It turns out that despite lots of media coverage and celebrity personality Alicia Keys as "creative director" most North Americans don't know about the launch of BB10. That's according to a survey commissioned by MKM Partners. The poll of 1,500 adult consumers (conducted during the past three weeks) asked about device adoption and future purchase intentions. It found, consistent with other data, much higher recognition and interest in Apple and Samsung. Others generally fared poorly.
The survey found that 51% of respondents owned smartphones, with 39% saying they bought their in the last six months.
Ownership breakdown by handset OEM:
Current mobile OS:
Future purchase intentions:
Asked about BlackBerry 10, 83% of respondents indicated they weren't aware of the launch. Asked about Windows Phones, 61% lacked awareness of the OS. When asked about interest in BB10/BlackBerry or Windows Phones the majority of respondents indicated indifference.
Separately investment firm Piper Jaffray conducted another wave of its research among US teens about device ownership and future intentions.
Notable findings include the following:
In both cases iOS was dominant. However Android has made slight gains in both smartphone and tablet categories since the previous survey was conducted last fall. And aggressive pricing, especially in the tablet category, may drive Android penetration up vs. iOS among younger users.
Microsoft is in a tough spot: Windows Phones aren't selling well outside of a couple of EU markets and data indicate that neither is Windows 8. Windows RT and Surface tablets have so far been a major disappointment as well. While it's way to early to "count Microsoft out," clearly the company is in trouble as mobile internet access and mobile computing accelerate at the expense of the PC.
There have been persistent rumors that Microsoft was bringing a version of Office to iOS and specifically the iPad. You can use Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based product on the iPhone or iPad. (I have not.) But the experience will not be as rich as with a native app.
There are two theories about why Office has not come to iOS as a native app: Microsoft won't pay the 30% "tax" to be in the iTunes App Store and, perhaps more significantly, if Office came to the iPad (or Android tablets) it would undermine the sales outlook for Microsoft's own Surface tablets -- currently the only tablet that offers Office.
Microsoft's compromise may be to offer Office 365 through the browser to iPad users. However by not offering a native app it risks ceding the centrality of Office to a range of apps. Offering a native-app Office would potentially cloud the future of its own tablet devices, which may not be so bright anyway.
Last week there was a Reuters report asserting the next Google-ASUS Nexus 7 will have an improved screen and may cost as little as $149. The current entry level Nexus 7 is $199. Reuters also said that if it's not the new Nexus 7 than the existing tablet's price may be reduced. The current entry level Kindle Fire from Amazon (with ads) costs $159.
As this all indicates there's a kind of "race to the bottom" going on that may radically depress margins on Android tablets. Furthermore we're likely to see a decent $99 7-inch Android tablet in the next year.
The growth of smartphones and the emergence of these reasonable-quality low-cost tablets such as the Nexus 7 are accelerating a trend toward mobile device adoption at the expense of PCs and further extending PC replacement cycles. In developing countries PCs will likely never reach penetration levels seen in North America or Europe.
In its latest device forecast Gartner joins the party, affirming what we already know about PC erosion in favor of smartphones and tablets on a global basis. In its projection Gartner sees Android as the big winner, effectively replacing Microsoft as the dominant OS on tablets and smartphones.
The particulars and timing of this forecast will undoubtedly turn out to be wrong. However the direction of the forecast is probably accurate. With its resistance to matching price competition (probably wisely) Apple iPads will not reach tablet penetration levels of low-cost Android based tablets (though the company is considering a lower-cost iPhone).
So far, Microsoft's "2.0" efforts in mobile, Windows Phone and Surface tablets, have only made modest gains in selected markets. However Microsoft still makes money from Android OEMs via patent licensing fees. If it has to rely on licensing the company's future will be pretty grim.
If these figures are anywhere near accurate tablets are poised to become the primary computing (and advertising) platform. Yet we're likely to see quasi-converged devices (i.e., tablets with keyboards like the Surface Pro) become laptop replacements in the near term.
A new forecast from eMarketer estimates more than half of Twitter's ad revenues (53%) will come from mobile advertising this year, up from virtually no ad revenue from mobile in 2011.
In total, eMarketer estimates global ad revenue at $528 million for 2013, pushing upward to $1 billion for 2014.
But ads on mobile devices are driving incremental growth over the next two years. By 2015, Twitter is expected to pull in $1.33 billion in worldwide ad revenue, more than 60% of which will come from mobile advertising.
