OK, You're Underwhelmed, but Here's Why iPhone 4S Is a Big Deal for Marketers

Six Reasons the New Smartphone Matters

By Published on .

The new iPhone has been released, with its new processor, more megapixels, better battery life and hundreds of new features, yet Apple has so conditioned us to expect the revolutionary that it seems, somehow, like a let-down. There is no new form, after all, just a bit more function. But when you take the cover off, that enhanced function will only accelerate changes in consumer behavior, meaning exciting opportunities for marketers:

1. Increasingly, it's the first screen. You have to have a mobile-optimized site by now. Whatever excuse you have for putting it off should be set aside. The mobile device is quickly becoming the first screen for consumers, whether they're consuming media, socializing, shopping or having fun. Add a smartphone-optimized site to the costs of doing business, right there with toner cartridges and fire insurance.

A family of iPhones
A family of iPhones

2. You may want an app too. Apps require more intensive costs for development and promotion. Yet they're also very convenient for repeat consumers. The biggest benefit to having an app is that it increases the odds that you'll be able to interact with consumers on their terms. The fact that more consumers will have these smartphones means that the potential reach for apps expands. There is still the downside of apps only working for a specific operating system -- in this case, iOS -- and even for Apple, it helps to customize apps for the iPad as well. There's also clutter, with more than 500,000 iOS apps to compete with. But the clutter's nothing new, as there are also billions of websites.

3. Align ad spending closer to media usage. Over the past several years, mobile usage has accelerated even faster than ad spending. Interestingly, Apple didn't even bring up iAd at its event; that 's beside the point. Use whatever ads make the most sense for you, whether they're to promote your mobile site, apps, physical stores or other experiences. Mobile ads can no longer be relegated to your experimental budget.

4. People will be sharing more than they ever have before. The iPhone 4 is already the most popular camera for Flickr users, with the next four most popular cameras all high-end models. Now, the 4S has a camera that competes directly with most point-and-shoot models. Beyond that , sharing is more core to iOS than it ever has been, from the new Find My Friends feature to built-in Twitter functionality. Add to that the rumors that Facebook is on the verge of new mobile-related updates, and it's clear that marketers will have far more opportunities to encourage and facilitate social interactions with their audiences.

5. Think about the cross-screen experience. Apple joins Google and Microsoft in making it easy for consumers to start an experience on one device and continue it on others. Do you want to use your phone to play a game on your TV? What about creating a document on your Mac that you can then polish up on the road? Do you have photos on your iPhone that you wish were on your iPad? All of this is possible now. Marketers should start thinking about their own experiences this way. There aren't separate pools of mobile users and TV watchers and internet surfers, let alone magazine readers and in-store shoppers and out-of -home passersby. They're people transitioning seamlessly across media, and your brands need to be just as portable and adaptable.

6. Keep an eye (or ear) on voice search. Apple made a big deal about incorporating its voice recognition technology Siri into the core user experience of the 4S. Whether you're looking for a nearby burger joint, checking flight times or booking movie tickets, voice commands will speed up the process. It's likely that Apple will follow how Siri has always worked and present information and options from select partners. Yelp was specifically mentioned, and this could wean even loyal users away from rivals like Urban Spoon. The billion-dollar question is how far voice recognition will go. Will people start using it to find recommendations on products such as cars, credit cards, candy bars and Capri pants? If people stick with voice search for navigation and productivity, it may change the popularity of a handful of apps. If people turn to voice recognition at the start of their search process, that could materially change search engine marketing. Google still wields exceptional power here with its exceptional voice tech coupled with its vast Android install base. Apple never had a dog in the search race before though, and it could play spoiler.

In the coming months, we'll know more about how the iPhone 4S changes user behavior. If you're already allocating enough of your marketing to reach consumers on the iPhone 4G and other mobile devices, congratulations. Otherwise, when the 4S comes out, you'll have even more catching up to do.

David Berkowitz is vice president of emerging media and innovation, 360i.
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