As more people pick up smartphones and other sophisticated mobile devices and use these to access their e-mail accounts, there is a pressing need to optimize existing e-mail apps on these platforms, yet smartphones are not as not evolved to support additional functionalities, said observers.
According to research firm Nielsen's State of the Media 2010 study for U.S. consumers, 38.5 percent spend their mobile Internet time checking their e-mails--more than two times that of the next activity, which is social networking. However, another study by eConsultancy pointed out that only 14 percent of companies and 24 percent of agencies are designing e-mails specifically for mobile devices.
Commenting on these findings, Marc Hopstein, Windows Phone business lead at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, said the smartphone has witnessed an explosion of functionality through an increase in preinstalled or downloadable apps.
However, he told ZDNet Asia that at its core, the smartphone has not evolved enough to support this explosion in functionality. These new features and apps tend to be "bolted on" and isolated, he said, adding that the inbox does not talk to the calendar, for example.
"Put another way, every app is an island," Hopstein surmised.
Krishna Baidya, industry manager of Asia-Pacific ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, added that app developers or e-mail operators are not choosing to optimize their software because the target audience is not large enough. Other reasons include developers lacking the necessary knowledge or expertise to innovate or they are still in the process of revamping their e-mail apps, he stated.
He said that the rate of mobile devices being used as the device of choice to access e-mails are increasing, and e-mail optimization needs to keep pace.
"If e-mails are not optimized, it's unlikely to create the kind of impact it was aimed for," Baidya said.
Optimizing for superior experience
The analyst went on to say that from the end-user's perspective, the mobile e-mail should leverage the device's available screen real estate to present e-mails in a clutter-free, pleasant looking interface. This means quick downloading of content and eliminating the need to scroll across the screen for unformatted image or text content, he explained.
Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting at ABI Research, pointed out that Research In Motion's (RIM) e-mail software was an example of an optimized e-mail system. He said RIM relies on its Network Operating Center (NOC), which hosts, compresses and distributes e-mails in a "very battery and data efficient method".
This way, only when there are e-mails sent to the NOC, will these be "pushed" to one's BlackBerry device, he stated.
Baidya noted that popular Web e-mail providers such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are aware of the need for an optimized e-mail user experience and are headed in the right direction. Google, for one, recently stripped away "unnecessary clutter and complexity" for its e-mail service, and this helps the site load faster on mobile browsers, he added.