Have You Hugged Your Smartphone Lately?

I'm writing this week's column on an iPad in Bali, Indonesia. There is a lot of irony in that statement, given the low penetration rate of connected devices and even smartphones in this market.

When mobile stats predict that more consumers will access the Web from their mobile devices rather than PCs in the next decade, it is countries like Indonesia that will be driving those trends. However, in a third-world country with over 225 million people, feature phones and brands like Nokia and Sony Erickson are still the dominant players. The iOS and Android battle is not being fought here -- yet.

In contrast to my iPhone, which costs a fortune to use locally, I revert to an unlocked feature phone with a local prepaid SIM card to text and call friends and colleagues. Hello, 2002. I already forgot how painful it is to text using any device other than a smartphone, although I can truly appreciate the consistent voice signal and a battery that lasts all day and night - I think I forgot what that was like, too!



I find myself limiting the length and frequency of my text messages, and sometimes opting to call when I would ordinarily engage in an exchange of texts. Forget about searching the Web or accessing websites -- and apps, shmapps. All the features we have come to depend on are a no-go on this primitive device, especially for someone accustomed to the streamlined and efficient experience of a modern day smart phone. By the way, this is just a step below how roughly 70% of the U.S. population currently experiences their mobile devices as well. While our feature phones are more feature-rich, smartphones are an exponential leap forward experientially. But you already know that.

My current experience reminds me of the implications of the lack of critical-mass adoption of new technologies. It was just over a decade ago when we closely monitored the broadband penetration rate. Consumers with high-speed access experienced the Web very differently than those who were still on dial-up. Pundits pontificated, agencies, marketers and media companies strategized, and technology start-ups got funded based on the tipping point of adoption that would drive significant consumer engagement, commerce -- and the subsequent innovation of what ultimately would become a booming financial ecosystem.

2011 should prove to be the year that the mobile Web crosses another tipping point. This is not the rallying cry of "it's the year of mobile... again." We have been amidst the half-decade of mobile for at least two to three years already. By all estimates, smartphone penetration should be over 50% in the U.S. by the end of 2011. While a significant number of marketers have ongoing mobile marketing programs in place, and have already developed initial key learnings on effectively engaging consumers on mobile devices, there are still plenty of marketers who only dip their toes in the mobile water or have been sitting on the sidelines completely. Expect this to change as the smartphone penetration rate crosses the 50% mark. This seems to be a nice magical round number that motivates action.

It's amazing how quickly we take our technology for granted. Could you even imagine life without high-speed Internet access? Without Google? What else do we take for granted?

1 comment about "Have You Hugged Your Smartphone Lately?".
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  1. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., March 29, 2011 at 12:48 p.m.

    Yes, yes, we take much for granted. How about WiFi everywhere? To your point, smartphone based email as well. With the iPhone 3G at $49 now, I think Smartphone penetration is only going to continue to boom...that is, as long as AT&T and the other forthcoming monopolies can keep the services rates down! Great article, thanks,

    Mike Patterson

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