The rapid growth in mobile ad revenue is due in part because "Twitter has ultimately benefited from the increased focus on mobile by competitors like Google and Facebook, which have both expanded their own mobile ad offerings and worked to convince advertisers to shift dollars to mobile devices," says eMarketer. Advertisers are clearly showing more interest spending money on mobile ads.
The report shows Twitter ad revenue is slowly shifting globally with 83% of 2013 ad revenue from the U.S., down from 90% in 2012.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins recently got a lot of coverage, in anticipation of the BlackBerry Z10 launch, for the remark that the iPhone was now outdated.
The much-hyped Z10 is now available in the US from AT&T (soon from Verizon) and a range of carriers in international markets. I went into an AT&T store this weekend to take a look at and get a "hands on" sense of the device. Unimpressive.
It was immediately clear that this handset may keep some number of BlackBerry customers from "defecting" to the iPhone or Android. However it's not sufficiently exciting to lure existing iPhone and Android users to the BlackBerry platform. The UI and software are not entirely intuitive for iPhone and Android users. In addition, the collection of apps is limited.
The phone resembles an HTC device and is generally unremarkable otherwise. Indeed it has a "generic smartphone" quality.
Much has been made that AT&T employees haven't been trained to promote the phone. That seemed evident in my visit. In the store I entered there was not only a lack of promotional signage but the phone was placed in a far corner almost as an afterthought. It was simply there among a row of competing smartphones -- not highlighted in any way. I had to ask store salespeople multiple times where it was to locate the phone.
It's almost 100% certain this device will not be the engine of new growth for BlackBerry and that the device maker will continue to fall out of favor in the US market.
Mobile advertising and platform exchange firm Velti has released its monthly snapshot on the "State of Mobile Advertising" for February 2013.
Among the interesting tidbits, the report found Apple iOS devices accounted for a whopping 8 out of the top 10 mobile devices serving ad impressions. iPhone devices had a 37.4% share, while iPads comprised 17.2% of all impressions served in February.
And while Samsung Galaxy devices comprised less than 5% combined market share, the report speculates the release of Galaxy S 4 might significantly alter the mobile ad market in the coming months.
In terms of market share by OS, Apple still clearly shows an advantage holding steady at around 65% for the month of February 2013.
One noteworthy datapoint in the report highlighted how weekends continue to see the highest levels of app usage, with Sundays accounting for 15.7% of all impressions served. The report stated: "Publishers and marketers should keep in mind daily usage patterns as an important factor in getting the highest return on clicks, and ultimately revenue, for their specific site or app."
Velti’s "State of Mobile Advertising" report gathers data from the Mobclix Exchange and is provided on a monthly basis.
Recently there have been several reports starting to show that tablet (iPad) traffic is beginning to overtake smartphone traffic. For example, a report last week from Adobe found that, on a global basis, tablet traffic now exceeds smartphone web traffic (8% to 7%).
A new report from ad network Chitika, however, says that at least in North America the iPhone still generates roughly 2X the web traffic of the iPad. The iPad dominates tablet-only traffic with more than 80% market share.
In late February, Chitika looked at traffic distribution from "250,000+ publisher websites." The company found that "iPhone users still generate more than two times the traffic of [ ] iPad users."
The iPhone was responsible for 61.5% of North American web traffic from iOS and the iPad for just under 31%. The iPod Touch drove roughly 8% of iOS-generated web traffic according to Chitika.
The Chitika report didn't look at engagement or time on site. The earlier Adobe report found that "on average internet users view 70% more pages per visit when browsing with a tablet compared to a smartphone."
As tablet penetration grows, we should see its share of iOS and all web traffic commensurately grow. The interesting question is whether tablets are substituted in the home for smartphones or PCs. A recent Google-Nielsen report found that 77% of smartphone search activity happened at home or in the workplace (when people typically have ready access to PCs).
Last night in New York Samsung formally announced its much anticipated Galaxy S4 follow-up to its hugely successful S3. The hardware update was relatively modest: a somewhat larger high-resolution AMOLED screen, more CPU power and thinner body. It will be challenging to tell the S4 from the S3 without a close look.
Much of the evening was about software though decidedly not about "Android" or "Google." Android got a single mention and Google was never mentioned.
