Just before xmas I installed the Path app out of curiosity, as I had noticed that a few of my friends were using it. It’s a lovely app, and I really like their policy of limiting connections to 150 to encourage it to be used as a communication tool for friends rather than a crazy marketing scatter-gun to be used for self-promotion by individuals and businesses, as most social networks inevitably become.
However, i’ve barely used it, partly because it doesn’t have a critical mass of people I know using it yet, but also because it doesn’t have a web version – currently it is restricted to app-only for iPhone and Android (will it always be?), and even though I carry my iPhone everywhere, I feel restricted and claustrophobic if I am forced to only use a mobile app.
This post isn’t a criticism of Path though, it’s about mobile internet usage in general. By mobile, I mean smartphone, rather than tablets/ netbooks. Nearly always when i’m using a mobile version of something, I feel claustrophobic – from ham-fisted accidentally liking or retweeting stuff to not being able to find missing or hidden features, I feel myself desperate to get on a laptop and use the “full” version instead.
Mobile web usage (by which i’m including standalone apps which transfer data via the internet) is going through the roof – but how much of that is people using it only because they happen to be somewhere where they haven’t access to a laptop/ desktop computer, versus people who would actively decide to use a mobile version of something in preference to a “full” version on a laptop?
There’s been much debate recently about responsive web design in the last year and about favoured approaches to making websites and web applications adapt to different devices. One of my arguments in that is that I like the option to zoom out and in of the full “desktop” version of a web page when i’m using my iPhone – I like to scan around and zoom in to parts of a page, particularly on a news site, rather than scrolling through loads of text on a mobile version of the site, feeling like i’m missing stuff, and anxious to at least see the desktop version, zoomed out to see where I am in relation to everything else.
However, that doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion – I wonder if i’m part of a dying “desktop orientated” generation – I can use and enjoy a mobile version, but always feel shortchanged – it’s never as satisfying as the “real thing”, whereas the next generation, introduced to the web via a mobile device don’t feel that lack of wider context (wider meaning literally wider in some cases), and feel shortchanged when they get something aimed at a desktop/ laptop computer?