Hardware

Millennial Seeing 'Hundreds of Millions' of Kindle Fire Ad Impressions

Millennial Media is out this morning with its latest "Mobile Mix" devices report. The report reflects the distribution of devices and corresponding operating systems on Millennial's network. Over time the percentage of smartphones on Millennial's network has grown dramatically and now stands at 70%. By contrast smartphone penetration in the US is about 44% according to the latest Nielsen figures. The other 30% of devices on the Millennial network are feature phones (14%) and so-called "connected devices" (16%): iPod Touches, Kindles, iPads and other tablets.

Connected devices are the main focus of Millennial's newsletter this time, in particular the Kindle Fire. Millennial confirms the popularity and apparently significant sales of the Kindle Fire, saying that the company is seeing a "monthly run rate of hundreds of millions of impressions":

Since its release in mid-November, the Kindle Fire has made an impact on the connected device market right out of the gate with early signs of strong consumer adoption.

On the Millennial Media platform, impressions from the Kindle Fire have grown at an average daily rate of 19% since its launch several weeks ago. We’re not just seeing millions of impressions, we’re seeing a monthly run rate of hundreds of millions of impressions.

The Kindle Fire’s impression growth on our platform has slightly outpaced that of the iPad when the iPad launched in early 2010. Though the Kindle Fire has been introduced into a more mature tablet market than the market which greeted the original iPad, the integration of Amazon’s robust digital entertainment library and the $199 price point may also have helped drive this early use by consumers. (emphasis added.)

The question raised in the excerpt above is whether "the $199 price point may [ ] have helped drive this early use by consumers." It's pretty clear the answer is "yes." The Amazon brand has certainly been critical, but it's mainly the $199 price that is responsible for the device's huge sales. The iPad created the new market for tablets and Kindle unlocked demand among those who we're more price sensitive and resisted buying "no-name" lower-priced Android tablets. 

Among the smartphones on Millennial's network, 50% are Android based handsets. However, save the Nook and Kindle Fire, Google/Android tablets have had almost no success for reasons of price and quality.

http://www.retrevo.com/content/files/images/misc/pulse_11Dec15_chart2.jpg

Retrevo presented some interesting survey data yesterday showing consumer tablet demand is greatest for the iPad, followed by the Kindle Fire and then the B&N Nook. Retrevo shows that there is a market for Android tablets -- the Kindle Fire has already confirmed that -- provided the price is right and at least $100 less than the iPad. 

http://www.retrevo.com/content/files/images/misc/pulse_11July13_1.jpg

Putting aside quality for a moment -- Android Honeycomb was a major disappointment from a UX perspective -- price is the major variable that consumers are responding to in Kindle Fire (but with the confidence of the Amazon brand behind it). The problem is that it's almost impossible for most tablet OEMs to get prices low enough to make any margin on them and be price-competitive.

If they match the iPad pricing they're perceived as imitators (e.g., Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab). But mobile carrier subsidies, which bring down the prices of smartphones, have not worked so far stimulate Android tablet demand -- mainly because consumers don't want another two-year carrier contract and the associated data fees. They're buying WiFi tablets instead. 

Android-based tablets that have been priced at or below $200 in the past have been made by companies that are unfamiliar to consumers and received poor quality ratings from experts and consumer reviewers alike. Even though Kindle Fire has had its share of problems and disappointed many reviewers, consumers know and like Amazon.

It was also shown that Amazon was taking a loss on the sale of every Kindle Fire, to establish a beachhead in the tablet market and because the company figured it could make up the loss and much more on content sales. 

There are rumors that Apple will introduce a 7" tablet next year to compete with the Kindle Fire, just as Amazon will go "up market" and deliver a 10" tablet.

Google, for its part, has suggested that it will respond to lagging Android tablet sales by bringing its own "higest quality" tablet to market next year. We'll see whether this is with an OEM partner or Google-branded (i.e., Chrome or Nexus tablet). Google is clearly another company -- one of the very few -- that could offer the combination of brand-instilled consumer confidence and subsidized pricing.  

Most Mobile Shopping Happening at Home

I've now written a number of posts, yesterday most recently, that point out most mobile shopping and purchase activity is not happening in stores or "on the go," but at home. Data vendor Compete last week released some findings from its most recent smartphone user survey that confirm this. 

What Compete found is that mobile "shopping" (not buying) was largely performed in the home or, to some degree, at work. What's significant here is that people are choosing to use mobile devices (smartphones typically) when they likely have access to a PC. 

A significant minority of people (34.5%) used their devices in stores (price checks, reviews, coupons) and another sizable group (28.6%) shopped while killing time. 

Below are the most common mobile shopping activities. Note that the largest category is "store information" (people preparing to visit a store location). According to Compete "made a purchase" just missed the list with 31.8% of people reporting making a purchase on mobile devices. 

http://blog.compete.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/mobile-shopping-activities.png

How Soon Will We See Smartphones with 'Special Offers'?