Here are the S4's major "specs":
With its splashy, Broadway inspired show last night Samsung entered Apple's "big launch" turf. It also perhaps unwittingly emulated Apple's "incremental" handset update cycle. Indeed, we might call the S4 the "S3s" because of its "evolutionary" changes over the S3.
There were tons of software updates and new additions to the handset; many of them related to the camera and many of them were impressive seeming. However today several outlets are reporting that the Samsung software didn't always work as promised. In fact the S4, which will undoubtedly be popular, has received some quite mixed reviews -- especially from Gizmodo last night, which called it a "missed opportunity."
Samsung has taken a bit of an "A/B testing" or shotgun approach, if you prefer, to developing mobile devices. Over the past three years it has released a wide range of tablets and handsets vs. Apple's much more deliberate and controlled pipeline. Yet through its experimentation with larger screens and a range of devices (as a differentiation strategy) it has helped cultivate in consumers an appetite for larger smartphone screens.
But for that shift in the public's appetite, Apple wouldn't have made the "taller" iPhone 5. Yet there's considerable pressure to make still larger iPhones.
A larger screen has become one of the key hardware features and differences between the first-tier Android handsets (especially from Samsung and HTC) and the iPhone. Thus Apple will be rolling out an even bigger iPhone (probably at 6). Apple would do well to bring that larger phone this summer and not wait another full year to do so.
Apple is not used to compensating and being on the defensive. It normally leads the market with design. But it has been playing catch-up recently.
The unexpected success of smaller tablets forced it to create the iPad Mini. And the unanticipated development of giant-screened smartphones (Note II, S4) forces Apple to offer a larger iPhone, thereby betraying Steve Jobs' "single hand" operation philosophy. In addition the need to sell more iPhones in developing markets (vs. less expensive Androids) has given rise to rumors of a cheaper, "more plastic" iPhone.
Samsung clearly emulated, imitated or copied (take your pick) the iPhone's look and feel at the outset. But the Korean company has now gone beyond it in several ways -- including in the hyperbolic claim that the S4 is a "life companion." And, ironically, Apple is now being compelled by the Galaxy line's success and by public demand to make the iPhone much more like Samsung handsets.
Many developers and digital marketers still cling to the assumption that HTML5 and the "mobile web" will eventually win out over native apps. There's a kind of logic to that position. However they may be waiting a very long time for that to happen.
As has previously been written, the overwhelming majority of consumer time spent with mobile devices is spent in apps ("4 out of every 5 mobile minutes," per comScore). And according to a new survey from Compuware the majority of international respondents (85%) preferred apps over mobile sites.
The survey had a total of just over 3,500 respondents from the US, UK, France, Germany, India and Japan.
Despite the positive news for app developers the survey also had some harsh findings. For example 59% of respondents said that an app should load in two seconds or less. In addition, poor user experiences result in app abandonment, switching to competitors' apps, negative word of mouth and erosion of brand perception -- among other negative consequences.
The most common problems encountered were freezing/crashing (62%) and slow load times (47%), as well as the more generic "didn't function as expected" (37%). A majority of users had encountered one or more of these problems in using apps. Users expect apps to load faster and perform better than mobile sites: "78% expect mobile apps to load as fast as — or faster than — a mobile website."
Nearly 80% of the survey respondents said that they would give an app one (maybe two) more chances if it didn't work correctly the first time. And app-store ratings are being taken very seriously by users: "84% users say app store ratings are important in their decisions to download and install a mobile app."
The survey report cited third-party data for the proposition that the average number of apps on users' smartphones is 41.
The key figure from a new US "teens and technology" survey by the Pew Internet Project is this: 50% of teens who own smartphones primarily access the internet that way. According to Pew (the data are from Q3 2012) 78% of US teens overall own cell phones and nearly half (47%) of them own smartphones.
I suspect if the data were from 2013, smartphone penetration would have easily crossed 50% because of Q4 holiday gifts. Among all teens (including those who don't own a cell phone), 37% own smartphones.
Part of the reason that US teens may rely more heavily on their mobile phones (and tablets) for internet access is that some do not own PCs or share PCs with their families. Thus mobile devices are more private and personal because they're not shared. Regardless teens' orientation to the internet is more mobile than their parents'.
The survey also found that 23% of US teens owned tablets (compared with 25% of US adults).
