There are plenty of companies eager to cash in on mobile applications.
There are plenty of companies eager to cash in on mobile applications such as delivering weather, news and driving instructions. The entire supply chainfrom software developers to system operatorsare pretty much salivating at the prospect of a skyrocketing market.
Trouble is, end users aren't all that interested. At least not enough to turn those hockey-stick revenue growth curves we hear about on a regular basis into reality.
According to a survey sponsored by Action Engine (http://www.actionengine.com), a mobile application platform company based in Bellevue, WA, 64% of mobile data services users find the experience of searching the web on their mobile phones "disappointing" or "somewhat disappointing." About 34% said they did not use mobile applications at all.
To read the complete survey results follow this link: http://http://www.actionengine.com/docs/Usability_Study.pdf
Time-consuming data entry and slow response times are the most frustrating aspects of the user experience. This disappointing result comes despite the availability of faster networks and new mobile data services.
I can personally attest to usability problems. I pay a modest $10 a month for services that I seldom use. Take news, weather and driving instructions for example. According to the survey, these are the most desired applications.
Problem is, the news is really just a headline service; I can look out the window for the weather; and it's hard to read driving instructions from a small screen when you're negotiating your way through unfamiliar surroundings.
Granted, I can find weather forecasts for other cities (or even my own) but I seldom have to do that at a moment's notice. So my cell phone is not the information source I turn to.
The primary usability problem from my perspective is the small screen.
If you're used to gulping down information from a PC or TV screen or newspaper page, sipping it through a cell phone's tiny window into the information stew is like sucking lemonade through a straw with a lemon seed in it.
In an unexpected way, the survey supports this premise. It found that "fast response times" and "fewer trips to the network" were the most desired features of respondents who use mobile applications.
Some 76% said two or fewer trips to the network are their limit when trying to access specific information. They don't want to more than five minutes online while using a mobile application.
Clearly, there's frustration out there. But is network performance or the screen that's the culprit?
Data is subject to more than one interpretation, of course. Being a mobile application platform company, Action Engine sees the need for faster, easier data transfer between the application server and the handset.
Some 59% of respondents cited "Ease of use/Positive user reviews" as their most important buying criteria. I have no argument with more speed and enhanced usability.
But I think the real bottleneck lies in the size of the user interface. For mobile applications, the killer app isn't software. It's hardware (in a manner of speaking).