What is mobile? It seems almost ridiculous to ask this question. Right now, there are over 5 billion mobile phones in use across the globe. It’s an astonishing figure, given that it’s been only 28 years since the first cellular network (the 1G) was launched by Ameritech in 1983 in Chicago. Three decades and billions of cell phones later, mobile reigns supreme for all things related to communication.
Everyone uses mobile. But mobile means more than cell phones. Mobile is laptops, netbook computers, PDAs, and GPS devices as well. All of these devices are connected through Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth, and VPN. They give us access to maps, directions, product reviews, business data, local information, and access to social networks. We all know people who don’t leave the house without their smart phone, iPad and laptop in hand. All can be used on the go. All are mobile. But the question remains. What is mobile?
Let’s be honest. We all know what mobile is. Some of us, however, are still trying to figure out what mobile might become – and that’s a broad topic. With all of this wireless access to the internet, how does mobile change the way that we seek, view and consume information. What does mobile mean for web content and viewers of content? That’s the real question for those of us in the design, development, and optimization industry. The web holds all of the content that we could possibly want to view on our mobile devices, but the web wasn’t built for mobile. Was it? Now that our devices are changing to suit our lifestyle, we’re looking to bend the web to meet the needs of our devices. This is where we begin to answer the big question about mobile.
We live in an age when web content can be viewed on a variety of devices. Some browse at work on a monster-sized flat screen. Some are still browsing at home on the old 15” CRT that came with their desktop PC. Others are glued to their smart phones. With all this variety in screen size, web developers are now tasked with creating sites that adapt and display content depending on the needs of the device. Reason being: screen resolutions range from 320 pixels for a 3GS iPhone to 2560 pixels for a widescreen desktop monitor.
Simply put: a mobile device is different than a personal computer.
Mobile web browsing requires a different content display. Web content should be optimized for mobile, so that it can be viewed appropriately. When you’re downtown and you do a quick search for sandwich place, you’re probably not interested in the top-ranking sandwich joint in the whole city (especially if you live in a city the size of Chicago). What you want is the closest, decent sandwich shop to your immediate location. The mobile device knows exactly where you are and which deli shop is right around the corner. The mobile device tells you this because the local data about the shop was optimized appropriately.
Given that last statement, it’s easy to assume that optimizing for mobile search is just as important to the business as the mobile platform that is developed. It’s true. Even in mobile search, there are optimization methods that aim to ensure your content ranks and displays properly – because it’s on a mobile device.
Here’s a bit of proof: According to the Kelsey Group, a marketing research company based in Chantilly, VA, mobile search marketing will account for 73% of the search industry in less than two years. As a point of comparison, it bears mentioning that in 2008 mobile search represented only 24% of the industry. That’s a significant growth rate.
So, what is mobile? From a developers perspective, mobile means optimization of existing content and staying informed as to how your content is best consumed.
The next big question for mobile has to do with mobile marketing. When people speak of mobile, do they mean app development? Mobile sites? Text marketing? Search ads? Display ads? QR codes?
Sounds like a topic for another article. Stay tuned for part 2: What is Mobile? A Marketer’s Perspective.