Myths about mobile devices

Editor's note: This article was modified after its original publication to clarify information.

As mobile device use accelerates, federal agency executives should avoid the common myths about what mobile technology can and cannot do, according to Gwynne Kostin, director of mobile for the General Services Administration.

Mobile use is clearly on the rise, with about 83 percent of U.S. adults now owning cell phones. Some technology analysts predct that more people will use mobile devices rather than computers to connect to the Internet by 2015.

At the same time, federal media executives should strive to see the full potential of mobile technology in a comprehensive, evolving fashion and avoid the common mistaken beliefs about mobile, Kostin said at the FedScoop “Lowering the Cost of Government with IT” seminar on Aug. 24.


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Federal agencies have developed or endorsed more than 70 free mobile device applications for the public, primarily for iPhone, iPad and Android. But some “mobile myths” are circulating that could hamper that activity, Kostin asserted.

Myth: Mobile is a mature technology with fully-developed suites of popular applications and uses.

Reality:  Mobile is still evolving, expectations and applications continue to shift, and the skills needed to develop a successful mobile application continue to multiply, she said. For example, while a decade ago probably no one imagined that users would want to watch video on the small screen of a phone, that type of use is popular among individuals passing time while eating or relaxing alone, she said.

Myth: Mobile is limited to certain kinds of users or uses, such as “mobile is just for games, kids or the rich,” Kostin said. “That is all wrong.”

Reality: View mobile that way and you'll miss much of its potential. Many users are pragmatic, such as soccer moms managing their children’s schedules, and low-income individuals who purchase a smart phone rather than a computer, she said.

Myth: It's difficult to adapt mobile devices for accessibility.

Reality: Accessibility is a multi-dimensional issue, and some people with disabilities have found mobile devices to be very serviceable and accessible for themselves, Kostin said. She gave an example of a blind user who was a fan of iPhone and iPad features such as scanners and believed the devices provided him greater accessibility to information, rather than less.

Myth: Mobile devices are just one more way people connect to networks.

Reality: Mobile devices are different from desktop and laptop computers, and developers who understand that and take full advanatge of the differences can spur innovation and cost-cutting, Kostin said.

Similarly, for those skeptical that mobile devices could ever replace personal computers, Kostin said she agreed personal computers would continue to be used for certain tasks, but in a more limited fashion than they are now.

“A desktop will be like a vacuum cleaner,” Kostin said. In some households, it might be used daily, “or in the case of my house, once a week,” she joked.





















 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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