People really don’t want to look for property on a pain-in-the-neck mobile device with poor usability, difficult buttons, a small screen and annoying software.
But all that will soon change. Let me say right now that this post isn’t just more mindless iPhone hype. I don’t think I’ll spring for an iPhone as soon as they become available, but I have no doubt that the iPhone and probably Android, the Google phone software, will finally make real estate search and sales mobile-ready activities.
For the last several years, realestate.com.au has tested partnerships with mobile phone providers. In my opinion, they have never been very successful. I heard that Telstra shut theirs off without even telling realestate.com.au because there was so little traffic that it didn’t make a difference.
When the 3G iPhone hits Australia’s sandy beaches, things will be different. People love using it, and they love using it for stuff they never loved doing on their phones before. Even looking at property listings with 27 photos is a breeze on this device that fits in your pocket.
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
It’s not that the iPhone does anything that you can’t already do on another mobile phone. But just like Apple computers are intuitive and a pleasure to use, the Apple phone makes all those formerly painful mobile phone tasks into a joy.
A researcher named Charles Le Tocq believes the iPhone has pushed the mobile phone market past a “tipping point” for capabilities.
Here are two more examples of the difference between the iPhone and other mobile phones. iPhone users in the UK surf the internet on their phones far more than owners of other smartphones. The Financial Times reported that 60 per cent of UK iPhone customers were sending or receiving more than 25MB of data per month (equivalent to 7500 e-mails), compared to 1.8 per cent of users of other smartphones. (via MacChat)
And, Marissa Mayer, a legend in Silicon Valley and Vice President of Search Products & User Experience at Google said that Google Maps traffic increased by 40% to 50% almost overnight after the iPhone was released. “It’s clear to see that people are switching off their computers and switching on their cell phones,” she says.
Let’s break this down: the iPhone boosted Google Maps because it was so easy to use that suddenly people were interested in mapping things on their phone.
Or, as Jeff Jarvis blogged over at the Guardian, “Everything that the computer, the web, and the browser have done to content … is now in the palm of your hand. Everything you can do on the web you can do with media on the iPhone, anywhere, any time.”
Jarvis, along with Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, also feels the iPhone is the first portable device on which newspapers are easier to read than print papers. Think about that. It’s got “phone” in its name, but it’s so enjoyable to use that it is better than print and than existing electronic readers.
All of these benefits apply just as well to real estate. But there is one more. For real estate, one of the most important features of the iPhone is its ability to imitate GPS by triangulating from nearby mobile phone towers to determine your location. This capability was recently released in the USA, and I hope this will be available in Australia when the iPhone debuts here.
The iPhone creates an opportunity for real estate web portals and agents to serve people in a medium that they suddenly want to take advantage of. Whoever doesn’t take up the opportunity risks having someone else grab the market and whatever revenue goes with it.