Text Messaging: Conflicting Data on Usage

Here's a curious finding from market researcher Ipsos (reported in the NY Times): U.S. data:

  • 82% of cellphone owners "never use" text messaging
  • 15% use it weekly or more frequently
  • 3% said that they used it monthly or less

If we use a base of 250 million cellphone users in the the US, that's 45 million who text. Then there's this data that seems to fly in the face of the above: SMS usage And last week there was this survey placing a very high premium on text messaging (most important features to cell phone buyers):

  • Text messaging: 73%
  • Camera: 67%
  • Ability to access the mobile Internet: 61%
  • Music features: 34%
  • Video: 33%

Reconciling these data with the Ipsos data above probably involves segmenting the findings by age.

Will Blackberry Steal the iPhone's Thunder?

Many handsets have claimed to be the iPhone killer. None have come close to living up to that label. However, the forthcoming all-touch-screen Blackberry Thunder, while not an "iPhone Killer," could provide the first truly viable alternative to the iPhone for loyal Blackberry fans.

Here are some screenshots, which make the device look impressive. What will increasingly separate the iPhone from its competitors, however, is the universe of software developers bringing rich, "native" applications to the device. Blackberry is aware of this and has launched its own fund to encourage software development.

However, as the leading U.S. smartphone many developers bring out Blackberry apps first (e.g., Google Maps with voice) to gain the broadest distribution they can as quickly as they can.

___

Related: Does O2's UK experience suggest massive "pent up" demand for the iPhone for next week's US launch? There also appears to be real traction for the iPhone in the enterprise, which is a market share threat to RIM.

Will Google Dominate the Mobile Web?

picture

Precis

Local Mobile Search Advisory
At least for now, Google has won the desktop search war. Will that translate into mobile success? Recent data reflect that Google’s brand equity and investment are turning into a substantial lead in mobile search. Will “search” become equally important in mobile and where might Google be vulnerable? The wide range of mobile devices and user experiences potentially creates openings for companies other than Google to rise in mobile and gain mindshare and market share.

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (pheadrick@opusresearch.net).


Loopt Begins Marketing Push

Seeking to distance itself from the burgeoning field of mobile social networking sites and applications (i.e., Where, Whrrl, Brightkite and so on), Loopt is starting a more traditional marketing push -- of a sort.

This is coming in the form of product placement and demos on "The Middle Show," a Web-only man-on-the-street comedy program, with "webisodes" running approximately three minutes. As MediaPost reports:

The short videos are developed with independent production studio Black20 and feature David Price, host of the Internet-only, late night-style "Middle Show," using Loopt's mobile friend-finding technology as he rocks around New York City. Each show will start with a brief Loopt message and end with a plug from Price.

Assuming some viewership for the Middle Show it's a smart strategy for visibility and user education. As LMS research indicates, most mobile users are largely ignorant of mobile social networks and their capabilities. Many also don't see a reason to use them:

Barries to Mobile Social Networking

Source: LMS/Multiplied Media (3/08, n=730)

Google Talk Now on iPhone

Some time ago I posed the question of whether mobile IM would, over time, negatively impact text messaging. Yesterday I spoke with social messaging service Bluepulse, which appears to have more global messaging volume than anyone else in this category (and dwarfs Twitter). Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL's IM platforms are also now available for mobile.

Last night Google released a version of Google Talk for the iPhone:
There are some differences from using Google Talk on your computer. For instance, in order to receive instant messages with Google Talk on your iPhone, the application needs to be open in your Safari browser. When you navigate away to another browser window or application, your status will be changed to "unavailable" and your Google Talk session will be restarted when you return.
IM on mobile is more immediate than text. Interoperability, however, remains something of barrier to IM in mobile truly becoming a viable substitute for text messaging -- for now.

___

Google Talk is also a VoIP platform as well.

Nokia Formally Approved for Navteq Acquisition

Nokia was finally, formally approved for its $8 billion acquisition of mapping provider Navteq. Navteq will become the core of Nokia Maps. The acquisition is consistent with Nokia's broader diversification strategy, seeking to remake itself as an "Internet company."

Navteq straddles both the destkop and mobile by providing mapping data, content and eventually advertising on the desktop, PNDs and in mobile.

Google Introduces Voice Search for Blackberry

From the Google Mobile Blog:

Using your voice to search for businesses is super useful in situations when you can't type, when the name of the business is long, or when you're not sure how to spell it. In other situations -- when you're in a library or a rock concert, for example -- typing makes more sense. Keeping that in mind, we designed this feature to allow you to choose whether to speak or type. Get it now on your BlackBerry Pearl by visiting http://www.google.com/gmm.