The notion of ad-subsidized smartphones or mobile service has existed for years. Way back in 2006 then Google CEO Eric Schmidt argued that mobile phone service could be entirely subsidized by advertising. A couple years later in the UK Blyk brought the idea to life, providing free service to its youthful audience as an MVNO.

However the company changed its model and is no longer in the MVNO business. One could readily see the pivot as an admission of the limited opportunity associated with providing ad-supported cell service. However in an adjacent market (eReaders/tablets) Amazon has had great success with its ad-supported Kindles.

After the Kindle Fire, which is the top-selling device on Amazon, the bestselling electronics are all Kindles "with special offers" (ads).

Screen shot 2011-12-04 at 7.40.24 AM

Ads on Kindles appear in the form of idle homescreen ads and banners. The idea of idle homescreen advertising on mobile phones has been around for a long time in the halls of mobile marketing. Mobile Posse has implemented it with some evidence of success. However the practice is far from mainstream. 

In a recent article in DM News Bizo CEO Russell Glass, seemingly unaware of prior history, says: "Look for the first completely ad-supported 
cell phone in the next 12 months and dozens to follow in the coming few years." Putting aside Blyk and Mobile Posse's mixed track records the Amazon example may be paving the way for such an opportunity. 

While it's very unlikely that we'll see "completely ad-supported" mobile phones any time soon, we may see Amazon-style ad-subsidized hardware or phone service. The latter is a much more likely scenario given how heavily subsidized the hardware already is. And this is where carriers might get involved in mobile advertising in a bigger way. (I still think that a parallel opportunity exists in the model of the Placecast-AT&T or O2 relationships.)

One can imagine that many people would jump at reduced monthly charges in exchange for ads on their idle/home screens, as Amazon seems to have shown with hardware discounts. And carriers could potentially develop fairly large ad networks in short order. Execution is a major problem for carriers but the concept has now become more interesting and viable. 

Women Outnumber Men As Smartphone Owners

In the US market there are now more female smartphone owners than men according to recent data from Compete (n=535). The percentage breakdown of women to men is 53% to 47%. Men were early adopters of smartphones and now women have more than caught up. 

Indeed, while men are a valuable audience target in mobile, the "smartphone mom" may be the true prize for marketers. 

Smartphone Owners: Men vs. Women (US data)

Compete also released some other gender breakdowns, such as smartphone activities. Men watch more movies on smartphones, while women do more of almost everything else:

 Smartphone Owners: Activities by Gender (US data)

smartphone activities

It's not clear that there are any immediate tactical takeaways from this, except that targeting smartphone owners of either gender is increasingly important for marketers. 

On a related note, comScore released smartphone marketshare data today, showing that Android now how more than 46% US market penetration. 

Why an Amazon Smartphone Could Work and a Facebook Phone Might Fail

In the world of rumors the Facebook phone has played peekaboo over the past couple of years. Now it's been revived, with the claim that it will be made by HTC. The idea here is deep integration of Facebook and its various social features into a modified Android handset.

However there have already been a number of "Facebook phones": 

None of these handsets sold particularly well as far I'm able to tell. And with the wide availability of Facebook apps and a good mobile website, there's really no reason to buy a "Facebook phone," unless it's got some really compelling features or is super cheap.

It's difficult for me to imagine what those features might be. I'm over 40 but for younger audiences, the idea of a phone deeply integrated with Facebook might be exciting. Privacy and tracking would be another potential concern for me with a Facebook phone. 

Radically cheap would also be the main reason to buy an Amazon smartphone. With Kindle Fire as the model, one could imagine the e-tailer aggressively subsidizing its handset to the point of zero consumer cost up front (one could also imagine an ad-subsidized model). That would be the reason it could potentially succeed: if it were extremely inexpensive or free, combined with Amazon's content and storage offerings. 

However if it were to compete without such near-total subsidies, on equal footing with other Android handsets, the outlook for the Amazon smartphone is considerably diminished. 

Another, radical scenario for Amazon would involve it becoming an MVNO (on the Sprint network) with dramatically reduced data plans paired with its hypotehtical phone.  

Low-Priced Android Tablets Abound, iPhone Loyalty Exceeds

Tablets are at the top of many holiday wishlists and smartphones aren't very far behind. Both are being aggressively promoted online and in stores this weekend in the US. Heavy price discounting should move a lot of Android tablets (and handsets). Laptop and PC sales generally may suffer as a result.

Below, for example, US wireless carrier Verizon is selling the Motorola Xoom 10" and Samsung 7" tablets for $199 and $149 respectively. Both require commitment to a two-year contract, something most US consumers have thus far shunned.

