New data and trends from the iTunes store

The release of iOS 2.0 in July 2008 is arguably the defining moment of the smartphone era, contributing (along with 3G connectivity) to the iPhone moving from a good if limited device to the archetype that, even 5 years later, all other mobiles are striving to first replicate and then improve upon.

The App store has been a major success for Apple, with Horace Dediu estimating that they produce $1.6bn in revenue per quarter. We are approaching the occasion of the 50 billionth worldwide app download, and to coincide Apple have updated their all-time charts for a number of territories.

They previously did this on the occasion of the 25 billionth app download, in March of last year. 25 billion apps downloaded in 14 months equates to an average of around 60m downloads a day (with Horace Dediu putting the current daily rate at around 70m).

Last time I took a look at some of the trends within the charts. I’ve repeated that here, with ten bullets below. All data correct (apart from any typos that slipped through) as of May 2nd 2013.

  • Stability: The majority of the top apps are holdovers from the previous list – 13 of the 50 paid apps are new, and 20 of the 50 free apps. I’ve counted YouTube and Google Maps as new apps, although different builds did exist previously
  • Games still dominate: 17 of the top 25 paid apps on both iPhone and iPad are games
  • But What’s App stands alone: What’s App is the most popular paid for iPhone app, and is the only paid-for social networking app fits in the list. Although existing downloads won’t be discounted, it will be interesting to see whether the mooted 69p a year fee will deter new users from downloading
  • Franchises have emerged: Although there are exceptions, many of the top apps are from major companies and even those grassroots successes – Angry Birds, Draw Something – have been sucked up into either major merchandising and sequelitis, or bought out. Angry Birds is the poster-child for success, and Angry Birds Rio is the only title of theirs not to make the chart
  • But it is still possible to break through: 4 Pics 1 Word has become this year’s Draw Something, and has made both the top iPad and iPhone free charts despite being out for less than 3 months
  • Price homogeneity: The rise of in-app purchases as a legitimate – if controversial – revenue generator means that prices have dropped to around the 69p mark. Electronic Arts have heavily discounted their titles, including FIFA 13, to raise the user base and drive in-app purchases
  • Few five star games: Inevitably, scale can lead to hype and disappointment and so only 3 of the 100 apps featured have 5 star ratings – Cut the Rope and Plants vs Zombies in iPhone, and The Room on iPad
  • Free entertainment apps lag in score: Free music and entertainment apps score relatively lowly – with the exception of TV Catchup, the highest score is 3.5. YouTube trails with a score of 2, presumably due to complaints that the previous pre-installed app was removed (at Apple’s behest)
  • Device differences remain: 12 free apps and 9 paid apps appear in both iPad and iPhone lists, but the differences point to how the devices remain distinct. The iPhone is a personal device used on the go for timely information; the iPad is a lean-back device, that can also be used for creation
  • The future: How will the list differ when the next milestone (100 billion?) is reached? Will we see Vine or Snapchat enter the free charts? Will the next wave of franchise games prove more popular than the last? Will the TV companion app to beat all other companion apps truly emerge? I’m going to chicken out of making any predictions, but any or all of the above could happen

Pictures of the charts are below, and can be clicked on to expand into a more readable version.

iphone paid ipad free ipad paid iphone free

sk

Data and trends from the iTunes store

To tie in with their 25 billionth app download (made by Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China), Apple have released the top 25 rankings for their paid and free apps within the UK iTunes App Store. Some interesting (and in some cases unexpected) things have emerged.

Data below is correct as of March 6th. Where apps are universal (ie they can be downloaded on both iPhones/iPods and iPads), I have included their reviews and rating within the iPhone charts as iPad cannot be split out (and the disparity in installed bases means it is safe to assume that the majority of actions relate to iPhones). Apple don’t release download figures, but news stories such as this one can help establish some benchmarks for estimates.

Click the images or open them in a new tab in order to make them more legible.

So what can we tell from these charts?

