The “mobile is only for consumption” idea is flawed

Mobile devices provide important ways of creating and interacting with data.

During the earlier years of iOS and Android, a frequent refrain was that mobile devices were good for content consumption (messaging, reading, watching videos, looking things up), but to get down to “real work” and create content, you needed a PC. I thought that by 2017, this line of thinking had disappeared, but I heard it come up a few times recently. By now, I think we can all agree that this “mobile is only for consumption” idea is flawed.

First of all, mobile devices have many ways of collecting data, and that data is available to any app with little friction. Think about image, video, and audio data; geolocation; accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses, and even barometers. This data can be collected constantly (even when the device is in your pocket), thanks to background activities. Then there’s the data that comes from built in calendars, contacts, and media libraries.

Once all that data is on the device, there are new ways to interact with it, such as direct manipulation through multitouch and motion sensors. More importantly, interactions can be immediate. Push notifications prompt you to action (your laptop isn’t going to buzz or ding when it’s closed in your backpack, but your phone will). And of course you can work anywhere, usually with little friction (because logging in and starting an app session is typically much faster). Even though iOS doesn’t expose a tradition file structure to the user, it still handles passing data from one app to another in a safe, elegant way. Plus with services like IFTTT or Workflow, you can script away tasks that you once did on a desktop.

Another point in favor of mobile content creation is that apps themselves are changing. New apps be conceived with all these types of data collection and manipulation in mind. Machine learning is allowing apps to pull much more data out of photos, audio, and video, making mobile device sensors that much more useful. And the overall rising numbers of enterprise mobile apps in existence also serve to make mobile devices suitable for content creation.

Sure, I’m not going to create a PowerPoint deck on my phone, and there are times when I want a keyboard or a big screen. However, the content creation versus content consumption axiom is far too simplistic. When you combine together the data mobile devices create, the interactions they enable, and new workflows and apps, mobile devices are powerful content creation tools, too.

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