Screen shot 2011-11-25 at 9.22.21 AM

Online retail giant Amazon is featuring a broad range of discounted tablets, beyond its own Kindle line, with many under $300 and some falling under $100. So while the iPad has the overwhelming share of tablet-based traffic today it's almost certain that will be diminished after the holidays.

Aggressive price discounting has emerged as the key to driving non-iPad tablet sales (first the HP TouchPad and then Kindle Fire). But this is a very dubious blessing for Android tablet OEMs, who may find their margins on tablets reduced to almost nothing. Apple by contrast has not had to lower prices to get attention or maintain share. We'll see what happens after the holidays. 

http://royal.pingdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/ipad-web-browsing.0011.jpg

What we're seeing now is the bi-bifurcation of the tablet market. There's a higher-end segment ($500 and above) dominated by the iPad, with almost no competition, and a lower-end segment ($250 and below) dominated by Amazon's Kindle line and Nook. Other OEMs are getting squeezed in the middle, unable to compete on quality at the high end or price at the low end for the most part. There are some "no-name" tablets priced lower than Kindle. 

This looks like the smartphone market, with inexpensive Android models driving rapid penetration across carriers and the iPhone appealing to higher-end consumers. There are obviously exceptions and some of the "flagship" Android devices have done well. Yet Android has not yet been able to establish the kind of brand identity and loyalty that the iPhone has enjoyed. 

A recent survey by GFK found that:

  • 84% of iPhone owners would remain with Apple next time
  • 60% of Android owners said they would stay with Android
  • 48% said they would remain with RIM

GFK also found that content and apps were keys to device/operating system loyalty:

As consumers build digital ecosystems and their own world of content on handsets, the study shows that their loyalty to their smartphone brand increases with the number of apps and services they use. The research reveals that the tipping point for loyalty is when a consumer uses seven or more services on their device.

Consumers in the US are the most likely to use seven or more services (61%), followed closely by China (56%) and Brazil (53%). In comparison to this, European countries use fewer services on their smartphone; France and Italy (46%), Germany (45%), Spain (43%) and the UK (42%)

This survey also reveals the uphill battle that Windows Phones now face as they try to "break in," although more than 50% of the market still don't have smartphones -- which remains a substantial opportunity. 

Windows Phones: Apps Gaining, Awareness Growing, Outlook Uncertain

There are three pieces of data recently out that paint a modestly upbeat, if mixed, picture for Windows Phones. Though Nokia's Lumia phones are not being released in the US until next year, awareness and potential demand for the Microsoft-powered devices in the US are rising (with Samsung and HTC models available).

According to recent survey data from The NPD Group, among those seeking to buy a smartphone within the next six months, a meaningful percentage of would-be smartphone buyers are considering a Windows Phone. Here are a few survey highlights: 

  • Android holds greater interest than other mobile OS (among 63% of respondents)
  • However 44% "of smartphone owners, and those who intend to buy one, are considering purchasing a Windows Phone 7"
  • Yet 45% of surveyed consumers are "still not aware of Windows Phone 7" 
  • Among those not interested in Windows Phones, 21% said the were "too invested" in another OS (iPhone, Android).

The availability of apps is critical to the near and long-term success of Windows Phones. To that end Distimo, which tracks app store inventories and downloads, released data showing strong growth of apps in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace:

  • The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is the fifth largest OS application store worldwide
  • The most popular category in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is Games. Other popular categories are Tools & Productivity, Entertainment and Travel & Navigation.
  • Paid applications in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace have grown continuous [sic] with almost 1300 new paid applications every month. Free applications have increased on average by 1650 new free applications month-over-previous month.
  • The number of publishers has consistently grown since the launch of the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace with 700 new publishers per month.
  • Nearly 50% of all applications are available in the 17 countries in which the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace was originally accessible. One-third of all applications are available in all 35 countries.
Windows Phone Marketplace stats

Overall the Windows Phone Marketplace now has roughly 40,000 apps according to All About Windows Phone. While this is a fraction of what's in the iTunes app store or Android market, The Windows Marketplace is just a year old this month. Microsoft is currently running a promotion where they give new Windows Phone buyers $25 to spend on apps.

This positive momentum is tempered by a widely covered "downgrade" of the new Nokia Windows Phones. An analyst at Pacific Crest Securities cut his forecast for Nokia Windows Phone sales by 75% (from 2M to 500K). This was based on his view that Nokia Windows Phones were not sufficiently differentiated and were without "breakthrough innovation." He also believed they were not aggressively enough priced to generate significant demand. 

However Nokia has said it will use price to compete. One must also recognize that this is one person's judgment based on preliminary information. Yet if this prediction comes true and another year of Nokia-Windows phones goes buy with unimpressive sales (and Nokia's share continues to decline) it will signal a major problem (even panic time) for both Nokia and Microsoft. 

