Until recently, mobile email use has been limited to business users who can afford to buy an expensive smartphone and are willing to accept a costly data plan. But there have been strong signs over the course of 2007 that the age of mobile email for the masses is upon us. The combination of the adoption of industry standards enabling push email on mass market feature phones and affordable service plans is set to make mobile email for the mass market a reality. Evidence of this shift is seen in particular in emerging markets, where fixed-line infrastructure is limited and PC penetration is low, whilst mobile phone penetration is soaring.
The mobile operators in emerging markets now have the opportunity to make the mobile phone the primary method of accessing the internet, with mobile email probably being the most popular application for both business users and consumers. As a result, I can see mobile email consumption in the emerging markets of Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe leapfrogging the 'developed world' in Western Europe and the U.S., which will mostly remain limited to high-end business user email.
However, to make this happen, it is important to use middleware that can support the majority of the mobile phones that are already out there in those markets. Communication only works if it can be sent and received; so, by using standards such as IMAP (LEMONADE), SyncML, and email-to-SMS conversion, we will see email and synchronization services extended to every single mobile phone on the planet.
While we are all drawn to sexy new devices such as the Apple iPhone, the fact is that smartphones represent only a tiny portion of the addressable market. The vast majority of phones in use today (and in the foreseeable future) are mass market feature phones. Therefore, it is essential for service providers to offer push email and synchronization solutions that work well on the phones that are already in users' hands today. In 2008, the time is right for mobile data pricing plans to fall and, as customer numbers increase, we will start to see mobile email becoming the next generation SMS.
*Source: Visiongain Mobile Email Market Report