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Web Directions South 07: iPhone blah blah

I’m currently at the Web Directions South conference in Sydney, getting myself a dose of inspiration to last for the next 12 months. We’re about to embark on the second day, so here’s some thoughts from the first.

There’s a real buzz around social networks and the mobile web – in John Allsopp’s opening comments he said the the mobile web had “arrived” and I really think he’s right. However, I’m getting sick of the iPhone love-in. Yes, they’re shiny, yes they have a full browser, yes, every Apple fanboi must have at least two. Blah blah blah. Brian Fling’s afternoon session, entitled “Web 2.0 + Mobile 2.0 = ?” started off great, with an overview of the  current state of mobile usage worldwide and the potential – which is huge.  However, the second half of the presentation was iPhone mania.

I realise that the purpose of the session was to look forward to what is likely to happen in the mobile space, but I can’t help feeling that there’s a disconnect – on one hand talking about the massive potential of the mobile web and the staggering number of internet-enabled phones “in the wild”, but on the other, creating iPhone-only web applications that don’t degrade to other devices and are therefore only accessible to the percentage of the US market that already has one. Australia is more on par with Europe and Asia in terms of mobile phone ownership and usage – we’ve been using SMS for a lot longer, for example, and 3G is where things are at. So even when the iPhone does make it over, the lack of 3G will probably restrict its market seeing as the internet-enabled early adopters are mostly using Hutchison’s 3G network (3 has the best pricing by far).

In 2005 there were nine million mobile phones in Australia, and a proportion of them are already internet enabled – this is the market that I want to build mobile web sites for now. I want my mobile sites to be accessible to everyone with a net-enabled phone. So I won’t be building any iPhone-only sites.

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  1. Kay,

    Thanks for attending my talk. An hour seemed very tight for trying to unpack both the concepts of Web 2.0 and Mobile 2.0.

    I know there are a lot of people that disagree with designing specifically for the iPhone, but I stand by this assertion.

    The practicalities of designing and developing for the massive number of mobile devices out there is very difficult and very costly. The iPhone is the best device and being able to deliver web standards to mobile subscribers, meaning the time and cost of mobile development is dramatically reduced.

    Furthermore the state of the mobile web user experience is so poor that the addition of good standards support allows designers and developers to create quality and valuable user experiences, that consumers expect from the web, over the mobile web, something that has never really been done before.

    As I mentioned in the talk, all the signs of the mobile industry are pointing towards the iPhone being the new bar in mobile browser technology… basically meaning good rendering of standards.

    And like I pointed out, Apple is really the first company outside of the operator world to really attempt to shift the perceptions of consumers of what mobile technology can do. This will greatly increase the demand for mobile web content and services.

    This means that it isn’t about designing specifically for the iPhone, it means designing with *Standards*, again something that is fairly unique to the iPhone now, but I promise you not for long.

    Thanks again for attending,

  2. Okay I don’t have an Iphone. I have played with them.

    Its a nice wifi browser, thats it, its pretty, thats it. Its an apple, thats it. Its not really a phone, unless you have a wifi network.

    I just have to point out that the Apple Iphone is at present a minor player, a minor crippled phone with old technology. The iPhone has been made for the functionality of the US network. It’s not really targeted for outside of the US networks in the rest of the advanced ITC sector that its for the main ahead of the US (yes Australia is ahead of it) .

    The space we need to really watch is iPhone V2 or the response from other phone vendors.

    Maybe we need to temper our view a little beyond all the apple glitz and glamour.

    Personally I sick of the phone. Similarly with the itouch.

  3. Brian: seriously, the iphone does not, and will not ever matter to anyone but a select group of smug Apple fanbois. You can not say “there are gonna be 6 billion mobile subs by _____” and think anyone of those people will have iphones. Ever.

    What a snore fest.

  4. Hi Rob, I heard about your presentation and I was *really* sorry I did miss it – it sounded great. I will check out the slides and the podcast when it comes out.

    Brian, my only other comment about your presentation – which I did honestly think was very good, I’m a huge fan of http://dev.mobi, it’s just that I am annoyed at the iPhone hype – was that right at the end you mentioned that the iPhone would be the first of a whole new generation of phones, and I am certainly looking forward to a couple of years down the track when they start to filter out to the wider world.

  5. Hi Kay,

    sorry you didn’t get a chance to see our Mobile Web presentation…sounds like it was more what you were looking for.

    We presented a real time interactive poll that also dynamically graphed the types of phones/browsers that the people in the room were using and what Network Provider they used.

    We then also asked a range of questions about Mobile Device and mcommerce usage patterns.

    You can see the beginnings of the data analysis discussion at our blog http://MobileOnlineBusiness.com.au/blog or you can view the screen grabs of the presentation on slideshare – http://www.slideshare.net/robman/e-is-for-everywhere-interactive-mobile-web-presentation/ .