This is the time of year when everyone gives their predictions for the upcoming year. I usually shy away from this for the simple reason that if I could accurately predict anything I’d be much wealthier.
That said, there is one trend that I believe will truly take shape in 2010 the way it has been predicted for many years now: mobile web browsing.
For years (and I mean this literally), the mobile web was going to be the next big thing. I was working on a WAP mobile site almost 10 years ago. Back then, smartphones were a rarity and mobile web browsing was not even remotely easy to use.
It seems that every year since then, a pundit has proclaimed this to be the year of the mobile web. What has always prevented this has been the penetration of capable mobile devices. Coming into 2010 though, I think we’re closer than ever. We’re finally seeing the beginning of ubiquitous mobile web browsing.
The following is a quick look at the many mobile devices now with the ability to browse the web and my thoughts on each:
- Smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm) – 39% of consumers own a smartphone according to ChangeWave Research. Many have built-in Wi-Fi, truly turning them into portable computing devices.
- iPod Touch – My Dad, not a gadget or smartphone user, asked for an iPod Touch for Christmas. The iPhone OS is becoming mainstream.
- Kindle – Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader has a built-in, permanent 3G wireless connection. While providing the ability to download ebooks anywhere, this also allows for mobile web use with the included web browser.
- Netbooks – Many think consumers purchase netbooks for their inexpensive price. I’d argue it’s mainly for the portability. I bought a Dell Mini 9 to convert to a hackintosh for exactly this reason.
- Tablet computers – Tablets are almost the definition of mobile computing. Apple is rumored to be announcing their iTablet later this month.
All of the above devices have built-in web browsers, many of them supporting web standards used on most modern web sites. When you’re able to use a web site on a mobile device that was not specially designed for a mobile interface, everything starts to change.
Additionally, I took a look at the last thirty days of traffic at two of my web sites, StatsMix and All Climbing. Each of them has what I would consider to be significant mobile traffic compared to how little I used to see. On StatsMix, 2.7% of all visitors were using a mobile device and on All Climbing the number was 2.4%.
I’ll revisit this post later this year to see where those numbers stand.
Finally, a surprisingly high number of beta testers on StatsMix have been requesting a mobile-optimized interface. Trying to predict what features users want is one thing, but actually reading their requests is another. This is the first product I’ve worked on where users have been requesting mobile access in significant numbers.
What are your thoughts? Is this the year for mobile web browsing to finally break out?