‘iSyndrome’ – Why limit your slice of the pie?

Published 7th April

iSyndrome (ai sindreum) n. a symptom, characteristic, or belief, that building an iPhone application translates to = mobile strategy.

In conversation with leading mobile search expert Peggy Ann Salz, of mobileGroove (of which I am a Guest columnist), we ended up talking about some of the fundamental challenges that organisations face when defining and developing a mobile strategy. Having delivered mass market services in three continents – trust me there are many!

(Peggy has challenged me to make my next mSearchgroove column post around this topic).

After the conversation I was making some notes – a phrase sprung into my mind ‘iSyndrome’, as I was thinking about how many individuals and organisations that have been drawn in by the hype, media, technology buzz surrounding mobile – caught in the iPhone trap.

I shared on Twitter, leading Author Tomi Ahonen was quick to respond with a ROTFL – Rolling On The Floor Laughing – and will provide the great honour of attributing the phrase to me in future presentations.

So here is What I meant…

Having been involved in supporting the development, delivery and launch of mass market mobile services for customers around the world I wanted to highlight one of the fundamental issues I continually witness.

I see so many organisations investing in mobile without really understanding what they are getting themselves into. Many are spending large sums of money and sadly will likely see very little return (or even worse create negative brand perception amongst consumers). Why?  They are delivering tactical solutions – failing to recognise the addressable market, the mobile environment, understand the ongoing costs of their decisions, falling short of consumer expectations, led by people who are not acting in their best interests.

I am not going to knock the iPhone as I believe that it is a great device, although I no longer use one for daily activity, I have owned two and still frequently use one to trial applications. However, I wish to put the device in perspective in terms of the market and more importantly strategic thinking.

i Syndrome: in the UK the iPhone makes up about 4% of mobile devices in circulation (that’s if we count all the legacy devices too), Android even less – a small slice of the pie. Of all mobile devices; some 70% accessing the mobile web are not Smartphones, some 62% using Applications are not Smartphones. The penetration of Operating Systems (OS) Apple, Blackberry, Android are all low single percentage figures – niches – ask Comscore.

The mass market does not use Smartphones. Yet organisations are spending huge sums of money targeting the Smartphone segment, and worse niches of it, rather than viewing the addressable market. They are getting drawn in by ‘cool’ factors. Doing so they are failing to understand the barriers that exist in what is a highly fragmented proprietary environment and that those barriers will potentially significantly limit their ability to get traction.

People may/will argue that iPhone users make up a disproportionate amount of the time on mobile web sites. That may be true but iPhone users are a relatively small number and are very service transient. As reported by Flurry 70% of application users typically stop using a service after just 60 days.

Developing the coolest iPhone App on the planet is a great ambition, some believe it demonstrates a dynamic business, but the reality it hugely limits market potential. I ask sometimes why even an App? The more features added the more expensive it is to develop and the more likely that fewer people will be able to use it. Many of those features will not be transferable to other devices or platforms – creating your own micro fragmentation and adding to the overall managment headache.

Think iPhone, not everyone in the UK has an iPhone 3GS some have older devices and operate on different Operating System (OS) versions. Despite this many do not consider key elements – backwards compatibility, potential for bugs, updates, version control, signing and approval processes…. they don’t understand the implications of their decisions.

Key is to understand these limiting factors – potential barriers – from the outset develop a mobile approach that can be controlled by the individual organisation and built from a consistent foundation, not one reliant on or constrained by third parties.  Get as much out in the open from the start! Think about the market – not individual devices and platforms – think about the consumer and the offer.

At Indigo 102 we specialising in bringing out the realities – communicate the benefits and risks – at the early stages. We work with organisations to build mobile strategies that deliver value over time and develop services that are sustainable. If we can support you to invest wisely and establish a sustainable mobile platform get in touch (martin@indigo102.com).

(Follow us on twitter : @indigo102)