Up until about two weeks ago, I was one of the many, many people who had not developed any pattern at all of viewing video on mobile devices. My experience had been limited to product demos that go with the line of work I'm in, experiments with devices and content offerings that -- once again -- were prompted by work-based interests, and a small number of either failed or unsatisfactory attempts to get my supposedly video-enabled phone to do something worth looking at.
In essence, I hadn't bought into the reality of mobile video, even though I was more than willing to accept that it would grow over time as the user experience improved (over what period of time was anybody's guess, however).
But that was in the past -- in the bad old days before I had got my hands on an iPhone 3G and found myself seduced by its almost sensual appeal. Let's face it, the seduction had already happened in the store; since getting one of my own, the process of synching with my email accounts, uploading pictures and music etc. has been the consummation of the relationship.
Any device that you instinctively want to reach out and touch is pretty much guaranteed to be a winner, as long as it performs and delivers against the expectations set for it. The iPhone is a perfect example of this and more. It also demonstrates how a brilliantly designed, well-executed and technically advanced offering can actually go so far as to change behavior. Is it perfect? No. But, is anything? No.
But in the same way that iTunes changed the face of the music industry by finally kick-starting the market for legal, paid-for music downloads, it is entirely possible that the iPhone will have a similar impact on mobile video, accelerating the pace at which viewing video on-the-go becomes commonplace.
The ease with which one can access video either downloaded from iTunes to your phone, or link to YouTube at the touch of an onscreen icon, makes the process wonderfully intuitive. The process of searching for and playing a video is simplicity itself. The screen resolution is sublime, making the experience even more enjoyable. And this is where my behavior has been most dramatically affected over the last couple of weeks.
I've used my phone (if that's what we can still call it) to access emails and the Web, play games and the rest, for the last two or three years, but over these last 15 days I've completely transformed what I do with video.
I've already downloaded music videos and stored them on my phone, watched clips from "The Daily Show" and searched YouTube many times to find things referenced in conversations (this weekend I learned about Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp - something that never made it into my English childhood experiences), none of which was ever going to happen until the right device fell into my hands. No doubt there is more to come (I'll probably use video on my iPhone to demo what we do at the Center for Media Design).
What remains to be seen, of course, is the extent to which this plays out over time among the general population as more iPhones (and similar devices) achieve critical mass. Many said that the video-capable iPod would boost mobile video consumption, but it never happened in any significant way. Music is still the dominant reason for using an iPod, followed by the spoken word (podcasts, eBooks etc.).
Personally I think the iPhone, with its integration of so many functions (from voice, Web, email, iPod, Apps, picture storage, GPS mapping and all the rest) means that it is far more likely to trigger an uplift in mobile video consumption. It will be a classic case of form and function coming together to facilitate what the available content already promises and delivers by other means and situations.
After all, the iPhone truly is the Jimmy Choo of mobile communications. Interestingly, a conversation with a couple of colleagues about the relative desirability of the iPhone and their favorite designer shoes suggested that a choice between the two would not be an easy one to make for those in the market for both. What would you choose?