Amazon Might Own Android Tablet Market

I've not had my hands on an Kindle Fire but the reviews are generally fair to negative, except in the context of its price: "a good tablet for the price" is the consensus. And consumers are responding to that price in large numbers. Amazon will sell millions of Kindle Fire tablets to existing Kindle owners and to some would-be iPad buyers seduced by the $199 price and the assurances of the Amazon brand.

Amazon is also intending to release a larger version of the Kindle Fire next year, though it won't be quite as large as the iPad. Putting aside the Nook and hypothetical Windows tablets, Amazon's Kindle Fire is instantly the most successful tablet after the iPad by a huge margin.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 10.41.56 AM

Until someone else comes along with a cheaper, better Android tablet Amazon owns the market. So when the dust settles early next year after holiday sales are over it will effectively be a two tablet market: Apple vs. Amazon. I say "Apple vs. Amazon" because Amazon has effectively obscured all Android (and Google) branding. Most people buying a Kindle Fire don't know or care that they're buying an "Android device." 

It's possible that Samsung or HTC will build a competitive tablet featuring Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"). But the current crop of Gingerbread and Honeycomb tablets simply "blow" (as they say in the vernacular) by comparison to the iPad. It would also be very challenging for any Android tablet maker to match Amazon's pricing given that the company is effectively taking a loss -- sellig the device for less than it costs to make on the assumption that it will increase product and content sales for Amazon.

There is a scenario where wireless carriers give away some future, stellar Android tablet in exchange for two year contract commitments. However, consumers are basically loathe to enter into a second set of wireless contracts beyond the ones they already have for their smartphones. WiFi tablets are more popular than carrier-subsidized tablets. It's therefore a much longer shot.

Recent consumer surveys from Retrevo, Nielsen and ChangeWave have shown increasing demand for tablets, with the iPad leading the group but with Kindle also in the clear second position.

As tablets replace PCs for some people the question of how other PC OEMs repond to the Apple-Amazon challenge becomes a major, strategic question. As Samsung, Dell and others have already shown, they can't (so far) match Apple on quality or hardware-software integration. And they can't match Amazon on price.

Thus until the forseeable future it's a two tablet race. And right now Amazon owns Android. 

The Decline of RIM and 'Consumerization' of IT

One of the big trends of the past few years has been the "consumerization of enterprise IT." This manifests in various ways, including the emergence of enterprise "social" tools that mimic consumer sites and user experiences (e.g., Salesforce's Chatter). Another way in which enterprise IT is changing is that workers now have more choice about the devices that they can use on the network.

RIM's stronghold and bulwark against irrelevance had been the corporate IT department, but that's no longer the case. The iPhone is now the top smartphone in the enterprise according to a new survey, the iPass 2011 Mobile Enterprise Report (based on 2,300 responses from workers at 1,100 enterprises globally).

Below are a selection of data presented in the survey report:

  • 95 percent of mobile workers now have smartphones, up from 85 percent in 2010
  • 91 percent use their smartphones for work, compared to 69 percent in 2010
  • Tablet ownership has grown to 44 percent of mobile employees, up from 33 percent in Q2 of 2011
  • The iPhone is now the top smartphone in the enterprise with 45 percent market share among mobile workers, up from 31 percent in 2010.
  • Only 28 percent of mobile workers are given no choice when it comes to smartphone selection; the majority of enterprises offer their employees some choice (62 percent) – 44 percent can select from a list of smartphones, and an additional 19 percent can use any device they choose to access corporate resources.

Current enterprise smartphone share:

 Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.21.01 AM

Intention to buy smartphones in 2012:

 Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.07.17 AM

Current tablet share in the enterprise: 

 Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.07.37 AM

Another interesting finding is that a growing number of workers (especially younger workers) leave their laptops at the office more frequently. Roughly 42% of workers said they left their business laptops at the office at least several days a week because they have alternative devices at home. 

Question: Do you leave your business laptop at work on weekends/evenings and just use your smartphone or tablet?

Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.08.01 AM
In tandem with the above finding the survey discovered that roughly 25% of respondents said they were using their laptops less today than a year ago. 

Android Dominates Q3, iPhone Top Device

According to Gartner, phones running the Android OS "sold" (read: shipped) at dramatically higher rates in Q3 than competing platforms. As the chart below reflects, Android's share of Q3 smartphone shipments more than doubled vs. last year. Nearly all others declined.

The iPhone was almost at parity with Symbian, which declined by more than 50% vs. 2010. RIM and Microsoft also declined. 

 Screen shot 2011-11-15 at 5.53.38 AM

Looking at overall mobile operating system share on a global basis, StatCounter shows Symbian still leading. Apple's iOS and Android are essentially tied about 10 points behind Symbian.  

