Commentary

Worth The Trip? In Mobile, Speed is Everything

StopWatch

When users navigate apps and the mobile Web they seem to have a memory of the sites that deliver information efficiently and the ones that don't. I am not sure where we spare the memory brain cells for this sort of thing, but somehow many of us recall that clicking on a link at this site is going to produce a long lag, while others have cached the experience wisely to smooth out the end user effect. I know that I think before I click on many apps and sites and wonder, 'is it worth the trip?'

Speed really matters especially when it comes to video on mobile, and some recent stats bear this out. Bytemobile, a video optimizer for a number of Tier 1 carriers worldwide just released its network usage figures for Q2 2010, and it found that the majority of video requested over mobile phones is of low 240p resolution (56.63%) as opposed to 380p (22.19%) and 480p (21.18%). In many cases on mobile Web sites the user has a choice between hi and low res and Bytemobile finds they will go for the lower resolution to enjoy a smoother delivery. According to Bytemobile "perceived available bandwidth affects the selection of video content on wireless networks."

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That may be a no-brainer in a sense, but the simple insight has to inform the kinds of programming and ways video is deployed across different devices. For instance, Bytemobile also finds that iPhone users eat up a lot more video bandwidth than Android users. On a per-user basis, 42% of data traffic on iPhones is video content compared to 32% of total Android traffic. Why is that? Well, in part it may have to do with the difference in available apps as well as the differences in user bases. iPhone users are likely coming to the platform following Apple's lead - that mobile is a media experience. But even more than that it turns out that iPhone and Android users have different connectivity habits. Another report from video ad network Rhythm NewMedia showed that across their network of branded media apps 69% of video accessed on the Android platform came over the 3G networks vs. only 31% on WiFi. On the other hand, on iPhone 52% of video went over 3G with 48% over WiFi. This disparity could also explain some of the higher video use Bytemobile was seeing for iPhone users. If they are coming in on WiFi networks their expectation of performance might be higher.

The same dynamic that helped drive video use on the Web, the perception of available bandwidth over faster networks, is also going to hold true of mobile. But the payoff may be better. Rhythm New Media also contends that when mobile video viewers pick a video, they are more likely to stay. They say that 94% of mobile video viewers stick through the first ten seconds compared to 81% for online video. At the 60 second mark, 68% of the mobile video audience was retained compared to 56% Rhythm simply cited a NYTimes article as the basis for their online video stats, so mileage will vary. But the suggestion is that when mobile video viewers commit to the experience they tend to stick.

2 comments about "Worth The Trip? In Mobile, Speed is Everything".
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  1. Jon-Mikel Bailey from Wood Street, Inc., October 21, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.

    User experience should be a major driver in the development of any mobile site or application. The fact that user experience matters so much in the delivery of information should be nothing new to marketers as it has been a factor in web marketing for years. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try and push the limits from time to time but certainly not to the detriment of user experience so much so that the message is lost. Great post, thanks!

  2. Justin Souza from Marlin Mobile, October 21, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.

    The richness of mobile experiences continue to accelerate past the battery technology. I anticipate the same analogies made here about speed and video performance will soon morph, requiring us to include the expected impact to the end-user's battery consumption into the equation that defines a positive experience.

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