Mobile Phone : The ultimate media conqueror

The fact is that a cordless telephone instrument, working on radio waves, through which one could make or receive calls within a designated area called ‘cell’ (hence the word cellular), have now become an inseparable media device, we just can’t do without

The Mobile phone has come a long way since the time Motorola made the first instrument. Interestingly so, the need for the device and every new improvement or feature was as an augmentation to an existing category demand. It then soon encompassed the entire category itself. For example, the earliest need was to increase the communication means by able to reach places which was hard or impossible to reach through landlines – Ship to shore communication, or reaching across through mountainous regions, etc

Since then, with each enhancement, mobile phones ran over an existing media product category. There are 3 distinct timelines of mobile phone entering a particular category
The early phase
The current phase
The future phase


Pagers:The first casualties due to the mobile phones were pagers. Since the main role of the pager was giving about ‘communication alerts’; the same was easily replaced by the default feature of early mobile phones – SMS; and to the more ingenious user - a missed call
The Landline: At-least for the first few years, and to some extent, even now, landlines survived the mobile phone onslaught just because it was a cheaper medium to communicate. In fact, I remember the early days of cell phones in India, wherein the cost of outgoing call was Rs 32/- per minute and the incoming call at Rs 16/- per minute. Today the number of landline phones in India is around 35 Million where as the mobile phone penetration is about 650 Million
Pocket Radio: Though transistors were never popular because of it bulky size, in its heydays one could find it hanging from bicycle handle bars blaring at maximum, or a palm size device stuck close to the ears, especially when there a radio broadcast of an India test match. With the advent of mobile phones and the radio features in the phones that came during the late 90’s the pocket radios were driven into wilderness
Portable Music Players: With help from iPods, and other MP3 players, the classical portable music players have disappeared from the shopping shelf by ’05. As the default storage capacity of mobile phones and external drive capacities increase on day to day basis… usage of multiple portable music players would reduce and all the music would get synced into the mobile phone


The point and shoot cameras (the entry level cameras) happens to have the biggest share in the digital camera market. This however is threatened by enhanced camera features that are now available in the mobile phones (> 5 MB camera is now default feature in most mobile phones). In fact while the growth of point-and-shoot is around 60% per annum the dSLR shipment growth is around 550%. As the design and camera functionalities of mobile camera increases, they will push out the point and shoot digital cameras
Gaming Consoles: Here in this category, the mobile phones have just made a dent and there is still a long way to go. One of the main reason that mobile phones haven’t been able to make that much impact is that games are a high involvement category, and in many instance it is not just about entertainment, it is about winning. And to maximize the chance of winning, a player is looking at gadgets and more control for playing the game better. The size and current features on the mobile phones does not make it when it comes to player comfort…and hence the reason for not creating an impact in the gaming category. Also, most of high involvement games are rich in graphics and needs more advanced technology embedded into the phones. Nokia had an unsuccessful stint with gaming mobile phones (N-Gage series)…but now they are coming back with N Series phone. In this category mobile phone lost the round 1, let us see what happens in round 2
Laptop/PC as window to Internet: Internet growth is now driven by mobile phones, as the low priced smartphones becomes available. "The next 200 million new users will largely be mobile-first users and out of those, 100 million will be mobile-only users," Rajan Anandan, who heads Google's operations in India. The numbers would be driven by lower data access charges, faster speeds, and the content customized for mobile consumption. While the round has begun, it would take some more time before we see the impact of smartphones on the usage of Laptop/PC to access the internet. Search, News, Social Media, and Videos are the key content access that will drive the demand for access to Internet through mobile phones


Laptop/PC for content creation:
Mobile phones are mostly used for accessing content or for communicating. However couple of common product feature that you can see in the newer mobile phones is the QWERTY keypads and the larger screens. The reason is that, people have started using mobile phones for creating content - be it an email or making edits to a file. It would take a little longer before mobile phones make a mark as content creating device… but features like speech to text converter all are driving to the content creation bit
Television/Movies: In Dec 2004, an experimental broadcast was done by Airtel. It premiered a Hindi movie – “Rok Sako To Rok Lo” to all its EDGE subscribers. I’m sure that the then movie experience was nothing much to write back home about… But with 3G already in-market and 4 & 5 G technology solutions available, it is just a matter of time that we shall see televisions and movies in our mobile phones as a regular feature. Since the category of Television and Movies are experiential, mobile will not replace them… but a new lighter version of the category would emerge…. More personalized, shorter, and that can be viewed on demand basis.

My Endnote:
But, what makes mobile phones the default choice for being a ubiquitous media device? While cost and convenience are the market forces for mobile phones replacing products in the categories, the more primal reason is the human want of both freedom and control of his multimedia interaction, creation, and consumption.

Wikipedia article on TRAI stats
PC World article on IDC report
Moneycontrol article on Mobile Internet in India



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