By Kevin McGuire, SVP Product

In the last decade Smartphones have changed how we connect and communicate. But let’s call a spade a spade: the smartphone isn’t as smart as it should be. When we unlock our phones we still get the same boring initial experience – a home screen with a sea of icons, the last app we recently used, or an app that we launched from the lock screen or message tray. After trillions of unlocks is that the best we can offer users?

Research from Phoenix Marketing International on the First Dibs report shows that 54% of the time device unlock experiences are unfulfilling to users, and 47% of device unlocks occur with no specific task or application in mind. People frequently turn to their Smartphones when they’re bored, often to simply see “what’s up” or to ensure they’re not missing out on a trending topic.

During these times users should be immediately informed and delighted after unlocking their device without having to think or act. Interesting, engaging, relevant, contextual content “for me” makes a powerful First Screen experience, along with the ability to easily move on from it if there is a particular task or application in mind. But our “smart” phones still require us to dig, tap, and wait to find something that satisfies our boredom itch or curiosity.

Let’s take a look at the key characteristics of a better smartphone First Screen experience:

  1. Content Centric: Deliver compelling content to the smartphone user that amuses, delights, and informs.
  2. Keeps Phone UX: Doesn’t deviate from the native UX of the device – providing a seamless user experience.
  3. No Need to Dig: Appears immediately on unlock, removing the need to dig through icons and apps for content.
  4. Big Distribution: An existing large distribution base to ensure high levels of monetization..
  5. Safe Monetization: Keep smartphones free from Rogue Ads and Malware.
  6. Supports CRM: Provide ways for new levels of engagement to subscriber base through cross-promotions and surveys.

Recently, as shown in Figure 1 we have seen certain solutions seeking to improve the first screen experience – News Apps, Enhanced Search, Lockscreen Rewards, and others. But do these solutions really provide the experience users want and need?




  1. News Apps: FlipBoard and Apple News are examples of content centric experiences that push content to smartphone users through notifications and taps/swipes. While the content here can engage, the solution doesn’t solve the problem of giving the user what they want immediately upon unlock. Sure, they may see a notification and decide they want to read the story – if they think to look for it in a typically cluttered message tray. Always-on users expect always-on experiences without having to take time or action to get connected to the content they love beyond news, especially when they have no specific task or application in mind as they unlock their phone.
  2. Enhanced Search: Leaps in voice recognition and artificial intelligence have improved search capabilities dramatically. But is it solving the problem of giving the user something they want when they don’t know what they want? The user still has to initiate the search with “something” – even if it’s as simple as “entertain me”!
  3. Lockscreen Rewards: Here we do have a solution that gives the user something immediately on unlock – credit for watching advertising! The idea is for the smartphone user to consume something that then can some kind of reward (money or points toward something). However, how many of us really are looking to watch an ad in our times of boredom? The failure here is that it does not give us a content experience that truly would engage, delight, inform or resonate with the mass market.
  4. -1 Screen: Carriers have come up with a “-1 screen” which is accessed from swiping right from their lock screen or home screen. Here the user can engage with important reminders, top news stories, the weather, and other items that may inform or educate them on their day. The experience here, however, looks like a long list of push notifications rather than something that truly engages users to solve their mobile boredom.

I expect that we will see a lot more First Screen innovation over the next year. The question remains however: Will these solutions actually fix the smartphone content experience? Mobile Posse’s platform is being used by Wireless Carriers and Device Manufacturers to offer their subscribers compelling content when they want it – giving them the “fix” they need in their times of boredom.