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mobile bohemians

There is a new growing strata of mobile bohemians (or mobos for short) that are changing the way most of us interact with the world around us.  In a nutshell, mobos use their mobile devices as extensions of themselves. Before my first contact, I hadn’t really noticed, or heard the term mobo.   The trend follows the way cell phones are being used these days.  The interesting part is that actual number of minutes that cell phones are used is leveling out, with the time per call dropping from 3.13 minutes per call in 2007 to 1.81 minutes.[2] That’s down 42%.  A major shift.   People are downgrading their call plans and using more texting, with texting  growing by 50% nationwide in the last year alone.   In fact, data usage on the phones now exceeds voice usage according to the New York Times (check out the 5/13/10 article).[3] That means that these portable devices have created a growing generation of users (some call it a dependency) of mobile devices.

The mobo is the top tier user.  He or she is not necessarily young or footloose, not your average techie nor high-strung businessman with emails landing like planes at LaGuardia, as far as I could tell.  Looking around, you can tell them by how they handle their phones, and how involved they become with their devices.  A mobo mastered his mobile device to the point that it fits naturally into almost any social or work situation.    They carry around the phones much like cups of coffee, sipping on them (figuratively speaking) and not letting their enjoyment interfere with the conversations at hand.

In gleaning marketing information from a group of people, the term most often used is alpha user, that is, users on a social graph that are the most influential.  And maybe this is in line with the street term mobo, but it is more than that.

Mobos are a new growing segment today, unconstrained by location, freed from their work environments, able to roam, to interact, to connect with their peers or work associates, to access the wealth of information from anywhere practically speaking– all from the convenience of their mobile phones.   The common term is devices, because actually they are resembling less and less phones of our parent’s generation.  Their devices are not mere cell phones, but rather mobile platforms that incorporate keyboards (either on the screen or hard keyboards that can slide out or are embedded on the front), cameras, GPS systems, storage, internet connections, music players, wifi and of course in many cases a phone.  In phones have become less “cheek friendly,” according to wireless operators.[4] To many a mobo, the phone portion is optional (for example, on the iPod and iPad).  Mobos have mastered the keyboard, bookmarked dozens of web sites, receive daily digests of news and recommendations and, in short, operate among us – but at one level up.

Mobos cross generational lines and, to a large extent, social classes.  They are not the yakkers or the obsessive texters, although I’ve seen a real spectrum.  Rather, they seem to float easily in all situations, using their devices to guide them, answer questions, and in many cases pay for services.

The new mobile phone aficionado is best described by the following observations:

  • They are comfortable with technology.
  • They have demanding life-styles, such as jobs that require them to be on top of things, or social lives that require constant attention and cultivation.
  • They are accustomed to multitasking, that is juggling multiple activities at the same time;
  • They have a fierce curiosity and willingness to follow their instincts with the aid of their phones;
  • They exude a sense that there is too much to do and little time to do it in.
  • They love to interact and collaborate with everyone no matter where they are.

In short a mobo is unencumbered by time and place, able to keep a certain continuity with his or her friends and partners through a variety of situations during the day, constantly updating their status, constantly on the prowl for new forms of entertainment or news.

This site is all about mobos, their skills, their mindset and what we can learn from them before it is too late.


[1] The term apparently inspired from David Brooks’ bobo, as in Bobos in Paradise, 2005 and his sequel On Paradise Drive in 2009. Although my first impression was that these bobos are rather self-centered and definitely into self-gratification, the average mobo appears to be more collaborative by nature, more connected to the world at large.

[2] CTIA Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Results, December 2009.  http://files.ctia.org/pdf/CTIA_Survey_Year_End_2009_Graphics.pdf

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/technology/personaltech/14talk.html

[4] Ibid

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