I want to go further with mobile than messaging: do I do a mobile application or a mobile internet site?
It’s a debate with some mighty strong legs and finding an entirely objective line can be tricky as those with a vehement line tend to have a fairly transparent vested interest.
So it was at AIME’s event on Thursday, “Untangling the Mobile Internet – It’s more than just WAP and the iPhone” where Wapple’s Rich Holdsworth, amongst others, extolled the virtues of the mobile internet and wittily mocked gimicky mobile applications. And it’s likely that the audience were largely with him on this.
His arguments were nicely backed up by Google’s VP of engineering Vic Gundotra, who shortly after – though I suspect not in a direct response to the AIME event – claimed that consumers will turn to web browsers to fill their information and entertainment needs. Gundotra said no one, including Google, is rich enough to support all the mobile platforms in existence and we should shift thinking away from the fragmented app store model. (Links below).
If the mobile browser’s strength is in reach, then where it often falls down currently is the number of clicks required to find a desired site or content – even using a Favourites panel.
Vodafone particularly is making serious strides to address this through the introduction of their new MyWeb functionality which enables users to personalise their mobile web homescreen through a traditional desktop dashboard.
In basic user experience terms the mobile browser still has serious challenges to address. Challenges which applications are rising to across a number of platforms.
The ability to browse for new apps and select already downloaded favourites in as few clicks as possible is where apps will continue to nose ahead for the time being, on newer devices at least.
Mobile Monday London this month is looking at Mobile Entertainment Applications, and will concentrate on the impressive work of Getjar, the largest independent retailer of mobile applications, not affiliated to any network or device manufacturer. The apps army will have a platform to stake a compelling claim for longevity at this event.
The current truth is it still comes down to bespoke, case by case objectives and priorities: what do you want to achieve?
If you value reach and eyeballs beyond all else, then in addition to messaging (SMS, MMS) you’d likely still go with the browser because it is much easier to standardise mobile internet content across all, or most platforms, than it is to create an application that will work on all, or most handsets.
Future thinkers and app evangelists often argue that we shouldn’t get hung up on reach and it should all be about generating a valuable experience. You can see where they’re coming from sometimes – that is, if making money isn’t the point of you’re exercise: if the point is simple brand exposure to a specific, targeted audience, brand association, or simply showing off as technology figureheads with a new technology.
Receiving a tape or CD compiled especially for you will (hopefully) generate a more meaningful, personal experience than buying a record from a store. And you can zoom that out to applications targeted at one market segment or demographic (like the Fanta Stealth Sound System), or on one platform, creating an experience which speaks directly and perhaps even offers some direct utility to them. And if it does this well enough, then it also achieves significant reach.
So, right now it depends on what you want to do and who you want to appeal to.
Push me on the long term and I’d put my eggs in the browser basket, mostly because that’s what Google said.