Mobile Is King: But you knew that already

Everybody knows by now that smartphones, related devices, and the mobile internet that serves them is a big deal; commercially and socially. It would be a gross understatement to tell you that mobile computing devices have (or perhaps are) changing the way we live, work, and play; and it would be cliché, so we’ll not say it after all. While most of you have some appreciation for the type of change that the tech industry is undergoing (with massive waves in ecommerce, banking, personal interaction, medical information, politics, and just about every other field of thought), you may not yet have grasped the magnitude of what is happening as the world switches to mobile computing; both in terms of spectacular success and stunning failure. For example, did you know that of the roughly  1.5 million apps that were available to Android and iOS users back in early 2013 (the last date for which I found data), a whopping 900 million had never been download; not even a single time. Of those that were downloaded, 25% (or 150 million) were abandoned after first use.

Mobile app stores are clearly not all crickets. The average user runs 41 apps on each smartphone; which is a lot given that 1.3 million new Android devices are activated daily (more than four times the number of babies born daily). Finally, smartphone owners now spend more time in mobile apps on their phone then they do watching traditional TV. It’s not just young people or Americans either, it’s everyone. Every age group counted in the market survey was strongly represented and parts of Asia are showing some of the strongest smartphone growth ever in late 2013 returns. In other words, this mobile thing is a big deal. But where do we go from here?

It all depends...

Answering the preverbal “what’s next” question in the mobile computing context takes a bit of creativity; literally. We’ve written before that attempting to predict the future is tricky, and often just stupid, so we won’t bother with that sort of thing is this article. Instead let’s look at the now. What does the data about mobile usage tell us about how we best serve our current customers or how we reach new customers today? A few months ago we posted an article describing our take on the Responsive Design trend that is sweeping the world of web development. That article was predicated on the understanding that mobile is taking over the computing world (perhaps we should have written this article first, by way of background) and described some of the ways in which savvy designers could build websites that were capable of seamlessly transitioning from one device to the next in pursuit of users on the go.

But wait, there’s more

While building a beautifully responsive web presence, even one that’s perfectly integrated with social media, filled to the brim with catchy content, and as pleasing to the eye as a Monet, is a great start; it isn’t really enough. There are at least two other pieces to the marketing puzzle; product and market. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of web 2.0 (what we call web presence). But to succeed, you also have to have a product or service that matters to your target demographic and you need the creativity to make that product or service a part of your customers’ lives.

While changes to technology are eye catching and sexy, they’re not really the point; no matter how much like a living entity the newest social platform might behave. Ultimately what we’re seeing is humanity at work. After all, we designed the “technology” and we built it for the purpose of improving our lives, of making work or play a little easier, a little more engaging.

Stick in the mud

From this perspective, the newest smartphone isn’t really any different from the newest knife of the Stone Age. It’s a tool that helps a living, breathing human get through their day with a little more energy left over at the end. What really matters isn’t the aesthetic value of the tool but rather its purpose (no we’re not saying that art doesn’t have value, bear with us). At the end of the day, it’s the utility of a tool that keeps it alive. Design clearly has a big impact, particularly on the marketability of an item, and loads of products that do amazing things (like all those 900 million apps no one ever tried) just sit around on store shelves (or in inventors’ heads) not selling well enough to bother about. But if curves were what really mattered, Apple products would dominate the market. Sure, iPods are the go-to music player of choice. But for years now, Apple’s OS has clung to a measly 10 percent of the desktop market and Android based phones outsell iPhones by a healthy margin every year. Of course it’s not necessarily apples to oranges (or apples to googles) because personal taste plays a big role, but at the end of the day you will have to make something people can actually use, not just something they wish they could use, if you are to have any hope of selling your goods on a large scale.

Bottom line

What you should have already known when you started this article was the fact that mobile devices have taken over the world and that if you want to reach your customers, you’ll probably have to go mobile. What you should take away from this article is that going mobile, by itself, isn’t going to sell your products or earn you any customer loyalty points. If it were that easy, every functional app on Google Play would be selling like hotcakes. Something more is required; something creative. Exactly what that looks like, depends on you. 


Kjeld Lindsted Kjeld Lindsted
Content Architecture, Copywriting, and Editing
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