I'll stick to my comments and continue to believe that regulation had a stronger impact on the mobile sector than the economic crisis. The recent announcement that the French telecom regulation authority eventually (after years after back and forth discussions and lobbying) granted the 4th 3G license to Free/Iliad (one of the largest ISPs) is a good example of that. The new entrant will not launch before early 2012 but aims at captuting 10% market share by introducing cheaper tariffs (a competitive 3 hour package for less than 20€), bundling Internet access and offering interesting conditions to MVNOs. Evolution of termination rates or roaming tariffs as well as other regulations on spectrum have a much greater impact on operators' bottom line than reduced spending from consumers.
I recently returned from a trip to the UAE (Dubai mostly) and Oman. While there I did a bit of research on my own - just talking to folks about how they use their cell phones and so forth. I also had the chance to interview the head of mobile banking services in EMEA for a large, global bank. More on how global banks are avoiding building new branches by offering mobile banking services in another post.
First, I took the public bus from Dubai to Oman. The average income per family in Oman is far below that in the States - probably less than half. Gas and other utilities are cheap as is education and healthcare. That said, we know that cell phone usage has little to do with income. One of the first things I noticed is how many of the men had at least two cell phones. My initial hypothesis was a work phone and a personal phone. I was soon corrected by my guide who drove me up to Jebel Shams. In a country where men can have more than one wife, apparently more than one cell phone is necessary. My guide's father has five current wives, but has had nine all together. My guide had two cell phones and a lot more SIM cards.
My guide was 37 years of age. He had four children and seemed to have an about average income. He worked in sales when he wasn't serving as a guide. He's probably easily one of the most sophisticated cell phone users I've ever met. His cell phone was his portable media player for both music and video. I was astonished by the number of videos he had sideloaded from YouTube. The ringtones were pretty much driving me crazy after about 15 hours in a car with him road tripping. He only had a couple of different ring tones and his phone rang a lot.
ACCOR, the global hotel chain, just launched an iPhone application.
This is just one of the many examples of travel brands leveraging the mobile momentum. Airline companies have always been at the vanguard of integrating mobile into their strategies, but it looks like many other travel brands from hotel chains, airports, rail companies, car rental companies, and travel-related brands (from Lonely Planet to luxury brands) are now tapping into existing mobile opportunities and building mobile products that meet burgeoning customer demand.
Travel is indeed inherently mobile. Now that the promise of location-enhanced services is beginning to be fulfilled on mobile phones, travelers are starting to use their devices as personal travel assistants. More than 10% of European Internet travelers use their mobile phones to look up flight or train schedules. Frequent business travelers are the ideal target group, as they are more likely to be regular users of the mobile Internet and are more likely to spend while traveling. More than 30% of them are interested in booking train tickets or checking in for a flight via their mobile phones.
Another interesting announcement was made this morning at the LeWeb conference in Paris, where Orange officially announced the launch of its Application Shop (available in beta in the UK and France for several months). This shop will first be available to 1 million customers in these two countries before being roll-out to millions more customers throughout 2010. For now it gives acess to 5,000 applications.
Replicating Apple's success will not be an easy task and operators should not follow this route. They should on the contrary leverage their key assets to offer:
This report looks at the state of the European mobile market and at how consumers are using mobile services. We have created different profiles looking at how consumers are using their mobile phones in the different countries.
Over the past two years, the introduction of the iPhone has changed the way consumers and brands perceive mobile phones. It acted as a marketing catalyst, raising awareness of smarter devices and conveying the idea that there are as many mobile services as there are consumers. Consumers will continue to shift their attitudes toward mobile phones — perceiving them not only as communication tools but also increasingly as entertaining and productive devices that can help them in their daily lives. More than 40% of European consumers are beginning to demonstrate sophisticated usage of mobile services.
We expect this to grow over time led by the two most sophisticated group of users (SuperConnecteds and Entertainers). They will change the general perception of mobile phones:
Let's be a bit provocative after this week's announcement from Apple letting us know that they had sold 7,4M iPhones during the last quarter (+7% yoy). Apple's stock valuation was even higher than that of Google (as of October 20, 2009): $179 bn vs $173 bn. I am not a financial analyst so I won't comment the results from a profitability perspective, but would just like to throw out a couple of ideas to discuss whether this trend will last in 2010. Let's add a pinch of salt without taking into account the fact that Apple could (and certainly will) surprise us with new products.
