SXSW Mobile Saturday Recap:Innovators or Idiots? Mobile’s Next Hits & Misses

We get it — a lot goes on at events, and SXSW Interactive is no exception, so it’s easy for everything to meld together. But good news! We’re here to help — each of our five panel recaps share key takeaways and themes from Urban Airship’s Mobile Saturday at SXSW Interactive so you can maximize your learning.

Personal experiences and anecdotes on panelists’ favorite mobile devices kicked off the first panel, “Innovators or Idiots: Mobile’s Next Hits and Misses,” at our Mobile Saturday at SXSW event. Moderator Dylan Boyd, director of new programs development at R/GA ventures, moved the conversation from personal uses for new mobile technology to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), finding your audience and using less-known device features to reinvent the app experience.

Mobile Innovator, What’s On Your Phone?

Boyd began by asking panelists to share their most-used apps in the last 60 days and why they’ve stuck around on their most personal device — their smartphone.

Slack was hailed as a great app and productivity aid, helping cut down on the clutter of work email and the need for meetings — a common desire for anyone in the workforce today. Several other panelist favorites were based on personal interests, such as Enlight for photography. However, the majority of picks fulfilled a specific use case (often while traveling), such as Recharge, Skurt and FlightCar — apps all related to utility, a recurring theme throughout the day.

Reinventing App Experiences: Unique Tools and Features

Has every user experience become the same, stale interface within user design? Or are we just grazing the surface on what a rich user experience can look like? Ben West, co-founder of Eventbase Technology, Inc., believes “it’s getting harder to come up with new and innovative interface experiences,” but that there’s plenty of opportunities to explore “how an interface services that range of users,” for example, a music app that works for a variety of different music lovers — whether they’re a metal fan or a pop aficionado.

Asif Khan, founder of Location Based Marketing Association, feels there’s much more that can be done to reinvent the app experience moving forward. “Phones have so much – gyroscope, etc. motion, speed the device is moving, is it picking up light right now – these are all crucial to reinventing the app experience,” he said. He framed a use case around retail and beacons that remains in the future, but would be able to send messages based on a buyer’s behavior in-store (such as trying on a jacket that had a beacon affixed) that could prompt both in-store and online sales.

'You need to factor in the data you pull from sensors' - @AsifRKhan #mobilesat #SXSW2016 pic.twitter.com/jcXAtfYYus

— Catherine Tymkiw (@ctymkiwcnn) March 12, 2016

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are Promising, but Need Work

Another hot topic that was also popular at SXSW Interactive overall, was how VR/AR is poised to take off in the coming year. Most of the panelists agreed with this sentiment to some degree, but felt there are some areas of the technology that need to be improved. The hot tweet of the session was West’s remark about how “VR looks like a toaster trying to mate with your forehead,” and that “the technology hardware-wise needs to advance,” but has potential. “We see glimpses into how great it is — for example, people in the hospital can use it and escape reality for a while,” West said. Regardless of the need for hardware improvement, he views AR/VR as a significant growth driver moving forward.  

Quote of the day "All VR gear looks like a toaster trying to mate w/ your forehead" -@urbanairship #sxsw #mobilesat pic.twitter.com/iOgWAaoQns

— Anthony Blatner (@anthonyblatner) March 12, 2016

Similarly, Suzy Roo, venture partner and vice president of technology & innovation at Atom Factory, felt that the next year would be critical to see how Vive and Oculus will evolve and that “it’s great to see how far [it is] already from beginning.”

Khan on the other hand, thought “VR is a ways away from adoption,” but “AR is closer.” He also remarked on the potential for new, exciting use cases to aid a user in discovering new things. His example was around music discovery today. If you had a certain app that could pick up a track at Starbucks someone else listened to and left behind, then you could pick one up and leave your own track for others to enjoy, he explained.

Find Your Fanbase: Identify Your Niche Pocket of Users to Aid App Promotion

In the ever-growing app stores, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. So how can brands promote for their apps in hopes of pushing them into the “Top 10” list? Panelists emphasized identifying your best users, or “niche pocket,” to help gain recognition. Ryoo shared that Product Hunt is a great resource for finding new, innovative products as well as an “incredible community” of enthusiasts, comparing it to a “democratized TechCrunch — you can write a piece about your latest product launch and if someone finds it, others can upvote it.” Boyd chimed in that he is “slightly addicted to it” and values that “it’s all about giving back to the community,” so for brands looking to get their product on the map, his can be a great way to start.

Be sure to check back for our other panel recaps, or get the whole scoop on takeaways from our Mobile Saturday event by downloading our overview: 15 Key Insights from Mobile Saturday at SXSW.