As more people pick up smartphones and shell out for mobile data plans, carriers, application developers and phone manufactures need to keep one thing in mind: Speed matters. Even if it’s mobile, a connection to the web still needs to feel like broadband. Otherwise, people aren’t going to use their phones as often, or for as long. But speed is a double-edged sword because as newer, faster networks are deployed, the data tsunami already swamping carriers grows taller.
At a GigaOM Bunker Session (GigaOM Pro, sub. req’d) in our offices on Wednesday, Artur Bergman, VP of engineering and operations at Wikia, said that folks visiting the site from an iPhone using slower 3G networks spend about four minutes there vs. the five to five-and-a-half minutes spent by iPod touch users coming in with (generally) faster Wi-Fi connections — a difference of as much as 38 percent.
Slow load times are also why I plan to dump my BlackBerry the second the Nexus One comes out on Verizon. I don’t even try to load web pages on that thing anymore, as I don’t have time to wait. I’d rather turn on my Mi-Fi and use my iPod touch. Yup, I carry three devices with me to sate my web addiction and make phone calls.
I’m apparently not the only one who’s impatient. Data from AdMob shows that folks using an iPod touch and Wi-Fi to connect to the web spend 100 minutes a day on their devices using apps, while those using 3G on the iPhone spend just 79 minutes. For other 3G handsets, that number rises to 80 minutes for Android phone users and 87 minutes for those on Palm devices.
I’m inferring from that data, my own experience and Bergman’s comments that if it ain’t fast, then users go home. The speed of a mobile application can be a result of the connection, the phone hardware and the application’s design (which can also involve the web browser instead of an app). Which is why faster processors for handsets and new WiMAX and LTE networks will not only appease current web users with a need for speed, but will drive demand ever higher.