Beyond the terrific iPhone user-experience, the power of Apple's marketing and the AppStore's ecosystem, part of the success is due to Apple's new business model introduced in July 08. When launching the 3GS, they also announced lots of international (and non-exclusive) deals with operators worldwide and finally accepted to let operators subsidize the device. No doubt there is a huge consumer demand for the iPhone but operators will have to solve a complex equation. It is a little dirty industry secret that many carriers are analyzing the profitability of the iPhone model:
My answer to this question was, "never" until a couple of years ago. Sure, I was more likely to make a phone call on my cell phone than on my computer, but that is to be expected - it has traditionally been designed to be a voice communication device.
Opting for my cell phone rather than my laptop first started for me a couple of years ago. I began using SMS as a substitute for email. Then I started using email on my Blackberry because it would boot faster than my computer. Next came Google SMS - for me it was soooo much faster to get a phone number for a business through Google's SMS service than to call (ok, which costs money) or look online. Then, I got an iPhone and started downloading all kinds of applications. Some I barely use, but .... there are quite a few that I use rather than comparable experiences on the PC. These include Facebook (I'm more likely to be doing something interesting when I'm out and about), Scrabble (tallies the score for you), and maps (stopped printing all those maps out) among others.
For all of these services whereby I opt for my phone rather than my PC, I do so because the experience on the cell phone is more convenient. That means the benefits outweigh the inhibitors to use. When it comes to mobile services, there is convenience when there is value to the immediacy of the information or service, tasks are simple to execute and there is context - like my location.
We lay out this framework in our newly released report, "The Convenience Quotient of Mobile Services: A Facebook Case Study."
Many innovative start-ups have pioneered mobile social networking in the last few years: BuzzCity, Peperoni, Fring, Nimbuzz, eBuddy, Zyb, Plazes, Loopt, Foursquare and many others demonstrated the potential of the market.
In the last few months, a bunch of announcements clearly showed that the convergence between mobile and social computing is gaining traction and attracting the largest stakeholders:
The pace of innovation is accelerating in the mobile space like never before and opening up new opportunities. Mobile has the potentiel to bridge the digital and the real worlds. Not a day without a new mobile augmented reality service or application out on the market. Of course, that's still niche but it clearly demonstrates the potential of the mobile platform.
If you disagree or if you don't get my point, just watch the video below
This video is not brand new and has already been seen close to 500,000 times. The service is provided by an innovative start-up that offers a reality browser available for Android. However, these types of applications are flourishing. See for example the Métro Paris application here or more recently the Meilleursagents.com app here.
I bet the best mobile service at the next MWC conference in Barcelona will be a mobile augmented reality app or service. If you haven't submitted your service, the contest is now open at www.globalmobileawards.com.
At the end of this year, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17% in Western Europe — the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. At that time, mobile phone penetration was still below the 40% threshold and mobile shops were opening at every high-street corner. Companies were only starting to launch their web presence and to anticipate the impact of the Web. Operator-branded mobile Internet solutions would only launch 3 years after and 3G in 2003/2004.
10 years after, the mobile Internet is reaching critical mass and a virtuous mobile Internet cycle is kicking off. Consumers who have a flat-rate data bundle spend more and more time on the Internet from their mobile phones, brands begin to launch their mobile Web presence to monetize these growing audiences and engage with their customers via more relevant mobile content and services, which in turn attracts more and more consumers to unlimited mobile Internet tariffs.
The current economic climate will lengthen handset renewal cycles, foster the development of low-cost offerings, and boost the uptake of SIM-only contracts. Operators are likely to postpone major investments in new networks such as 4G / Long-Term Evolution, despite early trials and commercialization in the Nordics. However, it will only slightly reduce the pace of growth for those elements that stimulate mobile Internet usage: 3.5G and Internet-centric mobile phones as well as all-you-can-eat data plans will be widely available in the next five years. That's the reason why Forrester expects mobile Internet to grow to 39% by the end of 2014. That's a lower end point than for the PC Internet in 2004, but the growth curve per se looks quite the same.