The potential reach of businesses has been transformed with the advent of affordable mobile devices. Customers, previously unreachable, are now showing up as fast-increasing dots on the radar. Having a mobile phone and a number is very common even to those parts of the world, where network connectivity is a problem. Tele-interaction has been able to complement and as some would believe, displace conventional interactions. How long before the classic business handshake is replaced by a digitally signed doc, shared via mobile? People already come back and check if a store has a website or at least some web footprint.
This means that all business owners have to go mobile somehow, anyhow… now! There is an extreme amount of information and guidance out there to take care of the mobile savvy customer by generating the ideal mobile experience. There are responsive website generators, app makers and a whole lot of tools, platforms, portals and services out there to help you take your presence out on the mobile. However, there is one important avenue that has been has mostly been in the garb of ignorance till now.
These new markets and users have seen tremendous growth in mobile hardware but not so much in the networks’ and carriers’ service. Bandwidth is still a significant challenge, and the infrastructure needed to support it is tough to install up and maintain. The result? Even the most awesome mobile-site or app is going to falter in the absence of the network to support it. There are some techniques to create apps that are optimized for less powerful networks. But these still do not insulate the smoothness of the experience from the network vagaries. Because the user could still be completely offline!
These are the ‘offline avenues’ that exist in the market today. These are the chasms between your perfect app and the perfect experience you want to provide. Imagine, an app that just needs the network to download and install, one-time. The user can happily use it fully offline. All interactions, form inputs, uploads cached and saved onto the device. When the network comes back, the app automatically starts sending whatever it can, until the elusive network goes away again. Of course, this introduces numerous technically ‘pricky’ areas and opens up new challenges. But the benefits far outweigh the tech roadblocks, if any.
A further interesting area could be to extend this idea to not only new mobile app endeavours but also the realm of existing mobile apps and sites. Is there a way to take what’s already there, and somehow, magically make it offline? Wouldn’t that be a great thing to have and offer?
The concept of personalized mobile experience also receives the offline idea very well. This concept has also not seen too much traction, but it may be the right way to go ahead. This might make for another blog really, but just as a teaser here, let’s put it this way. The experience is going to be personalized so much that every app will become my app for me and your app for you. The app constantly learns what we like and tries to come a little closer to our expectation. Such a ‘learning app’ should work offline as much as it can, to not slow down its key functions in any way.
There may be detractors to this point of view who would maintain that network connectivity is only on the rise. The coming of fully WiFi towns, MANs etc. would find us with internet everywhere. This fact is true for developing countries and may be a thing of the past for developed nations. However, this wave is still very slow for all other areas of the world. Additionally, there are always certain activities and jobs that need us to plunge into the land where no carrier can reach. The offline feature would be a life-blood in such time for the mobile experience.
We found a great way of staying connected with each other. We also invented mobile phones and the apps. Now, we need a way to make these work as apart from each other as possible. Let’s hope for such a way to come around soon enough.