  • Games dominate the paid-for charts: 42 of the 50 paid apps are games, but it doesn’t dominate the free charts to the same extent – although people pay for games, they are transitory and can be superseded by sequels or alternatives – unlike information-based apps
  • Games are much better at encouraging ratings/reviews: Games have three times as many reviews/ratings as non-games: Demographics might play a factor (younger game players being more likely to rate) but many games also prompt people within apps to give reviews or ratings, as positive reviews are a major factor in deciding which app to download
  • It helps to be early: Despite ever-increasing user bases, only 4 of the top 50 iPhone apps were released after 2010. Getting in early, and reaping the benefits of large numbers of reviews and ratings, provides a strong profile even among newer users
  • Time sensitivity on iPhone is key: Nearly all of the top iPhone apps (outside of games/entertainment) are either time sensitive or impulse – social networks, news, weather, search etc.
  • Three of the top 4 iPad apps are TV catch-up services, and another four of the top apps are news services. The tablet is living up to its reputation for lean-back media consumption
  • But can the iPad also cater to business needs?  A quarter of the top Paid apps (including the number one app) are productivity or education based. This suggests the affluent, business-orientated user base are experimenting with using their iPads to replace other devices. Will this experimentation turn into habit?

sk

The perception of disruption

Network effects hasten the rate of innovation. Therefore, the rate of technological change is faster now than it has ever been (at least if my memory of Solow-style exogenous growth models is correct.

This tends to be iterative. Small, continual improvements that improve the efficiency of processes and provide new opportunities for people to achieve their desires.

But, over time, this can be problematic.

Particularly with user perceptions.

The core proposition (and branding) of a product or service will try to remain fairly constant. But feature creep will bloat and complicate.

It is even possible that some innovations will supersede the original benefit in terms of usefulness and relevance, but it gets lost in the perceptions of users since it is only additive to the core proposition.

In order to focus upon the most useful innovations, a disruption is necessary. A break with the past.

Mobile is a good example of this.

Mobiles have evolved at a rapid rate. They got smaller as technological processes improved but then bigger as new features emerged. Cameras, music players and internet connectivity all augmented the core proposition – a device to make calls on, wherever you are.

But the internet has superseded the phone network. Email and social networks (and Skype) sit alongside voice and text, along with the numerous other benefits the mobile internet offers.

And a disruption was needed to make these innovations apparent. Because ownership doesn’t equate to usage.

This disruption was led by the iPhone.

Nokia has tended to lead technological innovations, but Apple repackaged the device. It brought back usability and simplicity, with the mobile internet at the core of the offering.

Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung (NSS) may offer “smartphones” or internet enabled phones. But they are perceived fundamentally differently to the disruptors – Apple, BlackBerry and HTC/Google (ABH).

NSS represents an easy choice – a safe upgrade on something familiar with. The bells and whistles may be a bit shinier, but the phone is basically the same. And behaviour remains similar.

ABH are disruptive. They represent a new type of phone. People will think more carefully about switching. The benefits are framed in what is different or better to their current phone. Once they have invested, this behaviour needs to be justified and so they utilise the functionality. Behaviour changes.

The data from Essential Research’s Brandheld study illustrates this.

Looking purely at those claiming to own a smartphone (we gave them a consumer friendly definition outlining benefits; many wouldn’t know whether their phone allowed third party apps to be developed), there was no real difference in claimed internet use via a computer. ABH owners spend 25 hours a week online; NSS owners spend 24 hours.

But when the data for mobile internet usage is explored, a different story emerges.

  • 65% of ABH smartphone owners access the mobile internet every day; 29% of NSS smartphone owners do so
  • 78% of ABH smartphone owners access the mobile internet at all; 63% of NSS smartphone owners do so

The ABH figures are actually skewed by BlackBerry. 87% of iPhone owners say they use the internet on their phone on a daily basis. They are also far likelier to use services such as games, maps and commerce based services.

Is there hope for the incumbent? I’m not so sure. Clay Shirky noted, with regard to media companies, that there is no incentive to disrupt the core business model. Executives are used to things working successfully in one way, that they will seek to protect this for as long as possible rather than embrace the risk of the new.

