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.
A week ahead of the actual mobile ad numbers from the IAB IDC has released its estimates of 2012 US mobile advertising, as well as projections for 2013. The company says that mobile ad revenues were $4.5 billion in 2012 and will reach $7 billion this year. Our view is that the actual 2012 number will come in just under $4 billion.
According to IDC, search advertising represented 61% of mobile ad revenues in 2012 or $2.8 billion, while display brought in $1.7 billion or 39%. Directionally those numbers are right though the precise proportions may be off. For example, IDC's estimates of Google's share of search advertising is 79%, which is too low. It's more like 94%.
The most interesting part of IDC's figures and analysis is its juxtaposition between social networks (publishers) and mobile ad networks. Here are IDC's 2012 mobile ad revenue estimates for the major social networks/publishers (Pandora isn't a social network obviously):
And here are the IDC-estimated mobile display ad-network revenues:
The argument is that publishers/social networks have beaten the mobile ad networks. Online publishers essentially lost out over time to the ad networks on the PC internet because of traffic fragmentation and limited reach of most publisher sites vs. networks. The question is: will this happen again as real-time bidding and mobile exchanges become established? Or will major sites/publishers retain their ability to capture and control significant mobile ad dollars?
One point to be made here is that sites like Facebook and Twitter offer a multiplatform solution (and so does Google) that enables marketers to reach users on the PC and mobile simultaneously and usually with a single buy and single ad creative. That represents an efficiency advantage over most ad networks.
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.
Two mobile ad forecasts were released last week almost on top of one another: one from eMarketer and another from BIA/Kelsey (BIA). (IDC is slated to come out with theirs very soon.) The figures they project for mobile advertising in four years are $10 billion apart.
In one way or another most forecasts turn out to be wrong. Forecasts typically either fail to anticipate technology shifts or they have the opposite problem. They are often aggressive in assuming how quickly technology adoption will happen or change the market. Think about past predictions regarding the rise of digial advertising and the erosion of traditional media. It's happening but years after many thought it would.
I've certainly been guilty of incorrect predictions and aggressive forecasts in the past. So I now generally prefer the IAB's methodology, which reports on actual revenues after the fact.
Let's take a look at and compare the eMarketer and BIA mobile forecasts, which are strikingly different. BIA says that US mobile advertising in 2013 will be worth $5.4 billion and $16.8 billion by 2017. By comparison eMarketer is much more bullish, saying that US mobile advertising will be $7.3 billion this year and $27 billion by 2017. The 2017 number is almost certainly way too aggressive.
New York-based eMarketer pegged 2012 mobile ad revenues at $4.1 billion. However my view is that when the IAB numbers come out we'll see something closer to $3.5 - $3.8 billion. However it's possible that eMarketer has it right. Google told financial analysts several months ago that the company's mobile "run rate" was $8 billion globally (including non-ad revenue).
BIA has raised the amount of its overall forecast from last year considerably but dialed back somewhat the portion allocated to local. That's because the firm began to recognize marketers weren't buying local fast enough. SMBs aren't buying mobile ads directly and brands have only recently started to explore local targeting in earnest. Depending on several variables that may accelerate in the next 12 - 24 months.
YP said that it had $350 million in mobile-ad revenue today. It's not selling mobile advertising directly to the company's mostly small business advertiser base. Rather this is how the company is allocating or attributing revenue from ads that appear on mobile devices but are originally sold as part of a broader package.
The local portion of BIA's forecast is dominated by search advertising, which has been the major contributor to local-mobile ad revenues. BIA maintains the assumption that search will continue to dominate local advertising throughout the forecast period. And mobile paid search is consistently expected to have more than 2X local ad revenues vs. mobile display in the BIA forecast.
Yet there are many more display impressions (in apps for example) than search queries. I don't know ratio off the top of my head but it's quite significant. If we're going to see billions in local-moble ad revenue it can't all come from search queries on Google. (Almost all paid search revenue in mobile [95%+] will go to Google for at least the foreseeable future, if not indefinitely.)
Today paid search represents just under half of all PC-based ad revenue. It's likely that will track with mobile over time.
