All you Blackberry and WinMo users out there that have been dejected, watching iPhone and G1 users download fun and practical applications from each phone’s respective application store, finally have something to smile about. This week’s big mobile news, at least thus far, has been the announcement of an application store for both Blackberry phones and Windows Mobile phones.
Why all the fuss? Well, obviously this means that a much larger number of handsets around the world will have mobile access to a wide selection of mobile applications. RIM and WinMo phones make up the vast majority of handsets in the corporate world, and although the corporate world doesn’t revolve on having a wide range of apps for various tasks, it does mean this: all those business users who, for whatever reason, haven’t adopted handsets like the iPhone that already have apps stores, they will now have the access to apps they will want to use in their personal time.
And aside from those users that have chosen to sport two phones, one for professional use and one for personal use, most folks prefer to pack only one phone on a day to day basis. So most folks will now be able to download mobile apps to whatever phone they’re tied to.
Again, for many of you, so what? Application stores mean that users have access to a wide array of social applications; beyond that, developers compete aggressively to produce the most intuitive and powerful applications every day, and to offer them at the best price points. Right now there are certainly aren’t enough applications for the most popular social platforms, but we’re going in the right direction. With the added stores for Blackberry and Windows Mobile, even more developers will be drawn to projects for mobile platforms. I can almost taste the quality to come.
Also, one of my biggest problems with the nature of mobile social networking to date was that social media really can’t be mobile until every phone is able to partake in the community. Until now, that wasn’t possible; when you rule out Blackberrys and Windows Mobile phones, you’re left with just a piece of the pie. Now we can at least say that we’re at the right staging point from which developers can now start working on truly intuitive cross-platform apps that allow everyone to connect, regardless of their carrier or handset.
This is big. Get excited.
The iPhone’s next update, 3.0, was just unveiled yesterday. For all of you that don’t own iPhones (which includes me), you might very well be wondering how I can connect the progress of a single phone to the advancement of mobile social networking as a whole. I’m going to explain, so try to keep up.
Like it or not, the iPhone boasts the best platform and App store for mobile social media and networking. A couple worthy mentions should go to Google’s G1, and maybe even Samsung for its latest batch of TouchWiz-equipped handsets.
Working from that assumption, I’d point out that iPhone sales have soared recently, even considering the fact that AT&T, a carrier not known for its shining quality, is the only service that can claim the iPhone. The mass adoption of the iPhone coupled with the success of the Apps store is making the iPhone the best platform for real mobile social networking to occur.
As I’ve said so many times before, there’s quite a ways to go before we reach true mobile social networking. But, if you believe as I do that the iPhone will most likely be the platform to boast true mobile social networking, you’ll have to agree that a couple of updates announced yesterday certainly go a good way towards brining true mobile social networking closer.
First up: push notifications. The iPhone (and iPod Touch) will now automatically receive application updates even if the app in question is not running. You might be thinking, “Well, gee, why didn’t they already have that?” A very good question.
Now that apps can receive updates automatically (that is, without a user having to open each individual application, such as Mail, Twitterfon, Loopt, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), users will be alerted of updates to their different social accounts real-time. Being aware is a huge tenet of social networking, and having your apps note updates displayed as they come in without having to update each app individually will help users streamline their online social activity.
Second: maps access inside other apps, and turn-by-turn directions. I consider both of these to be big steps towards advancing mobile social networking. Loopt, perhaps the best mobile social networking aggregator app out there, allows users’ locations to be visible to other Loopt users on a map. What better way to help users connect with each other on-the-go than to provide mapped, turn-by-turn directions to activities or your friends?
Let’s say you’re in the city. Your friend updates her status on Facebook, raving about this band that’s about to play live in a venue across town from you. You aren’t familiar with the quickest way to get there, so you open Loopt and use your current location and your friend’s location to generate turn-by-turn, GPS-rendered directions, which get you there before the second opening band comes on.
I can’t say as to whether the Loopt team has any designs on integrating the functionality I just described, but my point is the technology is there, and it is now possible. Talk about a very real way to bridge your online social presence with your real world social life. THAT is what mobile social networking is about.
Third: data tethering. Yes, that sounds quite lame in comparison to what I’ve detailed above, right? Though I’m all about having everything you need in the palm of your hand, the fact is we just aren’t there yet. Failing those advancements, there’s not much better than whipping out your Macbook wherever you are at and doing some surfing or social networking when you’re out of WiFi range.
If mobile social networking still isn’t quite realized (and I’d say that it certainly isn’t), then why not use your familiar and powerful, computer-based social networking tools wherever you’re at by tethering your iPhone’s data to your laptop? It’s social networking made mobile, is it not? A bit cumbersome, but it fits the description.
There you have it: three updates to the iPhone that will further the cause of mobile social networking.
P.S. – If you weren’t aware, Loopt isn’t just limited to the iPhone…it’s available on the G1 and Blackberrys, just to name a couple prominent handsets.
Of course, now that I said that, some bored software junky will design the “Ponies and Rainbows” app for the G1 just to spite me. I won’t be too heartbroken.
Probably everything you’ve heard about Google, T-Mobile and HTC’s new superchild, the G1 handset, is that it is the phone that will revolutionize the handset industry, take open software to a new level, and most significantly, crush the iPhone betwixt its powerful jaws (or something to that effect). I won’t refute that completely, but there are some points I feel the mainstream media is leaving out when it comes to T-Mo’s new flagship device.