Ubiquity of Mobile Information

Mobile technology’s influence on the web goes well beyond mobile site themes. What began as a smaller-screen alternative to the “normal” way of ingesting information has, in more and more ways, become a medium unto itself. What may once have been thought of as “mobile information” is now just information.

When things get busy, I know that I’ve found myself frustrated by how there hasn’t always seemed the time to keep up on blogs I’d like to read, social media I haven’t followed, etc. I’ve gotten into the habit lately of doing that from my phone for 10 minutes as I wrap up getting ready in the mornings, as well as using that to fill in the gaps throughout the day. Little bits at a time, I can often read additional 4-6 articles throughout the day. It helps not only to infuse a little more “stuff I choose to do” into a hectic day, but it’s also that many chances to be inspired by something.

Surveys have shown that 75% of smartphone users bring their phone to the bathroom with them. It makes sense, as I guess it’s become the new sort of magazine bathroom reader. Since the number one idle activity on smartphones is checking Facebook and Twitter, it’s fun to wonder how many status updates you see were written from the throne room of the porcelain gods.

Now that smartphones are leaning more toward being small computers that happen to make phone calls rather than web-enabled phones, our ability to access information or be a part of the global conversation gets a bump. Reading articles began as sort of a “aww look how cool it is I can surf the web on my phone.” As screen sizes have increased to the point of terms like “phablet” being coined (or my own tongue in cheek “hand tablet”), it seems our collective willingness to shift our activities to the phone grows accordingly. The distinction between “mobile information” and, well, information is fading fast.

For me, unless I have something long or tedious to write on Facebook (a debate or longer, more thoughtful comment) I have come to prefer handling that entirely by phone. The ease of access and streamlined interface make it simple to jump in, see what’s happening and interact, and jump back out quickly. Sharing photos and such seems to be emerging as a primarily mobile action, as well.

What do you think? Are there things you’re starting to shift your usage to mobile rather than at a traditional PC — and how has that changed the experience?

4 Responses to Ubiquity of Mobile Information

  1. Matthew Parent December 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    I’ll use my mobile while I’m out and about but using my PC is far more efficient even for relatively simple tasks like browsing feeds. With more plugins, a larger viewing area, dedicated input devices, etc… the interface is far superior on a real machine. Part of this is probably due to poor UX decisions made by the app/mobile site designers but some of it is just inherent limitations of trying to do things on a relatively small device that needs to handle both input and output on the same screen.

    For me the distinctions basically boils down to: mobile is great for pure consumption of information but once you need to create or customize the curation of information in any way you’re probably better served with a PC. Unfortunately I tend to be a bit of a snob about things and I hate most of the decisions made by designers regarding how information is presented to me and I want to view it in my own way.

    I think a question that needs to be asked when we talk about moving more heavily over to mobile is “Are we actually doing the same things or are we limiting our experience in some way and we’ve just gotten used to it?” From what I’ve seen, mobile is still a limited experience and increased reliance on it can lead to people dropping the ball more. I’ve seen many people say to themselves “I’ll get to this later when I’m at a PC” and then never get around to it. I think this is going to be an interesting social problem if it doesn’t get resolved.

    • Brian Watkins December 2, 2013 at 9:55 am #

      That’s a really good point about the issue created by the “I’ll get to it later” and then not doing it issue. I’ve actually done that quite a few times where I’m in a situation that typing or modifying something at least would be extremely tedious via mobile, so I resolve to do it later when I’m by a PC again. If scheduling doesn’t allow for that later on like I’d hoped, then it’s simply a missed opportunity.

      The one way I like the streamlined interface of things like Facebook is that we’re bombarded with so much crap on the PC, having a simplified view for pure consumption can be refreshing.

      You and I had discussed part of this before, and I agree that certain tasks seem like they will never work for mobile, such as editing spreadsheets or playing certain types of games. Even the cool-looking interface in movies where people sift through data by waving their hands around and “touching” virtual objects is actually kind of limited in what you’d do with it.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. Marty Watkins November 25, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    You do bring up some good points. But, I have to say, for me, to type in my tablet or smart phone, it is extremely frustrating, and can very quickly put me in a foul mood. I find myself wishing I have a good keyboard to type on.
    Yes, I can do voice recognition, but then, I have to go back and do punctuations, and the occasional spell check.
    For me, nothing beats a good keyboard and computer, or laptop.
    Oh, mobile devices are great for getting out quick notes or short emails, but that’s about it.

    • Brian Watkins November 27, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      I can definitely agree about the keyboard. For any lengthy comments or discussions via email or on Facebook or something, I tend to hold off until I’m at a PC to type it up. For passive viewing though, such as scrolling down a news feed or reading articles, I’m finding I prefer the on-the-go nature of mobile more and more.

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