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Can Users View Your Tours From Mobile Devices?

Published: 08/10/2009
By: larry

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly significant as a tool for home buyers and and agents. Here are a couple of facts that suggest the trend that is occurring with mobile devices:

  1. Smartphones now account for more than a quarter (25.8%) of worldwide traffic according to August figures with the Nokia N70 leading the pack with an 11.7% share. In the US, the BlackBerry 8100 is the weapon of choice garnering 14.7% of traffic but the big mover - somewhat unsurprisingly, is Apple's iPhone, which the report found to be the fastest growing device in the world last month putting it into fourth spot in the US where its traffic doubled (7.8%) and ninth globally ( 3.8%).
  2. Major tour provider, now provides a video file of their tours just so the video can be uploaded to so tours can be seen on mobile devices. This is explained on my post last June in a comment by Herb Dierks (CEO of tourfactory). I also explain how to create a video file from any Flash tour in this post.

It's not hard to put yourself in the shoes of a home buyers out roaming around neighborhoods checking out homes for sale carrying a iPhone or other smartphone with a browser. Now days when they come across a for sale sign that has a tour URL on it (or the flyer) they are going to type in the URL and have a look. The same kind of thing goes on with agents out showing buyers homes. They'll be driving past a home for sale that's not on the pre-planned tour, and the buyer says, "Oh, what about this home?" If the agent  or home buyer has a mobile device they key in the URL or MLS # and want information and photos of the home right there from the street. You want your tours visible to these people standing on the street in front of the listing.

So what's the problem? The problem is, if your lovely home tour or slideshow is in Flash people with iPhones and many other mobile devices can't see the tour! Yea, I know, it's taken years for Flash to finally become ubiquitous. Flash is almost the only player technology suitable for elegant slide shows and 360 image display that you can depend on being on every platform... except mobile devices.

Here's what's happening, there is a giant power struggle going on for control of the mobile browser:

  1. On one side is Adobe who wants to put flash on all mobile devices. Adobe just announced that they are going to make Flash available on Windows Mobile, Android and PalmOS. That's an obvious move but none of these brands are even in the top four of market share. They are all minor players.
  2. On the other side is Apple who says no Flash on the iPhone. Apple claims Flash performance isn't good enough for handsets. Most believe Apple will never allow Flash on the iPhone OS. Apple is depending on HTML 5 (now implemented on the iPhone). It's difficult to ignore Apple's power in this struggle because  they've sold 30 million iPhones and at their current growth in market share they will be the top selling smart phone in the near future.

So, what's a real estate photographer to do? There are several choices:

  1. Supply youtube tours for mobile devices. Almost every mobile device can display youtube videos.
  2. Find a way to do tours that use javascript and HTML 5 features to replace Flash. Here's one possibility that uses javascript.
  3. Ignore mobile devices... people should be using real computers!

There may be some other solutions that I don't see. For now you can get by with #1 just like

14 comments on “Can Users View Your Tours From Mobile Devices?”

  1. This means very simply that we have to start producing video tours instead of virtual tours, I suppose?

  2. Do you really think that people reviewing real estate offerings are going to sit down at their dinky screen iPhones to select the properties they are going to visit? I sure don't.

  3. ElkeC, I wouldn't recommend video tours *instead of* virtual tours - the best approach is to provide both. Virtual tours are still the best option for viewing homes on a computer, but a video conveyance method opens up a host of additional devices and channels. It's not either/or, it's both/and.

    Greg, I can see your concern, but there are currently two major pracitcal applications for video tours (and I see at least one more coming down the pipeline):
    1. For agents to keep all of their listings loaded on their phone, just in case. For agents, every interaction could be the next beginning on their next commissiokn check - whether it's standing in line at the grocery store, or chatting with another parent at their kid's soccer game. Having thier listings in their pocket in a video format provides an agent with instant access to demo'ing their inventory... but it does something else even more powerful too... it sends a strong message about the agent's professionalism and ability to leverage technology to a potential new client.
    2. For a person in an on-going home search, a video RSS feed can be established for their search criteria. If you head over to and enter a search criteria, there's a link at the bottom of the page to grab an iPhone video feed for homes matching that search criteria. This way, when a new home comes onto the market that matches your needs, you recieve a new "episode" right on your phone. This is especially beneficial in commuter towns where a large number of people ride a bues, subway or ferry to work.

