Thinking about cell phones makes me think about both their possibilities and their limitations. The online experience is an increasingly important consideration for cell phone users. Cell phones are becoming more complex and truly reaching the level of handheld PCs. For many users computing is increasingly an online activity, and they expect a natural and seamless convergence point. The problem of course, is that the applications simply aren’t there. The lack of a Flash player come to mind. If you’re running Windows Mobile, you can enjoy some Flash content. But no Flash for iPhone. No Flash for Palm OS. Can you say “No YouTube”? What about Android? Who knows?
The layout and display will obviously vary on mobile devices due to varying screen sizes. I can accept that image resolution will be different since cell phone resolution falls far below desktop resolution. But the current state of mobile devices and online content is such that in many cases you simply can’t view it. I think of radio as a fitting analogy here. Whether it’s a portable radio, car radio, home stereo component, or an online player, you can get the same radio content. Sure the quality will vary according to the quality of the device that you’re listening on, but in each case you can at least get the content. Not so with far too many web sites and web applications.
As user behavior increasingly moves mobile and online, mobile device manufacturers and software developers have to make sure that users can access and work with their content through any website on which it resides and with any of a host of mobile devices. There is certainly room for specialized applications offering advanced features, but full interactivity with all major websites should be a core goal for all software and device manufacturers. It’s no longer a question of just what users want; it’s a matter of what they need.