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The Mobile Ecosystem: Carriers, Networks, Platforms, and Operating Systems

The mobile landscape consists of several other components besides phones. These include carriers, networks, platforms, and operating systems. Again, a basic understanding of all these is helpful before beginning a mobile web project.

  • Carriers: Carriers (sometimes called operators) provide mobile service to customers. Customers typically sign up for a contract or prepaid plan.
  • Networks: Carriers provide mobile service over a network of cellular towers. Networks are commonly differentiated by generation. Right now, most users browse the mobile web on third generation (3G) technology. The growth of 3G and the rise of fourth generation (4G) technology is improving mobile browsing significantly.
  • Platforms: Platforms are the programming frameworks upon which all software for devices are developed. The most ubiquitous platform in mobile right now is Java ME. Blackberr, iPhone, and Android each run their own proprietary platforms.
  • Operating Systems: Just like other computer devices, many phones now run some type of operating system. Going forward, many commentators believe that the majority of phones will use Apple's iPhone OS X, RIM's Blackberry OS or Android. Current market trends show Blackberry on the decline and Android and iPhone on the rise.

Right now, there is a great deal of confusion and fragmentation surrounding many of these mobile web components. Thankfully, a major advantage of the the mobile web is its interoperability. An effective mobile website will reach a significant portion of mobile users, regardless of their carrier, network, platform or operating system.