For users of mobile phones today, a website that offers a mobile counterpart is a website that will be returned to often. For me, it’s ESPN’s mobile site. It has great navigation, easily allows me to find scores to the games I care about, let’s me watch games through a great Gamecast feature, and has all of the stories and analysis that I could want. On my previous phone, the T-Mobile G1, it was imperative to go to a mobile site. Full sites didn’t show up well on the small screen, and the the phones processor and browser technology were so outdated that it couldn’t handle anything with rich media.
Using that phone, it seemed that a mobile version of a site was a necessity.
18 months later, and a few weeks ago, I upgraded to the T-Mobile G2. This phone runs on some pretty amazing hardware. I’m pretty sure my desktop computer in college wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as my phone is now. It has a bigger screen and higher resolution than my previous phone. It also will take advantage of the new HSPA+ network from T-Mobile (if it ever comes to Grand Rapids – it will be in 100 markets by the end of 2010). That network allows phones to connect to the internet with speeds up to 14 mbps. That’s twice as fast as my connection at home!
For now, I connect through the slower 3G or through a wireless network at home or in the office. Using that speed, in conjunction with the great technology on my phone, I can now surf full websites without any issue. When I get to a site, it starts zoomed out so I can see the full page. A simple double tap on any part of the screen will zoom in to that area. If it’s an article, the text resizes nicely and I can read it easily.
Now that the phone can handle flash and video, along with the browser making smart decisions like zooming and having a lot higher resolution, visiting a full website doesn’t bother me as much as I did. And if I’m soon zooming around the internet faster on my phone than I can on my computer, what need have I for a mobile website?
Certainly the navigation on a mobile site is almost always more handy for a touch screen that a full website’s navigation. And for now, there are a lot of phones and networks that can’t handle a full website well. Mobile sites are the answer right now, and will remain that way for a few years.
But I’m starting to think that within 5 years, designing a mobile site will go the way of website design when designs for monitor resolutions of 640 x 480 were replaced with designs for resolutions of 1024 x 768.
Can you imagine what your phone will be able to do in 5 years? The technology is changing so quickly, you might be tossing your laptop and your iPad aside to just use your phone.