I do believe that location will increasingly be used by mobile display advertisers, networks and exchanges. But it will also be used together with other variables as a way to reach particular audiences. Location will be both simplified for advertisers and incorporated into larger mobile ad-targeting concepts ("context"). Thus location will be a layer, among other variables, in mobile display and probably not remain a single targeting methodology -- except in geofencing and related "conquesting" scenarios.
Emarketer projects that the majority of mobile revenues will be controlled by a small number of companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Pandora, Millennial Media and "other." Other includes a large number of companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo, mobile exchanges/DSPs and still others.
The collective "other" category above is probably much too small. However I do agree that a relatively small group of large companies with significant scale will control and collect the lion's share of mobile advertising in the US, just as on the PC. Google, Facebook and Twitter will certainly be among them.
Google is accelerating the growth of mobile ad revenue with its recent introduction of Enhanced Campaigns, which will push more AdWords advertisers into mobile at higher CPC rates. And by bundling PC and tablet advertising together paid-search on tablets will also grow much more quickly. Location-based ad targeting on tablets is a bit of a wild card: location matters somewhat less on tablets than smartphones but the "ad canvas" is much richer on tablets.
Facebook has also been dialing up the amount of ad revenue it generates from mobile, simply by showing more ads in its apps. Home is a wild card and may or may not favorably impact mobile ad revenue for the company.
What qualifies as a "mobile" ad may become murkier and more of an attribution question as in the YP example -- such as combined tablet and PC ads in search or Facebook ads that appear equally in mobile and on the PC. And what qualifies as "local" ad in mobile is also a bit of an issue. I would argue a local ad in mobile is one that includes an explicit location mention in the ad creative (or landing page). A "local ad" can also be one that has no location mention but uses explicit location targeting at a DMA level or "below." Ads that target by state, province or region should probably not be considered "local."
Google's Enhanced Campaigns and related simplification of media buying and location targeting will significantly boost ad spending attributable to mobile. I think however the eMarketer numbers for 2016 and 2017 are still too high. I also believe the BIA position that most mobile ads will be localized is also incorrect -- unless the definition of local is radically enlarged.
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.
Yesterday Facebook introduced its homescreen Android makeover-takeover strategy: Facebook Home. It comes both fully integrated into a phone (HTC First) and as an app download. As you know it replaces the standard Android home and lock screen experiences with a proprietary Facebook environment.
Mark Zuckerberg and others at the press event yesterday confirmed that there would eventually be ads in its "Cover Feed." Cover Feed is the new photo-centric dynamic feed that constitutes much of the experience of Home. It includes Facebook content and select "Open Graph" partner content (e.g., Foursquare, Instagram).
Facebook stressed that it was working to make sure that any ads that eventually do appear (probably within a year, depending on adoption) would be consistent with the aesthetic experience and of sufficiently high quality. We're starting to see more ads in the mobile news feed that are of, shall we say, uneven quality.
However Cover Feed ads have the potential to be quite effective. If they're scarce and if Facebook uses strict standards they could become the equivalent of "Super Bowl ads for mobile." That of course will largely depend on how widely Facebook Home is adopted. There's early survey data that suggests limited demand -- but surveys don't always tell the whole story and can be contradicted by actual behavior.
In the past there have been several startups that sought to offer home or idle screen ads on mobile devices. All failed for various reasons (not enough scale, insufficient ad quality, limited advertiser demand/adoption). Today, to my knowledge, Amazon's Kindle (multiple devices) is the only place where such ads exist at any kind of scale. The picture above, at right is an example of a "Special Offer" on Kindle Fire.
I could find no data about the general consumer attitude toward these ads -- though there is plenty of online discussion about opting out. I also was unable to find any discussion or data about the efficacy of these ads and whether they perform for advertisers.
For many of the reasons already cited it's way too early to project how much Facebook could earn from Home ads. But if there are millions of users who adopt Home in the US and around the world, the ads could generate broad exposure (like TV advertising) and significant potential revenue for Facebook.
An interesting secondary question arises: if the most active mobile users migrate to Home (and use the app less often), do ads on Home then effectively cannibalize ads on the Facebook app in the conventional news feed?
Image credit: lovemyfire.com
Here's another one of those surprising and paradoxical Android vs. iPhone reports: according to January comScore data Android's US smartphone share was 52.3% to the iPhone's 34.3%. However Safari's mobile browser share of US web traffic is now 62%.