    It's important to keep in mind that video tours, like virtual tours, seldom close a home. Their purpose is just like a clever book cover design or cereal box packaging... to give the potental purchaser enough reason to investigate further. In the case of our business, we all have one simple task to accomplish - to get buyers to call our agents. Getting potential buyers to take that next step can be accomplished with the magic combination of excellent photography and broad syndication - which yes, even includes a little iPhone screen.

  4. @Greg- Two years ago my reaction would have been exactly the same as yours. But having an iPhone for 2 years has allowed me better appreciate this trend.

    It's not so much that people are sitting down with iPhones and replacing their laptops, it's more that while they are out and about looking at homes they are able to access the very same sites and tours that they do when they are at home on their laptops.

    Here's another interesting related fact: in the month of Sept 2009, 1% of the 2000 visitors a day that visit this blog gets were using iPhones. Virtually no other types of mobile devices are used to access this blog. I was stunned to find this out.

  5. As a Real Estate Broker I can attest to the power of having the web in the palm of your hand. Clients as well as agents use Iphones and the such to assist in their searches and to ignor this would not be prudent. In fact I am reading this blog and writing on my I-phone now.

  6. I absolutely can see people driving up to a house, looking up the listing on their iPhone and looking at photos or videos as they sit in front of the house. In fact, you can already do this with applications such as which I am encouraging my clients to subscribe to.

    Why would people do such a thing?


    It's as simple as that!

  7. Absolutely. This is huge! The next generation will find their new homes with their smart phones, not tomorrow, but next week!

    Don't worry, either Apple will get on board eventually, or the new export version of Flash (CS5) will resolve the virtual tour on phone issues. For now a video capture of a virtual tour will do.

    While iPhone is huge (and I would have one in a second, but I refuse to use AT&T. and have a G1 instead) dont assume a massive market share isnt coming within the next couple of years, especially with a huge push from Google and their Android OS.

  8. I agree with several people here that it is a great tool for someone who spots a sign while driving. It is also impressive for a real estate agent to say it is a service they offer. The more tools we can give to agents, the more valuable we become!

  9. "Do you really think that people reviewing real estate offerings are going to sit down at their dinky screen iPhones to select the properties they are going to visit?"


  10. Anon- You can choose to ignore the facts if you wish. The stats are accurate.

    I'm not a techno-savvy 20-30 year old. I have two sons that are both over 35 and I buy property. I currently have three properties and will be buying a 4th by the end of the year. I use an iPhone to view listings from the street almost daily via the Zillow iPhone app and the iPhone browser.

    I could not live without my iPhone... spend $99 and find out what you are missing out on man!

  11. OMG! - I don't believe what you are saying Scott, you've been a hero of mine int eh world of real estate photography but if you're serious about your last comment above I'm going to have to rethink.....

    Please, tell me your being sarcastic!

  12. Almost every smartphone based cellphone is capable of viewing Flash, the issue is browser support. That being said, one of the best browser's to hit the smartphone industry is Skyfire which allows you to practically view everything, from javascript to all web based 2.0 coding and even flash 10.

    Smartphones will continue to grow and multimedia focused models will continue to come out due to huge consumer demand. Everyone is mobile these day's, and as such, yes, it would be a good idea to provide the ability to view slideshows and tours that are optimised for mobile devices, the problem is... is it worth it in terms of bandwidth? Can the average consumer AFFORD, want to view pictures and/or a tour that is upwards of 500 kb? That's a whol lotta bandwidth for a mobile device that costs a whole lotta $$$...

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