Phablets Testing IT's Patience - and Ingenuity
Companies and marketers were already facing challenges with smaller form factors for popular smartphones and tablet computers. Now come the phablets -- those smartphone/tablet mashups that are forcing them to rethink everything from user interaction to IT infrastructure.
First there were smartphones. Then there were very small smartphones and, conversely, larger ones. And devices that folded in half. And smartphones that had sliding QWERTY keyboards.
After that, of course, came the tablets.
The new form factor story doesn't end there. The next big trend is expected to be the phablet, a combination of a smartphone and a tablet.
ABI Research reports that nearly 83 million phablets were shipped in 2012, an increase of 4,504 percent from 2011. The research company gave much of the credit for that huge jump to the popularity of the Samsung Galaxy S3. ABI projects that more than 150 million phablets will be shipped in 2013, accounting for 18 percent of all smartphone shipments.
This is no small consideration for marketers. For every change in form factors, an app or campaign has to be rethought from top to bottom in terms of how the consumer will interact with it or view it. A larger screen, to state a very basic example, could make video mobile advertising even more popular than it already is. It would also prompt e-mail marketers to rethink their designs and call-to-action prompts. After all, a larger screen means larger CTAs.
Phablets Forcing Changes in Strategy
Indeed, there will be all kinds of accommodations marketers will have consider and then accept or reject, Catherine Brown, Vice President of Marketing at Mavenlink, told CRM Buyer. "If we see an acceleration in the adoption of larger smartphones, users will be able to have a tablet-quality experience on their mobile phones. This will provide additional opportunities for remote users to get even more value out of the CRM since they can do everything from the field."
Mavenlink's customers typically use the Web versions of the product on their iPad, Brown said, and the mobile version on their smartphone. "With larger phones, they could use either." It is just one more recalibration of a organization's mobile approach, and it will touch many different operational areas of a company -- including the IT infrastructure.
The Need for More Flexible IT Backbones
DISH Network, which deployed the Samsung Galaxy Note to its thousands of field technicians in the fall of 2012, is a good example of a company turning on a dime to leverage phablets, according to Irad Carmi, co-founder and CEO of TOA Technologies.
"DISH Network had previously chosen a cloud-based field service management app with the understanding they would roll out a new device across the organization soon," Carmi told CRM Buyer. "Because the app (ETAdirect from TOA Technologies) was developed using HTML5 rather than natively built for a specific operating system, it enabled DISH to quickly roll out a new device to all of its field workforce without having to worry about working with the vendor to redevelop the app for a new device.
"With the safety net provided by an HTML5 app, DISH was not limited in their choice for a new device."
As phablet adoption grows, organizations will more frequently select HTML5-based applications that are delivered directly through the browser, leave no footprint on the mobile device and are flexible enough run on any device, Carmi said.
"The market will see an explosion of competing phablet options on different operating systems as demand increases," he predicted. "This, paired with the continuing trend toward BYOD policies, further makes the case for why HTML5-based applications will become not only the norm, but a necessity to keep the cost of mobile device management in line."
Backend Changes for Customer-Facing Phablet Apps
On the back end, the enterprise architecture has to cater to the fact that apps will be the way to access enterprise services in the future, and that multiple services operated separately won't work anymore, said Shivesh Vishwanathan, senior consultant Mobility of Persistent Systems.
"A mobile middleware layer can integrate these services to provide a seamless interface. If a customer service rep has to access customer billing or account information, or a sales rep has to access the customer service desk, the mobile middleware layer can provide a unified interface for the phablet app," Vishwanathan told CRM Buyer.
"While various enterprise services might have been built on different technology stacks or using different data sources, the integration of these services will happen at the middleware layer. With the BYOD trend picking up and the general availability of choice on frontend devices, the mobile middleware layer also provides a better way of building and deploying apps on various devices."