As the 3G iPhone goes on sale around the world I find myself wondering what it will mean to the mobile web. Some think that it will make the mobile web obsolete – that everyone will now want full web access on their mobile devices. Others see that application development for iPhone that is the real story. Yet others are launching full scale mobile marketing campaigns exclusively for iPhone users.
Clearly, application development is chock full of potential. And, while I don’t think that businesses should ignore all other mobile device users, I do believe that mobile campaigns targeted exclusively to these users will likely succeed.
Without a doubt the iPhone has changed the way the world sees mobile Internet access. This wonderous device has opened the eyes of consumers and businesses alike that accessing the Internet via mobile is not only possible, but accessible.
What I wholeheartedly disagree with is the idea that the mobile web will be made obsolete by the iPhone.
First of all, no matter how wonderful the iPhone is (no disagreement on that point), it still only has a 3.5 inch diagonal display. Screen size makes a huge impact on usability. No matter how slick the browser is and how easy it is to zoom in on what you want, you can only see 3.5 inches of a website at a time.
If you don’t believe that this impacts usability, just imagine that right now as you are reading this article your computer monitor instantly shrunk to a 3.5 inch size. How would your Internet experience change? My bet is that you wouldn’t finish reading this article because it would take too long. Instead of being able to read it quickly, scanning several paragraphs at a time, you would be forced to consume it in small bite-size chunks which would slow you down considerably. That is just one example of how screen size changes usability.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that iPhone users won’t find it easier to access the full Internet via their phones. Of course they will. This device changes how easy it is to consume full-size websites, but it does not make it easy enough to abandon the idea of having a site specifically designed for mobile consumption. A site that offers what users need when they are mobile and access to more if they choose to consume it through their small device.
Another point to consider is that even if Apple sold 40 million units today (They won’t. Some analysts predict 40 million unit sales for all of 2009.) iPhone users are a small fraction of the total 3 billion user population. The rest of the mobile world is still accessing the Internet without all the whiz-bang features. Everyone else needs specifically mobile-accessible websites. Really.
Businesses should offer a mobile-friendly website in addition to their main website. If they choose to also offer an iPhone specific site as well, that is icing on the cake. Just don’t forget the cake and only pass out the icing.
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