Editor’s Note: Headlightblog.com recently caught up with James Spahr, a UX Lead at Razorfish and pictured below, who has been working on the Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) account since Razorfish was selected as the digital agency of record in January 2009. This past summer James worked on a mobile website for MBUSA as part of the agency’s work to support the 2010 E-Class launch. He was interviewed for Headlightblog.com by Kyle Outlaw, a regular Headlightblog.com contributor who is also a UX lead at Razorfish and one of the agency’s mobile subject matter experts.
I recently picked up the T-mobile G1 running the Android OS and for the past few weeks have been comparing it side-by-side with a jail-broken iPhone still on AT&T. There are a lot of great applications for Android that have been created so far — such as Ecorio (profiled in this blog), Google Voice (I now have all phones, landline and mobile, synced to one number), and Wikitude, which I have to admit was the real driver behind this purchase.
In past articles in this series, we’ve talked about the emerging meme of phone-car convergence. It is difficult to predict what sorts of automobiles will emerge, or how innovative automobile companies are willing to be in this volatile economic climate, but as we study trends in the two seemingly distinct technology areas of automobiles and cellphones, it is becoming clear that cars are well on their way to becoming highly sophisticated network computers. In this article we look at Android, and why it could be significant to the automobile industry.
It seems that phone integration has become something of a grail quest within the automobile industry.
Prior to the release of the iPhone there were rumors circulating that Apple and Volkswagen were planning to collaborate on an “i-Car.” Despite being a brand-match made in heaven, the deal never got off the ground. BMW quickly stepped in to become the first auto maker to support iPhone in-car integration, enabling customers to access their music, contact lists and make hands-free calls via in-car controls.
Since then Ford and Microsoft have introduced Ford SYNC, a voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system that enables drivers to control their mobile devices and media players (including Apple’s iPod and Microsoft’s Zune) using voice commands, and Nokia has been exploring in-car integration with its branded Ford Mustang concept car that supports multiple N800 Internet Tablets and Renault’s Twingo Nokia Special Edition.
Even as mobile browsing and pageviews among smartphone users have increased substantially in the past year, 89 and 127 percent respectively, according to M:Metrics, the development of mobile automotive sites has not kept pace.
In the U.S. alone there are upward of 250 million mobile phones whose owners would feel naked without them. Combine these sheer audience numbers with the carriers offering more affordable data plans, the improvement in device capabilities and the buzz capturing 3G iPhone, and it would seem to be an ideal time for automotive marketers to find a best friend in mobile advertising. However, the mobile space remains immensely complex and while innovations are starting to pave the way for deep brand experiences, automotive marketers will need to spend the next 12 to 18 months experimenting and optimizing mobile ideas.
Full-line automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., possessing some of the largest marketing budgets in the world, are not new to emerging media. They often spend heavily in all media, including online, video and mobile. According to Advertising Age’s 100 Leading National Advertisers Spending Report 2007, the automotive sector led all categories in advertising spending, topping the charts at $19.80B last year. Automakers’ large budgets and continuous need for innovation in marketing give them both the means and the motivation to test and push new channels and tactics more aggressively than other verticals.