Screen shot 2011-11-15 at 5.59.53 AM

In the US, NPD Group said that in Q3 Apple had the top-two selling smartphones: 

  1. iPhone 4
  2. iPhone 3GS (now free)
  3. HTC EVO 4G
  4. Motorola Droid 3
  5. Samsung Intensity II

Windows Phones Will Be Most Directly Competing with Android

Windows Phone (especially after the 7.5 "mango" update) has received positive reviews -- some extremely positive. I have one of the Samsung Windows Phones and have been using it periodically for several weeks and can attest to some of the accolades. The browser for example is very fast. I also like the operation of email on the handset.

Some of the various reviews assert that the Microsoft OS has "caught up" to Android and iOS. And with the release of the first Nokisoft phones, the future looks much better for Microsoft's mobile efforts (and maybe for Nokia) than it did a year ago.

However, right now at least, the best prospects for Windows Phones are feature phone users upgrading to a smartphone. These are people who generally speaking haven't been living with and become "acculturated" to an iPhone or Android device -- although the iPod Touch and iPad expose non-smartphone users to iOS.

There's almost zero chance that an iPhone user is going to switch to a Windows Phone at this point. By the same token the chance that an existing Android user will switch is low, though not as low as with the iPhone. iPhone owners display greater loyalty than Android owners. By my logic, then, Windows Phones are most likely competing for attention from those individuals considering upgrading from a feature phone to an Android handset. (Although the iPhone 4 is now $99 with a contract.)

In addition, Windows Phones are probably not competing with the top-of-the-line Android handsets (e.g., Samsung Galaxy, HTC Rezound, Moto Razr). They'll be competing more at the entry level, although Nokia's Lumia handsets are not positioned as entry level devices. To win buyers, however, they'll need to be priced as though they were entry level smartphones.

Windows Phones must generate sales to show that the platform has traction in order to make their case to developers. Without developers and a sufficient supply of desirable apps, Windows Phone will remain a second-tier OS. For higher-end users, Microsoft also needs to "answer" Siri with some compelling voice capabilities in future updates. 

There's no word on precisely when the new Nokisoft handsets will be available in North America. They'll come first to Europe and then perhaps Asia and the developing world before the US market. This makes sense because Nokia's brand is much stronger in Europe and developing markets, where the company is known for cheap devices. 

To compete in the US these Nokia handsets -- and Windows Phones in general -- must be priced at or below $150, and probably $99, with a two-year contract. That's chiefly because they don't have the apps ecosystem to compete with Android. Until they do this is a major deficiency and competitive disadvantage. That's why price is key. But Microsoft knows all this.

If I were a US-based marketing executive for Windows Phones I would secure carrier relationships that allowed pricing at $99 (with a contract). Then I would target smartphone upgraders (low-end Android buyers) and make the case that the Nokia-made devices are better.

I would also be very aggressive with developers. For example, I would pay them to port over their most popular apps to Windows, which appears to be what Microsoft is doing. And I would allow them to keep 100% of the proceeds of app sales for the first year on the platform -- maybe the first two years. 

All of this positioning advice is just based on my instincts and market observations (rather than survey data). But Microsoft and Nokia need to "get it right" or potentially miss a window of opportunity. And without some initial success and perceived momentum, both developers and carriers will be less interested going forward. 

Why Kindle Fire Will Do Well: Price, Brand

By almost all measures Android tablets have been a flop so far. The most "viable" of the Android tablet family, Samsung's Galaxy Tab line, offers a weak software experience and poor hardware-software integration. But the Kindle Fire -- and to a lesser degree the Nook line -- may vindicate Android in tablet form.

However the success of those devices has little or nothing to do with Android. This is especially true with Kindle Fire. (Amazon has probably compensated for the software shortcomings of Android on tablets with its own layer on top of the OS.)

The apparent popularity of the Amazon device is about two things: its $199 price tag (the major driver of sales) and the Amazon brand. The latter gives consumers confidence that it will likely perform as promised and builds on Amazon's successful track record with Kindle.

According to Retrevo survey data, there's a sizable group who might substitute the Kindle Fire for the iPad during the holidays. 

 

While there have been other cheap Android tablets in the past, the difference here is that the Amazon brand and promise of content through Amazon Prime gives people confidence to buy it sight unseen. Amazon Prime would otherwise cost $79 per year. Indeed, with that factored in as "opportunity cost," Amazon is going be losing money on Kindle Fire. We should thus see the device more broadly as a marketing vehicle and loyalty play for Amazon. It will help Amazon sell more stuff in general. 

 

The survey also found that a meaningful number of people may add a second tablet to their growing inventory of gadgets. Here the 7" form factor and perceived benefits of having the Amazon device may cause people to buy a Kindle Fire if they already have an iPad. 

The anticipated success of the Kindle Fire tablet could light a fire under the 7" tablet segment more broadly but not unless those devices are priced competitively. Those 7" tablets (e.g., from HTC, Samsung) that cost more than $250 will probably sit on the shelves. And those 10" Android tablets that cost $499 or more will be seen largely as copies of the iPad and sit on shelves as well. 

