The year of the mobile app

Summary:With a single supplier keeping prices high this demand growth is barely manageable. As Android and LiMo devices hit the shelves this year, a firehose of demand will be unleashed.

Google AndroidThe most popular piece I wrote here during 2008 concerned the importance of the iPhone and Google Android. It was the fourth most-read post here during 2008.

I find this interesting because, as you'll see if you click the link, the item drew just three talkbacks.

Maybe I nailed one and there was nothing left to say.

My point in February was, and it remains, that the iPhone, the Google Android, and all their competitors are not phones at all.

They are Internet clients.

There's a huge difference. A phone is a low-bandwidth device. Digital cellular networks routinely compress calls into just a few thousands of bits per second of bandwidth.

An Internet client is a broadband device. We're accustomed to desktop clients that haul data at 1.5 Mbps, often faster, even in a WiFi-equipped coffee bar. Contrast this with the 3 Kbps of the average digital cellular call.

So-called 3G mobile networks are not equipped to deal with this demand.

When my wife was in Texas recently she borrowed her sister's 3G card to do some work, having been assured it was "mobile broadband." Hasn't stopped talking about how slow it was.

You notice the difference when you plug in with a laptop. You didn't notice it with a mobile phone.

With the iPhone, the lack of speed is noticeable but not annoying. Mobile apps use a lot of programming tricks to get around the problem.

They're small compared to desktop applications, for one thing. And they take advantage of all sorts of RIA technologies, depending on software in the client to handle the presentation and moving only the data needed.

Still, AT&T engineers know who has an iPhone without having to see the ID on their network. The average iPhone user grabs 500 times more data each month than the average phone user.

With a single supplier keeping prices high this demand growth is barely manageable. As Android and LiMo devices hit the shelves this year, a firehose of demand will be unleashed.

That will be the big story of 2009.

Topics: iPhone, Broadband, Browser, Mobility, Networking, Telcos

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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