It is believed that when the Christian cavalry first appeared in the new world the pagans thought that the horse and the rider was one person. Visitors from outer space on seeing the modern humans with a mobile phone glued to their faces, or a blue tooth head set in their ears, could well also think that the mobile phone is really an integral part of our bodies. We surely seem to rely on it almost as much as we do on our organs. We use the phone to talk, send messages, chat with friends, take pictures, read news and books, listen to music, watch movies, and even transfer money. Many would argue no other recent invention has transformed the mankind to the extent that mobile phone has.
It has not just enriched the lives of the well-heeled - allowing them to use Facebook, watch Youtube and read the New York Times on their smart phones, it has empowered the poor in developing countries through countless applications - helping them to use a mobile phone to check the weather forecast to plan the sowing, check prices for their crops and even transfer money to their families and loved ones. To women it has become a safety device, encouraging them to go out and work, while providing peace of mind to their families. Secondly, unlike in many other ways, it is not the West but the Chinese and the Indian mobile phone users who are leading the way in discovering innovative and life changing ways of using mobile phones. Convergence, much talked about in the West, saw more success in the East - emerging market consumers are less likely to be able to spend money on multiple devices and use the mobile device not just as a communication tool - but also as a education device, a personal organiser and as an entertainment centre.
While PCs remain the most frequent conduit to the internet, a large number of consumers in China use a mobile phone to access the internet. In fact a significant number (over 50 million) only use a mobile phone to access the internet, as they do not have access to PC based internet. Mobile internet in developing countries, therefore, is driven by two horses - it is not just the urban rich who use their smart phones to access the net, it also consumers in smaller towns and rural areas, whose only access to the web is through the mobile device.
Understanding how consumers use mobile phones, what motivates their usage and what more do they want to do with them is of enormous importance to those who make the phones, those who provide the service and those who design the applications that run on the phones. The transformation of the phone into a media vehicle makes it of interest to anyone who wants to reach the consumers with their brand messages. This makes the phone of huge relevance and importance to any company and any organisation which has anything to do with the consumers.
While we understand a lot about how and why people use mobile phones, the technology is continuously outpacing our understanding. TNS’ Mobile Life(discovermobilelife.com) is an annual investigation into the mobile market place, in it’s sixth year Mobile Life is designed to keep a constant finger on the mobile consumer's pulse (or rather their thumbs and fingers which they use to do make their phones do the most amazing things possible). Mobile Life measures what consumers do with their phones, how often do they do it, where they do it, when they do it and most importantly why they do it. Understanding the motivations, mood and feelings consumers experience while engaged in various mobile activities is important to understand so that the marketers can match the tone of their messages with the emotions experienced by the consumers when engaged in various activities. In this way the messages are less likely to be seen as intrusive and received more enthusiastically.
What will be the future of this marvellous little device, which helps us bond with other human beings, gives us peace of mind, assuring us of the security of our loved ones, entertains us, navigates us and even helps us earn a livelihood? Mobile Life:GTI is the only truly global study to investigate these areas. With a coverage spanning 42 countries and 34,000 consumers, it offers unparalleled understanding of the consumer relationship - functional as well as emotional - with their mobile devices and a sound basis for a wide range of marketing decisions.
Written by Ashok Sethi