The Evolution of Mobile

I was interviewed for a B&T article on mobile this week. Afterwards I collated a few of the ideas I was talking about, to check I made some form of logical sense. So here they are. Most of it is just one-line thoughts, I don’t think there’s a single thread running through everything that culminates in any solid conclusion, and there’s probably even a few contradictions in there.

What is holding up mobile advertising in Australia?

Clients – It’s still very new territory for them, and mobile is a very personal space.

Users – In Australia mobile web use is very low. Yet we have more than 1 mobile per person. This is an issue with the public understanding what is possible. I think a lot of this has been confused by each telco pushing it’s own portal, and also the high data charges. And yet there is no real reason for the telco’s to start lowering data rates and encouraging people to leave their portals.

Agencies – Thinking of mobile early on is, not surprisingly, a rare event in Australian agencies these days. Mobile is most often brought onboard when it comes to mechanics for entry or extension, but rarely as a device that can really contain an idea. I don’t think we need to be doing mobile for the sake of doing mobile, but we need to be aware of it and it’s possiblities. At NetX we’re always looking out for ways to push mobile along as much as we can, and while I certainly wouldn’t say this will be ‘the year of mobile’, we’re certainly pushing more and more mobile ideas.

Convergance and location awareness isn’t just about advertising. An open standard for location awareness could finally make mobiles make our lives easier. My Skype would appear on my big screen when I’m at it, my small screen when I’m out. I wouldn’t get work emails when I’m up at my beach house, but I would get family ones.

Thinking of mobile as the internet on a small screen will fail. We don’t have the surplus space that we have on websites (or in print, or on the highways, or in bus shelters).

Content, as always is King. When you have your own channel, you don’t have to worry what channel to be in. So in this sense, if you have the right content (sports results for example), you’re crazy to not be in there.

We’re not as aware of how people are using mobile as we are with the web. The generational gap is bigger than we’ve had with the web up until now. It’s much harder for creatives and suits in agencies to bridge the gap between brand marketers and the people actually using mobile in ways in which advertising becomes viable.

Bandwidth will increase. The convergance of a mesh wifi network and the mobile network will happen, giving us the bandwidth in our hand that we have at home.

The kids are ahead of us. We (anyone over 18) might get freaked out by the possibility of location aware applications, but the younger generation will take it up. They don’t have a past reference point to base their anxieties on.

Always online. Location awareness, constand feeds of information, just like you get RSS feeds now. Maybe everyone will have their own mobile portal? Widsets have begun this, Android may continue it.

Mobile may well be about marketing, while large-screen is more about engagement and entertainment.

Colloboration/Content creation is something that is easy for mobile users. But not necesarilly with the whole world, mobile is about a smaller network of friends.

Standards are also an issue. The variety of screen sizes and phone capabilities means it’s hard to design and build for mobile. iPhone and Android will help this. There should be a point soon where Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices are prevelant enough that we can start thinking about consistent experiences.

Like the web, banking may well be the application thats pushes the mobile web into the mainstream.

Data is currently the biggest hurdle. Until we have reasonable or unlimited data available on our mobile devices, talking about how the platform will evolve is moot. There is an element of consumer education in this regard. Much as AOL and Compuserve acted to confuse the consumer into thinking that their walled gardens were ‘the internet’, the telcos are firmly fixated on their own mobile portals. Unfortunately it’s much harder to setup a telco than an isp, so I’m not entirely sure how this issue will resolve itself. In the meantime I think we should all just continue pushing good mobile ideas, because the more that get out in front of the consumer, the more they’ll start thinking of their mobiles as more than a phone and telegraph service.

- May 2008