The Mobile Web – Why should you care? in detail

I managed to knock the battery loose from the audio recorder some time during my presentation and probably ruined the chance of a podcast. So here is the script for the presentation. I did not stick to the script completely, particularly after being told I had a minute left at slide seven. It does cover the main points of my presentation, in more depth than the slides (1.7Mb PDF).

Slide one

Hi for those those who do not know me my name is Nick Cowie and tonight I will be talking on mobile web browsing. Note I am not be talking about the american style of mobile web browsing, of taking your MacBook to Starbucks and making use of the free wifi to browse the web while drinking a latte. I am talking about the Japanese style of mobile web browsing, which is gaining popularity world wide including Australia of browsing the web from your mobile anywhere you can get a signal.

For those who do know me, might wonder why somebody who did not own a mobile phone until two years ago is so interested in mobile web browsing, I will explain shortly.

So I am no Brian Fling, I am not going to tell you the best way to build web sites for mobile browsers. You will have to go to Web Directions, hopefully for that. Instead I will probably raise more questions than I answer. My aim tonight is to increase your awareness of mobile web browsing and get you thinking about it.

Slide two

What got me interested in mobile web browsing. First the Apple iPhone. This is no great advancement in mobile technology, there is nothing the iPhone can do that the current crop of smart phones can not do. However, other than the Newton, Apple has been spot on bringing their products to market at the right time. Much has been made of the inclusion of the web browsing capabilities of the iPhone, even though it is severly hamstrung by it’s telecommunication partner in the states with it’s 2G network.

The second was my purchase of a net connect card and mobile data contract. The pricing has come down dramatically over the past year. For $50 a month, I get 1Gb of traffic and at good speeds, in downtown Kwinana I am getting better than 512kps. A friend just returned from Sydney and said he was getting close to 1.5Mps in the city centre. Telcos here are also offering good mobile browsing deals, Telstra are offering unlimited web browsing from a certain handset for $30 a month and 3 have just released their X-series with 500Mb and other extras for $20 a month.

Slide three

Here a few figures to show long term future for mobile web browsing.

There are 800,000 800 million PCs in the world, about 1 in every 8 people

1.1 billion people or 1 in every 6 people accessed the internet. The difference between PCs and internet users is due to people:

  • sharing computers;
  • using internet cafes;
  • using the internet from work, and
  • accessing the internet on mobile devices.

There are 1.2 billion fixed telephone lines in the world. Now to increase conventional internet use you need to increase both the number of PC owners and telephone lines. That is not a cheap option.

In 2005 there was 2.2 billion mobile phones users in the world, currently the estimate is 2.5 billion. At least every third person has a mobile phone and the number is steadily increasing.

Slide four

There are a couple of points I want to make with these stats.

That ten years ago 50 million used the internet now 1.1 billion people do.

Currently 50 million people browse from a mobile phone and all indications that it will take far less that ten years to get to a billion, I have seen predictions that by 2010 mobile internet users will exceed PC internet users, but because mobile web browsing lags behind other mobile internet use it will take another couple of years for mobile web browsing numbers to exceed PC browsers.

Slide five

Sites already providing mobile versions.

I have seen research from the UK that listed the most popular sites for mobile web browsing. They were email, search engines, news, sport and weather.

It is not surprising that the big players in those fields have already got mobile versions of their sites. The methodology varies slight with Google detecting mobile browsers and redirecting. Most others expect users to find them.

Slide six

Why build for mobile now?

  • 16.5 million mobile phones in use in Australia;
  • 28% of Australian mobile phone users access the internet from
    their phone;
  • 12% of Australian mobile phone users browse the web from
    their phone;
  • Web browsers becoming more common in mobile phones;
  • Mobile service providers are encouraging mobile web use;
  • The average life span of a mobile phone 2 years;
  • The average life span of a website is?

Slide seven

Problems – Browsers

As web developer and designers we know not all browser are created equal. Well the mobile web is far worse. It makes Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer 4 issues a piece of cake.

There are estimated 50 different browsers models for mobiles and they do work differently.

