AS SOMEONE WHO RINGS up hundreds of euro each month in mobile data charges (see the extortionate effect of data roaming here), I have scratched out five ways to spot someone who does not know more than their default screen on a mobile data device. Although people always want desktop speeds to fit into their pockets, only a mobile web newbie would expect the same browser behaviour, the same formatting of content and the same rich media services. We differentiate these factors in several creative multimedia modules in Tipperary Institute. Moreover, we set up our stall on the premise that the greatest potential for mobile web applications will be achieved by discarding the assumption that everything on a mobile needs to originate and complement what we do on our desktops or laptops. Not so. Effective mobile applications are often simpler, more intuitive and less decorative than what people have defined as the internet. In my mind, the mobile imperative for a business user occurs when you get time-sensitive email headers when underway, when your newsfeeds bubble up before the broadcast bulletins and when you can get expert answers delivered by text when you cannot ring for help.
Here are telltale gripes that suggest someone is a mobile data newbie.
Gripe #1. "I cannot get a 3G signal."
Most times, when I hear this gripe, I discover the newbie does not have a 3G phone, so it is no wonder there is sluggish service. Every time I have helped someone work around their 3G limitation, they did not think it was a shortfall important enough to raise the issue with elected politicians who agitate against 3G masts. You cannot expect to get high speed mobile data services without high speed mobile antenna farms. If politicians and planners do not hear the expression of need for high speed business-quality internet connectivity, the anti-mast brigade will carry the day.
Gripe #2. "Where can I get free WiFi?"
Everyone wants a free lunch. But like all good soup kitchens, free WiFi is not on every street corner. However, you can normally find the names and addresses of hotels offering free WiFi access throughout their rooms, meeting spaces and common areas. When I plan business meetings around Ireland, I try to arrange meet-ups in free WiFi zones like those provided in AbsoluteHotel, the Clarion and the Riverhouse cafe. I also send hotel managers polite letters explaining that their paid WiFi nodes block me from using their venues for business meetings, working lunches or as accommodation for visiting colleagues.
Free WiFi is not critically important if you have a dedicated business data device and use O2-Ireland's Gigaplan. It means using the O2 data SIM just for data because using a dedicated data SIM for voice services will cost much much more than the EUR 129 that I pay to get uncapped service as fast as three megabits per second over the air in Ireland.
Gripe #3. "I have to scroll all over to see the website."
Most of the sites I need to see on my SonyEricsson P910i have mobile versions. Some of these are dynamically generated at the server, others are specifically tailored as m-sites. I have used my P910i and its Opera Mini browser to check in for a flight and select a seat (thanks to SAS having a dot mobi version of its site). My Nokia E90 offers a wide screen display of websites. However, I question the need to see websites when mobile. What's wrong with using your mobile phone to read the site instead of seeing the site? Most quality websites offer RSS feeds and all the sites I follow push their feeds onto my mobile phone through FreeNews, a very efficient news aggregator. I can use FreeNews to tag and save content or to send a link to the content via email without launching my email client. It's a system I've tried and abused for three years now and one reason I don't feel obliged to read web pages anymore, except as a time wasting diversion. You can engage with the web without scrolling through web pages. All the information I need gets churned up and linked by friends on Jaiku or linked to blog posts by my oracles. If neither an oracle nor a newsfeed suggests something worth seeing, I don't just toggle over and check out the front page of the national broadsheets. RSS saves me that hassle. (Thank you, Dave Winer.)
Gripe #4. "The screen is so tiny!"
Erm, it sure is, if you expect it to fit inside your purse. And if you want a big screen, you can always borrow my Nokia brick--but not because its screen is large and sharp. Several Nokia phones give you a line-out option to television screens. Nearly every business mobile phone today has a Bluetooth stack that lets you push content onto any larger device through Bluetooth. We push our videos, podcasts, and photographs to plasma screens without wires. If your mobile has the software on board, you can stream your content to another larger screen. If your mobile has a TV-out, you can show web pages on a bog-standard television.
Gripe #5. "There are so many advertisements!" Not if you're following newsfeeds, reading your texts from Jaiku or listening to friends who do not adorn their writing with annoying accessories.
It might be harsh to call someone a newbie when they've been around connected networks since the 80s but in my experience, it's the older crowd who expect to see things the way they've always had them displayed. And it's the newer crowd who don't know there are more effective ways to manage mobile phone data than trying to make their phone behave like their desktops. To each their own--but if you're griping about your mobile internet service, you might consider the possibility that you have failed to optimise the way you use your time because you're not looking at mobile data services through a more seasoned perspective.
Scott Karp -- Five Reasons Why The Mobile Web Sucks"
Steven Hodson -- "The hype that is mobile"
Russell Beattie -- "Five Reasons Why Web 2.0 People Need to Shut the Fuck Up About the Mobile Web"
Matthew Miller -- "The mobile web is much better than it was 10 years ago"