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14 May 2010

It's So Funny, How We Don't Talk Anymore....

by Chris Merriman

Do I win an award for the first Cliff Richard reference in a blog post? Well? Do I?

Don't worry. It's not an article about Cliff Richard. It's about mobile phones.

Do you remember your first mobile phone? I do. I've still got it. It looked like Fig 1:

Mobile Phones

It made calls. It sent text messages (but you could only keep 10 at a time). It was the size of my current iPod, mobile and camera put together, had a black and white screen, and dangled the promise of "forthcoming fax and data" in the manual - but no instructions.

Fast forward 15 years. What do you look for in a mobile phone?

Internet Browsing?




E-Book reading?

Media Player?


Office Suite?

Games Console?

Flash Drive?


Of course for many, the zenith for this is the iPhone - a device that actually is less powerful than many others on the market, but to which champions of so-called Smartphones can owe much, having finally brought the potential of the 3G networks, which (if you'll recall) the operators spent, literally, billions of pounds on, in terms of licensing and infrastructure, to the masses in an easy to use way.

It was a heavy gamble - especially as the initial reponse to grainy Wikipedia entries like Fig 2 (c.2002) was "hmmm, it's a bit fiddly.... there's not much to see... how slow?... seems a bit pointless" and other such burbles suggesting that it was all going to take a long time to take off.

And of course, clunky is what it was. My first internet enabled phone, back in 2001, had WAP, which could only handle especially designed pages, in black and white, and at a measly 35.6k (!). As an aside, it also had a free mp3 player - a tiny, but seperate add on, that could handle a mighty 32mb (that's about 1 album).

My first true Smartphone was 2 years later - the HTC Canary - AKA the Orange SPV E100 (the "SPV" stood for "sounds, pictures, video"):


As you can see (Fig 3), it boasted a mighty 64mb of data and.... gasp.... a VGA camera that clipped on the bottom.

Looking back now, it seems ridiculous, but at the time, the zenith of technology. Wish I still had it!

And here's where we come to the crunch. It's 7 years later, and the way we use our phones dramatically. Just as engineers who had a little feature in early phones to allow them to update it had not a clue what they were unleashing (it's called SMS and 4.1 Trillion of them were sent in 2008), the 3G network, despite its slow start has lead us to a world where we're using our phones for e-mail, music, navigation, high quality digital photos, movies... in fact almost everything except phone calls.

So what's my point? Well there's kind of two of them. I'm sure you were afraid of that. The social one is simply this - the way we communicate has changed dramatically, and even though we're talking more, we're talking less, existing instead in a virtual space of MSN, Facebook and e-mail, from the middle of the city to a top of a mountain.

From a commercial point of view, ask yourself this... if all my potential customers, clients and contacts are using mobile internet - then why aren't I? With mobile versions of your websites, dedicated mobile social media networks like Foursquare, and apps that leverage huge website traffic to download them, there's a definite potential for ROI on your investment in mobile platforms. And with 4G and WiMax round the corner, making it all more accessible than ever before, then it's time to start thinking about your presence on the mobile web.

If you want any information on leveraging mobile technology on iPhone, Android, Symbian, Blackberry or WinMo platforms... give us a call - 020 7183 4999

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