With Bango celebrating 10 years of the mobile web on 14th October, we offer 10 of the decade’s highlights. Read on and why not send us your own highlight of the last 10 years – with the chance to win a large bottle of champagne for the most entertaining contribution.
1. The Nokia 7110; the first mainstream WAP phone, featuring a flick-knife style “click to open” mechanism and a glorious monochrome screen. The Guardian still decided it was worth publishing 1000 word articles that took around 50 WAP screens to read, all at 2G speeds – perhaps targeting the “teacher in school holiday” market?
2. BT Cellnet’s “Surf the Mobile Web” advertising campaign. BT Cellnet decided in the year 2000 that there was enough capability on which to base an advertising campaign, promising access to the internet from a range of (still monochrome) handsets. The true surfing experience felt more like Basingstoke bypass during rush hour than Baywatch.
3. DoCoMo and its i-mode phones. Those clever DoCoMo people planned to show off the superiority of Japanese consumer electronics yet again with their i-mode phones. Colour screens galore, but too little content and “only on one network” deals meant that the i-mode internet experience struggled just a little bit more than its WAP competitors.
4. Vizzavi mobile internet experience. Vivendi Universal and Vodafone “upped the ante” with the oddly named Vizzavi mobile internet experience. This was truly a deep pockets venture, which kept many ad agencies and management consultants well-fed during the lean years of the new millennium.
5. More bizarre names with the Motorola Razr. Minimalist by name and minimalist by nature; this was the handbag-sized phone that no American mobile executive felt was too camp to cradle. An initial hit until it went properly pink; the Razr’s lousy user interface eventually consigned it to the “blunt instruments” section of the design museum.
6. Hutchison launches its 3 network. As the name cleverly hinted to anyone with a sharp eye for detail; all the benefits of fast browsing over the latest 3G mobile networks, plus cool, web-friendly phones to go with it. But wait a minute – a walled garden – no open access to the world of mobile content? So much for the unfettered mobile internet experience!
7. The Danger Hip-Top. One of the more unusual polymorphs thrown-up during the evolution of mobile internet life-forms. Targeting industry types already suffering from low self-esteem, this was designed to be mounted on the hip, and combined the DNA of a pocket calculator and a Tamagotchi. It may have been many things, but hip it was not.
8. The Mobile Services platform BREW. In the endless sunshine of San Diego, the mobile industry’s equivalent of the CIA brewed-up a mobile services platform appropriately called BREW. It was an intoxicating proposition that gave some in the industry enough confidence to be lured into long-term licensing deals based on a few flashy streaming media demos. Now the dark glasses are off and the industry is in a more sober frame of mind, BREW lacks the fizz of its formative years.
9. The Apple iPhone 2G…..cool interface, but 2G internet access only? – You’ve got to be kidding! But they weren’t and have gone on to deliver the biggest boost to mobile web awareness over the entire 10 years. But let’s maintain a proper perspective – Blackberrys are still more popular than Apples as the mobile fruit of choice.
10. WAP. Yes, it’s still here, just about. The prefix that signified the superiority of mobile internet access over any other. The three letter WAP acronym anoints so many mobile technologies – WAP phones, WAP billing, WAP browsing, WAP sites, WAP gateways…it’s all there, and it won’t go away any time soon.