Pay Attention to the Mobile Web

In 2008 we saw the scales begin to tip with imports of data enabled phones being larger than that of non-data enabled phones.
In 2009 we saw the undersea cables hit East and Southern Africa in a big way.
In 2010 we saw the mobile operators get serious about data availability and cost packaging for everyday Africans.

2011 is upon us, and with it brings a new type of data-enabled mobile user in Africa. It also brings the mobile web to center stage.

Mobile web content has been defined as any internet-connected or browser-based access to the internet and as digital content connected to a database that passes through a handheld device connected to a wireless network.

Simply put, the mobile web is the same data that the web layer brings to you on a computer, just now on your phone.

The mobile phone is the most ubiquitous instrument there is in the market. Usage is no longer limited to sending and receiving calls and texts, especially with the increase of data enabled phones, increased bandwidth availability and decreasing data costs. The convenience in terms of use-anywhere-anytime has made access to mobile web content easier, accelerated by dropping rates of mobile handsets and data.

What does it look like?

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Consumer content such as movie times and restaurant reviews, such as Flix and EatOut.
  • Consumer focused transaction sites and classifieds like Dealfish and Pigia.me.
  • Content, such as news, blogs and aggregators like Afrigator.
  • Business information for consumers and businesses, such as Mocality.
  • Mobile-specific communities, such as Motribe, Facebook and Twitter.
  • The ability to pay via mobile payment methods or credit cards, brought to you by mobile payment aggregators like PesaPal.
  • Advertising done by the likes of InMobi and AdMob.

You can see that it doesn’t look all that different from it’s purely web-based counterparts. It’s the same data, just more accessible on your phone.

There are strong plays to be made in all of these fields, as there are few leaders in any country, much yet regionally… yet. The reason for that is we’re just on the front end of this sea change, so even the leaders only have a very small slice of the pie.

While there will always be a place for client-focused mobile applications (Android, iPhone, Ovi, etc.), there is just too much friction there to scale. Friction for the developers who build the applications, and friction for the users who need the “right” phone to access the apps.

For more brain food on this topic, I suggest reading Fred Wilson’s post, Counternotions and alternate thoughts from Diogenex.

9 thoughts on “Pay Attention to the Mobile Web

  1. Nic

    Hey Erik,

    Thanks for the mention. MotribeM is working very hard to push the mobile web and make sure that it gets the coverage it deserves.

    We wholeheartedly agree with you, mobile web cannot be underestimated and should not be overlooked.

  2. Rachel

    Thanks for the post. Interesting stuff. Curious to know how you think Africa will influence the evolution of the mobile web. What are the attitudes and information needs unique to Africans that will influence content and design?

  3. Mikul Shah

    An update for readers:
    1. The EAT OUT mobile application are in alpha testing at the moment and we hope to launch at the end of this month. We won some money from Samsung so should see this released for the BADA platform first.
    2. FLIX is live and also in a BETA test at the moment. Please join our facebook page to show your support.

  4. Piervincenzo Canale

    Sorry if this comment is not entirely related to the post. Does anybody know if BlackBerries work with email and internet access near the lake Victoria district of Kenya?
    Thanks for any reply

  5. Kebaya

    @Piervincenzo Canale – sure you can ..depends on your network provider..safaricom is covered well there

    check into the customer care center at the city center they will help you with configuration

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