Opinion- Why aren't you using mobile Internet services?

Mobile media has come a long way, however, our first efforts to turn the Internet into a mobile experience failed miserably (cell phone Internet). Kevin Grant takes a step back and focuses on constructive ways to rethink mobile media and how to reframe the issues to more effectively sell mobile media to customers.

A major question in my daily work life these days is "why aren't you using mobile Internet services?". I own and operate a mobile media company in Toronto Canada and I have to anticipate the many objections I receive every day to mobile Internet services and technologies. In the sales world we call this concept "Objections". In other words, what are the common beliefs that shut down the sales process when I am pitching mobile Internet services and solutions to prospective customers.

In my daily life I find people fit into a few different camps about mobile media and why they don't really value it or are skeptical about it. This blog entry covers some of these main objections and I will try to dispel some of the myths and give you some idea of where these urban legends of mobile technology may have come from (in my opinion).

  1. Been there done that and hated it
  2. Why do I want to browse content on a small screen?
  3. I have a netbook and prefer a bigger screen
  4. Mobile Internet is too expensive for me
  5. I will wait and see if the mobile Internet ever takes off

Been there done that and hated it- WML Just didn't cut it

The power of the first experience (primacy effect) is really hard to overcome. I have found that if I give people a demo of a really great iPhone site, to skeptical individual, they quickly see just how far mobile Internet media has come. 

Mobile is not a new concept and we had a first version of mobile Internet services based on really clumsy cellphones that used WML (Wireless Markup Language) to display 20 column wide text only web pages. This early implementation of mobile Internet services has done a lot to hurt some people's perceptions of mobile internet services. It is the classic first impression effect. I know I used my cellphones, a Nokia, to browse WML pages about 3 years ago and it was so painfully slow and a poor user experience that I gave up altogether.

Fortunately the iPhone and other smartphone have come along since. However there is an uphill battle to get people to try mobile Internet services again given this really poor first impression many people had.


Why do I want to browse content on a small screen?

Let's face it, there are not a lot of great mobile Internet media enabled sites out there yet. The medium is evolving and a lot of experimentation is taking place at the moment. As more content is adapted and developed specifically for mobile devices, this objection will fade away. It is not the size of the screen that is the issue, it's the fact that we are trying to fit a regular website onto a mobile device, instead of scaling a website for mobile browsing. 

This objection is very common because these individuals have fired up their smartphone and visited a website they enjoy and received a lousy, non-mobile user experience. The device tried to reformat the content for the small screen and provided a less than stellar user experience. Even on an iPhone you have to zoom and pan and scan so much you can get dizzy from the tedious experience.

Pinching to zoom on an iPhone

The other misconception is that the screens are small. Actually all new smartphone use high resolution screens with pixels packed in at a very high density. Screen smoothing technologies anti alias (smooth out) the screen text so it looks crystal clear and sharp at small sizes. So the screens are small physically but actually have a high number of pixels overall. Sadly, most websites use absolute font sizes (e.g. 15px) in their style sheets instead of using relative sizes (120%) which the smartphone can scale appropriately for the screen pixel density. So what people see is tiny font sizes on small screens. As Internet design becomes more mobile savvy, this issue will be fixed. For now often we are stuck with zooming, panning, scanning, and that's just annoying. I totally agree.


I have a netbook and prefer a bigger screen

Netbooks are mobile media devices. They run full versions of Windows or MacOS or Linux but I think they actually are mobile devices and can display content in similar ways to a desktop computer but can also handle mobile media in very mobile ways. I see this as a transitional device between the old-world of the desktop and laptop, to the new-world of mobile media on a new breed of mobile-centric devices. 

The netbook is here to stay and I consider these devices as a fantastic bridging tool between the new-world and the old-world of the desktop and laptop, to the new-world of mobile media on a new breed of mobile-centric devices. Netbooks are going to take a quantum leap with the launch of the much anticipated Apple tablet. I have included a few speculative designs I scooped off the Internet below to give you some idea of what people imagine this new type of device to look like.

Mac Tablet Speculations

Mobile Internet is too expensive for me

Data plans costs are plummeting and allocated megabytes of monthly data are increasing. The mobile networks are getting faster and this is great news for mobile media. In Canada, where I live, data is expensive but competition in the marketplace is bringing the cost down slowly. This is good news for mobile media and it is time to start adding video, audio, and rich media to your mobile Internet presence. 

All mobile media early adopters were victims of the iPhone cash grab. This was the mobile carriers who charged insanely large prices to anyone who wanted the iPhone when it first came to market. With exclusive carrier deals and unfair pricing, this left this false impression that mobile media was expensive to view on a smartphone. Combine this with expensive data plans in the mid-2000s and there is a major misconception that mobile media is very expensive. This is no longer the case.

There were numerous reports in the media, when the iPhone launched, that people were being charged hundreds of dollars for viewing hours of video on their iPhone. The iPhone was so fast and so media rich that users forgot they were on an expensive mobile connection. Often people did not take the time to configure the Wi-Fi connection in their iPhone settings to save on mobile connection charges when they were connected at home or work. We have overcome these hurdles and carriers have learned to handle customer issues like this with compassion and forgiveness (by waiving charges because of lack of understanding of the plan costs and usage). Wi-Fi is now easier to set up on newer iPhones and this really results in major cost savings when a cheap Wi-Fi connection is within range.

I will wait and see if the mobile Internet ever takes off

Show your skeptical friends your smartphone and how you use is day-to-day. I have no doubts that quickly they will see the value in the technology and how it can improve their lives by giving them information freedom. 

This is a classic, as old as the dawn of time, objection to any new emerging technology. I dismiss this objection by saying to myself, this camp will always exist. The wait and see approach is a valid way to view emerging technologies. Rather than trying to convince skeptical people that mobile media is here to stay, I take the time to show them some of the cool new ways that they can shop, view video, connect to friends, and look up moving listings on a smartphone.

The technology sells itself and peaks people's interests quickly. The fact that you can carry around a small device, that fits in your pocket that frees you, in very real ways, from your desktop computer or laptop is life altering. People rapidly see this. There is also the viral reality of the technology. People are texting, browsing, and interacting on mobile smartphones everywhere these days.