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Friday October 22, 2010 12:46 pm

Beyond the iPhone: Why Paying Attention to the Diverse Mobile Devices and Channels Pays Dividends

With more than 45 million smartphone and tablet users nationwide and ABI Research predicting that 6 billion mobile applications will be downloaded this year alone, businesses, especially those looking to reach consumers, have been frenzied about launching mobile offerings. In the past several years, much of the buzz surrounding the mobile space has been about the iPhone. With the debut of the iPhone 4 earlier this year, many businesses continue to focus their mobile strategy resources solely on this much-hyped operating system. In fact, a recent Kony Solutions survey of Fortune 500 corporations found that a staggering 85% of respondents ranked the iPhone as their top priority device for mobile support. 

However, the current mobile landscape is quite fragmented - given the sheer number of handsets available to consumers - and the market isn’t necessarily dominated by the iPhone.  A 2010 Gartner report estimated that the iPhone holds just 2.7% of the mobile market share. Notably, Android has surpassed Apple’s iOS, and comScore recently reported that RIM actually continues to capture the most smartphone market share (although Apple just announced that they've surpassed RIM for Q4 2010.) As such, the true market share of the iPhone doesn’t warrant the resources and strategy being dedicated solely to this device by Fortune 500 corporations, and companies in this position stand to lose more than 97% of mobile customers.


In actuality, it’s not even just about smartphones – more than half of mobile users worldwide continue to use a feature phone instead of a smartphone (including the BlackBerry, iPhone, Android and Palm). This is another key factor that businesses often overlook when developing a mobile strategy. 

The expansive mobile landscape can be overwhelming for the businesses trying to reach a vast number of consumers. These companies face the challenge of developing brand-consistent mobile applications across a variety of devices and channels. Different delivery channels and multiple operating systems create complicated and costly development, management and maintenance problems for companies looking to capture consumer mindshare and offer a competitive mobile portfolio.

How To Capture Consumer Mindshare
For companies looking to capture consumer mindshare through mobile, the solution is actually quite simple—meet consumers where they are. That means looking beyond just an iPhone application to an integrated mobile strategy that deploys across the more than 8,000 mobile devices and 9 operating systems on the market today. It also means considering the various channels with which consumers engage on their mobile devices, whether it’s mobile web, on-device mobile and tablet applications or SMS.

How To Execute An Integrated Mobile Strategy
One of the biggest concerns for companies when they begin thinking about developing an integrated mobile offering that reaches a variety of devices and channels is the cost associated with developing for each individual operating system and channel, as well as the extended time to market. A smart, fully integrated mobile strategy will leverage technology such as a single application definition or Write Once, Run Everywhere technology to create a mobile offering that can be deployed across the breadth of mobile devices and operating systems. 

Using a single application definition allows applications to be designed and developed just once, in a device independent manner, and deployed across multiple channels, including on-device applications, mobile web, SMS, web gadgets, desktop applications, and tablets. Working with a vendor that offers a true single application definition powered platform will also future proof a company’s mobile investment by enabling a company to “change once, change everywhere” by making simultaneous upgrades across all channels with just one change to the mobile offering code. This ability ensures faster adoption of new operating systems and standards as they are introduced, while eliminating maintenance, upgrade and future development costs.

This powerful technology is truly the only solution available that offers ubiquitous deployment of mobile offerings across the entire mobile landscape. The single application definition also optimizes a company’s mobile budget and offers the most significant return on investment by reducing ongoing maintenance, upgrade and development costs without sacrificing functionality or reach. 

However, one issue that companies run into when working with some vendors that claim to have a Write Once, Run Everywhere technology is the vendor will develop an application using the least common denominator functionality available to enable the application to run on every device. When evaluating vendors, it’s important for companies to investigate whether the proposed technology allows applications to access the best possible features of each operating system. Rather than using a least common denominator approach, a mobile vendor should enable applications to be optimized for individual device platforms. Exposing extensive platform specific properties and development options is essential to providing consumers with the richest possible experience on each device and in turn, ensuring application adoption.

Planning for 2011
As companies begin to develop their mobile strategies for 2011, it’s important to look beyond just the iPhone and downloadable applications and reach consumers across the entire mobile landscape. Businesses that do so can maximize their mobile potential, capturing the biggest share of the market and converting that to tangible ROI.

Sophie Vu is Director of Marketing & Business Development for Kony Solutions in San Mateo, CA. She can be reached at sophie.vu@kony-solutions.com.

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