Month: May 2010

Smartphone Market Shares Q1/2010

Gartner published the latest smartphone numbers for Q1/2010 (or so I read), and it is testament to the continuing rise of this segment: sales increased by nearly 50% year-on-year (and do remember that there was this recession-thing last year). Total sales were 54.3m units in the first quarter of this year. Not too shabby!

On the OS side, the rising stars are Android (9.6% global market share from 1.6% a year ago), which is now bigger then Windows Mobile (and it took it only a year!) and iPhone (15.4% vs 10.5% in Q1/2009). The silverback gorilla still is Symbian which dropped to 44.3% from 48.8%. Blackberry is also down (albeit only slightly: 19.4% from 20.6%).

Here’s a table:

Has Android Got Game?

According to a recent report, Android has zoomed past Apple in US smartphone OS share, taking the #2 spot with 28% behind Blackberry (36%) but now ahead of Apple iPhone OS with 21% (and, yes, I know that Apple somewhat lamely queried the accuracy of this). Be it as it is, Android is growing (and we all knew that, did we not?). According to Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, the company now sees 65,000 new phones being activated per day; this equates to a run rate of 23.7m for the year.

This is good news for handset manufacturers like HTC, Motorola and Samsung (all of who are shipping successful Android devices) as well as Google (which is fairly tightly embedded in the whole thing) but does it also reflect on the wider ecosystem of developers producing applications and services for the platform?

The main points that are usually mentioned are:

  • Low overall numbers: Digital Chocolate’s CEO Trip Hawkins moaned the company sold less than 5,000 units of its hit game “Tower Bloxx” on Android Market, which was indicative for the lack of uptake. If that is so overall, may remain to be seen. I beg to take into a account that Android as a platform is fairly new and the overall install base is still smaller than its competitors.
  • High price-sensitivity: according to an AdMob survey in January 2010, 12.6% of Android apps are paid vs. 20.4% on iPhone OS; the same survey revealed however that the average monthly spend was actually similar on Android ($8.36) and iPhone ($8.18) though higher on iPod Touch, which runs the iPhone OS, too ($11.39).
  • Return policy: Google allows users to return an app for a full refund within 24 hours of purchase. This is seen particularly onerous for games (a lot of which can be played start to finish inside that time frame).
  • Discovery: developers feel Google fell well short of Apple on this one. There is no possibility to discover apps from outside a mobile device (i.e. no iTunes) and Google has not really done anything in terms of marketing either (very much unlike Apple).
  • Ease of purchase: I would like to add ease of use of the buying process. Registration with Google Checkout is a far, far cry from setting up an iTunes account. This will very likely change very, very soon as Google will add carrier-billing now that it decided to move distribution of its branded Google Nexus One from D2C web-only distribution to the usual carrier model.

So what about it? Let us not forget how young Android is – even compared to the adolescent iPhone. The platform launched from an install-base of zero some 18 months ago, with the HTC G1 being the only device out there – and available through a single US carrier, T-Mobile (with a market share around 12%). Whilst I do not want to take anything away from Apple’s superior accomplishments with the iPhone, the growth of Android is not too shabby either! And with a plethora of manufacturers deploying Android-based handsets now (cf. the growth numbers above), Android is likely to be powering into the fore even more (irrespective of whether or not the above stats on it overtaking iPhone OS in the US already being true).

Price-sensitivity is not actually as bad as people think: the aforementioned AdMob survey shows nigh identical average spending patterns. Personal impressions may again be hampered with by early experiences: be reminded that, initially, there were only free apps out there. They will surely still be hanging around, but will they also for much longer?

Apple has always been extremely scrupulous on approval of applications on its platform. And whilst this may now be held against it every now and then (e.g. in the case of nipples or Pulitzer-price-winning political cartoons), it has helped it to uphold a fairly high standard of quality, which Android was lacking (initially) and which even led to “crap-filter” apps. One can however safely assume that this will change once the market size improves: Apple’s margins might be superior to everyone else in the world but that does not mean that the margins game developers can achieve with it are the same. With Android OS primed to expand at a much faster pace, the numbers will clearly speak for it, and – I would posit – that will bring more and more quality to the store, with the fads sinking fast.