As these teens "grow up" it will be interesting to see if they adopt a more "balanced approach" and access the internet equally from PCs, tablets and smartphones. I suspect their bias will remain toward mobile devices, with tablets taking the place of PCs for non-smartphone access.
An October 2012 survey (n=7,700 teens) by financial firm Piper Jaffray found that Apple held an advantage among US teens:
There has always been a somewhat awkward relationship between Google's Chrome OS (PC) and Android OS (mobile). Many people have remarked about it. Today that tension was potentially resolved.
Google CEO Larry Page announced that Android founder and Google Mobile chieftan Andy Rubin was transitioning to another role at the company. In his place SVP Sundar Pichai (who was once unsuccessfully recruited by Twitter) will take over leadership of the Android team. Pichai is currently responsible for Chrome OS and the two groups will be under his combined command.
Here's what Page said about him in a blog post announcing the change:
Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use—and he loves a big bet. Take Chrome, for example. In 2008, people asked whether the world really needed another browser. Today Chrome has hundreds of millions of happy users and is growing fast thanks to its speed, simplicity and security. So while Andy’s a really hard act to follow, I know Sundar will do a tremendous job doubling down on Android as we work to push the ecosystem forward.
There's a clear logic here and the move makes sense. But my instincts tell me that all may not go as smoothly as that logic suggests.
By all measures Android is flying high: "60 manufacturers; more than 750 million devices have been activated globally; and 25 billion apps have now been downloaded from Google Play." Yet device activations have slowed somewhat and Samsung has all but taken control of Android handset (and perhaps eventually tablet) sales. Samsung Galaxy devices represents an increasingly large share of all Android sales.
Windows Phone is unlikely to challenge Android, nor is BlackBerry -- for at least the foreseeable future, if ever. Android can coast for some time (which is clearly not happening) and the platform would continue to dominate globally. By some estimates Android is on 80% or more of Chinese smartphones.
If indeed this leadership change is a precursor to OS consoidation we may see some technical challenges a la Windows as a unified operating system across devices. But then again, but for Apple (and partner Samsung), Google really has no competitive threats to its global-mobile dominance on the horizon.
According to Adobe's marketing group tablet growth is outpacing that of smartphones. This trend also showed up in several Q4 reports from other online marketing firms such as Marin Software.
Adobe says that on a global basis, mobile devices (smartphones + tablets) generated 15% of all internet traffic. Of that 15%, tablets edged smartphones with 8% of traffic. The company also says that tablet users spend much more time and are much more engaged than smartphone users: "on average internet users view 70% more pages per visit when browsing with a tablet compared to a smartphone."
Among the countries measured, the UK is seeing the highest share of internet traffic from tablets followed by the US and Canada.
ComScore previously reported that about 36% of total US internet time is being spent on mobile devices, even though they're generating less than that in terms of overall traffic. Part of the reason for such a discrepancy may be apps, which are often not measured but where "9 out of 10" mobile minutes are spent.
While 6 and 7-inch tablets exist somewhere between a smartphone and a full-sized tablet (i.e., iPad Classic), tablets are increasingly replacement devices for PCs. PCs still have the largest installed base and a home in the enterprise, among business users and for more selected purposes in the home. But the centrality of the PC as the gateway to the internet is over.
Using Gartner data, USAToday chronicled the decline of PC sales (which aren't coming back):
The "problem" with tablets is that many marketers treat them like PCs (including Google AdWords) and don't give them special attention. A study released in Q4 last year found, for example, that only 7% of retailers' websites were tablet friendly.
Yet tablet-app mobile ad creative can be very effective. In general tablet ads (in apps) are much more engaging than smartphone ads right now.
As tablets continue to gain momentum as PC replacements we may see a very odd situation develop. That is: smartphones might be given perfunctory treatment as an ad platform or otherwise neglected in favor of tablets with their larger "canvas." However, as suggested, the bulk of marketers may treat tablets like PCs and not address them with specialized ad units.
Accordingly, as mobile devices take more and more consumer time and engagement "online advertising" could become considerably weaker than it is today.
New US smartphone figures came out today from comScore for January. According to the comSumer survey Android had 52.3% of the market, while Apple was at 37.8%. Those numbers represent a jump for Apple and a dip for Google since October, the comparison period.