The strength of the Amazon brand, the success of earlier Kindle devices and the aggressive pricing (including Amazon Prime) will create success where other Android tablets have failed. The Android "brand" may even be something of a liability in the tablet segment right now. And most Kindle Fire prospects and early buyers probably have limited or no awareness of the device's operating system at all. 

The 'Speech Interface' Now a Must-Have on Phones (and Tablets)

Earlier my colleague Dan Miller wrote up the news that Amazon had acquired speech provider Yap yesterday. So begins a ridiculous "Siri Killer" meme.

What's more interesting however is how Siri, less than a quarter out in its current form, is already reshaping the calculus of what features and capabilities mobile devices must have or offer their users. Call it the "speech interface."

Dan Miller, who is probably the foremost analyst-authority on voice and speech services, has much deeper knowledge of speech recognition and its related manifestations than I. However in my more limited experience I can tell you that Siri offers the best speech user-experience I've encountered to date. (Nuance provides the voice recognition for Siri.) 

As a long-time Android user I've had good experiences with Google's voice search and voice actions and I've had very frustrating ones. Siri (+Nuance) is better. And the way that Siri is integrated into the iPhone 4S (with more to come) is much more compelling than a voice overlay. Siri's "personality" matters as well. It's not only driving engagement and usage it has become a major differentiator and sales-driver for what was otherwise a less-than-compelling product release. 

Sure Android has "voice actions." But Apple has "Siri." You get the difference. 

Google and Microsoft already have considerable speech assets but both will need to "up their game" to compete more effectively. Accordingly we can expect more acquisitions in the voice segment as these companies (and others) create their own versions of the speech interface. This will eventually extend to TVs, cars and other "appliances."

I suspect "virtual assistant" Vlingo will be acquired, because it provides the "assistant" capability as well as speech recognition. (However litigation between Vlingo and Nuance operates as something of a cloud over any potential takeover.)

In a presentation I gave on a range of topics yesterday at the Local Social Summit in London I said Siri is to voice commands and “voice search” what the iPhone was to smartphones in 2007: a breakthrough experience that forces competitors to respond. I guess Amazon just did. 

Amazon, which doesn't have a smartphone, will clearly be integrating voice control and commands into Kindle Fire. Siri isn't yet available for the iPad but that's probably one of the new features that will be bundled into iPad 3. 

Does the Market Want Another Open OS to Compete with Android?

I would argue that Android owes its success directly to the iPhone. Putting aside the claims that Android "stole" the iPhone's look and feel, carriers and hardware OEMs had no response to the iPhone in 2007 other than Android. Hence the carrier and OEM embrace of the Google OS. It was something of a marriage of convenience.

Despite the incredible success of Android, handset makers' relationships with the platform might be described as "ambivalent." They want to avoid becoming merely "commodity producers" of Android devices and reduced to the fate of their desktop brethren, which essentially became vendors of nearly indistinguishable "gray boxes" running PC Windows. Accordingly HTC, Samsung and Motorola have tried to develop, unsuccessfully I would argue, proprietary software on top of Android to differentiate from one another. 

While the new Windows Phone OS represents an alternative to Android, none of the hardware makers other than Nokia has enthusiastically embraced it. If it sells well for Nokia we might see that change. But there are those who also argue that Microsoft risks alienating other hardware OEMs with its Nokia favoritism. 

All this makes me wonder if the market wants yet another open-source OS as an alternative to Android. Reportedly Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, is working on a mobile operating system "based on the Web, as opposed to what the project’s wiki calls 'proprietary, single-vendor stacks.'” But this doesn't appear to be viable in the near term as an Android alternative.

What about WebOS? HP was going to kill it. But since the abrupt replacement of CEO Leo Apotheker with Meg Whitman many of his decisions are being reversed. The fate of WebOS is unclear right now and may be decided this year or early next. But what about making WebOS an open-source Android competitor? 

I'm not a developer or engineer but WebOS was and is positively regarded by the developer community; it has just been mismanaged and poorly marketed. But my view is that if HP were to turn it into an open-source mobile operating system there would be takers and it could gain new life. My suspicion is that makers would be interested in a high-quality alternative to Android to further diversify their handset lineups and give themselves some additional leverage vis-a-vis Google. 

WebOS's app ecosystem is paltry by comparison to iOS and Androids but that could be rectified over time. 

I think an open-source WebOS is intriguing; however HP doesn't have a direct way to benefit from it as Google benefits from Android with advertising. Whatever it decides about the fate of WebOS I hope HP doesn't kill it outright.

Samsung Might not Be Smartphone Leader for Long -- IDC

With the caveat that these numbers are focused on "shipments" and not sales, IDC confirms other hardware-tracking firms' estimates showing that Samsung took the global smartphone crown from Apple in Q3. However, the firm said that the iPhone 4S should challenge the Korean company's newly established leadership position.

