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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Getting involved in the mobile industry

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Getting involved in the mobile industry

by kenstechtips on 24-05-2011 10:58 - last edited on 24-05-2011 11:00

There have never been so many ways to get involved in the mobile industry, writes Ken Lo.

Just half a decade ago, the mobile industry was a very different place. The choice of phones was fairly uninspiring (they all looked and worked the same... if you paid a bit extra you could get polyphonic ringtones or even play MP3s) and the applications were the same across most phones (calculator, radio, alarm clock and so on). There wasn't a huge lot of choice or variety in mobile networks and tariffs either: four networks offering much the same as each other.

Fast forward to 2011 and the entire ecosystem has changed. Gone are the days where the only applications you could download were Java games provided by your mobile operator for £5 each. Gone are the days where your phone would arrive branded and preloaded with your mobile operator's own applications and links. Application stores such as Apple's App Store, the Android Market, BlackBerry App World and Windows Marketplace have unleashed a world of innovation with hundreds of thousands of applications available at your fingertips, many of them for free. Games produced by independent developers, separate from the mobile manufacturers and networks, such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope sure do beat the Snake and Tetris of yesteryear.

It's not just the phones which have opened up: it's the mobile networks too. Whereas before your choice of phone would have been strictly dictated by your network, it's now commonplace for people to pick a phone on their own terms before choosing a network. Many customers are unlocking their existing handsets so they can switch network and passing on their older handsets to friends and family. Others are choosing to buy their next handset SIM-free. Almost every UK mobile operator now offers free SIM cards (Pay As You Go and SIM-only contract) so you really do have the choice of using your phone on any network, providing it isn't locked of course. If your phone is locked, most networks will unlock it for a small fee. And it's dead easy to switch network too: it takes no more than 24 hours to transfer a phone number using a PAC Code.

With unprecedented competition and choice in handsets and networks, it's no wonder mobile companies are seeking ways to involve the community in the ecosystem. Take Apple and Android who have outsourced the development of phone applications to developers worldwide to great success. Take mobile manufacturer HTC who asked their Facebook fans to name one of their smartphones (the Wildfire) and have since run a series of public meetup events to demonstrate their new phones. Mobile networks have been getting in on the act too, launching online forums and social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Undoubtedly it's giffgaff who are leading the way in the network space involving their community in everything from customer support to product development.

With the opening up of the mobile industry, there has never been so much choice about the network, the phone and the applications that you use. Consequently, there has probably never been a better time to get involved and to leave your mark on the industry. You could choose to develop your own application, you could build your own accessories or you could get involved in the running of your mobile network. It's really up to you!

About Ken Lo
I'm a mobile technology enthusiast and the author of Ken's Tech Tips, a mobile blog aimed at helping you to get the most out of your phone and your mobile network. I was approached by @kimatgiffgaff to write a guest post on trends in the mobile industry.


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