Apple is the top smartphone OEM in the US followed by Samsung. Their relative shares are 37.8% to 21.4%. However Samsung is the dominant Android handset OEM by far, though LG did experience an uptick because of the extremely popular Nexus 4 (the best Android handset currently on the market).
Today also mobile ad network Jumptap released its latest MobileSTAT report for February. In that report Jumptap says that from 2011 to 2012 Samsung's share of Android handsets on its network grew from 42% to 56%. Jumptap is predicting that Samsung's share will continue to grow, perhaps beyond 60% of the US Android handset market this year.
Weaker or fading rivals HTC, LG and Motorola will have a much smaller share: no greater than 11% in any individual case according to the Jumptap prediction. The chart below illustrates the degree of Samsung's dominance in the US smartphone market. The comScore numbers above are not quite as severe.
Operating system share will remain relatively stable in 2013 according to Jumptap. Accordingly, Windows Phones and BlackBerry are stuck in the basement with a combined 4% share. Indeed, 2013 will be the year that Nokia needs to make a decision about whether it wants to "diversify" with Android. If these numbers hold it will be all but compelled to do so.
Tablets will take mobile browsing share from smartphones according to another Jumptap prediction. The firm believes that tablets will grow to capture 29% of mobile traffic while smartphones will generate 70% of mobile traffic. The tablet impact on PCs is not discussed.
According to an earlier report from comScore mobile now represents 36% of internet time vs. 67% on the PC. I believe tablets will continue to take meaningful share from PC usage even has they cannibalize some share from smartphones (chiefly in the home).
Move over TV, your time at the top of the media hierarchy is coming to and end -- at least outside the US. Last week ad network InMobi released its Q4 "insights" report. The document is based on survey data drawn from more than 14,000 respondents in multiple countries around the world. However many questions don't include answers from US and UK mobile users.
The "big finding" is that around the world (US, UK excluded) time with mobile has surpassed TV. In fact time with mobile beats all other media channels. The chart below reflects aggregate findings from 12 countries, though not the US and UK.
The survey also discovered that 62% of respondents "engage in mobile activity" during TV watching. Accordingly TV ads in general see diminished attention because of mobile (beyond ad skipping). However this also represents an opportunity for marketers to use mobile devices to measure their TV ads' effectiveness or to generate concrete actions in response to TV ads.
Another "big" finding is that internet users are now going online through mobile devices in numbers equal to the PC internet or primarily use mobile to go online. This phenomenon is most pronounced in developing markets, as one might imagine. But it's also true in the US according to the InMobi data.
According to the survey 38% of US respondents "mostly" use mobile to go online. This finding (and others) may well be biased because the survey respondents were found through the InMobi ad network: "Recruited via InMobi global mobile ad network between August and November 2012." This is therefore going to tend to be a more mobile-centric audience than the US internet population as a whole.
Another interesting result, this respondent pool says that it rarely clicks ads unintentionally. In contrast to some of the estimates and data floating around in the market (e.g., 40% of mobile ad clicks are "inadvertent") only a small minority said that mobile ad clicks were mistaken more than 10% of the time.
Though these findings may not be entirely representative of internet users or perhaps even US mobile users as a whole they're still striking in multiple ways.
Back to the TV vs. mobile time spent: most marketers' ad spending and behavior fails to recognize the profound shifts in the market captured by and reflected in these data. The idea that mobile now dominates TV in terms of time spent or that mobile captures attention from TV even during TV time will be unsettling -- if not shocking -- to most brand marketers.
And most right now will have no idea what to do about it.
Beyond the pure sales numbers -- tablets up, PCs flat or down -- there's a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that people are substituting tablet purchases for PCs. Adding to that, mobile ad network JiWire put out a Q4 report in which it surveyed more than 5,000 mobile consumers in the US and UK on a range of topics.
Among the findings in the report was the intention of existing tablet owners to by a second or additional tablets. The survey found that almost three-fourths of the respondents (existing tablet owners) intended to purchase another tablet.
It should be pointed out that the JiWire audience is not necessarily representative of the general mobile user population. It tends to be a slightly more "early adopter" profile. However I would imagine this finding is a kind of leading indicator of broader consumer sentiment.
HP's announcement of a $169 7-inch Android tablet earlier this week (putting more price pressure on the entire segment) argues that tablets will become an affordable and mainstream PC alternative for a broad consumer population, not just "affluents." Indeed, this result above suggest that many households will have two, three and even more tablets: one for each family member.