Can this be combated? Maybe, but maybe not. It seems to be cyclical. Eventually the disruptor becomes the incumbent, and the process repeats itself.

On a sidenote, as previously mentioned I don’t think the iPad will disrupt the computing space. It is disrupting a market that is nascent; the mobile market was well established before it was disrupted. If anything, I think the iPad will just precipitate touchscreen laptops.

The data I used above was from Brandheld. More information about the project can be found here, and I’ve included a Slideshare presentation below that indicates some of the key findings (Although I worked heavily on the project and analysis, I didn’t write this document. As you can tell. I don’t possess Keynote and I would never include the word “insight” in a presentation)

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jesse_sneed/2383953694/

Fighting potential irrelevance

Disclaimer: My employer, Essential Research, has worked with several of the UK network providers in the past, and hopes to do so again in future. All opinions expressed in this blog post – and this blog in general – are my own.

The first to market isn’t always the ultimate category “winner”. There were cars before Ford and social networks before Facebook, to give just two examples. Incumbents may hold the greatest influence, but through innovations and developments of products and services their position is rarely fully secure. Eventually a change of business strategy will be required.

I’m wondering if this is what the mobile phone networks are about to undergo.

For the past decade or two, the networks have had the power in the mobile market. They controlled the distribution – through both spectrum and their walled garden approach to content and services. Hence the huge bidding war when the UK government auctioned off spectrum for 3G a decade ago.

But this looks to be changing, as penetration of internet-enabled handsets that access the world wide web – both on a 3G network and on Wifi – shift the focus. While the debate over open access (symbolised by Google) and closed access (symbolised by Apple) continues, it appears that the shift in focus is to the detriment of the networks but the benefits of the operating system, and thus the handset.

This article – on the news that O2 and Orange are joining an open platform for applications – says that ‘The mobile phone networks fear that at the moment they are in danger of becoming little more than “dumb pipes in the air”‘

I’m sure they have methods to standardise the services across different screen sizes, resolutions, handsets and operating systems but it will be interesting to see whether it can compete with the OS based offerings of Apple, BlackBerry, Google and Nokia.

Do this mean mobile networks will go the way of ISPs? Viable businesses, but not wielding the level of power that AOL et al were hoping to achieve.

It is possible, but not inevitable. The main issue for networks is that when they work, they are invisible. We only notice when they fail, and most people will only contact network customer care when they want to complain (sales calls/contract renewals excepted). No matter how good (or otherwise) this service is, it is still ultimately dealing with negative issues.

A handset and operating system should also “just work”, but its visibility means we can also be delighted – whether through eye-catching menus or a satisfying tactility to the buttons or touch screen.

This visibility also means the handset is more closely associated with the service. Networks are still defined by the coverage and quality of voice communication above all else.

The networks risk becoming a utility, where price and quality are the only defining features.

The need to diversify is apparent, but I don’t think this should be in applications.

Aside from the handset/OS competition, there is a huge question-mark over the long-term viability of the applications market. Should HTML5 launch and grow, the balance of power may once again shift – this time from the operating system to the software or service provider. To the consumer, the delivery mechanism is largely irrelevant – they just want the best possible service in the most convenient format.

I’m also sceptical about exclusive content deals. Orange have successfully done this in France, but it raised anti-competitive issues and, ultimately, I think audience scale will mean openness will win out (I also think this is true with handsets trying to get content exclusivity).

Instead, I think partnerships – across a range of industries – are the answer. Mobile networks already have a significant presence in certain areas – such as O2 with live music and Orange with film – and these can be extended. There are also plenty of opportunities to provide complementary services – O2 moving into finance seems like a logical step, for instance.

Like gambling, one of the hardest things in business (so I’ve been told) is knowing when to call it quits. The era of networks dominating the monetisation of content and internet-based services looks like it is drawing to close. Yet there are many potential new revenue streams to develop. Whether picking the right strategy requires the luck of the gambler or not, time will tell.

sk

Image credit: Me

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The general public doesn’t need an iPad

iPad - evolution by Steve JobsSteve Jobs’ powers of presentation and salesmanship have been well remarked upon. However, one statement in his recent keynote address launching the iPad jarred for me.

