The iPhone is changing consumers' perception of the mobile phone from a device that facilitates talk to a pocket PC for accessing digital content.
It's an achievement of marketing as well as technology. Apple's educational ad campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., has shown millions accustomed to using a phone for just talk how a mobile handset can search to buy a car, connect with Facebook friends or manage a ski vacation, from getting trail maps to finding restaurants.
IPhone users are big on-phone consumers of news, information and other content. Last January, 84.8% of iPhone users browsed the internet on their phone, more than six times higher than the percentage of average phone users, at 13%, according to M:Metrics.
AT&T Mobility President-CEO Ralph de la Vega says the number is even higher: 95% of iPhone owners regularly surf the web, even though 30% had never done so on their phones before owning an iPhone. More than half of iPhone users have checked out YouTube videos, he said.
In mobile search, the iPhone is the No. 1 device, according to the M:Metrics study. Of the 12.8 million who used a phone's search function last December, 450,000 accessed the web from eight-gig iPhones. M:Metrics also found that iPhone users were heavy social-networking aficionados, giving the device the potential to tap that lucrative new medium.
All told, the iPhone is helping solve a number of the vexing problems of the fledgling mobile-marketing industry, expected to hit as much as $24 billion by 2013.
In addition to its operating system, which upgrades the mobile web experience from the typical mobile-phone-based version of the web, the iPhone boasts a screen size and resolution that make the handset ad experience more palatable. Ads are being customized for the iPhone, and the experiences of some experimenters, such as 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Land Rover, have shown it to be worthwhile.
Duncan Plexico, executive director-digital marketing at the 20th Century Fox unit, says iPhone ads are prettier to look at than ads on other phones or even on PCs. He also finds iPhone ads have better targeting and more-useful map applications.
"The iPhone has undeniably set new benchmarks in providing a rich and dynamic user experience for the mobile web," Liz Ross, president of Tribal DDB West, said recently. "Being able to leverage its full potential, especially in video, is an exciting development for creating innovative and compelling ways to interact with consumers."
But there's more. John Hadl, who advises Procter & Gamble Co. on mobile advertising, says the iPhone's impact goes beyond individual campaigns or ad technologies. "It has raised the level of optimism and interest [in mobile marketing] from agencies and marketers alike," he says. "It's something that's needed."