This represents the combined smartphone and tablet market share for iOS, according to Net Applications. By comparison the Android browser had roughly 22%. Chrome (which may be on iOS as well) had about 2.5%.
By comparison, according to StatCounter, the iPhone and iPod Touch combine for roughly 52% US mobile browser market share. Android has 37%. The iPad is not included in these data however. So it appears the two sources are generally in alignment.
Despite Android's continuing market share gains and lead its users are much less active on the mobile internet than iPhone users. This is probably because the Android user base is more economically and demographically diverse than iOS users.
On a related note, Google changed the way it calculates Android version share on its developer website. It has moved from total activations to Google Play visits to reflect more active and engaged users.
In what might be considered something of a breakthrough, AdAge is reporting that agency Starcom MediaVest will be working with location-data specialist PlaceIQ to document what "percentage of customers served a mobile banner ad for a retailer subsequently visited one of that retailer's stores."
This is part of a new real-world ROI metric PlaceIQ is introducing. The company's new measurement is called "Place Visit Rate."
I spoke to PlaceIQ founder Duncan McCall about this several weeks ago but it was pre-case study release and so non-public at the time. PlaceIQ uses an unique but anonymous ID to connect users in the aggregate who've seen mobile display campaigngs with in-store visitors. Here's how the company explains its methodology:
PVR is measured by aggregating all of the devices that were messaged during a campaign and analyzing the number of those same devices that were later seen within a specific location or place footprint. Additionally, PlaceIQ can also set up A/B testing to measure PVR lift by identifying control groups or messaging additional PlaceIQ audiences.
PlaceIQ emphasizes that it doesn't track individuals:
Place Visit Rate does not track individuals, but rather measures if a set of anonymous devices moved to a certain location. All location data, device data and histories are disposed of by PlaceIQ after the campaign completes.
The methodology is imperfect and can only identify a portion of users who seen an ad and then shown up in a store. An article in AdAge claims PlaceIQ is only able to track "15% to 25% of all mobile ad traffic it monitors." Beyond this, as we all know, "correlation doesn't equal causation." However this is a big step forward in terms of being able to measure the efficacy of mobile display advertising.
Historically, coupons have been the most reliable way to measure online-to-offline impact. And mobile payments may one-day make "closing the loop" on online or mobile ads fairly routine. However most ad networks and marketers have had to use proxy data (calls, map lookups) to determine the offline impact of mobile ads.
Telenav/Scout can track users who see an ad and then navigate to a store location. It's not clear however how often someone sees a mobile display ad and then invokes navigation to a store.
There are others such as ShopKick and Placed, which measure in-store visits. And there are a "2.0" group of startups working on various flavors of in-store vists and activity measurement. Among them are Euclid Elements and WirelessWERX. The latter uses indoor location to provide business intelligence and analytics services for retailers.
Accordingly there are a range of methodologies now to try and track or capture online-to-offline ad impact. PlaceIQ's approach is a significant new entry into this arena and others may quickly try to match or approximate it.
Bringing new meaning to the term "conversational marketing," voice services provider Nuance has introduced mobile "Voice Ads." The new units use the Nuance voice platform to enable smartphone (and presumably tablet) owners to interact with these ads. It's not clear right now whether these interactions would occur exclusively on display landing pages or in the initial mobile display ad creative.
In a Siri-like way users talk to the ads and potentially receive one of several pre-programmed responses. In one sense these new Voice Ads are not unlike more traditional audio/radio ads (think Pandora).
However the interactivity -- if done well -- could create much more engagement and "lift" for the campaign. Coupled with a campaign such as Old Spice something like this might have worked extremely well. Indeed, the campaign creative and concepts are key. Poorly executed ideas could quickly backfire and become fodder for brand parodies.
Nuance is promoting a range of benefits from using Voice Ads including engagement, brand lift and better recall.
The company says that it has already partnered with leading agencies and mobile ad networks to ensure the units are widely available:
Nuance Voice Ads gives mobile advertisers and creative agencies an opportunity to go beyond the limitations of the four-inch mobile device screen and create a conversation with consumers through the power of voice recognition. Voice Ads finally creates an opportunity for brands to deepen the relationship with their consumers, with targeted interactive ads that deeply engage their core audience – much in the way that the world’s most popular mobile personal assistants have deepened consumers’ relationship with their mobile phones.