All of us use laptops and smartphones now

Who is this “us”? The people in the audience? The people in Apple’s target market? Because it certainly isn’t everyone.

Data from Brandheld indicates 24% of UK mobile phone owners aged 16 or over think they have a smartphone (given our consumer-friendly definition of one), while 59% say that they have a laptop with wireless broadband. 17% say that they have access to both.

To an extent, this is just me being pedantic. Of course everyone doesn’t have a smartphone or laptop. Not everyone has a phone of any kind, let alone food, clothing or shelter.

A device doesn’t necessarily need 95% penetration to be ubiquitous; it merely needs to be the most desirable. Look at the iPhone. While sales are still increasing, probably no more than 1 in 20 people in the UK currently own one. Yet it has defined the category.

But I think the turn of phrase is interesting because it indicates the scope of the iPad. It is not a mainstream device. Not yet, anyway.

More so than the iPod and iPhone, the iPad is a disruptive technology. The market for tablet computers isn’t yet fully defined. There is no well established pre-cursor like the Walkman or Nokia series to create consumer expectation, for Apple to then surpass. The Kindle, the e-reader et al are nothing more than niche.

Unlike the iPod and iPhone, there is no obvious unique selling point to differentiate the device. Certainly, nothing to rival “1,000 songs in your pocket” or touch screen mobile web browsing. It will be a tough sell.

The five (original) steps in Everett Rogers diffusion of innovations model are

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Trial
  • Evaluation
  • Adoption

With disruptive technologies, the challenge is getting beyond the second stage. Aside from going to the Apple store on Regent Street in London, the only opportunity people in the UK will have to trial the technology is by testing an iPad that a friend or associate purchased. The path to adoption will be very slow.

Additionally, interest piques if, in general terms, a device is able to demonstrably save someone time, money or effort. The iPad appears to be a jack of all trades, but is it a master of any?

  • Web browsing: Web browsers themselves are optimised for mouse and keyboard navigation. Nevertheless, touch-screen specific web applications can modify and improve the experience
  • Video: Video is passive, so a touch screen isn’t really relevant. For lengthy programmes, the iPad will also become uncomfortable unless some sort of docking station is purchased in addition
  • Reading: This is where the potential lies. Somewhat unfairly, the iPad is essentially a glorified Kindle. But as with the Kindle, the high outlay and the ongoing costs render it worthwhile to only the most avid readers
  • Music: There seems to be little discernable additional benefit
  • Gaming: There is some real opportunity for multi-touch gaming but there is also a danger the iPad gets caught between the more portable iPhone and the more immersive Project Natal/Motion sensitive in-home gaming
  • Photos: There are certainly advantages to storing and displaying photos, but the lack of camera on the iPad is a startling omission
  • Brushes – an application that could be genuinely useful, but it is not a deal-breaker. Unless you want to pay $500 for a glorified etch-a-sketch.

Admittedly, the first generation iPod (bulky, mac only) and iPhone (2G, no GPS or cut, copy & paste) were relatively poor. A killer feature could emerge on the 2nd or 3rd generation iPad. But at this stage, it appears to be little more than a status symbol for a small niche of technology enthusiasts to store next to their minidisc, neo geo and em@iler.

sk

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IAB Mobile Forum

Last Wednesday I attended the IAB‘s mobile forum (presentations are uploaded here).

It was an illuminating afternoon, though mainly in terms of what I didn’t take away. Mobile is still nascent as a media platform, and the industry understanding of it is still at a fairly basic (in my opinion) level.

Most information on how people use mobile seems to be on potential behaviour rather than actual (though there were exceptions).   As such, the emphasis of the event was very much on inspiration rather than effectiveness or impact. In part because of the fragmented nature of mobile (different handsets, networks, operating systems, functionality etc), it is difficult to emerge with overarching advice on using mobile.

