Are Innovations in Mobile Technology Out of Touch With Reality?

Companies are spending millions of dollars funding lavish projects to solve minor inconveniences -- all while ignoring the real issues.

Motley Fool Staff
Motley Fool Staff
Dec 4, 2015 at 11:10AM
Technology and Telecom

While a lot of mobile technology innovations solve big-picture problems, many of them simply don't. In this video segment, The Motley Fool's Chris Hill and Tim Hanson discuss the mobile innovation scene and the fact that companies are spending millions of dollars to fund fixes for minor inconveniences and problems not many people actually seem to be having.

That might be a losing recipe both for investors and for consumers who could find themselves receiving answers to questions they aren't asking.

A full transcript follows the video.


This podcast was recorded on 11/16/2015.

Chris Hill: You were in California ... was it last week? For a mobile conference?

Tim Hanson: Yes. That sounds about right.

Hill: It's all a blur. We were chatting earlier, and I mentioned one of the things that caught my eye, you did fire off a couple tweets from the conference. And I'm sure there were some good takeaways--

Hanson: Oh, yeah.

Hill: But, one of the more humorous takeaways was when you tweeted "It's mind-blowing how much intellectual capital is being spent to solve mild inconveniences over real problems." 

Hanson: This is a real quote. This is someone who was talking about mobile devices and geo-fencing, which is being able to figure out where you are just based on having the phone in your pocket. And the guy goes, I kid you not, "Imagine what the world will be like when you can walk into a Sephora and they know you're there!"

And it was like, "What? What? What will the world be like? Will you be able to better target me scented soap?" I can imagine that world, and it's not that much better than the world we--

Hill: Don't we live in that world right now?

Hanson: Yeah!

Hill: If the people in the Sephora are looking up at the door--

Hanson: Imagine what the world will be like! If you can walk into a Sephora, and they know you're there! It's like ... yeah, I can imagine that world. It's not that much better or different from the world we have.

Hill: Were there, however, some interesting takeaways, beyond just the humorous ...

Hanson: Well, listen, mobile computing has the opportunity to do some incredible things. They're not even phones anymore. They're smart pocket devices. And what can you do with something in your pocket that knows a lot about you, knows where you are in the world, and can solve lots of problems? It raises all kinds of interesting questions.

There was one start-up, this goes back to the lighter side of things, that said, "I started this company after I got three bad haircuts in a row, to help people better find stylists who can cut their hair." And it was like, "Well ... now you've raised $50 million ... that's a mild inconvenience that I'm glad you've solved."

Hill: Well done.

Hanson: And the other funny insight was that ... it was either TripAdvisor or someone, was talking about their mobile app, I think it was TripAdvisor. And they had said that their incremental improvement on like, the Google Maps experience was that when you don't want to go to a destination, instead of showing you the map, it just, on your phone, shows you an arrow about which direction to start heading, which they thought corrected for what they called "the walk of shame." Obviously, if you're in college, the walk of shame has a different connotation.

Hill: That's a whole other thing.

Hanson: But their walk of shame was that you look at the map and start walking in one direction, and you realize the blue dot is moving farther away from your destination, so you, you know, turn around, you have to sort of to hang your head in shame and go back in the other direction. But they're like, "Yeah, just put a big arrow on your phone and just follow the arrow."

But now, most people have no idea where they are in the city, or the world, at any given moment. They just rely on their device to get them out of there. But there are all sorts of interesting talks about what this could enable and what aspects are helpful, and in what ways does it turn us into more of a generation of helpless people relying--

Hill: Slaves to our phones.

Hanson: Correct.