Mobile Web Bad, Mobile Data Good?

25 Comments

Mobile Web: So Close Yet So Far, a story in The New York Times gives US mobile web usage a B-minus grade. According to Rethink Research mobile web accounts for “12 percent of average revenue per user in 2007, far below the expected 50 percent” while Yankee Group says “only 13 percent of cellphone users in North America use their phones to surf the Web.” Terrible phones, puny network speeds and WAP browsers – no surprise that in a society where people lug laptops even on vacation, mobile web as outlined by NYT isn’t doing well.

merlinpccard.jpgIn sharp contrast, mobile data seems to be doing well for the US carriers. Here is what they have raked in from wireless data: $8.6 billion (2005), $15.8 billion (2006) and $17.7 billion for first three quarters of 2007. Assuming that the non-messaging data revenues are in the 50-60% (of the data revenues) range for the US carriers, that is pretty hefty growth.

A large push, one would guess is coming from the growing popularity of 3G cards, especially among the web worker/mobile worker crowd. There is anecdotal evidence things will change quite rapidly when we have mobile handsets with real browsers showing up in the sales isles. One such device is already showing its impact. I caught up with Omar Hamoui, Founder & CEO of AdMob, a mobile advertising start-up last week, and he said that over past 30 days the total share of traffic coming to their network from iPhone doubled from 0.4% to 0.8%. Google Maps usage went up after introduction of iPhone. Next year a whole slew of devices are coming to market situation will most certainly change.

25 Comments

Shakir Razak

The problem we in the developed west have is that we have a whole different vocabulary from the evolution of how we accessed the Internet first, namely the PC.

If, however, we look at those countries that went from no internet straight to mobile phone, that’s where we need to go.

Whether around Africa or in Japan and Korea, the mobile is the primary access device for the internet, and so applications are normally developed first on mobile with the specific reuirements of that platform, from local commodity prices via sms to the whole virtually high-definition equivalent of mobile available in Japan.

Yours kindly,

Shakir Razak

Brian

When I used my Sprint aircard and MSN messenger to video confernce with my kids, while traveling on business, I realized that Mobile has crossed an access plateau – people can get connected no matter where they are and have rich experiences.

Similiarly, I find myself surfing the web on long family car trips with my aircard. Ever changing the stimga of starying out the window doing nothing, when now, I am surfing or doing something productive. And since Sprint is building highspeed where others aren’t, I will always have high speed connectivity.

Paul

I use a mobile phone often for web access. Not for daily reading (unless I’m really desperate), due to the reasons cited above. But it works great for finding a quick address from Google, for checking stock quotes or finding movie listings – usable data I need right now.

As people mention, tiny screens make it tough to use the web on a phone. But a bigger problem for large numbers of users may be the way carriers configure the phones. Google is useful on a mobile phone, but it isn’t within a few clicks of carrier home screens, and typing in addresses ain’t that easy. Even Blackberries, at least on T-Mobile, place browser favorites you add way down an expanded list useless links, making it tougher to come back to the addresses you like.

A little help pointing users to text-based sites for finding immediately useful data would help adoption.

Erik Schwartz

@tabrez, you’re missing my point. I don’t care if the N800 does a better job rendering web pages then the iPhone.

The web simply sucks on a 4 inch screen.

It’s an issue of the biology and optics of the eye, not of the device you’re using to view the web. Make a bigger device and the web won’t suck on it. Of course, if you make a bigger device you start to get to subnotebook size…

aditive

I cellphones had better browsers, higher speeds and if there were any reasonable priced flatrates (in Germany), I’m sure a lot more people would use their phone to go online.

tabrez

@Erik: Nokia N800 beats the iPhone’s Internet experience by a long shot. In my personal experience, 90% of the websites open all right in my N800(Google Mail, Google Reader etc don’t, but the latest browser based on Mozilla is set to change that too).

Om Malik

Curtis,

You make good point, but seems like you missed this little bit

Assuming that the non-messaging data revenues are in the 50-60% (of the data revenues)

I am told this is everything but SMS and SMS-related offerings. Ringtones fall in that category? Not sure about it and will obviously make a few calls to clarify in the morning. Bear with me.

Shane

Though outside the scope of this article, passive information in the form of sms alerts and reminders is an ever-growing portion of mobile data. Call it anecdotal, but people like relevant information delivered to them as it happens.

Raymond Padilla

I used a Sprint EVDO rev. A card for a few months. It was fine for email and browsing. VoIP was hit or miss though. The upstream was a bit of a joke.

Curtis

Om,

Unfortunately, you’re using “mobile data” very generously. Ringtones, wallpapers, casual games, and other “mobile data” that the carriers are currently peddling isn’t “data” in the same sense when compared to general internet usage. The primary usages of the Internet today are email, im, news, sports, and sexual content. These types of data services do not count for the majority of the revenue the carriers are currently earning for their data service offerings. When this occurs, the top line data service revenues will greatly exceed current levels. The top line totals will be greater when consumers adopt mobile commerce.

Until mobile data consumption patterns mirror general internet data consumption, comparisons are anecdotal at best. The NYT article is similiar to comparing gas consumed when traveling, except the NYT is comparing traveling from NY to Chicago by car, to traveling from NY to LA by air. It’s nonsense.

Gustaf

You can also look at it from another view, in the next couple of years mobile web will be the main way for hundreds of millions of people in our world to get online. When computers it what you compare too mobile web will always be weak but when comparing to having no internet at all mobile web is very powerful.

  • Gustaf
techmine

In a country where laptops are easy to carry around and a very prevalent mobile device + contract system, mobile web has a long way to go. I agree, mobile web is best of iPhone so far. I hope it gets better from here. More and more websites are targeting smart devices with smart browsers. Mobile browser will play a major role in changing the web on mobile.

Andy Abramson

Om,

I’ve used the 3G services here in the USA and reported on them a few days ago.
http://andyabramson.blogs.com/voipwatch/2007/11/my-3g-experienc.html

The bottom line is the Mobile operators are not really sharing their network for data the way they should. Our 3G experiences are really limited and software is being developed simply to work within the limitations.

At the end of the day, the best 2.0 type application remains RIM’s Blackberry mail and IM, and while you can connect to the Net with data services on high end devices (like the Nokia N95’s, N81, E series and others including the new Samsung i760) the experience remains almost nursery school like.

With uploads proxy’d, and with the USA mobile operators still letting the circuit switched voice executives decide how much of the network is shared with the data network we’re always going to have this “weak sister” type of experience.

Erik Schwartz

The best mobile web experience is the iPhone. But even on the iPhone the web is weak.

Screen size, not bandwidth is the problem. Technology won’t ever solve the screen size problem, it’s a biology problem.

Chris Brogan...

You’ve nailed it, of course, Om. It’s not that we don’t want mobile web. It’s that our current device selection isn’t really encouraging us onto that path. I’m using a BlackBerry Curve and that’s not horrible at connecting to the web, especially with the duality of wifi and Edge, depending on the area. But still, it’s not like browsing with my MacBook.

So either device manufacturers and carriers will team up and make something like the Nokia N800 family a little more ubiquitous, or EVDO, wifi (dare we dream of WiMax?) will get us there on appliances that aren’t so carrier-dependent.

Rethink they will, I imagine.

Comments are closed.