However, it is clear that it is a medium ripe for innovation. Nearly all of the speakers had case studies as illustrations on how mobile can be used in new and interesting ways. These include:

  • Fitness First cold-texting people with information on their local gym (once people had responded with their postcode)
  • Comic Relief raising £7.8m through people messaging in to pledge donations that would be added to their monthly bill
  • The ringtone from the Cadbury’s “eyebrows” advert was downloaded over 250,000 times in less than a month
  • Pizza Hut’s pizza-building application where you can shake to remove toppings, click to order it (including regional discounts) and play a game while you wait for it to arrive
  • Ikea augmented reality tool to superimpose furniture into your living room
  • An Ocado shopping app that requires a four digit pin rather than a username/password each time you want to purchase.

Despite not coming away stunned, there were some useful pieces of information that I picked up at the event.

  • Chris Boddice from O2 made the comparison of a mobile phone to a personal assistant or life manager – it can do everything from diary management to your shopping via being an alarm clock
  • Alex Kozloff from Orange made the point that in addition to being relevant and innovative, mobile marketing also needs to reassure. Trust is much more of an issue on your mobile (it has people’s lives on it, yet there is no anti-virus or anti-phishing software) and so consumers need to be reassured that your site/brand is trusted and that they aren’t going to be surreptitiously charged for anything. For people who pay for their data, zero-rating can be used whereby the advertiser foots the data charges to visit that site.
  • Justyn Lucas from yodel warned of advertisers getting blinded by technology, and that the role of mobile should be established before deciding on how to proceed. In fairness, integrated marketing is hardly a new piece of information, but it is worth re-iterating
  • Jonathan Abrahams from Admob revealed that they are now seeing more traffic from Andriod than they are from Windows Mobile. This reinforces the asymmetry of mobile use in that while iPhones and Google phones still have relatively small penetration, they are driving the use of the mobile internet
  • The IAB’s Jon Mew said that the user experience should be paramount when browsing – from their first ad effectiveness study (for KitKat), they noted that respondents were much more likely to remember the ad if they had enjoyed browsing the site. Furthermore, regular users of the site were more likely to notice the ads (this was contrary to my assumption that the novelty of mobile ads would cause stand-out, but this effect is no different to other media platforms)
  • Tim Hussain from BSkyB had some great tips on apps – which he argued should provide a richer more creative experience for your customer. He also alluded to the asymmetry of action – in 6 weeks more people were using the Sky EPG on the iphone than on the 300 other handsets it is available on AND the pc combined. He pointed out that the iPhone has a massive advantage in that, from our iPods, we are familiar with iTunes and the iTunes store and so the comprehension barrier has already been overcome.

Tim’s six tips for apps were

  1. Understand the target audience
  2. Ensure the app is different to a mobile website
  3. Make it a destination, not a driver
  4. It should either save time or kill time (I liked this point, even if it does overlook the other uses of an app, such as inspiration)
  5. The idea should be aligned with the brand
  6. The app should be integrated to the wider campaign

Additional statistics I picked up from the event were:

  • Gartner predict that by 2012, 70% of all phones will be smartphones
  • There is an average of 37 apps per iPhone in the UK
  • Orange research suggests that 87% of mobile media users (“anything that a message can be delivered through” – so including SMS) use it at home
  • 95% of us don’t switch our phones off
  • Yahoo! is bigger than Google in mobile search (though I think this will change as iPhone/Google phones etc take share away from the network portals)

Although I didn’t pick up as much new information or knowledge as I was anticipating, it was an event worth attending. I’d particularly recommend Tim’s presentation on apps  – it can be downloaded here.

As the industry develops and matures, it is inevitable that our understanding of consumer behaviour and marketing effectiveness will improve – from my various discussions with people in the space there is definitely a market opportunity to fulfill some of these needs. I’m confident that the study I’m about to embark upon will contribute to this.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamshots/

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Foursquare uses for my iPhone

In my post on mobile yesterday, I mentioned that the mobile internet is changing people’s conception of what a mobile can do.

