A "smartphone" is a web-enabled mobile phone, like an iPhone, Blackberry or Droid. Smartphone users subscribe to a data service that connects them to the Internet. The large cellphone service providers, like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc., sell data service with various billing plans and options.
Smartphone users -- more than 1/3 of U.S. adults -- are doing a lot more than talking, texting and reading email.
According to a comScore report, in January 2010, 30.8% of smartphone owners used their mobile browser to access Facebook and other social networking sites, like Twitter. This adds a new dimension to staying in contact with friends and family by “phone.”
Smartphone users are also shopping with their mobile phones. According to ABI research, there were $1.2 billion in mobile shopping sales in 2009. The projection for 2010 is $2.4 billion in mobile purchases.
Does your internet business need a mobile site? Or will your existing Web site do the job?
The first thing to do is to check how your current “desktop” Web site displays on a smartphone. Open the browser on a smartphone phone and type in your URL. Check your site on a few different phones: iPhone, MyTouch, Blackberry. They may display your Web site a bit differently. If you don't have access to a smartphone, try this online iPhone simulator to get a realistic view of how your Web site will display.
Web sites that are designed for laptop or desktop viewing rarely deliver an optimal experience to a mobile user. The iPhone may deliver a modified version of your Web site to its user, but it probably won’t look great.
If you are selling products or services that your potential clients may be searching for while they are on the go – and almost everyone is “on the go” these days – it should be a priority for your Internet business should provide a great mobile experience. Most smartphone users will close a Web site that doesn't display correctly, especially if navigating the site requires left to right scrolling and the images are so large that the screen only displays a fraction of them.
It is fairly easy to make your Web site smartphone-friendly. You can leverage mobile Web tools or do the work to create a customized mobile version of your site. Do some research by exploring the top retail mobile sites. Many mobile sites do an outstanding job of appealing to the mobile shopper. Learn from what others have done well, and design those features into your own mobile site.
There is growing competition among businesses with mobile sites. To be a player, a business’s mobile site should be interesting, well-designed and engaging. Content is important, and should represent your business in a well-rounded way. Mobile sites must be accessible and searchable. Think user-friendly. Don’t forget your contact information. If you can design-in unique content, you will increase the amount of time users stay on your site. Product reviews, checklists, embedded maps and coupon codes are attractive features.
The most popular activity on the mobile web is search. Smartphone users spend a huge amount of time looking for things: make certain that they find your business, they find your products, and that your mobile site presents your business advantageously.
An App is completely different from a mobile site. An “App” is a downloadable application for a smartphone. Mobile apps are programs that perform specific functions on a smartphone, from a barcode scanner to shopping list managers and tip calculators. Apps can also be images or sounds. Ringtones and wallpapers are common Apps. Apps are built for individual stores: Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android or Nokia’s Ovi.
Designing an App that is relevant to your business is a whole different ball game from designing a mobile site. With 25 million people tapping Apps on their smartphones, Internet businesses may be well-served by directing resources into developing and marketing an App that makes sense. For example, a luxury car dealer might create an App with ring tones of car horns. The field of existing Apps is huge - hundreds of thousands - and growing every day.
For an Internet business, a mobile site is becoming a necessity. An App can be a creative, engaging marketing tool, not a must-have, but a cool contribution to the smartphone community.