Samsung and Apple are engaged in an increasingly bitter, global legal dispute over patents, which has just become an EU anti-trust investigation as well. Amazingly, Samsung remains one of Apple's major suppliers. 

According to the IDC data, Taiwan-based HTC also experienced triple-digit growth on the strength of its Android device sales. 

Screen shot 2011-11-04 at 6.34.32 AM

In the chart above, Nokia is off nearly 40%. But this is "BW," before Windows Phones. The firm just released its first Microsoft-based phones, which have received positive but not spectacular reviews.

In the "others" category presumably is Windows Phones generally. In the US, Microsoft's mobile market share stands at either 7% or 5.7% percent according to Nielsen and comScore respectively. 

US Smartphone Share Over 50% for Younger Users, Half Have Apps

Earlier this morning Nielsen released its latest smartphone data for the US market:

  • 43% smartphone penetration overall
  • Android: 43%
  • iPhone: 28%
  • RIM: 18%
  • Windows: 7%
  • Others: 4%

By comparison comScore says that 36% of mobile phone owners have smartphones. However the most recent comScore data show a comparable share distribution for Android and the iPhone (43.7% vs. 27.3%).

Nielsen also reported that smartphone ownership for those under 45 is much greater than the overall population: 54%. It goes even higher (62%) for those 25 to 34 years old.

The Pew Internet Project said in May of this year that 42% of US mobile users own smartphones. And in a release of new survey data yesterday, Pew found that 50% of all mobile phone users have downloaded apps (vs. 43% in May 2010). However, as we know, downloads and usage are not synonymous.

Figure 7: Among those with apps, most report using five or fewer on a regular basis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the chart above indicates, 51% of mobile phone app downloaders use between 1 and 5 apps weekly. A substantial minority (31%) use 6 or more apps per week. Average weekly app usage is higher among tablet owners.

The following chart shows the general categories downloads by populatirty/penetration according to Pew. Curiously the most popular app download category, games, doesn't appear on this list. This is probably a flaw in Pew's survey question design. 

Figure 10:  What types of apps do adults download?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Pew says that just under half (46%) of all app downloaders have paid for apps at some point, with most spending less than $5.  

Figure 13: How many adults pay for apps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samsung "Shipments" and $18 per Unit to MSFT

It's becoming clear that "shipments" is a bogus metric that obscures whether products are actually selling to consumers. Accordingly it shouldn't be used to measure market share. Sales to consumer-end users is really the only valid market-share metric. Yet IDC, Strategy Analytics, Canalys and others persist in reporting "shipments." These numbers are easier to measure and capture than actual sales.

But OEMs can also manipulate the perception of market share by reporting "shipments." For example Samsung misrepresented their tablet sales by reporting "shipments." So did RIM. And Microsoft also did this early on with Windows Phone "shipments" to show momentum that had yet to really develop. And there are many other such examples. 

It fair to say that in many cases there is a positive correlation between shipments and sales for popular products. However as the examples above suggest it's not always true. Samsung claimed 1 million Galaxy Tab (7") shipped but popular reports put actual sales at well below 100,000 units. 

One of the big stories today is Samsung becoming the world's top smartphone vendor. That may well be true; Samsung has had enormous success with Android and it's the leading Android OEM in North America and now globally. According to numbers released by Strategy Analytics, Samsung shipped nearly 28 million handsets in Q3 vs. 17 million for the iPhone.

Screen shot 2011-10-28 at 4.38.19 PM

The only problem is that's an "apples to oranges" comparison. Apple actually sold 17+ million iPhones in the quarter (vs. shipped). Recently Strategy Analytics, using the same "shipped" methodology, incorrectly estimated tablet market share.

As tablet OEMs release their dismal numbers we're seeing just how off "shipments" can be as an indicator of true penetration. Accordingly hardware tracking firms should shift to a consumer-sales metric rather than the more manipulable and opaque "shipped" concept.

Having said all that I don't doubt that Samsung is selling millions of smartphones and may indeed have taken the top spot from Apple. We just don't know how many the company actually sold. 

Another piece of interesting information related to Samsung Android sales involves the amount of patent-licensing fees that may be changing hands. I was told (caveat: double hearsay) that Samsung is now paying Microsoft $18 per Android handset in IP licensing fees. This is in contrast to the widely reported $15 figure. Eighteen dollars is apparently the same amount that HTC pays, according to the same source, while other Android vendors are paying less.

I don't know if all this is accurate information, but I was surprised by the relatively high $18 per handset figure. This is pretty close to what I understand Microsoft charges for its own Windows Phone license. As a colleague of mine remarked, "this is the best business model I can imagine." And if we assume that about 85% of Samsung's smartphone "shipments" are Android handsets (that may be conservative) and Microsoft is getting $18 per unit that means the company would have made approximately $414 million in Q3 on Samsung Android handsets alone. Impressive. 