Initially, a mobile phone was purely about communication. This is no longer the case. Broadly speaking, there are four main ways in which a mobile phone is now used:

  • Communication
  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • Utility

To illustrate the multiple ways in which a mobile phone can now be used, I shall give personal examples of how I have been using my iPhone in the month or so I have had it.

Foursquare is Mashable’s tip for the tool that makes location-based services acceptable for the masses. It is not yet available in London, but offers a nice title for the below 4×4 (i.e. four squared) examination of my behaviour.

By the way, I am not going to do a Morgan Stanley and extrapolate one person’s experiences into the behaviour of an entire generation. This is anecdotal only.

Communication

  • Phone – this has been relegated to the position of “just another app”. On the iPhone, it has equal prominence with Mail, Safari and iPod
  • Mail – I have both my Essential and Gmail accounts set up, and reply to emails when away from my desk/home
  • Tweetdeck – my preferred Twitter client, which is free and works extremely well as an app
  • Facebook – A big driver of mobile internet use, according to this report

Information

  • BBCReader – this is an unofficial tool; the BBC should bring an official version to market as it is incredibly useful. I cache all of the top stories onto my phone memory, and then am able to browse the news while on the tube
  • NYTimes – similar to the above, except that it is official and thus much smoother. They’ve started experimenting with disruptive interstitial ads, which I am willing to put up with in exchange for free access
  • London Tube Deluxe – there are free versions available, but a handy tool to keep abreast of closures and delays, as well as planning journeys
  • Flixster – it is US focused, but it does recognise my UK location and tells me my local cinemas and the showings. I can see the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and review films I go on to see.

Entertainment

  • Slugger – the game that has seen most usage. An addictive home-run derby game, which uses the iPhone motion detector as the aim for your swing
  • iPod – ingeniously, this continues to work in the background while other apps are used. Apps themselves shut down when not in primary use, which means that if the Spotify app is approved, listeners will not be able to do anything else while using
  • Tap Tap Revenge – a Guitar Hero esque game that provides free tracks to play along to, with the option of going on to buy them
  • Simon The Sorcerer – I only downloaded this Monday and haven’t played it yet, but loved it when I was a kid. And at £1.19 it is far cheaper than any (legal) PC version

Utility

  • Calendar – it automatically syncs with Outlook but not Gmail (annoyingly)
  • Clock – I use my phone as an alarm clock. I’m not alone.
  • Camera – I still carry around a digital camera for events, but the camera is good enough for basic daylight photos that can be quickly emailed
  • Voice Memos – I haven’t had a great deal of need to use this yet. Aside from Twin Peaks impressions – “Diane, I am holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies”.

In terms of weight of behaviour, I would estimate the majority of my behaviour is centred on information and entertainment. My phone is incredibly useful in particular situations (thanks to my dodgy sense of direction) but I derive the most consistent usage on my commute. Reading material (whether free newspapers, a book or the Economist), my “standalone” iPod and my Nintendo DS are all seeing far less usage as a result.

However, this is just one anecdote. Some may use it primarily as a communication tool (whether telephony or social media) and others as a utility (e.g. Nike+).

One of the greatest things about the App store is the customization it affords us. Rather than just changing the look of a phone, we can now alter the functionality.

Therefore, if we are to understand how mobile media is to be used (and potentially how it can be monetized), we first need to understand people’s motivations and interests. And since customization is near limitless, we need to try and do this at the individual level.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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A new era for mobile?

Mobile phones on a train in Japan

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about mobile recently – partially because I have finally got an iPhone, but primarily because I am working on a project around how mobile phones fit into the media landscape.

Mobile phones as a technology are unquestionably mainstream, and have been so for about a decade. There are currently more mobile phones than people in Europe, and a recent study suggested that children get their first mobile when they are eight years old.

However, mobile as a media has taken a lot longer to infiltrate mainstream behaviour. There have been numerous false dawns in the past – notably around mobile TV – but the time for mobile does finally seem to have arrived.