Built on the same speech recognition engine used for Goog411, Google Maps with voice search is very much like the Tellme service for Blackberry or Live Search with voice, as well as applications from V-Enable, Vlingo/Yahoo!, Nuance and others.

Google had been the last of the major providers without true "voice search," putting Goog411 aside. Now all the major Internet brands have or are integrating voice in mobile (save AOL).

It will ultimately drive more search and usage frequency. Recall that ChaCha reported 40 queries per month among many of its users and up to 150 for its heaviest users. This is about voice and its ease of use.

Survey: SMS Most Important, Internet Not Far Behind

A new online survey of mobile users (sample size not disclosed) conducted in January, 2008 by Amplitude Research has found the following features and considerations to be most important among cell phone buyers:

  • Text messaging: 73%
  • Camera: 67%
  • Ability to access the mobile Internet: 61%
  • Music features: 34%
  • Video: 33%

By contrast battery life was not a significant factor (.5%) nor was what the survey called "voice activation" (.33%). Our guess is that this latter term and category were not well defined or explained to survey respondents. And this is a case in which attitudes are not consistent with likely future behavior. We anticipate voice will play a more and more significant role in mobile going forward.

Other findings from the survey:

  • Consumer downloads: 39% added applications on their phones; 21% have added six or more of them.
  • Email and "alerts": 41% of respondents send or check email "one to five times a day." Others do this more often, while about 28% never use their mobile phones for email. Just under 40% of respondents use their phones for "alerts" (probably text/email): traffic, weather, stocks, sales at local stores and television-related updates. This latter point bodes well for opt-in marketing programs, especially discounts, coupons and sales.
  • Mobile banking/payments: Roughly 30% of survey respondents used their phones to check account balances and/or for banking transactions, while 70% said they don't. About 16% use their phones to make payments, while 84% do not.

What these data show is a mobile audience that is increasingly engaged with non-voice communication and Internet-capabilities on their phones. It suggests, among other things, that in the near term mobile Internet usage will grow dramatically given the demand for these services and capabilities.

More Lessons to Learn from Apple

The wireless carriers and OEMs have been busy developing phones that imitate and try to best Apple's groundbreaking iPhone. Most recently, embattled U.S. carrier Sprint touted the success of its iPhone-like Instinct (Samsung) and the company's stock has recently gained on the news.

There's another lesson that U.S. carriers, and Sprint in particular, could learn from Apple about customer service. Last year, on my Screenwerk blog, I contrasted the customer service experiences at an Apple and a Sprint store. Apple has successfully turned customer service into a sales and marketing tool, which is undoubtedly mapping to the bottom line.

Sprint, which lost just over a million U.S. subscribers in Q1, should be aggressively cultivating customer service improvements in an effort to prevent further losses and differentiate from its carrier rivals. While I don't have visibility across all Sprint stores in the US, lackluster customer service has not improved in my recent anecdotal experience. There are long customer wait times, even for the simplest questions and issues (e.g., product returns). And employees appear to be largely indifferent to successful customer outcomes and so on.

So while carriers are busy trying to deliver hardware to match Apple's innovative iPhone they should be equally innovating and emulating Apple in another area: customer service.

Will Dash Save PNDs from Extinction?

The Dash Express is currently the one IP-connected personal navigation device (PND) on the market. TomTom, Garmin, Magellan, Sony and others have promised this but have yet to deliver the devices. And yesterday Dash upgraded the software on the device. Since launch it has included Yahoo! Local content.

I spent some time yesterday comparing PNDs in a retail outlet. The conclusion: although millions have been sold, these are mostly kludgey devices with awkward interfaces that ultimately offer limited functionality. Maps & directions are one of the "killer apps" for mobile but those can increasingly be obtained via speech (Dial Directions) from a conventional mobile phone and smartphones (Live Search, Google Maps). The GPS iPhone in particular is a competitive threat. And to some degree an increasing number of in-car navigation systems will also put the competitive squeeze on these devices.

In order to survive as smartphones continue to gain share, PNDs will need to: 1) come down in price, 2) become connected IP devices and 3) offer considerably more content as Dash is trying to do by becoming a "platform." Garmin, seeing this writing on the wall, is introducing a touch-screen phone and entering the smartphone market as a defensive maneuver.

Beyond GPS, which doesn't always work, the one thing that these devices have going for them is a larger screen. If they do follow Dash and become platforms or mobile Internet devices, they will have a role to play in the mobile Internet ecosystem. However, if they stand still and fail to innovate and add more content they'll run their course until other more dynamic and complete devices supersede them.