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Mobile Internet – A Failed Experiment? Karishma Sundaram | , 12:10 a.m. Feb. 21, 2009 2009-02-21

The mobile phone industry seems to be poised to overtake the personal computer. This idea would have been laughable a few years ago, but is it so unimaginable now?

Examining trends of the last few years, it is quite evident that mobile phones have increasingly become more diversified. There are definite product segments which cater exclusively to a certain stratum of the market, like individuals or business executives. As a matter of fact, both these categories can be further sub-classified into many other divisions, further underlining the vast variety of choice now available. 

For example, there are mobile phone models aimed at young people, so that their parents can be in contact with them; the multimedia-rich phones designed for young adults, who invariably want the coolest phone available; and one for the adults, who are not really interested in fancy features, but use phones as simple tools for mobile communication. Perhaps the most lucrative segment is the tech-savvy business executive with a great deal of disposable income; phones for this demographic have features like word processing, remote desktop access, contact and calendar data synchronization, among many others. 

So the mobile phone has become as essential part of everyday existence. 

The personal computer is also an equally prolific technological device, one which most homes in developed countries cannot do without. The same goes for the Internet which is one of the greatest means of sharing information easily and regardless of distance. Therefore, it was merely a matter of time till the Internet was accessible from mobile phones. 

Now, the Internet is not only accessible on mobile phones, mobiles have got the ability to actually upload content like multimedia or text. In fact, it is possible for people to stay constantly connected through the use of the Internet on a mobile phone.

In the view of these technological trends and the obvious extrapolation that should have taken place, the use of the mobile Internet should have been some decent percentage of the total number of mobile users as a whole. 

But it isn’t. 

Not by a long shot, apparently. Shockingly, of all the mobile phone users in the world, approximately 10% of them actually use the Internet on their phones. These figures include all the kinds of market segments, even the ones that want the latest technology. 


One of the main reasons for this surprising lack of usage is ignorance. Quite a few people who have mobiles, do not have personal computers (or access to any computer) hence are completely unaware of the advantages that the Internet provides. Of course most of these particular users are in less developed countries, and are usually not the intended targets for advertising. 

The second reason that costs involved in active Internet usage can be prohibitively high. For example, downloads and uploads are charged per Kb, which can rack up a substantial bill if a user isn’t careful. So the general trend of thought is to avoid using it altogether. An alternate problem is that some flat-rate packages have shoddy transfer rates making the experience altogether painful and not worth the effort. 

Another possible reason is the school of thought that feels the Internet experience is extremely limited when on a mobile phone. Videos and websites are pared down to cater to smaller screens and limited controls, which takes away from the intrinsic enjoyment of the medium. 

There are perhaps many more reasons why the mobile Internet has not taken off. Hopefully, at some later stage, these issues will be considered and dealt with accordingly.

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