Browsing the Mobile Web: Anyone Out There?

Earlier this week, I published a post on the Taptu blog looking at the challenges of creating and selling mobile applications outside of the iPhone bubble, in particular at how developer Jan Ole Suhr released a Twitter client for S60, causing a stir around the pricing.

You know me, I love nothing more than a good ol’ rumble around the web, so when I came across some more tasty stats that didn’t agree with each other, I had to bite. Bango and AdMob both released recent figures for their top 20 handsets and there’s a Grand Canyon of difference in the top 3.

mobile_stats

Granted there is a fairly straightforward explanation for this variation; AdMob, as an ad network, has been one of the chosen ad providers for many iPhone app developers, who choose to monetise their apps through advertising.

No Monopoly, Apple

What is enlightening however, is that the iPhone and iPod Touch don’t feature at all in Bango’s top 20. As a more representative sample of the mobile web than AdMob’s figures, it’s fascinating to see that a phone as basic as the Nokia 3110 Classic tops the chart. This is 2009. Weren’t we supposed to have hover cars, food in pill form and travel to the moon by now!? Yet a phone with less features than my microwave tops the chart with over 12% of the traffic to cross Bango’s service.

[Tangent alert] Before anyone crucifies me, I believe older phones have some wonderful benefits. My favourite phone of all times is probably still the Nokia 6100, which was small enough for me to mistake it for some futuristic pill form food and had about a century of battery life. (Ok, only slightly exaggerating) I’m a big fan of the iPhone, not so much of second-rate touch devices like Nokia’s 5800, but I try to be fair and give each and every new phone a chance first. [Tangent over]

Part of the appeal of the mobile web as opposed to apps is that, generally speaking, it’s much more accessible from a wide range of devices, without device, geographic or network limitations. But speaking to a number of smaller mobile website owners, it seems everyone’s missing a trick.

Stats Geeks Wanted

On desktop, most of us have caught on to Google Analytics and use it regularly to keep an eye on the ups and downs of our website. On mobile? Tumbleweed in most cases! Sure, Google Analytics and others aren’t suitable for mobile, but there are options. In fact, Bango’s mobile analytics service is not only simple to use, but has an admin area that rivals desktop packages.

Weirdly, these analytics could just as well be used on a desktop site. What, do you really think you don’t have a single mobile visitor to your desktop site? iPhone and other higher end phones will cope with Javascript (necessary to make a mark on Google Analytics, for example), but the majority of the devices listed on both AdMob and Bango’s top 20 won’t even register on your stats.

Personally, as a marketing gal and stats geek, I can’t imagine why a marketing manager wouldn’t want to improve reported numbers just by adding a new set of analytics. It ain’t cheating, it’s just usefully flagging up users you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Fly Me To the Moon

So while there are heinously bad phones out there *cough* motorolaimlookingatyou *cough* and site developers who forget that not everyone’s interested in a big Flash animation welcoming you to the site, we just can’t deny that it’s slowly becoming more or less enjoyable to browse the web on a phone, so it’s worth supporting that through good mobile design and smart tracking of what users coming from phones rather than 24″ screens get up to.

As far as I’m concerned, you’ll only find me browsing on an iPhone, since I’m not yet quiiite satisfied with touchscreen alternatives out there. Of course, I’m a willing guinea pig… at least while I wait for my brain implant, jetpack and weekend ticket to the moon.

[Disclaimer: Taptu and Bango are both clients with whom I work on community development. As for Apple and AdMob, I’m merely watching them evolve with great interest.]

Ada Lovelace Day: Make Your Own Path

Today is Ada Lovelace Day; organised by Suw Charman-Anderson, the day was inspired by her female friends in technology who felt they were “disenfranchised and invisible”. The idea of recognising the women in our lives who inspire, support and surround us is a good, noble one. I hope it can make a difference and change the lives of younger women who are deciding what career to aim for when they grow up.

But… I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled with the event. It leaves me feeling uncomfortable and on edge, like I’m politely standing still for a picture but my nose is itching hopelessly. It’s the sentiment that the motivation behind this day is that women feel they are being cheated out of the technology roles they strive for.

First, some background on why I feel this way. I’ve been working in and alongside the tech world for some ten years now; first in computer science publishing, where authors were generally male, but the editorial team often overwhelmingly female. Moving to my next role in web marketing, I was mostly surrounded by developers, designers and occasionally another marketing person. Mostly guys.

The ultimate realisation was in the next move to the mobile industry. I wish I had an areal photo of the first large-scale mobile event I attended: Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I was standing in the open outdoors square wearing a fuschia pink cardigan, surrounded by a sea of men in grey and black suits. Not another woman in sight. At that point, it really hit me that I’d landed in one of the most male-dominated industries. And somehow, rather than worry me, it made me smile.

Over these years in tech, I have met some strong, determined women who are very much respected in their field. I’ve also met shrinking violets who felt they should get more recognition for one reason or another. Yet, at no point have I met anyone who was able to truly tell me that the reason they didn’t get where they wanted was purely due to being a woman. At no point either have *I* felt that being a girl made any difference to how my career has progressed.

There are a million reasons not to be where you want to be; lack of drive and passion, poor understanding or knowledge of an industry, chronic shyness or fear of putting one foot in front of the other and walking into a room full of men. But using sex-based discrimination as the sole reason not to be where you want to be today is bullshit.

The topic of gender imbalance at tech conferences often crops up in conversation. Yes, it’s true there are less women speaking at tech events. Yes, it’s true there are less women in tech generally. But it’s changing and fast; mainly due to strong girls choosing to walk into that classroom of blokes. Of these girls, I am truly proud. Of those who spend more time complaining about the lack of recognition rather than DO something worthy of recognition, I’m a lot less proud.

So girls, grab every opportunity that comes your way to learn, gain experience, and don’t be afraid to screw up along the way. The men didn’t always get it right the first time either. Just be bold, gutsy and you’ll be respected for your smarts and wits, rather than for your boobs.

And to those who have done it and continue to prove that girls rock, thank you all for being an inspiration!

I'm in London for Mobile Geeks & Tuttle Club

As I’ve just mentioned on the Taptu blog, if you’re in London and you like the mobile world, there’s only one place to be this evening: Mobile Geeks of London (and here’s a non-Facebook link!) It’s an informal evening gathering of people who work in mobile or simply enjoy geeking about with phones. Good company, good beer and hopefully good weather.

It all begins at 6:45pm at the New Oxford Street All-Bar-One, and even though over a hundred people have RSVP’ed as attending, I’m putting money on it that there’ll be at least twice as many phones and mobile devices than people. Yes, we’re geeks. And we love it. 😉

And then, tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading to Social Media Cafe aka Tuttle Club for a bit. It’s at the Coach & Horses on Greek Street in Soho, so again, if you’re around, why not pop by?

I’ll be posting updates on Twitter so if you want to meet up, drop me a tweet!