As I've argued before these devices (and smartphones) will be "primary," while the PC will be used for selected tasks and perhaps become a "secondary" Internet device in the home for large numbers of people. Developing markets may see even more dramatic patterns along these lines, with low-cost tablets simply taking the place of PCs in many instances.
An interesting, related finding in the JiWire report is the hierarchy of tablet preferences. The findings below reflect the international nature of JiWire's results. The Galaxy tablets have not done as well in the US but have done relatively well in Europe. In the US or North America, Kindle Fire has been the most successful Android device, followed by the Nexus 7.
What's particularly interesting is the position of Windows Surface machines in the third slot, above Kindle Fire. This indicates there's healthy awareness and interest in the device. However, we'll have to see in several months whether this translates into actual sales.
Microsoft has talked a great deal about Windows Mobile being the "third ecosystem" in the smartphone universe. Of course BlackBerry would also like that distinction. And while some argue it's too little too late, it's also possible that Mozilla's HTML5-based Firefox OS will have a meaningful seat at the mobile platform table -- at least in selected markets.
Yesterday at Mobile World Congress, the company announced a wide range of mobile operators that had made a "commitment" to Firefox OS. Those carriers include: América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom.
Mozilla announced that the first group of FOS handsets will go on sale in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela. Hardware makers Huawei, LG, ZTE and Sony have all embraced the platform -- though Samsung has publicly said it isn't interested.
While it's unlikely to appeal to existing high-end smartphone users, it's quite possible that FOS could displace Android at the smartphone entry level in developing markets. Many carriers and OEMs are hungry for Android alternatives, which partly explains the long list of operators on board.
Related: Twitter said that it will support FOS with an HTML5 app.
Metrics firm comScore is out with a couple of "Digital Future in Focus" reports. They collect the company's data from 2012 into a narrative about marketplace trends. In terms of mobile much of what's in there is familiar: smartphone penetration crossing 50%, tablet ownership growth, Android growth, the rise of apps and so on.
One stat, however, that caught my eye is in the graphic to the right: 37% of digital media time is now spent on smartphones and tablets. By contrast 63% is on the PC. This one data point shows how dramatic the shift to mobile/personal devices has been, in a relatively brief time frame. Most marketers have not fully caught up however.
Another interesting chart (above), previously released, is comScore's Top 25 digital properties. It shows PC vs. mobile usage (uniques) for the top sites, as well as the incremental lift provided by the mobile audience. The table also reflects substantial overlapping usage. However in selected cases (i.e., Pandora, Weather.com) there's a major boost in audience via mobile.
In the report comScore also documents the erosion of PC usage in select "mobile centric" categories. In other words, there's a shift to mobile usage for some part of the audience:
We have begun to see a marked shift in usage patterns on the traditional desktop-based web. While most mobile content usage remains incremental to existing web behavior, certain content categories particularly well-oriented to mobile usage have witnessed material softness in top-line usage from desktop computers. Over the past two years, categories such as Newspapers (down 5 percent), Maps (down 2 percent), Weather (down 12 percent), Directories (down 23 percent), Comparison Shopping (down 4 percent) and Instant Messengers (down 52 percent) have seen declines despite a 5-percent increase in the total U.S. internet population over that time.
Again the categories that have seen some or substantial migration to mobile:
Browser-maker Opera announced that it's buying much smaller rival Skyfire for approximately $155 million in cash and stock. Skyfire's chief claim to fame is video optimization. Opera also said this week that it was approaching 300 million monthly users across all its platforms (computers, mobile phones, TVs and other connected devices).
The 300 million monthly uniques figure is very impressive; however it masks a downward trend in Opera's usage in mobile. As Android and iPhones push out feature phones (except in developing markets) and BlackBerry devices, Opera is seeing its global browsing share decline.
In the course of a single year Opera has gone from being the leading mobile browser around the world, with a 23% share, to number three and a 15% share. This rapid deterioration probably explains the company's recent decision to switch the core of its browser to WebKit as well as the Skyfire acquisition.
WebKit is behind both Safari and Chrome, though not IE. Opera's adoption of WebKit will enable its browser to remain relevant in a smartphone world dominated by iOS and Android.
Opera's business, since its 2010 acquisition of AdMarvel, also includes mobile advertising. And in its recent Q4 State of the Mobile Web report, intended to showcase the company's global scale and advertising chops, we discover that 64% of global ad impressions are still coming mostly from the US, though international is growing.
