Mobile PhoneIf you are anything like me, you will have greeted the subject of this post with a huge yawn and an overiding sense of ‘here we go again…’

I am passionate about online marketing and will often evangelise about emerging technology, but I have been hearing the fuss about mobile for a number of years and have become bored of hearing every year being touted as THE year of mobile.

We discussed this at the end of 2011 when Google was making noises about how mobile was really taking off, but I have been reading quite a bit in recent weeks about how 2012 is (surprise, surprise) going to be the year that mobile finally delivers.

There is no doubt that mobile devices have developed to the point where (half decent) browsing is a reality and the availability of cheap data plans has certainly helped fuel the growth in mobile media consumption, but the stats (if you look beyond activities such as checking email, using apps, texting, etc.) have rarely lived up to the hype in my humble opion.

Mobile search is naturally bundled in with ‘mobile’ and it is true that more and more people are using search engines on their mobiles, but this is another area where I feel that things have often been over hyped.

Browsing through some Google Analytics data this afternoon may have just changed my mind and perhaps 2012 will actually be the year that mobile finally starts to justify the hype.

The graph below shows mobile traffic to one client site, but the pattern is repeated across a large number of the profiles that I have been looking at:

2012 - The Year Of Mobile?

The numbers are still not enormous, but there is a marked increase in activity towards the end of 2011 and it has continued into 2012.

The rise in mobile traffic is interesting, but it is the fact that search remains such a big driver for traffic that really stands out to me and hammers home the fact that you really must make sure that your site is ‘mobile friendly’. As devices improve, you could argue that the need for dedicated mobile sites is reduced, but you cannot ignore the fact that people WILL browse your website using a mobile device.

Due to commercial sensitivity, I cannot show you revenue data, but the site in question is an e-commerce site and I can assure you that this traffic is converting to revenue. Organic search traffic accounted for 67% of the mobile related revenue, so it does affect the bottom line and needs thinking about.

Convincing evidence? Is 2012 the year of mobile after all?

Digging a little deeper revealed that tablets (mainly the iPad) account for the lion’s share of revenue – traffic volumes for the iPhone and iPad are very similar (and, as an aside, account for almost 60% of all mobile traffic) but the iPad generated almost 4 times as much revenue as the iPhone.

I have read other reports showing how tablet users typically spend more than any other mobile device, but is it really that much of a surprise when you consider how much better the browsing experience is?

More importantly, is the iPad really a mobile device? Yes, if you define it by the fact that you can carry it around and can be connected on the go. Hang on, I can do that with a laptop, so why isn’t that deemed to be a mobile device?

Therein lies the true essence of my cynicism about ‘mobile’ hype – devices are converging and it is becoming very hard to know what mobile really means. I am not convinced that tablets should be included in the mobile category, with their desktopesque browsing capabilities.

New devices are emerging that really challenge what a mobile is. Take Samsung’s Galaxy Note – it is hardly pocket friendly and is more powerful than desktop PCs of not that long ago. Certainly a very different device to my trusty old Nokia 6310i (which was arguably the best phone that I have ever had).

If you include all the new devices, especially tablets, there is no doubt that 2012 is going to be big in mobile. If you are a bit stricter about how to define mobile, I still have some doubts.

What do you think? Hype or fact?