For example opera and minimo (FF) displays a web from left to right, while IE it is from the top down.

Both CSS and JavaScript implementation varies dramatically from browser to browser. The good news is that it is getting better, but results are so varied.

Slide eight

Usability, I am afraid that Jakob Neilsen is not famous enough to have his own minfig, so here is Tim Berners-Lee in lego.

We are probably lucky the US mobile service is so bad that Jakob has not taken up using a mobile browser because there are a lot of usability issues.

limited input options, most have a 12 button keypad and no pointing device. Look at using access keys for navigation

the typical mobile has screen size is somewhere between 160 and 240 wide and 200 to 360 pixels high and portrait in orientation

if you thought your regular internet user were impatient, mobile users are more so, they want the information on their screen now.

Mobile users are by nature on the move, so don’t expect the same level of attention as somebody sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

Slide nine

One site or two, should you build a separate site for mobile users? That is up to you. I used to be a strong believer in one site for all users, for ease of maintenance. However, with a better understanding of mobile browsing issues, such as how people use mobile browsers, screen size and navigation I see the advantages of two sites and would probably build two versions of the same site, unless the original site was small in both pages and content.

Slide ten

The future?

Japan, South Korea and even China to lead, Australia is still about a year behind the leaders in mobile technology use.

Expect, Australia to have a big increase in mobile web browsing in the next two to three years, with 3’s X-series and Telstra’s hiptop2 starting the change.

US and Canada will arrive later, they are probably a year or more behind Australia.

Mobile web apps the next big thing? Stole that from the mobile2.0 conference propaganda, but yes it is very likely, flickr has already started.

GPS in phones will allow websites to know where visitors are, good for commercial sites to direct customers to nearest location, far better for social apps.

Slide eleven

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7 Responses to “The Mobile Web – Why should you care? in detail”

  1. Jodie O'Rourke Says:

    Great article, but I think you might be out with your figures: 800,000 PCs in the world? Do you mean 800 million?

  2. nick Says:

    Ooops, thanks Jodie, I will correct it now. That is what comes from blogging your rough speech notes, I knew it was 800 million, my slides said 800 million, I said it was 800 million (I hope ;-).

  3. Nick Cowie » HTML5 and mobile browsers Says:

    […] If you don’t know why I am concerned about mobile browsers, read my presentation the mobile web why you should care. One reason being by 2010 more people will be accessing the internet by mobile phone than computer. […]

  4. Buttons – forgotten and immobile — Tyssen Design Says:

    […] Some might immediately dismiss the notion because “no-one uses handhelds to browse the Internet anyway.” Again, Nick Cowie presents compelling reasons why this assumption is out of date and the situation is changing fast in The Mobile Web – Why should you care? in detail with indications that “by 2010 mobile internet users will exceed PC internet users”. That’s just three years from now! While predictions of this sort might be unrealistic, the overall trend in that direction can’t be ignored. […]

  5. The Australian Mobile Web - Directory of dot mobi and made for mobile websites Says:

    […] Spurred on by Gary’s recent post entitled Is Australia ready for the Mobile Web? which also led me to Nick’s post entitled The Mobile Web – Why should you care? (which quotes some really interesting statistics), I decided to renew my hunt for mobile websites. […]

  6. Greg Says:

    In some industries, mobile internet by phone will open up a huge new user base. In the construction industry for example, tradesman and contractors generally loathe computers. Mention a resource on the internet that can save them money and/or time and the simple fact of having to use a computer to access it will keep them as far away from it as possible.
    BUT – Don’t tell them its internet/computer based, but they can just dial it up on their phone, and they’ll give it a go. (They all have phones)
    So, the resources are deployed where they are most useful. Onsite where they are working. I’ve been waiting for this for ages. http://www.blocklayer.mobi

  7. Mobile Technology in TAFE » Blog Archive » Mobile Web Usage is Increasing - How Will You Use It With Students? Says:

    […] Screen size on typical mobile is 160 and 240 wide and 200 to 360 pixels […]

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