In the US Opera holds a less than 1% mobile browser market share according to StatCounter. In Europe it's roughly 7%. In Asia it's 24% but Opera was just passed by the Android browser. Africa is the only region where Opera continues to lead.
However Android's global growth is a direct threat to the company given that most users will rely on the device's own browser or Chrome. By the same token most users on the iPhone rely on Safari. Currently Opera has little to offer that will clearly differentiate it from either the Android or iPhone browsers. That's partly what the Skyfire bet is about -- mobile video optimization.
However by itself that's not going to be enough to keep Opera from continuing to lose usage.
Location-based ad network Verve Mobile announced a Series C investment this morning of $15 million led by Nokia Growth Partners. This brings to more than $21 million the funding raised to date by Verve.
The company is one of several location-based mobile ad networks. An incomplete list of others includes xAd, YP, LSN Mobile, Telenav/ThinkNear, Marchex. In addition, all the major mobile ad networks offer varying flavors of geotargeting.
While local-mobile advertising holds enormous promise, most mobile display revenue forecasts associated with the segment are overblown for many reasons. They often contain overly simplistic assumptions or fail to recognize the complexity of the space and challenges that must be first overcome to realize its potential.
In addition to local "infrastructure" challenges and the difficulty of proving ROI from mostly offline conversions, a major challenge facing local-mobile advertising is poor or sloppy mobile ad creative. Weak mobile creative is a problem with mobile advertising in general but it's especially true in the local space. The following are a few examples of the "current state of the art."
Beyond the fact that there's no call to action on the Tiffany's banner above, the landing page showcases various types of jewelry for e-commerce sales. However it's highly unlikely that a consumer would click on the ad and then buy a necklace or other jewelry item within the ad. People might go to the Tiffany's site later and buy there.
However, what's much more likely is that someone would peruse the jewelry online but buy later in a local store. Unfortunately the store locator is yet another page down and generally buried. It should be much more prominently displayed on the landing page and connected to maps and directions.
The ad above was presented on the AP news app. One problem is that the ad copy is small and challenging to read. However, what's more problematic is the way that the ad dumps users into an HTML5 version of Google Maps without any context, branding or additional information.
It's a map to lead you to a dealer (one infers) but you don't actually know what you're looking at or how it connects to the ad clicked on.
Immediately above is a Radio Shack ad that appeared in a local newspaper app. Like the Tiffany's ad it's really promoting e-commerce. Radio Shack has hundreds of local stores but nowhere -- not anywhere -- in the ad is there an obvious store locator. Again, the majority of users are unlikely to buy directly through the ad. The lack of a store finder is a missed opportunity.
These are just three recent examples among many others of the many problems with mobile display and local-mobile display advertising in particular.
I've written here and elsewhere about the fact that Samsung is increasingly the dominant global Android OEM. Samsung has ridden the Android wave to huge profits and near-global domination of the smartphone market. However the company is ambivalent about Android.
As Benedict Evans points out Samsung isn't promoting the Android brand and doesn't really mention Android in its multi-billion dollar "Next Big Thing" marketing campaign. Accordingly Evans contends that Samsung's Galaxy brand has greater recognition than Android itself. This conclusion is based on Google Trends search data, which may or may not be accurate as a reflection of actual brand recognition or demand.
There's plenty of other evidence in the market to support Evans' argument, however, including the above Android OEM comparison chart from ad network Millennial Media. Another data set from AppBrian also supports the same conclusion:
With the possible exception of Huawei all the other Android OEMs are in decline (re market share) including and especially HTC, which is shifting its strategy to focus on emerging markets because it can no longer compete effectively in North America and Europe.
What happens when Samsung so totally dominates the Android landscape that it can start using that leverage against Google or creating its own "forked" version of Android independent of Google (as Amazon has done with Kindle Fire)? That's presumably why Google is working on the "X-phone" through Motorola -- to try and create a viable rival to the Galaxy. But will Google be willing to go toe-to-toe with "partner" Samsung in terms of marketing dollars?
No is the short answer. Samsung reportedly spends roughly $12 billion annually on marketing its mobile devices. That fact alone makes it hard for any other Android OEM, even Google-Motorola, to compete. Only Apple is really in a position to compete with Samsung.