The Google+ iPhone app: who’s the biggest loser?

I read on twitter earlier today that the iPhone is the third most popular smartphone in the UK at the moment, behind BlackBerry and Android-based devices (second and first respectively).
I can’t remember the original source of that stat, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Or not – the choice is yours.
Coupled with all the brouhaha about the lack of an iPhone app for GooglePlus, this got me thinking. Who has the most to lose from the lack of such an app?
I’ve seen a lot of comments on GooglePlus (and again, this is – I’m afraid – anecdotal) saying that Google needs to pull its finger out and get an iPhone app sorted out… and fast.
I’m not sure that’s a perspective I share.
The success of the smartphone phenomenon is down to the ability to use apps and other data-dependent services on the go. If those apps and services weren’t appealing, didn’t offer any value to the user, would the smartphone be as ubiquitous as it has become? I, for one, think not.
It is still too early to say whether GooglePlus will be a long-lasting success or just another flash in the social media pan. So far though, I think all the indications are pretty positive.
The lack of an iPhone app isn’t going to impede the success of GooglePlus. Some of the most active people I know on it are also iPhone users. They’re using it because it gives them value. Not because it is associated with one device or another.
The same might not be so true in reverse.
If Apple’s loyal iPhone customer base begin to see there are other smartphones that offer a better all-round data experience they may start to consider jumping ship rather than upgrading to a new iPhone next time their contract is up for renewal.
Apple risks, therefore, experiencing some of the same disintermediation that blights the network operators. In the UK Orange, Vodafone and O2 used to enjoy significant brand loyalty among their customers. Not any more. They are the plumbing that allows the cool stuff to flow. Nothing more.
If Apple finds GooglePlus (or anything for that matter) starts to come between the iPhone brand and its customers it will be the one who loses out ultimately.
The onus therefore, in my opinion, has to be on Apple to redouble its efforts in being more open, something where it still has much to prove.

Democracy, disintermediation & dining out at the all-day information buffet

Remember when you watched the TV news in the evening to hear about important stuff for the first time?

Remember when you read a newspaper in the morning so that you would feel informed of the weighty matters of the day?

I’ll bet neither of those things has happened to you for a while.

In pretty much every aspect of modern life, not just when it comes to the news, relationships between the public and the various providers of services and information have changed irrevocably.

You can call it disintermediation.

You can call it the democratisation of the means of publishing.

You can talk about citizen journalists if you really feel you need to.

But those of us who have regular contact with the internet no longer get our news in the old-school manner. Instead we use our RSS subscriptions, lists on twitter, messages via Facebook and other social media platforms and news websites to get our daily feed of news.

And we graze. A lot.

We take a mouthful of twitter-gossip, a bite of bloggetry, and chew on the wares of our favourite news sites. From this we get our fill of news.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a very important role for broadcast news and newspapers. But they’re rarely the first place you get to hear about something.

A growing number of people create content as well as consume it – blogs and tweets are some of the most obvious mechanisms for so doing, but there are others.

Ordinary people, for want of a less pejorative way of putting it, are now right in the centre of the flow of news and information, and are no longer reliant upon the traditional methods of staying informed. This is a trend (dare I even say phenomenon) that can be witnessed elsewhere.

How often does seeing one advertisement inspire you to go out and buy the product concerned?

Not often I imagine.

Would you buy something because a brand you like (or even “like”) is on Facebook? Again, probably not just off the back of that one thing, I expect.

Tweets, likes, reviews on blogs as well as in magazines (and their online variants), personal recommendations and so on, all go toward helping us make what we feel are informed choices about the goods and services we buy, and the ones we avoid. A lot of that information doesn’t come from what might be considered traditional sources, but is user-generated in the main.

Mobile phone companies are experiencing something similar. Do you feel much allegiance to your network provider? Despite statistics I’ve seen from research done by one of my clients (which indicates that two-thirds of us have been on the same network for at least three years) the likes of O2 and Vodafone can only dream of enjoying the kind of brand-kudos many of the handset makers revel in – Apple, BlackBerry, SonyEricsson for example.

It doesn’t stop there. The growing use of data-based services on smartphones, some of which will let you make VoIP calls (via 3G or wi-fi) effectively bypassing the carrier’s voice network completely, is another headache. People don’t get excited about the network they’re on – unless it stops working. The network has been usurped in people’s hearts by the app makers and handset manufacturers.

The common thread in all of this is that the old order is no more.

If your job involves managing customer relationships, or sales, or marketing, you ignore this at your peril.

If customers don’t see any perceived value in dealing with you they will simply ignore you and direct their attention to those people and organisations they feel an affinity for.

The challenge then is how to be valued in what is an undeniably information-rich world where there is no shortage of voices clamouring to be listened to.

You need to be present wherever your customers may be – and in every format they will be coming into contact with. You need to present a human face and treat people with the same respect that you would like to be treated with yourself.

Ultimately you want to be trusted and believable.

And it’s not rocket science, which makes it all the more noticeable when brands get it wrong.