Nokia Makes 'Fashion Statement' with New Phones

Probably the most notable thing about the new Nokia Windows Phones (Lumia 710, 800) is that they generally look different than the iPhone and the gazillion Android models in the market. Most of the phones are colorful and stand out accordingly. This follows in the footsteps of the mostly unreleased N9 handset.

The specs are unremarkable and the software and apps ecosystem are not different or compelling enough (at this point) to grab significant adoption or attention. But the overall package, combined with color and generally nice design of the Lumia handsets, will attract some users to these phones over the blander and more generic Android handsets. 

Nokia's new marketing campaign around these devices is "The Amazing Everyday." This is wrong. The campaign should focus on individuality, personality and customization -- how Nokia Lumia owners can stand out with their colorful handsets from a gray sea of other smartphone users. Nokia should emphasize the "sex appeal" of these devices. After all, handsets are fashion statements for many people. 

Screen shot 2011-10-26 at 9.14.05 AM

In terms of the outlook for these new phones, I would say they are very definitely not Android or iPhone "killers." They may sell relatively well in Europe and developing markets. But they're not even being released in North America until 2012. This is a strategic mistake. 

Price will be another factor in how successful they are. Nokia has fumbled on pricing in the past. If these phones show up in the US for more than $199 (subsidized) they won't sell at all. They won't sell unlocked in this market for $600 either. 

Screen shot 2011-10-26 at 9.18.03 AM

This is a good first step for Nokia and Microsoft but not one that is going to dramatically alter or transform the mobile fortunes of either company at this stage. 

Update: It appears that Nokia is doing some promotion around the idea of personalization and customization. This was part of an email I received today: 

Screen shot 2011-10-26 at 11.01.51 AM

Mobile Devices at the Ready for Holiday 2011

According to a new survey of 8,585 US adults, released by the National Retail Federation, consumers plan bring the full authority of their mobile and tablet devices to bear on the challenge and opportunity of holiday shopping. More than anything else the survey data reflect the degree to which people have come to rely on these relatively new tools for shopping.

Smartphones -- Almost 53% of smartphone owner-respondents said they will use their phones in holiday shopping in some form:

  • 31% will research products and/or compare prices
  • 14.1% will purchase products
  • 17.3% will redeem coupons on/with their phones
  • 15.6% will use apps to research or purchase items
  • 25% will use their smartphones to look up local retailers' information (address, hours, etc.)

Tablets -- Just over 70% of tablet owners said they will use their "pads" for shopping and buying:

  • 50.8% will research products and/or compare prices
  • 34.8% will actually make a purchase with their devices
  • 21.5% will redeem coupons
  • 33.8% will search for or lookup retailer information
  • 21% will use apps to research items or buy products

Demographic data:

  • Those 18-24 are most likely to use smartphones (72.2%) and tablets (86.4%) in shopping this year
  • Smartphone owners: 17.6% of men and 10.8% of women plan to buy with the device
  • Tablet owners: 38.5% of men 31.3% of women plan to buy with the device

It's a Four-Screen World Baby

People speak of "three screens": TV, PC and mobile. We need to change that to four screens to acknowledge the growing importance of tablets. We already know that tablets (iPads) have the highest engagement metrics of any of the many screens and that the devices are much more significant for transactions -- "t-commerce" -- than smartphones.

Today the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism put out a report that shows tablet owners are huge news consumers, often to the detriment of other news mediums: PC, TV and print. They're also an older, more educated and more affluent bunch than other screen users. 

You can read the full report, but here are a few top-level bullets:

  • Consuming news is roughly as popular as sending and receiving email and more popular than social networking, gaming, reading books or watching movies and videos
  • 77% of all tablet users get news at least weekly and now spend "more time getting news than they did before they had their tablet."
  • 33% of tablet news users say they are turning to new sources for news on their tablet, sources they had not turned to on other platforms such as television or their desktop computer
  • 40% get news principally through a browser; 31% use both browser and apps; 21% get news mainly through apps. While news-app consumers are the minority they’re more engaged and more satisfied than browser-news consumers

The demographics of tablet ownership (right now) make them a way to target affluent and educated users more directly than on other screens. However all publishers and marketers will need both smartphone and tablet strategies going forward. Do you need an app or are you simply going to rely on your browser-based site?

Attribution and tracking become much more complicated as people bounce from real-world stimuli to PC to smartphone to tablet and back. 

Not counting Nooks and Kindles there are 46 million tablet devices globally in market: 6 million Android devices and 40 million iPads. In the US more than 95% of tablet traffic is from iPads. Millennial Media said that iPad impressions on its network grew 456% year over year.

By the end of Q4 or early Q1 there should be several million Kindle Fires in the market and as many as 55 million iPads. Other than the Kindle Fire, however, none of the other full-fledged Android tablets are currently in a position to capture much market share. 

Related: iPads Change Economics, and Speed, of Hotel Wi-Fi