Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oct 09 - Mobile gets moving

Seems like only yesterday I was queuing up bleary eyed at six in the morning, out the front of my local Optus store, to get my hands on one of the very first iPhones.

I wrote about my experiences with the phone for this column about a year or so ago. Thinking back, my excitement for the device was almost childlike in its exuberance.

So how do I feel about it now?

To be brutally frank – I couldn’t live without it. Actually I probably could, but I’d really rather not!

Mobile marketing has been threatening to be the next big thing for as long as I can remember. It’s still threatening, but thanks to the clever folks from Apple, it is finally starting to become a reality.

Yes, yes, yes I know Blackberries are great too. And I know phones have been able to do stuff other than make calls for ages, but it was the iPhone that made the telecommunications providers start thinking seriously about the inclusion of a data allowance in mobile phone plans.

Which makes me think that it is the telcos themselves that have held back the mobile marketing industry, not the mobile phone manufacturers.

I had a so called smartphone before I bought the iPhone, but my mobile plan had no real data allowance. So I avoided using its email and internet browsing capabilities. Unless of course I could find a way to claim them back through my work expenses.

When I switched to the iPhone, I stayed on the same monthly call plan, but it also included a huge data allowance. Which meant I could exploit every 3G capability of the phone, without constantly worrying about how much my mobile bill was going to be at the end of the month.

I don’t know if other smartphones now have big data allowances in their plans, but they surely will soon. Because without them mobile marketing just can’t happen.

Don’t believe me? Then you should buy yourself a ticket to Japan.

Failing that, go visit the blog of Johanna, of NAKED New York, who has recently written a couple of great posts about mobile phones in Japan.

Like me, she was overwhelmed the advanced features of the average Japanese mobile. Unlike me, Johanna found out why many of the features the Japanese take for granted have been slow to take of in other markets.

“Their phones are too advanced for anyone else’s infrastructures and capabilities. I knew they were years ahead of the rest of the world, but didn’t realise just how much.”

She backed up this statement with this:

“Mobile phones set the pace in almost every industry innovation: email capabilities in 1999, camera phones in 2000, third-generation networks in 2001, full music downloads in 2002, electronic payments in 2004 and digital TV in 2005.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Japanese mobile phones had email capability ten years ago!

According to Johanna, someone has come up with a name for the differences between the Japanese mobile market and the rest of the world – Gal├ípagos Syndrome.

“Japan’s mobile phones are like the endemic species that Darwin encountered on the Gal├ípagos Islands. Fantastically evolved and divergent from their mainland cousins.”

This is a fascinating theory I think. For us the mobile has always been little more than a portable talking device. It’s only recently that its capabilities have begun to expand.

Whereas in Japan, the designers and engineers focused more on the device itself, rather than the desire to simply talk into to it. So they began incorporating features they considered would be helpful to consumers, like the ability to read a barcode, pay for transactions, even a built in electronic car key!

“This,” argues Johanna, “puts the focus on the entire experience within the handset itself, rather than how the hardware can be used as a tool to receive information from other places.”

Which, having used one for the best part of 18 months now, sounds a lot like the way the iPhone must have been designed. And is why, I believe, it is the catalyst for much anticipated dawning of the mobile marketing industry.



Johanna’s Blog

1 comment:

Tokyohanna said...

Hey, I'm a little late to this but thanks for the link and analysis! Got my brain stirring about it again.