Media Perspective: Size doesn't matter. It's what you do with a phone that counts

It's starting to feel a little late in the year for prognostication, but, having spent the past couple of weeks gazing into some media futures, I felt I'd be wrong to ignore what will probably be the most important media channel of the next 20 years: the phone.

Or as we must learn to call it: the mobile device. Or PDA. Or something like that. Because, whatever we call it, it's going to be key to how companies and brands are going to communicate with their companies, their partners and their employees.

The mobile phone's potential claims on the premier media channel crown are obvious and becoming more so every day. It's the most intimate media device we own, the one we carry with us everywhere we go and to which we whisper our deepest secrets. As many devices proved, but the iPhone hammered into public consciousness, watching extended bits of video on these things is perfectly possible.

They're also increasingly how people listen to radio. They're already the dominant player in ripped and downloaded music. And other media forms are coming: novels written especially for phones are already huge in Japan, gaming on the phone gets better every day and widespread installation of GPS and maps will give them an ability to understand their place in the physical world, which adds all sorts of creative and communicative possibilities.

But perhaps the best thing about the phone as a media device is the fact that you can do things with it, not just sit and receive whatever's being beamed at you. The average phonecam is a better camera than most actual digital cameras of only a few years ago. Phones are replacing credit and other payment cards in many parts of the world, and soon will be here. Everything we can currently do on our computers is very close to being easy and cheap on our phones too. This makes the phone a creative device, and it's all the more intimate because of that.

So, what should we do with these little rods of media power? What should advertising people think about? The first thing for many is to get over their suspicion of the limitations of the screen. It's so small - how can we display the boundless creativity of our brand on there? Well, yes, it is tiny, but never have the skills of advertising been more necessary. Advertising's finest moments always come in the compression of complex, confusing information into simple, stark, attention-grabbing images and ideas. That challenge is at its greatest on the phone.

We've always been used to competing for attention: with programmes, with editorial, with the real world, we have to try to win attention away from the most attention-grabbing device yet invented.