Everyone’s an expert on mobile these days – not necessarily on mobile marketing, mind you, but certainly on mobile phones, mobile technology, operating systems, and so on. The recent launch of the iPhone 5 in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Centre ignited another series of controversies – the tech press ran hot with stories analysing the likely popularity of the new iPhone and eagerly compared it to the latest Android phones from HTC and Samsung. It didn’t help that there had been similar launches shortly before Apple’s event, including Nokia’s somewhat troubled launch of two Windows 8 phones (Nokia was accused of faking video footage and still photographs) and Motorola’s RAZR launch.
The nature of conversation around mobile these days does tend to focus on the technical and technological aspects, largely because these are the aspects that the tech press focuses on. But mobile is gaining in scope as it does in popularity, and these days, mobile is making the news in the finance/business pages as well as in the mainstream press – a sure sign that the medium is becoming more mature. Mobile’s crossover with the Internet, and as a locus for a large percentage of social media activity is the other force that is pushing mobile into the mainstream – more sophisticated mobile devices are expanding the use cases for mobile, which once upon a time might have been limited to communication, but these days extends to so many more areas.
The news that US mobile payments company, Square, closed its fourth round of funding with $200 million of added investment and a valuation of $3.25 billion is an indication of future direction – clearly mobile payments/finance is an area which is expected to see some growth, and in which companies are willing to invest. Mobile is set to become an area of interest that is not limited solely to tech lovers who talk specs and operating systems.
And rightly so – the most mobile users are not technologists. The massive popularity of mobile phones in Asia was driven by people who were hungry for more and better communication, looking for a way catch up with the rest of the world to make the most of the digital riches of the Internet. For them the technology is merely an enabler, the platforms merely a matter of choice.
These mobile users are tech-savvy, without being tech-obsessed, and use mobile devices freely and comfortably, without concerning themselves with the specs and the fine details of the technology. They are largely driven by the need and desire to communicate, and use their devices extensively to access their individual social graphs. They are looking to do more with their mobile phones.
Even as more services are developed to take advantage of the mobile phones and devices that we carry with us all the time, the core users of these service will be people who want to use their mobile phones to talk to other people, to get things done, to do the shopping, to pay the bills, and so on – to get on with life. The true mobile revolution, for Asia, will be one that changes people’s lives.