According to several sources, 10% of the people in the Netherlands use internet on their mobile phone at least once a month. I really have my doubts if that is correct, but I really don’t want to get in that discussion.
Let’s talk about the (at least) 90% that isn’t using internet on their mobile phone.
New technologies: An idea beyond the function of the thing itself
We’re really in the first phase of mobile internet now. Recycling existing online content is our faith untill we wait for the gps and gyroscope-based functions and augmented reality apps (and other thing I might have forgotten) to catch on. To quote Neil Postman in Amusing ourselves to Death:
(…) a clock re-creates time as an independent, mathematically precise sequence, writing re-creates the mind as a tablet on which experience is written, the telegraph re-creates news as a commodity. (…) in every tool we create, an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself.
So has mobile internet, an idea embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself.
Current marketing of mobile internet
Unfortunately, mobile internet is often still presented as a portable (read: with a smaller screen, less posibilities and a crappy design) version of the regular internet experience. And -and this makes me pissed- marketed that way:
- Operator: Check your social network on your mobile phone!
Consumer: Sorry, I prefer to check it at home, where I have a large screen.
- Operator: Check what restaurants are good!
Consumer: I don’t need to, I’ll check it at home.
- Operator: Check your email wherever you are!
Consumer: I don’t want to. I am flooded with email and prefer to have some time without email bugging me.
- Operator: Check train tables and the news whenever you want!
Consumer: Ok, I prefer to check it at home, at my desktop computer.
- Operator: You can use twitter on-the-go!
So, some thoughts:
- I use the internet connection on my phone for checking news, train tables, updating my twitter profile, checking email and syncing my data. You can do all those things (more conveniently) on a desktop or laptop computer. People that are used to a desktop or laptop won’t see the benefit of using a smaller screen for things they have done conveniently on a larger screen for years. If you’re used to checking train departures on your desktop it is hard to see what is the extra benefit of checking it on a smaller screen. HOWEVER, when you are used checking news, train departures and email on your mobile phone, you hardly ever turn back.
- While we’re waiting for the “idea embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself” (Postman), so the idea that goes beyond doing the same stuff we have been doing on larger screens on mobile, we’re really stuck to recycling existing webcontent to mobile devices.
Considering the fact that we’re in a transition period for mobile phones, waiting for the innovation to kick in and that current marketing techniques won’t catch on:
Cut the crap, stop advertising irrelevant benefits and start handing out free mobile internet. It will make people get used to the idea of mobile internet (like I have stressed before: when you are used checking news, train departures and email on your mobile phone, you hardly ever turn back). And, even more important, will finally make mobile internet access a commodity, so we can focus on developing the ideas embedded that go beyond the function of the thing itself.