When I attend conference sessions with a mobile bent, people inevitably debate what the killer app or Web service will be for smart phones.
Will it be search? Will it be mashup-laden, location-based services that fuel commerce?
We speculate, but we don't know. Now that Google's Android mobile operating stack is about to become a player in the market thanks to the T-Mobile G1, the speculation is growing.
The Android Guys reported Oct. 14 that Motorola is looking to hire a senior staff interaction designer to shepherd user interfaces for an "Android social networking smart phone" Motorola is creating.
When I first heard this, I thought it was a ludicrous concept. Remember the dreadful MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) fad?
Companies such as ESPN would offer mobile phones tailored for their Web services and content. This failed miserably in the United States, with many-ESPN included-abandoning these services.
Then I thought: But this is Motorola, a capable, albeit much maligned phone maker, designing a device that marries the speedy Web services of Android with the undeniable stickiness of social networking. Why, that would be the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of smart phones!
A smart phone optimized to let users easily navigate Facebook, MySpace, or any social network and Web service could be a valuable toy, particularly for the tweens, teens and twenty-somethings who live on those sites.
Facebook and MySpace alone have more than 220 million users, so the footprint is huge. Moreover, ABI Research recently found that 46 percent of Facebook and MySpace members access their social network of choice from a mobile phone.
What do these users do on their social networks from their mobile phones? ABI found that half of the users check for comments and messages from their friends, while the other half post status updates.
"We believe this centralization of a consumer's digital lifestyle through social networks will only increase adoption of mobile social networking in coming years," wrote ABI Research analyst Michael Wolf in a research summary.
Android, meanwhile, is optimized for speedy search and comes with a WebKit-based browser that is designed to run Web apps more efficiently than Symbian, Windows Mobile or BlackBerry devices. Imagine the speed of the Chrome Web browser you've tested, but on a handheld gadget.
Now imagine walking down the street anywhere in your neighborhood and being able to connect with those friends via comments and status updates with a few clicks on an Android phone.
Combine Android and social networks with location and presence services, and it could be a home run. I'm sure young adults and twenty-somethings would buy it very much the way young adults were the first to snatch up generic MP3 players and then Apple's iPods.
Then expect Apple to enter the fray and create an iPhone for social networks. You'd have a marketing war on your hands, but it would create some interesting choices for consumers.
There is no doubt social networks are the next killer Web service phenomenon for smart phones.