It was exciting to hear that email use will be a priority on the iPad. It ranks number two on Jobs' hit list of iPad uses: "Things like browsing the web. Email. Photos. Videos. Music. Games. eBooks."
Email isn't an afterthought, according to the Apple Web site: "See and touch your email in ways you never could before.... No matter which orientation you use, you can scroll through your mail, compose a new email using the large, on-screen keyboard, or delete messages, with nothing more than a tap and a flick.
"...iPad will work with all the popular email providers, including MobileMe, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and AOL."
The opportunity: The user interface renders HTML emails with images extremely well, making messages with large images or several smaller ones a better experience for subscribers who add an iPad to their portfolio of email-reading devices.
The challenge: iPad's text preview function allows users to view about the first 15-20 words of your email message. Rendering issues aside, optimizing your pre-header copy and links will be as important on the iPad as it is for email on other mobile devices and in email clients with preview panes, such as Outlook. If you still haven't done this with your emails, ask your HTML programmers to make it a priority today.
The iPad is just the latest in a series of small screens that your customers might use to view your email. Here are the major categories, in descending screen-size order:
Netbooks: These mini-laptops, designed to bridge the gap between the smartphone's portability and the desktop/laptop's computing power, make up the hottest selling computer category today. Typical screen size is seven to ten inches.
Tablets/eReaders/Smartbooks: This market has many flavors, including the iPad, but will ultimately evolve into devices designed for multiple "reading/viewing" activities such as TV, video, books, newspapers, magazines, cruising the Web and even accessing email.
The Kindle and other ereaders will have to morph beyond their current purpose as a digital book reader to a primary purpose as a digital-content viewer to maintain market share, especially with the advent of the iPad and its built-in iBook function. Typical screen sizes range from five to ten inches.
ITouch: It's now outselling the iPhone, according to recent reports. Users likely are migrating away from single-purpose iPods to the multi-purpose, WiFi-enabled iTouch. For now it seems the iTouch is a category of its own. Screen size is 3.5 inches.
Smartphones: According to a Pyramid Research report, smartphones will capture 37% of the global cell-phone market by 2014, a leap from 16% in 2009. Typical screen sizes range from two to three inches.
Optimize for Screen Size, Not Just "Mobile"
As I write this, I've been debating with numerous people on whether Apple's iPad will be a hit or not. For email marketers -- and digital marketers in general -- that argument is irrelevant. The bigger paradigm is that we are at the beginning of an explosion of "small-screen" devices, like those I listed above, that are adding to the design, rendering and usability challenges for our content.
The email or landing page that looks breathtakingly beautiful on your designer's 24-inch full-color desktop screen loses its punch when your user is squinting at a 2.6-inch version on her BlackBerry, or scrolling and trying to find the "Buy" button on her nine-inch Acer One netbook screen.
In a future column I'll delve into some suggestions on how to optimize your emails for this array of small and large screens.
I look forward to seeing your thoughts, arguments and comments on this issue.
Until next time, take it up a notch!