Guest Post: Mitigating the device explosion via data

by Ronan Cremin, CTO with dotMobi

2013 certainly didn’t disappoint in relation to mobile device news. Early in 2013 we saw the launch of Samsung’s latest and much coveted device – the Galaxy S4. Apple launched two new versions of its iPhone. Google also made a major stir with Google Glass and Samsung also jumped on the ‘wearables’ bandwagon, with the release of its Galaxy Gear smartwatch. It seems the scramble to reach consumers globally with a range of devices to suit every conceivable need has meant the sheer number of devices entering the marketplace has risen exponentially. Here I’ll discuss the global proliferation of Internet enabled devices and the key considerations businesses need to account for in the changing device landscape.

According to our own [dotMobi's] intelligence on the devices we see browsing thousands of mobile sites in over 65 countries, the quantity of devices that are currently being used to access the web runs into the hundreds in most countries around the world and into the thousands in some.

In October and November l[2013], we saw over 1,200 unique devices active in the UK, while in the USA there were over 3,100 different devices actively browsing.

For companies serious about addressing all these devices, that equates to having knowledge of at least 200 devices to address 95 per cent of the traffic in USA.

To address the remaining 5 per cent in the long tail in either market requires knowledge of many more hundreds of devices.

Of course, the makeup of the device market changes constantly with the release of new devices as well as being different from country to country, so keeping on top of this is a moving target.

Likely as a result of the rising number of local device brands and manufacturers and the sheer scale of the market, the number of internet enabled mobile devices currently in use on the web in China is close to 1,500 devices as picked up by our DeviceAtlas solution.

Whilst India has an incredible 1,918 unique devices are active.

Emerging [BRIC] mobile markets echo this trend with many hundreds of different active devices in countries such as Brazil (over 600 devices) and Russia (over 800 devices) that consumers are using to browse the web.

Responding to a fragmented landscape

The multitude of devices we now see has created opportunities, but also a very fragmented space – with lots of new device categories emerging all the time.

As such, businesses need to ensure that their content works across all of these devices, all of the time.

Without knowledge of each new device, businesses are blind to a growing percentage of devices – and by extension potential customers – that are out there engaging with them and their web services.

For global companies and those that aspire to operate globally, obtaining data at a granular level is vital.

This type of data might include information on the devices requesting content in each market of interest; whether content can be optimised according to device capabilities; connection speeds or other user contexts; and also to glean insights into which devices are being used most frequently.

It is also imperative to ensure that serving content to one set of devices is not at the expense of others.

Designing and testing web content for devices only from the big players such as Apple or Samsung does not mean it is optimised for other less well known mobile manufacturers.

That’s despite the fact that other brands account for a significant proportion of mobile traffic and that this varies significantly by region.

Organisations need solutions that can help them manage this proliferation of new consumer technology.

They also need help to adapt their content strategies in order to deliver contextually sympathetic content that has been designed to fit the circumstances of the user.

Serving the same content to all devices irrespective of device capabilities; screen size and resolution; or indeed connection speed; can negatively impact user experience and ultimately, brand engagement and conversion rates.

Unless businesses know the device that they’re addressing, they can’t deliver the most effective site or ensure that content designed for a desktop is sent to wearables, for example.

As well ensuring web content is truly responsive to different devices, businesses also need to think about whether they are designing their content responsibly.

Is the content they serve responsible to users’ data plans, battery life, time and pockets?

Author biog

Ronan Cremin is currently CTO with dotMobi. Ronan Cremin leads dotMobi’s engineering initiatives. He focuses on building and delivering mobile Web technology, such as the award-winning goMobi and DeviceAtlas products. He is an active and respected commentator and blogger in the technology community involved in the mobile Web. Ronan also represents dotMobi at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and has used this work as the basis for the dotMobi Web Developer Guide.

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