Any of us who consume content via the Internet are aware of how profoundly that consumption has changed over the last few years. The advent of smart mobile devices and tablets has freed that consumption from the tether of the desktop computer and has started to fulfill the promise of “always on, anytime, any place, any screen.” From a marketing perspective that has been incredibly frustrating as brands try to keep up with the ever-changing consumption patterns of their intended customer bases. From a user perspective, it’s gloriously liberating.
Some statistics from the good folks at eMarketer with respect to that change are over there on the chart. You can see online – desktop – time spent dropping even as consumption of video and social increases. Look, however, at the rapid growth on mobile devices. There is a similar pattern to the type of content consumed but the time spent has gone from negligible to half of that on desktops and laptops. But I don’t think that’s the real story.
Just as important – maybe more so – as the growth of these mobile devices is how all that content gets on those devices. In other words, the pipe. For tablets, a lot of the usage is in the home where it’s reasonable to assume the pipe is the home wi-fi network that’s drawing from the basic internet connection – the cable or DSL provider. For phones and some tablets, it’s the mobile network.
The issue in my mind is that usage of these devices is artificially depressed by the usage constraints placed there by those carriers. It’s hard to get an unlimited data plan with many carriers and those of us who have those data plans grandfathered in still get hit with bandwidth caps – usage points at which the data gets slowed down. The carriers often say it’s about managing network capacity. Which means, of course, it’s about money.
Building a wireless data network is a huge, expensive undertaking. The carriers have every right to earn back that investment and have an obligation to do so to their shareholders. The wireless business defends itself from undercutting by municipalities that attempt to install free public wi-fi. Google, however, has proven it’s possible to roll out an uncapped very high-speed network at reasonable prices. Admittedly so far this is not a wireless network. Does anyone think it won’t be at some point?
If not Google, something else will break the dam of bandwidth restrictions. That’s when the world really changes. Just as improved cable networks have made HDTV ubiquitous (something like 75% of all homes have HD now), and just as that same bandwidth into the home has made cord-cutting a growing trend, a freed-up, uncapped pipe for mobile will drastically change the landscape. You agree?
Anyone remember the Tamagotchi? They were a late 1990’s phenomenon – digital handheld pets. The owner had to care for them on a daily – maybe even hourly – basis or they’d die. Not a fun experience for either the owner (generally a child) or the parent.
I was reminded of the constant care and feeding required by those things this morning as I booted up my phone and found nearly a dozen app updates that needed to be installed. That, of course, was after I updated a half-dozen yesterday. Don’t get me wrong – some of the updates contained wonderful enhancements to the app and were very welcome but way too many were either bug or security fixes. In fact, if you own a smartphone, notice how often you get an update followed within a day or two by another.
Having worked on a few mobile apps, I know how hard it can be to catch everything in QC. We’re not going to have the Android vs. iOS chat now but even in a closed system like iOS there are multiple versions in multiple devices and the updates come fast and furious. Using the mobile web and web apps is better although various browser/hardware/OS issues still make testing hard. At least the user doesn’t have to do any updating though.
The real issue for me is that I’m not sure there’s enough thought or care given to the constant update issue. Some apps will do a partial release – they think if a button was bigger it would get better results so they push an update to some of their users to test it. Other apps decide to change the permissions (to get more of them and more data) on their installed base knowing that most people don’t look at that when they install the update. Still others move features behind a pay wall. Obviously security issues need to be fixed immediately, but a logo change can certainly wait until a big release, right?
Way back when in the early web days the dream was for a universal browser looking a web sites – no client side activity at all. Now in mobile it’s gone back the other way – dedicated client-side apps have replaced the server activity. Maybe it’s that apps are a closed world – I’m not shopping Barnes & Noble while I’m in Amazon’s app. But there’s got to be something other than grown-up Tamagotchi worlds living on our smartphones.
Once in a while we play a little game of compare and contrast which is what we’ll be doing today.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The two items causing a bit of cognitive dissonance are studies from Pew and from Mongoose Metrics. Let’s start with Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:
- Nearly a third (31%) of adult U.S. mobile Web users say they now go online mostly through their cell phones
- Leading the mobile-only Web trend are young people and minorities. Nearly half of all 18- to-29-year-olds (45%) who access the Internet on phones do most of their online browsing on their mobile device. Half (51%) of African-Americans and 42% of Hispanics in the same category also mostly go online through their phones. By contrast, only 24% of white mobile Web users turn mainly to their devices for Web access.
- Less affluent (income of under $50,000 annually) and less well-educated people were also more likely to rely mostly on their phones for Web browsing than those with higher incomes and college or higher levels of education.
OK – pretty straightforward. Nearly everyone has a mobile device, more than half (55%) use them to go on the web at some point, and as incomes go down the mobile device tends to become the primary point of access. Got it. Next.
Part of the 2012 Mongoose Metrics Data Series found that mobile internet access accounts for approximately 9 percent of all traffic. However, the report also found that about 10 percent of websites are fully optimized for mobile access, which means 90 percent are incapable of serving these users completely.
Oops. You can read the study here if you’re interested. It also reminds us that 80% of users preferred mobile sites when searching for prices and product reviews. But then again, if they can’t see the great content you have, what difference does it make?
We’re at yet another point of change. The desktop computer is dying a lingering death, and I think it will be an enterprise-only device within 5 years. So why are a lot of us behaving as if nothing has changed? We need to be thinking and building mobile first, as the data points out. After all, being discoverable and social is useless if you’re not optimally visible.