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Unlimited data? My foot!

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As more and more people are upgrading to smartphones (this summer, it’s estimated that more than 750,000 Android and iOS devices will be activated per day) and as the smartphones themselves are continuously increasing their range and capabilities for producing and consuming various kinds of data, mobile service providers have been forced to move away from offering unlimited data plans for their customers and to price their data plans according to consumption tiers or buckets.

A recent report claims that average smartphone data usage per month has increased almost 90% over the past year.  Users who will not have their current unlimited plans grandfathered in at renewal time will have to consider how much they’re willing to pay for how much data they use.

How many will purchase enough data to do as much (or as little) as they like? This could be huge  since smartphone users have literally hundreds of thousands of apps available to them that allow them to do all sorts of things from searches, online banking, retail purchases, listening to music, creating and sharing images, watching video, gaming, etc.  Even supposing everyone did purchase a sufficient data plan to do everything that they want, some have raised the concern that the infrastructure to handle all of that traffic will not be up to the task.

How would issues like these affect marketing on mobile devices?  Will we be forced to compete for the scarcity of consumers’ time in addition to their scarcity of availability of access to data transfer? If a data availability bottleneck does become a significant issue for smartphone users, then I suspect that we would react by streamlining our mobile marketing activities to be as lean as possible in terms of the amount of data required.

Such a situation might lead us to choose a “gamification” strategy that relied upon a heftier client-slide application and involved primarily passing small chunks of data to and from the server rather than lots of data-heavy content like video and audio.  Of course, there are other variables that would drive such decisions but that’s a simple example of how the future particulars of smartphone usage might affect the way in which we market on mobile platforms.

Ok, so it’s also very possible that no such bottlenecks will turn out to be a problem after all (especially if you’re at least a little bit mindful about where and when you use your smartphone for data-intensive purposes). Perhaps both the capacity of the infrastructure will keep pace and maybe folks will simply be willing to pay extra to watch Netflix, listen to Pandora, play the latest tactical shooter, and do all of the rest.

What does this mean for marketing via mobile devices?  A lot of the cool stuff we’ve found and shared at our Spotlight get-togethers share at least one big common theme – marketing on mobile devices will be no less data-intensive than any of the other things people use their smartphones for.

This is no real surprise, I guess, since the new and innovative ways of creating and building up brands and cultivating more-than-superficial relationships between people and brands are incorporating the things we already use our smartphones for anyway, which is to say basically anything but actually using the phone as a phone (but even that can insinuate itself sometimes).  Whether the data demands of an application are intrinsically heavy or modest, though, here in the Geek Suite we’re always looking at things like optimizing data-efficiency in addition to robust design and implementation in our websites and mobile apps to make sure that we’re delivering products that serve well our clients and their brands.

Comments(1)

  • August 10, 2011, 2:36 pm  Reply

    No doubt smartphones are the way everyone is going and the data plans will as you say have a huge increase in demand. I’m seeing a lot of parallels here with Netflix’s realization they had a broken model when more than X number of people started to use them for X number of rentals a month.

    I think we’re on the precipice of another data-evolution boom. It’s just like when everyone was getting so many AOL disks you could build an armored tank out of them for every man woman and child in the nation and the AOL service was then, understandably, bogged down to heck and back.

    AOL of course responded to the overwhelming demand on their unprepared infrastructure. I see something like this happening with the data plans. At first there will be bottlenecks and lots of angry people, but we’ve tasted the fruit of unlimited and the demand will produce the data equivalent of T1 cables.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this somehow pops up in a form of a national wireless web. There are a lot of companies that offer free wireless (fast food, truck stops, hotels, schools, community centers, etc) and I could see this expanding somehow so we’re tapping into landlines across the nation, rather than phone service.

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