Conflicting Claims: Which Smartphone Is More 'Satisfying'?

Last week the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released findings asserting that the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note II beat the iPhone 5 for customer satisfaction. The Galaxy S4 was not part of the study, which was conducted before the device's release. Somewhat Ironically, Korean consumers said the opposite: that they preferred Apple devices to Samsung's. 

Here are the US ACSI scores by device: 

Smartphone Customer Satisfaction 2013

Survey questions addressed the following areas:

  • Design (including weight and screen size)
  • General handset features
  • Video and audio quality
  • Software and ease of use (including OS and UI) 

What's interesting is that Apple rates higher than Samsung overall in the ACSI company scores -- though Samsung has closed the gap vs. 2012: 

 

Apple more handily beats Samsung in the JD Power ratings, where the iPhone 5 contributed to Apple's overall 2013 smartphone win. In the JD Power satisfaction scoring, Samsung is at the bottom of the group. How can these conflicting scores (within the ACSI and between ACSI and JD Power) be reconciled?

 

The ACSI report offers no real explanation for the Galaxy and Galaxy Note wins. Other than screen specs, Samsung's phones are not the highest quality Android devices on the market. Arguably HTC, LG and perhaps Motorola have stronger offerings from an overall quality perspective. However Samsung outspends them all (combined) on marketing, which has been the chief driver of the Galaxy line's success. 

My suspicion is that consumers are responding to screen size more than any other single variable or factor in rating the Galaxy S3 and Note II above the iPhone. This underscores the larger-screen imperative that Apple now confronts. The company needs to produce an iPhone with a larger screen. And according to multiple rumors, that will happen with the iPhone 6 though not the "5S," which is supposed to retain its current screen of just over 4 inches.

The new Google-Motorola Moto X chose not match the S4 and go to 5 inches after the company did considerable consumer research and arrived at 4.7 inches as the optimal screen span. Accordingly, an ideal screen size for a smartphone is probably right in-between the current iPhone 5 (4 inches) and the Galaxy S4 (5 inches). 

Moto X: Google Turns the Whole Phone into a Personal Assistant

There are a number of interesting things about Googlerola's just-released Moto X. First, it emphasizes design over specs. The latter had always been the hallmark of Motorola's previous Android ("Droid") phones. The new phone also allows for an unprecedented degree of customization:

  • 22 phone back covers (including wood)
  • 7 trim-band colors
  • White or black front/face

In fact, the way the phone is presented on the Motorola site makes it effectively into a fashion accessory. However that's how many people do treat their smartphones today. The customization, which is smart, is apparently made possible because the phone is manufactured in Texas (rather than China). 

But beyond those things, the phone can be activated or invoked without touching it. Users can speak commands to the phone and get responses or create reminders, set alarms and so on. Like Google Glass, Google Now can be initiated with a "wake up" phrase: "OK Google Now." This effectively turns the entire phone into a personal assistant. The TV spot linked below demonstrates this positioning and the functionality in action.

Previously Google Now and voice actions on Android devices had to be initiated by touching the screen: swiping up or touching the microphone icon. That's not required here (I haven't had a chance to use the device). Google/Motorola are using this "always ready" assistant capability to make the device stand out from both the iPhone and other Android devices. Below is one of the new TV commercials for the Moto X, which showcases how Google Now is now being "personified" -- much more like Siri than in the past.

Moto X is priced at $199 with a two-year carrier contract in the US. There will be a Google Play edition but there's no word at this point on unlocked pricing.

Facebook Winning App Game, Where's Google Maps?

There's considerable data (see, e.g., comScore) that indicate Facebook is the most popular mobile app in the US market. That extends beyond unique visitors to engagement and time spent.

Time spent with the Facebook mobile app outstrips every other individual app by a large margin. Earlier this year comScore found that 23% of all time spent with mobile apps was on Facebook. Nielsen has similar figures.

Facebook & Google: Mobile Apps by Share

Source: comScore (Q1 2013) 

Confirming just how popular Facebook's app is relative to other mobile apps are new survey findings from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The company asked 500 smartphone users and 1,000 tablet owners in the US about which mobile apps they used most often. 

