Why the Slow Uptake on the Mobile Web?

    by Paul Lamb
    December 8, 2007

    According to a just released report by Jupiter Research, only 16% of U.S. subcribers are browsing the mobile web. According to the report, the low uptake is due primarily to lack of interest (73%) and the high cost (47%).

    Messaging remains the major non-voice mobile activity, with about about one-third of subscribers surveyed having used either text or picture messaging once in the last six months.

    The report also indicates that mobile video had only a 1% adoption rate in the mobile market.


    Jupiter recommends that content providers need to offer easier access to things like news and video through mini applications such as widgets, and that media companies should make more of their assets more widely available on cell phones. (Not suprisingly the same argument that used to be made about media access on Internet).

    Clearly we are just now at the jumping off point for the mobile web in the U.S. Other countries are already well ahead of us. In India, for example, 38% of users access the Internet via handheld devices and NOT on PCs. And carriers have not helped the situation by sticking with a walled garden approach to new features and content access.

    But mobile web adoption will continue to climb as devices like the iPhone make the mobile experience more user friendly, and as carriers and content providers discover effective business models.


    Most importanly, as efforts like Google’s Android offer open and available-to-any-phone mobile development platforms (allowing us to access information and rich media in the way that we can now only do on the wired web) things are likely to change significantly.

    Why such a slow uptake on the mobile web? Because our cell phones and PDAs are still mostly cell phones and PDAs – just as computers used to be only computational and information storage devices. Today the computer is primarily an information access, sharing, and communications tool. The same type of usage shift is beginning to happen with handheld devices, but as the Jupiter report points out, we just ain’t there yet.

    Tagged: android cell phone mobile web
    • “High cost” is easy to understand (and fix). Extortion pricing held back adoption of SMS texting in the US for years. Most of the carriers continue to apply the old bytecount pricing model to “mobile web” access.

      “Lack of interest” can be translated as “I haven’t seen anything worth my time and money,” and five minutes with the horrid Web setups in most phones will make that pretty clear. The carriers have hardwired the phones to lead users to their own overpriced ringtone crap, not content that users might value. The carriers are not even bright enough to make the mobile web browsers usable as a white/yellow pages service.

      Android (and the iPhone, and the iPod Touch) are parts of the solution, but not all the parts. We need better pricing, networks that are open to technology and user interfaces that are centered on the user’s needs, rather than designed to minimize actual usage.

    • Open source free software cellphone platforms like OpenMoko could be a good bit more of the solution.

    • Because most browsers suck, and most mobile web content sucks.

      And I say that even though I have a barrow to push (check out http://www.amethon.com/Content_Common/pg-Leader-in-Mobile-Web-Analytics-Opens-First-USA-Office.seo)

      ….but it’s getting better.


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