These days it is common to hear people describe the mobile web as the biggest thing since the desktop web. They're wrong!
It's much bigger than that!
I was recently headed south with the family on a trip to the beach. Leaving from Georgia, I had to make a stop at one of those rest areas on the side of the road to use the restroom. I go in the restroom and the first stall was taken so I went in the second stall. I just sat down when I heard a voice from the next stall… – "Hi there, how is it going?" Ok, I'm not the type to strike conversations with strangers in restrooms on the side of the road. I didn't know what to say so finally I say: – "Not bad…" Then the voice says: – "So, what are you doing?" I'm starting to find this a bit weird, but I say: – "Well, I'm going on vacation with the family and we're headed to the beach…" Then I hear the person say all flustered: – "Look I'll call you back, every time I ask you a question this idiot in the next stall keeps answering me." LOL. The point is… mobile devices are everywhere! Did you know that there are currently far more mobile devices than personal computers? There were approximately 2.8 billion handsets in circulation by mid-2006. The total number of mobile web users grew past the total number of PC based internet users for the first time in 2008. In Europe alone, there are four times more handsets than PC's, and in some countries there are more handsets than people¹. According to recent research done by the Pew Research Center more than half of Americans – 56% – have accessed the internet wirelessly on some device, such as a laptop, cell phone, MP3 player, or game console². Wow! Those are some staggering statistics. With the Blackberry, iPhone, and other emerging technologies it appears the mobile web is growing faster than we can imagine. So, who cares about the statistics? What's this mobile device phenomena really about anyhow? Well, if we study some characteristics of mobile devices maybe we can comprehend their popularity. For one, their always "on" (provided the battery isn't dead). Two, they're always at hand – wherever you go it goes. Third, they're very personal and rarely shared. It's fairly common to customize one's mobile devices and they becomes outward reflections of our personalities, much like our autos. I'm really starting to dig this new technology. What can we do with this new technology? We can certainly make phone calls just like always have, or at least as far back as I can remember. We can send text messages, play games, take pictures, listen to music, watch videos, and surf the internet. Before long these devices will be able to hold as much data as our desktop computers and will come with even more applications, GPS for instance. Ok, now I'm starting to see why mobile devices are becoming so ubiquitous. I hope you are starting to see where we're headed and why it's important that you get a mobile version of your website up and running yesterday. Believe me, this train is leaving whether you're on it or not. In my upcoming posts I'll go over behaviors of mobile device users, some limitations of the devices, and approaches we can take to get that mobile version of your website up and running as quickly as possible. ¹ Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009 ² Pew Internet & American Life Project