In order for an application to be successful it has to be be Usable, Useful and Desirable (Forrester). But this has far from been the case with mobile solutions, and in my opinion the lack of desirability has been one of the important ingredients in it’s lack of penetration (at a constant 12-14% for the last years).
The book: Mobile Marketing: Achieving competitive advantage through competitive advantage states that the reason for the lack of mobile Internet penetration in the western world compared to Japan can be traced back to two points: The cost-model (pay per minute) and the complexity of the WAP protocol (to difficult and expensive to develop for)
. In Japan consumers pay for downloads and not minutes online (which means that they are always online – a major factor), and the system is extremely inexpensive and simple to develop content for.
Most experts here in Norway also point to the cost-model as being significant for the low and non-moving penetration rate (also stated by Norwegian consumers in some news articles and interviews), but most experts seem ignorant to the fact that the look and feel of the content in the standard WAP-interface can be an important factor to it’s lack of success
So, can the clunky seamlessness and unattractive applications play a part in mobile’s unimpressive adoption rate?
Charlotta Favlin from TAT (blog) stated at Telenor Digital Winners 2008 that the main problem for many content providers on mobile was that they were building solutions from the bottom up, concentrating on what the technology can do not how and why consumers would participate with them
. An important factor in this is designing user interfaces for attractiveness and intuitive use
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Robert Steiger of Google presented a set of 3rd-party statistics showing that when comparing the iPhone, with very aesthtetic and “desirable” interfaces, to the clunky smart-phone handset, one could see a steep increase in usage in multiple/all categories:
For me the success of the iPhone (and the opera.mini browser ) are certain evidence aesthetics and desirability have a lot to do with usage and adoption, and as soon as the handsets, browsers and business models appreciates this the customer will follow suit.