Though I’ve said almost incessantly that social media will, in the very near future, start migrating as a whole to mobile devices, it is always nice to see a little evidence to back that theory up. iSuppli, an analyst group focused on interpreting trends in electronics, claims that the massive adoption of smartphones and internet-friendly handsets in 2009 will force businesses to radically revamp their business models to address the new mobile social phenomenon. With many social business startups gaining support in the mobile platform arena, iSuppli estimates that the scope of this shift to mobile social media could surpass the current impact of the technology, media and telecommunication industries, which currently control approximately 5% of the gross global domestic product (estimated at $3 trillion dollars).
Information Week claims that the adoption of smartphones like the iPhone is the catalyst for the market’s shift towards mobile-based social platforms. I agree with that opinion whole-heartedly, but there are a few very large roadblocks standing in the way of widespread adoption of social mobile platforms.
First, many consumers just aren’t ready to spend money on data transfer plans with mobile carriers because either the handsets that properly execute internet are too pricy, or the plan rates are outrageously priced. The U.S. carrier market is preying on consumers; while other countries have high-speed networks and advanced handsets available at competitive rates, the U.S. market is exploiting customers while the getting is good. For the U.S. market to truly adopt mobile social media, plans and handset prices will need to become truly competitive — what a novel concept!
Second, handsets will need to be powerful enough to operate mobile social platforms full-time without putting a huge strain on battery life, system performance or any other aspect of mobile communication. Apple isn’t allowing mobile social platforms to run constantly in the background on the iPhone for fear of system slowdown and drained battery life. Though that is a legitimate concern, by not allowing social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to run as background processes, the iPhone (which is the most popular touchscreen handset on the market) is stunting the growth of mobile social media. If the industry is truly going in the direction iSuppli predicts, Apple and other manufacturers will have to bulk up their handsets to compensate for the shift towards proper mobile social networking.
iSuppli also estimates that the cost of basic mobile social packages will be an average of $15.30 monthly. I have to say that I disagree with this analysis, and here’s why: the entire point of social networking is to share and communicate with friends, family and new people. Sharing, by definition, implies no cost. Do you think social networking and media would have become so successful if there were monthly price tags on every platform? That obviously won’t stop carriers from attempting to tag social packages with price tags. However, you can bet that people will choose to pay standard data rates and use free social platforms instead of opting into any carrier-exclusive for-pay mobile platform. If carriers can’t see that simple fact now, they’re wasting time by building or purchasing mobile social platforms they intend to charge users for.
It is likely that, like many other things in the mobile world, the U.S. will be stuck quite a few large steps behind other markets, simply because carriers aren’t willing to sacrifice a few pennies in the name of progress. Though other markets might see a drastic shift towards mobile social networking by next year, our nickel-and-diming U.S. carriers probably won’t have any problem shooting up the party here.