Nuance has partnered with many of the leading companies in the mobile advertising ecosystem to ensure broad reach and distribution for Voice Ads – a completely new format for mobile advertising. Creative advertising agencies include Digitas, OMD and Leo Burnett, while mobile advertising companies such as Millennial Media, Jumptap and Opera Mediaworks (AdMarvel, Mobile Theory, and 4th Screen), will provide distribution to more than 100,000 app publishers and hundreds of millions of consumers globally. In addition, mobile rich media ad servers such as Celtra are providing tools for rich media production and analytics on mobile devices.
One could also imagine clever integrations that tie into call centers at the end of the interaction to close a sale. Again, everything is going to depend on strong concepts, execution and user experiences. Nuance offers a relatively tame mock campaign example using Voice Ads in this video.
Earlier this week IDC issued its new projections regarding hardware "shipments" through 2017. The bottom line is: continued growth for smartphones and especially tablets ("connected devices") but negative growth for PCs.
IDC said that in 2012 tablet shipments "surpassed 128 million" and sees increasing demand across markets. While "shipments" is often an inaccurate and misleading metric for market-share purposes, it does indicate the "directional" trend in the market.
Even in emerging, immature markets PCs will only see "moderate single-digit growth" according to the forecast.
The company said that replacement cycles are getting much longer for PCs as tablets and smartphones make more frequent replacement unnecessary. However IDC does continue to forecast laptop growth. I suspect that projection may turn out to be optimistic at least in non-emerging markets.
Device penetration drives internet usage patterns. And while online publishers and marketers "intellectually" understand what's happening they have been generally slow to adapt their strategies and tactics to match the radical changes taking place in the market.
Facebook is the leading app on the iPhone. But does that popularity as an app mean that Facebook would have success with its own branded handset?
Next week on April 4 Facebook seems poised to introduce some version of the long-rumored "Facebook phone." The speculation is that it will be an HTC-made handset carrying a "forked" version of Android. We'll see. But I'm extremely skeptical that anything like can succeed at scale.
HTC previously made two Android handsets in 2011 with deeper Facebook integration: the ChaCha and the Salsa. They both flopped. INQ has also made social-media-centric handsets since 2009, which have not done especially well.
Let's assume that everything on the hypothetical HTC handset is deeply integrated with Facebook: contacts, dialer, camera, maps, apps, messaging and so on. Let's also assume that everything works elegantly. It's highly unlikely that there will be mass-market demand for this phone.
Most people are not so involved with Facebook that they would turn over this most important piece of personal technology to the company. There will also be the inevitable privacy questions and concerns ("Is Facebook tracking me?"). Most people I know are quite content to use a Facebook app on their smartphones. The notion of an entire handset devoted to Facebook seems excessive and unnecessary.
Perhaps the phone will offer some unique and impressive functionality or be priced extremely aggressively. Perhaps "younger people" will be interested. I remain very doubtful, however, that the majority of users will want to buy a smartphone so closely aligned with a single social network.
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.
As Apple reportedly prepares to release a less expensive, plastic version of the iPhone to boost sales in the developing world, it's trying to strike a balance between cost and quality. It will simultaneously have to make the phone appealing (perhaps with a slightly different design and color) while not cannibalizing its flagship.
The perception of higher quality is one of the few remaining advantages that the device has over Android rivals, who over the past three years have dramatically closed the quality and features gap. Despite these gains, the iPhone has consistently beaten its smartphone competitors in customer service ratings from JD Power. The latest survey is no exception.
JD Power surveyed nearly 10,000 US smartphone owners. The satisfaction criteria, in order of importance, were the following:
This is the ninth consecutive time that the iPhone has ranked #1. JD Power said the Apple device did particularly well in the areas of design and ease of operation.
In a bit of a surprise, Nokia edged Samsung in the survey. However Nokia has many fewer users (by an order of magnitude) than Samsung, whose Galaxy smartphone line is the best-selling Android handset in many markets around the world.
It's interesting that LG performed so poorly given the success of the LG-made Nexus 4, which repeatedly sold out and to date remains overall best Android handset on the market. In contrast, among feature phone OEMs, LG performed best, which is somewhat curious.
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.