The question was: "What are the three apps you use most frequently?" There were no suggested responses (no multiple choice answers). The question was completely open-ended. Below are the results: 

Among other interesting things Google Maps doesn't make an appearance in the surve results. Yet Nielsen and comScore data reflect that Google Maps is one of the most popular apps and the most popular location-based app. Mysteriously it doesn't appear here at all -- unless it's considered part of "Google." There's no clear explanation why.

Top US Mobile Apps Ranked by Unique Visitors

Source: comScore (Q1 2013)

Why the Future of Mobile Payments Looks More Like OpenTable than ISIS

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that carrier-backed and NFC-based mobile payments venture ISIS would begin rolling out nationally:

The nearly three-year-old venture, known as Isis, plans to announce Wednesday that it will launch the payment service nationwide later this year after nine months of testing . . . 

Isis said that the pilot tests' findings will be incorporated into the latest version of the system. Among other things, the test showed that active users tapped their phones for payment more than 10 times a month. Two-thirds of active users chose to receive offers and messages from specific brands, according to the test results.

While mobile payments will eventually be widespread -- different global markets are seeing varying rates of development and adoption -- the near-term future of mobile payments in the US looks less like ISIS and much more like OpenTable's new (vertical) payments offering.

The NY Times yesterday reported that the restaurant reservations app will soon incorporate no-frills mobile payments:

The payment process, still in testing, will be straightforward, Matthew Roberts, chief executive of OpenTable, said in an interview. At the end of a meal, the diner would open the OpenTable app and pay the check with the tap of a button. The diner can review the check, adjust the tip and finish the payment.

“There’s no scanning, there’s no bar codes, there’s no geeky stuff,” Mr. Roberts said. He said that OpenTable would not take a cut of each transaction if a diner paid with the app. The restaurant would be charged the typical interchange fee for a credit card transaction. The simple transactions through the app are another way to attract people to use OpenTable, which charges restaurants for reservations made through the service as well as a monthly service charge for using its equipment.

In individual store and specific vertical contexts mobile payments are starting to take hold in the US. That's because consumers see concrete value or convenience in using mobile apps to pay (parking is my favorite example). Arguably the most successful example of mobile payments in the US to date is the Starbucks app.

As a general matter, however, credit cards remain very easy to use and there's no common standard or experience available across merchants. Most US consumers don't see a justification for mobile payments in the abstract. But "in the moment" or in very specific situations consumers can recognize their value. 

The transition to NFC-based payments will probably still take years in the US market -- unless the next iPhone enables them (ISIS wants to expand to iOS). But there's a significant, immediate opportunity for vertical apps like OpenTable to cultivate consumer mobile payments usage. Mobile payments through the OpenTable app also may create more loyalty and frequency vs. competitors such as Yelp or TripAdvisor.

I believe that these very concrete use cases will help train consumers to trust and adopt mobile wallets/payments, which will eventually pave the way for services such as ISIS or Google Wallet. However it will be 3 - 5 years before there's strong, national consumer usage (and merchant adoption) of these "horizontal" payments offerings. 

By contrast people will be using OpenTable payments as soon as OpenTable flips the switch. 

Mobile Credit-Card Scanning Should Be Ubiquitous

Dan Miller and I took a briefing with Jumio this morning. Jumio is an authentication and identity management platform (mischaracterized originally as "augmented reality"). The company has been around since 2010. 

It has two major products that rely on the same technology. Netswipe helps facilitate transactions on mobile apps and Netverify enables accurate remote identity authentication for fraud prevention. I'll focus on the former but the latter is very impressive and worthy of its own discussion later.

Jumio works in the same way that Card.io did. Using an SDK developers embed the Jumio solution within their apps. When the consumer is ready to complete a transaction or check out (book a room, flight or make another kind of purchase), she merely scans the desired credit card and enters the CVV number manually. The transaction takes a fraction of the time that would otherwise be required if she were to key in 16 digits, enter her address information, etc. 

