Our relationship with technology is constantly evolving. From the emergence of computers as consumer devices to the growth of the Internet as an information resource and then as a channel for communication and interaction, we have a more personal relationship with technology than at any other point in human history. It might have seemed that Web 2.0 was final step in our personal technology transition, but then came mobile.
Do, Know Anything Everywhere
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), at the end of 2011, there were around 6 billion mobile subscriptions. That isn’t just a huge number — it is equivalent to 87 of the global population. Few technologies since fire can claim that level of adoption. Mobile technology isn’t just a tool for communication. It’s now an information access platform, entertainment option and context sensor. There are almost 1.2 billion active mobile web users globally, and in developing countries like India, many users only have web access on mobile devices. Users now spend more time using mobile applications than using the Internet.
The rapid expansion of mobile penetration is more than just an interesting piece of technology trivia. Mobile has fundamentally shifted our expectations of information and communication accessibility. We expect instant answers no matter what we are doing or where we are located. We almost constantly broadcast signals about our environment – location, photos and brief messages. Mobility is no longer a luxury; it is an assumption.
The Age of Mobile
Many analysts and pundits have used the growth mobile to hail the death of [insert favorite technology trend] and the beginning of new mobile age. They support these claims by pointing to the increasing number of vendors supporting mobile capabilities and moves such as Facebook’s recent billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram. However, the rise of mobile doesn’t mean the death of Web 2.0 or any other technology (except, of course, pay phones).
Mobility is a complement to existing technologies; it is an opportunity for enhancement. Search isn’t going away because people have smart phones and tablets; mobile provides additional contextual details such as location that can be used to provide more relevant results. Web 2.0 isn’t fading into the past because users are no longer computing from a stationary location; mobile is opportunity for them to share more and interact more frequently. Mobile has similar implications across almost every type of technology.
Although mobile introduces new opportunities, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Mobile access has different user experience requirements. Screens may be smaller and input devices may be less precise. Mobile users may have slower data connectivity or access content while in transit and need to accomplish their goals quickly. These challenges mean that content providers need to ensure their offerings are optimized for mobile consumption, which can be complex, but is not insurmountable.
Yes, a new more mobile age has arrived, and surprisingly, it didn’t have to kill anything to get here.