On June 29th, Apple will release the long awaited iPhone. While the initial demand has been significant, its debut is even more important to the future of mobile marketing. This is because the iPhone not only comes with voice and text messaging but also built-in Wi-Fi, which will enable marketers to create services that literally sit in the pocket of targeted consumers.

This is significant because companies like Earthlink, Google and Clearwire are in the process of building city-wide Wi-Fi networks in major cities across the country. Once in place, these networks will let Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect to the Internet virtually anywhere in a given city. For marketers, this means consumers can connect and stay connected, making it easy to present offers, incentives and or promotions at times when the opportunity for conversion is at its highest.

The introduction of the iPhone is important because it’s the one device that can force the adoption of Wi-Fi in to millions of handsets as companies like Samsung, Nokia, LG create hybrid Wi-Fi/cell phone devices to compete with the iPhone. It’s also further blurring the line between cell phones and personal computers by allowing features and functionality traditionally associated with PCs to be available on mobile devices.

Combining the technical limitations with the freedom of WiFi allows marketers to create highly rich and compelling content that brings the best of both of these world’s together. For instance, consumers could see an ad about a new product that is just launching with a short code and keyword to text in for more information. The user would then receive a message with an embedded URL that would take them a special web site with detailed information. Unlike current WAP push campaigns however, the site could be a lot more feature rich since WiFi signals are stronger and faster than their carrier-based equivalents. This is just one example of what the future holds for savvy marketers who take advantage of the latest in mobile.

It will be interesting to see how early adopters react to iPhone and the other WiFi enabled devices that will be coming over the next few months. Apple’s reliance on the Safari browser for the iPhone has already raised the ire of mobile application developers but it’s marketing savvy is too strong for the initial push not to be a success. Time will tell who the winners will ultimately be but mobile marketers can get ready for a very interesting and exciting time over the next year.

Clarence McDowell