A majority of businesses that integrate mobile into their promotional strategies claim that their offerings will in some way make life easier for their consumers. They promise not only to give the customer “more,” but also to be timely and convenient. As someone who is attending a professional masters degree program, while also working on various side endeavors and trying to remain sane each quarter, I appreciate convenience. Therefore, imagine my delight when I receive a message from Study Blue, sent to my UW email account, which announces:  

“Pocket is the New Backpack: This semester, get your study materials on any computer or phone. Free.”

A fairly clever slogan, granted, but past experiences with mobile opportunities (especially on my remedial, little Matrix), have taught me that mobile marketers should avoid hyperbolic statements that incorporate the descriptor “any computer or phone.”  Hello, mobile opportunity of the week! Time to put Study Blue to the test.

Clicking the link provided in the email, I’m taken to the Study Blue Website, where I am invited to create an account (-it’s free, the site reminds me). I enter my name, password, education level, and college, and we’re off… First, what is Study Blue? According to the advertising copy, the company offers study tools that will increase my efficiency as a student by enabling me to create and upload class-related notes and flashcards from any device that connects to the Internet, including my phone. It is interesting to note that although the email I received stressed the mobile-friendly nature of Study Blue, I had to hunt around for the “Mobile” link, which is at the very bottom of the main page in 5 pt. font.

Suddenly, Study Blue is no longer for any phone: “Your notes and flashcards are on your Android or iPhone.” Whoops,  Study Blue assumed that all college students have Smartphones, so they created an app to make my “study world” go more mobile. But wait, not all is lost! “Limited support is also available for Blackberry, along with other mobile operating systems.” OK, how limited? Well, they don’t really tell me. Instead, they take me to an FAQ page and make me hunt for the answer myself. Pop quiz, Blue, what can you do to make the user experience better? Take me directly to the information I need; don’t test my scholarly abilities to locate the necessary details, that is not very convenient. Study Blue goes on to say that it’s “confident the site will function on most browsers on today’s smart phones.” Pop quiz #2: There are many phones out there that are not, in fact, Smartphones. So, as I suspected, the argument that Study Blue will give me access to my notes and flashcards from any phone is egregiously (SAT word) INCORRECT. No gold star for you, Blue.

Needless to say, accessing http://www.studyblue.com on my Matrix is horrible. This is because I am not accessing a mobile Web page, but instead trying to open the regular Study Blue Website on my little screen and having to scroll every which way to get anything done or to even read the log-in screen. However, in the spirit of “Learn By Doing,” I borrow my friend’s Android phone: the Samsung Fascinate and give Study Blue a re-test.

On a Smartphone, I’ll admit Study Blue is pretty cool. It enables students to study their notes without having to dig through their backpacks and flip through page after page of scribblings to find the right material. The site is fairly easy to navigate, with an attractive layout that displays very well on the Fascinate. In terms of the payout, I can appreciate the concept of Study Blue: you’re sitting on the bus to school, you have 5 or 7 minutes, why not pull out your Smartphone (assuming, of course, you have one) and study a few terms and theories? I can see especially why this would be a useful tool for an engineering/science student like my friend, the materials engineer. After all, IF Study Blue envisioned tech-savvy, scientist-type students as its target audience, I can understand the reasoning behind building a Smartphone-centric mobile strategy. For instance, you could argue that students pursuing degrees in the engineering, medical, or scientific fields are more likely than other students (*cough* communication majors) to own devices that serve multiple functions like telephone, personal computer, and organizer due to the analytical nature of their programs. Furthermore, as these particular fields of study require the memorization of a staggering amount of formulas, terms, and other data, I can see where true “mobile studying” would be very useful. Finally, the service does indeed appear to be, in all ways, “Free.” What student doesn’t like that?

However, having admitted Study Blue‘s strengths as a potentially useful mobile tool, I have to question its promotion. The email stated I would have access from any phone, then it turned out it was only Smartphones, and really the only experience that the company has created specifically for mobile is its iOS App; as far as I can tell, there is no similar App for the Android platform. Therefore, in order to improve the consumer experience, I would advise Study Blue to be more precise in their mobile promotions; do not promise a unique mobile experience for any phone, when in reality, the only “unique” mobile experience you’ve built is for the iPhone. In this way, the company will not end up with an audience of frustrated students. Furthermore, it would also be interesting if Study Blue really took advantage of a Smartphone’s hardware capabilities. For instance, wouldn’t it be even more useful if Study Blue enabled users to turn their Smartphones into microphones? In this way, students could record lectures, which Study Blue could then transcribe into written notes from which the student could make flashcards for later study. Hence, if Study Blue actually delivered on its thesis, I think the app/mobile experience could move to the front of its class and really distinguish itself from the other “kids.”