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Raising the Bar on the Perception of Mobile Reception

Aug 30, 2013

My, my, how high maintenance we’ve all become.

Not long ago, many of our tech-savvy selves (myself included), were awestruck by the power of our devices. First, we couldn’t imagine a world without word processing programs. Then “Google it,” became a grammatically correct sentence. Now our smartphones and tablets allow us to shop, stream live radio, teleconference with friends and colleagues and manage multiple virtual currencies – all while we’re busy working and juggling other tasks.

But if a recent survey is any indication, our collective sense of technological awe is giving way to entitlement. Just like we don’t applaud every time an electric light bulb brightens with the flick of a switch, consumers are beginning to expect that their smartphone’s mobile service be just as reliable.
According to a Vasona Networks survey, 64% of respondents felt that “good performance all the time” was a reasonable mobile phone network expectation. A slim 36% were more forgiving and agreed that performance hiccups and dead zones were par for the technological course.

I wasn’t a survey respondent, but you can count me in the minority.

My reaction to the data is twofold. Firstly, it’s possible our overly linked, synched and wired world has done more to speed up our culture than caffeine. A bit of humility never hurt. And statistics like this underscore how little non-experts appreciate the complexity of our wireless world – not to mention some scientific basics.

Like any form of radio transmission, cell phone towers work by line of sight. So the hillier or more mountainous the terrain, the more difficult reception becomes. Likewise, walls, physical structures, and other electronic noise (TVs, desktop computers, microwaves, etc.), also wreak havoc on reception quality and mobile download speeds.

These are challenges that will never be fully resolved and it’s perfectly OK. Do we blame terrestrial radio when we drive our cars (and their antennas) out of reception range? No. The same rules apply.

What isn’t OK, though, are the many poorly designed mobile web pages and apps whose clumsiness prevents them from maximizing 3G and 4G speeds. Sometimes it comes down to a matter of “reception perception.” Mobile web pages might be downloading swiftly, but if the user experience is lacking, simple processes, (like trying to purchase something on a smartphone or tablet) become cumbersome.

To the aggravated 64%, if you must be of the persnickety persuasion, make certain your frustration is directed to the appropriate source. Focus less on cell phone service providers and more on how websites are designed, how apps are developed and the utility of these.

As PR professionals it’s our job to help our clients maximize how they promote their mobile presence. Actual download speeds won’t be affected. But the time it takes for consumers to realize on-the-go enjoyment, will undoubtedly accelerate. Perhaps the next time you visit a mobile web site or interact with an app that’s undergone radical improvement you will applaud and not feel so entitled.

I’m just saying….

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