We asked bloggers around the Internet to tell us what they think about mobile browsers and how they can be improved in time. Our first post comes from Sean Tierney takes a good look at the mobile browser landscape. To read more from Sean, check out his blog:
So how do mobile browsers compare?
Will mobile browsers become important deciding factors for smartphone purchases?
Absolutely. But the influence will be even more dramatic once the 3G networks are firmly established in the US. While the iPhone browser has significantly improved usability, it's still hobbled by the speed of data transmission and therefore the speed at which web pages load. Fortunately the prevalence of open WiFi networks and the iPhone's ability to connect via WiFi mitigates some of this when in proximity to an open WiFi network. The majority of the time though, I'm connecting via AT&T's edge network at painfully-slow speeds. As the browsing experience gets better from both improved usability of the browsers and improved data transmission speeds from the network, this feature of the smartphone should become a greater determinant on the purchasing decision.
How will mobile browsers evolve differently from the desktop browser market?
Pen computing provides a good analogue- it's an entirely different interaction model. Repurposing traditional desktop browsers will yield a disappointing experience for the user. The browsers that rethink the interface to take advantage of gestures and multi-touch input will win. But the trick will be in rendering apps written for desktop browsers in a meaningful way that takes advantage of this mobile-centric gestures without forcing the developers to write an entirely new interface for their applications. Browsers will have to creatively map the existing UI elements and handlers to a new mobile interface with 1-to-1 relationship so the new browsers work with the majority of existing sites. Flash interfaces pose another layer of complexity but also opportunity.
What are your opinions of the business models behind mobile browsers -- ad-sponsored, shareware, licensed, etc?
The screen on a mobile device isn't large enough to support an ad-sponsored model where the ad constantly occupies 20% of the screen real estate. And interstitials are even worse where the ad monopolizes the screen for brief periods. The people that are willing to buy a $400 phone and pay $100/mo for service will pay for a browser that delivers an optimal browsing experience. Android will undoubtedly have an open source mobile browser (if it doesn't already). The release of the Apple iPhone SDK will be interesting to watch- I would expect Apple to retain tight control over approving and signing apps. It's inevitable that we'll see a new tab in iTunes for mobile applications.
Which apps do you think will be the most popular in 5 years?
We'll see apps that let people set geo-triggered alerts. We'll see opt-in loyalty programs that send coupons triggered by a combination of time and proximity to the vendor. 2D barcodes which are widely used in Japan will eventually make their way to the US once enough phones support them. But for all the new whiz-bang possibilities enabled by advances in phone technology, the apps that will be most popular are the ones that enhance people's existing activities rather than attempting to change their behavior. I have zero doubt that we'll see something like this emerge that takes advantage of LBS and gives people a location awareness with their friends. Ultimately people like to connect in person and the apps that bring people closer together by facilitating more face-to-face interaction with existing friends and discovery of new friends will be the most popular.