but criticism is too easy so ill keep short)

1. Why can you not check your Bulletins? It may be i didnt navigate the app properly, but i tried and could not find anywhere to check the bulletins, i could post one but not check one. A grave mistake IMHO, since this would be one of the main mobile usecases. "Shouting out" the location of an event/ bar/ party that you are at to your MySpace network is one of the more plausible use cases for mobile SN.

2. Why do they need to throw up the annoying loading icon in the middle of the screen. We get its a myspace branded app, we dont need to see it every 5 seconds

3. There seems to be an issue with paging, although from my experience that is an issue inherent in the myspace structure itself

4.The List, entries are not uniform in size making navigation very tedious and click intensive.There is absolutely no concept of a "List", why am i clicking literally 20 times to scroll through one page of "friends" ? Why is all the content expanded. A mobile UI paradigm is needed something you would expect to see on a mobile screen, meaning a contact list style interface.

5. Where are the mobile numpad shortcuts? extra clicks on the mobile are the death of all user experiences.

6. Why does the pictture upload not work on the SE 525? This phone is one of the rare gems that has in app camera support, they should be launching the camera in the app. VCEL can do it, Opera can do it, UIEvolution definitely can too.

The Bottom Line:

The app is a strong step to mobilizing myspace. The best part about it is that it will have wide spread interoperability. I am also sure that they will be rolling out multiple versions in 2007. The UI is clean, but needs more of a truly mobile paradigm. Also, i think they need to cut down the number of options available and focus on the sniper shot use cases that people will actually use. I know Cingular's ego had to have more features then Helio on their MySpace mobile release but its pointless if the features are random options that do not provide any value add, they actually detract from the experience.
I think that this is one of those apps that a lot of people will download, but actual use habits will take along time to develop, if they do at all. STUFFING MYSPACE INTO A PHONE IS NOT THE RIGHT MOBILE SOLUTION, understanding the interesting mobile use cases and creating a bottom up mobile solution is a better appraoch.

Overall i rate the offering a 6 out of 10. Please note i may be inherently biased as VCEL is a direct competitor.

I wonder what their game plan for Windows Mobile and WAP is? ( we have something up our sleeve. . . but ill keep quit for a bit longer ;))

- Ad Astra

If anyone wants to post these pics up for their own review, please feel free to do so:


1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I am interested as to how many kids will be paying $3 a month to check their Myspace while they are out.