And the driver for that is the mobile internet.

SIDENOTE: The mobile phone has found some exceptionally important uses in the developing world – Mo Ibrahim‘s work is a good place to start in this respect – but my research is focusing upon the West, and primarily the UK.

The four factors that have been influencing take-up of the mobile internet (in the UK at least) are

  • Faster network/connection speeds
  • Emphasis on unlimited data packages (even on pay as you go tariffs)
  • Greater choice of content
  • Better (in functionality and usability) handsets

In my opinion, the third and fourth points are a result of the iPhone. Relative penetration of the iPhone may still be low, and few of its functions may actually be “new”, but both the iPhone and the App store have changed the public’s conception of what a phone is and what it is used for.

To indicate how revolutionary it is, consider how many other phones are referred to by their brand name? Only BlackBerry, and that is arguably because it the initial emphasis was on email rather than telephony. The iPhone managed to set itself far apart from all other handsets on the market. It is aspirational and has caused other manufacturers to fundamentally change the way they design and market their handsets.

Furthermore, the iPhone has disrupted the mobile market. I believe iterative upgrading of handsets is still the most prevalent form of changing phones, but a significant minority are abandoning the previously well-formed “upgrade curve” and converging around high-end smartphones.

By changing the perception of what a phone is, a new coalition of users can be persuaded to change their willingness to pay. A person may have been willing to pay £20 per month for their mobile subscription to make calls and texts. However, that person may be willing to pay £35 per month for a smartphone subscription that gives them email, games, maps, videos and so on in addition to calls and texts.

These people may still have different levels of comfort with technology, and thus usage of the different features will vary, but the capability is there for all to engage in this new behaviour.

And that is quite exciting.

Not just in itself, but also in the effect this behaviour has on consumption of other media channels. The mobile extends the PC behaviour in complementary and competing ways, and it is important to understand the relationship that the two platforms have with one another (in addition to the other media channels – this remote record tool from Sky is a great example on how mobile can feed into the core business).

The environment is fast-moving and volatile, but it does appear that mobile is finally emerging as a media channel to be reckoned with.

I anticipate this a topic I’ll be returning to on numerous occasions – both here and on the Essential Research blog where I hope to update on the progress we are making on this project. In the meantime, I’m bookmarking all relevant articles and blogs here.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cocoarmani/

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Google Android and the Mobile Internet

I consider myself competent when it comes to navigating the internet. But mobile phones and the mobile web are alien to me.

This may soon change.

My current contract expires early next year. Previously, I have been happy with my low-price/basic-handset tariff. But the one-two punch of the iPhone and G1 is winning me over. A near-full browsing experience (excepting Flash on the iPhone) is looking extremely attractive. No more cumbersome WAP connection when I have forgotten to print off directions to my intended destination in advance. I am tempted.

To my untrained eye, there have been several barriers to mobile internet take-up which prevented myself and others from converting earlier. These have now mostly been overcome

  • Size – more features require more components. Fortunately, the miracles in miniaturisation that engineers perform are continuing unabated. It surely won’t be long before I can fit a microwave in my back pocket
  • Speed – wi-fi broadband has sorted this out
  • Cost – paying for each data transfer was a ridiculous barrier to growing this sector. A growing prevalence of all-you-can-eat tariffs is welcome, though limits need to be higher than 1gb if mobile video browsing is going to take off
  • Interest – People are increasingly using the web for entertainment as for particular information needs. Fun activities – Facebook, iPlayer, online gaming – are more compelling propositions than functional
  • Site Design – Sites will still need to be optimised for mobile screens. But this should be a lot easier now, reducing the need for alternative sites such as the text-heavy WAP versions
  • Content – it is surely inevitable that the iPhone will allow Flash. Then the only content restrictions will be licensing e.g. sports rights for Mobile and Web are sold separately. If these rights are combined at the next negotiations, another barrier has been overcome

Will 2009 be the year that the mobile internet finally becomes widespread?

sk

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misbehave/

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