If you've already got your credit card and related information on file (see, e.g., Amazon, iTunes) there's less of a need for this approach. However developers should offer it to new customers as a way to generally eliminate barriers for consumers, and capture credit card details for faster checkout next time.

Jumio competitor Card.io was acquired by PayPal one year ago, leaving Jumio as the lone independent vendor of this type card-scanning technology. Every mobile publisher and developer should be using Jumio or Card.io to improve conversion rates and the customer experience. Beyond mobile transaction-abandonment, frustrating users reflects poorly on the brand according to many studies.

Accordingly, every mobile developer should be using a mobile card-scanning solution as one way to remove friction from mobile transactions. It's not clear why they might not, except for perhaps for ignorance, lethargy and inertia. I could also imagine this approach as an alternative to card swipes in stores, although that's less necessary.  

Jumio has adopted a flat-fee SaaS model. Customers pay a fixed monthly fee for an unlimited number of transactions. 

It's rare instance where consumer and merchant interests are entirely aligned. But here they are: more secure and faster transactions for the merchant and consumer, as well as fewer charge backs and fraud. It's kind of a "no brainer." 

Below is a promotion video that explains the Jumio Netswipe offering: 

Facebook Mobile Ad Revs Now 41% of Total

Facebook announced its Q2 2013 revenues a few minutes ago. Overall the company beat analysts' expectations with $1.81 billion in total revenue. Advertising supplied $1.6 billion of that total with payments and fees providing $214 million.

The big suprise was mobile, which was responsible for 41% of total ad revenue (or $656 million) -- up from 30% last quarter. Here are the mobile numbers: 

  • Mobile monthly active users grew to 819 million
  • Daily mobile users in Q2 were 469 million
  • There were 219 million mobile only users

Facebook monthly mobile users

The company said on its earnings call that it's investing in "mobile, measurement and product innovation." The company said it has the most effective mobile ad products and is in a position to lead the mobile ad market. Indeed the company is second only to Google now in mobile advertising revenue. 

Apple's $35.3 billion Quarter Visualized

Apple just reported a $35.3 billion quarter, which was somewhat better than a year ago and beat financial analyst expectations -- largely on the strength of iPhone sales. The company also announced profit was $6.9 billion (vs. $8.8 billion a year ago). Sales outside North America accounted for 57% of revenue.

The company sold 31.2 million iPhones (vs. 26 million a year ago). But it sold fewer iPads than expected:14.6 million. Mac sales were down but Macs outperformed the PC industry as a whole, which is slumping badly. 

Below are two charts that show the distribution of revenues by segment/geography and by product line (figures in $billions): 

Unit sales of iPads were a concern for many financial analysts. The company sold 14.6 million tablet devices compared with 17 million last year and more than 19 million last quarter. While this implies market share erosion or shift away from the iPad, today Chitika released data showing that in North America at least, the iPad's web traffic share had grown since April and now stands at just over 84%. 

June iPad traffic

Source: Chitika

While Apple continues to generate huge quarterly revenues growth has slowed or declined in some cases. Accordingly there's enormous pressure from investors to bring out new products or create new product categories: TV, wearables, etc. On the earnings call Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said, “We are on track to have a very busy fall" though he wouldn't elaborate.

New iPads and iPhones are expected to be introduced. There may even be "surprise" products such as the rumored iWatch. 

Report: Apple Considering Building a 'Phablet'

The term "phablet," used to describe devices that operate like a phone but approach the size of small tablets, is horrible. But what may be more horrible is that Apple is reportedly considering creating one, potentially mimicking Samsung's strategy of a range of devices of differing screen sizes. 

Samsung is throwing a lot of mobile device spaghetti at the refrigerator, metaphorically speaking, to see what sticks with consumers. One might even describe its strategy as "incoherent." Nonetheless Apple may be moving toward introducing more devices with various screen sizes. That's according to an article in the Wall Street Journal:

The tests with suppliers seem to suggest that Apple is exploring ways to capture diversifying customer needs when many mobile device makers offer smartphones and tablets in various sizes.

In addition to potentially developing a device in-between the iPhone and current iPad mini, Apple is also apparently experimenting with larger screens for iPads. Most of these prototype experiments probably won't come to market.  

