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You think you know what mobile is… but I seriously doubt it

Posted on 13th September, by Tom Williams in Misc. 2 Comments

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Until I was asked to present on mobile technology at a recent conference, I thought I knew what mobile was.  After a lot of research and a lot of thinking, I was surprised to find out that I really didn’t know how to properly define “mobile“. When I asked the room of attendees at the conference if they knew what mobile was, most hands went up.  By the time I was done talking, most people weren’t so sure.

So…What makes a device “mobile” and more importantly, how should digital information render on a mobile device?

You may think that portability is synonymous with mobile, as many at the conference first believed. But that means that all laptops are mobile devices and really, any desktop you can put in your car trunk is also a mobile device… so it’s got to be more than just portability.

Perhaps it’s the screen size that makes something mobile but I know a lot of laptops that have really small screen sizes…so it must be more than just screen size.

What about iPads and tablets.  Surely those are mobile right! However… have you ever hit a mobile website with an iPad or Tablet? How annoying is that? If a mobile site rendering on the device is annoying is the device really mobile?

So, do you still think you know what mobile is or have I sufficiently thrown some wrenches in your gears? In my next post, I will discuss what I see as the Three Pillars of Mobile.

How would you define “mobile”??

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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2 Responses to “You think you know what mobile is… but I seriously doubt it”

  1. aaron says:

    I think the problem is that your stopping at mobile. Not mobile phone, not mobile tablet, just mobile. It’s just an adjective. I had a friend that had a carrying case for his desktop and he would wrap everything up to take to another location to use it because he couldn’t afford a laptop. He was mobile. Traditionally, I think when people say mobile, they mean mobile phones, but with communication devices becoming more and more mobile, that term is no longer clear. You have to narrow it down more than that if your going to target for development. Or take the responsive design approach, and don’t target mobile or desktop.

    • Tom Williams says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Aaron… I think you’re really on to something with “responsive design”… I believe that + HTML5 is probably the future… makes it easier to be ubiquitous when talking about the more generic term (as you point out) of just “mobile”.

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