Also, do not forget the big brands: they do not necessarily care for a small share of the audience only. Whilst Android was fledgling and just starting up, they may have held back but, ultimately, they are about reach, and Android is certainly bound to deliver that. I would therefore suggest that we will be seeing an influx of large brands (gaming and otherwise) onto the Android platform very soon, and this will also help user orientation as to what to go for and what not.

The discovery of apps will also be helped by the more open nature of Android. There have been a number of announcement for curated stores by carriers (e.g. Vodafone, Orange, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, etc.), and these will certainly not be allowing a free for all! Besides that, the app store model does per se pose some challenges on developers: the more successful a platform (and/or store) is, the harder it is to be discovered. One might need to look for other solutions in that respect…

The billing side of things is bound to improve, too. With carrier-billing around the corner (cf. supra), this will get easier and better. And also easier and better than it is on the iPhone: charges will simply appear on your carrier bill (smart pipe anyone?). Besides that, the business models for games are undergoing significant changes anyhow: Freemium takes centre-stage, and so it should: the model allows people to try a game out and be charged for it only when they know that a) they like it, b) what they are being charged for (e.g. that coveted sword, a couple of precious lives, or that cool background theme).

Remains the return policy. I have been raising this with Google, and it must be pointed out that similar things exist on the iPhone (they’re just “better” hidden). So besides the obvious (Google’s good intentions came back to haunt them), it is also time to think of new business models (cf. Freemium). It is not something constrained to Android: transparency requires you to deliver value. If you do, there are good and transparent means to monetize that value; and users will follow.

So, yes, there is game in Android. If you don’t believe it now, just wait for it! 😉

Carnival of the Mobilists # 222

Here it is, the May Bank Holiday edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists. For those not in the know: it is a weekly write-up of the best and brightest in the world of mobile-(related) blogging and is being hosted each week on another blog; this week it’s me… 😉 The easiest way to follow the Carnival every week is to subscribe to the Twitter stream of the formidable Peggy Anne Salz.

So here’s what this week has in stock for you:

James Coops from Mobyaffiliates provides us with an excellent overview of mobile affiliate networks, a fairly fresh approach to carry the multi-billion dollar online equivalent to mobile.

Jay Ehret asks the question that normally costs a round, namely “Is it the Year of Mobile yet?“. And he has a refreshingly clear look at it: a) it is impossible to throw all of the various mobile marketing things (SMS, mobile web, LBS, mobile wallets, m-commerce, etc) into one bucket, and right he is!, b) he reckons that it is certainly time for mobile now since low entry barriers and cost basically make it a ride you cannot lose.

Dr Jim Taylor delights us by adding a few more acronyms to the mix: NEI is the new TMI. The “I” stands for information and Jim looks how the wealth of available information and the way people handle it may reflect upon larger sociological developments. Very thoughtful stuff!

Ajit Jaokar from the OpenGardensBlog looks at the decline of fixed line and wonders if we’re all erring, namely because the wires are needed to take the data load off (hyper-)broadband mobile networks. He then wonders if one shouldn’t think mobile and fixed-line as one and design accordingly.

Peggy Anne Salz points us to a podcast on app store marketing. With nigh on 70 app stores and gazillions of apps, discovery, marketing and sustained usage are issues central to the distribution (and revenue!) strategy of every app developer (I for one certainly bookmarked it).

Tego Interactive’s Alfred de Rose queries whether Apple needs an iPhone in the enterprise (he thinks it doesn’t, and his arguments are very noteworthy!).

And, finally, Rudy de Waele announced the next edition of the wonderful event that is Mobile 2.0 Europe, which will take place in beautiful Barcelona – and not in rainy February either but on 17 June. Book your tickets here. Next to it, there will be the AppCircus, a unique traveling showcase of the most creative and innovative apps presented by their creators at top events around the world.

And that’ll conclude this week’s carnival. Make sure to clue yourself up, read, listen, ponder, share and discuss!

Next week’s edition will be hosted by James Coops at his MJelly Blog.

Mobile Zeitgeist Special on Mobile Marketing

The most excellent German-language blog on all things mobile, Mobile Zeitgeist, has recently published one of its MZ Specials on mobile marketing and advertising. Besides yours truly contributing (pp. 11 et seq.) it is a thoroughly good read.

Go here to download your copy!

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