The huge-screened Samsung Galaxy Note has proven popular; however it's unclear how many units have sold. Indeed, Samsung has been the primary creator of market demand for larger-screen smartphones. And now Apple is feeling pressure to respond with a larger-screen iPhone. However that's not likely to be the 5S, due out later this year.

It might make sense for Apple to offer two iPhones: one with the current screen (small) and one with a 5-inch screen (large). However beyond that it makes little sense for Apple to go.

When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple as CEO 1997 one of the first things he did was to simplify Apple's product lineup, which had become cluttered and confusing to consumers. This is the danger if Apple tries to follow Samsung and create multiple device screen sizes.

Consumers do want a larger-screen iPhone but they haven't been asking for multiple devices of incrementally larger screens. It's also not clear that anyone wants or cares about a larger iPad. Maybe one with a slightly larger screen would be interesting but that would need to entirely replace the current iPad.

It makes sense for Apple to have four devices at most: iPhone (two screen sizes perhaps), iPad Mini and iPad. Beyond this the product lineup becomes muddled and confusing. And to the extent that Apple seeks to imitate Samsung's approach it may indicate the company has lost confidence in its vision. 

Nokia Sells More Lumia Handsets but Not in North America

Nokia's results this morning are something of a Rorschach test. You either see them as evidence that Nokia has stalled and Windows isn't going to save the company or you can see some momentum and success -- as a promise of more future success. 

Nokia's Q2 revenue was €5.7 billion ($7.5 billion), which was down vs. last quarter (3%) and last year (24%). Lumia sales were up 32% vs. last quarter to 7.4 million units. Overall the company sold 61 million phones, almost 90% of which are not smartphones however.

Nokia said the 7.4 million Lumia unit sales reflected strong demand for the Windows Phone based handsets. However in North America the company sold roughly 500,000 devices vs. 600,000 last quarter. Accordingly demand in North America is flat, while Windows remains under 5% in terms of market share. Nokia has had more success in Europe and other markets where its brand is stronger.  

Yet Nokia has now pulled into the number three smartphone slot after Android and iOS. BlackBerry reported selling 6.8 million phones last quarter. Becoming number three was an expressed goal when Nokia selected Windows as its exclusive OS. However the question now becomes can it do better?  

My view is that Nokia will be compelled -- notwithstanding contractual exclusivity with Microsoft -- to adopt Android at some point in the not-too-distant future or remain stuck in what amounts to neutral. 

Update: The Verge reports that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was concerned that if the company chose Android that it would lose to Samsung. Thus it chose Windows Phone as its exclusive OS. That has been a very mixed experience for Nokia, obviously. I believe that Nokia with its brand and marketing resources would have been in a position to challenge Samsung for Android dominance. 

But the early window of opportunity, so to speak, has now closed for Nokia. 

Study: 97% of Mobile Search in Gas & Convenience Category Happens in Apps

In honor of the blazing US summer and road trips, xAd and Telmetrics have released more data from their "Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study," this time on consumer behavior in the "Gas & Convenience" category. The study, which combined a mobile user survey (n=2,000) and consumer behavior data (n=6,000), was conducted by Nielsen earlier this year.

As might be expected the study reflects the very mobile-centric nature of the category, which includes convenience store visits, gas purchases and minor automotive service (i.e., oil changes). 

Below are the study's key findings:

  • 85% of time in the category "is spent on a smartphone with most conducting gas price comparisons/searches"  
  • 97% of mobile search happens within an app vs. mobile web (e.g., GasBuddy)
  • 80% of smartphone search and 40% of tablet search happens on the go (out of home) 
  • 88% plan to buy within the same day (2/3 within the hour) but only 10% have a specific place/business in mind
  • Location and price were the two factors that most influenced conversions (75% sought a location within five miles)

Interestingly, the study reported that "Gas & Convenience searchers spend an average of 6 minutes per mobile search session," which is 50% more than "the average Retail mobile search session." 

The study also found that Gas & Convenience users were very open to influence and receptive to mobile advertising, especially if the ad pertains to a nearby location and/or offers a deal or coupon.