Samsung beats Apple in meeting users' multitasking needs
September 5, 2013
The Keeping up with the Kardashian's app
As consumers increasingly use mobile applications and mobile Web sites for a variety of everyday activities, marketers are focusing on enabling users to multitask. Yet, Apple seems to be trailing Samsung in catering to this trend.
YouTube recently updated its app to let users watch a video while searching for the next one, and many other apps and sites are following in suit. Yet, while desktop is definitely conducive to multiple tabs and windows being open at once, it is unclear if mobile, especially Apple devices, will lend itself to the same experience.
“Easily being able to share content socially, watch additional content, shop, search for store locations and other multitasking features in apps can be additive to a brand experience, especially when these functions are easy for the consumer to use,” said Nikao Yang, senior vice president of new business development & marketing at AdColony, Los Angeles.
“On one hand, the smaller screens on mobile devices may not be entirely conducive to multitasking,” he said. “Unlike desktop experiences where we have multiple tabs open and jump from activity to activity, the mobile app environment is about curated and purposeful app experiences that hold a consumer’s attention.
“However, it may just be the definition of multitasking that needs to be put into context for mobile. For many consumers, multitasking on mobile may be more about easily moving from app to app as opposed to trying to do multiple things on the same tiny screen.”
Samsung vs. Apple
While both Samsung and Apple face similar challenges in terms of screen size, Samsung seems to be ahead of the game in terms of multitasking capabilities.
According to Mr. Yang, some Samsung devices let users split the screen in half, so they can have their email inbox on one side while running another app on the other side.
The multitasking function is built directly into the device.
Apple devices, however, have not yet offered such a feature.
“In terms of trends, it seems like iOS is more about keeping users focused on one app than trying to do 50 things at once, but you can very easily switch between apps,” Mr. Yang said. “IOS notifications allow you to know what’s going on in your other apps without having to constantly jump around.”
Despite Apple not offering split-screen capabilities, marketers are still managing to squeeze multitasking functionality into apps and mobile sites.
On YouTube, for example, the experience is similar to the picture-in-picture experience on television, where one video becomes smaller to make space for other videos or activities. It is pretty difficult to see the smaller video, but the app can be used to listen to the video’s audio while looking for other videos.
E’s Keeping up with the Kardashians app also lets users watch videos while simultaneously looking at other videos or newsfeeds. While watching a video, a user can search through other videos on top of the video, making the original video a kind of background screen.
Here, too, it is a bit difficult to watch the video, but users could listen to the audio while searching for more videos.
Other apps allow users to completely minimize a video while searching through other content.
For example, Comedy Central’s CC: Stand-Up app lets users minimize the screen of a comedy act they are watching and click on discover mode to find related comedians while still listening to the original act.
Pandora even lets users close the app completely while still listening to music. Users can listen while going about other activities on their phones.
Youtube's multitasking feature
One of the obvious challenges with catering to a multitasking culture on mobile devices is that screen size may just be too small to accommodate more than one activity.
On desktops, consumers can comfortably open two windows or watch a video while browsing for other information. On mobile devices, this may be less comfortable.
“The smaller screen and the carefully-designed environment of a great app is meant to hold a consumer’s attention, which is a perfect canvas for advertisers,” Mr. Yang said.
“The challenge for marketers in any medium, whether it’s TV, online or on mobile, is to have beautifully-crafted creative and compelling, impactful messages that capture a consumer’s attention,” he said. “The key is to be additive to the experience rather than interruptive and to keep the consumer engaged.”
Matt Garrity, director of business development at Canvas, New York, believes that marketers should focus on providing the best features that offer convenience, efficiency and effectiveness. He does not necessarily think that apps need to directly cater to multitasking, rather multi-features.
“Marketers have the opportunity to connect to their audience with the right app experience,” Mr. Garrity said. “They need to first research and understand what will truly be of use on a repeat basis to the user. User testing and interviews can go a long way towards avoiding superfluous features.”
Multitasking in the Keeping up with the Kardashians app
Tablets vs. phones
While multitasking may be a bit of a stretch for smartphone apps, tablet apps may have an easier time catering to this culture.
Marci Weisler, chief operating officer at EachScape, New York, believes that marketers can be more successful by incorporating multitasking features in tablet apps.
“The limited screen space on phones limits how many options are offered without cluttering the screen and overwhelming the user,” she said. “I think it's more easily done on tablets, both in apps and browser.”
Ms. Weisler sees multitasking as becoming more prevalent among consumers and thinks that marketers should acknowledge this trend and try to engage consumers in their app or site.
“People are distracted and busy and while you want their full attention, you'd rather keep them engaged with you and doing multiple things than off somewhere else,” she said.
“We see this on the Web all the time, I've got multiple screens open. Brands need to be engaging in their own apps and as ads within apps. App publishers need to find ways to present brand marketing so it's not obfuscated by mutlitasking.”
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York
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