Little more than a decade ago, mobile devices came in two forms. The first was a mobile phone that could be used to make calls, send and receive SMS messages, maybe play some music, and take photos with a VGA camera.
The second was a “personal digital assistant” (PDA), with Windows Mobile or some other equally clunky operating system installed. It connected to your computer and synced your calendar, contacts and other information. It was rare that a PDA connected directly to the internet, so surfing the web or sending email was very limited.
Then came a revolution, with the launch of Apple’s first iPhone, mobile devices were completely reinvented. Instead of clunky styluses, users could control the device with their finger. Instead of chunky grey squares, it was stylish. And instead of having two separate devices, users could have just one.
There’s an App for That
Shortly after the iPhone’s release, Apple launched the App Store, a place where users could download a small program for just about anything. Need a spirit level to check if a shelf is straight? There’s an app for that. Need to mark the place where you parked your car so you don’t forget? There’s an app for that. Want to play games while you wait for your train? There’s an app for that.
This created a rush for businesses to offer mobile versions of their services. Very quickly you could do your shopping, your banking, manage your business and even play musical instruments from your phone.
SInce then, mobile devices have taken over everything. We replaced stand alone GPS devices with Google Maps. We use our phones to pay for goods in shops thanks to Apple Pay and Google Pay. Many people have even stopped wearing a watch, opting to check the time on their phone instead.
Any modern website that is designed today is coded to be “responsive”, meaning that they adapt to the size of the screen. This means that they are easy to use both on computers and mobile devices.
Some businesses are even making their primary interface their mobile app or website. For example, UK fintech company, Curve requires its customers to use the app to manage their account; while US betting company FoxBet’s mobile experience is by far one of its biggest selling points.
Mobile in the Future?
The trend to mobile first websites is likely to continue. Google announced that it would begin “mobile-first indexing” in early 2018, meaning that it will use the mobile version of the website to decide where to place each site in its search results.
There are more than 5 billion mobile devices in the world today, almost one for every person alive. In addition, more than 50% of internet traffic comes from a mobile device, demonstrating the importance of mobile friendly services.
Other Uses for Mobile?
Modern smartphones are fitted with just about every useful mobile communications standard: 4G/5G, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC. These can be used for a myriad of new applications.
For example, some hotels are now experimenting with letting you unlock your room and control the lights, TV, etc from your mobile device.
It’s likely we will see the NFC technology used in Apple Pay and Google Pay be rolled out to store loyalty schemes. Instead of carrying a card, or fiddling to scan a barcode, a customer could simply place the phone on a reader to add more points.
The possible uses for our smartphones are endless, and the future is going to revolve around these tiny computers that we carry in our pockets.