How are you going to use Mobile?

I’ve said for a while that mobile just isn’t here yet. Well, I’m starting to think it’s getting there now. Why?

For starters, the technology is a lot better than it was even a year ago. Smart phones are starting to get that all-important penetration into the phone market, so we can finally start considering how to reach these people.

The Evolution of Phones

Texting is always the first approach. It’s an established technology, and at least in Europe and Japan, it’s still popular. SMS marketing – or “Short Message System” marketing for those of you who had dates in high school – never really took off in the United States. I think it’s because we hardly ever walk anywhere, and few cities have trains to commute on. If you’re always in your car, you can’t read texts, right? Since they were so popular in these other places, it will be some time before they go away. They’re established technologies. It’s like waving a magic Hulu wand and expecting television to just disappear.

Esquire Cover with QR Code

Esquire's cover using a QR code. It was simple, even arcane - but it signals the beginning.

So the phone thing didn’t take off here the way it did there. Once we started getting more functional phones, however, things got interesting. QR codes, augmented reality, apps… if you haven’t been paying attention, it feels like there’s this massively popular technology sweeping the land.

Truth be told, the technology is really in the hands of the people who love the technology. So far. That was the same case with the Internet originally, if you’ll remember. Before everyone had their Hotmail addresses or online news, the Internet was the domain of the geeks. No need to market to those people! They (who am I kidding? We) were a tiny niche, and everyone else was still watching television. Advertisers were beating their brains out trying to figure out how to sell to consumers splintered by cable. If only they knew how bad THAT would get, right?

So we are still in the early stages of the “next big thing.” Well, maybe the late early stages. After all, you can now pretty easily learn to write your own mobile app, or at least find someone to do it for you. (iPhone apps being the latest “get rich quick” scheme.) And if you want to brave the waters of SMS, the only barrier to you is cost. It’s pretty cheap to send out a bunch of text messages to people with even the most basic cell phones, but it still isn’t free. Yet.

Start thinking now about how your product can appeal to mobile phone owners, because we’re only a year or two from smart phones being the standard. As we speak, there are companies you’ve never heard of who are getting in early with their own phone business model, and I guarantee you they will be the ones that dominate the stock exchange in a few years.


  1. I’m highly interested in QRcodes, personally. Right now I’m working on a project for using them with contact information (with some Augmented Reality bits) but I think once people become comfortable with them, the idea of linking real world stuff to internet data is just too powerful *not* to take off. I think one of the barriers to entry is getting over the need to install an application to decode QRcodes, but I think it’s not going to take too long for phones to come with them pre-installed. If QRcodes don’t take off, some level of augmented reality for linking locations and things to the internet will be the ticket. We live in exciting times. 🙂

    1. I agree. Right now the applications of these codes are pretty basic, but the potential really is there. Just like web pages were in 1994 – sure, they were just white screens with black text and an image if you were lucky, but of course they became something quite elegant.

      What’s your opinion of Microsoft Tags? There’s a definite market share war brewing between it and QR codes.

      1. I think Microsft Tags are cool but the problem they have is that they’re a closed standard. I thought about using them for snapmyinfo (I believe the people responsible are actually at a Microsoft research facility near me) but the closed nature turned me off. You can’t develop your own decoder (as I have) and all decodes must go through microsoft’s servers. That, coupled with the muddy language about what you can and can’t charge for are worrisome. I believe there’s a line like it’s free “for now” to use the MS decoder. QR codes, while less technically advanced (and admittedly uglier) are an open standard and that’s appealing. I think once data tagging like this takes off, other open standards will likely arise with more advanced technical characteristics.

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