Phunware CEO Hails the Dawn of Mobile 2.0

Alan S Knitowski, the chairman and CEO of app-development company Phunware, has hailed the dawn of Mobile 2.0 and called for brands to invest big money in their mobile presence. 

Knitowski says that brands are missing opportunities to engage with their audience because theyre not putting enough money behind their mobile marketing, and because they approached mobile in a hurry with no strategy for leveraging the platform. 

Mobile 2.0 as Knitowski puts it, is a term coined to allow him and Phunware to discuss the apps that he feels corporate America is crying out for. “Mobile 2.0 to us is about making experiences,” he says. “We believe apps are really about the experience of that high-value touchpoint between the consumer and the brand.” 

In practice, he says, a first-generation mobile app is a feature add-on such as a currency converter. “Back when Apple set up the App Store, it encouraged people to think about applications as a piece of bite-sized information – something that solved a single problem. They [Apple] encouraged people to do that for 99 cents, to make them affordable and engage the masses.” 

Hundreds of thousands of apps later, and Knitowski says its time for a new approach, especially in terms of apps that promote brands. “Apple realised that we need quality not quantity, because what the apps do and what the platform is capable of – in terms of display, processing power and memory – got to be a bit out of whack.”

From a marketing point of view, reaping benefits from the power built into todays mobile devices means investing money on the platform. “Up till now, weve had multi-billion dollar brands put $25,000 or $50,000 into making a mobile app, because everyone needed an app, and somehow that level of investment was meant to delight and engage their consumer base,” says Knitowski. 

Knitowski says that companies need to embrace mobile as a genuine channel – rather than a box to tick – and invest accordingly. “Its a form of engagement – and a lot of brands went to market without thinking of mobile as a channel.”

Phunware has good experience when it comes to mobile marketing having worked with the likes of Disney and the Discovery Channel. The app the company made for Disneys Theme Parks allows visitors to see live queue times for each ride, record where they parked, find friends, and locate places to eat and drink. 

The correct strategy, according to Knitowski, is to create a utility rather than a simple mobile presence. “Consumers expect some value and utility, to repay their interest, not an infomercial,” he says. “Everyone in the world knows that a brand reaches out through mobile because it wants you to buy products or services, or check out new things or have some other call to action. Thats implicitly understood by every mobile user to begin with. The issue is whether you offend them by charging them for an infomercial or just providing them with a way to buy your products. Thats not what a consumer cares about.”

And when it comes to novel technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Knitowski again says that the user experience is more important. “Enterprises should employ more of a crawl, walk, and run approach,” he says. “AR clearly exists, and technologically is feasible; it works quite well. But on the roadmap of what kind of features and content you should have, and when, its probably better to invest in that later.

“Getting the experience right is of foremost importance,” he says. “The features that you add are the breadth and depth of the experience over time.”